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Letterbox (September 2020)

In my father’s footsteps as FFRF Life Member

It is the one-year anniversary of the death of my father, Dr. Ludwig Koukal. He was a Lifetime Member and I would like to follow in his footsteps and become a Lifetime Member.

While I was growing up, my father was a quiet atheist. Back then, it was not so easy to come out of the closet, so to speak, and admit or talk about being an atheist. After he retired and moved to Arizona, he became much more engaged and open about his atheism and his passion for the separation of state and church.

It took me a long time to be able to call myself an atheist without the fear or the disapproving or judgmental looks it could generate.

Keep up the good and important work that you do!

Lisa C. D’Andrea
New York

Loved the pet pictures in June/July issue

I appreciated seeing all the photos of your pets in the June/July issue. I turned straight to the back page to look at them. Thank you.

Theresa Kyte

I’ll let Mormons give me after-death baptism

This is regarding the two columns in the June/July issue: “I’m in the last scene of the last act” by James A. Haught and “I have no problem contemplating life’s end” by Barbara G. Walker.

If I were a “kid” in my 60s or mid-70s, those titles alone would have turned me off. But now, like many others my age, I just wish I could turn the sand clock of my life upside down when the last grain hits bottom.

Yet, as a most welcome alternative to mortality, those two articles are like a balm to my soul — oops, to my mind.

As a gesture of goodwill, and even though I’m an atheist, I’m leaving something to the Mormons in my last will. Because their church is obsessed with performing after-death baptisms, I’m allowing them to baptize not just me when I am dead, but also the worms feasting on my corpse.

After all, the gentle St. Francis called those lowly creatures “brothers and sisters.”  So, shouldn’t they too enjoy the bliss of Paradise?

David Quintero

FFRF should not have printed offensive letter

As a long-standing FFRF Member and member of the Lake Superior Freethinkers, I was very disappointed to see William Dusenberry’s letter (“Which state has most religiously trained teachers?”) printed in the Letterbox in the June/July issue.

I would think that such obvious discrimination would have been recognized by FFRF for what it is. The letter suggests that anyone who graduates from a “religious institution of indoctrination” should not be certified to teach in public schools.

I firmly believe in separation of church and state. But to assume that anyone who attended a religion-affiliated college must believe in such crap, much less would indoctrinate their students, is extremely offensive.

I graduated in 1970 from Augustana College, a Lutheran-affiliated private college. I’ve served the public for decades working for various nonprofits, and I met my wife at Augustana College. She became an incredibly talented and dedicated elementary public school teacher. I have always been an outspoken atheist, as was my now-deceased wife.

To suggest that one should be pre-judged based upon the school they attended is nothing short of blatant discrimination and should not be promoted by FFRF.

Kent Nusbaum

Editor’s note: FFRF allows the viewpoints of its members to be addressed in the Letterbox section, but FFRF does not necessarily endorse those viewpoints.

I share much in common with James A. Haught

I have much in common with James Haught. He is 88, I am 87. We are both contemplating the end of a good life. I recently was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. I spent 30 years in his beloved West Virginia. We are both outspoken atheists and, despite limits on our ability to enjoy nature and physical activity, we still enjoy a good concert. I share with James a definite lack of fear about the inevitable, except that the lovely music will end.

Harold L. Saferstein

Maybe God tests our willingness to find truth

Christians who don’t believe in evolution sometimes claim that the evidence for evolution in the Grand Canyon was planted by God to test our faith. Why don’t they use the same argument for explaining the errors in the bible?

It seems to me that the “evidence” God planted was not to test faith, which is a horrible concept, but more likely a test of our willingness to pursue and believe the truth, which is a great concept.

In other words, God will respect those who judge the geologists’ findings as real evidence that evolution is true. Those who blindly follow the cult and refuse to listen to reason will be frowned upon by God. Maybe — just maybe — atheists will go to heaven and believers will go to hell! But then, heaven and hell are just more false evidence for God. Darn it!

Alan Wagner

‘Cousin Charlie’ says ‘hi’ from California

I am delighted to announce that I have become a member of FFRF!

I find it interesting that you are headquartered in Madison, Wis., which is home to many of my relatives, all devout Catholics. Perhaps you can hand deliver copies of Freethought Today to them and just tell them they’re from “Cousin Charlie.”

Charles Oakey

Editor’s note: Sorry, Charlie, you’ll have to do that yourself.

Page of pet photos was fun diversion from world

Between COVID-19 and a moron mismanaging the country, these are tough, tough times. But someone with insight made a good call regarding the pet page in the June/July issue. Incarcerated at home with a White Power president, we badly need some fun and diversion.

I realize you all do serious and important tasks all day, but I was intrigued by [FFRF staffer Lauryn Seering’s pet gecko] Darwin! What does he eat? Is he nocturnal? How about personality? Lauryn has to be a great person to have such a great pet.

Thanks for your good work.

Helaine Flan
North Carolina

Find out the category of pro-lifer’s stance

The article in the August issue by Miklos Jako on “How to argue with Christians” is very good.

I ask the following question when talking with pro-life people: Is your opinion political, religious or philosophical? If political, shame on you.

If religious, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Catholic theologian, said that the soul is not rational until “the body is ready to accept it.” And the bible says absolutely nothing about abortion.

If the argument is philosophical, then we can talk. The human brain does not start developing until the sixth week and it is not fully developed until the 33rd week after conception. If the brain fails, the individual is considered dead.

