First, let me say that I am a Catholic albeit a cafeteria one. Nevertheless, I feel too many Catholics are on the Supreme Court. Currently, it’s five of eight, and Amy Coney Barrett would make six. To me, this is by far too large a representation, based on the country being about 22% Catholic. My specific objection to Barrett was the way she danced around the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision on contraception. She would not say that it was correctly decided, but we all know the church is against contraception. She instead said it was unlikely that a state would outlaw contraception. This is troubling to me because the case involves the right to privacy. This is a right that her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, said was not found in the Constitution. She, like he, is an originalist. She claimed that not everything he said was something she would agree with. She could have said his views on privacy were such a case, but she didn’t.
It’s ironic that Democratic senators who come to the hearings with preconceived conclusions about Amy Coney Barrett grill her on whether she will enter the Supreme Court as a justice with preconceived decisions on future cases. I believe that their hatred of President Donald Trump has made them tone deaf. The public can easily hear Barrett loud and clear: She says she has no agenda. I believe that hatred is leading this country awry and ruining it. The fallout, to me, is that Democrats wouldn’t accept anyone Trump picks, no matter how fair Barrett can prove to be as a Supreme Court justice.
Even Newsday has to admit that after 2½ days of hearings, Amy Coney Barrett is by far the smartest person in the Senate hearing room.
‘Decency’ shouldn’t start with a deity
Reader Catherine Finelli suggests that the only way to restore "fundamental human decency" in American society is to turn to religion. As an atheist, I was disgusted by her claim that anyone who doesn’t worship a deity of some kind worships oneself and that no one can act morally without the threat of divine retribution as a motivator. I cannot imagine a more dim view of humanity. She is essentially arguing that no one is truly capable of altruism and that the only reason anyone has ever acted unselfishly is fear of punishment. I believe kindness and empathy are their own reward, and I didn’t come to that conclusion by being ordered to or fearing for my eternal soul. Perhaps it would be more productive for Finelli to examine what steps she could take as an individual to restore "fundamental human decency" to our society, rather than scapegoating atheists for all of the world’s ills.
New Hyde Park
A reader asserts that the only way anyone can achieve universal values like fairness, kindness and dignity is through "belief in their personal deity" and that "acknowledgment of a higher power and a fear of eternal retribution is what motivates people to lift themselves off the floor." If this were true, we would expect secular countries to be more brutal and less tolerant than religious ones, but I see the opposite as true. Furthermore, shouldn’t one do what’s right even when one knows no one is looking? If the only thing stopping you from committing evil is fear of eternal punishment, where exactly is your moral sense? The letter concludes by accusing atheists of promoting self-worship and self-creation, leading to "depravity and wanton excess." This reflects a profound misunderstanding of atheism, which, if anything, advocates humility before the universe — humans are not "made in the divine image" but are instead a part of the natural order of things. Our task is not to spend our lives preparing for an afterlife for which there is no hard evidence but to learn as much, enjoy as much and do as much good for our fellow creatures as our short stay here allows.
Editor’s note: The writer is president of Long Island Atheists, a local partner of American Atheists.