God bless America, you dumb Pollack, my home sweet home.
Archie Bunker, singing in All in the Family, 10/16/71
We get mail....
I recieved the following e-mail from an (immigrant, wouldn't you know it) relative who's been receiving and helping circulate such messages since the 9/11 attack.
The sheer audacity of such nonsense makes me want to scream, although it's nothing we haven't heard before sixty thousand times. Since you're a campaigner for basic decency, I thought you might be interested in my response, which I'll e-mail you separately.
Here's the original SPAM. Stay tuned for my response.
Re: Proud to be an American....THIS IS NEAT!!!
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma School officials remove "God Bless America" signs from schools in fear that someone might be offended.
Channel 12 News in Long Island, New York, orders flags removed from the newsroom and red, white, and blue ribbons removed from the lapels of reporters. Why? Management did not want to appear biased and felt that our nations flag might give the appearance that "they lean one way or another." Berkeley, California bans US Flags from being displayed on city fire trucks because they didn't want to offend anyone in the community. In an "act of tolerance" the head of the public library at Florida Gulf Coast University ordered all "Proud to be an American" signs removed so as to not offend international students.
I, for one, am quite disturbed by these actions of so-called American citizens; and I am tired of this nation worrying about whether or not we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled in New York and Washington, DC when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.
I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. In fact, our country's population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants; however, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some native Americans, need to understand.
First of all, it is not our responsibility to continually try not to offend you in any way. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language, and our own lifestyle. This culture, called the "American Way," has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. Our forefathers fought, bled, and died at places such as Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam.
We speak English, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society-learn our language!
"In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some off-the-wall, Christian, Right Wing, political slogan—it is our national motto. It is engraved in stone in the House of Representatives in our Capitol and it is printed on our currency. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation; and this is clearly documented throughout our history. If it is appropriate for our motto to be inscribed in the halls of our highest level of Government, then it is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools.
God is in our pledge, our National Anthem, nearly every patriotic song, and in our founding documents. We honor His birth, death, and resurrection as holidays, and we turn to Him in prayer in times of crisis. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture and we are proud to have Him.
We are proud of our heritage and those who have so honorably defended our freedoms. We celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Flag Day. We have parades, picnics, and barbecues where we proudly wave our flag. As an American, I have the right to wave my flag, sing my national anthem, quote my national motto, and cite my pledge whenever and wherever I choose. If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.
The American culture is our way of life, our heritage, and we are proud of it. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. We are Americans, like it or not, this is our country, our land, and our lifestyle.
Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion about our government, culture, or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom, the right to leave.
If you agree, pass this onto other Americans!! It is time to take a stand!!
Rob's and Belahh's replies
Here's our joint reply to this nonsense, with Belahh's comments in italics and mine in regular text.
>> Oklahoma School officials remove "God Bless America" signs from schools in fear that someone might be offended. <<
Heaven forbid anyone should be offended by an illegal government establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment.
Well, for all the atheists and agnostics out there, I'm offended. The whole idea of people singing "God Bless America" is offensive to me. Thank God I've somehow missed hearing it since 9/11.
>> Management did not want to appear biased <<
Yes, heaven forbid that a newspaper or newsroom should try to look unbiased. What were they thinking? Don't they know the conservative media-industrial complex is supposed to back the American status quo?
>> Berkeley, California bans US Flags from being displayed on city fire trucks because they didn't want to offend anyone in the community. <<
That may have been going too far, I admit. But given how often right-wing nuts have perverted the flag for their own twisted definition of patriotism, it's understandable.
>> I am tired of this nation worrying about whether or not we are offending some individual or their culture. <<
Since when has America worried about offending "other" cultures? Euroamerica has a long illustrious history (and recent track record) of offending others: e.g. the decimation of the First Nations, e.g. the Vietnam war e.g. Project Ajax (Iran) e.g supporting dictators in Latin America e.g. throwing third and fourth generation Americans (of Japanese descent) in "internment" camps. Shall I go on?
