Letters — Vol. 40, No. 5


Instead of and contrary to some of the Principles of Humanism on the inside back cover of each issue of FI, hypocrisy and hate flow from the pages of the latest (April/May 2020) and the previous (February/March 2020) issues of FI like blood from a cut major artery.

(As an aside: Before discarding, I read each issue of FI cover to cover. I now regret not having the previous issue in my possession so I can refer to specific articles/authors. I also regret not having someone with whom I can discuss the material the way I did for many years with articles from Commentary when we lived in Mobile, Alabama. I still haven’t finished this issue.)

Menendez, Doerr (RIP), Cuno, Benson, and Drury, surrounded by an aura of elite-based condescension, manifest severe cases of TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome). I marvel at the invectives used—some of which seemed to have been taken from the same politically leftist handbook and, in the case of Doerr/Menendez, the obvious disdain of the brilliance of the Constitution and the Republic for which it was written. Drury, of course, as noted by Gerry Dantone in his letter, “is not a fan of democracy.” It is not just what these authors wrote that is disturbing but what was not overtly said, but implied, that also frightens me. The hate of any view other than their own and a requirement of lock-step adherence to a fascist ideology.

I am not writing to defend or castigate President Trump or any political party. I do want to demand that an organization that claims to promote critical thinking and the values of secular humanism do so. Instead, I conclude that the Center for Inquiry promotes a fascistic, leftist political ideology of permitting only one point of view and shutting down debate not by reason but by fiat, invective, humiliation, and intense hate. Please, FI, stop using secular humanism as a cover to hide a deadly leftist political agenda. By so doing, you are denigrating the magnificence of what is meant by secular humanism.

Secular humanism and leftist politics are not the same, although there are people who work overtime to conflate the two.

The best summation of the situation is expressed by Clay Naff in his article “Speaking Truth to Pulpit” in the April/May 2020 issue of Free Inquiry. (In the quote I am replacing Naff’s first word, Theism, with the words Leftist politics:  ”[Leftist politics] licenses dogmatic beliefs. And for some people, that means placing terrible ideas and terrible deeds beyond the reach of reason, criticism, or compassion” some of the essences of secular humanism.

Sheldon F. Gottlieb, PhD
Boynton Beach, Florida

When I was thirteen years old, I rejected Christianity because I could not comprehend the necessity of Jesus dying on the cross, much less the rationale of God the Father killing his own son. What I did not understand was the ancient Hebrews’ belief in the power of blood magic. As Brian Bolton details in his article in FI (“Animal Welfare: A Quantitative Study of Fundamentalist Biblical Dishonesty,” April/May 2020), in the Old Testament, the blood of a sacrificed animal—or human—splashed onto an altar would atone for sins as well as accomplishing other ritual actions.

When I was eighteen, I rejected theism for the same reason that Clay Farris Naff does in the next article (“Speaking Truth to Pulpit”) in the same issue of the magazine: It is obvious that the universe that God supposedly created is not a safe home for his supposed human children, as it would have been if he were omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. Brian Bolton, in his article, shows how the Christian fundamentalists have tried to salvage theism by lying about the benevolence of the biblical God toward animals. 

It occurs to me in contemplating my two moments of rejection and these two articles together that the crucifixion of Jesus itself demonstrated God’s lack of omnipotence and benevolence. He was certainly not benevolent to his son at that point, but his rationale was that he did not have the power to forgive the sins of humans by his own will. He had to use the same blood magic that humans were required to use in their own rituals, by sacrificing his son on the cross and shedding his blood. So, theism is not only incompatible with the universe as we know it, but it is also incompatible with Christianity.

Homer Edward Price
Sylva, North Carolina

I have two comments regarding articles in your April/May 2020 issue.

First, Tom Flynn’s article, “The Tragedy of the Singular ‘They.’“ I agree wholeheartedly with Tom, and while I read his article, the perfect answer occurred to me. For epicene first-person pronoun, I nominate thap, a contraction of “that person,” as both the subjective and objective form. Granted, thapself is a bit awkward, but no more so than most of the others in your chart. It has the advantage of relating directly to what we are looking for, namely a way to refer to “that person,” just as per in your chart does but without any possible confusion with another word.

Second, Ophelia Benson’s article, “Just One Damn Thing after Another.”  Neil Postman may have seemed prophetic in 1985 when he referred to “a newscaster who having just reported that a nuclear war is inevitable goes on to say that he will be right back after this word from Burger King.” But the great protest singer/songwriter Phil Ochs preceded him by twenty-one years. On his first album, 1964’s All the News that’s Fit to Sing, Ochs included the song “Talking Cuban Missile Crisis” in which he sings: “He [a newscaster] said ‘Here comes the President/ But first this word from Pepsodent/ Have whiter teeth/ Have cleaner breath/ When you’re facin’ nuclear death.’”

Jim Flechtner
Findlay, Ohio

Singular They

Re: “The Tragedy of the Singular ‘They,’” FI, April/May 2020. If Tom Flynn finds himself feeling ambiguous about the singular “they,” how does he feel about “themself”? Language changes over time. Chaucer’s brid has become bird, and napple is now apple. We can also predict some future changes because of how things are happening now. February will undoubtedly become Febuary, and George W. Bush has shown himself to be a man of the future by speaking of the “nucular” threat. But should we force changes to promote social or political programs? Remember the campaign for freedom fries when France refused to be part of the coalition of the willing in Iraq.

English is a language that does not give gender to nouns. Many other languages do. However, our pronouns do take gender. Where gender is unknown or mixed, the masculine form is used. That rule is the target of those who wish to make English more female-friendly. One wonders if there are not better ways to promote equality.

The effort to change language to promote equality has consequences for the beauty and elegance of language. How do you do degendered poetry? I am a Unitarian, and in our hymnal someone has degendered a poem by James Russell Lowell. The words “work a brother’s chains” is changed to “work another’s chains.” That is at least better than “work a stranger’s chains”—barely. Michele Landsberg has pointed out that we can eliminate “manhole cover” by substituting “access cover.” But a manhole cover is much heavier.

In his novel The Possessed, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s alter ego declares that beauty is more important than truth. We may disagree, but we do not want people to be presented with such a choice. And if we need a word for a person, male or female, how about mensch? German has three genders, and mensch is in the neutral gender. English is largely Germanic, and the root for man can be traced back to its German origin.

Reuel S. Amdur
Val-des-Monts, Quebec

I agree with Tom Flynn that they should remain plural, and the correct approach to a gender-neutral third-person pronoun should be a synthetic one. However, the proposed pronouns all have some drawbacks. Those that use –er, –im, or –is endings are introducing gender-related syllables and should be rejected. The two that come close are thon and ve. The problem with thon is that th- is associated with second-person singular as in thou and thee, as well as the lack of differentiation between subjective and objective pronouns. Changing to tho, thon would take care of the second objection only and would introduce a pronoun that would appear to be pronounced with a long o. Using the ve proposal, but using a rather than e or o, would solve all problems and provide easily pronounced va, van, vans, and vanself.

Arthur Brodie
Ocean, New Jersey

Tom Flynn’s op-ed scolding about the emerging approval of they/them as number-agnostic is a singularly misdirected entry for FI, whose byline is to celebrate reason and humanity. Flynn’s essay comprises a protracted plea emanating from his opinion, from his “view,” and he says as much, especially when he calls the terms he argues against “repugnant.” Using pulp-paper comics as arbiters and invoking the rigidity of the admittedly mostly futile fussiness of William Safire do more to paint the editor into a spot among the stalwart prescriptionists in the language and linguistic crowd than those arguments do to nudge readers toward his wishes.

Languages are living entities: they morph and mutate in ways users demand, just as muddy footpaths across university grasses ultimately morph from demand paths to paved walkways. Scolds nearly always scowl at these changes, like old fussbudgets bellowing at the kids to stay off their lawns. Awful has changed directions; the medical terms for bow-legged and knock-kneed have taken up each other’s positions in centuries past; gay is used in some quarters as a slur where it once signified happiness; literally dozens of English terms encompass diametrically opposing meanings within the same orthography, as anyone who has experienced commencement in a university can attest to; and so on.

The leap from Swedish’s particulars where English holds only a void does little to advance the linguistic debates across an ocean, across a cultural chasm, and to a nearly completely unrelated tongue. Further, citing a single English language study to corroborate the author’s opinion leaves open much room for further study and other evidence, some perhaps with different results.

Some of Flynn’s examples stress credulity, particularly the one about a woman’s telling zealots to go jump in the lake: the preceding sentence, “She told them to jump in the lake,” comprises a weak example—nothing constrains the use of she in that sentence. The singularization of they/them is not meant to erase nor to make completely obsolete the use of she and he.

Preference for synthetic terms is a non-starter; praising Ms. as proof that coined words can work is no real assistance to the polemic: all words are, after all, made up. There’s no hard science behind their emergence and little of science at all in their mintings.

If Flynn is serious about his intentions, his magazine might choose one of the myriad proffered synthetics and edit all articles going to press to comply thereto, learning later how his readership responds. What hyperbole labels “tragedy” here appears more to be extreme personal discomfort with change.

And, by the way, the footnote numbered 1 has no information concerning what leads the reader thereto: there is no mention of the job loss expected by readers in the note.

Tom Filardo
Ann Arbor, Michigan

FI editor Tom Flynn is presumably free to rail against changes to language and culture as he sees fit (“The Tragedy of the Singular ‘They,’” Free Inquiry, April/May 2020), yet I was perturbed that he chose to devote four pages of op-ed space to bemoan the adoption of the singular they by the transgender and non-binary community in a magazine dedicated to secularism and human dignity.

Being a transgender woman myself who has adopted she/her pronouns, I am fortunate to work at a university where I interact with several trans and non-binary students whose choices in identifying themselves are largely respected. Being of a certain age, I know it can be difficult to accept uses of language that go against the strict rules we learned as children, but it is also incredibly uplifting to see young people openly declare their identities in ways that were not available to me in my youth. This is far from the tragedy that Mr. Flynn makes it out to be.

Perhaps there are better choices for gender-neutral pronouns, as included in the article. The fact remains that these choices won’t be imposed on society via dictionaries and style guides. They arise organically within communities that need them. Seeing them adopted into broader usage is a good thing.

Finally, the piece refers without specifics to higher education faculty being fired for refusing to honor students’ preferred pronouns. The only such cases I can find via web search involve faculty refusing not because they are staunch defenders of the English language or sticklers for clarity, but because they feel that honoring students’ choices violate their religious beliefs. Does Mr. Flynn feel so strongly about this issue that he is willing to overlook religiosity as an excuse for bigotry?

Kassandra Sharp
Palo Alto, California

Tom Flynn’s lamentation over “The Tragedy of the Singular ‘They’“ grapples with very up-to-date difficulties encountered in English Language usage of gender-specific versus gender-generalized third personal pronouns. Actually, the problem is not all that new. Here’s how A. A. Milne confronted it in his Introduction to Pooh’s Birthday Book, (originally published as Christopher Robin’s Birthday Book) in 1931:

If the English Language had been properly organized by a Business Man or Member of Parliament, instead of living from hand to mouth on almost anybody who happened to be about with a pencil, then there would be a word which meant both “he” and “she,” and I could write, “If John or Mary comes, heesh will want to play tennis,” which would save a lot of trouble.

Ah, if only.

