Opinion | Kate Cohen gives voice to a silent (but growing) American minority


Kudos to Kate Cohen for giving voice in her Feb. 7 Tuesday Opinion column, “In America, you have to opt out of religion in public life. That’s backward,” to the silent (but growing) minority: the American atheist. As Ms. Cohen pointed out, too often we atheists are placed in embarrassing or uncomfortable positions of having to forcibly declare our religious status in schools, courts or just sitting down to dinner as guests of religious friends and family.

Where I live, “In God We Trust” is inscribed on government buildings and every city police car, which, when you think about it, is incredibly ironic. (No voting on the decision to do so apparently was necessary.) Atheists and agnostics understand that invoking “god” doesn’t imply any specific god or religion, but what is largely ignored by the religious population is that it does imply a belief in some god. So, when federal, state and local governments allow “its” existence to be presumed, they are violating not only our rights to not believe but the U.S. Constitution as well.

Atheists prefer to keep a low profile. We don’t wear our hair strangely or don costumes, hats or jewelry that proclaim our religious preference. We know better. We understand how difficult it is for the faithful to tolerate and turn the other cheek.

Craig M. Miller, Leland, N.C.

Faith-based organizations are part of the nation’s social safety net. No matter how heavily we fund government-run social service agencies, they cannot replicate the best faith-based groups. Take, for example, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who selflessly care for older people without means. The key word here is “selflessly.” Medicaid cannot match the dedication of these nuns, and it would be unreasonable to expect it to.

Likewise, faith-based adoption and foster care agencies offer unparalleled “wraparound” services to families in ways unmatched by secular entities. And turning to something greater than our own brokenness is the crucial ingredient found in 12-step addiction recovery programs (most of which, incidentally, do not fit into any neat definition of religious belief).

Does stripping the public square of belief in God treat people of fervent faith as second-class citizens and run contrary to the demands of our Constitution and recent legislation? I believe it does. But the exclusion of faith-based groups will harm the most vulnerable Americans, ironically as we genuflect to secularist dogma.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, McLean

The writer is director of the Conscience Project and a media fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America.

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