Religious exclusion of the non-religious

great_seal_of_the_united_states_obverse-svgThe original motto of the United States was, “E pluribus unum,”, which was adopted by Congress in 1782 and included on the Great Seal of the United States.

This motto is Latin, and it means, “Out of many, one”.  It is inclusive of all Americans, and it acknowledges that those people who make up the United States of America come from very diverse backgrounds.  It tells us all that we are all welcome here, if we wish to be Americans.

There is a different motto, adopted out of fear by Congress in 1956, and it says, “In God We Trust”.  This is our official motto.  And it was designed from the beginning to divide our country, to divide us from those who are deemed “right” or believing in God, from those who were “wrong” or non-believing.  It was designed to shut out those who didn’t believe, or those who believe in too many deities.  In practice it is used to shut out those who believe in the “wrong” deity.

I’m writing about this because history is repeating itself, right here in the California Central Valley, right here in Fresno.  And we witnessed it happening after the Orlando massacre, we see it in remembrance of the horrible 9/11 tragedy.

Some victims of these tragedies are ignored.  Some are forgotten.  They are the ones who held no belief in any god.  

As the leaders of the Faith In Community, Fresno, gathered hand in hand in support of the Orlando victims, those who do not require faith were left forgotten.  And those victims who died without belief were not mentioned.

Today, on the 15th anniversary of the fall of the World Trade Center, we are again reminded that approximately 20 percent of America, those who do not have a faith, are excluded from this discussion.  How many non-believers died in the 9/11 terrorist attack?  I do not know.  But I do know that it is statistically likely that several did.  If only 1 in 1000 people generally identify as atheist, then I am sure that at least 2 or 3 who died in 9/11 self-identified as atheist.  Many more were “nones” – non-believers who did not call themselves atheist.

The faithless are left over, they are left out.

The non-religious are used to being left out, we are so used to it that we do not even blink when organizations congregate for the “good of the community” and then intentionally exclude a section of that community.  Secular people too often shrug when this sort of high-school-level cliquishness is played out, and the “popular kids” work together to keep out the “undesirables” once again.

This needs to stop.

Organizations that leave out part of the community can not claim to speak for the community.  No matter how good their intentions may be.  We need to stop letting them get away with speaking for us all, when they are not interested in speaking for some.

Perhaps we should paraphrase the bible.  If you do not speak for the least of us, then you are not standing for a greater good.  You are only aggrandizing yourselves.