Shame on Us for Flaunting Atheism?

Shame on Us for Flaunting Atheism? August 8, 2019

Editor’s Note:  This post really hits a chord with me.  While I might seem like a rather “out” atheist – having written a book about non-believing clergy and editing this blog, I’m rather shy about mentioning my lack of religious beliefs around people I assume, or know, believe in God. I have a drawer full of atheist t-shirts that I rarely wear that were given to me when I spoke at atheist conferences.  I think the last time I wore one was at the Reason Rally, when I first met the author of this post. Here I am pictured with him. /Linda LaScola

=============================

By David Madison

As long as Christians are reigning-champion flaunters, I think it would be really cool to have a T-shirt made for myself:

Front: ATHEIST AUTHOR & ADVOCATE. 
Back: A picture of the cover of my book.

But where could I wear it without running the risk of getting beat up? Especially these days when religious folks are enflamed about being persecuted. At the very least, I’m sure I would be scolded for flaunting my atheism.

“Why do you have to be so in our faces about it? Please keep it to yourself!”

Christians have enjoyed majority status for so long, it’s hard for them to grasp that they are champion flaunters: it’s part of what they do! They want to be noticed, they insist on being noticed, and they spare no expense getting noticed. Atheists have a long way to go before we can match flaunt for flaunt.

Ten Examples of Christianity In Our Faces

(1) Worldwide there are countless shrines dedicated to the ancient Jesus mystery cult; actually, they can be counted. There are 3,000 Catholic cathedrals in the world, and a quick Google search shows that there are about 2,000 Christian churches in New York City alone. All those buildings, some modest, some magnificent, guarantee the high profile of the Christian faith. And most of them, of course, have the signage out front with Bible verses, sermon titles, and pious quotes or admonitions. There’s one Catholic church that I pass occasionally, with a large-as-life statue of Mary at a landscaped corner, overseeing the busy intersection. Thus the Jesus mystery cult is supplemented with adoration of a female goddess (the Queen of Heaven), and the faithful regularly place fresh flowers in her praying hands. Truly, Christianity has become part of the landscape.

(2) Public costuming by employees of the Jesus cult. This is blatant flaunting—much more conspicuous than any atheist t-shirt—and I see it in my Manhattan neighborhood. There are convents and monasteries nearby, and the nuns and monks go about their business in full dress code, displaying their piety; ordinary priests settle for the dog collar. But the fashionistas of the Vatican, of course, put everyone else to shame. The costumes of the pope and cardinals are, of course, meant to dazzle. But it’s too much razzle-dazzle. What are they playing at? We have to wonder what’s going on in their heads as they play dress-up. Couldn’t the Vatican couture budget be redirected to the needs of the poor? As in, “What Would Jesus Do?”

(3) Laypeople settle for Jesus on jewelry, i.e., the cross—sometimes with their tortured lord still on it—worn around the neck. This is intended as testimony, I suppose, letting passersby know what they believe = flaunting. I recently saw a buxom young woman interviewed on TV, wearing a large crucifix settled in her low-cut cleavage; she was double flaunting. Would Jesus have approved the positioning?

(4) Bibles in hotel rooms. I’m almost disappointed now when I don’t find a Gideon Bible in a hotel room, since I use them to flaunt my atheism, if only in a minor way. I write on the title page, “Please read this book carefully. It’s all the proof you’ll need that there is no god.” As of 2015, the Gideons had given away two billion Bibles, most of them, presumably, placed in hotel rooms. I recall Gideon preachers visiting my church when I was a kid, appealing for donations to support their ministry; of course we thought they were doing the Lord’s work. What level of fanaticism has been required for this effort? Atheists would surely be accused of outrageous flaunting if we tried to get copies of Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion into every hotel room in the country.

(5) Books in pharmacies and hardware stores. I have noticed racks of Christian devotional books in these businesses in my neighborhood. The hardware store was a bit of a mystery, but shrewd marketers know that vulnerable customers are likely to be found at pharmacies. Hence the Wonderful-Power-of-Prayer is the theme of this literature.

