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—Richard Dawkins

June 2010
Vol 48, No.5

American Atheist

ISSN 0516-9623 (Print) ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS Managing Editor Frank R. Zindler AMERICAN ATHEIST ‘A Journal of Atheist News and Thought’ Editor David Smalley 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

Thank you for the new format and print of the American Atheist magazine. I like that most articles are on two open pages. This magazine was difficult to navigate at one time but is easy and enjoyable to read now. —Emmy

in this issue...

Published monthly by American Atheists, Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 158 Cranford, NJ 07016 908.276.7300 P 908.276.7402 F

4 8 14 15

From the Editor: Why Do Believers Avoid Facts? 2010 American Atheists National Convention Can We Raise the Standard, Please? How Do They Count FLDS Families? Female Freethinkers: A Non-scientific Survey The Good Father Utterly Antagonistic & Irreconcilable The Creator God: A Solution in Search of a Problem

©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 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

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Why Do Believers Avoid Facts


David Smalley


he following text is the actual email correspondence I had with a listener after nine one-hour radio shows on the Christian radio station 90.9 KCBI (Dallas/Ft. Worth), of which I was the featured guest. The first six shows were dedicated to the host (Dr. Barry Creamer) asking me questions about Atheism. In the final three shows, I got to ask the host all the hard questions we’d love to ask a preacher on the air— unrehearsed. I received many emails from listeners, but this one really stood out, so I responded and our dialogue continued for several days. I’ve included the entire correspondence below. David, I listened to you again ask your questions to Dr. Barry Creamer, and it was pretty interesting. The thing I have a little problem with of professing Atheists is that you say you believe there is no God but you are in essence following what the Christian belief is about. What I mean by that is for example you know, “Thou shalt not kill” by what God spoke. You only know killing is wrong because God said so. How would you even come to know what right and wrong are, if God hadn’t set it in motion for us to even know? So you are really in contradiction to yourself because you are following laws set by a God you say doesn’t exist. So why are you following laws of a God that doesn’t exist? Since you believe there is no God, why are you so opposing of what Jesus said? I’m just saying. Jason, Thanks for writing, and thanks for listening. It’s always important to have these types of discussions and I’m happy to know you’re interested.

When you say that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is “God’s law” and I must be following that law because I don’t kill people, let me ask you this: did you know the Bible wasn’t put together until over 300 years after Jesus died? According to the Christian belief, people were created about 6,000–8,000 years ago. So you believe that we started with something like 4,000 BC, and then when Jesus came, that was about year 1 or 4, depending on the scholar you talk to. (Now we’re in 2010, so that’s about 6,000 years total). In the year 325, the Bible was put together with those laws in them. So even if your beliefs were right, how did people live before the Bible was made? According to Christianity, people lived for about 4,325 years before there was a Bible. That means that people lived just fine without killing each other before there ever was a Bible, or we wouldn’t have made it that far to write one! To top it off, only about 2 billion people on the planet claim to be Christian. That leaves 4 billion more people that are alive today that are not Christian, and do not follow the Bible. How do those 4 billion people stop from killing each other? Shouldn’t our prisons be overflowing with non-Christians that are breaking all sorts of rules? Actually, just the opposite is true. There are more Christians in prison right now than Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Wiccans, Hindus, and Native Americans combined. Jason, saying that morals came from the Bible is like saying words came from a dictionary. Both books just recorded what already existed within us. Now, Christians try to take credit for inventing our morals. It’s simply not true. I don’t kill people because I don’t want to harm people. I know what pain feels like, I know I want to live to be here for my family—my wife and my two small children. I don’t want to take

another family’s dad or mom, or brother or sister, so I don’t kill. That’s a principle of humanistic ethics, and it’s what Atheists live by. Mr. Smalley,

One more thing, just like when you are raising children. What are you constantly doing? You are telling them, “no don’t do this, or no don’t do that,” because if not, they will keep on doing it. If you never tell them it is wrong they won’t know it is wrong. Just as with God, he has to give us the laws & decrees, it is not to harm us, but to help us. So I don’t understand when you say it’s humanistic or we innately know it is good, because a child when they are first born would already know right from wrong without ever being taught. What is the point of having parents raise them if they already know? So that can’t be right. If what you are saying is right, we would not have to be constantly saying “no” to a child. They would already know from the beginning. Jason, Have you read the Bible? Yahweh commanded Saul to kill every living thing in Amalek, including men, women, infants, nursing children, ox and sheep (1 Sam 15). Yahweh told Abraham to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice to prove his love (Gen 22:1-19). Forty two children made fun of Elisha (a prophet) for being bald, so Yahweh allowed two female bears to come out of the woods and rip all forty two children to pieces (2 Kings 2:23-24). Yahweh commanded that all homosexuals be put to death (Lev 20:13). Yahweh also commanded that anyone who works on Saturday (or the Sab-



American Atheist - June- 2010

bath) should be put to death (Exodus 35:2). Paul, speaking on behalf of Yahweh, said that it is shameful for women to speak in church, and that they should remain in submission to men, never holding a position of authority (1 Cor 14:34 & 1 Tim 2:11) Yahweh (Jehovah) said that any man who doesn’t listen to a priest shall be put to death (Deu 17:12-13). Any child that misbehaves should also be put to death according to Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Do you honestly feel that it’s okay to say this book should © 2010 be our source for morality? Atheists have never killed in the ‘name of’ anything. Christians have killed millions in the name of their god. Mr. Smalley, See this is why you can’t partially read a book—any book in that case. If you do that, you will get the wrong interpretation out of it and you will make it out to say what you want it to say, so it makes it seem what you want it to be. Let’s say you wrote an autobiography and someone read it but started in the middle chapters. Let’s say that part was you talking about all the bad in your life and that’s all they read, but in the chapters before and after, it was explaining why you were speaking of those things and you were getting to a point of why you did those things or to bring to light the effect of those things and they brought about a good change in your life. If they only read those chapters, they would think you were a pretty bad person now wouldn’t they? The same with the Bible—you have to read from the beginning throughout. If you are just pulling out scripture to me and showing me the events of what happened and I just read

that portion, of course it would look bad, that’s why people are claiming blessings that aren’t theirs in the Bible because they don’t read the whole context of what God was saying. It may have been for then at that time, but we won’t go into that now. Back to what I was saying: I didn’t just read that part, I read from the beginning to get the whole context of it. You’re trying to prove to me an unjust God and give me half-truths of what it is saying. Give me the whole thing—not just a partial. I highly disagree he is an unjust God. In the next message, I will break down those passages for you and we can go from there, I just wanted to explain that to you. Thanks for your time. Good day! Jason, Only because I quote certain verses, it doesn’t mean those are the only verses I’ve read. Do you seriously think I’d be doing a radio show, writing a book, moderating a religious debate Web-site, and became the Editor of the American Atheist magazine, by only reading a few verses in the Bible? I haven’t partially read the book, Jason. I’ve read it all—twice. I’ve been researching Christianity for 13 years, and just wrote my own book on the faith itself to be published shortly. I know the Bible like the back of my hand—so try again. I’m afraid it is you that does not have a full understanding of your Bible. If you did, you wouldn’t say these types of things and try to defend the indefensible. Not a single verse, before nor after 1 Sam makes the killing of the Amalekite infants justified. I will send you a check for $1,000 if you can prove to me using any verse in the Bible that makes the killing of innocent infants okay. Mr. Smalley, Quick question, you say you don’t get your ‘morals’ from the Bible, well where do you get your morals or understanding from?

