Vol. 20 No. 6 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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"No Price on Liberty"
Thank you, FFRF, for your ongoing efforts to restore and maintain the freedom of all Americans.
Enclosed please find payment for my lifetime membership. It seems a small price to pay when compared to the many people who suffered and died to protect our precious freedom. Recognizing that one cannot put a price on liberty, I hope that many other current and potential members will join me by financially supporting the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Hearty congratulations for this great victory in helping to uphold the Establishment Clause in the La Crosse Ten Commandments case. Without your hard work and persistence, this decision would not have occurred. Thank you all for a job well done that resulted in justice and upholding the goals of the founding fathers of our great land.
I am filled with joy at this past week's events. First Canada, our wonderful neighbors to the north, recognized gay/lesbian marriage and then our own Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws. I see both of these actions as real blows to religionists.
My partner and I have been "married" in a loving, committed relationship . . . although not legally. We have accepted all of the responsibilities, now we want the benefits enjoyed by heterosexuals for the same commitment.
It is amazing to me that we have been together in our relationship for 37 years with absolutely no public support or encouragement, yet we are accused by the religious right of being the downfall of marriage and the family. The right of gays and lesbians to marry is not about gender or conforming to, or aping, heterosexual society. It is about affirming our right to be recognized by the state as a legal and legitimate couple.
Richard L. Phelps
PS. I am so proud of my membership in FFRF when I watch the antics of the religionists.
Kate Hepburn's Atheism Downplayed
Newspapers covered in detail the life of a film great, Katharine Hepburn, beloved by all who knew of her extraordinary acting talent, and of her independent personal lifestyle. She was the daughter of a freethinking father, Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn, and an equally thinking mother, who promoted woman's suffrage.
I daily read the The New York Times, the New York Post, the Daytona News Journal, as well as all of the weekly magazines, and I have yet to see any of them reveal that Kate Hepburn made no secret of the fact that she was proud to be an atheist.
The opening sentence of N.Y. Post writer Liz Smith's July 4th column, "Remembering Kate the Great," was: "God Bless America and Kate Hepburn."
Is it possible that such a renowned correspondent would be ignorant of Kate Hepburn's atheism? Of course not. The Post, in harmony with the other newspapers and magazines, deliberately omitted that fact. Only the Times identified Kate as a "freethinker."
The conduct of our so-called "free press" in their evasive treatment of Kate's nonreligious beliefs was intended not to disappointed or shock her loving religious fans--that anyone as prominent and talented as Kate could possibly be an atheist!
But Liz Smith's final words did carry truths: "Kate Hepburn transcended acting to become a beacon of enlightenment, independence, the value of hard work, and being true to oneself."
Fred R. Melone
"Refreshing and Enlightening"
I am 72 years old, with failing vision and increasing medical expenses, and a growing disgust with the direction this country is going.
I want to renew my membership in one of the greatest, most enlightened, and most refreshing organizations I've ever belonged to.Keep up the great work you are doing. I look forward to receiving Freethought Today.
What's Happening In Your Town?
Several years ago, I read in the local newspaper about the "Mayor's Breakfast" to be held at a hotel in downtown Neenah, Wis. I felt that after living in Neenah for a year, it was time for me to get acquainted with my local civic leaders. At the hotel, I found that the event was not at all a "Mayor's Breakfast"--it was a meeting of religious revivalists! It was part of the National Day of Prayer, led by Mrs. Dobson of Focus on the Family fame. I wrote a letter to the mayor to express my concern that the "Mayor's Breakfast" was flying under a false flag, since I had thought a "Mayor's Breakfast" would be for all people, not just evangelical Christians.
This year we have a different mayor. The same evangelical Christian group that had set up the "Mayor's Breakfast" arranged a "Mayor's Prayer Walk," led by the mayor. I phoned the number listed in the local newspaper and was told that the Walk was distinctly for "Jesus Christ and the Trinity." I asked if people of other religions were part of the event, and was told again of its "Jesus Christ is Lord" center, but that others could walk along if they wanted. This meant that the "Mayor's Prayer Walk" was a Christian-only event, and a certain brand of Christian at that. It also carried strong Dobson-style political overtones. The event is really bait and switch or deceptive advertising, trying to put a religious exercise under an umbrella of civic action.
