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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Letterbox (April 2019)

Motel bible already had secular words of wisdom

My husband and I recently visited the Monterey, Calif., area for several days, staying in a motel in Pacific Grove. Of course, we arrived with a couple of FFRF stickers in case the Gideons were lurking in a bedside drawer, and so they were — but someone else had beat us to it. Written on the bible’s inside cover, in a large, firm hand, was the following: “It’s OK to be an atheist! It’s also OK to be religious . . . but just please remember not to use religion as an excuse to persecute women, people of other nationalities, LGBTQ people and other people who have been persecuted in the name of religion. Have a wonderful day!”

In these tumultuous times, there is still much to be thankful for.

Melanie Lawrence

Church polling place stepped over the line

While cleaning out some old files, I found this photo that I thought you might find interesting.

It was during a same-sex marriage vote in North Carolina. Our precinct in Raleigh had been changed from a church that had a multipurpose room to another church, where the setting was quite different. We were greeted with signs of “Vote No” as we entered the voting area.

When I came back to vote the next time, I brought a camera. I showed the photo to the North Carolina State Board of Elections to express my concerns. I then received a couple of letters from the board’s lawyers informing me that taking photos in a polling place is illegal. I called them back to remind them of the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson’s position on state-church separation, etc.

Then, when the national elections rolled round, the polling was in a different room, totally void of anything associated with religion. When I asked about the change, I was told it was because of ADA regulations.

Joe Hardesty
North Carolina

Donation can be used to help stifle Pence

My wife and I have followed your activities for many years, but have not made generous contributions. Now it is time for us to act.

Brian Bolton wrote a great article on God as the great abortionist. Although I have been preaching this for many years, he has expanded the amount of information to me.

Religion is always pushing for higher population. We are adding about 78 million people to the planet each year. And those births will create even more births in about 20 years.

For that reason, we support Planned Parenthood. The connection is Vice President Pence, who is using his office to promote defunding Planned Parenthood. It’s hard to believe that it’s legal for him to use his office for that purpose. Perhaps he should read Bolton’s article.

Better yet, enclosed is a donation that you might use to help keep our VP quiet.

Keep up the good work.

Bob and Jo Chanaud

Editor’s note: FFRF kindly thanks the Chanauds for their generous donation!

Reading victories, essayists is a joy

I enjoy reading your monthly issues and seeing the victories, large and small. I especially like the essays and am amazed at the brilliant young minds that are coming to the forefront.

Roger Busse

Lifetime Membership a highlight of my life

I want to thank you for all of your work. Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker, all of the staff and the amazing volunteers have so much energy to forge ahead on behalf of us proud heathens to uphold the Constitution.

Receiving my Lifetime Membership has been one of the highlights of my life and it’s been a real source of pleasure and satisfaction, which is priceless. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving back to me tenfold. I would encourage others to make this a goal in 2019.

Freethought Today is an excellent bonus and I’m grateful for all the work and effort that goes into putting this publication together. It keeps us abreast of the latest legal battles and outcomes, which is important to me. It is through the legal system where we can make the most changes to keep state and church separate.

I enjoy the “Meet a Member” articles very much, as reading about their strength increases mine, as does reading the essays by the high school and college students. I am blown away by the students’ intelligence, courage and ability to express themselves so eloquently. I trust they’re aware of how much hope they give us as they carry the mantle onward.

Joanie Barker Nichols

FFRF is exceptional in its accomplishments

I’m a FFRF member. If I had a million dollars, you guys would be first and foremost in mind for the largesse. Your work is truly exceptional and I am continually referring people to your website. I have never been a continuing dues-paying member of any organization other than yours. I can’t rave enough about what you have accomplished.

Kevin Gainer

Realized early that God, religion are nonsense

I have read many articles, essays, letters and speeches about how formerly religious people have gradually or suddenly lost their beliefs. I think my story is somewhat different — I was never a believer. I realized at an early age that all the god business was nonsense, like fairy tales.

I’m not a convert or lapsed member of some faith. I never could accept the supernatural — whether God or vampires or zombies — and was the only one not to stand for my school prayer (before it was abolished).

Many years ago, I discovered the Mark Twain quote: “Faith is believin’ what you know ain’t so.” Amen to that.

Don Thumim
New York

John de Lancie’s speech really hit home

I enjoy all issues of Freethought Today, but I was especially impressed by Clarence Darrow Award winner John de Lancie’s “The Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth” in the January/February issue.

I grew up in a highly religious family and social world. My siblings and, as far as I know, all my relatives are believers who, as de Lancie described the process, stepped on that $5 bill and did not subsequently question the lies they were told. As a lad, I, too, got caught up in make-believe. But, as an adult, I became increasingly uncomfortable believing lies “for a good cause.” I often wonder how I alone, of four children, escaped. I’m glad I don’t share the fantasy world of lies that my brother believes, but he is convinced I will be among those experiencing unimaginable torture for eternity because God is so loving (in ways we don’t understand). I am happy to be a Life Member of FFRF and to try to live as truthfully as possible in this world.

