|This is post 2 of 6 in our part of the SSA Week Blogathon!|
Enter Washington Times columnist Marybeth Hicks. Writing in the "Culture" section of the Times, Hicks (or her editor) titles her article as an innocent affirmation of American religious freedom. So how bad could it be? Here's the first paragraph:
When historians one day look back on the rise and fall of the American republic, it won’t only be our habitual deficit spending and lack of financial discipline they blame for our demise, but the deficit of faith and lack of religion in our children’s generation.
Whoa. That's pretty heavy. And before I go any further, let me stress that this article was not published as an editorial or opinion piece. It was published as news in the section of the paper dedicated to Washington D.C. and popular culture -- meaning the article is technically the official opinion of the Washington Times.
ISSA's national affiliate group, the Secular Student Alliance, was specifically targeted as the sort of "aggressive atheists" pushing for a "pervasively more godless society." How's that, you ask? By "[envisioning] a future 'in which nontheistic students are respected voices in public discourse,'" according to Hicks.
|The inevitable result of a more secular society. (See also: Sweden)|
That's right. By wanting to ensure that the conclusions of freethinking students in America are respected - not obeyed, not mandated, but respected - the SSA and every group like it is therefore responsible for the downfall of the American Republic itself. For shame.
It would be lovely if Hicks' hysterical hyperbole were nothing more than the lurid ravings of a fanatic. Unfortunately, that hardly seems to be the case. The next day Jesse Galef, Communications Director for the SSA, was interviewed on CNN about our nation's increasingly nonreligious youth. Below is the video, followed by a small excerpt for those too lazy to watch four minutes of television.
Anchor: Some Christians might argue that because such groups are in high schools, you're indoctrinating young people at a time when, you know, it's not proper because they're not old enough to handle questions like that."
Galef: We don't go out finding students, we empower them to form groups if they want...It's not about forcing anybody to be nonreligious, it's about giving them a safe place to discuss and live out their values.
Anchor: Well some people accuse organizations like yours of trying to shape the beliefs of young people and they say that's dangerous because most religions, most religious people, um - you know religion helps you in your life. It's not a bad thing.
Galef: Yeah, you know it's not about forcing anyone to leave their faith. I think more and more students are acting as role models on campuses and in their communities showing that you can be a good person without believing in god.
Hicks' ravings were one thing, but this is a mainstream media news segment perpetuating a societal norm in which "religion helps you in your life" and alternative thought should be considered nothing more than indoctrination. I, for one, applaud Mr. Galef's tact in addressing such outrageous claims. And for anyone who readily dismisses the fact that atheists have it pretty rough here in America, this week stands out as a stark reminder of the obstacles we have yet to face. As we reach the end of the SSA Week, I urge all atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers to donate to the SSA. Let this week's media coverage serve as a reminder that we need their services now and for years to come.