The Nuts & Bolts Of My Atheism

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I’m an atheist. Did you know that? Does it matter? I have some links on my sidebar, but that’s as much promotion as I’ve ever done.

Let’s get this straight up front, I would never try to convince anyone that atheism is right, because I don’t have any proof that it is. I do not proselytize. I won’t talk you out of religion, call it stupid or laugh at it. I’ve stood up for Muslims in several posts about terrorism. I respect your views, whatever they are. I don’t talk about atheism, because there’s not much point. I don’t want to start an argument. I don’t want to offend anyone. I would rather discuss our similarities than our differences. Everyone has their own beliefs and that’s cool.

I am talking about it today because I read Rarasaur’s post Testimony Of A Theist. In it, she wrote a list of “things that atheists could do without:”

  • Blessing their sneezes
  • Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)
  • Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels
  • Calling them agnostic
  • Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”
  • The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)
  • Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks
  • Assuming that they don’t know scripture
  • Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people
  • The expression “A lack of faith”

I would like to address the things on Rara’s list, because not everyone’s experience is the same. My views are different than yours, even if we believe the same things.


Blessing their sneezes

I say “bless you” when someone sneezes, though I usually drop the “god” part. Sometimes, I say “gesundheit” because it means “health” in German. I wrote a post about that here. Blessing sneezes is just part of polite society.

I also say, “thank god,” because what else are you supposed to say? Thank nothing? There’s no good replacement for it. And on the other end, I also use the word “hell.” There’s no succinct substitute for the concept of hell either.

And while we’re at it, I don’t capitalize the word “god” because that makes it a proper noun like a name. Since I don’t believe in god, I don’t capitalize it. God is a concept to me, not an entity. It is a concept like photosynthesis or hell; I’ve never seen either in person, but I understand the concept.

I hope using those words doesn’t offend any theists out there, but they’re such a part of lexicon that there’s really no easy substitute for them.

Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)

You’re welcome to tell me anything you like, but that doesn’t mean I’ll agree. Telling me that god has a plan for me is like telling a Buddhist that the Christian god has a plan for them. It doesn’t make any sense because their beliefs are different.

Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels

Again, telling me that my loved ones are with angels is like telling a Buddhist that. It’s a nice sentiment, and if it makes you feel better to say it, it won’t offend me.

Calling them agnostic

I used to be agnostic. I always said that if a god came down with a thunderbolt and provable data that it was, in fact, a god, I’d believe. And that is still true. If there were tangible proof of the existence of god–not faith, but proof–I would believe. The older I get though, the harder it is to keep the faith that some proof might appear. I’ve lost faith in the idea that god could potentially be a provable entity, so I’ve migrated from agnostic to atheist.

I call myself atheist, non-theist, non-believer, irreligious. Any of those, even agnostic, are fine, but I prefer you call me Goldfish. As my grandmother used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.” Wise words.

Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”

If “under god” was always in the United States Pledge Of Allegiance, it wouldn’t bother me, but that’s not the case. It was only added in 1954 in response to the “red scare,” a.k.a. communism. It hasn’t even been there 60 years.

The same goes for adding “in god we trust” to money. It was only added in 1957.

No "In God We Trust" on the left.

It wasn’t there originally and it doesn’t belong there now. The United States has a firm wall between church and state, via the First Amendment to the Constitution. Adding god to money and the Pledge of Allegiance violates the law.

The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)

You can make all the assumptions about me you’d like. I’m used to people thinking of me erroneously. I honestly do not care one lick what the public thinks of me. I would hope that you’d get to know me before assuming anything though.

This one in private life doesn’t affect me, but it does bother me when it’s the government assuming it, because it is clearly not true.

Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks

Almost everything on this list doesn’t bother me if it’s personal, but it would get my goat if I was required to do that at work or in a public building.

If I’m in a church, I will pretend. I’ve always pretended. A friend of mine’s mother died a couple of years ago and the funeral was held in a Catholic church. I did not go up and take communion, because I think it’s an insult to theists for an atheist to do that in their house, but I stood up when required, I sat down, I sang along with everyone else. When I’m on your turf, I will do everything in my power not to disrespect your beliefs.

