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A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

2nd Quarter 2017
Vol. 55, No. 2
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)

On the cover: Good newsthe U.S. population may include as many as 80 million atheists, more than
twice as many as were reported just two years ago. Bad newsthese newly discovered atheists had to
stay in the closet to be counted. Our cover story examines how they could both stay in the closet and be
counted, and what we can do to open those closet doors for good. Story on page 32.

Pamela Whissel

In This Issue
Rick Wingrove
Time to Use the F-Word | Pamela Whissel
Karen Rei lly
5 Can an Atheist Have a Religious Experience? | J. Sage Elwell
Gil Gaudia
Shelley Gaudia
8 God Hates Children | Brian Bolton
Den Jackson
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS J-Dog Be Rappin! The Blog of Jesus Christ | Michael B. Paulkovich
Frank R. Zindler 16 Good News or Just Bad Writing? | Eric Wojciechowski
Published by
American Atheists, Inc. 19 Atheist Hospital Chaplains: The Time has Come | Mark Kolsen
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
22 Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned | Kathy Schultheis
Phone: 908.276.7300
FAX: 908.276.7402 26 BOOK EXCERPT The Nonbelievers Guide to the Book of Mormon | C.B. Brooks, M.D.
2017 American Atheists Inc.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part
without written permission is prohibited. American
28 Falling in Love with the Most Hated Woman in America | Pamela Whissel

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
Hiding in Plain Sight | Pamela Whissel
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Time to Use the F-word

M adalyn Murray OHair, who founded both American

Atheists and this magazine, uttered four-letter words exquisitely,
delightfully, deliberately, and abundantly whenever they need
to be used. She said this to Johnny Carson during her 1972
Right now, contributions to super PACs are not tax-
deductible, and thanks to regulatory oversight, the money is
usually spent where it is intended. Religious organizations,
however, are unregulated. They file no IRS forms and declare no
appearance on The Tonight Show. She went on to explain that the income or expenses, so they could collect an unlimited amount
concept of profanity has religious origins, and she would never of anonymous, tax-deductible donations for political campaigns
forego using the right word in deference to religion: The whole while never having to account for where they allocated the money.
issue of obscenity has to do with separation of church and state, So if someone donates ten dollars, ten thousand dollars,
and Im not going to let the church take certain words, which are or even ten million dollars to a church to support a political
vital, and change them. When a four-letter word was optimal for candidate, they would get a tax deduction with complete
the situation, she would use it. anonymity. And because IRS exempts religious non-profits from
Correspondingly, she abhorred euphemisms and never having to account for any expenditures, donations intended for
minced words. One item in our archives is a letter she wrote charitable outreach could be diverted to a political campaign,
in 1983 to an author who approached her with a book review and neither the donors, nor the government, nor the public would
request. In her reply, she wrote, I wont review your book. It ever know. Churches could become the main income stream
would be a waste of time Your book is one of a generic type. You of politicians, and the wall that separates government from
are all afraid to openly state your ideas because you are convinced religion would be crushed to dust by this unlimited, unaudited,
that religion will be hostile. So you all beat around the bush and anonymous campaign money.
include therein great areas which need not be included to make So what does this have to do with us embracing faith, of all
your pointWe put out an Atheist magazine, not an apology for things? You and I must believedespite any doubtsthat our
having an opinionI have put your book in the American Atheist system of government will prevent this fusion of politics and
Library and Archives as another example of gutlessness. No religion. We will be able to believe this if we also havedespite
euphemisms there, but no profanity either. Just the right words any evidence to the contrarytotal faith in the sacred duty of
for the situation. citizen participation, which requires us to make frequent phone
Today, thirty-four years later, we are in a situation where the calls (email and letters are less effective) to our senators and
right word is an f-word that did make Madalyn cringe: faith. We representatives. This also means contacting everyone we know
need to start using it exquisitely, delightfully, deliberately, and who agrees that church/state separation is the best thing for both.
abundantly if we want to save our wall that separates government Show them this letter and convert them to our faith. Make at least
from religion. It has always been on shaky ground, but it will one of these calls every day until the Free Speech Fairness Act
crumble to dust if Congress fulfills President Trumps promise to dies in committee.
repeal the Johnson Amendment. Many large, wealthy religious organizations are lobbying
Right now, in both the House and Senate, the Free Speech heavily to repeal the Johnson Amendment. They will not lose
Fairness Act has been proposed. If passed into law, it would repeal their faith if they fail, so we cant lose ours if they succeed. No
the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other matter the outcome, each of us must continue the daily phone-
religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political call ritual for the rest of our lives. Unlike prayers, our calls will
candidates. In exchange for this restriction, the organizations be answered, and if we call often enough (unlike praying often
pay no taxes, and the donations they receive are tax deductible enough), we can make our wall great again.
for the giver. Repealing the Johnson Amendment would lift that When she debated religious leaders, Madalyn would say,
restriction while keeping the tax benefits in place, so any church, Keep the faith, just keep it to yourself. A slightly different
mosque, synagogue, or temple could become a new kind of super version is the perfect mantra for our mission: Keep the faith. Just
PACone with no oversight. keep it.

Pamela Whissel


Can an Atheist
Have a
Religious Experience?
by J. Sage Elwell

C an an atheist have a religious experience? The

obvious and uninteresting answer is no. An
atheist cannot have a religious experience as long
as the terms atheism and religious retain their common
meaning. That is, so long as atheism designates the absence
of belief in God, and the supernatural and religious refers to
Midwest. He attended church throughout his childhood,
attended the standard church camps and mission trips, and
by all accountshis own includedhe took his faith quite
seriously. So seriously, in fact, that upon entering college, he
elected to major in religion in the hopes of one day going into
the ministry. However, as many religion professors can attest,
some reality that transcends the natural world, then it is not this dream often ends in tears and an existential crisis as the
possible for an atheist to have a religious experience. academic study of religion is frequently toxic to sincere but
However, having laid out the blunt and uninteresting nave faith.
answer, the following considers the question from a different Upon discovering the numerous inaccuracies and
angle. Specifically, I consider the possibility of atheistic inconsistencies in the Bible, the reality that much of
religious experiences by using the model of how metaphors Christianitys purported history borders on pure fiction, not
work as a way to preserve the disbelief of the atheist and the to mention the ravenous destruction of human life wrought
religiosity of an atheistic religious experience. by Christians over the centuries and the seeming logical
To begin, let us imagine an atheist. Call him Joe. Joe inconsistencies entailed in everything from the trinity to
was raised in an Evangelical Christian household in the theodicy, Joe abandons his faith, drops his religion major,

We must reconsider the meaning of the terms

atheist and religious experience
in order to allow for both.
establishes the colleges Young Atheists Club, and becomes a when we say the sea is a cruel mistress we do not literally
philosophy major. mean that a large body of water is an angry lover. Rather, the
Years later, Joe, now a professor of analytic philosophy, has interaction between sea and cruel mistress generates a
what he can only describe, much to his chagrin, as a religious third meaning that both transcends and preserves the original
experience. We might, for this thought experiment, simply lift meaning of each word.
directly from an actual experience recounted by another Joe: In a similar fashion, an atheistic religious experience
Joseph Carpenter, the Principal of Manchester College, Oxford, transcends atheism and religious experience to generate
from 1914 to 1919. In a letter to a friend, Carpenter wrote: a third way of framing the experience. This interpretation
I went out one afternoon for a walk aloneSuddenly I necessarily preserves the conceptual integrity of atheism and
became conscious of the presence of someone else. I cannot religious experience while simultaneously transcending them.
describe it, but I felt that I had as direct a perception of the Moreover, like metaphors, there is no need to take the
being of God all around me as I have of you when we are experience literally, and thus there is no threat to the atheism
together. It was no longer a matter of inference, it was an of the atheist or the religiosity of the religious experience.
immediate act of spiritual (or whatever adjective you want As with metaphors, its meaning is not operative at the level
to employ) apprehension. It came unsought, absolutely of logic, but rather at a level more akin to aesthetics. That
unexpectedlyThis experience did not last long. But it is, we do not value metaphors for their logical consistency,
sufficed to change all my feeling.1 but rather for their aesthetic and/or emotional power. In
As with the real-life Joseph Carpenter, our Joe did not short, the atheistic religious experience can have meaning
seek out this experience. He had, in fact, self-consciously and value in the way a work of art has meaning and value
repudiated any such possibility. Let us imagine, moreover, that without explanatory recourse to the supernatural that might
as a scholar, he had, in lectures and in his writing, publically compromise its atheism or to the logic of scientism that might
denounced such experiences. Despite all of this, our Joe is compromise its religiosity.
unable to dismiss the experiencetry as he mightand The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur claimed that
reluctantly comes to only one conclusion: he had a religious metaphors are characterized by the dialectic of event and
experience. Nonetheless, Joe insists that he remains an meaning. By this, he meant that metaphors are an experience.
intransigent atheist. This experience is marked by the tension between literal first-
There are basically two ways to understand Joes situation order reference (event) and second-order poiesis (making or
and his atheistic religious creating) whereby meaning
experience. On the one hand, emerges. Thus, considered
Joe is either simply ignorant and/
or straightforwardly irrational. On
Because metaphors as metaphor, the atheistic
religious experience confounds
the other hand, if we give credence are free of strictly first-order reference inasmuch

logical truth-value,
to his claims regarding his as Gods existence is denied,
experience and his identification and yet meaning arises in
of its so-called religious nature,
as well as his insistence that the experience can be the event as a second-order
affective experience which
he remains an atheist, it would
seem that we must reconsider the
accepted as religious preserves the first-order logic
that rejects belief in God while
meaning of the terms atheist without also asserting it simultaneously rendering
and religious experience in
order to allow for both with to be true. second-order value that is, as
Monroe Beardsley described it,
respect to his experience. But a logical absurdity.2
this is precisely to go against what What is logically absurd
was set out in the opening paragraph. It changes the terms. But, nonetheless has meaning and value. For example, the
perhaps, there is a third way. metaphor men are pigs is a logical absurdity (or perhaps
Joes atheistic religious experience brings together two not). While there may be ways that men can be considered
things that typically do not appear in conjunction with one pig-likedirty, smelly, etc.such a list would not finally
another: an atheist and a religious experience. Note the and absolutely explain the metaphor and wring from it all of
familiar structure of the atheistic religious experience: the its meaning any more than a thorough description of Vincent
conjoining of two dissimilar things to yield an interpretive van Goghs Starry Night would equal the painting. What
quandarythis is the structure of a metaphor. then, to use Beardsleys phrase, is the metaphorical twist that
Thus, rather than compromising the religiousness of the arises from the atheistic religious experience? The answer lies
experience or the atheism of the atheist, the atheistic religious in the arena of the aesthetic.
experience can be understood as a metaphor. This is not to say The twist of the metaphor atheistic religious experience
that it is a metaphor for something else. Rather, it itself is an is an aesthetic disclosure of meaning or value. In much the
instance of a metaphor. same way that we might declare that the meaning of the
A popular explanation of how metaphors work suggests metaphor war is hell rests in the visceral, emotional sense
that they generate meaning through the interaction of it conveysthereby eliding the question of truthwe can
their linguistic parts. The result is some new meaning that similarly declare that the meaning, the twist, of an atheist
transcends either of the individual linguistic elements. Thus, having a religious experience lies in its emotional, affective


We do not value metaphors for their logical
consistency, but rather for their aesthetic
and/or emotional power.
tenor. Or, to return to Paul Ricoeur, Does not the tension The answer, I believe, is a subdued yes. Because the
that affects the copula in its relational function also affect the experience did not involve ascent to a rational proposition
copula in its existential function? This question contains the about the world, any change in belief or behavior need not
key to the notion of metaphorical truth.3 The tension between reflect, or be reflected in, an altered view of reality. But the
atheism and religious experience yields non-discursive, and experience was nonetheless affective, visceral, and generally
non-translatable, existential meaning conveyed and realized in aesthetic in nature. Therefore, I would expect Joe to change
and as the aesthetic twist of metaphor. in that he will now be open to experiences of powerful extra-
I have not indicated what an atheistic religious experience conceptual significance, whereas he formerly was not.
might be a metaphor for, only that it bears the signature of a In short, whereas formerly Joe was not open to an
metaphor. That is, it has a metaphorical structure. In his book experience of the in-breaking of powerful extra-conceptual
Metaphor and Art, Carl Hausman writes, A metaphorical significance, he should, following the experience, hold himself
expression functions so that it creates its significance, thus open to the possibility of these experiences. In the same way a
providing new insight, through designating a unique extra- novel metaphor changes our understanding of its referent, the
linguistic and extra-conceptual referent that had no place in atheistic religious experience should likewise leave one open to
the intelligible world before the metaphor was articulated.4 the possibility of a new, personally significant, non-linguistic
If we accept this, we see that it is impossible to ultimately meaning coming into being.
say what an atheistic religious experience might be a metaphor It is precisely the incompatibility of atheism and religious
for because, unlike verbal signification, every instance will experiences that makes an atheistic religious experience
create significance unique to each individual. The significance possible. In the same way that the incompatibility of Juliet
need not be communicable via a stable linguistic referent, as it and the sun yields meaning in the metaphor Juliet is the sun,
is fundamentally experiential and not discursive. As Hausman so too does the incompatibility of atheism and a religious
notes, the experience will manifest some extra-linguistic and experience yield meaning in the metaphor of an atheistic
extra-conceptual referent that had no place in the intelligible religious experience. And it does so by preserving the atheism
world prior to the experience itself. In the case of an atheistic of the atheist and the religiosity of the religious experience in
religious experience, the referent will be the sensations, and as the aesthetics of metaphor.
feelings, and emotions that constituted the experience itself.
And precisely because metaphors are free of strictly logical J. Sage Elwell, Ph.D., is an associate professor of religion and art at
truth-value, the experience can be accepted as religious Texas Christian University.
without also asserting it to be true.
Returning, then, to our atheist Joe, we can see that as a
former believer, he had what Beardsley called the potential Endnotes
range of connotations5 necessary to identify his experience 1. Marianne Rankin, An Introduction to Religious and Spiritual
as religious. However, as an atheist, he could not accept Experience, (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2009), p. 103.
this religiousness as true. Viewing the experience through 2. Monroe Beardsley, The Metaphorical Twist, Philosophy
the prism of metaphor, however, frees him to regard the and Phenomenological Research, 32.3 (March 1962), p. 299.
experience as religious without having to declare the 3. Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor: Multidisciplinary Studies
religiousness true. of the Creation of Meaning in Language (The University of
There is one final dilemma: should Joe behave or believe Toronto Press, 1981), p. 247.
differently in light of the experience? In the case of a traditional 4. Carl R. Hausman, Metaphor and Art: Interactionism and
religious experience, we would, I suspect, anticipate that the Reference in the Verbal and Nonverbal Arts (Cambridge
experiencer would somehow be changed or elect to change. University Press, 1989), p. 94.
This, however, is based on the assumption that they regard the 5. Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of
content of the experience to be true. Because this is not the case Criticism, 2nd edition (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing
in an atheistic religious experience, can we ask the same of Joe? Company, 1981), p. 133.

