Greetings from the South Pole
Greetings from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Jon Emanuel here, member since 1993.
If you're wondering what I'm doing down here, the answer is cooking dinner for our crew of 220+ scientists and the people who support them. This is my second tour proudly supporting science as a contractor to the National Science Foundation.
I'm sending a photo I thought you might enjoy. It was taken on the Solstice.
In it, you'll find the spot marking the Geographic South Pole---the very bottom of the globe. That's me holding a copy of Freethought Today, which I brought all the way down here from my home in Alaska. The copy is wrapped around the actual "South Pole" marker--thereby crossing every time zone and line of longitude on the planet. "Freethought Around the World"---pretty cool, eh?
Hope you're all having a great time up there--I hear it's colder there than it is here! I should be visiting Wisconsin sometime in the spring. I'd love to stop by the Hall and say hello.
Let Reason Prevail
Kudos for your placement of the "Winter Solstice" plaque in the Capitol rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin.
I recently showed friends from abroad (Netherlands and Taiwan) the architecture of the Capitol. Both were impressed that such a magnificent structure could be left open to the public without guards or security of any noticeable sort. My explanation was that, as a free nation, trust is placed in the judgment of the people who own the building (that is, the general public) to use and protect their own resources.
When we came across the Winter Solstice plaque, I was struck by the fact that our conversation about freedom was so boldly reflected in your statement. There, amidst the tree and otherwise relatively subdued holiday displays, was the beautiful line, "Let Reason Prevail." It struck a chord in me. I think I shall adopt it as my personal motto.
At home, I found your website and sent the quote to several friends.
Kudos for Eric Zorn, Student Essays
I loved "No Graven Images & Other Reflections," by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn (Dec. 2000). It is total common sense, easy to read. Every word is exactly what I wish I had the talent to formulate and express.
I wonder how long until our rural area will have journalists like Mr. Zorn? Our only paper continues to appall my senses with extreme right-wing opinions from columnists and the editor!
Freethought Today "washes" my mind of the daily pollution I suffer here in Mormon country!
I always am impressed with the student essays you publish. They are wise way beyond their years!
Proudly, Unequivocally Secular
When I received the December Freethought Today, which I usually read from cover to cover (always a joy), I had to read the back page first, lured by the headline ("The Facts vs. The O'Reilly Factor").
No need to guess how O'Reilly would do on the Foundation's State/ Church Quiz. He is obviously a bully pulpit tactician. His weak-kneed semi-mea culpa, "The Constitution itself is a secular document," is evidence that he got a lot more intelligent flak than he is willing to acknowledge.
As for FFRF & Freethought Today and all you good people involved, I acknowledge and shout with fierce enthusiasm, "Long may you continue in your great work."
As for me, I'm proud to be unequivocally secular--like the Constitution.
Why Didn't I Think of That?
Recently I was in Border's bookstore and came across a book titled A Complete Idiot's Guide to the Bible.
How come I did not think of this title?
Editor's note: In addition to this book, which is for real, there is also one titled "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the World Religions" and another called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Prayer"!
If the ranks of freethinkers indeed include billionaires, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, as indicated in "Who's Who in Hell?" (Dec. 2000), one wonders why we do not hear of their contributing significant sums to the cause. Such would be a welcome counterbalance to the many opposing contributions coming from the Wal-Mart, Domino Pizza, and other such fortunes, not to mention the huge amounts raised by televangelists.
Just think what might be accomplished if freethought controlled a media empire comparable to Pat Robertson's!
John G. Fletcher
Two Dedicated Members
My daughter is about to turn 18 and I could think of no more appropriate coming-of-age gift than her own membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She has lived vicariously through mine for the six years I've been a member now and has even emailed you about issues that concerned her. She looks forward as much to my copy of Freethought Today as I do, though she waits patiently for me to finish it first. I thought it about time she got her own.
It will be a real pleasure to receive two issues at our address. Rest assured you have two dedicated members here.
Visitors Like Freethought Today
I have been enjoying Freethought Today for the past few months. My brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting from Canada for Thanksgiving, had the same reaction I did when they saw an issue of it--they had to have it!
I would like to purchase a subscription for them.
Thank you! Keep up the great work you are doing for all of us freethinkers!
Colleen A. Zaccaria
Thumbs Down on Templeton
After many years of membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I sadly must allow my membership to lapse because of the unfortunate relationship with the Templeton religious organization.
Over 90% of top scientists are nontheists, and should be aware of the terrible history of suppression of science by religion that continues to this day. I do not want any interference with cloning and genetic engineering (it could prolong my life) because the religious think it might be some god's exclusive business.
