The Freedom from Religion Foundation (see my banner on the left margin) is sponsoring billboards in the Tampa area as part of their continuing effort to increase the visibility of non-belief in America. Many of the ads target the motto, “In God We Trust.”
“We are offended to be left out of our national motto,” Gaylor said, referring to the phrase, “In God We Trust,” which appears on all U.S. coins. The motto, she said, excludes those who doubt or deny the existence of God, as well as those who believe in more than one God.
Kudos to the FFRF for the effort. It’s only one city, but the fact that I’m reading about it proves that the impact is far more widespread. As I said yesterday, it’s important for us non-believers to continue making our presence known. Visibility is the key to empathy, which is the undoing of oppression.
In a predictably… um… predictable response, some generic preacher or another said this:
“For you to take God out of government, you would have to sandblast pretty much all of Washington that is just covered with prayers and with scriptures and with the thought of a sovereign God,” said Ken Whitten, senior pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. “The Ten Commandments that we live by today, everybody wants the fruit of those Ten Commandments. We just don’t want the root of those Ten Commandments. Those people putting up those billboards, they don’t want anybody stealing from them, they don’t want anybody killing them.”
The interesting thing is that even if he is completely right — and he’s only mostly right — this objection is not an argument. It’s just an objection. So what if Washington is covered by scriptures and inscriptions dedicated to the belief in a sovereign god? The entire south was once covered with slave quarters. After that, it was covered with “Whites Only” facilities. The ubiquity of a practice does not equate to validation of the practice.
Perhaps more egregious is his claim that the Ten Commandments are the core of American legislation and cultural morality. They’re not. Just for review, let’s put it in plain writing. We’ll use the Exodus version:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
- The Bill of Rights specifically contradicts the first commandment. We are absolutely allowed to have any god — or no god — before, after, or alongside the god of the Bible. It’s one of our basic freedoms.
- We are similarly free to make images of any god we choose. (Muslims’ desires notwithstanding.)
- Even the FCC allows us to say “God damn it.” Taking the name of any god in vain is protected speech.
- We are free to observe the Sabbath or not.
- We are not required by law to honor our parents.
- Murder is prohibited in virtually every legal code in the world. With or without Christianity, it is obvious that murder is wrong.
- It is not illegal to commit adultery.
- Like murder, theft is ubiquitous in legal codes. Nothing groundbreaking here.
- Like murder and theft, lying under oath is illegal pretty much everywhere.
- It is not illegal to covet (strongly desire) something your neighbor owns.
So, out of the ten commandments, no less than seven are specifically and incontrovertibly contradicted by our legal system. The remaining three are so obvious as to be a part of every modern system of government in the world, regardless of religious affiliation. The U.S. Government is most definitely not founded on the Ten Commandments. It is ANTITHETICAL to the majority of them.
Yeah, we atheists don’t want people stealing from us or killing us, but we can justify those desires without referring to Christianity. In fact, we are better able to justify our desires, since we don’t have to explain away the homicidal, xenophobic, misogynistic actions and commands of our God. We can just appeal to human compassion and the desire for an orderly society.
This is a message we need to keep pounding into the collective consciousness. The United States would be FAR LESS FREE if it really was founded on the Ten Commandments. Our freedoms come from the rejection of seven out of the ten!
Once again, kudos to the FFRF for putting this message out there. If you are not a supporter, you should be. And yes, I mean you should come up out of the pocket to pay for their billboards. This is really important stuff. Especially in a down economy, any little bit helps. The FFRF has your best interests at heart and the clout to act on those interests. But they need money. Churches are far better funded, so it’s always an uphill battle. For every atheist billboard, there are probably a hundred advertising churches or religion.
CLICK HERE to go to the FFRF site and donate whatever you can afford to spare. Do it now. This is a tiny thing you can do, but if enough of us do it, we can make a huge impact, and go to sleep knowing that we’ve had the guts to do something besides bitch about religion on the internet.