Letterbox (September 2019)

I ‘Freethought’ at the gym. Where do you?

I just got home from a long vacation to a pile of mail. I dug through everything, hoping there would be a copy of Freethought Today waiting for me. Happy to find it, I took it to the gym with me, looking forward to reading it on the stationary bike. Whenever I get a new issue, I take with me so I can read it during the down times of my day when not much is going on.

I had two thoughts that came to me as I read:

First, I am out and proud, and always take off the outer cover sheet from the paper, so the title is clearly visible to anyone that sees me reading. I look forward to the day when Freethought Today can be delivered like any other magazine, with the cover exposed, and that there are no more FFRF members that have to be discreet about their membership!

Second, I would like to see a small section of the paper that is titled, “Where do you Freethought?” Members could send in a photo of where they read their paper. I’ll start it with the attached photo: I “Freethought” at the gym.

Keep up the great work!

John Fisher

Hobby Lobby tries to hoodwink the public

I opened up my e-edition of the Pantagraph newspaper (from Bloomington-Normal, Ill.) on July 4 and was aghast to see Hobby Lobby’s full-page ad spewing its nonsense about Christianity and our nation. Hobby Lobby can spend its money any way it wants, but I hate to see the public hoodwinked. I had received FFRF’s “Is America a Christian Nation?” pamphlet, so I thought of FFRF when I saw the ad.

Bill Rasmussen

History, tradition no excuse for court rulings

I read FFRF’s article “Bladensburg cross decision a shameful legacy for Supreme Court.” This decision, relying on “history” to excuse an obvious Establishment Clause violation, seems to be part of a pattern. The Greece v. Galloway decision also relied on history and tradition, as have several others.

If history and tradition had been significant considerations in decisions by past courts, we would still have racially segregated public schools, poll taxes and literacy tests as barriers to voting, and cops beating “confessions” out of subjects. Those past decisions instead relied on reason, logic and the golden rule, as applied to principles stated in the Constitution. This current court is using history and tradition as excuses to allow blatant violations to continue, which creates a “might makes right” attitude.

Justice Samuel Alito’s claim that “the passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality” is flat-out dishonest. The Constitution says nothing about accepting violations after some time limit. These “histories” and “traditions” were established at a time when the unconstitutional Christian dominance of society and government was unquestioned. That dominance is now being questioned and we need to call out the Supreme Court’s Christian mullahs: Stop making excuses that allow the violations to go on. Continued excuse-making will cost the court even more of its credibility.

Lee Helms

Was Jesus gay? He was still bachelor at 33

I enjoyed Brian Bolton’s informative article on the blatant hypocrisy of evangelical Christians regarding their opposition to legal rights for the LBGTQ community on “biblical grounds.” Among other items, Bolton noted the reluctance of these religious bigots to address the ambiguous nature of Jesus’ sexuality based on what can be gleaned from the gospels. In addition to what Bolton noted, there is another aspect of Jesus’ life that should alarm fundamentalists and support the notion that he may have been gay. At a time when most Jews were expected to marry and have children soon after they reached puberty, Jesus was still a bachelor at age 33, along with most, if not all, of his disciples. Mary must have been one very disappointed Jewish mother!

Dennis Middlebrooks
New York

Cross is definitely a Christian symbol

The Supreme Court’s decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association ruled that a huge cross can stand as a WWI memorial on public land in Maryland. I was upset after reading Samuel Alito’s opinion that such an old cross was not a religious symbol. I have heard such opinions my whole life about crosses, Christmas, and all manner of obvious Christian symbols and practices. Even as a child, I recognized these absurd statements as expressions of privilege — Christians get to make the rules. The consequences were always just as clear — non-Christians are not full Americans. It is disheartening to get this from the Supreme Court. Allowing symbols from other religions as condolence attempts at inclusivity always struck me as patronizing. They only reinforce the primacy of Christianity in the United States.

I recognize the Constitution as an aspirational document, and that we must continuously fight for freedom from religion. My grade school civics tells me the way to fight Supreme Court decisions is for Congress to pass laws against them. There was talk in 2016 of electing candidates to contravene Citizens United in this way. Sadly, those elections did not turn out so well. What can individuals and FFRF do against this latest development?

Mitchell Dushay

Canada, too, has issues of state-church separation

I am a Canadian member of FFRF and I am very supportive of your work. It’s very reassuring to know you’re out there, especially for ex-fundies like me.

I watch “Ask an Atheist” and “Freethought Matters” videos a couple of times a week and I realize the American problem is different from the Canadian one. You have a constitution that provides a legal basis for the separation of church and state and, therefore, you can bring legal action directly to the issue. In contrast, Canada has developed a culture that allows for greater diversity and is less reactionary to the multitude of opinions but, on the other hand, it’s not like the old mythologies have disappeared. Beliefs, faith, doctrines and traditions are more in the closet, yet they still affect political, civic, public and group behavior and decision-making.

