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I don’t remember a time in my lifetime as a Catholic when the question of leaving the church has been more justifiable. Pedophilia by clergy and the subsequent coverup by those we have been taught to respect is a betrayal of all that we hold sacred.

“Why do I stay?” I ask myself. The inner search is even more poignant when I try to articulate my own changing spirituality, one that is far more embracing of questions than of answers.

Science has given us a totally different perspective of the universe, of which we are a speck. Scientists are telling us that everything is made of energy. At this point in my spiritual journey, I am holding on to a belief in a creator who is the totality of that energy. I believe that all of creation is a manifestation of the godhead. That’s why meditation is such a strong part of my religious practice at this point in my life. I am trying to become quiet, mindful and conscious of the God-presence within. I believe that time spent in that awareness will help me see the God spirit in everyone and everything that surrounds me.

I see my life as a path. The church has been a major player in my development and identity. But if I am the God energy, I am so much more than a member of the Catholic Church.

I will continue to go to church, to pray, to meditate and to remind myself that I am an intrinsic part of the body of Christ. There are other options I could viably choose, but, for the time being, I will continue on this path. I believe salvation is not dependent upon being part of the right organization, practicing the right sacraments or believing the right dogmas. I have come to the conclusion that we are already participants in “the kingdom.” It is here, within us and around us. Death will only be an entrance into a fuller participation in and awareness of God.

Raymond Spack, Woodbury

SKEPTICISM ON HURRICANE DEATHS

Toll in Puerto Rico is based on estimation and simulation

I’m not as quick to dismiss as an absurdity President Donald Trump’s tweet that the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria is lower than the 3,000 reported (various coverage, Sept. 14).

As the president noted, the death toll was reported at 64 immediately after the storm. A Harvard University study later estimated the toll at 4,000; then eventually George Washington University released the now widely accepted figure of nearly 3,000. Those are incredible swings.

Vital statistics in Puerto Rico, an underdeveloped U.S. island territory, are not kept with the same accuracy as on the mainland. The death estimate was compiled by researchers who compared reported deaths during several months after the hurricane to deaths in other years during the same period. The study relies almost entirely on estimation and simulation, not an actual body count with assigned causes of death. Just because a respected educational institution releases information doesn’t guarantee it’s entirely true.

Jason Gabbert, Plymouth

SKEPTICISM ON MEDIA

Coverage is leading. Vary your sources. Keep an open mind.

With all of the concern about Russian meddling and influence in our elections, I am amazed that no one questions the great influence that the media have on our elections. The influence that the mainstream media have on our population far outweighs a few hundred or even a few thousand posts on Facebook. People tend to take the “news” as gospel. If it is in the news, it must be true. Or is it?

Every headline, every story and every picture in our mainstream media is leading the public in one direction. It’s the direction they want you to go. Do we all just go along? I honestly wonder. Does anyone resent this like I do? Are we just sheep? Maybe it’s time we start thinking for ourselves and stop putting so much faith in what we read in the paper and watch on TV. Vary your sources. Talk to people. And most of all, have an open mind.

Sheila Knoedler, Eden Prairie

SKEPTICISM ON SKEPTICISM

It’s never too late to be brave, informed, scientifically literate

Are we so uninformed as to how science works that when it gets just a little complicated we are ready to “eschew” science? A Sept. 2 letter writer (“Getting harder to drink the potion”) seems to think that because some studies show positive health results of alcohol use and some show negative results, it is therefore not based on sound research.

Not necessarily.

For example (hypothetically), one study shows a decrease in heart attack, asthma and chickenpox if you drink one glass of wine a day. Another study finds an increase in dementia, kidney stones and flatulence if you drink one glass of wine a day. The public cries out, “don’t confuse me with facts, just tell me what to drink!” If we are brave, informed and scientifically literate, we can weight the information and decide for ourselves. Do we have a family history of flatulence? Perhaps then we might want to eschew that glass of wine. All schools at all ages should be teaching the beauty of logical thinking and the problem-solving skills a comprehensive science education can bring. But its never too late to learn.

Kitura Main, Bemidji, Minn.

• • •

“We all have to die of something,” says the headline above a Sept. 14 letter about e-cigarettes. That much is true. But here’s the issue that the rather nihilistic letter writer does not get: You do not have a right to assume risk for other people. Whether it’s smoking or vaping, the short-term risk of asthma exacerbation and the long-term risk of lung cancer is not something you have a right to impose on others who have chosen not to assume it. You need that fix? Chew some Nicorette, or wear a patch. Yes, we will all die of something, but I will stand by my right to die of my own choices, not someone else’s.

Rich Furman, St. Paul

• • •

I find it incredibly tiresome to hear and read the repetitive denials regarding climate change (“Please, ‘scientists,’ define ‘normal,’ ” Readers Write, Sept. 14).

My wife and I recently watched the excellent public television program “Decoding the Weather Machine” on NOVA (www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/decoding-weather-machine.html), where actual factual evidence of climate change caused by human factors was presented in a format even the most intellectually challenged individual could understand.

If only the writer of the climate-change denial letter and his similarly challenged compatriots would simply watch such a program, even they could no longer refute the science. I’m reminded of my studies of the mechanism “cults” use to control their victims/members, particularly the restriction of outside information, which allows cults to form and manipulate the beliefs of their victims/members without outside interference. This is a similar situation. If all one listens to is Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump, one’s worldview will be based upon untrue declarations designed to manipulate and maintain fictions that benefit the speaker, not the listener. In engineering there is a saying GIGO — i.e., garbage in, garbage out. When your input signal is “noise” with little or no real data, the results you get (your beliefs) will be the same.

John S. Anderson, St. Louis Park