The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, July 30, 2004

What happens when an atheist is invited to deliver the opening invocation at a city council meeting? In Tampa, three of the council members walk out .

First off, I agree that an invocation, which by definition is religiously (or at least, spiritually) based, is an odd platform for an atheist, regardless of the nature of the message. I understand that the established breach of church-state separation in even having an invocation at governmental meetings probably rationalized Michael Harvey's decision to make the delivery. Still, in the sense of sticking to your guns on the concept, I'm not sure there's as much for the atheists to gain as there is to lose.

That said, I think the reactions of council members Kevin White, Mary Alvarez and Rose Ferlita were tragically comic. If you want a good insight into the workings of a weak-willed, closed mind, here it is:
Later, White agreed that he was taking a stand. Listening to an atheist even one time could unleash a "snowball effect" on government. He compared it to having unprotected sex.
This is classic narrowmindedness: Don't let the scary ideas into your brain, or else you'll get confused! In other words, White thinks he's secure enough in his worldview, but isn't going to take the chance on exposing himself, and the council, to any different ideas. I'm guessing that these three members basically zone out during the audience portion of meetings, when they're supposedly giving citizens a chance to air their views.

Avowed atheism tends to bring this kind of hostility. The mayor's comment about the invocation properly being reserved for believers in God is nothing but a sop to voters, and false in any case. If taken literally, every invited speaker would be quizzed on their beliefs, which would invite a firestorm of criticism. That's not really the point, though. The ideal situation is that a religious or spiritual belief, of any sort, is considered a default in everyone's character, regardless of how much or how little it's demonstrated. An atheist pointedly rejects this, and thus is looked upon as hostile, or having a "political agenda".