THIS MONTH’S FEATURED BOOK... The ancient Jews never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the startling conclusion of a comprehensive investigation of Jewish records surviving from antiquity. Every literary source ever advanced by serious scholars as being a reference to the historical Jesus is examined and found to be nothing of the sort - except for the latest layers of the Babylonian Talmud. Clearly, those references were reactions to Christianity, not to Christ. But what of the Sepher Toldoth Yeshu (“The Book of the Genealogy of Jesus”)? Does that Jewish satirical antigospel reflect echoes of ancient arguments between Jesus of Nazareth and his Jewish brethren? Can the Jesus of that tale—a man portrayed as the bastard son of a soldier named Panther, a magician, and the aerially sodomized victim of a flying Judas—provide information about a historical Jesus? Of course not, but it does provide a fascinating insight into the world in which the gospels were invented. “The historical Jesus has always been made to stand on two legs: the New Testament and Jewish literature. The New Testament leg I consider to have been sawed off long ago. Amputation of the Jewish leg has been, I hope, the achievement of this book. With both his legs missing, the figure of Jesus must now either hover in the air—like the god he started out as in the Christian mysteries or like the Yeshu he became in the Toldoth— or he must fall to earth like a deflated balloon.”
The Jesus The Jews Never Knew by Frank R. Zindler Stock # 7026 ($20.00)
Other great titles available from American Atheist Press...
The Myth of Nazareth by Rene’ Salm Stock # 16014 ($20.00)
Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker by David Eller Stock # 16010 ($22.00)
purchase online at atheists.org or use the order form insert
American Exorcism by Michael W. Cuneo Stock # 7015 ($24.95)
May 2010 Vol 48, No.4
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print) ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS Managing Editor Frank R. Zindler firstname.lastname@example.org AMERICAN ATHEIST ‘A Journal of Atheist News and Thought’ Editor, Cover Art, & Magazine Design David Smalley email@example.com Assistant Editor & Proofreader Paul Palmer Staff Writers & Journalists Kate Sirls Edwin Kagin Blair Scott James MacIver Keith Lowell Jensen Jim Haught Samuel Johnson Conrad Goeringer
Published monthly by American Atheists, Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 158 Cranford, NJ 07016 908.276.7300 P 908.276.7402 F www.atheists.org
©2010 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: $20 for 1 subscription and $20 for each additional gift subscription Online version only: $35 – Sign up at www.Atheists.org/aam Print & online: $55. Discounts available 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
also in this edition...
From the President, Ed Buckner: Todd Stiefel Challenge
Letters to the Editor
“Mommy, Does God Hate Women?”
Atheists in the Culture Wars: Who’s Right?
2010 Competition Winner Announced
The Bible That Most Christians Haven’t Read
Book Review: Disbelief 101
Donations Henning Fernstrom—$250.00
Wayne F. Ward—$125.00
Dr. Richard G.L. Thain—$50.00
James E. Gompf—$50.00
Richard L. Long—$20.00
Richard B. Hovey—$50.00
Sam Popowsky—$50.00 Gordon Batesole—$100.00 4
American Atheist - May 2010
NEW LIFE MEMBER Dave Kong
From the President, Ed Buckner
“STIEFEL CHALLENGE” ENERGIZING AMERICAN ATHEISTS
t is far more fun to write to tell my fellow American Atheists about good news than it is to alert us all, as I have to do repeatedly, about the threats to our rights and reputations and about our ongoing needs. Happily, this is one of those good news columns. In 2009, as everyone is by now aware, Helen Mitzman and hundreds of you generously stood up and made sure that your organization would get a better financial footing. While that did not solve all our financial needs—after all, the average local Baptist church in the county where I live probably has more operating money and better reserve funds than we do, even though we’re a national organization—and we’re really doing good works—it sure helped. And now, despite less than ideal national economic news, we have even better news for 2010 CE. As most of you know by now, a young man with extraordinary vision and generosity, Todd Stiefel of North Carolina, has braced us with his own $100,000 challenge. This means that, again in 2010, you can support American Atheists to the tune of $2 for every $1 (or $2,000 for every $1,000) you give. We are expanding our visibility in the public eye, and the public policy discussion over what role, if any, religious groups should have in the affairs of government or in our lives. Todd Stiefel is a sterling example of a leader of a new generation of Atheists, freethinkers, humanists and other non-believers, who are intelligent, well educated, positive, and upbeat rather than angry or especially militant, and who simply refuse to accept the old stigmas and canards regarding the irreligious. Todd has stressed that the money this challenge
Todd Stiefel raises should be used for our growth and development—for advertising, activism, and other outreaches to increase our numbers, defend our rights, and educate the world. Stiefel, a Duke University graduate who is using his financial resources and substantial leadership talent to help groups like American Atheists and Secular Coalition for America, has lofty goals. He wants to encourage the further secularization of America and to change misleading public perceptions about Atheists. Only 35, Stiefel has said, “I hope this helps to fuel the continued growth of American Atheists so we can better share our message and expand the efforts to maintain what Thomas Jefferson eloquently described as ‘a wall of separation’ between church and state.” When he’s not working on behalf of enlightened secularism, Todd spends time with wife and two wonderful children, learning how to play the guitar, and watching Duke basketball. The challenge, revealed to American Atheists members in a recent letter, has already produced a wave of contributions—over $25,000 has already been received, including generous contributions from attorney Eddie Tabash and from Helen Mitzman herself. At the 36th National Convention (2–4 April—not yet here as I write but past by the time you read this), we expect even more progress on the challenge. I am confident that, with your help, we will rise to this occasion as to past ones. Please consider adding a contribution today while it is fresh on your mind. May 2010 - American Atheist
letters to the editor Greetings Mr Smalley,
Really enjoy the American Atheist, especially the look of the magazine. Thank you having it printed on nongloss paper, it is so much easier to read and to enjoy the experience. Keep up the good work. Art and Helen Mathis I am very impressed with the set-up you gave my article on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam! The dark background along with the book image in the corner gives it an exotic look, very much in keeping with the poems. The way you printed the verses—italics with lines centered--along with the overall spacing of text makes a neat product.
I like it a lot! Don Worrell
Thank you! Janet Brazill
Excellent! It is nice to see the Magazine getting back on track! Dave Kong
David, Ed Buckner sent me the March issue. It is BEAUTIFUL. I think you are doing a great job! Jane Everhart
“Everyone’s a critic” so I might as well join in. Most of the pictures are too dark. Consider your own photo on page 7 and Sam on page 23 (March issue). And the bottom half of page 18 which is not only too dark but needs better contrast. Is there going to be a Letters to the Editor page? I question Nick’s assertion regarding Oppenheimer that “... it was the use of that weapon during WWII which shortened the war by years...” Recent historical scholars have called that bit of lore into question. Lastly, I wish I could find a notice somewhere that the magazine was printed on recycled paper. Roger Schlueter
American Atheist - May 2010
from the editor... David Smalley | firstname.lastname@example.org
’ve enjoyed reading the many letters I’ve received regarding the new magazine design and schedule. The positive feedback has been wonderful, and the critiques have been very helpful. Although I may not respond quickly, or at all, every email is read and taken into consideration. In fact, just as Roger pointed out, some of the images came across a little darker than expected in the March issue. At times, it can be difficult to gauge the differences between my computer screen, my printer, and what the final print will be like coming from the company we send the finals off to. Due to Roger’s comment, I am now working out a procedure with that company to
standardize the photos and have a consistent contrast level to keep that from happening in the future. In addition, Roger asked about the magazine being printed on recycled paper—and after a quick email to the printers, I discovered that our magazine was in fact printed on recycled paper! Now, there is a nice logo that will be on the back of every magazine to signify that fact. Thanks Roger—and thanks to everyone for continuing to provide feedback! I couldn’t help but notice the incredible number of fans on our American Atheists official Facebook page. Let’s try to channel that networking power to increase our readership, and have a lot of those folks sign up to receive the magazine. I’ll be spreading
the word every chance I get, and I hope you will too. I’m on Facebook as well, and have created a fan site that can be accessed through www. dogmadebate.com. Feel free to look me up there, become a fan, and join me in the movement. I will look forward to hearing from you. I’ll be providing an update in the June issue on the April convention, so be looking for that in the next magazine. Thanks for reading, and thanks for providing the wonderful essays as contributions for our flagship publication. I’m always looking for new submissions and staff writers, so send me an email and I will send you the formatting and submission guidelines. Thanks again!
May 2010 - American Atheist
Mommy, Does God Hate Women? Carol Putnam
his simple yet profoundly insightful question was posed by my neighbor’s six-year-old daughter, Jillian. It was inspired by her twelve-year-old sister Sarah’s recent emergence into womanhood, i.e. the onset of her first menses. Rather than trying to put a positive spin on this lifechanging and often traumatic event in a young woman’s life, their mother, an Evangelical Christian, explained to the girls that this was the curse the great Jehovah put upon Eve for her disobedience in the Garden of Eden. I nearly choked on my cucumber sandwich when I heard her say that. (Does anyone even use the term ‘The Curse’ anymore? I wondered.) Apparently some ECs do. And in doing so, they continue to burden their daughters with the same guilt, shame, and degradation that for thousands of years have kept women the world over subjugated by the specious dictates of an ectoplasmic tyrant with some serious misogyny issues. (And all this because of the transgression of one woman with a fruit fetish—a woman who never existed in the first place!) I was deeply saddened and disturbed by what I’d heard that day, but I knew better than to argue with a brainwashed, brain-dead Evangelical. So, with little Jillian’s question still burning through my mind, I decided to do my
American Atheist - May 2010
own research. With a King James Version (KJV) Bible in one hand and a copy of The Bible Handbook (published by American Atheist Press) in the other, I set out to see if I could find any evidence to support or disclaim the hypothesis: Does God hate women? My first quest was to find out if ‘the curse’ literally was a curse. As we’ve all learned from National Geographic and PBS, the treatment of women and women’s issues in general seems to vary greatly from one culture to another. They range from the innocuous to the grisly. But since I, like Jillian and Sarah, was raised in a middleclass, Anglo-American Christian household, I will limit my experiences and observations to that socio-religious paradigm. In addition to the research materials previously mentioned, I have also found an excellent Internet site that allows you to search the Bible by verse or individual word. (See www. biblestudytools.com.) Further, you can compare various interpretations to see how biblical verbiage has been tweaked over the centuries, sometimes
© 2010 Photos.com
creating vastly conflicting and even contradictory meanings. (No surprise to an Atheist!) And while I did not find anything that referred to a woman’s menstrual cycle as being the result of a curse per se, I did find numerous shocking, and even downright gruesome, passages pertaining to the treatment of women in general. (For brevity’s sake, I will not quote entire passages in this article. Instead, I will synopsize the main points with KJV verse and chapter along with page numbers where references can be found in The Bible Handbook (TBH). While not specifically referred to as a curse, a woman’s monthly cycle is repeatedly called a sickness. Furthermore, during this time she is considered ‘unclean,’ (similar to the diseaseriddled lepers of biblical fame). This
‘uncleanness’ is so odious in fact that if a husband should have intercourse with his wife during this time, both of them will be put to death. (Lev. 20:18 and TBH pg. 128). Numerous other references abound regarding the many asinine restrictions and punishments placed on women in this unholy physiological state. Even the so-called miracle of childbirth carries with it an unsavory stigma. According to Lev. 12:1–8 (TBH pg. 72–73), if a woman gives birth to a son she is considered “unclean” for seven days. However, if she gives birth to a daughter she is unclean for two full weeks! How could giving birth to a precious baby girl make a woman twice as unclean? The passage goes on to say that the mother must then atone for this filthy sin by paying various forms of tribute to the priest. Generally speaking, the social status of women in the Bible is on a par with the average farm animal. For instance, Deut. 22:20–21 (TBH pg. 127) tells us that a girl who has lost her virginity (reason not specified) should be dragged into the street and stoned to death by the men of the city. An even more heinous punishment for a similar crime was prescribed to the daughter of a priest (Lev. 21:9 and TBH pg. 213): “She shall be burnt with fire!” (So much for a god of love, compassion and forgiveness.) But perhaps the most culturally reprehensible and longest enduring curse against women comes from Exod. 22:8 (TBH pg. 118): “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” How many thousands of innocent women have been gruesomely tortured and murdered in the name of this hate-inspired commandment? Throughout the Bible evil cities are always referred to in the feminine sense, e.g. ‘whoredom,’ ‘harlot,’ ‘adulteress.’ One such city, Samaria, pissed off the Big Guy so badly he declared, “They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hos. 13:16, TBH pg. 241).
Perhaps the two most degrading and downright sickening stories that illustrate Jehovah’s contemptuous attitude toward women are found in Gen. 19:8 (TBH pg. 204) and Judges 19:21–30 (TBH pg. 228). The first is the famous story of Lot in the town of Sodom. Rather than hand over his magical angel buddies to the Sodomites, for they would “do wickedly” unto them, this holy man of god offers instead to throw his two virgin daughters into their midst, telling the rapacious horde, “Do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing.” The second story is so vile, so repulsive that most fainthearted Christians, when I relate it to them, gasp wide-eyed and exclaim, “There is no such story in the Bible!” Oh, but there is. It begins with a Levite (a priest) traveling with his concubine (apparently a must-have for every righteous man of god). They stop at the house of an old man. Soon a sex-crazed mob besieges the house, demanding to have their way with the Levite (sound familiar?) Like any good biblical father, the old man instead offers up his virgin daughter and the concubine to be ravaged, saying to the assailants, “Humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you.” At this point the priest, obviously to protect himself, tosses his hapless concubine out the door. She is summarily beaten and gang-raped all through the night. In the morning she drags herself, mortally injured, back to “her lord” and dies on the doorstep. Rather than express grief or horror at her grisly demise, the Levite simply hacks her already-mutilated corpse into twelve pieces and ships them to the twelve tribes of Israel. In response to this ghastly fairytale, one must ask, why would a ‘loving god’ condone such depravity? (I have yet to find a Christian or Jew who can tell me what the ‘moral lesson’ of this outrageous fable is.) The atrocities committed against women, and against children, in the Bible are too numerous to recount (and
difficult to stomach.) Many involve glorious acts of warfare in which the ‘chosen people’ preemptively attack, slaughter, pillage, rape, and burn, all at the behest of their one-true-god. One shining example of this holy massacre takes place in Num. 31:7–35 (TBH pg. 78). Moses, one of the main “super heroes” in Christian mythology, is personally directed by Jehovah to slay all the Midianite men and take the women captive. “Now,” says Moses to his bloodthirsty marauders; “kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Note: Virgin girls, along with livestock, are specifically referred to as “prey” and “booty.”) Words fail to describe the level of depravity exemplified by these (and many other) verses in the purported ‘Good Book.’ Personally, I hold the Bible to be little more than a puerile collection of superstitious folktales and plagiarized mythology with a smattering of grossly inaccurate history, punctuated throughout by derivative philosophy. However, it is easy to believe that the aforementioned stories, horrific though they may be, are quite authentic. We have only to examine the very real modern-day atrocities being committed against women in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to see what faith-blinded theocrats are capable of. So, to answer the question, Does God hate women?: Scriptural evidence does in fact demonstrate an almost psychotic prejudice against and ‘divine contempt’ for the female of our species. Have women therefore been cursed? To paraphrase my Evangelical neighbor, yes! However, the curse is no mere biological event. The true curse placed upon women down through the centuries can be summed up in a single word: Religion. And only by exposing these despicable stories can we hope to free our daughters from its odious spell forever. May 2010 - American Atheist
A Continuum of Communication Strategies For Atheists In The Culture Wars: Who’s Right? Michael Spry
topic that is increasingly receiving attention in the media focuses on an alleged schism between two brands of Atheists. One group, typified by such authors as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, ostensibly takes a very confrontational approach with its religious adversaries. Adherents feel well-justified in going on the attack in ways that are very aggressive, yet characteristically soft-spoken. Another segment of non-believers feels that it is essential to seek very positive relations with religious advocates, arguing that verbal assaults on religious ideas are counterproductive, that time is better spent building bridges. I would throw into the mix a third groupp: Atheists who are routinely caustic, mocking, and belligerent in their exchanges. This fiery and fractious group, while understandably angry, feels quite justified in expressing its unrelenting frustrations in a take-no-prisoners manner. I guess that from my perch, I see things as a bit more complex than who is right or wrong along this continuum; rather it’s a question of who is right about what, and when. It’s all a swirl of psychology, communications, philosophy, and justice. All of them must be considered in formulating a response for any given moment. On The One Hand: Communications 101 To understand the importance of using positive approaches in Atheistic activism, it is critical to explore the nature of communication as an abstract. A lot of missteps in activism arise from confusion over what truly constitutes communication and reflects too little thought over what the process is and how it can be optimized. For example, communication is not the simple sending of a message; that is merely an attempt at communication. Communication does
American Atheist - May 2010
not happen until that message is received, and received accurately! At its most fundamental level (in human terms), communication requires at least two people. It is not simply one person sending a message and the other person receiving it. That clearly can constitute communication, but typically the situation is more convoluted. The course of action does begin with an individual sending out a message, but whether or not that information is understood by the second participant depends on a number of things. If each party to the conversation attaches precisely the same degree and context of understanding to the exchange, it is very likely that the second person will grasp the exact meaning of the message intended by the originator. Usually though, each individual will bring a unique perspective into the dialogue. Every one of us has his or her way of viewing the world. From our earliest days of infancy, we develop mental models for making sense of the information around us. It would be inefficient to start from scratch each time we have to evaluate a new set of circumstances, so we unconsciously develop personal ‘paradigms’ to help us organize and categorize the constant stream of data that reaches our senses. In some ways, these paradigms are like cubby holes where we can sort and store the artifacts of our experiences and easily relate them to one another and to new encounters. Paradigms are constantly constructed, modified, cross-wired, and sometimes discarded. Short of some brain disability, the process never stops. It’s part of our adaptability. When confronted with a new situation, paradigms help us to find responses that have previously been successful in the same or similar situations. Some paradigms expand and become very pivotal, building upon or absorbing other paradigms into networks. Politics and religion are two of the foremost examples of these ‘central paradigms.’ While paradigms help us to compartmentalize our worlds expediently, this does not suggest that they always serve us well. If our paradigms are accurate and well-conceived, they maximize our effectiveness and help us to choose proper responses to the information that confronts us. They are like clear lenses which bring the world into sharp focus. Sometimes people create faulty paradigms, however. Whether out of emotional need, unfortunate events, misinformation, or pure happenstance, we can fabricate lenses which distort or cloud the world around us and lead us to catalog our experiences in problematic ways. Most readers, no doubt, have known individuals who chronically misperceive things and respond inappropriately as a result; these people are usually operating from warped paradigms, seeing reflections of reality like those in funhouse mirrors. Note that much of the thrust of psychotherapy is helping people identify the dysfunctional paradigms in their lives and replacing them with ones that are more effective. As we employ our paradigms (whether well-constructed or not) in organizing our worlds, these constructs evolve
