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Letters Jul Dec 08

Your Published Letters


Your July - December '08 Published Letters

 

From the December 18, 2008, edition of The Other Paper (Columbus, OH):

There’s bad precedent:

It should not be surprising that in using law enforcement to oppose  sexually oriented advertisements, government officials appear to have  selectively targeted certain independent publications, (“Sex for sale,”  Dec. 11).

Government has a long history of similarly using laws to torment  those expressing views opposed to the establishment or otherwise  outside the mainstream. An early federal anti-obscenity statute, known  as the Comstock law, was enacted in 1873 and became the model for a  number of state laws. These laws were used for decades to persecute  early feminists and others who wrote about birth control, sexually  transmitted diseases or sexual exploitation. The famous birth-control  advocate Margaret Sanger was jailed repeatedly under the laws and, at  one point, was in danger of being imprisoned for 45 years. Thousands of  others were also prosecuted, driving at least 15 women to suicide.

David A. J. Richards writes that “no group suffered more from  censorship under America’s federal and state obscenity laws than  dissident American women, who were challenging the dominant  pro-natalist gender and sexual orthodoxy of their age.”

People who opposed religious orthodoxy suffered almost as much.  Susan Jacoby reports that as free-thought publications proliferated  during the 1880s and 1890s, prosecutions of their editors became more  frequent. This supported the contention that “the anti-obscenity  statutes were being used to target atheists, agnostics, and  freethinkers.”

Additionally, the laws and prosecutions intimidated publishers into  censoring scientific, physiological and anatomical works. And all forms  of sex education were excluded from schools. The resulting ignorance  caused enormous harm to society.

Both history and current events teach that if government is allowed  the power to censor sexually oriented speech it deems offensive or  immoral, the power will be abused to suppress minority views, block  social progress and perpetuate injustice. We would be better off  upholding the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

Joseph C. Sommer
Columbus, OH



From the December 5, 2008, edition of the Alabama Press-Register:

Strong Christians do have prejudices:

Letter writer John W. Jessup ("Strong Christians aren't prejudiced,"  Nov. 29) was understandably gratified to learn that Americans are less  anti-Semitic than many Europeans.

He states, "Strong Christian religious convictions and attitudes do  not cause increased prejudices against other religious groups."

Of course, for two millennia Jews have often been subjected to  Christian intolerance, discrimination and even torture and murder.

A reduction of anti-Semitism in America may well be because "strong  Christian religious convictions" have been redirected toward  homosexuals, secularists and moderate Christians — at least in the  Bible Belt. Stringent secular laws against hate crimes and the  proliferation of civil rights have reduced anti-Semitism.

A plethora of letters appear in Alabama newspapers berating  homosexuals because they are "abhorrent" to the Judeo-Christian God. We  have all seen the despicable placards proclaiming, "Jesus hates fags."  I have never understood how anyone can possibly care about another's  sexual preference.

A recent Gallup poll concluded that an atheist could not be elected  president. Forty-five percent of the population would vote for an  atheist, while 53 percent would not.

This precludes many of America's best and brightest from holding high   political office.

A few years ago when I was attending the American Atheists  convention, hate-spewing "strong Christians" outside the building  hurled epithets at us as we were entering or leaving the building.  Arguably, this is not prejudice against another religious group, as  atheism is not a religion. However, it certainly demonstrates prejudice  by "strong Christians."

DAVID N. MILES
Orange Beach


From the November 30, 2008, edition of the Charleston Post and Courier (SC):

Unfair comments:

I was pleased with the diversity shown in the Nov. 23 Faith &  Values section. Beside the seven articles about religious faiths,  including quotes from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious  leaders, you reprinted an article from The Wall Street Journal titled  "Nonbelievers get out their message, too."

That article described new non-religious traditions, such as  HumanLight, to celebrate the holiday season. It pointed out that we  humanists and atheists are not trying to evangelize. Instead, we hope  to make the public more comfortable with the concept of atheism and  give fellow nonbelievers a sense of community. We are also trying to  encourage timid friends and neighbors to come out of their nontheistic  closets.

There was, however, one aspect of this article that was typical of  stories about nonbelievers, but rarely found in articles about  religious believers.

The article on nonbelievers contained quotes from people of faith who  disapprove of atheists.

