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

Letterbox (Jan/Feb 2019)

Vol. 36 No. 01 Jan/Feb 2019
Rationalist House in New Zealand                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

If in New Zealand, check out Rationalist House

On Dec. 5, while on vacation in New Zealand, I attended a monthly meeting of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists at its headquarters in Rationalist House in Auckland. 

We had a good discussion about the state of atheism in the United States and New Zealand. I gave members of the group back copies of Freethought Today and was given copies of their long-running publication, The Open Society. They showed me their extensive library, which they believe to be the largest secular library in the southern hemisphere. It was an instructive discussion, as I learned about state-supported religious (Christian) instruction in public schools for which parents have to opt out rather than opt in. Also, the members were well aware of political events in the United States, to my great embarrassment. If you go to New Zealand and are interested, I suggest you contact the organization through its website and see about attending a meeting or stopping by Rationalist House.

Patrick McGinnis
California

Happy to know the young will continue to fight

I just want to tell you about the impact a photo in the November issue had on me. I had just gotten home from work and got my mail, which included that issue. As I waited for my dinner to heat up, I opened the paper and noticed the photo of a woman on a bench who seemed to be crying. Then I read the caption and started to cry myself. I, too, had the worst time during the Kavanaugh hearings, feeling horribly defeated and having frequent crying jags. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Who will fight on when I’m gone? I’m so damned tired. I’m 56 and don’t have enough time left.” I felt so much better knowing not only that others feel the same, but that younger folks will fight on. Please fight on. 

Stacey Hopkins
Illinois

There should be day for atheists to come out

Your letter recalled my financial gift of years earlier to expand the beautiful Freethought Hall, making the building even more beautiful for supporters to experience and feel proud.

I’ve since learned that there is a day that has been designated as a coming-out day of sorts for the same-sex-preference community. I think it’s time to promote a new annual coming-out day for nonbelievers.  

Frank Dowding
Minnesota 

Editor’s note: March 23 has been designated as “Atheist Coming Out Day” by Atheist Republic. Also, the first Thursday in May is the annual Day of Reason.

Steve Pinski should be given secular sainthood

I know. I know. Our crowd is not big into saints, but if we change the policy, I’d like to nominate for FFRF sainthood Steve Pinski, the Life Member featured in the December issue for donating a kidney to a complete stranger because it was “the right thing to do.” Oh, that we all could be so selfless and giving. A donation to FFRF in Steve’s honor is in the mail. And, Steve, if you are reading this, come see us in Memphis. The barbeque is on me.

Harry Freeman
Tennessee

Stamping out ‘In God We Trust’ on currency 

When I first became an avowed atheist, my first act of activism was to add an extra “O” to “In God We Trust” on cash to render “In Good We Trust.” Although this was amusing for a while, it was difficult to make it look nice or even legible.

Then I read in Freethought Today about the “In Reason We Trust” self-inking stamper sold by FFRF. I immediately ordered one, received it promptly, and merrily stamped my way through all the cash I had on hand. It was quick, easy and quite effective (although I’m still perfecting my aim to align it precisely on top of the offending phrase). 

I’m looking forward to the day I’m about to stamp a bill and find the alteration already there, either because my own bill has returned to me, or another person is out there stamping out inappropriate words on our currency. How will I know which it is? I guess that will be just another one of those unknowable, but delightful, things.

Joan Reisman-Brill
New York

Sunday mornings better with FFRF’s TV show

Over my lifetime, I have been a member of three varied forms of religious faith. Just testing the holy waters, you might say. Now I am an “ordained” freethinker, in large part because of FFRF.

As of late, I have been transfixed on Sunday mornings watching your show, “Freethought Matters.” I am spreading the word in the Northeast: Tune in! 

Gary Grubb
New Jersey

Editor’s note: View Sundays at 8:30 a.m. on WPIX-IND (Ch. 11) in the New York City area. Check out other areas at ffrf.org/freethoughtmatters.

Bedtime prayers can cause lifetime of fear

Come with me and put on these special glasses that allow one to peer deep into the past. There he is, about 70 years ago, kneeling by his bed. Little David is saying a prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.”

