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Those Evil Atheists!

Entry 1069, on 2009-08-07 at 20:58:52 (Rating 4, Religion)

Don't ask me how it happened but today I managed to navigate my way to the Christian Post web site which reported on an incident in Lodi City, California where the council were considering banning all prayers. Apparently this all started with a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which claimed that prayer "impermissibly advanced Christianity" and therefore should be stopped.

That sounds pretty unfair, doesn't it? I mean, if people want to pray why should some anti-religion organisation or a council be able to stop them? Of course, the way I have presented it (which is the message many people would get from the first half of the article) isn't actually what was really happening at all.

Its not clear until about paragraph 5 that they are just talking about prayer at the start of council meetings. If people want to pray in their own time then they can do that wherever they want, its just during valuable council time that it might be banned. The reason isn't so much the waste of time as much as the type of prayer, which is always Christian, and against the policy of using "non-sectarian and non-denominational" prayer at the council.

So it seems clear enough. Surely when someone is elected to a council they shouldn't expect to be able to inflict their religious ideas on others and at the very least they should expect that any religious activities which do occur should be inclusive of as many people as possible.

Of course the Christians are complaining bitterly about it (they are so used to having their own way in the US) and sending some clown called James Klingerschmitt to organise a protest for which the atheists are organising a counter-protest. Its all got a bit silly because the Christians think they can just make a big fuss and get their own way.

But that's one of the biggest problems with religion: people think theirs is the only true religion and that everyone else should be converted. I know this process isn't obvious in every case but I think that every religion has some sort of mechanism to grow its influence: it could range from persuading members to enlist their children at an early age to killing people who disagree - and I think you know which religion I'm thinking of here, right?

Its very encouraging to see the atheist/humanism/rationality movement in the US starting to become brave enough to make these sorts of moves. The US is probably plagued more by religious influences than any other western country and its time that changed, so this sort of action (while its largely symbolic rather than practical) is long overdue.

Of course, the Christians are totally misrepresenting the issue and (like they often do) trying to make themselves look like the victims instead of the perpetrators of the bullying. Their on-line petition says something like "don't cave in to the atheist intimidation by the enemies of religious freedom who are threatening to silence all prayers".

But its the Christians who are trying to bully people into following their beliefs while ignoring the rest. How can they be the victims here? And no one is trying to silence all prayer. Even atheists accept that it often makes people feel better and if they want to do it in their own time most would say that's their right. Sure, its really just a waste of time and often leads to harm but it does have a positive psychological effect as well. That's fine but not really appropriate at a council meeting, I would have thought.

Christianity reminds me a lot of the novel 1984. In 1984 they had a Ministry of Truth which dealt with propaganda and lies. Christians say Jesus is the Truth and the Way (or something equally inane). See the parallel?

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Comment 12 (3471) by shirhashirim on 2009-08-20 at 15:29:05: (view earlier comments)

Within the law of course. I would not have Aztecs perform human sacrifices before every council meeting (soon there might nog be any need for a council).

People have different ideas about justice, human rights, animal treatment, climate change and everything. Poorly defined concepts have so far never hampered communication, quite the contrary.

Yes, in a multicultural society, definitely. Not on Cape Athos.

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Comment 13 (3472) by OJB on 2009-08-20 at 15:29:27:

Still sounds it might get a bit farcical if too many people partook in too many different activities (even without the sacrifices). Would it not be easier just to say to people that they should carry out these personal rituals in their own time?

There's a wide range in the extent these ideas are defined. I know very few where even the basic subject is defined as poorly as religion. When we talk about climate change, for example, everyone knows fairly well what is being discussed. I thought that was the case with religion too but clearly you have a much broader definition than me.

All societies are multicultural now, I would have thought. Sorry I don't quite get the reference to "Cape Athos".

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Comment 14 (3473) by shirhashirim on 2009-08-20 at 15:29:52:

Of course it would become a mess if too many different cultural traditions would partake without compromise, but usually people tend to compromise, e.g. find some formula that covers the convictions of many. Abolishing all and agreeing to do this in your own time is a viable option when things get really complicated (and a much simpler one).

Cape Athos is a monastery in Greece on a peninsula. Only single, male, Greek, orthodox people live there (monks). Anything else is not admitted (even female animals). Life is much simpler there, prayers before meetings-wise.

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Comment 15 (3474) by OJB on 2009-08-20 at 15:30:04:

OK, so I think we sort of agree on this. Seems to me people should be able to follow any belief in their own time, and shouldn't be exposed to one other groups rituals and beliefs unnecessarily. I'm fairly sure that was the point all along.

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Comment 16 (3475) by shirhashirim on 2009-08-20 at 15:30:23:

On the first part, yes. On the second part, definitely not. I think people should be exposed to as many group rituals as possible!

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