PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

This letter pertains to your new column Faith Matters and a letter you received in response to it from Anonymous in Ayer.

I am a Christian and I have been pondering for several days how to answer this letter (from an atheist) honestly and fairly. And I must answer this letter the same way I am instructed by Jesus Christ in the Bible to treat all other people: With tolerance and open-mindedness and in love.

As much as many Christians would read the atheist’s letter and perhaps become a little huffy, I have to admit that Anonymous makes a good point. Perhaps we, as Christians, perform good works because we are obeying God’s Word when He tells us to serve others but we are totally missing the point if we think that we are the only ones who do that. To think that an agnostic or an atheist cannot be humanitarian just because they do not believe in God is insulting to them and an uncharitable act on our part. If we like to think that we are the only ones who do good works, we become no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who felt superior to the riff-raff following our Lord because they, the Pharisees, were educated and were doing all the “right things.”

I recently read on the Internet an updated version of the Good Samaritan, wherein a pastor and a Catholic both ignored the bleeding man but the atheist stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and did what was necessary. We read that now and are uncomfortable, perhaps even offended. We should read it, however, with caution that we are not falling into the wrong category. It isn’t that we do not want to do the right thing or do not know the right action but that we have become too busy or preoccupied with other things to do that which is correct. So when this new column to come out in your paper titled Faith Matters, I have to ask myself if this could be insulting to someone who does good works but does not believe in God? After all, he/she is not asking that you discontinue the column, only reconsider its title.

I believe intolerance is the single most evil and dangerous element existing in the world today and the cause of all of our problems. I shake my head listening to the radical Moslems who are telling the world that if we do not bow our knee to their god, they will annihilate us. Who wants to serve a god like that? Someone publishes a story or cartoon in a magazine that they don’t like and they publicly threaten him with death. No matter what you say or do, their solution to free speech or freedom of the press is death, annihilation, chaos and complete non-acceptance of anyone else’s point of view but their own. They want us to be cookie-cutter people blindly following a vindictive, totally unattractive god. This is intolerance to the Nth extreme but intolerance of any kind is just as evil.

We, as Christians, have Jesus Christ as our example. He never threatened, never used violence, never overthrew any government in order to reign supreme. Yet for all that He didn’t do, His name and all that it stands for rings as resonant today as it did 2,000 years ago. He attempted to draw the lost and hopeless to Himself, thus ultimately to God His Father, with cords of love, kindness and compassion. He really is the antithesis of the radical Moslem god. But once we have accepted what God we will serve, we desire to serve, let us not then look upon all others as “not chosen” but rather as ones who have not answered the knock on their door yet. Let us not ever feel superior because of all that we are doing but inferior because of all that remains to be done. And if we are standing beside an atheist in a soup kitchen ladling out hot food, let us be thankful and perhaps learn something from him, not merely feel that we are the only ones qualified to give lessons.

I like you new column and what you want to achieve with it. There are many wonderful organizations and people around who do good and charitable works every day in His name. But let us not forget that there are probably just as many people and groups who are simply doing good works because they love their country and fellow human beings. That, too, should be applauded and admired. Remember, intolerance is a pervasive evil that we must all strive to overcome. We can choose either to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Perhaps the column should be retitled Neighbor Helping Neighbor rather than Faith Matters?

Sincerely In His Name,

BEVERLY NALEWAY

Brookline, N.H.