A letter to the editor

I have again written a letter to the editor of my local paper. Here it is:

The media is an interesting thing. In its desire to appear objective it will pretty consistently go out and seek ‘both sides of the story’. When discretion is not used – and let’s be honest, how often is it? – the result is kooks getting exposure for their causes. For instance, anti-vaccine nuts have become a prevalent danger over the past decade or so because of people willing to give Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy a platform from which to tell lies.

This is bad, but it gets worse when the media does manage to use its discretion but in the wrong way. Take the recent articles and reports all across the state on this new legislative prayer caucus. I have yet to find a single dissenting view. Apparently there are no atheists in the state of Maine.

Of course, it isn’t easy to find organized atheists. We don’t have any central dogma. We don’t have tenets of faith (also known as belief without evidence). So I can cut a little slack on that point – though let’s be honest, it’s unlikely anyone bothered to open up Google and do a search for some Maine groups – but how about talking to some historians? Surely someone could have found a qualified person to slap down garbage like this from Maine Senate President Kevin Raye: “Let us keep in mind this nation’s founders placed such importance on prayer and God’s role in the life of our fledgling experiment in democracy…”

This is blatantly false. The founders placed importance on individual freedoms and the right to believe or not believe as one pleased. They did not want church and state to be entangled, or to have one’s religious beliefs be the de facto principle by which the nation operates.

Even when the media only gets one side of the story I guess it’s still possible to find the kooks.

(Letter appears as I wrote it, not as the KJ edited it. AP style can go to hell.)

The legislative prayer caucus, from what I gather, is just a bunch of Bible-thumpers in the legislature getting together to prayer after their sessions. I don’t have an issue with that (except insofar as it’s dumb). My problem is with the fact that if an atheist group did anything locally, the first thing the paper would do is seek out a response from a church.

Marty Soule is a good person

It always makes me feel good when I see people promoting smart ideas:

The March 13 letter to the editor warning about not supporting Planned Parenthood because it offers the Gardasil vaccine would have wide-reaching effects if the warning were followed.

One would need to avoid all pediatric and family medicine practices; all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses; the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The reason that health-care providers support the use of Gardasil and other vaccines is that they help to protect our children from terrible diseases. Immunizations given early in life allow our immune system to prepare so that it can protect us from disease later in life.

Gardasil helps to prevent cervical cancer. A friend of mine died of cervical cancer several years ago. I want to do what I can to protect others from that same fate.

Marty Soule


Well done, Marty.

Atheism does not lead to hatred

At least that was the argument I put forth in my most recent letter to the editor.

On Jan. 15, Marie-Anne Jacques wrote that there has been increasing hatred over the past decade because people have completely lost faith in God. As one piece of evidence, she points to the throwing of an egg at her manger scene over the holidays.

I would like to say that I am offended only as an atheist. I could make a pretty good letter on that basis alone, I think. Unfortunately, I have to take some of my valuable space to point out how offended I am just on a purely logical basis.

Someone throwing an egg at her manger scene could have been motivated by any number of things. Maybe someone found her display gaudy. Or maybe someone in her neighborhood dislikes her. Or maybe someone was just looking to throw an egg. I don’t think Christians are somehow inherently above any of these motivations.

But more important than Jacques’ shortcomings of logic is the fact that she is equating atheism with hatred. Can anyone tell me what philosophy derives from atheism? Can anyone tell me how atheism could ever possibly drive anyone to do anything?

Last time I checked, atheism was a descriptive position, not a normative one. (And let’s nip this one — Adolf Hitler was a Christian creationist who was motivated by racism and nationalism, not atheism or religion.)

Atheism is a perfectly rational position that does not somehow magically lead to hatred or random acts of vandalism. Our neighbors, our friends, our families, they all have among and within them atheists. I, for one, am unprepared to call such a massive group of people inherently hateful.

Michael Hawkins



I think my next letter will make the point of further explaining how atheism is descriptive. At least, it will if people in the comment section show a severe misunderstanding of the difference between a descriptive and normative position.

The letter to which I was responding can be found here.

Just an awful response

Someone wrote a terrible letter to the editor a few days ago.

We have seen a lot hatred in this decade, and it is increasing by the minute. The problem is that people have completely lost faith in the Lord.

