I have posted below a thoughtful little essay from one of my favorite blogs, Red State Rabble (I have added it to my links section). RSR points out the trend for the Christian Right to brand anyone who opposes them as an atheist. I find this trend disturbing in many ways. While it is an outgrowth of the lie that evolution is just an atheist apologetic, it is a logical conclusion from the premise that one’s own religion is the only religion in the world and all others are mere cults (inclunding the Catholic Church!).
In the battle over teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools, the collateral damage to civility and social cohesion may prove more destructive in the long run than any injury to public education or the practice of science.
This has been reflected in a number of ways, perhaps most recently in this statement by Kansas State Board of Education member Carol Rupe, a good church-going Episcopalian, who opposes introducing intelligent design into the curriculum:
“There has been the implication that those of us who want the true science standards taught must be atheists, because otherwise we wouldn’t want that,” she said. “But the whole idea that you can’t be a person of faith and want good science is just ridiculous.”
It is the conscious strategy of John Calvert, of the Intelligent Design Network, and the fellows of the Discovery Institute, in Seattle, to portray everyone who opposes their absurd project to replace science with Christian fundamentalism as atheists.
Now Red State Rabble doesn’t find the atheist label to be quite the epithet that others might. We wear our skeptic’s badge proudly. However, when fundamentalists begin to call anyone who worships in a different church an atheist, it reflects a troubling breakdown of religious tolerance.
When these same fundamentalists begin to write their beliefs into public policy and the law — and that is exactly what they are doing when they demand their religious beliefs be taught as science in public schools — they are setting the stage for a very dangerous social confrontation.
Most Americans are relieved, we believe, that our country hasn’t experienced the sort of religious strife that countries like Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Iraq have suffered with in recent years. The push by Christian fundamentalists to establish their beliefs as a state religion, however, may come to mean that the horrible destruction we witnessed in those devastated countries is less a painful memory of others woes than a dreadful portent of things to come.