As a believer and a citizen, Mayor George Sherck has every right to participate in the walk. His personal religion should be exercised as he sees fit, but he is mayor of all the citizens of Neenah. His oath of office does not confer authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents, favoring one religion over another.
Naturally, I wrote a letter to Mayor Sherck, outlining my concern over his stamping the actions of his religious group with the patina of civic authority. What is set for next year? Stay tuned. And what is happening in your town?
Donald A. Mosher
Young Nontheists Inspirational
Enclosed find my renewal check for Freethought Today. I don't want to miss a single issue.
I read each issue from start to finish. I find all articles informative and/ or inspirational. My favorites are essays written by young nontheists. Because of their thoughts I know there is hope despite the deplorable policies of theocrats in high places.
It takes lots of courage to become and stay a freethinker. I reached that happy status at age 65. The freedom is exhilarating.
Grant E. Warren in Memoriam
I am sending you a check to renew our membership in your fantastic organization. My husband, Grant E. Warren, died in January. He found you quite a few years ago and had always kept up with all you do. He had the utmost respect and admiration for you and always wished he could have done more.
Grant was a lifelong freethinker and fought the battle forever. I miss him so much. He was 72 years old and was very disturbed by the fact that people and the world had not come any further along in his lifetime.
I would like to continue receiving Freethought Today. It's so good to know your organization is out there trying very hard to get the word out and get people to think.
The Ten Commandments: so much talk, so little knowledge.
There are three versions of the Ten Commandments in the bible.
Version #1 (Exodus 20-): "Thou shalt have no other gods. . . ." Moses broke these stone tablets.
Version #2 (Exodus 34:1-26): "And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks. . . . Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk." This is the only version that uses the words "the Ten Commandments."
Version #3 (Exodus 34:27 through Chapter 35): ". . . bring gold and silver . . . and fine linen . . . and oil and spices . . ." and on and on and on. This is god the interior decorator. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.
How many preachers share this information with their congregation? How many preachers are even aware of this information?
How can anyone take any of this seriously? God doesn't. He commanded "no graven images." Yet a few pages later he commands: "Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole." A few pages later he says "make two cherubims of gold."
Remember the commandment "Thou shalt not kill"? Later on you read "Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Psalm 137:9)
I suggest that someone should compile all 600-some commandments and put them on a monument in the middle of downtown. Be sure to include such pearls of wisdom as: (Deuteronomy 21:21) Sons that are gluttons and drunkards shall be stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 22:21) Nonvirgin brides shall be stoned to death.
"What We're Up Against"
I'd like to give you a glimpse of what we're up against down here in the very center of fundamentalistburg.
This latest fuss started when a science professor from Furman University (which threw off the Baptist yoke several years ago) wrote a guest editorial for the Greenville News, the primary newspaper for the upstate area of South Carolina. In it he discussed the very great need to teach legitimate science in the South Carolina public schools, rather than the half-myth-half-semi-science that teachers here (either bemused by religion or terrified by the prospect of losing their job) now teach.
It resulted in a frantic flurry of protesting (protestant?) letters, augmented by a rebuttal editorial by a locally renowned science (what a terrible abuse of the term!) professor from Bob Jones University in Greenville.
The indignant ignorance of the letter-writers would actually be funny except for our knowledge that some of the writers are on various public school boards in the area.
I'm beginning to fear that ignorance is too entrenched here, and even seems to be replicating itself. But we can't give up, can we?
"The Perfect Sheeple"
Mormonia is an odd place. I've done reading, and the whole thing is a super fraud, based very loosely on previous super frauds, yet it operates as a successful cult, with low dropout rates and solid cash flow. The Mo's are almost perfect sheeple. The brainwashing begins in the womb and doesn't let up till departure or death. I used to hand out belief-destroying questionnaires to missionaries, but for some strange reason they stopped calling on me over three years ago. I think I'm on the Bishop's "Do Not Contact" list.