Jason, Our ethics come from society, evolutionary biology, rational discourse, and value-based decision making. Why do you think you have to get your morals from something supernatural? How do you know that someone else getting punched actually hurts them? How do animals care for each other or have compassion? Why do Hindus and Muslims have morals if they only come from the Bible? Mr. Smalley, You just said you got your values from something. So you’re asking me why do I have to get morals from something when you just proved that by what you said. You have to understand that all the morals you are pertaining to come from the Creator. Who do you think gave you that soul to discern those morals? If you think that you came from an ooze, or derived from monkeys you are sadly mistaken. So if you are receiving your morals from what humans have taught, what makes you think their morals are right? I mean morals today say that it’s totally ‘normal’ for children to have sex before marriage, and that abortion is okay and the woman has the right to her body and the baby is only a ‘fetus.’ So if that is normal, those morals are way off base. I will not follow the trend of accepting morals that are man made. Man can’t even understand how a baby is made inside the womb, so what would we know about morals other than what God has set for you to understand? You are taking up for those other religions or ideals or other nationalities just because you don’t see what these other religions or ideals are teaching. You seem to know about all of these other ideals. What do you believe? I’m so confused. Do you believe all of these religions are true, or do you just accept them all to keep from picking one? What do you stand for? You claim to be Atheist, but you’re bringing up all these other religions. I mean something has to be wrong and something has to be right. I mean
June 2010 - American Atheist


the scientific theory even teaches, what goes up, must come down. I can say what’s right to me and you can say what’s right, but what if I think what you believe is wrong, does that make my truth and your truth right? No! If I say north is this way and you say north is that way and we get out a compass and it tells the true way—one of us has to be wrong don’t you think? Come on David, I mean stand for something—the only thing that you stand against is the Bible. If you believe it is so untrue, why are you going against something that is not true? If it is not true then the falseness will show up without you going against it. I mean you do believe the truth will always show up. So if the Bible is so untrue, why are all these other religions fighting against a lie? Who would defend a lie with their lives? You tell me if you would fight for a lie. That’s just crazy to me. Jason—you need more education. Evolution has never said we came from an ooze or that we came from monkeys. You’re brainwashed by society and you refuse to do your own research. I can’t help you there. You’ve been lied to and chose to accept it instead of checking the facts. Read any textbook on ethics and it will show you multiple ethical systems that exist without religions and even more that exist without Christianity. Your religion is not the only possible way to have ethics. To believe so, is arrogant and ignorant. The world is bigger than you and your Jesus, you just have to care enough to see what else is out there. If you had ever taken any entry level college courses on ethics or evolutionary biology you wouldn’t be saying these silly things. Please do some research on these before replying. Otherwise this conversation is a waste of time. Mr. Smalley, You have to understand that I have done the research and looked into all the other religions and they just make no sense to me. I don’t have to know about

all of what you’re saying or even have to take entry level classes on all of the things you are speaking of. You are just so blinded by the fact that this world is the end to life and there is nothing left after this. You are in the world my friend and it is a sad reality. I hate to see you going down this road and be blinded into thinking everything can be true and all religions can be right. You are sadly mistaken. You think that all your education will help you—once again you are sadly mistaken. You don’t understand what I’m saying because you are blinded to the fact of the world system and you are right where the devil wants you to be. Satan and demons knows there is a God and guess who will be there to accuse you on judgement day... Satan himself. I wouldn’t want you to have to face a perfect God based on the ‘good’ you think that you were doing on this earth. Jesus is the only true way. I’m sorry but that’s where I stand. Yes, you may say there is no God my friend, but low and behold—there is. I can say all day there is no sun in the sky but the sunlight will shine regardless. I have a Bachelors Degree my friend, education is a way for me to have higher knowledge, but it is not the all means in which I go by, I go by my God who has all knowledge and power and can save us all, you just have to accept the facts… hopefully I will see you in Heaven Mr. Smalley. I will be praying for you my friend. Be safe man. Thanks for your time. Jason, You have a college degree but you think evolution states that we came from monkeys and ooze and you think there is no way to have ethics without the Bible? Come on—be honest. Mr. Smalley, I’m just going by what I have read and coming up in grade school how they taught evolution of how the ‘man’ or ‘monkey’ evolved into being human. Well since you don’t believe that, well enlight-

en me on how we came about since you seem to know. I tell you what I believe and know is that God made the heaven and earth and we were made from the dirt of the ground and God made us into his image likeness and breathed life into man. What do you believe? Jason, It’s not about what I believe. It is about scientific facts that you simply aren’t aware of due to a bias towards the story of biblical creation by our society and school teachers, and also due to your own negligence of finding the truth. You’ve trusted what other Christians have told you about evolution, instead of looking into it for yourself. Evolution is not just a theory, it is a fact. It states that humans and apes have common ancestors deep down in the biological gene pool, and there is overwhelming evidence to prove that. Evolution has never stated that humans evolved from present day monkeys! That’s insane. And it was made up by creationists to make scientists look crazy. It obviously worked because you believed it and rejected scientific facts because of that belief. I can’t teach you about evolution in an email. Not because I don’t understand it, but because anyone that tries to sum up billions of years worth of adaptations in an email will look ridiculous. This is something you need to research, but I’ve provided you with a very helpful source. Please visit this site and do some thorough reading. It will change your mind about evolution and hopefully undo some of that anti-scientific Christian education of our origins: Here is an excerpt: “Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution, genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc.—is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory.”


American Atheist - June- 2010

Mr. Smalley, I read over the site and I got nothing out of it other than, us and ‘monkeys’ evolved from the same gene pool and by happenstance changed over time, lol. That I can say was the most waste of time I have spent reading information about a topic. If you believe that you have faith that I don’t have, lol. You have to have a WHOLE LOT OF FAITH to believe in that. They’re trying to explain things ‘change’ over time. Well answer me this, why are monkeys that are present now, still monkeys? What they haven’t evolved yet, ha ha! I guess when they finally evolve into a human, I guess they can let them go from the zoo huh? I can’t believe an intelligent person such as yourself has picked up such mallarchy. I mean I don’t know what to say my friend. They are even saying on the site it could possibly not be fact. They are confused themselves. I didn’t see anything that described how we came about. I gave you a simple explanation, but you can’t even explain to me of what you think are facts. So how will someone be convinced that it is true? If you can’t explain to me how we came about, then I am through with this conversation. You have nothing bro, lol. Sorry to laugh, but it is so funny. Can’t believe you have faith in that, lol! Good day bro, LOL! So funny, evolution, WOW! Jason, You’re making a fool of yourself. Evolution has been scientifically proven and is taught in universities all over the world. You’re only showing your ignorance by laughing and it makes me feel sorry for you. This is literally the same as us debating where babies come from, with me taking the “mother theory” and you supporting the “stork theory.” You still don’t get it. It’s so obvious to me that you’re ‘scanning’ this material through Christian brainwashed eyes. Please wake up! There is no way you could have read enough material and paid attention to it in the brief time it took you to respond

