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A JOURNAL OF ATHEIST NEWS AND THOUGHT
From Methodist Minister to Atheist
Ages of Atheism The Times They Are A-Changing Apollonius of Tyana Greta Christina at Reason Rally Eliminate That Atheist! Morality Versus Worship Robert Trivers Interview The Return of Collective Guilt San Francisco Gay Pride Parade Gnostic Atheism Banner Over New York
ATHEISTS.ORG FOURTH QUARTER 2012
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought
4th Quarter 2012
Vol. 50, No.3
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print) ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Pamela Whissel firstname.lastname@example.org AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS MANAGING EDITOR Frank R. Zindler email@example.com LAYOUT AND GRAPHICS EDITOR Rick Wingrove firstname.lastname@example.org Published by American Atheists, Inc. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 158 Cranford NJ 07016 Phone: 908.276.7300 FAX: 908.276.7402 www.atheists.org
This cover is a representation of American Atheists’ banner in the skies of New York City on July 4. For the prize-winning photo of the actual event, go to page 24.
In This Issue
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Methodist Minister to Atheist Activist | Pamela Whissel Ages of Atheism | James Luce The Times They Are A-Changing Ed and Michael Buckner The Most Saintly First-Century Philosopher Michael B. Paulkovich Voices of Reason Rally | Greta Christina Eliminate That Atheist! | Frank R. Zindler Morality Versus Worship | David G. McAfee Robert Trivers: An Interview | Ce Atkins Medieval 2.0: The Unexpected and Tragic Return of Collective Guilt | Dale DeBakcsy San Francisco Gay Pride Parade Gnostic Atheism: The Knowledge That There Is No God | Paul Keller
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©2012 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. Annual Individual Membership with subscription for one year of American Atheist print magazine: $35. Online version only: $20. Couple/Family Membership with optional print magazine: $35. Sign up at www. atheists.org/aam. Discounts available for multiple year subscriptions: 10% for two years, 20% for three or more years. Additional postage fees for foreign addresses: Canada and Mexico: add $10/year. All other countries: add $30/year. Discounts for libraries and institutions: 50% on all magazine subscriptions and book purchases. 4th QUARTER 2012
Letter from the
y introduction to Madalyn Murray O’Hair left me appalled. It was1978 and I had just read a newspaper article about the lawsuit she filed to remove the motto “In God We Trust” from our currency. I was 12 years old with merely a passing interest in the newspaper, so it took a lot for me to notice a headline, let alone read an entire article. After that headline stopped me in my tracks, I read the article several times to get my head around the (incorrect) idea of people out there wanting to take away someone else’s right to believe. Even worse, they were an organized group with an official name: American Atheists. My worldview was shaken up a bit that day because until then, I assumed all those people who hated Jesus died out centuries ago. But I knew what I had to do: write to the newspaper, stand up for what was good and right, and say that I would never act like Madalyn Murray O’Hair and force my own beliefs on someone else. That was inconceivable to me. And it was really inconceivable that I would ever address That Group With An Official Name again as editor of their own magazine. Hi again to those of you who were there in 1978. One member of That Group is Frank Zindler, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, the current managing editor of this magazine, and also now a friend of mine. In 1978 I wasn’t able to see that what looked to me (and to the courts, it turned out) like an attempt to separate people from their faith was really an attempt to separate government from religion. But I’d like to think that by age 12 I was able to see that exercising the right to file a lawsuit— even one I hoped would lose—was not grounds for the vilification Frank endured. His story on page 16. Teresa MacBain, an Atheist who endured vilification more recently, tells her story on page 6. Her perceived crime was to believe that her Methodist congregation deserved to know the true reason for her stepping down as their pastor. So much for not bearing false witness against your neighbor. I wonder what Teresa would have said if someone told her on her ordination day that she would one day be the public relations director for American Atheists. I wonder what I would have said in 1978 if someone had told me, as I was writing my righteous letter about Madalyn Murray O’Hair, that one day I would gratefully take on stewardship of the magazine she founded. Just seeing my letter in print a few days later was enough to floor me. As I now receive my own letters to the editor, I wonder what I’d say if someone offered to let me know what I’ll be doing (if anything at all) 34 years from now. Pamela Whissel email@example.com
Letters to the Editor
After reading the First Quarter 2012 issue, I came away with the same misgivings I felt after reading The God Delusion and The End of Faith, to name just two. Dawkins and Harris—and now your magazine—only address the lesser aspect of this issue, the rejection of religious faith, while saying little or nothing about the larger issue, a concomitant rational philosophy. The word “Atheist” is, after all, a negative that says nothing about what one does, or should, believe. Ayn Rand characterized her Atheism as a consequence of her Objectivist philosophy. I don't consider myself an Objectivist, though I do believe she was on the right track. I'll put this to you as a question: If you and your magazine were to succeed in turning a politically significant portion of the US population against religion, what then? Should you even be concerned with, and thus try to influence, what they regard as a philosophical alternative? Or would you be satisfied just to have this block of voters on your side regarding the Constitution’s separation of church and state? The “Aims and Purposes” [on page 44] give a definition of Materialism that could easily serve as the titles of a year’s worth of articles. But then, if you went far enough along this line, you might also have to change the name of your magazine. Ah well, one step at a time . . . Jerry Slocum Salt Lake City, Utah
Does Philosophy Matter?
More on p. 38
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On August 20, American Atheists unveiled a logo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its founding by Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The design was chosen through a competition judged by select staff members. Participants were challenged to address specific design elements, including use of the original American Atheists logo, while incorporating a forwardlooking stance as the organization moves ahead into the next fifty years and beyond. The winner, Carbon Red Designs, will receive $250 and an official introduction by President David Silverman during the convention.
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by Pamela Whissel
Former Pastor Teresa MacBain Now American Atheists Public Relations Director - American Atheists press release, July 23, 2012.
I’m a clergyperson. My nametag says Lynn. But I want to let you know something that the Atheist community hasn’t known yet. My name is Teresa. I live in Florida. I’m a pastor currently serving a Methodist church — at least up to this point — and I am an Atheist.
- Teresa MacBain, March 26, 2012, American Atheists National Convention, Bethesda, Maryland
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t would be fun to say that if Teresa hadn’t come along, we would have had to invent her. But American Atheists isn’t an organization that needs to invent beings who seem too good to be true. Real people, with real stories and faith in reason, are more than enough. The reaction by news organizations to her coming out is proof of that. She made headlines at many levels. Her local news station treated it like a scandal. National reports were objective for the most part, yet they presented her as a curiosity more than anything. Here, in her own words, she demonstrates that coming out of the Atheist closet is not the end of the world. It’s the end of just one of many possible worlds. She may not believe in life after death anymore, but she’s a firm believer in life after faith.
of himself to one religion? At that moment, I moved from a belief that Christianity was the only way to find God, to believing that no matter what path you took, you would find God. “At this time, I was also dealing with the issue of evil. This is one of those things that most of us have attempted to make peace with at some point in our lives. As I fought with the idea of a literal hell and eternal torment, I began to see the problems with all the suffering in the world as well. How could any deity allow their ‘children’ to endure horrific violence, needless suffering, and even torture without acting to assist them? “I considered my own children. My sons are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, yet even when they had gotten into a lot of trouble, I never considered using torture or extreme violence to teach them a lesson. If I, as a human parent, couldn’t harm my child in that
Here I am. A pastor and an Atheist. This has to be the hardest thing I've ever gone through. I look forward to the day when I can hop in my car and leave god in the rearview mirror. I have a plan. I'm working hard to get out. But for now I must remain in hiding. My time will come and then I can be real for a change!
- Teresa MacBain writing as “Lynn,” February 12, 2012, on AgnosticPastor.WordPress.com/Guest-Writers
Teresa was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home in Alabama. Her father was a minister. Growing up, she knew she was meant to be a minister as well. She attended a Baptist college in Birmingham and then went on to Duke University’s Divinity School. She was “100% sold out for god.” With her first full-time pastorate at age 30, she was filled with excitement—she was going to change the world for Christ! If she wasn’t a true believer, then no one was. She was on fire for god as much as anyone she knew. But along the way, something went very, very right. She first noticed Biblical inaccuracy and contradictions as a young teen. “I remember studying the book of 1 Corinthians. I caught the Apostle Paul in a contradiction! In chapters 12-14, Paul is giving instructions on church issues. Paul gives the instruction that ‘women are to keep silent in church,’ but then he says, ‘when a woman prays or prophecies in church with her head uncovered, she dishonors her head.’ I brought this issue to my dad and asked him which one was correct. He simply told me that God’s ways are higher than our ways. As humans, we can’t begin to understand God and this must be taken by faith. So, I tried to ignore the questions—but they refused to remain hidden!” She had been dealing with such contradictions for many years when she started thinking about hell. She wanted to figure out which of the many theological interpretations of hell was true. Ironically, a Christian book was her biggest help in moving away from any belief in hell. Love Wins, by Rob Bell, examines the theology of hell. His conclusions were what pushed her to examine the theology further. It wasn’t a huge leap from his book to throwing hell away for good. The final two steps in what she calls her “ascent to Atheism” occurred almost simultaneously. “First was the issue of religions. After struggling for so many years and coming to the conclusion that the Bible is not accurate and hell is not real, I started thinking about all the different religions in the world. I still had a belief in God at that point, and I still believed that all this exploratory work would make me a better Christian. “One day, as I was driving to church, I thought to myself, ‘If God created the world with such variety, why would God limit the knowledge
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way, then how could a loving deity? “A work by Epicurus drove the final nail in the coffin of my faith for me:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
“That last line did me in. I realized, in that moment, that this quest to find knowledge and understanding had taken me from being a devout believer to being an Atheist. I no longer believed—I couldn’t believe! Looking back, I think I had been an Atheist for a long time; I was just unwilling to accept that fact. When you believe something so strongly, when you’ve been immersed in your faith your entire life, when it is just as much a part of you as your arms, or legs, or fingers, then the acknowledgement of change is a very hard pill to swallow. I didn’t want to lose my faith. I didn’t want to change or stop believing, but I wanted truth more! “Once I realized that my faith was gone, I began working on my exit strategy. I took a second job for a while to pay off a few bills. My desire was to get our family on a more secure footing before I walked away. I worked diligently, spending every penny on furthering my goal. “My final year of ministry was full of reading books related to the issues I was struggling with. As I progressed from Christian to deist, to agnostic, I had the overwhelming need to connect with another person who was facing these same struggles. I had no idea if there were any others like me, but I had to find out. “One Monday morning last July, I entered ‘clergy who think they’re losing their faith’ into a search engine. Dan Barker’s book godless popped
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Ages of Atheism:
Why It’s Difficult To Be An Atheist From Day One To Death
by James Luce
Our brains are compelled to make sense out of the data it receives, even if that sense is absolutely and utterly incorrect, untrue, or even delusional.
Part One: Childhood
several clever ways. Keep in mind that genes don’t plan or scheme, they just try to be fit enough to be passed on down the billions-ofyears-old chain that preceded them. One of these hardwired features is that infants tend to believe anything they are told by their elders for the first three to seven years, depending on individual brain structure and development. In the early stages of human evolution, children were just as helpless and unequipped to survive as are human infants today. For example, if a three-year-old is told not to crawl near a cliff, but persists nevertheless in doing so, those genes will most likely not be passed on because the infant will fall over the cliff before it has the chance to reproduce. Evolution did not provide us with reflective or cognitive genes that express themselves much during the first years of life. Infants have insufficient data to conduct internal criticisms of what their parents tell them. No matter how scientifically idiotic or rationally illogical a parental statement may be, it is accepted as the absolute truth by the child. At some point after a child starts to actually think and weigh evidence (between ages two and four), it may disobey a parental command but will nevertheless believe what it is told. Evolution also provided us with brain circuits that try to make sense of the billions of bytes of frequently chaotic sensory input we receive every day. This cascade of chaos is even greater in infancy because infants have no vast storehouse of experience with which to test reality against perception. The existence of these “combine to explain” circuits is evident every time we are fooled by an optical illusion or tromp l’oeil. Our brains are compelled to make sense out of the data it receives, even if that sense is absolutely and utterly incorrect, untrue, or even delusional. Data is not necessarily truth; is merely information that may be right or wrong. This fact explains, for example, why computer models don’t always come up with the correct answer. The model (the programmer’s brain) is frequently defective and therefore the data (sensory input) inserted into the modeling is often wrong. Let’s put these two powerful evolutionary tools together to see how a belief in god or other mystical forces came into being. That is, how does being hardwired to believe your parents and also being hardwired to make some kind of sense out of data lead almost inevitably to some sort of mystical belief system? The answer is that Evolution treats variation in data the same way it treats genetic mutations. Some genetic mutations make an organism more fit than others of its species. (Notice I didn’t use the word “fittest” here. Darwin’s theory has nothing to do with survival of the fittest. But that’s another topic completely.) The evolution of the eye is a good comparison. Some billions of years ago
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here is no such thing as a naturalborn Atheist any more than there are natural-born Christians, Muslims, or Hindus. But it is much easier for a child to become religious than to become Atheistic. This fact explains in part why there are so few of us. This article is the first in a four-part series that will examine the reasons for our scarcity. In each article, I will talk about a different stage of life. Here, I want to explore why religious faith or some other form of mystical, non-scientific belief is ubiquitous among the young, even if they are born into an extended family of Atheists. I will also offer some practical countermeasures we can bring against the forces of bewilderment. Evolution One of life’s greatest ironies is that a belief in a creator was caused by evolution. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution actually explains why there are so many creation “scientists” who despise and fear the concept of evolution, and also why there are even some real scientists who don’t believe evolution to be true and can’t even expound it properly. Evolution has instilled in the species Homo sapien sapien a number of genetic drives, among which are hunger, thirst, and reproduction. The drive relevant to this article is survival. To assist in their preservation, our genes have hardwired the human brain in
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a portion of a marine animals’ skin mutated so that it was sensitive not only to touch, but also to variations between light and dark. Animals with this mutation had a better chance to survive because movement of food and predators nearby was detectable when beforehand it was not. Over evolutionary time mutations of that mutation that were beneficial towards making vision more detailed remained in the gene pool and, voila, eyes eventually evolved—not by chance, but by natural selection. So also with a “mutation of belief,” that is, a new grouping of data inside a human’s brain. At some point in the distant past, a human formed a belief that flint produces a spark while other rocks do not because there was a spirit inside the flint. That belief was not counterproductive towards survival, and so remained in the gene pool for others to acquire the same belief as it was passed down from parent to child. Belief in rock with a spirit slowly evolved into a belief that people had spirits inside them also (the spiritual type, not whisky or gin).
the mix of communication between parent and child, children could then learn not only not to crawl along the cliff, but also to believe in gods, demons, mystical events, and magic. In short, cause and effect were often reversed or ignored. Cause and effect is an efficient way of looking at the world only when you have sufficient correct data to use. Language imparts complex data, not necessarily the truth. Indeed, belief not only does not require truth, it is often ablated or greatly changed by the truth…if that truth is both perceived and accepted.
Parents, Peer Pressure, and Other Pests
Parents After the practice of agriculture crammed us all together into cities, it became evolutionarily productive to have the entire community believe the same myths. This promoted a modicum of harmony necessary for a species which had evolved to live in wandering, small tribes but was now jammed
minds? You might also ask, Isn’t it a good thing to encourage imagination, a belief that good can triumph over evil, and the idea that there is a some force out there somewhere looking out for us? There is nothing wrong with encouraging imagination, teaching that good is a powerful force, and that there are higher authorities (of the mortal variety) that can be helpful. What is terribly wrong is adding impetus to the millennia-old, evolutionary process of encouraging untruthful myths as part of raising children. It is entirely possible to bring up empathetic and caring children without lying about why they should be empathetic and caring. Peer Pressure Once a child leaves the crib and enters the wild world of socializing with contemporaries, the religious propaganda process takes on a new force and a new vector. Instead of myths being announced from on high by loving parents, they are shoved into the faces of non-believing children, sometimes literally. I
No matter how scientifically idiotic or rationally illogical a parental statement may be, it is accepted as the absolute truth by the child.