Assuming that they don’t know scripture

A lot of irreligious people know the scriptures inside and out. They can quote you a Bible verse in a heartbeat. I am not one of those people. I know the Bible about as well as I know the telephone book. I used to read it in Sunday School as a kid, but all of that knowledge has been lost. I haven’t bothered to re-read it, because I don’t like arguing about religion and it doesn’t pertain to my life. I just don’t quote from it. Simple.

Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people

I once got drawn into an argument on the internet about religion. I don’t do that anymore because it’s disrespectful and pointless. In this argument, I was told I had no moral compass because I’m irreligious. My morals go about willy-nilly spinning from bad to evil and I couldn’t possibly know right from wrong.

That is a bunch of crap. Atheists have sound ethics and morals just like the religious. I have never committed a crime. I have never even been arrested. Since the age of fifteen, I’ve had a job and paid taxes. I give money and time to charities. Before I was anemic, I donated blood. I hold doors, and say please and thank you. I have manners. I am considerate. I tip well. I live in a neat and tidy house that looks similar to every house on the block. I don’t blast music at all hours. I don’t worship the devil. I don’t go around telling people they’re going to hell. I am an upstanding citizen, yet I don’t have any faith.

The expression “A lack of faith”

I have a lack of faith in religion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. I have faith in the laws of physics, thermodynamics, gravity. I have faith in science. I believe that science will make the world better. Science cures diseases. Science allowed men to go to the moon and back. Science has given us what little understanding we have of our universe and our own brains. Science rules and I very much believe in it.

I don’t remember ever having any faith to lose. I don’t think I ever believed in god. It’s alright with me if you want to say I have a lack of faith in religion, but a total lack of faith is just not true.


I hope I didn’t offend anyone with this post; that was not my intent. My goal was that maybe we could understand each other a little better. No matter what we believe, we are all humans of earth and we are not that different. Humans should be considerate of each other, no matter what they believe. I believe that adults are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and as such, we are all responsible for making the world a better place.

Big primate Homo sapiens thumbs up!

The Constitution of the United States of Goldfish

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If you started your own nation, what would be in your constitution?

Ah, I’ve always wanted my own country. I’ve claimed several times on this blog that, if I did, my country wouldn’t be so damn bureaucratic. My constitution would be very similar to the constitution of The United States of America with some minor changes.

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New rules:

Everyone pays taxes.
I do mean everyone – from fry cooks at McDonald’s to multinational corporations like General Electric (who didn’t pay a plug nickel in taxes last year). I know a lot of citizens are grumbling right about now, but it’s only fair. If you take from the system, you must pay into the system. By taking from the system, I mean using roads and infrastructure, utilities and garbage collection, the police, firefighters and paramedics, public services like the Post Office, libraries and education, etc. If you live in my country, you use these things, therefore, everyone has to pay for them, everyone. However, because everyone will be putting in their fair share, that means that some people will be paying less than they are now, namely, the working poor. If you make $10,000 a year, you might have to put in $50.

Church and state are separate.
I mean really separate, not this half-assed separation we’ve got going now. I’ve written about the separation of church and state before and how I would change that part of the Constitution in the post New & Improved First Amendment Part 2, so I’ll just quote myself:

“The government of the United States of [Goldfish] shall not endorse, propagate or even acknowledge a religion, god, or lack thereof. Citizens of the United States have the rights to both freedom of and freedom from religion. The government cannot financially support nor otherwise endorse any religion or god over any other, or lack thereof. Public officials of the government shall not be required nor allowed to divulge their religious beliefs in order to seek a public office or to work in a public capacity of any kind. All religions will be administered solely by the public without government financial support, unless the religious group is willing to provide social services to all comers, even to those of different or no religious beliefs and customs, without judgment and without proselytizing those who seek services. All references to god or religion shall remain outside of the government unless such references are germane to a legal proceeding such as a civil or criminal case. There shall be no endorsement or recognition of a god of any kind on currency, in The Pledge of Allegiance, in public schools or in any other government forum or building. If those rules are followed, the government shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

Free speech is really free.
That said, free speech has a price. When you have the right to voice your opinion, everyone else does, too. That means that you’ll have to hear a lot of nonsense with which you don’t agree. That is the price of free speech. From now on, no one opinion will be any more meaningful than any other, at least, from a government perspective. Government is a collaborative effort, and as such, not every opinion will be heard while some opinions are heard louder than others. Unfortunately, that’s not really going to change. However, in my constitution, everyone will at least have the right to speak. The majority is not the only opinion.

