Look out, 1998!

January 9, 1998

In the time that that Freethinkers Anonymous has been available to the entire world via the web, I’ve gotten three messages from people who just happened to stumble across it. One of those was a notice of a copyright violation. One was a question about our "organization" from the head of the International Freethinkers Association in South Africa. As for the third and most recent one, the one that greeted me when I turned on my computer for the first time this year, I’d like to share it share it and my response to it with you. But first, let me just say how proud I am of the underwhelming response to my rants and offerings. As a cultural icon, I’m practically nonexistent. No fifteen minutes of fame for me. I’m working toward a much harder goal–fifteen years of obscurity. I’m comfortable and secure with that. There’s an old saying: When fools attack you, you must be doing something right. The rest, despite bad grammar, spelling, and questionable a priori philosophical deductions, speaks for itself.

From: heather rasp
To: Christopher Allen Waldrop

Hello there,old man. I want to say something about the word freethinker.Do you know, you cant be free and thinking at the same time.They are opposite things.It is like saying Chickenbeef (Dont know why this example) Let say you are in Mcdonalds.You are thinking what to eat.Why? You are not free to eat them all, that’s why! I also suspect you a little bit.There is something fishy about the name.Are you atheist? communist? You better tell us that you are a normal usual citizen ,so that I can read your discussions more relaxedly.Sometimes It feels like listening to a lecture from a guy about whether to use ketchup or mustard for hotdog. And one feels like the guy is a vegeterian anyway. Sorry I have to stop because I am going to McDonalds’ now. Hungry a little bit. By


From: Christopher Allen Waldrop
To: heather rasp

Hey there yourself,

Nice to hear from you, and I take it from your message that you’ve been reading my web page (well, actually it’s maintained by someone else, so I guess technically the web page is a joint effort).

Did you know that the Freethinkers were a 19th Century German group founded to promote the ideas of religious freedom and tolerance? Not that I’m trying to sway anyone to any particular religious, philosophical, or economic view. The idea originally was to send funny, weekly messages out to my friends, but in the interest of protecting anyone from ever having to admit that they were actually a friend of mine, I made the list anonymous. And since the members had different religious, philosophical, and economic backgrounds, I wittily referred to them as Freethinkers–not because they were members of a 19th Century German sect, (I don’t think anyone on the list was even born in the 19th Century, and while I wouldn’t exclude Germans, I know of no one in that region of Europe who is receiving these weekly offerings at this time) but because the right to think freely is the beginning of acting freely. I also consider thinking freely to be a basic existential right–one which it is very difficult to impose upon excepting the use of certain chemical substances, hypnosis, and possibly mind control devices which have not yet been invented. To use your own example, we may be limited by what we finally choose to eat at McDonald’s, but we at least do have the right to decide between the Big Mac and the McNuggets; or, for that matter, whether we just want to get a cup of New Coke and pour it into our car’s radiator. And if they took that choice away, (although it would be very poor customer service) there’s almost always a Burger King nearby. Let’s imagine, though, that in some bizarre totalitarian regime we HAD to eat at McDonald’s and a goose-stepping clown came out and told everyone what they HAD to have. It would take some pretty fancy technology to deprive us of our ability to imagine having a Big Mac while eating McGruel (oh, cruel totalitarian regime that would deprive us even of miniscule cheeseburgers!). And if the technology to do so were used by Ronald and Friends, well, it’s highly unlikely that you and I would be having this conversation in the first place.

Thank you for your thoughts, and have a pleasant new year.

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