In memoriam: Constance Seward protected animals

Constance Seward

FFRF Member Constance J. Seward, 72, of Columbus, Ind., died Oct. 1, 2021, at her home.

Constance was born in Columbus on Jan. 7, 1949, the second daughter born to Tom and Frances Seward.

Constance dedicated her life to protecting animals; she fostered hundreds of pets and found forever homes for them.

FFRF is grateful to be notified that she has remembered FFRF in her estate planning with a generous gift.

In memoriam: ‘Uncle Bill’ Jedrzynski dies at 89

William Jedrzynski

FFRF Member William “Uncle Bill” J. Jedrzynski, 89, died Nov. 8, 2021. 

He was born in Dudley, Mass., son of the late John C. Jedrzynski and Josephine H. (Duszlak) Jedrzynski. He was a U.S. Navy veteran. Bill worked for Jamesbury and Microtech in Worcester, Mass., as a machinist for many years. His talents were numerous — he would be the go-to person for any information one may need for repair or life in general.  

Bill was a great storyteller and loved sharing his vast knowledge with friends and family. He enjoyed reading, fishing, hunting, motorcycle riding, magic, the outdoors and nature, from insects to animals. Bill was everyone’s “Uncle Bill”! He was an extraordinary, brilliant and caring person.

In memoriam: Richard Prosser led Junior State of America

Richard Prosser

Richard Thomas Prosser, 75, died on May  26, 2021. He was born on April 6, 1946, in Fort Collins, Colo., to Helene and Carl Prosser. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Sacramento State and a master’s degree in mass communications from San Jose State. He was executive director of Junior State of America from 1969–2007, transforming it from a little-know Northern California program into a nationwide educational institution impacting tens of thousands of students.

He was a passionate and effective advocate for nonpartisan civic education and a steadfast believer in young people’s agency and the student-run nature of JSA.

Overheard (Jan/Feb 2022)

Those who have accused right-wing justices of seeking to impose one strain of Christian doctrine on the rest of the country sadly have been proved correct.

Jennifer Rubin, in her column “The Supreme Court faces an existential crisis of legitimacy” following the oral arguments regarding Mississippi’s abortion law.

Washington Post, 12-3-21

We believe in the separation of church and state because it requires religions to obey laws enacted by the state instead of allowing religions to hold everyone to their own religious laws.

. . . Whether it leads to theocracy or balkanization, the creeping fusion of church and state is disastrous for the public good.

Attorney Marci A. Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, and law professor Leslie C. Griffin, in their op-ed “Why we still like separation of church and state.”

Verdict.com, 12-13-21

I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world. The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy. I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.

Billionaire Jeff T. Green, the wealthiest person in Utah, in his resignation letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  

Salt Lake Tribune, 12-20-21

I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control.

Anne Rice, who died Dec. 11, 2021, writing in 2010 when she announced she was no longer a Christian.

Associated Press, 12-13-21

Call me one of the intolerant. That’s what I am. I will not coddle willful ignorance anymore. I will not indulge the fool’s errand of ‘I’m still doing my own research’ anymore, either. . . . I am furious at the unvaccinated, and I am not ashamed of disclosing that. I am no longer trying to understand them or educate them.

Charles Blow, in his op-ed, “I’m furious at the unvaccinated.” 

The New York Times, 12-8-21

Even if courts were to interpret that law as being enforceable, as attorney general, I would not use the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice either to investigate alleged violations of that abortion ban or to prosecute alleged violations of it.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, on Wisconsin’s ban on abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Wisconsin State Journal, 12-15-21

If the unaffiliated were a religion, they’d be the largest religious group in the United States.

Elizabeth Drescher, an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University, who wrote the book, Choosing our Religion, about the spiritual lives of the Nones.

Associated Press, 12-14-21

There’s less stigma attached to being an atheist. It’s revealing of what’s been there for a long time, rather than a big shift. People may not have answered honestly 20, 30 years ago.

Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, on the results of the latest Pew Research Center showing fewer people are religious than ever before.

Religion News Service. 12-14-21

[Rep. Kat] Cammack, [Rep. Madison] Cawthorn and others who believe in the beforelife seem to think of embryos with the potential to become people as beings (“eternal souls,” “little girls”) who should have choice and do have feelings. They — and indeed everyone who asks how abortion advocates would feel if they had been aborted, as if unborn people hover about ruing their nonexistence — remind us that religion is driving our abortion debate. Religion — not reason and not compassion for people who already exist in this earthly realm.

Kate Cohen, in her op-ed, “‘How would you feel if your mother had aborted you?’ Easy. I’d feel nothing.”

Washington Post, 12-16-21

Until now, when Americans have found themselves wrestling with questions about church-and-state matters, the Supreme Court usually, but not always, was the guardian of separation. Today’s conservative justices, however, appear likely to trash that noble heritage of the court.

Editorial, “Supreme Court poised to trample the separation of church and state.”

Las Vegas Sun, 12-17-21

Some of the anti-vaxxers here in this chamber remind me of what happened 400 years ago when people were clinging to the fact that the sun revolved around the Earth. They just didn’t believe science. Or 500 years ago when they were sure the Earth was flat.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, castigating those in the Senate who narrowly voted for a resolution against the Biden administration’s requirement that business with 100 or more workers mandate vaccinations.

Los Angeles Times, 12/8/21

They Said What? (Jan/Feb 2022)

This is a Christian nation and any policy that is contrary to the word of God, we need to remove it from mainstream America and make it illegal.

MAGA pastor Mark Burns, who is running for Congress in South Carolina.

Right Wing Watch, 11-18-21

I agonized. I’m not ashamed that to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case because there was great pain. There was great harm.

Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy, after he decided a man who pleaded guilty to the rape and sexual assault of four teenage girls will avoid prison time.

CNN, 11-22-21


I want my children to know that I love them very much and that I was a good man at one time. Don’t ever read anything but the King James Bible.

David Neal Cox’s final words before he was executed in Mississippi.

WLBT News, 11-17-21


Organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have been at the forefront of a movement that has targeted the singing of Christmas carols in public schools and Nativity scenes on military bases. Nothing triggers an atheist faster than the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. 

Todd Starnes, in his column “Christmas trees are burning and I blame godless Democrats,” after someone lit the huge Christmas tree outside Fox News headquarters on fire. 

ToddStarnes.com, 12-8-21


This is whether or not somebody is going to have something put into their body that they do not want put into their body. That’s more than freedom, that’s the right to control and secure your own body.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking about his opposition to a vaccine mandate, while ignoring his blatant hypocrisy when it comes to a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Rolling Stone, 12-11-21

FFRF Editorial Assistant Casandra Zimmerman helps keep members informed

FFRF Editorial Assistant Casandra Zimmerman, left, enjoys an evening with her friend Elizabeth at the Grateful Shed venue in the Wisconsin Dells.

Name: Casandra Zimmerman.

Where and when I was born: Dodgeville, Wis., in 1997. My cesarian delivery was scheduled so the doctor would be able to attend the opening season of deer hunting.

Education: Associate’s degree in liberal arts, a certificate in gender and women’s studies from Madison College and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Family: I love my parents and brothers, but I want to give a shout-out to my grandmother, Rita Zimmerman, who is part of the reason I care about FFRF’s mission in the first place.

How I came to work at FFRF: I got lucky enough to work here because of my experience with writing and editing and my belief in the separation of state and church. I was still living in Milwaukee when I got the job.

What I do here: I am the editorial assistant/content writer. I write press releases and action alerts and send them out to members and media. I do various other tasks like writing the FFRF Victories report for Freethought Today and managing the Twitter account.

What I like best about it: Working with a purpose and not making money for a greedy corporation.

What gets old about it: Moderating Facebook comments or driving on John Nolen Drive every day. I can’t decide which is worse.

I spend a lot of time thinking about: Dogs and traveling.

I spend little if any, time thinking about: Whether there is an afterlife.

My religious upbringing was: Catholicism, loose Catholicism. While I had to attend an after-school religious ed class and have maintained a never-ending core of Catholic guilt, my dad was nonreligious and my mom wasn’t extremely strict or conservative. 

My doubts about religion started: When I was 5 or 6. I started to question the logistics of God and Christianity. Then, I wondered why Catholics hated so many people. Then, finally, at age 12, I made up my mind that I don’t believe a god or gods exist and religion wasn’t for me.

Things I like: Coffee, travel, music, cozy couches. Preferably all simultaneously.

Things I smite: Spending an extended period talking about myself. People with no empathy or compassion.

Favorite quote: “We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” — Novelist and poet Charles Bukowski.

Future plans/goals: Spending as much time as possible doing what I love with the people that I love.

FFRF salutes Black history and secularism

In honor of Black History Month, below are highlights of some of the many distinguished African Americans, past and present, who have made known their dissent from religion. To see more, go to ffrf.us/blackhistory.

Julian Bond

A lifelong champion of civil rights who chaired the NAACP and helped found both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Institute, Julian Bond was a pioneering black state legislator in Georgia who became a cultural icon and national voice for social justice.

Q. Are you a believer?

A. No. — Interview on “American Forum,” PBS, with Doug Blackmon, March 2015. 

Ernie Chambers

The “Maverick of Omaha” and “defender of the downtrodden” has served for decades in the Nebraska state Senate, where he has defended civil rights as well as the rights of women, LGBTQ, farmers and criminals in an overwhelmingly white, ultraconservative state. Former Sen. Chambers has been a leading state/church separation advocate, and his case objecting to paid prayer in his state Senate went all the way to the Supreme Court.

“As an elected official, I know the difference between theology and politics. My interest is in legislation, not salvation.” — Ernie Chambers in his acceptance speech for the “Hero of the First Amendment” award at the 27th annual FFRF convention, Nov. 12, 2005.  

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The son of a former Black Panther, Coates would go on to relaunch the landmark Black Panther comic series featuring the first black superhero. Coates is senior editor at The Atlantic. His signature book is Between the World and Me, and in 2015, he was named a MacArthur “Genius.”

“I am an atheist. I don’t believe the arc of the universe bends towards justice. I don’t even believe in an arc.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Myth of Western Civilization,” The Atlantic, Dec. 12, 2013.  

