American Atheists Essential Reading List Enjoy the introductory information provided in these books, which are of topics of interests to Atheists. These titles represent only a fraction of the books available from American Atheist Press, yet collectively they provide a broad overview of Atheist thought. ion
Pages Book Style STOCK# PRICE Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller 16010 $22.00 An anthropologist advances Atheists and Atheism beyond belief!
Christianity before Christ by John G. Jackson Christian doctrines are traced to their origins in older religions. The Case Against Religion by Albert Ellis A psychotherapist’s view of the harmful aspects of religious belief.
Living in the Light by Anne R. Stone Subtitled “Freeing Your Child from the Dark Ages” This book serves as a manual for Atheist parents.
Our Constitution: The Way It Was by Madalyn O’Hair American Atheist Radio Series episodes about the myth that our founding fathers created a Christian nation. What on Earth is an Atheist! by Madalyn O’Hair American Atheist Radio Series episodes on various topics of Atheist philosophy and history.
The Bible Handbook by G. W. Foote, W. P. Ball, et al. A compilation of biblical absurdities, contradictions, atrocities, immoralities and obscenities.
An Atheist Epic by Madalyn O’Hair The personal story of the battle to end mandatory prayer and bible recitation in schools in the United States.
65 Press Interviews by Robert G. Ingersoll Ingersoll’s 19th-century newspaper interviews as a Freethinker and opponent of superstition.
An Atheist Primer by Madalyn O’Hair A humorous look at god concepts will help children (and adults) have a clear view of religion.
An Atheist Looks at Women & Religion by Madalyn O’Hair Why attempts to reconcile religion with civil rights for women are self-defeating.
The Jesus the Jews Never Knew by Frank R. Zindler A search of ancient Jewish literature yields no evidence for the existence of any historical Jesus. The Great Infidels by Robert G. Ingersoll How nonbelievers and Atheists have contributed to civilization and enriched our lives.
The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus by René Salm Jesus couldn’t have come from Nazareth because no one was living there at the time.
Illustrated Stories From The Bible by Paul Farrell You can bet this book won’t ever be used In Sunday Schools!
Jesus is Dead by Robert M. Price Not only is there no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead, there is no reason to think he ever lived or died at all!
Please see the order form enclosed with this magazine for member discounts and shipping details, or consult www.atheists.org.
MARCH 2009 Vol 47, No.3
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print) ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS Managing Editor Frank R. Zindler email@example.com AMERICAN ATHEIST ‘A Journal of Atheist News and Thought’ General Editor Bill Hampl firstname.lastname@example.org Design & Layout Editor David Smalley email@example.com Cover Design David Smalley Published monthly (except June & December) by American Atheists Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 158 Cranford, NJ 07016 908.276.7300 P 908.276.7402 F www.atheists.org ©2009 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
From The President Ed Buckner
Letter from the Editor: Across Party Lines Bill Hampl
The Jesus Lizard David Eller
‘Inauguration’ & ‘Two Lines’ Poetry by Edwin Kagin
New State Director Announcements Michael Doss & Greg Lammers
A Personal Story George Nickle
The God Puzzle Bruce Murphy
Where Have all the Miracles Gone? Taylor Carr
22 America: One Nation Under God David McAfee 24 The Bible Belt Dennis Altman 28
In Memory of a Life-Long Atheist Roger Long, for his father - Virgil Warren Long
Aims and Purposes
State Directors Listing
FROM THE I
f you’ve already read David Eller’s superb book, Atheism Advanced (American Atheist Press, 2007), you’re excused. Eller says the essence of what I want you to think about and says it more eloquently, subtly, and effectively than I can. A grossly oversimplified version of his last chapter might be, “Not believing in any gods makes you an Atheist; not accepting any ill-founded, unsupported malarkey of any kind can make you a good Atheist, a good skeptic, a rational actor, and a conscientious citizen.” Eller’s word for giving up belief—not just religious belief, but any poorly supported notion, including “belief in belief”—is “discredism.” I’m not fond of the word, for some reason, but I urge my fellow Atheists to go well beyond simple rational rejection of one or another religious propositions and to think critically always and in all ways. Our organization will—must—continue to fight for the rights and reputations
of Atheists everywhere, especially of our members but also for all who fail various tests of religious orthodoxy. We will continue, I hope, to count among our number members of all the political parties, conservatives as well as liberals or libertarians, socialists as well as free-market enthusiasts. We welcome gay and lesbian members, though we’re not a gay rights organization. We are not a women’s rights organization, but we practice and encourage gender equality. We have members and leaders who champion gun control and others who are instructors for the National Rifle Association. We will not support political parties or candidates— as a 501(c)(3) educational organization, we cannot do so by law, but we shouldn’t anyway. As Eller noted on his last page, “There is no single final form for an atheist world, just as there is no single human culture.” While we will not, as an organization, adopt specific political stances nor go beyond fighting against religious
“I love my neighbor because I do, and nothing more. I hold the door open for you, because you are human, and nothing more. I will reach out and help you because I’m here and I can, and nothing more. I simply treat you the way I wish to be treated without any set of rules, rituals, or spiritual guilt in my life. I have nothing to be sorry for, and nothing to repent. I am free of your burdens. I am living true freedom everyday and it’s the most beautiful way to enjoy life. I am an Atheist, and a Secular Humanist, and I’ve never been more proud.” — David Smalley 4
American Atheist - March 2009
PRESIDENT irrationality in all its forms, we should all, as individual Atheists, strive constantly to be skeptical, to choose scientific analysis over emotionalism, to be rational and thoughtful. Avoiding the word “believe” may not be all that important. Avoiding the habit of unthinkingly accepting something—anything, not just some god concept—based on mere belief is important. I hope to see members of American Atheists and other readers of this magazine in Atlanta in April where they can hear Dr. Andy Thomson, Mike Malloy, Nate Phelps, and Michelle Goldberg, and experience so much more in a setting chosen with great care by convention chair Arlene-Marie and the committee she leads. And Richard Dawkins!—literally the most famous Atheist on our planet—will be there. It will be stimulating and great fun. See our Web-site or elsewhere in this issue for all the details.
Is ‘Not Believe’ All We Have to Do?
