List of things an atheist cannot do

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Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Post by UDS » Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:36 am

Well, there’s only a crisis if the judge goes public with his mental reservations. Dev did, but he had to because a significant constituency of his potential supporters were going to be horrified by his taking the oath, and he needed to try to bring them along with him. I’m sure that his “empty formula” pronouncement horrified quite a few people too, but he may have judged that they were people who would not have supported him in any event.

The issues are different for a judge, or a counsellor of state. They don’t have voters to keep onside. So long as the judge/counsellor can square his own conscience, he doesn’t need to go public, and your own post sets out a number of reasons why it’s best if he doesn’t. For all we know, there may be several atheists or agnostics who have already made this declaration and taken office.

It’s still offensive, though, not just because it puts an arbitrary hurdle, even if a surmountable one, in the way of atheists, but also because it sends the message that atheism is acceptable So Long As We Are Willing Not To Talk About It. Gays haven’t put up with that for a generation or more; I don’t see why atheists should have to.

The review in the “Targets” thread is interesting. There seems to be political acceptance that the current state of affairs is indefensible. There remains some disagreement over what should replace it – a uniform non-theist declaration, or an option allowing people to make the declaration in a way that is most solemn and meaningful for them, whether that be atheist or theist. I suspect most atheists could live with either of those solutions. But either of them would require a referendum, and I can’t see that there is any great political appetite for it.
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