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MAYIJUNE 2007
Vol 45,No.5

American Atheist Magazine


ISSN0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)
Editor, American Atheist Press

FrankZindler
Editor, American Atheist Magazine

Ellen Johnson

CONTENTS

Regular Contributors

Martin Foreman
Conrad F.Goeringer
FrankZindler

by Ellen Johnson

Designer

Elias Scultori

From The President


The Bible Literacy Project

16

Cover Design

It Doesn't Matter If Jesus Existed


by Rick Hillegas

Tim Mize
Editorial Assistants

20

Published monthly (except June &


December) by American Atheists Inc.
Mailing Address:
P.O.Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
phone - 908.276.7300
FAX- 908.276.7402
editor@americanatheist.org
www.atheists.org

23

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50% on all magazine subscriptions
and book purchases

Richard

Dawkins: The God Mafia's Elliot Ness

byWilliam Harwood

The Evolution Of An Atheist


My First Job: A Test Of Reality ... Or Morality
by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

25

The Probing Mind


Refacing a Monument

2007 by American Atheists Inc.


All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part
without written permission
is prohibited.
American Atheist Magazine is indexed
in the Alternative Press Index.
American Atheist Magazine
is given free of cost to members of
American Atheists as an incident
of their membership.

Soros Kicked AI PAC. Obama Kicks Soros.let's


by Lenni Brenner

Gil and Jeanne Gaudia

by Frank Zindler

God Would Be An Atheist


Anne Rice and the seven-year-old Christ
by Martin Foreman

11

Interview
American Atheists Interviews Dr. James Yahr

12

Culture Watch
SwearWords
by Conrad Goeringer

A Personal Story
by Reed Braden

22

Ask The Expert


The "Q" Document
by Frank Zindler

30

Foxhole Atheist Of The Month


Petty Officer J. Keaty

30

Rapture Wreaks Havoc On local Book Club


The Onion

Kick All Three.

from the president

The Bible Literacy Project


Ellen Johnson

n educated person knows the Bible." It all sounds so fair and educationally beneficial
to students. Teach them about the Bible. In today's world of theopolitics, who could
deny the importance of this subject to our students?
If you rely on what conservative talk show hosts say, you would expect that we
Atheists would object to even the mere mention of the word "Bible" in the public schools. But we
Atheists have always extolled the importance of studying religion. An educated person DOES know
the Bible, but they also know about all the other so-called holy books. However, this isn't what the
organization behind this campaign, the Bible Literacy Project (BLP), has in mind. What they want
is to have only the Christian Bible taught in school.

"

Atheists want students to learn about the dogmas and tenets


of ALL religions in a comparative religion class. But BLP promoters
want the public schools to single out the Christian Bible for study
and not any other religious books.
The Christian religions are suffering from empty-pew syndrome, competition from other religions, modern secular society,
as well as a growing population of Atheists. They desperately need
to sell their product to people who wouldn't otherwise buy it, and
they want to control the content of those lessons.
The First Amendment Center is endorsing this campaign,
and TIME magazine did a cover story on it, because, well it all
sounds so "fair." In fact Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the
First Amendment Center, is a contributor. But the book, which
outlines the study, is all one-sided. Big surprise. References are
made to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and their
thoughts on religion. But there isn't any mention of their criticisms
of religion. There isn't any mention of the negative effects that
belief in the contents of the Bible has caused. Where is the discussion of the murder of citizens for being so-called witches? Where is
the mention of the Inquisition? Where is the discussion of how the
Bible was used extensively as the justification of slavery of Blacks
in America? Where is the study of the biblical contradictions, the
incest, rape, mass murder and calls to put homosexuals to death?
Where is the discussion of all the literature that excoriates religion?
Where is the talk about the fairy tale stories of creation and how it
contradicts science? It simply isn't there. There isn't any mention
of dissent to what has been written in the Bible.
The Bible promoters' lesson outlines and materials are a
whitewash of Christianity and the Bible. In 1990, The Williams4

AMERICAN ATHEIST

MAY/JUNE '2ffi7

burg Charter Foundation tried to sell the study of the Bible in public schools the same way.
So be wary. This project is about as fair and balanced as a
FOX news report. Yes, we want the study of the Bible and all the socalled holy books and religions in the public schools, but it cannot
be left to the fox (no pun intended) to teach at this henhouse. The
foxes in this case are the textbook reviewers and consultants on this
project. And who are they? Most but not all are academics from
theological seminaries and divinity schools, religion professors, the
Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Milwaukee and Rockville Centre,
the Unitarian Universalist Association of America, the Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty and George H. Gallup to name a few.
We must expose what is going on here. We must insist on
keeping the study of religion in comparative religion classes. We
must insist that Atheists be part of creating the course contents.
We must insist that ALL religions be given the same amount of
study. We must insist that the Bible be taught as a book of myth
which, along with religion has, in the words of Madalyn O'Hair, ".
.. caused more misery to more people in all eras of human history
than any other single idea."
I suggest that the BLP folks be careful about what they wish
for. If the public schools bend under this pressure for so-called fairness towards religion, then we will be right there to say that "An
Educated Person Knows About Atheism," Atheist literature, Atheist
history, and Atheism's influence on our culture. Two can play at this
game. Butwhywait? We SHOULD demand that Atheism be taught
in our public schools now. We need to develop our own curriculum
and work to have it taught in our schools just as they do in England.
Now that is an education that no student should be without.

Letters to the Editor


ToThe Editor
A recent newspaper article, from the Cox News Service, provided a book review of a new book on religion by Stephen Prothero entitled "Religious Literacy."
The author, who is chairman of the religion department at
Boston University, notes that about 85 percent of Americans say
they are Christian, and about 1/3 claim to be biblical literalists,
yet in survey after survey, many people can't name the four Gospels,or don't know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. He
quotes an evangelical Christian who calls the Bible "The Greatest
Story Never Read."
To my mind, this confirms my belief that most people who
claim to be rellqiousand believe in a supernatural supreme being, or profess to follow the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran, are really only reflecting attitudes and doctrines of others, and are preprogrammed from childhood to blindly follow religious dogmas
without thinking asadults for themselves nor understanding their
own religious beliefs. Most politicians will adhere to whatever religious beliefs are those of the majority of their constituents.
In a telephone conversation from Boston University with The
Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Prothero refers to a conversation he
had with Silvestre Reyes,who was to head the House Intelligence
Committee. Reyesapparently didn't know if al-Qaida was a Sunni
or Shiite group, and in a debate that followed 9/11, "we couldn't
really have a public conversation because no one knew enough
to discuss whether Islam was a religion of war or a religion of
peace."
Prothero makes a statement that "the Supreme Court has
been very clear that teaching about religion is constitutional, and
if you look at the 1962 and '63 casesthat outlawed prayer and devotional Bible reading, the Supreme Court always saysyou're not
allowed to preach religion in the schools, but you're allowed to
teach about religion." This last statement ought to be enough to
frighten and scare the hell out of most free-thinkers and people
who believe in separation of church and state.
Dean Ray,Florida
ToThe Editor:
Ellen Johnson's "No More Atheist Cleansing" article brought
to mind an experience of mine. I will say first off that I agree that
dropping out of an organization changes nothing, and, in most
casesit is better to stay and fight from within. I've been dong that
for most of my life. However, in some cases,to live a happier life,
(the only one we have) it may be best to do as Lt. Commander
Adkin did. I admire the commander, as he probably gave up a career to stand by his convictions. In his case I would have probably
stayed and just been unhappy until I retired.
I was a member of Seniors In Retirement. There is no religious requirement to belong. It's a good club, except for the fact
that religious members of every branch have managed to install
religious observances at the beginning of each meeting. They tell
everyone to stand forthe pledge of allegiance and then to remain
standing for an invocation. The alternative, of course is to remain
sitting and embarrass yourself and your friends at the table you
sit at. I think I would have been asked to leave. I wrote to the SIR's
president and was told that each branch could do as they please.
My choice was to tolerate and resent or not participate. I
dropped out. Of course I still harbor resentment. But I don't have
to listen to an invocation.
Jack Bradley,California

The

Folillaers

t-nenCls...

So many of you help American Atheists with donations and


other financial support-and we want to find a way to say"Thank
You!"Weare pleased to announce the re-establishment of an
American Atheist tradition-The Founders' Friends,begun by the
Murray O'Hair family.
Those contributing $50 or more to American Atheists will
have your name and amount entered in subsequent issuesof
the AA Magazine. Just fill out the blue card with the information
requested, include your gift, and mail it back to us in the enclosed
envelope. Be sure to check the appropriate box authorizing us to
thank you by printing your name and contribution amount in the
Magazine. Mailing addresseswill not be mentioned.
This is our way of saying THANKYOUto an extraordinary
group of people-those of you who want to "do more" and financially support the critical work of American Atheists!
American Atheists ThanksThe Following PersonsForTheir
Generous Contributions To Our Cause.

Jerry Koutsky, IL - $50


Lewis B. Ulrey, 10 - $125
Shane W. Roper, AZ - $60
Jason Goldsmith, MD - $75
Tom McDowell, WV - $50
East Bay Atheists, CA - $100
Eldon Wolf, CA - $125
Frank A. Norick, CA - $50
Richard D. Hogan, TX - $150
Frank H. Titus, OK - $50
James E. Fletchinger, PA - $100
Jeffrey D. Borelli, OH - $50
Juanita Zenos, CA - $50
Jon K. Rider, WA - $150
C. Otto Henderson, MN - $125
Helen Posey, OR - $125
Lance M. Wilhelm, NJ - $75

NEW Life Members


AMERICANATHEISTSWelcomes

Joey D. Smith -

Corona,

R.Jeffrey Wenk -

Camano

New

Life Members

California
Island,

Thomas R. Walters - Tombstone,


Don Lubin - Allston, MA
Jose Zorrilla - Miami, FL
Mark Smith - Atlantic
Beach, FL
Robert Gross - Houston, TX

MAY/JUNE

WA
AZ

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AMERICAN

ATHEIST

AMERlO\N ATIIElST

MAY/JUNE 2007

The Evolution Of An Atheist


My First Job: A Test Of Reality. .. Or Morality
by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

he New York Times classified ad that caught my eye read


"High School Graduates! Earn up to $70 per week! No
experience necessary." Well I was a high school graduate as
of last Friday and seventy dollars a week was more than my
father was making. The one thing that made me somewhat skeptical
was the address-One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street and Lexington Avenue. It was in Harlem, and I rarely went down to Harlem.
Not that there was anything wrong with it; It just wasn't done. If you
were white you stayed
out of Harlem, just as
"they" stayed out of our
white neighborhoods.
But intrigued by the
salary, which was high
by 1946 standards, I
took the IRT subway
down to the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth
Street station to apply
for the job.
Surfacing from
the grimy subway I was
confronted by a twenty-story office building that had been constructed almost half a
century ago. Dark and
dilapidated, it loomed
over the neighborhood
like an ominous sentinel, although it seemed Jeanne and Gil Gaudia
to me more like a refuge ---------------------------------for the circumspect rather than a guardian of the vulnerable. After an
interminable ride in a clanking steel cage through a musty smelling
vertical tunnel, I knocked on the door of "Fund Raiser Consultants,
Inc."
The secretary that I encountered as I entered the small office
was a shriveled woman in her mid-sixties whose head barely reached
above the top of her cluttered desk and who spoke in a squeaky foreign-accented voice as she greeted me and took down my vital information. She instructed me to be seated on the wooden chair a few
feet in front of her and that she would call the boss out shortly to
interview me. Through an open doorway behind the wizened gnome
I could see about a dozen desks with men seated at each one, carrying
on telephone conversations amid a constant susurration. On each
desk was a small container that looked something like a shoebox, only
narrower, which reminded me of the card catalogue drawers in the

library. Every few minutes one of the men would select a card, l~ok at
it briefly and then dial a number.
My intense observation was interrupted by the appearance of
a short, fat, smiling guy with a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth
who walked from the room and introduced himself as the president
of the company. "Hi, young fella. I'm Jack Gordon. My partner and I
run this outfit. We're in the philanthropy business, and from now until the end of June we'll be working with the Disabled American Veterans," Jack explained
in one breath as he led
me through the open
door into the cluttered,
smoke-filled room.
"We're currently
trying to raise funds in
order to take paraplegic
veterans of World War
II to baseball games at
the Yankee Stadium.
The 'boys' love it, and
it's the least we can do
for them."
During the next
twenty minutes Jack
bustled me around the
room with the desks
and the men on the telephones and explained
to me the duties that I
would be expected to
carry out if I was hired.
"We're professional, licensed fund-raising contractors. Many well-known organizations hire us to assist them in obtaining donations to carry out their
good works. The DAV is our current client," Jack explained. "Last
month we worked for B'nai B'rith, that's a Jewish organization. You're
not Jewish are you? Are you Italian?"
"Yeah, I'm Italian," I replied, avoiding the detailed explanation
of my parents' mixed Italian-Catholic and Russian-jewish marriage.
"So anyway, after the summer we start on our contract with
the Church of Saint Peter and Paul. They're not Roman Catholic.
Greek Orthodox."
I was listening intently as Jack steered me toward one of the
desks and motioned to me to pay attention to the guy who was talking into the phone. Jack's expression was like a parent encouraging his
son to eat his spinach; eyebrows raised, lips pursed and head nodding
in the direction of the speaker as he gestured with his smoldering
MAY/JUNE 2007

AMERICAN ATHEIST

I
r

cigar stub, all indicating that this was the way to do it. This was the
proper telephone technique. This is what I had to learn to do.
"Hello Mr. Hallerman," the skinny, unshaven guy with hornrimmed glasses was saying. "This is Captain MacCauley, the commander of the Disabled American Veterans over at headquarters.
How are you today, sir?" The guy's shirt-collar was open, and his
appearance was decidedly unmilitary, slouched over the phone with
a cigarette smoldering between his lips as he continued, eyes squinting from the smoke that drifted toward his balding head. "I want to
thank you, Mr. Hallerman, for your help last year in sponsoring two
of our boys to a Yankees' game." I felt like I was eavesdropping on a
general who was thanking some lieutenant for successfully surrounding an enemy position. "Well, sir, it's that time of year again, and
I'd like to be able to count on your support for six of our boys this
time." At this point the general was asking the lieutenant to attack
the stronghold, and I was aware that my eyes and my ears were each
perceiving a separate reality.
"It's all pretty easy," Jack assured him. "You just read the spiel
that's on the printed sheet and you call as many of the 'taps' as you
can."

