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Religion and politics

March 18, 2007

Re "God's dupes," Opinion, March 15

I read with interest Sam Harris' article on Rep. Pete Stark's (D-Fremont) coming out as a nontheist. I am one of a possible minority of believers who wouldn't mind a nontheist as a president if his or her qualifications were stellar. I would actually prefer that to someone manipulating belief for political purposes. But Harris lost me when he claimed that "Dominionist Christians who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death" were "the truest of true believers." How can what is a complete denial of everything Jesus taught and stood for be called the center of the Christian faith? That argument was almost as unsupported as his statement that "books like the Bible ... get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong." One of the main reasons I am a believer today is because the Bible consistently nails human nature on the head. If he's going to trash belief, Harris needs to do better than this.

JOHN FISCHER

Laguna Beach

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Per the USA Today/Gallup poll, only 45% of Americans would vote for a "well-qualified" presidential candidate who was an atheist. Given that people of "faith" believe that books written by men over centuries were dictated by an omnipotent, omniscient creature in the sky whose actions and wishes for us are defined in detail in those books (which, by the way, condone slavery and value blind allegiance above all else), shouldn't we be asking why we would vote for anyone who isn't an atheist?

PHILIP LAND

New York

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Harris is correct in his belief that moderates shelter extremists in organized religions (and other groups that do not call themselves religions), but he may be missing the point. Even if God does not exist, a godless world still has endless group conflicts and struggles for advantage. In such a setting, doesn't it make sense to support your own group, especially when others are doing the same? This is not to deny the attractiveness of a world where such crass considerations no longer apply, but it may be that neither Harris nor the believers live in such a world.

OMAR ALI

Brookfield, Wis.

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Harris' attack on those who choose to believe in God fails to recognize one very important attribute that he and other atheists share with believers -- faith. It's true that no one can prove without a doubt that God exists. On the other hand, no one can prove that he does not. Faith, contrary to the popular notion, does not have to be blind. It is an intellectual decision, an act of free will in response to the world around us. Harris has apparently made his decision, but let's not hide behind some intellectual smoke screen fueled by a superficial understanding of Scripture. His choice is ultimately based on faith that is no different from the faith of a believer.

CURT WALSTEAD

Westlake Village

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