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Justin M. Stoddard

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Semantic Odds and Ends
January 8, 2007 — 9:01 pm

Before I continue on with my “Blogging the Bible” and other general a-theistic adventures, I just wanted to make a few points regarding my position. I’ve done quite a bit of reading this past month on this whole “new atheist” movement and though I glad the discussion is taking place, I’ve run across far too many false starts and misconceptions surrounding the whole debate. Though plenty of counter points have been made, I thought I’d add my own perspective to the “marketplace of ideas”.

Before I begin, however, I’d want to try to explain why it is I’ve become more vocal on the matter. I touched on it a bit in my earlier post regarding Cal Thomas’s points, but the issue bears more scrutiny.

Like I said before, I am becoming more vocal because I believe there is something intrinsically wrong with religion in America today. Specifically, my concerns lie with fundamentalist Christianity. Though, to be fair, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to give moderate Christianity a pass, as it seems to serve as a foundation for fundamentalists to build upon.

This isn’t a respect issue. People have the right to believe what they want to believe, so long as they don’t force it on me. That’s a general axiom of a free society. Do what you want to do, but don’t involve me against my will. It’s simple enough. Christians should feel free to preach, teach, believe, convert and spread the “good news” to their hearts content, as long as they do not involve me unwillingly. Contrary to the current scare mongering, I know of no atheist who wants to forcefully strip Christianity from society. Would society be better off without organized religion? I happen to believe that it might…though I haven’t been 100% convinced. That doesn’t mean, however, that I want to force your beliefs away from you.

Of course, this is where the “semantics” game is played. There are far, far too many fundamentalist Christians in American today that are playing the “persecution card” with respects to their beliefs. Too many people believe that the idea of religious freedom gives them free license to spread their values in wholly totalitarian ways. For example:

-The Family Foundation of Virginia is pushing to get divorce laws changed in Virginia. They want to make it unlawful for parents to divorce unless both parents agree to the separation. I can’t even begin to explain why this is such a monumentally dangerous idea. Though divorce can be perceived as a societal problem, it is also a very personal problem. The last thing two parents or their children need is the government to step in and force an unwilling partner to stay rooted in an untenable situation. These are problems best left up to the individual, their friends, their therapists and even their church…not the government.

-Though the thoroughly discredited idea of “Intelligent design” has suffered devastating defeats in both Kansas and Pennsylvania, many fundamentalist organizations are still attempting to get it on board in as many states as possible. They are attempting to cloak their faith in pseudo-science and then pass it along to children as an “alternate theory” to evolution. Look, like I said before, people can believe what they want. If you believe the earth is 6000 years old and created in 6 days, I have no truck with you…as long as you don’t try to teach it to my kids without my permission.

-Perhaps most disturbing is the recent evangelical uprising in the United States military. These are people that took an oath to protect the secular Constitution of the United States. And yet, without much prodding, they will easily admit that their loyalty lies with a “higher power”. Again, I have no problems with Christians in the military. However, once they start forcing their views upon a wholly captive audience by way of ostracizing, holding up promotions, and punishment, it becomes a serious problem. I was in the Army for 12 years and I’m here to tell you, you can get into serious problems just trying to sell Amway products to your subordinates. But somehow, Christianity gets a pass.

That’s just one aspect of fundamentalism in the military. We are beginning to see very senior officers make public statements (in uniform, none-the-less) about how their faith in Jesus directs their actions. This is nothing less than treasonous. Our military represents and protects all of the United States, not just Christians. I don’t want generals in the Army thumping their chests and spouting the “My God Vs. their God” argument. These people need to be drummed out of the service…immediately.

-When fundamentalist Christians promote abstinence as the only alternative to sexually transmitted diseases to people who have absolutely no context on the issue, it’s absolutely insane. Africa is awash with the AIDS virus. It is so bad that the word “epidemic” is no longer hyperbolic. The only answer fundamentalists Christians will accept in the face of this horror is abstinence. This is, as Sam Harris put it, genocidally stupid. This is a very clear case where Christian morality is deadly, and nobody in their right mind should stand for it. Every cent of federal money needs to be immediately withdrawn from these people. Let them raise the money for their wacky ideas the old fashioned way.

I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg here. I’m speaking out because it is time for temperance to take hold of religion again. I shudder at the thought of a “Third Awakening”. I would much happier to see another Renaissance.

I wanted to address a couple of errors in logic I’ve been seeing lately before I closed out this post. I don’t think I’m going to get to them tonight, so I’ll set myself up for a post tomorrow.

I wanted to talk about the labels “fundamentalist atheist” or “evangelical atheist”. I also wanted to address this whole notion that atheism has killed far more people than religious dogma. (The person making these assumptions is usually talking about Hitler, Stalin and Mao). They are hugely successful “gotcha” statements to those not in the know. I will do my best to debunk them tomorrow.

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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