 

Frederick Douglass

Born enslaved, Douglass escaped slavery at 20, lecturing at personal peril against slavery and founding the weekly publication, North Star. Douglass was the only man to speak in favor of woman suffrage at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. He launched The National Era newspaper, became a D.C. U.S. marshal and later became consul-general to Haiti. He was not an atheist, but was highly unorthodox and a life-long civil libertarian and brave pathblazer.

“I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” — Frederick Douglass, Autobiography. 

 

W.E.B. Du Bois

Earning his doctorate from Harvard in 1894, Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, urging black Americans to stand up for their rights. He co-founded the NAACP and edited its journal, Crisis, for 24 years, turning it into a black literary journal. He has been dubbed the “father of Pan-Africanism.”

“We are still trained to believe a good deal that is simply childish in theology. The outward and visible punishment of every wrong deed that men do, the repeated declaration that anything can be gotten by anyone at any time by prayer.” — W.E.B. Du Bois “On Christianity,” a chapter in African-American Humanism: An Anthology, edited by Norm R. Allen Jr. 

 

Arian Foster

NFL Houston Texan player Arian Foster (2009-15), who set franchise records for rushing yards and touchdowns, is a most unusual athlete, who wanted to convey to his fans that “I recognize the light in you.” He was the only member of the team who didn’t identify as a Christian. He has dabbled in acting, has a podcast, “Now What? with Arian Foster” and founded the Arian Foster Family Foundation to fight childhood obesity, improve financial literacy and provide personal development to inner-city youth.

“Teammates ask me, ‘You worship the devil?’ ‘No, bro, I don’t believe there’s a God, why would I believe there’s a devil?‘” — Arian Foster, ESPN The Magazine, Aug. 6, 2015. 

 

Donald Glover

He graduated from New York University with a degree in dramatic writing in 2006, then began writing for the NBC comedy “30 Rock,” receiving a Writer’s Guild nomination in 2009. Glover is best known for playing Troy the “jock” in a community college study group on the comedy series “Community.” In addition to writing and acting, Glover performs stand-up and raps. His 2014 album “Because the Internet” was nominated for a Grammy. In the song “Won’t Stop,” Glover refers to himself as “an airport atheist.”

“I think everybody kind of hits that point where they say, ‘OK, am I doing this out of tradition? Do I actually believe this?’” — Donald Glover, interview, Zap2it, Feb. 3, 2011. 

 

Lorraine Hansberry

The daughter of civil rights activists and intellectuals, Lorraine Hansberry wrote the first drama by a black woman to be produced on Broadway and win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. “A Raisin in the Sun” (the title derived from a poem by Langston Hughes) was loosely based on her own experiences growing up in Chicago and also became a movie starring Sidney Poitier. Hansberry wrote The Drinking Gourd, commissioned by the National Broadcasting Co. in 1959, about the American slave trade, which was considered too hot for television and was never produced. Hansberry died of cancer at 34. “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” was posthumously adapted from her writings and produced off-Broadway in 1969, also appearing in book form.

“I get tired of God getting credit for all the things the human race achieves.” — Lorraine Hansberry, “Raisin in the Sun,” (words ascribed to Beneatha). 

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Somalian-born Hirsi Ali fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to avoid an arranged marriage, was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003 and became a prominent atheist and critic of Islam, particularly against abuse of women under the religion. She was forced to go into hiding when her colleague, Theo van Gogh, was viciously murdered after producing a film, “Submission,” with her. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Infidel, came out in 2005. She founded the AHA Foundation to end honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

“I had left God behind years ago. . . . From now on, I could step firmly on the ground that was under my feet and navigate based on my own reason and self-respect. My moral compass was within myself, not in the pages of a sacred book. . .” — Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel, 2007.  

Langston Hughes

For four decades, he chronicled the black experience and perspective in powerful poetry, fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. The Nation magazine published his influential essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926), in which Hughes advocated racial pride and independent artistry, giving the Harlem Renaissance its due.

Hughes’ satire on corruption in black storefront churches, “Tambourines to Glory” (1963), was not popular with black clergy. Biographer Wallace Best wrote that Hughes disagreed with characterizations of him as anti-religious or atheist while reserving the right to criticize dogma and the Christian church.

“Listen, Christ,

You did alright in your day, I reckon—

But that day’s gone now.

They ghosted you up a swell story, too,

Called it Bible—

But it’s dead now.

The popes and the preachers’ve

Made too much money from it.

They’ve sold you to too many.” — From Langston Hughes’ poem “Goodbye Christ,” 1932

. 

 Zora Neale Hurston

Novelist, folklorist and short story writer Zora Neale Hurston attended Howard University, graduated from Barnard and did graduate study at Columbia at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote seven books, including her classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), although she was forced to take “day jobs,” including maid work, to support herself. I Love Myself When I am A Laughing . . . And Then Again When I am Looking Mean and Impressive, was published in 1979, after Alice Walker revived interest in her. Her oral history, “Barracoon,” based on interviews with the last survivor of the slave trade in the United States, finally saw the light of day in 2018.

“Strong, self-determining men are notorious for their lack of reverence. Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness.” — Zora Neale Hurston, “Religion,” from “Dust Tracks on a Road,” 1942, anthologized in African-American Humanism: An Anthology, edited by Norm R. Allen Jr., 1991. 

