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Letters Jul Dec 06

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Your July - December '06 Published Letters

From the December 28, 2006 edition of The Other Paper (Columbus).

Columbus looks unenlightened


Todd Baker is absolutely correct that Columbus's lack of public-access TV is shameful (Letters, Dec. 21). Such disregard for public discussion makes the city look narrow-minded, smug and even un-American.


By placing the right to free speech at the beginning of the Bill of Rights, the founders of the U.S. gave the highest priority to an open marketplace of ideas.

The founders also believed that the public sector is responsible for ensuring the availability of forums where all voices can be heard. That's why the government provided massive, content-neutral postal and printing subsidies to support free speech throughout the first half of the 19th century.

Because public-access TV is an excellent forum for the public discussion that the founders advocated, numerous American cities fund it. By refusing to do so, Columbus looks far less patriotic and enlightened than they do.

Joseph C. Sommer

From the December 23, 2006, edition of the Anniston Star:

No mention of God

The letter states that our nation was "founded on faith in God." But those who were present during our nation's founding were distressed that it was not.

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 Aristocrotis contended that the delegates in Philadelphia created a government that for the first time in world history removes 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 or vow to build a Godly nation. In fact, it did not even mention God. It especially grieved Williams that the Constitution did not demand a religious test for office holders that required "an explicit acknowledgment of the being of God, his perfections and his providence."

In 1812, Timothy Dwight, Yale University president and congregational minister, lamented, "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

From the December 15, 2006, edition of the Montgomery Advertiser:

Disproving not fruitful

In her Dec. 1 letter, "Belief creates conflicted choices," Sherry Garner states, "I don't think you can say that something doesn't exist merely because many of us don't yet have the correct tools to accurately measure the phenomenon." This is a rephrasing of "You can't prove that God doesn't exist." The logical response, "Prove the tooth fairy doesn't exist and I'll apply the same argument to the nonexistence of God."

It cannot be proven that something that doesn't exist doesn't exist, be it the tooth fairy, a green unicorn, the Easter bunny, Quetzalcoatl or any god. The onus is on the person claiming that something is fact to provide empirical evidence for the truth of the proposition. If we had to devote our intellect to disproving every unsubstantiated fantasy that pops into existence, the halls of knowledge would be empty.

I question why it is more virtuous to rely on faith (belief that is not based on proof) rather than knowledge which is based on empirical evidence.

As for Carl Sagan, who Sherry Garner implies is now residing in a rather unpleasant place, it seems cruel and irrational that her God is persecuting Carl because he wanted to know rather than believe.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

From the December 8, 2006, edition of the Washington Times:

'Apples, oranges and schools'

Terence Jeffrey's comparison of private and public schools ("Bad apples and public schools", Commentary, Dec. 6) is faulty, like comparing apples and pineapples. Faith-based private schools have an advantage over public schools in that they are selective in various ways while public schools must accept all children. As surveys of Catholic schools, the largest nonpublic system, show, Catholic schools serve fewer minority children, and serve, on average, children from more affluent, well educated and intact families.

As for money, as public schools serve all children, including many with handicaps and poverty related problems, they need more money. Yet public funds are distributed very unevenly in many states.

As for school vouchers, they have been on the ballot in 25 statewide referendums from coast to coast and have been rejected by millions of voters by an average of two to one.

Edd Doerr, President
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, MD

From the December 1, 2006, edition of the Charleston Post and Courier:

Board and prayer

I agree with new school board member Arthur Ravenel Jr. when he says, "If any political entity needs help, it's the Charleston County School Board." I certainly hope the board will find ways to improve the quality of public education in Charleston County.

However, I disagree with Mr. Ravenel's proposed solution: To begin school board meetings with a prayer. When acting as private citizens, school board members and teachers are free to pray or not pray as they see fit. But government officials acting in an official role must not use the power of government to promote or endorse particular religious views.

Mr. Ravenel, unlike me, is a Christian. I don't believe that Jesus (or anyone else) is Lord. However, I do find wisdom in many passages attributed to Jesus.

Here is one of my favorites, which perhaps shows that leaders a couple thousand years ago may not have been much different from some of our leaders today:

"When you pray, be not as the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. When you pray, enter into the closet, shut the door, and pray to your Father in secret." (Matthew 6: 5-6)

Herb Silverman
19 Wraggborough Lane

From the December 2006 edition of More Than A Paycheck:

The era of Empire is coming to an end, one way or another, because for human beings great concentrations of power are self destructive. We need egalitarian democratic culture, what David C. Korten (The Great Turning ) calls "Earth Community", to survive.

