Atheists: No room in our tent for bigots

by guest blogger David Silverman

(The text of the speech American Atheist President David Silverman gave at a recent convention)

I would like to open this convention with a statement of exclusion. I’ve been an atheist activist for 21 years and throughout that entire period I have banged the drum of the big tent atheism. I have strived to include everyone in this community, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, conservative or liberal — everyone has been included in our community as far as I am concerned. Reasonable people can have reasonably disagreements about reasonable topics. That’s what it means to be an American. And to be an atheist.

Some have agreed with me and some have not, but I have stood my ground proudly as we at American Atheists represented the broadest definition of atheist, anyone, and that means anyone, who does not have a belief in a god, or as my friend Aron Ra puts it, anyone who is not convinced that a particular god exists.Silverman

I was right to take that position because we are the most maligned and underrepresented religious demographic in the country, and we all need to speak up and be counted as what we are.

People used to come to me with such silly examples. “Come on Dave,” they would say. “We can’t literally include everyone. What about Nazis?”

And I laughed at them. I would say, “Silly detractors, there are no atheist Nazis!”

Those were the days. But we’re living in a very different country and a very different world.

So let me be clear on something: American Atheists is here to do good. We are here to improve the country by improving the lives of atheists and other religious minorities by erasing religious privilege and that means defeating bigotry and prejudice.

Our tent is big, because we need to raise awareness of our breadth and ubiquity.
Our tent is big, because infighting and division can kill a movement. Our tent is big, because our job is big and our work is hard and we need all the help we can get.

But ladies and gentlemen, the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere that have permeated our news over the past few weeks demand that we speak out. That we clarify. That we say, in no uncertain terms, that we will not tolerate intolerance.

American Atheists fights to eliminate bigotry against our community. And we cannot support bigotry from our community. I certainly cannot.

So to be clear (and I can’t believe I need to say this from the stage): If you are a person who believes white supremacy is “reasonable,” if you believe bigotry against other people because of their race or gender or sexual orientation is morally acceptable, if you think good people can march alongside Nazis, our tent is too small for you.

I don’t want your money.

I don’t want your membership.

And I sure as hell don’t want your friendship.

Your cause is not our cause.

Calling yourself an atheist doesn’t make you part of our community. It just means we happen to share one thing in common. And that one thing isn’t good enough.Dave_Silverman.svg

Conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, big government or small government, firebrand or diplomat, you are all welcome here. But white supremacists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and bigots have no place in American Atheists, and are not welcome at this convention or anywhere near me.

When I became an activist 21 years ago, I thought such idiocy was a thing of the past. I was wrong.

I still believe we have to keep this tent as large as we can, but we must not include those who would destroy our community or the people in it by embracing bigotry or simply turning a blind eye to it.

We must own the fact that some atheists can be bad people. Simply rejecting gods doesn’t make you a good person. It doesn’t make you reasonable.

The fact is that some of these bigots are atheists. Religion doesn’t have a monopoly on bad ideas. Just because vast majority of those who would take away the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters, women, and the rest of us do so because of their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones.

The atheists who side with religious bigots against the cause of equality are no friends of mine. I have far more in common with the Christian who strives for equality than I do with any atheist, no matter how outspoken, who advocates hatred.

I hope that’s clear and I hope the time of Nazis and racists and white supremacists marching in the streets in America passes in short order.

But it’s not enough to hope. This is a fight we all must fight. It is a fight that American Atheists will fight. It’s a fight I will fight. And I hope it’s a fight I can count on you to fight.




The Top 10 Reasons Hillary Lost

Clinton’s loss took everyone by surprise. Even Fox News had predicted her win. And did you see Trump’s expression on election night? Even he seemed astonished.

Everyone has a theory why this happened but the real answer is complicated. Anyone who insists there is just one reason is wrong.hillary2

Protest Voters. Many of my liberal friends seem to be only blaming those who voted for 3rd party candidates. There are always 3rd party candidates, and we’ll probably never get rid of them because there is a small percentage of voters who somehow think “This year for sure!” or otherwise delude themselves into believing these votes make a difference. They never do. And this was the year — when you had two candidates whose negatives were higher than their positives — where a 3rd party could have risen and won. None of them came close. If it didn’t happen this year, it never will.

