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DETROIT FREE PRESS

If God Made The Sky, Can Atheists Fly It?

By Mitch Albom

Subhead: 
MITCH ALBOM QUESTIONS IN-YOUR-FACE ON THE FOURTH

When some Americans look to the skies this Fourth of July, they may see more than fireworks.

In 26 states - including Michigan - small planes will be carrying banners that read "God-LESS America" or "Atheism is Patriotic."

It is an attempt by a group called American Atheists to show that atheists, too, have a place on the day that celebrates our nation's independence. The group is encouraging people to spread photos of these planes when they see them and to call their local TV news channels to increase coverage.

This is a classic example of an OK concept meeting a terrible idea. The group insists, on its Web site, that this "is not about ... shoving our views down people's throats."

Really? Then why rent airplanes?

As the joke goes, God knows atheists are entitled to their opinions. But when you fill the sky with banners to spread a message on a holiday weekend, unless that message is "Fourth of July Sale at Lenny's Auto Showcase!" you're asking for trouble.

A message for the masses

I do understand why atheists want to make a statement on July 4. From expressions like "there are no atheists in foxholes" to the words on our money, "in God we trust," there has long been a subtle suggestion that atheists are somehow lacking as citizens, outside of the American circle - an odd notion since, truth be told, many of us who identify with religion behave more like atheists every day.

"I'm a patriotic American. I served my country. I get out there and celebrate the Fourth, too," Blair Scott, the communications director for American Atheists, told CNN. "This America belongs to everyone."

It sure does. Which is why taking to the skies with your agenda tends to rankle people. By the way, this is just as true for displays of religious fervor. It is why some people cringe at billboards celebrating Jesus, or when Ten Commandments monuments are placed outside of public buildings.

Those are the very things to raise the ire of atheists everywhere.

But doing your own version of what upsets you isn't the answer. My sense is that most Americans are pretty tolerant of other faiths or even those who celebrate no faith - they just don't want things shoved in their faces.

Or their skies.

The right time and place

No one should dismiss atheism as some quick or unintelligent view on the world. The history of atheism is deep with academia, thoughtful texts, respected scholars and reasoned arguments. Despite that, some recent studies suggest only 4% of Americans identify as atheists, as opposed to 17% in Britain or 32% in France.

This may explain why there are not more planes flying the "God-LESS America" message on Monday. Despite attempts to get banners up in all 50 states, American Atheists found many companies refused to fly them. According to the organization, one North Carolina firm said: "I'm not going to hell flying that sign."

"The reality is that there is still a lot of bigotry out there," the AA Web site said.

Is it bigotry if you don't want to zoom someone's message through the clouds? Or is it par for the course when it comes to religious - or decidedly nonreligious - statements that in the end, still send the same grating message: "What I believe is so important it needs to tower over you."

Some would ask why a group united in what it doesn't believe in even bothers to make a statement. But I'm sure atheists would counter that in a country where "God Bless America" is sung at events and hands are put on Bibles during courtroom procedures, that they are only fighting fire with fire.

The problem of fire with fire is that it produces a lot of smoke, and smoke gets in your eyes and you can't see straight. Maybe, on Fourth of July weekend, we should leave the skies to bursts of red, white and blue and save our messages for another backdrop.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. The run for his new play, "Ernie," has been extended through Aug.21 at City Theatre in downtown Detroit. It was inspired by the story of legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. For information, go to ernietheplay.com. Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/mitch.




SydrycalWorks's picture

Message: For Another Backdrop


Mamma, I had the most wonderful dream last night. I was with my Jesus/Lord in the Heavenly SphereAfter again. Oh, Mamma! It was just as the last time. The sky was a shining gray, and all beneath me, a gray. Imagine that, Mamma! Heaven is the same colour as our porch when we freshly paint it every spring. I looked at my hands, Mamma. They were black just as I remembered on my last visit. All of me was black, a charcoal black against the gray of heaven. Light came from me at my every move. As I would look in a direction, there would be light. As I walked, the splash of light gave me guidance. With the light from my finger, I pointed at the many wonders to my eyes. Eyes that exerted rather than absorb. I watched, I drew as my hands, and my fingers illustrated their joy to the Heavenly SphereAfter. With all of me, I called out for my Jesus/Lord as I made my way into the gray, and I was not afraid, Mamma. I knew he was there with me for I called out three times, and his answer came to me as before. He was black as I was, and light adorned him so that I would have to look away to embrace his image. Wave upon wave of blue and orange streamed about him. Oh Mamma! It was wondrous! He transcended all description. He whispered. The whisper came; not to me, but from within me. I knew it was his voice inside of me. 'Beloven' whispered the call. 'You have embraced the measure of the SphereAfter anew. Come, for we have much to do. And do we shall.' I could feel and know my power of light telling me to follow his path, his math. My light grew brighter and stronger as it fed from his glow. So excited, I reached out that I might touch him. A force from three axes held me and my enthusiasm, embracing my outstretched hands. I followed my hands in the gray, and the gray followed me.


