Atheists In America:
Stand Up To Your Opponents
Those of us who do not live in the U.S. regard the attitude to atheists as amusing. I can't imagine a New Zealand Prime Minister saying atheists shouldn't occupy government positions. In fact the present Prime Minister is an atheist herself. Even our churches are reasonably careful what they say. Saying the sort of things American authority figures say brings scorn on their heads.
"One country, one people, under God" is the sort of phrase from American presidents which makes the rest of us squirm. We wonder what harebrained adventure the Americans are going to get into next with their God-given self-righteousness. I think these days one thing which does keep American presidents in check is the opinions of other Western leaders. The President can't afford to be too much out of line.
Now that might sound as if I am a Yank basher. I am not. I have great admiration for American achievement. I have great respect for people like Carl Sagan who always spoke sense. In fact generally his ideas were in line with mine or vice versa. I enjoyed and agreed with the sentiments in his last book A Demon-Haunted World.
I have been somewhat horrified at posts from Christians-turned-atheists in the U.S. As you say, they seem to be pressured by friends, family and colleagues. That doesn't happen here. I will loudly tell anyone I am an atheist. If they don't like it tough luck. I have been told I have no morals and no purpose in life. I just ask them do you enjoy your life, your children, the outdoors, a walk along a beach? They don't enjoy life any better than I do.
My advice to Americans is to stand up to opponents. Tell them in no uncertain terms you are atheists. If they don't like it that is their problem. I don't know what the law is there but here you cannot discriminate on religious grounds here. If an atheist is discriminated against when applying for a job he has a remedy in law. If a church wants, say, a gardener to keep the church grounds they cannot advertise for someone of that faith. They must accept all applications.
We hear the outrageous loud proclamations of the far Right. You need to raise your voices and make yourselves heard. But make sure everything you ever say is logical and reasonable. It is very satisfying when Christians listen and admit you have a point.
If a church wants, say, a gardener to keep the church grounds they cannot advertise for someone of that faith. They must accept all applications.
In America, this is not the case. Not only may a church restrict applications only to those of that belief, but this holds even when the church is hiring for positions that are to be funded with tax dollars for faith-based charities, the failure of Bush's plan to expand this notwithstanding. This is already the case! Nobody in America would oppose a church's right to hire only people from their group to work for them: this is why the laws read the way they do and why they are, indeed, allowed to "discriminate" in this manner.
The only controversy is whether they ought to be allowed to accept public money and do this at the same time. Strict state-church separation, as understood by the Constitution's architects, would solve this problem once and for all: the Constitution forbids giving public money to churches -- even in the context of competitive bidding for social services contracts!
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.