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JULY 2007
Vol 45, No.6

American Atheist Magazine


ISSN0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)
Editor,American Atheist Press
Frank Zindler
Editor, American Atheist Magazine
Ellen Johnson
Regular Contributors
Martin Foreman
Conrad F. Goeringer
Frank Zindler

CONTENTS
4

From The President


u.s. Department Of Justice SeesNeed To Protect Religious Freedom
-But

Designer
Elias Scultori

Isn't It Already Protected?

by Ellen Johnson

Cover Design

Tim Mize
Editorial Assistants
Gil and Jeanne Gaudia
Published monthly (except June &
December) by American Atheists Inc.
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2007 by American Atheists Inc.
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16

American Atheists 33rd Annual National Convention

19

Appointment

13

A Transitional Fossil of Religion

of Four New State Directors

by Jim Corbett

Damnable Syllogism
by Robert M. Price

ZJ

God Would Be An Atheist


Seduced into religion - Why faith persists
by Martin Foreman

15

Book Review
The Mussolinis Among Us
by Jim Burgtorf

21

The Probing Mind


Eunuchs For Christ
by Frank Zindler

20

A Personal Story
by Jorg Aadahl

26

Ask The Expert


The Book Of Revelation
by Frank Zindler

30

Foxhole Atheist Of The Month


Ken Bronstein

Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution


The Onion

from the president

U.S. Departtnent Of Justice Sees


Need To Protect Religious Freedom
-But Isn't It Already Protected?
Ellen Johnson

February
n
of this year, U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gon- issue at the Balch Springs, Texas Senior Citizen Center in 2004. At
zalesannounced a new initiative called The First Freedom Project the city-run senior center, a group of seniors were praying, holding
allegedlyto protect religious liberty. The attorney general made Bible studies, singing gospel music, preaching and doing blessings.
his announcement at an Executive Committee Meeting of the Another group of seniors didn't like it and complained. The CenSouthern Baptist Convention. On the same day, the Department of ter stopped the proselytizing and rituals and when they did they
Justice (DOJ) releasedits "Report on Laws Protecting Religious Free- were sued. The court sided with the believers. Curiously, the attordom, for FiscalYears2001 to 2006."
ney general didn't refer to this as a "free exercise" or "establishment
My first reaction is to say that the words "religious liberty clause" case. He called it a "free speech" issue.
and religious freedom" are not found in the Bill of Rights. I have
The court ruled that the Center had the right to allow this
to throw that in there because so many Theists say this about the and all other speech. That's not so bad. I suggest that the complainphrase "separation of church and state."
ing seniors take them up on that. A bit of Atheist proselytizing,
Ironically, the DOJ has even appointed a "Special Counsel singing, studying and more will be just the ticket to get them to
for Religious Discrimination." Well isn't this a case of the pot call- decide that maybe there shouldn't be that much .free speech.
ing the kettle black? What single institution in America is allowed
When the religious give examples of violations of their
to discriminate against its fellow citizens in the name of Jesus? Yes, rights, they don't usually tell the whole story. In this controversy,
religion. The religious discriminate against each other, and us, and you cannot get the other side of this issue anywhere. There aren't
the law allows them to do this in hiring at their universities for any reports from the defendants on how bad it was. The attorney
instance. But they love to cry "discrimination" every time they are for the defendants wouldn't even talk to me about the case.
accused of not abiding by the law.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Theists at the senior
The First Freedom Project initiative doesn't confer any added center went over the line with their religious practices and were
protections for "religious liberty." The law is the law. This initia- bothering everyone else. This case should never have gone to court
tive is just a bunch of feel-good pandering to the religious by the or ever had the Department of Justice get involved. It's simply
Bush Administration. The Department of Justice is even going to a case of religious people annoying the hell out of everyone else.
give seminars to the religious to help them to better understand
It's about people being obnoxious and the religious are famous for
what their rights are.
that.
Since when does "religious liberty" need a Department of
Attorney General Gonzales asks, "Why should it be permisJustice initiative to protect it? The majority of U.S. Supreme Court
sible for an employee standing around the water cooler to declare
Justices and most of the Federal District Judges were appointed by that 'Tiger Woods is God,' but a firing offense for him to say 'Jesus
Republicans who overwhelmingly vote conservative on social issues is Lord?' These are the kinds of contradictions we are trying to adlike state-church separation. Our schools, military and prisons are dress."
overrun with extremist Christians, yet they apparently think they
Our government is investigating "contradictions?" Surely
need the government to provide another layer of protection for there are more pressing issues for our government to focus on. Isn't
their rights. This initiative may be a bit extreme but it shows how drug addiction more harmful? Isn't cancer more serious? Doesn't
worried the Theists are. Religious liberty isn't what is being undermental illness deserve more attention? Nope. We'd rather focus on
mined, rather it is their liberty to engage in religious violations that a senior citizen center where a group of adults wants the right to
is being undermined.
.
annoy the hell out of other seniors.
This "call to arms" on their part reveals that we are doing a
There are ten times as many violations of our rights than
very good job of fighting back against their attempts to use the gov- there are of the religious. We know this because we hear about these
ernment to promote their religiosity. We may not be winning all of violations from Atheists like you, all the time. But you don't have
the battles but we are fighting back like never before. The religious the government on your side. You have US on your side. And with
are getting sued more often and people are complaining about their YOU on our side we will continue to work, like no other group can,
violations on a large scale.
to protect your rights and the rights of Atheists all across America.
One of the examples that Attorney General Gonzalez cited
So, on behalf of all the Atheists who are helped by American
of the government's protection of our "religious liberty" was over an Atheists; Thank you for your continued support.

AMERICANATHEIST ~

JULY2007

Letters to the Editor


Nightline Debate - We got took!
Editor,
I attended the debate on May 5, which was ostensibly to be
about the Way of the Master salesmen Kirk Cameron and Pat Comfort's claim that the existence of "God" can be proven scientifically
without a doubt. There were no surprises. I thought Brian Sapient
and Kelly from the Rational Response group dropped the ball a
few times, but Kirk and Pat weren't even in the game. Which is why
in a real sense the Liars for Christ won. They won just by being
there.
After leaving thedebate it occurred to me what I should have
known all along--we got took! Kirk and Pat never had any intention
of putting up even a specious scientific argument. What they wanted--and got--was the opportunity to preach to a national TV audience.The whole "scientific proof" gambit was similar to the girly act
in the old side shows. Some "Little Egypt" (or a reasonable facsimile
thereof) would sway her hips before the crowd of marks eager give
up their money to the barker hoping they would "see something,"
which of course they never really did. I'm sure the vast majority of
Kirk and Pat's intended target audience is genuinely naively superstitious and susceptible to pedestrian sentimentality masquerading
as ethics and distorted claims peppered with scientific terms passing for science. But Kirk and Pat are old whores at this game. They
are not merely wrong; they are liars. If they really and truly wanted
to debate the scientific proof of god, evolution or the constitutional
basis for the separation of church and state they would have done
the research at legitimate science and legal websites to support
their view for the express purpose of using the flaws in their opponents' own atheist and evolutionary arguments and evidence
against them. What they were allowed to do was put on their own
Christian "girly show," to lure attendees and potential TV viewers
into the tent only to preach to them.
Unfortunately for "our side," Brian and Kelly, while well intentioned and essentially correct with facts and logic, mostly debated
from the standpoint that this whole exercise is about facts and logic,
which it certainly is not. (Brian sat there with his mouth open in an
understandable state of incredulity while the traffickers in willfull
ignorance regurgitated their preposterous sludge.) I felt while they
were more than qualified from an intellectual standpoint they were
unskilled at handling slick charlatans who have been at this game
a lot longer than they. To be fair, we are between a rock and a hard
place here.To refuse to lower one's self to dignifying
Creationists' drivel by responding to it would only provide
them with an opportunity to portray rationalists as cowards and to
divert attention from their own intellectual and moral cowardice. I
would have liked to have seen either Edwin Kagin, who does not
suffer fools gladly, or Massimo Pigliucci,* who suffers them gracefully, at the helm.
Dennis Horvits, NYC,NY

Democrats lose My Vote


Editor,
I was not surprised, but am disappointed, to see the number
of Atheists who vote Democratic in the survey result in American
Atheist Magazine. I attended a talk recently at Strand Bookstore in

NYCby two Atheist writers (I forget their names) and one of them (a
feminist Atheist) declared "we won" when referring to the November 2006 election. The people in the audience applauded and yelled
their delight. I almost puked!
I don't know about you, Ellen, but I have turned my back on
the Democrats because they have turned their backs on Atheists
and other freethinkers. I recall how many Democrats showed up
at GAMOW and the Atheists in Foxhole rallies in D.c. (Does "zero"
sound about right?) I recall Sen. Joe "Praise Jehovah!" Lieberman,
who declared that Americans do not have freedom from religion. I
recall every Democratic senator racing out to the Capitol steps with
their GOP counterparts to yell out "Under God" as they recited the
Pledge of Allegiance after the 9th Circuit Court ruling. I recently saw
"liberal' Senator Chuck Schumer on C-Span declaring that"of course
"under God" belongs in the Pledge of Allegiance!" Eliot Spitzer, New
York's new Democratic governor, wanted to give $1,000 tax vouchers to parents so they could send their kids to private schools, mostly Catholic (this betrayal of the public school system was thankfully
defeated).
And when Hilary Clinton was reelected this November, the grinning people standing behind her at her victory celebration were not
Atheists, but Hasidim! All men, of course! The same group that she
pandered to in 2000, and who block-voted for her like they always
do in elections to obtain special privileges no one else receives.
What did she promise these religious bigots and zealots, who are
against gay rights, modern science, abortion, military service and
reporting for jury duty? These people literally get away with murder
in New York, and one day some one will expose their crimes. I know
for a fact that Hasidic slumlords hire drug addicts and gang members to terrorize rent-controlled tenants they want removed so they
could turn the buildings into "condos" or market rentals. Many tenants flee, and some have been killed. The police do nothing. Whenever, a Hasid is a crime victim, the whole community riots, and in
one instance Hasidim stormed and vandalized a police station! The
police did nothing because they know they are dealing with "untouchables': Any other ethnic group would be greeted with gunfire
if they stormed a police station and attacked police officers. These
are Hilary's allies!
The Democrats have also extended their outstretched arms
to the growing Islamic community. Anti-American mullahs are embraced and courted for the same reason the Hasidic rabbis are. To
deliver their community's votes to the Democratic party! Think of
it, Ellen! No Democrat would be caught dead appearing at a free
thought event anywhere in the country, or make any positive statements about Atheists or Humanists. They even give the Ethical Culture Society and Unitarians a wide berth!
But these bearded nightmares from the Middle Ages are declared to be "good Americans" because they are "people of faith"!
But of course, the Democrats who spit in our faces welcome
our votes. They know that "seculars" probably account for about
20%-25% of their base. Where else would we go, they say. So they
take our support for granted and reach out, slobbering, to the "Religious Reich," right-wing Catholics, the Hasidim and the mullahs.
After all, the Democrats are a "party of faith" too!
No "lesser-of-two-evils" approach will ever get me to vote for a
Democrat. The Democratic Party is not our ally and "we" most certainly did not win in November!
Dennis Middlebrooks
Brooklyn, NY

JULY2007

AMERiCANA:rnEiST

Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution


by the onion-www.theonion.com
(Humor)
TOPEKA,
KS-IN response to a Nov. 7 referendum, Kansas lawmakers
passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly
controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of
species and the continued survival of all life.
Lawmakers decried spontaneous genetic mutations.
"From now on, the streets, forests, plains, and rivers of Kansas
will be safe from the godless practice of evolution, and species will
be able to procreate without deviating from God's intended design," said Bob Bethell, a member of the state House of Representatives."This is about protecting the integrity of all creation."
The sweeping new law prohibits all living beings within state
borders from being born with random genetic mutations that
could make them better suited to evade predators, secure a mate,
or, adapt to a changing environment. In addition, it bars any sexual
reproduction, battles for survival, or instances of pure happenstance that might lead, after several generations, to a more welladapted species or subspecies.
Violators of the new law may face punishments that include
jail time, stiff fines, and rehabilitative education and training to rid
organisms suspected of evolutionary tendencies. Repeat offenders
could face chemical sterilization.
To enforce the law, Kansas state police will be trained to investigate and apprehend organisms who exhibit suspected signs of
evolutionary behavior, such as natural selection or speciation. Plans
are underway to track and monitor DNA strands in every Kansan
life form for even the slightest change in allele frequencies.
"Barn swallows that develop lighter, more streamlined builds
to enable faster migration, for example, could live out the rest of
their brief lives in prison," said Indiana University chemist and prointelligent-design author Robert Hellenbaum, who helped compose the language of the law."And butterflies who mimic the wing
patterns and colors of other butterflies for an adaptive advantage,
well, their days of flouting God's will are over."
Human beings may be the species most deeply affected by
the new legislation. Those whose cytochrome-c molecules vary less
than 2 percent from those of chimpanzees will be in direct violation of the law.
Under particular scrutiny are single-cell microorganisms, with
thousands of field labs being installed across the state to ensure
that these self-replicating molecules, notorious for mutation, do
not do so in a fashion benefiting their long-term survival.
Anti-evolutionists such as Hellenbaum have long accused
microorganisms of popularizing "an otherwise obscure, agonizingly
slow, and hard-to-understand" biological process.These repeat offenders are at the root of the problem," Hellenbaum said."We have
the fossil records to prove it."
"No species is exempt," said Marcus HOlloway, a state police
spokesman."Whether you're a human being or a fruit fly-if we detect one homologous chromosome trying to cross over during the
process of meiosis, you will be punished to the full extent of the law."
Although the full impact of the new law will likely not be
felt for approximately 10 million years, most Kansans say they are
relieved that the ban went into effect this week, claiming that evolution may have gone too far already.
"If Earth's species were meant to change over successive
generations through physical modifications resulting from the adaptation to environmental challenges, then God would have given
6

AMERICANArunsr

JULY2007

them the genetic predisposition to select mates and reproduce


based on their favorable heritable traits and their ability to thrive
under changing conditions so that these advantageous qualities
would be passed down and eventually encoded into the DNA of
each generation of offspring," Olathe public school teacher and
creationist Joyce Eckhardt said.Tt's just not natural."
Some warn that the strict wording of the law could have a deleterious effect on Kansas' mostly agricultural economy, since it also
prohibits all forms of man-made artificial selection, such as plant
hybridization, genetic engineering, and animal husbandry. A police
raid on an alleged artificial-insemination
facility outside McPherson, KS on Friday resulted in the arrest of a farmer, a veterinarian,
four assistants, one bull, and several dozen cows.
Agribusiness leaders, who rely on evolution science to genetically modify crops, have voiced concerns about doing business
with Kansas farmers.
"If Kansans want to ban evolution, that is their right, but they
must understand that we rely on a certain flexibility in the natural order of things to be able to deliver healthy food products to
millions of Americans," said Carl Casale, a vice president with the
agricultural giant Monsanto."We're not talking about playing God
here. We are talking about succeeding in the competitive veggieburger market."

