There’s this breaking story on CNN about atheists taking over a spot in a public park that has traditionally been used by Christians to set up various nativity scenes at Christmas. The arguments for and against the move go something like this:
– Public spaces shouldn’t be used to promote religion.
– Atheists have been discriminated against for years – now we’re finally gaining a presence and respect in society!
– “At this season of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world.”
– Our nation was founded on Christian principles
– We have had this display here for years, and should be allowed to continue it – people like it.
– The atheists are conspiring to “drive away any manifestation that Americans are God-loving people.”
They’re both wrong on all counts.
1) Public spaces can be used to promote anything anybody wants – including atheism (which is a religion). Of course, since the atheist argues that “only the natural world” exists (which is a claim no one actually believes) – the act of reserving a section of the park and leaving it empty (meaning, deliberately displaying the natural world as a message of “truth”) is the promotion of religion in a public place. Fool.
2) He’s wrong here in that he presents this discrimination as a bad thing. I don’t mean to say people should be treated ill because of a certain belief they hold – but I don’t imagine that’s what he means. I assume he’s referring to school curricula, the history of school prayers, “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, and so on. In reality, public schools can not be democratic – were equal time given to all the varying perspectives on the universe’s origin and every other issue touched by religion – well, there would simply not be enough time for such a thing. So the prevailing perspective was taught. And if he is complaining about ill-treatment, then he’s quite the hypocrite, considering the stunt he pulled to obtain nearly all the spaces in the park – leaving areas without anything in them, rather than allowing the churches to express their religion too.
3) What is reason? Is it part of the natural world? Does the natural world mean simply “the tangible world”? And if only the natural world exists, what of this man’s claim that he was (wrongly) discriminated against? If only the natural world exists, then objective values like “right” and “wrong” don’t universally exist or apply. “Truth” is a strange word, too – having only as its reference point the five senses and this thing called “reason” (which is apparently part of the natural world, since nothing else exists). Is not a belief in nothingness still a religious belief?
4) Our nation was sort of founded on some Christian principles. Many of the founders were not Christians – including Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are rights that the writers of the Declaration of Independence thought were “endowed” to us by our “creator.” But this is nothing new. What needs to stop is this pretending that America was meant to be a Christian nation.
5) An appeal to tradition is never a logical argument. In fact, it’s a logical fallacy.
6) Americans are God-loving people? I think Americans love a lot of things. But I would never say that, as a whole, “Americans are God-loving people.” Americans love food, money, pleasure, sex, amusement, power, leisure, and conflict.