We may also assume that at some point in the very distant past, humans were like all other animals and had no belief in or understanding of the cosmos. A million years ago our ancestors did not question why they existed. Instead, as with other animals, we had genes pushing us toward survival and genes forcing us to make sense out of external data entering our brains. Because a tiny marine worm will move away from something that causes it pain, it can be trained to stay away from a specific part of its watery domain by the use of pain (e.g., by introducing a noxious chemical into one particular area of its holding tank). Like the marine worm, humans learn from experience. One of the few things that differentiate humans from other animals is the fact that our brains are hardwired for language, and we are the only species to be so evolved. (Apes and other animals can be taught to use symbols, but they are not hardwired to do so.) Once complex and subtle symbols were thrown into
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together in sedentary cities. Fairy tales, folk myths, religious rituals, and religious hierarchies became part of our cultural evolutionary tool box. But how is it possible that given all the scientifically supported facts we have today that we still hang on to our beliefs and myths of the distant past? One of the answers has to do with those pesky parents again. In my case, having read the Bible at age seven and become an out-of-the-closet Atheist with openminded but believing Presbyterian parents, I was subjected to such movies as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. My favorite bedtime activity was being read to by my mother, and I loved The Chronicles of Narnia. All three of these are not just entertainment, but also are pure Christian propaganda pieces. 1 You might at this point ask, What’s wrong with Santa Claus, a fledgling guardian angel, or a benevolent talking lion that created the universe? How are these harmful to children’s
used to be beaten up regularly before Sunday school by rural Christian youths who didn’t like people who didn’t believe and act the way they did. Children have a desperate need to be accepted. It’s part of the evolutionary/cultural process. If all the other children are religious, then a child will strive to be like everybody else. How many times have you heard—in real life or in the movies—a parent tell a child , “Well, Johnny, just because Tommy jumps off a cliff that doesn’t mean you should do it?” This line is usually preceded by a confession the child makes that he stole a candy bar from the grocery store because “Gee, Mom, all the other kids were doing it.” The sad part is that Johnny probably would jump off a cliff if Tommy did, especially if Tommy is a highstatus kid. Wishing on a Star Finally, we enter the world of Pinocchio and Disneyland. These two are typical of
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The Times They Are A-Changing
Nineteenth-Century Republicans Were All For Church/State Separation
by Ed Buckner and Michael Buckner
n recent national election campaigns, including this year’s, the Republicans appear to have worked hard to be worthy of the nickname “God’s Own Party,” though, according to Amy Sullivan, in The Party Faithful, the Democrats are now struggling to compete. Even the Libertarians seem, at times, to be slipping more into the thrall of the credulous of late. Surprisingly enough, the status is in some ways quite different from what it once was. While there have probably always been both progressives and protectors of the powerful among all parties, Republicans in the last half of the nineteenth century were consistently the strongest proponents of secularism, often making declarations in favor of a quite strict separation of church and state, including urging Congress to tax church property. The same leaders who defended secularism so well were often the champions of other civil rights: racial equality, women’s rights, and the like. In the last century or more, the Democratic Party—along with the media—is far more often seen as antireligious. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas expressed a pretty extreme example of this sort of perception recently: “Evidence of big media’s bias against religion that doesn’t advance the secular and liberal agenda of the Democratic Party is beyond dispute. Any faith attached to a conservative agenda is to be ridiculed, stereotyped, and misrepresented. Islam is a notable exception. The media appear to bend over backward not to offend Muslims.”1 It seems safe to say that most American Muslims would not share Thomas’ conclusion about anyone’s eagerness to avoid offending them, and it also seems most unlikely that many in the media or the Democratic Party would agree with what Thomas claims is “beyond dispute,” but his
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views are probably common enough among conservatives, especially many—probably most—of today’s Republicans. By contrast, past Republican presidents and other GOP leaders were among the fiercest supporters of a strict separation of religion and government. Many Republicans today would almost certainly be appalled at the attitudes of “original” party Republicans during the last half of the nineteenth century. Abraham Lincoln was a fan of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, the scathingly anti-Bible, anti-Christian, eighteenth-century work. It was popular among Americans, especially deists. According to historian Eric Foner, it sold “tens of thousands of copies.”2 Lincoln was—apparently because he admired Paine’s work—something of a religious skeptic, according to Foner. Lincoln biographer Jackie Hogan has speculated that Lincoln would be unlikely to be nominated by a Tea Party-influenced Republican party: He didn’t advertise his faith. The debate over Lincoln’s religious beliefs is a heated one. But there is good evidence that he questioned Christian orthodoxy, perhaps not so surprising at a time when biblical verses were routinely used in defense of slavery, an institution he found morally repugnant. While it is true that Lincoln frequently evoked the divine in his speeches, he never took up membership in a church, and certainly never spoke publicly about his personal relationship with Christ.3 President Ulysses S. Grant, in 1875, sent an official message to Congress urging for churches to be taxed.4 A speech he gave—as president—that same year in Des Moines, Iowa, called for Americans to: Encourage free schools, and resolve that not one dollar of money shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, or both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separated.5 We regret not coming across this quote in time for the 2011 American Atheists’ national convention in Des Moines. Robert G. Ingersoll (1833–1899), “the Great Agnostic,” was
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arguably the most famous openly irreligious, anti-orthodox American up to his time. He was also an influential member of the Republican party. As the most popular orator of his day, he toured the nation repeatedly, speaking to huge crowds.6 The range of his subject matter was broad, but his audiences most often heard a speech on one of his two favorite topics: family values or agnosticism. It would be a very short political career for any Republican today who publicly favored both. In a key speech at the 1876 Republican National Convention, Ingersoll nominated James G. Blaine as the presidential candidate for his party’s ticket.7 Blaine never received the nomination, but he did serve in the cabinets of several Republican presidents. An ardent supporter of separation of church and state, Blaine introduced what would become known as the Blaine Amendment to the US Constitution, intended to prevent public monies being spent on private schools. The national amendment never passed but many states adopted it. Some critics, then and since, have insisted that the Blaine Amendment was nothing more than anti-Catholic bigotry, and controversy still swirls around how the history of these amendments should be interpreted. But the wording and effects of that amendment, in the proposed national version and in the versions adopted in various states, were not anti-Catholic and applied equally to all sectarian schools.8 In regard to anti-Catholicism in nineteenth-century America, it is also worth remembering that during that time, the official position of the Catholic Church was openly hostile to many basic American values, especially secularism but even to a basic right to rebel against a king. In his 1864 Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX attacked non-sectarian public schools, condemned the idea that the “Church ought to be separated from the State and the State from the Church,” and demanded that Catholicism be “the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.” His conclusion—an attack on the very idea of free exercise of religion— is a sweeping repudiation of (in the “Holy Father’s” own words) “progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”9 There is perhaps a parallel between nineteenthcentury American anti-Catholicism and the antiMuslim attitudes now on display in twenty-first-century America—an example of bigotry that nonetheless does in part spring from genuine conflicts between American ideals and those of a major world religion. As a Republican congressman in 1874, James Garfield declared that: The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere, in any State or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.10
Robert Green Ingersoll
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by Ed Buckner
Man About Town
A review of “Platform Star: Robert G. Ingersoll in Washington,” by Steven C. Lowe in White House History, No. 31: Summer 2012, pp. 36-43
t is unusual to review an article from another magazine, but there are good reasons to do so in this case. Historian Steven C. Lowe, a member of American Atheists, has done a splendid job of calling attention to arguably the most important American Atheist of all time (though Ingersoll never publicly called himself an Atheist). Lowe’s article, appealingly illustrated, clearly and interestingly written, and carefully documented, should settle forever why Ingersoll should not be forgotten nor his history repressed. The issue of White House History in which the article appears is worth owning for many reasons. It includes a foreword, four other nicely illustrated and engaging articles on Lafayette Square (just north of the White House), and a piece by Caroline Kennedy about her mother’s time in the White House. Ingersoll (1833-1899), as Lowe demonstrates effectively, was not a man on the fringes of American society but a star near its center for many years. From 1878 to 1885 he lived a short walking distance from the White House and was thoroughly engaged in the social life and politics of the day, hobnobbing with all the famous Washington movers and shakers. More than one presidential candidate might well be in attendance at a typical Ingersoll reception in an election year. The Ingersoll family’s social importance is perhaps most telling from the newspaper announcement that their Saturday evening receptions would temporarily cease while they were out of town, but would resume thereafter. A sad example of Ingersoll’s star status: he met with President James A. Garfield for two hours the night before Garfield was assassinated, and Ingersoll exchanged words with him just hours after Garfield was shot (Garfield died 11 weeks later from infections of his wounds). I’ve read many things by and about Robert Green Ingersoll and I have long counted myself a fan, but Lowe presented many details that were new to me. Anyone interested in Atheism in America, Ingersoll, the White House, nineteenth-century culture, or American history should read Lowe’s compelling article. White House History is available for purchase at the White House Visitor’s Center or at WhiteHouseHistory.org. Lowe’s article can be read in its entirety at WhiteHouseHistory.org/whha_ publications/publications_documents/whitehousehistory_31lowe.pdf.
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DOGMA WATCH - Religion has had an enormous impact on the world. In this series we examine dogmas, myths and religious notions that are of interest, past and present.
by Michael B. Paulkovich
In the previous issue of American Atheist (“The Gospel Truth,” 2nd Quarter 2012) I wrote that my hands-down favorite “son of god” is the Jesus contemporary Apollonius Tyanus. Here’s why.
Apollonius of Tyana
aving traveled throughout Syria, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and India during the same era that Jesus supposedly preached, Apollonius of Tyana (c. 3 BCE - 97 CE)1 was considered by many to be the greatest religious figure of the time.2 According to his prime biographer, Flavius Philostratus of Athens, Apollonius was a philosopher, philanthropist, and humanist of the highest degree. He discussed philosophy, morals, and religion wherever he roamed, and performed miracles including healing the sick and raising the dead (Vita Apollonii, IV.45, and VI.43).
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He and his traveling companion and diligent chronicler, Damis of Hierapolis, set out to make the world a better place. Apollonius was vegetarian in both his diet and his wardrobe. When he did wear shoes, never were they made from animal hides, but from cloth or vines. Jesus, by contrast, stagnated in the sands and stones of Galilee, making wine and killing trees, apparently uninterested in the rest of the world. While visiting kings of faraway lands, Apollonius would chastise them for various moral transgressions, intervene in their affairs, and then depart to continue his journeys after refusing the treasures those kings wished to lavish upon him in appreciation of his wise counsel. While in Alexandria, he once spotted twelve men being led to execution for robbery; it is claimed he sensed that one had been falsely accused. Apollonius approached the captors with his claim and thus saved the innocent man from the executioners (VA, V.24). Yet another magic-man? Of course, Apollonius had no supernatural powers. That is absurd. But Jesus did? The detailed chronicle of his life recorded by Philostratus (based on the writings of his acolyte Damis and several others, as well as information Philostratus collected “from the many cities that were devoted to him” [VA, I.2]) consists of both fact and legend. Other ancient authors wrote of Apollonius, such as Maximus of Aegeae (Hadrian’s secretary), Moeragenes,3 and Lucian, as did Soterichus Oasites, epic poet of the third century.4 Historian Cassius Dio wrote (around 200-222 CE) of an Apollonius event occurring in Ephesus in 96 CE.5
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Philostratus wrote his biography of Apollonius around 220 or 230 CE, a hundred years before the concoction of any canonical Bible. Philostratus was one of the most competent and famous historians of the time, yet nowhere in any of his writings do we find a mention of Jesus. 6 Funny, that? According to the account by Philostratus, Apollonius had a divine birth (VA, I.5), practiced celibacy (VA, I:13), and cured the ill and the blind (VA, I.9). He cleansed entire cities of plague (VA, IV.10-11), could foretell the future (VA, I.37, IV.6, IV.18, IV.43), spoke to and fed the masses (VA, IV.13), was worshipped as a god (VA, IV.13; IV.44; and I.19), and was, in fact, the son of god (VA, I.6). Second-century Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) wrote that he learned from Apollonius “to be free with a certainty beyond all chance, not to look to anything else but reason even for a moment.”7 Nowhere in the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth do we get an equivalent gem of dialectic or remotely sage advice elevating reason above blind faith; from Jesus, we are, in fact, gifted quite the opposite. But Apollonius did not discard all the accepted theological weltanschauung of his day. Like Jesus and like most superstitious people of the times, Apollonius believed in Greek gods. Face it, the
read the Vita Apollonii you shall see that Apollonius’ compassion and righteous deeds don’t justify violence the way Christianity has throughout its history. The world might have been quite a different place had his writings, along with those of Damis, Maximus of Aegeae, Moeragenes, Lucian, Soterichus Oasites, and others been widely distributed and allowed to come down to us through history, instead of being suppressed by Christian censorship. A large-scale cult of Apollonius would have no warrant to kill witches or disobedient children or Canaanites. Or anybody. In one of his letters to Apollonius, Emperor Titus (39-81 CE) gushed with praise, “... I have indeed taken Jerusalem, but you have captured me.”9 From the steps of the temple in Olympia, Apollonius amazed everyone “not just by his ideas but also by the way he expressed his thoughts” (VA, IV.30). When the judges of the Olympic Games requested his presence, Apollonius wrote, “For myself, I would come for the spectacle of the physical struggle, except that I would be abandoning the greater struggle for virtue” as we can see from the Letters of Apollonius still available even today.10 Emperor Caracalla (188-217 CE) built a temple to Apollonius. Emperor Septimius Severus (145-211 CE), in his court at Rome, had statues erected of both the man Apollonius and (the
Philostratus was one of the most competent
and famous historians of the time, yet nowhere in any of his writings do we find a mention of Jesus . Funny, that?
New Testament even recognizes goddess Diana (Acts 19), as well as gods Jupiter and Mercurius (Acts 14). And here I thought Christianity was a monotheism. Like Jesus, Apollonius thought demons could control people (VA, IV.20). Yet Apollonius was uncommonly humble, believing that any praise of gods was taking on a subject beyond human power (VA, IV.30). He gave a sermon on a mount to the Ephesians, urging them to study only truth, philosophy, and wisdom (VA, IV.2). Compare this to Jesus’ own mount masterpiece. For just one example, read Matthew 5:28-29 wherein he says if you find yourself attracted to a woman, pull out your eyes and piss on your brain.8 What impetus would humans have, then, to indeed “go forth and multiply” (as ostensibly commanded by the god of Moses) without feeling some physical attraction? Upon my first thorough reading of the New Testament, I came away with the realization that Jesus considers an erect penis to be an abomination of lowly status on par with pigs or fig trees bearing no fruit (Lev 11:7, and Mt 21:19). I see concurrence with Paul: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor 7:1). And you know god not only hates fags (Lev 18:22), but also dykes (Rom 1:21-26). Now back to our philanthropic Pythagorean protagonist. If you
chimerical?) Jesus.11 Emperor Marcus Aurelius reported that he came upon many other statues of Apollonius during his military expeditions.12 Apparently, even some modern Christians can barely come to terms with the fact that Apollonius, a Jesus contemporary, was also a reputed miracle-worker and much more altruistic than their Christ. The (no doubt Christian) writer of the article on Apollonius in the Penny Cyclopaedia claims, “It is almost needless to remark that the Life of Apollonius is a heap of absurdities and impossibilities” yet he admits to the other corroborative texts about our noble sage. Would he have written the same about the Bible? Apollonius was worshipped for centuries after his death, most notably by Roman Emperor Alexander Severus who reigned from 222 to 235 CE.13 Philostratus wrote that Apollonius was the “son of Zeus” (VA, I.6); thus he was the son of the Big Guy in the Sky. Believers in Jesus claimed Apollonius was an imposter, and followers of Apollonius claimed Jesus was the imposter.14 Will the real Messiah please stand up? Making the case for an historical Apollonius is slightly problematic since Christian authorities throughout the ages have suppressed as much information and as many artifacts as they could.15 (After all, how many people do you know who have ever heard of this great man?) Fortunately, the Vita Apollonii, works of other historians, and many
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physical artifacts have escaped Christian censorship and destruction. The hurdles arrayed together in attempts at obfuscation and obscurantism, it turns out, are feeble and easily overcome. We are left with many reliable articles of evidence. CSI: Tyana Artifacts supporting his historicity include the statues of Apollonius in Rome erected by Emperor Septimius Severus, as well as those recorded by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as previously mentioned. An ancient Sanskrit text was found in India with the names Apollonius (Apalūnya), Damis (Damīśa), and others mentioned by Philostratus, substantiating the Indian travels of Apollonius and Damis.16 Among the artifacts in the Adana Archaeology Museum in Turkey is a fragment inscribed with a four-line poem attributed to Apollonius.17 Among his works are a Biography
Severus, possessed the chronicles of Damis (gifted to her by a Damis descendant) and she provided them to Philostratus, asking him to construct a history of Apollonius. Damis had volunteered to accompany Apollonius as companion, chronicler, and guide, as he spoke Persian, Armenian, and Cadusian and was familiar with the geography and land routes to Babylon.21 In assembling his Vita Apollonii, Philostratus used the writings of Damis, Maximus of Aegeae, Moeragenes, and others. Before Philostratus, both Lucian and Soterichus Oasites wrote of Apollonius, and Philostratus’ work is largely regarded as supplementary to a biography of Apollonius, άπομνημονεύματα (“apomnemoneumata”) or “memoirs” written by Moeragenes.22 Moeragenes’ work is mentioned by Church Father Origin in Contra Celsum (c. 240 CE), but it does not come down to us today. And it seems that Apollonius did, in fact,
to second centuries. Dion once mentioned an unnamed, distinguished first-century philosopher who “enjoyed a reputation greater than any one man has attained for generations” and who admonished the Athenians for gladiator shows at the theater of Dionysus.25 Might this first century philosopher have been the angelic son of god, Jesus the Christ? For various reasons, many historians think that this distinguished man might be Musonius Rufus, a close friend of Dion. Why not Jesus, then? For the past two millennia, people have been praising Jesus, calling him some remarkable and wonderful things. This is not at all likely because we see no record of Jesus upbraiding gladiator spectacles in speech. Jesus was not, by any means, a peaceful figure. He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). Jesus actually praised genocide (Mt 11:21-24, Jude 1:5-8), exposing that the prophesied Hebrew
Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) wrote that he learned from Apollonius “to be free with a certainty beyond all chance, not to look to anything else but reason even for a moment.”
of Pythagoras, as well as four books On Sacrifices (VA, III.41). Copies of the letters of Apollonius can be viewed in their original Greek at the US Library of Congress.18 Emperor Hadrian owned almost all of Apollonius’ letters (VA, VIII.20). A Book of Wisdom of Apollonius, written around the fifth century CE, describes a temple of Apollonius in Tyana, a man adored by “all people.” The Historia Augusta describes the life of Emperor Aurelian, including Aurelian remarking on a statue of Apollonius as his army marched through Tyana. Apollonius’ deeds were recorded and preserved in his home city of Tyana, placed in the Apollonius temple, and later referenced in the twelfth century by Tzetzes (yet not extant today). 19 Some doubters have proposed that Philostratus made up the Damis character. But Flavius Damianus, one of the richest men in the late second century, was a close friend of Vespasian. This would precisely be the Roman name given to a descendent of a man named Damis if said descendent was so revered to be bestowed praenomen and cognomen. 20 Julia Domna, wife of Emperor Septimius
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intervene publicly in affairs of the cities he visited; Philostratus related an incident wherein an angry mob planned to burn alive the governor of Pamphylia, with Apollonius resolving the situation peacefully (VA, I.15). This episode is independently corroborated by Maximus.23 Doubting Osmond Having said all this, one notes that Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx expressed his doubts regarding Damis’ veracity about the journeys through India.24 I must, however, point out that the travels and tales and miracles claimed of Apollonius are much more believable than those told by the authors of the Gospels, much of Apollonius being supported by the attestations and physical proofs provided herein. Christians can only wish they had 1/1,000th the archeological and textual support for their champion as we do, in fact, have for Apollonius. Gentle Jesus Greek philosopher Dion Pruseus (39 120 CE) produced his Orations in the first
“savior” was actually a violent racist. As we know from the scriptures, Jesus advised savage whipping of slaves (Lk 12:47).26 Jesus demands the utmost of hatred from any would-be disciples (Lk 14:26). So why would Jesus decry violence? Certainly Jesus did not have anything to say in this regard. Nor did he ever declare as immoral slavery, pedophilia, rape, genocide, incest—or even those oh-so-violent gladiator games. Jesus had other, less important fish to fry. Or multiply, I suppose. It seems very likely to me that Dion referred not to Jesus, nor Musonius Rufus, but to Apollonius, especially as we see an exact correlation in a letter from Apollonius, Epistle Apollonius 70 “To the People of Sais,” chastising Athenians for their gladiator shows. Wrote Philostratus: He also corrected the following practice at Athens. The Athenians used to assemble in the theater below the Acropolis and watch human slaughter... This too Apollonius denounced, and when the Athenians summoned him to the assembly, he said he would not
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Voices of Reason Rally
Last issue’s coverage of the Reason Rally on March 24 in Washington, DC, was a mere glimpse of that day. So for the next several issues, American Atheist will continue to include the words that were spoken by some of today’s greatest voices of reason.
So, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?
’ve been asked that question more times than I can remember, and I bet most of you have, too. But when people ask this question, they never seem to consider that Atheists have legitimate things to be angry about. So I want to talk about why so many Atheists are angry. Or, since I don’t presume to speak for all Atheists, I want to talk about why I’m angry. I’m angry that according to a recent Gallup poll, only 45 percent of Americans would vote for an Atheist for President. I’m angry that Atheists in the United States are frequently denied custody of their children, explicitly on the basis of their Atheism. I’m angry on behalf of the Atheist blogger in Iran who told me they have to blog anonymously because if they’re discovered, they’ll be executed. I’m angry about preachers who tell women to submit to their husbands because it’s the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives. I’m angry that people are dying of AIDS in Africa and South America because the Catholic Church convinced them that using condoms makes baby Jesus cry. I’m angry that my wife Ingrid and I had to get married three times, before we finally had a wedding that was legal in our home state. I’m angry that, after our last wedding, the Catholic and Mormon churches spent millions of dollars to pass Proposition 8 and keep other same-sex couples from getting married in California. I’m angry that our marriage is still not recognized in 42 states—or even by our federal government—because religious bigotry controls how laws get made in this country. I’m angry that the current Dalai Lama said that, although he supports tolerance of gay people, he sees homosexual sex as “wrong,” “unwholesome,” a “bad action,” and “contrary to Buddhist ethics.”
I’m angry that the belief in karma and reincarnation gets used to justify the caste system in India. I’m angry that people born into poverty and despair are taught that they did something bad in a past life, and they’re being punished for it. I’m angry that sick children suffer and die because their parents believe in faith healing. And I’m angry that, in 39 states, these parents are protected from prosecution for child neglect. I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies, women who have sex outside marriage, who date outside their religion, who disobey their male relatives, are executed. I’m angry that people in Africa are being terrorized, tortured, and killed, over accusations of witchcraft. Not in the Middle Ages. Not in the 1600s. Today. I’m angry that Rick Santorum is a serious candidate for president. I’m angry that his religious beliefs have led him to conclude that states can outlaw birth control, that homosexuality should be illegal, that children would be better off having a father in prison than being raised by lesbian parents, and he is still not being laughed off the national stage, and, in fact, has won ten primaries. I’m angry about “lying for the Lord.” I’m angry that the Mormon Church advocates a policy of deception, censorship, and outright dishonesty about their religion. I’m angry that Mormons who have told the truth about the church’s history have been excommunicated. And I want to ask Mitt Romney, Do you believe in lying for the Lord? And I’m angry that when people run for political office in the United States, it’s considered invasive and intolerant to ask about their religion. If someone is going to make decisions about science policy, I want to know if they believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago. If they’re going to make
Photo by John Welte
decisions about foreign policy, I want to know if they believe there has to be violent warfare in Israel to bring about the Second Coming. And I resent the fact that if I ask these questions, I’ll be seen as bigoted. I’m angry about what happened to Galileo. Still. I realize it happened in 1633. I’m still mad. I’m angry that when Atheists put up billboards saying simply, “You can be good without God,” people get outraged about how disrespectful we are. I’m angry that, when Atheists tried to run a bus ad in Pennsylvania that simply said the word “Atheists,” the bus company rejected it. I’m angry that Atheists get pegged as intolerant and confrontational—simply for existing and for being open about who we are. I’m angry that I have to know more about their damn religion than they do. I’m angry that, in public, taxpayer-paid high schools around the country, Atheist students trying to organize clubs—something they’re legally allowed to do—routinely get stonewalled by school administrators. I’m angry that, in Salt Lake City, Utah, 40 percent of all homeless teenagers are gay— most of them kids who have been kicked out by their Mormon families. I’m angry—angry is not the word, I am enraged—at priests who rape children and tell them it’s God’s will. And I’m angry that the Catholic Church deliberately, repeatedly, for decades, protected priests who raped children, and deliberately kept it a secret, making the Church’s reputation a higher priority than children not being raped. I’m angry about the Holocaust. I’m angry about Israel and Palestine. I’m angry about 9/11.
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Eliminate That Atheist!
by Frank R. Zindler
n April 17, 1978, Madalyn Murray O’Hair et al. v. W. Michael Blumenthal, Secretary of the Treasury et al. was filed in United States District Court in Austin, Texas. The lawsuit, which sought to remove the motto “In God We Trust” from US currency, was dismissed, and the dismissal was subsequently upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Frank Zindler, former president of American Atheists, current member of the Board of Directors, and managing editor of this magazine, was one of the named plaintiffs in the suit. At the time he was a biology professor at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) in Amsterdam, New York. The following is an excerpt from Zindler’s forthcoming Volume V: Atheist at Large, the final installment of his book series Through Atheist Eyes: Scenes From a World That Won’t Reason.
onday, June 12, 1978, Johnstown, New York: The telephone rang in the prep room of my molecular biology laboratory. Juggling stuff I was about to autoclave, I picked up the phone. To my great surprise, the call was from Jim Bleikamp, one of Johnstown’s most popular radio hosts. I had done several interviews with him over the years and we were on a first-name basis. “Do you know that tomorrow afternoon the Fulton County Board of Supervisors is going to vote on a resolution condemning you for unAmerican activities?” “What?” “I guess you haven’t heard. Supervisor Marcus Farrant is going to introduce a resolution condemning you for your support of Madalyn’s lawsuit. It looks as though all your recent publicity has really stirred up a hornet’s nest.” I had already gained notoriety by challenging the tax exemptions for churches by purchasing a mail-order Doctorate in Theology and establishing my own tax-exempt “First Church in the Light of Science.” Less than a month earlier, local newspapers were filled with reports of my joining Madalyn Murray O’Hair in a lawsuit to remove religious slogans from American currency. Typical of such reports was one that appeared in The Amsterdam Evening Recorder, on May 17, 1978: Rev. Frank R. Zindler of the First Church of the Light of Science in Amsterdam has joined atheist Madalyn Murray
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O’Hair’s effort to have the words “In God We Trust” stricken from American currency. Zindler met with Mrs. O’Hair, head of the American Atheist Assn., in New York City recently, and became co-plaintiff in a lawsuit to have that phrase eliminated. A lawsuit by Mrs. O’Hair succeeded in removing compulsory prayer and Bible-reading from public schools. A federal district court judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed the coin case, but granted Mrs. O’Hair the right to appeal. The case may go all the way to the US Supreme Court. Zindler said the motto became mandatory on all US currency during the McCarthy period of the 1950s, although it had appeared sporadically throughout US history… After getting all the information that Bleikamp had, I thanked him and told him I would attend the session to defend myself. I asked him to attend too, and he assured me he would. I forgot about the autoclaving and raced to the office of the professor who was president of our faculty union and alerted him to what was going on. Then I called all my media contacts and told them I would make available printed copies of the statement I planned to give at the meeting. I went home to write. Accompanied by several other professors and half a dozen students, I entered New York’s Fulton County Courthouse—the very building in which Alexander Hamilton had tried his first case. The media were waiting, and I handed out 20 copies of my prepared speech. Then the circus began.
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The meeting was called to order. Old business was waived in order to deal with Resolution 62: “Protesting Remarks of Frank R. Zindler to Delete the Words ‘In God We Trust’ from American Currency.” The term “un-American activities” did not appear in the resolution, but that was unnecessary. There were plenty of uses of the term in the demagogic frenzy that ensued. After the reading of the resolution, I approached the speaker’s lectern to indicate my desire to speak. It was clear that Chairman Frank Bradt was going to ignore me and not allow me to speak. As I gestured to him, the TV cameras moved closer and reporters readied their steno pads. Flummoxed by the media presence, he relented and gestured to me to proceed. As I placed the text of my speech on the lectern and began to speak, all but one of the supervisors whirled their high-back leather swivel chairs around and turned their backs on me. The media ate it up. I began to read: “I am confident that the board believes in the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the principle of church/ state separation which is necessary if the first two freedoms are to be preserved. … “The board is well aware that it was not I who devised the principle of church/state separation. The very phrase “a wall of separation between church and state” was coined by Thomas Jefferson, and the concept was the result of the collective efforts of Washington, Madison, and Jefferson. How, therefore, can it be held against me when I merely echo the sentiments of these illustrious men? “Whatever may be the personal feelings of the board concerning the propriety of the motto ‘In God We Trust’ being on American currency, I
the real purpose of this resolution was not to reassure the citizens of Fulton County concerning the private beliefs of its representatives— since the piety of the board is well known and requires no public declaration—but rather it is a brazen attempt to intimidate into silence a man who holds opinions at variance with those of the majority who hold power. “They may point out that the federal Constitution deliberately omits all mention of the word ‘God.’ “They may repeat the warning of James Madison, who said, ‘Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by ecclesiastical bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.’ “They may remind their constituents of the words of George Washington [in the Treaty with Tripoli], who wrote, ‘The government of the United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian religion.’ “And they may note these lines from Thomas Jefferson, with which I end, ‘It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg… Millions of men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.’ “Or consider what Jefferson said in his Bill of Rights for Virginia: ‘No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place of ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained,
I had already gained notoriety by challenging the tax exemptions for churches by purchasing a mail-order Doctorate in Theology and establishing my own tax-exempt “First Church in the Light of Science.”
am certain they can imagine how unfair it seems to persons of dissenting religious views. “How would Christians feel if they had to use money stamped with the motto ‘In God We Do Not Trust’? Consider the situation of the Orthodox Jew, for whom the name of the deity is so sacred that it is not to be spoken or spelled out in full. “For a man who must spell God as ‘G-d’ the ubiquity of this motto is a continual blasphemy and insult. The only fair action is to delete such mottoes altogether. …” After some discussion of the legal jurisdiction of the board with respect to the Supreme Court of the United States, I ended with an appeal to the traditions established by the Founding Fathers: “The board is free to vote down the resolution in the full knowledge that the founding fathers support them in their desire to prevent the intrusion of the state into religion, or the imposition of religion upon the state. “If they need arguments to defend their actions to constituents who are unschooled in the facts of American history, they may point out that
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molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.’ “And lastly, ‘I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others. On the contrary, we are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience. We ought with one heart and one hand to hew down the daring and dangerous efforts of those who would seduce the public opinion to substitute itself into… tyranny over religious faith… It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.’” After I finished my speech, the Board of Supervisors turned into a pack of rabid wolves, and their “questions” were more snarls and howls than cross-examinations.
