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Letters Jan Jun 06

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Your January-June '06 Published Letters

From the June 27, 2006, edition of the Las Vegas Sun:

Letter: School District right to limit grad's speech

The Clark County School District is being criticized in national media for complying with the U.S. Constitution. At a Foothill High School graduation ceremony, Brittany McComb was prevented from using an unapproved talk promoting her religious belief.

The School District, by providing McComb with the opportunity to give a talk to other graduates, acted appropriately by not allowing her to proselytize others at the graduation ceremony. McComb's free speech and religious rights were certainly not violated. She has a right to speak freely and practice her religion anywhere in her church, her home and even on a public street. But the school should not endorse her religious proselytizing by providing her with the equipment, the place and the audience.

I wonder what the public outcry would have been if McComb was prevented from saying she owes her graduation to Satan or if she tried to say her mind was not cluttered with religion and her lack of belief in God was responsible for her high grades? Would her free speech rights have been violated if she was not allowed to promote racial or ethnic hatred? In each of these cases the School District would prevent her from continuing and would probably be praised for doing so.

The First Amendment requires separation of church and state, which includes a prohibition of governmental endorsement of religious beliefs and practices. This requirement protects religions as well as individuals who may not hold the same religious beliefs as the majority. This same amendment assures that McComb can freely express her religious beliefs anywhere, but that she cannot expect the government school to assist her in that expression.

Mel Lipman
Las Vegas

Editor's note: The writer is president of the American Humanist Association.



From the June 19, 2006, edition of the
Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register:

America founded as Christian nation?

In his June 13 letter, "Our public schools have been ruined," Bill Casey proclaims, "When the colonies became the United States, God was very important to people." He also quotes former Chief Justice Earl Warren, "I don't see how anyone can study the history of this nation and not recognize that we are a Christian nation."

While he is sure that America was founded by God-fearing men as a Christian nation, those who were present at the founding were not so sure. In fact, the founders gave the faithful good reason to fret over the religious course the new nation was to take, as God and Christianity were conspicuously absent in the public statements and policies of the founders.

In 1787 and 1788 the Constitution, which made no reference to God, Christ or Christianity, was attacked by its detractors as a deist conspiracy to overthrow the Christian commonwealth. A pamphleteer, "Aristocrats," contended that the delegates in Philadelphia created a government that for the first time in world history removed religion from public life.

Many witnesses to the formation of the United States, including a delegate to the Connecticut Ratifying Convention, William Williams, were appalled that the document did not requisition divine guidance, did not vow to build a godly nation, and, in fact, did not even mention God.

It especially grieved Williams that the Constitution did not demand a religious test for office-holders requiring "an explicit acknowledgment of the being of God, his perfections and his providence."

Because of his religious unorthodoxy, Thomas Jefferson was reviled by the clergy. In a July 4, 1798 sermon, Yale University president the Rev. Timothy Dwight warned Christians against supporting "the philosophers, the atheists and the deists" in the election of 1800. Rev. Dwight opined that "our churches may become temples of reason" should Jefferson win the election.

In 1812, Timothy Dwight was still lamenting, "We framed the Constitution without any acknowledgment of God; without any recognition of His mercies to us as a people, of His government, or even of His existence."

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the June 15, 2006, edition of the Anniston (Alabama) Star:

Speak Out ... More thoughts on gays and gay marriage

By our readers

Christian conservatives opposing same-sex marriages proclaim that God abhors homosexuality - a sin biblically, punishable by death, and today a ticket to eternal damnation. It is unfortunate that many fervently embrace the god of the ancient Hebrews. This god was used then, and is still used today, to justify people's likes, such as wars of aggression, and dislikes - anyone who doesn't subscribe to their beliefs and practices.

From the time the Hebrews created their god, obedience to his "will" has plagued mankind with intolerance, violence and hate. Rather than continuing to blindly obey God's irrational and unlawful orders, maybe we should remake this vindictive, capricious, cruel deity into a rational and kind god who understands biology and wants all people to enjoy life's pleasures.

