Why the label needs to go

Rep. Monique Davis (D) of Illinois progressively shouted louder as she said the following to an atheist, Rob Sherman, who was trying to uphold the wall of separation between church and state. Here is the dialogue that took place:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy – it’s tragic – when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school. I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school.

You know? I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children…. What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous-

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court-

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

This is a perfect example showing that anti-atheist bigotry like this will always be with atheists as long as they call themselves atheists. They will keep having to destroy the inexhaustible knock-down arguments theists always think they have against atheism. It wastes precious time and energy every single time an atheist has to defeat a theist attack. (Theist arguments nearly always erroneously assume that atheism is a philosophy or a worldview. Atheism is as much a philosophy as non-alchemy is.) Here is an analogy brought to my attention by Sam Harris: racism has not been pushed back because people thought they should call themselves non-racists. The burden of proof was always shifted onto racists. Racists had to be the ones on the defensive. The rules of conversation shifted against them, until eventually it became widely taboo to be explicitly racist. Something rather similar has already happened in Europe, where, Richard Dawkins reports, it is the religious who are embarrassed to make their beliefs explicit.

By naming atheism, atheists have happily walked into a trap that theists think they can win with. What if atheists just promoted Enlightenment principles, reason, and science wherever they encountered bad ideas or bad government. What if they just used words like “reason” and “evidence.” Has anyone heard the knock-down argument against reason lately? It is really discouraging for people in their right mind to declare themselves enemies of reason. This is why not going by a label will gain atheists comrades among religious liberals and moderates in their use of reason. Slowly but surely, reason should dominate with this strategy.

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~ by jsacc001 on April 13, 2008.

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