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“You should be sent to Siberia!” “You are teaching atheism to our children!” (Many of my students were veterans and older than I!) “You should be eliminated!” “If we can’t eliminate this atheist, we should turn the college into a nursing home!” “We should cut off funding for the college until this atheist is eliminated!” With great difficulty, I was able to respond to the supervisor who claimed that I was teaching Atheism in my classes. “I do not teach Atheism in my classes,” I declared. “Yes you do!” came the expected reply. “Although I do teach evolutionary biology,” I responded, “I do not teach Atheism in my classes, although it is true some people consider evolutionary theory equivalent to Atheism. But I most definitely do not teach Atheism in my classes.” “Yes you do!” With an affectation of genuine puzzlement, I asked him, “In which class did I do that?” “In all your classes!” “Well,” I replied, “this is genuinely puzzling. I can’t imagine when
prompted Buanno to call for my immediate removal from the faculty. After the resolution was passed—without naming me specifically in the final wording—the meeting adjourned. The next day the media were filled with the story. One newspaper printed the entire text of my speech. All papers quoted liberal amounts of my arguments. The radio and TV reports, while generally short, were all sympathetic to my situation. Then came the flood of letters to the editor from all the Holy Rollers, John Birchers, American Legionnaires, and other reactionaries. Even before the public condemnation, the newspapers had been filled with hostile responses to publicity attending my joint effort with Dr. O’Hair. One such letter appeared in the Amsterdam Leader-Herald on May 22, 1978. It was from a certain Edwin C. Plewes, of Gloversville, New York, apparently a right-wing crony of some members of the Board of Supervisors and possibly of the Board of Trustees of the college as well. In retrospect, it seems likely that he was the source of the charges and threats leveled against me during the meeting of the supervisors. He began with a full-frontal attack on my teaching: Your espousal of atheism and support of Madalyn Murray O’Hare [sic] … is more to be pitied than condemned. However, your teaching position which enables you to influence the minds of our college students beyond academic learning without their being able to hear your ideas refuted in the classroom is intolerable. Do us a favor and take your biology book and your poisonous atheistic philosophy and leave. Our young people have enough problems and temptations while developing into upright citizens without atheists like you undermining their spiritual values. The vast majority of the residents of this community are God-loving Jews and Christians who do not want misfits like you teaching their children [sic], regardless of the number of academic degrees after your name. He then proceeded to threaten the president of the college and provide the Board of Trustees with ammunition to use against a liberal administrator: You might inform the new president of FMCC, Dr. Kenneth J. LaSalle, that I have provided several thousand dollars for another New York institution of higher education and I will not give FMCC a plugged nickel as long as you are on the faculty. I also financially aided a student through FMCC and will not do this again while you are permitted to promote your atheistic propaganda. You ‘free thinkers’ would enslave the minds of our young people if you could. I cannot understand why any institution of higher education would hire the likes of you. There are so many fine teachers available who are more qualified to inspire young people as well as to teach. The irony of the latter comment was very bitter to me, as it was a matter of pride for me at that time that the first president of the college, Dr. William Gragg (a Christian Scientist!), had nominated me to receive the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. I did not win that award but it was a great honor in the small world of FMCC. Then Plewes delivered what would prove to be the coup de grâce in my final destruction at the hands of the Board of Supervisors four years later: “I hope that the supervisors of Fulton and Montgomery Counties withhold additional financial support for FMCC until you leave.” This was followed by advice to parents of students (Plewes seemed completely unaware of the fact that quite a few of our student body were themselves parents and even grandparents.): “The parents of students
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How would Christians feel if they had to use money stamped with the motto “In God We Do Not Trust”?
that might have been. I would appreciate it, though, if you would do me a favor…” My voice trailed off as though I were waiting for his affirmation. No offer of favor materializing, I continued. “I would appreciate it if you would mind viewing the videotapes of my lectures that are available in the college library. Every lecture I have given in every course I’ve taught for the last three years is available there. Would you all mind viewing some of those tapes and documenting exactly wherever I have been teaching Atheism?” The cloud of consternation swirling around the supervisors was as corrosive as the fumes from Stromboli. I had trumped the aces of professional gamblers and card-sharks. They thought they could make baseless accusations against me without danger of correction. They didn’t know that I had brought an enormous National Science Foundation grant to the college for a plan I had conceived to improve the teaching of our more advanced science courses. That entailed videotaping all the lectures of selected professors in order to make them available to students who, for reasons of scheduling conflicts or such, had to miss the live deliveries. Everything I had said in my classes was public record. There was nothing hidden and nothing to hide. Supervisor Anthony Buanno of Gloversville erupted in anger, protesting so strongly that he was ruled out of order by the chairman. That
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studying biology might consider sending them to other colleges rather than allow irreverent Frank R. Zindler the opportunity to pervert their minds inside and outside of the classroom. Whether you believe it or not, our great nation was founded by God-loving people under a Godfearing constitution, and God was pleased to bless our country beyond measure.” Plewes ended with the mandatory citation of Psalms 14:1, which informs us that “the fool has said in his heart there is no God” — understandably unaware that the Christian Bible makes not a single reference to the brain and considers the heart, kidneys, and bowels to be the seats of ratiocination and emotions. Within days, meetings had been called by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Fulton County Historical Society, and other conservative groups and further resolutions were passed. All of them condemned me personally and by name. Ciro Cozzolino, Commander of the Gloversville American Legion Post, reported the group’s response to my “activities” at the college in The Gloversville Leader-Herald. Cozzolino’s report was very long and criticized Dr. O’Hair’s association with the Humanist Manifesto and declared the dependence of morality upon religion. Then he went on to accuse other, unnamed, faculty members of being un-American, Socialists, Communists, and so forth.
colleges and university centers, the community colleges drew funding from three sources: the State of New York, tuition, and—you guessed it—the sponsoring counties. Funding from the state and tuition were automatic. The County Board of Supervisors controlled the purse strings of the school. The board refused to approve a budget for the college “until that atheist is eliminated.” Both the faculty union and the president of the college protested to the supervisors and also to the Board of Trustees of the college—many of whom were close political buddies of the Fulton County supervisors. They fired the president—he did not have tenure. To be sure, the president and the two boards had been quarreling for some time about many issues, but his defense of “that atheist” proved to be the last straw. Immediately, a new president was named—a retired DutchReformed high school principal and football coach with a master’s degree in physical education. The presence of the word “education” in the phrase “physical education” apparently was sufficient justification to make him the head of one of the better-ranked community colleges in the SUNY system. He wasted no time in making good on his promise “to get rid of that atheist.” Apparently trusting in his ability to do just that, the supervisors passed a budget for the college at the eleventh hour. It contained greatly reduced funding for the science programs—no money for equipment,
Humanism was seen to be the cause of violence
and widespread immorality in the public schools.
The Fulton County VFW’s resolution was shorter but much more forceful: Fulton County’s Veterans Council unanimously voted to ‘protest the anti-God and atheistic philosophies and actions’ of a Fulton-Montgomery Community College professor at a meeting Thursday night at the Gloversville VFW Home. The vote of protest was directed at Frank R. Zindler, who has attracted attention recently through his stand that the motto found on US coins, ‘In God We Trust,’ be removed. A veterans council spokesman said that it was the feeling of council members that Zindler “should not be allowed to expound his anti-religious or anti-God philosophies in his classroom. Some groups called for my “elimination” from the faculty, and one renewed the call to cut off funding to the college if I were not eliminated. A letter to the editor of a local newspaper called me “a Communist menace.” A series of letters shrilly warned of “the Humanist movement’s subtle influence” on the public schools. Situation ethics became a bogeyman seducing the children of the God-fearing New York towns of Johnstown, Gloversville, and Amsterdam. Humanism was seen to be the cause of violence and widespread immorality in the public schools. The proposal to cut funding proved to be fatally popular. The board realized that even though I was Chairman of the Division of Science, Nursing, and Technology, technically I was still a professor, not an administrator. I had tenure. I could not be fired except for professional incompetence or criminal acts, and the only “crime” of which I was guilty in the view of the supervisors was my defense of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States. Unlike SUNY’s four-year
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supplies, or repairs. It was made clear that science education would suffer as long as I remained there. It was being held hostage for ransom. My departure was the only type of currency acceptable for payment of that ransom. Within a month, the college underwent a complete reorganization. All division chairmen were replaced by associate deans. Needless to say, I was not one of the new deans. I was sent back to full-time teaching. Far from being punishment, this was actually a pleasant change. I have always conceived of myself as a teacher, not an administrator. As soon as the next semester’s scheduling began, however, I discovered that the new president had ordered the new dean (a good friend of mine who shared all information with me) to assign me to teach only lower-level biology courses. Oh well, the students weren’t very good scientists, but most of them were good people, and the semester went along just fine. Of course, there were no new supplies or equipment, and the duty to ransom science education haunted me more and more. The president ordered the dean to never again schedule any of my favorite courses—mostly courses that I had created. These included a laboratory course in psychobiology (the physiological and evolutionary ecological bases of behavior), a course called “Science and Its Imitators” (a laboratory course in which students designed complex experiments to test the claims of their favorite pseudosciences), a course in evolutionary biology, a seminar in behavioral genetics, and a mini-course on Greek and Latin vocabulary for students of the sciences. Cutting those courses really hurt. I realized that I would have to leave FMCC eventually, but I was resolved to do so with dignity. I wouldn’t leave until I had something that paid at least as much as my professorship. The year before the
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god-off-the-money flap, I was on sabbatical at SUNY-Albany in a doctoral program in neurobiology. I had finished all my course work and passed all my exams except the thesis defense. I was about to start my research project—neuronal plasticity in the primary visual cortex of the cat—and had just acquired a rudimentary knowledge of brain surgery. However, I couldn’t expect to complete the research quickly, and without a PhD it was unlikely that I could get an academic position that would preserve my rank and salary. What to do? Although I had originally been hired by FMCC to set up a geology program immediately after I finished my master’s degree in geology from Indiana University, it had been a number of years since I last had taught geology and things were starting to get rusty. Nevertheless, it seemed more likely that I could get a job in economic geology than in academic geology, and it wasn’t hard to decide that I needed to brush up on petroleum geology and get a job in Saudi Arabia or in the Persian Gulf. So as soon as the spring semester ended, it was off to Yale for a total-immersion course in Arabic. Arabic is by far the most difficult of the Semitic languages and I have to admit that apart from my courses in technical Japanese at the University of Wisconsin, it was the most challenging. At the end of the summer, armed with a flattering letter of recommendation—in Arabic—from my professor, I started my search for employment in Arabia. At the same time, the new school year was beginning. Somewhere in the course of the previous year, the president had realized that the only way he could get rid of a tenured professor (he had no idea how guilt-ridden I felt due to my very presence being harmful to the science program) was to show that the professor was incompetent. As the year had approached its end, the professor who taught chemistry to science majors announced he was going on sabbatical. “Have Zindler teach those courses!” went the command to the dean. Obviously betting that I would prove incompetent to teach that subject, the president did not know that I had once taught high school chemistry and that I had started college as a chemistry major. He had no way to know that I had been awarded a chemistry medal and a generous scholarship for my isolation of the rare element rubidium from beets. The second year would prove to be a smashing success, although I had an enormous amount of updating to do, especially in quantumchemical theory; a lot had been learned since I was a chemistry student. Without any prodding—honest!—students started writing letters to the dean praising my chemistry courses and evaluating me far above the absent professor. My guilt grew and grew as I struggled to teach chemistry with fewer and fewer supplies and with equipment that was still barely in working order. I wasn’t very good at repairing equipment, especially delicate electronic instruments. But somehow we managed. I started my research at Albany, juggling it with my teaching assignments and following up a number of leads in Arabia. On a long shot, I applied for the position of editor-in-chief of the Saudi Geological Survey—a posh office job that would not get oil on my shoes. It paid a princely salary, and I told my wife, Ann, that she
Accompanied by several other professors and half a dozen students, I entered New York’s Fulton County Courthouse—the very building in which Alexander Hamilton had tried his first case.
wouldn’t have to suffer the indignities of a woman in Saudi Arabia; the salary was so great that I could install her and our daughter, Catherine, on one of the Greek isles and I could commute by private plane on weekends. What a dream! Then one day, the same prep-room telephone that had alerted me to my condemnation rang. It was a recruiter in Toronto telling me I had the job! I would be the new editor of the Saudi Geological Survey and the contract was being sent to me by special courier from Toronto. What a celebration that evening! A day went by. No papers. Another day was half over when the fateful phone jangled on my lab bench. It was the recruiter. He fell all over his tongue as apologies spilled out between his teeth. It seems that Prince So-and-So had bribed Prince Such-and-Such and stole the job before I could receive the contract! I wept many and bitter tears. Never say die. Never give up. A most unexpected other position in Arabia opened up. A low-level professorship was available for someone to teach human neuroanatomy at the Faisal School of Medicine in Riyadh. I had recently conducted a special seminar in human neuroanatomy for the Neurobiology Department at SUNY-Albany, and the subject was fresh in my mind. Piece of cake! I applied for the job with the aid of my Arabic typewriter. Several weeks later, Ann and I drove to Ottawa for my interview. Alas, I received a phone call several weeks after that. Although the second case wasn’t nearly as clear-cut as had been the first one, it was clear enough: someone had bribed another job away from me as I stood blinking in naïve astonishment. That did it! I was completely frightened. How could I survive in a culture where everything is done with bribes? Even if I wanted to, I don’t know how to bribe. Visions of having my right hand chopped off flashed through my mind. Never give up? Well, giving up on Arabia isn’t completely giving up, is it? I finished the second year. It was successful in the sense that the president couldn’t fire me for incompetence. But there was now almost unbearable guilt. I had to find a way out. What to do? I decided not to teach summer school. I could see no way to continue the expensive research at Albany. No matter how I tried to figure it out, I could not see any realistic way to complete my doctorate. I had to give it up. I was defeated. Psychologically, I was a mess. To escape, I did what I always do in times of stress: try to lose myself in obscure studies. I went to SUNYNew Paltz to study colloquial Gulf Arabic. I really didn’t know how I could succeed in any Muslim society, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I needed to escape. I was too ashamed of my failure to complete my PhD to be able to do anything other than seek asylum in yet one more college adventure. Summer school ended and I returned to FMCC to prepare for the fall semester. Then it happened. One week before the fall semester began, our only music professor died suddenly of a heart attack. The music professor’s heart attack was followed by second attack—a Zindler attack: the president ordered that in addition to the low-level science courses I had been scheduled to teach, I should teach the music literature course. This was so outrageously and obviously an effort to put me into a position where
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I would be vulnerable and open to charges of incompetence that the president of the faculty union protested and promised to block the move. “That’s okay,” I told him, “I’d love to do this!” I explained to him what neither he nor the president could possibly have known. The first real job I ever had (picking berries on a farm and trying to cultivate with a horse doesn’t really count), at age thirteen, was teaching music at the same music school at which I had been studying since age eight. I taught accordion, piano, and organ, and was teaching reed instruments by the time I graduated from high school. And so, what was to be the end of my 20-year teaching career began. Amusingly, I had to recruit my own students for the course. I rounded up an exact dozen of my best science students—none of whom had had any background in music whatsoever. I was able to reschedule the course to meet one night per week—at my home out on the plateau south of the Mohawk River. It was perfect. My living room was large enough for the grand piano, the overhead projector and screen, the hi-fi system, the fireplace, and the 12 disciples. The latter took turns bringing crackers, cheese, and wine. What delirium! Every one of those students became knowledgeable, serious concert-goers. Some even became fond of Brahms. In spite of everything else, life was good, but guilt continued to swell. Then, one Sunday, The New York Times education section carried an ad from Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), a branch of the American Chemical Society, in Columbus, Ohio. The Biochemistry Department was looking for analyst/editors who could read German, Russian, and Japanese. My Japanese wasn’t very good, but my German was excellent. As a freelance translator I had published over 2,000 typescript pages of translations of Russian scientific journals for the Consultants Bureau of Plenum Press. When the application forms arrived, I opened them at once and started to fill them out. Then I got to the second page. It contained a full-page, table-like field in which I was to list my formal education in foreign languages. It wanted the name of the course, the date taken, the credits earned, the grade earned… It seemed hopeless. While I had in fact taken quite a few language courses in college that would be appropriate to list on that page, I couldn’t find my grade reports any longer and in many cases couldn’t even remember what year I had taken something or other. Many of my languages, like Hebrew, Greek, and Sanskrit, weren’t relevant at all, and there was the embarrassing fact that I have never had a single course in Russian. In Russian, as in so many other languages, I was a complete autodidact. One Christmas vacation, I had taught myself Russian well enough that my editor at Plenum eventually had me decipher documents that other translators had screwed up. “You can’t write that on this application form,” I thought to myself. I laid the form aside. Weeks later, one of my students, a woman by the name of Eleanore, told me that the Masonic Temple in one of the nearby towns was closing and needed to find a home for its giant pipe organ. I immediately entered into negotiations with the Masons, and it was agreed that they would give the magnificent instrument to FMCC. The only hitch was my having to arrange its dismantling, transport, and reassembly at the college. Eleanore and I went to work, slowly dismantling the giant instrument, carefully marking and labeling and coding all the wires and parts so we could reassemble it in the cafeteria. Ann carefully photographed each stage of deconstruction to guide our later reconstruction.
