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AMERICAN ATHEIST Wiki Commons

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought
1st Quarter 2017
Vol. 55, No. 1
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)

On the cover: The National Prayer Breakfast is one of the most f lagrant demonstrations of government
mingling with religion. This year, Trump promised to repeal the law barring churches from endorsing or
funding candidates for public office. If he succeeds, a significant piece of the wall of separation will be
gone. Story on page 28.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
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 Religion May Save Us After All | Pamela Whissel
PROOFREADERS
Gil Gaudia 5 On Congress, the Pope, and the Separation of Church and State |
Shelley Gaudia Rob Kirkpatrick
Den Jackson
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS 8 A Most Righteous Adventure | Natasha Stoynoff
MANAGING EDITOR
Frank R. Zindler
Editor@Atheists.org 12 DOGMA WATCH
Balderdash on The Mount | Michael B. Paulkovich
Published by
American Atheists, Inc.
Mailing Address: 14 Recovery without God | Elle Mott
P.O. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Phone: 908.276.7300
18 Display the Ten Commandments Now! | Brian Bolton
FAX: 908.276.7402
www.Atheists.org 22 DANTHROPOLOGY
An Activist’s Toolkit | Dan Arel
©2017 American Atheists Inc.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part
without written permission is prohibited. American
26 It’s Time to Eat Some Babies! | Steve Cass
Atheist is indexed in the Alternative Press Index.
American Atheist magazine is given free of cost to
members of American Atheists as an incident of their
28 COVER STORY
membership. Political Action Churches | Amanda Knief
One-year print subscription to American Atheist
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32 Dealing with Political Irrationality | Gleb Tsipursky
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46 Why I Am An Atheist | Clint Barger
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1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Religion May Save Us After All

A s Atheists, you and I are still putting our faith in
an invisible, omnipresent savior who is powerful
enough to make sure that everything eventually
happens for the best. Despite occasional doubts, we are okay
with leaving our fate in its hands. Unlike the other deities, this
one sometimes does deliver when invoked. And because it
sometimes delivers, we’re understandably tricked into believing
participating and voting. And although we may have doubts
along the way, we must put our faith in this way of life.
Just like twice-a-year Christians who say that it wouldn’t be
Christmas or Easter without going to church, we believe that it
wouldn’t be Primary Day or Election Day without going to the
polls. And just like Jews who wouldn’t think of going a week
without observing the sabbath, we wouldn’t think of going a
it’s real. week without observing a local government meeting. And just
Just like god, this one is given different names by different like Muslims who stop what they’re doing five times a day to
people—names like Someone Else, The Organized Activists, or pray, we stop just once a day to make five phone calls—one each
The Citizens Who Have All The Necessary Information. I tend to these people: your U.S senators, U.S. representative, state
to put my faith in The Citizen Who Has More Time Than I Do. senator, and state representative. Add their numbers to your
Just like religion, this belief system masks the truth, which contact list, and it will take no more than five minutes. What
in this case is that the wall of separation between religion and do you say to them? If you flip through the pages of this issue,
government has never been weaker. The situation is identical to you’ll find plenty of ideas.
the truth about climate change. Unless we all do our part right Because they believe their salvation depends on it, religious
now, life as we know it will no longer be sustainable. Americans always find time for their rituals. We need to do the
Here’s just a fraction of the evidence. Donald Trump is same. The wall that this country has already built needs saving,
determined to get rid of the law barring churches from endorsing and we can use religion to make it great again.
and funding political candidates.1 When he was governor of
Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence successfully imposed his 1. “Read President Trump’s Remarks at the
Evangelical religious agenda on state legislation several times.2 National Prayer Breakfast,” by Ryan Teague
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not sure if a secular Beckwith, Feb. 2, 2017, Time.com.
person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as 2. “Mike Pence’s Journey: Catholic Democrat to
a religious person. 3 Education Secretary Betsy DeVos believes Evangelical Republican,” by Jonathan Mahler and
Dirk Johnson, July 20, 2016, NYTimes.com.
that education reform should advance god’s kingdom.4 In
3. “Attorney General Confirmation Hearing, Day 1,
his confirmation hearing, Housing and Urban Development Part 3,” Jan. 10, 2017, C-Span.org (at 04:22).
Secretary Ben Carson made a point of saying that he is “driven 4. “Trump’s Education Pick Says Reform Can
by morals and values.”5 Those morals and values are driven by a ‘Advance God’s Kingdom,’” by Benjamin
literal interpretation of the Bible. Wermund, Dec. 2, 2016, Politico.com.
So what do we do? This time, we don’t invoke Someone 5. “Housing and Urban Development
Else. We become Someone Else. Then, for the rest of our Secretary Confirmation Hearing,” Jan.
lives, we religiously practice the sacred rituals of democracy: 12, 2017, C-Span.org (at 01:05:14).

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

4 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
On Congress, the Pope, and the
Separation of Church and State
by Rob Kirkpatrick

W e Americans rightly tout our constitutional
separation of church and state, yet we routinely
look the other way when this wall of separation is
breached. Witness the example of the Red Mass, strategically
held in Washington, D.C., every year on the Sunday before
the first Monday in October, when the U.S. Supreme Court
Andre de Laboulaye, to mark the centennial of the death of the
Marquis de Lafayette, and Cuban Ambassador Guillermo Belt,
to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Cuban independence
after the Spanish-American War in 1898.”
To further highlight the privileged nature of the joint session
as a space for public addresses, the web site notes, “A Joint Session
convenes for the purpose, as Andrew Seidel observes, “to ask of Congress has been used almost exclusively to receive the
for God’s guidance for the Supreme Court justices and others President’s State of the Union Address (prior to 1942 called the
who work in the law.”1 In 2010, Sandhya Bathija reported Annual Message), other presidential addresses, and the counting
on that year’s Red Mass, attended by five Supreme Court of electoral votes for the President and Vice President of the U.S.”3
justices and Vice President Joe Biden, in which “all of us heard Clearly, the pope’s invitation came from the space of religious
Archbishop J. Augustive Di Noia, an American who now privilege in America, and it is noteworthy that the invitation was
works at the Vatican, give a homily that instructed those in formally issued to the pope by House Speaker John Boehner and
attendance on how they should feel about same-sex marriage, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both of whom happen to
abortion, and the dire threat of ‘humanism.’” 2 be Catholics. “Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man known now as Pope with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging
Francis, addressed a Joint Session of Congress in September all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and
2015, it was universally lauded as an historic moment. And I humble service,” Boehner said in a press release. “His tireless
agree it was an historic moment, as it was a breach of the wall of call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us—the
separation for which there was no precedent—and one that set ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished,
an unsettling precedent for the future. the unborn—has awakened hearts on every continent.”4
First, we must acknowledge how rare it is for a foreign dignitary, Boehner avoided overt reference to Catholicism, though his
much less a religious leader, to address both congressional houses. reference to “the unborn” is surely a reference to the Roman
According to the “History, Art, and Archives” site for the U.S. Catholic doctrine on abortion. Pelosi’s comments were more
House of Representatives, “Only twice have foreign dignitaries overtly religious: “Ever since his inauguration in 2013, Pope
addressed a Joint Session of Congress: French Ambassador Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and

Clearly, the pope was afforded a privileged space to address
Congress purely through his status as a leader of a global religion.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 5
It was an historic moment, as it was a breach of the wall
of separation for which there was no precedent.
inspired a new generation of people, regardless of religious believe I’ve missed similar invitations to Prince Hans-Adam
affiliation, to be instruments of God’s peace. In the spirit of II of Lichtenstein, Prince Albert II of Monaco, or the Captain
his namesake and the namesake of my city of San Francisco, Regents of San Marino.
St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis heeds the call to ‘Preach Clearly, the pope was afforded a privileged space to address
the gospel; sometimes use words’ [sic] by living his values and Congress purely through his status as a leader of a global religion.
inspiring all of us to do the same.”5 If there is any doubt on this point, Boehner’s and Pelosi’s collective
Indeed, the faith-based nature of Francis’ speech was clear. comments on his invitation, and the nature of the address, reveal
He began by telling Congress: “Yours is a work which makes me this to be so. The pope’s speech lacked any reference to the Vatican
reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, state, trade policy, or geopolitical relations. On the other hand, it
the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the included allusions to “God” (nine times), “religion” (seven times),
need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just “Moses” (three times), “faith” (three times), “Catholic” (once),
legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to and three American religious figures (Thomas Merton, Martin
God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Luther King, and Dorothy Day).
Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are
asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness But he had a positive message of peace and love.
fashioned by God on every human face.” I am sympathetic to some of the pope’s sentiments, such as
Certainly, the pope has a right to come to America and to when he warned against income inequity and the excesses of
address his followers in person, as he did for multiple events global capitalism—though less so to the message sent by his
in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia, in addition to his canonization of Junípero Serra 6, 7 or his argument downplaying
personal audience with our nation’s chief executive. the Church’s sexism because it’s a “la” and not an “il.”8
But the invitation for him to speak to our official body of But this is irrelevant. Whether we like a religion is not a
elected lawmakers—again, an invitation delivered by members conversation we should have in this context, any more so than
of his particular faith, and for a forum normally reserved for we should judge the politics of someone’s free speech before we
the president of the United States or the Electoral College— selectively decide to respect their constitutionally protected
was a clear act of preferential treatment granted before a body freedom of speech. Do we want our elected officials to decide
established for determining public policy. which religion, or religious message, we authorize, endorse, or
Given the Christian-majority population of America and give preferential treatment to? Does this not set a dangerous
(disproportionately) its political leaders, as well as the popularity precedent? Now that we’ve granted this privilege to the Roman
of Francis with the liberal perspectives (relative to recent popes) Catholic faith, which representatives from what other religions
he has voiced on some long-standing, controversial issues will we allow to address Congress? And who is to make that
of Church doctrine, very few people noted the problem his decision? Or is Congress granting preference to this one faith
congressional audience posed for the principles of a secular state. alone? And if so, on what constitutional basis?
The arguments I’ve heard used to defend the occasion of his
address, however, do not hold up if we are to be sincere in our As a global leader with many followers throughout the world, he
efforts to protect separation of church and state. deserves our respect.
To address these one by one: I’m sorry? Who is anyone to tell non-Catholics the head
cleric of the Roman Catholic faith deserves their respect?
He’s not just a religious leader. He’s the head of an independent And is having a sizeable audience of worldwide followers
state, so it’s appropriate that he speak before Congress. really the criterion we are to use now for issuing an invitation to
This argument smacks of trying to get off on a technicality— speak to Congress? Shall we then invite Salafist cleric Mohamad
and one that is easily countered. Aside from the fact that there al-Arefe, a man with 15.9 million followers on Twitter—six
is very little precedent for foreign heads of state addressing the million more than the pope has? For that matter, shall we invite
entire Congress, it’s abundantly clear the pope was not invited Katy Perry with her 93.6 million followers, 15.43 million more
because of his role as the head of the independent state. Did than Obama and seventy-one million more than Donald Trump
Boehner invite Francis so the United States could strengthen and Hillary Clinton combined?
diplomatic ties or forge trade agreements with the fewer than While these might seem like unlikely events, let’s consider
900 people who live in the 110-acre subdivision within Rome some other hypothetical scenarios:
(a subdivision, by the way, which neither houses a U.S. embassy
nor has a distinct one in a remote location)? In that case, I • Pat Robertson is invited to speak to Congress by virtue of his

Is Congress granting preference to this one faith
alone? And if so, on what constitutional basis?
6 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Now that we’ve granted this privilege to the Roman
Catholic faith, which representatives from what other
religions will we allow to address Congress?
appeal to right-wing Christians, and he espouses his views of lawmaking process, it’s actually a very good idea on a practical
marriage with the husband as “the head of the wife.”9 level for maintaining a pluralistic society. This wall of separation
• At the suggestion of Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a is not about elimination; it’s about mutual protection.
high-ranking leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints In closing, let’s recall the words of Catholic President John
is invited to speak to Congress, and he instructs our F. Kennedy, who said: “I believe in an America where the
lawmakers about the sinfulness of homosexual acts. 10 separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic
• In an attempt to strengthen oil diplomacy, Congress prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to
invites a member of the ruling family from the rigid act…I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic,
theocracy of Saudi Arabia—which our government Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests
recognizes as an ally, after all—to address Congress, or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the
and he voices intolerance of non-believers of Wahhabism National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical
or pushes for Islamic teachings to be incorporated into source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will
American school curricula.11, 12, 13 directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public
acts of its officials.”
In such instances, how quickly would the same people who What sounded reasonable then should not be an
have defended the pope’s speaking before Congress jump up to unreasonable expectation today.
cry, “Separation of church and state!”?
Ultimately, when it comes to protecting this wall of Rob Kirkpatrick is a literary agent, author, and former acquisitions
separation, it shouldn’t matter whether we like the message editor who has worked in the book publishing industry for nearly
of a given religious leader. The government is not supposed two decades. He was the editor and publisher of Fighting God: An
to be in that business. Once they cross that line, they are, at Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World by David Silverman, president of
the very least, creating an appearance of impropriety in giving American Atheists. You can follow Rob at @wrappedupinboox.
a stamp of approval—an official endorsement of legitimacy
granted by our lawmakers—to the establishment or practice
of that religion. Endnotes:
1. “Black Robes at the Red Mass: The Undesirable Religiosity of
But it’s good for world leaders to talk to each other. Supreme Court Justices,” by Andrew L. Seidel, Oct. 4, 2016,
During his visit to the U.S., the pope did speak to the United Patheos.com/blogs/FreethoughtNow
Nations General Assembly, the appropriate venue for his 2. “Red Mass Mandate: Archbishop Advises High Court Justices
mingling with other world leaders, and he was welcomed at the about Religion and Government,” by Sandhya Bathija, Oct. 4,
White House. Being granted an official audience, in his capacity 2010, AU.org
as a cleric, with the lawmakers of our constitutionally secular 3. H t t p : // History.House.gov/Institution/Foreign-Leaders/
state, is beyond the pale. And just imagine the cry of religious Foreign-Leaders/
“insensitivity” if, for instance, the State Department sent an 4. “Speaker Boehner Invites Pope Francis to Address Joint Meeting of
emissary from American Atheists to deliver moral instruction Congress,” March 13, 2014, Speaker.gov
to the Holy See. 5. “Pelosi Statement on Announcement of Pope Francis’ U.S.
Itinerary,” June 30, 2015, Pelosi.House.gov
We have separation of church and state but other nations don’t, 6. “Saint or Sinner? Pope Courts Controversy with Canonization of
so we should respect this. Junípero Serra,” by Tracy Connor, Sept. 23, 2015, NBCNews.com
This strikes me as similar to the regressive argument that 7. “Junípero Serra’s Road to Sainthood is Controversial for Native
America or the West should consider limitations on free speech Americans,” by Alan Yuhas, Jan. 25, 2015, TheGuardian.com
out of “respect for” or “sensitivity to” other nations’ blasphemy 8. “Pope Francis on Women Priests: ‘That Cannot be Done,’” Sept.
laws. I disagree with this dangerous idea and hope any rational 28, 2015, WomensOrdination.org
person would also. 9. “The Top 10: Facebook ‘Vomit’ Button for Gays and Other Pat
Robertson Quotes,” by Leslie Bentz, July 9, 2013, CNN.com
What’s wrong with a little religion? We can’t force our lawmakers 10. MormonAndGay.LDS.org
to be Atheists. 11. “Why the U.S. is Stuck with Saudi Arabia,” by Matt Schiavenza,
We don’t require our lawmakers to be Atheists. We require Jan. 24, 2015, TheAtlantic.com
them to be secular in their capacities as elected officials. We 12. “Saudi Textbooks Still Teach Hate, Group Says,” by Vicky O’Hara,
live in a nation where lawmakers are prohibited from favoring May 24, 2006, NPR.org
one religion over another. Not only do our lawmakers have an 13. “Islam in America’s Public Schools: Education or Indoctrination,”
obligation to keep their personal religious perspectives out of the by Cinnamon Stillwell, June 11, 2008, SFGate.com

