Ask Dr. Salvo
July 13, 1993
Regarding your most recent column, I am saddened to find that you have come to the defense of an alleged god and the fictional character, J.C.
Religion and deity belief rank right up there with palm reading, tarot cards, and horoscopes. I venture to say, all are among the most harmful forms of mental masturbation because they tend to be accepted as fact. Why waste time, energy, and money on something that does not exist?
Besides, your arch rival, the Mobile "Cash" Register already has a man, Parker Holmes, dedicated to the spread of mythology and belief in the supernatural. Let's not have you trying to become his counterpart.
I am proud to say I know Mr. Shiver personally, and must point out he is not an Atheist as you described him. He is a Deist. There is a difference you would be pleased to know.
You also said you could not put up with his "views." Salvo, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and guess the proofing of your response to Mr. Shiver's letter was poor. The points he addressed were not "views." They were lifted directly from your book of myths (the bible).
The god you and others arbitrarily suspend natural law for and attempt to force on us free-thinkers, is found upon open-minded examination of this same manifesto of manipulation to be a sexist, hateful, torturing, bigoted monster.
Kneel and beg to such a concept if you feel driven to.
I, on the other hand, will live my life seeking the truth (it's not determined by popular vote), not in cerebral slavery, shackled to beliefs perpetuated by those whose existence depends upon being externally controlled.
I will also try to enjoy life for what it is: simply a tiny fraction of time I am a sentient organism on a beautiful watery planet.
Imagine what we as civilized people could accomplish if only we would reject hate and intolerance cloaked as religion and deity worship, and channel these energies, monies, and time into doing right by our fellow humans!
Dear Dr. Salvo,
I see that Mr. X the Irrational is still thumping his chest over how moral he is. As the Gipper said of the peanut farmer, "There he goes again!"
The father of the Protestant Christian Church, Martin Luther, said, "Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason." He also said, "The damned whore, Reason." X the Irrational could never be called a whore for his Christian thinking because it contains no Reason nor Rationality. The AGE OF REASON has not dawned upon X...
X the Irrational would have me believe that the Christian Coalition of South Alabama is not Christian in origin. The Christian Coalition of South Alabama claims to be divinely inspired by Jesus to become politically active in social issues. This off-shoot of Pat Robertson's 700 Club is sponsored by the Cottage Hill Baptist, Dauphin Way Baptist and other Fundagelical Churches in the area. Anyone with the EYE OF REASON or who is a Rational Thinker would realize that these organizations are made up of mostly homophobics, femaphobics and frigid women. Their motto appears to be, "If it is fun, it is a sin and must be made illegal." A coalition of Christians put Hitler in office and supported him, even in death...
The Fundagelicals, such as Irrational, would have me believe that their god is all powerful, all knowing, and all LOVING. WRONG! Children are dying a painful death from AIDS in this country at the present time. They got AIDS through no fault of their own. Does the Christian God know that these children are suffering and dying? Does the Christian God love these innocent children? If the answers to the first two questions are yes, then the Christian God is not powerful enough to stop the virus. Most people would be equal with God in the first two and also be equal with God in the third by not being able to reverse the virus.
For all known human existence, men and women have created gods and goddesses to worship. Whether one is called Jesus, the Force, Allah, Jehovah, Mary, or Bruce they are all created with the same racial, religious, ethnic or social bigotry of their human creator. It is time we stopped working for the bigotry of God and started working for the good of humankind.
Rev. Hank Shiver
Grand Bay, AL
Dear Dr. Salvo,
A few months back you were kind enough to address the question of why so many people insist on believing in the supernatural when there is not one scrap of evidence to support such belief. Would you address another nagging puzzle that bothers me?
Why do religious minded people denigrate sexuality? Rational people know there are only three things in this life we can't have too much of: in order of importance they are Money-Sex-Beer. Aristotle said there was only one unqualified good -- Wisdom. Most of us would rate that as number four.
Religious people are gripped by a crazed sexual hysteria that views anything erotic as vile and ugly. The more enlightened feel erotica to be a tease and amusing. Sex (safe sex coupled with birth control) never hurt anyone but the fear of it can.
