Sunday, March 23, 2014

Americans Don’t Like Atheists, Even Those That Died on 9/11

[ NOTE: The following is a "Guest Article"  from Rachel Harger, a friend and atheist activist with Texas Theocracy Watch. Readers who'd like to post an article on religious subjects can send their submissions to me at for consideration. ]

There has been a lot of hoopla recently about American Atheists suing to keep a giant cross out of the National September 11 Museum. They want to keep the cross out of the museum because it would be a religious symbol on government property which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but they seem to be willing to settle for being included in the museum along with Jews and Hindus who will have their religious symbols represented.
Most of the hoopla is decidedly negative and not in support of American Atheists. Even one self-described atheist from New York has called them “ingrates” and “truculent” for wanting a plaque in the museum that would say “Atheists died here, too”. One article on this subject stated that “Not all atheists have a pathological need to be hated”, but apparently American Atheists does. They are also apparently “mean-spirited and obnoxious” for taking the issue to court. On FOX News, Megyn Kelly was practically giddy that they had lost in the initial legal stage.
What hasn’t been reported by the media, is that American Atheists made numerous requests to be included by the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, but were ignored.
As is usually the case, public opinion is running against atheists requesting to be recognized as a part of American society, and they probably couldn’t have picked a tougher fight. The events of September 11 are still emotionally wrought, and they are also intimately intertwined with American religious sensibilities. When even an atheist considers Ground Zero to be a holy place and atheist intrusion there a degradation, I would say you’ve hit a particularly raw nerve.
But the sensitivity of the situation makes it even more important to be included in the museum. In fact, that is the very reason American Atheists is asking that Americans who died on 9/11, and who also happened to be atheists, be recognized by their country. Atheists were just as impacted by it as any other group in our society. There are some Americans who gave up their religion or realized for the first time that they were atheists because of the nature of the attack.
Judge Deborah Batts ruled that the cross and its display “help demonstrate how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” Yes, it demonstrates how Christians coped with the devastation which is something that should and is being observed and honored. It doesn’t demonstrate how non-religious, atheists, and agnostics coped with the devastation. And apparently nothing that would demonstrate that is allowed in the museum. That is if a majority of Americans who are religious continue to deny the rights and humanity of the minority of Americans who are not.
Atheists serve and die for their country just like other Americans. They pay their taxes just like other Americans. They participate, or at least try to participate in government and perform their civic duties just like other Americans. And some of them died tragically on September 11, 2001....just like other Americans.   But since it is generally okay to characterize atheist Americans and American Atheists as ingrates, mean-spirited, and obnoxious, it’s also okay to not only exclude them, but also to berate them for even asking for inclusion.


Anonymous said...

Observing America from the UK there is a fixations with putting people into groups. Black American, Hispanic American, Jewish American (are there any American, American's living there?). Why not have a non religious, secular memorial? These were 'people' first, regardless of ethnicity, religion or anything else. What happened on 9/11 is a memorial to how religion failed. What deity, assuming one existed, would allow such a thing to happen in the first place? It is a memorial to people not their religions that failed them.

Anonymous said...

Americans don't dislike atheist they fear atheist just as they fear anything or anyone that challenges their beliefs. The country that was based on freedom and tolerance no longer exist. Think of all the countries throughout history that felt free to assign segments of their citizenry to a second class status, isn't that always the path to eventual open persecution? What other countries in recent history used the hatred of their second class citizens to unite the real, true believers? Even after every war atrocity imaginable was proven few Nazis could be found, because ironically in the end they did not want to be who they really were. Very few saw themselves on the path to becoming a member of one of the most evil regimes, if not the most evil regime in history. America as our founding fathers envisioned and created it has faded into the mist of history. Welcome to the crowd mentality the same mentality that destroyed Europe and was intolerant of anyone that was not like themselves. But then again, this is not the real true America that once existed, welcome to the new America the intolerant and hateful America. 911 is further proof that everything we do reveals us. I am not an atheist but I do believe in them as people, people with rights and concerns and who must be placed on an equal footing with the rest of their fellow citizens.

WhyNot said...

kompani101 and Anonymous,

I like what you 2 dudes/dudettes have to say. Very much, truly. In particular, I like the last sentence from Anonymous which says "I am not an atheist but I do believe in them as people, people with rights and concerns and who must be placed on an equal footing with the rest of their fellow citizens."

Wow!!! At last someone tolerant on this blog! Not meaning to criticize the rest of the participants here, but hey, I'm atheist, been so since I was 13, after 13 years of catholic brain-washing by my parents, and I'm proud of having got myself out of thise mental/intellectual atrophy.

On the other hand, this has helped me become more tolerant than ever towards ANY person, regardless of whatever religious belief they hold. The vast majority of my real life friends are agnostic or atheist, but I have at least one VERY prominent and extremely dear & close young woman friend, Valérie, who is waitress in a small restaurant in Paris, and who is paritally physically disabled:

She has a malformation in her hip, which makes her limp around - clearly not only a hidrance in her work, but also a humiliating one - having to limp around tables full of customers.

And yet Valérie is not only the happiest girl, full of fun and joy of living (she's in her early 30s) I ever met in my life), she's also catholic.

And guess what? Her best friends are all agnostics and atheists, just like me. She was the only catholic on my ex-blog (which lasted well over 10 years), the rest of us were non religious.

More astounding still, get a load of this: on the blog, she often came up with outrageous jokes at the expense of religions and particularly the catholic one. I remember a few partiuclarly gross sexual ones if anyone is interested - ones at the expense of the Pope and Mother Superior at the Vatican.

Lastly, in terms of sociological tendencies she is a ferocious socialist: her heroes are not Jesus nor the Virgin Mary, but Trosky and particularly Che Guevara.

I wish even 1/10the of the American atheists had 1/10th of this catholic disabled FR girl's tolerance, brain and courage.

But hey, I'm all ears and very open minded: if anyone here has something to tell me proving me that I seriously overlooked some crucial factor while arriving at my conclusion, please, I promise I'll read your tirade with the utmost attention. I'm very ready/willing to be proven wrong; it's up to you to come up with the proof.

longhorn believer said...

This is Rachel, author of this post, replying:

to kompani101: I agree. Religion was, at the very least, a justification for those that drove planes into the World Trade Center killing over 3000 innocent people. It is sadly ironic that many people used religion to cope with that horror. Nevertheless, that is how religion is used and why, in my humble opinion, it is still a powerful psychological force in the world. It is affectively used to control people's fear of the random nature of life and death on this planet. As for putting people into groups, that seems to be human nature, not just something Americans do. I'm not an anthropologist, but I'm pretty sure there is prejudice and classification of people based on religion and race in the UK as well, and the rest of the world. Perhaps the UK has made better strides in moving past those kinds of classifications. I wouldn't claim to have an expert opinion on that.

to Anonymous: I really appreciate your sentiment that atheists are people with rights and deserving of equality. That was exactly what I was going for in writing this post. However, I disagree that intolerance towards differing religious beliefs is something new in America. We Americans did famously write the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment. However, the practice of applying religious freedom and tolerance has been spotty at best from the founding of our nation. I would point you to this history:

to WhyNot: Thank you for your story. I think it illustrates the truth of the matter about people. We are more alike than we are different from each other. It seems we evolved to notice the differences and put ourselves in groups, as kompani101 said above. I'm not sure if becoming an atheist has made me more open minded or fair minded. I would like to think that it has, but I will leave that for others to judge. And then I will decide whether or not I give a crap about their opinion of me :-)