Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Letterbox (June/July 2018)

Vol. 35 No. 5 June/July 2018
FFRF Member Thomas Drolsum sent us this photo of him wearing the “Out of the Closet Atheist” cap he won as one of FFRF’s weekly virtual billboard winners. If you’d like a chance to win FFRF merch, join either our “Out of the Closet Atheist” or “Unabashed Atheist” campaign and create your own virtual billboard. It’s free! Just go to billboards.ffrf.org/out-of-the-closet or billboards.ffrf.org/unabashed.

I became a U.S. citizen without invoking God

In April, I became a United States citizen without God’s help.

In the application form for naturalization, I mentioned I was not willing to take the full Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and explained that the oath was fine, except for the last four words (“so help me God”).

During the naturalization interview, I was asked why, and answered that I am an atheist and do not believe in God. The person said it was OK and that I would simply be able to skip those words during the actual oath ceremony.

It felt great not to invoke God’s help to become a U.S. citizen!

Pierre Willard

California


Grover’s presentation showed FFRF’s value

We recently attended our local Unitarian Universalist Secular Humanists meeting, where the presenter was FFRF’s Associate Counsel Sam Grover. It was one of the best presentations we’ve attended. Sam’s strategy of describing past and current FFRF legal cases, and then using each case to illustrate particular facets of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, was both informative and effective.

Afterwards, we (my husband and I) talked about the importance, especially in today’s political climate, of understanding how constitutional law supports Jefferson’s wall of separation.

We’ve been FFRF members for a long time, but we decided that one concrete way we could support the maintenance of church-state separation would be for both of us to become Life Members.

Many thanks to Sam for a great presentation and to everyone at FFRF. We are grateful for the work you do.

Susan and Lee Eberly

Iowa


Good arguments can come from disgraced people

While I deplore the private life of Lawrence Krauss, his public pronouncements — which include his YouTube videos, books, essays and articles — are excellent exhibitions of secular humanist thought. I hope it’s OK to continue to use his public works, and to quote them, even if he is disgraced for his private life.

Obviously, anti-humanists will, in ad hominem style, denounce any arguments of his because of his private life. But a good argument is a good argument, no matter who says it. We freethinkers should, at least among ourselves, continue to use his public works; his private life doesn’t affect it.

Andrew Orrin Lutes

Kentucky


Anniversary special section is a keeper

The 40th anniversary insert in the April issue with the timeline and Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article is wonderful. It’s a keeper! Thank you!

Chuck Berry
Pennsylvania


Imagine’ would be a great anthem for FFRF

Freethought Today and the work accomplished by FFRF staff are first-rate and much needed in our “fairy-tale” society. Keep up the great work!

I also have a suggestion. If FFRF ever decides to adopt an anthem, may I suggest John Lennon’s beautiful “Imagine.” (The only change would be to the line, “a brotherhood of man.” I’m sure there must be an FFRF member that could come up with a substitute line that encompasses women and children, too.) Overall, however, the lyrics embrace the values, sentiments and beliefs of freethinkers.

Caren Campbell

Illinois

Editor’s note: FFRF has used the lyrics from “Imagine” in various ways over the years, including “Imagine no religion” on billboards, on FFRF merchandise and as opening music for Freethought Radio.


Hoping for replacement for lost membership pin

Dear FFRF stalwarts, enclosed is a check for you to continue to carry the critical struggle for state-church separation.

My Life Membership in FFRF has been a source of considerable pride for me and I have worn the badge celebrating that membership very often.

I don’t wear it anymore, though, because it came off in a D.C. taxi. I hope the badge was found and is now a tasteful accessory to the cabbie’s wardrobe.

My hope is that my donation might be enough to prompt you to send me another Life Membership pin to replace the one I lost.

More importantly, though, I hope the check helps keep your spirits up in these difficult times for the sentient. Like many people, I have trouble accepting the Trump administration because it is a threat to individual rights of almost every description.

John Reiser

Texas

Editor’s note: The pin is on its way!


Keep up your sense of humor despite vilification

The April issue of Freethought Today with coverage on Zenos Frudakis and Maryam Namazie was especially wonderful.

To help advance FFRF’s cause, I’ve included a check to be used for advertising. I believe this is a good strategy. It’s good to hear more and more citizens are coming around to the understanding the reality of religion in terms of social and political control.

