I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Thou Shalt Chill Out

It will surprise no one to learn that I'm an atheist. I'm also a card carrying member of the ACLU, except that, you know, I haven't actually joined them and don't have a card. But I'm with them in spirit on about 90% of their battles.

Still, I often wonder if some of the battles are worth fighting. The whole issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in classrooms and courthouses, for instance. Sometimes, it's a battle worth getting into. Judge Roy Moore in Alabama was pretty blunt when he put the Ten Commandments into his courthouse, saying it was to remind people that God was the foundation of law. This is absolutely worth opposing. America of all places should never be a country where the laws are built on a foundation of trying to figure out what God wants. Our laws are built on a foundation of democracy and debate, confined by a constitution. We should never adopt laws because God tells us (or a few of his chosen representatives) to adopt them.

On the other hand, I'm a little bothered by some liberal voices who react with outrage that the religious right goes to the voting booth and votes for candidates who profess their values. To me, this is part of the beauty of America--we can vote for whoever we want for whatever damn reason we want. Telling religious people that it's wrong to vote their values is just stupid.

Back to the Ten Commandments: While I enjoy fighting people like Roy Moore, it seems to me that the vast majority of times the Ten Commandments appear in a public building, they are utterly harmless and insignificant. Has any hit man in the history of America ever been on their way to a job, walked past then Ten Commandments in a courtroom, and thought, "What the hey? Thou shalt not kill? Time for a new line of work." How many people even stop and look at these things? How many people read them and remember them? If you stopped the average person on the street and asked them to recite them, what percentage of the population could spout them of? Five percent? Ten? I grew up in a fundamentalist household. My mother read the Bible out loud to us at bed time every night. For the first 18 years of my life, I went to church three times a week. I've been pretty much raised in about as much Ten Commandment saturation as is humanly possible. Put me on the spot, I can probably name, oh, six of them.

Let's see: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ass. Honor they father and mother. Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Hey! I did know six. Then. . . the rest are all involved with making sure God gets his props, just like the Sabbath one. Really, if memory serves, God could have made the list the six commandments. The thou shalt nots, then one uber-commandment that boils down to, "I am God. Deal with it."

The people on the religious right who have faith that if the Ten Commandments were plastered on every inch of public space, we would live in a peaceful, just paradise, are, bluntly, insane. But I also have to wonder about the number of atheists in America who worry that thier children are going to be warped if they walk to close to a stone tablet with these words on them. One case before the Supreme Court recently involved a homeless atheist in Texas who is offended by the Ten Commandments plaque in a public square. If you're homeless, shouldn't you have more important things to worry about? What kind of mindset leads one to think, "Hmm. I could attempt to get a job and put a roof over my head. Or, I can fight this stone monument all the way to the Supreme Court." Have some priorities, folks. As an atheist, I'm embarrassed that so many of my fellow faithless seem so brittle and easily offended.

I think both sides of the debate should just loosen up.

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