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American Atheists, Inc.is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the

complete and absolute separation of state and church, accepting the explanation ofThomas
Jeff rson that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was meant to create a "wall of separation" between state and church.
American Atheists, Inc.,is organized in order to
Stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds,
dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices;
Collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all religions and promote a more
thorough understanding of them, their origins, and t eir istories;
Advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete and absolute separation of
state and church;
Advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and maintenance of a
thoroughly secular system of education available to all;
Encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system stressing the
mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and the corresponding
responsibility of each individual in relation to society;
Develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be
the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity;
Promote the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the maintenance,
perpetuation, and enrichment of human (and other) life;
Engage in such social, educational, legal, and cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial
to the members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.
Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the s~.premacy
of reason and aims at establlshinq a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and
scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is
governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural
interference in human life; that humankind -- finding their resources within themselves -- can
and must create their own destiny. Materialism restores djgnity and intellectual integrity to
humanity. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve it. It
holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice.
Materialism's "faith" is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their
own efforts. This is a commitment which is in its very essence life-asserting. It considers the
struggle for progress as a moral obligation that is impossible without noble ideas that inspire
us to bold, creative works. Materialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling
cultural development is,for all practical purposes, unlimited.


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MARCH 2007
Vol 45, No.3

Hrn~rimnHth~ist Ma~alim


March 2007
Editor, American Atheist Press
Frank Zindler
Editor, American Atheist Magazine
Ellen Johnson
Regular Contributors
Martin Foreman
Conrad F.Goeringer
Frank Zindler


by Ellen Johnson

Elias Scultori
Cover Design


Six Myths About Atheist Teachers

by David Layton

Tim Mize
Editorial Assistants
Gil and Jeanne Gaudia

From The President

November Mid- Term Elections: How You Voted And More!


The Myth Of Nazareth:The

Invented Town of Jesus

by Rene Salm
Published monthly
(Except June & December) by
American Atheists Inc.


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2006 by American Atheists Inc.

All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in
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by Wendy Babiak

Keep Church And State Separate

by Steve Berthiaume


by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.


Culture Watch
Left Behind: Eternal Forces
by Conrad F.Goeringer

Twenty-Five Ways To Spot Quacks And Vitamin Pushers
by Dr. Stephen



God Would Be An Atheist

Mom Loves You So Much ... But It's Still Not Enough
by Martin



Atheists & Co.

Or. Gilbert


o. Shapiro

Foxhole Atheist Of The Month

David Newton

Report: Ninety Two Percent Of Souls In Hell

There On Drug Charges
The Onion

from the president

Miu- I~rmIl~~ti~m
The Results Are In
How You Voted And More!
Ellen Johnson

e recently conducted a survey of American Atheist

magazine readers to get a political profile on them
and how they vote. Here are the results of that survey. Surveys are still coming in but are too late to
be included in this summary Not all respondents replied to all the
questions. Thank-you to those of you who took the time to return
your surveys.
We tallied 407 returned questionnaires. Ninety-seven percent
of respondents are registered voters. Three hundred and nineteen or
80% of them are male, 85 are female and 3 did not respond. The average age of the respondents was fifty-nine years and three months old.

Of the 19 Republican respondents, four said they did not vote

for George W Bush in the last presidential election.
Of the 814 possible votes (In the last rwo presidential elections) only 7.6% or sixty-two total votes were cast for George W
There were 37 people who voted for George Bush in either
2000 or 2004 or both. Of these 14 Republicans, 8 Independents, and
2 Libertarians voted for him in both elections.
Thirteen voted for him in one or the other election: 9 voted
for him in 2000, 4 voted for him in 2004. Of these 9 were Independents; 2 were Democrats (One wrote, "And I have been kicking
myself ever since"); 2 had no party affiliation. Some were accompanied
The political affiliations are as follows:
by hand-written apologies for those votes.
The educational level was very high with 345 of the respondents
or 85% having at least some college education. There are 136 with
bachelor's degrees (33%) and 124 with advanced degrees (31%),
including 75 master's (18%) and 49 doctorates (12%).
Of the fifty states, only five were not represented by
returned questionnaires: Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North
Dakota and Wyoming. Most of the respondents were
from California (59), Florida (30), New York (26),
Pennsylvania (24), Texas (19), Michigan (19), Ohio
(18) and Washington (17).
The number one issue at the polls for respondents was the war in Iraq followed by the
separation of state and church. The breakdowns
are as follows.
War in Iraq - 279
Separation of Church and State - 260
Environment - 198
Health Care - 187
Economy - 169
Education - 148
Reproductive Rights - 145
Women's Rights - 95
Taxes - 68
Gay Rights - 68
Terrorism - 64
Crime- 37
Forty percent of the respondents did not intend to vote in the
November mid-term election and 354 usually vote on Election Day,
''Assorted'' included those who either made no choice, or 42 only vote in national elections and 3 didn't respond.
wrote in; Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Moderate, Unaffiliated,
Over one-third of the respondents, 161 (40%), never heard of
the GAMPAC (Godless Americans Political Action Committee.)
Anti-Christ, Peace and Freedom or Democratic Socialist.



The following is the breakdown of those who identified themselvesonly as follows:


* There was one (1) each for Antichrist, Antitheisr, Bright,

Jewish, Naturalist, Rationalist, Spiritual and Unitarianist (sic).
So, what can we take away from all this information? From a
political standpoint the separation of state and church is a top priority for our readers and the politicians should pay attention to that.
Absent a war in Iraq it would be your number one priority and politicians should pay attention to that.
With one quarter of you being politically independent, all the
politicians have to earn those votes. That's good for you.
And even weightier is the fact that almost half of you (40%)
did not intend to vote in the midterm elections. This means that any
politician who can get you our to vote will benefit, especially in close
races. And they can do this by addressing your concerns about the
separation of state and church and the civil rights of Atheists.
We intend to take this information directly to the politicians.
We are confident that this survey is a good representation of Atheists in general. Most widely published surveys of belief in America
indicate that most non-believers are liberal, male, well-educated, and
live in certain states, all consistent with our findings. So, politicians
across the country should pay attention to these important survey
In the light of evidence from surveys like Barna Research and
the American Religious Identification Survey which show that up
to 16% of Americans are "non-believers," politicians would be welladvised to consider that there are probably similarities in attitudes
towards issues and voting preferences within this large minority of
Sixteen percent of the United States population in 2008 will
amount to almost fifty million people. This is almost ten times the
entire population of U. S. Jews for example, and candidates usually
go our of their way to try to capture the Jewish vote. So we expect
them to pay attention to your votes as well.
Do you want political candidates to offer you something in
return for your votes? Do you want them to say they will support the
separation of state and church? Do you want them to stop voting for
special rights and special tax breaks for the religious? Of course you
do. With this survey data we can come a little closer to obtaining it.
Thanks to Gil and Jeanne Gaudia for statistically analyzing
the data and thanks again to all of you for returning your surveys and
for your continued support for American Atheists.

Letters to the Editor

Calling All Atheist Magicians
I am Peter W. Barber an American Atheists member. I am a
magician. Within magic there are many subdivisions, for example, close-up, stage, mentalist and, unfortunately, gospel. That
gets me to my point. I am looking for Atheist magicians. In the
past I attempted to bring up the subject on two Internet newsletters for magician organizations. You are correct in guessing
the responses I got. I must say that a few, very few, magicians
wrote to me privately saying they were Brights, Humanist or
Agnostic but that if they wanted to earn a living in
Georgia or elsewhere they had to stay in the closet.
Please canvass your membership to see if there are those
who are interested in magic and sharing how they deal with
Atheism in their performances. Perhaps we can form another
group within American Atheists. Atheists Magic? They can
reach me at barber@t-online.de
Thank you in advance.
Peter W Barber
"Bob The Magician"

Solstice Error?
I enjoyed Ellen Johnson's column in the Nov./Dec.'06 issue
of American Atheist. She is lucky to have grown up in a nonreligious family!
I also appreciated the "Solstice Season"by Madalyn O'Hair.
I must note, however, that Madalyn erred when she attributed
the solstices and equinoxes to the earth's elliptical orbit along
with the inclination of the earth's axis. She also errs when she
stated "when we are in points furthest away from the Sun, we
have another phenomenon. That, along with the 23% inclination of the earth, causes the solstices." In actuality, the earth
would have four seasons even with a purely circular orbit, as
the sole cause of the seasons is the 23.5% (not 23%) inclination of the earth's axis. The distance of the earth from the sun
is not relevant as to when it is winter, spring, summer or fall. In
fact, perihelion (the closest point at 90.5 million miles) occurs
in January, so when it is winter in the northern hemisphere, we
are closer to the Sun than we are in July, when aphelion (the
furthest point at 94 million miles) is attained! This may seem
contradictory, but keep in mind that the seasons are reversed
in the southern hemisphere!
Moreover, because of a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, which causes the earth to rotate
like a top around its axis (constantly inclined at 23.5%) every
27,000 years or so,the time will come when winter in the northern hemisphere occurs at aphelion and winter in the southern
hemisphere will occur at perihelion, the reverse of the present
The only effect the elliptical orbit has on the seasons is that
when winter occurs at aphelion it will be colder (because the
Sun is further away) and longer (because Kepler's Laws means
that the earth moves more slowly when it is further away from
the Sun) than would be the case at perihelion and points in between. In other words, the intensity and duration of the seasons
will be affected, but not the timing of the seasons.
Dennis Middlebrooks, NY

MARCH')ffJ7 -


Report: Ninety Two Percent Of Souls In Hell

There On Drug Charges
by the onion-www.theonion.com
released Monday by the Afterlife Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) indicates that nine out of ten souls currently serving
time in Hell were condemned on drug-related sins.
"Hell was created to keep dangerous sinners off the goldpaved streets of Heaven," ACLU spokesman Barry Horowitz said.
"But lately, it's become a clearing-house for the non-evil souls that
Heaven doesn't know how to deal with."
The disproportionate
number of drug offenders in Hell is a result of God's "get tough" drug policy of the 80s AD., imposed after
Roman emperor Domitian Flavius introduced opium to his people.
God's detractors say His reactionary"one sin and you're outrule
places too harsh a penalty on venial drug users.
According to God's law, souls who possess four ounces of illegal drugs at any point during their mortal lives face a mandatory
minimum sentence of eternity.
High-ranking seraphim in the Eternal Justice Department
defended God's law.
"It's all about accountability.tthe angel Nathaniel said/The
rule of the Lord affords the complementary blessings of freedom
and responsibility, and provides the governing framework under
which man is punished or rewarded according to his deeds.The
rules are very simple:You do the crime, you do the time. Eternity,
in this case."
The ACLU report included profiles of hundreds of offenders
condemned to eternal perdition under God's law. Among them
is Pvt. Robert "Bobby Joe" Hetfield, a World War I fighter and amputee who became addicted to morphine during his last 72 hours
of life on a French battlefield in 1918. As punishment, Hetfield has
spent nearly a century cleaning Beelzebub's dope house every
morning by consuming the urine, excrement, and vomit left by
Satan and his revelers.
Another offender listed in the ACLU report is Huachuri, an
Incan peasant who used a coca-leaf-based marital aid in 1311.
As punishment, he is sodomized continually by a winged, razorpenised goat.
Defenders of God's law argue that eternal punishments like
these are the only way to deter other drug users, and preserve
order in God's kingdom.
"This is not about revolving-door justice:' St. Peter said."While
the word of God will keep some on the straight and narrow, Heavenly studies show that eternal damnation is the only deterrent that
really works."
Horowitz said that while drug offenders are literally rotting
away in Hell, serial killers and other dangerous sinners are receiving "mere Purgatorial sentences, thanks to the asking-for-forgiveness loophole." Purgatory is a minimum-security
state of limbo
that affords its occupants the opportunity to repent their sins and
eventually gain admittance to Heaven on good behavior.
"Drug offenders, many of whom have committed no prior
mortal sin, rack up infinite consecutive life sentences:' Horowitz
said."Meanwhile, rapists say they're sorry, recite a few Hail Marys,
and wind up basking in God's divine radiance within 10 years."
Among those who oppose God's laws are the stewards of
Hell, who argue that his harsh anti-drug penalties have taxed the
capacities of the underworld.



"I have one ravenous and overworked hellhound assigned to

terrorize 12 methamphetamine
users," the demon Abracax said.
"After 14 hours in the dog's digestive tract, they are excreted and
revived, at which point, I give them another shot of methamphetamine.The dog's exhausted-he
was originally intended to be
responsible for two users at most."
According to Horowitz, even leaving aside questions of civil
liberties in the afterlife, God's drug laws are problematic.
"These-laws, simply put, don't work," Horowitz said."What the
Heavenly hosts need to consider is some sort of angelic early-intervention program at the pre-death level, or at the very least, some
form of afterlife rehab."


2006, Onion, Inc.

all rights reserved. reprinted

The Onion is not intended

with permission.
for readers under

18 years of age.



t-nenCls ...

So many of you help American Atheists with donations


other financial support-and

we want to find a way to say "Thank
You!"We are 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 issues of
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
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thank you by printing your name and contribution
amount in the
Magazine. Mailing addresses will not be mentioned.
This is our way of saying THANK YOU to an extraordinary
group of people=those
of you who want to "do more" and financially support the critical work of American Atheists!
American Atheists Thanks The Following Persons For Their
Generous Contributions To Our Cause.