It also cited unsubstantiated allegations of atheists mocking and  insulting Christmas, and it mentioned a giant sign put up by a  Christian group asking: "Why Do Atheists Hate America?"

Don't get me wrong. I think it is a step in the right direction  that positive voices on atheism are now being heard, even if they are  invariably countered by opposing voices, presumably a result of the  newspaper's intent to be fair and balanced.

However, I doubt that any fair and balanced newspaper would print  only positive articles about one political party while always  countering positive quotes with negative quotes when writing about the  opposing political party.

Herb Silverman
Charleston, SC


From the November 13, 2008, edition of the York Daily Record:

Why I am not a Christian:

There are many reasons why I am not a Christian. One reason is  because I could never accept or believe the resurrection fable. No one  has ever risen from the grave, and no one ever will. Besides that,  there is the so-called virgin birth. Hell, that isn't in accord with  the laws of nature and never happens with human beings.

There are many other reasons, less as important, but one more I want  to mention is the fact that I do not like to be deceived. I do not  deceive other people and I do not want to be deceived, but Christianity  is very deceptive as well as simply erroneous and the Christian Bible  is loaded with errors, contradictions and other discrepancies.

And, of course, I do not believe in a God, because I think a  supernatural being is an impossibility. All things must conform to the  laws of nature and there are no exceptions. Also, there isn't any  heaven. That is another imaginary thing of "object," and so is hell. A  good reason to disbelieve in a God is because no one alive or dead has  ever seen a God or heard any God speak or touched a God, because it is  only imaginary. And the belief in a God is only a superstition.

Stephen H. Frey
Springettsbury Township


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

Prayer is not the answer:

A recent letter suggested war may be averted if we "pray like we  really believe God hears us." During times of armed conflict, there is  a crescendo of calls for prayers for peace. Individuals and clergy have  been praying for peace for centuries, and for centuries, armed conflict  has shaped human history. God either thrives on human carnage, is deaf  and blind, does not care or does not exist.

If people took responsibility for their own actions and spent more  time learning about and understanding worldly events and less time  attempting to get a free ride from an ineffectual deity, they would  solve more of the world's problems.

President Bush asks for divine guidance. The populace falls on its  knees and humbly beseeches God to save our brave troops from the  misguided policies causing the slaughter of innocent people. It appears  divine inspiration has led the president and, hence, our nation, into a  treacherous quagmire. Bush's religiosity has replaced reason in his  decision-making.

In addition, a false sense of security provided by belief in the  protective power of prayer leads to recklessness. Instead of praying,  resort to reason and demand our leaders do the same.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach, AL


From the November 5, 2008, edition of the PhillyBurbs:

Children taught pseudoscience

To the Editor:

Samuel Rowbotham's interpretation of the Bible in the 1800s was the  beginning of the “flat Earth” movement that claimed the Earth is a flat  disk and not a globe. I couldn't help but think of Rowbotham's  hypothesis while reading the Oct. 28 article about the “Dino Pastor”  teaching creationism to children as a scientific explanation of the  origin of man.

Paul Viet, who styles himself as the “Dino Pastor,” is a young Earth  creationist and is filling the creationist lecture circuit gap left by  the original “Dino Pastor,” Kent Hovind, who is currently serving time  in federal prison. As a humanist, I find it despicable that he chooses  a venue of presentations to children to make the case for this  “scientific explanation” rather than in the forums of peer-reviewed  journals or scientific conferences, where all other scientific claims  are discussed.

Children are naturally interested in any sort of hands-on activity.  It is a shame that they have to wait for a creationist to let them play  with dinosaur eggs when this is what they should have access to in  their regular classrooms. Ideally, well-funded science classes would  have specimens that excite kids about science rather than deceive them  with pseudoscience. They require more protection than adults — they  don't necessarily know when they are being lied to — and should  certainly be protected from adults with ulterior motives.

Why stop with creationism or intelligent design based on  supernatural miracles performed by the God of the Christian Bible, for  which it is pointless to seek any naturalistic explanation? Why not  teach the little ones astrology? Secrets of the great pyramid? ESP or  the hollow-Earth theory? As a father of young children, I encourage my  children to think for themselves, using critical thinking skills and  science, unlike this “flat Earth pastor.” To admit miracles into a  scientific theory turns it into pseudoscience;  it is not science. No  one should accept such supernatural baloney presented as science.

And, by the way, so-called “creation science” has produced nothing  of value in the fields of medicine, agriculture or any other field  where science is the core of research and discovery.

Until the last 200 years, very few people had access to scientific  research. This explains why it was easy for religions to influence the  majority of the world's population. There is ample evidence that since  the dawn of thinking people have wondered where they came from, why  they are here and what is going to happen to them. There were no  scientific answers available because there was little research, and  what limited scientific knowledge was developed was controlled by  religious rulers and withheld from the general populace. The only  answers to the mysteries of life came from religions and were designed  to keep people in ignorance and psychological bondage. 

Today is different, as we have a plethora of scientific knowledge  with new discoveries being made every day, easily accessible at our  fingertips. We are extremely fortunate and should be thrilled to be  living in today's world.

To quote the late Isaac Asimov: “Science can be introduced to  children well or poorly. If poorly, children can be turned away from  science; they can develop a lifelong antipathy; they will be in a far  worse condition than if they had never been introduced to science at  all.”

Children deserve better than the likes of the “Dino Pastor.”

Joe Fox
Furlong, PA
President, Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia

From the November 2, 2008, edition of the The Observer-Dispatch:

Safe abortions and sex education is way to go
In response to a recent letter encouraging banning abortion, I  disagree. Many people of the pro-life stance, particularly religious  conservatives, cast the abortion debate as a black and white issue when  it ’s quite the opposite.

Apart from being a woman’s legal reproductive right, ethical support  for abortion in instances of rape, incest and ensuring the mother’s  health should at least be seen as arguable by any pro-life supporter.

Unfortunately, people of the religious right, such as Gov. Sarah Palin,  are so absolute and intolerant in their views that they are even  against abortion in cases of rape.

According to the National Abortion Federation, when abortion was  illegal in the United States during the late 1800s until 1973, “more  pregnant women died from complications from self-induced abortions or  abortions performed by untrained practitioners than from any other  cause.” This is one of many things to consider when pushing to outlaw  abortion.

If our country is to progress in its future, it will certainly not do  so by revoking a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body.  Providing access to safe abortions, contraception and comprehensive sex  education will ensure the rights of individuals to ultimately control  their lives free from the oppressive views of others.

A.C. LAMONICA
Stittville, NY


From the October 23, 2008, edition of the Carrollton Free Press Standard:

A group morally opposed to gambling has created an ad urging voters  to reject state issue 6, which would allow a casino in Ohio. The ad  argues that gambling “ruins lives”.

But if we’re going to ban activities that can harm participants,  there will be no end to the banning and very little left of freedom.  Virtually any activity can harm those who engage in it. That’s just the  way life is.

Obvious examples include the use of alcohol and tobacco, which kill  hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Moreover, serious  injuries and even deaths are sometimes caused by activities such as  football, NASCAR, boxing, hockey, skiing, skydiving, boating, and  horseback riding.

Does the antigambling group also want to ban those activities  because they “ruin lives?” If not, that shows their opposition to  gambling is not based on a concern about lives but is instead an  attempt to impose their morality on others.

In a free society, people can do what they choose as long as they  don’t harm others who have not consented to participate. Even though  the activity risks harm to participants, they decide for themselves  whether the happiness they derive from it outweighs the possibilities  of harm.

Because no one has to enter a casino or spend money there, adults  should be able to choose for themselves whether to do so. And they  should not have to drive to neighboring states to enjoy gambling, while  Ohio’s economy continues to tank.

Ohio has too many people who want to force their morality on others.  They have caused enormous harm to the state’s economy and quality of  life.

Joseph C. Sommer
Attorney at Law
Columbus, OH


From the September 19, 2008, edition of the Charleston Post and Courier (SC):

Prayer and sports

    Letter writers who criticized Ken Burger's Sept. 11 article titled "Separation of church and sports" have two complaints.

First, they thought Coach Tommy Bowden was perfectly justified in mandating church attendance for his Clemson football players.

Second, they wondered how Mr. Burger could be so ungrateful to  Christians whose prayers they credited for his speedy recovery from  cancer.

Coaches and teachers at a public university have every right to  speak about their religious beliefs as private citizens, but they have  no right to proselytize students when representing their academic  institution.

How would those who favor mandating athletes' attendance at a  Christian church feel if, instead, a Muslim coach mandated attendance  at a mosque? Or if I were to require my math students before exams at  the College of Charleston to recite aloud, "There is no God"? Of  course, I would never so abuse my professional authority with students  and neither should football coaches.

Theologians have debated for centuries the effectiveness of  intercessory prayer. If I believed in a loving god who answered  prayers, I would be embarrassed to see football players praying for an  opponent's potential game-winning field goal to be wide right.

I didn't pray for Ken Burger, and I take no credit for his recovery.  I'm just pleased that he studied the evidence and made an informed  decision about the right doctors and the most effective treatment for  his particular case.

Herb Silverman
Charleston, SC



From the August 29, 2008, edition of the Sun Herald (MS):

There is a force more powerful than   nature

    My most vivid personal recollection  of Hurricane Katrina was the huge outpouring of real support from  others of all backgrounds from around the world.

In the few hours I had after the long shifts at the Gulfport Police  Department, items we personally received through donations from  assorted atheist and humanist groups familiar with our plight were  given out everywhere people were in need.

Many good folks from these same groups came to our ravaged property  from many miles away to "camp out" and put our house in better shape  than it has ever been.

It was truly a   wonderful experience and they are in my family's thoughts and memories and have   our deepest appreciation.
Somewhere in all of that contrasting despair and hope I also had the  honor to meet with Sun Herald Executive Editor Stan Tiner regarding  these good folks and our efforts, which he was gracious enough to  recognize with a touching personal column.

It has now been three years since Katrina slammed ashore, Mr.  Tiner, and it is still our strong participatory humanism that brings us  forward. I'm ever more convinced of this because it has been tested by  experience and expressed so compassionately in real human terms.

Though Hurricane Katrina was a force of nature rarely seen,  humanity is an even more powerful force of nature when led by  unconditional love and care even in the midst of devastation and  horror. And that is a true wonder to behold.

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi, MS



From the August 23, 2008, edition of the Birmingham News (AL):

'Because the Bible tells us so'

Numerous letter writers have quoted the Bible to justify irrational  human attitudes and behavior, e.g., homophobia, capital punishment,  religious intolerance, gender bias.

How do we know a biblical pronouncement is valid? "The Bible is  inerrant." What makes the Bible inerrant? "The Bible is the written  Word of God." How do we know the Bible is the written Word of God? The  Bible tells us so: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," II  Timothy 3:16.

This is a perfect example of circular reasoning - the practice of  assuming something in order to prove the very same thing you assumed.

Advocates of biblical inerrancy use the premise that the Bible is  the inerrant Word of God to prove the Bible is the inerrant Word of  God. In other words, the Bible is true because the Bible says the Bible  is true. Without evidence from an independent source, the premise that  the Bible is inerrant has no validity.

There is no rational or empirical evidence giving the Bible the  status of unquestioned authority. Its only "authority" comes from the  flawed beliefs of ancient people. Hence, it contains a plethora of  contradictions, scientific errors and just plain bad advice.

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



From the August 20, 2008, edition of the Anniston Starr (AL):

'Making me believe'

Re "Minority faiths" (Speak Out, July 20)

For years, Christian conservatives have been begging God to "draw me  from the lie I am living." However, all the prayers aimed at altering  my beliefs have had no affect.

Possibly a believer can do what prayers have not done by advising me  of just one good deed performed by God. Others have given me three  unacceptable answers.

First, "God created the earth." If so, he is a second-rate builder  and certainly no artisan. Earth is a flawed object replete with disease  and natural disasters that cause human and animal suffering.

Secondly, "God created you." Why is that a good deed, especially  since He will soon subject me to eternal agony? If he had not created  me, it would not matter to me or anyone else. There are an infinite  number of uncreated non-beings and not one of them means a thing to  anybody. Furthermore, he created Joseph Stalin.

Thirdly, "He loves me so much that he sacrificed his only begotten  son to pay for my sins." This did nothing to improve the human  condition. Please don't tell me a barbaric gesture has provided me with  a free pass to paradise unless you can prove this paradise exists.

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



From the August 15, 2008, edition of the Mobile Press-Register (AL):

'Governing left to man'

Anna C. Phillips ("Re-read historical document," Aug. 6) writes, "He  Thomas Jefferson wrote, 'And for the support of this declaration with a  firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence (guidance from  God), we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred  honor.'" Please note, "guidance from God" is Ms. Phillips'  interpretation of "Divine Providence," not Jefferson's words.