Copyright 2007, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

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www.aok.taxreligion.org

Damnable Syllogism
by Robert M. Price

The Essence of Christianity

The Essence of the Essence of Christianity

at is Christianity all about? Or, as at least two important books (by Adolf von Harnack and Ludwig
Feuerbach) from around the turn of the century put
it, what is the "essence of Christianity"? For this is
what we want to know, e.g., when we ask in the abstract how Christianity is to be estimated alongside the other world religions. Is it
just one more can of soup in a row of others? It might be so even if
this can has a label reading "Hinds," while that one says "Campbell."
Often such redundant products are even made by the same company!
To a great degree, I think the analogy is not a bad one. On the one
hand, there are theological differences within each faith that are easily as great as those separating one faith from another. So no religion
has a monolithic unity of identity. But on the other hand, all of them
sooner or later, here or there, turn out to be facing the same agenda
of issues and to have evolved a similar smorgasbord of responses to
those issues.
So we must ask what makes Christianity unique, or more
modestly, what is distinctive about it in the sense that every religion
is unique or distinct unto itself. Jacques Derrida (Limited, Inc.) contends that there is no "proper" use of any piece of language. There is
no inherent "real" meaning that governs "correct" use. There is only
convention. Dictionary writers and grammarians just agree that a certain cross-section of current usage will count as "proper English," "the
King's English." But every "straight" use of it invites "twisted" use.
Without "isn't" it would be no fun to say "ain't." Everything invites a
parody of itself, a distortion of itself. The straight line doesn't rule out
flexibility; rather, it gives you something to be flexible with.
This implies that any definition of what Christianity "really is"
or "is supposed to be" is going to be merely descriptive, not prescriptive. Any textbook orthodoxy will be useful only as an "ideal type,"
a conceptual yardstick to use in measuring the varying proportions
of real live Christian groups. Their variations from the norm do not
count against them. They are not "heresy" in the sense of "thoughtcrime." To the contrary, these differences reveal what is distinctive
about a particular Christian sect or thinker. If they are to some extent
"not true to type," unorthodox, so what? That just helps to chart their
position on the theological map. It doesn't mean they're charting a
course to Hell, or out of the True Church. Maybe the Moonies or the
Mormons or Matthew Fox are getting pretty far from the essential
Christian norm. That may mean they are in the process of evolution
into something else, just as Christianity eventually reached the point
where it could no longer be counted a Jewish sect. Maybe you. think
they should call themselves something else than Christian. Eventually
they'll probably agree with you. Till then, why be in such a rush to
segregate the wheat from the tares?

What is, then, the essence of Christianity? Before we separate


the form from the content, we have to make an even finer-tuned
distinction. We have to use a heuristic device that is sharper than
any two-edged sword, dividing between joints and marrow, soul and
spirit, and, as Seymour Chatman says (Story and Discourse), between
"the content of the content" and "the form of the content." I think
that what constitutes the essential content of Christianity is a central
doctrine, and a theological doctrine is a different kind of thing from,
say, a central principle or a central moral value. It matters a great deal
whether you think the essence of Christianity is love, or you think it
is the doctrine of the atonement. Everything is going to. be different
from there on in, depending on that starting point.
And I am going to argue that the essence of Christianity is
not love, but is in fact the doctrine of the atonement. That does not
mean that the atonement is supposed to be "better" than love or more
important than love. It's just that love is the common possession of
all the religions. It is not what distinguishes them from each other.
Contrary to what the Johannine Jesus says, "all will [not] know that
you are [his] disciples [merely] because you have love toward one another." That wouldn't tell them you weren't Jews, Muslims, Hindus,
Humanists, ete.
If you are thinking there is something wrong here, you are
thinking what Kant and the Eighteenth-Century Rational Religionists thought: it is the distinctives of religion that lead to religious
wars, not what they have in common, certainly not love. Might it not
be better to shear away those distinctives, since they threaten to get
in the way of love?
As I understand it, the Christian doctrine of the atonement
means more or less this. Human beings, thanks to the Fall of Adam,
are fatally tainted with sin, in a fundamental state of moral impotence
and alienation from God. The self is the center of interest, where God
should be. And if God were central, things would fall naturally into
place. Loving and serving God, we would thrive like a heliotropic
plant that always bows in the direction of the sunlight. Such was our
nature till it jumped the track when Adam sinned and fathered a race
and a social system of sinners. We are born in sin like a fish born in
water. Thus it would take radical surgery to lift us out of the briny
deeps of sin and make us breathe air on the surface. We can no more
reform ourselves by good intents and efforts than a fish can simply
decide to live on land from now on.
God would have been well within his rights to wash his hands
of us, but instead he went the second mile and provided the radical
surgery, the means of re-creation, rebirth. This he did by the atonement of Jesus Christ. At the very least this means that Jesus was altogether righteous and thus could not have deserved the punishment of

JULY2007 -

AMERICANATHEIST

say morally noble non-believers are not saved. The options would
seem to be:
1) You are saved by good works, regardless of your belief. This
means God's grace overlooks error in belief, but not immoral actions.
2) You are saved by orthodox belief, regardless of your works.
This means God's grace overlooks immoral actions but not errors in
belief. He is a strict theology professor, and he doesn't curve grades.
If Jesus Is the Answer, What is the Question?
But neither does he care how wild you party, as long as you study for
the exam.
3) Everyone is saved by the grace of God, regardless of their belief
This salvation, this solution, raises more problems than it
or deeds.
solves.
4) The traditional popular Christian view, that you are saved by
One: What about the future? Are you on your own with the
sins you may commit before you die and get past the finish line? a combination of faith and works (a diversified portfolio), each being
necessary but neither being sufficient by itself. But in this case, grace
Many early Christians lived in fear and postponed baptism till their
has little to do with it.
deathbed just to play it safe.
I'd say Christian theology has usually
gone
with number rwo. You are saved
btt>fJnl @/l!'lus.~t~
by right belief. When all is said and done, a
caglecartoons.com _
"sinner" seems to mean simply "not a Christian believer," since the latter is the dangerous and depraved state from which one must
be extricated. That is not to say that immor\H~
al behavior is ignored. No, specific sins are
CONS\DSR
roundly condemned. But the crucial point is
tS
that conversion does not necessarily change
this. If you're lucky, it may, but stories of
such dramatic night-and-day turnabouts are
tall tales that float around the evangelical
community like water-cooler chatter about
someone on TV who won the Lottery. Most
lives are mediocre and stay that way, despite
all the "Dieting with Jesus" books.
What conversion does change is your
beliefs, or the intensity of them, or your
membership in a particular religious group.
So belief, being in with in-crowd of the
144,000, is what matters. You can still commit sins and yet be a Christian, as the bumper sticker assures a surprised world: "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." And why
are they, and not you, forgiven? Because they
are Christians. Not because Christ has died
for them. If that were all there was to it, why,
then you, Mr. Satanist, you, Ms. Secular Humanist, would be forgiven, too! But there are
#. # , ,
no bumper stickers proclaiming these glad
tidings.
Two: if the change conversion makes is more than a clean slate
No, they are forgiven because, unlike you, they believe Christ
("Go and sin no more, lest something worse befall you" John 5:14),
died for them. It all comes down to passing that exam. Thus the old
if it is rebirth as a new creature who walks in the Spirit, why do we joke is no joke: Junior sees his Grampa reading the Bible and religious
tracts and he asks mom why. She says, "He's cramming for his finals!"
still find pretty much the same old temptations and defeats awaiting
us after the initial period of neophyte enthusiasm?
Damn right! He'd better!
Three: why should your response to the atonement, or even
your knowledge of it, make any difference? If Christ died to save you, What a Tangled Web We Weave
When We Practice to Believe
mustn't it have worked?
To make salvation depend on your believing in the atonement, i.e., in the doctrine of the atonement, aren't we simply saying
You see, Christianity did not bring into the world an answer
you are saved by cognitive works? Maybe not doing the right thing,
to an ancient longing, a long-delayed salve for a festering wound.
but by believing the right thing. This is the inevitable result once we No, it created the problem to be able to peddle the solution. You

death or indeed any punishment at all. But he died a punitive death,


on the Roman cross, to take the punishment for the sins of the human race. And though his atoning work is said to be all-sufficient, we
are not out of the woods till we consciously embrace his sacrifice on
our behalf. We have to admit we are sinners and accept a salvation
we need and could never have earned. Those who do not consciously
embrace the gospel of salvation will not receive its benefits.

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AMERICAN All-IEIST

JULY 2007

only think you have the problem the Christian gospel will solve
if you already accept the Christian bill of goods. Karl Barth put it
euphemistically by saying that we are so blinded by sin that we do
not even know the right question to ask till we hear the answer. But
I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer was more to the point when he said
Christianity survives by circling like a vulture, trying to make the
healthy believe they're sick so they will buy the patent medicine we
have to sell. Like asbestos in your basement: the stuff's only toxic
once the environmental experts get there to remove it and start stirring up the dust of death.
How did the doctrine first emerge? Here is one plausible scenario. Jesus of Nazareth is put to death for anti-Roman sedition. His
followers denied he deserved a criminal death; he was innocent of all
charges. (Was he? That's another can of worms.) His disciples faced
two options for understanding what had happened. Either he was a
sinner abandoned by God to a richly deserved fate, which is what
Jesus' enemies thought, or he did not deserve his fate. They believed
the latter. But then a related problem had to be addressed: how come
God let him die? He wasn't being punished for any sins of his own.
But death is a punishment for sin, so he must have died for some sins.
It must have been the sins of others.
This was nothing new. Jewish martyrs' deaths were typically
explained this way. At this stage of the game there was no central
doctrine of an atonement. It was simply a rationalization for the otherwise apparent failure of divine providence to safeguard Jesus. The
earliest Jewish Jesus sectarians probably did not view him as a savior
in the now-traditional Christian sense at all. Nor were they called
Christians. (The word "Christian" appears only three times in the
New Testament, and in late writings, Acts and 1 Peter, and it is always
a term applied by outsiders.) This is an important point, implying
as it does that Christianity as such did not exist till the atonement
doctrine existed. Thus the atonement is what constitutes a religion
as Christian.
The atonement doctrine may well have emerged (as Sam K.
Williams argues in Jesus' Death as Saving Event) as a piece of Hellenistic Jewish missionary theology. Gentile "God-fearers" admired
Jewish theology and ethics, but they remained hangers-on at the
margins of the synagogue, not full, circumcised proselytes, because
they did not relish embracing the whole mass of Jewish dietary and
ceremonial customs. Some of them began to join communities of
Jews who expected the return of Jesus as the Messiah, and a new
problem arose. Jews looked to the Jerusalem temple sacrifices to
atone for their sins. Gentiles were beyond the pale, unclean before
God, outside the Levitical system of sacrificial atonement. How
could God accept them as full members of the household of faith?
In other words, how could they now receive full admission to the
synagogues of Jews who revered Jesus? We can see the controversy
over this point in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: do Gentile believers in Jesus have to become full proselytes to Judaism and keep
the Torah regulations? Many Jewish Jesus sectarians assumed so.
Remember, they weren't trying to start a new Jesus religion. That
came later.
A big step in that direction was the theological answer to this
question that said Gentiles did not have to keep the rituals of the Torah, because the death of Jesus had cleansed Gentile unholiness, like
the atoning deaths of sacrificial animals had for the Jews. God had
accepted Jesus' faithful martyr death as an atonement on the Gentiles'
behalf The Epistle to the Ephesians and 1 Peter both make this point
clearly. Christ's death has included Gentiles in the Jewish fold. His
death has torn down the Berlin Wall that separated Jew from Gentile.