James M. Kauffman

Who goes to heaven?

Life has only been around for a portion of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence, and only a very small number of creatures will go to heaven.

The trillions of extinct simple life forms that had swam in the ancient seas did not have a chance.

Not those magnificent dinosaurs that roamed the early continents for millions of years.

No insects, fish, reptiles, birds, animals that nurse their young exist beyond their varied and risky lives.

And not our prehistoric “cousins” — Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and many more hominids — who once hunted and gathered on the savannahs and in the forests for hundreds of thousands of years — had the opportunity to live for eternity.

Not even the multitudes of Homo sapiens — who lived and loved before the relatively recent arrival of the One-Male-God in the Middle East — are enjoying paradise.

The long-worshipped Mother Goddess had been discarded. Those old pantheons of gods and goddesses were eventually scorned.

The men and women born after the proselytic spread of the Holy Patriarchy were the first to be given the opportunity to go to heaven. Certain criteria are to be met before allowed in. 

Have women been judged fairly over these two thousand years? Do the young and mentally flawed get a pass?

Other religious devotees don’t worry about meeting the Abrahamic criteria, as they answer to other gods and will be reborn into something different.

The limited lot of human beings brought before St. Peter must acknowledge God as the only god and ask him for forgiveness for their imperfect existence — in a world he created.

Heaven is an elite club.

Darlene Prescott

Being ‘godless’ and ‘god-free’ aren’t same

I love reading my Freethought Today every month! In doing so, I’ve noticed along the line that we anti-theists may need to change the language we use in everyday conversation if we want to assert ours as a valid societal viewpoint.

There’s a small but significant difference between being “godless” and being “god-free.” A small but impactful difference between “I don’t believe in God” and “I don’t believe in a god.” One of these legitimizes the existence of belief and sidelines the other factual viewpoint as the “abnormal” one.

The widely accepted view in America is that religion is the norm and anti-theists are the aberration. Additionally, to say something or someone is ___-less implies that they are missing that thing. They’re less than they could be. They should have it but currently lack it. A puzzle with a missing piece. We practically invite ourselves to be “saved.”

Language is important. It defines how we see the world and how we see each other. How we classify each other. How we treat each other.

No one walks around “cancerless.” But they win when they are cancer-free. As do we when we tell the truth about ourselves and tell the world that we are God-free.

Thanks for all the valuable work everyone at FFRF does. We all appreciate it and are encouraged by it every day.

Lisa Lehman
North Carolina

Try these two books for more good reading

Those who enjoyed reading “The bible isn’t what Christians think it is” from the January/February issue would also like reading The Passover Plot by and Those Incredible Christians, both by Hugh J. Shonfield.

Mildred Walton

As a 40-year member, great to see FFRF grow

At some point during this year — and I don’t recall exactly when — it will be 40 years since I joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation. (I’d wager that the percentage of current FFRF members who signed up before I did is pretty small.)

It has been a pleasure to watch and even offer a small measure of financial assistance to your wonderful organization through the years as it has engaged battle with the forces of unreason, superstition and, yes, plain stupidity.

I truly appreciate the effort you and your talented staff have exerted to educate the public on the importance of state/church separation, as well as the value of secular living. There is certainly every reason to think that it will have continued success going forward.

Wishing you all the best.

Will Hunn

Editor’s note: Thank you, Will!

Fundamentalist is the correct label

Journalists and writers use a variety of terms to describe the hard-core zealots of the Christian community, including “Religious Right,” “Christian conservatives,” “Christian extremists” and “Christian supremacists.”

But the most often (mis)used label is “evangelicals.”

In fact, the only accurate descriptor for these radical Christian fanatics is “fundamentalists.”

Furthermore, “evangelicals” is the wrong term, for the simple reason that all Christians are by definition evangelicals, as explained below.

The words evangelical and gospel both derive from the same Greek root, euangelion, which refers to disseminating the good news or glad tidings of the Christian salvation story to all people.

This universal obligation incumbent on all Christians is reiterated five times as Jesus’ Great Commission, which is stated near the end of the four canonical gospels and in the first chapter of Acts.

It follows that all Christians must be evangelicals, as instructed by Jesus in his final command to his disciples. The predominant feature of evangelicalism is the missionary impulse to convert the world to faith in Jesus.

In contrast, the term fundamentalist applies only to a small subset of Christians. The basic definition of fundamentalism was propounded at a historic conference in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1895 and subsequently elaborated in a series of 12 pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915.

The two primary postulates of fundamentalism are the claim that the bible is the inerrant word of God, a perfect expression of his divine will, and the assertion that all people who reject Jesus as messiah will be punished throughout eternity, exactly as Jesus described.

In summary, fundamentalist is the correct label for these radical Christian zealots who want to inflict their unbiblical theopolitical beliefs on everybody else. Moreover, evangelical is the wrong word to describe these fanatics.