Mormonism is much more than a phony belief system. It is a social organization that includes a constant stream of activities to keep everybody in contact with fellow cultists and gently apart from nonbelievers. They had prayer vigils of thanks for the Mormon god who returned Elizabeth Smart. There were no protest meetings to complain of the same god's conduct in allowing her to be kidnapped.
Mitchell, her accused abductor, only made two mistakes: (1) He did not get himself elected Lt. General of his own militia before proclaiming his own polygamous 'church,' and (2) he did not recruit adult women volunteers. Joseph Smith Junior did not make those mistakes.
The FLDS [Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints] have some strong precedents from the Mother Church. They run a junior police state, especially to a female minor. They know, just like the slightly less radical LDS, never to let the young folks run loose without a chaperone. That's why Mormon missionaries are always in pairs.
A joke here is never invite one Mormon to go fishing: he will drink all of the beer. Invite two, and neither will dare touch a drop, out of fear of being reported. It also keeps them reciting the party line to each other, so they don't have time for new, outside information. Hypocrisy is an art form in Mormonia.
"Fighting the Good Fight"
It's great to know there's a center like the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
It takes a great deal of courage to take a stand. I share with Dan Barker a previous church background. I was the pastor's right-hand back in Costa Rica, well into my early twenties. Just before I traveled to Australia some 30 years ago, I was floundering in the faith and noticed that more and more questions went unanswered. As Dan rightly points out, 'conversion' is not an overnight event, so it took me a few years to finally throw in the towel, but after I did, it felt like a great weight was taken off my shoulders (plus, as Dan jokes, I get to sleep in on Sundays!).
I'm glad I found FFRF and thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge. I urge you to keep on fighting the good fight (I've heard that somewhere!).
It Pays to Complain
I just did my first independent activist action.
There are a couple of convenience stores here in town, Gainesville, Fla. For the longest time they had "God Bless America" running across their inside and outside (pump) LCDs. I'd been calling the toll-free number but no one called me back. The other day I noticed they had replaced it with, "Thank you for shopping."
I called one more time and the corporate representative asked if there was anything else he could do. I asked if I was the only one that complained and he said yes. But they changed it anyhow! I feel really good.
Secularism Abolished Slavery
I was listening to NPR and heard a few sound bites of Bush's speech regarding Africa and slavery. One quote was very interesting: "Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions."
Bush's God (and son Jesus) never said that it was immoral or wrong to own slaves. As a matter of fact, the general tone of the bible is that slavery was necessary and that slaves ought to obey their masters.
And isn't it funny how after thousands of years of slavery, the United States of America (founded on secular principals) wiped it off the face of the map in just less than a century?
We can fairly judge the past by the standards of President John Adams, who called slavery 'an evil of colossal magnitude.' We can discern eternal standards in the deeds of William Wilberforce and John Quincy Adams and Harriet Beecher Stowe and Abraham Lincoln.
These men and women, black and white, burned with a zeal for freedom and they left behind a different and better nation. Their moral vision caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct our Constitution and to teach our children the dignity and equality of every person of every race.
Them's secular words, Mr. President! It didn't take religion to abolish slavery, it took a secular nation to do it!
Questions for Attorney General
The Menasha Public Library has a book containing a catalogue or index of the approximately 20,000 gods the human race has ever worshipped.
Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager apparently thinks America is "under" one of them as she has put Wisconsin on record as supporting the litigation calling upon the United States Supreme Court to overturn a recent federal court decision declaring that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, is unconstitutional. For the record, Attorney General Lautenschlager ought to inform us which of the 20,000 gods humanity has worshipped that America is supposed to be "under"?
Is it the god of the Hebrew Bible, whose crimes against humanity are recorded graphically in that volume allegedly authored by that deity? As Thomas Paine reminds us in Part II of The Age of Reason:
"There are matters in that book, said to be done by the express command of God that are as shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice as anything done by Robespierre. . . ."
If Paine had been writing today he would have described the god of the bible as being a rival of Hitler and Stalin in his repeated massacres of human beings who did not worship him.
