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American Atheist

A JOURNAL OF ATHEIST NEWS AND THOUGHT

COME TO THE REASON RALLY!


June 4, 2016, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

Also in this issue:

In the Belly of the Beast: American Atheists at CPAC


Display until Aug. 1
$4.95

Summer 16

Book Excerpt: Fighting God


Biblical Execution Methods
The Jesus Blog

ATHEISTS.ORG

SECOND QUARTER 2016

Atheists are one of the largest religious demographics in our


nation. Politicians need to learn that we arent going anywhere.
Exercising your right to vote and holding politicians accountable is the only way
for us to change our government for the better.
Take the Atheist Voter Pledge!
Learn more at AtheistVoter.org:
State-by-state voter registration info and i.d. requirements
Candidates campaign stops near you
AtheistVoter blog and news updates
How to get involved

A theist V oter .O rg

AMERICAN ATHEIST
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought
2nd Quarter 2016
Vol. 54, No. 2

ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)


ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Pamela Whissel
PWhissel@Atheists.org
LAYOUT and GRAPHICS EDITOR
Rick Wingrove
RWingrove@Atheists.org
COPY EDITOR
Karen Rei lly
PROOFREADERS
Gil Gaudia
Shelley Gaudia
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS
MANAGING EDITOR
Frank R. Zindler
Editor@Atheists.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
2016 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.

Above: American Atheists had a busy booth at the Conservative Political Action
Conference. Photo by Justin Scott, story on page 10. On the cover: Richard Dawkins
speaking at Reason Rally 2012. Photo by John Welte, story on page 5.

In This Issue
5
10
13
16
18
22

Reason Rally 2016 | Lyz Liddell

25
28

Author Interview: A Two-Thousand-Year-Old Cold Case

32
34
46

Dogma Watch: The Jesus Blog | Michael B. Paulkovich

In the Belly of the Beast: American Atheists at CPAC | Rick Wingrove


Atheists in Cuba: Respected, Elected | Mark Kolsen
Book Excerpt: Fighting God | David Silverman
Lets Use Biblical Execution Methods | Brian Bolton
The Real Story from an Ex-Mormon Missionary
Lesson 4: The Commandments, Part 3 | Greg Hawkins
Debunking Pernicious Myths and Inconsistent Thinking:
The Intellectual Legacy of William Ball Provine | Greg Graffin
Danthropology: This Boat Doesnt Float | Dan Arel
Why I Am An Atheist | James Luce

American Atheist magazine is given free of cost to


members of American Atheists as an incident of their
membership.
One-year print subscription to American Atheist
magazine: $20. Subscribe online at www.Atheists.
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Sign up for membership at www.Atheists.org/join.
Membership dues are tax-deductible as charitable
gifts. Subscriptions to American Atheist magazine are
not tax-deductible.

2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 3

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Suffering as Currency

n Cincinnati, Ohio, every hospital is administered by


a Catholic healthcare system, except for University
Hospital and Childrens Hospital. The metropolitan
area includes several counties in Kentucky, where all of the
hospitals are Catholic. So if you need to be in the hospital and
University or Childrens isnt in your insurance network, then
you will be under the care of a medical staff that is obliged
to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic
Health Care Services (ERDs) issued by the U.S. Council
of Catholic Bishops. Predictably, the directives forbid
contraception, the unnatural termination of a pregnancy,
and anything resembling so much as a conversation about
physician-assisted suicide.
In Muskegon, Michigan, the only hospital in town, Mercy
Health Partners, is Catholic. In February, The Guardian ran a
story on a leaked report that details the cases of five women who
suffered severe infections and emotional trauma when staff at
Mercy allegedly neglected the health of these patients in order to
uphold the bishops directive against interfering with the natural
progression of a miscarriage.
In each incident, [Mercy Health Partners] withheld
medically indicated treatment and information from pregnant
women experiencing emergency situations, the report reads.
These practices not only risk life-threatening infection,
infertility, and health problems, they subject women to
unnecessary physical and psychological suffering.1
One of the women, Tamesha Means, sued Mercy Health
Partners, claiming that as a result of the ERDs, she suffered severe,
unnecessary, and foreseeable physical and emotional pain and
suffering. She brought the action against Mercy Health Partners
not only to seek damages for negligence, but also to prevent other
women in her situation from suffering similar harm in the future.2
I want to focus on two words from the lawsuit: unnecessary
and suffering. While the law of the land in the United States gives
a person the right to avoid unnecessary suffering to the best of their
ability, the doctrine of the Catholic Church does not. When viewed
through the lens of the Catholic faith, suffering never occurs in
vain. This runs the gamut from the most trivial inconvenience
missing an elevator, for exampleto the most unbearable adversity
and senseless misfortune (Ill let you fill in your own blank here).
No matter who you are, where you are, or why youre suffering,
when all is said and done, every last bit of it is a gift. Why? The short
answer is that it brings you closer to Jesus.
To be fair, I personally know many practicing Catholics who
reject this idea for the dangerous nonsense that it is. But the
official position is unambiguous, whether its from the Catechism
of the Catholic Church, which calls suffering a participation in the
saving work of Jesus (paragraph 1521) or on Twitter, where Pope
4 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

Francis said, Suffering is a call to conversion: it reminds us of our


frailty and vulnerability (@Pontifex on March 24, 2015).
This isnt esoteric stuff. This is the official stance of a religious
organization that runs entire health care networks where
employees are required to follow directives laid out by Catholic
bishops who, in their own words, have a moral code derived
principally from the natural law, understood in the light of the
revelation Christ has entrusted to his Church. From this source
the Church has derived its understanding of the nature of the
human person, of human acts, and of the goals that shape human
activity.3
If this approach to the human condition could be confined to
patients who choose to embrace suffering, thered be no problem.
But Catholic networks are the largest group of non-profit health
care providers in the nation.
This is not to say that practitioners in Catholic networks
are not compassionate, diligent, reliable, and competent. Ive
had excellent care from some of the best of them. And I am not
saying that a health care professional who is also a practicing
Catholic is unable to leave their religion at the door when they
go to work. But heres why thats not enough: Tamesha Means
lost her case against Mercy Health Partners. It wasnt because
she couldnt prove negligence on the part of the hospital. It was
because the hospital was a religious organization. The judge
ruled that the ERDs are inextricably intertwined with the
Catholic Churchs religious tenets. And because the court does
not have jurisdiction over religion, it cannot determine whether
the establishment of the ERDs constitute negligence because it
necessarily involves inquiry into the ERDs themselves, and thus
into Church doctrine.4 In other words, because the hospital is
run by a church, its the bishops who have the final say about a
patients care, not a doctor.
While Catholic bishops have the right to play god with the
folks who want them to, they should have no right to play doctor
with anyone.
1. Abortion Ban Linked to Dangerous Miscarriages at Catholic
Hospital, Report Claims, by Molly Redden, Feb. 18, 2016,
TheGuardian.com.
2. TinyURL.com/TameshaMeansLawsuit
3. Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care
Services (Fifth Edition), USCCB.org
4. ACLU.org/legal-document/tamesha-means-opinion

Pamela Whissel
Editor-in-Chief
PWhissel@Atheists.org
2ND QUARTER 2016

REASON

RALLY

June 4, 2016, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.


by Lyz Liddell, Reason Rally Executive Director

Reason Rally 2012 was attended by over 20,000 people. Photo by John Welte

We will be the worlds largest gathering


of openly non-religious people.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 5

n 2012, twenty thousand secular Americans


Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and
other non-religious peoplecame together on the
National Mall in Washington, D.C, to show their
solidarity and make their voices heard.
This year, were doing it again. We will be the worlds
largest gathering of openly non-religious people. On
June 4, 2016, at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin
Luther King Jrs historic I Have a Dream speech, we are
going to celebrate who we are and speak up for reason!
Were calling it a voter bloc party, but its also
a political statement. We are coming together to
demonstrate that we are a voter bloc to be recognized and
reckoned with. Non-religious Americans, also known as
the nones, are a larger demographic group than either
Catholics or mainline
Protestants. In fact, the
only religious group
bigger than the nones in
the U.S. are Evangelical
Protestants.
And yet, there is
not a single openly
non-theistic
member
of
Congress.
The
Supreme
Court
is
made up exclusively of
Catholics and Jews, and
presidential candidates
still pander to religious
Americans
while
ignoring Atheists. We are
vastly underrepresented,
and it is time for that to
change.
The Reason Rally
is a free event with no
registration and no fees.
Just show up, and youll
be part of this historic
celebration.
And there could be
no better time for it, in
this most unreasonable
of
election
years.
While
policymakers,
candidates, and the media focus on the Religious
Right, the ranks of Atheists, secular humanists, and
nones are swelling, according to statistics from the Pew
Research Center. Isnt it time for the rational, fact-overfaith electorate to be paid attention to as much as the
fundamentalists are?
The religious have too much power in this country,
and theyre vastly over-represented in Congress, says
comedian Julia Sweeney, who will appear at the rally.
So lets stop the magical thinking. Lets have a rally that
shows the force of those who embrace reason and science
over divine guidance. Were herewe dont have fear
and we want to be counted for what we are: a real political

and social force! Also, we like to have fun.


Joining her on the rally stage will be Penn Jillette,
Johnny Depp, Margaret Cho, Bill Nye, Lawrence Krauss,
Carolyn Porco, Kelly Carlin, Killah Priest, Amber Heard,
and many more.
I am happy to participate in the Reason Rally because,
like every parent, I care about my children and I refuse to
lie to them about this world, said Johnny Depp.
I am a person of faith, said Margaret Cho, and that
faith includes reason, doubt, and the possibility that
everyone is wrong, including me.
The goal of Reason Rally 2016, therefore, is to show
the presence and power of the Atheist voting bloc and
to put reason at the forefront of our public and political
discourse. We want to excite and empower attendees
about that message so
they take it back home
and apply it at the local
and state levelsto
say nothing of the
November election!
By apply it, we
mean voting in every
election, from school
board to presidential.
Many of the people
now in Congress got
their start at the local
level. It is also at the
local level that decisions
are made about whats
taught
in
science
classes: evolution or
creationism.
The Reason Rally
is important precisely
because it demonstrates
for all to see that
people who care about
reason, rationality, and
empirical evidence as
the basis of public policy
are not alone, said
physicist and author
Lawrence Krauss. We
are far more prevalent
than the media makes out.
In fact, Reason Rally 2016 itself will offer attendees
the chance to make their Atheist voices heard in one of
the most effective ways possible. The two days leading up
to the RallyThursday, June 2, and Friday, June 3will
be devoted to lobbying every single member of Congress
for better, evidence-based sex education in public schools.
And we need you to participate. Sign up for this event,
and well take care of everything. This is a tremendous
opportunity to show our legislators that Atheists are
ubiquitous and engagedso that no legislator can ever
again (honestly) say Sure, there are Atheists in America,
but none in my district. Visiting the offices of your

I am happy to
participate in
the Reason Rally
because, like every
parent, I care
about my children
and I refuse to
lie to them about
this world.
~ Johnny Depp

6 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

The Reason Rally is a free event.


Just show up, and youll be part
of this historic celebration.
senator and representatives is an experience that
puts you where no sightseeing tour can go. As a
participant, you will walk the halls of Congress,
sit in their offices, and have an impact in a highprofile election season.
On these lobbying days, you will present your
legislators with reasons to fund sex education in
public schools that are based on science, research,
and datanot religion. Despite President Obamas
budget recommendations, current federal funding
allows sex education programs to avoid teaching
about contraception or LGBTQ issues. Many
school districts around the country are taking
advantage of this.
In Omaha, Nebraska, for example, parents have
gone on tirades at school board meetings because
they feel reason-based sex education is straight from
the pits of hell (CBSNews.com/news/sex-educationcontroversy-erupts-in-omaha).
More alarming is the fact that federal funding now
goes to public school programs that teach an abstinenceonly approach to contraception. According to the

National Institutes of Health, teen pregnancy rates are


higher in school districts that have such a curriculum. So
why is it still funded? Thats the question you will get to
ask when you sign up to participate in this incredible day
on Capitol hill.
Everyone who supports good sense in government
and wants to see religion out of public policyis
welcome, for one day or the whole celebration!
Lets show them that logic, science, and values
independent of religion truly matter to a
significant number of voters.
Visit ReasonRally.org for more details
on how to to volunteer for the Rally, join the
lobbying effort, or sign up for more events, like
the VIP Dinner with the Stars and the day-long
conference on Sunday, June 5, to help you make
the most of the Rally after you go home.
Then, of course, you have to votein every
election, from school board to presidentialfor
those who support these values. Make your voice
heard!

On this page: Reason Rally 2012. Photos by John Welte

Non-religious Americans are a larger


demographic group than either
Catholics or mainline Protestants.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 7

Lets Show Our Power!


Reason Rally 2016 is an opportunity to get the media and politicians to notice us.

What you can do:


to the Rally! The more the merrier and the more well be noticed. If you
Come
dont live near D.C., sign up to take a Rally Bus. Theyll be leaving from all over
the country. Visit Planning Your Trip on the Reason Rally website for more
information.

to lobby on June 2 and 3 in D.C. We want every one of the 535 members
Register
of the House and Senate to hear from a reasonable constituent. The topic is
an easy one to support: sex education in public schools based on science,
research, and datanot religion! More details are on the Reason Rally website.

Reason Rally 2016 a local story, especially if theres an alternative


Make
newspaper in your area. Let the editor know that you are going and why. If a
group of you are going together, so much the better.

#Reason Rally posts and tweets so your friends know whats happening
Share
and can sign on as well.
a Reason Rally 2016 t-shirt or hat and wear it proudly! Youll be letting
Buy
others know about the opportunity to speak up for reason! You can find them
at ReasonRally.org.