Journalists, writers and editors should insist on the appropriate terminology in identifying this dogmatic, closed-minded minority of the Christian population.

Call them what they really are — fundamentalists!

Brian Bolton

Mom’s intellect made her an atheist in her 60s 

I have made my membership renewal in memory of my mother, Dorothy Riedl. She was born in Milwaukee to devout Catholics. Mom married a Catholic and they raised their four children as strict Catholics.

They sent us to the local Catholic elementary school, even though Dad was the principal of the local public school. That’s how much the church meant to them.

But Mom was a thinker with a great intellectual curiosity. She thought about and questioned everything. When she was in her 60s, she had finally come to the conclusion that there is no God. At this point, she knew she would never see her parents again after she died, something she believed earlier that had helped her through the grief of losing her parents. But her new thinking lifted a burden of believing something she hoped was true, but knew wasn’t. Mom wanted me to know that she was happy with that reality. She took comfort in that knowledge. No rewards and no punishments.

She had a wonderful sense of humor and said she was glad that she wouldn’t be confronted by people and deities that she really didn’t want to see and be with for eternity in the afterlife.

At the time of my mom’s revelation, I was on a long journey from Catholicism to atheism. I had always questioned what the nuns and priests taught me, but I was a good Catholic. Without realizing it, I embarked on a step-by-step journey from devout Catholic to thinking hell doesn’t exist to realizing the church is a political organization seeking power and wealth to agnosticism to spiritualism and, finally, to the freedom of atheism.

I was in my “spiritual” phase when Mom had the talk with me about her change in thinking. I explained my belief system to her and she immediately rejected it.

She said that there is nothing but this life and nothing magical or mysterious after this life. Two weeks later, after much thought about our conversation, I turned to Mom and said, “You’re right.” That realization was incredibly liberating. It gave so much more meaning to life.

Later that day, I told my wife that I was a happy atheist. She said that she knew and she was one, too. Because our two children were not indoctrinated into any religion, they, too, were unabashed atheists. I was late to the party.

I am very proud of my mom. She was a wonderful mom, a great intellectualist and an atheist.

David J. Riedl

Am I a masochist for enjoying Black Collar?

The first thing I read in your newspaper is the Black Collar pages. I guess I’m a masochist. I suppose it is comforting to know that those bastards are revealed.

I’ve been a strident critic of the Catholic Church for decades. This issue the content was so heavily oriented to priest abusers that I’m inferring that the fact that so many diocese headquarters are being forced to publish listings of their pedophile priests and the associated documentation gave you lots of content.

I do admire the way Bill Dunn compiles all of those stories, and in every case lists the source.

Nice Job.

John Minck

For real change, we all need to get involved

Freethought Today has touted several victories in court over issues of separation of church and state. But we must not just look to the courts for wins, as these could be taken away. Being involved as individuals, in getting candidates elected that understand the importance of that wall of separation and reaching out to the public at large about how we all benefit from that separation, is every bit as important as court victories. We need to focus on the most egregious examples of theocratic intrusion that maximize public and political support for our efforts. We cannot win without using every tool we have. I applaud how FFRF has reached out to other organizations to help us, for this is how we continue to win.

Peter Hall

Barker’s talk inspired my Life Membership

I went to Dan Barker’s talk at North Idaho College in Coeur D’Alene on March 5. It was so excellent that I decided to get a Life Membership, which I just did on your “Donate” page. My husband is already a Life Member, so now we both are! Your work is so important and excellent. We need all the help we can get here in Idaho.

Suzanne Marshall

Dorothy Riedl
Will Hunn

Updating Foxworthy: ‘You Might Be in a Cult If . . .’

Most of us probably remember Jeff Foxworthy’s old comedy routine “You Might Be a Redneck If . . .” Well, I’d like to update it to “You Might Be in a Cult If . . .” We’ve all had our cult moments.

The problem with cults is that you don’t know when you’re in one, which makes it almost impossible to escape. So, I’ve compiled a helpful list of clues to try to accomplish just that. I prefer to use the phrase “If you can be convinced” instead of “If you think” because it lays the blame where it belongs — on the liars and scammers who got you into the cult in the first place.

• If you can be convinced that the way to pay for your sins is to have someone else pay for your sins, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that we all descended from Adam and Eve, who had no daughters, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that one of life’s goals is to believe something with no evidence, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the way to prove the bible is true is to quote the bible, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the best science textbook is the one that says the world is flat, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that our morals come from a book that says slavery is OK, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that our country needs Christian morals, but our president does not, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the God that created our messed-up world is perfect, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the way to give poor people more money is to give rich people more money, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that ancient people who knew nothing about germs had better cures than modern doctors, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the life of a fetus is worth more than the life of the pregnant woman, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that movie stars know more about vaccines than actual doctors, you might be in a cult.

I welcome additions to this list!

Alan Wagner