The recent acts of vandalism perpetrated against the United Coalition of Reason billboards demonstrates the need for tolerance from every corner of the religious debate (i.e., the need to respect each other’s freedom of speech).
The United Coalition of Reason, an atheist group, set up four billboards in the Roanoke area that read, “Don’t believe in God? Job the Club.” After the acts of vandalism, however, two of the four billboards had been altered to read, “Do believe in God? Join the Club.”
Given the importance of religious, or non-religious, beliefs to many Americans, it’s not difficult to understand how directed attacks on these belief systems could be met with transgressions against the American right to free speech.
But the right to free speech must be upheld by all sides in the debate about the existence or non-existence of God (or gods) because such a right, in all areas of discourse, is a cornerstone of our republic.
What’s more, both atheists and followers of religion both base their beliefs on faith and are therefore not so different from a scientific standpoint. That is, neither atheists nor the faith-based community can PROVE that their beliefs are correct. Atheists have not been able to prove the nonexistence of a deity or deities and the faith-based community has not been able to prove the existence of a deity or deities either. Both sides rely on faith, not science, to support their beliefs and thus the philosophical gulf between these two groups is not as wide as each seems to perceive.
America is such a special place to live in large part because Americans respect differences of all shapes and colors. Whether you are an atheist, Buddhist, Christian, or anything outside and in-between, your individual beliefs should be and must be respected. Otherwise, the great experiment that is the U.S. republic will have failed.