Letterbox (December 2020)

Thanks for celebrating ‘Day of the Dead’

Kudos to FFRF for celebrating a “Secular Day of the Dead!”

Yes, for centuries already my fellow Mexicans have celebrated “El Dia de los Muertos.”

On that day, families gather to honor their dead by enjoying life — they eat, they drink, and they make merry.

Aren’t we humans blessed to be so creative in our efforts to prevent the grim reaper from pouring vinegar into the tasty punch of life?

Mexicans have a popular proverb, which I’ll make an effort to translate: “El muerto a la sepultura, y el vivo a la travesura!” (“The dead we must bury, but while we live, let’s be merry!”)

David Quintero

FFRF’s online convention exceeded expectations

Congratulations on the excellent online convention and membership meeting. Kudos to the folks who made the technology work — an amazing accomplishment.

I very much enjoyed seeing and hearing from so many different staff members. Highlighting the behind-the-scenes staff showed the strength of this organization and added a personal feeling to the meeting. It is all too easy to forget that all that behind-the-scenes work is absolutely essential and a key to the success of an organization.

FFRF is so professional in everything it does, so it is no surprise that you were able to put together such an excellent online event. I’ve always particularly valued the legal summary at conventions. It is a very powerful statement on the importance and success of FFRF.

I expected a professional and engaging event, and, as is typical, you exceeded my expectations.

Thank you to all who were involved in the event!

Cheryl Kolbe

Check for signs of religion before buying

I recently purchased a jar of exceptionally good pickles from a small company in the Midwest. As I emptied my shopping bag at home, I decided to read the ingredients label, and just to the side of the list was a reference to a bible verse from Psalms. I wondered just how much I am paying for and consuming that supports causes that I reject. I decided to be vigilant, and, interestingly enough, not more than two weeks later, I happened to read the inside lid of my organic egg carton. And there it was . . . a bible verse from Matthew. I have since taken it up a notch, now walking behind every contractor’s truck as they arrive at my property, wanting to verify that there are no bumper stickers or decals that support causes or a point of view that I find offensive. It’s amazing what I have encountered since initiating this practice. Bottom line: Two contractor bids rejected, no more fabulous pickles and a different egg brand.

Robert Laub

Use these funds to help the FFRF legal team

I didn’t do an IRA direct contribution this year, but figured your legal department could use some help. Please accept my donation check as an incentive to hit the ground running as soon as the election dust settles. I’m seeing a long struggle ahead.

Name withheld

Ben Hart was highlight of FFRF’s online convention 

Thank you, thank you, thank you for a most wonderful Covid Convention!

From Dan Barker’s delightful and irreverent entertainment through the incredible accomplishments of FFRF’s legal team in 2020 (and a cameo by Ed Asner, as well!), it was a most informative afternoon. Worth far more than the price of admission, the virtual convention was indeed a true pandemic-era prize.

With all due respect to the FFRF staff, the clear superstar of the convention  was Ben Hart. As a native Ohioan, I was pleased that Ben led a life of bliss while living in that state. But once he had the audacity to toddle across the border into Kentucky . . . yeesh!

Anyone who thinks (as I once did) that his story is that of a dude trying to get a (super-duper!) vanity plate is completely missing the point. His eloquent, succinct and witty presentation of his years-long battle had me cheering. (And did I hear him correctly that he has been married to his lovely wife for 64 years? He hardly appears to be that old!) Ben Hart is a most engaging orator and is my new hero. He is FFRF-ing amazing!

Finally, a big shout-out to FFRF’s IT Director James Phetteplace for masterminding a flawless virtual presentation. Let’s face it, many of us have attended Zoom meetings crippled by technical snafus, but none of that occurred during the online convention. He made it all look like a piece of cake.

On a dreary and raw afternoon in Wisconsin during a surging pandemic, the convention truly inspired me and gave me hope for a better 2021. Best wishes for a restorative Winter Solstice, and above all, stay safe out there.

Charles T. Bingham

Secular teenagers need our attention

Please let everyone know how proud I am to be part of an organization like FFRF, and how well conducted I thought the annual meeting was — very professional.

I’m especially pleased at the increased attention you are giving to our teenagers. The kids too often get left out of secular activities and they are our future. At Camp Quest, I got a chance to talk one-on-one with a lot of secular kids, and I hadn’t fully appreciated the discrimination they often must endure — and just at the stage in life when they are trying to figure out who they are. That discrimination includes everything from dating issues to being an outcast at the lunch table at school to not being allowed to go to certain classmates’ homes. And here I thought being a secular adult in the workplace was tough!

