What atheist groups learned from the Christian Coalition

Clem Britt AP In this file photo, Rev. Pat Robertson, center, talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast at the … Continued

Clem Britt

AP

In this file photo, Rev. Pat Robertson, center, talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Robertson was founder of the Christain Coalition.

Here was an interesting distinction between Christians and secularists: Christians had the same unifying word, but fought over theology; secularists had the same unifying theology, but fought over words. At least our wars were only verbal.

I give credit to the Christian Coalition. Though I disagreed with everything they stood for, they had a terrific model: put aside minor theological differences, work together on important political issues, and grab media attention. That was their plan to change the culture and make politicians take notice. Their strategy of demonizing atheists and secular humanists, while moving this country closer to a theocracy, worked all too well. I’m willing to learn from anyone who has something to teach us.

I joined a number of secular organizations in the 1990s because each was working on causes I supported. But these organizations saw themselves as competing with one another for funds from what they viewed to be a fixed pie of donors. The organizations were spending too much time arguing about labels (atheist, agnostic, humanistic, freethinker, etc.) and too little time showing strength in numbers and cooperating on issues that affect all secular Americans. I knew we needed to grow the pie to benefit all these groups and the secular movement as a whole.

There were lessons to be learned from the Christian Coalition and its religious right successors, who now argue less about dogma and cooperate more on political goals: preventing women from having access to all reproductive health care, promoting that evolution is just a myth and contending that our country was founded as a Christian nation that allows freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion.

LUCIAN PERKINS

TWP

9/14/96 Pat Robertson introduces Presidential Candidate Bob Dole.

The Secular Coalition for America was formed in 2002 to help break down walls and build bridges among atheist and humanist organizations. As a result, we now cooperate on the 95 percent we have in common, rather than argue about the 5 percent that distinguishes us from one another. The Secular Coalition has grown to eleven national member organizations, and covers the full spectrum of nontheists. Since each member organization has strict limits on lobbying, the Secular Coalition incorporated as a political advocacy group to allow unlimited lobbying on behalf of secular Americans. For too long, our nontheistic community has been considered politically inconsequential. There are over 50 million such Americans, and the Secular Coalition advocates for those millions without god beliefs.

Why Americans should embrace atheists
View Photo Gallery: Despite their negative reputations among many Americans, atheists tend to be very ethical and high-achieving, argue Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

Discrimination still exists against blacks, women, gays, and Jews, but neither as overtly nor permissibly as it once was. Politicians pay attention to these groups because they know these groups have well-organized advocates and constituencies.

Now it is our turn to seek that respect. For too long, our nontheistic constituency has been considered politically inconsequential. We may be the last minority against whom intolerance and discrimination are not only permitted, but also sometimes promoted by political leaders at every level. Improving the public perception of secular Americans is as important to many of us as pursuing a particular political agenda. Politicians think they are being tolerant when they express support for all faiths; instead, we expect to hear them publicly express support for all faiths and none, in light of the freedom of conscience for all people have.

We have learned from the Christian Coalition’s successes and failures, and we plan to benefit from both. The atheist and humanist community will show its strength in numbers at the Reason Rally. We want to increase the visibility of, and respect for, nontheistic viewpoints. We want to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government. The Reason Rally, I hope, will be a tipping point to accomplish these goals.

Herb Silverman is president of the Secular Coalition for America and author of “Candidate Without a Prayer.”

Richard Dawkins: Who would rally against reason?

Fred Edwords: The great atheist ‘coming out’

David Silverman: Why we need a Reason Rally

R. Elisabeth Cornwell: Why women need secularism

Tom Gilson: Atheists don’t own reason

Herb Silverman
Written by
  • RichardSRussell

    I remember a political cartoon from many years back. It was captioned “Here’s a headline you hardly ever see”. The image was of a newspaper with the screaming headline “Atheists Massacre Agnostics”.

    A chuckler, right? Feel free to substitute Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Orthodox, Coptics, Mormons, Canaanites, etc. for either the dishers-out or recipients of the massacring and you have something that’s not only unfunny but probably historically accurate.

    There’s a REASON why atheists don’t fly jetliners into skyscrapers.

