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Posts Tagged ‘bigotry

The Beliefs of a Non-Believer

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“An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it. An Atheist thinks that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment. Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother’s keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now.” – Madalyn O’Hair.

I am an atheist, a non-believer. To those more prone to angry terminology, I’m a heretic, a blasphemer. Those terms come not from ordinary people of faith, but from people who use their faith as a means to differentiate themselves from others, to hold themselves in higher regard than others because of their faith. Much in the same way some noted atheists often use their lack of faith  to believe that they are somehow better than the average faithful, who to them are merely delusional, misguided creatures. People are people, and no matter what they believe there are going to be those who are reasonable, and understanding of those that disagree with them, and there are going to be those that think of people that believe something else as somehow lesser beings. The average person of faith and the average atheist are both generally reasonable people, but the public perception of each is tinted by the divisive attitudes of people like Jerry Falwell and the Congressional Prayer Caucus, or Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins.

Faith is not something I often choose to talk about. I have none, and a great many people seem disturbed by that thought, so I mostly avoid it. But, lately I feel my own personal responsibility to clear the air on what being a non-believer means to me.

Religious institutions often try to paint non-believers as lacking in morals at worst, or just sad, pointless beings who think there is no meaning to life but themselves. While I can’t speak for the majority of non-believers, for myself nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe there is all the more meaning in life because of my lack of faith. I don’t believe there is any afterlife waiting for me to treat this life as little more than the entrance-exam. This is the only life I have, and it’s up to me to make the most of it, for myself, for those around me, for the future of the world in general. While people struggle with the immortal question of the purpose of life, I have a pretty good handle on the purpose of mine. I can’t imagine a greater purpose in life than to give just a little effort toward leaving this world better off for the next generation than it was when we came around.

The accusation that non-believers are lacking in morals too is absurd. It’s based in the belief that the Ten Commandments, or whatever any particular religion calls its basis of rules, were passed down from some divine being, and must be adhered to lest you provoke God’s wrath, and that anyone that doesn’t believe that has no fear of breaking those laws and thus nothing to lose by doing so. I find that belief insulting, and frankly, alarming. It suggests in the castigator a desire to do those awful things, that is only quelled by their belief that God will punish them for it.

I don’t have any desire to steal from someone, or to murder them, not because I fear repercussion from a God, or from police, but because the idea of bringing any kind of pain or suffering on someone else turns my stomach. I don’t do good things in the hope of getting a pat on the back come Judgement Day. I do good because it is right, and I stray from ill because to make someone suffer is unthinkable to me. The idea that a person must believe in a God to think that way is foolish.

I hold no animosity toward the vast majority of believers. I very much enjoy talking to my friends of faith about their faith and how they came to it, what it means to them. But those that would use their faith to cast a scornful eye on those that are different from them, in ideology or anything else, I have no patience for. To say more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else would be an understatement.

So, with that in mind, I ask that my readers of faith understand how much it insults me to read a letter several Republican members of Congress wrote to the President of the United States, chastising him for (get this) using “E Pluribus Unum” (English: Out of many, one) as our national motto, rather than “In God we trust” in a speech in India. Let me reiterate: they are angry because the president would rather quote our old motto, one of unity that perfectly encapsulates what the United States of America stands for to much of the world, with all its different types of people coming together for the common goal of their country, rather than the newer one that suggests people should mostly be united in their love for God rather than each other.

They go on to make clear, through their use of quotes by John Adams and Ronald Reagon, that they believe this country will somehow fail if we don’t go around the world professing our love for God, as if to even acknowledge that a sizeable segment of our population doesn’t believe and that it’s not the role of the government to make them is somehow a bad thing, as if to be a person without faith is a moral failing. As a non-believer, I never felt any great slight when members of the US government stood on the steps of the capitol building and sang “God Bless America”, or the litany of speeches from senators, congressmen, and presidents that ends with the same statement, but this group feels it is necessary to get angry simply because the president doesn’t mention God. Not that he doesn’t believe in God, he does, or that he actively campaigns against the teachings of God, he doesn’t, just that he doesn’t feel like he needs to talk about it. With all the things going on in the world today, how is that an issue for anyone?

