Friday, August 26, 2011

If I were in charge

Many Christians in the USA love to claim that the goal of atheists is to do away with religion.

I know of very few Atheists that have this as a goal - and none personally. While many (but not all) of the Atheists I know wouldn't mind religion going away, they have no plans to make that happen.

Many Christians say they fear Atheists in elected office more than any other group. Why? Because they think an Atheist will start banning religion. Never mind that that Christians base this belief on... well, nothing, because there are no Atheists talking about this whatsoever.

If I - an Atheist - were in elected office, what would I do with regard to religion in the USA? I'll lay all my cards on the table:

I'd ensure that prayers are not said as an official part of government or public sector events - like a prayer over the PA system before a sports event. People could still pray - in groups, individually, before the game, during the game, after the game, once, several times, whatever - but they couldn't require everyone to have to listen to their prayer at a public event, for everyone to stop what they are doing while that prayer gets read over the PA system, etc. So long as prayers do not in any way interfere with the sporting event or my effort to get a snack from the band booth, it's just dandy.

I wonder how Christians would feel if a Muslim wanted to chant over the PA system before a football game in the USA, how they would hear to hear "Allah Ackbar" chanted loudly throughout the stadium or gym...

I'd ensure no teacher stands in front or his or her class, or in the cafeteria during lunch, and leads a prayer. I'd ensure no school administrator does that either. If students want to do that prayer-at-the-flagpole-thingy before classes, or in-between classes, or after classes, fine. Teachers or school administrators could join them. Students would be free to pray any other times they wanted to, individually - and I'm sure many would be savvy enough to urge their Christian friends to join them at certain times during the school day if they are that bent on the practice. As long as their prayers don't interfere with classroom work, and no student is ever punished or harassed for not participating, I don't care.

I'd get rid of the "under God" part of the Pledge, which was added in the 1950s (the pledge was written in 1892, without the "under God" phrase). It would be so wonderful to have that inclusive pledge back - I might even consider start saying it!

I'd get rid of "in God we Trust" on all new money printed. It can stay wherever it is on a building now, for historical purposes. I'd get rid of the phrase as the official motto of the USA. I would return us to the original, much better, much more inclusive motto: e pluribus unum ("out of many, one").

Christian creationism and intelligent design (or the Muslim versions, for that matter) would have no place in science class. They would, instead, be reviewed in a class about world cultures and religions, and have their place right along side aboriginal beliefs that all people originated from Australia, the belief by early Greeks that the first humans were Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, the Scientology beliefs that a galactic dictator blew up his people on Earth and that their essences continue to cause us spiritual harm, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster's own intelligent design theory.

Gay marriage would soooo be legal. Polygamy? No. Polygamy is a matter of public policy, not just of personal preference. A marriage license is a government grant, a recognition of a legal agreement between those entering into the marriage. Oh, sure, legally, you could still shack up with whomever you wanted, turn over the money in your bank account and all decision-making about your life to one person or a collective or whatever, say you love that one person as well as all your sister-wives and whatever, refer to yourselves as one big happy family, whatever. That's called polyamory, or group love, and while it's not at all my cup of tea, you can feel free to go for it. But if you want more than one spouse to be on your health insurance, forget it. Polygamy hurts women. No, really, polygamy hurts women.

I'm against polyandry (one wife, many husbands) as well, just so you know...

I would require all communities of faith - churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, bunkers, storefronts, communes, whatever - to pay property taxes and taxes on all purchases, just like any person. They would also have to be much more transparent regarding their financial transactions: all payments made by the community of faith to staff, consultants and vendors would be a matter of public record - not so much so that I can look at them, but so that the members of the community of faith can see them, and know how their donations are being spent.

I would enforce all court decisions and legal interpretations of the separation of church and state. That might mean no religious displays on the court house lawn, or, it might mean allowing any group to put up a display, including Atheists. There would be lots of tinsel and garlands all around in December, but baby dolls in mangers would be only on private property.

I would still spend money at church barbecues, because, especially in the South, the food ROCKS.

I would still walk around singing religious songs I've learned over the years, just like I walk around singing murder songs ("Delia's gone, one more 'round, Delia's gone...") and infidelity songs ("Love is where you find it, when you find no love at home..."), despite never murdering anyone and having no desire to violate my marriage vows (yeah, some of us Atheists have marriage vows - to each other, not to a magical invisible friend).

And... that's pretty much it. There would still be public prayer, if that's what people wanted to do, pretty much just like they do now. There would still be religious people running around talking about their religion at work and school and what not. That's what a secular nation is - not one that is religion-free, but one that provides balance between freedom of religion and freedom from religions not your own.

I know, I know... dream on...

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