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 7
A Most
Righteous
A dventure
In his first book, The Story of God: A Biblical
Comedy about Love (and Hate), the co-creator of
the Bill & Ted franchise focuses his satirical eye
on the funniest story ever told: the Bible.

by Natasha Stoynoff

G rowing up in Hidden Hills, California, Chris
Matheson wasn’t a class-clown type of kid. “I
was an introvert,” says the writer-director, “I
was never ‘the funny guy.’”
Hard to believe, because soon after graduating from UCLA
with a degree in theatre, Matheson became the new go-to
dude for clever funny. That’s when he teamed up with college
successes. The elder Matheson, who died in 2013, also penned
one of the most revered fan-favorite episodes of The Twilight
Zone: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner
sees gremlins on the wing of an airplane.
“He was famous for taking horror out of the Edgar Allen
Poe, gothic realm where everything’s a bit thick and making
it very naturalistic,” says Matheson, “he took it into the real
buddy Ed Solomon to write the 1989 cult classic Bill & Ted’s world, where everything looks the same but one thing is off,
Excellent Adventure, the story of two slacker teens journeying and then you just play it out. He’d say, ‘You know, Chris, that’s
back in time to meet historical figures for a class report. The a really good starting point for a lot of storytelling.’”
film spurred millions of Gen-X-ers to mimic Keanu Reeves’ Matheson took his father’s advice. But while Dad spun
signature tag-word—Exxx-cellent!—and an equally awesome supernatural tales of ghosts and zombies as he wrote in a
sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, two years later. converted stall in the barn, his son (whose full name is,
“It wasn’t until my thirties,” says Matheson, now 57, who ironically, Christian) went on a search for truth and reason in
based the characters on schoolmates of his and Solomon’s— his work, often on the subject of religion and always with more
or so he thought—“when I could look back on the film and go, humor than horror.
‘Oh, right, of course! Those guys were us!’” His 2013 film, Rapture-Palooza, tells the post-rapture story
Matheson comes by his writing talents and time-travelling of a group of people left on Earth after all the “good” ones are
characters genetically. His father, author-screenwriter Richard whisked up to heaven, as per the Book of Revelation.
Matheson, was an icon in the fantasy, horror, and science-fiction “The antichrist is ruling the world,” he explains, “but he’s
genres whose novels—including I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes, kind of a shit antichrist who is obsessed with women and sex,
Bid Time Return, and The Shrinking Man—became silver screen and he falls for a girl...and there are nasty insects and giant

Satan is Bugs Bunny to God’s Elmer Fudd.
8 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Donald Trump reminds me of the God character. Petty,
vindictive, thin-skinned, misogynistic—a bully and a fraud.
rocks falling out of the sky...and then God shows up and I didn’t set foot in a church, or any religious building of any
marches down out of the sky...and Jesus flies out of the air and kind, until I was in my late twenties. The first time I did, it was a
the people accidentally laser beam and kill him...” Catholic church, and I was like, Whoa, this is intense, this is really
Yeah, he’s definitely his father’s son. interesting, there’s so much going on here. It was fascinating.
In The Story of God, Matheson takes on the bogus journey of
the Bible by delving into the psyche of the doubting, neurotic, Did you realize at the time that everyone in the room
f lawed, self-destructive, jealous, angry God he found when he believed the wafer and wine became Jesus’ actual flesh and
re-read the Bible in his forties (he was in his twenties when he blood?
read it cover-to-cover the first time around). From Genesis to When I grasped that, my jaw dropped. What? Literally?
Revelation, he essentially dismantles and rewrites the “good What a bizarre idea. It was like magic…and so spectacularly
book” to expose its absurdity. morbid. This is my body. Eat me.
“I point it out again and again,” he says, “because I don’t
know how people believe it. It seems to come from a deep And yet, followers have believed it for over two thousand
emotional need. Death is scary to human beings, and the idea years now.
that you’re not going to die but will instead see your loved That is the ultimate mystery, isn’t it? I would find myself
ones again and that everything’s going to work out is clearly bumping into that one again and again and again as I immersed
an attractive idea.” myself [in the Bible]. Sometimes I’d stop reading and close the
It’s a concept that continues to fascinate Matheson as book and shake my head in disbelief and think, How can anyone
well. At home in Portland, Oregon, where he’s still a quiet guy take this seriously? I concluded that most people don’t actually
who “thrives on peace and calm,” he spent last year pairing read it.
up eternal frenemies God and Satan and came up with Satan's
Story: A Postscript to the Story of God, which is included in the But you knew good material when you saw it, so you got to
paperback and e-book versions of the book. work.
This year, he’ll once again resurrect his time traveling pals of Yeah. I thought it was an absolute goldmine for comedy.
old, Bill & Ted, and put final touches on a third installment in So I read the Bible a couple more times pretty carefully and
their adventures—as two middle-aged guys on yet another quest. made a lot of notes. My Bible is very, very scribbled on with
“This time,” says Matheson, “they’ve got to save the world.” comments and questions in the margins like “What about
Hmmmm. Two unlikely, bodacious messiahs? There’s a this? What about that?” I’m a comedy writer, and comedy
funny book in that. writers make fun of things. When I was growing up, I loved
satire—Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver’s Travels. Part of what
Was reading the entire Bible a second time a different I do as a comedy writer is mock. You don’t want to be mean,
experience than the first? exactly, but when you’re making fun of the so-called creator of
The first time, in my late twenties, I thought it was dull, the universe, there’s no possibility of being mean.
and I muscled my way through it. A few bits and pieces were
interesting, but it didn’t really hit me. God in your story reminds me of Richard Dawkins’ quote:
But then, when I read it again twenty years later, I thought, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most
“Oh, man, you’ve got to be kidding! This is the ultimate unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of
Emperor’s New Clothes! This is ridiculous!” That’s not to it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive,
say it’s not pretty at times, because it is—and dramatic. The bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, capriciously
Old Testament in particular is kind of spectacular. But...it’s malevolent bully...”
ludicrous! And he’s stuck in his own narrative that he’s pure good,
which is the most horrible trap for anyone to fall into. You’re
The Story of God really takes him to task. What inspired fucked, because anything bad that happens, it’s always
you? somebody else’s fault.
That’s a big question. It goes back to my childhood and my
experience with absolute truth and absolute authority and not Wait. Your God character is starting to remind me of
liking either concept. someone.
Donald Trump. Donald Trump reminds me of the God
Was your upbringing religious? character! Petty, vindictive, thin-skinned, misogynistic—a

God hates women and fears them. Adam is a weakling, Eve is not.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 9
When you’re making fun of the so-called creator of the
universe, there’s no possibility of being mean.
bully and a fraud. And they both speak for the angry, the kinda goes rogue and changes the rules and mainly talks about
resentful, the repressed, the ignorant, and the small. As black himself.
comedy, well, this is brilliant. For the country, yikes!
At least your God character chastises himself in the rare
And neither your God nor The Donald seem qualified to moments he sees he’s not perfect. I like how you get into
be in charge. his psyche and try to figure him out.
Right. God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet his plans I wanted to find an emotional center for him and play it
never work out! And it infuriates him. Either his plans are that he is very self-aware...that he’s actually tormented by the
stupid—which they often are—or he’s a fraud—which he knowledge that all of these [f laws] are true, and that on some
sometimes seems to be—or, and this is the funniest, he is level he’s not what he pretends to be. And it bothers him.
profoundly mentally ill and deeply self-loathing, essentially
wanting his plans to fail so that he can punish himself. All Let me guess. It’s all mom’s fault?
three are comedy gold and the last is platinum. Well, God either had no mother, which is tough, or she
deserted him, which is brutal. God clearly dislikes women
Let’s go over some of the stupid plans you so deftly point right from the start. He’s a misogynist when we meet him. The
out. First of all, God gets confused by what Jesus says. question is why. I think it’s about mother. What else could it
Like when he calls himself “the son of man” so often. Is he be?
implying that Joseph is his father? Wrong! He’s not the son of
man, he’s the son of God! He doesn’t even bother to give names to a lot of women. He
turns Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, but doesn’t bother to
And Lazarus...that was a mistake. take two seconds to name her!
Bringing Lazarus back from the dead. Does [Jesus] not Because women don’t matter. Because they’re inferior.
realize that doing this completely undermines the power of Because he hates them and fears them. Adam is a weakling,
his own resurrection? Eve is not.

The big flood he gets right, though. Because, as you point He likes handsome men, though. And he pays lots of
out, he had those giant, underground fountains installed attention to men’s nether regions, especially with the
ahead of time. brilliant circumcision idea.
It was very clever pre-planning, no? I like it because it He kills two birds with one stone. Get men to prove their
makes it totally obvious that he was going to drown everyone love and devotion to him and also enhance the aesthetic of the
from the start. penis. He’s obsessed with men.

The Ten Commandments. Your thoughts there? Is he...um...
It’s the ultimate crown jewel in the Old Testament and yet Is he gay? Ultimately, I think not. He’s stunted, obsessed
not that much of a jewel at all. Are we supposed to think that with himself—and therefore with his own sex organs.
people thought it was just fine to rob and kill before this?
Is that why he gets jealous when people worship “that
Then there’s the whole “life is eternal” thing. asshole Baal?” Because, as you write, Baal is the “fun, sexy
Big error, because you can’t ever really be rid of anyone. All god.”
you do is create even more enemies. Yeah, God’s terribly repressed about sex—clearly scared
of it, scared of failure maybe, or of his own desires. And then
His Plan B, to bring in Jesus to save everyone after he there’s Baal, whose people have orgies, lots of sex—and guess
bungles everything up, doesn’t work, either. which one people are drawn to? God is an uptight prig, among
Jesus was meant to take over the family business for a while, many other things.
give God a break—but Jesus is half human—something God
apparently didn’t grasp. He thought Mary was just a vehicle. Satan, on the other hand, seems James Dean cool and
Turns out she actually contributed genetically. And Jesus way smarter in your reframing of their rivalry. He’s like

The Old Testament in particular is kind of spectacular.
But...it’s ludicrous!
10 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Satan is the only one who looks him in the eye and says,
in effect, “You’re not what you pretend to be.”
the misunderstood anti-hero. I was rooting for him the
whole way. You grew up with no formal religion, but your father was
On the page, he does very little that’s bad, but he’s defined raised as a Christian Scientist.
as bad! And in a story where everyone grovels before God Then he left it. He didn’t believe in that at all and became, for
and nobody stands up to God and they all beg and plead and lack of a better word, “new-agey.” He’d hate to be described as
whimper, Satan is the only one who looks him in the eye and that, though. He would call it his “metaphysical belief system.”
says, in effect, “You’re not what you pretend to be.” And it And it was huge, it was all-encompassing. His Bible was this book
freaks God out. written in the early twentieth century, Thinking and Destiny, and
it was like, “Here is the explanation for everything, here is the
The only other person who seems way the universe really is.” It was sort
to tell the truth is Solomon. of proto-L. Ron Hubbard, about how
I think Solomon is the hero little blue men created everything. I
of the book in a lot of ways and is finally read it in my thirties and I was
clearly trying to expand the belief like, “This is nonsense!” He didn’t
system. To me, he’s trying to say to like that.
his people, “We don’t have to take
this so literally. It’s a bigger picture I’m envisioning invigorating
than this.” I ended up believing that discussions at the family dinner
Solomon was the great visionary and table.
was, in effect, planting a bomb at the We got into a lot of arguments
center of people’s belief system. over the years. When a very, very
religious person has a very skeptical
What part of the Bible makes you child, it’s going to be bumpy. My
laugh the most? siblings more or less agreed with his
God’s freak-out at the end of the belief system. I was the black sheep
Book of Job. He starts yelling down of a metaphysical family.
from heaven, and he’s so mean. And
here’s Job, he’s just lost ten children You can see how his beliefs
and his life has been ruined, he’s in influenced his writing. I can’t
agony, and his whole body is covered sleep if I watch his episodes of
with blisters. His three friends The Twilight Zone. Do you have a
showed up and were complete favorite?
assholes to him. And Job’s a really, I like “Nightmare at 20,000
really good man! God really likes Feet.” It’s great that everyone thinks
him! But God starts yelling at him William Shatner is crazy. My dad was
and bullies him and berates him and really good at writing horror. I Am
he brags and brags. Legend, The Shrinking Man—in that one, he really gets at male
fears regarding women. His work was upsetting and scary.
And just when you think it can’t get worse… He immersed himself in [horror]. But even though he was
It gets worse. God starts to talk crazy and sounds like naturally super-great at it, I think he wanted to transcend it,
he’s having some sort of breakdown. He starts talking about overcome it, so he built this metaphysical scaffolding of belief.
animals and then he goes off on his giant pet sea monster, He created a reality for himself that was very mystical and
Leviathan, whom you can dress up and open up the doors in fantastic. He was the sort of person that if a closet door blew
his face and have little girls play with and ... it’s so comedic. It’s closed, or if the pipes made noise, it was a spirit that did it. He
magnificent. Jonathan Swift could not have written it better. took me to astrologers, and they gave me big readings, and I was
It’s the most devastating, lacerating piece of unacknowledged like, “Okay, I guess this is the truth.”
satire ever written. Continued on page 35

From Genesis to Revelation, he essentially dismantles
and rewrites the “good book” to expose its absurdity.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 11
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.