Donald Lewellyn

Paper would be better without two sections

I read with great interest the entire newspaper, with two exceptions: The “Crankmail” and “Black Collar Crime” sections. I’m not interested in what these looney-tunes think and I’m even less interested in what those creeps do to children and vulnerable adults.

I believe it’s a waste of print and wish you could condense those sections.

Other than that, I love reading about those victories in giving those so-called religious fanatics a lesson in what it means to be a secular democracy versus a theocracy. Keep up the good work!

Joseph DiBlanca
New York

Your values are what’s meaningful to you

Human psychology (predisposed to personification), alongside ignorance and fear, invented God. The human mind naturally wants the whole shebang to be about something, for it to be of great consequence, pregnant with meaning. The human mind wants its life to be lived within grand meaning.  We want everything — the universe, our world, our lives — to be purposeful, to be sanctioned with an external seal of approval.

We believe that while we may not know what God’s divine purpose is, surely we’re integral to it. Your birth ushers you into the meaning, purpose and significance of a divine order. You matter more than you know, but matter, you do. Our natural craving for external meaning has created God and kept God going.  (Taught to most people by their beloved parents, the very idea of God becomes loved. The trappings of religion fashion solidity onto airy ideas, while fellow worshippers bestow safety in numbers to farfetched beliefs.)

Lamentably, religion fosters and promotes the wrong expectation — that all of it, including our lives — has external meaning. No. The opposite is true.

We are just another animal in the animal kingdom. We are classified among the great apes. The meaning of life is to live well your animal existence. Don’t be too hot or too cold. Don’t be too hungry or too thirsty. Stay safe. Work for good health. If you love and are loved, that’s icing on the cake. Meaning comes from within — internally, not externally — from your values. Your values come from your DNA and experiences. If you value animals, then caring for animals will be meaningful to you. If you value a knowledge of history, then the study of history will be meaningful to you. Live in accordance with your values and your life will be meaningful to you. If your values are honorable and kind, your life will be meaningful to others, as well.

The body’s decline and death are inevitable and natural. At the moment of your death, all that you are vanish — no more thoughts, no more feelings, no more experiences. That fate awaits you, as it does all animals. For that is what you solely are — an animal. Don’t deny the facts. Don’t hide in illusion. Work to live well.

Brent London

Seeing faces of FFRF staff was wonderful

What a feat presenting the online convention this year.

Great job by all in pulling it all together and giving us a thorough and informative virtual convention.

It was wonderful seeing all the familiar faces, even consoling. It surely made me miss coming up to the office and seeing people in person.

I look forward to the day when we can safely be together.

Thank you and to all of the staff.

Linda Josheff

Alabama case pushed me to become Life Member

I have been an atheist since I was 12. That’s when my parents gave me the choice to continue to go to church or not. I immediately opted out. Although we never discussed it, I am pretty sure my mom was a nonbeliever, as she is the one who pushed to not have me baptized, much to the astonishment and lifetime ire of my paternal Southern Baptist grandmother.

I have always enjoyed reading Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins. And back in 2014, I came across Dan Barker’s book Godless. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his transformation from a preacher to a regular reasonable person. By the way, I loved the quote: “I was the guy you didn’t want to sit next to on the bus.”

It was at that time that I first found out about FFRF and I joined immediately, as I wanted to be part of a group that was standing up for the basic ideals of this country, which, for me, includes the ability to have all the religion/mythology you want, but keep it away from me and my government.

After reading Freethought Today and the story about the voter registration requirement in Alabama to sign off on “so help me God,” even though there is already case law in Torcaso v. Watkins on the books, it got my ire! As a result of that story, I have decided to become a Lifetime Member to help in your continued pursuit of reason and sanity. Keep up the necessary work!

David Ford
New Mexico

Congrats to secular invocation winners

Congratulations to Sarah Ray and Ann Landman for their perseverance and courage in achieving the acceptance of their local city councils in Lake Wales, Fla., and Grand Junction, Colo., to allow them to give secular invocations. I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, all local and municipal governments in this country will adhere to what our founders intended to establish when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — a permanent wall between religion and government.

Steve Taulbee

Baha’i faith no different than other religions

In James Haught’s piece in the November Freethought Today, James mentioned Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i faith. Years ago, a businessman in my hometown actually started a Baha’i Fellowship and attracted some members. I looked into Baha’i and briefly considered joining this fellowship as Baha’i sounded more interesting to me than the Christian sects I’d known. But, ultimately, it turned out to be just as conservative, just as pray-pay-and-obey as all the other churches in the area. (The business has long since closed, and the businessman has evidently left the area, taking his Baha’i Fellowship with him.)

Andrew C. Jones