Religion and the Supreme Court

I am grateful for having a diverse group of friends and followers who cause me to think critically about important issues. Sometimes their postings amaze me. They allow me to respond with a dose of what I consider reality. Full disclosure — I am an atheist who grew up in a Christian family and at one point served as the President of the Ecumenical Encounter for Youth for the Northeastern United States. Participants represented many different religions. Currently, I serve on three Prince William County Homelessness committees. Faith-based organizations provide a wide range of critical homeless services. I am not anti-religion. I am simply not religious.

The italics below come from a post that prompted this response. Following each quote are my thoughts.

I want to say something about the spirituality debate. You don’t believe in God? Fine. Why is it so important for many of you to mock those of us that do? If we’re wrong, what have we lost when we die? Nothing!

Who are these “many of you” that you describe as mocking your beliefs? Most atheists are ‘in the closet’. We don’t randomly display our non-belief. Usually, if an atheist is disputing something pertaining to religious fact, it is in response to some overtly religious in-your-face action by a religious person challenging their lack of religion. My response is never to mock the person, but to engage them in an intellectual discussion on the issue. Unfortunately, in a discussion between a person using reason and facts and another person citing beliefs and anecdotes, the person citing beliefs and anecdotes may feel mocked. I have friends and family living and dead who benefitted greatly from their belief in Jesus and faith in God. I never mock them. I am glad that their religion provides them comfort. I know how they feel, and they know how I feel. None of us is trying to change the other.

You ask “what have we lost…?” Hopefully nothing. Some religious people abdicate their responsibility for critical thinking and fall back on the old ’just doing what the Good Book tells me to do’ rationale for their actions. Sometimes they are actually doing what someone told them the good book said. That someone used your faith to manipulate you to do something they wanted. It may not actually be in the Bible. They counted on your faith to not question their advice. Trust, but verify. Trust, but verify is a rhyming Russian proverb. The phrase became internationally known in English when used by President Ronald Reagan on several occasions in the context of nuclear disarmament discussions with the Soviet Union. Apply it when your intuition tells you that the good book says ‘…’ may be followed by snake oil.

How does our believing in Jesus bring you any harm? You think it makes me stupid? Gullible? Fine. How does that affect you?

It affects me when I or my children are made to participate in religious activities like prayers or feel uncomfortable for not participating. It affects me when laws about equal rights use religious beliefs as their foundation. (LGBT marriage, abortion, etc.) It especially affects me when it becomes a major element in selecting a Supreme Court Justice. Our country was founded on the separation of church and state. We are in danger of opening that door to trouble.

Does your religion make you appear stupid or gullible? People living in near poverty send their tithe to megachurches whose pastors live in mansions and fly around in private jets. People follow patriarchal rules that were ostensibly written by religious men (MEN not any women involved) thousands of years ago. No! I don’t think you are stupid or gullible. That is why it amazes me that you sometimes choose to act as if you are.

If you’re wrong your consequence is far worse. I would rather live my life believing in God and serving Him, and find out I was right, than not believe in Him and not serve Him, and find out I was wrong. Then it’s too late.

There is a middle ground that you omitted. I live my life according to a strong set of moral and ethical values that in most cases are no different than their religious counterpart. If God is the loving and forgiving being you claim He is, then he can’t also be so petty that he will punish my non-belief. If there is something after this life on earth, I expect to be a part of the good rewards for a life well lived. If there is nothing after this life, that’s okay too. I wouldn’t have wanted to live it any differently.

There’s no shame in my game! I believe in Jesus Christ. He said deny me in front of your friends & I will deny you in front of my Father. HE’S COMING BACK…Greatest man in history, had no servants, yet they called him Master. Had no degree, yet they called him Teacher. Had no medicines, yet they called him Healer. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today. His name is Jesus.

My response to this statement is to quote prize winning science fiction author, Robert Hienlein: “The most preposterous notion that Homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.” — Time Enough for Love. Notice Heinlein does not deny the existence of God. He points out the absurdity of religion — not just Christianity, all religion. I describe myself as an atheist, but I am more of an agnostic. I don’t know if there is a God or not. Nobody does. Some choose to believe, some don’t. If those who do would stop trying to force their religious values upon the rest of us, the world might be a better (at least more tolerant) place. Meanwhile, let’s all obey the universal Golden Rule that appears in every religion and faith — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” It would make a great start.

I recently watched Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert thoughtfully and respectfully discuss religion and atheism. Following several minutes of inciteful conversation , Ricky offered the following example.

Atheism and religion are represented by science and faith. If you got rid of all science texts, in a thousand years, all of them would be back with the same fundamental principles that we know today. On the other hand, if all religious texts were eliminated, in a thousand years a totally different set of legends and myths would have evolved — bearing very little resemblance to what we have today.

Just some interesting food for thought.

Allan is a lifetime educator with two daily goals. 1) learn something. 2) Make the world a better place.