Balderdash on The Mount
by Michael B. Paulkovich

C hristians are taught that Jesus, the virgin-for-life
son of a virgin mother, was a perfect being. Thomas
Aquinas made this claim in the 13th century, and I
hear Christians today say it all the time. Joseph Belamy wrote in
the 18th century that to deny that god is an “absolutely perfect
being” is—get this—“down-right atheism.” I’ll happily take his
• We must kill blasphemers (Lev. 24:14), adulterers (Lev.
20:10), any bride discovered not to be a virgin (Deut. 22:21),
and anyone who worships the wrong god (Numbers 25:1-9)
even if the condemned is in your own family (Deut. 13:6-10).

Let’s stop here for a moment and note that elsewhere in
intended insult as a compliment. the Bible, Jesus rejects Old Testament law: “The law and the
But even a quick read of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount prophets were until John [the Baptist]. From that time the
proves that the “god” character and his son are pretty much the kingdom of God is preached and every one useth violence
opposite of perfection. Comprising all of Chapters 5, 6, and 7 in towards it” (Luke 16:16). But back on the mount, the J-man
the Book of Matthew, the sermon is the longest-running scene claims that anyone who calls another person a fool is in danger
in the gospels. of hell fire (Matthew 5:22). Is Jesus saying that he sent the
Early on in the program, Jesus claims that the hideous laws guys who wrote Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 to hell? Both of
of the Hebrew holy book apply to all people forever (Matthew those verses say, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no
5:17-19). “What hideous laws?” the naïve Christian will ask. God.” Over in Romans 1:21-22 and Galatians 3:1, Paul uses
Well, here are just a few: the Greek word ἄφρων, which means “fool.” Did Jesus send
“Saint” Paul to hell, too?
• Parents must kill their children if they are disrespectful Jesus himself calls other people fools in Matthew 23:17.
(Exodus 21:17). Holy hypocrisy, Batman! But we did see this coming. Earlier
• We are commanded to kill “witches” (Exodus 22:18). in our program, the holy hypocrite himself calls other people
• We must kill anyone who curses their father or mother hypocrites in Matthew 7:5.
(Lev. 20:9). In Matthew 5:28-30, we have more perfect wisdom on that
• We must kill men who have sex with other men (Lev. 20:13). mythical mount: if you’re attracted to a woman you’d better

In the Capitol Building, which far too many Americans mistake
for a church, every session of Congress opens with a prayer.
12 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Prayer is nothing less than blasphemy because
who are you to question his plans for you?
pluck out your eyes and cut off your hands or you’ll be sent to himself says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge
hell. Such love! righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
A few verses later, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, Finally, Jesus brings the sermon to a close thusly: “Ask, and
and “bless them that curse you” because God sends rain on both it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
the just and on the unjust (5:44-45). That there is what we call be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and
Christian logic. So, love your enemies—and hate your family, he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be
as we learn from Luke 14:26. opened.”
Chapter 5 of Matthew ends with Jesus saying that we must That’s right, once again take no thought, just pray. This
be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” “perfect being” also bought into the Noah/Great Flood
This is impossible to obey, and thus totalitarian and insane. nonsense (Matthew 24:37, Luke 17:27), actually believed
The churches love this one, as such an impossible standard Adam, Eve, and their sons were real people (Luke 3:38 and
will always keep their subjects failing, returning weekly for Luke 11:51), believed Jonah lived in a fish or whale (Matthew
guidance and forgiveness and contributing to the collection 12:40), and Lot’s wife turned into salt (Luke 17:31-32). Jesus
plate. This is nothing less than one of the all-time greatest taught that the cause of illness is “sin” or “devils” (John 5:13-
business models. 14, Matthew 8:31-33, Luke 4:41), which is why the sound
In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus tells his disciples not to pray methods of Hippocrates were replaced for centuries with
in public. Two comments about this. First, large groups of exorcism. Thank you, Jesus!
Christians meet in public all the time to pray; it’s called church. This deluded bastard child from Christian mythology was
In the Capitol Building, which far too many Americans mistake also convinced the world was about to end and “the stars shall
for a church, every session of Congress opens with a prayer. fall from heaven” (Matthew 24:29). Yes, this perfect being
Second, it seems that the better advice would be not to pray thought that stars are tiny specks hovering in the sky, not
because by definition, prayer is nothing less than blasphemy colossal balls of violent fusion trillions of miles from Earth.
because who are you to question his omniscience and his plans Jesus sure was smart!
for you? The Encyclopedia Britannica states that the Sermon on
Next, we get the ultimate wisdom from Jesus on that mount: the Mount is “a biblical collection of religious teachings and
ethical sayings of Jesus of Nazareth...based on a new law of
Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what love.” Ethical? New law? Love? Seems like the writers of that
ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. encyclopedia entry never bothered to read the sermon.
Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? The superstitious and ignorant men who wrote the Bible
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do stories were the poorest of philosophers living in frightened
they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father clusters practicing slavery and rape and devotion to ancient
feedeth them ... Therefore take no thought, saying, What fairy tales and immoral laws. Any thinking person who reads the
shall we eat (Matthew 6:25-31)? Bible today can see that the writers lusted for the properties and
virgins of rival tribes. Even the “good part,” the New Testament,
Perfect Jesus thinks that because birds don’t have farms, god is full of shameless morals and childish twaddle.
must be feeding them! So people should follow their example After I finally read the Bible in its entirety, its inane and
and never bother to hunt or fish or grow crops or even do any depraved teachings caused me to reject my Christian upbringing
planning since the heavenly father takes care of birds, who, for and embrace “down-right atheism.”
some reason, get better treatment than the children in drought-
ravaged Ethiopia. And for as much as god loves birds, he must Michael B. Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer and freelance writer
really hate polar bears or he’d be doing something about those who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist Perspectives. He
melting ice caps. is a contributing editor for The American Rationalist and author of
The first words spoken by Jesus in Matthew Chapter 7 Beyond The Crusades, with a foreword by Robert M. Price, published by
are, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” The thorny-crowned American Atheist Press.
weirdo seems to have forgotten his own edict to obey the Old
Testament laws, which commands us to judge: “Ye shall do Bibliography
no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the Belamy, Joseph, An Essay on the Nature and Glory of the Gospel
person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in of Jesus Christ. London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1762.
righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Jesus Britannica.com/topic/sermon-on-the-mount

The sound methods of Hippocrates were replaced
for centuries with exorcism. Thank you, Jesus!
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 13
Recovery without God
by Elle Mott

I n American culture, many of us look to support groups to
overcome our difficulties. What if you found a group that
was the perfect fit for your situation, except the members of
the group said the only way you’d get through your trying time
is by first believing “God” would save you? Or what if they didn’t
voice that, but with shushing nods expected you to join in the
gave me no clue as to where I was. Only a convenience store across
the highway was in sight. Thankfully, it faced away from me, for I
must have been an eyesore. My need both to relieve and to hydrate
myself was a sign that a long time had passed since I had last been
coherent—not that I felt all that sharp in my awakening, but that
was normal for me when my addiction was in full throttle.
prayer circle before participating? It was Ruth (not her real name) who helped me get home to
I once found myself in just that predicament. Without Springfield, Missouri. Her husband was a deacon in my church,
knowing what to do about it, I wasted several years looking and I was on friendly terms with her. I sucked up my shame to call
for the answers in the wrong place. It wasn’t a mistake to join a her collect because I had no earthly idea how to get home. I wasn’t
support group—far from it. I’m alive today because I joined. The even sure if my battle-scarred car would make it there. Deep into
mistake was in not being my own advocate, and as a result, I made my remorse, I couldn’t think well enough to make decisions.
myself vulnerable to religious indoctrination. And when I let that Ruth did the thinking for me. And the praying.
happen, the benefits of the support group disappeared, and my She first instructed me to go into the convenience store and
health plummeted. ask where I was. I had to admit I needed a bathroom and an orange

All the prayer chains in the world weren’t going to save me.
For me, it was the need to overcome my addiction through a juice. With information gained from the store clerk, I called her
Twelve Step recovery group. There are over two hundred Twelve back. She pulled out her road map and then prayed for me. Each
Step Groups, which include Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine evening, when I pulled into a rest stop for the night, I called her, as
Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and promised. On my third day, when I was close to home, I called her
Overeaters Anonymous. These fellowships, with a worldwide with the update. “Oh, good! I knew our prayers were working,”
membership in the millions, offer social support, group Ruth said.
discussion, and a course of action with dependence on a higher Normal people can stop whatever it is that gets them into
power—often identified as “God”—to promote and sustain trouble. I wasn’t normal. I could not stop because I was deeply
recovery from addiction. engulfed in my addiction, which rendered me unable to grasp
My own journey to recovery began when I woke up one any coping mechanisms or solutions. In fact, I had joined Ruth’s
summer morning in 1998 to find myself behind the wheel of my Baptist church in the hopes of turning my life around. Try as I
car, parked in a vacant gravel lot. I had no idea what time it was, might—or as they might at church—my failures, defiant attitude,
save for the light of the rising sun bombarding my pounding head. and fiascos so common to the traits of my addiction continued.
I forced my eyes open and peeled my cheek off of my driver’s side My church family was both forgiving and encouraging, but all the
window. A crossroads with a long, barren stretch of rural highway prayer chains in the world weren’t going to save me.

14 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Thanks to Ruth’s help, my chaos-driven life slowed down to However, most members—both then and now—use the word
intermittent havoc until I awoke one day, a little over a year after “God” literally. The consensus of the vast majority is that to stay
my parking lot episode, to find myself in the hospital bed of a detox sober, you have to believe in God.
unit. I was told that my best chance to beat my addiction would Another imperative that is clearly communicated to
be their six-week outpatient recovery program. Discharged three recovering addicts is that your recovery must come before
days later, I joined about twenty other clients for six full days each anything else in your life. That part did resonate with me. So once
week for counseling, education, and group discussions. It was I had remastered the Twelve Steps with help from a sponsor, I felt
there that I was introduced to the Twelve Steps. strong enough to be discerning in my choice of meetings. In order
Willing to do anything they suggested for the sake of my to avoid lengthy talks about interpretations of a higher power, I
recovery, I immediately latched onto a sponsor. In most Twelve favored meetings that focused on personal stories over those with
Step Programs, a sponsor’s role as mentor is an integral part of an open-discussion format. And for obvious reasons, I stayed
the social support system. In a matter of months, I exhaustively away from the meetings focused on the eleventh step (prayer and
worked the Twelve Steps through prayer, written self-inventory, meditation) because those had dimmed lights, candles, and lots
group meetings, unloading secrets to my sponsor, and, where I of praying.
could, restitution to those I had hurt. “[W]e have ceased fighting anyone or anything…” is a line

