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Letters Jan Jun 08

Your Published Letters


Your January - July '08 Published Letters

From the June 29, 2008, edition of the The Dallas Morning News:

''Nontheists' abound'

Re: "On religion, there are few absolutes – Most say there is more  than one path to eternal life, poll finds," Tuesday news story.

The intriguing summary didn't capture how this survey uncovered a huge,  previously unknown group of Americans who don't believe in God in  traditional ways.

Four percent of respondents self-identified as atheists or agnostics,  which is more than Muslims and Jews combined, and the results show how  many others lean that way, but aren't ready to disaffiliate with a  religion.

Counterintuitively, Pew found that a significant number of people who  self-identify as adhering to various faiths also say they don't believe  in God. More astonishing, 25 percent of those who say they do believe  in God say they believe God is an impersonal force instead of a  personal god.

These results show that the percentage of the population that qualify  as nontheistic is much higher than previously reported – making this  group a strong and important division of American life.

Roy Speckhardt
executive director,
American Humanist Association
Washington D.C.



From the June 25, 2008, edition of the TuscaloosaNews.com:

'Keep government out of religion'

Dear Editor:  David N. Birchfield laments, “Since then [elimination of school prayer]  we have had an explosion of teenage pregnancies, STDs, assaults, rapes,  murders, abortions, and of course, schoolhouse massacres.” [Letters,  June 23.]

However, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime  Report, the violent crime rate fell 26.3 percent from 1996 to 2005.  Under the “faith-based” Bush administration, it increased 1.3 percent  from 2004 to 2005. The property crime rate fell 22.9 percent from 1996  to 2005. The total violent crime victimization rate fell from 47.7 per  1,000 population age 12 and over in 1973 to 21.0 in 2003.

The Bible Belt has the highest murder rate while the less religious  Northeast has the lowest. Among the five states with the highest murder  rate are Bible Belt states: Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina.

The National Center of Health Statistics reports a dramatic decline in  teen pregnancies during the 1990s, with the rate declining every year  since 1990. In addition, the abortion rate dropped during this period.

A 2007 New York Times article reported, “The birth rate among teenagers  15 to 19 in the United States rose 3 percent in 2006 for the first time  since 1991.” More evidence that the Bush religion-inspired,  abstinence-only policy is bad policy.

Keep government out of religion.  Buy your own evangelical stickers.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the June 18, 2008, edition of the Northern Virginia Daily:

'Humanists: More than atheists'

In his op-ed  article (June 6 issue) R.K. Bohm presents a distorted view of what  atheism is all about, a view unfortunately held by a majority of  Americans.

Atheism is not a belief system. There is no  dogma. It is not a rejection of God; rather it is simply a rejection of  the theistic conception of God. There is a vast difference. No atheist  worth his salt, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher  Hitchens, can say nor does say there is no God with absolute certainty,  period. Nor do they assume, as Bohm charges, that God is "all powerful  and all loving." That is the fundamentalist's theistic view of God that  is held by 45 percent of Americans, including many of Bohm's  contemporaries.

It is possible to reject theism and still  believe in God as does retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who  has devoted his life to his God, his church and his savior Jesus  Christ. Once one rejects theism, it opens up the human mind to explore  new and exciting possibilities. Some enlightened theologians such as  Spong seek a new way to define God and others like me and my humanist  friends embrace a philosophical world view based on reason and  scientific inquiry that has much in common with liberal/moderate  religiosity. What are we humanists all about?

There is no  doubt that we reject the theistic conception of God. Still, we cannot  nor should not be defined for what we are against. Yes, we are  nontheists, but we should not be defined as only atheists. We are much  more than that. We believe that we must do more than reject theological  claims: We must come up with new and innovative ideas to improve the  human condition.

So what are we for? First, we are  scientific naturalists; second, we believe in the principles of  secularism; and, third, we are committed to humanist ethics.

Our  agenda does not begin with the fact that a supernatural God does not  exist but rather with the world and life as we find them. We seek to  explain these things in natural terms. From our perspective, naturalism  is first and foremost, not supernaturalism.

For our  primitive ancestors the world was a mystifying place full of  unexplainable events. They attributed natural events, such as thunder  and lightning, illness and death to mysterious occult forces. Because  they were afraid of what would happen to them, they understandably  invented the gods. We humans have come a long way since then. Thanks to  science, we now have naturalistic explanations of those events.  Supernaturalism was replaced by naturalism. Medical science has reduced  pain and suffering and even prolonged life.