Frank H. Titus, OK - $50

Richard D. Hogan, TX - $150
Jeffrey D. Borelli, OH - $50
Van L.Sauve', CO - $1,000
Jeffrey Conner, WA - $50
John Phelps, GA - $165
Chuck Cannon, CA - $50
Sybil F. Smith, AR - $50
James E. Brodhead, CA - $500
Shane W. Roper, AZ - $60
Dr. Richard Thain, Ontario, Canada-$50


by Dr. Stephen Barrett

can food quacks and other vitamin pushers be recognized? Here are 25 signs that should arouse suspicion.
1. When Talking About Nutrients, They Tell
Only Part of the Story.
Quacks tell you all the wonderful things that vitamins and
minerals do in your body and/or all the horrible things that can
happen if you don't get enough. Many claim that their products or
programs offer "optimal nutritional support." But they conveniently
neglect to tell you that a balanced diet provides the nutrients most
people need and that "government guidelines" makes balancing your
diet simple.
2. They Claim That Most Americans Are Poorly Nourished.
This is an appeal to fear that is not only untrue, but ignores
the fact that the main forms of bad nourishment in the United States
are obesity in the population at large, particularly the poor, and undernourishment among the poverty-stricken. Poor people can ill-afford to waste money on unnecessary vitamin pills. Their food money
should be spent on nourishing food.
It is falsely alleged that Americans are so addicted to "junk"
foods that an adequate diet is exceptional rather than usual. While it
is true that some snack foods are mainly "naked calories" (sugars and/
or fats without other nutrients), it is not necessary for every morsel
of food we eat to be loaded with nutrients. In fact, no normal person
following the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" is in any danger of
vitamin deficiency.
3. They Recommend "Nutrition Insurance" for Everyone.
Most vitamin pushers suggest that everyone is in danger of deficiency and should therefore take supplements as "insurance." Some
suggest that it is difficult to get what you need from food, while others claim that it is impossible. Their pitch resembles that of the doorto-door huckster who states that your perfectly good furnace is in
danger of blowing up unless you replace it with his product. Vitamin
pushers will never tell you who doesn't need their products. Their "be
wary of deficiency" claims may not be limited to essential nutrients.
It can also include nonessential chemicals that nobody needs to worry
about because the body makes its own supply.
4. They Say That Most Diseases Are Due to Faulty Diet
and Can Be Treated with "Nutritional" Methods.
This simply isn't so. Consult your doctor or any recognized
textbook of medicine. They will tell you that although diet is a factor
in some diseases (most notably coronary heart disease), most diseases
have little or nothing to do with diet. Common symptoms like malaise (feeling poorly), fatigue, lack of pep, aches (including headaches)
or pains, insomnia, and similar complaints are usually the body's re-

action to emotional stress. The persistence of such symptoms is a

signal to see a doctor to be evaluated for possible physical illness. It is
not a reason to take vitamin pills.
5. They Allege That Modern Processing Methods and Storage Remove All Nutritive Value from Our Food.
It is true that food processing can change the nutrient content
of foods. But the changes are not so drastic as the quack would like
you to believe, and who wants you to buy his supplements. While
some processing methods destroy some nutrients, others add them. A
balanced variety of foods will provide all the nourishment you need.
Quacks distort and oversimplify. When they say that milling
removes B-vitamins, they don't bother to tell you that enrichment
puts them back. When they tell you that cooking destroys vitamins,
they omit the fact that only a few vitamins are sensitive to heat. Nor
do they tell you that these vitamins are easily obtained by consuming
a portion of fresh uncooked fruit, vegetable, or fresh or frozen fruit
juice each day. Any claims that minerals are destroyed by processing
or cooking are pure lies. Heat does not destroy minerals.
6. They Claim That Diet Is a Major Factor In Behavior.
Food quacks relate diet not only to disease but to behavior.
Some claim that adverse reactions to additives and/or common foods
cause hyperactivity in children and even criminal behavior in adolescents and adults. These claims are based on a combination of delusions, anecdotal evidence, and poorly designed research.
7. They Claim That Fluoridation Is Dangerous.
Curiously, quacks are not always interested in real deficiencies.
Fluoride is necessary to build decay-resistant teeth and strong bones.
The best way to obtain adequate amounts of this important nutrient
is to augment community water supplies so their fluoride concentration is about one part fluoride for every million parts of water. But
quacks usually oppose water fluoridation, and some advocate water
filters that remove fluoride. It seems that when they cannot profit
from something, they may try to make money by opposing it.
8. They Claim That Soil Depletion and the Use of Pesticides and "Chemical" Fertilizers Result In Food That Is Less Safe
and Less Nourishing.
These claims are used to promote the sale of so-called "organically grown" foods. If an essential nutrient is missing from the soil, a
plant simply doesn't grow. Chemical fertilizers counteract the effects
of soil depletion. Quacks also lie when they claim that plants grown
with natural fertilizers (such as manure) are nutritionally superior
to those grown with synthetic fertilizers. Before they can use them,
plants convert natural fertilizers into the same chemicals that synthetic fertilizers supply. The vitamin content of a food is determined
by its genetic makeup. Fertilizers can influence the levels of certain
MARCH2007 -


Baubles of Blasphemy
by Edwin Kagin
...a fiery combination of a backwoods
manner; feral urbanity, and an absolutely
ruthless search for truth ...
- Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry
Clamors for a place on the bookshelf of
any thoughtful person. Believer or infidel.
- Ellen Johnson,American Atheists
...a must-read for everyone in the
community of reason as well as for all
others with an open mind ...
- Mel Lipman,American Humanists
This book wi/l win Edwin Kagin a firstclass ticket to hell.
- Dan Barker, Freedom From
Religion Foundation
stock # 9901
$20.00 (AA Members Price: $18.00)

minerals in plants, but this is not a significant factor in the American

diet. The pesticide residue of our food supply is extremely small and
poses no health threat to the consumer. Foods "certified" as "organic"
are not safer or more nutritious than other foods. In fact, except for
their high price, they are not significantly different.
9. They Claim You Are In Danger of Being "Poisoned" by
Ordinary Food Additives and Preservatives.
This is another scare tactic designed to undermine your confidence in food scientists and government protection agencies as well
as our food supply itself Quacks want you to think they are out to
protect you. They hope that if you trust them, you will buy their
"natural" food products. The fact is that the tiny amounts of additives
used in food pose no threat to human health. Some actually protect
our health by preventing spoilage, rancidity, and mold growth.
10. They Charge That the Recommended Dietary Allowances (ROAs) Have Been Set Too Low.
The RDAs have been published by the National Research
Council approximately every five years since 1943. They are defined
as "the levels of intake of essential nutrients that, on the basis of scientific knowledge, are judged by the Food and Nutrition Board to be
adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of practically all healthy
persons." Neither the RDAs nor the Daily Values listed on food labels
are "minimums" or "requirements." They are deliberately set higher
than most people need. The reason quacks charge that the RDAs are
too low is obvious: if you believe you need more than can be obtained
from food, you are more likely to buy supplements.
11. They Claim That Under Everyday Stress, and in Certain Diseases, Your Need for Nutrients Is Increased.
Many vitamin manufacturers have advertised that "stress
robs the body of vitamins." One company has asserted that, "if you
smoke, diet, or happen to be sick, you may be robbing your body of
vitamins." Another has warned that "stress can deplete your body of
water-soluble vitamins ... and daily replacement is necessary." Other
products are touted to fill the "special needs of athletes."



While it is true that the need for vitamins may rise slightly
under physical stress and in certain diseases, this type of advertising is
fraudulent. The average American-stressed or not-is not in danger
of vitamin deficiency. The increased needs to which the ads refer are
not higher than the amounts obtainable by proper eating. Someone
who is really in danger of deficiency due to an illness would be very
sick and would need medical care, probably in a hospital. But these
promotions are aimed at average Americans who certainly don't need
vitamin supplements to survive the common cold, a round of golf,
or a jog around the neighborhood! Athletes get more than enough
vitamins when they eat the food needed to meet their caloric requirements.
Many vitamin pushers suggest that smokers need vitamin C
supplements. Although it is true that smokers in North America have
somewhat lower blood levels of this vitamin, these levels are still far
above deficiency levels. In America, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of death preventable by self-discipline. Rather than seeking
false comfort by taking vitamin C, smokers who are concerned about
their health should stop smoking. Suggestions that "stress vitamins"
are helpful against emotional stress are also fraudulent.
12. They Recommend "Supplements" and "Health Foods"
for Everyone.
Food quacks belittle normal foods and ridicule the food-group
systems of good nutrition. They may not tell you they earn their living from such pronouncements-via
public appearance fees, product
endorsements, sale of publications, or financial interests in vitamin
companies, health-food stores, or organic farms.
The very term "health food" is a deceptive slogan. Judgments
about individual foods should take into account how they contribute
to an individual's overall diet. All food is health food in moderation;
any food is junk food in excess. Did you ever stop to think that your
corner grocery, fruit market, meat market, and supermarket are also
health-food stores? They are-and they generally charge less than
stores that use the slogan.
By the way, have you ever wondered why people who eat lots
of "health foods" still feel they must load themselves up with vitamin supplements? Or why so many "health food" shoppers complain
about ill health?
13. They Claim That "Natural" Vitamins are Better than
"Synthetic" Ones.
This claim is flatly a lie. Each vitamin is a chain of atoms
strung together as a molecule. With minor exceptions, molecules
made in the "factories" of nature are identical to those made in the
factories of chemical companies. Does it make sense to pay extra for
vitamins extracted from foods when you can get all you need from
the foods themselves?
14. They Suggest That a Questionnaire Can Be Used to
Indicate Whether You Need Dietary Supplements.
No questionnaire can do this. A few entrepreneurs have devised lengthy computer-scored questionnaires with questions about
symptoms that could be present if a vitamin deficiency exists. But
such symptoms occur much more frequently in conditions unrelated
to nutrition. Even when a deficiency actually exists, the tests don't
provide enough information to discover the cause, so that suitable
treatment can be recommended. That requires a physical examination and appropriate laboratory tests. Many responsible nutritionists
use a computer to help evaluate their clients' diet. But this is done
to make dietary recommendations, such as reducing fat content or
increasing fiber content. Supplements are seldom necessary unless the
person is unable (or unwilling) to consume an adequate diet.

Be wary, too, of questionnaires purported to determine

ing such claims is unreliable because it is based on inadequate inwhether supplements are needed to correct "nutrient deficiencies" or vestigations, anecdotes, or testimonials. Nor do quacks inform you
that megadoses may be harmful. Megavitamin therapy (also called
"dietary inadequacies" or to design "customized" supplements. These
questionnaires are scored so that everyone who takes the test is ad- orthomolecular therapy) is nutritional roulette; and only the house
vised to take supplements. Responsible dietary analyses compare the makes the profit.
individual's average daily food consumption with the recommended
17. They Routinely Sell Vitamins and Other "Dietary Supnumbers of servings from each food group. The safest and best way plements" as Part of Their Practice.
to get nutrients is generally from food, not pills. So even if a diet is
Although vitamins are useful as therapeutic agents for certain
deficient, the most prudent action is usually diet modification rather
health problems, the number of such conditions is small. Practitiothan supplementation with pills.
ners who sell supplements in their offices invariably recommend them
15. They Say It Is Easy to Lose Weight.
inappropriately. In addition, such products tend to be substantially
Diet quacks would like you to believe that special pills or food more expensive than similar ones in drugstores-or even health-food
combinations can cause "effortless" weight loss. But the only way to stores. You should also disregard any publication or Web site whose
lose weight is to burn off more calories than you eat. This requires editor or publisher sells dietary supplements.
self-discipline: eating less, exercising more, or preferably doing both.
18. They Use Disclaimers Couched in Pseudo-medical JarThere are about 3,500 calories in a pound of body weight. To lose gon.
one pound a week (a safe amount that is not just water), you must
Instead of promising to cure your disease, some quacks will
eat about 500 fewer calories per day than you burn up. The most promise to "detoxify," "purify," or "revitalize" your body; "balance"
sensible diet for losing weight is one that is nutritionally balanced in its chemistry or "electromagnetic energy"; bring it in harmony with
carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Most fad diets "work" by producing
nature; "stimulate" or "strengthen" your immune system; "support"
temporary weight loss-as a result of calorie restriction. But they are or "rejuvenate" various organs in your body; or stimulate your body's
invariably too monotonous and are often too dangerous for longpower to heal itself Of course, they never identify or make valid
term use. Unless a dieter develops and maintains better eating and before-and-after measurements of any of these processes. These disexercise habits, weight lost on a diet will soon return.
claimers serve two purposes. First, since it is impossible to measure
The term "cellulite" is sometimes used to describe the dimpled
the processes quacks allege, it may be difficult to prove them wrong.
fat found on the hips and thighs of many women. Although no mediMoreover, if a quack is not a physician, the use of non-medical termical evidence supports the claim, cellulite is represented as a special nology may help to avoid prosecution for practicing medicine withtype of fat that is resistant to diet and exercise. Sure-fire cellulite rem- out a license-although it shouldn't.
edies include creams (to "dissolve" it),
brushes, rollers, "loofah" sponges, body
wraps, and vitamin-mineral supplements with or without herbs. The cost
of various treatment plans runs from a
few dollars for a bottle of vitamins to
many hundreds of dollars at a salon
that offers heat treatments, massage,
COMe. A6A1N?
enzyme injections, andlor treatment
61Ve THe.M?
HoW A8001
with various gadgets. The simple truth
about "cellulite" is that it is ordinary fat
that can be lost only as part of an overall reducing program.
16. They Promise Quick, Dramatic, Miraculous Results.
THe elaLe PPl)PHfC/e.s
Often the promises are subtle or
couched in "weasel words" that create
Let.O TOme
an illusion of a promise, so promoters
can deny making them when the "feds"
close in. False promises of cure are the
F!.i1JRN O~ Jesus!
THp..r SJlOI.Jf..O secvRe
THe APOC/tLVpse.
quacks' most immoral practice. They
don't seem to care how many people
they break financially or in spirit-by
elation over their expected good fortune followed by deep depression when
the "treatment" fails. Nor do quacks
keep count-while
they fill their bank
accounts-of how many people they lure away from effective medical
Some approaches to "detoxification" are based on notions
care into disability or death.
that, as a result of intestinal stasis, intestinal contents putrefy, and
Quacks will tell you that "megavitamins" (huge doses of vi- toxins are formed and absorbed, which causes chronic poisoning of
tamins) can prevent or cure many different ailments, particularly
the body. This "autointoxication" theory was popular around the turn
emotional ones. But they won't tell you that the "evidence" supportof the century but was abandoned by the scientific community dur-




MARCH '2fJJ7 -


ing the 1930s. No such "toxins" have ever been found, and careful
observations have shown that individuals in good health can vary
greatly in bowel habits. Quacks may also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless
removed by laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various
herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body. The falsity of this
notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or peer
within the large intestine with a diagnostic instrument. Fecal material
does not adhere to the intestinal lining. Colonic irrigation is done by
inserting a tube into the rectum and pumping up to 20 gallons of water in and out. This type of enema is not only therapeutically worthless but can cause fatal electrolyte imbalance. Cases of death due to
intestinal perforation and infection (from contaminated equipment)
have also been reported.