What Louder-Mouth means is, he's tired of minorities asserting their inalienable American rights. He prefers it if only white Christian Americans assert their rights and everyone else obeys unquestioningly. In other words, he'd like to turn back the clock to the 1950s and before, when minorities "knew their place."
>> Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. <<
In its unrepentent state, known as "jingoism."
Right. This patriotism is perhaps more shallow and superficial than past versions of "patriotism," if that's possible. For evidence, check the enlistment rates since Sept. 11. They haven't budged, suggesting that Americans love to talk about patriotism, sing "God Bless America," and wave their flags—as long as they don't have give up their SUVs, pay higher taxes for increased security, or (God forbid) go to war themselves.
>> However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled in New York and Washington, DC when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. <<
Sometimes politically correct just means "correct."
Most of the time, actually.
Not anti-immigrant...as long as they're white Christians
>> I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. <<
I should hope not, considering you're probably an immigrant-American yourself. Perhaps if I occupied the same ignoble and necessarily defensive position as yourself, I might hold a grudge against myself too.
Louder-Mouth doesn't oppose or dislike immigrants—but he's obviously prejudiced against them. His claims that they don't know the language or the culture are flatly bigoted. "They" are a mixed bunch from many countries, including those where most people speak English. Many—including almost everyone from Mexico and the rest of Latin America—are Christians just like this doofus. And they arguably know the "American Way" (more on that later) better than native-born idiots, since they have to pass a test before gaining citizenship.
>> In fact, our country's population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants; <<
Excepting the two to three million descendants of those First Peoples who managed not to get wiped out—thanks for not forgetting them (no sarcasm intended).
>> However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some native Americans, need to understand. <<
Translation: "Here comes the horse pucky."
>> First of all, it is not our responsibility to continually try not to offend you in any way. <<
"We" haven't said it's your responsibility—the false tenants of "liberty and justice for all" that you proudly praise are what demand you take responsibility. If you would admit those ideals were lies in the first place, no one would try to hold you to them.
It's not our responsibility to refrain from painting Louder-Mouth as a racist, nativist bigot. I hope he enjoys our exercising of our responsibilities as much as we've enjoyed his.
>> This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. <<
And what is "our national identity?" if it isn't Indian, African, European, and Asian? I guess you must mean the fake homogenous national identity that makes us proud if we're the spiritual and cultural descendants of Europeans, and punishes us if we don't claim that identity?
I'd love to hear how multiculturalism dilutes our national identity when our national identity is multicultural. I'd love to hear how multiculturalism dilutes our sovereignty, period. But I don't expect any specific answers, because there aren't any.
In other words, saying and braying it doesn't make it so. To give just one example of America's multicultural history, we took in the Germans and Jews who fled the Nazis. They—not native-born Americans—gave us much of our know-how in physics, nuclear fission, and rocket science.
I've refuted the arguments against multiculturalism so often it isn't worth doing it again. See Outside the So-Called Ethnic Box for details.
"We have our own culture...."
>> As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language, and our own lifestyle. <<
The very cultural, social, and linguistic elements which differentiate America from the other Western countries are uniquely "American" because they draw on a multicultural (Native and African especially) fusion-base. As for lifestyle, most Americans don't live in a manner particularly disparate from that of Europeans proper (actually, you might take European excesses and multiply them further).
Some of my ancestors have been here since 1637. I guess that makes me more American than Louder-Mouth. As an American, my culture, society, and lifestyle are multicultural. If Louder-Mouth doesn't like it, he's welcome to leave my multicultural country.
>> This culture, called the "American Way" has been developed over centuries <<
Let's be very clear here—if by "American Way" (all caps) you mean said forced homogeneity and Western worldview, then I concede five centuries since Columbus and the Spanish. The Way doesn't seem to have needed that much time to develop, though—the American Way of ruthless expansionism and opportunism was imported from Europe and dispersed throughout the land from the very moment Western feet touched this soil.
But there are also much older American ways.
Of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.
Trials: those damn People Who Had the Nerve to Be Here First.
