Settle down, atheists – –

January 2, 2009 | By | 33 Replies More

This is a cross-post from my personal blog; I’m copying it here for Erich, so he can argue with me.  I’m bored at work; I think an argument would help.

An atheist organization has filed suit over Obama’s plan to be sworn in on a Bible, for God to be mentioned in the ceremony and so forth.

I’m having a hard time with this, but not because I am one who believes we are “one nation under God.”  I am all for the separation of church and state.  I am not a Christian.  I am a spiritual believer in God, but I cannot subscribe to organized religion.  I believe in a vast unknown.  My daughter has declared herself an atheist on her facebook page, even though most of the time she labels herself agnostic. She’s 13, so trying on different labels to see how they fit.  We believe in doing good for its own sake, to improve the world and to share positive energy.  I believe we don’t know a fraction of what is out there.  I believe none of us has a closer or more direct connection to God than anyone else, and mostly that religion, rather than honor God, often gets in the way of humanity’s ability to behave.

My favorite bumper sticker is “Born right the first time,” and nothing will raise my hackles faster than someone telling me they have the inside track to God and if I don’t get on it, I’m doomed to burn.  Uh-huh.

So it’s not like I’m against the atheists.  Just so that’s clear.

As a nation, we have promised to respect everyone’s right to their own religion, yes?  Someday, we might even practice what we preach.  And Barack Obama has made it clear, repeatedly, that he considers himself a Christian.  I’m as big a supporter of the man as they come, but I admit to being more than a little disappointed in his choosing Rick Warren ::::::cue gagging, wretching noises:::::: to speak.  I am trying to be open-minded, though.  If only Warren would be.

So again, I could easily jump on the atheists’ bandwagon.  Here’s the thing, though.  That whole respecting everyone’s right to practice his or her own religion comes into play here.  This is HIS swearing-in ceremony.  One can argue, and I’m sure they will, that anything about the presidency belongs to The People.  Perhaps that’s true, but we chose one particular man for this role, and in so choosing, did we not agree that we want HIM as president, to lead us HIS way?  I think we did.

He is Christian.  So his ceremony should be welcomed, in my way of thinking, to include aspects of his own faith.  Were he Jewish, I would expect him to be sworn in on a Torah; Muslim, a Quran. Whatever book means the most to him, so that when he swears on it, he will mean it.

Since the ceremony is about one specific man, I have no problem with that man’s religion being included.  I don’t see that as the same thing as prayers in school, or creches in city halls.  Those have no place.

I get the atheists’ point, but I truly believe that instead of creating a more open society through their efforts, all they are going to accomplish is to reinforce the image of atheists as godless meanies.  Big, blue meanies, trying to rain on this phenomenal inaugural parade.

Lots of work is needed to remove religion from government, so I applaud their willingness to throw themselves into the fray.  My only advice would be to pick a different day.

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About the Author ()

I am a writer and communication professional in St. Louis, Missouri, a crafter of jewelry, a disorganized optimist and most importantly, the adoptive mom of two China-born daughters.

Comments (33)

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  1. Mindy says:

    Point taken, Vicki, but I think civil rights, etc. are hardly legal mandates for compassion. They are mandates for fairness, true. But not compassion. One can easily live a life during which no civil rights are ever violated and no children are employed and never exhibit one iota of compassion toward another human being. Civil rights legislate the absence of abuse or cruelty, but do not force anyone to be kind.

  2. Karl says:

    J.C. Asks: (and nobody answered him)

    "I do not understand why Christians are asked to check their worldviews at the door when it comes to politics yet other worldviews are welcomed in the realm of politics. If you are a secular progressive then you have a worldview and it is actually encouraged in politics. A secular progressive and a Christian view the world much differently yet are we going to cherry pick whose world view we allow in politics and whose must be checked at the door? Is that intolerance?"

    Toleration and exclusionary methodology are the tools of ideologies used by people or groups of people to build support for their points of view, while at the same time preventing other points of view from serious consideration. The same tools are used to build or destroy support for ideologies. Whether that ideology is pure and honest science is where the secularists don't see their bias. Hitler convinced an apparent bunch of decent scientists he was doing worthwhile science, a bunch of other decent scientists fled the country. Toleration or exclusion, freedom of speech or stifling of free speech, honest skepticism or dishonest skepticism, my way or the highway. These are not scientific or non-religious points of view, they are all shaded by ones biases and personal value systems.

    Do you value the opinion of Der Fuhrer or not? People who become dictators often do so by showing great toleration for other poits of view, and then after they have enough ability to control public opinion they decide to exclude the points of view they once tolerated to get them into the position of authority they possess. Hitler, Castro, Stalin, Marx, Mussolini, the list goes on and on.

    Christians are asked to check their brains because they really do pay attention to history and human nature. Secularists have the priviledge of going with whatever happens to be their current fancy and desires.

    The scopes trial made public education tolerate the rights of macro evolutionary principles to be taught. This was a mass media affair that forced the toleration in America of a worldview (as religious as any can get) that was claimed to be scientific and secular. Since that time naturalistic science gets bent out of shape anytime their exclusionary control is infringed upon.

    Toleration is only tolerable for those not labels as intolerate. Duh!

    Exclusion is only exclusion for those not labeled exclusionary. Duh!

  3. Vicki Baker says:

    Mindy:

    Of course you can't legislate a feeling. But people who feel compassion can choose to practice it by pushing for legislation to abolish certain practices. If you look at the way the concept of human rights has been expanded over the centuries, you'll see that usually the agenda is not pushed forward by legislators sitting around discussing the issues in abstract logical or legal terms. Usually it's through an act of imagination, putting forward the idea that excluded groups have full humanity. Think Dickens highlighting the plight of child workers, Harriet Beecher Stowe and "Uncle Tom's Cabin", etc.

    Jane Smiley, in '100 Ways of Looking at the Novel" makes a good case that one of the central themes of the 19th century novel was "are women people?" and that this was confirmed in the imagination before it found expression in social practice. I think the religious imagination can have a place in the public square. The only thing that should be disallowed is privileging one religious viewpoint over other religious and secular viewpoints. No one can say "You have to do this because my god says so." But you could say "This is what my religion teaches on this issue, and this is why I think it is a good idea for everybody," or as my husband is fond of saying: "It's not just the law, it's a good idea."

    Even Karl and Erik recognize that they need to do this, so they try to offer reasons why homosexuality or whatever is bad for society in objective terms. But sometimes if their arguments get challenged too much, they fall back on "It's bad because my interpretation of the bible says it's bad, and your values are inferior because they're not based on the bible, and you're not allowed to challenge the bible because your values are inferior." End of conversation.

  4. Mindy says:

    Again, Vicki, I don't disagree with anything you've said. It's that "end of conversation" thing that gets me, and too many religions use "my god says so" as the end-all and be-all of reason. I don't believe that a worldview shaped by religion, which allows other religions an equal level of respect, is a problem – perspective is key.

  5. Excuse me, Karl, but I did answer J.C. I guess you chose not to see what I said as valid through your biased worldview?

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    I'm with Mindy on this one, for a couple of reasons. First, Obama doesn't become the President until *after* he formally swears the oath. Therefore, at the time he takes the oath, he isn't the President and doesn't represent the U.S. government; he is just another citizen and doesn't represent anyone but himself. Second, the U.S. Constitution bars governmental "establishment" of religion; i.e., "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Obama's swearing-in ceremony plainly doesn't fit this language. He is not "Congress," he is not making any law, he is not "establishing" any national religion. He is, apparently, expressing his own personal religious beliefs. Indeed, I might even argue that U.S. Constitution *bars* Congress from attempting to pass a law that would *prevent* a candidate from swearing the oath of office on a Bible, on the grounds that such a law would be "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion.

  7. Karl says:

    Mark, my read on your statement was comparing ostracism of secularists ideology with the ostracism of religious ideology. Like returning tit for tat. You stated something like when secularists try to fulfill John Lenin's dreams of no religion they are also told to get real and face reality.

    I tried to answer why either group probably tries to ostracize the other, not why it would be great if we could all just get along.

    I'm sorry but I didn't see your perspective as answering what I thought the question was asking. The question as I saw it was about why we see exclusionary practices, even though toleration is often sited as one of those human commonalities similar to law and order, equality, and fair practice.

    I could be wrong about the actual question asked, but I stand by how I thought it should to answered from how I see it.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Mindy: Check out this post by Ebonmuse on the inclusion of "God" in Obama's swearing in. http://www.daylightatheism.org/2009/01/obamas-ina… I agree with his point. Not strong enough that I would personally file a suit, but I think the reasoning is, well, infallible.

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