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Meet an Office Volunteer: Charles D. Hoornstra

Written by

hoornstra chuckName: Charles D. Hoornstra.       

Where I live: Madison, Wis.   

Where I was born: Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Family: My wife and two daughters — one with two children, a girl age 13 and a boy age 11.       

Why I volunteer for FFRF: Like Madison and Jefferson, I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. For me, as a nonbeliever, FFRF is a home for like-minded people who insist on intellectually honest thinking.       

What I do as a volunteer: So far, I have graded student essays. 

What I like best about it: I am very impressed with the quality of the young people. They are resolute in their independent reasoning. They don’t let myths or false assumptions get in the way. Plus, many of them are outstanding writers with compelling personal stories to tell.

Something funny that’s happened at work: Being retired, I have no current work story to tell. But I must confess the other day I stupidly emailed my water bill payment to Madison, Ala., instead of to Madison, Wis.

Education: Madison West High School, 1959; B.A. and M.A. in philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1963, 1965; J.D., UW-Madison Law School, 1967.

My day job is/was/will eventually be: I am a retired Wisconsin assistant attorney general. I worked in a variety of areas in my 36 years, including positions in state government and at the University of Wisconsin. I taught business law courses at UW-Platteville and UW-Madison. For many years I served the Law School in an ad hoc capacity, teaching the practicum courses. I still help out with the moot court programs.

Education: Undergraduate, graduate and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

These three words sum me up:  According to my grandchildren, I am awesome, funny and fair. But of course, they are the least objective people in the world on that question.

My freethought heroes are: David Hume, John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell.

Things I like: Sports, history and being a grandfather.

Things I smite: Confirmation bias (starting with a desired conclusion, rejecting conflicting facts and cherry-picking supportive facts). 

Why did I closet my atheism so long? Because I did not want to tarnish my father’s community legacy. He was an effective and popular local pastor.

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Meet an Intern: Noah Brunell

Written by

bunnell noahName: Noah Brunell.

Where and when I was born: New London, N.H., March 16, 1994. 

Family: Parents, Deborah Schachter (51) and Thomas Bunnell (58); sister Eliza (18). 

Education: Rising junior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. 

My religious upbringing was: Jewish. I went to a Reform synagogue, attended Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah, etc., although my Jewish mother and Christian father were always careful to let me come to my own conclusions.

How I came to work as an FFRF intern: The roots of my skepticism reach back to the d’var Torah (lesson of the Torah) which I wrote and then delivered at my bar mitzvah at age 13. Surprisingly well-received given its heretical slant, my talk centered on questioning why a benevolent god would smite Aaron’s sons, concluding that even religious doctrine is only meant to offer guiding principles rather than “The Word,” and even then, it often has some pretty bad advice.

Thereafter, I clung to Judaism for its cultural comforts, but not for its answers to the metaphysical questions of the universe and the transcendent. For those, I looked to science and increasingly, to literature and poetry. Since I’d developed into an atheist, FFRF seemed like the place to be.

What I do here: I compile bios of famous freethinkers for the Freethought of the Day portion of our website and write summaries of FFRF’s legal victories. I help out wherever needed. 

What I like best about it: It’s great to work for an organization helping to effect important change and to write about those changes actually taking effect. 

Something funny that’s happened at work: All too often, people call to spew odious and empirically dubious claptrap (did God send religious people to make life a living hell for nonbelievers?). I love that my desk is situated so that I can hear the creative responses the people answering the phones come up with in response to these crank calls: Lisa’s “Well, I hope you pray for me!” Katie’s recent go-to — shouting, “USA USA USA!” Or one that’s been suggested, but hasn’t been implemented yet: “Thank you for calling the Christian-Atheist Dating Hotline! What type of atheist are you interested in today?” Cracks me up.

My academic interests are: English literature, religion, politics and German.

My heroes are: Kurt Vonnegut and George Carlin.

These three words sum me up: Introspective, curious, outdoorsy.

Things I like: Postmodern fiction, running, social justice, Woody Allen movies, corny puns.

Things I smite: Men’s rights activists, passive aggression, the Religious Right, bigotry. 

My loftiest goal: Peace.

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Sharing the Crank Mail

Written by

With the emergence of the Islamic State (aka ISIS), crank mailers have a new suggested location for us to move to, along with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and France. A small sample of the many hundreds of emails FFRF received recently, printed as received. 

