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Started by Unbeliever, December 22, 2006, 11:57:20 am
QuoteThe Selective Service Act makes it unmistakably clear that no one is to be exempted from the draft as a c.o. unless he holds to a "belief in a relation to a Supreme Being."
QuoteROBERTS: We're out in the open tonight with a controversy that generated thousands of e-mails when we first touched on it: intolerance against people who don't believe there's a God. So, what's it like to be an atheist in America? Our Delia Gallagher looks at one family's disturbing experience.(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIKE RICE, ATHEIST: As an atheist, I'm the last minority that it's OK to really bash or put down. DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jean and Mike Rice are atheists who live in Colorado. JEAN RICE, ATHEIST: We're regularly told that we're going to hell, that we're sending our children to hell. GALLAGHER (on camera): These are people saying this to your face?J. RICE: Yes. (CROSSTALK) M. RICE: To our face. GALLAGHER: It seems like a nice place to live.M. RICE: Yes. Well, we have got a nice place to...GALLAGHER: Yes. M. RICE: ... to raise them. GALLAGHER (voice-over): Jean and Mike both grew up in Christian families, attended church and Bible school, and both say that, at an early age, they questioned the idea of a higher power. J. RICE: I was 9 or 10. And, one day, for the first time, I realized that everyone else believed all these stories. I just didn't realize what they meant, that -- that there's actually, supposedly, something out there. GALLAGHER: The price of coming out publicly as atheists can be high. In the last town they lived in, Jean Rice says, soon after confiding her atheism to a friend, her landlord told the family they would have to move. J. RICE: Within a few days of my telling her that -- that we are atheists, she -- I -- I started hearing from other people: Oh, are you atheists? And it -- it was quite shocking. And, within a few weeks, my landlord -- our landlord gave us notice. GALLAGHER: The Rices say they can't prove that religious discrimination was the reason they were asked to leave, but they found the timing suspicious. (on camera): How has this affected your kids? J. RICE: They have had to learn to keep their mouths shut. M. RICE: Our daughter had no one to play with for a long time. GALLAGHER (voice-over): The fear of becoming outcast keeps many atheists underground. And what little support they find is often online, where friends and neighbors can't see. Jean belongs to an online support group for atheist moms. (on camera): And why no curious Christians? J. RICE: We're hear to talk among ourselves. GALLAGHER (voice-over): In the U.S., the number of atheists is estimated between 1 and 3 percent of the overall population. That's at least three million people. A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that atheists are the least trusted minority group in the United States, and are less accepted than other marginalized groups, including Muslims and homosexuals. LORI LIPMAN BROWN, SECULAR COALITION FOR AMERICA: I get calls from all over the United States from people who have been harassed, ostracized, sometimes lost their jobs, because of discrimination against non-theistic Americans. RYAN ANDERSON, JUNIOR FELLOW, "FIRST THINGS": We feel, to a certain extent, that atheists are very much on the attack. GALLAGHER: Ryan Anderson, with the religious journal "First Things" says, atheists themselves contribute to the mistrust. ANDERSON: Part of the public persona and the public image of atheism is what's presented by the people suing, you know, to remove "In God we trust" from the coins or the God phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance. And, when that militant atheism becomes kind of like the public image of atheism, I think that gives rise to a lot of discontent with atheism.J. RICE: When they can talk about religion and preach on the street corner, but, if we try to do the equal time, if we try to go out there and say as much about that there is no God as they...M. RICE: I'm not the one doing the oppressing.J. RICE: ... want to say that there is a God...M. RICE: I'm the one being oppressed at that point. J. RICE: Exactly. GALLAGHER: Delia Gallagher, CNN, Colorado. (END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: Well, after we first brought this topic out in the open, most of the e-mails that we received were from people who thought that we should have included an atheist in our discussion. So, now we're going to turn to one of the world's most prominent atheists. Richard Dawkins is an Oxford University professor whose bestseller sparked worldwide controversy. "The God Delusion" argues that belief in God is not only irrational, but it can be deadly. Paula spoke with him just a couple of days ago. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD DAWKINS, AUTHOR, "THE GOD DELUSION": Why don't you believe in Thor? Why don't you believe in Zeus? Nobody believes in most of the things that you could believe in. You're an atheist with respect to the flying spaghetti monster. I am an atheist with respect to the Judeo-Christian God, because there is not a shred of evidence in favor or the Judeo-Christian God, or, indeed any other God. ZAHN: It strikes me that the atheist message is particularly threatening to some Christians because they believe, in some way, you're trying to compromise their ability to have this stuff out there on the public stage. Is there any public role, as far as you're concerned, for religion? DAWKINS: I think people should be free to believe whatever they like, to write whatever they like, to say whatever they like, within -- within reason. But the problem is that religious people, I think especially in America, and also in the Islamic world, are in the habit of getting it all their own way and are remarkably intolerant of atheists. ZAHN: But why do you think they are so remarkably intolerant of atheists?DAWKINS: Well, I think there's a sort of historic misunderstanding of what atheism is. For some reason, people have been brought up to believe that atheists have two horns and a tail. I mean, there are figures that show that atheists are the most mistrusted group in America, which is pretty astonishing, considering, as I say, the innocuousness of what they actually are. They are just people who hold a different belief system. ZAHN: Certainly, you have encountered people, though, who are intimidated by your message, that, in some way, it puts perhaps their own faith in doubt? DAWKINS: Well, why would anybody be intimidated by mere words? I mean, neither I, nor any other atheist that I know, ever threatens violence. We never threaten to fly planes into skyscrapers. We never threaten suicide bombs. We're very gentle people. All we do is use words to talk about things like the cosmos, the origin of the universe, evolution, the origin of life. What's there to be frightened of in just an opinion? ZAHN: Final question: How would you characterize the overarching public reaction to atheism? DAWKINS: Misunderstanding, and really missing an awful lot of what's valuable, because, if you're an atheist, you know, you believe this is the only life you're going to get. It's a precious life. It's a beautiful life. It's something that we should live to the full, to the end of our days, whereas, if you're religious, and you believe that there's another life, somehow, that means you don't live this life to the full, because you think you're going to get another one. That's an awfully negative way to live a life. Being an atheist frees you up to live this life properly, happily, and fully. ZAHN: Richard Dawkins, we really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you so much for joining us. DAWKINS: Thank you. (END VIDEOTAPE)ROBERTS: Some eye-opening opinions and allegations.Next, our panel weighs in on what can be done about religious intolerance and discrimination against atheists.And later on: a secret world revealed -- a onetime NBA player comes out of the closet. Just wait until you hear what he has to say. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Welcome back. We're talking about discrimination against atheists and how the fear of becoming outcasts keeps many atheists underground. Let's turn to our "Out in the Open" panel. Atheist Ellen Johnson is here with us, the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, and radio talk show host Rachel Maddow.So, let me turn to you, first of all, Ellen.Do atheists bring this on themselves by going to Supreme Court with campaigns like trying to take the words "under God" out of the pledge, trying to take the words "In God we trust" off of the currency?JOHNSON: By being good citizens.(CROSSTALK)ROBERTS: You're 1 to 3 percent of the population.(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: Why are you so noisy? JOHNSON: By trying to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I think that's being a good citizen. And I think that we should be applauded for it. However, most atheists are in the closet, unfortunately. You haven't seen that this is just the tip of the iceberg. And, when atheists start coming out more and more, then, we will see more problems.But what the problem really is and what it stems from is that religion is losing out in America, and the religious know it. There's empty pew syndrome. There's a lot of competition among religions. And there's just modern life. People are not going to church like they should. So, the churches have to go to where the people are. They're going -- the military is under siege. The prisons are under siege. The workplaces are under siege. And the public schools are under siege. And the religious are getting very angry, and they're fighting back. And, when they see an atheist who tries to uphold the Constitution and challenge them when they break the law, then there are all kinds of problems. And, mind you, they also go after religious people. In Pontotoc, Mississippi, when a Christian woman said that organized prayers in that school, the public school systems there, were wrong, and she challenged it, they went after her with a vengeance. ROBERTS: Right. JOHNSON: Bishop John Shelby Spong received 15 death threats because of his liberal views. So, it's not just atheists. ROBERTS: Well, let me go to Reverend Peterson.You're losing out? Is that -- is that...