Until this relationship ends, I cannot continue to support AAAS.
Credit Atheist, Not Miracle
Some need proof that atheists can be good folks:
As I walked down the street, returning from holiday food shopping, I looked down and saw a beautiful wallet. I picked it up. To my surprise it was full! This happened at a bus stop so I was sure it had been dropped as the owner boarded.
At home I went through the wallet and found a name and address but no phone number. The owner lived only a few blocks away, so I decided to deliver it. My knock was answered by a woman who summoned her son, saying, "Your wallet has been miraculously found!"
Both hugged and kissed me, then invited me in and told me the real story. He had been robbed at gunpoint--almost killed! They both had been distraught ever since.
Their appreciation and constant reference to god encouraged me to say I was an atheist. They were astonished! They now have personal experience with the fact that atheists can be good folks and this was a surprise.
Bible Belt Time Travel
I recently made a 28-day trip from California to New York and back. Part of what made it pleasant was playing Johnny Appleseed. The only difference was that I did not plant apple seeds, but thought seeds, FFRF "nontracts."
I left nontracts everywhere I went, particularly at public telephones. I found it gratifying that perhaps someone with lingering doubts, especially in the so-called bible belt, would be pulled over to reason if they read it.
Also, when paying for services, I used cash. I offered bills that had the words "In God" from "In God We Trust" obliterated. Altogether I must have distributed over 200 nontracts and bills totaling over $1,000. It's fun and I recommend it to other freethought travelers, no matter what their mode of transportation.
By the way, when traveling east, you will set your clock back one hour as you enter each time zone so that you're in the same time frame as those who live there. When you enter the bible belt, set it back 2,000 years for the same reason.
Uneasy in Religious State
I just wanted to thank you for the work you do. I came upon your website about two years ago, when I was a student at the University of Oklahoma. It had a profound effect on my thinking, as I had been a member of a Southern Baptist Church for my entire life (no big surprises there, coming from Oklahoma).
I was struggling with some doubts that I had about my faith, which can be largely attributed to the philosophy classes I was taking in school. I was feeling a lot of guilt, and was still holding on to my irrational fear of the possible consequences of not believing. Most of my family and friends are extremely religious, and I was concerned about the possible impact that my lack of belief could have on those relationships. Once I read the story of Dan Barker's experience with some of these things, I felt much more confident about my position. I now have a son who is 19 months old, and he will be raised in an environment where he is free to think and decide for himself.
Living in a very religious state, it is not always easy to hold the views that I do. I often visit the Freedom From Religion website, and it helps me gain some perspective. You do really great work.
Catholic Component of Supreme Court
It cannot be denied that Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy consider all abortion to be murder. They are bound to do so by the infallible Papal Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," which they consider a "higher law" than the U.S. Constitution that they swore to uphold.
Let's face it, they believe that a Bush Presidency will lead to a Supreme Court that will overrule Roe v. Wade and approve parochial school tax vouchers; while a Gore Presidency may not, and that these "higher law ends" justify the means--the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 political intervention in the Florida 2000 election to prevent a full hand count of votes, a fateful precedent to interfere in all future state elections.
Who knows what some future American Mussolini, Stalin or worse, will do some day with such a power?
The tragedy is that such unprincipled opportunism destroys the integrity of the Presidency, the separation of church and state, and the balance of powers that our forefathers gave their all to establish. The Justices' names will live in infamy.
John Tomasin, Esq.
Try Subversive Wording
In his great student essay "One Nation . . ." (Nov. 2000), Eric Breitenstein related how he would get through the choral recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at school, by substituting subversive words of his own choosing.
I had a similar experience years ago, when I participated in a Twelve-Step program, and each meeting ended with everyone joining hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. As an atheist, I just couldn't bring myself to say those words, and yet I didn't want to make a fuss or to draw attention to myself. So I composed my own prayer, to sound so much like what everyone else was saying that nobody noticed me, no matter how loudly I "prayed":
Our Powers are within,
Whatever be their name.
What they have done, what still may come,
This Earth can yet be as Heaven.
Live then this day, and without dread,
And forgive your own trespasses
As you forgive those who trespass against you.
And be not led into temptation,
But flee away from evil,
For Time is the Healer,
With power to restore me,
Forever and ever, Amen.
Richard Packham Oregon
Dear Dr. Laura . . .
OK. We capitulate. After being emailed and sent umpteen copies of the below clever, anonymous letter circulating everywhere, we're finally publishing it in Freethought Today for the record. It's worth reading, again!
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
Lev. 20:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.