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Atheism is not a religion.

Suppose you're filling out a form and you come to the space labeled "Children." You enter "none." Does doing so make you a parent? Of course, nobody in her or his right mind would say so. Yet, I suspect that letter writer Steven Wennerstrom (Letters, May 2004) speaks for many of your readers when he contends, "atheism is a belief system just like a religion."

Atheism is not a religious belief; it is the absence of a religious belief. It is no more a religion than bald is a hair color or health is a disease.

And why is this distinction so important? Because if atheism is seen as just another kind of religion, then there's a glimmer of truth to Wennerstrom's contention that "removing all references to God in government can be reasonably viewed as establishing an atheistic philosophy." Of course, since his premise is utterly without foundation, his conclusion is utterly without merit.

To dramatize this point, imagine a society that really does actively promote atheism. Come Easter, schoolchildren are invited to tell the class their favorite crucifixion jokes. The Pledge of Allegiance comes complete with the phrase "one nation without God." Monuments are erected in public squares saying "Yahweh, God, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, Manitou, and all the rest are just frauds." City council meetings are opened with readings from Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain and Robert Ingersoll satirizing religion.

Needless to say, if the government tried to establish this kind of aggressive atheism, religious believers would justifiably object. Why, then, is it so difficult for them to see the problems that we atheists have when they try to use the very same coercive governmental mechanisms to foist their beliefs on us?

Richard S. Russell

Madison, Wise.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Russell, Richard S.
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:288
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