In fact, the Declaration's deity was the God of nature and nature's  law, not the Christian God. This was the God of the deists — Paine,  Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison. They believed in a  rational religion of nature, not orthodox Christianity.

While their God provided us with nature and nature's laws, their  deity did not interfere in the affairs of men. God had turned his  creation over to man to govern. The Declaration of Independence does  not say our government was ordained as "one nation under God" nor does  it mention an ongoing influence from God.

The onus of governing is on humankind as expressed by, "Governments  are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent  of the governed."

After becoming an independent nation, the founders severed all ties  between religion and government. Our Constitution established a  government by "We, the people," without making any reference to God,  Jesus Christ or Christianity.

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



From the August 1, 2008, edition of the Tuscaloosa News (AL):

'Politicians learned ways from Jesus'

Dear Editor: G. Wayne Crocker [letters, July 17] tells us that God  and Jesus were opposed to forced distribution of the wealth — legalized  plundering as he calls it.

Certainly today's politicians learned their profession from studying  the teachings of Jesus. As we see, they are in favor of giving away  everybody's possessions but their own.

Christ ordered a rich man to 'Sell all that thou hast, and  distribute unto the poor' (Luke 18:22). However, when a woman anointed  Christ with expensive oil, his disciples criticized him for accepting  the gift rather than selling it and giving the money to the poor.  Jesus, hypocritically, rebuked his disciples (Matthew 26:6-13).

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



From the August 9, 2008, edition of the Pensacola NewsJournal (FL):

'Wickedness'

Joyce Guy ("Our fault," Letters, July 31) states that America is no  longer godly, is filled with wickedness and has called God's judgment  down upon us. Evangelicals preach doom and gloom because they feel  threatened by the positive values and institutions that have made  America great.

They loathe religious tolerance, the First Amendment and the secular  public school system. Hence, they tilt at windmills. Enjoying the  pleasures of life is a favored windmill. Unfortunately, their ranting  often promotes intolerance, hate, ignorance and infringement upon the  rights of others. I find it hard to believe that there is a god who is  the irrational ogre portrayed by evangelicals. Of course, it is the  fear of God that brings tithes into church coffers.

While FDR said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," Pat  Robertson and his ilk know that they have nothing to fear but the  disappearance of fear.

Regrettably, from the time many children first receive religious  indoctrination they are told they are born sinners, may well burn in  hell and are not worthy of God's grace. Instead, children should be  encouraged to feel good about themselves. This would benefit not only  the children, but ultimately all of society.

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



From the August 5, 2008, edition of the Montgomery Advertiser (AL):

'How can Bible be conduct code?'

We owe Gary Hardin a debt of gratitude for pointing out the  irrationality and danger of using Scripture as a guide for human  behavior.

As he so clearly points out, the Bible advocates treating women as  second-class citizens. Since this cannot be justified using reason, we  can only conclude that the Bible must be rejected as a valid code of  conduct.

Furthermore, we cannot allow God to sit in judgment of human  behavior.

Of course, the Southern Baptist Convention is not the only Christian  conservative organization guilty of promoting biblical intolerance. In  May, the Vatican decreed that the ordination of women priests would  result in automatic excommunication of the women and bishops who tried  to ordain them.

The purpose for the decree was to make the existing ban more  explicit. The decree was a Vatican backlash against growing support  among Catholics for ordaining women. The church said it could not  change the rules banning women from the priesthood because Christ chose  only men as apostles.

This is astounding in the 21st century. Because an intolerant Christ  had an irrational disdain for women, the Catholic Church must not  consider improving itself?

World conditions for the past two millennium are convincing evidence  that the apostles, including the "rock" upon which a church was built,  were inept at spreading a gospel of peace and good will.

Women could only have been a welcome addition to Christ's  inner circle.

David N. Miles
Orange  Beach, AL



To the Editor,

It’s peculiar that this Age of Information is so wasteful, as so much  of it is devoted to trivia and the avoidance of serious dialog. My  experience confirms that newspapers, for instance, avoid discussions  about faith and beliefs. Nevertheless, I press on, especially since the  beliefs of presidential candidates and belief in public life have  become fodder for the media, therefore, why should the common man be  excluded? In this letter, I will not write any things which are not  generally known,-only opinions based on them.

