Vjack at Atheist Revolution says that Atheists have an important lesson to learn from the passage of California's Proposition 8. The lesson is that well-financed and organized religious bigots have the power to manipulate the law so as to force everybody else to live in accordance with their religiously-backed falsehoods.
If atheists are not careful, we may find ourselves the next in line to suffer the effects of their religiously motivated bigotry.
(See: Atheist Revolution, Proposition 8 Ruling Implications for Atheists)
I think he has it backwards.
Unopposed and weakly opposed anti-atheist bigotry in California is what has provided the motivation and organization to make things like Proposition 8 possible.
For example, for years not a California organization, ingodwetrust-america.org, has been organized to put the national motto, "If you do not trust in God, you are not one of us" in prominent places in government buildings. These measures have widely passed, in county seats and local referendums, in much the same way that Proposition 8 passed.
It is almost certainly the case that the mailing lists and political contacts that ingodwetrust-america.org had built up were put to use to pass Proposition 8. Its ailing lists were used to solicit donations and to distribute campaign materials. In addition, we must expect that the posting of these signs had some effect on the people who saw it – imprinting the idea that Americans support that which is Godly and oppose that which is ungodly.
Yet, that organization has gone substantially unchallenged in its efforts.
The fact of the matter is that we do not need to fear that the success in attacking homosexuals will lead to attacks against atheists. Rather, past success in attacks against atheists have improved their ability to attack other groups such as homosexuals.
The California "In God We Trust" campaign, in turn, sprang from the political success of getting maing "In God We Trust" the national motto, and getting three generations of school children to pledge to view atheism the same way they view rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.
One of the questions that I have asked atheists repeatedly in this blog is how well they like being the tool through which the things they value are attacked. The two measures mentioned above – the national motto and the pledge of allegiance – make a significant contribution to growing an attitude of hostility towards atheists, viewing them as un-American.
This anti-atheist attitude can then be harvested to attack other things that these theocrats want to do away with. In order to promote creationism and to nurture hostility towards evolution they perform the traditional marking trick to something else that people already feel hostile towards – atheism.
They attack the idea of a secular government by a massive flood of publications and broadcasts in which they equate secular government with atheist government. With all of the money they have to finance their campaign they done such a successful job of confusing these definitions that a lot of people actually think that 'secular' means 'atheist'. So, a 'secular government' can then be branded as a government that imposes atheism on its citizens.
One of the questions we should be asking is, "Where were the gay rights organizations during the decades in which theocrats pushed an agenda of hostility towards atheists?" Somebody in those organizations should have been writing articles and posts to the effect of "Pledge of Allegiance and National Motto implications for gay-rights supporters".
There are real-world implications for them to have been concerned about. If theocratic-minded Americans have the power to get "In God We Trust" adopted as the national motto and "under God" added to the pledge of allegiance, then they are a hair’s breath away from having the power to declare any type of 'unGodly' behavior criminal.
Yet, we have to admit the fact that even atheists have, for decades, been unwilling to protect themselves from and to challenge this discrimination. Where they have challenged these laws, they have sought to do so only through the courts – which ultimately will prove to be a foolish strategy guaranteed to fail in the long run.
Because atheists and secularists have not taken their case to the people – because they have been hiding behind judicial robes unwilling to face their neighbors, families, and co-workers, every court decision in favor of the First Amendment has become a propaganda tool to promote hostility towards the First Amendment. Sooner or later, that hostility was going to become powerful enough to simply replace the judicial robes of those the atheists had been hiding behind with those of people who agree with the forces that put them on the bench.
Now, we are one Supreme Court justice away from an interpretation of the First Amendment whereby the only type of law that the Amendment prohibits is actual criminal prosecution for religious beliefs. Everything from state-sponsored churches to sectarian prayers at public events (if the majority supports them) to bible readings and religious instruction in public schools would be permitted – since none of them involve punishing people for disagreeing with the speaker.