Letterbox (March 2022)
Christian nationalism can’t co-exist with democracy
The insurrection in Washington a year ago shows that Christian nationalists want to overthrow American democracy and establish a theocracy. This conflicts with the founding constitutional principle of the separation of government and religion, and with the notion that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.
Most Christians don’t regard hatred and violence as Christian values. Christian nationalists do. Their ideology is fundamentally anti-democratic because its goal is not government of, by, and for the people, but power. The greatest threat Christian nationalism poses to democracy is that it seeks to undermine the very foundation of democracy: voting.
American democracy and Christian nationalism cannot co-exist.
Hope to see more of FFRF’s Ron Reagan ad
I wanted you to know that I just renewed my membership at the $500 level because I just saw Ron Reagan’s commercial on WHNT-19 here in Huntsville, Ala. Every day, and especially on Sunday, I have to deal with the overt religious messages that are everywhere. It was a breath of fresh air to see Ron say: “Not afraid of burning in hell.” I hope to see his commercial more. Thank you!!!!!
Treat us as citizens, not a congregation
Let’s dream of an America where national political ceremonies don’t actively exclude 50 million citizens who don’t believe in God, grace, souls or miracles. The only way to get things done is not by prayer (Anne Nicol Gaylor: “Nothing fails like prayer.”) or faith (“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”), but through work, negotiating, reason, cooperation, resilience, perseverance and persistence, where athletes stop pointing to the sky as if God and not their own effort caused their success.
I know, the United/Divided States is three-quarters full of believers who expect God-talk at events, however, it would really be wonderful to be mindful of the clearly secular nature of the U.S. Constitution and omit the preaching to the pulpits, and treat all Americans as citizens, not a congregation!
Anti-vax Christians threaten our lives
I work for American Red Cross Blood Services as a blood drive phlebotomist. We are considered essential personnel, and have been working all through the pandemic. Many staff have had exposure events, and caught Covid. As a national organization, and a medical organization, we are subject to the vaccine mandate. But there are among us several staff who are part of the Christian anti-science anti-vaccine movement. They are all now getting “religious exemptions” from the vaccine requirement, despite not even being members of religions that forbid any vaccinations as part of their ideology. So, they are being allowed to threaten our (and our families) lives with a deadly disease because of their belief in something they can’t even prove the existence of. But my life is not as sacred as their faith, according to the ARC.
I’m an atheist. Why should I have to suffer or die for that? If they are the ones who think our public health measures aren’t holy enough for their sacred bodies, then they should be the ones who have to do whatever is necessary to uphold those beliefs without risking the lives of others — like not working in the medical profession. It’s abhorrent that their God beliefs (and all the other lies they have bought into) are threatening me. I, and many fellow co-workers, are quite angry and frightened.
Morality and empathy are in our genes
A recurring theme in Freethought Today is the idea that the religious believe that the nonreligious cannot be moral because morality comes from religion. We counter that belief by saying we are moral even without religion, but, by doing so, we are merely expressing an opinion. The religious are understandably concerned that, if everyone determines morality for themselves, then any person can decide that murder, for example, is perfectly moral. How do we counter that concern? Where does morality come from if it doesn’t come from religion.
In his essay in the November Freethought Today, Shreyas Karki says good is defined by actions, not beliefs, and he doesn’t cheat, steal, lie or kill because he doesn’t want to cause harm to others. The implication is that empathy is the root of morality, and in fact, the Golden Rule is accepted by U.S. Christians (and many other religions) as the very epitome of morality. In actuality, morality (or empathy) has genetic underpinnings altered by environmental influences.
Many moral precepts are the same regardless of the religion (or lack of it). For example, “murder is bad” is a universal precept. Such universal precepts are based on empathy and are the genetic underpinnings of morality. It is our environments that teach us that it’s OK to murder someone not in our tribe. Humans are social beings, and in order to exist in a social setting, empathy is a prerequisite.
So, the religious need not worry that the nonreligious are determining morality based simply upon our own selfish desires. The Golden Rule is literally in our genes. So, where does morality come from? It comes from evolution.
Thomas Paine deserves a memorial
I’m thrilled to read about the planned memorial for Thomas Paine. My husband and I are considering just how much to give and will do so. My life was utterly changed by reading The Age of Reason when I was 34 years old. I’m 64 now. I grew up in the home of a fundamentalist Nazarene pastor, but I’ve been an atheist for 30 years.
New website functional, easy to use
Congratulations on the new FreethoughtToday.com website! Not only does it look good, but is functional and easy to use. Every item I selected (and I tried many) worked flawlessly. Let’s go out there and wow the world.
Why is indoor worship so important to believers?
It truly astonishes me that so many Christians oppose the temporary restriction on indoor worship services that was enacted for the sole purpose of protecting them from a deadly virus.
Matthew 5:3-10 contains one of the most inspiring passages in Christian scripture, which is familiar for its beauty even among non-Christians. It’s known as the “Beatitudes” or as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Christ allegedly delivered that cherished sermon outdoors — on a mountain.
