Sunday, July 1, 2012
As the 4th of July approaches, America's Independence Day, I can hear fireworks going off around me. The occasional red glare fills the sky, the sounds of bombs bursting in the air, and flags waving all over the place, whether the family is traditionally patriotic or not. Every year around this time I am reminded, quite forcefully but pleasantly, that I am living in a free country. These freedoms are challenged on many occasions, but they still exist.
"What rights and freedoms pertain to Atheism?"
Directly? None of them do. Not one right or freedom that I'm aware of directly mentions Atheism. I could be wrong, of course, but I've never heard of any. Indirectly? There are quite a few. I won't go into all of them, but here are a few big ones.
The first one that comes to mind is freedom of religion, part of the first amendment written in 1789. The government is not allowed to make any laws which support or harm any religious organization. In other words, no special treatment in either direction based on your religious status. Without this amendment, we could very well be living in a nation run by religion, one of the very things this country was formed to get away from. This amendment also guarantees that your child will not be forced into religious ceremonies in public schools.
Also part of the first amendment is the freedom of speech. You are allowed to voice your opinion despite how many people disapprove or disagree. As long as you are not intruding on the rights of others, you can say anything you want, in theory. In practice you still need to show a great deal of constraint.
Thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for anyone to reject employment based on religious status. You can't be denied a job because of being an Atheist. Again, in theory. In practice it's still possible, but only if the excuse is good enough. Still, it is one of our rights and freedoms. Besides, any company that would deny employment simply because you're an Atheist isn't a company you should be working for, anyway.
To make a long story short, we have the right to be Atheists. No one can punish us for it and no one can tell us otherwise. This is our right and our freedom practically since this country was taken by the colonies in 1776. As long as we live here we can continue to fight for our right to be Atheists. Not by fighting other countries, but by enforcing the laws in our own.
While freedom still reigns supreme in America, so will Atheism exist and thrive.
Happy 4th of July.