The Godless Children Are Coming

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America has always been pretty religious, but every now and then it seems that a more strident than average religiosity arises among us. The history is complicated and I don’t want to give a different impression, but one can see periods when religiously motivated, seemingly always Christian, movements arise and affect policy and culture, then decline. One such rise was the mid 19th century through early 20th century efforts to make certain “sinful” behavior, such as drinking, illegal. Temperance organizations (and individuals) introduced anti-drinking ordinances and laws at seemingly every session of every political body for decades, initially being rebuffed but over time having success.


By the time Prohibition was introduced at the national level in 1920, there were already numerous cities, towns, counties, and states that had banned alcohol. Interestingly the lifting of Prohibition in 1933 did not abrogate those more local laws, that had to be done separately. Today, in New England, there are many areas where one or a few towns still ban the sale of alcohol. You can identify these communities by the cluster of “package stores” just over the border in an adjoining non-temperance town. (Or at least, that is how it was when I lived there…perhaps everyone has come to their senses since then.) Just as Prohibition was introduced nationally, partly because of it I would assume, the culture of the nation started to shift in the other direction. By the time World War II was over, we were more secular, and the Religious Right (as we call it today) had to start over again, gaining modest advances in the 1950s.

The last few decades have seen yet another rise of religious power, associated with movements variously known as fundamentalist or evangelical (though neither of these terms accurately maps onto the religious and political right). Christian extremists got their own political party by taking over the relatively secular Republican Party, and it has become increasingly “normal” for politicians and other leaders to make references to “Christian values,” to have prayer of some kind at public functions, etc. A majority of Americans think that religious dogma should be offered as an alternative to science in public school classrooms. Recently, it has not been too difficult for several states to use supposed Christian principles as the impetus for enacting human-rights violating laws especially with respect to same sex marriage. And so on.

Against this background we saw an interesting phenomenon in Minnesota. Unable to actually pass a law (any law, pretty much) the Republican/Tea Party controlled state legislature put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, along side another amendment to restrict voting rights of people who were less likely to be Republicans (in their view). There was a big fight. Both amendments were defeated by a strong majority, despite the fact that when they were first introduced, both had strong public support. What happened was this: Well organized efforts were implemented to explain to people why these amendments were wrong, and enough people understood that to vote against them.

Written By: Greg Laden
continue to source article at scienceblogs.com

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    • In reply to #1 by Katy Cordeth:

      I like the evil, Godless children in Village of the Damned, The Exorcist, Pet Sematary and My Super sweet 16…

      I also like the evil, super-religious kids from Children of the Corn, The Omen and Islam…

      But which is better? There’s only one way to find out…..

      Good old Harry Hill… :-)

  1. If you want to promote your religion there are basically two strategies:

    1. theocracy (winner take all)
    2. separation of church and state (Others cannot impose their religion on you and in return you cannot impose your religion on them).

    If you are the biggest religion, theocracy looks best. There are two catches.

    1. Things might change and then others can even outlaw your religion and force you to accept some other.
    2. The other catch is the strife gets so vigorous it leads to murder and war. That is why the founding fathers decided separation of church and state was the best approach to a religious plurality like the USA to ensure religious peace.

    Consider the advantage of separation of church and state in the future. The Mormons and Muslims are growing considerably faster than anyone else. What happens if they grow to become the majority? What happens to you without the protection of separation of church and state. They will give their religion special privilege. They will insist on their religions being honoured on state occasions. They will insist their religious myths being taught as science in schools.

  2. I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

    I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth. However, the foundation of the laws in any nation will naturally spring from the cultural backdrop of that nation and its people.

    I often think that people in the West get carried away with the concept of the power of democracy – thinking that what people want is all that matters. (Controversial, I know!) However, people, left to their own devices, seem selfish and irresponsible – that’s why society has to be governed. The hope is that we be governed by people who are responsible and wise in their decision-making, but we all know that’s not always the case. I’m not advocating control over people, I’m simply pointing out that we can’t escape it. Somebody controls us, all the time, somehow.

    We are extremely fortunate to live in nations that have democracy as the political set up. Consider those countries who do not have democracy, or those in the past century that have now fallen – Russia, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Romania, etc. What about North Korea, and others we could name? They have laws but they are governed by vile, oppressive, self-preserving despots. It is a crime in these places to say (even think) anything contrary to the government. (They are atheists, by the way, so to keep banging on about religious oppression from Christians is absurd!)

    The fact that past laws have been introduced by leaders with a Christian influence is NOT a bad thing, actually – and while there have been curbs on behaviour through these, there has not been the restrictions of freedom as seen in this other countries I’ve mentioned.

    I know you hate God and see anything he says as an infringement of personal liberty, however, just think what unbounded personal liberty would mean for society – any society. You can hate God all you like as an individual, but start encouraging godlessness and rebellion in society and you’ll have to face the consequences.

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

      We are extremely fortunate to live in nations that have democracy as the political set up. Consider those countries who do not have democracy, or those in the past century that have now fallen – Russia, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Romania, etc. What about North Korea, and others we could name? They have laws but they are governed by vile, oppressive, self-preserving despots. It is a crime in these places to say (even think) anything contrary to the government.

      There is a remarkable thing I’ve noticed about democracy in the last 50 years or so. It has become universally accepted as a good thing. Nearly every country has an election of some kind. Often rigged, gerrymandered, overruled, controlled etc. But nearly everybody at least pretends to have elections.

      Now we just have to get them all to really have elections.