Struggles: building a state based on murder, theft, and lies while trying to affirm as its official mantra life, liberty, and truth.
Victories: they're too numerous to count. Basically anytime the Western worldview or culture vigorously asserted itself against non-Westerners—you can chalk all of those times up as "victories." I refer you to any fifth- or sixth grade classroom history text for an (incomplete) accounting of these victories, up until the year 2001.
I'm glad you include the women, though. While it's true you've never treated your own women too well, that has never stopped them from jumping on their own Eurocentric bandwagon and perpetuating damaging biases and worldviews.
I love to see people talk about the "American culture" as if that means something. Inevitably—you can almost bank on it—they can't define what they mean. If they try—as Newt Gingrich did a few years ago—a five-year-old could knock over their arguments with a feather.
American died...to own slaves, kill Indians, etc.
>> Our forefathers fought, bled, and died at places such as Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam. <<
Don't forget the Greasy Grass (where unbridled Euroamerican expansionism let up, if only for a few hours, when Custer "fell"), the Alamo (during plans to steal the birthright land of northern Mexicans), or numerous Civil War sites (where the Great White Way of brotherhood and justice failed as Americans descended upon each other like packs of hounds). I guess that's why Euroamerican battle sites are so revered and memorialized. Should we have memorials for the bleeding of our forgotten forefathers, too—like a cross-continental stretch of gravestones along the highway for the Trail of Tears? Or crosses marking every tree where a black man was lynched?
I feel cleansed and vindicated by the bleeding of such forefathers!
If you think about it, it's pretty damn funny that Louder-Mouth could name only three battles (Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan) in America's first 150 years. Reason: For most of that time, we lost our battles (Revolutionary War, War of 1812), the wars we started were unjust (Mexican-American War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War), or we were killing each other over our Euro-Christian "principles" (Civil War). In the best example, the South defended its God-given right to own slaves (it's in the Bible) while the North asserted its God-given right to free them.
If you want a great example of how poorly our self-image matches the reality, consider this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:
In North America, as elsewhere throughout the entire world, the expansion of a civilized nation has invariably meant the growth of the area in which peace is normal throughout the world.
Ask the victims of America's, Nazi Germany's, or the Soviet Union's expansion if peace was the invariable result.
>> We speak English, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. <<
Actually, Americans speak all those languages and a few thousand others to boot. And why shouldn't they, since there's no law against it?
Interesting how the only two European languages you here denigrate are a) one spoken throughout mestizo-, Indian-, and Afro-populated countries, and b) one spoken in an Eastern European (and formerly Communist) country.
Good point about the choice of languages listed. Yes, we can't indict the French or Germans or Scandinavians, who are generally white Anglo-Saxon Protestants like us. Only non-Anglos like Latinos, Asians, Muslims, and Russkies resist being Americans. Only they cause trouble.
By the way, your dogmatic insistence on English-only is an example of the arrogance and laughable ignorance of the American Way which many around the world—including, I might add, your cultural compatriots, the Europeans—resent.
>> Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society-learn our language! <<
No arguments there; you'll be pleased to know that the majority of first-generation American (born in this country) daughters and sons of immigrants cannot speak their own parents' mother-tongue. The probability that their own children, the second generation born here, speak the immigrant language, is almost negligible. Score number one million for the American Way!
Oh, let's argue with Louder-Mouth. "Learn our language"...why? What if "we" don't? Will you continue whining like a little lost lamb? If "we" learn English, will you shut up?
In God we and terrorists trust
>> "In God We Trust" is our national motto. <<
No, the national motto is E Pluribus Unum—out of many, one. Note the lack of references to God in the motto the Founding Fathers chose.
>> This is not some off-the-wall, Christian, Right Wing, political slogan <<
No—it is a grave reminder that the painful history of this country is attributed to divine decree. It's pretty shameful to blame America on God.
I'd say it's both.
>> We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation; <<
No, a few right-wingers got it adopted covertly during the Civil War to further their theocratic agenda.
