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

Letterbox (October 2019)

Vol. 36 No. 08 October 2019

Giving up the church for Lent — and forever

I so admire the work you do. I was raised Catholic. When I turned 18, I gave up the church for Lent. So many stupid stories. So power hungry. I don’t miss it.

William Burkhardt
Ohio

Editor’s note: FFRF thanks William for his Lifetime Membership donation!


Is Supreme Court naïve, or does it just not care?

As was anybody who cares about the separation of church and state, I was very disappointed in the Bladensburg cross decision. After reading Andrew L. Seidel’s article on the reasoning behind that decision, I was even more frustrated. If you want to know whether a Christian symbol has a secular meaning, ask a non-Christian (e.g., Ruth Bader Ginsburg), not a Christian (e.g., Samuel Alito).

Most people are totally incapable of seeing the impact that something that is common and comfortable in their lives has on those in whose lives it is not common and comfortable. The community that Alito cares so much about is the Christian community, not the American community, which is religiously diverse.

If a community wants to preserve a monument (or whatever) for historical significance, put it in a museum or sell the land on which it stands. A history of doing something wrong (i.e., ignoring the First Amendment) is not a justification for continuing the error.

Finally, the belief in the separation of church and state is not hostile to religion. It is only hostile to government-endorsed religion. I believe there will come a time in the future when the current Supreme Court is seen to be as legally flawed in its decisions as the court that decided the Dred Scott case. Are they truly that naïve, or do they just not care?

Wendy Koch
Colorado


Glad to have FFRF’s TV show back on the air

On Sept. 1, I saw the first episode of the new season of “Freethought Matters,” featuring an interview with U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman. First, I would like to state my appreciation for the return of the show. I saw all the episodes presented in the Seattle area a while back and had been missing it.

I intend to send an appreciation letter to Huffman and others related to the Freethought Caucus. I appreciate both the Freethought Caucus and your organization. Thank you for your efforts in all you do. 

Brian Wiegman
Washington


‘Under God’ shouldn’t be in Pledge of Allegiance

My hat is off to Alex McDaniel for going along with his conscience and not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. It took a lot of guts on that kid’s part. I certainly admire him for it.

It is past time to take “under God” out of the pledge. No one should be forced to say that against his or her will.

I noticed his school principal didn’t mention the troops; she simply said this kid’s actions offended her. As a nearly 10-year Army veteran who is proud to have served, I defend anyone’s right not to stand for the pledge, as well as the national anthem.

Jeffrey Conner
Washington


Imagine if everyone were as open-minded

I just received the September issue and noticed several of the essay contest winners mentioned John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” Which brings me to this story.

For years, I’ve had a somewhat improbable email friendship with a well-known Catholic inspirational singer whom I’ll call “T.” Recently, I saw an online video of a recent performance she gave at a Methodist church, and one of the songs she sang was “Imagine”! And she didn’t change any of the words — she sang it completely straight! Well, here’s what I wrote to her after seeing the concert:

“I sincerely hope you didn’t catch heat for doing this song, especially in a church. Many Christians I know just can’t forgive John Lennon for (a) his statement that the Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus,’ and (b) his early solo song ‘God.’ And nonbelievers consider ‘Imagine’ to be one of their anthems.”

Here’s how she responded:

“Regarding ‘Imagine,’ it’s a beautiful song. If someone has a problem with it, it’s their problem, not mine. If the Scriptures are an accurate account of Jesus’ teachings, then forgiveness and the ability to forgive is pretty much one of central themes. No? At the United Methodist Church, where we performed that show (and videoed it), they LOVED it! So, it’s all good!

Well, if this very Catholic singer can get away with performing “Imagine” in a church, not change any of the lyrics, and not get raked over coals for it, maybe there’s some reason for hope after all.

Andrew C. Jones
Michigan


Crankmail only makes us stronger, more resilient

Please continue to publish the all-too-real Crankmail. I use these letters as a type of inoculation for when someone says something like that to me. The Crankmail assures me not to take it personally and that it has been said before (and probably worse). Those letters make us stronger and more resilient. Please keep publishing them!

Pete Prunkl
North Carolina


Dying woman’s poem showed heart of atheist

I recently came across a letter/poem from a person I had known who had gotten back in touch with me when she became diagnosed with lung cancer. She sent it to me shortly before she died.

I had few philosophical conversations with her except to tell her I was not religious when she brought up the God question. I had no interest in a discussion of her beliefs or my nonbeliefs. Keeping her fed and housed was more important at that point in her life.

I always enjoy reading Freethought Today and thought other readers might find her poem useful or entertaining.

Anonymous
California


Atheists get it right

I always thought that if I were ever in true need

It would be the Christian, the Jew, whatever.

But NEVER the atheist who would be there for me.

Was I ever wrong.

Atheists see your need.

Atheists take care of your need and may not know your name.

Atheists take the fear and terror of the unknown away.

Atheists do not ask when and if you can repay them.

Atheists do not even tell anyone they are doing good.

No one knows and they are good with that.

That’s a tough one to get your head around.

Atheists bring health equipment if it is needed.

Atheists bring fruit you could not afford but love and need for healing.

Pancake mix you lust for, banana bread that heals on the spot!

Atheists bring caffeine to a dreary day.

All my life I got it wrong.

It is the atheist, my atheist, who gets it right.

And this one sends Christmas cards and has a Christmas tree.

