The Price of Atheism

This dated ABC program reveals one of the reasons why I blog, so that people like Nicole can be free to be herself without harassment. [As a side note, the statistics about non-believers quoted in this program are misleading, although you don't see them reflected in this small town. Upwards to 1/4th of all Americans might be either agnostic or atheist.


John W. Loftus said...

Please note the reason why Nicole wouldn't join in the student led prayer. Do Christians really want us atheists joining them in a prayer circle?

Jennifer said...

I'm not really expecting you to consider this, but it seems more appropriate for the blog to be named "Debunking God".

John W. Loftus said...

These were professing Christians (the only kind we ever see), weren't they?

Jennifer said...


I agree with the dad that the way Nicole was treated was like being the victim of a "religious gang" if in fact the alleged treatment happened.

I find it interesting that you, as an athiest, take the word of this family at face value, but if another family were to say they experienced a miracle you would be skeptical just based on their word.
I realize that is not an equal comparison in content, but just for the sake of taking someone at their word...

If the students want to pray let them and let Nicole and other athiests have their meetings, I saw quite a bit of hostility coming from the dad and it could have been handled differently. One Christian woman said she didn't even know what athiests believe...maybe the family could have handed her your book or Richard Dawkins' book and educated her.

Another point is that Nicole's dreams are not on hold..give me a break. I homeschool and opportunity is knocking at our door. My 12 year old is starting high school level cirriculum this year and she will not suffer through it. Nicole is bright and skilled in some valuable things so she won't have a problem finding a college to accept her as long as she keeps her bitterness at bay. The whole family seems to have a chip on their shoulder.

This struggle is exactly what I was getting at when I commented on the power struggle between belief systems. Really, athiest do not want anyone to openly practice their faith in public, but want to keep it in the home...much the same as a Christian might feel about overt expressions of sexuality in public. Athiests want schools to ban public prayer instead of existing side by side.

At some point there will be a ruling system of belief that will seek to control others just like the Christians are alleged to be doing in this story.

Do you disagree?

Brother Richard said...


Read back over your comment, but instead of atheism, change the subject to somebody's race or sex. I think you will see it differently.

Regardless of how bad it truly is for the girl, you can't just say suck it up and home school.

Also, there is a monumental difference between taking a person's word about "natural" events that happened to them and "supernatural" events. Especially if the supernatural events dictate how you are to live your life.


Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

If such a 'ruling system of belief' (I assume you mean 'disbelief') were ever attempted in this country, I guarantee you that I would be among the first to be protesting this through non-violent disobedience, and I would continue to protest until it was stopped or until these 'rulers' jailed or executed me.

I have no right to speak for the other members here, but I would be surprised if there was one who would not join the protest.

Furthermore, you claim that 'athiest do not want anyone to openly practice their faith in public, but want to keep it in the home...' (the question of public prayer in schools is different -- but are you aware that when a bill was introduced to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling, and hearings were held on it, the majority of speakers opposed to it were members of the clergy who realized that government supported prayer and Bible reading was dangerous to religions. And, of course, when non-Christians have used allowable public forums for religious belief -- such as the Buddhist chaplain invited to give the invocation and morning prayer in Congress, and the predominantly Buddhist members of a Hawaiian school held a pre-football Buddhist ceremony, it was Christians who were the first to condemn this.)

But to return to your statement above, there is a listing called 'the Atheist Blogroll,' which includes the majority of atheist blogs. They range greatly in intelligence, in politeness, and they differ on many points. (A number of them are Objectivists -- a position I find repugnant -- for example.

But if you wish, I'll send you this listing and let you check them out. Many of them are very nasty towards religion -- far nastier than we would be here -- but I defy you to find 5 of them that imply they would support the position you ascribe to atheists. (In fact, I'd be surprised if you find one, but Prup's Law might mean there was one.)

Jennifer said...

Brother Richard,

I think I was the first person to look at your profile last night, that's a first :)

I hope you know I am not slamming athiests, I am just observing. I did read back through my comment to see what you meant about substituting a race or sex but I don't see the parallel. If there was mistreatment it doesn't matter what the reason is, but I think the Nicole's actions were divisive.
Why did she feel such a need to stand outside the circle or even say anything. If she was uncomfortable she could have simply not prayed and not made a show out of it. Did you watch it?

