A Non-Believer in God’s Country January 23, 2009

A Non-Believer in God’s Country

Greta Christina felt excluded as an atheist during the Inauguration. And yes, she heard the shout-out to non-believers.

Like many of us, she appreciated the gesture. But she wonders whether that is it. Is that all we get?

Amidst the excitement of hearing the phrase “and non-believers” in Barack Obama’s speech, did atheists notice just how often we heard about God?

The Inauguration told Greta Christina exactly where she stands in the pecking order and she’s not happy about it:

You can’t spend all day talking about how God’s grace is upon the nation, and how everything that happens comes from God, and how equality and freedom and opportunity are promised to us by God, and how the elected leader of a democratic country is God’s servant, and how forgetting God is a sin that requires forgiveness — and then mention once that some of the people making up the strong patchwork of this country are non-believers — and call that real inclusivity and recognition of non-believers.

Any more than you can spend all day talking about how same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and non- discrimination laws shouldn’t be expanded to cover sexual orientation, and LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military — and then say, “Oh, no, I’m not homophobic.”

The inclusion of the phrase “non-believers” was a baby step in the right direction.

Baby steps are thrilling the first time you see them. But they get old fast.

When will we get to run like everyone else?

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  • The problem is that nobody likes atheists. The reason is that, as atheists, the only thing we ever do is tell people to stop doing or saying something that we find offensive, or in violation of our own sense of constitutionality. And let’s face it, if the theists behaved perfectly, practiced their religion within the boundaries set by the Constitution and didn’t meddle in affairs of science or organize against the rights of others, there would be no organizing principle around which atheists would gather. Our shared lack of belief in God just isn’t so big a deal that any of us would give a flying fuck about each other. So we exist not as a force that stands for anything in particular, but as self appointed morality police determined to stop the theists from violating our own sense of the place they should keep in our shared society.

    Unlike African Americans, Jews, and the LGBT community we have no cultural or social connection which binds us together outside of our own sense of victimization. If the theists really wanted to unwind the coiled threat of atheism, they would give us everything we want and just watch how fast the whole atheist community would vaporize.

  • Mike

    I felt just like Greta. I sent the White house a message (my e-mail bounced and the new form is limited to 500 words, had to be crafty) saying congrats, thank you for mentioning non-believers, and will you pretty please govern with the establishment clause in mind from now on, because all that god stuff made it sound like you don’t think I’m an American. I look forward to receiving a warmly worded form letter from them.

    I also love to see the Evangelical outcry if a catholic bishop said a “Hail Mary” (give us out daily bread with butter) at an inauguration. Bet they’d feel about like I did listening to the “Our Father.”

  • Kate

    Darwin’s Dagger nailed it better than I ever could’ve done – perfectly said.

  • Well, if you think atheists make up more than one sixth of the population, then I suppose you have something to complain about. Otherwise, O did pretty good with the degree to which you were included in his thoughts.

  • Look at it this way, we don’t need as much reassurance and molly coddling as all those people who believe in Cod and the Holy TNT. We are a bit more grown up about the world. If they need all that reassurance about Cod being behind them and rooting for them then that just shows how insecure they all are.

  • SarahH

    Darwin’s Dagger nailed it better than I ever could’ve done – perfectly said.


    I think it’s also important to remember that what (most) atheist activism is about is making tax-funded, state activities/buildings/offices/etc. secular. Secular just means that there’s no religious authority or favoritism or advantage or disadvantage or anything – it’s just a state function, and has nothing to do with religion.

    We’re not asking “In God We Trust” to be replaced by “There Is No God” – I’d be equally upset if that happened! Secular means having neither as a motto. It means that Rick Warren shouldn’t be asked to pray at state events and Richard Dawkins shouldn’t be asked to pontificate on how religion is delusional at state events.

