Most Americans are familiar with the National Sex Offender Registry, a portal designed to keep Americans informed so that they can protect their children and families. But what about a national registry to track...atheists?
This latter proposal, both controversial and -- to some -- bizarre, comes from Florida Pastor Mike Stahl. Bloggers and journalists have been buzzing about Stahl's suggestion that a national database be created to help track non-believers.
Stahl is the self-described pastor of the Church of the Living Water, which apparently exists solely online. While he originally posted his proposal on his personal blog last year, his words are just now beginning to pick up national steam. In describing his views, he wrote:
Brothers and Sisters , I have been seriously considering forming a ( Christian ) grassroots type of organization to be named “The Christian National Registry of Atheists” or something similar . I mean , think about it . There are already National Registrys for convicted sex offenders , ex-convicts , terrorist cells , hate groups like the KKK , skinheads , radical Islamists , etc..
This type of “National Registry” would merely be for information purposes . To inform the public of KNOWN ( i.e., self-admitted) atheists..
Stahl's main goals in creating the atheist "offender" list would be to "inform" the public, to expose "admitted atheists" and to "begin to witness to them" in an effort to steer them away from their non-belief. He continues:
Now , many (especially the atheists ) , may ask “Why do this , what’s the purpose ?” Duhhh , Mr. Atheist , for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net – to INFORM the public ! I mean , in the City of Miramar , Florida , where I live , the population is approx. 109,000 . My family and I would sure like to know how many of those 109,000 are ADMITTED atheists ! Perhaps we may actually know some . In which case we could begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism .
Stahl has obviously drawn the ire of atheists and critics who stand appalled at the fact that he has equated non-believers with radicals, murderers and racists. Law professor Jonathan Turley, dismayed at the prospect, responded with the following:
It is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of intolerance. It is particularly interesting to see Stahl talking about hate groups in the midst of an intolerant proposal like a national registry.
Of course, reactions have been interesting to observe. One blogger makes the assumption that Stahl's views are mainstream among Christians (a fact many believers would dispute). Hemant Mehta, also known as "The Friendly Atheist," explains his theories:
You know, there’s a reason so many atheists are afraid of coming out publicly and it’s because Christians like Stahl treat us as targets. I know a lot of Christians want you to think he’s a crazy extremists who doesn’t represent the faith, but most of what he says isn’t unusual — a *lot* of evangelical churches follow some form of his suggestions already; they’re just not as blunt about it.
Like when they teach members how to proselytize to non-Christians. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they had specific atheists in mind during lessons.) There’s no attempt to befriend us or actually understand where we’re coming from — it’s only about converting us at all costs. Just because they don’t have an “official” list of atheists doesn’t mean they’re not acting on an imaginary one.
As a result of the negative response Stahl has received from atheists and their supporters, his blog has been made private. Also, it appears his Facebook page was deleted. Despite these efforts, his words continue to spread.
Judging from his retreat, it looks like he won't be creating that registry after all.
(h/t Jonathan Turley)