Ed Buckner, PhD President of American Atheists
March 2009 - American Atheist
ACROSS PARTY LINES
s I continue discussing Atheism within popular culture, I want to consider comments from Hendrik Hertzberg’s blog on NewYorker.com. Hertzberg is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a gifted prose stylist whose normal topic is political commentary. He is the author of such books as Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966–2004 and One Million. What prompted me to address Hertzberg’s blog in American Atheist is Hertzberg’s December 31, 2008, entry, ‘Three Strikes (Strike Two: Pastor Rick).’ This particular entry discusses Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. After noting that his own favorable opinion of Warren has declined over the past few months, Hertzberg notes that Obama’s choice “has produced anger and/or hurt feelings in many liberal and/or gay precincts” and Hertzberg writes that he himself “understand[s] these feelings and sympathize[s] with them.” Why such feelings over Obama’s choice of this Rick Warren person? Well, after Hertzberg notes that Warren “contends Jews and [A]theists are automatically hellbound.” Hertzberg presents some of Warren’s other stances, such
as his position (‘pro’) on assassinating ‘evildoers,’ such as the president of Iran. Also, the reader learns Warren’s opinions (‘anti’) of homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexuals who live together in a sexual relationship. After reading of Warren’s biases—and as the blog entry continues, Hertzberg provides even more—I was amazed by Hertzberg’s next comment: “Nevertheless, the invitation to Warren looks to me like another of Obama’s brilliant chess moves.” Hertzberg defends his own stance, claiming that Warren is “much less of a jerk” than ministers such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson. In addition, Hertzberg notes that Miller is “polite and civil to people who are polite and civil to him” and recognizes that issues such as global warming and poverty are actual problems negatively affecting our society. This justification seems strange. If being “much less of a jerk” than Robertson and Dobson, if being polite and civil toward people who are already polite and civil, and if appreciating the dangers of environmental and socio-economic issues are qualifications, then I can think of better candidates than Warren. Explaining his reasoning, Hertzberg asserts that Obama’s choosing Warren exemplifies Obama’s reaching across lines of identity and ideology, recalling the “wonderful lines from the 2004 keynote”: “We worship an awesome God in the blue states. . . and, yes, we have some gay friends in the red states.” Frankly, what makes these lines “wonderful” escapes me, and although this keynote comment raised
American Atheist - March 2009
my eyebrow—let’s say, my left one— Hertzberg’s next comment successfully raised my other. Hertzberg immediately notes, “I don’t worship any gods, whether awesome or lame, but when Obama said this I didn’t feel in the least slighted.” I can only assume that Hertzberg has much thicker skin than I do—perhaps from all his years of living in New York? Speaking as a gay Atheist, I certainly do feel slighted. I do not worship any god and am puzzled by the association of gay men and women with red states. As Hertzberg continues, his tone becomes more positive. He asserts that Warren’s invitation should ease Obama’s changing of federal policies, “out of his [Obama’s] sense of the general good, [and] not lobbying ordinance in a culture war.” I’m with Hertzberg, on this one, and all for using the power of reason in lieu of fighting cultural wars. For me, the most hopeful portion of Hertzberg’s blog entry is its latter part, particularly its strong conclusion. Toward the end, Hertzberg comments on his recent visit to the religious Covenant College, in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He notes that the students there as well
as he himself live in bubbles, albeit in separate bubbles: “Theirs: a constricted, six-thousandyear-old world ruled by an incorrigibly smallminded God, the secrets of which are to be found in a black-bound anthology of unreliably translated old tribal stories, poems, directives, and tracts” and “Ours: an unimaginably immense, unimaginable ancient universe ruled by no one, the wonders and beauties of which are continually being revealed to us through our sense and our minds.” With these lines, he astutely paints the differing worldviews of believers and nonbelievers. Finally, Hertzberg closes by noting that Warren’s appearance “will have a calming effect on evangelicals. The rest of us—liberals, gays, secularists, unorthodox Jews, non-Christianist Christians—ought to stay calm, too.” Obviously, Hertzberg is far more optimistic about Warren than are others. In this new period of United States history, we are ruled by a new President, one we hope will bring about great changes. However, let us stand firm in our belief that our universe is still ruled by no deity, incorrigibly small-minded or otherwise.
American Atheist Announcement CORRECTION: René Salm, author of the article “Nazareth, Faith, and the Dark option” (American Atheist, January 2009) wishes to point out two errors that got past the editing stage. In the second paragraph of the article it is not the editors of BAIAS who are apparently upset at the controversial Nazareth material, but those scholars who have dug at Nazareth. Also, in the seventh paragraph, the words “none of them an archaeologist” should be deleted, as the academic credentials of one of the scholars involved are as yet unknown to the author. March 2009 - American Atheist
The Jesus Lizard By David Eller C
hristianity prides itself, indeed bases itself, upon its historical uniqueness and its miraculous claims. The key claim integrates both: there was, only once in all of time, a mortal born of a virgin—a miracle birth which only a supernatural being could have arranged by spiritually impregnating the virgin. If the miracle of virgin-birth did not happen, then Christianity is false. But if it happened more than once, in fact if it is quite a normal occurrence, then it is no particular miracle, and Christianity is wounded again. So comes the news that Flora the komodo dragon has given birth to not one but five babies although she has never been touched by male hands (or any other parts)—in other words, a virgin birth (more technically known as ‘parthenogenesis,’ which is just Greek for ‘virgin birth’). And apparently this was not the first time: another female komodo gave birth to fatherless babies in early 2006, and apparently some seventy species of snakes and lizards regularly reproduce asexually. 8
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Something odd must be going on in Christian heaven.
What are good irrationalists like Christians supposed to do with this information? There are several possible interpretations, none of which will make them very happy. One is that ‘virgin births’ are really not so miraculous after all: why, even a lizard can do it. Humans, they could argue, don’t procreate asexually, so it is still a miracle when it happens to one of us. Perhaps, but one response is that maybe humans are finally catching up to lizards with their parthogenetic abilities; maybe we are ‘evolving’ into asexual beings. (Christians should even
find some comfort in that development, since they seem so unhinged about sex anyhow.) Another more disturbing interpretation is that their god really was involved in the miracle-lizards born without earthly fathers. Could it be that Jehovah is the mystery parent? After all, if Yahweh can impregnate his human creatures, why not his reptilian creatures? Of course, one would be left to wonder why the all-father would do this. The only reasonable answer I can imagine (other than a perverse attrac-
tion to lizards on the almighty’s part) is the decision to try again, to start all over again. It is conceivable that Adonai has given up on the human race and selected a different ‘chosen people’—who are not even people this time— to do his work on earth. One or all of the baby lizards may be the lizard messiah, come to lead the lizards to the light and the way and the truth. Humans, in other words, may have lost their divine charge—and who would blame the big guy, after the mess humans have made with their opportunity. Time will tell: we have to wait and see whether any of the lizardlets
shows any precocious talents and, especially, rises from the dead. I can imagine only one other possibility: that the whole human-virgin-birth story is just
“‘virgin births’ are really not so miraculous after all...”
that: a story. It might be that ancient humans noticed reptile virgin births and concocted a tale about a human woman doing the same. That is to say, it never happened. No heavenly father was involved in the lizards’ birth, and no heavenly father was involved in the baby Jesus’ birth either—if a baby Jesus was ever even born at all. There are no miracles, and certainly no supernatural babymakings, just nature doing its odd and diverse things, to which the undisciplined human mind is prone to attach all sorts of precious but silly meanings.
