Letterbox (June/July 2021)
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Comforting to know FFRF is always on the case
I have enclosed a contribution to become an After-Life member.
Thank you for all you do legally and legislatively in the noble effort to protect our secular government from religious intrusion.
I enjoy your various print and online productions. I always find something informative and entertaining while reading or listening.
When I find myself getting incensed about something in the news, I just have to remember that FFRF is on it. Thank goodness!
I’ve learned so much from FFRF over the years and am glad to know I’m in good company with other atheists.
FFRF members should watch ‘One of Us’
You should see the Netflix documentary “One of Us.” It tells the story of three people in a New York Hasidic community who tried and were successful in leaving this oppressive lifestyle.
This cult is disgustingly patriarchal, and I so admire the woman who was able to break free, at great cost to herself. I also learned how the Hasidim came to be — a good history lesson.
God still hasn’t made itself known to me
As a 12-year-old in 1956, I tried and tried to feel God the way people and kids in church and Sunday school seemed to, but I couldn’t feel whatever it was they felt. So, one time, when no one was home, I screamed in my bedroom, “God, if you’re real, let me feel you.” It didn’t work and I never could feel God, though I did feel “spiritual” during the times I listened to the church pipe organ or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday mornings.
Author never made the intellectual leap in book
I found a book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, in a thrift shop. What was striking about it was the obvious desperation about bringing the church (in a general sense) back to the prominence it once enjoyed, rather than acknowledging the end of it as a viable institution, and moving on to more enlightened forms of community.
As the author, a former pastor, states: Fully 90 percent of U.S. churches today are moribund — at various stages of decay and eventual demise.
He sees the problem, but doesn’t make the leap beyond.
Also, I have FFRF’s music CD, “Adrift on a Star,” and absolutely love it! My favorite song is “Merry Frickin’ Christmas”! I think Christmas is the tackiest day of the year, both spiritually and commercially. It’s such a relief to me that someone else “gets it”!
I also loved the article in the April issue by the atheists who bought the church to renovate and live in.
Deuteronomy lays bare fifth commandment
I have been a member of FFRF for 10 years. Thanks for your good work.
In Andrew Seidel’s article on The Founding Myth in the April issue, when writing about the fifth commandment (“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long.”), he didn’t reference Deuteronomy, where the basis for obedience to parents is laid.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says you’d better obey your parents, otherwise they will have you killed. Specifically, they will drag you to a public place and ask that the men in the neighborhood stone you to death.
Here’s the whole gruesome thing, which ends by striking fear not only in individuals, but the whole society, so that they will obey any authority figure:
[Deut 21:18-21 KJV] “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and [that], when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Einstein’s god was provable, unlike ‘God’
In The New York Times column “Can the meritocracy find God?” on April 10, columnist Ross Douthat noted: “You can see people who might have been new atheists 15 years ago taking a somewhat more sympathetic look at the older religions, out of fear of the vacuum their decline has left.”
However, Douthat failed to consider that some found a provable god, which simply replaced Douthat’s unprovable god.
Albert Einstein claimed to have a god, which was the god of Spinoza, which is synonymous with nature. So, I converted from atheism to the Spinoza/Einstein god.
Finding God depends on what one looks for in a god; therefore, Mr. Douthat, if you’d have studied Spinoza, you might be a secular humanist pantheist (as I am) and we’d both have a provable god.
Meritocracy should have nothing to do with such a quest.
Douglass/Ingersoll article was interesting
I was especially interested in the article (in the March issue) about the meeting of the two great liberators, Frederick Douglass and Robert Ingersoll; the one arguing for the freedom from slavery and the body, the other for freedom of slavery of the mind. I also laughed out loud at Ingersoll’s quip that I had never heard before: “With soap, baptism is a good thing.”
It was also remarkable that a hotel in Peoria, Ill., bravely took in Douglass in 1870. I read a book about baseball player Ty Cobb, a flagrant racist even by the standard of his time, who once delivered a foul-mouthed racist rant at a Black maid at a hotel. The maid told the manager (who was white) and he called Cobb’s room and told him to pack his things. He was no longer welcome there. You find courage in all sorts of unexpected places.
