Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Authoritarian atheists

For me, atheism and libertarianism goes hand-in-hand.

Theism is the status quo, and a typical atheist seems to be someone who, as a teenager or an adult, has pondered the world, weighed the evidence, the history, and others' opinions, and come to his own conclusion that disagree with the majority of society's. The typical libertarian seems to have gone through the same steps.

More importantly, libertarians speak out against so-called victimless crimes, which they see as criminal merely due to religion and puritanical mores. There's a natural overlap of atheism and libertarianism in that sense.

But sometimes I see evidence to the contrary, reminding me that indeed there can be authoritarian atheists. A restaurant in Columbia, PA1 offered a promotion: bring in the "current church bulletin" and get a 10% discount. Sounds reasonable to me. An atheist wouldn't enjoy this promotion, but in the free US of A we tend to permit private restaurants to run whatever promotions they please. And this turned out to be a successful promotion according to the restaurant owner.

But it appears that the atheists had a problem with it, invoking the Civil Rights Act. The CRA sees atheism as a religious creed. So now, by crying to mommy, the resident atheists scored themselves 10% off. Classy.

If the CRA applies here, what about age-based discounts and special menus? What restaurant doesn't have a special menu or discount for seniors or children? Why is no one fighting those?

Because apparently there are atheists who want to enforce their beliefs legislatively. In contrast, libertarians and Austrian economists (again, greatly overlapping circles) tend to not like the Civil Rights Act, believing that once slavery became illegal, the free market would solve discrimination much more effectively than legislation. The justification is that it's better for a racist to openly display this racism and be judged openly than to be forced by law to hide it and exercise it against blacks in a cowardly fashion. Having to hide one's racism merely prolongs discrimination in our society.

The irony here is that for the longest time atheists have been fighting religion-based legislation, from gay marriage to the pledge's "under god" that public schools force children to say. Atheists say: get religion out of legislation. The US was not founded on Christian principles. Separation of church and state. These noble cries become negated when some bad apples swing the pendulum the other way and attempt to write (or apply) legislation to suit their personal beliefs.

My fellow atheists, grant the same tolerance to your Christian brethren that you've been expecting and demanding for yourself.

Check if libertarianism is right for you. On one hand it promotes a smaller government and fewer laws. That's good for atheism because it reduces criminalizing so-called victimless activities, and it reduces historical legislative baggage that's often based on religion. On the other hand libertarianism promotes a hands-off approach for private industry. That's good for tolerance. Don't like a business? Don't patronize it and tell your friends. But using legislation for this purpose seems childish.

Footnote 1: It took me longer than a minute of research to figure out what damn Columbia is being referred to. The article omits the state. Oh, but should give it away, right? No, there are more than one Lancasters in the United States. Even the newspaper's homepage doesn't indicate which Lancaster it represents. I finally found the state in the profile of the newspaper's official Twitter account.