to me. Please be honest with yourself, Jason. You said “why are monkeys still monkeys? Why haven’t they evolved yet?” That makes it obvious that you still don’t understand. Monkeys have evolved. We are just related to the same ancestor way down the line. Let me be as plain and simple as I can, because I’ve obviously confused you: (1) WE DIDN’T EVOLVE FROM PRESENT-DAY MONKEYS. (2) HUMANS AND MONKEYS ARE RELATED TO A COMMON ANCESTOR FROM MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO. (3) MONKEYS WILL NEVER BE HUMANS. WE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SPECIES. (4) THERE ARE SCIENTIFIC FACTS AND FOSSILS TO BACK THIS UP. (5) EVOLUTION IS NOT A BELIEF, IT IS SCIENTIFIC FACT. (6) GO TO ANY MUSEUM. READ ANY BOOK ON ANTHROPOLOGY. THE FACTS ARE OUT THERE. (7) YOU ARE CHOOSING IGNORANCE BY REFUSING TO RESEARCH THESE FACTS. (8) THE BIBLE IS A MYTH THAT WAS AN EARLY ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THESE THINGS BEFORE THEY FOUND FOSSILS. Please research these terms: anthropology | Australopithecus | Homo habilis | Homo erectus. Mr. Smalley, The bible is a myth? Ha ha. You are confused aren’t ya? I will debate with you no more David, this is getting nowhere. Me looking at all of that material is dumbing me down bro. It makes no

sense. You thinking the world has been here for billions of years is wrong from the beginning. It’s just a way for evolution to have a chance to say things have changed over time when there hasn’t been that much time for the change to happen. Billions of years huh? Lol. So who are your ancestors from a billion years ago, how would you be able to trace your family tree? I don’t understand how dinosaurs were once on earth and now they are gone. Were they all in one place at one time? I mean what happened? I will say it again—you have more faith to believe that. You’re making it all complicated when it is simple. God made you David. However you want to deny that, it will not change that God designed you. You believe all this crap of evolution and it cannot even be explained. I could care less if it is accepted in this world as a ‘truth’ when it is not. It is a man made ‘theory’ and it is not true. Remember that Satan is in the world and he is the master deceiver. One day you will finally see. So go ahead and follow what man is filling your head up with. I will not follow that trend my friend. I will let you be David, there is no way I will believe evolution. Just because they are sincere, doesn’t make it right. Well David, it was nice to have a dialogue with ya over these days, but I will focus my time and energy on my God. Until then David, be safe! Editor’s Note: This interaction was one of the more frustrating ones I’ve had, but sadly, this type is not uncommon. I just don’t understand why these people avoid the facts. I clearly presented the idea of evolution, and he still insisted that evolution is a ‘belief’ which says we came from present-day monkeys. What else can we do? I’ll look forward to your ideas on interacting with Christians.

All of the radio shows are archived and can be heard online at
June 2010 - American Atheist


The American Atheists 2010 National Convention:
A Vice-Presidential Perspective
David Phillip Silverman | Vice-President, American Atheists Over 300 people attended the 36th Annual National Convention of American Atheists in Newark, New Jersey this year, and were treated to a dream team of the movement’s best speakers under one roof. In fact, there was so much going on that I was unable to attend every event personally. The ones I made it to were home runs, though, and I heard similar opinions from other attendees about the talks I missed. Thursday Evening Registration opened on Thursday, April 1, at which we were greeted by the news that our scheduled entertainment for the evening had fallen through, due to reasons beyond our organizers’ control. Those of us who arrived early decided not to let this disappointment keep us from kicking off the festivities with some fun, so we threw our own party in the bar. Drinks were purchased, hugs were exchanged between old friends, and the weekend was off to a flying start! Friday Morning The convention was opened Friday morning by our longtime ally Ken Bronstein, president of the NYC Atheists, who provided an enthusiastic introduction for our president, Ed Buckner. Ed spoke on the current status and exciting future of American Atheists. He is a great speaker and was warmly welcomed by the whipped-up crowd.  Then it was time for our first major guest speaker, Paul Kurtz, the founder and former president of the Council for Secular Humanism.  Paul gave a thought-provoking speech about the ethics of Atheism and how the movement needs to accept the precepts of Secular Humanism (which many consider to be Atheism’s next logical step) in order to be fully accepted in the mainstream. Next up was my friend and occasional guest on the Atheist Viewpoint, Massimo Pigliucci, who made a very strong case for scientific agnosticism.  Massimo explained that, while Atheism is the most logical philosophical position, science itself can only be agnostic. He explained that the nature of a ‘supernatural’ question is non-scientific by definition, and non-scientific questions cannot be answered scientifically. I found this argument pretty compelling, and although I am loathe to place the word ‘agnostic’ next to my name (I consider myself a die-hard Dawkinsian), a lot of what Massimo had to say made sense to me. Dr. Ed Buckner & Dave Silverman  

Ken Bronstein—President, NYC Atheists


American Atheist - June- 2010

The morning was rounded out by Cecil Bothwell, the city councilman for Asheville, North Carolina, whose detractors are trying to force him out of office simply because he is an Atheist. This was my first encounter with Cecil, and he turned out to be an excellent speaker on the subject of his own persecution, as well as the warmonger Billy Graham, about whom Cecil has written a book. He had quite a few stories to tell, and left the crowd eager to learn more. Friday Afternoon Following autographs and lunch, conventioneers found they had some difficult choices to make between concurrent program items. Author Darrell Ray spoke on the mechanics of activism while Tom Flynn of the Center for Inquiry spoke about his new book and Islamic censorship in America and abroad. Attorney and long-time activist Eddie Tabash spoke on politics and the Supreme Court, while the Executive Director of the United Kingdom’s National Secular Society, Keith Porteus Wood, spoke on the secular situation in Great Britain. Actress Indra Zuno offered the first-ever Spanishonly presentation at one of our events, an expose of the Virgin of Guadalupe, while Legal Director Edwin Kagin spoke on the many cases in which American Atheists is involved and the new release of his book Baubles of Blasphemy. After a full day of rather intense talks, we took a quick breather before launching into our second annual de-baptism ceremony. Edwin and I grabbed our hair dryers and de-baptized the living and the dead, with or without consent. This is a fun exercise where we poke fun at the act of baptizing an infant or a dead person, neither of whom has the ability to consent to such activity. We don’t take any of it seriously, except for the statement that nobody should take baptism too seriously in the first place. It’s also a great excuse for Edwin to don whatever costumes he may have brought along and to blow his shofar (the ram’s horn blown by traditional Jews during certain holidays). This year, we also enjoyed a special performance by the Vestal Vegans who, clad in burkas, sang a version of Back in their Burkas Again. It was a great way to unwind and finish the afternoon with a belly-laugh. Friday Evening We faced a second disappointment Friday night when author Jeff Sharlett was forced to cancel his scheduled appearance due to illness (insert wrath of god joke here). Nevertheless, we were kept plenty busy by our members’ dinner and the annual presentation of awards, during which Blair Scott was awarded Atheist of the Year for his wonderful activism both on-line and off (congrats, Blair, and thank you!). After some more requisite partying, we stumbled off to our beds, exhausted by another day full of learning and entertainment.
Darrell Ray, Author
June 2010 - American Atheist