Thus we are  naturalists - not atheists - first, because we use reason and  scientific inquiry to account for what we encounter in nature. We  reject the notion that disasters are attributable to wrathful gods who  reward and punish human behavior. We acknowledge that the universe is  full of unexplainable events. We approach these matters as an agnostic  with an open mind. Skepticism and doubt are essential to scientific  inquiry. We recognize that we may be wrong and are ready to modify our  conceptions in the light of new evidence.

There is also the  misconception that naturalists lack any grounds for morality. The fact  is that human civilization has developed powerful moral principles and  values rooted in the human experience. Our sense of right and wrong,  our moral sense, preceded religion. The National Institutes of Health  is using brain imaging and psychological experiments to study whether  the brain has a built-in moral compass. The results are showing that  many aspects of morality appear to be hard-wired in the brain, most  likely the result of the evolutionary process. Morality has deep  biological roots that have been around a long time.

Secular  Humanists are committed to realizing the best that we are capable of as  human beings. We seek a naturalistic view of the meaning of life that  has the highest consolation value that it can, allowed by or consistent  with possessing the highest truth value.

Our commitment to  truth comes first, but we cannot and must not overlook the power of  love and compassion in enriching our lives. We are leading the way to  toward an authentic celebration of human diversity and developing an  attitude of goodwill toward others of a different color, class,  language, religion and sexual orientation.

It won't be  easy. There is much creative and productive work to do; no one should  be denied the right to participate. This is not a religious or secular  issue. We must all, the religious and the secular community, work  together to create a better world - to bring about a creatively joyful  life for ourselves and others.

Gene Rigelon
Front Royal, VA
Rigelon is coordinator of the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists.



From the June 15, 2008, edition of the Las Vegas Sun:

'Four conservative justices more than enough'

It’s reassuring to see that the four U.S. Supreme Court justices who  would allow the president to suspend the Constitution as he chooses  will sometimes not get majority support.

In Thursday’s 5-4  Supreme Court ruling that prisoners cannot be held at Guantanamo  indefinitely and without being charged with anything, the court  acknowledged that the Bush administration doesn’t have “the power to  switch the Constitution on or off at will.” Naturally, our president  thinks this is a bad decision.

Our precious constitutional right of habeus corpus is meant to protect  us from being imprisoned without being charged with any crime. We are  all in danger when the president or the Supreme Court ignores that  right.

But this close decision should also cause apprehension that a future  president needs only one appointment to the court to give these  “conservative” judges a solid majority in future decisions. One of the  presidential candidates has said he would appoint this kind of judges.

Voters must seriously choose if they want to allow our Constitution to  continue to be trashed by the president and the courts, or if we want a  president who respects the Constitution.

Mel Lipman
Tamarac, Fla
Lipman is president of the American Humanist Association, vice  president of the International Humanist & Ethical Union, and former  president of the Humanist Association of Las Vegas.



From the June 9, 2008, edition of the Pensacola News Journal:

'Louis Pasteur!'

Periodically, a Christian fundamentalist provides "proof" for the  veracity of an untenable notion, and fellow fundamentalists parrot the  "proof."

Creationist parrots are now squawking "Louis Pasteur,"  alleging Pasteur demonstrated that living matter could not be generated  spontaneously from non-living matter. However, Pasteur only showed that  living matter was not generated from inorganic material in a sealed  container in his laboratory during a short period. He did not  demonstrate that living matter could never have arisen from non-living  matter.

Nobel laureate George Wald stated: "I think a scientist has no choice  but to approach the origin of life through a hypothesis of spontaneous  generation." Wald proposed that the probability of life originating  spontaneously under present (i.e., recorded history) conditions is  "impossible." However, he said that the 4.5-billion-year existence of  our planet changes this probability: "Given so much time, the  'impossible' becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable  virtually certain."

After the discovery of ribozymes, Francis Crick (codiscoverer of the  structure of the DNA molecule) proposed that pre-biological origins of  life could be made possible by self-replicating polymers. Atoms, cosmic  radiation, sub-atomic particles, force fields and time are the stuff  from whence we came.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the Lincoln County News (Maine):

'Bring on the Golden Age'

Expect to hear the words “values, core values, family values” a lot  in the coming election year. These emotionally charged slogan words are  used predominantly by the Christian Right. I, as many good people who  do not agree with them, am totally insulted they consider themselves  having a monopoly on “values.”

I’ve become aware of the fact that there are many people having  trouble with the rapid changes in society, and I suspect they, like  Islamic fundamentalists who want to re-establish the “golden age” of  their caliphates, are also striving to bring back one which has been  lost.