Who knew?

I do now. And I am grateful.


Reading freethinking books can lead to love

Fifty years ago on the Fourth of July, I sat reading in my college friend’s communal kitchen in San Francisco.

That day, one of my friend’s acquaintances came to visit, and he brought a friend. Fifty years later, that friend and I are still together.

“I wanted a girlfriend who reads a book on the Fourth of July,” he said to me back then.

Recently, at a warehouse where I volunteer (selling donated books to raise money for literacy and foster care), I found a battered copy of Why I Am Not a Christian, the book I was reading on that lucky day. Who needs an imaginary supernatural matchmaker when good old mortal atheist Bertrand Russell is still in print?

For anyone still seeking true love, I recommend reading Andrew L. Seidel’s brilliant book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. It just might lure a perfect freethinking mate to your arms.

Jehnana Balzer
Arizona


All sorts of people, but only one Constitution

There are militant atheists, who regard everything about religion with contempt and consider religious people to be stupid, gullible or deluded.

There are philosophical atheists, who don’t believe in God or any deity, but are willing to “live and let live,” unless someone’s religion is being rammed down their throats as public law.

There are philosophical agnostics, who have decided the question of God is unsolvable.

There are generic agnostics, who are unable to make up their minds.

There are reluctant atheists and agnostics, who would prefer to believe in God, but just don’t feel it.

There are “apatheists,” who find the whole subject boring.

There are hidden atheists who go through the motions of a religion to avoid hostility or rejection from family and community.

There are those who are “spiritual but not religious,” even if they may not be quite sure of what that means.

There are people who are believers but practice no religion.

And there are people in transition from one category to another.

When I joined the Army, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I have always understood that as an obligation to defend the right of all Americans to practice their own faith. And my right not to have one.

David M. Shea
Maryland


Haught column, essays, AmazonSmile all great

I look forward to reading each issue of Freethought Today. One of my favorite recent articles was by James Haught in the June/July issue (“Religion fading as intelligence rises”). It captured my sentiments exactly. Also, I’m always impressed by the quality of the student essays. In these dark times, they give me hope for the future.

In your last issue, I saw the notice regarding AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com) and I have signed up and use it for all my Amazon purchases. I suggest every FFRF member use it, too. The prices are the same, but based on my purchases, Amazon makes a donation to my favorite charity: FFRF.

Kenneth Rowe
Tennessee


Handmaid’s Tale could happen, is happening

My mother and I recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. While we were reading, she made the prescient observation that the events in the story could happen here and even said they were already happening. A few months later, religiously motivated anti-abortion laws started showing up in the news. Then, I saw FFRF’s ad in The New York Times, and Mom’s prophecy was right at the top: “It could happen here. It is happening here.”

Thank you, FFRF, for all that you do to keep America from becoming Gilead. Next on the reading list is Atwood’s sequel, The Testaments.

Christopher Santiago
South Carolina


Inspirational words from new Lifetime Members

Keep up the good fight and don’t let the bastards get you down!

We’re proud to be new Lifetime Members.

David and Mary Balint
Pennsylvania


Hiring based on religion has bad consequences

This is regarding President Trump’s idea of making religious discrimination legal in employment for federal contractors.

When religion is used in hiring, competency goes out the door. Only incompetent people need to substitute religion for a skill set. The consequences of using religion to determine hiring has resulted in business failures requiring government bailouts, industrial accidents and predatory business practices that destroy business startups.

Charlie McKay
Ontario, Canada 


Bumper sticker leads to obvious question

I was sitting at a stoplight recently and noticed this bumper sticker on the car in front of me which read, “Not Today Satan.” That caused me to think, “OK, then, what day is good for you?”

Keep doing that wonderful work you do.

Steven Wiggs
South Carolina


I left my reincarnated heart in San Francisco

The article in the June/July issue by Erin Louis, “Mom is not in heaven, but she still lives on” was sweet, and reminded me of my own mom’s death.

Mom lived in Toronto and my dad was from New York. They met when my mom came to New York to visit her cousins in 1949, and they got married the following year. Sometime in the 1970s, they visited San Francisco and were charmed by the city. So, they playfully agreed that when they each died, they would go to San Francisco. That way, they’d be reincarnated in the same city and it would be easier for them to meet each other again.

Mom died of Alzheimer’s in 2015. Any time someone offered the comforting “your mother is in a better place now,” I’d reply, “I know, she’s in San Francisco.” The totally puzzled looks I got actually were somewhat comforting!

Linda Palter
Michigan


‘In God We Trust’ is apt for our currency

Perhaps “In God We Trust” is appropriate on our money, considering money is the god in which we trust. A close second might be guns. Maybe there’s a third, then we’d have a trinity.

Marillyn Owens
Michigan


Barker’s story showed there are more of us

I just wanted to say thank you to Dan Barker for sharing his story. I was actually an evangelical minister in the Assemblies of God church during my 20s and, through a long journey, left the religion and eventually became an atheist (more than 10 years ago). I honestly didn’t know there were other people like me. I don’t know any atheists personally, and I guess I just felt like I was the only one who had traveled this kind of path. I’m very happy with my life, but there has been a sense of being alone that has lingered, like there is no one who can relate. It made me feel less alone to hear there were other people who had gone through the same painful transition I once had to endure. Thank you, Dan. It has really made a difference for me.

Leslie Bienz
Illinois