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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 17, 2005
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Atheism not the omnipotent plight that columnist suggests

As a citizen of the U.S., I take pride in the rights given to us by the Constitution and the liberties we are fortunate to enjoy, with freedom of speech being no exception.I respect Mr. Montgomery's attitude toward religion and atheism ("ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious"), as I would respect any person courageous enough to present his ideas in a widely read publication.

I am, however, dismayed at his attempts to attack atheism and portray it as a plague slowly destroying the nation.Atheism was not devised as a tool to destroy God or religion, nor is it an organized faction with card-carrying members and its own belief system. Rather, atheism is the practice of lacking a practice, a term used to describe the lifestyle of any person who chooses not to adopt a faith.Atheists do not gather on a regular basis to discuss their own agenda, and they certainly do not congregate and conspire to dismantle established religions.

The fact that the U.S. has no mandated religion and that the Constitution specifies a separation of church and state is not an attempt to press atheism upon the masses. Unbeknownst to many, its existence actually protects a right often times overlooked: the right of all religions to never be labeled inferior to another.

Mr. Montgomery, while understandably upset based upon his Christian beliefs and self-stated mission to "spread the message of Jesus' incredible love," fails to properly present the situation in New Mexico and instead manages to display himself as a Christian radical with a quick temper and eager index finger.Who better to blame than the atheist, the only person he fathoms could possibly benefit from the removal of the cross from a government seal?

Has he forgotten the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Hebrews and every citizen practicing a non-Christian denomination?One would be interested to see Mr. Montgomery's reaction had instead of it been a cross on the town seal, it was a Star of David, a crescent moon or any of a series of non-Christian religious symbols he himself might find offensive.

Mika Mage
pre-physiological sciences freshman

Constitution doesn't declare U.S. to be atheist or Christian

Religious right-wingers like Silas Montgomery consistently misrepresent the primary role of the ACLU, which is to employ the courts to protect the principle of individual liberty against governmental and majoritarian infringement ("ACLU, atheists taking aim at the religious").

And contrary to Mr. Montgomery's hyperbole, nowhere does our Constitution declare the U.S. to be "officially" either atheist or Christian, because the Founding Fathers believed that religious decision-making was best left to the individual and the dictates of his or her conscience and not to the state. Individual freedom is best preserved when the state stays out of our religious business.

But I'm curious. Why do conservatives such as Mr. Montgomery need government support for their religious preferences? I certainly don't.

Brad Taylor
Keyser, W.Va.

First Amendment proscribes religious expression in public forums

I am writing in response to Silas Montgomery's guest column "ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious." First, I want to note that I do not have a problem with religion, but simply feel it is not for me. I am a firm supporter of any person's right to practice whatever religion they choose as granted in our Constitution. No one should be persecuted for his or her religious beliefs and no one should be force to live a life of a religion they do not practice.

However, I believe the removal of the cross from the village seal is supported by the First Amendment. There is a difference between public displays of religious symbols and those that are state-sponsored. If you want to advertise your church on a billboard or wear a T-shirt that says ,"Jesus is my homeboy," you should have every right to do so.

But no government, local, state or federal, has the right to impose any religious symbols or practices because that would breach the social contract of the Constitution as provided in the First Amendment. Also, if the Tijeras case is ruled favorably for the town, then you will definitely see areas voting to include other religious symbols, such as the crescent or Star of David on local emblems, depending on the religious backgrounds.

Contrary to Mr. Montgomery's argument, the separation of church and state is evident in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the phrase "separation of church and state" is not explicit, the meaning and intent behind it is evident. It proclaims the inability of the government - local, state and federal - to establish a single religion as favorable to the state.

Unfortunately for Mr. Montgomery, atheism is not a religion. It is the absence of religion, and that is how I prefer my government to remain. I am refusing to accept my fate at the hands of others. In fact, I am writing to prevent others from shaping it, a little at a time, to eventually mandating myself and others to live Christian lives.

Matt Ortega
political science senior

Fasting a time for atonement

I am writing in response to David Schultz's column "Food for thought on Yom Kippur." Like many aspects of Judaism, the significance of fasting on Yom Kippur has no universal interpretation. The differing viewpoints made in the article by Deborah Kaye and by Schultz himself are certainly both common interpretations of the meaning (or lack thereof) of the fast. However, I'd like to offer my own perspective on the fast's meaning.

Schultz is correct when he asserts that fasting is detrimental to one's ability to concentrate. But does fasting impair one's ability to atone and reflect? I would say no - quite the opposite, in fact.

Is atonement something that should require our concentration? To me, the act of atonement shouldn't require thought or concentration; it is something that should be done simply because it's the right thing to do. I believe that deep down inside, we all know the things we're sorry for and the reasons we're sorry for them; but we have our reasons for why we don't offer our apologies to those who deserve them.

When fasting, concentration and thought are replaced by pure honesty. We don't dwell on why something in our lives is right or wrong; we simply know that it is right or wrong. When we realize something isn't right, we have the opportunity to honestly and meaningfully atone. If we ask ourselves why we didn't atone for our transgressions when we had previous opportunities, we once again obtain an honest answer; we see that our inability to atone was because of pride, guilt, jealousy, ignorance, etc. By realizing these honest answers, we can concentrate on self-improvement and becoming more at one with ourselves.

Adam Rosenthal
mathematics senior

Many opportunities available to regional development majors

In response to Ryan Johnson's column, "Don't be a real estate agent," there is more than one type of agent. I do agree on the fact that the future of residential real estate agents can be bleak because of overcrowding, yet most people raising their hands were probably not going in that direction.

Being in regional development and knowing many of the people, most are interested in commercial real estate. Commercial real estate is a much harder field to get involved in and takes more skill then being a residential real estate agent. Also when the teacher asked, "Who wants to go into real estate?" he was not asking, "Who wants to be a real estate agent?" One can go into real estate and still be successful without being a real estate agent.

Development of land, planning of urban areas, property management, along with real estate consulting are all more in-depth fields of real estate than a simple agent. In all, most of the students won't be disappointed in raising their hands because Johnson should understand that there are more opportunities in one field than the most obvious.

Jonathan Barkan
regional development senior

Yom Kippur fasting facilitates reflection, reconciliation

This is in response to David Schultz's column "Food for Thought on Yom Kippur." I think he is approaching the concept of fasting with the wrong mindset. I'm no great Torah scholar, but perhaps I could help widen his view (and those who agree with you) of the practice by sharing with you some of my views on it.

Schultz says that fasting will decrease your ability to focus on the reflection you do for Yom Kippur. I don't see it this way because an empty stomach is hard to ignore. Every time it grumbles your first instinct is to eat something, but then you remember you can't. You also remember why you can't, and this reminds you of the purpose of your fasting in the first place and keeps your mind from straying too far.

Second of all, much of your reflection is to be on those you have wronged over the past year. The small amount of hunger pains you may feel should serve as a reminder of all the pain that you have caused the people whom your thoughts turn to. This helps you to take more seriously the remorse you should feel over having done them wrong.

Thirdly, one thing that waiting the whole day to eat teaches you is sometimes you need patience, whether you like it or not. If we as Jews can learn to have enough patience in our individual lives, perhaps we as a people can gain enough patience to be able to stick it out until God finally blesses the world with the presence of Meshiach (Messiah).

Again I hold no religious authority but hopefully these thoughts can help everyone view a seemingly "unjustified" tradition in a new light.

Tom Mosby
psychology junior

Columnist overstates TV's lessons in raising children

I am writing in regard to Mike Moorefield's column, "Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood sets example for social acceptance." I feel I take issue with

several of the points you seem to make in your piece. First off, are you supporting TV as a medium to raise children? I was a huge fan of cartoons when I was younger, but nothing prepared me more for life than playing with my friends. All TV ever taught me was how to avoid the summer heat by staying in my bed all day - not a good quality in my book.

After this, it also seems that you make a case to support obesity, single parents and depression. I have no qualms with single parents, but man, did you make their life seem simple by comparing them to Kanga. I never remember Kanga having a job or facing reality, as she was a cartoon character. Single parenting is a much more difficult job, and anyone that can do it has my utmost respect.

Now, a healthy body image is one thing, but obesity is a whole new ball game. Obesity is a problem, and there are no two ways about it. Having a little bit of extra weight never hurts, but when it becomes obesity and a person's life is in danger it is a different story.

And then you seem to go on and support depression. Yes, depression is something we all deal with and nothing to take lightly. However, Eeyore is not in any way a positive role model for the depressed. He never comes out of his depression. It is not good to be depressed all the time.

If you think the only time such a diverse group of friends was able to coexist was in the Hundred Acre Woods, then I feel sad for the experiences of friendship you must have missed out on. So next time when you sit down at your TV to learn some real life lessons, just remember they are all right outside your door.

Sean Pabst
political science junior

Separation of church, state draws a 'fuzzy' line in practice

As an alumnus I have the privilege to enjoy from afar the debates that occur on campus. Recently I enjoyed the opinion piece by Silas Montgomery, however I was a little disappointed at some of the responses it received for their lack of constitutional awareness. I am also a second-year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago. As such, I feel compelled to correct a misunderstanding that was fairly well represented in the letters published on Friday.