Did this have an impact on the final vote?  Sure, but you always expect there will be a few percentage points going to some minor fringe candidate. Blaming the people who are always there and when you knew they were going to be there solves nothing.

They hate the Clintons. The Democrats just really underestimated how much people really don’t like the Clintons. Her negatives were huge. Most of it was unjustified and based on lies and right-wing propaganda, but justified or not, it was there. Nominating an unpopular candidate and then losing the election? Where is the surprise there?

And there were many Democrats who (like me) did not really like Clinton that much either but voted for her over Cheetoface. But there was no enthusiasm there. The enthusiasm gap really hurt us.

We Want Outsiders. Everyone is sick and tired of politics as usual. We’ve had enough Bushes and Clintons running things. On the GOP side, all the insiders lost their primary runs.

One reason Bernie Sanders had a lot of support is because, even though he had been in politics most of his life, he was the one railing against the insiders and Wall Street and “business as usual” — meanwhile, Hillary was giving speeches to Goldman Sachs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the image you wanted this year.

We Democrats didn’t pay attention to this anger. The people on both sides are angry and we ignored them and picked the insider.

This is not to say Bernie would have won. There would have been terrible attacks on him, but I don’t see how it would have been any worse than the ones leveled against Hillary. Had Hillary not run, we would have been in a better position, as there are some very qualified candidates out there who probably could have destroyed Trump.

Now, on the Republican side, the irony is that Trump is not an outsider. The man is a millionaire who knows nothing about what the average man goes through and has never in his life shown the slightest interest in them. But hey, he’s a great con man, and this will go down as one of the greatest cons of all time.

Racists and Bigots. You can’t deny that this was their year — finally, a candidate who stood for hatred! When the KKK and the American Nazi Party endorse someone, that’s a pretty good sign. Their people usually don’t get involved but they saw their orange savior on the hill, and were going to come out and vote for him no matter what.

We’ve already started to see what this means; hate crimes have gone up as these people have become bolder. And it’s just going to get worse — but that’s a topic for another post.

This, in many ways, is what always happens historically. Progress is made and there are those who will constantly fight against it and conserve their precious way of life (that’s why they are “conservatives”). This backlash against progress explains the Civil War, the backlash against the Restoration efforts afterward, the fight against civil rights, the fights over immigrants that is constant in our history, and so on. In the end, progress always wins but there are many battles along the way.

That Woman Thing. Here in Pennsylvania, Democrats swept the state offices that were on the ballot — Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer. The two that we lost? Senator and President — the only ones with female candidates. And we lost those by slim margins.

It’s not hard to imagine that there may be 2% of the population that is still so neanderthal that they won’t vote for a woman no matter how qualified.

Voter suppression. Republicans have done everything they can to keep Democrats from being able to vote. They’ve even admitted as such when they didn’t think anyone was paying attention. There were lots of stories about how the Republican-run states were closing precincts in minority neighborhoods, removing names from voting lists, and otherwise cheating to help their clown win, and they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t effective.

Basically, Republicans will do everything they can to win an election except get the most votes.

Dirty tricks. Russia has now admitted it was helping Trump win. The FBI Director had a Trump sign on his lawn and did everything he could to discredit Hillary at a time when her chances were the greatest, and then recanted it all on a slow news day when hardly anyone noticed. Wikileaks posted fake emails. These things may not be the reason Clinton lost, but they certainly were a reason.

The Hubris of the Elite. This is a big one. I could write a book about this.

The real divide in America right now is not blue state versus red state — it’s urban versus rural. And the rural folks are being tired of being made fun of every night on the talk shows, tired of people calling them rubes for clinging to their religion, tired of being told they’re bigots. The “fly over” states are resentful of the “elite” who look down on the uneducated masses.

This is not new; it’s a basic populist message that has gained votes for generations.

I am not saying these people are right. A lot of them really are bigots, and deserve to be called that. They stand in the way of progress, wave their Confederate flags and refuse to serve gay couples. Many of them really are a “basket of deplorables.”

But they’re also not all like that. There are some good rural people who feel left out and who think no one stands up for them. They’ve seen their factories and mines close and take all the jobs in town away, and whatever economic progress is made always goes to the cities. They listen to Fox News and believe all their lies about what Obama is doing, and don’t realize that the programs he pushes helps them too. And they’re resentful and angry.