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Then the “pretensident” got word of what was going on and rejected the gift. Several weeks later, a car screeched and skidded to a halt in my driveway one afternoon. It was Eleanore. As she got out of the car and approached me, I could see she was convulsed in tears. With great difficulty, she blurted out, “They’ve… taken it… to the dump!” The Masons could not find any other non-profit organization to house the big instrument and so it had been hauled away. I exploded in rage and tears. Eleanore and I hugged each other and wept. Ann came out of the house to see what in the world was going on. “They’ve taken it to the dump!” Eleanore explained once more. Ann started to cry. In a frenzy, I rushed into the house and went to my cluttered desk. Somewhere under the piles of paper was the application from CAS. Nearly blinded by tears, I found it after some frantic searching. I opened to the fearsome Page Two. I made no attempt to write within the lines. Instead, I printed in large letters obliquely across the page, “I CAN READ CHEMICAL LITERATURE IN ALL THE MAJOR LANGUAGES OF EUROPE.” I finished the rest of the form in a matter of minutes. I told Ann and Eleanore what I had just done and left them in order to take the application to the post office. Only a few days elapsed before the fateful phone rang again in my prep room. It was a call from CAS. They wanted to interview me for a pharmacology position in the Biochemistry Department. I flew to Columbus and received the most incredible, red-carpet reception of my life. I was treated like royalty. It was clear that many people had read the 80-page placement portfolio that had accompanied my application. I met with other linguists. I met with other musicians and composers. I met with other devotees of ancient history. I met with neurobiologists. It was sensory overload. I returned to New York and declared to Ann, “If they offer me any salary at all, we’re going to Ohio.” The job offer arrived one day after my return to New York. CAS was offering me several thousand dollars more than my senior professorship salary! However, I still had to finish out the semester at FMCC— including the music literature course. December and my twenty-yearlong teaching career were coming to an end. On Christmas Eve 1982, I slipped my final grade reports under the door of the dean’s office. Christmas morning I threw 70 or 80 dictionaries and chemistry books into my Volkswagen, then my sparse wardrobe, and something to heat water in for instant coffee. I told Ann to sell the house and then join me in Ohio. I aimed the car westward, and began what was to be the longest-held career of my life. Working at CAS was like living in a dream that was being created by reactivation of memories. My high school chemistry teacher had been a member of the American Chemical Society and had his own personal subscription to Chemical Abstracts, a massive journal that semimonthly publishes summaries in English of chemical research and patents from all over the world—documents written in over 40 languages. It had been in the pages of Chemical Abstracts that I had obtained the information with which to design my experiments to isolate rubidium from beets. Now I myself was putting information into that same journal and some new student somewhere would be learning to do something equally exciting! Whereas for most of my life I had been made to feel guilty for spending money on foreign language books and for “wasting time” trying to learn Sanskrit, Egyptian, Mayan, or whatever, now it was my ability to decipher odd languages that was my main bargaining chip. At age 72, that chip is still on the table, still being played in the game of information technology. I don’t plan to cash in that chip any time soon.
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Morality Versus Worship
by David G. McAfee
Excerpted from Disproving Christianity and Other Secular Writings (Second Edition), published by Dangerous Little Books
“Live a good life. If there are gods, and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
-- Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (26 April 121 – 17 March 180)
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would like to begin with this quotation because it outlines very eloquently one of the most popular arguments against Christianity, though it can be applied to many theistic traditions. Christians often preach, and the Bible states, that there are prerequisites for entrance into heaven beyond simply following the moral teachings of the Bible as you might interpret it, including the requirement of having accepted Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior.1 The Bible explicitly indicates that acceptance of Jesus as Lord is a necessary condition for entry to heaven in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head. It is on the basis of this acceptance requirement that missionaries began their crusades to spread the word of Christ, because those who have not heard the true word of Jesus would be sure to suffer eternal damnation. From this we can infer two things: firstly, that those who have heard of Jesus the Christ and deny him will not receive the gift of eternal communion with God; and, secondly, that those who have not heard of the teachings of Jesus will likewise be condemned, as all humans are sinners according to this tradition and, in order to forgive
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any sins, you must accept that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. According to missionary authorities2, somewhere around 2.74 billion people have not heard the “gospel of Christ” and are therefore subject to the punishment of God. The problem with this lack of Christian universalism lies within the worship/ morality barrier. Would a just God sentence a morally good individual to hell for never having heard of him? And for that matter, would a just God expel a morally good individual to hell who has heard of Jesus, but simply finds no evidentiary reason to believe? According to any reasonable interpretation of Christianity’s key doctrine, the answer is a simple and firm “yes.” This is because, according to Christian dogma, it is impossible to be “moral” without Jesus Christ; I disagree with this on a fundamental level. It seems to me that this claim indicates that if a Christian were to lose his or her faith, he or she would no longer know right from wrong—a scary concept,
for unbaptized children. Many “modern” Christians stray away from this rather unpopular concept, but the fact remains that, biblically, it is impossible to enter heaven without first accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The requirement to obey and acknowledge God and Jesus Christ has caused the teachings of the Christian tradition to stray from morality to idol worship, creating a world in which a murderer can be forgiven and sent to heaven, whereas a loving and caring skeptic would be cast into damnation. Not only do I believe that it is possible to maintain moral standards without the crutch of religion—but I would argue that it is the only way to achieve true goodness and express real altruism. Free from the constraints of organized religion, a human being is able to express decency from one’s self— as opposed to attempting to appease whatever higher power he or she may believe in. By separating worship and morality, we can act in accordance with our own human morals and be able to
According to Christian dogma, it is impossible to be “moral” without Jesus Christ.
to say the least. Yet, if there exists a person who follows biblical moral code strictly, but doesn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, the “merciful”3 Christian God promises eternal damnation. If it is the case that nonbelievers are punished based solely on nonbelief, and this is the purpose for early Christian missionaries to spread the Gospel, then we can conclude that those individuals who haven’t heard or cannot understand the teachings will be likewise damned. The problem is therefore extended from nonbelievers to those ignorant of Christ’s teachings, to those incapable of believing due to mental defect or age. For example, because the Bible teaches that no man is without sin4 and does not mention the specific status of children in the afterlife, it is easy to conclude that, logically, children who die when they are too young to know Christ’s word may not have a place in eternal communion with God. This debate led to various sects creating new Christian teachings promoting different purgatories and limbo-like layers of afterlife
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be less selfish in our motivations for kindness and moral behaviors. Endnotes 1. John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 2. The Joshua Project global mission statistics 3. Luke 6:36: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful. 4. 1 Kings 8:46: For there is no man that sinneth not. David G. McAfee is also the author of Mom, Dad, I'm an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-Believer. Both titles are published by Dangerous Little Books (DangerousLittleBooks.com) and are available in print or on Kindle through Amazon.com. He blogs at DavidGMcAfee. wordpress.com.
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Photo by Lulis Leal
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ew York City, July 4, 2012. “Atheism is Patriotic” was the Independence Day message that American Atheists brought to the skies the second year in a row. When announcing that the banner this year would fly over the home of America’s most powerful symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty, President David Silverman asked all citizens to celebrate their independence by remembering that “the separation of church and state benefits everyone, except the preachers and the politicians in their pockets. Religious equality only comes from government neutrality.” Congratulations to photographer Lulis Leal, winner of American Atheist magazine’s photo contest. In addition to having her work published here, Leal also received a free one-year membership to American Atheists.
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SCIENCE INTERVIEW SERIES
Is Self-Deception Inevitable?
by Ce Atkins
Two of the Aims and Principles of American Atheists, Inc., are “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.” American Atheist supports these principles with this Science Interview Series, where some of the top scientists and thinkers in the world discuss their work with contributor Ce Atkins. In the previous issue, Atkins talked with Edward O. Wilson about his new book The Social Conquest of Earth. Dr. Wilson is the founder of sociobiology, the science that examines the evolutionary foundations of human behavior and the social behavior of species in general. For this issue, Robert Trivers talked with Atkins about his latest book, The Folly of Fools.
Photo by Nick Romanenko, Rutgers University
erhaps you know a superhero of sorts, someone with immense powers of self-deception. If not, perhaps you can summon the memory of a dictator, politician, preacher, or salesperson with such powers. It turns out the ability to deceive and selfdeceive is biologically embedded, standard operating equipment for human beings. If you’re interested in human nature, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life by Robert Trivers, PhD, is a must-read. The work is both fascinating and accessible. Here’s a small taste. Citing aggregated scientific studies, Trivers’ writes, “The strong conclusion was that among monkeys and apes, the smarter the species, the more often deception occurs . . . We shall see later that the brighter children are, for a given age, the more often they lie.” Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, Dr. Trivers was award the prestigious Crafoord Prize in biosciences in 2007 by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences “for his fundamental analysis of social evolution, conflict, and cooperation.” His work is frequently cited in books by contemporary science icons Steven Pinker, E. O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and others.
I’m a little nervous about this interview because you already know I’m full of it, by definition. I wouldn’t have said that [laughing]. I would have understood if you had. Can you talk about deception in nature? Deception is a deep and widespread feature of nature at all levels. Viruses are fooling us. HIV is constantly changing to fool us, just like the camouflage of an octopus. When an octopus is put in front of a background where its camouflage doesn’t work, it will shuffle through images on itself about every three seconds, so that just as the predator recognizes it, it has morphed into a new form. It has about 60 or 70 camouflage images it can try. That’s amazing. It is amazing. And it’s kind of parallel in logic to what the HIV strain does. So deception, camouflage, mimicry between different species or within a species is pervasive. Self-deception, which is really what my book is about, is less studied in other species.
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Why do we self-deceive? The general argument of the book is that the ability to self-deceive improves the ability to deceive others. But self-deception has a cost. It puts you out of context with reality and that can turn around and bite you in various ways. Regarding self-deception, you write about people picking out their photo that was altered to be 20% better looking. That’s one of the best examples of self-deception. In general, people place themselves in the top half of various categories more than fifty percent of the time. So maybe 70% of people will say they’re better than average in looks. Of course we know that can’t be possible. But is that just the mouth talking or do they really think they’re better looking? That’s where the work of Epley and Whitechurch is so nice. They’ve created an experiment where they take a picture of you and morph it once to look 20% better, and again to be 20% uglier. In the next step you pick out your face from a set of twelve photos of people your age and sex. Your photo is one of the twelve. The difference is, some of the time the photo is the real you, sometimes it’s the uglier you, and sometimes it’s the betterlooking you. The question is, which “you” do you see first? The answer is that you see better-looking you first, then real you, and last and slowest, the uglier version. You also write about overconfidence. Yes, and the sad thing there is that overconfidence and knowledge are poorly correlated. For example, there is some evidence in the judicial system with regard to eyewitnesses and overconfidence. Some witnesses are more likely to be mistaken, and, simultaneously, more confident that they’re right. Confident people make better witnesses. They’re more believable to the jury. So let’s say you and I are both witnesses to a crime. I’m uncertain of exactly what I saw and I acknowledge my uncertainty. You’re certain, but you’re wrong! Your certainty is what is noted by the jury because they don’t have any independent information as to what’s right or wrong. So if one witness is hesitant and other confident, the confident one sways the jury. You say that people in positions of power are almost instantly corrupted by that power. This is the new social psychology that I like where they get away from all this question-and-answer stuff and actually do something clever. So in this case, they use a con, a device where you give the organism some stimulus, called a prime, which causes a response. You measure people’s behavior and perceptions right after administering the prime to see its effect.
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The prime is almost unbelievably simple. They bring you and me into a lab and they have you remember a situation in which you were in power. They have you elaborate: what did you feel, what did you do, etc. They want you to feel the sense of power. Then they let you determine how many M&Ms the other group members get. With me they do the opposite. They have me recall a situation where I felt powerless before asking me the same questions. Then they have me write down how many M&Ms I hope to get. The priming has the following effects. If I’m asked to write an E on my forehead, there are two different ways I can write it. I can write it so I can read it, or I can write it backwards so others can read it. Sure enough, the more powerful you feel, the more likely you are to write the E so it represents your own vantage point. You can read it, but it’s backwards to others. Conversely, the weaker you feel, the more likely you are to write the E so others can read it. But writing E’s on foreheads ain’t what life’s about. So what are the real consequences? The real consequences are that if you’re made to feel more powerful, your ability to recognize the import of facial expressions is diminished. The powerless read facial expressions more accurately—and they remember them better, too. So power is inducing a kind of social blindness in which you’re seeing reality less clearly. That’s part of an egocentric, on-top-of-the-world approach. The powerless person, on the other hand, has got to pay attention to people’s facial expressions because those other people have power over them. In the book, you cite studies that have found that language, ethnic, and religious diversity to be partly a function of parasite load. Basically the theory is that when there are more parasites in a region, that is, a greater parasite load, the people outside the group represent a dimension of threat because they are more apt to have parasites that members of your group are unfamiliar with and may lack immunity for. It’s not coincidental, I think, that out-group members are often called parasite-ridden—covered with flies, they stink, etc. So the theory is that with a higher parasite load you’re going to be more inward-turning, more ethnocentric, and less likely to want to interact with neighbors. There’s more fragmentation so language and religion are more split up. The linguistic data are pretty strong. There are many more languages in areas with greater parasite loads. Religious diversity goes along with that division. I find that a lot of colleagues that aren’t used to thinking in terms of parasite load are skeptical that an underlying variable like this could have these ramifying social effects. But I’ve studied the literature produced by these people, paper after paper, and the correlations seem to me to be very strong.
