I am sure Watkins is an honorable and sincere person, but in his letter he displays some sloppy arguments and a mind frozen in the purblind social attitudes of his religious, class and institutional background. He cannot distinguish between religion and religiosity.
Let's examine a few of his statements. He says, for example, "Our ancestors in declaring our independence, invoked the name of 'Creator' and 'Nature's God' ". Then he goes on to say that the "Founding Fathers and Mothers . . . knew that without a strong belief in God" there could be no virtue, dreams, hope and democracy. On the contrary, there is ample historical evidence that many of the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights regarded religion as a menace to the infant nation because of the sectarian strife that had inevitably followed in religion's wake, up to that point in human history. Thanks largely to doubters or unbelievers such as Franklin, Jefferson and Madison, they produced some of the most cherished documents the human mind has conceived.
Then Watkins points to gloomy Russia as a paradigm of the godless state. Well, what was Russia like before communism? It most definitely was a fervidly religious state, practically a theocracy. And a land of tyranny, of enslaved peasants, of ignorance and superstition, of blinding wealth and privilege for a few and abject poverty and hopelessness for the many. Not to mention pogroms and wars and the annihilation of cultural minorities. A truly Christian state.