Of course, if Jerry Falwell and his ilk could not preach that "God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29), the fear factor that brings tithes into their coffers would soon vanish. While President Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," Falwell and his sort know that they have nothing to fear but the disappearance of fear. The wrath of a God who condemns homosexuality and same-sex marriages keeps them in business.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the June 10, 2006, edition of the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal:

It's important to question Christian beliefs

Letter writer Chrys Holley ("Satan on attack," June 1) asks, "Can good come from Dan Brown's blasphemous work ('The Da Vinci Code')?" Any work is beneficial that prompts the questioning of incredible notions that are accepted without evidence.

The majority will dismiss Brown's work as a blasphemous lie. However, some will investigate to determine if there is any truth to the movie, or more importantly, to the biblical story of Christ. They will be amazed to find that there isn't one shred of historical documentation corroborating the Gospel accounts of Christ.

Why is this good? Because if the story of Christ is fiction, then intolerance and atrocities committed in Christ's name are unjustified. For example, if Christ were not declared to be divine, millions of Jews would not have been subjected to unspeakable horrors for denying his divinity.

Today, biblically justified intolerance permeates Christianity. This intolerance is responsible for the discord plaguing all levels of society.

Christianity steadfastly proclaims itself inerrant, and its creeds, tenets and practices immune from criticism. Hence, secular institutions, e.g., the arts and government, must provide the impetus for enlightenment and rational behavior.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the June 1, 2006, edition of the Laurel (Maryland) Leader:

Matthew Pasalic's May 18 letter on church-state separation is just plain wrong.

While the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, it is implied, as the Constitution gives government no authority to meddle with religion. The First Amendment prohibits government from interfering with the free exercise of religion or taking any actin "respecting an establishment of religion." President Jefferson declared in 1802 that these words erect "a wall of separation between church and state."

The Supreme Court in the 1870s agreed with Jefferson, as did the Court, unanimously, in 1947 in the Everyone and subsequent rulings.

After the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to make the Bill of Rights applicable to state and local governments. In 1952 Congress approved the Puerto Rico Constitution, which states: "There shall be complete separation of church and state."

The late Chief Justice Rehnquist may have disagreed with the separation principle, but he was outvoted by his colleagues.

As for religion classes in public schools, there is no way that our many hundreds of religious traditions and divisions within them could possibly provide such classes in our 15,000 separate school districts. Our churches are quite capable of taking care of religious education.

Moreover, Benjamin Franklin wrote 250 years ago that, "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors (adherents) are obliged to call for the help of the civil power (government), 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the June 1, 2006, edition of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:

City rules show disrespect for free speech

A recent letter by Bea Murphy complained that the Columbus city government is refusing the Hilltop community's requests for a public meeting on a proposed neighborhood health center the city wants to build.

By opposing public discussion of the issue, the city is continuing an alarming and un-American trend of quashing public debate and criticism.

Several years ago, the city silenced many community groups and citizens by eliminating public-access TV. City officials say no money is available for it, despite collecting $7 million in franchise fees from cable TV companies each year. Numerous smaller U.S. cities somehow continue funding and offering public-access TV.

To further clamp down on public debate, last year the city stopped showing on the government's TV Channel 3 the speakers at City Council meetings and the other nonagenda items. And the city began requiring permission and 15 days' notice for any rally at City Hall, along with additional new restrictions on protests there.

Those acts could not be taken by leaders who cherish free speech and an open marketplace of ideas, as our Founding Fathers did. Thomas Jefferson said the right to speak freely and receive information is so important that, in its defense, "every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned in 1952: "Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."

Open discussion of public issues and a well-informed citizenry are at the foundation of a government that is supposed to be, as Abraham Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people, for the people." The city's ongoing erosion of that foundation must be reversed.

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus, Ohio

 


From the May 30, 2006 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Lack of students' scientific knowledge is troubling, but not surprising. Much of the current problem can be traced directly to the Bush administration, which distorts scientific fact for partisan political ends on issues ranging from global climate change to embryonic stem-cell research.

