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No such thing as atheists?

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I read this blog post by PZ Myers about Missouri representative Emanuel Cleaver. In a TV appearance, he said that there is “no such thing” as an atheist, because “no respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that said ‘In God We Trust.'”

I wrote to Cleaver on his website about this. To send him your thoughts as well, click here. Below is what I wrote.

I caught part of your interview with Candy Crowley in which you said there’s no such thing as an atheist, and your reasoning for this was that “no respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that said ‘In God We Trust.'”

My name is Dave Muscato and I’m an atheist. All that means is that I don’t believe any gods are actually real, the same way you and I both don’t believe Santa Claus is actually real.

Putting aside for the moment that your reasoning is a textbook example of a “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy, you may or may not know this, but the phrase “In God We Trust” was not added to US paper currency until 1957. You read that correctly. The phrase was added to our money as a religious response to the so-called “godless communists” during the Cold War.

I would greatly prefer to carry around US money that didn’t have this 1950s addition. Perhaps, as a lawmaker, you could take a stand for separation of church & state, and advocate that this phrase be removed from our currency?

In the meantime, I’ll make do with what’s issued, just like my fellow 25-million or so atheist Americans do.

I have to say that in Matthew 19:21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions, and give the money to the poor.”

Using your logic, shouldn’t I say that there’s no such thing as a Christian, given that no respectable Christian should walk around with any money in his pocket at all?

I would love to hear back from you about this. Looking forward to your response,

Dave Muscato

Vice President, University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

Here is the relevant part of the interview:

Tell Cleaver what you think about this, and please copy & paste what you send him in the comment section below – I’d love to see it.

Until next time,


Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is

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2 comments on “No such thing as atheists?

  1. Scott Weber
    May 7, 2012

    Yeah, that logic about ‘what an atheist is/isn’t’ is flawwed, but I don’t think he was slamming atheists. The rest of what he says shows acceptance for promoting that ANYone can run for office, regardless of belief or no-belief. He even says (in so many words) that it is unfortunate that a non-believer’s running can be difficult, and, that we should promote that non-belief shouldn’ t be an issue. / IMO, Dave, you sounded a little hard on him. You are good in correcting his faulty logic about atheism, but your tone gets a little sharp…at least more so than he deserves.

  2. Scott Weber
    May 7, 2012

    Actually, rereading your response to Cleaver, I can ‘feel’ a snarky-or-such tone, BUT, looking at the wordings with a little more objectivity and less defensiveness, see no snarkiness inferred at all! I guess that’s the deal with written language: Emotional tone can be ambiguous, or completely in the eyes of the beholder! Myself, I often like to put in disclaimers with my critiques; for example, “I’m not trying to be snarky, but I think you … ” / I still think he deserves credit for his overall stance though.

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