Letterbox (October 2020)

My father loved the FFRF Reagan ad

On the one-year anniversary of my father’s death, I am enclosing a check to FFRF in his memory. I would appreciate it if you would put this money toward your advertising budget. My dad loved the Ron Reagan commercial and if he knew in advance it was going to be aired, he would make a point to watch whatever program carried it.

My dad lived a long, happy and productive life and had his wits about him until the end. Although some expected him to make a deathbed conversion, Dad was a lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell. I shared my issues of Freethought Today with him and he always enjoyed them.

Nancy A. Kopp
Wisconsin


James A. Haught is a pillar of freethought

Thank you for publishing another fantastic short piece by James A. Haught. He’s a pillar of freethought in the vein of Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Barker and countless others.

I look forward to each of these concise, insightful articles by James Haught. I wish he could keep on writing forever.

Bruce Kopetz
Michigan


FFRF sticker should be made available to more

My FFRF bumper sticker (“Religion, the original fake news”) continues to draw attention and gives personal satisfaction. Now, when I am stuck in traffic, I am less annoyed knowing that the drivers behind me are receiving a thought-provoking message, piquing both their religious and political views.

I would like to encourage greater participation in displaying this message. If an anonymous member donated $500 and offered free bumper stickers to FFRF members requesting one, how many stickers would that be?

Anonymous
Texas


September issue was beautifully well-written

The September issue was beautifully well-written. Thank you, everyone, for your hard work on this!

Patrick Lindley
California


God born when we took madmen at their word

This little rant was inspired by two posts in rapid succession. (One preacher claiming that masks are satanic because God can’t hear you pray through a mask, and another saying that vegetarian burgers will alter your DNA so you are no longer human, and then Christ can’t save you.)

Only he heard the voices, no one else could, demanding he murder his child.

Some say God talked freely with people in biblical times, and now is silent because, you know, abortion and gay marriage.

Some say God was our first attempt to explain a world where sometimes the crops thrived and sometimes they failed.

Some say it’s been a protection racket all along. Pay up, people, or go to hell.

I say God was born when we took the madmen at their word, and every schizophrenic was a prophet. Even today, the Jim Bakkers and Joel Osteens and Pat Robertsons have their mansions and yachts and private jets, all because they imagine some private hotline to God. Think how much more so the ancients may have revered the madmen, chosen by God to hear his voice.

The founding patriarch of the revealed religions only spared his son’s life when the voice in his head said he could.

Linda Palter
Michigan


Chief Justice Roberts lied regarding Espinoza

In the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “A state need not subsidize private education, but once it decides to do so it cannot disqualify some private schools because they are religious.” That would be good law if those were the facts of this case, but the state of Montana disqualified taxpayer aid to all private education, religious or not. Chief Justice Roberts lied!

Douglas Norberg
Nevada


There’s only one way to argue with Christians

Miklos Jako’s column on how to argue with Christians could not be more wrong. While exchanging biblical jabs between a nonbeliever and a Christian might be entertaining, good theater at colleges, and fun between friends and even for writing books, it is pointless for a genuine refutation of Christianity.

For the latter, this is how it should go:

Nonbeliever: “Show me proof your god exists.”

Christian: “The bible says . . .”

Nonbeliever: “Stop! The bible is only relevant if it is the written word of your god. Until you prove your god exists, it is evidence of nothing. So again, show me proof your god exists.”

Sadly, for entertainment purposes, this is a very short exchange. But to “effectively” argue with Christians using their own scriptures makes no sense.

John Steiner
California


Thanks for getting rid of awful religious event

I just want to say thank you for working to get rid of the spring tea event in Muskogee County, Okla. I went to this in 2011 and it was really awful. I always wanted to make sure that nobody else would have to go, and I never had the resources or the power to make that happen.

Please keep fighting programs like this. Just because Muskogee isn’t doing this anymore doesn’t mean that other school districts aren’t. The speaker who spoke to us was Carol Sallee, and her website still markets her as a school speaker. I hope that someday Oklahoma is free from character-based abstinence programs that make girls feel like trash or, in the words of Carol Sallee, “a paper plate.”