By restricting federal funding for research on stem cells, the chances of finding cures for many diseases that plague us were drastically diminished. With abstinence-only sex-education programs, young people are left without information that might help them make wise choices. By ignoring years of global warming evidence, the chances of our survival on Earth may be shortened. And Bush's doubt about evolution is just another instance of an attempt to ignore well-researched evidence in favor of personal beliefs.

According to comments by members of the National Science Teachers Association, the president's No Child Left Behind program has actually hurt science education, by testing exclusively on math and reading and telling teachers to "stop teaching science and get back to reading and math."

Roni Berenson
Chesterland, Ohio

 


From the May 30, 2006, edition of the Pasadena (California) Star-News:

Terms defined

Rich Mason ("Your View," May 23) says I shouldn't criticize Christianity's approach to sin unless I can present an alternative. As a beginning, here's my definition of good and evil:

Good is that which has positive survival value for the human species; evil is that which has negative survival value for the human species.

Ray Sherman
Duarte, California

 


From the May 29, 2006, edition of the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News:

History doesn't prove Christ's life

Dear Editor:

In debunking "The Da Vinci Code" and labeling it blasphemous, a letter writer claims, "Truth always prevails!" But which is the truth -- the Bible or the movie?

There are no historical documents that corroborate the Gospel accounts of Christ's life, or even his existence. This is peculiar, as there were many writers of the time who produced copious historic documentation of the events of the era. Philo of Alexandria, who lived from 20 B.C. until 50 A.D., was present at the times and places where Christ was allegedly performing his miracles, being crucified and resurrected into heaven. Philo never mentions Christ.

Flavius Josephus published a 20-volume history of the Jews. Two brief passages mentioning Christ appear in Josephus' works, but biblical scholars and historians find them spurious and believe they could only be the work of Christian tamperers who added them after the fact. Even if we accept the passages ascribed to Josephus, they provide scant evidence for a biblical Christ.

Roman historians, e.g. Tacitus, describe Christians but not an historical Christ.

The first Gospel, Mark, was not written until circa 70 A.D. Not only are the Gospels removed time-wise from the supposed events, but they are inconsistent. For example: one women came to the sepulcher, John 20:1; two women came, Matt. 28:1; three women came, Mark 16:1; more than three came, Luke 24:10. The Gospels are of no historical value.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the May 23, 2006, edition of the Saginaw (Michigan) News:

Weird 'science'

I would like to add my remarks to state Rep. John Moolenaar's legislative proposal to teach the theory that "life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator." Moolenaar advocates the teaching of intelligent design, or creationism, along with evolution in public schools.

THe teaching of creationism or not is really a question of being intellectually honest. The practice of creationism or the assertion of a purposeful, intelligent designer, along with infusion of the science of evolution with religion, is akin to the practice of alchemy -- a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.

We have learned since medieval times that the cosmos has evolved independent of religious beliefs; that the cosmos continually evolves through successive cycles, forever expanding and collapsing and creating new worlds.

We also have learned that religious beliefs, such as the biblical story of Genesis, are mythological and have no bearing on the evolution of Earth and life.

Given the creationists' efforts to develop a pseudo-science to explain creationism, the creationists would do better to use reason and rational methods of inquiry to substantiate their claims to divine cause of the evolution of the universe.

They might find what scientists and scholars have found -- that the long-held beliefs of religion are truly mythological and have no bearing on the evolution of the universe and, therefore, should not be taught in public schools.

Richard A. Maltby
Midland, Michigan

 


From the April 26, 2006, edition of The Other Paper (Columbus):

Strip-club vote exposed the Senate's cowardice

In voting for the severe restrictions that Senate Bill 16 places on adult businesses, while at the same time saying the bill is wrong and unnecessary, state senators displayed extreme political cowardice and heartlessness ("Bullied state law-makers approve a bill they hate," April 19).

Besides inflicting further damage on Ohio's weak economy and driving more people out of the state, the bill will increase demand for adult entertainment at sources such as the Internet, neighboring states and the underground economy.

We went down a similar path in the 1980s. The Reagan administration's war on pornography enforced some of the toughest restrictions on sexually explicit materials in the Western industrialized world. The result was that consumption of those materials increased drastically, and the U.S. became by far the world's leading producer of pornography.

