Letterbox (August 2020)

Fred Spoerl

Stimulus donation is to help keep our freedom 

It being an honor to have been a Lifetime Member of FFRF for many years, I decided to donate half of my $1,200 recovery money to your causes and the other half to the local homeless in the Coachella Valley. Keeping religion/state separate is one of the most important things to ensure a lasting freedom for a country that was started as secular state to remain so. It’s sad that most religious people don’t understand the importance of this separation. Keep up the good work.

Fred H. Spoerl
California


Here’s to remarkable job you do at FFRF!

As I was reading in horror a New York Times article (see page 5) on the crumbling of the wall between church and state, I was reminded that I keep meaning to drop you a note on the remarkable job you continue to do at FFRF. The regular emails I receive from you, as well as articles in Freethought Today, all reinforce your amazing, endless efforts and the terrific results you continue to achieve. Congratulations! I am so very proud to be a member of this magnificent organization.

I hope you and the whole FFRF organization are staying safe and healthy — thriving, actually — in this miserable pandemic.

Sheridan Chapin
New York


Check from ‘Trump’ will actually get good use

I got a check from the government with the name “Trump” on it. My first impulse was to send it back. On second thought, I decided to get some positive use out of it by dividing the money among three groups I support. (If you’re interested, the other two were Planned Parenthood and a local food bank.)

David M. Shea

Maryland

. . .

Donald’ Trump’s purpose for having his name printed on the stimulus checks backfired in my case. I’m turning the entire $1,200 over to FFRF to help in its fight against this blatant First Amendment abuses.

Steven Higman
South Carolina


Do we need Congress to step in over justices?

It was appalling to read about the Supreme Court’s decisions that the Bladensburg and Bayview Park crosses were allowed to remain on government property.

If the Supreme Court continues to diminish the protections of the Establishment Clause, we the people might eventually need an act of Congress to enforce the separation of state and church. Maybe a Government Neutrality Restoration Act is asking too much, but how else can we prevent government entanglement with religion when the Supreme Court itself is entangled with religiously biased judges?

Christopher Santiago
South Carolina


‘Blacklist’ character got it right on religion

We are currently watching the TV show “Blacklist.” On one of the shows, there was an argument regarding homosexuals, with the lead character stating something to the effect of “you’d rather cut off his penis than allow him to be gay?” Then he went into this verbatim quote: “Is it just me, or is it the human race armed with religion, poisoned by prejudice, and absolutely frantic with hatred and fear galloping pell-mell back into the Dark Ages?”

Roberta Mistretta
Minnesota


Three things I love about Freethought Today

The only contact I had with FFRF is through Freethought Today. I read every issue and find them very interesting. There are three features I particularly like:

1. “Former churches with better missions.” I am an amateur student of architectural history and I appreciate that many of these structures have historical importance, regardless of the original purpose for which they were built. I am glad to see they are being preserved and used for more secular purposes, especially beer halls, restaurants and brew pubs.

2. “Black Collar Crime.” It’s a much-needed collection of news items that have been sadly neglected by mainstream media. It brings together the crimes and other outrages that those frauds and mountebanks parading in clerical garb have done and are continuing to do to their customers.

3. “Crankmail.” I find this section, on the surface, hilariously funny. On the next level down, though, I have a feeling of sadness that such sentiments are actually written down and sent to you. I know you don’t make any of it up. You don’t have to.

There are enough idiots out there to supply your needs. It can be argued that our public school system has failed in its mission to give the students at least a minimal education. But I think it is more likely that these letter writers have failed the school system.

In closing, I just want to say thank you for you great work and keep it up.

Ed Stepp
Maryland


Churchgoers should use Jesus, not medicine

All those people who flock to churches with the belief that nothing bad can happen to them in The House of God should be issued wristbands that read: “Do not treat me medically. Jesus will heal me.” That way there will be more hospital beds available for the rest of us.

Art Naebig
Wisconsin


May issue of Freethought Today is best one ever

I have been a member of FFRF for several years. I regularly read Freethought Today. The May issue was so good — in fact, it’s the best issue I can remember since I’ve been a member.

I’ve enclosed a $100 honorarium to buy lunch for the team that produced it. Or maybe buy a gross of face masks. Thanks!

Fred Thorlin
Texas
Editor’s note: Thanks so much, Fred!


Greenhouse column was terrific in May issue

Let me express my compliments on the May issue, which I truly enjoyed. There was interesting content and the format was clean and easy to read. It’s terrific that you were able to reprint New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse’s essay. She is an amazing legal scholar (and a modest person with a commitment to causes that we value).

You all are obviously busy with serious work during these difficult times. Let me lighten things up by including a small piece below that I recently wrote.

Friend: What is the difference between atheists and agnostics?

Me: That’s easy. Atheists wear their atheist pin on their lapel whereas agnostics carry their atheist pin in their pocket.

Friend: Oh. And which are you, atheist or agnostic?

Me: How would I know? I’ve lost my pin.

Paul Newman
Indiana


New Mexico governor got it right on closings

Kudos to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for allowing the medicinal cannabis dispensaries to remain open as essential businesses, but ordered all churches closed, as they are not essential. I totally agree!

Philip Dahl
New Mexico


Church leaders must not have faith in prayer

If the pope and leaders of the Catholic church truly had faith in prayer, they would have allowed the public into the Vatican for Easter services. A telling decision.

Ken Fahrenholtz
New Jersey


Public’s ignorance must be discouraging to FFRF

I read FFRF’s posts on Facebook, and they fill me with wonder that you don’t get discouraged. So many politicians, being elected by an unthinking public, feel it’s their gawd-given right to punch holes in the wall between church and state. Well, thankfully, you don’t. I could just scream at the ignorance of the general public. Or maybe it’s their inertia. It is much easier to have another beer, switch channels on the TV and hope that you have merited some magic protection from a Sky Daddy.

