Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama and a Non-Believer's Values

I want you to send a letter to President Barack Obama. The letter should go something like this:

Dear Mr. President

Several times now you have had gatherings where people of faith have been brought together to present their visions of America both in the form of informal discussions and through services. You have given them an opportunity discuss their views and their values, and to give sermons and offer prayers regarding your administration and the future of the country.

In each of these cases, you have sought fit not to make room for anybody to present a non-theistic view.

It is as if you hold a common prejudice that, when it comes to questions of value and to how best to guide the country forward, that an atheist has nothing to say on these matters. Only people of faith have values – which easily translates into the view that only people of faith have value. All others – non-believers – are fit only to be ruled by their religious 'betters' who will serve as guides, but unfit to offer guidance on the direction that the country should go or the values that the nation should promote.

Perhaps you think that non-believers do not have a place at such a gathering because they have plenty of other opportunities to present their view to the President. Yet, there are two problems with this line of reasoning.

The first is that it assumes that, when not in a faith-based gathering, you prohibit those who believe in God from speaking and listen only to the atheist. Yet, I sincerely doubt that you exercise this type of control over who is allowed to give advice when not at such a gathering.

The second problem is that such a doctrine would still falls into the morally murky ground of "separate but equal". It is a Segregationist’s approach to values.

Of course, one could make the claim, "Why would an unbeliever want to attend a faith-based conference anyway?"

Which is a bit like asking, "Why would a black person want to be a member to a whites only club anyway?"

The question I am asking is about the appropriateness of a whites only club – a club in which white people (and white people only) are allowed to assemble and present their views to the President, and a faith-based only club where only people of faith are invited to come together and share their views with the President.

Perhaps a better option would be to have a values gathering. It would be a gathering where people of faith, certainly, can come together to express their views and provide a vision for the future of the country. However, it would be a gathering from which those whose values are not grounded on scripture can also have their say and express their vision.

Every time you have one of these gatherings – and you do not make a place for somebody who believes that there is no God – you are promoting and fostering the idea that, when it comes to guiding the country, non-believers have nothing of value to say. They are not worth listening to. Somebody must be a person of faith to have a vision for the future of the country that is worth considering. Those without faith have no values and, as such, they have no value.

That makes you an agent of prejudice.

I write to ask you to put an end to that particular practice.


Alonzo Fyfe


Anonymous said...

Typo: "Barak" instead of "Barack".

anton said...

Perhaps he should get a list of the world's top 10 people in finance, science, medicine, literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc. that identifies also that most of them are atheists. These are the people to whom he is not listening! The anti-intellectualism that identified the Shrubs reign must end if US America, and the world, is to progress. He could put out a hand to Noam Chomsky, for example, and find that the fist is not clenched . . . and Chomsky's mind is focused on what is good for America! The problem is that most intelligent "non-believers" still do not have a place at the table.

Martin Freedman said...

A minor quibble

"In each of these cases, you have sought fit not to make room for anybody to present a secular view."

Surely the state should be secular both on moral and the establishment clause grounds, that is neutral to religion and faith?

Why not say atheist or naturalist or faith-free view?

Anonymous said...

I was somewhat surprised to see so much prayer at the inauguration. As a non-believer it did give me pause. Aren't we supposed to have a separation of church and state? I suppose no one can win the Presidency anymore without being one of the "faithful."

Alonzo Fyfe said...


I had caught the confusion you mentioned at once place, but apparently one slipped through.

I plan on sending the letter this evening, and will include the correction.

Pedro Timotoe

I have made your correction as well.

vjack said...

I think this is a great idea and will plan to send a version of this letter as well.