The Austrian-American psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) devoted his life to the study of the relationship between religion and sexuality. His findings:
1. Young people turn to religion because of pent-up sexual anxiety and tension.
2. Religion is nothing more than a substitute for sex.
3. If people had a full varied sex life, religion and belief in God would soon wither away.
4. A religious experience never equals the orgasmic high of a satisfying sexual encounter.
Dr. Salvo, have you noticed how the religious minded hide behind a pro-family facade and stress what they call traditional marriage? They ignore the fact that the family is a fertile breeding ground for incest, child abuse, and molestation.
I ask again, what is the matter with individuals who hate their bodies and sexuality?
Dear Dr. Salvo,
Hank Shiver has a hell of a nerve to accuse another letter-writer of trying to "force" his views on people. The other writer was simply using his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. He was expressing an opinion in a format that should be open to expressions of opinion.
It was Shiver and some other anti-religion fanatics, in fact, who sued the state to have a cross taken out of a public park. Technically, maybe they were legally in the right. But I don't think anybody had complained about the cross, and I certainly don't think anyone appointed Shiver to safeguard the sensibilities of people at the parks. If that's not forcing your beliefs on someone else, I don't know what is. (Hey, has anybody told him about the big stone cross in Bienville Square? He'd better get it taken down before it converts somebody. Probably the ones on the outsides of churches ought to be next, since they can be seen from the public street. Shiver has a lot of work ahead of him in the courts!)
Not only that, but Shiver's letter was arrogant and snide, and incredibly thoughtless. I'm far from having my mind made up about religious matters, but I do know that if his reading of the Bible is really as superficial as he expressed in his letter, he's totally missing the point. Although there are some things in the Bible I have trouble with, I think it is overall a profound book with a lot of wisdom.
I hope the other writer, Rational, won't be put off by Shiver's letter. Rational is obviously a deep-thinker, although I'm not sure I'd agree totally with everything he says. Maybe he should be, as you suggested, a little more cautious in his statements. Still, I think he's on the right track. He at least has the proper respect for the importance of the issue.
Shiver, on the other hand, is a crackpot and a joke.
I don't want anyone, especially Shiver or his crackpot pals, calling me at home about this, so let me just sign myself...
Dear Pete, Hank, Jesse, and Bill,
Thanks to you all for your lively and stimulating letters. From time to time as I perused these missiles -- sorry, missives -- I had to restrain myself from shouting, "That's it, lay it on him, sock it to him, let him have it!", and other bellicose expressions. This perhaps illustrates two truths about religious controversy: It stirs up invariably a host of homicidal urges best left in peace. And, each argument, however persuasive to its author is attended to only by listeners already converted. So, almost always, such disputes create more heat than light.
Salvo is sympathetic to all your views without exception, and since age fourteen (when he left the one true church) he has been the stoutest of defenders for each and every position. He formerly spent much time in the study of comparative religions and anthropology, with emphasis on mythology. As time passed, decade after decade with increasing speed, Salvo engaged in fewer arguments and read more thrillers than religion. He had discovered that the really vital question about life that religion and philosophy attempt to explain are too personal to debate and score points about, and must be resolved between one's self and whatever/whoever was there before the Universe was built. Not even intellectual satisfaction derives from the bold assertion that no builder or intelligence is necessary and that the Universe constructed itself and also conceived the splendid tapestry of evolution.
As Salvo said in the 6/29-7/12 Harbinger, you doughty swordsmen have logic- chopped each other to smithereens, so he needn't do battle or award laural wreaths. He will merely offer you a peaceable quote from William James [The Varieties of Religious Experience]:
"Notwithstanding my own inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, I suppose that my belief that in communion with the Ideal new force comes into the world, and new departures are made here below, subjects me to being classed among the supernaturalists of the piecemeal or crasser type. Universalistic supernaturalism surrenders, it seems to me, too easily to naturalism. It takes the facts of physical science at their face-value, and leaves the laws of life just as naturalism finds them, with no hope of remedy, in case their fruits are bad. It confines itself to sentiments about life as a whole, sentiments which may be admiring and adoring, but which need not be so, as the existence of systematic pessimism proves. In this universalistic way of taking the ideal world, the essence of practical religion seems to me to evaporate.
"For practical life at any rate, the chance of salvation is enough. No fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance. The existence of the chance makes the difference, as Edmund Gurney says, between a life of which the keynote is resignation and a life of which the keynote is hope."
In the six years of Salvo's existence in the Harbinger, he has never received so many letters, and he is grateful.
However, it is July and hot enough already. Therefore Salvo will request a summer truce on the religious issue, and will gladly publish letters on other subjects.
--July 13, 1993