OK, just a warning, I am about to go on an atheist rant here. So if you want to stop reading, please do and no hard feelings.
So, I was perusing Reddit today while having my morning coffee (and contemplating why I was finding “The View” so interesting this morning) when I came across this post in r/Texas. I usually don’t see this type of thing outside of r/atheism and it caught me off guard (also the lack of flame warfare in the comments caught me off guard as well). In a nutshell:
The Brewster County Sheriff’s department is facing a lawsuit after placing Latin Crosses on patrol vehicles. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has said that it does not like having religious symbols on government property that is supposed to represent everyone, including non-Christians. Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said that he “wanted God’s protection over [his] deputies.”
So, again, we have a sheriff, or some type of law enforcement, that is a government agency, place religious scripture or icons on the public taxpayer paid for vehicles that belong to that government (be it city, county, state or otherwise) and we have a 1st amendment watchdog group like the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) having to threaten to take legal action. Here’s the thing. The FFRF doesn’t have spies all over the country. They do not have drones doing fly-overs or satellites looking for “violations”. People call them and let them know that their rights are being violated. And that’s what happened here.
Two men and a national organization have sued the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Ronny Dodson in connection with Christian crosses placed on the department’s vehicles.
Kevin Price, 34, Jesse Castillo, 40, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have sued the sheriff’s office and Dodson objecting that the “crosses represent an endorsement of religion, in this case Christianity, and have the principal effect of advancing religion,” the lawsuit reads.
The thing is, it’s not because of a “war on religion” and its more than a waste of county tax resources (even though the Sheriff apparently paid for the “In God We Trust” logos himself) it’s about this:
The two men are both professed atheists, the lawsuit read, and each man “believes the Latin crosses convey the divisive message that non-Christians like himself are not equally valued members of the community…
I especially got pissed off when I saw this on the video:
You get to exercise your right to freely practice your religion. Be it at home, church, you driveway, or when a permit is purchased and it can be done on a piece of publicly funded land. However, it cannot be freely exercised on a piece of government property, on government vehicles, or be promoted by the government itself or it’s entities. This is called the establishment clause. The other half of the Freedom of Religion that no “religious type” likes to quote or remember when the 1st amendment is mentioned (I always find that kind of funny). Now, you may think that is all just me mindlessly bitching about crosses and mottos; however as an atheist ,when I read things like this, you can see where crosses and mottos on public service vehicles tend to concern me:
The most recent study was conducted by the University of Minnesota, which found that atheists ranked lower than “Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ‘sharing their vision of American society.’ Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.”
Now, that study was done in 2006. Surely things have changed in ten years, right?
Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating…Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.
This finding comes as no surprise. Social science has long revealed high rates of secularphobia – the irrational dislike, distrust, fear, or hatred of nonreligious people – within American society…psychology professor Adrian Furnham found that people give lower priority to patients with atheist or agnostic views than to Christian patients when asked to rank them on a waiting list to receive a kidney, and legal scholar Eugene Volokh has documented the degree to which atheist parents have been denied custody rights in the wake of a divorce. Consider further evidence of secularphobia in America: It is illegal for an atheist to hold public office in seven states; atheists aren’t allowed in the Boy Scouts, the American Legion, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Humanist chaplains are barred from serving in our nation’s military; charities regularly reject donations that are offered by secularist organizations.
So, basically, if my local police, fire, EMS, sheriff, animal control or USPS starts putting crosses, “In God We Trust” or anything like that I have a very rational fear of being pushed to the bottom of the list because I am an atheist. Because Americans equate atheism with immorality, not being patriotic, and because it is easier to express a dislike or hatred for an atheist than say, a person of color or an LGBT person. We also apparently cause something in people that practice religion, we cause insecurity (even if we do not mean to) and that is something that the average religious practitioner cannot deal with.
Faith – believing claims without sufficient evidence, or claiming to know things that you don’t or can’t know – is an increasingly shaky endeavor. And in order for religious faith to survive, it requires a lot of social support: the more people who share it, the easier it is to maintain and reproduce. Thus, anyone who rejects the tenets of your faith, or calls them into question, is a threat. Atheists lack a faith in God, and thus theists are particularly threatened by the growing presence of such humans, as they call into question the very thing that is ever so shaky to begin with: religious faith.
Here’s the thing, I am doing just fine. I am not a martyr and I don’t plan on being one. Because when compared to Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanic/Latinos, LGBTs, the atheist community has not endured any of the hardships that these communities have in this country. We have not been beaten, hung, driven from our homes, brought into slavery, shot without cause, and faced other horrors. We have simply been misunderstood, and because of that we cause fear. Fear that a conversation with one of us (an intelligent one of us, not some militant masturdebater) will make you think, and thinking in religion is dangerous; however it pisses me off six ways to Sunday that I can be discriminated against simply because I do not believe in g-d and that this simple lack of belief transcends race, gender, orientation, and political views. It’s pure ignorance.
So, I guess I will just be hated by ‘Murica. I just hope that I don’t need a kidney anytime soon.