Oct 17, 201210:22 AMCity Beat
Capital Opinion by Michael A. Sand, Jacqueline G. Goodwin and others.
Can Religion and Atheism Play Nice?
“Should religious people and atheists work together?”
This was the question posed to me when I agreed to participate on a panel at the PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference 2012. The topic of the panel was, Secular Government: Bringing Believers into the Fold. In truth, it was an excellent panel which included both atheists and religious individuals, and I am sure my invitation was due to the fact that I serve on the board of several interfaith organizations.
Each panelist started by agreeing that it is important for religious individuals and atheists to join together to support the United States Constitution. The founding fathers felt so strongly about the separation of religion from government that they placed a statement in the body of the Constitution that there would be no religious test for public office and it is my belief that we should work together to support the Constitution. As Americans, shouldn’t we should make sure that individuals of all faiths and no faith can run for public office?
One of the panelists was a member of the Ahmaddiya Muslim Community, which believes in peace and strongly opposes terrorism. He reported to the Atheist Conference that if he lived in Iraq, he would not be able to practice his religion freely. In America, he can pray in peace. He is a proud American and strongly supports the Constitution.
I argued at the Atheist Conference that I feel each of us should strongly support the rights of all Americans to pray in their churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and guadaras. I feel it equally important that we keep government-dictated prayers out of our schools. The first amendment to the Constitution as interpreted by the courts protects the right of atheists not to be forced to pray.
I continued my arguement that atheists should not attack holy books and religious traditions. Needless to say, many, if not most of the attendees did not agree with me.
While I strongly support the right of free speech, my argument was that if religious individuals and athiests are going to work together to support constitutional rights, we are all better off when we respect each other.
Personally, I will choose to work with atheists even though I strongly disagree with their beliefs. I adhere to my tenets that burning or the desecration holy books in any manner shows disrespect for my beliefs, and acting in an obnoxious manner is not a good strategy for changing people’s hearts and minds.