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Summer 2004



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American Atheists Inc.

is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the
complete and absolute separation of
state and church, accepting the explanation of Thomas Jefferson that the
First Amendment to the Constitution
of the United States was meant to
create a "wall of separation" between
state and church.
American Atheists is organized
to stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas,
tenets, rituals, and practices;
to collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all
religions and promote a more thorough understanding ofthem, their origins, and their histories;
to advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete
and absolute separation of state and
to act as a "watch dog" to challenge any attempted breach of the
wall of separatrion between state and
to advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and maintenance
of a thoroughly secular system of education
available to all;

outlook verifiable by experience and

the scientific method, independent of
all arbitrary assumptions of authority
and creeds. An Atheist is free of belief
in supernatural entities of all kinds.
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious
purpose; that it is governed by its own
inherent, immutable, and impersonal
laws; that there is no supernatural
in human
life; that
humankind - finding their resources
within themselves - can and must create their own destiny. Materialism
and intellectual
integrity to humanity. It teaches that
we must prize our life on earth and
strive always to improve it. It holds
that humans are capable of creating a
social system based on reason and justice. Materialism's
"faith" is in
humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own
efforts. This is a commitment which is
in its very essence life-asserting. It
considers the struggle for progress as
a moral obligation that is impossible
without noble ideas that inspire us to
bold, creative works. Materialism
holds that our potential for good and
more fulfilling cultural development
is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

to encourage the development

and public acceptance of a humane
ethical system stressing the mutual
sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and the corresponding responsibility of each individual in relation to society;
to develop and propagate a
social philosophy in which humankind
is central and must itself be the
source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of
to promote the study of the arts
and sciences and of all problems
affecting the maintenance, perpetuation, and enrichment of human (and
other) life; and
to engage in such social, educational, legal, and cultural activity as
will be useful and beneficial to members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.
Atheism is the Weltanschauung
conception of the
world) of persons who are free from
theism - i.e., free from religion. It is
Atheism involves the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the
supremacy of reason and aims at
establishing a life-style and ethical

American Atheists Inc., Membership Categories

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Couple*lFamily
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*Include partner's name
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of ID

All membership categories receive our monthly American Atheist Newsletter, membership car'd(s), and additional
organizational mailings such as new products for sale, convention and meeting announcements, etc.


American Atheists Inc. P.O. Box 5733 Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733

(908) 276-7300 FAX: (908) 276-7402 E-mail: info@atheists.org
Website: http://www.atheists.org
American Atheist on-line edition: www.americanatheist.org

American Atheist
A Journal

of Atheist

News and Thought

Address by Ellen Johnson

The president of American Atheists
Inc. announces the formation of GAMPAC (the Godless Americans Political
Action Committee), an outgrowth of
GAMOW (the Godless Americans
March On Washington), and recounts
the 1874 "Nine Demands of Liberalism"
to chart a future course for Atheists
and other "Godless Americans."

Cover art: American Atheists'

President Ellen Johnson announces
the inauguration of the Godless
Americans Political Action
Committee (GAMPAC) at the 30th
convention of American Atheists.
Photograph by Frank R. Zindler

Noah's Second Flood:

Frank R. Zindler
In a flood of political and religious
disinformation that is being released by
religious and corporate media that are
allied with religion-promoting forces,
Atheists and scientists have to understand the Second Law of
Thermodynamics if they want truth to
be heard.
Why I Am Not a Hindu
Aroup Chatterjee
The author of Mother Teresa: The
Final Verdict weighs in on the religion
of Hinduism and other issues.
Atheists Engaging the Political
Process: Opposing and Supporting
Eddie Tabash
A check-list of things to do in order to
oppose or support legislation.

Frank R. Zindler
Prayer of Allegiance to Continue
American Atheists Thirtieth
National Convention
A short report of the excitement and
stimulating events that filled the 2004
convention of American Atheists in San
Diego. In a tradition begun by the
Murray-O'Hairs, the festivities were
observed on an Easter weekend.

Electoral Activism II
Douglas Campbell
The former Green Party candidate
for governor of Michigan thumbnails
the 7 nationally recognized political
parties and explains what Atheists
must do if they would run for public
Stephen Crane: The Black Badge of
Gary Sloan
The author of The Red Badge of
Courage was almost illusionless.
Discarding the platitudes of faith, he
adopted a stoic ethic of courage, perseverance, and unflinching honesty.

Reverend Me!
Steve Altes
An Atheist becomes a minister along with his Ficus and Buick


The Judas Horse: Notes Toward an

Ecological Understanding of Dying
a Christian Death
Maximilian Werner
An ecological perspective on the alltoo-brief candles we call human lives.

Atheism, Naturally!
A review of David Eller's Natural
Atheism, a book Frank Zindler says is
the most important title American
Atheist Press has published since the
death of the Murray-O'Hair family.
God the Ultimate Conspiracy
Jay Werbinox Taylor


When Jehovah Leaves His Calling

Card 43
Martin Edmunds
A Canadian Atheist's response to
being 'propositioned' by a witless
Jehovah's Witness.


Who's an Atheist?
Nick Witte


Founders Understood Wisdom of

Leaving God Out of Government
Mark Thomas

Volume 42, No.3

Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

Summer 2004

Page 1

Volume 42 Number

Membership Application for

American Atheists Inc.


Frank R. Zindler
Ann E. Zindler
Conrad F. Goeringer
Ellen Johnson
The American Atheist is published by
American Atheist Press four times a
year, in December, March, June, and
Printed in the USA, 2004 by American
Atheist Press. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without
written permission is prohibited.
ISSN: 0516-9623.
Mailing address: P.O.Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733.
FAX: 908-276-7402.
E-mail: editor@atheists.org
For information on electronic access to
American Atheist Press publications, consult: http://www.atheists.org
The World-Wide-Web edition of
American Atheist can be accessed at:
American Atheist is indexed in Alternative
Press Index.
Manuscripts submitted must be typed,
double-spaced, and accompanied by a
stamped, self-addressed envelope. Documents may be submitted on computer disk
also, but print copies should be included
with disks. A copy of American Atheist
Writers' Guidelines is available upon
request. The editor assumes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts.
American Atheist Press publishes a
variety of Atheist, Agnostic, and
material. A catalog is
available for $1.00.





Page 2


This is to certify that I am in agreement with the aims, purposes, and the definitions given by American Atheists inside the front cover. I consider myself to be an
A-theist (i.e., non-theist), and I have, therefore, a particular interest in the separation of state and church and the efforts of American Atheists Inc. on behalf of that




Both dues and contributions are to a tax-exempt organization and may be

deducted on income tax returns, subject to applicable laws. (This application must be
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Membership in American Atheists Inc. includes a free subscription to the
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Please indicate your choice of membership dues:




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Upon your acceptance into membership, you will receive a handsome

membership card and your initial copy of the American Atheist Newsletter. You
will be notified of all national and regional meetings and activities, and you will
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Sign me up for a one-year subscription

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to the American Atheist.

American Atheists Inc., P.O. Box 5733

Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Telephone: (908) 276-7300 FAX: (908) 276-7402
E-mail: editor@atheists.org
Summer 2004



Editor's Desk

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he Supreme Court of the
United States has ruled that
Atheist Michael Newdow's
brilliant victory over the prayer of
allegiance to the flag in a court of
appeal is null and void - on the
ground that he did not have standing to sue. This means that public
school children all over the country
will once again have to suffer the
insult of "ceremonial deism" and
endure the ritualized religious
assaults of zealous authorities.
Fortunately, the court did not rule
on the merits of the case, and so it
has not spoken one way or the other
on the constitutionality
of the
prayer of allegiance. No precident
has been set ... yet.
It is not easy to be an Atheist in
America, and it often is not pleasant. Everywhere we turn, we get the
message ''Youare not wanted here."
In 'the year of our Lord' 1955,
the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST"
was inscribed on all the money we
handle - even currency with the
images of Infidels such as Abraham
Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and
Susan B. Anthony has been thus
sanctified. The currency has effaced
the free-thinking character of the
persons honored. My own objection
to the motto ended my twenty-year
career as a teacher.
In 1956 the national motto "IN
GOD WE TRUST" was adopted and
trumpeted everywhere. There is a
movement to plaster this patently
false proposition above the porticoes
of all public buildings and on the
walls of every school room.
Even before these two breaches
were made in the wall of separation
between state and church - in 1954

Frank R. Zindler
Parsippany, New Jersey

- the pledge of allegiance to the flag

of the United states had been
altered so that today, when we are
asked to pledge allegiance to the
American flag, we are required
either to say a prayer to a being we
know to be imaginary, or risk being
rejected as being un-American and
When George Bush I was campaigning in Chicago for the presidency, American Atheist Press
reporter Rob Sherman asked him
what he would do for the Atheist
population. of our country. Bush's
answer was difficult to understand,
and Rob followed up with the question, "But surely, you are not questioning the patriotism or citizenship
of Atheist Americans?"
Bush replied, "No, I don't think
Atheists should be considered patriots or citizens - this is ONE
recognize that as a quote from the
All three religious violations of
America's secular constitution were
committed during the Cold War of
the '50s, and all three were
intended to insult and disenfranchise Atheist Americans.
Atheism was equated to Communism. Again and again, Atheist
Americans were told to "Go back to
The history of how the pledge
was changed shows there was a
deliberate attempt to denigrate,
marginalize, and disenfranchise
The Knights of Columbus in
New York City - arch-enemies of
freethought, secular government,
and the liberties guaranteed by the
First Amendment - first added
"under God" on April 22, 1951, and
started a campaign to get all
Summer 2004

Knights of Columbus to do it. This

was accomplished on August 21,
1952. Then they started a campaign
to get the President and Congress to
make it a law or at least a resolution. Then the American Legion
picked up the religious fever. (Like
the Boy Scouts, they still do not
allow Atheists to be members.)
Supposedly, the words UNDER
GOD were a quotation from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. As you
can see from the accompanying facsimile of an autograph of the
address, Lincoln did not use those
words. There is also a second godless
autograph of the address in existence. It appears the words were
added by Lincoln's secretary, who
advised the unpopular president to
appease his religious critics who
were appalled by his lack of
Christian beliefs.
As can be seen from the
Congressional Record of the
period, the Prayer of Allegiance
was intended from the beginning to be an attack on Atheism
and Atheists. Pres. Dwight D.
Eisenhower, approving the sacralization of the pledge said:
In this way we are reaffirming
the transcendence of religious faith
in America's heritage and future; in
this way we shall constantly
strengthen those spiritual weapons
which forever will be our country's
most powerful resource in peace
and war.

In one sentence, Eisenhower

denied the crucial importance of
heretics in America's history. Where
would we be without Ethan Allen,
Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson,
Ulysses S. Grant, and Abraham

Page 3

Eisenhower also said,

From this day forward, the millions 'of our school children will
daily proclaim in every city and
town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation
and our people to the Almighty - a
patriotic oath AND A PUBLIC
PRAYER.... Over the globe millions
have been deadened in mind and
soul by a materialistic philosophy of

Eisenhower did not care if

among the millions coerced into
prayer there might be Atheists.
They were not Americans worth
counting. Eisenhower got this idea
from a sermon he had heard - the
text of which was published in the
Congressional Record, would you
believe? The sermon was preached
by George Docherty on 7 Feb 1954
and it galvanized the president and
members of Congress to turn the
pledge into a sacrament.
According to Docherty,
There was something missing
in this pledge, and that which was
missing was the characteristic and
definitive facto in the American way
of life. Indeed, apart from the mention of the phrase, the United States
of America, this could be a pledge of
any republic. In fact, I could hear
the little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-andsickle flag in Moscow with equal
solemnity, for Russia is also a
republic that claims to have overthrown the tyranny of kingship.

In response to possible objections from Atheists, the minister

declared "an atheistic American
is a contradiction
in terms."
Pure atheists, according to Docherty,
are little more than "spiritual parasites."
A more focused attack against
Atheist Americans can scarcely be
imagined, yet Docherty's words were
repeated when the pledge resolution
was taken up several days later in
Congress. Said Rep. Rabaut, in
restating his initial proposal, H.J
Res. 243,
Page 4

You may argue from dawn to

dusk about differing political, economic, and social systems, but the
fundamental issue which is the
unbridgeable gap between America
and Communist Russia is a belief in
Almighty God. From the root of
atheism stems the evil weed of
communism and its branches of
materialism and political dictatorship. Unless we are willing to
affirm our belief in the existence of
God and His creator-creature relation to man, we drop man himself to
the significance of a grain of sand
and open the floodgates to tyranny
and oppression.

That is the same sort of reasoning that had caused seven states to
include impediments to Atheists in
their state constitutions. Three of
these are still in force: Arkansas,
Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
To appreciate how Atheists felt
when all this was going on - and
still feel as we continue to suffer the
insult of attempted disenfranchisement - imagine how a Jew might
feel if the pledge had been changed
to read:
I pledge allegiance to the flag,
ofthe United States ofAmerica, and
to the republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for Gentiles.

This would exclude Jews in

exactly the same way that the current pledge excludes Atheists.v'I'he
present pledge translates quite precisely into "with liberty and justice
for believers," or "with liberty and
justice for all except atheists."
It should be noted that Bellamy,
the original author of the pledge,
wanted to include "equality" along
with liberty and justice, but he knew
that would not fly. How could one
imagine women and blacks on an
equal basis with white men? To this
day, "equality" has not made its way
into the pledge - but an imaginary
character has!
Forcing Atheist children to hear
this litany every day is nothing less
than coercive brainwashing. Children who don't say the pledge are
Summer 2004

viewed by teachers and students as

"not one of us" - i.e., true Americans. This is an injury.
It is frequently argued that
adding "under God" to the pledge
does not respect an establishment of
religion. This flies in the face of the
grammar that frames the wording of
the First Amendment.
The intention of the writers of
the First Amendment is clear from
the grammar
of its phrasing:
"Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion..."
Please note, the phrase does
NOT read: "respecting an establishment of A religion ..."
The lack of the indefinite
article shows the writers intended to prohibit not only the establishment of a particular
sect, but
intended to prohibit the elevation of religion in general above
secular philosophies or non-religion.
It is a pity that logic has no
upon such politically
charged issues as the pledge question. To an Atheist it is self-evident
that the flag cannot "stand" for
something that does not exist. 'One
nation under God' is a non-existent
To pledge allegiance to a nonexistent being is as silly as pledging
it la the formula of humorist Matt
Groening ("Life in Hell"):
I plead alignment to the flakes
of the untitled snakes of a merry
cow, And to the Republicans, for
which they scam, one nacho, underpants, with licorice and jugs of wine
for owls.

I pledge allegiance to my
Flag and the Republic for
it stands,
nation, indivisible, with
liberty and justice for all.
-Francis Bellamy, in the
September 8, 1892 issue
of The Youth's Companion.



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In 1954, when an act

of Congress added the
words "one nation
under God" to the
Pledge of Allegiance
to the Flag, Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address
was the alleged source
for the phrase, No
"nation under God"
wording is to be found
in this autograph,

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Summer 2004

Page 5


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Thirtieth National Convention

he thirtieth
annual national convention of
American Atheists was held at the idyllic Shelter
Pointe Hotel and Marina on Shelter Island in San
Diego, California, on April 9-11, 2004. It was boats,
ships, sunshine, and balmy temperatures the entire
weekend. The hotel is located between San Diego Bay
and the marina at the tip of Shelter Island.
California State Director Dave Kong opened the convention by welcoming everyone to his home state and to
the convention. He gave a brief summary of Atheist
activism there. American Atheists President Ellen
Johnson gave her annual convention speech with her
evaluation of past events for American Atheists and
goals for the future. Some of the convention speeches are
being reprinted in this issue of American Atheist.
Johnson's speech begins on page 9.
We are so proud of the work that all of our state
directors do all year long that we bring them up on stage
to introduce them to everyone and present them with a
token of our appreciation. Our Director of State and
Regional Operations, Bart Meltzer introduced those
directors who were in attendance and they were,
Michigan State Director, Arlene-Marie, Assistant State
Director, George Shiffer, Kentucky State Director, Edwin

Kagin, North Carolina State Director, Wayne Aiken, New

Jersey State Director Chad Hetman, California State
Director Dave Kong, Connecticut State Director Dennis
Paul Himes, Arizona State Director, Monty Gaither,
Alabama State Director Blair Scott, Idaho State Director
Susan Harrington, Wyoming State Director Duane
Buchholz, and Virginia State Director Rick Wingrove.
Bart presented them with leather business card cases
engraved with the Atheist symbol.
The next speaker was Debra Olson, granddaughter
of former California governor Culbert Olson. He was
elected to office in 1938 and he was an Atheist.
Background on Culbert Olson can be found at
We added an audience participation game to this
year's events, called "Who Said It?" A quote was displayed on a screen for the audience to read. The game
participants tried to identify who said it. The winner of
the most identified quotes was Mark W. Thomas of
California who won a $100 cash prize. Congratulations
Well-known British author Alexander Waugh spoke
about his new book GOD, in which he describes the
world's ideas about who and what 'God' is.

American Atheists directors, From left to right: George Shiffer, Arlene-Marie, Wayne Aiken, Chad Hetman,
Edwin Kagin, Susan Harrington, Dave Kong, Duane Buchholz, Bart Meltzer, Rick Wingrove, Monty
Gaither, Dennis Paul Himes
Photo by Ed Gauci
Page 6

Summer 2004

American Atheist

Debra Olson

by Ed Gauci

help out in varying ways and without their help, we wouldn't be able
to give you the special event that the
convention is. We are very grateful
to them all. A special thank you goes
to the following people listed in no
particular order: Kate Simpson,
Chad Hetman, Noel F. Ambry, Ed
Gauci, Larry Mundinger, Ann
Zindler, Frank Zindler, Dick Hogan,
Arlene Marie, Joe Zamecki, Conrad
Goeringer, Lydia Rice, Bart Meltzer,
Kevin Colquitt, Dennis Horvitz,
Rick Wingrove and Ellen Birch. We
apologize if anyone has been left

The talk sessions were broken

up with a musical interlude from
Atheist "Rapper" Charlie Checker,
who performed four selections from
his CD Fearless Weirdo. A free copy
of the CD was given to every audience member. Three of the four
songs he performed contained lyrics
about Atheism. Charlie's CD can be
found at <www.cdbaby.comlcdlcharlieboy,

Alexander Waugh


The annual awards presentations were made from grateful

American Atheists. The 2004 award
recipients were:

Charlie Checker


Author and American Atheist

Press Editor Frank Zindler spoke on
"Noah's Second Flood: Religious
Domination in the Media and the
Great Disinformation Inundation."
The text of his lecture can be found
on page 13.
Friday night's member's dinner
included the annual awards presentations with special thanks to all the
people who helped to make the convention possible. Many, many people

Atheist Of The Year:

Robert J. Bruno
State Director Of The Year:
Lorie Polansky
Volunteer Of The Year:
Greg Ewings
Courageous Atheist Of The Year:
Sandra Van Maren
Of Recognition:
Chad Hetman
Of Appreciation:
Edwin Kagin
Winner, Best Letter To The
Editor: Bob Alexander
Outreach Award:
Dennis Horvitz
Member Of The Year: Margie

Ellen Johnson &

Margie Wait

The evening was topped off with

an hour of raucous political humor
from nationally famous comedian
Tim Slagle.
Saturday's session began with a
lively panel discussion comprising
Arlene Marie, Dennis Horvitz, Mark
Thomas, Edwin Kagin, and Eddie
Tabash. Conrad Goeringer moderated the discussion on the question of
whether Atheists have a single identity that allows us to speak as one
group on social policy issues.
An impromptu discussion group
was formed after it was learned that
the Russian speakers could not
make it to the convention. Sometimes it is a difficult job to get international guests to the convention.
This time the problems were insurmountable. But we thank the panelists for their contributions to the

Tim Slagle
Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

by Ed Gauci

Page 7

Aroup Chatterjee spoke about

his critically acclaimed book, The
Final Verdict. It was a fascinating
look into the truth behind the carefully crafted image and invented
deeds of the woman known as
Mother Teresa.
Conrad Goeringer gave a compelling talk about the subject of his
relentless pursuit into the life of the
famous 30s and 40s-era actress and
Atheist Frances Farmer.
We announced this year's winner of the American Atheist Scholarships. The winning applicants are
required to be entering or in college
and have a minimum grade point
average of 2.5, but more importantly
they are judged on activism.
American Atheists is an activist
group and while some are content to
sit and talk, we understand that
sometimes, in order to be heard, we
need to stand and shout. This means
being defeated, and then fighting
some more. As many of you know,
this is a difficult task.
And so the scholarship applicants are chosen primarily on these
aspects of activism. Did they bounce
back from defeat, only to be victorious in a subsequent battle? Did they
put a face on their activism, so people could see that the person behind
the keyboard was a normal, likable,
and downright sensible person? The
answer is yes, to both.
This year's winner of the $1000
Gay and Lesbian Atheist Scholarship is Ms Amanda Poole. This
year's main $2000 scholarship winner is Ms Jenny Belle Werness.
American Atheists matches the
scholarship awards.
Eddie Tabash gave the audience
some practical
"Atheists Engaging The Political
Process: How to Effectively Support
and Oppose Legislation."
The last session of the convention was devoted to a rousing debate
between Dr Susan Blackmore and
Dr James Polichak on the issue of
whether or not ideas are self-replicating. It is argued that "memes" are
entities which seem to exist for their
own survival, much the same way

Eddie Tabash

by Ed Gauci

that genes operate. Unfortunately,

we forgot to tell the audience why
we were having this debate. It is
argued that religion is spread by
way of memes and we wanted to
have that issue discussed. A few
people were wondering why on
earth we were discussing memes at

Dr James Polichak


the convention. Religion was the

reason why.
Saturday night began with the
Life and Legacy Members dinner. If
you are a life member of American
Atheists or if you have been a member for fifteen years or more we
invite you to join us for a dinner in
your honor.
Afterwards we invited everyone
to come and watch a movie. This
year it was Inherit The Wind with
Spencer Tracy, Frederick March and
Gene Kelly. It was our answer to The
Passion Of The Christ. Incidentally,
The Passion was bumped from first
Summer 2004

place at the box office by Hell Boy.

