Political Religious Prejudice to Atheists

religious offenseRebuilding old windows and doors that have been replaced so they can be reused is a means of preserving history while lessening resource impact. It probably costs more because of labor but often I learn much by looking at how things were done differently many years ago. This house has many 14′ fluted, solid wood columns on the porch. When people visit and I tell them they were hand fluted it becomes a time to consider how skilled the labor was to make flutes that appear perfect.

Then when they see the old kitchen in the basement and they hear of how slaves were treated here as elsewhere it becomes a sense of balance and fairness. Long before EuroAmerican slavery, skilled labor or craft labor was considered the lowest of classes. It wasn’t until labor productivity and value increased by the industrial revolution that mechanical skills were merited real wages.

In those days being Irish, Italian, or Polish was not white. None of them were white in spite of similar skin color. Whiteness was a concept of class more than color. Now the largest immigrant population is Asian but they are considered white while African Americans are not.

While the religious nones comprise some 20% of the US population only a handful of them are seen in politics. The kiss of death is to say you are nonreligious. All other minorities are better represented in politics than atheists.

Whether it’s because some consider their atheism, agnosticism or indifference a deal-breaker and don’t even try for office, or whether it’s because some non-religious candidates fudge the truth for political viability, this much seems clear: Candidates have to at least feign some religiosity to qualify for prominent political office, despite our Constitution forbidding religion tests of this sort. And atheism and related forms of non-belief are about the worst thing a candidate can be associated with.

If only atheists were a different color then they could be physically differentiated. If only they held a consistent expressionism like Jews they cold be spotted. If only they spoke out they could be known as an ideological group. My Grandfather was a bigot but he grudgingly admired minorities that worked hard and succeeded. This seems to be the goal of Openly Secular.

Just in time for the “silly season,” otherwise known as the elections, a coalition of secular organizations is launching a campaign to destigmatize non-belief in the public square. It’s called Openly Secular, and if that brings to mind people coming out of closets as we saw with the gay-rights movement, well, that’s the idea.

Explaining the need for the campaign, Carolyn Becker, spokesperson for Openly Secular, points to polling data showing that 53 percent of Americans think it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral. Other survey data show that being an atheist is more injurious to one’s shot at political office than being an adulterer.

These trends would likely bend if more Americans got to know people who were openly non-religious and saw them working hard, taking care of their kids and neighborhoods, and being generally kind and honest in their dealings with other people.

Many have said that if others knew atheists then acceptance would come. If they saw immoral atheists doing moral things. But how? If you define morality as following a holy book then how can that be? Yes, Jill or Joe might not murder but you never know because they don’t follow a sky daddy. Would religious prejudice just be replaced by religious bigotry?

Decades ago, President Eisenhower articulated a principle that still holds sway today. “Our form of government,” the World War II hero and 34th president declared, makes “no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Our new, more secular century calls for an update to Eisenhower’s idea: Our democracy cannot function well unless its participants have deeply felt ethical commitments that get them beyond their own self-interest. And I don’t care where they get them.

Jews had huge success rates and it only convinced prejudiced>>bigots that they were succeeding in taking over the world, taking jobs and accolades from other more worthy people. But maybe these are different times?

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Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

About Jim Newman

Jim Newman is a philosopher. When I was young I wondered what was the ultimate truth. How should I behave? What makes it all work? I was intensely curious to know what it all means. It was enlightening to realize there is no ultimate truth, but nevertheless sufficient and necessary turth, and that meaning was a meta analysis of living one’s life. In this sense my work has been living large. Living and experiencing life has made me learn many things. Building boats, motors, houses, electronics. Raising animals. Teaching. Writing. Photography. Drawing. Knitting. Sewing. Cooking. Music. Painting. Hiking. Aboriginal living skills. All material aspects of reality that seem irrelevant until you realize they allow you to experience more. My epiphany came when I read Christopher Hitchen’s “Letters to a Young Contrarian” and I felt vindicated in my many meals of sacred cow.
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