For consideration, I’ll propose the 1940s, early 1950s, the times of  my childhood, a time when “dear hearts and gentle people read the ‘good  book’ all week.” Motion pictures are good references. Absent are  African-Americans, except as servants for whites. T hey roles women  played are of kindly mothers, secretaries, housewives or family  disruptors; for the most part, helpless without men. No gay men,  lesbians, agnostics, atheists, except as objects of ridicule,  persecution. Everyone “different” was relegated “to the closet”. (As  were the KKK and pedophilia, unfortunately). This “Eden” has been  dissolving rapidly since the 60s. They want to go home again, via some  “faith-based” manipulations; they’re uneasy, “threatened” (as they have  said) by the direction the country is proceeding, to where “God” and  “Country” and “Church” are one and the same. Those “happy days’ were  not so for many, though, comfortable, secure, and “safe” for them and  theirs, as they remember them being. They and their vision are holding  the break down on our progress in the world, the future.

Let this be a golden age to advance civil rights, choices,  tolerance.

Carl Scheiman,
Walpole,   ME  



From the June 7, 2008, edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

'Practicing Medicine a Privilege, not a Right'

In your May 29 editorial, "Indentured servants," you imply that  doctors, based upon their religious beliefs, have a right to refuse to  provide services to some people.

Licensing by a state is an  earned privilege, rather than an inherent right.
That privilege is granted to doctors (as well as lawyers, pharmacists,  etc.) based on the assumption that they will not refuse to provide  their services because of a patient's sexual orientation or religious  beliefs.

A doctor who will provide services to heterosexuals but refuses to  provide the same service for gay patients should not have the right to  a state license, which gives state approval for them to practice their  profession equitably.

The editorial's metaphor comparing doctors to indentured servants  makes no sense. Indentured servants could not choose to revoke their  agreements, but doctors can always choose to give up their state  license.

States should not grant licenses to professionals who choose to  unfairly discriminate in choosing who will be the recipient of their  services.

Mel Lipman
Tamarac, FL

The writer is a former president of the Humanist Association of  Las Vegas and is currently president of the American Humanist  Association.



From the June 7, 2008, edition of the Anniston Star:

'Bible Belt Christians'

Re "Forsaking God" (Speak Out, May 28):

"People,  you have to have Jesus in your life, otherwise we're all doomed."  Dogmatic statements proclaiming that Christian beliefs are right and  all others are wrong have been plaguing humanity for almost two  millennia.

An ancient law ordered all citizens of the Roman  Empire to subscribe to the Christian doctrine established under Emperor  Constantine at the Council of Nicea. After this, for more than a  thousand years the subjects of Christendom had the choice of  unquestioned acceptance of Christian dogma or torture and death. Christ  proclaimed, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall  not walk in darkness." However, the Christian world was in darkness  until the Age of Enlightenment. Not until Christianity began to lose  its influence did mankind emerge from darkness into an era of reason,  science, ethics and human dignity.

What did Christians do before "they took prayer out of schools and the  Ten Commandments out of courtrooms?" They hung witches, whipped slaves,  pillaged Native Americans, sent children to sweatshops, lynched  African-Americans and denied equal rights and opportunities to  minorities and women. Today sex-based and religious intolerance  continue in the Bible Belt.

David  N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL

From the May 29, 2008, edition of the Mansfield News Journal:

'Actions against Dann unethical'

With the  support of Gov. Ted Strickland, Democratic members of the Ohio House of  Representatives acted unlawfully and unconscionably in the impeachment  proceedings against then-Attorney General Marc Dann.

Their  impeachment resolution was brought under section 24 of article II of  the Ohio Constitution. This section says the House can impeach an  official "for any misdemeanor in office." Because there was no evidence  that Dann had committed a misdemeanor, no authority existed to remove  him from office under that standard. Bob Taft met the standard but Dann  didn't.

To get around that problem, the resolution used the less stringent  standards for removal from office contained in section 38 of article II  and in the statutes implementing that section (R.C. 3.07 through 3.10).  But the statutes specify that those standards apply to the judicial  method of removal. It involves collecting signatures of over 600,000  qualified electors and then having the matter heard by an appellant  court, whose decision can be appealed.

By bringing the impeachment resolution under section 24 but not using  the removal standard contained in that section, and instead using the  removal standards that apply to an entirely different procedure, the  representatives acted illegally and fraudulently. Their resolution was  intended to deceive the public into erroneously believing that an  impeachable offense had been committed.

