Saturday, April 9, 2011

Aren't We All Born Atheists?

I surf the internet quite a bit (perhaps more than I should). I mostly read science articles and blogs, but I also enjoy ESPN, Twitter and YouTube. Today was just a typical internet day for me, when I came across an amazingly ignorant quote made by George H.W. Bush (the first one who was president, not his bigger idiot of a son).

During a campaign stop in 1987, then Vice President Bush was asked a few questions by Robert Sherman, a reporter at the time for American Atheists. The conversation went like this:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

WOW!!! My first comment is that his final thought, "I'm just not very high on atheists", is probably superfluous after the comment about atheists not being considered citizens or patriots. I had to reread this a few times to make sure that I wasn't mistaken. I admit that I am shocked I had not seen or heard of this quote before (I am obviously not spending enough time online..*wife rolls eyes while packing my things*).

I am confused by the statement "atheists aren't citizens". What do we believe about god at birth? Are there children who are born Christian or Muslim? I would argue no. I am quite sure that children are born without a belief in a supreme being. They acquire a "knowledge" or belief in god during their upbringing. In fact, I know that my kid did not come out of the womb believing in god. He and I have had conversations about it since then, but he ONLY knows about the "eye in the sky" because of these conversations (I would have waited until later to talk about this with him actually, but he heard about god in school and came home with questions). Is Bush claiming that newborns aren't citizens of the United States? Was he claiming that my son, despite being born in this country, is not a citizen? Does he really believe that? Does he still believe that?

We are all born atheists. Is it right to bar someone from being a citizen based on something that they are at birth? If you replace the word "atheist" with any other condition of birth (perhaps "black" or "handicapped"), would he make the same statement? Maybe he would..I guess we can't be sure (My guess is that he wouldn't, because it wouldn't be as advantageous politically to make such a's very acceptable politically to bash atheists though). Is it right to discriminate someone based on what they ARE or what they believe, rather than what they DO? (I've asked a lot of questions in this post..sorry).

To me, a child's lack of belief in god is based on the lack of evidence presented to him/her. They might not understand the concept of "belief", but they see you and can touch you and I would say in that sense they "believe" in you. I have never heard or seen any credible evidence for the existence of a higher power, so I don't believe in one. I haven't claimed that there ISN'T a god. Just that I don't see a reason to believe in one, and I have based that on a lack of evidence.

So according to George Bush, I am not a citizen (I'll ignore the patriot comment...if I'm not a citizen, I'm certainly not going to be a patriot). Neither is my son, nor was either of us at birth. I know I shouldn't get hung up on ONE statement made my ONE idiot made almost a quarter of a century ago (nor do I think his opinion is shared by other believers). But MAN, that really rubbed me the wrong way. Oh well, the Capitals have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference. I guess I'll stick to while I'm surfing the web the next couple of days.

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