Regarding the religious controversy described in “Man in the Middle” [Summer], it seems to me that there is one overarching fact that is always ignored: It is absolutely impossible to prove that God does or does not exist. Therefore, even if it is assumed that He does exist, He is completely mysterious and His influence on daily life, if any, cannot be detected or measured.
Creation is a mystery, existence is a mystery, and using a mystery to explain a mystery is circular logic. Countless myths have been suggested as answers in all of these areas, but none of them can be proved to even the slightest degree.
Robert E. Leihy, A&S ’68 (MLA)
Santa Rosa, California
Another point of view
I found myself wondering why an article about a philosopher who says that both atheists and religious fundamentalists are wrong and that there is a mushy moderate ground in the middle that is more useful gave so much attention to the disagreement with the atheist side and so little attention to disagreement with fundamentalist believers [“Man in the Middle”]. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett are mentioned as advocates for atheism, and readers were given their book titles if they wanted to dig deeper into the atheist point of view. The opinions of Dennett and Gregory Paul are quoted. Couldn’t the writer have at least pointed out some of the more thoughtful Christian apologists or gotten at least one quote from a believer on Egginton’s proposal for moderation? I may be in a tiny minority among the readership of this magazine, but I would like to point readers who would like to explore the other side to some of my favorites: Timothy Keller, author of The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, and Norman Geisler, author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Ravi Zacharias is very articulate also.
Philip Hartman, Engr ’84 (MS)
Can devotion be moderate?
William Egginton pleads for the moderate uses of religion [“Man in the Middle”]. The dictionary defines moderate as within reasonable limits, not excessive or intense but mediocre and mild. In our Judeo-Christian religion we worship God. Should we worship God in a limited way, with less intensity?
The God we meet in the Old Testament and the Christ we meet in the New Testament do not elicit mediocrity. The saints’ fervor and love for our Christ, our God, gave us a battling Joan of Arc, a weeping Peter, a cradling Mother Teresa, a nursing Father Damien, a leading Pope John Paul II, a scolding Moses, and a praising David.
Encouraging mediocrity of religion is unacceptable, just as fanaticism of religion is unacceptable.
Carol Ann (Ruch) Breeden, Ed ’80 (MS)
The matter of capital
Christopher Nealon has confused criticism of capitalism, which it so richly deserves, with subversion [Wholly Hopkins, “The Poetic Subversion of Capitalism,” Summer]. Any sentient human being, seeing the ill effects of capitalism, would write their poem to it, as did Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Charles Bukowski, et al. Nealon, I suspect, is doing this to hedge his bets between being a truth-talking poet and keeping his day job at Hopkins. In effect, when he grows up and decides who he is, he may either be a good teacher and a lousy poet, or a good poet and a lousy teacher. It’s difficult to do both. Ask a teacher. Ask a poet.
New York, New York
“In Alchemy’s Defense” [Wholly Hopkins, Summer] leaves out one major, oft-cited benefit of the ancient art. Briefly stated, alchemy succeeds far better in refining and transmuting the character of the alchemist than the lead that he tries to refine and transmute into gold. Alchemy is (or was) much like studying the Talmud. On the surface of it, one wonders what benefit there can be in debating exactly when dusk passes into night (or how many angels can dance on a pin!). When you dig deeper and observe more closely, however, you see how the study hones the mind and strengthens the character of the student.
Max Amichai Heppner
In his letter commenting on gun control, Michael M. Stroup, A&S ’66, wondered why we can’t treat guns the same as automobiles [Letters, “Americans and Guns: Mass Insanity,” Summer]. The answer involves a simple legal concept: Gun ownership is a right under the Constitution. Driving an automobile is legally considered a privilege in all 50 states. Privileges may (more easily) be regulated, whereas rights are absolute and come without legal encumbrances.
Perhaps, if the colonials had driven horseless carriages, the right to drive may have made it into the Constitution, but the abuses there would have opened up another whole series of debates. Time and circumstances do change.
John J. Strumsky Jr., Bus ’69
Correction: In the print version of our Summer issue, we misspelled alumnus and freelance writer Niv Elis’ name [Wholly Hopkins, “Preserving Research Universities’ ‘Vital Triad’”]. We regret the error.