Prof. David Eller is a cultural anthropologist who has conducted field research among Aboriginal societies in Australia and now teaches anthropology in Denver, Colorado. His recent college textbook, Introducing Anthropology Of Religion, is being hailed as the most significant introduction to the scientific study of religion in a decade.
March 2009 - American Atheist
We had seen sights, but this mocked our imaginations We had used words, but this defied our metaphors We had once been, our heritage proclaimed, “One Nation Indivisible,” and “Out of Many, One” Until smallness of soul began to smother dreams. Then, suddenly, sorely profaned, and wounded, soon to die Our nation did an unimagined thing We rolled away the stone We shook the heels of history upon retreating wrongs We watched as hope, long dormant, bloomed And, through eyes blurred with tears, We went outside and raised the flag. -Edwin Kagin
American Atheist - March 2009
Kagin Two Lines
The future waits in one of two great lines, two endless human queues And each of us is in one line—there is no other line to choose.
Our journey as human creatures has fashioned these two lines
With very different features following very different signs.
Through kingdoms and through ages these lines unbroken run One line snaking into darkness; one line straining for the sun.
One line holds shining visions of what humankind can be
When at last we make decisions free of myth and tyranny.
Our race, our creeds, our sex, and the religions we proclaim In this line yield to human needs we cannot always name.
Some careless few within this line may hurt you and make you cry
But villains in the other line will kill you to watch you die.
Those marching in that other line seek to control not to achieve By trying to deceive our minds with lies that they believe.
Prizing money over friendship, and power over human need
They do not work for kinship but only for their greed.
Anyone can leave their line, whenever they see fit If perhaps they change their mind, from facts, or acts or wit.
No one must stay within a line where rules are learned by rote
That dictate how we all must live, and breed, and love, and vote.
In the coming great election, one line will finally decide If our future takes direction from the bright or evil side.
Set aside all pious passion of who you are and where you have been
What now must be in fashion is “Which line are you in?”
How will you answer to the future when a new world starts to dawn How will you tell your children which side of history you were on?
There are but two great questions to be raised when life must end,
“How did you use your roads and days?” And “Which line were you in?” March 2009 - American Atheist
CALIFORNIA STATE DIRECTOR
merican Atheists Announces the Appointment of Michael Doss as its New California Director
American Atheists is very pleased to announce the appointment of Michael Doss as the new director for California. Michael is based in Santa Ana, in the heart of Orange County. Working with local affiliate Orange County Atheists over the past several years, Michael has spearheaded some important projects, including monitoring city council invocations throughout the county for sectarian bias and opposing almost a dozen proposals to place â€˜In God We Trustâ€™ in public places. Michael has excellent leadership skills and a background in journalism. We are delighted to have him on board. Michael takes over the California position from Dave Kong. Dave has acted as state director for over 13 years. He is stepping down as California director so he can focus on his new position as the Director of State and Regional Operations for American Atheists. Dave says "I wanted a very strong person for California. After an extensive search throughout the state, Michael was clearly the most qualified candidate for the job. I am confident that the California members of American Atheists will be represented well, and I am excited about the new possibilities for our state." With and informed, vibrant, and active Atheist community throughout California, Michael is taking over an important role for the organization. Please feel free to contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcome him in his new position. 12
American Atheist - March 2009
merican Atheists is proud to announce the appointment of Greg Lammers as its new director for the state of Missouri. Greg is a life member of American Atheists, and is already familiar to many members across the country. He has excellent writing skills, and is looking forward to working with the Atheists throughout Missouri. Greg is already busy making contact with the affiliated groups throughout the state, and is planning on holding meetings in his home town of Columbia. Greg is enthusiastic about working for American Atheists, and looks forward to making a real difference. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
March 2009 - American Atheist
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
GET READY TO PACK YOUR BAGS FOR
35th National Convention of The
AMERICAN ATHEISTS Thursday, April 9th 6:00 – 9:00 PM Great Hearth Room Registration and informal reception with cash bar.
April 9-12, 2009
4HE %MORY #ONFERENCE #ENTER (OTEL s !TLANTA '! Friday, April 10th 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Lullwater Ballroom & 7:00 – 9:30 PM Silverbell Room Open Banquet, Award Ceremony, Members Meeting Saturday, April 11th 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Lullwater Ballroom &for 7:00 – 9:00 PMbash Silverbell Room Join us the Freethought of the year! Open Banquet, Honor Lifetime/Gift and Legacy Members
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 Hosted Breakfast Sunday, Apriloutstanding 12th Dining social events, talksRoom by renowned speakers, workshops and so much more. Arrive anytime between We’ll 8:00 have and a11:00 AM and berate greeted your board members & directors. special convention at thisby world-class meeting venue, plus extended ‘shoulder dates’ so you can visit the many tourism attractions in beautiful Atlanta! And don’t forget our 12th Thursday nightPM (April 9) Convention Sunday, April 12:00 - 5:00 PM Jump-Start for an evening of fun with fellow Atheists from around the world. Mark your calendar now — Afternoon Group Outing: Red State, Blue State; Old South, New South, From the Civil War to Civil Rights and look for more details in future issues of the American Atheist magazine!
Destinations being Stone Mountain and its many attractions, then on to the historical Ku Klux site and on to Sweet Auburn, the birthplace and resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King. $50 per person. Includes box lunch, transportation, and all admissions. Accessible for handicapped and limited mobility. Additional information: President, Ed Buckner (770) 803-5353 or atheists.org/events/National_convention.
American Atheist - March 2009
AMERICAN ATHEISTS NATIONAL CONVENTION APRIL 9-12, in Atlanta, Georgia Emory Conference Center Hotel 1615 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30329
merican 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! Don’t forget our Thursday night (April 9) Convention Jump-Start for an evening of fun with fellow Atheists from around the world. Said to be the “Best Kept Secret” in Georgia, the Emory is a hidden oasis as its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture and serene wooded views combine diverse meeting space, beautiful gardens, walking trails, and much more to create a one-of-a kind experience. The Emory is just 20 minutes from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The downtown business district and vibrant Buckhead are less than 12 minutes from the hotel. Complimentary on-site parking is an added bonus. The Emory offers a two-tiered guest room rate. Guest rooms in the hotel are $109 plus tax for single/double. Guest rooms in the inn (directly connected to the hotel) are $89 plus tax for single/double and include breakfast. You must make your reservations directly with the hotel on or before March 10, 2009 to enjoy our special convention rate. Be sure to tell them you are with the American Atheist convention.