From the program’s point of view, I risked relapsing
if I didn’t depend on God, yet I knew myself well
enough to understand that I risked relapse by
depending on something I didn’t believe in.
It worked for a while, and I stayed sober for almost seven from the main recovery book’s chapter titled “Into Action.” But
years as I tried to make sense of the God concept. You see, I can’t in my own recovery, I was still fighting a belief in a higher power,
believe in something without understanding why I believe. It was and was therefore fighting the very program that was helping me
a double-edged sword. From the program’s point of view, I risked to stay alive.
relapse if I didn’t depend on God, yet I knew myself well enough Then I met Quinn (not her real name) in late 2014. She, too,
to understand that I risked relapse by depending on something I rejected the God concept, and so we set out on a mutual quest
didn’t believe in (God). to find appropriate meetings. Our efforts were in vain, and we
After a relapse that lasted a few months, I managed to stay realized that if we couldn’t find the ideal meeting, we’d have
sober again for almost four years without relying on a higher to start one of our own because we didn’t want to abandon the
power. But not everything went well, and when I encountered Twelve Step Program.
emotional and serious financial difficulty, I felt that I had to turn Out of hundreds of personal acquaintances and thousands of
back to a higher power, even though I no longer believed it was members in our area, we knew of only two others who might be
real. So I went into denial about my Atheism, but like all denial, it interested in joining a steering committee to form a new group.
was the wrong thing to do, and I relapsed again. For two weeks, we relied on word of mouth, and on January 6,
For nearly three years, I gave in to my addiction and lived a life 2015, our two-person idea became six people strong at our first
riddled with problems for which I couldn’t envision any solutions. steering committee meeting.
Then, through a series of events that had no rhyme or reason, I I had reserved us a meeting room at a facility known as a
landed in northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from recovery clubhouse, which works in cooperation with our Twelve
Cincinnati, on the weekend of my forty-sixth birthday, in May Step Program, although not officially affiliated with it. With our
2013. By June, I was back in the meeting rooms of a Twelve Step reservation came our promise to the clubhouse manager that
Group. There was no other place of recovery for me that I knew our steering committee meeting would be open to anyone who
of, and it had worked before, so I could somehow make it work wanted to attend. I was fine with that rule because the more
as an Atheist, I reasoned to myself. Like before, I latched on to a people who came to our meeting, the stronger our chance was
sponsor to guide me. Like before, I thoroughly worked my way to succeed.
through the Twelve Steps. However, when it came to the part Meeting weekly through January, we openly and respectfully
where I had to “let go and let God,” I refused to listen. hashed out the issues of group name, format, location, time,
There are two books that guide Twelve Step Groups and purpose. In making our decisions, we relied on the Twelve
worldwide. They total 768 pages, and mention God 298 times. Traditions, which guide groups in forming and conducting their
A higher power is mentioned twenty-four times. That’s not meetings.
counting the times “him” or “he,” or other namesakes are used The greatest influence on determining our meeting format
in place of “God.” One of the books has a chapter titled “To the came from Tradition 4, which says, in part, “[E]ach … group
Agnostic” which is condescendingly slanted to state that we must should be responsible to no other authority than its own
find God in order to recover. conscience.” This enabled us to eliminate all prayers from our
The Twelve Step Program’s co-founders had intended the format, despite it going against the grain of traditional recovery
program to accommodate differing religious and spiritual views. programs. Nearly every meeting in the country opens and closes

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 15
We eliminated all prayers from our format, despite it going
against the grain of traditional recovery programs.
with a prayer. Some groups opt for a non-Christian prayer, but Our name came from “A Newcomer Asks,” a pamphlet
there was only one in the area that we knew of. But taking prayer published by our Twelve Step Program, which says, “There is
out of a Twelve Step meeting leaves a void, and we wanted to room in [our Twelve Step Program] for people of all shades of
come up with something to fill it. belief and non-belief.” Among our reasons to start our group was
Besides starting with an opening prayer, nearly all Twelve to be there for newcomers who would otherwise turn away from
Step meetings in this country follow that prayer with the reading a great recovery program for lack of being able to comply with the
or recitation of the official Preamble. So we decided to open our God concept.
meetings by going right to the Preamble and to follow it with Where feasible, we replaced our posted flyers to show our
a preamble of our own, which would concisely articulate the name change. Where not feasible, we didn’t worry about it,
mission of our group. because we were the same group, the only exception being
In order to maintain the anonymity required by Tradition 11, our name. As a group, we next contacted our General Service
I share only part of it here: Conference in New York, which maintains a national list of all
groups who register with them. This list, which is available
This is an autonomous group. Its focus is away from the by request, is especially helpful for those who want to attend a
mystical, mythical, and unproven and towards the taking of meeting while traveling. Registration also gives us the right to
personal responsibility of being accountable. Anyone with a vote on national-level issues impacting our group.
desire for recovery is welcome to attend this meeting. There Next, we contacted the local office for our Twelve Step Group
are no other requirements. for inclusion in the directory for the greater Cincinnati area. That
We do not endorse or oppose atheism. Nor do we was important because volunteers who work a local hotline rely
endorse or oppose any form of religion. Our only wish is to on it. For no reason other than having fallen through the cracks,
assure those who suffer that they can find recovery in our it was nine months and three rounds of directory updates before
Twelve Step Group without having to accept anyone else’s we were included.
beliefs or having to deny their own. During those months when we relied solely on our flyers and
The intention of this group is to promote recovery from word of mouth, the number of members who trickled in were but
[our addiction] through the action parts of the Twelve Steps of a few. Then Quinn dropped out for personal reasons unrelated
[our main text book]: personal inventory, restitution for harms to the group. That left three of our six charter members, myself
done, and helping others. included. Because we all have lives and responsibilities outside
the group, sometimes only two out of three of us could show up.
Another decision to make was meeting location. Many groups Week after week, meeting after meeting, I was mystified there
meet in church basements, but we unanimously threw that idea weren’t more like us pursuing a life of recovery without prayer.
out because of its potential to imply a support of religion. That Despite my fears of having to fold, I never gave up on our group
left our choices rather slim, and following discussion and voting, and showed up at every meeting.
the clubhouse became our number-one choice. But first, we had We gained a new member after I announced our group to an
to obtain permission from the clubhouse board of directors, online community unaffiliated with any Twelve Step Program.
which involved their approval of all aspects of our meeting. After More people found us after we were finally included in the local
we received approval and felt ready to “go live” with our group, we directory, and word-of-mouth continued to bring in others.
scheduled our first meeting for Tuesday, February 3, 2015. By the time of our one-year anniversary, four more people
Although we had plastered bulletin boards all over Cincinnati became regular members. Today, two years and over one hundred
with flyers announcing the date, our first group meeting was just meetings later, we routinely have a well-attended meeting. We are
the six committee members, but I felt right at home with the far from a large group, but are alive with an average of a dozen
recovery program which saved my life. I had hope, unlike before. attendees at each meeting. Although I co-chartered this group, it
Two clubhouse board members joined us at our second is the collective conscience of our members that will determine
meeting, primarily as observers. We encountered a minor our direction as we go forward.
setback the next day when the clubhouse board communicated Just like other recovery meetings, we talk of abstinence,
to us that they had changed their mind about allowing our group gratitude, and emotional well-being. We share our experiences
to meet under the name we gave it: We Agnostics, Atheists, and with powerlessness and our hopes for sustained recovery. Like in
Freethinkers. Feeling betrayed by this backfire, two people even other meetings, one might hear exuberant laughter or despondent
left the group over this issue. We could have kept our name and crying. We are here to stay because we have found a solution to
moved to another location, but the four of us who remained were our problems, a solution that needed to exclude “God” in order
determined to make it work. We wanted to keep our meeting at to work.
this centrally located clubhouse, which, as one of the nation’s first
clubhouses, has served as a location for countless Twelve Step Elle Mott (ElleMott.Wixsite.com/author) wrote the “Why I am an Atheist”
Groups for over seventy years. That’s when we became known as column for the previous issue of this magazine. She is currently working
All Shades of Belief (and Non-belief). on her memoir.

16 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 17
Display the
Ten Commandments
Now!
Verbatim, Punishment, Enforcement
by Brian Bolton

O pponents of Ten Commandments displays in
public venues have been reasonably effective
in keeping them out of capitols, courthouses,
and classrooms. Yet these successful efforts have only served
to further enrage fundamentalist activists and cause them
to intensify their spurious schemes. What is needed is a new
approach that will thwart this obsession with the Hebrew
Historical Perspective
The most celebrated Ten Commandments battle in recent
U.S. history was initiated in 2001 when Alabama Supreme Court
Chief Justice Roy Moore secretly installed a two-ton granite
Decalogue monument in the rotunda of the Judicial Building.
Two years later, after a federal judge ruled “Roy’s rock” to be
unconstitutional, it was removed, and Moore was thrown out of
Decalogue. Remember, Christian fundamentalists relegate office. A fitting epitaph for his tombstone would be: “If they want
Jews to eternal suffering for refusing to acknowledge Jesus as to get the Commandments, they’re going to have to get me first.”1
messiah. Why, then, are they so enamored with the Hebrew Moore was re-elected to the bench in 2012 but suspended again
scriptures? by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission in 2016.
A rational approach to addressing this fundamentalist Over the past ten years, more than a dozen attempts to
fetish entails a complete reversal from the current strategy. display the Ten Commandments have been undertaken by state
Supporters of church/state separation should strongly legislators, county commissioners, district judges, and school
endorse public display of the Ten Commandments, with three officials. The targeted locations have included state capitols,
specified provisos that would surely have god’s approval, county courthouses, public schools, municipal parks, and
because they are entirely consistent with the letter and spirit other government offices. States involved were: Alabama (2),
of his divine word. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma (3),
Tennessee (2), Texas, Utah, and Virginia. 2 Almost all of these
1. The full text of the Hebrew Decalogue must be reproduced efforts failed, although in some cases the proponents are still
exactly as god dictated it to Moses, verbatim et literatim. fighting on behalf of their sacred symbol.
The most recent major judicial confrontation occurred in
2. The punishments ordained by god for violators must be Oklahoma and has some amusing similarities to Alabama’s
listed with each of the commandments. melodrama from ten years earlier. In 2012, a six-foot-tall,
3. The commandments must be incorporated into the U.S. granite Ten Commandments monument was erected on the
legal code and enforced in a manner consistent with capitol grounds in Oklahoma City after being authorized by
god’s will. the state legislature. Citing the State Constitution’s “no-aid”
clause, which bars taxpayer dollars from funding religion,
This article summarizes basic facts about the ancient the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in 2015 that this
Hebrew Decalogue and outlines the impact of enforcement on contemporary megalith was unconstitutional. Shortly after
the U.S. population. The biblical justification, with detailed Governor Mary Fallin vowed not to move the shrine, it was
scriptural documentation for this proposal, follows. relocated to a private setting. More encouraging news came
in November 2016, when Oklahoma voters rejected a ballot

A rational approach to addressing this fundamentalist fetish
entails a complete reversal from the current strategy.
18 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
Commandment 10 is the only one that, if violated,
appears not to require the death penalty.
measure that would have removed the “no-aid” clause. • The Decalogue is not a useful ethical code. Nine of the
It’s likely that the next Ten Commandments showdown commandments are stated as prohibitions against extreme
will occur in Arkansas. In 2015, a bill authorizing a Decalogue behavior and don’t tell us how to act ethically. The absence
commemorative on the state capitol grounds was signed into of anti-social behavior does not constitute good citizenship.
law by Governor Asa Hutchinson. Unlike the Oklahoma
monument, the proposed Arkansas display will be modeled after Capital Punishment for Violators
the one on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, where the Ten The following list provides a comprehensive biblical
Commandments are included in a much larger arrangement of justification for enforcing the death penalty for violators of the
seventeen separate markers situated on a twenty-two-acre lawn. first nine commandments. The death penalty is required for
The Texas Decalogue display was deemed constitutional by the violating:
U. S. Supreme Court in 2005. Because the Universal Society of
Hinduism and the Satanic Temple have already indicated that Commandment 1 - Anyone who worships or sacrifices to
they want representation in Arkansas, there will certainly be gods other than Yahweh (Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 20:1-2, 5;
fireworks. Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 17:2-7, 18:10; 2 Kings 10:24-
We will give Scott Teague of Mountain City, Tennessee, the 28; 2 Chronicles 24:17-26) or encourages others to worship
final word in this review. In defending a Decalogue display at heathen gods (Deuteronomy 13:6-17, 2 Chronicles 21:11-19).
the Johnson County Courthouse, he intoned, “God have mercy Commandment 2 - Anyone who worships idols or the sun,
on the soul of any person who attempts to have these documents moon, or stars (Exodus 32:27-29, 35; Deuteronomy 17:2-5;
removed from this courthouse or any courthouse in America.”3 1 Kings 13:34, 21:25-29; 2 Kings 17:13-20; 2 Chronicles
It should be noted that Teague is a professional undertaker. 21: 13-21) or engages in occult practices (Exodus 22:18;
Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 1 Samuel 28:9;
Indisputable Facts 2 Kings 23:5-7, 20-24; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
• The Ten Commandants are clearly a religious code with the Commandment 3 - Anyone who curses Yahweh (Leviticus
first four presenting theological edicts. They derive from a 24:10-23; 1 Kings 21:8-13) or engages in false prophecy
sacred text that was issued by the Hebrew god, known as (Deuteronomy 13:5, 18:20; 1 Kings 18:40).
Yahweh. Commandment 4 - Anyone who works on the sabbath
• The first commandment unambiguously acknowledges the (Exodus 31:14-15, 35:2; Leviticus 23:30-31; Numbers
existence of multiple competing gods, which are relegated 15:32-36).
to inferior status. Americans know that their government Commandment 5 - Anyone who strikes or curses their
has no authority to tell citizens which of these gods, if any, parents (Exodus 21:15, 17; Leviticus 20:9; Matthew 15:4;
to worship. Mark 7:10).
• In addition to prohibiting idolatry, the second commandment Commandment 6 - Anyone who murders (Genesis
contains god’s explicit promise to punish the innocent 9:6, Exodus 21:14, Leviticus 24:17-21, Numbers 35:16-
descendants of those who violate this injunction. In fact, 34, Deuteronomy 19:11-13) or kidnaps (Exodus 21:16,
god often punished children for the sins of their parents Deuteronomy 24:7).
(e.g., Numbers 16:25-34; Joshua 7:13-26; Daniel 6:24). Commandment 7 - Anyone who commits adultery
• The fifth commandment to honor one’s parents explicitly or fornication (Leviticus 20:10-12, Numbers 25:6-18,
appeals to the selfish motives of offspring by promising a Deuteronomy 22:22-27) or engages in homosexual acts
reward of long life for obedience. Shouldn’t this be a sacred (Genesis 19:23-25, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-32, 1
duty motivated by intrinsic values? Timothy 1:8-11).
• Both the fourth and tenth commandments endorse slavery, Commandment 8 - Anyone who steals from Yahweh
and the tenth diminishes the status of women by classifying (Joshua 7:1-26) or the Christian community (Acts 5:1-11).
a man’s wife as one of his possessions, reinforcing the view Commandment 9 - Anyone who gives false testimony when
that women, just like slaves and livestock, are property. the defendant is facing the death penalty (Deuteronomy
• Legal scholars have demonstrated that the foundations 19:21).
of American jurisprudence are the Constitution, the Commandment 10 is the only one that appears not to
Bill of Rights, and English common law—not the Ten require the death penalty if violated. It is also the only edict
Commandments and not the Bible. This is the false premise that involves no more than an “improper” attitude of envy or
on which the entire public display scheme is based. desire rather than an explicit action or behavior.