What was it Gentiles needed to be saved from? Ritual uncleanness, being "unwashed heathen." Traditionally Jewish thought
held that God required of Gentiles only the rudimentary commandments of Noah in Genesis 9, an elementary slate of decency laws.
Non-Jews were not required to keep the 613 commandments of the
Torah. Those were for Jews alone. Gentiles weren't damned, unless
they were immoral pagans, whose idol-worship led them into immorality. Righteous Gentiles would be saved all right, but in the
meantime, they just weren't part of the House of Israel. Even so, the
question Paul and others faced was not whether Gentile God-fearers
would be damned. The issue was whether they were entitled to full
membership in the Household of God. And the death of Jesus provided for their adoption as sons and daughters, as Jews already were
by birth. This early version of the atonement doctrine was still quite
a different thing than it has since become.
The big change came once the Jesus sect had spread further in
time and space beyond its Jewish origin. Since Jewish ritual taboos
were dropped, the distinction between sin as ritual uncleanness and
sin as moral guilt was lost. To say that Jesus died "for the world" first
meant "for the rest of the world outside Israel," but now it came to
mean "for the whole human race, including Jews." The original Jewish Jesus sect did not necessarily think their fellow Jews were damned
for not believing in Jesus, any more than Rabbi Akiba would have
damned Jews who didn't agree that Simon bar Kochba was the Messiah in 132 CEo But now Jesus was understood as the Savior from
moral guilt and from divine damnation. So everyone had to jump on
the bandwagon!
Epidemic of Salvation
Here is the logic as I see it: Look, we've got an explanation for
the death ofJesus that says he can't have died for sins of his own, so it

Religion & Marx


by Rick B.A. Wise

~gion

&!M
,
RickB.A. WIse

The news is full of reports on


the changes in the Eastern Bloc
countries, and many of the stories
deal with the demands of religious
persons in those nations. And, of
course, for years Americans have
heard generalizations about Marx
and his "dialectic materialism." But
what is that kind of materialism, and
how did Marx come to that position?
Wise traces the development of
Marx's opinions on religion, from
his early years as a devotee of the
German philosopher George Hegel,
through his embracing Ludwig
Feuerbach forward to his final
evaluation of the importance of
religious criticism.
267 pages.
Paperback
stock # 5521
$12.00
Please see order form for
member discount and S&H

JULY 2fX)7

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

Thumbscrew and Rack


by George Macdonald
Torture implements employed in the
Fiftheenth and Sixteenth Centuries
for the promulgation of Christianity.
Among the devices pictured and
described are the Spanish Collar, the
Thumbscrew, the Knobby Crown,
the Rack,the Leg Crusher,the Stocks,
Damien's Iron Bed,the Hot Mitten,
the Iron Boot, the Iron Virgin and
many more. These instruments
aroused far more terrifying fears than
any modern day horror movie.
GEORGE MACDONALD

Illustrated
stock # 5232
$6.00
Please see order form for
member discount and S&H

must have been for someone else's.This means these others must have
needed him to die for them. So their sin must have been something
more serious than the Jewish concept of "spot sins" that could be
dealt with by "spot forgiveness" here and there. Otherwise, why go to
the trouble to send a divine savior? Again, Galatians: if things are still
as they were under Judaism, then what was the point of Christ dying?
It must have been necessary, so let's posit a condition serious enough
to require it! That's original sin, total depravity, something going way
beyond the Yetzer Harah (evil imagination) that Judaism ascribes to
human nature.
Ironically, redemption theology only begins to make sense
once you drop the expectation that it makes sense! That is, you only
begin to see what's really going on once you recognize that it is not
theoretically coherent. You can stop looking for the logic of the thing
and start looking for the "psycho-logic" that went into it. It is not an
inference inductively arrived at. It is an after-the-fact rationalization.
You stop looking for the reasons that account for it, for there are
none. You seek instead for what the atonement is rationalizing. E.P.
Sanders recognizes this. He observes that Paul "thought backwards,
from solution to plight, and ... his thinking in this, as in many respects, was governed by the over-riding conviction that salvation is
through Christ. Since Christ came to save all, all needed salvation ....
Paul did not begin by analyzing the human situation" (Paul, the Law,
and the Jewish People, 68).
How can the Christian be sure everyone needs Christ's atonement? This is what we are asking when we tell the pushy evangelist
that his faith is fine for him, but that we prefer another way. Why do
I have to go your way? The answer, the real, psychological answer, is
that "It has to be the way for everybody without exception. If it's only
for some people, I won't know if I am one of the ones it will work
C
I"
ror.
Sometimes, like Paul, who claimed to have been the chief of
sinners, an evangelist will say, "If it worked for me, it can work for
anybody." But what this really means is, "Since it will work for everybody, then I can be sure, deductively, that it will work for me."
The revival chorus celebrates "All sufficient grace for even me." I
must have certainty! So for me to be sure the gospel will redeem me,
I have to believe that you need it, too. Hence I cannot be satisfied
10

AMEiuCANATHElSf -

JULY2007

thinking you might not need it. If! admit that something else might
do the trick for you, I have to suspect that something else might work
better for me, too. And since the much-vaunted claims that "Christ
changed my life" are usually more statements of faith than accurate
descriptions of experience, this suspicion would be fatal. I might then
have to recognize that Christ is not living up to the advertising rhetoric and get back on the road looking for another panacea. And I'm
sick of that.
A good but partial analogy might be the disingenuousness
with which certain AIDS activists warn us that heterosexuals are every bit as much at risk as homosexuals are. The assumption is that
straights will not get serious abour stamping out AIDS if they don't
think everyone needs a cure or vaccine for it.
It's another version of the problem that plagues Calvinists.
God predestines the elect to be saved; there's no way they can fumble
the ball. So the belief in predestination should be a source of great reassurance, right? Calvin thought so. But he was wrong. His successors
realized that since one could never be sure one was in fact one of the
elect, since not everybody was, there was more reason to worry than
ever before! This is pretty much the same anxiety that the Christian
evangelist is trying to fend off by insisting that you need his gospel,
too, whether you like it or not. If it's not for everyone without exception, it may not be for him either. And the fundamentalist wants
nothing so much as security.
Once unleashed, the doctrine of the atonement runs amok
like a computer virus, corrupting every file. Once the question arises
as to how sin could first have entered the picture in Eden, how the
Fall of Adam was even possible in the first place, God himself gets implicated. (And it is himself, not "herself" half the time, because I am
willing-to argue that the maleness of God is a structural necessity in
traditional Christian theology, the kind we are discussing here.) The
logic will sound familiar to us by now, though no less pernicious. And
Calvinists did not hesitate to embrace it. God, being all-knowing and
all-powerful, cannot, in the nature of the case, have merely waited to
see whether Adam would obey or disobey him. No, God must actually have caused the Fall of Adam. Oh, don't worry, Francis Turretin
reassures us, God didn't force Adam's hand. He just pulled the plug
of sustaining grace at the crucial moment so that Adam lacked the
wherewithal to resist Satan's temptation. (As if that gets God off the
hook! At least it shows the uneasy conscience of the Calvinist in the
matter.) Why would the Almighty pull such a stunt? Well... if it's not
broke you can't fix it, and God had this little plan of salvation in his
pocket, see?
This doesn't sound kosher to you? Despite their protests that
it all makes perfect sense, theologians know how it sounds to any
fair-minded person. "You will say to me, then, 'Why does he still find
fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, a mere mortal,
to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why
have you made me thus'?" (Romans 9:19-20). In other words, Sit
down and shut up! But we are not answering back to God; we are
answering back to fellow mortals who seem to think they are God.
Mortals who think it lies in their power to condemn you to Hell for
not believing in the doctrine of the atonement.
Apologetics Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
Once things assume such nightmarishly surreal proportions,
wouldn't you think someone would conclude their theory had, like
Bugs Bunny, made a wrong turn at Albuquerque? How much more
could the atonement doctrine find itself reduced to absurdity? By

now, merely to explain it is to refute it. Perhaps it is no surprise, given


the male monopoly on theology, that theologians would show the
male propensity, when hopelessly lost, to just keep going and not ask
directions. To stop and double back now would be too devastating an
admission of error. It is all a matter of cognitive dissonance reduction.
If you're hell-bent on hanging on to the paradigm of classical Christianity, there is no expedient you won't seize upon to patch the rags.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith hits the nail on the head:
Actually the only basis on which their position can and
does rest is a logical inference. It seems to them a theoretical implication of what they themselves consider to be true,
that other people'sfaith must be illusory. Personally, I think
that this is to put far too much weight on logical implication. There have been innumerable illustrations of man's
capacity for starting from some cogent theoretical position
and then inferring from it logically something else that at
the time seems to him persuasive but that in fact turns out
on practical examination not to hold. It isfar too sweeping
to condemn the great majority of mankind to lives of utter
meaninglessness and perhaps to Hell, simply on the basis
of what seems to some individuals the force of logic.... The
damnation of my neighbor is too weighty a matter to rest
on a syllogism. (The Faith of Other Men, 122-123)
But such hobgoblin consistency is just what we might expect,
seeing that the whole thing began as a cognitive dissonance reduction
maneuver. In the wake of the execution of Jesus, somehow virtue
had to be made of necessity. The atonement doctrine was the result.
Otherwise, "Christ died to no purpose" (Galatians 2:21). And we
can't have that. We can't brook genuine tragedy. It must have a happy
ending. Forgive me for paraphrasing Paul: "I have been crucified with
Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I
now live in the flesh I live in denial."
The history of the doctrine of the atonement is a long series of
proposals for lending some sense to the thing. One grotesque analogy
follows another, but, recalling what the Epistle to the Hebrews said
of the Levitical sacrifices, if anyone of them had possessed any merit,
the rest wouldn't have been necessary!
It is not merely a question of cross-cultural equivalencies, finding the appropriate counterpart in our cultural frame of reference.
The problem is that of a drastic discontinuity of values between the
biblical culture and our own, something far more serious than the ancients believing heaven was literally above us, while we imagine it as,
I suppose, another dimension. No, the whole atonement transaction
presupposes the ancient confusion of criminal law with tort law, as if
the sins of the world merely required a fine which a generous friend
could payoff for us. Once one sees the logical difference between the
two, as we have long ago drawn the distinction between astronomy
and astrology, we should see that the atonement doctrine really has
nothing at all to do with justice as we define it. The closest analogy in
our justice system might be a friend posting bail for a criminal pending trial. This is a buying of someone's freedom by paying the price
he cannot pay for himself But I doubt that this is really adequate.
And nothing else is.
If we bemoan the unreasonableness of Christian spokesmen
who insist on belief in the cross, we should not be surprised at it.
How can one hold fast to such a doctrine except unreasonably? If
they could coherently explain it to anyone's satisfaction, you can be
sure they would.

Physician, Heal Thyself


Don't you see the irony of the situation when modern theologians claim that, against critiques like mine, some sense can be made
of the atonement? We are not talking anymore about a savior of sick
mankind. Now we are talking about whether we can save the ailing
doctrine of the atonement itself It is like the Ottoman Empire in its
declining days, "the Sick Man of Europe." It is no longer saving us;
we must save it. But I say, why bother? The patient's brain-dead; why
bankrupt the family by paying for the life-support contraption? Pull
the plug!
I personally do not see how the centrality of Jesus Christ can
be maintained without the doctrine of the atonement. If he is not
central in this way, what is left? Harry Emerson Fosdick held that it is
"the personality of Jesus" (as if we knew anything about it) that is "the
soul of Christianity." But this is to make Christianity into sentimental fan-worship, a maudlin personality cult like the Elvis Cult.
Neither will it do to hold, as Tillich did, that we value Jesus
only insofar as that which is Jesus in him yields to that which is Christ
in him, so that he becomes a perfect window through which we can
behold God. If Jesus in this way tells us anything about God we did
not know before, then it is something his individual personhood has
contributed, and we are back to worshipping him as God. To say that
"God is like Jesus" is really to say, we worship Jesus as a god. Ritschl
admitted it when he redefined the Incarnation as the belief that "Jesus
has the value of God for us."
I do not see how one can get around the simple truth of
Socrates, when he admonished his disciples to "think not of Socrates,
but think of the truth." We dare not raise any idol up to a level equal
with truth, or it will soon eclipse the truth, and the truth will become
lost in its shadow. That has long since happened with the idol ofJesus
Christ and Christianity. And this is why I believe those who see the
chief attraction of religion in its lip-service to truth and love, more
than in any trademark theological doctrine, ought to clear the air and
confess their allegiance to truth and love rather than to any religion.
Truth and love might be judged the true essence of all religions alike.
But if that is so, then the inessentials, the secondary trademark doctrines that lend any particular religion its distinctiveness, might better
be dropped, and with them any particular religious label at all.

Robert Price founded (and continues to edit) The Journal of


Higher Criticism. He taught Philosophy and Religion for a few years
at Bergen Community College in New Jersey, then New Testament Interpretation at Drew for a couple more. In 1999 he came on board with
the Council for Secular Humanism and founded the North Jersey Center
for Inquiry. He and his family, now including two daughters, Victoria
and Veronica, returned to North
Carolina in 2001, where he continues to teach, write, and edit.
His books include Beyond Born
Again, The Widow Traditions in
Luke-Acts, Deconstructing Jesus,
The Incredible Shrinking Son of
Man, The Da Vinci Fraud, The
Reason-Driven Life, and The
Pre-Nicene New Testament. He is
a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and
of the Committee for the Scientific
Examination of Religion. He can
be reached at criticus@aol.com.
JULY2007

AMERICAN

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11

KurtVonnegut
1922-2007
obituary
RTVONNEGUT
whose literary works
used satire,
social commentary
and philosophical
criticism, died April 11,
2007 at his home in
Manhattan. He was 84.
Vonnegut was
a staple for several
generations of readers,
beginning with his
dystopian science fiction novel Player Piano
published in 1952. It
established some of
the key literary themes
that characterized his
future work, including
a caution about the
effects of technology on the human community and the dangers of
media indoctrination and government bureaucracy.
Vonnegut grew up in Indianapolis, IN,and during high school
was editor of the school newspaper. After a short stint at Cornell
University, he joined the u.s. Army in 1942, and became an infantry
scout in the European theater of operations. In December, 1944, he
was one of several thousand Americans captured by the Germans
during the Battle of the Bulge, and ended up in a POW camp in
Dresden. He and fellow Americans were secured in the basement
meat locker of a slaughterhouse, where they were fortunate enough
to survive the devastating firebombing of the city. An estimated
135,000 civilians and soldiers were killed. His experiences in
Dresden became the basis of his future novel, Slaughterhouse Five,
published in 1969. Its pacifist and humanitarian themes resonated
with the growing opposition to the Vietnam War.
Other novels and collections of short stories included The Sirens ofTitan (1959); eat's Cradle (1963); God BlessYou, Mr. Rosewater
(1965); Breakfast of Champions (1963); Galapagos (1985); Bluebeard
(1987); Hocus Pocus (1990) and Timequake (1997).
In his political essays,Vonnegut was a relentless critic of the
Bush administration. He spoke out against military adventurism,
economic inequality and other government policies. He served as
honorary president of the American Humanist Association, replacing the prolific science-fiction author Isaac Asimov, in what Vonnegut described as"that totally functionless capacity." Nevertheless,
Vonnegut expressed his Humanism and Atheism in talks, essays
and opinion pieces. A survey of his writing, particularly his novels,
reveals a spectrum of attitudes in respect to religion, ranging from
the humorous to the acerbic.
In Slaughterhouse 5,Vonnegut wrote:What the Gospels actually said was: don't kill anyone until you are absolutely sure they
aren't well connected."
His novel The Sirens ofTitan presented readers with a bizarre
alternative reality (complete with a manipulative spiritual movement headed by a wealthy, interstellar vagabond named Winston

