Posted on July 13, 2011
The "Reason" Excuse
FFRF practices political religion
If you've been reading the papers lately, you're probably aware that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is becoming increasingly busy. The Wisconsin-based atheist organization has backed an unsuccessful attempt by one of its honorary board members, Michael Newdow, to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. It has also been trying to ban national and state Days of Prayer, and was involved in a controversy when one of its anti-God billboards was, apparently inadvertently, placed on church property.
In one episode that borders on self-parody, FFRF succeeded in having a plaque that said "Only God can make a tree" removed from a tree in a county park. Just how grotesquely has the First Amendment been warped, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," is now taken to mean that religiously influenced poetic allusions are banned from public places? Is FFRF aware that Joyce Kilmer's poetry can also be found in public libraries? Fahrenheit 451, here we come.
The atheists at FFRF like to flatter themselves as "freethinkers" who are guided by "reason," as if their godlessness had been derived through a factual analysis. There are some questions that human beings simply lack the wherewithal to factually answer. Evidence to support the various hypotheses about the origin of life, for example, is so scarce that reason cannot compel a belief in any one of them. The conclusion that any of them is correct requires a belief in something for which there is no proof -- which is to say, faith.
Atheism may not be as much a function of reason as its adherents pretend, but the utility of atheism is. Take, for example, the founding of FFRF, which was not for atheism's own sake, but for the purpose of serving as a conduit for the political activism of its founder, Anne Nicol Gaylor.
A longtime member of the environmental alarmist group Zero Population Growth, Gaylor founded her own nonprofit organization in 1972, for the purpose of arranging and funding abortions. By her own count, she has facilitated somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 of them. In 1975, she authored a book by the not entirely atheistic title, Abortion Is a Blessing. So much for reason.
A year later, she and her daughter founded FFRF. If their motivation for doing so is not immediately apparent, San Francisco attorney Anne Treseder can explain. In a tribute to Gaylor, proudly displayed on the FFRF website, Treseder recalls the circumstances of the organization's founding.
"[Gaylor] told me that after much soul-searching she had concluded that a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and to basic civil rights, would never be realized as long as religious dogma played such a huge role in government policy. She said that she had decided to devote the next portion of her life to addressing this underlying problem."
Seen in that light, FFRF's silliness is not so silly. Of course, the removal of a plaque from a tree does not by itself further the pro-abortion cause, but once it is understood as part of the solution to the "underlying problem," its relevance becomes evident.
By challenging every public acknowledgment of God, however small, the "freethinkers" hope to convince Americans that we live in a fundamentally atheistic state. It follows that if we assume there is no Creator, then we must not be endowed with a fundamental right to life. Moreover, if everything that exists has come about by accident, then human life has no intrinsic purpose or value. Thus, they would remove the greatest philosophical impediments to not only abortion, but also euthanasia, and forms of human experimentation that would heretofore have been denounced as unethical.
Whether Gaylor is really an atheist or not, the launching of an anti-religious harassment campaign would serve her interests all the same. The manner in which she's arrived at her conclusions might therefore be characterized as "reason," for what that's worth. Reason, however, is only a process, through which to follow a premise to its logical conclusion. If a predetermined conclusion (that human life is not to be valued) is followed backward through a premise (the nonexistence of God) that is selected after the fact, then that line of reason is anything but an exercise in "freethinking."
For all its pretensions of intellectualism, FFRF is itself a faith-based organization. It's just that it's based on the kind of faith one is left with, after one has gone "soul-searching," and come away empty.
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