 

Sikivu Hutchinson

Hutchinson founded Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA) in 2010 and is the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project. She has written and spoken extensively on the particular challenges of “coming out” as an atheist female of color. She was honored with FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award at the 2021 national convention in Boston.

“The white fundamentalist Christian stranglehold on Southern and Midwestern legislatures has proven to be a national cancer that further exposes the dangerous lie of a God-based, biblical morality.” — Hutchinson, commenting on restrictive abortion bills, The Humanist magazine, July/August 2019. 

Ishmael Jaffree

Jaffree, an attorney, won the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Wallace v. Jaffree,  (1985), successfully challenging a period of silence for “meditation or voluntary prayer” and a law authorizing teachers to lead “willing students” in prescribed prayer. Jaffree’s children were ostracized, physically harassed and subjected to racial epithets.

“I brought the case because I wanted to encourage toleration among my children. I certainly did not want teachers who have control over my children for at least eight hours over the day to . . . program them into any religious philosophy.” — Ishmael Jaffree, acceptance speech for “Freethinker of the Year 1985,” awarded by FFRF. 

Scott Joplin

The “King of Ragtime” propelled that style of music into national prominence when his 1899 “Maple Leaf Rag” became a huge hit. He struggled in his lifetime to support himself, while today he is a household name. He was married at home and buried without a church service, and wrote an opera, “Treemonisha,” where a secular woman is the leader against the town’s useless pastor.

“Ignorance is criminal.” — Scott Joplin, lyrics from “Treemonisha.” 

 

Flo Kennedy

The lawyer, activist, civil-rights advocate and feminist became the first black woman to graduate from Columbia Law School. She ran her own law practice, representing the estates of jazz greats Billy Holiday and Charlie Parker. She co-founded the National Organization for Women, in 1966, and the Media Workshop to better represent black people in journalism and advertising. She started the Feminist Party in 1971, nominating Shirley Chisholm for president, and helped establish the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Black Feminist Organization. 

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” — Flo Kennedy, coined while on a speaking tour with Gloria Steinem. 

 

Nella Larsen

Larsen, born in 1891, was a well-known Harlem Renaissance writer. Her first book, a 1928 novel titled Quicksand, has a young protagonist with resemblances to Larsen, who pointedly disdains the religion she encounters at a fictional Black school. In 1933, Larsen became the first Black woman to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.

“With the obscuring curtain of religion rent, she was able to look about her and see with shocked eyes this thing she had done to herself. She couldn’t, she thought ironically, even blame God for it, now that she knew he didn’t exist.” — Larsen, writing in Quicksand about her character Helga Crane (1928).

John Legend

The singer-songwriter started off in a church choir, but began performing in nightclubs after graduating from college and working with big name artists, such as Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. His first album, “Get Lifted,” went platinum and earned three Grammys. He played “Keith” in “La La Land” and co-wrote and performed the song “Start the Fire” for the soundtrack.

“I feel like religion in a lot of ways was intended to control and subdue people rather than to bring out the best in them.” — John Legend on BigThink.com, 2008. 

Alton Lemon

An aerospace engineer, Alton Lemon also worked as an Equal Opportunity Officer for HUD, served as president of the Philadelphia Ethical Society, was active in the ACLU and won the landmark Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), codifying existing precedent on the Establishment Clause into a test called the “Lemon Test.”

“If any of the three prongs of the Lemon Test are violated by an act of government, it is unconstitutional:

1) It must have a secular legislative purpose;

2) Its principal or primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion;

3) It must not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion.” — The Lemon Test, promulgated in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). 

 

Butterfly McQueen

Best known for her thankless role as Prissy in “Gone With the Wind,” Butterfly McQueen was a near-lifelong atheist. The role of Prissy, she would later say, was not pleasant to play, “But I did my best, my very best.” She quit movie acting in 1947 to avoid further typecasting, supporting herself as a real-life maid, Macy’s saleslady and seamstress, even working as a Macy’s Santa Claus. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1974 at age 64, and was one of FFRF’s first Lifetime Members.

“As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.” — Butterfly McQueen, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Oct. 8, 1989. 

 

Thelonious Monk

American jazz composer and pianist’s “Round Midnight” composition is the most recorded jazz standard by any musician. Monk’s idiosyncratic style used unexpected melodic twists, dissonant harmonies and erratic percussive phrases. His views on religion were also unorthodox. He rarely attended church, and a biographer noted he “did not speak about religion in the most flattering terms.”

 

Charlie Parker

Although classically trained, American jazz soloist, saxophonist and composer Parker, known as “Bird,” was a virtuosic improviser, whose work was crucial to the development of bebop. After his death, Parker’s lifelong partner called him a longtime atheist.

 Anthony B. Pinn

Humanist scholar Pinn gave up the ministry in favor of humanism. Author, co-author or editor of 35 books, including Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist, Pinn is a professor at Rice University and director of the Institute for Humanist Studies in Washington, D.C.

“Too many humanists and atheists believe disbelief, nontheism, is a prophylactic against nonsense. Because I don’t believe in religion, I cannot be guilty of racism, classism, sexism or homophobia. This is a problem because it doesn’t allow us to take these issues seriously.” — Anthony Pinn, FFRF’s 2015 convention speech. 

