Vol. 20 No. 9 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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"A Sad Day for Alabama"
With all the world's tragedies occurring today, one of the most heart-rending was the viewing of the Alabamans blubbering during the time the Ten Commandments were being removed from public property.
These poor folks have had their share of merciless torment from the Feds. They have lost their slaves and been made to end segregation. Their Ku Klux Klan has been made impotent. Now their collective viewing of their moral laws has been moved from state property. What will the Feds do next--ban grits and black-eyed peas?
We can project that sin will now be unleashed in Alabama. You can bet your boots that with the moral restraint removed, all sorts of graven images will be made, and coveting of neighbors' wives and oxen will be all over the place. Taking the Lord's name in vain (known as "cursing") and rampant killing will ensue. Without being able to view the no stealing command, thievery will go unchecked. And the kids, instead of honoring their parents, will be sassing them.
Indeed, it is a sad day for Alabama, because without public viewing of the biblical restraints, sin will skyrocket to the extent that, as Philip Appleman notes, another big "dunking" may be in the making. Shocking!
Daniel K. Shepard
More Tongue in Cheek
A comment I recently heard:
The Ten Commandments display was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building. There was a good reason for the move.
You can't post Thou Shalt Not Steal in a building full of lawyers without creating a hostile work environment.
Saluting Student Essayists
The winning college essays this year were outstanding (September issue). And, my goodness, the students certainly went through intensive self-examination and logical crises as they struggled to reject the dogma of religion and arrive at a state of freethought for themselves.
My own struggle was equally difficult. I remember the turning point came when I was seven years old and was confronted by my deeply religious father in our living room. I vividly remember coming back at him with, "Dad, look, if I can't see him, and can't hear him, and can't touch him, he just ain't there!" Unfortunately I don't think I can make a 500-word essay out of it.
Theodore M. Utchen
"An Outstanding Convention"
Thank you once again for an outstanding convention. Those conventions give me the wherewithal to make it through the rest of the year dealing with people drenched in "godliness." For example, several "people of godliness" at my workplace have a particularly offensive "piŹce de intolerance" hanging in their cubes: on a flag background are emblazoned the words: "This is one nation under GOD, or get your ass out!" I respond by asking if they refute the whole Bill of Rights or just the First Amendment. I usually get a blank stare.
"Enjoyed Convention So Much"
It was my great pleasure to attend the 26th annual convention in Washington, D.C. All the speakers were good, and what they said was inspiring, interesting, and sometimes shocking, sometimes amusing. The entertainment was most enjoyable, too.
The location and accommodations of/in the Washington Court Hotel were fine. I was so pleased that this conference was held in Washington, near enough to my home for me to decide to attend as soon as the location was announced.
I read every issue of Freethought Today, and truly admire the work you and all the others at FFRF have done and continue to do. Seeing you "in person" made me fel more connected to that work. While I write letters to politicians and elected officials, and vote very carefully, I wish I could do more.
Having enjoyed the convention so much, I want to thank all who made it such an enjoyable experience.
"Great Time at Convention"
My friend Carolyn and I had a great time at the FFRF convention. The hotel and speakers were terrific and the Barker-Benson routine was memorable.
I congratulate you and the staff on a job well done. I really hope that in 2005 FFRF will come to the Big Apple for its annual convention. In the meantime, I hope to make it to Madison next year for the 2004 convention.
"We Had a Wonderful Time"
I had a wonderful time at the convention last weekend, as did my son, Darryl Salerno, and my future daughter-in-law, Debbie Spalding. We talked about you and the speakers all during our trip home.
The program you arranged was all that we hoped for. Thanks again for a great few days.
Louise Gagne Bernstein
"I Have Always Been an Atheist"
I am proud to say that I have always been an atheist. I am 21 years old, and 25 percent Hopi Native American. I am looked down upon whenever I mention the fact that I am an atheist. I'm not going to lie about my beliefs to fit into their vision of society. It pleases me to know that there are organized atheist and agnostic movements.