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Edwin Kagin

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See Jonathan Bellcondemn
"intellectuals"to hell! See Don
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19. They Use Anecdotes and Testimonials to Support Their

We all tend to believe what others tell us about personal experiences. But separating cause and effect from coincidence can be
difficult. If people tell you that product X has cured their cancer,
arthritis, or whatever, be skeptical. They may not actually have had
the condition. If they did, their recovery most likely would have .occurred without the help of product X. Most single episodes of disease end with just the passage of time, and most chronic ailments
have symptom-free periods. Establishing medical truths requires
careful and repeated investigation-with well-designed experiments,
not reports of coincidences misperceived as cause-and-effect. That's
why testimonial evidence is forbidden in scientific articles; is usually
inadmissible in court, and is not used to evaluate whether or not
drugs should be legally marketable. (Imagine what would happen if
the FDA decided that clinical trials were too expensive and therefore
drug approval would be based on testimonial letters or interviews
with a few patients.)
Never underestimate the extent to which people can be fooled
by a worthless remedy. During the early 1940s, many thousands of




people became convinced that "glyoxylide" could cure cancer. Yet

analysis showed that it was simply distilled water! [I] Many years before that, when arsenic was used as a "tonic," countless numbers of
people swore by it even as it slowly poisoned them.
Symptoms that are psychosomatic (bodily reactions to mental
factors) are often relieved by anything taken with a suggestion that it
will work. Tiredness and other minor aches and pains may respond
to any enthusiastically recommended nostrum. For these problems,
even physicians may prescribe a placebo. A placebo is a substance that
has no pharmacological effect on the condition for which it is used,
but is given to satisfy a patient who supposes it to be a medicine. Vitamins (such as B12 shots) are commonly used in this way.
Placebos act by suggestion. Unfortunately, some doctors swallow the advertising hype or become confused by their own observations and "believe in vitamins" beyond those supplied by a good diet.
Those-who-share such false beliefs do so because they confuse coincidence or placebo action with cause and effect. Homeopathic believers
make the same error.
20. They Claim That Sugar Is a Deadly Poison.
Many vitamin pushers would have us believe that refined
(white) sugar is "the killer on the breakfast table" and is the underlying cause of everything from heart disease to hypoglycemia. The
fact is, however, that when sugar is used in moderation as part of a
normal, balanced diet, it is a perfectly safe source of calories and eating pleasure. Sugar is a factor in the tooth decay process, but what
counts is not merely the amount of sugar in the diet but how long
any digestible carbohydrate remains in contact with the teeth. This,
in turn, depends on such factors as the stickiness of the food, the type
of bacteria on the teeth, and the extent of oral hygiene practiced by
the individual.
21. They Display Credentials Not Recognized by Responsible Scientists or Educators.
The backbone of educational integrity in America is a system
of accreditation by agencies recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA),
which is a nongovernmental coordinating agency. "Degrees" from
non-accredited schools are rarely worth the paper they are printed
on. In the health field, no non-accredited school can qualify people
to give trustworthy advice.
Unfortunately, possession of an accredited degree does not
guarantee reliability. Some schools that teach unscientific methods
(chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture, and even quack nutritional
methods) have achieved accreditation. Worse yet, a small percentage of
individuals trained in reputable institutions (such as medical or dental
schools or accredited universities) have strayed from scientific thought.
Since quacks operate outside of the scientific community, they
also tend to form their own "professional" organizations. In some
cases, the only membership requirement is payment of a fee. We,
and others we know, have secured fancy "professional member" certificates for household pets by merely submitting the pet's name, address, and a check for $50 [3]. Don't assume that all groups with scientific-sounding names are respectable. Find out whether their views
are scientifically based.
Some quacks are promoted with superlatives like "the world's
foremost nutritionist" or ''America's leading nutrition expert." There
is no law against this tactic, just as there is none against calling oneself
the "World's Foremost Lover." However, the scientific community
recognizes no such titles. The designation "Nobel Prize Nominee"
is also bogus and can be assumed to mean that someone has either
nominated himself or had a close associate do so.

Some entrepreneurs claim to have degrees and/or affiliations

to schools, hospitals, and/or professional organizations that actually
don't exist. The modern champion of this approach appears to be
Gregory E. Caplinger, who claims to have acquired a medical degree,
specialty training, board certification, and scores of professional affiliations-all from bogus or nonexistent sources.
Even legitimate credentials can be used to mislead. The American Medical Association's "Physician's Recognition Award" requires
participation in 150 hours of continuing education over a three-year
period and payment of a small fee. Most practicing physicians meet
this educational standard because it is necessary to study to keep
up-to-date. Accredited hospitals require this amount of continuing
education to maintain staff privileges, and some states require it for
license renewal. However, most physicians who do this don't bother
to get the AMA certificate. Since the award reflects no special accomplishment or expertise, using it for promotional purposes is not
appropriate behavior.
22. They Offer to Determine Your Body's Nutritional State
with a Laboratory Test or a Questionnaire.
Various health-food industry members and unscientific practitioners utilize tests that they claim can determine your body's nutritional state and-of course-what products you should buy from
them. One favorite method is hair analysis. For $35 to $75 plus a
lock of your hair, you can get an elaborate computer printout of vitamins and minerals you supposedly need. Hair analysis has limited
value (mainly in forensic medicine) in the diagnosis of heavy metal
poisoning, but it is worthless as a screening device to detect nutritional problems (2). If a hair analysis laboratory recommends supplements,
you can be sure that its computers are programmed to recommend
them to everyone. Other tests used to hawk supplements include
amino acid analysis of urine, muscle-testing (applied kinesiology),
iridology, blood typing, "nutrient-deficiency" and/or lifestyle questionnaires, and "electrodiagnostic" gadgets.
23. They Claim They Are Being Persecuted by Orthodox
Medicine and That Their Work Is Being Suppressed Because It's
The "conspiracy charge" is an attempt to gain sympathy by
portraying the quack as an "underdog." Quacks typically claim that
the American Medical Association is against them because their cures
would cut into the incomes that doctors make by keeping people
sick. Don't fall for such nonsense! Reputable physicians are plenty
busy. Moreover, many doctors engaged in prepaid health plans, group
practice, full-time teaching, and government service receive the same
salary whether or not their patients are sick-so keeping their patients healthy reduces their workload, not their income.
Quacks also claim there is a "controversy" about facts between
themselves and "the bureaucrats," organized medicine, or "the establishment." They clamor for medical examination of their claims, but
ignore any evidence that refutes them. The gambit "Do you believe
in vitamins?" is another tactic used to increase confusion. Everyone
knows that vitamins are needed by the human body. The real question
is "Do you need additional vitamins beyond those in a well-balanced
diet?" For most people, the answer is no. Nutrition is a science, not a
religion. It is based upon matters of fact, not questions of belief.
Any physician who found a vitamin or other preparation that
could cure sterility, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, or the like, could
make an enormous fortune. Patients would flock to such a doctor (as
they now do to those who falsely claim to cure such problems), and
colleagues would shower the doctor with awards-including
the extremely lucrative Nobel Prize! And don't forget, doctors get sick, too.

Do you believe they would conspire to suppress cures for diseases that
also afflict them and their loved ones? When polio was conquered,
iron lungs became virtually obsolete, but nobody resisted this advancement because it would force hospitals to change. And neither
will scientists mourn the eventual defeat of cancer.
24. They Warn You Not to Trust Your Doctor.
Quacks, who want you to trust them, suggest that most doctors are "butchers" and "poisoners." They exaggerate the shortcomings of our healthcare delivery system, but completely disregard their
own-and those of other quacks. For the same reason, quacks also
claim that doctors are nutrition illiterates. This, too, is untrue. The
principles of nutrition are those of human biochemistry and physiology, courses required in every medical school. Some medical schools
don't teach a separate, required course labeled "Nutrition" because
the subject is included in other courses at the points where it is most
relevant. For example, nutrition in growth and development is taught
in pediatrics, nutrition in wound healing is taught in surgery, and
nutrition in pregnancy is covered in obstetrics. In addition, many
medical schools do offer separate instruction in nutrition.
A physician's training, of course, does not end on the day of
graduation from medical school or completion of specialty training.
The medical profession advocates lifelong education, and some states
require it for license renewal. Physicians can further their knowledge
of nutrition by reading medical journals and textbooks, discussing
cases with colleagues, and attending continuing education courses.
Most doctors know what nutrients can and cannot do and can tell the
difference between a real nutritional discovery and a piece of quack
nonsense. Those who are unable to answer questions about dietetics
(meal planning) can refer patients to someone who can-usually a
registered dietitian. Like all human beings, doctors sometimes make
mistakes. However, quacks deliver mistreatment most of the time.
25. They Encourage Patients to Lend Political Support to
Their Treatment Methods.
A century ago, before scientific methodology was generally accepted, valid new ideas were hard to evaluate and were sometimes
rejected by a majority of the medical community, only to be upheld
later. But today, treatments demonstrated as effective are welcomed by
scientific practitioners and do not need a group to crusade for them.
Quacks seek political endorsement because they can't prove that their
methods work. Instead, they may seek to legalize their treatment and
force insurance companies to pay for it. One of the surest signs that a
treatment doesn't work is a political campaign to legalize its use.




Young JH, McFayden RE. The Koch Cancer Treatment. Journal of the
History of Medicine 53:254-284, 1998.
Hambidge KM. Hair analyses: Worthless for vitamins, limited for minerals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 36:943-949, 1983.
Barrett S. The American Association of Nutritional Consultants:
Who and what does it represent?
Quackwatch, revised July 2004.

Dr. Barrett isa retiredpsychiatrist, nationally renowned author, editor, and

consumer advocate. His quackwatch.
org website and free e-mail newsletter
provide comprehensive information
on health fraud, quackery and intelligent decisions. Dr. Barrett can be
reached at sbinfO@quackwatch.org

MARCH2007 -



by Steve Berthiaume
The Sun Newspaper
Lowell, Massachusetts


The following op-ed article appeared in the The

Sun Newspaper in Lowell, Massachusetts on
December 11,2006. It was written by American
Atheists member Steve Berthiaume and is such
an excellently stated argument that we are
reprinting it here for you to enjoy.
ist a disturbing sign of our times that, in the current debate
about spirit-worship during Lowell City Council meetings,
what passes for a "balanced" .discussion involves. religious conservatives on the right, who wish to preserve official government
recognition of their own particular religion, and religious liberals on
the other, who don't seem to care which spirit is invoked, as long as
an attempt to secure the approval of some god is made. Whether the
practice is constitutional in the first place seems to have been left off
the table, with unfortunate consequences for the entire community.
A subcommittee has been convened to study the issue, but there
seems lime hope that the situation will be resolved to anyone's satisfaction. Indeed, the only progress made so far has been in the direction
of adding more prayers, not removing them. To make matters worse, it
looks as if the additional prayers are to be said at the end of the meeting,
presumably as most people are walking out-so much for ecu~enism.
But the fact that we are even having this debate in the year 2006 IS anachronistic and absurd.
The legal precedent for deciding whether a government action
violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause is a three-pronged test
known as the Lemon Test, from the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman case. For
an official action to pass the test, it must 1) have a secular or legislative
purpose; 2) must not advance or inhibit religion; and 3) the action must
not create "an excessivegovernment entanglement with religion."
Reciting the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of City Council meetings has no secular or legislativepurpose, endorses the Christian religion
(specificallyRoman Catholicism), and unnecessarily entangles gover~ment with religion-not least through the appointment of a subcornmittee to decide which gods are to be worshipped. This ~sunconstitutional,
and should be stopped immediately.
That the councilors are reluctant to give up the Lord's Prayer is
understandable-they take their religion seriously,and one of the central
tenets of Catholicism is that it is the "one true religion," and all others
(including other versions of Christianity) are wrong. Indeed, this is a
central tenet of evety religion (otherwise, why belong to one and not
another?), and while the GLILA is to be commended for bringing this
issue to the fore, it is through this same ignorance of the mutual incorn-




patibility of the various religions that the debate has become sidetracked
into discussions that threaten to become ridiculously baroque and are
ultimately beside the point: Worshipping spirits is inappropriate at City
Council meetings.
That notwithstanding, the four religions that seem to be on the
fast-track to government sanction (Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism) were seemingly chosen on the basis of number of adherents. But
what neither the City Council nor the GLILA has realized is that the
number of non-religious Americans (29 million, according to the 2001
ARlS survey) dwarfs the number of adherents of the other four religions
under consideration combined (less than 6 million). In addition, this
number is on the rise, having more than doubled in 10 years, from 13
million ill 1990. What about the rights of this growillg segment of society?
Keeping state and church separate benefits not only atheists, naturalists and other secularists,but religious people as well-it allows a level
playing field for all citizens when dealing with the government. My.organization, the Atheists of Greater Lowell, has fielded several complaints
in recent months from atheists and others who have had their confidence
in local government undermined by the spectacle of group spirit-worship in public. Government leaders are supposed to decide public issues
through the use of reason and thought, and the opening prayer gives one
the impression that issues will be decided on personal superstition and
faith. Further, those who have contacted us are understandably reluctant
to speak publicly about this, for the very reason of opposing the local
leadership's official endorsement of Catholicism. This will not do.
Wouldn't the best solution be to abolish any prayer, bring the
city into constitutional compliance, and get down to city business?Th~t
the prayer is traditional is irrelevant: The issue here is whether prayer IS
appropriate, and it is clearly not in an increasingly diverse and educated
society.The subcommittee should be disbanded, all City Council prayer
abolished, and the councilors should concentrate on doing the public
business, while remaining ftee to worship as they choose---on their own
time and in their own churches.

