Friday, January 23, 2009

The Inclusion of Non-Believers: Overdue

During his inaugural address, President Barack Obama uttered a simple yet somehow controversial phrase acknowledging the mere existence of non-believers among the many social constituencies in America. Predictably, many Christians took offense at this. Fearing the dilution of their own cultural dominance, many of these Christians simply won't accede to the notion that diversity, not religiosity, is the value much more worthy of precedence and celebration.

What many among the Christian majority seem to want is to live in denial - denial that those who prefer not to practice any religion at all make up a substantial portion of society. This non-religious segment is also beginning to shows the first signs of morphing into a political entity, which may in fact be what the religious right fears most. While it will likely be a very long time before atheists command anything close to a majority faction among voters, it is certainly foreseeable that they could form a swing voting block significant enough to threaten the domination of Christian conservatives. By first cooperating with liberal evangelicals and other religious progressives, non-believers can begin the slow but inexorable march toward political viability.

It has been said that former president George H. W. Bush did not even think atheists should be considered as citizens or patriots at all. This being the case, the mere acknowledgment by President Obama of the rightful place in society of non-religious citizens is an important first step.

But what can atheists do to further their own legitimacy? First, the ones who engage in the same type of fear mongering that many right-wing conservatives do, should cease their own extremist rhetoric and moderate their tone. Intolerance is not the answer to intolerance. Getting the message out that non-believers are in no way trying to remove God from public life, but rather trying to remove overt religious influence from institutions of government should be first and foremost. Further, aligning themselves with religious constituents who understand the wisdom of separating church and state would be a symbol that cooperation between these two groups is possible. In other words, the surest way to get respect is to give respect.

When President Obama dared to include non-believers as part of the American ideological melting pot during his inaugural address, he was acting in a manner the duty of the office demanded: to be the president of all, not the cultural spokesperson of the religious majority.


  1. Being a non-believer for not as long as many others out there, I was thankful, if nothing else that Mr. Obama added us to thee already melting pot.

    I have never understood the disdain that Christians feel for us who do not believe. Am I less of a person than they? I do not think so.

    I bleed red, and donate on occasion. I volunteer when life allows. I pay taxes. I obey the laws. but yet, I am considered to be beneath these people. Why? Because I do not uphold the same religious beliefs as they? Then I do not need them as my so called friends.

    Hey...I tolerate them because they believe, shouldn't that count for something?

  2. I heartily agree. So many of these people think we are somehow less of a person for our religious skepticism, atheism, humanism, etc.

    It is comforting to know not all Christians are so intolerant. I am happy to count our friend Tara B. as a very tolerant, intelligent and thoughtful Christian.

  3. Firstly, let me state that from a religiously statistical viewpoint, I am an atheist.


    Now, as to my philosophy of life, I am an Agnostic.

    These definitions will help;

    ATHEISM is the doctrine or belief that there is no god, gods, goddesses, deities or primal or supernatural cause for mankind or the world in which man lives. From another standpoint, it says that it is a lack of belief in the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, deities or primal or supernatural causes for mankind or the world in which man lives.

    Now, the definition of
    AGNOSTCISM is; A doctrine that states it is not possible to have absolute or certain knowledge of the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, deities or any primal or supernatural cause and that such knowledge is unknown and inherently unknowable making the concept of any god, gods, goddesses, deities or primal or supernatural cause incoherent, meaningless and irrelevant to life as we know it. I think, unarguably, that definition describes every single person in the world, without exception. To me, it is pretty straightforward.

    The following definitions are absolutely necessary in any discussion of religious belief or non-belief;

    FAITH: A confidently held set of strong, secure beliefs or trust; a belief in, trust in or devotion to, something that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

    BELIEF: An acceptance of truth of something, by the individual mind, that is true or real-often underpinned by an emotional or spiritual sense of certainty. There can be no overriding or defeating truths for the reasons that justify the beliefs.

    KNOWLEDGE: A belief that must not only be true and justified but the justifications of the belief must necessitate its truth to an absolute certainty, i.e. IT MUST BE INFALIBLE.

    RELIGION: A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the belief in creation by and reverence for a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, that control human destiny and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    I have another pet peeve; Any parent who refers to his or her minor child as a Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Baptist or any other faith-based religious indicator is guilty of child abuse! A child should be allowed to reach an age of maturity whereby he of she can reach his or own conclusions about faith-based religious practices or not based on his or her own experiences and evidence.

    Now, let the fur fly.

  4. Great comments, Dwight. We share this desire that children not be abused by religious inculcation. Dawkins' God Delusion, Chapter Nine, reveals his feelings on the matter quite succinctly as well.

    Your definitions are very workable, spot on in fact. I find the distinctions between believing and knowing often worthy of notice.

    Can't wait to check out your blog.