I received a copy of Freethought Today and I am very impressed with it. I especially like the hate mail section; it blows my mind what "god's children" have to say about an organization like this.
I couldn't put down Dan Barker's book, Losing Faith in Faith, the best book in my library. It is gratifying to know that clergymen could change their minds. Up until recently I didn't think it was possible. His book was very inspiring to me, and I hope to read more of his writings.
I am looking forward to receiving Freethought Today and being part of your organization.
Tenth Grade Deconversion
I am 90 years old and have been a skeptic and humanist ever since spending my tenth grade at Campion, a Jesuit boarding school in 1927-29.
I suggest that we should approach fundamentalists with questions. Examples: Where exactly is heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Garden of Eden? Is there a record of indulgences which were granted for money and those granted for good works or prayers? After the end of humanity will the Blessed Trinity merge into One? What exactly is the role of the Holy Ghost before and after the merger?
What is the "Divine Plan" trying to do when cancer cells destroy healthy cells in babies, children, young adults and elderly persons who are about to die anyway? Does the soul have a separate brain when it leaves its body? If so, does it have total recall, a higher or lower IQ? Is there any difference between the soul and the fighting spirit of a football team? The First Commandment in a common form says "thou shall have no other gods before me": what other gods does God have in mind?
Logic and science cannot wrestle with faith. Does asking for facts make any difference?
Joseph A. Renihan
Singing Praises to Lawsuits
Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuits are extremely important to me, and to all the people in our nation whether they realize it or not.
Legal force is obviously necessary if we are to prevent the religious destruction of our well-thought-out articles of government--the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights--while we still have them to support our rights.
Laws are not "good laws" solely on the strength of longevity; they need to work well and benefit all of society. Good ones are worth fighting for.
Many nonreligious authors write that religion is a drug--the kind of drug that is a stupefying, habituating poison that exerts a soothing or numbing effect or influence.
I certainly agree with the often-quoted words of Karl Marx (1818-1893) that "religion is the opium of the people." However, according to the Weekly People, the official organ of the Socialist Labor Party, USA, January 31, 1959, Marx made that statement in Europe at a time when opium was used almost exclusively for relieving pain. Since that is no longer the case, the word "opium" is often changed to "opiate." Both words, used generically concerning many habit-forming, mind-altering drugs, conjure up thoughts of stupefied derelicts sitting on sidewalks slouched against building, or of our youth taking drugs in an effort to be "cool" and failing so miserably.
Religion is failing every bit as miserably, it just takes longer than opiates do per individual. The pervasive numbing effects of the myths on adherents eventually rob them of their sensibilities.
Our nation is benefiting greatly due to the efforts of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the brave people who have come forward as local plaintiffs in the various suits resulting in the religionists sitting up and taking notice.
Please apply the enclosed contribution to your legal fund.
Avoiding Hell, 1930s-Style
I received a solicitation in the mail looking for donations to make a Jesus movie. It was this kind of religion that said going to a movie was a sin when I was a child in the 1920s and 1930s. It was my elder brother and neighbors who talked my mother into letting us go to our first movie in the 1930s, and I'll never forget how scared and nervous she was when she paid for the tickets. She admitted many times she lay awake at night worrying about going to hell.
My grandmother who lived with my aunt never got over her fear of going to movies. When my aunt got her first TV, my grandmother would never go into the room with it. Since she would have to go through that room to get to the front porch where she liked to sit, she would go outside and walk around the house to get to the porch.
Of course, today these preachers have found out they could easily reach the people with radio, TV and movies and are cashing in on them, but they still use the fear of hell for mind control if you don't bow down to them and their beliefs. It is this kind of fear and mind control that is the real sin and evil they inflict on people's minds, and they are hypocrites.
I am glad there are organizations around like FFRF that are educating and informing people about bible myths and contradictions. We need to wake up to religion's falsehoods.
A Gay Bishop? Why Not?
A gay Episcopal bishop? Good Lord, say it isn't so. God's commands aren't to be changed.