Steve Berthiaume is the

director of the Atheists of Greater Lowell. He can be contacted
through atheists.meetup.comB 31
and lowellatheists.blogspot.com

Ih~Myth ~fNalar~th:Ih~Inv~nt~~Iown HJ~sus

Does it really matter?
by Rene Salm

ecent American Atheist column contained surprising results of new research into one of the most important venues of the Christian story: the town of Nazareth. This topic
as been contentious for many years, and it is no coincidence that significant research into the dubious origins of Christianity
(namely, proof that Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jesus) should
first appear in these pages, given what I consider the common sense
and scientific acumen indigenous to Atheists. Of course, damaging
material such as this puts the very stiff Christian neck in a scientific
noose, as it were, and the Christian press has no interest in kicking
the chair out from under itself. A nudge by well-intentioned Atheists
at this critical juncture won't hurt. With the knowledge that Nazareth
did not exist in the time ofJesus, we have our fingers wrapped around
one of the chair legs and are now poised to give it a decided heave.
The column in the November-December issue of American Atheist was aptly titled "Why The Truth About Nazareth Is Important." *
This topic is indeed important, but not for the most obvious reason.
After all, where Jesus reallycame from is hardly earthshaking. What must
matter to all Christians, however, is the inescapable fact that the evangelists invented this basic element in the story of cosmic redemption. The
proof is now at hand that "Jesus of Nazareth," a long-standing icon of
Western civilization, is bogus.
There can be no return to the comforting familiarity of the past,
for with the proof that Nazareth did not exist at the turn of the era, the
gospels leave the realm of history and forever enter the realm of myth. It
is a swift kick to the solar plexus of Christian inerrantism, the scholarly
equivalent of a punch sending the opponent to the mat-perhaps even
a knockout.
THE MYTH OF NAZARETH boots Christian certitude out
the window, and the door is now wide open to ask, "What else did the
evangelists invent?" As after the recent power shift in Congress, there
will be questions. Up until now the tradition has been able to fend off
attacks from the intellectual left because those attacks lacked proof. Now,
archaeology has supplied the proof, and with it the balance finally shifts.
The Church's position must fall like a house of cards. After all, Nazareth
is mentioned in all four canonical gospels and is neither an insignificant
nor a passing element. If the tradition invented his hometown, then who
can place faith in other aspects of the Jesus story, such as his virgin birth,
miracles, crucifixion, or resurrection? Were these also invented? What, in
other words, is left in the gospels of which the average Christian can be
sure?What is left of his or her faith?
Scholars can now apply this radical new information to problems
that have bedeviled them for three centuries, as they fruitlessly have tried
to reconcile contradictions and make sense out of four narratives that
obstinately refuse to agree. For example, it has long been known that the
birth stories in Matthew and Luke are incompatible (in the Gospel of
Matthew the Holy Family comes from Bethlehem, not Nazareth). Again,

why isJesus so often interacting with Pharisees in the Galilee, where they
were hardly known before 70 CE? Why does Luke write about a preposterous Roman census in which everyone returned to his birthplace
to register for taxation (Luke 2: 1-7)?The Romans were far too practical
to mandate such a recipe for instant social chaos. Besides, the evangelist
was in error by several years (a different type of census took place in 6
CE). In any case, Galilee was not within the area of direct Roman jurisdiction (it was administered by the puppet ruler, Herod Antipas). To
make a long story short, the invention of Nazareth now brings another
alternative to the fore: these elements are not historical at all. They, too,
are make-believe.
For readers who may not have the prior article at hand, I would
like to summarize the results of my research on Nazareth carried out over
the last eight years. Chronologically, those results can be reduced to the
following five points:
(1) The earliest settlement in the Nazareth basin was destroyed
about 730 BCE during the Assyrian conquest of the Holy Land. Before
that time, the Bronze-Iron Age settlement (which had been in existence
for some 1300 years) was not known as Nazareth but as japhia, a town
mentioned in the Bible and in Egyptian records.
(2) The destruction of Japhia was followed by a hiatus in settlement lasting from the late eighth century BCE until the late first century
CEo During those eight centuries no one lived in the Nazareth basin.
(3) Nazareth came into being between the two Jewish revolts (70
CE-135 CE). That is, the town appeared when most scholars allege that
the evangelists were writing their gospels. The appearance of Nazareth
toward the end of the first century CE is confirmed most significantly by

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the finding of the twenty-nine earliest oil lamps (the most datable finds),
which date 25 CE-135 CEo In addition, the twenty-odd Roman tombs
in the basin all postdate 50 CEo
(4) It is not possible that Mary, Jesus, and Joseph lived where
tradition says, namely, in the vicinity of the Church of the Annunciation. Not only was Nazareth not yet in existence during the time of the
Holy Family, but Jewish law mandates that domiciles not be near tombs
(corpses are a source of rirual impurity). This is significant because the
venerated area was part of the village cemetery and agriculrural district.
For over fifteen hundred years, in fact, Christian pilgrims have been visiting and worshipping at a Late Roman cemetery and wine press.
(5) Nazareth was at first a Jewish village (without the admixture
of heretics or pagans). It has lasted continuously from about 100 CE to
the present.
The invention of Nazareth is proof positive that the evangelists
were spinning a yarn, that the Gospels are myth in a big way, and that the
Christian faith is, well ... (supply the appropriate word). No longer can
conservatives tout "gospel truth," one of the three solas of the Reformation: Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura ("Only grace, only faith, only
scriprure"). As the third leg of this triad dissolvesbefore our very eyes, the
other two must soon succumb as well.
Without Nazareth there can be no Christianity. After all, the village is more than the alleged hometown of Jesus. It is also the venue of
the Annunciation. We all know the story: "In the sixth month the angel
Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a
virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:26-27). The Church will
now have to look for another venue, where God united with the Blessed
Virgin to produce a son both divine and human, and to boggle the mind
of man ever since. But we needn't hold our collective breath as twentyfirst century priests and nuns scour the Galilee for the real site of the annunciation. If such bull-headed clerics and conservatives do embark on
that misguided vision quest, we should wish them better luck than their
first choice, for the present Church of the Annunciation sits in a Roman
cemetery dating a couple of hundred years after the time of Christ. It's
too late, though, because "The siruation is hopeless," goes an Austrian
proverb, "but not serious." So also with Nazareth. The situation is hopelessfor the tradition, but hopeful for Freethinkers everywhere.
When one door closesanother opens. If Nazareth did not exist in
the time ofJesus, then the enigmatic term "Nazarene" (or "Nazorean")ftequently found in Mark and in the other gospels-cannot refer to a
place at all but must refer to something else; something long forgotten.
This makes sense, for in the Acts of the Apostles (24:5) Paul is accused
of being a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazoreans." Obviously, he was
not the ringleader of inhabitants of Nazareth! The Semitic root ofNazarene means "guard, preserve" (verb) and "branch, shoot" (noun). Thus,
Paul was accused of being a leader of people who were trying to preserve
something they considered precious. What that was has yet to be determined. In any case, the (probably pre-Pauline) religion of the Nazarenes
must have been very different from the Christianity we know today.
Celebrate, Freethinkers ... Christianity as we know it may be finally coming to an end!

* Due to a series of editorial and layout errors, the article "The

Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of jesus," written by Rene Salm,
which was published in the Nov.-Dec. 2006 American Atheist, incorrectly appeared as though it was a part of Frank R. Zindler's "Probing
Mind" column ("Why the Truth About Nazareth is Important"). Worse
yet, Mr. Salm's name and article title were inadvertently omitted from
the table of contents. American Atheist Press deeply regrets the error, as



it incorrectly-though unintentionally-assigned intellecrual property

rights to Mr. Zindler that rightfully belong to Rene Salm. All citations of
"The Myth of Nazareth" should be attributed to Mr. Salm, not to Mr.


JESUS is appearing at bimonthly intervals in a six-part Scholar's Edition
from Kevalin Press. More information on the contents of this article and
the forthcoming Popular Edition is available at www.nazarethmyth.info.
The author can be contacted at rjs@kevalin.orgor by letter addressed to:
Kevalin Press, po. Box 50201, Eugene OR 97405.



12/21106 -

12/21/06 -

12/22/06 12/30/06 -

01/03/07 -

01/08/07 -

01/11/07 -

Dave Silverman gave an interview with the

Associated Presson how Atheists celebrate the
Ellen Johnson talked about our Utah lawsuit
over religious symbols on public property with
a Artizan Productions from Canada. They are
doing a documentary on roadside memorials.
ABC reran it's Barbara Walters Special on
HEAVENin which Ellen Johnson was a guest.
Associated Pressran a story about Atheists
who say they have been threatened because
of their views. The story quoted our Alabama
State Director Blair Scott and our Kentucky
State Director and Legal Director Edwin
Kagin. The story was picked up by WATE6 in
Knoxville, TN,The Courier-Journal in Louisville,
KY,NBC-14 in Evansville, KY,WCHS-8 ABC in
Louisville, KYand in Jacksonville.com.
Ellen Johnson was interviewed for an article in
the Wisconsin State Journal Newspaper on the
Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Michigan State Director Arlen Marie held
a press conference on the proposed Bible
study curriculum in the Howell, Michigan
public schools. It was attended by reporters
from TV 6,TV 10,TV 4 and the Detroit News.
That evening Ms.Marie testified, against the
proposed curriculum, at the Howell School
Board meeting.
Ellen Johnson gave an interview to the
Temecula Valley News on the subject of the
Left Behind/Eternal Forces Christian video

In Memoriam






Lake City,


by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

s willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he
neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
Most Atheists love this riddle, because in it, Epicurus flawlessly
outlines the implausibility of the God myth. Yet for centuries, even educated people, have attempted to ignore, challenge and refine its inescapable chain of reasoning. In doing so they have concocted various strategies, against the evidence and reason of science, including the one I like
best; the unassailable bedrock argument of Christian apologists; reason's
greatest cop out, "We humans are just unable to understand God's mysterious ways."
Question: Why would a benevolent God allow a holocaust to
take place?Answer: He had a purpose that we can't fathom.
Question: Why did He allow Katrina to kill hundreds of thousands?
Answer: There's a higher value to this suffering, that we humans
cannot comprehend.
Question: Why are there irreconcilable contradictions in the
Answer: We cannot interpret the Bible by using our limited human standards.
Any argument offered by an Atheist, Agnostic, scientist or just
plain logical thinker, who seeks to understand the claims of religion, specificallyChristianity, will happily be discussed by apologists-using the
same logic that the rest of us rely upon. They generally try to engage in a
reasonable sounding seriesof questions and answers-"Why is X?" "Oh,
because of B." But they will only allow the logical discussion to proceed
so far. When the theist is presented with the rational statement that cannot be refuted; or asked the question that cannot be answered without
contradiction-as does Epicurus' "So why call him God?-when a definitive statement is uncontrovertibly arrived at; when the undeniable
final point is made, the apologist invariably invokes the "God's mysterious ways"alibi. What elsecan they do? They can't just storm off in a huff;
good Christians don't like to do that.
And that's when they not only stop thinking, but they expect you
to do the same.
Well, let's assume that they are correct-that we can't understand
God's reasons for doing certain things. If so, then now can all the interpreters and apologists for the Bible, and Christianity, claim to be able to
comprehend and explain to us, all the other nonsense in the Christian
mythology. Why for example, are they able to explain the six-day creation by hypothesizing that "perhaps a day means 500 million years?"
This is an apparent (if lame) attempt at using some form oflogic.
They do pretty well trying to sound logical in other examples;
with the fact that the Bible claims that God created light before he created the sun (Where did the light come from?) Their answer here is that

it could come from the background radiation, or some other, as yet, undiscovered form of energy, that was converted into light, in an apparently
plausible (to them) explanation. Notice that they try to use some quasiscientific sounding blather to continue to sound logical.
Where did Cain find a wife, ..? No problem. Perhaps Adam and
Eve had other offspring, including a daughter, who wandered off somewhere, and Cain accidentally ran into her in the Land of Nod or East of
Eden and they got married. That makes sense. What about incest?That's
another problem. Don't try to confuse things.
In other words, they see logic and reason as desirable in explaining much of the mystery of religion, because it is, well, so reasonable to
do so. It may, in fact, be just barely possible that when the Bible says "a
day" it means 500 million years. It is, say,just barely possible, that when
Jesus said he would arise after "three days in the tomb" that three days
meant "a portion of any three days" and not three consecutive twentyfour hour periods. Decomposition of the corpse? That's another issue.
Don't try to confuse things
Why are they willing to use reason and logic to explain the things
they can get away with, but when backed into a corner with irrefutable
logic, they resort to the ultimate excuse?
How can you fail to comprehend the most fundamentally obvious flaw in Epicurus' paradox (which points to the logical impossibility
of a benevolent omnipotence) and yet, at the same time, unravel and explain in detail the Virgin Birth, the existence of God and the logic of the
trinity-monotheism with a three-in-one-God. How can a single God
appeal to his other self to save him ("My God, why hast thou forsaken
me?" pleaded Jesus on the cross.)
The only mystery to me is the fact that Christians, when faced
with irrefutable evidence of their nonsensical ideas, fail to admit that they
see what we are talking about.
Logic and reason are used exactly the way Atheists and scientists
use them until, ... the contradiction that cannot be rationalized emerges.
Then it's, ... We just can't understand God's mysterious ways. GOTCHA!

Gil Gaudia is professor

Emeritus at the SUNY college at
Fredonia. He was also a clinical
psychologistand afellow at The Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan,
and now devotes his time to writing. His novel Outside, Looking
In, is a thinly-veiled autobiography
of an Atheist. Dr. Gaudia can be
reachedat gjgaudia@adelphi.net




for Donna Gosine

I am lucky, lucky to have friends andfamily

who love me, and especially a sister like you.
Almost every night you've called me

"theJunction ofpoetry. ..is to nourish the

spirit of man by giving him the cosmos to
suckle. we have only to lower our standard of
dominating nature and raise our standard of
participating in it in order to make the
reconciliation take place. "

Francis Ponge, Voice of Things

checking on my progress, letting me vent my fears

my frustrations, and sharing your own.
After all, I almost died, me, younger

that night, unconscious on the bathroom

pants full of crap and belly full of blood

a word that tickled him in med school.

He came home, laughing,

to tell me about it.



Still more luck: no superstition filled my mind

no ghost of religion remained to haunt me

A word doctors use to sound knowing

but that means that they don't know.
Typical, both man's feigned state of sureness

no tunnels with light at the end

no outstretched hand, no white robes of Christ

and reality's refusal to be known.

and a stubborn,

My hemorrhage, finally, was not idiopathic

but yielded to human scrutiny: one ovary
in a million, with egg tissue too close
to where the ovary had inserted.
A genetic time-bomb, each month another tick
until finally the nearly fatal ovum burst out
almost making not a beginning, but my end.
My mother-in-law
keeps saying how lucky

to hide in. Just a sinking into blackness


struggle to reach the surface

forcing each next breath to happen.

Later, at the hospital, while watching
my heartbeat

flicker on the monitor

it wasn't Hell-flame

that tormented

but imagining the sadness my involuntary

would leave behind
and when in my own bone-vault
the words "Don't let me die" echoed

I am, and yes, I am lucky:

it wasn't a prayer to any deity

so much as an incantation of will.

lucky my head hit the wall and not the corner

You say you believe in angels, but not goblins

lucky her son heard the thud, and came running

lucky he knew what to do, whom to ask for help

you shelter yourself in a house made of cards

lucky that the disengagement didn't happen

on some other night, or day, when he wasn't here
to hear, or in an earlier decade, when help
may not have been enough.

But lucky

to carry this genetic quirk? Not a lottery

I'd have bough t a ticket for, though as far
as mutations go, it's far from the worst.
My DNA could have dictated instead that
a bit of breast tissue try to take over my body
or that a glass of wine be the first step
on a path to the bottom, where recovery
means something very else than letting incisions heal
and resting to build back my blood.



brain stem in and out of commission

dancing a two-step with death
breath and heartbeat


than you

and stronger, come from the gym that morning




God, but not the Devil.

Surely you know deep down

built by desire. Heaven is just wishful thinking.