Put yourself in his pajamas. Imagine that you are as literal and believing as he is. Contemplate that prayer. Little David is scared. He knows he could die before he wakes. If he dies tonight, the Lord just might not take him, leaving him to suffer in hell. Maybe God will give him grace. Or Jesus could intercede on his behalf. They say Jesus loves little children. But Little David has never met Jesus. He has seen images of him hanging on a cross, nailed there, helpless. He is afraid that Jesus may not be of much assistance. And then there’s that place full of fire and brimstone. The devil stands there with his pitchfork while the demons dance around him and shovel coal into the huge fiery pit. People scream and writhe for a very long time. Forever.

Now that you’ve tried on these glasses and see what David saw, I think you’ll understand his world a little better. May you sleep well.

David Worl
New York

Engineers’ Creed needs some secular updating

I recently completed an online engineering ethics review and was reminded of the existence of the Engineers’ Creed:

“As a Professional Engineer, I dedicate my professional knowledge and skill to the advancement and betterment of human welfare.

I pledge:

• To give the utmost of performance.

• To participate in none but honest enterprise.

• To live and work according to the laws of man and the highest standards of professional conduct.

• To place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other considerations.

In humility and with need for divine guidance, I make this pledge.

Adopted by National Society of Professional Engineers, June 1954.”

As much as I appreciate its promotional aspects, I believe the last sentence of the pledge should be modified by deleting “and with need for divine guidance.” 

As any reasonable person would agree, there is no evidence for an invisible, non-communicative being which is, or could be considered, theistically divine.

James R. Divine
Washington

Belief in a loving God shattered late in life

I was a Christian until just a few years ago. I attended Sunday School and church for most of my life, was in church youth groups and went to church summer camps. 

Skip to many, many, many years later, just a few years ago. (I’m now 93.)

My wife “came down” with Alzheimer’s/dementia. After a few years, I could no longer take care of her. We sold our condo so we could afford to move her into a memory care home.

One day, I looked at her and wondered: “Why her, God?” If God was so omnipotent, why would he allow such a thing to happen? She was righteous, kind, well-liked and attended church.

My belief in a kind and loving God was shattered. Then I was drawn in by the Ron Reagan “unabashed atheist” commercial I had seen on TV. 

I did a lot of thinking. So, I contacted FFRF and became a member. I received a few of your books. Ah, at last, some really good reading!

I now believe that humans created God, and humans wrote the bible from their own perspective.  

Bill Gibson
California

Is it better to lie through creed, or stay silent?

What if someone does not believe the words of the Apostle’s Creed? Must he/she say it anyway at a public event, such as during a president’s funeral service? In such a case, must he or she basically lie his way through this prayer? 

Specifically, what if:

• He does not believe in God, or consider anyone but his biological male parent his father? Must he pretend he does? 

• She does not recognize any supernatural “almighty,” or creator of heaven or Earth. In fact, she does not believe in any afterlife, no heaven or hell, nothing at all after death? Is it better to lie to keep up appearances? Do we not have freedom from as well as freedom of religion in America?

• He does not believe in Jesus Christ, or any of that business about “His only son, our Lord,” and all that babble about being conceived by some kind of woo woo holy spirit? 

• She can’t get her head around someone born of a virgin. Must she pretend to accept that 2 plus 2 equals 5, or something equally ridiculous? 

• He doesn’t believe that Jesus (or anybody for that matter) rose from the dead? Do all those leaders who affirmed this at President Bush’s memorial service think that someone literally rose from the dead? If not, are the prayer intoners either irrational, hypocritical or intimidated? 

• She does not believe in the Holy Catholic Church, has no idea what the communion of saints is all about or scoffs at the notion of life everlasting, which does not sound so appealing anyway? Does she proclaim what she does not believe anyway?

I’m in a curious position defending Donald Trump, a first for me, but there is a possibility that he was among the most honorable of all in attendance for remaining silent during the prayer. For once in his presidency, maybe he didn’t lie. Maybe. 

