A friend recently asked what I thought about the idea of atheism as a religion, forwarding a debate article on the question in the New York Times.
I tried to provide a cogent response, because my initial inclination was to reject the premise out of hand. Atheists often like to make comparable analogies such as “atheism is a religion like “off” is a television channel.” The entire foundation of atheism is a rejection of belief in supernatural deities – to endow atheism with the dogmatic trappings of a religion, which by definition requires faith in something more, is, in my opinion, a prelude to disaster.
Having said that, I understand the motivation behind such an endeavor of placing atheism on a par, or equal footing with other religions for tolerance and respect. Those self-acknowledged atheists, though a small number in comparison to all who have taken to disavow religion – the Nones – still outnumber Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologists, and Muslims in the United States combined! Despite these numbers, atheists continue to be treated, well, terribly.
Take for example the reactionary commentary to the recent story that caused a chapel at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E to remove a steeple placed on top of the building. Army Regulation 165-1 “Army Chaplain Corps Activities” clearly states that the “chapel environment will be religiously neutral when the facility is not being used for scheduled worship. Portable religious symbols, icons, or statues may be used within a chapel during times of religious worship. Symbols are to be moved or covered when not in use during services. Distinctive religious symbols, such as crosses, crucifixes, the Star of David, Menorah, and other religious symbols will not be affixed or displayed permanently on the chapel interior, exterior, or grounds. Permanent or fixed chapel furnishings, such as the altar, pulpit, lectern, or communion rail will be devoid of distinctive religious symbols.”
Despite this regulation, when an atheist soldier assigned to FOB Orgun complained, he began to receive threats and nicely written posts denigrating non-believers.
This brings us to the crux of the story. Christianity is in trouble. Its ideas are bankrupt, relying instead on brainwashing to keep its dwindling numbers afloat.
In the latest attempt to create a theocracy, rivaled only by the likes of Iran or Saudi Arabia, Christian lawmakers in Arizona actually have the audacity to forward a bill that would require ALL STUDENTS in Arizona public schools take an oath to country, so help me god, in order to graduate.
First and foremost, I’ve taken a very similar oath on a few occasions – when joining the military as well is for my current position as a Department of Defense civilian. These were positions I sought out, applied for, and was selected for. I took my oath freely, without reservation. Do we really expect, or want, children attending public schools to do this?
Forget for a moment that the bill (and law if passed) will be immediately deigned unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment – it’s the thought process that is going in to crafting the bill in the first place that needs to be examined. The effort to insert religious views in to the public sector – be it prayer in school, etc., highlights the fact that Christianity can no longer hold people to its antiquated and dogmatic teachings and needs champions (i.e., elected officials) to force those who are turning away from Christianity in ever increasing numbers to adhere to their beliefs.
With Nones accounting for 20 percent of the population, and rising, the number of American Protestants has, for the first time in our nation’s history, dropped below the majority. This has to be a scary prospect for people of faith, especially those who have the power to do something about it. However, their efforts to force people to adhere to arcane beliefs, are about as futile as those atheists that think they need to mimic a failing system in order to achieve parity.
Special thanks to SSG Justin Griffith and his work at Military Atheists and Secular Humanists and his reporting on these issues for Free Thought Blogs, and to friends that brought the recent legislation in Arizona to my attention.