In contrast, after Denmark repealed its obscenity laws in 1969, demand for pornography eventually underwent a long and steady decline in that country. A few years after the decline began, a survey of Copenhagen residents found that most Danes came to regard pornography as "uninteresting" or "repulsive."

These contrasting American and Danish experiences provide a lesson that fundamentalist supporters of SB 16 should have learned from their own Bibles: Forbidden fruit appears sweetest and becomes inordinately fascinating.

The forbidden-fruit allure might be a reason why Phil Burress, the founder and leader of the group that is pushing SB 16, is a self-professed recovering porn addict.

We would all be better off by referring Burress to a good psychiatrist or sex therapist about his problem rather than letting him impose his latest nutty and harmful idea on the entire state.

Joseph C. Sommer

 


From the April 7, 2006, edition of the Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier:

Lessons of history

A March 25 Post and Courier editorial properly expressed outrage, as have most media in this country, at the threatened death sentence for Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan. His "crime" was converting from Islam to Christianity.

Your editorial quoted U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint regarding the negative consequences for Afghanistan if persecution of Christians persisted. The following day, an Afghan court dismissed the case, paving the way for Rahman's release.

My question for Sen. DeMint and others is: How engaged would you be if minorities other than Christians were persecuted for their religious views?

Compare this with the case of the Pakistani medical doctor, Younis Shaikh. He had been a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, took part in the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy and started a humanist organization called "The Enlightenment."

In October 2000, he was sentenced to death for the "crime" of blasphemy because he allegedly said that the prophet Muhammad was a non-Muslim before the age of 40 and the prophet's parents were non-Muslim because they died before Islam existed.

Despite efforts by humanist groups to publicize this disgraceful sentence, most mainstream media and the U.S. government all but ignored Dr. Shaikh's plight. After suffering in jail for more than three years, Dr. Shaikh was finally freed primarily through the efforts of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Amnesty International and a few other human rights organizations.

The Islamic world appears slow to learn the lessons of history - that religious beliefs should never be used to justify injustice and cruelty. When people become too religious to care whether they hurt others, it is time to stop respecting their beliefs and work to protect the progress in human rights we have achieved.

Though most countries have a dominant religion, it is easier to live in harmony and peace when governments do not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion. We must work for freedom of conscience for all people. Toward this end, building and helping to maintain secular institutions may be more important in the long term than any military intervention the U.S. may launch.

Herb Silverman
Charleston, South Carolina

 


From the March 27, 2006, edition of the Anniston (Alabama) Star:

Re: Why I am an atheist (sort of) (Speaker's stand, March 12)

Jay Lloyd states that because atheists believe the universe will someday come to an end, there is no ultimate purpose to anything in your life.

Are we really to believe that God created this enormous universe billions of years ago to provide a coliseum where he can watch humans wrestle with the forces of good and evil? To believe that there is an ultimate purpose for our being and that we are the purpose for the universe's existence is laughable.

This does not imply that our lives can't have meaning, but rather that the onus is upon us to provide meaning based on our needs and interests. This is done in many ways. For many, purpose is derived from the desire to help humanity without concern for future reward. For some, meaning and purpose are derived from striving to understand the mysteries of the universe to know rather than to believe. For most, providing for a family gives life meaning and purpose.

The day will come when the sun becomes a supernova and consumes planet Earth. Does an event billions of years from now adversely affect my life and its purpose? Of course not.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the March 27, 2006, edition of the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News:

Bible does not condemn abortion

Dear Editor: The Bible is frequently quoted because it can often be used to support either side of a debate. But I was surprised when "pro-life" advocate Ed Lopacki ("Unborn, science, all from God", March 21) used a biblical reference that actually supports my pro-choice stance.