Hell: a threat to reign in little boys.
The joys of life are all the heaven I need.
Paradise blooms every Spring, and grief
is punishment enough. You say you refuse to believe
you'll never see Dad again, or that the love you feel
for your family, your own devoted husband
your little, laughing daughter, should be for naught
should end when you do. You refuse to accept
that the lessons life's suffering has taught you
will be lost when you exhale your last.
But it is precisely this impermanence
that can give life its sweetness.




by David Layton

high school biology teacher John Scopes was put on
trial for teaching the theory of evolution in contradiction to
Tennessee law. In 1940, City College of New York infamously
denied Bertrand Russell a faculty post because of public outcry
over his Atheism. Vashti McCollum lost her job at the University of
Illinois, Champaign, in 1947 when she challenged in court a religious
program forced upon children at her son's elementary school. These
famous examples of coercive religion applied in American public
schools, primary, secondary, and higher, ought to be mere notes in
intellectual history. Instead, even in the twenty-first century, in both
small and large ways, freethinking and Atheist teachers pay the price
for their dissent from the majority religious views.
For six years, I taught various subjects, primarily English, at
an exclusive private high school in southern California. This was a
secular high school, founded by an Atheist who died in the 1970s.
His successor, the principal of the school, was not an Atheist, but neither was he conspicuously religious. During the job interview I had
with him, the subject of religion never came up. Neither did it seem
much of a concern until late in my second year of teaching there. I
cannot now recall the original subject of the conversation, but some
time in its course I mentioned that I was an Atheist. Surprise crossed
his face, and without hesitation he blurted, "I wish I had known that
before I hired you, or I never would have hired you." I did not directly respond to this remark, but one can image my own surprise,
since this principal deeply admired the school's Atheist founder. It
became clear, though, that he considered the founder to be an aberration among Atheists; that, in his mind, Atheists were most probably
an unsavory and untrustworthy lot; and that in hiring me he had
taken a great unknown risk with his precious students.
The issue never became contentious between us, and in the
six years I worked there, I demonstrated enough character, sense, and
teaching ability to become head teacher (among a small faculty). To
his credit, the principal would sometimes tell me that is was "good"
for students to be exposed to alternative views such as mine. Nevertheless, I got a clear sense that he probably thought of me as an
exception among Atheists, and most likely deep down not an Atheist
at all. For instance, during one lunchtime conversation with a Christian teacher who would later study for the ministry, he said that they
had to see what they could do to bring me "to the Lord." In another
conversation he told me that I would "come around" when my death
was near. I resisted the temptation of pointing out that a deathbed
conversion is no proof of faith, just of desperation. These and many
similar instances demonstrate, in their benign and relatively harmless
way, some of the discrimination that Atheist, Skeptical, and Agnostic
teachers face every day in America.



MARCH 2007

Imagine for a minute similar statements made in similar circumstances to a Jewish or gay teacher. Imagine the principal making
half-serious remarks to bring me around to what he perceives to
be the "right" way of thinking or behaving if I asked to go home
early on Fridays for Sabbath, or brought my boyfriend to graduation. Jews, gays, women, Blacks, and all sorts of minority and disempowered groups have some kinds of legal recourse when they are
pressured to be other than what they are or have the right to be.
Atheists have but one, the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which sadly does not often extend into
the private sector.
Additionally, the situation for Atheists is somewhat different
from what it is for these other minority and disempowered groups.
The other groups have various kinds of legal status, which one can
see on government forms and in the laws, rules, and regulations at all
levels of government. Atheism has almost no such comparable status. Furthermore, for many of these other groups, the difference that
separates them from the perceived norm or preferred group of white
middle- and upper-class Christian males is physically obvious. No
one gives serious consideration to the idea of making a Black man
White through persuasion. While some hold that gays might be persuaded to heterosexuality, this idea has largely been debunked and is
held mostly by fundamentalist religionists.
The difference that separates Atheists and other nonbelievers
from the religionist majority is a set of ideas. These ideas are widely
misunderstood and misrepresented in popular media and especially
in places of worship. So, Atheism is treated in part as if it were a
kind of political affiliation like being a Democrat or Republican, and
thus come the regular attempts to persuade Atheists to abandon their
views. However, Atheism is also treated as a kind of aberrant behavior, a mental disease, or worse, an insidious underground, shadowy
movement bent on "taking over" the country and destroying treasured American values.
Because Atheists are so generally mistrusted and their views so
thoroughly misunderstood, Atheists are often treated in exactly the
fashion that minorities have been historically treated. The attitude
is, "it is fine to think that such a thing might actually exist, but I
wouldn't want one in my neighborhood." Atheists get dubious and
shady motivations attributed to them. If the Atheist is brought closer to home, that is into contact with the religionists' children, then
visceral anger often results. I was relatively lucky that my employer
could see that I was not the evil monster that he worried I might
have been. I was also lucky that, though I never hid my Atheism and
always explained it when students asked whether I believed in god, no
parents objected to my teaching their children.

Many teachers are not so lucky. Some have been hounded and
vilified for being Atheists, while others have suffered from the invisible hand of discrimination. Even I felt pressure to keep my convictions to myself. Mainstream teachers could declare that they were
Catholic or Jewish without ever feeling the need to "explain" it. On
the other hand, I knew that I always would have to explain it, and
sometimes the need to explain it gets tiresome. Additionally, while it
was perfectly acceptable for students, faculty, and administration to
try to persuade me away from my views, it was not conversely acceptable for me to persuade others to my views.
I now teach at various colleges as an adjunct "professor."
Though colleges, except for the private religious ones, are supposed
to be open to public debate on all issues, and welcoming of diverse
points of view, I do feel some fear for my job, enough that I keep my
Atheism to myself. The reason is that often I receive papers in which
blind religious indoctrination has been substituted for any kind of
thought. The student writers assume that anyone reading their papers
shares their extreme religious views. They quote and often misquote
the Bible as sole evidence and proof. I have to tell them on their essays
that belief is not proof, that not everyone thinks as they do, and that
biblical authority is not universally accepted.
If these students knew that I was an Atheist, it would be certain that at least one of them by now would claim that I was persecuting him or her, that the low grade was the result of a personal bias or
vendetta against Christianity and not the result of bad writing. As an
adjunct, I do not have the luxury of tenure to protect me. I teach on
a per/class contractual basis, and it is easy enough for a school simply
not to renew the contract, which schools often do with adjunct faculty that become "trouble" in one way or another. As long as the students do not know that I am an Atheist, any complaint can be turned
aside on the basis that the students just did not write well.
My fear is not unjustified. Alan Dershowitz has noted that
even tenured skeptical and nonbelieving professors fear publicizing
their views ("Taking Disbelief Out Of The Closet" FreeInquiry Summer 1999). In May, 2005, sociology professor Timothy Shortell was
forced to refuse becoming chair of the sociology department at Brooklyn College because of a website he ran that harshly criticized blind
religious devotion (Jaschik, Scott. "Withdrawal At Brooklyn" Inside
Higher Ed, 8 June 2005). Shortell's example shows that professors
critical of religion need to hold in their criticisms, since their advancement, perhaps their jobs, is at stake. The same fear for one's job probably affects even more greatly Atheist teachers in primary and secondary schools, where outraged parents can wield enormous power.
Examples of such discrimination exist, though often the discrimination is hidden behind plausible-sounding excuses. In 2005,
the Chicago Tribune reported that Richard Sherman signed a contract for a job at Schaumburg High School, but that the contract
was rescinded, most probably because of Richard's father, Chicagoarea Atheist and activist Robert Sherman. The elder Sherman has for
many years made local government officials uncomfortable with his
challenges of various theistic activities. He has, among other things,
petitioned the Chicago city council to remove "under god" from
the Pledge of Allegiance and has pointed out that the same words
in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address were not in Lincoln's hand-written
version of the speech and were probably added by news writers after the event (Cline, Austin. "Atheist's Son Denied A Job Because of
Father?" http://atheism.about.com/b/al173347.htm,
29 May 2005).
A reasonable speculation about Richard Sherman's case is that the
school board feared givihg a prominent Atheist critic an avenue into
the schools.

There has been

some lessening of
Atheists and Atheist
teachers in particular
in the last few decades, but the intolerance is still notable.
The Roper Center at
the University of Connecticut kept track of such
attitudes in the 1950s based
upon a poll of over 4000
respondents. They reported that in 1954, rwelve
percent of Americans
agreed that a person
who is opposed to all
churches and religions should be able
to teach in colleges
or universities. By
the year 2000, The
Survey conducted
by The National
the figure had
increased to fiftysix percent.
However, despite an apparent increase, this rate
of "tolerance" is slower
than general acceptance
of Blacks, women, and
Jews in university teaching positions or influential positions in general
(Duncan, Dudley. "1954
Spring 2003). Indeed, even
the much maligned gays are
more popular than Atheists.
In 1999, a Gallup poll indicated that 59% of Americans would not object to an
openly gay presidential candidate (totally debunking the
conservative notion that their
"moral" values are in tune with
those of "average" Americans).
However, there was almost no
support for an openly
Atheist presidential
MARCH2007 -



"Gays More Popular Than Atheists." http://atheism.about.com/b/

a/078429.htm. 15 Apr 2004).
The beliefs that much of the general public hold regarding
Atheists can be categorized as "myths" in the sense that they directly
go against the empirical truth. There are six such myths and they are
the source of the widespread distrust and fear of Atheists, especially
those who teach. It will be clear to see that anyone who believes these
myths will be terrified to be taught or have his or her children taught
by an Atheist.

1. Too many of them

There is a common belief that certain professions and areas
of public life have been infiltrated by Atheists. The entertainment
industry, the Democratic party, and most especially the schools have
supposedly become overpopulated with Atheists. One only need note
the ways that conservative religionists magically conjoin the words
"liberal" and "communist" and "Atheist." For instance, English conservative pundit Peter Hitchens states, as if it were a fact, that the
"liberal intelligentsia" (as if such a thing actually existed) "have successfully expelled God from the schools, from the broadcast media
and, for the most part, from the Church itself" (''A Labour of Loathing" The Spectator 18 Jan 2003).
There are not any hard numbers regarding elementary and
secondary school teachers who are Atheist or Agnostic. In the general
American population, 8-12% of adults identify themselves as Skeptical, Atheist, or Agnostic. There is little reason to believe that the
figure is any different among teachers. The number of non-believing students is roughly the same, with the highest number quoted
at 14%. The conclusions that one can come to regarding the general
attitude toward Atheist teachers, and perhaps Atheists in general, are
these: a) There is not some cabal of Atheists out to undermine social
order and supplant religion; b) A large number of Americans believe
that there is such a cabal; c) To many Americans, and most evangelicals, even one Atheist teacher is "too many."
2. "Poisoning" the minds of those they teach
Fear drives many of the attitudes toward Atheists. The constant caricaturing and misrepresenting of Atheist views makes Athe20

AMERiaN Anrasr


ists seem to be a threat. In America, in particular, there is a dangerous

habit of thinking that one's right to a belief makes the belief itself
right. Few beliefs are held onto more tightly than religious ones, and
so in many people's minds disagreement becomes a direct challenge
to all that they think is "right."
The story of Richard Sherman's troubles with the Chicago
school district, of course, prompted numerous responses, most of
them favoring the board's actions. Here is just one example: "There
are enough liberal wackos attempting to poison the minds of our
youth working in the public schools already.
If anything, our youth need moral adults to
teach and lead them now more than ever, as
our society spirals steadily downward to where
the likes of you wish it to be" (Andy, qtd. Austin Cline, "Responses to Case of Atheist's Son
Being Denied a Teaching Job," http://atheism.
08 June 2005).
An underlying nonsequitur supporting
such views is the notion that moral judgment
comes from god, and that therefore anyone
who does not believe in god lacks moral judgment. Simply put, many people think that if
one does not believe in god, one believes in
nothing. In the minds of much of the public, Atheists must lack moral restraint, and
must be capable of any sort of monstrous behavior. Such mistaken ideas are linked to the
common wrongheaded conflation of amoral
and immoral. As far as many Americans are
concerned, any Atheist is a Raskolnikov just
waiting for the opportunity to kill someone's
grandmother for small change. Of course, no
sane person would want his or her children
anywhere near such a beast.
The views described above are not solely those of ignorant,
misguided, or fundamentalist people. Even those who should know
better succumb to the illogical and anti-empirical idea that Atheists
have no morals and eagerly seek to recruit youth to the cause of immorality. The following quotation comes from John Baumgartner, a
Los Alamos specialist in geophysics and space physics with a scientific
education and advanced degrees:
The Atheist worldview insists there are no standards of right or
wrong. It says there is no ultimate purpose or meaning. It implies there
is no basis for human responsibility. It undermines the very concept of
government by law. Why should a worldview so hostile to the beliefi of a
majority of New Mexico citizens and hostile to the principles on which
our nation was founded be given such a privileged or even exclusive position in the public schools? Why should a worldview that gives license to
criminal behavior, drug abuse, and anarchy be sanctioned by our state's
taxpayers? ("The Case For Teaching Creationism. "The Los Alamos Monitor. 23 Aug 1996.)
If it were true that Atheists have no standards of right or
wrong, and are thus prone to crime, then one would rightly assume
that there must be a very high percentage of Atheist criminals. In fact,
the opposite is true. Only 1% of the American prison population is
Atheist, significantly less than in the general population (Clark, Dale.
"Studies: Atheists Supply Less Than One Percent Of Prison Populations." Atheism And Awareness. Positiveatheism.org. http://www.
July, 2003). However, the
fear of Atheists is so great that a fact such as this, and of course the

facts of the quite ordinary lives of moral and conscientious Atheists,

counts as nothing.
3. There are special Atheist schools and other clandestine
systems by which Atheists can "indoctrinate" children
As some of the quotations above demonstrate, there is a widespread belief in some secret organization of Arheists wirh evil designs
against god-fearing citizens. The same gross caricature was foisted
upon Jews, notably in that piece of propogandistic fiction still held as
fact in many parts of the world, The Protocols of rhe Elders of Zion.
Many in America believe rhat Darwin's The Origin of Species, which
of course they have not read, contains rhis secret plan. They believe
that the teaching of biology, and especially evolution by natural selection, is the principal means of indoctrinating youth to the cause.
Schools, most of them public, that teach evolution in their science
classes are either de facto Atheist schools, or have been taken over by
the Atheists. Political columnist Cal Thomas makes this very case in
his column "Unintelligent Designs" (Townhall.com 27 Dee 2005).
He argues that there is a system of secular Humanist education that
bans all consideration of Christianity and pipelines students into the
even more secular Humanist public university system. Additionally,
we can look to reponses to Richard Sherman's withdrawn teaching
contract for examples of public opinion on the matter. "If he is an
Atheist, than [sic] he should go teach at an Atheist school. You should
write an article defending someone that really deserves to be defended, like the Christian parents who are in the majority on this issue" O.
Coyle, qtd. Austin Cline, "Responses to Case of Atheist's Son Being
Denied a Teaching Job," http://atheism.about.com/b/ a/ 174609 .htm,
08 June 2005).
Again, fact and opinion are on opposite sides of the solar
system in rhese matters. The statements are made while completely
ignoring that it was not a secular Humanist establishment in the education system, but rhe Supreme Court, made up of religious observers, that forced public education to eschew adopting any religion as
an official standard. Furthermore, those who believe in the "Atheist
schools" ignore the probability that there is no greater percentage of
Atheist teachers than there is Atheists in the general populace. The
majority of teachers are religious, and the majority of those Christian.
Furthermore, there are thousands oflow-cost private religious schools
just waiting to get hold of children to indoctrinate. If there is one
secular Humanist or Arheist school of this kind, I would certainly like
to know about it. Finally, rhere are the churches themselves, complete
with Sunday school and catechism. Religious education flourishes in
America, and there is no Atheist or secular Humanist counterpart.
But fear clouds the minds of many Americans, and leads them to see
Atheist trolls under secular Humanist bridges.
4. The majority of Americans are Christians and the "majority" rules.
The common misperception that democracy and majority
rule are the same thing transfers to the treatment of Arheist teachers.
The "appeal to the crowd" fallacy behind the "majority rules" argument is the conviction that whatever a majority of people believe in
a given circumstance makes rhat belief righr; This fallacy often gets
coupled with the appeal to force fallacy; in this case that Atheists will
in one way or another "pay" for the crime of dissent. The third part
of the majority rules misperception is the idea that a person holding unpopular views is automatically a "radical," and that "radical"
is always bad. Once again, a look at reactions to Richard Sherman's
situation reveals that these misunderstandings are widespread. One
respondent stated, "Do you think they have Atheist teachers in Saudi
Arabia? I think not. In America the majority rule. The majority of

