Prisoner Receives Atheist Books… Read What Happens Next March 9, 2008

Prisoner Receives Atheist Books… Read What Happens Next

My friend Leslie Zukor has been running a service project for a few years now where she donates freethought books to prisoners. It’s to balance out the amount of Christian literature that seems to be prevalent in prisons everywhere.

The prisoners who request and/or receive the freethought books are usually very excited and thankful.

One of them recently sent Leslie a letter, which she shared with me.



The transcribed letter (with slight grammar fixes) is below. Take note of the amusing middle paragraph:

Dear Leslie,

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive your kind package containing a number of freethought books. It is also important for you to know how extremely valuable your service is to people in my situation, for currently you represent the only source of distribution for such material. And for that you deserve much praise. You most certainly have found a gaping niche and are filling it admirably.

As a point of amusement you will no doubt be interested to learn that when I was called to the mail-room to take delivery of the above, the officer, upon examining some of the titles, immediately sought the chaplain’s opinion. And, although the look of disdain on his face spoke volumes, he nevertheless was obligated to allow me possession of the entire parcel. He now ignores me in the hallways!

I sincerely hope that you will continue to provide assistance to folks such as myself for many years to come, for I am keenly aware of its significance. Therefore, here’s wishing you much further success. And again, thank you for your kindness, generosity, and prompt attention to my letter.

Be well!


So, to recap:

If you’re a prisoner, the officer is fine with you.

If you’re a prisoner who reads Richard Dawkins, then the officer gets worried.

That makes sense…

By the way, if you want support Leslie, you can donate books, donate funds, or request books at her website.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Matt

    I found that to be very profound. I think the whole “nobody has the power to help you but God” is a horrible message to send to people, especially in prison. People should learn to control “themselves”.

    It reminds me of the South Park episode where Stan’s dad had to attend AA meetings. Hehe…

  • Kathryn


    It’s too bad people have to request it first to receive it though. Imagine if she had the funds to make freethought literature as prevalent as Christian literature.

  • wingtip

    prison guard’s union

    California Correctional Peace Officers Association
    The California Prison system is the third largest penal system in the country, costing $5.7 billion dollars a year and housing over 161,000 inmates. Since 1980 the number of California prisons has tripled and the number of inmates has jumped significantly. In the past few years controversies involving prison expansion, sky-rocketing costs, and claims of mismanagement and inmate abuse have put the California prison system under heightened public scrutiny.

    The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is the California prison guards’ union. In recent years the CCPOA has become a major player in California politics. Its political influence has grown to the point that it is widely considered to be one of the most powerful political forces in Sacramento. Its lobbying efforts and campaign contributions have greatly facilitated the passage of legislation favorable to union members.

  • wingtip


    Attorney Gen. File #: 2007-064
    California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative 2008

    Legalization of Marijuana-Related Activities. The initiative provides that no per-son, individual, or corporate entity could be prosecuted for the possession, cultivation, transportation, distribution, or consumption of cannabis hemp, including hemp industrial products, hemp medicinal preparations, hemp nutritional products, and hemp religious or recreational products. All of these products use as an ingredient the hemp plant commonly referred to as cannabis or marijuana. This measure also provides that the manufacture, marketing, distribution, or sale between adults of equipment or accessories associated with the above products shall not be prohibited.

    California Hemp Initiative Volunteers is looking for volunteer petition signature collectors

  • Joe

    If there really is no God, why do you care whether people believe in Him or not? If I were you, I would be more worried about trying to convince yourself that when rocks get rained on for a long time, they somehow form life. Then, figure out how said lifeform (in a move that has never been observed) gains new information and becomes all sorts of new kinds of lifeform. Sorry though, the only answers you will find if you do any actual research… ya know, SCIENCE… is that these things are IMPOSSIBLE, they do not happen, rocks do not turn into lifeforms, amoebas do not turn into bananas and horses, no matter how many billion years you throw at it. Sorry to tell you, but there is a God and he doesn’t believe in atheists. You just have a religion that says you are god instead of him (to justify your lifestyle). The real God doesn’t like that.