Where Korten goes wrong is in basing his "new story" on goofy New Age spirituality. Ambiguous obscure concepts don't work for teaching cooperation and shared responsibility. Esoteric ideas give the upper hand to con artists and charlatans. He says, "Earth Community enjoys the ultimate advantage, because the natural human drive - if not blocked - is to grow in capacity and understanding and to connect with ever expanding circles of life. Political extremists must engage in manipulation and deception to thwart this natural impulse". (p.330).

To the contrary, the natural human tendency probably is to form dominance hierarchies as do all other social apes. Manipulation and deception to gain and hold power is the norm, the default condition, where people have not been carefully taught to practice egalitarian democratic principles.

Dale L. Berry
AHA Member
Grants, NM

From the November 29, 2006, edition of the Christian Science Monitor:

Both religious and atheistic ideologies have motivated murder

In his Nov. 21 Opinion piece, "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Dinesh D'Souza claims that the death toll from history's greatest religious wars and persecutions "are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century." But in making this claim, Mr. D'Souza mentions this fact only in passing: "[O]f course population levels were much lower" in earlier times. Yes, they were. The world population didn't reach a half billion until 1650. Today it is more than 6.5 billion. And modern mass murderers aren't limited to the swords and arrows of the past; the 20th century gave us weapons of mass destruction.

Also, D'Souza counts Adolf Hitler as an atheist. But raised a Roman Catholic, Hitler identified himself as Christian all his life and strongly maintained that Providence guided him in his cause. His followers felt likewise. Moreover, Hitler was able to recruit leading members of the German clergy as supporters. Thus traditional religion remains capable of mass murder - a fact of which 9/11 should serve as a reminder.

Fred Edwords
Director of Communications, American Humanist Association
Washington, DC

From the November 27, 2006 edition of the New York Times:

Re: Atheists Agonistes

Just as there are obnoxious Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and other fundamentalists at one end of the spectrum, so, too, are there obnoxious atheists at the other. Those atheists misidentify all religious people as ignorant fundamentalists, disdain all religion, regard Unitarians and agnostics as wusses, and place the promotion of atheism ahead of any other interest. The reality is that there is a vast middle ground of moderate to progressive Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, humanists and others who share a wide spectrum of values: protecting democracy, civil liberties, civil rights, women's rights, the environment, planetary sustainability; working for peace; ending poverty, colonialism, racism, homophobia, the growing gap between rich and poor nationally and globally. It is important that the vast middle keep both extremes at arm's length and work together on what is important to all of us and our children and grandchildren.

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, Md.
The writer is the immediate past president of the American Humanist Association.

From the November 15, 2006, edition of the Birmingham News:

Christianity more than a slogan

Last Friday's Religion section reported that contention over "Merry Christmas" has begun. As an atheist member of four groups supporting church/state separation, my response to somebody wishing me "Merry Christmas" is a hearty "Merry Christmas."

The expression neither offends me nor these groups anymore than "hello" or "goodbye." The attack on those allegedly crusading against "Merry Christmas" is little more than the right-wing Christian tradition of using scapegoats (communists, homosexuals, secular humanists, religious moderates) to rally support.

I have never been instructed not to use this salutation, and I certainly have never admonished anyone for expressing this sentiment. I question if any of these "persecuted" souls has ever been told, "You can't say that." They are merely mindlessly parroting the falsehoods of Jerry Falwell and his ilk who rely on fear to help line their coffers.

It is a shame zealots have such an intolerance of anyone using "Happy Holidays." It must be an embarrassment to those who believe Christianity is more than a slogan.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

From the November 12, 2006, edition of the Pensacola News Journal:

To trust, or to think

Chrys Holley ("Our only hope," Letters, Oct. 24) states, "America's only hope: Trust in God!" But it is folly to trust a deity who:

Saddled us with sin because His first humans innocently ate a piece of fruit; sanctioned a cruel human sacrifice in a failed attempt to relieve us of this sin; created a world replete with disease, natural disasters and hungry children; "designed" a savage, predatory system of survival for His animal kingdom; went into a rage, destroying innocent man and beast when people displeased Him; condoned slavery, sexism, intolerance, mass murder, rape and plunder; has allowed humans to burn, torture, fine and imprison in His name; as an act of "love" gave the Nazis "free will," then stood by as they murdered six million Jews; condemns to eternal damnation America's best and brightest, e.g., Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Steven Weinberg, Warren Buffet, because He cannot convince them that He exists; needs governmental help in coaxing us to acknowledge Him; advised our president to wage an ill-conceived war of aggression; can't defeat Satan and evilness; and allows animal and human suffering to persist.

I don't know one reason to trust in God. America's best hope: THINKING!

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Ala.

From the October 30, 2006, edition of the Tuscaloosa News:

'Religious test' won't help this country

Dear Editor: 'God will hold you accountable if you vote for someone who endorses such evil [by the writer's thinking], and Democrats take an oath to support their platform.' So states M.G. McDonald in the Oct. 23 letter: Vote for Christians, not Democrats.

This declaration only demonstrates that McDonald's Christianity and its vindictive God are a danger to the secular principles and practices that made this a great country of individual liberties.

It reflects the religious attitude that brought the world the Crusades, Inquisition, relentless attacks on science and reason and continues spewing forth intolerance, hatred and hypocrisy in the Bible Belt. Would our born-again, "pro-life" president have waged a war of aggression against a Christian nation? Not likely.

In "Notes on Virginia," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Millions of innocent men, women and children since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity."

If it were not for our secular laws, what would "God's laws" be doing to our citizenry today?

Christian conservatives are obsessed with making America religiously uniform -- with their brand of religion. Fortunately, our Constitution supports religious pluralism. While McDonald may demand a test, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test as qualification for federal office holders.

Our "wayward nation" will be saved by ethical people of reason regardless of their religious beliefs; and not be the corrupt, dishonest and unqualified incumbents who have passed McDonald's religious test for office.

David N. Miles

From the October 28, 2006, edition of the Montgomery Advertiser:

Church not wrongly restricted

In his Oct. 16 letter Phillip W. Wood correctly states that throughout our history churches have often taken political roles. During the contentious presidential campaign of 1800 venom spewed forth from the pulpit with the same intensity as the ecclesiastical acrimony of the 2004 election.

The Congregational Church in New England reviled the deist Thomas Jefferson (ironically Adams was also a deist) and vehemently opposed his election. The Dutch Reform minister William Linn called on Christian voters "to reject one who has so little regard for Christianity and the Bible." Jefferson's opponents said voters had a clear choice: "God -- and a religious president ... or Jefferson -- and no God."

Fortunately for the future of America, bluster from the pulpit in 1800 didn't have the effect on the populace that it has today.

Wood is incorrect in stating, "Churches have been prohibited from preaching concerning political causes." Churches can preach anything they want; but as non-profit organizations they must abide by certain IRS provisions in order to maintain their preferential tax treatment. Why should a taxpayer subsidize priestly harangues for a cause he or she doesn't support?

Sanctimonious, ill-conceived sanctions emanating from the pulpit are an unfortunate part of church history in America. In 1852 Frederick Douglass noted, "The church is responsible for the persistence of slavery. It has shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system." In fairness, there were clergy who opposed slavery.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

From the October 25, 2006, edition of the Anniston Star:

Re: 'Pray for area students' (Speak Out, Sept. 27)

Wonder Ingram Osborne's plea for prayer to help students in the Anniston City School System is alarming. It implies that the school system has no ability to improve itself and/or the students neither have the capacity nor the will to learn. Any person making such a plea at an Ivy League university would be laughed off the campus. Learning is a rational process requiring personal effort from both educators and students. Reliance on ineffectual fantasy can only impede the learning process. If praying to learn is commonplace in Alabama, the state will continue to rank at the bottom education wise.

While there is not one legitimate documentation of a causal connection between prayer and the outcome of an event, Osborne offers Biblical quotes to "prove" that "When a believing person prays, great things happen." She can also use the Bible to "prove" that our planet is inhabited by: four legged chickens, (Leviticus 11:20); unicorns (Deuteronomy 33:17); a talking ass (Numbers 22:27-33); and a forest where trees talk to each other (Judges 9:8-15).

Osborne says, "Let's give God a chance to turn things around." He's been given ample chance. It's time for hard work and reason.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

From the October 23, 2006, edition of the Cleveland Scene:

Betty Montgomery: No friend of consumers

The Republican candidate for attorney general, Betty Montgomery, claims that she ran an outstanding consumer protection section when she previously held the office. Large corporate interests probably thought so, but the public had little reason to.

Montgomery's lack of concern for consumers was shown when a Cleveland law firm filed a class-action lawsuit accusing many hospitals of violating the Consumer Sales Practices Act. The firm wanted to stop them from charging fees ranging from 95 cents to $23 a page for copies of medical records.

As attorney general, Montgomery had the primary responsibility for enforcing the law, but she declined to enter the lawsuit and, in effect, sided with the hospitals. She took that position even though the federal government, after extensive hearings, had determined that 7 cents a page was fair compensation when hospitals provide copies of medical records to peer review organizations.

Montgomery also was unmoved by reports that the fees were so high that some persons could not afford access to their medical records. She knew they likely needed the records to enforce their rights in civil actions, workers' compensation claims, Social Security determinations or other legal proceedings.

The hospitals eventually settled the case by agreeing to lower their fees substantially. They also agreed to support efforts to change the law to limit the fees, which ultimately happened. But Montgomery declined to back those efforts too.

If Montgomery had her way, hospitals would still be charging consumers outrageous fees for medical records. To have an attorney general who is on the side of the public, voters should reject Montgomery's attempt to regain the office and instead support Democrat Marc Dann.

Joseph C. Sommer

From the October 22, 2006, edition of the Times Daily:

More Reason?

In his Nov. 20 letter, "Mobilize for cause," Richard Taylor parrots the hackneyed lament of the religious right that the liberals "have been taking our population away from God for many years."

But not since the Puritans were persecuting Baptists, Quakers and witches have the people of these shores embraced God with more devotion and fervor.

The Pew Research Center noted, "For the past generation, religion has come to be woven more deeply into the fabric of partisan politics than ever before." America's born-again president repeats the slogan "God bless America" ad nauseam, supports teaching creationism and opposes stem-cell research. Ninety-nine senators stood on the steps of the Capitol and bellowed "under God."

Some members of the Supreme Court have called "separation of church and state" a myth. Polls show an atheist cannot be elected to public office.

In the industrialized world, America ranks with Poland and Ireland as the most religious nation; and a study by the Pew Research Center found that America's religiosity is closer to that of Third World countries than to industrialized nations. During the past century, church membership has grown from 25 percent to a record 65 percent of the population.

Taylor states that, "The moral stamina of our country has declined so rapidly in recent years." If an overtly Christian government and fanatically God-fearing citizenry, coupled with the alleged omnipotence of God, has been unable to stem our nation's perceived moral decline, then the solution has to be less God and more reason.

A report just released by the United Nations ranked Norway, Iceland and Sweden as three of the best five countries to live in. Interestingly, church attendance in Scandinavia ranks at the bottom for industrialized nations and the percentage of atheists is approximately three times that of the eighth ranking United States.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach

From the October 17, 2006, edition of the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette:

Montgomery falsely claims she ran an outstanding section

The Republican candidate for attorney general, Betty Montgomery, claims she ran an outstanding consumer protection section when she previously held the office. It's not true.

Montgomery's lack of concern for consumers was shown when a Cleveland firm filed a class-action lawsuit accusing many hospitals of violating the Consumer Sales Practices Act. The lawsuit ultimately stopped them from charging fees as high as $23 a page for copies of medical records.

As attorney general, Montgomery had the primary responsibility for enforcing the law. But she declined to enter the lawsuit and, in effect, sided with the powerful hospital lobby. She did so even though the federal government had determined that 7 cents a page was fair compensation when hospitals provide copies of medical records to peer review organizations.

Montgomery also was unmoved by reports that the fees were so high that some persons could not afford access to their medical records. She knew they needed the records to enforce various legal rights.

It was unconscionable that Montgomery allowed such outrageous fees to continue. To have an attorney general who is on the public's side, voters should support Democrat Marc Dann.

Joseph C. Sommer

From the October 16, 2006, edition of the Pensacola News Journal:

God tolerant

After a letter to the editor expressing my opinion concerning a biblical intolerance, irrationality or untruth, responses are printed that contain one or more of the following:

1) A biblical quote allegedly proving the Bible's inerrancy. 2) A declaration that all-merciful God will subject me to eternal torment. 3) An unsupported "Out of context!" 4) A plea such as, "Pray that God will open his eyes."

The use of prayer to make my beliefs conform to one's own is an insulting act of arrogance and naivete, and a poor substitute for a factual, well-written letter that logically challenges my opinion. My reliance on rationalism and empiricism, rather than mysticism and authoritarianism, cannot be prayed away.

The myriad of prayers aimed at altering my beliefs have had absolutely no effect. I still regard the Bible as mythology. I eschew prayer and superstition; and I require empirical evidence, or a darn good reason, before I will accept a tenet as the truth.

These unanswered prayers indicate to me that, if there is a God, he ignores religious zealotry and is more tolerant of a diversity of viewpoints than is generally believed.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Ala.

From the October 10, 2006, edition of the Boston Globe:

Morality meets hypocrisy in congressional page scandal

ELLEN GOODMAN correctly points out the hypocrisy of the religious right surrounding the Mark Foley congressional scandal ("Courtesy of GOP, voters finally get 'it', " op-ed, Oct. 6), but to fully understand this issue we need to take her analysis one step further.

Not only should we be skeptical of politicians using religiosity to proclaim moral superiority, but we should be more open to the idea of nontheistic, humanistic values in the public arena.

When an openly nontheistic candidate can be elected to higher office in America (an unfathomable thought here, but a common occurrence in most of the rest of the developed world), rational public policy might actually be within grasp.


September 25 Letter to the Editor, Free Mind:

Peace Pledge

Dear Free Mind Editor:

I must say I am concerned about the AHA endorsement of the Declaration of Peace Pledge. I would like to see AHA, itself a democratic organization, refrain from taking an official pacifist position without (1) a democratic poll of the membership on this issue, and (2) a better plan for addressing the reality of the situation in the Middle East. Although I applaud AHA for its idealism, we are supposed to be a rational group that fights for church/state separation and the civil rights of Americans above all else. How does conceding power to radical Islamic sects in the Middle East jibe with those core principles? "Peace now" is wishful thinking.

Shouldn't we be concerned that members of the largest group of non-humanists in the world committed blatant aggression against our country on 9/11/01? Shouldn't we be concerned that they have organized violent action to wipe out modernism and establish theocracies that would exert a strangle hold on oil supplies that are now sold freely to us? Shouldn't we have a pledge to fight those radicals?

Yes, I know that Saddam was not responsible for 9/11/01, but we need bases somewhere in the Middle East to (1) protect our right to buy oil, (2) help defend Israel, and (3) keep terrorist focused on their principle aggravation - our presence in their "holy land." I know, too, that we should be independent of Arab oil, an effort I actively supported in the 1970s, but that is not going to happen overnight, if ever. Yes, I know that the establishment of Israel in 1947 was probably not the wisest step by the victors of WWII, but until Israelis and Palestinians give up the myth of "holy land," we aren't going to see either government quit their hostilities

I also know that our duly elected President (Gore did concede, after all) and the overwhelming majority of our democratically elected Congress voted to occupy Iraq for the above mentioned reasons (although there were other pretenses). It may seem that "our continued military presence in Iraq will do more harm than good," but how do we know that? We as Humanists know there are relative evils. Iraq is not America, and it may be that stability there is too much to expect. Perhaps all we can do is kill off the worst radicals day by day. Oh, are Humanists opposed to killing anyone? Ideally, yes, but rational thought says we must preserve our modern free society from backward fanatics, don't you think? Certainly these are complex issues, and I don't think AHA's simple answer is necessarily the right one.

Ron Herman
Albuquerque, NM

From the September 20, 2006, edition of the Pensacola News Journal:

Teach the Bible

The Bible should be taught in school -- but objectively.

A Gallup Poll found that Americans are woefully ignorant of biblical content. If students were familiar with the Bible, they would realize it is not the absolute authority for rational, moral and ethical behavior; and it is less likely they would be duped by those who quote the Bible to promote their own agendas.

While our Constitution's First Amendment grants us religion freedoms, the Bible dictates that worshippers of other gods, people who work on the Sabbath, and blasphemers shall be put to death. The Bible's unfortunate attitude toward women would come to light. Students might be puzzled by Moses' dictate -- kill all non-virgins, but all women who are virgins keep alive for yourself. African-American students may be surprised to learn that the New Testament fails to condemn slavery; and Exodus 21 actually condones slavery.

Seeing the evils of Bible-based theocracies, e.g., the Dark Ages, Puritan America, will emphasize the importance of separation of church and state. If a truly objective Bible course is offered, Christian conservatives will find that education, and not the ACLU, is their nemesis.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Ala.

