Theocracy Watch XIII: "You Have No Right to Be Here"

Recently, the state government of Illinois proposed a $1 million grant to rebuild the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church, which was destroyed by a fire earlier this year. Atheist Rob Sherman testified before the House State Government Administration Committee to oppose this blatant violation of the separation of church and state.

What happened next was difficult for me to believe. Here’s a transcript of an exchange between Sherman and state representative Monique Davis, as reported by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune:

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.

Zorn’s post also has the audio; you can listen for yourself how Davis works herself into a lather, ending in the spitting, angry demand for Sherman to “get out of that seat” and accusing him: “You believe in destroying!”

Sherman, to his credit, kept calm, ignored her bigotry, and went on with his testimony. While his polite and civil reaction did make her unprovoked vitriol look all the more ridiculous and ignorant, Rep. Davis’ attitude is a stark reminder that there are elected officials still eager to uphold the most disgusting and virulent hatred against those who do not think or believe like them.

The Supreme Court held in the 1983 case Lynch v. Donnelly:

The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions …The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.

Rep. Davis’ reaction was a perfect illustration of the unconstitutional, anti-American attitude the Supreme Court wrote against. She flew into a raving fury over the mere existence of an atheist, hurling all manner of vile and prejudiced slurs and insults at him, and culminated in a demand for him to get out of the room – because after all, what makes an atheist think that he has a right to participate in our democracy as if he were a regular person like anyone else?

Notably, both Davis and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are Democrats, which shows that anti-atheist bigotry and religious pandering are not confined solely to any political party. Although freethinkers are growing more politically influential, we have a long way to go before we can fully cleanse the detritus of theocracy from government.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a start. Here is Rep. Davis’ contact information. If you have the time, please call or mail her – politely, but firmly – and let her know that you do not appreciate an elected official showing such hate and bigotry toward one of her own constituents. It’s not out of the question that we can enlighten her to the ugliness of her own actions and shame her into treating American atheists with more respect in the future.

UPDATE: Davis apologizes.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • mikespeir

    You know, I feel bad about the Pilgrim Baptist church. But it’s not like the Christian church is short of funds or people to donate money. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to underwrite the rebuilding project.

    What Representative Davis represents here is the kind of hysterical reflex typical of those who perceive their way of life way of life is being threatened. Yes, I see it on our side of the fence sometimes, too. But this example is enough to show that Christians aren’t above that sort of thing. (As if we needed another one!)

  • Ric

    Is there an email addy listed for this rep?

  • Ric

    I found this:

    [Before we possibly spam an innocent person, please explain where you got this e-mail address. —Ebonmuse]

  • konrad_arflane

    Personally, I wouldn’t really have a problem with spending government money to rebuild a historic building, whether it was a church or not. But I understand if American atheists want the line drawn elsewhere, given the political situation in your country.

    All the more so when you see Davis’ reaction when confronted with a real atheist. I particularly liked how she never actually answered Shermans question as to what exactly it was that was so dangerous. I suppose she’d consider it self-evident.

  • An Atheist

    I would have liked to have told her that Lincoln didn’t like Christianity, and was far more likely to agree with me.

  • GSmith

    I agree that it would be nice show Representative Davis the error of her ways. However, do you think she will read anything that she is sent by an Atheist? I think that it is most likely that, as soon as she realizes the topic of the email/letter, etc., she will delete it or throw it away. I do not think she is interested in opinions that conflict with her own. I would recommend writing to other representatives and Senators in the State of Illinois about Rep Davis’s unconstitutional words/opinions and ask that she be confronted about them.

  • ex machina

    I’m not entirely convinced that the Church couldn’t be considered a historical site worth state money to rebuild. But I’m still glad the issue came up, so that people like Davis can expose themselves for what they really are.

  • MisterDomino

    Personally, I wouldn’t really have a problem with spending government money to rebuild a historic building, whether it was a church or not.

    Nor do I. I realize that isn’t what Ebon was concerned about with this post, but a church such as that is a valuable piece of American history. If they can justify that the funds are being used for historical reconstruction, then so be it.

    The only problem I would have is if after they reconstructed the church, only Baptists were allowed to frequent it and use its facilities. That is a blatant violation of church-state separation. However, I doubt that such a scenario would ever occur.

    However, do you think she will read anything that she is sent by an Atheist? I think that it is most likely that, as soon as she realizes the topic of the email/letter, etc., she will delete it or throw it away.

