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EVEN THE STRONG CAN USE SOME HELP

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Dear Abby: For some time now, it seems that hate-mongers have become more outspoken than ever in the areas of race, ethnicity and religion - and the news media have given them plenty of exposure, but very little in the way of counter-comments.

I finally reached the limit of my own complacency and decided to speak out. I remember reading a Dear Abby column in the Gainesville Sun, which I had saved. I am enclosing a copy for you. Please run it again. You have my permission to use my name.- Charles Nithman,

Gainesville, Fla.

Dear Charles Nithman: Thank you for sending it. Even though it is dated Sept. 3, 1983, the message is ageless:

Dear Abby: I have become sickened by all of your references to the "Lord" and praying in your answers to people who are in trouble.

Did you ever stop to think that some of these people whom you tell to "pray" and to "keep faith in the Lord" might be atheists? I'm sure these references would offend them, as they do me. Remember that there are people in this world who are strong enough to need no imaginary deity to cling to.

- A Happy Atheist

Dear Happy: John Stuart Mill (English philosopher, writer, member of Parliament) said, "It is conceivable that religion may be morally useful without being intellectually sustainable."

If your strength sustains your atheist convictions, fine. But others may need help from a higher power.

Dear Abby: The letter from the lady who didn't want to show her husband's friends around their new house reminds me of my sister-in-law.

Shortly after our first child was born, she called me several times asking when we were coming to see her new house. She gave me a date, and when I arrived at her door, she announced that she was "sick and tired" of showing her house to people - "but as long as you're here, come on in."

This same woman accepted an invitation to be the godmother to our firstborn, but on the day of the baptism, she called to say she was tired of the whole thing - and begged off.

That's not all. Nine days after our third son was born, she called and asked if she could come over to see the new baby. At that time, we were living in the country and taking care of her oldest son's dog. She arrived at our house with three children in tow, a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, and set about making sandwiches for her children. Then she told me she was just killing time and hadn't come to see the baby - she really wanted to see the dog.

After 19 years of this nonsense, I consulted a priest and asked him if I was obligated as a good Christian to speak to this woman at family gatherings.

"All that is required," he said, "is to politely say `Hello' - then go about your business." Abby, it's the best advice I've ever received.

- A Christian Soldier Who Knows When to Surrender

Dear Abby: Upon reading the letter about the lady Ph.D. who wished to be addressed as "Doctor," I was reminded of this limerick, which I heard many years ago:

A young theologian named Fiddle,

Refused to accept his degree.

"For," said he,

" 'Tis enough to be Fiddle,

"Without being Fiddle, D.D."

- With aloha . . . - Lester A. Robb, Kailua, Hawaii

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)