I have no illusions that there’s an endgame.  These problems never go away.  You have to educate every single generation about this and make sure it doesn’t creep back into our society.  There’s no sense in which the job is ever done.
-- Tim Gill

Just for the record, Tim Gill is a software engineer and rights advocate, who has been an integral part of the thrust for LGBTQ equality.  His influence spans from the 2003 Goodridge v Dept. of Public Health case to the triumph which was Obergefell v Hodges.  This is a man who has put his own sweat and treasure, to the tune of several hundred million dollars into this fight, yet judging by the above quote, he is not at all resting on his laurels.  Indeed, quite the contrary.

Considering the parallels which have been drawn multiple times between the gay rights movement and the drive for secularism in government, state / church separation and atheist rights, I have to wonder if we as atheists aren’t in the same boat.  It is alleged that, 100 years ago, Robert Green Ingersoll and those with whom he worked thought that they had the battle won, that Christianity had been neutralized as a political force in the United States and that those who argued for religion-free government could relax.  The past century and certainly the time since Ronald Reagan’s inauguration have made a lie of that thought, and with the advent of Donald Trump and his catering to the Christian right, gains we have made in the eight years under former President Obama threaten to be rolled back, along with gay rights protections, those for the environment, and too many other important issues.

Gill’s quote forces me to ask: is there an endemic element of … what?  Stupidity, bigotry, a determined attitude of “I’m better than you are” in the human genome which will persist despite cultural and societal influence?  Being an engineer and not a sociologist, I haven’t the expertise to offer an informed answer to that question.  Nonetheless, the patterns we see in recent history make a strong suggestion that this may, in fact, be the case.  While the cause of atheism may not be so far advanced as the gay rights movement has become, the continued resistance to issues such as crosses on public property, prayers in government meetings, and the teaching of religion-inspired pseudo-science in public classrooms, despite longstanding judicial sanctions, is indicative both of the Christian privilege which has been too often assumed in US society and their determination to maintain its entrenched position there.  It is entirely possible that we are engaged in a nationwide game of Whack-A-Mole: remove one cross at one town hall and a plaque with the 10 Commandments shows up in another in a pattern which could go on endlessly.

The only hope which we might hold out against this state of affairs is the continuing growth of irreligiosity and the decline in numbers of those who believe.  Those who at minimum have let religion slide by the boards, if not boldly come out as atheists, are now estimated to number at over 20% of US population, while the count of Christian Protestants dropped out of the majority three or four years ago.  It is conceivable that their recent behavior is the equivalent of Cheyne-Stokes breathing, signaling the death throes of the Christian state.  At some point or other, a paradigm shift may occur, where religious influence ceases to be the persistent problem we currently face and reason begins to assert itself as the more prevalent attitude in public life and conduct, whether that regards alternative sexuality rights or issues of faith versus fact.

It would be great to see that day come, but I can’t help noticing that Tim Gill continues to gird his loins, anticipating more fights against the LGBTQ community.  Much as I hate to say it, for the moment, I think we need to do the same.

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Comment by Loren Miller on July 15, 2017 at 6:22am

@ Compelled: Third-world religious population growth is the real wild card to me.  I can't help but notice that both Catholic and Islamic proselytism in Africa and other, less educated places is at an all-time high.  There have also been some blatant statements by some imams that they wish to overrun the other religions by sheer force of numbers.  THAT is a genuine danger to the world's secular communities, and we need to watch it like a hawk.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 15, 2017 at 6:17am

@ Thomas Murray: Thomas, my point was that the struggle for rights, whether LGBTQ or atheist and secular is largely a function of religious activity and, to a degree, religious population.  I DO sadly still expect a spate of desperate religious outreach as believers become more aware of their declining numbers, but the long-term easement of our fight is what I at least hope for.

Whether that's what in fact happens depends on real-world activity.

Comment by Compelledunbeliever on July 13, 2017 at 7:52pm

   Just the other day I saw on pathos (I wish I could remember where) a report that while secularism is gaining traction in the developed first world regions, theism is outpacing in third world regions. The third world regions were also reported to also be substantially out pacing population statistics. While this may appear unsettling, the first world countries do heavily influence third world countries culturally. This being said I do believe despite the obvious statistical conclusions that there is much hope.

Comment by Thomas Murray on July 13, 2017 at 7:38pm

Loren,
"The only hope which we might hold out against this state of affairs is the continuing growth of irreligiosity and the decline in numbers of those who believe."

   I do not trust my understanding to what I think you mean. Are you saying you hope the more secular people or non religious people are the less social ills we will have?

Comment by Loren Miller on July 13, 2017 at 9:31am

Side Note: I became aware of Tim Gill through the good offices of Rolling Stone magazine, whose piece on Gill in this week's issue provided the goad for this blog.  It's good stuff and worth your time.

Comment by Compelledunbeliever on July 12, 2017 at 7:24pm

 I believe the lbgt movement is an excellent model for us to use, non violent, bold, assertive, with completely reasonable arguments.  It was once argued here in Colorado that gays wanted "Special Rights".  It soon became obvious even to Christians that these "Special Rights" simply ment that the Christian right would no longer be able to have "Special Rights". Equality was quite unsettling for them. Eventually they had to succumb to the horrific thing called EQUALITY. The most horrible curse word ever. Anyway, Colorado is much better for bi, hetro, and homosexuals.

There is much to be learned from the lbgt community. They have indeed broke the ground for us.

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 12, 2017 at 12:01pm

If I believe there is no evidence of god/s, I have a rationale for my belief and have the opportunity and responsibility to make my beliefs known, to challenge those with whom I disagree. To remain silent is of no benefit to me or others if I am correct in my beliefs. The task then falls on me to be competent and confident in my belief. I need make no apology, nor do I need to ask permission to speak. What I do need is spunk, courage, and clarity in my thinking. 

Does it matter if anyone agrees with me? No, not really. Or does it matter if anyone disagrees with me? No, unless I want to subjugate myself to others. 

Am I atheist or theist? Not a difficult question for me to answer; not a difficult position to hold. No submission required or necessary. 

If I am correct in my lack of belief in god/s, then it is my opportunity and responsibility to say so. 

Comment by Daniel W on July 12, 2017 at 11:39am

Loren, I'm not optimistic that the battle is ever won.  The biopsychosocial drive to tribalism, easy answers, paranoia, and scapegoating, must somehow be inborn into our species' psyche.  As Thomas Jefferson apparently didn't say, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".

Progress is nonlinear.  There are two steps forward, one step back, a few steps sideways, do-si-do and alamand left before going forward again.  The regressive right and diverse megareligion puritans probably take that same point of view.

For the short run, I think we are in a regressive stage.  Our job, as much as I can see, is to keep the flame lit, and provide a refuge and encouragement for like minded people, so that we can continue the progress when events and history shift again.

During difficult times, people tend to circle the wagons and retrench.  I suspect that gives the regressive forces an advantage, because they seem to create bad times for many with their policies.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 12, 2017 at 8:38am

To date, Bertold, I'm not aware of any anti-atheist pogroms ever instituted by the United States, though I'm sure there have been religiously sponsored efforts to denigrate and ostracize nonbelievers.  Indeed, any effort to encourage government action against any minority has too often had its genesis in the First Estate.  For that reason alone, we have to persist in our fight against religion, until its political influence is at least mitigated if not eliminated.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on July 12, 2017 at 8:18am

Coincidentally ran across this this morning:

How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

[The Conversation]

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