Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Real Athiest Worries

I am once again treated to the view that real atheists do not worry about such things as "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or "In God We Trust" posters in classrooms and on the money.

If true, it shows that real atheists are not as bright as they claim to be.

The function of these acts is to use praise and condemnation to create in children not just a belief in God, but a desire to believe in God and an aversion to the alternatives. It emotionally links belief in God with acceptance, membership in the community, and the corresponding sense of security that young children have evolved dispositions to crave.

The effects of an emotional belief in God include developing a belief resistant to reason, and a great deal of psychological trauma if one should ever come to question God. It is to create people who view atheists not only as having different view of the world, but to view them as a threat - on an emotional level. Atheism and atheist ideas are to make them feel uneasy and apprehensive. The mere existence of atheists sets off emotional alarms independent of all reason. They are "other" - outside of the community. They are not one of us. They are against us.

Would you deny that "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" is meant to promote an emotional attachment to Union, liberty, and justice - and aversions to rebellion, tyranny, and injustice?

One does not need to actually get these acts repealed to fight these effects. It is useful just to challenge them - particularly in the presence of children. Children who know that there are those who question the condemnation of those who do not support a nation 'under God' and who do not trust in God should have some effect on allowing them see that it is permissible to adopt these attitudes. The emotional link is weakened.

If, instead, you ignore these acts as trivial, you help to lock in the political and social impotence of atheists for yet another generation.

8 comments:

Mike Gantt said...

I am a theist. I may be disappointed if the majority decides to drop "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, but I do not object to it because we live in a democracy.

Just as you see harm to children and adults if the words are kept, so I see harm to children and adults if the words are dropped. Yet we live in democracy. Are we not bound to live by the will of the majority, whether for good or bad?

I do not imply that we each cannot or should not seek to persuade others to take our point of view, but can we not agree that we have adequate mechanisms for resolving such disagreements?

Joe said...

I saw that image, and I thought I'd misread the titles of the columns. I find "Bless You" after a sneeze super offensive and I hate the general infiltration of english idiom that religion and religious metaphor have achieved.

I feel like a right idiot when I stub my toe and shout "Jesus!" but I do it, because I suffered through at least some of the indoctrination as a child.

I'm doing my best to raise my child without the religious mind-worms.

Leo said...

Also the expectation of such prejudices may play it parts too:

http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/12/how-other-peoples-expectations-control-us.php

Doug S. said...

My (atheist) father has mentioned that, despite years of saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day, one day he realized that he didn't actually know the words to it.

I agree that the words "Under God" were added to the Pledge in order to achieve the ends that you describe, but I think its power to actually achieve that effect is less than you give it credit for. I think it's more a symptom of bigotry than a significant cause. (There has been plenty of scientific research done on the effect of segregation on black students, but I don't think that there has been anything comparable done regarding the Pledge and non-monotheist students. Until there's actual data, I think we're both just speculating.)

@Mike Gantt: Actually, no, we aren't bound to live by the will of the majority, at least not under the system of government that currently exists in the United States. There have been plenty of times in which courts have told The Majority it can't do or have what it wants.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Doug S.

I think that the effects of approval and disapproval on childhood development are well researched. To deny that the Pledge represents approval of those who support a nation "under God" and the motto represents approval of those who trust God - and disapproval of those who do not - is equally obvious.

If it turns out that the Pledge and the Motto are not having these effects, then we must explain why they turn out to be rare exceptions to these psychological dispositions.

Anecdotal evidence of rare and apparent exceptions is not evidence that such a rare exception has been found.

Mike Gantt said...

"I think that the effects of approval and disapproval on childhood development are well researched."

Alonzo, please summarize this research in a sentence or two. I don't intend to argue with you about it. Rather, I will trust your summarization for it (though brief mention of a source will also be helpful).

Thanks.

anton said...

The effect, in time, of including references to a god in an "official" context will eventually fog the minds of the people. How many of the younger set believe the "In God We Trust" has ALWAYS been on the money. Also, how many now firmly believe that "We the people" meant everyone, when, in fact, it was highly restrictive and sure didn't include anyone who wasn't white and wasn't a male landowner. If this kind of practice is kept up, it won't be long before US citizens could be "goose stepping" and believe that US America started to march that way.

TGP said...

Mike,

At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
"… all wear green," said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, "and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."
There was a pause; then the voice began again.
"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"
The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows.
"They'll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson."