A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
It’s a topic I cannot help revisiting on an annual basis – and in 2014, there’s an improbably fresh angle to what otherwise would be a very old story.
First, the essay.
On December 23, 2010, I used my pre-merger Tribune newspaper column's bully pulpit to mischievously bait prevailing community intolerance, and community intolerance was quick to bait right back -- pseudonymously, of course.
Therein lies the delicious twist.
Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching.
Phobias are among the most fundamental of psychological phenomena, and I feel for anyone who suffers from them.
I have a few phobias, including a mild fear of heights (acrophobia), and a bit of taphephobia, the fear of being buried alive, as in a grave. These lurk in the murky background of my subconscious, bubbling to the surface every so often to wreak discomfort.
As an atheist, I’m sometimes accused of hagiophobia, a fear of holy things, but the naysayers are the ones with the problem: They’re suffering from phronemophobia, a fear of thinking. Granted, unbelievers aren’t preferred dinner guests this time of year, so how is a fear of atheists and atheism described? One source suggests atheophobia as truest to the Greek origins of the idea, while another offers oupistidophobia, literally “no-faith-phobia.”
I mention oupistidophobia because Christmas truly never fails to inspire intemperate attacks on atheists and atheism. The closer we get to the biggest day on the Christian festival calendar, the more phobic frothing about an insidious, irreligious conspiracy of militant atheists, which although insignificant in numbers, remains intent on attacking the faith of vulnerable, pious Christians – themselves comprising more than three-quarters of America’s population.
My favorite recurring seasonal set piece is when Christians, easily the beneficiaries of the most pervasive and relentless propaganda machine in the history of mankind, express outrage whenever miniscule dollops of free thinking manage to elude the leaden grip of the mandated American theocracy, and suddenly pose an Ebola-like threat to the hegemony of Christianity’s indigenous edifice.
A couple years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation erected a sign on the capitol grounds in Washington state:
At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
As an aside, the wording is largely superfluous past “prevail.” A theist believes in something, and bears the burden of proof, while those absent such belief cannot logically be expected to explain why something does NOT exist.
Assuming one accepts the desirability of an open, pluralistic society beyond the bare fundamentals required to freely make piles of money by buying and reselling Chinese plastic trinkets, what’s so bad about equal time for opposing viewpoints?
The lawn in question abuts a building constructed by adherents of a non-religious political system that purports to represent all the residents of a secular state, not just the believers therein.
Alas, simplicity seldom is a part of this discussion. Just this past weekend, a local contributor to the Tribune bemoaned the current state of “Christless Christmas,” closing with a typical dose of seasonal alarmism:
I feel strongly that we have lost much in our move to a Christless Christmas. It shows in our disregard for the value of human life. It shows in our fractured family relationships. It shows in our reluctance to form close ties with our neighbors as our grandparents did. Back then it was accepted, and rightly so, that this was a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments after all. No one was (and still are not) forced to attend church or worship anywhere. People were, and are, free to be of any or no religion. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists were as free to practice their religions as Christians were theirs.
To me, what this viewpoint implies is that if Americans of differing creeds would grow up and cede the inevitability of Christian “truth”, choosing instead to play-act in public by embracing a beige uniformity that never once existed in reality … and if these non-Christians, including atheists, would meekly worship on the down low, without publicly challenging the purely Christian nature of the Republic … then this apologetic acknowledgement of Christianity’s pre-eminence would enable the constantly threatened Christian majority to grudgingly tolerate, as opposed to genuinely respect, otherwise errant theological convictions … and voila!
All our societal ills would magically disappear, just like that.
I repeat: Really?
It’s always the same historically inaccurate ruse: In spite of those inconvenient Constitutional quirks, the United States must be touted with flexed muscles as an overtly “Christian nation,” with requisite displays of piety for outward show, especially at Christmas, and yet, even as they stare malevolently at a winter solstice sign in Olympia, Washington, Christians also quickly remind us that Christmas “exists in our hearts,” a place utterly impervious to the alleged wickedness of the outside world, where faith cannot ever be dislodged.
If that’s true, what’s the point of appearances, anyway?
The mere presence of other viewpoints hardly stands to bring Christianity to its knees. I've never understood why those of religious orientation (another one of those “chosen” lifestyles, eh?) are so insecure when it comes to considerations of alternative worldviews.
