Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Report: USA Home To Widepspread Bigotry Against Atheists

Even this guy, Public Enemy #1 (Satan is only #2 compared to Charles Darwin), in the minds of most Christians, was not technically an atheist. While Darwin realized that the Christian version of God and his just relationship to human beings was utter poppycock (Dutch for "shit"), he allowed that—out there someplace—there might be some kind of Supreme Being. Thus, Charles Darwin could run for public office in Texas. Atheists however cannot.
Despite touting itself, for example recently in the debate over the UN treaty affirming the international rights of disabled people, as the “gold standard” when it comes to human rights, the United States actually has a poor record when it comes to protecting the freedom of thought and beliefs of various brands of non-religious (or "nones").

So says a new report, entitled Freedom of Thought 2012, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, on the worldwide levels of bigotry perpetrated against humanists, atheists and other non-believers in countries all over the world. It is fair to say that non-believers (i.e., in the dominant religions of societies) constitute the single most discriminated-against group in the entire world.

And as the report says, the importance and concern about this fact is that freedom of thought and conscience are fundamental to a society’s committment to all other freedoms:
“In a changing world order, freedom of conscience is emerging as the touchstone for human rights and peace…Thought and conscience imbue the individual with the dignity and worth that forms the inalienable claim of every person to all human rights. It is also our conscience that recognizes the humanity of others and directs us to respect their human rights.”
While a number of countries openly legislate against atheists, including inflicting the death penalty for being an atheist or for committing “blasphemy” against God, numerous countries are protecters of freedom of thought in name only. While claiming to protect religious freedoms, in constitutions and other laws, most countries in the world are de facto theocratic in orientation.

And that is where the report is particularly damning of the United States of America, which as noted prides itself for having “strong federal protections for freedom of religion, belief, and expression.”

Despite this, the report notes:
“Yet while the rights of all Americans to freedom of religion and speech are protected, the U.S. has long been home to a social and political atmosphere in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans or non-Americans. A range of laws limit the role of atheists in regards to public duties, or else entangle the government with religion to the degree that being religious is equated with being an American, and vice versa.“
The report notes the following infringements of the rights of atheists in the USA:
  • The inclusion of a religious affirmation in the national Pledge of Allegiance. Students who decide not to participate in the Pledge face being “ostracized for exerting their right” not to pledge allegiance to God.
  • The adoption of a religious affirmation as the motto of the USA. In explicit rejection of the principles of the United States Constitution, this motto belies the very notion of religious freedom and freedom of thought in the USA.
  • The infamous Kentucky anti-terrorism law, which makes it a crime to fail to acknowledge the Christian god as “integral to keeping the state safe.”
  • The affirmation of religious obseverances (usually prayers)—and never any corresponding or contradictory atheist or humanist response—in “both houses of Congress, most state legislatures, and most city and local council meetings.”
  • Constitutional provisions in “at least seven states—Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas” which “bar atheists from holding public office.” Noting that the United States Supreme Court stuck down these kinds of laws in 1961, the report says the continued existence of such laws “is a reminder of the pervasiveness of the idea that atheists are untrustworthy, and perhaps even not truly American.”
Here is an example, from the Texas Bill of Rights, of the anti-atheist religious test (the phrasing of which is a corruption of similar language in the US Constitution that does not include any statement about the necessity of acknowledging a Supreme Being):
“Sec. 4.  RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”
Of course this is about as cynical a right as one could imagine, on the order of some joke-right they might include in an Iranian or North Korean bill of rights, since the most fundmental religious test of all is to bar a person from holding public office because they fail to acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being (whatever the hell that is). As noted, the US Constitution has no such requirement.

The “prevailing social prejudice” practiced against atheists and the non-religious in the USA is overwhelmingly Christian in origin, and the report notes that Christian privilege in American society, functioning as an open channel of discrimination against millions of Americans who do not share that faith, goes “unchallenged in situations where it is personally disadvantageous or even hazardous to take a stand against authority, for example in prisons, the military, and even some administrative contexts.”

In addition to the threat posed by Christianity against human rights, the Christian religion in the USA is used as well to authorize attitudes and policies which are direct threats to national security. The demise of religion in general may be unrealistic in the short term, but the destruction of religion's dangerously dominant role in American society is a worthy goal.

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