I had an idea, far from claiming it original or earth shattering; just a thought crossing my mind. One of those little moments of clarity, akin to that instant when Algebra makes sense or you understand “cereal box French” – for the first time in your life not having to flip to the English side.
I’m still bargaining with “promise” – I assured her I wouldn’t write about religion. Promises born of good intent are common – minuscule snippets of idea arrive when least expected. My apologies for a flippant promise – little ideas will trump every time.
Worn to my last nerve at the thought of defending my “Godless” views, sick of the label Atheist, and steadfast in belief that religion will be the death of us all – I had an idea. Instead of the “Godless” patting themselves on the back for cleverly debunking the faithful; they need to organize and form a recognized “religion”. Before fundamentalist Atheists vow to jump down my throat – hear me out. We pride ourselves on analytical thinking, minds open to possibilities and truth. The truth is – this idea has some merit.
Like it or not our world is based on religious bias. Values such as freedom of speech and religion become contentious when a segment of society is deemed void of religion. The Godless can justify their position till blue in the face – truth is, nothing less than official recognition will level the playing field. If the Godless stepped down from their fortified positions, organized, put their minds to good use and refused to take the bait dangled by fundamentalists mouth pieces – think of all the good we could do.
Wouldn’t irony rule the day if the Godless behaved with dignity, respect, inclusion and charity? How perfect would it be to exhibit virtues so many faithful overlook in their rabid agenda to eradicate the Godless?
No one will win a pissing match of egos, intellect, common sense or values. I’m tired of the game. A proposal to change the rules – more accurately a “game changer” set in motion by tactical planning aimed at putting an end to the madness strikes me as a refreshing summer rain. Forming a “religion” isn’t hypocritical – it’s smart, decisive, and pivotal towards getting on with more important issues. Granted, the Godless might have to choose something to “worship”. I say – suck it up people, look at the big picture. Maybe we could worship “seeds”, the implications could vastly alter genetic modifications if we put our minds to it.
I could care less if my neighbour was waiting for the rapture or a reincarnated soul from the planet Xenu. As long as they don’t shove it down my throat, making the world a better place should come easily. It wouldn’t be difficult to find a qualifying niche. The link below is for the IRS rules regarding tax exempt/ non profit religious status. Following is an excerpt regarding the validity of religious belief. At least give it a ponder – somebody has to take the high road for the good of us all – why not the Godless?
Validity of Religious Belief
- In making a determination whether a religious organization qualifies for exemption under IRC 501(c)(3), the Internal Revenue Service cannot pass judgment on the merits of the applicant’s asserted religious belief.
- Accordingly, proof of entitlement to exemption does not include proving the validity of the religious doctrines or beliefs of the applicant or its members. It is the government’s duty to “make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary.” Zorach v. Clausen, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
- This concept is also discussed in U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1943), in which the Court stated “The Fathers of the Constitution were not unaware of the varied and extreme views of religious sects, of the violence of disagreement among them, and of the lack of any one religious creed on which all men would agree. They fashioned a charter of government which envisaged the widest possible toleration of conflicting views…The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain.”
Religious Belief Defined
- The term “religious” as used in IRC 501(c)(3) is not subject to precise definition. The leading interpretation of the term was made by the Supreme Court in United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965), in which the Court interpreted the phrase “religious training and belief” as used in the Universal Military Training and Service Act, 50 U.S.C. section 456 (j), in determining an individual’s eligibility for exemption from military service on religious grounds. The Court formulated the following definition: “A sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualifying for the exemption comes within the statutory definition.”
- The Court elaborated upon the Seeger definition in Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 33 (1970), stating that “[i]f an individual deeply and sincerely holds beliefs that are purely ethical or moral in source and content but that nevertheless impose upon him a duty of conscience to refrain from participating in any war at any time, those beliefs certainly occupy in the life of that individual a place parallel to that filled by… God in the lives of traditionally religious persons.” Thus, religious beliefs include many beliefs (for example, Taoism, Buddhism, and Secular Humanism) that do not posit the existence of a Supreme Being in the conventional sense.
Actions Distinguished from Beliefs
- The constitutional protections afforded religious beliefs do not prevent government from regulating conduct or actions when it has a compelling interest to do so. Thus, the First Amendment does not prevent the government from requiring compliance with general laws designed to effectuate an important governmental policy or objective even though compliance may be contrary to an individual’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.
- In Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), the Court upheld a law passed by Congress that made the practice of polygamy by persons residing in United States territories a crime. The Court interpreted the constitutional prohibition in this way: “Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.” Finding that polygamy had long been considered an offense against society in all the states of the union, the Court held that the statute under consideration was constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the territories. In holding that religious belief did not except persons from operation of the statute, the Court said: “While they [laws] cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.”
- In Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), the Court endorsed Reynolds, stating that “the [First] Amendment embraces two concepts, freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.” See also Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 33 (1890), and Mormon Church v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890), where the Court grappled with the same issue. While continuing to affirm the right of freedom of religious belief, the Court nevertheless held that legislation for the punishment of actions “inimical to the peace, good order and morals of society” did not violate the First Amendment.
- A notable recent application of this doctrine is Bob Jones University v. United States, andGoldsboro Christian Schools v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), in which the Supreme Court upheld revocation of the exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) of religious and educational institutions on the grounds that its religiously motivated policy forbidding interracial dating violated a fundamental public policy against racial discrimination. The Court concluded that educational institutions that practice racial discrimination based on religious beliefs are not charitable in the generally accepted legal sense and thus do not qualify for federal tax exemption.