    If her office gets flooded with enough letters, she will care simply because it’s a paper-pushing problem.

    It’s kind of like an old technique conscientious objectors used to use back during the Vietnam War. They would send small letters to the draft board, even something as trivial as, “Dear Sirs: I am not currently the sole support of my family, I request a deferment for this reason. Thank you for your attention to this matter.” Since the government keeps some record of all those letters, probability dictates that this person’s file will eventually be lost because it is handled so often. The idea was to manipulate the bureaucracy until a desired result was achieved.

    If nothing else, it’ll cause her to think twice about saying things like that simply because all those letters are a peevish annoyance that slow down her well-oiled political machine. I recommend sending paper letters; e-mails can be easily deleted.

  • Steve Bowen

    I find it realy ironic that this kind of thing happens in a constitutionally secular country like the U.S, whereas it is hardly ever, if ever, heard of in the U.K where we still have an established religion. It’s not that politicians here don’t make their religious affiliations known, but they tend to be coy about it and rarely bring them to bear on the political agenda. It is interesting that Tony Blair has only recently made a big play on his conversion to Catholicism and made speeches about the role of faith in a global society. When he was in office as Prime Minister, Blair’s press secretary famously commented that “we don’t do God” in response to a journalist’s question about faith.
    I suspect (though I wouldn’t bet the farm on it) that an openly atheist politician could get to the top in this country. The “secular” U.S it seems has a lot further to go.

  • Brock

    I agree with the above comment on Lincoln, and find it incredibly ironic that this woman invoked him. Lincoln was very coy on the subject of religion, and never committed himself to a Christian stance, a position he shared with George Washington and several other of the Founding Fathers. One of his early law partners at one time went on record to the effect that Lincoln had no religious convictions at all.

  • lpetrich

    She is a Chicago Democratic black woman in public office, but she seems to think that atheism is much worse than:

    Belief that black people have the curse of Ham (Gen 9:18-28) on them, and therefore must be the slaves and servants of white people.

    Belief that women ought to shut up about religion and ask their husbands about it (1 Cor 14:33-35), and that women should never have authority over men (1 Tim 2:10-11).

    Leaders should either be absolute monarchs or theocrats (Moses, Peter, etc.), without there being anything like Congress or elections.

  • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

    I completely disagree with the approach.

    The only morally appropriate response to this type of bigotry is to demand Ms. Davis’ immediate resignation. Letters should be sent to the leadership of the House and to any and all local papers demanding that pressure be put on her to resign or, if she refuses, to formally reprimand her for her conduct and to pressure her out of office.

    Any organization concerned with fair representation in government should be contacted to demand – yes, demand – that they give their support to calling for her resignation.

  • LindaJoy

    I emailed the reps office and suggested she apologize to Sherman and then go to the library and check out everything she can on the Establishment Clause, Madison, etc. and educate herself. And speaking of that, those who suggest that the church should be rebuilt by government funds might want to read Madison’s vetoes when he was President on whether even “three pence” of taxpayers’s monies should go to any religous establishment. It doesn’t matter that this church is historical. There are tons of those in this country. Let every Baptist Church in the US put some money in a pot to rebuild this church. They certainly have more than enough.

  • Karen

    It doesn’t matter that this church is historical. There are tons of those in this country. Let every Baptist Church in the US put some money in a pot to rebuild this church. They certainly have more than enough.

    I agree with you. This should be a private enterprise, not a government-funded project, and there are certainly the dollars available in the denominations to refurbish their historic buildings. In fact, it would be a better use of their money than a lot of what they spend their dollars on!

  • Christopher

    If we had a federal government that was virtually non-existent in a community’s day-to-day affairs, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – as the government would be too busy defending the borders and enforcing its economic and military interests abroad to go dedicate “historical” sites (what site ISN’T historical in some sense anyway?). Strip the government of 90% of its power and this type of shit will cease to be!

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    If the church in question was being preserved as a National Historic Landmark, or some other public site of that nature, I’d have no objection to the government paying to rebuild it. But that is not the case. From everything I understand, this church is still privately owned and is still being used as a church. As such, it’s way over the line for the government to be paying to rebuild it. If my tax dollars are going to maintain a building, it had better be a building that is as open to me as it is to any other American citizen.

