February 26, 2007
They must be powerless and invisible
Lately it seems as if we’re getting a new category to go along with Belligerent Blacks, Feminazis, and Militant Queers: the Angry Atheist. It seems as if it’s not enough for those in the majority (or, at least in the case of men and women, those with the bulk of the power) to be in the majority; they also want freedom from having their privilege questioned or even pointed out. African Americans demonstrated peacefully against the injustice they received at the hands of the dominant society, and certain Alabama clergymen “expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.” Women are still being told that they’re less than men–for example, we’re “not rational political actors”–and some men’s sense of entitlement continues to run rampant. When homosexual citizens ask to be given the same rights and privileges their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, conservatives start yelping about “special rights”. It’s not enough that these groups are in the minority, different from “the norm,” historically oppressed. They need to be invisible as well.
While atheists have been around for a good long while–perhaps as long as there have been theists–it’s possible that the rise of modern science has caused an increase in atheists and agnostics, and, either way, more atheists have been going public with their godlessness in the past twenty-or-so years. Furthermore, there’s been a rise in people promoting tolerance across the spectrum of beliefs. Movements in the direction of acceptance tend to have their backlashes, and I think this recent CNN piece might win the prize for the backlash against religious tolerance. Karen Hunter, a journalism professor at Hunter College in New York as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was invited to comment, and said, “I think they [i.e. atheists] need to shut up and let people do what they do.”
That comment followed a story about one family in a small Mississippi town who were ostracized because they were atheists, and another family whose landlord told them to move out once he discovered they were atheists. Those people should just “shut up and let people do what they do.” Hunter added, “Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the pledge of allegiance, to want to honor my God. Don’t infringe upon that right.” Here’s what TPO (author of the myspace page linked above) had to say about that:
Karen Hunter doesn’t seem to realize that no one “imposes” on her right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, to want to honor her god. Furthermore, no one “imposes” on her right to pray in school, to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or to honor her god. All that has changed is that the state cannot endorse, promote, or encourage her in doing any of this. Does Karen Hunter, professor of journalism, really think that her religious liberty depends on the government actively helping, encouraging, and endorsing her religious rituals? That’s nonsense.
I’m not an atheist myself–indeed, I don’t fit neatly into any particular category–but I’m very aware of what it feels like to be marginalized, and I don’t think anyone deserves that treatment. This has come up in one of my earlier posts: there is no “War on Christmas” or “War on Christianity.” All that’s happening is that people of different faiths, along with atheists, are asking to be given the same respect Christians are accustomed to.
Slightly off topic: I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks now. Things keep coming up that I think are relevant, further examples of intolerance toward non-Christians, of Christians trying to bring their beliefs into legislation (e.g. the battle against same-sex marriage or, often, anything that even resembles it), or people from other parts of dominant society complaining about rights/benefits/etc. given to minorities (see snarks touched on in previous post). But the longer I wait, the less timely the CNN documentary aspect is, and since that’s a major part of this post, I’m just going to post this and be done with it… for now…