The two-party system is now a multi-party system.
It’s ridiculous and unrealistic to think that only two political parties could represent the entire country. In the spirit of free speech, everyone will get a shot at running for office if they so choose. You won’t have to be rich nor famous to get elected. If one candidate in an election chooses public funding, all candidates are bound by the same campaign dollar amount so there is a level playing field. You can no longer buy your way into office.

Equality for everyone.
Regardless of gender, race, handicap, sexual preference or belief, everyone has the same inalienable rights as a citizen unless they do something worthy of having those rights taken away, such as being convicted of a violent crime. All consenting adult humans can get married. The glass ceiling is hereby broken and discrimination will be severely punished to the extent of the law. We’ll be checking.

Citizens are responsible for their own actions.
This part of the constitution speaks to rule #1 of the universe: Handle your shit. If you make a mess, clean it up. This applies to everything from public facilities to financial catastrophes and oil spills. If you need help, ask for it, but you have to make an effort to clean up your mess on your own. You can’t just walk away, expecting us, the taxpayers, the clean it up. We’re all in this together. Think about your fellow humans who have to inhabit the same space, breathe the same air and live on the same planet as you. Be responsible for your own actions.

New & Improved First Amendment Part 2

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If you could enact one new law, what would it be?

Just one? That’s not fair. There are so many from which to choose. I’ve already written the converse of this question in One Law I’d Abolish, but I suppose this is different. This new law could be anything.

I could enact legislation that requires all people born on a Tuesday to wear pointy hats with ten inch feathers on the first of the month. I could outlaw the phrase OMG in speech and send anyone who utters it aloud to the hoosegow. I could require all people to greet each other with the phrase “Hoopdiddy flarben!! Greeb not, me dainzy prangstens, we smiggen the yingblat at groon.” just because I’d find it funny.

While I do a lot of silly things in the interest of funny, I think I’d like to enact a law that might do the public some good. I’d like to level the playing field. I’d like to see a world, or at least a country, where everyone is free to do as they please within the law.

I’ve already written about how I’d change the First Amendment if I had the chance in the post New & Improved First Amendment.  As a refresher, here’s what the First Amendment looks like now:

Here’s how I changed it:

The government of the United States of America shall not endorse, propagate or even acknowledge a religion, god, or lack thereof. Citizens of the United States have the rights to both freedom of and freedom from religion. The government cannot financially support nor otherwise endorse any religion or god over any other, or lack thereof. Public officials of the government shall not be required nor allowed to divulge their religious beliefs in order to seek a public office or to work in a public capacity of any kind. All religions will be administered solely by the public without government financial support, unless the religious group is willing to provide social services to all comers, even to those of different or no religious beliefs and customs, without judgment and without proselytizing those who seek services. All references to god or religion shall remain outside of the government unless such references are germane to a legal proceeding such as a civil or criminal case. There shall be no endorsement or recognition of a god of any kind on currency, in The Pledge of Allegiance, in public schools or in any other government forum or building. If those rules are followed, the government shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.

I’d keep the parts of the First Amendment about freedom of assembly, speech, press and redressing grievances, but I’d change “Congress shall make no law” to simply “the government”:

The government shall not abridge freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Then, since Congress has a long and sordid history of tacking fine print conditions onto bills that have nothing at all to do with the legislation at hand, I’d do the same and add the following:

Irrefutably provable hate crimes and child abuse are now punishable by death. Discrimination in the workplace based on racism, gender bias, classism, sexual preference, belief or for any other reason not having to do with job performance will be outlawed, enforced and punishable by lengthy prison terms; all legal fees and associated costs will be paid by the transgressor. The government will operate transparently. If you are a United States citizen, you have a right to know where your tax dollars are going and have a say in the budget. The government shall not control its people; the people shall control the government.