 


SydrycalWorks     jaggedlegsix@yahoo.com  

SydrycalWorks's picture

God


In my book 'OH MY GOD, HE'S BLACK'. Which/where you may read an excerpt from, by visiting Xlibris.com. I share these thoughts. A black whole-a valley of intense gravitational implosion, a nomenclature(number) of the avail(term) of the soul into the field of gray; the SphereAfter. I make no mention in the book of athiests. The soul knows no such term. One may be a soul with sin, or a soul with sin that has been forgiven. In the field of gray where all will be judged the subject of athiesm is a non-issue in the days to come, thy kingdom come. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "the religion that fears science insults God and commits suicide." Albert Einstein wrote "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." There is a sign above the gate to the field of gray which declares these two statements by Emerson and Einstein; again, no mention of the word atheist. As one leaves the field of gray for his/her finality into the field of black the sign reads- Order and Arrangement, A Siddurity, Thou Hadst, Thy Shalt. 


remember and believe all these things.


SydrycalWorks 


jaggedlegsix@yahoo.com


 


 


 

SydrycalWorks's picture

April 4, 1968


 I want to go across America with this message, without a airplane. I want to walk the miles back to April 04, 1968. The day that Martin Luther King was "brutally slayed" as the address by President Johnson  said, "reject the blind violence on those who live by non-violence, Americans; search your hearts by joining together and working together."


In my book OH MY GOD, HE'S BLACK referred to in the previous message, I make note of these words that I trust all readers of this mark will hasten to. "The words 'quaternion love' are of interest to you always. They are the arithmetic of the complex of four. The one of reality, you are able to see. The three of faith, you must imagine and cannot see. This 'quaternion love' with serve you well as you serve it well."


Acts of 'caught upance' such as the athiest gurglings across the skies, defile the gravity that is the spirit of all wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Steer clear of these human twists that spit down from the brain, embrace the math of Jesus/Lord, go ye out of the sweaty hands of ill-measure.


SydrycalWorks      jaggedlegsix@yahoo.com

tmramus's picture

If God Made The Sky, Can Atheists Fly It?


I was always taught that there are two subjects that you want to stay clear of 1). Politics and 2). Religion. I took a world religions class in college at OCC. I found a few of them to be very scary when we visited them. I was born and raised a Catholic and so that is what I am accustomed to but like you say most religions are tolerated. The problem with religious beliefs or non beliefs is that it has caused wars and violence. Your are right no one wants their views shoved down their throat but for the life of me can't even imagine how or why anyone can be skeptical that there is not a God or creator of some kind. Common sense has got to tell you that. Where did everything come from? Do people just think that it poofed into the air? Deep down one has to know that there is a higher being you can just feel it. It's there. There can be days where it can almost be alarming. I hope I don't see any planes flying crap banners.  Have Faith People!

chocolateticklesxo's picture

The Fire Burns.


As I am reading this in 2015, I realize I may be a little "late to the party," so to speak. :) 

However, there is an important point I would like to make. 

You said: ". . .can't even imagine how or why anyone can be skeptical that there is not a God or creator of some kind. Common sense has got to tell you that."

Comments such as these are why atheists feel they have to fly airplanes to prove they're not unintelligible, morally depraved animals. 

"Where did everything come from? Do people just think that it poofed into the air? Deep down one has to know that there is a higher being you can just feel it."

Where did God come from? Did He just poof into existence? You may say something like, "God has always existed," but to me, that sounds just as ridiculous as the strawman you've presented. 

That argument can go both ways. 

