(U-WIRE) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – In God most of us trust. It is said that 94 percent to 96 percent of Americans believe in a god. In such times as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that means as much as 96 percent of our nation likely will turn to religion seeking answers.
There is no reason they should not be allowed to do this. They should not be shoved behind closed doors to conduct their search for meaning. If Americans want to talk with others who share their beliefs and want to find their way out of the darkness together, that is their right.
And as a U.S. citizen, President George W. Bush has the right to do the same. He asked those who pray to pray to their God. He did not tell the nation to pray; he just suggested it.
It does not have to do with the separation of church and state. It has to do with the separation of George W. Bush and the office of the president. He is religious; his office is not.
People should understand that atheists do find meaning in their lives. Many atheists feel as terrible about the attacks as those believing in God. Atheists also search for answers as to why this happened. They just find the answers in different places. But atheists also need to understand that those who do believe in God need to express their faith.
Religious people are not necessarily trying to shun atheists. They are just coping the best way they know how.
Bringing God into political speeches is not meant to rally the troops. It is not meant to spur a holy war. It is simply an attempt to console lost individuals. It is meant to give some people comfort.
Do not let this be something that divides the country. One thing we never seem to learn as a nation is that different is not better or worse; it is just different. We ask different questions. We find different answers. And we believe in different things. One paradigm is not better than the other, and neither group should force their beliefs on the other.
The purpose of the separation of church and state is to allow everyone to believe freely what he or she wants. Everyone can believe in any god, no god or many gods. Silencing religious speech goes against the freedom to express faith. Bush can say, “God bless America” because our Constitution says he can. Telling people not to bring God into the terrorist attacks is asking people to silence their beliefs.
Not only is this impossible for most religious people to do, but it also goes against what our country stands for. It is not that our country was founded on religion or meant for religious people only. It means that the minority of people are allowed as strong a voice as the majority. It does not, however, mean the minority of people can silence the voice of the majority.
Daily Illini (U. Illinois)