Emory Hotel reservations: 404-712-6000 www.emoryconferencecenter.com
Confirmed Speakers Ed Buckner: President, American Atheists, Inc. Richard Dawkins: Evolutionist/science celebrity Mike Malloy: Nationally-syndicated talk radio personality Jim Morrow: Award-winning writer and novelist Dr. J. Anderson Thomson: Psychiatrist, researcher, author Nate Phelps: Estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps John Lombard: Beijing business owner, activist
(D)evangelical Stand Up Comedy Troupe “Mass De-baptism Ceremony”
March 2009 - American Atheist
APersonal Story By George Nickle
y mother always said that you can’t argue with a drunk. I extend that rule to religious people. God and drink seem to have the same effect: they make a perfectly intelligent and rational person believe all sorts of things that are clearly false. Nothing brings this fact home quicker than when your best friend suddenly finds drink or god. I’ll call her Sara. We met our first day in film school a decade and a half ago and have been something akin to brother and sister ever since. Sara was a member of Greenpeace and came from a liberal family of educators and artists. After graduation we moved to opposite sides of the continent, but we visited. There were always cards, emails, and calls. About a year ago she met a new guy: a Christian. About the same time she also befriended an old nun and they all got along just famously. Sara assured me that I’d like this nun. She was . . . ‘spiritual.’ I did not receive the customary card or gift that Christmas. Then my emails weren’t answered and my calls not returned. I was close to Sara’s sister—we’ll call her Sophia. Sophia was in LA and we got together for dinner. She was worried. Sara wasn’t herself. Sophia made it clear that now a whole range of topics was simply off the table when you talked to Sara. She’d also cut their parents off. I’d had enough and called from a business line so she wouldn’t recognize my ID and ignore me again. She seemed glad to hear me, but put me on speakerphone with her boyfriend. We were introduced, and I played nice. I steered clear of politics, sex, religion: all the good stuff Sara and I had gone on about at length and in detail for years. I called it ‘Sara rated G.’ Her sister called these exchanges her ‘Stepford Sara’ talks. I shot her an email, thanking her for the talk. She emailed back, using a phrase I’d hear over and over, ‘so much has changed.’ She didn’t really explain what or how. So I just asked her if she was a born again Christian. She said she 16
American Atheist - March 2009
wasn’t, yet, but launched into how Christianity had so much ‘wisdom’ to offer. It made her ‘happy.’ I proceeded carefully George Nickle has a BFA in Filmmaking from the and found that North Carolina School of while she and the the Arts. He runs Sovereign boyfriend didn’t Distribution, a DVD label that attend a church releases independent films and documentaries focusing they did listen each on GLBT issues. He recently week to a preacher finished his first Science called T.D. Jakes. Fiction novel. I googled him and one look at this diamond-encrusted, fat (whatever happened to ‘gluttony’ being a deadly sin?) oaf made me know it was much worse than I feared. She was learning to come to terms with tithing (I am sure to T.D.’s great pleasure) and declared it was really best if I never tried to defend anything in her past or my current life that didn’t conform to the boyfriend’s Christian views because he would (she put this in quotes) ‘take up the sword against me.’ Then there came the insistence that god is everywhere, everything. I told her I thought she had the same concept of spirituality she’d had in film school. Now she said ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ instead of ‘Goddess’ and ‘Nature.’ Sara had had problems, but who doesn’t? The nun and the boyfriend had obviously moved in when she felt vulnerable, and I just knew they’d pulled out the Hippie-Jesus on Sara. You know him: he’s the one that people who know better than to be Christian use as an example of why they are Christians. Hippie-Jesus is all about love and brotherhood and rejecting material goods (T.D., how will you explain the mansions and diamond rings to Hippie-Jesus?) and more! You expect to find Hippie-Jesus breaking bread with a homosexual, some lesbians, and a rainbow of people at the last supper. Oh, and the
meal was vegetarian too. Gone is the angry Jesus in the temple, the Jesus who encouraged his follows to forsake their families for him. This is the Jesus that got hold of Sara. I could fight him. And then every cliché of fundamentalist politics came streaming from her keyboard. Hatred for the government, Greenpeace, environmentalists who didn’t want to cut down trees left and right, the IRS, etc. I had to tell her I didn’t think she actually wrote this hateful email. She told me we couldn’t be honest any more, and when I asked “what is friendship without honesty?” that was that. She didn’t even get to tell me about how much she loved Sarah Palin, an ordeal through which she’d put her sister. She’d moved past even Hippie-Jesus into hateful, right-wing fundamentalism. There is no reasoning with this. There is something beyond logic at work, and I don’t know how to counter a deep desire for some kind of artificial ‘happiness’ and a faith in things you have to convince yourself is real, even if it means buttressing it with an entire worldview that is the antithesis of everything you’ve ever stood for. Sophia holds out hope. She thinks that if her sister is so interested in religion she’ll just take her to a nice Buddhist temple—something
“God and drink seem to have the same effect.”
not so scary like that. But this is where my own mother’s warning about arguing with a drunk comes in again: you can’t argue with a Christian. These people are constantly told that the greatest validation of their faith is suffering and persecution. When you tell them the truth, they see it as persecution, and it pushes them deeper into their sickness. You can’t argue with someone drunk on
god. And so I am left with more than a decade of wonderful memories and experiences that can no longer be shared. See, they all took place here in the natural world, and the person I formed them with has chosen to spend her time concerned with a place I cannot follow, because it doesn’t exist.
March 2009 - American Atheist
The God Puzzle By Bruce Murphy
’m a subscriber to DonExodus2’s channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/DonExodus2). He’s a Christian who has made some excellent science videos. He’s not a creationist, but he did make a two-part video on why he believes in god. He seems to be intelligent, highly educated and yet, he believes. I have always been fascinated by people like this. I suppose the only real answer is that they want to believe. In trying to think of an analogy for why this is, so I came up with a ‘god puzzle.’ Imagine we believe that god gives us a great puzzle to solve and all the abilities we’d require to solve it. We go out into the world and begin finding pieces of the puzzle (the beauty of butterflies, DNA is the building block of life, gravity is warping of space/time, etc.). We eagerly put these pieces together
knowing that the final picture will be the definition of what god is. However, when we have only a few pieces left we look at the puzzle and are horrified! Instead of a description of god, we can plainly see it says, ‘God does not exist.’ As a freethinker, we can overcome our shock and become enlightened. We’ve done it—we’ve solved the puzzle! For a believer, the truth paralyzes them. Their options are to let go of their preconceived ideas or to deny what they see (maybe demons are tricking them). They may smash the puzzle and attempt to hide the pieces forever. Or, in the case of educated believers, they
simply refuse to finish it. They’ll continue to collect puzzle pieces but will stop putting them together. They’d rather spend time finding pieces than solving puzzles. I always thought that this would make a good plot for a story. God exists; however, god decides to create a puzzle that proves god’s nonexistence. This god gives people the ability to discover this truth. Upon their death, god gives the greatest reward to those who use their abilities properly and stand firm in their belief that there is no god. Heaven, it turns out, is reserved for honest atheists!
