The Tacet Underground

What if He didn't exist? At all. What if long ago, visiting ETs decided that the easiest way to keep these creatures (us) complacent was to chisel out some stony rules and promise a heaven and a hell, much like a kindergarten teacher promises stickers for good behavior and time out for bad behavior? Sure - it's crazy. But just for a minute, what if?

What if the bible is not the 'word of God' as it is so flippantly called while held up and venerated? What if you discover that it is a collection of stories jotted down by the fallible and earthly predecessors of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, later bastardized and edited and tilted to meet the selfish needs of a corrupt church hierarchy?

What if you woke up tomorrow and none of it made sense anymore? 'Why would an all-seeing and all-knowing god be vengeful?' 'Why revere a book that promotes misogyny, revenge, slavery and killing?' 'Am I a thinking person, or was I indoctrinated before I had a chance to make a choice?' What if it all seems so remote and unbelievable that when someone brings it up, your brain has to click into gear: "Oh yeah! - I forgot that people still believe in that!"

Imagine how truly looney it would then seem if you heard the DOJ's very own Imp of Darkness justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment of emigrating children by quoting a bible verse. Imagine how genuinely frightening it would be to hear former White House aide Omorosa Manigault Newman report that Vice President Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things. For the almost one out of four Americans that do not believe in God, it is chilling.

The Founders were very clear about the need for separation of church and state:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

In this, one of the most fatherly-feeling quotes from our Founders, James Madison and the other framers are looking out for us in the way that parents try to impart hard-learned wisdom upon their children. How many times have we wished our kids would listen to us?

There is a musical term, tacet. This tells the musician to do nothing - still pay attention to what's going on, but do nothing. To make a sweeping and reckless generalization, atheists know how to tacet. It is simply easier to nod and smile and say nothing than it is to get into it. Sure, there are atheists at every turn that have no problem declaring their non-belief, but they didn't get there without also learning how to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement, ostracization and condemnation.

It isn't always easy to say, "I don't believe in god" when those around you do and when the indoctrination you've received makes you feel many emotions - but primarily guilt - just for entertaining the idea. Even for the loud proclaimers, it is usually easier, quicker and less trouble to tacet.

The approximately 25% of Americans that make up this Tacet Underground form a much larger subset of the population than the 1% that are Muslim, the 2% that are Jewish, the 2% that are Mormon, the 4% that are either LGBT or Q, the 12% that are Black or the 19% that are Hispanics/Latino, yet these other groups are constantly protesting, demanding and making themselves the news while atheists are mostly content to tacet and pay attention.

In 1795 John Adams said, "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."  Atheists take this seriously and are deeply offended when ignorant people like Donald Trump pretend that it is.

The Vice President's proclamation that he is a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third is deeply offensive to the (at least) eighty-some million Americans that do not believe in his god and consider that statement alone to be grounds for him to be removed from office. On the other hand, even nonbelievers may sometimes hope that hell exists, comforted by visions of Jeff Sessions roasting marshmallows with Beelzebub.

As has happened over a long period of years with the LGBTQ community, 'coming out' as an atheist carries less of a social stigma with each passing day, although small town folk and conservative communities may still find a way to disparage anything out of the norm. Time passes and the number of people that distinguish themselves as atheist will increase as the stigma lessens and the dark side of religion is continually revealed by people like Jeff Sessions, Dana Rohrabacher and Donald Trump who insist on evoking the Bible and Jesus for evil.

By 2020 the Tacet Underground could include not one in four citizens as it does now, but one in three. That would be over a hundred million Americans that don't want to hear religious dribble or quotes from the bible, but instead want logical and well thought-through plans based on research, testing and evaluation. At some point our politicians are going to have to grapple with the fact that one out of three Americans think the bible-thumpers and scripture-quoters and evil-doers are more than a little nutty and start giving us more than the incessant stale rhetoric about abortion, guns, gays and God.

Seven Words

"Don't use that word!" This new, weird battle cry being barked by presidents, governors and protective moms somehow persists in the Land of the Free. Even casual conversation can be a tricky affair these days, with unlikely words laying in wait like landmines set to explode by the slightest touch, often causing unwanted clarification, heated debate or scolding.

When the Trump administration informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the use of seven specific words and phrases would be prohibited, it was widely viewed more as an overt attack on science than as a condemnation of word-choice or terminology. Attempting to remove vulnerable, diversity, entitlement, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based from the lexicon is tantamount to sponsoring a book burning bonfire complete with marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate - the difference between banning words and burning books being negligible, as the true motive behind both is to quash ideas.

