Letterbox (November 2020)

Go tell it on the mountain

Joel Brown of Colorado recently took a trip to Utah, where he visited the Arches, Canyonlands and the La Sal Mountains with his new personalized license plate. “It has given us some good laughs and so far only positive interactions,” Joel writes. “I was inspired to give this a try when I learned of the man in Kentucky [Ben Hart] who got the same plate after a legal battle. I had that ruling from the federal court ready to share with my local DMV, but it was not needed. On the DMV form where it asks what the personalization means, I wrote, ‘This reflects my belief that religion is subject to individual interpretation.’” This photo was taken at the Garden of Eden trailhead in Arches National Park.


Justice Ginsburg had sense of humor

We are all mourning the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Several years ago, she came to Chicago to talk at the monthly meeting of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA). Ten people sat on the stage with her, including the president of the CBA and the chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court. She gave a great talk, and when we adjourned, many of us walked up to the front of the stage to talk with whomever we wanted. I waved at Ginsburg, and she came over to where I was. I complimented her on her talk, and I told her it was great to have her with us, but it was contrary to the biblical teaching of Paul to Timothy, which I ironically quoted to her. She smiled back and said, “That was somewhat before my time.”

Her death is a tremendous loss to our country.

Ted Utchen

Illinois


Human life, not life in general, is the issue

Dr. George Domingo was absolutely right in his letter in the September issue (“Find out the category of pro-lifer’s stance”), but he does not go far enough. The problem is the anti-abortion crowd uses the “pro-life” mantra in ways that persuade many unthinking people. But the issue is not “life” — it is human life. Yes, a fetus is life. So is a daisy or a mosquito, but no one thinks twice about plucking a daisy out of the ground or swatting a mosquito. And a fetus does not become a human life until it experiences existence outside the womb.

Those of us who respect a woman’s right to her own body and who believe that religionists and political groups want to inflict their own values on everyone need to emphasize that human life, not “life” propaganda, is the real issue here.

Michael Spielman
New York


Evangelicals are now just political prostitutes

Christianity was once a bedrock of moral and ethical values, held steadfast for generations. The Ten Commandments were etched in stone. White evangelicals have changed all that in their lust to support the most immoral and unethical president in American history. They have rationalized President Trump’s violation of every commandment, including “Thou shall not kill,” which Trump ignored by cozying up to Russian and Saudi Arabian dictators who murdered political opponents. Evangelicals overlook Trump’s daily lies, racism and adultery, while playing to his massive ego by telling him he was chosen by God to lead America.

While other religious denominations haven’t been as vocal, they have enabled Trump and the evangelicals with their silence. All have contributed to changing the bedrock of Christian values into a malleable mass of amorphous mud that can be remolded to suit whatever is the political purpose of the day. They have ceased to be Christians and are now, instead, a convenient cadre of political prostitutes.

Dave Wester
Wisconsin


Time to join the ranks of Lifetime Membership

I’m not sure how long I have been a member of FFRF, but I do remember when Skeets and I first became members. We gave at the “household” level and in 2011 we bumped up to the “gung-ho” level. I’m ready to move into a new category! I am enclosing a check for $1,000 to become a Lifetime Member! I can’t think of a better way to spend a grand than to give it to the Freedom From religion Foundation.

On an unrelated note, I just finished reading Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire and it made quite an impression on me. One of the things that hit hard is the role that religion played over the last 400 years in creating our current situation, where reality, science and facts simply don’t matter. And the Religious Right seems to be stronger than ever and pushing its dogma and views on the rest of us.

Thanks for all you do!

Julie Mahoney
Arizona


Government knows that churches are businesses

Thank you for Freethought Today! I read it faithfully (forgive the expression!).

In the August edition, you comment about the support of churches through the Paycheck Protection Program. I agree with your comments, but look at the positive aspect: The program is run by the Small Business Administration, which shows that the government also realizes that religion is a business. 

Keep up the good work!

Mark Gaston
New York


FFRF, Freethought Today have opened up my mind

Thank you for sending me Freethought Today. I’m new to this. I’m a member, but just wanted to thank you for opening up my mind. I was raised Catholic and I have been an enthusiastic non-Catholic for years. I enjoy every one of your articles, from cover to cover. Thanks for all you do.

Teresa Miller
Wisconsin


No need to pretend if you live in real world

With all the news about RBG’s death, I remembered my thinking a couple decades ago. I accept that there is consolation in religion. I sat by my mother’s bedside where she was in an irreversible coma. Dad had consulted with us kids and had her disconnected from life support. We took turns sitting with Dad by her bedside as she slowly died. I found myself thinking how consoling it would be if I could just believe I would see her again — to see her as her younger, fully healthy self and laugh and talk with her.

But that consolation is only available if one lives in a fantasy world where religion is true. I chose to live in the real world and could not make myself believe something that was clearly illogical. So, I grieved as she slipped quietly into oblivion. She had already left herself and now she left the rest of us.