into more deeply entrenched and reflexive mechanisms. We barely give them a moment’s thought. This heightened reflexivity can prove to be a significant barrier to communication especially when information is presented that runs counter to a paradigm. The receiving party is much more likely to react precipitously and less prone to listen. Two other related communications issues, are semantics and vocabulary. This is a conceptual area that is brimming with paradigms. Within any language, one word can convey a number of meanings and individuals will tend to default to a particular definition for a given context. Naturally, when a semantic interpretation is shared, it tends to ensure more accurate communication. In contrast, when people employ very different perceptions of a word or phrase, it frustrates the transfer of ideas and can lead to gross misunderstandings. Thus as two people come together for an exchange of ideas, they do not just bring an ability to send and receive messages, they each embody different views of the world. To the degree that their paradigms and vocabulary are similar, it increases the likelihood that messages will be interpreted accurately, that the sender and receiver of a message will share a common understanding. If, however, two people come into the process with very different concepts, it substantially increases the probability that the receiver will misperceive what the sender was trying to express. Thus, misperceptions are as likely to result as accurate communication, when any message is transmitted and received. To increase the likelihood of accuracy despite any variations in personal paradigms, we have to introduce feedback into the process. By that I mean, once the message is received, the receiver returns a message which reflects his or her understanding of the original message. If this understanding is out of step, the originator attempts to clarify the message by sending more feedback. As the feedback cycles between both parties, they can hopefully converge on a mutual understanding despite any paradigmatic differences. It is here that the process of communication really gets rolling. How well it plays out will depend heavily on the techniques that each participant employs. Some approaches will optimize the exchange of information while others may obstruct the flow. This is critical for activists to understand because they are highly motivated to deliver a message and need to do everything within reason to remove barriers to communication and maximize the flow of information. Naturally, the activist cannot fully control the receptivity of another person, but appropriate demeanor and technique can substantially improve the likelihood that an audience will stay engaged, solicit feedback, and integrate the information which is presented. Toward this end, the activist must also be cognizant of approaches which can be expected to stimulate defensive posturing, resistance, or aggressive responses—for example, making inflammatory statements, showing patronizing affect, or belittling the position of the listener. Ideally, you want to draw in the other party, not repel him or her, and
there are choices to be made which can nudge the recipient in one direction or the other. The more you can draw the other person into the communication process, the more likely you will arrive together at a point of understanding through feedback. Once feedback is obstructed, it will be very difficult to reach a common view. At this point, I should mention an extremely powerful communication technique that fits right into the heart of our discussion: ‘paradigm shifting.’ This approach is directed toward people whose paradigms are so ingrained that it is almost impossible for them to see the logic of another position. You basically want to help them see the world with fresh eyes. Typically, this involves drawing people into envisioning a parallel paradigm that will likely be different from anything in their current paradigmatic network. Then you present a situation within the new structure, one in which insight to a problem is readily seen. This will contrast with their old reflexive paradigms and it quickly becomes apparent that there is a need for change. In the right hands, paradigm shifting can do remarkable things. I will give one example. Many years ago, a teacher at my children’s elementary school, died suddenly. Her colleagues did not find out until the next morning when they arrived at school. Everyone was called together and they had to quickly come up with a plan to inform the students. With only twenty minutes until the arrival of the children, they decided that each teacher would determine how to handle it within his/her own classroom. That didn’t go so well. Some students were told more than others, some kids were more upset. There was no collective way to deal with the grief. A lot of parents were frustrated. Next week at the PTO meeting, a number of parents were venting about the non-ideal handling of the teacher’s death. Finally, we broke parents and teachers into small groups to discuss the matter. The parents in my group quickly got into a finger-pointing exercise and mostly objected that the school should have come up with an ideal plan at the outset. They were very angry that there was such a hodgepodge solution that was less than effective. We went ’round and ’round on this. Finally I said, Okay, let’s imagine that we are all teachers on that morning and we have just found out that a friend and colleague died. We’re dealing with our shock and grief. We have twenty minutes to discuss and agree upon an ideal plan for informing the students. What are we going to do? I peered into the other parents’ faces as they looked at each other. You could see realization sweeping over them. In an instant, brought into the teacher’s paradigm, they could see that it would be impossible to develop anything approaching an ideal plan in twenty minutes, that the best you could do was let each teacher handle his/her classroom. The finger-pointing stopped. We moved onto more productive dialogue. May 2010 - American Atheist
This is a very typical paradigm shift. You carefully move people into another way of thinking that makes the shortcomings of a paradigm easy to see. An experienced, prepared presenter can put an audience through a rapid series of paradigm shifts and leave an abundance of insight in his/her wake. This doesn’t happen, though, without a fairly positive approach to communications. This examination of the communication process, while cursory, definitely favors more positive approaches to Atheistic activism and an avoidance of inflammatory conduct. It is worthwhile to watch other people in action as they employ or violate what is known about communication and see what results (check out video on the Internet). Generally, if one is mindful of these principals, effectiveness can be greatly enhanced; if not, things usually go over the cliff. Okay, It’s Not All That Simple Let���s take a look at a few barometers of the communications climate that currently exists between non-believers and the religious community (unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of research to rely upon). First I ask Atheistic readers, have you ever had the experience where a Christian, one who has known you for quite some time and has had a high opinion of you, suddenly discovers that you are a non-believer? Which of the statements below best describes how the Christian reacted? (a) He/she was totally at peace with this discovery and showed no signs of discomfort or judgment. (b) He/she feigned harmony with the discovery, but there was an apparent feeling of shock and tension that hung in the air like an emotional fog, commu nicating that things between you would never be the same again. (c) He/she immediately seized the moment to challenge your view, exposing his/her anti-Atheistic biases in the process. (d) He/she left the room or got away from you as expediently as possible, then avoided you thereafter. I have never experienced option a) and congratulate any reader who has. It strikes me how this sort of revelation is almost guaranteed to suck the breath out of a Christian and leave him or her paralyzed for several moments. I keep waiting to have an encounter like those in the classic sci-fi film Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, where the pod people detect a real human and emit a shrill scream that is then echoed by the other podites to alert the whole community. Let’s look at another example. Perhaps Atheist readers have joined in some give-and-take with a religious person on the subject of Atheism, then wound up hearing some absolute nonsense regarding people’s expectations of nonbelievers. A lot of religious folk do, after all, seem to picture us as opportunists who are unimpeded by any conception of morality. What would stop us from raping, pillaging, or killing? The idea that we might derive our own ‘morality’
American Atheist - May 2010
from other considerations (e.g., ‘The Golden Rule’ and/or the ‘Social Contract’), appears to be beyond the grasp of even many intelligent religious people. I have had them tell me, “I wouldn’t have any reason to be good if I didn’t believe in God.” Well, that’s pathetic. I have long said that I would much rather have a friend who is good because he/ she chooses that path for its own sake, than one who takes that road out of fear. Atheists, however, are presumed to be automatically evil because they don’t have the guiding hand of a metaphysical being to show them the way. Let’s look at another phenomenon. How many of you non-believing readers have found yourself in the proverbial ‘closet’ that hides your disbelief from others? Who are you hiding from: a few family members, your entire family, upper management where you work, everybody where you work, your friends (your friends?), everybody period? What would inspire such fear, such defensiveness? Among other consequences: diminishing chances of finding a job, the prospect of losing the job you have or being harassed at work, shunning by your family, being disinherited, loneliness, the potential for unleashing a lot of conflict as you open the Pandora’s Box that looses the religious world upon the non-believing. It always seems as if it’s the Atheist who is supposed to accommodate everyone else and pretend that things are different, and for many of us, it’s easier doing that than facing the anger of irrational people. Christians in America, especially, don’t seem to call for much acceptance of their Atheistic brethren in these situations. They would much rather gasp and mete out the punishment. How many non-believing readers have received one of those emails that blame non-religious people for some grievance (e.g., the loss of “In God We Trust” from the face of the silver dollar, or the disappearance of “so help me god” from courtroom oaths)? It is then noted that the non-religious segment of the U.S. population is only 14 to 16 %. We heathens are then admonished to “sit down and shut up” as if we don’t deserve consideration of our constitutional rights. The emotional tone is rather hostile. How many Atheistic readers feel it is worthwhile appealing to a state or federal legislator about the civil rights of Atheists? I don’t bother—ever—not any more. I’ve been down that road. These people don’t care about us, they just spew populist rhetoric. Oh, I suppose that someone has to remind them that we’re out here, but the cruel truth is, no one ever won an election by being concerned about the needs of nonbelievers. In fact, it’s political suicide to take up our cause. It’s a lot more prudent to please the masses back home, who are not especially concerned about Atheists or their rights. No, if we want help from the government, appellate courts are about the only arena where there’s a chance of success. If we can present a constitutional case, we have a good shot at winning, albeit with a backlash from the majority (which always underscores the animosity toward non-believers and any judges who would side with these heretics). Sometimes
legislators join in on the expression of horror when we win, as they did when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional while it contained the words “under God” (later overturned by the Supreme Court on technical grounds). Senators and Congressmen couldn’t resist the opportunity to grandstand for the majority and defiantly recited the Pledge the next morning, shouting out the words “under God.” How about small units of government (boards, councils, etc.) that have been asked to make changes to come into conformance with the Constitution: e.g., remove religious signs, crucifixes, crèches, decalogues and the like from city or village property? We have seen people harassed and persecuted by Christians to the point of death threats for raising legitimate issues about church/state separation. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that religious people receive animus from Atheist ranks, too, usually amidst arguments or court battles. While understandable, it is unfortunate. There are non-believers who are just generally angry and don’t present a good public image. There are others who lose themselves in the heat of the moment. Sometimes the malevolence of non-believers is born of the biases, persecution, and aggression relentlessly showered down upon them by religious people. The anger and frustrations of Atheists is built upon thousands of years of injustice (and violence); sometimes it understandably comes boiling to the surface. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do better for the sake of effectiveness, but sometimes we lose our footing. So what is the point of this review? On and on it goes, examples indicating a rather virulent communication atmosphere between the U.S. religious community and non-believers. Even otherwise mild-mannered believers are ready to throw us under the bible camp bus at the slightest provocation or misunderstanding. I have seen Christians become absolutely rabid toward an Atheist in a matter of seconds. There seems little doubt that a substantial segment of Americans would make this country a theocracy in a heartbeat if the Constitution didn’t stand in the way. This isn’t a situation where there are two groups with a small-to-medium conceptual gap between them. Believers and non-believers have paradigms which are so fundamentally different, that it’s like trying to build the Chunnel under the English Channel with the French going in a direction from Paris to Oslo, and the British from London to Madrid. This makes it very difficult for them to join their efforts in the middle. Positive communication, while recommended for most settings of the Atheistic struggle, is not going to get the job done on its own when the basic paradigms are so far apart. We need a technique that throws the injustice out on the table for all to see and uses other potent tools to leverage cooperation from people who may not want to communicate.