    Postscript: As Eric Zorn points out, the Council for Secular Humanism is now calling on Rep. Davis to resign. I wouldn’t be upset if it happened, but I greatly doubt it’s going to.

  • Alex Weaver

    If we had a federal government that was virtually non-existent in a community’s day-to-day affairs, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – as the government would be too busy defending the borders and enforcing its economic and military interests abroad to go dedicate “historical” sites (what site ISN’T historical in some sense anyway?). Strip the government of 90% of its power and this type of shit will cease to be!

    It’s amazing what you can make it seem like a good idea to abolish by counting the misses and forgetting the hits in going over the record, isn’t it?

    I have more or less the same position on the church as Adam; I could perhaps accept funds being donated to rebuild it in exchange for a binding agreement to open access to it as a landmark museum, though, even without it actually changing hands.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Here’s my letter to Rep. Monique Davis:

    * * *

    Dear Rep. Davis:

    As an American citizen, a Democratic voter and donor, and an atheist, I was appalled to read of your hateful and bigoted outburst toward Rob Sherman, simply because he appeared before your committee to testify against the unconstitutional giveaway of $1 million of Illinois taxpayer money to an active church. Your outraged exclamation that Sherman “[had] no right to be there” betrays a fundamentally anti-American attitude toward your own constituents, one that is ignorant as it is loathsome.

    Rep. Davis, you seem to need some remedial education on the U.S. Constitution. Need I remind you that we live in a secular country, one with no official state religion, where people of all different faiths and atheists as well can expect to live peaceably and be represented by their democratic government? Need I remind you that the Constitution allows no religious tests for public office? No less an American statesman than Thomas Jefferson once said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” The spirit of the American experiment is toward greater inclusion and tolerance for all. Since you are a member of a minority that was once treated with disrespect and prejudice similar to the kind you showed Mr. Sherman, you of all people should have known better.

    Atheists and freethinkers have always been a major and vital part of American society, now more than ever. Polls over the last few years have shown that we are a growing segment of the electorate, making up as much as 10 to 15% of the population. Nonbelievers are also more politically involved and active than most religious groups, comprise an important bloc of independent voters, and in recent years, have begun to tilt more strongly Democratic. Ours is a constituency you can ill afford to ignore, much less treat with the level of hate and condescension that you showed Mr. Sherman last week.

    Rep. Davis, you owe American atheists a full, frank and immediate apology for your revolting words of hate and prejudice. Would you expect anything less if someone had maligned your religion with the level of vitriol you showed? If you expect others to show respect for your beliefs, you must be willing to offer the same courtesy in return. Anything less makes your comments a shameful blot both on your career and on the state and the party you represent.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    A resignation isn’t what we should be after. She should be made an example of by being voted out of office in the next election.

    I’m sure that as a black female Democrat, she has been involved in race and gender relations at one point or another. What a sad, sad commentary on the affect of religion on those arenas. I guess you’ve really established yourself when after years of fighting for equal rights you can turn around and show your own bigotry towards others.

  • Rob {{Delurking}}

    This may spawn another post (in fact I hope it does: I’d like to read your thoughts on this, Ebonmuse), or a pointer to an existing post —I’ve been lurking a while but have not made it through the archives yet — but I’d like to explore the issue raised by the accusation “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists”.

    I wear the red A, I’m not a concern troll, but I think there might be something to that accusation. I remember reading about research (have no idea how good or not, and I’ve lost recollection of where I read it, will look) that showed groups with a religion lasted longer than groups that did not have a religion. I suppose any kind of religion would do, though one would expect some would be better than others.

    Given that there are/were so many religions in so many societies it seems reasonable to suppose that there might be some evolutionarily adaptive value (maybe just at the memetic level, maybe at the genetic level too, “god genes” anyone?) to having a religion. A testable hypothesis, and apparently it has been tested by someone, somewhere. I really will look for that lead.

    It would be really nice if a “religion” that happened to be genuinely true would serve the purpose as well as any of the current set of fakers on the table. Then even atheists could believe it (!) and one would then hope that we wouldn’t be such a ‘danger to society’. I have some hope that it could even be better for a society’s longevity, promoting things like rationality and long-term planning.

    I am currently wondering just what such a “religion” would look like. I would hope that it could answer Dennett’s request [my paraphrase] for something positive to fill the holes left in people’s lives once the lies have been brought down.

    Could we even call it a religion, if it was true?