Inherit The Wind was made in 1960
and it was about the infamous
Scopes Trial. In 1960, Inherit The
Wind had a weak showing at the box
office because religious fundamentalists promised to oppose it and so
United Artists, which released the
film, scaled back on their marketing
On Sunday, after the meetings
of American Atheists Affiliates and
the Military Association of Atheists
and Freethinkers, we concluded the
convention by going on the San
Diego Harbor Excursion Cruise and
brunch. The brunch cruises have
turned out to be a popular feature of
the conventions and a lovely way for
everyone to relax, talk, and say
goodby to friends new and old until
the next year.
We look forward to seeing our
new and old friends at next year's
convention on March 25, 26, and 27

Dr Susan Blackmore

by FRZ

Mother Teresa:
The Final Verdict
by Aroup Chatterjee.

1-------, The truth

Mother Teresa




about the
hag of

American Atheist

Address By Ellen Johnson

at the

American Atheists 30th National Convention

San Diego, California. April 9, 2004

hank you Dave Kong. We are

very proud of all the work you
and all the other Atheist
Good morning everyone. I'd like
to give you a sort of "state of the
union" speech today. We are coming
up on my ten-year anniversary as
president of American Atheists. So
how are we doing and where are we
As you know, this is our thirtieth
annual national convention. When
Madalyn Murray O'Hair organized
the first Convention of American
Atheists, it was held on July 24-26,
in 1970 and it was just seven short
years after her victory in the hardfought Murray u. Curlett case that
helped to remove mandatory prayer
and Bible verse recitation from our
taxpayer-supported public schools.
She made no bones about the fact
that she was an Atheist. Indeed, her

Parsippany, New Jersey

blatant, open, and very public position as an Atheist gained her many
enemies, including those within the
loose network of groups and publications that argued for the separation
of church and state. And worse than
being an Atheist - she was a
She organized that first convention on behalf of a small, marginalized segment of the American population who had the strength of character, tenacity, and the intellectual
fortitude and commitment to principle to identify themselves openly as
Atheists. She and those early conventions provided the desperately
needed contact, and the camaraderie for those Atheists back then.
All of this came back to me last
month during a couple of important
events in Washington, DC.
The first was our press conference which was carried on the CSPAN network, to announce the
launching of the Godless Americans
Political Action Committee (GAMPAC). It was a momentous and significant time. Two years before, we
had spearheaded
the Godless
Americans March On Washington
(GAMOW) that brought over 3,000
Atheists and other nonbelievers to
our nation's capital. Every other
cause group in American culture
had marched down that Mall just
like we did - the blacks, the gays,
and the women - and now it was our
We delivered a message that
American Atheists has been emphaSummer 2004

sizing for years. We told our fellow

Atheists, and everyone else listening
- that it was time for this movement
to take the next step in political
activism and organization. It was a
long-overdue message.
So last month we fulfilled our
promise. Supporters of this message
joined with volunteers from American Atheists to launch the Godless
Americans Political Action Committee. A bit over a week later nearly
200 of us were rallying on the steps
of the United States Supreme Court
Building in support of Dr Michael
Newdow and his case to remove the
words "under God" from our Pledge
of Allegiance.
That rally, perhaps more so than
the GAMOW and the launch of the
GAMPAC or any of these conventions, demonstrated how far we
have come as a movement. Think
about it! Compare that day to the
day when Madalyn Murray was
photographed walking down the
steps ofthe Supreme Court Building
with Jon and Bill Murray in tow.
She had won her case, and the photo
of her and her sons became emblematic, in a way, of the Atheist movement - or at least American Atheists
- for the next three decades.
There was no rally that day
when the decision in Murray u.
Curlett, which had been combined
with the Abington Township u.
Schempp case, was handed down.
There were plenty of reporters and
photographers there, but no support
like we showed for Dr. Newdow even
Page 9

after she had won! It must have

been a very lonely time for them.
Well, I thought: how things have
changed since then! There we were
in Washington, DC, and there were
probably as many of us as there
were Christians supporting the religionized Pledge of Allegiance. We
chanted, we gave speeches, and
there was an electricity in the air. I
and a lot of people whom we invited
from a very wide range of organizations spoke at that rally. And along
with the usual encouragement and
expressions of support for Dr Newdow and the need for a secular,
inclusive Pledge was something
else: expressions of cooperation, and
a realization that issues count. Here
were hundreds of Atheists doing
something that did not and probably
could not have occurred on that day
in 1963 when Madalyn O'Hair stood
on those same steps in front of that
same building. Things have certainly
changed a lot since 1963!
We are stronger; we are bolder;
we are smarter; and we are determined to have 'our place at the table'
when it comes to the discussion of
our civil rights and our agenda for a
free and secular America!
And there's something else. I
had to make another trip to Washington DC , this time to appear on
the C-SPAN program Washington
Journal. Now, this says something
about how far we have come. Every
year, American Atheists sends out
dozens of FAXes commenting on
news or events. Sometimes, the
media 'bite' and we get a lot of press.
I, along with our Communications
Director Dave Silverman or some of
our State and Regional Directors,
spend a good deal of time giving
interviews. and fielding questions on
the innumerable talk programs we
do. We get a fair amount of air time
on the Fox Network, as you know.
But Washington Journal is different; being on Washington Journal is
like saying "we've arrived!" This is
mainstream, it's serious programming, it's truly 'fair and balanced'
and it isn't the
riotous foiling that you see on a lot
Page 10

of other news programs. It's prestigious and, most important of all, it's
a statement of where this organization is going. That was probably the
most important interview I have
ever given.
Now I'd like to read you something, and this is both a bit of history and an object lesson for our present and our future. It is a list known
as The Nine Demands of Liberalism,
and it reads:
The Nine Demands Of
(1) We demand that churches and
other ecclesiastical property shall no
longer be exempt from taxation.
(2) We demand that the employment
of Chaplains in Congress, in the
Legislatures, in the navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums, and all
other institutions supported by public money shall be discontinued.
(3) We demand that all public appropriations for educational and charitable institutions
of a sectarian
character shall cease.
(4) We demand that all religious
services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and
especially that the use of the Bible
in the public schools, whether ostensibly as a text-book or avowedly as a
book of religious worship, shall be
(5) We demand that the appointment by the President of the United
States or by the governors of the
various states, of all religious festivals and fasts shall wholly cease.
(6) We demand that the judicial oath
in the courts and in all other departments of the government shall be
abolished, and that simply affirmation under the pains and penalties
of perjury shall be established in its
(7) We demand that all laws directly
or indirectly enforcing the obserSummer 2004

vance of Sunday as the Sabbath

shall be repealed.
(8) We demand that all laws looking
to the enforcement of "Christian"
morality shall be abrogated and
that all laws shall be conformed to
the requirements of natural morality,
equal rights, and impartial liberty.
(9) We demand that not only in the
Constitution of the United States
and of the several states, but also in
the practical administration of the
same, no privileges or advantages
shall be conceded to Christianity or
any other special religion; that our
entire political system shall be
founded and administered
on a
purely secular basis; and that whatever changes shall prove necessary
to this end shall be consistently,
unflinchingly, and promptly made.
The remarkable
thing about
these Nine Demands is that they
appeared, not in 1974 but in 1874.
What does that tell us? It tells us
that the culture wars over the role of
religion in American society have
been taking place for a very, very
long time, and they are likely to continue. We do have our work cut out
for us.
This list was put together by a
group known as the Free Religious
Association which was a "Freethought" umbrella group of its time.
like the National
Liberal League decided to endorse
the idea of the Nine Demands. The
use of the term 'liberal' here refers
to the classic liberals of that era who
sought to restrict the absolute powers of both the state and the church
in order to have more emphasis on
human rights.
The Nine Demands of Liberalism are over one hundred and
twenty-five years old. But there's a
story to this, too. Madalyn O'Hair
-spent an enormous amount of time
and effort during her life, as did her
son Jon and her granddaughter
Robin, compiling and researching
the history of American nonbelievers and movements. And she
American Atheist

once commented that these movements fell not from external attacks,
but from divisiveness from within.
She saw this during her own lifetime. She saw groups fall apart from
the petty and selfish motives of a
few persons. It's a cautionary tale
my friends.
The Nine Demands of Liberalism are as relevant today as they
were in 1874, maybe even more so.
This is more than a historical
curiosity though - it's a potential
campaign platform. A campaign
platform. Are you getting where I
am going with this?
The Atheists in America have
been debating and arguing with
religious people for decades, even
centuries. We have written books,
published tracts, staged public confrontations, all operating on the theory that what we need to do is "convert" these people to our way of
thinking. Entire organizations are
dedicated to this. There are Atheists
who can quote the Bible with more
skill than their religious counterparts. Now I'm not criticizing any
groups who do this. But I am suggesting that we need to seriously
rethink our priorities.
We need to start fixing our
attention on vital political issues
that affect all of us, emphasizing our
identity as Atheists in conjunction
with our demand for full civil rights,
a "place at the table," and equity in
the political arena. We want meaningful input in the discussion and
formulation of public policy regarding First Amendment issues.
I want to elect out-of-the-closet
Atheists to public office. If religion
has become a credential for electability, patriotism and personal
wholesomeness, then I want us running openly, and proclaiming our
Atheism, our humanity-centered
ethics, our secular social agenda
with equal enthusiasm.
I want the major political parties to "listen up!" and pay attention
to what WE have to say. We have
never advocated violating anyone's
civil liberties advance our agenda. I
don't want to muzzle Jerry Falwell,
Parsippany, New Jersey

or Pat Robertson, or Ralph Reed well maybe just drown them out a
little. We will continue to work within the system. And slowly we are
making our way into the system.
Another goal I want to see
reached is for us to be playing in the
same league as the big advocacy
groups like the NRA, the AFL-CIO,
and even the National Council of
Churches. I'm thinking of all those
committees and advocacy groups
that Ralph Reed and others like him
have organized, and you see their
ads on TV and in major newspapers,
and that is where American Atheists
is going to be going and I hope you
will join us as we do.
American Atheists has always
been a full-service organization. It is
important to be that. We're still
going to have debates, we're going to
hold fast to being an educational
resource and an intellectual advocate and defender for Atheism. But
over the last several years, we have
shifted our priorities a bit. It doesn't
make any sense to have the best
arguments, to have the most knowledge about arcane subjects, to know
more than our religious counterparts might know - and probably to
use the faculty of reason a bit more
as well - if you don't do anything
with all of this. I want to take principles like the Nine Demands of
Liberalism and make them a reality.
You know, I've been to debates
and discussions about the usual topics - and again, no disrespect to anyone involved in this - but I've been
to these events. It's the usual topics
and the usual arguments, and the
Atheist or Evolutionist or Scientist
usually "wins," and I've noticed how
comfortable it all is, especially for
"our side." It's a warm and fuzzy
feeling, that we've once against vanquished intellectual Neanderthals
and bested those Bible-bearing
rhetorical opponents. And that's
fine, but it's also dangerous. It has
bred complacency in our ranks. It
has resulted in a kind of gridlock
where the wider goal of changing
the world seems to be frozen in time,
postponed until that mythical utopiSummer 2004

an point where everyone will supposedly agree with what we have to

We like to convert the theist.
Yes, we do proselytize. That is what
Atheists love to do. Yet, in the spans
of time that it takes to convert one
theist or ten or fifty theists, the
groups are passing legislation at the
state and federal levels that will
take your rights, take your money,
and give special rights and protections to the religious.
Every Atheist organization in
America is small, everyone. The
issue isn't converting more theists;
it's getting the Atheists to get
involved more, to care more, to join
us more.
There are about thirty million
nonreligious people in this country.
That is more than a statistic - it's a
potential voting block, a potential
base to mobilize. Give me a fraction
of them, and I guarantee you that
we'll be making the Nine Demands
of Liberalism a reality.
Noone knows better than I do
that the business of bringing about
social change doesn't come with an
Owner's Manual. You have to write
your own as you go along. You have
to learn the few lessons as best you
can of those who came before. And
you know, none of those persons or
groups did it perfectly. They were
divided over what to call themselves, how radical or restrained
they should be, how they should proceed. 'Negro' leaders just a few years
ago were terrified of the term
'Black.' It was too militant. Gays
argued over what to call themselves.
When women held their grand
march in Washington for suffrage,
they argued vehemently amongst
themselves over whether to include
men, and women of color. Sound
familiar? We're recycling a lot of
those arguments today in our own
Well one thing I can tell you.
After doing the Washington Journal
program, after GAMPAC, after the
GAMOW, the word Atheist is no
longer in the closet of American
Page 11

political parlance! If we just keep

saying Atheist and godless over and
over people will get used to it, and
I'm not talking about the religious.
I'm talking about the Atheists. From
the mail that I receive I can tell you
that the only people who have a
problem with those two terms are
the Atheists. They worry over something that doesn't exist. They worry
that the religious will be turned off
by those terms. Well I haven't
received one piece of correspondence
to corroborate that fear. Do you
know how much e-mail alone I
received after the PAC was formed?
About 1,000 e-mails!
Anyway, we might not have
arrived yet, but we're damned well

on our way! Paul Weyrich of the Free

Congress Foundation, a politically
conservative think tank, wrote an
article about the GAMPAC for
CNSNews.com that appeared on
April 2, 2004. In it he warned that
"the rise of politically organized
atheism in our country indeed presents a significant test to our version
of Christian patience because a
small but tightly organized clique of
non-believers stands to do great
damage to our country and its character if they have their way." And
well he should be concerned.
Religious conservatives know very
well what a lot of Atheists don't;
that we have the potential to
become a major influence in our cul-

ture and politics. They are now

responding to us for once and I like
Winston Churchill once said
that "history is going to be very kind
to me because I intend to write history." Well, history is going to be
very kind to all of us, because
together we are going to write our
history too.
If the prize is changing the culture, having meaningful input on
the issues, being accepted on a level
playing field as a vital part of the
American polity - then I think that
the prize is now within our grasp!
Thank you!



Page 12

Summer 2004

American Atheist

Noah's Second
Religious Domination in the Media
and the

Great Disinformation Inundation

A lecture given by Frank R. Zindler at the 30th National Convention of American
Atheists at San Diego, California, on April 9, 2004.


erica is being inundated by

a veritable flood of disinforation. There are two main
sources for the disinformation that
is suffocating us - political and religious. Politics gives us the frame of
reference for the classical definition
of the term in the dictionary: "Deliberately false information leaked by
a government as to confuse another
nation's intelligence operations."
Religion, on the other hand, would
appear to have been the inventor of
the technique and the perfecter of
its practice.
First, let us consider the political sources. Most prominently we
have governmental agencies and
officials. As one might expect, we
have the disinforrnation churned
out by the Department of Defense,
the White House, press secretaries
for everyone important enough to
have one, and the ubiquitous but
ever unlocatable sources from which
'leaks' emerge. The disinformation
emerging from this source these
days differs from the dictionary definition in a frightening way: instead
of being confected to confuse the
intelligence operations of another
country, the new political disinformation is designed to confuse and
confound the intelligence of the
American public. The other countries already know what is going on;
only the voting American public
must not know the truth.

Parsippany, New Jersey

Political organizations also produce disinformation - the Communists, Fascists, Republicans, and
Democrats all engage in disinformation to varying degrees. So-called
think-tanks such as the Heritage
Foundation and the Discovery Institute with its Center for the Renewal
of Science and Culture have become
extremely adroit in the art of deception.
Foreign lobbies also figure
prominently as sources of political
disinformation. The Israeli lobby is
without question the most effective
of all political sources of disinformation. No American medium dares to
challenge or question the Zionist
spin on news from the Near East.
Israel's ethnic cleansing is never
portrayed as the racist reality that
it is, no matter how blatant or outrageous that nation's actions might
be. The Vatican lobby too is
immensely effective in shaping
America's foreign policy concerning
population control and has been
shockingly powerful in shutting
down America's research on stem
cells, cloning, and population control. The Vatican lobby, of all the
sources I shall discuss today, may be
the most serious threat to our own
health and well-being. It is time for
us to abolish the post of American
Ambassador to the Vatican and
withdraw our recognition of the
Vatican as a sovereign state. It is

Summer 2004

the headquarters of a multinational

business - an international ignorance industry, not a sovereign
nation. If the Vatican is to retain its
status as a nation, then all its cardinals, bishops, and priests should be
forced to register as foreign agents
and surrender their U.S. citizenship.
Corporate Media
The main problem with the
media today is not that they are 'liberal' or 'conservative' or even 'rightwing.' The problem is that most of
the media are owned by large corporations (including churches, as with
the Mormon church in the mountain
states) or are themselves large corporations. Their owners or ultimate
controllers are so closely allied to
government and religion that the
media no longer can be considered
to be an independent
Estate.' The framers of the First
Amendment provided for freedom of
the press, intending that this would
allow for further checks and balances of power - the press constituting a so-called Fourth Estate that
would be a counterweight to the
three constitutional
branches of
Unfortunately, this no longer is
an actuality. The media have gone
from depending upon subscribers to
depending upon advertisers

Page 13

pollution, those companies cannot

make a big enough profit to pay your
advertising fees. So help to keep in
office the polluting politicians who
keep in operation the polluting
industries that pay the filthy lucre
on which you have come to depend.
The connection between environmental pollution and media pollution seems obvious enough.
In addition to this, you need to
publish material that is "conducive

financial support. Indeed, in the

case of the broadcast media, it is
almost impossible to imagine how
this can be otherwise. Those of you
who value your FM classical music
stations know how hard it is to keep
advertising-free stations on the air.
You also may have the feeling that
the only radio worth hearing is listener-supported. The rest of radio is
a wasteland of which I shall say
more shortly.

unholy symbiosis between business

and religion.
The Marriage Of Business
and Religion
We must suppose it has been a
match made in heaven. The symbiosis of business and religion has produced a juggernaut of disinformation that has trampled and subdued
all three branches of government -

The connection between environmental pollution and

media pollution seems obvious enough.
As a result of the shift from
dependence on subscribers to dependence on advertisers, the major
pressure felt by the media comes not
from the public but from the economic imperatives of their advertisers. Advertisers, ultimately, are the
ones who will determine what news
will be reported - as well as the
reportorial tone to be employed.
Advertisers don't want controversy. They need uncritical consumers, and of course they don't
want information critical of their
products. Advertisers pay (1) for
news that is favorable to the politicians who give them their tax
breaks and ease controls on their
industrial operations and (2) for
news supportive of religion and
If you are managing a print or
broadcast medium, you must consider if a given piece of news will be
considered controversial by your
advertisers. You don't want to offend
the sources of your paycheck.
Broadcast or print what your advertisers are paying you to publish.
Let's see if we can do a puff piece
about politicians who are involved
in the subversion of the EPA or
research on global warming and its
connections to industrial exhaust
gases - without giving a hint of
their complicity in this sabotage.
You must understand that without
Page 14

to religion and morality." This is

helpful to a capitalistic, exploitive
economy.Why is this?
Pressure From and On
I have already indicated that
advertisers don't want news critical
of -their puppets in government.
Obviously, Bush-Buddy Industries
such as Halliburton et al. don't want
anti-Cheney news to get out. The
military-industrial complex doesn't
want publication of news hostile to
its enablers in the government.
However, we have so far considered
only pressure from advertisers.
There is also pressure on advertisers. Industries that pay for advertis-

and has all but finalized its flattening of the Fourth Estate as well.
Religious Sources of
Let's look now at the religious
sources of disinformation. These
include the clergy, the churches, the
religious broadcast and print media,
religious films and videos, the
Internet, the faith-based public disservices which our Evangelist-inChief has created to nullify the First
Amendment, and of course the
money with which even Atheists are
forced to be complicit in spreading
the most galling falsehood of all the oxymoronic claim that even
Atheists trust in a god.

AS with ordinary parasites, th:clergy produce

no usable product or service. Even so, they control the largest fraction of our economy and
dwarf even the multinational corporations.

ing can be boycotted by churches if

the churches think that advertising
is supporting
immoral programming. At the same
time, advertisers
depend upon
churches to keep consumers credulous and uncritical. Thus arises an
Summer 2004

We begin our tour of the
Theocratic Plutocracy of Disinformatia with an investigation of its
rulers and management caste - the
clergy. In most cities, the Yellow
American Atheist

Pages have a separate listing for

clergy. Here's the beginning of the
listing for Columbus, Ohio. It is perhaps an unintended irony that on
the same page that we find ads for
cleaners, we find ads for the guys
who will take you to the cleaners if
you let them. You may note that the
display ad for The Richard Valentine
Ministries - which is closed "Sat. &
Sun. and All observed holidays" - is
not 100% disinformation. The note
that "Love Offerings [are] accepted"
is absolutely true.
Columbus, Ohio, has 646 clergy
listed in the Yellow Pages, but this
clearly is only a fraction of the actual number, as we shall see. It seems
a pity that the Yellow Pages list the
people who will help you to unlearn

sorts are always acceptable.) The

clergy constitute a completely parasitic class of society - sort of like
the drones in a hive of bees,
although there is one important difference. Although most drone bees
are in fact as useless as clergy, at
least one of them does perform an
important function - fertilizing a
virgin queen bee and engendering a
new colony. (Although clergy have
often been known to mate with virgins, they usually are of the wrong
sex and the unions are infertile.) As
with ordinary parasites, the clergy
produce no usable product or service. Even so, they control the largest
fraction of our economy and dwarf
even the multinational corporations.

Leath 'Sued&
Weddtng Gown

Or.tt>orv C-'Ing
I CtoselrlglKroger Cooter






everything you ever learned and

will stultify your powers of reason,
but they don't list teachers - the
people who at least in theory are
supposed to teach you genuine facts
about the world and methods of
inquiry. Why aren't teachers listed
in the Yellow Pages? Think about
that for a moment. Does that tell
you something about the type of
society we are? Does that give you a
hint as to what the real operational
values of our culture are?
Although most clergy 'work' only
several days per week to generate
their quota of disinformation, they
do need energy to do it. (Money is
convertible into power, and it is the
clergy's preferred source of energy
- although "Love Offerings" of all
Parsippany, New Jersey

If clergy can be considered the
rulers and CEOs of Disinformatia,
the churches can be thought of as
being both the regional governments and heavy industry of that
theocratic plutocracy. Churches too
are major advertisers in the Yellow
Pages and take up far more pages
than the clergy listing. Religious
schools also depend upon the Yellow
Pages to recruit customers. While
clergy are the source of disinformation, religious schools are a crucial
vehicle for the dissemination of that
disinformation - seeding noxious
weeds instead of trees of knowledge
into fertile neuronal fields at an age
Summer 2004

when developing brains are peculiarly susceptible to imprinting. A

major task of churches and church
schools is to eradicate the knowledge learned
in real schools.
Knowledge is strength; strength
leads to independence; independence leads to questioning of priesthoods. We can't have kids peeking
behind the curtain of the Wizard of
Oz, can we now?
There are Yellow Pages listings
Columbus, Ohio, and an on-line
directory indicates that there are
Franklin County, most of which is
Columbus. (Interestingly, the online source indicates that some
62.4% of the county's citizens are
"unclaimed" with respect to church
With so many churches trying to
undo the accomplishments of the
schools, how strong is the competition? How many schools are there to
generate real knowledge and critical
modes of thought? Altogether, there
are 530 schools for Greater
Columbus, of which 136 are obviously
religious. Thus, the odds against
reality are formidable. There are
about 400 actual schools but nearly
2000 churches. That is, there are
five churches working to undo learning for every school in which there is
a finite chance that learning may
What Churches Do
Why are the churches so important? What do they do? Not only do
the churches control local media, in
many cases they own local media
and thus are unopposed in disinforming the local faithful. They are
immensely important as censors of
the public schools and effectively
have blocked the teaching of evolutionary science in all fifty states.
They see to it that no effective AIDS
or birth-control education can take
place, and they prevent objective
teaching of American history. They
determine what literature will not
Page 15

be read in English classes and what

books will never circulate in public
school libraries.
Churches play a powerful part
in censorship of the national media.
Remember the Catholic 'Legion of
Decency'? The movie industry still

replacements for every organ in

your body - including parts of the
brain. Perfecting this technique
would be tantamount to achieving
practical immortality. When any
part of your body begins to fail, you
can simply replace it with a physio-

stitions dance on the grave of knowledge of Native Americans.

It should be noted, however, that
the Amerindians are not the only
threat to the integrity of archaeology and anthropology. The Mormon
Church is developing a major pres-

A major task of churches and church schools is to eradicate the knowledge

learned in real schools. Knowledge is strength; strength leads to independence; independence leads to questioning of priesthoods.
hasn't recovered from the harm
done by that arm of the Roman
Catholic church. The heavy hand of
the cinema censors exerts pressure
on network television also. Do you
ever see a program portraying a
priest as a pederast or other sort of
villain? Do you ever see a faith-healing televangelist exposed as a fraud
on TV? Do you ever see even a fictional portrayal of such a thing?
Radio, thanks to religion, has
become as empty of substantive content as a wind tunnel, a barren
wasteland where no significant
thought can take root or grow, and
an echo-chamber where clerical
voices can assault you in your home,
in your car, or at your picnic on the
beach. The airwaves have swollen
into a tidal wave of disinformation
- a radioinundation that engulfs
everyone from the planetary surface
to the orbit of the moon.
But the churches do even more.
They are the major impediment to
scientific research in general and to
science education in particular. I
have already noted the role of religion in squelching research on stem
cells and cloning, but have not
explained why this is so important.
This research is crucial to our
understanding of the physiology of
aging and our ultimate development
of methods to control and reverse
senescence. In the shorter term,
nuclear transfer from ordinary cells
of the body into embryonic stem
cells, should be able to produce
Page 16

logically rejuvenated
Religion thus is shortening the life
expectancy of all of us.
The present ban on cloning and
stem cell research is very much like
the church's ban on dissection of the
human body up to early modern
times. That bit of Catholic stupefaction held back medical research for
many centuries. Had it not been for
the Catholic Church, we would have
had a cure for cancer at least a hundred years ago. Today, when anyone
dies of cancer, you should blame the
Of course, increased life expectancies would exacerbate an already
critical problem of overpopulation.
There are already more people than
our planet can support on an ongoing basis. The carrying capacity of
Space-Ship Earth has been exceeded. But why is this? The role of the
Catholic church in blocking contraceptive and abortion programs
throughout the world is too notorious to require further comment.
Not only big religion is harmful
to the progress of science, however.
Even such seemingly innocuous
cults as the Native American religions have become downright toxic
due to their practical shutdown of
the sciences of North American
Because of the Amerindians' peculiar creation myths, many important
skeletal finds have had to be 'repatriated' for ritual burial before all
desirable studies and tests could be
carried out. Native American superSummer 2004

ence in Mexico and Central America

at sites of archaeological importance, and it is not yet clear how
much harm they will be able to do to
archaeological studies that almost
daily are giving the lie to Mormon
claims about ancient America and
its inhabitants.
To me, the most alarming thing
about this disinformation inundation is that I see it drowning out and
overpowering the voices of scientific
discovery - voices that tell of
important discoveries, voices that
falsify religious claims of all kinds.
Real knowledge about cloning
to absurdity
Catholic notions about souls and
spirits, just as learning the physical
realities of human anatomy earlier
falsified (or at least made ridiculous) that church's teaching about
resurrection and bodily immortality.
No day goes by without the publication of new evidence and understanding of evolution. It is no exaggeration at all to say that the reality
of human evolution is now as well
established as is the sphericity of
the earth. Yet for everyone of these
documented advances in knowledge,
there are at least a thousand religious books, tracts, videos, CDs,
DVDs, movies, magazines, seminars,
parochial school courses, and clerical voices shouting loudly that all
this knowledge is false, fraudulent,
and flawed. There is a colossal signal-to-noise ratio problem here, of
which more anon.

American Atheist

Churches Do It In the Lobby

Christian Scientists* and various other cults that eschew scientific medicine are still allowed to practice child sacrifice - killing their
kids with prayer over-dose. Zionists
are able to carry out atrocities of all
sorts without fear of America failing
to veto any UN resolution that might condemn their actions. In
many parts of our
country, you can't buy
a glass of wine with
your Sunday dinner
Hardly any useful
research can be done
on aborted fetuses
and no useful medical
application of their tissues is permitted. The US Conference of
Catholic Bishops, the Southern
Baptist Convention, the Mormons,
The Christian
Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and - for
all I know - Jews for Jesus - are
shaping America's domestic and foreign policies. How are all these
things possible in a nation that up
until recent years was preeminent
in the world for scientific progress
and had at least some moral standing?
Well-funded lobbying, that's

Not all these groups are necessarily registered as lobbyists, and

legality has little to do with the
deals that are cut in the lobbies and
their over-flow conference areas
that look just like golf courses, country clubs, and duck-blinds. It is in
the privacy of the lobby,beneath the
radar of our constitution-defense

the points on the dial where classical music stations ought to be.
Practically the entire AM and FM
spectra are polluted with preternatural preposterosities. Only with CDs
can we have music in the car for
most of our travel time.
TV too has
besmirched by Belial and one
searches mostly in
vain for educational
Cableaccess TV, where you
can view The Atheist
Viewpoint in select
regions of the country,
stuffed with religious
woomp and woozy
that there is almost
no room left for nonfiction programming.
It is almost impossible to
believe, but nonetheless it is true:
there are religious broadcasters who
are still raising funds by spreading
the fraudulent claim that Madalyn
Murray O'Hair is trying to get their
programs barred from the airwaves
by means of a petition to the FCC.
Madalyn has been dead now for
nearly nine years, yet this claim still
keeps the faith-dollars and silver
shekels rolling into many a broadcaster's coffers. "We need your financial support to help us fight this
wicked woman and keep this ministry on the air."
This is all the more shocking
when one reflects that even when
Madalyn was alive she had nothing
to do with the phantom phenomenon of the FCC petition that sought
to ban religious
Despite the petition being a total fiction, religious broadcasters propagated the lie, goading literally millions of people to deluge the FCC
with letters of protest and to unload
a largess of 'love offerings' into the
post office boxes of many an Elmer

Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy

Swaggart, Catholics, Holy Rollers, and
uncounted others can spew out more disinformation in thirty minutes than I could
debunk in thirty years.

*In Ohio, when I and a host of other groups

and individuals last tried to abolish the
legal exemption in the child-welfare law
that allows religious parents to withhold
medical care for their children, our efforts
were trumped by a mob of Christian
Scientists who intimidated the legislature
into keeping their special exemption.
Among the Christian Scientists who testified was a Mrs. Smucker, the queen of the
jelly industry. It is hard to estimate how
much money Smucker's contributes to the
Mother Church in Boston, and even harder to tell how much support they provide
for pliant politicians. Smucker's, which
already controls Jifpeanut butter, recently
bought out International Multifoods Corp.
which includes Pillsbury, Hungry Jack,
and other food brands. Smucker's also controls Canadian
Robin Hood flour and
Bick's pickles. Combined sales now are
expected to exceed $2.3 billion.

Parsippany, New Jersey

force, that churches twist arms and

grease palms. Churches do their
try sting in lobbies, where their rapine is most likely to result in viable
offspring - bastard children who's
parentage is never really a secret
but never acknowledged publicly.
Religion On the Air
The most fertile sources of disinformation are, without doubt, the
religious broadcasters, who reach
millions of Americans daily with
their deceptions and mendacities
and wield immense authority in
as well. Pat
Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy
Swaggart, Catholics, Holy Rollers,
and uncounted others can spew out
more disinformation in thirty minutes than I could debunk in thirty
I have already noted that radio
is supersaturated with superstition.
This affects me so much I can hardly
talk about it. There are at least seventy Catholic stations and more
than 1,500 Protestant stations not including the thousands of religious programs that obtain broadcast time on ordinary commercial
stations. Every year when Ann and I
try to take a vacation some place
within driving distance, our travel is
ruined by radio preachers who occupy
Summer 2004

Religion In Print
The Moonies have their Washington
Page 17

everywhere. We have religious films
and videos of every level of sophistication. We have Mel Gibson's The
Passion Of The Christ and we have
the zillion-dollar Left Behind series
of films by Tim LaHaye. We have
videos belched out by the Institute
For Creation Research right here in
San Diego. Then there are the
Answers In Genesis videos. All these
can show you that the earth is less
than ten thousand years old and
that men - and perhaps women coexisted with dinosaurs.
On the History and Discovery
Channels we can see pseudodocumentaries
Flood, the Shroud of Turin, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and
goD only knows what else.

are explained by the Second

Law of Thermodynamics, which
any creationist with a gradeschool education can expound
upon with great authority. I fear
that I won't be able to go into as
much detail as a creationist
would, and we'll have to run
through this all very quickly.
But don't worry, this won't be on
~, tomorrow's quiz.
The Second Law is mani':
fested in many daily activities .
Whenever we try to convert one
form of energy into another, a
certain amount of energy is lost
- usually as heat. Thus, in this
room right now, we are converting electrical energy into light
energy in the projector that is beaming images from my slides to the
screen before you. The projector is
quite warm to the touch, because
the electricity is generating heat as
well as light. Whenever we convert
chemical energy into energy of
motion, as when we burn gasoline in
our automobile engines, heat is generated also.
The energy that thus is lost is
measured by a quantity called
entropy. Entropy can also be considered to be a measure of the randomness of distribution of matter and
energy in a system and as the
amount of energy no longer available to do work. While there are
nooks and crannies of the universe
where entropy is decreasing and
orderliness is increasing, overall the
entropy of the universe is increasing. The universe as a whole is running down.

The Universe Is Going To Hell

Information and Entropy

Even if you don't believe in Hell,

you know it is true that the world is
going to it! In fact, not just our world
is going to Hell, the whole universe
is headed there. 'Hell,' you see, is the
heat-death of the universe. The universe is expanding and, as a consequence, energy is being scattered
and lost. Order is being replaced by
disorder, and signals are being
swamped by noise. All of these facts

Intuitively, we may expect that

there would be a relationship
between information and entropy.
Roughly, we may suppose that systems that are high in information
content will be low in entropy, and
that high-entropy systems will be
low in information content. I noted
that there are little nooks and crannies of the universe where order and
information content are increasing,

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Scientists have their Christian

Science Monitor, and the Catholics
have an impressive number of newspapers, journals, and popular magazines. Despite the high reputation of
the Monitor, don't look for any science in it - at least not any news
about diseases or medicine. Its balanced reporting on political matters
is counterbalanced by all the important news you won't find in its
In addition to periodicals, religious books are major players in the
publishing game. In my article
"Disinforming the Faithful," (Winter
2003-2004) I devote considerable
space to a discussion of religious
books and focus on a particular catalog, the so-called CBD Catalog, put
out by the
You may notice the book advertisedjust to the left of center: A Man
Of Faith: The Spiritual Journey Of
George W Bush. You may be able to
see the background staining of the
central part of the page. Not only did
I find this ad nauseating, my calico
cat Phloebe barfed up a hairball on
it before I could get it scanned to
make this slide. I tried to explain to
her that the book wasn't about John
Ashcroft, the ailurophobe who sends
the Secret Service ahead to clear
calico devil-cats from all intended
venues for his preaching, but she
thought the distinction unnecessary.
Page 18

Religion, Religion Everywhere

Nor anyone Can Think

Summer 2004

American Atheist

in seeming opposition to the Second

Law. How is this possible?
It turns out that both the order
and the information content of a
system can be increased under certain conditions if energy be expended. Consider the growth of a
seedling plant. It is able to grow in
size and complexity by capturing
the energy of sunlight and using it
to synthesize all the chemicals needed for life. As I have noted, however,
whenever energy is converted from
one form to another, some energy is
lost into the environment. Thus, as
the plant grows and decreases in
entropy content, the entropy of its
environment increases in compensation.
Consider the brains of college
students. When all goes according to
plan, the information content of
those brains increases steadily over
a period of four years. Increase in
information requires an expenditure
of energy, you will recall. Where does
that energy come from? In simplest
terms, the energy comes - or goes! in the form of money. Money has
value, remember, simply because it
can be exchanged for energy in some
form or other.
Okay, so it is possible to fight the
Second Law, provided we can
expend enough energy under the
right conditions. But there is still
one more aspect of the Second Law
we must consider as we analyze the
problem of disinformation. To fight
disinformation, we need not only to
create information, we need to transmit it to specific recipients in our
world. Transmission of informationcontaining signals, however, is
impeded by a manifestation
entropy known as noise. Mathematically, noise can be seen to be related
to entropy, although the two terms
are not exact synonyms.
The most alarming aspect of the
religious disinformation flooding
our sensory world, from my perspective, is its ability to drown out the
signals of science, art, and reason.
Homely examples are the jamming
of classical music stations by hyperParsippany, New Jersey

energetic religious broadcasters and

the barrage of creationist propaganda that effectively silences evolution
education altogether. Intuitively
again, we may consider disinformation to be related to noise, albeit
noise of a higher level of abstraction.
Disinformation is entropy disguised
as information.
Our Signal-to-Noise
Ratio Problem
As we ponder what to do about
the disinformation inundation, we
must consider the fact that we are
really dealing with the old broadcast
engineering problem of signal-tonoise ratios. It turns out that you
don't have to be a thermodynamicist
to understand what you have to do.
If you want to transmit your signal
- get your message delivered to your
recipient - when noise levels are
high, you need to boost your signal.
You need to make it louder, more
energetic, more clear, and more
sharply defined. Common sense as
well as theoretical physics tells you
that energy will be needed to boost
your signal, and that the two most
common forms of energy will be
needed in large quantity: money and
human effort.
The Price Of Truth
It bears repeating: signals carrying truth take energy and cost
money. They require human effort.
This is why there have always been
more believers than thinkers in
every human society: believing
takes less energy than critical
thinking. Faith is yet another manifestation of entropy.
What must we do to stem the
flood of disinformation? On the
highest level, the answer is obvious.
We must strengthen the signal of
secularism and science, and we
must reduce the noise of theism and
How can we do this? We can
start by going to Washington to
"t'row da bums out!" That mea suraSummer 2004

bly will reduce noise levels. We must

take heart in the knowledge that
well-organized small groups can
groups and take heed of the fact
that effective intercommunication
with like-minded other groups is
needed to coordinate actions. We
must develop media contacts that
can help facilitate the transmission
of our message. We must develop our
own media presence.
Our Own Media Presence
We must develop our presence
in the media both directly and indirectly. We must saturate Letters to
Editors pages with our information
and opinions. We must get jobs in
the media ourselves - we must
infiltrate! We must do all possible to
do media interviews and get on talkshows - either as featured guests
or as call-in gadflies. We must
expand our cable-access TV presence into all available markets. We
must get in on the ground floor with
the newly developed medium of
satellite radio. We must continue to
strengthen our Internet presence,
not only by expanding our own
Atheist Web-sites, but by fighting
censorship filtering of Internet
usage at libraries and schools.
(From time to time I receive reports
that the American Atheist Web-site
<www.atheists.org> is blocked by
the same filters that bar access to
and mass-murderer
Web-pages.) We have to expand our
own advertising, both commercial
and non-commercial.
Save Public Education
We must help elect good people
to school boards. We must sniff out
and expose creationist 'stealth candidates' who are determined to give
'equal time' to Intelligent Design
disinformation. We must actively
oppose every intrusion of religion
into public schools. We must get ourselves elected to school boards.

Page 19

The Godless Americans Political
Action Committee (GAMPAC)is the
most important thing to happen for
organized Atheism since the founding of the Truth Seeker in 1873 and
the founding of American Atheists
in 1963. Photograph in your mind
the e-dress for their Web-site:
That is the
most important link you will ever
encounter. GAMPAC is an entity
completely separate from American
Atheists Inc., but we as individuals
are cooperating with it in every way
that is legal. On the GAMPACWebsite you can - and must - monitor
the 'action alerts.' You must write
every letter and send every FAX
or e-mail that you can when
requested to do so. By concerted
and ,consistent action, we can
appear to be large in numbers
Remember, the squeaky wheel
gets the grease!
Most of us have more time
than money, and it is reassuring
to remind ourselves that laborintensive effort can often be a
substitute for large amounts of
money. In addition to responding
actively to GAMPAC action
alerts, we must place Atheist
books and periodicals in academic and public libraries. We
must check library collections
regularly to see that Atheist
materials have not been stolen
or retired. We must dialog with
librarians to be sure our materials are seen to be both necessary
and desirable additions to their

forward into a new Age of Reason

that will illuminate the lives of men
and women who for all practical
purposes will be biologically immortal.
The alternative to physical immortality that looms larger every
day is, of course, the extinction of
Homo sapiens at the hands of Homo
credens - 'thinking man' versus
'believing man.' Of course, this is a
metaphor. The stark reality that
faces us is the extinction of humanity
itself as a result of overpopulation,
pollution, global
warming, catastrophic decrease in
the carrying capacity of our planet,
and nuclear war.

Who Shall Save Us?

As Atheists you realize that if
there is going to be a savior who will
pull the fat out of the fire and save
us from the curse of religion it will
not be Jesus. No, the savior to come
is not Jesus. The savior to come
must be YOu. You are the ones who
will have to sacrifice time and
money to save the world. In fact, you
need to save the world in order to
save yourselves. What superficially
may look like altruistic sacrifices
are really actions in your own best
Time isn't just running out.
Time is up!

