March 19, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘One Nation Under God’

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To the Editor:

When I read Michael Johns, Jr.’s column, I was both hurt and disappointed. Hurt by the implication that I — as an atheist — lack a proper moral framework, and disappointed that in the 21st century there are still those who cling to the belief that organized religion is a necessity for people to have morals.

I do not feel a need, as an atheist, to attack the moral foundations of others, and I am quite confident in my morals and what I choose to believe. I do not feel a need to become religious, and yet some will continue to insist that I am, somehow, lost. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut ’44, “I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead.” I may not hold the fear of God in my heart, but I am perfectly capable as a human of formulating and understanding my own morals. My moral belief in liberalism is just as coherent, universal and legitimate as any organized religion. While I appreciate that the author acknowledges with much magnanimity that my perspective on morals as an atheist is “often coherent,” I do not need such assurances.

This is not to say that those who practice and hold faith closely are somehow wrong or lesser than myself.  I respect their choices. What I reject is condescension and the insinuation that my morals are somehow lesser because I choose not to subscribe to a particular belief system. I reject using organized religion as a weapon to grandstand about “identity politics” or “environmental scare tactics,” and I believe we should engage in discourse instead of fear-mongering about the disappearance of organized religion and condescendingly chastising atheists.

James Piccirilli ’21