Additionally, Democratic leaders applied force and intimidation by  having the state inspector general ransack the attorney general's  office and seize computers and other property. He previously hadn't  used such strong-arm tactics even against the Bureau of Workers'  Compensation after the announcement in 2005 that millions had been  stolen from the agency.

Democratic state officials should be ashamed of their extremely  unethical conduct that drove Dann from the office the voters had  elected him to hold. The entire episode is a huge miscarriage of  justice and affront to democracy.

Joseph C. Sommer
Attorney at Law
Columbus, OH



From the May 27, 2008, edition of the Birmingham News:

'Traditional beliefs not always desirable'

A recent letter writer said: "Traditional Christian beliefs have  always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

While science has produced strong evidence that sexual preference is an  innate trait, Christian conservatives claim homosexuality is a sinful  lifestyle chosen by the sinner in violation of God's law. However,  homosexuality has been scientifically documented in more than 450  species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other animals. Are  these animals all "sinners?"

Ironically, while homosexuality is commonplace in nature, homophobia is  not. This is a religion-inspired, malevolent trait of man.

Rationality and compassion dictate tolerance of those law-abiding  citizens who are different than we may be. If archaic edicts or beliefs  are wrong, caring people must reject or change them.

Zealots cannot give one valid reason why protected homosexual acts  between consenting adults is wrong. The best they can do is quote the  Bible, which sheds no light on why homosexuality is wrong - only that  God finds it to be an abomination.

David  N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the May 27, 2008, edition of the Birmingham News:

'Traditional beliefs not always desirable'

A recent letter writer said: "Traditional Christian beliefs have  always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

While science has produced strong evidence that sexual preference is an  innate trait, Christian conservatives claim homosexuality is a sinful  lifestyle chosen by the sinner in violation of God's law. However,  homosexuality has been scientifically documented in more than 450  species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other animals. Are  these animals all "sinners?"

Ironically, while homosexuality is commonplace in nature, homophobia is  not. This is a religion-inspired, malevolent trait of man.

Rationality and compassion dictate tolerance of those law-abiding  citizens who are different than we may be. If archaic edicts or beliefs  are wrong, caring people must reject or change them.

Zealots cannot give one valid reason why protected homosexual acts  between consenting adults is wrong. The best they can do is quote the  Bible, which sheds no light on why homosexuality is wrong - only that  God finds it to be an abomination.

David  N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the May 21, 2008, edition of the South Florida Sun Sentinal:

'U.S. Constitution must reflect the changing times'

The May 5 letter, "Constitution a flexible document, not written in  stone," advocating that the U.S. Constitution be interpreted today  based on societal concepts over 200 years ago, is frightening. The  letter incorrectly implies that the Bill of Rights cannot undergo a  change in meaning. That would mean that there is no constitutional  right of privacy; that prayer could be mandatory in public schools;  that inter-racial marriages could be prohibited; that use of birth  control devices could be forbidden by governments, etc. After all, none  of these rights appear in the original Bill of Rights.

The framers of the Constitution understood that they could not foresee  societal changes that would affect the originally stated rights. That  was the reason they included the Ninth Amendment, which states that the  listing of specific rights in the original document shall not be  construed to mean that these are the only rights we have. As our  society changes, the interpretation of our Constitution must also  change.

An effective and just Supreme Court would try to adapt the spirit of  the original Constitution to current times. While some justices may not  realize it, we are no longer in the 18th century. Our Constitution  should apply to the 21st century.

Mel Lipman
Tamarac, FL



From the May 19, 2008, edition of the Observer-Dispatch:

'Reason allows us to discern what is moral'

A  recent letter writer attributed the lack of morals and common sense in  modern society to getting rid of the Ten Commandments, atheism and the  teaching of evolution. Common sense should make it obvious that those  things have nothing to do with immorality whatsoever.

Simply  put, evolution explains the process through which life developed over  time. Exactly how does accepting this make one immoral? Using this  logic, one could assume that our children’s biology teachers are an  unscrupulous lot.

Ironically, the Bible provides us with  instances supporting a barbaric sense of morality, which most  Christians have since outgrown. For example, would you consider stoning  a woman to death for not being a virgin when married as ethical?

Despite  what religious texts tell us, it is ultimately our reason and common  sense which allows us to discern and fairly discuss what is moral.

A. C. LaMonica
Stittville, NY



From the May 17, 2008, combined edition of the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News:

'Gays deserve the same rights as other Americans'

Polls  show that the majority of Americans still oppose gay marriage. Many  people seem to think that this is an issue that should be decided by  popular vote. It is not.