Referring to Exodus 21:22 Lopacki states, "Punishment is exclusively on behalf of the injured child." But in fact, punishment is exclusively on behalf of the husband. In this case, a miscarriage has been induced through violence. This is not considered a violation of God's law unless the wife is injured. The concern is for the husband's property loss, and he may demand compensation. If the wife is hurt, then "an eye for an eye" justice goes into effect. Neither fetus nor wife have any worth other than the monetary value to the husband; but injury to the wife is considered more serious than the loss of the fetus.

Although Lopacki believes abortion is offensive to God, the prophet Hosea was comfortable asking God to induce abortions in the wives of his enemies. "Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb [an abortion] and dry breasts." Hosea 9:14. And from Hosea 9:16 we find, " ... yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb."

Notably absent from the Bible's list of those to be punished are the practitioners of abortion. And while today Christ's most fervent followers crusade against abortion, Christ never mentioned the practice.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

 


From the March 23, 2006, edition of the Keene (New Hampshire) Sentinel:

Religion, state should be separate

Eric Moskowitz's March 10 piece on the defeat of vouchers in the House notes that voucher proponents said their plan was constitutional because the public funds could only be spent "on the nonreligious portion of education at religious schools".

That is an illusion. In theory and practice the whole curriculum in faith-based schools is permeated with a particular religious point of view.

The New Hampshire constitution clearly provides that "no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination".

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the March 6, 2006, edition of the Washington Times:

Thomas Sowell's "Something for nothing" column (Mar 3) attacked teacher unions for opposing school vouchers in order to protect their jobs. But without their democratic unions teachers would be little better off than street sweepers (not that there is anything wrong with street sweepers). Few people would go to the trouble and expense of becoming teachers if they didn't have some job protection from the sometimes arbitrary decisions of cheapskate school boards.

Private, mostly faith-based, school teachers earn less than public school teachers, rarely have job protection, enjoy selected student bodies, and are generally selected on the basis of their religion.

It should be added that University of Illinois researchers Christopher and Sarah Lubienski reported this year that a large statistical analysis of school math scores shows that on average public school students score higher than private or charter school students. Another study released this year shows that student performance is directly related to family income and level of parents' education.

Finally, 25 statewide referenda from coast to coast over the last 40 years, plus numerous opinion polls, show that the American public is strongly opposed to school vouchers.

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the March 2, 2006, edition of the Post-Cresent (Wisconsin):

Letters: History is not as bleak as writer characterized

Jerry McAnulty's Feb. 20 screed deserves a rational response. He tosses out unsupported generalizations as though he were Yahweh thundering out his pronouncements from Mount Sinai that we poor mortals are to accept as revealed truth.

One wonders if he's a high school or college student who has just read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and nothing else on the subject. Zinn has a perspective that deserves to be heard in the neverending debate and discussion about history, but his is not the only voice that deserves to be heard.

While it is true that American Indians have suffered injustice in their encounters with European civilization, and African-Americans experienced slavery and racial discrimination for many centuries, that is not simply the whole story.

McAnulty seems to have forgotten the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died fighting the southern slaveholding aristocracy during the Civil War, resulting in the emancipation of those slaves, and how American constitutional values were the basis for the civil rights achievements of the 1950s and 1960s.

Apparently, McAnulty is unaware that capitalism had been around for a few centuries by the time the American republic was created. The founding fathers did not "invent" capitalism. Their government was a democratic adaptation to capitalism.

If McAnulty has ever read the "Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, he would have appreciated the unwitting tribute that Marx and Engels paid to capitalism with the following words:

"Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry ..."

Marx and Engels give the credit to businessmen - the "bourgeois" class.

One hopes that Jerry McAnulty is young enough to be educable.

Robert Nordlander
Menasha, Wisconsin

 


From the Feb. 27, 2006, edition of the Culpeper (Virginia) Star-Exponent:

Michael Webb's February 24 "How I See It" piece on the creationism/evolution controversy was confusing and misleading.

There is virtually total agreement among biologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, astrophysicists, geologists, and other scientists that evolution is the only valid explanation for the development of life on our planet. This unanimity is based on over 150 years of countless observations and experiments by many thousands of scientists that have never been found faulty by those who adhere to a literal understanding of the two different creation stories in Genesis.