Remind me which Christian (New Testament) principles fueled which actions during the "founding" (sounds like "found" as in "Columbus found America") period of this country. There were for example the very Christian Puritans, who killed Euroamerican women by burning them at the stake and pressing them to death with boulders—but the Puritans were fleeing persecution in Europe, so I suppose we can forgive them their hatred, bigotry, and murder—as indeed we have.
Settling on other people's land and stealing and/or cheating and/or killing to get more of it (a la the Christian Protestant British, Christian Catholic Spanish, and Christian Jesuit French) is a rather acquisitive worldview which seems to directly contradict the economics, lifestyle, and teachings of Jesus Christ. (Maybe the fact that Jesus wasn't European might have had something to do with it...)
Thanks for clarifying that, Belahh. I'm pretty sure lying, cheating, stealing, impoverishing, oppressing, torturing, and killing are the Christian principles Louder-Mouth meant. After all, it's well-documented how Christians applied these "principles" to the world's people.
>> this is clearly documented throughout our history. <<
You mean throughout our rhetoric.
It's clearly documented that pseudo-Christians led the rape and pillaging of America for their own benefit. It's also clearly documented that the Founding Fathers were deists—believers in a generic God—not card-carrying Christians. See The Founding Fathers Weren't Christians for some excellent postings on the subject.
>> If it is appropriate for our motto to be inscribed in the halls of our highest level of Government, then it is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. <<
At least this statement is logically valid. Since it's not appropriate to display the motto in schools, it follows that it must not be appropriate to display it in the halls of government.
God a latecomer to American traditions
>> God is in our pledge, our National Anthem, nearly every patriotic song, and in our founding documents. <<
The Constitution, arguably the founding document, doesn't mention God at all. In God We Trust and the Pledge of Allegiance were adopted in the 20th century. The Founding Fathers had nothing to do with them.
From "Pledging Allegiance Does Not a Patriot Make" in the LA Times, 11/27/01:
In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an obligatory loyalty oath is unconstitutional, thus putting the law on the side of any student who refused to participate in patriotic or religious rituals. But even after the ruling, refusal to say the pledge took both courage and conviction.
The pledge remained unchanged until Flag Day 1954, when President Eisenhower approved the addition of the constitutionally questionable phrase "under God" to differentiate this country from its godless Cold War antagonist.
Nor did the Founding Fathers choose "The Star-Spangled Banner," which mentions God only in its little-known fourth stanza. That shows how relevant God was and is to America.
For the basic facts on the Founding Fathers' disdain for religion in government, see Prayer in the Bush League. For more on which song should be our national anthem, see Victor or Victim: Our New National Anthem?
>> We honor His birth, death, and resurrection as holidays <<
I didn't know God had a birthdate. Who was God the day before God was born? Is this proof that God is finite and not infinite?
If you're talking about Jesus, the son of God, his birth date is a secular holiday featuring Santa Claus and footballs games. The dates of his death and resurrection aren't national holidays. They may be religious holidays, but so are the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid. Which further suggests the multicultural nature of America.
>> we turn to Him in prayer in times of crisis. <<
No, Christians, not "we," turn to the Christian god. Jews turn to Yahweh, Muslims to Allah, and Native Americans to the Creator. Meanwhile, Buddhists and Confucians as well as agnostics and atheists turn to various spiritual or secular comforts.
The shallowness of Louder-Mouth's argument is appalling. (Some) Americans turn to the Christian god; therefore, America is a Christian country. By the same "logic," (some) Americans turn to prostitution, drugs, and gambling; therefore, America is the country of prostitution, drugs, and gambling.
>> If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture and we are proud to have Him. <<
I'm sure there is nothing you'd like better than for all of us descended from groups of people you deem unworthy to disperse back to our countries of origin—anywhere in the world but here. But maybe if we went back to our countries, we'd find outright murder, corruption, and intolerance. Nah, better to take our chances here in the West, where at least they know to cover up and deny their murder, corruption, and intolerance. We are proud of our heritage and those who have so honorably defended our freedoms.
