No offense meant, none taken 8

In a recent post on attempts by Jews to ‘remove Christmas from the public square’, Paul Mirengoff of Power Line – one of our favourite blogsquoted the historian John Steele Gordon as saying: ‘It has always seemed to me that it was not Jews but atheists (a religion of its own in that it is a belief system that is untestable) who have led the charge against public celebrations of Christmas as an “establishment of religion”.’

It is with the parenthetical assertion about atheism that we join issue. Atheism is not ‘a belief system’  – it is the absence of belief in the supernatural. The statement ‘God does not exist’ is not provable, but that does not make it a religious statement, a statement of faith. God’s non-existence does not impinge on any aspect of an atheist’s life or thought. It is not just that God is not watching or does not care. He is not there, at all, ever. The Christian deity lying in a manger, the miracle of the oil in the Hannukah candles, the flying Santa Claus are all  in the same category of idea: incredible, imaginary, supernatural. If an atheist wants such religious symbols to be banned, he or she is showing an irrational superstitious belief in their power, and deserves ridicule.

If some atheists object to any display of fairy folk, or God folk, or magic objects – provided worship of them is not required – it is not because their non-belief is offended, but because they decide to put on a show of being offended in order to make political points, to flex their political muscle. Such atheists are almost certain to be on the Left. I would guess that the Jews who object to nativity displays in public places at Christmas are also politically motivated, and that they too are on the Left. I cannot see how the deification of a Jewish boy should cause religious offense to those who do not believe it. Other people’s irrationality is their own business. Religious offense-taking is the hall-mark of leftist victim politics – and is invariably fraudulent.

C. Gee  December 29, 2009

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Judaism, Progressivism by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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This post has 8 comments.

  • libertarianatheist

    Oh, and take references to god off our currency too. Free speech should include the freedom not to have words put in my mouth.

    • C. Gee

      I'm more concerned that the stated value on the currency is not trustworthy. I avoid saying the value of the bill out loud when I offer it as payment, as it might arouse suspicion. As long as people assume the value of the bill is what it says it is, I do not mind if they also assume I trust in God, or speak Latin (although I do not make such assumptions when given money). And if it takes a decapitated pyramid Cyclops to make legal tender, so be it.

  • libertarianatheist

    C. Gee said: I have never been clear as to what “government neutrality” with respect to religion means.

    How about we start by taxing churches the same as any other institution? (If they do charitable work, they can apply for 501(c)3 status.)

    • C. Gee

      How about no corporate tax at all?

      • libertarianatheist

        That's ok, as long as churches don't get special treatment for no other reason than being churches.

  • C. Gee

    bobbyvon: Thank you

    aeschines: Thank you for your comment, to which I respond:

    I have never been clear as to what “government neutrality” with respect to religion means. First Amendment jurisprudence dances on the line between the establishment and free exercise clauses: These rituals are religious and permitted, these are not and are proscribed. These symbols and rituals are allowed here, but not there, or are allowed there but only if in the presence of other religions' symbols. The justices deploy the private/public distinction to confine magic within certain perimeters – metaphorical pentangles of “home” or “church”. Or they rig up the equal access shield whereby many sets of different religious symbols serve to dilute the magical powers of any one. Nine black-robed Shamans working the ju-ju.

    Government cannot ban superstitious thinking by banning its symbols. It cannot control thought – religious or political – at all. France can ban the head-scarf and still have militant Muslims. Germany can ban the swastika, but still have national socialists. Islam can blow up statues of Buddha, but buddhism survives.

    It is the conflation of the symbol with the thing symbolized that is the essence of superstition. Government superstition is no different from that of the “normal, average person”. What frightens me more than the belief in supernatural powers controlling us, is the equally superstitious and ever-widening belief that government ( and a theocracy is only one form of totalitarian government) has supernatural power – power to change man's nature, to create paradise on earth, but above all power to control thought.

    The atheist – particularly on the Left – is as susceptible to politically superstitious thinking about government as any believer is about supernatural forces. One can only hope that the natural faculty for reason can control the natural instinct for superstition. Reason, after all, is what has delivered mankind out of caves and the Dark Ages.

  • bobbyvon

    Well said, C. Gee.

  • aeschines

    “If an atheist wants such religious symbols to be banned, he or she is showing an irrational superstitious belief in their power, and deserves ridicule.”

    And there's where we must disagree. Religious symbols are intensely powerful, almost mystical in their power to make people do horrible things. I hope I do not need to remind you of the death of Theo Van Gogh.

    Symbols themselves are powerful. The flag of one's country is an excellent example of this. Whether it inspires loyal patriotism or deep and unyielding disdain, it always makes you feel. It represents hegemony, power, might, and everything associated with these things.

    You and I might be able to shrug off such religious displays as meaningless, but the average, normal person cannot. To them, such primitive items do represent power, especially when they agree with such symbols. Symbols are a battleground that we cannot ignore.

    I know that many Christians I have known treat faint religious symbolism in government as proof that the US is a Christian nation. That's excessively disturbing, given that these same people wish theological laws to be enacted in this nation and such symbols only give them encouragement.

    I have one such example from my town. My town manager “prays” every day with the town employees before they start work. He says it is his job to “do God's will for the town,” and that the prayer symbolizes such a commitment. The man in question is also a back-stabbing, lying, corrupt coward.

    While I respect the rights of others to display what they will on their own property, I do not like government displays of such things. I trust the government to be a neutral party. I need the government to be a neutral party.

    I do not have the answers, but I have to say that governments should be agnostic. No belief system other than the protection of individual rights should be embraced.