Secular life has been under attack for a long time now in America and abroad. And while I was interested to see the books by the New Atheists won a wide readership and have garnered a lot of attention (both positive and negative), our shared secular life should be defended as atheist. By doing so secularists are ceding valuable rhetorical ground to religious reactionaries like Pat Robertson and Osama Bin Laden.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”The premise, that secular life is atheist, is one that Robertson and Falwell share with Osama Bin Laden:
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system. (Partial transcript of comments from the Thursday, September 13, 2001 edition of the ‘700 Club.’)
“Three months after the blessed strikes against world atheism and its leader, America, and around two months after the fierce crusade against Islam, we must review the impact of these events."(Excerpts From Osama bin Laden’s Address on Al-Jazeera, December 27, 2001)Our secular life depends on the goodwill of religious people who decide, despite their strong personal beliefs, to make the choice to live together, as equals, with people who believe differently. Atheist are relatively new to the secular table. It is important to remind the Robertsons and Bin Ladens of the world that secular life was started by-and-for religious people.
Additionally Robertson’s claim that the Haitian Revolution - the third great democratic revolution of the 18th century - was only possible because of a pact made with the devil is a hideous and racist claim. The Haitian Revolution was the first and only successful slave revolt, and as the Haitian Diplomat to the United States argued, sparked a series of democratic revolutions in South America and made the Louisiana Purchase possible.
Had then-President Thomas Jefferson embraced the Haitians as equals, instead of recoiling in racist fear like Robertson, the Haitian revolutionaries may have avoided the crippling reparations imposed on them by the French, and perhaps instead of an anemic third world neighbor we would have a partner with a democratic tradition as old and vibrant as our own.
I am certain that Robertson wouldn’t credit the success of the American Revolution on a pact with the devil, despite the fact that all the Founding Fathers were unabashed Pantheist. His interpretation of the Haitian Revolution as Satanic, is as bogus as his revisionist history of America as a Christian nation fallen on hard times. The US was secular from the start - it is just more so now.