Letterbox (November 2021)
Scholarship will help my career aspirations
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to FFRF for awarding me fifth place in the Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Contest. I started nursing school in August and the scholarship has brought me closer to my goal of becoming a labor-and-delivery nurse.
I believe every human is deserving of compassionate health care and I am positive my freethinking mindset will help me provide the best care for my patients.
Thank you for your work and for helping me achieve my dream.
High school essays are inspiring, reassuring
I enjoy your entire newspaper, but I thoroughly relish reading the winning entries of the high school essay contest. It’s inspiring and reassuring to know our youth are thinking rationally and logically.
I made note of the following quote from Elizabeth Getty’s submission:
“We need only look to the Scientific Revolution to see the intellectually stifling nature of religion.”
Former Baptist now tells of her deconversion
I am a very long-time listener to your “Freethought Radio” show. I have listened to hundreds of episodes via podcast.
I am a “Baptist atheist.” To me, this means that I see everything in black and white. I was raised In the Baptist church in Ohio, which means I was raised to believe that there is such a thing as ultimate truth. Because of this, when I discovered that the bible was not, in fact, inerrant, the foundations of my entire worldview collapsed. I followed the thinking of my youth in every way. Before, I believed the bible was true, and so I attempted to follow its commands. Now, I know it is not true, so I don’t believe in any of it.
Interestingly, the desire to proselytize has held firm! Any chance I get, I “witness” to people, giving my “testimony” of deconversion. The difference is that I never have that awkward sick feeling afterward. Thank you so much for your work when I could not afford to be a member. I look forward to my association with FFRF and the message my new membership will send after appalling Supreme Court decisions.
Get involved locally to keep religion at bay
I have spent my entire life in our small town of Bay City, Mich. We’ve been a “blue” town for over 50 years. Recently, though, I have found that the religion of the long-time, multi-term mayor and others creeps deeper into our government than I thought.
All City Commission meetings are led off with a Christian invocation. Per conversations with the city clerk, there is no process for non-Christian invocations to be read.
The city also gave much-needed American Rescue Plan funds to local groups and fast tracked $56,000 (without a vote) to one of the Catholic-linked Knights of Columbus groups to help them with “lost revenue.”
Finally, our police department responded to a letter that the FFRF legal team sent to them about the Christian-only free counseling system the department has with local pastors. The chief of police responded, saying “Thanks for the letter, [FFRF Legal Assistant] Stephanie. We are not going to discontinue the program.” They had three weeks to determine a response and the best they could come up with was a one liner, because they do not care.
I am urging you, those reading this letter, even if you live in a self-described liberal town, to join the fight similar to mine and get involved with your local government. Maybe you’re lucky and the path will be easy so you can focus more on other priorities. But fighting for equal access for all beliefs, including nonbelief, will help prevent religious fanaticism from keeping a foothold in your town. I want to thank FFRF for the job they do and the support they’ve given me and look forward to victories in the future.
Science is daunting, but needs original thinkers
I was impressed to read the emphasis placed on science by the authors and columnists in the September issue. Relying on science, however, is easier said than done. Barack Obama confused science and politics when he stated 97 percent of scientists believe human carbon emissions cause global warming. There is NO voting in science and the majority does not rule. In fact, science has been a history of overturning the beliefs of the majority, from the flat Earth and Earth-centered universe beliefs of the majority in past to the present. The discovery that energy escapes black holes has overturned the common belief that nothing can escape a black hole.
Einstein was once asked to comment on a letter signed by 100 prominent scientists criticizing his theory of general relativity. He answered that if he were wrong, one signature would be enough. I admire Richard Feynman’s approach to science. He liked to check the current ideas of a scientific theory by developing them himself from scratch, rather the looking at how others developed the theory.
Science is complicated, and starting from scratch is a daunting and a seeming impossible task. If you are interested in being an original thinker rather than joining the majority, you might start by reading Brian Kernighan’s book, Millions, Billions, Zillions: Defending Yourself in a World of Too Many Numbers.
Contrast of essays and Crankmail is striking
The September issue with its outstanding student essays and usual collection of Crankmail presented a brilliant contrast of the intellectual dipole of religious believers and the thoughtful young authors.
In sum, the essays were expressions of reason, truth seeking, and several included empathy for the beliefs of the religious, as they should. Of course, the Crankmail letters — in all their ungrammatical vituperation and hatred — are the worst of those they represent.
But, nowhere in my 80 years of personal and learned experience have I seen examples of the viciousness of those claiming to defend their religion coming from any level of nonreligious thought. (“Death to fidels!” is not our mantra.)
Blood spilled in the name of religion is well documented from antiquity through today. What blood has been spilled by atheists? Perhaps in specific instances of self-defense, if examples are to be found, but never in comparison to that from religious wholesale slaughter or doctrine-mandated violence against nonbelievers including, as several essayists noted, by obstruction of science such as in combatting HIV/AIDS. Killing in the name of an alleged loving god is the province of religion.