Oh really? Check out these changes:
Matthew 1:23--"They shall call his name Emmanuel." (It was changed to Jesus.)
I Corinthians 14:34--"Let your women keep silence in the church." (Changed.)
Deuteronomy 23:19--"Thou shalt not lend upon usury." (Changed.)
Exodus 20:8--"Remember the sabbath day." (Sabbath? Sunday? Saturday? Who knows? Who cares? Changed.)
Matthew 5:18--"One jot or one tittle [of the Mosaic law] shall in no wise pass." (Changed.)
Exodus 20:4--". . . no graven images." (I've got to take that plastic Jesus off the dashboard of my pickup? Changed.)
Matthew 6:5-7--"When thou prayest, enter into thy closet." "Hypocrites love to pray standing in the synagogues." "Use no vain repetitions." (Industrial strength changes.)
Don't eat pork. (Changed.)
Don't eat shrimp. (Changed.)
"Marriage is for a man and a woman." Who said that? God? Or was it George W. Bush? Whatever.
So, what's the big deal about a gay bishop? There have always been gay people in the church. A gay bishop? Sure. Why not? The times they are a-changin'.
Churches Divert Charity, Income
The title is often called "agnostic" or "atheist" but the words are misleading, as there are millions who do not need any broker to relate to "God," however defined.
The over 200 religions in this country are businesses in what economic theory labels as monopolistically competitive markets. The American economy would benefit by the diversion of billions of dollars given every year to institutional religion, to crying needs like universal health insurance.
Robert Lyon, Professor Emeritus
Temple University, Pennsylvania
Can Allegiance Be Pledged?
It certainly is encouraging to read the youthful words defending the First Amendment to the Constitution vís-a-vís the pledge. It must be remembered, however, that as good as eliminating "God" from the pledge is, eliminating the pledge is better, because the whole thing is an affront to the protection of the right of individual conscience. It certainly is inconsistent with pedagogy, so is used in schools that are more intent upon controlling than nurturing students.
Is allegiance something that can be pledged or is it gradually and continuously earned through moral and rational behavior? What does having allegiance to a piece of fabric mean? Should we be talking to it? Is the country for which it stands, the country for which the founding fathers stood? Can a country remain indivisible under the pall of religious divisiveness?
Religious Denial Knows No Bounds
One would look long and hard to find a more disingenuous argument than that offered by the Elk Grove School District, namely: The Elk Grove district, where Newdow's daughter attends elementary school, says the pledge affirms that the nation "was founded on a fundamental belief in God," but the pledge takes no position "with respect to the existence of God."
So when one recites that this is, "[O]ne nation under God," is that saying that such a statement is not an affirmation that a god exists? It reminds me of the oft-repeated statement that an AA member can consider a doorknob as a 'Higher Power' in place of some other god.
It is denigrating to their faith to trivialize religious belief to the point of denying that their choice of gods is just a possibility but not a sure thing.
"One Nation, Under Goddess"
The Pledge of Allegiance has included the words "under God" for 50 years.
If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't want to be sexist, and if it really wants to keep religion in the pledge, it would have to change the word "God" to "Goddess" for the next 50 years.
After all, fair is fair!
Getting Away with Murder?
We are parents of an autistic adult. We were horrified by the actions of Milwaukee Rev. Hemphill, who, in order to "drive away the demons" that supposedly possessed an autistic child, killed the child in the process. Adding insult to injury, Rev. Hemphill insisted they "didn't do nothing wrong" and even claimed that God "chose to fix it by taking him back home to God."
Rev. Hemphill should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If District Attorney McCann chooses to be lenient because Hemphill is a church leader, then he should be put on trial alongside Hemphill as an accessory after the fact.
When we found out that our son was autistic, we didn't seek help from some "fake" healer; we went to a doctor who specializes in cases of autism. Today our son is 35 years old and very much alive. Eight-year-old Terrance Cottrell, Jr., is dead.
McCann should prosecute Rev. Hemphill for murder, not one charge of felony child abuse.
Henry & Margie Farber
November 2003 Excerpts