And, just for shits and giggles, I’d add:

Goldfish will be given a bazillion dollars and be bestowed with the title of Queen Ruler Extraordinaire Ad Infinitum. All citizens are required to give one footrub to same.

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Atheist Bloggers

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Image by Derek Job from the OUT Campaign

It’s probably fairly obvious to anyone who glances through this site that I’m an atheist. I feel the need to clarify the word “atheist” because it has so many negative connotations attached to it that, whenever it is said, people automatically draw conclusions and go by their own definition, rather than the dictionary’s. When I say I’m an atheist, what I really mean is that, by Webster’s definition of atheism, I hold a disbelief in the existence of a deity or deities. I’m also an antitheist, meaning that I am opposed to theism and organized religion.

Over there in the right column, there are a couple of tags, such as atheism, separation of church and state, religion and Jebus that attest to the fact that I’ve whinged and moaned about the pervasiveness of religion, and the fact that it’s all up in my government. I’m not a huge fan of religion to begin with, but I especially don’t like religion in my government. There’s this First Amendment thing that’s supposed to protect us from that.

Contrary to popular belief, this country was not founded as a Christian nation. It was founded as a place where people could escape from religious tyranny and were free to practice, or not practice, any religion sans government control and intervention. The First Amendment is supposed to protect all of our beliefs and the right to express them any way we so choose within the law, yet it’s been twisted and bent out of shape. It’s been distorted from a law that protects everyone’s rights to a law that only protects the rights of the majority, which is precisely what the founding fathers of this country were trying to avoid and what they set this country up to escape from in the first place. Our brilliant constitution full of freedom of expression is crumbling, destroying all of our rights in the process.

I digress. That generally happens when I start talking about the First Amendment. The point of this post is not to go on yet another tear about the separation of church and state,  but to introduce a couple of nifty sites I found noodling about on the intertubes called The Atheist Blogroll and The OUT Campaign. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but most atheists aren’t. While I have never hidden my atheist stance, I haven’t promoted it either, but perhaps it’s time to change that. In the spirit of openness, you will now find both of those fine organizations’ links displayed in the right hand column of this blog. Also, I’ve long been a member of American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which do important legal work to uphold the separation of church and state, so I added their links as well.

We are, statistically, very much a minority. In this day and age, when we’re positively dripping with science that disproves most superstition and mythology, or at least sheds a hard light on its flaws, I find it difficult to believe that rationality is a minority stance, but statistics prove otherwise. Reasoning freethinkers barely break double digits in the sum total of the population. Although, I’m sure there are quite a few people who keep their skepticism to themselves and don’t go parading the fact that they don’t have faith.  Never having had any faith myself, I can’t quite understand their point of view, but I suppose if you live in a small farming community in the middle of nowhere USofA, then you might want to blend in as best you can. That might mean hiding your beliefs, or lack thereof, from your peers in much the same way that not all gay people openly admit that they are gay. Religious beliefs are supposed to be private anyway.

The point is, it’s nice to run across people who take a stance and openly discuss their views, unpopular though they may be, and that’s just what The Atheist Blogroll and the OUT Campaign are about. I’m proud to be counted among them. So, cheers to all those who aren’t afraid to become a target for the vocal minority of raving religious lunatics who can’t debate without circular reasoning, begging the question, straw men, “I know you are, but what am I?” type of thinking and the other varieties of fallacious arguments. Cheers to all those bloggers out there who aren’t afraid to stand up and be counted as a freethinking minority. I will be making my way through my fellow atheists’ blogs to see what you all have to say. Good luck and keep up the good work.

Making The World A Better Place

American Society For The Provention Of Cruelty To Animals

What charities do you support, and why?

