Pondering the Existence of Dog

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New at Reason: Cathy Young excommunicates the new anti-secularists.

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  1. I exist. How many fucking times do I have to tell you morons? You better keep me on your money, and keep swearing alligiance to me in your schools, or I’ll shower diseased, burning frogs on your babies.

  2. “Jacoby deplores the use of tax-funded vouchers for parochial schools as an unprecedented breach of the church-state wall…”

    Unprecedented in the sense that secularists are compelled to pay for a religous education perhaps, but not unprecedented in the sense that religous people have been compelled to pay for secularist educations for a very long time. I suspect the latter is what Young was writing about when she wrote, “…sometimes, arguably, to the extent of discriminating against religion…”

    Regardless of whether you are a secularist or a person of profound religous convictions, can we agree that the income tax and religous liberty are fundamentaly incompatable because of problems like this?

  3. Kevin Carson,

    Although I agree with you that a “live and let live” policy would allow many different ideologies to to coexist peacefully, it seems that most people who are passionate about their beliefs have an unquenchable desire to “spread the truth” about those beliefs. It reminds me of a debate I saw between Alan Keyes and Alan Dershowitz. Keyes pointed out that in order to be able to exercise his religious beliefs he needed to be able to proselytize. Atheists can be just as obnoxious, with the “ha ha, you fall for that religious myth and I don’t and therefore I’m better than you” attitude. Get over it, dudes.

  4. Ken Shultz,

    I’ll agree, except that it’s not just income tax, as it’s mostly the property and gaming taxes that are funding the secular schools here in Las Vegas, and Nevada has no state income tax, per se.

  5. Kevin Carson has a point often missed in these debates. In general, the religious in America are extraordinarily tolerant. Like Carson, I suspect most would be content to have government leave them alone.

  6. Why is Alan Keyes advocating his religious beliefs obnoxious? Ditto for the atheist. Nobody is forcing anything on anyone, they’re just talking.

  7. I am a libertarian atheist and I don’t care what religious beliefs people have, as long as they keep them to themselves and don’t force them upon others. Since government effectively has a monopoly on the use of force in a free society, the only way religious beliefs can be imposed on others is via the law and government.

    So, until any particular religious belief can be proven or demonstrated in a rational, scientific manner (i.e., double-blind tests, peer-review publications by experts, making claims that can actually be tested, etc.), it has no moral right to be a part of the law.

    The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, etc. – they’re all ancient texts that are a collection of myths and fairy tales. The facts, recorded history, and the physical laws of reality demonstrate this to be so. So, anyone who is claiming that this crap is the “Word of God” better have some overwhelming, convincing proof backing up these extraordinary claims. So far, this proof does not exist, and the burden of proof of a claim is on the person making the claim.

    Thus, religion should stay out of government, and vice versa. “Live and let live”, as someone earlier posted. Go on with getting ready for the Rapture, denouncing homosexuality, believing in the absurd concept of Original Sin, getting 72 virgins in Heaven, not mixing milk and meat, and all the rest. Just leave the rest of us alone, as well as the government, while you indulge in your irrational beliefs, and everyone else should leave you alone as well.

  8. Attitudes aside, why should people who pay to send their children to religious schools be forced to pay for the secular education of other people’s children? Why should secularists be compelled to pay for the religious education of other people’s children? There are two problems here: public education and the income tax. Let everyone pay for their own child’s education and be done with the problem.

    Public education is by no means the only problem with religious freedom that the income tax exacerbates though. Why should Orthodox Jews be compelled to subsidise pig farms? Why should Muslims be compelled to provide liquor stores and bars with cheap financing by way of the SBA? Why should Christian Fundamentalists be forced to pay survivor’s benefits to someone in a Gay Marriage? I don’t think there are many secularists who appreciate this form of intolerance.

    I know we need tax revenue to enforce contracts, maintain a sufficient deterent to a foreign invasion, provide for a fair judicial system, but because of this form of religious intolerence, the income tax and religious liberty are completely incompatable. Sales taxes, on the other hand, are voluntary in that the person who pays them takes such things into consideration at the time of purchase.