Live tweet from the event. Lets make #ReasonRally a trending topic on June 4!
The rally itself is free, but the special events
are ticketed and limited in number, so buy
your tickets soon at ReasonRally.org.

8 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS FOR REASON RALLY 2016


JOHNNY
DEPP

AMBER
HEARD

PENN
JILLETTE

BILL
NYE

JAMES
RANDI

LAWRENCE
KRAUSS

JULIA
SWEENEY

SHELLEY
SEGAL

MARGARET
CHO

PAUL
PROVENZA

EUGENIE
SCOTT

KILLAH
PRIEST

DAN
BARKER

CAROLYN
PORCO

CARA
SANTA MARIA

MARYAM
NAMAZIE

KELLY
CARLIN

JOHN
DE LANCIE

MARK
WHITE

ANNIE LAURIE
GAYLOR

LEIGHANN
LORD

ANDRS
ROEMER

2ND QUARTER 2016

June 6, 2016
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 9

In the Belly of the Beast:

American Atheists at CPAC


by Rick Wingrove

Growth in the religiously unaffiliated is a demographic catastrophe for a GOP that


only speaks to the faithful. - Matthew Sheffield, The American Conservative

Mind if I ask you a question?

Map shows seven purple states won by


Obama with help of non-religious voters.

Uh-oh. Sure, go ahead.


This country was founded on Christian principles
Yeah, thats not really a question, and the woman posing
this question was not really looking for answers. She already
had her answers and was just there to instruct us in a highly
revisionist fable that passes for truth among evangelicals and the
political conservatives over whom they ride herd. Welcome to the
Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).
But what was American Atheists doing at the annual CPAC
confab at National Harbor, Maryland? Well, we were not there to
pledge our loyalty to Ted Cruz. We were there to provide answers
to some questions that conservatives didnt even know they had. So, in
February, for the second year in a row, American Atheistsnot exactly a
bastion of political conservatismset up an information booth at CPAC.
As a non-profit organization, American Atheists is, by law, non-partisan.
We dont endorse candidates, and we dont contribute to political campaigns.
We do, however, talk about issues. And one of those issues is the corrupt
marriage between conservativessometimes mistaken for Constitutional
puristsand various powerful and well-funded, hard-politicking
religious groups, like the Catholic Church and the Evangelicals.
While both political parties try to pander to big-box religion, it is
difficult to ignore that the conservatives are far better at it. They have a

We were there to provide answers


to questions that conservatives

didnt even know they had.

10 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

The Constitution is a FIREWALL


against theocracy.
lock on the bulk of Evangelical voters, and they are the ones
who are willing to brazenly pander in ways that are contrary
to the letter and the spirit of our secular Constitution.
Article VI of the Constitution prohibits religious tests
for any elected office in the United States. And the First
Amendment prohibits any official endorsement or any
special status for any religion. The Constitution does not,
in any way, support the creeping theocritization of America.
The Constitution is a firewall against theocracy. As such,
it provides a system in which every citizen can believe any
religion they want but no one gets burned at the stake. What
could be more fair than that?
Nevertheless, conservatives are joined at the head to the
worst elements of religion in America. They are, despite the
Constitution, more than willing to entangle government
with religion. They are determined to provide special
access, special rules, and special privileges to the religious,
and they are constantly trying to incorporate repressive

Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists, with Janice


Atkinson, EU Parliament member. Photo by Rick Wingrove

and backwards religious doctrine into the rule of law. This


is why we are at CPAC: to let them know that things are
changing, and it may be time to ditch some of the alliances
and policies that are not only ruining the conservative

The Full Frontal video crew with Amanda Knief at the


American Atheists/AtheistVoter booth. Photo by Rick Wingrove

movement, but are also having a terrible, destructive effect


on civic discourse in this country.
The Change
Secular and religiously unaffiliated voters are a large
and growing electoral demographic in the United States.
Secular voters include Atheists, non-believers who still
dont like the word Atheist, and nonesthose who have
no religious affiliation. Also known as Atheists.
According to the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study
(RLS), unaffiliated voters are a larger voting block than
either Catholics or mainline Protestants, and they are within
two percentage points of outnumbering Evangelicals.1 We
are larger than the Mormon, Jewish, Jehovahs Witness,
Muslim, Buddhist, and Scientology religions combined.
Until now, both political parties have generally ignored
us as too small and disorganized to be a factor in elections.
While the Democrats are less antagonistic towards us, they
still essentially ignore us. The Republicans openly vilify
us. The Right has never encountered much resistance to
this approach. Until now. Secular voters are no longer too
few to be ignored. Nor are we silent. Moreover, we can now

Our votes will go to those who


recognize that religion is personal,

but politics affects us all.

2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 11

State

Protestant

Catholic

Unaffiliated

Obama

Romney

Obama

Romney

Obama

Romney

Iowa

46

53

47

52

Florida

42

58

47

52

Pennsylvania

49

51

49

50

Virginia

45

54

45

55

Wisconsin

45

54

44

56

75
72
74
78
73

22
26
25
22
25

Michigan

48

51

44

55

New Hampshire

42

56

47

53

73

26

Source: The American Conservative, February 24, 2016

make the case that the Republican Partys contempt for the
secular voter cost them the election in 2012.
The Map
We came to CPAC this year armed with a map and
some numbers. 2 The map on page 10 shows seven states
where Romney lost narrowly to Obama in 2012. In each
of these seven purple states, Romney and Obama
essentially split the religious vote. However, Obama won
the non-religious vote by fifty percentage points, giving
him significant margins of victory in the states of Iowa,
Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan,
and New Hampshire.
In effect, the Republicans threw away the election
by being less than magnanimous and more than a little
disrespectful to us and by failing to recognize that nonreligious voters are a large and growing demographic
that will no longer be silenced by outdated political
norms. The closet doors are now wide open, and we are
not going back. As we move forward, the question is how
the political parties will choose to deal with us. In the
last election, their attitudes and actions toward nonreligious voters drove about 75% of the nones to vote
for Democratic candidates.
The Smart Move
It is no longer enough to grudgingly agree to not kill
us. We want to be openly acknowledged and nakedly

pandered to. But mere lip service will not be enough.


Neither party can simply ask us to vote for them and
expect us to crawl into a hole and disappear. This is
America, so they have to give us something in exchange
for our support. Our votes will go to those who stop using
the power of a majority Christian legislature to advance
religious ideologies over the rights of individuals. Our
votes will go to those who respect the constitutional
separation of church and state. Our votes will go to those
who do not deny science to the detriment of mankind.
Our votes will go to those who recognize that religion is
personal, but that politics affects us all.
The trends are unmistakable, and the numbers are
undeniable. The writing is on the wall. Both parties
would do well to re-assess the alliances that put them on
the wrong side of history. The final ringing message for
both parties? We want a seat at the table. Ignore us at
your electoral peril.
Rick Wingrove is American Atheists Regional Director for
Virginia/D.C. and the Layout and Graphics Editor of this
magazine.

Footnotes

1. PewForum.org/religious-landscape-study
2. Can a Christian Party Survive? by Matthew Sheffield, Feb. 24,
2016, TheAmericanConservative.com.

The closet doors are now wide open, and

we are not going back.

12 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

Atheists in Cuba:

Respected, Elected
by Mark Kolsen

uba has always interested me. Although the


United States government has subverted, and
even overthrown, many left-leaning Latin
American governments, the Castro government has, since
its 1959 revolution, successfully resisted all such attempts.
Despite Cubas poor human rights record, the nations
people have one of the worlds most admired educational
and health care systems (as Michael Moore demonstrated in
Sicko.) Moreover, Cubas constitution officially designates
it a secular state. As a closeted leftist-Atheist who teaches
in a parochial high school, I had always wondered how Id
feel if I lived in a nation where everyone accepted me.
I first visited Cuba in 1979, when Jimmy Carter permitted
Americans to enjoy its beautiful beaches. As a tourist, I
learned that Cubans sharply distinguished between U.S.
government policies and the American people, whom they
considered friends. (Its not just Americans; today, the
friendliness of the Cuban people is known throughout the
world.) When I returned in 1998 to write a story on religion
in Cuba, I discovered that churches, synagogues, and
worshipping at home were all tolerated by the government,
but only if the faithful practiced quietly. At the time, the
government considered religion a threat to the Cuban
revolution.
Last Christmas, I decided to return again to Cuba. My
first mate and I wanted to enjoy Cubas beautiful beaches,
but I was also curious. I had always wanted to know how
many Cubans were truly Atheists, like me. And I had
heard that researchers were having an easier time gathering
information about Cubans religious beliefs.
Last March, for example, Univision, the New York-based
Spanish-language media conglomerate, conducted a poll

It doesnt matter. We dont ask, we dont care, said Grabiel.


of 1,200 Cubans.1In that poll, 44% of the respondents said
they were not religious.The U.S. media widely interpreted
this number as a ref lection of Cubas repressive communist
government. In reporting on the poll, The Washington
Post said that because of their communist history, Cubans
are just not into religion. 2 But even before the Univision
poll, the U.S. media had long depicted Cubans as suffering
economic and religious suppression, especially during the
holidays. 3
With my curiosity heightened by this new information,
I spent eighteen days interviewing thirty Cubans in four
different cities: Holgun, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and
Santa Clara. This was not a scientific sample. I conversed
with random Cubans when the opportunity for in-depth
conversation presented itself. Their ages ranged from

I had always wanted to know how many


Cubans were truly Atheists, like me.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 13

Most Cubans spend their time trying to make a living


and dont think much about going to church.
seventeen to sixty, and they all had different occupations.
Almost all were married and had children. From this
small sample, I have concluded that the Univision poll
has been misinterpreted and has reinforced some media
misconceptions about religion in Cuba.
First, contrary to some media reports, the Cuban
government has radically changed its policies since 1988.
Today, as PBS recently reported, people of all beliefs
and persuasions practice openly and freely.4 During my
interviews, almost every Cuban said that the government
tolerates all religions. Since Pope Francis visit to Cuba last
September, the government has even spoken kindly of its
old nemesis, the Catholic Church. Of course, the Cuban
government monitors and restricts religious organizations,
especially those critical of government policies, 5 but the
Cubans I interviewed all boasted about total religious
freedom in Cuba.
Cubas new tolerance of religion might distress Atheists

Cyber by Cuban artist Irving Torres Barroso


who have viewed communist countries as our planets lone
bastions of rational non-belief.They might even cringe at
reports that Cuba has been undergoing a religious revival6
and that Christian proselytizersespecially Jehovahs
Witnessesare now going door to door throughout the
country.
Jorge, a Cuban Atheist geography professor who
moonlights as a tour booking agent, bitterly confirmed that
he often sees Jehovahs Witnesses on the streets, and that
Cubas illiterates are occasionally converted, which he
considers dangerous because of their anti-scientific attitude
towards Western medicine, such as its prohibition against
blood transfusions.
In my view, however, Atheists should not herniate about
Cubas new tolerance of religion. Once government policy
softened, a so-called revival had to be expected. But
despite this revival, most Cubans are not, as you will see,
interested in becoming religious.
The media are also misinterpreting Cubans who say they
14 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

are religious or non-religious. When 44% of Cubans told


Univision they were non-religious, what they really meant
was that they didnt belong to a specific church or practice
any prescribed rituals.Several of my interviewees used the
term fanatics to describe practicing churchgoers.They
considered the fanatics to be a small minority, an observation
confirmed by media reports that while 60% of Cubans might
call themselves Catholic only a small percentage attend
Mass.7
Alan Lengevin, a retired Canadian professor who now
lives with his Cuban wife in Santa Lucia, says that on any
given Sunday, the local church is practically empty.He
added that with average monthly incomes of thirty dollars,
most Cubans spend their time trying to make a living and
dont think much about going to church.
Ailen, a Cuban-American whose family lives in Medio
Luna, said that in Cuba, economics, not religion is what
really matters. Flying from Kansas City, she regularly
visits her family, carrying with her consumer items that
are prohibitively expensive on the island. On this trip, she
was lugging a large television set which was much cheaper
to purchase in the United States, even after she paid stiff
customs duties in Cuba.
On the other hand, the 44% non-religious Cubans
are not necessarily non-believers.In my conversations, I
asked each person to think about the beliefs of ten random
friends. Most said that a majority of their friends do believe
in god.Although the numbers varied, seven or eight friends
were, on average, identified as believers, and two or three
were identified as Atheists. But Atheists should look closely
at what Cubans mean by belief, and especially at what they
mean by god.
First of all, most Cuban theists I spoke to do not
subscribe to any particular theology. When pressed about
their theism, they often cited their familys beliefs and also
rejected god as supernatural.Grabiel is a an English teacher
who moonlights as a cab driver and also has a small business
importing meat from Europe. Calling himself a Catholic,
he said, Ill tell you what god is. Its all this, and he pointed
to the mountains, trees, and fields we were passing.As for an
afterlife, I dont buy that, he said.Dead is dead.
Marcos, an entertainer, simply equated god with a
greater force in the universe, while Robert, a hospital nurse
who supplements his income by peddling peanut brittle,
equated god with loving everyone.
Javier, a sixty-year-old businessman who runs a
popular casa particular (hostel) in Trinidad, even chided
me for suggesting that most Cubans believe in the
supernatural.Everybody here is educated, he said, and,
with some exceptions, Cubans reject concepts of heaven
and hell, or life after death.At university, he explained, you
are either an idealist or materialist, with materialists
accepting the traditional Marxist view of history espoused
by Cubas Communist Party. By Javier's account, Cubans
2ND QUARTER 2016

