More About “Irreligious New Englanders”
I am a life member of the American Humanist Association who takes issue with the entire subtextual frame of reference in Rob Weir’s “About Those Irreligious New Englanders” (September 19, 2013). The pejorative “unchurched,” the reference to Sodom and an omission of secular voices in your article lead to the inevitable conclusion that atheism is a problem to be solved by a “splendid . . . much-needed dialogue” of “Good News.”
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s latest report titled “Nones on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have (sic) No Religious Affiliation” shows that “Nones” comprise almost 20 percent of Americans, with nearly 90 percent of those not seeking religious affiliation. The proportion of Seculars in the general population is increasing at a pace historically unseen before in our country. But let us not parse statistics! If the goal is to instill good moral character in children, then their education must be kept religion-free and devoid of supernatural beliefs until they achieve the rational capacity to choose their own way. Some say that religious indoctrination is child abuse, but they may be ahead of their time.
I enjoyed Rob Weir’s article on religion. Here is one correction that actually further supports Weir’s claim that New England was the original Bible Belt: While the Founders had indeed “insisted that the First Amendment ban official religions,” the clause only prevented national establishment. The true purpose of the Establishment Clause was to protect the official religions that existed in nine of the 13 original colonies. While the Bill of Rights passed in 1781, it took Connecticut and Massachusetts until 1818 and 1836, respectively, to disestablish the Congregational Church as the taxpayer-funded established state religion. (New Hampshire disestablished the Congregationalists in 1790.) Ironically, the disestablishment movement increased religiosity, igniting the famous “Great Awakening.” The lesson here is that the “separation of church and state” is a really good thing for all the churches.
Hey, Springfield, Get Involved!
I have called Springfield, Massachusetts home my entire life. I love our city, and I believe in it. Several days ago I saw a comment, in response to a news article regarding the three recent murders in Springfield, urging residents to “get out” of the city. This comment brought me great sadness.
As a former Neighborhood Council member, an organizer, a product of the Springfield public schools and now a student of politics at George Washington University, I can say with certainty that the way to solve our ills is not by fleeing Springfield, but by getting involved. Civic participation empowers us as individuals. It improves government accountability and causes government to function more efficiently. When this happens, we can begin to address the underlying causes of the crime that we see today: a failing school system, poverty and joblessness.
I believe that the majority of our residents maintain a deep pride in, hope for and commitment to Springfield. We have much to be proud of, including our historic neighborhoods, parks, museums, traditions and, most importantly, our residents. We must not allow ourselves to believe the crime that exists in Springfield is unique to us. This is a nationwide epidemic. We must also reject the notion that all hope is lost. Springfield can be at the forefront of solving this epidemic. Now is the time that we must ask ourselves, will we simply run away to the suburbs and leave Springfield to sink under economic and social distress? Or will we stand up for the city we love, elect strong and innovative leaders, and fight for the community we want? The answer is not to get out. The answer is to get involved, and take responsibility for our future.