1984 and other Big Brother Nightmares. (Thanks, Sapphen!)
Giving credit where it's due, this post is my response to a vibe I've been getting recently from Sapphen. It's something I've heard several theists say, or at least insinuate, and Sapphen seems to be hung up on it, so I'd like to address it, and hopefully put an end to needless worry for theists. Many theists seem to think there would be no place for them in society if atheists had their way. I dare say this is propaganda they get from their churches, and many media outlets, but that's neither here nor there.
I want to talk about what I think of as a government/society inspired by freethinking. Notice I said "freethinking," not "atheism." I don't advocate an atheist society, per se -- simply a society that isn't hindered by religion.
The first thing this society would hinge upon would be complete separation of church and state. Contrary to what a lot of theists believe, this would be much, much better for theists than a theocracy. As many governments through history have proven, when a government adopts a religion, the government gets to dictate what the religion is. Like it or not, the same thing will happen in America if the far right manages to create a theocracy in the name of Jesus.
Not to beat a dead horse, but there are a LOT of different opinions on what Jesus wants. Contrary to popular belief, not all Christian denominations are anti-abortion. There are quite a few liberal churches that don't agree with the government's desire to intrude on a woman's right to control her own body.
I believe that within an individual church, they should be able to teach anything they want. If it's within the non-religious laws of the land to allow them to practice that belief, then they can do so, unimpeded. I believe that within a church, if a pastor refuses to marry a gay couple, it's his right, so long as the couple can go to a judge or unitarian minister, or someone else, and receive legal status as a married couple.
If a church wants to forbid its members to have abortions, great! So long as they are free to leave the church and go to a medical clinic and receive one. Same for day after pills, sex education, etc...
If a church wants to teach that the world is 6000 years old, great! So long as the public schools refuse to acknowledge such idiotic and unscientific notions.
In short, let the church govern the flock. It's just like a country club, really. If you want to be a member, you follow these rules. BUT!! If you're not in the club, you don't have to give them the time of day.
No churches would receive tax exempt status, or government funds for any of their projects. If you want to receive government money, you have to completely remove religion from your project.
A panel of scientists, chosen from within the scientific community (voted on by professors, doctors, and scientists) would decide public school curriculum. This panel would have no obligation to the White House, and the White House would have no regulatory control over it.
The medical community, while regulated by the government financially, would be subject only to the scientific and medical community with regard to practices and procedures. Peer review, not politics, would decide how research would progress, and what procedures were available.
Oaths of office would not include any reference to anything supernatural.
Politicians would be required to swear allegiance to the constitution above and beyond any personal religious beliefs, and would be held accountable by ethics review panels, and removed from office if they were found in violation of this oath. (Yes, I know this one is a pipe dream, but I can still hope, right?)
I know that last one could create some real partisan problems, politically, so I probably wouldn't really do that if I had the magick wand and could make everything the way I wanted.
Anyway, my hope is that theists will read this and realize that I, and most other atheists, don't want to force them to abandon their beliefs. We just want them to keep their beliefs out of our lives.