The way to ease the heat of conversation between atheists and theists is understanding; let me tell you a little about myself.  Yes, I am personally an atheist; I did not arrive at this position because I was "mad at God" or "just want to sin" or any of the other reasons I've ever been accused of; let's be real here. I am not a generalization or a mindless animal. I am a real life human, and I don't believe in the existence of a god because I have been persuaded to believe thus through what I see as sound argument. I have poured over books, lectures, and notes for years before thoughtfully arriving at this conclusion. I have chosen to think for myself and not lie about my convictions/be a closeted hypocrite. I have been honest with those in my hometown about it since day one, and have been persecuted every day since; I know I am probably a special case, because I live in the Bible Belt, but I have been hurt by proponents of religion deeply. i get told I am going to hell/called stupid/mistreated by adults daily (I am 17) because of my atheism. This is not right. This is a problem. 

I want to add that I agree with Albom that perhaps flying airplanes isn't the answer. I appreciate the use of his analogy of Fire; but it must be recognized that there is fire towards atheists present, and it really burns

J4mommy's picture

Relationship with Jesus is not the same as Religion God Rules


We should learn from experience you would think ... It's not enough to have prayer out of the schools. We see what has happened to the school system . No matter how anyone flies in the sky that God our heavenly Father created  and controls the air we breathe , God is the majority. First of all God is Alpha and Omega, and LORD.  I pray that the intellects realize the truth that they aren't in control of anything and know nothing except God allows , Having a relationship with Jesus knowing that I don't have worry, only trust Him and know that His Word are Life. I pray for those who aren't in fellowship with God and have Jesus as Lord and Savior. God is the Majority and rules we all have a choice. Choose Life or Death Choose this Day whom you will serve today is the day of Salvation. God loves each of us and its hurts to see so many reject Him , I know that God gives us a choice.  Romans 12:1-2

Matthew 6:33-34

SageJoeOne's picture

atheistic vs. agnostic


As a transplanted Detroiter, I have long admired Mitch's writings from afar-- often with a simple nod of my head or a brief smile on my face. Today's column, not so much...

No doubt this is due to the content of the article, as well as the facts. The most simple of all facts given this topic is that belief in any god or gods is a matter of faith.  There really are NO facts to check.

Sure, we have the utterings of Bronze Age peoples from all over the globe placed in 'holy' books-- often thousands of years after they were first spoken. This vital information had to wait centuries to be put to press as the term 'prehistoric' actually refers to a time before writing. And that is when most of these incredible miracles took place. Before cameras, before radio or TV, before type, before print, or before any credible scientific means of fact checking existed. 

Further, these scriptures all claim to teach the unteachable to those who would know the unknowable. To wit; to compare man's perception of a creator of the universe  to that of a flea on the back of our pet to ourselves is very much a mismatch... for us. The flea has tangible daily evidence that we flesh and blood creatures are present. We humans go centuries or millennia without a sign or a word from the so-call omnipotent, all-powerful creator of the cosmos.

I have NO problem with those who choose to believe. But for those of us who choose to remain skeptical, we are branded godless atheists (a-theism actually means without a particular belief, rather than the popularly contrived total lack of belief). I could argue extensively (and successfully), that we are all agnostics as it is demonstrably evident that no one can prove the existence of any god or creator. Many have tried, all have failed as the existence of some 2000-odd separate, distinct and diametrically opposing world religions graphically shows.

Finally, I would point out the curious fact that most people of faith have the same religion as their parents, without bothering so much as to check into any of the other 2000 faiths available. Their decision to do so is based not on self education so much as societal indoctrination. Thus, talk of this as a 'christian' nation is all too close to the trvth that we are born and bred to believe as we are taught, without so much as thought to whether or not a loving god would ask a father to kill his own son to prove his faith to this god (an act that would land most in a mental hospital in this century).

In parting, I leave you with my favorite biblical verse: Samuel 15:3 wherein the god of the three book religions commands his followers to commit war crimes. Yes, I am a skeptic. The real question is; why aren't you?!

SydrycalWorks's picture

SKEPTIC


Your conscience and your vision. Use them!


 Take off the sunglasses for just a moment of your time and more importantly, God's time. Ahhhm!


Newsbreak!


He own's both, your time and his time.


No more is needed to make the necessarity discernment. God is. God will be. God has been.


God has a message for anyone, anything that denies Jesus/Lord the preeminent position of Lord/God-


"There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man."  Mark 7:15


 


SydrycalWorks      jaggedlegsix@yahoo.com