Letterbox (August 2021)
Secular schools allow all to be included
This is an edited version of a letter to the editor of the Canton, Ohio, Repository newspaper by FFRF Member N.D.
I appreciate the April 4 column mentioning the recent Gallup poll that ‘’the number of Americans connected to a house of worship has fallen to 47 percent for the first time in 100 years,’’ which I see as good news. People are beginning to realize that you can be moral without attending church, because you don’t need religion to tell you that getting along with others and not hurting them is the right thing to do.
As for the letter complaining about the Repository’s Easter page, I thought it was just fine, but it does bring up the question of the paper recognizing no other holidays at all, or holidays from other cultures, which would include: Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Juneteenth, Diwali, Indigenous People’s Day (replacing Columbus Day), Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, to name just a few. I would also add that religion and secular beliefs should be about compassion for all, and tolerance, tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community, reproductive rights, and supporting the separation of church and state, and that if you use religion to justify sexism, homophobia, and anti-choice rhetoric, then your beliefs are hurtful, wrong and immoral.
Keeping religion out of public schools and the government is the right thing to do, because, by being secular, we’re including everyone, and that’s what compassion without religious discrimination is really about.
FFRF’s Markert really helped us understand
Thank you so much for FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert’s participation in our conference in late May. Even though I am a member of FFRF, I learned so much more with her presentation. It is scary out there, that’s for sure.
I am mailing an official letter along with a check as an expression of our gratitude for the presentation.
Hope to see you in November in Boston at your conference.
Cultural and Secular Jewish Organization
Freethinkers should be aware of logical fallacies
We freethinkers have a reputation as critical thinkers to uphold. Being conversant with logical fallacies should be a part of the Atheist Life Skill set, and not just to avoid their use, but to detect their use by others.
In addition to Tom Shipka’s key logical fallacies, as presented in the May issue, there are more than 100 others. LogicallyFallacious.com is a good trainer. You can also search how to stop a logically fallacious argument dead in its tracks, or at least gain time to organize your high-information atheist position.
Atheists in small mean-spirited Christian towns can benefit from a fallacy recognition strategy. It is useful to deflect admonitions to join a church, when our polite “No, thank you” triggers their “Why not? We do so much good for the community.” Ha! Did they just use Appeal to the Bandwagon, Appeal to Emotion/Duty, and Appeal to Patriotism/Localism? You might recognize this as the False Cause of equating religion with good citizenship.
Whenever you perceive a surface logic and a simultaneous sense of skeezy mental residue that prompts a conclusion of, “I just don’t buy it,” check for logical fallacy.
Rape/incest excuses for abortion aren’t needed
As always, your coverage of the right for women’s bodily autonomy is greatly appreciated. However, in the May issue, you maligned one of the anti-abortion states when stating there were not “exceptions for rape or incest.” That phrase made me cringe! I request that you please not use it anymore. It distracts and detracts from your point and insinuates that a person needs an excuse in order for an abortion to be permissible.
It also, importantly, gives a stamp of approval for the use of TRAP (Targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws, since, hey, in many places you can get an abortion if there’s rape or incest, so, see, abortion must still be legal then! There are two excuses to get it! Using that phrase also distracts from the fact that abortion is being chipped away at. Focus on what we’re losing.
Also, do you really think a bunch of hardcore Christian neocons are going to even believe a woman when she claims to be raped? (Just ask Betsy DeVos.)
FFRF should make room for non-atheist voices
My husband and I are members of FFRF, yet I have noticed a sentiment which permeates almost all of your literature that I am uncomfortable with: There doesn’t seem to be any space at FFRF between flat-out atheism and a God-fearing religious crackpot.
Most who speak for your publication seem to be persons who have escaped some abusive religious upbringing, which colors every transaction regarding their ideas of separation of church and state. To me, one is not a prerequisite for the other. In fact, a person could be extremely religious and still agree with your agency’s bottom line on church/state separation.
I would definitely not call myself an atheist because I do believe there is an order to the universe and in nature (e.g. how the planets stay aligned around the sun, etc.), but I do not need to attach that to any positive or negative outcomes, or creator sky-God myth, but neither do I credit science with explaining all of it, ultimately.
I don’t think it’s necessary, nor emotionally healthy, to take an “all or nothing” stance about spirituality or the mysterious order of the universe, because then we start to imagine that we meek humans and our little brains are powerful enough to understand and control it all. I’d definitely like to hear from more people in between atheism and ex-religious victim in your organization’s collective voice. Remember, atheism is a powerful, but not necessarily correct, religion, too!