Emily Dean
Oklahoma


People are religious for comfort, the afterlife

I found it interesting that two articles on the same page in the August issue of Freethought Today seemed to me to be making unwarranted assumptions about the religious.

James Haught couldn’t imagine why anyone needs the supernatural when reality is so amazing, and Barbara Walker accuses religion of being a scam, as theologians try to adapt their doctrines to reality.  However, I don’t think the average religious American is being scammed into believing or needs to believe in something amazing. I think the religious are religious simply because they find it comforting to believe. They don’t need an amazing God — just one that assures them of an afterlife where they will be reunited with their dead loved ones and one they can pray to when times are bad (as an adult replacement for the parents children turn to for comfort).  Even if the theologians didn’t come up with reasons why prayers are not answered, people would still pray because they need the hope that prayers give them (just as gamblers keep gambling even if they rarely win).

I think these reasons are why humankind invented and maintains its religions, although I admit that, once religions become organized, scamming is inevitable.  It is evolutionarily helpful to be able to enforce norms that benefit the group, including soliciting donations that are used to benefit the needy.  However, absolute power (when you speak for God) corrupts absolutely, and the threat of hell can also be used to enforce things like requiring donations that are used mostly to benefit the church and those who run it, sending people to war to defend the beliefs that empower those who run the churches, or even just telling people they must believe without asking any pesky questions.  If those behaviors were all that people got from religion, though, humans would not be the religious people we are. My belief is that it is the comfort people derive from prayer and belief in an afterlife that maintains religion throughout diverse human societies.

Wendy V. Koch
Colorado


Sacrificing of chickens is pure animal abuse

While I am disturbed at a number of the news items I see in Freethought Today (especially religious institutions stealing money from taxpaying Americans such as myself), as a strong opponent of animal abuse, I find the story about the “chicken sacrifices” in New York doubly disturbing — mostly for the fact that anyone is going after these cultists as a matter of health instead of for the sake of the poor animals!

Steven Evans
Oklahoma


Cafeteria Christians are easier to convince

I always find articles, such as by Miklos Jako (August issue), on how to talk to the religious informative. But I disagree with the statement that “combating the conservative Christian is far more important.” It is very difficult to convince true believers to question their beliefs. I target cafeteria Christians because they’ve already taken a step away from core tenets. I think getting these people to stop calling themselves Christians and to stop donating to churches is a way to marginalize the conservative ones. But it is useful to pursue multiple strategies and I’m glad Jako tackles the harder problem.

Charles H. Jones
Oregon


Seidel’s book earns place in living room

Andrew Seidel’s unapologetic and crushing critique of Christian Nationalism earned him a special spot in my living room. I went out and bought a plaque of the Bill of Rights and another copy of his book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American. I’m hoping I get the chance to offer the book to someone, who, after visiting my house and seeing the plaque, is curious as to its purpose in my living room beside this book.

Of course, I bought these items using my Amazon Smile FFRF page, which gives a portion back to one of my favorite charities. Keep up the good fight, FFRF!

Richard Gibble
Pennsylvania

Editor’s note: Thank you, Richard. You may purchase an autographed copy from ffrf.org/shop.


A kinder, gentler Crankmail section?

While reading the Crankmail feature in the September edition of Freethought Today, I couldn’t help but notice a total lack of the usual profanity. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to compliment that particular group of individuals who wrote to FFRF to express their delusional, fantasy-riddled and irrational perspectives on religion and the separation of church and state, yet managed to do so without resorting to vulgar, crass and vile expressions of disagreement.

Marcia Goodman
California


FFRF let me identify as ‘chaplain,’ unlike others

I sent an email supporting Do No Harm and noticed that FFRF is the only entity soliciting my actions or funds that lets me identify myself as “chaplain.” I worked as hard in web-based and classroom study for The Humanist Society to certify me as a humanist chaplain as I did for my B.A. from Syracuse, my M.A. from The American University, and my commission in the U.S. Navy. I’m 83, and done with all that buryin’ and marryin’ stuff, but I’m still active in the VA’s InHome Visits Program. COVID-19 has cut us back to phone visits, but we still do what we can for disabled/homebound vets. Thanks for recognizing my validity!

