From Heaven

Esteemed Canadian physician Sir William Osler is known by many as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. He both practiced and taught at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, of which he was a founding professor, and helped to revolutionise medical education by introducing the now commonplace residency system: the training of doctors within the hospital itself.

Hot, Hot, Hot

In May of 2000, an episode of Will & Grace aired in which one of its gay characters, Jack, joins an ex-gay ministry in an effort to get close to, and seduce, its formerly gay leader, Bill (played by Neil Patrick Harris). Unsurprisingly, the ex-gay community — people who claim to have suppressed or sometimes even “cured”

Why I am an Atheist

In 1903, Kentucky-based newspaper “Blue-grass Blade” asked its readers to write in and contribute to a forthcoming feature named, “Why I am An Atheist.” Hundreds of letters soon arrived and many were subsequently reprinted in the paper; over a century later, in 2011, they were compiled to form the book, Letters from an Atheist Nation. Below

A degenerate sort of cult

In the year 112 AD, Pliny the Younger — Roman governor of Bithynia (now northern Turkey) — faced a problem: An obscure Jewish sect called “Christianity” had begun to spread through the region, resulting in numerous complaints from locals and calls for the immediate execution of those who refused to worship the Roman gods. Seeking assistance on how to

Dear Einstein, Do Scientists Pray?

As one of the world’s great intellects and arguably the most famous of all scientists, Albert Einstein was regularly questioned about his views on religion. In January of 1936, a young girl named Phyllis wrote to Einstein on behalf of her Sunday school class and simply asked, “Do scientists pray?” Einstein soon replied. (This letter,

Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

As an outspoken stand-up comedian with strong, unbending views on the most divisive of subjects, the late-Bill Hicks was no stranger to controversy during his all-too-brief career. In May of 1993, less than a year before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32, a live recording of Hicks’ Revelations show was broadcast

American democracy will have disappeared

On May 2nd of 1940, a Reverend Leon M. Birkhead — National Director of “Friends of Democracy,” an organisation committed to combatting “anti-Semitic propaganda” — wrote to the author John Steinbeck with the following enquiry: I hope that you will not think I am impertinent, but our organization has had put up to it the problem of your nationality. You

On the Meaning of Life

In July of 1931, author and philosopher Will Durant wrote to a number of notable figures and asked, essentially, “What is the meaning of life?” His letter concluded: Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help—if any—religion gives you, what are the sources of

Dear Son

In May of 1962, 37-year-old Malcolm Scott Carpenter became just the second American to orbit the Earth, as he piloted the Aurora 7 into space. On the eve of this historic journey, his father, Marion, proudly wrote him the following wonderful letter. (Source: For Spacious Skies; Image: A photo of Earth, taken by Scott Carpenter

The delusion

A grieving father named Robert S. Marcus — then-Political Director of the World Jewish Congress — was the recipient of the following letter of condolence in 1950, not long after his son succumbed to polio. It was written by Albert Einstein. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of On Being. Image: On Being Transcript February 12, 1950

Many times I have kissed and cryed over this

Here’s a fascinting missive written to Charles Darwin in 1839 by his wife, Emma, shortly after the inception of his theory of evolution, in which she openly worries about his dwindling faith and, midway through the letter, asks him not to be blinded to the possibilities of things “which if true are likely to be

People are more interested in Apocalypse Now than the Holy Ghost

Bob Dylan — Slow Train (Live at Massey Hall, April 20th 1980) The following letter of support was handwritten by Bob Dylan in April of 1980 to a friend who had just joined the U.S. Military, and highlights a period in his life when he attracted much derision as a result of his religious leanings. A few

We are standing on the threshold of Great events!

