Letterbox (September 2021)

Thanks to those who pay for FFRF billboards

The newest FFRF billboards are eye-catching and brilliant!  

It’s possible that another member-funded billboard also caught my eye a couple of Decembers ago when I was riding in a taxi. From a distance, I recognized a classic FFRF billboard illustration and tingled with frisson as the taxi drew close enough to read the header. I was harshly prevented from reading, when the driver shrieked, “Don’t look at that!” She took her eyes off the road for so long that, fearing a collision, I bellowed back “Keep your eyes on the road!” It was a terrifying moment. So, when Freethought Today reported on the member who received death threats after funding an anti-religious billboard, I wondered whether it was the same one. If it was, then I offer my profound thanks. I regret that we never met. Thank you and best wishes to the new billboard patron, too.


Book highlights how religion got us into war

I highly recommended the book by Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick, Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic, whether you “believe” or not!

From the book, with reference to Guardian newspaper records:

Then President George W. Bush pointed to his faith as the reason for embarking on war: “I am driven with a mission from God. God told me, ‘George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did. And then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’ And I did.”

Indeed, Bush did, backed by lies about Iraq’s WMDs and his desire to get Osama bin Laden, which he soon lost interest in, leaving it to President Obama to neutralize.

Where is “God” now to help clean up the mess that he inspired godly G.W. Bush to make worse in his name?


Editor’s Note: Godless Citizens is available at ffrf.org/shop.

Puzzle in paper made me crossword enthusiast 

I recently became a member of Freedom From Religion Foundation. After quickly scanning through my copy of Freethought Today, I immediately return to the crossword puzzle [created by FFRF Member Katya Maes]. I’ve never been a crossword puzzle enthusiast, but this puzzle gets me every time! It’s a gem! 


Red Pill Festival is by and for oddballs 

In Helena, Mont., the “Red Pill Festival prescribes conservatism, conspiracies,” according to the local newspaper headline. The Red Pill event pushes for the community to adopt Christian values by running conservative candidates for school boards, city councils and county commissions.

During the festival, you’ll hear opinions that the government spread Covid-19 in the air, much like crop-dusting, that the government is planting microchips in people via the vaccine, and that civil war could be averted if women stayed where they belong — at home, and presumably, pregnant. I am relieved that only 200 oddballs went to the festival. But even 200 oddballs are too many. 

It is gratifying that church attendance is down and membership in FFRF is up.


Give ’em a taste of their own medicine

FFRF’s two most recent Freethought Today papers were exceptional. Especially loved, in the August issue, was Gary Wills’ column on U.S. bishops being wrong about Biden and abortion, and Sage Miller’s essay about when he found his irreligion. And the page 1 article about the Trump White House working with Ralph Drollinger’s Capitol Ministries is positively hair-raising.

In commenting on Lee Leimberg’s letter to the editor, I’d like to add how I handle unwanted religious proselytizers who appear at my door.  When I answer the door, and they (always two) identify themselves, I exclaim cheerily, “Oh, I have something I’d like to read to you!’’ They always smile hopefully. I then commence reading Marilla Ricker’s fine words: “A religious person is a dangerous person. He may not become a thief or a murderer, but he is liable to become a nuisance. He carries with him many foolish and harmful superstitions. That is what makes trouble. Nothing is so worthless as superstition.”

By this time, the abashed visitors are slowing backing away. If they back away before I have finished reading the piece, I follow them down the driveway. This stops the unsavory interruption in my day.


Jan. 6 Capitol attack was religionist insurrection 

Regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection, failed coup, and lethal attack on the U.S. Capitol, perhaps you remember the flags, banners and signs reading “Jesus Saves” and “Trump Is President, Christ Is King.” 

Those folks holding those signs weren’t separated from their tour groups; they were there to represent a very broad contributing factor to that traitorous action: religion. We know that Rep. Liz Cheney is missing or disregarding this fundamental element of that day because in her remarks to the committee investigating that incident, she stated, “But, in the end, we are one nation under God.”

No, we are NOT one nation under God, no matter how much believers want to make that true. Our rights in America are based on the U.S. Constitution, which has no more to do with Jesus than our country has to do with Allah, Jupiter, Kali, Shiva or Thor. 