Cecil Bothwell—City Councilman, Asheville, NC


Saturday Morning The next morning, a drowsy crowd was wowed to its feet by Sean Faircloth of the Secular Coalition for America and Terry Sanderson from the National Secular Society. Additionally, Indra gave the English version of the speech she gave in Spanish the day before, while Jeff Perry spoke about Hubert Harrison and his campaign for civil rights. Philanthropist Todd Steifel, an accomplished public speaker, spoke to a crowded room about where he thinks the movement should go in the future, while Martin Lewison explained some of the sillier rituals of Orthodox Judaism.
Woody Kaplan & Eddie Tabash

Saturday Afternoon The convention’s speeches then went plenary again, with a fantastic talk by Andy Thompson of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, who spoke about the chemical and physical effects of religion. At one point, he had us all singing Amazing Grace (I am not kidding), and loving it (still not kidding)! His message, that religious practices and rituals are utilized to hypnotize practitioners, was creatively (and effectively) demonstrated. Our old friend Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation spoke of his conversion from evangelical Christianity and his subsequent debates with former allies. Author Wendy Kaminer finished the day by ‘schooling’ us on law, ethics, and the ACLU.

Sean Faircloth—Secular Coalition for America

Todd Steifel—Philanthropist

Indra Zuno—Actress

Dan Barker—FFRF


American Atheist - June- 2010

Saturday Evening After the speeches concluded, the members gathered for the Life and Legacy dinner at which Ellen Birch announced our new tiered membership program, as well as our new American Atheists credit card. After dinner, some of our hardier conventioneers went out for some more partying, while others flopped into bed a bit earlier (hey, we’re not all young’ins anymore!). Sunday Morning American Atheists conventions traditionally conclude with a trip. This year, our conventioneers trekked to New York for a guided tour of the Museum of Natural History. Massimo played tour guide and showed us a myriad of transitional fossils (which all fossils are) on display, and explained how changes in the environment led to changes in the evolution of species. The moral of the story was the sheer volume of evidence for evolution, and the obvious ignorance of evolution’s detractors. It gives new meaning to ‘blind faith’ when the evidence against their position is right there for all to see. The trip concluded in the late afternoon, after which we headed to our various modes of transportation home.   Convention Highlights   For me, the second-best part of the convention was also the saddest: the memorial for Edwin’s wife and co-founder of Camp Quest, Helen, to whom the convention was dedicated. Helen was a dear, sweet woman who died from cancer shortly before the convention, and several of her friends assembled a touching video about her and her life. It was only a few minutes long, but it was great. My co-vice president, Kathy Johnson and I flanked Edwin for the event, which was filled with supporters and well-wishers. I’m not really a sentimental guy, but I really felt the love for Edwin in the room and I shared in his gratitude. Of course, the best part of this convention is the best part of every convention: the people. Every night, old friends gathered to catch up and laugh hard. We only see each other at these events and that makes for lots of stories and intensely good times. Every convention has its moments that are destined to be the fodder for jokes and laughs at next year’s gathering (like a certain sleazy bar in NYC we survived), thus producing a never-ending cycle of camaraderie and good times.  In the end, it doesn’t matter where the American Atheists convention is held, just so long as we all wind up there together. I hope to see you all next year!

Massimo Pigliucci talks with Frank Zindler

The convention stopped by the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Paul Kurtz gives his speech during the convention.

June 2010 - American Atheist


Who says Atheists can’t group? There’s a lot of free thought going on in this picture!

Dave Kong—retired board member & former Director of State Operations

Dave Silverman & Todd Steifel Edwin Kagin & Indra Zuno


American Atheist - June- 2010

Edwin Kagin signs autographs in his latest book Baubles of Blasphemy, published by AAP.

Jesse Galef—Secular Student Alliance

Eric Johnson records Lyz Liddell of the Secular Student Alliance for the television series Nightline.

Massimo Pigliucci, PhD with long-time friend and president of American Atheists, Dr. Ed Buckner

Blair Scott—Affiliate Director, American Atheists, was named “Atheist of the Year” for 2010.
June 2010 - American Atheist


PZ Myers: Can We Raise The Standard Please?
MJP Campbell
he Atheist blogosphere’s latest controversy surrounds an April 2010 Center for Inquiry Web-site post made by Michael De Dora on the recent antics of a Tennessee father who says it is unfair that creationism is described as a “myth” by a biology textbook. The textbook states: “In the 1970s and 1980s, antievolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for ‘equal time’ for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian god in six days. But a court ruled that the ‘equal-time’ bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state.” De Dora’s article questions the knee-jerk reaction of many Atheists and freethinkers and argues that the father, Kurt Zimmerman, may in fact have a point. The article is itself a response to a post by PZ Myers on this case. As I understand it, De Dora argues that science and religion should not mix in the classroom. He writes: “Myers continues to write that this biology textbook ‘doesn’t go as far as I’d like.... It would be nice if we did have a high school biology book that called all of Christianity and Judaism a collection of myths, but we don’t. Yet.’ But I hope we never have a high school biology textbook that refers to our religious stories as myths. Science classrooms should teach science. Biology class should, at least on evolution, cover the work of Charles Darwin and other early scientists theorizing about evolution; it should tackle the meaning of the word ‘theory’ in science; it should discuss the enormous advances in evolutionary biology since Darwin’s time; it should talk about the multiple lines of evidence supporting the theory of evolution; and much, much more. By the end, there should be no doubt that evolution is as close to a fact as we have. Talk about discouraging students from believing in creationism...”1 Now, PZ Myers, responding to De Dora’s post in turn, called De Dora a (avert your eyes, younger  freethinkers) “witless wanker” who “peddles pablum,” “wishy-washy” and a sloppy thinker, as well as a cowardly intellectually dishonest person2. Then, in response to PZ’s post on De Dora’s post on PZ’s post (I hope you’re following), Massimo Pigliucci over at Rationally Speaking (a blog for which De Dora also writes)  weighed in with another high-quality, considered post. He writes: “...this to me represents the latest example of an escalation (downwards in quality) in the tone