There are more books supporting evolution than anyone could read in a lifetime, but the best, most recent, succinct, authoritative is "Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction" (2004) by Dr Eugenie Scott, head of the National Committee for Science Education (ncseweb.org).

 

Humanists may accept evolution but so too do vast numbers of devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews who see no conflict between faith and what science says about evolution.

Creationism and "Intelligent Design" have had their days in court, all the way to the US Supreme Court, and the courts have squarely held that creationism is a particular religious view, definitely not science, and may not be taught in public school science classes.

Creationists and IDers might be taken seriously if they would actually conduct research and publish their findings in peer-reviewed science journals. We are waiting.

Mr Webb claims that "evolutionistic naturalism" has had "frightening results" but he fails to cite any.

If real faith and science come from the same Creator, how can they conflict?

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the Feb. 22, 2006, edition of the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette:

Today's 'conservatives' have forsaken conservative values

AS I SEE IT

By David A. Niose

I'm not really sure what the word "conservative" means anymore. In the old days, it described someone who stood for slow change, someone who was skeptical of ideas that significantly altered the status quo. Over the years the term evolved to include anyone who opposes the notion of big government, one whose philosophy is consistent with a Jeffersonian, laissez-faire view.

None of this sounds very threatening. The problem, however, is that none of this describes the folks who prance around today claiming to be conservatives.

Conservatives get lots of mileage by accusing their opponents of being "tax-and-spend liberals." If liberals get elected, the argument goes, hang on to your wallet. The public has been convinced that fiscal responsibility is clearly the realm of so-called conservatives.

But if that's the case, then why was it that the administration headed by that "liberal" Bill Clinton gave us the only balanced budgets in decades? The current administration, headed by a man who ran as a "compassionate conservative," has produced the most massive deficits ever, budgets that hemorrhage red ink.

Of course, apologists have an explanation for the current state of the budget. Their mantra: "September 11 changed everything." What a great fallback - a national crisis that can be used as a catch-all for every act of poor judgment committed by the "conservatives" who sit in power.

And in the eyes of conservatives, Sept. 11 did indeed change everything, including their understanding of civil liberties. Whereas freedom was once at the core of conservatism, to the point where many conservatives considered themselves libertarians, today's conservatives aren't so concerned about civil liberties. In fact, they are leading the charge to give government the power to pry into the private lives of citizens, always under the guise of regulating morality or ensuring security.

Indeed, if there's a politician sticking his nose into your bedroom, trying to tell you what is moral and what is not, you can bet it is a conservative. If someone is trying to restrict access to birth control or other reproductive rights, almost certainly it's a conservative. And if there's a government agent tapping your phone without a warrant, you can be assured that he got his orders from a conservative. Yet, we are told, freedom is a conservative value.

It was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned, back in the days when conservatives arguably had real concerns about the scope of government, that America was threatened by a "military-industrial complex." Under today's conservatives, however, that military-industrial complex has become a behemoth, devouring tax dollars in the name of "national security" in a never-ending war against an elusive, faceless enemy.

Today's conservatives would make any Jeffersonian shudder, not just because of their lack of fiscal restraint, but also because of their moralizing. Traditional Jeffersonian conservatism has roots in the Enlightenment, where rational thinking was esteemed and outward displays of religiosity were discouraged. But that kind of talk is out-of-date for today's conservatives, who, unlike their forbearers, find the notion of secularism to be distasteful. Values can only be defined by conservative religion, they tell us.

Jefferson, of course, was pre-Darwin and lived long before the great modern discoveries that have explained many of the mysteries surrounding the origins of the universe and the evolution of life. Being a man of science, he would no doubt be fascinated by these great advances in human knowledge. Interestingly, however, even though he lived in an age that lacked today's advanced scientific knowledge, he was a religious skeptic and freethinker.

Today's conservatives, however, don't follow this scientific, rationalistic tradition. Sure, conservatives will sometimes use science pragmatically, paying experts to produce scientific opinions that support certain conservative positions (that global warming is a fiction, for example), but this is just a means to achieving policy goals. There is little interest in actually teaching science to children, especially if the facts aren't consistent with conservative religious views.

