Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"...it could be the 'Brokeback mountain moment for atheists"

Chris Mooney announces a new film from Matthew Chapman, "screenwriter, director, author, and the great great grandson of Charlie Darwin."


I’m in New York today to interview Matthew Chapman about his new film, The Ledge. Chapman, if you don’t know of him already, is a screenwriter, director, author, and the great great grandson of Charlie Darwin. Here’s the trailer–I think people are going to like this one. Early buzz suggests it could be the “Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists.” Starring Liv Tyler, Terence Howard, and Patrick Wilson. The film was nominated for Best US Drama at Sundance, can be seen now On Demand, and hits theaters July 8.

Atheists are an amusing coterie. They are the least persecuted group in history; Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims have died in the thousands and millions for their beliefs. The 20th century is the most horrible century for Christian martyrs. The Holocaust is the paradigm of human evil. Buddhists have been persecuted systematically in many nations. Muslims were slaughtered in the Crusades.

Anti-atheist pogroms? Can you name one? Of course not. The reality is that atheists have rarely been the target of organized violence or supression. SInce the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, and Communism, atheism has been the most prolific perpetrator of violence in human history. No other ideoogy comes close. State atheism- from the Reign of Terror to Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Kim Jung Il- killed more people each week of the past century than the Spanish Inquisition killed in 300 years.

Is The Ledge the Brokeback Mountain for atheists? We'll see. But the atheist obsession with faux-persecution is a pitiful charade, given the unprecedented carnage that atheism-in-power has brought to mankind. Atheists owe mankind an apology, not smarmy self-pity.

Atheism is obsession with self.


  1. During the Early modern period, the term "atheist" was used as an insult and applied to a broad range of people, including those who held opposing theological beliefs, as well as suicides, immoral or self-indulgent people, and even opponents of the belief in witchcraft.[1][6][7] Atheistic beliefs continued to be seen as threatening to order and society by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas. Lawyer and scholar Thomas More asserted that religious tolerance should be extended to all except those who did not believe in a deity or the immortality of the soul.[4] Even John Locke, a founder of modern notions of religious liberty, argued that atheists (as well as Catholics and Muslims) should not be granted full citizenship rights.[4]

    During the Inquisition, several of those accused of atheism and/or blasphemy met gruesome fates. These included a priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and a Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw,[1][8][9] as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546. Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms.

  2. During the nineteenth century, British atheists, though few in number, were subject to discriminatory practices.[12] Those unwilling to swear Christian oaths during judicial proceedings were unable to give evidence in court to obtain justice until the discrimination was ended by Acts passed in 1869 and 1870.[12] In addition, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford and denied custody of his two children after publishing a pamphlet on The Necessity of Atheism.[13]

    Atheist Charles Bradlaugh was elected as a Member of the British Parliament in 1880. He was denied the right to affirm rather than swear his oath of office, and was then denied the ability to swear the oath as other Members objected that he had himself said it would be meaningless. Bradlaugh was re-elected three times before he was finally able to take his seat in 1886 when the Speaker of the House permitted him to take the oath.[13]

    In Germany during the Nazi era, a 1933 decree stated that "No National Socialist may suffer detriment... on the ground that he does not make any religious profession at all".[14] However, the regime strongly opposed "godless communism",[15][16] and most of Germany's atheist and largely left-wing freethought organizations were banned the same year; some right-wing groups were tolerated by the Nazis until the mid 1930s.[17][18] In a speech made later in 1933, Hitler claimed to have "stamped [atheism] out".[14] The actual word Hitler used was "Gottlosenbewegung" which refers specifically to the communist freethought movement, not atheism in general.[19]

  3. In the United States, seven state constitutions officially include religious tests that would effectively prevent atheists from holding public office, and in some cases being a juror/witness, though these have not generally been enforced since the early nineteenth century.[33][34][35] The U.S. Constitution allows for an affirmation instead of an oath in order to accommodate atheists and others in court or seeking to hold public office.[33][36] In 1961, the United States Supreme Court explicitly overturned the Maryland provision in the Torcaso v. Watkins decision, holding that laws requiring "a belief in the existence of God" in order to hold public office violated freedom of religion provided for by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[33][37][38] This decision is generally understood to also apply to witness oaths.[39]

  4. Prominent atheists and atheist groups have asserted that discrimination against atheists is illustrated by a statement allegedly said by George H. W. Bush during a public press conference during his campaign for the presidency in 1987.[26][53][54][55] When asked by atheistic journalist Robert Sherman about the equal citizenship and patriotism of American atheists, Sherman reports that Bush answered, "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."[26][55] The accuracy of the quote has been questioned, however, as Sherman did not tape the exchange and no other journalist reported on it.[26] Atheists and atheist organizations have alleged discrimination against atheists in the military,[56][57][58][59][60][61] and recently, with the development of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, atheists have alleged institutionalized discrimination.[62][63]

    In a predominantly Judeo-Christian democratic society, explicitly avowed atheists are generally mistrusted, may endure exclusion, and will find it hard to earn the votes and approval of their Judeo-Christian fellows if they are permitted to run for office at all.

    In a predominantly atheistic nondemocratic society, explicitly avowed Jews and Christians are generally outlawed, may endure execution, and will find it hard to earn enough money to eat if they are permitted to work at all.

    Neither of these are desireable. But claiming equivalency between them is a tactic of which one might reasonably be skeptical.