  • Rob {{Delurking}}

    This may spawn another post (in fact I hope it does: I’d like to read your thoughts on this, Ebonmuse), or a pointer to an existing post —I’ve been lurking a while but have not made it through the archives yet — but I’d like to explore the issue raised by the accusation “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists”.

    I wear the red A, I’m not a concern troll, but I think there might be something to that accusation. I remember reading about research (have no idea how good or not, and I’ve lost recollection of where I read it, will look) that showed groups with a religion lasted longer than groups that did not have a religion. I suppose any kind of religion would do, though one would expect some would be better than others.

    Given that there are/were so many religions in so many societies it seems reasonable to suppose that there might be some evolutionarily adaptive value (maybe just at the memetic level, maybe at the genetic level too, “god genes” anyone?) to having a religion. A testable hypothesis, and apparently it has been tested by someone, somewhere. I really will look for that lead.

    It would be really nice if a “religion” that happened to be genuinely true would serve the purpose as well as any of the current set of fakers on the table. Then even atheists could believe it (!) and one would then hope that we wouldn’t be such a ‘danger to society’. I have some hope that it could even be better for a society’s longevity, promoting things like rationality and long-term planning.

    I am currently wondering just what such a “religion” would look like. I would hope that it could answer Dennett’s request [my paraphrase] for something positive to fill the holes left in people’s lives once the lies have been brought down.

    Could we even call it a religion, if it was true?

  • Pingback: Atheists have no rights in Chicago | Bligbi

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Hi Rob,

    I haven’t heard of any study which found that religious groups lasted longer than non-religious groups. I don’t know how such a study could be conducted in a meaningful way. It seems relevant to me that, in most historical eras, atheists were legally forbidden from organizing or even existing, and that would be a confounding factor that would obscure any intrinsic facts about relative longevity. Still, if you can find it, I’d like to hear about it.

    For some more thoughts on the topic, you might be interested in my November 2006 post, “What Will Replace Religion?

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    On this one I have to agree more with Alonzo. In Davis’ mind, she did the most moral thing one could have done, and criticizing her is hopeless; indeed, it may even, in her mind, confirm that Christians are being persecuted by evil atheists who want to damn innocent souls. She is too far gone.

    This should be made a matter as public as possible, and the Democratic party should feel the pressure of calls to her resignation due to bigotry. We should never stop considering what would already have happened to her if she had said the same thing about a particular religion or skin color.

  • Christopher

    Alex Weaver,

    “It’s amazing what you can make it seem like a good idea to abolish by counting the misses and forgetting the hits in going over the record, isn’t it?”

    I don’t see very many “hits” to begin with: aside from enforcing economic and military interests abroad (which has been done in a mediocre manner these past few years), they haven’t had any “hits” in my book latley. I stand by my previous comment…

  • Steve Bowen

    I’d like to explore the issue raised by the accusation “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists”.

    I wear the red A, I’m not a concern troll, but I think there might be something to that accusation.

    Rob, I don’t think there is any merit in the accusation. Certainly it seems intuitively true that groups that share a church and a belief system may be more cohesive and stable than an anarchic one. However, a secular, humanist group would provide civic amenities to allow that social interaction (meeting in the pub anyone?:). Even if that wasn’t the case, to “protect” children from rational and free thought in the name of some dubious social benefit is taking Dennett’s” belief in belief” example to monstrous lengths. In any case exposing kids un-critically to irrational theistic beliefs is in my opinion a greater evil.
    People like Davis who want to see us as “destroyers” and Nihilists need to be educated in what the majority of the atheist movement really believes (I know there are a few anarchists among us but we don’t have to be defined by the extremes any more than Islam does).

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    Was that people encouraging Senator Davis that I heard in the background of the audio clip?

  • Jeff T.

    The country’s attitude towards atheists is still as hateful and bigoted as ever. I am not surprised to see such rhetoric coming from yet another elected official.

    The very fact that this story did not receive any widespread coverage is a big indicator that no one cares about prejudice that is directed towards atheists. I did see several articles on AP, and Yahoo about how the Bible was America’s favorite book, but this event did not make the news.

    According to the Church that I was raised in, because Ms. Davis has cut hair which violates 1 Cor 11:5, 6; because she is divorced which violates Matt 5:31; and because she wears jewelry which violates 1 Peter 3:5(?); then she is probably doomed to eternal hellfire and brimstone in accordance with Revelation 21:8.