What Is At Stake?
It simply is no exaggeration
to say that secular civilization
itself is at stake at this moment
in America's political and cultural history. The choice is democracy or theocracy. We may
choose to return to the Dark
Ages and Inquisitions or step
Page 20


/30YS FOR SO /....ON~ T1~frT
R~Me.MS'R WRY .. "

Summer 2004


American Atheist

lIttoup Cbattenjee

becamean Atheist at the age of

twelve. I brought myself up a
Hindu until that age, parented
by a Stalinist father and a vaguely
Hindu mother. One day I suddenly
saw the light as it were and didn't
renew my little clay doll Saraswati
(the comely goddess of learning)
which had shattered. Thankfully my
father didn't attempt to force
Atheism down my throat or else I'd
now be a saffron-clad Hindu fanatic.
I grew up in the charming city of
Calcutta (renamed Kolkata last
year by its Marxist rulers). Life was
good and languid in India in the
1960s, before the sudden population
burst and the derailed chaos that
now signifies the country. Much of
the infrastructure left by the British
was still in place; buses and trams
always had seats except for three
hours in the day. And the corporation sprayed the streets daily with a
gigantic hose-pipe to reduce dust.
(The cessation of this single act is
Calcuttans as the biggest factor in
bringing on the city's decline.)
I never saw any corpses in
Calcutta's streets. (My parents did,
briefly, during the gruesome famine
of the immediate post-war period.) I
never saw lepers swarming around

in the city's streets; when I wrote

my book I went back and located a
small number of lepers who beg
from Westerners.
I wrote my book through a lot of
anguish - a long story! I wanted the
truth about Mother T to be known. I
felt molested by Mother Teresa and
Western media for their constant
denigration of Calcutta. I felt my
ancestors' memory (proud Calcuttans who wheeled and dealed with
the East India Company) had been
desecrated by the world at large.
While writing the book and after
its publication, I realized how the
city's calumny is due not primarily
to Western and Vatican propaganda,
but to Indians themselves. Initially I
was surprised to meet resistance in
my efforts to expose Teresa, but soon
it all fell into place. I was told, often
by my relatives, that it was dangerous to take up against a 'white lady'
with such important 'connections'.
Following the book's publication, the
shabby-genteel Statesman, one of
the city's major English dailies,
declared me persona non grata, for
daring to expose the white 'Mother'.
I have realized that the millennia of domination of Indians by
invaders is the result of Hindu cowardice, corruption, and capitulation.

Aroup Chatterjee
is most famous for
his expose of 'the hag of Calcutta,' the
Nobel Prize-winning
Albanian nun
known throughout the world as Mother
Teresa. His book, Mother Teresa: The
is available
American Atheist Press and sells for
$14.99. (Product #5901)

Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

Westerners, after the film Gandhi,

have a romantic idea of the Indian
freedom struggle. It is not generally
known that even at the height of the
freedom-movement, only a minority
of Indians wanted the British to
leave. The heinous massacre at
Jalianwallabagh in April 1919 was
ordered by the British general
Dwyer all right, but the people who
fired volleys after volleys of shots
into swarms of women and children
(400 were killed) were all Indians,
mostly Hindus. They were only too
pleased and proud to have served
their white master. I cannot see
Arabs (I do not mean Muslim Arabs
only) doing the same.
A significant proportion (possibly a majority) of upper and middleclass Indians would like to be ruled
by the British again. Their desire is
not so much to see order return to
the nation, as to have the pleasure
to serve sahibs.
India is the only nation in the
world where you could be expelled
from your school for talking in your
mother tongue. Most of the 'top
schools' in the country are governed
by the Catholic church through
their various orders. Parents Hindus, almost all of them - pay
exorbitant fees to these schools but
do not call the shots. Children are
forced to attend Bible sessions in the
morning. Parents grumble a bit but
accept that it is not all that bad to
learn about the religion of the (superior) sahibs. Nobody would dream of
complaining as you just cannot
upset the sahibs (although the current missionaries
schools are indigenous Christians,
but parents are afraid of their 'connections'). The Gita or the Vedas are
Page 21

not taught. Any mention of the

Koran would cause a rebellion
amongst the normally docile parents - Islam (and Muslims) are generally abhorred by Hindus. It is fine
to attend daily Bible classes when
only 2% of Indians are Christians
but loathsome to know anything
about Muslim Indians (about 15% of
the population).
Thankfully I did not go to a 'top
missionary school' but I attended an
'English medium school' where I
was taught
of Johnny
Appleseed and a British rabbithunter called Jack Pook. I was also
taught a condensed biography of
Abraham Lincoln. I recited a poem
about one Timothy Boon, who
bought a blue balloon. I knew nothing of the excellent tales of
Panchatantra, at least from school. I
was taught nothing about the nation
I was growing up in. I had not heard
about Dr Ambedkar, the tireless
campaigner against the Hindu caste
system - he later became Buddhist.
I was not taught the Vedantas, some
of the world's greatest philosophical
texts. I came to know about Buddha
and Asoka through the March of
Time, a book written by a sahib.
Recently when I was in Calcutta, I
came across the city's British deputy
high commissioner (a career diplomat) giving a talk on the Puranas,
ancient Hindu texts. I had just
about heard of the Puranas, and
knew nothing about them.
I'd have very likely rejected
Hinduism earlier if I had been
taught ancient Hindu texts, but it is
imperative that children be taught
about their own country and their
own people. It is also likely that I
would have developed some degree
of respect for it, especially the
abstract and philosophical aspects
of it.
It can be argued that the missionary-school going Indians are a
tiny minority and that the vast
majority do not even speak English
or even attend schools, but it is the
tiny minority that rules - they get
the jobs and make the rules.
Page 22

tilted away from
Things are worse now than they
decades back but
were in the 1960s. I can count and
say my tables in Bengali; now an
became enamored with the left. But
here again, Marxism/Communism
Indian child from my class of society
was the white man's 'religion' and
(upper-middle) would not be able to
hence beyond criticism. My efforts to
do so. Previously you would be fined
Rs 5 for speaking in the vernacular
explain Teresa's obscurantism and
sheer violence to women when she
in school; now you are threatened
preached 'abortion is murder' and
with expulsion.
I hear people in the VVestsay
'contraception is sin' fell mostly on
deaf ears with Calcutta Marxists,
that the Indians (mostly Hindus)
who fiercely believe in abortion on
they meet over here are so 'successdemand. They would not simply
ful'. Yes, that they are, especially
believe that a 'European lady who
with computers and the allied fields.
But they retain their cowardice,
condescended to wear a sari' would
hold such views. And even if she
their fear, and their prejudices. How
held such improper views it'd be
many times have you seen an Indian
even more improper to criticize her.
demonstrate against an injustice even in the fair climate of the VVest? Although they'd tear shreds of a
Hindu holy man or woman if they
They are morbidly afraid that the
said anything remotely approaching
sahibs would do something to them.
They meekly keep their heads down
such views.
and concentrate in creating wealth
Hinduism, though unkind to its
for themselves and their family.
own lower orders, appears tolerant
They cling to their 'culture' - weekly
to the outsider and indeed it is - it
does not believe that it has the only
temple sessions, where caste is disanswer to the soul. It considers itself
cussed and kept alive. They blame
the Indian government and politiequal (and not superior) to other
cians for all of their home country's
faiths. And there is no standard proills. They long to return 'home' while
cedure for conversion into it. These
to me sum up the only good points
about Hinduism. But this is not
matches for their children. They do
not have an awe for sahibs, having
enough to make a thinking person
embrace the faith. Mainly even
worked with them on an equal (or
even superior) footing, but they will
these good points stem from cownot stand up to them.
almost sanctified in
the Hindu religion,
hence most Indians
see no reason to
By David Eller
make too much of a
fuss about it. HinEverything is here to help those
does not
who already are Atheists better
have a code of
understand the logic of their lives
and see Atheism's social and politdeities are susceptiical implications. Those who are
not yet Atheists will be helped by
ble to bribes and
this scientist's common-sense
'Connections' with gods analysis of the so-called 'proofs of God' to see the irraare achieved not tionality - indeed, the meaninglessness - of god-beliefs.
through struggle or What is belief? What is knowledge? As Pilate is alleged
courage, but by to have asked, "What is truth?" Understandable and
making an expen- clear answers to these questions are in this book.
sive offering.
A good section
Product #5902
of the


Summer 2004

American Atheist

Atheists Engaging the

Political Process:
Opposing and Supporting
Outline of a lecture given by Atty. Eddie Tabash at the 30th
Convention of American Atheists
We regret that we do not have the full text of the excellent
lecture Atty. Tabash delivered at the convention. Because
of its importance to the program of Atheist political
activism needed for the successful launching of the
Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAM
PAC), we are printing here the outline checklist that
accompanied Tabash's speech in the hope that it will be
of utility to Atheists who enter into engagement with the
political process. Tabash can be reached at -cetabash
Legislation Introduced Into a Legislative Body
1. Having feelers out for when legislation is introduced
into a legislative body.
2. Determining whether to support or oppose a given
3. Making contact with your representatives in that
legislative body,hopefully along with other constituents.
4. Determining which committee initially is assigned
the bill in question.
5. Whether supporting or opposing legislation, bringing legal precedent to bear on its content, alerting committee members and your own representatives of legal
precedents in favor of your position.
6. Getting as many constituents as you can, of other
members of the same legislative body, to contact their
respective legislators to express either support or opposition.
7. Determining at what point proposed legislation is
subject to proposed amendments, and persuading other
legislators to either sponsor or oppose amendments that
would either make the bill worse or that might remove
its offending elements.
8. Getting the state attorney general to advise the legislative body that the bill in question is unconstitutional
or that portions of it are.
9. Getting the governor of the state to threaten a veto
against adverse legislation or to endorse favored legislation.
10. Commencing a lawsuit if a bill that is opposed is
passed anyway.
Parsippany, New Jersey

Ballot Measures
11. If sponsoring, gathering the required number of
valid signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot. In
California, 448,927 are required. For a proposed
Constitutional amendment 718,283 are needed.
12. If opposing, trying to mount early campaign to discourage signatures.
13. If sponsoring, preparing for challenge to your signatures.
14. If opposing, preparing to challenge the signatures.
15. If sponsoring, preparing to fend off a challenge that
the measure is unconstitutional.
16. If opposing, challenging the measure as unconstitutional.
17. If sponsoring, making sure that you are in compliance with campaign finance and disclosure laws.
18. If opposing, investigating irregularities in funding
and disclosure by the opposition.
19. Achieving adequate funding to either oppose or support a ballot measure.
20. Hiring a political consultant to assist either opposing or supporting a ballot measure.
Thomas Paine


Thomas Paine
The Age of Reason
Part Three,
Examination of the
Edited and Annotated by


Frank R. Zindler
Paine's last book examines the Old
EdiKd .nd Annouud by Fn" R.Zindlu
Testament prophecies claimed by
the New Testament authors to be
ancient predictions of Jesus of Nazareth. With great wit and
penetrating logic, Paine showed that not one of the Old
Testament passages cited had anything to do with the
Christian's would-be Messiah.
Part three


Summer 2004

of the Prophecies



Product #5575
Page 23

Electoral Activism II
By Douglas Campbell

"You can, too.

Stand up and do it."
hat's where I left off last time (Fall, 2003 issue),
and I'm sure you've been thinking that I was a little vague on the specifics. Today we'll look at specific questions and answers.
The first question you should ask yourself is, "Why
run?" The usual answers are: To get into office for the
benefit of the public, to get into officefor the private benefit of yourself and your cronies, to make a public statement about issues without seriously trying to win the
election, and to make a private statement to the incumbent with the hope of changing policy.The first three are
pretty obvious; the latter one needs a little explanation.
Suppose you've been petitioning a city council to
remove religious artifacts from public buildings and getting stonewalled - sound familiar? Without either
incentive or clout, the incumbent has no reason to
respond to you. By challenging him for the seat, you
might make him take you seriously. If you're openly
Atheist, make church-state separation a big issue, and
receive a non-trivial percentage of the vote, those artifacts might get quietly removed to placate your voters
and make you go away - and you might win anyway, in
which case you can simply do it yourself)
The second question you should ask is "Which office
should I challenge?" School and library boards influence
school curricula, the content of the library's collection,
and ultimately, the range of permissible thought, making them good Atheist targets, philosophically. They're
also smaller races, winnable with smaller, less sophisticated
Douglas Campbell is a political
Bigger offices are
activist, writer, and registered
to win but
professional engineer in Ferndale,
Michigan. He was the Green
Party's first candidate for Governor
in 2002. He is a regular contribu- them good targets
tor to American Atheist magazine, if your priority is
the founder of MiGAMPAC, the to publicize an
Michigan Godless Americans Poli- issue. (When I ran
tical Action Committee, and an for Governor, I was
advisor to the national GAMPAC. motivated equally
by the desire to
hold the office and

Page 24

make public policy changes, to put the fledgling Green

Party of Michigan into the public awareness, to build the
enthusiasm and strength of the GPMi, and to put Green
issues onto the table - some of which were picked up
and promoted by other candidates)
Another question is whether you'd like to challenge
a partisan or non-partisan office, although in practical
terms, all that "non-partisan" usually means is that the
candidates' party affiliations aren't printed on the ballot.
For partisan races, you'll need to be either affiliated with
an established political party, declare yourself an
Independent candidate, or establish a new party. There
are seven political parties recognized by the Federal
Election Commission (see sidebar).
If you choose to be a partisan candidate, you'll need
to select a party to run with and, first, decide whether to
affiliate with a major or minor party. As a major-party
candidate, it's much harder to get nominated (particularly if that party has the incumbent) but much easier to
get elected once you're on the ballot. As a minor-party
candidate, it's the opposite: easier to get nominated but
harder to get elected. As an Independent, it's more difficult to do both in most states.
Next, you should ask, "What resources will I bring to
bear for this race?" - which is also a component of your
"Why run?" and "Which office" decisions. A large office
(Congress, Senate, Governor, President) requires a
wholesale campaign structure. You'll have to be comfortable delegating authority and you'll have to accept that
you won't know or have personal contact with each of
your staff, let alone each of your voters. You'll need
money for formal outreach efforts, administrative costs
and advertising, and it's a full-time job which requires
considerable travel. Small offices (mayor of Lake
Woebegone?) can be challenged with a retail campaign
structure relying on volunteers, personal contact, and
little money. If the district is small enough, you might
even run a one-person campaign, literally knocking on
every door, and it can be part-time. Township, county
and state legislative offices fall somewhere between
these two extremes.
Next comes, "How do I become an official candidate
and get onto the ballot?" If you'll be a minor-party candidate in Michigan, I can advise you personally.
Otherwise, you'll have to find local assistance. Fifty
states have written fifty different election laws, and

Summer 2004

American Atheist

most of them have more than one set. In Michigan, there

are different rules for major, minor, and new parties, for
partisan and non-partisan races, for Federal and nonFederal races, and for partisan and independent candidates.
Now that you're a bona fide candidate, you'll need to
figure out how to get elected. I'll go into more detail next
time, but it boils down to two things: Find the voters who
agree with you, and motivate them to register and show
up to vote.
The first question you'll hear is, "OK, you're an
Atheist. So what?"
It's well and good to be out and proud, but it's not
enough to get you elected. You have to find something
that will motivate enough people to show up and vote for
you. It could be a "platform" - a set of issues (called
"planks") you believe in and plan to implement when
elected. It could be something irrelevant - you're the
first woman or other minority to challenge the office,
you're good-looking, charming, or popular; you're a
young person challenging an older incumbent (fresh
ideas and a new beginning) or vice-versa (the voice of
experience). It could be something negative - your
opponent is a bad person and/or the incumbent's policies
have caused public suffering. Whatever it is, don't run on
church-state separation alone. A majority of Americans
may support church-state separation, but when it comes
to priorities, it's down there with saving the spotted owl
and abolishing daylight saving time; it's doubtful it'll
draw 1% of the voters to the polls by itself.

"It wasn't

my fault ... Jesus was my co-pilot!"

Parsippany, New Jersey

No, not "Go Television," but "Get Out The Vote."
GOTV is usually the most important single factor in
winning or losing an election. No matter what side
you're on, there are enough voters who either agree with
you or acquiesce to you to win the election. Trouble is,
there aren't always enough voters who also show up to
vote. Finding them, making sure they're registered and
making sure they show up to vote for you is how you

Conventional wisdom has it that you will lose all privacy when you become a candidate, and fear of this is
probably the biggest single reason people remain uninvolved. Perhaps surprisingly, I did not receive even one
nuisance phone call or visit during my campaign. A
great many phone calls, to be sure, but all topical and at
reasonable hours. The closest anybody ever came to
harassment or invasion of privacy was a large number of
e-mails asking me to drop out because their favorite
candidate might lose if I remained in the race. I ignored
them, though it was mighty tempting to reply with
"Well, Duh-uh?"
Election Day
This will be the busiest day of your life. You'll need
to get up early, be at the polls before they open and keep
meeting people until the polls close. If you haven't
arranged television coverage of your arriving at your
home precinct and voting, consider voting absentee to
free up the few minutes it would take to vote. If you're
lucky, you might get an hour of sleep between the polls
closing and the victory parties (so named whether you
win or lose) beginning.
Mter Election Day
If you lose the election, you haven't necessarily
failed and it isn't necessarily over. You've brought issues
to the table which might receive serious consideration
they'd never have if you didn't run. You've presented
yourself and Atheism as mainstream, decent, and
thoughtful. You have much better access to the media,
which you can capitalize on with guest columns and
guest appearances. Sunday morning television may
have a small audience, but it's a connected, influential
audience and talk radio hosts welcome controversial
guests. You can use that access to present your policies
to the public, respond to emerging events, and criticize
the opposition just as if you were elected - and, of
course, position yourself for the next election.
If you win the election, it's equally unclear whether
you've succeeded or failed - that will be determined by
your accomplishments throughout your first term. You
can do great things, or you can discover that you've been
elected to office but not to power.

Summer 2004

Page 25

American Political Parties

hiS may seem like a short list,

but there are only seven national political parties recognized by
the Federal Elections Commission.

Republican Party
Atheists may be surprised that I
suggest running as a Republican, but
there are several different kinds of
Republicans, including evangelicals,
the most visible and numerous segment but not necessarily the most
influential within the party; fiscal
conservatives, civil libertarians, and
those who see government only as an
avenue to manipulate
resources and policies for their own
personal gain. In Chicago, for example, they're a populist loyal opposition seeking to overthrow a corrupt
and entrenched machine, and a de
minor party. In Berkeley,
California and a handful of other
places, they are a third party. The
makeup of your particular district
and your penchant for fundraising
will determine your ability to secure
a Republican nomination much more
than your Atheism. While its membership is currently shrinking, expect
them to win more and more elections
- at least those elections counted by
electronic voting machines built and
maintained by Republican partisans
such as Chuck Hagel and Wally
O'Dell. I find it telling that they've
chosen a "dot com" (commercial)
name for their Website's

Democratic Party
With Democratic representatives
crooning "God Bless America" instead
of reciting "Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of
religion" or "no religious Test shall
ever be required as a Qualification to
any Office or public Trust" on the
Capitol steps when Newdow v. Us.
Page 26

Congress was decided, it's doubtful

that there's any place for Atheists (or
singing talent) in the Democratic
National Committee or Democratic
Leadership Council, although there
may be in local Democratic Party
organizations. There is much talk
about the "democratic wing of the
Democratic Party," but evidence that
it exists or has any influence within
the party is nearly as elusive as evidence that God exists or has any
influence. Its membership is currently
shrinking. www.democrats.org

Often referred to as "Republicans
who smoke pot", the Libertarians are
a mature minor party which has been
active in the United States since
about 1970 and probably has the
highest per capita enrollment
openly Atheist members of any of the
with the twin
philosophies that government can
only oppress, and that only government can oppress, they call for
absolute freedom from government of
any kind, so while Libertarians support constitutional church-state separation, they don't believe in allocating resources to enforce it. It hasn't
grown much in the last ten or twenty
years, probably because most voters
think it unwise to entrust governance to people who disbelieve in
government, but the Bush agenda
may activate dormant libertarians
and persuade traditional
Republicans to turn Libertarian this year.
are famous for their
"World's Smallest Political Quiz," and
if you believe that ten multiple-choice
questions are sufficient to define a
complete political philosophy, the
Libertarian Party might be for you.
In short, a political party for anarchists

Summer 2004

synonymous with
either "radical environmentalist"
"Ralph Nader" in many minds (which
must cause much cognitive dissonance, Nader running independently
of the Green Party this year and not
exactly being an Earth First! poster
child), the Green Party is based on
Four Pillars: Ecological Wisdom,
Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy
and Non-Violence.
American political parties, it's based
on the idea that government is a part
of The People, (and vice-versa) not a
disconnected outside entity.
The Green Party is an immature
party in the United States. It was
founded in 1972 in New Zealand and
there was Green activity in the
States by 1976, but it only gathered
significant momentum with a credible challenge for the White House in
2000 and did not receive Federal
Elections Commission recognition as
a national political party until 200l.
As of March 2, 2004, there are 203
Greens elected to office in the U.S.
and quite a few more in other countries. It is the only national party
whose membership is growing and
the only American party with significant activity in other countries.
Outside observers often see the
Greens as a "professional amateur"
party, because their insistence on
rejecting contributions from corporations, political action committees and
soft money often means that they
work on very limited budgets. They're
usually more ideological and scholarly, less practical and pragmatic, and
their commitment to local, popular
control and unwillingness to impose
from above sometimes
looks like chaos.
There are two major parts of the
Green Party: One works inside the
political system and challenges elected offices, the other focuses on social
American Atheist

action outside of the political arena.

www.gp.org, www.greenparty.org

for an Atheist
in the
Constitution [sic] Party would be as a
mole or an agent provocateur.