Regarding, Jefferson's (in)famous uttering of the "separation of church and state," it is simply incorrect to somehow presume that this phrase is synonymous with the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The problem is that the phrase draws a clear line between the public sphere and the private, a line that is remarkably fuzzy in legal history, scholarship and practice.

For example, in June, the Supreme Court ruled that a public display of two framed copies of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky was unconstitutional, but a giant 6-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments in Texas was acceptable. Both decisions were split 5-4. Go figure. Justice Scalia, writing the dissent in the Kentucky decision, noted that ruling against the display of the Ten Commandments "ratchets up this court's hostility to religion." It seems Mr. Montgomery is in prestigious company when he gets a sense of religious persecution.

Finally, Mr. Montgomery did not mention one aspect of the Tijeras case. The tiny cross on the town seal is joined by an American Indian religious symbol as well as a conquistador's helmet. Because these symbols are clearly part of a larger historical display of Tijeras' origins, the town has a constitutional right to keep the cross where it is.

I encourage any skeptics of this argument to go ask my excellent colleagues at the James E. Rogers College of Law to elaborate more fully. And while you're asking questions, you might ask one more: If the ACLU is concerned with the establishment of any religion and is not targeting Christianity in particular, why did they only sue to remove the cross and not the American Indian religious symbol? Personally, I think they both should stay.

Joshua Montgomery
UA alumnus

Columnist overstates TV's lessons in raising children

I am writing in regard to Mike Moorefield's column, "Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood sets example for social acceptance." I feel I take issue with several of the points you seem to make in your piece. First off, are you supporting TV as a medium to raise children? I was a huge fan of cartoons when I was younger, but nothing prepared me more for life than playing with my friends. All TV ever taught me was how to avoid the summer heat by staying in my bed all day - not a good quality in my book.

After this, it also seems that you make a case to support obesity, single parents and depression. I have no qualms with single parents, but man, did you make their life seem simple by comparing them to Kanga. I never remember Kanga having a job or facing reality, as she was a cartoon character. Single parenting is a much more difficult job, and anyone that can do it has my utmost respect.

Now, a healthy body image is one thing, but obesity is a whole new ball game. Obesity is a problem, and there are no two ways about it. Having a little bit of extra weight never hurts, but when it becomes obesity and a person's life is in danger it is a different story.

And then you seem to go on and support depression. Yes, depression is something we all deal with and nothing to take lightly. However, Eeyore is not in any way a positive role model for the depressed. He never comes out of his depression. It is not good to be depressed all the time.

If you think the only time such a diverse group of friends was able to coexist was in the Hundred Acre Woods, then I feel sad for the experiences of friendship you must have missed out on. So next time when you sit down at your TV to learn some real life lessons, just remember they are all right outside your door.

Sean Pabst
political science junior

'Conspiracy theory' label undermines reasonable ideas

I have to say that Michael William's letter to the editor ("Anti-war activists rely too much on conspiracy theories") was cleverly done. I'm sure he knew that labeling something a "conspiracy theory" is a great ploy to try to delegitimize issues deduced from reason. I'm sure he knew that south Vietnam under Diem was incredibly oppressive and contributed actively to America's often indiscriminate use of carpet bombing, village raids and chemical agent use that resulted in more than 1 million Vietnamese deaths.

I'm sure Mr. Williams was also aware that Ho Chi Minh's atrocities during that time did not have to equal that of the country's invading force as well as its puppet government installed to the south because he already won the country's hearts and minds. I'm sure Mr. Williams was already aware that we supported Pol Pot as a counter to Vietnam's unstable borders during the war.

I'm also sure he was aware that Saddam was recruited by the U.S. to initiate a war with Iran, a former client state that we lost control of in 1979. I'm sure he knew this cooperation continued until 1990, during Saddam's genocidal campaigns. I'm sure he knew that from 1980 to the early 1990s, Turkey destroyed more than 3,000 Kurdish villages, created millions of refugees and killed tens of thousands (this indicating, among other circumstances, double standards).

I'm sure Mr. Williams deduced our involvement in the Middle East as strategic. I'm also quite positive Mr. Williams knew that hierarchical societies are not synonymous with socialism. At least I assume he understood this and was being cleverly sarcastic. I hope so, or else his rhetoric about reason could be mocked, provoking discussion that standards need to be raised for future UA alumni.

Charles Hertenstein
economics sophomore



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