Thanks for your help! February 25, 2010

Thanks for your help!

About a month ago I posted here asking for y’all’s help on a research paper I was doing on atheists’ experiences as outsiders here in America. It was for a seminary class on “outsider” religious groups in America, and my hope for the paper was to persuade my professor to include a segment on atheists the next time he taught the course.

Well, I finally got the graded paper back from my professor, and I have good news. Not only did he like the paper, he also explicitly affirmed that he’d be able to use it as the basis for including atheists next time around! Of course, this is only a small victory, but what it means practically speaking is that there is now at least one seminary here in the Bible Belt that will be actively sensitizing its future pastors to the plight of atheists in America, and the high degree of discrimination y’all face at the hands of religious Americans, and encouraging them to be more sympathetic and friendly towards you (in hopes that eventually they will teach their congregations to do the same). That, to me, is a very good thing.

Anyhow, thank you all so much for your help with this paper. It made a real difference. I wish I could post it here, but it’s rather long (20 pages). However, if anyone would like me to email them a copy, just let me know. Update: I just uploaded it to Google Docs, so if you’re interested you can find it here.

-Mike Clawson

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mike,

    I’d like a copy.

    Hopefully, it will bring more clarity to the pulpit/homilies so that we can all find peaceful common ground.

    Steve Schlicht
    Biloxi MS

  • I’d also love a copy.

  • Angie

    I would love a copy! Thanks.

  • Vene

    I say post it on scribd.

  • Josh

    I’d like to see a copy too.

  • andy

    Could you post it on Google Docs and make it public?

  • Jerad

    I’d appreciate getting a chance to read it!

  • Revyloution

    20 pages? Pft, light reading, were militant atheists. All we do is read.

    Seriously, I’d like a chance to read it.

  • Could you post it on Google Docs and make it public?

    Yeah, I should probably just do that.

  • Justin

    I’d be up for a copy, and if you do put it on Google Docs, let us know.

  • Twin-Skies

    I would like a copy please – my local group would love to read it 😀

  • Okay, I’ve uploaded it to Google Docs. Those of you who are interested can get it here.

    BTW, to get all the footnotes and citations you have to actually download the document and view it in Word. The Google Viewer apparently doesn’t preserve the footnotes.

  • ftl

    Cool! It was a nice read. Nice to know it got the message across!

  • Emily

    swoot, thanks for that Mike 😀

  • Excellent paper Mike. Thank you.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Thanks, Mike, enjoyed your paper. The stats on “spirituality” in acadamia were surprising.

  • Valhar2000

    Very good paper! I dare say it may take the audience that reads it as much as 1.3 seconds to rationalize and ignore it, possibly even longer. Quite a feat!

    Well, some people will get food for thought, and that’s never a bad thing.

    The only criticism I have to make is that I think you should have pointed out, in passing, that ludicrousness of comparing the New Atheist authors to religious fundamentalist extremists, which is one of the more common ways they are dismissed without a thought. Comparing these men (who write acerbic passages in books) to people who regularly advocate for the violation of the human rights of large swaths of the population (and regularly get their beliefs codified into law) is beyond ridiculous, yet many people consider this “balance”.

    Even so, you tell it like it is!

  • Mike, thanks for posting your paper. Its was well written, very interesting, and in my conclusion quite on target.

    It will be interesting to see how increased awareness of the plight of atheists will play out in the seminary. On one hand, the more liberal oriented could become more compassionate and accepting of atheists. One the other hand, the more conservative could view your points as examples of a shunning strategy working and re-double their efforts to marginalize atheists.

  • ErinM

    Thanks for posting this — an enlightening read and a courageous endeavor.

  • It will be interesting to see how increased awareness of the plight of atheists will play out in the seminary. On one hand, the more liberal oriented could become more compassionate and accepting of atheists. One the other hand, the more conservative could view your points as examples of a shunning strategy working and re-double their efforts to marginalize atheists.

    Well, my seminary is already fairly liberal, so I’d imagine that it will be pretty well-received. I’d say that most of my classmates are probably just unaware of the discrimination that atheists commonly face, but would not be unconcerned if they did find out. Even the few “conservatives” here are pretty compassionate when it comes to stuff like this.

    Ironically, among my friends here on campus, it’s the Unitarian/Universalists that have the most negative reaction towards atheists (though still very mild compared to the average conservative Christian reaction). I think it’s because the two groups (UUs and atheists) are so similar. I’ve often found it to be the case that groups which have a lot in common tend to fight that much harder over their minor points of difference.

  • JulietEcho

    It was a great read, and I think you were quite fair, clear, and persuasive. Two thumbs up 🙂

  • I’ve often found it to be the case that groups which have a lot in common tend to fight that much harder over their minor points of difference.

    That is so true. One needs to look no farther than all the in-fighting at the Richard Dawkins forums for an example.

  • Lynne

    Thanks for sharing the paper! I also thought the stats on spirituality in academia were very interesting. Though many people seem to think academics are not very religious, I would say my experiences match the stats you’ve included pretty closely (I have a PhD and currently work on a university campus). There certainly are atheists in academia, but they are still the minority, and often a pretty quiet minority. I’ve actually known a (perhaps) surprising number of conservative Christian academics.

  • Gary

    Excellent work, Mike. There is one place where you could have strengthened it. At the beginning of the paper you write,

    On August 27, 1987, then Vice President George Bush Sr. told reporter Rob Sherman of the American Atheist Press that he didn’t “know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” While this may seem like a shocking statement coming from a future President of the United States, Bush was in fact simply echoing the attitude that the vast majority of Americans have towards atheists.

