Free Markets, Free People

Atheists whine about not being included in religious event

I get tired of this sort of nonsense:

Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheistic Washington, D.C. residents will have no representation at Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray’s first official inaugural event—an ecumenical prayer service entitled “One City … Praying Together” at 8 a.m. Sunday, January 2, 2011.

“We would prefer that a government function such as an inauguration not be entwined with religion,” said Amanda Knief, a Humanist Celebrant and government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). “However, we find it overtly discriminatory when we request to be part of an ecumenical prayer service that is supposed to unite the entire city and are told there is no place for nontheists.”

How can a prayer service unite an entire city if atheists don’t believe in prayer or a deity?  Obviously, the word “prayer” is key to the phrase as it refers to those who both believe in prayer and a deity. Just as obviously, the prayer service is aimed a those in the city who do.  And why would an atheist want to go to a prayer service in the first place?

Oh, I know – “inclusion”.

Well, in reality,  they wouldn’t want to attend – “inclusion” is a false flag.  And they’re not “left out” of anything – atheism is their choice.  With that choice comes consequences – like not being invited to attend prayer meetings.

Instead this is really about banishing such services altogether.  And their assumed leverage here is it is a government event – a city government holding an “ecumenical” service, i.e. not touting a single religion and in perfect conformance with the 1st Amendment (which, btw, doesn’t apply below federal level, but I thought I’d point it out anyway).  But it isn’t “inclusive”.

Love the line, “we would prefer that a government function such a an inauguration not be entwined with religion.”

Cool.  Go out and win an election and then you can run the inauguration any way you wish.   That’s the basic message here.  Freedom is choice – and you can choose to not have such an inauguration if you win.  But if you won’t make the attempt or lose, tough nuts – the winner gets to “choose”, note the word,  how he or she will run the inauguration within the confines of the law.

A prayer meeting isn’t about anything in particular which will effect an atheist that I know of.  It’s a meeting of like minded people to ask for help and guidance of their deity of choice.   How that is “overtly discriminatory” against those who don’t believe in prayer or a deity is beyond me.

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A Humanist Celebrant is the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson. He or she may receive national certification from several organizations, including The Humanist Society, the American Ethical Union, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism; and may conduct marriages, civil unions, memorial services, funerals, and other life ceremonies.

So they were supposed to invite a “nonreligious equivalent” of a “clergyperson” to a religious event?  What is a “nonreligious equivalent” to a clergyperson?   There is no equivalency in terms of belief.  The fact that the Humanist Celebrant can conduct marriages, civil unions, (so can a justice of the peace) etc.  doesn’t make them equivalent where it counts (and no one would argue a JP is the “equivalent” of a priest).

Look whether you believe in a deity or not, this is just nonsense on a stick.  Religion is a personal choice.  And nothing that I know of precludes government officials from conducting “ecumenical” prayer meetings if it is their desire. 

My guess is had the atheists – or Humanist Celebrant – shown up at the meeting he or she would have been graciously included.   Then what?

This is just more whining by the militant atheists of the country.  If you don’t want to participate in religion, don’t.  Don’t demand your “equivalency” be accepted by the religious or that they must include you in something, that in reality, you have no real desire to be included in at all.  The religious are not welcome in your camp and it shouldn’t surprise or upset you that you’re not particularly welcome in theirs. 

Such is life.  Grow up, drop the false “inclusion” argument and quit whining, for goodness sake.



26 Responses to Atheists whine about not being included in religious event

  • The complainers here would only have a point if this prayer meeting were somehow used to conduct government business and they were excluded, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    However, I’m not sure about your claim that the first amendment doesn’t apply below the federal level. Since D.C. is a federal territory, I would think that a discussion of what applies below federal level isn’t really apt. The D.C. city government can no more restrict a person’s constitutional rights than can Congress. Am I misreading you here?

    • You may be right – but they conform to the intent of the amendment regardless.

    • Go read the First Amendment.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  How is a mayor-elect’s prayer service Congress establishing or prohibiting religion?
      Choices have consequences.  I just heard a story of a lady who decided she was male, had her breast removed, and began hormone therapy.  She also had her drivers license changed to “M”.  When she/he was arrested for drugs, now-he had to give a urine specimen in view of a male prison guard, because the license said “M” despite the fact that there was no male anatomy.  Surely that was embarrassing but that’s the consequence of choice.  She/he made choices and now has to live with them.  If you choose to be atheist, don’t get upset if the theist don’t wont you urinating on their beliefs.

