Senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, declared two years ago, “Ultimately, freedom of speech is about ascertaining the truth. And if you don’t believe there’s a truth, you don’t believe in truth, if you’re an utter secularist, then how do we operate this government? How can we form a democracy of the kind I think you and I believe in . . . I do believe that we are a nation that, without God, there is no truth, and it’s all about power, ideology, advancement, agenda, not doing the public service.”
So . . . if one is an atheist or agnostic one is not inclined toward public service. This of course is easily disproved by all the atheists and agnostics who work for different levels of government and numerous non-profit organizations involved in all manner of social, poverty, peace and environmental projects.
Who is the more virtuous—the believer who goes to church and does good deeds because he hopes to be rewarded by God or at least not be punished by God, or the non-believer who lives a very moral life because it disturbs him to act cruelly and it is in keeping with the kind of world he wants to help create and live in? Remember, the God-awful (no pun intended) war in Iraq was started by a man who goes through all the motions of a very religious person.
Christopher Hitchens, in 2007, in response to conservative columnist Michael Gerson’s article, “What Atheists Can’t Answer,” wrote: “How insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship . . . simply assumes, whether or not religion is metaphysically ‘true,’ that at least it stands for morality. . . . Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made or one ethical action performed by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.”
Gerson, it should be noted, was the chief speechwriter for the aforementioned very religious person, George W. Bush, for five years, including when Bush invaded Iraq.
William Blum is an author, historian, and U.S. foreign policy critic. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.