Longtime reader and author James McCollough sent me to an amazing article at AlterNet by Laura Gottesdiener, A Year in Jail for Not Believing in God? How Kentucky Is Persecuting Atheists. I don’t think of myself as an atheist especially; although I do self-identify as one, I think it gives an entirely incorrect idea of where I stand on matters spiritual. But this article is an outrage and shows one reason why I have no respect for the conservative Christian movement in this country.
The Kentucky law states that their Homeland Security building must have plaques in front of it claiming how we are only really secure thanks to God. The plaques read in part, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.” And if some bureaucrat doesn’t install these plaques, he faces up to a year in jail. This law was taken to the Kentucky state Supreme Court, which upheld it.
This law seems clearly unconstitutional. But frankly, I’m not at all sure that the current US Supreme Court would agree. At this point, we seem to have 4 political hacks on the court who might as well have been elected by the Tea Party. One thing is for sure: if this case does go to the US Supreme Court, some of the justices will vote to uphold. And that is a sad testament to the state of our “justice” system.
What I’m most interested in here is the triviality of the conception of the people who are behind this law. The idea here is of a God as some supreme being. Yet even the most trivial understanding of theology indicates that God can’t be just another thing. If that were the case then it wouldn’t be a god at all, but rather just a being more powerful than we are. An example would be the way we relate to ants: we have almost unlimited power over ants, but we certainly aren’t the reason that ants exist.
I understand that for many people, that last bit was pretty theoretical and metaphysical, so let me take a big step back into reality. The idea of a “personal god” is not only stupid, it is repellent. What it says is people always deserve their suffering. The poor deserve to be poor. The rich deserve to be rich. To state the same thing in a way that relates to our recent elections: rape victims deserve the babies of their rapists.
Consider earthquakes. Few people die as a result of them in the United States, but in 2010, over 300,000 Haitians died as a result of just one. (The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California was the same size and killed 63 people—most from the collapse of a single road: the Cypress Structure.) If God took a personal interest in the lives of humans, how could he possibly allow this? Is it that Americans are just more moral than Haitians? Or is it more likely that in the United States we have wealth and building codes that protect us? The Kentucky Homeland Security building exists as a kind of tribute to the more than 3,000 people who died on 11 September 2001. Surely many of those people were righteous. God did not save them because God, regardless of what it is, does not do that kind of thing.
So you can take your pick of reasons to be appalled by the Kentucky entire government: executive, legislative, and judicial. But it all comes down to the same thing: Kentucky is embarrassing the rest of the nation. They are also embarrassing believers and spiritual seekers in general. And all for what? To make a statement against atheists? And this is in response to an attack by a group very much like themselves: ignorant true believers in the God of their fathers? Each day I despair more for our nation.