The Reform Party is a group unified by disrespect for the two prevailing political parties and scant little
else. Launched by the egomaniacal
Ross Perot, they had considerable
impact on the 1992 Presidential election and managed
to get Jesse
Minnesota in 1998, probably the
greatest electoral success of any
minor political party since 1860,
when the Republicans, then still a
minor party, elected a President. It
was divided in 2,000 by a factional
split led by abortion-rights opponents
and other extreme right-wing reactionaries
and lost much of its
momentum. True to its name, it now
reforms itself every two years, making it a little difficult to predict what
form the newly-reformed
Party will take for the current election cycle and what, if any, place
there might be for an Atheist. The
two major factions each maintain a
website: www.reformparty.org

Natural Law
"From the deepest perspective,
our national
problems have one
underlying cause - violation of natural law ... the orderly principles the laws of nature that govern the
functioning of nature everywhere,
from atoms to ecosystems to galaxies." The idea that personal and
life ought to be more
attuned to the physical functionings
of the universe and of human beings
sounds good in theory, and there's
nothing inherently
theistic about
that theory, but the Natural Law
party tends to attract a lot of New
Agers and nut cases who believe in
things like communication with crystals and home-curing cancer with
apricot pits. So, Atheist or not, avoid
the Natural Law party if you'd like to
be taken seriously. www.naturallaw.org

There is a wide variety of other
parties without FEC recognition,
some with recognition from one or
more state bureaus
of elections
others which are political parties i~
name only. In the unlikely event that
you find that existing parties don't
offer sufficient variety, it's always
possible to form an entirely new

Finally, it is possible to declare
yourself an independent candidate,
not affiliated with any political party.
(Do not confuse this with the emerging Independence Party.) Although it
is usually more difficult to get onto
the ballot as an independent candidate, this might be the best option
when local party structures are hostile to Atheists, not well established
or non-existent, you're running for an
office in a small district where ballot
access isn't difficult or for a non-partisan office, or, like so many Atheists
I know, you just find unity and cooperation distasteful.


Founded as the U.S.
Taxpayers' Party in 1992
by Howard Phillips and
in 1999, the
Constitution Party is best
known for its focus on
our nation's
legal system back to its
biblical foundations." finding a prohibition against
abortion in their interpretation
Constitution, and "the full
and public support" of former
Justice Roy Moore. (don't
shoot me; I'm only reporting it) There is a movement in the Constitution
Party to draft Moore to be
their Presidential
candidate. Probably the only
Parsippany, New Jersey

wy\o's 'y(),~1(Fa.VO" ite whoevev-- wroteaut1nOr?

tile 6' bLe.'

Summer 2004

Page 27

Stephen Crane:
The Black Badge of Unbelief
Gary Sloan

tephen Crane (1871-1900) was

a literary Wunderkind. As a
nineteen-year-old freshman at
Syracuse University, he drafted a
seminal novel, Maggie: A Girl of the
Streets. This gritty, unsentimental
portrait of Bowery lowlifes, it has
been said,
American writing." By twenty-five,
Crane was famous, thanks to The
Red Badge of Courage, his impressionistic novel on the Civil War.
Although at the time he wrote the
book, Crane had never witnessed a
battle, his graphic accounts of combat are imbued with uncanny
authenticity. Later, as an illustrious
war correspondent for two New York
newspapers (the Journal and the
World), Crane covered the SpanishAmerican and the Greco-Turkish
war from the front lines. In 1897, he
moved to England, where he and his
common-law wife, former hostess of
a Florida bordello, took up permanent residence in Brede Place, a storied castle. After years of declining
health, Crane died of tuberculosis in
a sanitorium
in Badenweiler,
Germany. He was twenty-eight.
Though his life was short, it was
productive. His collected works comprise twelve volumes of journalism,
Gary Sloan, a
retired English
professor in
Louisiana, is a
frequent contributor to
Page 28

Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald,

and other famous successors. His
friends included novelists Henry
James, William Dean Howells,
Hamlin Garland, Harold Frederic,
Ford Maddox Ford, H. G. Wells, and
Joseph Conrad. They recognized his
originality, intellect, perceptiveness,
and verbal wizardry. (1)
Crane has been called a naturalist, an impressionist, an expressionist, and a symbolist, but none of
these disparate labels satisfactorily
denotes the range and complexity of
his art. Maggie, for example, is often
regarded as the first American specimen of literary naturalism, a genre
popularized by the French writer
Emile Zola, Crane's contemporary.
On a cursory reading, the novel may
appear to dramatize the naturalistic
precept that human beings are inexorably molded by environmental
and biological forces. Yet a close
reading reveals that the inhabitants
of the Bowery are complicit in their
fates. In answer to an inquiry, Crane
wrote: "I tried to make plain that the

letters, sketches, vignettes, plays,

poems, short stories, and novels. Red
Badge, Maggie, "The Bride Comes to
Yellow Sky," "The Blue Hotel," "The
Open Boat," and sundry poems from
The Black Riders and War Is Kind
now belong to the standard canon of
American literature. The impress of
Crane's style is stamped on Ernest
Hemingway, Willa Cather, Theodore
Summer 2004

(1) Crane's prose was embellished with

the accouterments
of poetry: vivid
imagery, musical rhythms, congruent
sounds, illuminating metaphors: "The
Spanish shrapnel fled on a line to their
left, swirling and swishing in supernatural velocity. The noise of the rifle bullets broke in their faces like the noise of
so many lamp chimneys or sped overhead in swift, cruel spitting. And at the
front, the battle sound, as if it were simply music, was beginning to swell and
swell until the volleys rolled like surf"
("The Price of the Harness"). Crane
could also write terse, laconic dialogue
and, when the occasion demanded, concise, unadorned narrative.
American Atheist

root of Bowery life is a sort of cowardice. Perhaps I mean a lack of

ambition or to willingly be knocked
flat and accept the licking."
Crane was versed in poverty.
After he dropped out of college, he
spent several years in New York city
as a starving artist, and, even after
he became famous, he was constantly
in arrears. Despite his impecunious
history, he was leery of institutionalized philanthropy. "I was," he told an
acquaintance, "a Socialist for two
weeks but when a couple of Socialists assured me I had no right to
think differently from any other
Socialist and then quarreled with
each other about what Socialist
meant, I ran away." (2) From an
early age, Crane displayed a propensity for individualism. According to
a classmate at Claverack College
(later absorbed in the Hudson River
Institute), a Methodist school Crane
attended in 1888, "He was rather
given to holding aloof, especially if
the human animal was manifesting
its capacity for collective action."
Crane's maverick disposition
encompassed religion. His father
was a Methodist minister, his mother the daughter of one. Crane
adjudged the father, who died when
the son was eight, kind but hopelessly naive: "He was so simple and
good that I often think he didn't
know much of anything about
humanity." His mother, where religion was concerned, he deemed irremediably dogmatic: "You could
argue just as well with a wave."
Though the parents strove to
inculcate Christian beliefs in their
numerous progeny, young Stephen's
(2) Notwithstanding his disaffiliation
from the Socialist organization, Crane
penned some memorable Marxistsounding passages: "Peasants hold
potentates on their thrones, make
statesmen illustrious, provide generals
with lasting victories, all with ignorance, indifference, or half-witted
hatred, moving the world with the
strength of their arms, and getting their
heads knockedtogether, in the name of
God, the king, or the stock exchange"
("Deathand the Child").
Parsippany, New Jersey

Cora Crane
foot slid early. "It hurt my mother,"
he later recounted, "that any of us
should be slipping from Grace and
giving up eternal damnation or salvation or those things. I used to like
church and prayer meetings when I
was a kid but that cooled off.When I
was thirteen or about, my brother
Will told me not to believe in Hell
after my uncle had been boring me
about the lake of fire and the rest of
the sideshows."
The wayward teen once delighted his mother by willingly accompanying her to a church service. He
later explained the antecedent circumstances:
An organ grinder on the beach
at Ashbury gave me a nice long
drink out of a nice red bottle for
picking up his hat for him. I felt
ecstatic walking home and then I
was an Emperor and some Rajahs
and Baron de Blowitz all at the
same time. I had been sulky all
morning and now I was perfectly
willing to go to a prayer meeting
and Mother was tickled to death.
And, mind you, all because this
nefarious Florentine gave me a
red drink out of a bottle.
In college, Crane indulged in
vices his father had inveighed
against in sermons: smoking, drinking alcohol, visiting opium dens, frequenting dives, chasing women,
using profanity, playing poker and
baseball, attending plays, reading
novels. At Syracuse, where he spent
Summer 2004

one semester, he made his mark as

the student "unfriendly to Christianity." "Mildewed" he called it.
Appalled by his indolence, gaming,
and iconoclastic opinions, his psychology professor tried to catechize
him: "Tut, tut, what does Saint Paul
say, Mr. Crane?" "I know what Saint
Paul says," retorted the unruly
charge, "but I disagree with Saint
Paul." Crane's history professor
warned him he was "treading the
floors of hell." "Ho hell," thought
During this period, he mocked
pious locutions by putting them to
profane use: "There are certainly
some damn pretty girls here, praise
be to God." And discussing injuries
he received in a bicycle wreck: "It
broke the machine, too, praise God."
He also latched on to an arresting
exclamation: "No, by the legs of
A Jehovah-like figure pops up in
several poems in The Black Riders
and War Is Kind. He emerges as a
sadistic tyrant exalted by an ignorant multitude:
A god in wrath
Was beating a man;
He cuffed him loudly
With thunderous blows
That rang and rolled over the
All people came running.
The man screamed and
And bit madly at the feet of
the god.
The people cried,
"Ah,what a wicked man!"
And"Ah,what a redoubtable god!"

A la Captain Ahab, Crane flays

the truculent god:
Blustering god,
Stamping across the sky,
With loud swagger,
I fear you not.
No, though from your highest
Youplunge your spear at my
I fear you not.
Page 29

No, not if the blow

Is as the lightning blasting a
I fear you not, puffing braggart.
Actually, Crane knew that
Jehovah is a human invention. He
also knew that gods mirror beholders. Hence, a bellicose man invokes
a bellicose god:
Once a man clambering to the
Appealed to the heavens.
With strong voice he called to
the deaf spheres;
A warrior's shout he raised to
the suns.
Lo, at last, there was a dot on
the clouds,
And-at last and at last-God-the sky was filled with

In the tale, as four men - a captain, a cook, an oiler, and a correspondent (Crane's alter ego) - battle
perilous billows, they silently mull
over the cosmic significance of their
plight. Surely, providence is just.
Surely, they have done nothing to
merit drowning. A recurrent refrain
expresses their indignation at the
prospect: "If I am going to be
drowned - if I am going to be drowned
- if I am going to be drowned, why,
in the name of the seven mad gods
who rule the sea, was I allowed to
come thus far and contemplate sand
and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as
I was about to nibble the sacred
cheese oflife? It is preposterous. The
whole affair is absurd."
Later, the correspondent has an
epiphany. Nature, it strikes him, is
neither "cruel nor beneficent, nor

treacherous, nor wise." It is "indifferent, flatly indifferent." Initially,

the realization
toward ecclesiastical institutions
because they have filled his head
with vacuous illusions about the
universe: "When it occurs to a man
that nature does not regard him as
important and that she feels she
would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to
throw bricks at the temple, and he
hates deeply the fact that there are
no bricks and no temples [at sea]."
Despite his ire, the correspondent has a reflexive impulse to supplicate a celestial protector: "If there
be no tangible thing to hoot, he feels
the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to
one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: 'Yes, but I love myself.'"
See Steven Crane page 52

The compassionate man conjures up a compassionate

Then the man went to another
godThe god of his inner thoughts.
And this one looked at him
With soft eyes
Lit with infinite comprehension,
And said, "My poor child!"
Whether Crane thought of himself as an Atheist is hard to say. His
extant writings house no definitive
assertion. He may have vacillated
between no god and an absentee
one. The pragmatic distinction was
inconsequential. Either way, the cosmos was bereft of divine superintendence. In The Black Riders, Crane
describes the ship of the world as
"forever rudderless." In "The Open
Boat," perhaps his best story, he
enlarges on the psychological ramifications of a rudderless cosmos. The
story was spawned by the sinking
off the Florida coast of the tug
Commodore, on which Crane was
transporting contraband to Cuban
insurgents. He and three shipmates
spent thirty hours in a cramped
dinghy. While they were trying to
beach it, one of the men drowned.
Page 30

Summer 2004

American Atheist

Steve Altesls a cO,1li.ribl.1,tor

to May Conta.~nNut$: A. Very
Loose Canon of American

HUmor (Harperflollins,
and is the author of If You Jam the Copier, Bolt (Andrews
McMeel, 2001) and The Lit!le Book of Bad Business Advice
(St. Martin's Press, 1997)'I-:J{ has published articles and
columns in many major newsp<it,pers and magazines.

Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

Page 31


s a life-long Atheist, it
occurred to me recently that
maybe I was missing out on
something. Everyone else had something to do Sunday mornings. All I
had was sleeping late, hot sex,
smooth jazz, and the Sunday paper.
Maybe I needed more - I don't know,
divinity - in my life. So, two minutes
and a couple of mouse clicks later, I
became an ordained minister of the
Universal Life Church (www.ulc
.org) of Modesto, California.
Their Web-site warns, "Silly submissions such as animals, plants,
and cars are not recorded into the
Church's database." So I immediately ordain my cat, Ficus, and Buick
My first order of business is to
ensure that joining the clergy did
not incite in me a desire to sodomize
young boys. I scan myself for
pedophilic urges. Nope, I still detest
the little punks.
My second task is to decide
whether to order the ULC's "Ministry in a Box" for $129. This puppy is
crammed with all sorts of religious
doodads: holy land incense, a Doctor
of Divinity degree, a sainthood canonization document, minister's ID
card, ULC badge, church literature,
bylaws and regulations. Although it
is tempting to be canonized Saint
Stephen, I remember Billy Joel's
wise counsel about laughing sinners
and crying saints and decide to
screw the paperwork. My ministry
will be light on documentation.
Before you ask what good deeds
I have done to merit this spiritual
elevation, consider some of the
things I have not done: unlike Pope
Gregory IX, I never started a
Spanish Inquisition; unlike Pope
Urban VIII, I never imprisoned
Galileo for saying the earth revolves
around the sun. I never burned anyone at the stake or started a
Crusade. Seems to me these Popes
set the bar for holiness pretty low.
Page 32

Eager to put my theological credentials to use, I read my ordination

message. It says, "Every rite is
granted to you by the ULC to officiate and perform except circumcision." I love that they feel it necessary to advise people that clicking a
mouse does not qualify them to perform genital surgery on newborns. I
can only assume this warning stems
from a past incident. Foreskin,
off-limits. I can live with that. But
surely somebody around here must
need a marriage officiated, a sermon, a baptism, or, if I'm lucky, an
But before I start a-preachin' I
need the proper vestments. So I shoo
Chaplain Tigger off my lap, water
the Reverend Ficus, hop in the
Minister Skylark, and head off shopping.
I need an outfit that says, "this
is a person you can trust with your
innermost secrets and look to for
sage guidance," while at the same
time saying, "this person believes
there is an invisible, omnipotent,
supernatural being in the sky, who,
with the proper supplications, can
be persuaded to affect the outcome
of high school football games, while
strictly hands-off policy with regard
to epidemics, terrorism, and genocide."
Basically, my look must strike a
balance between caring and crazy.
At a thrift store I snag a
sun-and-moon fleece robe and dress
it up with some gold drapery roping
around the waist. One crucifix later
and I'm done. I'm dressed, blessed,
and ready to impress.
Time to tend to my flock. But
first, I must gather a flock. I place
an ad on Craigslist.org, the electronic bulletin board, offering marriage
officiating for $99. Two days later I
get an e-mail from David. He and
his fiancee, Denise, "aren't too religious, but want someone spiritual."
Ain't that always the way? He asks
for details about my services.
I tell him "my philosophy is that
wedding services are too damn serious. My vows will draw inspiration
Summer 2004

from the ones Homer Simpson

wrote, which began, 'Do you Marge,
take Homer, in richness and in poorness? Poorness is underlined. In
impotence and potence? In quiet
solitude, or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkeynavigated hovercraft.' That's my
kind of ceremony!"
As a bonus, I throw in my
"ever-lasting love guarantee: If I
wed you and your marriage doesn't
last five years, I'll refund your
money!" What other minister can
make that claim?
Amazingly, David e-mails me
back and says, "that sounds like
fun." Luckily he doesn't ask to see
my credentials. He even pays up
Their ceremony is only three
months away, those procrastinators.
The night before the wedding I start
writing their eternal vows, drawing
inspiration from many sources: The
Bible, TheOnion.com, a book of love
poetry, the Farmer's Almanac, fortune cookie slips I have amassed
over the years, Tony Robbins'
Awaken the Giant Within, and some
Hallmark greeting cards. Mine is an
eclectic religion. I scrupulously
avoid any quotations from The
Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Is that
guy overdone at weddings or what?
When I finally write the line,
"By the power vested in me, I now
pronounce you husband and wife," I
get goose bumps. It has been my lifelong dream to stand before a group
and say those words. I want people
to look at me in awe and think,
"Wow,there goes a man with power
vested in him."
At the ceremony I decide I need
some catch phrases, to toss at people
as they pass by. I settle on
"Shazam ... God digs ya," "Bless your
guts out," and the whispered "You're
God's favorite."
The ceremony goes surprisingly
well. The guests laugh at the right
places. I deliver the line, "If anyone
objects to the union of these two people, let him speak now or forever
hold his peace" and pause a good
long time for dramatic effect while I
American Atheist

scan the room, hoping a wild-eyed

fellow will burst in screaming, "I
object to this unholy union! The
bride is still engaged to my brother,
who is in a coma." No such luck.
After the service I dole out
handfuls of dried frijole beans to the
kids and tell them to pelt the happy
couple while
Frijole!" My pious little disciples
can't wait to perform this religious
rite and immediately bombard the
mother of the bride. I brandish my
crucifix in defense against her evil
Later, one woman says my vows
were the most interesting she's ever
heard, though she says "interesting"
in the same euphemistic way we use
to describe someone's ghastly new
David and Denise make a cute
couple and I wish them well as they
depart for Antigua. I hope they stay
married forever. Or at least five


least 289 ULC ministers in my

hometown of Burbank, California. I
doubt his congregation has that
many members. I bring him up to
speed on how the Internet (you
know, the thing that brings you kiddie porn, Reverend) lets anyone be a
minister. He scoffs at this notion but
invites me to join his church. I bless
his guts out and leave. Speaking in
I go home and rethink my strategy. I need an audience less critical,
more captive.
An hour later I arrive at a local
nursing home. I pop in the TV room
and find seven drooling geezers
watching a test pattern. I kill the
tube and work the room, making
crosses, touching people's foreheads,
softly saying, "The power of Christ
compels you. The power of Christ
compels you." Who says I can't
sneak in a little exorcism?
Next I feed them Ritz crackers
faux-communion style. "Body of
Christ?" I say. "Would you like some
delicious body of Christ today? He
tastes best with peanut butter."
Then I begin my sermon.
Unfortunately, my knowledge of

scripture is right up there with my

knowledge of Etruscan history. But I
figure I've inadvertently heard a
whole bunch of preaching on the
radio. I've seen Elmer Gantry and
The Apostle three times. Maybe I
learned something by osmosis.
Besides, preachers don't make a
whole lot of sense anyway. I think
the key is to speak in a soothing,
monotone voice with random bursts
of emphasis.
What tumbles out of my mouth
for the next five minutes sounds
something like:
And Moses said unto Noah,
"go ye verily unto the seas and
take the filthy beasts with ye."
And God said that it was good.
And Eve said that it was good.
NOAH! Hear ye, hear ye, I
sayeth unto you, thou art smaller than a pygmy shrew's belly
button lint compared to God's
humongous excellence. For God
is neither a slob like one of us,
nor a stranger on the bus.
Hallelujah, Jesus Christ, ye

Next on my agenda is to deliver a

sermon. I enter a cinder-block strip
mall church and introduce myself to
the minister as an Archcardinal
Missionary of the
Universal Life
Church. I ask
him if I could
be a special
guest preacher
one Sunday. He
says he has
never heard of
the Universal
Where has this
guy been? The
ULC's Web-site
claims 18.3 million ordained
out of every 345
people on the
planet is a ULC
minister. That
there are at
Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2904

Page 33

If I got some of the details

wrong, no one seems to notice. Some
smile; a few clap. I take a bow, feed
them more Christ and leave with a
flourish, my robe billowing III my
wake like a cape. Shazaml


Besides littering, other popular

responses to baptism are "Is this a
hidden camera show," and "Fuck
One non-believer tells me pool
water can't be used for a baptism. I
silence her with: "Well, the earth is
mostly a closed system, like a terrarium. The same water that existed
eons ago is still here. So the water I
baptized you with today may have
been Stegosaurus piss millions of
years ago. If the water tasted funny
that might be why."
I must say, since my ordination,
Sundays have become a lot busier
and heaps of fun. There's no telling

Having come this far, I think if

only I could perform a baptism, my
ecclesiastical life would be complete.
The ULC's ordination message says
that how I choose to practice my
newfound religion is up to me. I convene my Council of Elders (friends
Ralph and Mark) for advice. Soon a
schism develops. One faction wants
to baptize people using holy
water balloons flung from the
roof of my apartment building.
Another faction wants to baptize people by dumping buckets
of holy water on them as they
Then we cut off their fingers, then
ride the log flume under a walkwe throw 'em to the wolves ...
way at a local theme park.
While both these rituals
have their appeal, I think the
Elders are excessively fixated
on the kinetic possibilities of
holy water.
No, I need more face-to-face
interaction with my parishioners. I decide to anoint an
entire public swimming pool,
perform a mass baptism of
unsuspecting swimmers, then
hand out certificates.
The next day I put my plan
in motion. Wearing my robe and
a ceremonial crown (graciously
provided by Burger King), I
stand at the lip of a city pool. I
blow a whistle and issue the
terse command, ''Abracadabra,
water be holy."
When swimmers climb out I
them on being
baptized into the Universal Life
Church and hand them their
commemorative certificates.
One convert is so dazed by
the purifying effects of my baptismal that he cannot even
The Committee for More
muster the strength to hold the
paper in his hand. It flutters to
the cement after a few steps.

what might happen. And my matrimonial services are in such high

demand I had to double my price.
Undoubtedly some people will
find my venture sacrilegious. To
them I say, "Have you seen the
churches that call themselves the
'Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist?'
Now Jesus may have been many
things, but to call him a scientist is
to seriously pad his resume. In a
world where Christ can be a scientist, why can't an Atheist be a minister?"
Then while they ponder that, I
run away before they burn me at the


Page 34

Summer 2004

Heinous Torture.