Americans don't want an Atheist teaching their kids. I'm sorry if you
happen to be in the minority on this issue and have radical views" O.
Coyle, qtd. Austin Cline, "Responses to Case of Atheist's Son Being
Denied a Teaching Job," http://arheism.about.com/b/ a/ 174609 .htrn,
08 June 2005).
One can see rhe barely hidden desire for an American theocracy in such remarks. Ordinary Americans holding up Saudi Arabia
as a social exemplar should frighten any free rhinker, not just Arheists.
Atheist teachers constantly face students and parents who think that
the U.S. is a "Christian" country, that "Christian" principles should
run the republic, and rhat non-Christians of any sort should just give
up rheir ways and join the majority. Recent calls for a holy war against
Islam by conservative Christians such as Ann Coulter, George W
Bush, and Pat Robertson only fuel the misperception that America's
government should be a fundamentalist theocracy. This attitude is
perhaps the most dangerous to the Atheist teacher who brings open
debate on religious issues into the classroom.
5. When Atheist teachers teach, they are "teaching" Atheism.
Given the previous four myths, one can see that myth number
five is inevitable. An Atheist cabal bent on destruction of Christian
society and using biology classes as a pretext to preach the gospel of
Atheism in rhe form of Darwin's rheories must be after converts. Here
is just one example of this line of nonsensical rhought. The story involves the National Association of Biology Teachers in Canada, who,
in rhe 1990s had described evolution as an "unsupervised, impersonal"
process, even though rhey also specified that "natural" does not mean
"without god." Under pressure from Theists, rhe association changed
rhe wording. From rhis, Canadian Christian commentator and journalist Denyse O'Leary curiously concludes rhat, "So accustomed were
they to teaching Arheism, one must infer, rhat it had never occurred to
rhem that they might be challenged on rhe point" ("Teaching Arheism
At Public Expense?" http://post-Darwinist.blogspot.com/2005/09/
teaching-atheism-at-public-expense.htrnl. 11 Sep 2005). Another example of rhe dangerous non sequitur rhat Arheist teachers teach Atheism comes from John Baumgartner of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in response to a 1996 decision in New Mexico to teach only
evolution in biology classes. Baumgartner states, "mandating only the
evolutionary perspective, as the current policy does, sends the message
to Atheist teachers, not just in science but in all subjects, that rhey
have full legal authority and approval to indoctrinate their students
without restraint in an Arheist worldview" ("The Case For Teaching
Creationism." The Los Alamos Monitor, 23 Aug 1996).

God's Brothel
by Andrea Moore-Emmett
The extortion of sex for salvation
in contemporary Mormon and
Christian fundamentalist polygamy
and the stories of 18 women who
stock # 5905
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This belief that some teachers are teaching Atheism goes back
at least as far as the 1925 Scopes Trial. William Jennings Bryan, in his
pamphlet "The Menace of Evolution," equates the teaching of evolution with the teaching of Agnosticism and Atheism, and claims that
biology teachers were substituting Darwin for the Bible. Eighty years
of biology classes later, and there is not a single piece of evidence that
supports the notion that teaching evolution corrupts either the religious faith or moral values of young minds. Yet, religionists continue
to make the same counter-factual claim that Bryan had made.
If religionists truly believed the "logic" of their own position,
they would have to argue that a Catholic teacher teaches Catholicism, that a Jewish teacher teaches Judaism, that a Muslim teacher
teaches Islam, no matter what the actual subject of the class. As an
English teacher, I have to understand and demonstrate the Christian
philosophies that form the majority of Western literature. I should
not and do not spend my time trying to prove that such philosophies
are wrong. And, in my experience, most supposedly devout Christian
students, high school and college, have almost no understanding of
the ethos of great Christian writers such as Milton, Donne, or Hawthorne, for instance. Instead of teaching Atheism, I spend much time
actually teaching Christianity.

of Atheism, or that neither should be taught. One example comes

from a response to a letter claiming that the teaching of evolution
is the same as the teaching of Atheism. A philosophy student, who
disagrees with the fundamental argument, states, it "may be right that
Atheism is a religion. If so, then let someone's parents teach them this
religion at home" (Bartlett, Scott. "Atheism, evolution don't make
science." Daily Egyptian, 18 Apr 1996). And, of course, there is Pat
Robertson, who can always be relied upon to make a wholly ridiculous argument about religion. Robertson claims that "the evolutionists worship Atheism" and "evolution becomes their religion" (The
700 Club. TV broadcast, 15 Dec 2005).
The difference berween a religion and Atheism is simply this:
religion requires a faith that something exists, apart from evidence
and reasons. All religions hold to this one tenet, that faith in the
form of denial of sensory input and logical reasoning is the foundation of its philosophy. Atheism is not a belief system in the same
sense, since its principal basis is the idea that evidence and logic are
the foundations of enlightenment. Atheism, therefore, at its core
is not a religion. There is no such religion as "secular Humanism,"
which has not one aspect comparable to a religion: no priests, no
rituals, no chants, no clerical hierarchy, no belief in the supernatural, no "faith" test to belong, and
no community of the faithful to
belong to.
Furthermore, the denial of
a privileged position for Christianity or any religion in schools
does not mean that secular Humanism is being taught instead. In
many minds, the false dilemma of
either religion or secular Humanism turns the Atheist teacher into
a kind of enemy who has some
sort of stronghold in education.
Many Christians, therefore, see
themselves as a persecuted group
forced to accept, or at least listen
to, an offensive doctrine. The illogicality of the whole argument
is clear when one returns to myth
number four. If Christians are
some kind of persecuted minority
holding out against a secular society, or a society ruled by secular
elites, then how can it also be that
6. Atheism is a religion.
Christians are in the majority and everyone else should accept that
Since the 1970s, fundamentalist Christians have been trying
fact? The truth is that almost no political leaders are nonreligious,
to put forth the argument that there is a religion called "secular Huand the vast majority of "intellectual elites" identify themselves as
manism." To do so, they resort to any sort of argumentative dirty
religious. Openly religious people hold almost all the seats of power
trick. The most common is use of equivocation involving the word
in America, including those on school boards and in school admin"religion." Essentially, by falsely claiming the synonymy of "religion" istrations. Christians were persecuted 2000 years ago, but they are
and "belief," they claim that since secular Humanism is a "belief"
not persecuted in America today.
in humanity, it is thereby a religion. Serious thinkers know this for
The six myths explained above pervade American society at
the sham it is. However, most people in America are not serious all levels. They are held in part or whole by ordinary citizens, pothinkers and are all too willing to accept just about anything their
litical pundits, religious leaders, and powerful politicians. They are
religious leaders tell them. Thus, many people feel that secular Hustated repeatedly on television, radio, and the internet as if they were
manism gets some kind of unfair privilege in public education, one facts, and go almost entirely unchallenged in the major media. The
that violates the Constitutional principle of church and state separa- six myths place Atheist teachers in a difficult situation. If they openly
tion. They believe either that Christianity (other religions are almost
declare their views, if they challenge established religious doctrine
never mentioned) somehow deserves "equal time" with the "religion" even as an intellectual exercise, if they teach subjects that run coun-





ter to prevailing dogmas, they risk ridicule, harassment, their reputations, and their jobs.
Nevertheless, hiding one's beliefs will not make the problem go
away. The growing influence of religious extremism both in America
and worldwide makes it necessary for more dissenters to voice their
opinions and stand up to ideological inquisition. There are things
that Atheist and other secular Humanist teachers can do without
turning the classroom into an ideological battleground.
First, science teachers need to insist that science and only science belongs in a science class. If school boards and administrators
create policies that require science teachers to say that nonscientific
theology disguised as science, such as "intelligent design," are coequal theories with scientific ones, then teachers should say "no." Second, when asked about their religious beliefs, teachers should explain
those beliefs. Even when one gets tired of explaining one's beliefs,
one should still explain them. Misunderstandings about both Atheism and Skepticism of religious claims can be cleared only when more
people know what Atheism and Skepticism truly are. These beliefs
are sturdy enough that one need not denigrate any religion in order
to show the validity of Atheism and Skepticism.
Third, those teachers inclined to writing should publish writings about Atheism and Skepticism. Publications both in print and
on the web help to educate the general public about Atheism and
Skepticism, and help to build a network community of Atheists and
Skeptics. Furthermore, such publications provide evidence should
teachers be dismissed for their views.
Fourth, when students state blatant falsehoods about religion
or Atheism, teachers should not be afraid to point out the falsehood
and explain what makes it wrong. In one college class I taught, a
born-again Christian openly stated that Catholics were not Christians because they "worshipped the Pope." As a teacher, I could not
let such a falsehood go unchallenged. Another student wrote on a
discussion board for an online class that evolution was the last desperate argument of Atheists. I had to point out, on the discussion board,
that many biologists are religious, as was Darwin himself Letting
such statements go uncorrected would have served only the cause
of ignorance and may have given the impression that the instructor
condones such beliefs.
Despite threats to their reputations and employment, Atheist
teachers should not, as most nonbelieving politicians do, hide their
credos, nor pretend to a religiosity they do not have. Such inauthentic
behavior makes Atheism seem shameful and undermines its credibility as an intellectual principle. The most valuable lesson Atheist teachers can teach is that they have the courage of their convictions.

David Layton is a liftlong Atheist. Raised in a nonreligious

family, he now raises his own two
sons in a .freethinking, nonreligious
household. He earned a Ph.D. in
English .from UC Santa Barbara
in 1994, and has taught English,
Humanities, Philosophy, and
Creative Writingfor numerous
colleges in Washington and California. He has published articles,
reviews, and stories. Currently, he
is working on a book of Humanist
philosophy. He can be reached at

Atheists & Co.

Dr.cGilbert D. Shapiro

Dr.Shapiro is an Atheist and podiatrist in private practice in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Shapiro was born and raised in
New York City and completed his pre-medical training at
Columbia University after obtaining bachelor's and master's degrees from the City University of New York. After
9raduation (with honors) from the California College of
Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco (associated with UCSF
College of Medicine), he was fortunate to have been selected to complete a two-year intensive surgical residency
at Northlake Hospital in Chicago. This program was considered, at that time, to be one of the finest programs of
its kind in the country.
In 1980, Dr. Shapiro came to Tucson and assumed the
practice of Dr. Felton Gamble who retired after 29 years.
Dr.Shapiro is one of only a few Tucson podiatrists who
is board certified by both the American Boards of Podiatric Surgery and Podiatric Orthopedics. He has served as an
oral examiner for their national examinations. Dr. Shapiro
has lectured at the local, state and national levels on podiatric surgery and practice management. He has a special
interest in the management of diabetic and arthritic conditions. Dr. Shapiro believes firmly in the Latin expression:
"Qui amat suam propriam, laborum ayam bene faclt," ...
which means "He who loves his work, does it well:'

