Saturday, August 23, 2008

Those Rude Atheists!

So the Secular Coalition for America wondered whether they were welcome in the Democratic Party. Yeah, I know, it shouldn't even be a question--we are a secular nation, after all, aren't we? But an Interfaith Gathering (yup, with Capital Letters and everything) was being held, and with a name like that it implies that those without faith (or is that Without Faith?), if they are being polite, should ask first whether they are invited:
Dear Rev. Daughtry:

I am very concerned about the Interfaith Gathering at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

This event is described as a "unity" event to stress the "big tent" nature of the Democratic Party; however, I have received complaints by people who identify as atheist and humanist who feel that this event excludes them as full participants in the convention.
(excerpt, from the link above--go read the whole thing)

This polite inquiry could not offend anyone, could it?


A few atheists have their panties in a twist once again, this time fussing that an atheist leader wasn't invited to speak at an Aug. 24 interfaith service that's part of the Democratic National Convention.

The service will feature Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist speakers. The official reason for the interfaith services is "to honor the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic Party," which could easily include atheists. If they aren't welcome, it's probably because they're rude.

Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It's likely they didn't invite atheists to their faith service because they didn't want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that - if they contribute to a diverse humanity - they might get better party invites.

And the author defends his ignorance against a handful of intelligent individuals commenting on his rant. (Seriously, the comments are worth reading!)


I think my words were misconstrued
I wasn’t meaning to be rude
I only simply asked if you’d be letting others in.
I did not mean to cause you grief
But still, you seem to have a beef
With those of us who lack belief—you tell us that we sin.
It seems to me that you, not I
Are being rude—the reason why
Is that your statements all imply your view’s the one that counts,
And mine’s irrelevant, I’m told—
A view, if I may be so bold,
I’ve heard so much it’s growing old—my aggravation mounts.
The arguments you sometimes see—
Is God one part, or is He three?—
They simply don’t apply to me; I do not hold those views.
To have the government maintain
One view is right, is just insane;
For if one faith is set to gain, all others, then, must lose.
A secular society,
I think religions must agree,
Maintains each church’s right to be possessed of their belief.
To separate belief from state
Should really be beyond debate—
For me to be accused of hate for saying so? Good Grief!


Anonymous said...

Ever since PZ pointed this Gathering out, I've really been struggling to have any, for a lack of a better term, faith in America. It's really depressing. This is the 21st century and it almost feels as if we're falling into the New Dark Ages. :(

"Atheists should fund universities and hospitals." Really? I do. In fact, I just donated a chunk of money (that I could probably not well afford) to the Red Cross this summer to help with their relief efforts after I came within feet of being homeless from flood waters. I give money to my alma mater in memory of a fantastic English professor who really made Shakespeare come alive for me.

After reading that whole opinion thing... I wouldn't know where to begin. Doesn't it feel futile to try to refute him? Argumentum ad Hitlerum, Argumentum ad Einsteinum, misrepresentation, outright lies... the list goes on.

Your verse, however is beautiful and sharp-witted as ever, and I'm glad to have you around to brighten my day with verse. :)

G Gekko said...

It really is a shame that faith should influence things like this even when people basicly have the same goals.

BTW I really like this blog have added you to the blogroll on my blog
Just saying this since you asked people to let you know above your blogroll ;-)

Cuttlefish said...

Mandydax--I think it was Douglas Adams (but I could be very wrong) who said that the real trick is not in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, but in snatching compromise from the jaws of total annihilation. It is easy for us to see the flaws in a candidate and make the jump from "imperfect" to "unacceptable", become depressed, and lose hope.

Science, remember, progresses in baby steps. We, more than most, should be willing to put up with a "two steps forward, one step back" in the right direction. A flawed candidate is not always an unacceptable candidate; there are better and closer approximations to an ideal, but we may never have an ideal.

Don't get downhearted--get practical. If you get downhearted, you take yourself out of the game, and give more power to everybody else.

g gekko--thanks! I have added your site to my blogroll! and... if there are any others who added my site to their blogrolls while I was away, please let me know, and I will put you right up!


Anonymous said...

OT - I just wanted to eave you a note that I really enjoy your posts and comments at PZ's.

If you are not published somewhere - you ought to be! :-)

Aaron Durst said...

Why would an atheist want to attend an interfaith gathering? Most atheist that I have seen ridicule the idea that someone would make a decision based upon faith. Are the atheist who want to attend such a function acknowledging that the belief that God does not exist is a faith no different than the faith that a Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc has in believing that God exist?

Cuttlefish said...


As an atheist, I would have no interest in attending any given interfaith gathering. This particular interfaith gathering, on the other hand, is quite different. This gathering was of delegates electing the next nominee for the most powerful office in the world, in our secular nation. Ideally, under the first amendment, there should be no faith-based entrance requirement to any such meeting. (If it were an interfaith gathering to conduct a barn-raising, choose fantasy football players, discuss Plato's allegory of the cave, or knit sweaters, there would be no first amendment issue, but this meeting was purely political, and as such must be secular or violate the establishment clause of the first amendment.) The decisions made in this interfaith gathering have the potential to be imposed on those who were not there; why should anyone--atheist or not--be willing to surrender the control of their political destiny?

I have no faith in any god. This is not a "belief that God does not exist", as you put it, but rather a "none of the above" answer to the list of thousands of possible religious beliefs. As for ridicule, the members of separate faiths tend to ridicule one another far more than I can be bothered to; those particular beliefs are an important part of their system, whereas I prefer to spend my time on other matters. Among those other matters is the political future of my country; as such, any meeting that excludes my point of view but can still affect my country's destiny is something I can be very concerned about.

Aaron Durst said...

Here is the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You have a misunderstanding of the meaning of the first amendment. The first amendment only applies to the government, and does not apply to private groups. The government cannot restrict how religious people choose to assemble, and who they choose to assemble with. If the government were to interfere it would be a violation of the first amendment.

Cuttlefish said...

Letter of the law vs. spirit of the law. We are speaking here of the formalized (though extraconstitutional) selection of candidates and the platforms on which those candidates run. This interfaith meeting was intended to influence the outcome of platform debates, to decide the positions on which candidates for congress (and the presidential candidate) will run.

The spirit of the establishment clause is what is being abused by this meeting; if they are successful in their aims, the interests of believers hold more sway than those of unbelievers.

Cuttlefish said...

Besides which, of course, your initial question was simply "Why would an atheist want to attend an interfaith gathering?" Clearly, this particular interfaith gathering has a purpose that answers that question. The issues discussed there affect us as well; if the platform planks are pursued by representatives and made into law, they will be imposed on us as well. I don't see a whole lot of reason why an atheist representative would not want to attend such a gathering!