Don't hate me because I'm an atheist

Wednesday’s blog created a bit of stir and I’d like to revisit that today.  I did not wake up Wednesday morning with the intention of doing any kind of religious thing, it just worked out that way.

I certainly didn’t realize the threat that atheism poses to our very existence.

It started out with this thing called the Blogapalooz-Hour, which usually occurs on the last Wednesday of the month.  Ironically, September’s Blogapalooz-Hour was supposed to happen on September 24, which was also the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

In deference to the holiday, ChicagoNow’s editor moved the Blogapalooz-Hour back a week to October 1.  Isn’t it funny how a Jewish holiday somehow instigated a blog on atheism?

Anyway, here’s how it works:  At 9:00 PM on the last Wednesday of the month our editor sends us an email with a topic, about which we have one hour to write a blog, if we so choose.  This particular topic was, “Write about something in your life you’ve given up but that you wish you still did“.

Along with the topic comes an admonishment to respect the deadline.  Your blog is to be published at exactly 10:00 PM.  You should try it sometime, it’s a kick.  Have someone you know give you a topic you don’t and see if you can patch together 500 words on that topic in one hour.

I gave up something important that evening to stay home and wait for the challenge, so I was determined to Blogapalooz.  Since I just turned that made-up word into a verb, I’m not sure if it needed to be capitalized, but who’s to say if it is or isn’t?

For me, the best way to meet that challenge is to just start writing.  Get the fingers moving and see what happens.  I’m often as surprised as the next person when I see the results.  In Wednesday’s blog, I may have mentioned that I don’t share my fellow Americans’ belief in God. In truth, I don’t share a lot of my fellow Americans’ beliefs, but that’s another story.

The 1st Amendment neither condones nor makes accommodations for atheism.  The actual text reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

As recently as 1970, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas opined “[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”  In other words, our founders presupposed that everyone believes in God and practices some religion, presumably a denomination of Christianity.

It is the opinion of Chief Justice Morrison Waite who said, in 1878,  “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief”, which seems to be the most eloquent underpinning of the idea that one need not practice any religion or even believe in a “Supreme Being.”

It’s nice to know, however that we are free to hold opinions and beliefs.  There are places where the wrong opinion or belief can get you killed.

The fact that there are those among us who have no interest or belief in celestial beings, supreme or otherwise seems to be an even greater threat to the fabric of our culture than a couple down the block named Siegfried and Roy.

Imagine the plummeting property values if a gay couple of atheists moved into your neighborhood.  And they’re black.

For the most part, atheism in America is a quiet subculture.  There’s no atheist medallion you can wear on a gold chain and it rarely comes up, assuming one doesn’t attend Bible study.

The most famous American atheist was Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded the group, American Atheists in 1963.  She was an outspoken defender of the separation of church and was instrumental in the Supreme Court banning bible-reading in public schools.

In 1964, Life magazine referred to O’Hair as “the most hated woman in America.”

One of today’s notable atheists is Ron Reagan, son of Republican under-god, Ronald Reagan, our 40th president.  Reagan is not as outspoken an atheist as was O’Hair, but he is a member of the Freedom From Religion foundation and often speaks in the interest of the separation of church and state.

Reagan has become persona non grata among the erstwhile followers of his dad.

Contrary to what many block-headed people think, atheism is not a religion.  It is not even an anit-religion.  It’s just an opinion or belief.  Or lack thereof.

Most atheists don’t belong to atheist organizations for the same reason they shun organized religion.  They don’t feel the need to join a group just because they happen to share one specific idea with that group.

Atheists tend not to be obsessed with their atheism, nor are they obsessively opposed to the practice of religion.  I happen to be fasting today because it is customary for my people to fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

If I were strictly observant, I wouldn’t be working at my typewriter.  I like to call it a typewriter, it makes me feel more like a reporter.

Like it says in the 1st Amendment, we’re free to choose our observances, practices and rituals.  Excluding things like human sacrifice, of course.  Or Sati, where Hindu widows throw themselves atop their dead husband’s funeral pyres.

I guess you would consider me a plan-clothes atheist.  When someone sneezes, I say, “God bless you.”  If I get pissed off and don’t feel like dropping an F-bomb, I say, “God damn it.”

When I refer to “God,” I capitalize it, just as I would Thor, Superman or Wonder Woman.

I like the idea of people being kind to one another simply because it’s the right thing to do.  I know it’s myopic, but it would say so much more of mankind than their being “God-fearing.”  If the fear of eternity in Hell is keeping you in line, you might as well cut loose.

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