Editor’s Note: Thank you for your support of FFRF. FFRF is not an “atheist organization,” it is an umbrella organization for freethinkers of any ilk. We wanted to create an organization that Thomas Paine, a deist in the classic Enlightenment sense, would have joined. Although the majority of our members is atheist, we welcome agnostics, skeptics, humanists, etc. FFRF was founded by Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor, respectively second-generation and third-generation freethinkers who did not come from a religious background.
Day of Reason should be NYC holiday if others are
The New York City public schools were closed on May 13 for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al Fitr and the Catholic holiday of “the Ascension.” The public schools were never closed for religious holidays back in the 1950s and 1960s when I attended them, except for the winter and spring recesses, which conveniently overlapped with Christmas and Easter. These holidays, however, are still not official public school holidays.
Under our wretched, faith-pandering mayor, Bill de Blasio, various religious holidays (Jewish, Muslim and Chinese) have been added to the school calendar.
It seems that the public schools are closed more often than they are open. The Day of Reason, however, is not a public school holiday here in the so-called “liberal” Big Apple. So much for the separation of church and state in New York City!
Unfortunately, religion will always be with us
Ann L. Lorac’s column (“All of our gods come from within ourselves” in June/July issue) offered a thought-provoking distinction between faith and religion. But her hope for eliminating religion is unattainable. Faith, i.e., belief in some supernatural existence, will always develop into religion.
The human mind is sufficiently conscious to be able to ask, “why?” And when a conscious mind asks a question, it must be relieved with an acceptable answer. But to solve the unanswerable, man creates god(s) to conduct all unexplainable phenomena.
Humans also recognize that they are mortal. Demand for an afterlife is an obvious reaction to salve the pain of this finality and has brought comfort to most of humanity.
Finally, life is simply not fair. Thus, there should be a Final Judgement Day to rectify this malevolence of existence and of our fellow man.
These three foundations for creating religion are found in all societies and their various religions, each believing they are the one true religion, of course. Therefore, the goals of our FFRF are best kept to our efforts to keep religious controls out of governmental systems with no expectation or energy expended to try to eliminate religion or disabuse its followers of their faith/religion. Any hope of eliminating religion will fail because of human psychological needs, but keeping the various perversities of various religions from impinging on the lives of non-members must be absolute if truly free, democratic societies with equality for all are to exist.
The more we can grow FFRF, and other similarly inspired organizations, the closer to a truly free and equal society we can become.
Capital punishment needed for Christianity
While reading Brian Bolton’s essay on how the bible supports several execution methods in the June/July issue, I was reminded of St. Paul’s contention (1 Cor. 15: 3, 14, 17) that capital punishment was a foundational component of the Christian religion, i.e., that in order for Jesus to expiate original sin he had to be crucified by the Romans, which would then allow him to “rise from the dead.” So, without capital punishment, there would be no Christianity.
Prison system in U.S. uses religion to coerce
As a military inmate for more than a decade, I can attest that religion, especially Christianity, is used as a pervasive tool of coercion. Minor examples include recreational opportunities available only to members of preferred religions and priority access to voluntary treatment programs. More extreme examples can be found when inmates seek parole or clemency, with parole boards praising religious activity or condemning lack of faith.
I am not persecuted for my humanism, just quietly denied opportunity. Yet, I face the choice of professing a religion I have no faith in, or possibly serving more years in confinement than I would with a simple betrayal of self.
I refuse to claim a religion that minimizes the human cost of my crimes and claims I am forgiven because I ask.
If rehabilitation is to be possible in America’s prisons, we must stop treating them as warehouses for the undesirable, and look deeply into their reform. If the task falls not to the freethinker, then who will it be taken up by?
Why do some religions object to vaccinations?
When I read Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s statement in the June/July “Overheard,” my first thought was, “Good for you, guv.” My second thought was “Wait a minute. Just what is the religious objection to vaccinations, exactly?” I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know. I’m fairly certain that none of the traditional religious texts mentions vaccine. So, what is the religious exemption based on?
After seeing religion up close, I became an atheist
I have enclosed a contribution to become a Lifetime Member. I appreciate your support of independent thinkers.
When I was in fourth grade, I loved dinosaurs and evolution sounded right to me. When I asked my public school science teacher why he did not teach evolution, he dodged the question. He had 10 kids and was Catholic.
