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

Letterbox (June/July 2020)

Vol. 37 No. 05 June/July 2020
Coronavirus Chronicles                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Words, image help tell uncomfortable truths

I’m a Lifetime Member of FFRF and an active artist in Madison, Wis., who is working on “The Corona Chronicles.” It’s an ongoing project that is being catalogued by the State Historical Society and involves my photographs and recent headlines that I arrange.

I took this photo in a Catholic church in Portugal. (It couldn’t get any creepier.) I took information from an article in The New York Times about the Happy Science religion to finish this piece.

Thomas Ferrella
Wisconsin


Please take this poll on end-of-life choices

We are longtime and Lifetime Members of FFRF who are on the board of Exit Options Inc. in West Virginia and would like to invite all FFRF members to take an anonymous nine-question survey on end-of-life choices, allowing you to communicate with policymakers about your own end-of-life wishes. 

What ways out would you like to have available for yourself if you were slowly dying of an incurable disease, in severe pain, throwing up everything that you swallowed? What would you want available for your loved ones if they were in that predicament?: Would you want the physician to prolong the agony as long as possible? Would you use hospice? Would you want to take an oral drug or an IV drug to end it all painlessly and quickly? Would you want to use a gun? 

Only three of those options are available in West Virginia and the majority of states. Please participate in the free anonymous multiple-choice poll to make your own wishes known to policymakers.   

The website and poll are sponsored by Exit Options Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization. Go to exitoptions.org and select “Poll” from the menu. The website has a trove of information about the options already available to you. It also provides answers about what services hospice organizations can provide and whether you can travel to another state to take advantage of that state’s “death with dignity” laws. 

Larry and Beth Norman
West Virginia


Secular education will move society forward

Hello. This is in response to your Spring 2020 Appeal. I am more concerned than ever about the mixing of church and state, particularly by our elected leaders, who should be leading, not following. They are ignoring and avoiding the wonderful opportunity our First Amendment provides to accept science, new information and reason. Leave the ministers to private matters. Do not continue to force outdated information on Americans. People make gods, not the other way around.

Just think if we could get all high schools to teach students about Abrahamic gods in the same way they teach those same students about Roman gods. Same time frame, same people, same area of the world.

Keep up your good work. It only takes one generation, with a secular education, and with all of the wonders of what we have learned, particularly in the last 100 years, to move humanity to a much better place.

Dave Carter
Alaska


FFRF deserves this $1,200 stimulus check

Here’s the $1,200 Donald Trump sent me. I can’t think of a better use for it than to fight his promotion of the “virus of religion.”

Don Fedock
Arizona


Which state has most religious-trained teachers?

FFRF should sponsor a competition to determine which state has the most public school high-school science and social science teachers (as well as curriculum specialists, superintendents and school board members) who are graduates of religious colleges and universities, where they received religious indoctrination, which they now might be passing on to their students instead of the fact-based science and social science that the general public should expect them to teach.

Any FFRF member can participate in this competition because all public school systems are required to provide this information when properly requested.

Why graduates of religious institutions of indoctrination should still be allowed to be certified to teach in the public schools should be a national embarrassment.

FFRF is in the best position to call this matter to the attention of the general public.

William Dusenberry
Oklahoma


‘The perfect god’ column tickled my funny bone

The first thing I do each time I receive Freethought Today is study the list of birthdays of freethinkers for the month. I always wish I could be included on that list!

In the May issue, I especially related to “Atheism became professor’s philosophy,” about Tom Shipka, as I, too, became an atheist through my philosophy course in college. Bertrand Russell was my first freethought teacher, and I idolized him.

But I especially want to commend Gene Twaronite’s essay, “A helpful guide to choosing the perfect god.” This hilarious satire really tickled my funny bone, and I was edified by his description of more powerful gods even than Yahweh, like Shiva the Destroyer. Shiva destroys the whole universe, while Yahweh is merely a burning bush. My favorite god has long been the Deist god, who asks nothing of you and gives nothing in return. But now, I can imagine the glory of Louis Armstrong, or Lord Satchmo, creating the whole universe with “a blow of his sweet trumpet, then singing softly to himself, ‘What a Wonderful World.’” Thank you for this wonderful essay!

Helen Bennett
Florida


The Founding Myth should be required reading

Just wanted to send a message of thanks for Andrew L. Seidel’s awesome book, The Founding Myth. It’s an inspiring read. Every high school in the country should reinstitute required civics classes and include this book as mandatory reading in the curriculum.