 

To FFRF Ideas: Ïve met allot of pricks in my day but this group is a fucking cactus. May god bless you. — Steven Haley

 

first amendment: I hope all your members’ nipples fall off and grow back on their foreheads and they all start lactating at the same time. That’s also part of that first amendment thing. Freedom of speech and of religion doesn’t seem to be on your fascist radar. I’m sure you guys and Hitler would have gotten along fine. I mean you guys look at people that believe in God the same way he did the Jewish population. — Russ Walker, Colorado Springs

 

Your Children: All of your children need a bullet right between their eyes. — Elmo Sippy, Ellijay, Ga. [Editor’s note: This was reported to police.]

 

The Scumbag Mooslims in Minnesota: You prevent chaplains in FLA from saying a prayer before games, but you don’t say a word when the goat fuckers want to build a Mosque, aka recruiting ground, in Minnesota? You just want to eviscerate Christians, you GOD less cocksuckers. FUCK OFF AND DIE. — Connecticut

 

We have enough babies in America: I think you are right up there with ISIS. Virtually the same thing only based in America. We dont gripe about you driving your foreign cars do we as Christians? No, because we dont care. We’ll look the other way when yoi drive by in your Toyota. YOU ARE A BUNCH OF SELF ABSORBED WORTHLESS SELFISH CHILDREN THAT PROBABLY GOT BEAT UP ALL THE TIME IN SCHOOL. SO PUT YOUR CRAYONS AWAY AND YOUR COLORED PAPER AND PENCILS AND LOOK AT THE REAL THREAT TO OUR COUNTRY. — Jameson Mayer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

 

Crosses: How do I go about removing your foundation from the United States? I am a war veteran and your foundation offends me. — James Kimble

P.S. Hey did you know there is a cross on my computer keyboard.

 

religion: are,t there better things to worry about like bulling in schools drugs weapons getting a education that,s what really should matter. — teresa low, connersville, indiana

 

Religion: You guys are a bunch of dumbass fucktards. How can you be offended by something you don’t believe in? Assholes! — Mr. Jesus, Heaven, Illinois

 

Plaques at schools: As a non-practicing Jew myself I just want to say that you are a bunch of idiots. You have so little faith in your faithlessness that you feel intimidated by crosses and plaques on public lands. This country was built on a Judeo-Christian ideal. I just wish that our idiot judges would wake up and throw your lawsuits, and you, out on your butts. — Stephen Lubin, New York

 

Freedom of religion: For an orginazation that doesn’t want religon sure does act like it is carrying on a crusade of religous porportion. I should sue you on behalf of tax payers for the continued law suites that fail. I am also contacting congress and senate to enact a law that if a law suite is brough forward and is considered frivilous that who ever brought the law suite should be charged any and all cost associated with the law suite and a fine of $250. — Troy Cummings, Virginia

 

Suggestion: Madison, Wi., one of the known marxist cities in the USA! It is a sad thing to witness the USA sinking into an ABYSS of touchy-feely diversity, ultaliberalism, political correctness, socialism, and Saul Alinsky Marxism. — Doc H

 

Attacking Christiananity: You Bastards, I hope God has mercy on your souls. — Robert Guccione

Your thought process: Your belief in nothing is still a belief. I find your organization pushing your agenda is upsetting to me and I do not like it. I will now be a minority voice trying to desolve your organization. — Leo Bauer

 

Seminole High football team: I am a supporter of the constitution. And I agree that there should be no establishment by government. But to build bridges, you have to have humidity, and be able to say, “I was wrong”. — Courtney Campbell

 

Thoughts on freedom from all religion: What about the muslim that prays out in public, or in state parks. What about the Jews who wear a yamaka? Is it that you only attack Christianity because you think that Christians are meek? If that’s what you think then clearly you need to brush up on your history. — Joe Craig, Branson, Mo.

 

Quit Your Sniveling: I would bet that the overwhelming majority of your members are new to being atheists. I’m sure they were unaware of what it even meant until they heard about it, while standing in line waiting to vote for Obama. They couldn’t wait to get home and try it for themselves. So, they sent you $5.00 and left for work the next day wearing a T-shirt proclaiming themselves an atheist. The problem with these people, is that in 12 months when all their fake facebook friends start saying Christianity is the new trend, they will rush out of their homes to beat the door down at their local church to donate $5.00 and get their “I’m a Christian” T-shirt. At which point your “foundation” will crumble and you’ll have to go find a real job. — James Briskey, San Antonio