I don’t do drugs because I believe to do so is a personal weakness. I’ve never cheated on a partner, because I believe to needlessly hurt someone like that is wrong. I don’t steal because I have no desire to have something I didn’t earn or have gifted to me by someone that cares. I don’t resort to violence to solve my problems, because understanding is the only way to truly solve anything, barring when violence is brought upon you. I donate what money I can spare to charities that help those less fortunate than me, and I am not a financially fortunate person. When I am capable of helping a friend or family member in need, I do because I like to. And I don’t believe in God because to do so doesn’t make sense to me, personally.

And yet, it is only that last statement that determines in the eyes of some, Michelle Bachmann, Paul Broun, Louie Gohmert, and the other 39 members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus among them, what sort of person I am.

There once was a day morality was the sole domain of religion. I believe that day is gone. It’s a shame that some are so closed-minded to think so little of people like me for such a trivial reason.

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Say WHAT?!?

So I’ve decided to start including a subsection to each piece, with different themes. This weeks subsection, “Say WHAT?!?” focuses on things someone in the media or government said that just defies all reason.

Some people like to do research about an issue before they rail against it. Others like to live on the edge.

And the first ever “Say WHAT?!?” award goes to Mike Huckabee, and it’s a two-fer.

Last month, the Huckster said President Obama likely had anti-British sentiment, which would be bad for a US president to have, because of his upbringing in Kenya, with a Kenyan father and grandfather. The first problem, of course, is that Obama wasn’t brought up in Kenya, and only ever visited the country in his 20’s.

That’s okay, though. Because, according to Huckabee, he only misspoke when he said Kenya, and actually meant Indonesia, where Obama did spend a few years of his childhood, after Kindergarten. That’s understandable. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll even let it slide that he mentions Kenya multiple times in the interview. We’ll call it a recurring brain fart.

However, to actually believe that he accidentally said Kenya when he meant Indonesia means he also “accidentally” said the president would have anti-British feelings, when he must have actually meant he would have ill-will toward the Dutch, since it was the Dutch that had colonies in Indonesia; the British had them in Kenya. Also, he must have said Obama was raised with his Kenyan father and grandfather by accident, when what he must have actually meant was Obama never even knew his father, and only met the man on a couple of occasions. Unless, of course, he’s just suggesting that things like anti-British sentiment are just passed down through your genes. And, when he suggested the Mau Mau Rebellion, a Kenyan uprising against their British rulers, would have had a major effect on the young Obama, he must have actually meant… Well, he let’s be honest here. He meant the Mau Mau Rebellion, and when faced with his obvious inaccuracies didn’t have the spine to say he was just speaking without knowing the facts, and instead came up with a pathetic, obviously false lie. Because that’s what good leaders do, I guess.

For the second half of Huckabee’s lock on this award, he took a good, hard moral stand against someone whose really had it coming for a long time, if you ask me, and I’m glad someone is finally taking this person to task. So, clearly we’re talking about a whackjob politician, or an irresponsible member of the media, right? Nope. A tyrannical dictator in another country? Not even close. That person?

"No, Mr. Bond... I expect you to -die-!"

Natalie Portman.

That’s right. Natalie Portman, Harvard graduate, Oscar-nominated actress, and activist, is now a bad role-model for women, according to the Huckster. Why? Because she got pregnant without being married, and is apparently sending the message to women that being a single mother is cool, or something, and that’s dangerous because most women don’t have the resources Portman does to take care of a baby themselves.

First, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Portman is a fantastic role-model for women. If you have a daughter, and she turns out like Natalie Portman, you’re going to be pretty happy, I assure you.

Second, does Huckabee really think that little of young women? What, they’re so caught up in fads and being like celebrities that they’re going to run out and get pregnant because all the cool kids are doing it? Apparently, and I know this comes as a shock to some, women are just as capable of thinking for themselves as men are. Unless, of course, you compare Natalie Portman and Mike Huckabee, in which case the ladies obviously win.

I give you Mike Huckabee, folks, whose mouth has long-since lapped his brain.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Think, Don’t Feel

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“Today is a very sad day. The commandant of the United States Marine Corps says when your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting.” Words spoken by John McCain, in response to the repeal of the US Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward homosexuals.

