So far this year, I have been spending my time in this blog going over the elements of Sean Faircloth’s new political strategy for atheists and the specific policy objectives he presents.
Currently, I am looking at Faircloth’s first policy objective, which he stated as:
Our military shall serve and include all Americans, religious and non-religious, with no hint of bias and with no hint of fundamentalist extremism coloring our military decisions at home or abroad.
I objected that it is absurd to have a policy that includes "all Americans". It would have to include the child rapist, the rabid racist, the apostate-murdering islamist, and the atheist attempting to remove religion from the meme pool by killing anybody who is infected with it.
Instead I suggested a policy in which (1) each individual and group has presumption in favor of inclusion - of being on the "accepted" list, (2) evidence beyond a reasonable doubt must be provided for removing any person or group from the "accepted" list, and (3) religious reasons do not provide good reason to move any individual or group to the "unacceptable" list. The types of reasons to be used is the same type that would be legitimate in declaring a person guilty of a crime in a court of law.
The reasons offered for finding gays service personnel "unacceptable", or for holding that atheists are only qualified to receive orders and never qualified to give them, are either (1) religious reasons, or (2) the "bigot’s proof" of absurd and fanciful non-religious reasons that some people embrace only because they offer support for a desired (in this case, religious) conclusion. I call this the "bigot's proof" because they are exemplified by the arguments in favor of slavery and Jim Crow laws as being a benefit to blacks.
On this point I want to look at how gays and atheists made it onto religious lists of "unacceptable" people or groups. What is really going on behind the scenes regarding the religious disapproval of gays and atheists?
Each group actually takes a different route onto that list.
The Situation for Gays
In the case of gays, I would suggest that the following explanation seems most likely:
The major religions were invented by substantially ignorant humans living in ancient primitive tribes. They had the human disposition to fear what they did not understand and to hate anything that was different. They were disposed - by what is normal human psychology - to view gays as demonic, sick, strange, unnatural creatures unfit for civilized society.
Then they invented gods.
When they invented these gods, they assigned these prejudices to their gods.
By this, I do not mean that they were consciously thinking, "I am going to invent a god and assign my prejudices to him." I am saying that they had no idea how to explain things around them in natural terms so they sought supernatural explanations. They invented or "hypothesized" gods. And they asked themselves, "What qualities do these gods have?" As a part of the process, they decided that no god worthy of the name could actually think these disgusting creatures who seek sex with members of the same sex should be treated as human. They are abominations. So, they wrote that their god viewed them as abominations.
They wanted these creatures put to death - to be eliminated from society - so they wrote that their Gods commanded them to kill these creatures.
Through scripture, these bigotries have been brought to the 21st century. People who should have been left to live their lives in peace when thinking humans shook off their ignorance and primitive superstitions are still made to suffer – or denied the full quality of life that they could otherwise have – because people today take the ignorant prejudices of a bunch of primitive tribesmen as the unerring word of a god.
The Situation for Atheists
Atheists took a different road onto the "unaccepted" list.
Here, we must recognize that religious institutions are social and political institutions – and the people at the head of those organizations have a human thirst for social and political power.
They get their power by being the spokesperson for God. They speak. Their congregation listens and obeys. It contributes to building the leader’s home and furnishing it, and providing the leader with political, economic, and social power.
A person can try to gain control over others by saying, "Do as I say or suffer the consequences." Of course, this only works on the person who actually thinks that disobeying actually has consequences. "What the tyrant does not know cannot hurt me." Plus, the tyrant needs power to actually inflict consequences.
Somewhere along the line, the wise tyrant got the idea of saying, "And I have an all-knowing, invisible friend who knows when you disobey who will make you suffer - if not in this lifetime, then for eternity in the next lifetime."
Seriously, the phrase, "Serve God" really translates into "Serve me," spoken by the person claiming to have a personal pipeline to God.
Of course, one of the things that the tyrant needs to worry about is having somebody in the community who dares to day, "Yeah, sure. You do not have an all-knowing invisible friend. You’re just making that stuff up."
That is to say, atheists are a significant threat to the social and political power of religious leaders. Therefore, the religious leader has a strong incentive to tell his congregation, "Atheism is unacceptable. Shun the atheist. He is a fool. He will bring you into ruin. He has no morals. He will destroy your lives and destroy your chance for a happy afterlife."
That is how atheists made it onto the "unacceptable" list.
Once again, I am not talking about religious leaders consciously plotting out the details of this system. Instead, the religious leader likes his power, he feels threatened by the atheist. This makes him uncomfortable. He gets a revelation (which he may well think is an actual revelation - even though it comes in fact from his fear and anxiety) that God does not like atheists, and that is what he tells his audience.
Furthermore, the religion that most effectively neutralizes its opponents is the one that gains power and control. It is to be expected - considering only natural forces - that the religions that dominate the world today have a strong anti-atheist prejudice.
We see then that gays and atheists have made their way onto religion's "unacceptable" list in two different ways.
Gays are on the list because primitive ancient tribesmen judged "different" as "evil" and sought to destroy what they did not understand. Now, today, they suffer from people foolish enough to think that the prejudices of a group of illiterate goat herders was the infallible word of God. The tragedy is that they are continuing to do real harm to real people.
Atheists are on the list because we threaten the social and political power of religious leaders. People who owe their position in society to the idea that those who disobey face the wrath of their all-knowing, all-powerful enforcer are threatened by those who say that there is no enforcer. They find the atheist presence intolerable. And (not surprisingly) so do the gods they invent.
This is what is really going on when religion puts gays and atheists on the "unacceptable" list. This is what people preserve when they defend these practices.