Today, I will take issue with the premise that prayer in classrooms is the solution to things like Sandy Hook. May I point out that there is prayer in the classrooms of Teheran, Kabul, Riyadh, and every other cesspool of hatred in the world, and it doesn’t seem to have done the trick.
A belief in God is not a prerequisite for living a moral life, or for being a good person. It is certainly one way, but not an infallible way; there’s many a rotter with a Bible by his bed.
Truth is Truth, no matter the source or phrasing. If there is Truth in the Koran, it is Truth. If there is Truth in the Bible, or in “Atlas Shrugged,” or in “The Simpsons,” it is Truth. I happen to believe that all Truth comes from God, and that all which comes from God is Truth, but this most emphatically does NOT mean that one must get Truth directly from God. In my own life, I have found a great deal that is True in the writings of Ayn Rand, and had it not been for her ability to present that Truth in ways that I could grasp, I might never have come to understand that, for all her railing at those who believe in God, the Truth Miss Rand spoke came from Him.
A lot of folks say that without a belief in God, there can be no morality, to which I say, “Baloney.” Now let me draw a distinction, here. I believe that all Truth originates with God, but I also believe that He uses many media to present His Truth to us. He knows us and what we need. He has the power, and more importantly, the willingness, to send Truth to us by messengers we can accept. My own life stands as a testimony to that.
I do not think a person must be religious to understand that murder is wrong, and the murder of children is unspeakably heinous. However, I maintain that it is the fault of churches, in general – and some more than others – that many people have come to the conclusion that morality is a con job. You see, when people are taught that they must get their moral guidance directly from God and no other, when their faith fails they are left without moral guidance. In other words, if a man thinks he can have no standard of moral value unless he believes in God, and he doesn’t believe in God, then he will ignore altogether the subject of morality. Then, when this man, posses-sing that innate, almost instinctive (I said ALMOST) sense that life is good and murder is wrong, sees people shriek, “God is Great” as they hit the detonator switch, he will quite reasonably conclude that morals are not related to God, at all. Thus, you have a man who not only does not believe in God, he doesn’t believe in morals, in right versus wrong, doesn’t want to talk about it, and sure as HELL doesn’t want a lecture from you!
Now, I am not saying that living “right” is more important than faith in God and living by His commandments. Living right will not buy us much at the final judgment, and without the guidance of the Scriptures, there are innumerable traps into which one may fall, and blind alleys into which one may wander. I most emphatically believe that faith in God is essential to fully mastering the intricacies of mortality. No, it is not a guarantee of mastery, but lacking it is a guarantee of ultimate failure. I am, however, saying that living right without God is better than living wrong without God. Living right will at least prevent one from being a burden or a threat to one’s companions, and from committing greater evil. (Living wrong WITH God is no better than without, except for the greater possibility of enlightenment, and through it, of salvation. The operative term is possibility; it is by no means certain!)
I would rather see people refrain from murder, whether because of their belief in God or because they, “just think murder is wrong.” I read somewhere that you don’t have to believe in God to live right, but you must do what He commanded. At the operational, or behavioral, level it is the same. Ayn Rand said that without life, there can be no moral questions, in the first place. Therefore, a man’s life is his greatest value, and the moral standard by which all other things are measured. God said, in far fewer words, I might add, “Thou shalt not commit murder.” (It was the translators who said, “Thou shalt not kill.” There’s a crucial difference!)
As for the value of prayer in school, I think it would be much more powerful in the home. If all those who are so concerned about keeping God in the schools would ensure that He were carried there from their own homes in the hearts of their children, I think we’d see remarkable changes in our society. And if those who do not wish to teach of God in their homes would simply take responsibility for teaching their children it is wrong to causelessly or wantonly hurt others, we could see the changes multiplied. I believe our problem today lies, not in the absence of God from schools, (tangent: how in blazes do you propose to keep God from going where He pleases, anyway?) but in the absence of moral guidance in our homes. One of the greatest evils of the statist/fascist state growing like a mold on our national soul is the premise that only government schools can teach kids anything, and more specifically, that those schools ought to be responsible for teaching kids morality.