and substance of the discourse on Atheism, and I blame this broadly on the rhetoric of the new Atheism (the only ‘new’ aspect of which is precisely the in-your-face approach to ‘reason’). With few exceptions (mostly, Dennett), what we have seen in recent years is much foaming at the mouth, accompanied by a cavalier attitude toward the substance, rationality and coherence of one’s arguments. And now we have seen a new low consisting of childish insults to a fellow Atheist and writer who is clearly fighting the same battle as the rest of us.”3 Pigliucci concludes his post with this worrying thought: “I am often told by my non-activist friends (pretty much all of whom are agnostics or Atheists themselves) that the problem with the new Atheism is that it looks a lot like the mirror image of the sort of fundamentalist rage that we all so justly abhor. I always shrugged at this accusation as being overblown and missing the point, after all  we—unlike them—are on the side of reason and true human compassion. Now I’m not so sure.” Caught up? Good. Now I’m on Massimo’s side here. De Dora’s post shows “subtle reasoning” and far from being intellectually dishonest, it provides a paradigm for honesty: being able to concede and note when an opponent has a point, no matter how ignorant or misled Zimmerman clearly is, is a great and important ability. If PZ Myers is really on the side of open debate, he should think twice about who is really being intellectually dishonest here. Pigliucci writes that PZ’s post is like that of “an intemperate teenager in the midst of a hormonal rage.” Here I do disagree with Pigliucci. My blog, Young Freethought, is run for and written by teenagers in varying hormonal states and no posts have yet descended into just plain nasty ad hominem attacks. You might say that PZ’s post called De Dora a “wanker” for purely rhetorical reasons—after all, he seems intent on mastering alliteration: “Tennessee twit,” “witless wanker,” “peddles pablum,” etc. If this is the case, it was a failed and ‘witless’ attempt at good writing and, if anything, shows poor creativity in that department. De Dora’s post is what rational debate looks like. I disagree with what he writes, but that doesn’t instantly mean he is a sloppy thinker. If you have a blog with 74 million views as PZ does and someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t make them immediately wrong. Some truly unpleasant comments  on PZ’s article by those disagreeing with De Dora only confirm Pigliucci’s worries. Swearing enriches our lan-


American Atheist - June- 2010

guage, there’s nothing like a good dollop of the stuff, but please let’s not attack one another with comments that are spiteful, unfunny, get us nowhere and give fire to the other lot who accuse Atheists of all stripes of being strident and unable to listen. Robust is good, you can’t have light without heat, but don’t preach rational discourse while acting like an irrational fundamentalist tied to Atheist dogma. There is no doubt that this issue will continue to roll on at a fast pace, as the reckless fluidity of the Internet allows. Comment after comment is made, often without due note of the normally unspoken standards for rational discourse. Nonetheless, I’ll say it once more: De Dora’s post is what rational debate looks like. If you disagree with him—good. But explain your disagreement without petty name-calling. I wrote in the February edition of the G & L Humanist Magazine that “the freethinking blogosphere as a whole has been

incredibly welcoming. The charge that an Atheistic, secular society would be cruel and immoral was only made to seem more ridiculous by the generosity shown.”4 Like Pigliucci, I too am now not so sure.  References 1. 2. wanker_peddles_pablum.php 3. 4.

How Does the U.S. Census Bureau Count the FLDS Families?
Patrick Bens


ne day, my mail included both the Census form and an issue of National Geographic. Both lay side by side for several hours on my desk, for I did not know which one to open first. The Census form will ask me about my offspring. The issue of National Geographic features on its cover an FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) polygamist under a huge cowboy hat with his wives, children and grandchildren behind him, several hundreds in total. Does he get a Census form too? “Few Americans had heard of the FLDS before April 2008, when law enforcement officials conducted a raid on a remote compound in West Texas known as the Yearning for Zion Ranch,” according to the magazine’s Web-site. The text and pictures are available here: After the Texas raid, you’d think that answering any questions posed by the government would make some FLDS cowboys wary. Shouldn’t the Economics and Statistics Administration worry that the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints may avoid the 2010 Census altogether? Yet, in a message accompanying the Census form, the director states that “the answers you give on the census form cannot be obtained by law enforcement or tax collection agencies.” Great! He goes on to say that “census data becomes public after 72 years.” Good golly, how many offspring will this one man have created, which may all go unaccounted for? The director further states that “the amount of government money your neighborhood receives... is used for services for children and the elderly, roads, and many other local needs.”

Will someone tell the Fundamental Mormons that the Census is a pot of gold for them? The more children on the census count, the more roads, hospitals, and schools, let alone welfare, food stamps, Social Security and health care! Maintaining such a huge brood cannot be accomplished by building casinos with child labor alone, can it? A typical FLDS polygamist husband will marry between 3 and 53 wives. Each wife bears about a child per year for about a dozen years. Some of course bear children for a longer period. Only the first wife is legal. All the other wives are considered poor lonely unwed mothers by our government and are given welfare checks, which the husband gladly collects. His daughters’ first menstruation is a signal that they are ready to be married out, either to a business associate or a powerful elder (read: older elder) in the Church who can raise his status within the community. Along with their leader, Warren Jeffs, several FLDS men are incarcerated for marrying (read: raping) underage girls as young as twelve. Boys of elementary school age slave at the farm or join their uncles at construction sites in Denver, Los Angeles, or on the Las Vegas Strip. Once they reach 18 and are no longer eligible for government support, they are told to leave the compound and become the homeless, penniless lost boys we heard so much about. Having read a dozen or so books written by former and current FLDS polygamists, and having analyzed their parasitic practices of “bleeding the beast,” I can sincerely vow that it would be a big mistake to under count polygamists, who now live, and vote en block, in almost every state of the union.

June 2010 - American Atheist


Left to Right: Yvonne Scott, Allison Bohlman, Miranda Marrero, Malina Brock, and Lyndsey Torok are participating in Freethoughtoberfest, where Freethinkers in Alabama get together to sample different beers and enjoy conversation.


Female Freethinkers: A Non-scientific Survey
Blair Scott & Tom Hand

n the history of Freethought there are a lot of women who stand out for their activism and contribution to the cause: women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Vashti McCollum, Madalyn O’Hair, Ellen Johnson, Lori Lipman Brown, Margaret Downey, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and many others. Additionally, there are thousands of Freethinking women involved in activism, leading local groups, putting out amazing blogs, and other grass roots efforts. As I traveled across the United States meeting Atheist groups, one of the more common questions asked was, “Where are all the Atheist women?” The men wanted to meet more

like-minded women, and the women knew they were under-represented. I could never give them a satisfactory answer. Somehow, the local groups were predominantly male. That was then. Now as I travel around I see groups with as much as fifty percent female membership. There are even groups dedicated exclusively to females. I doubt anyone would consider that a bad thing. However, many people feel that more could be done. In order to address those concerns, I put a survey on the Web and asked women in the Freethought community to fill it out. I was privileged enough to have 198 women complete the survey. It provides an interesting look into the

motivations, concerns, and issues that female Freethinkers have within our community. Below are some of the questions I asked, and some representative answers I received (edited for brevity, grammar, and spelling). I asked: “What motivates you to be involved in the Freethought community?” Ellie: “I am worried about the young people I work with—many of whom have little or no critical thinking abilities.” Beth: “The main motivation for me is social. I needed a supportive community when I came out to my family.” Tracy: “I organize our group so that like-minded people know that they

American Atheist - June- 2010

are not alone. We have a sense of community and a group to socialize with.” Tonya: “To keep company with those that choose to think rationally and have motives and morals not dictated by religious doctrines.” Michelle: “One of the issues I’m passionate about is the separation of church and state. Being involved in the Freethought community gives me a forum to work in and the support of other free thinkers.” Nearly 200 women completed the survey, and five reported that they were the only female present the first time they attended a meeting of their local group. I asked these women how it felt to be the only woman. The majority said it did not bother them. A couple found it odd that more women did not support science and reason. A few were more concerned that other women were not as worried as they were about the effects of religion on women.