"Taps" was the term they used to describe the people in the
files who were generous and perennial givers to any plea for help. The
organization had a huge collection of taps, but many of the employees had their own private depositories that they guarded jealously.
"Where do I get the names of people to call; from the phone
book?"
"Nah! Don't worry. You can use the company files. You have
to keep them private though. You can't reveal them to anyone. This
is our stock in trade." Each tap card contained the name, address and
phone number of the donor and most importantly the figure they
could be "tapped" for. Some taps were rated at hundreds of dollars
and were kept in the private collection of the bosses who occasionally got on the phone, themselves, for brief periods. Most of the taps
though, were two- to five-dollar ones and there were thousands of

them, the mainstay of the company.


The operation was called a "boiler room" by cynical insiders
as well as critics of charitable organizations. The telephone solicitor
received thirty percent of each pledge as his salary, after it was collected. The two bosses got thirty percent as their share and for expenses. The top people at the charity got thirty per cent, in this case
Captain MacCauley, who was nowhere to be seen. And the kid they
sent around to collect the money got ten per cent. Out of the charity's
cut the amount that actually went to take "the boys to the game" was
less than five percent.
I wasn't concerned with the ethics of the arrangement because I convinced myself immediately that since the company was
licensed and legal that it was a genuinely charitable enterprise and
it was okay to be part of it; although throughout that summer, I
never saw a single veteran, a wheelchair or a ticket to the Yankee
Stadium.
I learned rapidly and because I had a pleasing baritone voice, I
turned out to be one of the best pitchmen in the organization. I did
so well in my new profession as a telephone solicitor that I actually
had bought a car! My neighbor, Sol Wattenberg, was looking to sell
the old Packard that my father had borrowed to drive the family up
to Harry Applebaum's five years ago, and when I saw the hand-written sign taped to the side window that read, "1935 Packard, 8 CYL.
Runs good. $125.00," I immediately called my girlfriend, Jeanne,
and talked her into chipping in to buy the twelve-year-old black behemoth. I convinced her that we could take drives into the country
and the beach on weekends, and so I gave Sol fifty dollars down and
agreed to make three weekly payments of twenty-five dollars each.
The vehicle resembled something that would have had AI Capone
riding in the back seat in the gangster movies of the late thirties. It
had a healthy appetite for gasoline, but at twenty-one cents a gallon,
fuel costs were not a problem, and I loved driving the hearse-like
leviathan, especially up Route 17, where I sometimes opened it up to
over a hundred miles-an-hour.

No

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AMERICAN ATHEIST

MAY/JUNE 2007

When summer was over and I began attending Brooklyn College, Jack and his partner, Lou Gross, asked me to continue working
there all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I didn't have classes.
They were getting ready for the St. Peter and Paul's Thanksgiving job.
Since I drove the car to school three days a week, I could also pick up
many of the taps' donations on my way to and from Brooklyn College, and earn an extra ten percent on the sales.
So I was there that morning in October when two men wearing
clerical garb walked into the office and Jack introduced them to the
crew. I thought they looked familiar. One of them was Archbishop
Clement, a short, white-haired, bespectacled and kindly-looking gentleman who barely uttered a word, and the other was a tall, thin, slightly-stooped figure called Father Alexander. His was the persona that 1,
along with the other dozen men, would adopt in the coming weeks.
A few weeks earlier while we were still on the DAV pitch, on
my way out of the bUildi.ngafter work, I remembered seeing the two
holy men walking toward our building, and it seemed to me that they
might have had an interest in some unecclesiastic activity. I didn't
know, at the time, but realized now, that they were heading for a
meeting with Jack and Lou.
Father Alexander was a well-known figure in the neighborhood, and usually went about his ostensible duties as a parish priest
unobtrusively, occasionally taking food to the poor and once in a rare
while visiting the sick. His black priestly garb, interrupted only by the
white strip of the collar that collided against his Adam's apple when
he spoke in his hoarse baritone, exaggerated his somber mien. His
hawk-like nose added a predatory air to the pallor of his countenance.
Because of his appearance and the few hours he spent in the small office behind the store-front church, a few blocks away, I often thought
that he must have given the impression to many who lived around
One hundred and Eighteenth Street, of an eerily-mysterious apparition. On windy days as he perambulated along Lexington Avenue in
his ankle-length black cassock he might have evoked images of Sleepy
Hollow in the minds of the few people who had read enough to be
familiar with the stories ofWashipgton Irving.
On this particular morning the two padres strode briskly to
the building, and after riding the elevator to the ninth floor, they
were greeted at the office door of "Fund-Raiser Consultants. Ine." by
Jack Gordon and his lugubrious, alcohol-scented partner, Lou Gross.
Despite many superficially disparate characteristics, the four men
shared an important all-absorbing deep interest. They were ardently
engaged in the noble enterprise of raising money for the underprivileged residents of their section of New York City, and the clergymen
had come today to work out the details of the distribution of Thanksgiving food baskets to the needy ... and of course, to attend to the
necessary financial arrangements.
Jack introduced the priests to us saying, "Next week the company is going to begin on our new contract with these two good holy
men until the Thanksgiving Holiday. I want you to pay attention to
Father Alexander as he explains the pitch."
Archbishop Clement, white-haired and saintly-looking, stood
quietly at Jack's side as Father Alexander strode to the center of the
room and stood among the desks. The Archbishop, whose background was obscure, was apparently positioned somewhat closer to
Heaven than Father Alexander, and because of the obvious superiority of his title, he allowed Father Alexander to do the dirty work while
he appeared to function as an upper-level itinerant administrator in
most of the good Father's activities, which were supposed to include
caring for his lower-class, mostly Black and Puerto Rican flock.
Speaking softly in his hoarse rasp he addressed the crew. "I

Why I Am Not A Muslim


by Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq examines Islam and the
Koran from the point of view of an
ex-Muslim. Warraq shows that the
Koran evolved over a long period of
time and is filled with absurdities and
contradictions,just like the Christian
Bible. Warraq shows how intolerance
and violence have been and continue
to be part and parcel of Islam, and
these cannot be ascribed to isolated
Fundamentalists.
402 pp. Hard Cover.

ISBN0-87975-984-4
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$25.00 (AA Members Price: $18.00)

want you men to know how much we look forward to your help in
providing Thanksgiving baskets for the poor families in our parish.
We are one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the nation. And during the next six weeks you'll be helping them to enjoy
the Thanksgiving holiday along with their more affiuent countrymen." He spoke guardedly, as ifhe was addressing an unseen observer
in the group, one who might be clandestinely recording the instructions he was giving.
"You'll be using my good name, calling yourselves 'Father Alexander, The Priest at Saint Peter and Paul's.' Please respect that. Also,
please emphasize to your donors that they will be making a poor family of six happy by giving them a complete dinner with a whole turkey
for each five-dollar contribution that they make. Try to get each tap
to provide for at least two families, ten bucks at least, since expenses
are high in this program." This was the first time in my life that I had
ever listened to an address by a holy-man outside of a place of worship, and I was astounded by the secular quality of the content.
So after Columbus Day all of us telephone solicitors metamorphosed from authoritarian men of the military to nurturing men of
the cloth and began our daily telephone conversations by sounding
reverent, gentle and imploring. After three months' experience in the
art of telephone solicitation, I quickly customized my new introduction by saying, "Good morning my son, (or my child) this is Father
Alexander, The Priest at Saint Peter and Paul's, and God Bless you
today." The fact that the person on the other end of the line was
undoubtedly much older than I was, and very often Jewish, added
to my delight in performing my job and so I had acquired the ability
to put a great deal of theater into it. When an old Jewish man would
come across with his pledge, I would often tell him "I was thanking
him in the name ofJesus," and I was "sure he would be blessed for his
kindness." The Jewish people usually responded respectfully, almost
as if they believed helping the goyim conferred a special benefit on
them, and they almost always said "Thank you, Father. That's very
nice of you." Or, "Put in a good word for me, you know, ... with the
Man upstairs, Father." The latter seemed disingenuous to me, and
sometimes I wondered who was conning whom.
I really got a kick out of being addressed as "Father", and it
was not unusual for a potential contributor who was Catholic to ask
to say a confession, if something happened to be troubling them that
MAY/JUNE2007 -

AMERlCA.NATHEISI

day. and although I didn't try to deliberately elicit these, I did get
a perverse thrill out of listening to them. I didn't know what I was
doing, of course, or if it could be considered a "real" confession by
the penitent as far as God was concerned, but I'd seen enough movies with Pat O'Brien to be able to tell my confessors "Say three Hail
Marys and five Our Fathers." Sometimes I added "Go, and sin no
more," but I admitted to myself that this was stretching it a bit. I
especially enjoyed some of the women's confessions, and on one occasion a youngish sounding woman asked me to come to her apartment
so that she could meet me, and I suspected there might be more to
it than theology, but although I was tempted, I begged off that one
telling her "My child, I have too much of the Lord's work to do here,
but thank you for your offer."
Once a month, usually on a Friday afternoons, the two clerics, along with Jack and Lou gathered in the back office to play pinochle. They would leave the door slightly ajar in order to monitor
the activities of the telephone crew, and so the combative sounds of
the wagering contest occasionally mingled with the eleemosynary activities in the boiler room, thereby diluting the altruistic atmosphere
of the spiritual environment. Jack was a consummate player and the
stakes must have been healthy because the energy that emanated from
the room resembled the sound track of a movie gun battle. "BAM!
BAM!" Would resound as the final trump cards were played down
and the table shook and the coins rattled as the players slammed their
cards triumphantly against the wooden table top with a "Take that"
implication to the banging that signified the victory of the winning
trump card. Jack always pronounced it "trumpf" and whenever I
think of the game of pinochle I picture the scene of the four con men
wagering the organization's receipts in the back office, and I hear the
thundering staccato reports accompanied by Jack's cry of "Trumpf"!
When I entered Brooklyn College in September of 1946, I was
still a month shy of my seventeenth birthday. And although I had a
lot to learn in life, I had stumbled across an important lesson about
charity, morality and reality ... and a significant portion of my attitude toward religion was established.
Nothing much has changed in the sixty years since a sixteenyear-old boy learned that he could earn a legal, if not ethical, living
by impersonating a priest. "Boiler rooms" are alive and thriving in
this country today, and many of them represent "legitimate" religious
organizations. Organizations identical to "Fund Raiser Consultant,
Inc." are being pursued by federal prosecutors, who as recently as
March 2006, presented evidence that a pair of con-men, just like Jack
Gordon and Lou Gross, devised a scheme in which one would form a
church and the other form a company to raise funds for it. They created the First Church of Life, which had no congregation, no services
or place of worship, and formed North American Acquisitions to do
the fundraising. The case is United States v. Lyons, 04-50082.

representin

YO

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Gil Gaudia is professor


Emeritus at the SUNY college at
Fredonia. He was also a clinical
psychologistand afelloiu at The ALbert Ellis Institute in Manhattan,
and now devotes his time to writing. His nover Outside, Looking
In, is a thinly-veiled autobiography
of an Atheist. Dr. Gaudia can be
reachedat jg;gaudia@comcast.net
10

AMERiCANATHElSf

MAY/JUNE2007

4/4 4/4 -

4/5 4/5 -

American
Atheists
National
Communications
Director David Silverman was a guest on Israel
National Radio to discuss Atheism.
Michigan
State
Director
Arlene-Marie
was
interviewed by the Monroe County Community
College
Agora
Newspaper
regarding
"The
Blasphemy Challenge."
American Atheist Press Editor Frank Zindler was
a guest on a FOX Network station to discuss Film
Director James Cameron's claim to have found the
body of Jesus.
American Atheists Press Editor Frank Zindler gave
an interview with the Columbus Dispatch on the
AA convention in Seattle.
Ellen Johnson was interviewed by the National Post
Newspaper in Toronto, Canada on the one dollar
coins that were minted without "In God We Trust."
American Atheists Capitol Hill Representative Rick
Wingrove gave an on camera interview to French
TV's Channel TFl on the Mall in Washington.
AA National Media Spokesman David Silverman, was
interviewed for an article in The Nation Magazine
on the subject of discrimination against Atheists.
Arlene- Marie spoke to the Society of Agnostics,
Nonbelievers and the Enlightened at Wayne State
University Student Center
AA Communications
Director David Silverman
gave interviews with The Nation and The Arizona
Republic Newspaper on discrimination against
Atheists.
American Atheists Legal Director and Kentucky
State Director, Edwin Kagin participated in a debate
at Howard University in Washington, DC on The First
Amendment.
The American Chronicle reported on our win in the
Starke, Florida cross case.
Ellen Johnson gave an interview with the University
of Florida radio station AMASO on the win the Stark,
Florida lawsuit.
Ellen Johnson gave an interview to an Ithaca
College journalism student for a paper on ghosts
and spirituality.
Ellen Johnson gave an interview with the Daytona
Beach News Journal on Florida government day off
for "Passover."
Edwin Kagin gave an interview on the AI Rantel
Radio program.
Florida State Director Greg McDowell spoke at
the University of South Florida on the topic of
"Atheism."
AA Michigan State Director Arlene-Marie had a
letter to the editor printed in The Saginaw News.
AA Legal Director Edwin Kagin was a guest for one
hour on KABCRadio in California.

interview

American Atheists Interviews


Dr. James Yahr
r.Yahr is a retired plastic and reconstructive surgeon and
Atheist. For over fifteen years he has been volunteering his
servicesto perform cleft lip and burn reconstruction surgeries in third world countries. He has donated this humanitarian work to help over 500 poor patients in Russia, Taiwan, Romania,
Moldova, Peru, The West Bank, Guatemala, Mexico, and India.
Doctors like James Yahr use the hospitals at the sites they visit,
bur they bring their own equipment and supplies. They pay their
own way, but sometimes the host city provides the hotel. Interplast
and Operation Smile will often pay for part of the airfare.
Dr. Yahr works with other humanitarian organizations like
Liga- The Flying Doctors of Mercy, Northwest Medical Teams International, Guatemalan Pediatric Association, ete.
He lives with a cat named "Fred" in California, where he enjoys playing golf.

D
.

Dr.Yahr meeting
his money

Where did you grow up?


I grew up in Princeton, which is a small farm town in Wisconsin.
My parents, sister and I went to a Methodist church on Sundays,
but we were not particularly religious. I had doubts about god when
I went through catechism. I kept asking the minister for proof and
his answer, "You just have to believe," was not a good answer for my
inquiring mind.
What did you study in college?
I studied business at the University of Wisconsin in Madison but
switched to premed in my sophomore year because I thought medicine was interesting.
Why did you choose your specialty?
I wanted to fix children with cleft lips, palates and do burn reconstruction.
I'll bet that has been very rewarding. If there was a god, one can only
wonder why it would allow these things to happen to people and leave
it up to people like you to fix what a god couldn't do right.
Well obviously there is no "active" god, or a lot of things wouldn't
have happened like the holocaust, wars, ete. I guess there are people
who believe in the god of Spinoza (inactive god) but I can't buy that
either.
Have you ever felt that you had to keep your Atheism to yourself?
I say what I think. I don't allow myself to worry about what others think. I think religious people have too much of a role in everything.
Do you have friends who are Atheists?
No, I don't have friends who are Atheists.
Would you say they have had too much of a role in the medical
field? And if so, how?
The most egregious example is our president not allowing federal
funding of stem cell research.s

Shree P.c. Mangalick

to establish

Dr.Yahr doing

cleft lip surgery

Dr. Yahr operating

in Agra, India. Mr. Mangalick

the PCM Charitable

Trust and hospital

donated

all of

for the poor.

in India.

at the Liga-San Bias Clinic in Mexico


MAY/JUNE2007 -

AMERiCANAnmsr

11

culture watch

SwearWords
by Conrad Goeringer
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members
of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers,
both of the United States and the severalStates, shall be bound by Oath
or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall
ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under
the United States.
- Article 6, U.S. Constitution

"I feel that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration
policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs
traditional to the United States of America, and to prevent our resources from being swamped."
Goode proclaimed that he did not "subscribe in using the Koran in any way," and announced that he would be taking the oath of
office on a Bible.
Another actor in the oath controversy was former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. The combative jurist has garnered
national media attention for his strident defense of displaying the Ten
Commandments on government property, and his claim that federal
laws-including the Bill of Rights-do not apply to the individual
states. Judge Moore joined the chorus at the conservative WoridNetDaily.com web site insisting that "Muslim Ellison should not sit in
Congress," adding "In 1943, we would never have allowed a member
of Congress to take their oath on 'Mein Kampf,' or someone in the

ven before the newly-elected 110th Congress settled down


to the business of law making, the issue of religion in politics was again generating headlines and controversy.
At issue, were news reports that Congressman-elect
Keith Ellison, a black Muslim from Minnesota, intended to be sworn
in with his hand on a rare copy ofIslam's holy book, the Koran, once
owned by Thomas Jefferson. The November 9, 2006 issue of the New
York Times informed readers, ''Arab news reports highlighted the fact
that Mr. Ellison would probably take
the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers
A dispute over holy books, religious affiliation and public rituals
on the photosphere .... Some suggestmarks the election of the first Muslim to Congress
ed it meant he would pledge allegiance
to Islamic law rather than to uphold
the Constitution ... "
From there, the story was picked up by radio-talk show pundit
1950s to swear allegiance to the 'Communist Manifesto.' Congress
and columnist Dennis Prager whose writings appear on the conser- has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the
vative Townhall.com web site. In a November 28 broadside, Prager congressional oath today!"
characterized Ellison's decision to take his oath on the Koran as "an
act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multicultural activism ....
Historical Falsification as Political Strategy?
What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that
it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book," PragGrim predictions aside, including Mr. Prager's warning of a
er grumbled. ''All that matters is what any individual holds to be his forthcoming "Islarnicization of America," the Ellison story proved
holiest book .... America is only interested in one book, the Bible. to be another example of false claims mixed with religion-charged
If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in rhetoric in the service of a political agenda. Media commentators, poCongress."
litical figures, and community leaders denounced the Prager-GoodeThe Ellison story quickly became fodder for the religious right. AFA bombast as a "message of inrolerance't=-the words of incoming
The American Family Association (AFA) issued an alert, grimly headHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The incident, though, was a revealing
lined ''A first for America ... The Koran replaces the Bible at swearing- look at the on-going culture war over the role of religion in American
in oath." The chairman of AFA, Donald Wildmon, announced that society, and how misinformation could trump even the most basic
the group would be pressing Congress "to pass a law making the Bible and indisputable historical facts.
the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and SenIn truth, neither Congressional Representatives nor members
ators." Over on Capitol Hill, Rep. Virgil H. Goode (R-VA.) dispatched
of the U.S. Senate take an official oath using the Bible, or any other
letters to supporters warning that the election of the first Muslim to the religious text. The Ellison incident was not a case where the Koran
U.S. Congress threatened to undermine traditional American values. would "replace" the Bible, as Rev. Wildmon claimed to his followers.
His December 5, 2006 broadside called upon citizens to "wake up," or Members of both branches of congress are sworn in en masse, and do
else soon find that there would "likely be many more Muslims elected not place their hands on any religious text. Individual officials may
to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
stage a "photo op" ceremony later, and it was during this event that
12

AMEIUCANATHElSf

MAY/JUNE2007

Rep. Ellison promised to take this unofficial oath on the rare copy of
the Koran.
Oaths for public officials have evolved into a myriad of forms
throughout our national history. Article Six of the Constitution requires that while senators and representatives "shall be bound by
Oath or Affirmation ... no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification ... " to serve.
On June 1, 1789, the first item oflegislation enacted by Congress was the Oath Act which among other stipulations prescribed a
simple statement for lawmakers:
"I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of
the United States and defend the Constitution of the United States
against all enemies, foreign and. domestic; that I will bear the true
faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely,
without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will
well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am
about to enter; so help me God."
Since the original Oath Act, there have been a variety of practices observed with respect to swearing-in ceremonies. John Quincy
Adams placed his hand on a law volume during the 1825 inaugural.
In 1853, Franklin Pierce "affirmed" the oath of Presidential office, as
did Herbert Hoover in 1929. Teddy Roosevelt declined to even use a
Bible as part of his ceremony in 1901.
Despite this historic patch-work of practices, the oath has
been-and
remains-a divisive, controversial aspect of the debate
over the role of religious belief and ritual in government.
Others issues, though, lurk behind the emotion-charged rhetoric of the Ellison-Koran case. The AFA effort to legislate the use
of the judeo-Chrisrian Bible as an official component of the federal
swearing-in process speaks to a larger complaint, made by religious
conservatives. They claim that the (Christian) religious heritage of the
nation is "under attack," be it from specific elements such as Muslims;
"Progressive Seculars;" and evolutionists; or a more diffuse threat in
the form of "immigration." The falsification of historical facts-in
this case the claim that the Bible is, indeed, part of the swearing-in
ceremony for representatives ancl'senators-was cited widely, even by
people who should have known better.
Another theme in the Ellison controversy is immigration, an
issue that has been characterized by religious differences dating back
to the early days of the American Republic. The influx of certain ethnic groups has often included reference to distinctions based on religion, as in the case of the "Nativist" Protestants and waves of mostly
Catholic Irish immigrants in the 19th century. This led to heated
political disputes, and even violent confrontations over the public
schools, and which version of the Bible would be used in classrooms.

Silver (not sterling) necklace pendant


(3/4" diameter) with l8-inch chain
Stock # 3182
$15.00 (AA Members

Price: $13.50)

Today, an influx of Hispanics from Mexico, and Central- and SouthAmerican nations, has also served to alter the nation's demographic,
economic and religious profile, and craft a new debate over the role
of "traditional" religion in the public square.
False "Tolerance"and

False "Diversity" Trump Separation

Unfortunately, one theme that did not emerge from the Ellison flap, centered on the very copy of the Koran the new Congressman chose for his "religionized" photo-op oath event. A great deal
was made of the fact that Mr. Ellison "wanted to use a Koran that
was special" according to Mark Dimunation, chief of the Rare Books
Division at the Library of Congress. This specific copy was an English-language translation of the Islamic holy text published in 1750,
and a survivor of an 1851 fire which destroyed much of Jefferson's
personal library.
Washington Post staffers, Amy Argestinger and Roxanne
Roberts, noted, "This isn't the first historic book used for swearingin ceremonies-the
Library has allowed VIPs to use rare Bibles for
inaugurations and other special occasions." The fact that this particular Koran had been in a collection once belonging to Thomas
Jefferson-the Founder who spoke of a "wall of separation" between
state and church-ignited
debate, particularly on blogs and web sites
examining his [Ed:whose views?] views on religious practices, and the
Koran in particular. Writer Christopher Hitchens weighed in with
a piece at Slate.com focusing on the 1786 confrontation between
the United States and the Islamic Barbary states of North Africa, in
which "Thousands of vessels were taken," noted Hitchens, "and more
than a million Europeans and Americans sold intro slavery."
Out of this incident came the Treaty of Tripoli, cited widely by
separationists for its declaration that "the government of the United
States of America is not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian
religion ... " Jefferson summarized the theo-political dimensions of
the conflict in a letter to Congress and Secretary of State John Jay, referring to a visit with Tripoli's Ambassador to the British Crown, Sidi
Jahi Abdrahaman. Jefferson inquired why the Islamic pirates seized
property and engaged in slaving.
"The ambassador answered us that (this practice) was founded
on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all
nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners,
that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they
could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take a [sic?] prisoners, and that every Mussulman (sic) who should be slain in battle
was sure to go to Paradise . : ."
Other texts confirm Jefferson's commitment to the separation
of church and state, as well as a skeptical, even critical view of religious claims. There is his "Letter to the Danbury Baptists" that enunciates the metaphor of a "wall" dividing government and religion. He
also dissected the gospels of the New Testament and eliminated the
outrageous and questionable claims of the supernatural, clearly in
desperate search of core principles that all humanity might embrace.
It was an approach, an intellectual disposition, typical of the Founders and the Enlightenment era.
None of this, however, seemed to reach widespread notoriety
in the media frenzy over the Ellison case. House Speaker Pelosi's comment meant that Rep-elect Ellison was "paying respect not only to the
Founding Fathers' belief in religious freedom but the Constitution itself" Other remarks praising "tolerance" and the changing American
religious demographic, all ignored a core question; Should Ellison or
any other elected official, take an oath on any religious text?
MAY!JUNE2007 -

AMERlCANATHEIST

13

Mr. Ellison is widely praised as the first Muslim elected to


Congress. Despite philosophical differences with Rep. Goode and
other critics, however, he embraces the notion that a form of public
religion has a proper, rightful place in the affairs of government. It
will be interesting to see how Congressman Ellison votes on First
Amendment issues such as public funding of religious social programs, and to what extent, if any, he moves to promote a Muslim
social agenda.
In all of the ruckus over Mr. Ellison's decision to publicly embrace, and showcase his flavor of personal faith, the real loser was
the notion that private religious beliefs should remain just that-private-and instead be checked at the door when elected officialscommence their task of doing the people's business. It is an ideal that the
American experiment has approached, but never reached. The First

Obituary.
nApril 11,2003,the Utah State
Supreme Court ruled that Murray
City,Utah had violated the free
speech tights of AtheistTom
Snyder; when refused to allow
him to offer a "prayer" before a meeting ofthe
City Council.The council said that'the text of
his proposed prayer was unacceptable .... With
the help of FirstAmendment attorney Brian
Barnard,Snyder won his case,charging that
his rights to due process under the Fourteenth
Amendment had been violated, along with his
rights to freedom of speech and free exerciseof religion.
A courageous Atheist,Tom Snyder,died on December 26,2006 in
Salt LakeCity at the home of his daughter, Stacy.Born on July 26, 1931
to Herb and Pearl(Shimmin) Snyder in Vernal,Utah, on his brother Sam's
second birthday, John Thomas Snyder lived life on his own terms.
He was a free thinker, fiercely independent and proud of it. He
had a brilliant mind, but he always said, he'd "rather be lucky than
smart." He happened to be both. All things considered, his daughter
says/It's amazing he made it to 75."
Stephnie says/Dad had more quotations than Bartlett's. If
swearing didn't offend you, he was hilarious. If swearing did offend
you, he swore twice as much." He loved his family, friends, the constitution, and fighting for civil rights-especially
his own. He wasn't
afraid of anybody or anything and paid the price. He was defiant,
irreverent and enjoyed every minute of it. He had a keen sense of
humor and loved a good laugh.
Tom graduated from Uintah High School where he was captain
of the football team, wrestling team, and president of the Boys
League. He attended Utah State University on a football scholarship.
He married JoAnne Showalter on June 23, 1951 and they had five
children.
He worked in the oil fields, owned his own business in Arizona
and started a little newspaper in Utah. He enjoyed reading, writing,
and knew the law better than most lawyers He served in the army in
Europe and made lifetime friends in thi:;Process.
At Tom's request, there was no service. Have a shot of Scotch
for him and toast the good times. Tom donated his body to science
and research at the University of Utah Medical Center, specifically
in hope of helping find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.Tax deductible
donations may be made to the Utah Civil Rights and Liberty Foundation, 214 East 500 South,Salt Lake City, UT 84111.Condolences or
good Tom stories may be sent to: sumbs@comcast.net

AMERICAN ArHEISf

MAY/JUNE

2ffi7

Conrad Goeringer is a staff writer for American Atheist magazine. He is also Editor of AANEWS, our electronic newsletter. Mr.
Goeringer is a former antiquarian book dealer, reporter and freelance
writer. He can be reachedat cgastbook@aol.com

Tom Snyder's Prayer


May 2003

Tom Snyder

14

Amendment was for many religious interests and partisans, a grudging concession along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. One can only
wonder about the outcome if some Federalists had prevailed, and the
Constitution put into practice without these crucial amendments,
particularly the very first one. Washington took his oath on a Bible
despite the vague Deism that characterized much of his era. Over
two centuries later, we still debate the issue of whose version of god
and his "revealed word" should properly stand in the public square.
Maybe the answer is none of them.

Our Mother, who art in heaven (if, indeed there is a heaven and
if there is a God that takes a woman's form) hallowed be thy name,
we ask for thy blessing for and guidance of those that will participate in this meeting and for those mortals that govern the state of
Utah;
We fervently ask that you guide the leaders of this city, Salt
Lake County and the State of Utah so that they may see the wisdom
of separating church and state and so that they will never again
perform demeaning religious ceremonies as part of official government functions;
We pray that you prevent self-righteous politicians from misusing the name of God in conducting government meetings; and,
that you lead them away from the hypocritical and blasphemous
deception of the public, attempting to make the people believe that
bureaucrats'decisions and actions have thy stamp of approval if
prayers are offered at the beginning of government meetings;
We ask that you grant Utah's leaders and politicians enough
courage and discernment to understand that religion is a private
matter between every individual and his or her deity; we beseech
thee to educate government leaders that religious beliefs should
not be broadcast and revealed for the purpose of impressing others;
we pray that you strike down those that mis-use your name and
those that cheapen the institution of prayer by using it for their own
selfish political gains;
We ask that the people of the State of Utah will some day learn
the wisdom of the separation of church and state; we ask that you
will teach the people of Utah that government should not participate in religion; we pray that you smite those government officials
that would attempt to censor or control prayers made by anyone to
you or to any other of our Gods;
We ask that you deliver us from the evil of forced religious
worship now sought to be imposed upon the people of the State of
Utah by the actions of mis-guided, weak and stupid politicians, who
abuse power in their own self-righteousness; All of this we ask in thy
name and in the name of thy son (if in fact you had a son that visited
earth) for the eternal betterment of all of us who populate the Great
State of Utah.
Amen.

In Memoriam
Martha T.lckler-Rydal, PA

The X-Rated Bible


by Ben Edward Akerley
Is the Bible a "dirty" book? Is it a source of corruption filled with shocking and obscene tales?
This popular book is an analysis of sexual behavior and practices reported in the basic "scriptures"which are
"held sacred" by three of the world's major religions. It is thoroughly documented with (King James) Bible
passages and with references from secular and religious sources. It is an astonishing, informative book.
Christianity claims that the Bible should be a guide for morals; that in it are some tales of love, forgiveness,
kindness and care. Atheists, however, find passages that are NOT lessons in morality and decency; they are
simply part and parcel of a disgusting religious book that should have been abandoned a millennium ago!
Index. Paperback. 428 pp. Stock # 5000
$14.00 (AA Members Price: $12.60)

Obituary

Ath~ist Singles

Keith Cornish
(January 27, 1916 - March 14,2007)
ith
Stanton
Cornish,
founding
~
ember
and past president
for 30 years of the
Atheist Foundation
of Australia (AFA) Inc,
died in the Modbury
Hospital, Adelaide on
14th March, 07 after
becoming ill the night
before. He was 91
years of age.
Keith relentlessly strived to keep religion out of politics
and for children to be unburdened offaith-driven propaganda.
He recognized long before others, such as Richard Dawkins, in
"The God Delusion,"thatthe religious indoctrination of young
minds with the threat of a hell, is mental child abuse.
Keith was happily married to Brenda for 59 years,fathered
four children, was the grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of one-and-a-half. He was loved and highly respected by
them all.
Keith was a good, gentle, kind, honest, wise and thoughtful
person, esteemed by friends and colleagues alike and the description "gentleman" could have no better use. Even detractors
found to their dismay that his calm and rational outlook on life
destroyed the "evil" Atheist illusion.
After stepping down as president, Keith continued in an
active capacity on the Committee of Management of the AFA,
responding to inquiries as a Public Relations Team member
until a few days before his death.
For the record, Keith did not recant his Atheistic views, to
the end. He would have been appalled at such a suggestion.
Newspaper Letters Sections containing intelligent missives,signed KSCornish, will be no more.
The world has lost a principal advocate for Atheism and
for the widespread acceptance of the supremacy of reason.
Atheist Foundation

of Australia,

info@atheistfoundation.org.au

Inc.

04-01-07 - Now let me see, what can I say about myself? My


name is Rocky. I'm 43 years young. I play the guitar, drums and
other instruments. I work with many forms of martial arts, for the
art of it, not for harm. I have a golden lab. I trained him. You
would love him. I'd like to meet a warm, loving, good-natured
woman and I'm hoping she will like my fancy motorcycle. I have
a son 25 and a daughter 21, who do not live with me. I do not
smoke, drink or go to bars. (The writer lives in Michigan - Editor)
11-01-06 - SWF,51, northern Illinois. 5'1'; not height-weight
proportionate. College degreed, blue collar background, reasonably active and enjoy most of the usual stuff - food, music and
performance art. More important is what we do together. I don't
need to be constantly active and in fact do need some down
time. I am very affectionate with my special man. I am less interested in your phenotype than in your intelligence and character.
Looking ultimately for a long term relationship, my last love, but
reality based enough to not hold my breath. Let's get this party
started before WWIII begins!

The "Atheist Singles" service is a benefit of membership in American Atheists. It is intended to help members find that special
someone. If you are a member and wish to participate in this
service, please limit your"Atheist Singles" ad to 100 words or less.
Please include your name and postal address so we will know
where to forward your replies when they come in.
Entries should be mailed to:
Atheist Singles, P.O.Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733.
Members of American Atheists who wish to communicate with
any of the Atheist singles who placed ads should do the following: Write your response and place it in a stamped, self-addressed, sealed envelope. On the back of the envelope, place the
notation, "A.S." and the reference number (for example A.5. 0005-03) of the entry to which you are responding. Place the envelope inside another envelope, seal it, and mail it after addressing
it to the Atheist Singles address in Parsippany listed above. When
your letter arrives at the American Atheist Center, the outer envelope will be removed, the inner envelope extracted, and the
address corresponding to the reference number you wrote on
it will be written on the front of the envelope. The envelope will
then be mailed forthwith. Please include your phone number or
e-mail address in case we have questions with your ad.American
Atheists reserves the right to reject any singles ad.

MAY/jUNE2007 -

AMERlCANATliElSf

15

It Doesn't Matter If Jesus Existed


by Rick Hillegas

ome people question whether Jesus of Nazareth really existed. Sceptics note that the ancient evidence about Jesus
is third hand, sketchy, and biased. We may summarize this
criticism quickly: First, Paul, the oldest witness, never even
met Jesus. Second, the gospels were compiled late. Third, Jesus remained unmentioned outside his cult for almost a century. Jesus, the
sceptics say, is just a myth. One wonders, however, myth or man,
does it really matter? Rather than trying to prove a negative, we can
argue something less slippery but equally startling and more convincing. Namely: the Jesus who has come down to us is little more than
a character sketched by his disciples, and we do not know what he
taught. The following article compares the evidence about Jesus to
the evidence about two other ancient, revered teachers: Pythagoras
and Socrates. People don't wonder whether Pythagoras and Socrates
existed, yet we don't know what they taught, either. [I]
Today, PyH
thagoras of Samos
is little more than
the name we associate with a famous
theorem
about
right triangles. His
name has clung
to math theorems
since around the
year -300. Other
than donating his
name to mathematics, Pythagoras
has pretty much
vanished from our
school texts. Nothc-x
x
ing that he wrote
D L
E
has survived-this
despite the fact that
Euclid's Graphic Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem 121
we still have scraps
of writings from other pre-Socratic thinkers. It is therefore a little surprising to learn that an elaborate cult and mythology centered on Pythagoras for centuries . .A5 with Jesus, we can't tease the real man out
of the legends. J. A. Philip put it nicely: "Ancient sources provide us
material ampler than that for any other Greek thinker, but it is only as
they become more distant in time from Pythagoras that the accounts
grow more precise and more detailed; after a millennium they tell us
the composition of the cakes that were his principal sustenance.T''
According to the oldest surviving biographies of Pythagoras,
he grew up in the -500s on the island of Samos, off the west coast of
16

AMERiCANATHElST

MAY/JUNE2007

what is now Turkey. .A5 Persia came to dominate the area, he moved
to the Greek colonies in Italy, where he meddled in local politics.
His faction was slaughtered toward the end of the century, and only
a couple of his followers escaped alive. These are the spare facts of
his life. Three other pre-Socratic philosophers mention him, the sum
total of ancient evidence close to his own time. One of these philosophers, Heraclitus, scorned Pythagoras, "Much learning does not
teach sense; otherwise it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras,
and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus." Heraclitus was a contemporary of Pythagoras. Xenophanes, another contemporary scorned by
Heraclitus, said that Pythagoras believed in reincarnation: "And once
when he passed a puppy that was being whipped they say he took pity
on it and made this remark: 'Stop, do not beat it; for it is the soul of
a dear friend-I recognized it when I heard the voice." A generation
later, a third pre-Socratic, Empedocles, confirmed that Pythagoras
believed in reincarnation. That's it. That is all we know about Pythagoras' reaching.I?
Legends collected around him after his death, however. By the
early -300s, a faction of Pythagoreans appeared. To them he became
a sort of patron saint of mathematics and strict diet. By the end of
that century, theorems were being attributed to Pythagoras himself
Both Plato and Aristotle mention the Pythagoreans. Among the odd
facts, we learn that Pythagoreans did not eat beans-this according to
a lost treatise on the Pythagoreans, written by Aristotle. Aristotle also
traced Plato's number mysticism to the Italian Pythagoreans: ''After
the philosophies named came the enterprise of Plato, which in many
ways followed them, but went its own way, diverging form the philosophy of the Italians." Over the following centuries, Platonic and
Pythagorean teachings fused further. [5]
By the late -300s, biographies of Pythagoras were written.
Though lost today, these works were mined by later biographies written five to six hundred years afterwards. The later biographies have
survived. In these accounts, the real man recedes, replaced by a demigod. The demi-god Pythagoras traced his lineage of reincarnations
back to the Trojan War. He had a golden thigh. He commanded animals, controlled storms, calmed seas, and predicted earthquakes. The
cult of Pythagoras and his reincarnations grew. Revered as his avatars,
men like Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander Abnoteichus became
famous. Apollonius attracts our special attention because a revived,
minor cult centers on him to this day, as a quick internet search confirms. According to his biography, Apollonius lived during the first
century, performed miracles, healed the sick, and raised the dead, inspiring Edward Gibbon's quip, ''Apollonius ofTyana was born about
the same time as Jesus Christ. His life (that of the former) is related in
so fabulous a manner by his disciples, that we are at a loss to discover
whether he was a sage, an impostor, or a fanatic."[6]

Given this mass of written material, we can pose the same


questions about Pythagoras which we ask about Jesus: Did he exist? I
would say yes, the third-hand contemporary witness satisfies me. But
do we know what he taught? No, I would say we know nothing about
his teaching other than his belief in reincarnation. Today Pythagoras
is little more than the name of a theorem and a colorful character in
biographies written down seven hundred years after his death.!"

Bust of Socrates, Louvre MA 59

[8J

Conventionally, we lump Pythagoras together with the pre-Socratics. They

sources continue, Athens executed him for impiety and for corrupting youth. In short, he was an ugly, schizoidal pederast who mocked
democracy. What, however, did he teach other than scepticism about
democracy? Unfortunately, our three major sources disagree here.!'?'
In Aristophanes' broad comedy The Clouds, Socrates appeared
as a huckster who peddled debating skills. Socrates taught his pupils how to argue so persuasively that they could make right seem
wrong and vice-versa. Apparently, this view of Socrates was
widespread. He had to refute it at his trial. In contrast,
Socrates' student Xenophon sketched a nicer portrait. For
Xenophon, Socrates was a kindly old man who gave sensible advice. This is how Socrates appeared in Xenophon's
Memoirs and in his treatise on Household Management.
Xenophon, an anti-intellectual soldier, portrayed Socrates
as a fellow anti-intellectual, someone who fawned on diviners and rejected science.!'"
Plato, poet, academic, intellectual, disagreed. In
Plato's early dialogs, Socrates appeared as the ultimate
intellectual, an annoying quibbler who ridiculed his pupils' opinions and denied that he knew anything himself.
Plato's Socrates said that you should not hurt even your
enemies-but
Xenophon's Socrates taught the opposite.
Plato's Socrates did not believe in luck-but Xenophon's
Socrates did. Did Plato lie? Did Xenophon lie? Alternatively, did Socrates teach Plato one thing and Xenophon
another? Because Socrates left no writings, we can believe
whatever we want.I'"
Plato's known works survive almost intact. This sets
him apart from most other ancient philosophers, whose
writings come down to us only in pieces. Due to the sheer
volume of Plato's witness, his meipory of Socrates tends to
frame later accounts. Plato's memoirs of the trial and death
of Socrates created a sort of literary type of the wise man
unjustly executed for quarrelling with his neighbors. The
later Passion narratives echoed Plato's Euthyphro, Apology,
Crito, and Phaedo dialogs: The wise man could have escaped but, instead, he calmly accepted his legal sentence.
At the end, even his guard realized how righteous the just
man was. And so on. [13J

Arch ofTitus (Rome): The Spoils of Jerusalem

[14J

were early Greek thinkers who proposed


mechanical models of nature. Socrates of
Athens came later, during the -400s. Although we know little about the lives of
the pre-Socratics, fragments of their writings have survived. The reverse is true of
Socrates. We know a fair amount about
his biography. However, because he never
wrote down his thoughts, we don't know
what he actually taught. Three major contemporary accounts of Socrates have come
down to us: Aristophanes' lampoon and
memoirs by his students Xenophon and
Plato.[9J
The contemporary sources agree
that Socr;tes looked like a satyr. Apparently, he also heard an inner voice, which
advised him. He desired boys erotically.
He criticized democracy. Ultimately, the
MAY/JUNE 2007 -

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A half century passed between Pythagoras and Socrates. Another four centuries passed between Socrates and Jesus. As with Pythagoras and Socrates, we know a bit about the biography of Jesus.
Unfortunately, we don't know what he taught because Jesus, too, left
no writings. Our closest source, Paul's fragmentary letters, are thirdhand. Paul met disciples of Jesus but not Jesus himself Here's what
Paul tells us: Jesus had brothers, including one named James, whom
Paul met. Jesus had twelve disciples. Jesus was crucified. That's all
Paul tells us about the biography of his hero. Even more frustratingly,
Paul tells us practically nothing about what Jesus taught. Paul preserved only two of his hero's teachings: 1) Jesus forbade divorce, and
2) Jesus said preachers should be paid. That, again, is it.IISI
The gospels are our other ancient sources for the life and
teachings of Jesus. Unfortunately, they are anonymous works. Later
convention ascribed them to four disciples of Jesus. However, none of
the gospel writers claims to have met Jesus. Only one of the gospels
(John) claims to be based on a written, eye-witness account. Various
plausible models date these works a couple generations after the time
of Jesus. Some of these models turn on one or two short quotes. One
scholar may consider the quotes part of the original gospel, while
another scholar may consider them later forgeries. For instance, the
splitting of the temple wall-a wink at the destruction of Herod's
temple----can be seen as evidence that Mark wrote his gospel after
general Titus razed Jerusalem in the year 70. However, it is also plausible that a later scribe added this nice detail to Mark's gospel after
Jerusalem's destruction but before Matthew and Luke supposedly

www.caglecartoons.com

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cribbed Mark's account. Some models do not rely on stray quotes but
rather on broad themes in the gospels. It is supposed that mere scribes
would not invent or sustain broad themes. One such attractive model
dates the gospels long after Paul, based on the following systemic
evidence: A strong anti-jewish polemic pervades the gospels but not
Paul's letters. This model rests on the plausible theory that over time
Jews and Christians grew further apart and became mutually hostile.
But this begs the question. How do we know that some Christian
congregations weren't stridently anti-jewish from the start? In short, a
stable consensus has not formed around any of these theories. We can
say this: myth, magic, and miracle heavily marble the gospels. The
authors did not bother to separate fact from fiction. So how, nineteen
centuries later, can we? Again, various plausible models have been put
forward for sifting the real teachings of Jesus out of the inventions.
And again, no stable, critical consensus has formed around any of
these models yet. As with Pythagoras and Socrates, we can believe
whatever we need to.II6]
In the end, what can we say about these three teachers, the
historical Pythagoras, the historical Socrates, and the historical Jesus?
Not much. None of these men left any writings. We can say when
they lived but we have contemporary evidence only for a handful
of their teachings. For Socrates, the evidence is strongest, but even
that is second-hand and contradictory. For Pythagoras and Jesus, the
evidence is third-hand at best. Who were these men? We don't know.
The men themselves recede from history, replaced by colorful characters in the stories their followers wrote.!!"

