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American Atheist

A JOURNAL OF ATHEIST NEWS AND THOUGHT

COURTING
DISASTER
Replacing Scalia is
just the beginning

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ATHEISTS.ORG FOURTH QUARTER 2016
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AMERICAN ATHEIST
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought
4th Quarter 2016
Vol. 54, No. 4
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)

When Kentucky’s Ark Encounter theme park opened this summer, activists from around the
country gathered to protest. Those who took a tour were horrified at what is billed as a family-
friendly tourist attraction. Left to right: Grover Helton, protest organizer Jim G. Helton, Kelly
Helton, Chrissy Helton, Aron Ra of Atheist Alliance International, and protest organizer Jen Scott.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Story on page 8, photo by Lilandra Ra
Pamela Whissel
PWhissel@Atheists.org
LAYOUT and GRAPHICS EDITOR
Rick Wingrove
In This Issue
RWingrove@Atheists.org
COPY EDITOR 4 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Karen Rei lly Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking | Pamela Whissel
PROOFREADERS
Gil Gaudia 5 Courting Disaster:Replacing Scalia is Just the
Shelley Gaudia Beginning | Amanda Knief
Den Jackson
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS 8 Oh, Noah He Didn’t! | Dan Arel
MANAGING EDITOR
Frank R. Zindler
Editor@Atheists.org 14 DOGMA WATCH
It’s an Old World After All | Michael Paulkovich
Published by
American Atheists, Inc.
Mailing Address: 16 Biblical Creationism is Indefensible | Brian Bolton
P.O. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Phone: 908.276.7300
20 Is the Universe a Bad Joke? God Forbid! | David Madison
FAX: 908.276.7402
www.Atheists.org 22 THE REAL STORY FROM AN EX-MORMON MISSIONARY
Lesson 5: Laws and Ordinances | Greg Hawkins
©2016 American Atheists Inc.
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4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking
A constant source of fascination for many Atheists is a comprehensive source that can make sense of it all for us.
the way that some highly educated, intelligent people seem That’s what people turn to clergy for.
to put their critical thinking skills aside when it comes to Another mistake is to forget that most news outlets are

T
accommodating religious beliefs. An extreme example businesses, and the people there are hired to take care of the
showed up in presidential candidate Ben Carson, a pediatric company’s bottom line by bringing in viewers and readers
neurosurgeon who somehow managed to have a stellar career without resorting to slander or libel. I personally know many
in medicine without abandoning his deeply held creationist journalists who want to say and do more, but they’re restricted
beliefs that include a total denial of evolution and climate by their employers’ business model.
change. We can blame the “general public” (whatever that means)
In his essay “Brain Surgeon—or Brain Addled?” for for wanting less news and more entertainment, but the reality
eSkeptic.com, Donald Prothero, author of Reality Check: How is this: Relying on mainstream news for your worldview is
Science Deniers Threaten Our Future, explains how the brain’s like relying on your pets to get the oil changed. It will never
tremendous ability to compartmentalize enables someone happen, because you’re asking them for something they’re not
like Carson to accommodate the acute cognitive dissonance equipped to deliver, and you’ve only got yourself to blame if
inherent in a thought process that accommodates both a you keep waiting for them to get with the program.
career in medicine and the faith of a creationist. There’s also no point in dwelling on what the news outlets
Religion isn’t always the reason for compartmentalizing, should be doing, because they already are, which is whatever
however. The new book Denying to the Grave explores the it takes to stay af loat. They still need revenue, even though
psychology of health science denial. When they discuss hardly anyone pays for online news, network news is free, and
vaccinations, the authors point out that not all anti-vaxxers cable subscriptions don’t charge a premium for domestic news
oppose inoculations for religious reasons, and it’s not for lack channels. So let’s take that for what it is and focus instead on
of intelligence, either. It’s a complex aggregate of, among other the astounding resource that is the internet.
things, confirmation bias, causality, and our susceptibility to Anyone with a computer and a connection can, with next
favoring charismatic sources of information. to no effort, access primary sources of information an ocean
Even Atheists who pride themselves on their sharp away in seconds. We can also access conspiracy theories
skepticism aren’t immune. If they were, then every Atheist in and hoaxes more easily than ever, but those provide great
America would vote the same way, and they certainly don’t. opportunities to show off our critical thinking skills.
While there are some who choose candidates on personality Figuring out the web address to a primary source may
or idealism alone, I know of far more who honestly want to take longer than watching a half-hour newscast, and it may
be well-informed but don’t know how to sort through the not be possible to multi-task while doing so, but some things
overwhelming barrage of information that pours out from are worth our time and effort. Let’s remember that a lot of
news sources. Americans find time each weekend to drop everything and
Their solution ends up being just like their approach to worship their deities no matter what else is going on. Atheists
the Bible, where so much gets lost in translation that there’s believe they’ve got better things to do with their time. True
no reason to believe a word of it. But that’s no reason to give critical thinkers will ask themselves if they’re actually doing
up trying to understand our world just because there isn’t them.

Pamela Whissel
Editor-in-Chief
PWhissel@Atheists.org

4 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
C ourting Disaster
Replacing Scalia is Just the Beginning
by Amanda Knief
National Legal and Public Policy Director of American Atheists

T he future for civil liberties looks bleak. As president,
Donald Trump is poised to do real and lasting damage
to the wall of separation between religion and government.
This is most evident in the fact that he will be appointing a
justice to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia,
who died last February. President Obama has been unable to
fill the vacancy because the Republican-controlled Senate
has, very simply, refused to hold hearings on his nominee. So
it’s most likely that at least one Trump nominee will become a
Supreme Court justice. Given that three of the current justices
are age seventy-eight or older, it’s almost inevitable that one
or even two additional Trump nominees will ascend to the
day lives of Americans. Just as is the case for Supreme Court
justices, the president is responsible for nominating judges
to these posts, and the U.S. Senate must confirm them. The
decisions of these courts are final for more than 98% of those
who file a lawsuit in the federal court system.
Currently, there are positions for about 179 appellate court
judges and 678 district court judges. As of November 2016,
there were ninety-four vacancies on the district and appellate
courts. With a Republican president-elect, there is no reason
to expect that Obama will be able to get any additional judicial
appointees from the Republican-controlled Senate before he
leaves office.
highest court in the nation. This means that Trump will start off with at least ninety-
The Trump Administration’s ability to shape the Supreme four federal court vacancies to fill (this doesn’t include
Court for decades cannot be overstated. However, each year vacancies in the bankruptcy, immigration, trade, or other
the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for about eighty federal courts). That is ninety-four out of a possible 857
cases out of more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review—that’s judgeships—or almost eleven percent of all the federal district
just over one percent. and appellate court positions—for the new president to fill on
This means that the appointment of judges to the lower his first day in office.
federal district courts and the thirteen courts of appeal are To get a sense of what kind of judges Trump would
just as important—maybe more important—to the day-to- select, we can look to his list of twenty possible Supreme

Trump is poised to do real and lasting
damage to the wall of separation.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 5
The effect will be seen in the gradual erosion
of civil liberties, decision by decision.
Court justices, which he put together with assistance from will be seen in the gradual erosion of civil liberties, decision
the Heritage Foundation, which bills itself as “the most by decision.
inf luential conservative group in America,” and the Federalist We are at a crossroads. Our choice is either to give up the
Society, a non-profit organization devoted to reordering independent judicial branch of our government or to fight
priorities within the legal system to emphasize an originalist to save it. The former is unconscionable and the latter may
interpretation of the Constitution. very well be unsuccessful. But we must try, and that involves
Most of the judges on Trump’s list would decide cases with a ground game like we’ve never had before. That starts with
an originalist view of the Constitution, which means that understanding the nomination process so that we’re fully
they would apply only the original intent of the Constitution’s prepared to fight against a nominee who has a history of
Framers to today’s legal issues. The opposite approach, that being hostile to civil liberties or who shares the late Justice
the Constitution is a “living document,” acknowledges the Scalia’s opinion that the government may favor religion over
world is different today in ways that the Framers couldn’t have non-religion.
possibly envisioned and, therefore, there’s room to interpret All nominees go through the Senate Judiciary Committee
the Constitution with approaches that didn’t even exist in the for review and a vote. At this stage, if the nominee has a
eighteenth century. The living document approach has given history of being hostile to civil liberties or has been favorable
us Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges (marriage equality); to religion playing a role in government, we must contact all
a Supreme Court with an originalist majority could overturn of the committee members and let them know we oppose
these and other civil liberty-based decisions. the nominee. If enough committee members decide not to
The problem, sadly, does not end there. Obama appointed approve the nominee, the nomination ends there.
323 federal district and appeals court judges in just under Otherwise, the committee chair will send what are called
eight years. (This is 38% of all the possible judgeships.) In “blue slips” to both senators from the state in which the judge
almost the same amount of time, George W. Bush appointed would sit. The blue slip is a request for a senator’s opinion of
the same total number of district and appeals court judges a nominee. Senators may either send back a blue slip with a
(another 38% of all the possible judgeships). In his four years favorable or unfavorable view of the nominee, or they may
as president, George H.W. Bush appointed 190 to the same withhold returning the blue slip at all (which indicates disfavor
positions (22% of all possible judgeships). with the nominee). Without positive blue slips from the home
Assuming that Trump gets half of the appointments in state senators, a judicial nominee can be held up indefinitely
four years that Obama and George W. Bush did in eight from getting a vote in the committee.
(162), and the Senate approves his choices, then, together It’s at this stage that senators need to hear from their
with the ninety-four vacancies still outstanding from the constituents. It’s rare for constituents to contact their senators
Obama Administration, Trump could fill thirty percent of when a federal judicial nominee is considered, so calls and
all the federal district and appeals court positions. If he wins emails asking that the senator either provide an unfavorable
re-election in 2020, the percentage could be as high as fifty view or not return the blue slip at all will definitely get noticed.
percent. If the blue slips are returned with favorable views of
This is why the future of civil liberties looks so bleak. For the nominee, then the Judiciary Committee votes on the
decades, when our government has overreached, we have nomination. With a majority vote, the nomination will move to
turned to our independent judiciary to check the power of the whole Senate, where the Senate majority leader schedules
government agencies and officials and protect the rights a Senate-wide debate on the nomination. Once debate begins,
of minority groups. If we want to challenge the federal it continues until any senator asks for unanimous consent to
government’s new policies, laws, or regulations, we have end the debate (and go to a vote on the nominee). Here is our
to do so in federal court. For many civil rights violations in third opportunity to call, email, and visit every senator that is
individual states, we are able to move the cases to federal court friendly to our position and ask them to “block” or “hold” the
where traditionally the judges are less hostile to minorities. nomination by refusing to agree to unanimous consent. This
But that may change. means that debate will continue and no vote will be taken on
We may not see the effect immediately—or even while the nominee.
Trump is still in office (if he gets only four years). The effect But it will likely not end there. In order to override a hold

Our choice is either to give up the
independent judicial branch of our
government or to fight to save it.
6 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Most of the judges on Trump’s list would decide
cases with an originalist view of the Constitution.
on a judicial nominee, a “motion for cloture” must be made secular organizations, and other non-profits dedicated to
to end debate and to vote. For judicial nominees, a cloture civil liberties.
vote needs fifty-one votes to pass. In 2017, the Senate will But without your participation, it will not make a
have fifty-one Republicans, forty-six Democrats, and two difference. We must be heard. We must push back the tide on
Independents (who vote with the Democrats). (The Louisiana religious intolerance and bigotry in public policy. The judicial
senate race will be decided on December 10, and that will branch of the U.S. government is in real danger. What we do in
shift the numbers.) If the cloture vote passes, then a simple the next four years will determine whether we’ll be able to rely
majority is needed to confirm the nominee. If there are not on the federal courts to uphold church/state separation for the
fifty-one votes for cloture, then the motion fails and debate next twenty years or more.
continues. This is known as a “filibuster.”

For Supreme Court nominees, the cloture vote must be Endnotes
sixty or higher to pass. This is the final way to stop a particular 1. “How many cases are appealed to the Court each year and
judicial nominee. Calling, emailing, and visiting the offices of how many cases does the Court hear?” Supreme Court of
your senators could prevent the Senate from passing a cloture the United States; https://www.supremecourt.gov/faq.
vote—and maybe also prevent a confirmation. aspx
This will not be an easy fight, but we have to do it anyway.
American Atheists and the American Atheists Legal Center 2. “How many federal judges are there?” Federal Judicial
will keep you fully informed and give you the tools to make Center; http://www.fjc.gov/federal/courts.nsf/autofra
as much noise as possible. We will monitor the nominations me?openagent&nav=menu1&page=/federal/courts.nsf/
and send alerts when we need your voices and emails. We can page/305
make every unfavorable judicial nomination a difficult and
uncomfortable process for every elected official involved. 3. “Judicial Vacancies”; U.S Courts; http://www.uscourts.
We will be collaborating with judicial watchdog groups, gov/judges-judgeships/judicial-vacancies

We have turned to our independent judiciary
to check the power of government agencies and
officials and protect the rights of minority groups.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 7
Oh, Noah He Didn’t!
How one group’s activism in the midwest created giant media exposure and continuous ripple effects
by Dan Arel

A s we approached the Williamstown exit from
Interstate 75 in Kentucky, my driver, Tony Arnold,
a member of the Tri-State Freethinkers (TSF), pointed out the
signs that warned of heavy traffic.
“They’ve been preparing for the crowds for a while,” he
remarked as we exited. Traffic was expected to be backed up
for miles because it was opening day for Ark Encounter, the
$100 million life-size replica of Noah’s ark built by Answers in
rabbits, turtles. That’s genocide. And after the flood, how is the
world repopulated? Incest—it’s only Noah’s family on the ark.
When we were deciding on a message for the billboard, some of
our group didn’t want to use the word ‘genocide’ because they
thought it was too harsh. So I said, okay, give me a better word.
And no one could, because it is textbook genocide.”

Billboard? What billboard?
Genesis, the organization that runs the Creation Museum in It turns out that this protest evolved from a thwarted
Petersburg, Kentucky, about forty miles away. billboard venture that originally had nothing to do with Ark
I wasn’t paying attention, though, because my eyes were Encounter. “Last year we decided to put up a billboard with the
glued to a giant canvas banner that read: GENOCIDE AND goal of growing our organization,” said Helton. “We were aware
INCEST PARK. You couldn’t miss it if you were on that of the amount of media attention American Atheists gets with
exit, which takes you to State Route 36, the only road to Ark their provocative billboards. In fact, our playbook was President
Encounter. David Silverman’s section on billboards in his book, Fighting
I had flown to Kentucky from my home in San Diego to join God. If we put up a warm, fuzzy billboard that says something
TSF in their protest of Kentucky’s newest tourist attraction. like ‘Atheists love puppies, too,’ then the billboard is seen by the
Joining us were American Atheists president David Silverman,
the Secular Coalition for America’s executive director Larry
Decker, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president
Dan Barker, and Aron Ra, who has since become president
of Atheist Alliance of America. We had all made the journey
after each of us, in our own way, had been fighting the state’s
approval of a sales tax rebate to Ark Encounter, which practices
heavy discrimination in their hiring. But for the Tri-State
Freethinkers, it was about a lot more than that.
“We did this for several reasons,” explained Jim G. Helton,
TSF’s charismatic and determined president. “While we will
defend their right to build this park if they use their own money,
we find it a highly immoral theme for family fun day.”
Hence, the GENOCIDE AND INCEST PARK banner.
“Think about it,” Helton continued, “In the story of Noah’s Jim G. Helton speaking to the press at the Ark Encounter demonstration
Ark, god kills everyone and everything: women, children, bunny

Some thought the word “genocide” was too harsh. So I
said, okay, give me a better word. And no one could.
8 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
We became news by simply announcing
our plans for a billboard.
Highway organization in charge of picking up litter along State
Route 20 just off Interstate 275, which thousands of cars drive
on every year to get to the Creation Museum. Ken Ham, the
museum’s director, has even blogged about it on the Answers in
Genesis website (Tinyurl.com/CreationCleanup).
Ham has also blogged about me several times. One post was in
reaction to an article I wrote for American Atheist (Tinyurl.com/
KenOnDan). In fact, it seems like no one who speaks out about
the absurdity of creationism escapes Ham’s indignant prose.
Carlos Ramirez, an engineering student at Columbia
University, grew up a few miles from the Creation Museum.
About a month before Ark Encounter opened, he wrote an
Spectators and reporters surround Dave Silverman and Eric Hovind eloquent op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer asking just how far
is too far when it comes to religious tolerance: “When state taxes
are paying for an institution that preaches false information
people who drive by it. But if we put up a provocative billboard, threatening our understanding of the natural world, it is
it gets media attention, and we get lots of free publicity. necessary to decide the extent of our toleration” (“Ark Makes
“It was also our goal to get the attention of firebrand U.S. Look Ignorant,” June 1, 2016, Enquirer.com).
activists,” Helton continued. “We needed more people like them Ham immediately retaliated in a blog post, calling Ramirez
so that our members who aren’t inclined to be outspoken could one of “an increasing number of intolerant secularists who
focus on our community outreach activities,” said Helton. In oppose the religious freedoms we have all enjoyed in this
addition to activism, TSF members also volunteer several times nation…Actually, his thinking is typical of the millennial
a month at places like food pantries, homeless shelters, clothing generation that has been brainwashed in evolutionary thinking”
drives, and phone banks. (Tinyurl.com/KenOnCarlos). Sublimely undeterred, Ramirez
For the billboard, Helton wanted a message about equal rights. proudly participated in our protest.
“I pitched the slogan ‘The main obstacle to equality is religion’ to I, too, have written about Ark Encounter on my blog,
our board of directors,” he said. “A third of of the board thought it Danthroplogy.net, and in this magazine. In 2014, I posted a
was too provocative, another third thought the message didn’t go story after I noticed that the Answers in Genesis website had
far enough, and the other third thought it was just right. Because we posted a job opening at Ark Encounter. Applicants for this
were so divided, we decided to test-drive the message on a banner computer design position were required to sign a Statement of
that we carried in Cincinnati’s 2015 Gay Pride Parade.” Faith, a list of twenty-nine statements that the applicant must

A New Message
The banner got lots of applause and even a thumbs-up from
two priests at the parade, but the message had suddenly lost
its edge. The date was June 27, just one day after the Supreme
Court of the United States ruled in favor of marriage equality.
Therefore, a billboard with that particular message would no
longer have the impact they were shooting for.
“It was a great problem to have,” said Helton. “With marriage
equality finally being the law of the land, I couldn’t have been
happier to be sent back to the drawing board.”
That’s when a TSF member suggested their billboard be
about Ark Encounter. After all, the group has a history with No billboard? No problem!
Answers in Genesis. Since 2013, they have been the Adopt-a-

Sublimely undeterred, Ramirez proudly
participated in our protest.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 9
Every obstacle we encountered brought
with it more media exposure.
sincerely agree with in order to be considered for the job. miles to a remote town in Kentucky to protest a giant landlocked
For example, applicants must believe that the Earth is six boat that TSF had christened the “Genocide and Incest Park,”
thousand years old, that the world was created in six consecutive which was the new billboard slogan the group had chosen after
twenty-four-hour days, that the great flood of Genesis was an shifting their focus to Ark Encounter.
actual historic event, that the Bible is divinely inspired and “We knew we were going to turn some people off with
inerrant throughout, that the Bible is the ultimate authority for that slogan, but our goal, after all, was to get media attention
the fields of history and science, and that pre-marital sex and in order to grow our organization,” explained Jen Scott, a TSF
homosexuality are immoral (AnswersInGenesis.org/about/ board member and co-coordinator of the protest. “We launched
faith). a fundraising campaign for the billboard on Indiegogo.com,
and in the following month, we had our largest increase in
Public Money Funds Religion membership.”
On the surface, this appeared to be nothing new because They also raised nine thousand dollars in the first three
employees of the Creation Museum are required to sign this days. “We looked outside the organization for funding so that
document. But unlike the Creation Museum, Ark Encounter had we could continue to put our own money toward providing and
submitted an application to the Kentucky Department of Tourism preparing food at two local homeless shelters,” Scott said.
for a sales-tax rebate under a program designed to increase tourism Not only did most of the money from the billboard campaign
and create jobs in Kentucky. Among the many requirements to come from outside the organization, it also came from all over
qualify for the program was the guarantee that Ark Encounter the world. And so did the media attention, which was, after all,
would not discriminate in hiring based on religion. their primary goal. But the amount of coverage they received
This job posting was took them by surprise.
not AiG’s only blatant “We hadn’t even
violation of the terms done anything yet,”
of the program, and in Helton recalled. “We
December 2014, the became news by simply
department withdrew announcing our plans for
its preliminary approval. a billboard. The Christian
In February 2015, Ark Times picked us up,
Encounter sued the the Huffington Post,
Commonwealth of Inquisitor, Glen Beck’s
Kentucky for religious The Blaze—and Ken
discrimination. Yes, Ham’s blog, of course.
you read that correctly. Members of Tri-State Freethinkers The one that made me the
They claimed they were most proud was the story
suffering discrimination on the British news site
by not being allowed to discriminate (Tinyurl.com/ LGBTQ Nation because this project grew out of our original
ArkComplaint). idea to target religion as the biggest obstacle to equality.”
In November 2015, Republican Matt Bevin was elected The downside to all of this publicity was that their billboard
governor to succeed Democrat Steve Beshear, who had reached company, Lamar Advertising, dropped them. And without
his term limit. When the court ruled in favor of Ark Encounter Lamar, there’d be no billboard. So they went to Plan B, which
in January 2016 (Tinyurl.com/ArkRuling), the Bevin was to go mobile and hire a billboard truck. They had enough
Administration’s new attorney general decided not to appeal money for their sign to be driven up and down the roads around
the decision. Ark Encounter all summer. But the driver who was willing to do
I’ve documented all of this on my blog over the years. That’s business with them eventually backed out because he feared for
why I was introduced to reporters as “Dan Arel, Ken Ham his personal safety.
hunter extraordinaire.” A new title for me, but I liked it. I spent That’s when the United Coalition of Reason got involved.
a few minutes talking about why I would fly over two thousand They approached Helton and offered to help publicize the fact

Helping to pay off the loan is a two-percent payroll tax imposed
on the paychecks of everyone who works in the county.
10 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
“He asked if we were the group that was protesting Ark
Encounter,” said Scott. “When we said yes, he said he wouldn’t
deliver to us because his company’s name is on the units, and
he didn’t want to be associated with us. We offered to cover up
the sign, but he balked with the excuse that the locals driving
by would still recognize the unit as his, and he couldn’t risk a
county-wide boycott of his services.
“When we told him that we had assured the local police we’d
have everything necessary to accommodate the hundred people
we were expecting, he told us that the port-a-potty outside the
gas station across the street was his and that we could use that.”
The only problem was that the gas station was a quarter mile
away and across a four-lane highway. Then a quick-thinking
organizer turned his car into an all-day bathroom shuttle.
that TSF by this point had over ten thousand dollars that no
one would take. This second round of publicity included ABC Protest Day
News, CBS News, the Washington Times, and the Daily Mail. By 10:00 a.m., the official start time, one hundred protesters
“Every obstacle we encountered brought with it more media were holding up signs that said, “A taxpayer-funded flood of
exposure,” said Helton. Then it occurred to them that they lies & hate” and “A taxpayer-funded flood of ignorance - what
could put the sign up themselves. The group had been kicking a disaster!” They chanted, “Gays, Atheists, Catholics, Jews,
around the idea of staging a protest on Ark Encounter’s opening you’re not welcome on this cruise!” But there were hardly any
day, but were hesitant to make it happen because there were no cars exiting the highway. There was a steady trickle of vehicles
sidewalks along the highway in front of the park. all day, most of them freight trucks, but it was never more than
The land across the street was out also of the question a trickle. The highly-anticipated traffic backlog of mini-vans
because it’s owned by Ark Encounter. If they were going to be
seen by the people visiting Ark Encounter on opening day, their
only option was to assemble on the patch of land between the
exit ramp and the interstate—a logistical nightmare.
“But after getting all that exposure without even doing
anything yet, we knew we would be turning down another great
opportunity for publicity if we didn’t protest,” said Helton.
So they got to work with a checklist: tables, signs, water
bottles, first aid kits, and a million other things. When it came
time to find a company to deliver a port-a-potty to the site, they
learned that Answers in Genesis isn’t the only company that
discriminates against the non-religious in Kentucky.