To begin, according to polls, the majority of Americans attest to some  belief systems and regard faith as a major important factor for life,  as if faith is synonymous with morality, to such an extent that, for  instance, an atheist will never be elected president. In this regard:  article VI of the U.S. Constitution states, “No religious test" shall  ever be required as a qualification to any office or public”... Where  are the protests?

Any individual's conscience should neither be questioned nor assaulted  because it does not or may not conform to special interest religious  faith-bodies, in a society of diverse beliefs, nor should a candidate  feel compelled to appease, curry favor with, or even tacitly agree with  one over the others’ agendas. This is the corner they should never be  forced into, but they are. This situation has gotten way out of hand.

Still keeping within the self-imposed confines of known beliefs, I wish  to address a belief common to major religions, namely that those who in  good conscience reject because they cannot accept, what to them are  certain beliefs irrational, unsubstantiated, and they are therefore,  condemned to eternal torments. That judgment is the Ultimate of extreme  prejudice. If this is an acceptable belief of these faiths towards  dissenters, to what extent does it influence the decisions, attitudes,  and in general, judgments toward them) to anyone who does not “share”  their faiths, including our elected and electable, representatives? (If  this is contrary to many believers, where are their voices?) Let us  also consider those who cannot wait for dissenters to be punished  eternally, but do it themselves in the here and now.

Religious entities should not be “special interest groups”, a dividing  sword, nor should they be allowed to force government to legislate  against private matters of conscience, behavior, which hams no one,  serious health care progress.

Contrary to accepted propaganda, “faith” is no assurance of a morally  good conscience. There are many outstanding examples that “faith” can  be a camouflage for a corrupt one.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Carl Scheiman
Walpole, ME


From the July 19, 2008, edition of the The Other Paper (Ohio):

'Strickland supported the theocrats'

On matters of policy, Gov. Ted Strickland has not been as far from  Rod Parsley as Michael Sheline’s letter suggests (Letters: “Strickland  was near, not with, Parsley,” June 12)

For example, Parsley has long supported severe restrictions on adult  businesses, and Strickland accommodated him by allowing Senate Bill 16  to become law last year. The bill was a direct assault on a $250  million industry in Ohio—including the jobs of about 10,000 Ohioians—at  a time when the state’s economy was already in the dumper. Parsley and  his followers surely approved of Strckland’s handling of the bill. But  their accolades were earned at the expense of thousands of working  Ohioans that Strickland was willing to turn into criminals for the  offense of providing harmless entertainment to others.

Parsley also has strongly criticized the fundamental American  principle of the separation of church and state. Although history shows  that nothing is more divisive than entanglements between government and  religion, Strickland supported the theocrats when he ordered the  Department of Natural Resources to place a blatantly Christian display  back in a state park. The department had removed the display after a  complaint from a minority religion, whose sensitivities and rights  Strickland obliviously didn’t care the least bit about.

When he’s thought that political advantages could be gained,  Strickland has clearly been willing to pander to the religious right by  supporting their divisive “culture war” instead of focusing on problems  that seriously affect the lives of Ohioans. That’s just one of the  reasons why many people are now wondering whether he’s a real Democrat.

Joseph C. Sommer,
Columbus, OH



From the July 16, 2008, edition of the The Anniston Star (AL):

'Not quite true'

Re "Influence of Christ" (Speak Out, June 21):

Letter writer  Mike Sutton chides Einstein for calling the Bible "childish." Einstein  was probably contemplating the passage where trees talk to each other,  Judges 9:8-15.

He states that Einstein's "greatest contribution was the knowledge of  how to destroy the world with the atom bomb." In 1905, Einstein  theorized the relationship between mass and energy. He determined  E=mc2. This made him no more responsible for the atom bomb than  gravitation made Isaac Newton responsible for plane crashes. In 1939,  Einstein warned President Roosevelt that the Nazis were working on an  atomic bomb. In 1940, the U.S. Army Intelligence office denied  Einstein, a pacifist, the security clearance needed to work on the  development of the atomic bomb.

Sutton parrots the creationist claim that there is no "evidence of  transitional forms." However, there are australopithecine fossils that  provide a link between apelike animals and humans.

Sutton states, "History shows that the Bible has also motivated more  acts of kindness, charity and sacrificial love than all the other books  ever written." He provides no examples. The Bible has motivated  slavery, wars of aggression (crusades), extreme cruelty (Inquisition  and witch-hunts) and today, disdain for anybody not subscribing to the  Bible-thumper's beliefs and practices.