Well, I’m unemployed, so I’m basically a charity myself at the moment. I’m living off of the kind donations of tax payers. Since I automatically and generously contributed to this charity for nine years at my last job, I don’t feel all that guilty about it, but it means I don’t have any money to give to any sort of charities whatsoever, so this question is moot. However, when I was employed, I did give money to several charities.

Planned ParenthoodI’ve donated money to Planned Parenthood, probably the single most important charity for women out there. Not only does this organization provide low-cost family planning with no judgment or proselyting, but they provide Pap smear tests and various other general health screenings to those who don’t have health care. They are my gynecologist and have been for years. They helped save my life. Still, the best way to fight cancer, AIDS and other serious life-threatening issues is early detection. But the most important service they provide is to help make it so that there are less unwanted children in the world. They get a lot of grief for what they do, so I help them any way I can. I wish they had Planned Parenthood for everything; Planned Dentalhood and Planned Visionhood would be nice.

American Society For The Provention Of Cruelty To Animals

I’ve given money to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the ASPCA. This charity takes unwanted or abused animals, gives them treatment and helps find them homes. Animals tug at my heartstrings; I think it’s their innocence and willingness to please no matter what the circumstances. If I could, I’d take them all in and give them good homes, but I can’t, so I give money to people who can.

Children Of The Night

I’ve given money to Children of the Night, a Los Angeles based charity that helps get children off the streets. Children are right up there with animals at receiving my compassion for much the same reasons. These kids come from abusive, neglectful households where they have little choice but to make their way into the world selling the only commodity they have – their own bodies. A twelve year old prostitute absolutely breaks my heart. This cycle needs to stop. We need to protect children’s innocence for as long as we can, and if that’s not possible, we need to try to give a little of it back to them once they’ve lost it.

National Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceHand in hand with children are the various charities that help give victims of domestic violence a new life. I’ve donated to a few of them including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If we can get women out of abusive situations with their children, then there is less need for charities like Children of the Night. These women think that they have nowhere to go and no options. They need to know that they are wrong. They need to know that there are people who want to help. There are ways out that don’t include death.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

I am a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This organization does important legal work helping to keep the wall between church and state strong and proud. They don’t just whine about religion in government, they do something about it. They’re out there on the front lines making sure that all of us have the right to express ourselves equally. Theirs is the most important fight for free speech that there is. The First Amendment must be upheld.

So, there you have it, my hot-button issues: women, children, animals and freedom of speech. I will do anything I can to defend, protect and help in the struggle to make the world a better place through these charities. When I get a job again, I will send them all big, fat checks. It’s the least I can do. I suppose my charities of choice make me a liberal, but if name calling is what it takes, I’ll gladly be called a bleeding heart.

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If I Were President

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My first act as President of the United States would be to resign. I have no desire to land in the muck that countless Presidents and career politicians before me have created and I have little respect for those who do.

Can you imagine wanting to take on a job in a failing company where you haven’t been in the black for a thousand years? A good portion of your employees don’t actually have jobs, but you have to pay them anyway. You also have to pay for two wars from which you can’t easily extricate yourself and weapons that you hope you’ll never have to use. Your board of directors are mostly selfish jackasses paid by outside interests who are working against you. No, thank you. I’d rather not take on that job.

However, perhaps I’m being too hasty about this. Perhaps before I tender my resignation, I might want to change a thing or two. I might want to remind people of why it is exactly that this country used to be great. I’d remind them of Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most accomplished President ever, or Franklin Roosevelt who both saw this country through some of the bleakest times in our history. The Civil War and The Great Depression far outweigh this nonsense we’re dealing with now. I’d remind people that we’re all essentially the same and we all have the same goals, i.e., a better life than the previous generation and to live in a place where dreams can actually come true through hard work and perseverance.

I could stop all this nonsense with immigration law. There’s this statue in New York that used to stand for something. On it, it says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” My grandparents saw it when they came to this country. If it had meant then what it means now, I might not be an American. I’d make that mean something again.

I could tell Proposition 8 in California and all anti-gay marriage laws to shove it, and make all marriage between consenting adults legal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and as such, we all have the same inalienable rights.