Many  could not stand Trump but (like many Democrats did with Hillary) they held their nose and voted for him anyway because it was better than the alternative. And that’s not going to change until the media and political elite stop treating them like idiots — even when they are idiots.

We Just Don’t Vote. The Republicans voted in the same basic numbers they always have, and we didn’t this time. Our numbers were down. So of course we lost. It doesn’t matter if there are more of us than them. If we don’t vote, they win.

In fact, a majority of Americans didn’t vote at all. If you insist on placing the blame on one factor, that would be it.

The government isn’t “them.” It’s us. We, the people. And as a society, we can’t bitch about what the government does if we don’t even do the most basic thing and get out and vote. It’s our fault.

That Damned Electoral College. For the fourth time in our history, the person with fewer votes won the election, and that’s twice now in the last 16 years — both times giving us absolutely terrible Presidents. (Hey, at least now George W. Bush can go down in history as the 2nd Worst President.)

Isn’t it ridiculous that the person the majority of Americans voted against gets to be President? (And, of course, Trump being Trump, he’s now claiming he has a “mandate.” What an asshole. And no, I’m not going to suddenly give him respect just because he has that office. I’ll respect the office, not the man.)

I’ve ranted about the Electoral College before, and if you’re interested, check this post and read the very extensive comments.

And finally, a disclaimer: This is a very basic overview and not the treatise that could and will be written about this terrible election.

Nothing about gay marriage, but Jesus does talk a lot about greed…

Hey, remember those fun-loving evil bakers who claimed they were being discriminated against because they were not allowed to discriminate against other people? And how the court said, “You know, that sure seems to violate the law. Pay the fine.”? Remember them?cake

Are you shocked to learn that they are refusing to pay the fine? Like bigot Kim Davis, they claim that God’s Law is more important than United States’ law (and of course, only their version of “God’s law” since there are plenty of Christians who think these people are absolute jerks).

If you ask these bakers where in “God’s Law” it talks about gay marriage, they can’t answer you because, you know, it’s not there. Jesus said nothing about it. He did, however, talk an awful lot about greed and how that was a terrible sin.

You see, these bakers were pretty smart about one thing: They got a lot of rubes to contribute to their “legal fund” and now they’re sitting on half a million dollars. You’d think that paying a fine would count as a “legal cost” but geez, that would mean they’d have to give up a small percentage of that lovely cash.

No, that cash is much better used elsewhere. Since Jesus told us all we should be giving to the poor and helping charity, it will go there.

Ha ha!  Just kidding! Of course they’re not giving a cent to charity!

Bigotry is very profitable these days.

Bigots pass bigotty Bigot Law in Bigot Arizona

Bigots in Arizona cheered as their state legislature passed the nation’s toughest law against tolerance, understanding, and equality.

“Finally, we can discriminate against gays and lesbians,” say the bigots, who had been doing that for years anyway.   raibow

The law allows businesses to discriminate for religious reasons.  So if you are a person who really believes in the Bible and thinks that it says you should treat gays as subhuman, you’re in.  This is your day.

“It’s great,” said Marcus J. Kellington, a Christian supporter, while eating shellfish and showing off his new tattoo.  “Now I can abide by my religious beliefs without government interfering by taking the side of actual, caring and feeling human beings.”

“The part about how evil gays are is right there,” he said, pointing to the Bible, after passing by the parts prohibiting the eating of shellfish and the wearing of tattoos.  “Wait a minute,  sorry.  That’s the part where Jesus says we should love one another no matter what.  It’s in here somewhere.  Give me a minute.”

Satanist Deathblade Bloodshatter (not his real name), a barista at an Albuquerque Starbucks, is also pleased.  “Dude, now I can refuse to give Christians their morning latte because I don’t like what they do.”  Some Muslim organizations said they would kick out any women not covered from head to toe, and a Scientologist who owns a bakery in Flagstaff will require all who enter his place of business to vow service to Xenu, Grand Dictator of the Galactic Federation, or be denied cupcakes.

“This is what America is all about,” said Governor Jan Brewer.  “The freedom to  deny basic human rights and to be assholes to anyone not like us.”

Irony Alert: Song about brotherhood and bringing us together has divided us

Whenever I see some conservative politician’s ad about “Real America” it always shows  a bunch of white people on a farm somewhere, even though the vast majority of Americans live in cities and suburbs, never see a farm, and are more and more not even white.  As I said in a previous post, “Real America” to me is a bustling city full of all sorts of different cultures, races and religions living together in relative peace and harmony.

