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    Letters to the Editors

    Religious dogma isn't only solution

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2000

    Re: Restoring our soul and spirit takes more than an election, by Jim Towey, and Most Americans are driven to good by peace and reason, not God, by Bill Maxwell, Sept. 3.

    The myriad of social ills highlighted in these columns is a consequence of a misguided citizenry who have permitted their churches' administering of "dos" and "don'ts" and/or political leaders to institute laws, measures, rulings and prejudices with draconian results.

    Our current major-party presidential hopefuls ramble on about their personal religious faith and advise us that without a return to "morality," our nation is doomed, as if their dogma contains the solution for today's perplexing problems. Where's the beef? Let them step up to the plate and share their resolve to the intractable problems expressed in these columns.

    One can make a case for our massive consumerism being to blame for everything from the Florida state lottery to the desperation of nursing home residents. We are consuming the money of the poor who buy lottery tickets. We are consuming the lives of nursing home residents by snuffing out their will to live by subjecting them to a warehouse environment. We consume the lives of the guilty and the not-guilty by state-authorized killing. We consume the promise of our nation by our non-interest in and accompanying neglect of the indigent, the migrant workers and the homeless.

    Morality and ethics are supported by those who recognize the necessity to make all facets of our society reflect a love for our fellow man. We need to recognize the dedicated secularists as well as the religionists who contribute much to a society in need of fixing.
    -- Roger K. Freeman, New Port Richey

    Nothing to do but pray

    Re: Most Americans are driven to good by peace and reason, not God, by Bill Maxwell.

    If I let my reason judge the writer of the article, I might question the depth or circumspection of a commentator who ignores the centuries-long progression of societies grounded in God-based ideals; who seems willing to ignore the good done by many who profess faith in overcoming the bad done by some who may also profess a faith; and who is inclined to reason that if God has anything to teach us, each person who reads the call to love your neighbor as yourself will immediately practice that in daily life without failure or new insight.

    My wit might compare the writer to many who reach young adulthood finding themselves suddenly veiled with sage wisdom grounded in themselves. My tolerance, habit and diversity might simply let the writer be. My love of God, however, will make me pray for him, not because our society will be a little better, but because there is nothing better I could do for him.
    -- Joseph D. Magri, Belleair

    A man-made concept

    Re: Most Americans are driven to good by peace and reason.

    Again Bill Maxwell makes good sense when he says that our civility derives from our need for self-preservation rather than religion. Most of us make our decisions based on thought-out rational methods or gut feelings.

    On the other hand, the belief systems in Western societies, as Maxwell points out, are not driven by rational thought. He could have taken his thinking a step further. That is, God and religion are man-made concepts driven by man's emotion of fear... and the emotion of fear is just as strong, or perhaps stronger, than our sexual desires. And the priesthood of all religions understands and exploits this fear by subtle and intricate means to keep its controlling roles with believers.

    The current presidential candidates and their coterie of advisers and speech writers know the importance of their image of reassuring the public that they belong to the believers' club.

    Several years ago I asked my minister brother-in-law how he and his church doctrines (main-line Protestant) would cope without the devil concept. He thought for a moment and said they would be out of business. And mentioning business, I would speculate that religions and religiosity combine to form the most gargantuan of all industries. However, that is subject matter for another time.

    In the meantime, I hope the general public will turn out and vote, not by what God tells them but from a careful examination of the candidates' policy positions and overall demeanor. Somehow I feel demeaned when George W. Bush, Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman put their religious badges on.
    -- Hal Bronfin, Largo

    No price to sacrifice

    Re: The college burden, Sept. 3.

    I was a student at St. Petersburg Junior College and did not qualify for scholarships based on scholastic ability or financial need. My only alternatives were to either obtain a loan or pay for my tuition myself. Taking out a loan seemed an easy choice, but after careful consideration, I did not want the financial burden after graduation. I paid for each class out of pocket.

    It took serious penny-pinching and much longer to graduate and many sacrifices along the way. But the outcome? I took fewer classes -- sometimes only one a semester -- but eight years later I have graduated with an associate in science degree from the veterinary technology program. Balance due? Nothing. Gratification? Monumental!

    I might also add that my daughter started attending junior college two years ago under the same premise. We participate in classes appropriate to what we can afford. When she graduates, there will be no student loan to repay. So for those who choose a student loan to finance their education, think first: Is the loan payment plus interest worth it? There is an alternative. Self-sacrifice is priceless.
    -- Valerie Audibert, Dunedin

    How will we change?

    Re: Guns gone, but Britons still fear criminals, Sept. 3.

    I want to thank the St. Petersburg Times for printing this article, as it contained facts not often made available to the public. It is always good to have news presented, not editorialized.

    In the gun debate, we have seen many articles on why gun ownership may lead to violence. To make one thing clear, I do not own a gun. I do not hunt, however, my father did. He owned guns for hunting and a handgun for protection of the family. He taught us how to handle, load and shoot guns. He taught us great respect for them, as he taught us respect for our fellow man. He taught us that guns could kill and that life is precious. We were never to aim a gun at anyone unless it was to protect ourselves or those we loved.

    In the debate today, we tend to forget this aspect of life -- teaching respect for our fellow man (man, woman, child, regardless of race, religion or sexuality). Indeed, today our TV shows and movies present an attitude free of respect for life in their gratuitous violence and murder right along with self-adulation. It is a wonder our children have respect for anyone at all. American society has, for a number of decades, taught our children that the "I, my, me, what can I get" idea is the best. And that is the problem with gun laws.

    Susan Taylor Martin's article shows us what many gun advocates have said -- it is the person behind the gun that is doing the killing. We do not send guns to prison; we send people. Guns are inanimate objects. The article noted that "While many types of violent crimes in gun-happy America are sharply down, violent crimes in gun-restricting Britain are sharply up . . . Crime in London -- often committed at knife-point -- increased nearly 13 percent last year." So do we ban knives next? Martin makes another point that gun advocates focus on: "Police acknowledge that a determined criminal can easily obtain a handgun, machine gun or other deadly firearm through a thriving underground market." The banning of guns, they say, will not ban them from the criminal element but from law-abiding citizens.

    Why has America become such a self-centered, violent society? What do we teach our children today? That winning is more important than sportsmanship? Does our lack of discipline for ourselves and our children play a role? Does the media? If it is "the beast" in us that carries the blame for violence and not the gun itself (and I believe it is), then what can we do to change this situation? Do we want to treat merely the symptom or the disease itself? And will we?
    -- Linda K. Rodante, Tarpon Springs

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