David N.   Miles
Orange Beach, AL



From the July 8, 2008, edition of the The Times Daily (AL):

'Rational morality'

In his July 3 letter, "And we wonder why ..." Michael Darling  parrots the hackneyed Christian conservative cry, "We kill millions of  babies in the name of family planning, women's rights, and  convenience." While a few Christian fanatics, e.g., Andrea Yates, do  kill their children, "we" do not kill millions of babies.

Scientifically, life is a progression from sperm and egg to zygote,  then to blastocyst, embryo, fetus and finally a newborn child. Egg  fertilization is the first step in the nine-month process whereby the  potential human becomes an actual human.

Natural abortion (miscarriage) can occur during the gestation period.  PDR Family Guide to Women's Health gives an estimate that miscarriage  terminates 30 percent of pregnancies. Does anyone other than the  potential parents ever rue, or render judgment on, natural abortion?  Apparently, the "creator of life" has no problem with natural abortion.  President Bush, who is advised by his "Heavenly Father," has made no  overtures to provide funds for the study and prevention of miscarriage.  If God and our president are not worried about natural abortion, why  should a woman with an unwanted pregnancy hesitate to get a medically  induced abortion?

Using EEG recordings, science has shown that until 30 weeks, the fetus  does not have cognitive capacity. The capacity for human thought is  what distinguishes a human being from other living organisms. Murder  applies to actual humans, not non-cognitive forms of life - e.g.,  fetuses.

Reason dictates attaining quality of life. Religious dogma mandates  quantity of life without consideration for the future of the unwanted  child, the physical and mental health of the mother, and the adverse  affects unwanted children and frustrated parents have on society.

A rational morality considers the rights of an actual woman, not the  conjectured rights of a potential human.

David N. Miles
Orange Beach< AL



From the July 5, 2008, edition of the The Columbus Dispatch:

'Ouster of Dann wasn't by the book'

In their politically motivated efforts to drive fellow Democrat Marc  Dann from the office of attorney general, Gov. Ted Strickland and  Democratic members of the Ohio House of Representatives didn't let the  Ohio Constitution and other laws stop them ("Strickland meant business  on Dann," Dispatch, June 21).

Their impeachment resolution  was brought under the Ohio Constitution's Section 24 of Article II.  That section says the House can impeach an official "for any  misdemeanor in office." Black's Law Dictionary defines misdemeanor as a  crime less serious than a felony and says the archaic meaning of the  term encompasses any crime, including felonies. Either way, a  misdemeanor is a crime.

Because there was no evidence that Dann had committed a misdemeanor, no  authority existed to remove him under the constitutional standard for  impeachment. Former Gov. Bob Taft met the standard, but Dann didn't.

To get around the problem, Strickland and the Democratic  representatives used the less stringent standards for removal under  Section 38 of Article II and the statutes implementing that section.  Specifically, the standards came from Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3.07,  which lists the grounds for removal for misconduct in office.

But both Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3.07 and 3.08 specify that those  standards apply to the judicial method of removal. It involves  collecting signatures of more than 600,000 qualified electors and then  having the matter heard by an appellate 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  standards that apply to an entirely different procedure, Strickland and  the Democratic representatives acted unlawfully 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, thereby crippling Dann's  ability to function in office. The inspector general 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.

Other governmental offices, both at the federal and state levels, often  investigate allegations of workplace sexual harassment. But they  somehow manage to do it successfully without "shock and awe" raids that  seriously disrupt the operation of workplaces.

Strickland and the Democratic representatives should be ashamed of  their unlawful and unethical conduct, which drove Dann from the office  the voters had elected him to hold. A stronger case could be made for  removing those officials from office than for removing Dann.

The entire  episode was a huge miscarriage of justice and an affront to democracy.

Joseph Sommer,
Attorney, Columbus, OH



From the July 3, 2008, edition of the The Mountain Mail (Socorro, New Mexico):

'‘Right Side’ Writer Should Check Facts'

Rick Coddington wrote recently concerning my belief system,  humanism. I do wish that, when someone sets out to define me, he would  check his facts. 

 “Remember, a religion is “a cause, principle or system of beliefs  held to with ardor and faith.” A religion doesn’t require a god to be a  religion.”