MARCH2007 -



culture watch

ldt ~ehin~:Hernal for~e~

Religious Violence In Game Form
by Conrad Goeringer

raiseJesus and get ready to kick some godless, feminist, one- publisher is marketing games based on the "Veggie Tales" series of
world-government, secularist, abortionist, and, oh yes! ho- Christian videos for children. Another is pitching "Bibleman: A Fight
mosexual, Antichrist-serving butt! And have fun in the profor Faith," about a superhero who stands up for the word of God with
his sidekicks Cypher and Biblegirl.
cess.... That seems to be subtext in a new Christian-themed
video game. Dubbed "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," and based on
Eternal Forces is also designed to reach beyond the core marthe popular series of books by evangelist Tim laHaye and co-author
ket of evangelical churches and readers of the Left Behind book series
which has sold over 65 million copies.
Jerry Jenkins, the game allows players to join up with heavily armed
Christians fighting it out with a demonic opposition in the streets of
"The reason I think this game has a chance is that it's not parNew York City, or even switch roles for a violent walk on the wild ticularly preachy," said securities analyst Michael Pachter. "I will say
and evil side. It takes place following "The Rapture" when thousands
some of the dialogue is pretty lame-people saying, 'Praise the Lord'
of people who are right with Jehovah are whisked up to heaven, leav- after they blow away the bad guys. I think they're overdoing it a bit.
But the message is OK."
ing behind everyone else, to suffer under the boot of the Antichrist,
who unleashes his own reign of terror,
the Tribulation. It has just about everything from constant frenetic action to
Based on the popular "Left Behind" series, this Christian video
hyper-violence (except sex) that gamers
and video game developers consider de
game mixes Dispensationalist Religion with graphic violence.
rigueur in order to compete in a multiShould we be concerned, or is pop-culture co-opting the Apocalypse?
billion-dollar marketplace.
"Left Behind: Eternal Forces"
was unveiled in May at the annual
Electronic Entertainment Expo, and caused an immediate sensation.
"Left Behind: Eternal Forces" takes place in New York City
"It has the Antichrist, the end of the world, the apocalypse," gushed where a Christian militia (the Tribulation Force) battles with the
co-creator Jeffrey S. Frichner. "It's got all the Christian stuff, and it's Global Community Peacekeepers of the U.N. who are under the
control of the Antichrist. Thousands have already been raptured,
still got all the cool stuff."
but many more not selected in this bizarre cosmic lottery are "left
Troy Lyndon, the CEO of Left Behind Games, was boasting
about the bottom line. "Our research has shown this market to be behind" as human history enters its final days. Players take on the
role of real-time battlefield generals controlling virtual armies. Bible
huge," he told reporters. "It's been three years in the making by more
than 50 developers on three continents. The cost was significant, but verse and inspirational music are included as players work their way
we are not at liberty to disclose details."
up the increasingly difficult levels of the game. Killing an opponent
Indeed, "Eternal Forces" is by the far the most aggressive and
results in a loss of spiritual goodness, and must be compensated with
well-funded foray Lyndon's firm or any other Christian-themed com- prayer. Angels and demons intervene. The game skillfully blends the
fast-paced action of attacking helicopters, tanks and guns with apocapany has made into the tempestuous waters of video gaming. Game
wonks and "Left Behind" enthusiasts are comparing it to hits like lyptic spirituality.
Early reviews of "Eternal Forces" give the video game high
"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" which has sold over 5.1 million
copies. In contrast, earlier religion-based videos have achieved only marks for sophisticated production values. Lyndon, who worked on
mediocre sales. Digital Praise, another developer of Christian games, over 50 other video game projects, has found apparent success in
shipped a reported 30,000 copies of its "Dance Praise." The anticdeveloping a product for a wide, game-savvy audience blending vioipated success of the new Left Behind game offering, though, has lence with Christian prophecy. According to the Times feature, he
Bible-believing developers chomping at the bit. LA Times Reporter
left the gaming world in 1999 to join the Jesus Film Project, which
Dawn Chmielewski noted:
produced a two-hour docudrama about the life of the alleged Jesus
Christ, and at the behest of his wife returned "to his game-making
Eternal Forces is part of a new wave of religious games comroots to turn the 'Left Behind' books into a form of electronic evaning out at a time when the mainstream industry faces increasing
gelism aimed at teens."
criticism that its products celebrate misogynistic mayhem. Another



MARCH 2007

"Eternal Forces" has all of the marketing muscle of a major

video game promotion, thanks to Tyndale House which franchised
the product. Tyndale publishes the "Left Behind" series of books, the
"New Living Bible," and even a slew of child-raising manuals by family values guru James Dobson. Promoters see the nation's thousands
of evangelical churches, prayer groups, camps, and book stores as a
strategically placed network for selling the game. They also intend
to reach out into the secular marketplace. Tim LaHaye boasted that
the game can be used to communicate Christian ideals. "We hope
teenagers like the game," he gushed to reporters. "Our real goal is to
have no one left behind."
Not everyone in the religious community, however, is embracing
this latest effort to capitalize on popular jitters about the end times.
One blogger at "Talk to Action" accused Tyndale House of
licensing a video game aimed at youngsters "that exploits 9111, and
teaches children that New Yorkers who don't convert deserve to die."

"copping out" when it comes to criticizing the secular entertainment

providers, but not Tyndale House and other religious interests who
are promoting a violent Christian supremacist video game?
His letter to Rev. Jerry Falwell dated June 13, 2006 has been
making the rounds on the Internet and causing a stir for its blunt
style and frank discussion of the issues surrounding "Eternal Forces."
Thompson told the prominent televangelist that he was writing "to
alert you to the fact that Rev. Tim LaHaye, with whom you founded
the Moral Majority, seems to have lost his mind, only figuratively, I
hope." He outlines the business relationship between the producers
of "Eternal Forces" and Tyndale House, adding:
"In this game, you can take on the role of Christian soldiers
and kill unbelievers, or you can take on the role of the Antichrist and
kill the Christians. The killing setting is Manhattan, of all places. I'm
not sure that this is a faithful presentation of the Gospel message ... it
makes a mockery of the witness of all of us."

There are also complaints that Christian Conservative culture

warriors like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell who denounce the violence and mayhem of contemporary culture have "cut and run" in the
face of the promotional juggernaut behind "Eternal Forces."
One critic of the video game is veteran Republican attorney
Jack Thompson who has been crusading against violent video games
for years.
"It's taking adult-themed violence and marketing directly to
kids," Thompson told a writer posting on the alter-net web site. "It's
a perfect example of how we're exporting pop-culture sewage to the
rest of the world."
Thompson says that while he has not read LaHaye's apocalyptic series, translating the books into a violent video game "is a dangerous, hypocritical, non-Christian thing to do, and an example of
how pop culture is transforming the church." He warns parents that
"what kids get in their heads has behavioral consequences," and that
university studies have demonstrated "a link between kids witnessing
video game violence and copycat crimes."
Thompson also sees a disconnect between the Christian conservative penchant for excoriating Hollywood and mass media for a
money-driven menu of sexually explicit, violence-charged fare, and
the silence surrounding the semiotic message in "Eternal Forces."
Why, he asks, are the nation's leading religious-right power brokers

Thomson goes on to describe the game as "dangerous stuff,

not only because it legitimizes the use of violence to Christian kids,
but also because the last time I checked we were in a War on Terror,
in which the other side claims we are engaged in a latter day 'Crusade'
against Islam. Now we have a Tyndale House-blessed killing game
that glamorizes just that. What a rhetorical gift to radical Islam .... "
As for the claim that "Eternal Forces" is just another tool for
evangelizing the masses, Thompson is equally blunt.
"What this company is doing is using the rubric 'Christian
video game' to come in under the radar and sell a violent game to
Christian adolescents and teens ... that thinking parents would not
allow their kids to have but for the disarming 'Christian' label. This is
stealth. A lawyer would call it fraud."
Another critic disagrees with Thompson's fears of violence, but
sees a more fundamental problem with the "Eternal Forces" game.
Jonathan Hutson, a leading Christian writer with a J.D. from
the New York University School of Law, warns that the game "allows children to rehearse mass killing in the name of Christ or the
Quoted on several blogs and web sites, Hutson warns that "Eternal Forces" appropriates the emotionally-charged symbolism of 9/11,
and compares the "Praise the Lord!" battle cry of the Christian warriors
in the game to the "God is great!" rants of the World Trade Center



terrorists. He also sees an insidious commercial trend in contemporary

evangelicalism, and notes that movies like "The Passion of the Christ"
and "The Chronicles of Narnia" were advanced-screened in churches
throughout the nation before reaching mainstream theaters.
Revelation of a Different Kind
The theme underpinning "Eternal Forces" and the "Left Behind" series of novels plays a critical role in the evangelical tradition.
History is perceived as the battleground between the judeo-Chrisrian
God and Satan. All events in history are prelude to a greater titanic
struggle at the "end times" prophesied in several Biblical texts, especially the Book of Revelation. While elements of this belief are common throughout the variants of Christianity, evangelicalism adds two
distinctive features to this account of future (some say contemporary)
One is Dispensationalism, the belief that history is divided
into ages or "dispensations" that will conclude with the horrific events
of an Apocalypse and the return to Earth ofJesus Christ. Much of the
narrative for this involves interpretation of the bizarre symbols and
events found in Revelation. The doctrine became part of American
evangelicalism through the efforts of a British preacher, John Darby,
who traveled widely in the United States between 1862 and 1877.
Darby fused Dispensationalism with another prophecy, the Rapture.
At the end of human history, he promised eager audiences, the faithful chosen would be physically taken up to heaven as the world beneath them plunges into chaos and the reign of the Antichrist. This
is to be followed by a seven-year period, the Tribulation. Those "left
behind" suffer until Jesus returns and defeats Satan at the final battle
of Armageddon.
As cultural studies writer Amy Johnson Frykholm observers
in her book "Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America,"
the impact and meaning of these apocalyptic novels involves complex
and varied interactions between author, text and readers. There is no
doubt that the books convey a stern and often disturbing warning
about the end times, and serve to re-affirm basic evangelical tenets
concerning the literal interpretation of the Bible, along with the role
of gender and authority Readers, however, interpret this on different
levels, and integrate the books' message in different ways. The sheer
popularity of the "Left Behind" series, though, clearly demonstrates
that belief in an imminent Apocalypse has become widespread in an
otherwise secular and science-oriented culture.
A video game is certainly not the equivalent of a book attempting to inculcate or illustrate religious beliefs. Youngsters playing
"Eternal Forces" may place more value on the technical and audiovisual aspects of the game-the "action"-than on abstract, religious
ideas adult designers and promoters of the activity would like to convey. It also remains to be seen whether "Eternal Forces" will penetrate
the marketplace beyond the core of initial consumers, that the makers
of "Eternal Forces" need to tap.
There is, however, a clear sub-text and symbolic realm embedded in this Christian video game morbidly focused on the Apocalypse. The action takes place in New York City, arid as noted earlier
the theme of 9111 is one of the ubiquitous elements. Mainstream
culture is still dealing with the tragedy of 9/11, and attempting to decide whether a cinematic treatment of those events is "appropriate."
There are also-conflicting narratives seeking to explain the complex
events that took place in New York, Washington, D.C. and in the
skies over Pennsylvania. Here, religious critics of "Eternal Forces" that
decry the exploitation of those events for theological purposes, over26



look an important fact, namely, that evangelical, fundamentalist and

Pentecostal leaders have already framed the tragedy in stark, doctrinal
terms. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had an exchange on the latter's
"700 Club" program, blaming the events of 9/11 not on Islamic terrorists but a cabal of feminists, gays, secularists and other villains.
God, proclaimed Robertson, had "lowered his curtain of protection
over America" because of its growing immorality and faithlessness.
New York City, of course, is a distasteful symbol for any religious or political group opposed to values such as urbanism, affluence,
multi-culturalism and modernity. AI Qaeda chose the metropolis, and
the Twin Towers, for clear political, economic and semiotic reasons.
The designers of "Eternal Forces" have used similar criteria. There is
also the issue of who is to be killed as the Christian militias fighting the
Global Community Peacekeepers slug it out in the streets of America's
leading city. One blogger rightly asked, "So who's 'left behind' to be
blown away? Catholics, mainstream moderate Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, suspiciously well-groomed men,
lesbians and conservative Evangelicals who are closet gays ... ?
And what about the marketing strategy of the game's Christian promoters?
Here, too, religious critics of "Eternal Forces" are seriously
behind the information curve. Evangelicals, as Frykholm notes in
"Rapture Culture" have traditionally been in an ambiguous relationship with technology and innovation. While these forces are part of a
wider secular culture "out there" beyond the walls of the church (both
physically and metaphorically), evangelical ministries have demonstrated surprising ability to exploit those innovations to further their
religious agenda. Radio and then television were common tools for
evangelical groups even before Bishop Sheen took to the airwaves in
the 1950s. These media, fused with print publishing, film and documentary production, the Internet and other communications tools are
now stock-in-trade. One might note that ministries operated by Paul
Crouch (Trinity Broadcasting), Pat Robertson (Christian Broadcasting
Network) and Jim and Tammy Bakker (PTL Network) built a media
empire for "electronic Christianity" by fusing religion, news, entertainment and Bible teaching with surprisingly high production values.
It took the most basic, revanchist form of Christianity out of the backwoods revival tent and into the homes of mainstream Americans.
Video games, far from being at odds with American Evangelical tradition, are actually an extension of this trend. So is the slick
network marketing.
How gamers react to "Eternal Forces" may depend on a range
of factors including family circumstances, religious background, even
the number of hours spent "blowing away" the sinful. But the implicit message of this game fits with the wider accusations that Evangelicals--especially those organized as the "religious right"-level against
secular culture, and those who disagree with their "godly" agenda.
The GameSpy web site which tracks the latest video gaming trends
noted that "Eternal Forces'" creator Troy Lyndon points out "that
the Bible itself is quite a violent book," and that Christians confront
many situations that may require violence. In the apocalyptic "gamescape" ofTribuiationist New York, the mangled corpses of the sinful
pile up in the streets.
It is, many believe, all part of God's special plan for humanity.
Pow! Boom! Praise the Lord!

Conrad Goeringer is 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 reached at cg.oering.er@atheists.org.

ask the expert

by Jim Strayer

We asked our expert on evolution, Jim Strayer to answer the

following e-mailed question.

Can you explain why there has never been any

transitional forms of animals found? If your theory of
evolution is true, then this would be your key, but in all
my studies I have never found such to exist. What I have
found is that many Evolutionists have found the same
thing I have and though they don't want to admit it, 01/
of their studies have led them to believe there had to be a
creator. What are your thoughts on the topic?
- C. McCluskey.

I often get this question from people who have never read a collegebiology or geology textbook. They usually
have never visited the public library or the Internet either.
Your question would have been better if you would have told me
the resources that you used to come to a conclusion that no transitional
forms exist. I can't imagine it coming from any scientific source.
It so happens that there are hundreds of transitional forms found
in fossilsand many in plants and animals living today.
Did you know that alligatorsare more closelyrelated to birds than
to reptiles?Their hearts, brains, DNA, and behavior are more bird like
than reptilian. It takes scientific study to discover these things,
I can only assume that you asked the question because you do not
believe that evolution is the force that is responsible for the diversity of
life on earth. If that is the case I have a couple of questions for you.
First some information:
There have been over one thousand human genes isolated that
cause disease in humans. Examples would be albinism, which occurs in
all vertebrate animals. In humans it occurs once in ever seventeen thousand births. One in ever seventy-fine humans carries the gene. One in
ever eight hundred births is a Down Syndrome baby. It is simple math,
inherited human defects occur because the genes are there in a specific
My question for you is, how did they get there?
Either these genes evolved or they were placed in humans by a
creator to cause very serious problems and much misery.
There are severalparasitic worms that infect only humans. One
example is Onchocerciasis (River Blindness). This very painful and
blinding disease could have evolved, or it could have been designed by
the creator to cause untold pain in innocent children. Your choice.
The leaders on the intelligent design movement use the compli-

cated structure of the flagella on some microorganisms as an example

of their ideas. It turns out that one of the worst blood infections that
humans get is from the schistome and it uses a flagellum for movement.
Again, evolution can explain these things using the science of heredity
and an understanding of how evolution works.
What is it, an intelligent designer or evolution?
Each of the conditions
I have mentioned are easily researched on line or in any good
college text, but if you like I would
be glad to send you my sources.
Would you send me yours?

Jim Strayer is a retired professor ofbiology. He can be reached

at biojims@aol.com


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contact us at 908-276-7300 Thank-you.




