If there’s one thing worse than an atheist, it’s an atheist who makes everyone feel bad by refusing to lie about it

I ran into someone today who left my atheist group because, as he said, he doesn’t like labels. What is a label but a noun, and what is a noun but a label, and every complete sentence contains at least one noun, which means that labels would be unavoidable even if they didn't serve the very useful function of telling us and everyone else who we are. When someone claims to avoid labels, I assume that (a) he hasn't thought the matter through, or (b) he’s being dishonest to stay out of trouble, as seems likely with a label like atheist. For example, I was put on the list for jury duty recently, but was pleased when I didn’t have to go because jury duty can be awkward if not humiliating for any atheist who dares to admit to being an atheist. There was the time in Mississippi when another juror rapped me on the head because I didn’t stand when the district attorney led the jury in a Christian prayer. Then there was the time in Minneapolis when I refused to swear “…so help me God,” after which both attorneys singled me out for questioning about my religious views (believers were not so questioned), and the district attorney had me sent home.

When people tell me that religion is a private matter and that it seems very strange for me as an atheist to write about it, these are two of the incidents from my own life that come to mind. There are also the thousands that I’ve heard of or read about. The downside of being a closet atheist is that it causes religious people to consider us more of a minority than we are, and this makes it easier to mistreat us.


lotta joy said...

Stud knows I'm an atheist, although, in his heart, he just KNOWS it will all turn around at some point.

He DID ask me to stop talking about it though, because he has a strong faith and my words were painful to listen to.

He's a good man. He'd be a good man whether christian or athiest. We don't "change" when our religious outlook changes, but we DO have to operate with sensitivity - not to step on innocent toes.

I'm under the radar out of politeness, as I expect christians to be. BUT, when push comes to shove, I don't mind speaking in a forthright manner as they do.

I read the following on a cartoon once, and it's perfect for most situations:

"Religion is like a penis. I know you have one, but when you pull it out and wave it in my face, that's when I have a right to object."

Print this or not. It's your blog and just my opinion.

You're one helluva man, just like Stud is. And each of you will stand on your principles no matter what.

I admire that trait in each of you.

ellen abbott said...

I've pondered that very thing, having to swear in a courtroom in the name of god and while I don't think of myself as an atheist, I definitely don't believe in any religion or the judeo/christian/islamic concept of god. I would have to refuse that particular oath as it would be totally meaningless for me to so swear.

Snowbrush said...

"Religion is like a penis. I know you have one, but when you pull it out and wave it in my face, that's when I have a right to object."

Thanks for a good laugh, but as to penises (or is it penii?) I sure the heck would object, but maybe that's not ALWAYS the case with you. You ARE married to man whom you call STUD, after all.

"I would have to refuse that particular oath as it would be totally meaningless for me to so swear."

There's also the fact that Jesus said that his followers shouldn't swear on ANYTHING, but should simply say "yay or nay." I find it remarkable how little American Christianity as it's commonly practiced has to do with much of anything that Jesus did or said. The Quakers are the only group I know of that take him at his word (which is darn hard since he sometimes contradicted himself). As for the other denominations, rather than mold their actions to his teachings, they seem more inclined to mold his teachings to their actions. If everything they did was as innocuous as swearing on a Bible, it wouldn't be so bad, but, AS A WHOLE, they can be, and often are, vicious. When they're screaming and cursing and vandalizing some poor atheists property, I wonder if THAT is what they think he meant when he said, "Love your neighbor as yourself"?

The Bipolar Diva said...

I wonder if the man has a problem of using the label "man" in his description of himself.

All Consuming said...

I'm not a fan of being called a Vegan because people use it to nit-pick and for myself I consider my choices re animal welfare to equate to me 'not being a selfish bastard' , however it can cause just as many problems to not use it as then I get asked stupid questions like "Can you eat potatoes?" or a long, long list of other foods. I do understand well why people say they'd rather not be labelled. But I don't think it's always the best way to go. Depends on the folks and situation you're in.

Snowbrush said...

"I'm not a fan of being called a Vegan because people use it to nit-pick"

Just tell them that a vegan is a vegetarian on steroids. Seriously, though, if you were to come to my house for dinner, and you told me you were a vegan, I would know what not to serve, but if you didn't tell me what you were, or you used a more general term like vegetarian, I might serve up a poached egg, honey on toast, and a great big glass of good old cow's milk. I do get your point that a lot of people know that vegans are a special kind of vegetarian, but they don't know what it really entails, so I don't mean to sound unsympathetic. It's just that I don't see how you can avoid the term. BTW, I dreamed last week that you dropped by for a visit during a heavy rain one Sunday afternoon. Just as you arrived, all of these other people started showing up for some event that I was hosting, but I couldn't remember what the event was, and was embarrassed to ask. Then, the roof started leaking, bad, and just as I was about to go up and take care of that, all these black men started arriving for some other event that wasn't even at my house, but had been mistakenly listed as being at my house. You were sitting on the sofa looking thoroughly exhausted and miserable and no doubt wondering if my life was always so screwy, so I started assuring you that we would have tons of fun just as soon as everyone went home, but you said you had to fly back to England on Tuesday and it looked to you like it would take me a lot longer than that to restore some semblance of sanity to my life. I thought, well, shit, AC, why didn't you think to let me know you were coming. Duh! Okay, here's what's going to happen. Since you did that to me (even if it was just in a dream, I still hold you responsible, which I'm sure you'll agree is entirely reasonable), I'm going to visit YOU out of the blue, and all I'm going to tell you in advance is that I plan to spend a month, and I'll be arriving sometime around 3:00 a.m. on a night that you're sick with a cold and food poisoning all at once (oh, yeah, you'll be having your place re-re-modeled). My visit will occur during the coming five years, so you will need to stay prepared at all times.

