I’d just like to highlight a really great discussion that’s going on across several blogs.
I think it started here with a comment from a “moderate Christian” on a post over at Almost Diamonds . This comment got several responses including this letter (via Crowded Head Cozy Bed), which I think is appropriate, and this more low-key discussion at Lousy Canuck, which I think is also appropriate. [Edit: Now also discussed at Relatively unrelated.]
Sometimes it’s hard being an atheist. I think anger is a healthy and appropriate response and can be used as motivation, but I also think there is room for reasoned discussion of the issues. I’ll post here a response I made on Lousy Canuck in response to a Christian’s question about what he could do to be considered “innocent” in the matters of the mistreatment of atheists and distance himself from fundies:
@ Thomas: “For most of the posters there, the only thing that would allow me to suitably distance myself, is to become an agnostic or atheist (perhaps a deist). Is this your solution?”
For me the solution is not for you to necessarily change your beliefs, but your actions. Many moderate Christians sit idly by and let discrimination against non-theists happen and do not understand that “separation of church and state” is not the same as “forcing everyone not to believe in god”. If believing in god floats your boat, fine. If you get social/community and emotional benefit from being part of a church, fine.
Rather my suggestion for a “solution” would be for the moderate Christians to stand up for us and fight for our mutual rights. We also have the right to congregate. We have the right not to be indoctrinated in our public schools and government buildings. We have the right to run for office. We have the right not to be discriminated against. But we’re not treated that way and the more we fight on our own, the more we’re seen as upstart “new atheists” making war. Moderate Christians could help us fight to be seen as the decent moral human being that we generally are, but they often don’t — and that for me is why they are guilty. It’s not anything particular that their doing, it’s what they fail to do.
I would add to that the following: I think from the Christian perspective, this is the problem. We see Christian teachings in public schools (or the ten commandments on government buildings) as indoctrination and they see it as perfectly normal. But that is only because they already believe it. When we try to get religion out of public schools, they see it as an attack on god and us forcing people to be atheists. I just wish they could see this from our perspective, and that is what they are failing to do.
Many don’t understand, or won’t, that when we try to get Christianity out of school, we’re not attacking Christianity. If they want to believe that Jesus was awesome, great. But they should do it at home or in church where it belongs — they should not force kids in public school to have to sit through revised science and history classes for the sake of Christianity. This isn’t only about atheists — it’s about every single other religion that’s marginalized by this practice. And I don’t for one second believe that if they were in our position, they wouldn’t fight buildings being adorned with Muslim scriptures or Greek/Roman mythology being taught as literal interpretations of creation.
Public school is not the arena to have this fight. I hate to be one of those “think of the children” people, but honestly it’s they that have everything to lose by getting a shitty education because so much time, money, and effort was wasted on fighting to keep science in science class instead of teaching them science. They can go to church another time and if they can’t reconcile the information between the two places, it’s up to you (moderate Christians) to explain it to them. I know it seems like science is the enemy, but it’s not. Science is objective and has nothing to do with atheism. Science is a tool that must be used responsibly and revising it to fit a particular religious doctrine is not responsible.
It’s not appropriate to silence science and history in order to “protect” kids from actually having an independent thought and protect parents from having to have an intellectual theological conversation with their own kids. No one is asking that the government buildings say “atheists are awesome” or that kids have to be taught not to believe in god at school, we’re saying leave all that out of it. It’s not appropriate. In fact, when we see something like the ten commandments on a government building, that says to us “Christianity is awesome and the fact that we bothered to put this here suggests that we think we’re more important and awesomer than you”. Is that appropriate?
Can we just please agree, for once, that we are all mutually affected by this? When we allow one group to be marginalized and discriminated against just because we don’t happen to agree with them, we lose our right to call ourselves human. One of our most defining characteristics is the ability to rise above this animal tribalist nonsense. We’re better than this. Act like it.
UPDATE: More discussion.