Maybe it’s Satan, the same imaginary force for “evil” once held responsible for heretical notions of cell structure, gravity and interplanetary exploration, as well as other scientific findings that caused the heads of so many learned fellow Christians to roll down bloody cobblestoned streets, their death warrants signed by you know who.
Oupistidophobia or not, it seldom matters to me until religion crosses the line, and given the global history of persecution and mayhem administered from a religious perspective, I'll say just this: There's a much greater chance of an atheist being harmed by religion than the other way around.
Just remember the Inquisition as you fill your stockings this holiday season.
Not unexpectedly, those intolerant folks best resembling the chosen subjects of my column quickly descended on me in the days to follow, not unlike piranhas on a hunk of stray Boston butt, and a week later, I offered a recap.
Readers, you may even experience a sense of déjà vu all over again.
Beer Money fan mail pours in ... that's nice ... is it time for a beer yet?
(December 29, 2010)
I've always found it amusing when advised not to discuss politics and religion at the dinner table.
The truth of the matter is this: As the political and religious topic comes closer to one's own home and neighborhood, silence steadily descends along with the gravy. In other words, politics and religion won't disturb anyone's meal any time soon if they're being argued in a local context, where deeds actually might mean something if ventured.
Rather, most folks would rather get worked up about things happening a thousand miles away or in a different astral dimension. Doing so spares them any chance of actual involvement.
In this spirit, having failed to elicit much in the way of discussion while warning of the tyranny of bridge tolls, I changed course last week and devoted my Thursday Tribune column to atheism. Predictably, the online comments area quickly filled.
Here are a few of the gems.
First up is Amy Adams. We've jousted before, haven't we? She's the Clere Channel groupie, right? I know it's her because she always addresses me in the same way. At any rate, Amy comes off sounding really grumpy about my column, although it didn't suppress her twitteristic voyeur instinct, did it?
Baylor, since you've made up your mind to be angry about Christianity, I'm not sure why I'm writing this because it won't make any difference. I saw that you wrote anti-Christmas stuff on your Twitter account too. You've been a grump, grump, GRUMP about the whole thing ... The only thing you're ever happy about is beer. What kind of sad statement is that! ... To the Tribune: Please stop publishing this rubbish. Several people I know refuse to read this column and now I'm joining their ranks. Please fill the space with something else.
Amy will be delighted to know that I've taken her advice. This week's column is quite happily about beer. And then there's Andrew, who cribs Amy's (those pesky "A" names) formatting. He couldn't help reading, either, accusing me of being angry before getting a tad miffed himself.
Takes a lot of nerve to put it in print that you don't believe in God. I'm not surprised. Goes along with all your anger ... To the Tribune: I agree with the commenter who asked that you stop publishing Baylor's columns. He doesn't write anything to help the people. This article doesn't make any more sense than anything else he writes. I don't read this and only checked this one out because someone sent me a link. It's just filling space. Make it your New Year's resolution to get rid of it.
If the columns are "just filling space," why do they take so damned long to write?
'Believe it or not' hasn't forgotten the Publican or Christopher Hitchens. He or she detects a group of followers trailing behind my robes, but what the hey -- I'm no tin pan prophet.
I pray for you (prayers that, I suspect, you do not wish for), and even today in church we collectively prayed for all non-believers ... Why not consider writing something to offer the public a wisdom to uplift rather than tear down, to come to a greater understanding of themselves rather than to criticize, and to speak to all the people rather than engage your group of supporters in strong (and angry) alliance with you?
Saving the best for last, even my personal physician, Dr. Oakengruber, weighs in:
With all of his big words and rhetoric, Mr. Baylor attempts to hide the fact he suffers from Theophobia (fear of Gods or Religion). You rarely find any Christian as outwardly intolerant as you repeatedly hear and read from Mr. Baylor. There are numerous examples of his utter disdain for people with a religious belief.
At least my sawbones, who is a diehard Republican, openly opposes bridge tolls. Recalling that holiest of dictums, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," we might yet find grounds for common cause.
Ah, yes. Christmas, four years removed, in 2014 … and nothing has changed.
Well, almost nothing.
Now, 48 months later, we know that in all likelihood, those first three critical comments from 2010 quoted above came from the very same person.
At least Erik/Erika remains himself/herself at Freedom to Screech ... and bully (pulpit) for THAT.