Donald B. Ardell
Florida

Birthday gift in honor, memory of FFRF founder

We’ve enclosed a gift to FFRF in memory of our friend, Anne Nicol Gaylor, and to honor her Nov. 25 birthday. She was a sweet tough lady and we were honored to be her friends.

Pat and Dan Cornwell
Wisconsin

FFRF can confront, beat religious ‘authorities’

One thing I’ve noticed about religious spokespersons is that, no matter how much damage their religion is responsible for and despite its moral corruptions, they have the chutzpah to insist they’re moral authorities. They feel they have the right to dictate public morality. They have the audacity to insist on creating laws to override facts, based on the blatant assertion that what they believe is the only thing that matters! 

So, you can see why any moral person ought to support FFRF. It has the unmitigated boldness to confront those “unquestionable” God authorities by telling them the facts and beating them at their own game.

Keep up the good works.

Carl Scheiman
Maine

 

But, Praise the Lord’

I wrote this poem in memory of John Paul Gary Broadstreet (Oct. 5, 1977-Sept. 5, 1981), whose mother beat him for almost four years and, eventually, starved him to death in Elizabeth, Ind.

Oh, little one, the curse of birth that day.

Oh, little one, the price you had to pay.

Oh, little one, your life was no bouquet. 

Oh, little one, abuse was on its way.

But, praise the Lord, did Jesus feel your pain?

But, praise the Lord, Jesus sees you with disdain.                                                            

But, praise the Lord, divine love cannot explain.

But, praise the Lord, prayers to God in vain.

Oh, little one, if only I had known.

Oh, little one, the sound of breaking bones.

Oh, little one, abused before you had grown.

Oh, little one, the hours you had to moan.

But, praise the Lord, the Christian thing to do.

But, praise the Lord, preordained, this just for you.

But, praise the Lord, as a child, you had no clue.

But, praise the Lord, the bruises turning blackish blue.

Oh, little one, you just made it to 3.

Oh, little one, the starvation you could not flee.

Oh, little one, this God allowed this to be.

Oh, little one, God’s hell is your eternity.

But, praise the Lord, this God allows suffering.

But, praise the Lord, this God is not listening.

But, praise the Lord, this God is extremely mean.

But, praise the Lord, this God’s existence has not been seen.

Larry E. Farr
Indiana

‘A Word Before Dying’ 

“What’s in a name, a word?”

A song, a message, a life, a bird

“Does the wayward child always come home?”

No, sometimes people just grow old, alone.

“That sounds awful. I just want to pretend.”

You do what you want to, the end’s still the end.

“Just please give me something. Even a belief is OK.”

Mythology and dogma, your intellect will pay.

“I don’t care of the price. The comfort’s what I need.”

You sold away your reason. Your body still bleeds.

“I can’t just be matter. Does any part live on?”

Only your children, your paintings, your song.

“OK, just give me one more small moment, then let me just breathe.”

I understand completely. None of us ever wants to leave.

Tracy Long
North Carolina

‘Microbes of the Ark’ 

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget bacteria

Left dinosaurs behind

Noah on the Ark

Checked off Ape to Zebra

Thought he had it finished then

Remembered the amoeba

And all of the bacteria

Must’ve put them in his boat

We have ’em living here today

These procaryotes

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget listeria

Left mastodons behind

Noah gathered up the germs

With teeny tiny tweezers

Seeing them proved difficult

For a 600-year-old geezer

All the little tiny things

Smaller than a centipede

Noah needed a microscope

Call the 16th Century!

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget clostridium

Left pterosaurs behind

Packed ’em in a petri dish

Agar was the substrate

With two species in each one

Took a million packing crates

Diptheria and whooping cough

In plates on the credenza

Then wondered why the family

Came down with influenza

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget chlamydia

Left stegosaurs behind

The smallpox germs he carried

Took 500 million souls

The world would be better

If he left ’em off his rolls

Thank you for the salmon

But why the salmonella?

Strep and staph, clostridium

Malaria, shigella?

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget bacteria

Left dinosaurs behind

WP Meyer
Illinois