I went to school with many athiests who did not make a big deal out of their beliefs. They were polite and didn't make an issue out of the pledge of allegiance etc.. Nicole's demeanor was fairly abrasive and the fact that she felt like she had to apologize to her dad for crying and how uncomfortable he was when he saw her cry tells me she has probably been raised to be rather tough. I see that as more of a problem with trying to fit in with froofy girls who have most likely been taught to be sweet etc.. It seemed like more of a cultural barrier than an atheist issue.

I am also not saying she should suck it up, necessarily. The reason the family is able to homeschool in the first place is because U.S. citizens fought to the point of spending time in jail for the right to educate their children at home and teach them the "religious" values they wanted to instead of secular humanism. It used to be illegal.
I think they would be glad to NOT have her in school and be able to experience real life and connect with like-minded families. She has amazing opportunities...she's out fixing fences, playing an instrument, participating in her family and if the parents care about social opportunities for her they can find a way. Those are the things other homeschoolers do. Why would they want her to be in a school with gangs? What if they lived in Tacoma, WA where I used to live and she had to deal with being raped in the bathroom between classes or having drugs involuntarily shot into her arm etc..? Maybe that's why they moved out to the country and hoped for something better, but people have to work on peace no matter where they are.

I don't think this was an athiest vs. Christian problem. If it had been Muslims with prayer rugs she would have done the same thing. I think she was on the offense.

I'll take you word for it that you would not support a ruling athiest mindset, but I really think it's coming. It's just an observation that a major shift is taking place and it will be interesting to see how things change.

I am aware of the school prayer issue. Ideally we would all live side by side but it doesn't seem to work very well. After seeing this John Stossel interview, I don't think it is only the religious who cause the problems, but they certainly do their share!

Is the blogroll on the main page? I think I've been to it and looked up some of the sites...either that or another blogroll. If not, I wouldn't mind if you send it to me.
I owe you an e-mail!

If you read this far :), my comment about the blog name was more about the atheist strength here, but I know Christianity is your expertise. The conversations seem to be more about a god than Christianity so I was just observing.

John W. Loftus said...

Jennifer said...I think Nicole's actions were divisive. I think she was on the offense. I am also not saying she should suck it up, necessarily.

You need to make a decision here. Either Nicole was divisive or she should "suck it up."

Let's say you think she shouldn't always suck it up, but that in this case she should. Why? There are parallels. Blacks who refused to sit at the back of the bus? Women like Susan B. Anthony, who disobeyed the law and voted during an election? What if this country worshipped Satan, literally, and during a basketball game they said a prayer to Satan?

Those in the minority have always been accused of being divisive as one way to silence their objections. Why should the minority be silent? Shouldn't the majority make room for them? Aren't they being the divisive ones by setting up the rules which tell others to shut up? What if Nicole believes like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris that religion is evil and causes so much grief and killing around the world? What then? Surely her Dad may have taught her that. It would be akin to you being asked to stand in silence while the rest of the team members prayed to Satan, whom you think is evil. If you took a stand on such an occasion how would you feel if someone said you were being divisive? And even if she was, so what? Nothing is ever changed without someone who takes a stand. Doing so changes laws. Doing so opens the door for others to do likewise.

Thanks so much for discussing the issues you do with such politeness. We appreciate it.

lowendaction said...

I wonder if you believe that Nicole's family are representative of ALL atheist/agnostics? How about that town/school? Are they ambassadors of ALL Christians?

How about just the majority?

Does the majority determin the validity or origins of any group of individuals (not specific to religion)?

Do you think Nicole's father gives her the freedom to explore any other belief system outside of Atheism (not that I think she'd want to...)? Based on her own words, she non-believed (new word I just made up!) because that's what she was raised to believe. I think I've heard something similar to that before...somewhere...

Please don't mistake my tone as offensive. Believe it or not, I am equally appalled by the actions of that town. I myself have spent some time in the mid-west, and have witnessed such non-biblical and immoral behavior (not talking about Nicole!!).

What goes on in my head while I watch this report, as a follower of Christ teachings, is how sad it is that these are the people that always end up on the news. It is based on their examples that most Atheist/Agnostics form their opinions of Christians. I realize that the Straw man approcheth, but I would have abosolutely no problem laying out the biblical contradictions of their actions.

I personally and strongly believe in EVERYONES right to freely choose their belief of choice. Having grown up in Germany, I've seen the devistating effects of marriage between State and Church.

