The Shotgun Blog
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Godless in Charleston
Meanwhile in the Bible Belt: Two months after the local atheist organization here put up a billboard saying “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone,” the group’s 13 board members met in Laura and Alex Kasman’s living room to grapple with the fallout. The problem was not that the group, the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, had attracted an outpouring of hostility. It was the opposite. An overflow audience of more than 100 had showed up for their most recent public symposium, and the board members discussed whether it was time to find a larger place. And now parents were coming out of the woodwork asking for family-oriented programs where they could meet like-minded nonbelievers. “Is everyone in favor of sponsoring a picnic for humanists with families?” asked the board president, Jonathan Lamb, a 27-year-old meteorologist, eliciting a chorus of “ayes.” [..] Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years. Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.
Meanwhile in the Bible Belt:
Two months after the local atheist organization here put up a billboard saying “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone,” the group’s 13 board members met in Laura and Alex Kasman’s living room to grapple with the fallout.
The problem was not that the group, the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, had attracted an outpouring of hostility. It was the opposite. An overflow audience of more than 100 had showed up for their most recent public symposium, and the board members discussed whether it was time to find a larger place.
And now parents were coming out of the woodwork asking for family-oriented programs where they could meet like-minded nonbelievers.
“Is everyone in favor of sponsoring a picnic for humanists with families?” asked the board president, Jonathan Lamb, a 27-year-old meteorologist, eliciting a chorus of “ayes.”
Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.
Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.
Posted by Richard Anderson on May 2, 2009 | Permalink
Republican theocracy? Give me a break! If it were true I would blame the fact that the republic is becoming more and more democratic and populist, allowing property rights and freedom to be erroded. That is the problem.
Anyone afraid of a Republican theocracy based on Christianity or Islam would be wise to defend property rights and freedom, with violence if required, or risk losing it.
I think the freedom to practice Christianity, or atheism, is best protected where property rights are the strongest.
Posted by: TM | 2009-05-02 9:02:39 AM
Render onto Ceasar what is Ceasar's.
Render unton God that which is God's.
– Jesus, 2000 years ago.
Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-02 10:04:42 AM
So many Christians fear atheists and consistently demonstrate intolerance if not outright hostility towards them.
This reaction is quite stange to me. I am not afraid of anyone's religious beliefs. Neither do I fear atheists.
What I do fear is state sponsored religion of any kind. The state must stay the hell out of religion.
Posted by: epsilon | 2009-05-02 11:28:01 AM
"It doesn't take silly stabs at religion"
If "There's Probably No God" is a silly stab at religion, then "Jesus is Lord" has to count as a silly stab at athiesm. If someone really believes that Jesus is Lord, saying so is not a silly stab at anyone. If someone really believes that there probably is no God, saying so is also not a silly stab at anyone. If you can't understand that, then you're an idiot.
Posted by: Steve | 2009-05-02 11:32:06 AM
And, if you don't believe me, you're a God-damned liar.
Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-02 12:49:51 PM
Every time atheists take over a country it is the same thing: famine, purges, marches to the country side, gulags, anti-intellectualism, destruction of families, mass murder. Every f_cking time. Not exactly a record to be proud of, is it?
This is one of my favorite arguments religious people put up against atheist. You're of course referring to Hitler and Stalin.
For Stalin, there can be no debate: he was an atheist. But the argument that his evil was driven by atheism is a stupid argument, and it's one that religious people always reject when it's turned around on them. Whenever the atrocities of Christianity, particularly Catholicism are pointed out, the response is to either: deny it, or glaze over it with absurd statements like: "well they weren't real Christians."
The proposition that atheism logically leads to tyranny and despotism is in fact quite a funny argument coming from religious people, considering almost all of history's tyranny and despotism was done in the name of religion.
One might also point out that the Roman Catholic church was quite outwardly supportive of Adolph Hitler and his anti-semitism until 1939 when came a change in the Papacy to Pope Pius XII, who was somewhat less enthusiastic about Hitler, ordered that Catholic clergy across the world pay homage on April 20th, Hitler's birthday.
The fascist states of Italy and Portugal were in fact, very religious, and who's Roman Catholic contingents were extremely sympathetic to Hitler's war against the Jews. This was such that, Portugal--although neutral in the war--was denied entry into the United Nations initially.
One might also point out that at least one-quarter of Hitler's SS were practising Roman Catholics, and despite several well-known examples of them, not one was excommunicated from the Catholic church. Well, I'm lying, one Catholic SS member was excommunicated, but it was for marrying a Protestant.
The early Marxist intellectuals were formed by large Jewish and Christian sympathies, including and up to Stalin's time where many Christian's within the Soviet Union remained highly supportive of Stalin and connected the Marxist class struggle with Christian principles. The phrase attributed to Jesus that set you free just quoted, was once again largely used as it's justification.
The proposition that atheism leads to totalitarianism is further cast in doubt when one considers that Benjamin Franklin was known to be an unbeliever. And while the other founding fathers, like Jefferson could not be considered atheists by any stretch, the deism that characterized the intellectuals who founded the United States represented and outright rejection of organized religion, the divinity of Christ and Christianity all together.
Jefferson famously viewed Christ as a "moral teacher" but actively advocated against the view that he was the son of God. This would ultimately be the basis for his attempts at re-writing the Bible in a more secular way; a book of morality, rather than a book of God.
One might also question who were the tyrants of the early United States? The ones, like Franklin and Jefferson, who rejected religion, or the pius hordes of the South who sought to maintain the practice of slavery, subjugation of women as housewives and breeding vessels?
