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Monday, June 24, 2013
R. McNeil Foster (“When atheists pray,” June 15) doesn’t understand the importance of our Constitution’s separation of church and state, nor the stand that not just atheists, but other thoughtful people, take when that separation is breached.
Nobody is denying Foster his right to pray. Foster may pray anytime and anywhere he wishes. Our Constitution guarantees it.
Common civility calls on us, when not in a group of like-minded people, to refrain from actions that appear to have the consent and participation of all those present. In government-sponsored events, our Constitution prohibits references to faiths and creeds. No governing body may take any action that would seem to give preference or endorsement to any one religion.
Those who agree with his reasoning on the separation of church and state should take a look at Iran, where the state religion is fundamentalist Islam, and wonder what it would be like to be a Christian there. Or consider the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Or ask a secular Jew or an Arab Israeli what it is like to live in a democratic country where Orthodox Judaism is allowed so much influence.
How might Foster feel at government functions opened with a prayer by an imam or rabbi?
Our Founding Fathers understood. They knew minority religions were persecuted, and protected their rights with this separation.
They also knew state religions persecuted dissimilar beliefs. If government were to stay out of the business of religion — a fundamental right — then religion was to stay out of the business of government — a fundamental need. This keeps the playing field level.
Our Constitution protects us all: believers, nonbelievers and those in between.
Many credit World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle with the statement, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Some credit Chaplin W.T. Cummings during the 1942 Japanese siege in the Philippines of the Bataan Peninsula (Bataan is not an island). We’ll never know how many Americans and Filipinos were taken prisoner or how many died on the infamous Bataan Death March, in prison and slave camps, or on Hell Ships to Japan. The number of captured runs from 75,000 to 100,000. Some historians think that only a third survived the war. If all these men were praying in their foxholes, how is it that two-thirds died? Would Foster want a surgeon with a 66 percent mortality rate and insist everyone else do likewise?
When a 2 ½ mile-wide tornado devastates and kills in Oklahoma, or forest fires destroy homes and lives in Colorado, or a gunman shoots down innocent people why is it the survivors, some with property intact, are considered blessed, while the dead are just tragic statistics? Many people of faith — Mother Teresa, beatified and waiting in the wings for sainthood, comes to mind — have their own beliefs shaken by these contradictions.
Foster didn’t choose to witness for his faith. He didn’t address what non-believers embrace, and many with their faiths in crises fear. He didn’t offer how his convictions weather these paradoxes. Surely he sees them. A spectator at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, blessed by God, is shielded from the bomb blast by a mailbox. God was looking out for her. But an 8-year-old boy is fatally injured and bleeds to death in the street. Why? What could any 8-year-old possibly have done to have God’s protection stripped away?
Rather than advocate for his belief, Foster vilifies nonbelievers. “The Atheist Nation is growing, and it has emerged from its dark, basement netherworld to make its presence known . . . .” Sounds more like the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, another frightening product of state-sponsored religion.
He says, “Atheists spend vast sums of money to promote their own religion” [sic]. What? Nonbelievers are a religion and proselytize? Real religions don’t evangelize, do they?
Foster questions what atheists believe during great emotional turmoil, as if they would turn to God. Maybe so. People do all sorts of uncharacteristic things when under great stress. Some go out and kill others.
When does Foster turn to God? He speaks of taking a child hit by a truck to the hospital rather than a church and calling an ambulance for a girl who has stopped breathing rather than a clergyman. Ultimately, does Foster put more trust in science than faith, too? Or just turn to it first in his moment of great emotional turmoil?
Sort of “Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.”
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?