11 August 2007

Stars and Stripes Correspondence

A sampling of recent correspondence at Stars and Stripes:

14 May 2007

Religious stories one-sided

…Lately, there have been many articles about religions and their goings-on around the world. With Operation Iraqi Freedom, Israel, Turkey and such, this is no surprise. But many of these articles are centered on Christianity in the United States. For example: Bible classes in Georgia public schools, prayers for mountain tops, Anne Coulter and her right-wing blabber, “miracles,” etc.

I was unaware that Stars and Stripes was a reporting agency for Christian fundamentalism. Granted, most of the readers of Stars and Stripes are Christian, but where are the articles about military Wiccans? Pagans? Atheists? Oh yes, there are atheists downrange, and I am an example.

As an atheist, I find the one-sided reporting from Stars and Stripes callous and insensitive. …

Religious minority whining

This is in response to the author of “Religious stories one-sided” (letter, May 14): Now I feel compelled to write about content. I am so sick and tired of hearing Wiccans, pagans and atheists whine and cry. You chose your religion (or lack thereof). If you are not comfortable with your choice, that is your problem. You chose to partake in a belief system that places you in the minority, so, with the limited space Stars and Stripes has, it puts stories in the paper that represent the vast majority of its readers. Again, you are not [in the majority]. That is your choice; don’t punish me or the rest [of us] based on the choices you make for your life.

I am a Christian and I don’t impose my beliefs on the letter writer. [He shouldn’t] impose himself on me. The reason why, I think, there are no stories relating to his “religion” is, besides the writer and three other people, no one really cares. That statement might seem cold or callous, but seriously, enough is enough. Quit whining.

1 June 2007

Non-Christians persecuted

This is in reference to “Religious minority whining.” I’m so tired of the ignorant ramblings of the uninformed. These biased, discriminatory attitudes have no place in the military. It’s very rare to see a religion represented in Stars and Stripes unless it’s Christianity. I understand it’s the majority; however, we are a diverse people with diverse religious beliefs.

Wicca and paganism has been the subject of attacks for hundreds of years. They are still openly met with hostility today. It was only last month the Department of Defense allowed Wiccans to place a symbol of their faith on headstones of fallen soldiers. What does that say about us as a people? You’re good enough to fight and die for your country as long as your religious views don’t conflict with the majority? …

Diversity makes America great

In reference to the letter “Religious minority whining,” I was unaware that being part of a majority gave anyone the right to say what people are interested in reading about. I’m sure that no one wanted to read about slavery being wrong or about women deserving a right to vote, but thankfully not everyone listened to the “majority.” Diversity — religious or otherwise — is what makes America great. Reprimanding someone who chose to not follow the same belief system as you is unbecoming to your religion.

Biased views out of step

…I would like to see this same individual use the same reasoning and logic in regard to the racial minorities within our military or anywhere else, for that matter. Is he implying that since some ethnic groups are minorities that they don’t deserve to be given equal opportunity? Or that they don’t matter because they are a minority and there are not enough to matter?

It is this same attitude that has made civil rights for minorities difficult to achieve and breeds discrimination. I am an atheist. I have felt the coldness of discrimination, as pagans, Wiccans, Mormons and other religious minorities undoubtedly have due to the attitude the writer seems to possess. The writer sounds like the whiner to me…

All religions deserve respect

…The writer complained, while complaining about people who complain, that pagans “impose” our beliefs on him by asking for a little more diversity in the theological topics covered in a newspaper that he chooses to read. This would have been funny if not for the rest of his rant, in which he (presumably without being sarcastic) claimed that, as a Christian, he did not force his religion down our throat, all the while demanding that Christian topics retain their monopoly in the paper, as everyone who does not believe in his god is so minuscule in number as to be beneath notice. … There is a large number of pagans in the military, some of whom have died for their country. By saying their beliefs aren’t worth even a few paragraphs in a newspaper, the letter writer has, in effect, spit on their graves.

15 June 2007

Pagans don’t belong in chapel

I’m very shocked to read that Pagans are allowed to use one of the rooms in the Misawa Air Base chapel (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves,” article, June 10). If I was attending church in Misawa, I would be outraged.

This is not a matter of discrimination, but a matter of spiritual warfare. … you cannot turn a house of worship of the one true God into a house of worship for many different gods. Just as we have separation of church and state for important reasons, we also need to keep the worship of worldly things separate from the worship of heavenly things. … I can respect Pagans’ religious views and outlooks on life. History is full of examples of the created being worshipped instead of the Creator. However, it is one thing to support them by giving them their own place of worship, but a whole different topic when you give Pagans access to a place in which God is served. … Quit sacrificing our foundation of absolute and irrefutable truth for man’s or woman’s futile attempt at wisdom. It is doomed to fail.

Pagans serve everywhere

I wanted to thank you for the helpful and informative article on pagans (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves,” Mideast edition, June 11). Rarely is our faith treated in the press with such objectivity. No doubt Stars and Stripes will take a lot of heat from readers for devoting a full page to pagans. It isn’t even Halloween. …

Story promotes understanding

Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my little eclectic heart (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves”).

I am a Celtic deist and a practitioner of druidism. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a well-written and thought-out report on a full page. Most important was you showed that the military does recognize certain pagan religions and listed them. This article will hopefully open the eyes of many people who were misinformed… So, to balance out the hate mail I know you will get, here is a letter of love from one of the many “minority” religions who read your paper and serve their country so that you can write what you want, when you want, freely.

28 June 2007

Not based on one faith

I applaud Stars and Stripes for its open-minded, unbiased attempt to bring “Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves” (article, June 11, Mideast edition) to its readers. I have been a pagan Wiccan for 10 years. To get this much positive attention and recognition in a newspaper is mostly unheard of.

Now, to “Pagans don’t belong in chapel” (letter, June 18): I am not surprised at the writer’s response. This is typical of closed-minded Christians. To say another faith is not worthy of using a military chapel (military chapels cater to a multitude of diverse faiths) because it does not agree with her Christian beliefs is deplorable. She states the ridiculous reason that pagan faiths are not valid enough to be practiced in a military chapel because they don’t worship one creator god.

This type of rationalizing is absurd. Military chapels are not one-faith-based institutions. They serve the military as a whole. I would advise her to take a look at the Constitution. It provides the freedom for one to follow any religion, without fear of reprisal or discrimination. To say it is “an attack on Christianity itself” is pure nonsense. How is it an attack on Christianity?

The letter sounds a lot to me like the rhetoric and propaganda I hear every day in Iraq, only they spin it about Islam. To me, her religious intolerance and attack on pagans are no different than the Muslim radical intolerant religious zealots who head the terrorist groups in Iraq.

Pagans are soldiers, too

In the inevitable refute to “Pagans don’t belong in chapel,” I am a deployed pagan who practices regularly with a small group on Forward Operating Base Prosperity, Baghdad. I have attended any number of rituals here and elsewhere, I was married to my wife in a handfasting ceremony, and we are going to raise our child in our ways.

What appalls me is that someone would be so hateful toward protectors of our great country. We are soldiers who bleed just as much as the followers of the “one true God.” I’m no fan of political correctness, but be damned if we pagans are denied a bit of unused space at night — in a building dedicated to religion — to practice what we have in peace. …

Respect for pagan beliefs

People never cease to amaze me. I find it ironic how someone can say she respects others’ beliefs and then display that she knows nothing about those beliefs and holds nothing but contempt for something she hasn’t bothered to try to understand. It would be like me saying, “I respect the beliefs of Christians, but the concept of a monotheistic God is just absurd.” Doesn’t that seem preposterous to you?…

3 July 2007

Pagans are good people

The problem with discrimination is that the people who practice it do not recognize it as such. The June 15 letter “Pagans don’t belong in chapel” reeks with prejudice and discrimination.

I am a Christian who has friends who are practicing Wiccans. They are some of the most honorable, unprejudiced, open-minded and charitable people you can find. They do not feel they are in a spiritual war; they just are offended by the in-your-face attitude similar to what the letter writer exhibits. While I disagree with their beliefs, I am always impressed by their honesty, and their care and concern for all of God’s creation. I am always impressed by how they raise their children. I have yet to meet any who have children on drugs or in the penal system.

I have never been proselytized to by a Wiccan, Druid or practitioner of any other pagan religion, but I have been offended by many members of “Christian” denominations with this same attitude toward any denomination but their own. It is amazing that the writer cannot see the blatant, inherent prejudice in the last statement “foundation of absolute and irrefutable truth … attempt at wisdom.”

This sounds exactly like the radical Muslims who are killing any other Muslims not of their sect. Hopefully the writer will continue to educate herself until she feels confidant enough in her own belief to quit attacking others.

‘Separate but equal’ mind-set?

I honestly can’t believe such an attitude still exists (“Pagans don’t belong in chapel”).

The letter writer claims to be tolerant and proud of the diversity of religions in the military then, in the same breath, is “outraged” by pagans in the chapel at Misawa (Japan) Air Base. As far as providing “support” by giving the pagans at Misawa “their own separate place to worship or don’t support them at all,” that’s merely a spin on the “separate but equal” argument that tore America apart for so many years.

I believe anyone who uses the phrase “one true God” exposes his or her own zealotry and narrow-mindedness, especially when you consider that Christians claim to be monotheistic while worshipping a trinity.

That letter exposed the writer’s ignorance of just what many people’s faith truly is about. Base chapels are ecumenical in nature by definition; it’s why they’re not referred to as “churches.”

If this is political correctness, so be it; Wicca and other pagan religions are recognized by the military and have equal rights to use the base chapel for worship.

Minority religions slighted

I do not appreciate the comments in “Religious minority whining” (letter, May 21) in which the writer argues (based on Christian fundamentalist ideas) that because people of minority religions have few areas of interest with Christians, pagan/atheist views are meaningless.

I would like to see more minority religions represented, not just in Stars and Stripes but in chaplains and coherent Defense Department regulations that give more support to these religions. … I am Wiccan. I would enjoy a column dedicated to minority religions, and ads from occult/New Age suppliers that ship downrange.

To Stars and Stripes: I know pagans and others deserve a column that pertains to them. I dare you to add a section. I can keep silent if you generalize it for “minority” religions. And the winner is a good newspaper.

13 July 2007

Atheist ‘revival’ bad for U.S.

I have to say that I was very disturbed to read the article “Atheists are happy campers at Ohio retreat” (July 8). From just looking at the picture next to the article with the children playing together, you would think that they were just at an outside function participating in a fun activity. But when I read the article, I found there is a lot more to it than that.

The author of the article seems to be overjoyed and ecstatic about young teenagers being at a summer camp where the existence of God is happily denied and refuted, speaking of a revival of atheism and Camp Quest (the name of the summer camp) being a training ground for the atheist movement. How sad to see yet another example of God being kicked out and pushed aside in our society, and young kids being taught — or, in my opinion, brainwashed — to do it.

I wonder how long it will be before America becomes a completely secular society when I see and read things like the Camp Quest article. We already have people fighting daily to remove God from our money, the Pledge of Allegiance and more. As one girl who was quoted in the article stated, “This year, I stopped getting up and saying the pledge,” because it includes the words “under God” in it.

Like it or not, our nation was founded under God, upon Christian principles and values, and yet it seems people, such as the ones who founded Camp Quest, continue to ignore and defy it and encourage others to do the same. It seems to me a nation that forgets what made it great is destined to fail.

A challenge for Stripes’ staff

…Why did Stripes decide to print (in the same edition) July Fourth highlights and the placement of a pentacle in Arlington National Cemetery? Why is a Masonic-derived quasi-religion created by a British bureaucrat in the 1950s even newsworthy? However, the newspaper sent a staff reporter to file a lengthy story (“Wiccans dedicate grave at Arlington,” July 5). That story was as pathetic as your steady pablum on being “gay in the military,” wasting print space to rationalize a behavior practiced by 2 percent of Americans. …

26 July 2007

Read the Constitution

It seems to me the author of “Atheist revival bad …” (letter, July 13) needs to read the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend, and study some American history.

Our nation was not “founded under God, upon Christian principles.” … The author seems to think Camp Quest is somehow dangerous to our country and our youth, when in fact it’s people exercising their right to free assembly. The number of religious-based summer camps far outweighs the atheist ones, and those based on a system of beliefs will prove to be more of a “training ground” than any that encourages free thought.