Port-a-Potty Problems
“We called a local company first,” recalled Scott. “When
they asked for our address, we obviously couldn’t give them one.
They were understandably curious about what we’d be doing
next to an exit ramp all day, and when we told them we’d be
protesting Ark Encounter, they put us on hold. When they came and church buses never happened. Here it was, opening day of
back, they apologized and said they didn’t have any availability a tourist attraction that was going to bring 1.6 million visitors
that day after all.” a year to the region according to Answers in Genesis, and the
The second company was headquartered outside Kentucky, only Interstate exit to Ark Encounter never had more than a few
so the location meant nothing to them. But on the morning of cars at any given time.
the protest, they got a call from the company’s local contractor. One person who did come to town to visit Ark Encounter also
showed up at our protest. Eric Hovind is the founder of Creation
Today, which, according to their website, is an “apologetics
ministry in the war against evolution and humanism.” His
group pitched some signs of their own in the ground that said,
“DO YOU PROTEST ZEUS,” “DO YOU PROTEST STAR
TREK,” “DO YOU PROTEST SPIDERMAN,” and even “WE
CAN HELP YOU.” My only response was that if Spiderman
was discriminating against people, I sure would. Besides, listing
a bunch of fictional characters isn’t the best way to prove your
god exists.
Tri-State Freethinkers board member Jen Scott They were also there to engage us in debate and convince
us that our position is wrong, thereby saving our souls. Hovind

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 11
didn’t win any converts, but he did get an earful from Aron Ra,
David Silverman, and me, and I again found myself happily in
front of numerous cameras and microphones discussing the tax
rebates, discrimination, and poisoning children’s minds with
creationist nonsense.
As the late afternoon approached, the reporters began to pack
up and it became clear our work was done in Williamstown and
it was time to rest up before the second part of the event, TSF’s
Rally for Reason and Science at the University of Cincinnati,
which was broadcast live on Dogma Debate (DogmaDebate.
com, Episode #247, “Live from the Ark Protest”). When I got
back to my hotel room, I sat down to blog about Aron’s debate Dave Silverman confronts creationist Eric Hovind’s provocations
with Hovind and watch the local news broadcasts. As I jumped
between stations, my hunch was confirmed. Our activism
changed the story. Every news report of Ark Encounter’s is not going to stop every difficulty, but He will give you the
opening day included our protest. strength, the power, the grace to go through it.” A letter written
to that district received a prompt reply and an explanation that
The Ripple Effect the post was “inadvertently and mistakenly retweeted” from
Answers in Genesis is now looking toward phase two of the the superintendent’s personal account.
Ark Encounter master plan, which includes an 800-seat theater. In Hardin County, the calendar of events at Woodland
They eventually want to construct a building to resemble the Elementary School included an event called Bless the Children
Tower of Babel, another myth from the Book of Genesis. Helton Day, even though it wasn’t a school-sponsored event. A local
hasn’t ruled out a protest if that structure is built. church had rented school space after hours for this event. But
But there’s plenty of activism for the meantime. Since the hanging posters in the school hallways and putting the event
Ark Encounter protest, a significantly higher number of people on the official school calendar were both clear violations of
in the region are now aware of the group that isn’t afraid to church/state separation, and although the church was allowed
speak out against violations of church/state separation. Many to hold their event at the school, the posters and calendar item
of these people are parents of kids in public schools. came down immediately after TSF sent their letter.
“We’ve been approached through Facebook several times,” The next couple of years will be crucial for Ark Encounter.
said Torey Lacey, the group’s vice president. “Parents contact They won’t see a penny of the sales tax rebate if they don’t make
us with evidence of religious communications or events in their attendance goals. At this writing, Ark Encounter has
their kids’ public school, and they ask us to help because they’re claimed that attendance has reached 400,000, but they haven’t
afraid that if they speak up—even though they have every right made their actual receipts public to back that figure up. The city
to—their kids may experience some retaliation at school.” of Williamstown hasn’t seen any additional hotels or restaurants
come to town yet, and there have been no announcements of
plans to build any.
Another source of government money for Ark Encounter
is an interest-free loan of $62 million that was funded by the
sale of junk bonds. Over the next thirty years, seventy-five
percent of Ark Encounter’s property taxes will be diverted
from government coffers and instead go toward paying off the
loan. Also helping to pay off the loan is a two-percent payroll
tax which has been imposed on the paychecks of everyone who
works in the county.
But TSF continues to enjoy free publicity. Every time a news
story reports about Ark Encounter, it always mentions TSF’s
protest and usually includes an online link to the opening day
stories, which, in turn, often link back to the original billboard
Aron Ra of Atheist Alliance International debates a creationist story.
Helton hasn’t ruled out a billboard in the future, but even
if one never materializes, the group’s name will still be seen by
For example, when a parent from Connor Middle School everyone headed toward Ark Encounter. Along State Route
in Hebron, Kentucky, showed them an announcement for a 36, in both directions, just before the entrance to the park is
weekly Christian Breakfast Club, TSF wrote a letter to the an Adopt-A-Highway sign. What is the name of the group that
principal and superintendent reminding them of their duty to volunteers four times a year to clean up the litter along the side
remain neutral in regard to religion. The next day, the club was of the road leading to Ark Encounter? Tri-State Freethinkers.
cancelled.
Another parent, from Kentucky’s Boone County School Dan Arel blogs on Danthropology.net. His new book, The Secular
District, alerted TSF about the district’s Twitter account Activist, includes a foreword by American Atheists President David
posting a quote from televangelist Joel Osteen that said, “God Silverman.

12 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
I Toured the Ark
with Bill Nye and Ken Ham
by Jim G. Helton

No wait for tickets on opening day

Bill Nye with Ken Ham at Ark Encounter
Photo courtesy of Bill Nye Film

I met Bill Nye last June on the night before the Reason Rally in Washington,
D.C., at the VIP dinner fundraiser. Unlike Bill, I was not there as a VIP. I
was there to give talk about my activism, how I had never been to an Atheist
event before attending the first Reason Rally four years earlier, and how I was
so blown away by the experience that when I got back home to Kentucky, I
immediately started the Tri-State Freethinkers (TSF) with my wife, Chrissy.
Soon after, I became American Atheists’ Regional Director for Kentucky.
Part of my talk at the dinner was about the upcoming protest TSF had planned
for the opening day of Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, not far from its
sister organization, the Creation Museum, which was the site of the 2014 debate
on creationism between Bill Nye and Creation Museum Director Ken Ham.
Ark Encounter wasn’t crowded on opening day
After my speech, Bill approached me to let me know that he was going to
be in town the day
after our protest to
go on a tour guided
personally by Ken. The
crew of the upcoming
documentary The Bill
Nye Film was going to
be there as well, and he
put me in touch with
them so that my family
and I could be there to
observe what turned Grover and Kelly Helton with Bill Nye
Eric Hovind (right) exasperates Dogma Debate’s David Smalley out to be a second
debate.
On the day of the tour, Bill was courteous but not at all friendly with Ken. At
one point, Ken asked if they could be friends. Bill simply replied, “I don’t think
so.” Ken said a few more words that I couldn’t hear, to which Bill replied, “If you
were drowning in the ocean, I would probably save you, but that’s as far as I’m
willing to go.”
I also overheard some of Bill’s questions to Ken. He asked why the dinosaurs
needed to be in cages if they were all vegetarians and why the ark included a Jesus
exhibit if this was supposed to be an authentic replica from the Old Testament.
At the end of the tour, my thrilled kids were able to meet Bill, who took a few
minutes to teach them how to take a proper selfie. It was a great finish to a great
couple of days of activism. I knew that TSF had hit out of the ballpark with our
Dan Arel (left) with protest, but the ultimate compliment came from Bill Nye himself. After the last
Columbia University photo was taken, he turned to me and said, “I’m surprised they let you in.”
student Carlos Ramirez
For more about the documentary, go to BillNyeFilm.com.

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 13
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.

It’s an Old World After All
Creationists Need More Than the Bible to Sustain Their Myths
by Michael Paulkovich

Y oung-Earth creationism is the claim that the entire universe
is only about 6,000 years old. It’s a staple of fundamentalist
Christianity, which requires a belief that every word of
the Bible is literally true—even the part about god creating
the world in six days. The Old Testament only provides
implications as to how long ago this took place, and 6,000
years is a fair approximation if you were to accept the tales
of ancient Hebrews. But if a definitive answer can’t be had by
citing chapter and verse, as creationists are wont to do, then
Bible studies, Ussher somehow missed the sacrosanct teachings
of Titus 3:9, to avoid genealogies because they are “unprofitable
and vain.”
According to Ussher, god created the universe “the evening
before October 23, 4004 B.C.” (In reality, Paleolithic humans
had been weaving textiles for some twenty thousand years by
this point.) The following is a synopsis of important mythical
events that Ussher tagged with dates:
3074 B.C. - Adam dies at age 130.
where do they get their certainty about 6,000 years? 2948 B.C. - Noah is born.
Well, it turns out that even creationists can’t live by the Bible 2349 B.C. - God orders Noah to enter the ark he had just
alone. Sometimes they have to turn to other obsolete scholarship, finished.
like James Ussher’s Annals of the World, first published in 1648, 2348 B.C. - The surface of the Earth is dry on Friday,
and currently in print thanks to Master Books, a creationist October 23.
publishing house that bills itself as the curriculum source for 1491 B.C. - God appears to Moses as a burning bush. That
god-fearing homeschoolers. same year the Egyptians are vexed with ten plagues when
A Protestant bishop of the seventeenth century, James Pharoah refuses to release the Hebrews from slavery.
Ussher wasn’t the first scholar to attempt to assign specific 1451 B.C. - Moses dies, age 120. God himself moves the
calendar dates to biblical events, but his compendium has body to Moab. The archangel Michael disputes with the devil
been the most widely accepted by today’s creationists, who over Moses’ body. Ussher claims “the Devil wanted to expose
hold the ancient writings of pious men in higher regard than the body that it might become an object of idolatry to the
actual history and science. Ussher started with Adam and people of Israel... though there is no evidence the Jews ever gave
Eve, of course, and moved forward through mythical family themselves to the worshipping of relics.”
tree branches, painstakingly following Bible genealogies and 1155 B.C. - Samson is born. He has magical hair.
ignoring the contradictions along the way. In his extensive 1117 B.C. - Delilah gives Samson a trim. Samson is

His compendium has been the most widely accepted by those who hold the
ancient writings of pious men in higher regard than actual history and science.
14 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Using the Bible to calculate the date of “creation” is like using
Dr. Seuss books to compute the age of the Cat in the Hat.
imprisoned, grows his hair back, exacts violent revenge, and Other Chronologies
accidentally kills himself in the process. ...and those who have attempted to use the Bible to compute
588 B.C. - “Wednesday, July 27” to be exact, “the famine the year of the creation came up with anything from 5,800 years
became quite severe in Jerusalem” and Nebuchadnezzar ago according to German linguist Andreas Helwig (1572-1643)
attacked the city. This is Ussher attempting to fit the story of 2 to 7,500 years ago according Julius Africanus, an orator under
Kings 24 into actual history. Emperor Nero in the first century A.D. Still way, way off. Face
4 B.C. - The “angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth in it—using the Bible to calculate the date of “creation” is like
Galilee, to the most blessed virgin Mary... [h]e greeted her and using Dr. Seuss books to compute the age of the Cat in the Hat.
declared she should bring forth the son of God and should call British geologist Arthur Holmes performed a more sober
his name Jesus.” (Ussher inexplicably contradicts the prophecy attempt to calculate the age of our planet—using the scientific
in Isaiah 7:14, which says the messiah will be called Immanuel.) method. In 1913, he published The Age of the Earth, where he
Jesus is thus conceived early in that year, and born in the fall. estimated “some of the oldest Archean rocks must date back
Herod hears of Jesus’ birth and has all male children two years 1,600 million years.” We now speculate, thanks to radiometric
old or younger killed, an event not recorded in any primary dating and red-shift observations of stars, that the earth was
historical records of the time. formed some 4.5 billion years ago, and the universe was created
33 A.D. - Jesus is crucified and zombies climb out of their via the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago. But, according to
graves to visit people in Jerusalem. Spectators of the crucifixion, creationists…
Ussher says, “beat their chests” then headed back home.
73 A.D. - The “end of the Jewish affairs” according to Ussher Real Science Sucks
“…as predicted by Jesus in the Gospels.” (Contemporary Jews According to The New Answers Book 2, published by Answers
may disagree.) in Genesis, “...there is growing scientific evidence that radiometric
This is an odd place for him to stop. Why not end with Jesus’ dating methods are completely unreliable.”1 Well, there isn’t.
death, c. 33 A.D., or continue to his own contemporary epoch There is growing creationist evidence that these methods are
1,600 years later? No matter. A bigger question might be why he completely reliable. But the idea of creationist evidence is as
ignored the fact that, according to Luke 2:1-17, Jesus was born oxymoronic as they come. These creation “scientists” also whine
when Quirinius was governor of Syria. According to historical that “secular geologists will seemingly never entertain the idea
records that would have been available to Ussher, Quirinius of the global, catastrophic flood of Noah’s day.”2 The people at
was appointed governor in the year 6 A.D. But Ussher has Jesus Answers in Genesis seem fond of using certain science claims to
born in 4 B.C. prove that all science is wrong. By the way, Answers in Genesis
As a scholar, Ussher had an intellect of an especially high also claims that a “cosmological redshift mechanism” called “tired
order, but it seems that no matter the era into which you are light” proves the universe is about 6,000 years old. Cosmological
born, to believe the Bible stories as fact while living in the real redshift is a real thing; “tired light” is as real as the “tired blood”
world requires an enduring cognitive dissonance. One might from the Geritol commercials in the 1970s. Or the jealous god of
call it separation of church and sense. Hebrew mythology.
So Ussher’s 4004 B.C. date is the prime reason you hear You may decide for yourself which prevails: science facts, or
fundamentalists claim that the world is about 6,000 years old. the claims by pious apologists who re-write history and science
But, if you follow the genealogy in... in an attempt to match their holy book. My guess is that you
would prefer to rely on scientific method, known history, and
Luke the mountains of evidence against the nutty claims in the Bible.
...one discovers a much different age for the universe. Within
the context of ancient Hebrew law, marriage was arranged for Endnotes
girls around age thirteen. A couple marries, has a child, then 1. AnswersInGenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-
their children marry and procreate again beginning around age earth
thirteen. 2. A n s w e r s I n G e n e s i s . o r g /a s t r o n o m y/c o s m o l o g y/
In Chapter 3, the Book of Luke separates Adam from Jesus speculation-redshift-created-universe
by seventy-five generations, and 75 x 13 = 975. Thus, if the New
Testament is correct, and Jesus is in direct lineage of Adam
through seventy-five generations, the universe began around Michael B. Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer and freelance writer
975 B.C. and the Big Bang happened about 3,000 years ago. Or who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist Perspectives. He is a
should I perhaps say “11:44 a.m. Sunday, April 1, 975 B.C.” if you contributing editor for The American Rationalist and the author of No
would indulge me an Ussher-like moment. But as I mentioned, Meek Messiah. His latest book, Beyond the Crusades, with a foreword
Ussher wasn’t the only scholar to use the Bible to figure out the by Robert M. Price, is published by American Atheist Press.
age of the universe, there were...

According to Bishop Ussher, god created the universe
the evening before October 23, 4004 B.C.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 15
BIBLICAL CREATIONISM IS INDEFENSIBLE
It’s Fundamentalist Myth and Menace
by Brian Bolton

F undamentalist advocates of biblical creationism continue
to pursue their century-long battle in America against
the fact of evolution. Through their relentless efforts in
state legislatures and boards of education, creationists have
attempted to infuse the Genesis story into the public school
science curriculum. Their failure to accomplish this goal can be
credited to determined opposition by the science community,
the federal courts, and mainstream Christianity. These three
very different groups have thwarted creationist machinations
to impose scriptural doctrine on science instruction.
Although biblical creationism proponents have repeatedly
Unrelenting pressure from science deniers has caused many
Republican politicians with national ambitions to pander to the
creationist reactionaries. For example, Paul Broun, Ben Carson,
Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio
have all voiced a literal belief in various versions of the Genesis
stories. Carson, a retired brain surgeon, asserted that Satan
inspired Charles Darwin and that evolution is a religion based
on faith. Former Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, also a
physician, stated that evolution is a lie straight from the pit of
hell and that planet Earth is nine thousand years old. Former
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who was a Rhodes Scholar,
lost federal court battles to inject their literalist dogma into demonstrated again that formal academic qualifications do not
public school biology classes, they have not given up the fight. inoculate against intellectual infection with creationist viral
To the contrary, the anti-evolution zealots have renewed their nonsense.
efforts focusing on local school boards, state boards of education, Creationists have been appointed chairpersons of Senate
and state legislatures. Their remarkable and thoroughly Education Committees in Arizona and Indiana, and one has been
deceitful schemes include teaching the controversy, multiple appointed a state education commissioner in Maine. One of these
viewpoints, equal treatment, alternate theories, weaknesses of appointees had previously recommended that his legislature pass
theories, academic freedom, critical thinking, anti-Christian a law requiring church attendance in the state, while another
bias, religious freedom, promotion of Atheism, and other highly pledged to remove evolution from the state’s science curriculum
imaginative ploys. The misnamed Louisiana Science Education standards. Fortunately, they represent a minority of U.S. adults,
Act adopted in 2008 illustrates just how damaging these forms with recent polls suggesting that about one third of the population
of stealth creationism can be. believe that the biblical account of creation is true.

Although biblical creationism proponents have repeatedly
lost federal court battles, they have not given up the fight.
16 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Many Republican politicians with national ambitions
pander to the creationist reactionaries.
There is actually much more good news for legitimate a 13.5-billion-year-old universe and a 4.5-billion-year-old
science education in the U.S. In the past five years, more than a Earth, but believe humans were created 150,000 years
dozen attempts by state legislators to shoehorn creationism into ago and Noah’s flood was not a global event.
public schools have failed. Pew Research Center surveys have 3. Intelligent Design (ID) creationists (e.g. Philip Johnson
determined that three fourths of respondents under the age of and William Demski of the Discovery Institute) exclude
thirty accept evolution as scientific fact, and two thirds all references to god and the Bible, claiming that ID is
of Democrats and independents a secular theory based on
also do. Major textbook publishers
have supported sound science
education by refusing to put
religious ideas into science texts.
The Orleans Parish School Board
in creationism-crazy Louisiana
adopted a policy that prohibits
science teachers from including
creationism in their classes.
Even the Rev. Pat Robertson has
publicly rejected young-Earth
creationists’ claims!
Atheists and other advocates
of science should know the
basic facts about this movement
in order to recognize the
dishonest tactics and attempts
to allow fundamentalist
religion to creep into public
school science curricula. It’s
also important to understand
that creationists themselves
can’t agree on what constitutes
biblical truth.

Not a Unified Theology
There are actually three
major schools of biblical

t
creationism promoted by

© jesusandmo. ne
zealous adherents in the U.S.
Brief descriptions of them
indicate just how different
they really are from one
another.
1. Young-Earth creationists (e.g. Ken Ham of Answers in
Genesis and John Morris of the Institute for Creation newly-invented concepts like “irreducible
Research) believe that the universe is less than ten complexity,” “specified improbability,” and the “law of
thousand years old, humans were created 6,500 years conservation of information.”
ago, and a worldwide flood occurred 4,500 years ago.
2. Old-Earth creationists (e.g. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Although each one derives from the creation stories in
Believe) accept the cosmological/geological time scale of Genesis 1 and 2, these three creationist theologies are mutually
contradictory and therefore irreconcilable. Furthermore,

Even Pat Robertson has publicly rejected
young-Earth creationists’ claims.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 17
Creationists themselves can’t agree on
what constitutes biblical truth.
their advocates are not reluctant to criticize and condemn one Not Based on Naturalistic Causation
another as unbiblical, unscientific, or untrue. Naturalism is the doctrine that the physical or material
For example, in 2009, Hugh Ross expressed approval of universe is all of reality and there is nothing else. In
federal court decisions that ruled that young-Earth creationism contradistinction, supernaturalism is the belief that a divine
and intelligent design creationism were unconstitutional agent exists outside or beyond nature and controls nature. To
because they are religious explanations and therefore not document the dependence of biblical creationism on supernatural
legitimate science. Of course, proponents of the censured belief, four creationist luminaries are quoted.
doctrines have vilified old-Earth creationism as heretical.
Two definitions are essential to understanding the factual 1. In The Bible, Science, and Creation (1991), Henry Morris
issues ten postulates of creationism, which include the
conclusions about creationism that follow. Biblical inerrancy is following: the Genesis creation account is accurate,
the belief that the Bible is without error and absolutely correct Adam was the first human, god made dinosaurs, all living
in every verse. Scientific evidence refers to information, data, people are descendants of Noah, and death is not the end
or knowledge that derives from observation, demonstration, of human life. He labeled evolution “the Devil’s work.”
or experiment. Also, it should be noted that there are many
non-biblical creation stories including Islamic, Hindu, and 2. In Reason in the Balance (1995), Philip Johnson lists seven
Confucian conceptions, as well as numerous creation narratives foundational premises of supernaturalism, which include
of native peoples. The three conclusions below certainly apply the following: god loves us, god created everything, Jesus
to all other versions of creationism. is god’s son, Jesus guarantees eternal life, and the Bible
is god’s word. He called evolution “nature worship” and
Not Supported by Empirical Evidence “naturalistic mythology.”
This conclusion is based on the professional judgements
of three intellectual communities that represent very different 3. In No Free Lunch (2002), William Demski declared that
domains of expertise: science, law, and mainstream Christianity. “as Christians we know that naturalism is false.” He
First, every scientific organization in the world rejects said that Darwinian naturalism has prevented people
from accepting Jesus and that ID creationism would
biblical creationism. For example, in their 2008 publication “revolutionize science.” Scientific and legal evaluations
Science, Evolution, and Creationism, the National Academy of of ID creationism demonstrate Demski’s prediction of
Sciences (NAS) concluded that no scientific evidence supports a scientific revolution was thoroughly unrealistic, if not
any of the varieties of creationism and that creationist ideas lie completely delusional.
outside the realm of scientific investigation.
Second, in the past forty-five years, two U.S. Supreme Court 4. In More than a Theory (2009), Hugh Ross asserts that
decisions and six federal court decisions have ruled that biblical the creator god must be the god of the Christian Bible.
creationism is not science. For example, the 2005 decision by He believes that naturalism’s stark answers to the “big
Judge John E. Jones III of the Pennsylvania Middle District questions of life fail to satisfy the soul’s hunger for
Court in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruled that ID meaning, purpose, or hope.” In How to Think about God
creationism is not science because, among other things, it is (1980), philosopher Mortimer Adler disputes the claim
not supported by any peer-reviewed research or publications. that the creator god is the god of Judeo-Christian faith.
Several previous decisions rejected young-Earth creationism For biblical creationists, it is apparent that supernaturalism is
because it is a religious doctrine that does not satisfy scientific an explicitly Christian theological dogma, and the creator god is
criteria. their god. In contrast, supernatural causation is rejected by the
Third, the mainline Christian denominations, including entire scientific community. For example, the NAS asserts that
Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian, reject the science cannot investigate supernatural causation. In the Dover
literal reading of scripture and endorse the validity of the theory decision, the Pennsylvania court also declared that invoking
of evolution. For example, Pope John Paul II’s 1996 encyclical supernatural causation violates the rules of science and is an
“Truth Cannot Contradict Truth” concluded that because inherently religious concept.
god is responsible for creation, evolution is god’s creative
mechanism, and thus evolution explains the development of Not a Legitimate Scientific Discipline
humans over time. Biblical creationism does not follow the accepted rules of
evidence known as the scientific method. The key concept
Continued on page 35

Creationists have attempted to infuse the Genesis
story into the public school science curriculum.
18 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 19
Is the Universe a Bad Joke?
God Forbid!
Reflections on Good and Bad Theology
by David Madison

“You shine with radiant light, in this circle of earthly existence. You
shine so finely, it surpasses understanding. God hugs you. You are
encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.”
–St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and
throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to
have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire.”
–Matthew 18:8

Continued on page 36
20 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
O nce upon a time—actually, September 17, 1994—
the New York Times reported on the preparations
for a debate between a team from Hunter College
in New York City and a team from a school in
England that was touring the U.S. The topic: Is the world
better off with religion?
I couldn’t resist saving the clipping, because—well, because
I’m always on the lookout for examples of bad theology stated
obligation to bend to the needs of one special (or so we think)
species of mammals, on one tiny planet locked by gravity to
one star in a swirling cluster of 200 billion other stars.
The sobering fact—the overwhelmingly likely fact—
is that that we don’t matter to the universe that has been
churning along for thirteen billion years, and no amount of
bad theology can cancel that reality.