On The Other Hand—Countercultural Strategies We need a model for activism that is uniquely suited to an unpopular cause. Not only are we grossly outnumbered, but many of our adversaries wrongly believe that their majority status gives them constitutionally-based privileges. This belief is so longstanding and pervasive that believers have become utterly complacent about it. Furthermore, our spiritual foes are frequently unmotivated to listen. Fortunately, there is a model for advancing under such circumstances, and it has been in use by a variety of activists (although not always in a well-planned fashion). The techniques arose from unionization and expanded with the civil rights movement. Never was it more widespread, though, than during the counterculture of the late ’60s and early ’70s. That was an era when everything was being questioned and nothing was sacred, not even the ‘sacred.’ If you felt that something was wrong, you went after it in a relatively uncompromising manner; to do anything less was to tolerate injustice. Many social frontiers were addressed in those days, from civil rights, to the Vietnam War, lifestyle issues, women’s rights, gay & lesbian rights, abortion, politics, and religion. Furthermore, a dash of the outrageous was added to the mix to bring more attention and try to expand the realm of acceptability for all manner of things. Of course, I am not suggesting that we take on the peripheral appurtenances of wearing long hair, billowy shirts, bellbottom pants, or peasant dresses, nor saying “Cool man” or “Right on.” No, what we need is the essence of counterculturalism—the defiance along with social and political strategies. At the heart of countercultural activism was a philosophical overreaching and visibility; you wanted to make it impossible for anyone to overlook your efforts. If the masses didn’t listen to the messages about your primary objectives, you delivered an edict that was guaranteed to get their attention. Let me give you an example of something that could be done now. Within my particular niche of activism, I have two main objectives: (1) America will have a legitimately secular public square, and (2) Non-believers will have a place of genuine respect at America’s table. These are goals based on the U.S. Constitution, although they are not dependent upon it; the Golden Rule is sufficient justification (just in case our current Supreme Court loses its grasp of the First Amendment, which is a distinct possibility). While these are un-desirable aspirations for many within the religious community, it’s easy for them to ignore our appeals at this point; they like their chances as things stand. They know that legislators will not support us and they overestimate their odds in the courts. The religious crowd figures it is farther ahead if it doesn’t touch the matter. Thus, a different approach has to be taken, one that is a lot more likely to command attention (expediently expressed here): May 2010 - American Atheist
Your faith in religion, while it may mean a great deal to you, is totally illogical; there is virtually no evidence to support it. The only reason to believe is because you want to believe. Where else in life do you choose to accept phenomena without a preponderance of proof to convince you of the underlying truth? If someone asked you to believe in a new being with astounding magical powers, and there was no evidence of this entity’s existence, would you be eager to attach your faith? It’s doubtful, yet you accept a similar being that was conceived in the Bronze Age by simple, unsophisticated tribal people who had subscribed to idol worship, rampant superstitions, and ritual sacrifice of animals & humans. The religious beliefs of Abraham have been sustained for centuries into modern times by the fear of divine punishment and the promises of a heaven that has left no evidentiary trail. There is no more evidence of Abraham’s god than there was for Zeus on Mount Olympus, the Mayan Death god, the Shinto Moon god, or for fairies in Europe, yet people continue to believe (largely because of their indoctrination as children). Disbelief, on the other hand, is both scientific and logical; there is ample reason to be highly doubtful about a god’s existence, as well as all of the phenomena which derive from it. A lot of religious ideas fall on lack of probability alone. Most of ‘God’s’ abilities cannot be supported by the laws of physics and there is no evidence indicating any likelihood of operating outside those laws. The faithful, however, short of any substantial explanation, grasp for unsupported metaphysical accountings of ‘God’s’ alleged powers, which amount to little more than magic. On the other hand, without anything to justify a religious premise, Atheists quite logically choose disbelief. At this point in our history, the religious community ignores or abhors our reasonable pleas to be heard on constitutional issues and other matters of fairness. We are not given the respect that we deserve. Thus we are left with little choice but to raise issues which get to the heart of why we are perfectly sensible in our differences with the religious community. These differences focus on the soundness or weakness of faith. Until our objectives are met with success, we must drive this discussion home as publicly and relentlessly as we can. Naturally, a lot of embellishment can hang upon these bones as we throw down the gauntlet and go right for their comfort zone. This message is much more likely to summon their attention than those centered on civil rights or respect, especially with the added statement that we will continue to focus upon the weakness of faith until our goals are met. In some ways, we are playing ideological blackmail with no apologies forthcoming. In all likelihood, we can expect a specific counterargument based upon the idea that we should have just politely asked for what we wanted, that we didn’t need to attack faith. My recommended response (calmly given) is this:
American Atheist - May 2010
Well, apparently we do have to attack faith. When we just ask the religious community to honor our constitutional rights, we are ignored until we win in court, whereupon we are reviled. It seems that the only way we can be heard is by getting right to the crux of the matter. Non-believers in America are treated as if they employ deficient thinking, yet their argument is far more logical. The faith of religious people, on the other hand, is based purely on a desire to believe with no logic or science to support their view. Rather than teach the flock to have faith despite the solid logical case of non-believers, we are made the foil and believers are told that we are wrong and evil. It is easier to attack Atheists than to come up with an honest rationale for faith (if that’s possible) and educate the congregants accordingly. It’s easier just to make us targets, and sadly, Atheists have been abused, and even killed, by religious citizens throughout America’s history. Thus, we must call out religious America based on the illogic of its foundation. When we are widely treated with respect, we can begin to look at returning the favor. Of course with this approach, our adversaries don’t exactly roll over for us, and are likely to be angry. This is where good communication techniques are very important. Just because we deliver bitter medicine doesn’t mean that it has to be any more unpleasant than necessary. The proverbial ‘little bit of sugar’ helps. We can snarl and gnash our teeth while venting our spleens, or deliver our message with a sense of resignation (“this is what we’ve been forced to do”), some personal warmth, matter-of-factness, and calm self-assurance. If we are prepared with our arguments, there is no need to get in a lather or pin our opponents’ backs to the wall. Let our adversaries be the ones to lose their tempers. If we’re dealing with Christians, especially, this will allow us to calmly draw unfavorable comparisons between them and the alleged demeanor of Jesus (e.g., “Well, I suppose Christ wouldn’t have listened either.”) If we can out-Christ the Christians, it empowers us with many little tools. What about our friends Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who were mentioned at the outset? I would say that both are counterculturalists, but with different strategies than I have outlined. They certainly overreach beyond what is merely necessary and stand apart from much of mainstream culture. They find ways to draw attention to their major goals through the techniques they employ. Each is significantly different from the other, however. With Dr. Dawkins, we must remember that his main thrust is not the topic of Atheism. His primary objectives center on the advancement and defense of evolutionary biology. It is hardly a coincidence given his academic background that he is an Atheist. Certainly, both Atheists and evolutionary biologists have many of the same adversaries for similar reasons, but it is more likely that Dawkins will exploit atheism in the service of evolutionary biology than the other way around. I’m not in any way suggesting that the kind professor is being anything less than ethical in doing so, it’s just a realistic outgrowth of his unique circumstances. Thus, if