So I thought the Super Bowl Coke ad was wonderful.  It showed Americans, singing “America the Beautiful,” and making its point that we are all Americans, no matter what we look like, who we love, or what our native language may be.

So here it comes.  Warning:  Irony Alert.  A lot of Irony Alert.

Some conservatives thought the ad was an insult.  They complained, often with misspelled words and poor grammar, that if you can’t speak English you shouldn’t be considered an American.

Michael Patrick Leahy over at Breitbart complained that Coke had used this song, which is about brotherhood and bringing people together, in a divisive manner.  He complained that it didn’t fit our American ideals of “e pluribus unum.”  That latin phrase literally means “out of many, one.”  Or, to use simpler words, we are stronger together than we are as individuals and no matter what we are as individuals, we are all accepted and part of the whole. 

Best were the “patriots” who whined that Coke had ruined “our National Anthem” (which is, of course, “The Star Spangled Banner”).

So yeah, I don’t get the complaints.  They think this ad is tearing us apart from what America really means when to me, it is exactly what America means.

Nation’s bigots subject of hate-filled intolerance

Gays were married on the Grammies last night. Fox News’ Todd Starns was quite hurt, calling it a “hate-filled, bigoted, intolerant diatribe against Christians.” grammy-wedding-600x450

In a related story, David Duke, a prominent member of the KKK, complained about seeing an interracial couple during the show. “It hurts, you know?” he said. “These people have no concern for my feelings. It’s so hateful the way they treat my views.”

Yes, all over the United States, bigots are finding themselves the subject of intolerance, and being completely unaware of the concept of irony, have declared that anyone who fights against their bigotry is the real problem.

An attack on their view is an attack on every single foundation of their religion — and, by God, that is just intolerant. Just look at them! What could be more hateful and mean than expressing your love for someone by marrying them?

“We should never ever disagree with someone else’s views if they are based in religion,” Starns claims, “because otherwise, you are just a hateful, mean person. Oh, except for Muslims. Screw them and everything they stand for.”

Gay Bigotry is Dying, So Why Are the Bigots Still Winning?

The latest polls show that gay marriage is now supported by a majority of Americans with the exception of evangelical Christians, the backbone of the Republican party.

And that’s why only nine states have allowed gay marriage (or as they like to call it, “marriage”).gay+marriage+generic081612

Once more, the people lead the politicians, who are afraid of doing anything that may alienate the loudest voters. The solution, clearly, is for us to be louder.

Posting on blogs and Facebook is good for getting the message out, but like all political action, you have to do more. You’ll be surprised how much politicians pay attention to emails and letters they get. Encourage them to sponsor a bill, and let them know how much you’ll work for and contribute to their future campaigns.

Hell, just get out and vote. For every election, including primaries. We outnumber them. We have the power. But if they vote and we don’t, they win.

That’s what the bigots do. They participate. That’s how they defeated propositions in California and other states that would have banned this discrimination.

So spread the word, let everyone know we won’t stand for discrimination, and then do something about it.

I’m Sorry You’re a Bigot

Seriously. I’m really sorry, and sad for you.

But when you say that gays should not be given the same rights as everyone else, you’re a bigot by definition.

I mean, I know you don’t think you’re a bigot. You think you’re a modern, free-thinking reasonable person. All bigots think that. No one thinks of themselves as a bigot, because they’ve rationalized their reasons for treating other human beings as less than human.

Despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that anyone chooses their sexual orientation, you have decided that they do.

There are a few reasons why you may believe that.

Maybe your religion tells you that’s the case and you won’t question it.

Or maybe you have those feelings, and assume everyone else does too. Since you’re fighting the urges inside of you, you think everyone goes through that. “Since I have chosen not to act on my feelings,” you say, “then they can make the choice, too.”

Unfortunately, in either of these scenarios, you’re still a bigot.

The fact that you believe very strongly that you are correct doesn’t mean anything. The reasons for your bigotry aren’t important. All that matters is how you treat your fellow human beings.

And once you have decided that other humans can be treated as inferiors for things they can’t control — their sex, their race, their sexual orientation, their place of birth — then you’re a bigot no matter how sincerely you may believe you are not.

And I’m sorry for you.