Some thoughts about religion and government.
Earlier this month — much earlier; I’m just catching up with my reading now — Congressman Pete Stark of California became the first high-ranking politician to admit that he didn’t believe in God.
“When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being,” Stark said. “Like our nation’s founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services.”
I have to commend Congressman Stark on his brave stance. In a day and age when an American’s value to his country seems linked with the depth of his religious beliefs, it’s refreshing to read about someone who isn’t a “me too” member of the Christian club.
I chose the quote above because it echoes my sentiments about religion:it has no place in our government. Early settlers came to the New World to escape religious persecution — this country was built, in part, on religious and cultural diversity. The founding fathers were careful not to promote one religion over another when drafting the documents that would structure the country’s government. The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees religious freedom. I take that to mean the freedom to believe whatever you like.
There’s no place in public schools for prayer, there’s no place in the science classroom for creationism (no matter what it’s called), there’s no place in government buildings for the Ten Commandments. There’s no reason why our rights should be limited because certain members of the government believe that certain private behaviors — homosexuality, pre-marital sex, abortion — are “unacceptable to God.”
And look what happens in a country ruled by religion — a country like Iraq. Constant fighting among members of the different religious groups — groups with different versions of the same basic beliefs. As reported just yesterday in “Shiite police kill up to 60 in revenge spree” in USA Today:
Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in the northwestern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there on Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said.
You might say that the U.S. could never get like that, but consider the bombings at abortion clinics and the hate crimes against gays. We’re only a step away.
So when I read that a Congressman has stepped forward to admit that he doesn’t believe in God and that he wants to stop the “promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services,” I feel a certain amount of hope for the future of our country.
The phrase that comes to mind is one I heard many times as a child: “Truth, justice, and the American way.” I’m all for it here.