Dr. Dawkins is a bit more provocative about Atheism than some might like, we must remember that he is working from a different set of paradigms. Also, I must say that Dawkins is almost always well-mannered and in very good humor, which takes a lot off the edge of his discourse. To be frank, I really don’t know what to make of Christopher Hitchens sometimes. He is obviously very intelligent, well-traveled and read, articulate, and is rich with experience. Still I find him a bit of a paradox. I have seen video of him on many occasions where he was extremely effective: soft-spoken while provocative, using effective communication techniques, stimulating deep thinking, etc. He handled audience questions with great aplomb. Then, I have seen other clips, particularly from television, where he goes right off the rails. Yeah, I despised Jerry Falwell, too, probably as much as Hitchens did, but on the day Falwell died, you don’t need to go on CNN and refer to the deceased as an “ugly little charlatan,” a “little toad,” and talk about him “pinching his chubby little flanks.” It’s not a matter of giving the ‘Rev.’ respect; he didn’t deserve any. But Hitchens looked very undisciplined, childish, and surly. Falwell’s physical characteristics were irrelevant to the issues at hand. The effectiveness of Hitchens’ television appearance was largely squandered by these cheap references. On other programs, I have seem him be so excessively belligerent that he comes off as more of a temperamental provocateur than someone who is advocating any kind of solution. Will the real Christopher Hitchens please stand up? Maybe then he can tell us if he has a consistent strategy or just flies by the seat of his pants. He is capable of doing so much good, but can wipe out his credibility with the general public in a very abbreviated span. A countercultural approach is like using a wedge. In the example I gave, our prime objectives (e.g., secular public square, respect) are the wedge itself, and the major issue (e.g., the illogic of faith) is the force that drives the wedge. Unfortunately in this instance, the object that we want to crack is very heavy and dense. While using the wedge and force will give us some advantage, it is still not guaranteed to produce quick results. History has provided a lot of mortar to bind the object and we will have to pound the wedge repeatedly. The critical foundation for our efforts will be The First Amendment. As long as our rights within that amendment are upheld, we can hold strong and drive the wedge with strength and determination. To carry out the campaign properly, however, will require much patience, discipline, and poise—the wedge will need a lot of whacks. In Conclusion Who’s right? Who’s wrong? With a myriad of possible situations, there is no all-purpose strategy that you can pour out of a bottle like some kind of philosophical, pine-scented Mr. Clean®. Those who exclusively rely upon positivity within the Atheistic movement need to ask themselves if they aren’t insufficiently challenging the abuses which are
routinely inflicted upon non-believers. Are they giving a free pass to unacceptable behavior within the religious community and failing to fully empower themselves? Meanwhile, do those who chronically employ more caustic approaches poison the well for everyone with harsh rhetoric that is totally unnecessary and unproductive? Furthermore, do they deny themselves a chance to see if softer tones might be more effective in the general case? As for countercultural techniques, they can achieve a great deal, but these techniques can be disastrous if mismanaged, producing a lot of backlash and leaving bad impressions. The approach I favor is a bit of a mixture of a well-conceived countercultural strategy and the most positive communication techniques that can be employed within the situation. I have to agree with those who unflinchingly address major issues within the religious world, as long as they do so constructively and have a positive, achievable goal in mind. If they’re just messing with people for sport, I can’t get behind that, but when they offer a sound rationale for why they are talking in bold terms, a noble purpose, and proper communication strategies, they would seem to be on a sensible course. Caught up in the moment, however, it will be a question of balance and we won’t always have the luxury of time to get it optimized. We have to prepare thoroughly for a chosen strategy, but be ready to think on our feet. Sometimes our frustrations will get the best us. We shouldn’t make a habit of it, but it’s bound to occur. Other times we will stumble in battle. Despite all this, we must be careful that we aren’t too quick to criticize each other. It’s rarely a matter of black and white. Usually, our success will be measured by how well we find equilibrium among the shades of gray. Michael Spry has a BS in psychology from Michigan State University (1974) and an AAS in Electronics Technology from Northwestern Michigan College (1982). Beyond his majors, he has had studies in formal logic, statistics, philosophy of ethics, anthropology, and communications. Spry spent five and a half years as a social worker in the adult mental health field before entering the electronics world in 1983 as an educator and later an electrical engineering technologist. Spry also spent several years as an activist in adoption reform and was a contributing author to the book Adoption Without Fear (1989), wrote “Open Adoption” for the Kentucky Children’s Rights Journal (1991), and made presentations at numerous regional and national conferences related to adoption. He has continued to be a free lance writer who has contributed op ed columns to the Traverse City Record Eagle. He is currently seeking representation and a publisher for his book manuscript entitled, No Santa, No Tooth Fairy, No God—The Need To Challenge Faith In America. He is also shopping a novel which takes place in the countercultural era. Growing up in southern Michigan, he has lived in the Grand Traverse area of the state since 1975. He was named Michigan’s Outstanding Atheist by our state affiliate in 2008.
May 2010 - American Atheist
BOOK REVIEW: James Zimmerman
he author begins right away (after an introduction by Tom Flynn) by assuring young people who may be nervous reading such a book that he understands their fears. S. C. Hitchcock (writing under a pseudonym for the safety of his family) tells such readers that, if they take nothing else from the book, and if they are unable or unwilling to read anything else, to remember that there is no God. “Religion,” he says, surely striking a nerve with everyone in his intended audience, “survives and is a huge force in the world because it relies on the indoctrination of children” (Disbelief 1). It was this observation, Hitchcock noted in an interview, that drove him to write the book (Interview). The book is divided into several brief chapters that build on each other, explaining the absurdity of believing in god(s). The book endeavors to shine light on the flaws of all religions, dwelling primarily on the three ‘great’ monotheisms. Disbelief beautifully addresses concerns and fears a young person may have regarding casting aside faith. It even advises youths on how to deal with their rational thinking, should they happen to live in a household where dissenting opinions are forbidden. For example, Hitchcock spends three pages calming his readers and telling them it’s okay to set such ideas aside until they are free of well-intentioned caregivers who would likely not understand. Additionally, the book devotes a chapter to debunking a few of the tired objections to evolution, such as the arguments that things are too complex to have evolved, that life violates thermodynamics, and the particularly silly argument that it’s “just a belief.” Sprinkled throughout are references to things young people will understand. Disbelief includes dialogues between fictitious people to help illuminate more difficult ideas. It is also replete with examples that pointedly, simply, and humorously demonstrate the absurdity of religion, especially the damaging belief that one religion is superior to all others. And, should all of this still be too much for a young person to grasp, Illustrator Leslie White’s fifteen drawings interspersed in the book drive home each major point in an unforgettable (and often hilarious) manner. Before ending with a helpful bibliography, Hitchcock makes the argument that, while physical abuse is not tolerated in this country, mental abuse gets a free ride: punch your kid in the face, he says, and the cops will come to your door. Tell them that god will burn them forever in hell if they
American Atheist - May 2010
don’t accept Jesus into their heart, and everyone applauds your faith. Comparing religions to the marketing strategy of the fast-food industry, Hitchcock reiterates his original argument that if religions did not indoctrinate children, religion would cease to exist. That was a thought that even I (who left the teenage years behind quite a while ago) found stunning and insightful. Do yourself a favor: buy a copy of this book. If you’re too old to benefit from its arguments, give it as a gift to the young person in your life. Visit www.disbelief101.com for more information and to order the book.
REFERENCES Hitchcock, S. C. Disbelief 101. 2009. See Sharp Press. Hitchcock, S. C. Electronic Interview. 14 July 2009.
W. E. Gutman
“Saint” Pius XII?
Rewarding a Silence Filled with Guilt © 2010 Photos.com
n December 2009, spurning the raw feelings and grievances of world Jewry, Pope Benedict XVI signed an edict proclaiming Pope Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, “venerable.” The pre-beatification formality is intended to hype the late pontiff’s “heroic virtues.” In carrying out the first sacrament leading to canonization, German Pope Benedict no doubt intended to market his predecessor and make him an object of veneration for all Catholics. This initiative is at the very least troubling in that Pius’s ‘heroism’ remains largely suspect. In so doing, Benedict has reopened the long and often bitter polemic about the Vatican’s attitude toward the Nazis and their ethnocidal plans. For twelve years, Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, served as papal nuncio in Germany. He was then promoted to Vatican Secretary of State in 1933, coinciding with Hitler’s rise to power. Other than a bland Christmas 1942 message that evokes “people sometimes destined for death or progressive extinction on account of their race,” Pius XII remained remarkably tight-lipped for the remainder of the war. Since his election in 1939, Pius XII had scrapped the encyclical of Pius XI against racism and anti-Semitism. Prelate turned diplomat and deferred to the Nazi state. Worse, he uttered not a word about the ‘Final Solution,” of which he had been informed since 1942, and kept mum about it well after the last extermination camps were liberated by American, British, and Russian forces. He never protested or condemned the extermination of the Jewish people whom he viewed, to the end of his days, as the “deicidal race”: Christ-killers. Of course, sainthood is a symbolic status. It earns ‘saints’ the gift of clairvoyance and the reverence of the faithful who, candle in hand, can ask for favors no mortal can grant them. Long dead, they serve no other function than to dwell eternally in the pantheon of Roman Catholicism. But symbolism is a powerful idiom. The enshrinement of Pius XII, in defiance of stirring and widespread objections, speaks volumes about Benedict’s own unexpurgated antiSemitism. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (also known as the Holy Inquisition), then pope-intraining Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became known as an inflexible enforcer of Catholic doctrine. Fawning praise of René Descartes, the celebrated 17th century French rationalist philosopher (“I think; therefore I am”) soon turned to vilification. Benedict forbade Catholics to read Descartes’ works “on pain of sin.”