Unlike Atheists in the U.S., they are


treated as social and political equals.
today are less religious and more idealistic insofar as they no
longer accept the Communist Partys philosophy of history.
When he said, I dont think youll find many materialists
any more, Javier was equating Cuban theists with idealists.
While god is their term for non-materialist forces, he
doesnt think this implies a nave belief in the supernatural.
The bottom line:
although interviewees typically
identified seven or eight friends as believers, many of these
friends may well be Atheists insofar as they do not believe in
the supernatural, and instead equate god with nature or
other planetary forces.
Cubans who do believe in the supernatural usually have
one reason beyond their familys traditional beliefs: living
in a very poor country, they want gods help.Eduardo, a
middle-aged hostel owner in Cienfuegos, clearly is well-todo by Cuban standards. Yet he told me he looks to god when
I need something.Ailen told me her mother embraced
Santeria (a synchretistic Caribbean religion) when her niece
recovered from an illness after her mother prayed.
In Holgun, this mentality has been fostered by the
Sanchez family, former plantation owners whose patriarch
once promised god and his community that if his daughter
recovered from an eye problem, he would build and support
the church in Santa Lucia. Although their property was
expropriated more than a half century ago, the family still
sends yearly checks to maintain the church.
Joel, a tour guide, said that when people read about world
events, some fear the world is going to end, and so they
feel obliged to pray in order to save themselves.Rudy and
Enrique, two middlemen who sell a talented artists work
in the Guardalavaca crafts market, put it bluntly: When
people get into shit, they turn to god and pray.Otherwise,
they dont care.
And what about thoseperhaps the twenty percent
who explicitly identify themselves as Atheists? Unlike
Atheists in the U.S., they are treated as social and political
equals. Different faiths and non-believers coexist easily: It
doesnt matter.We dont ask, we dont care, Grabiel said.
Junior is a thirty-four-year-old member of Cubas
non-secret Society of the Freemasons, which has 30,000
members in 300 lodges throughout the country. He told me
that the society accepts members with no regard to religious
belief and that during meetings, lodge members are actually
forbidden from speaking about politics or religion.The
society has one primary purposeto help other Cubans
and believes that religious and political distinctions only
enable conf lict and war.
Other Cubans echoed Grabiel and Junior:Atheists, like
everyone else, are respected Cuban citizens.In elections
for the municipal, provincial, and national assemblies,
candidates for office are nominated by various mass
organizations. Political dissidents may have problems
getting elected, but when it comes to religious affiliation,
Atheists are regularly nominated, and Atheists are regularly
2ND QUARTER 2016

Javier said Cubans today are less religious.


elected. 8
As for their origins, openly Atheist Cubans also seem to
validate Phil Zuckermans view in Society Without God that
peoples Atheism comes from many different directions. In
Cuba, some hail from families of non-believers, including
ex-party members. Others, like Adolfo, a cab driver, believe
that god could not exist, given the amount of evil in the
world.
His theme resonated with others. Hermis, a seventeenyear-old married bus boy expecting his first child, said that
his teachers had argued that if god existed, he/she/it would
be helping the poor. Hermis also said some of his friends are
Atheists because god never answers their prayers.
On the other hand, three adults said that, as in the United
States, young people constitute the largest percentage of
Atheists. The youth, they argued, are more concerned with
their appearance, their friends, and their connection with
the internet, a preoccupation depicted in Cyber, painted
by Cienfuegos artist Irving Torres Barroso. Barroso, who has
a warm and inviting studio in central Cienfuegos, believes
that moral values have eroded in Cuban society. The images
in his paintings are dripping black to symbolize this decay.
Eduardo, the Cienfuegos hostel owner, thinks that Cuban
youth only believe in themselves.
Older Cubans may have good reason to criticize their
youths disregard of family and other traditional institutions
in pursuit of self-interest.After all, this complaint about the
younger generation has been around for millennia. But it

Continued on Page 37

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 15

Book Excerpt

Fighting God
by David Silverman, President of American Atheists

cross the internet and on television and radio, American Atheists President David Silverman
has been called rude, uncaring, and even a fascist by Bill O'Reilly, but he is none of those
things. His methods ruffle feathers, but they work, and they work for the good of all people (except those
who make money with religion). This excerpt is from his new book, Fighting God.
I wish I were wrong.
I wish all the good guys went to heaven, the bad guys
somehow justly paid for their crimes, and everyone (especially
my daughter) lived forever. Indeed, not a single person on earth
wants people to live forever more than I do. I also wish the
World Trade Center still stood, hunger was eradicated, and that
my mother had lived long enough to see this book published.
But wishing doesnt make it true. We live in the real world,
and I make my living telling the truth.
Im that atheist guythe guy with the atheist shirt and/
or jacket and/or baseball cap in the airport or at a street fair.
Im not talking about subtle clothing that someone might pass
by and not notice, either. I wear the word atheist in big letters.
I cannot be missed, quite by design. I talk to people who ask
about what my clothes say (which happens more and more
these days), answer their questions as honestly and clearly as
possible, and sometimes even have on-the-spot debates. I'm a
walking, talking atheist billboard. I love being that guy (you
should try it).
Im also that atheist guy on TV, often Fox News, who
espouses such horrible concepts as religious equality and
separation of religion and government (same thing), usually to
a talking head or audience that simply does not understand the
concept and tries to trip me up rather than actually considering
that I might be right.

Some call me a militant atheist. Others call me a dick. I


am neither. A militant atheist, like a militant Muslim, Jew, or
Christian, would be someone who uses, threatens, or promotes
violence; there is nothing violent in anything I do or endorse. A
dick would be someone who makes people angry for the sake of
making people angry. I have much better reasons.
I promote no harm, violence, or vandalism, opting instead
to fight for equality of all people through truth and honesty. I
think that makes me That Pretty Good Guy Who Gets Called
a Dick So Often He Gets Angry and Writes a Book About It.
(My publisher thought such a title might be a bit too long for
the cover, though.)
I've been a walking, talking atheist billboard for nearly
twenty years. I have had many conversations with strangers
about atheism, as you would expect, and as I intend. In the
early years, most of my on-the-street conversations were
confrontational and somewhat less than civil. Ive received more
than my fair share of the stereotypical Youre going to hell
comments, usually delivered in a hit-and-run style, whereby
people deliver their good news that I will be spending eternity
being tortured and then run away before I can continue the
conversation.
However, in more recent years, Ive begun receiving
more and more positive comments, and the negativity I once
receivedin every airport, in every cityhas fallen silent.

Religion is wrong for demanding


respect simply for being.
16 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

We are finally winning, mainly because, thanks to the


internet, we are finally capable of trying.
Indeed, the hostility that I used to encounter nearly every time I stepped out the door never occurs anymore.
Why?
Because we are winning.
In this enduring battle for freedom from the Lie of God (a phrase I use to describe all deities and the lies, empty promises,
and threats that surround them), we are finally winning, mainly because, thanks to the internet, we are finally capable of trying.
We, the atheists of America, are on the cusp of achieving equality. We have no money compared to religion. We have no power
compared to religion. Yet our numbers are growing while theirs are shrinking, because its not just about money or power, but
about truth. Truth beats money and power, and when it comes to religion, atheists
have a monopoly on truth.
Atheists like me are what I call conclusionary. We have
concluded that gods are myths because weve seen sufficient
evidence and heard or read sufficient arguments to
convince us there are no gods. But this is not stubbornness.
If any god, anywhere, were proven real even once, I would
convert, quit my job, and donate all the proceeds of this
book to that correct gods religion. Of course, that has never
happened, and there is no reason to expect that it will. I am
convinced this mentality holds true for almost all atheists
everywhereif there were any proof of any god, there
would be practically no atheists anywhere. Atheists search
for truth, not just confirmation of preferred belief.
But religion is not just incorrect, it is malevolent. It ruins
lives, splits families, and justifies hatred and bigotry, all
while claiming to be the source of morality. People die and
suffer needlessly because of religion; such a waste.
Religion is corruption incarnate. As the late Christopher
Hitchens said, Religion poisons everything, and that
seems almost literal when we are talking about the minds it
infects. It makes good people do bad things while thinking
they are doing goodeffectively turning good people into
bad people, at least sometimes. Religion deserves to die.
Some (too many?) people call me a dick because I
challenge the absurd notion that religion deserves respect
by default. But religion is wrong for demanding respect
simply for being, and even more wrong for demanding never
to be questioned. Indeed, it is my duty as an American, as an
atheist, and as a nice person to do what I can to take religion
downnot by force, not by law, but by truth.
And the truth is quite simple: all religions are lies, and all
believers are victims.
Fighting God is available in hardback, e-book, and audio
book formats at Amazon.com

The hostility that I used to encounter nearly every


time I stepped out the door never occurs anymore.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 17

LETS USE BIBLICAL


EXECUTION METHODS
by Brian Bolton

n recent years, several American states that regularly carry out the death penalty have had difficulty
obtaining the requisite drugs for lethal injection. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers dont want to
supply the drugs because they fear retaliation by death-penalty opponents, while others simply want to
avoid the negative publicity, and some actually have ethical concerns.
Exacerbating the situation were the well-publicized cases of botched executions, where condemned persons
were literally tortured to death. Of course, some death-penalty advocates believe that this is not only acceptable,
but desirable, because criminals deserve to suffer like their victims. They say the greater the suffering, the better the
quality of justice that is realized. Fundamentalist Christian legislators seem especially keen on capital punishment.
Some state legislatures have revived old tried and true methods of execution, such as firing squads, while
others have proposed refurbishing electric chairs and gas chambers. But the lawmakers who get their morality
from the Bible are forgetting that their holy book is a resource rich with alternatives to lethal injection.
This article provides a catalog of biblically approved methods for killing convicted criminals. All techniques
are endorsed by the god of the Bible, Almighty Yahweh, and were used by him on numerous occasions. Bleedingheart liberals may be uneasy when contemplating these procedures, but they should understand that Yahweh
has personally approved these modes of eliminating evildoers from among us and, therefore, any objections or
criticisms constitute blasphemy, a violation that requires and deserves the death penalty. This compilation is
organized into handy categories which are ordered according to Yahwehs expressed preferences and includes the
transferability of the procedures to the contemporary American justice system.
Stoning
This method of execution serves a cathartic function for the community, with all members participating in the meting out
of justice. Also, it is readily adapted to collective punishment, which is strongly endorsed and widely practiced by Yahweh.
Yahweh decreed stoning to death by community members for the following: disobeying an order not to keep booty from
the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 7, 10-26), blaspheming the Lord (Leviticus 24:10-16, 23), gathering firewood on the Sabbath
(Numbers 15: 32-36), and unpopular preaching (2 Chronicles 24:21).
Stoning was carried out even when the victim was falsely accused, as Naboth was by evil Jezebel (1 Kings 21: 8-13). Of
course, we know that many innocent men and women have been convicted and served lengthy prison terms and have even been
executed by the American judicial system.
Other violations that specify stoning as punishment include: worshiping other gods (Deuteronomy 17:1-7), encouraging the
worship of other gods (Deuteronomy 13:1-11), sacrificing children to Molek (Leviticus 20:1-2), and communicating with the
dead (Leviticus 20:27).

Yahweh killed disobedient Israelites, including


children, using venomous snakes, lions, and bears.
18 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

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2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 19

Yahweh has personally approved these modes


of eliminating evildoers from among us.
Burning Alive
It could be reasonably argued that the electric chair
constitutes a modern version of burning alive, which is
possibly more humane. However, the procedure is not
necessarily recommended here. After all, wrongdoers deserve
to suffer maximally for their crimes against Yahweh.
Yahweh burned sinners alive for sexual immorality in
the massacre of Sodom and Gommorah (Genesis 18, 19), for
specified sexual misbehaviors (Leviticus 20:14, 21:9), and
for offering incense without proper authorization (Leviticus
10:1-2, Numbers 16:35). Jephthah sacrificed his only daughter
as a burnt offering to Yahweh (Judges 11:20-40). King
Abimeleck burned alive one thousand residents who had
taken refuge in the tower of Shechem (Judges 9:49). Perhaps
the horrific Pequot massacre of five hundred Indians in 1637
by Puritan colonists was a biblically inspired reenactment of
Abimelecks action.
King Manasseh sacrificed his son as a burnt offering on
a heathen altar (2 Kings 21:6). King Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3)
sacrificed his son as well, and countless Israelites sacrificed
both their sons and daughters (2 Kings 17:17). Two other
stories that involve burning people alive are found in Judges
15:6 and 2 Kings 1:10-12.

General Sisera was killed by Jael, who hammered a tent


peg through his skull and into the ground while he was asleep,
as prophesied by Deborah (Judges 4:17-22). This classic tale
played out more recently at the New Mexico State Penitentiary
when rioting inmates killed each other in similar fashion in
1980.
Finally, two of King Xerxes officers were impaled alive on
poles because they had conspired to assassinate him (Esther
2:21-23). The villain Haman was also impaled (Esther 7:510), as were his ten sons (Esther 9:13-14).

Stabbing and Impaling


Some of the earliest instruments of attack and defense
were sharp implements, including knives, daggers, swords,
and spears. These weapons were designed to cause lethal
damage by penetrating the body and therefore may be
viewed as the precursors of guns. This suggests a possible
biblical justification for execution by firing squad. Hence, the
relevance of this mode of killing.
At Yahwehs behest, the Levites used their swords to kill
three thousand fellow Israelites for worshiping the golden
calf (Exodus 32:27-29). Phinehas killed a fornicating Israelite
man and his consort by driving a spear through both of them
(Numbers 25:1-18).
Acting as Yahwehs messenger, Ehud killed King Eglon of
Moab by plunging a sword into the kings belly, causing his entrails
to ooze out (Judges 3:12-25). Four similar killings by stabbing in
the abdomen are reported in 2 Samuel 2:23, 3:27, 4:5-6, and 20:810. Three additional gruesome killings by bodily penetration are
reported in Judges 8:19-21, 2 Samuel 18:14-17, and 2 Kings 9:24.