We are fortunate to live in a country  that places a high value on individual rights. The right to share your  life with someone you love is a basic human right, not one that can be  taken away by majority opinion.

The recognition of basic civil rights protects minorities from the  possible tyranny of the populace. This is a well-established principle  in our great nation.

We do not have to agree with gay marriage. But as a society, we must  recognize that gays are among us, and that they have the same rights  that we do.

Mike Smith
Denver, CO



From the May 12, 2008 edition of the Pensacola NewsJournal:

'Evidence, please!'

In his letter ("See 'Expelled'," April 23) Jacob Pawelski states,  "There is a wealth of scientific evidence to support creationism, as  well as evidence discrediting the theory of evolution." I would like to  add that, "There is a wealth of scientific evidence to support that the  earth is flat, as well as evidence discrediting the theory that the  earth is a sphere."

I am not going to provide evidence for a  flat earth, because it is so voluminous that it would take too much  time and space to do so. Scientists who state that the earth is  spherical are misguided and are merely promoting their own agendas.  Furthermore, many scientists believe the earth is flat.

I do not need to provide evidence that the earth is flat. I believe it;  therefore, it is true. Since I believe the earth is flat, public  schools should teach this as real science.

It should be obvious that the purpose of my sardonic response to Mr.  Pawelski's letter is to demonstrate that letters making sweeping,  dogmatic statements without providing any supporting evidence are  meaningless.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the May 1, 2008, combined edition of the The Other Paper (Columbus, OH):

'Strickland, not Dann, is the arrogant one'

Any  arrogance on Attorney General Marc Dann’s part is dwarfed by the  arrogance of Gov. Ted “Boss” Strickland and the other state officials  who have been trying to drive him from office. In November 2006, Ohio’s  voters chose the person they wanted to be attorney general for the next  four years. Under the law, state officials are supposed to honor the  voters’ decision unless the person commits an impeachable offense.

That remains true regardless of whether the person makes some  mistakes that certain cowardly and silly politicians think could  embarrass them. They don’t own the attorney general and are not free to  decide whether he stays in office. This is a matter of the voters and  the law.  

Nevertheless, state officials have been trying to force from office  a duly elected official who, as far as anyone knows, has not committed  anything near an impeachable offense. Their actions show distain for  the rights of voters and the requirements of the law. Arrogance can’t  get much worse than that.

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus,   OH



From the May 8, 2008, edition of the Denver Post :

'Opposition to personhood initiative'

The Post’s exposé on the impetus for Kristi Burton’s personhood  amendment should be an eye-opener for Coloradans. Ms. Burton has based  her efforts on what she “thinks” about the hazards of abortion, not  only to the fetus but also to its mother. There is no mention of any  scientific studies or actual data to back up her perspective.

 

This is clearly an attempt to legislate a moral code that many  Coloradans are sure to disagree with. Many of us are law-abiding,  moral, ethical people who do not recognize the authority of gods - Ms.  Burton’s or otherwise. Others believe in a god but not one who is  intent on subjugating women by refusing to let them take control of  their own fertility.

 

Thanks to the boost provided by The Denver Post’s front-page  ink, the measure is now likely to gather the signatures necessary to  make the November ballot. Coloradans beware - do not let our competing  gods turn us into criminals.

 

Mike Smith
Denver, CO



From the April, 2008, edition of the Columbus  Monthly:

'Person of the Year?'

 

If the founders of the U.S. were still alive, they would not have  supported Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman as your Person of the Year,  but likely would have viewed him as Turkey of the Decade [“Person of  the Year” –January].

There was no principle the founders believed in more passionately  than freedom of speech. Since Coleman became mayor in 2000, though,  free speech in Central Ohio has been significantly reduced by actions  such as the city’s ending of public-access TV, the government channel’s  censorship of speakers at City Council meetings and increased  restrictions on protests at City Hall

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus,  OH



From the April 28, 2008, edition of the Mobile Press-Register:

'A debt to deism instead'

Letter writer Robert D. Pinkston ("A debt to Christianity," April  23) correctly states that religious freedom was given to us by the  Founding Fathers.

The Founders were familiar with the restriction on individual  liberties that Bible-based theocracies had imposed upon peoples in the  past including in the American colonies. To prevent this in the new  nation, James Madison wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Madison, like many other Founders including Jefferson and Franklin, was  a deist, not an orthodox Christian.

