Church-state wall isn't felled by speaking of God in public
Regarding Erwin Chemerinsky's June 18 opinion piece "Tiptoeing around 'under God' ": As a longtime supporter of the constitutional separation between church and state, I agree with the author's intent to end governmental policies supporting any particular religious denomination. But I disagree that referring to God in public statements necessarily violates that intent and establishes religion.
Thomas Jefferson is considered by most to be the architect of the wall of separation between church and state, as well as the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson often referred to God, both in the Declaration of Independence and elsewhere, without apparent fear of breaching the wall that he built. His writings and words indicate that he felt God's existence is an undeniable fact of life, like gravity or love. In fact, without acknowledging God's supremacy as the Creator, the Declaration of Independence would lose much of its legitimacy and force. Who or what else could endow us with inalienable rights?
The Declaration of Independence also declares the principle that all men are created equal, although many people then and now refuse to accept this principle. It was an idea in advance of its time. Liberty and justice for all is slowly becoming universally accepted as society progresses. Could it be that the Founding Fathers realized that a universal acknowledgment of the Supreme Being as more than a strictly religious concept was also an idea in advance of its time?
I found Arnold E. Resnicoff's June 28 opinion piece "On becoming our own worst enemy" disturbing. He quotes the untrue maxim, "There are no atheists in foxholes," and then makes the true statement that "foxholes can breed atheists." However, he goes on to equate atheism with loss of "all faith in dreams" and the values of fighting fire with fire and "dog eat dog." Put with the rest of his essay, this paragraph implies that atheism is the evil about which he writes.
Atheism is no more than lack of belief in deity. As an atheist, I simply don't believe the stories of gods are true. Atheism in no way negates one's faith in dreams, care and concern for others, morality, or a sense of justice.
Palm Bay, Fla.
Edward Girardet's June 24 opinion piece, "Losing humanitarian perspective in Afghanistan," calls for additional efforts to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. However, his advice should be heeded as a solution to preaching the virtues of democracy beyond the Afghan borders as well.
The pragmatic value of a population's support in a foreign policy initiative cannot be overstated. If the US were to invest enough aid and attention in Afghanistan, it would have a successful model on which to base further efforts at proselytizing other populations and perhaps nations.
For example, insurgents in Iraq have developed tactics designed to maintain a long-term and destabilizing presence that will continually threaten a fledgling democracy. However, an American demonstration of the virtues of free and fair elections vis-à-vis a democratic Afghanistan will bypass the influence of radical Islam and establish a basis from which to convince the people of Iraq to embrace a democratic polity. Afghanistan should not be neglected but rather used to ease the tumultuous development of a nascent Western political tradition.
To win the opinion of the people is to win the war.
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