Letter to the Editor: Atheism is not a belief system


William Shifflet demonstrates his inability to understand what atheism is all about in his March 3 commentary in the Northern Virginia Daily.

What’s not to understand about atheism? For the umpteenth time, atheism is not a belief system nor is it a rejection of God per se, it is simply a rejection of the theistic conception of God.

Theism defines God as a supreme being, supernatural in power, dwelling outside of the natural world, periodically invading the world to impose his divine will, to reward or punish or to answer prayers. Once one rejects theism, it opens the mind to new and exciting possibilities. Some seek new ways to define God as does enlightened theologians such as Bishop John Shelby Spong, who has devoted his life to God, his church and his savior Jesus of Nazareth. Others like myself embrace a philosophical world view based on reason called secular humanism.

The problem here, as I see it, is that members of the religious community, especially the fundamentalists who are dedicated to teaching creationism in our public schools, feel that they should be immune from public criticism about their beliefs and that we from the non-religious community should be careful not to offend their fundamentalist Christian views.

As H.L. Menckin said after the Scopes monkey trial: ” … even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has the right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided that he does not try to inflict them upon others by force. He has the right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has the right to teach them to his children but he has no right to be protected against the free criticism from those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge.”

Be assured, humanists do not proselytize. If they have an agenda, it is to protect with all the means possible at their disposal the strict separation of church and state, nothing more than that.

Gene Rigelon, Front Royal