The question and the statement reveal a gross misunderstanding of atheism and atheists.
Atheists are moral, ethical, humane, good and decent. It is simply that they need no god to tell them to be so.
Even John Locke, the great 18th century British philosopher whose political theory influenced the American Founders, said “atheists must not be tolerated.”
Such thinking still prevails today in America, one of the most Christian nations in the world.
Atheism is one of the last barriers to political office. Many voters believe that atheists are immoral. A Gallup-USA Today poll recently showed 53 percent would not vote for an atheist.
The nadir of atheist hatred was reached by state Rep. Monique Davis of Kentucky earlier this year. She railed against atheism: “This is the land of Lincoln where people believe in God. … It’s dangerous for our children to even know that atheism exists! We believe in something. Atheists believe in destroying!”
Disregard the ravings of a maniacal cretin. But is it immoral to believe in cradle-to-grave socialism? Many atheists do.
Is it immoral to seek justice and fairness? Many atheists do.
Is is immoral to seek to improve the human condition in America and the world? Many atheists do.
Tom Krattenmaker, in a USA Today essay, wrote:
“Nonbelievers, who can be found all across the landscape engaging in acts of decency and battles for justice, are worthy citizens in a country whose Constitution imposes no religion and whose tradition cherishes freedom of choice in all matters religious.”
Atheists are far more tolerant, far more understanding of people and human nature than the so-called Christians who sang, preached and prayed at the Crossroads Bible Church in San Jose, Calif., before the recent election.
Their purpose: support for Proposition 8 placing a ban on gay marriage in the California Constitution.
A visiting preacher from Orlando, Fla., exhorted the Crossroads congregation: “Homosexual marriage is wrong. If we take sides, we must take the side of God.”
If God is for banning gay marriage I vigorously dissent. I favor the deep love, the deep happiness and the deep joy of same-sex couples marrying.
Sen. Diane Feinstein of California supports gay marriage. “I’ve seen the happiness of people, the stability that these commitments bring,” she said. “Many adopted children who would have ended up in foster care, now have solid homes. They are brought up learning right from wrong.”
Opposing love, happiness and joy is incomprehensible. Gay marriages are also made in heaven.
The San Francisco Chronicle ran a page one picture accompanying the Crossroads church story. It showed the host of a pro-Prop 8 rally praying at the Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose.
His hands were clasped, his head thrown back, his eyes closed in a fervid appeal to heaven. It was perfect picture of un-Christian primitiveness.
But even un-Christian Catholics and Mormons, far more sophisticated than the evangelicals, joined the coalition supporting the ban. Un-Christian Episcopalians have just split from the main body of the church for ordaining a gay bishop and blessing gay unions.
Surely Christian charity, now called love in modern translations of the Bible, should be extended to homosexuals.
And how about the Vatican opposition to women priests? Surely that too is un-Christian.
The Vatican notified a priest that he will be excommunicated for participating in an ordination ceremony for a woman priest. The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who has been in the Maryknoll religious order for 36 years, was anguished by the edict.
But he rightly asked: “Who are we as men to say that we are called by God to the ministry of the priesthood but women are not? That our call is valid but theirs is not?”
Good questions, questions for which the church has the lame defense of dogma. Dogma is a bad reason for anything.
Pope John Paul II reiterated the church’s stance in 1994. He said that because Jesus chose only male apostles “the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on a woman.”
That “authority” is two millennia old. It has long since lost any validity. But the church clings to the past, refusing to accept 21st century reality.
More “authority.” Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not tolerate women singing publicly!
No wonder Sam Harris in his book, “The End of Faith,” declares that religious faith is “the one species of human ignorance that will not admit even the possibility of error.”
Atheists are often more Christian than Christians.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.