My parents sent my older sister and me to Spokane Valley Episcopal Church, led by a charismatic minister. My sister found out he was abusing altar boys and my mom confronted the minister and others in the congregation. This was in the 1960s and no one believed her. The minister kicked us out of the church about a week before my confirmation. I never got to wear that new white dress.
As an adult, I worked as a graphic designer for a children’s hospital. It would take an evil God to invent so much disease and suffering for children and teens. Science, doctors and nurses were the true helpers.
Weighing evolution and science against the corruption of the church made becoming an atheist an easy choice for me.
Rabblerouser lifted my mood after bad day
June 22 was a bad day for the secular voters of Arizona who support public education. In the dead of night, this state’s marginally Republican Legislature had passed a nakedly partisan budget negating our repeated rejection of school vouchers and our popular demand — via the passage of Proposition 208 — that fat-cat Arizonians pay higher taxes to support teachers and students.
The next day, in a deep funk while shopping for books, I suddenly began laughing and immediately cheered up. So, I give a big “thank you” to the unknown monkey-wrenching Arizona freethinker who lifted the New American Standard bibles from the “Religion” rack at Barnes & Noble and stuffed them on the “Fiction” shelf and the “Horror” display where they belong!
Southern Baptists focused on schisms, not love
Fascinating! In a recent newspaper column, “Tensions high with Southern Baptists,” which filled almost the entire page, I counted 78 words of schism relationships — fights, contentious, takeovers, battles, wars, allegations, cutting ties, etc. — and never once saw the one word that I thought was the purpose of Jesus’ mission here on Earth: love! Is it no wonder why, for the first time in Gallup’s 80-year history of asking this question, that formal church membership has dropped below 50 percent in 2020.
Thanks to Steve Neubauer for his years of PP work
I just want to thank Steven Neubauer (“Religion haunts a women’s health clinic” in June/July issue) for his years of service as security officer at Planned Parenthood. That’s a tough job, and it shouldn’t be. Those so-called Christians can be so mean.
M. A. C.
Everyone should watch the Scientology series
I recently watched the “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” series on Netflix. I would strongly recommend it to all FFRF members.
The most important things I learned from the series are:
• That Scientology’s 501(c)(3) status was allowed in 1993 only after aggressive harassment of IRS individuals.
• That members are routinely abused with no recourse except to lose all connections with one’s family.
• That the church systematically violates requirements for nonprofits, notably that an organization not be involved in anything illegal and not stockpile revenue, but must engage in activities of a charitable, religious or educational manner.
As an FFRF Life Member, and more importantly, as a taxpayer, I think FFRF should officially recognize this injustice and join others’ efforts to oppose this “church.”
When ‘God’ talks, it’s listening to yourself
I’d like to comment on two items from Freethought Today. I always read it cover to cover.
First, the article in the June/July issue by Ann L. Lorac (“All of our gods come from within ourselves”) has some good and varied points to make. I have found that when people relate to a god — for instance, how the god talks to them, shows them the solution to a problem, etc. — that they are really listening to their own brain. In effect, they are worshipping their own brain.
Also, the letter from Phyllis Murphey about the term “passing away” made me think of something I read: The only one passing away is an errant throw by a quarterback on a football team.
Keep up your wonderful, always fair and honest, work.
What to say in search of the lost Jesus
Suppose someone appears at your front door and asks, “Have you found Jesus?”
You might respond earnestly, “I didn’t know he was lost.”
They might say, “He isn’t really lost.”
You could respond, “Well, there you are.” [SLAM]
Donation made in loving memory of Gigi Gillis
I have enclosed a check for $500, donated in loving memory of “Gigi” Gwendolyn Gillis, a Lifetime Member of FFRF. Gigi so enjoyed attending your conventions and reading your newspaper.
Can we all live to be as old as Noah?
In David Brooks’ June 3 New York Times column “You may live a lot longer,” he noted that “People are living longer, staying healthier longer and accomplishing things late in life that once seemed possible only at younger ages.”
Brooks, it appears, isn’t aware, that according to the bible (which is from the supposedly inerrant word of God), people (such as Noah) lived for about 900 years, when the Earth’s human population was about 12 million or so.
Now, the human population is closing in on 8 billion.
So, if the human population can return to what it was, during the time of Noah, maybe we’d all have the potential to live for a thousand years. But, to do that, we’d need to use birth control — which we won’t, because both today’s GOP and the Roman Catholic Church oppose the use of birth control.