I might want to etch the first amendment in stone (yes, I realize it’s already etched in stone, but I meant metaphorically). I’d remind people that the reason this country was created in the first place was to escape persecution for holding divergent beliefs. This country was NOT founded as a Christian nation since that would defeat the entire purpose of free speech. This country was founded as a place where everyone has a right to express their views equally, and no one religion, belief, or lack thereof can take precedence over any other. The wall between church and state should stand tall and proud because it protects all of us.

I might want to remind the American public just how fortunate they are to live in a country where freedom is prized above all else. Freedom of speech, assembly, belief, justice and even the freedom to tell the government that we aren’t too keen on what it’s doing. Freedom is not something which should be taken for granted. We all need to fight to keep these rights. As President, I’d remind the people and the government of the people exactly what it means to be American.

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Fight For Your Right

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I always stand up for what I believe in. It’s intrinsic. I’m stubborn, pig-headed and very contrary. Sometimes I will play devil’s advocate just to stimulate thought. Although, I have found that there are times when arguing logic is thoroughly pointless. Nowadays, I tend to steer clear of political and religious debate since most people have firmly held stances on these issues and no amount of arguing, even with indisputable facts, will ever change that.

Circular logic and inductive reasoning drive me batty, so I tend to stay away from them altogether. I have found that the more preposterous one’s beliefs, the more one is inclined to fervently argue them, mostly with sophism and syllogism. For example, dogs have four legs, cats have four legs; therefore, cats are dogs. If someone truly believes that to the depths of their soul, no amount of logic will deter it.

Besides, I have no inclination towards proselytizing. I am all for people believing whatever it is that they want to believe as long as they their actions aren’t illegal, immoral or both, e.g. pedophilia. As long as your beliefs don’t interfere with my life in any way, I’m all for it. That is the whole point of the First Amendment to the US Constitution after all.

However, when your beliefs impinge on my beliefs, well, then we have a problem. I will argue and fight with all my might to make sure that we all have the right to express ourselves equally. We have the right to live our lives any way that we choose within the boundaries of man-made laws. We all believe in different things. That’s part of what makes this world so great. If we all held the same beliefs and lived the same lifestyle, then the world would be an incredibly boring and homogeneous place.

The excellent thing about being human is that we have brains capable of reasoning. We have the ability to think. We have the free will to choose what it is that we want to believe and to stand up for it. We can’t take it for granted. We need to protect this right and foster it.

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New & Improved First Amendment

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So, there’s this thing called the First Amendment tacked onto the Constitution of the United States of America. It goes as follows:

It’s a good amendment. In fact, it’s so good it shouldn’t even be an amendment. It should be part of the original document, but nobody’s perfect. At least it was the first thing our founding fathers thought to add to the Constitution in 1791. Good on them.

That being said, I don’t think it’s quite specific enough. Here we are, more than 200 years later, still debating the exact meaning of some of the words in it.  The First Amendment says “Congress” shall make no “law”, but it doesn’t say a thing about the President using his discretionary fund to unconstitutionally give away our tax dollars to certain lucky religious groups, not even all religious groups, like W started with the Faith-Based Initiatives and Obama kept in play when he was elected.

According to The Supreme Court interpretation of that sentence in the First Amendment in their ruling on Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, using public tax dollars to support churches actually isn’t unconstitutional since the taxpayer money is from the Presidential discretionary fund and it isn’t a law put in place by Congress. I’ve already discussed my contempt for Faith-Based Initiatives in the post One Law I’d Abolish, so I’ll just quote myself. “According to that logic, if you’re President of the United States, you could hire hit men to kill anyone you choose with your discretionary fund and The Supreme Court can’t touch you. Unconstitutional or not, you could start your own war or decide to kill all babies born on Tuesday with taxpayer dollars, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But, Faith-Based Initiatives is not a law per se. If it was, it would be easier to fight it.”

