Letters to the Editor

For HumanistNetworkNews.org
Jan. 6, 2010

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Remembering Roy Torcaso

(Re: Can an Atheist Serve in Public Office? Humanist Network News, Dec. 16, 2009.)

HNN's story about the Bothwell matter in North Carolina mentioned that the Supreme Court in 1961 ruled against religious tests for public office, but the story omitted mentioning that the plaintiff in the case, Torcaso v. Watkins, was an American Humanist Association member and served at least one term on the AHA board. Torcaso, a lifelong freethinker, died a couple of years ago. His memorial service was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville (Md.).  I gave a eulogy.

–Edd Doerr,  Silver Spring, Md.

Spreads the Word about Humanism at Work

(Re: Surrounded by Evangelists at Work, Humanist Network News, Dec. 9, 2009.)

At work, I'm surrounded by religious people–some very religious. They all know I'm a humanist (I even wear the humanist symbol on my lapel), and I never feel uncomfortable, much less pestered by them. They are not the "evangelizing" kind, I must admit; rather, I am the promoter of humanism all the time.

I really love it when I'm bored by a Jehovah's Witness or any other evangelist in the street and can spend ten or fifteen minutes with them. Of course, I haven't had any instant conversions, but I always leave with the impression that I taught something of value to them.  Real, complete humanism is simply indisputable.

–Richard E. Trelles, Florida

An Atheist Served in Public Office in India

(Re: Can an Atheist Serve in Public Office?, Humanist Network News, Dec. 16, 2009.)

Let me first of all congratulate the atheist who was elected in California. It is quite astonishing to hear about this. But in India we do not have a bar for atheists.

One such example is my mother–Chennupati Vidya, who was born in a social revolutionary family. She was nominated as a member of the local self government in 1962 when she was 21 and continued to serve until 1979. Twice elected as a member of the Indian Parliament (Lower House titled as Lok Sabha), she served from 1980 to 1984 and again from 1989 to 1991. During her tenure in public office she actively participated in discussions and introduced bills on secularism, health and other social issues.

 In addition, she was also given the freedom to take the oath of office in the name of the "constitution" instead of "God."  An atheist woman in a country like India where women are treated like second-class citizens, Vidya was applauded by her fellow Parliamentarians for her humanistic contributions in the Parliamentary sessions.  Now in her seventies, she is still active in humanitarian work as an atheist and keeps in contact with those holding public office.

–Keerthi Bollinen, Vilayawade, India

Hanukkah for Secular Jewish Israelis

(Re: A Humanist Hanukkah, Humanist Network News, Dec. 9, 2009.)

In Israel, one is Jewish by nationality. If one also wants to be Jewish by religious faith that is an option. But one can also be a secular-humanist-Israeli-Jew when Jewishness  means one's national identity, one's language(Hebrew), and one's patriotism as an Israeli.

Hanukkah is celebrated by religious Jews as a commemoration of a presumed miracle. But non-religious Israelis see in it a paradigm of their nationalism and fierce defense of independence. The problem is that the original Maccabees were fundamentalists (in modern parlance) who rejected enforced conversion to pagan Greek culture and religion. They also rejected art, beauty, theatre, architecture, philosophy and sports, which makes the naming of Israeli's leading basketball team "Maccabee" something of an oddity.
So I can empathize with my ancestors who fought for freedom but cannot accept their rejection of modernization.

–David Zohar, Jerusalem, Israel

No Traditional Religions

(Re: "No God…? No Problem!"Humanist Network News,  Dec. 2, 2009.)

Humanism has a greater chance of spreading its enlightened perspectives to a greater number of people if it replaces the word "God" with "traditional religions."  Thus, I would rather have you say, "No Traditional Religions, Fewer Bitter Problems in Mixed-up Humanity" than "No God …? No Problem!"

–V. V. Raman,  Rochester, N.Y.