Footnotes
[lJ

[2J

[3J

[4J

[5J

[6J

[7J

[8J

[9J

[lOJ

[llJ

[l2J

[13J

[14J

[15J

[16J

[17J

For a good summary of arguments against the existence of Jesus, see Jim
Walker's web page [Internet: http://nobeliefs.com/exist.htm].
Graphic copyrighted by Wolfram Research Inc.. See [Ibid.: http://mathworld. wolfram.com/Pythagorean Theorem.htm!].
Concerning the attribution of the famous theorem, see [Heath 1981 1:
143]. That Pythagoras left no writings, see [Barnes 1987: 81], [Guthrie
1987: 19], and [Philip 1968: 193]. Quote is from [Ibid.: 3].
See [Guthrie 1987] for translations of the biographies of Pythagoras written by Diogenes Laertius, Porphyry, and lamblichus. The quotes come
from the Diogenes Laertius biography and are translated and discussed in
[Barnes 1987: 81-88].
On Plato's references to the Pythagoreans, see [Philip 1968: 10]. On Diogenes Laertius' references to Aristotle's lost treatise, see [Guthrie 1987:
149]. On Aristotle's comparison of Plato and the Pythagoreans, see [Philip
1968: 10] and [Ibid.: 77]. For a translation of the quote from Aristotle
(Metaphysics 987a 29), see [Hope 1999: 19]. On the fusing of Platonism
and Pythagorean ism, see [Guthrie 1987: 38].
On Heraclides as the source of the biographies of Pythagoras, see [Philip
1968: 12-13]. On Apollonius as a reincarnation of Pythagoras, see [Ibid.:
17]. On Alexander Abnoteichus as a reincarnation of Pythagoras, see
[Costa 2005: 142-143]. For Gibbon's quip, see [Gibbon 1788 1: 264],
footnote 63.
See [Philip 1968 1 for a critical survey of the surviving evidence
on Pythagoras.
Photo copyright Amy C. Smith. See [Internet: http://www.stoa.org/projectsl demosl article_portraits?page= 12&greekEncoding= UnicodeC] .
On the major sources for Socrates, see [Saunders 1986: 20] and [Saunders
1987: 16-19].
[Internet: http://www.stoa.org/projects/ demos/article_portraits?page= 12
&greekEncoding= UnicodeC] surveys ancient references to the appearance of Socrates. On his ugliness, see in particular [Waterfield 1987: 17]
and [Tredennick 1990: 242, 253]. For surveys of ancient references to
Socrates' inner voice, see [Saunders 1987: 318] and [Tredennick 1990:
34-35]. On his pederasty, see for instance [Hamilton 1971: 75, 95]'
[Tredennick 1993: xxiii], [Guthrie 1956: 38, 46], [Ibid.: 122], [Waterfield 1982: 76, 125], and Xenophon [Tredennick 1990: 222, 260, 262263]. For a survey of references to his attitude toward democracy, see
[Saunders 1987: 34]. On the death of Socrates, see the accounts by Plato
and Xenophon in [Tredennick 1993] and [Tredennick 1990 ].
For a translation of The Clouds, see [Sommerstein 1973 ]. On refuting the charge, see the accounts of Socrates' death mentioned above. On
Socrates as an anti-intellectual, see [Tredennick 1990: 212-213].
Hugh Tredennick and Robin Waterfield have contrasted Plato and Xenophon's accounts. See the introduction to [Ibid. ] for a good survey of
how the accounts differ.
On Socrates' acceptance of his legal sentence, see [Tredennick 1993: 6263]. On the epiphany of his guard, see [Ibid.: 183].
Graphic from [Internet: http://atheism.about.comllibrary/FAQs/christian/blxtn_jerusalem-titus03.htm].
On Paul's meeting people who knew Jesus, see [Marxsen 1968: 18] and
Galatians 1.18-20. On Paul's biography ofJesus, see [Ehrman 1997: 189190]. On the dominical sayings, see[Collins 1983: 5-6] On forbidding
divorce, see Corinthians 1.7.10-11. On paying preachers, see Corinthians 1.9.14
On Pappias' ascription of the first gospel to Matthew, see [Marxsen 1968:
152]. On Pappias' ascription ofthe second gospel to Mark, see [Ibid.: 142].
On Irenaeus' ascription of the third gospel to Luke, see [Ibid.: 161]. On
Irenaeus' ascription of the fourth gospel to John, see [Ibid.: 259]. On splitting the temple wall, see Mark 15.38, Matthew 27.51, and Luke 23.45. On
John's written source, see [Ehrman 1997: 152-153] and John 21.24.
For a critical treatment of the Pythagorean sources, see in particular [Philip 1968 ]. For a critical comparison of Plato and Xenophon's sketches
of Socrates, see [Tredennick 1990 ]. For a critical treatment of the early
Christian sources, see [Marxsen 1968 ].

Bibliography
[Barnes 1987] Jonathan Barnes. Penguin Books. 1987. Early Greek Philosophy
[Collins 1983] Raymond F. Collins. Doubleday and Company, Inc .. 1983.
Introduction to the New Testament
[Costa 2005] Lucian, tr. Desmond Costa. Oxford University Press. 2005.
Lucian: Selected Dialogues
[Dodd 1970] ed. C. H. Dodd. Oxford University Press. 1970. The New
English Bible with the Apocrypha
[Ehrman 1997] Bart D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press. 1997. The New
Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings
[Gibbon 1788 1] Edward Gibbon. Modern Library. 1788. The Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1
[Guthrie 1956] Plato, tr. W. K. C. Guthrie. Penguin Books. 1956. Protagoras
and Meno
[Guthrie 1987] tr. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, tr. Thomas Taylor, tr. Arthur
Fairbanks. Phanes Press. 1987. The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An
Anthology of Ancient Writings Which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy
[Hamilton 1971] Plato, tr. Walter Hamilton. Penguin Books. 1971. Gorgias
[Heath 1981 1] Thomas Heath. Dover Publications, Inc .. 1981. A History of
Greek Mathematics, Volume I
[Hope 1999] Aristotle, tr. Richard Hope. The University of Michigan Press.
1999. Metaphysics
[Internet] Various. Various. 1989. Internet pages
[Marxsen 1968] W. Marxsen, tr. G. Buswell. Basil Blackwell. 1968. Introduction to the New Testament
[Philip 1968] J. A. Philip. University of Toronto Press. 1968. Pythagoras and
Early Pythagoreanism
[Saunders 1986] Plato, tr. Trevor]. Saunders. Penguin Books. 1986. The Laws
[Saunders 1987] Plato, tr. Trevor]. Saunders, tr. lain Lane, tr. Donald Watt,
tr. Robin Waterfield. Penguin Books. 1987. Early Socratic Dialogues
[Sommerstein 1973] Aristophanes, tr. Alan. H. Sommerstein.
Books. 1973. The Acharnians, the Clouds, Lysistrata

Penguin

[Tredennick 1990] Xenophon, tr. Hugh Tredennick, Robin Waterfield. Penguin. 1990. Conversations of Socrates
[Tredennick 1993] Plato, tr. Hugh Tredennick and Harold Tarrant. Penguin
Books. 1993. The Last Days of Socrates
[Waterfield 1982] Plato, tr. Robin A. H. Waterfield. Penguin Books. 1982.
Philebus
[Waterfield 1987] Plato, tr. Robin A. H. Waterfield. Penguin Books. 1987.
Theaetetus

Rick Hillegas has been


an outspoken Atheist for almost
three decades. In his spare time,
he reads ancient literature. In his
professional life, Rick was an early
contributor to Derby, the Apache
Foundation's open-sourcecomputer database. Mr. Hillegas can be
reachedat rhillegas@comcast.net

MAY/JVNE2007 -

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19

Soros Kicked AIPAC. Obama Kicks Soros.


Let's Kick All Three.
by Lenni Brenner

is ta sign of the changing political times that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC} Washington conference
on March 12th received much more candid journalistic treatment than AIPAC events have ever received. The NY Times
March 14th report, "Clinton and Obama Court Jewish Vote," got
right to the point:
"As Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama
compete for Jewish donors and voters, Mrs. Clinton is following a
tried-and-true rule of hers from New York-support
Israel to the
last-while Mr. Obama is trying a more delicate strategy that hit
some bumps this week."
Clinton never stops pandering to New York's ultra-right Zionists. In an age when most young educated Jews escape from Judaism
and marry gentiles, the "feminist" candidate is constantly in sex-seg~
regated Orthodox Jewish synagogues, telling them of her great love
ofIsrael, which of course comes from her heart, not from their check
books. Her "same 01' same 01' speech" was remarked on, but Obama
is the new comet in
the Democratic sky
and the Times focused on what was
different in his "I am
pro-Israel" speech.
"Several Jewish conference-goers said they were concerned by
Mr. Obama's remark Sunday in Iowa where . .. he said, 'Nobody
is suffering more than the Palestinian people' . .. Obama put the
blame on the stalled peace efforts with Israel and on the refusal of the
Palestinian government to renounce terrorism."
Obama represents Illinois, "the land of Lincoln." But he
models himself after the state's other great philosopher, Al Capone.
Chicago's Mafia leader proclaimed and proved that "kind words and
a machine gun will get you more than kind words alone." Obama
has a history of telling Arab-Americans that he "feels the pain" of the
Palestinians=-while he supports giving billions in weapons to their
oppressors.
The Times' coverage of Obama was distinctive for the paper,
in giving competition "for Jewish donors and voters" as the purpose
of both leading wannabe Democratic candidates. Since Hitler, for
, good and bad reasons, writing about Jewish political money has been
the great "no-no" of America's capitalist media.In 1991, I interviewed
Harold Seneker, editor of the "Forbes 400" issue of the magazine, for
an article in the February 11th issue of Nation. I estimated that Jews,
about two-and-a-half percent of Americans, were consistently about
twenty percent of the 400 richest Americans. He wanted to write a
story on it. "It's a success, both for the Jews and capitalism." But publisher Malcolm Forbes wouldn't let him. He remembered the period
after Hitler's 1933 victory inspired American anti-Semitic propagan~

da about "Jewish money." He agreed with Seneker's thesis, but didn't


want responsibility for even a slight possible rise in anti-Semitism
resulting from an article.
The taboo's negative has been mass media silence about the
impact of Zionist money on U.S. domestic and foreign policy since
Harry Truman, wariting Jewish campaign contributions, supported
Israel's creation in the run up to the 1948 presidential election. But
today many journalists, Jew and gentile, are critical of Israel re the
Palestinians, zealotry for Bush staying in Iraq and threats of bombing Iran. For them, not talking about Jewish money means not dealing with capitalist America's massive political corruption. Thus the
March 2nd Forward, New York's prestigious "Jewish community"
weekly, had no hesitation in running "How Many, How Much?" a
graph estimating Jews as twenty-four percent of the current Forbes
400 listing of the "nation's richest."
Most Jews aren't rich. And among the rich, the most famous
political donor, George Soros, isn't a Zionist. The March 23rd issue
,>

"In this world, the follies of the rich pass for wise sayings."