(6) Pamphlets in the subway. This is where Jehovah’s Witnesses set up shop, I suspect all over the world, to distribute their own brand of cult propaganda. And of course, these venues allow for the presence of real, live missionaries who are available to make the pitch in person. Speaking of which…

(7) The Door-Knockers, especially of the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness variety, who have become clichés. Even most Christians can’t stand them, perhaps because flaunting at this level is so annoying. And, naturally, Christians who find themselves interrupted and harassed at their own front doors know that their own brands of the faith are truer and better than the craziness being hawked by these wandering fanatics who consider the whole world their target. The resurrected Jesus himself commanded this flaunting, “Go and make disciples of all nations…”

(8) The word “God” where it’s not supposed to be, thanks to the Christian lobby’s contempt for separation of church and state. Every piece of money in your wallet or purse, paper or coinage, bears the words, “In God We Trust”—unless you have something minted before the 1950s, when the words were added. It was in 1954 as well that “under God” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. So everyone who recites the pledge or pays with cash participates in this flaunting. Atheists, of course, can simple omit “under God” while reciting the pledge, and who’s the wiser? And some have inked out ‘trust in God’ on the paper currency. Most folks don’t notice or give a thought to this slogan as they hand dollars to the cashier—any more than they could explain what it means to claim that a nation trusts in a god…especially one with the largest military budget in the world.

(9) Televangelism. The TV marketing of Jesus is a multi-billion dollar business, and must be the worst possible manifestation of the human brain on Jesus. This slick enterprise (Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and Creflo Dollar come to mind especially, among dozens of others) is so crude and so exploitative: Christianity as entertainment cash cow. How come there’s not a League of Decent Christians Against Televangelism?

(10) Evangelicals for Theocracy. According to these folks, we have no hope for survival if we don’t ASAP become a Christian Nation, as was intended from the beginning; separation of church and state has always been mistake. The Bible should have more clout than the constitution. Just as “Intelligent Design” became a wedge issue to get creationism accepted in schools, Donald Trump has become the wedge President because he has given the green light to the evangelical agenda: whatever it takes—and Trump is a lot to take—to move the country closer to the Christian ideal. This is far more than flaunting; it is an assault on our democracy.

Many more examples could be added to this list: arrogant, confident missionary fanaticism worldwide, the National Prayer Breakfast, the National Day of Prayer, Bibles for presidential oaths, Bibles in courtrooms, Congressional Chaplains, the Ten Commandments in the public square, life-size Nativity displays, Christian outrage at the War on Christmas, smudges on foreheads on Ash Wednesday, ad infinitumad nauseam.

How Dare We Flaunt Right Back at Them!
Christians have become more strident because atheism has found its voice—or, more correctly, voices. American Atheists was founded in 1963 and The Freedom from Religion Foundation in 1976—and dozens of other atheist/humanist organizations have followed. Since the 1990s, more than 300 books have been published on the falsification of Christianity and theism; it would seem that Christian flaunting has provoked a major backlash from serious thinkers. Most of these new works have come in the wake of the major titles by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. Who could have imagined that these would end up on best sellers lists?

Then there’s social media. The count of atheist blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and Facebook Atheist Groups is in the thousands. Facebook and Twitter have helped me connect with atheists worldwide: who knew there were so many of us, eager to connect? Even—are you kidding me?—in Texas and Ohio. It has been said that the Internet is where religion comes to die, but that’s not true; Christians are full strength online. Just ask a question about the Bible on Google and see how many Christian websites are there to provide all the right answers. But we know that searchers find their way to the Debunking Christianity Blog as well. The Internet is where atheism has come to find energy and like-minded enthusiasts.

Massive Christian flaunting obviously works, but it can’t keep people from thinking. How come there are now, for the first time ever, as many “nones” in the U.S. as there are evangelicals or Catholics? The Internet has something to do with it, as does the atheist publishing surge since the 1990s. It would seem that Christians have taught us that flaunting works. We can never match what they’ve been able to do, but we have found our voices. So we continue to write, publish, and work to influence public policy.

**Editor’s Addendum** We also have The Clergy Project– a private online community for current and former religious professionals without supernatural beliefs. Founded in March of 2011 with 52 members, it will soon have 1000!