    So ban the income tax! It’s the only way to prevent the establishment of a state religion while still ensuring every citizen the right to practice their own religion freely.

    P.S. Yes, I know. Quakers are problematic.

  9. Ken,
    You could be advocating a system where everyone gets to choose where their tax dollars go. Call it government Darwinism, only the fittest programs survive. Of course, only those that dish out benefits would get supported. I doubt people would knock themselves over to fund the IRS. 🙂

  10. Shawn Smith: Would that Keyes/Dershowitz debate happen to have been at Franklin & Marshall College?

    I live in Lancaster, but didn’t make it to that event.

  11. Dave Straub,

    It was in a college auditorium, say about four years ago. I don’t know which one, and I believe the topic was something like “Can Atheists be Moral?” My memory is pretty fuzzy about it.

  12. My memory is fuzzy about the debate because I only saw it on CSPAN, startng in a few minutes late.

  13. The problem is that, in this society, government funding or regulation is involved in virtually every aspect of society–but the one thing it cannot do is directly or indirectly aid anything religious.

    It most certainly can, and does, directly AND indirectly aid countless religions and religious organizations — through tax-exempt status and, in the case of schools, direct payments.

  14. Attitudes aside, why should people who pay to send their children to religious schools be forced to pay for the secular education of other people’s children?

    I have a better question: why should people who neither have nor want children — e.g., me — be forced to pay for the secular OR religious education of ANYBODY’S children?

  15. Dan, don’t you want the masses educated so America can be great?

  16. “Why is Alan Keyes advocating his religious beliefs obnoxious?”

    Well, personally, I think just about any time Alan Keyes is talking he’s obnoxious. And then he smiles… that soul-searing smile that reaches into your head until, like the cheshire cat, the rest of him disappears from your conciousness, all you can see is that smile…

    AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

  17. i have a solution:

    we take the uneducated children, fire them via high-powered trebuchet into various houses of worship and use the chum to drown some annoying left wing not-for-profit, just-for-kicks.

  18. yelowd,

    I’m not speaking for Dan, but of course Americans want an educated electorate. But even with every one of us paying taxes to school millions of children, we have a disproportionate number of dummies running around. Since the government demonstrates that it cannot guarantee a higher standard of education through taxation, they should get out of the business of it and let those with something at stake (like, say, parents) define the educational landscape through their desire (or lack thereof) to educate kids.

  19. As an atheist, I’m baffled by the revulsion many people have to George Bush’s religious faith. It’s like going nuts when someone says “bless you” after a sneeze. What has Bush said that Jimmy Carter didn’t say?

    As for Alan Keyes, his religious beliefs are obnoxious because they lead him to stupid conclusions. For example, he claims that the teaching of evolution is part of a leftist conspiracy to destroy values. And then there’s his refrain that “our rights come from GAWD”. He can’t go 10 minutes without saying it, and it’s a real turn-off for someone who takes a Randian view of rights.

  20. Dan, don’t you want the masses educated so America can be great?

    My point was simply that, before asking why religious parents should pay for secular education, we should ask why non-parents should pay for education at all.

    As it so happens, I support public funding of education as a necessary thing. But I also feel that religious education should not be funded. My reasoning is this: either a religious belief is demonstrably true, or it is demonstrably false, or (most commonly) it is an article of faith.

    Those religious beliefs which are demonstrably true can be covered in secular education. Beliefs that are a matter of faith do not need a school to teach them. Beliefs which are demonstrably false (e.g., creationism, or the common fundamentalist belief that the Bible is literally true) should not be publically funded. So in none of these three circumstances is government funding warranted.

  21. And then there’s his refrain that “our rights come from GAWD”. He can’t go 10 minutes without saying it, and it’s a real turn-off for someone who takes a Randian view of rights.

    … or for someone who asks the obvious follow-up question, “So what happens if He decides to take those rights away?”.

  22. “… or for someone who asks the obvious follow-up question, “So what happens if He decides to take those rights away?”

    …DO YOU QUESTION THE WILL OF GAWD?!?!?!

    Seriously, who’s god are we talking about? Allah? Yahwe? Jehova? Shiva? Wotan? Zues? Osirus? Ishtar? Ba’al? Cthulhu? (Just kidding.)