It’s always gratifying to hear folks at FFRF maintain a sense of humor despite the grotesque and desperate attempts of ostracism, demonization and vilification, and to do so with such self-confident style!

Keep up the wonderful work ever so mindful of the Socratic suggestion, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Alan Maximuk

Iowa


FFRF deserves accolades for its legal successes

I am absolutely thrilled at the FFRF v. Morris County decision issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court. As a New Jersey resident and a Lifetime Member, I am especially proud of FFRF’s success in this matter.

On so many levels do FFRF and plaintiff David Steketee deserve congratulations!

When I first learned about FFRF by serendipitously finding your broadcast on Air America, I was impressed by your no-nonsense legal approach to defending the Establishment Clause. Your attorneys know the law and articulate it exceedingly well in court filings. You choose superior counsel. You foster and manage supportive relationships with member plaintiffs.

I am proud to be a Lifetime Member of FFRF. I know you will keep up the excellent work.

Eugene P. Provost

New Jersey


Black Collar Crime section draws me in

At 87, as I use up my remaining years on Earth, I write hundreds of letters about my causes and passions. I also browse the National Catholic Reporter and the National Catholic Register to see what the institutional church is doing to its members.

I am a member of FFRF and just finished reading your latest issue of Freethought Today. I don’t know why, but I am drawn to the Black Collar Crime section, probably because I have been a strident critic of the Catholic Church for decades.

I also bought Anne Laurie Gaylor’s book, Woe to the Women. It was a dazzling compilation of the nastiness of the bible, and I applaud her work, and that of FFRF in general.

John Minck

California


Yes, you can be both a patriot and an atheist

I am a veteran and an atheist. For years, I have made regular modest donations to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I am not a member of the VFW, but consider its work to support veterans and their families to be worthwhile.

From time to time, the VFW sends out pre-printed cards to be signed and returned, and those  will be given to hospitalized vets as a gesture of appreciation.

The most recent one I received had the phrase “God bless you and God bless the United States.” I mailed this one back, unsigned, to the VFW headquarters with a letter stating that, as a nonreligious person, I could not sign it. I also offered that if the VFW did not care to receive donations from atheists, they should let me know. I have received no response. However, the organization continues to regard me as a “distinguished member of the VFW’s Patriot’s Circle.” Apparently, it is OK with taking money from a nonbeliever.

If anyone asks, yes, you can be a patriot and an atheist.

David M. Shea

Maryland


‘Badly-written bible’ column was wonderful

I’d like to give a special note of appreciation for Valerie Tarico’s article in the April issue, “Why is the bible so badly written?” Most of the Freethought Today articles are eye-opening and informative, but this one really struck a special note.

Raised evangelical, my brain was programmed to need to believe that the bible was a guidebook from God. As a physics student, it quickly became clear that there were huge flaws in the “Word.” Why did the all-knowing God neglect to tell his chosen people that the world is round? He knew that the Earth rotated around the sun but refused to tell us?

And then there are all of those rules about what to not eat. Why didn’t God just tell us about bacteria and viruses. The “For God so loved the world . . .” thing fell apart when I realized that the “all-knowing God” wrote us this huge human-life user’s manual, complete with a recent (2,000 years ago) revision, using hundreds of pages of begats, and didn’t care enough to tell us about atoms and supernova and all the other wonders that he supposedly created.

I learn so much by reading Freethought Today. Thank you for your fair and balanced tabloid.

Philip Lentz

Arizona


We, too, can fight small state-church battles

At an intake booth at the Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in St. Louis, I was greeted by a wizened lady, possibly as old as me. Her name tag said “Dixie.”

As she asked the usual questions and keyed in my answers, my gaze was drawn to a sign on the small counter that separated us. It looked like a rubber eraser, only bigger, and it bore the message, “Jesus erases all of our mistakes.”

I pointed to the sign and said to Dixie, “I’m sorry, is this a Christian hospital?”

“Yes, BJC is Barnes-Jewish CHRISTIAN.”

“Is it ONLY a Christian hospital?” I asked.

“No, sir. Someone gave this to me as a gift, because of my faith.”

Dixie had further questions, and she asked them with an edge of crisp politeness. As she did, I jotted down her name and the offending message. Then I shifted gears.

“You know, if somebody gave this to you as a personal message, maybe it would be better to turn it so it faces you. Otherwise, it looks like it’s something the hospital is telling us, and that would be offensive to a lot of people.”

She finished her data entry, then turned to me and smiled. “Thank you. Thank you for putting it so kindly,” she said, reaching over to shake my hand. “I appreciate that.”

Later, as I passed by her booth on the way out, I was tempted to look, but decided that would send the wrong message.

Robert Gordon

Missouri


My one-act play was my own ‘clergy project’

I loved John Compere’s article in the May issue about his involvement in The Clergy Project and his experience as a doubting minister. Although I’ve never been a minister, I have a “clergy project” of my own.

One of the first Freethought Todays I read (in 1993) contained an article called “From Fear to Freedom,” by Professor Robert Arends, in which he wrote about being pressured by his father to become a minister (which had been the father’s own dream, but which he couldn’t achieve — so he’d make one of his sons achieve it for him!).

Being an actor and playwright, I wrote a fictionalized one-act dramatization of Arends’ story and called it “I’m on My Journey Home.”

The script sat in my dresser drawer until 2013, when I impulsively decided to enter it into the Community Theatre Association of Michigan’s (CTAM) Playwriting Award competition. Much to my surprise, it won! As part of the award, community theatres across Michigan were allowed to present the play, royalty-free, for the next two years. None did, but the play is now in CTAM’s script library.

It’s just too bad that, while I was writing the play, Arends died. I’d have loved to send him a copy. And it’s also too bad he didn’t live to see The Clergy Project — he would have felt right at home, I’m sure.

Andrew C. Jones

Michigan


Lack of divine mercy prompted this poem

My wife and I are Life Members of FFRF.

Over the years, I’ve written several poems that mock the absurdity of religion and supernatural claims.

My words are aimed at readers of all educational levels. 

Our loving little dog died a horrible death in the vet ICU after being torn apart by coyotes. The blatantly obvious absence of divine mercy in this world was the inspiration for this poem.

Don’t You Ever Tell Me

You say your Lord sees everything, from oh so high above

And fills this world with never-ending mercy, grace, and love

But where was he last Tuesday night when my precious little dog Jody

Was torn apart and left to die by a pack of wild coyotes

You can pray if you want, you can pray if you please

But don’t you ever tell me

To believe that childish fairy tale

And get down upon my knees

In war after war the faithful kneeled and prayed to their loving god Jesus

But the bombs still fell and the shells still burst and blew them all to pieces

They swear that he will heal you, if you just pray in his name

Tell that to the millions who prayed, and are still blind, deaf or lame

You can pray if you want, you can pray if you please

But don’t you ever tell me

To believe that childish fairy tale

And get down upon my knees

They say that he will hear you, if you just pray in his name

Your problems will all go away, this ain’t no silly con game

Tell that to the children who suffer and scream, as they die of growing cancers

They cry and beg and pray to Jesus, but never get any answers

You can pray if you want, you can pray if you please

But don’t you ever tell me

To believe that childish fairy tale

And get down upon my knees

Bruce Flamm

Maryland


Trump gives forgettable Memorial Day message

Memorial Day is a solemn and sacred national day of remembrance and reverence for the brave American military men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country.

President Trump tweeted a moronic and meaningless 45-word message to the nation, containing the insensitive terms “happy” and “nice,” 38 words of self-promotion, and only nine words mentioning our Memorial Day observance or fallen heroes and she-roes.

Trump, who dodged the Vietnam War because of bone spurs, needs to be enlightened that Memorial Day is not about him and not a “happy” or “nice” memorial. It is a sad and serious one about deceased patriots. He obviously does not comprehend its meaning or does not care. His tepid tweet was inconsiderate and insulting to all American families who lost loved ones to the tragedy of war and all American veterans who lost comrades.

Appropriate and respectful Memorial Day proclamations from patriotic past presidents can be easily checked on the internet and compared to Trump’s inappropriate and disrespectful tweet. “Make Me Great Again” Trump needs to spend less time promoting himself and more time demonstrating American presidential dignity.

John Compere

Brigadier General, US Army (Retired)

Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam)

Texas