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« Disney Gets to Be the Good Guy! The RantsCarnival of the Godless #27 »

Pop Quiz, Hotshot
2005.11.13 (Sun) 18:49

The following two things have a lot in common.

Does this offend you?

A Government Produced and Endorsed Postage Stamp

We didn't think so. How about this?

A First Amendment Compliant Penny

If you answered "no," then you agree that a large number of Americans are behaving rather stupidly.

If you answered "yes," then please explain why the second item presents any more of a problem to you than the first.

If you can't figure out why we're asking the question, then our point is made. Thanks.

(If you are actually offended by the first one, just shut up. Really. Go away.)

— • —
[  Filed under: % Government & Politics  % Greatest Hits  % Religion  ]

Comments (10)

Fan-man, 2005.11.13 (Sun) 19:36 [Link] »

I'm not quite sure why you're asking, but I think I know the issue you're exploring. The atheist penny doesn't offend me, but then niether does the actual penny in circulation today. I do find it odd that the above pictured penny is referred to as a First Amendment compliant penny. What makes it First Amendment compliant? No mention of God? The whole idea of the separation of church and state is to keep the government from passing laws to help or hinder any one person's specific religious belief. I think we all agree that being agnostic isn't practicing a religion. Niether is being an atheist. You could make the argument that the phrase promotes God, therefore promotes religion, but not one religion specifically. The penny doesn't say "In My God We Trust," so I am curious about the point you are making.

Rufus, 2005.11.13 (Sun) 22:28 [Link] »

It's not an atheist penny. If it said "In denying the existence of god we trust", then it would be an atheist penny.

Derek Scruggs, 2005.11.14 (Mon) 10:56 [Link] »
The penny doesn't say "In My God We Trust,"

What if it said "In Allah we trust" or "In Yahweh we trust?"

God, particularly when capitalized, means the Christian god.

Ford, 2005.11.14 (Mon) 14:09 [Link] »

Okay, it's a secular penny then Rufus, ya happy? :)

MBains, 2005.11.14 (Mon) 17:33 [Link] »

It's Caesar's penny eh. We just have to play by Caesar's rules if we want to use it.

Le - et Freedumb Ring!

The first pic offends me as an anarchists but that's just residual angst cuz I was raised in the Democratic party machine in Lorain Ohio. Sometimes I hate how patriotic I can still be. Sometimes, it's the main thing driving my bursts of atheistic activism.

The 2nd pic is Beautiful! Always did like Lincoln. As a kid, I knew he founded the Democratic party. I just knew it.

Fan-man, 2005.11.14 (Mon) 18:16 [Link] »

I don't remember who coined the phrase in a previous rant, but maybe the penny can read: "In His Noodly Appendage We Trust."

To me, if the 10 Commandments aren't allowed on courthouse lawns, then "In God We Trust" doesn't belong on American currency, but I don't care that it is. I don't give a damn because Christianity isn't a bad thing. It might be to some people, that's why I say it probably shouldn't be there. People try to force it down other's throats----that's a bad thing, but that goes for any religion. I agree with Derek Scruggs about the whole "Christian God" thing. At the turn of the 20th century, our nation was mostly Christian, so there is your intent. The country is more diverse now and law makers are scrambling to make it more user friendly. Be patient, evolution is years, not days. The increasing diversity of our country has made the word "God" generic. I could say to any one of you, "believe in any God you want, just don't ask me to." I could replace "God" in the aforementioned phrase with Allah or Yahweh, but "God" is the only generic word I know to refer to any one elses specific supernatural big guy.

I always enjoy when people dissect what I say, but I'm still curious about the original rant-----what large number of Americans are behaving rather stupidly and why? Those who are not offended or those who should be?

Major Major, 2005.11.15 (Tue) 10:57 [Link] »

Considering that Lincoln only freed the slaves after considerable pushing from an abolishionist Congress and wanted to export ALL peoples of color from America after the Civil War, a glorification of him is as offensive to me as the mantra. The man would have loved Jim Crow laws. He was as racist as the next.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.11.16 (Wed) 23:20 [Link] »

First of all, we stand corrected — as a few folks pointed out, there are some "acceptable" reasons to be offended by one or both of the images above. If you don't like Lincoln (or just his twisted, bearded face), or copper, or circles, then Image Number Two is right out. And if seeing a waving flag puts you in a mood because of your upbringing, then sure, Image Number One might tork you off. So, if you fall into one of these categories, our little quiz won't apply to you. If you hate Lincoln, then both the actual penny in circulation today and the image of the penny above are offensive to you — for the purposes of the rest of our comment, please ignore that possibility.

That said, we should point out that we aren't offended by the actual penny in circulation today — we just think it shouldn't be allowed to bear a religious message. If our only gripe about the actual penny was that it offended us, our complaints would be pretty damned baseless. As we've said many times, there is no guaranteed right to "not be offended" in this country. That whole separation of church and state thing, though, is pretty well known, and is supposed to be one of the pillars on which our way of life depends.

From our perspective, the second image above isn't an atheist penny (as some people already pointed out in the comments above), and although it is "secular" in nature, it seems that perhaps that word, too, has taken on a negative connotation akin to "atheist" these days. Don't get us wrong, we aren't trying to knock the people who referred to the penny above with these terms — without using one or both of them, we have no idea how anyone could refer to it. And to us, that's the shitty part. Our version should be just "a penny," and the other one should be "a religious penny" — since that's what it is.