    Oh! You mean the “Christian” god. OK, which denomination? Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Luthern, Envangelical Luthern (Wisconsin or Missori synod), Baptist, Mormon, Christian Scientist… I think you get the point.

    With all those differing points of view, I think it’s better if our government acts as if there was no such thing as god.

  23. I have a better question: why should people who neither have nor want children — e.g., me — be forced to pay for the secular OR religious education of ANYBODY’S children?

    Good question!

    And I don’t buy the argument that if we got rid of public schools, half the population would be illiterate anymore than I buy the argument that if Santa Monica got rid of its rent control laws, half the population would be homeless. Inexpensive, quality education is a product of a free market, and if public school has been beneficial to anyone, it’s been beneficial in spite of government sponsership rather than because of it.

  24. Dan – I agree with your point (as I understand it) that religious parents are no more justified in being exempt from taxes for secular education than non-parents. As for your point that “beliefs as a matter of faith do not need a school to teach them,” do you feel this point holds for secular beliefs, as well? I don’t mean anything that is demonstrably true (evolution, a round Earth, etc.), but instead those articles of faith not necessarily tied to any particular religion?

  25. Ken,

    “Why should religious people be forced to pay for the secular education of other people’s children?”

    Because a secular education is not an anti-religious education, it is an a-religious one. There’s a difference. It is just as illegal to advocate against a specific religion, or religion in general, as it is to advocate for it/one.

    Or do you think arithmetic is anti-Christian?

  26. Something seems to have been lost in this debate – not just in this thread so much as nationwide. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” This is much broader than most people seem to realize.

    Religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” (Webster’s Collegiate 10th ed.) In other words, belief that God doesn’t exist is just as much a religious belief as that he does exist. And the government has been told to keep its nose out of _all_ such belief, secular or not.

    In other words, if we go back to following the First Amendment as it was written, the Government has no authority either to tell schoolchildren to pray, or tell them not to pray. It has no authority to discriminate against sectarian voucher schools, or secular ones. It has no authority to tell people how or what they shall – or shall not – believe, PERIOD.

    I hear both the secularist and sectarian sides protesting government involvement – except for “just a few necessary little laws” to keep those OTHER guys in check. Secularists want to shut sectarians out of voucher school programs. Sectarians want to force the teaching of creationism as an “alternative theory” to evolution. Both attitudes ignore the real danger: there is no such thing as “a little” government oversight.

    Any time the government sticks its toe into a new regulatory area, the rest of its rotund, flatulent body is soon to follow. Prior generations requested “a little” tax break; now government decides what is and isn’t a religion. Those same generations asked for minimal standards in public education (i.e. that science classes should teach from Genesis) – now government acts as the schools’ religious-content censor in a way that, applied to the general population, would even make Ashcroft blanch.

    The solution is not to reduce the violations of the First Amendment just a little bit. We either have to throw the camel out of the tent entirely or not at all. And before we can do that, both sectarians and secularists will have to come to terms with the fact that the opposite group has a Constitutional right to believe, practice, and – yes – SAY whatever they want. And not just in their own basements, or in roped-off free-speech areas, or only outside government property, but everywhere.

    Anything less – and the only winner is big government.

  27. Pretty much anything Alan Keyes does is obnoxious. What I said about the authoritarian Santorumites in Congress applies to him; although in his case it’d be the “Franciscan University” caucus instead of Bob Jones.

    Keyes is one of those Straussians who quotes the second paragraph of the Declaration until your ears bleed, but in practice never saw a civil liberty he liked. I heard him argue once that the federal government should silence Ted Rall because his cartoons were “poisoning the mind of the sovereign” and undermining public morale for the total war we’re fighting. He’d put the country under a University of Chicago version of the Taliban.

  28. do you feel this point holds for secular beliefs, as well? I don’t mean anything that is demonstrably true (evolution, a round Earth, etc.), but instead those articles of faith not necessarily tied to any particular religion?

    If you’re referring to stuff like “teaching that racism is bad”, I’d have to say yes, that’s inappropriate too. Just give people the facts, and the conclusion that racism is stupid becomes inescapable.

