After All, We’re All Humans
by Ron Steelman
(originally published August 1, 2011, revised after the 2012 Republican Primary debates)
Many of those involved in fundamentalist religions frequently make inflammatory statements about non-believers. These “true believers” claim that non-believers are responsible for all the problems and evils in the world. Their gods tell them that they should hate non-believers, and just last week media headlines stated that a Christian fundamentalist stalked and killed 91 people in Norway (July 23, 2011). At first the media said that the killer was a Muslim fundamentalist, but then it was discovered the killer was a Christian fundamentalist. What’s the difference?
First off, why would the simple act of not believing in the God of another person cause them to curse you, hate you, and even want to kill you? Religious beliefs such as these are barbaric and unacceptable in modern civilizations, especially democracies. In the U.S.A. we have a Constitution that protects us from many human failings, including the violent acts of religious zealots. Most of the civilized countries in the world have endorsed the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Although too many primitive theocracies still exist, we hope they will continue to die out as freedom and democracy spread around the world.
Unfortunately, each religion seems to have what they call a holy book. In these books there are many different laws about how to become a true believer. The trouble is, not all of the laws in the books are good, and each person reading the book will interpret the laws as he or she sees fit. Instead of letting their various gods punish those who break their religious laws, sometimes the pious dogmatists decide to take matters in their own hands. And after a while, others in their tribe believe they too should become the storm troopers for their god. Even moderates within their religion begin to mouth their hate speech.
Each religion has a long list of behaviors/actions it believes are evil and against the laws of its gods. For instance: homosexuality, dancing to music, going out in public with your face or hair showing, sex before marriage, masturbation, playing cards, drinking alcohol, eating pork, killing a cow, or pressing an elevator button on the sabbath.
Now here’s the sad part: no matter who you ask, or in what context, the most hated group, the group at the bottom of every poll, is Atheists.
The following numbers are from a Pew Research Center Poll:
* Born-again Christians who regard the impact of these groups as negative:
Islam: 71%, Buddhism: 76%, Scientology: 81%, Atheism: 92%
* Non-Christians who view the impact of the same groups as negative:
Islam: 24%, Buddhism: 22%, Scientology: 30%, Atheism: 50%
The following numbers are from a USA/Gallup Poll:
“. . .If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be (see below), would you vote for that person?”
– Catholic 4% No
– Black 5% No
– Jewish 7% No
– A Woman 11% No
– Hispanic 12% No
– Mormon 24% No
– Married 3X 30% No
– 72 years old 42% No
– Homosexual 43% No
– An Atheist 53% No
Some of the ridiculous claims against non-believers are:
1) Atheists say they can prove there is no God. I know many, many Atheists and other non-believers, and none of them say they can prove there is no God. They simply say they don’t believe one exists. Besides, you can’t prove a negative. The onus for proof has to be on the people who claim their God exists.
2) Non-believers want to make it so that religious people can’t pray in public. I’ve never seen or heard any of my non-believing friends object to other people praying unless they want us to do it with them. Atheists object to religionists who insist on forcing prayer into government events, as if they are sanctioned by the state. They try to insert their prayers in court rooms, public schools, in school sporting events, and on public property.
3) Some of the Atheist haters say that Atheism is a religion. Maybe they think that by calling Atheism a religion, it puts Atheism in a category with the other religions they hate. My only response to that is, “Saying Atheism is a religion is like saying ‘not collecting stamps’ is a hobby.”
4) Non-believers want to take away other people’s right to religion. There’s a difference between wanting to change people’s minds and wanting to take away their rights. Nobody wants some kind of “you can’t believe in God” law put in place. It’s the religious folks who keep trying to pass legislation to force others to follow their beliefs.
5) I could go on about the false statements made against non-believers, but I’d run out of ink.
Things are changing though. On the positive side, we non-believers are working to dispel the false claims against us. The President of Red Bank Humanists spoke up at a town Council meeting in Red Bank, NJ and asked that the phrase “non-believers” be included in the Council’s about-to-be-minted diversity statement. To our surprise, Mayor Pasquale Menna said, “That’s a no-brainer. After all, we’re all humans.” The amended diversity statement was adopted unanimously by the Council.
Red Bank, NJ Diversity Statement (revised wording):
The dimensions of diversity shall include, but are not limited to the following: race, ethnicity, persons of faith and non-believers, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, cultural orientation, physical abilities, political beliefs, age, and national origin and status.”
Atheism is simply not believing in a god. Although many Secular Humanists are Atheists, Secular Humanists espouse a positive philosophy of life. We think being good and doing good is possible without believing in a supernatural deity. Most Atheists feel the same way. We hope other people begin to adopt a more accepting attitude toward non-believers. Like Mayor Menna said, “After all, we’re all humans.”
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