As the American culture grows more secular by the day, hour, and minute, anti-religious forces across the fruited plain are developing a more strident message. They are not just becoming more vocal; they appear to be purposefully shrill and deceitful. What was once tacit disapproval of those with faith in God is now an in-your-face, take-that proclamation.
Exhibit A is an ad that appears to be drawing quite a bit of chatter by pitchman Ron Reagan – yes, the “son of” guy. He’s seen in a gray t-shirt against an ominous background shilling for an organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He looks like a super friendly regular Joe until the end, when he smirks at the camera and says that he’s a life-long atheist and “not afraid of burning in hell.” This is a roundhouse not just to organized religion, but to anyone who has read word one of the Bible.
One must feel sorry for the man who is not merely lost but finds it necessary to inform the world of his spiritual vacuum. That alone would be wretched, but Reagan manages to pull off his “rot in hell” line with a healthy dose of hubris.
Self-disclosure: This writer is a Christian. Self-disclosure two: One of my dearest friends is an atheist. Never in my more than two-decade-long friendship did he ever utter such a phrase. Who are these people that have a burning desire to throw hellfire and brimstone into the public square?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) calls itself the “largest freethought association in North America.” In fact, their home page is filled with the words “freethought” and “freethinkers.” There’s FREETHOUGHT RADIO, FREETHOUGHT OF THE DAY (from Tom Petty, no less), Freethought Matters – the TV show, and a periodical called FREETHOUGHT TODAY. It is rather unusual that three of the four genres displayed on the FFRF site are advertised in ALL CAPS.
PERHAPS THEY FEEL THE NEED TO YELL.
Anyone with a modicum of political understanding is aware that these buzzwords are part and parcel of the conservative/libertarian lexicon. Co-opting this language for the atheist set is distressing. It’s a way of softening their message and making it more inclusive. But it should be said that not every libertarian is an atheist. And there are plenty of theists – that is, those who do believe in God – who are free-thinkers.
There is another odd juxtaposition laced with a dash of not so subliminal deceit: This is a group of FREETHINKERS who advertise themselves as oppressed. Reagan says he’s “alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government.” Intrusion? Really? Not even the most die-hard supporter of the president would call Donald Trump Pastor-in-Chief. Are their court cases galore accusing atheists of refusing to bake wedding cakes for Christians? Have they been silently stacking up – unbeknownst to the rest of us – waiting to be adjudicated?
Finally, there is the FFRF’s use of separation of church and state, which is the website sub-heading. It reads, “Protecting the constitutional principle of the separation of state and church” with a subtle backdrop of the US Constitution. Is this a mendacious way of trying to convince people that the document actually reads: “There shall hereby be enacted a separation of church and state.” Notice also the rearranging of the classic Jeffersonian phrase from “church and state” to “state and church.” Is this a way of telling hordes of believing theists that the state must go before all things? God help us.
We’ll not bother calling out the fallacious interpretation of the founding fathers’ intentions to keep “state and church separate” that Reagan slips into his remarks. If you understand the First Amendment as a dictum from the men who wrote America’s founding document to keep religion out of the public square, then you haven’t done your homework.
As for Mr. Ron Reagan. Some who have heard his pitch offered up a few “woes” to him and how sad for his father. But the best rejoinder came from our pastor today, who simply said, “May God have mercy on his soul.”