innocently and without guile. The article profiled a debater Now for the Good Theology
from Hunter who was preparing to make the case that the Hell, if you’re going to design a theology to get you through
world is better with religion. The student, it seems, had been a the night, make it a good one. Make it one that measures up in
“…self-styled rebel, who went from school to pool hall and on terms of compassion and decency by affirming a kind god, not
to jobs as locksmith, plumber and printer before enrolling in one determined to kick us to the curb for our faults and f laws.
college.” He had returned to his Brooklyn parish to find god, I remain convinced that the kind god is what people want
under the tutelage of Father James Zona. The rebel had been above all: anything else is a bad joke. Religion prevents the
tamed: “Talking and praying with him, Father Zona helped bad joke. The student debater in the New York Times article
him develop a deep and personal faith…” had the right instincts.
How did he plan to stick up for religion? “Without religion, Of course, there are vindictive believers, and religion has
this whole life would be like a bad joke. Through Father Zona failed to moderate their bad moods; they willingly buy into
I got a sense of what Jesus was all about. You don’t always do the scowling god who casts sinister shadows across so much of
the right thing, but you ask what would Jesus do.” Ironically, the Bible. These are the folks who relish the prospect that god
this fragment of religious sentiment embodies both bad and will get even with massive numbers of people who are despised
good theology. by the holy in-group; he will rain down punishment on those
who violate divine laws. And they can’t wait to see it happen.
First, the Bad Am I that far off the mark to suspect that when most kind-
The debater’s statement assumes that human emotional hearted Christians refer to “the man upstairs,” they have a
craving plays a role in determining the nature of the cosmos. benevolent figure in mind? St. Hildegard of Bingen, apparently
Really? Who do we think we are? The only thing we need— distancing herself from Jesus’ nasty ultimatums about eternal
golly, aren’t we lucky—is just what the universe offers? It was fire, set the tone for this gentler, softer deity when she wrote,
arranged with us in mind? Although it took thirteen billion “God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery
years for humans to show up? of God.”
This approach is the expedient, the safe haven of those With this kind of god in place, a friendly cosmos has been
who are distraught and repulsed by the idea that the universe secured. It just won’t do to have a god who is permanently
is indifferent to humans, that no deity above or within us is in a bad mood, pissed off at humans since the moment of
even aware of us. It is hard to stomach that Homo sapiens are their creation and who has to be diverted—through prayer,
of no consequence in the scheme of things; we do not outrank begging, prostration, sacrifice—from beating us up.
microbes, cockroaches, or elephants.
Some of us can’t wrap our minds around that, and More Layers of Bad Theology
theologians have thrived on our impulse to balk. Bad theology The student debater claimed that, through chats with his
designs the god we need, instead of objectively reading all the priest, “…he got a good sense of what Jesus was all about.” Of
data that the cosmos feeds us about what is real, testable, and course, no such thing could possibly have been achieved. No
verifiable. one has yet discovered what “Jesus was all about.” Anyone who
Most humans, at least those who are trying to come to terms has been keeping up with Jesus studies knows that there is deep
with awareness of life and death, yearn for a friendly cosmos skepticism that the gospels can be trusted as history. Of course,
and are adamant that life would be a bad joke without a god there is finely spun Catholic dogma about who Jesus was, and it
who values us and watches over us. With so much suffering proved to be easy for the student debater to buy into it. After all,
and anguish, with the unfairness of life hitting us day after isn’t the priest supposed to be an authority on Jesus?
day and the arbitrary unfolding of good and evil, we are so There is more bad—or at least mediocre—theology here
tempted to throw up our hands in despair. But the cynicism as well, namely, by asking what Jesus would do. This appears
of “life’s a bitch, and then you die” is just too frightening and noble enough, but deferring to the judgment of a supposed
a really bad joke. holy man is only a partial foundation for sound ethics; your
In creating their designer theology, believers remain capacity to act decently probably derives as much from what
oblivious to their embrace of the monumental non sequitur you learned from Mom and Dad and from the sensibilities of
that we need god, therefore god is. The universe is under no your community. Cross-cultural studies of people reacting to
Continued on page 36

Good intentions can have grievously bad outcomes,
because there is nothing that moors theology to reality.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 21
The Real Story
from an
Ex-Mormon Missionary
Lesson 5: Laws and Ordinances
by Greg Hawkins

Is it ever worth an Atheist’s time to talk to a Mormon missionary? Greg Hawkins thinks so.
Raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Greg was nineteen when he
was sent on a mission to Quezon City, Philippines. By the time he returned home to Utah a year
later, his misgivings about Mormonism were such that he officially resigned from the Church.
Not long after that, he became an Atheist. This article is the eighth and final installment of his
series for American Atheist where he has drawn back the curtain on many aspects of the LDS
Church that missionaries won’t tell you about—and may themselves not even know.
Greg has shared his experience in the hope that readers will come away with some ideas for
posing questions in a friendly non-confrontational way to missionaries. The chances are good
that it will be the first time a missionary’s point of view is ever challenged, and it may plant a
tiny seed of doubt. There are many Mormons who fell away from the Church after researching
the questions posed to them by people more informed about their faith than they were. The key
is to be non-confrontational so that you get a missionary to think about their claims instead of
merely defending them. There’s a chance that you may be helping someone in a way that they will
appreciate for the rest of their lives.

22 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
In my role as a Mormon missionary in the Philippines, I had
one job: recruit new members. I did this by going through
neighborhoods with my missionary companion, usually
door-to-door, to find “investigators,” which is the term used
for people who have expressed an interest in the Mormon
faith. If a person is interested in becoming an investigator, they
will be revisited by the missionaries over the course of a few
Missionaries are
allowed no time
to themselves
whatsoever.
weeks to several months. During those visits, the investigators
will be taught Mormon doctrine through a series of lessons.
There are five lessons in all. Some can be covered in just one
visit, others need to be spread out over time.
If investigators progress through the lessons successfully,
they can be baptized into the Church, if they so desire. I’m
glad to say that most investigators do not. Of all the people I the Lord in righteousness.” Do we have any objective, third-
approached during my mission, very few stuck around beyond party evidence or testimony of this miraculous event ever
Lesson One. The doctrine eventually became tedious, or the occurring? Of course not.
requirements too unrealistic, and for some the whole package Besides the Priesthood of Aaron, there’s also the higher
was downright creepy. Most investigators quit when they Melchizedek Priesthood, to which all worthy adult males are
found out that they would be required to give ten percent of promoted. According to the Mormon missionary handbook
their income to the Church for the rest of their lives. This is Preach My Gospel, “Members of the Church receive many
called tithing. Tithing is one of the main requirements for spiritual and temporal blessings through the power of this
being a Mormon in good standing. priesthood. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders can
So let’s take a look at Lesson Five: Laws and Ordinances. confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, ordain others to the
There are seven of them; this article focuses on three: the priesthood as assigned, anoint the sick with consecrated oil,
priesthood, eternal marriage, and enduring to the end. and give blessings of healing and comfort. Worthy husbands
and fathers who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can give
Priesthood their spouses, children, and other family members special
Mormons who hold the priesthood have the power and blessings. [The roles taken by Melchizedek Priesthood holders
authority to act for god. All male missionaries hold the include] home teachers [who] visit the homes of Church
priesthood, and as such, they will claim to be able to do any members and care for those individuals and families. Bishops
number of things for themselves and their investigators, and stake presidents are judges in the Church. They have the
including healing illness, overcoming a variety of life’s authority to help Saints [members] who have sinned to repent
challenges, and giving the “spirit” to others. and enjoy the full blessings of Church membership. They
Mormons believe that John the Baptist conferred the interview people to ensure their worthiness [translation: is
priesthood authority upon LDS Church founder Joseph Smith their tithing up to date?] to enter the temple.”
in Palmyra, New York, in 1829. Yes, that John the Baptist. You may be wondering where women fit in to all of this. Very
From the New Testament. He went through time and space simply, women aren’t allowed to hold the priesthood. Why?
just to give Joseph Smith the power of god. What evidence Because god said so. The institution of the Mormon Church is
do we have for this? Why, scripture of course! According to as patriarchal as they come. So, then, what are women allowed
the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants, John the Baptist laid to do? They can (drumroll, please) get married!
his hands on Joseph’s head and said, “Upon you my fellow
servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Eternal Marriage
Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and Mormons believe that when a worthy, straight Mormon
of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for man marries a worthy, straight Mormon woman in a temple,
the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from they will stay married in the afterlife if they are faithful to each
the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto other in this life. In the afterlife, called the Celestial Kingdom,

The Church doesn’t want members to lag
behind in terms of their spiritual devotion,
so it has its members police each other.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 23
I was instructed to wake up my companion
so that he could accompany me to the
bathrooom and stand outside the door.
the husband gets to be the heavenly father to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse
of his own planet. In fact, when Mormons a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the
talk about god or “heavenly father,” they first give her consent, and if he espouse the
are talking about a deity who was once second, and they are virgins, and have vowed
a human himself on some unknown, to no other man, then is he justified; he
distant planet. He was a good Mormon cannot commit adultery for they are given
his entire life, and after he died, he was unto him; for he cannot commit adultery
given the planet Earth as his reward. And with that that belongeth unto him and to
who assigned Earth to him? This is where no one else.
a missionary will dodge the question and And if he have ten virgins given unto him
return to talking about eternal marriage by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for
itself. they belong to him, and they are given unto
Preach My Gospel emphasizes the him; therefore is he justified.
importance of marrying properly to obtain But if one or either of the ten virgins, after
eternal status: “The basic unit of the Church she is espoused, shall be with another man,
is the family. Within the family, people she has committed adultery, and shall be
experience many of life’s greatest joys destroyed; for they are given unto
and sorrows. Marriage between a him to multiply and replenish
man and a woman is ordained the earth, according to
of God and is central to my commandment, and
God’s eternal plan for the to fulfill the promise
salvation of His children.” which was given by
Preach My Gospel my Father before
conveniently leaves out the foundation of
one aspect of marriage, the world, and for
which has never officially their exaltation in
been removed from the the eternal worlds,
Mormon Doctrine and that they may
Covenants: polygamy. bear the souls of
The doctrine of men; for herein
polygamy was revealed is the work of my
by god to Joseph Smith in Father continued,
1843. Here’s part of what that he may be
he claims god told him: Greg at the 2014 American Atheists Convention glorified.”
“And again, as pertaining costume party in Salt Lake City Polygamy hasn’t

Mormons believe that John the Baptist
conferred the priesthood authority to Joseph
Smith in Palmyra, New York, in 1829.
24 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Of all the people I approached during my mission,
very few stuck around beyond Lesson One.
been sanctioned by the LDS Church since 1890, when the
practice was abandoned so that Utah could become a state. I
mention it here because many Mormons believe that polygamy
resumes in the afterlife.

Service
Soon after a Mormon is baptized, they are given a role, or
“calling” as lay clergy, ward (parish) administrators, or some
other responsibility at the local level so that the newcomers
stay active and fully invested in their new religion. For
example, members will be called to visit other families in
their ward to “check up” on them. The Church doesn’t want
members to lag behind in terms of their spiritual devotion, so
it has its members police each other.
This is true for missionaries as well, who are encouraged
to tell their mission president if their companions aren’t
perfectly following the mission rules or the church doctrine.
In fact, the number-one rule for missionaries is to be at your
companion’s side, day and night. Where I was stationed in the
Philippines, I was instructed to wake up my companion if I
had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night so that he
could accompany me and stand outside the door. Missionaries
are never supposed to be apart from their companion, and
they are allowed no time to themselves whatsoever.