      Michael

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

      I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth. However, the foundation…

      Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), established the human basis of society and law. He more or less left God out of the picture. He understood that states and society arise out of the need for stability and order to guarantee a decent life for all. As my lecturer half a century ago pointed out, he was far more interested in “imported wines and tobacco” than in moral virtue. Without civil and political order, life becomes “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” an epithet we later applied to the Professor of Philosophy in my university. The theme was developed by Locke and Hume, who was definitely an atheist, and one way or another, it formed the basis of British political life and the later American war of independence.

      To live in a decent society and state, we do not need Himself; we are quite able and competent to work out our own arrangements ourselves. You might notice that the nations with the best social organisation tend to be the ones with the fewest God botherers and the fewest conviction politicians. As I have said before, Belief in one form or another is the problem, not the solution.

      Moral and political law should be derived from social need, not from thumping various holy books, which ultimately are bronze-age histories and civil law codes, developed at a time less knowledgeable, less materially successful, crueller, more disorganised and more superstitious than our own.

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      Just a couple of minor errors in your post Lonevoice.

      N Korea is not an Atheist country. Kim Il Sung has been deified and subsequent members of his family are the President for Eternity’s representative on Earth while he rules from heaven. N Korea is a theocracy in all but name, exactly what the Christofascists and Mahomofascists want to impose on the rest of the world.

      Secondly, we atheists do not hate god. It is not possible to hate something which does not exist. What we dislike, sometimes to the point of hatred, is the vile attempts by Some theists to impose their beliefs on us by any means available, not excluding murder and torture on occasion.

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      However, people, left to their own devices, seem selfish and irresponsible – that’s why society has to be governed. The hope is that we be governed by people who are responsible and wise in their decision-making, but we all know that’s not always the case. I’m not advocating control over people, I’m simply pointing out that we can’t escape it. Somebody controls us, all the time, somehow.

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      people might need to be goverened. I don’t believe its the norm that they become selfish and irrisponsible, but a small minority who do will have seem far more significant in the minds of a species that’s evolved to fear outsiders. those in fear demand protection, those peddling fear decide what protection the people will demand.

      any way you look at it, until a supercomputer has been built to do the governing, you’re stuck being protected by the same species you’re scared of. Democracy is the best you can hope for

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

      I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth. However, the foundation…

      There is so much naïveté in your assertions that it’s difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the notion that atheists hate god. Atheists have no more emotions attached to god than they would to Zeus. Do you hate Zeus? Do you hate Santa Claus? I think not. Lets project this idea further…would you kill someone in the name of Santa? Does Santa think witches should be burned at the stake? It’s those actions that we deplore, coupled with the fact that people are prepared to carry out these measures in the name of a fictional entity. How could you read the comments on this site without realising that this is the thinking behind the comments of the contributors?

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

      I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth. However, the foundation…

      The second theme of your comment that really bothers me, is your selection of countries as examples of “evil atheists”. These countries are not like ours in the most part. You should have made your selection from liberal democracies. By way of example, countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These are liberal democracies that enjoy a high standard of living, an egalitarian ethos, low crime rates and are extremely generous in their charitable donations. These are the “poster countries” of secular success! Needless to say, they have a very low rate of religious affiliation.

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      We are extremely fortunate to live in nations that have democracy as the political set up. Consider those countries who do not have democracy, or those in the past century that have now fallen – Russia, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Romania, etc. What about North Korea, and others we could name? They have laws but they are governed by vile, oppressive, self-preserving despots.

      So what you are saying is that living under a democracy would be better than a dictatorship, like god? or allah? or the catholicism? or (congress-forbid) the watchtower?

      That is the knee-jerk reaction over and done with, We understand that there are some very honourable theists out there, I would much rather have the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu at the head of our government than the selfish idiots we presently have. BUT you need to understand that most theist are just as selfish, and it is far easier for a fundamental nut-job to pass themselves off as ordinary theists, than a politician.

    • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

      I’m not overly in agreement with this article, but this is a debating forum, after all.

      I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth. However, the foundation…

      Have to agree with Tyco on this one. If history proves anything at all, it proves that your premise is false. All tribes (and I use that word in the very loosest sense) devolve or evolve into some sort of civil society. Anarchy is exactly not the default position.

      I know you hate God and see anything he says as an infringement of personal liberty,

      If I thought for a minute there really was a god, particularly the Christian god, then I surely woud be justified in hating him for his savagery, cruelty, mysogeny and lack of sense of justice. Fortunately, that particular supersition is not in my play book.

  3. In reply to Lonevoice @ 4

    I would hope we would all agree that, without the restraint of laws governing behaviour, human beings descend into anarchy and you end up with what might feel like a living hell on earth.

    Well, I’d have to disagree. The default position for humans has always been social order. Anarchy is a transient effect resulting from disruptions to order – war, famine, pestilence, etc. Order is innate. The main difference between democracy or dictatorship is that the laws will tend to favour more people in a democracy, because more people have a say – in a dictatorship fewer (benevolent dictators notwithstanding). The problem religion brings is that its laws are arbitrary – ‘help the poor’ and ‘kill disobedient children’ are morally equivalent. Religion is a dictatorship – there’s no negotiation.

  4. In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

    Re: Czech Republic, Wikipedia says this:
    “In addition, the country has the highest human development in Central and Eastern Europe,[13] ranking as a “Very High Human Development” nation. It is also ranked as the third most peaceful country in Europe and most democratic and healthy (by infant mortality) country in the region. It is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.”

    And yes, Czech Republic is one of the least religious countries in the world.

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