 

Chris Rock

The comedian, actor and producer joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1990, has been featured in several HBO specials, has won Grammys for comedy albums and has appeared in many movies, including “Dogma” and Netflix specials. Rock’s comedy is peppered with skepticism about religion.

“White people justified slavery and segregation through Christianity, so a black Christian is like a black person with no f***king memory.” — Chris Rock, outtake from the documentary short “Who Is Chris Rock?” 

 

Maya Rudolph

Born to a composer-producer father and an African-American singer-songwriter mother who died when Maya was 7, Rudolph calls her parents “hippies” and her agnostic dad a “pretty adorable Jew.” A New York Times Magazine profile reported, “The family was committedly unreligious.” She earned a B.A. in photographer from Porter College, and became a recurring cast member of “Saturday Night Live” from 2000-2007. She was the fourth black woman to join the cast. She has performed in many movies and TV series, including “Bridesmaids (2011) and “Forever” (2018).

“I remember my mom not even saying ‘God bless you.’ She’d say, ‘Guhbless you’ because she didn’t want us to say ‘God.’” — Maya Rudolph, New York Times Magazine, Sept. 14, 2018.  

 

Greydon Square

Square is an outspoken atheist whose clever lyrics focus on atheism, science and other philosophical topics. He also raps about his experiences growing up in Compton, Calif., in a series of group homes, and serving in the Iraq War. Square began studying physics at Arizona State University, but later changed to computer science. He has released many albums, starting with “Absolute” in 2004.

“After a lot of reading and research, I realized I didn’t have any secret channel picking up secret messages from God or anyone else. That voice in my head was my own.” — Greydon Square, 2010 interview with Martin Pribble for his blog “Attempting to Make Sense.” 

Mandisa Thomas

Thomas, who grew up in a nonreligious household, co-founded Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta in 2011, which soon dropped the “Atlanta” reference when the group went national. After a career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas has become a full-time secular activist and is president of Black Nonbelievers.

“It once felt weird to identify as atheist, but I had to be honest with myself: At the end of the day, I don’t believe in any gods at all.” — Mandisa Thomas, interview, SecularWoman.org, July 19, 2013. 

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson, who earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia, became staff scientist for the Hayden Planetarium, wrote the “Universe” essays for Natural History, hosted PBS’ “NOVA ScienceNOW,” and has served on NASA’s advisory council. He has directed the Hayden Planetarium since 2003. He has written many books and hosted the second “Cosmos” PBS series.

“Let there be no doubt that as they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Holy Wars,” published in Natural History, October 1999. 

 

Alice Walker

Self-described “Earthling” and “womanist,” Walker has written many novels, including The Color Purple, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, a biography on Langston Hughes and other novels and many essays. Although raised Methodist, she has written against the bible’s sexism and asserts that Mother Nature deserves worship

“What a burden to think one is conceived in sin rather than in pleasure; that one is born into evil rather than into joy.” — Alice Walker, “The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven Is That You Have Been Driven Out of Your Mind,” from Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism. 

 

Faye Wattleton

Reproductive rights activist Alyce Faye Wattleton, who holds a nursing degree, was named executive director of Planned Parenthood in Dayton, Ohio, in 1971 and then in 1978 was named president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America — its youngest and first African American president. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

“If I was to be a nurse, [people with beliefs different from mine] needed my care and not my judgment. They needed my compassion and understanding and not my moral values. So, I began to really think in a broader context than the narrow religious upbringing of my parents.” — Wattleton, speaking at a St. Louis bookstore about Life on the Line (C-SPAN, Oct. 22, 1996)

Crankmail (Jan/Feb 2022)

Welcome to a fresh new year of some of the odd mail we receive at FFRF. Some of it comes from emails, others from social media. Printed as received. 

GIVE UP THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS: I am DISGUSTED by you dumb FFRF radical liberals and your annual War on Christmas! Every year you pull this shit. We could just say MERRY CHRISTMAS like we’ve done for thousands of years, but instead you just want to say Happy Allah-Days. You think you can CANCEL Santa. You think you can CANCEL Jesus. You muslim aitheists are working towards Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s COMMUNIST dreams and just think you can CANCEL everything. But I’m gonna bring the cancel culture train to the FFRF station. It’s called HELL, where you get cancelled for ALL ETERNITY, when you die alone and sad because nobody likes you lol!!!! We’re saying Merry Christmas again in this country, and NOBODY will listen to you libtards saying Happy Allah-Days! — Jim Burns 

Let’s Go Brandon: LET’S GO BRANDON, YOU MOTHER FUCKERS! — Shane Thomas 

Answer this: Wow, you really know how to spend your life wasting time. Perhaps you ought to ask yourself this one simple question: “Why am I so intimidated by religion?” Why have you allowed this fear to completely take over your life? Work on answering that question and then perhaps you can lead a more productive life. — Margaret Plancher

No evidence: But athiests have a faith because they believe that every thing came about from a single cell   there is no evidence for This alleged cell.every alleged discovery is a house of cards that falls down.because athiest are not able to tell us where the single cell came from.arhiest magic trick now you don’t see it now you do — Anthony Higgins

