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AMERICAN ATHEIST Wiki Commons

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought


3rd Quarter 2017
Vol. 55, No. 3
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)

On the cover: We are living in a country much different from even one year ago. This
issues cover story is a statement from American Atheists President David Silverman, who
speaks for the entire organization when he says that bigoted atheists have no place in our
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF movement (see page 5).
Pamela Whissel
PWhissel@Atheists.org
LAYOUT and GRAPHICS EDITOR
Rick Wingrove
In This Issue
RWingrove@Atheists.org
4 Letter From The Editor
COPY EDITOR Free Speech Means No Taste Test | Pamela Whissel
Karen Rei lly

RESEARCH ASSISTANT 5 Cover Story


Anthony J. Crincoli Shrinking the Tent | David Silverman
PROOFREADERS
Gil Gaudia 6 Kitten, Cat, or Tiger? | Hank Fox
Shelley Gaudia
Den Jackson 10 Sweden: Atheist Altruism at Its Finest | Mark Kolsen
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS
MANAGING EDITOR
Frank R. Zindler
12 Dogma Watch
Editor@Atheists.org 16 Saviors, 16 Flavors | Michael B. Paulkovich
Published by 16 Why I Wont Take My Daughter to a Religious Pediatrician |
American Atheists, Inc. Ross Rosenfeld
Mailing Address:
225 Cristiani St.
Cranford, NJ 07016
18 A Little Bit O Soul | Gary Reed
Phone: 908.276.7300
FAX: 908.276.7402 20 Book Review
www.Atheists.org Ruth3:5 by Michael Fridgen | Sam Witt
2017 American Atheists Inc.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part
22 Book Excerpt
without written permission is prohibited. American Atheist Answers | David McAfee
Atheist is indexed in the Alternative Press Index.
American Atheist magazine is given free of cost to
members of American Atheists as an incident of their 26 Hillary, Women, and Patriarchalism | Brian Bolton
membership.
One-year print subscription to American Atheist
magazine: $20. Subscribe online at www.Atheists. 30 Helping Kids Experience Awe Without Religion | Maria Polonchek
org/subscribe. Annual Individual Membership
with American Atheists, which includes free
online access to recent issues of American Atheist
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46 Why I Am an Atheist | Cathy Puett Miller
Sign up for membership at www.Atheists.org/join.
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3RD QUARTER 2017
not tax-deductible. www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Free Speech Means No Taste Test

T he current president of this country is no friend of the


First Amendment; it isnt even a vague acquaintance of his. Its
gratuitously beside the point to mention that hed be unable
to recite it on demand except that, at this writing, most of us
cant. So here it is in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an


establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom
of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.

I promise that by the time you read this, I will have it


memorized. I ask you to do the same because if we want to continue Sculpture in the Vatican Museum by Antonio Canova: Perseus
to be taken seriously as guardians of the First Amendment, its with the head of Medusa (photo by Yair Haklai - Wikicommons)
not a bad idea to know the entire thing by heart. (This isnt asking
too much, given the sharp memorization skills many of us havent Of course, everyone who reads or contributes to this
unpacked since the days of reciting prayers and Bible verses.) magazine has a special interest in the first ten words, known as
the Establishment Clause, but were at a time in history when
anyone interested in the work of American Atheists needs to
"Everything" by Thomas Chung (courtesy of the artist) give as much attention to free speech rights as religious rights.
When a First Amendment right is in harms way, the best line
of defense is to deliberately exercise the endangered freedom
ourselves as soon as possible. This act of protection is currently
being deployed by professional athletes who kneel or lock arms
during the national anthem as a way of condemning Donald
Trumps appallingly misguided slurs against Americans who, by
exercising free speech, are preserving the right for all of us.
On social media, talk radio, and everywhere else, the gesture
is getting mixed reviews. These conversations, no matter where
they take place, are an opportunity to help detractors understand
that the rights enshrined in the First Amendment are each, for
all intents and purposes, a deal. When they were struck back in
1791, they were something terrific. To this day, they are still some
of the greatest deals ever made. They were so great that their
mastermind, James Madison, became president a few years later
without even having to promise to make America great again.
The deal for free speech goes like this: you get to have your
say in exchange for tolerating everyone else having their say.
You dont have to approve of or agree with what theyre saying.
You dont have to like it. You dont have to listen to it or pay it
any attention at all. But you must allow it to exist, even if what
they say saddens, angers, insults, disrespects, or offends you.
Even if its in very, very poor tastethe poorest taste possible.
In this country, the right to free speech means that a court of
law cannot impose consequences if you speak out against your
government. Thats why no professional athletes have been fired
Continued on page 28

4 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


Shrinking the Tent
American Atheists does not tolerate intolerance
by President David Silverman

A s an organization, we embrace the broadest definition


of atheist, which is someone who a lacks a belief in a deity,
be it Thor, Zeus, Ganesh, Yahweh, Jesus, Mohammad, or any
more than a cruel and disgusting scheme to use them as a
political football.
The current tolerance for bigotry has exposed the fact that
although the largest roadblock to equality is religion, not all
of the other thousands of gods that have been imagined for
as long as people have been around. Atheists are the most bigots are religious. Some of them are atheists. If you are an
maligned and underrepresented demographic in the country, atheist who believes that it is possible to march with Nazis and
so we must speak up in order to be counted. Our tent is a big still be a good person, we dont want you. If you are an atheist
one because atheists come from everywhere, and we need who believes that the white supremacist point of view may
help from every kind of atheist: Democrats and Republicans, sometimes be reasonable, then we dont want you. If you are
Libertarians and Socialists, conservatives and liberals, an atheist who believes that discrimination because of race,
firebrands and diplomats. Reasonable people can have gender, or sexual orientation is sometimes acceptable, then we
reasonable disagreements about reasonable topics. Thats dont want you.
what it means to be an American. We dont want your membership, we dont want your
Today, we are living in a nation and world very different money, and we dont want your support. Your cause is not our
from just a year ago. cause. American Atheists exists to eliminate bigotry against
Because of this, American Atheists is obliged to say, in no our community, so we will never tolerate bigotry from our
uncertain terms, that we will not tolerate intolerancefrom community.
neither our neighbors nor our government. While our organization needs all the help it can get, we dont
The current tolerance for bigotry is what emboldened white want it from all atheists. Calling yourself an atheist doesnt
nationalists and neo-Nazis to rally in Charlottesville in August. automatically make you a member of our community. It just
Their views are reprehensible, their actions are abhorrent, and means we happen to share one thing in common. And that
they have no place in our civil society. American Atheists stands one thing isnt good enough. We must own the fact that some
in complete solidarity with the targets of this hatred. atheists can be bad people. It takes more than the lack of a belief
The current tolerance for bigotry is what emboldened the in God to be a reasonable person.
Trump Administration to suspend the Deferred Action of We have far more in common with Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. There is no question that and Hindus who strive for equality than we have with any atheist
DACA has improved the lives of more than 800,000 men and who advocates hatred. An atheist who sides with religious bigots
women who were brought to this country as children. Our against the cause of equality is no friend of ours. We must keep
nation is made stronger by immigrantsmany of whom came our tent as large as possible, but we will not include anyone who
to the U.S. because of our commitment to religious freedom embraces bigotry or merely turns a blind eye to it.
and government neutrality. This is a fight for the character of our nation, and while we
The current tolerance for bigotry is what spurred our hope all reasonable people agree, simply hoping isnt enough.
president to sign a memo directing the Pentagon to ban As atheists, we know that the only way to conquer evil is by
transgender recruits and enlistments. By doing so, he is putting human actionby speaking out forcefully and confronting
into question the status of transgender members of the military bigotry and inequality whenever we see it. And, most of all, by
already serving openly and bravely. Expelling these dedicated standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the targets of this bigotry,
American troops, which number in the thousands, is nothing no matter the cost.

We exist to eliminate bigotry against our community, so we


will never tolerate bigotry from our community.
3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 5
Kitten, Cat, or Tiger?
by Hank Fox

I would like to propose three conceptual models for


religion in society.
The Kitten: Religion is a harmless, joy-giving plus in a
persons life. It is sweet and good and loving, a fluffy little
bundle that could not possibly hurt anyone. Everyone who has
it benefits from it, and everyone agrees that more people should
determination, people should probably have the right to have
it, but it should stay safely cagedin privateat all times. Free
will and self-determination are bedrock principles and good
for society, but society overall would definitely be better off
without having religion itself running around loose.
Of course, were all aware that large numbers of people
have it. Society itself benefits from having it. see religion as The Kitten. Religion is always positive, always
The Cat: Religion gives pleasure to the people who have it. loving, and could not possibly hurt anybody. It seems to me
However, it does have claws and teeth and occasionally harms that the majority of agnostics, and even some atheists, see
people when its in a bad mood. The majority of people who religion as The Cat.
have it seem to benefit from it, but it remains fully capable Yes, they would admit there have been unfortunate
of drawing blood. It is still a plus in most peoples lives, and incidents such as the Crusades and the Inquisition. And sure,
though society must keep a wary eye out for the teeth and claws, there are those idiot parents who, because of their faith, deny
it should continue to be a prominent part of the local culture. life-saving medical care to their children. And, yes, okay, there
The Tiger: Religion is incredibly dangerous, a streamlined was that Jim Jones thing, and the Heavens Gate thing, and
predator that menaces not only those who have it, but also sure, Scientology is a nutty, fringe, culty thing that victimizes
those around them. It is only safe when caged; it doesnt even its hapless adherents.
have to be in a bad mood; it only has to be itself, and someone But overall, religion gives people hope and solace and stuff
will get hurt. On the general principles of free will and self- like that. If nothing else, it keeps the dangerous idiots from