Why is it, I wonder, that Christian ministers and their flocks balk at following their savior’s example and aren’t willing to wait until the health crisis is over before going back indoors to speak and hear the word of God?
December issue was a pleasure to read
It was a pleasure to read the December issue of Freethought Today, including the colorful photo section on the Boston convention. Linda Greenhouse’s excellent article introduced a serious problem with a humorous title (“Cheesecake, amyone?”). Linda certainly deserves the Clarence Darrow Award.
I very much appreciated your publishing the informative article by Cynthia McDonald regarding the secular case for reparations for American Descendants of Slavery.
In addition, I can’t resist the Brooks Rimes cryptograms. I’ve already purchased his delightful puzzle books.
I’ll keep this issue for re-reading, and watch for more in 2022. Thank you!
Crankmail is deserving of space in the paper
I would like to quickly add my “vote” to keep the Crankmail section of Freethought Today. It is entertaining, shows that we have been noticed, and they might even present something new — not likely, but one never knows for which we could prepare arguments. Thank you.
Tarico’s advice can be used everywhere
Thank you for publishing the article by Valerie Tarico, “Religious thought habits are hard to break,” in the December issue. What struck me most about this thoughtful article about thinking is that it isn’t just about religious thought habits. Tarico’s advice can also be applied to relationships, child rearing, health, politics, coping with a pandemic. There are so many ways we all fall into knee-jerk responses that don’t serve us well. We need to step back, question and regroup periodically throughout life, and Tarico’s points are a great guide for doing that.
Christopher Hitchens’ statement was prophetic
I’ve recently become interested in the work of Christopher Hitchens. I believe he was an important public intellectual who was (and still is) widely misunderstood by the general public. His work is extremely relevant today.
While on a tour to promote his book God is Not Great, he gave a short talk at a bookstore in Washington, D.C. During the Q&A session that followed his talk, someone asked him if he appreciated the difference between religiously motivated terrorists (and clerical child abusers) and the average believer with a simple, benign faith. Hitchens answered that there’s a difference, but that it’s still important to rid the world of superstition and credulity because millions of individuals with simple credulity can be motivated to do a lot of harm collectively.
Hitchens died in 2011, so he never lived to see the Trump presidency or the rise of militant Christian nationalism. The point he made in the paragraph above now seems prophetic.
Millions of previously harmless individuals of simple credulity, after being fed a multitude of lies by Fox News, QAnon, etc., voted for Trump. That led to three right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court and many more on federal benches across the country, public funding of sectarian education, draconian abortion restrictions, and the Big Lie about the 2020 election. It’s all connected.
Hitchens’ ideas seem more important than ever.
Clergy abuse survivor is fed up, wants to help
Thank you for all you do. I joined FFRF today because I am so fed up. I am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. If there is anything you need, please let me know. I am happy to share all of my experiences dealing with the archdiocese and its lies.
If somebody “passes,” what did they pass?
In regard to Craig Barto’s recent letter (“’Pass away’ is a terrible euphemism for death”), some of my Southern relatives don’t even say “passed away.” They just say, “Oh, so-and-so passed.” When I hear that, I always think, “Passed? What did he pass? A kidney stone or” . . . let your imagination fill in the blank! Then I have to struggle to keep a straight face.
FFRF’s letter helped end board’s public prayer
I just wanted to close the loop on the letter your legal department sent to the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners here in Michigan on Sept. 9, 2021.
Of course, it was public pressure from local residents that persuaded the county board to reverse its decision to include prayer on board agendas. FFRF’s letter certainly helped, however, and gave weight to what the board kept hearing from the public, including several members of our local clergy who also thought the board’s prayer policy was wrong.
As a bonus, the commissioner who proposed and pushed the prayer policy, Chairman Will Bunek, will face a special recall election on May 3 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is his demonstrated willingness to force his religious beliefs on everyone.
Your letter had a positive impact on our community. Good job! Thank you!
Thanks to FFRF for supporting rationality
My appreciation and gratitude for FFRF, for all its staff and supporters, and for all the work that it does, knows no bounds. I am very proud to be a Life Member and am very glad to be able to offer this tangible expression of my support.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your dedication to ensuring the separation of church and state and to helping support rational thinking, especially in these most difficult times.
Catholic justices need to choose Constitution
Andrew L. Seidel, in his marvelous book The Founding Myth, shows that Catholic canon law requires that: “A religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals.” It’s Catholic law!
Five Catholic members of the Supreme Court are assiduously following that dictate as they determine the fate of Roe v. Wade. Only Justice Sotomayor is willing to lay aside her Catholicism in order to respect her duty to the Constitution. She alone among Catholics on the court recognizes that she is making decisions based on constitutional law, not for the pope or the college of bishops.
These five justices must decide between Catholic dogma or the Constitution. If they choose Catholicism, they should leave the court.
FFRF’s work is more important than ever
Keep up the good fight, FFRF! Your work is more important now than it has ever been. Thanks so much for all that all of you do each and every day. It matters!