The situation in Quebec is one I would recommend that FFRF highlight because of the recent legislation to deny anyone from wearing religious symbols if one works in a government office or in an agency funded by the government. The exception is the wearing of small Christian crosses on necklaces. That’s OK, but a hijab is not? Most of us know that this effort is a thinly disguised ploy to restrict Islam by stopping Muslim women from wearing burkas and hijabs and other facial or head coverings in public.

All the while this debate is going on, there is a giant cross on the wall of the provincial legislature. It is jaw-dropping to see this huge, blatant Christian symbol in the background during news items on TV as they defend legislation to eliminate religious symbols! The official response to questions about it is, “Oh, that’s not religious — it’s traditional and historic.”

Canada is a long way away from putting nativity scenes on public property and the Ten Commandments in courthouses and schools, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Your encouragement, support and action will always be appreciated.

Jay Moore
Waterloo, Ontario

‘The bible’ should not be used in the singular

There is no such thing as “the bible,” so it is wrong to use it. Give me your definition of the “bible” and then I can show you. Generically, the bible is the word of a god or gods. Considering there are about 10 major versions of the bible and about 100 different translated versions in English alone, there cannot be “the bible.” When someone says to me, the “bible,” I ask what version. I don’t let someone believe that there is only one Christianity based on their bible version because they are stealing the narrative.

David Detterich

Display adds religion where it shouldn’t be

During Memorial Day this year, the U.S. Department of State’s Charleston Regional Center’s display honoring our nation’s fallen soldiers moves the heartache from the personal to the political.

The display is a table with a place setting for someone who will not return, whose absence is grieved: a glass waiting to be filled, a folded flag memorializing their sacrifice, and . . . a bible?

For those who made the ultimate sacrifice, was their sacrifice any less if they did not share Christian beliefs?

For those who suffer from the loss of a loved one in the military, is their suffering any less if their loved one did not share Christian beliefs?

For those who died defending our country, is the debt of gratitude we owe them any less if they died not sharing Christian beliefs?

Please, remember all who made that sacrifice, not just those who shared a particular religious belief.

Richard Cook

It’s never too late to become a Life Member

I’ll make this short and sweet. Having just turned 91, it seems I need to show more my gratitude for the work you do. I’m giving this check to become a Lifetime Member to help in some small way. I have already included FFRF (along with other worthwhile organizations) in my will.

Martin Stern

Excited about return of ‘Freethought Matters’

I am delighted to know that there will be a second season of the “Freethought Matters” TV show. There is hope for Sunday mornings!

Keep up the good work!

Martin Snelus

Prayer didn’t get us to the moon, science did

I just published my memoir of my years at NASA in Houston working on Apollo missions. It’s titled, When We Landed on the Moon.

Along with many other engineers, I spent long hours, sometimes literally 24-hour days, working on Apollo 8. The mission was a triumph of human ingenuity, genius and intense hard work. So, when the astronauts read bible verses while orbiting the moon, I was outraged and betrayed. Prayer didn’t get us to the moon — science and technology did. That magnificent and very human achievement was denigrated in favor of the childish creation myth of a primitive people.

At least I got the chance to blow off some steam about it in my book!

David Dvorkin

Abortion T-shirt has a very moving message

The National Network of Abortion Funds sent me a T-shirt that has one of the most moving statements ever: “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion.”

I wear this shirt to the mall in Torrance, Calif., and the response from women and young girls has been overwhelming. I’m a 71-year-old male.

Damian Walters

John Fisher holds up a copy of Freethought Today at his gym.

POW/MIA displays are for remembrance

At remembrance displays in a VA medical center, fundamentalist Christians put religious scripture in the middle of those memorials to publicly proselytize religious beliefs. The hospital refused to remove it when veterans, including Christians, complained. A lawsuit was then filed to prevent this unconstitutional government endorsement and promotion of religion.

Originated in 1967 by a group of our Vietnam War combats pilots, the POW/MIA display purpose was (and is) to leave a place at the dinner table for those military comrades. It has always been about remembrance, not religion.

In response to the lawsuit, the VA wrote a new policy, presumably permitting this religious intrusion on the secular remembrance display, which is nothing more than unconstitutional malfeasance because it:

• Disobeys the First Amendment, prohibiting our government from endorsing or promoting a religion and requiring government neutrality regarding religion.

• Distracts from memorial remembrance by promoting religion not shared by all POWs, MIAs or military veterans.

• Disrespects millions of Americans who are not fundamentalist Christians.

Brig. Gen. John Compere, (Retired)