12

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JULY2007

Niles Rumfoord). He
wrote,"The name of
the new religion,"
said Rumfoord,"is The
Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. The
two chief teachings
of this religion are
these: Puny men can
do nothing at all to
help or please God
Almighty; and Luck is
not the hand of God."
Freethought author James A. Haught
in his work 2000 Years
of Disbelief: Famous
People with the
Courage to Doubt,
quoted Vonnegut, as
saying,"How on earth
can religious people
believe in so much arbitrary, clearly invented balderdash? The acceptance of a creed, any creed, entitles the acceptor to membership
in the sort of artificial extended family we call a congregation. It is a
way to fight loneliness. Any time I see a person fleeing from reason
and into religion, I think to myself, 'there goes a person who simply
cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore,"
Another entry from Haught reveals that Vonnegut clearly
rejected the supernatural and other trappings of religion. "I am of
course a skeptic about the divinity of Christ and a scorner of the
notion that there is a God who cares about how we are or what we
do .... Religious skeptics often become very bitter towards the end,
as did MarkTwain .... I know why I will become bitter. I will finally
realize that I have had it right all along, that I will not see God, that
there is no heaven or Judgment Day."
In Bluebeard, Vonnegut combined satire with philosophical
insight."The trouble with God isn't that He seldom makes Himself
known to us. He's holding you and me and everybody else by the
scruff of the neck practically .... Contentedly adrift in the cosmos,
were you? ... That is a perfect description of a non-epiphany, that
rarest of moments, when God Almighty lets go of the scruff of your
neck and lets you be human for a little while."
Writing in FatesWorse than Death: An Autobiographical Collage of the 1980s,Vonnegut deciared,"1 am an atheist (or at best a
Unitarian who winds up in church quite a lot)." He also cautioned,
"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I
consider the capacity for it terrifying."
During his lifetime, Vonnegut was the quintessential literary provocateur, critic, nonconformist and a bit of a polite cultural
bomb-thrower. Many have compared his wit and writings to those
of Mark Twain. His essays and novels were a staple, particularly of
the generation that came of age in the 1960s,and was at the chaotic
center of the civil rights struggle, opposition to the Vietnam conflict
and other movements for social change. In death, Vonnegut's
creative output will hopefully inform, stimulate and motivate future
generations to doubt, question, investigate and, if necessary, rebel.

A Transitional Fossa of Religion


by Jim Corbett

recently read an article on the CNN website (April 6, 2007) by


Dr. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who is the director of the
Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins also has a new book titled,
"The Language of God: A Scientist Provides Evidence for Belief," and one presumes the article was meant to promote the book.
Collins is another in a long line of authors who will make a
fortune by cashing in on the easiest Ponzi scheme that ever existedselling books by saying, "I used to be an Atheist until I read C.S.
Lewis and now I've committed my life to Jesus." (Personally, I used to
be a Christian until I read C.S. Lewis; when I realized how lame the
arguments were, I became an Atheist. Regrettably, one cannot make
a fortune selling that conversion story. But I digress.)
Collins says a big influence that started him questioning his
Atheistic leanings was that the world of science had no answers for
the nagging questions that people tend to ask about the human condition. These are questions that Dr. Collins felt science has failed to
address: "What is the meaning of life?" "Why am I here?" "If the
universe had a beginning, who created it?" "Why do humans have
a moral sense?" and "What happens
after I die?"
In his favor, Collins acknowledges that science has gotten it right
on topics like evolution through
descent. Since he is the head of the
Human Genome Project, we can
feel good about the fact that he asserts that if any doubts lingered
about evolution using only the fossil record as evidence, the study of
DNA makes it abundantly clear that humans are related to all other
living things. And he recognizes that this is in conflict with an ultraliteral interpretation of Genesis, but sides with religious thinkers like
"St. Augustine, who found it impossible to be exactly sure what the
meaning of that amazing creation story was supposed to be." (Imagine that! I have that same problem.)
Collins boldly asserts that "attaching oneself to such literal interpretations in the face of compelling scientific evidence pointing to
the ancient age of the Earth, and the relatedness of living things by
evolution, seems neither wise nor necessary for the believer." Actually, I'm in complete agreement with the unwise part, but I think he
needs to review the unnecessary part. The whole reason that fundamentalists stick to the fundamentals is because they recognize that
the entire story is a house of cards and if they let one card topple, the
total structure collapses. But-hey, whatever. Right? He wraps up
the whole thing in a neat little package by waxing poetic with, "By
investigating God's majestic and awesome creation, science can actually be a means of worship." (Presumably there is no genuflecting in
the lab, however.)

But, wait. What really struck me about the entire article was
that the premise Collins was actually asserting, though unwittingly,
is a form of transitional fossil itself The premise follows along the
evolutionary line that leads away from religion and to complete acceptance of science as the only necessary tool for learning about and
interpreting the universe in which we live. His observations are like
a little mutation in a gene that may help people who are trapped in
their fundamentalist way of thinking. And by exposing them to a
radical new idea (i.e., Genesis doesn't have to be taken literally) they
may move their thinking in the correct direction.
We know that life forms did not emerge all at once in their
final forms. Even Dr. Collins knows this. Creatures evolve in tiny
increments that provide some benefit to the organism, and then another change occurs and another and so on until a new entity is created. There is neither a set time schedule nor a preferred end game to
the process; it simply changes in the way that nature provides. Well,
ideas evolve in the same way and some ideas require a longer time to
be accepted and integrated into a culture than others do.

"...ideas evolve ...and some ideas require a longer time to be


accepted and integrated into a culture than others do."
For example, when Paul of Tarsus ("St. Paul" to some religions) began preaching about a new god named Jesus, shortly after
the alleged resurrection of same, he was introducing a wholly new
concept to the communities in which he visited. Those people already had gods of their own, with whom, we presume, they were
perfectly happy. Those gods had served their purposes for many years
and had seen the people through thick and thin, to the extent that
gods can do that-thank you very much.
So along comes this new idea about a god who sent his son to
die, ete., ete., and we all get eternal life if we just play by these rules,
yada, yada, yada. And the upshot of all this was that many of the people preaching these new ideas were sent to the lions for asserting such
nonsense. But the new idea stuck around and it evolved to incorporate some of the existing lore from the surrounding communities, and
10 and behold, it became the new religion of the land. But remember
this: it took 300 years from the time that Paul started preaching until
Constantine made Christianity the religion of the land.
Now, let's fast-forward a few centuries and what do we find?
Charles Darwin comes along and asserts a new scientific theory that
upends a number of the core tenets of this now-long-established
behemoth of a religion and many people naturally resist. They are
JULY2007 -

AMERiCANAnmsr

13

content with their religion; their social structure is built around that
religion; people are naturally resistant to change and, of course, they
are really invested in the whole "life after death" thing.
But Darwin's idea is compelling. So scientists continue to investigate, and much to the dismay of the fundamentalist believers in
religion, the scientists make an escalating number of discoveries that
make it really hard to accept some of the religious tenets on their face.
But ideas evolve. So now, instead of rejecting the scientific theory in
its entirety, the religious community is taking steps to accept the hard
evidence but continue to pander to their audience with the "soft-sell"
stuff of "we can have our cake and eat it too," which is the position
espoused by Collins.
This transitional phase will lead to the next one after more
compelling information is discovered. Scientists will get inside the
DNA and unlock its secrets, and life forms that share the DNA of
earth creatures will be discovered on other planets and numerous
presently-unthought-of discoveries will be made. When that happens, new generations will look back and realize that the comment
by Collins, in which he says that science cannot answer the questions
listed above, is really incorrect. Science CAN answer those questions-Collins just doesn't like the answers.
It took 300 years for Christianity to become fully accepted in
the community at large. But Darwin's revolutionary idea was only
introduced a little over 150 years ago. So clearly, more work needs to
be done to educate the masses, and patience and perseverance will be
needed to wait out the evolutionary process of teaching a society a
new set of rules and values. Along the way we should be thankful for
the transitional fossils like the one provided by Dr. Collins. That will
help move people away from superstition to acceptance of rational
thought.
It can be done, but it will take time. And even though Dr.
Collins will make a fortune on his book by pandering to fools (and I
won't make a nickel by sharing my observations) I am grateful for the
service he provides by stepping into the role of gene mutation that
may ultimately help humanity to move in the right direction.
Humanity needs all the
help it can get. *
Jim Corbett lives in Edmonds, Washington with his family and works as an executive in
the online legal research business.
He also runs two golf web sites
and his most recent golf book, The
Pocket Idiot's Guide to Golf Rules
and Etiquette came out in May,
2007. Mr. Corbett can be reached
at mrgo!j@mrgo/fcom

NEW Life Members


AMERICAN
ATHEISTS
Welcomes

New Life Members

Lawndale, CA
Kenneth H. Bonnell - Los Angeles, CA
ROGER MARTINEZ -

14

AMERICAN ATHEIST

JULY 2007

Denying Evolution
by Massimo Pigliucci
stock # 16007
$33.00
Please see order form for
member discount and S&H

History's Greates Liars


by Joseph McCabe
introduction
by Madalyn

Murray O'Hair

At a time when the school


books of the nation are under
attack by right-wing religious
fundamentalists, this small book
of Joseph McCabe's becomes
critically important. McCabe was
a scholar of the old school of
original objective research. He
combed through the voluminous
tomes of his day to seek out the
inaccuracies and the errancies
which he knew existed because
his own church had educated
him well in how to rewrite
history. He could recognize and point out the fallacies, the
distortions, the deliberate lies and deceits. In addition, from
his own independent research,after having been freed from
the intellectual strictures which the church had imposed
upon him, he was able to weigh the material at hand.
With this small handbook as a guide, any amateur historian
can start to take an educated look at what is offered to us
today in place of real history and immediately uncover the
fraudulent posits which are so apparent when once we
have a guiding light.The scholarly historian can now peel
back the layers of religious accretion and find some small,
true, semblence of truth - what might have really happened.
The raison d'etre of American Atheists is to educate: to
sort out fact from fiction, truth from fantasy. But, again
and again we are faced with a job which is overwhelming.
How does one deprogram an entire nation,a group of
nations, the world? How does one dig out from the myriad
of lies, that which has some semblance of reality? When
religious fanatics have systematically, for hundreds of years
perverted the truth, from whence can come a viable and
accurate record?
Hope is here at last in this small book. It is highly
recommended. You will enjoy every page of it.

HISTORY'S
GREATEST
LIARS

stock # 5524
$9.00
Please see order form for member discount and S&H

The Mussolinis
Among Us

book review

by Jim Burgtorf

hris Hedges, like Michelle Goldberg in Kingdom Coming,


provides an overview of the Christian Right and attempts
to raise awareness of it as a dangerous mass movement
with totalitarian, fascistic tendencies posing a very real
threat to American democracy and individual liberty. There are many
similarites to Kingdom, but a rather different perspective due to the
two authors' differing backgrounds. Goldberg is a secular Jew, while
Hedges is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and still considers
himself a liberal Christian:
Many have observed that if fascism comes to America, it will
not come with brown shirts and swastikas, but with familiar American symbols and trappings. The core of the Christian Right movement is dominionism, which teaches that Christians have a divine
right to rule all non-Christians, and that the Bible, literally read and
inerrant, is the source of all law, history, and science. The dominionists believe that America has been divinely ordained to impose this
rule on the world, and only after this has been accomplished can
Christ return to carry out the final, grisly destruction of all unbelievers (including "liberal Christians" and most Catholics), a laTimothy
LaHaye's Left Behind novel series.
Hedges' mentor was Dr. James Luther Adams, who had been
his ethics professor at Harvard 25 years ago. Adams, who was then
nearly 80, had been in Germany in the mid-1930s and saw first-hand
the pro-Nazi German Christian Church. He recognized early on the
disturbing similarities with the Christian Right in the US - the conflating of religion and worldly power, nationalism, militarism, and
intolerance.
The bulk of the book is an inside look at the movement's
means and methods. Hedges blames the rootlessness, anomie, and
despair of modern life for much of the appeal of the Christian Right,
which gives recruits a sense of belonging, purpose, and enemies to
blame and hate. Scapegoating is always one of the most important
techniques of fascist movements-the
Nazis blamed the Jews for
Germany's problems, and the dominionists blame liberals, homosexuals, feminists, and "secular Humanists" for America's alleged moral
decline. In place of the mass rallies and torchlight parades of Hitler's
Germany, the Christian Right has its megachurches, loosely defined
as churches with 2,000 or more members (some have as many as
10,000). And, as in previous movements, control of the media is central-"Christian" broadcasting is a multibillion dollar business, with
hundreds of radio and TV stations spewing fundamentalist propaganda around the clock. Dr. Goebbels could only be envious.
In a revealing chapter called "Conversion" Hedges tells of attending the "Evangelism Explosion" workshop run.by D. James Kennedy, one of the heavyweights of the Christian Right. In keeping
with the military leitmotifs the movement is so fond of, Kennedy
calls himself and other pastors "generals" or "admirals" and evangelists "soldiers." The conversionlrecruitment process is riddled with
lies and deception - evangelists at the workshop are told to hide their
Bibles at first when approaching prospects and to pretend they're taking a survey of religious belief They are required to write and rewrite
their "personal testimonies" and practice them with the help of an

AMERICAN
FASCISTS
II1Ctll!1l11111111111l!1I11U1IlIIitl

A review of Chris Hedges'

American Fascists:
The Christian Right and
the War on America
[Free Press, 2006, 254 pp.l

assigned "prayer partner" until they are delivered flawlessly. It is considered essential that the testimony explicitly state that the fear of
death has been banished forever.
Hedges does fault liberals for being too tolerant-too eager to
be "inclusive," to engage in debate and dialog. It is time, he feels, to
be intolerant of intolerance. The dominionists, for their part, have
no interest in any dialog with "evil." Their enemies can only be vanquished and destroyed. But, he puts forth no coherent program for
countering this movement, as if awareness alone is adequate. Surely
something more is necessary.
The biggest problem this reviewer sees with Hedges is that
after throwing out the baby, he clings desperately to the bath water in
the form of a supposedly compassionate "liberal" Christianity. In the
book's first chapter, he does indulge in some biblical criticism, and
accuses the dominionists of being "selective literalists," picking and
choosing Bible texts that conform to their ideology, and ignoring or
distorting what doesn't. And he correctly observes that the literalists
can't have it both ways. But, after admitting that mainstream Christians can also cherry-pick the Bible, he insists that it must "be read
in another way." Somehow he thinks that this can salvage an ethic of
tolerance and compassion, often exemplified, he claims, in the "life of
Christ." Is this the same Christ who said, "But those mine enemies,
which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay
them before me" (Lk. 19:27)? And told his followers they must hate
their families (Lk. 14:26; Mt. 10:21, 10:34 ff.), and that he came not
to bring peace, but a sword? Hedges can't have it both ways, either.
How can the "life" of Jesus-if he lived at all-negate such hateful
words?
Chris Hedges has written a very readable, compelling book
from the viewpoint of a reporter on the scene. Anybody who thinks
"it can't happen here" should read it. But a non theist cannot help but
be disappointed in Hedges' refusal to take the final step and reject
Christianity and the Bible altogether. The answer to the Christian
Right and the dominionists is reason and critical thinking, not a
more "tolerant" religion.

James Burgtorf is a chemist and information scientist who has


been active in various skeptic and Freethougth groups for many years. He
can be reached at jburgtorj@cas.org

JULY2007 -

AMERICAN

Aruasr

15

American Atheists

33rd Annual Nation


American Atheists held it's 33rd

and 8 and it was one of the most


was mild and sunny and man
The hotel meeting rooms over
there to film our Friday session
There are many Atheists in the Sea
help with the convention. This m

Wendy Britton, Bart Meltzer


and Ellen Johnson on the
Spirit of Seattle Train

P.O. Box 5733

Parsippany,

Ruth and John Henderson about to


board the train to the Columbia Winery

Jesus (Troy Conrad) and Bradley Hawkins

lJ

IConventio
I !nnual convention in Seattle, Washington on April 6, 7
~.~joyablethat we have ever held. The weather in Seattle
folkstook the time to see the beautiful sights of the city.
'owed with conventioneers. C-SPANand ABC's20120 were
s, Theseprograms will have aired by the time you read this.
tIearea and many of them gladly volunteered their time to
ade us feel very welcome and our convention run smoothly.

Board member Susan Harrington's


daughter Saige enjoying conversation
during a break

We want to thank the


following people for helping
to make this event possible.
Tina Bader
Arthur Brenner
Renata Brenner
Wendy Britton
Emily Brown
David Carnahan
Rachel Carroll
Paul Case
Silvia Decataldo
Luca Dellamore
Timothy Dicks
David Fitzgerald
Ed Gauci
Conrad Goeringer
Susan Harrington
Bradley Hawkins
Jim Heldberg
Kyle Hepworth
Lori Howard
Arlene-Marie
Bart Meltzer
Larry Mundinger
Jason Torpy
Tim Tyni
Bob Seidensticker
Dakota Solberg
Megan Spielbusch
Rob Wilson
Ann Zindler
Frank Zindler

The following awards were


presented:
Blair Scott
Atheist OfThe Year
Clyde Baxley
First Amendment Award
Dr.Gilbert Shapiro
Letter to Editor
Winner
Julia Sweeney
Outreach Award
Dennis Paul Himes
State Director OfThe Year
Dick Hogan
Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter J. Nuhn
Atheist Activist OfThe Year
Award
Dr. Massimo Pigliucci
The Advancement of Atheism
and Science Award

American Atheists

33rd Annual National Convention


continued

Scholarship Winners
We fly our scholarship winners to the annual conventions so that you can see the
young deserving winners who you help with your donations and memberships.
Our 2006 winners were Anna Ka and Hemant Mehta.
Our Youth and Family Director, David Silverman announced our scholarship
winners for 2007. They are Meghan Regis and Greg Hartman.
Play God!
David Fitzgerald set up a contest in the book and product room for people to
create their own religion. It was called Play God. We'd like to thank the judges Clark
Adams, Lori Howard and Susan Harrington. August Berkshire's "Sinergy"was the
First Place winner. Runners up were Rayanne Silverman with "Singulism," David
Fitzgerald with "Divine Love Boat" and Hanley Gunman with "Fitzism."
Synergy:
Everyone agrees that synergy is a good thing; the natural and perfect coming
together and the synchronizing of various elements. Is it really an accident then, or
is it synergy, that "synergy" sounds exactly like my new religion "Sinergy?
To do good requires merely doing nothing. A Christian couch potato is guaranteed
heaven merely for believing. Not so with a Sinergist!
Any sin worth committing - such as smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing,
fornicating, or drinking coffee -requires some energy. Therefore, to achieve the
Heaven on Earth that the Sinergy religion promises, you've got to get up off your
butt and go out and have some fun!
Blasphemy!
David Fitzgerald also coordinated our version of
Jeopardy which we called Blasphemy! The three teams
who played were the "Baby Jesus Butt Plugs" with Lori
Lipman Brown, Eddie Tabash and Clark Adams. The "Pig's
Eye Atheists" were August Berkshire, Steve Petersen
and Vanila Mishra. And "Donate To CQSSA MAAF" were
Amanda Warner, Jason Torpy and Hemant Mehta. The
First Place winners were the "Baby Jesus Butt Plugs.
Congratulations!
Special thanks to Edwin Kagin, Bradley Hawkins and Paul Case
for the convention photos.

A few of
our state
directors at a
meeting with
Bart Meltzer

Sharon and Herb Silverman and Michael Jacobson


18

AMERlO\NAnlilSf

JULY2007

Speaker Robert Price and


AA board member Wayne Aiken

When Dennis Paul Himes returned home he sent us the following

note.

In November 2002 I attended the Godless Americans' March on


Washington. I had decided to become more active in resisting
theocracy and had recently joined American Atheists. While there I
met Dave Silverman and mentioned that I wanted to become more
active. He immediately said,"Become state director. We need a state
director in Connecticut." So that's what I did, and in the spring 0('03,
having been recently appointed Connecticut State Director, I went to
my first convention, in Chicago.
I found myself very apprehensive going to Chicago.
I don't think any of you realized how much so at
the time. Here I had committed myself to working
with these people and representing these people
and I didn't really know them. I had corresponded
with some of them by email and chatted briefly
with some at the march, but still I didn't really know
them. What if our ideas about activism turned out
to be incompatible? What if I came to think they
were wasting their time? What if they thought I
was incompetent? What if we just didn't get along
personally? It was this last question I was most
worried about. I could get a feel for the organization
without meeting anyone, but not so much for the people.
Well, as you can tell by the fact that I'm still state director and this is
my fifth convention, everything worked out for the best. I found I liked
you, I left Chicago knowing I could work with you, and at this point I
consider many of you my friends. It's a weird friendship, in that we only
see each other once or twice a year, but it's a real friendship, and one I
expect to last for years to come. (We do too Dennis. Ed.)

American Atheists Announces the


Appointment of Four New State Directors
At the 33rd annual convention of American Atheists, Bart Meltzer, the Director of State and
Regional Operations announced the appointment of four new state directors.

RON

PnTsER is a forty-eight-year-old

"out and proud" Oklahoma Atheist with deep roots in the state. After
growing up in a typical religious smalltown environment Ron eschewed his
faith while in college. He is a graduate
of the Community College of the Air
Force with a degree in Safety Technology, and a degree in Business Administration (Marketing) from Oklahoma
State University. He is a twenty-sevenyear veteran of the military in active,
reserve, and civilian roles.
Ron's experience as a military
enlisted man and an officer, a banker, an Internet entrepreneur and
consultant, as well as a community organizer and activist rounds out
an eclectic array of life experiences that forms the basis for a realistic
and worldly point of view.
Ron is a board member of the Citizens League of Central
Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Community Coalition. Both of these
are community organizations that encourage central Oklahoma's
civic vitality through non-partisan, broad-based citizen involvement,
research and educational forums on such issues as immigration, aging, and public schools.
Ron is currently pursuing a graduate degree and has aspirations for law school. He has an enlightened conviction of purpose
and the passion to act as the active voice for the Atheist cause in what
has been described as the "Buckle of the Bible Belt."
is a second generation
Atheist, who was raised in Berkeley,
CA. During recess at school, when the
other kids spoke of angels and heaven
and Jesus, she asked them what they
were talking about, so they invited her
to church nearly every weekend. After
living in 6 states. by age 16, she gave
up all church going as she felt she had
collected enough data to explore other
options.
After college, she got a job in
Austin, TX where it was really tough
to be an outspoken Atheist. She joined
American Atheists in 1992 and set up a Seattle Atheist Yahoo group.
In 2003 Wendy founded Seattle Atheists, a new affiliateof American Atheists and started doing charitable works in the community.
WENDY BRITTON

In 2005, she started a national group called Freethinkers United Network (EU.N.)which is also affiliated with American Atheists,
for organizing charitable works among Atheist groups around the
country.
Wendy is very excited to be working on a local level with the
ability to make a national impact.
heard about and tracked
Dr. Madalyn O'Hair's career from
the early l%O's until he met her at
an Atheist convention in Dallas some
time in the mid 1970's. He had an opportunity to listen to her and was impressed by her frankness and candor.
Dick later joined American Atheists in
1988 and became a life member 1992.
He became a member of the board of
directors in 1995 and the board treasurer in 1997.
Dick Hogan is a lifelong resident of Texas. He has been married
for thirty-eight years and has three children and five grandchildren
DICK HOGAN

is an ex-Catholic who
became an Atheist in 1983. He served
three years in the military police of
the Texas National Guard, and studied psychology at Austin Community
College. He has lived most of his life
in Texas.
He plays in two Austin bands
and does volunteer cleanup work in
his neighborhood
in conjunction
with the Austin Code Enforcement
Department, which has resulted in
several city-inspired property cleanups.
Joe worked for American Atheists for eight years, starting in
Austin and then in New Jersey.
He served on the board of directors of the Atheist Community
of Austin and became editor of its newsletter.
In 2005, Joe was awarded the American Atheists Meritorious Service Award at the American Atheists' National Convention
in Philadelphia.
Joe has been a Life Member of American Atheists since July
4th, 1997.
JOE ZAMECKI

JULY2007 -

AMERICANATHElSf

19

A Personal Story
The Most Destructive Drug!
by Jorg Aadahl
tarecent
seminar on
the Dead
Sea Scrolls
(indigestion alert for serious
Christians!) a slightly
younger, fiftyish woman
squeezed down nextto
me and proceeded to
stare me in the face with
a strange look. I began
to wonder what she was
after, my body or my soul.
It turned out to be the
latter. Failing to stare me
down onto my knees, she
finally asked how I found
out about the seminar, so
I confessed I had seen an
ad in a church bulletin.
That did it! She wanted
to know which church I
belonged to.
"None," was my
answer, which was all
the encouragement
she needed to pressure
me for which church I
normally went to, how
often, etc., etc. Not that
it was any of her damned business, but to be polite I informed her
that I never go to church. Startled, she wanted to know why. The
simplest answer at this point was to admit that I am not a church
person. Again she wondered why. When I told her I am an atheist, I
expected her to run away screaming bloody murder and calling for
divine protection. But, it wasn't my lucky day.
Now she wanted to know why I was an atheist! "Why not?" was
my logical response. She couldn't understand how anyone could
live happily as a nonbeliever."No problem," I assured her.Tm quite
happy both with life and myself, without a platform of superstition,
thank you."
She then insisted on helping me find a church that would
make me much happier, because I couldn't possibly know what I
was missing. That did it. This lady had pushed me too far, so I asked
who she thought she was, giving me advice on my life, which she
knew nothing about. I also suggested that she ought to respect
that I didn't need a religious "upper," as long as I respected her apparent dependency on divine fixes.
Undeterred, she wanted to know what I had against religion! I
informed her that in my book, religion doesn't have a very impressive track record, because not one of the numerous movements
has set a good example, and personally I considered religion the
source of all evil and the cause of all problems. Consequently, I
preferred to steer clear of such hoaxes.
At that she gasped, so to be sure I had made myself perfectly

20

AMERICAN

Aruasr -

JULY2007

clear, I repeated that I considered all religions to be hoaxes, cooked


up by earthlings, partly for power, partly to explain things that
threatened them. But the lady was still persistent and not ready to
give up. Yet.
"But, religion makes you feel so good," she insisted! "So do
drugs," I opined."Both drugs and religion are ways to 'feel better' for people who need it. I don't. Besides,religion is a far more
destructive drug than any other." Finally, I couldn't resist telling
her that I saw no difference between pushing drugs and pushing
religion, except that the latter traffic is by far the more harmful.
When the class met again next time, she found a seat as far
away from me as possible, while I kept wondering exactly when
religion switched from making the followers afraid and worthless,
to feeling "good."

