As an Atheist…

As an atheist, I must endure:

– Not being able to run for public office in some states at all. (Link)

– Not having a reasonable chance to win an office even if I did run. (Link)

– (Possibly) Having to say a prayer and a pledge to God at Little League baseball games. (Link)

– Not being able to join the Boy Scouts. (Link)

– Saying the Pledge of Allegiance at a school where I might teach. (Link)

– Not being able to join the Salvation Army. (Link)

– Not being able to finish Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program. (Link)

What else can we add to this list…?

And while some of these organizations are private, they do get government funding… but are any of these offenses not really a problem?

[tags]atheist, public, office, pledge, little league, salvation, army, boy scouts, alcoholics anonymous[/tags]

  • Siamang

    Hey, you forgot that the odds are that children’s custody in a divorce go to the religious parent more often than the atheist.

  • Helen aka Ir

    Being excluded from Christian/theist organizations – I would say that’s not really a problem IF there are organizations doing the same sorts of things which welcome you and which are equally respected by society in general.

    And IF the Christian/theist organization doesn’t pretend “hey there’s nothing about this that would make it hard for atheists to participate” yet there is. I sense that AA is a bit ignorant of how offensive the higher power stuff is to atheists and so that’s a problem as well as there not being (to my knowledge) any atheist-compatible equivalent which is so widespread. I’ve heard that there are some groups helping people overcome alcohol addiction that atheists would prefer and I hope that atheists who want something like that will be able to find them.

    My guess would be there isn’t anything about the Salvation Army that can’t be found elsewhere – in which case that one might not be a problem – but I may be wrong. Hemant, did you list that one primarily because you see things about them you’d like to participate in, or because you had a link (which I admittedly haven’t been to yet) clearly saying it ‘s not an organization for atheists? Both are valid reasons…I’m just curious, that’s all.

  • Siamang

    Rather than say “odds are” and “more often” I should have said “in some cases in a discriminatory fashion.”

    I don’t know what the odds actually are.

  • Hemant

    Helen– The Salvation Army just upsets me because if I wanted to work with them, I may have to sign a document essentially pledging my loyalty to God’s Army. Thankfully, there are other groups like this, but the fact that they would exclude someone who does good works but for the wrong reasons (according to them) is what bothers me.

  • Helen aka Ir

    Fair enough, Hemant. I can see why you wouldn’t want to sign a document including that pledge!

  • Mike C

    I think a lot of people get confused by the Salvation Army, because they only think of them as a charitable organization (the bell ringers at Christmas and the thrift store folks). Most people don’t realize that they are actually a Christian denomination. In other words, they are a church. The charitable stuff is just part of what they do.

    So anyhow, an atheist complaining about not being able to “join” the Salvation Army seems as strange to me as an atheist complaining about not being able to be a Baptist or a Roman Catholic. Though I do understand about perhaps wanting to help out with their charitable work. IMHO, a church group shouldn’t discriminate about who can join with them for that kind of stuff. In fact, they should encourage non-Christians to join in the mission. For instance, my church is doing a food drive this week and we’d be thrilled if an atheist group wanted to help us pull it off.

  • Hemant

    Mike– I didn’t know it was a church in itself. (I’ve never met anyone who was a member of that church…) I was always under the impression they were just a charity group, which is why it made no sense that they would exclude people who wanted to help.
    – Hemant

  • Mike C

    Also, regarding the Pledge, I didn’t think it was legal to require anyone to say it, whether in school or at Little League or wherever. I don’t say the pledge either because it conflicts with my religious beliefs, but even if I worked in a school where they said it, I don’t think they could force me to participate.

  • Hemant

    Mike– At school, the Pledge is not mandatory in most places, but imagine a student or a teacher not saying it. What if they didn’t stand up? For the student, he/she may be ostracized. For the teacher, who knows what will happen? Getting fired may not be a legal option, but students will get the word around.

    It’s more of the social implications. Little League hasn’t done it at most games that I’ve seen, but it’s still part of their material and resources. And they could do it before any game.

    How does the Pledge conflict with your religious beliefs?

  • Mike C

    The Pledge conflicts with my beliefs because I believe any form of civil religion (i.e. mixing Church and State) is a type of idolatry. The God of “God Bless America”, “In God We Trust”, and “One Nation Under God” is not the same as the God of the Bible. He is a watered down God who serves only to legitimize our own national interests and feelings of cultural superiority. The God I worship is the God of all cultures and all nations (cf. Acts 17:26-27 or Revelation 7:9-10). As the bumper sticker on the back of my car says: “God is not an American!”

    Furthermore, as a citizen in the kingdom of God, I feel it is inappropriate for me to swear allegiance to any other kingdom or nation-state. I cannot serve both the interests of God and the interests of America. What happens when the interests of America are opposed to the values of God’s kingdom? If the KoG says “love your enemies” but the kingdom of America says “bomb the shit out of nations that appear threatening to us”, to which kingdom can I give my allegiance? If the KoG says “care for the foreigner and alien among you” but the kingdom of America says “report and deport any illegal aliens”, whose values do I live by?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I want to overthrow the government and set up some kind of theocratic kingdom of God in our midst. I’m simply saying that for me personally, in my own actions and choices, I am bound by a different set of values, and I cannot pledge allegiance to two sometimes opposing sets of ideals. In the tradition of Martin Luther King, I may even practice civil disobedience when I feel that the laws of our land contradict God’s commands of justice and mercy towards all.

    That’s why I don’t say the pledge and why I have even encouraged my youth group students in the past to refuse to say the pledge in class. A few of them did refuse, and didn’t report too much negative response from their classmates on the issue.

    For more of my ranting about the evils of civil religion, check out my blog post “Why I’m Not Patriotic”.

  • Karen

    In my children’s Little League, there is an explicitly Christian prayer given by a minister at both opening and closing ceremonies. The kids also say the Pledge of Allegiance and recite the Little League Pledge (which starts out “I trust in god, I love my country…) before all the games.

    No one’s ever objected, that I know of, but it’s certainly not friendly to nonbelievers.

  • Rorgg

    I trust in god, I love my country, and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win, but win or lose, I will always do my best.

    Play ball!

    Wow… It’s been 20 years, and just seeing the start of that brought it all back. Of course, I wasn’t an infidel back then, so I never even thought of it. Hey, I like everything in there AFTER the start.

  • jim

    “In other words, they are a church. The charitable stuff is just part of what they do”

    The Salvation Army used to be all about salvation in the esrly days of their leader William Booth. What made them unique aming Cs is that they included serving others along with praching- Now tey are mostly a service organization and not a very big church – so when you think of them as a charitable org you’re seeing them mostly as they are.

  • Doreen

    Wow, thanks for posting those links. Some I was aware of, but some not. It is amazing all the crap that is still law (e.g., cohabitation).

    As for AA, that’s how I got clean & sober, so I’m biased in that regard. I ignored the God stuff at that point in my life. Didn’t stop me from getting through the steps at all. (“Take the meat, leave the bone.”) The AA reliance on God, and the Male one at that, is what caused groups like Rational Recovery and SOS to form.

    It’s just as well you are an Atheist. For some of the issues you mentioned, as well as many you did not, you may not be the “right” kind of Christian to qualify.

    As an atheist, you also can’t volunteer for most prison assistance groups, many youth sports leagues, and some youth mentoring programs. Gays & Lesbians, Christian or not, are not allowed in the same groups.

  • Ed

    As I read your blog, I felt that I could replace “Atheist” with any number of minor religious groups and have the same dilemma, except they are theist and they are disc for the same reasons. I made a choice to become a Christian I made a decision that would alter my relationships. My atheist parents took away my scholarships for college and I earned my own way. Many of my friends rejected my decision to live my faith and no longer called me friend. The important thing for me is to live what I believe to be true.

    Our decisions and lifestyles all have benefits and problems. I realize that everyone will not love me. Some will hate the things that I stand for. My wife’s Grandmother had a great statement, “I am not made of money, so I know that not everyone will love me.”

    Now about voting: I would vote for an atheist if your ideas for our nation was compatible with mine. There is much we can agree on if we found the common ground to work on the problems that beset us.