Dear Australia’s Megaphone Atheists,
We really need to talk. Sure, I know you think anybody who disagrees with you is a deluded moron but, when you launch into public debates blowing hot and cold, you start to make the reasonable, sensible atheists (like me) look bad.
The problem comes down to your sloganeering. When you use slogans as placeholders for thought, you end up saying pretty dumb things. We’ve seen the same thing with the religious folk we’ve pilloried. Remember when we mocked those religious nutters for saying:
It is … impossible to compromise with the stone-faced propagandists for Bronze Age morality: morons and philistines who hate Darwin and Einstein and managed, during their brief rule in Afghanistan, to ban and erase music and art while cultivating the skills of germ warfare. If they could do that to Afghans, what might they not have in mind for us? In confronting such people, the crucial thing is to be willing and able, if not in fact eager, to kill them without pity before they get started.
Oh, wait. That was Hitchens.
What about when the religious nutters said:
Cluster bombs are perhaps not good in themselves, but when they are dropped on identifiable concentrations of Taliban troops, they do have a heartening effect.
Oh, wait. Hitchens again.
Okay, what about when the religious nutters said:
Even in the case of the Aurora shooting, it is not ludicrous to suppose that everyone might have been better off had a well-trained person with a gun been at the scene.
Actually, that was Sam Harris. The guy who also said: ‘Islam, as it is currently understood and practiced by vast numbers of the world’s Muslims, is antithetical to civil society’.
Okay, so you megaphone atheists now have a reputation for saying repugnant and moronic things. At least in the above examples, we can see that your statements are self-evidently stupid and beneath contempt. But what about when you start chanting ‘Separation of Church and State’?
The issue arose last year with the Commonwealth’s funding of the National Chaplaincy Scheme. There you were trying to argue that secular money shouldn’t flow to religious programs because of the principle of ‘Separation of Church and State’. There should be two spheres, you claimed, where there was no support from one for the other. I argued that you were completely wrong for this argument. I also argued that we should be encouraging religious education in public schools in order to reduce the prevalence of extremism.
But, no. The important thing was the Separation of Church and State. Written by God Himself, nobody should even think that the Separation of Church and State might be a bad thing.
Oh, how your uppance has come! Anti-discrimination laws have an exemption for religious organisations and now you’re crying foul. Of course, this is the consequence of the Separation of Church and State: the State has to take a ‘hands off’ attitude towards how religious organisations manage themselves. If Catholics don’t want to hire Jews, that’s a matter for them and they shouldn’t be told otherwise. Why? Because there’s this thing (apparently) called the Separation of Church and State.
The Separation of Church and State is not your friend. What you really want is the Church to be subordinate to the State. If we want particular religious organisations to be banned (Westborough Baptist Church, for example), then we should be allowed to pass a law which says: ‘Nuts to your folkish beliefs about freedom of religion. Not in Australia.’ KKK? Not here. Forced marriages? Not here. And so on and so forth. Separation of Church and State is tacit approval of the idea that religious freedom is the most important freedom, but it shouldn’t be. While I respect religious folk — an uncommon trait among modern atheists — I don’t think their religious beliefs about the status of women, for example, should trump the feminist movement’s campaign for equality on their terms.
Caesaropapism, baby. The State should have authority over the Church; it should not take a ‘hands off’ attitude.