Monday, 7 May 2007

Two views

This . . .

. . . and this . . .

From this story;

By day, Joe Zamecki works as a landscaper and valet in Austin, capital of George W Bush's home state of Texas, which is regarded by many natives as God's own country.

In his spare time, however, he is quietly working to undermine the dominance of America's God-fearing majority. He is one among a growing band of "out" atheists, and wants a US that is "one nation under no god".

Atheists in Idaho observe a National Day of Reason on America’s National Prayer Day

On Thursday, while Christian Americans were celebrating National Prayer Day, Mr Zamecki, the state director of American Atheists, was leading a demonstration against the public display of the words "In God We Trust" in the state legislature.

Atheist groups from Los Angeles to Little Rock observed a National Day of Reason instead.

Groups including Atheists for Human Rights and Atheist Alliance International - "Call 1-866-HERETIC" - are setting up summer camps and an internet recruiting campaign.

Mr Zamecki told The Sunday Telegraph: "We are seeing support for atheist groups grow. Those with no religious affiliation are the fastest-growing group in America, more even than Muslims."

Official figures show the ranks of the non-religious have doubled to 13 per cent, or 30 million people, since 1990.

Now a hard core of five million atheists is seeking the political clout that has made Christian conservatives and the Jewish lobby powerhouses in Washington politics.

They got a boost with the admission in March by the Californian Democrat congressman, Pete Stark, that he "does not believe in a supreme being", 127 years after Charles Bradlaugh became Britain's first openly atheist MP.

America's first atheist congressman was flushed out by the Secular Coalition for America, the first godless group with a full-time Washington lobbyist.

The US constitution outlaws religious discrimination, but polls show only 45 per cent of Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist candidate for president, even if he or she was the best-qualified.

Blogger Hemant Mehta, 24, who writes under the pen name "friendlyatheist", regularly debates with Christian fundamentalists online. He wrote: "We are not the bogeymen we have been made out to be for so long."

The atheists still have a mountain to climb. In a Republican presidential debate last week, candidates mentioned their faith 16 times, and three said that they did not believe in evolution.

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