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American Atheists Essential Reading List Books on this list have been selected to provide introductory information on topics of interest to Atheists. They address a wide range of important subjects such as: the history of Atheist thought, the origins of modern religion, the role religion plays in modern culture and politics, Atheist parenting, and the ongoing battle for the separation between church and state. While these titles represent only a fraction of the books available from American Atheist Press, collectively they provide a broad overview of Atheist thought. Natural Atheism by David Eller stock# 5902 $18.00 352 pp. Our best-selling book. A great overview of Atheist philosophy from the perspective of a “natural” Atheist.

paperback

Christianity before Christ by John G. Jackson Christian doctrines are traced to their origins in older religions.

stock# 5200

$14.00

237 pp.

paperback

The Case Against Religion by Albert Ellis A psychotherapist’s view of the harmful aspects of religious belief.

stock# 5096

$6.00

57 pp.

stapled

Living in the Light by Anne R. Stone stock# 5588 $12.00 157 pp. Subtitled “Freeing Your Child from the Dark Ages,” this book serves as a manual for Atheist parents.

paperback

Our Constitution: The Way It Was by Madalyn O’Hair stock# 5400 $6.00 70 pp. stapled American Atheist Radio Series episodes about the myth that our founding fathers created a Christian nation. What on Earth Is an Atheist! by Madalyn O’Hair stock# 5412 $18.00 American Atheist Radio Series episodes on various topics of Atheist philosophy and history.

288 pp.

paperback

The Bible Handbook by G. W. Foote, W. P. Ball, et al. stock# 5008 $17.00 A compilation of biblical absurdities, contradictions, atrocities, immoralities and obscenities.

372 pp.

paperback

An Atheist Epic by Madalyn O’Hair stock# 5376 $18.00 302 pp. paperback The personal story of the battle to end mandatory prayer and bible recitation in schools in the United States. 65 Press Interviews by Robert G. Ingersoll stock# 5589 $15.00 Ingersoll’s 19th-century newspaper interviews as a Freethinker and opponent of superstition.

262 pp.

paperback

An Atheist Primer by Madalyn O’Hair stock# 5372 $6.00 A humorous look at god concepts will help children (and adults) have a clear view of religion.

30 pp.

stapled

An Atheist Looks at Women & Religion by Madalyn O’Hair stock# 5419 Why attempts to reconcile religion with civil rights for women are self-defeating.

42 pp.

paperback

$10.00

The Jesus the Jews Never Knew by Frank R. Zindler stock# 7026 $20.00 544 pp. A search of ancient Jewish literature yields no evidence for the existence of any historical Jesus.

paperback

The Great Infidels by Robert G. Ingersoll stock# 5197 $7.00 How nonbelievers and Atheists have contributed to civilization and enriched our lives.

80 pp.

paperback

Our Pagan Christmas by R.J. Condon stock# 5064 The non-Christian origins of common Christmas customs are explored.

20 pp.

stapled

Sex Mythology by Sha Rocco stock# 5440 $8.00 55 pp. A scholarly study explores the sexual origins of religious symbols including the Christian cross.

stapled

Morality without Religion stock# 8310 Atheist leaders and philosophers give their views on godless ethics.

pamphlet

$3.00

$1.00

24 pp.

Please see the order form located in the center of the magazine for member discounts and shipping & handling.

www.atheists.org


may/june 2008 Vol 46, No.5

American Atheist Magazine

ISSN 0516-9623 (Print) ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) Editor, American Atheist Press Frank Zindler

ContentS

Editor, American Atheist Magazine Ellen Johnson Designer Elias Scultori Cover Design Tim Mize Editorial Assistants Gil and Jeanne Gaudia Published monthly (except June & December) by American Atheists Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 5733 Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733 phone — 908.276.7300 FAX — 908.276.7402 editor@americanatheist.org www.atheists.org ©2008 by American Atheists Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. American Atheist Magazine is indexed in the Alternative Press Index. American Atheist Magazine is given free of cost to members of American Atheists as an incident of their membership. Subscription fees for one year of the American Atheist magazine: Print version only: $40 for 1 subscription and $25 for each additional gift subscription Online version only: $35 (Sign up at www.atheists.org/aam.) Print & online: $55 Discounts for multiple-year subscriptions: 10% for two years 20% for three or more years Additional postage fees for foreign addresses: Canada & Mexico: add $10/year All other countries: add $30/year Discount for libraries and institutions: 50% on all magazine subscriptions and book purchases

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From the President

House Resolution 888 R.I.P. by Ellen Johnson

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Letter to the Editor

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Atheists & Co.

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A Baker’s Dozen Examples of False Allegations, Misrepresentations, and Revisionist History in House Resolution 888: (There are Many More.)

Tina Hyder

by Rick Wingrove

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Shroud Of Turin Accidentally Washed With Red Shirt

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A Personal Story

The Onion

Silent No More by Kathryn Sirls

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The Rapture: The Sooner, The Better

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Foxhole Atheist of the Month

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Is Dawkins Deluded?

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Thoughts for Atheists at Graduation

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Obituary

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Obituary

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Is Religion a Form of Psychosis?

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Modern Humans, Not Neandertals, May Be Evolution’s “Odd Man Out”

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Ask the Expert

by Robert Weitzel

David Johnson

by Massimo Pigliucci by Edwin Kagin

Arthur C. Clark Dr. Hemalata Lavanam by W. E. Gutman

Bible Contradictions by Frank Zindler


from the president

House Resolution 888 R.I.P. Ellen Johnson

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n December 18, 2007, Representative James Forbes,(RVA) introduced House Resolution 888, “Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history, and expressing support for the designation of the first week in May as ‘American Religious History Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.” We immediately put our Capitol Hill Representative Rick Wingrove on it. Rick sent a staffer on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the truth about what was stated in that resolution, which is a litany of historical revisionism and distortions. It is ten pages covering over 75 points purportedly showing why we are a Christian nation. Rick discussed the problems of the Resolution with the staffer who was very sympathetic to our position. The staffer supplied Rick’s materials to staff negotiators who flagged 888 as “problematic” and then Rep. Waxman (D-CA, Committee Chair), and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) made negative comments about H. Res. 888. As a result, H.Res. 888 was not voted on in committee and, while not technically dead until Congress is adjourned, the bill is consigned to limbo and is unlikely to ever come before the

committee again. A lot of the points in the Resolution are taken directly from David Barton’s book “The Myth of Church Separation.” David Barton is the Evangelical Christian whose website, “WallBuilders” sells his books. Barton has come under attack for misquoting Thomas Jefferson and for citing secondary, not primary sources in his writings. Barton’s educational background is in religious education and he is a graduate of Oral Roberts University, a charismatic Christian liberal arts university. The name “WallBuilders” is not a reference to the wall of separation but to a passage in the Bible. According to their website, WallBuilders is a name taken from the Old Testament writings of Nehemiah, who led a grassroots movement to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore its strength and honor. In the same way, WallBuilders seeks to energize the grassroots today to become involved in strengthening their communities, states, and nation. House Resolution 888 looks like it reads from a David Barton book and in fact, some of the points do come right from his book. We are including some of these and their refutations in this issue so you can see what nonsense is being peddled as historical fact in Congress. The refutations come from Rick Wingrove, Chris Rodda and The Baptist Joint Committee. k

representingYOU 11/27/07 — E llen Johnson appeared on the FOX Network’s Hannity & Colmes TV program to talk about our Utah Cross case decision. 02/01/08 — E llen Johnson gave an interview with the Omaha World Herald over Raymond Zbylut’s efforts to have a street in Omaha, Nebraska named after Madalyn O’Hair. 02/09/08 — A  A National Spokesman David Silverman was interviewed by CNN.com about religion in the workplace. 02/18/08 — E llen Johnson gave an interview to the Orange County (California) Register Newspaper on “In God We Trust” as our national motto. 02/24/08 — E llen Johnson gave an interview to an Ohio State University journalism student on the presidential election. 03/05/08 — E llen Johnson spoke to a Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey class on Atheism. 03/06/08 — E llen Johnson gave an interview to the Minnesota Star Tribune on our annual conference. 03/10/08 — N  ational Media Spokesman David Silverman was quoted in an article in CNN.com on religion in the workplace. 03/12/08 — D  avid Silverman gave an interview to the Columbia News Service on the 100th anniversary of the Gideon Bible. 03/14/08 — E llen Johnson was interview about Atheism for an article in the Boston University Daily Free Press. 03/17/08 — E llen Johnson gave an interview to the Detroit Free Press on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. 03/24/08 — O  ur Washington DC Director, Rick Wingrove was a guest on Daily Café, which is a program on Retirement Living TV. The topic was, “Are Americans Losing Their Religion?” 03/21/08 — A  merican Atheists Annual Conference was reported on Minnesota TV Station KARE 11.

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American Atheist — may/june 2008


Letters to the Editor Editor: I read Christopher Hitchen’s book “God is Not Great” last month and thought it a masterpiece. I read Gil Gaudia’s book review in this month’s American Atheist Magazine and thought WOW, another masterpiece. James A. Williams Lake Worth, Fl

Atheists & Co. Tina Hyder

Editor: I thoroughly enjoyed the Onion humor, “As the Mideast Conflict. . .” (March 2008). I rarely laugh out loud when reading AA, but the Onion tickled me. As a strong supporter of a secular Jewish state, I have been a close reader of the mideast news, and aware of the repetitiousness of the senseless, mindless conflict and the reporting of it. I also like your sprinkling a few political cartoons in the magazine, and think they are also worth your buying them. Sid Kass San Francisco, CA

Editor: As a newly minted Atheist, I would like to say that I was particularly impressed with Barrett Brown’s MY HAND SHALL BE AGAINST THE PROPHETS (March 2008) I laughed so hard I … well, at my age, that’s not unusual. This is one smart and funny dude and I would welcome more of his articles. Now, to get the book. Sincerely, up to a point, R.G. Huber Branchville, NJ

POSITION AVAILABLE American Atheists is looking to fill the following positions: Website design Audio/Video technician For more information please contact Ellen Johnson at info@atheists.org.

New Life Members American Atheists Welcomes New Life Members Mark Richardson - Renton, WA Marilyn D. St. Clair - King City, OR

Tina Hyder is the broker-owner of Power Players Real Estate located in Marshall, Minnesota. Power Players Real Estate specializes in residential real estate. The investing side of their business - Hyder Properties, LLC - opened in 2002. The mission of Power Players Real Estate is to empower their clients by providing them with an experienced, knowledgeable and passionate sales team in a soothing office environment that is unsurpassed in quality and professionalism. They strive to exceed their client’s expectations through devotion, loyalty and levity. They abide by the REALTOR Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice while delivering excellence in residential and commercial brokerage and property management, and return a fair profit to the sales team and owners. Tina Hyder has been in the real estate business for five and a half years. She says she enjoys her work because, “I enjoy helping people find affordable housing (on the rental side of my business), and teaching by example that there are landlords who care and that tenants do not have to accept bad customer service because they are ‘just’ tenants. Whether you are a low-income tenant or a client buying a summer lake home, everyone is treated with the same respect and diligence. I’ve been on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, so I am all too aware of how people who have lower incomes can be dismissed and disregarded. I find that unacceptable, and I’m happy to try making a difference, especially as an Atheist. We are a woefully misunderstood group of people, so setting a strong moral example to others is especially important. I also love my work because I am my own boss and I have the freedom to set my own hours. That’s especially important with small children!” Tina Hyder, Broker-Owner Hyder Properties, LLC dba Power Players Real Estate 300 W Main Street Marshall, MN 56258-0401 Tina@hyderproperties.com www.PowerPlayersRE.com Toll-Free - 866-784-5907

may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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A Baker’s Dozen Examples of False Allegations, Misrepresentations, and Revisionist History in

House Resolution 888 (There are Many More.) by Rick Wingrove

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he Constitution and its framers, in no way, endorsed the notion of theocracy. They rejected it outright, explicitly, and for good reason. They intended that there not be favored status for any particular religious group. Despite this fact, recently Congressman Rep. James Forbes (R-Va.) introduced House Resolution 888 which was based almost verbatim on David Barton’s infamous and widely debunked revisionist tome, The Myth of Separation, and other Christian nationalist sources. David Barton is a fundamentalist Christian who makes a living peddling revisionist lies about the separation of church and state to provide ammunition for politicians like Forbes in order to push their Christian Agenda. One of Barton’s more nefarious tactics has been to lay claim to a study by Donald S. Lutz, a researcher, at the University of Houston, whose findings were published in a 1984 article in The American Political Science Review, and then to distort his findings, as has been done in this house resolution. The following items were some of the more egregious misrepresentations by David Barton which are included by Mr. Forbes in this atrocious Christianist resolution. Each “Item” is followed by a brief explanation of the facts.

Item B “Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;”

Item A “Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;”

Item C “Whereas the Liberty Bell was named for the biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: ‘Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof ’;”

Explanation Mr. Forbes refers to a study conducted by Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, which covers 916 articles. Anyone familiar with the literature will know that most of these citations come from sermons reprinted as pamphlets, and so reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the so-called biblical citations. A chart included in the Lutz study puts the number of articles with biblical references at 34%. David Barton alleges in his own uncited study that the number is 60%. He then added the two figures and put out a film alleging an astounding 94% of documents from that period to be Bible-based. Interestingly, the Federalist papers, from the study period from 1787 to 1788, contain no biblical references. The Federalists apparently considered the Bible irrelevant when considering their future government.

Explanation In order to associate the Liberty Bell, and particularly its biblical inscription, with the American Revolution, revisionists must disregard its real history. The only connection between the Liberty Bell and the Revolution is that it happened to be the bell that hung in the building where the Continental Congress met. At the time of the Revolution, and for many years after, the bell was simply called the State House Bell. It wasn’t dubbed the “Liberty Bell” until 1838, when it was adopted as a symbol of liberty by a Boston abolitionist group, and a poem entitled The Liberty Bell was reprinted from one of the group’s pamphlets by William Lloyd Garrison in his anti-slavery publication The Liberator. In the decades preceding this, the bell had become so insignificant that, in 1828, the City of Philadelphia had actually tried to sell it as salvage.

American Atheist — may/june 2008

Explanation I would ask Mr. Forbes to provide even a single example of such an appropriation. There were no actual instances of the early Congresses passing legislation that aided sectarian schools for children who were American citizens. There was, however, cooperation between the government and the Indian mission schools of the 1800s. Although the government’s reasons for this were always secular, the fact that this cooperation existed means there are actual acts, reports, etc., that can be misrepresented or misquoted, turning them into vague claims, like that of Mr. Forbes, that the government funded religious education. This is the basis of Mr. Forbes’s claim that our early Congresses “frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction.”


Item D “Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of ‘Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,’ announced that they ‘desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement’ and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported ‘into the different ports of the States of the Union’;” Explanation Congress did not import any Bibles. The first two quotes in this statement, which Mr. Forbes claims were “announced” by Congress, were not the words of Congress, but come from the petition of a group of Philadelphia ministers. What appears in the Journals of the Continental Congress after the committee’s report is the following motion. “Whereupon, the Congress was moved, to order the Committee of Commerce to import twenty thousand copies of the Bible.” The problem is that, this was a vote to replace an original plan of importing the type and paper to print Bibles. The committee instead proposed importing already printed Bibles. A motion was then made to pass an actual resolution to import the Bibles, but this was postponed and never brought up again. No Bibles were ever imported. This little problem is solved in the religious right’s history books by either misquoting the motion to turn it into a resolution, or omitting the motion altogether and ending the story with some statement implying that the Bibles were imported. It is worth noting that any action taken by the Continental Congress was taken prior to the Adoption of the Constitution and the First Amendment. Item E “Whereas the 1783 Treaty of Paris that officially ended the Revolution and established America as an independent begins with the appellation ‘In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity’;”

Federal law touching education, declaring that ‘Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged’;” Explanation The law they are referring to was not an education law. It was the Northwest Ordinance. Despite the careful phrasing such as calling it a “law touching education,” this is a deliberately deceptive way to make the best use of the appearance of the words “religion” and “schools” in the same sentence by linking this to the framers of the First Amendment. The following was the original wording. “Institutions for the promotion of religion and morality, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” And, this is what appeared in the ordinance. “Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” When the Congress of 1789 reenacted the ordinance, they knew Article III didn’t give the government any power to promote religion. There was no conflict with the First Amendment. In addition to this, what few people realize, is that Article III of the Northwest Ordinance was never even used. It was replaced in the enabling act for the state of Ohio, the very first state to be admitted under the ordinance. The substituted education provision in the 1802 enabling act for Ohio was similar to that in the 1785 Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western Territory; the ordinance that was replaced in 1787 by the Northwest Ordinance. It provided land grants for schools in lieu of the vague statement about encouraging schools in Article III of the Northwest Ordinance. The same provision was made for subsequent states.

Explanation This reference to the trinity was not an acknowledgment by the government of the United States that America was a Christian nation. Instead, It was an acknowledgment by the government of Great Britain that England was a Christian nation. “In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” was just the customary way that Great Britain began their treaties and other documents. The United States had nothing to do with this wording. Item F

“Whereas in 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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Item G “Whereas Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes, and declared that religious schools would receive ‘the patronage of the government’;”

purchased Louisiana from France in 1803. Jefferson replied by assuring the nuns that their property was secure even without an official confirmation, and that they shouldn’t have any problem with the local authorities, but if they did they would have the protection of his office. Because he used the word “patronage,” however, the history revisionists imply that he meant financial aid.

Explanation The first phrase, that Jefferson “urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes,” is copied verbatim from David Barton’s article “The Founders on Public Religious Expression.” The only source cited by Barton for this vague claim is an exchange of letters between Jefferson and John Carroll, the Bishop of Baltimore. No new Catholic church was built in Washington until two decades later, and that was built on privately donated land, so it appears that the commissioners must have turned down Bishop Carroll’s application. The second phrase, that Jefferson “provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes,” is based on a single treaty with the Kaskaskia, signed by Jefferson in 1803, which included a provision for a $100 annual salary for a priest for seven years, and $300 towards the building of a church. The third phrase, that Jefferson “declared that religious schools would receive ‘the patronage of the government,’” is based on a letter written by Jefferson to the Ursuline nuns in New Orleans on July 13 or 14, 1804. The nuns, like many of the territory’s inhabitants, were concerned about the status of their property when the United States

Item H “Whereas Justice William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that ‘Religion and morality ... [are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws’;”

The Atheist’s Handbook to Modern Materialism By Philip A. Stahl Philip A. Stahl has written numerous general astronomy articles including for The Barbados Advocate a series called “Discovering the Stars” from 1975 through 1990. He has also authored or co-authored specialist papers in journals such as Solar Physics, and The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as well as in the Meudon (France) Proceedings on Solar Flares (1984) while serving as the Editor of The Journal of the Barbados Astronomical Society (1977-1991). Mr. Stahl taught and lectured in Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy in Barbados before returning to the U.S. in January, 1992. While in Barbados, he participated in debates on evolution with priests, ministers, scripture teachers, and religious colleagues. In addition he’s had many letters and articles on Atheism and humanism published in the Barbados press, as well as in The Baltimore Sun. From The Atheist’s Handbook to Modern Materialism: “The beauty of Materialism is that it is minimalist by definition. By its very nature, fo cusing on manifestations of matter, fields and energy, it excludes distracting and unverified entities such as spirits, souls ...” Paperback. 250 pp. $15.00 – stock # 7001 (Please see order form for member discount and S&H charges)

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American Atheist — may/june 2008

Explanation This isn’t a quote from William Paterson. It’s from an item in the May 24, 1800 issue of the United States Oracle of the Day, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire newspaper, describing the opening of the Circuit Court there. Apparently, the reporter heartily approved of the politically biased election-year remarks of the far from impartial Justice Paterson who, in charging the Grand Jury, openly condemned the “Jacobin” Republicans and praised the “righteous” Federalists. Item I

“Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring ‘This is a religious people ... From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation’;” Explanation That was an 1892 case where an activist Supreme Court overrode federal law to make a special exemption for the hiring of foreign clergy. Subsequently the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971, established the three-pronged Lemon test which requires that: (1) The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose; (2) The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; (3) The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion. Item J

“Whereas in 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (‘All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’), the Lawgiver (‘the laws of nature and nature’s God’), the Judge (‘appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world’), and the Protector (‘with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence’);” Explanation This section is so misleading that it is just plain dishonest. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian. He was openly hostile to the tenets of Christianity. “Nature’s God” is a Deistic phrase, referring to a non-Christian universal, uninvolved deity. The same refers to his generic reference to the Deistic “Creator.” The same applies to the generic “Supreme Judge of the world” and “Divine Providence.” NONE of these is a “direct religious acknowledgement” of the Christian God. Not one. Notably ABSENT from the Declaration is any direct reference to the “Christian God,” or “Jesus,” or “Christ,” or “Christian,” or “Christianity.”


Further, the Declaration has nothing to do with the formation of the government of the United States of America. Notably, the Declaration does state that our rights are derived from the consent of the governed. The Christian God is not mentioned there.

Explanation This is false. This is a naval regulation enacted in 1775 by the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress. This is prior to the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Item K “Whereas the delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with ‘the unanimous consent of the States present’ but they had done so ‘in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven’;”

SUMMARY These are but a few of the problems with H. Res. 888. Hopefully, the reader can begin to get a sense for what error, inconsistency, misrepresentation, and spin is included in the tribute to David Barton. Indeed, David Barton is a name that everyone concerned with maintaining the First Amendment’s prohibition against official religion should learn and be aware of. He has many fans on the Christian right and this atrocious resolution is indicative of their intent. We respectfully request that all members, with an eye on our Constitutional protections and wary of the Creeping Theocratization of America, vote to kill this monstrosity in committee. H. Res. 888 attempts to swamp the reader with trivial, anecdotal, inconsequential, and ceremonial activities which have no bearing on our Constitutional protections against theocracy. H. Res. 888 attempts to persuade the reader, by sheer volume and misdirection, that the actions listed comprise official policies of the United States under our Constitution. H. Res. 888 talks about religious diversity though every mention of a specific religion in the resolution is about Christianity. H. Res. 888 attempts to gain elevated status and official recognition for a particular religion which already enjoys majority status and special privileges. H. Res. 888 calls for Congress to act as an enforcer for those who seek to use courts and schools as extended ministries. H. Res. 888 completely disregards Article Six of the Constitution as well as the First Amendment Establishment Clause. It also selectively ignores important foundational writings that utterly refute the self-serving, revisionist assertions. By elevating the status of Christians, H. Res. 888 effectively reduces the status, devalues the citizenship, lessens the legal coverage, and denigrates the civic participation of 75 million Americans, of whom twenty-five percent are not Christians. We could engage revisionists in an endless war of competing quotes, but, one thing this manicured list fails to show is that the Constitution or its framers, in any way, endorsed the notion of theocracy. They rejected it outright, explicitly, and for good reason. It is anti-Constitutional and un-American to propose favored status for a particular religious group. It would be a tremendous blunder for the United States to step back from the Constitutional principle of Separation of Church and State. k

Explanation A “religious punctuation mark”? This carefully parsed language is misleading and intended to lend unintended weight to a traditional, formal way of stating a date. If the Founders wanted to make the U. S. a Christian nation, they merely had to say those words. One would have to believe that the founders were pretty bad at what they were doing by failing to explicitly include language designating the U. S. as a Christian theocracy. In reality, they were quite brilliant and knew what they were writing. The subject of Separation of Church and state was debated at length and those favoring a biblical foundation for our Constitution were defeated. Much has been written about this. Forbes’ inclusion of a “religious punctuation mark” does not serve to turn the letter and intent of the Constitution on its head. Item L “Whereas James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of ‘the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution,’ and George Washington viewed it as ‘little short of a miracle,’ and Benjamin Franklin believed that its writing had been ‘influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being’;” Explanation James Madison was a Deist, NOT a Christian. A simple reading of his remarkable work, “Memorial and Remonstrance” will make a lie of any implication that he, in any way, favored or enabled a Christian theocracy for America. None of the snipped quotes in this section mention the “Christian God” but refer generically to mild Deistic notions. Further, George Washington is widely thought to have been a Deist and was an early supporter of Religious freedom, feeling it would “disturb public tranquility” to force taxpayers to support religions which they did not profess. Additionally, Washington instructed his agent to hire workmen for Mount Vernon “If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.” Item M “Whereas in 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard ‘all ships and vessels in the navy,’ with a sermon preached each Sunday;”

Sources [1] Donald S. Lutz, a researcher, at the University of Houston, whose findings were published in a 1984 article in The American Political Science Review. [2] Chris Rodda - talk2action.org

Rick Wingrove is the Capitol Hill Representative for American Atheists. He can be reached at rwingrove@atheists.org. may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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Shroud Of Turin Accidentally Washed With Red Shirt by the onion—www.theonion.com (Humor)

VATICAN CITY—The Shroud of Turin, an ancient linen cloth believed to bear the image of Christ and considered by many clerics and devotees to be one of the holiest relics of the Christian faith, was inadvertently dyed a light shade of pink after being washed with a red T-shirt, sources reported Tuesday. The holy antiquity, thought by some to be the very garment Jesus Christ was buried in, was discovered in 1354. Though it has suffered oxidation and fire damage over the centuries, this is the first time that the shroud has been harmed in a laundry-related mishap. “Simply because the shroud has been given a slight pinkish tint does not in any way diminish its sanctity,” Vatican spokesman Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo said during a press conference held to address the spiritual repercussions of the shroud’s staining. “It is still very much the icon of the suffering of the innocent of all times.” The Vatican stressed that nothing out of the ordinary happened to the shroud during the initial preparations for its monthly laundering in Rome. As is custom, on the third Sunday of the month, the priceless relic—which is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy—was taken from its hermetically sealed, bulletproof glass case and stuffed into the Blessed Papal Laundry Sack, and it was then transported by a retinue of Swiss Guards to Vatican City without incident. According to Lajolo, the damage occurred when Pope Benedict XVI, whose turn it was to do the Vatican laundry, did not notice that a brand-new, bright-red Hanes Beefy-T belonging to Cardinal Angelo Sodano had been placed inside of the consecrated cleansing vessel, the Holy Whirlpool 24934 top-load washer. The pope then started a load of white vestments, including the shroud, only realizing what had happened when he returned to remove the sacred artifact, which is always line-dried. “His Holiness was distracted with trying to scrub a tough Blood of Christ stain out of Cardinal Nicora’s miter,” Lajolo said. “Not that this was some sort of mistake on his part. The pope is still infallible. We have to keep in mind that this is all part of God’s greater plan.” “And who are we to question or reject the ways the Lord works through our laundry?” Lajolo continued. Church officials said that the shroud’s staining was not in any way

due to negligence on the Vatican’s part. An investigation into the matter showed that the detergent had been properly blessed before the laundering, and the holy water softener that was installed last summer was working perfectly. “We must not allow ourselves to fall into despair, for, as sinners, we are flawed and must seek forgiveness in the Lord alone,” said Lajolo, who later hinted that the damage to the shroud was possibly God’s response to the sins of the world, and especially homosexuality. “As Christ teaches, let he who has never overly starched, shrunk, or rent his garments cast the first stone.” Though the discoloring of the Shroud of Turin has come as a shock to many Catholics, it is not the first time that a holy relic has been damaged. In 1983, several pieces of the True Cross were waterstained after being used as coasters during Pope John Paul II’s birthday party, and in 1572, the knucklebone of St. Olaf was accidentally thrown out with a plate of half-eaten chicken wings. In the wake of the incident involving Christ’s death shroud, the Vatican has been exploring possible ways to restore the raiment back to its original color. “We do not want to attempt to use caustic cleaning agents for fear of turning the blessed shroud an unholy bright orange,” Lajolo said. “We continue to look to God for divine guidance as to the purity and virtue of using a color-safe bleach.” k Reprinted with permission of THE ONION © Copyright 2007 Onion Inc.

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Why I Am Not A Muslim by Ibn Warraq

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Ibn Warraq examines Islam and the Koran from the point of view of an ex-Muslim. Warraq shows that the Koran evolved over a long period of time and is filled with absurdities and contradictions, just like the Christian Bible. Warraq shows how intolerance and violence have been and continue to be part and parcel of Islam, and these cannot be ascribed to isolated Fundamentalists. 402 pp. Hard Cover.

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a personal story

Silent No More by Kathryn Sirls

M

y heart was pounding madly as I stared at the closed door just ahead of me. I bit incessantly on a fingernail, keeping my eyes averted from the many faces that stopped to take a second look at the strange girl in the uncomfortable armchair. Sitting outside of my bishop’s office, waiting to be called in, people looking as if they came out of a “cookie cutter” filed past me, men in white shirts and women in kneelength skirts and modest blouses. All of these cookie cutter products, without having to say a word, seemed to agree with what I already knew: I was different. I didn’t belong. Still, I didn’t care: this was the morning—the morning—in the summer of 2006, that I was ready to reclaim myself, to take back what was mine. When the bishop called me into his office, he closed the door and stared at me. I wondered if he was trying to intimidate me. When it became clear that he was certainly not going to begin our conversation, I finally spoke up: “You know I’ve been having a difficult time with the place of women in this church.” My voice came out sounding far more strained than I had intended. “I don’t think you understand the place of women in this church,” he responded quickly, visibly taking in my choice of clothing, pants and a low-cut shirt. Knowing that women were expected to dress in modest dresses or skirts, my outfit had been a bold choice. “I tried,” I explained, “to believe in your god and accept that he truly wants the priesthood to be held by men only. But I honestly can’t do it anymore.” “Just because women have a separate role, both in the church and in the world,” he began telling me, patronizingly, as if he were talking to a child, “does not mean that it is any less important than a man’s role.” Right, I thought. Separate but equal. Where had I heard that before? “Look,” I said, pointing to the pictures on his wall, the pictures of Gordon B. Hinckley and his two right-hand men. “Your prophet is a man, and has always been a man. All of the apostles are men. Every elder, every bishop, every person with any sort of standing in this church is a man! This church claims a male god and a male savior, and down the line anyone with any importance is a male, and as a woman. I’m not even allowed to strive toward a high position because I’m denied the priesthood.” He looked at me bemusedly. “What would you say,” he asked me slowly, “if I told you that I wanted to be able to carry a child and give birth?” I raised my eyebrows in astonishment. After realizing that the question was not rhetorical, and he indeed wanted an answer, I replied, “Pregnancy and giving birth, while they can be potentially wonderful aspects of being a woman, are completely physical experiences. It’s not spiritual. You’re trying to turn something physical into something spiritual, and it just doesn’t work.” “It’s not spiritual if you don’t allow it to be,” he told me. Again, not sure if he was serious or not, I paused. “With all

due respect,” I finally responded, “My cat can get pregnant and deliver children, too. Does that mean that a male cat is worthy of the sacred priesthood?” He didn’t answer, so I continued. “You can’t honestly expect me to believe that childbearing is the feminine equal to the male priesthood.” “What do you think Lara Hall would say about all of this? She doesn’t seem to mind that she can’t have the priesthood.” Lara Hall was my Relief Society president. “Lara Hall was raised in this church,” I said. “She doesn’t know any different.” I didn’t know what else to say. The bishop sighed and leaned back in his chair, giving me a look that was somewhat of a cross between frustration and disappointment. “What do you want to do, then? Do you want to leave the church?” A part of me wanted to dance around the subject, to find kind words to say about the church, just to make everyone happy again— everyone except for me, of course. I didn’t, though. I forced the words out of my mouth, making them sound as strong as I possibly could. “Yes,” I said, looking him right in the eye. “I want to leave.” We sat there for a few moments in complete silence. Then the bishop began going through papers, though I don’t think he was looking for anything in particular. “This means,” he told me, “that I will have to withdraw my ecclesiastical recommendation. After that, you won’t be allowed to attend school at Brigham Young University (BYU)-Idaho anymore.” (I had first joined the Mormon Church in September of 2005 and moved to Rexburg, Idaho to attend BYU-Idaho in January 2006.) I nodded that I understood. At that point, I didn’t care. I was excited to be crawling out from within the dark hole that I had been calling my religion. I expected that, after making this decision, my life would get easier. I found out the very next day, however, that I had exactly 72 hours to vacate my apartment—a scary notion when you have very little money and nowhere to go. This was not to be the last blow that the church threw at me, however. I was informed by my then husband, as we packed up our apartment, that another member of the church, and a frequent babysitter of our son, had accused me of molesting my child, saying that he needed to be taken away from me—not just because I was an abusive mother, but because he needed to be raised in the church. In response to this, all I could do was cry. There really is nothing that slashes at our very being quite like being accused of hurting a child— much less your own—in such a way. Shortly after that, we left. I have not been back since, though I expect that if I were to go back, I would be met with emotions that I am not yet ready to deal with. What I experienced in the LDS church, particularly when I was leaving, remains an unresolved part of my life. Still, my pain gave me the strength to overcome once already. And when I was dirty with the shame and indignity of being an LDS woman who believed, despite everything, that I still deserved may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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mark your

calendar MICHIGAN ATHEISTS www.michiganatheists.org (313) 938-5960 May 4, 2008 WHAT: First Sunday of the Month Gathering WHERE: Denny’s, 39550 Ann Arbor Rd., Plymouth Twp. TIME: 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm June 22, 2008 WHAT: Dinner and friendship. Speaker TBA WHERE: China Star Palace, 270 S. Wayne Rd., Westland TIME: 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm July 6, 2008 WHAT: First Sunday of the Month Gathering WHERE: Denny’s, 39550 Ann Arbor Rd., Plymouth Twp. TIME: 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm June 5-8, 2008 17th World Humanist Congress 67th Annual Conference American Humanist Association Washington DC www.americanhumanist.org 202-238-9003 (Please send your group or organizations events listing 3-4 months in advance to editor@americanatheists.org.)

complete equality with the men in my life, my tears washed me clean. And now, as a freethinking Atheist, I am stronger. The morning that I left Rexburg, Idaho was a new beginning for me. On that day I took a step towards claiming my own life back. Every step that I have taken since that day has been marked by that first step I took. When I left that morning, my son asleep in the back seat, without specific direction or anywhere to go, without an awaiting school or job to go to, I had hope. I watched the sun come up over the purple horizon that morning, and I knew: I was free. k I am currently living in St. George, Utah with my son. I finished my bachelor’s degree in English last December and am now an aspiring writer. I also hope to go into teaching. Nobody ever took the “molestation” charge to authorities, but were placing an extreme amount of pressure on my husband to leave me and keep our son from me. Amazingly, (not to get too personal, but he is now my ex-husband) he has since embraced Atheism himself, and I truly hope that I played a part in that. Ms. Sirls can be reached at daughter_ of_avalon404@yahoo.com 12

American Atheist — may/june 2008

The Founders Friends... So many of you help American Atheists with donations and other financial support—and we want to find a way to say “Thank You!” We are pleased to announce the re-establishment of an American Atheist tradition—The Founders’ Friends, begun by the Murray O’Hair family. Those contributing $50 or more to American Atheists will have your name and amount entered in subsequent issues of the AA Magazine. Just fill out the blue card with the information requested, include your gift, and mail it back to us in the enclosed envelope. Be sure to check the appropriate box authorizing us to thank you by printing your name and contribution amount in the Magazine. Mailing addresses will not be mentioned. This is our way of saying THANK YOU to an extraordinary group of people—those of you who want to “do more” and financially support the critical work of American Atheists! American Atheists Thanks The Following Persons For Their Generous Contributions To Our Cause.

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The Rapture The Sooner, The Better by Robert Weitzel

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s an Atheist and a skeptic, I try to limit my magical thinking to occasional moments of vanity and revenge. But lately I’ve found myself wishing that if the Rapture is on the level, it would happen soon . . . I mean real soon. The Rapture is the name given to a future event in which Jesus descends from heaven and gathers up all Christian fundamentalists (a.k.a. the Christian Right) and swooshes them up bodily to heaven, but not before they’ve jettisoned their clothes and jewelry and all forms of prostheses, including pompadour hairpieces and inflatable bouffant support bladders. Before I get too far into this, I want it understood that I’m not wishing these folks ill. On the contrary, I’m wishing them what they’ve always wanted; an eternity of enjoying the unchallenged moral certitude they were never quite able to fully enjoy here on Earth, but which nonetheless caused the rest of us no end of misery. The signs for finally seeing the backside of the Christian Right are encouraging. According to raptureready.com, the Rapture Index (omens portending the Rapture) stands at 164, the highest it’s been since September 11, 2001 when it peaked at its all-time high of 182. I don’t know what the numbers mean either. But I’m not making this up. It appears Jesus is getting his transition team in place, what with the recent raptures (albeit by conventional means) of the Rev. D. James Kennedy, godfather of the American Dominionist (a.k.a. theofascist) movement and hater of our secular constitution, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority and hater of all people he could think of to hate. I do wish the Lord would get his jesters assembled and move on this. Think what the Rapture will mean to those of us left behind. Twenty-three percent of the 208 million adults in America identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians (a.k.a. Rapture-ready). In the event of the Rapture, up to 50 million workers will be leaving their jobs without clocking out. The number of positions vacated will be five times as many as are needed to wipe out the country’s unemployment, leaving the rest of us in a workers’ paradise. Affirmative action be damned! It’s “trickle up” economics at work here. Not only will our career paths be enhanced, but we’ll have a chance at longer, healthier lives by taking the untold billons of dollars President Bush is currently funneling into the Christian Right’s faith-based coffers to save “Americans one soul at a time” and reallocating them to stem cell research and universal health care, which will save a considerably larger part of any American than just his or her ethereal soul. Along with vocational upgrades and improved health, we’ll no longer have to wonder, along with our president “is our kids learning?” High school grads who are having trouble gaining admission to one of our over-crowded universities will have immediate access to the vacant desks and possibly iPods left by the tens of thou-

sands of Rapture-ready students attending America’s 102 “Christcentered”colleges, which will be under new management and begging for warm bodies. And guys, speaking of warm bodies, the universities will be flush with coeds since far fewer of the 435,000 teenage girls at home last year taking care of their babies, will have babies. The hundreds of millions of federal dollars spent annually on abstinence-only sex education (a.k.a. religious dogma) in our public high schools will now fund comprehensive sex education programs that promote safe and effective birth control methods. Let’s face it. It was only the Christian Right who thought hormone-pumped primates would ever stop “doing it.” By the way, do I even need to mention that with the Raptureready blissfully ensconced behind the pearly gates the rest of us will be left in peace to enjoy our bedrooms and our most personal intimate relationships on our own terms? Unarguably though, the highlight of the Rapture will be finding out which of the “born-again” politicians are left on the ground. Unless someone has been lying to the American people, perish the thought, we stand to lose 48 Senators, 186 Representatives, four Supreme Court justices, seven presidential hopefuls, and one hopeless president. If it turns out (highly unlikely though it is) that the 2008 presidential frontrunners of both parties are missing on Raptureplus-one, we’ll enjoy the remaining election season with candidates who’ve always been willing to talk about more substantive issues than their most recent “meet and greet with the Lord.” The god-talk will be in heaven where it belongs. Consider this . . . with a smile. If the Democrats with Dennis Kucinich and Al Gore—we can talk him into it —or the Greens with Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader can’t defeat the unraptured and unrepentant Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani on their own merits, we’ll now own the Supreme Court. There is a downside. We know damn-good-and-well who’ll be sitting at his Oval Office desk with a “fooled you again” smirk on his mug on Rapture-plus-one. But keep in mind, we’ll still have Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution and we’ll have the votes and we’ll have the prison. Keep in mind also; gods mostly help those who help themselves. Having imagined all the above, my thinking is not so magical as to believe there won’t be a few post-Rapture problems. After all, according to Revelations this will be the time of the Great Tribulation and we’ll still have Satan (a.k.a. your choice) to wrestle with. But with the Christian Right enjoying eternity . . . well . . . who cares where? we’ll have only one Devil in the ring at a time. And he’ll be the one carrying a pitchfork not a Bible. Author’s note: Hopefully Jesus is a not a strict sectarian and swooshes up Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists as well. WHAT? I have the right to hope. k Robert Weitzel is an educator and contributing editor to Media with a Conscience. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin. He has also been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Skeptic Magazine and in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Freethought Today. He can be reached at robertweitzel@mac.com. may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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foxhole atheist of the month

David Johnson

I

joined the Navy in April of 1967 and through no real wish of my own was made a Hospital Corpsman, Marine Medic. I arrived in Vietnam on July 4, 1967 a few days short of my 21st Birthday. I was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Danang. Our main problem at Danang was booby traps, now called Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) a fancy name for explosive devices placed alongside roads that go boooom! Booby traps, however, are a little more personal. Whereas IEDs are meant to blow up tanks and armored cars, booby traps are usually designed to cripple and mutilate. Since I was the medic, when someone hit a booby trap it was me that had to pick up the pieces. Nearly every Christian I knew while in Vietnam credited their survival to the good lord. Those who died, of course, had something to do with god’s plan. Maybe god needed warriors in heaven. You can never trust angels. Sometimes they need to be cast out. As for me, instead of turning to god, I turned away. Shortly after my arrival, we lost most our company in an ambush. We had moved north to Quang Tri in October of 1967 where that ambush occurred. We lost 17 Marines and corpsmen killed in action and 27 wounded in action in a matter of minutes. To sum up what happened here, I quote from part of my upcoming book: “Corpsman Up! A Marine Medic Struggles with War, God, and Patriotism.” The first real casualty I came upon was Decker, a corpsman just like me. He was lying on a mound up off the trail with three bullet holes in his chest, still gurgling blood. He seemed to be looking up at me, his eyes glass-like resembling a doll’s, wide open, never dilating, and full of dirt particles, yet never blinking. I knew that he had no chance for survival. If he wasn’t already dead, he’d die soon. But the idea of leaving him there with his eyes full of dirt really bothered me. For a moment I became obsessed with the idea that if for no other reason than some cosmetic effect, I should clean out his eyes so he

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American Atheist — may/june 2008

wouldn’t have to be seen with his eyes full of dirt. It took a few moments to collect myself well enough to realize that there were far more important things to attend to than the dirt in a dead man’s eyes. From Decker on back, casualties were everywhere, lining both sides of the trail. Gonzales, another corpsman, had been miraculously left unharmed but appeared to be in a mild shock; dazed like he hadn’t had any sleep for a very long time. Other than that, however, he seemed to be functioning well and was busily patching up everyone around him. I knew that Gonzales was the last corpsman in the column, and seeing many more wounded behind him I continued back to the rear. From here on, what I had in front of me was about a platoon of dead and wounded Marines. In field-med training, the point stressed most about dealing with mass casualties was to treat those first who had the greatest chance for survival. With that in mind, I proceeded toward the rear to make a fast assessment of the task at hand. One Marine I spotted was suspended upside down by the brush in a gully beneath the trail. Both his legs had been severed at his buttocks and by what I could see from the trail above, he was probably dead, so I left him and looked for others more likely to benefit from timely emergency first aid. Finally I found myself standing over the end of the column, staring down the empty trail from which we had come. Suddenly I realized that no one was down that trail but the NVA. (North Vietnamese Army). The thought then occurred to me, no one living and able to protect me was around me at all. No Marine had followed me to offer cover. I was alone with the NVA who could easily just step out on the trail and add me to the pile of dead Marines behind me. Or worse yet, I could be taken prisoner. For a moment, I found myself reflecting on what I should do if two or three just stepped out and said “Come with us.” Should I die fighting rather than being taken prisoner? And if a Vietcong (VC) or NVA suddenly jumped out on the trail and leveled a gun at me, about all I could do was to witness my life’s end. Yet with that seemingly morbid reality, came a strange acceptance of the situation. “OK,” I thought, “if this is how my life is to end, I might as well die doing what I came for, taking care of fallen Marines.” And with that I began doing what I could for whomever needed medical attention. I do not remember the sequence of events that happened after that or how much time passed. My main concern was to get the wounded Marines, those who could move, up and moving to a safer place towards the head of the column. Then I began trying to stop the bleeding for those who couldn’t be readily moved, offering a few words of comfort and perhaps a dose of morphine to take the edge off some of the pain. Only after patching up the less seriously wounded did I turn my attention to the more critically wounded and dead. It was then that I returned to the legless Marine that I had noticed earlier stuck like a yard dart in the brush. I climbed down off the trail and pulled


him from the entangling vegetation, only to have him amazingly come alive in my arms. As I turned him over, he immediately wanted to know what the hell had taken me so long to get to him. The guilt I felt was crushing. But after a few moments that seemed a lifetime of staring me down, his tone changed. He wanted to know how the rest of his platoon was doing. Did his friends make out okay? I didn’t want to tell him what had really happened, so I lied. I told him his friends were doing just fine. He didn’t have to worry about them. He was glad for them. With that off his mind he lay suspended in my arms for a moment, as if reflecting on the events that had just occurred. Then he rotated his eyes up to meet mine and asked, “Why? Why did God let this happen to me?” God was supposed to protect him from harm. “Why, God? Why me?” he asked. I didn’t know. I had no answer, but suddenly the saying “There, but for the grace of God, go I” took on a whole different meaning. I had often heard it said that god watches over us in time of need, but never had I given any thought to the negative side of the same thinking. Not only was this boy dying, he was dying believing that god, whom he was taught loved and nurtured him, had now abandoned him. And that is how he died, held by me, abandoned by his god. For some time I just sat there holding him, daydreaming, hashing over in my mind what, if anything, all this meant. All my life I believed a purpose existed for everything. “Everything is as it should be,” I believed, “or at least could be set straight.” For the first time in my life, however, that belief was in serious doubt. How could anything set this straight? And what could possibly be the purpose of this? Nothing made sense at that moment. The answers that I had before weren’t working, and in this absence of answers I felt the very foundation of my beliefs tremble. From Quang Tri we moved north along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to a hell hole called, Con Thien (Hill of Angels.) The

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October 27th 1967 issue of Life magazine did an article about this hill entitled “Inside the Cone of Fire at Con Thien,” That was when we were still at Quang Tri but by the time we got there, Con Thien, still one of the most dangerous spots in Vietnam, was old news. That still did not stop the incoming artillery, mortars, and rockets from North Vietnam. We were pounded on a daily basis. It was one of the most unforgiving spots in the war. From there we were move to CaLu on Highway 9 headed for Khe Sanh. Again, at Khe Sanh we experienced constant fire. What happened at Calu, however, is a story you should like: One evening we did receive incoming grenades and a few bursts of automatic weapons fire. All the old veterans jumped out of their racks and kissed the ground, waiting to see what would happen next. Was this the beginning of an assault, something to be concerned with, or just some VC out there harassing us? Then came another grenade, then another and a few moments later, another. To those of us who had been in combat for some time, what seemed to be happening was that some Vietcong out there was just probing the lines, hoping to draw fire to pinpoint the Marine’s positions, particularly a machine gun’s position, but all he got back was a dozen grenades. So the VC backed off and went looking to see if he could get some other Marine along the line to take his bait. As things seemed to calm down, the old vets began climbing back into their racks believing the excitement was over. The excitement however was just beginning—but not from anything the Vietcong had to throw at us. Instead the excitement came from our chaplain. He was screaming at the top of his lungs for us to get the Hell out of the racks, get our guns, and get outside. The VC were coming and he knew it. At first everyone just rolled over and pulled a poncho over their head thinking “This is a joke right? A chaplain barking orders!” But bark orders he did. He, by his standards, was the commissioned officer here and we, the enlisted, were to follow his orders. “Get your guns and asses outside!” he growled. “Anyone not outside in the next few seconds will be written up. Move! Move!” So I rolled out of the rack, grabbed my gun, and walked outside. Locked and loaded, behind our lines, I sat and wondered about who I was supposed to defend myself against? That Marine over there? In terms of Vietnam, for some VC to lob in a few grenades at the perimeter was almost a nightly ordeal. If we reacted to every time a few grenades came in like this, we’d never get any sleep. Furthermore, the officer calling the orders was the same one telling us to trust in god because god cared for us. God would protect us. God had it all under control—except tonight anyway. Tonight, god, as usual, needed some help. I have been married twice. My current wife has been with me for 28 years and she, get this, is a Pentecostal Assembly of God bornagain Christian. We simply have decided to disagree. I have five children. We have one between us. She had three when I married her and raised them as my own. Then I have one by my first wife. I am retired from the United States Department of Agriculture where I worked as a soil scientist. I hold two degrees from North Dakota State University and am a member of the “Red River Freethinkers” from Fargo North Dakota. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) is producing a professional anthology of the tales of courage, family, service, and commitment of military Atheists. Service members, veterans, and the family and friends of nonreligious servicemembers from every generation are encouraged to submit their personal accounts. More information is available at http://www.maaf.info/ may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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Is Dawkins Deluded? by Massimo Pigliucci

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et me begin by answering the rhetorical question in the title of this essay with a resounding, “No!” Contrary to the thesis in the recent book by A.E. and J.C. McGrath, “The Dawkins Delusion,”[1] endorsed by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, I don’t think Dawkins is deluded at all. To be “deluded” means to foolishly hold to a false belief, i.e. to believe in something despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. I see no trace of such mental disease in Dawkins’ book.[2] Moreover, I actually agree with most of Dawkins’ conclusions as they are expressed both in The God Delusion and in various other writings he has published in The Guardian or in humanistic magazines. Why, then, am I writing this essay ? Because I think Dawkins is off the reasonable track with some of his reasoning, and – more importantly – he seems to entirely mistake the nature of his most important argument. Since Dawkins and I belong to the Atheist and Humanist communities, which we like to think are distinguished from most religious communities by the fact that we welcome open debate and critical thinking, it seems that it would not be right to dodge a friendly challenge. So here it goes. I will begin by outlining what I think are five of Dawkins’ main theses in The God Delusion, in order of increasing disagreement between the two of us, and I will briefly discuss where and why we depart. My hope is to raise the level of Atheist discourse, on the assumption that we don’t know that we are right a priori, we think we are right, and we can explain why. Dawkins makes various arguments to the effect that: (1) Criticism of religion should be a normal part of the democratic process; (2) We need to raise awareness of discrimination against the nonreligious; (3) Mainstream religion is complicit in the development of extremism; (4) Religious indoctrination of the young amounts to child abuse; and (5) Science can refute what he calls the “God hypothesis.” First, that criticism of religion (or, for that matter, of anything at all) ought to be a normal part of the democratic process, seems to me rather uncontroversial, which of course doesn’t mean that we don’t need to keep telling people about it. Specifically, Americans seem to be in constant need of being reminded of the words of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 16

American Atheist — may/june 2008

If you doubt that such Civics 101 is necessary, may I refresh your memory about what some high profile people in the United States get away with saying in public about Atheism: “We’re in a religious war and we need to aggressively oppose secular humanism; these people are as religiously motivated as we are and they are filled with the devil.” — Timothy LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series “He (God) is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me.” — Tom DeLay (R-TX), former Majority Leader of the U.S. House Rep. “We’re fighting against humanism, we’re fighting against liberalism ... we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today ... our battle is with Satan himself.” — Reverend Jerry Falwell “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good — Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty. We are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.” — Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue That this is acceptable discourse in American society; that this sort of language is not strongly condemned by media and public alike, means that Dawkins is surely correct on his first point.[3] We still need to do much work to obtain a society where criticism of religion is not seen as inherently evil and is accepted as part of the normal civic discourse. Dawkins’ second point is a little less obvious, though still compelling. He says that what Atheism needs is to raise people’s consciousness, in a way analogous to what Martin Luther King Jr. did for the civil rights movement in the U. S., or the Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village did for the gay rights movement.[4] His favorite example is how feminists began to point out the ubiquitous presence of male pronouns, for example, in everyday discourse. Once one’s attention is drawn to this seemingly benign detail, one begins to pay attention to the fact that language reflects assumptions and ideologies. Once the biased use of language is exposed, one’s consciousness has been raised to be aware of (and therefore to question) those underlying assumptions.


This is a point well taken, and there are, in fact, compelling examples of this sort of bias in the case of religion. The fact that the U. S. Supreme Court consistently accepted the thesis that “In God We Trust” inscribed on American currency is not in breach of the separation of church and state, because it is a ceremonial reference to a “generic deity” is, on the face of it, ridiculous – and yet is accepted by the majority of the public and the media as a rather benign and uncontroversial statement. On the other hand, I’m not quite as convinced as Dawkins seems to be that this sort of battle is worth fighting at all. Human psychology is such that direct challenges to one’s prejudices are met with fierce resistance and generate entrenchment. On the other hand, it is the slow erosion of ideological positions that can work miracles – so to speak – over longer periods of time. Take Christmas, for example. The most effective weapon undermining its religious interpretation is precisely the increased commercialization and trivialization of the “holy-”day, and it is deliciously ironic that Christians themselves are first in line after every Thanksgiving to contribute to its demise by rushing to the mall to catch the latest bargain. Turning now to Dawkins’ third point, let us consider the idea that mainstream religion is complicit in the development of extremism.[5] I agree with Dawkins that one should expect a bit more forceful condemnation of, say, extreme Islamism by moderate Muslims, or of some particularly despicable flavor of American Christian fundamentalism on the part of mainstream Christian denominations. But to go from there to suggest that moderate religions foster fanaticism is a flagrant example of the slippery slope logical fallacy. Dawkins here seems to play into his critics’ ends when he ignores long established traditions of tolerance and even internal critical discourse within many religious sects (Catholicism and Judaism come to mind, for example). Granted, discussions among believers about doctrinal points make as much sense as discussions among different schools of astrologers (i.e., they are both based on entirely arbitrary and wholly unsubstantiated assumptions). Nevertheless, it simply doesn’t follow that once one embraces an arbitrary belief one is more likely to foster violent action. Such a link cannot be made a priori, but only on the basis of serious sociological studies, which Dawkins does not mention for the simple reason that there are none. And when Dawkins says[6] that “only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people” (referring to suicide bombers) he is assuming that suicide bombers are, in fact, sane and decent (something one could reasonably question on the very basis that they lend themselves to similar acts). More importantly, he is disingenuously ignoring the fact that plenty of non-religious ideologies also cause apparently “sane and decent people” to commit insane actions. The problem is not just religion, but rather any absolute ideology, of which religion is only one example, and not even the most bloody one, during the last century or so. The fourth point I wish to highlight in Dawkins’ attack is the idea that religious indoctrination amounts to child abuse.[7] This is not just highly questionable, but downright pernicious. Dawkins is again committing the slippery slope fallacy, this time with a vengeance. It is most certainly true that some types of religious teachings fulfill a reasonable definition of child abuse. The case of so-called Christian Scientists (if ever there was a misnomer for a religious sect, that is surely it) withdrawing medical care from their children on the grounds that all disease is spiritual and can be cured by prayer, is insane. Sure enough, such behavior is, in fact, treated as child abuse in Western countries, and such parents are prosecuted accordingly.

However, to take the opposite extreme, who in his right mind would seriously accuse, say, Unitarian Universalists, of child abuse? And yet, they are a religious denomination, and therefore, strictly speaking, they engage in “religious indoctrination.” Moreover, of course, Dawkins’ own rhetoric can be turned around to bite Atheists on their behind, since the concept of “indoctrination” isn’t limited to religiosity. I certainly do not subscribe to the argument made by a large number of Dawkins’ critics who talk about “fundamentalist Atheism.” That, plain and simple, is an oxymoron. But by the same token, if one associates all religious teaching with closemindedness one simply hasn’t being paying attention. The Jewish faith, some sectors of the Catholic Church (e.g., the Jesuits), and even Islam have a long and venerable tradition of skepticism and the fostering of critical thinking. Dawkins should have read Jennifer Michael Hecht’s wonderful Doubt: a History[8] to get at least a taste of it. My last point of disagreement with Dawkins represents our largest departure: the relationship between science and religion, and in particular the idea put forth by Dawkins that science can test (and refute) the “God hypothesis.” Dawkins defines the God hypothesis as follows: “There exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us.” [9] He then goes on to clearly state (I’m being very careful here because I do not want to invite the possibility of being accused of committing the straw man fallacy) that the God hypothesis “is a scientific question.”[10] Simply put: it isn’t. Before proceeding any further, let me make clear that not only am I no sympathizer of Stephen Gould’s (Dawkins’ former nemesis) “NOMA principle,” but that, in fact, I agree with Dawkins’ main conclusion in The God Delusion. I just think his reasoning is unsound. First, let us quickly address Gould, and his Rocks of Ages.[11] Gould argued that science and religion are separate enterprises, characterized by “non-overlapping magisteria,” a fanciful Gouldian term for the idea that science deals with facts, religion with values, and the two shall never meet. This is sheer nonsense, as I explained in a review of Gould’s book.[12] To begin with, religion does not have a monopoly on matters of value. Philosophy has a long history of ethical discourse, and even science has recently begun to inform our understanding of human morality. Spectacular progress has been made in evolutionary biology and neuroscience regarding moral decision making. (Of course, I am aware that scientific facts about moral judgment still do not dictate our value judgments, but surely an explanation of how

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the latter come about, cannot be considered irrelevant to the “magisterium” of morality). Moreover, almost all religions have, in fact, repeatedly invaded science’s turf by making claims about the origin of the universe, life and humanity. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have continuous debates about creationism, and Galileo would have happily retired in the Chianti region instead of being condemned to house arrest for the last part of his life. When I say that I agree with Dawkins’ main conclusion, I mean that I consider myself as belonging to his “category 6” (out of 7) along the continuum from “strong theist” to “strong atheist.” As Dawkins puts it, category 6 means, “very low probability [of God’s existence]. De facto atheist. I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”[13] Furthermore, I belong to category 6 because of the same basic reasoning that Dawkins presents in his book: in a reversal of the argument from intelligent design used by creationists, Dawkins points out that “the God hypothesis tries to get something from nothing. God tries to have his free lunch and be it too.”[14] In essence, the existence of God is very unlikely because it implies that an infinitely complex cause (God) is a simpler answer to the question of the origin of the universe, while surely the simplest answer is that the universe originated out of low-level natural processes, just like everything else we have studied so far. It strikes me as obvious that Dawkins is right on this. To say “God did it,” contrary to popular belief, is not the most parsimonious answer to any question (technically, it isn’t even an answer, unless one adds some details about how and why God did “it”). The religious believers and simple-minded theologians who invoke Occam’s razor seem to completely misunderstand it. William of Occam (1288-1348) rightly admonished philosophers (there were no scientists at the time) never to invoke any explanatory principle that is not strictly necessary: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.” God is not only unnecessary, it’s the Cadillac of all unnecessary ontological principles. So, why, exactly, am I criticizing Dawkins, then? Because he repeatedly claims that the more general form of the “God hypothesis” is a scientific hypothesis, that can be rejected by science. He is dead wrong. Specific creationist claims can indeed be rejected on scientific grounds. If you believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, or that there was a worldwide flood about 4,000 years ago, sorry, but geology, physics and biology flatly contradict you. This rejection based on science is possible because some religious claims are empirical in nature, i.e. they are precisely the sort of claim that science is good at testing. But suppose that a creationist came back and said (and they do, believe me), “sorry, chap, but I think God made it appear as if the

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earth is billions of years old, it was created with the ‘fossils’ strategically put in place to make people think that it is old, but in reality it has only been in place a few thousand years, just as the Bible says. It’s a test of faith, you know.” This is pretty much the scenario concocted by science fiction writer Douglas Adams (to whom Dawkins dedicates The God Delusion) in his delightful The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the earth was really a custom-made planet, not designed by God, but by a race of intelligent beings who had been commissioned to build an organic computer (the earth) that would eventually crank out the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. The point is that the creationist rejoinder cannot be debunked on scientific grounds, because it concedes that the empirical evidence would, in fact, point to the appearance of a very old earth. To refer again to Adams’ masterpiece, the hitchhiker’s guide of the book’s title bears a legal disclaimer that says that in every case where the guide’s assertions are found to be contradicted by reality, it is reality that is wrong. It would be hard to find a better way to summarize the creationist’s “thinking.” So, Dawkins is correct in rejecting the God Hypothesis, and he is correct about the reasons to do so, but he thinks this is a scientific rebuttal, while instead it is a philosophical argument. The difference is important, and I’m sure Dawkins himself would concede the point, if we could chat over a glass of wine. Not only is it just fair to recognize that it is a different discipline (philosophy) that we invoke in order to justify our conclusion, but it is actually to science’s advantage to recognize what philosophers would call its epistemic limits. Simply put, there are things science cannot do, and we should not therefore pretend that it can, under the penalty of crossing the line into scientism, a pernicious attitude of cultural colonization displayed by a variety of scientists, including Dawkins. Instead, reasonable people should realize that science and philosophy can unite to defeat religion, both in terms of their combined arguments against the existence of God, and even, eventually, in offering a more sane and appealing view of the world and humanity’s place in it. Now, that is a project behind which I can rally with the likes of Dawkins and Dennett.[15] Shall we begin? k Notes [1] The Dawkins Delusion, IVP Books, 2007. [2] The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin, 2006. [3] See The God Delusion, chapter 1, especially pp. 20-27. [4] The God Delusion, pp. 114-118. [5] The God Delusion, pp. 301-308. [6] The God Delusion, p. 303. [7] The God Delusion, chapter 9 [8] Hecht, J. M. 2003. Doubt: a History. HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, CA. [9] The God Delusion, p. 31. [10] The God Delusion, p. 48 and p. 50. [11] Gould, S. J. 1999. Rocks of Ages. Ballantine, New York. [12] Durm, M. W., and M. Pigliucci. 1999. Gould’s separate ‘magisteria’: two views. Skeptical Inquirer 23(6):53-56. [13] The God Delusion, p. 51. [14] The God Delusion, p. 114. [15] See Dennett, D. 2006. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking Adult, New York, NY.

Massimo Pigliucci is a professor of evolutionary biology and philosophy at Stony Brook University in New York. He is the author of Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism and the Nature of Science, and his essays can be found at www.rationallyspeaking.org 18

American Atheist — may/june 2008


Thoughts for Atheists at

Graduation by Edwin Kagin

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ood evening Sinners. At high school graduations throughout our country, it is customary for older people to tell younger people what the older people were told by older people, who are now probably dead people, at their own high school baccalaureates and graduations. This is usually some sad, emotional, and boring commentary on how the world and the future is yours, how you are the future, that we are leaving it to you, and that the speaker’s generation messed up the world, but the future is still full of limitless possibilities, and that it is up to you to straighten it all out for the generations to come, and that with hard work, faith, and god’s help it can all be done. There, I have just summarized every known high school graduation speech. When you are old you can tell the same rubbish to a new generation of bright-eyed graduates ready to go forth into the world to breed, grow old, and die. The problem with all of these far-too-long and whining baccalaureate and graduation speeches, or sermons, is that they usually call for more of what has caused the problems complained of. The baccalaureate talks are the worst. That is where educated adults, who should know better, pray to invisible imaginary friends for wished-for things that never happen. What is wonderful and different tonight is that this is an Atheist baccalaureate. And it may be the first such in the history of the United States. So you will go down in history. Some will say you will go to Hell. As Atheists, you know that the world is not run by magic and magical thinking. Atheists do not bring up their children in a land of make believe. We have tried to teach you the principals of reason, critical thinking, logical fallacy, ethical behavior, and the methods of science and evidence. We want you to know that there is a big difference between “righteousness” and “self-righteousness.” We want you to know and understand the difference between belief and proof; between faith and fact. We want you to know that you are part of a great historic tradition of bringing light unto darkness; that there is a difference between that which is ethical and that which is expedient; a difference between being truly moral and being a follower of religious rules. We want you to know that science is based on facts, not on fairy tales. That evolution is a fact and that “Creationism” is a fairy tale; that there is a difference between coincidence and causation; a difference between potential and actual; that an egg is not a chicken and that an acorn is not an oak tree.

At this rite of passage, we want you, our children who are our future, to understand that what happens to each of us, and to our world, is based on cause-andeffect, not on faith and miracles. We want you to know that behavior has consequences. If you run on a wet trail you can slip and be hurt. If you let fools be your rulers, you will be ruled by fools. We want

you to live—not for life after death, but for life before death. We all share the mystery of having been born human. As humans, we are many races, many nations, and many religions. We can learn to live together or we can destroy ourselves. No god is going to save us. We must save ourselves. For your own safety’s sake, we have tried to help you learn to distinguish between logic and fallacy; between science and superstition; between real and pretend; between the wonder of discovery and magical thinking. We want you to know the difference between doing and dogma; between imagination and mythology. And we want you to understand that learning never ends. We want you to know, as many do not, that life does not stop with high school graduation. None of us know the limits of what you may yet learn and what you may yet become. There will also be some pain and some disappointments. It is all part of the deal. We did not make the rules. Most importantly, we want to help you, our children, who are now young adults, to be competent. You will be competent when you can survive, thrive, create, empathize, and interact justly with others, free of pain, fear, and guilt—without gods, without religion, and without us. If you can achieve, as we know you can, self-reliant adulthood, you will not need the gods or the religion, and you will not miss them. If we have done it right, you will not need us either. But perhaps you will miss us. There is one thing we want. We want you, and your children, and your children’s children, to be able to live in a world where it is okay not to believe in god. To do otherwise is to defile the graves of our martyrs. May your future be better than your past, and may that measure of peace, justice, harmony and understanding that is denied to religion and its deities, be attained by you as mortals through the use of your minds; and may reason, science, curiosity, and discovery replace the fear, the guilt, the pain, and the ignorance of trembling in terror before capricious gods. k Edwin Kagin is a constitutional attorney, and serves as the National Legal Director for American Atheists. He is also the Kentucky State Director for American Atheists. Along with his wife Helen, he co founded Camp Quest, a nationally prominent secular, summer camp for Atheist youth. His recent book Baubles of Blasphemy is a gathering of scholarly insights, outrageous humor, and cunning verse. Mr. Kagin can be reached at ekagin@atheists.org may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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obituary

Writer, Visionary, Futurist & Atheist

Arthur C. Clark Died on March 18, 2008 at Age 90 – An Appreciation by Conrad F. Goeringer

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rthur C. Clarke, who entertained, inspired and informed millions of readers throughout the world, died on March 18, 2008 at his home in Sri Lanka. With his passing, the world lost one of the Grand Masters of the science fiction genre (the other two were widely acknowledged to be Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein.) During his lifetime, Clarke wrote more than 100 books including dozens of novels. Many were best-sellers, most notably his opus 2001: A Space Odyssey translated into film by director Stanley Kubrick. [1] Clarke was born in Somerset, England and developed an early interest in science and reading pulp-science fiction magazines. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II as a radar technician. He then attended King’s College in London where he earned degrees in physics and mathematics. From 1947-1950, he served as chairman of the prestigious British Interplanetary Society (BIS), one of the earliest groups formed to promote astronautics and space exploration. In 1945, Clarke authored a private paper circulated within the BIS that proposed the use of geostationary satellites as communication relay platforms Wireless World soon published Clarke’s article “Extra-Terrestrial Relays” that laid out the fundamentals for communications using the principle of geostationary orbits. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite with a radio transmitter (Sputnik 1) in 1957. The following year, the infant U.S. space program put up a satellite as project SCORE which utilized a tape recorder that stored and forwarded voice messages. But it was the historic TELSTAR satellite launched on July 10, 1962 that truly fulfilled Clarke’s vision of a functional communications platform. Along with his work in the British Interplanetary Society and a brief stint as editor of Science Abstracts, Clarke embarked on a writing career that spanned seven decades and produced some of the most creative and speculative fiction ever published. He wrote three novels for youngsters; corresponded with C.S. Lewis; and eventually penned a number of popular magazine articles. In 1956, Clarke settled in Sri Lanka and pursued his interests in scuba diving and preservation of our planet’s oceanic environment. He also established a career as a futurist, predicting social and technological trends, one of which was the emergence of a “global library” by 2005. 20

American Atheist — may/june 2008

A Grand Master Of The Genre Clarke’s earliest fictional writings date back to 1937 when he began writing short stories. His first paid content appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1949. He soon was earning sufficient money to pursue his avocation full time. His novel Prelude to Space appeared in 1951, followed later in the year by The Sands of Mars and Islands in the Sky (1952). These and subsequent writings reflected Clarke’s eclectic range of interest, including his fascination with some paranormal themes and, briefly, the concept that humanity was the “property” of an advanced alien civilization. In Childhood’s End (1953), he explored mythic and religious themes when extraterrestrials came to Earth to help the human species advance, but concealed themselves for a generation because of their resemblance to fanciful portrayals of the Devil. Clarke was also fascinated with the prospect of human evolution resulting in transcendence into higher life forms. It was Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, however, that took Arthur C. Clarke’s name far beyond the confines of the science-fiction community and made him a household name. The theme of the movie dated back to Clarke’s 1948 story The Sentinel. Following the film’s spectacular success – complete with music and scenes becoming thematic icons within American popular culture – Clarke completed a sequel 2010: Odyssey Two which made its way to the big screen. Two other sequels have yet to be taken up by Hollywood.


The success of 2001 spurred interest by a new generation of readers in Clarke’s literary treasure trove. The command module of the Apollo 13 spacecraft was named “Odyssey.” Clarke provided the seed money for an award in the best annual science fiction, and in 1989 he was honored with a CBE, and knighted by the Queen of England in 2000. Other prizes bestowed included the Telluride Tech Festival Award for Technology (2003), and the 2005 “Pride of Sri Lanka” award for his contributions to science education and his new, adopted country. He was also named to the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, and in 1994 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Arthur C. Clarke On “God,” Community And Religion Arthur C. Clarke was an Atheist, and said so on a number of occasions.[2] A New York Times review of Clarke’s book 3001: The Final Odyssey[3] notes: “In the world of 3001 Clarke envisions for the story, the writer of the piece, John F. Burns says: ‘Perhaps most controversially, religions of all kinds have fallen under a strict taboo, with the citizenry looking back on the religious beliefs and practices of earlier ages as the products of ignorance that caused untold strife and bloodshed. But the concept of a God, known by the Latin word Deus, survives, a legacy of man’s continuing wonder at the universe.’ “In this, Clarke is giving vent to one of the few things that seem to ruffle his equable nature. ‘Religion is a byproduct of fear,’ he says. ‘For much of human history, it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessity? Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?’ “ There have been unconfirmed reports that Clarke identified himself, in a round-about way, as an Atheist even as far back as his World War II service in the British military. Enlistment forms noted the “religious affiliation” of all enlisted personnel, and Clarke was reportedly “adamant” as having his religion noted as “atheist.”[4] The Celebrity Atheist List entry on Clarke adds: “28 May 2001 – A reader reports that in a CNN interview when Clarke was asked if he believed in God, he replied, ‘I do not believe in God, but I do not disbelieve in her (sic) either.’” [5] There is a sense that in Clarke’s writing, advanced alien civilizations play the role that human beings ascribe to a deity. Clarke is also clearly awed by the possibilities that humans may encounter as we become a space-faring civilization. He entertained the possible differences separating religion or this spiritual awe with orthodox dogmas. In a dialogue with philosopher Alan Watts commissioned by Playboy Magazine, Clarke shed new light on his complex sensibilities about belief. “I have a longstanding bias against religion that may be reflected in my comments,” he mused. Many people simply “confuse religion with a belief in God … Buddhists don’t necessarily believe in a god or a supreme being at all, whereas one could easily believe in a supreme being and not have any religion.” Clarke also suggested that theological claims must await any possible confirmation that may (or may not) come from contact with superior alien intelligences. [6] In his final days, Clarke remained true to his Atheist and Secular convictions. He left written instructions that “Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral.” Even in death, though, Arthur C. Clarke remained the center of wonder, serendipity and awe regarding humanity taking its first baby-steps to the greater cosmos. Orbiting the Earth, crews from the International Space Station (ISS) and the visiting shuttle Endeavor spoke to a small army of reporters gathered

at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Many reminisced about the influence Clarke had on them and the space program. Some compared the station’s new JapaneseCanadian, two-armed robotic module dubbed “Dextre” with “Hal,” the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan made three spacewalks to assemble and test the new addition to the ISS. His partner, Garrett Reisman, said that as the shuttle approached the station to deploy the new module, the score from the movie played in his head. “All we needed was ‘The Blue Danube’ playing in the background and it would have been just like the movie…” [7] There is another, more ironic footnote in the death of Arthur C. Clarke, an Atheist, writer, explorer who was so much in love – and wonder –with the complexities of the universe. His was actually a cosmos too complex, too nuanced to accommodate the many deities and foolish dogmatic beliefs of traditional, Earth-centered religion. On March 19, just a few hours before the death of Arthur C. Clarke, the universe unleashed one of its many surprises from a point about 7.5 billion miles away in the constellation our ancestors named Bootes, the herdsman or “bear watcher” due to its visual proximity to Ursa Major, the Big Bear. It was a Gamma Ray Burst or GRB, an event of spectacular and almost unfathomable energy, one of the most luminous and energetic events taking place since the Big Bang. Their cause is thought to be the collapse of stars of extremely high mass which then collapse into black holes. Fortunately, all of the GRBs that scientists have observed so far, originated well outside our galaxy, the Milky Way. A burst within the confines of our galactic neighborhood could well destroy life on our fragile planet, and the solar system as well. Larry Sessions, a science writer for Sky & Telescope Magazine noted the temporal proximity of Clarke’s unfortunate death with the arrival of that incredible energy wave which had traveled so far and so long to reach our satellite detectors. In a post on the earthsky.org blog, he described it as “a shot (which) rang out in the Universe the likes of which are unknown in human history.” [8] “I propose that henceforth we refer to the March 19 gamma ray blast, officially designated GRB 080319B as the ‘Clarke Event’ in honor of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Was the Universe reacting to the loss of this great man? No, as he himself would have told you, although likely not without prefacing it with a mischievous grin and an allusion to the gods being angry with him…” It would be a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much, and helped lift our eyes and our minds to a cosmos once thought to be province only of gods. k Notes [1] A robust bibliography of Clarke’s writings and succinct biography can be found at http://biography.jrank.org/pages/4217/Clarke-Arthur-C-harles. html [2] One such declaration can be found in a Dec-2000 interview in The Island, a Sri Lankan newspaper. http://www.island.lk/2000/12/20/midwee01. html [3] 3001: The Final Odyssey. New York, Bantam Books, 1997 [4] See http://www.celebatheists.com/?title=Arthur_C._Clarke, listing in Celebrity Atheist List. [5] Ibid. [6] See: The Religious Affiliation of Leading Science Fiction Author Arthur C Clarke at http://www.adherents.com/people/pc/Arthur_C_Clarke.html [7] Quoted at the Space.Com web site, see: http://www.space.com/ missionlaunches/080324-cs-acclarke.com. [8] http://blogs.earthsky.org/larrysessions/space/032190/why-not-the-clarkeevent may/june 2008 — American Atheist

21


obituary

Jesus Is Dead by Robert Price

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Dr. Hemalata Lavanam Dies at 76

D

r Hemalata Lavanam, renowned social reformer, Atheist and humanitarian died on March 19, 2008 following a prolonged battle against cancer. She was 76. The daughter of the renowned poet PadmaVibhshan, she grew up as a member of a “lower” segment of Indian society, and soon came to challenge the entrenched bigotry and authoritarianism of a caste system that relied heavily on religious superstition. She married Lavanam, son of Gora who founded the Atheist Center in Vijayawada, India. Together, they carried on a decades-long struggle against “untouchability” and the caste system as well as religious superstition, witchcraft and sorcery. Dr. Hemalata Lavanam also founded the Joshua Foundation which recognized and supported the work of outstanding poets in various languages. She was a tireless worker on the international scene for the protection of human rights. In 1977, Hemalata was in the forefront of disaster relief efforts following the lethal cyclone and tidal wave in Divi Taluk. For this and other humanitarian works, she received numerous prizes and awards, including an Honorary Doctorate in 2007 from Telugu University. She was also awarded the prestigious “Desasnehi” prize (“Lover of the Country”) for her efforts in the field of economic development and social change. She held posts as an Honorary Member of the Faculty Senates of Andhra and Nagarjuna Universities. In addition to an autobiography, she published volumes of poetry and a novel, “New Dawn of Life.” Dr. Lavanam is survived by her husband and a large family of co-workers who carry on her efforts at the Atheist Center. Messages of condolence may be sent to Dr. G. Vijayam, Executive Director of the Atheist Center at atheistcentre@yahoo.com.

In Memoriam Dennis Kittelson – Glenwood, MN John M. Ely, Jr. – Cedar Rapids, IA George L. Valdez – Livermore, CA Gary L. St. Clair – Portland, OR Neil Leonard – NYC, NY

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History’s Greates Liars

by Joseph McCabe introduction by Madalyn Murray O’Hair At a time when the school books of the nation are under attack by right-wing religious fundamentalists, this small book of Joseph McCabe’s becomes critically important. McCabe was a scholar of the old school of original objective research. He combed through the voluminous tomes of his day to seek out the inaccuracies and the errancies which he knew existed because his own church had educated him well in how to rewrite history. He could recognize and point out the fallacies, the distortions, the deliberate lies and deceits. In addition, from his own independent research, after having been freed from the intellectual strictures which the church had imposed upon him, he was able to weigh the material at hand. With this small handbook as a guide, any amateur historian can start to take an educated look at what is offered to us today in place of real history and immediately uncover the fraudulent posits which are so apparent when once we have a guiding light. The scholarly historian can now peel back the layers of religious accretion and find some small, true, semblence of truth - what might have really happened. The raison d’etre of American Atheists is to educate: to sort out fact from fiction, truth from fantasy. But, again and again we are faced with a job which is overwhelming. How does one deprogram an entire nation, a group of nations, the world? How does one dig out from the myriad of lies, that which has some semblance of reality? When religious fanatics have systematically, for hundreds of years perverted the truth, from whence can come a viable and accurate record? Hope is here at last in this small book. It is highly recommended. You will enjoy every page of it. stock # 5524 $9.00 (Please see order form for member discount and S&H charges)


Is Religion a Form of Psychosis? Personal ruminations on the nature of blind faith. by W. E. Gutman

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reread the item three times, out loud, just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Datelined Rome, February 11, 2008, it said: “The 150th anniversary of the apparitions in Lourdes of the Virgin Mary was marked in Rome by a procession that culminated at St. Peter’s Basilica, Christianity’s most hallowed edifice, where a rib of Bernadette Soubirous, revered by the Church and blessed by the Pope as a saintly relic, was placed on display before an adoring crowd of worshippers.” A rib; a macabre artifact deified not in the remote Australian outback, the depths of darkest Africa or some otherworldly Amazonian rain forest, but in a nation where the Renaissance was born and the seeds of the Enlightenment were first sown. That such ghoulish and idolatrous buffoonery should take place in the 21st century, I protested, is both comical and disquieting. Suspended midway between waning faith and reason, a friend wistfully suggested that ”people need religion; societies would collapse without it.” Coming to his senses, he added, “Of course, the more sorcery and theatrics religion delivers, the more believable and persuasive it becomes.” I agree with the fiendish mechanics my friend describes but reject the notion that humans “need” religion or that some apocalyptic intellectual meltdown would ensue without it. Religion is a syllabus in which are cast proscriptions and commands, threats and penalties enforced with incantations and histrionics that the faithful are encoded to regard as essential to their life and well being. Faith is a potent narcotic, but only those who have been “turned on” (generally by force from infancy) succumb to its lethal “high.” People are not born naturally predisposed to embrace religion. Nor do they innately acquire an “addictive personality.” One does not become a junkie until one has sampled the toxic merchandise. Religious belief is neither the product of evolutionary instinct nor a choice. It is first infused in an unsullied psyche then reinforced through repetition and the discipline of fear. Another doctrine peddled by the pious fringe is that religion prevents violence, crime, and mischief, that it promotes morality and ethical conduct. Morality predates religion by millennia. Cultural anthropologists have shown that even the most “primitive” societies

maintain codes of behavior that are not religious in origin, scope or intent. Conversely, history has demonstrated time and again that vast quantities of blood have been shed in the name of “God” and that it continues to be spilled in modern sectarian conflicts. In contrast, I cannot recall a war being waged to advance the cause of Atheism. I also challenge the assertion that mankind would wander in a spiritual desert without “divine” guidance. I was brought up in an ambiance utterly devoid of religion. I never felt that something was missing in my life and, as I tell anyone willing to listen, I found the notion of an omnipotent, ineffable, unknowable creator/judge/destroyer preposterous even as a child. (I did learn how to deny being a Jew in half a dozen languages when I lived in German-occupied France). Yes, I went through my “mystical period,” immersing myself in the study of Zen, the Tao, Tantric Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, as well as the three major monotheistic faiths. But mine was an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, not a need to nestle in some ideological cocoon. Eventually, I concluded that “God” is a useless and costly hypothesis with which I can dispense. As children we accept without hesitation the “realities” that our parents, educators and “spiritual” shepherds promote - from Santa Claus to the boogey man and the tooth fairy, from the existence of a supernatural übermensch to the virgin birth of a demented rabblerouser whose teachings and those of his followers were conflated into a major sect some 300 years after his death. We quickly learn that Santa and the author of our worst childhood nightmares are fraud and myth. Yet, with sufficient parental encoding, which includes crafty counsel not to wander beyond the limits of the “realities” they peddle, and punctuated by the constant drumbeat of religious indoctrination, we enter adulthood fully conditioned to accept - and keep alive - absurdities that owe their existence to blind faith. It was Sigmund Freud who postulated the now widely accepted theory that we are the product of our subconscious. But he was careful to add that the “subconscious” is not an amorphous and indelible entity. The subconscious is the end-product of many dynamics, the least of which is genetic. Our subconscious is molded, fashioned and often perverted by early childhood experiences and by brainwashing (the planting of fixed ideas) by parents, teachers, clergy and other figures of authority. No one is “born” a believer or an Atheist. No one comes out of the womb a Democrat or a Republican. Serial may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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killers and good Samaritans are made not sired. The subconscious can be controlled and manipulated for both good and evil. Religion has been a master manipulator, with Christianity hoodwinking the flock with charades that range from paganism and idolatry (worship of statues) to vampirism and cannibalism (Communion) to a descent into terminal psychosis (the belief in life after death). In the philosophy of religion, Occam’s razor of parsimony is sometimes applied to argue the existence or non-existence of God/ While Occam’s razor does not attempt to disprove God’s existence, it offers a compelling argument that, in the absence of convincing reasons to believe in God, disbelief should be preferred. I disagree with those who suggest that Occam’s razor compares apples and oranges. It illustrates, with blinding clarity, that while, say, Christianity has branched into often dissimilar and almost always bickering factions -- each cheekily claiming that it has direct access to “God” --Atheism, by its very axiomatic simplicity and honesty, has not changed. A lack of belief cannot be codified. There aren’t Orthodox, Conservative and Liberal Atheists. All Atheists speak in a single voice. No schism can splinter them Nor are most Atheists as interested in defending their ideas as are religious people doggedly intent on convincing others of the validity (and divine origin) of their beliefs. An Atheist is quite content not to believe; a believer is consumed with the urge to “share.” Religion, by its very essence, clings to fictions that do not exist in the absolute vacuum of pure thought, but must be “planted” in the mind to burgeon, i.e., “God” is the source of all essence and reality; Jesus was the son of “God”; he was born of “immaculate” birth; he rose from the dead and his death and rebirth open a portal to eternal life. Whoever or whatever he was, Jesus opposed formal religion, abhorred the mix of politics and worship, and held the self-aggrandizing bluster of virtuous believers in contempt. Atheism has no catechism. It warns against the tyranny of absolutist ideas, not hell and eternal damnation. It promises no redemption other than freedom from absurd beliefs. It offers no indulgences or exemptions from sin in exchange for bribes; it has no pontiff and no “church” in which crimson-attired “princes” live in Babylonian splendor; no avaricious plate-passing beadles; it delivers no sermons; it proffers no threats of fire and brimstone; it promises no agony- or bliss-filled afterlife. Atheists do not burn books. They do not maintain an Index of prohibited works. They have no need for a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) which, by its very existence, demonstrates the perilous fragility of religion. Atheists refuse to drift along a stream which is not of their own choosing and are eager to puncture all alibis invented by human beings to save themselves from the responsibility for their choices. Atheists, seldom spontaneously, but after much internal turmoil and self-inquiry, conclude that there is no “God” and that, therefore, human beings are neither created nor pervaded by anyone or anything that can have a plan or idea of what they will be like before they come into existence or before they develop by their own free action. Atheism is simple, clear and categorical. Even at the height of man’s most primitive existence -- think prehistory -- Homo sapiens lived by rules and codes of behavior geared to create a cohesive social order. And when they gazed heavenward, terrified by lighting and thunder, they were cowed by a fear of the unknown, not by some tangible belief in an invisible but all-powerful spirit. Papua, New Guinea and patches of dense Amazonian forest, the last bastions of stone age societies, preserve ancient systems of codified behavior that continue to baffle and impress anthropologists. Absent from their vocabulary, for example, are words that all too of24

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ten define the western ethos, including cheating, stealing, hatred, etc. The fact that they consider their lives fated by the wind, the sun and the fauna and flora in whose bosom they live in exquisite harmony, does not in any way suggest the existence of a religious protocol. Religion is learned, not intrinsic. An addict needs his fix because he indulged in drugs in the first place. One does not “get” religion except through osmosis. I would argue that people never exposed to religion will not suddenly develop an urge to embrace absurd beliefs without the intervention of some powerful and persuasive medium. Religion may have “tamed” some people but it has poisoned the soul of many and led to intolerance and horrific inhumanity. The conversion of indigent and culturally alienated Aztec, Maya and Inca tribes, first by the formidable sword and cross of the Catholic Conquistadores, later by hordes of Protestant missionaries was carried out with a cunning, patience and perseverance akin to fanaticism. It is the promise of food, shelter and decent healthcare that propels hundreds of thousands of poor and culturally alienated indigenous groups around the world to the baptismal pool, not the irrepressible desire to abandon their ancestral traditions in exchange for alien concepts and systems of belief. We are all born with a blank slate and only parental rearing, the environment and societal pressures mold us into cookie-cutter replicas of our would-be retrofitters. We are all initially endowed with a brain capable of discerning the truth but now so badly mangled by encoding and rote repetition that we succumb to a ritualistic, synchronous reflex that, we are programmed to believe, benefits us and “society.” Yes, we are the stuff that stars are made of. We are a product of eons of fusion. But “fusion” implies only the amalgamation and compacting of disparate elements. Man’s parts are infinitely larger and more diverse than his whole and it is the parts that result in geniuses and idiots, assassins and philanthropists, captains of industry and social parasites, adventurers, human dynamos and couch potatoes, loving parents and those who commit infanticide. I harbor no animosity toward the “faithful.” What I resent and fear is the fury of evangelism, the persistent zeal of proselytism present in Christianity and Islam. As a journalist and writer, my aim has never been to convince others of the nonexistence of God. My objective (if I can call it that) -- as I am sure is that of other Atheists -- is to encourage a dialogue which has as its central theme the proposition that Atheism is as much a product of “revelation” -- scientific empiricism and common sense -- as is the claim that the existence of a “Grand Architect of the Universe” is “revealed.” Underlying that aim is the hope that radical and absolute separation between Church and State can be achieved which, while not curtailing religious freedoms, leads to a secular society devoted to reason and free thought. We may be witnessing the first blossoms in the rebirth of reason as nearly half of American adults are now leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing or abandoning religion altogether. k W. E. Gutman is a veteran journalist. Since 1991 he has been on assignment in Central America where he covers politics, the military, human rights and other socio-economic themes. He lives in Southern California’s “high desert.” He can be reached at weg@bak. rr.com


