Friday, August 5, 2011

Confrontation Versus Accomodation (Re-posted)

I wrote this about 8 months ago but Felt it needed to be re-posted as this is STILL an argument being presented...

The following begins with a comparison between the Civil Rights movement and the current Atheist-Secularist movement, and the resulting social effects mustered in by confrontation. Using the Civil Rights movement as a model for comparison, I hope to illustrate the resounding effects of social change, heralded by the brave individuals who risk everything in order to bring about positive and intellectual changes in society. Next I focus on the issues surrounding Accommodation vs. Confrontation by using current day examples of the same bigoted hatred experienced by pre-Civil Rights minorities. I speak on behalf of atheists who are at those very same uncertain cross-roads today. Using science as a tool of measurement, I stand firm in my arguments that the only way to win our own civil rights and liberties, which are granted to every citizen of this country, is to confront those who attempt to oppress our way of life.

On December 1st 2010, we celebrated the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ defiant action of refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus in 1955. This, along with racial tensions that had been building all throughout the south. Sparked by events such as the murder of Emmett Till (Aug 1955) and the government’s inaction in taking steps to desegregate schools after the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Brown vs. Board helped shape the future of our country.
In January and February of 1957, Martin Luther King and others set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In September of that year, nine black students, who were issued death threats, marched into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, effectively ending the segregation of that school system. On February 1st 1960, four black students from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter. Although allowed to sit, they were refused service. This event was then repeated throughout the South at parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, and other public facilities. Six months later, those first four students (The Greensboro Four) were served lunch at the same Woolworth’s counter.

This string of confrontations, and the many others to come after, bucked the norm of southern white society and pushed the government into realizing the harmful effects of marginalization. Finally legislation to guarantee the rights of minorities in this country was enacted. After decades of bowing to (accommodation) to laws like Jim Crow, African American communities fought for social change – the move toward equality had finally begun. Accommodation does nothing but allow the norm to persist without change because it goes unchallenged. Without upheaval, societies continue their status quo, the ruling class sees no need for change, and continues living with blinders on.

For many generations, atheists have accommodated society’s pious by remaining silently hidden away, afraid to openly admit their disbelief for fear of reprisal, attack, of being belittled, defamed, and punished for their points of view. Then, on September 11th, 2001 religious extremism attacked our country, and fear of remaining quiet outweighed the fear of being openly atheist. The drive to challenge irrational faith-based ideas came to the forefront due to people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and many others. Today atheists in this country are making a stand and saying “enough” no more accommodation for these irrationalities!

The concept of Confrontation vs. Accommodation is one of many issues at the very heart of this current social debate. Given what we know from historical precedence, one must ask “Why is this even an issue”? Well, where would the Civil Rights movement be if Rosa Parks had continued the practice of accommodating white privilege? Where would we be today if The Greensboro Four had not sat down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter? Where would this country be today if the founding fathers (and most of the country) had instead caved in and accommodated King George’s new taxes on the colonies?

Major changes do not happen with accommodation. Let’s face it, what is being asked for by the atheist community is a MAJOR change of the norms in this country. This is not a country built on Christian values, but some religious values ARE present in institutional structures, such as some court houses and town halls. Why? Because it was the dominant worldview of the early colonial Americans, and thus was socially accepted. Our forefathers recognized this, and that is why they granted us the ability to challenge and amend the Constitution in order to allow the document to evolve with our society while still maintaining the secular state they demanded and ultimately created.

The First Amendment was a stroke of genius for its time. No other country in the world HAD this type of doctrinal and political protection. However, our forefathers, enlightened men that they were, saw into the future. They knew full well that the prosecution of individuals for publically questioning the meaning of the Bible would land someone in jail for blasphemy. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Abner Kneeland in 1838, cited the last American case of blasphemy prosecuted in court. He was found guilty and sentenced to sixty days in jail, which he served in spite of calls for pardon on the merits of free speech rights. Our forefathers, being prominent freethinkers, knew this was a future concern, and they granted us the means to have legal grounds for confrontation.

Citizens have the right to have religious views separate from those of everyone else, even if that view is non-belief. This means that religion is protected from government sanction or dissolution. It also means that the government is protected from religious laws interfering on a secular society, or forcing us to follow ideas that aren’t ours demanded by someone else’s religious belief. That is the beauty of the First Amendment; its dual purpose statement works both ways. You have the right to your religious views and you have the right not to be coerced by someone else’s religious views. However, every day our rights are trampled on, and atheists have had enough!

For two hundred years, in the united states, it has been about accommodation, and in all that time atheists have feared persecution of their non-belief. There was some hope and inspiration when Darwin published his Origin of Species, but when rational secular schools tried to teach evolution, what happened instead was the famed Scopes Monkey Trial (poorly named as our nearest ancestors were apes, not monkeys!). The hope and inspiration that had blossomed faded after the court ruling. The teacher was found guilty, for Violating the Butler Act (1925-1967) for teaching evolution in the classroom, and fined for his crime. Not all was lost however, and in spite of accommodating the dominant religion, evolution has made its way into classrooms and centers for intellectual inquiry. Yet today, religion continues its attempts at devaluing evolution and secular society in order to push creationism in the classroom.

