The Common Good

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Books Project Helps Atheists Make the Case For Unbelief Behind Bars

Leslie Zukor was a 19-year-old student at Reed College studying prison rehabilitation programs when something jumped out at her.


“Not all prisoners are religious, and I wanted them to know that to turn your life around and be a good and productive member of society does not require a belief in God,” she said. “I just thought, wow, it is time to see about getting other perspectives in there.” While there were programs tackling drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, technical training, and more, all of them were offered by faith-based organizations. Where were the options for those behind bars who are atheists, like her?

So Zukor launched the Freethought Books Project, collecting books about atheism, humanism, and science and sending them to interested prisoners. She estimates that since her first book drive in 2005, she has given out 2,300 books, magazines, and newspapers to perhaps hundreds of prisoners across the country.

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Faith Leaders Protest Race In Sentencing

Date: November 21, 2013
Others signing the letter included Paul Basden and Jim Johnson, pastors of Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas; Roger Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University; Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia in Houston; Shaine Claiborne of The Simply Way in Philadelphia; Fisher Humphreys, retired professor at Samford University; Christian author Brian McLaren; Sojourners founder Jim Wallis; and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, associate pastor of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.

Second Line

Visiting Jesus in Jail

What struck me as he spoke was the sheer human potential of this my client, wasted. That matters for all of us because of an unflinching Scriptural text about how we can enter the kingdom of God: “for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me….just as you did it to the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:35-40)

That’s the test. Not beliefs or intentions. Actions. 

Specific actions: Jesus tells us to visit people considered the worst among us, those accused of breaking the law. 

It’s not just innocent prisoners we are to see; it’s prisoners. They are all Jesus. 

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'Homeless' Pastor on Mission Arrested in Texas

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith been living on the streets to bring attention to homelessness, but Sunday night the San Antonio pastor spent the night behind bars.
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Beck, Nazis, and Civil Dialogue

Glenn Beck can do better. Fox News can do better. When it comes to upholding truth and having civil dialogues, let's be honest, we all can do better.
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Psalm 94 and Sudan

Psalm 94 is not my psalm, and perhaps it's not yours either. Psalm 8; Psalm 23; Psalm 100. They get a lot of air time because they really speak to us.
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