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D.J. Tice is right in linking the waning of religion to uproar and despair in our society ("Is our loss of faith killing Americans?" Opinion Exchange, Jan. 22). Depth psychologist Carl Jung and mythologist Joseph Campbell made the same observation decades ago when a small but growing number of people started to question traditional religious belief.
But the U.S. Supreme Court's protection of institutional religion and its rules conflicts with the moral judgment of half the population and fuels more conflict than spiritual peace. True religious values center around kindness and fairness to all. Recent decisions of the court violate these values.
Churchgoing, as Tice acknowledges, fails to raise spirituality or "bonds of social connection." Jung and Campbell recognized something else at the bottom of declining religiosity — evolving awareness of religious myth. Healthy questioning has been sparked by science and technology, which has shrunk the world. We cannot avoid bumping into ideas that challenge stale dogma.
As Tice notes, secularization came much earlier in Europe than in the U.S., where the separation of church and state produced more vigorous religion. In Europe, where Christianity was supported by the state, people started questioning religious myths sooner. Doubting dogma does not necessarily spell lack of faith in an inner, invisible realm. Many atheists abide by a deeper spirituality than many Christians.
It is not unrealistic to hope that with time Americans will grow to see a spiritual vision compatible with science. Greater spiritual understanding could lead to a more stable society.
Jeanette Blonigen Clancy, Avon, Minn.
Tice mentions that while American spirituality has not radically declined since the 1960s, churchgoing has. He cites a working paper from economists at Notre Dame, Wellesley and Ohio State that links this decline in churchgoing to increased deaths of despair. Part of the link between these two phenomena may be the church's role as a "third place," defined by the late sociologist Ray Oldenburg as a social environment where conversation is the main activity that is neither home (the first place) nor work (the second place).
Examples of third place include cafes, clubs, bars, libraries, parks, schools and, most important, churches. Third places are social outlets without the everyday stresses of home or the workplace, and are important for making friends and developing a sense of belonging.
Unfortunately, nonreligious third places aren't always accessible. Many nonreligious third places come with the requirement of spending money, which can turn them into luxuries. For rural Americans, nonreligious third places often don't exist, so when the church becomes less important in their community, they're left without good social outlets.
One solution is funding public libraries. When the time for budget cuts comes, public libraries are often first on the chopping block. However, as Americans shy away from organized religion, funding public library systems will help ensure that we still have places to socialize and belong without the expectation of emptying our wallets.
Alex Moon, Eagan
Tice relies heavily on a working paper from three economists. Working papers have not been submitted for peer review and are released in order to get early critical feedback so that the authors can consider changes before they submit the paper for peer review. Therefore, the conclusions of working papers are not to be relied upon. But Tice goes on to rely upon the working paper's argument that repealing blue laws and giving people (specifically Christians, I assume) something else to do on Sundays led to a decline in religiosity and an increase in despair.
Meanwhile, I wonder how the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and all the others who do not worship on Sunday are doing? I wonder how nonwhite Americans are doing — this working paper references "white" 71 times and focuses on impacts on white Americans specifically. Maybe (as Tice admits toward the end of his piece) what these white Christian Americans are missing out on by forgoing Sunday services is community, and there are many ways to achieve community other than legislating the absence of choices on Sunday mornings. Remember, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
There are other explanations for increases in despair and drug use among white Christian Americans that Tice and the working paper's authors acknowledge and Tice proceeds to mostly ignore. Let's consider the economy, the availability of drugs like OxyContin, and inaccurate fear-mongering in the media and from the pulpit before we go back to legislating one group's religion.
Erica Klein, Richfield
PLOWING IN MINNEAPOLIS
Apartment rules are only going to make things worse
The main point of "Plowed, kind of. What gives?" (Jan. 13) is that roads in Minneapolis aren't getting adequately plowed due to cars being left on the street because of a lack of off-street parking. This situation is only going to get worse with the 2021 decision to not require new apartments to include off-street parking for all their units.
A few years ago, I met someone who lived in a new building that only had one parking spot per unit. His spouse parked in the garage and he found parking on the street. Often it was a few blocks away (and in front of other peoples homes).
The push to turn single-family homes into multi is going to compound this problem as well. A large duplex a few doors down from me has had eight adults living in it in recent years. At one point all eight of them had a car. That is a lot of cars on the street for a single dwelling.
Allowing new apartments to be built with limited parking or no parking isn't going to make people get rid of their cars. It's just going to add more parked cars to our streets.
Laura Craig, Minneapolis
SOCIAL SECURITY TAX
I'm fine with it
I read with interest about the proposal to remove the Social Security tax. I would be against that.
I am 85 years old. My income has never been outside the $30,000-to-$50,000 bracket, and my tax cut would be $284. That amounts to around $23.50 a month. I suspect that the biggest beneficiaries would be those that receive the largest Social Security checks. I would rather live in a state that has a solid rainy-day fund. As far as seniors moving to other states, I do not believe it happens all that much. Minnesota seniors that do leave during the winter have been doing so for many years, and the benefits of living in Minnesota as compared with our neighboring states are way too many to enumerate.
So I say "Hats off to Minnesota" and keep the tax.
Norma Lorraine Jensen, Hutchinson, Minn.