Keep church, state separate

  • Thursday, June 26, 2014

To the Editor:

Do you disapprove of people who don’t share your faith in God? You are not alone.

Religious skeptics are in such disfavor that if they are inclined to seek political office, their disbelief is likely to make their opponent’s campaign much easier.

Vladimir Putin, who professes “traditional values” (e.g., he arrests all gays and lesbians) and sees himself as a defender of the Russian Orthodox faith also condemns non-believers.

There do not, however, appear to be any documented professions of faith by Putin during his sixteen years with the KGB.

Disbelievers may be awful people, just as awful people can be found in every corner of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

But there is a greater probability that like their counterparts in every major faith, they have high morals, share widely accepted values, contribute to their communities, work hard to be law-abiding citizens, and strive to be good parents.

Because facts and fact-based thinking matter, many would make excellent elected officials.

Spokesmen for non-believers have attempted to put the values of like thinkers into words we could all agree on. One of these efforts holds that “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.”

Another maintains that “We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

If there are more fulfilling ways (not involving mysticism) to lead a life than in accordance with these principles, please suggest where to find them.

Significantly, secularists have little or no problem with religion or its adherents until and unless they try to impose their beliefs and practices on government. This is mostly a practical consideration.

Certain that no man has even spoken with or been spoken to by God, they see separation of church and state as crucial to the prevention of politicians’ claims that they’ve spoken with Him so their position is unassailable.

If two equally high ranking political leaders were to assert conflicting claims on that basis, how would those claims be arbitrated?

Every historical effort to impose religious thinking on the state has led to corruption, bigotry and failure.

But there is an alternative that I’ve kept hanging over my desk for years: “If you want a state ruled by religion, move to Iran.”

Terry Munson

Pawleys Island

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