On April 14th of 1993 — day 46 of the Waco seige — leader of the Mount Carmel Branch Davidian sect, David Koresh, released what would be his final letter to his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin. In it, he spoke of his excitement at being given permission by God to “put the Seven Seals in written form,” after which he

The Court would like to balance the scales

In November of 2010, upon realising that the forthcoming birth of his grandchild would probably occur midway through the mortgage-fraud trial on which he was working, Manhattan defence attorney Bennett Epstein wrote the following letter to the judge presiding over the case, Kimba Wood. The reason? To apply for a recess mid-trial so that, should

Most sincerely yours

[Do not read if easily offended] In December of 2003, an article written by Richard Dawkins appeared in Free Inquiry magazine. In it, he wrote of a dangerous drug named Gerin Oil and the many millions of deaths around the globe attributed to its existence. Said Dawkins: “The four doomed flights of September 11th 2001

To the Boy Scouts

According to his wife, Olave, an envelope marked ‘In the event of my death’ was carried by Robert Baden-Powell whilst on his travels in later life. Inside, along with various other important documents, was the following undated letter; written by Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement, and addressed ‘To the Boy Scouts’. It was read

The good of the Universal Church

First ordained in 1972, it was six years later, in 1978, that then-31-year-old priest Stephen Kiesle was first arrested after tying up and molesting two boys in a San Francisco church rectory. In 1981, at which point his probation came to an end, he, with the help of Bishop John Cummins, requested to leave the

It is a lovely book

In 2012, Canadian author Yann Martel received a thoughtful thank you letter in the mail in response to his award-winning novel, Life of Pi. Such appreciative letters are understandably not a rarity for Martel, however the writer of this particular handwritten note, a fan who had recently read the book with his daughter, happened to

My position concerning God is that of an agnostic

In 1954, in a much-debated letter we featured here back in October, Einstein wrote, ‘The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish’. Today we have another of Einstein’s letters, again concerning

And the answer was Aslan

In 1958, after reading and thoroughly enjoying The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, a young fan by the name of Janet wrote to the author to let him know. To her surprise, Lewis – also a renowned Christian apologist – responded. Below is his handwritten reply, in which he thanks

What hath God wrought?

The United States’ first publicly demonstrated telegram was dispatched on May 24th, 1844, by the system’s developer, Samuel Morse. The telegram’s message – What hath God wrought? – was chosen from the bible by the daughter of Morse’s friend, Henry Ellsworth, and successfully travelled from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland, instantly stunning the general public.

I wish I could spare Nancy from this painful experience

On November 5th of 1994, five years after leaving office, 83-year-old Ronald Reagan hand-wrote the following open letter to the American people and revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a surprisingly common, incurable form of dementia that affects many millions of people around the world. He lived with the disease for a further ten

Krusty the Clown is God

Says Jeff Trexler: Back in 1990, when I was researching my Ph.D. dissertation in religious history, I found a Christian tract featuring Bart Simpson as the sinner and Homer as the angry God. Simpsons counterfeit merchandise was ubiquitous. I sent it to Matt Groening and jokingly argued, since a Christian wouldn’t steal someone else’s intellectual

I refuse to salute the flag

Jehovah’s Witness Billy Gobitas was just 10 years old when he wrote the following letter to the board of his school in Pennsylvania. A few weeks previous, Billy had refused to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag during school, on the basis that it violated a commandment in Exodus 20:4-6. Both Billy and his

The word God is the product of human weakness

In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt,” and made known his views on religion. Apparently Einstein had only read the book due to repeated recommendation by their mutual friend Luitzen Egbertus

A striptease with clothes on

The following letter, composed May 16, 1956, was written by the editor of the La Crosse Register – a newspaper published by the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse – in response to an Elvis gig which took place in the area’s Sawyer Auditorium just two nights previous. It was sent to then Director of the

The Wicca Ban

Julie Carpenter is a Wiccan; a Wiccan who at one time had a relationship with Jonathon Sharkey, a self-proclaimed Satanist and Vampire who at one time decided to run for Governor of Minnesota. As a result of the predictable media attention surrounding said campaign and subsequent unveiling of her own beliefs, Julie’s then employer – Peterson