WE present to you, dear reader, a letter-to-the-editor titled Atheists’ view not realistic, which appears in the Anderson Independent-Mail of Anderson, South Carolina. We’ll copy most of today’s letter, omitting the writer’s name and city, adding some bold for emphasis and our Curmudgeonly commentary between the paragraphs. Here we go:
The worldview of atheism is secular humanism.
We keep encountering references that belief, so we had to look it up. Wikipedia leads off by saying that secular humanism is “a humanist philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making.”
That’s all we know at this point, but it doesn’t sound very menacing. In fact, it sounds like Thomas Jefferson’s belief system. Let’s read on:
In 1957, two secular humanist organizations were defined by a U.S. court as religious organizations and granted tax-exempt status.
That probably refers to two separate decisions in two separate courts. The first is Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda — a state court case dealing with California’s real estate taxes. The appellate court decided that the Fellowship’s meeting house was entitled to an exemption from city and county property taxes because its activities were analogous to those of a church. The letter-writer claims that the organization was defined as a religious organization. That’s not at all true.
The other 1957 case to which the letter-writer refers is probably Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia. It’s another real estate tax-exemption case, with the same result as the California case.
The reason creationists are obsessed with such decisions — aside from the perceived insult of sharing their valuable tax-exempt status with the ungodly — goes something like this:
[Creationist mode begins.] If atheist organizations can enjoy the same tax-free status as churches, why then — by golly — they’re churches too! And that means if any of their gull-durned atheistic science is taught in public schools, then — by golly, by gum — that violates the separation of church and state. So if the atheists get to teach their godless science, then — by cracky — we can teach creationism! [Creationist mode ends.]
That’s the “reasoning” they go through. Isn’t creationism fun?
Your Curmudgeon’s response is twofold: First, the public schools are in the business of teaching science, and creationism doesn’t qualify. Period. It’s imbecilic to argue that a group’s municipal tax-exemption is decisive as to whether that group’s beliefs are scientific or theocratic. Second, either all property should be taxed or none should be. Period. All property benefits from police and fire protection. The roads provide access to all property. So we say let them all pay — or none, which is even better. If, however, politicians pander to churches and give them a tax break, then … well, they’re going to be stuck with attempting to justify their favoritism by making arcane theocratic distinctions between the way various organizations use their properties. It’s silly stuff.
But enough of that. Let’s continue with today’s letter:
To ask taxpaying citizens who believe in a creator to tolerate censorship of their views in a public school is unreasonable. When schools want to speculate on the origin of existence, if teachings on intelligent design and creationism are excluded, I don’t call it an education.
Okay, that’s what the letter-writer thinks. Here’s more:
No atheist is all knowing, therefore there is much he doesn’t know.
Oooooooh! That was good. Any more like that?
For an atheist to arbitrarily decide there is no creator might be what he wants, but is it realistic?
Huh? Is Noah’s Ark realistic? Never mind — let’s just move along:
No scientist has ever produced or observed something from nothing or life from non-life, nor disproved the laws of thermodynamics. Since there is something and there is life and it is orderly and extremely complex, to believe this all accidentally evolved from nothing is a bizarre leap of faith.
Aaaargh!! On with the letter:
If an atheist conforms to the mores of society because he believes it to be in his own self-interest, it does not make him moral.
Whaaaa? Self-interest is immoral? Anyway, here’s the end of the letter:
The test of his morality will be when society becomes destructive of human life in whatever stage of growth or he is put in a position of power. How will he react?
[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]
There you are, dear reader. If you can figure this one out, we salute you.
Update: See Creationist Wisdom #128: Secular Humanism 2.
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