Letterbox (October 2022)
Supreme Court has been acting as its own god
While Congress is prohibited from establishing a religion, the Supreme Court has been actively doing this with impunity since the 1950s — and behind closed doors. My guess is the supreme god of the court has a good-natured side called Jehovah and a bad-natured side called Yahweh, a construct for deciding legal issues like abortion.
Evidence of this new religion to eventually govern the United States follows from insertion of the word “God” into the Pledge of Allegiance and enacting the religious phrase “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency since the 1950s. The judge/priest Neil Gorsuch wants Ten Commandments displays, which would give the court much greater authority and powers through God-belief religion. While the “god” was not identified by the court, by default it is the Supreme Court God, since they are the ones who authorize it.
Freedom of thought is paramount
Since extricating myself from the limiting perspective and beliefs of my religious birth culture, I have been writing to liberate others. It was not easy. My ability to communicate was, at best, mediocre, which was a valued condition (and conditioning) of Mormonism.
Millions of people are held captive behind the defensive mechanisms of religious cultures. Guilt and shame are yet the weapons of church. The mission? Stay in power. The means? Control the vote. The long term goal? Obliterate the wall.
The wall gone, no matter how small the number of radical religious people remaining, they will own the system and freedom of thought will be a thing of the past.
Human life is more important than religion.
There are many trapped in fundamentalist, religious cultures that want to be in control of their own destiny. They don’t have a clue how to go about self-liberation. My heart is linked with theirs. Their freedom, like mine, is paramount.
Dan Barker’s book changed my life for the better
This is a letter of thanks to Dan Barker for his wonderful book Godless. I used to be a fundamentalist Christian and it was that book which was the first of many that started me on the path toward atheism. As a show of my appreciation, I am becoming a member of FFRF.
The phrase “Christian nationalist” would have described me in the past. I am a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University law school. Before I read Dan’s book, I wasn’t familiar with him as a person, but I was certainly familiar with FFRF. It was the “boogie man” at Regent University, and my professors would often derisively refer to your organization.
When I first came across your book in 2012 at the San Francisco Public Library, I was looking for something to help me in my outreach as an evangelical. I was trying to show Mormons how ridiculous Mormonism was and was looking for a book about someone who had lost their religion.
I found your book and it stunned me! I had never been exposed to the arguments in the book. So, I researched more to prove you wrong, but was unable to. I drifted in liberal Christianity for a while, not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, until, as Dan put it, “I discovered there was no baby.” The process took several years and dozens more books, but eventually I became an atheist.
I want you to know that the work you are doing is making a difference and it is appreciated. I never realized until I deconverted as to what a mental prison Christianity is. I have cherished my freedom ever since leaving. Congratulations, not only did you inactivate a Christian nationalist attorney, but you also convinced him to switch sides.
Talking over differences is best way forward
My dad was not only a devoted Catholic, born and raised within the fortress walls of Old San Juan Puerto Rico, but also a lifetime member of “The Rosicrucian Order,” a 17th-century European mystical Christian sect with claims to ancient times.
I sat respectfully through many of his talks on Christianity and its connections to the mystical ancient world. After all, what child does not want parental approval and love?
My father and I never had a nasty and loud argument over our differences, but in my teens, while explaining why I was refusing to go to the local parochial high school, I did have to be clear about my views. To his credit, he did not react with anger, but I could see that his feelings were very hurt. Yes, it’s a sad memory to have, but an acceptable and necessary one for the development of the self.
I did not volunteer my views to the subsequent generations in my family. Whenever the subject of religion came up and I was asked, I would share my views and explain why I held them, leaving it very clear that their choices were theirs to make.
Think of the vast increase of knowledge since my childhood. What conversations could be going on today in countless homes of many faiths and how are the current generations dealing with their gaps?
I can only hope that the discussions are healthy and any compromises made are reasonable.
Atheists are better for society than believers
This is a portion of a letter to the editor that appeared in the Muscoda (Wis.) Progressive.
America is easily the most religious among the wealthy democracies, and weekly church attendance is higher than Europe. If religion actually brought safety and no crime, America would be the safest place to live. It is not. Rather, we are the only country where mass shootings occur on a frequent basis. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman put it, “If the United States is simultaneously the most religious wealthy country and the most violent, a lack of religion clearly isn’t our problem.”
