While San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor sticks her fingers in her ears and refuses to apologize for saying poverty is caused by people who don’t have a “relationship with their Creator,” atheist groups have pushed back with statements calling her faith-based ignorance into question.
This is what Taylor said this in a forum earlier this month:
To me, it’s broken people. People not being in a relationship with their Creator, and therefore, not being in good relationship with their families and their communities, and not being productive members of society. I think that’s the ultimate answer. That’s not something that I work on from my position as Mayor of the community…
While she went on to suggest teen pregnancy and education inequality were also factors, and she was working to address them, she never backed down from her belief that atheists and others who don’t accept her Christian God bear unique responsibility in causing poverty.
I can’t begin to tell you how disappointing — and frankly hurtful —
comments like these are to the more than 40% of your city’s residents who are atheists and non-religious.
Let me be clear: Atheists are not “broken people.” Having a relationship with a creator or being religious have nothing to do with the relationships people have with their families, their communities, or their contributions to society.
Atheists are your doctors, your police officers, members of your staff, your friends and family. If you think you don’t know any atheists, you’re wrong. It may simply be that the atheists in your life are uncomfortable telling you that they don’t share your religious convictions because they worry about your reaction.
Thankfully, these comments present an opportunity. I challenge you to meet some of your atheist constituents. American Atheists has a vibrant affiliate group, the Freethinkers Association of Center Texas, located right there in San Antonio. I will be more than happy to make the introductions.
Learn about our community. Learn about us as people. And, most importantly, learn why your statements hurt us. Atheists in America face bigotry, distrust, and intolerance daily. Your state’s senator, Ted Cruz, said during the 2016 presidential campaign that atheists are unfit to serve as President.
I urge you, Mayor Taylor, to take this opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of your constituents. You represent all San Antonians, including atheists. So please, let us show you why we care about the direction of San Antonio, of Texas, and of our nation.
To start with, Taylor’s answer is untrue. In fact, when any given factor of societal health or well-being is measured, it is invariably the less religious countries that score better. The least religious countries of this world:
- Have the lowest rates of violent crime, homicide and corruption.
- Are the best places to raise children and be a mother.
- Have the lowest levels of intolerance against racial and ethnic minorities.
- Score highest when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality.
- Have the greatest protection and enjoyment of political and civil liberties.
- Are better at educating their youth in reading, math and science.
- Are the most peaceful, the most prosperous and have the highest quality of life.
The correlation between lower religiosity and higher societal well-being is not limited to an international analysis. This trend also exists within United States. Those states that are the most religious also have a high occurrence of societal ills. The most religious states in the nation tend to have the highest rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, murder and violent crime.
They also want an apology. (A real one.)
Even Foundation Beyond Belief, a charity-focused group, weighed in and urged Taylor to meet with the South Texas Atheists for Reason since they’re local atheists working to make the world a better place.
“Some people have a misconception that good works have to be tied to religion. But that’s obviously false,” said Vicki Gettman, executive director of STAR. “We’re hoping Mayor Taylor will come out and see the great work her atheist constituents are doing to contribute to the community.”
“At Foundation Beyond Belief, we support charitable efforts in the humanist community,” said Noelle George, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief. “We’ve seen thousands of examples of atheists and other nonbelievers who, without a belief in any creator, are tackling issues like systemic poverty and education. Moving forward, we hope Mayor Taylor will view FBB and our Texas groups as community partners rather than disparaging us.”
My own request for comment has gone unanswered by Taylor’s team, and there’s no indication she’s responded to any of the groups.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, she’s encouraging people to re-elect her as Mayor. If disparaging atheists and then refusing to acknowledge her ignorance is part of some warped campaign strategy, she has no business being back in office.
The clip posted on YouTube wasn’t selectively edited or a “dishonest, politically motivated misrepresentation of [her] record,” as she claimed. It quoted her verbatim. Unless the additional comments she made included the words, “I’m just kidding,” and they didn’t, there’s no reason to think the implication about her views wasn’t accurate.
Either she’s choosing not to apologize or she still thinks atheism is a root cause of generational poverty. Both options make her unqualified for the position she wants to hold.