GEORGETOWN — I am a Jewish atheist. If that offends you, you can call me “a Jewish agnostic.” If that troubles you, it is OK to refer to me as “a secular Jew” or, if you prefer, “a cultural Jew.” It really doesn’t matter to me because whether or not I believe in “god” has no meaning in my life.

When I read Peter Pinette’s words about prayer (Maine Voices, Sept. 8), I found myself agreeing with his hopes for health care, jobs, equal protection under the law and respect for life, but I profoundly disagreed with his use of the word “should” when he referred to the use of prayer during the singing of the national anthem at sports events. (I also suspect that our reverence for life might even be viewed differently.)

As a kid who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1930s and ’40s, I attended Hebrew school and public school, went to holiday temple services and knew only a loving home where we observed all kosher rules. But I was not blind. My next-door neighbors were Greek and the apartment house was owned by Italians and the Russians lived one flight up. The religions were diverse, and as I grew up, I began to wonder how each could claim that their way was the right way and the only way.

When I went to Brooklyn College and, contrary to all the wishes of my relatives, majored in anthropology, it became clear to me that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of religions. Native American religions of the eastern U.S. differed radically from those in the western part of the country, and the religions of Asia and Africa bore no similarity to one another except for the fact that most believed that they were the one true religion and that those who differed were often not to be tolerated. Indeed, what seemed to be common was the idea that it might be OK to kill “them” … those others, those nonbelievers, those who did not follow the “true way” and so were somehow less than human.

So I began to wonder why it seemed that religion was everywhere. Why was it so important for each human society to invent “god” or gods and a whole panoply of rules and regulations? My guess is that there are many reasons and I don’t need to be certain if it is out of fear or gratitude or the need for humans to form community or what the cause might be. I just know that as long as a religion does not impose its rules on me, and does not seek to discriminate against or harm any individual or group, then I can wholeheartedly offer my respect.

So, if someone wants to pray during the national anthem, that is fine with me. If they want to organize Christian prayer in a church, good for them. But when they tell me that at a sports event, I should look straight forward, place a hand over my heart while the anthem is sung and close my eyes and bring my hands together in prayer, I get very uncomfortable. I get the feeling that if I choose to sit, keep my eyes wide open, keep my hands at my sides and not say the words “under ‘god’ ” as the Pledge is recited, then I am somehow less of a patriot, less of a citizen, less of a human.

My greatest concern these days is that it seems almost impossible to begin a respectful dialogue among progressives, moderates, conservatives and ultra-conservatives, and I am unnerved by the feeling that fundamentalists of every religion are quite similar to one another in their intolerance of anyone who dares to disagree with them.

If I am mistaken and there is a “god,” that’s fine with me. In fact, I choose to live my life respectful of diversity – and, yes, that includes people who are gay, transgender, bisexual and heterosexual, as well as immigrants, “dreamers” and all churches and pastors and congregations that seek to help the vulnerable.

I support health care for all, protection of our environment, a living wage, great education for our children, the right of reproductive freedom, voting rights, civil conversations and personal responsibility, and I suspect that if there is indeed a universal “god,” that would sit pretty well with him or her or it. I am grateful for my family, my life and the freedom provided by the United States of America.

What I do not want and will not abide is someone telling me how I should live my life and what I should believe and how I should act. I hope Mr. Pinette and others who believe as he does can respect how I choose to live my life.