I don't feel the need to flaunt my agnosticism every time I release a trout or pause over a dead pheasant. I can give thanks, sure - to whom- or whatever - but I keep that to myself. I don't feel the need to broadcast it to the magazine audience or the video watchers or the masses at large. I guess that's what separates me from the 'sportsmen preachers' - the same thing that separates the church from the state.
I used to enjoy flipping through the pages of Fly Fusion magazine. It's well-written, for the most part, with informative articles and great photographs. But Christianity got the better of me. All the 'Gods' and 'Creators' and 'Lords' - words perfectly at place in the Bible, but not on the editorial pages of a mainstream fishing publication.
Don't get me wrong: everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs, religious or otherwise. And it's perfectly acceptable to flaunt those beliefs in the appropriate channels and venues. There are dozens if not hundreds of Christian sporting associations; as long as they don't foist their religious opinions on the public-at-large, I wish them well. I'm sure many of them instill their members with sound, ethical hunting and fishing values, and there's nothing the matter with that.
The problem arises when these groups and others start proselytizing publicly - in mainstream magazines and on public TV and websites. Ask yourself: how would you and others react if a hunter praised Allah over a dead antelope on Outdoor Life? Or Buddha? Or a shaman "god?"
I thought so.
And yet amost every week on Cabela's Deer Nation, one of the successful bowhunters crouches over a buck and praises "God," "Jesus," or "My Creator." This on a public broadcast by the 'World's Foremost Outfitter.' Really? That's a pretty narrow view of a largely non-Christian world.
I'll leave you with this: in his wonderful collection of sporting essays - An Outside Chance - American novelist and icon Thomas McGuane describes gutting an antelope he's just shot. "I was blood from the elbows down and the antelope's eyes had skinned over. I thought, This is goddamned serious and you had better always remember that."
That's 'goddamned' with a lower-case 'g'. He didn't invoke a deity. He didn't need to.