Well, enough of my ruminations. Keep up the good work.

Dr. Peter G. Roode
Florida


Christian God doesn’t keep his promises

It appears to me that Dan Barker’s syllogism in his column in the May issue ends in a non-sequitur. The major premise that the Christian God promises to answer prayers coupled with the minor premise that prayers go unanswered does not lead to the conclusion that the Christian God does not exist. The most that can be concluded is that the Christian God does not keep his promises. The question about his existence is not addressed in the syllogism as it is structured. He simply is not as advertised.

However, the presence of evil in the world (e.g., COVID-19) means that the Christian God cannot be both pure love (1 John 4:8) and omnipotent (Mt. 19:26; Lk 1:37).

This was pointed out by Epicurus in his famous series of interrogatives: “Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

In short, the presence of evil contradicts the qualities of character usually ascribed to him and goes a long way to undermining the claim that he exists.

Tom Drolsum
Wisconsin


I wish I could have chosen my own god

Gene Twaronite’s column on “Choosing the perfect god” was insightful and fun. I wish I could have chosen my god when I was a child. My choice would have been far different from my Catholic upbringing, and I would not have entered the seminary at the too-young age of 16. Thank you, FFRF, for showing me the way. I have allowed my children to choose their religion or lack of religion and they are quite content with their freedom from religion.

Raymond Hellkamp
New York


Maybe we do need prayers at dentist’s office

It was a little disturbing to find out that dentists have their own prayer. I had kind of hoped that dentistry was a practice based on science, experience and technology. But it does make sense.

It has been said “there are no atheists foxholes,” which is demonstrably untrue. However, in the dentist’s chair, I pray. Maybe it’s not “real” praying since I’m not praying to anyone. I’m just wishing real hard, but it’s certainly as close to prayer as I will ever get.

During what is probably the most extreme exercise of self-will, I give someone a substantial amount of money to crawl inside my mouth with sharp instruments and power tools for a purpose supposedly in my long-term best interests. During that I pray — I pray to be able to leave my body or to time travel to when I’m walking out of the office. I pray that I don’t gag. I pray to slip into unconsciousness, or at least for my body to relieve itself of the need to breath or swallow for the next 30 minutes. Of course, none of these wishes or prayers is ever answered.

Steve Trunk
California


Crankmail Christians are all brainwashed

I’d like to write a letter to all the so-called Christians in the Crankmail section. You people are really and truly brainwashed if you believe all that crap that’s in the bible. When it comes to BS, your bible is loaded with it. There isn’t one word of truth in your so-called holy book. Since you believe all that religious garbage, I have two words for you — prove it!

Eugene T. Bernascone
New Jersey


Phrase puts burden of proof where it belongs

In the June/July Letterbox, Carl Sheiman said that he was looking for “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.”

Years ago, a friend suggested that conversations with believers should always refer to YAG, or ‘your alleged god.’ This simple phrase puts the burden of proof where it belongs.

Steven  Morris
California


Tradition not privileged in U.S. Constitution

A report in the May issue showed that the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2018 ruling that it is not unconstitutional to make new citizens recite “so help me God” at the end of the Naturalization Oath. The excuse by U.S. District Judge William Young was that the phrase was a “well-established tradition” and was merely ceremonial.

This is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority conjuring up excuses about history and tradition as ways to allow the Establishment Clause violations to continue. Nowhere does the Constitution privilege tradition, history, culture of ceremony over principles.

Violations became “historical” only because non-Christians, until recently, lacked the resources and organization to challenge them. Prohibition of same-sex marriage was traditional, but that tradition fell to principle. The same needs to happen to the Bladensburg cross, Pensacola cross, “so help me God,” etc.

Jurists who use history/tradition excuses to permit ongoing Establishment Clause violation are derelict in their duty to apply constitutional principles to the issues brought before them. They need to be impeached and removed before they cost the Supreme Court and more of its credibility.

Lee Helms
Michigan


Poem is my way of saying thanks to FFRF

Last July, I completed my 80th year and was inspired to write this poem for posterity. I’ve been an atheist for about 70 years. I can’t emphasize how much I appreciate Freethought Today and what FFRF is doing. Sharing this little piece of my life is my way of saying thank you for doing what you do.

Thoughts

Eighty years old and I’m slowing down

Getting closer to the time when I won’t be around

Being alive is still really good, don’t get me wrong

“Viviendo me vida,” and singing my song

There is something to be appreciated in every day

Some more than others, depending on what comes my way

I think more now than I ever have

Thinking to me is like a healing salve

Had a rough beginning as I look back

Growing up in a factory town called Pontiac

Didn’t like living in a real religious home

Hit the streets early and started to roam

Getting into trouble that seemed to be everywhere

By the time I was 15, I had more than my share

Got through it all, though it wasn’t a sure thing

Living the fast life, you never know what tomorrow might bring

But I had the strength and the will to survive

Though there were times I thought I might not make it out alive

Then I got turned onto books and set my mind free

Each day I set aside some time to think, because I can

And to appreciate my existence, and the person I am

I don’t need no religion, no beliefs and such

I am comfortable with evolution and don’t need a crutch

I like to think about this planet, revolving around the big ball in the sky

And ask myself questions like How? And Why?

I’ve come to the conclusion that no one knows

It is what it is, and for now that’s how it goes

Sometimes it seems like it’s all a fantasy

This awareness of life and its reality

Simply living my life for this short little while

Gives me a lot of satisfaction, and always brings a smile

I feel so fortunate for this gift of life

Lucky to have met the woman who is now my wife

Lucky to have a daughter and son

I guess you could say I’m a lucky son of a gun.

Danny Margosian
California