Those freedoms were defended at a terrible price to others. Maybe those others are as proud of their heritage as you are of yours. If you deserve the right to celebrate the misdeeds that bought or stole you your "freedoms," don't other people deserve the right to mourn them?
If this response offends you, I suggest you get the hell out of my country. Find a God-worshiping country like Afghanistan and enjoy life with your fellow fundamentalist fanatics.
Or learn to live with it, since I plan to post this response permanently. Tell all your friends this site will enshrine your name forever as a bigoted fool.
God...an American citizen?
>> God is part of our culture and we are proud to have Him. <<
Genocide and slavery are part of our culture also. Since you're unabashedly proud of this country, you also must be proud of its genocide and slavery. Okay, but I wouldn't put that on my resume if I were you.
Atheism and agnosticism are also part of our culture—as is almost every other cultural strain on Earth. That's the whole point of America's being a multicultural country. There's room for believers and nonbelievers, and the law protects them equally.
>> If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. The American culture is our way of life, our heritage, and we are proud of it. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. <<
Of course you don't.
Actually, you care a little too much about "how we do things where we came from"—American presence in Vietnam, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Phillipines, etc. etc. proves this. Be patient with us—we have yet to completely cast off the burden of our own cultures and adopt civilized Western ways. Then truly the whole world will be Americans following the American Way.
Louder-Mouth's comment about not wanting change is hilarious since half the Americans are crying for war, another half are crying for a significant reduction in civil rights, and all are crying how the 9/11 attacks changed America.
This fellow is obviously stuck in his '50s time warp. Back then his comment might've had some merit. Americans didn't want change to their male-oriented WASP culture. They were quite happy to seat women, minorities, and non-Christians at the back of the bus.
But why does Louder-Mouth keep addressing immigrants and how they do things where they came from? I've already established that my people have been here longer than almost anyone's. Why is the child (Louder-Mouth) lecturing the adult (me and anyone whose people have been here longer than Louder-Mouth's)?
I really don't care how you did things where you came from, Louder-Mouth. Now that you're in my country, you're welcome to do things my way.
>> We are Americans, like it or not, this is our country, our land, and our lifestyle. <<
Louder-Mouth is the newcomer since my people have been here since 1637 and Native American people have been here longer. By his own longevitity criterion, which apparently is all he's got, he should be doing what Native Americans and I tell him to do.
"Love it or leave it," inevitably
>> Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion about our government, culture, or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom, the right to leave. <<
I'll go back to my country if you go back to yours. After all, "This land is your land, this land is my land," right?—I know because the song told me so.
When the country is perfect, we won't have anything to complain about. Until then, get used to the complaints. Love 'em or leave it: Those are the only choices we're giving you.
>> If you agree, pass this onto other Americans!! It is time to take a stand!! <<
If you disagree, help stop the chain-mailing out of propaganda. It's about time we took a stand.
Here's one stand against Louder-Mouth's racist and nativist swill. I'm glad he stood up for what he believed in. It made it easier for us to kick him in the butt.
God and Taliban both harbor terrorists
More on America's love of God (and vice versa) since 9/11. From the LA Times, 10/6/01:
Atheists Decry Post-Attack Focus on God
* They say Bush's and other leaders' religious references flout the separation of church and state, and leave out the nonreligious.
By HECTOR BECERRA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
On the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, as the president spoke from a pulpit and a heartsick country united under patriotism and God, Lydia Rice felt estranged.
Rice ached as much as anyone, but as President Bush spoke to Americans from the National Cathedral, surrounded by leaders of the country's major faiths, she felt she was on the fringes of the conversation.
And in a way, she was: Rice, a 40-year-old Silicon Valley engineer, is an atheist. "I felt a tremendous need for a sense of community and even ceremony," she said, but without the religious overtones that colored the national response to the tragedy.
So on Sunday, Rice organized the Secular Memorial in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Dozens of atheists and other nonreligious people gathered to remember those lost during the terrorist attacks. They recited the original Pledge of Allegiance, which was modified by Congress in 1954 to include the phrase "under God."