"I wonder if the man has a problem of using the label "man" in his description of himself."

Or biped, or human being, or bibliophile, or vegetarian, or 40-year-old, or so on and so on and so on. Usually, when people try to avoid labels, they have this idea that once you label yourself, you constrict your worldview making it harder to see things from other viewpoints. However, even saying that you're a label avoider sounds like a label to me. It also strikes me as just a wee bit arrogant to imagine that you're more open than other people just because no one can figure out who the heck you are in regard to all manner of things.

Elephant's Child said...

Labels are mostly fine so long as people can understand that they describe one aspect of a person and do not define them completely. I don't have any difficulties with saying I am an atheist or a non-believer, but as a country we seem to be a little less driven by the various Christianities than yours is. For which I am thankful. We have had for example at least three Prime Ministers who were atheists.

Snowbrush said...

"We have had for example at least three Prime Ministers who were atheists."

Yes, you've definitely attracted the interest of the American atheist community in that. Here's a quotation by Julie Gillard (Australia's first female prime minister):

"I'm good mates with Barack Obama. I tell him, 'You think it's tough being African-American? Try being me. Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister."

I just realized that I was taking so much space to address the thoughts that came up for me because of what you wrote, that I should turn it into a blog post, so I'll let you know when I do. I love being made to think.

Elephant's Child said...

Julia is also living in sin!!!!. When she first became Prime Minister there were more rumbles about her childlessness and the fact that she was living with a man despite not being married to him, than there were about atheism. I don't myself think that any of those factors have any bearing on her political ability.

Kendal said...

Good for you, I don't care who knows I'm an atheist, and to me it's bizarre that it's now worse to be an atheist then to be LGBT lol. SO imagine being a lesbian atheist. I just refuse to go along with religion just because 90% of the planet does. They never have an answer to why there are gods and goddess older then jesus or his dad. Why is your religion the right one and everyone else's wrong. I guess it's easier to say "because I have faith" Well I have faith too, faith that none of your gods exist. I have faith that we don't know for sure what happens when we die, but I'm not believing because I'm worried about some made up hell.

lotta joy said...

I had to edit (clean up) my favorite saying: "Religion is like a penis. I know you have one, but when you pull it out and wave it in my face, that's when I have a right to object." in order to place it on your blog.

The true and original version puts it SO distinctly that it applies better than anything else when christians start 'explaining' the bible and god's love TO me.

It is especially irksome when they speak down to me as if I have less biblical knowledge than they have.

Most diehard christians prefer to consider me as ignorant of the written "word".

They are fierce, as they base their belief system on select verses - taken out of context - and rewritten through the ages according to the personality of the one doing the transcribing.

It's then that I merely restate MY choice, without argument, and walk away: labeled unworthy of salvation.

I'm SO glad you enjoyed my rewritten version!

Snowbrush said...

"I just refuse to go along with religion just because 90% of the planet does."

Kendal, 15% of Americans have NO religion (the number is increasing rapidly), and of that number about half are atheists. This makes atheists a larger minority than Jews, Moslems, and a lot of others.

PhilipH said...

I'd sooner believe an atheist than a "god-fearing" religious person. I think, but cannot prove, that there are more dishonest "believers" than non-believers.
How many witnesses who take the 'oath' in court tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Not 100%, I bet!

Snowbrush said...

"I think, but cannot prove, that there are more dishonest "believers" than non-believers."

I too have wondered this simply because believers commonly argue that atheists have no reason to be moral (such an argument is tantamount to saying, "I'm better than you," which is quite a distance from the humility that Christ commanded). Given that they themselves rarely exemplary lives (if they did, atheists wouldn't have such problems with them), it seems reasonable to wonder if faith advances or retards ethical behavior. Whatever their faults, I have found that, by and large, atheists are rather deep thinkers (after all, they questioned the existence of God, something which few believers appear to do), so this suggests that they might very well put more thought into ethical decision making than would the average person. By contrast, most believers choose both theism and a given religion based upon where they grew up, and their ethics comes right along with that religion, no thought necessary. This suggests that, as a whole, they probably aren't deep thinkers. If their church opposes something, they too oppose it (at least nominally), but if their church favors something, then, by golly, they too favor it, all the while imaging that God himself is behind their church's teaching.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

These days, the juror who hit you would be brought up on assault charges. It is amazing thata country founded on religious freedom really means practicing a religion that tha majority approves of...

I may have to try that trick to get out of jury duty!

Snowbrush said...

"These days, the juror who hit you would be brought up on assault charges."

At the time, I was the one who was embarrassed. Today, I would scream bloody murder and demand that she be arrested. At least I think I would. You grew up in Mississippi, so you know what the oppression is like down there. It's hard to be the only one to think a certain way, especially when everyone else hates you for it. Do you remember when the Hefners were run out of McComb?

All Consuming said...

I have the kettle on as I wait. It suits me too. x