EDITOR, The Tribune.
It would be discriminatory of evangelical Christians and other theists to single out Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson for harassment and disenfranchisement for his atheism. As a Bahamian citizen, Johnson has as much rights as any other Bahamian to earn a living without fear of religious persecution for his secular and anti-Christian views. While I utterly disagree with his viewpoints, I still view him as a human being that should be treated with dignity.
By mentioning the word “tyranny” to The Tribune, Johnson unwittingly reinforced one of the strongest proofs for God’s existence: the moral argument. As an atheist, I am sure that Johnson is a moral human being who opposes religious discrimination. How do I know this? Because he obviously opposes the idea of Bahamian human secularists being denied equal opportunities to fulfill their potential in The Bahamas – a privilege enshrined in the Bahamas Constitution aimed at protecting religious, ethnic and political minorities. In certain countries, it is downright dangerous, from a financial standpoint, to flaunt your atheism. Ask Salman Rushdie. I contend that without God there would be no objective morality. Johnson’s opinions concerning discrimination would be just that – his opinions. There would be no objective grounds on which to determine who is right and who is wrong.
Religious tyranny, such as the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials and Islamic terrorism, have embarrassed theism. This is a point that has repeatedly been raised by the so-called Four Horsemen of New Atheism: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Bennet, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. But the irony of criticizing religion for the atrocities committed in its name underscores the inherent weaknesses of atheism. On what basis is the Inquisition morally wrong? On what basis was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda wrong for masterminding the mass murder of nearly 3,000 civilians on 9/11? On what basis were Hutu racists morally wrong for carrying out the Rwandan genocide? Who accurately determined that Adolf Hitler was wrong for carrying out the Holocaust?
If there is no God, why all the fuss? Intuitively, we know murder is wrong. We know rape and torture are wrong. And we know that denying an atheist the right to earn an honest living is also wrong, because humans have what French Protestant reformer John Calvin called the senses divinitatis, which is the moral compass in human beings.
As for Johnson’s publicly admitting his atheism, one would hope that Bahamians who are opposed to the Free National Movement (FNM) wouldn’t view this as a reflection of the entire party. Having worked in the Christie and Ingraham administrations, Johnson, as a highly educated Bahamian, is obviously valued by our policymakers from both sides of the political divide.
While the FNM is indeed a secular organisation, Johnson’s atheism shouldn’t be viewed as a reflection of the political organisation any more than MICAL MP Mariam Emmanuel’s membership suggests that the party is a Christian fundamentalist organisation.
Freeport, Grand Bahama,
October 28, 2020.