The generally-thoughtful Gazette of Colorado Springs gets off track in a recent editorial. While there’s much wrong with the piece, I want to focus on one particular paragraph:
This column has advocated religious liberties for atheists, citing case law that defines atheism as just another religion – as in just another unproven and forever unprovable belief. This column has applauded a federal court ruling that forced prison wardens to allow prisoners an atheist study session. The court allowed the study session for the same reason wardens allow Bible study meetings: atheism is a religion, therefore subject to protections and restrictions of the First Amendment.
Notice the subjectivism inherent in this view. The editorial presumes that religion is superior to atheism, yet all religious beliefs boil down to “unproven and forever unprovable” beliefs. In other words, the point of religion is not to get to the truth, but to promote some particular and entirely arbitrary position. Later, the editorial explicitly invokes ignorance to “justify” religious beliefs. This shows an irony common among Christians. Christians blast atheism as subjectivist and relativistic, yet many of these same Christians ultimately rest their case on subjectivism and relativism (and all of them implicitly do so).
What is needed is an alternative that is neither faith-based nor subjectivist, but based on the objective facts of reality. True, we don’t know everything about reality, but we can know a lot, and we can continually expand our real knowledge. With the advances particularly of Aristotle and Ayn Rand, we have available to us an objective moral foundation.
As for the First Amendment, atheism is not protected because it is “just another religion.” That amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” The principle is that the government ought neither promote nor hinder religion. Instead, the government’s job is to protect individual rights. Freedom of conscience is the broader principle inherent in the First Amendment, and this properly applies to all ideas, not just religious ones. However, while it’s wrong for government to force the religious to finance non-religious ideas, the First Amendment expressly limits government support for religion.