Wild Animals
This is another mode of execution favored by Yahweh.
However, it strikes most civilized people as too barbaric
to even seriously consider. But with the expansion of zoos,
wildlife parks, and exotic animal exhibits, the means are
readily available and rather inexpensive. In fact, lions,
alligators, sharks, and other large predators have to eat, and
they are not vegans, so this may be a truly cost-effective
deterrent for potential evildoers.
Yahweh killed disobedient Israelitesincluding
childrenusing venomous snakes (Numbers 21:6), lions
(1 Kings 13:23-26, 2 Kings 17:24-25), and bears (2 Kings
2:23-24). Daniels false accusers, along with their wives and
children, were also ripped to shreds by lions (Daniel 6:24).
It should be noted in the interest of thoroughness that if
Jezebel didnt die from her fall, she was trampled to death by
horses, and dogs subsequently ate everything except her skull,
feet, and hands, as had been prophesied by Elijah (2 Kings
9:30-37).

Drowning and Suffocation


There is no doubt that drowning and suffocation are
methods close to Yahwehs heart, so it is entirely appropriate
to honor the Lords predilection by recognizing that the gas
chamber also involves asphyxiation. Yahweh drowned all
living people except eight adults for incorrigible wickedness
(Genesis 6, 7, 8). He also drowned Pharaohs charioteers,
their horses, and the Egyptian cavalry to bring glory to
himself (Exodus 14:21-31). Yahweh buried alive three
disobedient Israelites, as well as their wives and children
(Numbers 16: 31-35), and Hazael suffocated King BenHadad (2 Kings 8:15).

Maybe if the guillotine had been invented three


thousand years earlier, Yahweh would have
been more favorably disposed to beheading.
20 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

There is no doubt that drowning and suffocation


are methods close to Yahwehs heart.
Beheading
Although beheading or decapitation is an age-old mode of
killing, it does not appear to rank among Yahwehs preferred
methods. In fact, he never specifically ordered beheading as
punishment for any violation. Maybe if the guillotine had
been invented three thousand years earlier, Yahweh would
have been more favorably disposed to beheading. Of the seven
episodes of cutting off heads described in holy scripture, only
two are unequivocal beheadings, while the others involve
hacking off heads after killing. In all cases, the severed head is
regarded as a trophy to be displayed disrespectfully or (in one
situation) treated with reverence.
David slew Goliath, cut off his head, and delivered it to Saul
(1 Samuel 17:50-57). The Philistines cut off Sauls head after he
killed himself, and they hung up his head in the temple of Dagon
(1 Samuel 31:9-10; 1 Chronicles 10:9-10). Other post-mortem
beheadings are described in Judges 7:25 and Samuel 4:5-12.
It is not entirely clear whether Ahabs seventy sons
were slaughtered before their heads were removed, but the
description of the event suggests that they were killed first
(2 Kings 10:6-8). On the other hand, the account of Shebas
death indicates that he was most probably beheaded (2 Samuel
20:20-22). Finally, John the Baptist was almost certainly
executed by beheading (Matthew 14:6-12; Mark 6:22-29).
Ripping Open Pregnant Women
To acknowledge the erroneous political viewpoint of
fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion zealots, it is necessary
to address this truly unpleasant biblical reality. Three uses
of this grisly mode of killing indicate Yahwehs approval,
whereas the last provoked Yahwehs anger. Elisha prophesied
that King Hazael would rip open pregnant Israelite women (2
Kings 8:12), King Menahem of Israel ripped open all of the
pregnant women of Tiphsah with a sword (2 Kings 15:16), and
Yahweh promised that the pregnant women of Samaria would
be ripped open with a sword (Hosea 13:16).
However, after the Ammonites ripped open the pregnant
women of Gilead with swords, Yahweh declared that he would
destroy the Ammonites (Amos 1:13). Despite Yahwehs strong
endorsement of the killing of pregnant mothers-to-be (and their
unborn children) by ripping them open, this biblically approved
method of execution should probably be rejected. In broader
context, it should be emphasized that the Bible does not prohibit
abortion, and Yahweh loves neither unborn nor living children.
Throwing from Heights
Another method that may be applicable today is that
of throwing condemned people from great heights to their
deaths. This gruesome spectacle permeates urban mythology
surrounding violent drug gangs and infuses prison lore about
inmate punishment. The fear of falling from dizzying heights

2ND QUARTER 2016

ranks up there with snakebites and public speaking as causes


of irrational anxiety and panic attacks.
Of course, some thrill-seeking convicts might actually opt
for this mode of execution, for the same reason that sky-diving
enthusiasts like to jump. The two examples in the Bible are the
ten thousand Edomite men who were thrown from the top of
a cliff (2 Chronicles 25:11-12) and the wicked woman Jezebel,
who was thrown out of a window (2 Kings 9:30-37).
Scraping to Death
Gideon killed seventy-seven leaders of Succoth by scraping
them to death with thorns and briars (Judges 8:16). Fans of the
classic western series Gunsmoke will remember the episode
in which the good guy was dragged through a patch of spiny
cactus in order to be taught a lesson. Happily, he was rescued
by Marshall Dillon before sustaining serious injuries. Were
the script writers inspired by the gory Bible story?
Miscellaneous Methods
Yahweh also relied on several killing strategies that are
probably not realistic options for the American judicial system.
For example, sending plagues to punish disobedient Israelites
was a favorite Yahwehean technique (Numbers 11:31-35,
16:46-50, 25:9; 1 Samuel 5:6-12; and 2 Samuel 24:15). Causing
a deadly hailstorm (Exodus 9:13-35) and inflicting incurable
bowel disease on Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:13-19) were
imaginativebut not easily generalizablemethods.
Of course, Yahweh could always use direct execution, as
when he struck Ananias and Sapphira dead after they lied to the
Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11) and when he turned Lots wife into a
pillar of salt for looking back (Genesis 19:26). Included in this
category of inapplicable methods are Samsons use of a donkeys
jawbone to kill one thousand Philistines (Judges 15:15-16) and
his causing the temple collapse in order to crush to death 3,005
Philistines (Judges 16:25-30). The latter incident reminds
us that some Salem witches were pressed to death, a common
mode of execution by slow torture in the late Middle Ages.
Going Forward
It is my fervent hope that these scripturally based suggestions
will be of valuable assistance to fundamentalist Christian
legislators who are searching for biblically approved methods
for state-sponsored executions. This information may also be a
useful resource for dedicated Sunday school teachers who strive
to implant the fear of the Lord in their pupils.
Brian Bolton is a retired psychologist and an opponent of
capital punishment who lives in Georgetown, Texas.

The illustration is courtesy of Shell Fisher. See more at ShellFisher.wix.com/Holy-Smoke.

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 21

The Real Story


from an

Ex-Mormon Missionary
Lesson 4: The Commandments, Part 3
by Greg Hawkins

ormons dont go on missions to


do charity work. They only go on
missions to recruit new members.
Once they are baptized, these new members are required, for
the rest of their lives, to give ten percent of their income to the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintseven if theyre
living in abject poverty, raising a large family, shouldering a lot
of debt, or dealing with any other kind of financial hardship.
In Quezon City, Philippines, most people live in abject poverty.
Yet thats where Greg Hawkins was sent as a missionary in 2012 to
baptize (translation: recruit) new members (translation: tithers).
Even before returning home in late 2013, Greg was having serious
misgivings about this requirement and many other tenets of the
faith. His doubt only grew over the years and in 2014, he left the
LDS Church and embraced Atheism.
This is Part Six of his series for American Atheist. In these
articles, he describes what goes on when missionaries (they
always travel in pairs) knock on your door and you let them in.
Hes also including many parts of the Mormon doctrine that
missionaries may leave outor may not even be aware of in the
first place, since their training lasts only six weeks.
The LDS Church allows no questioning of the tenets of the

faith, and missionaries are taught to


stick to their limited script. This leaves
them unprepared for any challenging
questions. But if you can present them with
thoughtful questions in an amiable, nonconfrontational way, youll give them a real
opportunity to apply critical thinking to
their religions harmful absurdities. The
chances are good that it will be the first time
theyve ever done so.
In the previous issue of American Atheist,
I continued with my explanation of Lesson
Four: Keep the Commandments. These are
the Mormon Commandments, which are
different from the Ten Commandments of
the Old Testament. But one of the Mormon
Commandments is, in fact, to follow the Ten
Commandments. This all gets complicated
pretty quickly, so let me recap. A lesson is
the information thats shared with you if you
decide to become an investigator, which is

Blood atonement was the cornerstone of Utahs


capital punishment laws until the 1970s.
22 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

Missionaries who are sent abroad receive


very little education beforehand about
the culture theyll be thrown into.
the term for someone interested in the Mormon faith. As an
investigator, you will be visited several times in your home by a
pair of Mormon missionaries, who, through a series of lessons,
explain the requirements of church membership. Some of the
lessons can be covered in one visit, and others, like Lesson Four,
are spread out over time.
So far, Ive written about five of these eleven Mormon
Commandments. My last article covered three of them: Study
the Scriptures, Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, and Baptism and
Confirmation. I talked about how missionaries will make every
effort to persuade you to partake in the ordinance of baptism,
which officially inducts you into the LDS Church. In a baptism
ceremony a male priesthood holder recites a prayer and then
immerses you in a baptismal font, which is usually a small pool
of water inside a Mormon meetinghouse. I also pointed out
inconsistencies in how the Sabbath is observed among different
congregations around the world, and I talked about the hugely
time-consuming Sabbath activities, which include three-hour
church services as well as other meetings, discussions, and
projects.
This article covers the next three commandments: Follow
the Prophet, Keep the Ten Commandments, and Live the Law
of Chastity.
Follow the Prophet
The head of the worldwide LDS Church is the prophet. As
the founder of the Church, Joseph Smith was the first prophet.
Brigham Young was his successor. The current prophet is
Thomas S. Monson. Mormons believe that following the
prophet is a way to discover objective truth. Preach My Gospel,
the official Mormon missionary manual, states:
Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are, were,
and will be. It does not change with conditions or time.
Truth is the same in every age and culture. God is the source
of all truth. We can have faith in Him because we know He
will teach us only truth. God wants all His children to know
the truth. Therefore, He reveals the truths necessary for
salvation through prophets and apostles. He reveals truth to
us personally through the scriptures and personal revelation.
... A prophet is called and chosen by God and is a righteous
man with great faith. The Lord reveals truth to him through
the Holy Ghost. He commands His prophet to teach truth to all
people. Those who believe Gods words as revealed through
His prophet are blessed.

So lets recap. God is the source of all truth, and humans are
Gods children. God wants his children to know the truth, so he
administers the truth via his prophets. This is a very important
part of Lesson Four, because investigators must fully accept
these premises and conclusions in order to be baptized.
At this point, you may be wondering where science fits in to
all of this. Science is problematic to Mormon doctrine because
anyone, not just the prophet, can use scientific principles to
understand the world. If we get our understanding from science,
we have no need for a super-devout Mormon in a privileged
position to do any fortune-telling for us. Additionally, science
is consistent. It follows a very specific and rigorous pattern.
Through scientific discovery, theories and models are
constantly updated to reflect changes in understanding.
The Mormon prophet, on the other hand, hardly ever
makes any updates. Take, for example, coffee and tea. Through
our scientific understanding of nutrition, we know that coffee
and tea are not overtly dangerous if they are consumed in
moderation. The Mormon understanding of nutrition, on the
other hand, says otherwise because in 1833, in Kirtland, Ohio,
god revealed to Joseph Smith that hot drinks are not for the
body or belly (Doctrines and Covenants 89:6).
Mormons have also been told by their prophet that Adam
and god are one:
How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day
Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to
them, and which God revealed to menamely that Adam is
our Father and GodOur Father Adam helped to make this
earth, it was created expressly for him. He brought one of his
wives with him. He was the first man on the earth, and its
framer and maker. He with the help of his brethren brought
it into existence (MormonHandbook.com/home/Adam-GodDoctrine.html).

One of the worst doctrines revealed to the prophet was that


of blood atonement. According to Brigham Young, It is true
that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the
fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins
which it can never remit. ...There are sins that can be atoned for
by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are
sins that the blood of a lamb, or a calf, or of turtle dove, cannot
remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 53-54).
Yes, according to Brigham Young, there are sins which are
so bad that Jesus sacrifice apparently doesn't matter. These

The Law of Chastity is one of the


strictest in the Mormon Church.
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www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 23

Theres actually no such thing as the


Ten Commandments, since they appear
three times in the Old Testament.
sins may only be atoned for through blood self-sacrifice. While
this was one of the few doctrines to have been recanted, blood
atonement was the cornerstone of Utahs capital punishment
laws until the 1970s.
Keep the Ten Commandments
One of my favorite descriptions of the Ten Commandments
comes from Christopher Hitchens, who said, They are
addressed to a nomadic tribe whose main economy is primitive
agriculture and whose wealth is sometimes counted in people as
well as animals (The New Commandments, Vanity Fair, April
2010). Hitchens also points out that theres actually no such thing
as the Ten Commandments, since they appear three times in
the Old Testament, each time in slightly different form (Exodus
20:3-17, Exodus 34:17-27, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21).
For whatever reason, Preach My Gospel only refers to the
earliest list. To wit: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Thou shalt
not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the
sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt
not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet.
In order for an investigator to live according to Mormon
standards, they must follow all Ten Commandments.
Missionaries who are sent abroad receive very little education
beforehand about the culture theyll be thrown into. But Preach
My Gospel does give a heads-up about how to tell an investigator
to get rid of hazardous family heirlooms:
People in many cultures own or pay respect to objects that
remind them of Deity or ancestors. Sometimes those objects,
such as statues, religious emblems, or small shrines, might
also be the focus of their worship. Help them understand that
the Lord has commanded us not to worship idols. Encourage
them to remove from their home any object they worship or
to which they pray. Help them focus their faith and worship
on their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Teach them that the
restored gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on the living Christ.