  29. Religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” (Webster’s Collegiate 10th ed.) In other words, belief that God doesn’t exist is just as much a religious belief as that he does exist

    Whoa, hold on there. The belief that God does not exist is not a set or system of beliefs. It is *a* belief. Webster’s Collegiate dictionary does not define a religion as “any religious belief”.

    So, no, atheism is not a religion.

  30. Vynnie,

    Yes, claiming that God doesn’t exist is a religious belief. But the schools aren’t doing that.

    Believing that the state and its money should not have an opinion on matters religious is not by itself religious, and many from the devout to the apathetic to the atheistic (all represented among the Framers) belive this the best policy.

  31. BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!

    TRANSLATION: Get my damn leash asshole! Walkies now or you burn for eternity! Now turn your head while I lick my privates.

  32. “Jacoby cites President Bush’s presiding over an ecumenical prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral three days after the Sept. 11 attacks as evidence of “the erosion of America’s secularist tradition.”

    One has to wonder exactly how traditional this “secularist” tradition really is as even in the Founder’s generation prayers offered at official speeches by high office holders were not uncommon. President John Adam’s dedication speech for the Capitol had this passage in it:

    “It would be unbecoming of the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and imploring his blessing.
    May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears, be forever held in veneration! Here, and throughout our country, may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!” – November 22, 1800

    That Jacoby’s so-called secular “tradition” was, by her own admission, out of favor within 10 yrs of the ratification of the Constitution, seems to discredit her notion that Bush is eroding it. Would the Founders of this nation have really regarded President Bush’s prayer after 9/11 as an untoward mixing of church and state? I doubt it.

  33. “Intolerance toward atheists and agnostics, who are often viewed as less moral or even less patriotic than believers, remains one of the few forms of socially accepted bigotry.”

    Where is this rash of bigotry against atheists and agnostics? What socially accepted institution or groups are defaming these folks? While am well that some atheists have a highly developed sense of grievance I just do not see their viewpoints being regularly made fun of or belittled in mainstream American society.

  34. Regarding people without kids and paying for education:

    The tax breaks that parents get are contradictory to the best interests of the parents and their children. They, more than anyone, should want their kids to have the very best. I think we’d all agree that most schools could use more funding for better teachers and more/better supplies and school buildings. At the same time, parents get money from the government (the IRS calls it a “refund,” but what it really is is the government giving parents tax dollars paid by non-parents).

    One would think that parents would have the desire and feel a duty to pay just as much per dollar earned as non-parents toward their children’s educations. And how many parents put those “refund” dollars to use at their kids’s schools? Many? Any?

    And as for secular versus religious education, and who should pay for which:

    I want everyone to have an equal chance at a basic education. So should everyone. Therefore, everyone should pay toward an education that treats everyone neutrally, and is impartial regarding spiritual matters. Schools run by the government should provide empirically-derived sciences, not “science” according to a particular sect’s favorite flavor of religious text. They should instill a general code of ethics that apply to everyone, instead of only one group’s version of ethics.

    We pay taxes to provide the opportunity for everyone to receive a basic education, not to pay for a particular child to be educated. Parents, it would seem, should be even more inclined to support education than others, yet the tax code, and the attitude of many parents toward it, do not reflect that supposition.

  35. Whether or not Athiesm is a religion seems like it’s beside the point to me. The fact of the matter is that individual athiest’s shouldn’t be compelled to pay for things they don’t believe in, and religious individuals shouldn’t be forced to pay for things that violate their religious convictions.

    Picking a side and forcing it on everyone should be left to the Democrats and Republicans. The Libertarian solution to most problems doesn’t have anything to do with voting in a secularist or a fundamentalist candidate and shoving our position down everybody else’s throat. If education were completely privatized, and if there wasn’t an income tax, this question would be a non-issue.

    Having said that, as I wrote above, I don’t think that many Libertarians understand and appreciate the effect of violating the civil rights of religious individuals in this way, and that’s unfortunate because, as I’ve seen suggested above, we have some natural allies in places that they may not expect.

