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Letters to the Editor


PC endorsements
I was extremely disappointed in The Independent's endorsements for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen [Oct. 24]. Your endorsement of John Herrera was the most blatant kowtow to political correctness I have ever seen. I am sure Mr. Herrera is a capable man and may make a fine elected official, but to endorse him solely because he is Latino is irresponsible. He has lived in Carrboro for less than a year, knows little about our town, and has made it clear that he plans to use Carrboro as a training ground for a career in politics.

By failing to fully endorse Allen Spalt, the Indy did a great disservice to Carrboro. Hardworking, dedicated and knowledgeable on the full range of local issues, he can be relied upon consistently to offer well-reasoned opinions and insights. Our Board of Aldermen will miss his leadership badly.

Blame game
Godfrey Cheshire needs to get the mote out of his own eye. He has rightly decried those who stereotype Islam based on an extremist minority, and he's exhorted us to learn the history of this faith. He then ["Truisms and Consequences," Nov. 7] turns around and condemns secular humanism based on (an opponent's view of!) one man's opinion on cloning! Unlike Mr. Cheshire, I have studied humanism, which is not a recent "aberration" but a philosophy whose roots go back thousands of years in both the West and East. Humanism has many strains of thought, but I assure you, no major humanist group has as one of its central goals to "create a master race by cloning." Since Mr. Cheshire admits he is ignorant of humanist principles, here are a few common among humanist groups: faith in human worth, pluralism, democracy, equality, individual freedom, scientific inquiry, love of nature and art.

I disagree with those who say that traditional religion has no place in scientific debates, just as I disagree with those who say that science and/or secularists have no place in moral debates. But I can't believe Mr. Cheshire really thinks that one Web site represents Humanism. I think that like many people he set up a straw man to grind his ax against, if I may mix metaphors horribly. Isn't it time to stop this pointless blame game? The tragedy of Sept. 11 was not caused by Islam, the ACLU, "feminazis," secular humanists, or any other group. If anything, it was caused by stereotyping and dehumanizing of "the enemy."

If we are to save ourselves in this life, we must look for common ground. Instead of debating whether we are children of Eve or of Lucy [a famous "missing link" fossil], let's build on the fact that we agree we are all brothers and sisters.

Fringe argument
The best way to characterize a religious, political or philosophical movement is not by going to its fringes. Just as it is inappropriate to use Jerry Falwell as an example of Christian tolerance or Osama bin Laden as a typical follower of Islam, it is inappropriate to use a single statement on one subject made by some humanists to characterize a whole movement. The International Academy of Humanism's "Declaration in the Defense of Cloning and the Integrity of Scientific Research" does not represent the beliefs and attitudes of all Humanists.

Humanism emphasizes acquisition of knowledge through human experience and the scientific method. Originating with the ancient Greeks, Humanism has enriched western civilization's legal and political systems, philosophy, and concepts of human rights. In this country, Humanist thinking flourished in the late 19th century in response to scientific advancements. Humanism espouses democratic self-determination; separation of Church and State; freedom of belief and expression; and non-discrimination based on sex, race, creed, national origin and sexual orientation. For Humanists, these ideals are fundamental to the exercise of human rights and the full development of human potential. These familiar concepts form the foundation for our free society today.

Many Humanists practice Humanism as a form of religious expression, forming communities to explore shared meaning and purpose in their lives. Humanist religious organizations include Ethical Culture Societies and many Unitarian congregations.

Humanism is a rich and diverse movement that should not be narrowly characterized by the intolerant statements of a few adherents.

Ask a silly question ...
If Mr. Cheshire had looked at the Secular Humanism Web page titled, "The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles," he would have found the answer to his question, "What are the principles of Secular Humanism?" Why is he slamming humanists with his rant about cloning humans?! Humanists simply want cloning explored for possible benefits to humans with "appropriate guidelines developed that would prevent abuses."

Humanists condemn the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, and believe those responsible should be brought to justice.

Humanists do not believe that "modernity" should be forced on anyone.

Secular Humanists are not the bad guys here, Mr. Cheshire. There would be good guys and bad guys even in a world with no religion at all. People can use religion as an excuse to do evil, and they can use it as an excuse to do good, but without it they would find some other reason.

The following excerpts from the Secular Humanists' Statement of Principles should help to clear things up for Mr. Cheshire and those whom he has misinformed with his fear-mongering article.

We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.

We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.

We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.

We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.

We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.

The complete list of principles of Secular Humanism can be found at

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