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Freethought Today · November 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Meet an Idaho member: Elizabeth Rose

Name: Elizabeth Rose.

Where I live: In the panhandle of very red-state Idaho, where the first question people ask after your name is, "What church do you belong to?" But it's beautiful here, with four distinct seasons and breathtaking views of craggy mountains and evergreens against a bounty of deep-blue lakes everywhere you look.

Where and when I was born: I'm a third-generation Los Angeleno who escaped the big city about 25 years ago. I'm happy to be celebrating my induction into Medicare this month!
I live with: Jerry, my wonderful husband of 32 years, and eight spoiled rotten cats. (Yes, we are one cat away from a reality show!)

Occupation: Retired after 41 years of teaching high school literature: William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Miller, Ray Bradbury and, of course, large doses of Edgar Allan Poe.

I loved the classroom but hated the never-ending paper-grading and the ever-present red ink stains on my hands. Some 60,000 students later, I hope I have at least taught a few of them to think critically and set them on the right path.

These are a few of my favorite things: Learning, cooking and crafting; reading Freethought Today cover to cover; reading nonfiction by (in alphabetical order) Dan Barker, Greta Christina, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Bart Ehrman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Guy P. Harrison, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Jacoby, Michael Shermer and Stephen Uhl; relishing fiction by a novelist I recently discovered, James Morrow; myth-busters, skeptics, muckrakers and clear reasoners of all stripes who expose corruption and deception with verifiable evidence!

I also like canning jars of my "famous" huckleberry ice cream topping and barbecue sauce, and hot buttered rum and pumpkin spice latte mixes (better than Starbuck's and sugar-free) to give friends and neighbors. And organizing, organizing, organizing.

Things I smite: Climate denialists, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, grumpy naysayers and "haters," and anyone who harms the vulnerable, whether human or animal. People who, when real-life crises are averted, thank their god(s) instead of the doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters who actually did something useful. Also people who, when things go right for them, credit their god(s) instead of coincidence, happenstance and the basic goodness and decency of other human beings.

To Kim Davis (and other small-minded, "pretentiously pious" hypocrites like her who scream "Christian persecution" while endeavoring to impose their own sanctimonious demands on everyone else), I offer a Jon Stewart quote: "You've confused a 'war on your religion' with 'not always getting everything you want.' . . . It's hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God willing, maybe one of you Christians will one day even rise up and get to be president of this country, or maybe 44 in a row?"
My doubts about religion started: When my Catholic elementary school made the major mistake of teaching me to read so I could evaluate what they were telling me about religion, and my university professors taught me about other cultures and how to think critically; when I recognized that there are over 10,000 gods and goddesses that people have worshipped, believed in, prayed to, killed for and died for; when I accepted that the universe and the cosmos are so much more beautiful when seen through the expansive telescope lens of science rather than through the restrictive microscope of religion; and when I realized that there's not enough love and kindness in this world to give any of it away to imaginary beings.

Two quotations I like: "I can tell you a generation ago, they said there is no way people would ever allow gay marriage. Slavery — essentially — gone in a generation. We got rid of it. Change is always one generation away . . . so if we can plant the seeds of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation, or at least largely go away. And that's what I think we have an obligation to do." (Lawrence M. Krauss)

"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see, I am sure it bends toward justice." (Theodore Parker, American transcendentalist whose premise inspired the title of Michael Shermer's new book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

Before I die: There's no skydiving or hot-air ballooning or writing the great American novel on my bucket list. I do hope to get to Wisconsin one of these years to attend the FFRF convention in person (and to sample all those great cheeses). And definitely more cruises. There's nothing better than being on a long, luxurious cruise with my handsome hubby, with nothing to do all day and all day to do it.

It's very important that the people I love know that I that love them by showing that in as many "little ways" as I can. I would like to see Lawrence Krauss's quotation above become a reality, and I'd like to see the world embrace the best qualities of humanism and secularism and democratic socialism to provide a better life for the greatest number of people. I really feel that "Happiness isn't having what you want; it's wanting what you have." I just want to continue doing what I do and appreciating what I have in this life, here and now, while I have it.

Other ways I promote freethought: I'm vice president of the Inland Northwest Freethought Society, an FFRF chapter, which has served eastern Washington and northern Idaho since 1992. I plan fun social activities and programs for INFS members at meetings, organize and staff secular booths at the Spokane County and Kootenai County fairs each summer and help with breakfasts at a local homeless shelter. (You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher!)

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Faux Poe, via Idaho

In 1845, just four years before his untimely death, Edgar Allan Poe wrote what is arguably the best-known poem in history — one almost all of you had to learn in your school days.
In this poem, loaded with literary devices and consistent use of internal and external rhymes, critics and readers alike have been led to believe that the distraught narrator feels great fear and trepidation when he encounters the "ghastly, grim and ancient raven," an "ebony bird of yore."

Not so!

I've come into possession of some heretofore unknown verses of the poem, found at the bottom of an old trunk, of course, purported to have belonged to the late poet, that you may find quite surprising and elucidating.

And so, with your indulgence (and with sincere apologies to the inimitable Mr. Poe) I give you:

The Raven, Revisited
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" — Here I opened wide the door:
(Something I was SORRY for!)

Scripture-spouting fundamentalist, wild-eyed 7th Day Adventist,
Earnest theist, God jihadist with his "good news" to outpour:
"Rapture's coming! World is ending!" Cloaked in faith, he is unbending.
William Miller will be sending me to hell for evermore.
"Repent now or to Saint Peter you'll have much to answer for!"
Quoth my Raven, "Close that door!"

Watchtower-toting and officious, next a pale Jehovah's Witness.
Superstitious, she solicits — for my soul she will implore.
Just behind her came a laggard — Look, it's preacher man Ted Haggard,
Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, followed by at least a score:
Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, weeping Tammy Faye and Jim!
Quoth my Raven, "Shut that door!"

Next, two brush-cut civil corpsman handed me a Book of Mormon,
Smiling brightly as they parked their bicycles beside my door.
"Jesus walked here in the States! Planet Kolub will be great!
Temple garments . . . Golden Plates . . . can be yours for evermore!
We can baptize you for Zion and your faith we will restore!"
Quoth my Raven, "Latch that door!"

Then they said to give up coffee, chardonnay, and mocha toffee.
"I'm no crazy Kamikazi. Please DON'T save me, I implore!
Leave no pamphlets as a token. Leave my peaceful calm unbroken.
Get thee back into your Temple and the night's Plutonian shore.
Read the doormat on the floor: " 'GO AWAY,' you theist bore."
Quoth my Raven, "Bar that door!"

See, MY Raven's atheistic. He's no bird-brain. He's realistic.
Far more sane and humanistic than those bible-thumpers I deplore.
He's evolved beyond religion. He would take no more derision.
With his beak and sharp cognition, he declared a state of war.
With a corvine's sure precision, firmly did he SLAM — THAT — DOOR!
Quoth my Raven, "NEVER MORE!"