Preston Neal Jones
Hollywood, California

Gracious! I love it when Tom Flynn gets going. And he is on to something that does make a difference in everyday speech in our communities. We should be inclusive in our references but not damage our ability to communicate effectively. Both can be done at the same time, as he notes with an impressive table of alternatives to consider. However, there is an alternative that Mr. Flynn may want to add to his analysis.

In some areas of the country (including where I come from), a basic idiom ties the community together through common understanding yet leaves plenty of room for diversity among those simply designated as y’all. Yes, many people believe that y’all is meant to be used in the plural, but that is not necessarily the case. Generations of southern speakers have used y’all to refer to individuals without respect to any gender or number classification. Y’all can even be used in possessive cases: “y’all’s good nature,” again in singular or plural.

Coping with the they/them phrasing presents more problems than adopting a well-established regional idiom across the country and perhaps appeals to populations that may prove most resistant to change perceived as politically correct. If adopted widely, it will be up to northern speakers to show their willingness to admit an outside idiom to their conversation comfortably.

I would tell Mr. Flynn: “Y’all did a fine thing bringing up this question for serious consideration.”

Paul Bursic
Trumansburg, New York

Scientific Uncertainty

In his op-ed “Scientific Uncertainty and Public Debate over Science” (FI, April/May 2020), Russell Blackford says that “Scientific claims are sometimes little more than reports of observations using sophisticated and systematic methods.” I encounter many articles where the work being reported establishes only statistical correlation, not cause and effect. Consequently, the report to the reading public can say only that A “may” cause B. Some readers may overlook this and conclude that A causes B. Other readers, noting the “may,” will dismiss the whole story.

Regarding global warming, Blackford says, “we can be confident that the phenomenon is both real and dangerous.” Yes, science has undoubtedly established the reality, but how dangerous it will be is subject to projections into the future, which is less certain.

Blackford addresses the subject of nutrition research. The contradictory recommendations issued to the public over the years have caused me to disregard everything I see reported on this subject.

Blackford concludes that we need far more sophisticated and well-informed public debate over scientific claims and their implications. Good luck with that. I’m not optimistic.

Allan Halderman
Portland, Oregon

50,000 Religions

James A. Haught asks, “Why on earth do people invent magic tales then declare them real?”

The answer is that people are inalienably endowed with imagination. In fact, this may be the most distinctive feature of our species.

Children love to play “let’s pretend.” It expresses their fears and hopes and how they perceive the world of adults. While the game is being played, the players must believe it is real, or there is no point in it. The acceptance of its reality is crucial.

Religion is a game that is believed so intensely that is not recognized as a game. In its original form, the game was not a pastime activity; rather, the individual’s life was embedded in the game. We were not playing the game; we were counters within it. Only more recently has religion started to become an optional issue in one’s life.

Imagination enriches our lives, and without it, the lives of most people would be dull and difficult, and as with any game of make-believe, its unreality must be disavowed. In almost every society, religion—the product of imagination—provides an answer to that most vexing question of what happens to us after we die. Religion can also be called upon to give us solace and help. So long as our imagination is a major part of our mental constitution, what we call “religion” will continue to be an intrinsic part of being human.

Stephen E. Silver
Santa Fe,  New Mexico

Christ-Myth Controversy

Was I alone among readers in sighing a little when I saw that we were returning to the Christ-Myth Controversy (FI, April/May 2020)? Had it really only been two years since we were here before? And now another nineteen pages? I understand the time and scholarship involved in writing the articles, and perhaps I am completely out of step with the magazine’s readership, but I just think that the question of whether Jesus was a historical person or not is staggeringly irrelevant to atheists and believers alike. Absolutely nothing about answering it gets you a millimeter closer to the claims for Jesus’s supernatural powers, and it is those claims that underpin Christianity. Frankly, these articles seem perilously close to theology, and theology, as someone once said, is the baby-talk of adults. How many donkeys did Jesus ride? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Assigning significance to finding evidence for a historical Jesus would be like finding someone called Clark Kent in a Kansas phone book and claiming that meant that Superman exists. At least the investigation would be mercifully shorter.

