Freethought Nontract Now Classic Literature (Jan/Feb 2001)

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.

Freedom From Religion Foundation