Thank God I’m Not An Atheist


“Nations make their histories to fit their illusions” — Walter Lippmann (twice Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist).

I remember years ago taking care of a Vietnam war veteran who told me, “what everybody says is wrong.  There ARE atheists in foxholes and they is me.”

To be a member of the wrong religion is a very dangerous condition, as many Muslim-Americans have found out in this new millennium.

But it’s not easy being a “None-Of-The-Above” either.

Christians and the Republican party started merging power bases around the time of Ronald Regan’s presidency.  Before then, religion was a consideration – but now it seems like a “make-or-break” factor in politics.

Every time a Fox News commentator says we are a Christian nation because our Founding Fathers were all devout Christians and that’s the intent behind all their work (You know – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill of Rights and various other documents) I wish I had the public platform to remind them (and everyone they infect) with this little bit of history.

From the Treaty of Tripoli (1797):

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I don’t know how much clearer that opening statement could be.  Our Founding Fathers state this nowhere else as emphatically as here.

I have long believed that we – the USA – are the most religious nation on earth, and I’ve been to several of “The Catholic Countries” and have a lot of knowledge about Israel.

But this is not because of the beliefs of the Founding Fathers.  Any cursory reading of history can settle that argument.  I want to remind the Right-Wing Christians and the self-proclaimed “Moral Majority” how hard Ben Franklin worked to avoid associating himself with any religious group in Philly, or how Thomas Jefferson figured that within three hundred years all the “religious mythology” would be gone, and we would be more rational folks.

Here we are, instead using “religious mythology” to manipulate the politically simple-minded.

I would actually love to see an atheist president, instead of one who has to provide evidence of his birth (as long as he did not get here by spontaneous generation or immaculate conception he is fine for me)  and who has to provide a photo op every time he goes to church, to make him look like a “good Christian.”

I remember when I did a favor, as a physician, for a patient many years ago and she told me I was a better “Christian” than most Christians and I was oh so proud.

I remember atheists going for religious similitude — inviting me to visit “atheist church” (a biggie in the Midwest, so everyone has a reason to sleep in Sunday regardless of their beliefs).

Me, I worship the age old distinction between public and private belief.  People struggle a lot with the difference between what they learned in Sunday school as kids, and what they think as adults.

If people really care, they need to search.  In retrospect, from the time I first learned the Hebrew alphabet, I spent a lot of time looking for sacred mystical Jewish text and trying to find out what is real.

I am living proof that marriage is not solely the province of religion, as a Kansas judge pronounced me married to the adorable “guy next door” without having to notify the Jewish synagogue or the Methodist church.  Marriage between American citizens is no business of any organized religion.  They can celebrate it, bless it or condemn it, but they should not be allowed to choose which citizens are eligible for it.  That is for civil law.

I don’t review complex theological subjects with every patient.  I try to empathize with every patient about who they are and what they believe.  I don’t try to argue them into changing nor dropping their belief systems, nor do I try to “cure” them of religion – as many a religious counselor has feared.

Normally, thoughts about religion should mature with people.

If they do, everyone seems to have conspired not to discuss it – at least in the parts of America with which I’m familiar.   I do have friends who are “Fox News Christians.”  I have few who will admit to being atheists.  A real atheist, like the late entertainer Steve Allen or scientist Carl Sagan or writer Isaac Asimov, usually knows more about primary Biblical source material than the alleged “religious,” who seem to have been spoon fed opinion along with unchecked facts.

Some people are trying to do the best they can.  Most just take spoon feeding.

Nobody should take spoon feeding as an adult.  Getting a religious education as a child gives you something to reject, or at least amend.

That takes neurons.

Neurons should be used — never go to waste.

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