Atheists have been making a lot of headlines in recent years -- it's the intellectually chic thing to be! Perhaps exulting in their current coolness or perhaps just hoping to honor the nation's birthday celebration, last week American atheists set off all kinds of newsworthy fireworks of their own.
The first salvo came from atheist John Wolff of Manheim, Lancaster County, who filed a discrimination complaint against a restaurant near him that offers a 10 percent discount on Sundays to customers who present a church bulletin.
Mr. Wolff alleges that Prudhomme's Lost Cajun Kitchen discriminates against him because he doesn't attend church.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which is investigating the complaint, said, "He is alleging he was offered different service based on his religious creed."
Well, he wasn't offered different service; he was offered a different price. And it wasn't because of his creed but because he failed to bring in the appropriate piece of paper.
Actually, this restaurant's promotion is less discriminatory than most. To obtain many discounts, you have to clip coupons from a newspaper or from that hefty book you bought to support your kid's soccer team, or download and print them from the Internet. All those resources cost money and discriminate on the basis of income, but anyone can walk into a church or synagogue, as the restaurant owner pointed out, and take a bulletin for free.
In fact, accepting coupons discriminates against those who do not have coupons. Senior citizen discounts discriminate against the young. Early bird discounts discriminate against people who don't think dinner should be eaten in the afternoon.
Could this complaint be any stupider?
On Wednesday, an organization called American Atheists hired a small plane to fly above New York City with a banner proclaiming "Atheism is Patriotic."
Perhaps because the banner's meaning is opaque, American Atheists president Dave Silverman explained: "Religion is unpatriotic at its core, because it places its law above the law of the land."
Huh. That's very close to the reason why atheist and political commentator S.E. Cupp said Thursday she "would never vote for an atheist president. Ever."
Explaining this to her co-panelists on MSNBC's "The Cycle," she said, "I like religion being a check and knowing that my president goes home every night addressing someone above him and not thinking all the power resides [within himself]. ... Atheists don't have that." (What -- they don't marry?)
I know atheists who are very good moral people, and I know self-professed religious folk who are arrogant jerks. More to Ms. Cupp's point, critics of either George W. Bush or Barack Obama -- both self-professed Christians -- have complained that neither man's creed restrained his imperialist tendencies in office.
Nevertheless, as an atheist, Ms. Cupp thinks belief in a higher power -- a higher and inhibitive moral law -- is generally a good thing, while her fellow atheists think it's unpatriotic.
I would have no problem with a banner that read, "Atheism Is Also Patriotic." If this country stands for anything, it is that people of all creeds or no creed should be able to live without persecution. Because this uniquely American ideal prevails, people of all creeds or no creed can love their country equally.
Atheists and deists are equal in another way: They are all "believers." The atheist can no more prove there is no God than I can prove there is. Both are beliefs, not facts, and we are equals in asserting that an unprovable idea is true.
While all men are created equal, however, all ideas are not. Ideas are applied and practiced in the real world and have real consequences we can assess.
Tested in the crucible of history, atheism has failed, spectacularly. As the official "religion" of communist states controlling much of the world's population through the 20th century, atheism gave birth to mass murder, famine and oppression unmatched in human history.
In contrast, representative democracy has provided greater liberty and prosperity to more people than the world has ever seen. Our founders -- deists and Christians -- asserted that our liberty, equality and inalienable rights derive from the "Creator."
John Adams, assessing the founders' handiwork, wrote: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." The lessons of history argue that he was right, so given a choice between one kind of nation and another, between one set of beliefs and another, I'll take the set we started with.
Mr. Wolff may choose differently, but he'll still need to get his hands on a church bulletin if he wants Lancaster County's Cajun cuisine on the cheap.
Ruth Ann Dailey: firstname.lastname@example.org.