The Atheist Version of “Yes We Can” December 25, 2008

The Atheist Version of “Yes We Can”

The song Yes We Can spoke about equality for all using the words of Barack Obama.

Now, the question is whether atheists are included in that mix.

With an invocation and benediction prayer being given at the inauguration (by Pastor Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, respectively), atheists are saying those who do not believe in God are being considered second class citizens.

Below is a revamped version of Yes We Can created with atheists in mind — discussing religious equality for everyone.

This screenshot explains the gist of it:


Here’s the full video:

(via restorethepledge)

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  • Ergh. The appropriation of the Black civil rights movement in this video bothers me. Similarly, the implication in the screenshot (and elsewhere in the text of the video) that Barack Obama’s election means that racism is over. It’s not.

    The mainstream LGBT civil rights movement (i.e., the white-dominated segment of the movement) has been trying to use this same strategy for years — comparing the LGBT civil rights movement to the Black civil rights movement — and it’s created wedges between the two groups. All too often, we’ve implied in these comparisons that racism is over, or that our problems have been “just like” theirs. Additionally, such messages have had a way of reinforcing the stereotypes that gays are white and Blacks are straight, stereotypes that make things really difficult for Black queers. And, yo, if the LGBT movement is making life more difficult for some queers, then we’re doing it wrong.

    It disturbs me to see atheists repeating the same mistakes the LGBT rights movement has made. There are Black atheists; the discriminations against atheists and Blacks have had very different histories and consequences; racism is not over.

    I would much rather that we be arguing atheist civil rights on its own merits.

  • I agree with Sanguinity; our situation simply isn’t the same.

    Witness that those at the top of the heap in science are almost exclusively non-theists.

    I am not saying that there aren’t things to do and worthy battles to fight nor am I saying that superstition will fall easily.

    Nevertheless, I’ve endured NOTHING remotely close to what those African Americans (especailly in the south) have had to endure.

  • bytesmythe


    Nevertheless, I’ve endured NOTHING remotely close to what those African Americans (especailly in the south) have had to endure.

    We haven’t endured what black Americans have because atheism is not visible. If atheists had some kind of indelible, plainly visible mark, we would certainly be ostracized, attacked without provocation, and in fear of our lives.

    As it is, we’re marginalized and afraid to be ourselves for fear of social or even physical retribution.

  • Erp

    That 70+ tradition of prayer has also been always male and, since 1989, protestant (Roosevelt had a protestant and a catholic, Truman added a rabbi, Greek Orthodox was added a bit later but somewhere along the line it became strictly protestant).

    I do wonder about the poets at the ceremonies and whether, sometimes, they were meant to speak for the non-religious. When present they have longer lasting power than the clerics for who reads the invocations and benedictions again and again?

    For John F. Kennedy Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” though he intended to read a poem written for the occasion, “Dedication”.

    For Bill Clinton’s first inauguration Maya Angelou wrote and recited “On the Pulse of Morning”

    For Bill Clinton’s second, Miller Williams wrote and recited “Of History and Hope”

    Obama will be having Elizabeth Alexander

    There is also James Dickey who wrote and recited “The Strength of Fields” at the gala for Jimmy Carter but not at the ceremony

    Unfortunately I’m not sure whether any were non-theists; Angelou isn’t. Frost seems to have been close to non-theistic at times and would certainly not be classified as a standard Christian. Dickey described himself as “a somewhat apathetic atheist”. Miller’s poem is certainly not theistic.

    Who dreamed for every child an even chance
    cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
    Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
    cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
    Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
    cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
    We know what we have done and what we have said,
    and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
    believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become —
    just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

  • @bytesmythe

    Unfortunately, that’s a double-edged argument. While one could say that discrimination against atheists would be as bad if we were to let ourselves be visible (and thus, we have it just as bad as any given racial minority), one could as easily say that we have a method for protecting ourselves from discrimination that racial minorities don’t have, thus we don’t have it worse.

    Which is precisely the reason that I’m not a big fan of oppression olympics. Bickering about who has it worst is a stupid waste of time — almost invariably, one group will have it worse on some points and better on others. Worse, oppression olympics tends to create resentments — “someone else is trivializing my oppression!” “why do I have to pick sides when I’m BOTH?” — and ultimately the whole mess makes it much harder for any of us to get any useful work done.

    So, yeah, I’m not a fan of this video: among other things, it implies that Blacks, women, and poor people are all in better positions right now than atheists are in. That implication is disrespectful of the social justice battles that those groups are currently fighting. I would much rather that we were showing each of those groups the respect that we are asking society to show to us.

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