Hence, defined by today's standards, the word "conservative" means big-spending, fiscally irresponsible, pro-deficit, militaristic, righteous and anti-liberty.

And yet "liberal" is a dirty word?

David A. Niose is a Fitchburg (Massachusetts) lawyer and an officer of the Washington-based American Humanist Association.

 


From the Feb. 21, 2006, edition of the Washington Times:

Regarding religious freedom

Regarding the review of Kevin Hasson's "The Right to be Wrong" (Feb 19), Mr. Hasson is wrong if he thinks that the 14th Amendment did not apply the First Amendment to state and local government until the 1920s. The Congress that approved the 14th after the Civil War intended precisely that,though it took the Supreme Court 50 years to actually do it.

If Mr. Hasson believes that First Amendment free exercise is adequately protected, he should reread Justice Scalia's 1990 ruling in Oregon v Smith to see how free exercise has been diluted.

If he thinks that free exercise eliminates the need for the establishment clause, he is mistaken, as the history of religious freedom in the US makes clear.

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the Feb. 21, 2006, edition of the Washington Examiner:

Suspicion surrounds Catholic group

It's good that "Da Vinci Code" publisher Doubleday is bringing out an edition of Opus Dei founder Escriva's little book "The Way". Having read it in the original Spanish ("Camino") I can say that most readers will find it bizarre and hilariously medieval.

There is a vast literature about Opus Dei, most of it quite critical, by former members and other researchers.

Convicted spy and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was an Opus Dei member. Since Hanssen told an Opus Dei priest, Robert Bucciarelli, about his spying for the Soviets, why didn't the priest notify the proper authorities, and what did Opus Dei do with the information? (See David Wise's book "Spy".)

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


From the February 14, 2006, edition of the Pasadena Star-News:

Ode to Annie C.

Ann Coulter, Ann Coulter.
Did a Democrat jilt her
On a day long ago
When her heart was still pure?
What accounts for her vitriol,
Hatred and malice
Like what the Red Queen
Dumped on poor Alice?
Off with their heads!
Off with their heads!
They lack moral acuity!
They're in favor of promiscuity!
All Democrats are traitors
And they kill the unborned!
Hell hath no fury
Like a Republican scorned.

Ray Sherman
Duarte, California

 


From the February 9, 2006, edition of the Las Vegas Sun:

Islamic protests not surprising

As the Islamic world erupts in fury over European newspaper depictions of the prophet Muhammad, Americans and Europeans are a bit disingenuous to suggest that the Muslim reaction is simply a result of the Islamic world's failure to embrace liberal Western values such as freedom of the press.

Indeed, one must consider how Christians would react if mainstream newspapers began publishing cartoons blatantly insulting or ridiculing Jesus or the Virgin Mary - no doubt the outcry would be thunderous.

Hostile reaction to social or political commentary that boldly challenges traditional religious views is predictable and certainly not unique to the Muslim world. Although many Westerners don't like to admit it, Islam and Judeo-Christian religions are remarkably similar - both are founded on the notion that ancient men received special messages ("prophecy" or "revelation") from God. It's sad and ironic that some interpretations of these "divine" messages have left a trail of bloodshed through the pages of history.

Mel Lipman
Las Vegas

 


From the February 8, 2006, edition of The Idaho Statesman:

Weird beliefs

It was not surprising that a letter denying the Holocaust appeared in the same place as earlier letters denying the truth of evolution. In his excellent book, "Why People Believe Weird Things," Dr. Michael Shermer debunked Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers ("creationists") while showing their use of the same dishonest tactics.

Both Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers search for any errors in scholarship and if they find any they proclaim that all scholarship on the Holocaust and on evolution is wrong.

Both Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers quote scholars out of context and imply that the scholars are denying the Holocaust or evolution.

Both Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers take genuine and honest debate between scholars to mean that they doubt the Holocaust or evolution.

Both Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers trace their roots to the same foul well of ignorance and superstition: fundamentalism.

Historically, both have drawn their evil inspirations from that collection of myths, lies and deceptions known as the "Bible."