I believe we must directly confront the threat of white Christian supremacy to our nation.


Why should churches get a tax exemption?

I enjoyed reading the winning law student essays on issues concerning the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While doing so, it occurred to me that I have long been disturbed by the IRS tax exemption granted to churches, which seems to be an arrangement that intrudes upon the separation of church and state, at least insofar as the rationale for doing so involves considering churches to be some form of charitable organization. Are they? I think not, since the revenue they collect goes mostly, if not entirely, to promote and maintain their own self-serving needs.

While doing a bit of research on the tax exemption question, I found an article from the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 23, 2008), and thought that it would be of interest to Freethought Today readers. You can read it here: lat.ms/2TKuewY

I’m looking forward to attending my first FFRF convention in November.


Superintendent deserved to be chastised by FFRF

I just wanted to thank you for chastising the Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent for his outrageous religious graduation speech. I am a product of that school system. My parents taught in it, my friends teach in it, and I am still an active property taxpayer in that county. I want everyone I know to see this as an outrage.

I used to think he was a good superintendent, but no longer. I don’t think this would have happened in 1973 when I graduated high school, however. The religious groups, including the American Association for Christian Athletes, were given free rein to operate on school grounds.

I hated it then, and I hate it today. Thank you for the great work you do in protecting our democracy and freedoms. 


Insect’s name just needs one letter changed

Just catching up on my reading of the May issue and saw the letter from Dave Glenn in response to the praying mantis cartoon from the March issue. Dave suggested a new name for this insect, focusing on how its front legs, which resemble praying hands, in fact are claws used to grip victims so they can be eaten alive.

I see no need to change the name, just one letter of the spelling. Instead of praying mantis, preying mantis. That would also serve us well when clergy or leaders say, “Let us pray,” when perhaps their intention is “let us prey.”

New York

Not everything is black or white, up or down

In general, much of humankind has not learned to critically think in the “gray zone.”

Many bipolar positions that are emphatically touted take on the essence of being right or wrong, good or evil, always or never, left or right, up or down, everything or nothing, atheistic or theistic.

The motivation to live life with extreme convictions may be an unconscious attempt to reduce existential fears and anxieties surrounding and understanding the ultimate unknown — death. 

People often take a firm position of belief rather than accept that most of life’s challenges fall in the “in-between or sometimes” category. Many answers that we seek will probably remain unknown. The trick to achieving peace of mind is to not stop pondering, but rather to stop concluding.  


The Christian god’s name is not God, it’s Jealous

I wish to make a clarification: “God” is not a personal name.

It is what one is alleged to be, not whom one is alleged to be. Just like a CEO is a CEO, like a car is a car, and a dog is a dog.

People, by and large, are truly ignorant of the fact that the “Abrahamic” deity has a name. “Do not worship any other god, for the lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god.” (Exodus 34:14) 

Jealousy is a petty human emotion. Therefore, the man-made, flawed deity figure, is not a god.


Communion just another of the fictions of bible 

The Catholic Church’s communion ritual has always baffled me.  

According to the bible (Matthew 5:17), Jesus (a devout Jew) spoke these words: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law. . . In truth I tell you, until heaven and Earth disappear, not one dot . . . is to disappear from the law.” 

Well, Mosaic law forbids drinking blood. Isn’t it reasonable then, to surmise that not even figuratively would Jesus invite his disciples to drink his blood? Even supposing that the Last Supper actually took place, that repulsive, cannibalistic juxtaposition of the wine of the Eucharist turning into the blood of Jesus is just another among the bible’s many fictional stories. 


Best, worst to uphold state/church separation

The best record for upholding the separation of church and state goes to Thomas Jefferson.

While James Madison was the workhorse in terms of the separation of church and state, Jefferson was the trailblazer, making the defense of religious liberty one of the hallmarks of his career. Jefferson was considered a Deist who valued reason over revelation and rejected traditional Christian doctrines, including the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus. Jefferson won the presidency in 1801 after a vicious campaign in which he was vilified as an atheist. A man of contradictions, even today the slaveholding Jefferson is seen as an icon of individual liberty. 