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MEDIEVAL 2.0 :
THE UNEXPECTED AND TRAGIC RETURN OF COLLECTIVE GUILT
by Dale DeBakcsy
And can you then impute a sinful deed To babes who on their mothers’ bosoms bleed? Was then more vice in fallen Lisbon found, Than Paris, where voluptuous joys abound? Was less debauchery to London known, Where opulence luxurious holds the throne?
- Voltaire, “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” 1756
hen Voltaire wrote of the devastation caused by the Great Lisbon Earthquake, it was still widely believed that, as part of god’s perfect plan for the universe, the innocent must occasionally suffer horrors. This was solid, mainstream theology with an august pedigree stretching back nearly a millennium and a half. Voltaire and his comrades sought to end it and, thanks to their unique genius and wit, they were successful. That is, until recently. From Katrina to Aurora, AIDS to 9-11, the notion that it is acceptable and just for god’s wrath to be visited upon the innocent has resurfaced with an alarming rapidity and voracity. How has this happened, and how can our knowledge of its first appearance guide us in responding to its current reemergence? In 410 CE, the Eternal City of Rome, which had resisted invasion for eight centuries, fell to Alaric I, and in the ensuing orgy of murder, destruction, and rape, it was the job of the
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theological community to explain how god had allowed all of this to happen just thirty years after the empire adopted Christianity. The need produced Augustine’s City of God, which stood as the definitive answer to why god permitted the innocent to suffer and die in such overwhelming numbers. He had counsel for everybody. For the starved and starving: “Those whom famine killed outright it rescued from the ills of this life, as a kindly disease would have done; and those who were hunger-bitten were taught to live more sparingly.” For the violently slain: “Of what consequence is it what kind of death puts an end to life, since he who has died once is not forced to go through the same ordeal a second time?” And for victims of rape: “Neither those women then, who thought over-well of themselves by the circumstance that they were still virgins, nor those who might have been so puffed up had they not been exposed to the violence of the enemy, lost their chastity, but rather gained humility; the former were saved from pride already cherished, the latter from pride that would
shortly have grown upon them.” Really, then, the sacking of Rome, by Augustine’s account, was the best thing that could have happened to everybody involved—a free lesson in frugality and humility, courtesy of the almighty, and all it cost was the brutal death of one’s loved ones and the repeated, savage violation of one’s own body. It all sounds entirely horrid to our modern ears (mainly because it is horrid), but there was a system of theological reasoning behind it which marched under the banner Sin Saves the Universe. It was Sin, according to this tradition, not Virtue, which turns the wheels of creation towards perfection. The thought, as it was assembled by Isidore of Seville, Thomas Aquinas, and others over the succeeding centuries, ran something like this: If we are to obtain blessedness on our own merit, we must have Free Will. But, if we have Free Will, there must be a path away from blessedness if our choice to be good is to be meaningful. Therefore, god endowed us with a capacity for sin and permitted that we use it, and since he is Very Clever, this
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permission must be part of some larger and perfect plan. But if sin is allowed with all of its ill consequences, it must be an exceedingly important part of that plan, and so each sinner has more than purely individual significance. Therefore, by medieval reckoning, each act of sin can’t be an isolated and independent act by a deranged mind: it must have an impact that ripples across the community and a purpose beyond the individual sinner. When the sinners sins, it affects the innocent as well, with just perfection the result. By bringing chaos, the sinner allows the Good to overcome it and show their righteousness. By persecuting the true believers, he allows for the creation of glorious martyrs. By suffering torments for his wicked acts, he serves as an example. And, by bringing destruction on his city, he provides the gateway for the redemption of all. This is Augustine’s point in its final evolved form: that sinners and the
punishment of homosexuality and vice. Pat Robertson saw Katrina as god’s retribution for America’s abortion policy, while Generals International was somehow able to twist the BP oil spill into a sign of god’s disfavor with our treatment of Israel. More recently, we have witnessed an unhinged youth kill a dozen moviegoers in cold blood, and that too, according to Truth in Action spokesman Jerry Newcombe, is a result of god visiting upon innocents what the immoral in society have wrought. It’s the thirteenth century all over again. Or is it? For the better part of twenty years we’ve been employing Voltaire’s techniques in the attempt to fight back the rising tide. You even see Candide quoted from time to time on the internet chat boards where these debates get thrashed out, but to no avail. We are treating this as a rematch of a fight we won before, and that is precisely why we aren’t making the impact we think we
coming from such a dark place? The medieval Scholastics thought their beliefs to be reason-derived, and so they at least could be approached through reasonable argumentation. Voltaire and company, by using reason to demolish the machinery of the old theological system, effectively drove the successors of the Scholastics onto the shoals of Faith, where we find them still today. It is axiomatic that you can’t argue against faith any more than you can box with a spider web. But perhaps you can find out why that faith is so important, and offer something better in its stead. If, as appears to be the case, this new generation is concerned that our use of Free Will is heading us towards disaster and away from the principles of Good Living, then maybe it is not in abstract moral argumentation, but in the potential of modern life, that we shall find our answer to them. We
From Katrina to Aurora, AIDS to 9-11, the notion that it is acceptable and just for god’s wrath to be visited upon the innocent has resurfaced with an alarming rapidity and voracity.
destruction that god brings through them are necessary in order that The Elect might grow and perfect themselves. As the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum put it in 1484, “If there had been no sin, . . . then there never would have appeared what debt of grace in good works is due to God, ... and many other things without which the universe would suffer great loss.” It took the eighteenth century’s revolutionary conception of justice to chip away at this monument to the beauty of catastrophe, this love song to suffering. After Voltaire wrote Candide, it was no longer possible for a theologian to say the phrase “the best of all possible worlds” without provoking knowing laughter from all sides. By deflating the concepts of Sin and its handmaiden, Disaster, as the positive guiding forces of humankind’s destiny, the Philosophes also rescued the sinner from the epicenter of god’s divine plan. The caprice of Nature and man’s as-yet-unrealized sense of responsibility towards his fellow man more than explained the travails of the human race without recourse to claims of perfection that beat against common sense and experience. The debate was, to all appearances, definitively settled. So it remained until the ignition of the Culture Wars. First we heard of AIDS as god’s
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ought. As we’ve seen, the punishment of the innocents evolved by the church theologians of the Middle Ages had as its central thesis that disaster and sin were brought into the world to serve an ultimately higher good purpose, one that had an aim beyond the suffering of those involved. To combat such an idea, highlighting the arbitrary, malicious, and deeply unjust structure of nature and the world worked well. This new wave of collective guilt enthusiasts, however, work from a different starting point, even if they arrive at the same conclusion. The assumption is not that innocents suffer because the world is secretly perfect and that free will works towards that perfection, even (perhaps especially) when it falters. Rather, innocents suffer because free will was a mistake, and people have doomed themselves and their civilizations beyond redemption by their use of it. The goal is not to make people better, even by St. Augustine’s perverse notion of “better,” and punishment is not something undergone on the way to the bigger point god is making. Punishment is the bigger point; it is the last stage of The Big Plan, a dress rehearsal for the glorious day when Everybody Who Isn’t Of The Elect is going to be dragged down for eternal suffering. How does one argue with people
need to show how the secular turn, and the freedom of action and variety of choice it has brought with it, allows everybody to live closer to the best ideals of their notion of morality. Just as Humanists are better Humanists than they have ever been, so too are Christians now better able to live their most cherished (or at least most publicly proclaimed) principles than at any time before. They can offer the hand of Christian charity without wrapping it in the iron glove of dogma, and so approximate the principles of their founder in a way that a thirteenth-century missionary could never understand. They will most likely never be bouncing and bonny Atheists like ourselves, but perhaps by recognizing what modern humanity offers them, they will grasp what they in turn have to offer it, and we may all get over the notion that anything—in this world or beyond—justifies the suffering of another living being. Dale DeBakcsy is the author of the weekly Atheist webcomic The Vocate, co-author of Frederick the Great: A Most Lamentable Comedy, contributor to The Freethinker, and former editor of the online Rivets Literary Magazine. By way of feeding his children he is also a physics and mathematics teacher.
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California Atheists Join San Francisco’s
alifornia state director Larry Hicok, who is also the founder of Atheist Advocates of San Francisco, coordinated the effort for 64 Atheists from groups throughout the Bay Area to march in the 2012 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade on June 24. “The Pride Parade is about a whole lot more than having a good time,” said Hicok. “It is about supporting a minority that is especially persecuted by religion. It is about understanding that we must build alliances with our friends. It is about being serious about affecting change.”
Gay Pride Parade
Photos by Norm Clevenger
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by Paul Keller
The Knowledge That There Is No God
The m stands for the inertial mass, which is resistance to acceleration. Resistance to acceleration is the signature of the physical. E = mc2 means that all energy is physical.
If X does not have a physical analog, then X is not real. Abstract objects, such as the number 7 or a mathematical triangle, do not have a physical analog. They are therefore not real. There is no physical analog of a mathematical triangle with lines that have zero height and width and points that have zero height, length, and width. Abstract objects are fictional models that we make up. Fictions only exist as an energy state or computational state in a computational device such as the brain. What about space and time? In relativity theory, space and time are one thing: spacetime. According to the general theory of relativity, there is something called frame dragging. A spherical object—such as the Earth—turning in space-time encounters a small resistance to acceleration. This resistance to acceleration has been measured in several ways, including by satellite. This means that space-time itself exhibits resistance to acceleration and is therefore physical. According to quantum mechanics, spacetime is physical. Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty for momentum and position in conjunction with Heisenberg’s Principle of physical thing. Assume there is “object” 1 and “object” 2, and that 1 has resistance to acceleration and 2 does not. Assume 1 and 2 “move” toward each other. Object 1 passes through 2 without hesitation as though 2 were nothing— because 2 is nothing, nonexistent. To not have at least some resistance to acceleration is to be nothingness, nonexistent. That is, to be nonphysical, or immaterial, is to be nothingness, nonexistent. A particle of light, a photon, is sometimes said to be without mass. A photon has no rest mass because it is never at rest; however, photons do have motion mass. Photons exert pressure upon the surfaces that they strike. They resist acceleration and are therefore physical. The natural is space, time, physical, material, and corporeal. The supernatural is not natural. The supernatural is the negation of the natural. The supernatural is spaceless (existing at no location), timeless (existing
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In 1905, Albert Einstein proved that E = mc2.
There is no difference between the supernatural and nonexistence.
Uncertainty for energy and time means that every point in space-time has a nonzero energy and momentum. According to both relativity and quantum mechanics, then, space-time is a
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We do not need to search the universe to prove that there is no god in particular or no supernatural in general, because there is precisely nothing to search for.
at no time), nonphysical (completely empty), immaterial (completely empty), and incorporeal (bodiless). Nonexistence is spaceless, timeless, nonphysical, immaterial, and incorporeal. There is no difference between the supernatural and nonexistence. Therefore, the supernatural is precisely equal to nonexistence. The natural is equal to existence. “Supernatural” and “existence” are mutually exclusive. “Supernatural existence” is a contradiction in terms. A contradiction is a condition that is always false (i.e., inaccurate and/or unreliable). A supernatural existence is like a three-angled square in Euclidean geometry. It is always true (i.e., totally accurate and totally reliable) that there is no supernatural existence. Supernaturalism is always false because it asserts that there is supernatural existence. Naturalism is the idea that there is only natural existence. The natural is equal to all existence. Nature is equal to all existence. Nature is equivalent to reality. Naturalism is always true, because naturalism and supernaturalism are mutually exclusive and exhaustive (i.e., cover all logical possibilities), and supernaturalism is always false. There is no logical alternative to naturalism being true. We do not need to search the universe to prove that there is no god in particular or no supernatural in general, because there is precisely nothing to search for. Gnostic in this context means knowledge by means of facts and reason alone. It is known with total accuracy and total reliability, by means of facts and reason alone, that there is no supernatural existence. Gods and devils are supernatural existences. It is known with total accuracy and total reliability, by means of facts and reason alone, that there are no gods and no devils. Gnostic Atheism is always true. Top theologians in the world define their particular god as being spaceless, timeless, nonphysical, immaterial, and incorporeal. Gods and devils, including Allah, Jesus, and Satan, are fictional characters that people make up by the thousands, like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. Just as surely as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are fictional, gods and devils are fictional. To claim that it cannot be known that gods and devils are fictional is like claiming that it cannot be known that Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are fictional. To claim that it is uncertain that gods and devils are fictional is like claiming that it is uncertain that Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are fictional. To say that one needs faith that gods and devils are fictional is like saying that one needs faith that Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are fictional. Cornell University Press, 1991). Craig, W.L., S. W. Wallace, and A. Flew, eds. Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate. (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003). Craig, W.L., and Q. Smith. Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Martin, M. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Plantinga, A. Does God Have a Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980). ------------. Warranted Christian Belief. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). Seife, C. “Gravity Probe to Give Einstein a Pricey High-Precision Test.” Science, April 16, 2004, p. 384. Serway, R.A., M.J. Moses, and C.A. Moyer. Modern Physics. Third Ed. (Belmont, Ca.: Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning, 2005). Swinburne, R. The Christian God. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). ------------. The Coherence of Theism. New York: (Oxford University Press, 1977). ------------. The Existence of God. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979). ------------. Is There a God? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). Craig, W.L., S. W. Wallace, and A. Flew, eds. Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate. (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003).
Paul Keller has degrees in social science, psychology, philosophy, and electronics. He is currently pursuing bachelor of science degrees in management and applied mathematics. He lives in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in The American Rationalist (March/April 2012) and appears here courtesy of the editor.
Alston, W.P. Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience. (Ithaca:
There is no difference between the supernatural and nonexistence. “Supernatural existence” is a contradiction.
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Minister to Atheist (from p. 7)
up first. I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. I read it in record time and then called the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s contact number on the last page. “Dan himself called me back within the hour and we had a very long conversation. He invited me to join The Clergy Project, a new online support group for clergy who no longer hold supernatural beliefs, and I did so immediately. “I spent hours on the site after that day. There were only 60 of us when I joined, and we each shared our struggles with each other. At the time, I couldn’t believe there were as many as 60 pastors out there who had lost their belief in god! Today, we have over 340 members and are still growing. I think we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. “On March 18, 2012, I stepped down from my pulpit for the last time. I knew that the farce could not continue. My sanity was slipping away, day by day, as I struggled to deal with my loss of faith and the very real issue of leaving the ministry. I was at the end of my rope, physically and emotionally, and I couldn’t do it anymore. “A few days after that I was at the American Atheists convention, attending as my online pseudonym, ‘Lynn.’ Initially I had planned only to attend the convention. But in a strange turn of events, the opportunity to be a speaker and come out publicly presented itself. I reasoned that standing in front of the crowd would do one major thing: get the word out to my fellow Atheist clergy! “That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Realizing that simply taking the stage, as I had done for many years, and being open with this group of people, would open the door for many others trapped in the pulpit. I had the chance to give them the courage to come out as well. I knew I had to do it! “I fought anxiety from the moment I found out I would be speaking. I had no idea what was going to happen when I stepped up on stage and shared my story. My intent was to speak for 20 minutes, detailing my journey. But once I was at the podium, looking out at the faces of everyday people just like me, I was overwhelmed with guilt for the way I had treated Atheists in the past. In that moment, I tossed aside my notes and simply apologized to all the people that I had hurt with my actions in the past. “As I poured my heart out before several hundred strangers, I experienced one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever felt: acceptance. The faces staring back at me were not glaring, angry faces. They were compassionate, emotional, loving faces. In retrospect, I realize that my treatment at the hands of Atheists has been much more (pardon the language)‘Christlike’ than that of Christians.” Teresa’s entire speech is on YouTube (the link is at the end of this article). The following is a portion of what she told her fellow Atheists. “First of all I want to apologize to all of you. I was one of those crazy fundamentalists, rightwingers, haters. That’s the only word I can use for it. I want to say that I’m sorry to each of you for knocking on your door—you know what I’m talking about—trying to weasel my way in so I could convince you how wrong you were and how right I was. After the convention, Teresa went home to resign as pastor of her church. She was honest with her superiors and her congregation. She felt they were worthy of the truth. The commandment about not bearing false witness against her neighbor still makes sense to her, even if the rest of the Bible doesn’t. She found out that while it’s a sin in her church to bear false witness, hating a bearer of the truth is not. “The fallout was immediate and devastating. The church, where I had pastored for over three years, changed all the locks and would not let me on the property to collect my belongings. It took over two months to get them to return my things. The local news ran my story for three weeks, garnering thousands of online comments. I received hateful emails, voicemails, letters, and facebook posts and messages. My son’s friends would not have anything to do with him because I was his mother, and many of my husband’s co-workers came to him offering their ‘sympathy.’ One even asked him when we were getting a divorce! “Many messages were from people who desired to see me suffer physically. One man, whom I had served with on a three-day spiritual retreat, left me a voice mail saying, ‘I can’t wait to look down on you in hell and watch the flesh burn off your body.’ Wow! That’s Christian love in action! “Coming out definitely has a price. It has cost me almost everything, but I wouldn’t go back. I’m happy to be out, to be free, to live openly and honestly. The answers to the issues we all face are contained in our ability to reach out and help one another, not in praying to some mysterious force, hoping for that deity to swoop in and save the day. “I don’t think I had any expectations about coming out except that I would be living an honest life that didn’t include preaching lies. I’m still the same person with all the same hangups; I’m just able to be open about who I am now. I have such peace, knowing that ‘I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.’” To see Teresa’s entire coming-out speech and the response she received, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=WgDm8w0-IwY. You can subscribe to the Teresa MacBain channel on YouTube and follow her on Twitter at @Teresamacbain and on facebook. She blogs at AgnosticPastor. WordPress.com. You can reach her office at email@example.com.