Live the Law of Chastity


The Law of Chastity is one of the strictest in the Mormon
Church. According to Preach My Gospel,
Chastity requires faithfulness in thought and action. We
must keep our thoughts clean and be modest in our dress,
speech, and actions. We must avoid pornography in any form.
We should treat the God-given procreative power and our bodies
as sacred. Baptismal candidates are to live the law of chastity,
which prohibits any sexual relations outside of a legal marriage
between a man and a woman. They are not to participate in
abortions or homosexual or lesbian relations. Those who have
committed sexual sin can repent and be forgiven.

24 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

In the Mormon faith, the word immorality refers only to


violating the law of chastity. Masturbating is also a violation.
Luckily, the late Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer wrote For
Young Men Only, an entire book devoted to avoiding it.
When teaching this section, missionaries may be reluctant
to share that immorality is the third-worst sin a person can
commit. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma says to his
son Corianton, Know ye not, my son, that these things are an
abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable
above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or
denying the Holy Ghost? (Alma 39:5).
Variations of human sexuality and human sexual behavior
are nothing more than dirty delinquencies designed to keep us
from following Gods commandments. So what happens if you
happen to commit one of these sins? Well, you would have to
confess your sins to your bishop: Behold, he who has repented
of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them
no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins
behold, he will confess them and forsake them (Doctrine and
Covenants 58:42-43).
The official website of the LDS Church explains it in more
contemporary language in the section Why and What Do I
Need to Confess to My Bishop?: [M]aybe you have made
some mistakeseven some serious mistakes. Most of the
mistakes people make can be resolved through personal prayer
and sincere repentance. Some mistakes, especially those regarding
immorality, require confession to the bishop before you can receive
the Lords forgiveness. ... As you think about mistakes you
have made, you may be feeling guilty, unsettled, unhappy, or
even miserable. If you are experiencing any of those feelings,
then you probably need to talk with your bishop about those
mistakes (italics mine).
So the majority of your sins can be dealt with on your own.
But if it has to do with sex, you must let your bishop in on it.
Lets think this through for a moment. Say youre a fourteenyear-old girl with a masturbation problem. In order to become
spiritually clean, youll have to repent by scheduling a private
meeting with just you and your bishop, who is always a man
and usually middle-aged. In that meeting, you'd give a detailed
confession of everything and then ask him what to do next.
There you are, alone with him, telling him your dirty sexual
secrets. Creeped out yet?
In the next issue, we will wrap up Lesson Four with the final
three Mormon Commandments: Obey the Word of Wisdom,
the Law of Tithing, and the Law of the Fast.
Greg Hawkins is a graduate of the University of Utah and holds
a paralegal certificate from Weber State University. He has been
writing for American Atheist since 2014.
2ND QUARTER 2016

A Two-Thousand-Year-Old Cold Case


Thriller Explores the Myth of Christianity
The Christos Mosaic by Vincent Czyz is a new intellectual thriller that
challenges a number of long-held Christian beliefs. Czyz is the author
of Adrift in a Vanishing City, a collection of short stories. His work, both
essays and fiction, has appeared in numerous literary magazines, and
he has won several awards, including the W. Faulkner-W. Wisdom Prize
for Short Fiction and the 2011 Truman Capote Fellowship in Fiction.
He recently spoke to American Atheist about his first novel.

The unexamined faith is not worth believing.

he Christos Mosaic has been described as The Da Vinci


Code for Atheists. Is that an accurate assessment?
Well, there are some similarities in terms of a mystery that
traces back to the origins of Christianity. Also, Brown and
I both wrote thrillers that involve murder, cover-ups by the
Roman Catholic Church, and a sort of quest-pursuit, but I think
the resemblance probably ends there. One of the key points of
departure for me is that Brown made up most of his puzzles
and riddles, whereas almost all the enigmas and historical
question marks in The Christos Mosaic can be found in the New
Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or history books.
It was very important to me to write about genuine issues
that readers could, after finishing the novel, research for
themselves and then decide for themselves what to think. For
example, scholars and biblical commentators have wondered for
centuries why Jesus casts a horde of demons into two thousand
pigs, which then stampede off a cliff into the sea and drown.
Similarly, no one has ever explained why a blind man is
named after one of Platos most famous dialogues (Timaeus).
In fact, many scholars go out of their way to insist that the name
is a corruption of an Aramaic wordthey simply refuse to
acknowledge the obvious reference to Plato. I think theres both
a clear connection and an overall pattern.

Author Vincent Czyz

I like to think of the novel as a two-thousand-year-old


cold caseonly its not a murder being solved; rather, there
is a gaping absence where Jesus of Nazareth, historically, is
supposed to be, and the question being asked is whether there
was ever a body to go with the myth.
Who are the main characters?
There are three principle characters: Drew, Zafer, and
Kadir. Drew is an American ex-patriot living in Istanbul who
earns his keep by teaching English as a foreign language to
Turkish students. He loves to read, and he wrestled in high
school, which comes in handy once or twice in the novel. He
is also still smarting after his divorce from Yasemin, a native
of Turkey. Half Gypsy (Romani) and half Croatian, hes very
bright but a bit of an underachiever.
Zafer is a Turk who has been discharged from a Special Forces
unit for a questionable incident in Iraq during the first Gulf War.
In some ways, he stands in for certain aspects of Turkish culture as
I came to know it. He is intensely loyal, honors his word, sizes up
situations quickly, and proves a fairly canny adversary. He is also
extremely handy, thanks to his military training, with weapons as
well as various body parts, such as FMCPXTBOEpalm heels.
Kadir, a dwarf, owns a shop in the Market of Secondhand

Very few large publishers were willing to


take on a book that was so controversial.
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www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 25

No one has ever explained why a blind man is


named after one of Platos most famous dialogues.
Booksellers. Hes the one who acquires a Dead Sea Scroll and
knowledge of a second scroll, around which the action of the
novel centers. He speaks broken English and has an abrasive
sense of humor. As a somewhat cut-throat businessman, his
interest in the scrolls is purely monetary, which leads to friction
with Drew, who wants to see the scrolls go to the scholarly
community. The problem is that Zafer is tight with Kadir and
always backs the dwarf.
How did you come up with the premise?
I was raised as an Atheist, and I still am, of course, but until
about fifteen years ago, I thought it was wishful thinking among
non-believers that Jesus had never existed at all. Then a friend of
mine loaned me the book The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke
and Peter Gandy. I discovered that the death-and-resurrection
aspects of the Jesus story were borrowed from the much older
mystery cults. I still wasnt convinced, so I did some research
of my own. Around 2006, when I was browsing the internet
for books about the Dead Sea Scrolls, I came across a number
of comments made by scholar John Allegro. I was living in
Istanbul, Turkey, at the time and could often be found at the
Market of Secondhand Booksellers.
On one of these foraging expeditions, I came across Robert
Eisenmans James, the Brother of Jesus, which deals extensively
with the Dead Sea Scrolls. After I read it, I thought I might be
able to write an intellectually entertaining novel dealing with
lost scrolls and the origins of Christianity. So in many ways, the
story began in Istanbuls Market of Secondhand Booksellers.
I should also point out that I have traveled to all of the
locations in the novelCairo, Alexandria, the monasteries in the
desert near Alexandria, Antakya (ancient Antioch)and that, in
fact, the destinations helped shape the story. For example, when
Drew and Jesse emerge from St. Peters Grotto Church, they see a
huge stone carving of what appears to be Mother Mary. Without
giving away any of the plot, Ill just say that the carving is there,
and that Drews observation about it fits in perfectly with one of
the themes of the novel. Ive posted some photos of the actual
sites on my website, Vincent-Czyz.com.
How much research went into the novel, and how long
did it take to write?
I estimate that I did about seven thousand pages of research.
Eisenmans book alone is nearly one thousand pages. I also read
books by contemporary authors Robert Price, Earl Doherty, Bart
Ehrman, Helmut Koester, and Frank Zindler. I re-read much of
the two-volume edition of James G. Frazers The Golden Bough
and, among the works of ancient authors, I read segments of
Philo of Alexandria and Josephus. These are the works I relied on
the most, but there were many other authors, both modern and
ancient, as well as numerous articles and essays.
The novel was written between 2006 and 2008, so I spent
about two years on the first draft. It took another seven years
and many more revisionsto get it published. The finished
26 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

manuscript was 549 pages, and the novel as a hardback is now


531 pages. The length of the manuscript put off some publishers.
More importantly, very few large houses were willing to take on a
book that was so controversial. Henry Morrison, who was Robert
Ludlums agent and still handles his literary propertieshe is also
an executive producer of the Jason Bourne filmsread a few early
chapters and warned me: Whether Jesus existed or didnt exist
is always a fascinating question, but not one that is likely to grab
the excitement of a major publisher because major publishers are

Author Vincent Czyz in Antakya, Turkey, in 2007


inherently conservative. That turned out to be true. Fortunately, I
found Blank Slate Press, an independent-minded publishing house
that was very enthusiastic about the manuscript.
What will Atheists particularly like about this book?
For one thing, a couple of key characters are Atheists, and
as a former English major, I am pretty sure that thats rare in
literature. I like to think that Atheists, as well as anyone else
reading the book, will find the story engaging purely on the level
of entertainment. But while Christians will probably have some
of their beliefs seriously challenged, that wont be an issue for
Atheists. Most Atheists, as well as their Christian counterparts,
will also learn a lot about ancient Palestine and Christian origins.
A reader who found me through Facebook wrote something
2ND QUARTER 2016

like I love actual information, not esoteric hokum. One of the


reviewers said something very similar. In my experience, keeping
the research accurate fits in well with the Atheist mentality:
Atheists tend to take in knowledge and facts, whatever the facts
are or what they say, rather than screen out findings that dont
confirm what they already believe.
What do you hope will come out of the novel?
I hope The Christos Mosaic will lead readers to pick up some
of the books I read in order to write the novel. It would also be
gratifying if the dialogue between the mythicists (those who
believe Jesus never existed) and the historicists (who think, at
the very least, he was a man who lived in first-century Palestine)
got more attention, if not in the mainstream media, then at least
on PBS and public radiooutlets that, right now, support the
obsolete and disproven idea that the New Testament is actual
history.
The Gospels are fiction, symbolism, allegory. Even Bart
Ehrman, a renowned New Testament scholar and a historicist,
admits that most Americans are ignorant of what the Bible
actually says, and that many more have no idea what scholars
have been saying about the Bible for the last two centuries. So
I hope the book inspires a few more people to be a little more
intellectually curious. Professor Cutherton, one of the fictional
scholars in the book, is fond of saying, The unexamined faith is
not worth believing. I think hes got a point.

2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 27

DEBUNKING PERNICIOUS MYTHS


AND INCONSISTENT THINKING:

THE INTELLECTUAL LEGACY


OF WILLIAM BALL PROVINE
by Greg Graffin

he American intellectual community lost an


important member in early September when
William Ball Provine died from a prolonged
battle with brain cancer. Wills lasting gift to society are two
intellectual themes: the harmful effects of pernicious myths
on peace and harmony in society, and the importance of
rooting out inconsistencies in ones thinking. As a professor
at Cornell University for forty years, Will inspired countless
students to think critically, respectfully, and carefully. He
believed that the most dignified form of education was to
require students to be able to clearly articulate the justification
for a belief.
Will was equal parts Atheist, humanist, historian,
scientist, farmer, forester, wildlife biologist, father, husband,
brother, and friend. He was my Ph.D. adviser, and we became
good friends in the last fifteen years of his life. During that

time, I witnessed something remarkable. Instead of having


his heyday in decades past and then succumbing slowly into
old age and irrelevance, Will actually managed the opposite.
The bulk of his intellectual agenda was intact, mature, and
arguably more relevant at the time of his death than it was at
any other time in his life.
Although he was a hardened Atheist, it wasnt always that
way. Growing up outside of Nashville, Will didnt question
intelligent design in nature. He described the creek behind his
familys Presbyterian church as a kind of outdoor shrine that
nurtured his burgeoning love of wild places. Although he was
not even mildly enthusiastic about church ceremonies during
his youth, Will assumed that God created all the creatures and
habitats on Earth. Catching snakes, rodents, and insectivores;
hunting birds with a shotgun; and caring for pet critters gave
him valuable biological insights that would later shape his

I clung to supernaturalism because I wanted it to be


true. But in studying evolutionary biology, I found
the evidences for naturalism were too great.
28 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

