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bob: Are you not aware that words only have meaning because of the tangible concepts which they represent? I don't believe in the concept represented by the word "God", which has real consequences in my life. Like being told to "get over it" when I complain about being excluded by society at large for not believing in that concept. God and Soup are not interchangeable. Imagine the reaction from people like you if our money said In Soup We Trust.

Juliana Marie

@ Greta - I did get excited when he paused and said "non-believers." I'm not going to quibble over use of that term; just the acknowledgment is a great start. I rhubarbed (plplplplpl) every utterance of the g-word in Obama's speech; I muted the invocation & benediction, so never heard 'em (I'll get around to watching 'em on youtube this weekend, I guess). Tues. night, I attended a local Dem party inauguration dinner. They were video-taping attendees' responses to "What does this day mean to you?" for local cable broadcast. I took advantage of that opportunity to share that, as a non-believer, I was gratified to be included in Obama's recognition of all Americans and his call to service, 'cause I'm an American, too. Here's hoping it doesn't get edited out by the organizing committee, which had a minister do an invocation... oh well, I tried.



Actually, the majority of believers tend to either fail to consider the logical consequences of their views, like the ones that imagine it would be great to ban abortion, but never once considered what to do with people that got one illegally, or are badly misinformed about subjects, leading them to side with the people that "seem" the have an authority on various subjects. The Atheist/Agnostic/Deist side is *roughly* the same size as the Evangelical/Literalist/Creationist side at this point. Our side seeks to "discover" things, the other side seeks to "reveal" them, where "reveal", means to literally take the Bible as absolutely accurate, and just make shit up that sounds plausible from that perspective (i.e. lie), when they can't find specific Biblical explanations.

So, the "real" problem is not that politicians need to pander to religions, its that the thing the founders feared, when creating the electoral college, is as true today as it was then. The major population is simply ignorant about too many things to make rational decisions about them. And, since they equate religion with good, they are far more likely to side with people that **claim** to know what god wanted things to be like, than with someone telling them the uncomfortable truth that the world simply doesn't work that way.

The right wingers **know** this is true, hence the statements made by everyone from Catholic priests to members of school boards that get themselves elected to them to undermine public education, "The better educated someone is, the less likely they are to believe our bullshit (the claims of Biblical literalism and god as authority over everything), therefor, to preserve religion, we must *prevent* people from having an education." This is stated, over and over, by the far right, in variations. Knowledge leads to disbelief in literalism and revelations.

So, yeah, the key problems are not with the "existence" of religion, per say, ***but*** it is the goal of our opposite number to do everything in their power to undermine and prevent the average church goer from having a damn clue about how the world really works, since if they did, they would side with *us* instead of them. So, in a sense, pandering to religion on the level we have in the US, and during this speech, unintentionally hands leverage and power to people that want to be as ignorant and clueless about the world as Luddite societies, who reject all modern knowledge, while still "keeping" all the technology they have. At least Luddites know you can't fracking have both, but the far right, thinks you can, and that the way to get there is to constantly "imagine" being able to build better cars, while simultaneously disparaging people that know how to actually fracking build them, and why going back to the level of understanding of the world that included Alchemy, Phrenology and Astrology, won't get you one.

And, here is the key point. They are so vested in this world view, that unless something hits them like a lightning bolt, most "never" grasp how wrong they are, and are totally impervious to fact or evidence. So, while the best solution is to make everyone else smart enough to laugh there asses off at the BS they are selling, in reality, you can't even get to that point, unless you fight the extreme religion itself *first*, and discredit it at the source. They make entire careers of undermining factual data. We spend all our time figuring out what those facts are. To truly compete with them in the same arena, we would have to halt "all" scientific progress, completely, for the next 50 years, and spend as much time, or more, fighting back with the same level of effort.

We are not out numbered, we are out timed. They spend all theirs undermining us, and we simply don't have the time to fight back, and still make any kind of progress at all. And, the irony is, in nearly all cases, so far, they are "still" losing. But, that is kind of what you get, when you show up some place where there are 500 new "technologies" being shown off, and all you have is a bag of "magic beans". ;) lol

BTW.. The latest patch to Firefoxes "noscript" is leaving typepad "unusable". It won't post without login to typepad, and trying to do so generates an error, instead of posting. Having to do this in "IE Tab". Sigh...

The fact that the oath of office was sworn on a Bible, and concluded -- unrequired by the Constitution -- with the words, "So help me God."
The real oath of office - (the one with the word 'faithfully' in its proper place) - was taken without a bible.
(C'mon, go with it - the right-wing nuts will try to use that fact to prove Obama is a Muslim, or a Reptoid, or not really president, so why can't we pretend it was really another shout-out to atheists? I mean, I agree with you and all, but I'd like to believe atheists got two shout-outs instead of just one.)

I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I'm a little late to the show here and may just be writing to myself, but I wanted to comment about numbers of atheists in this country. You said:

"Everybody except you and the roughly 15% of Americans who don't believe in God."

I have no basis whatsoever to argue with that number. I'm sure you did your research, and I'm sure that's the best number we've got to go on.

What I want to bring up is this: We live in a country addicted to polls of one type or another. And polls are very black and white. The numbers that are out there as "evidence" of Americans' belief or non-belief in a higher power don't take into account the people who say they believe in God because they are too scared or too superstitious to say that they don't, or those who say they do but really just don't care, or those who say they do but practice no religion whatsoever in their daily lives, or those who just haven't given the question of a God or gods much thought at all.