    This is our “agenda” and it’s not scary. It’s the most Constitutional, fair solution for everyone – including Christians, atheists and minority religious groups in the US. It leaves everyone out equally, and it leaves us out of something we have no business infusing our beliefs into.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    We’ve been hearing the god garbage for a long time, so that is nothing new. It was to be expected (especially at this point in time), but it does not negate our inclusion. The shout-out to nonbelievers was something not yet heard on such a grand stage, and it is something to be welcomed. It’s just a baby step, indeed, but it’s not one we’ve yet encountered. It is progress. I know that we still have _far_ to go; but I, for one, am thankful for the inclusion

    Also, if we didn’t have to spend so much fucking time correcting the religious on their errors, then we could be accomplishing many other things.

  • Richard Wade

    Firstly, ditto to what Darwin’s Dagger said so succinctly.

    I’m not sure if feeling less excluded is the same as feeling more included. If there were less references to God and all that, would you feel more included, or just less excluded? And is it really “excluded” instead of just not mentioned? After all, none of the god speeches said anything like, “… and let’s get rid of those damn non-believers.” They just didn’t mention us at all.

    If there were no religious speeches or references at all during the Inauguration, would you feel entirely included as an atheist or simply as an American with no relevance at all to your views on religion? Would that be sufficient?

    What would have to happen in an Inauguration for atheists to feel actually, fully, fairly and accurately “included”? Would we need one speech from a prominent preacher and one from a prominent atheist or humanist, both from the main podium?

    Make no mistake, I’d prefer that religious trappings would be eliminated or at least greatly reduced in government ceremonies, but what’s important is their removal from governmental policy. I got mentioned in the “non-believers” shout out, and that was gratifying and more than I expected, but now it’s time for me to get back to the work of repairing and protecting the wall of separation in actual policies.

  • DSimon

    I disagree with Darwin’s Dagger. Even if atheists never had to be closeted, it would be impolite or socially detrimental for me to talk about religion in general social settings the same way as I feel free to at sites like this.

    Imagine that 90% of US citizens are huge fans of the Twilight books, but you find them (the books, that is) incredibly obnoxious and uninteresting. You don’t have to hide your dislike of the books, since everyone understands that they’re no more than works of fiction subject to personal taste, but you aren’t entirely unencumbered either: As long your friends and family don’t go overboard with their fandom around you, then it’s worth reciprocating by not going overboard with expressions of disgust. Politeness keeps society running smoothly in these situations.

    However, you’d probably enjoy occasionally finding other Twilight-distinterested people with whom you could gripe freely, just as your Twilight-loving friends might enjoy going to conventions so that they could express their enthusiasm freely around other fans.

  • What I do not understand is how hell-bent Americans are on knowing what others believe. Other countries where people do not do this, seem to not be suffering.

    Is it that Americans have a need to label and categorize people; religion, political views, job, “class”, income bracket, etc…

    There is no reason for anyone to have to know who I am by what I believe in, but this would leave them without a full “image” of who I am in their mind.

    That being said, I am just as guilty, but aware of it, so I try to not put people into boxes, religious folks being my most difficult task, however, I do pay attention to religious folk more than others because there is a large group who do not believe I am 100% equal to them, and they spend all their money and time to legally take away my rights.

    So, when I discuss with religious folk, I try to point out that when I speak about them in a negative view, it is the “fundamentalists” within ANY religion, who are a danger to America, and the world.

    So, I have come to the conclusion, after hearing about the lady on the view, Joy I think her name is, kind of being upset or not understanding why every type of person needs to be mentioned…non-believers, disabled etc…that she and others do not understand, unless it affects them, so I try not to take it personal.

    An angry atheist is not going to go to Congress and demand that white people cannot marry black people or that Spanish people should be taken away if they do not speak English….we can leave that up to those who label themselves “Believers”.

  • While I am excited that Americans have got a new leader who may provide a lead in a world desperate for leadership, I found it extremely troubling for a nation, whose constitution explicitly proclaim the separation of religion from politics, allows its presidential inauguration filled with religious rubbish.

    Under your constitution, should you not celebrate your great founders’ vision, congratulate the democratic process and enjoy the smooth transfer of power without violent or blood shed during your presidential inauguration?

    If religious organisations want to join the celebration, just like any gay or same-sex couples, they should be welcome. But NOT as part of the OFFICIAL proceedings. If your elected president wants to attend a religious service before taking the oath to the office, fine and he can do so BEFORE the official proceeding.