In Memoriam
Mr. Quentin Searles
Naches, Washington
CLARK ADAMS

Las Vegas, NV

the probing mind

Eunuchs For Christ


by Frank Zindler

"For there are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother's
womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men:
and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive

it. "
Matthew 19:12
"He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off,
shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. "

-Deuteronomy

23: 1

"Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the
prince of the eunuchs. "

-Daniel

1:9

"Brothers,

if 1am

still preaching circumcision, why am 1still being

persecuted? ... As for those agitators, 1wish they would go the whole way
and emasculate themselves!"
-Galatians 5:11-12 (New International Version)!"

ist difficult to find anything in Christianity that was new or


original at the time the religion was beginning. Whether one
considers the major doctrines of the faith, or quirky, odd-ball
details, it is hard to find any aspect of the cult that was not
already common coinage in the Mediterranean world when the socalled New Testament was knitted up and stitched together. Savior
gods were practically the only kind on the market in those days, and
virgin births probably came with certificates for manufacturer's rebates. Sacred cannibalism - eating the body of the god - did not
begin with the Christian Eucharist. Theophagy has been practiced
by primitive societies allover the world, and its origins are lost in the
shadows of prehistory. Even the 'Golden Rule' had been around so
long and had worn so thin that it had had to be electroplated several
times before the turn of the era.
So much for those aspects of Christianity we learned about
in Sunday schoo!. How about the more bizarre Christian behaviors, such as the practice of self-castration alluded to in the passage
from 'Matthew's' Gospel quoted above? Surely there could not have
evolved more than one religion which held to so barbarous a habit!
Hard though it may be for a modern skeptic to believe, even in the
realm of self-emasculation Christianity was a copycat, and had more
than one model to copy. The practice was ubiquitous in the Roman
world at the time the unknown author of Matthew's Gospel had his
mythical hero declare "he that can receive it, let him receive it."
Since many ancient religions had sacred eunuchs and holy
rites of self-mutilation, we cannot be certain which religion it was

that actually found its way into Matt. 19: 12. One of the more likely
candidates, however, is the mystery religion that involved the worship
of the "Great Mother," Cybele, and her lover Artis. Indeed, one of the
earliest critics of Christianity, a Greek philosopher named Celsus who
wrote ca. 170 CE, compared the credulous Christians to the Metragyrtse, the begging priests of Cybele. [2] A fine description of this cult is
given by Homer W Smith in his Atheist classic, Man and his Gods.
The Phrygian Cybele, the 'Mother of the Gods,' had for a lover Attis, who was destined to become almost as famous as Dionysus.
According to one legend, Attis was beloved by the hermaphroditic
monster Agdistis, who had been deprived of male organs by the gods;
about to wed the king's daughter, Artis was struck with madness by
the jealous Agdistis, emasculated himself [beneath a pine tree], and
died from loss of blood ... In another legend Cybele ... was inspired
with chaste love for Artis, which he pledged himself to reciprocate;
on his proving unfaithful she slew the nymph of his affection, whereupon in madness he mutilated himself as a penalty.
In 206 BC the sacred stone which embodied Cybele at Pessinus was taken to Rome ... Thereafter her priests became a familiar sight in the capital city; clad in female garb, wearing their hair
long and fragrant with ointment, they moved through the streets to
the accompaniment of flutes, cymbals, tambourines and castanets,
while the people showered the image of the goddess with roses. In the
spring a freshly cut pine tree was brought to the sanctuary, its trunk
swathed like a corpse and decked with violets ... and an effigy was
tied to the middle of the stem in dramatization of the god's death.
On the next day the chief ceremony seems to have been the blowing
of trumpets, but the third day was devoted to animal sacrifices and
to the emasculation of the novices who were being inducted into the
priesthood. While the high priest and the lesser clergy worked themselves into a mad frenzy with wild music, gashing their bodies and
spattering the altar and sacred tree with flowing blood, the novices,
wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement by self-scourging and
laceration, castrated themselves and dashed the severed organs against
the image of the goddess. Later the instruments of fertility were reverently wrapped up and buried in the earth. The blood sacrifice, the
self-mutilation, the burial of the phalli, all aided to recall the dead
Attis to life, while a sacramental meal of flesh and blood effected a
mystic union berween the god and his worshipers. On the fourth day
the divine resurrection was celebrated with a ceremonial purification
of the image and other sacred objects, and on the last day the people
gave themselves over to a licentious carnival called the Hilaria. [3]
The attentive reader may conclude that a caponized clergy was
not the only thing Christianity filched from the Cybele-Attis cult!
Although tangible statistics concerning the popularity of selfemasculation in the early church are practically non-existent, indirect
JULY2007 -

AMERlCANAnrnsr

21

evidence leads me to conclude that the practice was extremely widespread. One of our earliest sources of information on the Christianized version of this psychopathology is the second-century churchman
known as Justin Martyr (ca. 110-165 CE), who mentions Matthew's
castration logion (an alleged saying of Jesus) in a work known as the
"First Apology of Justin Martyr." Addressed "To the Emperor Titus
lElius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Cesar," the apology was
intended as a defense of Chris-tianity against the not-entirely unfounded charges of its detractors.
After refuting the charge that Christians are "atheists," Justin claims that Christians serve their god rationally, but that demons
misrepresent Christian doctrines. To undo the damage done by the
demons, he decides to start out by giving the Emperor some direct
quotations from Jesus himself It cannot be doubted that Justin found
the quotations edifying and prima facie evidence of Christian "rationality." It is nothing less than mind-boggling, therefore, to find that
he chose not to lead off with the "Golden Rule," but rather Matthew
5:28: "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart before God." Shades of
Jimmy Carter!

www.cagle.com

Justin's second quotation in support of Christian rationality


and reasonableness is Matthew 5:29: "If thy right eye offend thee,
cut it out." In case these rwo examples of the practicality and wisdom
of Jesus be not enough to convince Cesar on his throne, a quotation condemning divorce and remarriage is trotted out. And then
- Glory Jee To Beezus! - Justin decides to dazzle the Emperor's
intellect with the self-castration quotation from Matthew 19: 12.
However, he quotes from a text differing somewhat from that of our
so-called 'received text.' Justin's version ends "... and some who have
made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; but all
cannot receive this saying."14]Justin goes on to list - and recommend
- many more outrageous sayings which, although attributed to Jesus, are studiously ignored by most Sunday school teachers today. It is
not at all surprising, therefore, that Justin was Martyred!
22

AMERICAN ATHBST

JULY 7007

After quoting Christ, Justin proceeds to tell the Emperor how


wonderful and chaste Christians are. He wants CEsar to know that
promiscuity is not a Christian "mystery":
And that you may understand that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our mysteries, one of our number a
short time agopresented to Felix the governor in Alexandria a petition, craving that permission might be given to
a surgeon to make him an eunuch. For the surgeons there
said that they wereforbidden to do this without the permission of the governor.And when Felix absolutely refosed
to sign such a permission, the youth remained single, and
was satisfied with his own approving conscienceand the
approval of those who thought as he did.15]
It is clear from the last phrase, which I have italicized, that selfcastration was a common ideal among Second-Century Christians.
So common, indeed, that it is quite likely that the castration prohibition alluded to was prompted by wholesale epidemics of emasculation among true-believers. However that may be, it is certain that the
early Catholic Church perceived
a need to restrain the practice.
More than one Church Council
passed canons (laws) concerning
self-mutilation. The earliest set of
such canons that has come down
to us is known as 'The Apostolical Canons.' Most of these laws
date from the second and third
centuries, although they did not
receive their final form until the
so-called Quinisext Council of
692 CE Of interest to us are canons XXI-XXIV:
Canon XXI. An eunuch,
if he has been made so by the
violence of men or if his virilia
have been amputated in times
of persecution, or if he has been
born so, if in other respects he is
worthy, may be made a bishop.
[Note that this violates the law
of Deuteronomy cited at the beginning of this article.]
Canon XXII. He who has
mutilated himself, cannot become a clergyman, for he is a self-murderer [a reference to the fatal hemorrhage of Attis?], and an enemy to
the workmanship of God.
Canon XXIII. If any man being a clergyman shall mutilate
himself let him be deposed, for he is a self-murderer.
Canon XXIV. If a layman mutilate himself, let him be excommunicated for three years, as practicing against his own Iife.16]
Despite the firmness of the above canons, it is clear that godifled geldings continued to be a common component of the clergy
for many centuries. At the end of the seventh century, the Quinisext
Council, mentioned earlier as having given the Apostolical Canons
their final form, also passed a canon of its own alluding to the presence of eunuchs among the clergy:

Canon V. Let none of those who are on the priestly list


possess any woman or maid servant, beyond those who are
enumerated in the canon as being persom free from suspicion, preserving himself hereby from being implicated in
any blame. But if anyone tramgresses our decree let him
be deposed. And let eunuchs also observe the same rule,
that byforesight they may befree of censure. But those who
transgress, let them be deposed, if indeed they are clerics;
but if laymen let them be excommunicated. [7J
It is interesting to note that Origen [185-254 CE], one of
the greatest of the first "Fathers" of the Catholic Church, was one of
the early enthusiasts who took the meaning of Matt. 19: 12 literally.
In his History of the Church, Eusebius [ca. 265-ca. 340 CE] tells of
Origens deed:
At this time while Origen was conducting catechetical instruction at Alexandria, a deed was done by him which
evidenced an immature and youthfol mind, but at the
same time gave the highest proof of faith and continence.
For he took the words, "There are eunuchs who have made
themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, " in
too literal and extreme a sense. And in order-to folfill the
Savior's word, and at the same time to take away from the
unbelievers all opportunity for scandal - for, although
young, he met for the study of divine things with women
as well as men, - he carried out in action the word of
the Saviour. He thought that this would not be known by
many of his acquaintances. But it was impossible for him,
though desiring to do so, to keep such an action secret.[8J
With somewhat greater approval, Eusebius mentions one other
church eunuch, this time a man who had been a eunuch from birth:
... we became acquainted with Dorotbeus, a man oflearning among those of his day, who was honored with the of
fice of presbyter in Antioch. He was a lover of the beautiful
in divine things, and devoted himself to the Hebrew language, so that he read the Hebrew Scriptures with facility.
He belonged to those who were especially liberal and was
not unacquainted with Grecian propedeutics. Besides this
he was a eunuch, having been sofrom his very birth. On
this account, as ifit were a miracle, the emperor took him
into his family, and honored him by placing him over the
purple dye-works at Tyre. We have heard him expound the
Scriptures wisely in the Church.[9J
It is said that Origen later had misgivings about his act of
autotomy, and it is almost humorous to note that in his commentary
on Matthew's Gospel he makes no mention of Castrati for Christ.
Indeed, he avoids Matt. 19:12 altogether, although he does comment
on verse 11:

to be expedient, "If the case of the man is so with his wife,


it is not expedient to marry. "And to this the Saviour said,
teaching us that absolute chastity is a gift given by God,
and not merely the fruit of training, but given by God
with prayer, "All men cannot receive the saying, but they to
whom it is given. " ... God therefore will give the good gift,
perfict purity in celibacy and chastity, to those who ask
Him with the whole soul and with faith, and in prayers
without ceasing.[IDJ
The ink on Matthew's Gospel had not been dry for long,
however, before the self-trimmed eunuchs of Matt. 19: 12 were considered to be metaphors, mere figures of speech signifying chastity
or celibacy. Tertullian [145-ca. 220 CE], the so-called Founder of
Latin Christianity, alludes to Matt. 19: 12 a number of times in his
voluminous writings, but never seriously considers it expedient to
unman himself
The metaphorical interpretation of the eunuch logion was
very forcefully advanced by St. John of Antioch [347-407 CE], who
earned the sobriquet of Chrysostom ('golden mouth') for his pulpit eloquence. Chrysostom dealt with the subject several times in his
commentary on Matthew. After quoting the saying about the three
types of eunuchs, Chrysostom explains that when he saith, that they
made themselves eunuchs, He means not the excision of the members [genitalia], far from it, but the putting away of wicked thoughts.
Since the man who hath mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to
a curse, as Paul saith, "I would they were even cut off which trouble
you" [Gal. 5:12, quoted at the beginning of this article]. And very
reasonably. For such a one is ven-turing on the deeds of murderers,
and giving occasion to them that slander God's creation, and opens
the mouths of the Manichzans, and is guilty of the same unlawful
acts as they that mutilate themselves amongst the Greeks. [A reference to the cult of Cybele and other mystery religions?] For to cut off
our members hath been from the beginning a work of demoniacal
agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon
the work of God, that they may mar this living creature ...by mutilating the members, and by impeding the forwardness of free choice in
behalf of good deeds. These are the ordinances of the devil... [Ill
Athanasius, the great definer of orthodoxy and enemy of Arius, greatly valued celibacy, but seems to have had little respect for eunuchs. Indeed, he used the presence of eunuchs among the partisans
of his enemy Arius as a means of slandering the entirety of the Arian
party in his "History of the Arians." Although Arius had been condemned by the council of Nicea, the Emperor Constantius (who had
succeeded Constantine, the Emperor who had convened the Co un-

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... having considered how many possible accidents may


arise in marriages, which it was necessary for the man
to endure and in this way suffer very great hardships, or
if he did not endure, to tramgress the word of Christ, the
disciples say to him, taking refoge in celibacy as easier, and
more expedient than marriage, though the latter appears
JULY 2fYJ7

