By Keith Taylor
To start with, I am neither evil nor unpatriotic. I served my county, in uniform, for 22 years, 9 months and 11 days.
As a Navy cryptologist, both enlisted and as an officer, I held the nation’s highest security clearance. I have voted in almost every election since Truman and Eisenhower.
As a civilian, I do the requisite community work to be considered a good citizen. The local Optimist group once dubbed me Optimist of the Year. I participate in elections, often walking the precinct for candidates of my choice. I make phone calls, at my own expense, to people in the battleground states.
I believe in the First Amendment so much that I have used it to defend my opinion on a myriad of things. For many years, hundreds of my opinions appeared in Navy Times, a Gannett weekly. Not all pleased everybody, but all were based on verified facts. Other pieces appeared in papers and magazines across the country. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
I insist I’m a good citizen, even a thinking one. Still, I carry the onus of not being worthy of respect, and it is for a very strange reason: I just cannot swallow stories such as the Earth being created in seven days, a woman talking to a snake or that whopper about a man living in the belly of a big fish for three days.
I am an atheist.
Nor am I mollified by the 21st century claims such as, “Oh, they’re just apocryphal. You don’t need to take them literally.” Oh no? Ask any kid about the stories they teach him in Sunday school.
Defense of weird ideas comes with attacks on science and scientists. By the fourth century, Alexandria, Egypt, was home to the most impressive library ever seen. It held scientific and historical documents, many of which contradicted bible stories.
The custodian of the library was Hypatia, a mathematician and scientist. Carl Sagan, the magnificent chronicler of science, told us Hypatia was beset by a mob, followers of Cyril, the archbishop of Alexandria. The mob raked her flesh from her body with abalone shells. This magnificent woman was mostly forgotten.
Cyril was made a saint.
To this day, publicly denying a belief in the “accepted” religion of any area will ensure one’s never being able to hold office. This is as true of Christianity as it is of Islam, Buddhism or any other religion.
Say you’re an atheist just once and your world changes. The Boy Scouts won’t have you. According to polls, more than half our population would not vote for you, not even if you were as smart as Einstein, as wise as Bertrand Russell or as uniquely American as Mark Twain.
It matters not that atheists in general are in league with the members of what is arguably our country’s most prestigious group, the National Academy of Sciences. According to a recent poll, 93% of its members do not believe in a personal god. Such observations are blithely dismissed with the old bromide, “Oh, scientists don’t know everything.”
Of course they don’t, and every scientist has to realize that, but they do not have to believe in myths.
About half the country seems to agree with former president Richard Nixon. Some years ago he replied to a question that he did not think a person could be president without a belief in God.
His vice president and successor as president emphasized it further. In 1988, George H.W. Bush was asked by a Chicago atheist journalist about his views on atheism. Bush replied that in his opinion atheists couldn’t be patriotic.
The comment has been repeated across the country, even in The New York Times. Bush has never denied it.
The consensus is everybody has to believe in something, and that something better be supernatural.
The country which has idolized the man who said, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death” now demands we all follow the same course when it comes to accepting things without proof.
Keith Taylor, Chula Vista, Calif., is a retired U.S. Navy officer and past president of the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry.