The Kathleen Parker Flap
But Never Silent
(Report and Forum)
Open Letters To USA Today Regarding
“God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold”
by Kathleen Parker
Note: Unlike most Forum files, all letters in this file are posted in reverse chronological order, the most recent being at the top.
October 1, 2001
We atheists are silent because have been forcibly silenced so viciously and for so long that we dare not utter faintest peep.
But for two hundred twenty-five years, we atheists basically haven’t needed to say much in order to maintain our inalienable right to practice the religious views which seem sensible to us when we open our eyes and take a look at the world in which we live. This is because the United States Constitution forbids, for example, the President from directing the religious exercises of his constituents. Ms. Parker has the right to express contempt toward people simply because they disagree with her about gods and demons, but we do not allow our government to do this. By law.
We are hoping that President Bush’s complete disregard for the Constitution that he swore to uphold does not get used as a precedent for later demolishing that Constitution completely.
Then again, if you examine the makeshift “oath” which President Bush conspired with Chief Justice Rehnquist to utter and compare it with the Oath of Office provided for in the United States Constitution, you will notice that President Bush did not state the genuine Oath of the Office of the President, but he stated something else entirely. (The real Oath of Office lacks the language, “so help me God.”) Thus, it does not surprise us to discover that President Bush’s loyalty is to some “Kingdom” other than the country which he claims to serve (see John 18:36), that his “citizenship is in Heaven” (see Philippians 3:30).
It certainly does not surprise us that Bush and his fans would exploit the most harrowing tragedy our nation’s people have ever been through in his ongoing attempts to install his religion as the official religion of this nation — which nation was the very first to erect a godless Constitution. Thomas Jefferson repeatedly warned us about those who, even in his day, will try to abolish the Liberties guaranteed to us by that Constitution. Unfortunately, having been so thoroughly silenced when it comes to participating in the affairs of our homeland, we atheists really don’t have much say in this matter. We have learned the hard way, particularly since the 1950s, that food on the table is sometimes more important than standing up for what is right.
If you think we atheists are silent, think again. We know better than to tell certain people that we are atheists: we do need to hold our jobs and keep the peace with our neighbors. But there are place where we can and do speak out without fear of retaliation. One of those places is the Letters section of Positive Atheism Magazine. Having personally posted those letters, I will assure you that the ratio of those who are deathly afraid of George W. Bush to those who respect him is an accurate reflection of what we received. To put it bluntly, both of the letters that we received praising President Bush have been posted (out of over 1,600 pieces of e-mail that we’ve received since September 11th). And to be fair, one of the two letters we received praising President Bush came from a Christian, and the other did not really praise him but simply called upon atheists to unite behind him regardless of our feelings toward him.
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Note: If you send a letter to USA Today and want them to consider publishing it, send our copy in a separate e-mail and tell us that you submitted
it to USA Today for publishing. Then we will wait before posting your letter as an example.
To: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Subject: [Fwd: Re: This is all?]
Date: October 22, 2001 7:02 PM
In Kathleen Parker’s current Chat Page Disclaimer, she says she yanked all the posts and closed it down.
Sent: Sunday, October 21, 2001 11:42 PM
Subject: This is all?
I read your statement about why you closed the chat room. I must say, it gave me a chuckle.
Of course your profanity policy was clearly violated. I myself was disappointed that a few would ruin it for the many. But it would have been too easy to simply remove the offending messages, wouldn’t it?
Your claim about “rules of civil discourse”, however, is laughable. This, coming from a woman who gets on her bully pulpit to lamblast a segment of the population for no reason at all. Speaking of children:
You can’t do it, can you? You just don’t have the integrity to apologize for lying about fellow Americans. Had you bother to read any of the more rational posts, and there were more than plenty of them, you would realize that you made people cry. Real people, not a bunch of ex-atheists that you define out of existence. They were people who happened to be atheists, and who happened to have atheist family members who died in the attacks.
You chose the low road. You insulted Americans. How else would you expect people to respond to blatant lies, misinformation, and insults? This is your code of ethics? These are your superior Christian values? Have the decency to own up.
Or were you perhaps a bit surprised at the magnitude of the response you elicited, and that only a handful of Christians could be bothered to stand up for your side? I could say that it was pretty embarrassing for
your side, except that unlike you I truly believe that we are on the same side. I just wish that people like you could remember the other half of that old adage: “...divided we fall.”
My apologies to those who used it constructively.
Maybe you should heed your own advice regarding your career. Have some dignity and issue a public apology and retraction.
I don’t know how to remove messages or anything else. I pay a very expensive firm to handle the site and I sure am not willing to pay hundreds of dollars in hourly fees to read and delete offensive posts. No one but me pays for that site. No one but me decides how to handle it.
To: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Subject: [Fwd: Keep trying]
Date: October 22, 2001 7:02 PM
I followed it up with this.
Subject: Keep trying
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 13:36:51-0400
To: Kathleen Parker
I don’t know how to remove messages or anything else. I pay a very expensive firm to handle the site and I sure am not willing to pay hundreds of dollars in hourly fees to read and delete offensive posts.
As for offensive posts, let me leave you with a word of advice. Perhaps you will take it more seriously coming from somebody you think you know and pretend to emulate.
Matthew 7:5 — Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
You will get no sympathy from me.
No one but me pays for that site. No one but me decides how to handle it.
I cannot believe that you were stupid enough to miss the real point of my e-mail, rather you avoided it. But just in case I will spell it out to you — you are a bully. And as we all know, bullies are cowards at heart. Bullies are people who take pleasure in making other people cry, which you managed to do.
When you are done hiding behind that cloak of (self-) righteousness, perhaps you will be ready to issue that apology?
To: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Subject: RE: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: October 17, 2001 2:06 PM
Dear Ms. Parker,
I am one of those pesky atheists who isn’t in any of those foxholes you wrote about. I love my country and I am grateful for all the opportunities it has afforded me simply because I was lucky enough to be born here. I am a patriot and a good citizen. I have in the past and will again in the future fight to keep the freedoms we have. I also will work to make my country an even better place so it will prosper in the face of the insane people who have attacked my country and its way of life. I have spent much of my life battling various superstitions with reality, science and common sense. To see these superstitions moving into our government and our laws and dictating our domestic and foreign policy troubles me.
History tells us that not many of the thousands of gods that humans invented have been a friend to peace, freedom, democracy, creative thinking, science, art, civil rights, reality based education, women’s rights or humanity in general. For me, September 11th has forced a fight on two fronts; those who now attack our Constitution and way of life from outside our borders and the continuing struggle against those who have been attacking our Constitution and way of life from inside our borders for years. I am prepared to die for my country and the concepts put forth in the Constitution, but I refuse to die for anyone’s insane concept of what their “god” has told them “he” wants me to do.
Since I know that your “god” does not exist, I do not fear “him.” However, I do fear people who want to force their “god” on me by financing and electing politicians who will insert their “god” into my government’s laws, Constitution and Bill of Rights. I fear that the current administration is an example of this process. There is currently legislation pending in Congress that will move this nation closer to being a theocracy. Your writing helps this movement by rallying the people in this country for a “holy war” just as openly as the Taliban. This move toward theocracy is not new, it has been going on for some time, and it is obvious from your writing that you see September 11th as a golden opportunity to speed up the process. I don’t think we will win the current war by pitting your oppressive regime of gods, ghosts, demons, devils and spirits against their oppressive regime of gods, ghosts, demons, devils and spirits. If you look at any “religious” war in history the ultimate winner has always been religion. The ultimate loser has always been freedom and human and civil rights.
