An Update From the Freethought Books Project

January 13, 2014

Since we announced in December that CFI is relaunching the Freethought Books Project, the support we’ve received has been huge! I wanted to take a minute, between reading letters and sending packages, to share some of the work we’ve done so far. 

The Support We’ve Received 

some of the donated books to the project
A few of the many books donated to the project.

Publishing companies were among the first to show their support. Beacon Press, publisher of Chris Stedman’s book Faitheist, generously sent 12 copies of that title to us. And Pitchstone Publishing, publisher of a number of freethought titles, sent a shipment of 40 books, including copies of Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists, Greta Christina’s Why Are You Atheists So Angry, Sean Faircloth’s Attack of the Theocrats, and many others.

Quickly following this came the support of a number of authors who contacted us asking how they could help. 

  • Donald Wright, author of The Only Prayer I’ll Ever Pray: Let My People Go, sent 12 copies of his book 
  • Valerie Tarico, author of Trusting Doubt, sent 20 copies of her book
  • Stephen Uhl, author of Out of God’s Closet, sent 138 copies of his book
  • Steve Wells, creator of The Skeptics Annotated Bible, sent 24 copies of his book

Steve Wells and Valerie Tarico wanted to share a few words about why they donated their books to the project:

“Religious fundamentalism can leave people morally disempowered and psychologically traumatized. Outside of prison settings, former believers, sometimes called “Reclaimers,” are finding each other—getting support and information that allows them to heal and to recognize that they don’t have to depend on gods to make positive, life affirming choices. I believe that prisoners deserve the same opportunity.”—Valerie Tarico

“SAB Books is happy to support the Freethought Books project by donating copies of our book, The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. We think it’s important to provide an alternative to the Bibles and other religious materials that are continually pushed upon prison inmates.”—Steve Wells

The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism is donating 40 copies of Sherwin Wine’s Staying Sane in a Crazy World: A Guide to Rational Living. Rabbi Adam Chalom, dean of the IISHJ, had this to say about why they support the project: “Humanist ideas and ideals not only help us understand the world; they can improve the human condition. These books help individuals take charge of their own lives, make positive choices, and live with honesty and integrity. Our philosophy goes beyond abstractions to make a real difference, and the Freethought Books Project is a wonderful demonstration of that principle.”

Finally, with all the packages we’ve been receiving, it really felt like the holidays here at CFI! Every day, we get boxes of new books—many from individuals purchasing them off of our Amazon Wish List or sending them from their personal collections. We will do our best to thank all of our supporters individually, but in some cases there’s no way to contact donors from the wish list. So for all those who have sent their support—thank you! Every books counts.

We also held a Freethought Book Drive here at CFI–Western New York, and received dozens of donations from local community members, growing our stock of books to donate significantly. Thank you to the WNY community for their support of the project!  

What We’re Doing

Jesse and I figured the holidays must be an especially tough time to be in prison, so we decided to make it our goal to get shipments out to every single prisoner that’s made a request by December 20. So far, we’ve been contacted by 45 individuals, some contacts that have been involved since Leslie started the project in 2005, and others that heard about us since then.

In December, we sent out a total of 45 shipments, one to each of these individuals, including a total of 130 books and 20 magazines. A month ago, we wouldn’t have had the resources to make this happen. 

What This Means to Individuals

One of our contacts (kept anonymous), recently released from her sentence, had this to say about what the books and the experience with Freethought Books Project mean to her:

“After 41 years of not knowing what I want to do when I grow up I have finally figured it out. I am already looking into going to school so I can someday join the fight for secularism and basic scientific understanding. I don’t know exactly what I will major in yet but I have a direction as never before.” 

Ways to Support the Project

Pitchstone Publishing has started a “Gift a Book” initiative, where you can pay just $10 to buy any book they publish and have it sent to a prisoner. This is a great way to support a small freethought publisher and a freethinking prisoner at the same time.

Purchase a book from our Amazon Wish List. The book will be sent to us, and we will forward it on to a prisoner in need. 

Give your old books a new life. You can ship books to the project at our address, found on the FBP website.

Like us on Facebook, and share our page with secular and skeptic friends. If you have a blog, blog about us.

Finally—if you can, please donate! Even just $5 will allow us to pay for the postage for 1-2 packages. And that adds up. Every little bit counts.