Contrary to popular myth, studies found that atheists are more financially generous than Christians. On one hand, 75 percent of the Christian giving is to the church for religious activity and spiritual development, not helping the less fortunate. Of nonreligious people, 56 percent overall donate directly to feed the hungry, house the poor, and fight for the underprivileged.
Religion provides an external control for people. It establishes rules and laws, such as the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes, that create the guardrails for people’s behaviors, though they are often honored in the breach. These “laws” are an external guardrail.
Secular people operate from internal controls. Internal controls are far more effective, precisely because they are internal. We are good without God.
Believe what you want, but what you can’t do is force your belief on others. Look at the facts: It is not atheists or the absence of God that is birthing mass shooters. It is the fanaticism of Christian nationalists who claim to be acting on God’s behalf.
School vouchers should not be used
Previously, if someone had asked me if I support school vouchers, I would have said, “No, I don’t think tax dollars should support sectarian religions.” But I would not have said so adamantly because I had never spent time thinking the issue through. Then I read the recent FFRF article on the state of Maine voucher ruling, and it made me think more about the issue.
At first, I thought, well, let’s say each student is allowed $1,000 per year. If parents want their child to go to a religious school, why not? Everyone is getting the same amount of money. Isn’t that fair? And parents have the freedom to send their child to the school of their choice, whether public or sectarian. Where is the harm?
Then I recognized that some part of that money, let’s say 20 percent, will go to sectarian indoctrination. That means part of my tax money will used for religious instruction, and an equal amount of money will not be used for foundational school subjects. That money is supposed to be for education, not indoctrination. So, the public is, in effect, forced to support religions they may not agree with.
If anyone asks me if I support school vouchers, I’ll now adamantly say no. And I’ll always be ready to ask the Christian if he would be comfortable having his money support daily prayer readings from the Quran. I don’t think so.
Freedom of religion includes freedom from it
This is a portion of a letter to the editor that first appeared in the Albany Times Union as a rebuttal to a previous letter.
The freedom of religion in the U.S. Constitution includes the freedom to NOT have a religion or NOT believe in a particular religion. So, yes, freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. I will not impose my belief that religion is a myth, so please don’t impose your belief that religion must exist for me.
Curtis’ indoctrination column was excellent
Jim Curtis’ article “Religious indoctrination is child abuse” is spot-on. It was well thought out, well written and well presented. Cutting edge thinking like Jim’s is invaluable. Please make him a regular Freethought Today contributor.
Overturning of Roe was dark day for freedom
Most historians regard the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857 as the most immoral ever enacted by the nation’s highest court. In that case, the court ruled that Dred Scott, an ex-slave who had lived in free territory, had no rights because (as Chief Justice Roger B. Taney proclaimed), Blacks, who are “beings of an inferior order had no rights that a white man was bound to respect.”
Do you see a parallel between the despicable Dred Scott decision and the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade? The former denied the rights of people because of the color of their skin, and the latter denies the rights of people because of their gender. Both trample on human dignity, and the latter cancels a woman’s right to decide what’s best for her health and welfare.
Roe v. Wade became a pivotal landmark toward women’s full emancipation. But, now, five people’s religious dogma (which has nothing to do with jurisprudence) have returned women to their mission of “childbearing,” which St. Paul proclaimed as their path to salvation in I Timothy 2:15.
Before Roe v. Wade, countless women died because of the unsanitary conditions in which illegal abortions were performed. Now, thanks to those five people, the deaths will resume. Yes, they’ve taken away the rights of women to control their own bodies, and relegated that authority to 13th century theology.
Overturning Roe was not only a dark day for women’s autonomy, but also for all of us who cherish freedom.
Gov. DeSantis’ ideas are dangerous for country
I am a Lifetime Member. I recently watched a segment on MSNBC regarding the Florida governor’s training session for teachers. Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying to push the assertion that separation of church and state is not so much a separation as a fluid movement, that our country was founded on “Christian ethics,” and that slavery history is totally misleading and untrue. This man, who may run for president, is dangerous.