From the September, 2006, edition of the Columbus Monthly:


The June article on the million-dollar madam indicates her Grandview brothel was a basically harmless business that provided a good income for many women and likely helped the local economy. Sex businesses also can benefit customers, such as people who have difficulties with relationships.

In a free society, people should be able to provide and obtain such benefits without harassment from the police or nosy neighbors. That's a reason why many nations have legalized prostitution, and our "land of the free" should do the same.

Joseph C. Sommer

From the August 26, 2006, edition of the Washington Times:

Voting against school choice

The editorial "A question of bias" (Tuesday) criticized the 2006 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, which found that respondents opposed school vouchers 60 percent to 36 percent and that by 71 percent to 24 percent they preferred improving public schools over "finding an alternative system." The editorial then asserted that "school choice and voucher programs are popular with the public."

The truth, however, is that the PDK/Gallup findings are supported by the best sort of opinion poll, a statewide referendum vote. In 25 such referenda from coast to coast, voters have rejected vouchers or their analogs by an average percentage of two to one.

The PDK/Gallup poll also found that 88 percent of respondents rated their children's public schools satisfactory to excellent.

Edd Doerr
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

From the August 8, 2006, edition of the Washington Times:

Being free to be

Suzanne Fields' column "Storm in a small town" (Op-Ed, Thursday) was right on the mark. She wisely noted that our country's founders "bequeathed [to us] a government that separates church and state, protecting each of us in his or her faith." The narrow sectarians in a small town in Delaware who reacted angrily when a Jewish woman asked for "generic?" rather than Christian prayers at school events appear to have much the same mentality as the Islamicists in the Middle East.

Religion has thrived in America precisely because the wise men who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights had learned from Colonial and European history that separation of church and state is best for religion, best for democratic government and best for religious freedom.

Edd Doerr
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

From the August 7, 2006, edition of the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal:

Know, not believe

Jerri Justle ("God or man?" Letters, July 24) asks, "Are we to believe God or man?"

God "revealed" to the Bible's authors that He created a dome-covered circle and placed it at the center of the universe. Subsequently, to help Joshua commit wanton slaughter of the Am'or-ites, God ordered the Sun (purportedly revolving around the Earth) to stand still. Joshua waged this unprovoked aggression to usurp property. Not only is the story bad science, but bad ethics.

How can we trust God when He reveals contradictions about himself? Is God visible ("And the Lord appeared unto him [Isaac]." Gen. 26:2) or invisible ("No man hath seen God at any time." John 1:18)?

God claims to be all-powerful ("for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." Rev. 19:6); and yet he is not stronger than iron ("but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." Judges 1:19).

I'll trust men and women of science who rely on empirical evidence; and I'll reject the proclamations of a capricious deity created by scientifically ignorant, ancient peoples. I want to know, not believe.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

From the July 24, 2006, edition of the Charleston Post & Courier:

Who's electable?

In his July 8 article, "Can a Mormon be president?" columnist Cal Thomas expressed his displeasure in a poll showing a high percentage of those questioned would refuse to vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon presidential candidate.

I certainly agree with Thomas' argument that a person's religion should not be the only reason to deny someone the presidency. A candidate's position on issues and overall character are what matter to me.

Experience shows that you cannot tell a candidate by his religious affiliation alone. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a presidential candidate in 2004, and Sen. Russ Feingold, now considering a 2008 run, are Jews who differ considerably on significant issues. Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson, both Christian ministers, are former presidential candidates who disagree on every important political issue.

For more than four decades, the Gallup Organization has asked American adults, "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be an ('X'), would you vote for that person?" In its last such poll in 1999, well over 90 percent said yes when 'X' stood for a woman, Catholic, or Jew. Only 79 percent gave a positive response to a Mormon.

Even so, one can still optimistically view the Mormon glass as 79 percent full. But two groups with much lower approval were homosexuals and atheists. Homosexuals had increased their numbers from 26 percent in 1978 to 59 percent in 1999. Atheists, on the other hand, only increased from 40 percent in 1978 to 49 percent in 1999.

An atheist presidential candidate is the only one for whom the majority of Americans would not vote, even if the candidate was well-qualified. In fact, I know of no openly atheist candidate ever elected to any public office at the national, state or local level.

Cal Thomas closed his column by pointing out that if he needed an ambulance, he would care less about how the driver worships than about his sense of direction to the nearest hospital. I assume this would also include an atheist with a good sense of direction.

