Why Do You Want
People To Avoid
Religious Convictions
In Politics?

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Frantz"
Subject: Re: just a question
Date: November 11, 2002 9:43 PM

I don't think I would have signed this letter, either!

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Today, the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not need to be fixed; they need to be followed.
 -- Walter Mondale

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  -- and --

Yes, they are free to express their views.

And you, likewise, are free to express your views.

However, when you slander me by telling people that my views are thus and so when nothing could be further from the truth, you, in essence, take away from me not only the right to express my views, but also the means of expressing my views.

Specifically, when you ask a trick question whose point is to portray me as being one who "wants people to avoid their faith or religious convictions in the political life," you, in essence, nullify any expression that I have uttered, by lying about it, saying that I said something that I never, in fact, said!

When you ask a trick question whose point is to portray me as "wanting to be just like (Jerry Falwell) but on the other side," you neuter any impact that my self-expression might have because you have told people that my motives are something other than what they, in fact are.

And when you portray Jerry Falwell, by implication in your comparison with me, as being opposed to letting people express their views in political life, which is not my understanding of what the Rev. Falwell is about at all, you serve only to make enemies on both sides, having misrepresented two men who, in reality, either parrot or describe the viewpoints or ways of two large segments of our culture: he, the politically cloned Evangelical Christian and I the silent nonbeliever, too apathetic to even call himself an atheist and ranging, politically, from "to the right of Atilla the Hun" to "so far out in Left Field that the trolleys don't even run there."

Because of your slander, I might as well talk to a brick wall than try to express my views.

Where the hell did you get the idea that I want to stop others from expressing their views, be those views religious or otherwise?

Are those religious people telling you that this is my opinion, that this is the opinion of the much-maligned "atheists"?

Why are people so eager to portray atheists as being something that we are not? What might such people have to hide that they feel they must misrepresent information that is plainly and publicly stated?

In fact, if somebody's religious convictions include such ethical commandments as "Thou shalt not bear false witness against anybody, then I'd like little more than to see some of them get busy and start using their religious convictions in political life and other aspects of life as well!

What I want people to do is to try obeying the law for once. Our Founding Fathers made it against the law for Congress to establish religion or to forbid its free exercise. Later, shortly after the Civil War, this law was expanded from simply "Congress" to mean "any government body or representative" -- which goes from the President to a housing project custodian. Both sound like excellent ideas. I would like to see our country try them out for size, to see how they work.

Unfortunately, never has our country seen a time when either version of the law was even partially obeyed (except, in a very limited sense). In addition (and most likely, as a result), never has our country seen a time when religious bigotry and religious favoritism did not reign free.

Some atheists, claiming to be in favor of the separation of religion from government, want to go so far as to shut down the likes of Jerry Falwell. Considering that we atheists have, this entire time, been on the short end of the political stick, and considering that because of Rev. Falwell and his associates, we atheists have that short-ended stick more firmly rammed up a certain bodily orifice than ever before, I can't say that I blame those atheists for wanting to shut him down.

However, I wish to do no such thing. Rather, I want to see our government become absolutely neutral when it comes to questions of religion.

Absolutely neutral!

Not antireligion, like the Soviet Union was, nor proreligion, like the United States has always been (in practice, though never by law), but absolutely neutral toward religion, as was the dream of the main architects of the Constitution, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

This, I think, would end any problems that might arise from the doings of the Rev. Falwell, and would certainly end the fears that he and his associates have stirred up in the likes of yourself by lying about atheists.

As I quoted the former vice-president above:

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Today, the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not need to be fixed; they need to be followed.
 -- Walter Mondale

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That summarizes the only opinion I've really expressed when it comes to religion and politics as you described. There are a lot of sub-categories, but this is the bottom line and the point to which all the other things point.

The next time you write to a group or an organ to ask them why it is that they believe this way and that, I strongly recommend that you first stop and make sure that "this way and that" is how they actually believe! Such a simple act of precaution can save you a world of embarrassment, as I noted in our front page.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Seven years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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