The Freedom To Not Believe

I’ve heard people claim that one of the things that makes America great is that people can believe whatever they want.  Of course, this sounds good in theory, but in practice the situation is quite different.  In general, the best course of action for an atheist is to keep his or her mouth shut.  Sharing that opinion generally leads to being marginalized or being a rather hated outcast.  And why?  Personally, I think that most people know that their views on religion are on such shaky foundation that even questioning it would be a threat to their irrational views. 

In any case, Truthout reports in Pentagon Sued Over Mandatory Christianity the details of a lawsuit against the U.S. Army.  From the article:

“Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking … staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist,” says the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to Truthout. “The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal.”

Moreover, the complaint alleges that on August 7, when Hall received permission by an Army chaplain to organize a meeting of other soldiers who shared his atheist beliefs, his supervisor, Army Major Paul Welborne, broke up the gathering and threatened to retaliate against the soldier by charging him with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The complaint also alleges that Welborne vowed to block Hall’s reenlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet – a violation of Hall’s First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Welborne is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

While this is one specific example of forced religion, it’s certainly not an isolated one.  It’s quite common in schools (at all levels) for teachers to assume that people believe in God (n.b. the singular form of the word).  As I mentioned in the past, George Bush apparently doesn’t believe that atheists should be considered citizens.  Clearly, religious (or anti-religious) persecution is quite alive and well in the United States.

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