Believe it: So, is there a life after death? When we die do we just end and are no more? There’s a feeling inside my being that there is an after life. I believe the King James Bible contains all the information my eternal soul needs to live in this world and my life in the world to come. You should too. — Jimmy Ray

God is great!: I am a believer of Yeshua! I wouldn’t be alive today without GOD! I had a daughter that was stricken with a terminal brain tumor and I got angry with him but I never didn’t deny him as my GOD. He is in my heart and forever he will stay. I will NEVER give up my GOD! I CANT GO ONE DAY OR HOUR WITHOUT HIM. — Margo Susanna Tovar

God is real: Atheism Is a religion look it up! I would never say that there is no GOD, never! — Barry Redfern

No atheists; Lmao no such thing as a atheist all of y’all are fake every single one of you believe in a deity because it is ignorant to deny one based on the fact we are crated by design 5 finger 5 toes ever animal after it’s kind we never evolved that’s been disproven since we have over 10,000 years of history records and nothing evolved — Daniel Straithairn

Beware of hell: You may noy be afraid to “ burn in hell” now as you quoted on tv but you cant erase the fact that there is a hell. If you refuse to believe in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, your sending yourself to hell. God gives you the free gift, you either take it……or leave it, seems you have made your choice, but i do pray you change your mind one day, you really think your here by chance, theres nothing after, then why do you have emotions, love? God is love, not goop you think we may have grown from, think about it, your soul depends on it, God bless you. — Kelly Engelhart

Satan has you: You all are in the Antichrist as foretold. You are fulfilling what God said would happen. When I look at your faces all I see is evil like Satan your Father full of blasphemy. Faces like this will never be in Heaven and you know that. You laugh and scoff to what God already said you would so your preaching for Satan is no surprise. So keep preaching death to life and death will take you away and you will be the ones with great surprise. Your hearts are hardened to the truth to all I say or God’s Word say will just bounce off. I hate Satan for deceiving you. Satan don’t care if you believe in him or not, just as long as you treasure to preach death. — Jeff Robinson

Letterbox (Jan/Feb 2022)

Entire staff of FFRF should be commended

I would like to thank and commend the entire staff at FFRF for planning, organizing and professionally executing, with precision, the schedule for the convention in Boston, and for all that FFRF does on behalf of freethinkers in the United States and throughout the world.

W.B.
Ontario, Canada 


Scout badge essay led to Lifetime Membership gift  

In the November issue, FFRF announced it had awarded the Freethought Badge to Zachary Van Stanley for his essay challenging the discriminatory policy of the Boy Scouts of America against the nonreligious.

I found his essay well-written and his enthusiasm and good cheer were infectious. In his letter to FFRF after receiving the badge, he mentioned that he was “saving up to pay for a Lifetime Membership.”

I have enclosed a check for $1,000 to honor Zachary and pay for that membership for him now so that he need wait no longer.

Long live Zachary and all the other young people like him who think for themselves and care about each other and our planet.

R.R.
California


FFRF convention was a ‘banquet for my brain’

Thank you for an amazing weekend in Boston. I’d been reading the short bios of the convention speakers for months and their stories had just been that — stories. After listening to each in person, they have become real people to me with significant information to share with us all. The weekend was a banquet for my brain!

A.H.
Montana


Dan Barker’s music a perk for FFRF members

I just want you to know that enjoying Dan Barker’s music (both solo and ensemble) is another great perk of belonging to FFRF!

I recall as a girl listening to an old instrumental recording of “Pack Up Your Sins” by Paul Whiteman. (A lot scratchier than Dan’s version!) But I’d never heard the words until listening to your podcast. Very apropos!

There’s a lot of old stuff like that from my past that is lodged deeply within and lies quiescent, since nobody today would relate to it, let alone appreciate it.

I met Paul Whiteman one time back in the 1950s. I don’t remember what was said, but I was sure thrilled to be introduced to him and couldn’t wait to tell my parents. 

M.A.
New Mexico

Editor’s note: You can purchase Dan Barker’s music on FFRF CDs at ffrf.org/shop.

Member’s poem modeled after the Nicene Creed

A Family Creed

I believe in my parents, the Trouts

Creators of my brother and me.

I believe in love, both platonic
and non.

It is conceived by the common estimation between two people

And born in works and words.

It is unconditional and true.

It cannot be killed or buried.

When it descends into darkness,
it is tested,

But it rises again in time

And is stronger for its wear.

It is at the heart of all relationships.

It does not judge nor wish ill will;

it transcends death.

I believe in the house that my
parents built,

the family with which they have surrounded me

the friends I have gathered,

the forgiveness of our common humanity

the mutual respect we hold

And the peaceful life they have afforded me.

Athem.

B.T.
Pennsylvania


Tamayo’s speech brought visions of Electric Monk 

Thank you for the convention!!

While listening to the David Tamayo’s talk about artificial intelligence, my mind kept bringing up author Douglas Adams’ Electric Monk, which appears in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. 

I finally looked up one of my favorite quotes from that book: “Unfortunately, this Electric Monk had developed a fault, and had started to believe all kinds of things, more or less at random. It was even beginning to believe things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City.

D.C.
Ohio


FFRF items are a big hit, especially the stamper

I congratulate FFRF for all its accomplishments and continuing efforts to maintain the separation of religion and state. I am confident that FFRF will continue being effective.

