Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are atheist groups churches?

If it looks like a duck, is it?

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck... is it a duck? Hmmm... Is this a trick question?

Are atheist groups churches?

Gosh. I really hate to admit it (the word church is so unappealing to me) but it certainly seems that atheist groups are looking more and more like church groups all the time.

Quack. Quack.

Can you imagine the future even as near as ten years ahead? I've written prior to this about how our atheist groups ought to assume replacing today's god-believing churches with ourselves. Like it or not, it just makes sense.

Society is going to see changes as theism falls apart. And please, let's not even begin to argue the question. There's very little doubt that theism will fall apart - it's happening even at this very moment. So, who's going to fill in the gaps that the current god-believing groups vacate? Who's going to run the shops?

When past president, George W Bush, enacted the much talked against faith-based initiative program, he did so in part to insure that an abundance of needed civil charity brought to our communities by church groups would last un-threatened. It was likely as much an economic consideration as it was a political pandering for right wing votes. Had Bush not called his act "faith-based" but rather picked a name like "community-based" a great deal of the whoop la over his action could have been avoided; the sacrifice of a few votes would have been the only cost.

Feeding and sheltering the poor and homeless, providing assistance for expectant teen-aged moms, giving assistance to older citizens and families in crisis and the variety of other charitable services out there cannot be ignored as being social concerns unworthy of support. The "much talked against" side of the Bush decision was not that these community minded services should be left under-served or completely abandon - not at all - nor was it that pregnant teens were unworthy of receiving help, but rather, all the whoop la was fear (and reasonable expectations) that paying for and trusting religions to mete out charity could be and most likely would result in there being bias in the mix.

So far, President Obama hasn't pulled the plug on faith-based program funding nor has he changed the name, and I'm not surprised. Just as Bush hoped to gain votes by applying the word faith-based to his program, President Obama can and will make hay by allowing the name to remain. Either way, our communities get money for running much needed civic minded services our government isn't otherwise able to provide; and, economically that's a rather astute political decision for a leader to uphold.

So, what to do?

First of all, we atheists ought to be more closely interested in where all that faith-based money has gone and in how its being used. There may be some fights we have to fight, and we need to do some better watch-dog work for prevention. Additionally, and here let me echo the earliest part of this blog, we ought to be exploring new territories and asking ourselves, soul searchingly, and asking our state and federal governments, officially, if by law we atheists and our atheist groups are tantamount to being churches?

Quack. Quack. Quack.

Perhaps we ought to apply for some of that federal money and find out.

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