Though Will Baude's conclusion that "Metaphysically and legally, atheists are and ought to be just like everybody else for establishment claims" hit upon one of my objections to A. Rickey's post on why atheists who don't like "under God" in the Pledge are whinier than Christian fundamentalists who don't like evolution in science class, Baude misinterprets Rickey's use of the phrase "injury in fact." The latter says, "But injury as 'violation of a right' is different from injury in the sense I'm considering, the actual negative consequence of the pledge being stated by a state actor in front of an atheist. Here I become less certain of the problem." His whole argument is based on the fact that because atheists have no gods to offend, they are only nicking their own "egos" when they are compelled to mumble "one nation, under God," whereas those who believe in some supernaturalism beyond themselves may fear punishment at its hands if they fail to obey its commands.
However, I think this thin conception of atheism underestimates the atheist's potential sense of violation to his soul -- yea, a soul without a deity -- when his daughter is pressured by the chorus of her classmates and disapproving gaze of her teacher into joining the theistic horde. As the post before this one notes, the consequences of being a minority can be quite real, not only for atheists but also for Mormons and Catholics. Having grown up Hindu in fervent Protestant country, I was often asked by other children in my public school why I didn't believe in Jesus (my standard reply was that I knew Jesus existed as a historical person, which tended to confuse them into silence), and was once driven to tears by a classmate's mockery of a religious symbol I wore. Exacerbating these unavoidable discomforts by making religiosity institutional by state command, and demanding that children in the minority have the courage of their convictions in the face of them, seems to me an excessive bow to democratic preference. Having to sit in a classroom while a teacher half-heartedly mentions a theory about how life developed on this planet may send the kid home to have her confusion untangled by creationist parents, but it's unlikely to result in the kind of playground harassment that being the only kid not saying "under God" entails.
Rickey's post seems to be more about politics and theology than legal standing; he doesn't explicitly argue for a second-class citizenship for atheists in Establishment Clause cases, only for a skeptical view of their motives. Still, I protest the idea of valuing people's preferences by how angry a god they have, as it would privilege fundamentalists over moderates, which doesn't seem like a wise move for a peaceful society. After all, even somewhat moderate Hindus are sincerely convinced that Lord Ram was born -- actually and physically born -- at Ayodhya, whereas Muslims only have the weight of the last half millenium in being distressed over having their 16th century mosque at the site torn down. Should the Hindus' greater belief in the specific holiness of the ground mean that a secular government (as India's is again in fact as well as theory after the last election) should hand the site over to Hindus? On the other hand, in my experience there's no Hindu fatwa or jihad and it has a fairly negligible hell, so should the existence of more stringent tendencies in Islam make it the more important religion?
UPDATE: This post was written before Baude's update to his post.