Letterbox (Jan/Feb 2023)
Civil law shouldn’t be based on biblical morality
This letter was written by FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and appeared in the Dec. 7 New York Times.
Tish Harrison Warren’s defense of the website designer who wants to discriminate against same-sex couples is distasteful.
Although Colorado’s public accommodations law includes both race and sexual orientation as protected classes, Warren insists that discrimination against same-sex couples must be allowed under religious liberty because scripture condemns homosexuality.
Yes, the bible declares same-sex sexual contact to be “an abomination,” instructing, “They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). Paul blithely reiterates that people with a same-sex orientation are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:26-32).
This is nothing for Warren to brag about.
But then Warren claims that anti-racism civil rights laws are OK because they do not violate religious laws. Yet both the Old and New Testaments promote and countenance slavery, including allowing the rape, beating and torture of slaves. Such passages were touted incessantly to sanctify chattel slavery in this nation. Although Warren denies the bible’s role in slavery, by her logic, slavery would be a religious right.
Instead of condemning her bible’s barbaric homophobia, Warren misguidedly argues that U.S. civil law and citizens should be subject to her cherry-picked Bronze Age morality.
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Almost feel pity for the Crankmail writers
Over a year ago, I was immediately entranced when I saw the television ad featuring Ron Reagan’s deadpan delivery of his now oft-quoted line about not being afraid of burning in hell. Admittedly, before that time, I had no idea of FFRF’s existence. From that ecstatic moment forward, I’ve been a subscriber to Freethought Today, and thoroughly enjoy every edition.
For a “laugh,” I read the Crankmail section, but often, I end up not laughing. And while you shouldn’t eliminate it, it’s only that I am always astounded by the obvious lack of formal education and/or critical-thinking skills many of the writers display.
While I am aware that you print submissions to Crankmail exactly as they’re written, the more I read them, the more I actually begin to feel genuine pity for those who wrote them. Do I ever feel threatened by these people, as so many of them seem to rabidly feel toward FFRF? I would, except that the majority clearly suffer from pronounced atrophy above the neck, including being seriously allergic to grammar, punctuation and spelling.
Unfortunately, all it really does is highlight their pitiable inability to formulate their personal beliefs into intelligent, cohesive literate communication. It’s really a sad commentary about those individuals who are apparently so fearful of the FFRF, they’re willing to risk their ignorance being featured within its pages.
Anyway, keep up the good work. I am truly glad I found you!
Christine M. McCurdy
Noel Smith’s impact is greatly appreciated
I really appreciate the recognition that you gave Noel Smith in his obituary in the November issue. His accomplishments were exemplary.
I just want to elaborate on the brief sentences you gave to an accomplishment that has meant so much to those of us in Sarasota, Fla., which was the formation of the Humanists of Sarasota Bay in 1999. He gave those of us who are humanists and atheists a place to join with other like-minded people in our community. Thanks to his efforts, our organization has grown to over 100 members, where we can enjoy lectures by experts, luncheons with discussions and other activities. When he stepped down, we made him president emeritus, and he continued to advise us and give us direction. He was one of my mentors. His impact in a county dominated by conservatives and Christians was greatly appreciated by those of us who knew him.
David Helgager, president
Humanists of Sarasota Bay
Fighting to save every square inch from Stitt
I’ve contacted Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to promise I would fight to my death to protect my square inch of Oklahoma and demanded he terminate his stupid Stitt crusade, where he said, “Father, we just claim Oklahoma for you. Every square inch, we claim it for you in the name of Jesus.” I also suggested that if he hadn’t done so, to read the U.S. Constitution. I also thanked him for provoking my FFRF contribution.
FFRF, keep on fighting for us, members of possibly the largest (non)religious denomination in the country, that is, those who do not attend or contribute to a church, do not read the bible, do not communicate with a ghost that created trillions of planets in the universe, and never base any decision on the whims of an invisible intelligence.
Freethought Today filled with great reading
I smile in delight when Freethought Today arrives in my mailbox, knowing I will be informed by the news, impressed by the essay contest writers, stunned by the Black Collar Crime reports, amused by the illiteracy of the Crankmail writers, and grateful for your work.
Artistic possibilities constrained by religion
In November’s Letterbox, one writer expressed appreciation for the “immense contribution of Christianity to art and music,” mentioning Handel, Leonardo and Michelangelo, in particular.
I feel differently about the subject. I’ve always wondered what such geniuses might have created if they had not been constrained by the Church.
The letter writer states: Though in no way atoning for its collective damages . . . this religion has brought beauty and perhaps kindness . . . to the world.”
I agree completely that Christianity’s damages outweigh its beauty and kindness. Some of the nastiest, meanest people I’ve ever met loudly proclaim their Christianity.