Joes atheistic religious experience brings together

two things that typically do not appear in
conjunction with one another.
This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So
by Brian Bolton

T he oft-repeated assertion that God loves children

permeates Christian propaganda and is utterly false.
God himself murdered infants, babies, and children,
and he commanded the murder of guiltless offspring. In clear
contrast, children were highly valued by the early Israelites and
were regarded as gifts from God, according to Old Testament
Sunday school teachers. Six categories of Gods horrors are

Horrific Slaughters of Innocent Children

We begin this review with those unspeakable biblical
slaughters in which all residents were killed, with infants and
scholars like Gerald Larue and Robert Wilson. Large families children specifically identified as targeted victims. Children
were considered to be a divine blessing, while barrenness was were murdered as punishment for the disobedience of their
seen as a curse or godly punishment. Sons were preferred over parents or other adults in the communityin other words,
daughters, and children generally enjoyed few rights. children were truly innocent victims.
So while children were prized in early Hebrew
communities, the biblical God their parents worshipped At midnight God struck down all the firstborn sons in
displayed a cruel disposition that was manifested in murderous Egyptthere was not a house without someone dead
behavior. It will be helpful to divide this summary of scriptural (Exodus 12:29-30). God repeatedly reminds us of this
documentation into two parts, a longer one for the father slaughter of children in Psalms 78:51, 135:8, 136:10.
(Yahweh) and a shorter one for the son (Jesus). The third Gods vengeance on the Midianites included killing all
member of the Trinity (the holy ghost) will not be considered, men, boys, and married women, while the young girls were
with the ardent hope that this omission will not be construed kept as captives by the Israelites (Numbers 31:7-18).
as blasphemy against the royal personage, which is of course God slaughtered all the subjects of King Sihon and King
the unpardonable sin. Og, including men, women and childrenthere were no
The content of this article should be useful to writers survivors (Deuteronomy 2:32-34, 3:3-6).
of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, and even useful to In the street the sword will make them childless; in their

An unresolved biblical issue concerns the

punishment of children for the sins of their parents.
homes terror will reign. The young men and young women them against the rocks (Psalm 137:9).
will perish, the infants and those with gray hair. These God will punish the people of Babylon by dashing their
are lyrics from The Song of Moses, which was composed infants to pieces before their eyes; their enemies will have
by God (Deuteronomy 32:25). no mercy on their infants and children (Isaiah 13:16,18).
The Israelites killed all residents of Jabesh-Gilead, Hoseas prophecy of devastation for the people of Bethel
including the women and children, with the exception for their great wickedness includes mothers and their
of 400 unmarried young women, who were given to the children being dashed to death against the rocks (Hosea
surviving swordsmen (Judges 21:10-14). 10: 14-15).
God ordered Saul to totally destroy the Amalekites, For rebelling against God, Samarias people will be killed,
including men, women, children, infants, and all animals their babies will be dashed to death against the ground,
(1 Samuel 15:3). and their pregnant women will be ripped open with a
Saul commanded Doeg the Edomite to kill the priests of sword (Hosea 13:16).
Nob, along with the men, women, children, infants, and God tells the people of Ninevah that he will dash their
animals (1 Samuel 22:19). infants to pieces (Nahum 3:10).
God killed Davids son as punishment for Davids sins
(2 Samuel 12:13-18).
God killed Jeroboams son because Jeroboam worshipped
idols (1 Kings 14:12-17). God enlisted bears and lions
God collaborated with Satan to test Jobs faith by killing
his sons and daughters in addition to numerous other
to kill children in
cruelties inflicted on this good man (Job 1:18-19). two grisly episodes.
God destroyed the men, women, children, and infants of
Judah as punishment for their idolatry (Jeremiah 44:7-14).
God ordered the slaughter of the unrepentant men, Innocent Children Murdered with Their Parents
women, mothers, and children of Jerusalem as his Three gory stories in which innocent children were
judgement for their detestable idolatry (Ezekiel 9:6). executed with their disobedient parents illustrate the
God commanded the destruction of Jerusalem, including despicable practice of collective punishment and document
the murder of sons and daughters, as punishment for the the unfathomable cruelty inherent in Yahwehs diseased
sin of idolatry (Ezekiel 23:46-49). character. The faultless children were buried alive, stoned to
God will punish the idolatrous Israelites by causing death, or eaten alive by lions.
barrenness and miscarriage, and by murdering those
children that are born (Hosea 9:11-16). God caused the earth to open and swallow three
disobedient menKorah, Dathan, and Abiramas well
The vast majority of infants, babies, and children as their wives and children. They went down alive into
murdered by Yahweh were victims in three biblical the realm of the dead as their cries frightened the other
massacres, Noahs flood (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Israelites (Numbers 16:27-33).
Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), and the Conquest of Canaan God decreed that for stealing booty, Achan, with his sons
(Numbers 21,31,33; Deuteronomy 2,3,7,20; Joshua 6,8,10-12), and daughters and livestock, would be stoned to death and
and in eighteen major slaughters in which children were not their bodies burned (Joshua 7:13-26).
specifically named (Judges 1:17,25, 4:23-24, 9:45, 11:32-33, The men who had falsely accused Daniel were thrown,
18:27, 20:48, 1 Samuel 27:8-9, 30:17, 31:1-6, 1 Kings 15:29, along with their wives and children, into the lions den
16:12, 2 Kings 15:16,17,19-20, 21, 16, 24:2-4; 2 Chronicles where they were eaten alive (Daniel 6:24). Why did
36:17-20; Lamentations 2:20-22). God refuse to protect the innocent children like he had
Of course, tens of millions of unborn children were also protected Daniel?
murdered by Yahweh in the above events and several others
(See my article in the Third Quarter 2016 issue of American Three crimes for which God mandated the death penalty
Atheist for a full accounting of this godly abomination). are for children who attack (or kill) their parents (Exodus
21:15), curse their parents (Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9), or
Infanticide by Severe Physical Trauma will not obey their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). In the
Six Bible verses invoke the abhorrent Yahwehean tradition episode from Deuteronomy, parents are instructed to take
of killing infants and children by dashing them to the ground their rebellious son (daughters apparently dont engage in this
or dashing them to pieces or dashing them against the rocks: behavior) to the local officials where he will be stoned to death.
An unresolved biblical issue concerns the punishment of
Elishas prophecy for soon-to-be King Hazael was that children for the sins of their parents. In a dozen statements
he would attack the Israelites, burn their cities, kill their on the subject, God endorsed patrilineal guilt only half of the
young men with the sword, dash their little children to the time (Exodus 20:5; 2 Samuel 12:13-18; 1 Kings 13:34, 14:10,
ground, and rip open their pregnant women (2 Kings 8:12). 21:25-29; 2 Kings 25:27; Isaiah 14:20-21). He rejected this
Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes appalling idea the other half of the time (Deuteronomy 24:6;


Jesus specifically endorsed capital punishment
for children who curse their parents.
2 Kings 14:5-6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Jeremiah 31: 29-30; Ezekiel must be executed by their own parentsby stabbing to death
18:2-4). Either God is thoroughly conflicted or completely with a sword (Zechariah 13:2-3).
confused, or possibly he just doesnt care about the blatantly What is not entirely clear is whether the firstborn sons
unfair treatment of children. must be redeemed by the parents (Exodus 13:13,15) or if the
sons cannot be redeemed (Leviticus 27:28-29). Some scholars
Children Killed by Wild Animals say that Leviticus is referring to devoted things, which are
An especially macabre technique that God regularly irredeemably dedicated to Yahweh, and not to sacrificial
employed to kill children and adults as punishment for victims. It appears that Yahweh himself may have had doubts
disobedience was the use of wild animals. about the advisability of child sacrifice. This is evident early
when he spared Isaac from becoming the burnt offering that
God made general statements invoking the ferocity of he originally demanded from Abraham (Genesis 22:1-12). His
lions, leopards, and bears in dismembering their prey to concerns were expressed later through both Jeremiah (7:31)
express his fierce anger (Hosea 5:14-15, 13: 4-8). Even and Ezekiel (16:20-22, 20:30-31, 23:37-39). Or was Yahweh
though he also issued a specific threat to the Israelites that only condemning child sacrifice to other gods and idols?
wild animals would eat their children (Levitcus 26:22), There is one unambiguous episode that makes Yahwehs
some apologists say that his language is just metaphorical; position perfectly clear. Jephthah was a mighty warrior who
however, the incidents summarized below suggest otherwise. destroyed twenty Ammonite towns after he vowed to God
God actually did enlist bears and lions to kill children that in exchange for military success he would sacrifice as
in two grisly episodes. After he was teased by some boys a burnt offering the first creature to emerge from his house
for having a bald head, the prophet Elisha asked God to upon his triumphal return from battle. Much to his dismay, his
punish them; two bears then ripped 42 boys to pieces only daughter came out to meet him, dancing to the sound of
(2 Kings 2:23-24). And just for emphasis, lets recall the timbrels.
previously mentioned children of Daniels false accusers, After Jephthah explained his unbreakable promise to
who were eaten alive by lions while God did not intervene her, she accepted her fate, but requested a two-month stay
to prevent the carnage (Daniel 6:24). of execution, after which Jephthah sacrificed her as a burnt
God sent venomous snakes to punish the complaining offering to God, just as he had vowed to do (Judges 11:29-39).
Israelites (Numbers 21:6), and he sent lions to punish Why did God refuse to spare Jephthahs innocent daughter
Assyrian settlers in Samaria who refused to worship him as he had done with Isaac? We know that frail humans
(2 Kings 17:24-25). In both events, many people died. should never question Gods omniscience, because to do so
However, God did not exempt infants and children from constitutes willful disobedience.
either attack, so we can reasonably assume that they were Now, if you think that Gods barbaric punishments could
also victims of his wrath. not get any worse than child sacrifice, or killing children
with wild animals, or beating infants to death, then consider
Child Sacrifice by Parents cannibalism! Parents eating their own children is the ultimate
There is no question that during certain periods of early penalty in Gods seemingly unlimited arsenal of retribution
Hebrew history, children were routinely sacrificed to Yahweh inflicted on disobedient Israelites.
or (more often) competing gods or idols (e.g., 1Kings 16:34;
2 Kings 16:3-4, 17:17, 21:6, 23:10). These ritual murders are You will eat the f lesh of your sons and daughters
confirmed by Psalm 106:37-39. The requirement to sacrifice (Leviticus 26:29).
firstborn sons in Israel is unquestionable (Exodus 13:1-2, 12, You will eat the fruit of the womb, the f lesh of your sons
22:29). Furthermore, the rationale is also beyond dispute; and daughters (Deuteronomy 28:53).
firstborn male children are dedicated to Yahweh because he I will make them eat the f lesh of their sons and
protected them from slaughter in Egypt (Exodus 13:14-15). daughters (Jeremiah 19:9).
An especially sadistic commandment issued by God Women have cooked their own children who became
illustrates his extreme jealousy directed at unauthorized their food (Lamentations 4:10).
prophets who (he alleges) are controlled by evil spirits and Parents will eat their children and children will eat their
speak lies in his name. He decreed that these false prophets parents (Ezekiel 5:9-10).

God is thoroughly conflicted or completely confused

or possibly he just doesnt care about children.
Deserting ones family for Jesuss sake is an essential
Jesus Doesnt Love the Little Children requirement for attaining eternal life, so we can reasonably
The Sunday school hymn that begins Jesus loves me conclude that Jesus was an egomaniac, just like his father.
this I know, for the Bible tells me so probably derives from Two uses of the word children in connection with the
the brief episode where he embraced the little ones and Jesus mythology in the Gospel actually refer to descendants:
declared that adults who do not possess the simple faith (i.e. the infamous blood libel, His blood be on us and on our
intellectual immaturity) of children will not be saved (Mark children (Matthew 27:25) and You are children of your
10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17). In fact, there are good reasons to father, the Devil (John 8:44). However, Jesus did deliver
conclude that Jesus was not particularly fond of children. He some frightful prophecies about parents and children at the
generally approved of the death penalty for Old Testament long hoped for and still excitedly awaited end times (Matthew
violations (Matthew 5:17), and he specifically endorsed capital 10:21; Mark 13:12; Luke 21:16).
punishment for children who curse their parents (Matthew Jesus revealed his vengeful, unforgiving disposition toward
15:4; Mark 7:10). It should be noted that cursing does not all people in three gruesome stories where all who disobey him
mean swearing at, but rather asking God to cause tragedy or will be executed using blood-curdling methods and then sent
misfortune for another person. to hell to be tortured forever.
Jesus adopted the barbaric language of dashing children to
the ground from Hebrew history in his horrifying prophecy He will cut him to pieces and assign him to a place
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
(Matthew 24:51).