Member finds neighbor has similar interests
This is just an amusing story. I have known my next-door neighbors for 30 years, but one of them, Greg, I have only ever had just brief interactions. A couple months ago, the postal carrier delivered a copy of Freethought Today to my house. Upon closer investigation, I noticed it was for Greg! All this time, neither of us had any idea that we shared such a deep common interest in atheism and freedom from religion. We are now meeting on a more regular basis, given that we are both retired.
High school essays give us hope for the future
Reading the essays of the winners of the FFRF high school essay contest gives me hope for the future.
‘They Said What?’ quote was spoken in my town
I was glad that I was sitting down when I was reading the October issue. When I got to the “They Said What?” section, what should appear but an entry from my own town!
I get Google notifications for the town I live in, so I already saw this quote from pastor Sam Jones — “A Christian has no responsibility to obey any government outside of the scope that has been designated by God.” — but it still made me gasp out loud when I saw it in the paper. Believe me, that quote is just the tip of the iceberg.
I have met Jones, and he is the type of religious character who would feel right at home in a Stephen King book. He harasses the local Planned Parenthood clinic, spews hate speech about the LGBTQ+ community, tried to intimidate the local Black Lives Matter march, and generally preaches politics from the pulpit.
At least not all of the people here are like that. I’m not sure which is more frustrating in Iowa, being an atheist or being a vegan. At least I have FFRF for the first one.
Crankmail shows that FFRF is being heard
The Crankmail section should be retained if for no other reason than it demonstrates that FFRF is at least being listened to by those who need to hear it most. The fact that people write these letters is proof positive that FFRF’s message is being heard, even if not agreed with. For good measure, every contributor to Crankmail should receive a free copy of Freethought Today. They can frame their letter and show it to their friends, but just maybe they will read some of the rest of Freethought Today, as well. Next stop, a free copy in every hotel room.
We need to be concerned about overpopulation
Just a big shout-out and thank you to FFRF and Valerie Tarico for the August article, “Depopulation alarmism: Future of women is more than just breeding.”
Overpopulation and our culture of eternal growth is the biggest contributor, by far, to our environmental mess, including climate change.
The U.S. Census Bureau says we are likely to add 70 million to the U.S. population by 2060 (mostly due to immigration). That would mean another 50 million acres going to roads and development, which is more than our combined national parks. This must stop or we will destroy our country and our devastating ecological footprint will further destroy the world.
Yup, I have come to believe that we should “Think globally, act locally, set the example,” because I want to save my home and because it is the only effective strategy in today’s world. That includes saving the character of our towns. Help people where they are and show, by example, what it takes to really get sustainable.
What will we leave to our grandkids? A steamy, crowded, polluted nation and planet filled with buildings and asphalt and devoid of natural diversity and spiritual nature?
Can government ascertain people’s sincere beliefs?
Unfortunately, it has become all too common for otherwise generally applicable federal and state laws to be written allowing exceptions for “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Can there be any greater entanglement between church and state than that created when the government, in an attempt to ascertain whether the religious exception applies in a given case, seeks to determine whether a person’s belief constitutes a religious belief and whether that belief is “sincere”? Surely, this is the polar opposite of what the authors of the Constitution intended.
College essayists offered plenty to think about
As always, Freethought Today provided me with lots of food for thought, and in this case (October issue), it was the college student essays that caught my mind.
Samantha Gregory’s essay struck a chord because my doubts about religion began in elementary school when a minister in my church informed me that anyone who didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of God was going to Hell. At the time, the nicest person in my class was Jewish, and I decided that the God I believed in would not condemn good people to hell just because they were born into a different religion from mine. As Samantha says, wouldn’t it be great if we could all judge others based on their personalities and morals rather than their religions?
Along those same lines, Ellie McDonald’s comment that decisions made to attain certain end goals are strategic rather than moral also struck home, especially with Keara Hayes’ essay in mind. As Keara notes, so many of the religious think that it is their belief in God that makes them moral, so those of us who do not believe in God cannot possibly be moral. However, if you are moral only to avoid “burning in hell,” are you truly moral?
As with Ellie, I think having a personal moral code I adhere to because it is what I believe is right is better than adhering to an arbitrary (therefore, meaningless) code established by an organization that uses it to manipulate its members and enforces it by threats of eternal damnation. Science has shown genetic underpinnings of moral codes (even in animals), so it is indeed possible to be “good without God,” and perhaps that kind of good is actually better than the good that has been tarnished by interference from organized religions.
Finally, many of the essays mentioned the “us vs. them” mentality engendered by religions, praising secularity for avoiding that divisiveness. However, I’ve often seen in Freethought Today letters an “us vs them” mentality pitting the nonreligious vs. the religious. Tribalism (as noted in Lindsey Bridges’ essay, quoting E.O. Wilson) is the bane of human existence at this point in our evolution, and the nonreligious, as well as the religious, are often guilty of “us vs them” thinking. There are unquestionably evil people masquerading as very good religious people, but there are also people who are both religious and truly good. That fact is one we should never forget.