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ABOUT AMERICAN ATHEIST, INC.

~erican

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


complet .and absolute separation ofJtate and church, accepting the explanationlofThoma\
'-----.,Jefferson
that IheEirst Amendment to the (onstitution of the United States was meant to cr\ate
a "~~1Of"sep tio~~wee~nd
(hUrC,'
.
American Atheists, Inc.,is orga~
in order to,
J
Stimulate and promote freedom of thought Jh "nquiry concerning religious beliefs,creeds,
dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practites;
.'
/.
Collect and disseminate informajion, data, arnite~ure
a al,LreJ!9io
rOlnole a more
thorough understanding of therr' their origins, and tnei~tories;
Advocate, labor for,and promote in all lawful ways the omplete and
state and church;
f.
Advocate, labor for,and promote in alilawfllw
ablish
horoughly secular system of e~ucatlon av~a
all;
EnC~age the development and public ac~r:> ance of a hUrl) ne
al ~ystem stressing tbe
mutua"sympathy, understan~g, and interdependence of a1lpeople ami the corresponding
s~Si5mty of each indh{idualin relation to society;
Develop{nd'propagate"{social philosoph:~ in which hUqlankindis central and must ifselfbe
the source-of str~gth',
rels, and ideal$ for the wellbeing .andhapplhess of humapity;
Promote th:)UdY of
rts rnd science~ and of all roblemsaffecting ~e maintenance,
perpetu~0n, a~~nric
of human ~nd other
;....
.
\
.
Enga~.em s~J:YSOCI~ ucatlo~al,legal'1nd ~ultu
tlvlty as wll
. and beneficial to
the.
rs of Amenca~ttelsts
and to socletyjas a whple.

e~f

h~i m may be defined as th; mental atti~


reasoQ.and aims at estabUsijing a life-s
SCientifi')Dethod,inclependertt of all arbi

~Lservedl~
accepts the su~~e acy
d h~~1 outlook yerifiable by ex~rience and
ptions of authority and1;e

Materialism declares that the cosmos is


o.la~nt
cOhlci~ ~p
;that it IS
governed by its own inherent,.immutabl
ndiqlp~nallaws;that
there is no supern~tural interferen2e",inhuman life;that humankin
findin'g~thelrreSou!ce~ithirithe~lves
--Ican and
must create~heir own destin~Materialis
e toret'di9nityand intel~t~tegfit
0
manity.lt tea'chesthat we must pri~e our life 0
rth and'strlve alwws toimPfove~.lt
that
human beings'a~ capable of creating a sOflal's1st'em based 0~1reason')nd.justife~M!}~rialism's
"faith"is in humanki.nd jHldilieir ability to transform the world culture by-th-eirOllllnefforts. This is
a .c
...0..mmitmentWhich i~in . . ry essence ife-asserting.lt conJid~s ..the stru(gle f".orpr.().gress as
a lJlorah>olig;tion
m~ossible withclut noble ideas that lnspir~usfo bold~reativF works.
---~M'aterialisOlho
Iour po~ential for gobd and more fulfilling.cortural develop~ent is,for all
__ --pratfi'ralpurposes,
unli~ted.
J.

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MAY/JUNE 2006
Vol 44, No.3

Hm~ricanHth~ist Ma~alin~
May/June 2006
ISSN0332-4310

Editor, American Atheist Press


Frank Zindler

CONTENTS

Editor,American Atheist Magazine

Ellen Johnson
Regular Contributors
Martin Foreman
Conrad F.Goeringer
Frank Zindler
Designer
Elias Scultori

From The President


The 32nd National Convention, Utah Crosses Case, and more ...
by Ellen Johnson

14

The 10,000 Christs and the Evaporating Jesus


by David Fitzgerald

Cover Design
Tim Mize

24

phone - 908.276.7300
FAX - 908.276.7402
www.atheists.org

Jokes

by Margaret Bhatty

Published monthly
(Except June & December) by
American Atheists Inc.
Mailing Address:
P.O.Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733

Unintended

26

Polygamy-Not

Just a Utah Problem

by Andrea Moore-Emmett

10

The Cross by the Side of the Road ...


by Conrad F.Goeringer

2006 by American Atheists Inc.


All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in
part without written
permission is prohibited.
American Atheist Magazine
is indexed in the
Alternative PressIndex.
American Atheist Magazine
is given free of cost to members of
American Atheists as an incident
of their membership.
Subscriptions for the
American Atheist Magazine
alone are $40 per year
for one-year terms only
($50 outside the U.S.)

34

by Martin Foreman

32

The Probing Mind


Magnum Opus
by FrankRZindler

3S

Foxhole Atheist of the Month


John A. Henderson, M.D.

3S

Atheists & Co.


Sundiata Tel/em

Gift subscriptions are $25 per year


($35 outside the U.S.)
The library and institutional rate
is $20 per year.

God Would Be An Atheist

Mirrors and Misdirection

28

The American Atheist Radio Series


76th November, 7974,Austin, TX - Program 320 KLBJ Radio

The Founders
I am a proud member of your organization. I came across
an idea, that may sound simple, but I kinda liked it, and thought
I would share it. You know that unnecessary phrase printed in all
our currency? Yep,that one. Why not take every single one of your
paper bills, and black out the word "god" with a pen or Sharpie
marker? Silly? Maybe. But, it may put a little grain of salt out there
that not EVERYONEis ok with our currency having that phrase/
word on it.Just thought I would share this with you.
Keep up the good fight.
Hector Rodriguez

Giving for the

FUTORE
American Atheists

are taxdeductible. Any gift, large or small,

helps to sustain our work to help future generations of Atheists.


For more information on giving to
contact us.

American Atheists,

please

American Atheists
PO Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ - 07054
908-276-7300

note
In a recent edition

of the American

Atheist Newsletter

incorrectly spelled Lynne Wright's name. We apologize


the misspelling.

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

So many of you help American Atheists with donations and other


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

You can help secure the future and growth of American Atheists
by including it in your will. Bequests and life insurance proceeds
to

Friends..

we
for

East Bay Atheists, CA-$1 00


ManueIPousada,NY-$50
JackWilkie, RI-$75
Christine Royal, MO-$50
Juanita Sanchez, NM-$50
Jeff Borelli, OH-$50
Helen Novacek, IL-$50
John Kiel,IN-$50
Jeffrey D. Borelli, OH-$50
Mick Fulton, TX-$50
Robert Finch, NY-$125
Joe L. Randles, OH-$50
David F.Long,WA-$65

Atheist Singles

"Anyone who doesn't believe in


god has never looked into the
eyes of a child."

-Charlie Sheen
Comment made on April 25 in an interview on Entertainment
Tonight during a discussion of Sheen's divorce proceeding
with his estranged wife Denise Richards.

Newest Affiliates
NEW JERSEYHUMANIST NETWORK
PO Box 8212, Somerville,

NJ 08876-8212

www.NJHN.org
MID-MICHIGAN

ATHEISTS & AGNOSTICS

3404 Pine Ridge Drive,Jackson,MI


www.MMAH.org

49201

We'd like to introduce


our new Office Manager

Arthur Brenner.
Timothy Dicks is now the producer
of The Atheist Viewpoint.
"I am originafly from Wisconsin. When I was 21, I took
a break from college to move to Austin, Texas and join
the staff of the American Atheist GHQ. I worked there,
with Madalyn O'Hair and Jon Murray, from late 1981 to
early 1984. In 1989, I completed my BSin Physics. I have
worked as a high school physics teacher for several years,
and have worked in the microchip industry for several
years. I moved from Texasto New Jersey in 2000, for
personal reasons. After moving a couple more times,
I coincidentally found myself living about a 10-minute
drive away from the current American Atheist Center. So,
when I found out that Ellen Johnson was looking for a
new office manager, Ijumped at the opportunity. I have
a 19-year-old son and that I got re-married about a year
ago. I am very interested in alternative education (particularly democratic freeschools). I spend a lot of time
reading about the following topics: "the consequences
of passing the peak of world oil production" and "developing sustainable lifestyles." I hope to eventually move to
the country (possibly to an "ecovillage") and life a simpler
life, closer to the earth.
I have an email discussion list that I started for Atheist
homeschoolers in 1999:
http://groups.yahoo.com/ g rou p/homeschool_atheists/
I can be reached at abrenner@atheists.org"

OS-01-06-Single white male, 27, searching for single female who


doesn't mind someone with an offbeat sense of humor. I am an avid
science fiction and fantasy fan, whose primary hobby is developing
my own television series in script format. I am also a passionate baseball fan, and also enjoy watching other sports, especially those that
do not have large followings, like curling and hockey, however these
are not priority viewing for me. I've always allowed my uniqueness to
show in my work and my writing which I believe can be appreciated
by anyone.
OS-02-06-DWM, 55, 190Ibs.,5'10'; brown-gray hair, blue eyes. I'm
very liberal morally. Looking for Atheist female 45-50 (flexible), who is
liberal morally. I am a retired NYCCorrections Captain who has house.
No need for support financially.
OS-03-06-SWM, 47, 5'10" 165 Ibs. Brown hair (full head), eyes. Never
married. No children. Nonsmoker. Light drinker. Fit. Organized.
Financial planner and investor. Engineer/MBA/CPA. Now live in
coastal Maine (Portland) a couple hours from Boston. Loves dogs and
horses-but I live downtown-and
cable TV. Follow Boston teams:
Patriots, Sox,Celtics, Bruins. Like to read a lot; see lots of movies; listen
to rock/blues (Stones forever)/folk/classical; play chess (occasional
tournaments). Enjoy trail riding on horsed (used to have) and mountain bikes; day hikes in the mountains. Intermediate tennis player.
Thinking of taking up guitar.

The "Atheist Singles" service is a benefit of membership in American Atheists. It


is intended to help members find that special someone. If you are a member
and wish to participate in this service, please limit your "Atheist Singles" ad
to 100 words or less.Please include your name and postal address so we will
know where to forward your replies when they come in.
Entries should be mailed to:

Atheist Singles, P.O.Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733.


Members of American Atheists who wish to communicate with any of the
Atheist singles who placed ads should do the following:
Write your response and place it in a stamped, self-addressed, sealed envelope.
On the back of the envelope, place the notation,"A.5." and the reference number (for example A.5. 00-05-03) ofthe entry to which you are responding.
Place the envelope inside another envelope, seal it, and mail it after addressing it to the Atheist Singles address in Parsippany listed above.
When your letter arrives at the American Atheist Center, the outer envelope
will be removed, the inner envelope extracted, and the address corresponding
to the reference number you wrote on it will be written on the front of the
envelope. The envelope will then be mailed forthwith. Please include your
phone number or e-mail address in case we have questions with your ad.
o American Atheists reserves the right to reject any singles ad.

Tired of All
he Religious Shows
on Television?
on't you want the religious
programming

to see "Atheist"

when they turn on the TV?


You can make that happen.

You can get The Atheist Viewpoint


on television. It's simple.
Please contact us for more information
at 908.276.7300.

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

SCIENTOLOGY LOSING GROUND TO NEW FICTIONOLOGY


by the onion-www.theonion.com-May
Los ANGELES-According

to a report

released

Monday

Institute

of Religions, the Church of Scientology,

growing

religious

organizations

to the much newer religion


"Unlike

Scientology,

central

a mythical

some scientific

to which

Created
Imaginetics:The

central

to gain popularity.

Tooth Fairy are permitted-even


Even corporate
tionological

mascots

sci-

fairy tales

read. "In short, Fictionol-

Scientology

is hidebound."

messiah

Bud Don Ellroy, Fic-

in the self-help

Believers

encouraged-to

Greg Jurgenson.

or the

view them as deities.

Man are valid objects

of Fic-

said Beverly Hills plastic

"My wife chooses to follow

have total knowledge

the teachings

of the Gilm-

Some advanced-level

of every lifetime

surgeon
Fiction-

they have ever lived for

years."
Jurgenson

added. "But that's Fictionology.

Praise Batman!"
worldwide
report

estimates

are former

membership

of 450 billion

acknowledges
is an invented

that as many as 70 percent

Scientologists.

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

that its purported


number,

of the church's

the AIR
followers

scientific

principles,

scientific

methodologies

the

followers

such as the
Kurz said. "Sci-

to undo

the damage

Confederation's

procedures

evil warlord

to erase overts

is essentially

actor David McSavage, who converted

"Scientology
can control

in

just a bunch of
to Fictionology

to explain.
can only offer data, such as how an Operating

matter, energy, space, and time with


said. "But truly spiritual

cially those seeking

people

don't

pure thought
care about

an escape from very real physical,

Thetan
alone,"

data, espe-

mental,

or emo-

problems."
added, "As a Fictionologist,

I live in a world

It's liberating."
A tax-exempt

organization,

poised to become
at its current
with fanciful
out charitable

of pretend.

_
the

Church

a great moneymaking

rate-a

situation

legitimate

stands

if it continues

to grow

Fictionology

churches

of the revenue

implants."

copyright 2005, Onion, Inc.


all rights reserved. reprinted with permission.

preys on the gullible

solutions,"

works worldwide-important

ing the planet of body-thetan

of Fictionology

power

Kurz called "outrageous."

new members,

stories and simple-minded

ogy is depriving

While the Church of Fictionology

AI Kurz said he

is approaching

nonsense."

Hollywood

McSavage

in strict

years ago by the Galactic

"In recruiting

"Sure, it's total bullshit,"

spokesman

Fictionology

mind. Conversely, Fictionology

make-believe

tional

that

in the brain by the E-Meter,"

offer our preclear

McSavage

savior is Batman,"

ore Girls. Of course, we are still beginners.


the last 80 trillion

Xenu-we

can be

doctrines,

in Santa Claus, his elves,

like the Kool-Aid

uses strictly

last year, attempted

construct

set of official

is rooted

of engrams

done 75 million

paperback

Of Modern Mental Make-Believe.


ever-growing

measurement
entology

public-relations

he learned

of his religion.

the reactive

worship.

"My personal

ologists

are essentially

belief, that any imaginary

into the church's

verifiable

belief system free from the cumber-

were first outlined

New Pipe-Dream

Fictionology's
incorporated
continues

principles

in 2003 by self-proclaimed
principles

popularity

when

"Scientology

to reality," the AIR report

method

losing members

is based on empirically

ogy offers its followers

tionology's

is steadily

Church of Scientology
was "shocked"

Fictionology.

which

entific tenets, Fictionology's


with no connection

Ll.S,

in the

by the American

once one of the fastest-

77,2005

Kurz said."Fictionolthey need to carry

charitable

works like clear-

HOW THE UIIITED STATES HELPED


UILElS"

FUIIDAMEIlTALIST ISLAM

ROBERT

DREYFUSS

Hubert Henry Harrison


The Black Socrates

Devil's Game

Unholy Trinity

by Rober Dreyfuss

by Mark Aarons & John Loftus

How The United States Helped Unleash


Fundamentalist Islam. Robert Dreyfuss
Devil's Game delves into the complex
history of Islam,and exposes the failure,
particularly of the Bush administration,
to comprehend the dynamics of
fundamentalist Muslim religious
ideology. He demonstrates the
disastrous (and little publicized) history
of how western powers, including
the British and Americans, sought to
achieve elusive foreign policy goals by
subsidizing fundamentalist extremism.
The catastrophic results became clear
on 9/11.

The Vatican, The Nazis and The Swiss


Banks.John Loftus and Mark Aarons.
Unholy Trinity details how the Papacy
ferreted Nazi criminals out of postWorld War II Europe via the infamous
"ratline," and exposed the ties between
the Vatican, Swiss bankers and hidden

$25.00
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An Atheist Primer

Western investors

$18.00
stock # 16002

an ATHEIST
PRIMER

by Madalyn

O'Hair

This children's book explains what


religion and what Atheism are all
about. It is a great introduction to

Hubert Henry Harrison


The Black Socrates

Atheism for readers of any age.

by John G.Jackson

$6.00
stock # 5372

$3.00
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John G. Jackson
TI-IB CASE
1\

AGAINST

RELIGION:

esvcnotneraprsr-s View

THE CASE

anll
AGAINST

HELIGIOSITV

Natural Atheism

The Case Against


Religion:
A Psychotherapist's
View
by Albert Ellis

by David Eller
Everything is here to help those who
already are Atheists better understand
the logic of their lives and see Atheism's
social and political implications.Those
who are not yet Atheists will be helped
by this scientist's common-sense
analysis of the so-called 'proofs of God'
to see the irrationality-indeed, the
meaninglessness-of god-beliefs. What
is belief? What is knowledge? As Pilate
is alleged to have asked,"What is truth?"
Understandable and clear answers to
these questions are in this book.

$25.00
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$6.00
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by

All>crllUlis

en.o.

please include check (payable to American Atheists) or credit


card payment for the price of the books plus shipping and
handling ($3.50 for the first title + $2.00 for each additional title.
Send order to:

American Atheist Press


PO Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733

TO ORDER

credit card orders may be faxed to: 908.276.7402

AMERJCAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

from the president

HmericanHtheists files lawsuit H~ainst Munici~al


Ms@es for ~hurch Jlfaca~eIm~rovement"
Ellen Johnson

n April 7, American Atheists filed suit in the United


States District Court For The Eastern District Of
Michigan, against the City of Detroit, City of Detroit
Downtown Development Authority, and the Detroit
Economic Growth Corporation, against the payment of approximately $690,000 directly to the Central United Methodist Church
and the Second Baptist Church under a program to spruce up real
estate located in the Lower Woodward neighborhood of downtown
Detroit. The spruce up was in preparation for the Super Bowl.
These payments violate both the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Sections 4
and 5 of the Michigan Constitution.
Amendment I of the United States Constitution reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Michigan Constitution reads:
Section 4. Every person has a right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of his own comcience, and no person can of right
be compelled to attend, erect, or support, against his will any place of
religious worship, or pay any tithes, taxes or other rates, for the support of
any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion.
Section 5. No money shall be drawn from the treasury for the
benefit of religious societies, or theological or religious seminaries.
We will keep you informed of our progress on the case.
Borden v. School District of the Township of East Brnnswick et also
In the fall of2005, East Brunswick, NJ, High School Football
Coach Marcus A. Borden was told by the school district to cease
participating in pregame prayers with his team. He sued the school
district for the right to continue with the prayers.
American Atheists asked the court for permission to be a party
defendant. We were wary about how the school district would be defending it's decision. Our attorney Allan Marain reports the following,
Judge Mark Falk denied our motion to intervene as a party defendant. He based this denial on the grounds that no student exposed
to the prayer practices is also a member of American Atheists. Additionally, American Atheists could not demonstrate that Coach Borden's prayer participation involved expenditure of specific tax monies.
Allan Marain has spoken with the attorney for the School.
Based on his discussion, Mr. Marain believes that the school district
appreciates the Establishment Clause issue, and will continue to vigorously oppose Coach Borden's participation in the prayer activities.
Utah Crosses Case
In December 2005, American Atheists and three Utah rnern8

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

bers brought a federal court suit against the State of Utah challenging
the government sanctioned display of twelve foot (12") tall Christian
Crosses on the side of state highways. The standalone crosses erected
by the Utah Highway Patrol Association (UHPA), a private group,
are part of a program begun in the early 1990's to memorialize troopers killed in the line of duty. Thirteen (13) crosses have been erected,
most on government property, throughout Utah. The crosses are
decorated with the official logo of the Utah Highway Patrol and bear
the name and year of death of the trooper. A small plaque recites
details of his life and service. The lawsuit caused national and international interest and news coverage when filed.
American Atheists has no objection to honoring law enforcement officers who gave their lives in public service. However, government should not participate in such a program using such a blatant
religious symbol.
Since the case was filed, the court gave UHPA permission to
participate in the lawsuit. They are represented in the lawsuit by
the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Arizona and the National
Legal Foundation of Virginia Beach, Virginia, legal defense organs of
the religious right. Among other things, UHPA is arguing that the
Christian Cross is a secular symbol and has no religious connotations
as used. They claim that the Christian Cross is a universally recognized symbol of death, remembrance and sacrifice and its display
does not advance religion. Brian M. Barnard, the Utah civil rights
attorney representing American Atheists has asked the court for a
hearing on those claims. The State is also arguing that because Mormons do not use the cross as a symbol in their religion and because
seventy-five percent (~75%) ofUtahns are Mormons, that the display
of the Cross does not violate the Constitution.
"To continue to unconstitutionally display one of the world's
most recognized religious symbols, these religious defense attorneys
simply argue that it is not religious. That is hypocrisy at its finest,"
said Barnard.
Barnard has also asked the Court to rule, as a preliminary matter, that Christian Crosses are exclusively religious symbols and that
no amount of rhetoric can change that. In legal argument submitted
to the Court cites many decisions from courts all across the nation
which have held that the government display of Christian Crosses
violates the separation of church and state.
The case is in the beginning stages, however the Utah Attorney General has vowed to fight the case all the way to the United
States Supreme Court.
If you are an attorney or know of an attorney who would like
to help defend the Establishment Clause to the United States Constitution and protect the civil rights of Atheists please contact Ellen
Johnson at ej@atheists.org.

