June 22, 2004
PO Box 2446
Orlando FL 32802
Dear Mr Reese:
I am writing in response to your recent column, claiming: "I would rather live in a neighborhood of Islamic fundamentalists than in a neighborhood of atheists and agnostics," because "there is no morality for atheists and agnostics. . ."
The definitive American Religious Identification Survey reveals that the nonreligious are 14% of the U.S. population, while Muslims are .5% and Jews are 1.3%. Yet atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to respect for their rights, as your column clearly demonstrates.
Even had all our founders been devout Christians, instead of mostly skeptical Deists, what counts is that they deliberately and purposefully adopted a godless constitution and created a secular government, so that citizens would be free to believe as they choose.
You argue that "all the great religions" teach "basic underlying morality." Many of these so-called "moral" teachings strike modern society as highly immoral. For instance, the Christian bible teaches that homosexuality is an "abomination" and they should be put to death. (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) One bible verse, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Ex. 22:18) resulted in the death of tens of thousands of women. Slaves were taught to obey their masters (I Peter 2:18, Ex. 21:26-27). Parents are urged to beat and bloody their own children: Proverbs 20:30; 19:18, 23:13-14. Do you picket your local Red Lobsters because it's a "sin" to eat shrimp? (Lev. 11:10)
When morality is predicated on a supernatural Dictator, rather than on natural consequences, it corrupts society. This deity "enforces" morality by a supernatural system of punishments (hell) and rewards (such as the Islamic fundamentalist male heaven with 70 virgins, which the 9/11 terrorists thought they were bound for). Devout believers tend to have a shaky grasp of ethics. They are like the small child who cannot reason for herself and must do as her parent says, "because I say so." You cannot argue from sheer power-based authority, because there will always be a contrary authority. (Hence, the endless divisiveness, warfare and schisms of religion.)
It's not what you believe that makes you a good person--it's what you do. A free society cannot exist without the freedom to dissent from majority religious beliefs. That's what our First Amendment is all about.
Annie Laurie Gaylor for FFRF