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June 1, 1993

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Salvo,

Boss I am worried about you. What with disappearing mysteriously into some mountain spa for your typically French crise de foie, then printing all that religion stuff and dull dull lectures on insanity! You haven't had time to dance with the March hares, listen to the red wing blackbirds whistling at sun- up, and keep track of the dewberries. Just haven't been your usual springtime madcap self.

So, before you again submerge our column in metaphysics, let me rejoice for you briefly in print: The dewberries are at their peak, and blackberries are close behind. Squirrels are eating the chartreuse sherbet blossoms of the tulip trees. Best of all, the burrowing crawfish are back, and their small castles are bravely defending the lower lane. Small turtles have escaped from the nannies and wander contentedly on warm asphalt roads, headed soon for the Elysian fields. The dogwood was magnificent, and you saw it bloom twice! In the mountain, you reported to me, you also saw wild red daisies for the first time.

Here on the bayfront you have shown again your ineptitude with the cartuet, and you have been fishing on the Gulf but it was too rough and the clutch broke down.

The time has come to get on with your notes on Job and King Lear. Wake up, your grandchildren are coming soon.

Cheers. Your devoted research, assistant!


Responses to your responses, to both my letter and that of Ellen Gilchrist. (And by the way, Ellen -- whom I don't know -- thank you for writing. Your letter was quite refreshingly sensible.)

1. Just as Jessee Bailey seems compelled to writhe in anguish about the faith of those with whom he disagrees, so you seem compelled to think up examples of atrocities committed in the name of God. But if the church is made up of those willing to admit their imperfection, is it really any surprise that sometimes those imperfect people might commit questionable acts?

2. I maintain my earlier point that many of the so-called religious abuses are actually political or social clashes masquerading as religious disputes. I also disagree with your assertion that examples such as Mother Teresa, et al, are exceptions. I submit that these examples are exceptions only in the sense that they are well-known. Most saintly individuals labor in relative anonymity, neither seeking nor finding fame. And I didn't think it was fair of you to dismiss entire organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army, as "singularities."

3. It is true, as you say, that some segments of the church have given tacit approval to unjust acts, governments, etc. But so what? We look at Jesus as our example, not anyone else. And we also acknowledge that not all those who call themselves Christians truly are. The Bible itself warns us to watch out for frauds. Shouldn't an idea be judged for what it is, not for how some have misinterpreted or misapplied it?

4. Secular observers want us to hold to their standards. When we speak against war or racism, we're applauded. But when we speak against something the secular world embraces, such as abortion or sexual "freedom," we're called bigots and bluenoses and told to mind our own business. We will never be able to please those with a secular mindset. It's foolish of us to even try. So when someone outside the Christian fold starts lecturing us on what we should or should not do, we tend to ignore them, as we should. (I note that the anti- slavery movement -- also a predominantly Christian effort -- was excoriated 150 years ago as vehemently as the pro-life movement is today. One wonders how that movement will be perceived 150 years from now.)

5. Anti-Christian bigotry is still accepted. The New York Times said the murder of Dr. Gunn in Pensacola "reveals the essential truth about the pro-life movement." Imagine that: The action of one person, done one time in 20 years, reveals the "essential truth!" And a Washington Post reporter wrote that evangelical Christians are "poor, uneducated and easily commanded." Such statements would never be made in mainstream media about blacks, gays or women. Someone needs to found a Christian Anti-Defamation League.

6. As for the idea that God is personally involved with individuals. I don't believe the evidence against this is anywhere near as persuasive as you apparently do. Yes, there are natural disasters that kill many apparently innocent people. Theologians have pondered this question for centuries.

But, as is so often the case, there may be much more going on then there appears. So far no one has come up with a wholly satisfactory answer to the question of why such things happen. But the fact that they do in no way necessarily means God is uncaring or uninvolved. To dismiss belief in a personal God for this reason is, I think, too shallow. The subject is too important, and too complex, to dismiss it so easily.

Your suggestion that God should be too busy, running the universe to mess with us is shortsighted. To an infinite God, no amount of activity in finite time-space is too much. He can know my inner thoughts and steer the farthest stars simultaneously...and why not? Perhaps you should read or re-read some good apologetics.

Salvo, I appreciate your column because it is a rare opportunity to express ideas to a reasonably large audience. Perhaps we can meet in person sometime and share some more ideas on these and other nifty topics.