The point we were making is that so many radical religious nutbags are bitching because of proposals just like the one that would yield the penny pictured above. Clearly — and we do mean clearly here — to any sane person, the penny above isn't offensive at all. It isn't the blank space above Lincoln's noggin that these religiosos are "offended" by, it is the removal of the religious slogan that is already there today. So it isn't that they don't want the inclusion of an "atheist" slogan, which we would never endorse either, but rather that they have a grand sense of entitlement — derived from all the little concessions that they have been granted by the government of this country — that makes the removal of one minor privileged item seem "offensive" to them. These are the people who are acting stupidly — the people who scream out about being discriminated against by way of the removal of the current discrimination in their favor. It's a manifestation of the misguided persecution complex that is so often observed in the religious right.

This issue is exactly the kind of thing we are talking about when we say that the little things matter. By letting these "little things" stay in place — some words on a coin, or "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance — we provide a platform for the religiosos to stand on while they reach for increasingly bigger prizes; teaching creationism in public schools and religious reasons for rejecting safe medications leap to mind.

And although we know it will take time to change these little things, to us that realization doesn't mandate patience (nor should it). If everyone who thinks it is wrong to have religious messages on our money or who opposes any of the other "little things" decides to just sit on the sidelines patiently awaiting a change...that change will never come. In fact, the Supreme Court has used this exact justification in the past to uphold religious displays by the government — check out Justice Breyer's opinion on the Van Orden Ten Commandments case to see what we mean. As we discussed in an earlier Rant, Breyer's swing vote upholding the Van Orden monument as Constitutionally acceptable was cast, in part, due to what he saw as a "lack of outcry" over this religious display:

As far as I can tell, 40 years passed in which the presence of this monument, legally speaking, went unchallenged (until the single legal objection raised by petitioner). And I am not aware of any evidence suggesting that this was due to a climate of intimidation. Hence, those 40 years suggest more strongly than can any set of formulaic tests that few individuals, whatever their system of beliefs, are likely to have understood the monument as amounting, in any significantly detrimental way, to a government effort to favor a particular religious sect, primarily to promote religion over nonreligion, to "engage in" any "religious practic[e]," to "compel" any "religious practic[e]," or to "work deterrence" of any "religious belief." Those 40 years suggest that the public visiting the capitol grounds has considered the religious aspect of the tablets' message as part of what is a broader moral and historical message reflective of a cultural heritage.
[our emphasis]

Oh, Stephen, you silly, silly man — thinking that "intimidation" must be blatant or organized to be effective; thinking that your guess as to the public's "understanding" of an issue amounts to a measure of the Constitutionality of specific words or deeds; thinking that silence equals endorsement.

If anything, it's obvious that rational people need to speak up sooner, louder, and more often in order to prevent flawed logic like Breyer's from being applied in future decisions. If we let the religosos (and those who continue to show them favor) know that we find the religious infiltration of our government unacceptable — vocally and publicly — then we've at least taken some steps towards change.

As we said, we aren't offended by the words "In God We Trust" on our money, and it isn't actively hurting us; but, quite simply, it doesn't belong there. That, coupled with the fact that the nutbags count on using these "little things" to propel their larger agenda, is why we want it removed.

— • —

As a note, it is our opinion that the motto "In God We Trust" pretty clearly refers to the Christian God (or at the very least, the Abrahamic monotheistic construct of God, though we tend to go with the former for historical reasons). However, in our analysis, that's a moot point, because to us, government endorsement of any or every religion is a problem. Some people, including some Supreme Court Justices, seem to view it as acceptable for the government to endorse religion as long as there isn't endorsement of "one single denomination." We strongly disagree.

As non-religious folks, even if every single religion on the face of the earth was equally endorsed by the government (a daunting and impossible task), our interests and the interests of those like us would still not be represented. Such flawed reasoning has been used as recently as in the latest Ten Commandments monument cases to justify far too much religious endorsement. For example, Justice Scalia said in the McCreary Dissent that it was acceptable to post the Ten Commandments on government property, since the commandments are representative of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, so therefore, you know, hey, it wasn't an endorsement of one religion:

Historical practices thus demonstrate that there is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion. The former is, as Marsh v. Chambers put it, "a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country." The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—which combined account for 97.7% of all believers—are monotheistic. All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life. Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God. Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population–from Christians to Muslims–that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.

Bullshit. First off, the "majority rules" argument ("97.7%") is a load of crap. Really, wow: a Supreme Court Justice who is so completely ignorant of the purpose of our democratic republic — to protect the minority from the unjust tyranny of the majority?

Second, his sample group — "all believers" — is noticeably truncated to exclude people who are not deluded by fantasies of magical sky fairies. Despite what Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas would like to believe, non-religious folks are full and equal citizens, and deserve the same consideration that the self-deluded are granted. So that's another load of crap.

Third, the Establishment Clause is quite succinct: "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Religion. Period. There's no wiggle room of the sort that Scalia imagines — it doesn't specify which religions "count," it doesn't matter if you're pandering to more than one religion or just one, it doesn't matter if you've got a collection of religions that are similar enough that you can "cover them all." No fucking religion. Don't endorse it, don't forbid it. How hard is that to understand, Antonin? So there's another load of crap.

Put simply, that's a giant, steaming mountain of crap...and we just don't buy into it.

Fan-man, 2005.11.17 (Thu) 14:31 [Link] »

Excellent, well organized presentation Tom----as always. Not much offends me, so I lose sight of the bigger fight. When I referred to the penny image as the "atheist" penny, I meant a penny that atheists would approve of, but common sense would dictate that we should all approve that penny.

Tom from the Two Percent Company, 2005.11.17 (Thu) 14:47 [Link] »

Whoops! I accidentally signed the above comment from "Tom from the Two Percent Company" when it was, in fact, written by the entire group. We have since rectified the error and given credit where credit is due.

Oh, and Fan-man: I understand where you're coming from on losing sight of the bigger picture since you aren't easily offended. I was in that same place on issues like this one a little over a year ago, until I really thought through the implications (with persistent help from fellow Two Percenter, Jeff).

— • —

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