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Atheists: The New Homos?

The Reynolds Household.

Here's a fun quiz: who are Americans less likely to vote for? A Jew? A twice-divorced man? A gay person? A Mormon. Or an atheist?

Come on, you know the answer. Atheists are ten points below homosexuals. 22 points behind a guy who can't make a marriage work. Not quite 30 points behind Mormons and almost 50 points behind Jews.

I've been involved in a contentious to-and-fro over at Ambivablog on the subject of atheism. My good blogfriend Annie (at least I hope she's still my friend) objects to my playing the victim as an atheist.

Now, here's the thing: I don't feel remotely like a victim. I enjoy it when people call me arrogant, immoral, amoral, a communist, un-American, hell-bound or the next best thing to a puppy strangler. I don't care because I'm invulnerable to words and I feed on controversy.

Then it occurs to me that my kids are atheists, too.

Here are some of the things my kids will hear on the topic in the next few years:

1) You're going to burn in hell for all eternity.
2) Your parents are bad people.
3) Your parents will burn in hell for all eternity.
4) Especially your father.
5) But also your mother.
6) Atheists hate god.
7) Atheists are un-American.
8) Atheists are communists.
9) Okay, not your dad, he's a money-grubbing Jew of an atheist, not a communist.
10) If you're an atheist you're a bad person. You know, Stalin was an atheist.

If my kids persist in being atheists -- and that's their choice to make -- they can never hope to hold political office in the US. If they join the military they can expect to see their careers sidetracked. They cannot work in sales, unless, you know, it involves selling to academics. They may have difficulty adopting. They will find that some of their friends are no longer allowed to play with them. In a custody fight with a believer spouse they would automatically lose.

Now, they'll both undoubtedly survive. We're not talking lynching here, just the hostility of a society that is 95% believer. And my kids are pretty tough. But still, it pushes the issue into the category of, "What the fuck did you just say to my daughter?"

Atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are beginning to speak up on behalf of atheists. They each irritate me to one degree or another, but nevertheless, good for them. They're throwing what in baseball is called a brushback pitch. They're sending the signal that we're at the end of our patience with being every little demagogue's butt boys, and that rather than sit here quietly and be called names, we can inflict a bit of pain ourselves.

If the 95% don't like that, too bad. From here on out, no more closets for us.

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“Atheists: The New Homos?”

  1. Blogger Tully Says:

    You can't fool me. There aren't THAT many people in your household!

    Skipping the argument about what an atheist really is, and the amount of faith required to be one, I'd like to point out one candidate whose poll numbers are highly unlikely to be much affected if it comes out she's an atheist.

    You'll never hear any of those ten things from me or mine, and your children can consider my place a safe house any time.

  2. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    I appreciate that, man.

    But seriously, you don't want my kids around your house. The Bosch picture may be a bit overpopulated but it nevertheless captures the essence of our house around 8:00 am on any school day.

  3. Blogger Tully Says:

    And with two of my own just a few years older than yours, this is supposed to scare me how? Mine already wrecked all the wreckables.

  4. Blogger amba Says:

    Your kids are atheists? I suppose they vote, too?

    Is it Dawkins who says it's child abuse to indoctrinate a child into religion? Yeah, here it is.

    It's natural to share your view of the world with your kids. By the same token, you've indoctrinated your kids into atheism. I kind of like the . . . is it the Anabaptists? Whoever it is who says only voluntarily undergone adult baptism is the real one. I'd say the same about voluntary adult baptism into atheism.

    Your kids aren't "atheists" yet any more than they're voters or drivers. They're your kids. When they grow up they'll have their own encounter with the world. They'll be well equipped with skepticism, a good tool. One or both might also become religious, at least for a while, just to spite you. Teen-agers, you know. (Sorry, I know you're dreading that.)

  5. Blogger amba Says:

    Sorry, that wasn't the right Dawkins link. That was the one where he says that the gentler forms of pedophilia, which don't deserve the persecution and hysteria they provoke, probably do less harm than the mental abuse of scaring kids with hellfire.

    (Sheesh. Talk about playing right into a stereotype. Dawkins is the gangsta rapper of atheism.)

    Here's the passage I was thinking of, from this interview in Salon. I had forgotten, at least consciously, about the last line, though.

    You've said that raising children in a religious tradition may even be a form of abuse.

    What I think may be abuse is labeling children with religious labels like Catholic child and Muslim child. I find it very odd that in our civilization we're quite happy to speak of a Catholic child that is 4 years old or a Muslim of child that is 4, when these children are much too young to know what they think about the cosmos, life and morality. We wouldn't dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion. And, by the way, I think it would also be abuse to talk about an atheist child.

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    I wonder if Dawkins has kids. His objection, and yours to "indoctrinating" misses the practical fact that kids either grow up in a house with crucifixes on the wall or not, see Bibles being read or don't, hear prayers being said or don't.

    Of course my kids are atheists: they don't believe there's any such thing as God. If their teachers or fellow students ask them whether they go to church they'll answer "no." If they're asked whether they believe in God my son would say "no" and my daughter would say "huh?"

    I'm at a loss to imagine how Dawkins thinks we can avoid spreading our ideas to our kids. They live in our house. They're kind of going to notice whether Dad and Mom pray. And when Sunday morning rolls around they're going to notice that we don't go to church.

    With our son (10 now) we discuss this and many other philosophical and moral issues openly. He's free to make his own choices -- I don't see how I could stop him -- but it's naive to pretend that a kid can be kept in some kind of disconnected netherworld where the big ideas never come up, even as I'm laboring to teach him right and wrong.

  7. Blogger Objectivist Says:

    Woo-hooo! Yeah! We're ahead! Take that, you horned bustards!.. Hmm... I mean, hornless.
    A Jew (a.k.a. Objectivist)

    Depending on the day you ask me, I'm either an agnostic or an atheist; (sob!) so I get it from both sides (sob!).

    And as for Stalin, you can tell them that whatever higher ed he did, receive was from a seminary, and one doesn't need to be a genius to see that his cult of self was clearly modeled after Christianity.

    My daughters go to JCC. I really enjoy hearing them sing in Hebrew, imitate Queen Esther, and softly mispronounce the Shabbos prayers – warms my heart. They go to JCC because it's the best preschool in our neighborhood, and I like the idea of them having a strong social Jewish identity. But since my wife and I are atheists (it's Monday), I suspect as they grow older, and start thinking critically, they'll proudly count themselves among the unbelievers. And if they don't, I'll have them take a few Bible classes – that did it for me.

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