American Atheist

The Judas Horse:

Notes Toward an Ecological
of Dying a Christian Death
By Maximilian Werner
And it is a strange thing that most
of the feeling we call religious,
most of the mystical outcrying
which is one of the most prized
and used and desired reactions of
our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say
that man is related to the whole
thing, related inextricably to all
reality, known and unknowable.
- John Steinbeck
The crisis of plausibility has rendered our traditional
unsatisfying in their accounts of
how things are, and the crisis of
relevance has rendered them inadequate in their judgments about
which things matter. These concerns indicate a significant need,
both psychological and social, for
a new story to provide the means
for a transformation of the species
on a global scale.
- Loyal Rue
light snow fell as I drove
through the morning dark
toward my brother's house. I
had lived in Utah for much of my
life, but now I was a visitor, or a

guest, or something for which I have

no name. The snow on the road was
just deep enough to have captured
the tracks of a wandering dog.
Naturally, I followed them with my
eyes until they had crossed the
street and were drifting down the
sidewalk I glanced at the sign on the
corner and realized that Christian
and his old girlfriend Pinto used to
rent a house not far from here. That
was ten years ago. I turned off of
State Street and headed east,
already feeling the pull of the past.
Carved pumpkin bags filled with
leaves grimaced from the side of the
road. The last time I saw Pinto alive
was in the spring. We were out on
the porch drinking beer and watching her cat leap for moths. I can't
think of that night without remembering how the breeze in the trees,
the stars, and her eyes - half shut
and wet with laughter - are still one
of the most beautiful and saddest
things I have ever seen.
At the time of her death, Pinto
and my brother were no longer a
couple, but they were still friends,
and Salt Lake was such a small city
that I would see her from time to
time. We were never really close,

Maximilian Werner is a writing instructor at

Arizona State University, where he teaches
Writing and the Environment,
Film and the
American.West, and Nature Writing. His work has
appeared in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature
and Environment, Fly Rod and Reel, and Weber
Studies: Voices and Viewpoints of the Contemporary
West, and is forthcoming in Sulphur River Literary

Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

and yet until recently her death had

troubled me. I would often dream
about her, and on those occasions I
would watch her very closely to
learn how she felt about being dead.
But I could never tell. The dreams
were just too equivocal. Before I
learned about their biological origins, I treated dreams as presages
or - when the dreams were of dead
people - glimpses of the afterlife. I
therefore paid special attention to
my dreams about Pinto. Might she
not reveal secrets of cosmic significance? Contrary to my hopes, the
dreams were disquieting. She would
never speak, and Iwould always feel
like she was accusing me of some
folly or trespass against her memory. Still, I enjoyed the richness of the
dreams, so I recorded a few of them
in my journal:
(10/92) Flames and vines own
this house. I look up through a
hole in the floor, the mouth of the
house, where tips of fire made
their first appearance here. My
brother's dead girlfriend is climbing a charred ladder into the sky.
She wants me to go with her, but I
realize the ladder won't hold me. I
share my worry with her - like
she needs it - as she stands a few
rungs up, waiting for me to climb.
I say something and she turns to
me, her face telling me not to be
foolish. Then she climbed until I
could not see her anymore.
(12194) I saw her face above
me, and it was as though I had in
some way wronged her, and I
thought about this guilt, I asked
where did it come from? I couldn't
say and so I covered my body and

Page 35

I asked her to forgiveme for whatever I had done, even though we

both knew it was useless.
I am especially drawn to the
sentence I asked her to forgive me ...
even though we both knew it was
useless because I think it reflects the
real reason why Pinto's death had
troubled me: I had misinterpreted
it. I had made her death antagonistic by distinguishing it from the
physical world of which it is part.
Despite this tendency to mythologize, I have never been a religious
man. Even if my father had not
taken a job in northern Maine shortly
after my birth, and my family had
remained in Idaho, it is still unlikely
that I would have been raised
Mormon. After all, my father considered himself an Atheist then (today
he claims to be an Agnostic), and my
mother - in spite of pressure from
her family - was herself on her way
out of the religion. By the time my
parents divorced and my mother
moved us from Maine to Utah, I had
lived for twelve years without religion. I had deep woods instead. But
religiosity permeates life, so unless I
were encouraged to interpret life
otherwise, a religious interpretation
would predominate, even in dreams.
Shortly after Pinto's death, I wrote a
friend to tell him of the news. The
account seems oddly detached:
Pinto lies in her coffin, a
thorn beneath skin. The thorn
becomes distorted beneath the
skin the same way her face does
beneath the mortician's pen. Pinto
is dead. She was killed on an
all-terrain vehicle. It was dark.
There must have been music playing somewhere. The speed is
unknown, but I can guess: blinding. I can see her eyes watering in
the darkness. She wasn't laughing,just riding. The darkness animated, drew up a deer. Pinto's
heart pounded in her mouth, and
she was thrown clear into unconsciousness. I went to her viewing
and they put her in the ground
the next day. The leaves are
already changing, some have fallen. (9/92)
Page 36

I didn't cry or mourn at the

viewing or at any other time that I
can remember. In fact, I don't think
Pinto's death even registered except
for in the most abstract way, and
because I could not realize her
death, I couldn't feel it, either. But
what prevented me from realizing
and understanding her death? What
happened that I became severed
from my own life?
A few years before she died,
Pinto was almost killed in a car accident. She was looking out the window at the time of impact, and so the
left side of her face was shattered
when it struck the windshield. The
accident left a scar that charted her
face like a strike of lightning. Like
other people who knew her, somehow I believed that this encounter
with mortality meant that she could
now look forward to a long life. She
had paid her dues (to whom or to
what I don't know). So when she
died, I found myself asking how anyone could be so unlucky. Obviously,
such a fantastic question lead to an
equally fantastic answer: even as
someone who had not been directly
exposed to religious doctrine, I concluded that Pinto was marked for
death. I cannot imagine a more injurious and dreadful way to think, and
yet there must be millions of people
like me who, because they are
entrenched in an exclusive cosmology, automatically interpret life in
this way. But there's more: what can
only be called ritualized pathology.
The viewing was held. in a
Catholic church near Pinto's childhood home, and as I stood in line,
waiting to pay my respects, I overheard the solemn voices of people
offering their condolences. Some
mourners explained Pinto's death in
terms of design. I overheard the
priest say that "God needed her in
heaven, so He called her home."
Later, an older woman embraced
Pinto's mother, kissed her cheek and
said, "She is in a better place now,
dear." Yet another explanation was
circulating through the church that
morning - the punitive one - but it
went unspoken. I saw it in peoples'
Summer 2004

faces, and I am sure people saw it in

my face, too, however vaguely. Like
thousands of other children born
into religious families, Pinto was
Catholic by default. But as a robust
young woman who reveled in life,
and in whatever made life pleasurable, she likely did not live what practicing Catholics would consider a
traditional Catholic life. I don't
know if they would have described
her as a 'bad' person, but I suspect
they thought she was far away from
the flowing robes of their God.
As people filed past me toward
the casket, I recall having wondered
why 'bad' things happen to 'good'
people, not realizing how my question expressed my own religious
need to account for such events. I
now realize the tremendous burden
I unnecessarily placed on myself by
that question. Religious leaders and followers must
know the burden well, for the survival of their churches and faith
surely depends on their ability to
address it. In my experience the
story seems to go like this: If a 'good'
person dies, her death is considered
positive by design (the Lord wanted
her in heaven); and if she is deemed
a 'bad' person, or a person who lived
a morally dubious life, then the
although generally
tacit, is punitive, or negative by
design (she didn't live a Christian
life, so the Lord smote her). Either
way, that I considered this explanation for Pinto's death illustrates the
influence of the predominant religion, and that membership is not at
all requisite to perpetuating religious interpretations of existence. I
have no religious affiliations. I am
not Mormon or Catholic. But I may
as well have been, and that is precisely the problem.
I used to believe that the best
way to resist Mormonism was simply not to be one. Now I see that
unless one cultivates an alternative
perspective of existence, religious
interpretations will remain inescapable. Circumscription of any ilk is
dangerous, but because it is uninformed and driven by a mythical
American Atheist

sense of moral rectitude, religious

circumscription is especially toxic.
Only recently have I come to understand my power to effect positive

isn't saturated with ecological wisdom instead of religious doctrine.

How could anyone value an afterlife
more than this life? How is it we

How could anyone value an afterlife

more than this life? How is it we tend
to be comforted by what cannot be
known, instead of by what can be
known or is?
change, instead of blindly forfeiting
that power with the assumption
that a Creator will take care of
everything for me, no matter how
irresponsibly I behave. As a means
of explaining existence, the urge to
believe is almost as profound as the
urge to procreate, but in a world
where everything depends on everything, and even our most seemingly
minor actions have global consequences, as an intelligent species we
are obligated to modify or reject our
What if, as a solution to raking
leaves, I considered removing the
tree that produced them? If I chop
down the tree in my yard, my home
will no longer be shaded from the
searing Arizona sun. I will not only
incur added financial costs from
having to buy more energy to cool
my home, but I will also suffer aesthetic costs by displacing the many
birds and insects that rely on the
tree for food, shelter and pleasure.
This is to say nothing of the ecological consequences of destroying the
tree, the decrease in photosynthesis
being just one of them. I admit that
my example is extreme, but it is in
no way exceptional. Nor is it isolated. While on a walk through my
neighborhood, I was saddened to see
that a pair of old pine trees had been
cut down. The 'owner' of the trees
was milling about in his yard, so I
asked him if the trees were diseased. "No," he said nonchalantly,
"they just didn't fit in."
Given this interdependency and
urgency, I wonder why humanity
Parsippany, New Jersey

tend to be comforted by what cannot

be known, instead of by what can be
known or is? I admit these are complex questions that have several
answers, but I am fairly sure the
underlying answer is our un examined fear of death. At one time in our
past, this fear was productive and
life-preserving, but not any more.
Today's world is a drastically different place from the world enjoyed
even as recently as two hundred
years ago. The context has changed,
but perception has not changed with
it. When fear overrides intelligence
and our ability to act according to
circumstances - such as the human
population explosion and the ensuing stress placed on the rest of life then fear transforms into maladaptive ignorance. And if my own small
life is any indication, I'm afraid
choosing ignorance at this crucial

undermine our ability to live a

healthy and sustainable life. Insofar
as my explanation for Pinto's death
is solely transcendent, it estranged
me from the meaning and wonder of
my own experience. It follows, then,
that the more fervent humanity is
about such ideas (e.g., economic
growth as a measure for progress),
the more it tends to ignore human
and biotic complexity, and thus its
sense of responsibility to the world
diminishes. I am reminded of the
load-bearing mule that is coaxed
forward by the dangling carrot.
Archaic religions, however, do not
use anything of real substance to
proselytize and retain followers.
Nothing swings from the end of
their string. That is, except for a
promise of the afterlife. Of course
heavenly promises only go so far in
terms of helping people to bear their
mortal loads, but religion has not
had to deal with this ever-worsening
disparity because it has had thousands of years to persuade people
like me that no cargo is more precious than the human soul.
Without the supreme liability of
the body and its cumbersome terrestrial story, religion may focus on
extolling the celestial story of the
soul. This narrative occurs largely
within the context of religious conjecture, as if the knowable reality of
death - or that information which
may have a direct impact on life -

As long as I believe the soul s home is

elsewhere, that it is separate from the
life which carries it, and that it does not
taste the water, nor breathe the air, nor
walk in the shade of the forest, I will be
only tenuously connected to my own
life, which, of course, is my body.
point is to choose destruction of ourselves and the planet.
The point is that cosmologies
that do not honor physical reality
Summer 2004

did not exist. I know that the function of this denial was to help me
cope with a traditional notion of
mortality, but it actually hindered
Page 37

my ability to cope from the outset.

When death (or life) is treated as an
and extrasensory
event, whatever might be thought of
it becomes equally incomprehensible and so has no relevance to reality, which is the very thing that all of
life is trying to survive. As long as I
believe the soul's home is elsewhere,
that it is separate from the life
which carries it, and that it does not
taste the water, nor breathe the air,
nor walk in the shade of the forest, I
will be only tenuously connected to
my own life, which, of course, is my
body. Life will feel unnecessarily
strange and threatening,
and I
imagine that many religious followers, because they tend to have not
developed productive and realistic
ways of dealing with the complexity
of their experience, may subdue,
reduce and ignore life until it is
destroyed by their indifference.
I am a special animal. I can
think and dream and language. But
as far as I know, my life will end
with me, just as Pinto's life ended
with her. Given this sense of finality,
I know the desire to make death
beautiful and transcendent. I also
know that some beauties affirm life,
while other, superficial beauties distance me from it. As the artisan of
the Christian macabre, Pinto's mortician adorned her death to the
point of unintelligibility-. He styled
her hair and painted her face in an
attempt to make her appear serene
and beautiful and alive. But in reality, so much damage had been done
to her head and face that their
restoration could only end in a
grotesque caricature. Besides that,
the Pinto I knew wore her hair
straight and did not wear make-up.
My estrangement was compounded
by the brand-new outfit she wore: a
denim shirt, tight blue jeans, and
hiking boots that were so small I
wondered if her feet were even in
them. But Pinto did not wear 'outfits,' she wore clothes, old clothes:
cut-off shorts, T-shirts, combat boots.
Pinto's mother must have chosen
the outfit because she stood at the
foot of her daughters casket and
Page 38

wondered if Pinto
looked good. I could barely recognize
her. I searched for the face I knew,
but with the exception of her scar,
which the make-up could not hide, I
could not find it. I recall looking
down at her and thinking who are
Because I could not reconcile
Pinto's life and death with their religious treatment, I could not feel the
customary consolation and closure
normally associated with viewings.
Instead, I felt betrayed and alienated by a ritual that was, in my mind,
a sham. But a sham of what? I could
not say. For in the absence of a
scientifically grounded cosmology,
the only way I could relate to the
experience was according to the predominant, mythical ideas of the
past, or not at all. I had, in effect,
been paralyzed. Few things are as
unsettling to modern humans as a
dead human, but I don't think this
has always been the case. It has
probably been only very recently in
our evolution that our response to
death has been characterized by
such profound misunderstanding, a
response which is no doubt linked to
the institutionalization of death and
dying. When I wander back a hundred thousand years, I envision a
species of hominids for whom death
was likely a source of curiosity, wonder and, perhaps, the first stirrings
of spirituality. I am not suggesting
that a return to this earlier state is
an option. Nor do I want to deny the
significance of losing a loved one.
But I do think we gain real perspective by asking questions of value
that reach through and beyond our
lifetimes and religions, which are
simply too brief and exclusive to sufficiently address issues of ultimate
As the study of interactions,
ecology is perfectly suited for this
purpose. Nothing is beyond its
scope: it is the hand that removes
the mask from Pinto's face. No one
knows what - if anything - happened after her death, but that she
died is not mysterious: like all of us,
she had to die, and by getting on the
Summer 2004

ATV she put herself at even greater

and more immediate risk. Unlike a
horse or elephant or any other living
mount, which shares the survival
instinct with the rider, a machine
cannot respond to the environment
independent of the rider should that
need arise. Consequently, the rider's
ability to successfully negotiate terrain is compromised. As a passenger,
Pinto was doubly at risk Add a high
rate of velocity, darkness, the fact
that she wasn't wearing a helmet,
and the element of chance represented by the deer, and suddenly all
arguments from design become


Christian's house, the early October
sun had just risen above the
Wasatch Mountains. The maple
trees lining the street were all but
bare and their leaves lay aglow in
the still-lush grass. That death
incites its own peculiar awe and
wonder is at no time more apparent
than in the fall, that moody and
sleepy interim of maturation and
incipient decay. I wonder what life
was like when we still saw ourselves
mirrored in the seasons and their
cycles? How did life feel before we
saw ourselves as separate and special? Perhaps the characteristic pull
or sadness we feel in the fall is really a remnant that we have carried
across hundreds of thousands of
years, a kind of pre-verbal or cellular knowledge of our unity with all
things. Perhaps over time this cellular form of knowing evolved into the
emotions we feel presently whenever confronted with reflections of our
own mortality.
Perhaps that is the survival
value of our sadness: it encourages
us to reflect on our lives and determine how well we are living them.
Perhaps that is why Pinto came to
mind today as I drove through the
windy neighborhoods with my window down, breathing the cold, sweet
smell of dying leaves. Perhaps that
see Judas Horse page 52
American Atheist

Eller is ever respectful of those who may disagree with

him, always seeming to realize that his philosophical
opponents of the moment could very well be Atheistactivist colleagues some time in the future. He is an
anthropologist whose analytical objectivity has helped
him to see the substance of the religious culture in which
he is immersed - a culture that is invisible to most of
its carriers.
The book wastes no time in getting down to what
Atheism is all about - and what it isn't. Often there is
a gentle humor. After explaining that Atheists are without god-beliefs and do not 'believe in' any of the gods,
goddesses, or supernatural entities of the past or present, we are told that



Atheists do not believe in the Christian god or any other of

these past or present gods. It would perhaps be whimsical
to argue that Christians do not believe in any of these
other past or present gods either. That does not make them
Atheists, exactly, but it should perhaps make them pause
for a moment and reflect on why they discount or reject all
of the world's religions but one. If they thought hard and
earnestly about why they dismiss those religions, they
would understand why we dismiss theirs. We only disbelieve in one more god than they do.

A review of Natural Atheism,

by David Eller
American Atheist Press, 2004
Paperback, 352 pages.
Product #5902, $18.00

By Frank R. Zindler
I was born an Atheist. All humans are born Atheists. No
baby born into the world arrives with specific religious
beliefs or knowledge. Such beliefs and knowledge must be
acquired, which means that they must first exist before
and apart from the new life and that they must be presented to and impressed on the new suggestible mind one that has no critical apparatus and no alternative views
ofits own. Human infants are like sponges, soaking up (not
completely uncritically, but eagerly and effectively) whatever is there to be soaked up from their social environment. Small children in particular instinctively imitate the
models that they observe in their childhood, but I was not
compelled to attend or practice any particular religion, and
as I grew I never saw any reason to 'convert' to any particular religion. I have thus been an Atheist all my life. I am
a natural Atheist.
-From the Introduction

ith the release of David Eller's Natural

Atheism, American Atheist Press is issuing its
most important new title since the death of
Madalyn Murray O'Hair. After reading the book five
times and following it from first draft to polished published product, I feel justified in making this seemingly
extravagant claim. It is a book that should be treated as
required reading for all Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists,
and skeptical thinkers of all degrees of philosophical
sophistication. Natural Atheism is also a book that
should be read by theists who honestly want to understand what Atheism and Atheists are all about or are
themselves experiencing a 'crisis of faith.'
While consistently critical of religion, Eller's writing
is never cutting or insulting. Both urbane and humane,
Parsippany, New Jersey

With alacrity, Eller deals with the charge that

Atheism is itself a 'belief system' - or even a religion.
Atheism is not a belief system, though, because it is
not a system at all; there is nothing 'systematic' about it. A
system is a structure with multiple parts in co-relation and
cooperation. But Atheism does not even have multiple
parts; it has one part - lack of belief in gods. That a 'lack
of belief' could be a belief too is preposterous ... Atheists do
not 'believe' there is no god, they conclude on the basis of
fact and logic that there is none. This has nothing to do
with belief whatsoever.
Atheism is not religion; it is non-religion, the absence
of religion. But Atheism is more than non-religion; it is an
affirmative stance, a condition of intellectual, personal,
and moral freedom. In the same way, health is not just the
absence of disease nor peace just the absence of war, but
health and peace are positive conditions of strength, of
well-being, of ability to live and enjoy your life. So too,
Atheism is a psychological and existential condition of
strength and well-being and ability to live and enjoy life
and use your mind and trust yourself

Deferring until later discussion of the fact that even

some Atheists have claimed that Atheism is a religion,
Eller wittily comments,
It has always been unclear to me what the intention of
calling Atheism a religion really is. If Theists think religion is good, then that is high praise; in fact, we should
then qualify for federal funds and tax exemptions too. If we
are a religion in any sense, we are entitled to toleration,
First Amendment protections, and all the prestige that
Theists think religions deserve. I'm sure they do not mean

Summer 2004

Page 39

All this and more is to be found

in the introduction. In Chapter One
- "Twelve Steps to Atheism" - we
are witness to a very clever method
of argumentation. Taking all the
classical proofs for the existence of
gods, Eller turns them one after the
other into arguments for the necessity of Atheism!
One of the first problems Atheists face in disputes with Theists is
the question of who must bear the
burden of proof. "If you can't prove
that God doesn't exist," Theists tell
us, "that means He exists." Very convincingly, Eller shows why this is
not so. He tells us that "Asimple formulation of the burden-of-proof concept is that the party who makes a
claim has the burden to prove or justify that claim, not the party who
questions the claim." He then analogizes the situation to the American
judicial system in which persons
charged with crimes are presumed
Theoretically, the defense attorney
need do nothing at all:
...if the prosecution does not prove
its case beyond a reasonable doubt,
the defendant goes free. In other
words, the defense (the 'negative')
has no burden on it -literally nothing to prove. Notice too that, since
guilt naturally means the truth of
the initial charge [claim] and innocence means its falsity, the presumption of innocence equates to a
presumption of falsity: a claim is
false until proven true. This is what
Antony Flew (1984) means by 'the
presumption of atheism'.

