The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
Two atheists reading the paper over breakfast in a dormitory cafeteria
William: Can you believe this garbage? The airport’s going to remodel their bathrooms so that they comply with Muslim laws, and they’re using tax dollars to do it.
Alec: What? Seriously?
William: Yeah. Right here. Look. Muslim taxi drivers kept washing their feet in the airport bathroom sinks, so the airport is building Islamic foot baths.
Alec: Let me see that.
William: Here. See?
Alec: Wait a minute — it just says they’re building foot baths. It doesn’t say anything about them being Muslim.
William: They’re in accordance with Islamic law.
Alec: Well, yeah, but only in the sense that pretty much any foot bath would work for them. They aren’t going to be blessed or decorated or Halal or anything. It’s not a specifically Islamic thing.
William: Of course it is. Where else have you ever seen foot baths?
Alec: At the beach.
William: Right, but never in an airport I’ll bet. They’re just doing it to cooperate with Islam.
Alec: It’s not like only Muslims could use them or they’re in a prayer room. Anyone who wants to wash their feet after being on a plane could.
William: How often does that happen? If it wasn’t for the Muslim cab drivers they wouldn’t be building them. It’s a complete violation of separation of church and state.
Alec: It would be if the airport was building them to comply with religious rules, but they’re not. They’re building them because people are washing their feet in the sink and that’s disgusting.
William: Muslim people are washing their feet in the sink.
Alec: Who cares if they’re Muslim? The airport can completely ignore the religion of the people doing the foot washing and just respond to the need for foot baths.
William: No, they can’t. You can’t spend government money on someone’s religious practices.
Alec: Look — what if it was a British tradition to wash your feet when you got to a new country, so British tourists were washing their feet in the airport’s bathrooms. Would you have a problem with the airport building footbaths for British people?
Alec: So you think there should be a religious test before the government spends money?
William: Right! If something’s just going to accommodate a religion, the government shouldn’t spend money on it.
Alec: It costs the government money to give employees the day off. Should government employees get Good Friday off with pay?
William: No, of course not. That’s a religious expense.
Alec: Then what about Christmas?
William: No. Same thing.
Alec: But I’m an atheist and I like Christmas. Do you think I shouldn’t get the day off with pay to have secular Christmas because if I did then people who had Christian Christmas would also benefit?
William: Okay, I see what you mean on that one. I even know Jewish people who do Christmas. If a lot of people are going to want the day off anyway, you might as well make it an official holiday.
Alec: The footbaths are the same thing. If a lot of people are going to want them, it doesn’t matter why they want them, the airport should consider building them. If nothing else, it will stop people from getting disgusted that cabbies are washing their feet in the sink.
William: I still think that’s just a religious expense. If they don’t want people washing their feet in the sink they should make a policy against it.
Alec: It says in the article they already have a policy against that.
William: Then they should enforce it and throw out people who wash their feet.
Alec: You’d be okay with them paying security officers to stop people from washing their feet in the sink, but you’re against the expense of making sink-feet-washing completely unnecessary?
William: It’s the principle of the thing. It’s like if they made all the airport food kosher.
Alec: If there’s demand for it, should kosher food be available?
William: Not if it costs the airport money.
Alec: What about vegetarian food?
William: Sure. There are plenty of vegetarians and that’s not a violation of church and state.
Alec: I think you’re going out of your way to inconvenience religious people instead of just demanding that the government look at everything secularly.
William: I just don’t like religious people pushing me around.
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