DEAR ABBY: I recently saw an item in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, written by Stan H. Covington Jr., which read, "The Associated Press reported that during an interview with CBS, Saddam Hussein said, `God is on our side, and Satan is on the side of the United States.' "

Wonder where Saddam received his revelation? Perhaps he's holding Adolf Hitler's old astrologer hostage, too!During World War II, while I was serving with the Third Army in Germany, I removed a belt buckle from the uniform of a dead soldier. The lettering on the buckle read: "Gott Mit Uns." (God Is With Us.)

That started me to thinking: Can religion be taught without teaching bigotry as well? If one teaches, for example, that having a particular faith makes one a better person, is the teacher not also implying that the non-believer is an inferior one? An experienced and motivated teacher might be able to do so, but how many parents or members of the clergy have both the will and the skill to do so? Teaching "tolerance" alone is inadequate in that it still implies that the other fellow is wrong, but should be tolerated anyway, i.e., forgive his ignorance.

As long as the "true believer" is taught that he is in any way superior to the non-believer, he is well on his way to becoming a qualified bigot, religious fanatic, or member of one of the many hate groups that have been spawned by such teachings through the ages.

To the extent that your column encourages readers to think for themselves and to realize that there is nothing more wrong than self-righteousness, you will have again performed a great social service.

Having only recently learned of its definition, and noted adherents, please sign me, "A Deist," and let your readers research the term for themselves. - A DEIST IN MOLLUSK, VA.

DEAR DEIST: My research begins with the dictionary, and it tells me that a deist is one who believes in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature, with rejection of supernatural revelation.

We are a nation of people living together with varying religions. Our Constitution allows us freedom of religion, which includes the freedom NOT to believe. So, be advised that atheists and non-believers are also regarded as full-fledged citizens. That's what freedom is all about.

DEAR ABBY: I know this question has been the subject for debate for a long time, but I'm interested in knowing how you would answer it.

When a child goes wrong, which factor do you think is more responsible: heredity or environment? - CURIOUS IN NAPLES, FLA.

DEAR CURIOUS: I'd say it's 50-50. But one thing is certain. The parents will be blamed for both.

DEAR ABBY: I was told that you had a letter in your column about a dog that served as the ring bearer at a formal church wedding. I can't believe a clergyman would allow a dog to take part in a marriage ceremony. Say it isn't so, Abby. - DOUBTING THOMAS

DEAR THOMAS: It is indeed so. When I received that letter, I, too, had my doubts, so I called the bride in Bozeman, Mont., who confirmed that Knicky, her female Labrador, had served as the ring bearer at her wedding. She said the rings had been placed in a beautifully decorated basket. The dog held the handle of the basket in her teeth and was trained to trot down the aisle on cue.

Now isn't that a pip? (Or a pup?) Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)