Thursday, 18 April 2013

'Atheists and humanists are the most discriminated groups in the country'

The religiously unaffiliated in the US is the fastest growing segment in the US and already number 20%.
Many see the lies, scaremongering, social manipulation, moral hypocrisy, and money hungry preachers and are repulsed.

Even though some US studies put atheists in a position of being less trusted than sex offenders, the religious right is organised and holds veto power of one of the two major political parties in the US. It's somewhat bizarre, because at the same time they respect Brad Pitts' work in Katrina recovery, George Clooney's ambassadorial works for human rights and are big fans of Daniel Radcliffe and Ian McKellan, not to mention the huge support for the Star Trek franchise - created by atheist Gene Roddenbury. Gene, Leonard Nimoy (raised in Jewish tradition) and two others wrote the Undiscovered Country after his acceptance of the atheist position. The script has Captain Kirk asking "What does God need of a star ship?". This is a parody of a Christian parable.

In New Zealand, the religiously unaffiliated number about 35%, but we have a similar problem to the US; as we have not yet organized a potent political force to counter the regressive politics of rightwing religious fundamentalists. It is time for secular people in America, New Zealand and elsewhere to organise. Todd Stiefel is doing his part and helped organise the Reason Rally 2012 that brought 20-30,000 secular people together on the Washington Mall. America's secular voters wielded surprising power in last year's presidential vote.

Here in New Zealand, The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and the Humanist Society of New Zealand are working at the vanguard of bringing together secular New Zealanders. Recently, these groups worked together to bring a series of public seminars highlighting the encroachment of religious fundamentalism in our public schools. New Zealand prides itself on being an inclusive society. Religious fundamentalism is often unabashedly exclusive; this is an anathema to our Kiwi values. The failed push back for marriage equality is just one example, the vast majority of the opposition to Louisa Wall's bill was from religious groups. Too often, they offered vile arguments, scaremongering with predictions of criminal behaviour, and in at least one case blamed the drought on the discussions and push for marriage equality.

It may seem easy to dismiss these ludicrous contributions to the debate as just the product of the minds of random cranks, but the fact is they are not. The fact is too many unsceptical minds accept these assertions without question. Note that today the Bob McCroskrie's facebook group Protect Marriage NZ has over 7800 likes and sometimes posting material from the American Family Association which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a hate group. Here is a sample from Bob himself:

When I checked today, I did not see any posts on that page by anyone other than "Protect Marriage NZ", primarily shares of statuses and blogposts by Bob McCroskrie. It sort of looks like the modern equivalent of the 1970's kook with a mimeograph in the basement. Though that appearance may be administrative because overtime an intolerance of tolerance grew in the way they handled dissenting posts.

Such intolerance of dissenting opinion is common among primarily fundamentalist groups. It seems they habitually take demonstrably wrong positions and can't stand their ideas being shown up as unsupported by anything more than sky hooks, or that the ideas they are pushing are flat out counterfactual. It creates an echo chamber effect which was so clearly demonstrated in the genuine shock of the GOP at the last US Presidential election.

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