Answers about religion weren’t satisfactory
I was brought up in a Christian home and even accepted Christ as my personal savior. Then I went to college and was challenged in my beliefs. I began to question my faith. My friend and I met with preachers and priests to discuss our doubts. We were never satisfied with the answers they gave, so, at that time, I left my religion.
Here’s some of what I learned that made me leave religion behind.
• Jesus was never really sacrificed. Sacrifice means you give up something permanently for a reason. You give it up, but don’t get it back. God never really gave Jesus up since he was risen in three days. How this all turned into a religion is beyond me.
• People argue that the universe is amazing in its “design” and that it must have a creator. But the concept of God is even more amazing. To think that one superbeing created everything makes no sense. What was he doing before he started?
• And, if he created everything, he created disease. About 2 million children under the age of 5 die of malaria each year. And that’s just one disease. Why does God allow this?
Freethought Today makes me think about things
I’ve realized that what I like so much about Freethought Today is that it makes me think about things. November’s issue was no different.
First, though, I want to say that I was delighted to see that one of the winning essays came from a student at Hillsdale College, an extremely conservative school. It’s wonderful to know that there are Hillsdale students who are not caught up in the move toward essentially establishing a theocracy in this country.
James Haught’s article celebrated his belief that, as the “Nones” increase, people are seeing that gods, miracles and other church tenets are just fantasies. However, from what I’ve read, many (if not most) Nones still say they believe in a “higher power.” Not being a part of organized religion doesn’t necessarily mean they have given up on fantasies.
Barbara Alvarez laments the hold Catholicism has on health care, but as she points out, Catholic hospitals are often located in low-income, historically marginalized communities. They are providing a service those communities would otherwise lack. The problem isn’t that Catholics are providing restricted health care. It is that we, as a society, aren’t providing health care at all for many people.
As always, though, it was the student essays that really made me think. I have always thought that religion exists because it provided evolutionary benefits to early humans, and that idea meshed with much that was in the essays. As Sarah Petty noted, Voltaire said that it would be necessary to invent God if he did not exist, which is exactly what humans did. As Oliver Brown noted, religion just incorporated existing standards. The problem with incorporating standards into religion, is that they become “absolute and untouchable”, as Brown pointed out, and they cannot adapt as we lose our biases, as Morgyn Michelson noted; e.g., outdated religious ideas about women, LGBTQ people, slavery, etc.
The progress we have made in becoming truly humane humans is because we are gradually extending our in-group toward including all humans (and animals, as well). The Golden Rule is excellent moral guidance. It’s too bad not all Christians apply it properly.
Who would let their kids read the bible?
Whenever I read about legislators, prosecutors and groups of concerned citizens who are determined to ban books which they consider harmful to children’s morality, it astonishes me that the bible is not among them.
When I first read Ezekiel 23:1-20, I was already an adult, but nevertheless I found in that pornographic masterpiece a cesspool of human sexuality described in the most indelicate language one can imagine.
Do pious parents actually encourage their children to read those “sacred” stories? And if so, have their children become kinder and more charitable after absorbing them?
The bible also features incestuous rape (2 Samuel 13:11-14), death by gang rape (Judges 19:22-26), men ordered by God to abandon their wives and children (Ez. 10:10-44), and human dismemberment (Judges 19:27-29) — all of which scholarly doctors of divinity will explain as lessons that, when well understood, will elevate our spirit.
Yes, many folks consider the bible to be their guide to virtuous living. But have they read it in its entirety without finding something they’d rather not have their children read?
Mass shootings not curbed by thoughts, prayers
My heart breaks for America. In 2022, there were more than 600 mass shootings. How is the pitiful public pronouncements of thoughts and prayers working? Here is my poem.
Thoughts and Prayers
The tears will flow,
As we watch the show.
Once again, insanity lays bare,
Once again, it’s thoughts and prayers.
Church bells will ring,
Families will sting.
Once again, it’s the same old fare,
Once again, it’s thoughts and prayers.
Silent vigils, with candles aglow,
All are sad, in their time of woe.
Once again, bullets will tear,
Once again, it’s thoughts and prayers.
Some will want the gun on trial,
Others remain, in stubborn denial.
Once again, the debate will flare,
Once again, it’s thoughts and prayers
“It’s people, not guns,” the NRA say,
But it’s people, not guns, that always pay.
Once again, the blame we must share,
Once again, we give only thoughts and prayers.
Nothing will change no matter what,
As America is governed by a gang of nuts.
Once again, not enough will care,
Once again, all we get is thoughts and prayers.
Surely by now, all must swear,
That nothing fails, like thoughts and prayers.
Once again, people have faith in these two pair,
Once again, we see the failure of thoughts and prayers.