I find it important to keep this in mind when talking numbers. The numbers don't tell the whole story, not by a long shot.

I know that you were using that statistic to make another point. I just cringe over the whole numbers game. We could all write a whole piece about numbers, and maybe you already have.

Ben Spurgin



I'm going to have call bullshit.

What does that mean, you're "done" with it? What's ending, exactly?? What an utterly empty sentiment. Sure, you're done with it - just like I'm done with stupid generalizations about my background, religion, community, gender, whatever. That does not mean reality is just going to disappear. And the reality is that there are a lot of people out there who know nothing about a lot of other people. And because this is a condition, it is also a condition that a lot of people are not accepting of what and who they do not know.

So when you're "done," what happens? Fucking NOTHING. Because it's all talk. All preaching to the choir. All about gaining approval from your anointed group. It must feel pretty good to get all that validation, but you miss a hell of a lot anyway.

First of all, Obama happens to be a fairly Christian person. People miss this a lot about him, and it's not something the media covers, or maybe even knows how to cover. But look at his church, his mentors, his beliefs, look at what he claims for himself. He says he believes in the power of prayer, and that he became a Christian as a young man. Note, as a young man. His mother was far from being an indoctrinating type. He came to it himself. So when you talk about him being YOUR servant, and mine, you manage to completely ignore what else the man might consider himself subservient to. And of course you manage to overlook the reasons he might have in even including people like Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph Lowery, who are really two opposites on a spectrum of faith, a fact which no one should ever overlook when analyzing the inauguration. It was a matter of strategy, of political outreach, and propaganda, all timeless aspects of leadership.

And who are you to judge, really, what lyrics Rev. Lowery chooses to include in his benediction? Let that symbolism from the Negro National Anthem stand to the people to whom it was spoken, and for once, don't make everything about you.

And to someone who feels her marginalization as keenly as you, I know that is going to piss you off to hear. This whole post was about breaking down the inauguration from the atheist's perspective, but it's so darned blinkered in some key respects that it is positively tiresome.

The truth is, that really was for them, not for you; other than Obama's casting of atheists in the oppositional term "non-believer," which to my mind was just not good enough.

You latched on to all the symbolism, which to you is a lot of hot air. Which to me, makes your analysis a lot of hot air. The real issue here, the separation of religion and state, will forever get trampled under the emotional, angry mobs you incite with all this bloviating.

People should be doing things in their local school boards and communities to uphold the impartiality of textbooks and education. People need to be engaging their local politics, communities, businesses, to break down barriers. People need to get involved to stop the use of government money for religious institutions, or the worse alternative, demand government money for ALL religious/belief-based institutions. Democracy and freedom are maintained bottom up, not top down. If you don't like what's up top, change what's below.


jk... what's wrong with fighting things BOTH from the bottom AND the top?? If Greta wants to do things this way, it's not like that is going to stop everybody else from working towards the same goal in THEIR way. Different approaches from several directions at the same time would seem to me to be the most effective in the long run.

Jen R

I'm still looking around for the angry mob. Did jk take a wrong turn at Pharyngula?

Bruce Gorton


Well, lets see:

In the 1950's there wasn't a significantly "angry" atheist movement. Atheists were, well Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Azimov, not the militant firebrands of later eras.

God got added to the pledge of allegiance, and atheists got demonised as being communists.

In the 1960's, O'Hair rose to being the most hated woman in America. Because of her, schools could no longer force kids to pray, and it was during the 60's that atheists got to sit on juries. All was relatively okay through the 1970's.

In the 1980's, the atheist movement began to quiet down as O'Hair lost steam, ending the decade with a president who declared atheists neither citizens nor patriots.

In the 1990's, O'Hair was murdered. During that era the evangelical movement experienced a resurgence, and began to move heavily into the US military.

The era ended up with various anti-gay measures such as "Don't ask, don't tell" and with GW Bush, a guy who thought God spoke to him, in power. The religious right had gone from being a fringe group to being the most powerful element of the Republican's base.

Now, we have Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, New York Atheists, Dan Dennet, Greta Christina, the (not entirely) Rational Response Squad etc...

And now atheists are back to being recognised as citizens of the United States of America.

Frankly, I think that judging on history, people who have spoken up have actually done more for atheists than the moderates ever did. Why?

Because silence equals consent - and a lot of atheists simply do not consent to being considered second class citizens.

Bruce Gorton

Oh, and as to the argument "Well it wasn't for you."

The presidential inaugeration was for the people of America - all of them.

How dare you claim that doesn't include atheists?

Charles Leck

Greta, yes! The 15% who are atheists may have been offended, but even a greater number of us who have spiritual viewpoints were dismayed at the simplicity of the constant religious expression at the inauguration of one who is supposed to be so bright. Pastor Rick is dumb, dumb, dumb. He didn't belong there. Just leave it all for the prayer service on the following day, please!


"I wonder what atheists plan to put in religion's place to meet the need for community and social interaction."
First of all, we don't intent to replace anything. You are perfectly free to continue worshipping whatever you wish to worship - just don't foist it on us, our schools, or our government.

"Most atheists I know tend to be socially-disconnected loner types. But most people aren't like that."
Don't generalize an entire group by the actions of a few. Many of us are in no way "socially-disconnected loner types."

Your comments show a deep ignorance of atheism and atheists in general. Get to know us before you make such sweeping generalizations about us.

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