Letterbox (March 2023)
Why am I paying for religion with my taxes?
I’m an atheist and have enclosed a small contribution to your worthy cause.
Perhaps you can explain to me, as a nonbeliever, why I have to support religion through tax increases? Every time the church of any recognized religion is exempt from paying property tax, my taxes go up to make up for the shortfall. And the IRS is the sole arbiter that decides which organization is a religion? Am I the only one who finds this troubling?
Many Tennessee cities still ban blasphemy
After months of research, I discovered at least 107 Tennessee cities and towns that ban blasphemy somewhere in their municipal codes. Most municipalities banned blasphemous language during court proceedings, while at least one town (Ripley) defined blasphemous language in any public place as unlawful disorderly conduct. In March 2022, FFRF wrote a letter to the city of Sparta for banning blasphemy on handbills or signs and during court proceedings.
Over the summer, the city of Algood amended its municipal code to remove prohibitions against blasphemous language. In March, I wrote to the Algood mayor about this ban and how this change represented one step toward greater progress for civil liberties.
In August, I wrote to the city of Crossville — where I live — urging our council to remove its blasphemy ban. To date, the city has not removed the ban.
But I will never stop fighting for the freedom to debate, criticize, or reject all beliefs and opinions, including religious ones. As FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said about blasphemy when discussing the ban in Sparta: “Blasphemy laws have no place in a secular country like the United States. Blasphemy is a victimless crime, but it creates a lot of victims.”
Crankmail shows where education is lacking
Your Crankmail is a perfect example of how our school systems have failed to teach the proper use of the English language.
FFRF donations courtesy of crosses, billboards
My spouse and I recently took a drive from Michigan to New Orleans. We passed these enormous crosses that are apparently erected just for the highway traffic to view. After the third one, I declared that I would donate $10 to FFRF per cross. Then I decided to add $5 for any billboards about Jesus.
So, I am sending you $60, brought to you by the five crosses and two billboards. Thank you for all your work maintain the separation of state and church against unending opposition.
FFRF’s work is needed and much appreciated
Thank you deeply for the work you do. Western society has been so heavily religious for so long that many don’t even realize that the thoughts they were taught in their earliest years sprang from a faith. As the slow groundswell of reason backs the misguided into reactionary legal action, you stand as a watchdog and shield against them. You are appreciated and needed in your struggle.
I find myself at the end of the year donating a tenth of my income to your most-worthy cause. Though I have freed myself from the Christian-cult shackles of my upbringing, I am amused by the thought. Just as I am heartened by the knowledge that this “tithe” will be put to much better use.
Religion is the original conspiracy theory
In the last few years, the term “conspiracy theory” has become quite common in the media, as millions of Americans gravitate toward theories like QAnon, for example. In search of an objective definition of “conspiracy theory,” I looked to Wikipedia.
The second paragraph on that page contains this: “Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it are reinterpreted as evidence of its truth, whereby the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than something that can be proven or disproven.”
The word “religion” could replace the words “conspiracy theory” in that text without changing the nature of the statement in any way. Isn’t religion the original conspiracy theory? And if it is, shouldn’t it be discredited in the court of public opinion and policy as such, in the same way that QAnon generally is?
The paragraph at the bottom of the same page contained this:
“Interventions to reduce the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs include maintaining an open society and improving the analytical thinking skills of the general public.”
It could be that the efforts of those who work for the separation of church and state, and a diminished influence of a cultural conspiracy theory on a societies’ lives affected by policies anchored in a conspiracy theory, would be best addressed by promoting standard classes in logic, in all public elementary schools. Call it the four Rs: Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and reason.
If you are curious about what might be a potentially negative influence in your community, watch for the groups objecting to that effort.
Most people won’t care if you are ‘out’
I just wanted to respond to the letter from Bronze Quinton in the December edition, where it mentioned how many at the convention hide their identity of nonbelief.