Appreciating Anne Nicol Gaylor on her birthday
Each year on the date of Anne Nicol Gaylor’s birthday (Nov. 25), I pause to appreciate her contributions to the world and to my life specifically. FFRF came into my life when I needed it the most. Thank you and RIP Ms. Gaylor.
I’ll recite Constitution during prayers/hymns
It doesn’t seem likely that I will ever be present at a publicly sponsored/financed function where prayers or religious readings or hymns take place, but if that ever happens, it is my resolve to stand, hand to heart, and with my best classically trained voice and diction, recite an oath to the Constitution until it’s over.
Bad case of state/church separation anxiety
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a bad case of state/church separation anxiety.
November’s issue of Freethought Today featured a front-page article about a praying judge in Texas. Judge Wayne (Big) Mack begins every court session with a Christian prayer, led by a Christian chaplain, after the courtroom’s magnetic locks are activated by a presumably Christian bailiff. FFRF won a lawsuit in federal district court stopping Mack, but the ruling was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision, it found the judge’s conduct to be not only not coercive, but in perfect harmony with American history and tradition.
Gobsmacked, I began obsessing about Big Mack, about that ruling, especially about those two circuit judges. Could they, perhaps, be numbered among the hundreds of federal judges appointed by Donald Trump during his reality-TV presidency? Judges vetted by Heritage Foundation, Becket Fund, et. al., well-funded groups of highly educated religious fanatics — evangelical Protestants and radical Catholics — quietly sowing judges throughout the federal judiciary for years. Were they now reaping the harvest in the lower courts, at the district and appellate levels? At the Supreme Court?
The Supremes rocked the state/church separation world in June with its Kennedy decision. This was the case of the praying high school coach in Washington state. A man whose free-speech rights were violated, according to the judicial arsonist formerly known as Clarence Thomas. Like in the case of Big Mack, the logic in Kennedy is addled and the legal foundation is weak, but the message is loud and clear.
Christian religious fanatics have seized control of an entire branch of our federal government. They’re out to establish Christianity as America’s state religion, and they’re on a roll. I may need to up my meds.
My response to those who promote their gods
I love FFRF and feel that you are providing a great service to humanity by pointing out the fallacies of following a religion.
Whenever I see someone on Facebook saying something positive about their god, I respond with the following: “There is no god, no heaven and no hell. They are imaginary; they are not real. There is no evidence that a god has ever done anything or answered any prayers.”
It may take 5,000 years, but someday in the distant future, people will look upon belief in a god as a long-gone superstition that people held for centuries with no evidence or proof.
Religion has taken hold in Indonesia government
The recent changes to Indonesia’s criminal code make salient the pernicious effects of religious lobbying, particularly by state-funded religious groups.
Now, extramarital sex has been outlawed, which implies all homosexual relations, too, since gay marriage is not recognized in Indonesia. Moreover, apostasy is now criminalized, and blasphemy laws have been strengthened, which will undoubtedly affect not only atheists, but also members of religious minorities.
This is a not-at-all surprising but incredibly disappointing power grab by religion in what has been a light of moderation in the Muslim world. We always must be watchful for the encroachments of religion into the public sphere, which is why I’m an FFRF member. Congratulations on your work!
Gabriel G. T. Assumpcao
Population, climate change intrinsically tied
I just read Annie Laurie Gaylor’s excellent blog, “You’re 1 in 8 billion . . . and why that’s not a compliment” on FFRF’s FreethoughtNow.org site.
If we don’t voluntarily take steps to limit population growth, Mother Nature certainly will. The rapid increase in population will only fuel climate change, and we’ll start seeing more global pandemics, catastrophic flooding, droughts, famines, etc.
I believe that the total number of deaths so far due to Covid is around 6 million (with a million in the U.S. alone), but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what we can expect if the world’s population continues to increase exponentially. I see that as a self-regulating cycle, and when we push the planet beyond its limits to sustain the global population, nature will respond accordingly.
Unfortunately, religions, such as Catholicism, Islam and Orthodox Judaism, which promote large families, Elon Musk tweeting about “population collapse,” and pronatalist policies in many European countries, Russia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and others, are only going to exacerbate the problem.
FFRF Board treasurer
Way too many people with superstitious beliefs
I read in Freethought Today of a new study that shows nearly one in four U.S. adults believe superstition and ritual actually influences the outcome of sporting events.
Here’s the scary part: These people vote. They are electing people to office who make decisions about your welfare when they have no right to make a decision about their daughter’s pet fish. The critical need is for an informed citizenry at the voting polls.
Why did I join the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Every morning, the employees of FFRF awake dedicated to bringing enlightened meaning to the word “civilized.”
In the beginning, who was God talking to?
I was wondering: When God said, “Let there be light,” to whom was he making the request?