 

satan’s immisary’s: I see you morons are conspiring against church’s with the gestapo gov’t agency? will hell be hot enough for you kretins? I pity your soul’s on judgment day! — aaarocket37

 

Your So Called Victories: What you call significant legal victories are nothing but effective blackmail techniques. Your fear mongering and threats in my mind seem very similar to those of Nazi Germany. All employees of my company pray before each and every day - that will not end. If an employee doesn’t like it - they know where the door is. — Michael Moran

 

ass holes: The pendulum will swing back the other way ass holes and i hope it will take you`r heads off when it dose. Try to tell me what i can and can not do and see how long you breath! — Carl Thurston, Texas

 

IRS Lawsuit: You want the IRS one or the most corrupt govt. ageencies to spy on churches. I am 68 years old and the older I get the more I fear for My Grand Children. Shame on you. The American is getting Pissed WATCH OUT. — Thomas Kimble, West Palm Beach., Fla.

 

It is freedom OF religion: Our assigned technicians have breached your email accounts. Our investigators have identified your family members. Our firm is a GSA contractor of the US Federal Government (GSA 6HNDN4) and have published the identities of your recorded conditions and the identities of your immediate family members, including all relevant personal data including addresses, social security numbers, and related family members above the age of 13. Good luck with that! — Jonathan Hawfield, Houston

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Forever secular By Fallon Rowe

Written by

rowe 6thFallon received $400 from FFRF for her essay.

By Fallon Rowe

I grew up without religion. In Idaho schools, this made me fairly unique, and I struggled throughout my education, walking on eggshells around my many Mormon friends.

In elementary school, a friend asked me if I believed in “God.” After a few moments of thought, I replied negatively, explaining the lack of importance of such a word in my life. That friend was quickly transformed into an enemy, presumably because her parents had indoctrinated her to be unfriendly with those who lack religion. I didn’t let it bother me, but I’ll never forget that encounter.

As I transitioned into high school and attained a higher level of thinking, I began to analyze my own beliefs. I see how religion can corrupt and brainwash people, especially children who are so impressionable. I see smart, caring students turn ugly and rude when they find out I’m “that atheist girl.”

I have to be extra confident of my nonbelief in order to hold my own against the zealots I face in my school and community every day. Sometimes I wonder if my peers would discriminate against me less if I were a racist rather than an atheist. It scares me that they think I’m evil or heartless simply because I disagree with religion. I am lucky to have found a few accepting and freethinking friends in high school, but we are among the minority.

At Girl Scout camp when I was younger, I was the only one who absolutely refused to pray before every meal. Although the organization is not religiously affiliated, the counselors tried to force us to pray. In school, I continue to leave out “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I fight for the separation of church and state at every opportunity.

In my advanced placement government class, a peer claimed there would be no peace iuntil Jesus walked the Earth again. No one protests these outbursts besides me, and I always get many negative glares for speaking up for secularism. In AP literature, I steadfastly voice my opinions on nonreligion and the importance of the wall of separation. I stand alone in these classrooms as the lone representative of freethought.

Recently in my community, a student’s religious grandparent challenged a book in my school, and it resulted in the removal of the book from the curriculum at every school in the district. Along with over 300 of my peers, I signed a petition to keep the book in the curriculum, but our efforts were in vain.

Despite this, hundreds of copies were distributed for free in my community because of a fundraiser, and it awakened people to the evils of censorship. One of the main reasons the book was challenged was because it was called “anti-Christian.” This upset me since my school is public, and religion should have no influence on my education. It intrigues me that some Christians are blatantly against the book, and some have no problem with it and have even rallied behind the anti-censorship efforts.

This helps me see that Christians can’t be grouped together entirely as being completely closed-minded or unresponsive to change, just like atheists shouldn’t collectively be viewed as radical or dangerous. 

I care deeply about separation of church and state, especially in schools, because I don’t want other students to have to face similar challenges. I do not need religion or a deity to be a good person. I do not need a holy book to outline my morals, or a priest to tell me women are inferior and ignorance is acceptable. I do not need childish tales from long ago to guide me through life and give me hope.

I need people — good, caring, intelligent people — who act from the heart of humanity and the brain of science. I need logic and freethought to help me escape from the chains of silent atheism and solve the problems we face as human beings.

 

Fallon Rowe, 17, Meridian, Idaho, will be attending Utah State University to major in environmental geoscience and minor in journalism. Her interests include rock climbing, traveling, mountaineering and writing. She’s a member of FFRF and the Secular Student Alliance.

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