Using the Presidential discretionary fund made of taxpayer dollars to give money to religious groups goes against the spirit of the Constitution, where taxpayer dollars are  supposed to go towards all taxpayer needs, but not against the letter of the Constitution. The Supreme Court seems confused by the “Congress shall make no law” part.

“Respecting” is also an odd word choice. Respecting religion could mean anything from endorsing or propagating, to just giving a polite greeting and tip of the hat to religion. It could mean that you admire religion or that you agree to abide by it. The same thing goes for “establishment”. Establishment can be a brick and mortar building, or the act of founding something. A McDonald’s restaurant is an establishment and some could argue that it’s a religion.

That first part of the sentence could mean: “Congress shall make no law where people are required to tip their hats under penalty of death when they pass a church or any other kind of building, but the President or the Senate can give away taxpayer money if they want to without any sort of law at all.”  The First Amendment doesn’t say a thing about not financially supporting them either. The rest of the First Amendment is pretty self-explanatory and can really only be taken one way. It’s interesting that the founding fathers would only use ambiguous wording on the part of the First Amendment about religion.

That being said, I propose that we amend the First Amendment a little bit. Instead of saying “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” we should make the wording unequivocal in its meaning like the rest of the amendment. Granted, I’m not a lawyer nor am I up on my legalese, but here’s what I propose:

“The government of the United States of America shall not endorse, propagate or even acknowledge a religion, god, or lack thereof. Citizens of the United States have the rights to both freedom of and freedom from religion. The government cannot financially support nor otherwise endorse any religion or god over any other, or lack thereof. Public officials of the government shall not be required nor allowed to divulge their religious beliefs in order to seek a public office or to work in a public capacity of any kind. All religions will be administered solely by the public without government financial support, unless the religious group is willing to provide social services to all comers, even to those of different or no religious beliefs and customs, without judgment and without proselytizing those who seek services. All references to god or religion shall remain outside of the government unless such references are germane to a legal proceeding such as a civil or criminal case. There shall be no endorsement or recognition of a god of any kind on currency, in The Pledge of Allegiance, in public schools or in any other government forum or building. If those rules are followed, the government shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

It’s a little longer and they’d have to carve it in a bigger stone, but that sounds pretty good to me. I’m sure there’s some wormy lawyer who could find a loophole in that, but it’s certainly a lot clearer than “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.  And, while we’re at it, we should change “all men are created equal” to mean more than just white, male, heterosexual Protestants.

This post continues in New & Improved First Amendment Part 2.

Something Else

Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Would you describe yourself as spiritual, religious, or something else?

Something else… as in none of the above. I have no faith in god and little in man. I’m not a huge fan of defining myself with one-word terms, but society generally demands it.

These are some brushstroke summations that often define me: female, Caucasian, citizen, registered voter, organ donor, employed or unemployed, graphic designer, never been convicted of a felony, never served in the armed forces, no preexisting medical conditions, born in Detroit, mother’s maiden name… for security purposes, we’ll leave that one out. If I’m asked to provide a religion, I usually just put “none” as the answer. It’s a nice, simple, four-letter word.

These things are so often asked that I don’t even have to think about them, I just answer. I think a lot of people are that way with religion. When asked to fill in the blank, they just put whatever religion it is that their parents believed, whether they are practicing or not.

But, I have thought about it a great deal over the course of my life. I’ve written about it at length, too. I just wrote a post about Church the other day and another one about the formation of my non-belief in the post Semantics & Isms a few months back.

My lack of beliefs haven’t changed over time, but my attitude has. The older I get, the less tolerant of organized religion I become, particularly in government. That the wall separating church and state seems to be crumbling has me greatly worried. When public buildings are overflowing with religious sentiment and crèches, when the currency in my wallet still has “in god we trust” written on it (did you know that phrase was only added during the communist scare in the 50’s?), when my tax dollars are given to churches, well, that, to me, is a problem. It goes against the spirit of the constitution. It goes against the first amendment and that is something that shouldn’t happen. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It goes both ways. No religion shall be hindered nor placed on a higher pedestal than any other.

