Ask A Skeptic

Dear Skeptic: My spouse and I, both atheists, were at his school reunion where prayer was said. The speaker even commented (after the Pledge of Allegiance) that some folks want “under god” taken out, and how un-American is that?!

First of all, my spouse is a very private person and doesn’t like to ruffle feathers; me on the other hand . . . step on my toes and I’ll bite yours. So, I ignored the whole thing, even though I was fuming inside for my husband’s sake. If it had happened at my school reunion, watch out! Any suggestions, or did I do the right thing?

— Arkansas Atheist

Dear AA: How awesome it would have been for you to be able to stand up and say, “Under god or under god’s thumb? God gives a hoot about Arkansas; otherwise, why would she let us be in sixth place on the list of low-income, high-obesity states? But hey, we’re ahead of Kentucky! You’ve got your freedom of religion, what about our freedom from religion? Jesus died for my sins, 2,000 years before I was born? Excuse me, but that’s just crazy talk. That’s like saying Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle to bring me evolution, but way worse. This is tyranny of the majority. The rest of us can just shut up, bow our heads and imagine no pathetic religion. Well, thanks but no thanks.”

Or maybe you could have stood up speechless and turned your back on the prayerful proceedings until they were over. Or sat on your hands, with head up and eyes wide open. Both are good ways to make a point—unless you’re at your spouse’s red-state reunion.

You did the right thing, given the circumstances. Discretion is the better part of valor. (“Googling” to see the origin of that statement brought up Shakespeare’s Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part 1”: “The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.” The Google also brought up “Discretion Is the Better Part of Ankle Holsters,” by Dave Anderson in American Handgunner, who advises “avoiding bars and alcohol while you’re armed. It means driving safely and courteously. It means walking away from a quarrel rather than escalating it, or better yet, learn how to resolve disagreements without arguments.”)

You could have approached the speaker afterward over bacon-wrapped water chestnuts to politely but firmly express your views and feelings about the subject. “God only knows” where your seeds of freethought might eventually sprout!

Freedom From Religion Foundation