===================================

David Madison, a Clergy Project member, was raised in a conservative Christian home in northern Indiana. He served as a pastor in the Methodist church during his work on two graduate degrees in theology. By the time he finished his PhD in Biblical Studies (Boston University) he had become an atheist, a story he shares in the Prologue of his book, published in 2016: 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith.  This blog post is reprinted with permission from the Debunking Christianity Blog.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    > Just ask a question about the Bible on Google and see how many Christian websites are there to provide all the right answers.

    Good luck with that. Over and over I note that Christian blogs etc. never allow comments. Apparently they make baby Jesus cry.

  • Mark in Ohio

    Why would discussion be needed? They have “The. Right. Answers.™”

  • Tawreos

    it’s hard for them to grasp that they are champion flaunters:

    For many of them the inability to acknowledge reality is what helps them remain christians.

  • I enjoy discussing atheism, religion, and philosophy in forums like this. And these forums are inevitably invaded by religionists (virtually always Christians) who feel some kind of need to whine at us. (Every now and then a religionist actually engages in reasonable discussion, but those cases are pretty rare.) I can’t say I’ve every felt inclined to seek out Christian forums and harangue them about their beliefs. I don’t think I’ve ever offered my views about religion to anybody in person, either, unless the subject is already out there. And I’m not usually the one who introduces it. But I’ve had plenty of Christians throw religious assertions my way.

    Who, exactly, is flaunting beliefs?

  • I grew up in Tennessee, and a lot of people I knew cannot fathom that there are, indeed, a lot of people who aren’t Christian and who don’t want prayers forced on their kids at school. They live in a monoculture, but I see signs of that changing with younger generations.

  • chemical

    Re. Door knockers: I’m pretty convinced that the goal of this isn’t to win converts — rather, it’s to convince the door knockers themselves that the world outside the church is hostile and that they aren’t welcome. The doors being repeatedly slammed in their faces convince them that they need to stay in the church and there is no alternative.

    I’ve only had Mormons stop by once. Young guys in the distinctive white shirts and black ties. Since they wanted to talk, I invited them in and gave them some lemonade. I learned that I knew more about their religion than they did: Obviously they knew about Joseph Smith, but they didn’t know he “translated” the Book of Mormon from golden plates by looking at it in a hat with a seer stone. Wasn’t shy about the fact I was an atheist, either.

    That was years ago. Haven’t had Mormons stop by since then. I think the experience of them meeting someone who was knowledgable about their religion, and also a staunch atheist, and also not a jerk, kind of shook them up a bit.

    JW’s stop by every once in a while but they usually just drop off a flyer. Other churches send someone to stop by and say a prayer every once in a while, but they usually leave after a few minutes.

  • Milo C

    The theoretical aspect of the article (“I’m sure I would be harassed if I did such-n-such”) reduces its impact.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Thank God goodness for the Internet!

  • Harry Kays

    Have no problem with you the writer believing what you want to believe
    I’m a JW . We don’t pass out literature to anyone by our carts . People approach and request them if they want No Hawking unlike the loudmouth rest of the world .
    Very civil If you are adamant you are a Atheist I would never talk to you about religion , Jesus or the Bible ever again. But wouldn’t stop conversing to you about plants or drought or sod removal. Lol. That being said we don’t make a dime as JWs. I’m a landscape contractor in CA C27 884270 , pay my taxes and have an associate’s degree from Mira Costa College in horticulture . Try as best I can to be a good citizen . JWs don’t receive ANY funding from any Government . Truly non profit unlike most if not all other religions on Earth . The Catholic Church on the other hand just in the United States receives close to $$30 billion per year . And if anyone thinks they are non profit or non political they are blind as bats .

  • persephone

    As an ex-JW, I’m sorry to find you’ve been misinformed. The GB is making quite a profit. You spend your time without payment giving out their literature, paying for subscriptions, sending donations to them. How much money do you think they got for all those properties in Brooklyn? They must have been worth a hundred times what they originally cost, or more. Where did all that money go? Probably to paying off all those child molestation and abuse lawsuits.