I asked what term women preferred to describe their Freethought. Forty-five percent of the women preferred the word ‘Atheist.’ Seven percent preferred ‘Secular Humanist.’ Less than five percent preferred ‘agnostic.’ Twenty-three percent did not answer the question. Four of the respondents said it was not okay to date within their Freethought group. Almost nine percent of respondents said that they felt like “prospects” at the meetings. I asked, “Do you think the Freethought community is a ‘men’s club?’” Seven percent answered “yes.” I asked them why they thought it was a “men’s club.” Here are two typical answers: Allison: “I often try to avoid conversations that demand constant logic, proofs, and arguments. It’s not that they can’t be entertaining, but for me and most women I know, it’s not a bonding activity or something that most women

I know do for fun. Perhaps it is a basic difference between how the sexes operate, but just the style of communication in a heavily male-dominated group can alienate a woman just by style: not content.” Beth: “Most Atheist groups are focused on the needs of young, single men—and women and families feel left out.” I asked, “Some female Freethinkers say that they are treated in a sexist way, while others say they are just being treated like ‘one of the guys.’ What do you think?” Eighty-one of the women answered the question. Crystal: “I think that society has trained us to think that men are superior and even male free thinkers are guilty of doing so, it is hard to de-program from that way of thinking.” Megan: “Being a female soldier, I know what it’s like being treated in a sexist way. [Men in the group] treat me like just another person.”
The beautiful film Creation about Charles Darwin based on the book Annie’s Box by Darwin descendent Randal Keynes will be released June 29th. The film stars Paul Bettany (an Atheist himself) and Jennifer Connelly. It had a very limited release theatrically so very few people saw it.

now on DVD!
Look for it at Barnes & Noble, Borders, &

Now is our chance to show American business the purchasing power of nonbelievers. Rent, or better yet, buy Creation and show that we are here and have money!

Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany in a scene from Jon Amiel’s Creation - photo courtesy of Liam Daniel
June 2010 - American Atheist


Fiona: “Depends on the individual guys involved, but generally, I have been treated with respect which is more than I can say for other groups.” Andrea: “I certainly have to exude confidence in collaborating and voicing my opinions on matters of discussion in order to be treated like ‘one of the guys.’” Linda: “I have found that there are a lot fewer sexist men in the nonbeliever category than there are in the believer category. A great deal of sexism is derived from religious traditions and so being able to lose your religion may be related to being more egalitarian.” The majority of women who answered the question said they did not feel they were treated in a sexist manner. A few reported isolated incidents related to individuals, but not to groups as a whole. Thirty-seven percent of the women mentioned that it is easier for men to establish themselves in groups. I asked the respondents what groups can do to appeal more to women. Lisa: “The skeptic community needs to be less concerned with drinking and partying. This does not appeal to women with families. There needs to be more activities that are family friendly. I want to be able to include my children so that they can grow up being exposed to other skeptics, free thinkers, and Atheists.” Libba: “My group seldom has meetings that are not in a bar. That is a turnoff for many women, I think. Or they are just uncomfortable going into a bar alone, even if they know friends are inside.” Michele: “Women will definitely be interested in different subject matter than men. I think that if events that are designed to spark discussion are geared more toward fem-matter that would help, but then that would probably drive away the male attendees. Strictly female geared events would be great—like girl’s night out. The real draw would be just having more female members, and that would probably take a concerted effort on the part of existing members to draw them in.”

Robin: “Having events aimed at children and families could help. Those with children do want to know that they have a community where they are encouraged to bring up freethinking children.” Three percent of the respondents said that setting up activities specifically for women was in, and of itself, sexist. However, there was a lot of support for a “Lady’s Night” or “Girl’s Night Out” organized by the women in the group. The majority of respondents thought there should be more familyfriendly events. This was a self-selected group of women responding to an online survey, and the results are not exactly scientific. Having said that, it does seem clear that groups are ensuring sexism and discrimination do not occur. However, there seems to be a clear concern from the women about male-dominated conversations that often devolve into “My opinion’s better than yours.” Ironically, I found a lot of the answers offered by the women to be sexist towards women. Many women made comments about how women were “different” or “did not like logic,” etc. There was an assumption that somehow men and women are ‘wired’ differently. While these are basic things that most of us simply accept as true, there doesn’t appear to be scientific support for these assumptions. Obviously, these are issues of opinion. However, they do suggest a perception bias might be at work here. If someone already thinks that groups work in a certain way, simple confirmation bias will suggest that they are correct. I know many women who are logical, engage in active debates, and aggressively defend their position; and I know many men who are irrational, hate debating, and are passive. Are these people the exceptions that prove the rule? The majority of answers about what groups could do to bring in more women and appeal more to the women already in groups, had less to do with women and more to do with families. It seems obvious to me that groups

should have family-friendly events. A monthly picnic—replete with balls to throw or kick, and other activities, is a great opportunity for family-oriented people to have fun with other Freethinkers. We should all strive to break free from the shackles of the past—get it out of our heads that women and men are different. Go back and read some of the answers above, but this time imagine a man said those things about women. We accept that some young girls will like guns and cowboys and some young boys will like dolls and cooking. We strive to not prejudge ourselves against others. Have we lost sight of our own prejudices against ourselves and our peers? My personal impressions from this non-scientific, self-selected, survey are that there are issues; and that most people are aware of them and want to fix those issues. A diversity of events, in many different locations, and at varying times during the day, night, and week will attract more people to our groups: regardless of gender. The purpose of a group is to offer a community aspect to its participants, and we should never lose sight of that simple fact. I would advise everyone to keep striving to better ourselves and our communities. An important part of that is open and honest communication between the members of our groups. However, we should never forget that we do not live in a perfect world with perfect solutions. If enough women in a group want a “Ladies Night,” then they may start one: especially if they are willing to organize it themselves. The same should apply to any group of people in the larger group. No one should tolerate sexism: whether it’s against a different gender or someone’s own gender. We should all work to dispel the gender inequalities that are accepted as fact without ever having been proven. Letting go of gods and religion is the beginning. Letting go of irrationality, in all of its guises, is the continuing struggle.


American Atheist - June- 2010

A Letter to Christians Michael D. Osburn, Jr. My name is Michael. I’m a loving husband of seven years, father of two, and a law-abiding citizen. I am clean, respectful to my neighbors, and a yardwork-aholic. I’m polite when it counts, loyal, confident, and successful. I guide my children with a loving, experienced hand—though firm when necessary. I’m active politically, speak honestly, and listen to the opinions of others with an open mind. I’m not perfect—don’t take this the wrong way. I’ve done my share of bad deeds in the past and have been held accountable for the worst of them. Smile for me as you read this line—life is good. Be thankful for what you have because it doesn’t last long. By the time you’re done with this article, if you can even finish it, you’ll most likely be upset with me. I thought that these paragraphs were necessary and now you’ll see why.