The worst record for upholding the separation of church and state goes to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A deeply religious man, Eisenhower was the first and only president to write and read his own prayer at his inaugural ceremony. In 1954, Eisenhower signed into law adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Two years later, Eisenhower signed a law officially declaring “In God We Trust” to be the nation’s official motto (supplanting “E Pluribus Unum”) and also mandating that the phrase be printed on all American paper currency. 


Abortion choice shouldn’t need any explanation

I’m a new Lifetime Member. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the discourse!  

And thank you to letter writer Brianna Knoppow (August issue) for making the excellent point that we shouldn’t be supporting rape/incest exceptions to anti-abortion laws. Not only do they codify the idea that women should have a reason that is approved by someone else in order to have an abortion, the incest clause doesn’t even make sense. Is it about a biblical injunction against incest? Is it coded language for a fetus who may have genetic differences that result in a disability? If the latter, then it is ableist, and inconsistent — why isn’t the right supporting abortion exceptions for disabilities in general (which we also shouldn’t support)?

Abortion should be a woman’s right and a woman’s choice, without explanation or excuses. The term ‘rape or incest’ has been in the exception language for so long that I think we often forget to question it. 


Georgia sheriffs ram religion down our throats

Thank you all for getting on the sheriff of Polk County, Ga., regarding his religious proselytizing. He, and my sheriff in Bartow County, Ga., continue to ram all this religion stuff down our throats. Every time I see a government (county) vehicle with “In God We Trust” on it, I cuss. And I, as a 38-year resident, helped pay for it. Why should that be there?


Making abortion illegal won’t stop abortions

Many thanks to the FFRF staff for consistently bringing timely and interesting articles to us with each edition of Freethought Today. I found the article “Pro-lifers disregard for pregnant people” by Monica Hesse in the August issue to be very informative and thought-provoking.

It’s important for us to understand that the Religious Right is actually waging a war on a woman’s right to obtain a safe and legal termination of her pregnancy, all the while believing that they will be stopping all abortion procedures. But abortion will still not be stopped.

We need to remember what that was like before Roe v. Wade. Many will die or suffer from severe infection with resulting infertility. Women who are found out and the providers who performed the procedures will face fines and prison time. 

As Hesse pointed out so well, it ultimately comes down to denying women the right to decide for themselves what is best for them both physically and mentally. In no other area of medicine is a person forced to undergo risky procedures or medical treatment without their consent after the risks and benefits have been clearly explained. Once a woman is denied the right to terminate a pregnancy, she is in effect being forced to undergo a process/procedure that has very real risks and life-changing consequences.

Will the majority of the U.S. population allow the minority to force this upon us? I can only hope not!


How does God justify its existence?

Thank you for Freethought Today. I read it religiously.*

The article by Ann L. Lorac in the June/July issue raised an interesting point which triggered a question which I have never heard addressed. Her sibling asked, “What is the purpose of living if there is no god?” But I have never heard anyone ask what is the purpose of God? How does God justify its existence?

You previously received a letter suggesting that you reduce or eliminate the Crankmail** and Black Collar Crime sections. Please do not do that. I always enjoy reading them, even though they are often horrifying. Apparently, no one can hate like a really religious person. Similarly, no one can justify cruel or vicious conduct like a really religious person.

Keep up the good work!

New York

* Sorry, I could not resist.

** I see it as hate mail.

Freethinkers’ voices still being dismissed

Relating to James A. Haught’s column in the August issue, he gives us examples of how and why freethinkers’ voices are not welcome in most media. But one thing stands out in his column and the historical record: Religions fight dirty.

Christianity alone has shoved its doctrines on innocent children and societies for centuries. During most of that time, it has killed, suppressed, jailed and banished individuals who have not agreed with its interpretation of reality. 

In all that time, however, it has never proven its claim to be true. Yet, we have been made to hear only its side of things, while our voices are still being dismissed and denied. Isn’t it time we demand equal time?

Thomas Jefferson regarded religions as “opinions” and said, “No man has a right to force his opinions on another.” Yet, here we are in the 21st century, dealing with religious privilege, exceptions to laws and the allowance to discriminate based on religion, supported by a government and legal system established to prevent anyone’s opinions from claiming exemptions to the laws made to protect everyone.