20

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of the Forward declared that he just dropped a political bomb of


"near-nuclear force" on American Zionism. The billionaire's article in
the post-dated April 12th New York Review of Books, www.nybooks.
com/articlesl20030, argues that the U.S. does Israel a disservice in
ritually backing it:
"While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed.
... One explanation is to be found in the pervasive influence of the
American Israel, Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) , which strongly
affects both the Democratic and the Republican parties ....
Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby's ability to influence political contributions."
He long ago left Judaism behind, but he kept quiet about this
because he "did not want to provide fodder to the enemies ofIsrael."
But now it's time for the American Jewish community "to rein in the
organization that claims to represent it."
Soros is a Tory reformist. He funds narcotics law reformers
and other worthy-issue groups. But the Drug Policy Alliance, which
got thirty percent of its funds from Soros, welcomed Republican conventioneers to New York in 2004, even as a massive anti-war march
protested against Bush and his party's war. Now he wants Israel to
negotiate with Hamas. "Fortunately Saudi Arabia, whose position
is also precarious, has a genuine interest in promoting a settlement
based on two states." He wants the Saudis to lean on Hamas, while

the U.S. pressures Israel into negotiating itself out of the West Bank
and east Jerusalem.
Never mind that Saudi Arabia is a vicious despotism. Ignore
U.S. arms to it and Israel. Forget that the American people have absolutely no interest in arming either criminal government. If Soros got
his wishes fulfilled, the result would be "Bantustine," [I] guarded by
Israel and America's Arab satraps.
Many Americans also want Israel to deal with Hamas, concerned for horrific Palestinian living conditions, without sharing the
billionaire's naive imperial mentality. But nuking AIPAC was too
much for Obama. His campaign immediately announced that:
"Mr. Soros is entitled to his opinions. But on this issue, he and
Senator Obama disagree. The U.S. and our allies are right to insist
that Hamas-a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction-meet very basic conditions before being treated as a legitimate
actor. AIPAC is one of many voices that share this view."
Soros is modern proof of Sancho Panza's proverb. He told
Don Quixote that "in this world, the follies of the rich pass for wise
sayings," and Soros gave the Democrats twenty-eight million dollars
in 2004, knowing his party to be demagogues pandering after Zionist
cash, vainly hoping that they would beat Bush. The March 21st Sun,
New York's Zionist daily, was "right on the money" when it explained
Obama's problem. Even if we presume that he really is troubled by
the Palestinians' wretched conditions.
"The Soros article puts Democrats in the awkward position of
choosing between Mr. Soros, a major funder of their causes, and the
pro-Israel lobby, whose members are also active in campaign fundraising."
Soros cash would buy Obama media ads in Democratic primaries. But taking it means AIPAC billionaires buying ads for Clinton.
On the other hand, denouncing Soros doesn't mean him running ads
against Obama. And, if he gets nominated, he can reasonably expect
Soros to fund him against the Republican. SOtoS'Sguileless reformism
has ended him up with less, not more, influence in inner circles of
his lesser evil.
Democrats hustling Zionist money reaches surreal proportions. Party leaders rage against Jimmy Carter-their
own ex-presic
dent!-for denouncing Israeli apartheid. Obama distances himself
from his party's biggest funder. But now the party may have to pay
a liberal price for its money chasing. Liberal Jews and gentiles see
Obama as anti-Iraq war. But many dislike Israeli policies. If antiwar lefts keep the AIPAC/Soros/Obama affair in front of their eyes,
Obama dumping on Soros can operate to make them suspicious of
their party as a real anti-war lesser evil. It doesn't take a high tech
crystal ball to see Obama's crisis as our opportunity. If we get our own
act together, the anti-war movement can move out of the wings and
into the center of the America's political stage.
Soros has more money than educated anti-war Democrats but
they don't have more brains than him. For now, they would still vote
for any hawk the Democrats pick in '08, as a lesser evil to any Republican. But if we start an internet convention, ASAP, to pick a genuine
anti-war presidential candidate by the end of 2007, committed to
running against the bipartisan hawk-parties, many will sign on as
they come to understand that the U.S. military isn't going to get out
of the Middle East, whether the Democrats win or lose.
In 2000 and 2004 they worried that voting for Nader meant
electing Bush. But now Democrats run Congress, and they aren't
kicking Bush out ofIraq. Working for a Democratic victory as a lesser
anti-war evil is no longer axiomatic for such types. In fact, if a left
party came to life and drew enough votes from the Democrats to elect

a Republican, every pundit, right to left, would understand this to


mean that the anti-war movement was growing in number and determination to end all of America's wars, once and for all and forever.
Liberals voted Democrat in 1968 and 1972, fantasizing that
their party would end the Vietnam War. It lost. But Nixon's Attorney
General stared out of the White House at a gigantic march. While
most demonstrators were liberal Democrats, he knew the parade was
called and organized by Trotskyites, Stalinists, left Black nationalists,
unions, pacifists and such: "It looks like the Russian revolution." Determined Marxist organizing cadre, only a few thousand at most, not
Democratic politicians, mobilized the hundreds of thousands that
forced "bipartisan" Washington out of Indochina. Nixon read the
handwriting on the wall: Get out-or get more radical explosions
at home.
We have a better and worse situation. Bush is losing the confidence of millions of Americans and the Democrats aren't gaining
it. But neither are the divided anti-war demonstrators. Nevertheless,
we have the same task in 2007 and forever more: We must build a
massive united street movement to get U.S. imperialism out of the
Middle East and everywhere else, from now to eternity.
Henceforth, no one can talk intelligently about U.S. Middle
Eastern policy without discussing AIPAC, Obama and Soros. We
must shout from the rooftops about Zionist campaign contributions.
Anti-Semitism is "a fire that has burned itself out" in modern America. It won't spring up from the ashes if we take care. Lecture audiences
laugh when I rhetorically defend our politicians:
"Rich Zionists can't just walk in on a Democrat and bribe
him! No way!! They must sit in his waiting room with all the other
bribe-givers until it's their turn!!!"
U.S. politics is the story of unending corruption since New
York's Tammany Hall and other 19th century political machines,
when Jews, rich or poor, were a minuscule percentage of the population, and Zionists were non-existent. We cannot seriously educate the
public about the "legalized bribery" of Zionist campaign contributions to the modern "Republicratic" Washington machine without
putting it in its matrix of general grafting. We won't persuade most
Americans to end Zionist buying of our rulers, alone. Nor should we
try, when we certainly can mobilize millions who already want abolition of private election contributions, with publicly funded elections
taking their place. In context, documented exposure of Zionism's perfidious role is not only legitimate; it is a perfect educational example
of America's government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, which
must perish from the earth.

[I]

Bantustine comes from Bantustan, the term for the native reservations
under apartheid, and Palestine. Hence a Palestinian ministate is, in effect
an Indian reservation in America terms.

Lenni Brenner is the


author of Zionism in the Age of
the Dictators, and editor ofJef
Jerson & Madison On Separation
of Church and State: Writings
on Religion and Secularism.
He blogs at www.smithbowen.
netllinfamelbrenner, and can be
reached at BrennerL21@aol.com.

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21

ask the expert

The

"(l' Document

by Frank Zindler

Mr. Zindler,
In one of your artkles-at the American Atheist's website
you wrote, uForexample, the authors of the gospels of
Matthew and Luke incorporate nearly the entire Greek
text of the gospel of Mark, adding sayings taken from yet
another document (the so-called "Q-Document''), and
generally make the miracles recounted by Mark even
.
more miraculous."You do realize that the "Q-document"
is not an actual document? There is no copy of it and
is only hypothetical. Please do share that with your
unbiased readers and authors.
Brian Horvath

earMe. Horvath:
Thank you for writing to American Atheists concerning one of my essaysmentioning ~e q-document. It
is not entirely clear to me what the pomt IS that you are
trying to make by noting that the Q-document "is not an actual document." Of course we don't have any manuscripts of Q itself Countless
rounds of book-burnings by ancient Christian censors destroyed the
originals of Q and who knows how many other books that could reveal
important facts abour the begiimings of Christianity and its gospel stories. Fortunately, the Q document can be reconstructed in great detail
by comparing "Mark" (we have no knowledge as to who actually wrote
any of the gospels, authors having been assigned to them only late in
the second century) with "Matthew" and "Luke." When you examine a
so-called harmony of the synoptic gospels in Greek, the Q components
are glaringly obvious. There can be no doubt that Q once existed, for
otherwise there is no reasonable explanation as to where Matthew and
Luke got the (nearly identical) materials they added to Mark. Since we
can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they plagiarized from Mark,
why should we doubt that they plagiarized from someone else?
When Q was first hypothesized by biblical scholars well over a
century ago, it was argued that Q must have been a "sayings gospel,"
simply a listing of the good-news proclamations of Jesus. (We now have
no reason to suppose these sayings originally had anything to do with
Jesus of Nazareth, since at least one of them derives from one of Aesop's
Fables.) Critics pounced upon this and noted that no one had ever seen
any manuscripts of any sayings gospels at all. (Does this sound familiar?)
Then, fragments of a Greek gospel of "Thomas" were found and it was
claimed that Thomas was a sayings gospel of the type Q was thought to
be. Unfortunately, the scraps surviving were too small to be able to prove
this. Only much later, in the Twentieth Century, were the Coptic manuscripts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt discoveredwith a complete text of the

22

AMERICAN ATHEIST

MAY/JUNE '2ffi7

Gospel of Thomas among them. Thomas proved to be exactly the same


sort of thing as the reconstruction of Q. As with the history of Q, early
Christians succeeded in destroying all but a few scraps of the Greek text
of Thomas. The full text survived only in translation, outside the reach of
Roman and Byzantine censors, and even that had to be buried to escape
the holy fires of a forgotten inquisition.
The study of Q and the history of the gospels is a fascinating
endeavor. It brings to light the highterto forgotten theopolitical worlds
of the early Christians and gives us better insight into the quarrels that
inflamed them and led to the "histories" that were written by the victors
in the partisan wars that led to the formation of Orthodox Christianity. i
hope that you will find this study as exciting and rewarding as I do.

Frank R. Zindler is the


managing editor ofAmerican AtheistsPressand the author of TheJesus
the Jews Never Knew, a book that
argues that the ancient Jews never
heard ofJesus of Nazareth. In fact,
they had never heard of Nazareth
either. Formerly a professor of biology and geology,for many years
now he has worked as a linguist
and science writer. He receivesenail at editor@atheists.org.

Black acrylic coffee mug


with drink-thru snap-on lid
Gold lettering
stock # 6099

$12.00 (Members

Price: $10.80)

Atheist On Board plaque


stock # 3215

$6.00 (Members

Price: $5.40)

Richard Dawkins:
The God Mafia's Elliot Ness
by William Harwood

'chardDawkins and Sam Harris have achieved unprecedented sales with books denouncing the god delusion
as the monstrous crime against humanity it clearly is. Yet
.nstead of recognizing that Dawkins and Harris are trying to free the human race from a crippling mind-AIDS that is in
my estimation within three centuries of wiping humankind from the
face of the earth, Harvard's Humanist chaplain Greg Epstein is contriburing to the religionists' "anthropocide" by denouncing them as
"fundamental atheists."!"
Epstein calls himself a Humanist. Others who reject the god
hypothesis prefer to identify themselves as rationalists, naturalists,
"brights," freethinkers, agnostics, Atheists, or some equally limiting
synonym. The one designation that none of the foregoing would
reject is "nontheist," an all-embracing term that includes everyone
(including agnostics) who is not a theist. And just as Ronald Reagan
recognized that Republicans publicly denouncing other Republicans
only helped the Democrats, so nontheists denouncing other nontheists, as Epstein and E. O. Wilson are doing, only help the theists.
Harris in particular recognizes that, "While moderation in
religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out ... it offers
no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence," and
that moderate religionists' endorsement of extremists' "freedom of
religion," is what enables the extremists to perpetrate their atrocities,
by creating the delusion that religion per se is a force for good.!" It is
not. Religion is the most antihuman perversion that has ever existed
on earth, and as a historian, I have no difficulty identifying it as the
cause of ninety percent of all man made evil for more than 3,000
years. The suggestion of Epstein and others that religious moderates
should be respected is analogous to a declaration that a milder form
of AIDS should be respected.
Harris also rejected the term, "Atheist fundamentalist," calling

it "a silly play upon words." He noted that, when it comes to the ancient Greek gods, everyone is an Atheist and no one is asked to justify
that to pagans who want to believe in Zeus. "Likewise the God of
Abraham," he said. "There is nothing 'fundamentalist' about finding
the claims of religious demagogues implausible.T" Was Albert Einstein a fundamentalist mathematician? Was Carl Sagan a fundamentalist astronomer? Is Stephen Hawking a fundamentalist physicist?
Or are experts qualified and entitled to state as a fact, based on their
research findings, that numerology is a delusion, astrology is a delusion, and religion is a delusion?
Dawkins' response to the "fundamentalist Atheist" accusation
is, "I am no more a fundamentalist when I say evolution is true that
when I say that New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere. We believe in evolurion because the evidence supports it, and we would
abandon it overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it. No real
fundamentalist would ever say anything like that."!" "Fundamentalist
Atheist" is an oxymoron. A fundamentalist is a person who does not
accept evidence that falsifies his or her belief
Anyone who can read The God Delusion or The End of Faith
and not recognize that they do to religion what the first photographs
of the Martian surface did to the "canals delusion" is a fundamentalist. And as Victor Stenger said of the "We-alone-have-the-truth" fundamentalists in God: The Failed Hypothesis, "If anyone promoted
such views in any area outside a religious context, he would be taken
in for psychiatric evaluation."!"
Nontheists, regardless of what branch of nontheism they espouse, reject the god hypothesis precisely because (a) as an explanation of observable reality, it violates Occam's razor, and (b) there is
no supporting evidence for any religious hypothesis whatsoever and
never has been. A non theist would accept religion in an instant, if a
god were to offer unequivocal, impossible-to-simulate evidence for its
MAY/JUNE2007 -

AMERICANArunsr

23

existence. As of now, no god has ever done so, and all claims to the
contrary are contained in the same Tanakhs, Bibles and Korans that
assure their readers that the earth is flat. [6J
According to Dawkins, "The god of the Old Testament is
arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and
proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive,
bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully,"!" No sane, intelligent, educated person
with the moral courage to live in the real world can actually read
a bible and disagree. The current refusal to say anything offensive
about that nice Mr. God is a throwback to 1940 and 1941, when it
was deemed politically incorrect to say anything offensive about that
nice Mr. Hitler. Hitler was a vindictive, megalomaniacal bully, and
God is a vindictive, megalomaniacal bully. The only upside is that
God does not exist, and if all theists, particularly moderates, could be
made to grasp that reality, the "anthropocide" being perpetrated by
fundamentalists could be brought to a sudden halt.
As I pointed out in a review of The God Delusion [8J the parasite caste currently exploiting the masses' belief in an imaginary Sky
Fuhrer, see Dawkins as a threat to their bread and butter. Since religion pushers classify going with the evidence as the ultimate heresy,
they prefer instead to start from predetermined conclusions and distort the evidence to make it fit. They hate and fear Dawkins for the

24

AMERiCANATHElSI -

MAY/JUNE2007

same reason Al Capone hated and feared Elliot Ness. And so they
should. Dawkins is the parasites' worst nightmare.

[IJ
[2J
[3J
[4J
[5J
[6J

[7J
[8J

Jay Lindsay, Associated Press, March 30,2007.