One of these sick people showed his true colors during the Christmas season by actually throwing eggs at my lovely manger. I pray that he sees the light.

Marie-Anne Jacques


I’m not going to respond to Jacques’ comments here because I have already written a response letter to the paper. (I will, of course, publish that here once it gets printed.) But to what I will respond is one of the comments to this letter.

People will deny God at all costs in order to not have to face themselves. You can believe that there is no God but it takes more to not believe than it takes to beileve as more than 80% of Americans do believe.

The prophecies in the Bible clearly show that there is a God. There is no other way so many prophecies could be fulfilled unless there is a God. These prophecies that were written thousands of years ago are being fulfilled right before our eyes. Israel wasn’t a nation for close to 2000 years and now it is a nation as prophesied. A one world cuurency leading up to the mark of the beast, a one world religion, a one world government, a one world military, Israel performing sacrifices in the temple again; these are all things being planned right now all over the world fulfilling prophecy. The Bible talks about the sun getting so hot that it will burn people’s skin and on NASA’s website it tells of solar flare ups that are to start in about a year that will scortch the earth and all of our government leaders have built underground dwellings to hide from this onslaught from the sun. All this is foretold by the Bilbe and much more and it could never be foretold unless there is a God who knows the beginning from the end like it says.

Just awful.

That first line is the exact reason I wrote about Christians deep down. It amounts to calling atheists liars. “Why, you just deny God at all costs for your own sake!” No, no, no. Don’t you get it? I don’t believe in your god. In fact, I don’t believe in any god. Please don’t claim that I am just lying to you right now and I really do believe. I don’t. Deal.

And that second line? Aside from ending in a point of gibberish, it is a profound misunderstanding of atheism. I am NOT claiming that I know there is no God. There very well could be. There could also be a teapot in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. But I see no evidence for it. Just the same, you have no evidence for your god.

Oh, but wait. There’s that whole paragraph about how so many prophecies have been fulfilled. Like a global currency. Or a global religion. Or a global government. Or a global military. Right? I mean, right? I think my favorite is the claim of a global religion, if only because the commenter just got done citing that nearly 20% of Americans do not believe in God (the number is lower, but I don’t expect this guy to deal in facts).

No highway through the Serengeti

The Tanzanian government has plans to build a road through the Serengeti. And it sounds like it’s going to be pretty ugly. But the only reason I even know about this is that someone wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper.

Why can’t we leave anything alone? Why put a major highway through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania?

Majestic animals such as elephants, wildebeests and zebras, use this region as their major means of getting around. The plains have been here for millions of years without human interference.

Why change it? These animals will be killed daily if a road is put through there. Let alone human life. I don’t believe you can run an elephant over and live to tell about it.

I don’t believe for one minute that God wants this to happen, either.

In America, we have taken most of the woodlands away from our animals, including moose and deer, and we wonder why these animals move into town. Then we end up killing the animals because they are interfering with humans.

Children often pay the price because they are easy targets for predators. This is not fair to the animals. Please leave the Serengeti alone.

Beverly Brickett


I agree with the writer, though I’m not sure what any of this is doing in a letter to the editor of a Maine newspaper.

But she’s right in her sentiment (as for facts…well, I doubt there will be a lot of dead elephants on the side of the road). There is no good reason for destroying a place as special as the Serengeti. It seems to me the money allocated to a road project could be better spent on all that abject poverty I saw during my time in Tanzania.

But maybe I’m just crazy.

Can I call a bigot a bigot?

Because I’m thinking about writing a letter to the editor in response to this bigot.

In a Dec. 12 column, Richard Connor criticizes Sen. John McCain for opposing repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy on homosexuality and writes it “has outlived its usefulness” and that “We need to do away with it.”

To justify his position, Connor writes about “cultural and social changes” and advancing gay marriage. Political correctness run amok.

Social acceptance doesn’t necessarily make something right. Furthermore, a behavior that is socially acceptable in a civilian environment does not necessarily make it right in a military environment.

Can anyone imagine the military maintaining unisex sleeping quarters and unisex bathing facilities with group showers? I cannot.

Similarly, I cannot imagine homosexuals serving openly in the military. A barracks will house 80-plus men and have group bathrooms and showers. As I can’t image a military environment where men and women take group showers because animal instincts may surface, I cannot image the military maintaining group showers where men with a known sexual attraction for men taking group showers with men.

What I write may invite the PC police to charge me with homophobia and intolerance. In my defense, I love the relatives I have who are gay and the gays I know in business.

They know I don’t agree with their lifestyle, but to love someone does not mean you have to agree with them. True love is often tough love and means having to tell those you love the truth.

Failure to practice tough love in our families may have contributed to the growth and social acceptance of homosexuality in society. I don’t believe homosexuality is normal. I believe it is a personal choice from someone who has tasted the proverbial forbidden fruit. Society’s sexual preferences don’t justify overhauling military standards.

Harold Alexander


I also find “dolt” to be a fair and accurate label.

Let’s do this one quickly, shall we?

  • Being gay does not mean being obsessed with sex or unable to control sexual desires. Assumptions like that is how we get those horribly bigoted comparisons of gays to pedophiles. And “animal instincts”? How sexually immature is Harold Alexander? While where evolution and taxonomy are concerned I have to agree we absolutely are animals (though I’m not so sure about the instincts part), we have the ability to be rational and critical and thoughtful.
  • Does this guy really think that gay sex in showers is going to be an issue? I don’t really see anyone trying that, much less getting away with it.
  • No, Alexander does not love the gays he knows. If he did, he wouldn’t try to make their lives worse. I’ll grant that he sorta, kinda, maybe loves them. A little.
  • Gays have loving families.
  • No one wakes up and decides one day, “Gee, I think I’m going to start liking people with the same genitalia I have. That will surely make my life better. And probably socially easier…right? Right.”
  • What justifies overhauling military standards is the exhaustive study that found that most service members are fine with the repeal of DADT. And let’s not forget the 13,500 qualified individuals who have been kicked out – only to the detriment of the effectiveness of the U.S. military.

Comedian writes to the editor

A comedian by the name Roger Leblond has written a letter to the editor of my local paper.

Our nation has become sickly immoral and extremely perverted and Satan has taken a stronghold in our country.

If we were to put God’s moral laws before man’s law we would see where we have gone wrong.

That’s weird. I’m not convinced that we ought to stone rape victims because God interprets silence to be enjoyment. I don’t know. Maybe the early Christian writers (or later editors or later scribes or later politicians or later…who knows, really?) tended to not hear a lot of noise when they had sex.

Under our constitutional right of Freedom of Speech, which I agree with, God’s moral law of adultery is allowed to live. If the moral law of God took precedence over man’s law, pornography, topless bars and the like would not be allowed under Freedom of Speech.

Anything sexual is bad.

We have perverted the word of God so bad that we have taken Christ out of Christmas. We should now proclaim Dec. 25 as Happy Materialism Day. To prove that to be true, look at your major and local newspapers, and see pictures and pictures of people waiting selfishly at stores the day after Thanksgiving. Greed and selfishness are sins of God.

Wait, we’re winning? The materialists are winning? The U.S. is no longer dominated by Christian culture? It’s possible to not be aware of the constant barrage of Christian religion in our society? Oh, and getting gifts for other people is selfish? My whole world view has been turned on its head!

Does anyone know when this guy will be playing any clubs?

Show me one ape-human. Just one!

That’s what Melody Weeks of Oakland wants, anyway. At least that’s what she said in her response to one of my past letters to the editor.

After reading two letters from Michael Hawkins regarding his discriminate view that “creation” shouldn’t be taught in public schools, I am compelled to write this letter.

He considers evolution a science that should be taught because evolution is “scientifically proven.” OK, show me one human being conceived, carried and delivered by apes. What? Can’t do it? Then I guess you can’t prove it, eh?

His is one of theory and speculations by “educated” human beings.

I can’t prove creation. I believe in it as it is so logical but only by faith. So why is creation any less of a theory than evolution? What is Hawkins so afraid of that he can’t provide children different theories and allow them, their parents, and their personal faith to dictate their own beliefs?

Is this the only problem he has with candidate Paul LePage? Personally, I think it’s about time we get rid of career politicians and lawyers in any branch of government. Maybe then, the average American, could understand the tax laws and state regulations under which they are forced to adhere.

I think a good farmer would be the very best candidate as they know what it’s like to work hard for very little. They share no entitlements unlike our current “leaders.” Why can’t our representatives, senators and Congress brown-bag it for lunch? Why are they given $30 for a meal? And the rest of us, if we’re lucky, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Oh yeah, because they write the laws that entitle them to it. I keep forgetting. I just live here, and pay taxes for them to thrive.

Melody Weeks


I’ll humor Melody.

1) All humans are apes. There is no evolutionary or taxonomic distinction.
2) Yes, evolution is a theory. Just like gravity.
3) Creationism is less of a theory than evolution, Melody, because (as you point out) it is based upon faith. It has no evidence; not in its common form, not in its dishonest intelligent design form, not in any form. Evolution has nothing but evidence behind it. (This, by the way, is one good example of the damage religion, and specifically faith, does to science education.)
4) I’m afraid of telling children things known to be false. That is a wrong in the world.
5) No, I also have the problem with LePage that he’s a liar who sucked money from the state while claiming his policies somehow saved the city of Waterville.
6) I don’t care about the rest.

Letter to the editor correction

After butchering a previous letter to the editor I wrote, the Kennebec Journal has printed my correction.

On July 19, the Kennebec Journal ran a letter with my name as the author. Neither the title nor the edited content reflected what I had originally written.

The piece was titled “Irreparable harm to sciences if LePage is elected?” The substance of the letter did not make any such claim. Paul LePage will cause harm to science, but it will not be irreparable. Science is the best way of knowing we have; it can recover from an anti-science politician like LePage. It would just be preferable to avoid any harm in the first place.

Two paragraphs were edited to say “LePage seems to indicate he thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.” I stand by what I wrote: “Paul LePage thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.”

I used this wording because when asked in a debate if he believes in creationism and if he thinks it should be taught in schools LePage’s answer concluded, “I believe yes and yes.” My second paragraph compared LePage’s rationality to a common aquatic bird found on many Maine lakes.

The KJ has offered me this space so I may clarify the original letter. For that, I am thankful. But there is the much more important issue of LePage’s anti-science stances.

Any politician who rejects some fundamental aspect of any field of science based on religious belief is unqualified for any public leadership position.

Eliot Cutler, Kevin Scott and Shawn Moody have all voiced their support for the strong teaching of evolution in public schools. Libby Mitchell has not stated a position, but there is little doubt of her support for the fact of evolution. All are far better choices than LePage to lead Maine.

For those who haven’t read or don’t remember my first letter, that “common aquatic bird” is a loon. Personally I think I was being too generous.

Reader responds to letter

A Kennebec Journal reader has responded to my heavily edited letter to the editor. Unfortunately, the paper has not uploaded the response online, so I do not currently have access to it. However, I do want to respond to it briefly. (I will type up a copy when I get my hands on a hard copy of the paper.)

In my letter I pointed out that creationist Paul LePage will do harm to science by discouraging the critical thinking required in science. He will encourage students to accept that creationism is intellectually viable, and that is inherently anti-science. A reader responded that Paul LePage’s daughter, Lauren LePage, will be graduating shortly with biology and chemistry degrees. The reader then said Lauren had been supported greatly by her father in her scientific endeavors.

It’s just too bad for the reader and the LePage’s that there’s more to the story.

Awhile back I documented some of the ongoing dishonesty of the LePage campaign. In that post, I referenced a question posed on the LePage Facebook page which asked why LePage supports teaching creationism in schools. Lauren LePage offered this answer:

He just thinks knowledge is a good thing, the more knowledge you have, the better off you are. And he has alread said that school curriculum should be decided on the local level, local school boards should be deciding what they want taught in their schools.

Lauren LePage is describing her father’s irresponsible thoughts on education (‘Teach kids whatever you like so long as you’re micromanaging!’). It isn’t a stretch to believe she also thinks “knowledge is a good thing”. But this isn’t knowledge in the traditional sense of the word. This is knowledge as virally delivered by religious indoctrination. And that isn’t really knowledge at all. It’s belief, faith, fairy tales. It isn’t a view discovered based upon any verifiable facts; it is a view which contradicts verified facts.

So when that reader says Lauren LePage is a good example of how Paul LePage isn’t going to taint the education system, he’s wrong. The belief that it is okay to tell students that creationism has any validity whatsoever is an active danger to science and science education – no matter what degrees one obtains.