Say, for example, the first amendment was abolished. What if it wasn’t your religion that the government chose to propagate? What if, instead of celebrating the life and death of Jesus in public buildings, it was the life and death of Buddha or Muhammad or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? The first amendment exists so that no one is left out. You can choose to practice, or not practice, any religion your heart desires and the government cannot stop you, but the reverse is true too; it cannot financially support nor endorse a religion either.

Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I just helped a friend sort out his mother’s affairs after she died. She left no money to bury her and she couldn’t keep up the payments on her mortgage, but we found folders containing ‘thank you for your donation’ letters from various religious organizations. Even after all those donations, my friend had to pay out of pocket for the church funeral. When a religious organization convinces you that you will go to hell, or some equivalent thereof, if you don’t donate money, and you donate money irrespective of your own financial hardship, well, that seems wrong to me. She would have been better served putting that money towards her own burial or her mortgage.

In this day and age, when we are positively dripping with science, that I am a minority in my non-religious belief leaves me dumbfounded. This isn’t the Dark Ages. We know that the Earth isn’t flat and it revolves around the sun, not the other way around. We know what germs are. We know what atoms are. We have explored space. Humanity has come a long way, but we still haven’t evolved past superstition.

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One Law I’d Abolish

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If you could reverse one law, which would it be?

“Excuse me, Goldfish, your politics are showing.” Embarrassed, she tucked them back inside her pants where they belong, “Thanks.”

I’d abolish the law of gravity. Oh, well, that would be a mess, wouldn’t it? Houses and people flying everywhere… people can’t even drive as it is with the laws of physics in place. I can only imagine how that would be compounded without gravity. OK, never mind that one. The laws of physics are all pretty sound, mostly because science rules. It brought us out of the Dark Ages where we were afraid of ghosts and didn’t take showers. So, that leaves the laws of man. Ugh, the laws of man…

Where to start? Man has done some pretty stupid things to itself. For instance, I heard that the only thing you’re legally allowed to throw out the window of a moving vehicle in California is chicken feathers. I don’t know how true that is today and I’m too lazy to research it, but it was most likely true at some point.

Something that never should have been a law to begin with was this whole Proposition 8 folderol in California that abolished gay marriage. Personally, I think all consenting adults who are insane enough to want to get married should be allowed to do so. However, Prop 8 was ruled as unconstitutional discrimination earlier this month so that leaves that out. Although, the battle is not over and it will most likely be taken all the way to The Supreme Court where they will rightfully uphold that ruling by a California judge (fingers crossed), let’s pick something that isn’t so ridiculously unconstitutional and discriminatory that it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place.

I’m really not a fan of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives either. That’s the executive initiative where W. decided to give our tax dollars to churches. However, since it’s funded by the Presidential discretionary fund, even though it’s still our tax dollars, The Supreme Court upheld it. According to that logic, if you’re President of the United States, you could hire hit men to kill anyone you choose with your discretionary fund and The Supreme Court can’t touch you. Unconstitutional or not, you could start your own war or decide to kill all babies born on Tuesday with taxpayer dollars, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But, Faith-Based Initiatives is not a law per se. If it was, it would be easier to fight it. Anyway, because it’s not a law, that doesn’t count either.

So, that leaves Wall Street. President Bush Sr. started chipping away at financial regulations, and Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. carried on with his madness. By 1999, when the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was repealed, almost all federal regulations of the financial markets were gone. Provisions that prohibited a bank holding company from owning other financial companies were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act on November 12, 1999. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act effectively removed the separation that previously existed between Wall Street investment banks and depository banks. Like a house of cards, deregulation exacerbated the damage caused by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market that led to this latest financial crisis.

Removing federal regulation of financial markets effectively meant that Wall Street was the Wild West again. It was a free for all for greedy assholes. Less than a decade later, we have this mess we’re in now. Millions of people are unemployed, including me, countless people lost their homes, countries across the world had their economies collapse overnight and we’re still digging ourselves out of the hole that deregulation dug for us. So, I’d go back to the first Bush administration and cement federal financial regulation. I’d etch the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 into stone. I’d shove deregulation where the sun don’t shine.

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