  • quiensabe

    Where’s Susan Jacoby when you need her? At least she would not present an outright misstatement, Herb. You know very well that preventing women from having access to all reproductive health care is not a political goal of Christians. Christians protect the unborn in the womb and speak out on promiscuity. What is it to you? Women have rights and access to contraceptives is not denied. But why should we have to fund someones lifestyle that is offensive to us?

  • Catken1

    So how would you feel if I protected an innocent child by co-opting your body parts, without giving you the right to say no, as punishment for your having engaged in a perfectly normal and pleasurable activity, like sex?

    Why should I have to fund the lifestyle of those who have more kids than they can support, or who claim they “support” their kids while, for example, not giving any of them, but particularly the girls, an adequate education, making them much more likely to be dependent on welfare later?

  • ccnl1

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without hav

  • ccnl1

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without hav

  • ccnl1

    Herb Silverman,

    Another attempt to gain more money/salary for/from your “non-profit”??

  • quiensabe

    OK, Cat, get out your checkbook. Let’s see…I find great pleasure in…

    Boating-I need a room at Lake Powell the week end of April 7

    Skiing-My friends who ski with me need new boots. They are in medical school so they’ll need new clothes too. And lift tickets. And,oh yea, we all drink the finest brandy…Brrr! Brandy is SOOOO Good, especially in the outdoor heated pool at Sun Valley!!! Oh, boy! It’ll cost them about $25 thousand over the next eight years…It takes a long time to get through medical school, residency and all.

    But, you know, I think you ought to pay for all of that, so when they get out, why, they can treat your STD’s because you think I should pay for your promiscuity.

    And, notice, we’ve not even started on those innocents that want my body parts. Boating and skiing accidents do happen. Can anyone say stem cell?

  • SimonTemplar

    Well put quiensabe.

  • SimonTemplar

    Are you suggesting they should have used the word “atheist” in every headline that mentioned the name of Jeffrey Dahmer?

  • Carstonio

    Silverman doesn’t seem to understand or care that the Christian Coalition and its allies don’t represent Christianity. They’re a vocal minority in that religion who want to preserve religion-based social privilege. By definition, anyone who opposes such privilege is a secularist, even if the person is a devout believer in Christianity or another religion.

  • Carstonio

    Silverman doesn’t seem to understand or care that the Christian Coalition and its allies don’t represent Christianity. They’re a vocal minority in that religion who want to preserve religion-based social privilege. By definition, anyone who opposes such privilege is a secularist, even if the person is a devout believer in Christianity or another religion.

  • Carstonio

    Richard, the real problem is not religion but absolutism, something that is found in only some religions. A lack of religious belief wouldn’t make a person immune to absolutist beliefs in general. Fundamentalists are fond of invoking the totalitarian dictators of the 20th century as “proof” of the alleged evils of atheism. They don’t seem to understand that the ideologies involved more closely resembled fanatical, hateful versions of religions. So whether an ideology preaches belief in gods is less important than whether it preaches “us versus them” hatred.

  • argillic

    Christians don’t tend to view their choices as “lifestyle” choices becasue they assume they are the norm, but some of their typical choices such as large families put burdens on education, infrastructure, social programs and retirement plans that all of us bear. Further, in more heavily religious areas of the U.S., rates of crime, divorce, and addiction to “acceptable” drugs like pain-killers are higher than average, again burdening thy neighbor. Add to that the resounding rejection by conservative Christians of a need to care for the environment and rein in global warming, and you have a toxic “lifestyle” that causes far more harm to members of nontheist and nontraditional religions, along with the rest of Americans, than members of those groups cause anybody.

  • larryclyons

    I will not credit a hate group with anything other than contempt. The Christian Coalition is a hate group.

  • larryclyons

    hate much?

  • ccnl1

    A money-making scheme by the Silvermans (the atheist version of the Graham family)?? Probably. Internet media networking is doing the same job at no cost and no trip to Washington and $1000 front row seats required.

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS–

    The Apostles’ Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    And then augmented by the following:

    Putting the final kibosh on religion to include Mormonism:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cul

  • collin542

    We’re ultimately paying for into your churches, because your churches don’t pay taxes. Why should we paying for you?

  • LaraLoganDoesExist

    Your group is a hate group. You anti Christian bigot.

  • LaraLoganDoesExist

    Catken1

    People who regularly go to church have the lowest healthcare costs and do the most charity so the proper question is why should they have to pay for the lifestyles of heathen secularists?

  • LaraLoganDoesExist

    ccnl1

    But Christianity built this civilization.

  • LaraLoganDoesExist

    People who regularly go to church have the lowest healthcare costs and do the most charity so the proper question is why should they have to pay for the lifestyles of heathen secularists?

  • SODDI

    The Christian Coalition DOES represent Christianity, as does the Westboro Baptist Church.

    You might not like it, but they do.

  • Carstonio

    Like many other religions, Christianity is so diverse that no one group or demonination should be treated as representational. Rick Perry and Jim Wallis claim to both follow Jesus but they couldn’t be farther apart theologically and ideologically. The same goes for Westboro Baptist and Unitarian Universalism. What you’re suggesting equates to all Christians tacitly endorsing theocracy by default, even the ones who strongly condemn that idea.

  • persiflage

    While there are many political positions on the continuum, when one considers Christianity, there is one unassailable requirement for true membership – either you believe that Jesus Christ is the human manifestation of a triune God that rose from the dead and ascended into heaven…….or you don’t.

    If you are not committed to this belief, then the majority of Christians would not want to claim you as ‘one of them’. I think it is important to remember that there are absolutes attached to religion – and theistic forms in particular. How one interprets one’s religious beliefs in term of behavior is another matter.

    All of this says nothing about person’s political persuasion – although biblical literalists tend to be both very conservative and politically republican………..

  • ccnl1

    Christian economics 101:

    The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the “dunking”. The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added “healing” as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree. But still no greed there.

    Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters and a prophecy of the imminent second coming for a fee for salvation and “Gentilized” the good word to the “big buck” world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!! And he and the other Apostles forgot to pay their Roman taxes and the legendary actions by the Romans made them martyrs for future greed. Paul was guilty of minor greed?

    Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them “free”. Major greed on his part!!

    The Holy Roman “Empirers”/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelicals et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today’s richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

    “Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God’s hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus’ failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing.”

  • bnutz79

    Retards

  • SODDI

    I learned to be MEANER from the christian coalition.

  • SODDI

    Actually, the Baghdad Caliphate preserved much of the knowlege of the Greeks and Romans. And invented math (along with an amusing little Hindu device, the zero.) So our civilization was built by the Moslems.

  • SODDI

    The Three Stooges – Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Jerome Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Joe DeRita.

  • SODDI

    But the Muslims still invented math.

    Europeans were too busy dying from the bubonic plague, carried by fleas. They could have been spared some of it if they had bathed regularly, but the Catholic Church discouraged people from regular bathing as it was a “vanity”.

  • ccnl1

    “Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation “the insanest of all books”.[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he “considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” [31]

    Martin Luther “found it an offensive piece of work” and John Calvin “had grave doubts about its value.”[32]

  • ccnl1

    Please provide reliable references comparing the hygiene of the various populations during said time period.

  • catatonicjones

    How is it we never hear from those who ‘strongly condemn the idea’?
    I hear these same people claiming all muslims must support terrorism because not enough muslims are condemning it.

    There is a good argument to be made that moderate christians (whatever that means) don’t condemn such things because it seems to put them on the same side as people who actually are against religion. For them, a bad christian is better than a good atheist. It helps them avoid having to think too hard about it.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Some say organizing atheists is like herding cats.

    It is really difficult to get excited over religious nothingness.

    I think the internet may just make herding cats possible.

    The hostile reactions of the religious folks against religious nothingness will generate a concrete base for organization of the atheists.

    I think the most vulnerable target is to appeal to the basic American ethos of social inclusivenss. We should target the most vulnearble “we” in “In God We Trust” .

    Does the “We” in “In God We Trust” include me, an atheist?

    We should target “In God We Trust” and urge the saving of some ink.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Can’t argue with your subjective truth, but objectively spaying a dog will likely lead to lower vet bills.

    The reproductive tract is troublesome and burdensome, and unnecessary.