He maligned Liberation Theology, the oxygen-rich ministry that redefines and, for the poor and voiceless, enlivens otherwise stolid Roman Catholicism, and he punished its disciples with public humiliation, defrocking, and excommunication. Benedict also delivered manic and hostile orations against abortion, homosexuality, stem-cell research, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. When Benedict became pope, his election was halfheartedly welcomed by some Jewish groups (among them the right-wing and very accommodating Anti-Defamation League, which is more interested in ingratiating itself with the Vatican than in rehashing history). ‘His Holiness’ received a more tepid reception from Jews around the world who had hoped that Benedict would “continue along the path of popes John XXIII and John Paul II in supporting the State of Israel and committing to an uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism.” On the whole, Benedict’s papacy has been insensitive to Jews (and Muslims), even when not overtly hostile. He expanded the use of the Tridentine Mass, which urges the conversion of Jews to Christianity. He reinstated four excommunicated bishops, all members of the Society of St. Pius X, a virulently anti-Semitic organization. One of these bishops is American Richard Williamson, an outspoken Holocaust denier who struggled to mumble a limp apology but did not recant his position on the well documented event. Pope Benedict is a man with a record of contestable decisions and regrettable faux pas. Woefully out of touch with reality, oblivious to human nature and disdainful of the secular world, he has reached the ethereal summit of his ‘profession’ and the promise of his own beatification in the afterlife has already bestowed on him the trancelike aloofness of a canonized saint. He is preparing for the final voyage, not with humility and compassion, but with the poise and absent smile of a mystic high on his own godliness. Behind the smile is the seething fury of a wounded reptile. If he can help it, he will not embark for kingdom come without leaving posterity a taste of his own venom: the canonization of a coward. The least Pope Benedict could do before he crosses the Pearly Gates is open the Vatican archives to public scrutiny lest the beatification of Pius XII take on the aura of a dastardly recompense for a silence brimming with guilt. W. E. Gutman is a widely published journalist and author, and an occasional contributor to American Atheist. He lives in southern California. May 2010 - American Atheist
we are not a cult. we are pissed off.
n March 2010, I had the honor of performing at The Annual Global Atheist Convention alongside Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, PZ Meyers, A.C Grayling and other amazingly accomplished Atheists. It would have been the perfect time for “God” to make an appearance, but alas. Like all great events in which I’ve performed, the week before was filled with mind-numbing morning radio that usually involved the host using a fart button and/or doing racist impressions. “No, I don’t know what Sylvester Stallone would sound like if he was Asian. Please don’t tell me.” Classy stuff. This time around it was even worse because it involved me being an Atheist, a very scary word that in many people’s mind is equal to rape and kid touching. Ironic, since that seems to be religion’s territory. The question I was asked the most was, “Isn’t a gathering like that very religious-like?” You could tell the host wanted to go slam dunk a basketball or punch the air after saying that. They had that tone in their voice that said, “So long, Atheism! I just blew your freaking mind!” The problem is this: that argument is insane. Atheism is a non-belief. I don’t pray to Sam Harris, don’t use PZ Myers as an excuse to hate gay people, and don’t stone women to death in the name of Christopher Hitchens. The closest I come to practicing Atheism is when I’m hanging out, minding my own business, and someone asks, “Do you
American Atheist - May 2010
believe in God?” and I say, “Nope.” And that’s about it. As amazing as this gathering was, as great as it was to meet all the warm, intelligent people that I met, I think most of us would have rather been at home. This is no discredit to the event, but Atheists did not become Atheists because they needed a support group. We don’t need a god to make us feel better about our poor life decisions. We don’t need a giant A in the sky to help us find our car keys, get a girl, do well on a paper, and whatever other mundane self-involved thing people pray for. (Can we get their god to fix this whole Middle East issue before you pray that your favorite coffee shop is still open past 8?) To be honest, the first time I saw an Atheist group, I was a bit taken aback. They were all wearing Atheist shirts and big smiles, and usually big smiles equal one thing: cult. Turns out, the smiles were due to the Atheists being happy. Who would have thought that not living their lives in fear of an invisible daddy replacement (with a temper) would have mental benefits? These were genuinely happy people. Sure, they have meet-ups, but so do chess clubs, and I’m not worried about the Great Pawn Revolution of 2012. I do, however, have my eye on those knitting clubs. What are those old women hiding? Once I got to know this group of proud and ‘out’ Atheists, my view quickly changed for two reasons. First, we live in a predominately religious world. People who choose science
over Zombie Jesus are looked at as crazy. People who choose love over Leviticus are outcasts. It’s understandable that once you “break the spell” as Dan Dennett might say, you want to find other likeminded people. Pretend you are a gay 16-year-old living in Utah. You know who you are attracted to. You know you do not have feelings for the opposite sex. You know this. Your body knows this. Yet your parents, the people who raised you and apparently love you, tell you that you’re sick. They send you away to a camp to have you deprogrammed like some horrible science fiction movie. Now, let’s say you make it out of this camp, hopefully with some phone numbers. Let’s say you split and move to a city leaving your parents and everything you knew behind you. Let’s say you meet a bunch of likeminded Atheists. Are you going to meet up for dinner once a week for the support, or are you going to dismiss this and say the gatherings resemble religion? I have had email exchanges like this from listeners of Citizen Radio. This happens a lot and these kids need support; they need to be told that they are not crazy. The friendships that are formed at these meet-ups or online are so strong that they move me to tears. The second reason is why I wrote this article. This is a political fight, not a religious war. It can’t be a religious war because we believe that religion is crazy. You can’t fight crazy with crazy. If it was not for religion chipping away at the rights of human beings, there would be no need for anyone to even bring up Atheism. Why bother? Like I said, it’s a non-belief. We could stay home and pursue family, science, education, and old episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Unfortunately, what the other side lacks in common sense, they gain back in organization. These loons are up every morning with a clear, coherent agenda: Spread the insanity. They can’t tell you about evolution nor grown-up books, but man, can they make a pamphlet and some picket signs. “Gays = Yucky Hell Fire” Good work, team. This is not a one-off battle for them. They are not going to stop until religion is dripping into every facet of our society. Do you know what the people behind Proposition 8 are doing right now? They are trying to elect religious judges in California. The pro-gay rights groups are still trying to figure out how to overturn that deplorable and unconstitutional decision, now they have to worry about this? It’s disgusting. This is why we need to gather: not to pat ourselves on the backs about being smart or to worship a god that doesn’t exist, but to fight back against oppression. If that oppression is in the name of religion, then we will be the opposite of that: Atheists. I was pretty thrilled after my performance at the Atheist convention. The reaction was unbelievable and the conversations I had with fans afterwards were even better. These people totally inspired me. But the online reaction to my set the next day was weird. I come from standup comedy, not from academia. My
language during my set was beyond filthy, but that’s how I talk in my everyday life. In my act, I tried to deal with homophobia, abortion, and read the commandments for my fictional church, the same church that inspired PZ Meyers to write, “Jamie Kilstein actually succeeded in converting me. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster never really appealed to me, but the Church of the Smiling Vagina… those are my people. He gave us the Ten Commandments of his faith, and I think I could follow them.” It was a fun way to talk about issues that aren’t really funny. A comedian never looks at his notebook, sees the word “abortion” scribbled down and thinks, “Yes. Let the funny begin!” You have to work really hard to get a joke out of it. But the great thing about jokes is once someone can laugh at a subject, it disarms it. Laughing at contentious issues releases the tension from the room. It breaks the ice. Once that ice is broken, you can actually have a conversation, maybe even one with someone who disagrees with you (Gasp!). That’s what happens at my shows. Someone will come up to me and say, “I disagreed with you, but it was really funny.” Then we start talking and find out we agree a lot more then we think. Granted, I never met someone who was anti-choice but then saw my act and said, “You were so funny I’m going to go open up my own mom and pop abortion shop!” But maybe I can show them why abortion in the case of rape or incest is important. Humor does have a weird way to bring people together. However, many people at the Atheist convention (the ones who didn’t give me a standing ovation) complained to management and said I should not have been there. This is a little heartbreaking considering one of the things Atheists fight for is free speech. Although, usually people who complain like this have a hard time understanding irony: “Tell that guy to shut up! I’m trying to celebrate free speech over here!” I was upset by the few complaints, vowed to stop Googling my name, and then thought about the criticisms, long and hard. I wondered if they were right. Lucky for me, I have an ego and can proudly say they are dead wrong. We need people of all different backgrounds telling people why it is important to come out as an Atheist. As much as I love everyone in this community, some people do not want to hear a bunch of old, rich, white academics. I love our diplomats. They are my heroes and the reason I came out, but lots of people don’t have a formal education and a lot of the information presented during Atheist lectures is intimidating. A lot of people who want to fight out against religious bigotry get confused by biology. We should teach them biology, but first we have to make them feel accepted. We need to tell them that, like everything, there is a learning process. But before that happens, we need to hammer home May 2010 - American Atheist
the point that right now organized religions are out there trying to take away our rights to marry, get safe abortions, learn about evolution, and draw goofy pictures of a pretend prophet. Comedy is a great way to do this. I want to see more musicians, comedians, artists, and young people come out as Atheists. We need Atheist ambassadors who know how to speak to the disenfranchised. There are so many potential young Atheists out there who simply don’t know this community exists. They’re afraid they will not be accepted, and judging by some of the reactions I got, they have good reason to fear that. We need to be as diverse a community as humanly possible. I like things that are funny, but I would never complain that Richard Dawkins didn’t make enough jokes in his speech, or that Dan Barker did not curse enough. Different people do different things, and attract different people. I acknowledge that reality because I’m an adult. At least a thousand people gave me a standing ovation while only a handful of people complained. And don’t get me wrong. I’m cool with complaints. I get them a lot. Usually, they are from people whose religion I have offended. I’m not saying we should only gather to have our beliefs reaffirmed. That’s childish, and a group of people dedicated to science and inquiry want to be challenged. The reason I talk the way I do is because some people are more inspired by art than lectures. And yes, some people are more excited by the word c**k than Darwinian evolution.