The 32nd Annual, National Convention Of American Atheists


This year's convention was probably the best one we have ever
held. The venue was spectacular. The hotel had everything to make
the conventioneer's stay comfortable and the staff was the most helpful I can ever recall working with. The famed San Antonio Riverwalk
was right outside the hotel as well as an exciting array of restaurants.
Included in this issue are two of the speeches from the convention, one by Andrea Moore-Emmett on polygamy and the other by
David Fitzgerald on the 10,000 Christs and the evaporating Jesus.
A video and DVD of the convention will be made available.
Next years convention will be held in Seattle, Washington on
the weekend of April 6, 7 and 8.
We have inserted a convention questionnaire to learn more
about your preferences for the conventions. We hope you will all take
the time to fill it out and return it in the enclosed envelope whether
you attend the conventions or not. Feel free to make copies and ask
others to fill it out as well.
Thank-you for helping us to make it a better event for everyone.
We are very grateful to the many volunteers who offered their
services to make it all happen. They are, in no particular order:
Linda Sharlow
David Ross
Ed Gauci
Larry Mundinger
Frank and Ann Zindler
Jim Heldberg
Lance Wilhelm
Jason Torpy
Kathleen Johnson
Wayne Aiken
Marty Maier

Joe Zamecki
Marla Repka
Dave Silverman
Susan Harrington
Ron Stauffer
Chris Davis
Lorie Polansky
Neal Cary
Melissa Ozuna
Arlene Marie
George Shiffer

This years scholarship winners are James McQuiston and


Nadya Bronstein.
C-SPAN covered the talk given by Peter Nuhn and Rick
Wingrove.

top photo (clockwise) Dr. Michael Shermer; Q&A Session; Smalkowski


Family; Ed Martin; Michigan

delegation

2006 AWARD WINNERS


Susan Harrington
Lon Bevill
David Silverman
Richard Max Andrews
TheSmalkowski Family
The Wilkins Family
(Sherrie, Edward III,
William & SamuelDennls)
Paul Himes
David Chris Allen
Jim Heldberg
Duane~uccholz
Arlene Marie & George Shiffer
Allen Cox,Tacoma, WA

Atheist Of The Year


Defending The Wall Award
Outreach Award
Volunteer Of The Year
Valor Award
First Amendment Award

Atheist Activist Of The Year


Lifetime Achievement Award
Distinguished Service Award
Distinguished Service Award
State Directors of the Year
Best Letter To The Editor Winner

Here is the text of the letter:

CHRISTMAS

Public resources shouldn't promote religious views.


Letter writer Anthony DePersion (TNT, 72-75) expresses that
church-state separation has gone too far. Is the state preventing
him from saying IIMerry Christmas" on his own time or putting up a
Christmas tree in his home (and calling it a Christmas tree), or setting
up a manger scene on hiS front lawn, or attending whatever church
services he likes, or purchasing Christmas gifts from any merchant he
chooses, or opening his Bible and reciting the Ten Commandments
from his rooftop?
People of faith in the U.S. who complain about being religiously censored don't have a clue what religious persecution really is.
This is a religiously diverse nation. Tile state's job, when it
comes to religion, is to make sure public resources (money, real estate,
human resources) aren't used to promote religious views (such as a
Ten Commandments display in a courthouse).
Is it fair for the government to promote Christianity over, say
Buddhism? And naone is forcing atheism on anybody just by making sure government doesn't use public resources to promote one
religion over another.
Also, use of the word Hgodless" as though it's derogatory
represents the alwming degree of intolerance many in the country
seem to have against others who don't share their views. It's a direct,
arrogant slam against the millions of Americans who do not believer
in a God. Atheism is a perfectly legitimate point of view.
Ob, and a Happy Winter Solstice to all.
Alfen CoX;Tacoma
THE NEWSTRIBUNE-Saturday, December 17,2005

photos provided by Edwin Kagin and George Shiffer


AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

Ihe ~ro~~
~yIhe ~i~e~fIhe R~aL
Thirteen days and 4,200 miles on the Interstate show how the culture wars
have spilled on to the Great American highways
by Conrad F. Goeringer
It was too interesting an offer to refuse ... help drive a cargo van packed with video and sound equipment, books and other products from the American
Atheist Center in New Jersey to our 32nd National Convention in San Antonio, TX It may not have been Kerouac's adventure in "On The Road"
or Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley, " but this road trip revealed how the culture war battle over public religiosity divides a country once united by
endless miles of blacktop
ostin the age of internet chat, 200-channel cable television
and cell phones-those ubiquitous technologies drawing us
into a compressed and over-crowded global village -- is a
compelling yet often ignored truth, that this is a very big
country. The lower 48 states of the U.S. span four times zones and
stretch 3,987 miles. From the Canadian-U.S. border to Mexico is
1,933 miles. Knitting it all together is a Byzantine nerwork of pipelines, railroads, air routes and highways, including about 46,000 miles
of what is known as the "Dwight D. Eisenhower National System
of Interstate and Defense Highways," more commonly dubbed simply "The Interstate." Those miles of blacktop are part of the American road, a real-world expression of the restlessness of American life.
Writer Ronica Ruth described them as ''An ingredient in the American
psyche that keeps people looking beyond the next rise in the hill."
The interstate system is just the latest incarnation, though, of
that desire to be in almost perpetual motion. European settlers and
colonists built early road right-of-ways and even toll roads over or
along existing trails used by Native Americans. Heading west, many
of the original wagon routes served as guides for railroads. Then
came local and state roads, followed by the nerwork of numbered U.S
Highways. Routes like U.S. 40 or the most famous road of all, Route
66 were burned into the American consciousness as symbols of our
national desire to be on the move, and transformed us into a leading
"autopian" nation.
All of this was not without its critics. The proliferating number of automobiles had unanticipated consequence on American life,
including the growing independence of women in the workplace and
cultural arena. "TAKING THE WHEEL: Women and the Coming
of the Motor Age (1991)" by Virginia Scharff explored the interaction berween cars and women, not just in areas such as design, but in
how females discovered "freedom, independence and power" through
this new mobility. Cars allowed young couples to escape parental supervision and oversight, thus fueling a new wave of sexual exploration
and freedom. Coupled with suffragist victories and the rise of the
jazz age, automobiles embodied an energetic, freewheeling lifestyle
that challenged the traditional boundaries of Protestant probity.
"Road culture," the proliferation of diners, roadside tourist attractions and even the "motor court"--early motels characterized by
law enforcement figures like J. Edgar Hoover as secluded haunts for
illicit assignations and shelters for criminal gangs-became a part of
the American semiotic landscape.
The interstate system was the next step in constructing the
American "autopia." The popular belief is that Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the interstate as a military asset. "The military uses of

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highways, the chief justification for road building in the old western
territories, had become a concern again following World War I," observed journalist Phil Patton in his book "OPEN ROAD, A Celebration of the American Highway." With railroads gridlocked, leaders
like Gen. John Pershing looked to the use of highways to move troops
and materiel across vast geographic expanses. In 1919, a motorized
column consisting of seventy-nine vehicles departed from Washington, DC along the Lincoln Highway, and a full 56 days later finally
made it to San Francisco. Among the officers on the beleaguered
expedition was a young Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Nearly three-and-a-half decades and one World War later,
President Eisenhower -still reminded of the wearisome 1919 cross
country caravan-signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act of
1952 providing for the first funding of an interstate system. More
money was appropriated in 1956, and the proposed nerwork of standardized, limited-access highways grew to 41,000 miles. Elements of
some existing roads were quickly incorporated into the new system,
and new construction was financed on an as-you-go basis using a
federal tax on gasoline and other automotive fees. Washington paid
90% of the costs, with states kicking in the remaining money.
More than military project, the Interstate Highway System
was a continuation of a massive public works program stretching
back to 1938 and the first Federal Highway Act. President Franklin
Roosevelt supported the building of three "super highways" spanning
the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and rwo others stretching
north and south from Canada to Florida and Mexico. The "Good
Roads Movement" had lobbied for increased spending on highway
construction at the state and federal level. Road building made room
for more automobiles, heightened use of oil, gasoline, rubber, steel
and other materials, and all of the ancillary service industries which
dotted the new transportation arteries.

**
For me, this was the first major road trip cross country since
relocating from Arizona to New Jersey in 1994. Planes and trains
have become the substitute of choice berween then and now. Fly
over the country and you trade the discomfort of coach prices for
a relatively quick trip berween airports. Trains whisk passengers up
the Northeast Corridor, that stretch of sprawling urban development
bounded by Washington, DC and Boston. Relaxing, but a traveler
surrenders the option of impulsively pulling off on an exit to explore,
and your route is constrained by long winding ribbons of steel rail.
One or rwo hours of driving really doesn't quite qualify either as road

tripping. But driving for an extended period of time, enough to notice the change in the landscape and the smell of the air, that's really
hitting the road.
A purist would quote William Least Heat Moon, whose 1982
classic "BLUE HIGHWAYS" grabbed the public imagination and
recaptured our fascination with the American road. Moon was in
the midst of personal crises when he packed his belonging into a van
he named Ghost Dancing and began a 13,000 mile sojourn on the
"blue highways" of forgotten America. These are the roads well off
the freeways and national highways-and the Interstates-winding
through small towns and big country terrain.. His evocative memoir
was as much about personal exploration as it was the places he visited.
To discover the real America and yourself, take to the back roads.
But the Interstate is a window on America, too, if you can see
beneath the bland uniformity of service plazas, hotel chains and fast
food joints.

**
It's Saturday, six days and more than 2,000 miles from the San
Antonio convention. U.S. Route 40 takes us from the Jersey coast
to the Delaware Memorial Bridge and onto one of the heaviest trafficked interstates in the country.. There is serious weather in the
Midwest including floods and tornadoes, and the prudent course is
down the 1-95 corridor to Jacksonville, then a straight shot on 1-10
to San Antonio.
One of the first things you notice amidst the toll plazas (Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland are notorious for charging motorists fees to use roads already paid for), rest stops and shopping malls is
the ubiquitous presence of roadside memorials. The markers placed
at the location of fatal road accidents would be persistent in every
state we traveled through. They are illegal in most locales, and I
could only wonder if those slowing down and pulling off the fastmoving interstate to erect these ersatz shrines were not endangering
the lives of other motorists, and their own.
Type in a GOOGLE search for "roadside memorial," and you
will find "about 1,910,000 pages."
"Roadside crosses" is an even more shocking category, yielding
6,280,000 listings. There are on-line shrines to the departed often
bearing pictures of these garish memorials, and companies offering
crosses that can be conveniently planted along the road. They are
the foot-soldiers of a religious renaissance in the country, another
proclamation on behalf of, well, roadside religion.
According to Dr. Jenny Clark and Prof. Majella Franzman at
the University of New England, these Christian road monuments
are "appearing in greater numbers along our major roads and highways-crosses, flowers, trinkets, messages, spontaneous shrines in
honor of someone who has died in a road crash at that spot. (See
Religion and Ethics web site, 4/25/06). They are, as noted in "Pointers," a journal of the Christian Research Association, 'expressions of
popular spiritual life existing outside of established religion." Those
who erect such monuments appropriate the public road space for
themselves, and transcend the practices and geography of mourning
provided by "tradition authorities .."
Roadside memorials replete with flowers, Christian crosses,
candles and other paraphernalia fit well with the thriving trend of
"cafeteria" style spirituality where people feel unencumbered by the
restraints and institutions of the more traditional faiths. Clark and
Franzmann write, "More than ever, people are beginning to take religion and meaning-making out of the hands of the government or

established religions ... " The markers are "enigmatic expressions of


popular spiritual life existing outside established religions and often
in contravention to the regulation of a private expression ... " This resonates, though, with the modern evangelical call to expand the area
considered the province of religion. It is an "in-your-face" style memorial propelling religion into the public square. Like most funereal
ritual, they are not for the purposes of the dead but for the living.
Academics have begun taking this trend seriously attempting
to explain the burgeoning practice of erecting roadside shrines from
the perspective of folklore, ethnic tradition and other factors.

**
Along with the proliferation of roadside crosses is another
phenomenon-huge
mega-church perched on Interstate frontage
roads announcing their presence with copious and conspicuous
signage. They are hard to miss even amidst the towering icons for
burger joints, hotels and gas stations. Their presence may well be
closely linked to the rise of the Interstate system which carved out
more settlement space for growing populations of urban discontents
and suburban homesteaders, and made property adjacent to highway
exit and entrance points a valuable real estate commodity. Businesses
know that these traffic arteries can be transportation conduits for new
customers. Along with the "big box" retail giants are the new giants
of pop-culture evangelicalism, the mega-churches boasting their giant
auditoriums, day care centers, coffee houses, meeting rooms, theaters
and recreational complexes. They have cashed-in on a new market of
belief-shoppers in search of quick, convenient salvation.
Most of these enormous congregations are unaffiliated with
the mainstream denominations, and instead identify with the fastgrowing segment of American Christianity, the evangelicals. The
mega-church phenomenon, however, does not come as the result in
a rise in the rate of conversion to Christianity. Instead, the "big box"
churches of the interstate and elsewhere draw from the more staid
and restrained denomination.
John Gonzales, a correspondent for
the PBS program "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly," described the
new interstate worship phenomenon.
"Here, simultaneous services, all with their own mood music
and prayer leaders, range from rock and roll cool to Generation X
and the baby-boomer crowd too old fashioned and hymn-filled for
traditionalists to coffee-shop casual for people wanting informality
and a cup of java with their prayers.
''All these worlds of worship are just steps from one another
at this nondenominational evangelical church's home, a converted
industrial park complex that feels like a street fair."
The mega-churches, says writer Michael Horton (Modern
Reformation, July/August 2001) are filled with worshippers "who
simply want to focus on themselves, retain a casual relationship in a
big church, and leave when they feel like it." They have been compared to wandering seekers taking in the sights and experiences of the
burgeoning and competitive faith-based marketplace. They are, in
an analogy attuned to the vernacular of the American road, "religious
tourists" perhaps unable to fit in with the fixed, static and emotionally-restrained congregations of more mainstream religion. Horton
describes the mega-church congregant as "a lapsed churchgoer or
a churchgoer who has been so uprooted and transplanted in his or
her life that belonging to a seeker church-with
its more transient
feel-is more desirable."
Or, perhaps this is all about religious consumerism. The automobile and superhighway which fertilized the explosive growth of
AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

11

suburbia have made possible the mega-mall, drive-through eateries


and now the mega-church. For those on the road, Jesus is waiting at
the next off ramp along with Wal-Mart and a quick fill-up.

**
There are other changes, too, that become evident as the miles
pass. The truck traffic is as heavy as ever, but these 18-wheel behemoths seem to be festooned with more religious slogans and advertising than I remember from my 1994 journey. This resonates in an era
of blatant and aggressive religious expression, underscoring the fact
that to many energized faithful, religious sentimentality is not a matter of private conscience but deserves the most vigorous promotion.
Religion has spilled out of the churches and into the public square
and, in this case, the public road. Faith-therned bumper stickers and
symbols seem more nume;rous and suggestive.
There are also more billboards along the highway promoting
churches, religious beliefs and especially the "right to life." "It's a person, not a choice" and similar messages seem to predominate. We encounter them with greater frequency as we move through the South
and into Texas, even on the return leg of our expedition through
Kentucky, Ohio and into Pennsylvania. An alien sociologist might
conclude that abortion is front-and-center in what my friend Edwin
Kagin aptly describes as the American Religious Civil War-and he,
she or it would probably be correct.
We leave 1-95 at Jacksonville, and begin crossing the Florida
panhandle on 1-10. It is a straight shot to San Antonio. The landscape changes, the air seems to thicken and the temperature warms.
k we move further into the Gulf States region, there is evidence of
the path of Hurricane Katrina. Trees have fallen, roofs blown off,
and there are billboards with messages about surviving, moving on
and re-building.
New Orleans was ground zero for Katrina, and it remains at
the epicenter of a political and cultural debate over everything from
class and race to eschatology. Some say it was prelude to a forthcoming apocalypse. The 1-10 bridge across Lake Ponchatrain shows evidence of the damage; opening this leg of the heavily-used road was an
immediate priority. Once in New Orleans, the devastation is more
vivid and compelling than any video news feed. If Pat Robertson and
his ilk were right, if Katrina was a message from God directed at a
city which glorified sensual excess and rebellion, the deity was careless and mean-spirited in selecting His targets. Mile after mile, there
are homes with roofs missing, windows blown out, and doors open
exposing the interior of what was once a residence. There was no
sorting of sinners from the faithful here. Everyone who lived in these
neighborhoods was victimized.
Religious posturing and theorizing permeated the media coverage of the New Orleans and Gulf region tragedy. Robertson had
made outrageous statements over earlier natural disasters, such as his
1998 warning that a potential catastrophe was possible after officials
in Orlando, Fla. and the Walt Disney Company announced plans for
a "Gay Days" event. The fiery evangelist threatened that the community was inviting God's wrath in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes,
tornados, terrorist attacks and even "possibly a meteor."
Others suggested that New Orleans was a modern-day Sodom-and-Gomorrah, a city of sinful excess with its bacchanalian
events and honky-tonk ethos. One of the world's leading AI Qaida
terrorists, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also saw the clenched fist of God at
work.. He declared during a recorded sermon, "I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States (Katrina) occurred because
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ATHEIST MAGAZINE

people in Iraq or Afghanistan-maybe a mother who had lost her son


or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped-were
praying to God and God accepted their prayers."
The callousness and absurdity of such remarks becomes obvious driving down 1-10. At noon, the downtown traffic is light.
Homes, playgrounds, schools, stores and other structures are eerily
vacant. If God did this, why?
Porn Store Salvation
Four days after pulling in to San Antonio and the American
Atheists Convention, we are back on the interstate. The weather in
the Mid-West is clear; free of the threat of tornados and flash floods;
we decide to head for Union, Kentucky and the hospitality of Edwin
and Helen Kagin. These wonderful people founded Camp Quest,
and have been stalwarts for Freethought and the First Amendment.
They extend the hospitality of their sprawling home which is cluttered with books, magazines, curious artifacts and two canines including a hulking but friendly English Mastiff appropriately named
Bruno. The trek requires a jaunt through Arkansas and Tennessee, a
route resplendent with roadside crosses, religion-themed billboards,
and plenty of cars and trucks decorated with advertising for Jesus.
But there is another bizarre synchronicity which first emerged
when we drove through Houston, TX.
Everywhere from one side
of this sprawling metropolis to the other, and beyond, is the strange
mix of churches and adult "gentlemen's" clubs-OK,
strip joins - and equally visible "adult" book store. Porn and religion seem to
enjoy an uneasy nexus here providing rich irony for writers, pundits
and bloggers. I am unable to verify the claim that Houston boasts an
above-the-national-average number of these clubs and mega-churches, but the truth seems obvious from the Interstate. Billboards and
other signage hawk competing sensibilities, from the promise of redemption to the more carnal pleasures of the VIP lounge. "The road
from Houston
alternates between churches and strip clubs with an
occasional mall
ahhh, Texas!" noted one blog.
There is plenty of news about the wild popularity of these
adult entertainment establishments and the community powers-thatbe. Churches have won out in the town of Stafford, Texas which may
well boast the greatest density of religious institutions in any American municipality. Fifty five churches dot the landscape of the sevensquare-mile town, and the mayor has proposed a zoning ordinance
that would ban construction of new religious buildings in nearly half
the community. Churches, says Leonard Scarcella, are gobbling up
land that is otherwise need~d for commercial-let's
make that taxpaying-businesses and other uses. The Rev. Peter Tuck Soon Leong of the Chinese Baptist Church disagrees, insisting "People need
a place to worship."
At the other end of the spectrum is Pastor Jim Norwood, community vigilante and Mayor of Kennedale, Texas. The good reverend
attracted national publicity when he became so enraged by people
patronizing local sex-shops that he began a campaign to run them
out of town. Norwood grabbed his trusty digital camera and began
photographing cars parked at the local adult business and mailed the
pies to the homes of the owners. Texas law permits individuals to
obtain such information. Norwood included a message on the back
of the photos declaring: "Observed you in the neighborhood. Didn't
know if you were aware there is a church in the area ... Please stop by
next time. We'd love to have you visit."
This being Texas, though, many of the adult store patrons may
already be staunch churchgoers.

Incidentally, just days before we reached the Texas border, police in Kennedale were swooping down on an adult novelty store seizing rwo vanloads of books, magazines, videos and sex toys. Pastor/
Mayor Norwood told news media that "We did everything we could"
to protect the community from such vices, including surrounding
Crystal Dreamer's Video and the The Log Cabin adult shops with
bright yellow crime tape.
Ahhh ... Texas, as they say!
By late afternoon of the following day, we are entering the
plateau area adjacent to the southern Appalachians. The topography
changes, the air cools. We move into the Smokeys. This incredible
landscape is interrupted by the occasional small town, farmhouse ...
and more enormous billboards advertising everything from gasoline
and hotel rooms to, yes, porn shops. We also see towering concrete
crosses-they must be fifty, sixty or more fee high, proclamations of
Christian belief that seem like giant monsters surveying the countryside. If they could move, they might resemble the menacing Martian
machines out an H.G. Wells novel.
It is "the gloaming," almost dark as we pass an enormous, garishly lit adult paraphernalia and book store not far from an interstate
exit. It is in the shadow of one of these enormous crosses. Was there
a story here?
A short hotel stay, and by the noon we reach Kagin Manor.
The hospitality is extravagant, and we survey the library, semi-organized collections of artifacts ranging from swords and firearms to
art. This house is lived in, the accumulated experience of Edwin and
Helen Kagin, and home to an archive of freethought treasures. Not
far away is the venue for Camp Quest which has now grown to a se-

The next day is a grueling 12-hour blacktop marathon. We


pass a van belonging to "Answers in Genesis" (if they only knew what
we had inside OUR vehicle ... ), saw more of the roadside crosses,
religious signs and bumper stickers, and mega-churches. The whole
experience suggested to me that religion, or better yet energized and
politicized sectarian faith, has moved beyond the status of personal
choice and is now a contentious and divisive point of argument. The
debate rages everywhere. If you can "read" the cultural signs by looking outside your vehicle window, there is disturbing evidence of a loss
of innocence.
The road was once pure adventure, sights and smells and
places to visit. Those elements are still there, even along the ribbons of lnrerstate. The "Blue Highways" and back roads still preserve

ries of summer camps for nonbelieving youngsters across the country.


Ironically the area is to also slated as the future home of a creationist
museum organized by Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis movement. The 30-acre complex is tastefully decorated with wroughtironwork, a sweeping driveway, and a multi-million dollar facility
that its founders hope will successfully demonstrate how human beings and dinosaurs co-existed once on an Earth that is only about
6,000 years old, all as part of a (highly compressed) Divine timeline.
To the scientific and rationally inclined, that promises to be a
difficult sell. To those who once gawked at Raquel Welch in "1,000,000
BC," it still doesn't explain her sixties-era hair and perfect teeth.
The Kagins regale us with stories, recollections and prognostications in berween copious servings of food. If anyone had taken a
picture of the Porn Store Cross, it was surely Edwin Kagin. He had.
He guessed, probably correctly, that many who worshipped
Sunday mornings before such a cross were sneaking into the World's
Largest Porn Shop the night before, or any other time during the

our small towns and eccentric roadside attractions. Road buffs and
self-described "commercial archeologists" look for quaint reminders
of our past like programmatic architecture (a hot-dog stand shaped
like a Weiner), mom-and-pop custard stands, and-good grieB-an
independent motel featuring cabins with pine paneling and Norman
Rockwellesque paintings on the wall. The Interstate nearly did away
with much of that, but created another version of American roadside
culture new generations are now accustomed to.
They used to call Route 66 "The Mother Road." Now its
children and grandchildren cross the country east to West, north to
south on faster highways. There are signs here of where America has
been and is going, lessons about the homogenization of our culture,
a heightened and almost frantic pace of daily life, and generational changes of how we perceive the landscape. Most of all, over the
course of several days and 4,200 or so miles, it provided compelling
evidence of how the religious culture war had spilled alongside and
on to the American road.

week, creating an awful tension berween public probity and private


temptation. He surmised that Eros inevitably conquered. I thought
of Jimmy Swaggart spending time with a motel prostitute, or those
Promise Keepers who descended on Washington, DC Mall in 1997
for a "solemn assembly" affirming theocratic, family and religiousright values. "Almighty God has called us here to repent," thundered
the group's founder, University of Colorado football coach Bill MeCartney, adding that the organization is "not coming with any other
agenda. We are coming to ask God to forgive us." According to
news reports, though, the "Godly men" were doing more than praying. Rentals of X-rated movies in local hotels occupied by the group
soared, and the local strip clubs were packed.

**

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

13

Ih~ m~~~
~hristsanuIh~tva~~ratin~J~sus
by David Fitzgerald

Introduction
Now, before I jump right in, I have to say right off we've got a
lot of ground to cover, so this is just a quick and dirty intro-in fact
it's the short version of the quick and dirty intro-- but you don't have
to take my word for any of this-there's more details and resources I
can steer you to afterwards.
What I'd like to do is show just what the historical evidence
for Jesus is.
We'll also examine the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels and
the New Testament, take a look at early Christianity, and see where all
this leads us. Alright then: If we're going to find out if someone was a
real historical person, we need to start with-History!
So what does
History say about Jesus?
Well, if you look in your average Christian bookstore for
books on Jesus, if they bother giving any evidence for him at all, it
usually turns out to be just a list of scholars, usually old dead ones (
with at least one who they invariably call "perhaps one of the greatest
historians ever" ) who are quoted that the idea of Christ being a myth
is absolute rubbish and completely and utterly preposterous.
But if the author ever gets around to presenting any actual
evidence, the back pedaling immediately kicks in ...
Here's a new word for everybody:
Apologist: An Apologist is somebody who argues to defend or
justify a particular doctrine or ideology. It's not a bad word, but you
might think so, because I'll be pretty hard on Christian apologists ...
One tack that Apologists like to take is to claim that there was
no reason for historians in Jesus' time to take notice of this humble
carpenter from Nazareth-but
is that right?
History vs. the Gospels
A few Bible events that should have made history at the timebut didn't:
Caesar taxes the World - In the Gospels (which are the 4
books of the Bible that talk about Jesus' life) it says around
the time Jesus was born Caesar Augustus declared a census
to levy a tax on the whole world. Now this creates all kinds
of problems, not least because Jesus is to have been born
during King Herod's reign, which ended in 4 B.C. But the
only Roman census during this wasn't until 6 A.D. That's a
gap of at least 10 years.
Herod's Slaughter of the Innocents - King Herod reportedly killed all the male babies in Bethlehem in order to
eliminate baby Jesus. Herod's enemies took great pleasure
in listing his wrongdoings; no way they would've missed a
whopper potential political crisis like this.
Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem - Jesus enters
Jerusalem and the whole town welcomes him as their king
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with cries of adulation, palm leaves, ete. Seems like the Romans in charge would've noticed the whole city welcoming
the new king, too ...
Jesus' Casting out of the Money-changers - Jesus is said
to have driven out all the greedy money-changers from the
Temple in Jerusalem. Unlike the traditional picture of Jesus coming in and upsetting a few tables, It's been pointed
out that in fact the Temple area covered some 35 acres, the
equivalent of 34 football fields! It would have contained
thousands of pilgrims, innumerable livestock stalls, money-changing booths-and was crawling with armed guards
to boot! (If Jesus was such a one-man Kung Fu army of
death, the Romans would've definitely have noticed. The
impossibility of this scenario has led some scholars to suppose that perhaps Jesus must have led a small force of zealots who cleared out the temple. But this speculation only
makes the problem worse, because such an outburst would
definitely have brought down the wrath of the Roman army,
and definitely not have been missed by the contemporary
historians.)
The events surrounding Jesus' death - All kinds of freaky
things happen after Jesus' crucifixion: An Earthquake, a
Supernatural Darkness covers the whole world, the sacred
Temple Curtain tears from top to bottom, and there is the
resurrection of "many holy people" who appeared in Jerusalem. (Well, according to Matthew anyway; somehow Mark,
Luke and John missed all that too)
His Resurrection and Ascension - After his death, Jesus
comes back, hangs around a while, and then floats back up
to Heaven in front of many witnesses. More on that later.
These are just some of the more conspicuous examples of Gospel events for which we have no corroborating evidence. Yet ask any
Christian (and even some Atheists), and they'll assure you there is a
battery of contemporary eyewitnesses who attest to the historical reality of Christ. So let's bring them out, shall we?
List of sources
Here are the names most often cited by apologists.
Flavius Josephus - Jewish Historian
Tacitus - Roman Historian
Thallus - Roman Writer
Lucian -- Roman Satirist
Suetonius - Roman Historian
Pliny the Younger - Roman Historian
Mara Bar-Serapion -Syrian, occupation unknown
Justin Martyr - Christian Apologist
Clement of Rome - Christian Pope
Polycarp - Christian Martyr
Origen - Christian Apologist
Eusebius - Christian Historian

Tertullian - Christian Apologist


Ignatius - Christian Martyr
Clement of Alexandria - Christian Theologian
Hippolytus - Christian Martyr
Cyprian - Christian Bishop and Martyr
And: if you know of more, or come across any more eyewitnesses, please let me know!
These 17 guys often get trotted out by apologists and presented as eyewitnesses who give testimony that Jesus really existed.
Now, I'm not going to go over each and everyone of these people
and examine their testimony, though I do in the book. Let's do this:
Why don't we look at just the ones who could have been eyewitnesses
to the events in the Gospels:
Timeline of Historical Sources
Jesus (c.4 B.C.? - 30???)
90

Antiquities of the Jews Josephus (c.37-1 00+)

95

Clement

100

???- Thallus(?)

110

Ignatius (c.35 - 110)

]'t Century

112

117

of Rome (c.? - 110)


(c. 50? -1 OO?)

The Twelve Caesars Suetonius


Pliny the Younger

(c.69-122+)

(c. 61 - 113)

The Annals Tacitus (56 - 117+)


Polycarp (69 - 155)

2nd Century

Justin Martyr
Phlegon
170

(100 - 165)

(c.???)

Lucian of Samosata
Clement
Tertullian

(c.125 - ?)

of Alexanria

(c. 160 - 225)

??? - Mara Bar-Serapion


3'd Century

4th Century

(c. 150 - 215)

225

Origen (c. 185 - 254)

250

Cyprian (c. ? - 258)

(c. 2nd or 3rd cent.)

Eusebius (260 - 340)

As you can see, absolutely NONE of these supposed witnesses


is in any position to give any contemporary eyewitness accounts of
the time in which Jesus lived. NOT ONE. And I wouldn't even hold
that against them if they had anything to say. But none of their socalled "testimonies" are very impressive; mostly discussing Christians.
Nobody says Christians don't exist. (Again, in the book you'll be able
to look at just what they have to say anyway) In fact, out of every
single "eyewitness" the only one that could even be considered a near
contemporary ofjesus is Flavius Josephus (although he was born after
Jesus' alleged death, and wrote some sixty years after that). So we'll
have more on him a little later. But don't worry-there ARE more
historians and other writers who DID live at the right time to see the
beginnings of Christianity ...
Now, interestingly enough, these perfectly respectable sources
are never on Christian lists of historical witnesses. Let's see what they
have to say:
Epictetus (55 - 135 AD) A major Greek Philosopher. He
espoused a "Brotherhood of Man" that was remarkably similar to

Christ's. But he makes no mention of Jesus or of Christianity at all.


Well, that's alright. It's not unthinkable that he might not mention
his influences or rivals.
Martial (c.38 AD - c.103 AD) andJuvenal (?AD - c.127?AD)
Observant social satirists. These two poked fun at all aspects of firstcentuty society, but have nothing to say about Christians. Well again,
ok-maybe Christianity wasn't quite on the radar yet, or maybe they
just didn't find Christians funny. (though strangely enough, later Roman satirists like Lucian found Christianity very funny ... )
Lucius Marcus Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Elder) (c. 54 BC
- c. 39 AD). Widely regarded as the greatest Roman writer on ethics.
Hmmm ... Okay, it's certainly odd that a writer on ethics would have
nothing to say about arguably the biggest ethical shake up of his time,
but that is exactly the case.
Pliny the Elder (23 AD - 79 AD) A scientist who wrote volumes not just on natural and astronomical phenomenon (such as
earthquakes and supernatural darkness, for instance) but also on legends and cultic beliefs-but
absolutely nothing on Jesus or Christianity.
Here's a guy who really would've been interested in Jc. This should
raise a huge red Rag that something is seriously missing here ...
But okay, so there's nothing from the Romans. But here're
some Jews! Surely they'll have something to say! Here we go!
Justus of Tiberi as (died. c.100 AD) A Jewish Historian. Justus of Tiberias lived in the first century. Now we're getting somewhere! He was a native of Galilee; in fact, he didn't live too far from
Jesus' hometown! Better and better! To make the whole thing just
perfect, he even wrote a history covering the entire time when Jesus
lived (!!!)In fact, the only reason we even know of Justus at all is because of what he says about Jesus: He doesn't say a damn thing!
Philo of Alexandria (c.20 BC - c. 50 AD) A Jewish philosopher and writer alive during and after the time of Christ. He lived
in Jerusalem when Christ had his triumphant procession, when he
drove the moneychangers out of the temple, when he was crucified,
when there was the big earthquake, the supernatural darkness, the
resurrection, all the dead holy people emerging and zombie-ing their
way though Jerusalem-He was there for all of that!
But it rnust've not made much of an impression, 'cause he
doesn't know anything about it. Mind you, he wrote lots on other
sects of the time such as the Essenes and the Therapeutae-but
nothing on Jesus. Or on Christianity either. Which is particularly strange
when you learn it was Philo who developed the idea of "The Logos"
i.e. the Word, as in "In the beginning was the Word" and "The Word
was made Hesh and dwelt among us."
Talmud Sources
It is sometimes claimed that Jewish writings prove that the
writers of the Talmud [4th - 5th centuries AD] knew ofJesus. However, let's look at their Jesus-both of them.
One of these, Jesus ben Pandira, was reportedly a miracleworker (and the bastard of a Roman soldier). He is said to have
been stoned to death and then hung on a tree on the eve of a Passover at Jerusalem (Mmm? Mmm?)-but
this was during the reign
of Alexander Janna:us (106 - 79 BC). Quite a bit too early to be
our guy.
The other, Jesus ben Stada, is also said to have been stoned
and hanged on the eve of a Passover-but at Lydda, 32 miles from
Jerusalem, and this in the first third of the second century CE at that!
It's plain that the Rabbis had no knowledge of Jesus apart from what
they had read in the Gospels.

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Flavius Josephus
Okay, let's get back to the only person on the apologist's lists
who could be considered even a near contemporary of Jesus, Flavius
Josephus. He was born Joseph bar Mattathias in Jerusalem in 37
C.E. He was a reluctant Jewish commander in the revolt against the
Romans who went over to the Roman side, (which by Irish Republican standards makes him a filthy little traitor) and later wrote several
respected historical works. (so maybe we can cut him a little slack)
Josephus spends many pages describing a variety of different miracle
workers and messiahs of the first century. How about JC? Now this
time, honestly, there's someone who really does have something to say
about Jesus-or doeshe? Let's see...
In volume 18, chapter 3 of Antiquities of theJews,Josephus describes various misfortunes that befell the Jews under Pilate: Here he's
pushing graven images of Caesar on them, there's a massacre here,
another sad calamity here, they all get booted out of Rome here-All
very gloomy stuff ... but right in the middle of all these depressing
tales of woe, there's a break that says this:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, ifit be lawful
to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher
of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him
both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ.
And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us,
had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did
not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as
the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named
from him, are not extinct at this day.
I swear, this entire passage sticks out like a Brittany Spears
video in the middle of a funeral service! Let's just take a quick look at
the highlights, and then you tell me if you think this was written by
a 1st century orthodox Jewish historian, or if it was a forgery slipped
in later:
Look at what he says: "The Christ?" "The 10,000 wonderful
things concerning him"
"He appeared to them alive again" Are we
supposed to believe that an orthodox Jew (let alone a historian!)
wrote any of these things? Calling a criminal condemned by his
fellow Orthodox Jews the Christ-a Greek word for "the Messiah"?
Gushing over the oodles of wonderful things he did? Casually mentioned he returned from the dead?? (Can you picture him saying
"Now, mind you, I don't believe in him myself, but clearly he was
the Messiah")
"And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct
at this day" Of course, there wasn't ever a "tribe" of Christians, and
its doubtful Josephus would make such a stupid error. Also, the
term "Christian" was not used until the second century; and by any
name, Christianity was still just scattered and unorganized communities at when Josephus wrote Antiquites in 90 AD. Christianity
as a movement didn't even get "tribe-sized" until well into the 2nd
century.
The passage says
the divine prophets had foretold': but here
normally careful historian Josephus doesn't cite who these prophets
are or what they said-very unlike him.
Another indication of forgery is the mistaken use of the word
"Gentile'~Josephus did not use the word "Gentile" in any of his
writings. For instance throughout Antiquities of the Jews and The
Jewish ~rs, he never refers to the non-jews of Palestine as 'Gentiles'
but rather constantly calls them 'Greeks' or 'Syrians' regardless of
their actual ethnicity.

'as

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Josephus would have been extremely interested in Jesus' Casting out of the Money-changersfrom the Temple, but uncharacteristically
he makes no mention of it. This would have been a political incident
that would have attracted major attention.
Josephus spends pages reporting the antics of other miracle
workers and rabble-rousersin detail, such as John the Baptist, Judas of
Galilee, Theudas the Magician, the Egyptian Jew Messiah, ete. (all of
whom he rebukes as "deceivers and Imposters" ) and he has nothing
good to say about any of them-in
fact pointing out uppity Jews
like this was a special focus of his. But this lone lirtle paragraph is all
he has to say? And about the one he claims is the Messiah, no less?
Not likely! In fact, the reason that Josephus didn't like any of these
miracle working trouble-makers is that he spent his career declaring
that his patron the Emperor Vespasian was the Messiah!
Lastly, the very next paragraph after this suspicious little passage starts by saying then there was "another sad calamity." Excuse
me? Sad calamity? What sad calamity? This is a commercial for
Jesus, not a sad calamity!
In light of all this evidence, most apologists today have to admit it is a forgery, but some still insist, "okay sure, later Christians
altered this section, but Josephus probably did talk about Jesus, and
they just added on to his account of Jesus." But they can't explain
why this entire paragraph doesn't fit in with the rest of the text!
But here's the real kicker: This passage does not appear until the 4th century. Early Christian apologists like the church father
Origen (c. 185 AD -c.154 AD) - who relied heavily on Josephus's
writing, and Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 AD -e.215 AD) were constantly struggling to find ammo to argue the existence of Christ with
Pagans. They would've given their mothers to have an ace in the hole
like this! But they didn't ...
But somehow, in the 4th century, it starts being quoted by
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea and Church Historian. Let's just take
a see to get to know him, because most people today have never
heard of him. He is a real unsung Church hero, and I've been convinced for some time now that Christianity owes a great debt to this
largely unknown, devoted, tireless, selfless, lying bastard. Here're
some lovely thoughts from the man considered "the Father of Ecclesiastical History:"
Eusebius of Caesarea
"Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not
be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the
Jew for a further witness." "Demonstratio Evangelica, "
(Book III., p.124),:
"... it will be necessarysometimes to use falsehood as a
remedyfor the benefit of those who require such a mode of
treatment." (PraeparatioEvangelica, Book XII. chap. 31)
Other contributions of Eusebius include:
Constantine's Vision of the Cross - According to Eusebius'
posthumous biography, Constantine had a battlefield vision which
converted him to Christianity, made him sole Emperor and led to
the eventual dominance of Christianity over the pagan religions. Interestingly enough however, this life-changing event did not appear
in Eusebius earlier book EcclesiasticalHistory, where he tells a very
different story of Constantine's rise instead.
Plenty of other interesting things developed under Eusebius's
watch: Constantine's mother Helena went to the Holy Land and paid

a great deal of money as she went, which resulted in the discovery of


Jesus' Tomb. Eusebius reports this; there are some who think he was
also the Empress mother's personal tour guide on this trip, which
would really be just too perfect. This same discovery also led to later
findings of Pieces of the True Cross and Holy Relics such as the nails
used to crucify Jesus. Helena's trip inspired many others to follow
in her footsteps; the exciting Christian pastime of Pilgrimages got its
start and went gangbusters around this time. Eusebius' martyrologies
also went a long way towards promoting the Christian Cult of Saints
and Martyrs.
So, to recap, with the silence offirst century historians and the
blatant forgery in Flavius Josephus' writings, we are left with a grand
total of ... ZERO historical references.
Well, what DO we have left? The Gospels! Right!
The Gospels vs. the Gospels
So we've see that everything we know about Jesus stems from
the Gospels in the New Testament. In a nutshell - and stop me if
you already know this: The Bible is in rwo parts: the Old Testament,
which deals with the ancient Israelites like Abraham, Moses, King
David etc. and the New Testament, which talks about Jesus and the
early Christians. The New Testament is divided into 3 parts:
1. The Gospels - which along with the book of Acts, purport
to be biographies of Jesus Christ and accounts of the early
church. There are four of them: Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John.
2. The Epistles - The letters of the Apostle Paul and other
early missionaries
3. Revelations - The apocalyptic trippings of St. John and
source of innumerable bad Christian sci-fi movies and
books about "The Rapture."
Now, I don't want to alarm anyone, but before we start, I
should warn you that there do appear to be discrepancies in the Gospels ... These are in the accounts of}esus' genealogy. And his nativity
story. And his early childhood. And his baptism. And his ministry.
And who his Apostles were. And his miracles, his teachings, his personality, and a veritable cornucopia of other contradictions and disagreements in the accounts of what and where and when and why and how
Jesus said or did almost everything. And these are more than simple
divergences in eyewitness testimony or imperfections in transmission,
or any of the other lame-ass rationalizations Fundamentalist scholars
keep dreaming up. We are not talking about "Matthew says Jesus
wore a blue T-shirt, and Luke says it was red"-these are more like
Matthew saying Jesus did this in Bakersfield, Luke saying wait, that
happened in France and John saying, "what-that never happened."
Shall we look at some? Please keep in mind that there are many, many
more discrepancies than just these accounts, but it would take an
entire encyclopedia to list them all (and there is one!)- This is just a
sampling of some of the more blatant post-resurrection ones:
Who went to the Tomb?
Matthew - Mary Magdalene (jesus' girlfriend) and" the other
Mary" (james' Mother) come to see the tomb. It is closed by the
heavy stone.
Mark - Mary Magdalene, James' Mother and Salome, having
already seen the tomb, come to anoint Jesus' body, wondering among
themselves "Who will roll away the stone?" Luckily, they arrive to
find the stone already rolled away.
Luke - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James,

and other women having already seen the tomb, come to anoint Jesus'
body, with no thought of how they are going to roll away the stone.
John - With Jesus' body having been anointed shortly after
his death, Mary comes alone, and finds the stone rolled away.
Who is at the Tomb?
Mark - A young man, sitting inside the tomb, on the right.
Luke - Two men standing inside.
John - Two angels sitting on each end of the bed.
Matthew - A great earthquake occurs, and then an angel descends, blazing like lightning, paralyzes the Roman guard with terror,
rolls away the stone and sits on it.
And again, I feel compelled to point out once more that these
are not even all the discrepancies of the resurrection accounts alone!
The gospels are packed with contradictions from before Jesus' birth
to after his death and everywhere in berween!
You sometimes hear Christian scholars admit, yes, there are
some contradictions, but it's to be expected-eyewitness
testimony
can be contradictory, no one sees the same thing, blah blah blah ..
Let's say just for argument's sake that we accept that all these
people were real, and further, that the gospel writers really interviewed them. Who are these "eyewitnesses" that vouch for the events,
if not the ones who were there? How could any eyewitnesses know
so much and so little at the same time? And this is forgetting that in
any court of law, all this would all be thrown out in the first place for
being mere hearsay!
But let's say Mary herself was a real person and we actually
had her on the stand. Sure, maybe she wouldn't have remembered
what time of day it was exactly, or who was with her, or even exactly
what was said.
But damn, man! Are we honestly supposed to believe that
when Mark interviewed Mary she remembered arriving to find only a
young man in the empty tomb? But when Matthew interviewed her
she told him the tomb was sealed, then suddenly there was a mighty
earthquake, then the Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven (reportedly blazing like lightning) rolled away the stone and instantly
incapacitated a squad of armed Roman guards from sheer terror, and
then announced that Jesus had risen, and oh yeah, lots of other dead
holy people also came to life and went walking around Jerusalem? Is
it just me? Anyone else seeing a discrepancy here?
So how can the gospels accounts be so profoundly contradictory? First of all, let's look at who these authors were alleged to be:
Matthew - Matthew (Levi) tax collector, one of Jesus' rwelve
disciples, or apostles
Mark - John Mark; said to be the interpreter of the apostle
Peter
Luke - Luke; said to be Paul's personal Physician( He is also
said to have written Acts)
John - usually insisted to be the apostle John, son of Zebedee,
"the disciple whom Jesus loved" but it's unclear.
It's interesting to see that Luke made the cut at all, since his
connection is through Paul, who himself was not an eyewitness either. Apologists compensate for this difficulty by declaring that Luke
is an excellent historian ("perhaps one of the greatest historians ever!")
And what is that judgment based on? Why, Luke says right in the
beginning of his gospel, that he is an excellent historian. Oh, oh,
okay then ...
Well, not to bag on Luke as a kick-ass historian, but it appears
that while he is very familiar with Rome's sites and taverns, which he
casually mentions-not
only does he not know much Aramaic (the
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language spoken in first century Judea) but he has little knowledge of


Judea itself, since he makes several mistakes that no Judean Jew would
make. What's more, this excellent and careful historian has ripped
off almost every historical detail from our old friend Flavius Josephus,
and even then not always accurately!
-~ ~-~
I suspect I don't have to tell you that the four "official" gospels
were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John-or that we have
no historical proof of any of these guy's existence, either. In fact, all
of them are anonymous and the titles ''According to Matthew," ete.,
were not added until late in the second century-in
fact, no one
seems to have heard of our Gospels until the middle of the 2nd century.
One reference around the year 120-140 (Papias-bishop of Heirapolis) quotes from "Matthew" and "Mark"-but his quotes don't match
anything in the gospels we know by those names -indicating they
were still under construction! Justin Martyr, just 10 years later (ca.
150 CE) knows of none of the four supposed authors. So we have no
way to know who (or how many) really wrote the gospels, and only
guesses as to when or where, or how many times they've been edited
and re-edited.
It is only in 180 CE, with Irenaus of Lyons, that we learn who
wrote the four "canonical" gospels and discover that there are exactly
four of them because-Any guesses?
Mark, the oldest gospel, alludes to the Jewish War with Rome
and destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D, so it is obvious that it was
written after that. In fact, it seems to be written directly in response
to it, offering an explanation for why Jesus did not save Jerusalem.
And Matthew and Luke rework Mark, so we know they came later
still. As I mentioned before, our excellent historian Luke rips off Flavius Josephus' quite a bit, (although again, usually getting it wrong)
so we know Luke and Acts came after that, so that's 94 A.D. at the
very earliest, and more likely quite a bit later, generally dated sometime in the second century.
It is also clear that the gospels of Matthew and Luke could not
possibly have been written by anyone close to Jesus. Why? (Well, for
one tip-off, all the gospels are written in Greek, not Aramaic) Because
both writers plagiarize (largely word-far-word) up to 90% of the gospel of
Mark, and just add sayings of Jesus and supposed historical details.
Now, let's ignore the fact that Matthew and Luke contradict
each other in such critical details as the genealogy ofJesus-and thus
both can't be right. Let's ask: Why would a real eye-witness like Matthew have to plagiarize the bulk of somebody else's story (who wasn't
even an eyewitnessl) and just add a few little touches of his own here
and there?
And even weirder, though. You remember that Mark has supposedly gotten his gospel from his good buddy Peter. So why is it
that the other gospels have more anecdotes about Peter, including for
example, Jesus telling him "You are Peter the rock, and upon this rock
I will build my church"?(!!!) Do you think Peter himself would forget
that little incident?
It gets worse. First of all, the author of Mark shows no understanding of the social situation in the Holy Land. He makes numerous errors that a Jew or anyone living in Judea in the early first
century could ever make. When you compare Matthew's and Mark's
gospels, you'll find that the author (or authors) of Matthew is constantly correcting Mark's blunders about all aspects of jewish society,
religion, the calendar, holidays, customs, attitudes and even repeated
misquotes of scripture!
One last nail in this coffin is that whoever wrote the gospel of
Mark also shows a George Bush-like lack of familiarity with Palestinian geography. No one who had actually lived in Palestine could have
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made the mistakes that the author of Mark did. For instance, Mark
31 reads"Then he returned from the region ofTyre, and went by way
of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis."
Let's look at the map. The route from Tyre went down the
coast to the port city of Acco, then down south of the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis region, which was to the south and east of the
sea. Pretty straight forward. But do we go through Sidon? Where is
Sidon? Well, it's 22 miles in the opposite direction. This would be
on par with walking from San Francisco to Petaluma in order to get
to San Jose. This is one of several similar geographical blunders Mark
makes.
So those are the 3 so-called "Synoptic" Gospels, which is
Greek for "seen together."-which
sounds so much nicer than "all
ripped off from each other", don't you think?
Now, unlike these clones, the gospel of John is very different.
In fact, it was rejected as heretical by several Christian groups and
church fathers initially, but proved to be so popular with the flocks,
it couldn't be repressed, despite the fact that it has virtually nothing
common with the teachings or theology or style or even the content
of the Synoptics. And John's Jesus has a totally different personality,
much more badass and in charge. In the Synoptics, Jesus is a "secret messiah," never giving his secret identity, teaching his disciples
mostly in private, constantly hiding his miracles and telling healed
lepers "Shhhh ... Now, don't tell anyone where I touched you-it'll
just be our little secret." But not John's Jesus-This Jesus KNOWS
he's God, man, and he doesn't care who knows it! Oh yeah! Look
out! He'll tell you! That's just about all he talks about! He might as
well be wearing a T-shirt that say's "I AM GOD" in big fat letters! In
the Synoptics, Jesus drives out the moneychangers at the very end of
his career just before his crucifixion, but John's Jesus? No way, Baby!
That's how he STARTS his career, by smashing some heads! This badass mo fo hardly ever seems to suffer or feel doubt at all. This Jesus
doesn't cry like some little sissyboy in the garden of Gethsemane; he
doesn't tell any fruity parables. There's no Sermon on the Mount ,
no Blessed are the Meek, no Love thy Neighbor, certainly no liberal
Turn the other Cheek crap. No sir there's none of that in John. This
is a Republican Jesus.
He does, however, call the Jews "spawn of the Devil" which is
a little odd, seeing as he IS one. (In fact, John spends the entire gospel bagging on not "the scribes and Pharisees" as one might expect,
but "The Jews,"-odd since our anti-Semite Gospel writer John is
supposed to be a Jew, too ... )
In one rare moment of humility, John's God-Man says something odd: "the Father is greater than I." Apparently he wasn't told
that he and the Father are one, that he was pre-existent with the father
at the creation, the whole Holy Trinity thing, ete. (and isn't it a little
weird that in the whole Old Testament God never once mentions to
his chosen people that he's actually a 3-in-l deity? On the contrary,
that kind of talk would get you stoned to death on a blasphemy rap
jiffy quick by Moses and company. But I digress)
But as different as all this is from the Synoptics, once we get
to the Passion story, yep-I'm sorry to say it, John starts ripping off
Mark too. Oh, he rweaks the story to put his own theological spin on
it, but it's clear he's working off a copy of Mark, too. And sadly, there
is even evidence that some of the unique parts of John are plagiarized from still other writings, such as Greek Pythagorean philosophy.
There's also obvious giveaways that like the other gospels, it's been
edited and added to. Here's one: in chapter 2, Jesus performs his
first miracle, then it stated in verse 23 that Jesus did more miracles,
and then after that in chapter 4, v54 Jesus does his "second miracle!"

He ascended on high, far above all the heavens, and gave


And lastly, I should mention that these are just the 4 "official"
gifts to mankind (Eph. 4:8-9)
gospels that made the cut. There are other gospels that did not get
He will deliver his followers from the wrath to come (I Thes.
enough votes to make it into the Bible. Anyone care to guess how
1:10)
He is a righteous Advocate with the Father (I John 2: 1)
many?
He is able to subdue all things to himself (Phil. 3:21)
Well, it's a good question, and we'll never know how many
All things in heaven and earth were created by him, through
there actually were. One website (http://www.earlychristianwritings. ~
him, and for him. (CoLl:16, Heb. 1:2,2:10)
com) lists over one hundred early Christian writings, not just other
.
He is before all things, and in him all things consist.
Gospels, but other Acts of the Apostles, other epistles and even other
apocalyptic revelations. Some claim there were 270 other Gospels
(CoLl: 17)
Notice anything missing? When early Christian writers like
and others say there were as many as 4,000 and they were all voted
Paul speak of their "Christ Jesus", they sound as if they are describon at the council of Nice a-which never actually happened at Nicea,
contrary to popular belief. There are over 29 scrolls found in early ing a mythological figure-not a flesh-and-blood human being. Paul
caches of early Christian scripture such as the Nag Hammadi Library, never talks about Jesus' death, the Lord's Supper, or any of the events
or which are mentioned in the writings of early Church Fathers or of Christ's life as though they actually happened to a real guy from
Galilee who lived on Earth just a few years before.
historians, and it must be noted that these are only a few of many.
So that's the state of the Gospels: Four (out of many, many
How do Paul and other apostles like himself know Christ?
more) contradictory, convoluted and reworked writings set down decades after the supposed events by unknown author or authors falsely
Is it through what Jesus did during his life? Did the Apostles
or others who had witnessed Jesus' ministry tell him? No! Paul vehebeing passed off as eyewitnesses. Nice.
mently denies that he has received his knowledge from any man. He
Hey, but what about the rest of the New Testament? The
Apostle Paul and those other guys talk about Jesus, right? Right?
has learned of the Son through revelation and scripture. "God chose
to reveal his Son through me," he says in Galatians 1:16. The writer
Paul and the Other New Testament Writers
of Ephesians, in 3:4-5, says: "The mystery about Christ, which in
former generations was not revealed to men, is now disclosed to dedicated apostles and prophets through the Spirit." Paul always points to
What about Paul and The other New Testament writers?
Who was Paul? According to the official story, after Jesus' cru- scripture (Romans 1:2; 1 .Corinthians 15:3-4) as the source of his
cifixion, Paul became the greatest Christian missionary. He traveled gospel, and everything he knows about Christ and salvation. It is
throughout the ancient world setting up churches and wrote several God, through the Spirit, who has supplied this gospel, God who has
letters. (Though Bible scholars now know that he only wrote 7 of the appointed apostles like Paul to carry the message. It's important to
13 letters attributed to him) Genuine Paul: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinrecognize that Paul had been dead for decades before the gospels were
thians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon Fake Paul: even written. Paul and most of the other epistles came first, and the
Gospels and Acts came later.
Ephesians Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus
To Paul, the existence of the Savior has up to now been un, Who was Paul's Christ? Take a look as to how he describes
known. He has been a secret, a "mystery" hidden away in heaven for
eons by God, but now he is revealed along with the promise of salvaChrist:
tion. This is what Paul and the other epistle writers are constantly
telling us ( e.g., in Romans 3:21, 16:25-27, Colossians 1:26 and 2:2,
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible god, the first-born
of all creation (Col. 1:15)
1 Peter 1:20) They don't refer back to any sort of human Jesus and
indeed,
as in Titus 1:2-3, often there's no room for such a figure in
He is the brightness of of God's glory and the express image
their theology. Instead, they speak of Christ as now present on earth
of God, and upholds all things by the word of his power
(e.g., 1 John 5:20), sent by God just as he also sent the Spirit. (Several
(Heb. 1:3)
In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19, times, the Spirit of God and the Son of God are treated as the same
thing, as in Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, Phil. 1:19.)!
2:9),
He is the Mediator of the new covenant. (Heb. 12:24)
Did Paul even know there was supposed to be a real guy named
He is the great Shepherd of the Sheep (Heb. 13:20)
He is the great High Priest who has passed through the Jesus?
In fact, If you look for biographical info on the late Jesus of
Heavens (Heb. 4: 14)
Nazareth from Paul or from ANY non-gospel Christian writer in
He has disarmed and subjugated all the supernatural principalities and powers, angels and authorities. (Col. 2:10, 2:15,
the entire first century, you are out of luck-no one has anything
to say on Jesus the Human Being. The words Bethlehem, Nazareth
I Peter 3:22)
and Galilee never appear in the New Testament letters, and the word
He has reconciled all things in the estranged universe to God
Jerusalem is never used in connection with Jesus. There is not a hint
through the blood of his cross. (II Cor. 5: 18, Col. 1:20)
He is the Lord of both the dead and the living. (Rom. of any of the sacred sites, let alone pilgrimages. What about holy relics? Jesus' clothes, the things he used in his everyday life, the things
14:9)
he touched? There is absolutely nothing o/the sort until the 4th century,
He descended into the lower parts of the Earth and preached
to the spirits imprisoned in Sheol, the Hebrew Realm of the when pieces of "the true cross" begin to surface, Jesus' tomb is "discovered", the first shrine on the supposed mount of Jesus' death is
Dead (I Peter 3: 19)
He brought the souls of the dead righteous out of Sheol. He set up, and the pilgrimage business gets kicked off, and is still going
led captivity captive. (Eph. 4:8-10)
strong today.
Oops!

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Why the absence?


The standard rationalization is that Paul was uninterested in
the earthly life of Jesus, which is truly one of the lamest rationalizations to come out of Christianity. Not the lamest (that would be
diabolical mimicry, which we'll get to in a little bit), but its right up
there. Acts says after his conversion, Paul went immediately to the
elders in Jerusalem and reported for duty, but by Paul's own account
in Galatians, he waited three years following his conversion before
making a short visit to Jerusalem for fifteen days to get to know Peter
and James. And he didn't make it back there for another fourteen
years. Did Paul learn all the facts of Jesus' life on that one occasion?
Did he visit the holy places? If he did, can we believe he would not
have shared these experiences? At least at some point in all his letters?
It is often claimed that the explanation for Paul's glaring silence about
Jesus' life is simply that Paul (and the rest) just never had "occasion"
for mentioning such things. as all this missing info about Jesus in their
letters.
But of course they constantly have occasion-and miss it again
and again. The New Testament writers never cite Jesus' teachings or
examples in squabbles in the early church over issues like: Circumcision /Salvation by Grace or by Works/ Taking supper w/unbelievers
etc., etc. Instead they constantly go back to the old Jewish scriptures.
One example: Jesus had taught that all foods are clean-and yet this
was still an issue in the early Christian community. So why did Paul
have to keep arguing about it? If Jesus himself had pronounced on
the question and everyone remembered it, why was there any dispute
at all? Paul only had to quote Jesus' own teachings and that would
have settled the issue. Case closed. So why doesn't he-ever?
So how come Paul never says "What Would Jesus Do "?
Wouldn't you think that when Paul sets off on his missionary
journeys, people would be asking questions about this guy from Palestine who was the Son of God and Savior of the entire world?
If not questions about his life, you would suppose that they at
least want to know what he taught!
But instead there's a total absence of any of these things. A
gaping hole of silence that lasts for over a century! This silence alone
is perhaps the single strongest argument for regarding the entire Gospel account of Jesus' life and death as nothing but a work of inspirational fiction.
Here's another weird thing we find: The early Christians could
not agree on the nature of Christ-not like today, ... If early Christianity is supposed to have originally been a single movement started
by Jesus himself and his followers, then it is a wildly schizophrenic
one:
Early Christian Communities
We know of more than a dozen different early Christian
movements scattered throughout the empire, including two rival
Christianities: Peter's Jewish-leaning community in Jerusalem that
valued Mosaic law and "works;" and Paul's Gentile-based ministry
that stressed "faith" over all and broke with the Jewish law. And there
were many others as well that often had little in common with one
another, and even had different scriptures.
Yet another major branch of early Christianity was the Gnostics. The name Gnostics is a blanket term for a wide range of diverse
groups; scholars have tried long and hard to come up with a simple
explanation of who they were and what their relationship was to the
religion that later became orthodox Christianity. One feature most
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Gnostic groups had in common was that the creation of the world
was a mistake, and that pieces of God were now trapped in bits of
matter-human
beings. Through acquiring secret knowledge and
practicing rituals, Gnostics hoped to learn how to rejoin with God
in heaven.
Bible Scholars once assumed that the Gnostics were some later
mutant form of Christianity, but over the years it has become quite
clear that this is not the case. Several Gnostic groups predate Christianity and in major portions of the empire, "Christianity" meant
the Gnostic groups who were in place decades, even centuries before
more orthodox sects arrived.
In the many, many diverse forms of Gnosticism there are
many, many diverse forms of Jesus: Sometimes he was a mythical part of the heavenly pleroma (a Greek word meaning "to make
whole again") of Godhead (whatever that means), sometimes he
seemed like John's mouthy Jesus, sometimes he had strange titles
like Derdekeas or the Third Illuminator. And there are other Gnostic Jesuses-one Jesus had an identical twin. Some Jesuses have sex.
One hints at sex with a male apostle. Some Gnostics held that Jesus
was totally divine and only appeared to die, others held that he was
only a mere human man, while many Gnostic groups were violently
opposed to the idea that the Christ could've ever appeared in flesh
at all!
It's impossible to say how many other forms of "Jesus" there
were. As I said, there are dozens of gospels alone, let alone Gnostic groups. Christians today don't really know what to do with the
Gnostics because there are so many different writings and let's face it
-they are all so bizarre and different from what we think of as Christianity. But when we are talking about Gnostics and all the rest of
these various other bickering communities, we ARE talking about
the early church. These scores of scattered, groups at odds with each
other WERE Christianity, though we would never recognize most of
them today (and most of them would be burned at the stake later as
heretics). Paul in his letters constantly harps on the divergent groups
and apostles allover the place, who "preach another Jesus," one that
is so different from his own that he lays curses upon them and accuses
them of being agents of Satan.
Yep, lots and lots of false Christs around those days ...
What's going on here?
How could there possibly be so many different and competing
Jesus movements? Did Christianity branch off instantly into wildly
diverse offshoots in some kind of Cambrian explosion? Here's how
most scholars try to explain this bizarre situation:
They say different communities latched onto different fragments - aspects or teaching of Jesus, and preserved certain traditions
and ignored.ethers. Now, let's think about this for a second. Does
that make any sense at all? This explosion of wildly differing groups
occurs right after Jesus' death? What happened to all those people
who supposedly remembered Jesus and his teachings? How could
they all disagree so violently about even the most basic of facts about
Jesus-like did he exist or not?
Here's where we go through the looking glass...
Consider another possibility-that
it happened the other
way:
All these diverse religious movements were already in place,
and in the mid-to late first century their Christs and Lords became
coalesced into the figure of Jesus Christ. Is that possible? Let's see...

The 10,000 Christs


So where did Jesus come from?
Hey, let me ask all of you something: If you had to pick the
one person most responsible for giving us Christianity, who would
you say? Well, I'm going to argue for Alexander the Great. That's
right: A bisexual Greek imperialist pagan who lived 300 years before
any Christian. During the Hellenistic period, Alexander the Great's
Empire-and later the Roman Empire-brought
all the Mediterranean's diverse peoples together in a huge and unprecedented stew of
cultures. A whole world of religious and philosophical ideas came in
contact with one another. Here are some of them:
From the Greeks:
Pythagoreans - Much of the numeric symbology that pervades the New Testament comes from Greek mystics. This can be
seen clearly in incidents such as in the story of the miraculous catch
of 153 fish in John 21, which is stolen from a famous story about
Pythagoras (58 - 497 BC) One hundred fifty-three just happens to
be a sacred "triangular" number to the Pythagoreans.
Platonism - The universe was divided into the "true" higher
reality of timeless perfection and its crude copy, the imperfect world
of base matter.
Cynics - Cynic philosophers were wandering counter-culture
hippy types (john Lennon is a perfect example of the smartassed Cynic) A sizable portion of Jesus' sayings come directly from the popular
maxims many different Cynic philosophers over centuries.
Stoics - Philosophers of the Stoic school believed the universe
itself was God, and the Logos was the Mind of God. The Logos, is
of course, the Word, and John's gospel makes the Word and Jesus the
same thing.
Homeric Epics -In recent years a surprisingly large number
of motifs from Homeric Epic and Greek tragedies have been found
in Mark and also in Luke. These are especially compelling because he
shows where weird little details that previously didn't seem to make
a lot of sense come from-things like the mysterious naked boy who
runs away during Jesus' arrest, or Jesus getting angry enough at an
out of season fig tree to curse it-even his being a carpenter! (Elpinor
and Alcinous)
Sea Voyage Romances - Recently scholars have noticed that
Paul's sea adventures follow the same patterns as popular Roman fictional stories of the time. For one example, the Book of Acts suddenly breaks into first person narration whenever (and only when)
Paul travels by sea-copying the style of popular maritime adventure
stories!
From Persia:
Mithraism - a rival religion to Christianity with roots going
back thousands of years with conspicuously interesting similarities to
Christianity, as we'll see...
Zoroastrianism - Also going back thousands of years, this
ancient and influential religion gave us dualism - the idea of good and
evil forces in conflict; and helped shaped many Jewish and Christian
ideas about the afterlife, resurrection, the devil, hell, the thought that
flesh is bad, and the end of the world. Fun guys.
Evil Spirits - the concept of wicked demons living in the air
and causing trouble was unknown to the ancient Hebrews, but by
the first century, this was a very popular diagnosis for all manner of
afflictions from disease to madness to stampeding animals.

From Jewish thought:


Redeemers - that is, the need for a redeemer to save people
from their sins.
Blood Atonement - And how does a redeemer or scapegoat
or sacrificial animal pull off this trick? With the shedding of it's
blood. Of course, the idea of blood sacrifice was not unique to the
Hebrews.
Monotheism - The idea of monotheism wasn't unique to the
Hebrews either. (As seen in the short-lived monotheism of the Egyptian
Pharaoh Akhenaton, for instance) but they certainly ran with the idea.
Alexander did not persecute the religions of the countries he
conquered; instead he incorporated their gods into his own pantheon.
He fostered the policy of
(synkretismos) which strongly encouraged the blending of the gods and faiths in his empire. Out
of this mix, Greek, Persian, Jewish and many other cultures' religious
thought came together into the great idea of the age-an intermediary savior god, a go-between between Heaven and Earth.
"The Devil has his Christs!"
Pagan Parallels
By the first century, 300 years after Alexander, the world was
seething with Savior gods. The old gods in the official state pantheons were worn out and tired. The hot, sexy new idea in Religion was
the Mystery Cults. Each of these had its savior god or goddess-such
as (in Persia) Mithras, (Greek) Dionysus, (Phrygia-in today's Turkey)
Attis, (Egypt) Isis and Osiris-who had overcome death and guaranteed good fortune in this world and a happy eternal existence in the
next for the initiates. More than twenty of them had a virgin mother,
more than a dozen were crucified or nailed on a tree. Can anyone
guess when Mithras' birthday was? Or how many followers he had?
The cult rituals included communal sacred meals, often involving
such things as bread and wine (sound familiar?) and a mystic bond
between believer and the deity -you could say it was their personal
savior ... When you recite "I am the Resurrection and the Life." at
Easter time, did you know you are repeating a hymn to Osiris? Many
groups (though not all) adopted the title "Christ" (Greek for "The
Anointed") for their divine figure, as well as the title "Jesus", which in
Hebrew (Y'Shua") has the meaning of "The Savior".
The similarities were so blatant that the early Church apologists constantly had to defend Christianiry against pagan charges of
plagiarism. They weren't laughed at because the idea of a resurrected
savior was shocking or ridiculous-they
were laughed at because it
was old hat. ("Everybody knows Hercules had a virgin mother-ALL
the demigods had one!") One learned Church Father, Firmicus Matern us concluded that the devil had looked into the future, then gone
back and inspired these ideas and rituals to the pagans before Christ
was born, in order to thwart the future Christian Church. "The Devil
has his Christs!" he exclaimed. (Yes, this is "diabolical mimicry" the
#1 lamest defense in Christianity)
FrankenChrist
What is Jesus made of
Nearly every single element of the Jesus story comes from passages and themes in the Jewish scriptures. The Passion story (as seen
in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ') is directly taken from
the Psalms, Isaiah and various other prophets. And these elements
come to the gospels not in some fulfillment of prophecy, but by pulling bits and pieces of text here and there, in a haphazard collage of
scriptural scraps. The entire process represents the new telling of a tale
AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

21

Conclusion
found repeatedly throughout the Hebrew bible and related writings.
Scholars call this tale The Suffering and Vindication of the Innocent
Christianity didn't begin with a single man or even a single
Righteous One. The story of Jesus' fate follows this age-old pattern
from start to finish, with its parts culled from scriptural passages. god; it was born in a thousand places, over hundreds of years out of
Even details that seem like actual historical reports, like Pilate wash- the rich religious and philosophical mixing pot of the time. It imagined a way to bridge the gulf between heavenly perfection and an
ing his hands, Judas being paid 30 pieces of silver and later throwing
it on the temple floor, the soldiers wagering for Christ's robes, or Jesus imperfect world, and promised love and life after death. It sprang up
in many innovative, sometimes fevered minds like Paul's and Peter's,
crying out "My God, why have you deserted me?"-are lifted word
among independent communities and sects allover the empire, profor word from the Jewish scriptures.
This process of mining the scriptures was a traditional Jew- ducing an ever-growing variety of forms and doctrines: apocalyptic
ish practice known as "midrash'~and no, this is not Hebrew for doomsday cults and organized bureaucracies, martyrs and persecu"Bullshit."-in which the writer interpreted and enlarged upon in- tors, peacemakers and holy warriors, hermits and howling mobs,
dividual or combinations of passages from the bible to draw out new scholars and book burners, zealots and philosophers, puritans and
meanings and relevance, to offer a new truth for contemporary times. ecstatics, heretics and orthodoxies-all in all, just a beautiful example
One midrashic method was to refashion an existing biblical narraof Darwinian evolution! And, it's a process that is still going strong
tive in a new setting. (Much like what "West Side Story did with
today. Who knows what Jesuses the future holds for us?
Shakespeare)Thus you have Jesus portrayed as a new Moses or new
Adam, with features which paralleled their stories. In recent years,
Mr. Fitzgerald is the auborrowings from other sources have also been discovered, most strikingly the Homeric epics, plays such as The Bacchae of Euripides and . thor of the forthcoming book, The
even numerous popular Roman adventure novels!
10,000 Christs and the EvaporarSince at least the middle of last century, scholars have recog- ingJesus.
nized that the contradictions in the Gospels were deliberate. These
writers were consciously re-framing and adding to the old material
according to their own beliefs and purposes. There was no thought
of preserving "history." These writers looked upon their stories as allegories, designed for the needs of their own communities, and felt
perfectly free to create, modify, and assign authorships to their scriptures.

CHARITY BEGlNS
AT HOME: ...

22

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

NOT AT CJ.tURCH!

family matters

Ih~~ra~uation~ray~r~U111~
by Brandon Haught

raduation time, guys. Toss that cap into the air and in a
flash you're neck deep into the next phase of your life. It
was quite a jolt for me, because soon after leaving high
school I headed to Marine Corps boot camp. It seemed
that one-minute I was wrapping up quadratic equations and Shakespeare and the next I was soaking up drill instructor love. I'm not trying to demean the graduation milestone, but I can barely remember
mine. Over the years it's been overshadowed by everything else life
has thrown at me.
I can beat my head against the wall all day long and still not remember whether there was any type of prayer at my high school graduation. But I do know that military life was rife with religion. There
were chaplains in every unit. Prayer had its place of honor in each and
every military ceremony. There was no getting away from it.
I left the Corps and found that religion was still hard to avoid
on the job. A newspaper I worked for had company holiday feasts,
and before we dug in there was always a blessing. I now work in law
enforcement and prayer is included in nearly every significant event.
My mentioning all of this is meant to demonstrate that prayers
and blessings are everywhere. But there is a basic difference between
blessing the company's holiday turkey and blessing the class of '06. I
could choose to not participate or even be present for the company
party. High school graduation is another matter.
A high school senior can bow his head and point to the clouds
when his name is called to cross the stage. Mom and dad can sprinkle
holy water on their child as he clutches his diploma in hand after the
ceremony. Grandma can praise the lord that her granddaughter had
somehow squeaked through her final algebra course after struggling
with it year after year. Charlie can wear a cross under his gown, and
Suzie can probably even hold a worn bible in her lap. Personal religious expression is by no means banned.
But the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in a 1992 case
that any type of prayer initiated or encouraged by a public school
is banned. A school principal had included a benediction by a clergyperson in a ceremony, which the Supreme Court later said was not
constitutional. Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote that the "Constitution
forbids the State to exact religious conformity from a student as the
price of attending her own high school graduation." So, any indication that the school is sanctioning religion is a nO-ROo
Seems pretty black and white, doesn't it? In that one instance,
yes. But then comes the tricky part: freedom of speech. What if a
student wants to offer the prayer with no prodding from the school
district? And what if the majority of the student body wants to recognize a god during what is their special, once-in-a-lifetime day?
In 2001 a California student wanted his captive audience to
live by Jesus' example and accept God's love. The school didn't al-

low him to give the prepared speech, prompting a court battle that
climbed almost into the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court
declined to hear the case, leaving the lower court's ruling that such
a speech is banned intact. Across the country there is a conflicting
mess when it comes to whether students can make prayer a part of
the graduation ceremony. In the early 1990s the 5th Circuit Court
system said student prayer was fine within certain guidelines: the
majority of students have to want it, and the prayer has to be nonsectarian and non-proselytizing. On the other hand, the 3rd Circuit
Court later ruled that student prayer was not permitted. Regardless
of a student majority wanting prayer, it's still a school function and
any prayer could be seen by the event audience as school sponsored.
Further muddying the waters is whether school officials review the
student's speech beforehand or not. If they review it, then they are
considered to be in control of the speech and thus can't allow an overt
religious message. If the school doesn't review the speech, then, obviously, the student has free rein.
So, if graduation prayer is a hot topic for you, then you have
a sticky morass to wade through. But if you're reading this and you
are about to graduate I have to break some sad news to you: you're
probably too late to do anything. There are graduation prayer court
cases that fizzled out because the issue was moot once all the parties
graduated.
You're going to have to move on such issues long before graduation day. You need to find out what your school district policy says
and what court decisions affect your part of the country. You then
need to get a feel for what your fellow students think about the issue.
If this is an issue you care deeply about, then you need to get involved
in the student decision-making process early. Educate your classmates.
Find a way to drive home the point that neutrality in school toward
religion is good for everybody and not necessarily anti-religion. If you
stand up for your convictions in a reasonable and respectful way, you
may be surprised to find allies where you least expect them.
But you need to keep in mind that free speech is bound to
this issue as well. It's one thing to fight against overbearing religion,
but the flip side is you can't-and shouldn't want to--trample on
legitimate free speech.
As I found out over the years, religion is woven tightly into the
American public. There will be times when you just have to either
bear it or walk away. I encourage you to stand up for your rights to
be free of coercive religion, but always make sure to do your research
ahead of time. It's a free country after all.

Brandon Haught is a writer, editor and assistant site administrator at


atheistparents.org. You can write to him at beekay@atheistparents.org

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23

~nintenueu Joke~
by Margaret Bhatty
recently received the Autumn (2005) issue of the American
Atheist, for which I am grateful. Out here in India we had no
chance of seeing the offending cartoons which set off major
fires allover the Islamic world. None of the thousands who
marched in our-cities had seen them either, but that wasn't even necessary. Who among the hordes of would-be assassins had even read
Salman Rushdie's Satanic verses when they bayed for his blood? One
of the Faithful-a minor Minister in the Uttar Pradesh State Government--offered a reward of five million rupees to anyone who would
murder the Danish cartoonist on his behalf
However, the biggest rally took place in Delhi where Muslims
protested against the visit of George W Bush for all his sins against
Islam-and the cartoons were thrown in for good measure. That was
an unusual occasion indeed, because the Leftists also came out in
strength against Bush, and we were treated to the rare spectacle of the
green flags of fundamentalist Islam mingling with the red ensigns of
the Atheist Left-all pitted against a common enemy!
Some years ago while researching for a novel I came across an
account of sectarian violence in Bombay in the 18th century between
Muslims and Parsis. Usually our urban killing fields are scattered with
the corpses of Hindus and Muslims. But in that age and time the Parsis were a formidable community and made up most of the workingclass in a city flourishing largely through Parsi enterprise. Today, owing to generations of in-breeding, the Parsis are a vanishing species.
The riots of 1874 occurred when the Qazi at the Jama Masjid
preached a fiery sermon on a Friday urging the congregation to take
revenge for an insult to the Prophet by a Parsi. He was referring to
an obnoxious book published by Rustomjee Homasjee Jalbhai-Famous Prophets and Communities. It was in the Gujarati language
and the author had described the Prophet's wives as 'concubines' using a highly offensive vernacular term. Both the author and the publisher were denounced as "enemies of the peace."
Instigated by the Qazi, mobs of Arabs, Pathans, Siddhies,
Memons and local Muslims surged out of the mosque and attacked
Parsi establishments and homes, also making it a point to desecrate
their Fire Temples.
Twenty years earlier, in 1854, more serious riots had occurred over a book on the Prophet also published by a Parsi. The
Qazi claimed the drawings of Mohammad made him look evil. What
interested me was that there was no objection to the Prophet being
portrayed. The blasphemy was in the way he was depicted.
There is some ambivalence about Islamic objections to the
portrayal of the Prophet, or indeed of any living thing-bird,
beast,
fish. or human which might seem to up-stage the Creator. There is
evidently no law regarding portrayal of Mohammad in the Koran
though there was a tradition in Judaism against portrayal of living
things so that they might not become objects of idolatrous veneration. Nevertheless, Muslim religious leaders and rulers have often applied the same law in the practice of their faith. The bigoted Mughal
Emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1717), an orthodox Sunni who saw him-

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self as a model ruler, has left us evidence of his pious zeal in the many
defaced bas-relief panels in sandstone at Fathepur Sikri, built by the
more liberal Akbar near Agra, where heads of birds and beasts have
all been knocked off
The supposed restriction in Islam on portraying living things
helped develop calligraphy as a unique art form of the kind which
embellishes the Taj Mahal and other famous shrines and mosques.
Arabesques, mosaics, filigree, tracery, and other geometrical embellishments are uniquely Islamic. But we still have fine portrairs of
saints and emperors-and
even of Aurangzeb himself These were
not regarded as blasphemous.
Murad Ali Baig, writing in The Times of India, on "No Sense
of Humour" says "The museums in Bukhara, Isfahan, Istanbul, Samarkhand and elsewhere have many portraits of the Prophet including one done in the 16th century of Muhammad riding 'Burak,'
a horse with the face of a beautiful woman for meraj or nocturnal
journey to the heavens. There are many paintings and miniatures in
illuminated books showing the archangel Gabriel guiding Muhammad to Medina after his flight from Mecca. Turkish Janissaries wore
medallions stamped with the Prophet's head for good luck, while Persian soldiers had medallions with the head of Ali their Imam. The list
goes on ..." He deplores the fact that priests have no sense of humour
and are quick to take effense over imagined or rumored insults to
their faith.
In a multireligious society such as ours the depiction of icons in
art, painting or sculpture, can often give rise to bitter controversy. At
this point in time India's leading painter M. F. Hussain is facing two
court cases, one in Gujarat and the other in Indore Madhya Pradesh,
on petitions filed by Hindus claiming he has hurt their religious sentiments by painting Hindu goddesses nude. He has been doing this for
many years. It wasn't as if nobody noticed. But times have changed.
Many Hindu artists have depicted Hindu goddesses nude or topless,
but maybe these portrayals are done in a spirit of devotion, whereas
M. F. Hussain's portrayal of them is blasphemous-because
he is a
Muslim. One of his paintings is of Bharat Mata-Mother
India. She
is not to be found in the pantheon of Vedic goddesses because she was
created in the 20th century out of political expediency by the Hindu
BJP Right to bring together all the diversity of the country under one
edifying divinity. Since she has no tradition, no ancient sculptures or
frescoes, it is difficult to know just what her sartorial preferences are.
But Hindu chauvinists want her properly clothed and to show that
they mean it they have vandalized a number of Hussain's art centres,
destroying priceless works. The painter has apologized but refuses to
give any assurance about future paintings-he is 91 years old! He has
asked that the two cases be transferred to Delhi because the environment in the two cities is dangerously hostile.
Travel the length and breadth of this country and you will find
countless frescoes and sculptures of nude goddesses. Nudity never was
an issue until the rise of Hindu chauvinism in recent times. A delegation of Vishva Hindu Parishad visited Bali to see for themselves the

flourishing tradition of Hinduism there, taken across by Hindu colonists centuries ago. They were furious to find large posters advertising
performances of the Ramayana in which the g-0d@essSira, consort of
Ram, was shown in a bikini! The orthodox are always shocked when
'outsiders' do not care to share their own pious perceptions. Readers
will recall the to-do when slippers and sanitary-ware came into the
market with Hindu deities, and Indian-Americans demanded they
be withdrawn.
Recently, neo-Buddhists here in Nagpur were out on the streets
to protest against the depiction of Lord Buddha's picture on satchets
of scented areca nut being sold at kiosks. The manufacturer, based in
Orissa, had created a mouth freshener and named it 'Gautam Mouth
Freshener.' The followers of Gautam Buddha took this as an insult
and staged noisy demonstrations, demanding that action should be
taken against the company.
We have a fridge magnet in the shape of a tubby little elephant
waving its trunk. To a comic buff it might appear to be Disney's
Dumbo. To a Hindu it could be Ganesh, the elephant-headed god.
Actually it is neither. It is Appu, the mascot of the Asian Games held
decades ago in Delhi. One might have expected orthodox believers
would object. Nobody did-probably
because Ganesh is the God
of Good Beginnings. It must have appeared fitting for the country's
athletes to compete under his benevolent protection.
Nevertheless, given the strange assortment of beings in the
Hindu mythology, it isn't surprising that they sometimes do seem to
be out of Disney's menagerie. We recently saw the release of a colorful cartoon film featuring the monkey-headed god, Hanuman, as a
child, a high-spirited chubby cherub. People loved it. It has minted
so much money that films are now being made featuring other gods
and goddesses from the epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is
amusing that Hindu myths lend themselves excellently well to caricature and cartooning-putting
them in the same class as Spiderman,
Superman, and other comic book heroes. But it would be a mistake
to judge an audience's enjoyment of these films on the same level as
comic-book art. Children viewing the Hanuman film folded their
hands and bowed their heads and murmured 'Jai Hanuman!'

Fatima Mernissi in Women in Moslem Paradise (Kali for Women Press, Delhi, 1986) notes "Imam Bhukari grants himself and each
happy believer two extra-terrestrial wives."
However, along came Imam As-Sindi who expressed his discontent in a footnote to Bukhari's idea. "He multiplied the number
by 14 and added one, and gave himself and every believer 73 houris!
Seventy-three extra-terrestrial loving companions!" Then followed
Imam As-Suyuti who reduced the number by three, for no particular
reason.
The 'insatiable' Imam Qadi outdid them all by promising
himself and his co-believers no less than 4900 ET houris. "Seventy
of them on each bed, and of course he has 70 beds. But that is not
enough. Each one of the houris has a thousand wasijfa, a kind of
Dame de Compagnie, so here we have Imam Qadi in the midst of his
Paradise with no less than 49,000 women!"
For those with key-hole curiosity about how a man might go
about satisfying so many, there are a number of sacred texts which
grant men a hundred times their sexual prowess on earth once they
are in Paradise.
In her introduction Fatima Mernissi tells of how she was inspired to write Women in Moslem Paradise. She got into an argument
with a male colleague at the University of Rabat, Morocco, after
viewing a TV program in which a plump and impressive Imam had
described what Paradise would be like for those who obeyed Allah.
But, being a woman, she remarked that there wasn't anything in it
for her. The man took umbrage at her flippancy and warned "You
know, Fatima, I don't think you should joke about these matters!"
and added a further warning in a voice of authority: "You had better
be careful. Imams don't like jokes."
"I realised then that it was not only the Imams who did not
like Moslem women making jokes, neither did western educated
Moslems. This was the first time I realised that since joking is forbidden, surely there must be some pleasure in it So....I indulged ...!
AND I ADVISE YOU TO DO THE SAME IT IS DELIGHTFUL! (Fatima Mernissi, Rabat, 1986)

Demand and Supply

Margaret
Bhatty
comes
from a Christian missionary family. she is a free-lance journalist and
author of books in English for Indian children. She lives in Nagpur,
India. For many years a columnist
for American Atheist, she is the
author of the MP book An Atheist Reports From India, which is
available from American Atheists.
($9.00, ISBN 0-910309-42-6,
Stock #5026) She receives e-mail at
margaretbhatty@rediffinaiLcom.

The other cartoon printed in the Autumn number-"Stop!


Stop! We ran out ofVirgins!"-needs
some comment too. Is a shortage really possible? Not if one is to believe the Imams responsible for
board and lodging in Paradise for the Faithful.
The word houri (hur) refers to a woman with "large black eyes
whose pupils are made more intense because their white is intensely
white." These extra-terrestrial beings are all virgins, chaste, the same
age as their male companions, utterly desirable, and loving. Various
Imams, keen on embellishing holy text, have added to their number.
The Koran doesn't specify how many houris a man is entitled to, but
Imams have given themselves more than the Book specifies.

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

25

~~ly~amy-N~tJust HUtah~ro~l~m
Speech given at the 32nd annual convention in San Antonio on April 15, 2006.
by Andrea Moore-Emmett

AJ

though polygamy is against the law in all 50 states, my research shows it is practiced in 39 states by either Mormon
fundamentalist polygamists, Christian fundamentalist poygamists, Muslims or the Humng from Laos.
My research concentrates on the Mormon and Christian sects
which have spread from Utah, into other states, Canada and Mexico.
Mormon polygamy.was first practiced by the Mormon church,
formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
during the 1800's. It was later "discontinued." The convenient "revelation" that ended it's practice just as it had once commanded it, coincided with the United States government's insistence that the Utah
Territory's only chance for statehood was conditional on ending the
practice of polygamy.
Numerous individuals living polygamy at the time refused to
give up the practice, saying, "God doesn't change his mind." These
individuals splintered off to preserve orthodoxy and "insure children
are born into polygamy every year until Jesus returns." Presently, there
are at least 11 main groups, counting a polygamous Christian group,
and thousands of independent families who live either Christian or
Mormon fundamentalist polygamy. Numbers of these individuals are
an estimated 100,000 spread throughout the United States alone.
Christian polygamy is a fairly recent phenomena. In roughly
the last twelve years, numerous individuals, some of them loosely
connected through the Internet, have decided the literal word of the
Bible extends to the taking of multiple wives.
As with Mormon founder Joseph Smith before them, the
Christians have looked to Biblical accounts of individuals such as
Abraham, David and others as examples for justifying polygamy.
My research indicates polygamy to be an insidious practice of
men collecting a submissive harem of women who produce a herd of
children with no individual identities. Rather than being an alternative lifestyle practiced by consenting adults, it is built on a religiously
coercive dictate which creates abuses of human and civil rights as the
norm, including the most basic right of an education.
Many polygamists home school or send children to church
school. In both cases, the curriculum is inadequate at best. The only
history that matters is the line of authority in succession from the
current prophet to Jesus. Other cultures, races or belief systems have
no value. Polygamists are white supremacist, believing those of color
are cursed by God. Health is not taught because the body is forbidden as is most literature. Only the basics of math are ever taught. One
prophet of a group told me the children only need spelling, English,
Hebrew and a few computer skills since all they would be doing is
transcribing scripture. Generally, girls are pulled out of "school" by
age 13 to prepare to become mothers. Sometimes they're pulled from
school simply to take care of younger siblings.
Girls are often forced into marriages to older men who already
have several wives, sometimes to men they don't know and often to a
relative. Girls are also at risk of being trafficked between other states,
Canada or Mexico for marriage. They are also traded between polygamous fathers.

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AMERJCAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

Incest is common within polygamous families as men believe they can do what they want with their property. Incest is also
practiced by some as doctrine. For example, one group believes their
bloodline is directly related to Jesus Christ and the only way to keep
it pure is to intermarry. Another believes if an individual marries a
relative, God will automatically change the blood.
Due to intermarriage, there are numerous birth defects, still
births and infant deaths.
If they are not born of a well-placed family or if they show
signs of "rebellion," many young boys are ejected from their families
and communities since they are competition to other men for marriageable girls.
Physical abuse of women and children is seen as being strong
and necessary for maintaining control. There is a saying among polygamists, "You can all but kill a child for deliberately disobeying."
Due to their high birth rate, the too numerous children are
often neglected. Older siblings are often made into surrogate parents
to younger siblings.
Another polygamist phrase heard is, ''A woman is a vessel to
be worn out in childbirth." Girls and women have but one purpose
in life where women are usually commanded to produce a child per
year. Women are often afraid to leave for fear of "blood atonement"
death threats and because they believe they will loose their eternal
salvation.
Many women and children endure extreme poverty in communities where money belongs to God and is turned over to the various prophets. Men who have upwards of 100 or more children can
hardly provide for so many and often don't try. Women and children commonly must "dumpster dive" for food discarded by grocers.
Many also live on social services. In just one year, one particular polygamist group used over 30 million dollars in government subsidies
in what they call, "Bleeding the beast." A way of bringing down the
government through over extending it's resources.
Chances are, polygamy is being practiced in your state and if
not already, it is a matter of time before your state will soon be bearing the social ills and costs that Utah has long been taking on.
Aside from this strenuous impact on society as a whole, polygamy has implications that reaches into the lives of every US citizen
in another fundamental way as well and one in which we as atheists
should be aware of.
The right to practice polygamy as a religious freedom was
first tested by Mormon church second president, Brigham Young, in
1879. The United States Supreme court said in the landmark case,
Reynolds vs. United States, "Religious practice cannot trump a valid
and established law of the land." The court argued that exempting religions from laws would make, "professed doctrines of religious belief
superior to the law of the land and in effect to permit every citizen to
become a law unto himself."
Regardless of Reynolds, polygamy has continued to be practiced as a religious choice and continues to garner debate as such. And
though Reynolds has been upheld time and again in cases where the

Supreme Court has been asked to interpret the First Amendment,


there have continued to be muddy waters in First Amendment jurisprudence.
There are numerous Reynolds critics, especially among Mormon legal scholars and attorneys. University of Utah Constitutional
Law Professor, Edwin Firmage, who is a great grandson of Brigham
Young, maintains that Reynolds is, "outdated logic" and should be
overturned because he says, "Religion is as much conduct as it is
belief."
Probably the most contentious case to challenge Reynolds
was the 1990 case before the Supreme Court known as Employment vs Smith. In Smith, the Supreme Court was asked to decide
whether the Free Exercise Clause allows for the use of Native American peyote use for religious purposes or to permit Oregon to deny
unemployment benefits to persons dismissed from their jobs as a
result of drug use. At the time, eleven other states had adopted a
"Permissible Exemption" for Native American peyote use. However,
Oregon refused to change its law and the Court ruled the use was
illegal.
In delivering the courts decision, Justice Antonin Scalia quoted directly from, Reynolds and added, "Subsequent decisions have
consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an
individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law
of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribe conduct
that his religion prescribes or proscribes."
While hinging on Reynolds, Smith became a lighting rod
for both liberal and conservative factions. In direct response, Utah
Senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, introduced the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act in 1993. It was subsequently struck down by the
Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1997 with the court saying,
(A)ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy,
but that danger increases in direct proportion to the society's diversity
of religious belief."
Hatch responded by saying, "The Supreme Court has thrown
down the gauntlet. I intend to pick it up." He then introduced
the Religious Liberty Protection Act and the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act. The later was signed into law by
then President Bill Clinton with Mormon church leaders standing
nearby.
Since then, and in addition to President Bush's Faith Based
Initiatives, we have seen a parade of religiously motivated bills introduced which, threaten the separation of state and church.
Mini-Religious Freedom Restoration Acts have sprung up
in numerous states, including Idaho where "religiously motivated"
child and spouse abuse by-passes established family law. The Houses
of Worship Political Speech Protection Act was introduced by Rep.
Walter Jones of North Carolina, Colorado Senator Wayne Allard introduced another Religious Liberties Restoration Act and Texas Rep
Ron Paul introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Paul
argued, "There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition
that the Framers intended to build a 'wall of separation.'"

Most recently, with shades of Smith which hangs precariously


on Reynolds, the Supreme Court in February ruled that law enforcement goals in some cases must yield to religious rights. The case involved a New Mexico church's practice of using a hallucinogenic tea,
with ChiefJustice John G. Roberts Jr. writing that the 1993 Religious
Freedom Restoration Act protects the l30-member church in it's use
of the tea known as hoasca.
Less than ten years ago, Mary Ann Kingston ran away from
the forced marriage to her uncle as his 15th wife. When her father
found her, he beat her unconscious. After regaining consciousness a
day later, she walked two miles to a phone and dialed 911.
She has since filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Latter-day Church of Christ, seeking $110 million dollars plus payment
of medical and psychological treatment and legal fees. Her suit claims
intentional sexual abuse of a child, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, assault, battery and false imprisonment.
In a statement, Mary Ann said she was pursuing the suit for
the numerous other "boys and girls" still within polygamy and to
show the leaders of the church, that they" ...are not above the law,
even though they tell us they are."
Without Reynolds, however, they may yet become above the
law.
A case known as Bronsen vs Swensen will soon be going before
the Supreme Court. It is the case of three Utah individuals, a married couple and a woman, who want a legal polygamous marriage as
a religious right. They and their attorney acknowledge this case seeks
to overturn Reynolds.
And though many do not see any possibility of Reynolds ever
being overturned, still, in many cases it is being treated as though it
has as much meaning as the law against spitting on the side walk. If
Reynolds is never overturned through the court, ignoring it has much
the same effect.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island warned of what he sees
as a "slow road to the theocracy of Iran."
In our polytheistic nation, that road is one in which all religions, all citizens, will become a "law unto themselves," as the Supreme Court of over one hundred twenty years ago feared.

Andrea Moore-Emmett is
an award winningjournalist, feminist and author of God's Brothel,
a chilling indictment of contemporary Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy.

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

27

the american atheist radio series

16th November, 1974Austin,


Program 320 K LB] Radio

Texas

ello There,
This is Madalyn Mays O'Hair, American Atheist, back to talk with yot! again.
"Christianity is the great system of faith and
practice which is organized in the Christian Church; and its history
is the history of the Christian Church. Such, I believe, is the definition which it has made for itself; and such is substantially the only
definition of it which will abide the test of time.
"Thus defined, I recognize with gratitude the great good
which Christianity has done in the past, and is to some extent doing
in the present. Nothing can long endure which has not struck root
into the truth, the admirable, the everlasting; and Christianity has
endured for nearly two thousand years. But it is a product of humanity, and everything human is born to die. Today Christianity is dying
a lingering death-to be prolonged until its usefulness to the world
shall have been wholly exhausted. To many it is dead already, and the
number of these is increasing day by day. For these I speak.
"Together with great good, Christianity has wrought great
evil in the world. The good is daily lessening, and the evil becoming
daily more marked and more pernicious. It is time that some should
with sincerity and openness utter aloud what great multitudes are
thinking in the silence of their own souls, even though they may be
only half-conscious of the real drift of their own thought. The taught
are in advance of their teachers. Christianity no longer proclaims the
highest truth, inculcates the purest ethics, breathes the noblest spirit,
stimulates to the grandest life, holds up to the soul and to society the
loftiest ideal of that which ought to be. It has stood still while the race
has moved on. It has become the chief hindrance in the path of man
to the destiny marked out for him in the very laws of his own being-the chief obstacle to the realization of those magnificent dreams
which are the inspiration of his sublimest endeavor. Thousands are
becoming aware of this. For these I speak.
"With all seriousness, then, and with intense conviction of the truth and urgent necessity of what I say, I IMPEACH
CHRISTIANITY"BEFORE
THE BAR OF CIVILIZED MANKIND. In the name of all that is best, noblest and divine in human
nature, I impeach it of high crimes and misdemeanors against the
peace of the world and the progress of the race towards a freer and
holier future. And, I summon it to appear before this high tribunal of
Humanity, to show good cause why it shall not stand condemned and
sentenced by its judge. For it is not I that speak, but the largest mind,
the purest conscience, the tenderest heart, and the most earnest spirit
of the nineteenth century. They bring no flippant or idle charge, but
utter the world's grave declaration of independence of the Power that
has become a Tyranny.
"These are the leading counts of my indictment."

"1. I IMPEACH CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME OF


HUMAN INTELLIGENCE
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AMERlCANATHEISTMAGAZINE

"Because it is the great organized Superstition of the Western


world, perpetuating in modern times the false beliefs, the degrading fears, and the benumbing influences of the Dark Ages-in proportion to its power over men paralyzing their intellectual faculties,
keeping them in the bondage of childish fancies, and governing them
by means of an utterly irrational religious terrorism.
"Because it is the great enemy of science, retarding the spread
of natural knowledge, opposing new truths and discoveries as irreligious, perpetuating popular ignorance on all but permitted subjects
in order that its own empire may be unshaken, and making blind
faith in impossible doctrines the highest virtue of the human soul and
the only protection against terrible yet purely imaginary dangers.
"Because it is the greatest stumbling block in the pathway of
civilization, inasmuch as it with-draws attention from the natural affairs of this life, concentrates all its earnest thought on a future life
that is to be eternal bliss or eternal misery, makes a merit of neglect of
this world's riches in order 'to lay up treasures in heaven', frowns on
active enterprise as a dangerous devotion to 'carnal things', and thus
unfits men for the attention to all those objects of honourable ambition on which the progress of civilization so largely depends.

"2. I IMPEACH CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME OF


HUMAN VIRTUE
"Because it appeals to hope and fear as the supreme motives
of human conduct, holds out promises of an eternal heaven as the reward of obedience to its commands, utters threats of an eternal hell as
the punishment of disobedience to them, makes its appeal to human
selfishness as the proper spring of human action, and consequently
undermines and destroys the disinterestedness of all high morality,
which commands the right because it is right and forbids the wrong
because it is wrong, regardless alike of punishment and of reward.
"Because it teaches that the virtue of the 'Savior' can be substituted for the virtue of the 'saved'-that the 'sinner' can be made
pure by the righteousness of another,-that
merit and demerit do not
belong to the individual, but can be transferred like a garment from
back to back. Its great doctrines of 'Depravity' and the 'Atonement'
are a blank denial-ofthe very possibility of personal virtue.
"Because it teaches that the natural penalties of wrong doing
can be escaped by 'faith in Christ',-that
the consequences of moral
evil are neither necessary nor universal,-that
the law of cause and
effect does not hold in the moral world- and thus weakens the natural
auxiliaries of imperfect virtue by fostering the delusion that men can
do evil without suffering for it.
"Because it enjoins self-abhorrence as the first condition of
the 'salvation' it offers,-makes the denial of all 'worth and worthiness' in mankind the first step in the Christian life, and teaches that
Christ will save those alone who have lost all faith in themselves and
in their own power to escape the just wrath of God. It thus strikes a
deadly blow at the dignity of human nature, extinguishes that noble

sentiment of self-respect without which all high virtue is impossible,


and smites men with the leprosy of self-contempt. It makes them
crawl like reptiles before Christ-their
hands on their mouths, and
their mouths in the dust'. It is the very abolition of true manliness
among men.
"Because, by this extinction of self-respect, it enfeebles the
consciousness of hum an rights, and thus blights the very idea of natural justice, which is the practical recognition of these rights. No man
who despises himself can respect his fellows or rev-erence the rights
inherent in their very humanity. Whatever extinguishes human rights
before God will extinguish human rights among men. For this reason
Christianity has always been blind to justice.
"Because, finally, it recognizes no higher law for man than the
'revealed will of God'. It thus bases all morality on will alone, and
says nothing of that necessary Nature of Things which deter-mines all
moral relations. It thus confuses men's ideas of right and wrong, and
renders impossible that knowledge of true ethical principles which is
essential to all enlightened virtue.
"3. I IMPEACH CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME OF
THE HUMAN HEART
"Because it recognizes no sanctity in natural human affections,
but requires that all these shall be subordinated to an unnatural love
of Christ as the Savior of souls. 'He that loveth father or mother more
than me is not worthy of me.' 'If any man hate not his father, and
mother, and wife, and children, and brethern, and sisters, yea, and his
own life, he cannot be my disciple.
"Because it extends over myriads of sensitive minds the blackness and gloom of a horrible theol-ogy, tortures them with a morbid
self-reproach for unreal transgressions, and fills them with excruciating doubts of their final escape from hell,-thus destroying their happiness, and robbing their life of its natural beauty and charm.
"Because it commands supreme love to a God whose character
is utterly unlovely-a God whose wrath against his own children is
a 'consuming fire', and who plunges the vast majority of them into
eternal agony. It thus degrades the very idea of fatherhood, by teaching the 'Fatherhood' of a God whose character and acts are as unfatherly as they are incredible.
"Because it proclaims a 'Brotherhood of Man' which denies
the natural equality essential to all genuine brotherhood-which
perverts the natural sentiment of good-will towards all men into an
artificial and exclusive bond among Christians themselves, and into
a thoroughly unnatural condescension or pity towards all otherswhich is in fact consistent with the harshest injustice and the most
frightful cruelty towards those who reject the Christian creed. It thus
degrades and lowers the very idea of brotherhood, by calling that the
'Brotherhood of Man' which is simply a fellowship of Christian believers, and which has been too often in history a fellowship of thieves
and murderers.
"4. I IMPEACH CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME OF
HUMAN FREEDOM
"Because it sets up a despotic authority which, whether as
Church, as Bible, or as Christ, makes man a slave in his very soul-an
authority which shuts up the human intellect within arbitrarily prescribed bounds, hands over the human conscience to the custody of
clerical keepers, and rules all human life, individual or social, with
an iron rod.
"Because it has always allied itself with despotism in civil government, joined with the oppressor in keeping the oppressed under
foot, and sought to maintain its own supremacy on the ruins of all
human liberty.

"Because, as Catholicism, it has been an unmitigated spiritual and temporal tyranny, from which many centuries of constant
struggle have today only partially emancipated the world.
"Because, as Protestantism, it has been an unmitigated spiritual tyranny, and is even now plotting in this free republic to reestablish
itself as a temporal tyranny also.
"Because it is the true heir of the ancient Roman Imperialism,
seeking now as ever to establish and maintain an absolute empire
over the whole world, and to bind the entire human race not only in
political, but also in religious bondage. Wherever Christianity lives,
Freedom dies. They cannot both long breathe the same atmosphere.
"5. Lastly, I IMPEACH CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME
OF HUMANITARIAN RELIGION
"Because it stands stubbornly in the path of all human progress,
blocking the way of every movement which aims at the enlargement of
human life,-opposes, and has always opposed, every genuine reform
in human affairs,-consults only the interests of its own creeds, and
sets its face like a Hint against the purely secular education in which, by
a quick instinct, it recognizes the most dangerous enemy of this creed.
"Because it teaches the impossibility of Humanity's advance
through its own natural exertions, and insists that it should rely on
supernatural assistance alone-thus
extinguishing aspiration and
drying up the fountain-head of all progress.
"Because it teaches despair of human nature, as ruined, lost
and depraved-incurable
of all salvation but that which comes from
without, and subject to no law of natural development but that of
degeneration, carrying it from bad to worse and from worse to worst.
It thus denies the great hopeful doctrine of humanitarian religion,
that Humanity tends by its own free efforts to grow better as it grows
older, and to emerge from a lower into a higher state in accordance
with natural laws.
"Because it proclaims ideas of God which would drive every
reflective mind acquainted with modern knowledge into absolute
Atheism, were it not that modern knowledge itself furnished the elements of a far higher idea of God in universal Nature. It thus appears as the most insidious enemy of the religious sentiment-the
destroyer of that pure and ennobling worship which recognizes the
Divine throughout all Time and Space, and creates in the soul of man
a consciousness of profound spiritual oneness with the vast Whole of
which he is a part.
"In the name, therefore, of Human Intelligence, of Human
Virtue, of the Human Heart, of Human Freedom, of Humanitarian
Religion, I seriously and earnestly impeach Christianity before the
tribunal of Humanity it still continues to outrage and enslave. I impeach it in the name of that which is higher than itself, not lower-in
the name of Truth, of Morality, of Love, of Liberty, of God; and I
summon it to answer at the bar of Humanity, its rightful judge, that
it may clear itself of the crimes and misdemeanors of which I. accuse
it, or else submit to the sentence of just condemnation pronounced
against it by the public opinion of civilized mankind."
And, this "Impeachment of Christianity" was written by Francis E, Abbott, and published in The Index magazine, simultaneously
in New York City, New York, and in Toledo, Ohio, on January 6th,
1872, That is to say, over 100 years ago.
This is again another example of the attacks which have been
directed against Christianity by our own citizens throughout our history as a nation,
I will be with you next week, same day of the week, same time,
same station. Until then, I do thank you for listening and 'goodbye'
for now.

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

29

news

Religion infuses atmosphere of


Mississippi Capitol
by EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS -Associated Press Writer
POLITICS
ANDreligion might be taboo topics at the dinner table, but
they mix freely at the Mississippi Capitol.
On biographies, every Mississippi lawmaker lists some type
of Christian affiliation. And, some members frequently sprinkle religious references into House and Senate debates.
The Bible was a central theme during a House debate in February about a proposal to eliminate the three-day waiting period to
obtain a marriage license ..The bill passed the House and later died
in the Senate.
Rep. Deryk Parker, D-Lucedale, argued that marriage should
not be entered lightly, and he cited the creation story in Genesis.
"This institution God established to be sacred is under attack
in the United States and in the world today," Parker said.
Rep. Ricky Cummings, D-Iuka, had proposed wiping out the
waiting period as a way to persuade Mississippi couples to tie the
knot at home rather than crossing into no-wait states.
"We hear about Adam and Eve. I don't believe there was a
three-day waiting period in the Garden of Eden," Cummings said. "I
don't want my religion to be questioned."
In early March, the House debated a bill that would ban most
abortions. When the bill emerged from the Public Health Committee, it said the only abortions allowed would be in cases where the
pregnant woman's life is in danger.
The full House altered the bill to also allow abortions in cases
of pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Rep. Warner McBride, D-Courtland, pointed toward the
teenage girls paging in the House the day of the debate. He said if
one of them should become pregnant because of rape or incest, the
decision about whether to have an abortion should be "between them
and their Lord."
Rep. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said he believes life begins at
conception. Even in cases of rape or incest, he said: "The product of
that union is not of a criminal. The product is of God."
Religion is highly visible in other ways at the Capitol, too.
Throughout this session, some lawmakers and staff members
have gathered for weekly lunches sponsored by Brandon's Pinelake
Baptist Church. In an informal setting with sandwiches and ice tea,
they've been discussing Rick Warren's best-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life."
Barbour, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Billy McCoy
all have Ten Commandments stone tablets in their offices. Several
lawmakers and Capitol employees display framed signs that say "In
God We Trust."
The House and Senate start each day with prayer. Usually,
the invocation is offered by a clergy member from somewhere in the
state. Sometimes, a lawmaker is asked to seek divine blessings. Some
of the prayers are broad enough to encompass a variety of beliefs, but
many make specific references to Jesus.
Baptists are the largest religious group in Mississippi, and at
the Capitol. In the 174-member Legislature-including
Lt. Gov.
Amy Tuck and one current vacancy in the Senate-98 are Baptist, 38
are Methodist, 14 are Catholic, eight art' Presbyterian, six are Episco30

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

palian, four are Church of Christ, rwo are non-denominational Christian and one each is listed for Church of God, Church of Christ Holiness, Assembly of God and Lutheran. The governor is Presbyterian.
Outside work, politicians frequently go to other houses of
worship to stay in touch with constituents. Sen. Hillman Frazier, DJackson, is Baptist but says he has visited just about every type of
Christian church, plus synagogues and mosques.
"I'm covering all the bases," he said with a laugh.

Mark Twain's name evoked by both


sides in Hap over 1860s church
by MARTIN GRIFFITH - Associated Press Writer
CARSONCITY,NV (AP)-In his 20s, Mark Twain was well-known
for his carousing at Nevada gold rush saloons, irreverent views of the
establishment and a skeptical attitude toward organized religions.
Now, the creator of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer is getting attention for a little-known good deed: helping the construction
of a frontier church in the 1860s.
Twain's name is being evoked by both sides in a dustup over
plans to demolish the First Presbyterian Church in Carson City to
make room for a new one. The plans are on hold while the city and
church negotiate a proposal to save it.
At the request of rwo church trustees, Twain raised $200worth about $2,200 today-to help complete construction of the
church by charging admission to his January 1864 "roast" of Nevada
lawmakers in Carson City, the state capital.
At the time, Twain was a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise
in nearby Virginia City. His brother, Orion Clemens, was a church
member and secretary of the Nevada Territory.
Church officials have said restoring the building would cost as
much as $5 million, more than double the cost of building a new one,
but the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other groups
argue it would be a mistake to tear down the humble brick church.
Not only is the church a rare link to Nevada's territorial days,
preservation proponents say, but it's one of only four remaining
buildings associated with Twain in Nevada.
Church officials say that while they appreciate his fundraising,
they think too much is being made of his minor association with the
church. Twain was not a member of the congregation, they said, and
there's no proof he ever set foot inside the church during his nearly
three-year stay in Nevada.
"It's only by his association with his brother that he raised
money for the church," said Ken Pearson, chairman of the building
committee.
Other church members note what they call Twain's anti-Christian beliefs.
"I have read where he was an atheist," Jean Schmid said after
a hearing on the demolition permit. "And I'm sorry he was ever mentioned" in connection with the church.
In "What Is Man? And Other Philosophical Writings," Twain
wrote: "I believe in God the Almighty. I do not believe He has ever
sent a message to man by anybody, or delivered one to him by word
of mouth, or made Himself visible to mortal eyes at any time or in
any place."

news
However, he still looked kindly on churches, said Robert H.
Hirst, head of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California
in Berkeley.
"He sees churches as a good thing to support because they
help the community. He supports their social functions, such as raising money for the poor," Hirst said.
Several Territorial Enterprise columns in which Twain mentioned church fundraisers show his commitment to the cause was
deeper than thought, Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha said.
If he ever came into money, Twain wrote in one, "I shall donate my salary to charitable institutions. I will finish building this
chronic brick church here, and lease a high-priced parson to run it.
Also, an exorbitant choir, Everything connected with the church shall
be conducted in the bulliest manner."

Muslim woman who refuses to


shake men's hands wins case against
Dutch school
by SARA TOTH - Associated Press Writer
AMSTERDAM,
NETHERLANDS
(AP)-A Muslim woman who refuses
to shake men's hands for religious reasons cannot be barred from a
Dutch teacher-training program.
The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission found Monday
that the Regional Education Center in the city of Utrecht illegally
"discriminated, indirectly, on the basis of religion," when it rejected
Fatima Amghar for its program.
Amghar, 20, said her religious beliefs forbid her from having
physical contact with men over the age of 12. The school rejected her
application, arguing that shaking hands was routine for a teaching
assistant in Dutch society. But "there are other conceivable manners
of greeting that can be considered proper and respectful," the commission ruled. It warned that Dutch schools risk excluding Muslim
women from society unless they find a way to accommodate their beliefs. Amghar's case is the latest in a series of decisions on the behavior
ofo Muslims in the Netherlands.
The same commission ruled last year against an Islamic school
that refused to accept a Muslim woman for a teaching position because she refused to wear a headscarf
In 2004, another Muslim woman won her case when she complained that she was barred from entering a restaurant in The Hague
for wearing a headscarf
After France banned the wearing of headscarves in public
schools, the Dutch government decided to leave that question up to
individual schools. Most allow headscarves.
However, four months ago parliament approved a ban on
wearing the all-covering burqa in public.
The City of Utrecht cut some welfare benefits to unemployed
women who insist on wearing burqas to job interviews. The city
claimed the women were using the burqa to avoid working, since they
knew they wouldn't be hired.
Muslims comprise six percent of Dutch society. Most are first
or second generation immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, where
the burqa is not common.

Christian Legal Society lost battle


SANFRANCISCO
(AP)-A Christian group lost a federal lawsuit in
which it sued Hastings College of the Law in 2004 for not recognizing it as an official campus organization.
The Christian Legal Society maintained it should get campus
funding and other benefits, but does not have to open its membership
to gays, lesbians and nonbelievers-all requirements from the San
Francisco law school which is run by the University of California.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Monday rejected the
group's assertions that the law school's policy violated its freedoms of
speech, religion and association.
White said the school's policy was "a reasonable regulation that
is consistent with and furthers its educational purpose." He said the
religious group remained free to determine its own membership without university funding.
The 30-member Hastings group was told in 2004 that it was
being denied recognition, including university funding and benefits,
because of its policy of exclusion.
The Christian Legal Society has about 140 chapters at universities nationwide. Many allow the exclusionary policy.
The case is Christian Legal Society v. Mary Kay Kane, 0404484.

Norway hearings on official religion


OSLO,NORWAY
(AP)-Norway opened a series of hearings Monday
on a separation of church and state after 469 years of Lutheranism as
the Nordic nation's official religion.
The government asked 2,500 people and groups, including
every congregation and city in Norway, to comment by Dec. 1 on a
special panel's recommendation that church and state be split.
"I would encourage those asked to comment to organize information and discussion sessions, in local communities as well as on the
regional and national level," said Minister of Culture and Churches
Trond Giske in launching the hearings.
In January, the majority of a 20-member government panel
recommended the separation. However, no change could be made until at least 2014 because it would require a constitutional amendment
approved by two successive parliaments.
About 86 percent of Norway's 4.6 million people are registered
members of the Church of Norway. However, registration is automatic at birth-a far smaller number are active.
The current church is funded by the central government,
which also employs its staff, including bishops and other clergy.
The religious and secular members of the State-Church Panel spent nearly three years working on the issue. Eighteen members
recommended ending the state church system. Of those, 14 said the
church should have a special legal status, while four said it should be
treated the same as all other beliefs.
Lutheranism became Norway's official religion in 1537 by
royal decree.
Denmark has a similar Lutheran state church, while Sweden
ended its state church system on Jan. 1, 2000.

AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

31

the probing mind

by Frank R. Zindler

all
n of Western history, I know of only four men who have
managed to translate the entire judseo-Christian bible: St. Jerome, who translated the scriptures into Latin (producing the
so-called Vulgate Bible); Martin Luther, who translated everything into German; William Tyndale, who committed the scriptures
into English; and George Lamsa, who translated the standard books
of the Old and New Testaments from the Syriac Peshitta Bible into
modern English.
Until now.
Enter William Harwood, a prolific author of many books and
articles and a contributor to Atheist and Freethought journals-including American Atheist. Dr. Harwood now has done the trick also.
Better yet, he has surpassed all his predecessors in his efforts. Lamsa,
Harwood's only modern competitor, did not go back to the original
Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, nor did he include the so-called apocryphal books that are still part of the Roman Catholic canon. Like
Tyndale, Luther, and Jerome before him, Lamsa never even thought
of translating 'books' such as the Didache and Baruch-books that
were very popular with ancient Christians even in the 'Great Church'
but didn't 'make the cut' when the official biblical canons were decided at the church councils.
As if translating a bible bigger than any now in use were not
a great enough achievement in its own right, Harwood has rendered
serious students and critics of the Christian scriptures a magnificent
further service: he has scrupulously avoided the deliberate mistranslations that have prevented readers from perceiving the true nature of
the documents underlying the English prose, and he has teased apart
and analyzed the various compound documents so prevalent into
their components and identified their sources. Oh, yes: and he has
arranged the New Testament documents in their most-likely chronological order.
For example, the King James Version begins with "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth ... " Later, in Chapter
2, it tells us that "These are the generations of the heavens and of the
earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made
the earth and the heavens." The Harwood Version starts off twice,
in parallel columns! The first column commences with "On the day
that Yahweh [THE GODS] (allahiym) fashioned the land and the
skies... " The second column begins "At commencement the gods
(allahiym) conjured up the skies and the land." The polytheism of the
original Hebrew is crystal-clear from page one onward!
What is notable about this is two-fold. First of all, where the
King James and almost all other English versions substitute "LORD"
for the proper name Yahweh, Harwood faithfully renders the secret
name of the deity according to its most likely pronunciation. Secondly, where the Hebrew word elohim (Harwood argues it should

32

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

really be rendered allahiym) is normally rendered as God, Harwood


gives us 'the gods'-preserving
its grammatical identity as a plural.
(Harwood argues that it is really a mixed-gender plural that could
actually be translated as 'the gods and goddesses.')
While scholars may not agree with every particular rendering
that Harwood has produced, even scholars may be expected to see
the biblical texts in a new light due to his unique translation agenda.
Ordinary readers may find his peculiar spellings of common biblical
names a bit confusing, however. Khilkhyahuw (Hilkiah) and Yiremyahuw (jeremiah) are just a few examples of Harwood's effort to
render names as close to the Hebrew spelling as possible. Unfortunately, his system for transliteration is rather idiosyncratic and takes a
bit of getting used to. No matter. Harwood can be delightful when he
vents his spleen in introductory essays such as that for Jeremiah: "The
book to which Jeremiah did attach his name was written shortly after
the sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BCE that was the beginning of the
Babylonian Captivity. While it merely hints that he was homosexual,
it unequivocally reveals him to have been a pompous, conceited, fatuous, arrogant, pretentious, self-centered, theofascist son of a bitch,
not unlike the right wing extremists currently campaigning to turn
North America into a theocratic slave state."
Harwood follows a long line of eminent scholars who, since
the time of Julius Wellhausen's 1878 treatise Prolegomena to the
History of Ancient Israel, have rejected the claim that the beginning
books of the Hebrew bible were the product of a single man. According to this view, the first five books of the Hebrew bible-the
so-called 'Five Books of Moses' or Pentateuch-had
not been written
by Moses at all. Rather, they were a composite made up of a number
of different documents written by different authors and redactors.
Scholarship has come a long way since Wellhausen, and Harwood's
arrangement of the pieces and fragments of the Hexateuch (the first
six books of the Hebrew bible) are an eloquent testimony to that fact.
Science marches on!
Seeing the disparate pieces of the Hexateuch laid out as they
are in Harwood's bible, reasons for all the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible become quickly obvious. For example, animals
are taken into Noah's Ark in pairs, according to the author of one of
the accounts in Genesis. In a different account written by a priestly
author, however, 'clean' animals (animals that not only may be eaten
by Jews but may be used as sacrifices) are taken in by sevens. The extra
animal of each 'kind'-the
animal not needed to replenish the species--can serve as a sacrificial animal to be offered up by the priestly
caste of parasites that were later to be introduced into the drama.
With the disparate parts of the beginning books of the Bible laid out
in separate columns, even readers who know no Hebrew can begin
to see the theopolitical biases of the various components' authors and

realize that the so-called Holy Bible is a work not of divine inspiration but rather a work of theopolirical conspiracy.
As I have already mentioned, in the Greek bible-the so-called
New Testament - Harwood has arranged the various 'books' chronologically, beginning with what Martin Luther dubbed "an epistle of
straw": the Epistle of James. Harwood is correct, in my opinion, in
dating this letter early (48 CE) and in claiming that it is not even a
Christian document. However, his claim that the letter was written
"by Jesus' brother, Jacob the Righteous" is not something that I can
agree with, since I do not think Jesus ever existed even as a man and
I think there are theopolitical reasons for the invention of Jesus' family. (I am not certain whether or not 'James the Just' existed or not;
he may very well
be historical, but
not related to the
mythical god-man
nmt.ompad FUJ.J..YTRANSLATED BIBL.
Jesus of Nazareth.)
Volume On.HlfTwo
This brings
me to discuss the
main point where
Harwood and I
must agree to disagree: the question
of the historicity of
Jesus of Nazareth.
Harwood is supported by the vast
majority of biblical
scholars (even by
most Atheist scholedited .nd tr lated
ars) in his view that
by
William Barwood, Pb.D.
Jesus was an ordinary man of flesh
and blood, even
though he certainly
never did all the magical things claimed in the Gospels. For reasons
too numerous to list in a review, to the contrary I do not find it
reasonable to ascribe historicity to 'Jesus of Nazareth'. The evidence
indicating that present-day Nazareth was not inhabited during the
Herodian period would seem to clinch my argument. How could
there have been a Wizard of Oz if Oz there never were? The recent
discovery by Israeli archaeologist Aviram Oshri that Bethlehem of
Judea-the place where Jesus of Nazareth is supposed to have been
born-also was not inhabited during the Herodian period seems to
make the historical reality of Jesus even less plausible. (Readers who
have access to the Internet may wish to read my article "Where Jesus

Never Walked," which shows that many of the places of the Gospels
are literary inventions. The article is available on the American Atheists Web-site www.atheists.org.)
Despite Harwood's view that Jesus once was real, his Compact Fully Translated Bible is still required reading even for mythicist
scholars. His historicist bias has harmed neither the product of his
translation nor the fruits of his higher-critical reconstructions of documents. A good example is his presentation of 'The Q Gospel' -the
hypothetical document from which the unknown authors of Matthew and Luke plagiarized sayings attributed to Jesus. Although Harwood departs from the majority of Q scholars by including a bit of
nativity mythology
in his presentation
of Q, the rest of his
reconstruction
is
pretty close to the
scholarly consensus and should be
read carefully and
thoughtfully.
I fear that
this review has become too technical, and it may be
necessary to end it
with a sample of
Harwood's inimitable
translating.
I rather like his
rendering of Luke
4:3-4: "So the slanderer said to him,
'If you're the god's
descendant, order
these stones to become bagels.' But he answered, 'It's written, "Not
by bagels alone is human to survive." , "
Indeed. So too, The Compact Fully Translated Bible is worth
far more than its weight in bagels, and consuming and thoroughly
digesting it is far more nutritious for the brain than any bagel feasteven if cream cheese and lox be included. It is more than just another
bible translation, it is a complete education in all things biblical. We
can only wait with amusement to see what the bible colleges will be
able to do about it.

AMERICANATHEISTMAGAZINE

33

god would be an atheist ...

Mirmrs ann Misnirection.


Correspondence With The Confused
by Martin Foreman

column such as this is bound to get correspondence. Some vinced that I am seeking God and persuaded that I contradict myself
comes from fellow rationalists applauding this or that col- frequently, Vanessa continues to send me e-rnails that she hopes will
umn, for which I'm always grateful.
convert me.
Other e-rnails come from readers picking up errors
But we have still not found common ground on even the most
or making points that I missed. In an early column I made the mis- basic points. Recently she asked "How is it that you think it possible
take of asserting that turkeys can't fly-which came as a surprise to that the universe could just have always existed but you claim (you
those who live in states where wild turkey are routinely shot from
think wrongly) that GOD couldn't have always just been as well?"
the sky.
I have no idea why she thinks this is my opinion. I pointed out
Another column implied that Star Trek fans believe that Klin- that as far as I knew the universe was only 15 billion years old. I added
gons, the Borg and other prosthetically enhanced aliens were real. that without proof of God's existence it was meaningless to ask how
The point I failed to make was that unlike Christians, Trekkies are long he had been around. I'm still waiting (25 February) for a reply.
very aware that their characters only exist in fiction.
I find it easier to communicate with Dawn, a creationist. I
I don't get much e-rnail from the God squad. Occasionally,
have, however, been unable to change her mind on several key points.
however, a believer writes to me out of the blue.
These include the difference between a very small possibility and an
So far, none has told me that I deserve to go to hell. They may impossibility, the implications of genetic mutation and the fact that
believe that is the direction I am headed,
but they have all been considerate enough
to tell me they are praying for me.
"I don't get much e-mail from the God squad. Occasionally, however, a
I'm not sure what the polite rebeliever writes to me out of the blue.
sponse is in those circumstances. To say
that they are wasting their time seems to
So far, none has told me that I deserve to go to hell. They may believe
be rude, while to thank them seems to lethat is the direction I am headed, but they have all been considerate
gitimize their faith. Usually, I don't reply.
enough to tell me they are praying for me."
Sometimes, however, I get longer
letters from individuals concerned about
my spiritual health and making statements about God and religion. I cannot resist replying to them and human beings are not descended from monkeys.
that is usually the beginning of a long, fruitless e-mail exchange.
Dawn writes me long, thoughtful e-rnails but we're talking
For the past couple of weeks I've been corresponding with
past each other. I don't buy her interpretation of the Bible and she
Dawn and Vanessa. Dawn is definitely a Christian; Vanessa's God
cannot accept the idea that God might not exist.
appears to be unaffiliated with any major sect.
Sadly, America is full of Dawns and Vanessas, men and women
Both are keen to convert me to their point of view. I would
convinced by websites such as answersincreation.org that God exists.
like them to see reason. As yet, no-one appears to be winning.
Such sites succeed because, like stage magicians who dazzle audiences
Vanessa's first e-rnail informed me "Wow you are so lost, that
with mirrors and misdirection, they use logical tricks to convince
person seriously misses the WHOLE POINT. How humiliating for their readers that God exists.
yourself. But don't worry I will show you something which will show
Look behind the tendentious questions, the fallacious arguyou the TRUTH> (sic) The points you use against GOD saying this is ments and the failure to distinguish between cause and coincidence
why something is wrong, is the very reason GOD says it is wrong."
or between result and purpose and the proof of God's existence vanI wrote back, saying that I didn't understand her letter. After a ishes into the ether. Too many Americans, however, like Dawn and
confused response, I wrote again, asking a single question: "Why do Vanessa, prefer the stage show to the reality that lies underneath.
you think there is a God?"
Which means that I'm not optimistic that either corresponVanessa's reply mentioned the "first mover" and "LOVE". It dent will change her mind. Meanwhile I am more than willing to
concluded "In addition, I feel HIS SPIRIT and know- I am like a accept God if given a reason to do so. On past experience, however, I
blind person (although I can see) who feels GOD and are witness to don't expect that Dawn or Vanessa will change mine.
All Rights Reserved Martin Foreman
HIS WORKS. GOD is in me, and I am with HIM you see?"
www.godwouldbeanatheist.com
I didn't see, and still don't but we continued writing. Con-

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AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE

Sundiata Tellem

undiata Tellem is an Atheist and the first African-American in Dallas County,Texas to become
Chairman ofThe Green Party of Dallas County,"1
was told that no African American county-wide
has ever held the Democratic nor Republican Chair in
Dallas County wide. We've had a black mayor but not a
County Party Chairman."
Sundiata is owner ofTELLEM BOOK& IMAGES,the
author of seven books in the categories of metaphysics,
science fiction, and children's books.
Spring break with Melanie Nuntia, published in
2003 was the author's first book. The spring break
occurs in Occitania (France),and details one woman's
developing conception of herself, and her important
role in effecting change on Earth. Guided by Librarian
Melanie Nuntia, the two discover the necessity of empowering young women. The book also covers subjects such as
metaphysics and recevied favorable reviews -[www.barnesandnoble.coml and later made Fobes.com Book Club.
Reptilian Aliens a Book of Memes published in 2004 was the author's attempt at science-fiction. That book too
made the Forbes.com Book Club, but the reviews however were lukewarm.
His children's books, Meet Chaka Tel/em, Chaka goes to Nambia, Chaka goes to South African, Chaka goes to Kenya
and Chaka goes to Mali were published in 2005. The lead character is based on the author's three year old son.
Mr.Tellem is a native of Dallas,Texas.

John A. Henderson, M.D.


ohn A. Henderson, MD is a retired United States Air Force flight surgeon and
general surgeon. He is now a semi-retired general surgeon and he and his wife,
Ruth, live in Asheville, North Carolina.
Henderson graduated with honors from the University of Illinois College
of Medicine in 1945. He interned at the Research and Educational Hospitals,
Chicago, Illinois. He was a surgical resident at the Scott and White Clinic, Temple, Texas.
During his Air Force career,he served in England, Spain, and Japan. Within the
United States he was stationed at various bases from New York to California.
Henderson practiced general surgery in Asheville, North Carolina after retiring
from the Air Force in 1972. He is the author of two books: God.com: A Deity for the
New Millennium and FEAR,FAITH,FACT,FANTASY,which discuss some of the harmful effects of religion and some of the illogical beliefs in an all-knowing, all-powerful,
supernatural being.