However, I stand firm behind my belief that the ORIGINAL teachings of Jesus, and the ENTIRE content of the Bible, are true and righteous. And that there is in fact only a small percentage of "true believers", contrary to popular 'numbers'. The bible is quite clear about those who 'claim' the name of Christ, but will still not be recognized by God.

Thank you

David B. Ellis said...

Another point is that Nicole's dreams are not on hold..give me a break.

getting a basketball scholarship when you are homeschooled seems a bit unlikely (and that may have been what he was referring to).

Really, athiest do not want anyone to openly practice their faith in public, but want to keep it in the home

I for one, am fine with openly practiced religion. If the basketball player had been allowed to not enter a prayer to a God she didn't believe in and not been harrassed then I would be fine with it---it is the harrassment and the school response (if the story is accurate---we have only one side) that was a problem for me.

I don't think this was an athiest vs. Christian problem. If it had been Muslims with prayer rugs she would have done the same thing. I think she was on the offense.

Would you actually have joined a prayer circle of hindus praying to Ganesh?

And if, as a matter of principle, you felt obligated not to, would you think them justified in taking offense at you.

What it comes down to is simple respect for peoples right to not agree with us---something that works both ways.

Jennifer said...

I just lost my post..rant and I'll just condense here.

I see where you are coming from with the evil of religion. I hadn't realized how powerfully atheists felt about religion until you drew the parallel of Satanism. I could not even stand with them, so if that is how Nicole felt I understand.

Sucking it up just sounds more harsh compared with making lemonade when you are handed lemons...I would go with the latter verbage :) I guess it does mean the same thing.

Thank you allowing me to comment..I try to be polite but I know my comments are long. I appreciate the freedom you give us to test our ideas and beliefs, or unbelief.
Thank you!


Again, a more condensed version...
as you breath a sigh of relief, I'm sure.

Homeschoolers can, and do, get scholarships of all kinds, but it would be hard for her living so far out. She should have access to any school and sport she chooses as a HSer, or an independent team. They might pray too but it seems that if it is worth it to her she could put up with it for a while and then use her platform when she is older and in a postion of more influence to assert her views.

Last..I would join a group of Hindus if it meant team unity but I would not pray with them. If they became abusive I would leave like Nicole did.

I whole heartedly agree with you that we should respect each other and I think that is what Paul meant when he told us to live a quiet life and work with our hands and to take care of widows and orphans in their distress, there isn't anything about controlling or governing others.

I agree with Lowendaction!

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

As for the blogroll, it's on a number of other sites. I'll email you a couple of links.

But, while I like and respect you, sometimes I wish you'd think through what you say a bit more. Take the 'feeling' you have about a 'ruling atheist mindset.' Let's look at a couple of facts that you should test your feeling against.

Fact 1: No atheist I am aware of favors the sort of repression or the 'keeping of religion in the home,' idea, and most would be among the first to protest an attempt to impliment this.

Fact 2: There is only one professed atheist (maybe) among the 435 Members of Congress, and less than a dozen in all the state and local legislative bodies in the country.

Fact 3: The American people -- even after the Bush regime's attempt to push the most conservative form of Christianity -- still list atheists as the group that they are least likely to vote for.

Fact 4: Most of Western Europe is 'post-Christian,' atheists are elected to office, and these countries never had the religiosity that America always has had. Yet none of them have made the slightest attempt to produce such a regime.

Fact 5: The only repressive ideas that have any currency in America are those of the Dominionist/Reconstructionist Christian right. (See the number of Liberty U. and Patrick Henry U. grads in government service.)

Given these facts how can you defend your 'feeling' as anything more than that. (I had a 'feeling' that this would the year the Mets ran away with the division and waltzed to the title -- and I had a number of facts that supported this. Look at the standing to see how wrong that feeling was -- though I still think/feel they'll win the division in the end.)

Jennifer said...

I think I misrepresented my intent in saying "ruling atheist mindset".

I don't necessarily mean an oppressive system of government. The mindset I am talking about is more like a Richard Dawkins sort of utopia. Don't get me wrong, I would like to live in a utopia and I think there's a reason we long for that, as you know ;)
Richard Dawkins, and others, are saying that without religion we would have no wars etc... That's very appealing. I don't think it's true, but I think people will be catching on to that thinking in droves within the next couple of generations.

Just watching current statistics seems to show that those shedding any faith are pretty numerous.