The problem is that, if you can accept fantasy and illogic about death, then you can accept fantasy and illogic about the real world. That can lead to real disaster and unhappiness. No, it is better to live in the real world and do appropriate grieving over real losses than to pretend there is a rosy future where no grief is necessary.

Karla Martin
Washington


Essay scholarship will help further my education

I am very thankful to have received the 2020 Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Honorable Mention Scholarship. Your generosity will help me to continue my education at Carleton College.

Though I have not officially chosen a field of study yet, I am planning on pursuing an English major. I hope to use the skills I have acquired in a position at a publishing company or teaching English abroad. Thank you again for the scholarship.

Indigo Bistrup-Peterson
Minnesota


Catholics have outsized influence on high court

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for any public office, including the federal courts. Yet Amy Coney Barrett, who has been confirmed by the Senate, is the fifth conservative Roman Catholic on the current Supreme Court, all appointed by Republican presidents.

Conservative Catholics probably represent no more than 10 percent of the nation’s population, yet will now comprise a solid majority on the court, with another conservative Trump appointee, Neil Gorsuch, who now calls himself a Protestant, having been raised Catholic. Antonin Scalia, whom Brett Kavanaugh replaced, was another conservative Catholic appointed by a Republican.

It is clear that these justices were nominated and confirmed in the knowledge that they most likely will never defy the teachings of their church and will vote to overturn Roe. v. Wade and same-sex marriage, and oppose separation of church and state, approving taxpayer support for religious schools in the form of vouchers and tax credits, along with taxpayer support for repairs and renovations to church properties, while defending the right of religious institutions receiving public funds to discriminate in hiring based on “religious freedom.”

Any critics of these right-wing Catholics have been, and will continue to be, accused of anti-Catholicism.

In addition to the Supreme Court, Trump has been appointing large numbers of conservative Christians (Catholic and Protestant, including Amy Coney Barrett earlier) to the lower federal courts ever since he took office. Jews, Muslims, atheists, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., need not apply.

Dennis Middlebrooks
New York


Happy to see FFRF show up our in community

Lo and behold, what a wonderful surprise! There, in the middle of the third page of the Sept. 9 edition of our local weekly (the State Port Pilot), I saw the headline, “Group seeks to end prayer at meetings.” This call-out was long overdue. Since we have lived here, the Brunswick County Commissioners have put “In God We Trust” in bold letters on the county building and stick-on strips of the same on all county vehicles. This was justified by one member as “the moral thing to do.”

What was so great for me is to know that I’m not the only FFRF member here. Keep it up!

Joe Hardesty
North Carolina


Is QAnon a smokescreen for the Catholic Church?

You’ve heard about the lunatic cult QAnon. It’s rabidly obsessed about the sexual abuse of children transnationally by an imaginary satanic cabal of popular right-wing whipping boys: show biz, the media, liberal politicians.

Meanwhile, children are sexually abused by something real — the Catholic Church — and QAnon has nothing to say about that.

Could whoever assembled this online gaggle of loonybirds be operating with the covert aim of providing a smokescreen for the Church, a distraction? Or could the secret leader of QAnon merely be a dupe of some Catholic-fomented alternative reality?

Basically, is there a purpose to all this, a method to the obvious madness? Or is it simply misguided to try to find sense where none actually exists?

Stephen Van Eck
Pennsylvania


A few questions for the Supreme Court nominee

I sent this letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Some questions for Barrett:

1. Can religion be used as an excuse to harm or discriminate against other citizens of the United States? Yes or no?

2. Can one citizen of the United States be forced by taxation to support the religion of another citizen? Yes or no?

3. Does the government of the United States take a position as to which religion a citizen of the United States must adhere? Yes or no?

4. Is there a religion to which a citizen of the United States must adhere in order to have constitutional rights and equal protection of the law? Yes or no?

5. Is there a percentage of the United States population that a group of citizens must achieve before members of the said group have constitutional rights and equal protection of the laws? Yes or no?

Paul Keller
Wisconsin


I really enjoy FFRF’s NYT ads, Freethought Today

I love your monthly newspaper and the FFRF ads in The New York Times. I am an atheist because I see no evidence of a god, heaven or hell. They are imaginary.

Jimmy Dunne
Texas


Im God plate

FFRF’s survey results are surprising, dismaying

I am somewhat surprised, and not a little dismayed, at FFRF’s survey results.  “Universal health care access” [which 94 percent of respondents support] means some sort of government control — a singularly bad idea. And a “guaranteed minimum income” [70 percent support] is simply an excuse to indulge the terminally lazy. “Reduced college tuition” [83 percent support] imposes the costs on people who do not benefit from them. These ideas are an excellent way to completely destroy an economy. People who are smart enough to realize that there can exist no reason to believe that any god exists ought to be smart enough to understand this.

Robert Saunders
California