Controversial Billboard From American Atheists in New York City's Times Square (Photo Credit: American Atheists)
As the great libertarian philosopher John Locke rightly observed, liberty requires tolerance. It’s the only way the whole notion of a free people can operate. Without tolerance, politics becomes Balkanized into factions of competing interests that inevitably lead to less freedom as each victory or defeat for any “side” slowly chips away at individual choice.
Most people see smoking bans as a good thing, but not only are private property and private choice diminished, the individual act of expressing grace and tolerance towards fellow citizens is replaced by a dictate that perverts that interaction and undermines freedom.
Why be nice and seek accommodation when you can impose you belief with the force of law and the threat of state violence (in the form of the loss of some part of your liberty or property) on anyone who disagrees? Excessive laws make us less tolerant, less civil and less civilized over time.
Now multiply that cultural effect across thousands of laws now on the book whose only function is to replace tolerance with dictate, choice with obligation, and self-interest with state interest.
So it is with the absurd effort of atheists and agnostics to ban everything that isn’t rigidly non-religious according to their worldview. This makes me crazy because, as an agnostic myself, I get linked to these sad, angry jerks who never read John Locke.
I live in a state that’s 90% Christian. Should their rights, freedoms and liberties be curtailed to accommodate my non-practicing butt? Of course not. I extend my grace to everyone around me because I expect, or at least hope for, the same in return.
How can I ask 27 million Texans to put up with me if I act like they not only disgust me, but I’m entitled to legislate my disgust upon them? How many nativity scenes have to be banned before Christians accept me? It’s a ridiculous strategy that makes enemies, divides people and carves up freedom; throwing away the parts that aren’t easily digestible.
According to Gallup, the number of Americans who identify as having no religion has doubled since 1989. The “non” movement needs to take a moment now, in this incredible growth period to ask what it wants to be. Should the non-religious represent the same intolerance and authoritarianism that they have complained about from the Christian Right and the Statist Left for years? Should we seek to limit and curtail as much freedom as possible to alleviate our own insecurities about being a distrusted minority? How is any agnostic or atheist materially diminished by people of faith enjoying their freedom?
I understand religious bigotry as most agnostics/atheists do. A blind date once doused me with a beer upon learning I didn't share her religion. I have had a marriage proposal refused because her parents wouldn’t accept their daughter marrying a non-Christian. I recently lost out on a high profile, high paying political job because the politician in question “had concerns” about having a non in the office…they have daily prayers, you see, and “it would just be uncomfortable for everyone.” (read: uncomfortable for him.)
Yet it has never occurred to Me to respond by suing, filing charges, or otherwise throwing a fit about it. I have told people with views I disagree with to pike off. I have refused to hire people for a variety of reasons, and there are lots of educated, accomplished women who share my religious skepticism that I can date. I don’t need a lawsuit and I don’t need anyone to be forced to accept me or love me, I have family for that and they’re stuck with me. Everyone else is off of the hook.
So if you too are a religious skeptic, critic, even enemy, ask yourself what you really gain by demanding and supporting the dismantling of Constitutional freedom to satisfy your own worldview; and then ask what you stand to lose.