For Rice, a highlight was the playing of John Lennon's "Imagine," famed for this nonreligious sentiment:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Many atheists, no matter how patriotic or saddened, have been disturbed at the tenor of the past three weeks. From the frequent playing of "God Bless America" at sporting events to the president's assertion that "God is not neutral," religion has taken center stage. Interfaith services have been the most common of communal responses.
To atheists, the response crosses a great divide. They cringe when the government rallies the country by formalizing days of prayer. They ask whether the country doesn't risk being a bit more like its extremist enemies when God is used to claim the moral high ground. They worry that their cause of separating church and state has become a little bit tougher.
And they wonder how people could continue to believe in God after Sept. 11.
"If that wasn't a wake-up call to a religious nation, I don't know what is," said Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheist, the country's oldest organization for nonbelievers. "That said to me, 'There is no God.' Where was he, on a coffee break?"
Johnson said she posed that question while being interviewed on a Louisiana radio station and was struck at the different answers. "One caller said God was weeping. Another said I needed to understand God allowed this terrorist attack to happen for a reason. Another caller said [Jesus] was where he's always been, where he was when God put him on the cross. They all seemed to know where God was."
Johnson said she drew inspiration from the heroism of firefighters, police officers and rescue workers because they symbolized to her what atheism is about—humans acting to help humans.
Rice makes that argument by paraphrasing the 19th century American philosopher Robert Ingersoll: "Hands that help are better far than lips that pray."
Rice said that, for a time after the events of Sept. 11, she wished she could believe differently. "I told my sweetheart, 'I wish I were religious.' [Religion] makes no sense to me, but I need something, and I can understand why people are religious. But I can't."
Henda Lea, 56, president of the Secular Humanists of the East Bay, based in Berkeley, expressed a similar wistfulness, recalling that her own mother's death years earlier was made more difficult by the fact that Lea did not believe in God. "In my mind, she's gone forever," she said. "I'll never see her again. The things that gave me comfort are the things she did in life."
Atheist Randi Mendelsohn of Staten Island was one of those people who scattered as the twin towers collapsed. Getting home and hearing the president reciting the 23rd Psalm angered her.
"During the national day of prayer, what was I supposed to do?" she asked. "Is praying the answer? To what? Has it helped yet? Are we better now?"
Molleen Matsumura, 53, of Berkeley, said going to Sunday's Secular Memorial fulfilled the need of any human being: to hug, shake hands, share a smile and compassion at a trying time.
She said she knows of atheists who go to church simply because they like the music or singing in the choir, and the companionship.
"The human thing is to reach out to other people," she said.
On its Web site, American Atheist has criticized the government and religious leaders for using God as a rallying tool. The sites knocks Bush for having the government organize prayer vigils and other sectarian events. Johnson said such efforts not only flout the separation of church and state, but leave out millions of Americans who do not believe in God. (An exit poll during the 2000 election by the Los Angeles Times Poll found that 9% of voters described themselves as atheists or nonreligious.)
"We're not going to be quiet," Johnson said. "If they keep rallying people by using God, we're going to speak out."
In the 1960s, America's most famous atheist was the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who founded American Atheists. She fought a landmark court battle that led to the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. She was widely despised, and today Johnson is feeling some of those same vibes.
"So far, I've been told that I'm on the wrong side of patriotism, history and morality," she said. "No more in any other time have I felt as lonely."
Comment: Have no fear, ma'am. Reliable sources tell me you're on the right side of patriotism, history, and morality. Louder-Mouth and his ilk are dinosaurs trying to stem the tide of evolution.
Whose side is God on?
From the LA Times, 9/25/01:
Is God on Our Side? Or Is He on Theirs?
By JOHN J. THATAMANIL
John J. Thatamanil is an assistant professor of religious studies at Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss
Religious questions, if not commitments, regularly surface in times of duress. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have led record numbers of people searching for answers to churches, mosques and synagogues.
