I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the Duggar’s appearance on FoxNews with Megyn Kelly, or what one writer called an “unholy disaster.” The segment was pretty much what you would expect — they used it as a PR opportunity for damage control.
Thankfully, though, their high profile has brought awareness to the danger of the Quiverfull movement in particular and Christian patriarchy in general. It also helps clarify notions of consent, and what constitutes rape. In other words, the Duggars have shown us how not to think about those things — and that’s a good thing.
But there’s a common theme I’ve seen from religious conservatives in other coverage and on social media. As Michelle Duggar herself put it:
“Everyone of us has done something wrong. That’s why Jesus came…This is more about—there’s an agenda. There are people who are purposing to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”
I also saw that one of my Facebook friends replied to a comment made by a Christian on an article on Mic.com. The comment was:
Why do you people hate so much? Jesus said “let he that is without sin throw the first stone…” Who among us hasn’t done something we’re ashamed of, especially as an awkward teen? And if we had turned our own kids over to the police every time they messed up, our detention centers would be overflowing! Why all the self righteous outrage over one kid who at least had a guilty conscience and went to his parents for help?
The false equivalence here should be obvious: yes, we’ve all done things we’re ashamed of, but not all of us have committed a crime — or five of them, in Josh Duggar’s case. And while I don’t believe atheists should rudely mock and ridicule the beliefs of religious believers, I have less of a problem attacking their actions, especially when it comes to high profile Christian “celebrities.”
Members of the self-proclaimed “Moral Majority” like to say that atheists are inherently immoral. Just recently I posted a question in a private Facebook group designed for Patheos bloggers of all faith channels to dialogue together and understand each other. I asked “Would you date an atheist?” One of the Christian bloggers said “No,” because she wasn’t a fool, quoting a part of Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Here’s the full passage:
The foolsays in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
The take away here is that atheists are immoral, corrupt “evildoers” who do no good whatsoever. It should go without saying that this is false. However, consider a city like Seattle which, according to Pew’s latest “Religious Landscape Study” has the highest number of atheists in the country, at 10 percent. So it stands to reason that Seattle must be the worst city in the nation, right? Except it’s not any worse than any other state in America. It’s not even in the Top Ten.
And sociologist like Phil Zuckerman, in his book “Living the Secular Life,” for example, have shown that atheists are every bit as moral as anyone else.
What I have learned, and what shall be illustrated throughout the chapters ahead, is that while secular Americans may have nothing to do with religion, this does not mean that they wallow in despair or flail about in hapless oblivion. To the contrary, they live civil, reasonably rational, and admirably meaningful lives predicated upon sound ethical foundations.
And that’s another reason why the Duggars need to be held up to intense scrutiny. People need to know that atheists aren’t any less moral than any other religious believer. We don’t need God to be good. And contrary to Rick Warren, we don’t need God to have meaning and purpose in life, either. Put simply, we don’t need God, even if He did exist.
Image via Wikipedia Commons