    If I still held the beliefs of the Bible that so many cherish and worship, then I would have just as much prejudice and bigotry as so many religious people demonstrate every day with their thoughts and actions. I would pass judgment upon this woman without even thinking about the circumstances or her state of mind when she lost her temper. I would not notice that she has been a Rep for 20 years and I would not have read her impressive biography. I

    Fortunately, I am an atheist. I am sorry for those that are not. I am sorry for those who embrace the lies of horror and hatred of ANY religion. Jesus stated that by the fruits of their tree shall you know them. Sadly, ALL of the religious people that I know, have read about, or have studied in history, bear forth the fruits of prejudice, hatred, intolerance, and bigotry. This is what America seems to want. It does not change the truth of atheism, but it speaks volumes about atheism’s future.

  • OMGF

    Yes. People were encouraging her in the background.

  • jack

    Rob,

    I remember reading about research (have no idea how good or not, and I’ve lost recollection of where I read it, will look) that showed groups with a religion lasted longer than groups that did not have a religion.

    You may be referring to the ideas of David Sloan Wilson, who uses group selection theory to argue that religion may have (or may once have had) adaptive value for humans. This idea is controversial among biologists. Richard Dawkins, for example, criticizes it in several of his books, including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion.

  • Jim Speiser

    Two side comments.

    One, I was gratified to see that Ms. Davis took the Gold Medal for Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person In The World last night. I have no idea whether Olbermann the Doberman is one of us, but he vociferously defended us against Ms. Davis’ attacks, even mentioning the fact that Abe Lincoln has been “accused” of Atheism.

    Two, interestingly Rob Sherman is the same guy to whom George H. W. Bush once spewed, “I’m not sure that atheists should be considered American citizens.” I don’t know what Rob is doing to draw out all these nasty comments from public servants… but I hope that, as long as his skin is thick enough to withstand it, he keeps it up!! The more headlines, the better for our cause.

    ==JJS==

  • stillwaters

    I phoned Rep. Davis’ office late yesterday. The secretary had already left for the day, but the woman who answered listened to my concerns. She said that they had received hundreds of phone calls in regard to this issue, and thought that Davis’ remarks were ridiculous and she should just apologize. I agreed with her that an apologize would be appropriate, but she said she doubted that would happen.

    I do agree with Alonzo that contacting the House leadership, or other higher authorities (the Governor?) would probably be more beneficial.

    As others have noted, I’m finding myself to be just as outraged with the lack of media attention as I am with her remarks in the first place. If someone had said the same thing to a Christian, this would be the headline story on every news show and paper in the nation, calling for resignations and apologies. But because she attacked an atheist, no one cares. Man, it just pisses me off!

  • hb531

    Some people are wondering why this story is not getting any press. Let’s Digg it up and make it more visible. Click here and Digg it (only 37 as of this writing).

  • Rob

    thank you! The 2006 post “What will Replace Religion”, and its comments, were just what I was looking for. Will digest a bit before responding. I might need to brush up on my game theory first.

    Re David Sloan Wilson: thanks, more reading to do. His name wasn’t indexed in my copies of Dawkins’ TSG, TDC, or CMI; my father has my copy of TGD (incidentally, 89 years old this past November, winner of the Croix du Guerre for heroic action in WWII, and a lifelong atheist – I guess all the atheists were in tanks, not foxholes) so I couldn’t check that index. Sure, I remember that there were discussions of group selection, in Dawkins, but I couldn’t easily find them again. Also had a look in Kim Sterelny’s book “Dawkins vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest”. But, my memory was it (the mention of research showing survival value of religion for groups) was just a throwaway line somewhere; a Dennett article, maybe? I’ll check The Portable Atheist; my Dennett books are at home (haven’t even read Breaking The Spell, yet).

    But it will be good to have a closer look at group selection. Am reading “The Narrow Roads of Gene Land”, ie Hamilton’s collected papers, at the moment, which I want to finish, first. For a sense of “wow”, maybe even transcendent awe, his paper “How microbes fly with their clouds” will take something serious to beat…

    But will go to the library for David Sloan Wilson today.

