The other night late on television there was a brief ad with President Reagan's son touting the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FRF), the "nation's largest, most effective association of atheists and agnostics," it boasts.
"I'm Ron Reagan, unabashed atheist," he explained. "And I'm alarmed by the intrusion by religion into our secular government." He urged keeping church and state separate "just as the Founding Fathers intended." Then he signed off as a "lifelong atheist. Not afraid of burning in hell."
Ten years ago Reagan Jr. got the annual "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" award from FRF and explained his life journey away from his parents' Christianity, which apparently wasn't fully lifelong but began in later childhood. He didn't like spending much of every Sunday driving a half hour each way to two-hour worship services at Bel Air Presbyterian Church.
Reagan Jr. asked his father why church was necessary if God was everywhere, and his father avuncularly answered: "Well, you know, God says, wherever two or more shall gather, there shall I be." Reagan Jr. was unimpressed by the answer. He also had unanswerable questions about the sequence of cavemen versus Adam and Eve. So at age 12 he announced to his father he didn't believe in God and would no longer attend church. His father was surprised but didn't argue, going to church with Nancy but without their son.
Later Reagan Sr. tried "quiet persuasion" at "some length" but failed to persuade his son about God or church. So he asked Bel Air Pastor Don Moomaw, a formidable former UCLA football player and large personality, to visit the Reagan home and persuade his son, also without success. Reagan Jr. has ever since been a firm atheist, ostensibly respecting others' religious beliefs but opposing their political application.
"Religion may indeed inspire acts of great kindness and courage," he told FRF in 2009. "But it also trains people to believe things for which there is no evidence. This makes religion's intrusion into the political sphere all the more troubling." He cited gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, and President George W. Bush's support for "torture" despite his religion.