    The Organization fits all the cult requirements of BITE. You can deny and gnash your teeth and believe as you wish, this is the U.S., but it’s a cult.

  • persephone

    The only time I’ve “invaded” a Christian forum was when they push the forced-birth agenda. And I didn’t go looking for it. It popped up in a newsfeed. I don’t harangue them. I state the facts, they scream, I leave.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Thank you for your tale of civility.

    Once upon a time, I went to the local laundromat. I took some magazines I was finished reading in order to leave them at the laundromat so that others could enjoy them. I am speaking here of science-themed magazines such as Scientific American.
    While I was sitting and waiting for the washer to finish, a JW entered the laundromat, threw all of my magazines in the waste bin and left a stack of Watchtower in their place.

  • Harry Kays

    Go Away
    I know one of the gb personally . He and his family are poor. If he wasn’t at Bethel he’d be living in a mobile home with his father . His father’s mobile home

  • Harry Kays

    Ok ty for that

  • mason

    Interesting recap David.

    In the last five years I’ve noticed a huge increase in public display of atheist, freethought T-shirts, caps, and I see more atheist tats … I’ve also noticed more visibility of atheist, freethought dialog in social media … it sure is vastly different than 20 years ago.

  • David Madison

    My rule is this: I never, EVER, go on to Christian (or any other religion) FB pages, blogs, etc. to advocate atheism. Why not? Because it would be a waste of time and keystrokes, but above all because it would be BAD manners. It would be like me walking into a church on Sunday morning to argue with the preacher. BAD manners. So, especially on the FB page for my book, when Christians show up to argue and scold (and assure me that I’m going to hell), my response is WHY ARE YOU HERE?

  • David Madison

    Thanks for republishing my article, Linda!

  • Exactly. I will argue the merits of religion with religionists only in a forum- online or physical- where we’ve all decided that’s the point of the forum and it’s what we want to do. Where there’s a common interest in debate. I don’t like Christian missionaries showing up at my front door uninvited, why would I act the same?

  • Geoff Benson

    I see JWs on just about every street of the larger cities of Spain. I never see the smart, well dressed attendants ever doing anything, pretty well nobody bothering to speak to them. I have entered discussion with a few over the years and my impression of their philosophy is this. There’s limited space in heaven for people, apparently the capacity crowd has already been determined. Although their theoretical job is to persuade people to convert, in reality that would threaten their own place in the afterlife, so they are content to continue to protect their own place by proselytising, but don’t try too hard to increase competition.

    Personally I find it embarrassing that the human race can still find a place for this kind of nonsense, but there you go.

  • mason
  • Larry

    Thanks for the article. It was a good read. Many of the example I see on a regular basis. A bit ago I started logging all the example of Christians pushing their religion in one way or another. My average, and it will vary by person, is two or three per day. It goes from Facebook posts, to chruch steeples, to jewery, to cross on the side of the road, to commercials on the radio. It is literally everywhere.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    The JWs used to make a big deal that only 144,000 people will get into Heaven (Revelation 7:4), but they downplay that since their membership has grown.

  • Geoff Benson

    Yep, not good for marketing. I know all religion is foolish but JWs have turned silliness into an art form!

  • ThaneOfDrones
  • ctcss

    OK, I have no problems with atheists promoting themselves. Quite frankly (at least in the US), the 1st amendment allows for freedom of religion (or no religion), freedom of speech and the press allows for the expression of a multiplicity of ideas whether anyone approves of them or not, and the right to petition for redress of grievances allows for requesting of fair treatment from the government for all sorts of issues, religion being just one of them.

    So make your case for a place at the table just like every group, small or large, has done. But since this general subject area is contentious, don’t expect the red carpet treatment, cushy seating, or any kind of an easy road. Pretty much every sect has had to deal with pushback, persecution, vilification, etc. along the way and has had to find ways to make a case for their rights. And the sad thing is, it is not that uncommon for the groups that have made it to the table to turn around and give grief to others who are just now arriving. Sadly, humans can be rather unkind towards each other.

    And as for points 1 through 10, welcome to the arena of competing ideas expressed in various forms and the sometimes sad fact that legislation (as in points 8 and 10) can be be screwed up if people don’t keep an eye on it and make the case for correction of inappropriate laws. All of which falls under the 1st amendment.

    So feel free to express yourself and make your case to the public mind. But please remember, your viewpoint is just your considered opinion, and not proven fact. If you disagree with all of the religions out there and their considered opinions, well, they also disagree with your opinions and with everyone else’s as well. That’s just the way it is.

  • persephone

    There isn’t anyone on the governing body that young or that poor. Please.

    And since you’ve never been a member, you have no idea exactly what it is like. You see the nice people, the best face of it, and that’s it.

    So, no, you go away, and quit telling someone who got out of that cult how things are.

  • ctcss

    Linda, Is there some trick to getting a reply to stay? Mine keep disappearing. It’s not really worth the effort to join in the discussion if time and effort just get discarded. Pretty much if one sees a “waiting for approval” message, its the kiss of death, and without even a replacement note of “Deleted” or something like that. Thanks.

  • Linda LaScola

    ctcss — did this happen recently, as in a reply to this post? I ask because this problem, which is happening across patheos, apparently, was supposedly fixed a few days ago. It’s nothing that the moderators have done or can fix. For instance, i didn’t put you , or anyone, on notice and I can’t “see” your “waiting for approval ” post in the moderator’s section of hte blog.

    If you have a copy, please send it to me at doubtisrational@gmail.com and I’ll see if I can post under my name — though I have tried that unsuccessfully with other posters.

    Sorry about this.

  • alwayspuzzled

    For thousands of years tribal warfare has been one of the most rational and most productive of human activities. Good to see that atheists are quick learners.

  • ctcss

    It happened last night around 9 PM EDT in response to this post. And sadly, I didn’t keep a copy because sometime a while back, I discovered that one my posts that had “disappeared” was still in my list of posts and would likely still be available to me to re-post or to re-purpose. Apparently that didn’t happen in this instance, and hasn’t for quite some time.

  • Linda LaScola

    thanks for getting back to me and so sorry this is happening. I will report (again) and Can only encourage you to keep commenting, but make a copy before posting. If it doesn’t work — send it to me via email and I will deal with it,

  • It would be like me walking into a church on Sunday morning to argue with the preacher. BAD manners.

    So Abraham and Moses can argue with God, God wants someone to argue his case before Israel (Ezek 22:29–31), but it’s wrong to argue with a preacher? Sounds like the preacher is putting himself above his master!

    As to blogs like this, surely you are aware that in-groups tend to be pretty bad at self-critique? Why wouldn’t you want people from outside who can help offset this social cognitive bias? They could learn from you and you could learn from them. If this does not interest, perhaps it would be helpful to make that clear in your syndicated blog posts.

  • Erm, I’ve come across plenty atheists who are similar. For example:

    C Peterson (profile): I’ve refused in the past to hire believers for scientific positions. Not legal, but I think both reasonable and ethical, and on a small enough scale that it would never be detected.

    I’ve not seen any peer-reviewed studies which show that religionists (or Christians in particular) are worse at this behavior than non-religionists. Have you?

  • XaurreauX

    To the privileged equality seems like persecution.

  • sTv0

    “JWs don’t receive ANY funding from any Government . Truly non profit unlike most if not all other religions on Earth ”

    Yeah, so you are, of course, familiar with the Simental case?

  • mason

    Christianity has always had two seminal pillars larger and more fundamental than the “Do unto others … ” nice stuff.
    1. Thou shalt not think or question rationally.
    2. Thou shalt not demand evidence.
    Such pillars of irrational faith makes believing really stupid and fascist ideas possible e.g. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:28 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a son against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter -in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household Matthew 10:34. – mythical Jesus character
    Realizing that those two pillars could not have possibly emanated from an intelligent deity, but were the creation of ancient manipulative religious men, people in the US by the millions are realizing the pillars are a scam.

  • Lee Donovan
  • Maura Hart

    makes as much sense as saying you have nothing against gays but why do they have to flaunt themselves in public displays of affection. but straight people can kiss, hug, hold hands practically anything in public. so what gives?

  • Maura Hart

    poor poor pitiful persecuted followers of zombie jeebus