  • Joe: Thank you for your thought-provoking statement. A little advice. If you’re going to come around an atheist community, lurk for a while. Find out what has already been said by theists and avoid saying those things. We’ve heard them. That way you avoid saying things like what you just said and looking like a silly head.

    As for the Freethought for Prisoners: awesome. I want to do it to. So I will.

  • Zashi

    I questioned whether or not I should dignify Joe’s comment with a response. Ultimately, I remembered that ignoring ignorance does not combat it, nor it is it fair for those with knowledge to withhold or refuse to convey that knowledge to those who lack it. I know this sounds very condescending but I mean it with every principle that education represents. Joe, you have a gross misunderstanding of evolution and the Theory of Evolution and the Origin of Life theory (these are three very different but related things).

    Information about these topics is widely available in Libraries, schools (for now at least), and on the Internet and has been for many years so I must make the assumption that despite full access to such information you have chosen not to study, not to acknowledge, or failed to comprehend. You believe you already have the answer and thus the theories posited are bunk. I’m not claiming to know what you think, but this is what I’m assuming in my response so I will cater my brief explanation to your mind, which is most likely already closed to any of the information I’m presenting to you.

    Evolution (not “The Theory of Evolution,” just “evolution” with a small ‘e’), which is also known as micro-evolution, is proven and undeniable. To deny it is to deny something as pervasive and yet not fully understood as gravity and I will waste no time explaining it to you, but for the record the definition of evolution is this: a change in allelic frequencies in a given population over time.

    The Theory of Evolution states that through the processes of evolution, new species develop. While this has not been directly observed there is a plethora of evidence to support this theory. Fossil records, vestigial organs, analogous structures, embryonic similarities, and repeating genetic patterns all support the Theory of Evolution. One could posit other theories that account for this correlation but they are nearly always, as we evolutionists like to say, not parsimonious. We cannot really observe speciation because it takes many generations in a population and when it happens it’s not obvious. The working definition of a species with which I am most familiar is two organisms are of the same species if they can produce viable offspring together, viable meaning able to further reproduce. When the DNA of an organism has changed enough to constitute a speciation event (creation of a new species) the outward appearance may not have necessarily changed all that much. The difference between human DNA and chimpanzee is 2%. Put another way, 98% of human DNA and chimp DNA is the same. If that’s not convincing enough, the common house fly has 60% of the same DNA as humans.

    The Origin of Life Theory of which you spoke, the “life from rocks” one, is probably the most difficult and controversial Theory. The theory I’m most familiar with involves the primordial soup and lightening. Lightning struck a mixture of organic and inorganic chemicals and the result was proto-cells. Exceedingly simple cells made of protein walls with no DNA that did only one thing, replicate itself. In truth, they were probably more like modern viruses than moder prokaryotes. The most interesting thing about this theory is that using a primordial soup mixture and striking it with high voltage electricity resulted in the creation of organic compounds necessary to life. Is this a confirmation of the theory? No. Theories can never be proven, only supported. A true theory, however, can be disproved.

    My goal here was not to turn you into a biologist or even a scientist, but to help you see that what you’ve so callously disregarded as crackpot ideas are theories founded upon well-supported evidence. From my perspective, you must understand, belief in supernatural phenomenon (especially one that actually communicates with this world but does not provide scientifically verifiable evidence) is counterproductive and downright silly.

  • cipher

    You just have a religion that says you are god instead of him (to justify your lifestyle).

    Christians always say this; it’s one of their chief refuges – we all just want to lead licentious lives and not be held accountable by God at the end.

    Where is all of this hedonistic pleasure I’m supposed to be experiencing? Did I miss a meeting? Was someone supposed to send me a memo?

  • cipher

    Oh, BTW – it isn’t just atheists who get the fish eye from prison chaplains. I’ve met a Buddhist nun who runs a program for prisoners. Same problem.

    She’s also told me that prison conditions in Australia and Great Britain, where she also teaches, are much more humane, and the guards have a much more compassionate attitude toward the inmates.

  • rocks do not turn into lifeforms

    Clearly you have never seen the proof.

    but there is a God and he doesn’t believe in atheists.

    Allright, we’ll call it a draw.

  • QrazyQat

    He now ignores me in the hallways!

    Extra benefits!

  • Vincent

    Joe, I don’t give a crap what other people believe, so your first sentence is pointless.
    I do care about what people do, and here a person is being treated differently for an unjust reason.
    And yes, it’s ironic that someone in jail for who knows what (let’s just say armed robbery for speculation sake) is considered an unsavory person, not because he committed the crime, but because he’s not a christian. His beliefs are considered more significant than his actions, and that’s just ass backwards.

  • BZ

    Joe, there is a forum for these type of discussions, you don’t need to knock the thread off-topic to get your view heard.

  • I was going to type out a long reply to Joe but there is a lot of raping and pillaging to be done. Good times! Thank God I’m an atheist!

    Thanks to those who put the effort in.

    I’m actually just replying so that I can subscribe and see if Joe actually responds. I assume there is no way to subscribe without commenting? Some other blogs have RSS feeds to the comment sections which is useful at times if you want to follow future comments.

  • Regarding Joe’s comment:
    1. I do not have a problem with people believing in God. I have a problem with people using a concept that they cannot prove as justification for control and bad policy.

    2. Yes, I suppose some of the conclusions of the theory of evolution that are strange and illogical. But isn’t religion illogical? Isn’t saying “God did it” just a nice little black box? I suppose the Big Bang is odd too. But I know that there is a repeatable process that led to those conclusions.

    A lot of people here have been to church, and that is no guarantee of revelation.

    cipher said,

    She’s also told me that prison conditions in Australia and Great Britain, where she also teaches, are much more humane, and the guards have a much more compassionate attitude toward the inmates.

    It seems like a lot of policy in this country is about punishing people and looking tough. I think the drug policy in this country is really about putting as many people in jail as possible, and not about reducing drug use at all. Looking and feeling tough has a higher priority that actually preventing or solving problems.

  • cipher

    Secular Dignity said,

    I think the drug policy in this country is really about putting as many people in jail as possible, and not about reducing drug use at all. Looking and feeling tough has a higher priority that actually preventing or solving problems.

    Absolutely. One of the many, many reasons we are the disgrace of the industrialized nations. Honestly, Europe is looking better and better to me. Canada too, but I don’t know that it’s far enough away – and it’s cold!

  • Nick

    Let’s not forget why these criminals are in prison. Because they are criminals. They are not there to be entertained by literature and such, they are there to pay a debt to society. Some of these inmates have actually hurt people. Some have also hurt children. You know what, maybe you’re right. Let’s give these inmates as much as we can. In fact, give them all internet access as well. Why not let child molestors and murders chat with all of our children. wake up!

  • David Bunker

    As someone who works in prisons and does so out of my faith commitment, I understand the repressive nature some prisons can have when it comes to literature, lifestyles, and beliefs they deem as threatening. It is unfortunate that anyone would be punished or have their concerns disregarded because of their beliefs. With that being said, the stories one embraces to navigate this life are myriad. Atheism is one narrative that many have espoused down through the ages so it need not be so threatening to those who say they are believers. My response to strident atheists (those who espouse their unbelief with the same zeal as other faiths who proselytize, …go for it! May the best story win. I have yet to see any atheists in prisons, however, walking arm in arm with the suffering disenfranchised men & women who have been thrown out of our cultural systems by in large. My point: I get just as upset with Christians who see their “ministry” or calling as articulating the superior rationality behind their faith (paradoxical as it sounds), and yet seldom if ever, living out their beliefs within proximity to those who are “the least of these.” Just an observation. You may be the one exception so please inform me. with all respect to anyone willing to walk their talk.

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