By Stephen Kent | Catholic News Service
The U.S. Air Force no longer requires "so help me God" to be part of the oath taken upon the enlistment of airmen or the commissioning of officers.
A toll-taker on the Garden State Parkway is suing the state of New Jersey because she claims a supervisor told her to stop saying "God bless you" to motorists as they drove away from the toll plaza.
In the first situation, strapping into a fighter aircraft would seem to take all the help it can get from aerodynamics and, if necessary, divine intervention. The second situation involves offensive blessing.
Cynthia Fernandez, the toll-taker, said her supervisor "told me he wanted to talk to me, that I couldn't say 'God bless you' anymore to customers because somebody might get offended."
A spokesman for the Garden State Parkway said the agency has no policy against saying, "God bless you."
"It does say, 'Provide customer service, smile' -- it does say all that," Fernandez said. "But it does not say in any line, 'Do not say, "God bless you."'"
Off we go into the wild blue yonder with no concern for a supreme being, zipping onto a turnpike after being told to have a nice day or to drive safely but being unblessed by God.
While such nonsense does not doom the country to an ultimate fate of paganism, it is indicative of a growing trend to render God superfluous.
Washington and Oregon for some years have been among the least religious states in the country. The Fuller Theological Seminary recently held a conference in Seattle to address the subject. The challenge, said Matthew Kaemingk, conference organizer, is attracting people who focus more on alternative spirituality.
"Just as they prefer to make their own software, airplanes, music, organic food and political movements," said Kaemingk in a recent Seattle Times article, "[those who live in the Northwest] also prefer to make their own religion. They are described as freethinking, anti-institution and individualists, more inclined to participate in a yoga class or hike in the mountains."
In the comments section of the story on the Seattle Times' website, one person wrote: "Maybe those of us that live here in the [Pacific Northwest] have a greater awareness of the myth of religious beliefs!! Even if I believed in a 'supreme being' of any type, I would have far better things to do with my time enjoying the beauty of the Northwest rather than sitting in some myth-driven facility!!"
While enjoying the trees and lakes and peaks, that person might think more deeply about from where they came. Who made that beauty?
I find atheists annoying. They seem more intent on making fun of deists than in promoting what they see as the positives of their lack of belief.
Time magazine recently reported that more and more atheists are forming "churches" to adopt secular versions of religious practices. They come together in community to support a nonbelief system, much like gathering in a symphony hall to hear no music.
We should accord them the respect and dignity they deserve as creatures of a creator they don't believe in. But feel free to disdain their ideas.
Kent is the retired editor of two archdiocesan newspapers and has a master's degree in spirituality. He can be contacted at: [email protected].