Until next time, I remain
I.R. Rational

Dear Rational,

I now understand, from your latest letter, that in my depth I am shallow. This won't prevent my running aground, but is good to know I can't sink altogether.

In my opinion, you and I have told each other about all we can on The Subject or Meaning of It All. And "evermore came out by that same door wherein I went," as D. Khayarn so succinctly remarked of learned disputes by doctors and saints.

Therefore, without another word in rebuttal, I leave you to the tender mercies of the Village Atheist, Rev. Shivers. Have at it, men!


Dear Tim,

Now you see what I am up against! There are times when strategic retreat is the best option, as you know from some encounters with large ridgeback foreign dawgs on our lane. (Maybe when we are all annexed to Fairhope we'll have a large relentless dogcatcher to keep these beasts on their own game reserve.)

Now sit back with me, Tim, and watch the fun fly.

Your friend,

Dear Dr. Salvo:

Whether writing mythology for the Mullet Wrapper or casting his seeds upon the pages of the Harbinger, Hardy the Irrational praises his beliefs while admitting that they have no foundation in fact. His worship of the illegitimate son of a Jewish church worker is his own problem and not mine. It is only when he attempts to force his pagan religious values upon true Americans that I become involved.

Those who doubt the words that I use to describe the so-called Christian religion should read Born of a Woman and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong. The group that practices a gentle, caring, giving, loving, and forgiving religion and claim that religion to be Christianity is so small that they are called a pacifist cult.

Born of a virgin; son of the living god; angels announced his arrival; attempts were made to kill him as a divine baby; he grew in knowledge above all mortals, this god-man had disciples; preached loving kindness; forgave sins; walked on water; healed the sick; his name was Krishna. He supposedly lived a thousand plus years before the Christian Jesus lived. There were at least sixteen crucified saviors before Jesus. Why couldn't the Christians think of something original for their religion.

Jesus supported slavery, was a religious and racial bigot, stole private property, required his followers to sell their clothes to buy arms, hated family and women in particular. Jesus supposedly killed a fig tree because it didn't bear fruit out of season. Jesus also demanded that all those who did not believe every thing he said should be brought before him and slain at his feet; this was before he supposedly died. Just the kind of person you could really love.

The Jewish/Christian God commanded. "For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken...he that profane my sanctuaries." Surely the Bible God would never let a fat reporter into heaven, because that would be proof of gluttony.

People don't do good because they read the Christian Bible. They do it in spite of what the Christian Bible commands. Ezekiel 4:12 has Jesus' dad telling his people to eat sh*t. Isaiah 36:12 has the people eating sh*t and drinking piss. If the people at the mission served what the Christian God commanded, no one would show up for supper.

Jesse Bailey suggested the mistreatment of the handicapped. Jesse suggested the very thing that Jesus and his supposed father demanded. Jesse is severely chastised and we are supposed to love the Christian God for the same reason that we are supposed to hate Jesse.

Adolf Hitler, Mr. Griffin of Pensacola, Rev. David Koresh, Rev. Jim Jones, and Rev. Henry Hobson of Mobile were all doing what they honestly believed Jesus was telling them to do. The Christian Bible clearly justifies the acts of these men and by their faith, guarantees them an honored place in the Christian Heaven. Decent people condemn the devout Christian that acts on divine revelation.

The Creator could have been the big bang and Nature's God is most assuredly Mother Nature. The Bible God and his children were all created by man, in the image of man. If the Creator had written a bible, there would be no errors, metaphors, or contradictions in it. There would be only one interpretation and only one religion. There would be no doubt as to what it means. The only book written by the Creator would be a book to help preserve the world we live in, not a guide to the afterlife. So far no one has come forward with that book.

Non-pseudonymously yours,
Rev. Hank Shiver

Dear Reverend Hank.

Do you have a radio or T.V. program? I want to contribute. Even though some would find you a trifle extreme, the stouthearted would be honored to mount the podium with you anytime. As I read your letter I fancied I was breathing the bracing air of Cowshit Corners, Maine, where you could well be filling the position of village atheist.

I think your letter roundly trounced Mr. Rational, and hope it will teach him to be modest in his claims. As for you, your views are something up with which I cannot put. Still, I defend your right to share them. I will delegate to my friend, Rational, the task of defending God and Jesus!


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