We don’t all have college degrees. My generation started to get our news from The Daily Show when the mainstream media let us down. For some strange reason, we distrust ‘experts’ now. Maybe it has to do with the banking scam, the illegal wars, and the torture, but for some reason, Wolf Blitzer doesn’t do it for us anymore. We are used to getting information from comedians. My goal is to get people to care by using comedy, and then when I talk to them after a show, or return emails, I turn them onto books by these other brilliant minds. I explain to them the best places to start, and tell them they are not stupid if they don’t understand some of the more complex aspects of science right away, but encourage them to keep trying. We are an entertainment-based culture. I’m not happy about that. I wish people liked books more than American Idol and awful Michael Bay movies, but that’s just not the world we live in. I understand people came out as Atheists for tough reasons, but if we start judging everybody who is going to speak for us, and start giving people purity tests before they come to a convention, then you know what we are becoming? Religion. And for people who still disagree with me, I was told the more I cursed during the convention, the louder A.C. Grayling laughed. I hear A.C. is pretty big on the Atheist scene, and he seems to like comedy, and goddamn, that makes me happy.
Who Is Jamie Kilstein?
Jamie Kilstein is a comedian and cohost of Citizen Radio (wearecitizenradio.com) He contributes to Huffington Post and The Onion and has been seen on television all over the world.
“Jamie Kilstein is one of the funniest and smartest humans on the planet: his rocket-powered wit leaves you gasping—for more: sheer brilliance.” —PROFESSOR A.C GRAYLING
“There are few truly insightful, passionate and hysterically funny political comedians around, and even fewer coming out of the States. New Yorker Jamie Kilstein is a shining light probing into the murkier corners of the religious right and corrupt politics of his homeland. Funny and penetrating, he’s taken Bill Hicks’ baton and run with it.” —TIME OUT LONDON
American Atheist - May 2010
“Watching Jamie reminds me of why I got into comedy. It is like watching a combination of George Carlin and Bill Hicks” —JANEANE GAROFALO
“Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny have created an important political radio show that balances humor and unreported news. At a time when media conglomerates dominate the airwaves, independent media like Citizen Radio is vital to national discourse.” —NOAM CHOMSKY
Winner of the American Atheists Letter to the Editor Competition 2010
Published by The Free Press (serving midcoast Maine), September 17, 2009
Galen Rose: Damariscotta, Maine
n Entreaty to Parents: I am writing in response to “A Challenge to Parents,” by Judy Howlett, published in the September 10 edition of this newspaper. Ms. Howlett wrote, “I am going to make arguments for church school attendance. See if you can make as many valid arguments against church school attendance.” Ms. Howlett stresses the positive, community aspects of church, with which I have no problem. When people work together to improve their own and others’ well-being, that is laudable. But, of course, that happens outside of church, too. In contrast to Ms. Howlett, I would say to parents, “Please, please, DO NOT send your children to church school!” Let’s face it, church school exists for the purpose of indoctrinating children into a specific, Bible-based worldview. It is a perversion of real education, since it has nothing to do with teaching children how to think; its purpose is to teach them what to think. The teachers in these schools are intent on convincing the children that the Bible has all the answers, that the Bible is truth incarnate. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. According to Matthew 21:21, “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” But we all know that no one can actually command a mountain to throw itself into the sea. This is nonsense. All we have learned through science about
how the world really works has begun with doubt. According to the Bible, disease is caused by demons. Had no one doubted this, we would never have learned that disease is caused by microorganisms, toxic chemicals and genetic accidents. According to church schools, doubt is the greatest error and often the devious, undermining work of Satan. In the real world, doubt is the first step to discovery and true understanding of the world as it is. If you send your child to church school, her teachers will fill her head with superstitious nonsense. Do you really want her to believe in talking snakes, magical fruit trees, witches, ghosts, demons, dragons and 900-yearold men? They are all in the Bible. These stories were made up thousands of years ago by primitive, superstitious barbarians who knew next to nothing about how the world really works. Do you really want her to believe that this God she is being taught to worship has created a hell for those who doubt the dogma or otherwise displease him? There is a website, exchristian.net, that regularly publishes the testimonies of people who suffered for decades with the agonizing fear that they or their friends and family might end up in hell because of their doubts or minor “sins.” Some of these people were severely damaged, emotionally and intellectually, by these Biblical teachings. Ms. Howlett implies that without church school your children are likely to grow up without morals. But in order to teach them morality from the
Bible you must deceive them about much of what is in that book; you must carefully hide from the children those passages that command the execution of disobedient sons (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13) and anyone who works on the Sabbath (Exodus 25:2). Even little children today would not accept such a repugnant “morality.” And I would argue that none of us really learned morality from the Bible anyway; we learned all the essentials from our parents and other caretakers as tots, before we knew anything about theology. Remember the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It was in kindergarten, and before, that we learned never to hurt others on purpose, to not take others’ toys, to clean up after ourselves, and all of the other really important stuff. Nobody needs church school for this. Please, don’t send your children to church school! Why not take them to the Rachel Carson tidal pool in Bristol instead, and help them to begin discovering how the world really works. Or, get them a small microscope and let them see some of those amazing microorganisms for themselves. The real world is filled with wonders; to fill children’s eager young minds with superstition is a shame. The future belongs to those who accept reality and seek to understand it. Superstition should always be aggressively discouraged and shown for what it is: a damaging wound to individual human minds and a destructive impediment to the progress of mankind. May 2010 - American Atheist
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The Bible That Most Christians Have Never Read
friend of mine recently decided to re-dedicate himself to the LDS (Mormon) church. Throughout the course of our discussion about this, he mentioned the one crucial factor in his decision was that being a part of the church would make him a better person. “There are standards to live up to,” he explained. “Oh?” I asked, rather interested to hear about these so-called standards. “The bible has a set of standards that the lord has laid out,” he said. “If we live by the bible and follow god’s example, we can be better people.” At this, my eyebrows went up. Not quite able to help myself, I asked, “Do you mean we should follow your god’s biblical example by killing entire societies, including young children and babies? Is that what’s going to make you a better person?” He laughed and rolled his eyes. “Where is that in the bible?” The part of the bible I was referring to was 1 Samuel 15:2, in which god commands Saul to “go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” I also could have been referring
American Atheist - May 2010
to Isaiah 13:15–16, in which the lord orders against Babylon that “[e]veryone who is found will be thrust through, and everyone who is captured will fall by the sword. Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.” Take your pick. Biblical violence doesn’t stop there (Hosea 13:16 is another great example of this). But can it really be true that so many Christians who swear by the bible aren’t aware of the atrocities committed within it, often by the hand of their own deity? When they so often describe their god as being “loving,” “just,” and “perfect,” it’s hard to imagine that they are aware. To give them the benefit of the doubt, though, I questioned ten Christians (‘Christian meaning a variety of denominations, including evangelicals, Baptists, and Mormons) about the following verses from their holy book (bold mine): Ezekiel 4:12: “…And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.” Here, the biblical god is punishing his people by forcing them to consume human excrement.
Malachi 2:3: “’Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts.” Again, the biblical god is using fecal matter to punish people, this time by smearing it on their faces. For an allknowing, perfect god, this seems a rather immature act, not to mention morally questionable. Deuteronomy 28: 53: “You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you.” This is a blatant call for cannibalism, should the need arise. Most people in contemporary Western society agree that cannibalism is inappropriate and immoral on all levels—would, however, Christians feel the same knowing that their holy book has, at one point, granted it as permissible? Leviticus 21:17–23: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘…No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch. … He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the lord sanctify them.” How can a caring, all-perfect god discriminate some of his creation on the basis of disabilities (and, knowing he would discriminate against them since he’s all-knowing, why would he even create them this way)? This verse makes disabled people out to be tantamount to unclean, something definitely frowned upon in modern society. Leviticus 12:2,5: “…If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days … but if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks.” The sexism here is blatant: not only is a woman considered unclean after giving birth, but the time in which she remains unclean is doubled if she gives birth to a girl rather than a boy. This, also, is only one of many examples of sexism in the bible. The responses I received from the Christians I talked to about these verses ranged from accusatory (I was taking things out of context), to disbelief (I was making it up), to explanatory (god had a reason for all of these things). What was perhaps the most disturbing response was the third: the notion that whatever the Judeo-Christian god does, or has done, is moral and righteous (even if this includes such things as mass murder and discrimination) simply because he’s god is actually quite common. The fact of the matter is that most Christians don’t know what the majority of the bible says, but when introduced to some of the morally questionable parts, they’re usually ready with an excuse, even to the extent of murder being okay if their god commands it. As an Atheist, I’m often accused of having no moral basis. I suppose it’s a consolation to know that I would never condone half of what the bible teaches.
THE ULTIMATE ATHEIST NETWORK
7,394 FANS & COUNTING May 2010 - American Atheist
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. Stock # Price Pages Book Style
© 2010 Photos.com
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 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!
Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller An anthropologist advances Atheists and Atheism beyond belief!
Please see the order form enclosed with this magazine for member discounts and shipping details, or consult www.atheists.org.