Finally, when I read student essays now, I notice a different attitude about religion. Most of us older folks left religion because it didn’t make any sense, or we never found any credible evidence for it. But these younger people seem to feel personal grievance against religion. They see it as a real and immediate threat to themselves and society. Us older folks arrived at that by long evolution of thought. But freethinking youth have cut straight to the bottom line.
No need for euphemisms when people die
Like other letter writers, I, too, am annoyed every time I hear the phrase “passed away.” To where did they pass? Man created God and his “afterlife” primarily due to a fear of and attempt to deny death. Actually, what the person did was die. Why do we have to resort to euphemisms, such as “committed to memory”? Why can’t we just say “died”? It is factual, descriptive and succinct. Or are we still trying to deny death?
Also, thank you for putting Christian nationalism on full display in the March issue, something the mainstream media cannot or will not do.
I’m still hopeful for the Boston convention. I’ve had my shots and am ready to go!
Atheism has helped me live a rewarding life
I am in the last stage of living in this temporal world. It has been a great adventure. Dying itself has been an adventure and has been made so much easier with the help of hospice.
At 90, I have concluded that the better part of my life has been an atheistic and rewarding one, where no one could shake my belief in science and experimentation. Atheists are humanists because they believe that the human experience and rational thinking provides the only source of both knowledge and a moral code to live by and they can live ethical and fulfilling lives without religious beliefs.
Packing Supreme Court is an extreme measure
As a member of FFRF, I was deeply concerned to receive the call to action concerning packing the Supreme Court. While I fully agree that dangerous games of politics were played concerning the appointment of the last three justices, packing the court is an extreme measure that threatens the very fabric of our constitutional system. I am, however, in favor of expanding the overworked and overwhelmed lower courts. This is rational and can be divorced from what appears to be petty partisan games (from both sides of the political aisle). I have higher expectations of FFRF than appeals to pack the court that will not be politically feasible, and will serve to further divide a fractured society. Your work on church/state violations has been remarkable and commendable. Please don’t taint your accomplishments and your reputation by supporting such an extreme measure, especially when 68 percent of Americans oppose it. Thanks for all you do, and I hope this finds you all in good health!
We need to push hope, support without theology
In the March issue, Phil Zuckerman reported Gallup polls which show that religion and spirituality are declining in the United States. In 1945, 75 percent were members of a church, synagogue or mosque compared to today’s 47 percent. The number of people “confidently believing in God’s existence without a doubt” in 1990 was 63 percent vs. today’s 53 percent. FFRF members could build on this momentum, not by trying to convince believers that there is no God, but instead by showing believers how to get the two things they want from religion without resorting or appealing to spiritual entities: First, inspiration and hope; and second, emotional support for specific problems.
Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, gives entertaining sermons full of inspirational stories to motivate his audience to endure life’s injustices, failures and disappointments. Osteen provides hope using the powerful spiritual concepts of God, the soul, heaven, and miracles often referring to the biblical heroes Jesus, David and Moses. We nontheists have to be inspirational without these grandiose beliefs — relating stories of human struggle and courage against the odds.
Second, the function of religion today is the same as it always has been, and that is to support and maintain the emotional well-being of the believer. There are several specific ways religion helps believers cope with the hardships of a difficult life:
1) As a defense mechanism against despair from loss of a child (“She is in a better place with God,” or “You will be reunited with her in heaven someday.”
2) Belief in miracle generates hope.
3) “God loves me” overcomes loneliness.
4) Prayer relieves stress.
5) Judgment day remedies inequities.
6) Heaven conquers fear of death.
7) Confession alleviates guilt.
These beliefs in a false reality serve a useful human purpose. Atheists can address these universal emotional needs without oversampled spiritual and religious concepts: Only a caring mode can conquer faith’s unreasonable emotion.
Now it’s time for us to get busy.