Christians really have no claim on freedom and liberty. Really.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 3:53:17 PM
Wow, such anger, Attacker. There's so much vile and apologetics here, that I figured I'll focus on one of your boldest statements;
"Atheists were, and are, barred from running from office"
Show me this to be the case. And you're wrong about Franklin. He almost certainly was an atheist. And I actually said that Jefferson was a deist. You kind of missed that in your rage, i guess.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 5:32:00 PM
"Bullshit, atheism is fundamental to Marxism. It most certainly was a factor in the mass murder and purges."
Strictly speaking, yes. But this has not stopped many religious people from taking up the cause of Marxism and it's little cousin, socialism.
"We're saying that in every country the atheists take over, mass murder ensues."
Atheists have never taken over any country as a movement. You have serious trouble with the direction of your logic. You exhibit strong difficulties with concepts like sufficient and necessary conditions.
Even if Marxism does affirm atheism, the inverse is not implied. That's called a logical fallacy. It's known as affirming the consequent, and one who does this shows serious deficiencies in their ability to engage in critical thought.
In this case, it's even easy to disprove. Especially considering the amount of libertarian and classical liberal atheists and agnostics that have, in many ways, dominated the Enlightenment.
I do,--in fact--know plenty of atheist socialists. But I do--in fact--know plenty of atheist conservatives, and socialist theogens.
Economically, I would consider Michael Coren a socialist. He may be a social conservative, but economically, he's been openly supportive of the welfare state. As are many religious people.
All of these facts are enough to demonstrate that making the argument that communist totalitarianism is connected to atheism is stupid.
The reason why totalitarian communist states were atheist, was due to the need for such states to usurp all independent thought, and replace religious worship with state and idol worship. And atheism does not logically lead to this.
Totalitarianism comes from the belief that humanity can be perfected. And ideologies of both the secular and the religious have oppressed on this basis. The tie-in of atheism with communism, and therefore the attempt by religious people to equate atheists with communists is just fucking evil.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 5:44:43 PM
I've had disagreements with you in the past, but the above is a very fine defense and criticism.
Posted by: Publius | 2009-05-02 5:48:49 PM
So Mike name one regime based on atheism that was not based in the most vile inhumanity. You cannot, because Attacker's statement on that point is correct.
I agree that the past history of Christianity is not without blame. Blame in the sense of at times torturing and murdering those accused of being infidels, heretics, witches et cetera. However to equate that to Christianity to-day is nonsense and dishonest.
That said I see no need for the anger and name-calling by Attacker. I fully support free speech no matter how outrageous I may find the contents, for I am secure enough in my beliefs not to feel threatened.
I do think that a confrontation between atheists and Islamists would offer a lot more action.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-02 5:56:25 PM
"So Mike name one regime based on atheism that was not based in the most vile inhumanity. You cannot, because Attacker's statement on that point is correct."
I don't have to, because as I've already said, there has never been a regime based on atheism. Atheism is not a political ideology. Nor is it a moral or ethical system.
To try and project it as such is either being wilfully ignorant, or worse: wilfully dishonest.
This is why many atheists, myself included, qualify themselves as secular humanists, as atheism is insufficient to communicate any moral or ethical position, because it is none of those things.
Therefore, you can not base a state on atheism. You cannot.
The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. were based on Marxism. So actually, Attacker's statement is not correct.
It's a whole-heartedly dishonest attempt to connect atheism with communism. It's not something I have to answer for. I do not have to answer for Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong.
The fact they were atheists does not make them part of a common ideology with me. Atheism is not an ideology, it is the rejection of a belief in God. Period. No moral or ethical precepts flow from that.
They were communists. I am not. The attempt to make atheists answer for communism just demonstrates further, the poison that is religious dogma.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 6:04:40 PM
Mike says: "It's a whole-heartedly dishonest attempt to connect atheism with communism" and I say rubbish. Funny how the communist regimes did everything in their power to stamp out religious belief and to preach atheism.
You can argue otherwise till the cows come home but it does not make it true.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-02 6:17:10 PM
I've provided plenty of salient examples the contrary. You've made a baseless assertion. You're now saying that because I argue something "it doesn't make it true"--which is probably the most weak and feeble response one can make.
Of course arguing something doesn't make it true. The difference between you and I, is that you accept something on faith. And I require evidence.
I've countered the claim that atheism and communism are intrinsically linked. Yet you reject everything I say without making an honest attempt to refute any of it. Instead, you demonstrate your lack of intellectual honesty, by not just disagreeing with me, but by proactively disagreeing with all future arguments on the subject with your "until the cows come home argument".
That is effectively the same as saying: no matter what evidence or argument you present, I disagree.
Which is to say, you are closed minded.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 6:33:57 PM
Mike, you continue to spout the same rubbish without evidence. I stated the fact of communism being linked to atheism, and you have yet to come up with one communist regime that was not atheist and did not seek to impose atheism on its people. Before you get yourself into another tizzy I never said however that all atheists are communists.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-02 7:57:46 PM
Your argument is a non sequitor, because I already admitted that all communist states were officially atheist. Read my previous comments carefully, and you'll see that I admit that Marxism espouses atheism. I've--in fact--never refuted this.
What I have refuted is the inverse logic, that atheism leads to communism. For this, the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.
If you assert that, then you are saying that I am a communist. If you are saying that, then let me put it bluntly: you're a fool.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-02 8:04:59 PM
Mike, take some reading skills lessons.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-02 8:13:58 PM
I see Mike's losing yet again.
Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-02 10:56:29 PM
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