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Preaching Against Fanatics

January 12, 2002

Richard Rodriguez is right to ask Americans to use this historic moment to examine their religious beliefs and root out any incipient fanaticism ("A Religious Moment," Opinion, Jan. 6). But while we're cleaning house, why not rid ourselves of mainstream religion as well?

Even moderate, "reasonable" churches share what has for thousands of years proved to be a recipe for disaster. They teach that there is one God; that his followers constitute some sort of chosen people; that these followers must do his work on Earth either by converting, enslaving, persecuting, butchering or at least feeling superior to everybody else; that the church's leaders are good and wise and should be admired and trusted, no matter how preposterous their public claims or how abominable their private behavior; and that all of this should be injected into the minds of the very young, before their innate sense of reason has developed far enough to reject it for the poisonous nonsense it is.

Every day atheists walk around doing decent, ethical things--not in order to curry heavenly favor or escape hellish punishment but because it's the right way to behave--and live to tell about it. Large numbers of people have tried going a week without smoking or watching TV, with admirable results. How about a week without God?

Monte Montgomery

Los Angeles

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Rodriguez's piece was wise and timely, and needs to be repeated loud and often. It is ironic that we denounce Islamic movements for wanting to take over governments, impose a fundamentalist regime, enact their beliefs into law and restrict the practice of other religions. The religious right in this country sees nothing wrong with all that, as long as the state religion is fundamentalist Christianity. Thank God for the Constitution.

Jan C. Gabrielson

Los Angeles

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I take great exception to Rodriguez's belief that "organized religion has done more good than harm in the world." What I do believe is that spirituality has done more good than harm in the world.

Religion, in my opinion, is man's explanation for his personal understanding of spirituality. Since each person understands a higher power somewhat differently, by having "organized religion" we have placed the members of each of these religions--Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., and all the offshoots of each of these--into a competition to prove that their understanding of spirituality is the one true religion.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is of "one's own understanding"; it does not try or care to convince anyone else that he or she should believe as others do. I do agree with Rodriguez that America was founded on a secular ideal, but I propose that that secular ideal would be best served by spirituality rather than religion.

Jane Delman

Rancho Santa Margarita

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Rodriguez rightly suggests that a free, secular society, far from discouraging religious growth, actually enhances it. It does so, I submit, by providing us the freedom without which the public expression of "belief," which requires free choice, could not exist.

Bill McAuliffe

San Diego

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