I highly doubt any of the children at Camp Quest would be chastised if they thought a higher power might exist. On the other hand, what would happen if a child at a Christian retreat voiced doubt that Jesus was the son of God?

Atheists come from every walk of life and many are educated about several faiths. As a child I was fortunate enough to be allowed to attend many churches. By the third grade I knew there was no God, and still educated myself by attending a variety of services. This is common with a lot of atheists. Many people force their children into the family religion and shun other beliefs, that’s the true “brainwashing.”

There is no atheist revival, we’ve always been here as a silent minority, most just choose to live their own lives and let you live yours.

Camp Quest is legal

After reading “Atheist revival bad for U.S.,” I couldn’t help but laugh. Does no one research anything for themselves anymore? Or do they just repeat what they heard from someone else?

The writer complains how atheist children have their own summer camp (Camp Quest). And that someone else is actually happy about it. Well, it’s 100 percent legal, because of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s just as legal as any other private organization, such as Bible camps and churches. The next thing that bothered me was the claim that the U.S. was founded “under God.” And that it was based on Christian principles and values. Well, that just sucks for a lot of people, doesn’t it?

Since America is a Christian nation, I guess everyone else is just second-rate! Sorry (insert religious minority here), you’re not good enough. Nowhere in the Constitution is there a mention of a God. Religion is referenced as exclusionary. Such as stating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” (Article VI) That sounds secular to me.

The U.S. is a free nation. The First Amendment applies to every private citizen. And that includes us atheists. It is the individual freedoms that make our nation great.

View of camp is hypocritical

In “Atheist ‘revival’ bad for U.S.” (letter, July 13), the writer stated that he was disturbed by the existence of an atheist summer camp for children and that he felt it was brainwashing children. He also labeled the camp a "training ground for the atheist movement."

Can the writer not see the hypocrisy in his statements? Surely, there are at least 1,000 summer camps (not to mention a greater number of schools) in the U.S. that promote one religious view or another. Are these religion-based summer camps (and schools) brainwashing children? Are they training grounds for religious movements? By the writer’s logic, this would be so. However, I doubt that the writer would condemn them, as they promote beliefs that he supports.

As far as our nation being founded “under God, upon Christian principles and values”: Yes, the majority of our Founding Fathers were Christians but, in their great wisdom, they recognized that religion has no place in government.

Believe — or don’t believe — what one will: It’s one’s right as an American. However, it is one’s duty as an American to accept that belief systems other than one’s own have a legitimate place in American society.

7 August 2007

America is about freedoms

The letter writer who contributed “Atheist ‘revival’ bad for U.S.” (July 14) is sort of missing the point of what being a citizen of the United States is all about — namely, the freedom to express whatever religious views you want to, assuming they don’t infringe on others’ human rights.

I fail to see how an atheist camp is bad for America, especially considering the absolutely massive number of religious camps throughout the country. Accompanying your kid to atheist camp isn’t brainwashing him any more than sending him to any other religious camp, or making him go to church for that matter.

Our nation was founded under the principle that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, is equally deserving of protection under the law, hence the First Amendment protections regarding freedom of religion. Christianity did not make America great; rather, it was our commitment to preserving individual rights. The letter writer probably ought to be more concerned with the threats to America posed by radical Muslim terrorists who want to destroy our way of life in the name of their religion, or perhaps those posed by Christian fundamentalists who would make creationism mandatory in public schools, than the threat of some atheists having a picnic.

Pagan and proud to serve

I have been in the military for 20 years and have watched many changes. This is one of the biggest.

It took me 12 years just to get them to put pagan on my dog tags, and the stigma that went with it was ludicrous. I thank you for your article on paganism (“Wiccans dedicate grave at Arlington,” July 6). It was a welcome sight and much appreciated. To all: Have faith (in yourself, your family, your friends and your higher power) and keep smiling.

And so it goes, I guess. Good luck to all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great that someone is pointing this thing out, don't think there's a helluva lot of any other coverage of this issue being that Stars and Stripes has a fairly limited readership (vast yet limited)

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