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

23

cil) was won over to the Arian camp, and ptoceeded to persecute the
partisans of Athanasius - upon whom the fortunes of political history came to bestow the title of Orthodox. Relating how Constantius
attempted to win over to the Arian camp even Liberius, the Bishop
of Rome (the Pope), Athanasius wrote that Constantius, expecting
easily to draw over all men to his side by means of Liberius, writes to
him, and sends a certain eunuch called Eusebius with letters and offerings to cajole him with the presents, and to threaten him with the
letters. The eunuch accordingly went to Rome, and first proposed to
Liberius to subscribe against Athanasius, and to hold commu-nion
with the Arians, saying, "The Emperor wishes it, and commands you
to do so." ... [121
But Liberius didn't give in to the eunuch's demands, which
increased the anger of the mutilated creature against him. Consequently he exasperates the Emperor against him, saying, "The matter that concerns us is no longer the obtaining the subscription of
Liberius, but the fact that he is so resolutely opposed to the heresy,
that he anathematizes the Arians by name." He also stirs up the other
eunuchs to say the same; for many of those who were about Constantius, or rather the whole number of them, are eunuchs, who engross
all the influence with him, and it is impossible to do anything there
without them... [131
After describing the beginning of persecution of his fellow
partisans in Rome, Athanasius proceeds to describe Arianism as a peculiarly eunuchoid heresy:
It was the eunuchs who instigated theseproceedings against
all. And the most remarkable circumstance in the matter
is this; that the Arian heresy which denies the Son of God,
receives it support from eunuchs, who, as both their bodies are fruitless, and their souls barren of virtue, cannot
bear even to hear the name of son. The Eunuch of Ethiopia indeed, though he understood not what he read [Acts
8:27j, believed the words of Philip, when he taught him
concerning the Saviour; but the eunuchs of Constantius
cannot endure the confession of Peter, nay, they turn away
when the Father manifest the Son, and madly rage against

24

AMERICAN ATHEIST

JULY'2fYJ7

those who say, that the Son of God is His genuine Son, thus
claiming as a heresy of eunuchs, that there is no genuine
and true off-spring of the Father. On these grounds it is
that the law forbids such persons to be admitted into any
ecclesiastical Council; notwithstanding which they have
now regarded these as competent judges of ecclesiastical
causes, and whatever seems good to them, that Constantius decrees, while men with the name of Bishops dissemble
with them. Oh! Who shall be their historian? Who shall
transmit the record of these things to another generation?
Who indeed would believe it, were he to hear it, that eunuchs who are scarcely entrusted with household services
(for theirs is a pleasure-loving race, that has no serious
concern but that of hindering in others what nature has
taken from them); that these, I say, now exercise authority
in ecclesiastical matters, and that Constantius in submission to their will treacherously conspired against all, and
banished Liberiusp41
It would take an entire book to trace the shifting fortunes of
Christ's Castrati during the course of the last two millennia. Modern
sensibilities recoil at the thought of eunuchism as a religiously sanctioned condition, and modern 'scholarship' tells us that Jesus never
intended his words to be taken literally. Modern scholars fail to tell
us why, however, if their guru meant celibacy or chastity instead of
self-castration, he didn't say celibacy or chastity. Despite the unambiguous wording of the Greek text of Matt. 19:12, some modern
versions of the Bible completely whitewash the logion and make it
entirely suitable for Sunday afternoon discussion groups in Miss Priscilla Propriety's parlor. A particularly egregious example of this is the
rendering of the passage in The New English Bible:
For while some are incapable of marriage because they
were born so, or were made so by men, there are others
who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven. Let those accept it who can.

Despite the barring of self-unmade men from the clergy, the


Catholic Church did not cease to find employment for eunuchs until
astonishingly recently. Matt. 19: 12 provided justification for the castration of choir boys until at least the time of Mozart. Woman being
too depraved a species to sing before the throne of St. Peter, soprano
and alto voices were provided for the papal choir by men castrated
before their voices changed. The last castrato to warble in the Vatican
Choir'P' trilled its farewell Ave Marias and Magnificats in The Year of
Its Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Three!
The age-old plague of religiously motivated self-emasculation has now been all but eliminated, although the sexual mutilation
of women continues as a serious contagion among Moslems. In the
Catholic Church - the last church to take seriously even the metaphorical interpretation of the eunuch logion - even symbolic castration has lost its appeal, and ever fewer men condemn themselves to
life imprisonment in a celibate clergy. Bona fide eunuchs for Christ
have gone the way of the dodo - a not unfitting finale, all things
considered.

Notes
The quotation from Galatians is taken from the New International Version of the Christian bible.
[2] The Anrc-Niccne Fathers, Translations of The Writings of the Fathers
down to A.D. 325, Volume IV, Ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 1982,
page 399.
[3] Homer W. Smith, Man And His Gods, Grosset's Universal Library, NY,
1957, pages 124-5.
[4] The Ante-Nicene
Fathers, Translations of The Writings of the Fathers
down to A.D. 325, Volume 1, The Apostolic Fathers, with Justin Martyr
and Irerueus, Ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 1985, page 167.
[5] Ibid., page 172.
[6] A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers of The Christian
Church, Second Series, Volume XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils Ed.
Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Col. Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 1983, page 595.
[7] Ibid., page 364.
[8] A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of The Christian
Church. Second Series. Vol. 1. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Ed. Philip
Schaff and Henry Wace, Reprinted 1982 Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.,
Grand Rapids, MI, page 254.
[9] Ibid., page 316.
[10] The Ante- Nicene Fathers, Translations
of The Writings of the Fathers
down to A.D. 325, Volume X, Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Ed.
Allan Menzies, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI,
reprinted 1980, pages 512-13.
[II] A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of The Christian
Church, Volume X, Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint
Matthew, Ed. Philip Schaff, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids,
MI, reprinted 1983, page 384.
[12] Ibid., page 282.
[13]
Ibid., page 283.
[14]
Ibid., page 283.
[I 5] The Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition, Volume 5, Article
"Castrate," 1975.
[I]

Formerly a professor of biology and geology, Frank R. Zindler is now a science


writer and editor of American Atheist Press. He is a member of the American
Associationfor the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Sciences,
the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Schools of Oriental Research,
and the newly formed Jesus Project. A somewhat longer version of this article
appeared in the December, 1988, issue of American Atheist. He can be reached
at /Zindler@atheists.org.

representin

YO

3/23 - T~e Florida Times-Union newspaper ran an article


on the removal of the cross on the Stark, Florida
watertower. This removal was in response to
American Atheists lawsuit.
4/22 - Ellen Johnson was a guest on the FOX networks's
program "FOX & Friends" to talk about a Virginia
public school that announces that students can go
to a local church at lunch for free pizza.
4/25 - American Atheists Legal Director Edwin Kagin was
quoted in NYK.COMfTHE ENQUIRERon the protest
of the creation museum opening in Boone County,
Kentucky on Memorial Day.
4/25 - AA president Ellen Johnson was a guest on CNN's
Paula Zahn program to talk about Pat Tillman and
his family who are Atheists.
5/3 - Family News & Focus interviewed Ellen Johnson on
the subject of Atheism.
5/4 - Ellen Johnson was interviewed by the Baltimore
Sun Newspaper about the National Day of Prayer
5/4 - Washingtonpost.com reported on AA Capitol Hill
Representaive Rick Wingrove's Day of Reason rally
in Lafayette Park across from the White House.
5/5 - American Atheists'Texas State Director Joe Zamecki
was quoted in an article by the Sunday Telegraph
in London, on Atheists going on the political
offensive.
5/11 - ABC Television's 20/20 program did a two-hour
special on faith in America and spent ten minutes
on being an Atheist. They profiled the Smalkowski
family who are the plaintiffs in a federal civil rights
lawsuit that AA has filed against the school and
town of Hardesty, Oklahoma. The program also
showed some footage of AA's annual convention in
Seattle.
5/9 - AA President Ellen Johnson and AA Kentucky State
Director Edwin Kagin, were quoted in the Cincinnati
Enquirer. The story was about the protest outside
the grand opening of a creation museum in Boone
County, KYto be held on May 28.
5/15 - Af{s Kentucky State Director Edwin Kagin was a
guest on the Chris and Rob Radio program on
ChrisComerRadio.com. He followed creationist Ken
Ham who was also a guest on the program.
5/15 - Ellen Johnson was quoted on CNN.com on the
death of Jerry Falwell.
511 5 -'- AA CommuniCations Director David Silverman was
interviewed by the Columbus Tribune on the May
28 Rally for Reason.
5/16 - Ellen Johnson quoted in the LA Times on the death
of Jerry Falwell.
5/15 - Associated Content website reported on our lawsuit
on behalf of the Smalkowski Family in Oklahoma.
5/29 - Ellen Johnson was interviewed for an article in PR
Week magazine on Atheism in the media.

JULY2007 -

AMERiCANAIHEIST

25

ask the expert

The Book Of Revelation


by Frank Zindler

I am writing to ask your opinion of The Book of


Revelation, Chapter 18. After carefully reading it MANY
times, it appears to me it describes the United States.
It says this nation was once favored but because it has
turned totally evil it will be completely burned by fire in
one hour. Highly possibly with nukes, which I suspect the
terrorists have already smuggled into the country via
Mexico and with the current dilemma we face with Russia
and China.
What convinced me that this chapter describes the u.s.
is how the merchants, and all who trade by sea, will
weep at the sight of her burning because no one will buy
their goods any more. After reading the list of imports,
clearly ancient Babylon is eliminated. It goes on to say
this nation lives "deliciously" and has an abundance
of "delicacies," and is hated by the other nations of the
world.
I also found where it says "Men shall be scorched from
the heat of the sun and break out in grievous sores." Skin
cancer? Looks like Gore is right.
I sent this same letter to all the mainstream Christian
churches and even the Nation of Islam, and all have been
silent.
Like to hear what you think since I can't get anyone from
the "religious" community to respond. Why is that?
Brian Burch

hank you for writing to American Atheists a~out the Book


of Revelation. As you probably know, there IS great debate
as to what-if anything-this entire book means. Martin
Luther thought it was the raving of a mad man, and John
Calvin prohibited his preachers from using it for sermons. It almost
didn't make it into the Greek Orthodox canon at all.
This being said, there are a few things serious scholars (as opposed
to religious apologists) seem to agree upon.
First of all, it is agreed that the book has nothing to do with the
remote future as reckoned from the time the book was written.
Secondly, it is generally agreed that "Babylon the Great" is a code
word for Rome, the ruling power at the time the book was written.
Thirdly, the evidence seems overwhelming that the mysterious
"number of the name of the beast"---666 or 616 in some manuscriptsis a reference to the emperor Nero, the letters of whose name interpreted
as numerals can be made to total both 666 and 616 depending upon
which of severalpossible ways he is named.
26

AMERICAN ATHElSf

JULY2007

Chapter 18 has interested people in all ages and countries, and


for over a thousand years people in every country have identified their
own nation or city as the reference intended for "Babylon the Great." It
seems clear as day now that they all have been wrong. This is not because
the prophecy really is referring to some city or nation still later than their
time, but for the simple reason that there is no such thing as valid biblical
prophecy. We know that the most famous book of prophecies, the Book
of Daniel, was accurate in those few places where it was accurate because
it was a forgery written many centuries after the time "Daniel" is supposed to have lived. It was prophecy after the fact. In the case of Ezekiel,
he is noted for his enormous errors in prophecy. Still other "prophecies,"
such as those supposed to be referring to the coming of Jesus of Nazareth,
aren't prophecies at all.
Thomas Paine, one of the fathers of our country, wrote a book
AGE OF REASON PART THREE: Examination of the Prophecies. In
it he showed that none of the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus quoted
in the New Testament have anything at all to do with the New Testament
character Jesus Christ. (This book is available for purchase on our Website, www.atheists.org.)
I join you in your concern for the future of our nation. We are
indeed facing a crisis. However, the way to avert impending disasters is to
pay more attention to science and less attention to the Bible. Of course,
we must have a healthy fear of those who claim to be motivated by the
Bible and who think they are doing their god's will. In them lies the
greatest of dangers-not only because of their proclivity to violence, but
because of their opposition to science and their blocking of all paths leading to rational solutions to the many problems facing us. We must get
our heads out of our bibles and prayer-books and focus our eyessharply
on the road upon which we are traveling. Just as we should not drink alcohol while driving, we should not consume the opiate of religion while
trying to move forward safely.We must heed all the traffic signs that our
scientists have posted to warn us of the dangers that lie ahead.
Thank you again for writing to American Atheists.

Frank R. Zindler is the


managing editor of American
Atheists Pressand the author of The
Jesus the Jews Never Knew, a book
that argues that the ancient Jews
never heard of Jesus of Nazareth.
In fact, they had never heard of
Nazareth either. Formerly a professor of biologyand geology,for many
hears now he has worked as a linguist and sciencewriter. He can be
reachedat editor@atheists.org.

god would be an atheist ...