Thank you all so much for being who you are.

Janet Powers 
Massachusetts


FFRF reassures us that     we are not alone

I’ve been a nonbeliever since age 12 and a hard-core atheist since age 18. I subscribe to Thomas Jefferson’s tolerance of religionists: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Your thoughts and beliefs are yours, but I will judge closely what you do. Those are my beliefs!

I chose to donate to your legal team because I know, as an ex-cop, when all else has failed, court is where it is settled.

Keep up the good work. You reassure us that we are not alone. And you piss off a lot of Texans.

Terry O’Donahue
Wisconsin


FFRF’s coronavirus ad in NY Times was terrific

I just wanted to say what a terrific ad FFRF had in The New York Times on May 7. The focus on the need for reason, not prayer, to combat the coronavirus is beyond brilliant!

Fairfid M. Caudle
New York


I enjoy getting Haught’s freethinking blogs 

Just a note to say how much I’m enjoying James Haught’s blogs, which get emailed to me. They remind me of the pieces the late Robert Gorham Davis used to write for Freethought Today.

Andrew C. Jones
Michigan

Editor’s note: You can find James A. Haught’s columns at patheos.com/blogs/freethoughtnow and you can sign up to have them emailed to you on that page. 


Coronavirus proves prayer’s ineffectiveness

If anything should prove the ineffectiveness of prayer, this coronavirus pandemic should prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Most responsible bishops, rabbis, imams and other assorted people of the cloth have respected and followed the advice of health authorities and closed their houses of worship. But why aren’t they in their respective churches, etc., lofting prayers to their respective imaginary friends in the sky? Except for a few fundamentalist preachers in the Bible Belt who think it’s a hoax, most religious leaders have enough sense to follow the advice of the medical community.

We owe the scientific and medical personnel our gratitude and appreciation, especially the doctors and nurses who have to treat those who have been stricken with COVID-19.

John Oman
Michigan


We need more leaders who are evidence-based

Our county newspaper runs a quote across the top of each edition. On April 23, it was this one from Christopher Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

I thought it was very relevant during this time. It’s no surprise that there’s a backlash over misinformation and lies on social media. Today, opinions adamantly asserted as undeniable truths are rampant. No sources or evidence are cited. This is a huge problem for our nation because some lawmakers don’t even conceal the fact they’re making decisions solely based on their beliefs, with no evidence to support them.

“Faith” is used as a sneaky and illegal justification to control our right to personal decisions, opposed to that of individual liberty, the foundation of our nation. I am sick of the “God” talk being used to explain and justify the pronouncements and acts of those elected to be our servants.

Since “faith” is just another way of saying “opinion, assertion or assumption without evidence,” let’s consider changing the tradition of personal oaths invoking a deity by prefacing them with “asserted God” or “supposed God.” That would be evidence-based and honest.

What I’m looking for is a slogan or catchphrase that’ll spread like a meme and change social perceptions of what people mean by “god,” and what that entails, while dismissing any deity being given credit for existing. Any suggestions?

Carl Scheiman
Maine


1935 $1 certificate is my prized possession

I just read Andrew L. Seidel’s book The Founding Myth and enjoyed it very much.

As I was reading Chapter 24 regarding “In God We Trust,” I couldn’t help but think of the $1 silver certificate (1935 F series) that I received as change while stationed in South Korea (1984-85).

It is one of my most prized possessions because it does not bear the words “In God We Trust” on it. What luck and irony that I would receive this as change years after it was made and while stationed in another country.

My first thought was that it was fake because I had never seen a silver certificate before and the design threw me off.

Thanks for all that you do.

Alicia M. Livingston
New York


Church-state separation is immensely important

I am so proud to be a member and am thoroughly enjoying my Freethought Today issues and the “Freethought Matters” TV shows. The Ron Reagan episode was outstanding! I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I am honored to share his secular beliefs. Even though we’ve never met, I feel a kinship with him. He is a truly brilliant and honest person.

Please keep up the fight for separation of church and state! This is an immensely important issue to me, especially with this incompetent administration trashing the Constitution every 10 minutes! I’ve got your backs!

Please be safe and stay healthy!

