This probably won't be news to most atheists, but what might be news is that such opinions are not unique to conservative or fundamentalist Christians. No, even some liberal Christians feel this way. Yes, those same liberal Christians whom atheists are supposed to stop upsetting with religious critique and who are supposed to be our "allies" against the Christian Right will sometimes express opinions no less noxious and immoral as the Christian Right does.
The following exchange is between Monique Davis, and Illinois state representative from Chicago, and Rob Sherman, an atheist activist who has become a thorn in the side of the state's Christian power structure. Sherman was testifying before the House State Government Administration Committee against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's attempt to give a $1 million grant to Pilgrim Baptist Church:
Davis: I donít know what you have against God, but some of us donít have much against him.† We look forward to him and his blessings. And itís really a tragedy -- itís tragic --† when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight.† They want to fight prayer in school.†
I donít see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?
Iím trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln† where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.Ö What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, itís dangerous--
Sherman: Whatís dangerous, maíam?
Davis: Itís dangerous to the progression of this state. And itís dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if youíll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!
Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and Iím sure that if this matter does go to court---
Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.
Source: Chicago Tribune (via Friendly Atheist) emphasis added
So, atheists are intolerant, extremists, and worse if they suggest that religious indoctrination starting at a young age might qualify as a form of psychological abuse, but apparently it's OK for a Christian to state outright that children shouldn't even learn that atheism (and by extension, atheists) even exist. Let's not forget that any atheists from the first example would be speaking as private individuals, whereas the Christian in the latter example is a powerful politician with a great deal of authority and influence behind her.
Can you imagine if Monique Davis had said basically the same thing about Jews or Muslims? I can imagine a politician saying something similar about gays, though only in a transcript from a couple of decades ago. Such comments made today would be condemned far and wide and you can be sure that liberal Christians would fall all over each other to distance themselves from it. I haven't seen any liberal Christians condemning these remarks about atheism, though. Do you suppose that might have something to do with a general animus towards atheists, even among liberal Christians?
Monique Davis, by the way, is a member of the same Trinity United Church of Christ as Barack Obama ó but whereas Obama had the sense and character to denounce many of the statements made by Jeremiah A. Wright, Monique Davis has tried to excuse them. She has, for example, insisted that Wright was taken out of context: "I don't think he meant God d--- America but I think he feels disappointed sometimes in the way America has acted in the past," Davis said. Think? She doesn't know?
Monique Davis sponsored and is named at the top of a resolution from the Illinois House of Representatives congratulating Jeremiah Wright on his retirement ó not because they were glad he was leaving the public spotlight, but because they approved of what he's done. It is my impression that Davis regularly attends services at Trinity United Church of Christ, and it's hard not to conclude that her ideas about atheism, atheists, and the role of Christianity in public life ó including our common government ó are derived at least in part from what she has learned from Jeremiah Wright.
What other lessons has Monique Davis learned at Trinity United Church of Christ, I wonder?