My name is Michael, and I am an Atheist. I do not believe in a higher power and I profess to those close to me that I believe most organized religion is a crime against humanity and a detriment to society. I’ve been saved by Christianity and preached the word of god. That was before I knew better. Imagine I hadn’t included that first paragraph. What would I have looked like in your mind? It’s so easy to label someone when you read a book, or an article on the Internet because based on the author’s personality you picture what you love, or hate the most. We need to break the stereotype that religious organizations have brought to the table in the war against Atheism. Atheists are no more morally bankrupt than the average person. Just like religion, we can use tactics, business, and the Internet to affect our own brand of change on this planet. We will start more local and nationwide groups and create more Websites to spread our belief and strengthen our numbers while religion watches helplessly from the sidelines. We will continue to write literature advertising © 2010 to all generations that it’s okay to not be religious. I will be supportive as I discuss philosophy, books, and history to my bloodline and friends—history in which I will accurately portray religion’s roles. My children will have more than enough ammunition to effectively defend themselves against the religious predators that target them. I didn’t want it to come to this. I’ve tried to live in harmony with you, religion. I really have. You created me. You shoved, pushed, pressed, rushed and forced your beliefs down my throat for so long that it sickens me now. Your involvement in American politics will soon end. I used to have complete religious tolerance—now I find myself teetering. You lied to me, and I’ll tell you what I tell my kids: the punishment for lying to me will be much worse than the one for telling the truth about your wrongdoings. Religious America, we’re standing with our heads held high—too long have you held your knife to the throat of a freethinking lifestyle—no more. The more Atheists band together and shout out our freedoms we hold so dear in this country—the faster your decline. All we have to do is be active and wait for our numbers to grow. I told you you’d be upset.
June 2010 - American Atheist


he struggle between religion and science is so unceasing as to be tiresome. Everyone knows about Galileo, Copernicus, and Darwin, whose ideas frightened or enraged the faithful. Yet among intelligent religionists of today, there exists a faux enlightened position that there is no conflict between science and religion. Even the esteemed evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould was content to give each its domain: where science stops, faith takes over; if not exactly untroubled by each other, they are at least not in open war-


Utterly Antagonistic and Irreconcilable

fare. My Christian friends’ statements have been a curious mixture of complaints about the shortcomings of science on one hand and, on the other, about how science and religion don’t clash at all. Arguing the issue of compatibility, however, can lead to more ill feelings than understanding unless we take into consideration a frequently overlooked distinction. We have complicated the comparison of science and religion by confounding process and product—the process and product of science versus the process and product of religion. Science to almost everyone reJohn Carver fers to a collection of alleged facts. That’s what we mean when we ask what science tells us about X, whether Y is scientifically valid, or say, “she knows a lot about science.” Similarly, religion to most people means the particular set of alleged facts in a single supernatural faith or the total beliefs of all faiths. The focus in those examples is on the product meaning of science and religion. Thus, the speed of light, the expanding universe, and biological evolution are science; while redemption, transubstantiation, and divine creation are religion. One set of ‘facts’ is the product of science, one the product of religion. Sometimes when people argue whether science and religion are compatible, the facts proclaimed by science and religion are what they mean. But science and religion also mean something entirely separate from their products. The words can refer to two different methods of learning about our universe and ourselves. In this sense, we can say that science and religion are defined by their methods, not by their findings. Both methods are motivated by our irresistible desire to know.


American Atheist - June- 2010

We crave knowledge not only to satisfy our curiosity, but to understand others, to master ourselves, and even to survive. Each of us may begin, as Descartes presumed, with a single point of initial knowledge (cogito ergo sum), one that is arguably our only absolute certainty. After that, knowledge is an elusive product and its pursuit frustratingly slippery. What seems true may not be; even what is seen with our own eyes isn’t foolproof. We may learn years or even minutes later that we have been very wrong. We hunger for truth, but confusion and misunderstanding contaminate our growing accumulation of what we think we know. Human history is marked by our attempts to comprehend what our senses bring in and what our imaginations conjure up. Religion puts its confidence in the testimony of authorities, long-standing traditions, magical thinking, and internal feelings. Science relies on a skeptical attitude, rigorous testing of hypotheses, and provisional theories. Those are distinctly different methods, not only for the discovery of knowledge but for the effect they have on our attitude toward the knowledge produced. For example, the knowledge products of science are tentative versions of reality, each ready to be replaced when scientific methods exchange new evidence for old. The knowledge products of religion are dogmatic certainties; doubt is blasphemy, inviting social or even physical punishment. Scientists and their advocates contend that the scientific method is the most rigorous and objective technique for unveiling reality that humanity has thus far developed, and the least susceptible to fooling ourselves, believing what isn’t true, and getting stuck in solutions that don’t work. Religionists and their advocates believe there is a supernatural world outside observable reality, one forever hidden from the methods of science but full of knowledge available to the human heart, if we would but listen. It is possible for science and religion to come up with the same facts and it is also possible that they come up with totally opposing facts. That is, the products of each can be the same so that they agree on what constitutes ‘truth.’ Even so, being able to tell what religion declares to be factual is more difficult than figuring out what science asserts. The mainstream of scientific knowledge, even though it evolves more rapidly and is not free of dis-

putation, is easier to discern. The mainstream of religious knowledge, even though it evolves at a glacial pace, is difficult to define except for a few basics (e.g., a god or gods exist with direct interest in human affairs) because its beliefs are splintered across widely conflicting sects. Scientists frequently revise their previous facts with new ones—that is, they find and correct mistakes. Religionists also change their previous versions of reality, albeit less frequently; they, too, find and correct mistakes. So the products of both science and religion are wrong from time to time even in their own estimation. When changes are proposed, religion and science differ in the way new positions on truth are dealt with. Individual scientists can disagree with each other; dissent is expected and normally welcomed. Individual religionists disagree with each other to a startlingly greater degree, though dissent is often treated as sacrilege or wickedness. There are more opportunities to be seen as wrong in religion than in science because of the wide variation among dogmas with which to judge error. Moreover, the consequences of being in error are different, with greater likelihood of ill treatment due to being judged as wrong in religion than in science. Therefore, religion and science each treat being incorrect in very different ways. Because of the harsher treatment of dissent, one can easily make the case that, in this way at least, science is more ethical than religion. So what can be said about the compatibility of religion and science? As to their products—the supposed knowledge they impart—science and religion range from identical to wildly in opposition depending on the times and the topics. As to their methods—the means by which knowledge is pursued and corrected—they are utterly antagonistic and irreconcilable.

Free-thinker and humanist, John Carver received his doctorate from Emory University. As a theorist and consultant on corporate governance, he has published five books and over 200 articles. Recently semi-retired, he has returned to his first love, the application of secular humanism to church-state separation, morality, and the struggle between the scientific method and religion. Dr. Carver lives in Atlanta.