      • Working from memory here…but…
        I think you’ll find that the 14th is held to have pushed the Bill Of Rights down to the states.
        Could be mistaken…

      • I have read the 1st Amendment, along with all the others. I haven’t seen the documents, but I’m relatively certain that the power granted to the city government in D.C. by Congress (which has ultimate authority over D.C. as federal territory) would be limited by the powers that Congress has.

        I never said that the prayer service was “establishing religion” or that it violated the first amendment. I merely pointed out that the federal constitution not only restricts Congress, but also the states, municipal governments, and territorial governments.

        • And mayor-elects?  At what point do individuals have the freedom of religion to practice?  Is  a trash collector working for the county free to paste Bible verses in his locker at work or is this “establishing” religion.  School children have been suspended because they took a Bible to school. How does a student fit into the 14th Amendment?  If I work for the State of Texas, which I did, could I hold a Bible study with friends during my lunch time in the cafeteria?  How do these actions violate the 14th and thus the 1st?  My Bible study clearly isn’t going to affect anyones freedom of/from religion.

          • On rereading my post, I thought: that sounds aggressive/rude and I think I may have missed to clearly express my point clearly: an individual’s freedom to not follow my religion (whatever that might be) does NOT negate my freedom to practice my religion.  The 1st Amendment has been twisted to the point where religion is non gratis and even forbidden from public view.  That was not the intent or purpose.

          • Yeah, Justin, as a lawyer I can tell you we get some screwy results on even the most fundamental questions.
            Most of them come from people with a very strong authoritarian bent, and a lot of others come from people with a clear agenda.
            There has been considerable “warpage” in our understanding of the 1st…the whole “wall of separation” deal was made up out of whole cloth.  If you want a great visual example, go to Richmond, VA (a wonderfully beautiful place).  The VA Supreme Court and (I think) a very old Methodist Church share a common wall, back-to-back.
            I thought it was cool…

  • I second ano333’s question.

    <i>However, I’m not sure about your claim that the first amendment doesn’t apply below the federal level. Since D.C. is a federal territory, I would think that a discussion of what applies below federal level isn’t really apt. The D.C. city government can no more restrict a person’s constitutional rights than can Congress. Am I misreading you here?</i>

    So then a state can make a law that restricts what kind of books a person could buy at a store and it would pass 1st Ammendment muster? I don’t think so.

    Or are you saying, like Bork did, that the 1st Ammendment only protects political speech, and not all speech?

    On the rest of the post I agree with you. I’m not a fan of organised religion and I see nothing here stating this gov’t is doing business with only stated groups and excluding the non-religious from particpating. It is an apparent dichotomy when a non-religious group demands to be included in a religious gathering and you point that out quite well sir:

    <i>If you don’t want to participate in religion, don’t.  Don’t demand your “equivalency” be accepted by the religious or that they must include you in something, that in reality, you have no real desire to be included in at all.  The religious are not welcome in your camp and it shouldn’t surprise or upset you that you’re not particularly welcome in theirs. </i>

    Freedom of association, anyone?

  • “A Humanist Celebrant is the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson.”
    The mind boggles – let’s run a scenario – a convocation of ‘humanists” with an opening word from the ‘Celebrant’.
    “Ah, so glad you can all be here.  Before we open the meeting I’d like to give thanks to….uh….we’re thankful to….uh….shoot, well…. I guess we can thank cosmic chaos for mixing together precisely the right ingredients that lead to creation and evolution of our lives, which are essentially as pointless and meaningless as your average piece of basalt.     We’re born, we screw, we create other people living equally pointless lives behind us, and when we’re done, we’ll be burned, buried or eaten.  One way or another all that there is of us will go back to the elements and if we are all wiped out tomorrow by a bomb or a plague it will have the same meaning to the universe as two random pieces of rock colliding in space and turning to dust.  We’ll have learned nothing and in a cosmic sense, proved that the miracle of life is really as useless as tits on a bull.
    We should be grateful to ourselves for adopting and maintaining the moral code those superstitious deity believing whack jobs have created which enables us to gather in this room without just randomly killing and raping each other simply  because we can.  We only answer to ourselves so I guess we can be grateful and thankful that some collection of people who think there IS a deity have bothered to think and write the meaning of life, and lay out a framework of civilization for us to build our humanist utopia on.  Maybe we should be thanking them, but probably not, they’re ignorant, and benighted in their belief in some higher power and any sensible person knows it’s all just random chance and cosmic coincidence that has placed us here  living our lives essentially with the same purpose as a relatively benevolent cockroach that cares for it’s young enough not to just eat them out of hand.
    We have no real purpose, there is no plan, there is no reason  and life, when you think about it, is really pretty  futile.
    Uh…. power to the people.

