Getting Acquainted with Freethinkers: Margaret Minkel

By Margaret Minkel


Earl and Margaret Minkel, married 1950

Religion has done immeasurable harm to humanity.

I have been an agnostic/atheist for many years, but I’m still looking for answers. To me, freethought is the best explanation for life in the universe, and the most sensible, intelligent, empowering way to live, as well as the most “loving” and considerate way to treat humanity and all living things. I have read the bible, occasionally still read the bible, and it’s pretty gruesome stuff, born of ignorance, and the need to influence and control others. Bible-thumpers add to our suffering and general dumbness by treating scientific thinking as antigod.

I’ve been writing letters to the editor of my local (very conservative) paper, the Rapid City Journal, for 30 years, on abortion rights, reproductive rights, and of course, war, again and again (including the war against the poor, minorities, women, gays, animals, etc). They do love their wars, don’t they? All the while talking about peace and liberty and freedom. And god. The Christian one, of course.

The Taliban of South Dakota (our legislature) passed an abortion ban, which our Catholic governor just signed, that prevents women from getting an abortion, with only one exception: the life of the woman. No exceptions for rape or incest. Imagine! They didn’t even want a woman’s health exception. And guess what? The rapist has visitation rights! I don’t believe we’re in Kansas, or any other state in the union, anymore! Can this be what we have struggled so long for–so that women have no choice except motherhood, the original do-it-yourself, or back-alley butchers?

Gov. Rounds signing the abortion ban into law was a sad day for all women. On March 9, we had a protest at the federal courthouse in Rapid City. My daughter suggested we have a silent protest, as women are effectively silenced in South Dakota.

At 19, I married a man who was in the military and we had four children, spending 20 years in various places, stateside and overseas. We left the Catholic Church, for many reasons, mostly the lack of birth control (except the rhythm method). We had an RH problem, and lost several pregnancies. One thing I realized is that everything bad in life has something good (and vice versa). For us, the “good” was we were so angry at Church hypocrisy that we left. It also, along with civil rights, Wounded Knee and the Vietnam War, radicalized me. I woke up.

Over the years I have become a hated person in this area, at least by the True Believers. It doesn’t bother me, although sadly, it has affected some family members, especially my writing about gay rights (one of our daughters is a lesbian). My family, except my children, remain Catholic, or at least Christian.

My husband, Earl, died after 42 years of marriage. He had heart problems, surgeries, etc., so it was a shock, but not entirely unexpected when he had an attack and died quickly one morning in 1992. At that time we had one dog, Bogie, Earl’s constant companion.

I took over Earl’s dog-“walkies,” and Bogie and I haunted the local parks and bike paths. It became my favorite thing to do, along with feeding ducks and squirrels. Bogie and I lived alone for 13 years, until his death last year at age 15. I took him to the veterinarian, who said his condition was terminal. I didn’t want him to leave, but neither did I want him to suffer. The women at the clinic were professional, gentle and kind. My daughter and I wept, but were comforted knowing we had done the best for him. When I felt his last breath leave his body, I thought if only death could be as kind for everyone, with loved ones embracing you and the end as painless as possible.

Religion is a plague on this planet. Its teachings about heaven and hell have done immeasurable harm to humanity. And science, for all its imagined faults, has helped us more than any pope, priest, or minister, although being human, many of them have done kind and helpful things. If none ever had, who would ever listen to any of them?

Einstein said he didn’t believe in a god who rewards or punishes, or that the individual “survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.”

I am not afraid of death. It’s a fact of life. I try to be kind and helpful. What more can anyone do?

Marge has been a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation since 1984, “and it has gotten me through some really bad times. Freethought Today is my favorite reading source for inspiration and comfort. Without it, this would be a very cold world. So I thank you from the bottom of my heretical heart.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation