A fair amount of passionate wrath of Christians angered by my column about what I believe is the misuse of religion by those who claim “God’s law” overrides the law of the land and must be followed without question or verification.
Many assumed that since I wrote a piece that raised questions about the practice that I must — of course — be an atheist.
The column, at no point, indicated what I — myself — believed in. It simply reported questions that I felt could, and should, be raised. As for my more specific beliefs on deities, they are none of your business. My religious beliefs are my business and not yours.
I do not believe in organized religion. That does not mean that I don’t believe in God. In covering religion over the years, I have observed that organized religions are too often business enterprises that twist the words of God for personal and commercial gain. I have debated that belief many times over the years with ministers, at meetings and on TV and the Internet. I have written about it may times.
The mistaken assumptions of my atheism comes as a surprise to a my minister friends — Christians, a couple of rabbis, a handful of priests and others — who enjoy debating religion when we gather, have lunch or drink coffee. I carry a 21-year chip from Alcoholics Anonymous, a recovery group based on religion.
I’m also a newspaperman. Have been one for more than half a century, except for a decade-long venture into the dark side of life as a political operative. Legendary Chicago newspaperman Findley Peter Dunne once wrote that it is the role of a newspaperman to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
If Tuesday’s column, The Terrorism of God’s Law, afflicted some of you then perhaps you are too comfortable in your assumptions about life around you. It’s my job to raise questions in the minds of readers. Mission accomplished.
While a few readers seized on a typo (corrected) on the year of the bombing of the World Trade Center, more than a few made incorrect assumptions about me, this web site, or the focus of the article.
I laughed at the assumption by one complainer that Capitol Hill Blue is a “new web site.” In fact, CHB is the oldest political news site on the web — established on October 1, 1994. We will be celebrating our 21st birthday in a few weeks.
Others demanded I be fired for what I wrote. That’s difficult. I own the place. The only person who can fire me is me. Ain’t gonna happen.
Several assumed I’m a “liberal” or a “Democrat.” Wrong again. I’m a political agnostic. I’ve never registered with any party, I vote for the person not the party and my beliefs are all over the place. I’m a gun owners who often carries a concealed weapon (legally), a man who believes in a woman’s right to choose and the right of anyone to marry or have sex with members of the opposite or same sex. I’m pro-business on many issues, support capital punishment and oppose legalization of drugs, including marijuana.
The column byline stated the article was an opinion piece. Apparently some of you missed that part. I wrote my first newspaper column for The Roanoke Times in 1966. Been writing opinion columns ever since. My newspaper career began when I sold my first news photo to The Farmville Herald in 1959. Started working for a newspaper, The Floyd Press, in 1963. Joined The Roanoke Times in 1965.
One poster, whose comments were not cleared by our spam filter, suggested “your mind is destroyed by too many blowjobs performed on your gay buddies.” That came as a surprise of my wife of 35 years. Yes, I have several gay friends but I’m a flaming heterosexual. Always have been. I do support gay rights and gay marriage. Always have.
As a newspaperman who also writes for the Internet, shoots photographs for publication in print and online and shoots video for TV stations and the Web, I approach all assignments with an open, but speculative, mind. My first City Editor once told me: “If your mother says she loves you, confirm it with a second source.” Over the years, I have found that ignoring that piece of advice can cost you. The only retractions I have had to write came from pieces that were not confirmed with a second source. My bad.
My skepticism applies to religion as well. Much of what is preached by ministers and other members of the clergy is thinly sourced, often third-hand information. The Bible is touted as “the word of God.” In my opinion, it is the word of individuals who quoted others about what God might have said, assuming that anyone actually talked to any deity. It is a book of tall tales with stories about parting seas and other natural phenomena. Both the Old and New Testaments talk of water turning to wine, demons spouting threats and warnings, men walking on water and unassisted ascensions into the skies.
Imagine the responses if any news media source reported such as part of today’s news. Let’s see the video.
In 1977, I took part in a panel discussion in St. Louis on news media and religion. The panel had a protestant minister, a priest, a rabbi, an atheist and myself. One member of the audience asked the priest: “Father, why are there so many religions?”
His response: “In many cases, it depends on what portion of the Bible you choose to accept as gospel or if there is another document you find as a holy guide.”
That brought a question from me: “Father, if you are saying it is acceptable to accept or not accept parts of the Bible, how can you then disregard the atheist here who chooses to not accept any holy book or religious belief?”
He paused and then replied: “I don’t know. I can only answer that I believe. Others should make their own choices.”
Lots of talk about freedom of religion but not much about freedom of choice.
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