1. Archive

Readers defend atheist's right to non-belief

Editor: Re: June 3 letters, "Letter writer needs to get a life" from Robert Scott of Clearwater and "Stop printing atheist's letters" from Phyllis Brown of Safety Harbor.

I find that I must write to protest these anti-constitutional letters. Both Scott and Brown attack Brent Yaciw for his atheist viewpoints printed in your paper. One even begs the Times to stop printing his letters! Is this not a democracy? A republic at least? And does not the First Amendment cover Mr. Yaciw and his viewpoints?

Must we all be "politically correct" (which includes "religiously correct" to the multitude)? Where is the great American diversity _ the melting pot (which never did melt)?

An atheist has as much right to air his views as a Christian, Jew or Islamic. The Times has already curtailed any white nationalist viewpoints in "Letters." What's next?

It is the unpopular viewpoint that is often right, as history has shown in many cases. It is also often the unpopular viewpoint that is right (if there is a right and wrong on these matters) in psychology and philosophy.

So please allow Mr. Yaciw to continue to rave and rant and be happy about it while we still have the freedom to do so.

When all dissenting voices are stilled, America will be down the tube.

Molly Gill, Largo

Editor: Some of us who believe in God also believe in the First Amendment. While I may not necessarily support Brent Yaciw's atheist views, I support his right to freedom of expression.

I also disagree with a recent letter writer who suggests the Times not print his letters. He has the right to send them in, the Times has the right to print them, and those offended individuals have the right to ignore his letters. It's that simple.

David J. DalCason, Largo

Editor: As a fellow atheist, I'm not surprised at the hysterical, raving responses to Mr. Yaciw's views; it happens all the time. Let an atheist express his opinion and watch how quickly the hate mail comes in.

Do either of the letter writers even bother to discuss the points made by Mr. Yaciw rationally, the way he presents his views? No. Instead, they resort to puerile name-calling and demand that the paper censor his right to speak his mind. This is so typical a response from some religious people when their cherished views are challenged.

Does Mr. Scott explain what specific points made by Mr. Yaciw cause him to be so upset? No. He simply calls him a "yahoo" and a "vicious, mean-spirited, opinionated, intolerant crank." If this is the depth of his criticism, then I'd say he's describing himself, not Mr. Yaciw.

Similarly, Ms. Brown doesn't mention a word about Mr. Yaciw's opinions that bothered her so much. She says, "I really don't care what his views are." Yet, she then demands the paper stop printing his letters! If you don't care what Mr. Yaciw has to say, Ms. Brown, then don't read his letters! Have you ever heard of the American principle of free speech?

I've met Brent Yaciw and spoken to him on a couple of occasions and found him to be anything but mean-spirited, intolerant and a crank. He's well-informed, thoughtful and expresses his view eloquently and rationally. Judging by the tone of the two letters bashing him, these are qualities not shared by those letter writers. Shame on them!

Greg Simpson, Clearwater

Editor: I really must rally to the defense of Brent Yaciw, who apparently, while exercising his right to dissent, has ruffled a few religious feathers.

What makes the religious people so rigid and so right in their views? Do they want the American nation to be all clones, everybody geared to worshiping a mythical supreme being who has never made an appearance to justify his/her/its existence?

A recent survey revealed that at least 10 percent of the people in this great nation are, by their own admission, atheists! We are a nation of people living together with various religions. Our Constitution allows us freedom of religion, which includes the freedom not to believe.

Brett Yaciw is only exercising his constitutional right not to believe. Is that a crime?

Victor St. John, Clearwater

Editor: I suggest that the two letters writers take a good look in the mirror to see the true "mean-spirited" yahoos.

This is typical religious-right fanatical hypocrisy at its extreme. Any time religious-right fundamentalist Christians don't agree with something or find something objectionable, the order of the day is ban it!

Did it ever occur to Robert B. Scott and Phyllis Brown that this is still a free country which allows freedom of speech and freedom of expression?

Every Saturday the St. Petersburg Times prints an entire Religion magazine section on theology. There is not a single column on atheism, agnosticism, freethinking or secular humanism. The Times has a constant barrage of articles and guest columns on religion by citizens, clergy and religious representatives every day (not to mention religious letter writers). Yet Scott and Brown have the audacity to launch their scathing attack on Brent Yaciw, who is the co-director of Atheists of Florida Inc. (Tampa Bay chapter).

Not all bigots are in the south (part of Pinellas County). Many of my personal friends, co-workers, business associates and relatives are Christians, and I am an atheist. I respect their right to believe whatever they so desire just as they respect my right not to believe whatever I so choose.

I suggest Scott and Brown learn to show tolerance of others before engaging in their slander and defamation of someone they know nothing of. Our Constitution not only guarantees us the right to choose freedom of religion but also the right to choose freedom from religion.

George Starkes, Palm Harbor

Editor: You will no doubt receive many reactions to the two letters attacking Brent Yaciw. Since most letters will probably support them, out of fairness please let me attempt not to defend Yaciw's diatribe of ranting and raving but to show the other side.

Regardless of what readers may think of him and his opinions, he is scholarly and objective. I've got a feeling Professor Yaciw is chuckling at those reactions to his "abysmal ignorance." These correspondents make his point for him by hoisting themselves on their own petards.

His letters are "excruciatingly boring"? Recently a friend of mine went out of town for a few days. "Please save any Brent Yaciw letters for me," she said. She will find his latest letter (and these reactions to it) anything but boring.

So, whether you agree with Mr. Yaciw or not, some of your readers are hoping that he will continue to exercise his First Amendment rights with his rational observations. They, and these reactions to them, make life a little more interesting.

Hugh Paulk, Belleair

Editor: I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the letters from Mr. Scott and Ms. Brown. They were both enlightening and confirmatory.

Since neither letter contained any refutation or argument but merely ad hominem attacks, I must presume it was beyond the capacity of the writers to argue the points I have made. This could be construed as either a compliment to the validity of my own arguments or a commentary on the argumentative abilities of the writers. Were I as egotistical as they accuse me of being, I would simply assume the former, but I'll let your readers decide.

The writers, without any additional knowledge of my life, made uninformed and contradictory assumptions. Mr. Brown assumes that I have no life and am "ignorant," the first presumably based on my prolific epistolary output.

As a college-educated teacher of writing, this is my (professional) life, although I have other more personal pursuits and interests I seldom see fit to mention publicly.

The alternative and contradictory assumption by Ms. Brown is equally erroneous. I may have the above-average ego necessary to survive in the world of letters, but I am not a know-it-all; that designation is reserved for Christians and other religionists claiming to have all the answers in one little book, and equally assured of the correctness and contemporary validity of the outdated superstitions therein.

I merely claim that no one has all the answers, despite specious religionist proclamations to the contrary.

Ms. Brown is obviously not concerned with simple mathematics. Were she to compare the space given to my "atheistic letters" to that given religionist views, including guest columns, "God-bless-you" politicians and a complete weekly Religion section, she would find my percentage of space and that of all other atheist/agnostic letters nowhere near equal to even the most conservative estimates of our number in the population.

The insistence that my letters be censored by the paper indicates that they are having the intended effect _ spurring people to think beyond their indoctrinated assumptions.

Many religionists manifest problems with self-control. If Mr. Scott finds my letters "boring" and Ms. Brown doesn't care about them, why do they read them? Do they complain about everything else in the paper they find uninteresting?

Brent Yaciw, Seminole