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Letterbox (November 2022)

I, too, appreciated Donald Ardell’s column

Brian Hammond’s letter regarding Donald B. Ardell’s essay from the March issue (“Live your best life in a meaningless universe”) reminded me of how much I also appreciated and treasured this article. I immediately put it away to save after reading it several times.

Seems like it should be obvious to everyone, though it took me most of my long life to come to the same conclusions.

Thank you FFRF for doing what you do so well.

New Hampshire

I love Freethought Today for many reasons 

Thank you for your paper! This little old lady in Carlsbad, Calif., loves it for MANY reasons. I send clippings to various relatives via snail mail because it’s too easy to ignore emails.


At least there’s FFRF to help fight ignorance

I just finished reading the September issue. I did so with my usual mix of relief and concern. My concern stems from the examples of extremist ignorance displayed by so many Americans on a daily basis. I worry about where all this aggression and animosity are headed. I am, however, somewhat relieved to read about the actions of FFRF and others to counteract this alarming trend. My fear is that the country may not be able to pull back from the precipice upon which it is perched.

Thank you for what you do!


Our motivations to do good are not religious

There was a repeated refrain in the essays in the September issue about how those who don’t believe in an afterlife aren’t motivated by heavenly rewards or threats of punishment in hell. I believe all humans are motivated by reward and punishment, but what motivates the nonreligious? 

As a child, the adage “it’s better to give than to receive” seemed like nonsense to me, but somewhere along the way, it became true. I do enjoy the pleasure of making someone else happy more than I enjoy receiving a gift myself. I think it is that pleasure that motivates the nonreligious to do good. In fact, I think most religious people are also motivated by that pleasure, not by promises of rewards after dying. So, we all have the same motivation to be good people, even though some may think the nonreligious are different.

The idea of heaven and hell serves a different purpose than motivation. For example, if your life is truly awful (as it must have been for slaves), believing in heaven at least gives you hope that things will improve, even if it’s only after you die. Grief for a loved one is eased is if you think you will eventually meet again. Heaven gives people hope when they need it most.

Hell, on the other hand, gives you a way to threaten your enemies (just read the Crankmail). If someone has wronged you and is escaping punishment while alive, you can console yourself with the idea that punishment will be exacted after death. I doubt many people are truly afraid of hell, because they believe it is for others, not for themselves.


FFRF’s full-page ad was breath of fresh air!

Ah! I was so happy to see the FFRF’s full-page ad in my local newspaper’s Sunday edition. FFRF’s presence and message is so needed in this conservatively ideological area. I appreciate the neutral straightforward messaging that avoids the emotionally laden triggers. Thank you.


Reagan’s ‘value’ column was well-reasoned

Thank you all so much for the September issue of Freethought Today. What a joy to read! 

Ron Reagan’s article, “Who is best able to decide ‘value’ of life?” was the most well-reasoned argument for choice that I have ever seen. 


Crankmail entry made me laugh out loud

Sometimes parts of Freethought Today are amusing, but rarely do they make me start laughing.

From the Crankmail: “If you have low tolerance of pain, hell is not the place for you.” – Debbie Guinn

It is so absurd it is just really funny!

New York

Ready to be a volunteer for next newspaper ad

I just saw your full-page ad in the Santa Fe New Mexican. Thank you! If you ever need another member for a future ad, I volunteer! 

New Mexico

We should speak up about our freethinking

As the Freedom from Religion Foundation frequently asserts, the younger generation in America is the least religious segment of the population, with a significant number of 18- to 29-year-olds lacking affiliation with any religion and identifying as “Nones.” I discovered the reality of this firsthand when I traveled to Southern California in mid-June of this year.

I was in the San Diego area for my nephew’s graduation from Coronado High School. At some point during our stay there, I thought I overheard him saying “I’m an atheist.” When I returned to my home in the Seattle area, I wrote him a letter telling him that, as an atheist, he’s hardly alone, mentioning that many Americans ages 18 to 29 consider themselves Nones (though, of course, not all Nones are atheists or agnostics).

I mentioned how involved I had been in recent years with FFRF, including attending the past three national conventions. Because I had taken part in webinars and other online events that FFRF had participated in, I received three postcards from the Secular Student Alliance, which I forwarded to him. I said that I wasn’t sure how political he was — or might become — but that maybe he’d be involved at some point with a secular student organization at Colorado State, where he started school recently.

I received a text shortly thereafter (with photos showing the Secular Student Alliance postcards I had sent him), in which he said “Thanks, Uncle Randy, very interested! I did see your note, and yes, you’re right, my best friend and I are both atheists and quite politically left.”