Why not confrontation? The fact that atheist exists is a simple enough cause for confrontation, so say the pious. The fact that we do not believe in what the religious whole-heartedly do believe in, is a major setting for conflict, and who draws the line in the sand? Our manner of thinking dare, to challenge the pious, who immediately begin a childish mantra of name calling and pointing of fingers. They claiming absolute truth, and declare their authoritative righteousness over others, asserting that any other manner of thinking is completely wrong, not to mention heretical.

Religious attacks upon atheists occur every day on internet sites and blogs. The religious presume atheists to be immoral and even evil, since atheists have no god to teach them morals, or perpetuate fears of everlasting punishment for misbehavior here on earth. Wait, did the religious moral ground stop the likes of Hitler or the crusaders of Middle Age Europe from slaughtering millions of people? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, their precious holy texts justify slaughter, not to mention dozens of other activities that – by US judicial standards – would land someone in prison.

I have witnessed confrontation from the religious in other public arenas, not just the web. The 2005 Kansas State School Board voted to redefine “science” against the recommendations of a panel of scientists, with their ultimate goal of inserting Intelligent Design (ID) into the curriculum. The Dover, Pennsylvania trial in 2005, was ruled as an attempt by creationist to sneak creationism (a.k.a. Intelligent Design) into the science classroom disguised as legitimate science.

How about something more recent? The American Atheist Inc. billboard in New Jersey, which immediately got a response billboard attempting to counter the message…now that’s definitely confrontational on behalf of religion. Or how about the atheist ads on city buses in Dallas, Texas? They state, “Millions of Americans Are Good Without God”, and are countered by *confrontational* local churches, who scream, ‘It’s an attack!’ and threatening a bus boycott if the ads go up. In both cases, the billboards that the atheist groups promote are backed by statements saying that they are educating and getting the word out to people who self-identity as atheist, to reassure them that, they aren’t alone, and to get a hold of the local skeptic group or organization.

From Dallas, Texas

From Sacramento, California

How do you interpret these two billboards?

So who are the ones attacking here? How is a billboard advertising an opposite point of view for religion any different than a general religious billboard? Well, in the above example, it’s pretty obvious. To be fair, some Christian billboards are less offensive, passing along a friendly message – somewhat like the atheist billboard from Dallas.

Yet religion claims the oppressed position, saying that they are the ones being attacked, yet they are the ones calling atheists aggressive and or militant. How is being called militant an attack? You see, by tagging “militant” on, this is a psychological ploy to compare atheism with for example militant Muslim fundamentalists. Consider the centuries of oppression the atheists had to live under (and still do in some countries where you can be put to death for being openly atheistic).

The conformity of religious doctrines can be seen in numerous presentations by believers where they parrot (repeat) the supportive arguments that have been dis-proven, by recognized experts and scientists depending on the claim, or have no merit whatsoever, conjecture, or even outright lies. However atheists/skeptics tend to stick with what has merit in the form of evidence or supportive theories verified by science, and recognized experts. The religious, however, prefer to redefine things to fit their arguments. Take the word ‘theory’ for example: the religious are more than happy to apply this to hypothesis such as Intelligent Design, even though there isn’t a shred of evidence supporting it. “But it’s a Theory!!!” Nope, there is not one single peer reviewed paper presented to the scientific community showing evidence. Thus, Intelligent Design is only a HYPOTHESIS, not a theory. Believers are, however, happy to spin this as a valid ‘theory’ while at the same time spitting out the word “theory” as if it were a four letter word in reference to evolution as if it means nothing at this point.

We need confrontation if there is ever going to be another change in this society. We have to stop the encroachment of religion on science, and the law, to truly be free from religion, as granted to us by the First Amendment. We need to stop this delusion from affecting everyone outside the church, where promulgation of religious ideas subverts society with the message of ultimate rule. Great scientists have proven, decade after decade, they have the best answers to the natural world – religion does not have these answers – and rightfully so, because we are all the better for it. The confrontationists know that religious systems have not worked and thus are fighting against the perpetuation of such systems. Not to mention defending that which does work – namely science and free thinking logic – and it is exactly this which has propelled us into the 21st century. Science and logic has moved us further within the last four hundred years, than faith has within the past thousand years.

We are tired of being marginalized. We are tired of being labeled as immoral, and evil for not having faith. We are tired of the self-hate tactics used by the pious which leads to opinions of unworthiness. We are tired of public defamation, like when George Bush Sr. said, “I don’t think atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”  We are tired of having to deal with religion being shoved at us from every angle and afraid of religious extremism taking control of the world.  Today, the numbers of publicly open atheists are growing daily. Today is the time for change and confrontation is our only avenue to affect that change.

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