Endure to the End Joseph and Emma and Greg and Katie: Ex-Mormon Greg Hawkins
Enduring to the end requires total, unquestioning fidelity and his only wife, Katie, in front of a statue of Joseph Smith and
to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Emma, one of his forty wives.
day Saints. In his October 2013 General Conference talk,
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, admonished members to “doubt past two years, as I have described their content for American
your doubts before you doubt your faith” (TinyURL.com/ Atheist, I have only scratched the surface of the contradictions
DoubtYourDoubt). Preach My Gospel says, “As we continue to and absurdities of Mormon doctrine.
exercise faith in Christ, repent, and renew our covenants, we We should always be skeptical of anyone who tries to
enjoy continued guidance from the Holy Ghost. If we endure convince us that they have all of the answers to life’s most
to the end of our lives in being true to our covenants, we will difficult challenges. Mormon missionaries are attempting to
receive eternal life … A few members do not endure or remain do just that when they present the whitewashed version of
fully active. However, enduring to the end is a personal the LDS Church to investigators. But we shouldn’t make the
responsibility. We ‘work out [our] own salvation’ (Philippians mistake of assuming that missionaries are bad or crazy people.
2:12), and we serve and love those whose faith has grown weak They are simply trying to do good in the world in the only way
through inactivity.” they’ve ever known. It reminds me of a passage from George
This is as much a warning as a description of how Orwell’s 1984 where it was articulated “that the choice for
Mormons are supposed to behave. If you do not stay faithful mankind lies between freedom and happiness and that, for the
and active, you will likely be visited and preached to by other great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
members. You will hear about how you are willingly giving
up eternal life, how your eternal marriage will mean nothing,
Greg Hawkins is a graduate of the University of Utah, where he earned
and how you are throwing away your salvation.
a B.A. in political science.
This brings us to the end of the Mormon Lessons. Over the

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 25
Book Review

Our Debt to History
and
Questions for Today
A Review of Village Atheists: How America’s
Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation
by Mark Kolsen

V illage Atheists by Washington University professor
and historian Leigh Eric Schmidt memorializes four
courageous individuals from the nineteenth century:
itinerant lecturer Samuel Porter Putnam, former preacher
Charles B. Reynolds, author Elmina Slenker, and cartoonist
Watson Heston. Their ideas and struggles inspired many
twentieth-century activists who paved the way for Supreme
prominent Atheist contemporaries
like Robert Ingersoll, who thought
marriage reformers would taint the cause of freedom from
religion. Aware of how his fellow secularists felt, Putnam
kept his own views and personal dalliances in the closet,
even while serving as president of the American Secular
Union, an activist organization for the separation of church
Court decisions like Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), which and state.
established that both theists and non-theists have the right Although the public lectures given by the likes of
to the protections provided by the First and Fourteenth Ingersoll and Charles Reynolds generally received civil
Amendments. Other Court decisions under Chief Justice receptions, local blasphemy laws—bolstered by federal
Earl Warren include Engel v. Vitale (1962), which outlawed obscenity laws passed in 1873—prohibited the “profane
prayer in New York’s public schools, and Murray v. Curlett reviling” or “ridiculing” of Christianity. In 1881, a Delaware
(1963), in which American Atheists founder Madalyn grand jury considered indicting Ingersoll for “exposing
Murray O’Hair persuaded the Court that reading the Bible (Christian) doctrines to contempt and ridicule” during a
and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools are also lecture he gave in Wilmington. Five years later, Reynolds was
unconstitutional. tried, convicted, and fined for publishing and distributing
Many readers will be familiar with Schmidt’s description “Blasphemy and the Bible,” a pamphlet that argued against
of nineteenth-century moral order, which presumed that the infallibility of the Bible. (The article “Blasphemy!” in the
“civic responsibility and social trust depended on religious October 1986 issue of American Atheist magazine reproduced
association.” But unlike today, activists had “to remain safely the news of the trial as it appeared in Truth Seeker. Read it
domestic.” Samuel Porter Putnam eschewed monogamy online at TinyURL.com/TruthSeeker.) Schmidt notes that
in favor of “free love.” In doing so, he was criticized by “Christians were free to ridicule infidels all they wanted, but

While mainstream news outlets give a platform to biting satire of politics,
they simply refuse to do the same for even mild parody of religion.
26 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Reynolds was tried, convicted, and fined for publishing and distributing
a pamphlet that argued against the infallibility of the Bible.
the same liberty did not work in reverse.” debate between Heston’s many supporters and a minority
It was worse for women. A female Atheist was considered of readers who thought Atheists should take a kinder,
a “transgression—of the divine order and woman’s pious more civil approach to Christianity. In stoking “debates
nature.” Knowing “people would scorn, shun and despise” about caricature and religious insult, blasphemy and free
her, Elmina Slenker “trembled with fear” when she came expression, combative atheism, and liberal accommodation,”
out as an Atheist. She wrote a series of novels and short Heston’s “incivility provided a trial run for secularists to
stories in which the heroes and heroines were all infidels or debate at length the contours and implications of their
Atheists, but Slenker tempered her characters’ “threatening” religious animus: Was ridicule to be part of the atheist
secularism by depicting “the female infidel as a paragon of repertoire? . . . Was the publication of such impudent satire
homemaking, domestic economy, and familial devotion.” a fundamental right to be protected, or was it so incendiary
Nevertheless, thanks to the Comstock Act passed in 1873, that public order required its careful policing?” In Heston’s
federal prosecutors charged her with obscenity for mailing own case, his biting caricatures of Mormon polygamist B.H.
literature on sexual physiology
and birth control, and even for
using some four-letter words in
private correspondence. The act
was named for U.S. Postmaster
Anthony Comstock, a moral
crusader who was appointed
to prosecute “freethinking
offenders” and make “public
atheists think twice about the
literature they were circulating.”
Cartoonist Watson Heston
did more than attempt to “debunk
religion across the board” and
“protect the state from religion’s
malign encroachments.” While
Heston “enlarged visual satire
as a medium and mnemonic
of American freethinkers,” his
cartoons threatened to surpass
articles, books, and lectures
as “the favorite vehicles for
secularism.” Heston’s ridiculing
cartoons “immediately and
enduringly were etched upon the
mind’s eye.” Readers so loved his direct, biting depictions Roberts enraged liberals who believed Heston’s caricatures
of religion’s insipidity that Truth Seeker, the most inf luential attacked sexual freedom and civil liberties. Utah had elected
freethought publication from the 1860s to the 1920s, Roberts to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1895, but he
changed its text-only format to include Heston’s work and was refused his place in Congress due to his polygamy. The
published his cartoons on the covers of fifty-two consecutive liberal outrage over Heston’s work ended his sixteen-year
issues. Many subscribers came to value the periodical more tenure at Truth Seeker.
for Heston’s cartoons than for the articles, and it was not Schmidt believes that Atheists today, despite their
uncommon to see them hung “in bookstores and barber minority status, enjoy “the luxuriant growth of atheist and
shops; on the walls of taverns, doctors’ offices and lecture secular literature,” along with “the rapid growth of the
halls.” ‘Nones,’ those Americans claiming to have no religious
On the other hand, Heston’s take-no-prisoners approach identification at all,” thanks to the “long drawn-out process
to ridiculing Christianity bothered even some fellow Atheists of secular activism” conducted by a “tiny minority” of
who thought he often went too far. Schmidt delineates the Atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

Christians were free to ridicule infidels all they wanted,
but the same liberty did not work in reverse.
4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 27
Cartoonist
Watson
Heston’s
take-no-
prisoners
approach to
ridiculing
Christianity
bothered
even some
fellow
Atheists
who thought
he often
went too far.

28 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
A female Atheist was considered a transgression
of the divine order and woman’s pious nature.
In addition to documenting our debt to history, Village atheism and materialism” was merely an antidote to his
Atheists raises some interesting questions for today. As I emotional attachment to a younger woman. Like Watson
pondered readers’ excited reaction to Heston’s cartoons (53 Heston and many others, Putnam was strongly inf luenced
of which Schmidt reproduces for our reading pleasure), I by Robert Ingersoll, “the most exalted [medium] of rational
had to wonder: Wouldn’t Atheists in America today benefit enlightenment,” as well as by Francis Ellington Abbot’s
from an equivalent to Watson Heston? Today there certainly advocacy of Darwinism. But it’s not clear which of those
are cartoonists around the world who mercilessly ridicule ideas Putnam and Abbot found compelling.
religion, often at great risk to their own physical safety and Similarly, in the case of Charles Reynolds’ transformation
sometimes at the expense of their very lives. This magazine from Seventh-day Adventist to Atheist, Schmidt details how
and others in the U.S. have proudly published Atheist Reynolds easily adapted Adventist beliefs and techniques
cartoons, but this country offers no counterpart to Charlie to his own secular lectures. But Schmidt also claims that
Hebdo which, ironically, is a reference to the American determining how Reynolds “fell away from his Adventist
cartoon character Charlie Brown. (South Park and The Book faith is hard to piece together.” I found one source on my own
of Mormon easily come to mind as American examples of the (TinyURL.com/ReynoldsSource) that attributes Reynolds’
change to his reading of Truth
Seeker and Boston Investigator,
another widely read secular
periodical. As he read these
periodicals, which arguments
might Reynolds have found
compelling? For that matter,
when a Baptist congregation
in New York invited Reynolds
to speak for a second time,
which of his ideas interested
this congregation? Surely the
church’s second invitation was
more than a function of idle
curiosity or liberal tolerance.
Likewise, Schmidt points to
the large audiences listening to
a growing number of secular
lecturers during the late
nineteenth century, but he shies
away from explaining the power
Atheist ideas exerted on people,
or, as in the case of Elmina Drake
Slenker, in explaining which
Biblical “contradictions and
satire I’m talking about, but neither of those are periodicals.) improbabilities” put her—and undoubtedly others—on the
While mainstream news outlets give a platform to biting path to Atheism.
satire of politics, they simply refuse to do the same for even Although I was left puzzled about some of the individual
mild parody of religion. and social transformations Schmidt documents, the extensive
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, Time magazine footnotes provide sources that, with further digging, might
recently asserted that the U.S. does not have a tradition of answer some of these questions. Overall, the extensive research
anti-clericalism like France (Time.com/3668249/America- and clear writing in Village Atheists provides significant
satire-history). But Village Atheists proves otherwise. enlightenment about our history, and the fifty-three Heston
While reading the book, I did feel something was cartoons are themselves worth the price of admission.
missing. In trying to write a balanced, objective history
that favors neither the secular nor religious sides, Schmidt Mark Kolsen recently retired from teaching high school in
does little to explain how science and reason contributed to Wheaton, Illinois. He is an avid fan of the Four Horsemen, the
Atheism’s progress during this time. For example, Samuel late Victor Stenger, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He strives to understand
Putnam may have taken a “serpentine” road to Atheism, all facets of scientific cosmology and evolutionary biology.
but it seems reductionist to suggest his final “unblinking

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 29
Book Excerpt

It’s 384 A.D., the dawn of the monotheistic state. Emperor Theodosius has decreed the Nicene version of Christianity the exclusive
religion of the Empire. For the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization mere thought could be a crime.
City of Cats follows the tumultuous events of one decisive year in the life of Lupicinus, powerful advisor to the Pope, who lives
a duplicitous life as a clandestine non-believer, and Saturnine, atheist wife of a Christian senator who secretly writes against the
Church. Lupicinus and Saturnine are brought together and their lives changed forever by Kharapan, a Stoic from a remote land
outside the Empire. Kharapan remains true to his principles and loyal to his friends even as he, and the ancient idea of philosophy
as a way of life itself, teeter on the brink of extinction. City of Cats is about the soul-rending decisions people are forced to make
when the course of history is against them and set to annihilate all they value. It is a brilliant and thoughtful exploration of the
philosophic way of life that once flourished in Western culture before monotheism came to dominate the known world.

I. “Cornelia...” he said. He paused. “Explain later.”
“You startled me,” she said. He dropped the parchment. It circled to the floor.
Her husband filled the doorway of her room. He was not tall “Lord Lupicinus is here,” he said. “Prepare and join us.” He
but strong and stocky, not of ancient stock but born in Rome, of gave a nod and went out.
recent wealth. Saturnine, at her desk, papyri everywhere, failed to He did not need to say more than the name, Lupicinus. She
hide a panicked look. had seen the man from a distance. He advised the Pope. He had
His wife’s manner and the scattered papyri made Victorinus an old, established family in Rome. On this, his first visit to their
pause. Cornelia – this is the name he called her—had let her dark domus, her husband expected something, some position with the
hair hang in loose oily curls. She smelled of rancid pomegranate Church. Lupicinus, and so the Pope’s Church itself, he must be
perfume. He walked in and picked up a piece of parchment. He sure now, took an interest in him.
read, ‘The zeal they turned on the world...’ Flavia, Saturnine’s maidservant, entered Saturnine’s
“You wrote this,” he said. bedroom. She had passed Victorinus in the hall and paled when
“Yes,” she said. she saw Saturnine with her scrolls and parchment. “You were
Her eyes had a defiant look and he knew this work was careless!” she said, in the low voice she used when they were alone.
hers – that she’d made tangible that which even as thought was Saturnine gathered the parchment and rolls and placed them
subversive, potentially criminal. in a worn leather sack.

