The sons of President Ronald Reagan — Ron Reagan and Michael Reagan — disagree on religion.
Ron Reagan, famously, is an avowed atheist. Last year, he made the following ad for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
As you can see, he ends the video confidently with: “Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
If you’ve voiced those sentiments to religious friends and family, you’ve probably got some strong reactions, and the Reagan family is not exception. Michael Reagan, who is very religious, was asked by Newsmax (the audio of the relevant part of the interview begins at 7:55 in the story attached to the link) yesterday about his reaction to Ron Reagan’s stance. He said:
The striking thing here is that Michael Reagan, now a 70 year old talk radio host, still sees following religion as a sign of respect to his father in a mentality that harkens back to childhood. He doesn’t have a problem with Ron’s atheism, it seems, so much as how it would be disrespectful of his father — almost as if, for Michael Reagan, following God is more a sign of respect for his father and his family than something that is followed because it’s true. To the point where he almost doesn’t understand why his brother wouldn’t show his same respect.
I saw that ad when he did it a little over a little over a year ago…. He has every right to be an atheist. He always has been. I remember having dinner with my father — with our family, we were having dinner — and he was talking about his atheism at dinner one night and my dad leaned over to me and grabbed my hand and said, ‘My only prayer is that my son becomes a Christian’ like him, like our father. And that was his prayer.
For Ron to do the ad is one thing. but the way he ends the ad — ‘I’m Ron Reagan, I’m not afraid to burn in hell’ — I think just slaps his father in the face — our father in the face — in a terrible, terrible way. And so all I can say is, do what I do every day…pray for my brother, Ron.
It’s truly sad. Like many atheists, I too have had my struggle with breaking off my father’s legacy by becoming an anti-theist in a way much of my family may never understand. However, ultimately I didn’t leave, and I doubt Ron left, just to spite my Dad. I did it because I realized I could no longer live a lie, and I had to be honest and take ownership of my own life. It is sad that some, like Michael Reagan, it seems, are, even into old age, trapped by the shadow of their family and fathers and never learn the freedom of their own voices long after their father’s death…and thus perpetuate the cycle. But it does give me a solidarity with Ron Reagan to know that the struggles I have with my own family, he has been dealing with in his own for decades.