Ingersoll Tribute Makes Headlines by Julie Fisher and Sally Chizek (August 2000)

By Julie Fisher and Sally Chizek Julie: Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) paid its annual tribute to Ingersoll in Comfort, Texas on May 13th, and on May 17th the Hill Country Recorder’s front page headline read: Freethinkers return for rally at Comfort rock. The sub headline in smaller letters continued: Deadline for removal comes and goes.

FACT member Richard Thomas (one of those atheists in foxholes in Vietnam), was pictured with his pal, Thunder the Wonder Dog. Although those of us who gathered in Comfort were there for the Ingersoll tribute, the newspaper article roughly summarized the situation with “Satan’s Rock,” the controversial cenotaph freethinkers had placed there to honor early freethinker settlers of the town of Comfort. Because of the ensuing controversy, ignited by the discovery by local citizens that atheists (!) had contributed funds towards this heathen memorial, the historical plaque is still non-existent.

The wording for the plaque, as submitted to the state of Texas, has now become unacceptable to freethinkers due to the watering down of the text to exclude any hint that the early settlers were not Christians. There are intermittent threats by the Chamber of Commerce that the “offensive” rock will be removed. The 32-ton rock will have stood stockstill for two years this coming July 27th. The recent Ingersoll tribute was scheduled for May because, as freethinkers, we have enough common sense to know that his birth month (August) is not really suitable for outdoor activities in Texas.

Our timing, however, was such that another rock-removal-threat was made. What a surprise to see it standing tall and firm! This enhanced the Ingersoll celebration. Sally: When the ceremony was over, a majority of us trooped over to a little barbecue restaurant just at the edge of City Park. It has a big open room as well as a smaller room off to the side which we had used once before in relative privacy. We were able to do so again this time. We were happily chatting and noshing, minding our own business when, suddenly, into the room came a stranger, a youngish blond woman. She stood in the middle of the room and said that she couldn’t help noticing that we were wearing atheist T- shirts and wanted us to know that God loved us anyway. “Which god?” I asked. She replied, “The one and only true God.”

I stated that every religion says the same thing, including Islam. She then announced that she didn’t hate us, and I told her that we didn’t hate her, or her Christian friends, either. In her prophetic voice she warned, “You just don’t know what’s coming.” “I’ll tell you this,” I retorted, “you don’t know what’s coming either!” Now I know from some articles I have read, giving advice on how to present atheism in a positive way, that I didn’t take that advice which was: be patient and methodical in explaining our point of view; be nice in manner so as not to hurt the feelings of the religionist.

Somehow the fact that there are no rules for religionists to follow, such as being considerate of others who are different (as well as polite enough not to butt in on atheist parties), plus the fact that they can wear crosses and crucifixes and angels and WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets until they are bent almost double under the weight. They may also wear message T-shirts and sport bumper stickers reading, jesus is my rock and i am on a roll, or other such drivel. There is nothing they can’t do! And I guess all that resentment backed up into my vocal chords. I was tired of rolling over and playing dead.

Why are Christians so arrogant, yet we aren’t supposed to “hurt their feelings?” I think this is what is called the short end of the stick. The writers are Texas Foundation members.

Freedom From Religion Foundation