You fail to realize that the reason we are so successful as a society and economic system is not because your “god” is working in “his” mysterious ways but because 200+ years ago some very smart people looked at history and realized that one of the worst things for any society had always been the mingling of government and religion. Christian revisionist history aside, we have a secular Constitution that defines and limits a secular government and our laws are not based on the Bible nor its Ten Commandments. Is it against the law in our country to seethe a kid in its mother’s milk? Do our laws define you as some man’s property? In what state does one legally have his son stoned to death for talking back? It seems our lawmakers have missed some important messages from “god.” You seem to feel the need to point out their oversights. I am a strong advocate of the concept of freedom of religion. How much time you spend on your knees praying to your “god” is none of my (or my government’s) business. But this concept also implies freedom from religion, not only for “we the people” but also for the government and its agencies supported by tax dollars. Your telling my government and me how much time you and your “god” want us to spend on our knees praying to your “god” is my business. The founding fathers also saw the need to protect the people and their religions from the government. Both of these concepts are being eroded because “religious” people keep our government tied up in court after court after court trying to force their dogma into the laws of the land. In these courts your government is defending against the establishment of a particular brand of religion by the government. At the same time it is defending the freedom of religious people to believe in and teach their medieval myth and superstition as fact. The government fights in court, day after day, to maintain your freedom to believe and teach your children that the universe revolves around the Earth, the Earth is 6,000 years old, evolution is a lie, and even though your “god” tortured, enslaved, oppressed, raped and murdered millions of people, “he” should not be condemned but trusted and worshipped. It saddens me that so many people squander their brainpower and freedom by supporting the teaching of such abject stupidity with their time, money and intellect. But it angers me to see the government tied up in court because these people believe “god” tells them the government should incorporate this abject stupidity into the laws of the land. The Constitution says you are free to be stupid but you can’t teach your brand of stupidity using my tax money. But it also says people can put in their pockets, exempt from taxation and governmental oversight, the billions of dollars they extort from people by lying to them. It sounds to me like the deck is stacked in favor of religion. But the Falwells and the Robertsons and the Popes (and the Parkers?) don’t seem to know a good deal when they see one. They don’t like having to spend their ill-gotten gains to market their own brand of nonsense. They want me to help pay for their advertising. So now we have “faith based initiatives” and “voucher plans” to further waste time and tax money in congress and in the courts. Defending our brilliantly conceived, reality-based Constitution against stupid superstitious attacks takes time and money, and we’ve been spending more and more of both lately. This is time and money that could be better spent educating people, helping them to live better, more productive lives and considering legislation that actually might improve the human condition. The ultimate irony is that the ACLU works hard every day defending Falwell’s freedom to get rich by broadcasting moronically stupid lies and hate. In the process, the ACLU keeps the deck stacked in Falwell’s favor. Then, when some insane terrorists (instruments of Falwell’s God?) attack some buildings and thousands of people die horribly, Falwell blames the ACLU and some other minorities his “god” loves to hate. Our newly appointed and pious president quietly calls Falwell’s remarks: “Inappropriate.” God bless America! So anyway, here I am in my foxhole fighting for the day when a new president is actually elected by “the people” instead of being appointed by a bunch of his father’s political lackeys. I’m fighting for the opportunity to see this president take the oath of office with one hand on a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights instead of a collection of myths detailing ancient superstitions and oppressive dogma. I fight to hear the promise to uphold and defend that Constitution without any appended language that panders to the brainwashed masses that have been so dumbed-down that they think people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the Pope possess some secret knowledge transmitted to them by “god.” An enlightened populace tends to elect an enlightened government. An unenlightened populace tends to hand their government over to despots. Throughout history, religions and their priests have served and supported the despots they call “gods” and the despot that has political power at the moment. The clergy eat well while their “flock” starves to death. Hitler’s relationship with the Catholic Church is a prime example, as is the Taliban’s relationship with Islam. Whether it’s Jews or gays or a free enlightened society “the church” always has a ready list of people and things it can teach you to blame and hate. As much as you seem to want it otherwise, the best way to run a government is to have the government derive its just powers from the consent of the governed, not from a collection of ancient myths you illogically decided to accept as facts. This world needs people who will lead it toward enlightenment, not self-righteous deceitful hypocrites such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, the Pope, Bob Barr, Tom Delay, Osama and you profiting by imploring the public to continue to apply unsound, fantasy based, dark ages, dogmatic problem solving techniques to the troubles that exist in our world. It seems to me that is the trouble in our world. You are in a unique position because so many people read what you write. You have the opportunity to educate and enlighten. Please don’t squander your opportunity by encouraging and applauding peoples’ superstitions. And please don’t think you are helping these people by pointing us out as a new class of “witches” that need a good burning at the stake lest we cast our un-superstitious Constitutional spell on you smug self-righteous folk. Please become part of the solution; do not remain a cheerleader for the problem.
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Thanks etc.
Date: October 18, 2001
Yikes Kathleen. When I went to school (I too am a boomer), I was taught that one of the reasons the founders fought for independence was to prevent governing powers from imposing their religious choice on the people.
Your diatribe is so full of assumptions and historical inaccuracies that it is bewildering. You wrote, “we have to reweave the rituals of God and country into our institutions”. That’s swell. Just whose rituals of God do you propose we reweave?
I hope you realize that imposing one groups’ religious tenets onto society is at the root of our current problem. Many of the wars around the globe, including our current war on terrorism, is the result of religious zealotry. You say that, “our children must be awfully confused. Reared and educated in godless institutions...” I am more concerned that our children would be raised in public institutions that coerces them into religious believe systems that may not be of their choosing. I certainly do not want my tax dollars used to support your religion. Just as I am sure you would not want your tax dollars to support mine.
From: Wayland Dong
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 18:40:15-0700
Subject: In response to “God, country gain fragile new toehold” by Kathleen Parker
To the editor:
”God, country gain fragile new toehold” by Kathleen Parker is insulting, ignorant, and exploitive.
She proclaims without reason or explanation that patriotism and faith in God are inseparable. By this “logic,” the roughly 10 percent of Americans who are self-described agnostic, atheistic, or otherwise non-religious (almost 30,000,000 citizens) are not and cannot be patriotic. I for one am a walking, talking counterexample, and her assertion to the contrary is blind to the facts and personally offensive.
She cites the Pledge of Allegiance and such songs as “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” as traditional examples of the entangling of theism and patriotism that have been “evicted” by atheists. The facts show the opposite story: it is those like Ms. Parker who would make this “a Christian nation” that have done the evicting. The Pledge of Allegiance was originally totally secular. The “under God” line was added during the 1950’s in a misguided fit of McCarthy-led anti-atheistic bigotry, at the same time that “In God We Trust” usurped the rightful place of “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto.
(“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” does not mention a deity until the fourth verse, which is virtually unknown. It’s the first verse that is the most patriotic, and incidently God-free.)
Ms. Parker attempts to exploit the country’s stunned state to “reweave the rituals of God ... into our institutions,” which she fully admits is counter to “the legal separation of church and state required by law”! She attempts to portray the atheists as the ones meddling in our institutions, when in fact it is those like her who are trying to force their idea of god into government.
Separation of church and state is one of those giant freedoms that makes me proud of this country. Far from being interwoven, I find God and patriotism are inversely related: the less of the former I see in government, the more strongly I feel the latter.
Los Angeles, California
From: “Ralph C Reynolds”
Subject: Kathleen Parker Op-Ed Piece, 30 Sept. 2001
Date: October 09, 2001 5:42 PM
Although Kathleen Parker’s column appears once a week in my local Gannett newspaper, her op-ed piece “God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold” did not appear there, and I was not aware of her screed printed in USA Today on 30 September 2001 until several days ago. Although you have undoubtedly received many letters regarding this letter to date, I wish to add my dismay at your publishing such a misguided, false, intemperate, and irresponsible piece.
There is so much wrong and pigheaded about the piece it is difficult to know where to begin. No atheists in foxholes is a canard foisted on the public by pious sermonizers who just can’t believe that they do not have the whole truth. Although I never got out of Texas during my Korean Police Action hitch, I’ve met many combat veterans whose nonbelief was never shaken. At present, perhaps 10 percent of the population (some surveys report up to 17 percent in some sections of the country such as Oregon), that is 27 million people in the USA, confess to not believing in God, and thus we can estimate that perhaps 500 of the persons killed in the twin towers and the same proportion of police, firemen, medical personnel, and other rescuers regard themselves as atheists, agnostics, or freethinkers. Nonbelievers donated blood and money as willingly as did the God-fearing, but they did not need to sing praises to God to be noticed.
Ms. Parker evidences no appreciation of the foundations of the American experiment and the role of separation of state and religion in protecting us from internal religious strife that has torn other countries apart over the last two centuries as in centuries before. Does Ms. Parker know that at the time of the American War for Independence perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the population were members of a church? Does Ms. Parker know that George Washington, at least four of our first five presidents, and Abraham Lincoln were probably at “best” deists who believe that once God created the universe “He” had nothing further to do with its operation? Does Ms. Parker have any idea of what separation of church and state implies in the legal sense in the United States today? Based on her piece, one would have to conclude, “not a clue.”
With respect to God’s actions in this horror, some of us believe that the events of September 11 served only to put another nail in “His” coffin. At the very least, we cannot believe in an omnipotent God who would allow citizens of his chosen favorite country to be so ignominiously slaughtered by fanatic devotees of “Himself.” It certainly does not serve to convert nonbelief to belief in God. Ms. Parker does a disservice to nonbelievers and believers alike when, at a time when we should be practicing unity, she denigrates and dismisses a sizeable proportion of the population and stirs up the smoldering fires of religious bigotry.
Ralph C. Reynolds
Rochester, New York
From: “Vicki Coffman”
Subject: God, country gain fragile new toehold
Date: October 08, 2001 12:48 AM
I found this article disgusting. Whose god, might I ask??? The article implies the Christian god. Oh really? Last I heard, we still had freedom of religion in this country, though I seriously wonder for how much longer.
”One can’t help notice the silence of atheists these days.” Did it ever occur to the author of this article that we might be frightened, given the current atmosphere? I know I am.
Why is it so important to Christians that I believe in and pay lip service to their deity? As long as I obey laws and am generally a decent human being, what difference does it make to them? (I speak of Christians, only, because they are the only ones I’ve noticed (in this country) who are so rabid on “getting god(note: their god!) back into the schools.”)
And I really resent “godless” being used as a criticism and insult. Being an atheist does not make me a bad person, no matter what the author of your article thinks.
From: “Dave Marcoot”
Subject: “God, country gain fragile new toehold”
Date: October 06, 2001 8:40 AM
I was outraged by Kathleen Parker’s essay “God, country gain fragile new toehold” and the USA Today for publishing such ignorance and hate. Her piece could have justifiably been called “Hate and Ignorance Gain a New Soap Box.”
That the USA Today would publish such a piece which attacks American religious liberty, veterans, and those who died in the WTC is a travesty of journalistic integrity. Let this reply, and those of other atheist Americans, serve notice to our patriotic vocality in the face of those such as Kathleen Parker, who would attack America’s freedom and attempt to divide our country.
Ms. Parker claims atheists are silent. We weren’t “silent.” Like everyone, we grieved and cried as we watched the news of the attack and the tremendous loss of human life. We hugged our children and called our loved ones to make sure they were safe. We raised flags in unity of our nation and watched with non-partisan pride as the President addressed the Nation. Atheists gave blood and helped in the rescue of these attacks. Atheist’s weren’t silent when we were called upon to respond.
When Ms. Parker claims there were no atheists in WTC, she insults the victims who died who were atheists. To serve her own purposes, she diminishes them, along with the principles by which they lived their lives and the families who loved them.
Ms. Parker willfully uses the deaths of the WTC victims to as a tool to lash out her bigotry towards other human beings, people who simply do not share the same beliefs as she does. Rather then seeing how this tragedy has brought our country together, she uses it as opportunity to try to tear us apart by the very fabric which makes our country strong, our liberty, religious freedom and freedom from a government based upon religion.
Kathleen Parker repeats with relish an old self-righteous sentiment and slur some of those of a “spiritual” life hold towards those who have no belief, “there are no atheists in fox holes.” Not only is this insulting to me as an atheist (for it portrays my views as being insignificant and cowardly when faced with making the ultimate sacrifice for our country and fellow man), it’s an insult to every atheist American who has ever served or died serving our country and protecting our liberty — the liberty Ms. Parker enjoys, as she exercises it to attack them. She has the incredulous nerve to claim to be speaking for American values and virtue.
I wonder what would have happened if she had written there are no Jews in fox holes, there are no Muslims in fox holes, there are no Christians in fox holes. Tell me which of these statements is lesser in its bigotry? Would the USA Today, a paper I will never buy again, have printed an editorial making these attacks towards any of those American patriots?
Those who would use these tragic events in our Nations history as a means to divide our country and advance their social religious political goals, use their religious beliefs as a measuring stick of American patriotism are using the graves of those American who have died in the WTC and served America in war and peace as a step ladder for their own self righteousness.
Having separation of church and state doesn’t just protect atheists, but those of every faith from a government and religious fanatics and fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Ms. Parker, who would attempt to use government as a tool for their own ends. Apparently Ms. Parker is incapable of learning the lessons from current events to see the wisdom of our forefathers. We only have to look towards Afghanistan for an example of what can happen when you do not have such a barrier. To intertwine patriotism and God is dangerous game, and the founders of this nation understood that better than Ms. Parker would have us believe.
Ms. Parker ignorantly associates religion with patriotism, rewrites American history, and implies those who don’t believe in a god are not lovers of our nation, that we are “newcomers” and “ renegades” to our country. Somehow following our own conscious has made us undeserving of equal consideration. Sorry, Kathleen, I was born here, raised here by parents who also were born and raised here. My family fought in the Civil War and can trace its roots in America almost 200 years. I am just as much an American as anyone. I love my family, my country, my friends and neighbors. I just don’t love a “god,” that’s all! And after reading your thoughts, I am forever grateful I live in the country for whom our forefathers had the wisdom to create a Constitution which allows my family and I life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the protection from the likes of you.
October 05, 2001
I am most heartily offended by the article Ms Kathleen Parker has written entitled “God, country gain fragile new toehold”.
The first statement made by it’s author which caused my teeth to grind was, “There are no atheists in foxholes, we’ve always known.” Have “we” really? And at the risk of being crude, when was this monumentally tiresome, raving, apparently fiercely Christian, American Woman in a foxhole under fire with anyone, religious or otherwise? Such a statement would be struck down in a court of American law as hearsay.
As a long-term atheist, I resent the idea that we were or are silent in the face of the events of September 11, 2001. I believe we all, as a nation were less than silent in our distress, even in private moments, as we wept out loud for the victims of this terrible thing that had befallen us. Nor were we silent in the heat of the moment when we cried out for the shedding of blood to avenge us, although most of us godless monsters regained our senses quickly enough, since being rational seems to go along hand in glove with the tendency to question blind belief in a god of any sort. Nor were we silent when we called to find out where to go to donate blood or money to help the cause.
Silent? My “Good Christian” friends had to be prodded by this vociferous atheist into sending money to The American Red Cross, or to The Salvation Army (now if I have my facts right, there is a tie-in with religion and the Salvation Army — unless I’m growing dotty in my old age). Why would an atheist plead for funds to be given to The Salvation Army? Because they do a fine job of being there when they’re needed, and they don’t ask if you believe in god when they’re lending a hand. Neither do they ask if you believe in god when they cash the donation check.
In my repellent, godless condition (which, incidentally, includes an excellent memory of my school years) I can’t recall the word “god” being uttered during the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor, did we, in public school, say The Lord’s Prayer. Religion was then, and should be now, a private matter, addressed within the family. As an aside I would like to point out that while we said the words “with liberty and justice for all,” black people were still in the back of the bus; being hung from trees; and having their churches burned down, in this god embracing land of ours. (Just in case Ms Parker is too young to remember those good old hallowed days when so many paid such a horrifying price for the color of their skin — for their “differentness”.)
We are a diverse nation of cultures, belief systems, nationalities, and races. What we are not, is a sectarian nation.
The Taliban demands a sectarian nation. We do not, regardless of the gushy Ms Parker, and her zealous promotion of what she thinks of as the way things should be.
Church and State are separate for good reason, and must remain so despite Mr. Bush and his shamelessly egregious use of religion as a lever toward assured election by tweaking certain communities. Need I remind anyone just how “close” that election was. Mr. Bush is a politician, and he will use what serves himself best. We don’t elect, and pay these people, to tell us whether to believe in god or not.
In my not in the least bit humble opinion, Ms Parker’s inclinations might be better served if she were to dedicate herself and her zeal toward writing for a sectarian publication.
Does your subscription department require proof of fervor in the name of god before it accepts money for a subscription? Why, I’ll just place a bet here that it doesn’t. I am sure you have recognized by this time that our money smells the same, looks the same, and spends the same as that of the pious, and godly.
I don’t think you have an inkling of just how many people you’ve managed to offend, Firemen, Policemen, and Soldiers among us.
October 04, 2001
Dear Ms. Parker,
I resent your stating that there are no Atheists in fox holes. I spent my time in fox holes in Korea. I and other good solders in the Seventh Infantry Division were not believers. I served the US Army honorably for over twenty years.
I love my country and consider myself one of the finest citizens even though I do not believe in a God or a here after.
Please, please stop trying to divide this nation by what good citizen believe or do not believe. Such words only divide our nation and that does not strengthen the nation.
SFC Ret. Kenneth B. Hark
October 04, 2001
I take issue with Kathleen Parker’s guest editorial in your September 30, 2001 edition (“God, country gain fragile new toehold”).
This article is nothing more than propaganda and sensationalism for Christianity as well as defamation against all Atheists.
It would seem to me that Atheists as a whole would be in an even better position to denounce this act being that it was done in the name of a religious God. America is a free country where all are accepted regardless of their ideas. This article clearly illustrates a bigotry towards atheists and asserts that those who have no religious belief are less capable of contributing to the well being of this nation.
Under the same first amendment right the media possesses for free speech it’s ironic that first amendment also states that the US does not endorse a particular religion. Our founding fathers wrote “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”. While many of them were also Christians and believed in God, they did not allow their bigotry to interfere with the objectivity.
Nowhere in our constitution or its amendments does it state that unless you believe in a god, you’re not an American. The idea itself is absurd. Atheists such as myself have contributed to relief funds, flown the American Flag and shown our patriotism. There has been no silence except in respect for those who have died and suffered.
Without a separation of Church and State it implies that we as Americans endorse radicals such as Clayton Lee Wagner who in the name of a God are killing abortion clinic doctors. I know that I as an American, do not want my government associated with such a religion. A line needs to be drawn, and our founding fathers drew a line which has stood fast for over 200 years. Ms. Parker perhaps should look to our history as Americans instead of her personal history as a Christian.
In closing, this article is a defamation to atheists. Ms. Parker’s viewpoint is just as radical as the terrorists themselves and I find it disturbing that USA Today would promote such a viewpoint whose intent is to repress the ideas and beliefs of other Americans.
October 04, 2001
Regarding Kathleen Parker’s recent article that we need to put God back in our lives, it seems quite obvious to me that it is the persistence of this attitude that has endangered all our lives in one way or another.
Granted, the biblical translations of the supposed God and/or Jesus say nothing about killing thy neighbor, yet religions of all faiths have, over the years, consistently used the name of God as a banner under which to perpetrate all manner of atrocities to one another; even the Taliban believe they are doing God’s work.
Thus, it is a call away from religion that this country needs, not towards more invasive, dogmatic rhetoric. As an atheist, I am probably more kind than any Christian I know. I’m a vegetarian, and while most Christians believe it is they’re right to torture animals and use them for any means they wish, it is my kinder, gentler belief that every creature deserves to live unharmed. Yes, even Christians.
Her attacks upon atheists are unfounded and USA Today (if it is to be a fair journalistic medium) needs to give equal time to the atheist’s point of view. Though this will probably never come to fruition, since the religious zealots seem to control everything from schools to the government.
The moment is all that exists. The journey is everything, the destination — nothing.
October 04, 2001
Regarding Kathleen Parkers article of 10/1.
I am another atheist that is not silent. Nor am I in favor of the jingoistic fervor that religion brings. I am in strong disagreement with the idea that it’s a good idea to sing songs and recite pledges that no one really thinks about. Devotion to country and gods? I’d rather have a devotion to reality and a devotion to a healthy world.
Duane L. McCormick
October 03, 2001
The Silence of the Rationals
In response to Kathleen Parker’s “God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold,” it is not the silence of atheists that she is noticing but the din of the faithful. Who could expect to hear the quiet reasonings of freethinkers over the praying and singing that has grasped this country of late? Aren’t tent revivals always noisier than libraries?
But because Ms. Parker cannot hear us does not mean that we are not here. Perhaps she should turn down “The 700 Club” long enough to listen to the subtler voices of reason. Has she not read Richard Dawkins’ “Religion’s misguided missiles”? Did she miss Natalie Angier’s “Human Evolution: Of Altruism, Heroism and Nature’s Gifts in the Face of Terror”? Has she failed to participate in the online buzz of atheist internet discussion sites like atheism.about.com, infidels.org, and American Atheist chat? Shouldn’t she, as a national journalist, get her facts straight before she writes?
There are atheists in foxholes, there were atheists in the World Trade Center, and there are plenty of atheists in America today, thank you very much. If anything, the unprecedented attacks have inspired an unprecedented mobilization of atheists and theists alike, each to their own; our local organization has seen a dramatic increase in interest and membership.
All Americans are angry about the attack and desperate to understand it, and atheists — and some not-yet-atheists until September 11 — are exasperated with the claptrap and irrationality that have followed. Why Americans turn to a god who, if he exists, has let them down, is quite frankly beyond us. When the pious clamor “God bless America,” I want to add something like “for a change” or “please, please,” for it is imminently clear to anyone with functioning critical faculties that there was no blessing in the tragedy. Those who claim that their god was present and operating in, say, the one plane in which passengers foiled the hijack attempt overlook or dismiss the fact that this god enjoyed only a 25% success rate (what about the other three planes?) and that the best he could come up with was to crash the plane and kill the innocent anyhow. Is this the god they turn to for comfort? Let’s hope he answers them with more than 25% success and with better results than on that sad day.
The scariest part of Ms. Parker’s argument is that she thinks this marriage of church and state is a good thing and even that it was the intended thing all along. Neither could be further from the truth. The liberal decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which she bemoans as the source of the loss of religiosity in America, were in fact the fulfillment of the promise of freedom and equality in America. It was these decades that saw the first true progress toward racial and gender equality, and they saw the first true progress toward religious equality too. Let’s not forget that our first Catholic president kicked off the period, and let’s not forget that we atheists were really “in the closet” until Madalyn Murray O’Hair took on the yoke of often-violent discrimination in order to achieve some rights for atheists. Previously, we were denied employment, prohibited from full participation as citizens, and often in jeopardy for our lives; still in parts of this country there is legal discrimination — in Texas and North Carolina among other states there are even today laws against atheists holding political office — which would not be tolerated against any other minority. And we are reminded again, by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that we are not welcomed or accepted by this society. We would not be surprised if an angry mob molested us at any time. And you wonder why we are a little quiet?
But the real point that Ms. Parker misses, and that she and other pumped-up theists need to comprehend, is that, while piety and patriotism have often been intertwined in this country, the fine minds of its founders perceived the risk of this situation and put strong barriers in place to restrain it. The separation of church and state that was promised in the 1780’s but only delivered in the 1960’s is not only good for atheists but for the church and the state themselves. People like Ms. Parker should think carefully about whether, if state marries church, it will be her church that is the bride. As we have already seen, not all churches or religions have been invited to the ceremony.
In conclusion, there has indeed been an upsurge of emotion and unity in America, one that only the most hardened sort could denigrate. But this emotion and unity, while too often expressed in and attributed to religion, is really about the freedom that makes America great and unique, and that freedom is built firmly and solely on the ground of reason, not faith. There is no religion in the world that values the kind of freedom we practice here in America — the kind that tolerates all religions and even the non-religious. It is reason and reason alone that values freedom, individuality, equality, and real justice. Until reason prevails in this country, people like Ms. Parker will always sneer at and condescend to us atheists and we will continue to feel endangered and nervous. It frightens and saddens me to ponder that perhaps she and her kind do not want to hear atheists or even acknowledge that we exist.
October 03, 2001
I was outraged by Kathleen Parker’s historically revisionist column, “God, country gain fragile new toehold.” Parker’s lead sentence is, “One can’t help noticing the silence of atheists these days.” She advocates exchanging the traditional American value of respect for individual rights in return for a new American Theocracy, a government in which “God and country” are “entwined and inseparable.”
Especially in these days of violence and threats from abroad, divisive “us versus them” rhetoric directed towards Americans who are nonchristians is despicable. The perpetrators of the horrific violence on September 11 explain their motivation by their loyalty and obedience to their god. The Salem witch trials, perpetrated by our American ancestors who similarly believed in obliterating infidels, represents the logical end-game of Parker’s wishful thinking.
Thomas Paine, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson — all of whom were Deists, and as such, nonbelievers in a personal deity — aligned themselves with the Age of Reason. We would do well to remember that the first amendment was adopted to protect us from radical religionists like Kathleen Parker.
Dr. Michael L. Roberts
October 03, 2001
I read your article, and was saddened. Then I decided I must respond. because a lack of response is like approval in this case.
First — To which God do you mean in your article? I heard of many — Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Shinto, for few. Which one should we address when being patriotic? (Let me guess: you would prefer your God — the Christian one.)
Second — Who put you in the minds of those who died in battle? How would you know there were no atheists there? Did it occur to you their way of life is “live and let live”? Maybe they did not need or want to share their atheism with anybody and create the presumption that atheism is the “right way” (unlike yourself).
Third — (This is below the belt but I decided to include it anyway) As a member of the Jewish people, who have seen the worst in past decades, I ask you: Where was God when all these innocent people died in NY?
Fourth — Do not blame the system that your kids are not patriotic. It is utterly our responsibility as parents to make. Be patriotic in your earthly country! It is great even without resorting to the Divine.
Fifth — and final — As I wrote before, the horrible acts on Sep. 11th were caused by, and in the name of God fearing people!!! Need I add — like you? I hope not!
Please note-in no time did I tell you to abandon your faith. Only accept that some people have different point of view than yours, and they are entitled to your respect as vise-versa. Please remember what intolerance did, and still doing to people all over the world.
October 03, 2001
Kathleen Parker must be an Atheist trying to get the rest of us to “speak up” in this time of turmoil but she sounds as if she was educated in religious schools as she didn’t learn any history, especially American. For some reason she relates to us that Dan Rather said that “God” is suddenly everywhere “like mildew in a damp basement” which is a new metaphor to me. I like it though as I’ve never liked mold anywhere except in a petri dish.
We don’t live in a theocracy and I believe that most of us are thankful for that. ask the Afghans among others. A lot of politicians are using this unfortunate time to push the Christian belief system on the American public as they seem to think we need their god. President Bush calls for a crusade and it doesn’t sound any different than a jihad or holy war. Religion got us to this point as it has so many times in the past and Ms. Parker wants to know why Atheists are silent.
We Atheists are everywhere. We are veterans who have been in foxholes and bunkers. We are firemen and police officers. We are EMT’s. We are on active and reserve duty in the Armed Forces. We are volunteers. We are donating money to help in this and every other crisis. We are giving blood (be careful you don’t get any Atheist blood by mistake). We do this without bringing any baggage with it so therefore you don’t hear from us. While you pray, we do.
We are the quiet patriots that fly our flags and serve our country when called. No conscientious (religious) objectors here. We may even be better patriots than the hyphenated Americans as our loyalty is to our
country and not to Rome, Mecca, Jerusalem, Salt Lake City, or the many others. I am not a Christian/
October 03, 2001
Your author, Kathleen Parker, has commented on the silence of atheists in the face of tragedy and mistakenly assumes this means that there are no atheists in foxholes. When she gets done patting herself on the back, I’d like to mention that as an atheist, I am silent because of the raw emotions of the American people at this time. Atheists face persecution, harassment and judgment every day. In the face of this crisis, olive-skinned people are being chased, harassed, threatened, shot and beaten just for their skin color. Atheists would fare no better at this time. So my silence is out of respect for people who are trying to find help the only way they know how, and out of fear for myself and my family. This does not mean that I have converted just because a crisis is at hand. It is ironic that people turn to god when there is nothing else to turn to. God is a last resort.
I’d like to comment on a few of the other comments your author made:
“We of a certain age remember beginning each school day by pledging allegiance to the flag, singing My Country, ‘Tis of Thee and, finally, reciting The Lord’s Prayer.”
In our local school district, we still have the pledge, the national anthem and a moment of silence (which replaces the Lord’s Prayer.) And the children are still bored and it holds little meaning. If it was
done only once in a while, I think it would have more impact.
“From the beginning of American time, the two have been entwined and inseparable. Today, we seem to have no trouble seeing how necessary the one is to the other. By whatever name you call God — yes, including Allah — there’s no extracting Him from our moments of greatest valor and our times of deepest despair.”
I’m not sure where Kathleen gets her facts, but at the founding of our country, only 17 percent of the population were Christians, and they were not looked upon favorably by our founding fathers. Also, some
of our greatest moments came from atheists and freethinkers like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Margaret Sanger, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and George Washington.
To see what they had to say, visit:
We could mention all the bad things religion has promoted, like slavery, degradation of women, etc. but I won’t bring all that up right now.
“If we’re to win this war — sure to last into our children’s futures — we have to reweave the rituals of God and country into our institutions. We can’t expect children to understand and someday defend a heritage that they have never been given.”
Reweaving the rituals of God into public institutions is exactly the divisive measure we don’t need. For those parents who wish to give their children a religious heritage, they have many opportunities at home and church. They don’t have to force their narrow view on the rest of the public. It is not the author’s responsibility to teach religious heritage to children whose families have differing views.
In this time, the country does need to stand strong and united. We can’t let differing beliefs cause hate among ourselves. We must tolerate each other for the greater good and not use the current situation to further our own agendas. So I recommend that religious and non-religious keep the silence together in an effort to keep the peace, now and forever.
October 03, 2001
I find Kathleen Parker’s article, “God, country gain fragile new toehold” in October 1st’s USA Today extremely insulting! Atheists are in foxholes and many other important locales which keep this country working. Atheists are not silent as we fight the bigotry against Atheists which mirror Ms. Parker’s comments. The mainstream American media chooses not to cover this fight. Instead they choose to perpetuate the problem by giving prejudice journalists like Ms. Parker a forum to mislead the public and offend a large group of American patriots.
Air Traffic Controller
October 03, 2001
I’d like to challenge Kathleen Parker’s assertion that there are no atheists to be found in this country. In fact, I’d like to challenge USA Today’s remarkable lack of common sense in printing the offensive schmaltz in Parker’s column entitled “God, country gain fragile new toehold.”
Atheists do exist in this country. We go to work, we pay our taxes, we obey the laws, and most of us quietly respect one another, including those who disagree with us. We love our families, we laugh, we enjoy life, and, when faced with a national crime, we experience the same pain as people who believe in a god. So when Parker asserts that “America today is about God and country, but then it always has been,” I can’t help but take offense. Bigotry is bigotry, but Parker’s is apparently acceptable because she uses the “g” word.
My common sense approach to life, which rejects the idea that we are in the power of some invisible, unproven, never-seen deity, does not make me any less American than Parker is. However, I tend to lose faith in my elected leaders when I see them unabashedly praying to a convenient, fictitious god, one who just happens to be on our side. And, no, I didn’t sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I didn’t pray, I didn’t watch the service at the National Cathedral, I didn’t go to church. Which, by Parker’s logic, means I’m part of what’s wrong with America.
If, as Parker says, “From the beginning of American time, the two [God and country] have been entwined and inseparable,” then she’s been reading the wrong Constitution, because mine spells out the separation of church and state. However, she is right when she says that “there’s no extracting Him from our moments of greatest valor and our times of deepest despair.” And, in my opinion, therein lies one of the major things wrong with America. People who want to pray should go to church and pray. The rest of us should be spared.
Parker says, “I don’t know how we reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law with the marriage of God and country demanded by our national psyche, but I’m sure we can figure out something.” Well, our forefathers already figured it out for us, by giving us religious freedom and freedom from religion. The day we “marry God and country” is the day we lose our independence and cease to be a democracy.
October 03, 2001
Dear USA Today,
I was outraged by Ms. Parker’s statements about atheism. There are plenty of people who are non-believers who are just as patriotic as anyone else. I’m old enough to remember when the Pledge of Allegiance did not include the words “under God.” Eisenhower put it in at the height of our war against “atheistic Communism.” The founders of our nation had varied degrees of belief and nonbelief. They did not intend for our country to have a religious orientation; each individual and each family was to make its own decisions.
For five generations, our family’s view on religion has been “we can’t know for sure, and other people are more than welcome to their religious expression, but we don’t believe there is a supernatural power which controls human events. And we don’t want to be coerced into invoking such a supernatural power.”
We have always been good Americans. We are law-abiding, serve in the military, pay taxes, and love our country. We’re entitled to just as much respect as anyone else.
Eleanor P. Simpson
October 03, 2001
In response to the column by Kathleen Parker, “God, country gain fragile new toehold.”
One can’t help notice the silence of atheists these days.
I can think of quite a few atheists who have been anything but silent. I, for one, have been watching very closely the attacks on our First Amendment freedoms and have voiced — very loudly — my concerns with the breakdowns in the separation between church and state.
I have rallied against anti-Muslim violence; I have spoken against President Bush’s interest in using a horrible tragedy as an opportunity to evangelize to the nation; and I have spoken to many — through
email and in protest rallies — about the importance of defending our nation’s diversity and Constitutional rights in this time of fear and confusion.
Suddenly “God” is everywhere, as ubiquitous as American flags, spreading — as Dan Rather said in a spasm of simile-rapture to describe rumors following the Sept. 11 attacks — “like mildew in a damp basement.”
And this spread has caused people like me to become busier than ever before. Never have I had so many opportunities (or responsibilities, as I consider them) to defend my right to reject religion and to defend the
rights of many others who choose to live without it.
There are no atheists in foxholes, we’ve always known. There were none in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, we can guess. And now there are none anywhere to be found.
I have three atheist friends in the armed forces serving active duty overseas. How does a journalist make generalizations like these without having the facts (unless working for a British tabloid)? Do you know that there have never been atheists in foxholes? or is this adoption of a cliche just a stunt to make your point sound stronger?
Do you know that there were no atheists in the World Trade Center towers? or is this, like you said, a mean-spirited “guess” to show your intolerance of that which you do not understand? If there
were atheists in the towers, would they be tossed aside? Would they be forgotten by you and your staff because you don’t consider them Americans? And you’re an American “journalist”?
America today is about God and country, but then it always has been.
America today is about defending our freedoms and our way of life. America is not, and never has been, about serving God.
That unity of purpose has been resurrected through an unspeakable tragedy and expressed in the language of God and country such as we’ve not heard in my adult lifetime.
I don’t know where you get this information (perhaps singing and praying in front of your television?), but I’ve been on the streets, on campuses, and in council meetings. Trust me, there is no unity of purpose in this nation today. Everyone will initially agree that the events of September 11th were terrible and that something needs to be done. After that, it’s a chaotic free-for-all. Pacifists want peace; Muslims want the violence to stop; the government wants war; fanatics want freethinkers to feel the pressure of their threats; and Christians want America — without that pesky First Amendment.
Regardless of the press says, America is not united the way that we should be. The terrorists involved in the disgusting acts of the 11th have succeeded in their first wave: they have made us distrust each
other, fear each other, and even fight each other.
Since terrorists brought down the twin towers and part of the Pentagon, we’ve repeatedly witnessed America’s leaders praying, singing, pledging and asking the nation’s citizens to join them.
To clarify, since terrorists brought down the twin towers and part of the Pentagon (and the lives of over 200 airline passengers), “we’ve repeatedly witnessed America’s leaders” breaking
the laws within the Constitution. President Bush invited members of all religions to the National Cathedral to join him in prayer, but it is clear that the president is deep into a massive agenda to bring this country to its knees, literally, by evangelizing
his fundamental religious views.
Which is to say, our children must be awfully confused. Reared and educated in godless institutions that also scarcely acknowledge the importance of patriotism — watching adults sing songs they’ve never learned — they must wonder “wassup.” It’s as though America’s adults belong to a secret society to which their children have never been exposed.
As I somewhat pointed out above, God and patriotism have nothing to do with each other. I know of no atheists who are not patriotic for this nation. In fact, it makes perfect sense that we are the most patriotic,
since it is we who are in the continuous fight to defend Constitutional rights against those who would gladly do away with them.
The values are those you’ve heard over and over since Sept. 11. They’re the values that prompted Americans to buy up every American flag in the country, to clog Manhattan’s streets looking for some way to help, to stand in line for hours to donate blood, to crowd churches and synagogues and other houses of worship to pray.
These are American values, not “God-values”. Atheists, too, bought flags (I bought tons of them and distributed them at my own expense), volunteered to help those in need, gave blood, and remembered
the victims without superstition — without gods — and remembered the victims for who they were, not for how they could further a religious conviction or agenda — as President Bush and other fundamentalists did.
From the beginning of American time, the two have been entwined and inseparable. Today, we seem to have no trouble seeing how necessary the one is to the other. By whatever name you call God — yes, including Allah — there’s no extracting Him from our moments of greatest valor and our times of deepest despair.
Why do say that “God” is entwined with patriotism, then immediately note that there is no one god. Who is America’s God? Allah? Jehovah? Zeus? Buddha? Who is “Him”? How can this multitude
of unknown “Him”-gods be part of our “moments of greatest valor and our times of deepest despair”?
Our parents, most of whom had tasted war and paid the dues of freedom, gave us these values to which we now so readily return. We have a duty to do the same for our own children.
Luckily, my parents instilled into me values such as freethought, questioning authority, thinking critically, and loving your country and all its peoples. I’ve seen too many people learn the values
of evangelism (intolerance, bigotry, imperialism) that I’m glad to have escaped them.
I don’t know how we reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law with the marriage of God and country demanded by our national psyche, but I’m sure we can figure out something.
My answer is perhaps too simple: we don’t reconcile the two. We live by the legal umbrella of the Constitution and those theists who live with a god or gods in their lives do so in private or in private
fellowship of others of their faith. We have only to reconcile our immense diversity with our insatiable need to make others “see.” Live and let live.
If we’re to win this war — sure to last into our children’s futures — we have to reweave the rituals of God and country into our institutions. We can’t expect children to understand and someday defend a heritage that they have never been given.
If we’re to win this war, we’ll leave religion out of it. It only causes division within our own nation and utter intolerance for others. We’ll leave God out of our institution, because once we allow religion and state to merge, our most precious of freedoms will already be under destruction. Out of all of this, I would like to see America remain American. The eradication of the First Amendment is the first step toward our transformation into something else. Something scary.
Proud to be an American
October 03, 2001
I would like to address USA Today’s interest in calling the nation to prayer. In this time of National crisis, prayer seems to be the only opiate that anyone has to offer the masses. Predictably, this has led to another proposal of prayer in public schools, straight from the pen of Kathleen Parker of USA Today.
Perhaps Ms. Parker has forgotten about her moral obligation to live and let live. Clearly, if an abomination such as prayer in public schools were to come to fruition, we would not only offend and inflame a huge percent of our population, but we would also violate the very Constitution that we Americans hold so dear.
I certainly don’t advise anyone to stop praying or reading scripture should that be their wish. Further, I acknowledge, accept, and appreciate the fact that we live in a multicultural society. What this means is that we have the right to practice whatever religion we prefer, or none at all-at home. In this free country, there are many gods and scriptures to represent. So, whose prayer and scripture would the public’s tax dollars pay to espouse in public schools? That of mainstream Christians? Why, because, on the surface, they seem to have the largest numbers? That argument is dangerously specious.
Let us not forget the millions of Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jains, Buddhists, Shintoists, Taoists, Aborigines and Atheists who, together, make up an enormous percentage of our population. Their numbers are growing every day. Are we to ignore them all? Just erase their existence with one swift stroke of legislation?
Do we insist that their children sit idly by and have another faith’s doctrine shoved down their throats each day as a part of their public education, while their parents’ tax dollars pay for the privilege? Surely not, when we can leave religion to the private sector and keep the Federal and local government’s noses out of our diverse multicultural business.
While our Constitution protects the freedom of religion, many overlook the fact that it protects freedom from religion, as well. We must not forget the many atheists in this country who believe in neither god nor religion. I am among their proud numbers. Kathleen Parker is wrong when she says that atheists are silent. The fact is not that atheists are silent, but that many ears are deaf to the atheist’s voice. It is time now for Ms. Parker to listen up, and listen good.
While I am an atheist, I do understand that religion (not god) can do good things for people — bring them hope, a sense of community, and in some cases, a sense of morality. That sense of morality, however, can be warped. What happened on September 11th proved to me that religion can be not only warped, but also evil. The people who perpetrated this series of sinister acts upon humanity did so in the name of god (whatever god that may be). How is it, then, that the atheist has become the subject of renewed derision?
The hateful perpetrators of the WTC tragedy took thousands of lives, fully believing that they were doing god’s will. They truly believed that they were martyring themselves for the betterment of the world. They went to their deaths, taking thousands of innocents with them, completely at peace, knowing that they would go straight to heaven and god’s waiting arms. And I, a law abiding atheist, am the bad guy?
I know that every day, the faithful pray to their gods for world peace, for the safety of their families, for unity and community, for the strength to get them through their horrible and tragic loss. At the same time, there will be faithful Afghanis praying today in thanks for these ‘wonderful’ acts of terrorism which destroyed countless lives in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania.
How dare anyone be grateful for such heinous acts of terror? How dare anyone believe that the WTC tragedy was perpetrated for the betterment of the world? How could anyone feel that the loss of so many innocent souls was the work of a god worthy of worship and devotion? I find it very hard to reconcile the fact that one group can pray to god to destroy thousands of lives, while another group prays to god for peace and unity. Is this, then, not a battle of men, but a battle of the deities? And which of these ‘gods’ shall triumph?
Despite my strong moral standing and responsible public service, I have often been condemned for having no faith in the gods of my coworkers, friends, and even family. At a time such as this, however, I am more proud than ever to be an atheist, distinct from anything religious, anything which could be construed as part of this hateful battle of the gods. I am proud to be distinguished from any group which inspires its members to mistrust outsiders. At the same time, I am sure to be condemned by my peers today for not looking to a god, any god, during this time of tragedy.
Condemned? Maybe so. But I will rest assured that I have not invoked the name of god to help our country in favor of others. I will not pray that we win a war that (inadvertently or otherwise) kills innocent bystanders. I will not pray to a god that will choose one human over another based solely on nationality. Does god exist? I think not. But if I’m wrong, I hope any god that does would never honor the selfish prayers of these thoughtless god fearing Americans.
I am happy to break ‘atheist silence’ that Ms. Parker has claimed to note. I am a responsible, moral, intellectual, sensitive and law abiding atheist, and I am not alone. I can tell Ms. Parker that there are, indeed, atheists in foxholes. Like it or not, we are everywhere.
We must, therefore, be sure not to impose prayer in public schools. What do
I advise, then? Well, I suggest that parents who want their children to pray in school pay for Parochial school education.
Ms. Parker was misguided in directing our government to force Christianity on every child. It has no right to do so. Ms. Parker clearly did not exercise the judgment or understanding needed in order to direct anyone to do anything. She should keep her Christian nose out of everyone else’s faith, or lack thereof. We must all direct our government to do the same. I direct our government to protect our Constitution and the freedom of and from religion. Every American has the right to practice his religion at home, at temples, mosques, churches, and meeting halls. But let no one choose faith for the rest of us. Public school serves to teach facts. Religion serves to teach faith. Never the twain shall meet. Not for my tax dollars!
October 03, 2001
Your writer (Kathleen Parker) did not present objective, well researched information in her article about ‘god and country gaining a new foothold.’ We atheists do strongly object and are not silent. We don’t need to campaign for converts, wave and flaunt symbols, insist on pasting our point of view on billboards, or demand that others listen to and follow our point of view. Free thinkers don’t need rituals and traps — or opium in the form of religion. Ms. Parker would be surprized at how many of us there are, and what we have and are quietly, not silently doing.
We have, we do, and we will continue to defend the Constitution and ensure its tenets remain in place. We also understand that fearful people, who’ve been fed religion from birth, prefer not to do their research about the origins of religion and reach logical conclusions. They prefer to remain ignorant — like Ms. Parker. Shame on you for shabby reporting and media spinning!
one of many atheists
October 03, 2001
I just read writer Kathleen Parker’s uncalled-for slam against atheists.
In light of the recent religion-inspired terrorist slaughter in NYC and Washington, DC, her remarks are nearly beneath contempt.
If atheists haven’t spoken, it may be because they don’t have any new wares to peddle in this tragedy. It’s almost sickening to see so many US religious organizations rushing to proselytize their lifestyle at the expense of the victims, many of whom no doubt were atheists. Ms. Parker appears to be no different.
Churches can give comfort to their members without taking out newspaper and television advertisements extolling the wonderfulness of a God who presumably liked what the terrorists were doing, or at least so the terrorists seem to have believed. Where are the words of God blazoned miraculously on the sky stating that the folks who believe in other religions are the ones who are incorrect?
I’m not defending the utterly despicable acts of the radical Islamic religionists. And I’m personally on record in several public forums expressing my disgust at the similarly despicable words of those radical Protestant religionists, Falwell and Robertson, who blamed the death and destruction on homosexuals and the people who have dedicated their lives and careers toward protecting America’s most fundamental human rights.
In fact, atheists were almost certainly killed in the terrorist attacks and atheists are almost certainly busy on the site now helping clean up the debris. There have been plenty of atheists in foxholes over the years, despite self-congratulatory religionist rhetoric.
Atheists are quietly involved in some of the very best and most important of public works in this country. And they have been so involved throughout the history of our country from the beginning.
Contrary to current religionist propaganda, much of it emanating from people like Falwell and Robertson, our country was not founded as a Christian nation. Instead, it was created as an intentionally pluralistic society, free to the expression and practice of any religion, or of no religion.
Our very first president, George Washington, was very likely an atheist, or at least an agnostic. Throughout his tenure as president, he steadfastly resisted espousing any religious activity or participating in any religious organizations. I defy Ms. Parker to show me any documentation that President Washington ever called for incorporating religious ideology into our public institutions.
Our founding fathers knew what Ms. Parker has forgotten, that religion must reside inside the hearts of our people, not in our political institutions.
I’m only 58 years old, and I can remember when the religionists finally succeeded in placing religious symbols on our money and in the pledge of allegiance to our country. This religionist fervor is a new thing in our country, and one that bespeaks its weaknesses, not its strengths.
The United States has been a country of strong individuals, no matter what their religious beliefs may or may not have been. It has been a country of diversity, eager to incorporate into itself people who were different, sometimes unfortunately whether they wanted to be incorporated or not.
Atheists and religious people all know that we absolutely must not turn this conflict into a conflict of one religion against another, of siblings against siblings. And that’s the brutal implication of your writer’s remarks.
History tells us that the most brutal and savage wars are religious feuds. The horrid events of last September 11th tell us the same thing all over again.
Nevertheless, this war is not about atheism, and if it is about religion, it’s only about the worst, most horrible aspects of religion.
As a US citizen with more than 30 years of involvement in community affairs, attempting to represent and care for the best interests of fellow citizens I often did not agree with but nevertheless respected, I am disgusted and repulsed by Ms. Parker’s prejudicial comments.
Please tell her that here’s an atheist who is speaking out, and I’ll put my record of support for my community, for improving my nation, up against hers any day.
The great thing about the United States is that everybody has a voice, even the Parkers and Falwells and Robertsons. So here’s my voice. I make no apology for my own beliefs.
October 03, 2001
To Whom it May Concern:
I read your article concerning the terrorist attacks and God with both interest and dismay. First and foremost I wish to add my voice to the ever-growing group of people the world over who were shocked by what happened on September 11. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims. It was a tragic event that must be rectified. However badly I feel about what happened, I am equally dismayed by your reaction to atheists. As an atheist — yes we are here and in foxholes — I am offended by your remarks. Please inform your readers that it was not atheists, but God-fearing religionists who committed these acts.
If we seem to be silent on this subject perhaps it is because the media who are only focusing on church services. Also did it ever occur to you that because atheists are a discriminated-against minority (when you’re told you’re going to hell for your beliefs it is discrimination) we may not be comfortable expressing our thoughts? You wouldn’t have said those things with that tone against Blacks or Jews or Native Americans. Why are you picking on Atheists?
It is time the silence be broken. Here is something for you to think about: If praying to God will help why didn’t He do something to stop these attacks in the first place? After all He can do anything right? An omnipotent being should have been able to stop a few planes flown by mere mortals. He surely should have known that the attacks were going to happen because He knows everything.
Or perhaps there is no god and these acts were the making of men with twisted beliefs. Did the events of September 11 change my beliefs regarding religion? Yes they did. They polarized against it. Please remember that not everyone is willing to believe in the supernatural.
October 03, 2001
I have never read such a biased, bigoted, false piece in a public newspaper.
There are atheists in foxholes — and in America. A well-known Christian polling organizations estimates that the number of atheists in America at roughly 10 percent. This means that there are more atheists in America than there are Mormons and Muslims combined. They love their country and have died in foxholes around the world so Ms. Parker can spew her bigoted garbage. They died by the hundreds at the WTC. So for Ms. Parker to toss off their lives as not worth counting is a grave mistake. At the very least, Ms. Parker owes these fallen Americans a sincere apology.
Maybe Ms. Parker should reflect back on the good old days when the Pledge of Allegiance did not have the words “under God” in it. These were inserted during the black days of McCarthyism. Or she might remember other good old days when America’s motto was “E Pluribus Unum,” not “In God We Trust.” Such remembrances will surely remind Ms. Parker that our founders had the wisdom not to weave god and country together, knowing as they did that it would do damage to both. They recognized the dangers of zealots of all ages including the Falwells, the Robertsons and, yes, the Parkers of our own age.
I am outraged that the USA Today would publish this editorial. It should be retracted immediately and Ms. Parker should write an extended apology to the millions of good American atheists. Finally, Ms. Parker, if not the whole USA Today editorial staff, should take a long, clear-eyed look at the history of religious violence before thinking again about linking god and country.
Roger S. Schlueter
Santa Barbara, California
October 03, 2001
To the editor
I wish to shatter the silence Kathleen Parker attributes to non-religious Americans. Let me assure her that it does not take supernatural beliefs to be moved by the attack on our nation. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and freethinkers all over America have been acting to help remedy the suffering and prepare for war. The non-religious organizations currently addressing this tragedy are the Red Cross and the U.S. military. Neither has religious requirements for participation or membership.
Of greater concern is Ms. Parker ignorance of American history and law. She thinks atheists took prayer out of the public school rather than the doctrinal disputes between religious groups, most notably Catholics and Protestants. She has no idea that “under God” and “In God We Trust” were changes made only 50 years ago or that our founders separated church and state for the first time in human history.
Depending on your definition, the non-religious make up between one and ten percent of the population, meaning that Ms. Parker slanders the beliefs of 60 to 600 people who died from the terrorist attack .
James R. Dew
“Its seems to me — it’s likely that heaven’s here right now. If you could take life with its pain and misery, where you fail and you sometimes win,
and if you package it into a game, people would pay a fortune to have this game. And I don’t know that I’d want it to be resolved so peacefully that the game would be all over.”
October 03, 2001
The events of Sep. 11, 2001 were some of the most atrocious events I have ever seen during my lifetime. They stirred up tremendous emotions inside me as it has with almost everyone else in this world. However after reading Kathleen Parker’s story entitled “God, country gain fragile new toehold” In the USA Today I became extremely irritated maybe irate at all of her “anti-atheist” comments.
Where does she get off with her comments “One can’t help notice the silence of atheists these days.” Or, “There are no atheists in foxholes, we’ve always known. There were none in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, we can guess. And now there are none anywhere to be found.”
I feel very sorry for the victims and their families who were not of any religious persuasions who would read Kathleen Parker’s malicious words implicating that they were somehow sub-human or less than those persons that believe in God. The same God who was responsible for taking all those 6,000 lives.
Or maybe she finds comfort for herself in thinking that atheists are all cowards and would convert to a religion when things get tough. One reason there may be no atheists in foxholes is because they are on the battlefield actually fighting for their belief in all the freedoms we have come to expect in America.
It appears that Kathleen Parker’s further comments “Which is to say, our children must be awfully confused. Reared and educated in godless institutions that also scarcely acknowledge the importance of patriotism — watching adults sing songs they’ve never learned — they must wonder ‘wassup.’” indicate that she takes no responsibility at home to educate and inform her own son. It may come as quite a surprise to Kathleen but it is not the government’s job to teach Kathleen and her son “her personal beliefs” in public institutions.
This statement bothers me the most. “I don’t know how we reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law with the marriage of God and country demanded by our national psyche, but I’m sure we can figure out something.” This appears that Kathleen is using a horrendous tragedy to bolster her own agenda to force “her superior beliefs” on all those non-believers. Who cares if it is against the law or is against what is morally right?
Kathleen’s last statement is: “If we’re to win this war — sure to last into our children’s futures — we have to reweave the rituals of God and country into our institutions. We can’t expect children to understand and someday defend a heritage that they have never been given.” This shows the exact “elitist” attitude in our country that other countries find deplorable.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no love for any of these terrorists or their type of behavior. I do believe they should be tracked down and dealt with appropriately. However we should also take a look and ask ourselves what causes someone else to hate us so much that they would do these heinous crimes. Is it our wealth, our form of government or our religion they dislike so much?
Let’s use the proper avenues to teach our children to be patriotic, respect and to believe in our great country. Such as in school, at home and by example. Remember Children have a hidden radar which detects hypocrisy. When we discover a weakness in our great country we must address that weakness and correct it properly. We do not need to mix personal religion with government. Too many wars have been fought and too many lives have been lost over just that.
October 03, 2001 3:31 AM
Kathleen Parker says in part of her editorial:
”One can’t help notice the silence of atheists these days.”
Just want you to know that most atheists are not silent these days.You have no knowledge about most atheists in their daily lives. For example, my son who is an atheist served in the last Sadam War. He says, he would be gladly go back and fight for his country and for its rights for freedom. Lady, also my husband paid the price for freedom during the Vietnam years. These atheists you ought to thank, for without them and others, you would not be able to run off your big fat mouth of lies about people. Also, I don’t know how old you are but our flag was not “under God” from the beginning. In fact go read about it and learn that it has been changed at least three times in Congress. Learn some history.
Yes, I love my country, I love my rights as a human being and rights for all mankind. It is religion that is causing this strife from all areas. Yes, we give blood, we give money, we give our time, and we grieve like any one else who was lost in that WTC. By the way, I am deaf but not silent. You don’t spout your words what you think you know about un-believers, atheists or any group that is not Christian base. Next time you go to the hospital and the nurse or doctor who treats you, just think that they might be an atheist. Think when you see someone giving CPR to save someone’s life, could be an atheist. We are not the bad guys honey. Get with it!
Joyce S. Taylor
October 02, 2001
”God” did not help us on September 11.
He didn’t help us before September 11.
He is not going to help us now.
October 03, 2001
As an atheist, I found Ms. Parker’s article rather ridicules. Atheists are, for the most part, a silent minority. A few speak up when they feel their rights are being trampled on by the government. The rest of us keep our mouths shut for fear of being singled out. We haven’t gone away, or converted. we’re simply here, watching the news like the rest of the country, wondering what will happen next.
Ms. Parker says, “America today is about God and country, but then it always has been.” That may be true for the Christians, but for the atheist that is incorrect.
She makes the statement, “There are no atheists in foxholes, we’ve always known. There were none in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, we can guess.”
I am not sure what this means. It borders on absurd — no, it is absurd.
Why would she “guess” there were no atheists in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11? Is she assuming everyone that was not a Christian was converted at the moment of collapse? From what I have read recently, there are about 20,000,000 adults in the US that are “non-believers.” Could that mean that there might be about 375 atheists buried in the WTC rubble? I wonder how many atheists are helping in the recovery effort, oblivious to the fact that they are now believers in God, thanks to the proclamation of Ms. Parker? Personally, my lack of a belief in the God of the bible is as firm as it has been. This devastating tragedy has not for a second caused me to rethink my position. I can not be persuaded by the emotional appeal of the many reverends that spout their diatribe of “God allowed this because....” My mind aches for the thousands that lost their lives, and the hundreds of thousands that lost loved ones because of the actions of a few religious fanatics bent on proving a point.
I am as patriotic as the next fellow. I served ten years in the US Air Force. I am very angry that these Muslims have decided to vent their frustrations by killing the innocent.
Ms. Parker is just one more “believer” that wants me to be forced to listen to the rituals that the religious practice. I’m not surprised. People like her are the reason so few know that I’m an atheist.
October 03, 2001
I was appalled by the article “God, country gain fragile new toehold” by Kathleen Parker. I find Ms. Parkers theorizing that there were no atheists in the trade towers to be uninformed, righteous and hateful. I have a large network of atheist and theist friends and I doubt either would deny the existence of the other or suggest something as preposterous as conversion at the moment death. I am disappointed that a newspaper with your national influence would allow such biased reporting. Ms. Parker went as far as calling for a reversal of church and state to remedy the need of fundamentalists such as herself to pray in state institutions. It is these same fundamentalist views that the government is waging war against. If her children need to pray in school she may send them to a private religious school. If she needs to pray in public she may attend a church or republican convention.
As an atheist, civil libertarian and writer I have been neither silent nor considering conversion, on the contrary, I have become strengthened and vocal in my views and I have become afraid. Not only has the media joined in the cause of the new crusade against those opposing right wing agendas it has began singling out which philosophies the national rage should be transferred to. I need not remind you of the Jerry Falwell viewpoints so similar to Ms. Parker scoffed by the media shortly after the public rejected this view. I am terrified of the Christian backlash that will come out of this tragedy and the McCarthy style witch-hunts that will likely ensue by a country dominated by a media without social accountability. We have already seen Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim murdered, beaten and discriminated against as a result of the media pointing a finger at Islamic Fundamentalists. Now you have chosen atheists as a target on your slow news day. The events on September 11 were a religious act, as are most acts of terrorism and war. If there is a silence perhaps it is because we are mourning for our countrymen without using the occasion to sell something, we are mourning for those in other countries without the need to preach and point fingers, we are respecting the need of the religious to spout their philosophies and we are afraid of becoming targets after reading articles like yours.
October 03, 2001
As an atheist, I have to say that Kathleen Parker’s Oct. 1st article, “God, country gain fragile new toehold”, is absolutely correct in one respect. Except for a few scattered articles by prominent atheists (Richard Dawkins, Lauren Sandler, etc.), which she ignores, we non-religious types have not really been that vocal in these first few weeks after the September 11th atrocities. The reason is that we have been grieving. As humans without a belief in anything like “eternal life after death,” we actually value human life. We know it is finite, and therefore precious. And, as atheists (humans who don’t happen to have any religious beliefs), we don’t have a pro-active political agenda to pursue.
On the other hand, Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, George W. Bush, and, yes, Kathleen Parker, have wasted no time in exploiting this tragic loss of life, lying to the American public in an attempt to stump for their own particular political causes and prejudices. Ms. Parker’s remarks in particular display an ignorance of (or disdain for) American history that could be cured by one quarter’s worth of college social studies. And her unsolicited hatred of the non-religious is shocking. Might she be losing her religion, as most of us regular people have noticed is happening all over the country? It’s entirely natural to rid oneself of make-believe stories after witnessing such an extraordinary loss of life, when it turns out that those stories don’t seem to apply to the real world at all. An omnibenevolent god would never have allowed something like this to happen. And if this “God” really didn’t have control over the Sept. 11th events, then he’s not omni-anything, and is no longer “God”. It’s understandable that Ms. Parker would see such an irresolvable contradiction and jettison her faith. But she needs to find a more constructive way of venting her doubt than slandering an entire subset of society and lying to the public. It’s ironic how the adherents of a belief system that claims a monopoly on morality are so often exactly those who lie and hate (and fly planes into buildings) in the name of their religion.
October 03, 2001
Kathleen Parker wants to hear from atheists. Okay, here I am. What does she want to know? I grieve, I bleed, I can be horrified — but do I pray? No. Ms Parker is a typical example of a theist pretending her mere beliefs are real simply because she has them.
Her “call” for re-entrenchment of religion in America is a blatant opportunistic grab for attention and a whipping up of the flames of religionists who can’t seem to cope with simply having their own beliefs, but want to foist them on all of us.
And as far as children go — especially my own — don’t even try, Ms Parker! They’re doing just fine without the hoopla of songs and slogans — and I might add, talking to oneself as if someone “up there” is actually listening.
If anyone is deprived, its those kids of “believers” who never hear the authentic truth of plain ole existence. I feel sorry for them — and Ms Parker.
Foxholes? As a non-theist I already live in one: its called America.
David H. Kessel
October 03, 2001
It is interesting that Kathleen Parker can’t help noticing the “silence of atheists these days” — as is if September 11 had shut them up but good. One suspects that Parker doesn’t run much in atheist circles or she might notice that the silence of atheists is no different before the attack than after. Atheists, by definition are silent on the subject of god. God is something other people insist on talking about. Well, no matter. She just doesn’t know much about atheism.
What is offensive, though, is the way she so closely entwines patriotism with a god-belief that she seems to suggest that you can’t have one without the other. That somehow atheists don’t have the same sense of outrage at the attack, the same sense of shared grief, the same desire to pull together for our mutual support, the same love for our country and its ideals, the same love of freedom. Once again, Parker seems not to know very much about atheists.
But even that arrogance aside, I have to wonder at her not-so-vague attack on the notion of separation of state and church. She doesn’t “know how we reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law with the marriage of God and country demanded by our national psyche...” Now wait a minute, maybe her national psyche demands that marriage — but not mine. And I live here too. She generously allows that “I’m sure we can figure out something.” Except that something was figured out over 200 years ago.
If Parker needs help in reconciling her dilemma, I would suggest she bone up on her Thomas Jefferson — the main architect of our freedom and one of the most outspoken proponents of state-church separation.
And I’m not sure how many foxholes Parker has visited but in spite of that old saw, during my tour in Viet Nam I met plenty of atheists — and if I had to guess I’d say there were more coming out than going in. Merely an observation, though.
October 02, 2001
God, country gain fragile new toehold
by Kathleen Parker
To Whom it may Concern:
Ms. Parker needs perhaps to familiarize herself with both history and the U. S. Constitution. I, as an atheist, am dismayed by the knee-jerk turn to god after the September 11th attack and disaster. What this world needs is less reliance on gods, not more. Gods, religion and the inevitable fanaticism are the root cause of the horrific attack on our country. Without the fanatical, bizarre and nauseating beliefs of some sort of reward in an afterlife, these attacks would not be feasible to the zealots that perpetrated them. This world needs less superstition, not more. History shows us the awful and deadly signature that religion and belief in gods have left on this planet. Is it no wonder? One has to just read the Bible to observe that the mythological Christian god was the greatest mass murderer of all time. Is it any small wonder that those who act in the name of the god they so idolize would emulate his actions?
With regard to Ms. Parker’s bemoaning the Separation of Church and State, I can only challenge her to read those documents and history and try to understand the tremendous importance of this concept and how very vital it is to the continuity of this great nation. No, it is not all right to kill in the name of Jesus or God, to lie in their behalf or to subvert our Constitution or Bill of Rights to accommodate a religious fervor kindled by our most recent national disaster.
Where was the Christian god when the planes slammed into the two World Trade Center towers? If a god is unable or unwilling to stop such a disaster, is this god worthy of worship? Isaiah 45:7 gives some insight as to what sort of god people are praying to: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Should not these gods, be it Allah or Yahweh, be blamed instead of praised?
Mankind would be so much better off without the shackles of religion and superstition. Religious differences breed hate, intolerance and fanaticism. September the 11th is a horrendous example of what can result from this fanaticism, in the name of religion.
The religious zealots in our own country would like nothing better than to take advantage of our country’s misfortune to undermine the Constitution and promote their own religious agenda. Our Constitution was written the way it was for a purpose and we must never forget this purpose.
October 02, 2001
Kathleen Parker, in her column, “God, country gain fragile new toehold,” wonders where the atheists are, since the terrorist attacks on the US. Well, we’re right where we’ve always been, right amongst the rest of you, whether you like it or not. Just like we were in foxholes during wars, and just like we were in the World Trade Center, all of these despite Parker’s claims. We formally protested Bush’s proclamation of a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, which the press typically ignored. We’re here. We’re just not being looked at.
If atheists have been quieter than usual lately, it’s not hard to understand why. We look around and see these excessive emotions of nationalism and religiosity running rampant, and know unquestionably that voicing unpopular opinions could result in violence. We’re all too familiar with the danger in this volatile mix in America right now. We’re used to being hated for our non-belief, but have no desire to be martyred because of it.
But if God and prayers are the answer, why didn’t they work on September 11? I imagine the passengers on those jets were praying for God to save them. And the thousands killed in the buildings’ collapse must have done the same. But they all still died. And why did God make it rain on the rescue workers digging valiantly to find survivors, making their jobs that much more difficult and dangerous? God sure has an odd way of showing his alleged infinite love and mercy.
October 2, 2001
I happen to be a veteran of the United States Air Force who served my country honorably from 19531957. I also happen the be an atheist in the proud American tradition of Mark Twain and Robert G. Ingersoll.
Ms. Parker needs reminding that the people who committed the criminal assault on our country were believers in a god. They were animated by a selfrighteousness that all zealots bestow upon themselves especially when their god commands them to kill.
The god Ms. Parker and other Christians as well as Jews believe in inspired Moses to commit mass murder as recorded in Holy Writ, the mass murder of babies, women and children:
”Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for Yourselves. (Numbers 31: 19).
Ms. Parker’s gratuitous insults directed against patriotic American foxhole serving atheists as represented by Civil War Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll down to my friend the late Elmer O. Hochkammer, who was severely wounded in the Papua New Guinea campaign of 1942-43, not to mention others who have served their country in combat since, were certainly out of place in a national publication at a time of national crisis.
Her remarks were especially gratuitous in light of the crimes her god has inspired as recorded in the so-called Holy Bible.
Robert E. Nordlander
October 02, 2001
Kathleen Parker (God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold) — USA Today 10-1-01) may be assured that atheists haven’t gone away in the wake of the September 11 atrocity. They can be found donating blood, searching for survivors, watching the news, mourning America’s lost lives and lost innocence. Many are signing up for military duty. Despite what former President George H. W. Bush may have thought, atheists are patriotic Americans too.
Ms. Parker wants to know “how we reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law with the marriage of God and country demanded by our national psyche...” The answer is simple, and has been provided by our Founding Fathers. We maintain the legal separation of church and state, while allowing every American to follow the religious beliefs of his choice. This is the principle that distinguishes America from nearly all other countries, and ensures that groups like the Taliban, or their equivalents in other religious traditions, will never come to power in this country.
October 02, 2001
Kathleen Parker asserts that American children need more exposure (through song and dictum) to their “traditional heritage” of patriotism and God. “From the beginning of American time,” Parker says, “the two [God and country] have been entwined and inseparable.” While most of our patriotic standards (God Bless America, the Pledge of Allegiance) do refer to a god, it is ridiculous to assert that patriotism and God are inseparable.
America’s founding fathers went out of their way to make it clear that America is not founded on religious principles and ideas; there is not one reference to a god in the entirety of America’s founding documents. And although the writers and signers of the Constitution did not mention a god, I have no doubt they were patriots. I personally learned patriotism from studying civics and American and world history, and from my parents.
Both history and the present day teach us that mixing government and religion is a very messy business (Which god? Which religion? Which non-religion?). So generally, our public institutions avoid public displays of reference to a god or religion, and our Supreme Court continues its 225-year history of sorting out values that are based on reason and humanity from values that are based on sectarian beliefs (fortunately the two often overlap).
Parker says she doesn’t “know how we can reconcile the legal separation of church and state required by law but I’m sure we can figure out something” in order to expose American children to their “traditional heritage.” Children and other citizens can be exposed to patriotism (with and without a god) in countless clubs, private organizations, religious meeting places, and households. Dismantling one of the most basic premises of our Constitution (that certainly would not be patriotic, would it?) is not an option to be considered. While theism may not be celebrated and promoted throughout our public institutions to the extent Parker would like, patriotism is (and was before September 11). Banners yet wave, because while not all of us are united in terms of our theistic beliefs, it appears that the vast majority of us are united in our patriotism.
October 01, 2001
Kathleen Parker (“God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold,” 1 October 2001) does not know American history or the American people. The nation she describes as deserving honor would be too narrow and shallow to deserve the patriotism now being showered on it — but it is not the patriotism that is wrong. Every strong supporter of separation of church and state I know, including every atheistic American I know, has been part of the national grief, but we have been restrained to try to avoid hurting our religious friends.
I served in the U.S. Army and I’ve faced death — and my lack of faith in the supernatural has remained constant. Traumatic events have increased my understanding of how deeply I care about those I love, intensified my appreciation of the pleasure of being alive, and otherwise changed my perspective — but never provided me a shred of evidence of any forces beyond nature. There are thousands of other “atheists in foxholes” and always have been. There were almost certainly hundreds of nonreligious people among the dead office workers, airline passengers, public safety officers, and military women and men on September 11th — and not one of them deserves Ms. Parker’s insults.
In these terrible days no one should be deprived of the comfort some can take from religion, but it is profoundly unAmerican to suggest that being religious and being patriotic are the same thing. Many fanatics, apparently including those who attacked us, are religious, but that hardly qualifies them as patriots.
Separation of church and state remains one of the most American of principles, one that protects the liberty of theists and atheists alike. I strongly support the U.S. and our governing (godless) charter, the Constitution. I do so precisely because this is a nation where all of us are free to speak our minds, to criticize our government, and to believe in any gods or none, according to the dictates of our consciences.
Ed Buckner, Executive Director
Council for Secular Humanism
Amherst NY 14226-0664
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