  • Bitch and moan…regardless.
    If they had been invited, they would take high umbrage.
    Since they were not, they take high umbrage.
    It is really all about making noise and getting some ink.  And feeding their victim identity.

  • Including non-prayers in a prayer event makes as much sense as including cloggers in a performance of Swan Lake.

    • “cloggers in a performance of Swan Lake.”

      OMG! Oh my random chance!
      I can see that as a Monty Python sketch right now. They’d probably be inclined to use Morris dancers, but I think cloggers would be way funnier.

  • When I start reading things like “humanist celebrant”, the words “Golgofrincham Ark B” spring to mind….

    • My amendment to the Hitchhiker’s guide concerning the Golgofrincham Ark B ship.   I’m hoping the happy folks at Megadodo Publications will accept the update.
      “Humanist celebrants were quartered in areas of the Ark B ship nearest to the outer hull specifically to ensure they would almost certainly be wiped out during the planned crash on Earth since amongst all those useless members of Golgofricham society loaded on Ark B, they were determined to be the most essentially useless of them all.”

  • Just how then, will the masses know the truth if they are not told?  Atheists are simply fulfilling their holy mission by carrying their message, the “bad news” as it were, to all the earth.

    They’re just exercising their first amendment rights and promoting their religion.

  • Apparently some people don’t know the difference between an atheist and a Humanist, nor do they recognize that all humans (believers and non-believers alike) have certain psycho-social needs that are met by congregating together with like-minded people as well as with the larger community.   A Humanist Celebrant is not at all like a J.P., merely performing a legal service.  They can also offer homilies and meditations, give public addresses of encouragement and inspiration, and so forth.  It would have been quite appropriate to have a Humanist Celebrant at an event designed to “unite the city”.    Since the city government is supposed to represent/serve ALL the citizens, the inaugural should similarly include representation from all corners.   Those who wish to invoke their deity of choice can do so; others can just as readily and appropriately invoke those human values we all share in common — honesty, decency, altruism, charity, etc.   How could this be  inappropriate?

    • I can invoke “homilies and meditations, give public addresses of encouragement and so forth”, but it doesn’t make me a priest or an equivalent. There’s a single requirement for equivalency and none of those things achieve it.

      • Nonsense.    Clergy and their equivalents have all sorts of requirements … or none at all.   But that’s all beside the point, which is that an official government function should not favor one religion over another NOR favor religion over non-religion.  But since a governmental office (via the mayoral inaugural)  IS calling for an ecumenical gathering, it is appropriate a Humanist Celebrant be included, especially since they had requested permission to attend and participate.  The fact they were turned down does not mean Humanist Celebrants aren’t equal; it means the mayor’s office needs to be better educated in the matter.

        • “But that’s all beside the point, which is that an official government function should not favor one religion over another NOR favor religion over non-religion. ”
          “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

          • Agreed.  It is logically inconsistant to say you value the freedom of religion but then deny the practice.  According to Raytheist’s logic, any time there is a Democratic convention, a Republican, Libertarian, and Communist must be invited to come speak as well so that Free Speach may be practiced.  Of course, they must do the same.  Freedom of choice and freedom of practice are both required.  Denying someone’s practice of religion is equivalent to forcing a particular religion upon them.  If the mayor required the “atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheistic … residents” to attend, it is no different than them saying the mayor may not have is service unless it meets their criteria.

        • And furthermore, “ecumenical”, despite it’s actual root, has always been accepted to mean ‘those of faith in a higher power, but not identically the same faith”, not “every body who can breath”.
          In fact it’s generally been accepted to mean CHRISTIAN until recently.    Words have meanings, despite modern attempts to make them mean whatever we want them to mean for convenience.

    • “ecumenical prayer service entitled “One City … Praying Together””
      What is it the humanist celebrant would be praying to? This is declared to be a gathering of people of ‘faith’ meaning faith in a higher power greater than man, not faith that the sun will rise in the east again tomorrow.  A non-believer should recognize the rights of others to fulfill their psycho-social need to congregate, and recognize that the concept of a deity is just a valid as the concepts of honesty, decency, altruism, charity.  That they should allow those who DO have faith in a deity to gather unmolested and unprotested by those who do not share that concept.
      A true humanist would encourage them to gather since they are ‘being human’ and have harmed him not a whit by not asking him to come and represent his NON-FAITH in a deity to a collection of people of faith in a deity.  A humanist would have RESPECTED their being human and their need to gather and pray to their higher power, instead of whining about how it discriminates against them.