Thanks to Alvarez and link to UNFPA study
I want to thank you for the wonderful article by Barbara Alvarez: “Religion as impediment to gender equality” [on FFRF’s blog site: patheos.com/blogs/freethoughtnow]. I also appreciated the link in that story to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) latest “State of World Population 2021.” It took quite a while for UNFPA to talk frankly about bodily autonomy for women. I’m co-founder of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA. This grassroots movement raised $8 million for UNFPA since 2002, partly due to three presidential administrations (Reagan and both Bushes) withholding funding from the UNFPA.
National Day of Reason is not well-reasoned
My initial response to the National Day of Reason proposal was negative, and the reasons why the project is ill-advised continue to pile up. Here is the short list.
• Reason is a faculty that should be exercised in all our affairs. The Founders deemed it essential to the conduct of government. To set aside one day a year to celebrate reason is in effect to trivialize it.
• Conversely, to suggest that reason and prayer make equally serious claims on us might be taken as an admission that prayer is important to the nation.
• It might also be taken as a tacit admission that secularists have abandoned the cause of eliminating the National Day of Prayer.
• The very idea of offsetting a day of prayer with a day of reason is nonsensical. There is no need to neutralize the alleged power of prayer in this way because prayer cannot be shown to have any power. To oppose a day of prayer with a day of reason is to give prayer a boost by putting it back in the headlines.
• Furthermore, the designation of a day of reason will surely add fuel to the eternal flame of conspiracy theory and provoke a backlash from Christian nationalists who will link it to the latest secularist plot. It will be perceived, and promoted on the right, as Atheist Anti-Prayer Day. The resolution will serve as a recruiting tool for the Christian right.
No one can know what happens after death
FFRF’s effort has enabled many of us to reach beyond a limited perspective.
The great error in organized religion is to disallow one to consider what may or may not happen at death. I reject a singular figure outlined in a book of fiction that embraced a very small group of people while excoriating all others.
What may or may not exist beyond the grave is unknown and outside human experience. Organized religion fills that space by assuring us that there will be justice, love and peace in that place, but they don’t know.
We cannot say there is nothing at death no more than they who claim they do know. Both sides are claiming something that cannot be known.
Your organization allows the opportunity to express spirituality outside the rigid halls of orthodoxy. You credit the agnostic in your literature, which allows room for conjecture. The atheist is not reconciled with established religious orthodoxy without closing the door to considerations of what may or may not exist after death. I think that is worthy of clarification.
I love what you do at FFRF.
Barker, others have opened my eyes to truth
I have just finished listening to Dan Barker’s Godless and God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction on Audible and I am overwhelmed with how wonderful and enlightening the books were. I, as a former devout Jehovah’s Witness, cannot believe how embarrassingly ignorant I was of how horrible and evil the character of Jehovah is. Thanks to you and many others (such as Seth Andrews, Christopher Hitchens, Aron Ra, Black Nonbelievers, etc.), I have completely opened my eyes and mind. I personally know, as Thomas Paine once said, “The mind once enlightened can never again be darkened.”
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
‘Dare to Doubt’ would be a great movie
I recently watched your Sunday morning program “Freethought Matters.” I thoroughly enjoyed guest Alice Greczyn’s story, “Dare to Doubt.” It struck me that it would make a wonderful movie. It would be great for the freethought movement. Maybe FFRF could help produce the project! I dare to dream.
We will go to Georgia to hand out water to voters
In regard to the new Jim Crow laws passed by the Georgia Legislature, my wife and I have “elected” to take some action. Of all the heinous regulations and penalties imposed on people simply wanting to exercise their right to vote, making it illegal to pass out water or food to a person standing in line to vote is the most horrific to us.
We have decided that for the next general election we will fly from our residence in Nevada to Georgia and graciously pass out water to folks standing in line for terminally long periods of time to exercise their right as citizens to vote. If the state of Georgia wants to throw my 79-year-old atheist butt in jail and that of my 69-year-old wife, they can have at it. I’m confident they will be portrayed by the news media throughout the world as the evil vote suppressors they are. Anybody care to join us?