Disbelief is as old as thought itself.
30 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
In Rome, churches arose, as grand as
the most luxurious bathhouses.
“Perhaps I needed him to know,” she said. “Never mind. pagan population and Senate.
Prepare me for a guest, for Lupicinus.” Rome was once the city at the center of the world, thought
Flavia stared at her, then lowered her head and went out. to hold the flower of mankind, rational creatures combining the
A cynical smile came to Saturnine’s lips. Lupicinus, the great extremes of North and South in one, harmonious clay. They were
Churchman! He’d come to their domus just now, just when her discerning creatures who were meant to rule the world. But the
husband had discovered her writing. Empire’s Capital had moved to Constantinople over fifty years
Flavia returned with a silk wrap—silk, the secret of China. before Theodosius’s Edict. No matter. In Rome, churches arose,
Saturnine felt enveloped in secrets, as if her whole life was as grand as the most luxurious bathhouses. And four years after
criminal, secretive. The tall hairdresser with a belt of utensils Theodosius’s Edict—or perhaps I’m not remembering it correctly,
stood at the door and gazed at them, waiting. Saturnine and Flavia that most significant of years—a magnificent bathhouse was
exchanged guilty glances although they had not been speaking. transformed into one of the largest and most resplendent houses
Servants whispered how their lady spoke intimately with Flavia, of worship ever known: a Christian Church, with its Man-God
of Saturnine’s slovenly appearance, how she sat alone, in the sun. called Christ.
Saturnine went to the small stool. The hairdresser’s tongue stuck Saturnine had not converted, even then, four years after the
out and her eyes narrowed with the concentration of an artist as Edict, the year when the events of this chronicle take place. It’s
she worked on Saturnine’s thick unwieldy hair. not entirely clear how much her husband, Victorinus, knew about
Christians think I’m going to Hell, Saturnine thought. what she wrote or understood her cast of mind. I believe he didn’t
How could she know if they were right? The complexity of life know of her written work until that fateful day that marks the
astounded her. Even the act of dressing baffled her. She could beginning of this chronicle. It seems she had been engaged for
not recover the right air. In writing, she’d been in a primordial some time in writing a work exploring how the Empire, a world
state, the Saturnia Regna, the Kingdom of Saturn, oblivious to full of gods, became a world of One God. It seems that by that
time, to sundials and water clocks. She had to remember how to fateful day of which I will speak she had substantially completed
behave. Ten years, she thought. In two days, Mars, five Kalends of her analysis of the rise of the Orthodox Church. She’d developed,
Martius, would mark ten years from the night this god-filled city among other things, three explanations for the transformation
burned Philo alive. of an Empire of gods into an Empire of God. Her study would
undoubtedly be considered subversive by the Roman authorities,
II. even illegal. In it, she exposed her anger, her fear and, dare I say,
I must pause. I must note certain things. her unadulterated hatred of Orthodox Christianity. She despised
I call myself Lupicinus. It’s what I can manage, adopting this and distrusted a rule of power that required even the private
wolfish name and speaking of myself as if of another. Perhaps I’m thoughts of rational creatures to conform to its will.
not the man I write about, Lupicinus. That is, perhaps I’m him no For a time, just before my chronicle begins, Saturnine wrote in
longer. What matter? We’re characters to ourselves. We learn who secret at the domus that had once been her family home. However,
we are by watching what we do as if from a remove. We remember in early morning hours while her husband Victorinus was at the
how we’ve acted in the world. Senate, she had begun to remain to write in the domus where
I will speak of Saturnine, Kharapan, and others, and of they lived together. She sat at a small desk in her bedroom under a
Lupicinus too, as if I know their thoughts, for don’t I? I know window where she might gaze out through the slender trees on the
enough. I have Saturnine’s work, and the work of that demonic gentle hill where the domus stood and glimpse the simmering city.
woman of Chi, called Metis. I say now: I do not intend to relate Earlier in the morning of the fateful day my chronicle begins, before
what happened after the events of the year I describe, and yet I Victorinus stood in her doorway, Saturnine sat at her desk, writing
believe this will be clear enough. Perhaps our lives—what we about the hierarchy of Churches that had spread across Empire and
become and how we live, Saturnine and I—hold what meaning about the apparent inevitability of the Kingdom of God.
there is to be found in this chronicle. But this is Rome, Saturnine thought or might have thought,
As for Saturnine, I say this: at the time my chronicle begins, pausing to look out, not entirely understanding the leaps of her
Saturnine would not use the word atheos to describe herself or mind. The air felt thick, redolent of the sewage that rushed in a
(God forbid!) add it as a surname, as certain philosophers have great, dark river beneath the Roman streets. Humidity held Rome
done. But she knew even then that Rome would use the word as if motionless. Something is going to happen, she thought. She
against her. strained to understand. The dim winter light made the earth
In our time, Saturnine’s and mine, centuries after Lucretius’s appear amorphous. Umbrella pines webbed the sky in shades of
godless poems, disbelief thrives exclusively underground, so light and dark. Carts pounded over stone-paved streets, faint voices
to speak. In the world above, as I think of it, it’s as if there were hummed. The city shimmered as if from a great smokeless fire.
no doubt, as if one might never disbelieve in gods, or, more Here, then, was Rome, its sky the home of gods. Earthly
particularly, in God. But make no mistake: disbelief has a long desires stretched upward to paint the sky, to catch the gods’
and distinguished history. Disbelief is as old as thought itself. attention and bring them down.
Orthodox Christianity became the Empire’s official
religion in the year of Theodosius’s Edict, when Saturnine Max Diksztejn lives in San Francisco. City of Cats, a semi-finalist in the
was just sixteen. At the time, and even in the year of my Faulkner Wisdom Competition, is her first novel.
chronicle, four years after, the City of Rome had a largely

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 31
Why I Am An Atheist
by Elle Mott

T he roots of my understanding of god were planted in me when I was
a small child grieving the loss of my great-grandfather, whom I called
Grandpa.
My earliest memories are of myself at about age three riding high on
which sufficiently satisfied her because we seldom attended a church
while I was growing up.
I tried church membership for about a year as a young adult living
in Missouri, because I felt it would rectify some messes in my life.
Grandpa’s shoulders on the walk we took every evening down our long But, then I relocated to New Mexico, and saw no need to look for a
driveway in Oregon to lock up Nana’s antique shop. His weathered, pale replacement because my messes were behind me, thanks to a twelve-
hands would grip my bare legs as they peeked out from my dress to rest step program. I didn’t feel the need for a church, because the program
against his warm, flannel shirt. He was my father figure, but I knew him took a spiritual approach to living in order to abstain from the problem
as the best friend anyone could ever ask for. at hand. While no specific religion is formally endorsed, these programs
Grandpa was gentle, soft-spoken, and enjoyed playing the part of have an undercurrent of god-centeredness.
Raggedy Andy to my Raggedy Ann. After dinner each night, I’d pull So I faked it to make it in recovery. Although I questioned
myself close into his space to hear his breathing and heartbeat as he whether god existed, I defaulted to act as if he existed because others
smoked his after-dinner cigarette. In Grandpa’s eyes, I could do no in the program told me I’d relapse if I didn’t believe. Then I relapsed.
wrong. Nana, on the other hand, was the all-wise family matriarch And relapsed again. Only when I became honest with myself was I
who set standards for me to live up to. She was the one I turned to for able to implement a recovery plan that worked. But that’s getting
guidance and approval. ahead of the story.
One morning, I awoke to an influx of people, but Grandpa was Back to early 2003, when I received an advertising flyer from the
nowhere to be found. Nana then sat down on her dressing room chair local Seventh-day Adventist Church, inviting me to a special series of
and looked me straight in the eye to say, “Grandpa went to sleep last religious education lectures by a visiting pastor from Texas. This looked
night, but he didn’t wake up this morning. He went to heaven.” interesting to me because I felt that I lacked the understanding of god
I looked up into her all-knowing eyes and asked, “Where’s heaven?” that was necessary to work the recovery program. I couldn’t believe
“With Jesus and the angels,” she answered. “Remember, at night without understanding why I believed, and this church gave me the
when we say our prayers to Jesus?” answers necessary to build the foundation of my recovery.
“Uh huh,” I likely thought, as she continued, “That’s where he is So with two other people, I went to the event in search of that

I had plenty of evidence to seriously consider god a myth, but I
teetered on the fence because of the threats that lived in my head.
now—with Jesus and the angels.” understanding. On the first night, I found us a pew up front so that I
Life was different from that day on, and my place as a five-year-old could hear every word of the well-dressed man who boisterously took
in this world was shaken and uncertain. My best friend and rock was the microphone and kindly shouted, “The conflict between our great
gone. So, I turned to prayer starting that first night. If I had to go to religions of the world will shake our very foundation of life, erupting into
heaven to find him, I would. I would start with something like, “Dear a cataclysmic climax that will destroy everything we think we know.”
Jesus, it’s me, thank you for being with me today, and please forgive me With that, he had our attention. The minister paced in front of
if I have done something wrong because I tried to be a good girl today.” us with long strides and turned circles every so often to step into an
My words then quickly turned to, “Jesus, please, I’d like to talk to animated stop with his arm outstretched to the sky as if no ceiling
Grandpa, now.” existed between the heavens and us. Behind him was a projector
Feeling assured Grandpa was listening to me, I’d pray, “Grandpa, screen that flashed dramatic photos of earthquakes, lions, fires, falling
I miss you so much. I hope you are happy in heaven.” I would pour my helicopters, and even a Catholic church building. I was hooked. I
heart out to heaven until I fell asleep. returned the next night and for six nights a week after that for an entire
I don’t remember why my prayers stopped. Certainly, no one month. Then I was baptized, totally convinced my life would make
had told me to stop praying. Besides, it was my secret that I had been sense—as long as I depended on god for outcomes. And after I died, I
talking to Grandpa. All Nana knew was that I said my nightly prayers, would go to heaven, where I would be able to see with both eyes again
(I’m legally blind in one eye).
32 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
I had to drop off the edge of the fence onto
the other side, the side of Atheism.
But the only way to heaven was to keep the Sabbath day holy. verification. The only problem was where to find it. Other
As a Seventh-day Adventist, I believed that the true sabbath was denominations wouldn’t have the answers because they were
Saturday, because the Bible says that on the seventh day, god all obviously lost and without wisdom—that much I knew from
rested. Everything was taught within an historic context, and my own denomination.
I learned as much as I could with great enthusiasm. I learned For the next five years, as I searched for validation of my
that we kept the Sabbath day holy because it was one of the Ten beliefs and verification of the facts, my church attendance
Commandments brought down from god by Moses. I learned slackened off, and I chose not to develop friendships with the
about the Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the members in my new location. But I played it safe by keeping the
law of the land in the fourth century. I learned about the change Sabbath day holy, adhering to the dietary restrictions (pork,
from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, and I certain seafood, and alcohol are forbidden), and living a moral
learned about Martin Luther, his split from the Roman church, life because I still feared going to hell. I also tried to sustain
and the subsequent schisms and formations of new sects. my spiritual life through the twelve-step program in which I
I came to understand that we were the one true church remained active.
because we were the only ones who celebrated the Sabbath During this time of distancing myself from church while
on the correct day, while staying committed to
every other sect incorrectly my recovery, I decided to
observed it on Sunday, after supplement my knowledge
that change was imposed by of church history. I took
Constantine. It all made sense a world religions class in
to me, and I saw no reason to college and read books like
counter their elucidations. Merlin Stone’s When God
About four years passed was a Woman and god is
as I settled into my church Not Great by Christopher
family. I was comfortable, Hitchens. I was very active
but I wanted to know more. in college organizations and
My growth in understanding philanthropic work, and
seemed stifled. Frustrated, this involvement gave me
I went to the church elders the opportunity to listen to
with questions like “How people who were also striving
does God see us when we to learn about our world and
are naked?” Their answer: how it came to be. Then I
The same as we see cats and would refer to books and
dogs and birds. They aren’t the internet to find out more
dressed in clothes, but they’re about my new information.
not ashamed, and we think One of the biggest
nothing of it. surprises was learning what
I wanted to know what had been left out of my
happened to the gods who Seventh-day Adventist lessons
existed before our god. Their about Constantine. Once I got
answer: Jesus was born a man to college, I learned about the
so that he could tell us that we were worshipping the wrong Ecumenical Councils, starting with the First Council of Nicaea,
gods, and that he was the one true god. which met in 325 C.E. It was made up entirely of men who, as
I wanted to know why the people in other churches could a group, determined what to keep out of the Bible—not what to
be so stupid as to not join our remnant church. Their answer: keep and what to revise, but what to keep out. Their decisions
Others don’t study the Bible in depth, and they don’t read the were based on what would best keep their people subservient, tax-
books by our prophetess, Ellen White. If they looked at the paying, productive, and law-abiding. Among their decisions was
historical facts and understood the changes in government and to keep Sunday as the worship day as Constantine ordered, but to
churches over the past two thousand years, then they would call it “The Lord’s Day.” That’s how we lost the term “sabbath.”
understand that they’re worshipping on the wrong day. And for several centuries afterwards, the Bible was only written
Despite getting these answers, I still wrestled with my inner in Latin, a language not understood by the common people.
thoughts, but I remained loyal to the tenets of the Church when Therefore, people had to believe religious leaders when they were
I relocated to Seattle to begin college at age forty. I then attended told, “The Bible says….”
the sister church in my new place but hesitated to transfer my By now, I had plenty of evidence to seriously consider god a
membership because I felt the need for a second opinion. I knew myth, but I teetered on the fence because of the threats that lived
my belief system was based on historical events, but I wanted in my head. My church elders had told me, “People will become

