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.

Just Login

"Just login to our system." A very common demand these days. You can't get a mortgage or buy a toy or receive medical care without creating an account and logging in. It sounds reasonable, but is it?

Entering your life's data into any system is risky, as we are repeatedly reminded by the steady stream of news reports about hackings that assurances about the safety and security of your data are mere rhetoric, no matter the company or organization. Demanding that you to login to a system assumes that you are willing to take a huge leap of faith, and trust that:
  • the system is well-built and supported,
  • the people administering the system are highly skilled, and that
  • state-of-the-art security measures (ineffective as they may be) are in place and the people administering them are highly skilled.
This is like asking you to jump off a cliff based on a stranger's assurances that "it'll be OK". In the first place, systems come and systems go. Systems can be well planned and constructed by groups of seasoned programmers and User Interface Specialists, and they can be dreamt up and put together by a dude in a room with a coffee pot and a goldfish named 'Shiny'.

The fact that someone working for the company with which you want to do business or must do business chose a 'system' doesn't begin to mean that it is well-built or easy-to-use.

Secondly, you probably know an IT professional. Is she perfect? Does he get high? Does she ever have a bad day or a poor night's sleep or take a sick day? Any computer system is only as flawless, secure and infallible as the people administering it; that is to say no software system or online application is flawless, secure or infallible.

The point is, that it's rude. When you crack the nut and separate the meat from the shell, what we are being told is: Give us all the data you have - data that if misappropriated can be used to absolutely ruin your life - and put it in this system that we were told is reliable (but we don't really know, not being programmers) so we can store it in an unspecified database on an unspecified server behind unspecified security measures, all of which are administered by people sharing unspecified qualifications and certifications, if any, as there are no state or federal regulations or standards for these positions. And it is presented without option or conversation, politely but firmly letting us know that we can either "just login" or surf on down the internet and find another company with which to do business; a company that will undoubtedly demand that you just login to their system.

Though life without screens and software may seem hard to imagine (or remember), it has been less than twenty-five years since Windows 95 freed us from having to load DOS first, and we are still developing rules, procedures and etiquettes surrounding their use. Businesses will do what is easiest and most cost-effective, inevitably at the expense of the consumer, until the consumer pushes back. Hey Consumers! Wake up! Time to give it a shove!

At the very least, before asking a customer / client / patient to "just login", it would be polite and considerate for businesses to inform the consumer of the required use of the system and provide them with information about the system and the company that developed the system, including a link to their website.

When instructed to "just login", REPLY with two questions:
  1. Will you please provide me with information about this system?
  2. If I create an account in this system, will my data be stored securely, and if so, how?
Or in the vernacular, "Can I al least take a look before I agree to marry him?"

You will undoubtedly get responses like, "We can't share that information", "I don't know", "yes, it is secure", "the system is called Joe's System", and other evasive, non-answers - mostly because no one has asked before and they either sincerely don't know and/or don't want to be bothered. But do not relent fellow Consumers! These are reasonable questions and there is nothing preventing any business from answering them except lack of knowledge, stubbornness or arrogance. Your IT buddy will verify that.

Remember that your data is yours. No one has a right to it. And it is valuable. You wouldn't just hand over your wedding ring or watch or car simply because someone asked, and those things are specs of sand compared to the diamond that is your data. Protect it greedily and stubbornly. Distribute it sparingly and only when justifiably required. Remember that you do have a choice the next time a screen implores you to "just login to our system."

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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