Deists subscribed to a rational religion of nature. Their God  created nature and nature's laws but did not interfere in human affairs  and did not appear to them through divine revelation.

The deist Founders wanted to ensure that religious dogma would not  be imposed upon the citizenry of the United States. Only the U.S.  Constitution, which does not mention in its text the Bible, God or  Christ, would be the foundation and governing document of our legal  system.

Contradicting the Bible, the document of freedoms conceived by what  may be the most brilliant and visionary group of men ever assembled  gives Americans the right to worship other gods or no gods, work on  Sunday (Saturday) and say anything we like about the various gods  (blaspheme).

Hence, for our religious freedom we owe a debt of thanks to our deist Founding Fathers.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach,  AL



From the April 21, 2008, edition of the Anniston Star:

'That's All There Is'

Re: "Scriptures are proof" (Speak Out, April 17):

Letter writer Jeff Hines states that the Scriptures are proof of  everything that he believes, and he needs no other proof. Among those  beliefs are eternal salvation.

While I do not accept Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, I need not  concern myself with eternal salvation. Why not? Because Scripture tells  me that when I am dead, that is all there is: "But the dead know not  any thing, neither have they any more reward." (Ecclesiastes 9:5.)

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the April 13, 2008, edition of the Birmingham News:

' 'Free Will' is a myth'

In attempting to explain how an omnipotent, omniscient, merciful  deity can allow suffering (e.g., the recent accident on Interstate 459  that killed four teenagers), apologists resort to "free will." They  tell us free will is "the utmost gift given to us by God."

Can you imagine standing by as your children entered harm's way and  you did nothing to stop them? Is that really the ultimate act of love?  Or is it the epitome of indifference?

Of course, God-given free will is a myth. It is not free will if you  are guaranteed eternal agony for displeasing God. That is the  equivalent of saying you have free will when a thug puts a gun to your  head and demands, "Hand over your wallet!"

An all-loving deity would not give the Nazis free will and then  stand by as they slaughtered 6 million Jews. The Jews certainly did not  have any choice in this act of "free will." A merciful God would not  allow a lion to rip apart a wildebeest or the shark to mutilate a sea  lion. Do lions opt to be savage predators, or were they created that  way? Animal and human suffering are hardly benefits of divine free  will.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the April 11, 2008, edition of the Tuscaloosa News:

'Biblical passages support violence'

Dear Editor: Letter writer Marlon Long [April 9] rues the monstrous  acts of family violence taking place in our society. He goes on to  state that, 'We can find meaning easily in God's Holy Word.' However,  it appears that 'God's Holy Word' may well be a cause for the  dysfunctional family.

The Bible irrationally and cruelly demands the following shall be  put to death: He that curseth his father and mother, Exodus 21:17 and  Matthew 15:4; and stubborn and rebellious sons, Deuteronomy 21:18-21.  What could be more absurd than Psalm 137:9, 'Happy shall he be, that  taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.'

'Double, double toil and trouble; / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.'  The three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth must have been having  biblical thoughts as they were mixing their potion. In II Kings 6:28-30  two women agree to boil and eat their sons. Fortunately for one son,  his mother weaseled out of the agreement after the other son had met  his fate.

Mr. Long says, 'With Christ there is peace and love.' However,  Christ says he has not come to send peace, and he declares, 'For I am  come to set a man at variance against his father ... ,' Matthew 10:35.  In a further repudiation of family values, Christ states, 'He that  loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.'

As long as the Bible is revered as a paragon of virtue, family violence will likely continue.lettersaprilmayjune08

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the April 4, 2008, edition of the Washington Post:

Michael Gerson's Outlook on Abortion

Michael Gerson, ostensibly pro-life, is startlingly cavalier about  the lives of women when he attacks anyone who might oppose a ban on  "partial birth" abortion -- the political term for intact dilation and  evacuation ["Obama's Abortion Extremism," op-ed, April 2].

Restrictions on partial-birth abortions are one thing, but a large  number of partial-birth abortions are performed when mothers' lives are  in danger or when severe developmental problems have been detected in  fetuses. To ban the procedure outright does nothing to prevent  late-stage abortion but merely leaves non-intact dilation and  extraction methods as the sole resort of women whose lives may be in  danger -- methods that many doctors deem riskier and more likely to  cause infertility.

Karen Frantz
Policy and Advocacy Associate
American Humanist Association
Washington


From the March 14, 2008, edition of the Pensacola News Journal:

'Spiritual revival'

In his letter ("Politicians rejecting U.S. Constitution," March 2)  David Loden calls for a spiritual revival and the election of patriots  who love God. Only this will save America from destruction.