The End ofFaith, W. W. Norron, 2004, pp. 14-15,22,29.
samharris.org/site/full_text/a-new-fundamentalism.
beliefnet.com.story/203/story_20334.html.
God: The Failed Hypothesis, Prometheus Books, 2007, p. 240.
Where is George Washington Now That America Really Needs Him?
Booksurge.com, 2006, pp. 95-97.
The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 31.
The Freethinker, January 2007, ,----------------,
pp. 12-13.

William

Harwood

is the

author ojWhere Is George Wash-

ington Now That America Really


Needs Him? (xlibris.com), and
editor/translator

of the two-volume

The Compact Fully Translated


Bible (author-house. com) He can
be reached at wharwood@telus.net

I
1

the probing mind

Refacing A Monument
by Frank Zindler

he worst fate that could befall rulers or thinkers of an"Yes, numerous religions existed in the world before the Jewcient Egypt was for their names to be "effaced from the ish Bible was written, and to say the least they were quite as good
monuments" by the priests and scribes who were the as the religion practiced by the believers of that book. Our doubts
guardians of tradition. Erasure of their names from the as to the inspiration of the Bible arise from a want of proof. It is
monuments-the
public memorials that constituted the first histonot enough for us that somebody says it was written by the finger
ries of the ancient world-deprived
them of the closest thing to im- of God, or that he dictated it. Something more convincing is necesmortality to which any human can aspire: the immortality evoked by sary. Before it can be accepted as the work of God it must be shown
being remembered. The ancient habit of depriving men and women
superior to what man can accomplish. If gods can do no better than
of immortality has continued into modern times, especially when it men, they are entitled to no higher credit. The Bible presents no
comes to obliterating all memory of Atheists and
other free thinkers. Physical defacement of stone
monuments is rarely carried out anymore, but
that is most likely due to the fact that few stone
monuments honoring "Infidels" as Infidels exist.
Rather, our religious society does everything in
its power to prevent durable records or memorials of these religious misfits from being created
A review by Frank R.Zindler of
in the first place. When that fails, the fact that
D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker
a person was an unbeliever is concealed and all
by Roderick Bradford
mention of the fact is carefully avoided. This has
(ISBN 1-59102-430-7, Prometheus Books, 2006, hardcover $32.00)
been achieved with immense success in the case
of Thomas Paine and the other heretics who created the first nation in history that was not founded upon superevidence of being superior to human power, but, on the other hand,
natural claims. In his new book "D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker," it is so full of errors and imperfections of many kinds that we are
Roderick Bradford has succeeded in re-facing a monument that was forced to the conclusion that it was produced by crude, ignorant,
defaced and erased more than a century ago by as odious a high priest and unscientific minds. Some of its poetry does very well consideras ever existed-Anthony Comstock. (Review Webster's definition of ing the age in which it was written, but it has been surpassed in later
years. Its narratives, its history, its science, and its morals are very
Comstockery.)
"D. M. Who ... ?" most readers must be thinking. Even well- defective. We simply take it just as it is and accord no more credit
to it than it deserves. It is unjust to apply the 'eye of faith' or any
educated people today are not likely even to have heard ofDeRobigne
Mortimer Bennett, let alone know anything about him. As we learn other instrument to magnify it into something that it really is not.
from a footnote in Mr. Bradford's stimulating new book, however, In many respects it has been surpassed by the bibles of other nations, some of which were written at an earlier date. If it is liable to
this forgotten martyr of free thought once wrote a letter containing
the following wonderful summary of the Atheist position:
be distorted and perverted by translators, transcribers, and printers
"We readily believe in everything that we are convinced has an it is another proof that it is not unlike other human productions. If
God took the trouble to write it or to dictate it, it would seem but
existence. When proofs are placed before us of the existence of a God,
we shall at once believe in him. Up to this time we have received no reasonable that he should look after it a little, and keep men from
such proof, and consequently we are an unbeliever. We believe in the changing it and spoiling it.
"All religions are fallible, all contain myths, fables, and superuniverse because we see it everywhere around us. Its material and its
powers and forces are made apparent to us every hour of our lives. It stitions which are held up to the world as divine truths. All religions
is not so with God, whether he be called Brahm, Jupiter, or Mumbo
are of human production ... There is not in existence the slightest
Jumbo ... Nobody has ever seen him, and nobody knows the first proof that a god ever had anything to do with any of them ... It is
thing about him. What men think they know about him has come quite natural for everyone to think his own a little the best; but on
from what somebody told them, and that somebody obtained it from some accounts the Christian religion is not the happiest. It has the
somebody else, and all were equally ignorant ... Our friend will be most angry and cruel God, the meanest and most malicious devil,
and the hottest and most everlasting hell. There may be some relientirely justified in counting us an Atheist.
MAY/JUNE2007

AMERiCANATHEIST

25

gions worse than Christianity, but it is hard to find them. There are
evidently some that have been better, far less tyrannical, bloodthirsty,
and murderous. As truth is far better than falsehood, it is always
greatly preferred. Even if truth is called Infidelity, it is greatly superior
to superstition and blind delusion. There is no man happier in his
belief than he who discards fables, mysticisms, and the supernaturalisms, and accepts the truths of the universe and lives in obedience to
its laws-who regards humanity as the highest intellect and who does
all in his power to improve it.

Anew~~s

U.S. sdtools

.~

in. science
education ...

"Christianity has shed far more blood and taken far more life
than all the other religions combined. It has made a hell here upon
earth in every deed ... We fail to see where Christians have any advantage over Infidels. The belief that men and women are going to
heaven upon the merits of another individual is a fallacious one, and
in the sequel will undoubtedly prove so. The Infidel who depends
upon his own good deeds and in living a good life occupies the safer
ground, whether in life or at the hour of death. Infidels have far less
fear of death and the devil than have Christians, and consequently
they are happier. The greatest horror in the world is the continuous
dread of an unmerciful God, a torturing devil and an ever-yawning,
ever-burning hell. These are the Christian's portion, and he is entirely
welcome to them if he wants them. The Infidel has no use for anything of the kind."
Before going further it must be said that anyone deciding to
read this book must resolve to read the footnotes. Mercifully, they
are grouped at the end of each chapter rather than being all clumped
together at the end of the book. Anyone ignoring the footnotes will
miss a great deal, including wonderful stuff such as the paragraphs
just quoted above.
So who was D. M. Bennett? DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett
(1818-1882) was a Shaker who studied his way out of Christianity.
He was the founder (in 1873) of The Truth Seeker, the longest-lived
Atheist publication of which I have any knowledge. Mark Twain,
Clarence Darrow, and Robert G. Ingersoll were among his loyal sub26

AM8uCAN

An-lEST

MAY/JUNE"lfJJ7

scribers. Bennett's opposition to religion and religiously motivated


obscenity laws triggered a furious campaign of persecution by Anthony Comstock, the U.S. Post Office's special agent and self-proclaimed
"weeder in God's garden." The Atheist publisher was eventually prosecuted, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.
When the Infidel author died in 1882 he was interred in the
beautiful Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, and his
monument was almost effaced before it could be built. Green-Wood
was "sacred ground" intended for Christian use only. When cemetery officials learned of a drive by
Bennett's friends to raise money
for a memorial obelisk, they tried
to prevent Bennett's blasphemous
ideas being inscribed upon it. As
friends started the process of having the obelisk inscribed, the cemetery's secretary warned that the
cemetery board had "power to remove any monument or erase any
inscription which a majority of its
members might deem offensive."
Nevertheless, the monument was
inscribed and the long inscriptions
still can be read -including
their
denouement:
I BELIEVE IN THE ETERNAL POWERS AND PRINCIPLES OF NATURE, IN THE SUPERIORITY OF GOOD LIVES,
IN ACTS OF KINDNESS TOWARD OUR FELLOW-BEINGS,
AND IN EFFORTS TO SPREAD
THE LIGHT OF TRUTH OVER
THE DARK SPOTS OF THE
EARTH. EACH PERSON MUST BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
GOOD OR ILL HE DOES. HERE IS OUR DUTY, HERE IS
OUR ALLEGIANCE, AND NOT IN THE SKY ABOVE US. WE
MUST MAKE OUR HEAVEN ON THE EARTH, AND NOT IN
THE AIR.
Bradford writes with an engaging, natural style that breathes
life again into a man long dead-a man whose name has been effaced not from a granite monument but from the larger monument
of historical awareness. It is actually delightful and surprising that
any scholar, no matter how enterprising and conscientious, could
reassemble a nineteenth-century life in such astonishing detail. It is
only slight hyperbole to say that Bradford's work surpasses ordinary
biography so greatly that it borders on a resurrection. Readers of
American Atheist will certainly want to invite the resurrected Bennett into their homes for an extended visit. Indeed, they will want
to buy this book for themselves so he can stay with them permanently.

Frank R. Zindler is the managing editor of American Atheists


Press and the author of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, a book that argues
that the ancient Jews never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, they had
never heard of Nazareth either. Formerly a professor of biology and geolOK for many years now he has worked as a linguist and science writer.
He receives e-nail at editor@atheists.org.

god would be an atheist...

Anne Rice and


the seven-year-old Christ
by Martin Foreman

do not consider myself one of Anne Rice's fans. I find her vampire to experience god, she fails to understand that no matter how powerful
a vision is, it is an internal experience which can never be more than a
novels overwritten and portentous, the characters unsympathetic
reflection of one's own state of mind.
and the plots unimaginative.
Her second mistake is to assume that because she searches for
I know I am in a minority. Over 75 million copies of Rice's
works have appeared over the years and her books are often assigned in "meaning" in life, that such "meaning" must therefore exist. This assumption, which is neither logical nor proven, reflects her need for
high school and college classes.
reassurance, not the reality surrounding her.
I make an exception for her "Sleeping Beauty" trilogy, published
in the 1980s under the pseudonym A N Roquelaire.
Her depiction of a fantasy world, where teenage
"Rice's apologia rationalizes her faith; it does not justify it. It was not reaprinces and princesses are held as sexual slaves, is
erotic and elegant.
son that brought her back to her childhood religion, but a desire to return
Given this background of the occult, erotito the illusion of love and forgiveness that comforted her decades ago.
cism and unbridled sexuality, many have been surprised to learn that Rice has reconverted to the RoAnd even if life does have "meaning," there is no reason to asman Catholic faith she was brought up in.
The author is currently devoting her creative energies to a tril- sume that the "meaning" Rice has found is the correct one. If there is a
ogy narrating the life of Jesus Christ in the first person. The first vol- god, he is as likely to be Allah as the Christian Trinity, or Odin or Shiva
or any other deity worshipped by humans at any time since our species
ume, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, appeared in 2005.
In that book, seven-year-old Jesus returns to Nazareth from achieved consciousness.
Rice's apologia rationalizes her faith; it does not justify it. It was
Egypt after the death of Herod. It is a difficult time for the whole family, and a time of questioning for the boy, increasingly aware of a power not reason that brought her back to her childhood religion, but a desire
within him capable of causing others to die or to return to life and to return to the illusion of love and forgiveness that comforted her
which can control the forces of nature.
decades ago.
The fact that she is creating her own faith rather than accepting
Rice writes competently. The story flows easily and Jesus and his
family are portrayed sympathetically but with little depth. The greatest a universal truth becomes clear when she states the terms of her belief,
weakness is lack of tension, which is at least partly due to our familiarity accepting dogmas that she likes and rejecting those that displeases her.
In other words, like believers the world over, Rice creates god in
with the tale she is telling. Out of a possible five stars she gets three.
Rice is not the first writer to examine Jesus' life. Others cover- the image that corresponds most closely to her emotional needs. "Being the same ground include Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago in the cause this is how I see the deity this is how he must be."
But as far as the novel is concerned, these delusions are irrelearly 1990s.
Nor is the plot unique. Roman soldiers attempting to impose evant, an unnecessary addendum. The text, not the author, should be
order on a land on the edge of chaos following the death of its despotic the focus of our attention.
Like its vampire predecessors, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
rule, foreshadow Iraq. A young man discovering supernatural powers is
leads readers into a half-familiar, half-fantasy world that suggests that
the theme of the television series Smallville.
Given her sympathetic portrayal of a man who probably did there is more to reality than our everyday experiences. It is merely the
not exist, it was inevitable that Rice's work would be widely praised by latest offering in an endless series of escapism.
If you are looking for a light read, look for the book in your loChristians seeking to bolster their faith.
Much more interesting than the book itself, however, are the cal bookshop, on the same fiction shelves where the Bible ought to be.
after words that appear in the hardback and paperback versions deIf god existed, he would ...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
scribing her return to faith.
recognize that eternity is meaningless
Although she pins her conversion on a specific date (December
deny both heaven and hell
6, 1998), it is obvious that her vision of the "Infinite Mercy of God"
disown all men and women who speak in his name
was the culmination and consequence of years of yearning for certain
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
ties that Atheism did not offer her.
help the human race to thrive without him
In her eagerness to believe,her emotion sweeps aside her reason.
Firstly, she assumes that her vision of god and his mercy has
If god existed, he would be an Atheist.
Mr. Foreman can be reached at martin@godwouldbeanatheist.com
any validity outside her own experience. Like all believers who claim

If

MAY/JUNE

'2fYJ7 -

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

27

news

Evangelicals Try
To Keep Ancient
Skeleton In The
Closet
NAIROBI, KENYA (AP)-Deep
in the dusty, unlit corridors of
Kenya'snational museum, locked
away in a plain looking cabinet,
is one of mankind's oldest secrets.
Turkana Boy, as he is known, is the
mostcomplete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found.
But his first public display later
this year is at the heart of a growing
storm--one pitting scientists against
Kenya's powerful and popular evangelical Christian movement. The
debate over evolution--once largely
confined to the United States-has
arrived in a country known as the
cradle of mankind.
"I did not evolve from Turkana
Boy or anything like it," says Bishop
Boniface Adoyo, head of the country's 35 evangelical denominations,
which he claims has around 10 million followers. "These sorts of silly
views are killing our fairh."
He's calling on his flock to boycott the exhibition and has demanded the museum relegate the fossil
collection to a back room-carrying
some kind of warning that evolution is not a fact but merely one of a
number of theories.
Against him is one of the planet's best-known fossil hunters, Richard Leakey, whose team unearthed
the bones at Nariokotome in West
Turkana, in the desolate, far northern reaches of Kenya in 1984.
"Whether the bishop likes it or
not, Turkana Boy is a distant relation of his," Leakey, who founded
the museum's prehistory department, told The Associated Press.
"The bishop is descended from the
apes and these fossils tell how he
evolved."
Among the 160,000 fossils due
to go on display is an imprint of a
lizard left in sedimentary rock, dating back 200 million years, at a time
when the Earth's continents were
only beginning to separate.
Dinosaur fossils and a limb
bone from an early human ancestor,
datingback seven million years, will
also be on show along with bones of
28