I am proud to have become a Lifetime Member in 2008 and After-Life Member in 2016.

I recently purchased an FFRF 2022 calendar, some Winter Solstice cards, some bible warning stickers and an “In Reason We Trust” stamp. I have enjoyed frequently using that last item.

G.S.
California 


Shouldn’t Christians have thanked the Jews?

I could never reconcile the explicit message of John 3:16 with the “deicide” slander used to persecute Jews for the next two millennia. Shouldn’t Christians have thanked the Jews for carrying out God’s intention? After all, as per Christian mythology, Jesus’ “sacrifice” is the sole reason we are “saved,” provided, of course, we accept him as our “lord and savior.” Had the Jews not killed Jesus, humanity would have continued to be damned, since God’s plan would not have been fulfilled, right?

Which brings me to another problem I have with John 3:16 — God promises eternal life to those who believe in Jesus. However, humanity had already been promised eternal life prior to Jesus appearing on the scene. Only it was eternal life in hell. That’s why Christians call Jesus “the savior.” He saved us from eternal torment through his suffering on the cross. It would have been nice if John 3:16 mentioned “eternal life in heaven,” but, hey, I guess nobody’s perfect.

D.M.
New York


FFRF’s Crankmail actually provides many benefits

Regarding the Crankmail “controversy,” this FFRF member votes yes.

I don’t know about other FFRF members, but I enjoy reading the Crankmail section in Freethought Today. I found November’s installment especially entertaining. Aside from their usual obscenity-laden drivel, these Crankmail contributors also waxed quite philosophical.

I can understand why people think Crankmail is gross and shouldn’t be dignified with publication. But consider the many benefits. For one thing, it’s an excellent market research tool — the Crankmailers are confirming the effectiveness of FFRF’s current advertising strategy. They’re seeing FFRF ads on TV and FFRF billboards on their local highways, and it’s obviously driving them crazy. (Admittedly, a short trip.)

Crankmail also puts our adversaries into their larger political context. Fifteen percent of Americans are QAnon adherents who think Satan-worshipping pedophiles run the government, while death threats against elections officials, public health workers and school board members have become commonplace. Can anyone doubt it’s these very same lunatics who are writing these Crankmail offerings?

For FFRF to succeed, we need to see our opponents clearly, in all their godly vileness. The monthly Crankmail installment in Freethought Today lets us do exactly that. And, occasionally, you might even get some crack-brained philosophy to muse upon for awhile.

M.R.
Colorado


‘Pass away’ is a terrible euphemism for death

Why do people use “pass away” as a euphemism for “die”? We already have so many other fine euphemisms: croak, kick the bucket, vapor lock, slip your cable. People of a spiritual bent already have the euphemism, “Go home to be with the Lord,” so why do they bother with “pass away”? 

If your feelings about the dear departed are negative, there is always “Old Nick got his own,” a far better more satisfying of phrase. 

C.B.
South Carolina

Editor’s note: Hear, hear! “Pass away” is never used in FFRF literature.


Christians have become bigoted hypocrites

Thank you for the Freethought Today newspaper!

I am a believer in Jesus, but I am disgusted with what has happened to Christians worldwide, but especially in the United States. They have become bigoted hypocrites. Jesus condemned this attitude. Nowhere in the bible does it say that abortion is a sin or that evolution isn’t true. Why not say evolution is how God created the world? I also dislike the way evangelicals have married politics to religion. This came along when Ronald Reagan became president in 1980.

I’m glad that FFRF fights for women’s rights, especially reproductive rights.

R.T.
South Carolina


Supreme Court puts faith ahead of reason

I want to thank FFRF for being a great organization and having a very informative newspaper. As an attorney for 40 years, I love your coverage of the religious legal issues and the work your attorneys do to restrain theocracy. 

Here’s why I am writing: In the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, we have a conflict between an organization that wants government money to do work with adoptions and be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people. On the other side, we have the real parties in interest — LGBTQ people who want to adopt children and do not want to discriminated against by a government-funded religious group.

The church’s basis for the discrimination is its belief in a 2,000-year-old philosophy that has no basis in fact or evidence, and is contrary to current science. This is an organization that, without evidence, demands to be able to discriminate against actual live humans who have done nothing wrong. And the Supreme Court sides with the myth-based organization? 

I can only conclude that our legal system and much of our population are still thinking with a Dark Age mentality. The sad part is that those justices on the Supreme Court are much better educated and generally more intelligent than the general population, but, unfortunately, are lacking in empathy and compassion. 

Instead of leading toward more rational solutions favoring humans, and less discrimination, the Supreme Court tails behind the unenlightened religiously indoctrinated masses. The Supreme Court puts faith —  beliefs without evidence — above reason, logic, science and commonsense human decency.

R.P.
California


Facebook could be a threat to democracy

An article in The Atlantic (November 2021 issue) titled “Facebookland” is worth a read by FFRF members. 

There are 2.9 billion monthly active users of Facebook, which is a commercial venture that cares far less about honest and fair social interaction than about how much those interactions can benefit a few people financially.

To quote the author Adrienne France, “Facebook sold itself to the masses by promising to be an outlet for free expression, for connection, for community. In fact, it is a weapon against the open web, against self-actualization and against democracy.”