Dr. George Domingo

This poem on death is artful and comforting

Perhaps many of you admirable freethinkers know this poem. I find it not only confirmation of my lifelong freethinking beliefs, but artful and, yes, comforting. Thank you for all you do to lead humans out of the confines of certainty.

“Antidotes to Fear of Death” by Rebecca Elson.

Sometimes as an antidote

To fear of death,

I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,

I suck them from the quenching dark

Til they are all, all inside me,

Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself

Into a universe still young,

Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,

The light of all the not yet stars

Drifting like a bright mist,

And all of us, and everything

Already there

But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough

To lie down here on earth

Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields

Of our discarded skulls,

Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,

Thinking: whatever left these husks

Flew off on bright wings.

Alexandra Moffat
New Hampshire

What if Jesus was killed by guillotine?

What if the Romans had invented the guillotine? (They most certainly possessed the means.) What if they had adopted that eminently effective device for their routine disposal of undesirables?

Imagine Jesus having to drag one of those things through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. Would they have even bothered with the flogging and crown of thorns?

At Golgotha, would other guillotines have been waiting, in order that a brace of criminals be simultaneously decapitated to either side of him, or would all three have had to queue up for a single machine? Might authorities have then been tempted to impale Jesus’ head on the city wall as a trophy — miles perhaps, from the tomb —thereby seriously complicating a resurrection?

Or, interred disconnected, would the risen Christ have reappeared, noggin tucked gloriously under one arm, exhorting his mesmerized followers to “go and do likewise?”

And how would all that be enshrined today? Would church steeples everywhere feature spot-lit guillotines? Would some have a full-scale replica bolted to a wall behind the altar? Would the faithful wear tiny, gilded guillotines suspended from delicate necklaces? Would impressive rows of whitewashed guillotines stretch across the perfect green lawns of martial cemeteries?

The inventiveness of the Romans is legendary, exempli gratia, roads, bridges, aqueducts, concrete and indoor plumbing. Nonetheless, for public execution they settled on a technology that was cheap, easy to use and had no moving parts.

What if Pontius Pilate were to observe how in our time his go-to implement of torture, humiliation and death has become venerated, yea worshipped, as a symbol of everlasting life? Would he find it curious, laughable, dangerous or merely pathetic?

Michael Brandt

FFRF worthy of donation from my stimulus check

I received my check from the government and was stimulated to donate the funds to individuals in need and organizations doing worthy service. FFRF is the most important and effective organization protecting and defending our constitutional democracy.

I was particularly interested in the May issue article that presented the Jeff Sharlet convention speech about “The Family.” Margaret Atwood’s vision of Gilead is disturbingly possible. It was also stunning to recently learn that President Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow came out of the Pat Robertson organization.

Please accept this donation and continue your good works defending our secular way of life.

James R. Baxter

Ban the Orthodox ritual of slaughtering chickens

In all probability, the disgusting and hazardous Bronze Age ritual known as Kaporos, in which thousands of chickens are slaughtered by Orthodox Jewish men, will most likely be allowed to proceed this year on the streets of Brooklyn as usual, the coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding. [See page 12 for news brief.]

The men twirl the doomed fowls around their heads three times before sacrificing them to Jehovah in the belief that their sins will be transferred to the birds.

Many New Yorkers, including some members of the Orthodox community, are calling on the authorities to prohibit this annual massacre, which poses a clear hazard to public health. However, the financially powerful, bloc-voting Orthodox community always gets it way with our pandering political leaders and judges, and has viewed itself as above secular laws for years, with good reason.

The defenders of this annual religious event point out that millions of chickens are slaughtered each year, but neglect to note that the industrial killing occurs indoors, subject to stringent regulations, and not on public streets, with thousands of men armed with knives crowded together, with the gory results splattered all over the ground, left to be cleaned up by the sanitation department at taxpayer expense.

The fact that the Orthodox Jewish community has been especially hard hit by Covid-19 due to its resistance to social distancing and large families makes it even more imperative that this event be canceled, if not abolished for good. This mass ritual slaughter has no place on New York streets or anywhere in the United States in the 21st century.

Dennis Middlebrooks
New York

Where do you ‘Freethought’? At the Louvre in Paris. We went and returned just prior to the shutdown. I brought my Freethought Today with my husband and we had our picture taken at the museum.
Tobin Wirt and Robert King

People are rational for all but Super Santa

I enjoy all the issues of Freethought Today, but I was especially captured by Ted Ottinger’s “Pondering death from different perspectives” column in the June/July issue. Like Ted, I’m a special educator by training. I have a brother who is a fundamentalist Mennonite, a sister who is a fundamentalist Mormon and I grew up in a very religious Mennonite home.

One thing that amused me for years is the ready dismissal by my fundamentalist relatives and others of things like fairies and elves, and especially Santa Claus, as myths because they are obviously inconsistent with rational analyses. They easily see the ridiculousness of belief in Santa, but not Super Santa!

So, I came up with a seasonal song about how this might go along with their beliefs:

You’d better watch out

You’d better comply

You’d better not doubt

I’m tellin’ you why

Super Santa’s comin’ to town!

He’s makin’ a list

Checkin’ it twice

Gonna reveal whose Santalogy’s right

Super Santa’s comin’ to town!

Funny, perhaps, but stranger to me than many things in this world is the application of science and reason to many things, perhaps most things, but adamant refusal to apply the same rationality and healthy skepticism to beliefs considered religious.

James M. Kauffman