I remember a scene from the old movie PCU. If you've never heard of PCU, there's a very good reason for that. You're either not 25-35 years old right now, or you didn't watch enough daytime movies on Comedy Central.
Anyway, in the movie, a long line of people are standing outside the doors of a frat house or some such nonsense, the entering of which they are waiting for impatiently. Towards the end of the line, a black man says he should be at the front, because African-Americans have been persecuted in this country for hundreds of years. In the middle, a woman (a stereotypical and pejorative version of a feminist) says that women have been, to paraphrase, second fiddle since the beginning of time, so she should be at the front of the line. Further up, a homosexual man says that he would gladly give up his spot in line for the other two. Just kidding. He's pissed too.
What the movie is getting at here, in the language of early 90s humor, is that arguments like these are futile. Somebody will always find a way to one-up whatever problems you think you might have had. The goal, or at least, it's effect on me, is to prevent people from acting like this. Actually, the overall message of the movie was no more complex than "chill the fuck out and stop complaining."
Regardless, I would be not at all pleased with myself if I ever became one of those people. Specifically, I really hate getting into the "who has it worst in America" argument, myself being of the position that an atheist is a pretty hard thing to be sometimes. (I could almost hear people disagreeing with me before I even finished typing that sentence.) I'm going to state a case as to why I think that, but keep in mind that I'm doing this grudgingly and I don't even fully believe it myself and that if I were listening to myself I would say, "Kevin shut up." Nevertheless, I can't really vent my anger (what else did you think this blog was for?) without the actual comparison between a few things, so on we go.
The backstory is not too important. The political ad I'm about to reference takes place in North Carolina and was engineered by the Republican party against Democratic candidate for the senate. I'm cynical enough to believe that these facts are irrelevant to the situation, but if you're harboring a hatred for the Republican party, you're welcome for the fuel.
Here's the ad: (Not completely necessary to watch the whole thing)
The first thing I suppose I should address, if only to get it out of the way, is that the statements implied in the ad are, well, spurious to say the least. Kay Hagan herself is actually a Sunday school volunteer.
But the ad's not really chiding her for actually being an atheist is it? It doesn't even make a claim about what Kay Hagan would do if elected office. It says she took money from this organization, and that appears to be the biggest factor in her crime.
This is like debating Obama's religion however. You can argue about the Islamic school when he was a child and show pictures of him in a turban, but in the end, the only response that should elict from any thinking human being is a so what? The same rule should apply here. Sadly, it probably won't.
What gets me though is that while people debate Obama's religion, they wouldn't dare blamingly accuse him of accepting money from a Muslim organization like it was a terrible thing to do. That is the difference I would like to show. The Godless Americans group has opinions that differ from mainstream America, and that's cool. If you ask any Muslim American if they would prefer "Under God" or "Under Allah" in the pledge, they would probably answer the latter. Same goes with a Jewish American, a Buddhist American, a Hindu American and so on and so forth. (Replacing, of course, "Allah" with "Yahweh" "Shakamuni" or "Brahman" respectively.) The point I wish to make here is that they're not really any more radical than other group of this nature. Maybe a bit more honest, but that's about it.
However, you can apparently only associate with this group in the most insignificant of ways to keep yourself out of trouble. Imagine for one second what this ad would look like if you replaced "atheism" with "Hinduism" or any group, really. It's actually pretty hard to take it seriously. The only exception for this that I can think of would be violent groups, such as the KKK or neo-nazis. What we start to see here is that it's pretty ok to paint atheists as terrible people and those that associate with them, or even, god forbid, give them a voice in their own Congress, are just as terrible.
Here's the kicker though. If this ad were substituted with a different group, you would be sure as hell that not only that group would be pissed, but other people would be pissed for that group. You insulted the Jewish community? How dare you sir? But, nobody, nobody really cares about what's going on. I heard about this story on Olbermann, where it ranked 2nd as his worst person in the world section. Just second. There is a group of people out there, insinuating that a whole section of Americans are somehow inherently evil, despite having done no harm and just having a different opinion. That my friends is called bigotry, and you wish to tell me that it only ranks second in your book?
I'm trying really hard to not to say that atheists have it the worst in America, but things like this make it hard for me to avoid making that particular statement. I'll make this one instead: If we can't agree on who has it worst in America, can we at least start by treating all of our insults the same? In other words, if a Christian feels like standing up for me today, I'll stand up for them later (or, substitute the word "Christian" for any other minority you feel like...except vegans. Those guys can rot in hell.)