- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

“The law is a ass, a idiot,” said parish beadle Mr. Bumble in Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” People of faith today have every reason to reach a similar conclusion, as endless head-butting with the secular legal system seems to occur with dismaying regularity.

Whether the heartless inflexibility of the state and federal courts that discounted the moral dimensions of the Terri Schiavo case, or the long-running battles with secularists who want to remove every vestige of religion from the public square, cases pitting religion against secular forces grow apace.

Believers are tuned to every secular thrust: the drive to suppress Christmas in public schools; removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings; objection to a teacher wearing a cross on a necklace; harassment of the Boy Scouts; banishment of Nativity scenes; removal of cross symbols from historical signs; release of a known killer because a juror consulted the Bible during a trial, and on and on.

A perverse image comes to mind — a vampire cowering in fear when the dreaded cross is flashed in front of him. Thus militant secularists recoil in horror when confronted with religious symbols in their everyday lives.

While believers and nonbelievers come in all different varieties, one wonders what the real reason for agnostics’ and atheists’ animus against religious beliefs and practices must be. Is it simply general discomfort, like a Michigan football fan in the midst of Ohio State partisans? Why would an atheist bring a case all the way to Supreme Court in an effort to strike the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance? Why would a father sue the Boy Scouts to force them admit his atheist son to their theistic ranks?

Pared of the usual smoke screen reasons — separation of church and state, discrimination, etc. — the root cause is mere hubris, the arrogant, overweening presumption of nonbelievers that they have the corner on truth.

Life is, as they say, too short for believers to worry about the trivial matters that set atheists vibrating: whether the Ten Commandments should hang in a schoolroom; if Frostie the Snowman must be included in a manger scene; or if Christmas carols should be removed from high-school choral repertories.

What bothers atheists and agnostics is that religious folks have some certainty about their beliefs — they believe in a higher power that interacts some with people. Nonbelievers have no such certainty, only doubts. More important, they resent the believers’ claim to certainty.

While believers really don’t care that there are atheists among them — except as souls to be saved, maybe — atheists can’t stand the fact there are so many believers. So they superciliously construe any public demonstrations or symbols of faith as an affront to their sensibilities — no more, no less.

But believers are concerned about the country’s increasing secularization. Since more than 80 percent of Americans claim to be religious, this process is driven by a minority using a misreading of the First Amendment. The tail wags the dog. It is an irony atheists claim the majority is intolerant, yet it is they who run to court to have their views prevail.

Believers maintain morality ultimately derives from God, Who has been revealed throughout history. In contrast, secularists believe moral issues can be resolved purely rationally.

These contradictory positions remain a mystery. Every person must reach his or her own answers based on religious teaching, philosophic questioning and personal experience.

The implications are vast for a society whose members and leaders are not informed by moral and ethical principles. Whether these derive from a Higher Power is an open question, and people will ultimately choose what they believe.

Finally, it would help if every truth-seeker would take a course in the philosophy of religion, which might bring some intellectual modesty to these matters. It might similarly reveal the truth of which Isaiah spoke, about how the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

BARRETT KALELLIS

Mr. Kalellis is a Michigan-based columnist and writer. He may be reachedat:

kalellis@hotmail.com.

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