A rabbi, Muslim, nun, priest, evangelist: What's missing from this picture?
Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press, introduced an Easter Sunday special edition: faith in America" examining religion and politics, on April 16. His six guests covered the religious gamut in America, but the nonreligious were pointedly not invited to the table.
Please write or e-mail Mr. Russert. Ask that he include the openly secular and nonreligious in future TV discussions. The American Religious Identification Survey (CUNY, 2001) reveals that the "nonreligious" are the fastest-growing segment of the population at more than 14% of U.S. adults, far outnumbering Muslims (at .5 %) and Jews (1.3%). Journalists would never think of treating such religious minorities as invisible, yet routinely ignore nearly 30 million U.S. freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and simply "seculars."
Adding injury to insult, Russert introduced the segment by excerpting a misleading paragraph from American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation, the new book by Jon Meacham, managing editor, Newsweek magazine, one of Russert's guests:
"That the Founding Fathers debated whether to open the American saga with prayer is wonderfully fitting, for their conflicts are our conflicts, their dilemmas our dilemmas. Largely faithful, they knew religious wars had long been a destructive force in the lives of nations, and they had no wish to repeat the mistakes of the world they were rebelling against. And yet they bowed their heads."
Although there was prayer at the Continental Congress that produced the unsuccessful Articles of Confederation (nothing fails like prayer!) preceding the U.S. Constitution, there was no prayer at the Constitutional Convention adopting our living Constitution. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had been underway for a month, the octogenarian Ben Franklin suggested that the so-far secular convention conduct a prayer. Records from Franklin and others incontestably show that Franklin's proposal created polite embarrassment, and that the convention adjourned without any vote on the motion. A prayer-less convention adopted a godless constitution.
Please suggest that Russert include freethought representation in future shows and roundtables, such as from the Freedom From Religion Foundation--the largest atheist/agnostic association in the United States, with nearly 7,000 members, working to keep church and state separate. Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, has impeccable credentials as author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. He would have livened up the show, filled an important gap and challenged the distortion that the founders of our country prayed together!
A transcript and more details about the show follow:
Write or e-mail:
Meet the Press
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
For the record, the other guests on the show were:
Sister Joan Chittister of the Order of St. Benedict and author, "Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir," Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Beyt Tikkun Synagogue and author, "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right," Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University and author, "The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity," Rev. Richard Neuhaus (Roman Catholic priest), editor, First Things, and author, "Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy and the Splendor of Truth," and and Joel Osteen, senior pastor, Lakewood Church, Houston Texas and author, "Your Best Life Now; 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential."