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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. Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller

stock# 16010

$22.00

490 pp.

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. American Atheist Radio Series episodes about the myth that our founding fathers created a Christian nation.

stapled

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. The personal story of the battle to end mandatory prayer and bible recitation in schools in the United States.

paperback

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 How nonbelievers and Atheists have contributed to civilization and enriched our lives.

$7.00

80 pp.

paperback

$20.00

401 pp.

paperback

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

55 pp.

stapled

Jesus Is Dead by Robert M. Price

291 pp.

paperback

The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus by René Salm

stock# 16014

stock# 16005

$18.00

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

www.atheists.org


october 2008 Vol 46, No.9

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

Contents

Editor, American Atheist Frank R. Zindler Designer Elias Scultori

4

From the Out-Going President

5

From the In-Coming President

6

Brand New Look for American Atheists Affiliation Web Page and Program

10

How God and Bambi Made Me Gay ...and Atheist!

13

The Marriage of Science and Religion through Faith?

19

Discovery Institute: The High Church of Intelligent Design

22

It’s a Frackin’ Cracker!

24

Book Review

27

The Art of Imparting Reasoning Skills

28

The Foxhole Atheist

Cover Design Ann Zindler Editorial Assistants Conrad Goeringer Ann E. Zindler Published monthly (except June & December) by American Atheists Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 158 Cranford, NJ 07016 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 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 American Atheist: Print version only: $45 for 1 subscription and $30 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 $15/year All other countries: add $35/year Discount for libraries and institutions: 50% on all magazine subscriptions and book purchases

White Smoke, at Last! by Frank R. Zindler

Promises I Shall Keep by Ed Buckner

by Alexander Wallace

by Gary J. Whittenberger Ph.D.

by Marc Carrier

by PZ Myers

Worlds of Their Own by Robert J. Schadewald

by Heather Johnson

Jason Torpy


from the out-going president

White Smoke, at Last! Frank R. Zindler

I

am pleased to announce that the Board of American Atheists has named Dr. Ed Buckner as our new President. As I told you earlier if you read our Web-site, I knew our future was bright when I saw the fine quality of the applicants from whom we could choose, and Ed’s selection and acceptance confirms that hope. (He has made clear to everyone that he prefers “Ed” unless he’s debating some pompous theist—but he has an earned Ph.D., from Georgia State University in 1983. His undergraduate degree is a B.A. from Rice University in 1967.) Ed has declared—both publicly and privately to the board of directors—that “It is crucial that American Atheists continues to fulfill its long, proud heritage as the American organization most unapologetically and unabashedly Atheist, as the organization most forthrightly protective of the rights and reputations of all Americans wise enough to firmly reject the many supernatural fantasies on offer. We can and should, I think, be cordial and civil in our disputes with the religious without backing away from the firmness required in asserting both our rights and the reasonableness of our conclusions. We will unhesitatingly attack ideas, but we will seek to avoid unnecessary personal attacks. We will frequently use humor as one of our best philosophical weapons and use a lighter touch when warranted. We—all of us Atheists—must show the world that the lies about us—that we don’t enjoy life, that we are unhappy, that we lack morality or decency or standards—are indeed lies. We will do this by living good, rich lives but also by arguing, debating, protesting, expressing our views on paper, in the media, and in talks. American Atheists will always need the support of our members, and we need more members, more dollars, more volunteers—and if there were a god, it would know I need all the help I can get. But I will work hard and I expect our membership to hold me accountable.” Ed was born in Georgia in 1946, has been married to his wife Diane for over forty years, and has been an Atheist and activist for over thirty years. He spoke at a press conference American Atheists organized opposing the Bush administrations so-called “Faith-Based Initiatives” and at the Godless Americans March on Washington (he was then the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism). He has written, spoken, and debated extensively in defense of Atheism, the separation of religion and government, and religious liberty. Ed is extremely articulate—when speaking as well as writing—and I am confident that he will be able to present our case to the world in such a way that he will command respect even from our opponents in the struggle to attain freedom from religion. He has been a longtime leader with the Atlanta

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American Atheist — october 2008

Freethought Society. He and Diane have a son, Michael, who is also an Atheist, an activist, and a freethought writer. Ed’s e-mail address is ebuckner@atheists.org. It is hard to believe that the past five months have not actually been five years—so many things have happened, both to me personally and to American Atheists and its activities and operations. Thanks to the dedication of the members of the board of directors and several staff members—and thanks to the financial and moral support from you, our members—I have been able to keep American Atheists “on track” during this difficult period. This could not have succeeded, however, without lots of help. In American Atheists, Inc., as in many corporations, the members of the board of directors have historically been extremely private but dedicated Atheists. While many of them plan to continue to direct our activities from outside the glare of the limelight, I feel it is necessary to acknowledge them publicly as I step down from the presidency. They are, in alphabetical order: Wayne Aiken, of North Carolina; Chris Allen, of Texas; Richard Andrews, of Utah; Neal Cary, of Virginia; Conrad Goeringer, of New Jersey (our director of operations); Susan Harrington, of Idaho; Dick Hogan, of Texas (our treasurer); Kathleen Johnson, of Texas; Edwin Kagin, of Kentucky (our legal director); Dave Kong, of California (our secretary); Arlene Marie, of Michigan; Bart Meltzer, of Washington (now retired from the board but still helping to solve difficult problems); Noel Scott, of Washington, DC; Dave Silverman, of New Jersey; Ann Zindler, of Ohio. In addition to the members of the board of directors, I wish to acknowledge the important role played by our office manager Rachel Carroll and by our AV coordinator and digital wizard Timothy Dicks. They, with Conrad Goeringer, have kept us operating on a day-to-day basis. It is necessary also to acknowledge the important contributions made by volunteers who are, alas, too numerous to list at this moment, and to all who have responded to my appeal to help to rescue the library from a watery extinction. To all of these people, I send a hearty FRANX THANX! The torch first lit by Madalyn Murray O’Hair now passes on once again—to a man I am quite certain will be able to keep alive her legacy. Ed Buckner must now fight the fights that Madalyn and Jon and Robin can no longer fight. He must dream the dreams that they would dream if they were just asleep. k


from the in-coming president

Promises I Shall Keep Ed Buckner

I

am deeply honored that I have been named as President of American Atheists by the Board. I’m also determined to show all of you, in time, that the Board was wise to choose me. The Board had an important and difficult decision to make. I don’t know all the details of who else applied, but I know enough to know that the applicants included many Atheists of the first order, men and women of great promise, intelligence, creativity, and accomplishment, including leaders from within American Atheists and from beyond. This makes me even prouder of being chosen, but it also will put great pressure on me to work hard, knowing as I do that so many fine alternatives were available. I am not Frank Zindler or Ellen Johnson or Jon Murray or Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and I will not pretend to be—but I hope to demonstrate that the best days of American Atheists are ahead, not historical. I am most grateful, and I think all of us should be grateful, to our previous leaders, who have stood strongly and proudly for us, helping us protect our rights, our reputations, and our freedom. All of them have demonstrated creativity, wit and humor, extraordinary intelligence, and profound courage on our behalf. Together they made the job I now undertake possible and an extremely important one, and I will never take their efforts for granted. I will no doubt make some mistakes, but only honest ones—and I hope never any that seriously threaten the best interests of American Atheists. I promise you that— 1. I will put American Atheists and our members first. 2. American Atheists will remain true to its proud heritage as the vanguard of American atheism and religious liberty; we have always been the most forthright, unabashed, unapologetic, confident people in this nation who wisely reject religion, and that must continue. 3. The many Atheist leaders, members, and supporters who make themselves available to help, with advice or work or financial contributions, will be welcomed and encouraged. 4. Communication will be a top priority, especially with Atheists wise and strong enough to be card-carrying members. The American Atheist website will, with the help of many, be kept up to date and fresh. Dave Silverman and several others are working hard to launch a major revision of the site—and that may even completed by the time you read this—so please visit www.atheists.org soon and often. Many thanks to Ed Gauci and others for the superb website we have all enjoyed for years.

5. American Atheists will openly cooperate with and support other groups, local, national, or international, to the extent that doing so will serve the interests of our philosophy and our members. The only exceptions to this promise will come where there are conflicts with # 4, above. 6. If a local group of American Atheists anywhere in this nation wants me or some other official representative of the organization to visit, to speak, or to debate against some bombastic preacher or condescending media personality, we will do everything we can to fulfill that want. 7. If a newspaper, radio program, TV program, or Internet show anywhere in this nation invites me or some other official representative of the organization to speak or to debate against some religious leader, we will do everything we can to accept that invitation. 8. The Center in Cranford New Jersey, including our world-class library, will be protected and enhanced to improve its usefulness to members and to future Atheists, under the extraordinary leadership of Conrad Goeringer, our operational director and director of the library. Staff members Timothy Dicks and Rachel Carroll, who repeatedly demonstrate expertise, maturity, and commitment well beyond their years, deserve thanks from all Atheists. 9. We will strengthen and expand the work of a number of key volunteer leaders who have been and will be the core of American Atheists, including American Atheist Magazine and Atheist Press (led so ably by Frank Zindler), our Atheists in Foxholes efforts (Kathleen Johnson), our work in the nation’s courts of law (Edwin Kagin), our State Directors program (with many fine state leaders, coordinated by Dave Kong), our 2009 Convention in Atlanta (led by Arlene Marie), our ongoing efforts to raise money and spend it wisely (Dick Hogan), Atheists Viewpoint (our longstanding, superb cable TV program, led by Dave Silverman and Dennis Horvitz), and the Affiliates (local groups) program (Blair Scott). I have to stop at nine, lest someone concludes that I’m another delusional Moses, thinking he’s passing on words from on high. I’m working hard, but I’m having great fun doing this. Many thanks for all the warm welcomes I’ve had and for the future support I hope you will give to American Atheists—it is of course the organization that has earned your support and that richly deserves it. I welcome constructive criticism and suggestions. I expect you to hold me accountable. k october 2008 — American Atheist

5


Brand New Look for American Atheists Affiliation Web Page & Program!

T

he American Atheists Affiliation Program is getting a bit of a makeover. Blair Scott, the new National Affiliate Outreach Director, is making sure all the information for the groups listed is accurate to help ensure that Atheists throughout the United States looking for local groups will, in fact, find them. Affiliates of American Atheists can look forward to “goody bags” with items from the American Atheists Store to hand out to members, use as door prizes, etc. The Affiliation Web Page is now showing a few more changes as well: 1. An explanation of why American Atheists has an affiliation program and why local groups and American Atheists benefit from affiliation. 2. “NEW” tags for new affiliate that will remain next to the group’s listing for four months after they become an affiliate. 3. American Atheists icons next to groups that have recently updated their information with the date of the most recent update. 4. Direct links to items mentioned in the benefits section, such as the American Atheists Store, magazine, membership, etc. 5. Direct link to the stated goals of American Atheists so prospective affiliates do not have to search the American Atheists Web Page for them. 6. A new and improved state-by-state and alphabetized listing of all American Atheists affiliates. 7. A new & improved American Atheists Affiliation Application with a mirror site. American Atheists also has a new & improved affiliation application. The application is HTML-based, but also Excel (and compatible software) friendly and can be saved to your computer and completed in Excel (or compatible software) and sent in via email instead of postal mail, saving local groups the cost of postage and envelopes. In addition, Blair has created a new National Affiliate Outreach Director Web Page with additional information, an Affiliate’s Forum, and much more! Please take the time to check out the American Atheists Affiliation page online at http://atheists.org/affiliation and the new NAOD page at http://alabamaatheist.org/naod. If your local group is interested in affiliating with American Atheists please contact Blair Scott at bscott@atheists.org or by phone at 256-701-6265. k

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American Atheist — october 2008

Blair Scott is the National Affiliate Outreach Director and Alabama State Director for American Atheists. Blair lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife and two daughters and is a veteran of the United States Navy.


Organizations Presently Affiliated with American Atheists Agnostic & Atheist Student Association (UC Davis) Jeremy Ross, President jerross@ucdavis.edu Atheist Coalition of San Diego Jeff Archer, President 4245 Francis Way La Mesa, CA 91941 (619) 465-9528 lekkerspikkels@msn.com Atheist Community of Austin PO Box 3798 Austin, TX 78764 (512) 371-2911 info@atheist-community.org Atheists for Human Rights 5146 Newton Ave Minneapolis, MN 55430-3459 (612) 529-1200 communications@ atheistsforhumanrights.org Atheist Humanist Society of Connecticut and Rhode Island Bill Russell, President 399 Laurel Hill Avenue Norwich, CT 06360-6935 (860) 334-6769 NorwichAtheists@yahoo.com Atheist Station Ron Stauffer, President PO Box 1623 Altoona, PA 16603 (814) 949-7149 info@atheiststation.org Atheists & Agnostics Group of Rossmoor 3612 Rossmoor Parkway #4 Walnut Creek, CA 94595 (925) 933-3133 rgolden272@comcast.net

Atheists & Other Freethinkers PO Box 15182 Sacramento, CA 95851-0182 (916) 447-3589 aa-liaison@aofonline.org Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver David Eller, Coordinator PO Box 22174 Denver, CO 80222 (303) 285-3482 x7118 athofden@onebox.com Atheists of Greater Lowell Steve Berthiaume, Director 50 Danforth Rd. Tyngsboro, MA 01879 (978) 394-8729 stevieb@verizonmail.com Atheists of Silicon Valley Go to Web Page to contact. Atheists United for a Rational America PO Box 2073 Iowa City, IA 52244-2073 (319) 400-5328 rationality.rules@gmail.com Boston Atheists 95 Melville Avenue Boston MA 02124 (617) 935-4951 BostonAtheists@gmail.com Boulder Atheists PO Box 19468 Boulder, CO 80308-3974, (303) 258-3974 info@BoulderAtheists.org

Bradley Atheists (Bradley Univ, Peoria) Paul Turack, Founder 912 N Elmwood Ave. Heitz Hall, Room 112 Peoria, IL 61606 (309) 677-1421 PTurack@Bradley.edu Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) (Univ of MN) 126 Coffman Memorial Union 300 Washington Avenue SE Minneapolis, MN 55455 CASH@cashumn.org Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics Dan Russell-Pinson, Coordinator info@CharlotteAtheists.com Community of Reason Dr. Theo Schubert, Coordinator 5019 State Line Road Kansas City, MO 64112-1156 (816) 561-1866 info@communityofreason.net Connecticut Valley Atheists 650 Bolton Road Vernon, Connecticut 06066 (860) 454-8301 info@cvatheists.org East Bay Atheists 510-222-7580 info@eastbayatheists.org Florida Atheists & Secular Humanists (FLASH) Ken Loukinen, President P. O. Box 246743 Pembroke Pines, FL 33024 Browardatheists@mac.com

Free Inquiry Group, Inc. Margaret O’Kain, President PO Box 19034 Cincinnati, OH 45219 figinfo@gofigger.org Freethinkers of Upstate New York Doug Schiffer, President (315) 245-3596 director@funygroup.org Freethinkers United Network (F. U. N) 3854 139th Ave SE Bellevue, WA 98006 (425) 269-9108 wendita99@hotmail.com Gator Freethought (UF) gatorfreethought@gmail.com Heartland Humanists PO Box 24022 Shawnee Mission, KS 66283 (913) 738-4442 info@heartlandhumanists.org Hudson Valley Humanists Ed Poll, Director PO Box 961 Saugerties, NY 12477 (845) 247-0098 HVHumans@yahoo.com Humanist Community of Central Ohio PO Box 141373 Columbus, OH 43214 (614) 470-0811 inf0@hcco.org Humanist Society of Santa Barbara Richard Cousineau, Chairman PO Box 30232 Santa Barbara, CA 93130 (805) 687-2371 chairman@ santabarbarahumanists.org

october 2008 — American Atheist

7


Idaho Atheists Lori Howard PO Box 204 Boise, ID 83701-0204 (208) 455-9222 IApresident@IdahoAtheists.org Individuals For Freethought Paul Youk, President & Keiv Spare, Publicity Director c/o Office of Student Activities, Kansas State University 809 K-State Union Ground Floor Manhattan, KS 66506 freethought@k-state.edu Iowa Secularists PO Box 883 Iowa City, IA 52244 contact@iowasecularist.org Info: Local meetings in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City (will expand as interest develops). Long Island Secular Humanists PO Box 119 Greenlawn, NY 11740 LISecHum@aol.com Metroplex Atheists Terry McDonald, Chairman 1332 Martin Court Grapevine, Texas 76051 Terry@MetroplexAtheists.org Michigan Atheists Arlene-Marie, President PO Box 25 Allen Park, MI 48101-0025 (313) 388-9594 amarie@atheists.org Mid-Michigan Atheists and Humanists Jim Hong, Director (517) 750-3887 Jim@MMAH.org Military Assoc. of Atheists & Freethinkers Jason Torpy, President 519 Somerville Ave. PMB 200 Somerville, MA 02143 Community@maaf.info

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American Atheist — october 2008

Minnesota Atheists PO Box 6261 Minneapolis, MN 55406-0261 (612) 588-7031 info@mnatheists.org Info: Group produces live “Atheists Talk” radio show, Sundays, 9-10 a.m. CST (AM 950 KTNF or http:// am950ktnf.com/listen). Nashville Secular Life 707 Cynthia Ct Mt. Juliet, TN 37122 (865) 567-6892 atheists-699@meetup.com New Jersey Humanist Network Lisa Ridge, President PO Box 8212 Somerville, NJ 08876-8212 (609) 403-8238 NJHN@comcast.net New Orleans Secular Humanist Association NOSHA Harry Greenberger, President 330 Julia St., #233 New Orleans, LA 70130-3681 (504) 282-5459

Orange County Atheists Michael Doss, President PO Box 10541 Santa Ana, CA 92711 (714) 478-8457 contact@OCAtheists.com PA Nonbelievers Steven Neubauer 45 Gravel Hill Road Mount Wolf, PA 17347-9710 (717) 266-1357 PANonbelievers@aol.com Rationalists of East Tennessee Daryl Houston PO Box 51634 Knoxville, TN 37950 (865) 539-3006 info@rationalists.org Rationalist Society of St. Louis (RSSL) Dr. William Martin, President PO Box 300031 St. Louis, MO 63130 info@rssl.org Rebirth of Reason in Florida Luther Setzer, Leader (321) 544-7435 LutherSetzer@yahoo.com

New York City Atheists Cooper Station PO Box 93, New York, NY 10276-0093 (212) 330-6794 info@NYC-Atheists.org

Saint Petersburg Atheists Gary Thompson PO Box 22304 Saint Petersburg, FL (727) 577-9150 easy8@TampaBay.rr.com

North Alabama Freethought Association Aaron Sakovich, Organizer PO Box 41 Ryland, AL 35767-0041 nafa@thenafa.org

San Francisco Atheists 900 Bush Street, #210 San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 771-9872 info@sfatheists.com

Northeast Pennsylvania Freethought Society Rodney Collins, Organizer PO Box 2501 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703 (570) 793-1837 alrgc@yahoo.com Oklahoma Atheists aok@oklahomaatheists.info

Santa Cruz Atheists (831) 335-8231 howard@burman.net Seattle Atheists Kyle Hepworth, President (425) 402-9036 hepworth@gmail.com

Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry PO Box 32256 Charleston, SC 29417 (843) 670-0290 president@ lowcountryhumanists.org Shasta Atheists & Freethinkers Ed Coleman, President PO Box 1544 Shasta Lake City, CA 96019 (530) 275-4626 shasta@atheistalliance.org South Lake Atheists and Freethinkers (Groveland) Go to Web Page to Contact Southeast Wisconsin FreeThinkers (SWiFT) PO Box 3 Mequon, WI 53092 St. Olaf Agnostic and Atheist Society Koya Kato, President 1500 St. Olaf Avenue Northfield, MN 55057 (507) 646-2879 aas@stolaf.edu Tucson Atheists 9114 E Wolfberry St Tucson, AZ 85747 (520) 664-0722 AZAtheist@cox.net Western Colorado Atheists Anne Landman PO Box 1434 Grand Junction, CO 81502 (970) 263-9199 WesternColoradoAtheists@ yahoo.com


ATLANTA

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

GET READY TO PACK YOUR BAGS FOR

35th National Convention The

of

AMERICAN ATHEISTS April 9-12, 2009

The Emory Conference Center Hotel • Atlanta, GA

Join us for the Freethought bash of the year! American Atheists will host its 35th National Convention at the spectacular Emory Conference Center Hotel in Atlanta, Ga. Make plans now for an exciting weekend of social events, outstanding talks by renowned speakers, workshops and so much more. We’ll have a special convention rate at this world-class meeting venue, plus extended ‘shoulder dates’ so you can visit the many tourism attractions in beautiful Atlanta! And don’t forget our Thursday night (April 9) Convention Jump-Start for an evening of fun with fellow Atheists from around the world. Mark your calendar now — and look for more details in future issues of the American Atheist magazine!


How God and Bambi Made Me Gay ...and Atheist! by Alexander Wallace

W

ell, it took a series of contradictions that made no sense. First, I was raised from infancy, a hardcore, right-wing, anti-Semitic, anti-papist, Southern Fundamentalist Baptist — a good Christian boy who bought it all — in the Jewish Bronx, during World War II. I was also raised a Roosevelt-New-Deal-Union-hating, Liberal-loathing, McCarthy-loving crypto-fascist-conservative — in the Jewish Bronx, during World War II. And although my family was publicly pacifists and took Holocaust victims into our home, we had swastikas painted on our door, during the war, by our Jewish neighbors — so don’t tell me religious bigotry is the province of only one cult. And, despite the fact that my father sucked-up to a long series of good Christian bosses, he got nowhere and often was fired. We lived in a Bronx tenement-slum and received none of ‘God’s bounty’ for all our prayers and piety. But we had The Lord Jesus, who was king; a chance at the great restricted country-club in the sky called Heaven, and we had The King James Version of the Bible — translated at the command of a Scottish ancestor who was a faggot to the core — James I of England and VI of Scotland. Of course, we didn’t know of Good Queen James then — ‘they’ only let the sheep know so much and even the church leadership was in denial about Jimmy. So I persisted in my beliefs and devotion. By the time I should have known better, I could recite from memory entire chapters of the Bible, which we read and discussed every night after diner. I could solve any theological problem put to me by quoting any number of verses from any number of chapters from anywhere in the New or Old Testaments. I taught a mean Sunday school myself, and I was well on my way to the seminary and a lifetime of lying to and herding of sheep. One little problem. Good little Christer that I was, I was also absolutely boycrazy! A man-loving homosexual who knew men were for me, from Day One. My parents were (secretly) appalled and often horrible about it. Still, they gave me my first Merman, Garland, Dietrich and Noel Coward albums — looked the other way when I drew all-nude crucifixion scenes in my Sunday School books and ran off to see Broadway musicals whenever I had the chance. 10

American Atheist — october 2008

Of course, I cannot give my parents all the credit or the blame. I did most of the hard, on-the-ground or in-the-bed basic training myself. And I was pretty secretive about it — fairly easy in The Big City — and I said secretive, not closeted. There is a difference. I had my first affair — very secretively — at 14, with a famous stage and film actor who was 29 at the time and on the cover of LIFE magazine. Well, I was bigger than he was — and taller. Now that I think of it, though, he wasn’t really the first. Actually, Bambi came first. Yes, Walt Disney’s darling little boy-deer! Oh, those big, innocent eyes! Those big, floppy ears! (Big floppy ears on a man are so.... utilitarian!) Those long, long legs! Bambi’s delicious little bubble-butt! Oh, yes! I really wanted Bambi! Then, along came Bob S., my mother’s best friend’s son. I adored Bobby S.! I lusted after Bobby S.! He really was very Bambi-like — big eyes, big ears, long legs, bubble-butt. I knew I wanted to make passionate love to Bobby S. — and he, me — even if neither of us had any idea of how that was actually done, as we were only four years old at the time. But I was sure I wanted to make love to boys. It was the one thing I was sure of in life, even then. But, can you imagine? Born Again — boy-crazy — and on my way to a Southern Baptist seminary? Have I mentioned Judeo-Christer homophobia? “God Hates Faggots!” is a pretty terrifying message, especially hurled at a questioning kid. And it’s not just shouted by right-wing, nut-case fundamentalists. I heard it from everyone I knew — kids in school, teachers, principals, other kid’s parents — in the Jewish Bronx, during and after The War — and most often from my own parents. Well, when not running from cute, faggot-loathing, Yahweh and Jesus-loving street toughs I’d have loved to make love with — and when free of my good Christian Father railing against Sodom and Gomorrah — I realized that something was wrong, terribly wrong, with religion. My loins were sending one message and that other sex-organ, the brain, was beginning to send yet another signal. Very confusing. Then, I encountered history — Accurate History. As we believed the Bible was a divinely ordained and infallible record of biblical times, people, events, prophecies, and revela-


tions, it was inevitable for a studious type like me to seek confirmation — proof — outside The Bible, much the way ‘Biblical Archaeologists’ and ‘Biblical Scholar-Scientists’ were doing. One had to find the stones-and-bones that were surely there and that would prove scripture to be Accurate History and thus, The Truth. In such pursuit of “Truth,’ one had to confront not only the historical Jews and Crypto-Christians, but the historical Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. And where, actually, were Ararat, Eden, Ur, and Ephesus? And when actually did Bethlehem and ‘Nazareth’ actually appear on a map? Why did the Romans allow the conquered Jews to build a new temple on the massive platform — the highest point in Yeru Shalem — that Herod Magnus had provided as a base for the camp-site for the Roman Legion stationed in Palestine? And, being a-boy-and-man-loving boy and man, who could be surprised that I’d prefer the slim, immaculate, young Pharaoh, in his little loin-cloth, purple eye-shadow and all that gold to the insufferable Semites in their scruffy schmattahs? Who wouldn’t prefer beautiful, nude, Greek boys wrestling and the manly Romans in their magnificent togae to the martyrdom-mad Christers, wrapped in mangy rags and set afire? Seriously, Accurate History — written by professional, ethical Historians and not ‘The Biblical Version’ and certainly not the myth-based, Hollywood epic, post-Gibbon, JudeoChristian propaganda accepted as ‘The Truth’ by those too lazy to get real — appealed to the incipient rationalist in me. I had to get to the bottom of the totally irrational homophobia endemic in Judeo-Christian theology, tradition, and practice. For, if Mother Nature had created only 10% of us gay, where was the threat to the other 90% of the population? Why were Believers so desperately fearful of what may have been simply evolution’s — or deity’s — attempt to curb overpopulation? Well, in my pursuit of Accurate History (and it is really easy to find) I learned that despite massive, unparalleled archaeological efforts in ‘The Holy Land,” the Old Testament has yet to be proven. Much of it has been dis-proven and the New Testament is a complete fiction and entirely a fraud. No room for details here, the facts are lock-tight. The dominant, 2000-year-old cultural and political paradigm — Established Christianity — is a fraud constructed on a lie. There was no ‘Jesus,’ who would have been Yehu-Shuvah if he did exist. There is absolutely no evidence — no stones or bones — for, and abundant, conclusive evidence against the New testament. Christianity, an anti-democratic construct, is simply a tyranny like any other. Brainwashing, discovered by shamans and perfected by Christians (and other priesthoods) is so effective, it was adopted as basic indoctrination procedure by Fascists, Nazis, and Communists, alike. Homophobia? Just one of the scare tactics – like racism, gynephobia, anti-Semitism and agoraphobia: fear of democracy. (The ‘Kingdom of God’ will not be a parliamentary mon-

archy but a tyrannical theocracy. Don’t ask: “How would Jesus vote?” Kings don’t vote; they command.) Monotheists must have enemies — devils — to fear and hate. So, with the Establishment revealed as a hoax by Accurate History (and common sense), what of the theology — all that’s left? If you really want to ‘get’ a believer, forget the trappings and wrappings, the myths, the miracles, the god-men: go for the jugular, the theology. Original Sin? Redemption as a prelude to Salvation? Requiring an unasked-for sacrifice of a mythical Messiah? The Immortal Soul? A presumed universal desire for Heaven and Eternal Life? These are hypotheses, tenets, mere postulations — not statements of fact or even Revealed Truths and are unprovable by any criteria. And you cannot have the latter tenets without the first or disregard any as personally distasteful or the entire ponzi scheme collapses. Once you start to question the theology, the entire construction is revealed as faulted plaster-ofparis and it crumbles. So you see, ‘God,’ Walt Disney, and Bambi made me gay and Atheist. Judeo-Christian homophobia turned me to Accurate History and a rejection of the vicious nonsense called religion. My on-going readings of Accurate History, coupled with a deep interest in the art, literature, social customs, and culture of The Greco-Roman World — bolstered by new revelations in history and new discoveries by archeology — continue to reveal all religion as bogus, the treacherous construct of powermad men incapable of making rational decisions about their constituents or themselves. Also revealed to me is a broader, richer, more varied, more creative and more ‘spiritual’ world canvas than any narrow superstition can offer. I’ve also learned that Nature, Biology or Evolution — not some irrational deity — have created me who I am, and Nature is perfectly happy with how I turned out. Although life’s been no bed of roses, I am perfectly happy the way I turned out. I am not religious because I am not desperate — or greedy. I can not believe because I prefer to know; and there is a difference. What I do not know is simply to be learned. If I die before I learn all there is to know, I have not failed to succeed. Someone is bound to pick up where I leave off. And in the meantime, I have my Sundays off — and my mind is free. k Alexander Wallace is a lay expert on Hadrian and the early Christian period. His articles and reviews on archaeology, contemporary lifestyle issues, theatre and restaurant reviews have appeared in many gay and straight venues. He currently resides in Los Angeles where he is completing a book-length treatment of this article. He receives e-mail at hahopr1936@yahoo.com. october 2008 — American Atheist

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The

2008

AMERICAN ATHEISTS

Winter Solstice Bash & Open House at the American Atheist Center with tours of Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library & Archives Imagine an entire extended weekend where you can visit New York City, get together with fellow Atheists, see the nation’s largest private archive of Atheist-Freethought books and other materials, and stay in a magnificent hotel convenient to all of these sites and activities – and more! That’s what we’ve got for you at the 2008 Winter Solstice Bash. • Tour the American Atheist Center and Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library & Archives on Friday, December 12, 2008 any time from 1:00 – 8:00 PM. The ribbon cutting for the rejuvenated facility, including the Eddie Tabash Conference Room is at 1:30 PM. • Party hearty on Saturday, December 12 with other Atheists at the 2008 WINTER SOLSTICE BASH. The venue is the luxurious Crowne Plaza Hotel, 20 Valley Road in Clark, NJ – just down the Parkway from the American Atheist Center. Join host David Silverman beginning at 11:30 AM for a program of celebration, learning, and entertainment. The event also includes a scrumptious buffet lunch, plus cash bar, all for only $34 per adult, $16.50 for children 12 or under. At 4:00 PM, come over to the Center for the taping of our popular cable show, The Atheist Viewpoint. • See New York City and other regional attractions thanks to a special rate of only $109 plus tax at the Crowne Plaza in effect from Thursday, Dec. 11 through Tuesday night, Dec. 17. On Sunday, Dec. 14, there are other Freethought celebrations in the Area, including one sponsored by the New Jersey Humanist Network.

Register now for this celebratory event! Fill in the coupon inserted in your magazine and mail to: American Atheists PO Box 158 Cranford, NJ 07016 If you plan on staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, you must contact the hotel directly at 732-574-0100. Be sure to inform the hotel that you are with American Atheists in order to obtain the special room rates for our Winter Solstice event! Or register on-line! Go to: http://www.atheists.org/wintersolstice.html

It’s just around our Earth’s orbit … The Big Apple, Partying with fellow Atheists, Open House & more…


The Marriage of Science and Religion through Faith? A Skeptical Inquiry into the Recent Views of Paul Davies by Gary J. Whittenberger Ph.D.

P

aul Davies is a well-known physicist, cosmologist, and science educator and he is currently a professor at Arizona State University. He has written numerous scientific and popular articles and 27 books, the most recent of which is Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life (2007). His science books for the lay audience have been sources of information and enjoyment for readers like me. Thus, I feel reluctant to disagree with him on anything, but his November 24, 2007 op-ed article for the New York Times, titled “Taking Science on Faith,” attempts to force the square peg of science into the round hole of religion and requires a skeptical response. [1] Dr. Davies won the infamous Templeton Prize in 1995. This prize, founded by multimillionaire Sir John Templeton, is awarded annually and brings £800,000 sterling to the recipient. The prize “...honors and encourages the many entrepreneurs trying various ways for discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity.” [2] After reading his article in the Times, I concluded that Dr. Davies might have sold his scientific soul to the Templeton Foundation. Davies starts his article by claiming that “science has its own faith-based belief system.” As do many others who have recently flown the flag of the compatibility of science and religion, Davies inappropriately uses a word from religion, i.e. ‘faith,’ to describe what he thinks goes on in science, apparently attempting to show that religion and science are not as different as many people think. He says “All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way.” Well yes, most scientists posit that nature is ordered in a way which is intelligible or understandable to humans, although perhaps not ordered in a “rational” way. Rational is a term properly used to describe the way some humans think some of the time, but not properly used to describe nature as

a whole. But Davies’ bigger error lies in regarding the belief in the intelligibility of nature to be based on faith. It isn’t! It is based on a staggering amount of evidence, an entire history of scientists observing the order in nature and then describing it with ‘natural laws,’ sometimes formulated in mathematical terms. Contrast this with a common belief from the religion of Christianity, i.e. that once upon a time a man died and came back to life after three days of being dead. Why is it said that this core Christian belief is based on faith? Primarily because it flies in the face of 106 billion pieces of evidence from the last 50,000 years, the cases of people dying and not coming back to life! [3] The two ‘beliefs’ just do not have the same foundation, despite what Davies would like us to believe. To think that they have the same foundation would require a great deal of faith, i.e. belief without adequate supportive evidence or belief against the weight of the evidence. Referring to the laws of nature, especially those of physics, Davies goes on to ask the interesting question “Where do these laws come from?” Of course, he completely ignores the underlying assumption of his question, i.e. that these laws had an origin. They might have had an origin and they might not, but Davies wants us to accept a priori the conclusion that they did. That’s a respectable conjecture, but what evidence can he present for his hypothesis? As far as I know, nobody has yet presented any evidence for it. Davies is putting the cart before the horse. Ought we be asking where the laws of nature came from before we know or have good reason to believe that they came at all? Is not the proper working or default assumption that natural laws are inherent and eternal? Davies says that as a student of physics he learned that “to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable...laws of an unspecified origin.” Once again, he misuses the word faith. Scientists suppose that the universe is governed by dependable laws because an overwhelming amount of evidence supports that belief. On the other hand, the proposition that natural laws had an origin is speculative, and anyone who purports this proposition to be definitely, or even probably, true is operating on faith. Davies gets frustrated with his physicist colleagues who, when asked why the laws of physics are what they are, give answers like “that’s not a scientific question,” “nobody knows,” or “they just are.” Again, Davies fails to specify a critical assumption underlying his question, i.e. that the laws of physics could be any different than what they are. How does he know that they could be different? What evidence is there for thinking that they could? Of course there is nothing wrong with speculating about answers to Davies’ question, but right now the fact is that “nobody knows” that the laws of physics could be different from what they are. Davies contends that the emergence of life and conscious observers in the universe depends on the forms of nature’s laws. How does he know this? He has only one universe and one set of laws to examine, so how can he know anything about the sensitivity of the emergence of life and consciousness to difoctober 2008 — American Atheist

13


ferent sets of laws? Certainly, life ‘as it is’ cannot be arbitrarily moved around in the universe without serious consequences to its survival, but this is not what Davies is talking about. He is trying to lay the foundation for the idea that our universe was “fine tuned” for the emergence of life. The fallacy of this idea, completely ignored by its proponents, lies in the absence of any evidence that the forms of nature’s laws could be any different from what they are. And even if they could, might not life “as we do not know it” emerge anyway? In his op-ed piece Davies comments on the multiverse hypothesis, i.e. the idea that there may be many (perhaps billions) of universes each one with its own local bylaws, such that some universes, like our own, are capable of yielding life. Davies says “There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from?” Davies’ question reminds me of the old question asked of many a pastor “So where did God come from?” or “Who created God?” The multiverse hypothesis has much in common with the God hypothesis. Not only are both offered as perhaps unnecessary explanations for our universe, but they also invite questions of the sort “What, in turn, explains that?” or “What came before that?” Certainly we should never stop asking questions and seeking answers, but we should also keep in mind that we may reach an end to explanation, a point at which there are no differences at one level to account for differences at another level. We just don’t know if explanation “keeps on going” or abruptly stops at some point. There just might be brute facts about our universe for which there is no further explanation. In the hyperbole of a true believer in the compatibility of science and religion, Davies says “Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith—namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too.” Religion may be founded on faith, but science is not! Religion may be founded on a belief, with little or no evidence to back it up, that something like a unique all-powerful bodiless person exists outside our universe, yet somehow creating and/or interacting with it. But science is certainly not founded on a belief in the existence of something outside our universe. Instead, it is founded on a particular approach to seeking knowledge, i.e. replicated systematic observation and rational inference, with no commitments to anything other than the universe in which we find ourselves, the only one we know to exist at this time. Science regards “something outside the universe” as sheer speculation, whereas religion regards it as a fact, a fact around which to organize one’s entire life! Can there be any doubt about where the faith lies? Davies contends that “...the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm.” Who and where are these many squirming scientists? Davies credits Newton with coming up with the idea of natural law as the product of God’s rational creation. There is 14

American Atheist — october 2008

no doubt that most of the scientists of the Enlightenment, and before, viewed natural laws as the result of edicts from God, and many still do, but this view is fading. Only about forty percent of all scientists and about seven percent of eminent scientists (those in the National Academy of Sciences) believe in the existence of a “personal God.”[4] The notion of physical law might have originated as a theological concept, but it need not be considered in that way now, and no scientist needs to squirm about the history of it. Davies ends his article by declaring “But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.” What is manifestly bogus is Davies’ claim that science is laden with faith. His claim is based on a serious category error in which he attempts to classify the very different approaches to knowledge of science and religion into the same category, the category of faith-based thinking. If Davies has sold his scientific soul, then perhaps because of his pedigree we should help him buy it back, but only if he agrees to correct his category error and give up his misguided effort to smear the very clear epistemological differences between science and religion. k Notes [1] Davies, Paul. “Taking Science on Faith”. New York Times, November 24, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html [2] Templeton Prize for Progress Towards Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, http://www.templetonprize.org/bios_recent.html [3] Curtin, Ciara. “Fact or Fiction?: Living People Outnumber the Dead”. Scientific American, March 1, 2007. http://www. sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=09E07C6F-E7F2-99DF3AD087F0DA77D94F&sc=I100322 [4] Larson, Edward J. and Witham, Larry. “Leading scientists still reject God”. Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313, 1998, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

Gary Whittenberger, Ph.D., is an educator and psychologist who resides in Tallahassee, Florida. He receives e-mail at whittfamily@ comcast.net.

In Memoriam Clifford A. Masten – Mexico Fred Cummings – Lafayette, CA Stan Walthall – Spokane, WA Robert J. O’Donnell – San Rafael, CA Thomas B. Jackson – Indianapolis, IN

New Life Members American Atheists Welcomes New Life Members Greg Lammers – Columbia, MO


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october 2008 — American Atheist

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Tobogganing Penguins

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American Atheist — october 2008

Solstice Greetings

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All sets of a dozen cards are in color and include matching envelopes. They may be ordered from American Atheists, Inc. for price indicated. Please see order form for member discount and shipping and handling. Unless otherwise noted, all our Winter Solstice cards carry the following explanation of the Winter Solstice celebration: December 25, by the Julian Calendar, was the winter solstice. This day, originally regarded by the pagans as the day of the nativity of the sun, the shortest day of the year—when the light began its conquering battle against darkness—was celebrated universally in all ages of man. Taken over by the Christians as the birthday of their mythological Christ, this ancient holiday, set by motions of the celestial bodies, survives as a day of rejoicing that good will and love will have a perpetual rebirth in the minds of men—even as the sun has a symbolic rebirth yearly. october 2008 — American Atheist

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A Christmas Sermon and the Controversy It Aroused

The Battle For Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum #7014 $16.00

by Robert G. Ingersoll On Dec. 19, 1891, Robert G. Ingersoll’s Christmas Sermon was printed in the Evening Telegram newspaper. It was immediately answered by the Rev. Dr. I. M. Buckley, editor of The Christian Advocate, the recognized organ of the Methodist Church, under the title “Lies That Are Mountainous.” In his reply he suggested that a newspaper which published the words of Ingersoll should not be allowed in the homes of Christians or Jews – thus calling for a boycott of the paper. The Telegram promptly accepted the issue raised by Dr. Buckley and dared him to do his utmost. This set off a fight that was heard around the world. Stapled. 47 pages. #5148 #6.00

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by Frank R. Zindler Each time Christmas rolls around, newspapers carry articles purporting to be factual discussions of the Star of Bethlehem, quoting astronomers and religious writers. How reliable are such proofs of the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth? Not very reliable at all, explains Frank Zindler. He demonstrates that the story of the three Magi and the Star of Bethlehem is not only scientifically impossible, it is biblically implausible. Stapled. 14 pages. #5568 $4.00

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American Atheist — october 2008

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Discovery Institute: The High Church of Intelligent Design by Marc Carrier

“The designer of ID is, ultimately, the Christian God.”

—William A. Dembski, Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, in Focus on the Family, Friday Five[1] interview, 14 December 2007.

T

he fellows of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, promote the hypothesis of Intelligent Design (ID) as a valid refutation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, while most mainstream scientists see it as Biblical Creationism in disguise. So, is ID science or theology? That was the very question being asked in a Pennsylvania courtroom in 2005, as Judge John E. Jones—a George W. Bush appointee—presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.[2] The suit challenged the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board’s decision to introduce ID to high-school biology classes, a potential contravention of the Constitution’s First Amendment. After hearing witnesses on both sides of the issue—most experts for the defense were Discovery Institute fellows—Judge Jones arrived at the following conclusion: “It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would… reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science.” Since this courtroom defeat, the Discovery Institute has loudly denounced Judge Jones’s decision. A sampling of articles and interviews invoking a multitude of reasons for the allegedly erroneous judgement on ID is available on the institute’s Web-site: (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?com mand=submitSearchQuery). But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, The

institute’s fellows do protest too much, methinks. The Discovery Institute and its fellows would have you believe that theirs is an objective, purely scientific enquiry, and that ID is unrelated to Genesis-based creationism. But if ID reveals itself as theology—as Judge Jones found—could the Discovery Institute be a religious organization masquerading as a secular think tank? The evidence, as in the Dover courtroom, speaks for itself. Much like creationists and biblical literalists, the institute appears to have no difficulty living with glaringly absurd oppositions. As we shall see, their very words seem to confirm that self-contradiction is not an impediment to their zealous advocacy of ID. Here are a few examples: A sample query on the Discovery Institute’s Web-site Top Questions section (http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php) asks, “Is Discovery Institute a religious organization?” The answer reads in part: “Discovery Institute is a secular think tank, and its board members and fellows represent a variety of religious traditions, including mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and agnostic…Although it is not a religious organization, the Institute has a long record of supporting religious liberty and the legitimate role of faith-based institutions in a pluralistic society.” Fair enough.

Another question on the Web-site reads, “Is ID based on the Bible?” The first word of the answer is a categorical “No.” But we shall later examine how successfully the main proponents of ID—namely Behe, Luskin and a few others—manage to distance themselves from Genesis. Let us first explore how a denial of any link to the Bible puts the institute’s definition of ID at odds with William A. Dembski—a fellow of the Discovery Institute and a scientific superstar of the hypothesis—who states unequivocally that “The Designer of ID is, ultimately, the Christian God.” Yet, in answer to the question “Is the ID theory the same as creationism?” the text on the Discovery Institute’s Web-site states in part, “Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.” This is a critical disconnect with Dembski’s opinion. Of course, the institute might rightly argue that their fellows represent a number of opinions, bringing a healthy pluralism to the design debate. But how do they explain their institutional position found in the section entitled The “Wedge Document: So What?” presenting both the original piece (The Wedge, a position paper meant to remain confidential but leaked to a number of blogs), and an apology for the document that attempts to refute accusations of a hidden theological agenda, not very convincingly, as we shall see. The entire text is accessible online at: http://www. discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index. php?command=view&id=2101. The Wedge’s introductory page states, “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization is built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.” That is quite a statement, coming as it does from a self-described “secular organization.” But most of all and to put it crudely, it is a damned silly thing to say. october 2008 — American Atheist

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Even someone with a tenuous grasp of history knows that religion has frequently positioned itself as the enemy of democracy, human rights, and progress in the arts and sciences, now and throughout the centuries. Indeed, one could easily argue that Western progress is the direct result of religion (and its concomitant “divine right”) being discarded in favour of a more humanistic view of the world. Nonetheless, to rationalize this theistic worldview, they add, “Here is the truth, whole and nothing but: Many— though not all—of our fellows believe in God. Most of them think that this belief has played a positive influence on the development of Western culture.” Okay, but the opening statement of The Wedge does not come from an individual fellow. The document is a collective, institutional statement. The Wedge also reads, “Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces, and whose behaviours and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment.” This is the preface to a vicious attack on the philosophy of materialism, as the authors serve up typical creationist rhetoric through a conflation of Darwin’s theory of evolution and social Darwinism: “Consider, for example, the eugenics crusade pushed by Darwinist biologists early in the twentieth century or the present denial of personal responsibility endemic in our legal system and therapeutic culture.” And again, “Materialism is a dehumanizing philosophy that has been used to justify genocide, infanticide and eugenics, among other evils. We want to see it discredited…,” which is much like saying that the printing press produced Mein Kampf, thus we should castigate Guttenberg and destroy his devilish contraption. The reader should recall that we are referring to a “secular” organization that defends a “scientific” hypothesis, as the final blow to any pretence at secularism 20

American Atheist — october 2008

comes from this astonishing statement, again in The Wedge: “Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture wants to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” And they attempt to massage this statement into harmlessness, as they state without intended irony, “Please note…that ‘consonant with’ means ‘in harmony with’ or ‘consistent with.’ It does not mean the ‘same as.’” This “secular” organization is actually stating that science, which is in harmony and consistent with Christian, theistic convictions is somehow better and different from “same as.” And what does “same as” mean in this context? Are they saying that confusing science with religion is wrong, but elaborating scientific theories based on the Christian bible is okay? Dissecting their statements in search of logic is pointless. Perhaps elucidation is impossible and the confusion is deliberate, as the Discovery Institute plays a theistic shell game: First you see Him, and then you don’t! If indeed the Discovery Institute’s position were logical and defensible, then surely the English language provides a sufficiency of vocabulary for a clear and intelligent explanation. And how about individual fellows of the institute, can they offer convincing arguments to demonstrate the “secular” nature of the organization? Can they provide coherent explanations for the glaring contradictions? The answer is, no. Responses from the institute’s spokespersons and fellows just bring more of the same befuddling circumlocution. First, William A. Dembski, as we have seen, pulls no punches, as he at least offers the advantages of honesty and clarity by designating the god of the Christians as the designer of the universe. Other disciples of ID include Michael J. Behe—father of the irreducible complexity argument—and his disciple, Scott Minnich. A series of communications culminated with the following queries being put to both of them. “Logic dictates that design requires a designer: who then is the designer?” It was further suggested that if the causal agent of de-

sign (the designer) was in the realm of the natural world, then perhaps it just might be…the process of evolution! The institute delegated staff member Casey Luskin to provide answers. He writes, “All the data tell you is that the designer was intelligent—not whether the designer is natural or supernatural, and it doesn’t allow you to determine whether the designer is God, Buddha, Yoda, or Allah, or something else. ID takes a scientific approach and does not try to address religious questions that cannot be addressed via scientific evidence.” Firstly, one could argue that the data do not “tell you” anything at all, but that a few scientists infer design. This is conjecture, not an observable phenomenon. And, if ID does indeed take a scientific approach that avoids addressing religious questions, how does this square with the Institute’s stated purpose of replacing evil materialism “…with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”? Luskin then quotes from the writings of Michael J. Behe[3]: “Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel—fallen or not; Plato’s demiurge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travellers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. Of course, some of these possibilities may seem more plausible than others based on information from fields other than science.” Fields other than science? Based on the firm statements made by the Discovery Institute, would it be foolish to conclude that the answer is in the field of Christian theology? Could we dare suggest Genesis as a source of information? Behe is being coy, flirting with the Christian god without actually naming Him—theological hide and seek. Cute, but is it science? Luskin then offers us a selection from Dembski’s work[4]: “At the same time, ID resists speculating about the nature, moral character or purposes of this intelligence (here is a task for the theologian—to connect the intelligence inferred by the design theorist with the


God of Scripture.)” This from the same William A. Dembski who in an apparent change of heart states that his new book “…puts to rest a lot of those biased and misrepresented claims about ID.” Confusion may not be far behind when, in the same interview, he adds, “I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of ID is, ultimately, the Christian God. The focus of my writings is not to try to understand the Christian doctrine of creation; it’s to try to develop ID as a scientific program.” Is Dembski not simply saying that he is constructing a scientific theory that fits his religious beliefs? Okay, let us try to unravel this mess. In Dembski’s own words, he asserts that advocates of ID do not speculate about the nature of the designer, stating that this is a job for theologians. But he has no problem proclaiming the Christian God as the designer of the natural world…even if he claims that he is not in the business of understanding the Christian doctrine of Creation, as he attempts to develop ID as an objective scientific program. Does any of this make any sense? No, it is simply ID unable, perhaps unwilling, to cast off the clerical garb of creationism. And, should Judge Jones have decided otherwise, imagine ID being taught in science classes, with highschool teachers attempting to make sense of such statements for a class of restless teen-agers. Luskin concludes with a quote from Phillip E. Johnson, the born-again Christian attorney who dreamed up ID without any training in the biological sciences (He also questions the fact that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS): “[M]y personal view is that I identify the designer of life with the God of the Bible…” Adepts of ID offer very little in the way of compelling scientific evidence to support their hypothesis, but if they could make an unequivocal commitment to a strictly secular endeavour, perhaps Judge Jones would have come to a different conclusion. But the enquiry of mere mortals, armed only with common sense, fails to reveal any consistent reasoning from the devotees of ID and

the Discovery Institute. ID is the work of an intelligent designer, they tell us, and He could be God…we’re not saying it definitely is God, they hasten to add, but it could be Him...we’re staying away from theology, they claim, but it could be God, right? Much as in a religious cult, a closed system of logic[5] appears to be at work, a protocol of reasoning accessible only to the initiates. It allows the Discovery Institute and its fellows to contradict themselves, sometimes within the same paragraph, without infirming their basic postulate: That ID is a legitimate scientific pursuit…a hypothesis we are expected to accept on faith. k Notes [1] h t t p : / / w w w. c i t i z e n l i n k . o r g / c o n t e n t / A000006139.cfm (all quotes from Dembski ibid) [2] Memorandum Opinion Kitzmiller v. Dover December 20, 2005 PDF file (http://www.pamd. uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf ) [3] Michael Behe, “The Modern ID Hypothesis,” Philosophia Christi, Series 2, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2001), pg. 165, emphasis added. [4] William Dembski, “What Every Theologian Should Know About Creation, Evolution & Design,” in Unapologetic Apologetics (Chapter 13), pg. 225-226, 2001, (InterVarsity Press). [5] Margaret Thaler Singer, “Cults: What Are They? Why Now?,” May/June 1979, in Forecasts for Home Economics.

Marc Carrier is an ISA trained art appraiser and a member of IFAR (International Foundation for Arts Research), with a specialty in fraud investigation. He has notably exposed high-profile art frauds involving a forged Georges Rouault, a deliberately misattributed Rembrandt, a deliberately misattributed Raphael (Madonna di Loreto), as well as several fraudulent art investment schemes. He has come to an interest in pseudoscience through a study of the psychology of art-fraud victims, their apparent desire “to be fooled,” and their overwhelming need to “believe” in spite of the evidence. Marc Carrier is a regular contributor to Science et pseudoscience, the official publication of AFIS (Association française pour l’information scientifique), as well as publishing in various professional journals and consumer publications in the US and the UK.

Judging God It Is Time to Judge Religions and Their Gods by John A. Henderson, M.D. and Craig Gurgew

Religions and their gods have been judging us since we created our first gods thousands of years ago. It is now our turn to judge the gods. 2007 Parkway Publishers, Inc. Boone, North Carolina 294 pages, paperback, $19.95

Fear Faith Fact Fantasy

by John A. Henderson, M.D. Coming in the aftermath of 9/11, this book can relieve guilt over your failure to live up to others’ beliefs and can help you to find the courage to speak out against religious bigotry and intolerance. 2003 Parkway Publishers, Inc. Boone, North Carolina xii + 235 pages, hard cover, $19.95

god.com a deity for the new millennium

by John A. Henderson, M.D.

This book can help you to help your religious friends overcome their fear of the vengeful, cruel god they have been made to believe in since childhood. It may help others to speak out when they see religious leaders using their gods to incite cruelty and hatred. Second edition 2005 Parkway Publishers, Inc. Boone, North Carolina vi + 211 pages, paperback, $16.95 These books may be ordered on-line at www. johnhenderson-god.com or by e-mail from the author at jrh828@webtv.net (Not available from American Atheist Press) october 2008 — American Atheist

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It’s a Frackin’ Cracker! by PZ Myers

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here are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion. Here’s a story that will destroy your hopes for a reasonable humanity. University of Central Florida student Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist—a small bread wafer that to Catholics is symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it—out of mass, didn’t eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it. This isn’t the stupid part yet. He walked off with a cracker that was put in his mouth, and people in the church fought with him to get it back. It is just a cracker! Catholics worldwide became furious. Would you believe this isn’t hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this—Webster Cook has been sent death threats over his cracker. Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese: “We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

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American Atheist — october 2008

“We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added, “to send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.” Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further? Well, you could have a priest compare this event to a kidnapping. “It is hurtful,” said Father Migeul Gonzalez with the Diocese. “Imagine if they kidnapped somebody and you make a plea for that individual to please return that loved one to the family.” Gonzalez said the Diocese is willing to meet with Cook and help him understand the importance of the Eucharist in hopes of him returning it. The Diocese is dispatching a nun to UCF’s campus to oversee the next mass, protect the Eucharist — in hopes Cook will return it. I like the idea of sending a scary nun to guard the ceremony at the next mass. But even better…let’s send Webster Cook to hell! Gonzalez said intentionally abusing the Eucharist is classified as a mortal sin in the Catholic church, the most severe possible. If it’s not returned, the community of faith will have to ask for forgiveness. “We have to make acts of reparation,” Gonzalez said. “The whole com-

munity is going to turn to prayer. We’ll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well.” Get some perspective, man! IT’S A CRACKER. And of course, Bill Donohue is outraged (I know, Donohue is going to die of apoplexy someday when a gnat violates his oatmeal, so this isn’t saying much). “For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance— is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.” Oh, beyond hate speech. Where does this fit on the Shoah scale, Bill? It shouldn’t even register, but here is WildEyed Bill the Offended calling for the expulsion of a student…for not swallowing a cracker. Would you believe that the mealy-mouthed president of the university, John Hitt, is avoiding defending his student is instead playing up the importance of the Catholic church to the university? Of course you would. That’s what university presidents do. Bugger the students, keep the donors and the state reps happy. Unfortunately, Webster Cook has now returned the cracker. Why? Webster just wants all of this to go away. Especially now that he feels his life is in danger. That’s right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits. And Cook is not out of the fire yet — that Fox News story ends with an open incitement to cause him further misery. University officials said, that as for right now, Webster Cook is not in trouble. If anyone or any group wants to file a formal complaint with the University through the student judicial system, they can. If that happens, Webster will go through a hearing either in front of an administrative panel or a panel of his peers.


Got that? If you don’t like what Webster Cook did, all you have to do is complain to the university, and they will do the dirty work for you of making his college experience miserable. And don’t assume the university would support Cook; the college is now having armed university police officers standing guard during mass. I find this all utterly unbelievable. It’s like Dark Age superstition and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions here in 21st century America. It is a culture of deluded lunatics calling the shots and making human beings dance to their mythical bunkum. So, what to do. I have an idea.

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photo-

graphed and presented on the Web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address. Just wait. Now there’ll be a team of Jesuits assigned to rifle through my mail every day. k Reprinted from Pharyngula by permission. PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He is a tireless defender of evolutionary science and a much-feared critic of so-called Intelligent Design.

october 2008 — American Atheist

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BOOK REVIEW

Reviewed by Dr. John W. Patterson, Emeritus Professor, Materials Science & Engineering, Iowa State University

W

orlds of Their Own is the joint effort of the late Bob Schadewald and his sister, Lois Schadewald. I first encountered Bob’s wry humor and talent as a science journalist back in April 1979 when I saw Bob’s “Hollow Earth Catalog” article in TWA’s Ambassador magazine. Bob’s satirical ‘ad’ for the International Flat Earth Research Society or IFERS (of California, where else?) appeared right next to his ad for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR, also of California). Thinking I’d be funny, I wrote the editors expressing my hope that the flatearthers would not be too outraged about being featured right next to the creationist cranks at the ICR of San Diego. My letter to the editor started a 20-year collaboration and friendship with Bob. He was delighted by my concern that the reputation of flat earth society might be sullied by being featured in such close proximity to the less biblical folks at the ICR. At the time, Bob was making arrangements to interview one of the most famous cranks of the twentieth century, namely, Immanuel Velikovsky, at his home in New Jersey. The plan was to publish the interview in FATE magazine on or before April 1980, the 30th anniversary of Velikovsky’s famously controversial book, Worlds in Collision. The interview materialized that November with both agreeing to clear up a few loose ends the following week. That interview, the last ever with Velikovsky, is included in Bob’s book. The section titled “One Man’s Collision With Science” includes Bob’s thoughts about Velikovsky (leading up to and then long after Dr. Velikovsky’s last-ever interview) as well as the reprint from FATE of the interview itself. Bob and I collaborated on subjects 24

American Atheist — october 2008

from impossible energy scams, such as the so-called perpetual motion schemes detailed in Part II, to the scientifically ridiculous apologetics then being marketed as “creation science” by the ICR and other creationist ministries of the young-earth persuasion. In Part II, “The Perpetual Delusion,” Lois presents seven brief and mostly breezy chapters that nicely capture Bob’s thoughts on perpetual motion schemes both historical and recent. Since my own research and teaching dealt so directly with thermodynamics, Bob and I focused primarily on the pseudosciences of perpetual motion and creationism. The pseudoscientific tactics and delusions of creationists are elaborated in Part IV, “The Plane Truth Confronts Creationism,” in Part V, “Lying for God: The Truth about Creationism,” and especially in the last chapter of Part VI, “The Philosophy of pseudoscience.” That last chapter is titled, “Creationist Propaganda Methods.” In Part II, we meet the hapless flatearthers in “It’s a Small Flat World.” In Bob’s view, the young-earth creationists in contemporary America exhibit the same kinds of hubris, debate tactics, and scriptural support that worked so well for the most successful flat-earth evangelists of 19th-century England. When I use the term “hapless,” it is because today’s flat-earthers find themselves the butt of everyone else’s jokes. This is especially true of the self-proclaimed biblical inerrantists who belong to or support the ICR. Like the Bible-believing geocentrists out there, the ICR-type creationists feel an almost hysterical need to distance themselves from the flat-earthers, whom they deride for being singularly outlandish, anti-scientific and, worst of all, anti-scriptural. Oh, would that it were so! As Schadewald so convincingly demonstrates, the Bible, when literally interpreted by any honest reader, is not only a creationist book from cover to cover, it also teaches that the earth is flat

Worlds of Their Own A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair. Robert J. Schadewald, author Lois A. Schadewald, editor Xlibris (2008) ISBN: 978-1-4363-0435-1 272 pages, hard cover, $19.99 and fixed in the very center of creation. In other words, the bible is as much a flat earth/geocentric book from Genesis to Revelation as it is a creationist book and this is a matter of the greatest consternation to all those Bible-believing, biblical literalists who insist that scripture supports their creationist (or geocentrist) worldview, but not that of the flat-earthers. And lest you thought that nobody in his right mind these days could still hold to the earth-centered or geocentrist’s view of the cosmos, think again. If anything in Schadewald’s book is capable of igniting a nationwide firestorm of protest, surely it is his incen-


diary, but solidly documented, position that the Bible, when literally interpreted, is a flat-earth, geo-centrist book. The straightforward, plainly written exegesis presented in chapter 16, is both honest and unassailable, so it will be interesting to see what kinds of polemics the Biblebelieving detractors will use to counter the obvious implications. And I hope they do just that. Should enough oblige my wish, Worlds of Their Own could become as widely scorned by today’s religious right as was Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision by the scientists of the 1950s — or better yet, as despised as Martin Gardner’s In the Name of Science (Putnam, 1952) was by the hysterical throngs of Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone enthusiasts in and around 1950s New York. In both cases, Gardner recently reminded me, the clamor f protesters only advanced the sales of both books — Gardner’s and Velikovsky’s — far beyond what they could have achieved without the protests. Years before we met, Bob and I had both read the updated edition of Gardner’s book, which by then had the title, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (Dover, 1957). Being rather naïve at the time, I took many of Gardner’s hilarious exposés to be more in the vein of fictional spoofs than accurate accounts: I could hardly imagine that any contemporary grown-ups would even entertain such things, much less commit to them. Bob knew better, of course, and found in Gardner’s book the inspiration needed to fashion himself into an investigative science journalist of the same ilk. In addition to the sampling of Bob’s own works, Lois has also included a variety of brief personal commentaries from some of those who knew Bob personally or professionally. Some are from his fellow skeptics and like-minded combatants against the advocates of Bible-based science, but some of the most touching ones were contributed by detractors of the creationist persuasion. I found them all well worth reading.

Among the more widely circulated periodicals to run pieces by Schadewald are: the Smithsonian, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Technology Illustrated, TWA’s Ambassador and Science Digest. He also published occasional opinion pieces and investigative reports in various newspapers, but especially his hometown Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Among the lesser known were the Skeptical Inquirer, Creation/Evolution (both the journal and the newsletter) and the NCSE Reports published by the National enter for Science Education, in which Bob was a very active member and eventually a prominent editor and official. But Bob also contributed to periodicals that most skeptics would disregard as too “fringey.” Included here would be journals like FATE, The Bible Science Newsletter and, to be sure, the geocentrist publication formerly known as The Bulletin of the Tychonian Society. There is a most important validation for the Atheistic worldview to be gleaned from the ongoing history of perpetual motion schemes such as Bob details in Part II, “The Perpetual Delusion.” The lesson is this: perpetual motion is only one of the impossible ideas to have gained widespread popular support, despite overwhelming empirical evidence for its non-existence. Other examples from the history of science include the luminiferous aether, the vital life force and the origin of species by means of supernatural creation. In all cases, the uniformly pathetic empirical track records associated with these notions have served to justify an acrossthe-board denial of reality status to each and every one. When viewed from this perspective, it becomes apparent that all things supernatural — the God notion being only one example — are relegated to the category of notions that do not exist outside the realm of purely imaginary ideas. To be more explicit, the track record for all God-based interpretations of reality, when put up against purely Atheistic

interpretations, has been one of complete and utter failure. In all cases, Atheistic interpretations have proved to be so superior in so many ways, that one by one over the centuries, all the God-based interpretations of reality, no matter how deeply entrenched they may have been, have since been completely supplanted by one or more vastly superior, 100 percent Atheistic (i.e., God-less) alternatives. The criteria that honest investigators use when comparing God-ly vs. God-less interpretations include the following: their predictive capacity, their explanatory power, the number of testable new branches of science and technology they lead to, the amounts of mystery and otherwise hopeless bewilderment they eliminate, and so on. So superior have the God-less interpretations of nature proved to be over the God-based ones, that science has now come to the point where it no longer entertains any interpretations that carry even the slightest hint of supernaturalism. This parallels the way that science no longer entertains any proposals that seem connected in any significant way to the idea of perpetual motion. In other words, the history of empirical science establishes beyond reasonable doubt that it is quite possible to ‘prove’ (for practical a well as theoretical purposes) ‘all kinds of negatives’ despite what scholastics and philosophically inclined clerics and theologians would have us believe. Making this point in a most explicit way is important because without it no Atheist could logically justify going beyond the bounds of agnosticism and skepticism in order to more fully embrace the richness of a completely Atheistic worldview. Worlds of Their Own is both an entertaining and science-based discussion of the crackpottery that is given too much credence in today’s world. For scientists, engineers, philosophers, and non-believers, it is a great addition to one’s personal library. k october 2008 — American Atheist

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The Founder’s 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 their names and amounts entered in subsequent issues of the American Atheist. 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.

Dick Hogan, TX – $200 Shane W. Roper, AZ – $75 Kaniksu Darwin, SC – $50 Stanley M. Bradley, OH – $125 Charles R. Mathews, FL – $200 Paul Young, NJ – $50 R. Dean Brunson, CA – $50 Scott Romanowski, MA – $50 Mark & Gayl Dybdahl, MI – $100 ANDREA MOORE-EMMETT WINS EXCELLENCE IN MEDIA AWARD FOR GOD’S BROTHEL

Congratulations, Andrea!

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Andrea Moore-Emmett, author of God’s Brothel, received the 2008 Award for Excellence in the Media from the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, and the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence. The Award is presented each year to a writer, filmmaker, actor, or other individual whose work has “contributed the most toward raising social awareness about child abuse and its potential for causing long lasting pain.”

A Book That Introduces Young Readers to Atheism Branton’s Blossoms is authored by Waymore Dendrites. It is a real-life memoir in which the author describes his experiences after he moves from the city out to the countryside. There he finds much that is beautiful and satisfying, but he also finds tragedy within the animal kingdom. Particularly, after he witnesses the suffering of orphaned animal babies whose mother was killed, he muses about the existence of suffering in the universe and whether a caring god could permit this. In a gentle way the author concludes that such a god does not exist.

God’s Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped

Branton’s Blossoms: Some Thoughts about Nature and God for Older Kids Nine to Ninety is distributed by Ingram and its affiliates. It is 80 pages long, with 40 pages of whimsical illustrations in black and white.

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Sale price is $5.95. http://www.secular4posterity.com/ ISBN: 9780976971535—paper; 9780976971542—e-book.

American Atheist — october 2008


The Art of Imparting Reasoning Skills by Heather Johnson

I

t’s an almost impossible process, to teach children to think for themselves and develop reasoning skills that are so important for survival in this world. Even experts in the field of pedagogy agree that it’s something that no one knows how to teach, but which is learnt somehow. But there is a general consensus that the skills of critical thinking and higher order cognitive reasoning can be enhanced through the right kind of instruction and hours and hours of practice. The great philosopher Plato put forward the theory that reasoning is a “muscle” that can be strengthened through training, just like in a sport. While some students are quicker than others at subjects that require logic and reasoning like mathematics and computer science, others are forced to adopt methods and strategies that help them enhance the reasoning skills we are born with. It’s not just a question of doing well in subjects in the classroom; it’s a question of survival in a world that throws up a myriad of choices and forces us to recognize facts, evaluate and sift information, and make the decision that’s right for us. Reasoning skills can be improved by: • The usage of diagrams and pictures along with sentences and symbols

to represent facts and information. Graphical representations strike a chord that makes it easier for the brain to assimilate and process information to come up with the most logical answers through reasoning. • Playing interactive video or computer games that demand creativity and lateral thinking to be able to survive in alternative worlds. Most games mimic real life situations and offer children the opportunity to test their analytical skills by throwing up challenging situations and asking them to deal with it. Games are being designed to train rescue personnel in war situations where a neighborhood has been bombed and they have to search for survivors and carry them to safety. Every aspect of real life, including first aid, CPR, and even death if the team is too late or makes a mistake, is incorporated into this virtual reality game. • Learning subjects that have formal methods and rules like mathematics and grammar builds reasoning skills through practice. • Encouraging children to think for themselves rather than spoon-feeding them with information. Most parents make the mistake of taking on their children’s projects as their own, and

thus preventing the child from coming up with his/her creative best. • Teaching children to compartmentalize problems into smaller parts, each of which can be solved independently to achieve the solution to the whole. This divide and conquer strategy holds good in a number of real world situations. Practice makes them adept at recognizing smaller problems within larger ones and tackling them first in an attempt to solve the more serious issue. • Game theory is another fascinating model that teaches reasoning skills – its also known as SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunities Threats) analysis in some circles. The principle is to identify the advantages and disadvantages of a particular problem situation and try and minimize the effects of the ‘cons’ as much as possible. The art of reasoning comes naturally to some – the others just have to follow the good old fashioned way of “practice makes perfect”. k This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on Alabama teacher certification courses. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal e-mail address: heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com. october 2008 — American Atheist

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The Foxhole Atheist

Jason Torpy

J

ason enlisted in the Army in 1994 as an Intelligence Interceptor. After earning top graduate honors from two intelligence training programs, Jason was offered direct admission to the United States Military Academy. After graduation, Jason was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served for five years in Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq with the Army’s 1st Armored Division. Jason left the service in 2005 at the rank of Captain. Jason has been active with the nontheist community since entering the military and continues to serve as an activist for Atheist and secular causes. He has addressed issues of separation of church and state and equal opportunity for nonreligious service members in Army basic training, Army parachutist training, military academy programs, and in combat situations. Jason has served as the president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers since 2001 and continues to support the military community in his civilian status. Jason earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Management from West Point and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from The Ohio State University. Jason reports one of the most significant events he experienced in Iraq as an Atheist serving in the combat zone was an incident in which his base received incoming close mortar fire and he found himself seeking cover with two other fellow soldiers who also happened to be Atheists. In spite of the extreme danger, Jeremy states none of them were remotely tempted to call on a deity for help, in refutation of the frequent claim that there are no Atheists in foxholes! k

Roof Rescue Fund Contributors Thanks to the generosity of the people listed below American Atheists is well on the way to paying for the rescue of the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library & Archives. In May of 2008 it was discovered that leaks in the roof of the American Atheist Center in Cranford, New Jersey, had increased to the point that they had damaged books in the stockroom and were threatening even the irreplaceable Atheist library housed in the same building. When the leaks actually reached the library, an urgent appeal for funds went out to help defray the more than $70 thousand being spent from the Trust Fund to replace the roof. The new roof is up; the library is safe. We thank all the donors listed below whose contributions have been received as we go to press. Their help is greatly appreciated. They are truly Atheist heroes! Kaniksu Darwin Joseph Nemeth Doug Tracy Martin boyd Edwin Hughes 28

American Atheist — october 2008

$50.00 $2,000.00 $25.00 $100.00 $100.00

Betty Backes Hazel Fisher Mack Quinn Norm Marincic Glen Law

$75.00 $35.00 $100.00 $50.00 $50.00

Robert Finch Roy Firestone Scott Smith

$121.50 $50.00 $25.00


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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.

DEFINITIONS Atheism is the Weltanschauung (comprehensive conception of the world) of persons who are free from theism (free from religion). It is predicated on ancient Greek Materialism. Atheism involves the mental attitude that unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds. Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind, finding the resources within themselves, can and must create their own destiny. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve it. It holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice. Materialism’s “faith” is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own efforts. This is a commitment that is, in its very essence, life-asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation that is impossible without noble ideas that inspire us to bold, creative works. Materialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

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 tax-deductible. (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 ($65) and Wall-Builder ($150) membership types, $40 covers your magazine subscription. The remainder of your dues ($25 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.

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American Atheist — october 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) 701-6265 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) 938-5960 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) 462-0572 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 David Kong, Director of State and Regional Operations at dksf@atheists.org.


American Atheist Center

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PO Box 158, Cranford, NJ 07016 delivery address

225 Cristiani Street, Cranford, NJ 07016 phone

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

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