Michael Hayes
New Jersey


Slavery and Christianity forever tied to each other

Could there be more than a single answer to the question of why millions of black people still cling to the religion of those who enslaved them, despite the fact that both the Old and New Testaments favor slavery?

Perhaps the most logical reason is that after their emancipation, blacks were hated even more by the whites who could no longer claim them as their property. Thus, it seems probable that blacks thought it prudent, for self-protection, to imitate the faith of those who had the power to harm them with impunity under the new name for slavery, “Jim Crow.”

And although I sympathize with the poor souls who feared the white’s sadistic rage, my admiration is for people like W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Phillips Randolph and Paul Robeson, whose legacy is social justice and a well-founded distrust of Christianity.

Here, for example, is my favorite quote about slavery and Christianity, which comes from Frederick Douglass, the remarkable orator, abolitionist and ex-slave:

“The slave dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit — and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.”

David Quintero
California


Why do I need God if I’m ethical and moral?

Seeing all the online graduation ceremonies made me think of something that happened when I graduated high school. A neighbor lady was a hard-core Christian and was very welcoming to all the kids, so we hung out at her place a lot. She was always hoping to bring us to God, but I bugged her the most as an atheist.

She told me that as far as ethical and moral principles go, I was an ideal Christian. She said I could accept Jesus and not have to change at all and I would be saved. I replied that if I was ethically and morally principled as an atheist, then why would God punish me just because I didn’t embrace Jesus? To her mind, it was “But how could it hurt?” To me it was a matter of ethical principle, an attribute that she praised in me.

As a graduation gift, she gave me a bible. A friend thought that was disrespectful, and I agreed. After some consideration, I just threw it in the trash where I thought it belonged.

Peter Hall
Oregon


Religious delusions won’t stop because of pandemic

One might hope that at least a few people would be cured of their religious delusions with what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, that is not likely. The religionists have prayed their way through the bubonic plague, smallpox, diphtheria and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 and still have not grasped how pointless that is. Nothing fails like prayer.

David M. Shea
Maryland


FFRF like a lighthouse in frightening times

In these frightening times, you are like a lighthouse, although I get discouraged by all the nonsense, such as a brain-dead evangelical holding a church services in Tampa, complete with 13 magical machines that supposedly instantly kill coronavirus. If there was a god, that jerk would be struck dead. Keep up the good work.

Peter Rode
Florida


Twaronite’s colum was worth my annual dues

Thanks so much for Gene Twaronite’s advice on choosing the perfect god (in the May issue). I harbored serious 6-year-old Christmas morning doubts when fewer than half my plastic animals fit intp my unseaworthy made-in-china plastic Noah’s ark. Gene’s piece by itself was worth my membership dues. In fact, I’m immediately upping my annual donation to $100. Swear to God.

David Sheehan
California


Succotash chowder recipe keeps me well-nourished

Thanks to all who edit the FFRF newspaper. The especially delicious succotash chowder recipe in the “Food for Freethought” column is keeping me well-nourished as I hunker down during the coronavirus pandemic.

David Staats
Wisconsin


Black Collar Crime section is necessary

After hearing about FFRF, I joined almost immediately. I also sent a gift membership to one of my brothers. We are unabashed nonbelievers. Our father is an American Baptist minister who (along with the vast number of clergy) has “gotten away” with horrible crimes.

I can’t adequately describe my elation in reaching the Black Collar Crime section of Freethought Today.

I don’t know who Bill Dunn is, but I need to thank him. [Former Freethought Today Editor Bill Dunn compiles and writes the Black Collar Crime section.] So, to Bill and anyone who has worked on this section of the paper, thank you! This is necessary work. Keep it up!

Bekah K.
Washington


Let’s all try to be kind, respectful to others

I’m an 81-year-old gay man and, for some reason, I’ve become very nostalgic lately. I’m very proud and thankful that I found your organization and became a member a few months ago.

Gay people have been around as long as straight people. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could treat each other kindly? We don’t have to love or even like everyone, but at least show some respect for those who are different.

I treat people nicely. I don’t care about their sexual orientation, their political views, their race, creed, etc. I just care if they are good people.

Finding FFRF has been a positive thing in my life. I know there is no God because, if there is, he sure can be mean at times. Just look at all the people killed each year from natural disasters.

If God knows all and controls all, then he made those disasters, along with ticks, mosquitoes, flies and all other negative creatures on Earth.

R. Dean Tomich
California