Seduced into religion


Why faith persists
by Martin Foreman

When snake-oil is sold day after day, hour after hour on every
en closely examined, all the claims for god's existence-personal experience, the miracles, First Cause, street corner, recommended by citizens from every walk of society, it is
apparent holes in evolutionary theory and the stability hard for the average man and woman to understand that the concoction
they are offered does more harm than good.
of the universe and so on-prove to be groundless.
In some countries and communities, from Pakistan to Poland,
A being from another planet or another dimension would be surprised by that statement, given the number of places of worship, the Brazil to Israel, religious delusion is widespread. In the United States
heads bowed in prayer, the books, films and music devoted to god, that where presidents, rock stars, athletes and average citizens must refer to
it would see. Observing the devotion, the ecstasy,the pity and the anger the deity regularly, religious hysteria is deep rooted and widespread.
At first glance, it seems strange that America, founded on ideals
that faith inspires, it might easilyconclude religion was real.
After some time, however, our visitor would discern the void be- of freedom and liberty of thought, with its progressive history, its worldhind the smoke and mirrors, the sound and the fury. No matter how class universities and scientists, with thinkers and doers on the leading
sincere the belief of preachers and believers, it would see that their faith edge of civilization, should be so retrograde when it comes to religion.
was built on sand.
Why is it, when all the evidence before us
points to the single conclusion that god does not ex"Whether the fire of faith within us is lit by the desire for a father-figure
ist, that so many people believe in him?
or eternal life, once aflame, it is kept alive by endless propaganda from
The answer lies in the previous paragraphchurches and the media insisting that God exists."
the "void." Even the slightest suspicion, that life is no
more than birth followed by a series of painful and
pleasurable incidents that end in oblivion, can be
On reflection, however, it is less surprising. The nation was
highly disturbing to the human psyche.
We are born weak and vulnerable. In our formative years we founded by contrarians-people who rejected, or were rejected by, the
depend on others for nourishment and safety and life itself Authority majority consensus in the countries they emigrated from. Unwilling to
figures dominate our lives. To protect ourselves, we mold our evolving change their religion or to remain mired in poverty, they left their homes
personalities around these figures. We are profoundly affected by their to seek a land where they had greater freedom to determine their own
fate.
presence or absence and by their beneficial and harmful actions.
This streak of independence and distrust of society persists,
As we grow older,we place lessrelianceon the realmen and women
who surrounded us in childhood. Nevertheless,we remain strongly attract- thriving in conspiracy theories and the NRA, in home-schooling and
ed to the ideaof an all-powerfulfather who rewardsthe just (i. e., ourselves) maverick politicians, in belief in aliens and a thousand other contrarian
and punishes the unjust (i. e., those who harm or threaten us).
positions.
Religious faith in America, particularly the faith of televangeBecause that figure does not exist, we are free to create him in
whichever image suits us best-aggressive, dominating, kind, loving, dis- lists and the newer, creationist sects, continues the tradition of rebelling
against mainstream society (science and reason), while comforting the
tant, close, whatever.
Monotheists-Jews, Muslims and Protestants-have to make do believer with the illusion of god.
That does not mean that Americans will always be believers. As
with only one god, with each believer manipulating their deity into the
religion is increasingly seen as the establishment, increasing numbers
personality that comforts them the most. Polytheists, including Catholics are luckier, since they have a multitude of god-figures, male and fe- of people question the sugar-coated fairy tale. A generation from now,
Atheism is likely to seem as American as apple pie-and with luck it will
male, each with their own traits-that they can choose from.
Not all believersare seduced into religion by the mythical authorbe more permanent.
If god existed, he would ...
ity figure. Others are less concerned with god than the afterlife.
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
For many who do not want their life to end after seventy or so
years, the idea of life after death, no matter how vague, is highly appeal recognize that eternity is meaningless
ing. Not only does it offer a better life than the one we endure now, but
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
it allows us to meet again individuals whom we have loved but whom
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
have died.
help the human race to thrive without him
Whether the fire of faith within us is lit by the desire for a fatherfigure or eternal life, once aflame, it is kept alive by endless propaganda
If god existed, he would be an Atheist.
Mr. Foreman can be reached at martin@godwouldbeanatheist.com
from churches and the media insisting that god exists.

JULY2007 -

AMERlCANATHEISf

27

GODLESS AMERICANS
IPolitical Action Committee

Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of GAMPAC with Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Conyers

If you are one of the millions of non-believing, non-religious Americans, you have a voice in
Washington, DC! The Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAMPAC) actively speaks
out for your First Amendment issues on Capitol Hill. We monitor legislation, take action to preserve the separation of church and state, and work to elect candidates to public office who uphold
the Establishment Clause.
Religious groups have a powerful presence in our nation's capital. As a result, they receive billions of taxpayer dollars through unconstitutional schemes like the faith-based initiative. Preachers
like Pat Robertson have become political bosses, and boast how they deliver millions of votes to
candidates who comply with their agenda to "bring America back to God."
~6w, thanks "to the GAMPAC, Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and other non-believersand every American who upholds the separation of religion and government-have
their own
voice in legislatures across the country, in political conventions and our nation's Capitol. Yes,
we're still small, but we're growing-and
we intend to hold politicians accountable for their votes
on issues like vouchers, the use of public money for faith-based social experiments, and "special
rights" for religious groups. We also endorse candidates for public office-candidates
who will
uphold the separation of religion and government and protect our civil rights. GAMPAC is building a
nationwide presence by helping secular politicians get elected. But we need your help! Won't you
contribute today?

GAMPAC
PO Box 5674, Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
www.gampac.org

Paid Advertisement

news

New Zealand
Parties Reach
Compromise
To PassllChiid
Smacking" law
by Ray Lilley
Associated Press Writer
WELLINGTON,
NEW Zealand (AP)New Zealand's main political parties
agreed Wednesday to support reforms that outlaw child beating but
do not criminalize parents who use
"inconsequential" force-such
as a
disciplinary smack-against
their
children.
More than 1,000 people, mostly
conservative Christians, protested
outside Parliament as debate on the
so-called anti-smacking bill was held,
arguing that it impinges too far into
the lives of families. Nearby, Anglicans held a vigil in support of the bill,
saying it would protect children.
Lawmakers
overwhelmingly
supported
the
changes-which
close a legal loophole that currently
protects parents charged with child
beating-after
the governing Labor
Party and main opposition National
Party reached a compromise.
Later Wednesday, the bill was
passed through committee stages in
the 121-member Parliameni: with
117 votes in favor and just three opposing. One lawmaker abstained.
A final vote is expected before
month's end, when the measure is
expected to pass easily into law.
The new law will make it an offense for parents to use force to discipline their children.
But under the compromise, police would have discretion "not to
prosecute complaints ... involving
the use of force against a child where
the offense is considered so inconsequential there is no public interest in
proceeding with a prosecution," the
bill says.
"Nobody wants to see those parents marched off (for giving a child)
a light tap in the supermarket,"
Prime Minister Helen Clark told
National Radio.
"We think we've ... allayed any
concern from ordinary, decent parents trying to bring up kids," she
said.

Bishop Brian Tamaki, the leader


of the charismatic Destiny Church
whose members rallied outside Parliament, welcomed the inclusion of
the clause that still allows parents to
physically reprimand wayward children.
"This is a glorious victory for
every good, caring Kiwi parent," he
told supporters.
Another leader of the church,
Pastor Peter Mortlock, said "a smack
is supposed to hurt-that's
the
whole idea of a smack," warning that
"atheism and socialism are trying to
undermine our Christian nation."
Mainstream Protestant churches
delivered a letter supporting the bill,
saying it closed a legal loophole that
had been used to justify the use of
excessive force against children.
The bill's sponsor, Green lawmaker Sue Bradford, welcomed the
compromise.
"Politicians have the courage to
take leadership and say that the right
of kids to be protected from violence
... comes before the right of parents
when they hit or beat their children,"
Bradford said.
Former children's commissioner
Roger McClay said the new law
would reduce violence against children.
"If it saves one child's life that's a
great thing," he said.

Study: More
Catholic priests
foreig n-born,
well-educated
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, DC
(AP)-This
year's new crop of Roman Catholic priests in the United States has
an average age of 35 and includes a
large number of foreign-born priests
and men who entered the seminary
with college degrees, a study shows.
The survey, closely watched
because of the country's welldocumented priest shortage, was
conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolare at
Georgetown University for the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Researchers gathered information
from 282 seminarians, or about 60
percent of the 475 candidates for the

priesthood in 2007.
Although final numbers will not
be available until next spring, a rise
in ordinations is possible. This year's
projected class would be an increase
over 431 ordinations in 2006, according to Georgetown researchers.
Even so, ordination classes remain smaller than in decades past.
The total number of priests serving
in the United States has declined 29
percent in the last 40 years while the
Catholic population has grown 40
percent.
Among the characteristics of the
2007 class:
1 in 3 candidates for the priesthood was born outside the United
States, with the largest numbers
coming from Vietnam, Mexico, Poland and the Philippines.
7 in 10 report their primary race
as white or European-American.
Asian priests are over-represented
when compared with the U.S. Asian
population, while Hispanic priests
are
underrepresented .
The average age of35 is approximately the same as in 1998, the first
year for which data are available.
More than 6 in 10 completed
college, and 1 in 5 had attained a
graduate degree in areas such as law,
medicine and education.
The surveyed seminarians included 221 men studying to serve
for dioceses, and 60 studying to join
religious orders. One did not indicate an affiliation.

Baptist Homes
Accused of
Forcing Religion
on Residents
by The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, KY (AP)-A
statefunded Baptist social-services program forced children into Christian
or specifically Baptist practices and
discouraged the practicing of other
religions, according to interviews released as part of a lawsuit.
The interviews were done as part
of a suit filed by a fired employee and
four other taxpayers who are challenging state funding for Kentucky
Baptist Homes for Children.
Several of the complaints came

from children who said they were


Catholics, Pentecostals, Jehovah's
Witnesses or atheists.
"They tried to more (or) less
force me to become a Christian,"
said a child who had stayed at the
Baptist Youth Ranch in Elizabethtown. "I just felt I was being pressured into giving up my religion."
The children were not identified
in court records, leaving the number
of kids making the claims unclear.
The statements were made in oneon-one exit interviews on more than
50 dates between 2001 and 2005
with children who spent time in
eight group homes.
The interviews were conducted
by consultants for the state who were
reviewing Baptist Homes and other
contractors' programs. Most of those
interviewed were 12 or older.
Both the state and Baptist
Homes, now known as Sunrise
Children's Services, say the agency
has a strict policy against religious
coercion or proselytizing and does
not prevent children from practicing
their faith.
John Sheller, the attorney for
the group homes, said after Baptist
Homes learned of the statements
through the lawsuits, the agency did
"reiterate to the whole staff (to) remember our policy-no
coercion,
no proselytizing."
The state has paid Baptist
Homes about $61 million to take
care of children whom courts place
in state custody, usually because they
are juvenile offenders or are abused
or neglected.
Attorney Jonathan Goldberg,
representing the Cabinet for Health
and Family Services, said the state
considers Baptist Homes an "excellent, quality provider."
"If a child says, 'I don't want to
go to the Baptist church,' then the
child does not go," Goldberg said.
The reports were filed by the
plaintiffs, who are seeking to get
the names and testimony of anyone
interviewed if they have turned 18.
The state and the Baptist agency
argue that clients' names need to be
kept confidential.
The reports include comments
from children who said that they
were forced to participate in Bible
readings, prayer times or Baptist services or that they weren't allowed to
practice their own faith ..

JULY2IJJ7 -

AMERICAN ATHEIST

L9

Foxhole Atheist of the Month


Ken Bronstein
theism has regularly permeated
and influenced my life decisions,
my attitudes toward people, and
my work. For example, when I
was an officer in the U.s. Army
during the early 1960s, I was assigned to
represent young soldiers who had gone
AWOL (away with out leave). Army officers
receive military legal training, and can then
volunteer as defense counsels in military courts. The most common cases heard in these courts are AWOL cases,and the courts
are restricted in sentencing the accused to up to six months in
the brig, loss of two-thirds pay for six months and the loss of all
promotions.
Before I could serve as counsel, I had to spend three months
serving on a military jury.This experience was enlightening. About
99 percent of the time, the jury would vote for the maximum
penalty. After watching these court trials for three months, I concluded that "throwing the book" at teenagers who had committed
a non-violent offense, with no property damage or hurt to anyone
or anything, was not right. I felt these boys should get a second
chance. I tried convincing the other jurors to give lighter sentences,
with limited success.I became convinced that as a defense counsel,
I needed a new approach.
My first change, as defense counsel was to visit the accused in
the brig. The accused developed a trust in me, because it showed
I was interested in them. Most defense counsels would interview
the accused in the jury waiting room for 15 minutes before the
trial. During my visit to the brig, the accused and I had a "reality"
discussion about why it was an unwise to go AWOL. Never did I
throw any religious platitudes at these boys like the ones chaplains

dispensed. (No, I would not pray for their soul, tell him that they
offended god, or that they were surely headed for hell and damnation if they didn't do right!) Instead, I leveled with these boys. We
discussed pragmatic things, such as how to survive their army stint
and how, after their military service, they could go on to become
productive citizens. In the trial, I had the accused take the witness
stand (which was very unusual in the military}.Their personal
stories of confusion or being needed at home were moving. I think
this went a long way in convincing the juries to be lenient in their
sentencing.
I was so successful in getting reduced sentences for these
boys that the Sixth Army General (a three-star general) had his
Adjunct-General request that I resign as defense counsel.l respectfully informed him that I would not, and if they relieved me of my
duties as defense counsel, I would appeal it up the chain of command and make sure that the press was well informed. As a result,
there was no further word from the military brass and I continued
as defense counsel for the next year.
In doing what I felt was the right thing for these boys, I think
my strong sense of the here-and-now, and my belief that all
humans have some good in them and can be rehabilitated, gave
me the courage to do what was right, even when someone else
thought it was wrong. These boys'decision making was hampered
by the lack of equality in education, opportunity and home life that
my own Atheist outlook on life, provided me. I was not handcuffed
by any religious dogma; my Atheism helped me have the common
sense,courage and confidence to buck the system. I'm hoping
there are a lot of men out there, now working as farmers and clerks,
teachers and construction workers, who may remember a young
military officer who believed in them and tried to put them on the
right road.

sf
d
Founaer nen s.
The

Shane W. Roper, AZ - $60


C.W. Mitchell, VA - $100
Steven Riedhauser, NV - $100
Richard D. Hogan, TX - $150
Frank Titus, OK - $50
Alexander Louis Loutsis, VA - $50
David M. Ross, CA - $50
Terry N. Tappan, CA - $50
Gene Miller, LA - $50
Barbara Boethling, CA - $50
Carl W. Lorick, S.C. - $50
Jim Gordon, NJ - $50
30

AMERICAN ATHEl!IT -

JULYXXJ7

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You!"Weare pleased to announce the re-establishment of an
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This is our way of saying THANKYOUto an extraordinary
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American Atheists ThanksThe Following PersonsForTheir
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