December is not just for Christians. Many unbelievers like to mark the Winter Solstice with food, family, music and gifts--pagan traditions that pre-date Christianity, recognizing the shortest day of the year. Last December the Gaylor/Barker family celebrated the "reason for the season" with a festive Solstice party, including a nontraditional dinner of Annie Laurie's Cornish Pasties and baked custard and a traditional exchange of gifts.
My main gift this year was quite extravagant: a PalmPilot. Besides debates, concerts and speeches for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I also do more than a hundred jazz piano gigs each year, so my calender gets pretty complicated. The little pocket electronic organizer is helping a lot. I am enjoying learning how to "go electronic" with my datebook and addresses.
I like to read manuals. After completing the basic documentation, I borrowed PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide from my sister-in-law Lisa, who also got a PalmPilot at the same party. (The whole world is going electronic!) The book comes with a CD containing thousands of programs and files that can be transferred to the handheld unit. I can install American & European literature, philosophy, religion, science, menus, (not-so) famous novels, the Koran, Book of Mormon--and the whole bible, in case I can't get through the day without a dose of "divine inspiration."
Imagine my surprise, while browsing the general Literary folder, to spot a file called "Dear Believer," between "DC Comics" and "Dennis Miller--The Rants." "Dear Believer" happens to be the title of a Foundation nontract I wrote in 1987. I couldn't imagine that a freethought piece would be awarded such a spot, or even be included at all, but I had to check it out.
Sure enough, when I opened the file, I found that it is indeed the Foundation's nontract #2. (The term "nontract"--a tract for nonbelievers--was coined by Annie Laurie.)
"Dear Believer" is the nontract that was blocked by Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh from being placed alongside Gideon bibles in state-owned hotel rooms in 1990 because its hard-hitting criticism of the bible was considered "blasphemous." The issue generated a lot of publicity and the offending nontract was reprinted in Harper's Magazine.
Now, it's a literary classic!
I wonder if Bayh got a PalmPilot for Christmas.
Dan Barker, a former minister, is a staff member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.