(CROSSTALK) PETERSON: No.(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: ... you're discriminating against these people? PETERSON: Atheists are hypocrites. What they're trying to do, too, is impose their godless lifestyle upon Americans, and especially upon Christians. This great country was built on the idea of God, family, and Constitution. And they want to change that. Now, if they want to be atheist, it's OK to do that, but just go and do it, and don't try to change America, remove God out of the lives of everybody. ROBERTS: Well... (CROSSTALK) PETERSON: And Christians are just fighting back.And, real fast, we saw the same thing with the radical homosexual movement. They decided to come out of the closet. And what they did was, they imposed their lifestyle upon Americans. Now they have redefined the family and all that.ROBERTS: She was with you for a second, and now you have...MADDOW: No. No. No. (CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: And now you have lost her.(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: Let just me read an...(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: Let me read an e-mail that we got here. This is obviously from an atheist, who talks about this idea of -- of who has rights to do that. He writes -- quote -- "You ask atheists not to impose on your rights to have prayer in school and to have God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Atheists ask you not to impose on their rights to have prayer taken out of school and to have God taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance. On what basis do you assume that your rights should be taken as precedence over an atheist's?" Well, obviously, Christians are in the overwhelming majority...PETERSON: That's right. ROBERTS: ... when it comes to Christians vs. atheists.But does the Constitution, Rachel, not only give you freedom of religious, but freedom from religion? MADDOW: The Constitution gives you freedom from religion and creates a government that is explicitly nonreligious. So, we could say it's...ROBERTS: So, there should be equal rights, yes?MADDOW: Yes. No. Well, you -- I mean, you can say that America is a Christian nation, in the sense that America is...PETERSON: It is.MADDOW: ... a Christian majority nation. You're right.But we have a secular government. And the way we protect religion in this country, and the way we have become such a religious country is by protecting religion, by keeping it utterly separate from the public sphere and from government. And, so, there's...(CROSSTALK) PETERSON: But that's not -- that's not the American way, though.MADDOW: Yes, it is.(CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Let me just finish my thought, Reverend.PETERSON: We have Christianity in the public schools first...(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: We're running out of time, so make it quick.MADDOW: There's not equality among religions under the American government.PETERSON: That's not true.MADDOW: There is freedom from religion. Freedom from religion is what we have.ROBERTS: OK. Let me ask this question. There is a common perception among Christians, or at least a common case that Christians sometimes make, that atheists, because they do not believe in God, are morally compromised. Are you morally compromised? JOHNSON: No. That's just bigotry. They know who atheists are. I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Dawkins, Professor Dawkins. The theists know very well who -- what -- who we are, and they're not misunder-interpreting us or misunderstanding us. You know, that's just bigotry. And, in order to make religious feel -- religious people feel better, they have to say lies about...PETERSON: Then, where do you get your morals from? Christians get their morals from God, from the -- from the Bible, from God. Where do you get yours from? JOHNSON: It's not about where we get our ethics from. PETERSON: Where do you get them from? It's a question. JOHNSON: That's not the...PETERSON: Answer the question. Where do you get them from? JOHNSON: But the idea that we don't have ethics is not -- no one sees that. We're not the ones that are, you know, abusing children. Professionally religious people aren't any more ethic -- ethical...PETERSON: Are you saying Christians are abusing children? ROBERTS: I have got to call a timeout here, folks. We're not done yet, because there's a lot more to talk about. Wait until you see the case that we have got coming up.
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