AMEuCAN ATHEIST
- MAV/JUNE

7JJJ7

short-necked giraffes and elephants


whose tusks protrude from their
lower, rather than upper jaw.
They provide the clearest and
unrivaled record yet of evolution and
the origins of man, say scientists.
But the highlight will be the
5-feet 3-inch (1.52 meters) tall Turkana Boy, who died at age 12 and
whose skeleton had been preserved
in marshland before its discovery.
It will form the center stage of
the exhibition to be launched in July
following a massive $10.5 million
revamp of the National Museums
of Kenya, financed by the European
Union. The EU says it has no concerns over the displays and that the
museum was free to exhibit what it
wished.
Followers of creationism believe
in the literal truth of the Genesis account in the Bible that God created
the world in six days. Bishop Adoyo
believes the world was created
12,000 years ago, man six thousand
years later. He says each day was
equivalent to 1,000 earth years.
Adoyo's evangelical coalition is
the only religious group voicing concerns about the exhibition.
Leakey fears the ideological spat
may provoke an attack on the priceless collection, one largely found
during the 1920s by his paleontologist parents, Louis and Mary Leakey,
who then passed their fossil-hunting
traditions onto Richard.
The museum, which attracts
around 100,000 visitors a year, IS
taking no chances.
Turkana Boy will be displayed
in a private room, with limited access and behind a glass screen with
24 hour CCTY. Security personnel
will guard the entrance.
"There are issues about the security," concedes Dr. Emma Mbua,
the head of paleontology at the museum in Nairobi. "These fossils are
irreplaceable and we wouldn't want
anything to happen to them."
Insurance coverage could run
into millions of dollars, she added.
Mbua, a practicing Protestant, is
a little taken aback at the controversy
but has no problems reconciling her
own faith in evolution.
"Evolution is a fact," adds Mbua,
who has run the department for the
last five years.
"Turkana Boy is our jewel," she
said. "For the first time we will be

taking him out of the strong room


and showing our heritage to the
world."
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten,
or redistributed.

Oregon court
weighing
religious beliefs
and basketball
schedule
Associated Press
WHEN PORTLANDAdventist Academy appeared in the state basketball
playoffs in 2002, it lost its final game
2-0.
But rather than a lack of offense,
the team fell because of its religious
beliefs. Seventh-day Adventists observe the Sabbath from sundown
Friday to sundown Saturday. Its
third-place game against St. Mary's
was scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday,
so the Cougars forfeited.
On Monday, the Oregon Supreme Court questioned lawyers
representing the Oregon School
Activities Association about what
standards should be established to
accommodate students' beliefs and
why the OSAA hasn't made a greater
effort to satisfy those needs during
the basketball playoffs.
The court's ruling, which might
not be handed down for months,
will set new precedent in the state.
The focus Monday was on the
wording of the state law prohibiting
religious discrimination in education.
"What it looks like, frankly, in
the record, is that you're not making any accommodations for this
religious purpose but you're making
accommodations ... for all sorts of
secular purposes," Justice Thomas
Balmer said to the OSAA's attorney.
The OSAA has not rescheduled
tournament games because it said
doing so is not in the best interests
of fans, teams and the association.
Attorneys for the OSAA and the
Oregon Board of Education said the
law is meant to ensure neutrality and
should not provide special treatment
for religious beliefs.

"I don't think you can conclude


that because it's possible to accommodate-albeit
in a way that burdens others-therefore
you must accommodate to be reasonable," said
Jonathan Radmacher, the attorney
who represented the OSAA.
But Charles Hinkle, arguing the
case on behalf of the students and
the American Civil Liberties Union,
told the justices that it is the OSAA's
obligation to meet the religious
needs of students.
The debate started in 1996,
when the OSAA accommodated
Portland Adventist students, and
they went on to win a state title. But
the OSAA changed its stance the
next year.
The case went to U.S. District
Court, where the school lost. But the
case was later filed in Oregon, and
the state Court of Appeals has ruled
in the team's favor.

Fargo's Ten
Commandments
Marker Could
Have Neighbor
FARGOR,ND (AP)-A group that
unsuccessfully sued to have a Ten
Commandments
monument
removed from public property near
City Hall is seeking permission for
another monument.
The Red River Freethinkers
wants to erect a monument on the
mall that will "have a different message, saying, 'You are free to worship
as you please," said former mayor
Jon Lindgren, the group's interim
president.
"The Ten Commandments has
a religious directive on it, which is
to believe in this God and only this
God, and it sits on public property,
so it kind of implies that our government is telling you to believe in
God," Lindgren said.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson disagreed with that view
in dismissing the lawsuit brought
against the city in 2002 by Lindgren
and four other Freethinkers members. Erickson ruled in September
2005 that the monument celebrates
both religious and secular ideals and
therefore does not violate the Constitution.

news
Erickson's ruling also stated that
"this Court is convinced that the
public would perceive this mall as a
public forum."
"So, we took that as an invitation to extend the debate and put up
a monument with a different point
of view on it," Lindgren said.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles
donated the 6-by-3-foot Ten Commandments monument to the city
in 1958 to commemorate a recently
completed urban renewal project.
Lindgren said the Freethinkers'
monument would be about the same
size, and the group would pay for it
and its installation.
The monument would refer to a
1796 peace treaty between the United
States and Tripoli, which states in part,
"As the government of the United
States of America is not in any sense
founded on the Christian religion."
Mayor Dennis Walaker said
the city is bound to provide equal
space for different ideas, as long
as the monument is not offensive.
City Commissioner Linda Coates
also said she was fine with the idea.

Commissioner Brad Wimmer opposes it.


"I'm not in favor of putting any
more monuments on city property,"
he said.

Biology teacher
fired for referring
to Bible
SISTERS,OR (AP)-Duringhis
eight
days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material
he provided to students and gave a
PowerPoint presentation that made
links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.
That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the
teacher Monday night for deviating
from the curriculum on the theory
of evolution.
"I think his performance was not
just a little bit over the line," board
member Jeff Smith said. "It was a se-

Friends,

"nowwhere you will spend eternity?


Do you really? You may think you know, but bow sure
are you? Perhaps you've been sold some "Pie in the Sky"
notion by a well-dressed, badly-coiffed "Man of the Cloth,"
preachi ng that you can be assured of an Eternity in Heaven
simply by following one particular religion or another
(usually his), or by "confessing your sins," or by believing
in the Savior du Jour"".
Well the sad fact is that those days are well and truly gone.
Yup. No more ~etting into Heaven on a wing and a prayer
-- no more sliding into Heaven at the last minute by The
Grace of God. But I don't nsve bad news for you. Nosir!
The news I have is wonderful and glorious!
The fact is that I'm here to tell you that The Lord God
Jehovah has decided to get out of the "Heaven" business
once and for all, and is now offering Lots in The Kingdom
of Heaven to all comers, granting Eternal Allodial TItle to
ONE LOT - and He'll sell that Lot to anyone and everyone
who has the wherewithal to buy it! Buddhists! Baptists!
Mormons! Agnostics! Hindus! Muslims! Catholics!
Even Atheists! That's right! I said even Atheists can now
go directly to a Heaven they don't even believe in, and all
because of the power, power I the wonder-working POWER
of CAPITALISM!

WWW.

tilea\{en IsF:0J~a~.eAm

na:n]Oi40'!I['i!mift.]if.j,
i!f.it~iMWM;mu!ii"?i';N\i6l'Iitm

vere contradiction of what we trust


teachers to do in our classrooms."
Helphinstine,
27, said in a
phone interview with The Bulletin
newspaper of Bend that he included
the supplemental material to teach
students about bias in sources, and
his only agenda was to teach critical
thinking.
"Critical thinking is vital to scientific inquiry," said Helphinstine,
who has a master's degree in science
from Oregon State. "My whole purpose was to give accurate information and to get them thinking."
Helphinstine said he did not
teach the idea that God created the
world. "I never taught creationism,"
he said. "I know what it is, and I went
out of my way not to teach it."
Parent John Rahm told the
newspaper that he became concerned
when his freshman daughter said she
was confused by the supplemental
material provided by Helphinstine.
"He took passages that had all
kinds of Biblical references," Rahm
said. "It prevented her from learning
what she needed to learn."
Board members
met with
Helphinstine privately for about 90
minutes before the meeting. The
teacher did not stay for the public
portion.
"How many minds did he pollute?" Dan Harrison, the father of a
student in Helphinstine's class, said
at the meeting. "It's a thinly veiled
attempt to hide his own agenda."
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may
not be published. broadcast, rewritten,
or redistributed.

Judge Denies
Religous Pot
Appeal
KETCHIKAN,ALASKA(AP)-A judge
has denied the appeal of drug convictions by a Craig couple, who said
they only used a liquefied form of
marijuana in their religious practices.
Juneau Superior Court Judge
Larry Weeks said he didn't believe
Maria and Michael Lineker described a real religion when Michael
Lineker said they mixed a half gallon of liquefied marijuana with half
a gallon of olive oil and then poured
it over their bodies.

"The court finds that the defendants' marijuana growing operation


was the result of an idiosyncratic belief system conjured up in order to
allow them to experiment with the
illegal drug,"Weeks wrote.
There was no evidence to "establish that the Linekers were practicing any institutional set of values or
codification of ethics that involved
methods of how to deal with the
world. There is no credible recognition of some force or power beyond
the personal that is themselves. Their
God is themselves," he wrote.
The Linekers were arrested in
2003 after police discovered 50
marijuana plants in a hidden room
behind a freezer in their Craig home.
Police found no paraphernalia related to smoking, ingesting or selling
marijuana.
The state charged them with
fourth-degree misconduct involving
a controlled substance, a felony.
The Linekers filed a motion to
dismiss the indictment, claiming
that their possession was protected
under state and federal rights to
privacy and free exercise of religion.
Weeks denied the motion but preserved the Linekers' right to appeal
that decision.
In 2004, the Linekers entered
plea bargains with the state. They
both pleaded guilty, he to fourth
degree misconduct, she to fourthdegree attempted misconduct. He
received seven days and she got a
suspended sentence.
However, the couple appealed,
and Weeks heard arguments last
week after the Alaska Court of Appeals sent the case back to him to
determine whether a religion was
involved, if Linekers' conduct in
question was religiously based, and
whether they were sincere in their
religious beliefs.
Weeks cited Michael Lineker's
prior history of marijuana convictions and said his testimony was inconsistent.
"His speech and manner under
oath left the court with a firm conviction that as he was testifying, he
was making it up as he went along,"
Weeks wrote.
"The court finds that there is no
religion in the Linekers' professed
belief system and that those beliefs
are not sincere religious beliefs, and
a second hearing is not necessary."

MAY/JUNE2007 -

AMERICANATHEIST

29

Foxhole Atheist of the Month


Petty Officer J. Keaty
United States Navy, Retired
uring the final years of the cold
war, I was a Navigation ElectronicsTechnician on board a Nuclear
Ballistic Missile Submarine. This
service is one third of the nucleardeterrent triad that had the task of protecting
the United States from Nuclear Armageddon. There were many moments of terror like
having a Soviet fast attack submarine tailing
us ready to blow us to smithereens if they
thought we were about to launch. During
missile drills we actually do open the outer
doors, rise to a launch depth, and prepare for
catastrophe, and it was a terrifying thing every
time.
I do remember not asking a god for help
during that time. Neither did I ever when my
career was cut short due to a brain injury that
left me in a coma for about five weeks, and
eventually resulted in serious permanent disabilities.
Most of my difficulties are now compensated for by using
electronic technology. I even carry a pocket size computer which
helps in almost all aspects of daily life. Now retired from the service,
I am married, I have four children and I live in the Pacific Northwest.
Because I was raised as a Christian, at first, I was tempted to
pray to the Judeo-Christian god to solve my problems. For several
years I remained in a state of confusion, depression, and failed at
all attempts to reintegrate into society. Only after I realized that
there was no god, did I start to develop methods to help myself to
overcome the many difficulties I had to deal with.
After letting go of the imaginary friend with the mythological
eye in the sky,and the supernatural thought sensing radar, I started
to search my own mind for ways to compensate for the shortterm memory loss,concentration difficulties, and communication
problems that plagued my life. Since I am a computer technician I
realized that I already possessed the answer, but my religion had

presented a barrier to my rational thought.


Once I made the leap from irrational thought into reality, my
life began improving daily, and I started gaining independence,
and am now becoming proficient at the little things that most
people take for granted. My survival and whatever personal success I have achieved is based on reason, instead of the delusion of
a better life in the hereafter.
At present, I am involved with various Atheist groups on YouTube, in which I help to teach the public about Atheism.* I also find
that I have time to raise my children; focus on my personal studies;
to travel, andenjoylife in general.

*YouTube is a web site that allows people to easily upload and share
video clips across the Internet through websites, bloqs, and e-mail. As
an amateur cartoonist. I have created the Marvelous Mouse, a prophet
to the parody god named Cheezus. Fair warning to those that seek out
this cartoon, there is some graphic language.

Rapture Wreaks Havoc On Local Book Club


by the onion-www.theonion.com
(Humor)
MARION,
IN-FoLLOWING
last week's rapture, which transported four
members of the Marion Mockingbirds Book Club to heaven in order
to be with Jesus Christ, the three remaining members have reportedly
been scrambling to maintain a regular Wednesday meeting schedule
as well as the usual coffee-and-pastry rotation.
"It's a shame because I think Shirley had the most stimulating
opinions,and I was really looking forward to hearing what she'd
have to say about [Fannie Flagg's Standing In The Rainbow] right
before her ascension," said club member Diane Valinsky Monday.

30

AMERICAN ArnElST

MAY/JUNE 2007

"And we were supposed to meet at Lucas' house this week, but


I guess that's out now, seeing as the armies of Satan are on the
march."
Valinsky said she and the remaining members were not surprised that the Antichrist turned out to be Mitch Alborn, calling his
latest fiction effort, For One More Day,"disappointing."

Copyright 2007, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

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