Martin Stubbs
London, United Kingdom

Tom Flynn responds:

I would suggest to reader Martin Stubbs that the question whether a historical Jesus existed is relevant to atheists and believers alike. It comes down to the blunt question of “How wrong is Christianity?” It is one thing to assert that Christianity is wrong about the existence of the supernatural. In that case there is no God; Jesus had no divine status and worked no miracles; but he may have existed as a man, his moral teachings may have value, and some of the things told of him in scripture may have a basis in fact. That is rocky ground, to be sure. Yet on that ground rests the faith of millions of liberal Christians. (Conservative Christians—and atheist sticklers—may regard them as CINOs [you know, Christians In Name Only] for forsaking supernaturalism, but clearly it’s possible to surrender that level of belief about Jesus and still feel comfortable identifying as a Christian.) But it’s quite another thing to contend—and most of all, I would suggest, for a believer to accept—that Christianity is wrong about everything. It’s far more difficult to remain a Christian in any sense after recognizing not only that there’s no supernatural, but that the faith’s entire body of teachings is false. If there never even was a man named Jesus, if the credited authors of the gospels are themselves fictional, if none of the events recounted in scripture is factual, if there’s no reason to imagine that Jesus’s teachings carry the slightest moral weight … then Christianity can be accounted for as a purely sociocultural phenomenon without needing to posit that anything about it is true. Who can accept all that and remain Christian?

            I am a former Christian whose own last vestiges of belief crumbled only after I accepted that Jesus might never have existed. Speaking from that perspective, I find the Christ-myth controversy relevant because if Jesus’s non-factuality can be proven—if Christianity can be shown to be that wrong—that is the most sweeping possible refutation of the Christian faiths. Surely that justifies spilling some ink now and again.

I really liked Eugene D. “Duke” Mertz’s piece. However, when he says “the opening scenes may have involved a supreme deity miraculously impregnating Mary, which would explain the immaculate conception,” I think that he made a common mistake, which is to think that Christianity’s “Immaculate Conception” refers to Jesus not having an earthly father. It refers, instead, to Mary having been conceived without the taint of “Original Sin.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception.

David N. Johnson
Gladstone, Missouri

Writers Eugene D. Mertz and others certainly made the case for the myth position. It was very well done and completely thorough, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. The burden of proof should be upon the proponents of the historic position. And they have a heavy burden. For one thing, Jesus putatively lived 2,000 years ago!

We hardly know anything about Shakespeare, who lived a mere 400 years ago! Beethoven hasn’t been dead for 200 years yet, but although almost as many books have been written about him as Shakespeare, there are many blank spots and controversies that scholars can’t resolve.

Besides, Jesus was a god! Would the people who argue that there is a historical nucleus for him argue the same for Osiris or Mithras—or any of the other gods? I know that there are some Christian sects that don’t claim Jesus was a god. However, I’m with those who claim him for a god—and therefore he couldn’t possibly have been real!

I often hear atheists, probably smarter than me and better educated too, mention that they accept that there probably was a person named Jesus who gave rise to the religion. And I never get over the fact that intelligent, educated people like that have that position. They never say why. And that’s always what I want to know. What evidence is there to think this was a god that existed?

Richard F. Stratton
San Diego, California

Re: “Peter: The Well-Chosen ‘Fisher of Men’” (FI, April/May 2020). “A fisher of men” sounds to me like a sinister cult member who’s scouting for the young and vulnerable to lure them into becoming fellow cultists, where they can be brainwashed and transformed into zombie slaves.

Thank you, Mark Kolsen, for validating my impression.

One thing I find perplexing is how easily Jesus recruited his disciples. ”Follow me” is all he told them, and … they followed him. And those were not restless hippies who were eager for adventure or to escape from boredom either. Most were working men with families.