Borrowing a term from the great American orator Robert G. Ingersoll, this duplicity can be summed up by saying that only "ignorant bigots" now believe in the absolute truth of the Bible.

Gary Bennett
Emmett, Idaho

 


From the Jan. 30, 2006, edition of the D.C. Examiner:

Committee hearings still are useful for choosing justices

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on judicial nominees should NOT be scrapped, as they are the best way for the Senate and the public to find out exactly who will be interpreting the Constitution for many years to come. Remember, such hearings spared the country the embarrassment and danger of having Robert Bork on the Supreme Court and came very close to blocking Clarence Thomas.

Edd Doerr
President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland


From the Jan 25, 2006, edition of Times Daily (Alabama):

The Bible and death

To the editor:

A Gallop Poll found that Americans are woefully ignorant of Biblical content, yet the Bible is widely hailed as the underpinning of America's values.

In his letter (Pro-death crowd, Jan 19) Tony Shiflett tells us that Christianity and the teachings in the Bible celebrate life as a gift from God. The pro-death extremists celebrate "death."

While Shiflett no doubt knows there is a commandment against killing, he apparently is unaware that the Bible makes exceptions to this commandment that provide for killing just about anybody and everybody.

The Bible declares the following shall be killed: He that curseth his father and mother; witches; those who lie with beasts; worshipers of other gods; people who work on the Sabbath; adulterers; homosexuals; wizards; whores; blasphemers; stubborn and rebellious sons; thieves.

Notably absent from the Biblical hit-list are the practitioners of abortion. And today, Christ's most fervent followers crusade against abortion. Christ never mentioned the practice.

In Exodus 21:22, we find that an abortion has been induced through violence and this is not considered harmful, nor is it a capital offense or violation of "Thou shalt not kill."

Although Shiflett believes abortion is offensive to God, the prophet Hosea was comfortable asking God to induce abortions in the wives of his enemies.

"Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb (an abortion) and dry breasts." Hosea 9:14. And from Hosea 9:16 we find, " ... yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb."

While "pro-lifers" thump the Bible in their crusade against abortion, I don't see them thumping the Bible in protest against killing innocents in Iraq or campaigning against the death penalty. Hypocrites!

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama


From the January 13, 2006, issue of National Catholic Reporter:

President Carter's Values

Thanks to Fr. Robert Drinan for his perceptive review of former President Jimmy Carter's new book "Our Endangered Values" (NCR, Dec 16). Carter is a man whose Christian faith is far more deep, real and meaningful than that of the so-and-so currently in the White House.

Carter's definition of fundamentalism, which he also presented in an address to a Baptist conference in the UK in July 2005, is one of the best and most succinct I have seen.

We need more Baptists like Jimmy Carter and Bill Moyers and fewer of the
Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson type.

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, Maryland

 


 From the Jan. 10, 2006, edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina):

Letters to the editor

Christianity not unique, and not very original

The letter, "Not all brands of spirituality are equal in reader's eye," (AC-T, Dec. 28), is strange indeed. I thought everyone was well aware that Christianity borrowed so many of its teachings from earlier - I suppose what the letter writer was referring to as "pagan" - religions. One Web site (home.earthlink.net/~pgwhacker/ChristianOrigins/introduction1.html) I found on the subject sums it up with the statement: "God, soul, sin, heaven, hell, demons, miracles, godmen, sons of God, savior Gods, salvation, eternal life, sacred meals shared with the god, mystery religions with initiations by baptism - all those things are unequivocally older than Christianity by centuries."

More specifically, another site (www.medmalexperts.com/POCM/scholarship_con_BM_Metzger.html) points out: "The core of Christianity - the worship of a dying Godman who is resurrected, ascends into heaven and brings salvation to mankind - was also the core of a number of ancient pagan religions that began in the Near East 2,000 years before Jesus."

So how can the letter writer insist so vehemently that Executive Editor Susan Ihne's plea for respect for other religions demeans the "Lamb of God"?

Seymour Meyerson
Asheville, North Carolina

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