A Day at the Supermarket


Outside the supermarket today, I encountered quite an interesting combo of fundraisers. On one side, the Boy Scouts. On the other, Korean War vets. Both of these groups remind me of what’s wrong in America, and also a personal family issue that resulted from it which I think brings the whole thing home.


The Korean War served as a surrogate for the US’s and the USSR’s wish for turning the Cold War into an actual war. With the excuse of defending one Korean side against the other, each superpower was able to enter and fight the other. After three years, they called it a draw, but the adventure fanned the flames at home for the increased hatred against those damn Commies.

Riding that hatred were groups like the Knights of Columbus who succeeded in cashing in on a distinction between the US and Communist states, freedom of religion. Communist regimes aren’t just secular (which, btw, the US is as well – read the Constitution, damnit!), they actively suppress religions, mostly because they see them as a threat to their absolute power. But of course rather than lobby for something which would celebrate our free and open environment for Americans to practice or abstain from any religion, they pushed their god as something to rally around and in 1954 they got Congress to add the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and in 1956 they got Congress to change the US motto to “In God We Trust”.

Just as the US and the USSR exploited the Korean civil war to play out their personal war, Christian groups in America exploited the Cold War to increase their influence on the government and America, and they’ve used this influence to discriminate against non-Christians, especially atheists. Today we have Americans who actually believe the US was founded as a Christian nation, that our motto was always “In God We Trust” and our Pledge is not only over 200 years old but always contained “under God” and to suggest otherwise or to fight to remove these religious phrases is unAmerican. Political candidates must make a show of their Christian convictions if they want to get elected as well, and that’s been painfully obvious in our current Presidential election where each major party candidate had to kowtow to Christ, recently agreeing only to meet for a forum held by a preacher in his church. The Democrats, at their convention, had prayer services and refused requests from atheists to speak at such events.

So aside from the personal discrimination I get as an atheist, in some small part due to the Korean War, I grew up living with the result of discrimination that occurred during that war. My father was drafted to fight in that war. My grandparents were proud to have him represent this country which they emigrated to decades before, believing in it’s high principles and boundless opportunities. Unfortunately for my father, his drill sergeant had quite a different idea of what America meant. For him, it meant a place that shouldn’t be plagued with outsiders, especially Guinea bastards, so eventually, unable to contain himself, he provoked a fight with my father which left him disabled for the rest of his life. The sergeant was court-martialed, but still, that atmosphere of discrimination apparently still exists. Certainly non-Christians, especially atheists are allegedly having a rough time, and then there’s the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the gays.


Another group that now openly discriminates is the Boy Scouts. Although never declared official until the 80s, the Scouts claimed that homosexuals, atheists and agnostics could be barred (still unofficial is non-Christians, but I’d like to see Muslims try and join). Part of what made that official is having the Boy Scouts taken over mostly by Christian organizations (especially Mormons) who saw a wonderful opportunity to indoctrinate kids no doubt. Of course part of that indoctrination is open discrimination.

So there you have it, a trip to the supermarket where I was reminded of both the national and personal effects of discrimination and exploitation in America, past and sadly still present. Is the promise of America an empty promise? Is it impossible to ever rid ourselves of discrimination in America? Well I suppose I can be optimistic and say it’s a promise that’s simply slow to manifest. Perhaps one day America will be fully tolerant and it won’t matter what your religious beliefs are, or what your gender, race, sexual orientation or any other such distinction is. Hey, at least, as far as I know, Italian Americans don’t get beaten near to death in the military anymore.

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10 Responses to “A Day at the Supermarket”

  1. Communist regimes aren’t just secular (which, btw, the US is as well – read the Constitution, damnit!), they actively suppress religions, mostly because they see them as a threat to their absolute power.

    This is not correct. Communist regimes are anti-religious mostly because they (correctly) believe that religion is used as a tool by all ruling classes (not just the bourgeoisie) to justify their oppression and exploitation of the ruled.

  2. I’m far too cynical to think Communists have such noble reasons for squashing religions. They may claim what you say, but seriously, religions represent a challenge to their absolute control of the hearts and minds of the people.

