Saturday, October 10, 2009

Atheism in Prison

Sean Bearden, a prisoner in New York, has written an essay on what it is like to be a nonbeliever in prison. I thought it was a very interesting read, so I wanted to pass it along. Sean was also a participant in the Freethought Books Project, which donates secular books to inmates, mental hospitals, and charities.

(Via Reed Secular Alliance)

11 comments:

  1. That was a great read. Just great. The man wasn't a gifted author but he sure had something very interesting to say, and I enjoyed reading it.

    I hope he gets out soon and turns his life around.

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  2. Really, very interesting and it doesn't make prison sound to bad, I would love to be able to read all day without doing any work whatsoever.

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  3. That is a very interesting article, and well worth reading. What I find myself most curious about, though, is the reason for this man's incarceration: he seems to me to be an intelligent and thoughtful man and (perhaps naively) I can't imagine him doing anything criminal.

    The bit about discrimination against vegetarians struck home to me as well, though (I am one). There's a lot of contempt out there for that position as well, and I'm often asked to apologize or make excuses for it in similar fashion to my atheism (although I'm often willing to do so in the case of vegetarianism).

    The other thing he mentioned that's always bothered me is the blatant religionism in rehabilitation programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and its derivatives, mainly). A cousin of mine had some alcohol problems a year or two back and much of my family was trying to motivate him to go to AA, and then we saw the "surrender to a higher power" nonsense they encourage as the beginning of recovery. My family continued to promote it to him, but I got off the bandwagon very quickly and tried (unsuccessfully) to argue them out of it. My cousin is doing better now, and I don't know whether or not AA had anything to do with it, but their approach bothers me regardless.

    I can only reiterate again that I'm curious why he is imprisoned, though. Perhaps because I agree with nearly everything he said, I very much hope that his crimes were minor.

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  4. mcbender: check out the Bullshit! episode on Alcoholics Anonymous.

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  5. Does Small Gods count as a secular book, or would it convert people to Omism?

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  6. Ben,

    I too was struck by the "vegetarian clause", so to speak. It's something I've read about WRT prisons more than once. You're a vegetarian because it's part of your "religious beliefs"? You can get vegetarian food. You're a vegetarian because you made an ethical decision? Screw you. You're forced to violate your ethics in one of two ways; lie and say you're religious so you can get the vegetarian diet or eat the non-vegetarian diet.

    I also have serious concerns with the 12-step programs and their blatant religiosity. I worked with dually diagnosed individuals (mental illness and chemical addictions) who were required to attend 12-step programs as part of their treatment. Sadly the overt religiosity of the programs often fueled the religious obsessions many of them had. It's sad that these are what people are so often pushed toward, even mandated to take, when there are secular alternatives.

    Sadly prison is much like outside society. "Religious beliefs" are given priority over all. You're allowed to break rules and laws if you cite your "religious beliefs". You can excuse almost any manner of behavior if you cite some holy book or religious belief. And if anybody dare attempt to criticize or question you all you need to is claim you're being persecuted for your religion.

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  7. I am speechless... by some of these comments! I'd have thought... well, never mind what I'd have thought. You show yourselves to be no better than your "theistic" friends. Hypocrites.

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  8. @ Buffy: Just fyi, I'm not Ben, although my comment is directly below his.

    @ Anonymous: Care to explain what you mean by that? It isn't at all clear.

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  9. Way to go, Anonymous, I don't think there is anything scandalous in the comments here.

    Whilst generally I don't think vegetarianism is awesome, it is an individual choice. As such, perhaps that is one of the choices that is sacrificed when a person is incarcerated. However, I would certainly only think this should be true if it applies to ALL inmates. Prison is prison is prison, and everyone should eat the same shitty prison food.

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  10. The definitive takedown of alcoholics anonymous's religion in disguise is South Park's http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/103677/

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  11. Dammit, it just won’t open for me. Loads for half-an-hour and nothing appears. I’ve got all my stuff up-to-date, so ERR.

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