That’s four for four, unless i’m forgetting one. I wouldn’t’ve published this (i really intended it for the Editorial Board themselves), but perhaps there’s value in its publication i just don’t see (or perhaps a publisher is ill-advised to pass up any opportunity to let atheists look silly).
I was disgusted by the editorial “GOP candidate E.W. Jackson doesn’t speak for all Virginians of faith.” (24 May 2013) The editorial downplays as “fair enough” some of the most overt bigotry by any recent candidate for Virginia office, as though Jackson’s faith-which reaps him votes-absolves him of wrongdoing and of any expectation of an apology.
Yet it expects him to apologize to other Christians for speaking in their name! Evidently Christians are the true victims of Christian homophobia.
Atheists are routinely accused of paving the way for Stalinism. That’s an absurd accusation, but i certainly don’t mind condemning church-burnings (not to mention mass executions of Christians) when someone imagines i would support them. Nor do i pretend that these acts victimized me or other atheists.
Every decent Christian has the option of leaving the church and renouncing the label if they are unwilling to defend it from this kind of abuse. It’s on them if they do neither.
I kept my own structure for the blog this time, and decided my own title, since the Roanoke Times provided one perhaps best-suited to helping readers miss the point.
The Roanoke Times printed a letter from me today:
Ann Boyd made an important point in her Dec. 31 letter (“Atheists’ message did offend”): Atheist billboards, appearing all over the country, offend many people by signaling that many others don’t believe in God.
How is this offensive? We are implicitly denying — or at least doubting — Boyd’s and many others’ testimony that God changed their lives for the better. That’s pretty personal.
Indeed, many Christians say that without God in our lives, we would have no sound morals. Without God, our inner depravity would conquer us.
However, this implicitly denies that I, an atheist, have sound morals or do good works — or that I believe anything at all.
I find that offensive.
Boyd is entitled to her offense, but I hope she’ll agree that I’m entitled to mine. After all, if atheists took as much space as Christians to complain about such offenses from billboards, marquees, politicians, pastors and letters to the editor, the papers would print nothing else.
The public dialogue concerning morality — and religion — needs to continue, and people of all beliefs will be offended along the way.
We can cope. I hope. Our nation was founded on pluralism, a value we can share.
Four days before the Giles County School Board formally agreed to their proposed settlement and took down the framed transcription of the Ten Commandments in Narrows High School, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs, began a similar correspondence with the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. The board maintains a tradition of sectarian prayers before its meetings, often by local clergy (who may discuss their own congregations as well) but not infrequently by individual volunteers.
The challenge is fairly routine. The current precedent was set in last July’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Wynne v. Town of Great Falls, in which Darla Kaye Wynne, a non-Christian, objected to the opening of town meetings with prayer that included such language as “Our Heavenly Father” and “In Christ’s name”. A district court ruled in Wynne’s favor and prohibited the town “from invoking the name of a specific deity associated with any one specific faith or belief in prayers given at Town Council meetings.” The 4th Circuit Court upheld the district decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the town’s next appeal. (Incidentally, Wynne was Wiccan, not irreligious.)
You might have no idea that a local group called Fluoride Free NRV, spearheaded by Dan Steinberg, is attempting to rally public support for an end to the fluoridation of our water, which they denounce as “ineffective for preventing cavities”, “harmful to public health”, and “unethical forced medication”. (But then i would conclude that you must not live in Blacksburg.) In November a friend of mine handed me a copy of this flier at the Farmers Market, asking if i’d join the campaign, and Mr. Steinberg got a blurb on the last Environmental Coalition newsletter of the semester. I’ve been doing some research in response to a few of the scarier (and stranger) claims the group has made, and, suffice to say, i’m not panicking.
Tom Taylor, known to Roanoke Times readers for his periodic reminders of the dangers of historical cherry-picking, now finds it expedient to up the doses of victim-shaming and legal ignorance:
Your Oct. 13 editorial “Thou shall not persecute a child” forgets that the Constitution, for which you profess such passionate concern, guarantees defendants the right to confront their accusers in court. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit have no right to remain anonymous.
. . .
Your smug assertion that Giles County is violating the First Amendment is debatable and irrelevant as well. This case does not hinge on religion, but American history. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures formed English Common Law from whence came American law and liberty. That’s why, in the Supreme Court Building in Washington, over the head of the chief justice is — you guessed it — a carving of the Ten Commandments.
I won’t bother with the reach of the First Amendment and the “Christian nation” nonsense, which are both amply refuted elsewhere. The sly implication that outrage over the removal of the display was grounded in respect for American history is laughable on its face.
However, the principle that “defendants the right to confront their accusers in court” is generally true, and it merits some contextualization. Read more…
Upon reading “Giles Co. seeks to unmask plaintiffs” (Oct. 12 news story), I was astonished by the cowardice of the Giles County School Board, which has now stooped to bullying its own students.
A student and parent have sued the board for violating their First Amendment rights, requesting anonymity over the risk of harassment and abuse. The board objects, claiming no such risk exists. If its own meetings haven’t convinced the members, they might ask the plaintiffs in similar cases in Alabama and Oklahoma, who were assaulted and had their homes shot out and torched.
Is the board so unsure of its case that it would rather intimidate students than stand by its supposedly secular display? Board members publicly insist (as they must) that the display is not religious, contrary to the demands of their loudest constituents. This two-faced sham can last only so long.
Meanwhile, Christian students in Giles are learning that harassment and threats are acceptable codes of conduct.
Those who truly support personal freedom and don’t want government interfering in their private lives need to own up.
One of the very weird* things i’ve noticed lately is that religious people — more strictly, people who subscribe to domesticated religions — exhibit a much greater understanding of the separation of church and state and the unalienability of the right to criticize than the vacuously spiritual alt med advocates who have been sprouting like mushrooms in the Valleys.