I live in a small conservative town in Northeast Oregon where I am a city council member and well-known as a Democrat and nonbeliever. I am well respected for my focus on real issues affecting our town. If anyone came after me for my beliefs, there would be many Christians coming to my defense. There is always the fear of the radicals who rant the loudest, but most people do not care what you think because they have bigger things to worry about. In some ways, people may be nicer to you in hopes of converting you down the line. If you just state your beliefs without making a big deal of it and show you care for others regardless of religious beliefs, you will find most people accepting of you. So go ahead and be who you are and watch most just shrug their shoulders and ignore the few jerks who give you crap.
Anti-abortionists are both absurd, arrogant
On several occasions, I’ve observed bumper stickers on passing cars that read: “Aren’t you glad your mother chose life?” or “Life is a gift from God” or “Abortion is murder!”
Those who are against abortion invariably repeat the mantra that if their mother hadn’t given them birth, they would never have experienced the joy of life. Well, if some cells never became people and are never born, they obviously have no consciousness of what life is. So how can anybody who never came into existence reproach anyone for their nonexistence?
How absurd. If people believe that abortion is murder, that’s exactly how they should say it: “I believe abortion is murder.” Such a statement is perfectly understandable, since so many still cling to such beliefs.
But people who utter the authoritative statement, “Abortion is murder!” represent, in my opinion, the pinnacle of arrogance. Their adjudication of abortion as murder is based on a belief which has no foundation or truth. Their hubris is unsurpassed.
Our ‘religious beliefs’ should count, too
There may be some utility in the trope that atheism is a religion. I suggest that FFRF members write to Justice Samuel Alito with something similar to this (obviously, in your own words):
“Dear Justice Alito, I believe strongly that you, together with Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, should resign before the end of this term. This belief is bound up in my religion and is non-negotiable. It is precious. It is my sincere religious belief, and I believe it deeply, deeply, deeply. I ask you to uphold my religion. Faithfully yours, Name.”
Public education in Ohio starting down a bad path
The Ohio Legislature is undermining public education. It appears that the Legislature agrees with Rod Paige, secretary of education, appointed by George W. Bush, to advocate for the public schools. Paige said: “All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith. . . That’s not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values.”
Adolph Hitler said: “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. . . we need believing people.”
Robert L. Thoburn, author of The Children Trap: “I imagine every Christian would agree that we need to remove the humanism from the public schools. There is only one way to accomplish this: to abolish the public schools.”
Gary Bauer, former director of the Family Research Council, a fundamentalist Christian advocacy group stated: “We are engaged in a social, political and cultural war. There’s a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody’s values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe.”
Mark Twain said: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”
San Antonio convention featured much diversity
As I read the December issue of Freethought Today, I was struck by the diversity — age, race, sexual orientation, gender identification, ethnicity — of people and ideas at FFRF’s San Antonio convention. I see this as a very positive sign that there is a very strong movement toward a more civilized society here and, hopefully, a slow but sure erosion of the divisions that have been created by the ruling class — primarily rich, white men — who have subverted our country’s spoken — but, at best, only partially realized — intentions to create a society which recognizes and respects all people regardless of dehumanizing labels.
I have been a FFRF member for over 25 years and I am happy to support your work to stop the imposition of religious superstition on others in our public institutions. I have become more open about my atheism as religious fanatics have become more aggressive in their bigotry and hate of people for whom they have no respect. That bigotry has now escalated to words and actions of violence against “others” by extremists who justify their hate by quoting this or that bible verse. I think their extremism is a sign of desperation as they realize that their base of support is dwindling. I think a day will come when “religion” will be noted only as a footnote in history.
I will continue to support the vital work that you do in any way that I can.
Still difficult to come ‘out’ as atheist
In the December Letterbox, one member stated that only a small percentage of FFRF convention attendees were “out” as atheists. (Editor’s note: That was a personal anecdote, not from a study.)
I was at a recent family religious event and when I shared my nonbelief, I was met with complete silence and a quick end to the conversation. This is the sad reality of what we are up against!
