LETTER TO THE EDITOR: God isn’t punishing America for a lack of religion

It is simply astonishing that people continue to blame current difficulties (economy, weather, crime, drugs, violence, etc.) on the lack of public devotion to religion. First, the rates of crime and violence and level of economic despair today are lower than at any time in the history of the world or this nation, though income distribution could certainly be more equitable. There was never a time in American history when people had the degree of freedom, rights and knowledge that they do today.

Second, America was already settled when the first Europeans landed on its shores. For those who consider the Pilgrims the first settlers, their ship, the Mayflower, carried an equal number of religious dissenters against the Church of England and adventurers not of their faith. In fact, most of the Pilgrims had lived in religiously tolerant Holland for several years and left because they feared losing their English identity.

Once ashore, the entire bunch embarked on a campaign to appropriate land and protect themselves against the native inhabitants. Ironically, a century and a half later, their descendants famously declared independence from England! The Constitution of the new United States was a secular document, written by Deists. They omitted any mention of God.

Those who consider early American history to be a period of religious piety rewarded by the beneficence of God should also acknowledge that it was a time of genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of people of color. Women and children had no rights, while differences of opinion were resolved by violence.

During the first half of the 19th century, a religious Great Awakening failed to bring about a just society. Ultimately, Abraham Lincoln remarked, the great American sin could not be wiped away before every drop of blood drawn by the slaver’s lash was matched by an equal amount drawn by the sword. Slavery was officially ended, but subjugation, persecution and discrimination endured.

Third, Jesus himself urged his listeners to pray in private because God already knew what was in their hearts. The essence of Jesus’ message was to love God wholeheartedly and love your neighbors as yourself. Serving God meant serving the least fortunate of those among us.

Fast forward to the United States today: Despite the concerns expressed by some politicians who angle for religious votes, we are hardly being overrun by illegal immigrants. All evidence is that more immigrants have left the country during the current (Obama) administration than have arrived. Reasons include the economic collapse in 2008, better border security and a record number of deportations.

Even more important than the loss of American jobs and the expansion of employment in Mexico in reducing illegal immigration is the fact that the birth rate among Mexican women has dropped precipitously over the past few decades from six per woman to two per woman.

Actually, the widespread availability of sex education and birth control in this country has reduced the rate of teen pregnancies and abortions to record lows. Instead of picketing Planned Parenthood clinics, people of religious faith should get behind family-planning efforts instead of attempting to hinder them!

Blaming catastrophes such as the 9/11 attack and the refugee crisis in the Middle East on the lack of public religious displays is disingenuous. People who do so, whether religious or not, are simply ignoring the actions of our government in that region. We have engaged in overthrow of elected governments, support for repression, and unjustifiable invasions.

Instead of demonizing refugees who were forced from their homes by violence resulting, in some degree, from American actions, we should be sympathetic to their plight and willing to help them. Laudably, many religious leaders have urged that we do. The relative few (thousands out of millions) who have passed through years of security screening are not a serious threat to public safety.

Religious castigation of homosexuality as an abomination before God that requires divine punishment is nonsensical in light of our current knowledge of biology. Such a position becomes ludicrous if the accompanying biblical requirement of death for adulterers is ignored. And proscribing the consumption of shellfish … c’mon now!

Adherence to religious beliefs and participation in religious celebrations are personal choices. Many people in this country have been and are motivated to do well by their religious beliefs. They should be encouraged to put their commitment to God and their fellow humans in practice. However, being a good citizen and support for the unfortunate are not restricted to those who outwardly practice a particular faith. Religious liberty means that the government should not be supporting religion. The growing diversity of religions and increasing number of citizens without religious belief should be respected. There should be no requirements for people to pray to a god or gods not of their choosing.

Mike Apgar
Dover

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