This smacks of the Bible Belt, not the Live Green and Mainline Lattes Belt. Deeply disturbing.
Today Oregonian columnist Margie Boulé had a follow-up. In "Atheists run up against 'last bias'" she points out that Americans say they'll vote for all sorts of presidential candidates, but not someone who fails to profess a belief in God.
A recent poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup found that Americans are overwhelmingly willing to vote for a presidential candidate who is an African American, a woman, a Catholic or a Latino. A solid majority would vote for a candidate who is Mormon, who is a homosexual, who has been married three times or who is 72 years old. The only category that did not break 50 percent? Atheists.
As I said in my "Leave God out of the Super Bowl" post, the United States is way behind more enlightened European countries in this regard.
I have some friends who visit Europe regularly. They tell me that there it would be almost inconceivable for a politician to make his or her belief in God a campaign issue. It just doesn't come up. But here, an admitted unbeliever probably couldn't be elected to a major office. This isn't something the United States should be proud of. It's a defect, not a virtue.
The Elks are a good example of how religion contributes to hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness, not morality. The Elks web site claims that they stand for "the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity." But their charity and brotherly love stops if an elderly woman says she doesn't believe in God.
Crazy. Apparently Billie Sieg would have been acceptable to the Elks if she'd lied and told them that she was a believer. But she was honest. Boulé writes:
Oh, it's not like she stands on street corners, trying to persuade others that God does not exist. She's a quiet atheist. "In today's world a belief in God can take a lot of forms. I happen to be an unbeliever in supernatural deities, but I do believe in Mother Nature" and the holiness of "the world around us."
Sieg sounds like a Buddhist or Taoist to me. I suspect that if she'd responded to the Elks interviewer, "I believe in the god of Buddhism," she'd be enjoying the social activities in the lodge now.
Religious discrimination, after all, is a no-no in American culture. Unless someone doesn't believe in a traditional religion at all. Then it's fine to discriminate against them.
Someday, and that day can't come soon enough for me, this attitude will be seen as the pre-scientific relic of mythology that it is. A-theists are just people who don't see any evidence for a demonstrably unseen God.
Unicorns also are unseen. So a-unicornists are ubiquitous. As are a-fairyists and a-Big Footists.
However, Elks Lodges don't bar the door to people who say they don't believe in unicorns, fairies, and Big Foot – because these entities aren't revered by the majority of Americans.
God also likely is non-existent. At least, there's no proof of God's existence, which puts the supreme deity in the same epistemological class as fairies. Something which makes people feel good, but lacks standing in objective reality.
So we all should bow down to the courageous believers in truth like Billie Sieg and Sylvia Benner who refuse to accept religious absurdities just because they're the majority opinion.
Majorities often are wrong. At one time almost everyone used to believe that the Earth was flat, slavery was justified, and women were second-class citizens.
Before too long students will read in history books about the not-so-good old days when citizens of the United States were discriminated against because they didn't believe in God. And they'll think, How could this ever have happened? What were they thinking?
Not much, sadly. Not down in the Brookings Elks Lodge, in 2008.