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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Vicious Circles - Discrimination Rising In Response To Atheist Activism
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." - Thomas Jefferson
Most of know that resistance against atheists is nothing new, that we have been victimized by discrimination for years, and one of many surveys reveal that we are the least trusted group of people in America. Many of us are painfully aware that this discrimination is growing in both the social and political arenas. It is a vicious circle, though. As the religious right continues their quest to infiltrate the Constitution, more and more Atheists who have previously been content with sitting on the sidelines have decided that the time has come to speak out in favor of reinforcing the wall of separation between Church and State.
The proliferation of New Atheism and Militant Atheism is a movement that continues to grow from the exasperation of unbelievers in response to this discrimination. Many of us are very active in our efforts, but unlike the violent religious extremists of the world, most of us use non-lethal weapons such as legal challenges, strident speech, reason, logic and the promotion of the sciences to combat ideologies that describe us in very unflattering ways and are often used to justify acts of violence against us. As if the fighting between themselves doesn't keep them busy enough.
The newspapers, Internet and television news are rife with daily body counts of religious martyrs and their victims. Images of destroyed buildings, billowing smoke and death seem to be daily occurrences. All this death and destruction and the occasional enslavement of entire nations that send shock waves through the secular world is largely approved of by like-minded religious extremists, and almost without exception this violence is perpetrated by members and organizations representing Christianity and Islam. In spite of what the Christian talking heads consistently deny, terrorist activities are not coming from Islam alone. There are Christian terrorists, as well.
Atheists are often chastised by religious moderates for consolidating all religion as being inherently dangerous. The moderates and mainstream believers consistently rant about being "lumped in" with the extremists who choose to use physical violence against competing religions and "infidels" in general. Representatives of mainstream Christianity and Islam often downplay the violence of their extremist counterparts by pointing out peaceful attributes, and stating that those who commit these acts of terrorism cannot possibly "True Christians" or "True Muslims."
However, the penalty of death as well as other atrocious acts that their gods levy against human beings for breaking certain canon laws such as adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy and apostasy are not difficult to find during a quick search of the Koran or the Bible. Watching the dance that ensues by religious leaders who try to explain what the bible "really means" when confronted the sheer number of passages that are part of their doctrines that promote violence is astounding.
And The Beat Goes On...
The United States has seen a steady increase in activity by the religious right in their efforts to get laws passed that favor Christians and discriminate against unbelievers. Part of their agenda includes the reintroduction of Christian prayer in public schools and the reversal of Roe v. Wade. These issues, along with the insistence that the United States is a Christian Nation which has no historical support, keep organizations like American Atheists, Inc. extremely busy.
Current estimates put the unbelieving population of the the United States at about fifty-million, and close to five million identify as specifically Atheist. These numbers are not lost on the religious right. Every day there are more Atheists gravitating from the status of a silent minority to being extremely vocal, and this is spurring a rise in the efforts of the religious right to shut us up.
Life for Atheists will be very different in our future. Things are changing rapidly and although change is inevitable, the question is whether or not we are going to be agents of our own change, or whether the religionists will decide our future for us. We need to stop fighting among ourselves. A house divided cannot stand. Together, we must work towards the continuation of the momentum for change in the favor of humanity.
There are millions of us. We are daughters, sons, wives, husbands, doctors, lawyers, stock handlers, convenience store clerks, scientists, astronauts, barristas, homemakers, writers, men, women, straight, gay, lesbian, trans-gender, bi-sexual, skinny, fat, black, white, yellow, green, red and every other conceivable combination that you can think of. Do we go quietly into that good night, as the religious right desperately want us to, or do we stand and be counted?
Religion is a fractured institution. There are almost 40,000 different Christian denominations and several sects of Islam that all disagree with one another enough to become their own entities. We must adopt a position of solidarity and hold each other accountable as well as hold each other up. We must choose our allies as carefully as our friends and stand behind legislation that will ensure that our free nations remain so and that those which are not free have a way to get to freedom.
This is the only way to break the vicious circle.
Al Stefanelli - Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.