Teresa and her husband, Ray, 2004 “I want to apologize for verbally abusing you from the pulpit; for using the pulpit as a bully pulpit to just…hate. I can’t think of a better word for it: hating. I want to apologize to you for believing that you were godless, heathen, slimy, immoral, and drunken. “I never knew anything about you. I had never seen any of your faces. You were just ‘those people.’ I was the one on the right track, and you were the ones who were going to burn in hell. And I’m happy to say as I stand before you right now, I’m gonna burn with you! I have lived with guilt and with god as a taskmaster for 44 years. No more. “It’s a scary thing—I guess that goes without saying—to stand before you, but not because of you. Isn’t that amazing? You all are offering me the most humbling experience of my life. You are offering me love and acceptance without judgment. I’ve been a preacher. I have been evil to you. And yet, I see tears, I see nods, I see love. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like this before. Thank you so much.”
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Robert Trivers Interview (from p. 27 )
You write about free will and consciousness in the book. Can you go on that a bit? Regarding free will and consciousness, I’ve always thought lot of the controversy comes from how you define the words. What’s free will? I don’t exactly know what people mean by free will, but if they mean that we have the capacity to look at our past behavior and readjust it, as I’m sure we’ve been selected to do, then I have no problem with that definition of free will. The key thing about the neurophysiological evidence is that the conscious mind is running behind reality. When an event occurs, it takes a half-second before it fully registers in consciousness. Events register unconsciously in a twentieth of that time. During lectures I will take out a pen and throw it across the room to make a point. We know that the impulse to do that started a good second to as much as eight seconds before I actually threw it. It looks like I’m making a point by throwing the pen, but in fact I was already planning that unconsciously. Consciousness is more like an observer after the fact, but it appears to have veto power. For example, you’ll start an action, it’ll be a second or so before your conscious mind is aware that you are now thinking of throwing the pen, but you then have a period of half a second where you can veto the action. I think in general people don’t understand consciousness, and assume that one of our species’ big advantages is that our conscious mind is in charge, that we have significant control over events, and so on. The fact of the matter is that our conscious mind is not sitting there running things. The bigger part of the brain is running things and it transmits all kinds of biased information to the conscious mind, presumably to be in service of trying to fool others. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the book? One of the deficiencies in my book is that I never provide a good catalog of the costs of self-deception. I was painfully aware of that when I published it. There should have been a taxonomy of the costs of self-deception. What are the social costs of self-deception? For example, if you’re the only one who doesn’t realize you’re an jerk but everyone else thinks you are, your self-deception costs you socially. Self-deception also increases one’s
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vulnerability to con artists and so on. The con artist is reading the mark’s self-deception and playing them like a musical instrument. The immune system effects of self-deception are fascinating and subject to alternative interpretations, but basically I argue, a la the work of Jamie Pennebaker, about the suppression of trauma. Is it a good idea to hide, to suppress trauma? The answer is no. The more you hide trauma from other people, the more you suffer in immune costs and your immune system is weakened. I’m often asked if cultures vary in their degrees of self-deception. Well, by logic they must, but we don’t have much evidence. One thing that I write about on my Psychology Today blog [go to RobertTrivers.com] is a study across 15 countries that shows that the more wealth inequality there is across the society, the more self-inflation occurs. Let’s say wealth is equal across a country and everyone has the same amount. Well, what’s the benefit of self-inflating in the economic sphere? Not much. But if there’s a great differential in wealth, convincing people that you’re better than you are may yield benefits. There’s a reason to self-inflate. Are you an Atheist? When I’m asked on a scientific basis if I’m an Atheist, I say no. The only scientifically defensible position is to be an agnostic because you can’t prove either half of the equation. Richard Dawkins is very skillful on the topic of religion and says some very funny things. A favorite of mine is, “We are all Atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” They have all the other religions of the world nailed down except their own, which they then cling to. I certainly don’t believe in intercessory prayer. The idea that you have all these universal laws of nature that god is willing to change on a minute-to-minute basis due to begging behavior by humans, I think that is utter nonsense. As I mention in the book, the Templeton Foundation funded a large, double-blind study in six different institutions, including Harvard Medical School, about the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. They found that being prayed for had no beneficial effect whatsoever. However, being told that you were being prayed for did have a negative effect. It’s what they call not a placebo effect, but a no-cebo effect. On every single measure for how well you
were doing the month after the operation, being told you were being prayed for made you worse. So if you’re in bed and people come in and tell you, “We’re all praying for you,” you think, “Oh no, this is even worse than I thought.” Or, is it that instinctively you know that being prayed for isn’t doing anything for you? When they visit, why don’t they say, “I’m feeding your dog,” or “I cancelled your subscription to The New York Times,” you know, practical things, rather than prayer? Ce Atkins is the creator and editor of PostGenetic.com, which proposes the development of crowd, computer, and individual-sourced post-genetic codes integrated with technology to help us navigate the exponential increases in cultural complexity and in reality in general.
Greta Christina (from p.15)
I’m angry about all this. And more. And I think I’m right to be angry. I think we are all right to be angry. And I want to point out something important about this Atheist anger. Most of it is not about how religious believers treat Atheists. It’s about how believers treat other believers. It’s anger on other people’s behalf. Atheists aren’t angry because we’re selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it. Atheists aren’t angry because there’s something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there’s something right with us. Greta Christina is the author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless from Pitchstone Publishing. She blogs at FreethoughtBlogs.com/Greta.
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Ages of Atheism (from p. 9)
parentally-induced forces similar to Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life but which have a much more profound effect than even parenting and peer pressure. The Pinocchio-type forces are those that help a child internalize the lessons taught by loving parents as well as their brutalizing peers. The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, guardian angels, and Aslan are all “visible” to the child, right up close and in their face. In contrast, the brilliantly twinkling star (god)2 on which Pinocchio wishes is far away and does not directly intervene to save the little wooden marionette and turn him into, guess what, a real boy. Instead, the star grants the wish by sending down a cute little on-earth angel in the form of a cricket. This type of propaganda is actually the worst and most difficult to combat. As the child grows older he or she sees evidence that the Tooth Fairy and Santa don’t exist. But stars sure do, and that evening star (actually the planet Venus) shines above. It is not difficult for a child to realize as it gets older that the wishing star is really just symbolic of god, who also is far away and never in your face but who nevertheless can and does intervene to save the day…and eventually your soul. This is not a large leap of belief. It merely involves substituting one untouchable, unreachable celestial wish-granter for another. And god is even better because he looks like Grandpa. What We Can Do to Help Children Become Atheists We adult Atheists come into contact with developing minds all the time, be they our own children, nieces, nephews, grandkids, or kids of friends and neighbors. The key is to be ready to answer their unsophisticated, “spiritual” questions in an unconfusing way they will understand, that will not scare them with direct contradictions of their parents or peers, and that will make them think about your answer and ask you more questions (which helps them to internalize your answers). This sounds perhaps a bit sneaky, but keep in mind that these are the same techniques used by every church and cult since the beginning of civilization. The priest never tells the little children any of the hard-core details of the Bible (and believe me, there’s a lot of that in the Bible if you haven’t read it). The priest keeps the story of Jesus simple. There is no discussion of blood on the street on the way to the Hill of Skulls. There’s no Thomas Aquinas-style Twelve Proofs of the Existence of God. No. They stick to simple parables about shepherds saving
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sheep and so on. Of course, the priest doesn’t remind the kids that the shepherd is nice to the sheep only because he plans to slaughter and eat them. So, what are the practical things you can do in light of all this? Read as many books as you can about the bases of Atheism and the almost countless reasons why religion, mysticism, and magic are a bunch of hooey. Start perhaps with The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. After you read each book on the subject, re-read it and actually absorb it so you have internalized your understanding of why you don’t believe in god and can explain to a child, young adult, or anybody why they shouldn’t either. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to explain things to kids like why
It is entirely possible to bring up empathetic and caring children without lying about why they should be empathetic and caring.
Susie’s cute little puppy got run over by that Mack truck, or where Grandma went when she didn’t ever come back from the hospital, or even where babies come from. Kids have a way of springing these on you, so you actually need to think about your answers ahead of time. Read the Bible, the Koran, the Tao and all the other spiritual texts you can to your own kids as soon as you can. Not the whole thing, five hours a day. Just a page or two before you read them their nightly bedtime story. Explain in simple terms what the religious story is all about. You do have to avoid reading such bits as when Lot commits incest with his two virgin daughters after his wife is turned to salt. Save that for discussion with your teenage kids. But, for example, the story of Noah is perfect for
explaining the fact that there are flood myths in every culture since the beginning and that the Bible’s version was actually taken from a Sumerian myth over 2,000 years older. Reading a variety of holy scripts gets across to the young child that there is not one “sacred” book, but rather dozens and that they all tell the same basic, false stories. If you don’t read to your child, then monitor what he or she watches on TV, at least while at home, and also introduce them to non-Christian propaganda movies that show people acting ethically without god’s help. A good movie for the age seven-and-over set is the old classic High Noon with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. Not only are there four very moral characters in this movie, it’s also great for training purposes because Kelly’s character dumps her “Bible learnin’” in the end in order to do what was clearly right: kill the man who was trying to kill her husband. An Atheist just couldn’t pray for a better teaching aid. There are others. For the under-seven set, plug Sesame Street and its equivalent as much as you can. Don’t freak out if some day your child says he or she believes in god. They’ll grow out of it over time with your gentle reasoning and good examples. And speaking of…always to the extent you can in this troubled world, set a good, moral example for your children. They are eager to learn from you, and, as noted, are genetically programmed to do so. James Luce is the author of Chasing Davis, An Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science. After four years as a criminal investigator in the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations, he spent 25 years as a trial lawyer. Now retired, he lives in Spain. Read more by him at LucelySpeaking.com. Endnotes 1. Santa in Miracle on 34th Street is plainly a substitute for god. He performs miracles, carries a shepherd’s staff in the form of a cane, punishes the wicked, and saves the good. In It’s a Wonderful Life there is no metaphor. God is shown intervening on Earth by sending down a Gabriel understudy and saves the day for good over evil. The Chronicles of Narnia were written by one C.S. Lewis, one of the most famous converts from atheism to Christianity. 2. Disney always slips in a Christian message in his feature length cartoons. Even “Jiminy” Cricket is named after an Old English slang word for Jesus.
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Most Saintly Philosopher (from p. 14)
enter a place that was impure and full of gore. This he said in a letter, and added: “I am surprised that the goddess has not already left the Acropolis when you pour out blood of this kind for her” (VA, 4.22). Philostratus adds, “These are the most earnest of his disquisitions at Athens on that occasion that I have discovered.” Perhaps Apollonius was indeed the firstcentury philosopher about whom Dion raves and not the man Musonius Rufus, and certainly not the seemingly schizophrenic character “Jesus Christ.” Or my assertion could be wrong. It has been argued that Dion thus propagated—that on the day of his birth swans danced around his mother in a meadow and a lightning bolt accompanied his divine nativity. We do know his family was wealthy, and he studied philosophy as a youngster, embracing the noble doctrines of Pythagoras. Philostratus wrote that Apollonius did not die, but was resurrected and physically elevated to heaven (VA, VIII.30-31). I surely doubt it; but if Christians claim it for their alleged savior, I feel entitled to hold the same as true for the Sage of Tyanus. Michael B. Paulkovich is a space systems engineer for a NASA contractor. He holds a US patent, with others pending. References Dawkins, Richard, on Q &A: Adventures in Democracy (television program), ABC.net. au/tv/qanda/txt/s2831712.htm, at 54:30 (accessed June 24, 2012). Dio, Cassius, Roman History. Harvard University Press, 1914. Dzielska, Maria, Apollonius of Tyana in Legend and History. L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1986. Elsner, Jas, “Beyond Compare: Pagan Saint and Christian God in Late Antiquity.” Critical Inquiry, Spring 2009. Flavius Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, ed. & trans. Christopher P. Jones. Loeb Classical Library, 2005. Herzog, Johann Jakob, et al., The New SchaffHerzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1910. Kuhn, A. B., A Rebirth for Christianity. Wheaton: Quest, 2005. Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society or the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, No. 88, Vol. II, London: Charles Knight, 1833, p. 168-9. Priaulx, Osmond de Beauvoir, The Indian Travels of Apollonius of Tyana and the Indian Embassies to Rome. London: Quaritch, 1873. Reitzenstein, Richard, Hellenistische Wundererzählungen. Leipzig: Tübner, 1906. Sator, Darwin, The Crisscross Double-cross. Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2002. Temporini, Hildegard, Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1986. Trickler, C. Jack, A Layman’s Guide To: Who Wrote the Books of the Bible? Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2006. Waite, Charles B., History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred. Kessinger, 2003. Endnotes 1. Note that Dzielska, with reasonable evidence, pushes Apollonius’ previously accepted dates forward by several decades. 2. Sator, 82. 3. “Moeragenes” or Μοιραγέυει in Philostratus, I.3—or “Meragenes,” in Waite 103; or “Moiragenes,” Dzielska 45. 4. www.STOA.org/sol-entries/Sigma/877 5. Dio, History, 67:18:1. 6. Herzog, vol. I, 232 - “…there is no evidence that Philostratus had any knowledge of the Gospels and the Acts, and the life of Apostle Paul is a much closer parallel to Apollonius than that of Christ, who was no peripatetic philosopher.” 7. Aurelius, Meditations, 1:8. 8. Sorry, that second part came from Clarence Beeks in “Trading Places.” Jesus commands only that you pull out your eyes. The dogma and superstitions within Christianity are what cause followers to piss on their brains. 9. Waite, 115. 10. Jones, 25. 11. Riedweg, 125; and Waite, 112. 12. Dzielska, 58-59. 13. Sator, 83. 14. Trickler, 216-217. 15. See for example Elsner, 660-1. 16. V. Bhattacharya, The Āgamaśāstra of Gaudapāda, LXXII-LXXIV. A few years ago I added this fact to Apollonius’ Wikipedia entry. And you are welcome. 17. Bowie, from Temporini, II 16.2, 1687-8. 18. Eilhard Lumin, Ex Officina Commeliniana, a text from the year 1601 CE: Epistolae Apollonii Tyanei, Anacharsidis, Euripidis, Theanus, aliorúmque ad eosdem. Heidelberg: Ex officina Commeliniana, 1601. See LC Control No. 2008570706, call number PA3487 .E4 1601, Jefferson Collection (Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room [ Jefferson LJ239]). 19. Dzielska, 58. 20. Bowie, from Temporini, II.16.2, 1670. 21. Priaulx, 2. 22. Reitzenstein, 40. 23. Bowie, from Temporini, II 16.2, 1690. 24. Priaulx, 62. 25. Dion, Oration 31:122. To read the text go to: Penelope.UChicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/ Dio_Chrysostom/home.html 26. For more, see “Bible Bunk and Holy Horrors,” American Atheist, 1st Q. 2012. 27. E.g. Bowie, from Temporini, II 16.2, 1688.
Christians can only wish they had 1/1,000th the archeological and textual support for their champion as we do, in fact, have for Apollonius.
may have referred to a Roman man; if true, it would probably not be Apollonius.27 As an aside I must also point out that both Dion and Musonius lived shortly after “Jesus” and neither man ever wrote of Jesus or of Christians, yet both men certainly should have, if the fantastic tales of Jesus had been true. Hail Julia! If not for Julia Domna, we would probably have very little information about Apollonius. It was at her behest that Philostratus wrote his Life of Apollonius, which comes to us in full from almost two thousand years past. Sadly, Julia took her own life before Philostratus could finish his epic work of eight volumes. The historicity of the genuinely “saintly” (for lack of a better term) figure Apollonius Tyaneus is far stronger than any evidence for one other son-of-god figure supposedly conceived by a miraculous union between a holy ghost and a lowly human virgin. One must assume that this ghost had some magical method of godly sperm-delivery: his angelic penis, or a turkey baster, perhaps? We have only the scantest of clues regarding exactly what shaped young Apollonius, rendering him a man of such benevolence. The yokels of Tyana recorded—as Philostratus
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Letters to the Editor (from p. 3)
Let’s Not Wait Any Longer
After reading “George Washington: Atheist Hero?” by Ed and Michael Buckner (Fourth Quarter 2011), I thought of Washington’s contemporary Denis Diderot, who defined a deist as someone who has not lived long enough to become an Atheist. Perhaps 67 years [Washington’s age when he died] is long enough, and we can proclaim Washington an Atheist hero after all! Phil Smith Cape Canaveral, Florida
Interesting point. We know for sure that Diderot knew Jefferson, but I don't know if he knew Washington, though they were certainly, as you say, contemporaries. I’ll take Atheist heroes wherever I can get them. Maybe we can ape the Latter-Day Saints and “de-baptize” anyone who has gone past their 67th birthday—Joseph Smith as well as Washington!
Tribute to Hitchens
“The good is oft interred with their bones.” So let it not be with Christopher Hitchens (“Letter from the Editor,” Fourth Quarter 2011)! “What would Hitchens say,” you ask? Indeed, what more could he say over and above the eloquence of his final decision to die with his wits about him, not befuddled by the opiate of the masses? Hitchens did not help me “come out of the closet,” for I never really was in a closet. I never needed a Hitchens, Einstein, or Washington to tell me the silly emperor is butt naked. Even while boarding in a colonial Catholic high school I quietly doubted the slippery, nebulous fare dished out by priests and pretenders. And since college I have made my opinion known: that religion was not just the harmless delusion of individuals but an abominable instrument of repression throughout history—abominable for having stifled progress for two long, dark millennia. I get angry when reminded of the harm Christianity has done to collective human development— never mind the atrocities it inflicted on individual men and women. The fact that man landed on the moon barely six decades after the Wright brothers gave us wings is eloquent testimony to the stupendous capability of unfettered human ingenuity. And yet, human ingenuity was not just fettered; it was encased by Christianity in a concrete and steel coffin for one hundred generations. I wonder: Were it not for the stultifying fallacies of religion, might human beings not have established toeholds in the far reaches of our own solar system by now? Might not our current haggling over the morality of stem-cell research have been resolved on the side of progress many centuries ago? Without help from Hitchens I long ago came to resent the stupidity of religion. What Hitchens did was much more valuable than getting us to become Atheists in the first place. It is one thing for me to be free of myth and delusion in my private life; it is quite a different thing to proclaim that freedom boldly, day in and day out, in the teeth of hostile and vituperative attention from mischievous media and misguided masses, as Hitchens did. My life has been one little step for a man, Hitchens’ was one giant leap for mankind. Go tell it on the mountain, that Christopher Hitchens died an Atheist! Linus Ogbuji, PhD Cleveland, Ohio
Times A-Changing (from p.11)
While Garfield’s argument is straightforward and eminently reasonable, it is hard to imagine a Republican Congressman today making such a statement on the record. Yet Garfield was elected President of the United States just six years later, in 1880. The Republicans of the late 1800s were more firmly in the mainstream of American political theory—and far more representative of the ideas of the founders regarding secularism—than the fearful politicians of any of the major (or most of the minor) American political parties today. *Some of this article is adapted from In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist Guide to Religious Liberty, expected out in December from Prometheus Books. Ed Buckner was President of American Atheists from 2008 to 2010. Michael Buckner, Ed’s son, is Vice
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President of the Atlanta Freethought Society. Notes 1. Cal Thomas, “Media’s Obsession with Romney’s Mormonism Latest Proof of its Religion Deficit,” Marietta (Georgia) Daily Journal, May 24, 2012. 2. Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 253–270. 3. Jackie Hogan, “Lincoln’s Party Would Nix Him,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution, February 11, 2012. 4. Congressional Record, Vol. 4, part 7, p. 175, according to George Seldes (compiler/ ed.), The Great Quotations (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1983), p. 288. 5. Seldes, Great Quotations, p. 288. 6. Steven C. Lowe, “Platform Star: Robert G. Ingersoll in Washington,” White House History, Number 31: Summer 2012, pp. 36-43.
7. Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004), pp. 165–166. 8. Lee Stein and Elizabeth J. Kruschek, Cain v. Horne, Arizona Court of Appeals, Brief of Amicus Curiae, National School Boards Association, February 7, 2008, http:// www.nsba.org/SchoolLaw/AmicusBriefs/ CainvHorneArizCtApp.PDF (accessed September 10, 2011). 9. Pope Pius IX, “Syllabus of Errors,” Eternal Word Television Network Global Catholic Network, http://www.ewtn.com/ l i b r a r y / PA PA L D O C / P 9 S Y L L . H TM , condemned propositions 63, 55, 47, 77, 79, and 80 (accessed on September 18, 2011). 10. Congressional Record, 2 : 5384 [H.R., June 22, 1874], according to a footnote, Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 336.
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An Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science
HASING DAVIS examines how we form beliefs, why we often believe things that are not true, and how to use this knowledge to understand what morality is…and is not. You will learn why religion, law, and government are totally useless as guides for ethical behavior. When you have finished this book you will understand that morality is not culturally relativistic, but rather has a universal foundation. With this knowledge you can live a moral and ethical life based on scientific reason. You will know how to create a set of tools for your ethical toolbox with which you can build a moral world around you. You will also understand why our species seems to have gone insane…because it has. We humans have gone crazy trying to reconcile our evolutionary drives that are in direct conflict with our ability to think about, understand, and modify our behaviors. Chasing Davis offers a way to reconcile these opposing forces, leading to a more harmonious and productive way of life. You may contact the author at LucelySpeaking.com.
By James Luce
Available in standard EBook formats from Amazon.com and other on-line vendors. Also available in hard cover/paperback directly from the publisher, iUniverse.com, and Amazon.com
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4th QUARTER 2012
NEW LIFE MEMBERS
In the past few months, seven American Atheists members increased their commitment by becoming Lifetime Supporters or by upgrading their Lifetime Supporter memberships! Thanks to our new and upgraded Lifetime Supporters for their significant commitment to our organization and for their continued support. Since our last issue of the magazine, the following members have decided to increase their commitment to American Atheists and further promote our shared goals and values:
Raymond Borkowski Heinz Dueffer Michael Newton John Whiteside Donald Williams
Ken Loukinen (upgrade) Holly Schineller
On the Shelf at Barnes & Noble
A PEACEFUL WORLD BEYOND RELIGION AWAITS YOU
Christianity comes from the myth of Mithra, a Persian savior god born to a virgin on December 25. The story of Moses comes from the Legends of Sargon I, King of Akkad. The extensive hieroglyph records of ancient Egypt have no mention of Moses leading over 600,000 people away from Pharaoh’s army. Joseph Smith was convicted of fraud shortly after “capturing” the golden tablets. Learn about all this and more. Beyond All Religion, a new book by Sam Butler, is available at Amazon.com or by sending $9.95 to: Sam Butler, SB 197, POB 25292, Miami, FL, 33102.
Ellen Wingrove at Barnes & Noble in Reston, Virginia
merican Atheist is now on the shelves of 200 Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. Please find one near you and buy it. Also, if your store does not carry it, you need to go to the customer service desk and ask them to carry it. This marks the first time the word ATHEIST is on the shelves of the magazine racks, facing out, for all to see. It will add value to the magazine for the local affiliates, the local partners, and American Atheists. We can sell more ad space, help out the Clergy Project, and add legitimacy to the movement on the whole. This takes us one big step closer to normalization.
Progress is fun!
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American Atheists Affiliates
For detailed information visit Atheists.org/Affiliates or contact Stuart Bechman at SBechman@Atheists.org.
The Chicago Freethought Project IL/WI Stateline Atheists Society IWU Atheist, Agnostics, and Non-Religious The Secular Segment
Hudson Valley Humanists New York City Atheists Westchester Atheists
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Free Inquiry Group Freethought Dayton Humanist Community of Central Ohio Mid-Ohio Atheists
Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Ark-La-Tex Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists
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New Orleans Secular Humanist Association
NorthEast Pennsylvania Freethought Society PA Non-Believers*
Atheist Advocates of San Francisco Atheists and Other Freethinkers Contra Costa Atheists & Freethinkers East Bay Atheists San Francisco Atheists Santa Cruz Atheists
Atheists of Greater Lowell Boston Atheists
Piedmont Humanists Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry
Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College Skeptics Freethinkers Agnostics and Atheists (aka Maryland Freethinkers)
Memphis Freethought Alliance Nashville Secular Life Rationalists of East Tennessee
Atheist Coalition of San Diego Backyard Skeptics Humanist Society of Santa Barbara New Atheists of East County Orange County Atheists
Atheists @ Oakland University Michigan Atheists Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists
Atheist Community of Austin Denton Atheists Freethinkers Association of Central Texas Freethought Oasis of Amarillo Golden Triangle Freethinkers Houston Atheists Kingwood Humble Atascocita Atheists Lubbock Atheists
Atheists for Human Rights Campus Atheists Skeptics & Humanists Minnesota Atheists*
Boulder Atheists Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers
Black Freethinkers of Kansas City Columbia Atheists Joplin Freethinkers Rationalist Society of St. Louis Secular Student Alliance @ UCMO Springfield Freethinkers St. Joseph Skeptics
Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI
Atheists of Utah Salt Lake Valley Atheists
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Washington Area Secular Humanists
Beltway Atheists NOVA Atheists
Florida Atheists & Secular Humanists (FLASH)* Gator Freethought (UF) Rebirth of Reason Secular Student Association at Univ. of Central Florida St. Petersburg Atheists Freethought Group Tallahassee Atheists Treasure Coast Atheists
Great Southern Humanist Society Humanist Ethical Atheist Rational Thought Society
Seattle Atheists Tri-City Freethinkers
Southern Wisconsin FreeThinkers
Red River Freethinkers
Atlanta Freethought Society Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta Fayette Freethought Society Kennesaw State U. Student Coalition for Inquiry Macon Atheists & Secular Humanists
Atheist Nexus Black Atheists of America Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Lincoln Atheists Omaha Atheists
New Jersey Humanist Network Secular Student Alliance @ Montclair State Univ
INTERNATIONAL / OVERSEAS CONSOCIATES
Southeast Asia Freethought Association, 379th AEW Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society
Atheists United for a Rational America Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers
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Aims and Purposes
merican 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.
theism involves the mental attitude that unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a lifestyle and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds. aterialism 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.
theism 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.
aterialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.
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4th QUARTER 2012 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 45
Remembering Brian Barnard
Brian Barnard, next to one of the 12-foot crosses that were removed after he successfully argued last year to the Utah Supreme Court that these monuments could not constitutionally represent fallen state troopers who were not Christian. The officer’s name is redacted here because the case was never about the troopers.
Photo by Krista Stoker
rian Barnard, who championed American Atheists' fight in the Utah Highway Patrol cross case, died of suddenly of natural causes in his sleep in his Utah home on September 4. He was 67. Barnard was a leader in civil rights law who working tirelessly to ensure that governments lived up to their responsibilities to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barnard’s legacy includes a trip to the Utah Supreme Court on behalf of American Atheists, where he successfully argued to have the Utah Highway Patrol remove a series of highway crosses from public roads. That legal victory, which the United States Supreme Court let stand on October 31, 2011, was the cover story of the 4th Quarter 2011 issue of American Atheist. American Atheists president, David Silverman said, “Brian worked tirelessly in the Utah Highway Patrol case. Without his persistence and dedication, we might have had a different outcome. He was a true champion for civil rights. He will be missed.” Chris Allen, a member of American Atheists Board of Directors, recalled the beginning of Barnard’s partnership with American Atheists in the late 1980s. “It was a case against the city of St. George, Utah. The city put an image of the St. George Mormon temple on its official logo. They also paid the bill for outdoor lighting of the temple. They argued that the temple was the major tourist attraction of the city and they were just promoting the local economy. Brian put
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an end to it, setting another nice precedent for separation of church and state. “Brian then made a contribution to the Utah Chapter of American Atheists saying the check was courtesy of legal fees he had just received from the City of St. George. He represented us in at least half a dozen more cases involving state-church separation. Barnard was known for tackling some very unpopular causes. In addition to Atheists, he represented prison inmates, animalrights activists, panhandlers, and bar owners in legal fights over constitutional rights. Assistant Attorney General Tom Roberts faced Barnard in many cases, including the Utah Highway Patrol cross case. Roberts said he always liked Barnard because the man was straightforward. “He worked hard for his clients,” he said. “He had a real interest and passion in individual rights and liberties.” “The loss of Brian can't be understated. Brian was the moving force for a huge number of cases and a huge number of actions representing people who really had very few other places to turn and very little voice in the community,” commented Stewart Gollan, Barnard’s partner at the Utah Legal Clinic. A press release from the Utah Legal Clinic stated, “We live in a more just world for his having been with us. He and his work will be deeply missed by those who worked with him and those who, without him, would likely have had nowhere to turn to protect their rights.”
4th QUARTER 2012
American Atheists 2013 Convention Fifty Years of Activism!
March 28 – 31, 2013 Austin, Texas – the birthplace of American Atheists Hyatt Regency Austin
Featuring: Matt Dillahunty, Ed Buckner, Katherine Stewart, Richard Carrier, Robert
Price, Linda LaScola, Jerry DeWitt, Teresa MacBain, Margaret Downey, Damon Fowler, Jessica Ahlquist, Greta Christina, Troy Conrad, Hector Avalos, Ryan Cragun, AronRa, Jamila Bey, Edwina Rogers, Eddie Tabash, Indra Zuno, AC Grayling, Janet Heimlich, Jay Jay French, and more to be announced!
Go to Atheists.org for more information
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