He railed against books by authors who claimed


to be both Darwinians and Christians.
naturalist worldview.
current relevance of that discipline. If inconsistencies can be
At the age of sixteen, as a precocious undergraduate at the rooted out, then pernicious myths can be erasedor at least
University of Chicago in 1958, he came under the tutelage mollifiedby promoting better explanations, resulting in a
of professors who required students to critically examine more harmonious intellectual climate.
their own views of the world, even deeply
personal ones. If inconsistencies were
found, they were to root them out, even
if it meant giving up precious beliefs. One
of his teachers was the physicist John
Rader Platt, a great supporter of crossdisciplinary investigation who advocated
for the history of science as an important
discipline. Will never forgot that
admonition, and when I met him in 1999
at Cornell University, he billed himself as
a historian by training, even though he
was on the faculty of the Department of
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
During his first year of graduate school
in the History Departmentalso at the
University of ChicagoWill came faceto-face with one of his deepest intellectual
conf licts up to that point in his life. After
immersing himself in the literature of
evolution, Will became suspicious of the
concept of design in nature, something
hed previously assumed to be evidence of
handiwork by the deity.
After taking a course in biology from
Lynn Throckmorton and also discussing
genetics with Richard Lewontin, Will
The author (left) with Will Provine in 2003
decided that the world made more sense
if the theological argument from design
Right up until the end, Will used his impressive intellect
was given up entirely: I started from supernaturalism. I
studied modern science, and thats what turned me into a and broad experience to challenge the inconsistencies of two
naturalist. Its not as if I didnt fully consider the problem of pernicious myths: only a practicing evolutionary biologist
supernaturalism. I clung to supernaturalism because I wanted can improve that field, and religious people are ignorant.
it to be true. But in studying evolutionary biology, I found I
simply couldnt hold to my belief because the evidences for Myth: Only a Practicing Evolutionary Biologist Can
Improve that Field
naturalism were too great.1
Because of this, he remained convinced for the rest of his
During the time that I knew him, Will billed himself as
life that the literature of evolution makes an Atheist of anyone a historian. He had joint appointments in the Departments
who reads it carefully. And on this point, he was in total of History, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Zoology.
agreement with creationists.
When he first considered taking me as a graduate student,
The books he authored were exceptional historical he said, I have a brain tumor. Six months could be a lifetime
accounts of important theoretical developments in for me. Despite this harsh reality, Will devoted a great deal
evolutionary biology. 2 As a teacher, he was passionate about of time to my education. He gave me long reading lists and
making the study of evolutionary biology consistent and about we discussed each book in depth. He was a masterful adviser
viewing the development of the field from a careful historical who proved to know more about the literature of evolutionary
perspective. As any scientist knows, flawed hypotheses biology than anyone else Ive ever met. He had a priceless
undermine the structure of a discipline. But as any historian natural history library of nearly ten thousand books and over
knows, it is the inconsistencies in intellectual history that have 400,000 scientific journal reprints that spanned the entire
the greatest potential for influencing how we understand the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 29

The literature of evolution makes an Atheist


of anyone who reads it carefully.
Because he knew the historical literature so well, he had
no fear of challenging the status quo on issues that he felt
were glossed over or left unanswered in past eras. His lectures
always inspired students, regardless of their backgrounds or
biases. He designed a class called Evolution for Non-majors,
which was co-listed as a course offering in three different
departments: Biology, History, and Science and Technology
Studies. His desire was to show that evolution is an important
topic for any student, not just those studying biology. He
respectfully and successfully challenged students to examine
their own beliefs and write about how they clashed or melded
with the evolutionary worldview.
I audited the class for three years in a row and saw countless
students throng to his lecture hall. These days at Cornell,
geneticist Rick Harrison and I co-teach this course in the
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. We carry on
the tradition of introducing evolution to students who have little
or no background in biology. Seeing their desire to learn more
about the subject, and hearing them sometimes respectfully
disagree, is a most satisfying annual reminder of Wills legacy.
Myth: Religious People are Ignorant
Will treated everyone with respect. He was a true humanist.
He had a hard time saying bad things about anyone, unless
they were dishonest and trying to weasel around conf licting
facts. Will once told me, I live every day with joy. This was
especially true when he had visitors on campus or at his home.
Some of his neighbors were Bible-thumpers, and yet Will
considered many of them his dear friends.
In professional circles, Will was especially interested in
meeting and talking with academic scholars who clung to
intelligent design. He wanted to understand how they achieved
the curious intellectual feat of committing to a life of modern
academia alongside a theology that has changed little over
the centuries. More often than not, however, their views just
turned out to be sloppy reasoning that allowed for wishywashy compatibilism. Will railed against books by authors who
claimed to be both Darwinians and Christians, such as Darwins
Black Box by Michael Behe, Finding Darwins God by Kenneth
R. Miller, or Can a Darwinian be a Christian? by Michael Ruse.
He thought that creationists could be intellectually
honest people in the sense that they consistently cling to the
centuries-old belief that all scientific discoveries are simply
the elucidation of gods handiwork. Will did have respect
for one tenet of creationism: that it cannot be compatible
with evolutionary theory, and that embracing the literature

of evolution will make an Atheist out of anyone. Will had no


problem with being an Atheist and claimed to have spent only
a week lamenting his own conversion from intelligent design
back in college.
He did not appreciate theists who considered their beliefs to
be intellectually compatible with the theory of evolution. For
example, Will had this to say about cell biologist Ken Miller,
who has written two books arguing for such compatibility:
He is the personification of the person who can be a devout
Christian, give up none of his religion, and be a complete
Darwinian at the same time. Miller proves that this feat can
be accomplished, and I am impressed that he can live the
intellectual life of an academic and confidently express such
inconsistent views. It would be hopelessly embarrassing for
me to do the same thing, and I could not cheerfully defend my
inconsistent views before an audience, depending upon a faith
drummed into me between the ages of four and seven.3
Will was also not pleased with viewing natural selection
as some designing force in nature. The deification of natural
selection was just another way to make a religion out of
evolution. Yet one of Wills respected friends was Phillip
E. Johnson, who started the modern intelligent design
creationist movement. In a series of popular debates at Cornell
and Stanford, the two went public with their mutual respect
and friendly banter. Despite disagreements on many issues,
they found common ground by insisting that theology and
evolution are incompatible.
The Intellectual and Social Implications of Evolution
During the last years of his life, he wrote extensively
about the topics of free will, keeping evolution intellectually
honest, and random genetic drift. The first two of these exist
as unpublished notes in Cornell University Librarys Rare
and Manuscript Collections. His final intellectual effort was
the self-published book The Random Genetic Drift Fallacy,
which became available last year. He referred to this book
as his gift to evolutionary biology in that it challenges the
usefulness of random genetic drift, a conceptual issue in
modern evolutionary theory. At the most elementary level,
random genetic drift is the idea that gene variants (alleles)
randomly drift toward fixation or extinction through the
generations of a populations existence.
Will decided, over the last years of his life, to revisit his
recordings of conversations with Sewall Wright, the man who
co-invented the concept of random genetic drift and who had
a close relationship with Will. Will could find nothing in his

Some of his neighbors were Bible-thumpers, and


yet Will considered many of them his dear friends.
30 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

He claimed to have spent only a week


lamenting his own conversion from
intelligent design back in college.
years of correspondence and personal interviews with Wright,
or in the published literature, that supported the wishful
thinking that random genetic drift could be empirically
measuredhence his label of fallacy. Will concluded that
there is no substance to random genetic drift as a real thing,
even though numerous geneticists have fought like hell to
build a career on such a phenomenon being observable. The
Random Genetic Drift Fallacy is thus a plea for a more
rigorous analysis and more honest intellectual approach to
population genetics.
Right up to the end, Will was committed to rooting out
inconsistencies and abandoning pernicious myths in order
to make the field of evolutionary biology more solid. Like his
abandonment of intelligent design so many decades earlier,
Will gave up his belief in random genetic drift late in life, even
though he was convinced of its importance forty years earlier.
His conclusion challenges all evolutionists to, at the very least,
deeply consider that evolutionary theory is more robust without
it. Will felt satisfied that he was able to elaborate this challenge.
He was a patient man. Now we are all left to watch, work, and
remember, as his work receives the recognition it deserves.

William B. Provines final book, The Random Genetic Drift


Fallacy, is available on Amazon.
Greg Graffin is a musician, songwriter, and scientist who fronts
the band Bad Religion. Besides his Ph.D. in zoology from
Cornell, he has a Masters degree in geology from UCLA. His
latest book, Population Wars, (2015) was published by Thomas
Dunn/St. Martins Press.

Endnotes
1. Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? A Debate
Between Phillip E. Johnson and William B. Provine, April
30, 1994, ARN.org.
2. Examples include The Origins of Theoretical Population
Genetics with a New Afterword (2001), Sewall Wright and
Evolutionary Biology (1986), The Evolutionary Synthesis:
Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (1980, co-edited
with Ernst Mayr), and TheRandom Genetic Drift Fallacy
(2014).
3. William B. Provine, Implications of Evolution, 2004,
unpublished manuscript.

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2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 31

DOGMA WATCH

Religion has had an enormous impact on the world. In this series, Michael B.
Paulkovich examines dogmas, myths, and religious notions past and present.

The Jesus Blog

by Michael B. Paulkovich

Ludwig Zamenhof

t was previously believed that the first blogs were started around 1993-1994 C.E. But
last year in Samaria, archaeologists made a surprising discovery. We have translated the
text for your reading pleasure.

July 30, 31 - They say that long ago, the Greek god Dionysus
changed water into wine. So I decided to impress the local yokels
by doing the same thing at a regular (non-gay) wedding, but
only after my mom pestered me about my lack of refreshments.
What a nagand I told her! I dont think I was out of line. This
was just the beginning of the miracles to be performed by yours
truly, and my disciples get that Im all magical and miraculous
and super-perfect and stuff (John 2:4-11).
August 4, 31 - Behold my glory: some Canaanite woman
started whining unto me, asking me to remove a devil from
her daughter. Now, all learned men know that devils are the
cause of illnessbut heal a Canaanite? Id rather kill a mess
of pigs or eat fish without fins and scales than help out such
scum. Remember how my heavenly father helped Moses utterly
destroy the Canaanites (Numbers 21)? Dad hates them, so I hate
them. I commanded unto my peeps to send the tramp away, but
she would not let it go. Im not even in a relationship with her,
and shes nagging me about her freaking daughter (Matthew
15:23)! So I likened her to a dog begging for food and ignored
the wench (Matthew 15:26). In the epitome of obsequiousness,
shes like, Dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters
table, so Im like, Okay, what the heck, let me see the girl, and
shes like, Shes right here, Master, so I spotted the devil in the
32 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

childits easy once you know howand removed it licketysplit. My homies were duly impressed, but the woman didnt
offer me so much as a shekel for my troubles!
September 1, 31 - I was hungry as a wolf and came across
a fig tree out of season, which pissed me off, so I killed it with
magic (Matthew 21:19). Stupid tree. Later on, I wondered why
I didnt use my magic to have the tree sprout me some figs or
just have them appear in my hand oreven betterright in my
mouth. Dad damn it, I can be a dimwit sometimes.
November 15, 31 - Behold: my followers and I came upon
a man sick in his stomach. A local shaman endeavored to cure
him withget thisan Egyptian ginger root concoction.
Stupid Egyptians. Yea, verily I knew better, divining that he
was possessed with devils (duh). I used my magical powers to
transport them from the man into a pack of nearby pigs who
then ran down a hill and drowned (Mark 5:8-13). As always,
my entourage was astonished. Stupid pigscant live with em,
cant eat em.
February 22, 32 - Did the walk-on-water thing after I heard
a dude named Buddha once did it. Ill bet I was way better at it.
February 23, 32 - Prayed lots and lots for peace and harmony
on Earth. (Not sure why I would ever have to ask my father
more than once, but hey, what you gonna do?) My holy work
2ND QUARTER 2016

Man, were they ever confused when I taught them


to love their enemies but hate their own families.
involves standing up to oppressive Roman despotism which has
imposed itself upon our holy Hebrew way of life, forcing upon
the meek such abominations as viaducts, roads, running water,
agriculture, sanitation, and education. This is what I like to call
Big Farma and yea, verily it must be stopped in the name of
the LORD. Stupid Romans have like ten or twenty gods when I
know there are only three.
February 25, 32 - Behold: it came to pass that I had a giant
mess of followers with me on this very morn as I stood on a hill
and mesmerized them with my holy wisdom. It was some of my
best work yet. I pointed out that birds dont plant seeds, nor do
they grow grain or till the soil. Then I said that since birds dont
do it, we shouldnt either. (Matthew 6:28-34). All you have to do
is pray and youll be fed and clothed! I also dazzled them with
my heavenly moral tenets commanding them to be perfect like
my dadimpossible, right? LOL, now theyre gonna feel like
failures and immoral losers their entire lives (Matthew 5:48)!
And man, were they ever confused when I taught them to love
their enemies (Matthew 5:44) butwait for ithate their own
families (Luke 14:26). Heres perhaps my most awesome law yet:
I agreed with the great Moses that disrespectful children should
be killed (Exodus 21:17, Mark 7:10). Behold. My. Glory. Then I
told my fans to beat their slaves and to beat the disobedient ones
savagely (Luke 12:46-48). So it is said, so it shall be written, for
I am the son of a god.

