My Response to the Cancellation of "Atheist America"

As Matthew Greenberg alerted us yesterday, a planned exhibit - "Atheist America" - has been cancelled by the Smithsonian.  To put it at its mildest, I am NOT down with that and less so that this decision was caused by threats of violence from people who would have us believe they are christian.  Below please find my response to Smithsonian Director Mark C. Fredericks.  Please note that with this draft, I am writing for myself.  I do not wish to pretend to represent my writing as representing views other than my own.  That said, if you have edits or addenda to contribute to this letter, PLEASE OFFER THEM!  Also, if I have made mistakes in fact, say so!

In addition, while I do pretty well at Google searches, I have as yet been able to find nothing by way of email or brick-and-mortar addresses for Mr. Fredericks.  If someone can dig up a target to aim this at, I would be very appreciative.

Your feedback is very welcome.


=================================


Mr. Fredericks:

I note with disappointment your cancellation of the “Atheist America” exhibit planned for opening in July at the Smithsonian, an action made more egregious by the fact that said cancellation was in apparent response to threats from groups who seem to feel that they have a right to dictate what kinds of special displays your organization may support and what it may not.

While this nation is largely Christian, it is by no means a Christian nation, sir.  It is a nation of multiple beliefs, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, and many others.  It is also emphatically a nation of those who hold no religious belief.  As you doubtless know from the preparation of the now-cancelled exhibit, a great many of the founding fathers of this nation were at best deists, if indeed they were not full-blown atheists, men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison.  Their official writings and personal correspondence reflect this repeatedly, a fact that many of an intransigent religious persuasion would perhaps not care to see become better known.  This tradition continued though the developmental years of the United States, from Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln (who was at minimum highly skeptical of religion) through Robert Green Ingersoll, and more recently men like Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens.

On March 24, 2012, despite less than ideal weather conditions, over 30,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC to participate in the Reason Rally, a celebration of rationality, logic, and yes, atheism which was the largest such gathering of its kind ever.  Add to that, there is a new group of people rising in numbers in the US: the “nones,” people who have no official religious affiliation.  Meanwhile the number of Protestant Christians in this country has notably dropped below the 50% mark for the first time, a statistic I find not at all coincidental, but indicative of a significant and powerful trend in the people of this country.

We are not the aberrant, hateful people our detractors would have you believe we are.  We are happy, productive, patriotic Americans who fully deserve the kind of notice your proposed exhibit would have given us.  Yes, I said us.  I am an atheist, Mr. Fredericks, and I am proud and unabashed to say so.  Even as Christians and Jews have participated in and contributed to this country, so have we, and it is time that the atheists of America enjoyed that recognition.  That said, I ask you to reinstate the “Atheist America” exhibit at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely,

Loren C. Miller, Jr.

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Tags: Atheist America, Mark C. Fredericks, Smithsonian

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Comment by Gila Guerilla on May 3, 2014 at 10:24pm

Please note that I am not an American - I am an Australian. Americans are mentioned in the letter a few times. I'd still like to vote. The Smithsonian should not be just for Americans, neither should it reflect any particular religious or non-religious viewpoint.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 3, 2014 at 5:23am

Right first time, Joan - Poe's Law, and as the article itself testifies in its format and content, there was NOTHING to indicate whether it was the real deal or parody.  The Landover Baptist Church is transparent, by comparison.

And if you have a rant, Joan, I got two words for you: Bring It!

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 2, 2014 at 11:08pm

AIG, Answers in Genesis, is so foolish, anyone should be able to see past their propaganda. Like Tyson, how does one explain the 15% of the educated public believe anything that comes from the bible. It is very simply Bronze Age dogma accepted as valid for 21st century reality. 

I feel a rant coming on. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 2, 2014 at 11:04pm

Oh! That rats! Put out a story that rings true because of the backbone of violence that is part of the Christian Right's style. The use of threats and actual acts of violence happen so often that this threat to the Smithsonian sounded valid. 

Well, we will just have to let the Smithsonian know that any display of evolutionary forces in the development of Homo sapiens is welcome and cheered. If you want to write a letter of appreciation, I will gladly be a co-signer. 

Turn the hoax back on them and let it sting. 

When you wrote POE, Loren, did you mean Poe's Law? 

"No matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists."

Poe's Law

Jeez! and I worked all day on a piece defining the acts of violence committed by christians against non-believers. Oh well, I know that christianity is not a practice of love, care, compassion, commitment, forgiveness, respect, concern, empathy, pardon, honor, understanding and courage. It is clearly opinionated, intolerant, deceitful, fear mongers, obstinate, dogmatic, and cunning.  

Comment by Loren Miller on May 2, 2014 at 7:50pm

[sigh] Leave it to AiG to spew that kind of ignorant hogwash.  Honestly, I cant' say I'm surprised.

Comment by Misha C on May 2, 2014 at 6:13pm

Glad that article was fake! I thought the quotes sounded a bit too blunt for a planned radio interview..

There IS this, though... http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/au/smithsonian-exhibition-...

=/

Comment by Pat on May 2, 2014 at 2:13pm

You're welcome. I'm glad I did. You should have seen the "go to hell" letter I drafted and was getting prepared to send out on my office letterhead. I can see it now "Attorney at Law and Sucker at Large."

Comment by Loren Miller on May 2, 2014 at 1:47pm

Bloody hell.  Pat, this is one reason why I have a problem with POE.  Certainly in this case, there was no nod, no wink, nothing to indicate that the story was anything other than genuine.

The saving grace is that nothing was mailed out, the petition was not created, no irretrievable actions were taken.  And I should also say a big thanks, Pat, for finding that business and bringing it to our attention.

Comment by Pat on May 2, 2014 at 12:52pm

Well folks, apparently we have all be HAD!!!!! Turns out nationalreport.net is fake news site. I began to wonder when I Googled Smithsonian and Atheism American, and the only two sites that mentioned anything about it was nationalreport.net and A|N (Yeah, us!).

Just goes to show we can be as gullible as everyone else out there.

Comment by Pat on May 2, 2014 at 11:40am

Hmm, good question about the signatures, Loren.You had mentioned in matthew's post about doing this as a petition on change.org. That's one possibility. Another is us giving you our names and using them with our permission - typing them on. Mine is Patrick S. Duffy.

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