June 2010 - American Atheist


The Creator God
Dennis Paul Himes

a Solution in Search of a Problem

nyone who has openly argued for the truth of Atheism has sooner or later encountered some variation of the question, “What caused the Universe?” Often the response is to correctly point out that a creator god is a displacement of, and not a solution to, this problem—while refraining from giving any definitive answer, claiming that it is either unknowable, or simply unknown. I, however, claim that the question itself is ill-formed. It is a loaded question in that it makes unstated false assumptions, such as that the universe could have, in some way, not have been caused, and that we can somehow detect that it was. I realize that this can seem counter-intuitive and that detection of the Universe’s causation, or at least its existence, can seem trivial. But I claim that what is being detected is the universe’s possibility and existence as distinct from possibility, only has meaning as a relative term—relative to a specified Universe. ‘The Universe exists’ therefore has no meaning as an absolute statement, and as a relative statement is a tautology, no more subject to causation than ‘1 = 1.’ Before I go any further, I need to define what I mean by universe. I will attempt to do so in a way which captures the essence of the common understanding of that word, and thus avoid the rhetorical deception of talking of one thing while appearing to talk of another, but as with all such grand concepts, capturing all variations in its meaning is not possible without sacrificing consistency. I define a universe as a maximal causal graph. In other words, if you


© 2010


American Atheist - June- 2010

consider events to be represented as vertices of a graph whose edges represent cause/effect relationships, then any two events are part of the same universe if and only if they can be connected by a path along that graph, no matter how long or indirect. Here I’m using ‘event’ and ‘cause/effect’ in their broadest senses. Any physical quantity at any point in time is an event, and any influence any event has on another is a cause/effect, even if it only causes (for instance) a miniscule shifting of the local gravitational field. There are clearly many possible universes—universes in which a description of its events, causes, and effects, together with the laws governing its cause/effect relationships, are all consistent. For some very simple finite universes it is even possible to model them precisely. For more interesting universes it can easily be impossible not only to model them but to prove their consistency, but we know that at least one very complicated universe is consistent (our own), and it is very likely (although not necessary for my argument) that there are others. The question which usually arises when someone contemplates this is, “Why does our universe exist and not the others?”, but that very question assumes that there is some intrinsic difference between our universe and any other possible universe, and this difference justifies the assertion that our universe and only our universe exists. What is that difference? When I’ve asked people this the most common response is to beg the question. They will say such things as, “this universe exists because it’s real,” as if real were not a synonym for existing. One recurrent problem with discussions of this matter is that the word exists is used with two different meanings, often by the same person in the

same discussion, if not the same sentence. One of these meanings is relative. In ordinary discourse, exist means be a part of the universe in which we find ourselves. Much of the subsequent confusion one finds with the use of this word, I think, arises from the fact that unless the discussion drifts off into metaphysics this is for all practical purposes an absolute definition, since we generally assume that everything we talk about on any subject is relative to the universe in which we find ourselves. The other meaning is truly absolute. This is the supposed intrinsic difference between our universe and any other possible universe. It assumes that someone contemplating the natures and properties of the two possible universes could detect a fundamental difference. It assumes that identifying one universe as ‘actual’ and another as ‘potential’ somehow differs from identifying one as ‘foo’ and another as ‘bar,’ and that there is some detectable quality which would make switching the labels somehow incorrect. It further assumes that a sapient being whose existence is an event in one of the two universes can somehow distinguish which type of universe she’s a part of. Not surprisingly, everyone I’ve heard make the claim that actual and potential universes can be distinguished also puts herself on the actual side of things. I have yet to hear a coherent justification for this, though. If this universe in which you and I live were merely potential, and not actual (and that was a real difference), then the observations, actions, and thoughts of Dennis Paul Himes would still be events in that universe, identical to the ‘actual’ observations, actions, and thoughts of the ‘actual’ Dennis Paul Himes in the ‘actual’ uni-

verse we do live in. Since the actual thoughts of Dennis Paul Himes do not include, “Drat, I wish I were actual and not potential,” then the potential thoughts of Dennis Paul Himes in that hypothesized potential version of our universe would also not include, “Drat, I wish I were actual and not potential.” In fact the potential observations, actions, and thoughts which any of us would potentially have if this universe were merely potential would be identical to the actual observations, actions, and thoughts which we would actually have if this universe were actual, and the potential versions of us would potentially have every reason to believe that they were actual that the actual versions of us do. So how do you know that you’re an ‘actual’ reader of this ‘actual’ article who ‘actually’ lives in an ‘actual’ universe, and not a ‘potential’ reader of this ‘potential’ article who ‘potentially’ lives in a ‘potential’ universe? You don’t. From your point of view, the two situations are identical, and just a matter of labels, with no more meaning than ‘foo’ or ‘bar.’ So existence has no absolute meaning when applied to a possible universe as a whole. As a relative term, of course, every universe necessarily exists relative to itself, just as it necessarily doesn’t exist relative to any other possible universe. What, then, can it mean for a being to create a universe? Existence is either a meaningless label (if taken absolutely) or merely a way to describe an observer’s point of view (if taken relatively). Either way it can’t be created, not because of any limits to a god’s power, but because there’s no way to make that idea make sense. A god who created our universe is not simply unnecessary, without evidence, and unlikely; he is not even possible.
June 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
STOCK# 16010 PRICE $22.00 PAGES 490

© 2010

Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller An anthropologist advances Atheists and Atheism beyond belief! Christianity before Christ by John G. Jackson Christian doctrines are traced to their origins in older religions. The Case Against Religion by Albert Ellis A psychotherapist’s view of the harmful aspects of religious belief. Living in the Light by Anne R. Stone Subtitled “Freeing Your Child from the Dark Ages” This book serves as a manual for Atheist parents. Our Constitution: The Way It Was by Madalyn O’Hair American Atheist Radio Series episodes about the myth that our founding fathers created a Christian nation. What on Earth is an Atheist! by Madalyn O’Hair American Atheist Radio Series episodes on various topics of Atheist philosophy and history. The Bible Handbook by G. W. Foote, W. P. Ball, et al. A compilation of biblical absurdities, contradictions, atrocities, immoralities and obscenities. An Atheist Epic by Madalyn O’Hair The personal story of the battle to end mandatory prayer and bible recitation in schools in the United States. 65 Press Interviews by Robert G. Ingersoll Ingersoll’s 19th-century newspaper interviews as a Freethinker and opponent of superstition. An Atheist 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!

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American Atheist - June- 2010

What every Atheist would like to say is in this excellent controversial and provocative book. Seventy atheist published letters to the editor, plus essays, articles, stories, poems, songs, and famous quotations. Read the winning entry from the American Atheist “Letters to the Editor” competition. A one of a kind book available at Amazon. com and your local book stores. (This book is not available at or from AAP)

Do heaven and hell really exist? Is religion a cancer of the mind? Are most wars a result of religions? Is religion the largest business in the world? Are you a closet Atheist? Will religion fade out in 100 years? How does one become an Atheist?

June 2010 - American Atheist


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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.

ethics without guilt success without superstition peace without fear answers without prayer good without gods

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