Most of the time, my columns reflect some item or thought from current news, as does this one.

Most of the time, my columns reflect some item or thought from current news, as does this one. But through this week’s submission, I speak as an outsider about something I neither understand nor embrace and yet truly appreciate.

I saw by cheers and smiles that the visit of the Pope to our country brought a ton of joy to many thousands of Americans. That I personally don’t share the wonder doesn’t take away a single molecule from the importance of his visit.

Whenever I write about religion in general and my lack thereof, I’m bombarded with very kind emails. Christian dogma leads people to reach out to this misguided soul, which I consider a good thing.

Although I’m immune to conversion efforts, I truly welcome the concerns of these people. Today, there appears to be a concerted attack upon religion, but I personally can’t understand why. Religious beliefs have contributed enormously to the quality of my life.

Face it: I’m a huge benefactor of those who do adhere to Christian teachings. Living in a country that’s founded upon solid Judeo/Christian footings I understand clearly that those very footings have given me a wonderful quality of life.

Even to this “non-believer,” I fully recognize the Ten Commandments as an amazing template upon which to build a working and successful society. It’s my good fortune to be born American. You’ll never hear me say a cross word about the role of religion enhancing my secular life.

For that reason, it drives me crazy when atheists attack religious trappings that became a part of this country at its birth. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Don’t they wonder why they’re free to attack?

I’m a “non-believer” but am not stupid. Given the choice of occupying an island of Christians or an island filled with people like me, I’d choose the religious group in a heartbeat.

The culture of any society involves the sum total of its values, what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Religion in this country has produced a rich culture for which I’m a thankful beneficiary.

Regarding the Pope’s visit, I’d be lying if I said I “got it,” but he obviously brings joy and comfort to the faithful so more power to him. Speaking of “power,” my wife Ann and I visited the Vatican when we were in Rome, and it was sobering on many levels.

I’d always wondered how the church wielded so much power and influence over the centuries. Believe me, seeing the chapels and cathedrals erased that question. It’s so clear how the manifestations of power and strength controlled medieval populations.

The one aspect of the Pope’s visit disappointing to me was that the media brushed everything he did with political overtones of blue or red hues. I was surprised the Pope didn’t directly address killing babies and selling parts, which even deeply offends a heathen like me.

Oh well, it seems that issue didn’t scream but just whispered in the background. Naturally, I don’t believe in Devine retribution but wonder if some cosmic karma might visit.

Probably not … but … .

Otis Gardner can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.