    All the people who home-school their kids, everybody that pays to send their kid to a private school and is still compelled to financially support the public school system, everybody that advocates various school voucher programs, the overwhealming majority of these people, I suspect, are Christian Fundamentalists of one degree or another, and, because their religious rights are being violated, they’re natural allies of the Libertarian Party. Our education program is the solution to their problem, and we should be promoting ourselves to them as such.

    I wish that most Libertarians would simply ignore the fact that the rights of these religious individuals are being violated, but many Libertarians seem to actually celebrate the violation! And I don’t understand why.

    Is it the culture war?

  36. dhex:
    “then why are there so many atheists who are absolutely abysmally stupid?”

    “people parading around with “I R ATHEIST” on their t-shirts…”

    Sounds like a strawman to me.
    Where in blazes do you live, that there are so many atheists around that are acting so lame? I live in the pacific northwest, supposedly one of the most atheist areas of America, and I’ve yet to see this flavor of atheist in person.

    However, nearly every year I have folks come to my door selling some flavor of religion. I’ve no idea if they are “fuckwitted dorktards”, but they sure do wear their ideology on their sleeve!

    And yes, most of my ideas are based on science and reason. Be as sceptical as you like…

  37. TJ – notice the belov’d “most” in your last line. therein lies the separator. and the difference which makes a difference.

    are you really telling me that you’ve never met someone who was as dumb as a board and a non-theist to boot? really?

    really?

    i find that very difficult to believe. is every atheist you know a bright? (har har, get it?)

    by “in person” i assume you mean that you’ve found them online, yes?

    i live in nyc. you can find someone spouting off about how god is stupid and then switching gears to their particular favorite conspiracy without choking on the dreaded foot long of irony, somehow.

    there are plenty of religious dipwads everywhere too. mitzvah tanks, jews for jesus, the JWs, the church of the hot young teenage girls handing out pamphlets in union square, and so on. i enjoy their pamphlets and, to a lesser degree, their housecalls, though infrequent. they don’t particularly bother me anymore than the other millions of whackos who live here.

    FEAR THE LIGHT SWITCH!

    ken: i would love to live in the world you mention. i just have no way of conceptualizing it, or how it would come to be.

  38. dhex:
    “are you really telling me that you’ve never met someone who was as dumb as a board and a non-theist to boot?”

    I have likely met people who were both “dumb” and non-theists. However, I have yet to meet someone who is both “dumb” and agressively (or proselytizingly) atheist. I met one proselytizing atheist at a booth in a fair once, he seemed pretty intelligent, well, except for the part about thinking he could “convert” someone.

    Sadly, I have met plenty of theists who are both “dumb” and proselytizing. The “difference which makes a difference” for me is the proselytizing part.

  39. dhex:
    “are you really telling me that you’ve never met someone who was as dumb as a board and a non-theist to boot?”

    I have likely met people who were both “dumb” and non-theists. However, I have yet to meet someone who is both “dumb” and agressively (or proselytizingly) atheist. I met one proselytizing atheist at a booth in a fair once, he seemed pretty intelligent, well, except for the part about thinking he could “convert” someone.

    Sadly, I have met plenty of theists who are both “dumb” and proselytizing. The “difference which makes a difference” for me is the proselytizing part.

  40. Um, browser said neither of the previous posts went through. Hmm…

  41. TJ,

    God must have wanted you to repeat it.

  42. Many Christians and Muslims don’t believe in teachig evolution or sex education. to children Why should they be forced to pay to have it taught?

    because a law allowing them to opt out based solely on religious belief would be an establishment of religion.

    The first amendment doesn’t exempt anyone from following laws that they might consider immoral.

  43. Dan: “The belief that God does not exist is not a set or system of beliefs. It is *a* belief.” – And so the belief that he does exist is also *a* belief, and therefore not a religion?

    If your sole religious belief is “a god exists”, then yes, I think it’s perfectly fair to say that your beliefs do not constitute a religion. Can you name one single religion whose entire belief system can be summed up as “a god exists”?

    In other words, a member of a church or of Aetheists & Freethinkers is religious but a lone aetheist or disconnected Christian isn’t?