Americans already know that government has no authority
to tell citizens which of these gods, if any, to worship.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 19
Supporters of church/state separation should strongly endorse
public display of the Ten Commandments, with three specified
provisos that would surely have god’s approval.
It should be stressed that both Jesus (Matthew 5:17, 15:4, What the Monuments Won’t Tell You:
Mark 7:10) and Paul (Romans 1:26-32, 1 Timothy 1:8-11) The Ten* Commandments in Their Entirety
unequivocally endorsed the death penalty as promulgated in
Mosaic law. Exodus 20:1-17

Who Would Be Executed in the United States? And God spoke all these words:
We know from long experience that chronicling
moral directives without imposing punitive sanctions on I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out
transgressors has minimal benefit. So shouldn’t we expect that of the land of slavery.
those who propose displaying the Ten Commandments would You shall have no other gods before me.
also endorse Yahweh’s punishment scheme? What impact
would enforcing the Mosaic death penalty in the United You shall not make yourself an image in the form of anything
States have on the population? What would the execution in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water
rate be under strict adherence to the capital punishment below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
requirements associated with the Hebrew Decalogue? for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the
The first commandment orders residents to worship only children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth
Yahweh and relegates all other gods to prohibited status. generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a
About one tenth of the population would be immediately thousand generations of those who love me and keep my
executed unless they renounced their false gods. If Paul’s commandments.
directive concerning the applicability of the death penalty to
irreligious citizens is accepted, then an additional fifth of the You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the
nation’s people would be eliminated. Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Correctly punishing violators of the second and third
commandments, which forbid idolatry and blasphemy, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days
respectively, would exterminate the Deists, Wiccans, you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is
sculptors, astrologers, and mediums among us. a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any
While there is some disagreement about which day is the work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or
sabbath, in almost all U.S. communities it is Sunday (“the female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing
Lord’s Day”). Outlawing all work on the traditional day of rest in your towns. For six days the Lord made the heavens and
as required by the fourth commandment would cause a major the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the
disruption of the U.S. economy. Furthermore, enforcement seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and
would involve executing millions of Americans, including made it holy.
entire hospital staffs; firefighters; police officers; paramedics;
911 dispatchers; security guards; professional athletes; store Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live
clerks; restaurant workers; customer service representatives; long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
and many, many others.
Regarding the fifth commandment, which counsels You shall not murder.
respect for parents, it is a sad fact that abuse of the elderly is
a serious problem. The explicit appeal to the selfish motives You shall not commit adultery.
of offspring doesn’t seem to enhance compliance with the
directive. Likewise, it is doubtful that capital punishment for You shall not steal.
those who strike or curse parents would improve the situation,
but they still must be killed. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Both Jesus and Paul
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall nor
covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant,
his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
unequivocally endorsed *With an addendum a few verses later re: idols and altars
the death penalty. (Exodus 20:23-26)

20 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
The U.S. judicial system, with the overwhelming support legislation that incorporates the Ten Commandments into the
of the citizenry, already does a great job of punishing violators U.S. legal code.
of the sixth commandment, which prohibits murder, by Will the fundamentalist Christian advocates of displaying
invoking the biblical dictum of “a life for a life.” America is the Decalogue also insist that the required penalties be applied as
the only Western democracy that has not abolished state- god ordained? Of course not. These pious proponents of public
sanctioned execution of its murderers, with Texas in first posting want to impose their sanctified rules on everybody else
place among the thirty-one states that allow the death penalty. without assuming any responsibility for enforcement.
Uniform enforcement of the seventh commandment, Their fanatical promotion of publicly recognizing god’s
which condemns adulterers, would result in a substantial moral mandates is selective, cowardly, and dishonest.
reduction in the U.S. population, because one third of married Furthermore, anything less than total implementation and
residents engage in at least one extramarital affair. If Jesus’ enforcement of the Ten Commandments is willful disrespect
equating of remarriage after divorce with adultery is included, for god’s word and therefore constitutes blasphemy, a crime
along with the addition of homosexuals and fornicators, the that requires and deserves the death penalty.
lives of one half of all Americans would be in jeopardy.
The application of the death penalty under the eighth Brian Bolton is a retired psychologist living in Georgetown, Texas.
commandment, which prohibits theft, would entail careful
analysis of the crimes to determine just what constitutes Endnotes
stealing from Yahweh or the Christian community. While 1. Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Judge, Protesters: 10 Commandments
very few witnesses commit perjury in capital punishment Shalt Not be Moved.” Austin American-Statesman, Aug.
trials, they would have to be executed in accordance with the 21, 2003, pp. A1, A7.
ninth commandment. 2. Church & State, January 2007 – December 2016.
3. Bathija, Sandehya. “First Amendment Feud.” Church &
Recommendations State, March 2011, pp. 7-9.
First, demand that the
full text be included in all
displays, so that the truly
offensive elaborations
cannot be omitted.
Commandments 2, 4, 5 and
10 are absolutely essential
to any exhibit endorsed
by critics. To abbreviate
any of god’s edicts is
blasphemy and should be
punished just as scripture
mandates.
Second, demand that
god’s ordained penalties
for violators of the first
nine commandments be
prominently displayed on
all monuments and
plaques. The compelling
argument is that
publicizing the required
punishments will have a
much stronger deterrent
effect; moreover, this is
god’s will.
Third, demand that
god’s sacred law as
embodied in the Decalogue
be enforced precisely as
god intended. This will
necessitate prompt action
by lawmakers, who will
have to quickly enact
© jesusandmo.net

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 21
Book Excerpt

An Activist’s
Toolkit
An excerpt from The Secular Activist: A How-to Manual
for Protecting the Wall between Church and State
by Dan Arel

A fter just a few weeks in the White House, the Trump Administration has taken
bold steps to crumble the wall that separates church and state. Gone is the legal
protection allowing transgender students to use a school bathroom and locker room
that corresponds with their gender identity. The idea of a nationwide Muslim ban is
not yet extinguished. Congress is hard at work at a “religious freedom” bill that would legalize
LGBTQ discrimination by Christians. If the wall is to survive this onslaught, our vigilance
must be stronger and more confident than ever. And when I say “our,” I do literally mean all of
us.
I wrote The Secular Activist because not everyone realizes just how significant their impact
can be on our democracy. Effective, successful activism comes in many different forms. Not
everyone has to spend ten hours a day on this cause. You can still make a big difference, even
if all you can spare is ten minutes a month. This excerpt from the book shows you how.

Activism is not a one-size-fits-all activity. can give up their job or find a job fighting for the causes they
If there is one thing I hate, it’s when one type of activist puts care about. Even for those who make a living as activists, they
down other activists who are not doing things “the right way,” too must juggle life, family, and friends with their activism. To
“the proper way,” etc. I prefer we all realize activists fit very this end, every activist should ask themselves two questions:
different molds, have very different skill sets, and have varying
amounts of time they can contribute. It is hard to criticize a • Are you doing as much as you want for your cause?
parent who works full-time to support a family, and spends • Are you doing as much as you can for your cause?
much of their free time with that family, for only being able
to post status updates or attend protests once in a blue moon. If you answer yes to both, you’re doing great. If you answer
Yet activists who devote their lives to a cause often struggle to no to one or the other, maybe it is worth considering whether
understand why others don’t care as much as they do without you might support the cause in other ways that better match
realizing others do care as much, if not more, but often have your passion, skills, and time. It is also okay to look at something
personal restraints on how much they can do. Not everyone and realize you just don’t want to make activism a priority. Even

Never forget that you have the power to change minds—
don’t be afraid to try.
22 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
The hardest part about any online activism is keeping your cool
when you encounter the absolute worst of people.
assuming you have the time, not everyone is cut out or has the can analyze public opinion on matters. This is the same for
passion for such work. But if you realize you want to be doing almost all politicians.
more and can, then do it! Don’t let anything or anyone hold Sometimes it’s just writing a single letter that gets the job
you back. Go out and give your all. Again, this could mean you done. Phil Ferguson, host of a secular-themed podcast called
donate money, you donate time, or you do other things that The Phil Ferguson Show, tells a story about how his daughter’s
make a difference for the cause and that are meaningful to you. public school was promoting a Christian breakfast in the
This will mean many different things to many different people. mornings before school started. Of course, underprivileged
I highlight some of the ways to promote secularism below, but kids would go to take advantage of the free food they desperately
this is not a be-all-end-all list. It is simply a compilation of some needed, but they had to be preached to just to enjoy a much-
of the forms of activism I have experienced that can help yield needed meal. Well, Phil decided to offer the same thing, but
real change. from a secular perspective. A free meal with no preaching.
The school originally refused, but thanks to some crafty
Petitioning letter writing, the school finally agreed to promote the secular
When I was involved with animal-rights activism, I worked alternative before ultimately deciding to just stop promoting
on a campaign in California called Proposition 2. It was to both.
improve the lives of animals inside factory farms by removing
battery cages for chickens and gestation crates for pigs. To do Slacktivism
this, we needed to first get on the ballot, and to get an initiative Activism comes in many different shapes and sizes and you
on the California ballot, you need a lot of signatures. should not feel discouraged if you cannot get involved in large
Now, many signature gatherers you see are paid. They make national campaigns or even smaller local ones. Not everyone
money per signature gathered. This was a practice we decided wants to go speak in front of city council, or get into a head-to-
not to follow. We wanted the signature-gathering campaign to head with someone like Ken Ham, but you may still want to be
be volunteer only because we knew any money we saved there active and do your part.
could be used to promote and defend the proposition. The This is where slacktivism comes in. You ever see those people
initiative was a success. We got the measure on the ballot, and who never do or say anything political but suddenly change
it passed. their profile picture to an equal sign to stand up for same-sex
The Christian Right has no problem using petitions and rights? Or people who don’t march in anti-war protests but post
ballot initiatives. This is how the Mormon Church fought to about being anti-war all day long? Those are slacktivists, and
get Proposition 8 on the California ballot, which was a vote to they are often discredited as being lazy, but they are, in fact,
define marriage as being between one man and one woman important parts of the activist community because they get
and to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that had messages out, trigger dialogue, and show solidarity.
previously legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The church I often think of my own mother in this case, who rarely,
spent obscene amounts of money to make sure this passed. if ever, posts anything about politics on her Facebook wall,
They may have used the initiative for evil, but just imagine but who one day changed her profile photo to an equal sign. I
what we could do if we were to use initiatives for good. Oregon debated someone that same day about the usefulness of such a
residents did when they voted to legalize death with dignity. gesture; they argued it was a meaningless gesture, but I argued
Each state will have its own laws regarding petitions and they play a much larger role than people give them credit for.
propositions for voters, but if you have the time and resources, For example, when my mom changed her profile picture that
pursuing such initiatives is a great way to encourage voter day, she in effect told people who saw her profile picture,
involvement in ending religious privilege on many subjects. without words, that she supported equality. As a result, perhaps
friends of hers felt a new connection to her, or perhaps those
Letter/Email Writing who disagreed with her but respect her took a second to reflect
This is really old-school, but get a group together and on their own feelings on the issue.
write letters or emails and slam local businesses or politicians, Even the debate I had about slacktivism was a form of
or whoever your target is, and make your voice heard. These slacktivism. I did not change the mind of the person I was
emails do get opened, and even if the U.S. president or senator chatting with—they were dead set in thinking such gestures
doesn’t read them, they go into their reports so his or her team were useless—but I saw numerous “likes” coming in on my

Slacktivists are often discredited as being lazy, but they are,
in fact, important parts of the activist community.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 23
Don’t be discouraged by those who want to make you feel bad
for not doing more.
comments and realized people were reading the debate as it morals because they don’t have a Bible,” tweet a response
happened. Some agreed with me, and some did not, but I knew publicly explaining why atheists do in fact have morals, and
people were reading, and knew I had the potential to change that morality does not come from a book of rules. Again, you
minds or, at the very least, to make people think about what are unlikely to change the mind of the tweeter, unless they
they believed. are genuinely mistaken and willing to be wrong, but you can
So what can you do as a slacktivist? You can do plenty. rest assured your tweet will be seen by others. Much like on
Facebook, the minds of readers can be changed.
Facebook Great tweeters are out there for inspiration, too. Donovan
Facebook is one of the easiest ways to make your voice heard Badrock tweets as @MrOzAtheist and does an amazing job
online. You can share articles, join groups, and have discussions questioning religious assumptions and correcting negative
with people around the world about issues you care about. ideas about atheism. @GodFreeWorld is a professor of biology
Don’t be shy about sharing your opinion; be bold and willing who takes a great deal of time out of his day to address those
to have discussions. The hardest part about any online activism who incorrectly tweet about evolution or defend creationism.
is keeping your cool when you encounter the absolute worst of His tweets are often more educational for everyone reading
people. The important thing to remember is often you’re not than just the creationist. He has taught me a great deal about
going to change the mind of the person you’re debating with, evolution even though I studied it in school! I could go on and
especially if the debate is about religion or politics. on and on about amazing tweeters you should follow, but they
But remember that many people can be watching, and are not hard to find.
many may not have a position on the issue or are on the fence Twitter is a great resource for any atheist to connect to
about it, so how you present yourself and the evidence for the online atheist community and learn more about atheism,
your case is important. If you flip out and tell someone off, science, and secularism and to see what battles are being
it may come across that you don’t have a strong case for your fought in all different parts of the world. With Twitter, you are
position, which makes the other side look better. You will flip opened up to the whole world. For example, you can connect
out sometimes, and some people will just rub you the wrong with atheists living in the Middle East who can’t even tell their
way and not care to have an open and honest discussion, but try own families they are atheists, but who speak freely on Twitter
your best to remember why you do what you do and that minds with those whom they have never met.
can be changed, even if not today, then perhaps down the road. Twitter is one of the easiest yet most powerful tools
Even if you don’t enter into debates, just sharing an article available to every type of activist. Use it to your advantage.
about keeping classrooms secular or supporting marriage
equality shows others where you stand and may help them Blogging/Writing
uncover where they stand on the issue or force them to evaluate Blogging and any form of journalism are great ways to get
their own views. Never forget that you have the power to a message out there. The easiest way to start is to sign up for a
change minds—don’t be afraid to try. blogging system such as Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, or the
many other sites that are totally free and let you blog away. You
Twitter can start writing on topics you care about and share them on
Twitter may be my favorite social media platform because social media and try to build a following.
it connects people from around the world with so much more Ideally, you should first write for someone else who already
ease than Facebook; you don’t even have to be friends with has a readership and thus can help you reach more people
people to interact with them. It also has a 140-character limit quickly. This is not too difficult to do, as it only takes emailing
and forces people to have more focused thoughts, so they can’t site admins and editors and telling them who you are and
ramble on like they can on Facebook. why you want to contribute to their site. For example, sites
Twitter has great search features that let you find tweets like Atheist Republic, which reaches millions through social
and address them. I used to do a daily search for terms such media, are always looking for new talent who have something
as atheist, atheism, and evolution and then pick tweets that to say.
seemed sincere but totally wrong and try to address them. Or, I’ll tell a short story about how I got my start to show that it
on really boring days, find some that are totally insane and just can be done. You can use it as a sort of template or motivational
have fun with them, but that’s a different subject. push. Initially, I blogged for myself. I would clear maybe eighty
For tweets that say something like, “atheists have no readers a month if I was lucky. I would write and write and

If you do nothing but talk only to your friends and family,
that is a start.
24 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
You can be an activist in your own time and
on your own terms.
write, yet no one would read my work. involved as well.
I was then introduced to a site called Emily Has Books, If you do nothing but talk only to your friends and family,
which was full of writers discussing important atheist and that is a start. Many people vote and pick candidates based on
secular issues. I emailed Emily, shared some of my work, and information they receive from their social networks, so why
told her why I wanted to write for her. My first piece for her not make your views known, especially if someone you know is
had over a thousand readers, and I could not believe it. I wrote on the wrong side of an issue?
there for a few months and caught the attention of someone at The point is, if you’re interested in being involved, there are
the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and ways to do it. You don’t have to be out in the streets or devoting
I wound up writing there a few times. the better part of your day to it if you don’t want to or simply
It all started because I sent one email to one editor and asked can’t. You can be an activist in your own time and on your
to make my voice heard, and things grew and grew from there. own terms. Don’t be discouraged by those who want to make
Today I am sitting on my couch writing this, which will be my you feel bad for not doing more. Often the ones who criticize
second book. Not too bad for a young guy who not too long ago activists the loudest are the ones who do the least amount of
was blogging for eighty readers a month, on a good month. work.

Movements Dan Arel blogs at Danthropology.net. He is also the author of Parenting
For those looking to help others through writing or Without God: How to Raise Moral, Ethical, and Intelligent Children Free
fundraising—or even by simply raising awareness—there is a from Religious Dogma.
very cool site out there called Movements (Movements.org).
The idea is to crowdsource activism, to provide a space where
people, generally those actively oppressed in the Middle East,
can post their story and ask someone to help them tell it. If you’re
a blogger looking to help and need story ideas, Movements is
full of them, and you can do a great deal of good with them.

YouTube
For those of you who don’t mind a little extra work but still
want to sit in your favorite chair, there is YouTube. The site
offers a great way to make your voice heard and address social
issues and has the potential to reach large audiences. Video
interview shows, social commentary, informational videos,
and humor all go a long way to further the cause.
For inspiration, check out The Bible Reloaded. Though not
appropriate for all ages, it is hilarious and one of my favorites.
Creationist Cat is another clever show that rips on religion
while making social commentary. It is so insanely dumb I
cannot stop watching—I mean, it’s a cat that is a creationist.
Some of the best guests are on Ra-Men, hosted by Aron Ra
and Mark Nebo. Aron also tackles some of the biggest subjects
in his solo videos and does a great deal to spread the fight for
secularism and science education.
You don’t have to start big. Record what you have to say and
share it and if people like it, it will catch on.

Other
There are many other ways to make your voice heard
online, such as through an Instagram account that shares
memes and information, a podcast, a Vine, or a Periscope. Be
creative in the ways you reach people, and you will see results.
Not everyone has to go take down a giant to make a difference.
Simply make your voice heard, and tell people what you think
they should know, and hopefully many will join you and get

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 25
It’s Time to Eat Some Babies!
by Steve Cass

Following the release of Monster on Sunday’s Reason Rally concert
video, guitarist Steve Cass reflects on the band’s message

B ack in June, we packed up our instruments and
caught a flight from San Diego to Washington,
D.C., to play a gig that was anything but typical.
We were going to headline an after-party on the
night of Reason Rally 2016—one of the largest gatherings
of Atheists ever. It would be our job to help people let loose
after a long, hot day at the Lincoln Memorial.
Spirits were high as we boarded the plane. As I took
My wife, Tally Cass, and I formed Monster on Sunday as
a way to speak out, which is something not enough artists
in our craft do. As the songwriter, Tally writes lyrics that
speak the truth: we are Atheists, we are not alone, we do not
need god to be good, and wonder is not an activity best left
to the faithful. Even her most angry songs carry the thread
of the idea that we can be better when we live according
to our own moral choices rather than allowing them to be
my seat, I reflected on the things that resonate with directed by some religious authority or divine entity.
concertgoers—the music, the lyrics, the personal stories— Tally and I are more than Atheists; we are anti-theists,
and looked forward to connecting with this particular which means that not only do we lack a belief in god, we
audience in a special way. You see, our band has always also think that religion contributes nothing but harm to the
been about more than just music. For us, it’s all about the world. Our anti-theism comes from our backgrounds. Tally
message. grew up in a Mennonite family, and I was raised Mormon.

Our anti-theism comes from our backgrounds. Tally grew
up in a Mennonite family, and I was raised Mormon.
I even put in my two years as a missionary.
26 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
It was just apathy at first, and it took a while for the
disbelief to show up. But once it did, I confronted all of
Mormonism’s vapid teachings and irrational doctrines.
I even put in my two years as a
missionary.
Growing up, Tally was the only
one in her family who was never
able to bring herself to believe in
god. Her deeply religious father
tried to scare Jesus into her when
she was a small child. Terrified that
devils might enter her unbelieving
mouth as she slept, she prayed
every night to the point of tears. Of
course, nothing ever happened. No
matter how she tried or how much
fear and shame she felt, she could
never understand why her family
was so convinced of god’s existence.
Nonetheless, she longed to be able
to connect with her family on some
level, but they were never able to understand her. Today, her I confronted all of Mormonism’s vapid teachings and
feelings as the rebellious black sheep ooze out of songs like irrational doctrines. And then I got angry at the guilt
Pain, which she dedicated to her father at the Reason Rally culture that nourished my wasted, brainwashed youth. By
concert. channeling that anger into my guitar-playing, I have found
Unlike Tally, I easily took to my indoctrination. I had a home in a band that uses music to get out the message that
been entrenched in the Mormon faith my entire life when faith is not a virtue.
I decided to stop attending church a few years after my That message was not lost on the audience in D.C. as we
missionary stint. For me, it was just apathy at first, and it tore through our album, Baby Eater. The band mockingly
took a while for the disbelief to show up. But once it did, proposed a new set of commandments. Our music brought
out an incredible energy in a crowd
united by an idea that still is far
less popular than its philosophical
merits should demand. In the end
this is what connects us—a need to
be heard, a desire to be understood,
and a hope that one day everyone
will know that “Atheist” is not a bad
word.

Watch the live concert performance
on Youtube.com/MonsterOnSunday.
Visit MonsterOnSunday.com for
music, merch, and much more!

I have found a home in a band that uses music to
get out the message that faith is not a virtue.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 27
Chu r ches
Political Action Committees
Trump’s Promise to Funnel Campaign Money through Religion
by Amanda Knief
National Legal and Public Policy Director of American Atheists

28 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
D
The IRS does not require financial
disclosures from churches.

onald Trump, like every president since bid.3 At the time, the only political speech limits placed on 501(c)
Dwight Eisenhower, attended the annual (3) non-profits were those related to influencing legislation.
National Prayer Breakfast in Washington,
D.C. on February 2. The event is Why It Makes Sense
sponsored by a secretive Christian group called the Fellowship, Proponents of the Johnson Amendment argue that with
which works to provide elected officials with teachings about the privileges of tax-exemption and tax-deductible donations
Jesus Christ. Controversy has swirled around the event because come reasonable government restrictions. No one forces an
of this group and for the speeches presidents have given there. entity to register with the IRS as a 501(c)(3); it is a privilege
This year was no exception, but the president’s remarks that the government grants with the enormous benefit of being
were more than controversial—they were downright alarming tax-exempt and accepting tax-deductible gifts. Because entities
with his promise to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson self-select to be 501(c)(3)s, they must accept the restrictions
Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak that come with it.4
freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember.” We also support the amendment because the government,
American Atheists believes that the Johnson Amendment through the IRS, treats churches differently than all other non-
is a crucial part of the wall between religion and government, profits. The IRS lists five criteria that entities must meet to be
and we encourage you to contact your U.S. representative and considered a 501(c)(3):
both of your U.S. senators to tell them that you don’t want the
amendment repealed. 1. The entity must be organized and operated exclusively
for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable
Who is Affected? purposes.
The Johnson Amendment prohibits non-profit organizations 2. The net earnings may not inure benefit of any private
registered under provision 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue individual or stakeholder.
Code from endorsing or opposing any person running for 3. No substantial part of its activities may be attempting to
elected office. It is not aimed at churches1 in particular; the influence legislation.
amendment applies to all entities that form for religious, 4. The entity may not intervene in political campaigns.
charitable, literary, scientific, or educational purposes who 5. The organization’s purposes and activities may not be
register for this designation. Having 501(c)(3) status confers illegal or violate public policy. 5
two valuable privileges: tax exemption for the entity and
allowing donations to the organization to be tax-deductible for When an entity seeks this status, it must fill out an
the donor.2 American Atheists has a 501(c)(3) designation as an arduous application that requires it to register its Articles
educational non-profit, and is therefore subject to the Johnson of Incorporation and the dissolution clauses of its bylaws. If
Amendment restrictions granted 501(c)(3) status, each year the entity must submit
a Form 990 that details its revenues, expenses, assets, and
History liabilities. Some organizations that receive large donations must
The Johnson Amendment became law in 1954 without also file a Schedule of Contributions, which includes individual
fanfare or debate. In fact, the Congressional Record shows donors’ names.
no discussion at all related to the bill, which was introduced
by Lyndon B. Johnson, then a senator from Texas. Johnson But If the Entity is a Church …
sponsored the amendment in order to limit the influence of two Their only requirement for meeting these five criteria is
anti-communism, non-profit organizations that were spreading simply to claim that they do. Churches do not have to complete
the national conservatism of McCarthyism while also helping to any other part of this non-profit application, file an annual
fund the campaign of Johnson’s opponent in his senate re-election Form 990, or file a Schedule of Contributions. Why? Because

The Fellowship works to provide elected officials
with teachings about Jesus Christ.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 29
Churches are sheltered from the possibility of an IRS audit
to a degree higher than is provided to any other individual,
company, or organization.
they are churches. Churches “that meet the requirements of have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act.11 In its
IRC Section 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt well-known Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling in 2014, the Court
and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax- extended the recognition of entities having religious beliefs to
exempt status from the IRS.”6 closely held, for-profit companies (meaning that there are a
limited number of owners and the stock is not publicly traded).12
No Audits for Churches Either It could be argued that this deference, coupled with recognizing
Churches are sheltered from the possibility of an IRS audit the constitutional rights of non-profit religious entities, could
to a degree higher than is provided to any other individual, call into question whether the Johnson Amendment could be
company, or organization.7 The IRS may only instigate a viewed as an illegal restriction on an organization’s ability to
“church tax inquiry” if a high-level Treasury official reasonably freely exercise its religious beliefs through speech.13
believes, based on evidence provided in writing, that an entity
has violated a narrow list of restrictions.8 Are Churches Being Penalized for Violating
the Amendment?
What’s the Worst-case Scenario? The IRS does not even appear to enforce the Johnson
If the Johnson Amendment were repealed, churches could Amendment as it applies to churches. Since 2008, the Alliance
become unregulated and unchecked sources of campaign Defending Freedom, an organization that advocates for less
financing. For example, without the amendment in place, regulation of religion, has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday,
a church could pass the offering plate in support of the 2020 an annual event which encourages and supports clergy to speak
Trump campaign, invite one candidate for elected office to about candidates for elected office, to record their remarks, and
speak at a church service but not their opponent, and receive to send them to the IRS. In a 2015 story, the Washington Post
donations in return for political endorsements. Because the IRS reported that of the two thousand clergy who have participated
does not require financial disclosures from churches, all of the in the Pulpit Freedom Sunday, only one participant has been
examples above would happen without transparency and public audited and there was no penalty.14
knowledge.
When Would Repeal Happen?
What are the Arguments for Repeal? Trump cannot “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson
Many detractors of the Johnson Amendment claim it is an Amendment by himself. He needs Congress to repeal it, and
unconstitutional restriction on free speech and free exercise9 progress is already underway in both chambers. On the day
of religion because it prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from before the National Prayer Breakfast, Senator James Lankford
endorsing or opposing candidates for elected office. These of Oklahoma introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act (S.
objections have some merit. 264), which would allow non-profits to keep their tax benefits
The amendment does not prohibit non-profits from while also being able to endorse or oppose political candidates.
endorsing or opposing proposed laws, cabinet appointees, That same day, Congressman Steve Scalise of New Orleans
judicial appointees, or social issues. Nor does it prohibit voter introduced the same legislation (H.R. 781) in the House of
education and activism regarding non-elected candidates, Representatives.
political issues, or how to vote.10 So, opponents of the Right now, your senators and representative need to hear
Amendment argue, why is voicing a position about an elected that you want them to uphold the Johnson Amendment.
official taboo when no other political speech is prohibited? Ideally, they should get a call from you every day. If these
In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has become bills move forward, American Atheists will lobby members
increasingly deferential to religious entities that claim a federal of Congress to add a provision that would make all churches
law restricts their free exercise of religion. In 2012, it ruled and houses of worship subject to the same requirements
that churches can discriminate in their hiring, and they don’t imposed by the government on all other non-profits. If

The government, through the IRS, treats churches
differently than all other non-profits.
30 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court has become increasingly deferential
to religious entities that claim a federal law restricts their
free exercise of religion.
this does happen, we will be posting news on our websites Supreme Court Precedent,” Regent University Law
(Atheists.org and AtheistVoter.org) our Facebook page, and Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, p. 244 (2011-2012).
our Twitter feed.
4. See Christian Echoes Nat’l Ministry v. United States, 470
F.2d 849, 857 (10th Cir. Okla. 1972) (finding “[i]n light of the
fact that tax exemption is a privilege, a matter of grace rather
Endnotes
than right, we hold that the limitations contained in Section
1. The IRS uses the word “church” to mean all 501(c)(3) withholding exemption from nonprofit corporations
houses of worship. “Glossary,” Tax Guide for
do not deprive [a church] of its constitutionally guaranteed
Churches & Religious Organizations, p. 33 (2015);
right of free speech. The taxpayer may engage in all such
https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf.
activities without restraint, subject, however, to withholding of
2. This is in contrast to 501(c)(4) entities which are also the exemption or, in the alternative, the taxpayer may refrain
tax-exempt non-profits but because they are organized to from such activities and obtain the privilege of exemption.”).
influence legislation, donations are not tax-deductible.
5. “Tax-Exempt Status”; Tax Guide for Churches
3. “LBJ, the IRS, and Churches: The Unconstitutionality & Religious Organizations, p. 2 (2015); https://
of the Johnson Amendment in Light of Recent www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf.
Continued on page 36

Rational Politics: Fighting Post-Truth Politics and Alternative Facts
The Rational Politics (RAP) project gathers reason-oriented citizens of all political stripes to fight the emerging
politics which reject objective facts in favor of emotions and personal beliefs. We call this “post-truth politics.”
RAP uses best practices in communicating and marketing to get people to care about truth in politics. RAP
offers tools and resources that are essential to making wise political decisions that will benefit our society as
a whole. RAP is a subproject of Intentional Insights, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting rational
thinking and wise decision-making in politics and other areas of life to bring about an altruistic and flourishing
world. Learn more about RAP at bit.ly/2jO5aht. To get involved, contact Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, project coordinator
of RAP and president of Intentional Insights, at Gleb@Intentionalinsights.org.

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 31
Dealing with Political Irrationality
by Gleb Tsipursky

A theists in the U.S. cover the entire spectrum of
political views, despite the assumption that to be an
Atheist means to be a left-wing liberal. No matter
who you voted for or how much you were impressed or disgusted
by the tactics used by the Trump and Clinton campaigns, there
was a troubling amount of irrationality that was given wings
early on and has now taken flight. If we let this go unchecked,
our beliefs than we intuitively perceive. David Kahneman’s
Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) is one book written for a general
audience that explains some of this research and its findings.
Politicians skilled in the psychology of persuasion, as
described in books such as Robert Cialdini’s 1984 classic,
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, can take advantage
of our thinking errors to manipulate us. Unless we are paying
the wall of church/state separation will be gone before the attention, we are highly likely to be influenced by their appeals
midterm elections because the Trump Administration appears to these flawed patterns of feeling and thinking and then make
determined to tear it down. This is evident from Trump’s biased political decisions as a result.
announcement at the National Prayer Breakfast on February For example, polls showed that most voters on the eve of the
2 that he’s determined to remove the prohibition on churches election perceived Donald Trump as more trustworthy than
endorsing political candidates (National Prayer Breakfast, Feb. Hillary Clinton, despite quantitative information provided by
2, 2017, CSPAN.org). nonpartisan fact-checkers that proves Trump lies much more
For as tempting as it might be to not dwell on the divisiveness often than Clinton.1 This false perception came from the Trump
in this country, we must take stock now and reflect on how to campaign’s success in manipulating many voters into believing
deal with the irrationality that is perhaps the worst problem that Clinton is less honest, even though the reverse is true.
in American politics today. Although we Atheists consider The Trump campaign did so through the illusory truth
ourselves inherently rational by virtue of not believing in the effect, a thinking error in our minds that happens when false
supernatural, we are just as likely to be irrational in other areas statements are repeated many times. When this happens, we
of life. begin to see them as true, despite the evidence to the contrary.
Rationality is the ability to assess reality accurately and When something is repeated often enough, we are prone to
thereby make wise decisions to reach one’s goals. This election agree with it more—regardless of whether it is objectively true
has been a testament to the current inability of many voters to or not. I’d like to stop here for a moment and have you notice that
make correct assessments of reality, which leads them to make the previous sentence says the same thing as the one before it. It
decisions that are directly opposed to their own best interests. provided no additional information. Ask yourself if it caused you
Research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and to agree with my claim more than you did after reading just the
behavioral economics shows that we make these irrational first sentence.
assessments and poor decisions because of thinking errors. We The illusory truth effect was used extensively by Trump
tend to see ourselves as rational creatures who form opinions throughout the campaign. Consider his relentless repetition
based on facts and logic. But in reality, our brains are wired in of the claim that NAFTA is the “worst deal ever signed” and
such a way that emotions play a much larger role in influencing cost America “millions of jobs.” Despite the fact that expert

We must reflect on how to deal with the irrationality that
is perhaps the worst problem in American politics today.
32 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
The illusory truth effect from Christian right-wing demagogues
is a common tool for discrimination against Atheists.
opinions on all sides widely differ on NAFTA’s impact on the was his proposed ban on any Muslim entering the U.S. The
U.S. job market, Trump has successfully convinced millions proposal was then reduced to an extreme vetting of them, along
that NAFTA is nothing but bad for American workers. with a focus on policing Muslim neighborhoods and monitoring
The illusory truth effect from Christian right-wing mosques. Today, terrorism is one of the biggest worries for the
demagogues is a common tool for discrimination against U.S. population. Yet for the past ten years, the people who died
Atheists. Consider the statements made by Bill Donohue, in the attacks on American soil were killed by terrorists who
president of the Catholic League. He repeatedly denounces were either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Trump’s
Atheists with variations on an ad-hominem attack. An early policy proposal is therefore irrational because it does not
version was lobbed directly at respond to a realistic assessment
David Silverman and American of the threat of terrorism. Instead,
Atheists, Inc., when he said that it appeals to the horns effect, an
Atheists “believe in nothing, they error in thinking where negative
stand for nothing, they think emotions about one topic—in
they came from nothing.”2 His this case, terrorism perpetrated
attempt at defamation became by radical Islamists—are applied
more insidious when he later said to all Muslims.
that Atheists “stand for nothing, And what about monitoring
believe in nothing, and are good American Muslims since the
for nothing.”3 attacks were, after all, carried
No wonder Atheists are out by citizens and permanent
among the least trusted and residents? Let’s take a look at
liked minorities. For instance, the numbers. According to
Atheists get around the same JohnstonArchive.net, the seven
negative “likability” ratings as terrorist acts committed in the
Muslims.4 Another study showed United States between January
that Atheists are also less trusted 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015,
than Muslims and are at about were carried out by a total of
the same level of trust granted to nine people. Six of the nine were
rapists. Yes, rapists. 5 Additional motivated by Muslim beliefs.8
studies also show the distrust A 2011 survey estimated that
and dislike toward Atheists felt the adult Muslim population
by the U.S. public, thanks in in the United States to be 1.8
part to the thinking errors to million.9 Dividing the number
which demagogues like Donohue of Muslim adults by the six who
appeal.6 committed terrorist acts yields a
Donohue also joins legions one-in-300,000 chance that any
of other pundits and politicians Muslim you see would commit a
alike who employ the illusory terrorist act in one year. That’s like
truth effect when he says that picking out a terrorist randomly
“everyone knows... that we are a Christian nation.” 7 This false from the number of people in several football stadiums. Applying
claim is the perfect example of the power of the illusory truth this sort of probabilistic thinking is a research-based way to deal
effect. How many times have you come across that statement, or with any form of fear. It allows us to see whether these anxious
a variation of it, such as our Constitution being based on biblical thoughts are realistic. We can see that merely being Muslim is a
values? It’s probably as many times as I have, which is more than very poor statistical indicator of whether someone is a terrorist,
you can count. But in addition to hearing it in the media, we can thus making the fear of all Muslims irrational.
easily find it among our own acquaintances. If you haven’t done These facts do not, in any way, imply that religion is not at the
so already, ask around, and see how many people assume that heart of the problem. Although the vast majority of Muslims are
“under God” has always been a part of the Pledge of Allegiance not terrorists, it is the case that in 2015, six of nine terrorists in the
or that “In God We Trust” has always been on U.S. currency. U.S. were of the Islamic faith. Yet the other three terrorists were
Another example of Trump playing to our thinking errors motivated by radical Christian and right-wing beliefs, especially

Our brains are wired in such a way that emotions play a much
larger role in influencing our beliefs than we intuitively perceive.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 33
Bill Donohue’s defamation became more insidious
when he said that Atheists “stand for nothing,
believe in nothing, and are good for nothing.”
the November 2015 shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic Intentional Insights.
in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Today, there are more radicals in While these people span the entire spectrum of political
Islam than in other religions, but the focus needs to be on radical views, from the most conservative to the most liberal, they all
behavior as much as religion itself. care first and foremost about the truth. Making politics less
Though it was to a much lesser extent, the Clinton campaign irrational by helping people make accurate assessments of reality
also appealed to human irrationality, mostly in response to the is a bipartisan issue. Everyone wins by having more rational
Trump campaign’s success with it. Consider the comment by citizens—except those politicians who rely on misleading and
Clinton that half of Trump’s supporters belong in the “basket manipulative rhetoric to sway voters.
of deplorables” and are “irredeemable” by their sexism, racism, Unfortunately, this election cycle showed how easy and
and homophobia. This choice of words appeals to the horns effective it is to appeal to human irrationality. The future is dark
effect by associating “deplorable” with a large portion of the for Atheists’ rights if we do not focus our efforts on addressing
U.S. population. Yet consider someone who was convinced by this problem in our political system. After all, it’s up to our elected
Trump’s rhetoric that Muslims are to be feared. This person officials and appointed judges to uphold church/state separation,
has developed irrationally racist beliefs, but does this make which is in grave danger now that Trump has made it clear that he
the person inherently deplorable or irredeemable? Certainly wants churches and religious organizations to be able to endorse
not! At least she apologized for this comment, yet such rhetoric political candidates—something that hasn’t been allowed since
represents the perspectives of many liberals. the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954.
Fortunately, we are not doomed to this fate of irrationality. This will be a long, difficult fight because most members
Recent scholarship by Dan and Chip Heath in Decisive: How to of Congress wear their religious faith proudly on their sleeves.
Make Better Choices in Life and Work (2013) shows that we can They do this because it sways voters as effectively as misleading
become more rational in our voting and in how we assess politics rhetoric does.
in general. Doing so requires only four things:
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an activist for reason and rationality. He serves
1. It’s necessary, but not at all difficult, to as the president of Intentional Insights, a non-profit that popularizes
learn about typical thinking errors. science-based rational thinking and wise decision-making in politics
and other areas of life. He researches decision-making as a professor at
2. We have to notice when they are potentially
The Ohio State University. He is also a speaker, consultant, and coach.
impacting us, and then resist this influence.
Go to GlebTsipursky.com to learn more.
3. We must call out those politicians—and their
spokespeople—who appeal to such thinking errors.
4. We need to learn how to engage meaningfully with others Endnotes
when we see that they are falling for such manipulation. 1. “How the Heck Can Voters Think Donald Trump is More
Honest than Hillary Clinton?” by Chris Cillizza, Nov. 2,
Many will claim that this is unrealistic and that U.S. citizens 2016, WashingtonPost.com
are inherently irrational in their politics. I beg to differ. Over the 2. “Dueling Billboards Face Off in Christmas Controversy,”
last few months, I have published many articles and appeared Nov. 30, 2010, Religion.Blogs.CNN.com
on a number of TV and radio programs to talk about how to 3. CatholicLeague.org/adopt-an-atheist-campaign-begins
make politics more rational.10 I did so as part of my service as the 4. “How Americans Feel about Religious Groups,” July 16, 2014,
volunteer president of Intentional Insights, a non-profit devoted PewForum.org
to spreading rational thinking and wise decision-making in 5. NCBI.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059841
politics and other areas of life. 6. ScientificAmerican.com/article/in-atheists-we-distrust/
Many people have emailed me to express gratitude for 7. CatholicLeague.org/land-diversity-dishonesty
the chance to learn how politicians try to manipulate them. 8. JohnstonsArchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html
Some of them have asked how they can most effectively learn 9. “Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or
to make rational political assessments. Plenty among them Support of Extremism,” Aug. 30, 2011, People-Press.org
now donate their time and money to support the mission of 10. GlebTsipursky.com/about