Although later on Chapter

Seven is devoted to a comparison of
science and religion, readers of this
first chapter will find an important
critique of the claim that science is
little more than an extended appeal
to authority and thus exactly comparable to a religion. After showing
how scientific citation of authority is
utterly different from the fallacious
appeal to authority which serves as
the invertebrate
scaffolding on
which all religious systems rest,
Eller deconstructs the granddaddy
Page 40

of all religious authorities ture.


... scripture is always secondhand testimony - something that

(allegedly) happened at some other,
usually remote, time and place; even
worse, it is biased testimony, something like the reports of a scientist
who is working for a tobacco or
company. People
who write scriptures are predisposed to believe a religion's claims
(they are creating those very
claims!), and editors and compilers
of scriptures (those who set the
'canon') naturally only select the
texts that conform to and advance
the belief. All of these issues make
scripture suspect from the outset.
Finally, there is no verification,
attempt at verification, or possibility
of verification of the claims in the
texts; you must take them at face
value or not at all.

In a critique of the 'Argument

from Miracles,' a curious conflict
with the 'Argument from Natural
Law' is revealed.
.. .if when all is going well according
to natural laws, then that is a sign
of god, and if when something happens that is unusual or exceptional,
that that is a sign of god too, then
everything serves as evidence for
you. There is no way to separate the
real evidence from the false or imagined.

Thus far, Natural Atheism has

been fun reading. With Chapter Two
("Thinking About Thinking - A
short Course on Reason") we get
down to serious business. In this
chapter we find all the take-home
lessons from a college course in
logic. Readers who have never had a
course in philosophy or logic may
find this and the third chapter
("Proofs and Principles - Unreason, Religion, and Relativism")
rather tough sledding, despite the
author's lucid style and ability to
simplify complex problems without
distorting them. I urge readers not
to let these chapters prevent them
from reading through and beyond to
the end of the book. These chapters
Summer 2004

constitute a veritable textbook for

skeptics, and all self-respecting
Atheists should master them to the
best of their ability. But as they say
in Italian opera - Coraggio! It gets
easier, and the rest of the book is as
pleasurable as it is vital.
We have already quoted Eller on
the question of who bears the burden of proof in debates. But what do
you do when, as evolutionary biologists have done, you have by all
objective standards accepted the
burden of proof and have proved
your point, but your opponents still
refuse to accept your conclusions
and continue to demand proof - as
if you had not given any? Perspicaciously, Eller observes that "there is
a real and substantial difference
between being true and being convincing.
'True' is a rational status, referring
to accurate facts and valid logic;
something can be true whether I
know or accept it or not. 'Convincing,' however, is a psychological
status, referring to how compelling
and decisive the idea seems to a particular audience .

Skeptics and scientists have

"another burden" even if they have
already borne the burden of proof or
didn't have the burden of proof to
start with: the burden of persuasion.
It can and does arise that the
truth may not be convincing. For
example, the foundations for the
new truth may be incomprehensible
to the audience. When Galileo first
proposed that the earth moves while
the sun stands still ... many people
simply could not imagine this being
true. The earth feels stable, while
we see the sun 'rise' and 'set.' ...
... this is where the 'burden of persuasion' comes in: to present and
the facts so that
resisters can and must know them,
to explain the situation sufficiently
clearly so they can comprehend it
adequately, and to soothe the emotional and psychological objections
- or, if nothing else, render those
feelings sufficiently tolerable or
irrelevant - so they can embrace or
at least live with the implications.
American Atheist

Chapter Five, "Knowing Is Not

Believing," provides a much-needed
analysis of the concept of 'belief' and
O'Hair's quondam scandalous claim
that "Atheists have no beliefs."
Disagreeing with Atheist philosopher George Smith, who has written
that "Abelief can be based on reason
or faith, but not both," Eller asserts
.. .it is not that a belief cannot
be based on reason or faith interchangeably but that a belief cannot
be based on reason at all. Reason
leads to conclusions and to knowledge, not to belief. Therefore I will
be taking and defending the position, against all Theists, most
philosophers, and many Atheists
and freethinkers, that knowledge is
not 'true belief' or 'true justified
belief' or any kind of belief at all but
that knowledge is about reason and
that belief is about faith, and the
two are logically and psychologically
utterly different and even incompatible. In the end, I will advocate for
an extremely constrained range of
application of the term 'belief' and
for its virtual eradication from the
vocabulary of the freethinker.

In Chapter Six, our author deals

with "Positive Atheism, Negative
Atheism, and Agnosticism" - a
thorny issue in recent years among
freethinkers seeking to define themselves and their skeptical cohorts.
While Eller's demonstration that
'positive' ('strong') and 'negative'
('weak') Atheisms are really equivalent is brilliantly executed and
should bring an end to this fruitless
discussion (but will it be conoincing?), I think the most important
part of this chapter is his thesis that
Agnosticism is a method not a position, and that those who postulate
Agnosticism to be a position intermediate between Atheism and
Theism have come to grief by confusion of logical categories. We are
taken back to the 1889 definition of
Agnosticism given by its inventor;
Thomas Henry Huxley.

Parsippany, New Jersey

Agnosticism is not a creed but a

method, the essence of which lies in
the vigorous application of a single
principle. Positively the principle
may be expressed as, in matters of
the intellect, follow your reason as
far as it can carry you without other
considerations. And negatively, in
matters of the intellect, do not pretend the conclusions are certain
that are not demonstrated
demonstrable. It is wrong for a man
to say he is certain of the objective
truth of a proposition unless he can
produce evidence which logically
justifies that certainty.

Eller concludes that

Agnosticism is the only possible
solution to the particular problem it
addresses - the epistemological
problem, the problem of knowledge
- and that as such it is not only
compatible with Atheism but is
actually a foundation, the best foundation,
for Atheism.
Agnosticism is the process, Atheism
is the product.

After this careful exposition of

the relation between Atheism,
Theism, and Agnosticism readers
are treated to a masterful chapter
"On Science and Religion." From
this we get into the political arena
and consider the nature and necessity of religious toleration and separation of churches from the state.
Here we are given a helpful summary
of all the major Supreme Court decisions on separation of churches and
state, including all the significant
cases concerning public schools. This
one feature alone should make this
book a part of every Atheist's reference library.
Unabashedly, Eller argues that
we must spread "the good news of
Atheism," arguing very strongly
that it is a necessity if civilization is
to survive. "Fundamentalism and
the Fight for the Future" should
make it clear to all except those who
will not see that we are engaged in a
culture war we did not choose - a

Summer 2004

war in which we cannot decline to

engage. Fundamentalism
rampant throughout the world is
forcing our hand.
We did not ask for a war. We only
asked for freedom and reason. But we
find ourselves in a war that we did not
choose and do not really want. We would
prefer the peaceful and steady march of
human reason and human rights. But
that is not an option at this time. Every
advance we advocate in reason and
rights will be seen by them as another
affront, another piece of the antireligion
Atheist agenda. But to cease to advocate
advances is to relinquish the battlefield,
and a unilateral surrender or refusal to
play the game anymore simply leaves
them to continue to carry out their campaign. Unfortunately, in the presence of
radicals, we face the danger of being
radicalized; that is how human affairs
work. But to decline to participate in the
challenge once it has been thrown down
is to lose, and they are certainly not
going to stop until someone stops them.
Like it or not, choose it or not, we have
to resist - and keep our reason and
compassion in the process.

Despite its title, the final chapter, "Living in the Disenchanted

World - Toward an Atheism of the
Future," is not a fantasy of what life
will be like in a world from which
magic has been expelled, a world
has been 'disenchanted.'
Rather, it gives a brief account of
Atheist morality and critiques the
proposal that we will or should
develop an 'Atheist mythos' and
practice 'Atheist spirituality.' Space
does not permit a summary; readers
will have to see for themselves what
this is all about.
Reading this book will make you
feel good about your Atheism without being smug. It will make you
proud without being prideful. Best
of all, it will give you an integrated
understanding of what it means to
be an Atheist - and of the rights
and responsibilities that pertain to
that enlightened condition.

Page 41


God the Ultimate

Conspiracy Theory
By Jay Werbinox Taylor
Murrayville, Georgia

eople often speak of the Balance of Nature as a principle that administers justice in the universe, a justice
that eventually produces consequences for every action,
and evens out all inequities across a span of time. This span
of time can be so vast, however, that most of us never live
long enough to see it played out. What we do witness is a
multi-year drought disposed of by a four-month deluge. We
see that nature can be alternately fertile and desolate with
intense unpredictability. We see earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and fires - all processes of a living planet - occur
without any consideration for our homes, cities, and desires
for permanence. The forces of nature go about their way
with total indifference to our human presence.
Imagine indifference itself as a kind of power. How can
human beings live according to a universe that does not
even notice them, let alone consider them? How can mercy
and justice be derived from natural forces that exemplify
indifference because they posess no consciousness at all?
For some the answer is - "there must be an Entity like
ourselves (conscious ego) that exists behind these forces,
and who controls these forces. Everything is an expression
of will, a divine will." With this the concept of God was born.
Every religion, faith, and invention of ,God' so far has been,
amongst other things, an attempt to escape the horrifying
idea that the universe is ultimately and totally indifferent
to us. Better the fires of Hell itselfthan to believe that there
is no cosmic moral order, no scorekeeper, no witness, no
judge, no reward or punishment in an afterlife, and no
It is the same in our interactions with other humans.
People demand an audience for their virtues and deeds.
"Where is the value of an action," many unfortunately think
"if no one is there to witness it?" Love and hatred are fine
for most, as long as they are noticed. It is to be treated with
utter indifference that is the greatest blow.
Now extend this hatred of indifference to nature.
People would rather believe that tragedy and disaster are
delivered upon their heads deliberately by a god with a plan
and a higher purpose than to think that it happened for no
reason whatsoever. All magnitude
of tragedy can be
endured so long as a purpose can be found in it. When none
can be found the human survival instinct must manufacture one.
The Greeks could not endure suffering that had no
purpose, so they invented an audience of gods to witness
their suffering. Purpose was found in being a divine spectacle.

Page 42

The Jewish people could not endure slavery under their

paganistic rulers, so they invented a single god that was
over all others to be their liberator and protector. In each
case a god was created to serve the self-preservational
imperative of the people who needed it. It is no different
today. "God" comes from human psychology, not from
Many people are fond of seeing a god's will in everything, from disasters to elections to an acorn falling at their
feet at the right moment. This is to make 'God' the Ultimate
Conspiracy Theory. If a tornado destroys one church but not
another - "it's God's will." If Roy Moore is thrown from the
Alabama Supreme Court - "it's God's will." If our nation
hits hard times - "God is punishing us." If I get constipated
- "God is punishing me." If our enemies are destroyed "God is just."
This anthropomorphic thinking is an attempt to recreate
nature in our own image. Behind every deed there is a
"doer"; behind every chance or accident there is an egoconscious entity exercising it's will; behind every action and
occurrence, no matter how small or large, a master hand is
placing predetermined puzzle pieces. This psychology reinvents the universe into the ultimate conspiracy theory.
This insane view may serve the preservational imperatives of many amongst us, but it is far from any criterion of
truth or necessity to believe. How could the rational
amongst us live according to such an all-pervasive entity?
One would have to destroy such a god to exist at all, let
alone be free. It is a good thing for us that 'God' is just a creation of the human mind - for the mind, and it's hidden
psychology, is our ultimate guide and ruler.

Summer 2004



I'M uor so 5URE. 11
American Atheist

When Jehovah Leaves His Calling Card

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I Canada

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Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

Page 43

Martin Edmunds
Thorold, Ontario.
L2V 2K1


May the blessings of Allah be upon you!

You don't know how happy I was to get your
letter! The timing of it was uncanny.
think I see the hand of "You-Know-Who"
this!) There I was, thinking: Gee, I could
sure use some of the 01' "slap 'n tickle"
real soon. And before I could even check
out the Yellow Pages for the location of a
"massage parlour;" the mail arrived with
your proposition.
Oy veh! I've never gotten anything like
that in the mail before. Not only do you
want to give me a massage, you want to
give me a "very important massage"
(sic see accompanying photocopy of your letter). I don't know how a "very important
massage" differs from the ones I normally
get, but I can tell you I'm intrigued!
the way, your letter came with 46 postage
due. I am enclosing the card on which the
Post Office wanted me to affix the necessary stamps. I believe that's yours.)
As surprised and delighted as I was to
receive this offer of a free massage
is free, right?), I was doubly surprised
to find it was a Jehovah's Witness making
the offer. If this is a new recruiting
technique I can tell you, you've picked a
winner. It sure beats the hell out of
those stupid little pamphlets.
So, how the hell are you "heaven's
elect" doing these days, anyway? It's been
a long time since I heard from you. In the
four years I've been living in Thorold
this is the first contact I've had.
Is it because of what happened in Port
That's it, isn't it?
Boy, that's very un-Christian.
That's a
long time to hold a grudge. Where's the
forgiveness you people are supposed to be
so big on? Besides, the Port Dover congregation had no right to get upset with me
in the first place. They knew from the
start the sort of person they were dealing
with, that I was a militant atheist who
considered religion to be one of the .
Page 44

great embarrassments
of modern western
The battle lines were clearly drawn, the obj ec t i.ves clearly stated:
they were going to try to turn me into a
Jehovah's Witness, and I was going to try
to turn them into rational, thinking
For the entire summer of '92 (yup, it
was that long ago), I graciously hosted
two Johos (or "Yoyos", as I affectionately
termed them, because they kept coming
back) every Monday at 1:15 pm. These
excursions into the Twilight Zone lasted
up to two hours, during which time my
for that week drank my tea
and ate my cookies. How many people show
Yoyos that kind of hospitality,
eh? But in
spite of that, in late September the visits abruptly ceased, without warning or a
parting word. From October onwards, no one
came to see me anymore on Monday afternoons.
What a bunch of quitters!
I guess it was that last visit that did
it. On that memorable occasion they
brought the "head Yoyo" in to talk to me
(by then pretty well everyone else in the
congregation had, with disappointing
results on both sides),
I actually had hopes for that meeting.
I was hoping that maybe this guy would
have some idea of what he was talking
about. But he was as clueless as the rest
of them. He, too, was oblivious of, and
utterly immune to, the most basic,
truths (I think NASA should
use the skulls of Jehovah's Witless for
the protective shields on the space shuttles, that being the densest, most impervious material in the world). He knew
nothing of the world around him, of its
current events or history. All he knew was
the Bible. And even that he misunderstood
(as do the rest of you). Which meant, in
effect, that this fellow knew and understood nothing at all (just like the rest
of you) .
Unlike the rest of you, however, who
are usually such pleasant, placid zombies,
this guy didn't seem pleasant or placid at
all. And, for a short while at least, he
didn't even look like a zombie. Matter of
fact, he got quite animated when I made

Summer 2004

American Atheist

the very reasonable observation that my

chances of learning from someone who didn't know anything himself weren't good. He
took even greater umbrage at my suggestion
that he should get his head out of his ass
and have a look at the real world. What
got him most riled up, though, was when I
said to him what I usually say to Yoyos
who don't even have the saving grace of
being good natured idiots. Having learned
the depressing fact that he had offspring
I told him that, were I in a legal position to do it, I would take his kids away
from him. Moreover, if I were making the
rules, not only would no Jehovah's Witless
be allowed to raise a child, no one of
that faith would ever be allowed to have a
child in their care for any length of time
On this point I'm dead serious: none of
you Witless wingnuts should ever be
entrusted with the care of a child. NO ONE
who could watch a child bleed to death,
knowing that the child's life could easily
be saved, should ever be entrusted with
the care of a child.
The blood transfusion thing is the
frighteningly bizarre point at which you
normally harmless clowns suddenly turn
into killer clowns. How can you people do
that? To me it's inconceivable
that people
who don't even have the excuse of being
clinically psychotic
(I assume most of you
aren't) could be so fucked up by their
fantasies that they would allow their own
children to die rather than let them have
Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want to
interfere with your right to make that
choice for yourselves.
In fact, I applaud
it. It's damned civilized of you to voluntarily remove your mentally defective
genes from the human gene pool. Future
generations will be the better for it.
That, my dear Yoyos, is how evolution
works. That is evolution in action. By
allowing yourselves
to die you help get
rid of dumb DNA.
(It's hilariously
ironic that you who
so vehemently deny the process of evolution are so eager to help that process
There's religion for you.)
Parsippany, New Jersey

At any rate, the head Yoyo wasn't at

all pleased with my opinions or suggestions. He told me he hadn't come over
there to be insulted, leaving me bewildered as to what other reason a member of
that congregation would have for showing
up at my door.
They didn't do it anymore after that,
however. After that, I never saw them
again (and just when I was on the verge of
converting, too). From then on I had to
struggle with the big questions on my own,
without the benefit of their -insightsand -guidance-.
I must say, I came to miss those Monday
sessions. It was a nice feeling knowing I
wasn't the dumbest person in the room.
There was a zen-like perfection
to the
emptiness of the minds I -debated- with
that summer. There they would sit, smiling
with Buddha-like
self sufficiency,
heads uncluttered with anything so base as
secular knowledge, spouting childish platitudes and religious absurdities,
completely invulnerable
to any facts, no matter how obvious, that didn't fit in with
their beliefs. Yet in spite of this (more
likely because of it), we managed to transcend our differences and have a pretty
good time together. We certainly shared a
lot of laughs, though I don't think we
were laughing about the same things. Then
the good times came to an end, all because
of one anal retentive Yoyo.
I've kind of lost track
of what's happening with you guys lately.
How's the theology working out? Not too
good, according to my calculations.
up with Judgement Day, huh? How come that
ain't happened yet? Back in '92, the Port
Dover Yoyos (sounds like a good name for a
sport-team, eh?) kept telling me the end
was near. One of the big articles of the
faith was that the generation
that saw WWI
-would not pass away.- According
to your
-understandingof the Bible, the folks
who brought us WWI would live to see
mankind's day in court, the day when all
us non-Yoyos get ours.
You seen many veterans of WWI around
lately? I recently read that there are
about a dozen left in Canada. And at 100+,
it can safely be assumed that all twelve

Summer 2004

Page 45

of them have got one foot in the grave and

the other one on a banana peel.
Looks like the clock's pretty well run
out on that prognostication,
Oh well, maybe you just got the world
wars mixed up. Or maybe you're a bunch of
delusional numbskulls who don't know which
way is up.
Gee, I wonder which one it is.
While we're on the topic, I'll bet you
all had your hopes up real high for the
year 2000, didn't you? Come on, admit it:
you thought 2000 was going to be IT. Being
the fundamentalist
millenary sect that you
are, I'm sure you thought the new millennium was going to be THE NEW MILLENNIUM.
can picture you all gathered together on
New Year's Eve, standing there with your
bags packed, all ready to catch the Ghost
Train at the stroke of midnight. The tension builds as the clock ticks down. With
only a couple minutes to go, people start
to faint. At T-minus ten seconds, the ones
still standing all drop to their knees.
"Hallelujah Lord, here we are!" they howl.
And then Nothing. No "Rupture." Just a bunch of
midget-minds looking like the pinheads they
Of course, it takes more than that to
shake the faith of the truly deluded. I'm
sure that within minutes of the "Big
Letdown" some math whiz among you pointed
out that the millennium didn't actually
turn until the year 2001, thereby giving
you the chance to make fools of yourselves
again the following year.
I wonder: did any of you feel even a
twinge of embarrassment
when the same damn
thing happened a year later? Probably not,
judging from my experiences with the
shame- proof members of the Port Dover conglomeration. And I have faith that by now
you people have come up with a whole new
set of excuses to explain why your predictions are falling through, along with a
whole new set of predictions
to fall
through allover
I can't wait to hear them!
- Which reminds me: My two favourite
Yoyos, the ones who came to see me most
often in the phantasmagorical
summer of
'92 (Tom and Marie), guarantee that
Page 46

Judgement Day would come to pass by 2012.