Ironically, the Pew Research Center noted, "Religion has come  to be woven more deeply into the fabric of partisan politics than ever  before." America's born-again president has joined the religious war  against science and education, e.g., his stance on stem cell research  and creationism.

Ninety-nine senators stood on the steps of the Capitol and bellowed  "under God." Members of the Supreme Court have called "separation of  church and state" a myth. Polls show that Americans will not elect an  atheist to political office; and it is unlikely Americans would elect  Thomas Jefferson president today, as he rejected the divinity of Christ.

America has never been more religious. Not since the Puritans were  persecuting Baptists, Quakers and witches have the people of these  shores embraced God with more devotion and fervor.

During the past century, church membership has grown from 25 percent  to 65 percent of the population. A study by the Pew Research Center  found that America's religiosity is closer to that of Third World  countries than to other industrialized nations.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach


From the March 10, 2008, edition of Newsweek:

'The Meaning of Being Secular'

Lisa Miller rightly points out (Belief Watch, Feb 25) that America's  Founders intended to set up secular -- i.e. religiously neutral --  government, with religious freedom protected by a "wall of separation  between church and state". And Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein  is right in preferring the positive "humanist" to the empty and  negative "atheist" or "unbeliever".

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, MD


From the February 28, 2008, edition of Tuscaloosa News:

Creationism is not science

Dear Editor: A letter writer states, "I do not understand why this  inane discussion of evolution and faith is still going on. It is  because there are those who refuse to forgo ancient myths in favor of  empirical evidence." [Feb 20]

All claims of science are tentative and are not based on  unquestioned dogma. The scientific method has made evolution highly  probable. The evolutionist asks questions about our origins; and then  develops a hypothesis offering possible answers based on empirical  evidence. The theory is continually upgraded.

While the scientist quizzically delves into the unknown to find  answers, the creationist makes the unequivocal statement, "In the  beginning God" and then futilely gropes to find something to give this  dogma credibility. In creation "science" if the data doesn't support  the dogma, then the data is rejected or changed. Creationists state  that the creation model points to a creator. What is this "evidence?"  What does the data tell us about this creator? Evolution is based on  evidence, not wishful thinking.

The only arguments for divine creation are specious claims against  evolution, e.g., the opinion of the majority of scientists doesn't make  it true; and blatant falsehoods - "Evolution suffers from two fatal  flaws: explaining how life came from non-life and a fossil record  devoid of transitional forms." Science is explaining the former and  there is a plethora of transitional fossils. Of course, there is always  that hackneyed canard: "Evolution is only a theory." Even if evolution  is totally wrong, it doesn't follow that creationism is valid.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach


From the February 28, 2008, edition of Mobile Press-Register:

Constitution calls for separation

Letters occasionally appear in the Press-Register stating that there is no such thing as "separation of church and state."

This contention is based on the fact that the phrase "separation  of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution.  While this phrase is not in the Constitution, it summarizes the spirit  and force of the First Amendment's "establishment of religion" clause.  Does anyone deny the principle of "fair trial" -- a phrase not found in  the Constitution?

The Supreme Court in interpreting the "establishment of religion  clause," has quoted Jefferson's famous phrase. In the 1879 case known  as Reynolds vs. United States, the court stated that Thomas Jefferson's  comments "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the  scope and effect of the First Amendment."

Justice Hugo Black (a Baptist Sunday school teacher from Alabama)  spelled out church/state separation in the Supreme Court case Everson  vs. Board of Education (1947) by defining the First Amendment's  "establishment of religion" clause.

In expressing the court's opinion, he said, "Neither state or  federal government can force nor influence a person to go to or to  remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a  belief or disbelief in any religion." He explained that neither a state  nor federal government could, openly or secretly, participate in the  affairs of any religious organizations or groups; nor can religious  organizations or groups receive support from government.

He concluded, "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against  establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a 'wall of  separation between church and state.'"

While the First Amendment guarantees a person the right to  acknowledge his God privately or with willing participants in any way  seen fit, an individual or group may not enlist the influence of  government to support religion. Government must be neutral as to  religion. When the statement, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"  appears on government property, it is a violation of religious  neutrality.

Hence, it is a violation of the First Amendment for a public school  official to lead, or authorize a student to lead, the student body in  prayer. It is also a violation of the First Amendment for a school  official to prevent students from praying individually or in groups or  to discuss their religious views with their peers, read their Bibles,  say grace before meals and pray before tests so long as they are not  disruptive.