New Life Members
Marilyn DePoy - Camas, WA
Nima Foroughifar - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
American Atheist - March 2009
The Founder’s Friends
So many of you help American Atheists with donations and other financial support—and we wanted 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 Howard M. Palmer, CT - $100 Stanley Bradley, OH - $50 Edwin Hughes, MI - $100
by Kathleen Johnson Senior Master Sergeant (Retired) Timothy Cathers served in the United States Air Force for more than twenty-four years. During his long career, he deployed in support of Desert Storm and operations in South America, earning several commendations. Upon his retirement, he served as a civilian in Afghanistan, supporting the Army and Marines during Operation Enduring Freedom. During his military and civilian deployments, Senior Master Sergeant Cathers endured small arms fire and dozens of enemy rocket attacks, during which his Atheism never faltered, and he recalls he never had any thoughts about god or gods. Since he always served openly as an Atheist, he was even turned down for a specific military job by a senior officer because of his Atheism and has faced several conversion attempts from senior officers. In spite of these challenges, he completed an honorable military career and continues his service as a civilian.
Atheism Advanced An anthropological and philosophical deconstruction of religion, religious language, and the danger of relying on belief or faith instead of knowledge. Atheism is shown to lead to ‘discredism’ — a rejection of belief as well as a rejection of gods.
By David Eller
Paperback xxii + 468 pp. Index $22.00 – Stock # 16010 (Member discount 10%, S&H $6.00) Use the order form insert or visit atheists.org to get your copy! March 2009 - American Atheist
hat do the parting of the red sea, the feeding of the five thousand, and Muhammad’s journey to heaven with the archangel Gabriel all have in common? These are ‘higher grade’ miracles that most believers consider less likely to occur in our modern world. Some believe that these astounding performance pieces still can happen, but they’re just very, very infrequent . . . and rarely corroborated by any evidence or documentation. Others believe that such stories were probably more metaphor than they were actual events, although what exactly these metaphors purport to address is another debate. Then there’s a third group of believers that are most interesting: those who assert that god no longer walks on water among us or sends plagues of judgment for our evil worldly leaders. It is indisputable that he once did, but that’s just not how he operates these days. God seems to have suddenly changed his modus operandi (ignoring for a second the fact that such a god supposedly does not change, according to many religions). Although he apparently considered ancient and remote areas of Palestine important enough to perform miracles in, he shies away now, in a world full of so much technology and science, when a true miracle might be one hundred times more credible and convincing than any of those from the biblical days. Perhaps god is just experiencing a little bit of stage fright. Luckily, for those religious persons who still have a desperate desire to add more meaning to their beliefs, ‘lower grade’ miracles are bigger than ever. The Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich, near-death experiences, mediums who talk to the dead, crying statues, ghosts—these are all taken by the superstitious as foundational support for their belief in an afterlife. For the moment, let’s put aside the fact that every one of those examples can be explained without resorting to a divine connection. One can only help but wonder why it does not bother serious believers, the idea that even finding your car keys could be attributed to a miracle these days. I’ve spoken with some individuals who literally consider the birth of a child to be mi-
raculous, stating that science cannot fully account for the process. Anyone who stayed awake in their health or biology classes knows that’s not true, but it is most bizarre that believers seem fine with god’s profound acts now being reduced to mundane, everyday events. The philosopher David Hume said that “no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” Find out if there’s even a slight chance
where have all the miracles gone by Taylor Carr
American Atheist - March 2009
of a rational explanation behind a supposed miracle, and then Occam’s Razor will do the rest of the work. The video sharing website YouTube is littered with countless collages of alleged miracles. For the Christians, anything resembling a cross is miraculous, and for the Muslims, anything resembling the Arabic word for ‘Allah’ or ‘Muhammad’ is miraculous. But think how common it really is to see two lines intersect in the shape of a cross, or to pick out one coincidental pattern in a mass of scribblings that spells out ‘Allah’ or ‘Muhammad.’ When a holy book promises that there will be signs and wonders, people tend to interpret it however they please, because the passages are intentionally vague. Since god doesn’t seem to be in the business of producing grand spectacles anymore, many believers are left to look elsewhere for miracles and some are so eager to see them that the most minor and insignificant details catch their imagination. Part of this forced retreat in the scale of what can be deemed miraculous comes from the unrelenting nature of science. As new discoveries and understandings continue to strip the mysticism from how we view the world, one can no longer make an argument for divine intervention of a higher grade. It certainly seems dumbfounding how selectively Christians can believe whole-heartedly in miracles like those in the bible, yet if someone else were to report a similar event today, the same Christians would probably label that person
delusional. Science and reason are closing the gap, even on the all-too-common allegations that one’s recovery or ‘healing’ from some ailment is miraculous. When one out of ten patients—all suffering from a common disease—survives and attributes his survival to god, our attention typically does deviate from those other nine patients who ultimately died because they received no miracle. In many cases a small survival rate is to be expected, and it’s not an unnatural work of god if one person successfully recovers every once in a while. Furthermore, sometimes doctors purposefully underestimate the survival rate in order to be safe and avoid being sued. When faced with challenging questions on the issue of miracles, the response I frequently get from believers is that despite all the miracles in the bible, people still chose not to believe in god. He does work miracles today, but they largely go unnoticed or denied by the majority. Apparently god’s primary motivation for performing miracles is to persuade us to believe in him... yet for unknown reasons, he persists in his mysterious and unsuccessful ways. Maybe he has finally given up after trying so hard for so long. Christians say god sometimes does things purely for his own
“One can only help but wonder why it does not bother serious believers...”