So, this is an example of how important it is to speak up, to encourage and support all of those nonbelievers around us, whether they’re family members or not.


Abortion decision isn’t always difficult

In his column “Who is best able to decide ‘value’ of life?” Ron Reagan asserts that he has never met a person whose decision to have an abortion was not wrenching and painful. I am not suggesting that Reagan is lying, but I doubt that his statement is true.

Abortion is normal. But in our society, even people who support abortion often claim that the decision to have an abortion is never easy. This attitude makes it hard for someone to come forward and say, as Hanna Rosin did in her article “Abortion is Great” (published in Slate in 2014) “The truth is, I hardly thought about it after I did it, because I was too busy working and raising two small children.”

Abortion is normal. Although abortion rates in the country appear to have declined in the last decade, many sources suggest that roughly one in four American women and girls will have an abortion by the time they reach menopause. There are as many different stories about abortion as there are abortions. Choosing to have an abortion can be as simple as deciding that this is not the time to have a child. Perhaps there are already as many children as the family wants or can support. Sixty percent of the women having an abortion are already mothers. Perhaps the pregnant person is in school and wants to continue without the distraction of parenthood. It does not have to be a traumatic decision.

Abortion is normal. Many people you know have had abortions and for many, if there was trauma, it was related to the shame and stigma that our society places on the perfectly reasonable notion that every pregnant person has the right to their own future. People who support reproductive rights should stop apologizing for abortion and stop wringing their hands about what a traumatic decisions it always is. Certainly, sometimes it is a difficult decision. But for many people, abortion is a wise choice about their future and their family’s future. Abortion is normal.

North Carolina

Impressed with FFRF’s mission and actions 

I’m sending $1,000 to support your work. Over the past half year, I’ve been impressed with your mission and actions — your educational outreach, your watchdogism, your legal suits or briefs, your news, your newspaper, your “Freethought Matters” and “Ask an Atheist,” your billboards, the conferences you attend and put together, Freethought Radio, Freethought of the Day, the honors you award, the essays you spark, the interviews with interesting people, the spin-offs (the “We Dissent” podcast), and Dan Barker’s wonderful piano playing. I have been bolstered and have benefitted tremendously from all you do. 

I love that your newspaper is big, jam-packed with information and on inexpensive newsprint. I love that there are so many ways your foundation educates the believing public about freethought (Knowledge lessens fear), just as it educates “Nones” about the amazing heritage of nonbelief.

Most important, however, has been and is your work to keep our government secular, countering the ever-louder/stronger voices of the Christian right, who believe this country was founded upon biblical principles and who believe non-Christians and nonbelievers should be controlled by superstitions, anti-empiricism, anti-rationalism and magical thinking of a small group (well, maybe not so small) of Christian chauvinists. 

When the mortar joints in the wall of separation between state and church are chiseled out as blatantly and harmfully as they have been of late (Dobbs, Kennedy, Carson, and the Catholic hospital situations), the whole wall is apt to fall. We must stop these chiselers. That is your mission and I applaud you for it.


As an atheist, I still appreciate Christianity 

Already an atheist — without God — since early childhood, I nevertheless have an appreciation for what Christianity in its better application has meant for Western society, how it had tempered the baser instincts of humans, despite the global depredations it wrought in earlier times, and despite its present day corruption of politics in weakening state/church separation. Through the years I have enjoyed the immense contribution of Christianity to art and music. I can listen to the likes of Handel’s “Messiah,” or regard the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo, some of many church-commissioned masterpieces, and be thankful Christianity has inspired beauty in the world.

The bible itself — though an arbitrary compilation of many stories, some novel, others repackaged such as the creation myth — does make for thought-provoking reading as an endless source for scholarly and archaeological research and philosophical debate. I know most of these stories from exposure through the years, but I can’t quote from memory chapter and verse, as some seem to rattle off from an encyclopedic command of both testaments. As the foundational document of Christianity, based mostly on myth and heresay, the bible incorporates universal themes of humanity’s fallibility and potential that enrich our understanding of the world. 

I’m clearly no Christian soldier, but call me a “cultural Christian,” a term that even the well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins, applies to himself. Though in no way atoning for its collective damages, this religion, for its serious faults in application, has brought beauty and perhaps kindness — as in, “What would Jesus do?” — to the world.

Thank you for the good work that FFRF and Freethought Today do in their legal and journalistic endeavors.