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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Letterbox (May 2018)

Jet Mitchell

Support, not prayer, keeps me positive despite Stage IV cancer

Although it may not be in the cards for me to have long years in this lifetime, I want to become a Lifetime Member. I hope this membership will support the important work FFRF is doing and will continue to do.

I grew up in an extremely strict fundamentalist evangelical Christian home, in which rigid rules were the norm. Coming to atheism as an adult, and breaking away from family beliefs, was a long process, but well worth the journey. Reading about Dan Barker’s journey was particularly relevant to me, as I grew up a Christian pianist and accompanied church choirs in Baptist and evangelical Christian churches from age 13 to 25.

The happiness and joy I experience now is exponentially better than my childhood memories. Not believing, and enjoying this life only, is truly a better experience than an illusive promise of a better life to come. As many people celebrated Easter, I was delighted to visit friends, have a bite of chocolate, and think about the day in terms of life and happiness, minus any religious overtones.

The work you are doing with the Clergy Project, in addition to the important legal work, must continue. As a licensed Nevada attorney, I fully appreciate the advocacy work being done on behalf of those of us who choose not to be believers.

When I was diagnosed in 2016 with Stage IV metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (with no family history and having run at least one half marathon in all 50 states) at a young age, it caught me quite by surprise. However, my nonbeliefs have been strengthened, seeing an amazing outpouring of love and support from people far and wide.

I am being kept alive by my current chemotherapy treatments, and I trust that science will one day find a cure for Stage IV cancer. In the meantime, I rely on world-class doctors and the best medicine money can buy. While I am here, instead of saying a prayer, I constantly thank my amazing support team, which keeps me quite active and positive. And I’m still running half marathons.

Finding atheists in the cancer community is rare, but here we are. We find support in each other and in the science that continues to progress in search of a cure.

When I read FFRF updates, I am encouraged. I hope that FFRF continues to cultivate support from young nonbelievers, who will continue rational thought agendas for years to come.

Please accept my good thoughts for the work you do.

Jet Mitchell


40th special section was trip down memory lane

Congratulations on 40 years of FFRF! Thank you for the lapel pin you sent all the members. I will cherish it and wear it often.

Also, a big thanks for the insert in the April issue that provided a joyous and informative trip down memory lane. (I remember just 4,000 members!) What Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor and Mr. Sontarck began has been and is amazing! Anne was so very smart and kind and sweet, and I remember fondly her asking for donations to “spruce up” the original Freethought Hall. Who could resist? We all wanted to help and be a part of something special. The work of FFRF is crucial for the success of our country, whether the religious believe it or not.

Best wishes to the entire staff. You guys mean the world to me and “I love you to the moon and back.”

Shirley McClellan

North Carolina

Give Barker’s book to religious visitors

I’ve enclosed a check for a copy of Dan Barker’s book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All of Fiction. This is the third copy I’ve ordered and I will be ordering more.

At least twice a year I‘m visited by church leaders wanting me to attend their local establishments. Of course, I state my opposition to organized religion, which leads to a tension-filled debate that I am not qualified to win because I lose my temper too quickly.

So, I am trying another method. I’ll let Dan Barker speak for me through his book. I will offer those visitors a copy of Dan’s book.

I would urge all FFRF members who don’t like doorway debates to let Dan’s great book argue for them. You don’t have to buy a lot of copies. Just do what I do: Buy a copy as needed. For me, that’s about two a year.

If you’re not good at face-to-face debating, the gift of education can be offered at its best in Dan’s fascinating tome.

Herb McClelland


It’s tough being only freethinker at this home   

I am 81 years old and in an “olden agers” home with about 200 other “patients.” Some are OK, but my daughter put me in this home for my safety. Ha! I am dying from them. I must be the only freethinker here.

Anyway, I have included a small donation for you. I love your work.

Carole Rosenberg


Atheism altered life’s course due to final exam

My now grown children are very happy that their dad is, and always has been, an atheist. They know that if I hadn’t been so irreligious, they would not have been born!

The reason dates back to my high school final exam in Norway in 1956. I had my eye on graduate school to study applied physics, which required top grades in all important subjects, including Norwegian composition. Back there and then, all final written exams were graded in secrecy by a team of graders who did not know you, while your teacher had no say in in the grading. I had nailed down all the important grades in the various math and physics subjects, except for Norwegian composition. For that final exam, you had to describe how the various kinds of arts were being made available to the different segments of society — in the past, contemporaneously, and, finally, including your own ideas for the future.

I wrote my heart out, about 30 handwritten pages, but with my anti-religion attitude, I totally ignored the impact of religion! That was a major mistake, which dropped me down to a grade not sufficient for the very hard to get into applied physics study. Therefore, I had to settle for my next choice, mechanical engineering, which totally changed the rest of my life in terms of career, where to work, where to live, who I might meet, etc.

So, if I had included religion in my essay, as I should have done to make my composition complete, in all likelihood I would have received the grade I was used to and ended up on an entirely different track in my life. That means I would never have found my future Swedish wife, who I met while skiing in Squaw Valley. After a few years of inter-Scandinavian dating, we got married on a Friday the 13th, further underscoring my distaste for superstition. Yes, we are still married, looking forward to our 45-year anniversary on July 13 this year — another Friday!

Without that particular wife, I would never have been blessed (sorry!) with the two wonderful children we have, a son who’s an Oscar-nominated sound designer, and a daughter who’s an international sales manager for a German medical firm. Both are nonreligious, fortunately, and both were married in civil ceremonies.

As my son, without a single “B” in his academic life, so wisely cracked: “Hurray for that ‘B’ in Norwegian, Dad!”

Jorg Aadahl


Twain novel brought out the freethinker in me

A book that deserves some FFRF publicity is Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger. I first encountered it in the early 1950s at age 10 or 11 and it set me on the path that led to a life membership in FFRF.

I was raised in an ethnic Baptist church. My ties to it were 90 percent ethnic and 10 percent religious. That book shredded the religious ties.

When I was 14, my parents hauled me off to a strictly English-speaking church “for the good of the children.” It killed the religion in me quite dead. My parents had no idea how much good it did me!

As a University of Michigan freshman in 1960, I made friends with an outspoken atheist who had an outspoken atheist boyfriend (later husband). Whoever heard of such people in 1960? Not I! I had an “aha” moment. “So that’s what I am!” Those two showed me how to be proud and unafraid.

The Twain novel was the single most influential book of my life.

Kathleen Yagelo


Breast cancer led to new acceptance of self

I have wanted to become a Lifetime Member for many years.

Relationship and career decisions I have made over decades — that were not in my own best interest — were the result of an upbringing based on patriarchy, obedience and submission. It was only after two serious bouts of cancer that I accepted myself as wholly worthy and equally human (sans a couple of breasts). I agree with the early Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice H.S. Orton, who said, “There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution and war . . . as religion.”

Colleen Pace


Use Freethought Today to thwart proselytizers

I was sitting on my front porch re-reading an old issue of Freethought Today when I spotted Jehovah’s Witnesses coming up the driveway. They went into their spiel and offered me literature to read. Without hesitation, I said that I would read theirs if they would read mine and then handed them the copy of Freethought Today. They glanced at it, looked at me like I was the devil himself, turned and fled the scene.

Needless to say, it made my day. When I relate this story to friends, it always brings a smile or chuckle.

Lawrence Power


Bible is most-printed, but likely not most-read

In response to Andrew Z. Colvin’s letter (March issue) decrying the bible as the most-printed book in the world, I suggest he take heart that’s it’s probably not the most-read book in the world. Many copies sit unopened in hotel drawers and on shelves. And some of the most bible literate people are nonbelievers, probably because there’s a high correlation between actually reading the bible and totally rejecting it and the religions that thump it.

Joan Reisman-Brill

New York

De Blasio weakening state-church separation

When I attended public schools in New York City decades ago, we were off for the week of Christmas and Easter (euphemistically called “winter break” and “spring break”). This is still the case. Good Friday was a regular school day, the last day before “spring break.” However, under our “progressive” mayor, Bill de Blasio, who hails from ultra-left wing Park Slope in Brooklyn, the public schools will now be closed on Good Friday, as well. This was never the case before. This is the same mayor who has ordered the public schools closed for Muslim and Chinese holidays, in addition to the Christian and Jewish holidays they have long recognized. Soon enough, I am sure he will have the schools closed for Hindu and Buddhist holidays, too. The teachers and students love him, the parents, not so much.

And so the separation of church and state continues to be weakened under de Blasio, whose pandering to the Hasidim is a scandal by itself.

Dennis Middlebrooks

New York

Positive results by FFRF make it all worthwhile

I am so glad that I decided to join FFRF a few years ago. I saw your news release about FFRF celebrating the Johnson Amendment victory. This type of feedback is so welcome it’s almost beyond words. Keep up the good work.

Jim Maroney


FFRF lapel pin fosters occasional dialogue

I just wanted to let you know how great I think the FFRF lapel pin is. I wear it everywhere. People will ask me what the pin is for, and I proudly state that I am a die-hard member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. When they ask what that is, I say it is a tremendous group of nonbelievers to keep religion out of government, who believe in the strict separation of church and state. Occasionally a person (usually an old fuddy-duddy) will claim that this is a Christian nation and we need to put God into every aspect of life. I ask them if they know that Jesus was not a Christian but a Jew, and this provokes various responses.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the new lapel pin and how proud I am to be an FFRF member. We may be a small group, although I have seen a number of changes since originally joining the group — including the impressive new headquarters — but we still get a lot done through litigation, amicus briefs, letters, etc.

You should be very proud of how far FFRF has come. Keep up the great work!

Allen P. Wilkinson


‘Sacrificial weekend’ was a welcome relief

Congratulations to Gordon Lamb who authored “A sacrificial weekend” (April issue). His tongue-in-cheek rendition of the conversation between God the father and God the son is a welcome relief from the ultra-serious stuff we hear and read all the time. Of course, those who are afraid of burning in hell will not see the humor (though they sorely need it), but that’s their problem. Me? I’m going to get cremated anyway.

Raymond Hellkamp

New York

Ideas of God, afterlife seem too doubtful

While visiting my family one day, my Aunt Joyce loudly declared that no one can be moral without God. I saw a dozen eyes quickly dart to me and I hastily slid away. I longed to say what I thought about this ignorant comment, and though no one would actually “see the light” from anything I could say, my mind was reeling with verbal comebacks. I grinned at them all and removed myself to my room, refusing to be baited and hooked.

I closed my eyes to imagine myself responding to my self-righteous aunt from hell. Religion had been used to kill more people than all of the natural disasters on the planet. Countless women were tortured and burned alive as witches, simply because they had learned about the healing power of herbs. I could have quoted directly from the bible, where God tells “his people” to slaughter all the people of another tribe, with the exception of the comely girls, his gift of sex slaves.

I understand that it is built into our genes to avoid pain and death and I have great admiration for those who give or risk death to protect others, but the idea that there is a god that will take you to a place where you will live for eternity seems extremely doubtful to me. Mind you, I would love to be able to have wings and be able to play a harp, but I fear after a few centuries I would get bored of it.

At any rate, there is the problem that there are at least a hundred different versions of religions. Can they all be right about what happens after death? I am sick and tired of the “my god” is bigger than “your god” wars. I feel that religion is the most dangerous concept to the continuing existence of the human race. One final thought: If there was such thing as an omnipotent being, why would it need to be worshipped?

Karen Leonard