Would any responsible man abandon his work and home to follow a stranger without even asking him about his background? Who were they following? A wanted criminal? An addicted gambler? Surely those men had some common sense. And even if they didn’t consult women before making decisions, I can hear Peter’s anguished wife asking him: ”Husband, have you lost your mind?!! You are leaving everything to follow a stranger? Who’s going to support the children and me, your wife? And who’s going to pay the taxes?”

I’m sure that many others besides myself have also found it peculiar that Jesus so easily convinced mature men to follow him.

Charismatic charlatans such as Jesus are known today as con artists. But don’t expect Christians to unveil their god in such forbidden terms … until that unlikely day when they awaken from their slumber and become ex-Christians.

David Quintero
Monrovia, California

Eugene D. Mertz’s otherwise informative article, “The Quest for the Mythical Jesus” in the April/May 2020 Free Inquiry, could have benefited from some editing. On page 29, Mertz refers to the “aforementioned Adonis. Adonis is the Greek version of Tammuz.” However, I could find no prior reference to Adonis in the article. Moreover, on page 27, Mertz, citing alternate versions of the god Osiris, states “In Babylon, it was Tammuz; in Anatolia, Attis; in Greece, Dionysus.” No mention of Adonis, whom the Greeks knew as a famously handsome mortal and a lover of the randy Dionysus, a bona fide god, and, as Mertz clearly indicated, the Greek version of Tammuz.

Dennis Middlebrooks
Brooklyn, New York

Thank you to Eugene Mertz for his excellent summary of the “Jesus as Myth” position (FI, April/May 2020). However, one aberrant sentence jumped out at me, not least because the editor had decided to feature it as a pull quote in large bold type: “It makes no sense that the Gospel writers should differ in their descriptions of the Last Supper unless it never occurred.” As the research of CFI stalwart Elizabeth Loftus and others shows, eyewitness evidence is notoriously unreliable, and the Gospel accounts were at least two or three times removed. So the nonoccurrence of the Supper is not the only explanation of the inconsistencies that makes sense. But most of the rest of Mertz’s article certainly did.

However, my own view of the controversy is that it is possible that both sides are correct. Maybe someone with some similarities to the Jesus in the Gospels did exist, but it is certain that most of the stories told about him were mythic. I think the rational conclusion is we just don’t know for sure one way or the other. I don’t think it is rational to be agnostic about the existence of God, but maybe we can be agnostic about the existence of Jesus? (See FI, February/March 2014 for my further thoughts on some related issues.)

Ian Robinson
President Emeritus
Rationalist Society of Australia
Cowes, Australia

Mark Cagnetta’s stance (“Apostolic Loyalty,” FI, April/May 2020) is that the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus, despite having seen his miracles and believing he was the messiah, makes them so oddly disloyal that the story couldn’t be true. The standard explanation is that the disciples feared meeting the same fate as their master. However, if the authorities could not recognize Jesus without Judas’s help, then how much less so would they recognize the disciples?

The story of Judas’s “betrayal” is likely not true either. After Jesus is seen by multitudes at the Sermon on the Mount and at his entrance into Jerusalem, why would it take Judas’s betrayal to get him arrested? Isn’t it more likely he would be arrested after preaching a new kingdom, as dozens of other troublemakers were rounded up and crucified by the Romans each Passover without betrayers and trials? And what if Jesus had not been betrayed? Without his death and resurrection, what would be the point of the incarnation, according to Christianity? The “betrayal” story contains a deep contradiction between the goals of a Jewish messiah—who intended to live and be an earthly king (“The King of the Jews,” a potential threat to Rome), and a Pauline-Johanine savior messiah whose intention was to die to erase the sins of the world (and was not a threat to Rome). Only the earthly messiah could be betrayed; a modern Christian should see the errant betrayer as actually fulfilling God’s will. Indeed, in John, Jesus knows of the “betrayal” and tells Judas to proceed with it! (“What you are about to do, do quickly.” John 13:27.)  Yet, in the invention of the figure of the “betraying Judas”—falsely representing all Jews, we may find the origin point for anti-Semitism and what has been called the original sin of Christianity.

