Friday, February 9, 2007

Debbie Schlussel is a victim of hate

Debbie Schlussel, one of the panelists on Paula Zahn NOW's Out In The Open segment I recently blogged about, has also recently blogged about her experience post-panel. She says that she is the victim of much hate mail from atheists. While I cannot speak to the wisdom of my fellow atheist's words, I would hope that she would put up some samples of the e-mails sent to her, both the vitriolic and articulate ones. Merely saying one is receiving hate mail from atheists is not sufficient evidence that all atheists are hate-mongers. Many of us actually embrace the rational thought process that led us to atheism in the first place, and wish only to have our side heard by theirs. At least we could try to raise her consciousness to understand why we are atheists.

At any rate, here is my e-mail to Ms. Schlussel:

Greetings, Debbie,

I watched with great interest your appearance on Paula Zahn NOW's "Out In The Open" segment of 1/31/07, and wish to discuss it with you. In watching the segment, I have a few questions for you:

1) You say that atheists exhibit discrimination towards religious people in America, but how do we do this? It seems that atheists need to have some amount of power (political or otherwise) in order to discriminate against anyone, and the religious very definitely outnumber the atheists. Perhaps you are referring to the attacks on religion in general by atheists in recent years. And yet, these are attacks on religion, and not religious people. The two are not the same, since religious people belong to a specific religion, and these attacks are on religion in general. I have read many articles decrying the Muslim riots of the past year over depictions of the prophet Muhammed, just as I have read articles debunking the claims of "Intelligent Design" in America. Your specific case of some school in California where students are forced to dress as Muslims I can find no evidence of occurring. If you send me a link to an article describing it, I'm sure I and other atheists will join you in denouncing it. Similarly with Fordson High School (I again can't find any news pieces on Muslim prayers at sporting events; please reference this); I feel that no publicly funded high school should incorporate any religion into it's funded activities such as athletics.

2) You claim 'we are a Christian nation'. Yet, how can you claim this when there is an extensive body of law surrounding the secular nature of our institutions? The Treaty of Tripoli, for example, clearly states the secular nature of the government:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Everson v. Board of Education states:
"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State."
(If you wish to read the full decision, here's the link)
There are many cases also restricting the teaching of religion (specifically, Biblical Creationism) in public schools based on the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment. So, how can you claim this as a "Christian nation"?

3) You say that Michael Newdow's child "[doesn't] know what's going on," and yet you are perfectly fine with such a child (of any denomination) speaking words they don't truly understand, but have such a deep meaning to them. If a child were to start spouting racial epithets because they had heard them and did not understand their meaning, sensibilities would be mortified. Yet if a child speaks the pledge of allegiance (or, perhaps, proclaim the Mystery of Faith) because their teacher tells them they must, our pride swells in what well-behaved and patriotic children we have. Yet, they have no concept of the pledge's meaning, they are merely reciting words too large or arcane for their minds to understand. These words are lodged deep in our minds. Most people can recite the pledge from memory, yet have difficulty remembering their license plate number or their home phone number simply because it is drummed into us. And with that mental conditioning comes the words "under God," a sad (and very late) addition to what should be a solemn pledge of patriotism. After all this, I suppose my question would be:
Do you approve of conditioning children before they are able to understand the world around them to be a specific way?

4) You speak of how Europe is being 'Islamified' due to lack of a strong Church, while demographics show that only 6% of Europeans are Muslim, and that the European Muslim population accounts for a skosh less than 3% of the world's Muslims. This must be something completely remarkable, since Karen Hunter's (apparently out-of-the-blue) statistics indicated about 8-10% atheists in America, and yet there is no such 'Atheistification' of America. Could you explain to me how 6% of a population can '-ify' another populace? Will the unemployed in this country (an admittedly paltry 4.5%) 'unemployify the country'? If not, what is the breaking point at which a group with[sic] '-ify'? Is it 5%? 5.5%?

I hope you will respond quickly, as I am eager to more understand your thoughts in this matter. Thank you for your time.


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