Herb Silverman
Charleston, South Carolina

From the July 20 - 26, 2006, edition of the Other Paper (Columbus, Ohio):

The Columbus police continue to be obsessed with investigating massage parlors, as they have been for years (Is a massage all that parlor offers?, July 6).

But we have yet to hear them explain why--with prostitution being legal or tolerated in many countries--they believe such investigations are more important than investigating unsolved murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, etc.

Are their critics right in saying the answer lies in the police division's written guidelines for investigating prostitution?

Those guidelines specifically allow undercover officers to get naked with prostitutes; to touch their genitals, pubic region, buttock, thigh, breast or other regions to the extent needed "to obtain the necessary elements of the offense"; to be masturbated briefly; and to "momentarily" have sexual intercourse if it's "in spite of all reasonable efforts of the officer to stop."

Because of these "requirements of their assignments," the policy directs that officers receive periodic training on sexually transmitted diseases.

Whatever the reason for their bizarre priorities and behavior, the police have been making themselves look like ridiculous fools. And sadly, the massage-parlor customer quoted in the article is far from alone in terms such as "scumbags."

Columbus desperately needs a new police chief who will end this nonsense and disgrace.

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus, Ohio

From the July 9, 2006, edition of the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser:

Believer's claims not consistent

My eyes almost welled with tears when I read Drew T. Johnson's July 2 lament, "We Christians will be under attack until the end of time." But I am not sure that I understand the reason for his funk.

Johnson's born-again president has repeated the slogan "God bless America" ad nauseam. Ninety-nine senators stood on the steps of the Capitol and bellowed "under God." Some members of the Supreme Court call separation of church and state a myth.

Polls show that an atheist cannot be elected to political office, and it is unlikely that Thomas Jefferson, who rejected the divinity of Christ, could be elected president today.

America has never been more religious. During the past century church membership has grown from 25 percent to 65 percent of the population.

Johnson will tell us that his God is the most powerful force in the universe, and God's power is activated by Christian faith and prayer. In spite of all this, he claims that "Our nation is in a stage of spiritual and moral decay." And the cause is the apparent power of "those who would remove any vestige of Christianity from the American scene."

If Johnston believes that an overtly Christian government and fanatically God-fearing citizenry coupled with the omnipotence of his God cannot save us from this alleged "decay," then I suggest that he hitch his wagon to another horse. May I suggest a horse named Reason?

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

From the July 9, 2006, edition of the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal:

No upside

Fundamental to the doctrine of intolerance expressed by Judith Holmes ("No tolerance," Letters, July 2) is the Christian conservative dogma that all beliefs and practices not conforming to its creeds are sinful.

Fundamentalist believers must embrace this concept; tolerance of others' beliefs would imply doubts about one's own tenets.

Intolerance permeates the Bible. The Old Testament is replete with God-ordered wars against nations solely because they did not worship Him. While Christ preached love and forgiveness, he never advocated tolerance for non-believers, and saw fit to condemn them to eternal agony -- "But he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Intolerance is mandated by the Christian conservatives' god.

History and today's newscasts confirm that intolerance fosters hate and violence; it insures there can be no unity for mankind. At this very moment there are religious conflicts in: Iraq, Palestine, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Caucasus. Fortunately, the religion-inspired intolerance that festers in the Bible belt, e.g., for homosexuals and non-believers, is kept in check by secular laws.

I fail to see any offsetting positives for the evil that religious intolerance brings upon mankind.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, Alabama

From the June 29 - July 5, 2006, edition of the Other Paper (Columbus, Ohio):

City Dems should love public-access TV

In displaying a flippant attitude toward public-access TV,The Other Paperappears oblivious to the harm caused by the increased consolidation and commercialization of the news media (Media Morsels, June 22).

The same attitude has apparently rubbed off on Columbus's Democratic city officials, who ended public-access TV service years ago. While they have shown little interest in reviving it, Democratic leaders elsewhere have promoted exactly the opposite policies.

After observing that 77 percent of the people who voted for George W. Bush not only thought WMDs had been found in Iraq but that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11, Sen. John Kerry denounced the increasing corporatization of the media and the resulting spread of disinformation.

He asserted that diversity of media content is "critical to who we are as a free people. It's critical to our democracy."

Our city officials need to start acting like real Democrats who are on the side of the public and the First Amendment. To help counteract the pernicious influence of giant media corporations whose only goal is to make profits, those officials should vigorously support the public's right to present and receive alternative viewpoints on public-access TV.

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus, Ohio