As a self-proclaimed secular conservative, I often confuse people when I take aim at policies that attempt to institutionalize an Atheist approach to governance. But why? If Atheists don’t believe in God, wouldn’t that be the perfect way to separate church and state? While a Godless republic on its face seems like a great secular idea, I take issue with the evangelical Atheists who would spread Atheism just as much as I take issue with the evangelical Christians who want to spread religion.
I define “religion” as a collection of beliefs on the nature of the divine. Most religions include what God is, who God is, and how God wants people to behave. While people would doubtlessly disagree with me, I see Atheism as a religion. The premise of Atheism is simple: there is no God. But that very premise is a belief (or a conclusion, if you would prefer that word) about the nature of the divine – and that makes it a religion.
Our government is forbidden from adopting a state religion by the constitution. The establishment clause was written to guarantee each American the right to worship God however we want to without fear of persecution, discrimination, or disenfranchisement. It was written so that a Prodistant government could not abuse Catholic citizens, a Catholic government couldn’t abuse Jewish citizens, Jewish citizens couldn’t abuse Islamic citizens, et cetera. Free practice of our religious beliefs is a basic right we all share.
My problem with an Atheistic approach to government is that evangelical Atheists and extremist Atheists are no less ravenous than evangelical Christians and extremists Christians. An extreme Atheist approach – one where prayer is not permitted, the commandments may not be displayed, church groups may not distribute aid, politicians may not openly practice their beliefs, or where it becomes acceptable to openly mock persons of faith – is no different or less disturbing than any other extreme religious approach.
Our government is an instrument to defend our basic rights. The right to worship however we want to is one of those rights. Government should be above the religious debate. It should not be Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Scientologist, Jedi, or Atheist. Extremist and evangelical policies have no place in the halls of congress.
So, from a secularist to the Atheists: Religion has no place in government. Not even Atheism.