Is that the god Attorney General Lautenschlager has chosen to defend? Inquiring philosophical and theological minds believe Attorney General Lautenschlager has a moral obligation to identify the god under which we Americans are supposed to repose.
One would have expected that Attorney General Lautenschlager, as a former Fox Valley ACLU member, would have appreciated the fact that government has no moral or legal right to force any religious concept down the throats of its citizens.
Robert E. Nordlander
It upsets me mightily that President Bush is invoking god every which-a-way. I do not believe that our country can win a war against those with whom we--as a country under the guidance of our chief executive--agree in principle. God is on our side, and god is on Al Qaeda's side, and god is on Saddam's side.
Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly, for example, pontificates against those who would prefer to leave god out of government. Without once going to the text of the 9th Circuit Pledge of Allegiance decision, he ridicules it in a manner best left to juvenile playground brinksmanship.
I have not heard one commentator refer to the text of the decision, which was a really well-written argument. Debate about a text, without actually debating the text of the text, is mere smokescreen and illegitimate argumentation: sophistry and hypocrisy--that unholy alliance. The pro-godders are effectively presenting the O.J. defense--avoid the facts and use the ad hominem attack.
But it's getting a little more serious, I think. There are petitions circulating in highly righteous hands, to protect the "under god" pledge through Constitutional amendment. Akin to the furor over flag-burning.
This idea of "freedom of religion" and not "freedom from religion" is being bandied about quite a bit nowadays. Where is it said that one cannot be free from god and be happily "godless" in our lives, and indeed still be perfectly moral? O'Reilly argues that monotheism and polytheism are all acceptable in our pluralistic nation (in god's plan, so to speak), so reference to a generic "god" can't hurt anyone. My senator, Kay Bailey, invokes a "universal God," assuming the pre-eminence of theism in our culture, our government, and our individual lives.
As long as you're on your knees to someone, they're okay with it.
Applause Greeted Atheist Avowal
Yesterday at my Unitarian-Universalist fellowship service, I stood at our microphone and said, "Well, I may hate myself in the morning, but I can't resist this opportunity to say I fervently wish the concept of God had never been invented. This superstitious thinking has caused so much false thinking, corruption and tragedy, I wish it would go away!" I was applauded.
And I didn't hate myself this morning. It was the right thing to do. The occasion was a fellowship open discussion of thoughts about God.
I very much enjoy and appreciate Freethought Today.
"Mental Hiccups" and OCD
I approach psychology from a different perspective than Robert Sapolsky (April '03). He is a neurologist. I am a psychoanalytic child psychologist.
I disagree with the statement regarding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that "until 30-40 years ago, there wasn't even a word that described this." The parallel between religious ritualism and OCD was originally stated by Freud, also a neurologist, in slightly different form. He said that orthodox Judaism could be considered a form of obsessive compulsive neurosis. Freud and others published various other papers on obsessive behavior, which can be found mentioned in "The Psychological Theory of Neurosis," a classic standard text, by Otto Fenichel (1945).
With regard to Shamanism, Sapolsky does refer to the anthropologist Radin, though oddly he concludes that "there is a need for this subtype."
A need for people who are religiously "half-mad"? Curious words for a defender of atheism. The social anthropologists whom I remember put it the other way around: that these people were disturbed, but that "primitive" society found a niche for them.
The subject of metamagical thinking was also explored by Freud, whocalled it "primary process," the kind of symbolic, irrational thinking by association which is found in children and other "primitive" thinkers, and also in dreams. But even more important for freethinkers is the question of how this kind of illogic becomes transformed into realistic logical thinking (secondary process). The evidence is clear that this is not simply a question of the brain's maturation at age 30, as Sapolsky implies. Many children show evidence of mature thought much earlier.
If others seldom do, is this really just a "mental hiccup," or is it because their lives lack stimulation, or are full of enough anxiety to inhibit rationality?
The final surprise was his statement that "the purpose of science is to constantly reinvent and reinvigorate . . . mystery." A curious statement from one whom I expected to advocate the case for logic and reason.
August 2003 Excerpts