This conflict has been fraught with religious connotations from its very inception. If, as the evidence seems to indicate, the perpetrators are Islamic militants, then it is certain they misunderstood their actions as jihad, a word that in mainstream Islam refers to the internal struggle humans must wage against their own resistance to God.
On the other hand, President Bush has spoken of America's new war as a "crusade," an equally unfortunate choice of words given the horrific evils visited upon on Muslims by Christians during the Middle Ages under that rubric. The original name of America's mobilization was "Operation Infinite Justice," suggesting that this nation is the agent of the Almighty imposing God's ultimate will on those who have wronged us.
Bush, in his speech to the nation, indicated in a more subtle way that God takes sides. "The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them," he said.
The claim that God stands with the just is rooted in the ancient prophetic tradition shared equally by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Isaiah, Amos and many other biblical prophets declare God's unrelenting thirst for justice and his distaste for the fatted offerings of those who unjustly lord it over the needy. This prophetic tradition has been vitally enacted in our time by theologians who argue that God makes a "preferential option for the poor," that God stands with those who struggle for righteousness, with the despised and the rejected.
For Christian activists, the idea that the struggle for justice is no mere social program but the very bringing about of God's kingdom provides confidence in the ultimate inevitability that right will win out regardless of mighty opposition.
This sentiment is evident in Martin Luther King's famous affirmation that the "long arc of the universe may be slow to bend but it bends toward justice."
President Bush's claim, therefore, seems to be in continuity with a long, authentic prophetic vision of God.
But does God take sides in conflicts between human nations and groups? What are we to do when both parties claim God's blessings upon their bellicose programs? What dangers come from claiming unqualified divine blessing on human causes and conflicts? Do we not lose our capacities for irony, detachment and self-criticism if we come to believe that God stands for our cause?
Most important, do we not run the risk of idolatry when we give our important but less than ultimate concerns and programs divine sanction and ultimacy?
For Muslims, idolatry, shirk, is the gravest of sins. Because the Arabic word, shirk, literally bears the meaning "association," orthodox Muslims would be the first to caution all who associate their concerns with those of God.
Jewish and Christian thinkers would readily agree. Having witnessed the distorted self-certainty of an idolatrous violence that stands prepared to kill and be killed, should Americans not be more cautious about embracing the very rhetorical mode used by our enemies as we roll out the full might of our military complex? Especially against those who live in a nation ravaged by decades of unending strife?
The Bible does offer us another vision of God—a god who calls for justice but whose infinite love cares equally for the just and the unjust. This rhetorical tradition reminds us that God cannot be made captive to political or national agendas. According to the Bible: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous."
This tradition, without erasing the distinction between good and evil, between righteousness and unrighteousness, nonetheless reminds us that God cannot be monopolized by some regardless of the putative justice of their cause.
In times of wrenching grief and anger, it is easy to forget that God's love calls us to check the instinctive furies released when those we cherish have been destroyed. It becomes too easy to bless our causes with unqualified divine approbation only to find ourselves made over in the likeness of those enemies who have injured us. We even sound like them when we speak of crusades and God's favor, and when we picture ourselves as instruments visiting "infinite justice" on evil incarnate.
While those who long for peace hold only a fragile hope that the nation will exercise military restraint, we can at least vigorously call for rhetorical restraint in order to remind the nation that God is not at our disposal.
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
And from the letters to the LA Times, 9/28/01:
Amen, Prof. Thatamanil, for your invaluable, clear thinking on God's role in this horrific human conflict.
After thousands of years of God blessing both sides in all conflicts, we seem to have progressed no further than "my God's better than your God." This is dangerous, childish reasoning for a serious adult problem.
The objective moral truth
From the letters to the LA Times, 10/12/01:
Terrorists, Theists Claim God Is on Their Side
Tom Houg's Oct. 10 letter accuses atheists of having no "objective moral truth." Therefore, according to Houg, we are not able to condemn any acts of terrorism, since moral standards do not exist.
