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What About Freedom From Religion?
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The most recent surveys show that nearly 30 million Americans -- more than 10 percent of the population -- are atheists, agnostics or otherwise have no religion. Many of them have a moral code at least as strong as that of the religious, a belief in promoting human values without reference to religious doctrine. But they generally are treated by government officials and others as immoral, as second-class citizens whose very existence is barely acknowledged.

Despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom from as well as freedom of religion, religious dogma is a principal influence at all levels of government. Those who argue primarily or solely on the basis of religious faith almost invariably prevail in political debates on abortion, gay rights and other important secular matters.

Even people of faith should be offended by the constant attempts of politicians to curry favor by hypocritical references to God, their constant invoking of God to justify their policies and actions.

President Bush typically declared that "Americans feel our reliance on the Creator who made us. We received our rights from God." Vice President Cheney asserts that "every great and meaningful achievement in this life requires the active involvement of the One who placed us here for a reason."

Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn't even include nonbelievers among the civilized. He has insisted that "civilized people all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator." You may think our freedom came from the people we elect and a document -- the Constitution -- that governs their conduct. But Ashcroft insists that American freedom "is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God."

Most Democrats, to be sure, are as dismissive of nonbelievers as Bush, Ashcroft, Cheney and their fellow Republicans. Listen, for example, to former Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman informing us of a "need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God's purpose."

Lieberman and others in the religious majority, both in and out of political office, seem not to care that they are imposing their beliefs on others, thanks to their irrational certainty -- or pretense -- that their beliefs are facts. No proof, only blind faith, is offered as evidence that they are right -- and none is required, because the majority rules.

Copyright Dick Meister