glory, to attest to the extent of his majesty and power. They use the universe as an example, with the other countless numbers of planets, stars and solar systems merely existing as testimonies to god’s greatness. So if god is creating things for his own amusement, he could be performing miracles for the same reasons, and not just out of failed attempts to get us to believe. The believer who holds on to miracles will find all kinds of excuses to dodge difficult questions. They’ll encourage the rest of us to have an open mind while they themselves scoff at the mere suggestion that there may be reasonable explanations for their experiences. Surely you are not telling me that everyone who says they’ve seen or witnessed a miracle is delusional! So goes the common arguing point for many believers, making an appeal to a majority, as if that means there must be someone somewhere who honestly experienced a true miracle. However, I don’t believe every miracle incident can be chalked up to delusion, but it’s a false dichotomy to claim everyone is either deluded or that there must be some actual miracles. As with UFO sightings and other phenomenon, I’m sure some of these individuals have seen or experienced things they cannot quite explain. Yet to draw any further conclusion is just playing into the human tendency we have to fill in the blanks with whatever we think best explains away the gaps in our understanding, which incidentally tells us why people of different religions see different signs representing their different gods. Miracles make peoples’ everyday lives seem a little more interesting and not so dull, but let’s not get too caught up in the hype, out of our own willingness to experience something extraordinary. There are plenty of fascinating, extraordinary things right here on earth, and in my opinion, no miracle would ever be a worthy substitute for some of the bizarre beauty we see in reality. March 2009 - American Atheist
he United States of America is the land of freedoms; our federal Constitution guarantees the citizens of this nation the freedom of religion, speech, press and individual opportunity to pursue happiness. The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to be governed by a secular political system, commonly known as the ‘separation of church and state’; this simply means that our government should be free of religious influences in order to avoid a nation oppressed by a religious majority much like the one that our constitution’s framers had escaped. One may see that, on the surface, the American Government is primarily a secular entity in that America, unlike some countries, does not have a national religion, but many things about this country’s formation, monetary systems, and laws are anything but secular. The Principle America Was Built Upon The attitude of many early Christian missionaries who helped shape today’s society was that of Christian superiority. Most of these early settlers sought to destroy any Native American who refused to convert to Christianity. The idea that you should destroy something simply because of your own ignorance or fear of anything that is different from what you know is what I am standing against. I believe that violence should not be justified in any way, especially by using something that you hold sacred, such as a religion or spiritual belief. Manifest Destiny is the archaic belief that many Americans shared in the early 1800s that it was America’s ‘destiny’ to control the entire North American continent. To many early American settlers, this meant that it was god’s will that the United States of America expands its territory from the east coast to the west coast. These early Christian ‘Puritans’ thought that by colonizing the west coast, they would bring their Christian values and ideals to the ‘uncivilized’ native residents. In actuality, what they brought instead was death, disease, and many
other hardships focused mainly on the Native American ‘savages’ that inhabited much of this area during that time. Manifest Destiny was far too often used as a tool of justification for cruelty and unethical treatment of the Native Americans. These Natives were thought of as inferior beings because of their lack of organized religion and primitive lifestyles. This foundation of Christian superiority in America has continued with every President of the United States being Christian and in some cases, thanking Jesus for America’s greatness. George Bush stated his belief that god is watching over America by saying, “Our Founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing. May we always live by that same trust, and may God continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.” This ‘god is on our side’ mentality has carried over into our military actions; it is often said that
AMERICA One Nation Under God
American Atheist - March 2009
By David McAfee
god is watching over our soldiers and it is god’s will to spread our democracy. When I hear these words from our elected leaders, I cringe in disbelief of how history does, indeed, repeat itself. I think of the tribal Native
Americans; I think of every war and taken life justified using god’s name. American Money Though the ideas of a government with a Christian agenda began in the early times of our settlers, it has continued until this very day with the printing and coining of all American currency. ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ appears on all forms of American money from the penny to the one-hundred dollar bill. Similarly to the pledge of allegiance, the U.S. government began printing ‘In God We Trust’ on all American legal tender as a way to increase religious sentiment in a time of conflict. This addition to our currency was added during the civil war as the nation’s Christian population increased dramatically. According to the Secretary of Treasury in 1861, he began to receive an influx of letters demanding that the union make a coin recognizing their faith. The first of these letters was written to secretary chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Pennsylvania. In this letter, Reverend Watkinson states that by producing such a coin, “This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed.” The ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ motto first appeared on an American two-cent coin in 1864. In 1837, an Act of congress declared that any motto printed on American currency is the sole decision of Congress. This means that the mint could not make any changes without additional legislation through the legislative branch. The legislative branch of our federal government controls the printing of money and, though it raises much controversy, the presses continue to print the phrase on all American legal tender. This is a true example of Christianity in the American federal government. Congress has upheld its decision of printing the phrase as an ‘American tradition.’ Our Laws Though it may be less clear at times than ‘one nation under God’ or ‘IN GOD WE TRUST,’ the more controversial issues continue to rise from the Christianity-based moral fabric woven into our society. Because America is a democratic nation, majority rules; therefore it is not surprising that everything from the laws that we make to our everyday life choices are somehow connected with Christianity. Because of the Christian majority in America, we continue to see a lapse in
separation of church and state through our federal laws involving abortion, the definition of marriage, and embryonic stem cell research. ‘A woman’s right to choose,’—the right for a woman to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy while it is in a non-viable state. Abortion laws, at this time, are determined at the state level as opposed to the federal level. This means that each state may create its own laws determining who should be able to receive an abortion, at which time an abortion should be legal, and spousal and parental consent on the matter, as long as the states abide by the federal constitution in not restricting abortions during the first trimester. Many Christian politicians find this practice ‘against God’ and therefore would never condone such a program. Yet abortion continues to be available for women who seek it during the first trimester and with some exceptions into the second trimester. During the second trimester of pregnancy, because the risk to the mother’s health grows larger for an abortion during this time, the state “may regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.” During the third trimester, because the Supreme Court has determined that a fetus become viable at this time, the state may choose to regulate or even prohibit abortions. Traditional Christian values promote peace, love, “turning the other cheek”, and following the life of the Christ. This is all too often forgotten when Christian extremists and fanatics take their personal beliefs too far. This is extremely obvious in the fight against a woman’s right to choose by extremist ‘pro-lifers.’ Women have been killed, abortion clinics have been bombed, doctors have been attacked, and in some cases women have been denied medical care because they terminated a pregnancy. This act of “Christian terrorism” is the same terrorism that we fight against in the Middle East. America is blindly in denial to these acts of terrorism and violence in our own country and refuse to acknowledge these Christian terrorist extremists as such. The separation of church and state continues to be a phantom in American society today; however, I believe that one day our nation will realize its potential by living up to its Constitution and becoming a truly free country without theistic influences and laws.
“I think of every war and taken life justified using god’s name.”