    How can you call someone a “Christian” if their only belief is that a god exists? A person who doesn’t believe Jesus died and rose, or died for our sins, or that there is life after death, or that his god is the creator of the universe, or in the concept of sin and redemption, et. al., would not qualify as a “Christian” under the rules of any Church on the face of the Earth.

    He would be a Deist, if anything — but even the Deists held multiple religious beliefs, such as that God created the universe.

    Also, what is “a member of Aetheists and Freethinkers”? I’m an atheist and a consider myself a freethinker, but I have only one religious belief — if, indeed, you can call it that — which is that nothing supernatural exists.

    his A&F chapter

    “His A&F chapter”? Huh? I’ve known countless atheists, and have been one myself all my life. If I’d ever even heard of this organization, I forgot about it. A negligible minority of atheists belong to any atheistic organization of any kind.

  44. Volition and repricosity are the very cornerstones of civil society. Forcing someone to support something that violates their religious convictions with the fruit of their labor blatently violates both priniples.

  45. My belief in the primacy of volition and repricosity arose from my Christianity long before I became aware of Libertarians. God’s insistence that his followers choose his way of their own free will is all over the Bible, and the idea of repricosity can’t be made more plain than in statements of Christ like the golden rule and quotes like, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

    As far as reason being the basis for a system of belief, I’m all for that. Reason isn’t the exclusive domain of Atheists though. Kirkegaard wrote about a leap of faith being super-rational as opposed to irrational, and I find his well reasoned arguments on the topic quite persuasive. Of course, we’re all subject to perspective, that would be the difference between us and God. Well, from my limited perspective and experience, about this, I only know the following.

    Throughout my life, when I find myself needing to make a decision but have too many unsolved variables, I pray. I pray for faith, understanding, direction, etc., and, without exception, I’ve always found the answers I was looking for in the same place. Perhaps even more persuasive to me is the fact that I’ve never been led astray. Can you think of a rational argument against continuing this practice?

    Please understand that I’m not knocking your belief or, rather, your lack thereof. But I confess that, although I understand agnosticism, I don’t “get” atheism. To me, saying that there is no god means that you, from your own perspective and in your own experience, have looked everywhere in the Universe, at the same time, and found no god.

    That would be a hard thing to prove, rationally. Not that you need to prove such a thing, rationally, anymore than a Christian needs to rationally prove the existence of God. But it seems to me that my beliefs are grounded in experience where yours are grounded, necessarily, in a lack thereof.

  46. MJ wrote: “Where is this rash of bigotry against atheists and agnostics? What socially accepted institution or groups are defaming these folks?”

    I’d say that the Boy Scouts organization is a prime example in the US of this definition. It is:
    – bigoted against atheists
    – a socially accepted institution
    – it receives government endorsement in a variety of ways (incidentally, these endorsements are the heart of the Court controversies against this organization)

    Another example (again in the US, but worldwide as well) would be any mainstream Christian Church. Again, they clearly meet these criteria.

    Vynnie wrote: “Religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” (Webster’s Collegiate 10th ed.) In other words, belief that God doesn’t exist is just as much a religious belief as that he does exist.”

    Atheism is not a religion. It is a lack of belief in gods from examining the evidence available regarding the question of the existence of God or gods by using the faculty of reasoning and critical thinking. Atheism is based on reason, science and knowledge. Religion is based on faith and appeals to alleged authority.

  47. then why are there so many atheists who are absolutely abysmally stupid?

    (hint: ideology as identity leads to boring fuckwads)

    i get about as sceptical when i hear someone say their ideas are based on reason, science and knowledge as i do when they say they’re based on the bible. it sounds too rehersed.

    besides, even atheists build themselves little gods. they’re all about reason and science – as if they had test tubes coming out of their ears – until you rip up a $20 bill in front of them to demonstrate that money is magick.

  48. “I’d say that the Boy Scouts organization is a prime example in the US of this definition. It is:
    – bigoted against atheists”-JJB

    The Boy Scouts is an organization devoted to promoting certain ideas and values, one of them being a belief in God. That they would wish to exclude from their ranks people who do not share that belief is not bigotry. I would not expect an atheist organization to accept practicing Christians into its membership, and I would not consider it bigoted aganst Christians if it did not accept them. Such an expansive definition of bigotry renders the word meaningless.

    “Atheism is not a religion. It is a lack of belief in gods from examining the evidence available regarding the question of the existence of God or gods by using the faculty of reasoning and critical thinking.”-JJB

    OK, if atheism is not functionally equivalent to a religion, then would not the government be within its legitimate authority to criminalize atheism? Atheists would have no protection under the 1st amendment’s “free exercise” clause as that clause should only pertain to religions.

    Why do some atheists have to play such silly semantic games? What is the point? Combined with that usual arrogant claim on cornering the market on critical thinking and reason, perhaps it is not so much the atheism that other people dislike but the atheist.

  49. “The tax breaks that parents get are contradictory to the best interests of the parents and their children.”

    Uh, how? Federal income taxes fund the federal government. Federal funding for public schools, while increasing, is still a relatively small part of public school funding which comes primarily from state and local taxes, particularly property taxes. What kind of tax breaks an individual family gets on its federal income taxes has little or no bearing on the funding of their local school.

    “I want everyone to have an equal chance at a basic education.”

    How generous of you. Oh wait, you are not going to pay for it, you are demanding everyone else pay for it? I take it back, how authoritarian of you.

    “Therefore, everyone should pay toward an education that treats everyone neutrally, and is impartial regarding spiritual matters.”

    Easy to say, impossible to do. The word “education” encompasses too many areas that encroach on spiritual beliefs for any particular curriculum to claim itself impartial on matters of spirit.

    “Schools run by the government should provide empirically-derived sciences, not “science” according to a particular sect’s favorite flavor of religious text.”

    This is a contradictory goal from the one above. If favor empirical science over a religious teaching that contrdicts it, you are no longer being impartial. You may be factually correct, but you are favoring one belief system over another.

    “We pay taxes to provide the opportunity for everyone to receive a basic education, not to pay for a particular child to be educated.”

    It is human nature to care more about the welfare of a particular loved one, than in some abstract obligation one has little control or influence over. It is hubris to expect people to order their priorties differently

  50. Brad,

    Many Christians and Muslims don’t believe in teachig evolution or sex education. to children Why should they be forced to pay to have it taught?

    If you don’t want kids to be taught Christianity or Islam, then you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Why shouldn’t you have to extend the same protection to Christians and Muslims?

  51. dhex:

    When you turn the key to start your car, or when you go in a plane, you’re basing your decision to get in the car/plane and that the flammable gas you put in it won’t blow up because of reason and science.

    When you go to bed at night, you have a high expectation that the house won’t collapse on you while you’re sleeping due to faulty construction because of reason and science.

    When you turn the light switch on, you expect the light to go on because of reason and science.

    I’m not going to carry on – if you haven’t gotten the point by now, you won’t ever get it and I’ll waste no more time on you. And if you reply that you do constantly fear all of the above items, then you might as well curl up in the fetal and wait to die, because you sure aren’t living life.

    Your example of money and “magick” has nothing to do with whether atheism is a religion or not. It does have to do governmental monetary and fiscal policies and economics.

  52. Dan: “The belief that God does not exist is not a set or system of beliefs. It is *a* belief.” – And so the belief that he does exist is also *a* belief, and therefore not a religion? In other words, a member of a church or of Aetheists & Freethinkers is religious but a lone aetheist or disconnected Christian isn’t? What about the person who believes just two or three things, or who disagrees with his church or his A&F chapter on key issues – who decides those borderline cases? Your friendly legislature? Camel’s back in the tent.

    Brad: “Believing that the state and its money should not have an opinion on matters religious is not by itself religious, and many from the devout to the apathetic to the atheistic (all represented among the Framers) belive this the best policy.” – I agree. But doesn’t the state scrutinize voucher schools to make sure they don’t say God exists, and scrutinize religious-category nonprofits to make sure they do? Not to mention all the court cases coming out of the schools about kids forbidden to pray on campus, carry a bible, etc. I think the only way to reach this ideal is a much firmer line of separation between church and state than we’ve had in the past.

