Monday, September 8, 2014

Allen West celebrates forcing atheist airmen to pledge to god...and the reaction from his readers is not what you might expect

So this article from Allen West showed up in my facebook feed, shared by a family member (who knows I'm an atheist, does not believe I am evil incarnate, and yet still somehow justifies this bigotry with "all atheists are evil" nonsense. But I digress).

It's nothing very deep, and nothing very surprising -- West, in the past, has shown clear disdain for anyone who doesn't share his religious beliefs, and this is more of the same. It's a moderately sized rant-icle, but it can be summed up with the equally intellectually valid "neener neener". Seriously. There's the typical "Judeo-Christian principles" nonsense, a little appeal to his military service; but, mostly, this:

"Neener, neener, you atheists can't serve unless you swear to a god you don't believe in."

It starts with this:

I know there are times when you might feel there’s no good news — especially when it comes to contending with groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) or the oxymoronic Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). It does seem as though the secular humanists are winning, but sometimes there is hope.
Take a moment to consider the images of anti-religious persecution this language conjures up. Goodness, what are those nasty atheists up to now? Maybe they are trying to censure religious people, or religious belief? Maybe the religious are facing some sort of discrimination? Maybe the religious are being forced to swear off their beliefs as a condition of serving? Is the good news that now -- finally -- a Christian soldier doesn't have to choose between believing in god and being in the military (hallelujah indeed!)??

Well, not quite. West writes,
Today I get to share with you some good tidings. As reported by Military.com, “An airman’s career will be coming to an end unless he recognizes “God” in his oath of reenlistment. Months after the Air Force last year said “So help me God” was an optional line when taking the oath of enlistment or reenlistment, it reversed itself. 
Now, just in case you're thinking, "wait a minute, doesn't he realize that this isn't about Christians being able to affirm a belief in God (since that was never actually prohibited or limited), but about forcing atheists to swear to something they don't believe in an oath that should be sacred and fully  meant?!" ... Yeah, he gets it. In fact, his very next sentence is:

The decision will require atheists to infer a belief in a supreme being if they want to remain in the military.
He goes on for a bit with some revisionist tripe -- the usual our-country-is-based-on-Christian-principles nonsense, with the implied "therefore theocracy by and for theocrats" rather heavily, well, implied (for a discussion of the inaccuracy of such claims, see here). He notes that it is law, and complains that Evil Atheists might sue because atheists are horrible, evil, America hating people well, it's almost certainly not constitutional (he basically passes by the constitutional aspect of it altogether -- an Evil Atheist claims it's not right, but, you know, Jesus, Moses, America, and Judeo-Christian principles!)

In conclusion, he opines,

The last thing we need at this time are secular humanist lawyers tying up the United States Military with frivolous lawsuits. Worse than that, I can imagine President Barack Hussein Obama taking out his pen or phone and decisively making a determination — one he’d find easier than attacking ISIS. 
I proudly and honorably took the oath of office as a commissioned officer several times and also as a Member of Congress. That’s what Americans do.
He seems to ignore the glaring irony that the "good news" he is celebrating is that the Air Force is compelling an airman to either forgo serving his country, or to lessen the honor of that oath by including a portion that is not meant.

At any rate, as I said earlier, none of this is terribly new. Allen West has earned himself a place right alongside Rush Limbaugh and so many other bigoted bloviators; it really isn't shocking to hear that they've done or said something outrageous, offensive or insane, because it's their business. It's how they make their money, and how they keep their fan base engaged. Hate makes good money, minority groups are easy targets, and religious extremists always think that anything short of being allowed to strip everyone else of religious freedom is an attack on their religious freedom. Nothing new about any of it.

So what was interesting about this? The comments. There were a good number of people -- conservative people -- who took considerable issue with West's disregard for the constitution. Now, before going further, I do need to caution...there were tons of bigots on board with West in these comments. I was surprised at the number of atheists who spoke out against his glee, but whether this particular topic just happened to draw the attention of the tea party's fifteen atheists, or if there are wider implications to this, we certainly can't tell from this one thread. I think we can allow, however, that it is encouraging to see a showing of conservative atheists -- whatever proportion of the tea party they comprise -- combating West's bigotry. Alright, so without further ado...some of my favorites:

"TruConserv" quoting and responding to a line from West's piece

"Tom Trevor" responding to the same quote, and another poster educating him about what an atheist could possibly be affirming to under oath

Commenters taking issue with bigoted statements by other commenters

"Unsubscribe please"

But...Moses!

Now, remember my caution from earlier, that these posters certainly were not expressing the only or even the majority viewpoint? Allow me to reiterate that. Along with all the folks who were more or less making sense, we had...well, things like this: "Here's the deal -- and go watch the recent video of Phil Robertson and Sarah Palin"




So, yeah...it's great to see conservative atheists standing up for themselves. But there is definitely a ways to go there...

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