Here is an edited version of the convention speech Jerry Bloom as a 2017 Freethinker of the Year. Bloom was introduced by FFRF Attorney Ryan Jayne:
Jerry Bloom, an FFRF member from Shelton, Conn., reached out to us in November 2015 when he became aware that the city of Shelton had allowed the American Legion to put up a religious angel display in December in a city park ironically called Constitution Park. Jerry applied for a permit to put up FFRF’s Winter Solstice display in the park. He was denied. The city said no because it thought that people would find the display offensive. Jerry then readily agreed to be the lead plaintiff in our federal lawsuit. As a result of the lawsuit, during the holiday season in 2016, the city permanently agreed to stop hosting any angel displays in Constitution Park and allowed FFRF to put up its display elsewhere.
In addition to being a staunch state-church activist, Jerry is a retired RN and a U.S. Army veteran. On behalf of FFRF, I am delighted to name Jerry Bloom as a Freethinker of the Year.
By Jerry Bloom
Thank you, everyone.
I am an atheist. However, I would like to give religion its due. Some of the greatest art humankind has ever produced has been inspired by religion. Where would the world be without the Sistine Chapel, David, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, “Ode to Joy,” or Handel’s “Messiah”? These are things we can all relate to and understand and recognize as beautiful.
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I’m not going to talk about the other side of what religion has done. Instead, I’d like to give you a short history lesson. On All Saints Day in 1755, a natural disaster enabled us to become what we are today. On that date, an enormous earthquake struck in the Atlantic Ocean that leveled the city of Lisbon, Portugal. It rang church bells in Paris. It was felt in Moscow. Bays drained in Norway. A 50-foot tidal wave struck soon afterwards, killing thousands. This was 9:30 in the morning as the city of Lisbon’s populace was going to church. And people were very fraught. How could God do this to them on All Saints Day? Essentially, what that did is usher in the era of Enlightenment, where people actually questioned the existence of a benevolent all-loving God.
Unfortunately, religion survived the Age of Enlightenment. So here we are today.
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In his introduction, Ryan summed up the case against Shelton pretty succinctly. Oh, by the way, I’m suing Shelton again. For years now they have had a “God bless Shelton Police” sign on the lawn of their police department, flanked by American flags. I approached the mayor and asked him to remove it. He refused. I made an appointment with the police chief, but he was a no-show. So they really didn’t leave me an alternative.
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There’s approximately 1 billion of us nonbelievers in the world. There are 7 billion people in the world. How does our one-seventh convince the sixth-sevenths that they’re wrong? Mass marketing. But it’s going to take more than placards and billboards.
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I learned that although religion is a mind-altering thing, the Food and Drug Administration has not considered it a drug. I went down and asked. They were very upset about that question. However, I suggest that it be limited to those of the age of consent or at least with the cognitive capacity to see and smell BS when they hear it and see it.
Also, I’d like to draw upon our governmental resources. The Federal Trade Commission should be involved with false advertising in the cases of televangelism when it’s to request donations to gain God’s favor. This is something that they should be able to verify easily to substantiate their claims. Additionally, religion should be required to do the same thing to maintain its tax-exempt status.
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I don’t think it’s quite this high now, but the Roman Catholic Church owned 168 million acres of land worldwide. This has been reduced, of course, because of the payouts and settlements that they have had over the years. If they were unable to provide this evidence of their deity’s existence and have their tax-exempt status stripped, it would pretty much mean their extinction in this country.
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Sigmund Freud thought that religion was the “universal obsessional neurosis” of humanity. Here’s an original, and I think this one’s better: “Religion is the accepted insanity and the plague that afflicts humanity. It is a multibillion-dollar tax-exempt industry that peddles snake oil, which makes people stupid about reality.”