The recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision to allow prayer in public meetings and places as per the suit involving a Jew, atheist and the town of Greece, NY has already created a kerfuffle. Recently, a Wiccan asked to open a meeting of the Huntsville, AL city council. He was first granted permission, then had it denied.
This could create uproar everywhere, depending upon how many Wiccans, heathens, atheists, agnostics and skeptics get wind of it and decide that enough is enough. I had sent this tidbit of information to a friend, and his reply is priceless. Fortunately, I have his permission to print it verbatim here.
Sadly, even though I like and have always liked to give credit where appropriate, I cannot do it in this case. It would be too dangerous for my friend.
As he says, “If I can contribute in anyway . . . to the discomfiture of the pious, then count me in. You can quote me as a friend who would face social and professional consequences if his neighbors and employer knew his views on religion. It is always worth reminding the faithful that no, it ain’t quite so free a country as they like to think it is.”
His comments back to me on the Huntsville situation where non-Christians have been or are denied a chance to participate in opening ceremonies are as follows.
“I have long thought that since many people think that beginning a city-council or school-board meeting with prayer is appropriate and good, somebody needs to show up with a sacrificial unblemished ram and a big knife and demand to be allowed to begin the meeting with a sacrifice to Athena, goddess of wisdom. If we're going to ask for the help of any deity before conducting public business, surely the gray-eyed goddess of wisdom and virgin daughter of Zeus is the one to ask.
“It is, after all, my sincerely held religious belief that slitting the throat of a hapless ram, carving up the carcass on the spot, and grilling the choice bits as an offering will please Pallas Athena and induce her to favor our undertakings. And I dare any Christian to prove that I don't sincerely believe that.
“Sure, some of the children and ladies present might be troubled by the desperate bleating and the blood and the death throes of the doomed animal and the sight and smell of the butchery, but surely my religious freedom trumps their objections. After all, I have to sit and listen to their blithering about some ancient carpenter who was nailed to lumber after being scourged with a whip and having a crown of thorns jammed into his skull.
“Slitting a throat of a ram or sheep isn't nearly as bloody, horrific, and revolting as the story that Christians revel in. So surely no one will object to my exercise of religious liberty as I kill a ram for Athena.
“Next month, for the next meeting of the city council or school board or whatever, I can show up naked and painted blue, announce that I have become a Druid, and demand to begin the meeting with a Druid prayer and ceremony--since exercising religious liberty at public meetings is my right. People convert to new religions every day, and none of the Christians present can show that I am not sincere in my Druidic beliefs.
“The following month, I can announce my sincere conversion to the Aztec faith and demand that the public meeting not begin until I have hacked the beating heart out of a virgin as an offering to my god.
“On second thought, the Aztec thing might be hard to pull off in these parts, since I don't know where the hell one could find a virgin locally. But you get the idea.
“Of course, just as the Wiccan chap in Alabama was denied his public prayer, so a follower of Greek, Druid, or Aztec religion would be denied a chance to pray.
“The problem, alas, is not that evangelical Christians don't understand that government cannot favor one sectarian opinion over other sectarian opinions. No; the problem is that evangelicals want government to endorse and favor one sectarian viewpoint. They want a theocracy. The loudest proponents of public prayer do not believe that Hindus, pagans, Muslims, freethinkers, Buddhists, Jews, and members of other Christian sects should have the same rights as members of the locally dominant Christian cult.
“The problem is that a considerable segment of this society rejects the Enlightenment and the Constitution. Those people do not want a secular government and a rational society.
“Legal battles are merely short-term stopgap measures. The big struggle is against religion itself. Magical thinking, the belief in supernatural forces and beings, is antithetical to reason, knowledge, progress, and good.
“Very slowly, the numbers do move in the direction of reason. The number of secular young people grows slowly but steadily. We have decades of darkness yet to endure, but eventually superstition will have a smaller effect on public policy and the superstitious will be relegated to the margins where they belong.
“Either that, or we'll drive ourselves into extinction. In the meantime, we should drive the Christianists crazy every chance we get. I might go get a ram and a big knife.”