Ask around, and see how many people assume that “under
God” has always been a part of the Pledge of Allegiance or
that “In God We Trust” has always been on U.S. currency.
34 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
A Most Righteous Adventure — Continued from page 11

My father had a little pyramid set up in the living room, and be now, about 45 or 47. They were given the responsibility to
he’d lie down inside it because he was going to live to be 240 write a song that is going to save the universe, essentially, and
years old. It was kind of a joke, but not. He was really scared of transform reality. But they haven’t done it yet. And they get
death. Just look at his work, and you can see it’s everywhere. the call like, “You got to do it right now!” So they take another
But we did talk about writing. I really admired and learned journey to try to find that song that’s going to save the world.
a lot from him—especially the day-in-day-out discipline of It’s [tentatively] called, Bill & Ted Face the Music.
how to be a writer.”
Will Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprise their roles as
Did you ever consider writing in the horror genre? Bill and Ted?
I never would have wanted to be a horror writer—I would Sure, they’re part of the whole thing. [Co-writer] Ed
have been too scared. I don’t like scary things. I’m already Solomon and I started talking to them about this years ago.
scared. I don’t want to see scary things. I love to laugh and We’ve been working on this hand-in-hand with those guys for
make other people laugh. If you’re laughing at something, I seven years now.
think it’s really hard to be scared of it.
Who will you send them back to meet?
He liked to scare people, you want to make them laugh. At this point Jimi [Hendrix] is in the story, but what ends
Perhaps you’re both trying to purge or escape the same up on screen—if anything—who knows.
fears in different ways.
Yeah, there’s truth to that. Too bad God doesn’t have a sense of humor. You could
have sent them back to biblical times.
What did you think of his metaphysical world? If you think about it, comedy is strongly connected to surprise.
I bought into it for a while, and then I started thinking, God is incapable of being surprised. He knows everything.
This is all bullshit! It’s made up! It’s just to make you feel better!
I’d say, “It’s not a spirit in the hallway, it was your Will we see a sequel to The Story of God?
imagination, Dad. There’s a much simpler explanation.” And I’m thinking of doing a follow-up, because God is such a
that would make him very, very mad. He’d say, “Why are you great character. Maybe I’ll follow him through the Quran and
so skeptical? Why don’t you believe in anything?’” through the Book of Mormon, which is the dumbest, most
laughable book I’ve ever read. It is ludicrous from beginning
Laughter—that’s your belief system. to end, much more so than the Old Testament.
I’m a very worried, anxious person. It’s hard for me not to
be upset about one thing or another. But laughter and play, Maybe you can send God to a therapist at some point.
those are the relief, you know? Those are the escape from that. A Freudian one! Except he doesn’t have a mom. But it’ll
The laughter feels so good to me, it always has. work!

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a cult classic. Do people Do you think God will ever learn his lesson?
quote lines to you when they discover you’re the co-writer? Nope. He’s trapped. He is perfect and, therefore, incapable
People will say to me, “Excellent!” or “Whoa!” But there’s of learning anything.
a whole lot of people out there who have no idea what Bill &
Ted’s Excellent Adventure is. They’re like, huh? The majority, And what about Satan? Does he finally get his due in
I’d say. Satan’s Story?
Yeah, your speculation that Satan ends up being The One
What? Does this mean we’re old? Surely when they were comes true. In the end, he’s clearly the smarter guy. Satan is
kids, your children thought you were the coolest dad ever Bugs Bunny to God’s Elmer Fudd.
for writing that.
No, not at all. It’s just Dad’s job, you know? Natasha Stoynoff’s most recent book is Chicken Soup for the Soul:
Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body with
Well, as one of the old folks, I’m glad to hear you have a Supermodel Emme. Her 2016 People magazine story about being
new Bill & Ted sequel in the works. grabbed by Donald Trump during a 2005 interview is not fake news—
Yeah, we’re going to revisit them at the age that they’d really but she wishes it were.

When a very, very religious person has a very skeptical child, it’s
going to be bumpy.
1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 35
Political Action Churches — Continued from page 31
6. “Recognition of Tax-Exempt Status: Automatic “Instructions for Schedule C (Form 990 or 990-EZ), IRS
Exemption for Churches,” Tax Guide for Churches & (2016); https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i990sc.pdf.
Religious Organizations, p. 2 (2015); https://www. 11. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church
irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf (emphasis added). & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).
7. IRC § 7611. 12. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).
8. “Special Rules Limiting IRS Authority to Audit 13. There is no court decision that says the Johnson
a Church,” https://www.irs.gov/charities-non- Amendment is unconstitutional; rather, the opposite is true.
profits/churches-religious-organizations/special- But recent decisions call into question previous court opinions.
rules-limiting-irs-authority-to-audit-a-church See Christian Echoes Nat’l Ministry v. United States, 470 F.2d
9. Several Appeals Court cases have determined that the 849, 857 (10th Cir. Okla. 1972) (finding “[i]n light of the fact
restrictions of the Johnson Amendment and more broadly that tax exemption is a privilege, a matter of grace rather than
the restriction of 501(c)(3)s are not a substantial burden right, we hold that the limitations contained in Section 501(c)
on religious exercise. See Branch Ministries v. Rossotti, (3) withholding exemption from nonprofit corporations do
211 F.3d 137 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (holding that not being not deprive [a church] of its constitutionally guaranteed right
able to express opinions about candidates for public office of free speech. The taxpayer may engage in all such activities
does not substantially burden a 501(c)(3) organization); without restraint, subject, however, to withholding of the
Christian Echoes National Ministry v. U.S. 470 F.2d 849 exemption or, in the alternative, the taxpayer may refrain
(10th Cir. 1972) (holding that limitations of conduct in from such activities and obtain the privilege of exemption.”).
501(c)(3) are constitutionally valid and do not deprive an 14. “The Post’s View: Trump is Wrong. Pulpit Freedom
organization of free speech or free exercise of religion). Already Exists.” Washington Post, Aug. 5, 2016; https://www.
10. However, other provisions of 501(c)(3) do restrict washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-wrong-pulpit-
attempts to influence legislation. The IRS allows a certain freedom-already-exists/2016/08/05/77706c10-5815-11e6-
amount of lobbying to be done by these entities. See 9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html?utm_term=.8b8a000b6da0.

From the co-creator of the
Bill & Ted movies

THE FUNNIEST STORIES
EVER TOLD!

Available in print, audiobook, and ebook

36 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
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Lifetime Supporters or by upgrading their Lifetime Supporter memberships. Thanks to the following for their continued
support to further promote our shared goals and values:

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38 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
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.

“Paulkovich … presents all this evidence in a style
suffused with a lively dose of humor…”
– The American Rationalist

Available in paperback and e-book at
BeyondTheCrusades.com

“A sometimes funny, always informative look into the
mind behind America’s frontline of Atheism. Dave
reminds us that religion is everyone’s enemy.”
~ Taslima Nasrin, international human rights activist and author of Shame and Revenge

David Silverman
President of American Atheists

Support American Atheists by purchasing an autographed copy for
$50 ($25 is tax-deductible where allowed by law), and receive a free
one-year membership. Order online at Atheists.org/FightingGod or
send payment to American Atheists, P.O. Box 158, Cranford, NJ 07016.

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 39
AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
For the most up-to-date list, visit Atheists.org/Affiliates or contact Greg Lammers at GLammers@Atheists.org.

State Group Name City Site
LOCAL PARTNERS
FL FLASH - Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists Orlando http://www.godlessflorida.com
GA Atlanta Freethought Society Atlanta http://atlantafreethought.org
IA Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers Des Moines http://www.meetup.com/Iowa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers
MN Minnesota Atheists Minneapolis http://mnatheists.org
OK Atheist Community of Tulsa Tulsa http://www.ACTOK.org
PA PA Non-Believers York http://www.panonbelievers.org
TX Metroplex Atheists Arlington http://www.metroplexatheists.org
NY Long Island Atheist Meetup Lynbrook http://goo.gl/K2koj

AFFILIATES
AK Alaskan Atheists Anchorage http://www.meetup.com/AlaskanAtheists/

AL Auburn Atheists & Agnostics Auburn http://www.facebook.com/groups/auburnatheistsandagnostics/

AL Birmingham Atheists Meetup Birmingham http://www.meetup.com/atheists-132

AL Marshall County Atheists & Agnostics Marshall http://www.themcaa.org

AL Montgomery Area Freethought Association Montgomery http://www.montgomeryfreethought.org

AL North Alabama Freethought Association Huntsville http://www.meetup.com/thenafa

AL UA Alabama Atheists and Agnostics Tuscaloosa http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2234029305

AL UAH Non-Theists Huntsville http://www.facebook.com/uahnontheists

AL West Alabama Freethought Association Tuscaloosa http://www.meetup.com/westalabamafreethought

AR Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Little Rock http://www.ARFreethinkers.org

AR ArkLaTex Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists Texarkana http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128265161357

AR Southwest Arkansas Atheist Community Nashville http://goo.gl/K2koj

AZ Reason Riders Glendale 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 (RAFT) Riverside http://RiversideAtheists.org

CO Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver Denver http://athofden.tripod.com

40 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
CO Boulder Atheists Boulder http://www.boulderatheists.org

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

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>

MD Secular Student Alliance, Frostburg State University Frostburg Secularstudents.org/frostburg

1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 41
AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
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 Gotham Atheists New York https://www.meetup.com/GothamAtheists/

NY Hudson Valley Humanists Saugerties http://hudsonvalley.humanists.net

NY Long Island Atheists East Setauket Meetup.com/li-atheists

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 1ST QUARTER 2017
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 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

1ST QUARTER 2017 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 1ST QUARTER 2017
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1ST QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 45
Why I Am An Atheist
by Clint Barger

I was born into the family of a Southern Baptist deacon,
so the yoke of indoctrination was waiting for me the
minute I arrived. For the first eighteen years, my
critical thinking skills were hindered by a dogmatic ideology
and reliance on faith instead of reason. By the time I graduated
from Baylor University, maturity led me to suspect that
Christianity was too exclusive and artificial to be some kind
Through audiobooks and YouTube debates, I finally had
unfettered access to the brightest experts in the world. For
years now, I have spent my daily commute listening to lectures
about Atheism, science, philosophy, and history by people who
have an integrity that’s seldom found in churches.
Since humans evolved from fish, there was no Adam and
Eve to bring about original sin, and Christianity’s blackmail
of virtuous, divine plan. Claims about god’s chosen people through atonement by blood sacrifice was unwarranted. This
and eternal damnation for the rest appeared to be misguided was no surprise. The idea that an omnipotent being had no
human values, not infallible wisdom. choice but to allow the murder of his only begotten son had
I eventually moved out of my parents’ home and seized the seemed far-fetched to me for quite a while.
opportunity to study many things for the first time. I started I also immersed myself in biblical criticism and realized the
with Eastern philosophy and discovered it was actually a devotional format of church was a deliberate distraction from
common-sense form of metaphysical naturalism. Meditation the real history of Christianity, which can be known when the
became a worthwhile endeavor, while prayer felt superficial Bible is taken seriously instead of literally. Christian history
and empty. I became receptive to reality at face value instead demonstrates how the original scriptures were repeatedly
of insisting that it conformed to a specific set of predisposed altered to fabricate a divine legend out of a mortal revolutionary.
beliefs. By having no higher purpose for anyone or anything The significant role Christianity played, and continues to
than to simply exist, life appeared to be—ironically—still play, in worldwide political conquest, war, and slavery also
miraculous. Instead of being for the sport of a deity, existence demonstrates how man-made the religion truly is. These facts
had no ulterior motive after all. Life appeared to be for our were driven home when I learned that Thomas Jefferson and
own appropriation as naturally occurring agents of the Earth. other American forefathers warned of how both Catholicism
Humankind turned out to be an essential, welcome feature and Protestantism threaten liberty.
of our planet, which was quite uplifting compared to the Thanks to scholars like Diarmaid MacCulloch, Bart
doctrine of original sin and the fallen paradise. Ehrman, and Richard Carrier, I have come to recognize
With its threats of worldwide evil and an eternal hell, I also pastors and apologists as salesmen and propagandists. I
began to notice how much Christianity exploits our natural also saw through the urgency for salvation, which is simply
inclination to fear for our loved ones. Our families are held a psychological device no different than a Labor Day sale
hostage and forced to choose between two destinies: one is our at a used car lot. I could no longer attend a church service
wildest dream and the other is our worst nightmare. Then, on without feeling that I was being sold a lie. This feeling was
a particular September 11th, I suddenly realized that the three reinforced by the ruse of suspiciously elated welcomes from
Abrahamic religions of the Middle East had betrayed us all by greeters posted at every entrance of the church building. Such
pitting cultures against each other to bring about “Armageddon” contrived courtesy appeared to be a means of merely out-
without there ever having been a god involved. charming the other competitor churches down the street.
My family members and close friends remained dedicatd I became an Atheist in my adulthood because I realized
Christians as my skepticism continued to grow over the years. that blind faith in such self-imposed ignorance is irresponsible.
While I was a bachelor, my disinterest was not questioned very Wrong ideas are like pollution. They can appear to have a
often. However, having a wife and kids made me a higher- minimal impact at first, but when left unchecked, the effects on
value target, prompting renewed invitations to attend church. society can be devastating. Despite the scoffers, I decided to
Above all else, religions need naïve children for survival, so become part of the solution and share the honest perspective of
recruitment is ingrained in their followers. Atheism with others in my life.
Out of a determined sense of self-preservation, I mounted
a counter-offensive. Technology had finally provided access Clint Barger is a husband and father of two who hails from Irving, Texas.
to the kind of information that I had lacked as a young adult.

46 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 1ST QUARTER 2017
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