In fact, quite the reverse is the case. Atheists recognize that existence itself is an absolute, and from existence itself we derive our moral standards. By contrast, since all believers envision God according to what they want him to be, belief in God is the ultimate moral variable. It is the theist, not the atheist, who cannot claim absolute moral standards in condemning terrorism. In case Houg didn't notice, the bombings were not committed by atheists but by God-believers who thought they were obeying his absolute moral standards.
As an atheist, I claim that terrorism is wrong because it destroys human life. That is my standard of value. Houg, like the terrorists, claims God as his standard of morality. Which of us is more fundamentally moral?
Co-President, Atheists United
And my own letter to the LA Times on the subject, written 10/11/01:
News flash for reader Tom Houg (Oct. 10): Each time a new god appears (Jehovah, Allah, et al.), the previous "objective moral truth" becomes subjective and open to interpretation. The new god's followers often deem the old god's "moral truth" false and immoral.
In other words, there's no such thing as "objective moral truth." Sorry to burst Houg's naive bubble.
More on religious freedom
From the letters to the LA Times, 10/13/01:
Freedom of and from Religion
The complaints lodged by atheists ("Atheists Decry Post-Attack Focus on God," Oct. 6) that the U.S. government has been blurring the line between church and state since the Sept. 11 tragedies are echoed by many people such as myself, who consider themselves spiritual but don't follow organized religion in any form.
President Bush and the U.S. government have been alienating a large number of people who don't agree with such presumptuous statements as Bush's "God is not neutral," along with the hypocritical stance the government has taken by claiming the moral high ground against terrorism, while for decades the U.S. has been one of the largest financiers and trainers of "freedom fighters" (terrorists) around the world.
However, while sympathizing with the atheists' alienation, I don't agree with their beliefs, and as a musician with a deep love and respect of John Lennon's work, I must point out that they may have misinterpreted the lyrics of Lennon's song "Imagine." Lennon explained the lyrics: "The concept of imagining no religion—not imagining no God, although you're entitled to do that too. It's imagining no denominations, imagining that we revere Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, Milarepa, etc., equally, or that we don't have to worship any of them. Imagine that we allow it all. Freedom of religion for real." I couldn't agree more.
The events of Sept. 11 left me with a total sense of isolation and estrangement as I watched my beloved country take a serious direction toward a national religion. Ever since I can remember, my lack of religious belief has placed me among a distinct minority. My only consolation is that as an American I am also entitled to freedom from religion. My concern is the 90% of believers who too often ridicule the nonbelievers. Religion and patriotism are today being deliberately intertwined, with our governmental leaders encouraging citizens with their own religious rhetoric and zeal. I am deeply saddened to see that the greatest country on Earth is, with each passing day, becoming more and more like the enemy.
EDNA M. TOBIAS
A letter from God
Why didn't you save the school children at . . . a.. Moses Lake, Washington 2/2/96 b.. Bethel, Alaska 2/19/97 c.. Pearl, Mississippi 10/1/97 d.. West Paducah, Kentucky 12/1/97 e.. Stamps, Arkansas 12/15/97 f.. Jonesboro, Arkansas 3/24/98 g.. Edinboro, Pennsylvania 4/24/98 h.. Fayetteville, Tennessee 5/19/98 i.. Springfield, Oregon 5/21/98 j.. Richmond, Virginia 6/15/98 k.. Littleton, Colorado 4/20/99 l.. Taber, Alberta, Canada 5/28/99 m.. Conyers, Georgia 5/20/99 n.. Deming, New Mexico 11/19/99 o.. Fort Gibson, Oklahoma 12/6/99 p.. Santee, California 3/5/01 and q.. El Cajon, California 3/22/01?
Sincerely, Concerned Student
Dear Concerned Student,
I am not allowed in schools.
Comment: If God can't make it past a playground rent-a-cop, no wonder he couldn't stop the terrorist attacks on America. What a sorry excuse for a deity.
I pledge allegiance to the Constitution
Right-wing extremists: the enemy within
America's exceptional values
America's cultural mindset
. . .
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