  3. I suppose I can be optimistic and say it’s a promise that’s simply slow to manifest. Perhaps one day America will be fully tolerant and it won’t matter what your religious beliefs are, or what your gender, race, sexual orientation or any other such distinction is.

    I don’t think that America, or any nation, will ever be fully tolerant, as we’re hard-wired to make distinctions between in-groups and out-groups. What we have to do is figure which features are valid for making such distinctions, something we’ve gotten a little bit better at in the past 50 years or so. Even though the changes are slow in coming, we just have to keep working to make them happen.

  4. Very nice post.

    Barefoot bum says: Communist regimes are anti-religious mostly because they (correctly) believe that religion is used as a tool by all ruling classes (not just the bourgeoisie) to justify their oppression and exploitation of the ruled.

    He’s incorrect. Barefoot Bum doesn’t take into account that Communist regimes used — and continue to use — their own propaganda to substitute “the State” or “the People” or even an individual leader as a god to be worshipped blindly. The simple matter is: the wise priests of Communism criminalized competing faiths. Hence, they could use their own religion to “justify their oppression and exploitation of the ruled.” So their policy reflects the same old strategy.

  5. From my scouting days I remember that there were awards for religion which included Budhists and Islamists as well as xians and Jews.

    I remember attending a jamboree that actually had a couple of troops of Islamic scouts present.

    Up until about five years ago I’d been talked into being a merit badge counselor, but there was a kerfuffle about my lack of belief, so I don’t do that anymore.

    Scouting is just one of the many things that require some belief in a “supreme being”. Almost every fraternal lapel pin has got that somewhere. Some of the local masons I know get upset with me because I won’t lie to get in. Have no interest, anyway, I’m busy enough. But I’ve noticed that almost anything with a heirachy seems to need a belief in and a kow-towing to the Ultimate Authority, or at least its nearest proxy.

    My father observed to me once that every time he went into any meeting (masons: he was a shriner, royal arch, that sort of thing, scouts: he was an the second eagle scout in this area and the first to get a palm) and any code was intoned, he always figured that they must have just made it up before that meeting. He KNEW the people who were solemnly intoning it and KNEW they didn’t personally buy into it for a minute or believe that it should have any impact on their lives. Otherwise, they’d never dare to repeat it.

    I’ve seen he was right.

    The religious onslaught of the 1950′s I remember well. I’ve written before about what happened to me because I wouldn’t pray or say the pledge when I was an eight year old. When they ran in the “under god” bushwa, our teacher told us that if we forgot it the police would come and take us.

    Even then I could see that there wasn’t that much difference between the two competing “philosophies”, it was all about power over the person. The brown noser and stoolie were valued members of either society.

    I am a member of no veteran organisation.

  6. Sorry, had to leave for a second.

    Most of the veterans groups also require a belief in a supreme being.

    At the local VFW I know several people who are “associate members” even though they never even spent a day in the military. They wear the club jacket, hang around the bar, etc. I am, in fact, a veteran of a foreign war, wounded and disabled in it, and I’m “not fit to be a member”.

    I’ve talked to a lot of people I know who are members of such organs, and most of them have never even read their organisations charter or bylaws. True, they just want to hang around the bar and get a cheap meal out every now and then, and a few other things, but I often wonder how many people actually REALLY know about the things they get into.

  7. I thought the reason why Communist regimes reject religion is because it leads to unproductive inefficiencies in work output and because it disrupts their society, especially with Buddhism that teaches the ethics of being lazy and begging for rice. Even further back though, Confuscious taught that religions lead to superstition and thereby not living in reality.

  8. Philly –

    AMERICA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!

    My country, right or wrong. Come on, get in the game. Why do you hate America?

  9. I’m like Hans Helmut Krist’s Sergeant Asche. I’ve had the same things said to me, John, and I always give the same answer (paraphrased) that he did: I’ll be a “Good American” when ther’s a “Good America”.

  10. Communist regimes ARE religious – they just don’t worship the standard god. The Cult of the Dear Leader, “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!” – that’s not secularism. It’s just not Christianity or Buddhism.

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