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Port: Dear lawmakers, atheists aren't boogeymen hiding in your closet

columnist Rob Port

According to some in the North Dakota Legislature, a bill to repeal blue laws was a plot by atheists to undermine religion and destroy the family.

"Atheism is a belief system. Atheists believe there is no God. So if it's a belief system, what is their religion? It's called Humanism. Also known as Secular Humanism. Also known as Religious Humanism," Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, said during a lengthy speech against the repeal. "If you were to Google 'Humanism,' you might come to their website, where they talk about separation of church and state and their efforts to bring that about. You would also find what you could call their Bible: Humanist Manifestos I, II, and III."

Dever went on to explain how this manifesto plots an attack on Christianity by encouraging the teaching of evolution. "We don't teach evolution in school because it's settled science," he said. "We teach evolution in school because it's not Creation."

He then accused atheists of using the courts to advance their cause.

"When an atheist goes to court, to take God out of the pledge, to take God out of the classroom, to take God out of the Boy Scouts, they are using the government as a tool to advance their faith in violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause," he said.

Sen. Dever and others might benefit from a conversation with an actual atheist.

I'm happy to volunteer.

I've been an atheist for going on 18 years now. I've never heard of these manifestos. I'm not aware of any "bible" for atheists, though I do own a copy of Thomas Jefferson's edited version of the Christian bible which focuses on the teachings of Jesus absent the miracles.

Nor are atheists homogenous in their political and social goals. While certain militants tend to attract a lot of media attention with their lawsuits and antics, most of the atheists I know are unassuming and private.

Many of them are even conservatives. When I've spoken out from time to time as an atheist it's prompted feedback from closeted atheists with conservative views. They've thanked me for helping them feel more comfortable with their point of view on religion.

Because, unfortunately, in the world of conservative politics points of views like Sen. Dever's are all too common.

It's not fair.

As an atheist I support the free practice of religion. I do not go fainting into the bushes when I see a 10 Commandments statute or a nativity scene on public property. I do not want to drive religious expression from the public square.

I want to invite all religious points of view into the public square.

That is the essence of religious liberty.

The blue laws repeal, which I do support, was not an atheist plot. Most of the people supporting it are not atheists. And atheists do not necessarily conform to the political and social stereotypes attributed to them.

We're just people, not boogeymen.