Reader ready to flee should columnist turn out to be atheist

Yet another response to my Nov. 11 column:

I cut your article out for my granddaughter, as she is someone who doesn't think that her vote "counts." By the way, she did vote.

BUT, I take exception to your comment about Republicans pandering to "religious right." I am so tired of this phrase, as it makes us sound crazy for believing in our Christian Bibles and our God. I didn't vote for anyone or anything that is in any way against my biblical teachings and beliefs, and I know that God will judge those who did and continue to do so. This country has always been based on freedom for people to go to a church of their choice, but I find nothing in those documents that means a religion that isn't based on our God and his commandments.

I'm glad you are grateful to perform your civic duty. Just don't forget that God expects to have an input, too. If you're an atheist, then I've just lost interest in your column.

I honor my flag and country, not just its leaders. May God continue to bless America, and may He guide people to bring us back to the country we used to be. - J.R., Las Vegas

OK, I understand that, should you discover I'm an atheist, you will immediately lose interest in my column. Does that mean you have, over your lifetime, consistently found atheists to be uninteresting? Or does it mean that your Christian Bible and your God (just quoting you, good woman) insist that you find atheists uninteresting? Or, if you should find a particular atheist stimulating to read and talk to, despite your every effort to find only theists interesting, does your religion teach you to summarily abandon interaction with the interesting atheist? In principle?

Were I to follow this teaching, I would have never "met" Sigmund Freud or Friedrich Nietzsche, not to mention missing out on the warmth and wonder of atheist friends and colleagues I've acquired along the way.

Let's say that, up until the Nov. 11 column, you have found my column interesting. What will you do if you should find out now, too late, that I'm an atheist? This would mean that, all this time, you thought an atheist was interesting. You are free to stop reading the column, but you will be unable to deny that you once found an atheist interesting. Will this be a dilemma for you?

Or worse, what if you discover I'm a theist! Perhaps even a baptized Christian! How, then, will you make sense of my criticizing the way cynical, civil religion is used to acquire and deploy power? (Read "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," by Jeff Sharlet.)

And, if it's true that you are interested only in theistic writers, not to mention that your God will judge anything and anyone who is "in any way against (your) biblical teachings and beliefs," then why wouldn't you find out whether I'm an atheist before you even allowed for the possibility of having your interest seduced by a God-denying columnist in a local newspaper? I'm really curious about this. Is it enough for you to give me fair warning? To put me on notice that, should you discover I'm an atheist, then my column will be less one interested reader? Or did it ever cross your mind to ask?

Can I just say that it must be nice to have your very own personal and private God in your pocket, judging anything and anyone who isn't lock step with your biblical teachings and beliefs? If it isn't already obvious, I'm uncomfortable with possessive pronouns glibly cast before the name of God - yours, mine, ours, theirs. I think they are absent an essential humility.

God cannot be possessed by the theology of mere mortals. Neither by their politics.

I'm so glad my column could play a role inspiring your granddaughter to vote. But what will you do if you discover that an atheist made this positive contribution?

I don't think religious people are crazy. I would say that some crazy people are religious. As are some sane people. More to the point of our discussion, however, I observe that some Americans wrap their political views in the wardrobe of exclusivist religious ideas, in some cases whether or not they actually buy those ideas. Or consistently practice them. Is Jesus a registered Republican?

That kind of talk is deeply disturbing to me, J.R.

Do I understand you to say the Constitution guarantees my freedom to go to the church of my choice, or have you included an important caveat? Sounds like I can go to the church of my choice as long as it's a church on a preapproved list. Specifically, a church "based on (your) (you said "our") God and His commandments."

So, tell me what religious freedoms the Constitution grants to, say, Asian Americans who are practicing Buddhists, a nontheistic religion. Or, tell me what religious freedoms the Constitution grants to people who never go to any house of worship. Or people who think your beliefs are crazy.

I think authentic religion can be distinguished from neo-imperialism, xenophobia and the desire for power shrouded in the form, the words and the name of religion. When American politicians pander to the latter, well, I lose interest.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of "Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing" (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or