February 26, 32 - Behold: I be rockin, my dogs. At this


point, Ive amassed a bitchen batch of followers. Of course,
Ive instructed them never to provide aid unto any Samaritan
(Matthew 10:5-6). In fact, I told them only to help fellow
Hebrews and nobody else. Stupid Samaritans, stupid goyim.
And no, Im not racist. My reasons may be mysterious to you,
but only one group of people are Pops chosen in this world.
Speaking of this world, I predict it will all end very, very soon.
And, as the son of God, I am perfect and always right. Within
one generation from now, and while my apostles are still alive
(Matthew 23:36, 24:34, 16:27-28; Mark 9:1), the world will
end and then the stars will fall from the sky and I shall return
2ND QUARTER 2016

(Matthew 24:29). Yes, stars are tiny objects very close to


earth, not giant suns millions of stadia away like that idiot
astronomer Aristarchus of Samos conjectured.
March 2, 32 - I told my boyz to steal me a horse and a mule
in the village, and they were like, What about Thou Shalt Not
Steal? and Im like, Who is the master here? And theyre
like, Okay, what-evs, but what if we get caught? I mean, Jesus
Christ on a shingle! (I love hearing my own name.) Im like,
Again, whos the master here? Tell them the Lord needs a horse
and a mule (Matthew 21:1-3). Is it me, or do I have to think of
everything? So, like the good peeps they are, they stole me some
sweet rides for free! Praise me.
March 14, 32 - Some damn Samaritan jerkwad doubted
my claim that Im the Messiah, so I rattled off my genealogy,
showing him that my ancestry goes back all seventy-five
generations to Adam and Eve and the beginning of everything
(Luke 3). I told him that Im like the great-great-great-greatgreat-great-grandson of David, so that makes me the golden
one. Hes like, Whats the golden one? and Im like, Duh, the
son of God.
April 20, 32 - Behold: it is two days before Passover. I have
a really good feeling about the entire weekend. My boyos and I
are planning a little get-together with food and wine, andthis
was my prime stipulationno girls. Just my little group of Good
Guys, or as the Roman soldiers have come to call us The Dirty
Dozen. To this day, they havent grasped that theres thirteen
of us. Thats because Phillips usually a no-show. Its gonna be
so cool, like a bachelor party without one of us having to get
married! Judas said he has a surprise for mecant wait!
Ill blog again on Monday.
Michael B. Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer and freelance
writer who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist
Perspectives. He is a contributing editor for The American
Rationalist and the author of No Meek Messiah. His next book,
Beyond the Crusades with a foreword by Robert M. Price, is
forthcoming from American Atheist Press.
www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 33

Danthropology
A Column by Dan Arel

This Boat
Doesnt Float

n the backwoods of Kentucky, a giant wooden boat


that doesnt float is being constructed hundreds of
miles from any large body of water. The boat will be
filled with stuffed animals and wax figures that replicate the
story of Noahs Ark, the tale in the book of Genesis in which
god flooded the earth for a whole year, killing every living thing
on it, except for eight people. The genocidal story has sparked
the idea for Ark Encounter, a theme park run by Answers in
Genesis (AiG), the parent company of the Creation Museum in
Petersburg, Kentucky.
Slated to open in July in Williamstown, Kentucky, forty
miles from the Creation Museum, Ark Encounter is being

billed as a full-scale replica of Noahs Ark. Back in 2010, when


the project was still in the planning stages, AiG submitted a
preliminary application to receive a sales-tax rebate through the
Kentucky Tourism Development Act. This program encourages
economic development in Kentuckys tourism industry by
offering a rebate of sales tax collected by a tourist attraction.
In order to qualify for the tax rebate, the organization that
owns the attraction must go through an approval process.
If approved, the attraction may recover up to 25% of initial
investment over a ten-year period. Among other requirements,
the tourism project must cost a minimum of $1 million, attract
at least 25% of visitors from out of state by its fourth year

Ark Encounter construction progress. (Noah never needed this much help.) Photo courtesy of Ark Encounter

34 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

After the highly popular debate


between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, money
and attention started to pour in.
of operation, be open to the public at least 100 days a year,
and generate tax revenues that exceed the credit given. The
organization receives no money until it generates the sales-tax
revenue in the first place.1
AiG originally asked for a rebate of $43 million, an incentive
they lost because the construction project struggled to get off
the ground at first. But after the highly popular debate between
AiG CEO Ken Ham and Bill Nye in February 2014, money
and attention started to pour in. Ham then made it public that
donations would be funding the first phase of construction, and
the second phase would be completed after they received their
sales tax rebate.
In 2014, Ark Encounter had preliminary approval for a
rebate up to $18 million, pending a full review of the parks
forecasted revenue stream. This potential violation of church/
state separation caught the attention of local secular groups and
news media alike. Last August, I saw a job posting on the AiG
website for a CAD designer/architect position at Ark Encounter
on the Answers in Genesis website. Applicants were required
to submit a creation belief statement and agree with AiGs
Statement of Faith.2
This prompted me to email American United for the
Separation of Church and State (AU). Using my research,
as well as information gathered by news organizations, AU
sent a letter to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and the
Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority. AU
urged them to end the tax incentives for the park because of
their discriminatory practices in hiring. 3 The letter, along with
media attention and pressure from local groups including the
Kentucky Secular Society, prompted the tourism authority to
reject AiGs application.
In February 2015, AiG filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District
Court citing religious discrimination. In January 2015, Judge
Greg Van Tatenhove ruled in favor of AiG. The Commonwealth
of Kentucky, whose governor is now Tea Party Republican Matt
Bevin, has decided not to appeal the ruling.4
The ruling, however, does not require that the application
be approved. It only says that the tourism authority cannot
reject the application simply because of the parks religious

theme. Ark Encounter still must meet all the requirements in


order to be approved for the sales tax rebate.
Even if the application is eventually approved, there is a
likelihood that Ark Encounter will never see a penny of the tax
rebate. Thats because its looking like the attendance numbers
projected by AiG are not realistic. In accordance with the
application requirements, AiG commissioned a study to predict
attendance numbers. The study, which projected 1.4 million
visitors in the first year, was conducted by Americas Research
Group. That firms owner, Britt Beemer, co-authored two books
with Ken Ham: Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Churchs Lost
Generation and Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church
and What You Can Do to Stop It. Theres no getting around that
conflict of interest .
However, the application process also requires that the
Commonwealth of Kentucky conduct its own study, which
was done by Hunden Strategic Partners, who say that the park
would likely see 325,000 visitors in the first year with numbers
declining in subsequent years. 5 Remember that Ark Encounter
would first have to generate more than $18 million in sales tax
revenue before anything can be rebated back to Ark Encounter.
Thats a tall order if only 325,000 people a year will be boarding
your boat.
Dan Arel is an award-winning journalist and the author of
Parenting Without God. For a complete history of the Ark
Encounter controversy, go to his blog at Danthropology.net.
Hes also on Facebook and Twitter.

Endnotes
1. Florence-ky.gov/state-incentive-programs
2. Ken Ham Took His Dishonest Rhetoric to the Radio and I
Called In, August 11, 2014, Danthopology.net.
3. Proposed Ky. Ark Park Engages in Religious Employment
Discrimination, Aug. 25, 2014, AU.org.
4. Kentucky Wont Fight Tax Break Ruling for Noahs Ark
Project, Jan. 26, 2016, BigStory.AP.org.
5. Boatload Of Lies: Ark Encounter Gave Ky. Officials
Inf lated Attendance Projections, Jan. 22, 2015, AU.org.

There is a likelihood that Ark


Encounter will never see a
penny of the tax rebate.
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 35

36 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

Cuba - continued from page 15


bothered me that nobody attributed young peoples Atheism
to their knowledge ofscientific cosmology and evolution,
two subjects that are clearly moving Western youtheven
in the United Statesaway from religion.9
But as I pondered Torres painting, and as I observed
Cuban youth talking to each other and into their cell phones
on the streets, I recalled the words of Daniel Dennett:What
is particularly corrosive to religion isnt just the newly
available information that can be unearthed by the curious,
but the ambient knowledge that is shared by the general
populace.10
Indeed, as more Cuban youth get connected, and as more
tourists bring Western ideas to Cuba, open Atheism among
young people will undoubtedly grow in Cuba.Moreover, as
Cubas economy continues to improveit has clearly done
so since 1988fewer people may conceive the supernatural
as an answer to their problems. In a few decades, we may
even, for the first time, see a Third World nation whose
people, as well as their government, are mostly Atheist.
Mark Kolsen is an American government teacher in suburban
Chicago. He is a big fan of the Four Horsemen and the late
Victor Stenger, and he strives to understand all facets of
scientific cosmologys standard model.

Endnotes
1. How was the Cuba Poll Conducted? April 8, 2015,
Univision.com.
2. Cubans Love the Pope and the Catholic Church but
Theyre Just Not That into Religion, April 10, 2015,
WashingtonPost.com.
3. In Once-Atheist Cuba, a Quiet Holy Day, Dec. 25,
2014, WashingtonPost.com.
4. Religion in Cuba, July 24, 2015, PBS.org.
5. U.S. Relations with Cuba Fact Sheet, State.gov.
6. Cuba Undergoes a Religious Revival, June 12, 2015,
TheGuardian.com.
7. In Cuba, Hope that Pope Francis Visit Rejuvenates
Catholicism, Sept. 27, 2015, Newsday.com.
8. For a good overview of Cubas electoral process, see
Elections in Cuba, Wikipedia.org.
9. Combating Ignorance and Superstition: Berkeleys
Origins Course, AtheistAlliance.org.
10. Why the Future of Religion is Bleak, April 26, 2015,
WSJ.com.

2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 37

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2ND QUARTER 2016

Parenting Without God is not just about


the absence of religionits about the
glorious space that opens up for secular
parents and their lucky kids once the
clutter and smoke of religion is gone. Dan
Arels voice is clear, smart, and a welcome
addition to the growing chorus of parents
taking the hands of their children and
running at full speed into the real world.
~ Dale McGowan, author/editor, Parenting
Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers

Available everywhere books are sold.

From the author of the Dogma Watch


series in this magazine:
Religion, especially Christianity, has enjoyed
unwarranted respect for far too long. Jesus
did say a few nice things, but he was no
humble or wise prophet. How do we know?

Its in the Bible.


Available at

NoMeekMessiah.com
2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 39

AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS

For the most up-to-date list, visit Atheists.org/Affiliates or contact Greg Lammers at GLammers@Atheists.org.
State

Group Name

City

Site

LOCAL PARTNERS
FL

FLASH - Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists

Davie

http://www.godlessflorida.com

GA

Atlanta Freethought Society

Atlanta

http://atlantafreethought.org

IA

Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers

Des Moines

http://www.meetup.com/Iowa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers

MN

Minnesota Atheists

Minneapolis

http://mnatheists.org

OK

Atheist Community of Tulsa

Tulsa

http://www.ACTOK.org

PA

PA Non-Believers

York

http://www.panonbelievers.org

TX

Metroplex Atheists

Arlington

http://www.metroplexatheists.org

AK

Alaskan Atheists

Anchorage

http://www.meetup.com/AlaskanAtheists/

AL

Auburn Atheists & Agnostics

Auburn

http://www.facebook.com/groups/auburnatheistsandagnostics/

AL

Birmingham Atheists Meetup

Birmingham

http://www.meetup.com/atheists-132

AL

Marshall County Atheists & Agnostics

Marshall

http://www.themcaa.org

AL

Montgomery Area Freethought Association

Montgomery

http://www.montgomeryfreethought.org

AL

North Alabama Freethought Association

Huntsville

http://www.meetup.com/thenafa

AL

UA Alabama Atheists and Agnostics

Tuscaloosa

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2234029305

AL

UAH Non-Theists

Huntsville

http://www.facebook.com/uahnontheists

AL

West Alabama Freethought Association

Tuscaloosa

http://www.meetup.com/westalabamafreethought

AR

Arkansas Society of Freethinkers

Little Rock

http://www.ARFreethinkers.org

AR

ArkLaTex Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists

Texarkana

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128265161357

AR

Southwest Arkansas Atheist Community

Nashville

http://goo.gl/K2koj

AZ

Reason Riders

Glendale

http://goo.gl/K2koj

AZ

Tucson Atheists

Tucson

http://www.meetup.com/Tucson-Atheists/

CA-N

Atheist Advocates of San Francisco

San Francisco

http://atheistadvocatesofsanfrancisco.com/

CA-N

Atheists and Other Freethinkers

Sacramento

http://aofonline.org

CA-N

Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics

Fresno

http://www.cvaas.org

CA-N

Contra Costa Atheists & Freethinkers

Pleasant Hill

http://www.meetup.com/Contra-Costa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers/

CA-N

East Bay Atheists

Oakland

http://www.eastbayatheists.org

CA-N

San Francisco Atheists

San Francisco

http://www.sfatheists.com

CA-N

Santa Cruz Atheists

Santa Cruz

http://santacruzatheists.org

CA-N

Rosmoor Atheists

Walnut Creek

http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S

Atheist Coalition of San Diego

San Diego

http://www.atheistcoalition.org

CA-S

Humanist Fellowship of San Diego

San Diego

http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S

Atheist Society of Kern

Bakersfield

http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S

Backyard Skeptics

Villa Park

http://www.backyardskeptics.com

CA-S

Humanist Society of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

http://www.santabarbarahumanists.org

CA-S

New Atheists of East County

Jamul

http://www.meetup.com/New-Atheists-of-East-County/

CA-S

Orange County Atheists

Orange

http://www.ocatheists.com

CA-S

Riverside Atheists and Free Thinkers

Norco

http://goo.gl/K2koj

CO

Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver

Denver

http://athofden.tripod.com

CO

Boulder Atheists

Boulder

http://www.boulderatheists.org

AFFILIATES

40 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

CO

Metro State Atheists

Denver

http://metrostateatheists.wordpress.com

CO

Pikes Peak Atheists

Colorado Springs

http://goo.gl/K2koj

CO

Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers

Grand Junction

http://westerncoloradoatheists.org

CT

Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI

Norwich

http://atheisthumanist.org

CT

Connecticut Valley Atheists

South Windsor

http://www.cvatheists.org

DC

American University Rationalists and Atheists

Washington

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=34367344446

DC

Washington Area Secular Humanists

Washington

http://www.wash.org

FL

Central Florida Secular Alliance

Dunnellon

http://cfsecularalliance.weebly.com

FL

Florida Atheists, Critical Thinkers & Skeptics

Longwood/

http://www.meetup.com/Critical

FL

Gator Freethought (UF)

Gainesville

http://www.gatorfreethought.com/

FL

North Florida Atheists

Starke

http://www.meetup.com/north-Florida-atheists

FL

Ocala Atheists

Ocala

http://www.meetup.com/Ocala-Atheists/

FL

Rebirth of Reason

Orlando

http://rebirthofreason.com/Florida

FL

Sarasota-Manatee Atheists & Secular Humanists (SMASH)