American Atheist - May 2010
isery loves company, but so does lunacy. Not surprisingly, I have noticed a lot of Christians now embracing the New World Order conspiracy theory. Popularized today by people like Alex Jones, the theory argues that a shadowy, small group of powerful elites control the world governments behind the scenes and are working towards a centralized infrastructure that will exploit and enslave the rest of humanity. I say I am not surprised by the fondness Christians are showing for the NWO conspiracy because it is not far removed from the portrait of the apocalypse drawn in the book of Revelation. With concepts like the Antichrist, the mark of the beast, and the ten worldly empires, many of the faithful have made the connection and believe that the New World Order will be the Antichrist’s one-world government set up here on Earth. Lately I have seen this fantasy emerge in protests against the ACLU and other groups that fight to uphold the separation of church and state in America. These conspiracy theorists think that the oppressive regime is already moving into place, stripping away the rights and religion of innocent Christians who are not allowed their free reign to proselytize, in the name of religious freedom. They see an Orwellian future, with Big Brother stamping his boot especially firm on the faces of Christians. The Left Behind books and films also provide a bit of a glimpse into the Christian NWO paranoia. Many Christians in the United States have even adopted a view of Jesus as a sort of political liberator, exalting him alongside our founding fathers as a hero who fought for the same values we hold in America. There is some interesting irony amidst all this though. Among the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 2:2–4, which clearly describes the establishment of a central world government where “all nations will stream to” and where “the law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. Basically, part of the messiah’s job description is to create a religious New World Order. This notion is also supported by Isaiah 11:10, which reads: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” Romans 15:12 identifies Jesus as the Root of Jesse and explains that he “will arise to rule over the nations.” We all know that Jesus Christ never founded any central government during his time on Earth, so there are really only two options left. Either Christians have to admit Jesus failed to fulfill the prophecy or believe that he will fulfill it during his second coming. The messiah will not come to set the captives free, as modern Christians seem to believe, he will
come to set up his own empire. What exactly do they think Jesus was referring to, when he told them they will see “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28)? Earthly tyranny will be replaced by godly tyranny. According to the bible, this godly kingdom is the fascist New World Order feared by Christian conspiracy theorists. It will not be a return to the American republic fantasized by Alex Jones and others. Zechariah 14:9 indicates that freedom of religion will not exist in the messiah’s empire, because on that day “there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” Uniformity of thought is already encouraged in Christianity, as 2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs believers: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The commandment against coveting establishes thought-crime too, as does Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:28, that anyone who looks lustfully at a woman commits adultery with her in his heart. Perhaps the most obvious comparison to be drawn between the messiah’s kingdom and a centralized, fascist government is in how opposition is treated. Dissenting opinions are squelched without mercy, as under the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, which abducted dissidents from their homes and murdered them, Christ orders his enemies to be slain in front of him in a parable told in Luke 19:11– 27, where he fittingly portrays himself as an unjust and merciless king. Then there is the promise continually made by Jesus throughout the gospels, that any who reject his ‘gift’ of salvation will spend eternity after death in unimaginable pain and torment. Before any more Christians get up in arms over enforcing the separation of church and state, which they perceive to be an attack on their liberties and freedoms, perpetrated by an Atheistic (or satanic) conspiracy, they should open their bibles and find out who their messiah really is meant to be. He is a tyrant in every sense of the word, oppressing those who are not Christian and suppressing the freedom of those who are. I do not give the New World Order theory any more credence than Christianity, but those believers who support it ought to read Matthew 7:3–5. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
May 2010 - American Atheist
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Want to be an affiliate? Want a full list of affiliatesâ€™ contact info? Contact Blair Scott, National Affiliate Director firstname.lastname@example.org http://alabamaatheist.org/naod
San Francisco Atheists sfatheists.com Santa Cruz Atheists santacruzatheists.org Shasta Atheists & Freethinkers email@example.com
ÂŠ 2010 Photos.com
ALABAMA Birmingham Atheists atheists.meetup.com/132
ALASKA Anchorage Atheists http://meetup.com/anchorageatheists
Florence United Nontheists FlorenceFreethought.org
ARIZONA Tucson Atheists atheists.meetup.com/69
Montgomery Area Freethought Association montgomeryfreethought.org North Alabama Freethought Association thenafa.org West Alabama Freethought Association meetup.com/westalabamafreethought
CALIFORNIA Agnostic & Atheist Student Association daviswiki.org/agasa Atheist Coalition of San Diego atheistcoalition.org Atheists & Agnostics Group of Rossmoor rossmooratheists.info
COLORADO Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver atheistsofdenver.org Boulder Atheists boulderatheists.org Metro State Atheists metrostateatheists.wordpress.com Western Colorado Atheists westerncoloradoatheists.org CONNECTICUT Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI atheisthumanist.org Connecticut Valley Atheists cvatheists.org
May 2010 - American Atheist
FLORIDA Florida Atheists & Secular Humanists **Affiliate of the Year, 2008** freethoughtflorida.com Gator Freethought (UF) gatorfreethought.org Rebirth of Reason in Florida rebirthofreason.com/Florida
KC FreeThinkers kcfreethinkers.org Miami County Kansas Freethinkers atheists.meetup.com/733
Saint Petersburg Atheists atheists.meetup.com/209
KENTUCKY Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky facebook.com/group. php?gid=88546849234
South Lake Atheists and Freethinkers atheists.meetup.com/655
Kentucky Atheists firstname.lastname@example.org
GEORGIA Atlanta Freethought Society atlantafreethought.org
Lexington Atheists meetup.com/The-Lexington-AtheistsMeetup-Group
IDAHO Idaho Atheists idahoatheists.org
LOUISIANA Ark-La-Tex Freethinkers (Shreveport) facebook.com/group. php?gid=128265161375
ILLINOIS Bradley Atheists PTurack@Bradley.edu Chicago Atheists & Agnostics facebook.com/group. php?gid=295329684331 IWU Atheist, Agnostic, and NonReligious facebook.com/group. php?gid=5558627959 IOWA Iowa Secularists iowasecularist.org Siouxland Atheists siouxlandatheists.org KANSAS First Church of Freethought/Fort Riley Atheists email@example.com Heartland Humanists heartlandhumanists.org Individuals For Freethought k-state.edu/freethought
Kansas Freethought Society atheists.meetup.com/642
American Atheist - May 2010
New Orleans Secular Humanist Association nosha.secularhumanism.net MARYLAND Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College firstname.lastname@example.org MASSACHUSETTS American University Rationalists & Atheists facebook.com/group. php?gid=34367344446
MILITARY (APO/FPO) Southeast Asia Freethought Assoc. 379th AEW swafreethought.freeforums.org MINNESOTA Campus Atheists & Secular Humanists cashumn.org Minnesota Atheists mnatheists.org St. Olaf Agnostic and Atheist Society stolaf.edu/orgs/aas MISSISSIPPI Great Southern Humanist Society humanism.meetup.com/164 Mid-South Humanist Society midsouth-humanist-society.org MISSOURI Columbia Atheists meetup.com/The-Columbia-AtheistsMeetup-Group Community of Reason CommunityOfReason.net Joplin Freethinkers joplinfreethinkers.org MU Skeptics Atheists Secular Humanist Agnostics facebook.com/group. php?gid=150886568817 Rationalist Society of St. Louis rssl.org
Atheists of Greater Lowell atheists.meetup.com/331
Springfield Freethinkers meetup.com/SpringfieldFreethinkers
Boston Atheists bostonatheists.org
St. Joseph Skeptics stjosephskeptics.org
MICHIGAN Michigan Atheists michiganatheists.org
NEBRASKA Lincoln Atheists lincolnatheists.org
Mid Michigan Atheists and Humanists mmah.org
Omaha Atheists omahaatheists.org
NEVADA Las Vegas Freethought Society lvfs.org
Northeast Pennsylvania Freethought Society atheists.meetup.com/622
UNT Freethought Alliance facebook.com/group. php?gid=7647566521
NEW JERSEY New Jersey Humanist Network NJHN.org
PA Nonbelievers panonbelievers.org
UTAH Atheists of Utah atheistsofutah.org
NEW YORK Freethinkers of Upstate New York funygroup.org Hudson Valley Humanists hudsonvalley.humanists.net Long Island Secular Humanists LISecHum@aol.com New York City Atheists nyc-atheists.org Science Club of Long Island sciencecluboflongisland.com NORTH CAROLINA Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics CharlotteAtheists.com NORTH DAKOTA Red River Freethinkers redriverfreethinkers.org OHIO Free Inquiry Group, Inc. gofigger.org Humanist Community of Central Ohio hcco.org OKLAHOMA Oklahoma Atheists OklahomaAtheists.info PENNSYLVANIA Atheist Station atheiststation.org Central Susquehanna Valley Freethought meetup.com/Central-susquehannavalley-freethought
RHODE ISLAND Rhode Island Atheist Society riatheist.com SOUTH CAROLINA Secular Humanists of Lowcountry lowcountry.humanists.net
VIRGINIA Beltway Atheists meetup.com/beltwayatheists Secular Student Alliance @ George Mason myspace.com/rrs@gmu
TENNESSEE Chattanooga Freethought Association chattanoogafreethoughtassociation. com
WASHINGTON Freethinkers United Network freethinkersunitednetwork.com
Memphis Freethought Alliance memphisfreethought.com
Seattle Atheists SeattleAtheists.org
Nashville Secular Life atheists.meetup.com/699
WEST VIRGINIA Morgantown Atheists morgantownatheists.org
Rationalists of East Tennessee rationalists.org TEXAS Atheist Community of Austin atheist-community.org Atheists Helping the Homeless Atheistsvolunteers.org/Austin Denton Atheists Meetup meetup.com/The-Denton-AtheistsMeetup-Group Freethinkers Association of Central Texas FreethinkersACT.org
WISCONSIN Southeast Wisconsin FreeThinkers swiftnow.org NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS Atheist Nexus atheistnexus.org Atheists for Human Rights atheistsforhumanrights.org Atheists United for a Rational America rationalamerica.com Military Assoc. of Atheists & Freethinkers maaf.info
Houston Atheists Meetup meetup.com/Houston-Atheists Metroplex Atheists metroplexatheists.org San Antonio Atheists sa-atheists.org
May 2010 - American Atheist
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American Atheist - May 2010
American Atheists, PO Box 158, Cranford, NJ 07016.
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. 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.
activism. $20/yr education. entertainment. a small price to pay for supporting religious freedom
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