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 33
‘smart’ and then turn away from god, but if you do that, you sought justification for the terrible things done in god’s name.
will go to Hell.” And the people in my twelve-step community Sometimes, he lifted his veil to reveal his face and spew barely
would say condescendingly, “If you don’t pray, you’ll relapse” audible orders to his followers demanding them to conquer,
and “Just give it time, you’ll come to believe.” murder, and plunder. I want nothing to do with that god.
But that’s not the only thing my twelve-step program told I am also no longer in the mainstream community of my
me. I didn’t want to go to hell, and I didn’t want to relapse, but twelve-step program. A little over a year ago, I co-founded a
sub-group of my twelve-step program that accepts “all shades of
For me, the non-belief in belief and non-belief.” Our weekly meeting for those who don’t
buy into the god concept is growing.
god had to be preceded Today, I get spiritual inspiration from knowing that
although I am miniscule compared to the size of the stars, my
by a non-belief in hell. life is extremely precious because the odds against my ever
existing were so astronomically high. To retain my values and
the program also taught me to put my recovery first—before build upon my rationale for a meaningful life, I stay active with
anything else. So, in the end, my recovery won. If I have to like-minded people. I read, listen to podcasts, and participate in
believe in something as silly as the tooth fairy, then I would community events with fellow Atheists. For those who are god-
surely relapse, but if I stayed true to what makes sense to me, crazy, I take their ideas with a grain of salt.
then yes, I had put my recovery first. I had to drop off the edge My dream is that one day religion will be a thing of the past,
of the fence onto the other side, the side of Atheism. and every time a little girl’s grandfather dies, her family will
For me, the non-belief in god had to be preceded by a tell her, “He went to sleep but didn’t wake up. He’ll never wake
non-belief in hell because I was taught that if I didn’t believe up again, but some day he’ll be part of a star. Look up into the
in god, I’d go to hell. Getting over the fear of hell was a hard sky—that is why we wish upon a star.”
battle for me, but I rectified that problem by envisioning god
dressed in a pure white overcoat of man-made ideology, as is Elle Mott blogs at NovelleMott.Blogspot.com. In the next issue of
encouraged by churches. However, he also wore a grey veil American Atheist, Elle shares the story of her twelve-step meetings
over his face to represent the ideology fabricated by those who that welcome “all shades of belief and non-belief.”

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.

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34 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
Biblical Creationism is Indefensible - continued from page 18
in the scientific method is the hypothesis, which is defined as 4. Creationism is a scientifically useless explanation.
a tentative proposal that can be subjected to empirical test.
One essential requirement of scientific hypothesis testing is Finally, eminent scientist and born-again Christian Francis
falsifiability. This means that it must be possible to disconfirm Collins, who is director of the National Institutes of Health, says
or refute the hypothesis. Because biblical creationism is held to in his book The Language of God (2006) that “science’s domain is
be an undeniable truth, it cannot be falsified. In other words, to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm
creationism is unfalsifiable and thus irrefutable. not possible to explore with the tools and language of science.”
When truth is known a priori, scientific hypothesis testing
serves no purpose. This is a major reason why these three Summary
communities of experts (science, law, and mainline Christianity) It is not necessary for rational people to be able to recite the
say that biblical creationism is not a legitimate discipline. scientific details from anthropology, astronomy, botany, genetics,
For example, the NAS notes that creationism rejects scientific geology, paleontology, zoology, and the forty other specialties that
findings and methods, and it is not a scientific theory because it constitute the overarching discipline of evolution science. Being
cannot be tested. And in the Dover decision, the court concluded knowledgeable about the definitive consensus judgements of the
that ID creationism distorts and misrepresents well-established recognized communities of experts in science, law, and mainline
scientific propositions and conducts no scientific research or Christianity is sufficient to reject biblical creationism. For those
testing. who prefer to be better acquainted with the overwhelming
The most devastating criticism of biblical creationism comes scientific documentation that supports human evolution, I
from the Botanical Society of America’s 2003 Statement on recommend The Ancestor’s Tale (2004) by Richard Dawkins.
Evolution, which demonstrated it to be utter pseudoscience: There are two essential conclusions about biblical
creationism: It is a religious myth that reflects superstitions that
1. Creationism has not generated any testable predictions; emanate from our distant past dating back many millennia, and
2. Creationism has not made a single contribution to it is a continuing fundamentalist Christian menace to science
agriculture, medicine, conservation, forestry, pathology, education in America.
or any other area of applied biology;
3. Creationism has yielded no classifications, no Brian Bolton is a retired psychologist living in Georgetown, Texas. The
biogeographies, no underlying mechanisms, and no article summarizes arguments and gives sources used in a debate
unifying concepts with which to study organisms or life; with a local creationist titled “Is Creationism Rationally Defensible?”
therefore

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Is the Universe a Bad Joke? - continued from page 21

Bad theology designs the god we need, instead of objectively
reading all the data that the cosmos feeds us about what is real.
ethical dilemmas demonstrate that healthy humans, no matter of god is a good thing, that making belief in god appear
their religious beliefs, share impulses to behave ethically. reasonable and respectable is also a good thing—once they
Since some of the things that Jesus taught were really awful, have cleansed it of all the ugly baggage that the Bible has
the “Jesus standard” has to be used with great caution. attached to its main character.
And, of course, there is no such thing as a holy man. This But the good intentions can have grievously bad
is a concept manufactured by religious bureaucracies; it is a outcomes, because there is nothing that moors theology
part of the bamboozle. In his role as the divine Pharaoh Seti I to reality. If theology could be grounded that way, I would
in The Ten Commandments, Sir Cedric Hardwicke got the best ask believers to point me to reliable, verifiable data that all
line in that movie. Lying on his deathbed, the old king retained theists agree on.
a grasp of reality: “The servant who empties my chamber pot I will wait patiently. The scandalous splintering of
knows how holy I am.” theism—there are tens of thousands of brands—suggests that
this simply is not possible. They do not agree on the best ways
What the Priest Can’t Teach You to tap into knowledge of god. Theology exploits the free reign
But I don’t fault this Hunter College student for of human emotion, as it finds expression in visions, prayers,
rediscovering god in the context in which he was raised. revelation, meditation, trances, scripture, and the insights of
Moreover, in defense of the priest, I will say that for seers and god-experts, a.k.a. theologians. Hence, they have
parishioners who are going through a rough patch, who are never been able to agree on what the gods are like, based on all
looking for good counsel and comfort, the priest may be the of these supposed channels.
right person to turn to—depending on the level of training
and skill of the priest. Priests can be really good pastors. Let’s Not Beat up Too Much on St. Hildegard
I have little doubt that most priests warrant the good esteem Anything that anyone comes up with, under the inf luence
in which they are held. Do they always give good counsel? I of religious fervor, is fair game to plug into theological systems.
will hedge a little on this. We have reason to believe that—at Some really awful stuff has been the product of the claimed
least in the U.S.—most Catholics turn a deaf ear to priestly religious experiences, hence so much of the nastiness we find
advice on birth control, divorce, and now to the Church’s in the Bible.
wicked position on gays and lesbians as well. I assume that a We can cut St. Hildegard some slack for her confidence
properly credentialed and vetted counselor who also happens that god hugs people, primarily because of the benevolence
to be a priest can offer sound guidance in many areas of life, this image conveys. It brings to mind god’s “loving-kindness”
and provide a safe shoulder to cry on. mentioned in Psalm 107:43. I wouldn’t dare call this bad
But there is a caveat, and it is big. theology, but “God gives hugs” does not qualify as knowledge.
Anyone who wants to perform due diligence on their This belongs to the rich tradition of theologians making
faith—really probe to find out if it is true—should realize that things up. Too much of this kind of talk gets tiresome. We
the priest is a last resort because priests are paid propagandists. suspect we’re being fed f luff, and the word “theobabble” comes
That’s just the way it is; that’s what they are trained to be and to mind.
hired to do. Again, I have no trouble believing that most clergy Hildegard’s intense personal assurance about god’s
are sincere, decent people who are out to do good. But they tenderness emerged from years of piety practiced in a convent.
are also paid to advance and defend beliefs that will never St. Hildegard pulled the idea of a hugging god out of thin air,
withstand proper due diligence. Seminaries teach how to and while it may not be bad theology, it is fantasy nonetheless.
block due diligence. If Christians can begin to see this problem, they’ll be a few
steps closer to appreciating the importance and the rigors of
Meaning Well, of Course, But due diligence. The universe only seems to be a bad joke if folks
I will not dispute that good intentions have commonly aren’t expecting a cosmic buddy in the first place.
played a role in fueling theological guesswork. The benign
rallying cry of Christian theologians is perhaps the old hymn, David Madison has a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Boston University
so cherished in my own childhood: “I will cling to the old and was a Methodist pastor for nine years. His book, Ten Tough
rugged cross.” I can still recall the slow-paced, mournful Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist
sentimentality of that song. Theologians know in their hearts Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published in August by
that the cross is worth clinging to. Tellectual Press (TenToughProblems.com).
They assume, of course, that belief in the Christian version

We have reason to believe that most U.S. Catholics turn a deaf
ear to the Church’s wicked position on gays and lesbians.
36 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
With a foreword by American Atheists President David Silverman

"Secularism needs activism, and Dan Arel shows how to do it. With interesting
anecdotes and nuts-and-bolts advice, Arel provides a valuable handbook for
those who want to join the fight for reason and church-state separation. This is a
useful resource that will enable budding secular activists to effectively engage in
the culture wars." — David Niose, Legal Director, American Humanist Association
and author of Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans

Dan Arel offers pragmatic lessons for protecting secularism, whether by raising
awareness on social media, protesting in the public square, or knocking on doors
in government corridors. Sharing not only his story but also the stories of other
secular activists, he offers an inspirational and forceful call to action.

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 37
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38 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
This book exposes the pre-Judaism roots
of Christendom and the fabricated Jesus
tales. It provides exhaustive evidence for
the oppression, forgeries, and horrors
committed in the name of Jesus.

Available in paperback and e-book at
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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 Reasonriders.com

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

CA-N Atheist Advocates of San Francisco San Francisco http://atheistadvocatesofsanfrancisco.com/

CA-N Atheist Community of San Jose San Jose Sanjoseatheists.org

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

40 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH 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/Orlando 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 Secularlatinos.weebly.com

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 Secular Student Alliance, Moorehad State University Moorehead Facebook.com/msussa

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>

4TH QUARTER 2016 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 41
AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
MD Secular Student Alliance, Frostburg State University Frostburg Secularstudents.org/frostburg

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 O’Fallon Freethinkers O’Fallon 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 Mshumanists.org

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

NY Ward Melville High School Secular Student Alliance East Setauket http://goo.gl/K2koj

NY Westchester Atheists Chappaqua http://www.meetup.com/atheists-504

42 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
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 Meetup.com/Houston-atheists

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

WY Wyoming Atheists Facebook.com/groups/wyomingatheists

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 Ateístas de Puerto Rico San Juan http://goo.gl/K2koj

Intl Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society http://www.patas.co

4TH QUARTER 2016 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 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.

A theism involves the mental attitude that unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-
style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of
authority and creeds.

M aterialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent,
immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind, finding
the resources within themselves, can and must create their own destiny. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth
and strive always to improve it. It holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on reason and
justice. Materialism’s ‘faith’ is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own efforts. This is
a commitment that is, in its very essence, life-asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation that is
impossible without noble ideas that inspire us to bold, creative works.

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

44 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 4TH QUARTER 2016
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