    JJB: Did you see anything in the definition about “reason, science, and knowledge?” I didn’t.

  53. dhex:

    When you turn the key to start your car, or when you go in a plane, you’re basing your decision to get in the car/plane and that the flammable gas you put in it won’t blow up because of reason and science.

    When you go to bed at night, you have a high expectation that the house won’t collapse on you while you’re sleeping due to faulty construction because of reason and science.

    When you turn the light switch on, you expect the light to go on because of reason and science.

    I’m not going to carry on – if you haven’t gotten the point by now, you won’t ever get it and I’ll waste no more time on you. And if you reply that you do constantly fear all of the above items, then you might as well curl up in the fetal and wait to die, because you sure aren’t living life.

    Your example of money and “magick” has nothing to do with whether atheism is a religion or not. It does have to do governmental monetary and fiscal policies and economics.

  54. teaching that something can come from nothing, as in the BIG BANG theory (please note the term: theory) is as ludicrous as imagining a guy with a cane and some sheep with a bit “G” embroidered on his pocket created the universe from nothing.

  55. JJ to the Bay – you miss the point entirely, which may or may not underline my statement about ideology as identity. i never mentioned atheism being a religion, so i dunno what the fuck you’re talking ’bout.

    just as the most frothy christian very often fails to have any sort of connection to compassion or christian love, people parading around with “I R ATHEIST” on their t-shirts tend to be fuckwitted dorktards, or some combination thereof. like i said, despite their announced love for reasoning and their science someone can be an atheist and a complete idiot at the same time. i apologize if this terrible concept has blown the test tubes out of your ears 🙂

    ripping up currency is not about weighting and fiscal policies – it’s about the power that MONEY has on our lives, and more importantly, about how to manipulate symbol sets. i do it with friends sometimes, though i’ve had to switch to fives because it got too expensive.

    what currency exchanges for is economics. the emotional reaction people have towards currency is powerful mojo. i don’t see how this concept would offend anyone.

    everyone has things they hold dear. fears, phobias, fetishes, patterns, colors, ideas, and so on. not all of these are self-selected, and occur both by accident and training. gods (note the tiny g) in my own parlance, and i apologize for offending your brittle sensibilities. but gods, or deeply-ingrained reactions, or imprints, or whatever you want to call them, exist for even the most stalwart atheist.

    you can now complete the cycle of ideology as identity and join the other religions by insisting those atheists with fears, phobias and other non-rational impulses are “not real atheists.”

  56. Dan – I’d love to go around this circle with you until we reach a conclusion, but unfortunately we’re straying farther from my point – if we try to base our interpretation of the First Amendment on a difficult set of semantic points, we give an open invitation to government to decide the issue for us.

    As an atheist, you should be particularly sensitive to this. The idea that atheism isn’t constitutionally protected is not new. This country has, at various times and places, had laws banning non-Bible-based teaching from science classes, banning church-disfavored practices such as drinking alcohol on Sunday, and even making it a crime to be an atheist! What do you hope to gain by supporting this definition?

    I’m not trying to make a religious point here. As a Libertarian, I want government to have no say in my beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. As others in this thread have alluded, there are sound reasons to believe that the Founders intended atheists, and not just theists or just Christians, to have rights under the First Amendment.

    (BTW, Atheists & Freethinkers is an atheist organization that holds debates, seminars, etc. to demonstrate the fallacies of religion. Might be regional & not present in your area? I’m not sure.)

  57. To MJ:

    I agree that the Boy Scouts should be able to exclude whoever they want from their ranks as a private organization. Thus, they should not be eligible for taxpayer and government funding and support, because they discriminate on the basis of either race, religion, or sexual preference. (Is the President of the US still considered the honorary head of the US? I know he was during Clinton’s term.)

    You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can’t logically claim that you’re not a religious organization, so you should get government support and preferential governmental treatment … and then say that you exclude membership to those you are gay and don’t believe in a higher power. Those statements are not logically compatible.

    I think many people who posted on this thread are generally in agreement – government shouldn’t be in lots of the businesses they are in, and that’s what causes religious people supporting things they’re against, and vice-versa.

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