With my third kid having graduated from high school last month, I find myself feeling a constant tension in my heart. On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see my children succeeding at accomplishing their goals and becoming wonderful young adults. On the other hand, I'm reeling as I prepare for my youngest to leave for college, and I embrace the reality that my children are grown up and our time together as a nuclear family is much rarer these days.
I've noticed that the best way to connect with my young adult children is to let them drive the conversation, direct the topics and choose the time we spend together. The more I try to take charge, the worse it goes. Yet the more I let go, the more they come around. As my favorite poem, "On Children," by Kahlil Gibran, begins: "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."
Why am I starting my column this way? Because our wise founders' decision to prevent the government from establishing religion subscribes to a similar philosophy.
Church-state separation is rooted in the notion that religious beliefs are stronger when the government lets go and people come to them on their own. It is based on the idea that forcing one religion on everyone leads to fighting, even bloodshed. And it's grounded in the recognition that the ability to choose our own belief system is essential to our freedom as self-defining, autonomous human beings.
Over these past few months, I've had some scary reminders of what it looks like when the government imposes religious beliefs on its citizens. In May, I keynoted the National Secular Society conference in London, where I met Saif ul Malook. Saif is a Pakistani lawyer who successfully defended Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death after being convicted of blasphemy by a court for drinking water from the same cup as her Muslim neighbors in a rural village. Her actions were allegedly an insult to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Now Saif is handling another blasphemy case involving Shaghufta Kausar, who faces a possible death sentence because of a text message she allegedly sent that insulted Muhammad. At dinner, Saif told me that he continues to face death threats and actually expects to be killed because of his...