Nokomis

http://goo.gl/K2koj

FL

Secular Student Association at Univ. of Central FL

Orlando

http://ssaucf.com

FL

Humanist Community of the Space Coast

Satellite Beach

http://goo.gl/K2koj

FL

St. Petersburg Atheists

St. Petersburg

http://www.meetup.com/atheists-209

FL

Tallahassee Atheists

Tallahassee

http://www.tallahasseeatheists.com/

FL

Treasure Coast Atheists

Stuart

http://www.meetup.com/atheists-600

FL

Williston Atheists

Morriston

http://goo.gl/K2koj

GA

Albany Georgia Atheists

Albany

http://www.albanygeorgiaatheists.com/

GA

Atlanta Freethought Society

Atlanta

http://www.atlantafreethought.org

GA

Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta

Atlanta

http://www.blacknonbelievers.org

GA

Fayette Freethought Society

Peachtree City

http://www.meetup.com/Fayette-Freethought-Society

GA

Atheists United, Kennesaw State Univ

Kennesaw

http://goo.gl/K2koj

GA

Kennesaw State U. Student Coalition for Inquiry

Kennesaw

http://www.facebook.com/ksusci

GA

Macon Atheists & Secular Humanists

Macon

http://www.meetup.com/georgiamash/

IA

Atheists United for a Rational America

Iowa City

http://rationalamerica.com

IA

Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers

Des Moines

http://www.meetup.com/Iowa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers

IL

Chicagoland Freethinkers

Chicago

http://www.meetup.com/chicago-freethought/

IL

The Chicago Freethought Project

Chicago

http://www.facebook.com/thechicagofreethoughtproject

IL

IL/WI Stateline Atheists Society

Rockford

http://www.meetup.com/statelineatheists

IL

IWU Atheist, Agnostics, and Non-Religious

Bloomington

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5558627959

IL

The Secular Segment

Mt. Vernon

http://www.secularsegment.com

KS

Secular Latino Alliance

Kansas City

http://goo.gl/K2koj

KS

U of K Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics

Lawrence

http://www.kusoma.org

KY

Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky

Lexington

http://www.facebook.com/groups/kyhumanists/

KY

Lexington Atheists

Lexington

http://www.meetup.com/The-Lexington-Atheists-Meetup-Group

KY

Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers

Louisville

http://www.louisvilleatheists.com/

KY

Tri-State Freethinkers (KY, IN, OH)

Union

http://www.meetup.com/Tri-State-Freethinkers/

LA

New Orleans Secular Humanist Association

New Orleans

http://nosha.org

MA

Atheists of Greater Lowell

Lowell

http://www.meetup.com/lowellatheists

MA

Boston Atheists

Boston

http://bostonatheists.org

MD

Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College

Westminster

<none>

2ND QUARTER 2016

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 41

AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS


MD

Secular Student Alliance, Frostburg State University

Frostburg

http://goo.gl/K2koj

MD

Maryland Freethinkers

Annapolis

http://www.mdfreethinkers.com

ME

Maine Atheists and Humanists

Waterville

http://goo.gl/K2koj

MI

Atheists @ Oakland University

Rochester

http://www.facebook.com/AtheistsAtOU

MI

Atheists, Skeptics, & Humanists Assn, N. Michigan U.

Marquette

http://goo.gl/K2koj

MI

Michigan Atheists

Detroit

http://michiganatheists.org

MI

Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists

Lansing

http://www.mmah.org

MN

Atheists for Human Rights

Minneapolis

http://atheistsforhumanrights.org

MN

Campus Atheists Skeptics & Humanists

Minneapolis

http://cashumn.org

MO

Black Freethinkers of Kansas City

Kansas City

http://www.meetup.com/Black-FreeThinkers-of-KC/

MO

Columbia Atheists

Columbia

http://www.meetup.com/The-Columbia-Atheists-Meetup-Group

MO

Joplin Freethinkers

Joplin

http://www.joplinfreethinkers.org

MO

Kansas City Atheist Coalition

Kansas City

http://www.kcatheists.org

MO

MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics

Columbia

http://muSASHA.org

MO

OFallon Freethinkers

OFallon

http://www.meetup.com/OFallon-Freethinkers

MO

Rationalist Society of St. Louis

St. Louis

http://www.rssl.org

MO

Secular Student Alliance @ UCMO

Warrensburg

http://www.centralskeptics.org

MO

Springfield Freethinkers

Springfield

http://www.meetup.com/SpringfieldFreethinkers

MO

Springfield Skeptics

Springfield

http://goo.gl/K2koj

MO

St. Joseph Skeptics

St. Joseph

http://stjosephskeptics.org

MO

We Are Atheism

Grandview

http://goo.gl/K2koj

MS

Humanist Ethical Atheist Rational Thought Society

Biloxi

http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/HeartsOfTheSouth

MS

Great Southern Humanist Society

Biloxi

http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/southernatheist

MS

Mississippi Humanist Association

Jackson

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NC

A-News

Raleigh

http://www.apartmentJ.com

NC

Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics

Charlotte

http://www.charlotteatheists.com

NC

Hickory Humanist Alliance

Claremont

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NC

MASH Ft. Bragg

Fayetteville

http://www.mashfortbragg.org

NC

WNC Humanists

Fairview

http://www.wnchumanists.org

ND

Red River Freethinkers

Fargo

http://redriverfreethinkers.org

NE

Lincoln Atheists

Lincoln

http://www.lincolnatheists.org

NE

Omaha Atheists

Omaha

http://omahaatheists.org/

NJ

Camden County Humanists

Blackwood

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NJ

New Jersey Humanist Network

Somerville

http://njhn.org/

NJ

Secular Student Alliance @ Montclair State Univ.

Montclair

http://secularstudents.org/montclair

NJ

South Jersey Humanists

Oceanville

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NJ

William Paterson Univ. Secular Student Alliance

Pompton Lakes

https://www.facebook.com/SSA.WPUNJ

NM

Roswatheists

Roswell

http://www.meetup.com/Roswatheists

NM

Atheist Community of Santa Fe

Santa Fe

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NV

Reno Freethinkers

Reno

http://www.RenoFreethinkers.org

NY

Freethinkers of Upstate New York

Syracuse

http://www.funygroup.org

NY

Hudson Valley Humanists

Saugerties

http://hudsonvalley.humanists.net

NY

Long Island Atheist Meetup

Lynbrook

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NY

New York City Atheists

New York

http://nyc-atheists.org

42 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

NY

Ward Melville High School Secular Student Alliance

East Setauket

http://goo.gl/K2koj

NY

Westchester Atheists

Chappaqua

http://www.meetup.com/atheists-504

OH

Free Inquiry Group

Cincinnati

http://www.gofigger.org

OH

Freethought Dayton

Dayton

http://www.meetup.com/freethoughtdayton

OH

Humanist Community of Central Ohio

Columbus

http://www.hcco.org

OH

Mid-Ohio Atheists

Mansfield

http://midohioatheists.org

OK

Atheist Community of Tulsa

Tulsa

http://www.ACTOK.org

OK

Oklahoma Atheists

Oklahoma City

http://www.oklahomaatheists.com

PA

NEPA Freethought Society

Wilkes-Barre

http://www.nepafreethought.org

SC

Piedmont Humanists

Greenville

http://www.PiedmontHumanists.org

SC

Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry

Charleston

http://www.lowcountryhumanists.org

SC

Upstate Atheists

Boiling Springs

http://goo.gl/K2koj

TN

Memphis Atheists

Memphis

http://goo.gl/K2koj

TN

Memphis Freethought Alliance

Memphis

http://memphisfreethought.com

TN

Nashville Secular Life

Nashville

http://www.meetup.com/secularlife

TN

Rationalists of East Tennessee

Knoxville

http://www.rationalists.org

TX

Atheist Community of Austin

Austin

http://atheist-community.org

TX

Corpus Christi Atheists

Corpus Christi

http://www.meetup.com/CCAtheists

TX

Denton Atheists

Denton

http://www.meetup.com/The-Denton-Atheists-Meetup-Group

TX

El Paso Atheists

El Paso

http://www.elpasoatheists.com

TX

Freethinkers Association of Central Texas

San Antonio

http://FreethinkersACT.org

TX

Freethought Oasis of Amarillo

Amarillo

http://freethoughtoasis.org

TX

Golden Triangle Freethinkers

Beaumont

http://goldentrianglefreethinkers.org

TX

Houston Atheists

Houston

http://HoustonAtheists.org

TX

Kingwood Humble Atascocita Atheists

Atascocita

http://www.kha-atheists.org/

TX

Lubbock Atheists

Lubbock

http://www.meetup.com/atheists-496

TX

Secular Humanist Society of East Texas

Nacagdoches

http://goo.gl/K2koj

TX

UNT Freethought Alliance

Denton

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7647566521

TX

Wise Free Thinkers and Skeptics

Wise

http://www.meetup.com/Wise-Free-Thinkers-and-Skeptics

UT

Atheists of Utah

Salt Lake City

http://atheistsofutah.org

UT

Salt Lake Valley Atheists

Salt Lake City

http://nowscape.com/a

VA

Beltway Atheists

Leesburg

http://www.meetup.com/Beltway-Atheists-Inc

VA

NOVA Atheists

Leesburg

http://www.meetup.com/NOVA-Atheists

VT

Atheists of Rutland Vermont

Rutland

http://www.atheistsofrutlandvt.com/

WA

Seattle Atheists

Seattle

http://www.seattleatheists.org

WA

Tri-City Freethinkers

Pasco

http://www.tricityfreethinkers.org

WI

Southeast Wisconsin FreeThinkers

Milwaukee

http://swiftnow.org

WV

Kanawha Valley Atheists and Agnostics

Charleston

http://goo.gl/K2koj

WV

Mountain State Freethinkers

Martinsville

http://www.meetup.com/Mountain-State-Freethinkers

WV

Morgantown Atheists

Morgantown

http://www.morgantownatheists.com

US

Atheist Nexus

http://www.atheistnexus.org

US

Black Atheists of America

http://www.blackatheistsofamerica.org

US

Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers

http://www.militaryatheistsorg

Intl

Southeast Asia Freethought Association

Intl

Atestas de Puerto Rico

Intl

Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society

2ND QUARTER 2016

San Juan

http://goo.gl/K2koj
http://www.patas.co

www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 43

AIMS AND PURPOSES


A

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.

Definitions:

A
A

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.

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. Materialisms 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.

aterialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes,
unlimited.

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www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 45

Why I Am An Atheist
by James Luce

m one of those fortunate people who have never had any


faith or belief in a deity, even though my grandfather
was a Presbyterian missionary in China, and both
my parents were raised in solidly New England-style
Presbyterian households. By the time I came along during
World War II, my father was already questioning his Christian
beliefs (he left behind in his papers several decades of memos
and letters addressing his evolving cosmological beliefs). My
mother kept her spiritual beliefs to herself, perhaps because of
the biblical admonition that prayer should be solitary and not
out in the public eye.
My parents believed that freedom of thought was more
important than sectarian dogma. There were never any Biblereadings or mumblings of thanks to god before meals.
The first time I recall ever hearing anything specific about
the father, son, or holy ghost was at Sunday school sessions
held in a basement meeting room of the smallish Presbyterian
church in the then tiny rural town of Davis, California, circa
the summer of 1952. However, my lessons in Christian beliefs
always started before I arrived at classin the form of being
beaten up in the basement hallway by several burly Christian
youths who did not like the fact that I wore glasses, enjoyed
reading books, and did well in academics but not sports.
After several of these exciting Sunday mornings, I asked my
mother if, instead of going to Sunday school, I could read the
Bible at home. My excuse was that the lay preacher was not very
interesting (which was true). I did not report the beatings to her
because she would have complained to the teacher, and then
I would have been even more roughed up by my righteously
vengeful classmates as a consequence. My mother was already
giving me extra reading assignments to supplement my regular
school curriculum, so she readily agreed to my suggestion.
Thus it came about that at age seven I started reading the
Bible every Sunday morning. Wow! I soon learned why both
the Sunday school teacher and the minister only read from
carefully expurgated portions of the chronicles of gods cruel
and bloody shenanigans both on Earth and in heaven, amen.
The Books of Genesis and Exodus were filled with stories of
holy men and women who were beloved of god but who acted
as though they were in league with Satan. Then there were the

Photo by Anthony Harden

totally nonsensical stories such as the Earth being flooded up


to the very mountain topsand then the waters receding. I
remember wondering to myself, Where would the receded waters
have gone if the whole earth was covered?
Having promised my mother that Id read the whole thing,
I ploughed on through the repetitious killing fields of the Old
Testament and on into the mostly boring and equally repetitious
tales of Jesus and his followers. Much of the content was beyond
my understanding at the time, but enough was sufficiently clear
to inform me that both the Hebrew and Christian gods were
very nasty pieces of work indeedtreacherous, angry, and most
definitely not inclusive in their alleged love of humankind. (It
was not until several years later that I realized that these two
were supposed to be the same god.)
As far as understanding right from wrong, my parents were
much more consistent and helpful than anything Id read in the
Bible. I got punished only when Id seriously offended against a
clear set of unambiguous household rules. I was rewarded only
when I did something especially helpful or kind. I was allowed
to politely speak my mind and to ask questions without being
told to shut up/go away/dont bother me.
So that is the story of my Atheism. The story of why Ive
remained an Atheist over the last many decades is much
simpler. I continued reading books by the bountiful bushel
on many subjects, including physics, philosophy, psychology,
physiology, history, language, and comparative religion. As
Stephen Hawking says, It is not necessary to invoke God to
light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
More to the point: the existence of organized religion is a
festering carbuncle sitting squarely on the bridge of humanitys
nose, rendering many people blind to reality and incapable
of seeing the occasionally comicalbut more frequently
catastrophicconsequences of their collective faith in some
nebulous, petulant phantom.
James Luce, a retired trial attorney, is the author of Chasing
Davis - An Atheists Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science as
well as two future history action novels where Atheists occupy
the White House and most of Congress: The Mount of Megiddo
and Star-Spangled Triangle.

Why are you an Atheist? We are soliciting submissions that answer this question in 600 to 800 words. Send them to
PWhissel@Atheists.org. Essays may be subject to revision, and publication is at the sole discretion of the Editor-in-Chief.
46 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2016

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