Laurence Mailaender
New York City, New York

The metaphor “preaching to the choir” depicts a Christian pastor preaching undisputed doctrine to his church choir. Something similar may be said of atheist Eugene Mertz unfolding a Christ-myth argument to the readership of Free Inquiry (“The Quest for the Mythical Jesus,” FI, April/May 2020). According to Mertz, Jesus never existed. Instead a Jewish mystery cult, immersed in Hellenistic, pagan, and polytheistic traditions, made up a deified mythical Jesus who commanded initiates to perform sacrificial rites of a “dying and rising God.” By celebrating his crucifixion and resurrection in a supernatural realm, initiates—sworn to secrecy—hoped to receive esoteric knowledge, spiritual power, and eternal life.

For some credulous atheists, Mertz delivers the coup de grâce to Christianity, though his studied interpretation relies on contrived inferences from tenuous correlations extricated from a tangle of diverse ancient sources. Above all, there is no extant evidence that any Christian, Jew, or pagan living in the first century clearly documented or held this view.

The historicity of Jesus–controversy has generated a current lopsided debate between self-styled “independent researchers,” mostly atheist amateurs, and professional scholars employed at major colleges and universities. Virtually all academics specializing in New Testament history and related fields, including experts acclaimed for outstanding teaching, research and publication, share a consensus that Jesus almost certainly existed as a human being, a Jew promoting one of the many conflicting sects of first-century Judaism. Yes, Jesus was a faithful Jew who knew nothing of the Christianity invented after his death by Paul and Greek-speaking gentiles who wrote the gospels. Ironically, in subsequent centuries gentile Christianity and Judaism charged each other with abominable rejection of the One True God.

At the very least, putting aside supernatural or theological claims, scholars have deduced from biblical and nonbiblical sources a credible historical picture of Jesus as an itinerant rabbi with followers, probably an eschatological Jewish prophet such as John the Baptist. Multiple sources attest that Jesus was crucified with near certainty by Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea around 30 CE.

Jim Valentine
Woodland Hills, California

Thank You, Edd Doerr

For the seven or eight years or so that I have subscribed to Free Inquiry, I always turned to Edd Doerr’s contribution first. He had a deep commitment to women’s autonomy and equality in the matter of reproductive freedom and was a strong supporter of 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund, which I founded in 2002 and which is still limping along. He had deep knowledge, and I will sorely miss his wisdom and decency.

Jane Roberts
Redlands, California


Re: “Celebrating Reason and Humanity,” FI, February/March 2020. I noticed an error in the article. James Underdown writes, “His [Bruno’s] open criticism of the Catholic Church no doubt gained him some favor with Protestants in those places, including King Henry III of England.” The text should say Henri III of France (who was, by the way, the godson of Edward VI of England). Henry III Plantagenet, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, died in 1272, which is 328 years before Giordano Bruno’s execution.

Henri III King of France and Poland was the son of Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici. Henri III of France, who was assassinated by a monk in 1589, recommended Bruno for a teaching position at the Sorbonne University. Politically, the king held a fierce stance against the Huguenots. Nevertheless, he was a secret admirer of Bruno. How could a king overtly admire a heretic in those days? The almighty Holy See would have reminded him that the truth is the Bible.

Claude A. Brouzenq
Maubourguet, France

Overall Instead of and contrary to some of the Principles of Humanism on the inside back cover of each issue of FI, hypocrisy and hate flow from the pages of the latest (April/May 2020) and the previous (February/March 2020) issues of FI like blood from a cut major artery. (As an aside: Before discarding, I …

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