I’m not sure where Mr. Coddington found this definition, but  it’s unfamiliar to me.

Religion.com cites the Web site Dictionary.com, Unabridged, version 1.1, in  defining religion.

“1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the  universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman  agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances  and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human  affairs.

2. A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally  agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion;  the Buddhist religion.

3. The body of persons adhering to a particular set of  beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.

4. The life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter  religion.

5. The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of  faith.

6. Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or  matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting  prejudice.”

Mr. Coddington’s definition could apply to a baseball team, the  Rotary International, a favorite cause such as environmentalism or much  more. For me, humanism takes the place of religion but is not one.

He goes on to quote from the Humanist Manifesto, but uses an  outdated version. The 2003 revision more accurately reflects current  humanist thought.

“We are a society of about 304 million people. With secular humanism  as our national religion, then, we have no standard for morals or  ethics beyond the 304 million individual experiences, needs and  interests.

I missed the establishment of my non-religion as the national  religion, but I suggest that, with or without a national religion (what  a frightening thought!) we all do make our own individual ethical  choices anyway.

We go to Second Timothy’s description of the last days. This has  been quoted to apply to the present ever since it was written. It  applies now, and always will.

He cites a Hugo Black reference to an application by a particular  group calling themselves humanists calling themselves a religion to  gain a tax exemption.

This group may still exist, but it’s not a voice for all humanism.  The American Humanist Association, the largest such national group, is  classed as an educational, not religious, organization.

His mention of the Ten Commandments overlooks the ones that are  specifically and only religious, and claims without reference that  these are the basis for the U.S. legal system. Nowhere in our founding  documents is this substantiated.

He suggests that various silly things have been done to remove  religion from the public square, as if humanists were behind each. We  were and are not. He overlooks that Halloween, All Souls Eve, is  Christian in origin, not Wiccan.

I could go on, as Mr. Coddington does, but I (and my readers) grow  weary. Mr. Coddington, check the Humanist Society of New Mexico’s Web  site (humanists.net/nm) and visit one of our meetings. You can see what  humanists are really like, and you might learn a bit.

Jerry Wesner,
Albuquerque, NM



From the July 3, 2008, edition of the The Mobile Press-Register:

'Require church disclosure'

In the letter, ("Churches should pay taxes," June 28) Shean A. Smith  states that churches are exempt from paying taxes because they are  charitable organizations. However, just how charitable are churches?

Churches claim that they make significant financial contributions to  the community. How much? That is anybody's guess. Try to find out how  much your church contributes to improving the community, and it is  highly unlikely that you will ever know.

Moreover, when church authorities tell you money goes to support  missionary work, ask for evidence that your church's proselytizing  actually provides goods and services to the needy. What percentage of  the budget finds its way into soup kitchens?

Secular non-profit organizations are required to file limited annual  financial reports. Religious organizations do not have to reveal the  slightest bit of financial data for public examination.

Why shouldn't churches file the  same Tax Form 990 that is required of other non-profit groups?

Thanks to President Bush, taxpayer dollars pour into churches as part  of the faith-based initiative. Yet these recipients of our largess do  not even have to provide financial reports. Apparently, "separation of  church and state" means it is OK for the state to provide funds to  churches, allow donations to churches to be tax-deductible and keep  churches exempt from property taxes, but the state has no right to ask  for financial reports.

The Massachusetts House considered a law that would have required  churches to conform to the same financial reporting as other non-profit  organizations. The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected. No politician  seeking re-election would risk church wrath.

You can be sure that if churches actually did make meaningful  contributions benefiting humanity, they would have their financial  statements plastered everywhere.

When a church sent a bottle of water to hurricane victims,  public-relations-oriented parishioners worked overtime. There was an  effusion of laudatory letters to the editor.

Some Christians claim that because of the separation of church and  state, Christian organizations should not pay taxes. They have it  backward. It is exactly because of church/state separation that  Christian organizations should pay taxes.

By not paying the property taxes paid by other individuals and  organizations in the community, religious organizations are receiving  special favor from the government. Because governments do not derive  revenue from church properties, my taxes are higher. I am subsidizing  religion.

Why should taxing authorities treat churches any differently than other  forms of entertainment? Unless there is evidence that an individual  attending church comes away a better person than someone attending a  movie or sporting event, then churches do not merit preferential  treatment.

David N Miles,
Orange Beach, AL

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