Thanks to FFRF for full-page ad in NY Times
How pleased I was to see in the Dec. 21 issue of the New York Times the full-page ad from FFRF.
I cut it out and sent it to Hobby Lobby and invited the company to make a donation. Every Easter and Christmas that company publishes Christian-oriented full-page ads in newspapers across the country.
Finite suffering isn’t enough, make it infinite!
Christian fundamentalists threaten nonbelievers with infinite suffering over infinite time. Being an engineer, I know that infinities don’t exist in the physical world. Nothing is infinite. So, when I hear people vainly tossing infinities around, I get very annoyed!
Was there a time, let’s say a few hundred years ago, when the Christians threatened people with a finite level of torment? And, then, a few of them sat down and decided, “You know, we’re not getting enough converts here! Why don’t we just pull out all the stops and make it infinite suffering? That way, more people will become believers!” Do you suppose this is the way we got to the deplorable state we’re in today?
As a side note, I really enjoy watching your “Ask an Atheist” YouTube videos, which are very entertaining and educational. I think your organization is doing a wonderful job!
FFRF members can be found all over
My husband and I are in California until March, and we love to go to the Huntington Beach pier on our frequent walks. Recently, we passed a small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses giving away bibles. We did not stop, of course, but I soon heard the loud voice of a bicyclist coming up behind us. He yelled at the group: “You need some freedom from religion!” Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation, you dumb lambs!”
I started clapping and yelled to him, “I agree! I’m a representative!”
He was going rather fast on his bike, but he turned his head and said, “It’s a great group!” He was gone in a flash, unfortunately. I would have liked to talk to him.
This encounter confirms that FFRF is big, valued and supported. Keep up the good work! (I’m watching “Freethought Matters” as I write.)
Rep. Hartzler’s speech spurred me to donate
After watching Republican Rep. Vicki Hartzler’s congressional floor speech on the Respect for Equal Marriage Act, I had to do something. She said, “Protect religious liberty. Protect people of faith. And protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage. I hope and pray that my colleagues will find the courage to join me in opposing this misguided and this dangerous bill.”
I wish I could donate more, but I’m not rich. I guess I should have prayed on it. Thanks for what you do.
Will humans ever realize religion is superstition?
I loved your full-page ad in the New York Times in December.
The world needs to learn that there is no god, no heaven, and no hell. They are imaginary. They are not real. There are also no devils and no angels. Maybe in 5,000 years, humans will realize that religion is just a superstition that millions of people believed without evidence. God has never answered any prayers or done anything.
I am a 100 percent atheist, a Humanist, and a member of the Unitarian Fellowship of Houston.
Lifetime membership is my ‘coming out’
I have decided to become a Lifetime Member. I consider this my “coming out” as an agnostic. (I will always identify as ethnically Jewish.) I stopped believing in the religion decades ago, and I’m tired of pretending.
Keep up the good work. Thanks for doing it.
Pope holds contempt for abortion doctors
Pope Francis has shown his contempt for those who perform abortions, comparing them to a “hitman,” while ignoring the fact that most people who belong to his religion disagree with him on this issue.
The writer John Irving says that denying access to abortion is “forced birth” and calls it what it is — the “religious persecution of women and girls.” He wrote a book about this subject: The Cider House Rules.
Christian nationalists are threat to democracy
Keep up the great work countering the Christian nationalist movement, which I believe is the most dangerous threat to democracy now. It controls the Republican Party and the U.S. Supreme Court.
I have personally seen it in action and have known ministers who have joined the movement.
Freethought Today always a pleasure to read
I look forward to reading Freethought Today every month. It’s the most intellectually stimulating periodical I’ve ever had the pleasure of receiving. I particularly enjoy reading Overheard, Crankmail, Letterbox, the essay contest winners and the cryptogram!
Here is a poem I wrote:
Why do we exist? I implore
nightly when it is calm and quiet. I
meditate about life and its meaning.
I distill my poems from random
reflections. I think its simple memes
and alleles just want to survive.