In fact, there are two cases of beer riding on it. It happened like this: one day,
when I was feeling more frustrated than
usual with Yoyo density, I demanded to
know when we were finally going to get to
see Gabriel do his long-awaited gig.
Tom and Marie were reluctant to fix the date for the exposure of
their foolishness.
nOh, come on," I said.
"The generation that saw WWI is supposed
to live to see this happen? Obviously,
it's gotta happen pretty soon, right?"
Well, yeah.
How soon?
(Defensively) We don't know exactly
when. The Bible doesn't tell us.
But it has to happen soon, right? I
mean, how many WWI vets are left?
Yes, it's going to happen soon.
How soon? Ten years?
Well, er, uh, eh, oh, maybe not ten
How about twenty years then? Surely you
have to admit that by 2012 the generation
that saw WWI will have totally passed
Oh, yes; by then it will have happened.
Wanna bet?
I could tell that they didn't really
want to bet, but bet me they did. They bet
me a case of beer each that by 2012
Judgement Day will have come to pass.
If you've looked at a calendar lately
you'll have noticed that I am only eight
years away from winning that bet. And be
certain of this: eight summers from now I
will be at the "Magic Kingdom" Hall on
Blueline Rd. in Port Dover to collect my
cases of beer. Unless, of course, the Day
of Judgement intervenes.
Hey Amanda: Do you or any in your conglomeration want to get in on that bet?
I'll be happy to start the clock now and
make it for 2024.
Any takers?
We'll discuss all this when you come to
give me my massage. After you give me my
On this point I want things clear:
first I get my massage, then we talk religion. And it better be the kind of massage
I like, or the deal's off.

Summer 2004

American Atheist


We are pleased to revive the "Talking Back" department

that was so popular during the days that Robin MurrayO'Hair was the editor ofthis journal. "Talking Back" contained the replies of both ordinary and extraordinary
Atheists to what nowadays are called FAQs (Frequently
Asked Questions). Some replies could be sardonic oneliners: Q. Why are you an Atheist? A. I've read all the
Bible. Other replies might take several carefully reasoned paragraphs to answer. We hope to be able to publish the responses of several different people to given
questions at the same time, and so we published a partial list of popular questions in the last issue and asked
readers to take a crack at one or more of them. If you
would like to respond to any of those questions or to 'petpeeve' questions that you yourself have had to answer,
we would like to hear from you.
E-mail responses may be sent to: editor@atheists.org
Snail-mail responses may be sent to:
Talking Back
American Atheist Press
P.O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733

"believe" the "truth" of all such assertions simply

because I cannot disprove them? Oh you will? Well then,
for each such assertion there can be constructed a mutually exclusive assertion. Both cannot be true. Will you
take the psychotic position of holding that both assertions are "true" simply because I still cannot disprove
either? You will? Oh well, good luck with the new medication.
-Daniel Sheltraw

2. Prove there isn't a god.

3. How did you get here?

It's not possible. But neither is it possible to prove

there aren't leprechauns - in fact, its impossible to prove
the non-existence of an infinite variety of imagined gods
and "supernatural" creatures. By such a standard, there
is no way to discriminate between a "god"claim and any
arbitrary assertion.
For good reason, we must impose certain requirements on any claim before we can accept it as being true,
thus the burden of proof falls upon the person making
the claim, and not those who ask for real-world evidence.
-Wayne Aiken

I walked. Sometimes I stagger. Sometimes I crawl.

Depends on how much I've had to drink.
-Edward Hill

Prove there isn't a Purple People Eater.



This is not a proof but rather a response to this challenge. The reason I call it a response is that the challenge is meaningless. It is meaningless because assertions are proved or disproved only within the context of
a theory. Since no such theory (a description which predicts an observable phenomenon) exists concerning such
supernatural beings (a nonobservable being) a proof cannot be given. I can however give a response and it is as
The number of assertions I cannot disprove are only
limited by the imagination of the asserter. Will you
Parsippany, New Jersey

By purely natural
"supernatural" ones.



the absence of any

-Wayne Aiken

I usually drive, but today I had to take the bus.

-Bernie Klein

9. How does it hurt you to have "In God WeTrust"

on your money?
How does it hurt you to have "I'm An Idiot" pinned
on your back?
-Edward Hill
It hurts non-believers when religious groups point to
such slogans and mottoes in support of their political
agenda - in fact, that was the exact purpose of the "In
God We Trust" motto as stated in the Congressional
Record. It's a dangerous step down a very slippery slope,
when the government assumes the role of actively promoting any particular position with regard to religious

Summer 2004

Page 47

belief It sends the wrong message

that one's citizenship and civil
rights under the law are dependent
on one's religion or lack thereof Put
out this message long enough, and
someone is bound to act on it.
-Wayne Aiken
Why don't we have "In Science
We Trust" on our money? Science is
much more reliable; is self-correcting; expands,
improves our natural, material
knowledge; is testable, revisable, etc.
If you read the entire Holy
Bible, "God" is not reliable (He is
just Us); "God"and the Bible are not
self-correcting and can not be
altered in spite of our scientific,
medical, and archaeological findings
because it is "sacred, holy, and the
absolute Inspired Word of "God"
[only "Moses" received "the finger of
God-sculpted stone Ten Commandments, twice and different, which no
longer exist or existed]; the printed
Bible has been available since
Gutenberg but our "spiritual" and
natural material knowledge has not
improved or expanded whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, evangelists are
still preaching the same "word"
since the first century CE while
humanity pretty much remains the
same. The Bible is not testable (not
changed when it fails) and not revisable but always reinterpreted with
over 38,000 different Christian
denominations each believing itself
to be the One and Only True Church
of.. .
Isaiah 45:7 has "God" state that
He makes peace and creates calamity/evil. How can anyone trust someone or any supernatural being who
"creates evil"?
Our national currency must
respect the US Constitution and
reflect the whole population of the
US of A and all of its citizens. Since
I am a Patriotic Atheist Citizen, it
does not represent me. It used to
have E Pluribus Unum which did
respect both the Constitution and
all citizens. "In God We Trust"
respects neither.
-Chester Twarog
Page 48

22. If you're right about god,

when we both die we both just
die. But if I'm right, then when I
die I go to heaven and you go to
hell. So why not believe in god,
just in case?
How do I get to go to hell when
you die? I thought I was supposed to
go when I died. Anyway, if I'm there
and you're not, why call it hell?
-Edward Hill
Which god? Literally millions of
them have been imagined, often
with mutually-contradictory
demands, and there is no way to distinguish any choice as being better
or worse than any other. It is equally
likely that any Supreme Being
would value the honesty and reason
of Atheists and reward them with
eternal paradise instead.
-Wayne Aiken

26 How can you have any ethics

if you don't believe in god?
In his book, What Evolution Is,
Ernst Mayr makes the case for the
evolution of human ethics. He points
out that altruistic behavior arises
from the natural activity of cooperation which develops in many successful groups of animals. Altruism
goes one step further in being helpful or giving without the expectation
of reward and at a cost to the giver.
He states, "It requires no argument
to defend the statement that such
altruism would be favored by natural selection. Anything a parent
does to enhance the well-being and
survival of its offspring favors its
own genotype."
Ethics then can be regarded as
of evolution.
Ethical codes arise from natural
selection and are enhanced by the
experiences and requirements of living in groups. Mayr extends this
altruistic proclivity to near relations
and ultimately to the larger group
since it is still enhancing the group
genotype. Perhaps the ethic is
applied with less intensity the furSummer 2004

ther removed the relationship, but it

can still be operative.
Mayr then points out that the
same altruism has not generally
been granted to outsiders. However,
in modern times there is the pressure to extend altruistic behavior
and honorable ethics to those outside the immediate group. Mayr
makes the comparison between Old
Testament ethics and New Testament ethics in the Christian Bible.
In the Old Testament, outside
groups are consistently treated differently than the family group. He
points in contrast to the parable of
the good Samaritan in the new testament wherein at some cost and
inconvenience to himself a Samaritan helps a complete stranger. This
behavior is offered as a favorable
way to act towards others, even outside your own group.
These stories are separated by
thousands of years, and by many
generations, but they do demonstrate a growth in the complexity of
the ethical outlook. I suggest that
evolution has not stopped, but even
in the present time is being swayed
by the influence of the wiser members on the rest of the community.
With the accumulation of greater
knowledge and the time for consideration of the thought patterns that
knowledge spawns, it seems to me
that our ethics are even now still
Mayr's arguments are clear and
compelling. Ethics are a result of the
evolution of individual and group
reactions to life experiences. We
adopt our ethical attitudes on the
basis of our total experience of sensual input, since this is the only
source we have for the information
to make these decisions.
By experience and teaching in
addition to innate responses, the
human race is gradually realizing
that the old maxim, "One catches
more flies with honey than with
vinegar" is actually true. Evolution
is slow,but inexorable. Even the evolution of human thought and perception is a protracted process. We
assimilate some kinds of knowledge
American Atheist

slowly,but perhaps humans will one

day learn to live without war and to
treat others fairly and equally as
they themselves would like to be
treated. It is a noble goal. Ethics are
evolutionary, and no god or religion
is involved or necessary.
-John D. Boenke
34. If you don't believe in God,
why are you fighting against
I'm not, I'm fighting against 'his'
followers who are trying to push

their beliefs and ideals on everyone

-Joseph Zarka
48. What would you put in religion's place?

#53 What's stopping you from

killing someone?
To be honest, right at this
moment, I'm struggling with that.
-Bernie Klein

Science, reason, logic, and critical thinking.

-Joseph Zarka
What would you put in the place
of cancer, smallpox, and plague?
-Madalyn Murray O'Hair



The fact that I would go to

prison for doing it.
-Joseph Zarka


"First the dinosaurs, now this... "

Parsippany, New Jersey

Summer 2004

Page 49

Who's an Atheist?
Dear Editor:
I want to disagree with some of
the Atheists who have written about
the definition of the word Atheism.
George Ricker (Winter 2003-04,
page 36) says that "Atheism" sho.uld
mean what a majority of Atheists
say it means! That is quite circular.
We need to know who the Atheists
are first, before we can let them take
a majority vote! But how do we
know whom to allow to vote until we
know what Atheism means? I find it
distasteful that within a group of,
let us say, 200 Atheists, 101 should
be able to force a definition upon the
remaining 99. When the bishops of
Vatican One voted to impose papal
infallibility, all who had voted No
were suddenly required to believe!
That's absurd.
Also the Unitarians-Universalists have had a problem with
this. In the 19th century, they were
rational more or less. But today
they're ~itches and tree worshippers, pagans and "spiritualists." This
happened because a majority got to
vote, and - not having been careful
whom they let into the group over
the years - the rational Atheists are
now an endangered species within
UUism. Majority rules! Is that what
Atheists want for our grandchildren?
Tony Pasquarello
2003, page 22) says dictionaries
"authoritatively" settle the meanings of words. But does he ~now t~at
dictionary writers are Just like
Hoyle and Robert and Miss
Manners? They have no authority
other than what they can fool the
public with. These people simply sat
down, wrote books, and the rest of
us have become mesmerized by the
name they made for themselves.
Webster and his successors, all selfanointed, do not control what any
word really, ultimately
Page 50

Especially when it can be shown

that they were bigots who attempted to insert biases into the books.
I have a question. Do the following people qualify as Atheists?
Would you let them join? The first
time I saw a car with a Darwin fish
(other than in the parking lot of an
Atheist or humanist meeting), I was
very happy! "There IS hope in the
world," I thought!! And, 10 & behold,
the car contained some young
females, which bespeaks future generations. I greeted them and struck
up a conversation, but it quickly
became apparent that they had no
clue who Charles Darwin was, or
what science is, or what education
is or what rationalism is. (They
were dressed sleazy, like Britney
Spears.) All they knew is they hate
Pat Robertson because "He would
restrict us from doing our own
thing, man." These young kids hated
authority of all stripes, and they
knew (somehow) that the Darwin
These girls would not have liked
Bertrand Russell, who explained
years ago that "free thought" is most
assuredly not synonymous with
"being free from the requirements of
reason and logic."These girls wanted
nothing but debauchery and booze,
hated school, nerds, education, etc.
Would these people qualify?
Pasquarello says babies don't qualify
because no one thinks of them when
the word "Atheist" is uttered. I don't
normally think of people like the
ones I've described. On the other
hand, if I were to say to you: "Quick,
picture in your mind an arn:y general," did you conjure up the Image .of
a WOMAN in uniform? I doubt It.
But the army does have at least one
woman general. The fact you don't
think of a certain thing when a certain word is uttered does not prove
that thing is not within the definition of that word.
So I don't know. What do you
Nick Witte
Summer 2004

Founders Understood
the Wisdom
Of Leaving God Out
Of Government
Dear Editor:
The U.S. Supreme Court recently
declined to rule on the merits ofhaving the phrase "under God" in our
Pledge of Allegiance. This is disappointing because there are many
reasons to keep religion and government separate.
The United States was the first
country that derived its power from
a purely secular, non-religious basis.
Nations before had kings and
queens who used their supposed
"God-given divine right" to rule.
Instead of this top-down power
structure, our founders wisely created
a government that derived its powers from the consent of the governed. They also realized the inherent dangers of religion, and specifically kept it out of our Constitu~io~
and government. While the deists
"Nature's God" is mentioned in the
Declaration of Independence, there
is no reference to a god in the
Constitution. In addition, the Treaty
of Tripoli, written during the administration
of President
Washington, signed by President
John Adams and unanimously
approved by the Senate in 1797,
stated, "The Government of the
United States is not in any sense
founded on the Christian religion."
Six years later, James Madison
wrote, "The purpose of separation of
church and state is to keep forever
from these shores the ceaseless
strife that has soaked the soil of
Europe in blood for centuries."
designed to protect the rights of the
minorities from the tyranny of the
majority. References to God by our
government officials imply that the
14 percent of Americans who don't
believe in any god are lesser
citizens. This is similar to when
white men once discriminated
against blacks, women, and other
American Atheist

minorities, often using the Bible as

an endorsement. It wasn't right
then. It isn't right now.
Almost two years ago, the U.S.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
ruled correctly on the inserted reference to God in the Pledge of
Allegiance, saying that it conflicts
with the First Amendment. To those
who disagree, I ask, what part of the
First Amendment is confusing?
"Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof ... "

Parsippany, New Jersey

Enshrined in the First Amendment is the idea that all Americans

have a constitutional right to freedom of religion. This must include
freedom from religion, because we
can't have true freedom unless we
have the right to choose "none of the
The mixing of government and
religion is a threat to the freedoms
of us all. The United States cannot
be based on the belief that all persons are created equal when it
implies that a god prefers some.
As shown by the national uproar
and debate, religion is still divisive.
The Pledge ofAllegiance is supposed

Summer 2004

to help unite Americans. Having

"God" in it divides us and attempts
to link patriotism to public professions of religious belief.
Let us return the pledge to its
previous, non-religious and inclusive form - so we can all once again
say "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Mark Thomas
MARK THOMAS of Mountain View,
CA is president of Atheists of Silicon
Valley. He wrote this column for the
Mercury News.

Page 51

Steven Crane from page 30

But in an unsupervised universe prayer is without efficacy: "A
high cold star on a winter's night is
the word he feels that she says to
him. Thereafter he knows the
pathos of his situation."
In a commemorative tribute, H.
G. Wells said that Stephen Crane
was "the first expression of the
opening mind of a new period."
Crane, he meant, was a harbinger of
modernist apprehensions of the
human lot. Humankind had no
divine lineage or privileged position
in a hierarchy of being. In "The Blue
Hotel," Crane envisions human
beings as lice who tenaciously "cling
to a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked,
disease-stricken, space-lost bulb."
Intuitively grasping the broad social
and theological import of contemporaneous science, history, and biblical
criticism, Crane repudiated the
Christian tradition, sacred mysteries, metaphysical mystifications,
stultifying myths, nationalism, and
cultural pretensions. "Crane was
almost illusionless," said biographer
John Berryman, "whether about his
subjects or himself." Discarding the
platitudes of faith, he adopted a
stoic ethic of courage, perseverance,
and unflinching honesty.
Though Crane has been called a
nihilist, he had a honed conscience.
The conviction that we live in a godabandoned world could, he thought,
heighten moral sensibility, making
us more empathetic and civil. In
"The Open Boat," the correspondent
is morally sensitized by his epiphany: "It is, perhaps, plausible that
a man in this situation, impressed
with the unconcern of the universe,
should see the innumerable flaws in
his life and have them taste wickedly
in his mind and wish for another
chance. A distinction between right
and wrong seems absurdly clear to
him, then, in this new ignorance of
the grave-edge, and he understands
that if he were given another opportunity he would mend his conduct
and his words, and be better and
brighter during an introduction, or
at a tea."
Page 52

Crane also had a honed romantic sense. Love could nullify all
losses, even the universe:
Should the wide world roll away
Leaving black terror
Limitless night,
Nor God,nor man, nor place to
Wouldbe to me essential
If thou and thy white arms
were there
And the fall to doom a long way.
(The Black Riders)
If Crane here succumbed to illusion, it was benign.

Judas Horse from page 38

is why, at the end my letter regarding Pinto's death, I wrote the leaves
are already changing, some have
fallen. These speculations raise
questions regarding the ultimate
value of the ecological perspective.
After all speculating is not
answering, at least not in any final

sense. And yet that is precisely why

the ecological perspective is so
exquisite: it empowers us to know
without ever presuming an end to
our knowledge. My religious fears
and questions were human, but
after becoming only basically conversant with ecological principles, I
see that my fears and questions
were irrelevant
and, at times,
destructive. The religious need to
explain existence (and its end) is
part of our biological nature, but in
my case the predominant mythology
was insufficient in terms of offering
consolation or helping me to understand reality: Insofar as many religious cosmologies and their rituals
distort reality, they are unequipped
to address the challenges of the
present moment. The meaning and
value of my own life has deepened
through my inquiries into the true
nature of reality, so I must wonder
how life would be if each of us were
to adopt an ecological perspective,
and thereby join in learning and
telling the new story of the world.


Summer 2004

American Atheist

Examination of the
Part Three of
Thomas Paine's

Thomas Paine


The Age of Reason

by Anne R. Stone

Annotated by Frank R. Zindler

The man who coined the name
'The United States of America'
Part three
was also a Bible scholar of
Examination of the Prophecies
prodigious wit and talent, as
Edited and Annotated by Frank R.Zindler
seen in this study of Old
Testament passages claimed as prophecies of Jesus by the
New Testament authors.

xiv + 96 pages. Paperback

Stock #5575


ISBN 0-910309-70-1

Living In The Light

Freeing Your Child From The
Dark Ages


Rearing children as Atheists isn't easy,

but this manual will be invaluable for
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strong immunity to the wiles of supernaturalism.

157 pages, paperback

Stock #5588

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An Atheist Primer

By Madalyn Murray O'Hair

by Madalyn O'Hair.
This children's book explains what
religion and what Atheism are all
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Atheism for readers of any age.
Grades 2-4. Illustrated.
30 pp.
ISBN 0-911826-10-9

The year is 1968. The city is Austin, Texas.

The building is the studios of KTBC radio. On
the fateful day of June 3, one woman picks up
the mike and makes history.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair continues to
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broadcast transcripts that comprise this book
- her first - we are witness to a master thinker finding her voice.

333 pages. Paperback

CD-ROM from "Bank of

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With Adobe Acrobats' PDF
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To order, please include check (payable to American

Atheists) or credit card payment for the price of the
books plus shipping and handling ($2.50 for the first
title plus $1.00 for each additional title.
Send order to:
American Atheist Press
P.O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Credit card orders may be faxed to:
(908) 276-7402

ISBN 1-57884-918-7


The Altar Boy Chronicles

by Tony Pasquarello
The hilarious romp of a logical mind trying to grow up Catholic in Philadelphia's
Little Italy during
World War II.
214 pp. Paperback



Stock #5583


The Great Infidels

By Robert G. Ingersoll, with foreword by Jon G. Murray
Newly reprinted and reformatted,
Ingersoll's sketches of the lives of
great Freethinkers is one of his most
inspiring works. Includes his amusing
discussion of the fallacy of informal
logic known as the "appeal to the

76 pages, paperback
Stock #5197

ISBN 0-910309-08-6

The Jesus Puzzle

Old ~

with mythical Christ?



Did Christianity Begin With A

Mythical Christ?
by Earl Doherty

By Ibn Warraq

Challenging the existence

of an historical Jesus

A courageous crticicism of the

dark side of Islam

"This is the most compelling argument

ever published in support of the theory
that Jesus never existed as an historical person. This is a superb book - one
that every Atheist should read and
- Frank R. Zindler

Stock #5599

"The present work attempts

sow a drop of doubt in an ocean of
dogmatic certainty by taking an
and critical look
at almost all the fundamental
tenets of Islam."

$14.50 USA, $18.50

Prometheus Books. 402 pp. Hard cover. ISBN: 0-87975-984-4


Stock #7011


Revised Edition
By W. P. Ball, G. W. Foote, John
Richard M. Smith, & others.
Introduction by Jon G. Murray
Foreword by Madalyn O'Hair



xv + 372 pages. Paperback

by John G. Jackson, with

foreword by Frank R. Zindler

If I

The ultimate defense against

the missionaries on our
ISBN 0-910309-26-4

Stock # 5008


The Jesus the

Jews Never Knew
Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the
Quest of the Historical Jesus in
Jewish Sources



Stock # 7026

2 VHS Tape Set
of the talks at the

Nov. 2,2002
Stock # 5999



Stock #5200





If Jesus of Nazareth was real, why

didn't the ancient Jews know of
him? Search of all ancient Jewish
literature yields no evidence of any
historical Jesus.
ISBN 1-57884-916-0

A historical survey of the components of Christianity, showing that

they existed before that religion
was invented. An excellent starter
book on the historicity of Jesus
Christ. Prof. Jackson was a pioneer
in the field of African and AfroAmerican studies.

ISBN 0-910309-20-5

By Frank R. Zindler

544 pages. Paperback

Before Christ

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.
354 pages. Paperback.
Stock #5902

ISBN 1-57884-920-9