The First Amendment decrees, "Congress shall make no law respecting  an establishment of religion." It does not state establishment of a  religion (i.e., state religion) but establishment of religion -- in  other words, all religion.

Obviously, if our Founders had wanted Christianity to receive  special treatment from our government, the U.S. Constitution would have  so stated. The words "God," "Jesus Christ" and/or "Christianity" do not  appear in the text of the Constitution.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach


From the February 19, 2008, edition of the Washington Examiner:

'Do our country a favor'

So Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia does not think that torture  always violates the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual  punishments". He has also shown scorn for the religious liberty  provisions of the First Amendment. Yet, curiously, he is regarded by  some as a "strict constructionist" of the Constitution. Justice Scalia  could do our country and our liberties a great favor by retiring from  the Court, and it would be nice if he would take his acolyte Justice  Clarence Thomas with him.

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, MD


From the February 03, 2008, edition of the Birmingham News:

'Sex ed can reduce abortions'

Abortion will continue to occur even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned,  just as it did before Roe vs. Wade. Although education can reduce  abortion, many opponents of abortion oppose sex education.

The National Center of Health Statistics reported a dramatic  decline in teen pregnancies during the 1990s. Family planning was  emphasized during the Clinton years. The abortion rate dropped as teen  pregnancies declined.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reports that reasons for the decline include:

The availability of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, leading to young people's knowledge about contraception.

More effective contraception use.

Improved ability to negotiate contraceptive practice.

Greater social support for services related to both pregnancy and disease prevention among adolescents.

Programs preaching abstinence do not prevent teenage sex.  Abstinence-only has been the linchpin of the Bush administration's sex  education policy. The Washington Post reported last April 14 that a  six-year study concluded abstinence-only education had not proved to  reduce sexual activity, teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.  The birth rate among teenagers 15 to 19 in the United States rose 3  percent in 2006 for the first time since 1991.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach


From the January 24, 2008, edition of the Tuscaloosa News:

'Give credit where credit is due'

Dear Editor: G. Wayne Crocker states, 'I hope they [presidential  candidates] believe that God--not government--is the source of our  liberties.' Bush harbors this theocratic notion and look what 'divine  guidance' has done to our great nation. I certainly hope that our next  president understands that his authority is derived not from God but  from 'we the people' as provided for in our Constitution.

I cringe every time I hear a Christian conservative state that our  liberties are a gift from God. This trivializes a concept and events  that are monuments to the intellect, will, spirit, determination and  sacrifice of those who did provide us with the liberties we so cherish  and to those who helped preserve this gift.

Although God had millenniums to provide humankind with these  liberties, freedom was only a suppressed thought in men's minds for  most of civilization. During the Age of Enlightenment, John Locke  advocated that sovereignty resides with the people. Locke's philosophy  gave true freedom a glimmer of hope.

Men of courage and wisdom assembled a collection of farmers and  tradesmen creating a ragtag army possessed with boundless bravery and  perseverance. Freedom became a reality. The deist founders then created  a document that guaranteed personal liberties for future Americans and  inspired freedom for peoples of other nations.

Generations of Americans have unselfishly given of themselves to  preserve the freedom gained 232 years ago. Our liberties are a gift  from a rare breed of human beings. They deserve the credit.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach


From the January 07, 2008, edition of the Anniston Star:

'Speak Out...What the Bible Revealed'

Re "Knowing who Jesus is" (Speak Out, Dec. 29):

In complying with writer David Dethrage's suggestion, I read the  Bible, and here is what was revealed to me. The founders of  Christianity created a larger-than-life being they believed would bring  them followers--and it did. However, they unwittingly imparted to  Christ their own human frailties.

The Gospels' authors could not credit their "Lord and Savior"  with bringing peace, curing leprosy, preventing hunger or eliminating  poverty. It was indisputable that all of humankind's maladies were as  prevalent after Christ as before Christ. Christ's proponents  circumvented this problem by declaring that life on earth didn't  matter, as believers would spend eternity in paradise. As a subterfuge  for Christ's failures the Gospels' authors disseminated stories about  Christ performing miracles. It did not matter how far-fetched the  Gospels were. Beginning in the fourth century, torture insured that  they were "true."

Christ's creators tried to paint a picture of a man of  compassion and forgiveness. Ironically, Christ proclaimed, "But he that  shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is  in danger of eternal damnation." In essence, the Gospels are little  more than a threat. "Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and  worship His God, or suffer horrible consequences."

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

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