Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Non-Prophet Organizations

More Atheists Shouting it from the Rooftops:

More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out — even here in South Carolina, home to Bob Jones University, blue laws and a legislature that last year unanimously approved a Christian license plate embossed with a cross, a stained glass window and the words “I Believe” (a move blocked by a judge and now headed for trial).

They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.

They liken their strategy to that of the gay-rights movement, which lifted off when closeted members of a scorned minority decided to go public.

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”
Er, not exactly the analogy I'd be making. While sexual orientation is certainly a civil rights issue, and religion itself is a protected class, the question then becomes: does expressing a lack of religious preference fit the definition of "scorned minority" or protected class?

The first amendment deals with establishment (Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion) and free exercise (prohibiting the free exercise thereof). Unless atheists and non-believers are claiming their beliefs are, in fact, a religion, the idea that this is a Constitutional issue seems quite a stretch.

I guess a better analogy might be: should those who don't believe in freedom of the press be offered protected status? What about persons who don't believe in assembly? Or guns?

Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.

Local and national atheist organizations have flourished in recent years, fed by outrage over the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right. A spate of best-selling books on atheism also popularized the notion that nonbelief is not just an argument but a cause, like environmentalism or muscular dystrophy.
Nonbelief as cause. Quite an interesting phenomenon. I wonder: how many people would join organizations based around the lack of belief in something. And would nonbelief act as hindrance to success.
At the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, 19 students showed up for a recent evening meeting of the “Pastafarians,” named for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — a popular spoof on religion dreamed up by an opponent of intelligent design, the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them.
Pastafarians, secularists "coming out of the closet"...I think if the Atheists et al want to be taken seriously, they're going to have to do better than that.

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