An Open Letter to the Religious from One Who Is Not: George A. Ricker

By George A. Ricker

OK . . . here’s the deal.

I’m an atheist. I have no belief in gods, not any gods.

I have no belief in the god of any religion, or the god of nature, or a god who is said to be the “ineffable essence of an otherwise inexpressible reality.” I have no belief in gods, and I follow no religion.

What I do think about reality, about the universe and the nature of things, is a complex mixture of ideas and opinions. I would be happy to discuss them with you sometime if you like, but I don’t intend to burden you with any of that now.

Suffice it to say I am an atheist for reasons that seem good to me.

However, if you are religious, my nonbelief is no threat to you.

I have no interest in interfering with your right to exercise your religion in the manner you see fit. I support your right to worship whatever god you worship, however you choose to worship it. As long as no one is harmed in the process, I hold your right to practice your religion to be inviolable.

All I ask is that you help me keep it out of our government. Stop expecting our government to support your religion. Stop asking our government to show special consideration for your religion or to give our tax dollars to your religion. Stop expecting our government to endorse your religion.

The reasons for that should be obvious. Government is a secular institution. It has no right to interfere with anyone’s decision to practice or not to practice a religion. It has no charter to promote religion or to endorse religious concepts, and it has no business making religion its business.

That applies to all religions, by the way, not just yours but everyone else’s as well. The only effective way to keep government out of religion is to keep religion separate from government.

Our government does not derive its authority from a god of any description. It gets it from the consent of the governed. That’s we, you and I, “We, the people”–regardless of our religious opinions or the lack of them.

Our government should have no religion. It should not speak on religious matters. It should not favor one religion over another or believers over nonbelievers. No one’s religious liberty is threatened in the slightest when the wall of separation between government and religion is kept high and broad and strong. But the freedom of all of us, the religious and nonreligious alike, is in peril when that wall is breached.

So let’s have an end to this nonsense about a culture war between believers and nonbelievers.

That’s not what’s going on.

The real war, the one that involves every one of us, is the war between those who want to use government to promote a particular religious viewpoint and those who want government to get out of the religion business and stay out of it.

That’s the battle we’re fighting.

I know which side I’m on. What’s your stand?

I’m an atheist.

I’m not bothered by your beliefs. Why should you feel threatened because I don’t share them?

George A. Ricker is an award-winning journalist and weekly newspaper editor, now retired, and a previous contributor to Freethought Today. Ricker is a graduate of the University of Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.) and has worked at many occupations, including a stint as an associate pastor of a church in Atlanta while he was attending a theological seminary there. He and his wife, Judy, live in Palm Bay, Fla. The Rickers are Foundation members.

Freedom From Religion Foundation