Letter From a Militant Atheist

Dearest Mother,

I thank you for your recent correspondence which found me on the march again, this time from the swamps to some much more agreeable terrain. The battle is ongoing, though we have yet to see a true firefight; shortly before engaging, the theists will rearrange their position, and we are forever chasing them down while our bannerman hobbles along behind toting the flag of rationality.

We had thought to come upon the establishment in a wide field recently, excitedly stuffing proofs one by one down our muskets and moving to the edge of the forest. I stood ready to fire off Occam’s Razor as a counterattack to Pascal’s Wager, but when we looked downfield again, their forces had rearranged and were now using our tactic, loading up their cannons with a novel piece of weaponry called Intelligent Design that look’d like our theory of evolution. When they dared fire it off, it exploded mid-air, littering the field with hastily-cobbled-together ideas and scatt’ring several alarmed deer.

One night, lying in our dog tents, I heard the rustle of a guerilla front moving in around us and cried out, “Who designed the designer?!” I then rushed outside in my drawers, to meet no answer.

If you are able to send some equipage, we are in hardy need of good, fresh eggs and lemons. Also sugar, and we could have ourselves crepes as we wait for the enemy to tire themselves out, for they have been running in circles of late. One Wednesdey, we fired a single ball of gunpowder across the chasm, mostly out of principle and, rather than return fire, one of the joined forces did mount his horse and ride over to ask, “What kind of person would attack us? We are good men of an army!” He did appear sincerely put out, and rode off in his curious robes and headgear without another word. We found his haught disingenuous seeing as he had set fire to our camp not a day earlier while we played gin rummy.

I wonder if you have a remedy for the diarrhea that has wracked our camp, and not some forest herbs but actual medicine if you would oblige, as we are men of science, and but a few women.

Even in the midst of war, there is some fraternity across party lines. Offering my respects to nature one day I came across a man in theist uniform likewise paying his taxes, and we found we could entertain one another. I shared the likeness of Sara-Lee Sue I carry in my pock’t and he gasped as he took in her handsome face, then exclaimed, “that tree trunk is a perfect likeness of our savior. What say you to that proof!” and took off galloping in triumph.

Another time I thought I was having a pleasant unarm’d conversation with a fellow when he spun around and jabbed me in my ribcage, remarking that I had no business challenging his company of monotheists because, as a godless soul, I was unqualified to do so. We were to face off in a territorial joust that afternoon, but did not after skirmishes broke out between different factions of their camp, apparently over what to cook up for dinner. By nightfall they had lost 50 men at their own hands, the fish reportedly winning out over boar for Friday supper, and we resolved to have ourselves a billy time, even as we had spent another day on the pickets, bayonets at the ready, but no one to fight. We had some brandy and most excellent corn, and spirits were much buoyed.

I know you wish me home rather than on the hill, but amid all the noise and jostle I continue to believe that there are freedoms worth fighting for, like being able to nap late on Sundays and divorce with abandon, and think you should not be ashamed to see your son in his secular colors. Surely, you say, we could retire and let the theists march themselves into paradise and we live quiet lives as skeptics. Perhaps, were the godfearing men not purchasing all the good real estate at a heavy discount and hurting my designs on one day owning a bed and breakfast on a hill.

Some pudding and oranges sent my mail would not go if ignored by the boys. Also socks.

Yesterday, a man in my company was cut down by an enemy combatant who cried, “How can ye have morals without a book?” spearing him during his bath time in the crick. We all agreed that Jefferson would find the attacking soldier a terrifically poor dinner companion.

Prunes also would keep a spring in our step.

It is rumored our company may turn south after this thicket, heading for the swamps and eventually the gulf. Reportedly, it is turtles all the way down. Do keep me in your thoughts and I will you in mine.

I remain as ever

Your Affectionate son,


John H. Stephens