Why Cee-Lo's Imagine Fail Matters

An atheist activist on Facebook asked why he should care at all about Cee-Lo changing the words to “Imagine” to sanitize its anti-religious sentiment last night. Me? I think it’s a great idea to seize on this story. What I’m discovering from this incident and from the one last month where Rick Perry made an “I’m a Christian and isn’t it outrageous gays are treated like people” ad is that atheists’ anti-religious privilege campaigns are best served when something else that non-atheists also care about is also bound up with the atheist concern.

“Oh, Rick Perry made a run-of-the-mill theocratic ad about how god should run the government? That’s just ‘smart politics’ appealing to Iowa Evangelical voters. And what was that, atheists? Something about “separation of church and state”? What quaint notions you have! Everyone knows that modern political campaigns have to be as faith-savvy as possible and that politicians need to prove they can pass religious tests and provide legislation that will satisfy religious interests if they are going to make it in today’s political climate! Even the Democrats are learning how to do this. Don’t worry your petty little heads over all this faith talk. It just means politicians have values and are accountable to values voters—-Wait—what?? Perry dehumanized gays in a theocratic ad? Now that’s terrible!! Let the huge viral backlash commence!” …aaand suddnely we have a great chance for atheistic/anti-theocratic arguments and memes to be propagated since the dangers of theocracy are visibly a demonstrable threat to something millions of non-atheist people care about—the rights and dignity of gay citizens.

Similarly with Cee-Lo Green changing “no religion too” to “all religion is true” on New Year’s Eve: “What’s that, some singer turns a secular event that’s supposed to be about civic unity into a chance to make his religious views a front and center concern, with little concern for how that alienates the religious who they’re supposed to also be relating to? YAWWWN, he’s just effervescently expressing his faith—whatevs, atheists, don’t be so intolerant… But wait!”he did this by messing with a beloved iconic song by an American folk hero??? Get the pitchforks! How dare he carelessly censor and disrespect an enduring work of art because he can’t put aside his own religious views for even a second???”

So I say that we atheist activists should turn up our detectors for stories which are not only about religious privilege’s intrinsic obnoxiousness or its affects on atheists, but which also demonstrate religious privilege’s negative affects on people and interests that mainstream culture actually gives a crap about.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.