LITTLE ORPHAN THEISM by R. Murray-O'Hair Reproduced from the +quot;Editor's Desk+quot; col

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************************************************************ LITTLE ORPHAN THEISM by R. Murray-O'Hair Reproduced from the "Editor's Desk" column in the August 1989 issue of the "American Atheist" Magazine. ************************************************************* Horrors! Religion has no place to go! Apparently, all those statistics about the churches owning 25 percent of privately owned American property were not worth the ledger sheets on which they were figured. Either that or all those churches we Atheists think we see on practically every street corner are so structurally unsound that the roofs would simply collapse if exposed to any joyful noises made unto the lord. Church land? Well, those accountants who added up church wealth in the last few decades must have made yet another mistake on this score. There really can't be any. The office space glut that we heard about must have been just so much nonsense, because theist societies and clubs seemingly cannot even find space to lease or rent. And, evidently, religion cannot even be practiced in private homes, either. Could it be because the radon with which our houses are supposed to be filled has an explosive effect when mixed with the holy ghost or the spirit of the god of one's choice? Nonsense you say? Religion has a home of its own? But then why is there all this fuss about the Judeo-Christian tradition's being tossed out of the public sector? From all the caterwauling, I would have thought that there was no safe place for prayer but football games and city council meetings. Christians fight pitifully for the right not to be denied the chance to say their prayers at otherwise secular proceedings and go on about the fact that if they are denied the chance to belt out their supplications at school and government functions, they will be denied the right to pray at all. I just came to the natural conclusion that they had no place else to go, that all those buildings that looked like churches must be oddly shaped skating rinks or something. And what else could I think but that Christians and Jews had no place else to set those creches and menorahs than in state capitols and city halls. Why, all that church land I keep hearing about must be church land_fills_, because apparently it's no fit place on which they may place religious displays. The religious instead have to beg space from the government. Of course, churches and synagogues wouldn't even think of renting space to put on their Sabbath shows instead of having to plead for meeting space at schools, universities, city buildings, etc. Why? My conclusion was that all those empty office and retail buildings I thought I saw in most metropolitan areas were really not for rent. I guess they must be some sort of modern monuments to the real estate industry, because those poor churches can't use them at all and are simply forced into local governments' arms instead. As to why sectarian displays cannot stay on the yards and in the homes of the religious instead of having to crouch, like homeless orphans, on the steps of city hall, I had only two theories. One was the aforementioned radon gas guess. The second was that despite the popular pollsters, there are actually no religious people. This second theory is based on two observations: (1) Christian radio stations are continually complaining about the lack of Christians and (2) the last several Decembers the number and complexity of seasonal displays in my own home city have decreased dramatically. The first conjecture was, of course, based on the presumption that there are plenty of god-addicts, but they just have some compelling reason not to practice their religion and set out their totems on their own personal property. If the churches can't convince their own sheep to haul out the crosses, creches, and menorahs once a year, what else can they do but run like frightened children to the all-protective skirts of Ma Government? My meditations on the sad state of Judeo-Christianity in our nation today are brought on by Jon G. Murray's account in this month's "Director's Briefcase" of the decision in "Jager v. Douglas County School District" and the reactions to it. In that case, a federal appeals court came to the conclusion that high school football games were inappropriate venues for mandatory prayer sessions. The immediate reaction of religionists in the areas governed by that court, as well as in adjacent states, was to bemoan the loss of liberty of theists (in the geographical region in question "theists" means "Christians"). Claiming a stunted freedom, a shortened Bill of Rights, is almost a reflex reaction of theists when reprimanded for intruding their own god-system into a public arena. It is a very clever one also. Nearly three decades after the school prayer decision, they are still getting media and political mileage out of wailing about "not being allowed to pray in school" -- as if their kids are only physically capable of praying when forced to do so by a public school teacher. In the football game prayer issue, we again find god-addicts using this stunted-freedom argument as if it had some relevance to the issue at hand. But there is a true art to using the stunted-freedom argument. One must offer it with a proper look of abused anguish -- and then run before anyone really starts to think about it. If, for instance, state/church separationists and religionists were arguing over the passage of a law forbidding the practice of Christianity on private property, this argument might have some force. Such a law would, of course, result in a deprivation of freedoms, but does anyone, even a Christer, really believe that prayerful theists have nowhere else to go but public high school football games? That's a little like claiming that if one can't ride a horse in the state capitol building, one's not allowed to ride horses at all. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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