On Feb. 15, Tom Waddell gave an invocation before the Maine State Senate, a normal start to the day’s legislative session (“Litchfield atheist delivers landmark nonreligious invocation to open Maine Senate session”).

Last year a proposal to do this was rejected because it was judged to be offensive; Waddell wanted to stand before the Senate and say a few words with no mention of a higher power, in keeping with the precept of separation of church and state. This year Waddell’s application was accepted.

Renowned Irish author John Banville gave us this insight: “We think we’re living in the present, but we’re really living in the past.” The sentiment connects directly to the unenthusiastic treatment Waddell received.

We like to believe we have made considerable progress in racial, social and cultural acceptance today, much to the betterment of our lives and our unity as a nation. But we know there is more myth than truth in that mush. Yesterday still clings.

Unwarranted beliefs and onerous accusations are still with us. The atheist is still an abhorred ‘other,’ rarely seen as an ordinary person, living an ordinary moral life with the same concerns and hopes as everyone else.

So righteous men who bow to a righteous god took righteous action. Morning proceedings were convened earlier than usual, and hardly anyone had time to attend Waddell’s brief talk.

Too bad, for the thoughts expressed were praised by a senator who listened.

Gene Hart


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