Modern Humans, Not Neandertals, May Be Evolution’s ‘Odd Man Out’

The most unusual characteristics throughout human anatomy occur in Modern Humans (right), argues Trinkaus, not in Neadertals (left). (Image courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2004) — Could it be that in the great evolutionary “family tree,” it is we Modern Humans, not the brow-ridged, large-nosed Neandertals, who are the odd uncle out? New research published in the August, 2006 journal Current Anthropology by Neandertal and early modern human expert, Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that rather than the standard straight line from chimps to early humans to us with Neandertals off on a side graph, it’s equally valid, perhaps more valid based on the fossil record, that the line should extend from the common ancestor to the Neandertals, and Modern Humans should be the branch off that. Trinkaus has spent years examining the fossil record and began to realize that maybe researchers have been looking at our ancient ancestors the wrong way. Trinkaus identified fossil traits which seemed to be genetic markers - those not greatly influenced by environment, life ways and wear and tear. He was careful to examine traits that appear to be largely independent

of each other to avoid redundancy. “I wanted to see to what extent Neandertals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern humans are derived relative to the ancestral form,” Trinkaus says. “What I came up with is that modern humans have about twice as many uniquely derived traits than do the Neandertals. “In the broader sweep of human evolution,” says Trinkaus, “the more unusual group is not Neandertals, whom we tend to look at as strange, weird and unusual, but it’s us - Modern Humans.” The most unusual characteristics throughout human anatomy occur in Modern Humans, argues Trinkaus. “If we want to better understand human evolution, we should be asking why Modern Humans are so unusual, not why the Neandertals are divergent. Modern Humans, for example, are the only people who lack brow ridges. We are the only ones who have seriously shortened faces. We are the only ones with very reduced internal nasal cavities. We also have a number of detailed features of the limb skeleton that are unique.” Trinkaus admits that every paleontologist will define the traits a little differently. “If you really wanted to, you could make the case that Neandertals look stranger than we do. But if you are reasonably honest about it, I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to make Neandertals more derived than Modern Humans.” k

Adapted from materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Reprinted with permission from ScienceDaily.com

Our Constitution — The Way It Was

from the American Atheist Radio Series by Dr. Madalyn O’Hair

One of the many things that Atheist spokespersons are confronted with by the media and by the public at media events is the statement “This country was founded on Christian principles by god-fearing men.” The implication follows then that Atheism is an inappropriate thing for Americans if the nation indeed had a Christian founding. The general public has swallowed this line of thinking for many generations. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. OUR CONSTITUTION — THE WAY IT WAS is a collection of scripts od the American Atheist Radio Series dealing with this question in an effort to clear up the many strongly held public misconceptions about the founding of our nation. All of the scripts, as well as the entire American Atheist Radio Series, are authored by Madalyn O’Hair, Founder of American Atheists. These short selections will quickly bring you up to dateon the true sentiments of our “founding fathers” with respect to organized religion. This is a booklet not alone for the adult but is excellent to be shared with your children as a part of their learing experience about early America. 70 pages. Stapled. stock # 5400 $6.00

may/june 2008 — American Atheist

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ask the expert

Bible Contradictions by Frank Zindler

Michael P. writes: I was preparing for a youth group lesson when I stumbled on your web page and a few of your Bible myths. I was intrigued to find that some of the conflicting passages you have listed need more explanation than you are giving them and I wondered if I could be of any help. Please let me know what you think, maybe I could clear up a few of those passages for you so you could represent Christianity a little more accurately. I would suggest talking to a Christian about the Bible and Christianity before you jump to conclusions yourself, much like you wouldn’t expect me to post a web page about Atheists without first talking to an Atheist to gain further understanding of Atheist ways. I look forward to hearing from you.

Frank Zindler Replies: Thank you for writing to American Atheists concerning problems you have found with our Bible contradictions page. Unfortunately, you do not mention any specific perceived problem and so I cannot a priori say that we are correct and you are wrong. However, I must tell you that in general Atheists are not people who know too little about the Bible, but rather they often are people who know too much about the book. Many Atheists are the product of reading the scriptures too carefully while attending to the rules of logic and common sense. Books such as the “Bible Difficulties” books of Gleason Archer and Josh McDowell have produced a large number of Atheists in the process of trying to defend the indefensible. This should be easily understandable if you think about it. The usually extremely strained arguments used to resolve any particular contradiction almost always turn out establishing a bare possibility rather than a strong probability. While that may satisfy some people with regard to any particular contradiction, when you consider together all the contradictions, say, in one of Archer’s big books, an honest apologist can only be dismayed. Consider the fact that to calculate the probability of all purported contradictions being illusory one has to MULTIPLY the individual probabilities of each case being illusory by itself. Thus, if the probability that contradiction A is wrong is one (1) chance out of 100, and the probability the contradiction B is wrong is the same, the probability that both are wrong is one out of 10,000. 26

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Add a third contradiction and the chances become one in a million. This is quite significant when you consider that some contradictions are multiple – such as the quintuple specific differences in the accounts of Judas’ death in Matthew and Acts (did he explode or hang himself, what did he do with the money, who bought the potter’s field, etc.). I suspect that each of Archer’s books must deal with at least a hundred contradictions. The chances, thus, that Archer is correct in ALL of his apologies is vanishingly small. It is more likely that all the oxygen molecules around your head will simultaneously fly up to the ceiling and leave you suffocating in nitrogen. When you understand the evolutionary history of the scriptures, it is not at all surprising that there would be telling contradictions. After all, the different books are the products of different theopolitical parties, and all have been worked and reworked by editors and interpolators in the course of text and political history. Keep in mind that these contradictions are not restricted to the English versions. The oldest manuscripts of Mark end with verse 8 of chapter 16. This surely must be a serious concern to snake-handling Christians who rely on verses not present in the oldest manuscripts. Many other verses read very differently in various Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. (Apart from one particular manuscript of Isaiah, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls have readings differing in various degrees—often greatly—from the later Masoretic text that is the “received text” for the Jewish scriptures.) To learn more about this you might wish to read my article “The REAL Bible: Who’s Got It?” which can be found on the American Atheists Web-site <www.atheists.org>. k Frank R. Zindler is the managing editor of American Atheists Press and the author of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, a book that argues that the ancient Jews never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, they had never heard of Nazareth either. Formerly a professor of biology and geology, for many years now he has worked as a linguist and science writer. He can be reached at editor@atheists.org If you have a question for our experts on the Bible, Evolution, or your rights as an Atheist, please send it to: editor@americanatheist.org


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AIMS & PURPOSES American Atheists, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state and church, accepting the explanation of Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was meant to create a “wall of separation” between state and church. American Atheists is organized: • To stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices; • To collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all religions and promote a more thorough understanding of them, their origins, and their histories; • To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete and absolute separation of state and church; • To act as a “watchdog” to challenge any attempted breach of the wall of separation between state and church; • To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and maintenance of a thoroughly secular system of education available to all; • To encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and the corresponding responsibility of each individual in relation to society; • To develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity; • To promote the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the maintenance, perpetuation, and enrichment of human (and other) life; and • To engage in such social, educational, legal, and cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial to the members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.

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Information about Tax Deductions IRS rules state that the tax-deductible portion of membership dues can be found by subtracting the fair-market value of any goods or services that you receive in return. For most of our membership types, your dues are actually LESS than the fair-market value ($40 per year) of a subscription to our magazine. This means that your membership dues are NOT tax-deductible. Life membership dues are also NOT taxdeductible. (If we sold Life magazine subscriptions, they would cost at least as much as life memberships.) The only membership type that is fully tax-deductible is the Associate membership because Associate members do not receive a magazine subscription. For the Couple/Family ($60) and Wall-Builder ($150) membership types, $40 covers your magazine subscription. The remainder of your dues ($20 for Couple/Family and $110 for Wall-Builder) are considered to be a tax-deductible donation. For multiple-year memberships, the same fraction of your dues (1/3 for Couple/Family and 11/15 for Wall-Builder) is tax-deductible (in the year that those membership dues were paid). Also, any donations that you make IN ADDITION TO your membership dues are fully tax-deductible. 30

American Atheist — may/june 2008


state director listing MILITARY DIRECTOR Kathleen Johnson CMR 422, Box 910 APO AE 09067 kjohnson@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/mil ALABAMA STATE DIRECTOR Blair Scott PO Box 41 Ryland, AL 35767-2000 (256) 513-5877 bscott@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/al/ ALASKA STATE DIRECTOR Clyde Baxley 3713 Deborah Ln. Anchorage, AK 99504 (907) 333-6499 cbaxley@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/ak/ ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR Monty Gaither P.O. Box 64702 Phoenix, AZ 85082-4702 mgaither@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/az/ CALIFORNIA STATE DIRECTOR Dave Kong (415) 771-9872 dksf@atheists.org And CALIFORNIA ASSISTANT STATE DIRECTOR Mark W. Thomas (H) (650) 969-5314 (C) (650) 906-1095 mthomas@atheists.org 900 Bush Street, Unit 210 San Francisco, CA 94109 http://www.atheists.org/ca/

CONNECTICUT STATE DIRECTOR Dennis Paul Himes P.O. Box 9203 Bolton, CT. 06043 (860) 643-2919 dphimes@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/ct/ FLORIDA STATE DIRECTOR Greg McDowell P.O. Box 680741 Orlando, FL 32868-0741 (352) 217-3470 gmcdowell@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/fl/ IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR Susan Harrington P.O. Box 204 Boise, ID 83701-0204 (208) 392-9981 sharrington@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/id/ ILLINOIS STATE DIRECTOR Sandra Van Maren P.O. Box 1770 Chicago, IL 60690-1770 (312) 201-0159 svanmaren@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/il/ KENTUCKY STATE DIRECTOR Edwin Kagin P.O. Box 48 Union, KY 41091 (859) 384-7000 ekagin@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/ky/ MICHIGAN STATE DIRECTOR Arlene-Marie amarie@atheists.org and

MICHIGAN ASSISTANT STATE DIRECTOR George Shiffer gshiffer@atheists.org Both can be reached at: P.O. Box 0025 Allen Park, MI 48101-9998 (313) 388-9594 http://www.atheists.org/mi/ NEW JERSEY STATE DIRECTOR David Silverman 1308 Centennial Ave, Box 101 Piscataway, NJ 08854 (732) 648-9333 dsilverman@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/nj/ NORTH CAROLINA STATE DIRECTOR Wayne Aiken P.O. Box 30904 Raleigh, NC 27622 (919) 602-8529 waiken@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/nc/ OHIO STATE DIRECTOR Michael Allen PMB289 1933 E Dublin-Granville Rd Columbus, OH 43229 (614)-678-6470 mallen@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/oh OKLAHOMA STATE DIRECTOR Ron Pittser P.O. Box 2174 Oklahoma City, OK 73101-2174 (405) 205-8447 rpittser@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/ok/

TEXAS STATE DIRECTOR Joe Zamecki 2707 IH-35 South Austin TX 78741 (512) 444-5882 Extension 703 jzamecki@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/tx/ TEXAS REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR DALLAS/FORT WORTH Dick Hogan dhogan@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/dfw/ UTAH STATE DIRECTOR Rich Andrews P.O. Box 165103 Salt Lake City, UT 84116-5103 randrews@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/ut/ VIRGINIA STATE DIRECTOR Rick Wingrove P.O. Box 774 Leesburg, VA 20178 (H) (703) 433-2464 (C) (703) 606-7411 rwingrove@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/va/ WASHINGTON STATE DIRECTOR Wendy Britton 12819 SE 38th St. Suite 485 Bellevue, WA 98006 (425) 269-9108 wbritton@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/wa/ WEST VIRGINIA STATE DIRECTOR Charles Pique P.O. Box 7444 Charleston, WV 25356-0444 (304) 776-5377 cpique@atheists.org http://www.atheists.org/wv/

Contacting State Directors Our directors are NOT provided with contact information for members in their area. If you’re interested in working with your director on activism, please use the listing on this page to contact them. They would love to hear from you! If you live in a state or area where there is no director, you have been a member for one year or more, and you’re interested in a director position, please contact Bart Meltzer, Director of State and Regional Operations at bm@atheists. org or visit http://www.atheists.org/states/


American Atheist Center

mailing address

PO Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ 07054 delivery address

225 Cristiani Street, Cranford, NJ 07016 phone

908-276-7300 â&#x20AC;˘ fax 908-276-7402

www.atheists.org â&#x20AC;˘ info@atheists.org


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