  • Javaman

    I called Monique Davis’s Chicago office today to voice my rage in a very polite, controlled manner. A very nice office representative listened to me and all I had to say, and sheepishly responded that Ms. Davis, in the heat of the argument, said some things when she was running hot. I informed her rep that Ms. Davis had touched the third rail and had better issue an apology to our community rapidly. We have to push this story into the national spotlight. This was outrageous! We cannot let this stand. She is branding us as dangerous outsiders who have no rights, no freedom of speech and no place at the table. I wonder if she thinks we should have the right to vote? We all need to call her office and let her know she cannot get away with talk like this in today’s times.

  • Mark

    Rob,

    I’m pretty sure I know about the article you’re talking about. If memory serves, it was in a famous magazine fairly recently. I do have an article about the scientific exploration of religion in my favorites links, but I don’t think that’s it.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Given that there are/were so many religions in so many societies it seems reasonable to suppose that there might be some evolutionarily adaptive value (maybe just at the memetic level, maybe at the genetic level too, “god genes” anyone?) to having a religion. A testable hypothesis, and apparently it has been tested by someone, somewhere.” — Rob

    Interesting? Possibly. But the profusion of religious thought is not evidence for its usefulness; rather, it is a measure of its popularity. An alternative explanation for religion’s existence:

    Man looks up in sky at lightning, hears thunder, is frightened; we’ll call him Ken. He notes that fire has started where lightning struck. He goes to the wise old man of the tribe — who’s actually a touch senile. Wise old man tells Ken that Joe the sky god is upset because this stupid tribe neglected to sacrifice to him yet again. So this man has a great idea — to appease Joe, he’ll not only make a sacrifice, it’ll be a double dose, and to boot, he’ll use the fire — let’s call it “the Eternal Flame”, for Ken has vowed to tend it wherever the tribe wanders. Now, where to find two virgins?

    Five years later, Ken has become leader of the tribe, largely due to his ability to read weathersign as well as he does. He doesn’t let on to the tribe; they seem to think he’s in touch with Joe, and because of that, they give Ken power over them — and on occasion their virgin daughters. Besides, if they don’t believe Ken is nearer to Joe, then Ken can cast them out. He’s done so several times already, once in the middle of winter.

    Ken has grown comfortable in his old age, and had many children — some have even survived to adulthood thanks to the animal sacrifices the tribe brings. But none can read the weather; so Ken picks the brightest tribe member, and begins to teach him. But his heart isn’t in it, and the student picks up on the cynical, tired tone, and sees (perhaps better than Ken himself) that this is the perfect means for control.

    ********

    Obviously speculative, it at least has the strength of relying on qualities we already see in people, rather than postulating god genes and such.

    And my apologies, Adam, to such a long digression.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    According to some local sources, Rep. Davis contacted Rob Sherman to apologize. Rob Sherman’s web site agrees and says he accepted her apology:

    Yesterday, State Representative Monique Davis (D-Chicago) called me from the Floor of the Illinois House of Representatives to apologize for what she had said to me at last Wednesday’s hearing of the House State Government Administration Committee. Rep. Davis had said, among other things, that atheism is dangerous to the progression of the State of Illinois, that children should not be allowed to know that my philosophy (atheism) exists, and that I had no right to testify to any Illinois legislative committee because the People of Illinois believe in God. She concluded by ordering me to “Get out of that seat!”

    Some bloggers have asked what I said to instigate Rep. Davis’ comments. I was testifying about why the Governor’s proposal to donate one million tax dollars to Pilgrim Baptist Church is unconstitutional. Specifically, I was reading, in a very calm manner, from my laptop computer, the words in the March 4th “Latest Update,” which appear below and which explains why the proposal to give money to the church is unconstitutional.

    Rep. Davis said that she had been upset, earlier in the day, to learn that a twenty-second and twenty-third Chicago Public School student this school year had been shot to death that morning. She said that it was wrong for her to take out her anger, frustrations and emotions on me, and that she apologized to me.

    I told her that her explanation was reasonable and that I forgave her. I also suggested that if she really was concerned about public school students dying needlessly, she should look into helping me to get passed legislation to get lap and shoulder seat belts on school busses that is pending in the House and in the Senate.

    She thanked me for forgiving her and said that she would look into those two pieces of legislation.

    Personally, I think Davis’ explanation is pretty thin. Her anger at the shooting may be justifiable, but one could hardly believe it would cause her to suddenly feel prejudice toward atheists. (If it had been a Jewish person testifying before her committee, would she have started shouting, “You Jews believe in destroying!”?) More likely, because she was upset, she let slip a prejudice that she already held. Still, if Sherman accepts it, that’s good enough for me. And the best thing is, his forgiving her gives him the moral high ground – a very smart move.

    Even if Davis doesn’t resign, I think we’ve accomplished something significant by this whole affair: we’ve shown American politicians that you can’t expect to insult atheists and get away with it without censure. Rest assured, tonight there are some officeholders out there thinking that we may have a bit more political muscle than they had previously realized. If that persuades them to take our concerns more seriously in the future, then this shameful episode may end up being a very good thing for us overall.

  • bipolar2

    ** the perils of Pauline indoctrination **

    Xianity still appeals to those who believe themselves mistreated. To those in whom resentment surges. To those who must blame others. To those who must punish their guilty selves.

    Xianity is practical nihilism. Directed inward, hatred of self. Directed outward, hatred of others and the world.

    This is not some peripheral ideological stance — it is the dark heart and sick soul of Paul’s life-negating world view, tarted up as a religion of “love”.

    bipolar2

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  • RiddleOfSteel

    Haven’t been around here for a while and just trying to get caught up on all the interesting posts – glad to see you are covering this incident. Living in the Chicago area, I am appreciative of Rob Sherman for taking actions to oppose the Illinois Senate and it’s attempts to promote religion. Perhaps the outburst by Monique Davis was partly a result of residual anger that he worked to appose the recently enacted Student Prayer Act legislation, that was last year forced on public school children. Rep. Davis had been speaking out in favor of this act mandating school prayer or reflection. (Sure – reflection. Wink wink, nudge nudge.) A lawsuit brought by Sherman resulted in a judge issuing a preliminary injunction against implementing the Student Prayer Act in the school attended by Sherman’s daughter. This had a domino effect with many schools ending the mandatory moment, and the state legislature considering rescinding it. (Although now the legislature is considering a lesser voluntary moment – which is sort of what we already had.) Really it’s mind boggling that our legislature seemingly has nothing better to do than engage in these shenanigans.

    Ebonmuse also mentions that Monique Davis and the Illinois governor are Democrats – and it should be noted that both house and senate are controlled by Democrats. Although to be fair, the governor did oppose the Student Prayer Act. Regardless, it certainly isn’t just Republicans involved in this stuff.

    In a comment above, someone also seemed to be blaming the federal government for this situation in Illinois. I am not sure how the feds are involved with the Baptist church rebuild effort – my understanding is the state designated the church as having landmark type status, and state funds are proposed for contribution to the rebuild. The entire sordid history is really something, since one million dollars was already given in a previous grant to the church, only to somehow end up being used by a private school that was renting space in the church – no one is quite sure at the moment how that happened. But there is also mixed up in it all – a pardon for one of the school operators and sexual harassment claims against some workers. In politics they say there is the way everyone else does it – and then there is “The Chicago Way”. What a mess!

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  • velkyn

    What about being angry makes a woman lie? That’s all I want to know. Has anyone asked this woman if she believes what she said? Anyone at all. And now Keith Olbermann has called Mr. Sherman one of his “worst persons in the world” for daring to say that he is curious why a Negro woman, a member of a group that was oppressed thinks she can do the same to those she doesn’t agree with. I’m not sure if he was more offended by the use of the word “negro” (United Negro College Fund, anyone?) or someone having the un-PC courage to call an African-American a bigot in so many words.

  • Christoph

    There is a strange undercurrent to her apology that few have touched on and I find very disturbing. Her defense that she was on edge because of a recent instance of school violence does not excuse her conduct of why she particularly chose to lose her cool with and attack an atheist. The fact that she consciously links these two events up in her reasoning for losing her cool makes me wonder if she is one of those Christians a la Tony Perkins who hear of school violence and without an ounce of evidence immediately jumps to the conclusion that the reason for the violence lies in the lack of Jesus in the public school system and that atheists are to blame. The tone and words she uses in her attack seems to run concurrent with such a stand. I am sure that we are all aware of those that see someone spit in the street and immediately start harping that it happened because of a lack of Jesus and too much corruptive atheist influence. I don’t think she is the least bit sorry about anything she said or did, just sorry that her real feelings surfaced in such a public setting and were exposed for many to see. I still feel that she cannot be trusted to look out for the rights and welfare of non-Christians and should be replaced by someone who isn’t bringing their “faith” into the mix.


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