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A response to Dr. John Waters
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        Recently, my attention was drawn to a piece written for the Statesboro Herald in which Dr. John Waters, lead pastor of First Baptist Church Statesboro, sent a “message to atheists” in which he bemoaned the banner recently put up on the courthouse lawn by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
        I am not a member of the FFRF, nor do I claim to speak for them or the individual who submitted the request to put up the sign — they have declined to comment, and I lack the telepathy necessary to offer their opinion. But I, as an atheist, would like to make a note of a few glaring fallacies in Dr. Waters’ piece.
        First, I take issue with whatever stretch of the imagination it took to assert that atheists care one bit about “when and where (Christians) pray”. We do not care where/when/how you pray. Many of us do often, however, care whose dime and property you express your beliefs on (the money being, in part, ours and the property being publicly owned).
        Second, no atheist who knows his or her stuff claims to know with 100 percent certainty that there is no god, nor does that fact make us “garden variety agnostics.” An agnostic refuses to make a conjecture about the existence of a god, while an atheist states that the facts lead him or her not to believe in one.
        Therefore, I heartily object to Dr. Waters’ claims that atheists are merely agnostics in disguise, or that we have a “process of belief” similar to Christianity. Not believing in a god is a belief system just the same as “not skiing” is a hobby, “bald” is a hair color or “off” is a television channel. So the answer to Dr. Waters’ closing question is a definitive “no.” It does not take any suspension of disbelief at all to be an atheist. We do not have faith. We have conclusions that we have drawn from evidence and scientific fact.
        Do I think the banner’s language was caustic? Yes. Would I have written it differently? Perhaps. Do I agree with its core message? Certainly. Though I would encourage Dr. Waters and any like him who so often denounce what they see as anti-Christian persecution in the U.S. to realize that they speak from a place of massive religious privilege as it stands in this country. I would also tell them to chin up a little — if the worst thing that happens to them their whole life is that someone puts up a banner that confronts their beliefs, then they’ve had a pretty good life.
        Wishing you a joyous and restful holiday season,
Taylor Tyson

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