    As an Australian, I have no place to complain. You, Americans, should speak out, shouldn’t you?

  • Justin jm

    Darwin’s Dagger…

    The reason is that, as atheists, the only thing we ever do is tell people to stop doing or saying something that we find offensive, or in violation of our own sense of constitutionality.

    I grant that while we do this somewhat, it isn’t in the same way or to the same degree as you seem to be implying. We don’t attempt to censor people or promote a flawed understanding of the Constitution the way that many conservative Christians do.

  • Maria

    Obama is already getting shit for even saying the word “nonbelievers”:


    be glad he had the balls to at least say that. You can’t have everything at once

  • maria

    Darwin’s dagger nailed it perfectly. I would also add that some groups turn people off b/c they even go beyond that: they want to get rid of theists completely even when they don’t violate the law.

  • canned preachers

    the worst are the preachers and god fanatics who control and manipulate their sheep
    to fart on scientists and intelligent people.

    having myself escaped from church fundamentalism and control, please understand that god is more about conforming to some other persons plan and ideas for your life. it has nothing to do with freedom at all.

    if a person has his or her own life the person is labelled as a non-believer, but in reality and truth they are “NON-CONFORMERS.”

    god is created and it is usually nothing more than a name made by religious nuts for a licence for killing, mistreating and cruelty to humans and creatures and destroying the planet.

    it is preachers and god fanatics who are the dirty greedy cravers using religion for deviant sexual fantasies and gratifications.

    these people are so nasty and determined to prove their created religious fundamentalist belief of amargeddon that they have a carefree attitude and arrogance towards others and the planet.

    infact, most are so convicted by such a selfish idealogy of truth and political correctness that they would condemn every single other person who didnt have didnt agree with them completely.

    they would also wreck everything, kill every tree and living creature, polute every sea, earth and sky in an attempt to force the non-conformers to comply with their fantasies and desires.

    they want us to believe in a god who commands us to be cruel, codemn, destroy and kill and declare war with non-conformers to force others to believe in a “no-hope future” of armageddon.

    it is really the god people (note that christians and jews are terrorists also) who are the non believers, the idolotrists, infidels and unsaved because they hate, judge, reject and have no respect for other people.

    i am very grateful for the atheist (i am sure that god loves us the most) because the atheist people dont use a created god to codemn and judge good people.

    if god was logical, it would be very true that the atheist who is kind and good has more chance of going to heaven than someone who says that the good people who are non-conformers will not.

  • amber c

    I have a few things to say… first off, everyone is bitching about the Inauguration speech but did anyone get anything out of it besides the fact that we were notably mentioned? How about we got a new president? OR all of the promises he made? His cheesy jokes, talking about his family and war viewpoints… the swear in? Did anyone REALLY watch it or gather what the Inauguration was about or were you all too shell shocked from being publically NOTICED or “dismissed”…? PAY ATTENTION to what’s going on people! And whoever previously said that other Countries don’t care about what others believe and are doing well… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Flip on the news honey, pick up a paper! The middle East is practically a religious war zone! But wait…. you were probably too mad about being mentioned in the presidents speech to notice any of that stuff. Also, another thing that is irritating, the only believer in God, although having some very good points and highly funny moments was the longest post on here and still…. a little preachy towards the end. What up with that? JUST RELAX PEOPLE! We are ALL different, accept it.

  • Ashley

    Weather a person is a believer or non believer of God. He still exists. Some look at the logic and not the sentimental value of his power. We live our lives weather we worship him or not, and I think that’s what Obama meant. Many people don’t believe in God but those of us who do, aren’t like the styereotypes people make u believe. We don’t go over exterme measures. We pray and thank God for the next day that he lets us live. I am not against you, I accpect you. I don’t go to Church, why because I have my private Church at home, so to speak. Prayer is prayer…we don’t need a temple or a church to say thak you or ask for some help. No,this is just differences of opinions, it’s not the end of the world. Some people need to see and touch something, to know that’s it real. While others just simply trust what they believe and what they feel…that may be proof enough for them…

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