"Athiests Need to Just Shut Up"

Twice recently I’ve seen this meme pop up of atheists being the only minority group it’s still okay to oppress. A lot of groups make this claim, including Christians. I hate to see atheists start nailing themselves to a cross, as it were. But judge these bids for martyrdom for yourself:

The Blasphemy Challenge
Are Atheists too Militant?

I spent my high school years as the only known atheist in a town of Southern Baptists, and I got more shit about it than I ought to have, but largely I found that people got over it. Things may have gotten more polarized since, and perhaps the stakes have gone up, but I seriously doubt that there is any kind of systematic prejudice against atheism. It’s galling to see people get on CNN whose only argument is “atheists need to just shut up,” but such people are not representative of the country’s overall tolerance level.

I put this in The Pit because I don’t expect it to inspire any reasoned discourse, but you tell me – do you think atheists should be playing the ‘victim card?’

Try running for a public office and use “Atheist Values” as a selling point, then get back to me, o.k.?

Indeed. As much hoopla as there was about one guy wanting to swear in on a Koran, imagine if you refused to swear in on any holy text at all?

No, I don’t think we should be playing the “victim” card because no one knows you are an atheist unless you announce it. That said, you have to recognize there’s a lot of prejudice about atheists floating around outside the SDMB. I remember once listening to regular, not wildly right wing radio station in Georgia where a commentator casually lumped atheists in with murderers and armed robbers as ‘bad people.’

Can’t get the links to work…

I dunno. As an agnostic (with strong atheist leanings), I think atheists can be every bit as smug and patronising as the most fundie Christian. I very much think of atheism as a religion when it comes to certain people, and my main problem with religion isn’t their invisible man in the sky but their hypocrisy when it comes to humility. If ever there was an oxymoron, it would be “preaching humility”. Both sides do it (badly).

There is an extra " at the end of the URLs. Delete it and you should be fine.

But for those of us who can’t listen to the videos at work, can someone give us the Rdr’s Dgst version of what they’re about?

You mean like President Franklin Pierce did over 150 years ago? He affirmed, but did not swear, I think he may have affirmed with the bible present though. Although the reasons for that are unclear, I’ve heard that because of personal tragedy that struck his life around the time of his election (his son was crushed to death in a train accident practically before his eyes) he decided not to swear on the bible. I’ve also heard it was more due to a religious conviction of his against the swearing of oaths (although that sounds to mostly just be confused with Herbert Hoover’s reasons for affirming instead of swearing.) Theodore Roosevelt didn’t use any holy book at all when he was sworn in (but he was sworn in, and did not affirm.)

FWIW religion is a major polarizing force in American elections these days. I think this is definitely a new trend, and say 150+ years ago a Presidential candidate who held non-mainstream religious beliefs had a much better chance of getting elected because society at large was either not concerned or just simply uninformed to the same degree about those details of a candidate’s life. Although Jefferson took some flak in the papers for his sometimes outspoken deist or even atheist views, there’s little evidence it ever hurt him when it came to getting elected, an atheist probably had a better chance of being elected in 1800 than one would in 2008.

  • George H.W. Bush, President of the United States

Now replace ‘atheist’ with ‘Jew’ or ‘black man’ or ‘woman’ and imagine the uproar it would have caused.

It’s basically people openly renouncing any belief in God(s).

For example, if we take the hot chick Jessica, whose video is first on the Blasphemy Challenge website (on YouTube here), she says the following:

Amen, brother!

You’ll meet atheists who are invested in the idea that they’re more intelligent than theists, just as you meet agnostics who are really hung up on their self-image as being more open-minded than either atheists or theists. But I don’t think that makes the difference. If people hear you’re an atheist, they judge you before they find out whether you’re an asshole about it.

Interesting. I somehow doubt that anyone would even try that today.

Though it’s worth calling attention to the issue, I suspect that the ability to get elected is probably not the most important measure of whether or not you’re a persecuted minority.

(1) A group of Philadelphia hard atheists (The Rational Response Squad) is broadcasting an Internet radio show targeted to teens in which they solicit blasphemy (denial of the Holy Spirit). The have had 800 responses.

(2) An outspoken atheist family complains that no one will play with their children, and that people believe they are going to hell. They suspect that a landlord gave them notice on account of their atheism. (The action followed a conversation they had with someone by a “few weeks”.)

Atheism isn’t a religion, am I correct? Isn’t it just the belief that there is no God? In other words, you aren’t stating what you believe, but what you don’t believe. When you tell people you are an Atheist, you’re basically saying, “I don’t believe in God.” But why would anyone tell you to “just shut up” if you’re not being obnoxious about it?

If you are trying to convince Christians that there is no God, you’re fighting a losing battle and probably should “just shut up”. Just as Christians should do the same when trying to convince you to live by the Ten Commandments.

The problem is that anyone who is religious thinks that their God (or Gods) is the only God and everyone should live by the same rules. Those who don’t will go to hell (or whatever their religion believes).

I would imagine that for you to tell them there is no God (by declaring that you’re an Atheist), is very offensive. Why not just live your life the way you see fit and let the religious people worship whatever they want?

The only reason I would declare that I’m an Atheist is to fight to keep religion out of schools and the government. Why else would you need to?

If I have the wrong idea about Atheists, please fight my ignorance. Maybe there’ more to it.

Thanks, Lib and Hogwash. I’ll watch them for myself when I get a chance, though, because I’m curious about specific content.

I’m a bit split on the issue. I normally keep my atheism to myself, especially IRL, because it really doesn’t come up much. But if someone starts attacking me with hellfire and brimstone, you can bet that the gloves are going to come off. I have a right to defend myself and my beliefs, after all.

And sometimes a preemptory strike is called for, in the case of things like the radio moron mentioned in post 4. I think it’s important to educate the public about what atheism actually is, rather than let ignorance fester. But not in an obnoxious way, which would be – well, obnoxious.

Carl Sagan had a knack for doing it right.

Well, evangelical Christians seem pretty intent on putting religion into the schools and government, and keeping them there. So that’s a chunk there.

My kid’s friend’s mom was talking about being overcharged by a plumber and said, “I told him that wasn’t Christian of him.” No big deal. Except for the implication that if he wasn’t Christian, well, that kind of thing is t o be expected. Or that merely “not cheating” is a Christian trait.

My next door neighbors have a pentacle on their front door. They love kids and love halloween and used to put up really entertaining halloween decorations. One year some “concerned neighbors” set up chairs on the corner, warning people not to go there because the people who live there are ‘evil.’ Now they just quietly leave their front light on and hope the kids will still stop.

There are several states in which, legally, an atheist cannot hold public office. Anachronistic? Yes. Rarely enforced? Yes. Still on the books? Yes.

They also can’t be boy scouts. A couple of kids have had their Eagles RESCINDED because of their atheism.


The authenticity of that quote is up for debate, I believe.

Where is Thrillsville, anyway?

I ask because it’s hard for me to imagine such a thing happening here in Boston. It seems like there’s a lot of tolerance here, not so much in other places. I bet we could do a whole thread on atheism, tolerance, and geographic location. Then again, what we lack in Southern Baptists we more than make up in Catholics, and some of them are pretty hard-line.

Has there ever been a thread about that? It would be interesting.

In fact, I just started one.