Saturday Mailbox


November 03, 2007

Reality's rules reveal no higher purpose

I read Dinesh D'Souza's column "What atheists can't refute" (Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 28) with interest. But I must take issue with some of its assumptions and conclusions.

I do not believe in "god," as most people apparently mean the word. However, I suppose that I am not an "atheist" by the author's definition, either.

I agree with Immanuel Kant that there is more to the world than our senses can apprehend, and more to what we apprehend than our minds can understand. Further, there is more to what we understand than our language can express, even in poetry and music.

None of this leads me to believe in a god or gods, however, and none of it leads me to have "faith" in the ways religious people commonly define it.

I do not believe in things for which I have no evidence.

It is one thing to admit that you do not, and cannot, know everything. It is quite another to fill in that blank space in our understanding with theism and then stop looking for more understanding.

Further, it is people's insistence that their version of the way to fill in that blank spot is the only real truth that leads to most of the world's suffering.

Carl Aron


Atheists understand the limits of reason

In his column "What atheists can't refute" (Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 28), Dinesh D'Souza is mistaken about what atheists believe.

Mr. D'Souza suggests that atheists do not recognize that human knowledge is constrained "by a limited sensory apparatus of perception" and therefore do not recognize "that we have no basis for assuming that a material perception of reality ever resembles reality itself."

In short, Mr. D'Souza claims, "Atheism foolishly presumes that reason is, in principle, capable of figuring out all that there is." This is hogwash.

Atheists recognize all of the above; we recognize there may be realities we cannot know because human intelligence and human senses have only evolved to a certain point.

All that atheists claim is that we should not pretend to know what we cannot know.

It is religion, not atheism, that is guilty of this kind of pretense.

Henry Cohen


Leave smokers, taxpayers alone

With all the talk about Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax explosion swirling around us, I wonder why there hasn't been talk of raising the tax on alcohol ("Stakes high at session eve," Oct. 29).

The government socks it to smokers without hesitation, citing the use of tobacco by teenagers and the dangers it poses to their health. But doesn't alcohol do just as much damage?

Alcohol is deadly, and its use is accelerating now that cigarettes are more expensive.

I would suggest that the state impose a stiff additional tax on alcohol and let the smokers be for a while.

However, generally, I am not in favor of any tax increases. The state should strive to live within its already enormous income, just as we individuals are expected to do.

My widow's wallet is already thinner because of the rising prices of almost everything, and Mr. O'Malley wants it to lose even more weight by nickel-and-diming me to death.

Reduced spending is the only sensible way to manage the state's finances.

The future looks dismal if raising taxes at the drop of a hat is to become the norm.

Edith Hustvedt


Some cities given a boost by gaming

The writer of the letter "Slots a sucker's bet over the long term" (Oct. 31) mentions gambling centers such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., Dover, Del., and Detroit and suggests that "as Maryland citizens, most of us wouldn't want to live there."

He's right when it comes to Dover Downs and Detroit. But Las Vegas and Atlantic City are among the fastest-growing cities in the nation.

Gambling may be what most people think of when these two resort towns are mentioned. But the fact is that they have many other amenities visitors can enjoy without even stepping in a casino.

Atlantic City, for example, has improved enormously with a brand-new town center, nationally known steak houses and top restaurants, new facades on the boardwalk and an upscale shopping mall on a pier that extends over the ocean.

But just like Maryland racing today, Atlantic City was in dire straits when legalized gambling was approved in the 1970s.

Steve Liebowitz

Owings Mills

Spending simply must be controlled

At a time when gasoline prices are skyrocketing, home heating expenses are increasing, food prices are creeping up and the cost of other necessities is rising nearly out of reach, some people are concerned about maintaining open space funding ("Cuts could imperil open space funding," letters, Oct. 29)?

I enjoy being outdoors in our parks and open spaces as much as anyone, but Maryland legislators need to consider alternatives to tax increases.

If it is necessary to reclassify $55 million from open space funding to pay for education, then I say that education is more important. Volunteer groups can help to maintain open spaces and parks.

I know that everyone has a pet project, but the spending has got to stop.

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