March 2009 - American Atheist
THE BIBLE BELT
By Dennis Martin Altman
n 1994 I left my home turf in the media centers of New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., to join the faculty of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. I knew what everyone knows about the people of the Bible Belt (BB) ; that the people were mostly poor and rural, and for the last forty years, they’ve been voting for any candidate who invoked religion more than three times in any given speech. And, being a naïve Northern Atheist, I simply assumed that they voted as they did because they really were religious. What I hadn’t realized, was that these people were so whipped and warped by their religion addiction that they had mashed it into something that even Jesus Christ couldn’t recognize. James Baldwin once said that African Americans took White America’s religion and made it into something that they never could. I now know that he was talking about more than gospel music. Religion, or what they call religion, is the keel of the South’s identity. When people meet in other areas of the country, they first ask where they live and whom they know, and maybe what they do for a living. In the BB, the “What church?” question comes first. BBers are steady churchgoers. The church and fellow congregants comprise their whole social atmosphere. Their membership and participation in church activities are their credentials, and they wear them proudly. They love the belongingness of it. They feel tingles of delight when they see signs like the recent billboard campaign that was supposedly made of messages from
American Atheist - March 2009
on high. On one of them, in white words against a black background, it said: “Don’t make me come down there!” And it was signed…. “God” They love that stuff, because it makes them feel that they’re in a grand and glorious club. The image of their deity is that of a good ole’ boy who’s just another member of the club. In the BB, church membership is a validation of status, and they declare it in every possible way. They use religious expressions in their conversations, and they advertise their commitment via song, jewelry, holiday celebrations, tattoos, and bumper stickers. If Christianity had a secret handshake, they’d use it all the time. But while the church is their universe, they certainly don’t feel the pull of its gravity. If one were to take the ‘quotes’ attributed to Jesus in the Bible, he’d see that the folks of the Belt live in absolute denial of it all. The Belt leads the nation in divorce and murder,1 two offenses on which Jesus was particularly outspoken. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that they rack up the worst numbers in the country in teenage pregnancies, STD/HIV/AIDS, and infant mortality. But when well-meaning public health officials show them that communities that expand sex education in public schools have successfully reduced their levels of teen pregnancies, those officials are well advised to bring their resumes up to date. They have no future in BB-land. Ditto for any advice they have that involves condoms. And ditto for being serious about evolution, affirmative action, the Big
Dennis Martin Altman is a professor at the University of Kentucky, and author of The First Liberal -- A Secular Look at Jesus’ Socio-Political Ideas, How They Became the Basis of Modern Liberalism; and can be reached at www.thefirstliberal. com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Bang, peace demonstrations, clean needles, and anything the ACLU wants, anywhere. In sum, the people of the Bible Belt are deeply religious Christians (just ask them), but they treat Jesus more as a hood ornament than a deity. And those people are severely disadvantaged in other ways as well. The Belt lags behind the rest of the states in every aspect of education, health care, income and most other measures of achievement. Looking at Kentucky alone, the state ranks a poor forty-seventh among the states in percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees, and it’s rated thirty-fifth in the proprietary ‘smartest state’ index created by author Morgan Quitno.2 In terms of per capita income, Ken-
tucky ranks forty-fifth among the fifty states.3 Kentucky only gets near the top in listings of negative factors. It’s eighth in diabetes, fourth in cancer deaths, and seventh in deaths from heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.4 These lamentable numbers have been tabbed as the ‘Kentucky Uglies’ by observers, and they provide the backdrop to the most severe of the commonwealth’s contradictions. However, while Kentuckians are statistically underpaid, unhealthy, and undereducated, they tend to vote as if they were rich, strong, and well prepared for any professions
‘Yes’ to all of the above. Savvy politicians have learned to play them like fish on a line. They continually convince the poor, rural people of the Southern states to vote against their own best interests and keep conservative candidates in power. Conservative Pols court poor Southerners because they’re easy. They vote emotionally. They respond to candidates who swagger like John Wayne in a WWII movie. The candidates aggrandize the military, wave the flag, and belittle those who rely on welfare payments. And when the candidates get in some kind of trouble, like be-
“...where Jesus is more of a hood ornament than a deity...” they might care to pursue. The voting pattern holds true for the rest of the Bible Belt as well. They all rank unfavorably among the fifty states in terms of income, health, and education, but they continually vote against any candidate with a program to correct those shortcomings. In the recent election, only one of the Bible Belt states voted for change. That was North Carolina, which has recently had large infusions of retirees from the North. The rest of them voted to keep things just the way they are. What’s wrong with this picture? Are they politically naïve? Do they hold a distorted view of how government works? Are they unaware of the achievements of Liberal programs which improved health, education, and prospects for employment for other poor, rural Americans? Have they been blindsided by their preoccupation with other issues that obscure their view of their own world? The answer is
hind in the polls. they quickly gear down to their old standbys, the Furious Four. These are the candidates’ Weapons of Mass Distraction: Gun Control, Abortion, Flag-burning and Same-sex marriage – four issues that get poor Southerners mad as hell, but rarely touch their lives. These distractions take the focus off the real issues, so the poor dupes end up voting for more tax cuts for the rich guys, and yielding less help for schools, economics and health care. That’s why education levels and public health statistics in Southern states remain the worst in the nation. And as long as these people keep so steeped in what they call religion, that’s the way it’s always going to be.
Bibliography 1. Divorce: The Associated Press computed divorce statistics from data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health. The data showed that the highest divorce rates were found in the Bible Belt. “Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the top five in frequency of divorce...the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average” of 4.2/1000 people. Eleven southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas averaged 5.1/1000 people. (LA data are not available; TX data are for 1997.) Nine states in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) averaged only 3.5/1000 people. 2. Education State Rankings 2006–2007, <www.morganquitno. com/ booksinfoED.html>. 3. Kentucky Association for Economic Development, <www. kaedonline.org>. 4. Kentucky School of Public Health report, 2006.