Roy Bates
New York


Why does FFRF capitalize the word ‘God’?

I question why we capitalize the word “god” in Freethought Today.

God is no one’s proper name, it is just one of many possible deities. Would it not be better to simply name the deity in question, or use “deity” in place of “God”? If deities do not exist, why do we capitalize that which does not exist? Very illogical.

Alexander Wallace
California

Editor’s note: FFRF capitalizes “God” when it is used as the name of a particular god. Also, things that do not exist have names that are capitalized (i.e. Mickey Mouse).


When is enough biblical nonsense enough?

When is proof enough proof? The worldwide scientific community has sent satellite probes billions of miles into an unfathomable universe. They have thousands of photos of many of the billions of suns, moons, galaxies, etc., right down to active volcanoes, ice caps, giant geysers, etc. But the bible sums it all up in Gen. 1:16 — “God also made the stars.” Bingo! Creation completed in six days!

But one thing these probes haven’t seen is any sign of heaven — you know, that place where angels, gods, souls and Jesus traverse. I see how people can buy into the delusion of heaven because it can make them feel kind of OK with dying, since they’ll be there with only people who also believe and think as they do.

Just when is enough of this total nonsense enough?

Tony Spahn
Florida 


FFRF helps give mother closure

I was reading my weekly emailed FFRF newsletter and was excited to read of your involvement with the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) School District. Your actions help me put closure to a situation I had with the district nearly 50 years ago.

I was the parent of two young boys who were enrolled in a Salem-Keizer elementary school. I’ll always remember the day my 8- and 6-year-old sons arrived home from school. They were the most excited I’d seen them. They flew into the house, each carrying a flyer inviting them to join a club — The Good News Club! The flyer promised them cookies, cupcakes, Kool-Aid, party games and bible stories. The best part: It was during school hours so they could miss their class to attend. All they needed was for me to sign the permission paper and they could both be club members.

One problem: Their father was Muslim and I was one of those cursed nonbelievers. I was a mother being faced with telling my two little boys that I wasn’t going to give my permission to them to be club members and party with their friends. (I had an epiphany when I was 7 years old. I was sitting in one of those little chairs at Sunday school listening to bible stories. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was in a room full of people who were taking those crazy stories seriously. I was shocked and got out of the room as fast as I could. I never went back.)

What happened next was too lengthy to describe in detail. I met with their teachers, school officials, legislators, etc. The end result: My sons were the only students in their class who weren’t allowed to join the club. They were required to sit at their desks doing class work while all their friends partied. Further exacerbating the situation, my sons’ teachers were required to remain in the classroom to monitor my sons instead of taking a break in the teachers’ lounge. Thus, my sons were furious with me and their teachers were, likewise. Every week for the remainder of the school year we suffered because we weren’t “good Christians.”

Reading about Salem-Keizer in my FFRF newsletter reminded me of how angry I felt years ago when I was unjustifiably faced with either disappointing my children and remaining true to myself or conforming to the pressure of other peoples’ religious beliefs. I’ve never questioned that I made the right decision, but I still feel anger about being placed in the situation of having to explain to my sons why my beliefs ostracized them from their friends.

I’m an old grandmother now. My two grandsons attend Salem-Keizer schools. I’d like to make a donation to FFRF so you can continue the fight against religion in our public schools. I wish FFRF would have been around for me so many years ago. Maybe you can use my donation to help in the continuing effort to remove religion from our schools.

Judith Hassoun
Oregon

Nancy Kopp writes: “This is a photo of my dad, Rudy Kopp, from about nine years ago. He was the best person I have ever known and was a wonderful example of how a nonbeliever can be an honest human being who was always trying to make the world a better place.”