    Here you might have noted that, not only was Bush “echoing the attitude that the vast majority of Americans have towards atheists,” he was correctly summarizing official U.S. government policy, which symbolically equates American patriotism with belief in God. “In God We Trust” is the national motto by act of Congress. The words “under God” appear in the Pledge of Allegiance by act of Congress. The clear implication in both cases is that, as far as the government is concerned, one cannot simultaneously be an atheist and a good American. Not really.

    This identification of religious belief with American patriotism can be seen, for example, on Indiana’s famous “In God We Trust” license plate. The design of the plate features, not a cross or other religious symbol, but — an American flag.

  • Jenea

    Bandwidth exceeded on Google docs–can anyone mirror it?

  • Demonhype

    As far as I’m concerned, equating atheists with fundamentalists is like equating MLK and his movement with the white supremacists/KKK. On one hand, you have an already firmly established organization of overprivileged majority doling out oppression and vile legislation to maintain their supreme status–who are at the very least propped up by the more moderate in their social group, if only by right of association with a more respectable version of that same idea*. On the other hand, you have select aggitators in the oppressed group (“select” because the systemtic oppression has rendered many of them silent or submissive) trying to raise awareness of the injustices, if not outright fighting tooth and nail just to defend what ground they have, much less gain any new ground.

    *Think about it. White people had long been established as the good, respectable types, while black people were fighting for equality without any such establishment–the lack of such establishment being mainly the fault of white society in the first place. Maleness had been long established as superior and dominant, while women were fighting for equality with no such establishment–again, the lack of such establishment being largely imposed by a male-dominated world. Christianity is established as good and respectable and already has the money and power to impose itself everywhere, while atheism is fighting without any such estabishment–again, this being mainly the fault of Christian bigotry, both overt and casual.

    Of course, it’s kind of hard to claim that great women in history were really men, or that great black men and women were actually white, but many great unbelievers in history (at least the ones who are perceived to have contributed something valuable) are so often “baptised post-mortem”–not officially, as with the mormons, but in people’s minds. “Well, so and so was a great man or woman who did great things, therefore he/she was a Christian (or at least believed in god)”. Conversely, Christians who did evil things (such as Hitler and the Nazi party) are unbaptised post-mortem in the minds of believers (well, so and so was evil, so therefore was an atheist). This is usually when the historical figure’s crimes are beyond denying or playing down and it is understood that defense of this person is not acceptable. Failing that, the evil actions of history’s Christian villians are played down or outright denied (this is usually when the person is so highly revered that the believer doesn’t want to hear a bad word about them).

    That’s one benefit that blacks and women have over atheists–I’ve heard it said that because atheists have the option of denying who they are, that what happens to them can never really be oppression. But I think that the necessary visibility that makes hiding impossible has its benefits to any endeavors towards advancement. After all, it’s kind of hard to claim the achievements of women and blacks for white men or foist the evils or failings of white men onto blacks and women. And the visiblity forces people to deal with it at some point, especially when you start speaking up. You can’t possibly pretend to be something you are not and your oppressor can only ignore you for so long. Whereas the fact that it is possible for an atheist to just deny who they are and coddle the religious by pretending to faith makes some think that ‘s what SHOULD happen–and, of course, creates the justification for oppression. “Well, if they don’t want to be oppressed, then they should just shut up and pretend to agree with me. If they don’t, then they have it coming.”

    I say this speaking as a woman, BTW. It’s easier to be taken seriously as a woman than to be taken seriously as an atheist (at least, in my experience), because becoming a man isn’t seen as an option. Belief isn’t really a choice either–could they “choose” to be atheists?–but they have yet to see it that way. If I assert my rights as a woman, I get a lot of “you go, girl!” If I assert my rights as an atheist, I get a lot of “what the hell is wrong with you!” or accusations of “reading too much” into overtly anti-atheist propaganda–all this from the same people, too.

    I realize that there is also a kind of “Uncle Tom” ideal with the oppressors of women and blacks, that the only “good” black or woman is the one who accepts his/her “proper position” and doesn’t call any attention to injustices imposed upon them. My only point is that necessary visibility creates certain elements to those probelms that you wouldn’t get otherwise–on one hand, you can’t hide from oppression, but on the other hand your oppressor can’t hide from you either. That’s why visibility has so long been seen as a lynchpin of the atheist movment–if I’m standing noticably in front of you, at some point you will have to come face to face with the fact that I am a human just like you. Visibilility is what forces people to come to terms with reality.

    Which is why the simple admission to atheism or a simple sign that says nothing more than “atheists exist and are not evil” are reacted to so viciously.

    BTW, sorry. I seem to be posting a lot of “wall ‘o texts” these days. I’ll try to lay off. 🙂

  • Karen

    Excellent effort, Mike, and great to hear how well-received it was. You deserve much credit! Congrats on your efforts and I hope school continues to go well for you. My best to the family. 🙂

  • Eliza

    Bandwidth exceeded on Google docs

    I get the same message, & Error “403” when I try to download it. Any suggestions? I’d like to read it!

  • I don’t know how else to host it online, so if anyone can’t get it through Google Docs just let me know and I’ll revert to my earlier plan of emailing it to you.

  • LKL

    Thanks for posting that – I was wondering about the lack of footnotes! I’ll have to go over it again in word.

error: Content is protected !!