Any organization that threatens our democracy is a threat to the principle of separation between state and church. Facebook has more users than the combined populations of India and China, yet it has no controlling agency other than a board of directors. It’s frightening to think of what one fundamentalist member of that board could instigate against religious freedom.

B.M.
Ohio


Death penalty makes sense is some situations

In Freethought Today’s November issue, FFRF called for getting rid of the death penalty.  As a long-time FFRF member, I, too, was always opposed to the idea of capital punishment. 

That all changed a few years ago, though, when I read about a man who admitted to raping a little girl multiple times, then murdering her by burying her alive! Not only did he admit his crime, but said in front of the little girl’s mother and father that, given the opportunity, he would do it again.

I don’t think being sentenced to an air-conditioned room with a TV, free medical and dental care, three meals a day, access to a law library and perhaps an early release for “good behavior” is reflective of the punishment fitting the crime.

One of the arguments that’s always been used against the death penalty is its lack of value as a deterrent. I maintain that the death penalty in this type of crime is, in fact, the ultimate deterrent — there are no repeat offenders. That is to say, it is the ultimate cure for recidivism.

I now believe that under certain limited circumstances, the death penalty is appropriate and justified. If anyone is deserving to be unceremoniously dispatched to the great unknown, it is the self-confessed, unremorseful child-rapist murderer.

B.A.
New Jersey


FFRF bumper sticker reveals good neighbor

Regarding the letter, “Neighbor has similar interest,” I must tell you who moved in next door to me. I was passing the house of my new neighbor and noticed the FFRF sticker on the back of his car. “I like your sticker. I’m a member of FFRF,” I told him. He introduced himself as R.P., co-president of the Northern Ohio Freethought Society,  FFRF’s chapter in Ohio!

E.F.
Ohio


Can bible publishers be sued for defamation?

Apparently, the voting machine company Dominion is pursuing a suit against Fox News requesting some $1.6B in restitution for unjustified defamation. 

Surely nothing can be more unjustified and more defamatory against atheists than all the bibles that continue to include Psalms 14 and 53.   

Given the analogy, perhaps the time has come for one or more atheist groups to sue any organizations that publish, market and sell bibles to the public?

J.P.
Arizona


I broke free from the stranglehold of religion

I am, as far as I know, the only person in my family to break free from the stranglehold Christianity has on people, and that saddens me. At the same time, it gladdens me to realize that I was able to break free.  

When I first screamed out loud to myself, “There is no f—ing God!”, I was angry and it felt like no one else on Earth had ever thought that. To my delight, I discovered a great number of people who had wrestled with those same thoughts over thousands of years. Their struggles and successes put mine to shame. Still, for a Southerner in the Bible Belt of South Carolina, it was an amazing accomplishment.

I want to thank FFRF for all it does to make the world a better place through the sanity and freedom of atheism.

Now, I’m just another happy heretic enclosing a check for a Lifetime Membership.

Judy Holder
Florida

In memoriam: Bobbie Kirkhart was a longtime atheist leader

Atheist activist and FFRF Lifetime Member Bobbie Kirkhart, 78, died on Oct. 31 in her home in Los Angeles. 

“Bobbie was a joyful, generous, courageous and fearless trailblazer for freethought and humanism,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “She was also a faithful faithless friend. She will be deeply missed.”

Bobbie was born April 16, 1943, in Enid, Oklahoma. She earned a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma in 1965 before moving to Los Angeles that same year.

Bobbie’s first job was as a social worker for the Department of Children and Family Services, where she participated in one of the first public employee strikes in the country. She completed some graduate-level coursework in linguistics before divorce sent her back into the workforce. She taught in private business colleges for a few years before becoming a teacher with Los Angeles Unified School District’s Adult Division, teaching Individualized Instruction Labs. She retired from LAUSD when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. After she recovered, she poured her energy into the freethought movement. 

For nearly four decades, Bobbie was a fixture in the atheist movement. She served as president of both Atheist Alliance International and Atheists United, served on the board of Camp Quest and the advisory board for Humanist Association of Nepal, helped form the Secular Coalition for America, and was an informal advisor and mentor to dozens of freethought leaders. Bobbie had spoken to freethought groups throughout the United States, and had addressed atheists and humanists in Canada, Germany, France, India, Ireland, Nigeria and Cameroon. She also was a platform speaker at the first of its kind Godless Americans March in Washington, D.C., in 2002 and accepted the Freethought Backbone Award from the Secular Student Alliance in 2013. 

In 2009, she purchased and opened up her century-old Victorian home (known as Heretic House) to speakers and local groups, giving atheists and progressive organizers a dependable and rent-free meeting space. Hundreds of fundraisers, parties, choir rehearsals, jam-sessions, board retreats, recovery meetings, and volunteer events have called Heretic House home over the last decade, while dozens of well-known speakers and activists have crashed for a few nights at a time. 

Bobbie was first married in 1969 to William Mason, and then divorced in 1982. She remarried in 1997 to Harvey Tippit, whom she met through Atheists United. She became a widow in 2006. Bobbie continued to travel and took her daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons on an adventure to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Antarctic Peninsula in 2019, which would be her last major trip.