I'm not being sensationalistic, just observing that a major cultural shift has been taking place, I think everyone agrees with that, and the non-religious are becoming more agressive in getting their message out.

I hope that clears it up. Again, it's not a fearful or worrisome thing, just an observation of a cultural shift.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
Richard Dawkins, and others, are saying that without religion we would have no wars etc... That's very appealing. I don't think it's true, but I think people will be catching on to that thinking in droves within the next couple of generations.
I think you are mistaken. They say religion is the root of all evil and such, they say that it enigmatically causes wars and such, but we all know that grabbing land or overthrowing the guvment is just as or more important in starting wars.

to think otherwise would be magical thinking. and if you are going to accuse Richard of magical thinking, I'm afraid he'll hunt you down like a hound from hell. Even i'm afraid of him.

David B. Ellis said...

Richard Dawkins, and others, are saying that without religion we would have no wars etc... That's very appealing.

Can you quote for us anywhere that Dawkins has made such an absurd claim?

Jennifer said...

I'm warned :)

I was wrong, I'm around 3:14 on the video he says religion is divisive and it was the South Park caricature of him that said there would be no wars.

Just to be clear; I think that power weilded by any group who seeks to control the masses, whether through religion or unbelief is dangerous. I remember posting that somewhere else.

You're welcome. If you visit my blog you'll see that I take something from just about every tradition and non-tradition within Christianity.

Jennifer said...

Ugh..I was responding to the other post.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

You say "I think that power weilded by any group who seeks to control the masses, whether through religion or unbelief is dangerous." I entirely agree, and if any such movement began among the atheist community, I would be fighting it.

All I am trying to say and to get you to admit is that there is currently no sign of such a movement, nor any possibility of such a movement suceeding at present.

Jennifer said...

I admit that there is no collective power base at present. I don't remember saying there is...but come to think of it...that fact that in my highschool, back in the 80's, we were not allowed to say "Merry Christmas" outloud, or exchange gifts during school hours, or make posters to hang in the hallways etc.. might mean something along those lines.

Wouldn't it be great if all students could make posters for their own holiday, exchange gifts for their own celebrations and accept one another? I know you agree :) I don't think taking the expression of religion out of schools is the answer.

lowendaction said...

Would anyone like to take a stab at answering the first few questions on my last comment?

I'm not lonely, just curious!


Larry said...

"Those attacking Christianity sometimes point to the many religious wars and atrocities perpetrated in the name of Christ and the Church. They forget that not everyone self-labeled ‘Christian’ truly follows Christ."
Read more at:

A debate followed:

What did Christ Teach?
Mark 12:28-31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Another interesting read:
The power of ideas
What you believe does matter

AmericanAtheist said...


You wrote: "I find it interesting that you, as an athiest, take the word of this family at face value, but if another family were to say they experienced a miracle you would be skeptical just based on their word."

I can't believe you're actually making a direct comparison between "experiencing a miracle" and proving a case for discrimination.

On the one hand, miracles are -- by definition -- beyond proof and something which cannot be explained rationally. On the other hand, miracles do not exist any more than God does, and religious people cannot "bring forth" a miracle any more than they can bring forth their God. What's more, all reported "miracles" that I'm aware of have -- after thorough examination and investigation -- proven to be hoaxes, lies, and pranks. The Christ face in the piece of toast is not indicative of the coming rapture. The blood weeping eyes of the Virgin Mary statue was exposed as an amatuerish prank, The Shroud of Turin is a lie!, etc.

However, as a high school teacher myself, I can attest to hundreds different cases where certain individual students are picked on, ostracized, alienated, and discriminated against for any number of "unpopular beliefs." If it can happen AGAINST a religious person, than religious people can certainly be guilty of doing it to a non-believer as well. You were wrong to make a comparison between something which is capable of being proven with physical, verifiable evidence, and something which can be disproven at best, or which simply must be "believed" (as a matter of faith) at worst.

tmm2112 said...

One thing that seems lost in the interview and the comments here is the obvious option that Nicole had--lying. It is a very simple matter for an atheist to merely fake it when people insist they participate in religious activities, or when people put them on the spot and ask about their religious beliefs. If the person responds "atheist", they face possible rejection and harrassment. If they "fake it", they may be accepted as one of the pack. So, this behavior actually encourages dishonesty. We are not only a nation of religious fanatics; we are also a nation of hypocrits.