Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Neutrality does not mean the atheists win

A Muslim, a Christian and an atheist went into a community center...No, this isn’t the start of a joke, but of a real conversation that took place not long ago. I’ll be playing the part of the atheist.

A Muslim friend of mine mentioned that, until recently, board meetings at her work in a public facility had begun with a Christian prayer. However, people had complained and the board had agreed to stop the practice. A Christian friend had listened to this and agreed that it made sense not to have explicitly Christian prayers. She could understand how such a practice would be alienating to non-Christians like our mutual Muslim friend. However, she pointed out, you can’t have no prayers at all because “then the atheists would win.”

Really? If no religion is favored, that’s a win for atheism? It’s not as if the board meetings would start with someone saying, ‘Before we begin, I’d like us all to take a moment to acknowledge that there are no gods.’ 

My Christian friend’s attitude pervades our culture. When the U.S. Army recently ruled that their weaponry could no longer bear references to bible verses, this was taken as an attack on Christianity. Never mind that these inscribed weapons were being used in Muslim countries. Not exactly a good PR move.

By the same token, Christian groups often oppose efforts to prevent school bullying or to promote understanding and acceptance. Any attempt to curb their ability to proselytize or force others to accept their viewpoint is seen as persecution. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went so far as to claim that “anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students.”

You know you hold a privileged position in society when you think that not being allowed to bully others is a form of discrimination.

The reality is that it isn’t just the atheists who win when no religion is promoted. We all do. When no specific religion is mentioned, each person is free to think about their own particular religion and no one feels excluded. 

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