Murder: FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for 2005 (published September 2006) Regional Murder Rates per 100,000 People Executions since Region 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1976 South 6.6 6.6 6.9 6.8 6.7 856 West 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.5 66 Midwest 4.9 4.7 4.9 5.1 5.3 121 Northeast 4.4 4.2 4.2 4.1 4.2 4 March 2009 - American Atheist
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March 2009 - American Atheist
y father, Virgil Warren Long, recently died at the age of 97, an affront, if you will, to those who think believers live longer. In his memory I would like to offer a few anecdotes regarding his happy atheism. My father was born May 20, 1911, in Alameda, Ca. of parents of eastern European descent, and non-practicing Catholics. He grew up in San Francisco and San Mateo, where
to go play golf. Lousy golfer that he was, he wanted to make a statement. Eight years ago when he was 89, his grandson, a budding filmmaker, interviewed him. One thing he asked was the eternal question about how we got here and where we’re going. He said simply, “Evolution answers everything.” Finally, on his deathbed, fully knowing he was dying, he was comforted in knowing that he lived a longer, happier, healthier and wealthier life than most people,
In Memory of a Life-Long Atheist By Roger Long
he met my mother and raised three children. Our names are Roger, Gordon, and Lenore: deliberate non-Biblical names. He once said that the saying ‘There are no Atheists in a foxhole’ is bunk. He said a good friend of his who was in WW II said, “I was in a foxhole, and I was an Atheist. Still am.” My sister, at a sensitive and questioning age, sat down with him to have a serious discussion about God. He said, “Why talk about a dead issue?” End of discussion. My mother was an active Episcopalian, and if there was a potluck dinner, only then would he darken the church doors. Once, with us kids in tow, as we entered the church for the dinner, a friend of my father’s called out, “Virgil, what are you doing here? I thought you were an agnostic or something.” He said, “I’m not an agnostic—I’m an Atheist!” It suddenly got real quiet, and my mother probably prayed she could suddenly become invisible. When I was baptized in my mother’s Episcopalian church, my father made it a point 28
American Atheist - March 2009
and that when he stopped breathing that would be the end of him. End of Virgil Long discussion. 1911-2008 As for me, a 69 year old life-long Atheist, I have a childhood impression of mom rushing us off to church, while dad is still in bed reading the Sunday funnies. I have no problem doing that even today. Since there would be no religious service, we had a get-together at the house for family and friends. It was not about mourning his death, but celebrating his long and happily godless life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Roger Long is a father of two, and a former teacher of Art & Spanish. He currently lives with his wife in the San Francisco Bay Area.
March 2009 - American Atheist
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 comprehensive world view of persons who are free from theism and have freed themselves of supernatural beliefs altogether. It is predicated on ancient Greek Materialism.. 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.
American Atheist - March 2009
State Directors MILITARY DIRECTOR Kathleen Johnson CMR 422, Box 910 APO AE 09067 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/mil ALABAMA STATE DIRECTOR Blair Scott PO Box 41 Ryland, AL 35767-2000 (256) 701-6265 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/al/
FLORIDA STATE DIRECTOR Greg McDowell P.O. Box 680741 Orlando, FL 32868-0741 (352) 217-3470 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/fl/ IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR Susan Harrington P.O. Box 204 Boise, ID 83701-0204 (208) 392-9981 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/id/
ALASKA STATE DIRECTOR Clyde Baxley 3713 Deborah Ln. Anchorage, AK 99504 (907) 333-6499 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/ak/
ILLINOIS STATE DIRECTOR Sandra Van Maren P.O. Box 1770 Chicago, IL 60690-1770 (312) 201-0159 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/il/
ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR Monty Gaither P.O. Box 64702 Phoenix, AZ 85082-4702 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/az/
KENTUCKY STATE DIRECTOR Edwin Kagin P.O. Box 48 Union, KY 41091 (859) 384-7000 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/ky/
CALIFORNIA STATE DIRECTOR Michael Doss (714) 478-8457 firstname.lastname@example.org P.O. Box 10541 Santa Ana, CA 92711 Mark W. Thomas (Asst. Dir.) (H) (650) 969-5314 (C) (650) 906-1095 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/ct/
MICHIGAN STATE DIRECTOR Arlene-Marie email@example.com George Shiffer (Asst. Dir.) firstname.lastname@example.org Both can be reached at: P.O. Box 0025 Allen Park, MI 48101-9998 (313) 938-5960 http://www.atheists.org/mi/ MISSOURI STATE DIRECTOR Greg Lammers email@example.com P.O. Box 1352 Columbia, MO 65205 (573) 289-7633 http://www.atheists.org/mo/
NEW JERSEY STATE DIRECTOR David Silverman 1308 Centennial Ave, Box 101 Piscataway, NJ 08854 (732) 648-9333 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/nj/ NORTH CAROLINA STATE DIRECTOR Wayne Aiken P.O. Box 30904 Raleigh, NC 27622 (919) 602-8529 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/nc/ OHIO STATE DIRECTOR Michael Allen PMB289 1933 E Dublin-Granville Rd Columbus, OH 43229 (614)-678-6470 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/oh OKLAHOMA STATE DIRECTOR Ron Pittser P.O. Box 2174 Oklahoma City, OK 73101 (405) 205-8447 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/ok/
UTAH STATE DIRECTOR Rich Andrews P.O. Box 165103 Salt Lake City, UT 84116 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/va/ WASHINGTON STATE DIRECTOR Wendy Britton 12819 SE 38th St. Suite 485 Bellevue, WA 98006 (425) 269-9108 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/wa/ WEST VIRGINIA STATE DIRECTOR Charles Pique P.O. Box 7444 Charleston, WV 25356-0444 (304) 776-5377 email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/wv/
TEXAS STATE DIRECTOR Joe Zamecki 2707 IH-35 South Austin TX 78741 (512) 462-0572 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.atheists.org/tx/ TEXAS REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR DALLAS/ FORT WORTH Dick Hogan email@example.com http://www.atheists.org/dfw/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
EXCERPTS FROM THIS MONTH’S FEATURED BOOK... “The conventional debate over religion pits atheism against Christianity. The conventional debate is wrong. The problem with the common approach is that it gets both atheism and Christianity wrong. It over-extends and over-generalizes Christianity, and it simultaneously over-estimates and under-estimates atheism. In terms of Christianity, what I mean is that the debate effectively sees Christianity as the only religion in dispute, indeed as the only religion. It equates Christianity with theism and with religion itself. At the same time, it overlooks the tremendous diversity within Christianity. Christianity, as we will suggest shortly, is probably not ‘a religion’ at all but rather a category of religions that share a few core claims and beliefs…” “…In terms of atheism, the standard debate similarly under-extends the position to appear to be mere opposition to Christianity; in effect, atheism becomes a-Christianity or anti-Christianity. That is understandable to a certain extent, since Christianity is the main theism or religion in the neighborhood of most Western atheists; it is the main religious force that we American atheists struggle against. However, the challenges for atheists in Saudi Arabia or India are quite different, and therefore the shape that atheism takes is quite different…”
Atheism Advanced by David Eller Stock # 16010 ($22.00)
“…Therefore, I warn atheists to be circumspect about the way we talk about religion and not merely as a tactical issue. We should stop speaking Christian partly because it is an inadequate and biased way of talking about religion itself: Christian language is not a neutral objective rational language for discussing religions but rather only one religion’s language…” Other great titles available from American Atheist Press...
The Myth of Nazareth by Rene’ Salm Stock # 16014 ($20.00)
The Jesus The Jews Never Knew by Frank R. Zindler Stock # 7026 ($20.00)
purchase online at atheists.org or use the order form insert
American Exorcism by Michael W. Cuneo Stock # 7015 ($24.95)
Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller 16010 $22.00 490 Paperback An anthropologist advances Atheists and Athei...