In similar fashion, a gag order issued to EPA employees and banning DOE staff members from using the phrases climate change or Paris Agreement leaves millions of Americans wishing that the President would shift his focus to these seven sacred words instead: will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution (including the First Amendment) - words that are part of a promise he made.

George Carlin In concert at the Zembo Mosque, Harrisburg, Pa Of course the first list of seven words was brought to us by the genius George Carlin, who in 1972 gave us the 'Seven Words That You Can Never Say on Television'. Remembering that at that time 'television' meant CBS, NBC and ABC only, the list holds up surprisingly well after forty-six years, with at least six of the seven still conspicuously absent from network TV.

In 2018 it is truly difficult to know who has decided what word is offensive to whom, when it was decided and whether it is still taboo. Here are seven words to approach with caution:
  1. The 'N' word
  2. This is the record holder for most consecutive centuries on the Extremely Offensive Words or Phrases list. Attempting to remove this abysmal term from common usage is like trying to clean a greasy pan without soap - it will not go away. As art imitates life, black entertainers frequently include the 'N' word in their art, sending a confusing message to many of their white fans. It might be time for everyone to stop using the word, whether ending it in " a' " or " er ". Of course prejudice is taught in the home and as long as education by the unwitting continues, there will be ignorant people calling other people names. It would be nice to never hear this one again.

  3. Holiday Party
  4. It is true that Holiday is from Holy Day, but it seems an unnecessary reach to decide that since it connotes religious tradition it must be updated! For educational institutions, a December gathering may instead be called an End of Semester Party. For a business office, an End of (fiscal) Year Party may be more appropriate. ( Oy! )

  5. Ghetto
  6. As a term of economic stratification and not racial stratification, using ghetto to describe the so-called 'black urban environment' reveals the mostly sub-conscious way it is used to substitute for black. Similar to the way ethnic is sometimes inappropriately used.

  7. Fairy
  8. This could be a very hurtful word if used inappropriately. However, it is now apparently inappropriate to use this word to describe Tinkerbell and other mythical creatures of that ilk. The politically correct phrase you must now use is airborne humanoid that possesses magical powers.

  9. Oriental
  10. While in office President Obama signed a bill prohibiting use of the term in all federal documents. This ancient word meaning rise or east, refers to the eastern part of Asia and differentiates the people, the cultures and the languages from those of western Asia and Eurasia. Some find it offensive when used to describe people, although it is rarely if ever uttered disdainfully and usually carries an amount of respect.

  11. Lame
  12. Lame was commonly used in everyday speech to describe a physical disability or a limp. In the 20th century it has come to mean uncool, inept, or generally crappy. Its connotation of referring to a disabled person may be why many now find the word hurtful.

  13. Retard
  14. This word, with the emphasis on the first syllable, can surely be used most hurtfully. The idea that the person at whom it may be hurled is usually more or less unable to defend themselves makes it worse. No thinking person should/would/could ever direct this word at another soul.

    Retard, with the emphasis on the second syllable, is good word. More precise than slow, it carries with it a sense of stunted maturation that slow or lengthen do not. "The growth of the corn was retarded by the late snowstorm" is a perfectly fine, descriptive sentence. Even so, there is a faction of concerned citizens that genuinely believe that completely removing the word retard from our shared vocabulary will be a solution to the pain its isolated use inflicts, and sincerely expect you to stop using it! Language is alive. It cannot be imposed or decided. Rules or laws may be imposed or decided, but language lives on, on its terms.

If things that are said didn't cause others to disagree, or be angry, or have hurt feelings, there would be no need for a law protecting free speech!!

Arguing against the use of a word is fighting the wrong battle. Words are not inherently bad, evil or hurtful - if they were, follar, scheisse and cul would be inappropriate for this article. Without intent words are nothing more than sounds and collections of specific squiggles we call letters. That lily white kid rapping along in his car is not being disrespectful by singing that word - he just doesn't get it. Baby boomers that refer to people with almond eyes as oriental are not being disrespectful - that's what they were taught in grade school!

Even if retard was magically removed from existence, mean will always find a way to be mean, and language would come up with another word or phrase just as hurtful. The battle that needs to be fought is against ignorance. Perhaps if the money and energy spent fighting a word was spent promoting the fact that all people are special and precious and valuable, some small amount of change might occur. Instead of trying to limit us and our language, help enlighten us.

In 2018 it is easy to know words and their accompanying intentions and actions that are positive and solution-oriented - Do use those words! Here are seven that we can all employ with carefree abandon:
brotherhood/sisterhood/peoplehood, consideration, mutual respect, kindness, love, unity and Peace.

Click Here for more about George Carlin's seven words.

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, cook, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.

Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.

Follow Reeno on Twitter

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