I’m sad to say I once respected John McCain.

He continued, “There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America.” And from there, he ranted as though all the most recent polls suggested the American people were opposed to a repeal (they weren’t), or that the studies into the effects of a repeal brought back bad news (they didn’t).

McCain’s opposition is based on the idea that some soldiers will have problems with known homosexuals in their ranks. And some of them will, no question about it. Mostly, I imagine, the same ones that have problems with women in their ranks, or think there’s no problem feeling them up every now and again, no matter their protests.

It is this type of soldier that sort of thinking wants to protect. The bigoted, the hateful, the intolerant. I choose to believe those soldiers aren’t nearly as prevalent in our fighting forces as McCain and his ilk would like us to believe. And if they are, I don’t want to hear our armed forces referred to as “the best and the brightest” ever again, because slaves to any form of bigotry are not the best and brightest anything.

During the Bush years, Democrats were branded as not only opposed to our military, but it was suggested they might actually hate our fighting men and women. Of course, I don’t believe that. But McCain’s statements, and all those who agree with him, show that a wing of the Republican party certainly thinks very little of the moral worth of those same soldiers, and puts the lie to any claim of their own personal morality.

To suggest a man must keep his true self a secret in order to have the privilege to die for his country is to spit in the face of everything our country has accomplished, including its birth.

This nation was originally populated by men and women that didn’t want to hide their religious beliefs in the face of an intolerant ruler. America was born of people that could not pretend they were something they were not. We fought a war to earn that right, and again we fought so that men of any color would forever be men all the same. Women fought their own battle to be considered equals, and while the fronts of sex and race still have their struggles, we’ve come a long way. But, both battles had to begin on a shaky first step.

This is that shaky step for yet another front in a war that must be won, a war of equality for everyone, no matter their race, their sex, their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs.

Agents of intolerance (a term McCain used for the likes of Falwell and his ilk, before running for president and pandering to them) would have us believe a soldier’s ability to fight will somehow be compromised by his inherent bigotry toward his own brother-in-arms, as if a man can’t trust another man in the heat of battle because he’ll suddenly be worried about whether or not that man is checking out his ass. Or what? That there will be distractions during non-combat times? And who will those distractions come from? From the homosexual who just wants to be comfortable being himself? Or from an intolerant soldier who wants to bring some sort of harm to him?

We don’t ban women from wearing alluring clothes to protect the despicable rapists that might not be able to control themselves. We don’t ban black men and women from white, southern neighborhoods to spare the few racists there the sight of their skin. We don’t ban people from opening stores because it might tempt a thief. Why then, in this case, should we legislate based on the possible actions of the lowest common denominator?

The answer is simple: because the Republican party has resisted every first step toward progress for minorities of every make and model. It’s built into them, the need to protect the intolerant from the ones they hate, rather than the other way around.

Homosexuals are one of the the last bastions of mostly acceptable hatred. Bigots that don’t want to be tabbed bigots aren’t allowed to openly hate women or blacks anymore, but gays have been mostly alright to hate. They can talk about the legalization of gay marriage leading to the destruction of heterosexual marriage with absolutely no evidence of such, and say it would lead to people marrying animals and children, and somehow they don’t become completely marginalized when they say these things. Jerry Falwell can blame the events of 9-11 on gays, among others, and be invited to the White House to council then-President Bush. That is an open acceptance of hate-speech, courtesy of the most powerful Republican in the world at the time.

A person doesn’t have to wrap an arm around his neighbor and sing “We Are the World”, doesn’t have to like any other person at all, doesn’t even have to expunge from their mind all their ridiculous prejudices. But, a person is absolutely never justified to bring pain, be it from actions or words, into the life of another whose only crime is to be true to themselves.

But on this issue, an issue that holds human beings to a higher moral standard, something the conservative movement claims to be in favor of, a man like John McCain mindlessly regurgitates the usual rhetoric about liberals, and deigns to protect those with closed minds and fists. Instead of striving to eliminate open acts of intolerance, John McCain and those opposed to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, would rather protect those stuck in the past from being brought into the future. Well done.

 

Words from men who didn’t live in the past, but dreamed of a brighter future:

Written by oobiedoo

December 28, 2010 at 1:19 am