Crankmail shows true colors of many Christians
My favorite part of your newspaper is the Crankmail. The illiteracy of the writers is quite comical. Also, their vocabulary is — interesting. They claim to be devout Christians, but they seem to use more f-bombs than a sailor (and I was a sailor for years, so I should know).
Also, while looking through some back issues of Freethought Today, I reread the article “Trump prophecy still believed by many.”
The article made an interesting point, that “a slim majority of Americans indicate that God is in control of events on Earth.” Some sects, including the one that I abandoned, go even further and believe that God micromanages every detail of life and that everything that happens is sent from God and is God’s will.
If someone believes that every event on Earth is God’s doing, wouldn’t it follow that the Biden presidency is God’s will? Apparently not. We name it and claim it, and God must do it, and if events don’t fall into line with what we want, then Satan is interfering, and he must be defeated by powerful prayers that get the attention of God and move him to act.
Anyone reading the last couple sentences might think that I’ve been smoking some of the good stuff, but I haven’t. I’m simply offering a glimpse into the evangelical mindset.
Catholic Church still has a hold on public life
I attended Catholic schools the second half of the 1960s and the first half of the ’70s on the south side of Chicago. I removed myself from Catholic high school my sophomore year. I slowly transitioned from disinterested to agnostic to atheist.
Oh, I had my doubts early on, but the need to please was powerful. Laying on the lawn at 6 or 7, staring at the blue sky, and trying to reconcile what my eyes saw with what I was being taught in school was a regular exercise.
I eventually married a recovering Catholic and we raised two wonderfully agnostic children in Scottsdale, Ariz. All seemed well for years, and then it started to happen. I knew I couldn’t really escape it all.
I’ve now watched the Catholicisation of the Supreme Court. First, it was Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Then John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh and, finally, Amy Coney Barrett. Sonia Sotomayor is in here, too, but she seems capable of separating dogma from the law. That’s six of the nine justices.
And then the Catholic governor of my adopted state finally got his wish. He got the Legislature to pass a bill that allows every parent to take voucher money from the public schools and apply it to any school they choose, including private Catholic schools.
While I thought I had escaped relatively unscathed, the church has found a way to claw its way back in. Oh, they can’t force me to sit in a pew, but they can influence the world around me to make it look a little more like the place where I grew up. And I don’t like the look.
FFRF’s work is more important than ever
I finally checked the “renew yearly” box for my FFRF membership instead of letting it lapse for years. I realized FFRF’s fight for freedom from religion for those of us who are nonreligious will not be finished in my lifetime. Thank you for the work you do promoting the “constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.” Your work is more important than ever, despite a third of the population saying they are not affiliated with a religion.
Also, I was visiting Nashville this summer and it warmed my heart when I spied an FFRF billboard with a humanist couple.
Crankmail, while fun to read, shows illiteracy
The Crankmail in your August issue was particularly entertaining. These people brought illiteracy to a whole new level.
Let’s try some updated terms for outdated words
I’m tired of hearing “religion” and “right wing.” Why don’t we call them “mythology” and “wrong wing”?
Nonbelievers are just as good as the religious
I’m just an old country boy from Texas, raised on a farm and had to work to stay alive. Mama prayed for better, but she never got it. Then, I had an epiphany when I was 12 — God doesn’t exist. God couldn’t exist.
My greatest grievance with religious people is that they believe that you have to believe in God to be a good person. That’s bull. I am a good person and decent human being without God. How dare they hold themselves up as something better than me.
Brainwashing is tactic used by religions
Religions attempt to brainwash people into believing they’re sinners, that there’s something wrong with them and to deny aspects of their humanity. As a child, I was led to believe that humans don’t have instincts, and that only animals have instincts. Our sex drive is instinctual and it’s instinctual to learn how to talk.
I found out about “disbelief” in 2010 and it’s been a continual source of fresh air ever since.
I see red flags when I hear people using religious jargon as if it’s real.
Thank you for “Freethought of the Day” and for doing all the challenging work of these perilous days as the Christians try to bury democracy. Democracy gets in their way of getting their fix for their addiction to religion and their fix for power and control.