The faultless children He will cut him to pieces and assign a place with the
unbelievers (Luke 12:46).
were buried alive, stoned to But those enemies who did not want me to be king over
them bring them here and kill them in front of me
death, or eaten alive by lions. (Luke 19:27).
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces;
anyone on whom it falls will be crushed (Luke 20:18).

for the total destruction of Jerusalem as punishment for the Jesus used the popular technique of speaking in parables
residents because they did not acknowledge him as Gods to disguise his aberrant predilection for severely punishing
emissary: The days will come when your enemies will dash anyone who rejected him or disagreed with him. He was not a
you to the ground, you and the children within your walls pleasant person.
because you did not recognize the time of Gods coming
to you (Luke 19:43-44). Jesus coldly confirmed without Conclusion
regret or sorrow that everybody diedobviously including It is appropriate to conclude this truly unpleasant review
infants, children, and unborn childrenin Noahs flood by of biblical truth by returning to one of the dominant themes,
drowning and in the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah that of parents sacrificing their children to gods or idols.
(Luke 17:26-29). Moreover, he did not express any special Devout Christians believe that Yahwehs greatest deed of
concern for children or unborn children during the self less devotion to humankind was the blood sacrifice
anticipated end times: Woe to pregnant women and those of his only begotten son, the lamb of God as atonement
who are nursing (Matthew 24:19). for our sins. In fact, Yahwehs decision is the cornerstone
Jesus anti-family values are expressed in four quotes that of nauseating death-obsessed Christian theology, which
document his attitude of complete disregard for children. encompasses human creation, the fall, and endless cycles
of disobedience and severe punishment culminating in the
Anyone who comes to me and does not hate parents, monumental sacrifice of Jesus and his subsequent restoration
siblings, spouse, and children and even himselfcannot to life and ascension to heaven.
be my disciple (Luke 14:26). Believers are still awaiting the repeatedly promised and
Everyone who has left homes, parents, siblings, spouse, or long-overdue return of the Messiah, at which time they will
children for my sake will be rewarded in this life and will be raptured into the hereafter to live forever with loving
inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29-30; Luke Yahweh and his son, while the vast majority of humanity
18:29). faces unending torture inf licted in the most terrifying ways
Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not imaginable, as lovingly described by Jesus himself. God
worthy of me; anyone who loves sons or daughters more not only hates children and unborn children, he despises
than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37). everybody except his three selves (father/son/holy ghost)
I have not come to bring peace to the earth. Rather, I and his/their sycophants.
have come to divide father against son, mother against
daughtera persons worst enemies will be the members of Brian Bolton is a retired psychologist living in Georgetown, Texas.
his own family (Matthew 10:34-36 ; Luke 12:51-53).


DOGMA WATCH Our 2nd Quarter 2016 issue featured a translation of the ancient scrolls recently
discovered in Samaria. Here is more of this amazing find.

J-Dog be Rappin!
The Blog of Jesus Christ by Michael B. Paulkovich

S aturday, December 25, 11

Behold, I start my blog this day, my twelfth birthday,
suckaz! Used my magic and turned water into wine. Then got
wastedtotally Sunni-and-Shiite-faced, my peeps! I wuz a
nozzle Egyptians. My father hates dem suckas and he made it
rain frogs and locusts and junk all over dem loozaz. He hates
so many things: excellency (Amos 6:8), images (Deut. 16:22),
bit sobered up by afternoon, and there wuz, like, this other pride (Obadiah 1:2-3), atheists (Psalms 53:5), and of course,
boy doing work, which any homie knows be all kinds o wrong dudes who aint Hebrew (Deut. 20:17). Praise da Lord.
on da Sabbath.1 So Im all like, Whats up wif dat, brah? and But they got some totally on fleek cribs there, dudes!
hes like, Forget you, playa, so I killed him. Boom, PWNED, Theres these giant triangle or whatever buildings wif four
my dogs. Wasted his sorry butt. When his parents came by, I sides and a pointy top dey call pyramids and a huge crib in da
zapped their eyes blind.2 Stupid parents. shape of like a cat wif a hat on. Weirdest thing wuz da screwy
Yo, big mistake, da yokels were like piiiiissed. They are not religion. Their god, Ra, had a son named Horus who wuz born
down wif assault and murder. Think Ill hit da beach and wait of a virgin babymama, baptized, performed wack miracles like
out da statute of limitations on dat crap, know what Is sayin? makin blind people see, and promises peeps hell get them
I heard Egypt is off da hook. Gonna freakin jam there until into heaven. Fake news!
things chill. Guess I wont be bloggin again until Im a freakin Anyways, I aint going back to dat patch o camel dung ever
adult! Latah, fools. again if I can help it, O my peeps. Ohanother thing. Totally
blew off burning down every village in Egypt. I forgot how
Thursday, June 6, 31 my old man hates idol worship and be commandin us to burn
Yo bitchez, da J-dog be back bloggin from my holy noggin. entire cities when we seez it (Deut. 13:13-16). Was chillin at
As I revved up my ministry in Judea, I dissed on those douche- da beaches and didnt give it a thought, Dad dammit.

If Judas hadnt squealed, I would have failed in

my suicide mission.
Praise me, for I am so much greater and way
more humbler than so many who came before me.
Wednesday, July 15, 31 12:40). Yo, dig this, homies, Jonas performed a totally on fleek
Yo my bruthas, I amazed a gaggle of my sheep today as I act, but I am even greater den dat great man (Matthew 12:41).
rapped on da righteousness of pops and his genocidal tantrums And remember Solomon the Great? I declared to da masses
against Tyre and Sidon. I was sayin like how da city of Sodom that da J-dog be even way more greater den dat dude (Matthew
would still exist today if it werent forthis is da phrase I 12:42). Bigly.4
usedGods mighty works in killing all those buffoons
worshippin on El Elyon, Asherah, and Baal. Fake gods! Wednesday September 18, 31
(Matthew 11:20-24). Satan offed like eight or ten people, an Preached to da masses again today. I taught dem about
my holy father killed in da hundreds of millions! Satan sucks, how clueless people wuz before Noah gathered billions of
praise the dad! (Or else.) animals on his boat, while Dad drowned everyone else. I said
essentially da same thing will happen againmy father will
Saturday August 20, 31 damn about half of dem, da rest go to heaven (Matthew 24:37-
Grabbed Mary Magdalene by da pussy just to see what 42). Behold Gods mercy!
da fuss is all about. Hey, Im a celebrity. I can do what I want.
Didnt do nothin for me at all, so its gotta be a sin. Told all da Monday September 23, 31
bros if theyre ever attracted to a babe, theys got to pluck their Some dude got bit by a snake. Looza. I dont like people
eyes out, or I aint gonna let dem into heaven after dem suckaz who get bit. I remembered my fathers instructions to, like,
die (Matthew 5:28-29). protect people from his snakesbuild like a fake snake outta
brass and just look at dat, and da snake bite is instantly cured
Sunday August 21, 31 (Numbers 21:9)! Praise me, for I am so much greater and way
My blog sounds like da star dates from a theatrical more humbler than so many who came before me, know what I
presentation that will be created about two thousand years is sayin (John 3:14)?
from now. How do I know? Im da freakin omniscient Son o
God! I know everything! Well, almost. I dont know when da Thursday November 4, 31
world will end, only Daddy-o knows (Mark 13:31). Sheeit, for Went to Jerusalem just before Passover, and there were
some reason da J-dog wuz not gifted this particular mote of dudes there selling animals, so I got P-Od, my peeps! I took a
knowledge. Sad! FFS, alls I knows, da failing world gonna end bunch of twine and made a whip and lashed dem, chasing dem
any day now. And its gonna be huge. 3 all around and out of da temple. Then I dumped out all their
money and wrecked da entire holy building (John 2:15). Datll
Sunday August 21, 31 teach dem loozaz who is Da Prince O Peace!
Behold, it came to pass, my wack-dogs, that I ran into some Later I be kickin myself for doin dat! I mean, I clearly wuz
freakin Pharisees and scribes. Those loozaz really get my goat not thinking straight. I should have just performed a miracle
wif their long prayers, resistance to Greek enlightenment, and and tazed dem and teleported dem all outta there and junk.
preference for da BS oral laws passed down from Moses. So, I Making a whip by handI be a bonehead today.
read dem the J-dog riot act, called dem hypocrites, threatened
even more damnation cuz they dont abide in me when I Tuesday, April 25, 34
say Im gonna replace all that wif something tremendous. Our divine plan worked, and Judas did, in fact, rat me
(Matthew 23:14). Loozaz! out, thank me. If Judas hadnt squealed, I would have failed
in my suicide mission, and my pops would have to continue
Tuesday September 10, 31 torturing his children till da end of time. Now, after my
Know how history records da fact that Jonas lived in a loving and immense sacrifice, Im in paradise at da right hand
whale, and its like totally true and not a fairy tale or anything? of God, and I wish to regale you wif tales of my, like, totally
And when Jonas wuz ready to check out, da whale puked him bad weekend (Mark 16:19, Romans 8:34). See, when I wuz
up onto da beach (Jonah 2:10)? Well, I pointed out dat since all up there on da cross yelling at Dad, My God, my God,
he lived in a whale for three days, that means after I die, three why hast thou forsaken me? da sun darkened for three hours
days later Ill be barfed up out of my tomb, too (Matthew and all da dead people climbed outta their graves and went

I be makin heaven great again!


Satan sucks, his actions were illegal and he should have been stoned to
death according to Gods law: Six days may work be done;

praise the dad! but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD:
whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall
surely be put to death (Exodus 31:15).
2. Infancy Gospel of Thomas, II.3-V.1
around visiting friends in da city (Matthew 27:51-53)! How 3. The Bible says the universe will end within one generation of
cool wuz dat? Dis whack event wuz, no doubt, recorded by Jesus time (Mt 23:36, 24:34, 16:27-28, Mk 9:1, Lk 21:32). So
hundreds of writers throughout da entire region. 5 it was supposed to have ended around the year 50 or so.
And today, as my sacrifice, I must sit on my throne in 4. Did Jesus praise Solomon because he had had 700 wives,
heaven next to my pops while being praised daily by all those 300 concubines, and many princesses (1 Kings 11:3)?
who my father and I have decided not to torture for eternity. 5. Of all the historical texts from that era that survive today,
Behold my greatness and infinite forgiving nature, for I be not one of them make even a passing reference to bodies
makin heaven great again! emerging from their graves en mass.

Michael B. Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer and freelance

writer who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist
Perspectives. He is a contributing editor for The American Rationalist
Noah gathered billions
and author of Beyond The Crusades, with a foreword by Robert M.
Price, published by American Atheist Press.
of animals on his boat,
Endnotes while Dad drowned
1. Gods laws are perfect and never change: Isaiah 40:8,
Psalms 18:30 and 19:7-8, John 10:35, and 1 Peter 1:25. So
later in life, when grown-up Jesus worked on the Sabbath,
everyone else.

The patriarch Bishop Irenaues

of Lugdunum lived in the
second century. He collected
and evaluated the scrolls that
eventually became the New
Testament. This fictionalized
account of his adventures include
fascinating details about the
nascent Catholic Church and life
in the Roman Empire.


Cliff Somers

Pastor Rice Broocks says he has "evidence" to prove that

"God's Not Dead."

Cliff Somers begs to differ.

Is He or Isn't He? provides a new take on much of the old

theological evidencewith a bit of humor thrown in.

Available at,,, and

Published by Page Publishing Co., New York, N.Y.

How can committed atheists be honest with

themselves and each other if they retain
allegiances to their nationalities or cultures
of origin?

Most atheist writers have shied away from

this question. Not Eric Stone. Here is his
candid account of rejecting his Jewish
identity. The battles that resulted were long
and hard, but the freedom and peace of
mind that followed were well worth it.

Available on Amazon
Print $5.50
Kindle $2.00


The lack of detail in a story indicates there may be no story
by Eric Wojciechowski

W hen Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon

opened the tomb of King Tutankhamun,
the first words allegedly spoken were from
Carnarvon to Carter asking if he, ahead of him, could
see anything. To which Carter replied, Yes, wonderful
things. Now imagine that's all we ever got from a find of
this significance. Imagine the story trailed off into how
the servants and hired hands moved glorious, wonderful
objects out and put them on display for all to be astonished.
And everyone gasped at the wonders of ancient Egypt.
If told like this, the author would be torn apart for not
describing all the contents of King Tut's tomb. We'd have to
conclude that either the author didn't know anything about
the itemsor there never were any items. What if the story
continued with these wonderful things moving from city to
city to be put on display. They wowed the crowds who saw
them. The unique treasures amazed the masses, and the elders
and experts were all astonished at what they saw.
A lack of detail in a story indicates there may be no story,
and the author is expecting the reader to fill in the gaps. It's
all telling, no showing. Mark Twain, who was both a great
atheist and a great writer, is credited with the quote that says,
Dont just say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let
her scream. Failure to do so suggests there isn't anything of
substance and is an indication of lazy writing. And it's rampant
in the gospels, which literally means good news.
The gospels say on numerous occasions that Jesus went out
and preached and amazed everyone. Well, what did he preach?
What did he say? The text is filled with several lame parables
but very few amazing teachings.
I dont think the authors omitted the details. I dont think
there were any. So their solution was to tell us Jesus said great
things in the hope that readers would need nothing more to
believe the story. In other words, there is no good news. Just
bad writing.
What would Plato's Dialogues be without the dialogues?
We don't know if Socrates actually said the words that Plato

The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of ideas

so vague as to be practically meaningless.
The message is so common that it reveals a very
human, non-divine authorship.
recorded, but to demonstrate the wisdom of his hero, Plato put 5-7 about the Sermon on the Mount is an exception. And after
something into Socrates' mouth. Imagine if the text of Plato's Jesus delivers it, the crowd, as usual, is astonished. However,
Republic only said, And Socrates went out to Glaucon and this sermon is a collection of ideas so vague as to be practically
Adeimantus and Thrasymachus and many men of Athens, meaningless. It is my opinion that this was the best attempt
and those from foreign lands, and he amazed them with words anyone ever gave to try to make it appear that Jesus had
of justice and education and the roles of men. This would be something incredible to say. But what exactly does it mean to
bad, unmemorable writing, and it is exactly how the gospels be more righteous than the scribes or Pharisees (Matthew
record Jesus teaching. 5:20)? And what does righteous even mean here? Or what
Let's examine a bit of Mark. Scholars believe Marks to be does it mean to be poor in spirit or pure in heart (Matthew
the earliest gospel, and that Matthew, Luke, and John later 5:3,8)? And what are we to make of the view on divorce?
borrowed and copied from it. The Book of Mark begins with As recorded here, Jesus says its only acceptable if the wife
the baptism of Jesus, who then begins his ministry in Galilee commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). This, right here, speaks
and proclaims the good news that the kingdom of God is more about the common view of women two thousand years
coming soon. He orders those who hear this to repent and ago than that of a just and loving God. It's clearly written by a
believe this good news. He then goes to Capernaum, enters a mortal man very much of his time.
synagogue, and does some teaching, and they were astounded In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says, You are the light of the
at his teaching for he taught them as one who had authority, world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do
not as the teachers of the law (Mark 1:22). This is where people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it
my writer hat throws a red flag. Why on its stand, and it gives light to everyone
couldn't the author say anything else? in the house. In the same way, let your
I think it's because the author couldn't
think of anything that would justify the Why didnt light shine before others, that they may
see your good deeds and glorify your
astonishment of those in the synagogue.
The gospels are littered with Christians Father in heaven. Now ask yourself, is
this a message from God that could wow
accounts like this. Jesus teaches and
astounds his audience, but we never preserve the crowds?
We must also ask why the entire

Jesus words
get to read these astonishing teachings. sermon is found only in Matthew, while
The best we're given are the parables. just a sprinkle of it appears in Luke. It
This is a very poor substitute because seems to me that the authors of Matthew
the parables, although nice poetry, as carefully as and Luke were doing their best to give
are nothing that would woo crowds of
elders, scribes, and high priests. So the Muslims have Jesus something great to say. But the
message in the sermon is so common
teachings that are left undefined must
be different. In fact, the author of Mark with the words that it reveals a very human, non-divine
authorship. How about some remarks
seems to say this very thing.
In Mark 4:10-12, Jesus takes his
of Muhammad regarding germ theory and why people get
sick? How about pointing out the benefits
disciples to the side and says, To you
has been given the secret of the Kingdom
in the Hadith? of clean teeth and a low-salt, vegetarian
diet? Or telling people that seizures are
of God, but for those outside, everything caused by a neurological disorder, and not
comes in parables. He does this, he by demons? Maybe the gospels containing
explains, In order that they may indeed look, but not perceive, the full details are the ones that have been lost to history. But if
and may indeed listen, but not understand. So the parables thats the case, why didnt the Christian community preserve
cannot be the same as the undescribed teachings. If his all-tell- these words as carefully as Muslims have with the words of
no-show teachings are too confusing to be understood, how Muhammad in the Hadith?
could they have amazed crowds of people? The secret teachings We do have the gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114
of the kingdom of God are again missing because the author quotes allegedly from Jesus. No context is given, just quotes.
either couldn't think of anything to amaze his readers or there You would think that all the great stuff would be here, right?
never were any teachings in the first place. Nope, its just more of the same. For example, in the thirteenth
The other possibility is that the author of Mark had only quote, Jesus pulls Thomas to the side and tells him a secret.
heard that they happened and never got any of the details. When the other disciples want to know what Jesus said,
If only Mark were written like this, then maybe he could Thomas says, If I tell you one of the things which he told
be forgiven. But the other three canonical gospels do the me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will
same thing. They lay out parables, but as for those amazing come out of the stones and burn you up. So here again more
teachings, we're left to guess. expectation that something great is being said, but its never
I do acknowledge that the great detail provided in Matthew put on display. In the twentieth quote, the disciples say to


The text is filled with several lame parables
and very few amazing teachings.
Jesus, Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like. Jesus says to differ. If Jesus went around astonishing audiences and
to them, It is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of seeds. elders with a story that his life was going to end with a death
But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and and resurrection, the author would have said so. The first
becomes a shelter for birds in the sky. occurrence in Mark of Jesus telling his disciples about his
This is the same type of language a psychic would use forthcoming death and resurrection includes him ordering
to appear as if they know something when they dont. Elvis them to keep it to themselves (Mark 8:31-33). So this is clearly
Presley fans have preserved more, memorized more, quoted not what hes been teaching to the crowds.
more, and cherished more words than anyone recalled from I suspect, however, that if he were talking about his
when Jesus allegedly lived and spoke. This should be an predicted death and resurrection, the audiences wouldnt have
embarrassment among Christians, but for some reason, it isnt. been amazed and astonished. They would have laughed him
Asking us to accept the wisdom of Jesus with the material we off and returned to their business. So in place of those absent
have would be like asking us to accept how great Elvis was if great teachings and messages, the gospel authors distract us
all we had were a few mediocre recorded singles, even though with stories about curing illness.
it was alleged that he did have many great hits and stage But then we have Jesus telling people not to talk about
performances and even a movie careerwe just cant see any being healed by him (which the gospels give plenty of
of it now. If at least one of the gospels had repeated something information about), they should instead concentrate on his
truly extraordinary that Jesus said, then a lack of detail in teachings (which the gospels say nothing about). For example,
the others would not be a big deal. But the fact that no one in Mark 1:40-45, Jesus heals a leper and forbids him from
quotes anything fantastic at all suggests to me there never was talking about what happened. But the former leper is so happy
anything. to be healed, he starts telling everyone.
In Luke 2:41-52, the twelve-year-old Jesus is in the temple The bottom line is that if Jesus really had anything great to
impressing the hell out of the local teachers. But again, it say, no one bothered to record it. And if it was ever recorded,
doesnt tell us what questions he asked that had everyone so no one bothered to preserve it. And if that's the case, I can
wowed. Were told in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was around thirty only conclude that the life of Jesus and what he had to say
years old when he was baptized. The Gospel of John mentions isn't worth anything more than the stories of other mythical
three Passovers before Jesus death, which would make Jesus characters.
around thirty-three when he died. So if my math is right, Jesus Paul seems to confirm this. His are the earliest Christian
was wowing the crowds for twenty-one years, yet no one has writings which we have preserved, and he never talks of
anything other than the death and resurrection. He knows
nothing of these healings or Jesus' ministry or how he wowed

If his the crowds. He never quotes from Jesus' astonishing teachings

(or even the parables) to give direction to the early church.

all-tell-no-show You'd think he would use the words of the founder to assert
his authority. But when he wants to quote anything to make
a point on how things should run, he goes back to the Old
teachings are too Testament. The one and only time he quotes Jesus is when he

confusing to be
refers to the Last Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). He admits
up front it came from a revelation (a dream or hallucination or
something akin to a shamanic meditation), not from a written
understood, how could record of the event. Paul's only concern is of the death and
resurrection which, like the Last Supper information, was not
they have amazed taught to him by any man but discovered through revelation
(Galatians 1:12).
crowds of people? This is a major red flag which indicates there was nothing
there in the first place. If Jesus had actually revealed the word
of God to us, whether to vast crowds or just to his inner circle, it
would have been the most important information in the world,
anything to show for it. It would be understandable if the and there's no way it would have been lost. This leads me to
gospel authors teased us until the end and waited until then conclude that there was never any information to lose in the
to put all the incredible stuff in the readers lap. But it doesnt first place. No teaching, no message, just bad writing.
work out like that.
I know what you might be thinking. Each gospel does Eric Wojciechowski lives with his wife and two children in Livonia,
reveal the message of what the good news is. The end itself, Michigan. He has written for Skeptic, Free Inquiry, and the political
the death and resurrection is it, and so was revealed. I beg blog Freedom Cocktail.


The Time has Come
by Mark Kolsen

T en minutes after walking into the emergency room

of Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Chicago last
November, I lay on a bed surrounded by medical staff
preparing me for a catheter. My left anterior descending artery
(a.k.a. the widow maker) was completely blocked, and I needed
a stent to restore my blood flow.
Sorry, but I know the science, I responded with a
smile. Thanks for your help, anyway. At that, the chaplain
slithered away.
Later, as I reflected on my experience, it occurred to me
that although I received first-rate medical care, the chaplain
had never offered me a non-religious option, which does exist
Just beyond the staff encircling me, I noticed a middle-aged for hospital patients in other parts of the world. Such options
man wearing a Hospital Chaplain sign. (And it was a sign, not exist elsewhere. In Belgium, non-denominational institutions
a name tag or ID badge. It was about five by eight inches and have a team of usually Catholic and atheist spiritual care
held around his neck by a string.) When someone asked me givers.1 In 2015, Britains National Health Service mandated
about relatives, the hospital chaplain offered to call my first equal treatment . . . of those without a religion in the receipt of
mate, and he was the one who took my clothes and valuables and pastoral care.2 Shortly thereafter, Jane Flint became the first
assured me that they would be safe during my surgery. And secular humanist hospital chaplain in Great Britain. Her job
just before I was carted off to the operating room, the chaplain is to offer emotional support to terminally ill atheist patients
asked, What denomination of clergy would you like me to call? and their relatives.3 In The Netherlands, spiritual caregivers
Somewhat surprised, I said that I was an atheist. in hospitals comprise both humanist and non-aligned
You want to be an atheist at a time like this? he replied. chaplains. And in Scotland, with policy guidance from the
Time like this? For a moment the question baffled me. Scottish Humanist Association, chaplains are expected to
Should I worry because its Friday afternoon, a reputedly bad work . . . with different faiths and those of no faith.4
time to check in to a hospital? Then I snapped to and realized Chaplains, after all, are not just for theists. There is
that even though I didnt think that my life was in danger, the widespread agreement that all people have spiritual, as
chaplain did. And if I were to die, well . . . opposed to religious, needs. In a recent article for the online

Some doctors are sounding an alarm.

You want to be an atheist at a time like this?
the hospital chaplain replied.
journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, Marcelo it bluntly: As the number of unaffiliated and nonreligious
Saad and Roberta de Mediros define spirituality as the search persons climb, [theist] chaplains become by default the
for ultimate meaning, purpose, and significance in relation primary spiritual care givers . . . in a hospital community.15
to oneself, family, others, community, nature and sacred, But given the availability of trained non-religious chaplains,
expressed through beliefs, values, traditions and practices.5 Joe Beck, Floridas first humanist chaplain, says it is time
And regarding hospital patients, a recent white paper on for hospitals to stop insisting on having religious chaplains states that while serious illness is a available while ignoring the needs of non-theistic, secular
biological event, it frightens patients and isolates them from humanist, atheist and agnostic patients.16
their support communities when they need them most. Losses Not all medical groups are oblivious to atheists needs.
such as physical and cognitive capacities, independence, According to Toni Van Pelt, nursing home directors have
work or family status, and emotional equilibrium, along with approached the Institute of Science and Human Values for
the accompanying grief, can seriously impact their sense of advice on how to meet the needs of their secular residents.
meaning, purpose and physical worth.6 Likewise, a recent joint commission report focused on the
Recognizing that sick and terminal hospital patients language, racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of hospital
especially, have spiritual needs, the World Health populations. Cultural diversity, the report points out, includes
Organization (WHO) International Statistical Classification religious preferences. As non-religious patients increase in
of Diseases and Related Health Problems includes billing number, hospitals must start to recognize that atheists need
codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings staff who share their beliefs.
and for some spiritual interventions. 7 Here in the U.S, Theist chaplains, well-meaning as they may be, do not meet
Medicare and Medicaid have agreed to let hospitals claim atheists needs. Dr. Jason Heap, who has filed suit seeking to
reasonable costs for clinical pastoral education, and will pay for become the first humanist chaplain in the military, has trained
end-of-life conversations, during which terminal patients can other humanist chaplains. He says, If the chaplain with whom
articulate to their providers what kind of medical interventions you are confiding offers theistic-based reflections or prayers to
they do or do not want. your existential questions, what practical value does this have
However, unlike other nations, no hospital is required by in your situation?17
law or accreditation fiat to provide pastoral care in the United Stephanie Wernek, an atheist hospital chaplain in Rio
States.8 And, in contrast to the WHO, the National Uniform Grande Valley, points out she has met many people under
Billing Committee has refused to provide billing codes for the age of forty who were adamant non-theists. Even in this
chaplains. Nevertheless, in 2003, the Joint Commission for deeply theistic part of the country, there exist many people
the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations said hospitals who feel silenced and atomized by their lack of affiliation with
should demonstrate respect for patient needs, including the a religious group that believes in a deity.18
need for pastoral care and other spiritual services.9 Hospitals Vanessa Gomez Brake, Director of the Chaplaincy
appear to have responded. Although a 2008 study reported Institute, says, a need for atheist chaplains exists. . .[A]t its
that only 59% of American hospitals had chaplains,10 a more core, chaplaincy is about taking the sacred out of the church,
recent study reported that 70% of community hospitals mosque, synagogue and temple, to bring it to the people,
employ chaplains today.11 whatever their circumstances.19
Online, many hospitals advertise spiritual services. In addition to not being offered an atheist chaplain, my
However, I found none that advertise non-religiousi.e. secular hospital experience raised another issue. Why, I wondered,
humanist or atheistchaplains. This is ironic for several was a chaplain mingling with the medical team attending to
reasons. In metro areas, fewer than half of hospital patients me? I had not requested his presence; like many other people, I
identify themselves as church members when admitted, and felt no need for a chaplain. In fact, upon reflection, his lurking
hospitals serving primarily pediatric patients . . . have a higher around my body, and his overhearing my conversation with the
prevalence of religiously unaffiliated family members, and the medical team, was an intrusion into my privacy.
number of non-religious millennials continues to grow.12 I am not the first to ask this question. As more hospitals
Atheist chaplains do exist in a few hospitals.13 But rarely are employ chaplains, their precise role, especially their access to
they paid staff members, despite the fact that chaplains services patient information, is now a subject of contentious debate.
cost very little, and many hospitals advertise their services Chaplains, supported by some academics, argue that they
for no charge.14 Recognizing the problemand seeking to provide a range of services, making them part of the medical
increase employment opportunities for their membersliberal team. Many also reject the assertion of the Department of
theist organizations are training their own chaplains to care Health and Human Services (DHHS) that health care does
for atheists. Acknowledging that hospitals do not usually hire not include methods of healing that are solely spiritual and
humanist or atheist chaplains, one veteran theist chaplain puts that practitioners that provide solely religious healing services

Many hospitals advertise spiritual services.

are not health care providers.20 further, functional descriptor, patient support services.23
This debate is not just about semantics or chaplains The Loewys argueconvincingly, in my viewthat
searching for employment. Under the DHHS Privacy Rule, while hospital chaplains may serve some critical functions in
chaplains access to patient records without a patients permission the healthcare of patients, it is a breach of confidentiality to
depends on whether the hospital considers them medical allow a chaplain access to a patient's medical records unless the
providersand some do.21 Without your consent, chaplains patient is fully informed, understands the implications of such
considered medical providers could access information about access, and either wholeheartedly acquiesces or initiates such a
your general condition, spiritual affiliation, and anything else request. Otherwise, chaplains and doctors may have access to
related to your medical history or treatment. In short, they information, including conversations, which patients assumed
could know as much as your doctor would about you. to be private and confidential.
Encouraged by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Moreover, the Loewys believe that chaplains should
Education, which is the main accrediting agency for chaplaincy encounter patients only if patients request their presence
in the U.S., hospital chaplains are already stepping beyond because the unsolicited appearance of a chaplain may range
their bounds. Some chaplains and chaplaincy programs have from innocuoussimply embarrassing or uncomfortableto
begun to engage in activities that have ranged from initiating intrusive or even threatening.24 As I think back to my ER
conversations with and perusing the medical records of experience, their words resonate.
patients who have not requested their services to suggesting The proper role of hospital chaplains will continue to be
that, because they are chaplains, they be permitted to do debated. Right now, atheists need to be aware that, like me,
spiritual assessments on patients whether or not the patients you may unexpectedly face chaplains after entering a hospital,
are explicitly informed and agree to this beforehand. In some especially at your most vulnerable moments. These individuals
hospitals, especially religiously affiliated ones, a chaplain are likely to be theists. If a hospital considers them to be
functions as a full member of the healing team.22 healthcare professionals, they may have access to a lot of
As a result, some academics and doctors are sounding information youd rather not share.
an alarm. Pointing to the fact that members of healthcare
teams are not equal in education, experience, and status, Mark Kolsen recently retired from teaching high school in Wheaton,
Roberta and Erich Loewy state that hospital chaplains Illinois. He is an avid fan of the Four Horsemen, the late Victor
are not considered healthcare professionalseither in fact Stenger, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He strives to understand all facets of
or in principleand, arguably, not even allied healthcare scientific cosmology and evolutionary biology.
professionals. Rather, they are considered an ancillary part
of the healthcare team that is generally classified under the Endnotes on page 35


Bless Me, Father,
I Have Sinned My Striptease of the Soul
by Kathy Schultheis

N ovember, 1961. Its a Saturday afternoon, and I am eleven. At the appointed time,
I enter the half-lit the confessional, kneel on the prie dieu, and fold my hands on the
sloping shelf beneath the sliding screen. Above my head, a crucifix: his body nailed
to the cross, a loin cloth draped across him. I cast my eyes down. I must not notice his
body, and think only about his agony for the sins of mankind, which include my sins.
The screen pulls back. The Latin incantation asks Jesus mercy upon my soul. I make
the sign of the cross and whisper the words I have memorized: Bless me, Father, for I
have sinned. It has been four weeks since my last confession. These are my sins.

I could no longer tell what thoughts had been

implanted in me by the priest or the devil
and what thoughts were my own.
I struggle to steady my voice. I have sinned against
the sixth commandment, Father.
In due course, the
confessional became a
hidden place of
How have you done so?
I have had impure thoughts.
And of what are these thoughts?
They are thoughts of the body, Father.
Explain to me these thoughts. spectatorship and
A piecing shame comes over me. I feel the blood rush
to my face. I have observed my body when I am without
clothes, Father.
mental torture.
And what have you observed? cannot abandon the terror of that which was planted in me at
That my body has changed, Father. age eleven. And I have tried. It does not console me to consider
How has it changed? that the notion of God is, as Marx proclaimed, a superstition
It is not what it was, Father. crafted by a structure of power and flung to the peasants to
Silence. keep them subdued. Sin and darkness are squatters on my
Do you know what kind of sin that is? His voice is identity, as is the hatred for the foul cavern that is my body.
barely audible. The heart of the Catholic sacrament of penance is self-
It is a mortal sin, Father. exposure. In confession, the penitents private self is revealed
Yes, he says, A mortal sin. And do you know what and held up to be scrutinized by a priest. As a religious rite,
that means? penance hearkens back to the time of the Flagellants of
Yes, I know, Father. the thirteenth century, who sought to propitiate an angry
Tell me what it means. God who had sent the Great Plague to punish sinners. The
That I will go to hell, Father. Flagellants wound their way across Europe, reciting canticles
Yes, you will go to hell. You will burn in hell for all while scourging themselves in order to suffer as Christ did.
eternity. Jealous of the following the Flagellants were gathering, Pope
I say nothing. Clement IV threatened them with excommunication, and the
Do you feel sorrow for this sin? movement eventually died out.
Yes, Father, I am sorry. Two centuries after the Flagellants of the Middle Ages were
Then pray to Jesus mother to free you from the devil. Now suppressed by the Church, a new threat rose in the doctrinal
say the Act of Contrition, and for your penance, every day for challenge of Martin Luther. As the Protestant Reformation
the next month, perform the Stations of the Cross, lest the devil swept across Europe, the Church convened the Council of
lure you into hell. Trent (1545-1563) to respond to this growing Protestant threat
Every night as I fall asleep, I fear not waking up. I fear to Catholic orthodoxy. As a result, the role of the sacraments,
death. I fear hell. How many times have I awakened, struggling notably confession and communion, were given a heightened
for breath, my nightgown soaked in sweat, only to fall back importance in the Catholic salvific scheme. Confession was
into a half-sleep in which I dream of Father OToole and to be the answer to Luthers justification by faith, the core
that Saturday afternoon confession? Just last night, I was in Protestant belief that the gift of grace could only come from
hell again, a human torch staggering about, choking. If only God and could not be earned by performing good works. The
the flames would devour me and end this torment. I look to Catholic Church reinforced the importance of good works
Fathers eyes for an answer. His lips shape one word: eternity. in the conduct of life and emphasized confessions gift of
He smiles. I awaken, feeling no sense of relief because I know purgation of sin, and priests were instructed to interrogate the
this nightmare will return. penitent and to reserve ego te absolvo (I absolve you) only for
Why should this be? I am not mentally ill. I am a public someone he discerned to be truly sorrowful.
school teacher, a woman in late mid-life, and an atheist who In due course, the confessional became a hidden place of
long ago abandoned the church and abandoned God. But I spectatorship and mental torture. The priest was enjoined
to interrogate the penitent, and this quiet, private cell where
sexual sins were disgorged, easily became a site of solicitation.
In confessing my sins, l For the penitent, the confession was an act of humiliation, a
performance of self-abasement.
lost the right to interpret But what was it for the listener? What gratification was
derived in listening to a child describe her battle with impure
my own experience and thoughts? Scatalogia is the clinical term for the persistent need
to hear obscene language, to listen to someone as they describe
the right to the privacy an act of onanism. As a disorder, scatalogia, which resembles
voyeurism in that it depends on the condition of invisibility,

of my own mind. finds contemporary expression in phone sex. It involves the


thrill of the forbidden, the same thrill that eavesdropping along with the lack of food made me weak and unable to
once allowed, a thrill that carries no threat of engagement. To fight off the offending thoughts. So like the Goths storming
listen to a childs fantasy life was an exercise in power, a way to the gates, they always came flooding back. Thus, in grand
punish and yet at the same time enjoy the childs sins. totalitarian fashion, the Church established its thought police
Shortly after this confession, I imposed a strict regimen of to punish thought crimes.
starvation on myself. If my body was a source of curiosity or Sin itself does not take place in the confessional; rather,
sensuality to others, I would declare war on it. It would cease the priest would evoke the sin in his interrogation and force
to change. It would become like a little girls again. At fifteen the penitent to utter it and then behold it in all its filth and
and five-foot-nine, I weighed one hundred pounds. Anorexia disgust. Helpless before this grand inquisitor, I lived in terror
nervosa hadnt entered the national discourse yet, but when of absolution not being granted and instead being plunged
my mother took me to the doctor to determine why I hadnt into a state of terrifying aloneness. Thus, my confessor and I
begun to menstruate, he used that exotic term and said to her, were locked in a deadly game of quid pro quo, but the nature
You should feed her better. Today, at sixty, I am no longer of this game demanded that I fulfill my part of the bargain,
anorexic, but I still live close to the bone. I am still obsessed which meant I had to be convincedreally convincedthat
with fat and the sensuality it represents. these thoughts were sinful. My mind was hijacked. I could
There is an undeniable eroticism in disclosing sin, the no longer tell what was evil, what was good. I would leave the
whisperings in the dark. Confessing is a kind of striptease of the confessional uncertain that Jesus and Mary would protect me
soul, a dance that tantalizes the auditor with both concealment against the devil, who was constantly seizing my mind and
and exposure. Once a sin was uttered to the priest, then the leading me into sin.
interrogation would commence. During that unforgettable This authoritarian aspect of confession, I believe, has been
confession when I was eleven, the questions came at me like the most injurious to my life. The complete loss of autonomy,
machine-gun fire: What thoughts went through your mind the loss of subjective experience of the world, the demand that
when you committed the sin of looking at your body? What the Church mediate between the world and me, controlling
sensations were experienced in your body as you observed it? the world that I experienceall this soul murder destroyed
What brought about the surcease of the sin? Was it someone for me and countless others of my generation any possibility of
coming upon you unawares? Did you make any effort to deliver spontaneity, imagination, or creativity. Like all my classmates,
yourself from these thoughts? The sin of the impure thought I internalized the rules governing thoughts, and in the process
was to be re-enacted in every vivid detail before a hidden man I became estranged from my own nature.
whose expression I could not see, only imagine. The assumption that we can control our thoughts
Priests are trained in the art of interrogation, in how to is fundamentally at odds with what we know of human
remove the protective walls that surround the penitent so consciousness. To deliver ourselves from our bad thoughts,
that she consents to disclose her most private self. In this we were instructed to pray. Even as a child, this struck me as
manner, the priest colludes with the sinner. Through his strange. I had been taught that God was almighty, so it clearly
interrogation, he invites her to project herself back into her was he who placed these thoughts in my mind. But why? Sister
sinful thoughts. Only then might absolution be granted. Mary Agatha said God was testing me by allowing the devil
In confession, there can be no selectivity in the disclosure to place temptation in my way. You must be strong and resist
of sin. If I chose to recite only a partial list of my sins, I was Satan, she said. But, one day after a horrifying confession
making an imperfect confession and thereby committing a when I was twelve, I asked myself, Was it God or the devil who
sacrilege, which is far worse than a mortal sin. So day in and was tempting me with these thoughts that the priest almost didnt
day out, I tortured myself in the hope of making a perfect absolve that day? And then, I realized that I had entertained
confession, a crux theologorum. another kind of bad thought: a thought of doubt. This, too, was
The self-torture started early in the day because every a sin. So, I descended to the floor to pray, but my knees gave
morning at school, Sister Humiliata ordered us to cast our heads out, and I fainted.
down and examine our consciences. In Catholic theology, Much has been written about the stunted sexual lives
thinking an impure thought is no different than committing of priests, how they themselves were molested or sexually
an impure act, so the command to disclose all sins resulted in a threatened at an impressionable age, how a decision to take
kind of infinite regress for me. Once I got to thinking about my up a life of celibacy was often a kind of false resolution of a
sins, I would, in the process of remembering them, sin again, mans conflict with his own sexuality. These men are involved
and that sinthe thought rememberedwould have to be in a constant, lonely, and often futile battle to preserve their
confessed, as well as the one before that in a causal chain that chastity because this purity is impossible. The struggle to
flowed back to the origin of my consciousness. emulate the sexless Christ and his virgin mother, along with
With all of this sinning and re-sinning, it got to the point their devotion to suffer as Christ did, cost these men dearly.
where I feared thinking. Because the diabolical could not be The priests insistence on detailed disclosure scarred me
put back inside the bottle, I feared the devil would possess deeply. All this thought patrol resulted in a complete loss of
my thoughts and then possess me. But the religious rituals to creativity. I could no longer read, for when I would do so, my
which I subjected myselfreciting prayers in the middle of the mind would stray from the story, and I would find myself
night, attending Mass twice daily, incessant hand-washing on unholy ground. I came to feel estranged from myself,


as I could no longer tell what thoughts had been implanted Hearing these words, I felt like I had been the victim
in me by the priest or the devil and what thoughts were my of fraud. What did it all mean, all those jeremiads that my
own. I placed my body under constant surveillance. I would generation and I had listened to about the filth of the body and
close my eyes in the shower to avoid seeing the changes that the gutter of the mind? Why did we suffer? To be told now that
puberty had wrought. the body is actually a miracle of sensation and wonder, and
Human sexuality, as both Freud and Nietzsche have argued, that one must celebrate Gods gift of sexuality? What was the
is ultimately the source of creativity. Our filthy minds are the point of all that was said decades ago? Did we go through the
phantasmagoria from which creativity arises. Sexuality and the indignity of confession only to be told that the whole notion of
tumultuous feelings it inspires give life to artistic creation. As sin was all a vast comic joke?
I sought to purge myself of all impure thoughts, I found myself That Mass was an epiphany. In that moment, listening
becoming more and more estranged from my interior life and to that homily, I became what Id always been: an atheist.
imagination, which had once been for me a comforting retreat. Today, I wear my disbelief proudly. But late at night, when I
Now I would pray and wash my hands, lest in imagining or cant sleep, I still fear the devil, I fear not waking up. I fear the
creating a story, the offending thoughts would emerge, and I flames. I fear hell.
would have to confess them again and again. But there could So, if theres a God, then hes a joker who says, O, ye
never be a perfect confession because to be absolved was to of little faith. I can hear him now, calling to me, Come
invite the devil to tempt once again. back! Come back! We love you! To this I quote that great
Abuse at the hands of the nunsabuse of a completely rapper Eminem: Im going to hell. Whos coming with
different sorthas received little scrutiny. The nuns abuse, me? Ego non te absolvo!
which took the form of humiliation, ridicule, and corporal
punishment has been laughed away in the shape of comedies
like Late Night Catechism, which attempt to make a joke of Kathy Schultheis is a full-time high school English teacher and a part-
the nuns rulers and rigidity. To watch, as I did, the Church time writer. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University
transform itself in the sixties and seventies into a church of of Southern California. She is currently writing a book about growing
love, with the nuns disowning their cruelty by exchanging up Catholic in the 1960s.
their habits for civilian clothes, playing guitar, and singing
about peace was a ghastly irony. It now seems that this was all a
reaction to and disavowal of their past.
Confession too has been reconstructed into
reconciliation. One can now choose face-to-face
confession and sit before a priest and engage in something
that resembles Oprah-inspired life coaching. But make no
mistake: this recent repositioning masks an iron will. Indeed,
all this imposture may be understood as a kind of reaction
formation against unchanged doctrine that underlies all
this folksiness. A priest these days may rap out his love of
Jesus, but all of this contemporary-culture software has been
installed to promote its original ideology, which is a binary
narrative of heaven and hell, sin and purity. It has tyrannized
generations and cannot be tossed out. Sin, as I experienced it
in the confessional, is a state of mortal terror. In confessing
my sins, l lost the most basic human right: the right to
interpret my own experience and the right to the privacy of
my own mind.
The last Mass I attended was several years ago when I was
the maid of honor at a friends wedding. There was an attempt
on the priests part to make a slight joke about Limbo, a quaint
little concept constructed by the Church a thousand years
ago to give unbaptized infants a place to go after death. It had
just been tossed out by the Church in a manner not unlike
Plutos status as a planet being tossed out of the solar system
by astronomers. The issue of Purgatory, another embarrassing
construct, was never mentioned in the homily. Instead,
since he was speaking before a couple who were now given
permission by the sacrament of matrimony to have intimate
relations, the priest spoke at length about the joys of human
sexuality, even going so far as to say, Sex is fun.


Book Excerpt

The Nonbelievers Guide

to the Book of Mormon
by C.B. Brooks, M.D.
A no-pressure way to learn about the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
without the hassle of Mormon stalking

M aybe youre interested in finding out what

Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, actually believe. Maybe youve heard that the Mormons
believe Jesus Christ visited America. Maybe youve seen the
musical The Book of Mormon and wonder if the kooky concepts
struggling, not-so-successful farming family. Hoping to improve
their situation, they moved to upstate New York, where the Erie
Canal project was being planned. The family was somewhat
religious and read the Bible. Josephs grandfather had religious
visions, and a maternal uncle started a small, nonconformist
are real. Maybe a Mormon missionary has knocked on your door religious community.
and offered you a book purported to change your life. Joseph was not a fervently religious boy, but he did attend
But, if you accept the missionarys offer, or contact the church popular religious revival tent shows that toured the area. These
for information, youll likely be heavily recruited, repeatedly traveling shows featured preachers, miraculous faith healings,
contacted, and pressured to become a member. Well, heres a speaking in tongues, fainting, convulsions, and, of course,
no-pressure way to see whats contained in the Book of Mormon financial collections.
without the hassle of Mormon stalking and without the tedium Joseph has been described as somewhat of a slacker, neer-
and boredom of reading the whole thing. Plus, as an added do-well, and disorderly person. He took up the occupation of
bonus, this book is written by a nonbeliever, for nonbelievers. No digging in the ground for buried treasure, which was all the rage
preaching or attempts at conversion here. back then. However, he was lazy and didnt actually like digging.
After the success of my book The Nonbelievers Guide to The business plan was to entice local farmers to pay him to look
Bible Stories, I saw the need for a similar treatment of The Book for treasure on their land. It wasnt a blind search, oh no, Joseph
of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon Plates would utilize a magic peep stone, which would allow him to
Taken from the Plates of Nephi. I take a modern, secular, and see through the ground, identify where the treasure was buried,
often humorous perspectivebecause there is some wild stuff in and have others do the actual digging. As you can imagine, this
there. Prepare thyself and gird your loins! endeavor had a very poor success rate and led to Joseph being put
Unlike many other well-established religions, Mormonism is on trial for fraud at age twenty-one.
unique in its recent origins. As a result, its beginnings, evolution,
and personalities are well documented through direct eyewitness Young Adulthood
accounts, government records, and even court cases. This is a Joseph bounced around and met a girl in nearby Pennsylvania
good thing, because to truly understand the religion, you need to and wanted to get married. But her family objected because of
understand how it arose. Josephs shady occupation as a money digger, so the couple
eloped and had a child around 1827.
Birth of a Prophet Before long, Joseph met and charmed a rich, religiously
Lets travel back in time to Sharon, Vermont, to the year 1805, suggestible neighbor named Martin Harris. Joseph borrowed
where a newborn boy named Joseph Smith, Jr., is born into a money from him, and casually shared a fascinating story: Joseph


had visions and divine revelations. Martin Harris was intrigued Joseph and his family, and becomes Josephs personal scribel
and wanted to know more.
Heres how Joseph told Martin the tale. Seven years earlier, Miraculous Translations
when Joseph was fourteen, he went into the woods alone to The history of ensuing events has been revised many times.
pray. It was a nice spring morning, when suddenly a pillar of Believers call what happened next a brilliant miracle, while
light brighter than the sun appeared over his head. The light others describe the scenario as a fraud perpetrated on a rich,
descended slowly until it illuminated him. Two personages were gullible pawn. Accounts vary. Some say Joseph dictated the
seen hovering above him in midair. One of them spoke to Joseph contents of the plates to Martin while hiding behind a curtain
while pointing at the other person. This is My Beloved Son. so Martin couldnt see the alleged plates. Others say that Joseph
Hear Him! (Which sounds suspiciously like a Bible verse.) concealed the plates in an upside down hat and placed two magic
Whoa. Joseph then asked the floating personages some seer stones, called the Urim and Thummin, over the opening
questions, like, Which of these religions and traveling tent show of the hat. Joseph then reportedly used the stones like goggles
preachers should I follow? And they responded with something to translate the ancient language of the plates hidden inside the
like, None, theyre all hackers. Well let you know sometime in hat. Other accounts say Joseph didnt even have the plates while
the future. dictating from the hat.
Yowsa. Martin Harris was hooked by this story! You see, In any case, Joseph would speak the yarn, and Martin would
Martin had a past history of seeing religious visions himself furiously write it down. They collaborated and binge translated
and was very superstitious. Tell me more, Joseph. What 116 pages, which was just the first installment. Martin was so
happened next? excited that he begged permission to show the pages to others.
Joseph had another vision and asked the Lord, but he said no.
A Prophetic Vision Martin freaked out again and badgered Joseph. So Joseph asked
Okay, so Joseph reeled him in with another yarn. One night, God again and this time the Lord said, Well, okay.
about three years after his first divine vision, Josephstill just a Martin ran back to his wife, Lucy, and showed her the pages
regular farmboy in upstate New Yorkprayed for another vision and told of his wild experience. She said something like, Youve
before going to bed. Well, sure enough, a heavenly being appeared got to be kidding me. But Martin was enthralled and began
and identified himself as the angel Moroni, son of another angel showing other people! Somehow the pages disappeared. Many
named Mormon. Moroni said that God had selected Joseph as think Lucy shredded or burned them.
the human who will receive some super-important information. Martin was devastated and Joseph had a wild hissy fit
Moroni gave Joseph directions to go to a nearby hill, named when he found out. He temporarily lost his prophets power to
Cumorah, and start digging to find some sacred golden plates translate and banned Martin from scribing, but kept him on the
that God had hidden there. This was perfect because Joseph was hook for financing.
already an experienced treasure digger! These golden plates were Joseph prayed hard for guidance and miraculously regained
engraved in an ancient language and contained updates and the his translation powers, but a different source would be used to
everlasting gospel God wanted everyone to know. The plates had rewrite the first 116 pages. So they may not be exactly like the
been written originally by Moronis father, Mormon. missing ones, okay, just in case any discrepancies occur. Joseph
Woo-hoo! Joseph got busy digging and, sure enough, found recruited a new scribe, Oliver Cowdery, and they spent sixty-five
the plates buried in a stone crate with a round stone lid. Martin days of uninterrupted feverish work to fully translate the golden
Harris couldnt get enough of this story! What did the plates say? plates into the 531-page Book of Mormon.
I just gots to know! Good ol Martin Harris sold off some of his land, mortgaged
Joseph revealed that Moroni had told him that he couldnt the rest of his farm, cashed in his savings, and single-handedly
remove the plates without further training, which would take paid to have the Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the
four years! (Sort of like high school, which farmboy Joseph wasnt Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi
attending anyway.) published in 1830 in Rochester, New York.
Martin flipped out! Three years between visions, plus Lucy filed for divorce.
four years of trainingand that was seven years agowhy
that brings us right up to now! So where are the golden plates? Read The Nonbelievers Guide to the Book of Mormon and
Where? Where? learn about what's contained in Mormonism's sacred textwithout
Joseph told Martin that he did indeed have the plates in his the tedium of having to read the whole thing.
possession, but Moroni told him to guard them zealously and
show them to no one at all. But since Martin was a true believer,
Joseph made him a fabulous offer: Martin could become C.B. Brooks, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon, firefighter, police officer,
Josephs partner and help him translate the ancient language and scuba divemaster. He is also the author of The Nonbelievers Guide
engravings on the plates. to Bible Stories, Trust Your Radar: Honest Advice for Teens and Young Adults,
Holy cow! Martin jumps all in, starts financially supporting and Trust Your Radar Slackers Edition.

Moroni said that God had selected Joseph as the human

who will receive some super-important information.
Falling in Love with the Most Hated Woman in America
Netf lix Tackles the Complex and Fascinating Story of American Atheists Founder
by Pamela Whissel

Melissa Leo as Madalyn Murray OHair at a rally in the early days of American Atheists. (Photo by Beth Dubber/Netflix)

W ell-behaved women seldom make history

is a phrase from an article written by Laurel Thatcher
Ulrich for the academic journal American Quarterly in
1976. Sentences from scholarly research seldom become
woman who coined it, Madalyn Murray OHair, used it
proudly to describe herself.
By many accounts, Madalyn was not a well-behaved
woman. By all accounts, she changed history when she
bumper stickers and t-shirts, but to Ulrichs surprise, challenged the recitation of Christian prayers in public
this one did with no action on her part at all. In 2007, schools. She thought it was unconstitutional, and the
she published a book with that title. In it, she talks about United States Supreme Court agreed with her in their
the experience of having her words take on a life of 1963 ruling. She was already a seasoned activist and
their own and then goes on to write about three women a skilled orator by then. She was also a single mother
from three different centuries who challenged the way of two sons by two different men. Back then, a woman
history was written. with her foot in just one of any of those camps didnt
The most hated woman in America is another have a hope in hell of being called well-behaved. Its
phrase that took on a life of its own. It inspired no one much different for women today, and a lot of credit goes
to run out and print a thousand bumper stickers, but the to Madalyn, whose life story is a series of fascinating,

A lot of credit goes to Madalyn, whose life story is a series of

fascinating, exciting, inspiring, and harrowing events.
Its not easy to get funding for a movie about
a murdered atheist.
exciting, inspiring, and harrowing events. human beings and what makes them tick, and Ive got to
Three authors have published biographies of her, but say that I fell in love with her because I thought she was
there has never been a feature-length biopic about her such an amazing person.
until this year, when Netf lix released The Most Hated Actress Melissa Leo came on board three years into
Woman in America, directed by Tommy OHaver, who the project to play Madalyn. I had seen her in The
co-wrote the screenplay with Irene Turner. OHaver also Fighter, said OHaver, referring to the role that won Leo
directed Ella Enchanted and An American Crime. The an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and as I watched
two were approached by actress Elizabeth Banks, who that film I knew I had found my Madalyn.
starred in The Lego Movie
and The Hunger Games.
Banks and her husband,
Max Handelman, have
produced several films,
including the Pitch Perfect
franchise. Impressed
with An American Crime
(which OHaver and
Turner also co-wrote),
Banks asked them to
write a screenplay about
Madalyn Murray OHair.
I didnt know about
Madalyn at all when the
project was first proposed
to us, said OHaver. We
dove into the research,
and we couldnt believe
that not only did we not
know this story, but the Adam Scott as reporter Jack Ferguson. (Photo by Beth Dubber/Netflix)
story had never really
been told in full on film
yet. So we were all in. Fast forward to 2015 when Banks and Handelman
That meeting was eight years ago. Its not easy to approached Netf lix, which had announced its plans to
get funding for a movie about a murdered atheist, he fund ten low-budget films. Netf lix gave The Most Hated
said. At first, we looked for independent financing, but Woman in America the green lightand just two million
its not something that everybody wants to shell out a dollars.
bunch of money for. Before they could begin production, OHaver and
But eight years gave the writers plenty of time to Turner had to make difficult decisions about where to
get to know their subject. Our research was extensive, make substantial cuts. Two million dollars for a film
with trips to Austin and San Antonio and years of does not go very far, let alone in Los Angeles, where the
scouring articles and Madalyns writings. Its crucial biggest cost on a film is labor. So they had to figure out
to remember this isnt a documentary; were using the how many days they could afford to hire a complete film
story as a backdrop to create a character sketch, said crew. It turned out to be only eighteen. Their schedule
OHaver. She was outrageous and outspoken and was so tight that they had no time to rehearse before
just so passionate, he continued. Im fascinated with shooting.

This isnt a documentary; were using the story as a

backdrop to create a character sketch.
The timeline of Madalyns disappearance was
significantly condensed.
It was the hardest movie Ive ever made, said Atheists by draining the bank accounts while Madalyn
OHaver. For a movie of this scope, eighteen days is was out of town attending a trial. All of those details
just crazy. The story takes place all over the country were condensed into that one scene.
and spans five decades. There were some days when Totally made up, is what OHaver said about the
Melissa was playing Madalyn at three different ages. It unofficial ledger. They inserted the prop into the story
was insane. to represent Waters intimate knowledge of American
All filmmakers take some creative liberties to keep Atheists finances, as well as the trust she had placed in
a story moving, but this team had to condense several him. It was also a nod to the run-ins she had with the
scenes and remove others altogether from their script IRS, although no wrongdoing was ever proven.
At another point in
the film, Madalyn throws
Waters out of her house
after angrily revealing
his criminal history to
her guests at a holiday
party. This short scene
represents the series of
events that began when
Madalyn filed charges
against Waters for the
embezzlement. The
court gave him a slap on
the wrist by imposing
no jail time and merely
ordered him to pay back
the moneywithout
In an eight-page
missive for the July
Melissa Leo and Vincent Kartheiser as Madalyn and Bill, Jr., backstage at The Tonight Show. 1995 American Atheists
Newsletter, Madalyn
detailed all of these
in order to stick to the budget and schedule. Choosing events. She included Waters criminal history, which
which scenes to leave out was not easy. she discovered while looking into his background
Making a female biopic with true-crime elements after she filed the charges. Waters was a convicted
set across several years, and with a very small budget, murderer, had spent time in prison for forgery, and was
required the filmmakers to be f lexible and creative in also convicted of battery for severely beating his own
terms of which pieces of the story to tell, said Banks. mother. Revealing Waters criminal history at a holiday
The short scene with Madalyn showing employee gathering was done for storytelling purposes; a fight at
David Waters the unofficial ledger of donations is a a party has more dramatic appeal than a woman sitting
good example of how the filmmakers had to let go of at a typewriter.
their original vision. The plan was to shoot several The timeline of Madalyns disappearance was also
scenes around the true series of events between 1993 significantly condensed. In the film, the local paper
and 1995 when Waters had embezzled from American reports on her disappearance right away, but in reality,

The story takes place all over the country

and spans five decades.
A fight at a party has more dramatic appeal than a
woman sitting at a typewriter.
the first news story didnt appear until the one-year The world is not black and white, he said. There
anniversary of the day she went missing. Another are forces that want you to believe it is, but its far more
example of the need to compress the subject matter is complicated than that, and Madalyn is the perfect
the composite character Roy Collier, the office manager. example. Not only did she fight against those forces
He represents two people who worked for American that would want to make the world black and white, but
Atheists at the time of the disappearance. she herself was also not black and white. The world is a
Composite characters are common in films and in complex place, and people are complex. The more we
books as well. They allow a writer to consolidate details ignore our own complexity, the more we lose touch with
which would otherwise distract from the story which, our humanity.
in this film, is about much more than a preeminent
civil rights champion or her kidnapping and gruesome
murder. Its about a woman who was, as OHaver Pamela Whissel is editor-in-chief of this magazine.
described her, complex.

Peter Fonda as Rev. Harrington and Melissa Leo as Madalyn (Photo by Beth Dubber/Netflix)

Their schedule was so tight that they had no time to

rehearse before shooting.
Hiding in Plain Sight
If you let them stay in the
closet, atheists just might
let you know they exist
by Pamela Whissel

I n 2014, the Pew Research Center and Gallup both conducted

phone surveys to measure religious demographics in the United
States. Pew reported that 3% of Americans are atheist, while
Gallups results pointed to 11% of Americans not believing in
method. In other words, the information came from having
participants answer the question Do you believe in God? with
a simple yes or no. The word atheist appeared nowhere in
Gallups question or answer, which may explain why this survey
God.1,2 So whos right? Quite possibly neither. produced a higher percentage.
Gallup and Pew were after the same information, but they This comes as no surprise to Will Gervais, an evolutionary
obtained it in very different ways. Pews result of 3% came from and cultural psychologist at the University of Kentucky. His
the self-identification method. Participants were given a list research focuses on the cognitive, evolutionary, and cultural
of fifteen religious-affiliation categories (Protestant, Roman forces that facilitate supernatural beliefs and how these beliefs in
Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, turn affect cognition, evolution, and culture.
Hindu, atheist, something else, nothing in particular, non- For his doctoral dissertation at the University of British
denominational Christian, Unitarian, and Jehovahs Witness) Columbia, he researched how atheists in the U.S. are perceived
and were asked to choose the one that best describes them. If a by the general population. What did he find? The title of an
respondent chose nothing in particular, they were then asked article in Pacific Standard magazine about his work said it best:
if nothing in particular meant that they consider themselves Americans Intuitively Judge Atheists as Immoral. His research
atheist, agnostic, or literally nothing in particular. has produced some of the best evidence we have of the widespread
So for Pew, the way to count the number of people lacking a prejudice against atheists.
belief in a god required participants to utter the word atheist Given what he knew about the prejudice, Gervais couldnt
out loud to another person. This, it turns out, may be asking help but think that the Gallup and Pew numbers were low
too much, even if that other person is a stranger who will never not from faulty polling, but from the unfounded yet pervasive
know your identity. mistrust felt toward atheists. Social pressures favoring
Gallups figure of 11% is the result of the binary response religiosity, coupled with stigma against religious disbelief, might

Indirect measurement is a common tool for

researching socially sensitive demographics.
In the unmatched count technique, the surveyor does
not know which statements are true, just how many.
cause people who privately disbelieve in God to nonetheless self- number from the control group. Because the demographics of the
present as believers, even in anonymous questionnaires, Gervais groups were the same, the difference in the aggregates is attributed
said in the report How Many Atheists Are There? which he to the statement about God. And that is how Gervais and Najle
coauthored with Maxine Najle.3 allowed people to identify as atheists without coming out of the
Gervais and Najle hypothesized that if you let them stay in the closet. When they converted the aggregates to a percentage, the
closet, atheists just might let you know they exist. For their study, result showed an atheist population in the U.S. of 32%.
conducted entirely online (the Pew and Gallup surveys were To make sure their results werent a fluke, they gave a slightly
both phone polls), they used the unmatched count technique to different task to Sample 2. The first group (the control group)
gauge the size of the atheist population. This method of indirect indicated how many of these innocuous statements do apply to
measurement is a common tool for researching socially sensitive them:
demographics. Our approach mirrored recent work to indirectly
estimate the size of the LGBT community as well as anti-gay I can drive a stick shift
sentiment, they said. I eat meat
Gervais and Najle surveyed two groups, each consisting of I have played Scrabble
two thousand adults whose demographics matched national Ive been to the South Pole
statistics. Participants in Sample 1 were given one of three I have visited New York City
tasks. The first task merely recreated Gallups binary-response- I exercise regularly
method question. Participants were asked to answer yes
or no to the question Do you believe in God? Seventeen The list for the second group (the test group) was comprised
percent of the participants answered no, so based on this of those six statements plus the statement I do not believe in
method alone, it could be concluded that 17% of Americans God. Again, the aggregate of the totals from the second group
do not believe in God. This figure is six points higher than was larger than the first. When they converted these results into a
Gallups estimate of 11% and more than five times as high as percentage, the result was an atheism rate of 20%not as high as
Pews 3%. The researchers believe that this difference may Sample 1, but still significantly higher than Pew or Gallup.
be attributable to the heightened social desirability pressures Gervais and Najle speculate that this lower figure may reflect
inherent to telephone polling. how people respond differently to positive versus negative
The unmatched count technique was applied to the second framings of a socially controversial statement. In Sample 1,
and third tasks. Participants assigned to the second task disagreeing with the statement I believe in God required only
comprised the control group. They were asked to provide a passive denial of atheism, while agreeing with the Sample 2
without identifying the statementsthe total number of the statement I do not believe in God required a positive affirmation
following eight innocuous statements that do not apply to them: of atheism. In other words, its harder to say I do not believe in
God than it is to disagree with the statement I believe in God.
I am a vegetarian Gervais and Najle say that both results have the same
I own a dog probability of being the accurate one, as does the rate of 26%,
I work on a computer nearly every day the average of the two. But even if the lowest rate of 20% is the
I have a dishwasher in my house true figure, their results yielded an atheist population more
I can drive a motorcycle than twice as high as Gallups estimate and almost three times
My job allows me to work from home more than once per week as high as Pews. This implies the existence of potentially more
I enjoy modern art than 80 million atheists in the adult population of the U.S., the
I have attended a professional soccer match researchers concluded.
But to get to that number, Gervais and Najle had to omit
The crucial aspect of the unmatched count technique is the word atheist from their survey entirely. So yes, the atheist
that the surveyor does not know which statements are true of a population is bigger than we thought, but so is the closet. In
participant, just how many. The aggregate of the totals from this other research, Gervais has worked to understand the reasons
control group provided the baseline number. behind the prejudice. In a study published in the journal Social
The third groupthe test groupwas given the same task, and Personality Psychology Compass, he concluded that it is
but their list included an additional statement: I believe in God. possible that informing people that atheists are quite common
The aggregate of totals from this group was larger than the baseline might actually reduce distrust of atheists. But how will people

Its harder to say I do not believe in God than it is

to disagree with the statement I believe in God.
The atheist population is bigger than
we thought, but so is the closet.
ever know that atheism is common when a survey to find atheists of an immoral person.
cannot include the word atheist because most atheists wont use According to the definitive authority on the English
the word, even in an anonymous setting? language, if you dont believe in Zeus, youre an atheist. If you
I think the solution lies not only in communicating that dont believe in Allah, youre an atheist. If you dont believe in
atheists are not bad people, but also in communicating that Vishnu, youre an atheist.
atheist is not a bad wordbecause it actually applies to This word describes everyone, yet almost everyone is afraid
everyone. In their paper, Gervais and Najle say they use the of it. Atheists who do believe in a god are afraid because they
term atheist to refer to people who disbelieve or lack belief in dont understand that the word applies to them. Closeted atheists
the existence of a god or gods. This definition is standard in the who believe in no gods at all are afraid of it because other types
psychology, sociology, and philosophy of religion. Furthermore, of atheists are afraid of it. No one needs to be this afraid, and no
it is the definition of atheist adopted by the Oxford English good can ever come of this ridiculous motif of fear.
Dictionary. Religion has hijacked one of the few words that accurately
The OED is the definitive record of the English language. For describes every person on Earth, but religion can also be used
each of its 600,000 entries, it lists every known definition, both to rescue it. The starting point for most people of the Judeo-
current and obsolete. It also traces the origins of words derived Christian persuasion is the Ten Commandments. The very first,
from other languages, and it provides the source of every words and most important, is Thou shalt worship no other god. This
earliest written appearance on record. For a word with multiple is nothing if not a mandate for atheism. Helping religious people
meanings, the definitions are ordered according the words understand that good atheists make good believers could break
evolution. The oldest extant written record of the word atheist open the doors of a lot of noxious closets.
in English is from the 1500s. A lot can happen over five centuries,
but almost nothing has happened to the definition of atheist. In Pamela Whissel is the editor-in-chief of this magazine.
five centuries of usage, the word has never acquired the legitimate
definition of a person who disbelieves the existence of God. It
says, the existence of a God (italics mine). In five centuries of 2.
usage, the word has also never acquired the legitimate definition 3. How Many Atheists are There? at

If you grew up Catholic

in the 1960s and would like Planets
to contribute recollections dont grow on trees
of the nuns, priests, or the but we sure act
nature of the education like they do.
you received for a
forthcoming book, please
contact Kathy Schultheis at Your
comments can remain
anonymous if you choose.
Atheist Hospital Chaplains Continued from page 21

ENDNOTES Jason Heap, March 18, 2015,

1. 14. Professional Chaplaincy: Its Role and Importance
2. New NHS Obligation to Provide Equal Pastoral Care to in Health Care, eds. Larry VandeCreek and Laurel
Non-Religious in England, March 6, 2015, Humanism. Burton, Spring 2001, In 2017, the median salary for full-time chaplains is
3. Britains First Humanist Hospital Chaplain Takes up Her $55,360 as reported by
Post, by Sally Guyoncourt, Jan. 4, 2016, Independent. 15. Teaching Spiritual Care of the Non-Religious: Part 2, by Mary Margaret Thiel and Mary Robinson, ACPE.
4. See Note 1 edu.
5. Programs of Religious/Spiritual Support in Hospitals 16. Perspectives on Death and Dying Symposium: Dying
Five Whies [sic] and Five Hows, by Marcelo Saad Without Deity,
and Roberta de Mederios, Aug. 22, 2016, Peh-Med. 17. Hospitals, Language and Culture: A Snapshot of the Nation, by Amy Wilson-Stronks and Erica Galvez,
6. Professional Chaplaincy: Its Role and Importance in 2007,
Health Care, 18. See Note 13
7. IDC-10 and Reimbursement for Spiritual Care, April 19, 19. The Case for Atheist Chaplains, by Vanessa Gomez
2017, Brake,
8. Hospital Ministry: The Role of the Chaplain Today, ed. 20. Hospital Chaplaincy Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule:
Lawrence E. Hoist, 2007, p 8. Health Care or Just Visiting the Sick? by Stacey A.
9. The Role of Spirituality in Health Care, by Christina Tovino, 2005, Scholarly Works, Paper 392, Scholars.
M. Puchalski, October 14, 2001,
10. The Provision of Hospital Chaplaincy in the United 21. Ibid.
States: A National Overview, by Wendy Cadge et al., 22. Healthcare and the Hospital Chaplain, by Roberta
Southern Medical Journal, vol. 101, no. 6, June 2008. and Erich Lowery, Medscape General Medicine, vol. 9(1):
11. Chaplains Play a Large Role in Health Care, by 2007,
Ashley Wright, Jan. 4, 2014, 23. As an example, see Guidelines for Volunteer
12. Spiritual Care of the Nonreligious, by Mary Margaret Chaplains at
Thiel and Mary Robinson, volunteer
13. Atheist Chaplains: An Oxymoron or Reality? by 24. Ibid. 23

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Religion, Physics,
and Archaeology
A review of Lee Burvines
The Kafir Project
by Sam Witt
Audiobook read by Seth Andrews, creator of
The Thinking Atheist podcast, website, and blog

T he drive to be right at all costs causes blindness. We see this in todays political climate with the
denial of inaugural attendance numbers despite evidence, assertions of wiretapping despite the
absence of evidence, and endless tweeting on matters unrelated to the presidency. This kind of
tunnel vision denies reality and facts in order to push an agendano matter what.
The Kafir Project was published in 2015, before our recent
election cycle. Despite what relevance the book may have had
prior to the current administration, one cannot help but think it
was written for 2017, as if author Lee Burvine knew what would
of the past by sending cameras back in time. They also find a
way to harness the field of archaeology to unearth artifacts seen
in their observations to use as proof of their abilities. While
at first this seems to be the holy grail (pardon the phrase) of
happen. The Kafir Project is a tale of religious paradigm shifts, discoveries which could give a government or organization an
government conspiracies, futuristic technology, and the quest incredible amount of power, it doesnt take long for these entities
for truth. It is about getting to the roots of religion, weeding it to realize that the very technology theyve funded can easily
out, and changing the world as a result. Its about facing down be turned against them. What may have started as a way for
the opposition to facts and justiceeven if it means risking the the United States to prove their enemies wrong could very well
lives of everyone you love. prove them wrong as well.
Burvines tale takes us into the life of Dr. Gevin Rees, a Rees stumbles blindly into this web of conspiracy as he
middle-aged science communicator among the likes of Bill Nye attempts to find Herodotus and others to gather all the pieces of
and Neil deGrasse Tyson. He finds himself at the center of an the technology and leverage his fame as a science communicator
international plot to cover up historic video evidence that could to give the public this new knowledge. Along the way, he forms
shake the core of the faithful, including, but not limited to, alliances with Special Agent Kerry Morgan, a quick-thinking
followers of Islam. After the location of a secret meeting with the employee of the Department of Defense and most certainly the
infamous physicist Edward Fischer becomes the site of a murder, muscle of the operation; Dr. Danielle Harris, a leading expert
Rees must work with and against the government and fellow on quantum computing; and Dr. Louis Tyminski, an accidental
scientists to prevent death, injustice, and cover-ups. member of the group with a conspiracy theorists mind.
Fischer and two colleagues discover a way to observe events The story takes on the perspectives of a large cast of


This is a tale of religious paradigm shifts and the quest for truth.
playerssome evil, some good, and others who simply wander Due to the unfortunate climate surrounding specific
into the mess. One satisfying aspect of this mechanic is that religious topics and the propensity for offense, as well as violent
every character, including the evilest of evildoers, is developed. responses, among numerous Muslim groups, Lee Burvine
If you are looking for two-dimensional husks of villains to decided to author The Kafir Project under a pen name. It is easy
simply fill a role, please see early Bond films. Even though the to see why. Religious people would be offended at the idea of
antagonists are understood to be the bad guys, they often have science permanently undoing their fairy tales.
relatable traits and believable motives. At times, I even found In the story, the U.S. government funds research in order
myself sympathizing with the plights of those working against to undercut Islamic religious fanatics at their core: their faith.
Rees, no matter how sociopathic they might have been. If one could look back in time and see what actually happened
In more than one sense, time travel is significant to the story. during, say, the time of any prophet, that could make or break
The plot centers around the ability to view time unfold, sort of a religion. Nevertheless, once you realize that proving or
like watching a movie. This technology, however, consumes disproving a religion doesnt just apply to Islam, you may begin
an extraordinary amount of energy. While this is obviously to get cold feet if you are of a Judeo-Christian background. This
not possible, the scientific explanation given in the book is realizationthis fearis the driving force behind all the danger
fascinating nonetheless. Burvine also moves around within the that chases Rees.
chronology of plot events so that the story is never in one place It doesnt take a big stretch of the imagination to think
or time for too long. that if this type of technology were possible,
The story also moves around
geographically. The archeological aspect takes Religious the arrogance, ostentatious faith, and short-
sightedness of certain individuals in power
place in various parts of the United States as
well as abroad. In Syria, an archaeologist seems
to be hitting his mark so often that his diggers
people would today would lead them down the same path as
The Kafir Project. However, one might consider
that any amount of backfiring that occurs from
become suspicious. However, his work is what
eventually authenticates the findings of the
be offended looking too closely at ones faith may simply
be swept under the White Houses rug, and
time-viewing technology.
High-stakes situations abound. If youve at the idea atheists are all too familiar with believers do
just that.

of science
ever wondered what it would be like to be Let us imagine for a moment that there
trapped inside a quantum computing facility would be some who would accept the reality
as the threat of death by boiling helium looms, presented to them by the new-time technology.
youre in for a treat. How about being trapped
in a drug-induced nightmare? Or battling permanently What would happen to the most faithful? Could
you imagine being so forcibly ripped from your
henchmen who feel no physical pain? Gunplay,
chases, stakeouts, clandestine meetings, and undoing their belief and thrust into the world that atheists
inhabit every day? Most people who deconvert

fairy tales.
double-crossing all lend tension and excitement do not do so instantaneously. The comfort
to the action. of an afterlife would be stripped away and
The sheer number of characters was, at people could become hopeless. While I would
times, a bit confusing. Sometimes, entire certainly like to rid the world of religion and all
chapters are devoted to the development of just one character, its evils, I would fear at least some level of deep depression and
and then theyre killed off immediately. I occasionally found suicide among the formerly faithful. Is that cost worth having
myself flipping back to previous sections to make sure I was something like Burvines time-viewing technology, if it could
keeping everyone straight. Was he the one who wielded the ice become a reality? Would there be a way to ease the populace into
pick or was he the guy who was orchestrating the moves of the the new world? These are some questions this book asks.
grunts? Despite the brief interruptions to get my facts in line, the As an atheist and avid reader, I feel barraged by the volume of
speed bumps never stopped my desire to plunge ahead. science overviews, philosophies, and social critiques published
Although there are some leaps of the imagination, Burvine and marketed toward people like me, despite how much I enjoy
weaves together physics, religion, conspiracies, archaeology, and those types of work. As skeptics, we tend to be so preoccupied
ruminations on social awkwardness. As heroes go, Rees is not with our reality obsession that sometimes it can be a breath of
exactly what one would bring to mind when thinking of Jason fresh air to suspend our disbelief. On the other hand, perhaps
Bourne-style adventures, but he has a way of uniquely navigating some of us spend too much time pretending in our own lives that
through sticky situations as opposed to using brute forcewhich someone elses fiction is a welcome respite. Either way, The Kafir
he lacks the ability for anyway. Rees is a troubled man, and we Project, being the compelling, science-driven fiction that it is,
see this at times when he observes others finding love that he hits the spot.
cant seem to allow himself to have, or when those close to him
succumb to darkness so great it leads them to very difficult Sam Witt is a board member of the Greater Cincinnati Tri-State
placesplaces which Rees takes no pleasure in recalling. Freethinkers, an affiliate of American Atheists.


S ince the last issue of this magazine, 13 members of American Atheists increased their commitment by becoming
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:


Marilyn Grossman David Parrs Brian Cook Ephraim Fithian
Roberto Henriquez Neil Polzin Jonathon Noll This level includes two free
admissions for life to our annual
Jack Ji Scott Pinkowski Paul Rodts-Palenik convention.

Doug Kingsley Mike Webinger This level includes free

admission for life to our annual
Joseph Leeper convention.

Stand with us by making an investment in the future of American Atheists by becoming a Life Member today.
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ALABAMA John Porgal Randall Tigue TEXAS (West)
Chuck Miller Vicki Gettman GEORGIA NEW MEXICO
ARIZONA Scott Savage Doris Rashad UTAH
Don Lacey Dan Ellis
P. O. Box 1161 IOWA OHIO
Tucson, AZ 85641 Randy Henderson John Welte VIRGINIA/D.C. P.O. Box 375 Rick Wingrove
Larry Hicok William Poire WEST VIRGINIA KENTUCKY Jim Spence
Randy Gotovich Shirley Rivera WASHINGTON Bart Meltzer


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


For the most up-to-date list, visit or contact Greg Lammers at

State Group Name City Site

FL FLASH - Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists Orlando
GA Atlanta Freethought Society Atlanta
IA Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers Des Moines
MN Minnesota Atheists Minneapolis
NE Lincoln Atheists Lincoln
NY Long Island Atheists Lynbrook
OK Atheist Community of Tulsa Tulsa
PA PA Non-Believers York
TX Metroplex Atheists Arlington
UT Atheists of Utah Salt Lake City
AK Alaskan Atheists Anchorage

AL Auburn Atheists & Agnostics Auburn

AL Birmingham Atheists Meetup Birmingham

AL Marshall County Atheists & Agnostics Marshall

AL Montgomery Area Freethought Association Montgomery

AL North Alabama Freethought Association Huntsville

AL UA Alabama Atheists and Agnostics Tuscaloosa

AL UAH Non-Theists Huntsville

AL West Alabama Freethought Association Tuscaloosa

AR Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Little Rock

AR ArkLaTex Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists Texarkana

AR Southwest Arkansas Atheist Community Nashville

AZ Reason Riders Glendale

AZ Tucson Atheists Tucson

CA-N Atheist Advocates of San Francisco San Francisco

CA-N Atheist Community of San Jose San Jose

CA-N Humanist Community in Silicon Valley San Jose

CA-N Atheists and Other Freethinkers Sacramento

CA-N Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics Fresno

CA-N Contra Costa Atheists & Freethinkers Pleasant Hill

CA-N East Bay Atheists Oakland

CA-N San Francisco Atheists San Francisco

CA-N Santa Cruz Atheists Santa Cruz

CA-N Rosmoor Atheists Walnut Creek

CA-S Atheist Coalition of San Diego San Diego

CA-S Humanist Fellowship of San Diego San Diego

CA-S Atheist Society of Kern Bakersfield

CA-S Backyard Skeptics Villa Park

CA-S Humanist Society of Santa Barbara Santa Barbara

CA-S New Atheists of East County Jamul

CA-S Orange County Atheists Orange

CA-S Riverside Atheists and Free Thinkers (RAFT) Riverside


CO Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver Denver

CO Boulder Atheists Boulder

CO Metro State Atheists Denver

CO Pikes Peak Atheists Colorado Springs

CO Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers Grand Junction

CT Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI Norwich

CT Connecticut Valley Atheists South Windsor

DC American University Rationalists and Atheists Washington

DC Washington Area Secular Humanists Washington

FL Atheists of Florida Tampa

FL Central Florida Secular Alliance Dunnellon

FL Florida Atheists, Critical Thinkers & Skeptics Longwood/Orlando

FL Gator Freethought (UF) Gainesville

FL Ocala Atheists Ocala

FL Sarasota-Manatee Atheists & Secular Humanists (SMASH) Nokomis

FL Secular Student Association at Univ. of Central FL Orlando

FL Humanist Community of the Space Coast Satellite Beach

FL St. Petersburg Atheists St. Petersburg

FL Tallahassee Atheists Tallahassee

FL Treasure Coast Atheists Stuart

FL Williston Atheists Morriston

GA Albany Georgia Atheists Albany

GA Gainesville Atheists Gainesville

GA Atlanta Freethought Society Atlanta

GA Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta Atlanta

GA Fayette Freethought Society Peachtree City

GA Atheists United, Kennesaw State Univ Kennesaw

GA Kennesaw State U. Student Coalition for Inquiry Kennesaw

GA Macon Atheists & Secular Humanists Macon

IA Atheists United for a Rational America Iowa City

IA Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers Des Moines

IL Chicagoland Freethinkers Chicago

IL The Chicago Freethought Project Chicago

IL IL/WI Stateline Atheists Society Rockford

IL IWU Atheist, Agnostics, and Non-Religious Bloomington

IL The Secular Segment Mt. Vernon

KS Secular Latino Alliance Kansas City

KS U of K Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics Lawrence

KY Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky Lexington

KY Lexington Atheists Lexington

KY Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers Louisville

KY Secular Student Alliance, Moorehad State University Moorehead

KY Tri-State Freethinkers (KY, IN, OH) Union

LA New Orleans Secular Humanist Association New Orleans

MA Atheists of Greater Lowell Lowell



MA Boston Atheists Boston

MD Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College Westminster <none>

MD Secular Student Alliance, Frostburg State University Frostburg

MD Maryland Freethinkers Annapolis

ME Maine Atheists and Humanists Waterville

MI Atheists @ Oakland University Rochester

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

MI Michigan Atheists Detroit

MI Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists Lansing

MN Atheists for Human Rights Minneapolis

MN Campus Atheists Skeptics & Humanists Minneapolis

MO Black Freethinkers of Kansas City Kansas City

MO Columbia Atheists Columbia

MO Joplin Freethinkers Joplin

MO Kansas City Atheist Coalition Kansas City

MO MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics Columbia

MO OFallon Freethinkers OFallon

MO Rationalist Society of St. Louis St. Louis

MO Secular Student Alliance @ UCMO Warrensburg

MO Springfield Freethinkers Springfield

MO Springfield Skeptics Springfield

MO St. Joseph Skeptics St. Joseph

MO We Are Atheism Grandview

MS Humanist Ethical Atheist Rational Thought Society Biloxi!/groups/HeartsOfTheSouth

MS Great Southern Humanist Society Biloxi!/groups/southernatheist

MS Mississippi Humanist Association Jackson

NC A-News Raleigh

NC Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics Charlotte

NC Hickory Humanist Alliance Claremont

NC MASH Ft. Bragg Fayetteville

NC Sandhills Secular Society Hope Mills

NC WNC Humanists Fairview

ND Red River Freethinkers Fargo

NE Omaha Atheists Omaha

NJ Camden County Humanists Blackwood

NJ New Jersey Humanist Network Somerville

NJ Secular Student Alliance @ Montclair State Univ. Montclair

NJ South Jersey Humanists Oceanville

NJ William Paterson Univ. Secular Student Alliance Pompton Lakes

NM Roswatheists Roswell

NM Atheist Community of Santa Fe Santa Fe

NV Reno Freethinkers Reno

NY Freethinkers of Upstate New York Syracuse

NY Gotham Atheists New York

NY Hudson Valley Humanists Saugerties

NY Long Island Atheists East Setauket


NY New York City Atheists New York

NY Ward Melville High School Secular Student Alliance East Setauket

NY Westchester Atheists Chappaqua

OH Free Inquiry Group Cincinnati

OH Freethought Dayton Dayton

OH Humanist Community of Central Ohio Columbus

OH Mid-Ohio Atheists Mansfield

OK Atheist Community of Tulsa Tulsa

OK Oklahoma Atheists Oklahoma City

PA NEPA Freethought Society Wilkes-Barre

SC Piedmont Humanists Greenville

SC Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry Charleston

SC Upstate Atheists Boiling Springs

TN Memphis Atheists Memphis

TN Memphis Freethought Alliance Memphis

TN Nashville Secular Life Nashville

TN Rationalists of East Tennessee Knoxville

TX Atheist Community of Austin Austin

TX Corpus Christi Atheists Corpus Christi

TX Denton Atheists Denton

TX El Paso Atheists El Paso

TX Freethinkers Association of Central Texas San Antonio

TX Golden Triangle Freethinkers Beaumont

TX Houston Atheists Houston

TX Kingwood Humble Atascocita Atheists Atascocita

TX Lubbock Atheists Lubbock

TX Secular Humanist Society of East Texas Nacagdoches

TX UNT Freethought Alliance Denton

TX Wise Free Thinkers and Skeptics Wise

UT Salt Lake Valley Atheists Salt Lake City

VA Beltway Atheists Leesburg

VA NOVA Atheists Leesburg

VT Atheists of Rutland Vermont Rutland

WA Seattle Atheists Seattle

WA Tri-City Freethinkers Pasco

WI Southeast Wisconsin FreeThinkers Milwaukee

WV Kanawha Valley Atheists and Agnostics Charleston

WV Mountain State Freethinkers Martinsville

WV Morgantown Atheists Morgantown

WY Wyoming Atheists

US Atheist Nexus

US Black Atheists of America

US Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers http://www.militaryatheistsorg

Intl Southeast Asia Freethought Association

Intl Atestas de Puerto Rico San Juan

Intl Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society


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