NEW Life Member


Welcomes New Life Member

Sam White - Down, United Kingdom

MARCH 2007 -




Pope Warns
Of Threats
To Christmas
Celebration From
Secular Trends
by Daniela Petroff
Associated Press Writer
CITY (AP)-Pope Benedict
XVI urged Christians on Wednesday to defend the spirit of Christmas
against secular trends during his last
general audience before the holiday.
He wished the several thousand
pilgrims and tourists gathered in a
Vatican auditorium decorated with
Christmas trees a "Happy Christmas" in seven languages and told
them that "false prophets continue
to offer cheap salvation which ends
up in deep delusions."
"It is the duty of Christians to
spread through a witness of life the
truth of Christmas, which Christ
brings to every man and woman of
good will."
Throughout the audience, choral groups sang Christmas carols,
including "Silent Night," a favorite in the pope's native Germany.
Shepherds from Italy's Abruzzi
mountains, in their traditional furtrimmed costumes, played Italian
carols on their bagpipes.
During his speech, Benedict also
posed the question of the relevance
of religion in modern society, one of
his leading themes.
"Today, many consider God irrelevant. Even believers sometimes
seek tempting but illusory shortcuts
to happiness. And yet perhaps even
because of this confusion humanity
seeks a savior, and awaits the coming
of Christ," the pope said.
Although he warned against
being distracted by what he called
the "trappings of Christmas," Benedict offered thanks for the 11O-foot
Christmas tree set up in St. Peter's
Square, and the one in his private
apartment in the Vatican, both gifts
from the mountains of Calabria in
southern Italy.
He also encouraged the custom
of setting up nativity scenes in the
"It is my hope that such an important element (of Christmas) not



only part of our spirituality, but also

of our culture and art continue to
be a simple and eloquent way of remembering Christ."
The home nativity scene is the
traditional focal point of the Italian
Christmas, with families working
for days on elaborate settings which,
along with the main figures, often
include village scenes, artistic lighting and even fountains with running
However, according ro recent
news reports, the tradition is waning, with some families preferring
the Christmas tree, a custom inherited from northern Europe and
North America.
Workers in St. Peter's Square
are still busy setting up the Vatican's
life-sized nativity scene with 26 figures set under a caravan tent, to be
unveiled on Christmas Eve, along
with the lighting of the Christmas

Cobb School
Board Abandons
Evolution Sticker
by Doug Gross
Associated Press Writer
(AP) -A suburban Atlanta
school board that put stickers in its
high school science books that said
evolution is "a theory, not a fact"
abandoned the legal battle Tuesday
after four years.
The Cobb County board agreed
in federal court never to use a similar
sticker or ro undermine the teaching
of evolution in science classes.
In return, the parents who sued
over the stickers agreed to drop 'all
legal action.
"We certainly think that it's a
win not just for our clients but for all
students in Cobb County and, really,
all residents of Georgia," said Beth
Littrell of the ACLU of Georgia.
The school board placed the
stickers inside the front cover of biology books in 2002 after a group of
parents complained that evolution
was being taught to the exclusion
of other theories, including a literal
reading of the Biblical story of creation.

The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution.

Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.
This material should be approached
with an open mind, studied carefully
and critically considered."
A federal judge ordered the stickers removed in January 2005, saying
they amount to an unconstitutional
endorsement of religion. The school
board appealed, but a federal appeals
court sent the case back, saying it did
not have enough information.
"We faced the distraction and
expense of starting all over with
more legal actions and another trial," said board chairwoman Teresa
Plenge. "With this agreement, it is
done and we now have a clean slate
for the new year."
Linwood Gunn, an attorney for
the school board, said the agreement
is not an admission that the stickers were unconstitutional, as critics
"When we started down this
road, we were threatened with lawsuits by both sides," Gunn said, noting that some parents did not want
evolution taught at all. "The school
board attempted to reach what they
thought was a reasonable compromise."
The board agreed to pay about
one-third of the plaintiffs' court
costs, Gunn said.
The case was one of several battles waged in recent years throughout
the nation over what role evolution
should play in teaching science.
Last year, a federal judge barred
the Dover, Pa., school district from
teaching "intelligent design" as an
alternative to evolution. Also last
year, the state school board in Kansas adopted standards critical of
several of the
members who pushed that plan were
ousted by voters this year.
In 2004, Georgia's state schools
superintendent briefly proposed a
science curriculum that dropped the
word "evolution" in favor of "changes over time." That plan was soon
scrapped amid protests by teachers.
Jeffrey Selman, the Cobb County parent who sued to get rid of the
stickers, welcomed the agreement.
"The settlement brings to end a
long battle to keep our science classes free of political or religious agendas," Selman said in a written release

handed out by Americans United for

Separation of Church and State, one
of the groups that represented Selman and other parents.

University Of
Texas Workers
Dismissed After
Praying In Office
by Matt Curry
Associated Press Writer
former employees of the University of Texas at
Arlington said they were fired after
praying over another staff member's
cubicle and anointing it with olive
Evelyne M. Shatkin, an administrative assistant, and Linda Shifflett, a development funds assistant,
claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in
federal court that their termination
constitutes religious discrimination.
The suit was filed by the Liberty Legal Institute of Plano.
"UTA should be ashamed for
punishing these two women for simply praying after work on their own
time," said Hiram Sasser, director of
litigation for the firm, which files
lawsuits over religious issues.
The university released a statement saying its decision had been
upheld by the Texas Workforce
Commission and the Texas Equal
"UT Arlington respects our
employee's rights to their religious
beliefs and does not discriminate on
the basis of religion," the statement
said. "We cannot comment on personnel matters or cases in litigation.
However, the accusations presented
in this lawsuit are a gross distortion
of the truth."
The suit claims that a male
worker was having problems with
another employee and shared the
information with ShifRett. ShifRett,
Shatkin and the man stayed after
work on March 3 to pray for the
woman, who was on vacation. The
three met at the woman's cubicle
about 5:30 p.m., believing no one
else was there.

Shawn prayed for the situation,
and according to her religious tradition, dabbed olive oil on the door
frame of the cubicle. The oil left no
mark and did not damage the cubicle,
according to the suit.
The university dismissed Shifflett
and Shawn and denied their internal
appeal. Amy J. Schultz, assistant vice
president for development, said in a
March 24 letter that the women's
behavior was unbecoming for a UTA
staff member.
specifically, praying,
shouting and/or chanting over a coworkers personal and professional
belongings without her knowledge
and consent constitutes harassment
of a fellow co-worker," she wrote. "In
addition, rubbing this co-worker's cubicle with oil is blatant disregard for
university property, both of which are
identified as behavior that is grounds
for dismissal..."
The suit also alleges age and sex

discrimination, saying that the university took no action against the other employee involved in the prayer, "a
male under the age of 40."

u.s. Criticizes
Egyptian Court
Decision To Ban
Bahai Listing On
Identity Cards
has condemned an
Egyptian court ruling that denies
Bahais the right to have their faith
recognized on official identification
Rejecting a lower court decision
favorable to Bahais, the Supreme
Administrative Court ruled that the
Egyptian constitution

only Islam, Christianity and JudaIsm.

"It is certainly a ruling that flies
in the face of stated Egyptian commitments to freedom of expression,
freedom of religion," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack
said Monday. "We would hope that
the Egyptian government would
take steps that would allow people
of the Bahai faith to obtain these
identification cards."
The cards of Bahais have a line
through the section for the person's
The dispute directly affects only
the country's Bahais, 2,000 or so of
the more than 72 million Egyptians.
Civil rights advocates in Egypt,
however, said it's evidence that the
court ignores all existing protections
of religious freedom.
Islam is the official religion of
Egypt, but it is considered by the
constitution to be "a source" of

Egyptian law, not "the source."

The Bahai faith is a monotheistic religion founded in the 1860s
by Bahaullah, a Persian nobleman
who the Bahais consider a prophet.
Bahaullah taught that all religions
represent progressive stages in the
revelation of God's will, leading to
the unity of all peoples and faiths
McCormack said the inability of
Bahais to obtain completed identity
cards causes them serious problems.
"We would urge the Egyptian
government really to address this
issue. It's really a fundamental issue
of religious freedom," McCormack

Make Your Plans Now!
Whatever your interest - we've got it covered!
AMERICANATHEISTS- Ellen Johnson, president
- Frank Zindler
"BLASPHEMY"GAME - David Fitzgerald
FILM - "The Root of All Evil" by Richard Dawkins
(Speakers are still being added to the program.)
The program
begins at 9:30 am on Friday and Saturday.
Program SubjectTo Change




god would be an atheist ...

M~ml~vesY~u~~Much ...

...~ut It's ~tillN~ttn~u~h.

by Martin Foreman

he news that Mary Cheney and her partner are expecting a

baby-the vice-president's sixth grandchild-is not being
greeted with unalloyed joy by everyone on the right of the
political spectrum.
According to CNN, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for
America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable," adding, "it's
very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately
bring into the world a child that will never have a father. They are
encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have [to do
the same thing]."
Carrie Gordon Earll from Focus on the Family commented,
"just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, oneman marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea. Love can't replace a
mother and a father."
I'm not sure I follow Crouse's logic about encouraging people
who don't have Cheney's advantages, but that may be my fault rather
than hers.
Meanwhile, Gordon Earll's knee-jerk reaction suggests that
she and the organization she represents are willing to sacrifice a child's
well being for the sake of principle. Where parents are abusive, most
people would argue that love from other adults is preferable to emotional or physical damage at the hands of one's parents.
That said, I have to come out of my occasionally conservative
closet and add my disapproval of Cheney's and her partner's decision,
particularly because there is no mention of a father.
As regular readers know, I'm not a fan of children in general.
One of the biggest mistakes in my life was the sixteen or so years that
I spent as an infant and child.
When small, children are noisy, smelly and unable to reason.
Larger versions tend to be expensive and argumentative. Worst of
all, children grow into adults who place further strain on the world's
limited resources of fossil fuels and undisturbed environments.
But that is true of all children, and my focus today is on children denied one or both biological parents. My objection to the
Cheney pregnancy is based on personal experience as much as principle.
My father died before my second birthday -,I was brought up
by a loving, competent mother who never failed to provide me with
love and emotional support. We lived in a home that lacked luxuries
but was nonetheless welcoming and comfortable.
I spent my early childhood unaware of any deprivation. As I
grew older, however, I became increasingly aware that other boys had
fathers and I did not. A close friend even had that wondrous father of
myth-a man who had built an extensive model railroad in his attic
where his son could play every day.




Then as a teenager I had occasional dreams in which I was at

home and the doorbell rang. I went to open it and there stood my father, returned after years of absence. As my mind flooded with relief,
joy and love, I inevitably woke up to the reality of a single parent.
On a conscious level, these dreams did not disturb me. I accepted that we all have advantages and disadvantages in life. I happened to lack a father; others were motherless, homeless, physically
handicapped or suffered in some other way. The best response was to
accept what had happened and get on with life.
Subconsciously, my reaction was different. I never asked my
mother about my father and years later she asked why I was silent.
Forced to think about it, I realized that to talk about him would be to
reopen a wound that had healed.
As I thought more about it, I realized that underlying the scar
was anger at my father for having abandoned me. That anger was best
left undisturbed.
What if my father had not died? What if my mother had
driven him out of my life and made him impossible for me to find?
I am sure my anger would have surfaced, directed not at him, but at
the woman who had decided, without consulting me, that I did not
need him.
I am sure many children of single or lesbian mothers are untroubled by the fact that they do not know their fathers; the same is
true of many children who have no contact with their mothers. But
many others who want to know both parents-even if they later reject them-are unable to do so.
Mary Cheney and her partner may be lucky. Their son or
daughter may grow up with no interest in their biological father. Alternately, he or she will grow tip with a sense of alienation from which
neither child nor parents will recover.
Love is an essential element in parenting. But so too, is the
right of children to know their biological heritage. And no matter
how strong one element is, it can never compensate for the other.
If God existed, he would ...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an Atheist.

All Rights Reserved Martin Foreman

Mr. Foreman can be reached at martin@godwouldbeanatheist.com

David Newton
ntill joined the military, despite having no real
belief in a god, I clung to the safe idea that I was
an Agonistic. It was not until later in life, after
several years in the military, that I realized that
Agnosticism (in my case) was a coward's position. Knowing I was not a coward, I changed to a complete
and total acceptance of my Atheism. The acceptance became very liberating and I saw the world more clearly. I finally
understood our country's Founding Fathers and their desire
to push religion from the government. When listening to
others I could recognize their hypocrisy and muddled
thoughts. It was, as if a great space had been opened
in my brain for many more thoughts and ideas. It
was freedom.
During boot camp, there were only two things
you could do on Sunday morning. One was to go
to chapel and try to catch some shuteye in the back
pew. The other was peel potatoes and/or clean the
mess hall. Given the alternatives,l chose the chapel
and a nap. In fact, upon entry to the military during
the issuing of dog tags, I was asked for my religion for
inclusion on the tag. My answer of "None"was unacceptable to them, and I was made to claim "Protestant"
(as my religion).
When I became an officer I had many debates with a
member of the CIA and other government employees (not
military) who constantly professed how blessed they are. One
day I had about as much of this "blessing" as I could stand
and I mouthed off to one of them. I explained to him how I
thought he used religion to hide his sexual perversion and
if he really were what he professed he would be more
concerned with the ills and hardships of others in the
world, especially the third world.
I made some very unflattering comments
about his use of religion. At the time, his adult
daughter was suing him in court for her early
years of child abuse. He fell against the wall
behind him as if I had hit him, even though I did
not. But it was within the possible alternative
outcomes I was considering (Just give me an
excuse you religious fraud!).
I had no idea how this would play with
the leaders cfthe organization but I got a hint
when a lead government engineer started
coming around regularly to talk on a wideranging number of topics. It seemed that
they had accepted my "outburst" but they

obviously believed I needed conversion. We talked a lot, but

I knew I was right and nothing he could say would ever logically sway my thinking.
After 20 years of enlisted and commissioned service I retired on 1 Aug 1994 at the rank of Major. During those twenty
years,l had supported the mission of the U-2 aircraft (I believe
it is unclassified now) in its world-wide missions in South Korea, Nicaragua, North Africa and Europe, to name a few. I had
also volunteered for Foreign Technology
Division (FTD) now renamed to
National Aeronautic Intelligence
Center. During my tour at
FTD,Iraq invaded Kuwait and
I supported the FTD mission
in Desert Storm.
I had the distinct privilege of working with some
of the most interesting
people I have ever met or
hope to meet. These talented people were enough
to offset the down side of the
occasional religious fanatics
who choose the military life.
I have come to the
conclusion that Atheists
are correct in their