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As politicians in Washington woo the Christian Coalition and other extremist anti-American pro-theocracy groups, one man stands up and speaks his mind without fear of retaliation from these bullies.
Speakers at Pat Robertson's "Road to Victory" Conference include Presidential hopefuls George W. Bush, Elizabeth Dole, and Steve Forbes. Also on the agenda are Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, loose cannon Pat Buchannan, commentator Alan Keyes, and "Christian Nation" revisionist and political opportunist Rev. Gary Bauer.
Meanwhile, the November, 1999, issue of "Playboy" Magazine hit the stands with a surprisingly candid interview from a politician: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
That Mr. Ventura would be candid is no surprise: last spring he joined the ranks of Thomas Jefferson in refusing to abuse his office to promote the National Day of Prayer event. Refusing to endorse a similar event, Jefferson said to Rev. Samuel Miller: "civil powers alone have been given to the President" who has "no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." Ventura's refusal fired the opening salvo in a battle against what would become his most formidable enemy: organized religion.
Undeterred by the reaction from the pro-theocracy camps, Ventura okayed the now famous "Playboy" interview. In it, he called organized religion "a sham and a crutch for the weak minded" and blamed it for telling people to "go out and stick their noses in other people's business."
The Reform Party has since called for Ventura's resignation from the party.
Isn't this always what happens when an atheist speaks out, even mildly, against the dangers of organized religion? Even many religious people are fed up with organized religion, and practice a private, unintrusive form of faith. But anybody who criticizes the behavior of the traditional religions is branded a "bigot" and "anti-religious." Now it's our turn to feel the heat. Again.
And this panic to see bigotry where it does not exist is particularly scary now that racial epithets have replaced four-letter words as The Taboo Language.
If "homophobia" is the notion that gays and lesbians have an evil "agenda" besides forwarding their own Liberty, dignity, and safety, then the fear of any criticism of religion should be called "atheophobia." We encourage the use of this new term in describing vitriolic behavior like that being leveled against Governor Ventura.
Here is a working definition:
1. fear of or intolerance toward atheists;
2. fear of any criticism of religion or spirituality;
3. fear of any move to bring religious neutrality to government or public life, or any move to neutralize the influence of religion (or one particular religion) upon government or public life;
4. fear that God may not exist, and the corresponding zeal to bring credibility to the notion that God does, indeed, exist.
Recognizing that organized religion and the Reform Party have gone too far in their atheophobic treatment of Jesse Ventura, Positive Atheism teams up with American Atheists in asking each atheist to send the Governor a letter of support.
Index: Atheophobia and the Jesse Ventura Flap
Copyright ©1999 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon