Monday, November 1, 2010

"Other" group in America

Religion is a big part of American life especially in the South. This is shown in various ways such as the line “And this be our motto: "In God is our trust" in the American national anthem, and the pledge of American allegiance which is “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. As a result of this it is not a surprise that in 2008 only 0.7% of the adult American population reported themselves to be atheists.

Above is the website for the American atheists organisation which campaigns for “the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion”. The organisation was founded by Madalyn Murray O’ Hair as the result of her successful battle against mandatory school prayer and bible recitation.
On the website it reads that American Athesists have in the past thirty years

· Fought fervently to defend the Separation of Religion from Government Appeared in all forms of media to defend our positions and criticisms of religion and mythology
· Held Atheist conventions and gatherings throughout the United States, including "Atheist Pride" Marches in state capitals.
· Demonstrated and picketed throughout the country on behalf of Atheist rights and state church separation. The organization has marched to defend the rights of intellectuals such as writer Salman Rushdie, protested the use of government funds to support public religious displays, and conducted the first picket of a Roman Catholic pope in history.
· Published over 120 books about Atheism, criticism of religion, and state/church separation. Published newsletters, magazines and member-alerts.
· Built a broad outreach in cyberspace with mailing lists, an ftp and web site, FaxNet and other projects to keep members and the general public informed.
· Fostered a growing network of Representatives throughout the nation who monitor important First Amendment issues, and work on behalf of the organization in their areas.
· Grown a network of volunteers who perform a variety of important tasks in their community, from placing American Atheist books in libraries to writing letters and publicizing the Atheist perspective.
· Preserved Atheist literature and history in the nation's largest archive of its kind. The library's holdings span over three hundred years of Atheist thought. Provided speakers for colleges, universities, clubs and the news media.
· Granted college scholarships to young atheist activists

I found this interesting as although the opinions on the website are extremely one sided and don’t consider the view of religious people at all, it does raise the point that America is a deeply Religious country and for Americans who are not Religious they do have reason to think that their views are not being represented. The fact that the 1963 court case which decided that schools in America could not force school children to pray or read from the bible caused outrage at the time, makes it clear that most Americans would prefer that schoolchildren were forced to be Christian. Examples of this include the Life magazine in 1964 which stated that Madalyn Murray O’ Hair, who had won the case, was “the most hated woman in America”. This view shows us that Christianity in America in the 1960s were seen as “the norm” which therefore left non-Christian Americans feeling excluded as if they did speak out for their view they could suffer a backlash of hate. Although it isn’t as bad present day than it was in the 1960s, as a result of the religious sentiments of America such as the “in God we Trust” motto it could mean that non-Religious Americans still feel let down and shunned by their country.

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