It is impossible to have a strongly held belief


in your head and not have it affect your
thoughts and actions in powerful ways.
6 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
To believe the unprovable,
unsupportable, indefensible is
somehow the greatest of virtues.
rising up and killing us all. In the main, its just not all that idea, one side effect of which was that in the 1860 census alone,
dangerous and has had little impact on history or the overall almost four million of those people with dark skin were trapped
shape of society today. in slavery.
As for The Tiger, youd actually have to work to make that The interesting thing is that most people of those times,
a convincing case because, hey, wheres the danger in having both in Germany and the U.S., not only thought those beliefs
it around? I mean, seriously, here we are in a world of modern were normal, they thought they were right and even good.
wondersyou know, computers and jet planes, surgery and Strong, widely-held beliefs affect everythingevery part of the
antibiotics, schools and libraries and democracyand yet society in which they hold sway, and those beliefs even affect
ancient religion is still very much with us. people outside of the society.
I see religion as The Tiger and nothing but The Tiger. Im Heres the U.S. Supreme Courtthe Supreme Court!
disturbed that more people dont see it as I do, but I guess Im weighing in on slavery in the 1857 Dred Scott decision: Any
not all that surprised. Yet, Id like to make the following case for person descended from Africans, whether slave or free, is not
The Tiger. a citizen of the United States. Looking back on it, you have to
If you believe a thing, it has some real effect on you. I believe I ask, What the hell was wrong with those people? What were
could win the lottery because, hey, somebody has to, so why not they thinking??
me? That beliefa small-to-middling one as beliefs gowill What was wrong with them was just this: By our standards
cost a lot of people somewhere between $300 to $1,800 in the they were crazy as hell. But because just about everybody was
coming year. If your state or local taxes went up by $1,800 this crazy the same way, very few people noticed. Which made a
year, would that bother you? Well, yeah. But a five-dollar-a-day horror of the lives of four million people.
lottery player pays that same amount and thinks nothing of it. The strongly-held and widespread belief about slaves in the
He believes hell win all of his money back plus a lot more. Its U.S. wasnt just a little bit bad, it was a nightmare. Likewise, the
not a tax, its more like an investment, right? strongly-held and widespread belief about Jews in Germany
If you believe a thing, it affects you, but if you believe a thing wasnt just a little bit bad, it was a nightmare.
strongly, it affects you a lot. It could affect pretty much every Lets talk about another belief. Say some people believe this:
aspect of your life. This is not real life. You only get to have real life after you die.
Im going to start a band and be rich and famous! Hey, And even then, its only good if you passed the big test in this
if youre going to be rich and famous, why do you need high temporary, prototype life. Part of the test is that you have to
school? Or a college fund? Or the good will of your parents tell everybody about the real life, and if anybody disagrees with
or peers? Better to spend that time and money practicing and you, considering theyre not really alive anyway, its perfectly
buying better instruments and amps. And to hell with anybody okay to torment or even kill them.
who stands in your way. Real life, and the testing-phase life that precedes it, is ruled
If you believe a thing, it affects you. If you believe a thing by this big, powerful guy who is more important than anybody
strongly, it affects you a lot. But if everybody believes a thing or anything you know. Nothing is more important than he is.
strongly, they create an entire culture wrapped around that He and the things he sayspassed on in this big, special book
belief. and by the people who interpret it for usare more important
Something must be done about these treacherous, secretive, than your health, more important than the life and death of your
manipulative Jews. kids, more important than the love of your life, more important
The Germans of the 1930s didnt just sit at home being than democracy and justice and freedom, more important than
mildly, privately amused by this belief. No, they built an entire the entire earth and all it contains.
society on the idea. One of the side effects was that eleven In fact, in the very near future, the big powerful guy is going
million people were murdered, and another side effect was a to destroy the entire earth and all it containsevery last puppy
war that directly or indirectly killed another fifty million. and baby and symphony and sunset. And thats a good thing
People with dark skin are inferior to those of us with lighter because it will allow us and everybody we know to get on with
skins. our real lives, which are going to be perfect and last forever.
The North Americans of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and Oh, and by the way, because we believe all this, were the
nineteenth centuries didnt just chat about this quaint belief Chosen Ones, and pretty much nothing we do to the bad,
over tea and biscuits. No, they built an entire society on the Un-Chosen Ones is really all that wrong.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 7


If everybody believes a thing
strongly, they create an entire culture
wrapped around that belief.
Imagine people believing this thing very, very strongly for decisions on potential pregnancy. Theyll have fewer abortions.
the past thousand years, right up to today. Now imagine what Is that a no-brainer? Well, heck yeah. But among the rankest
sort of society theyd create. It would be a crazy one, dont you foes of abortion in the U.S., that faction of conservative
think? Completely bonkers. Christians who also drive around with bumper stickers that
It would have to be. I mean, if you really believed that read, Its a Child, Not a Choice! and You Cant Be Both
nothing around you was real? And that being dead would be Pro-Abortion and Catholic, you will find virtually zero in
a good thing? That you should go out and do anything and equally fervent favor of the two most effective techniques
everything you could to convince others? And that it was all contraception and sex educationfor achieving that goal.
going to end soon, and hurrah for that? How much misery do you suppose those millions of
And yet. unwanted pregnancies have causedto the unready parents, to
Here we are, living in wealth and luxury and contentment. the unwanted children, to the cash-strapped society required to
The sun shines, the birds sing, we go to work each day, and have support them? A lot. That misery is literally incalculable because
dinner each night. It all seems so normal. Is the world really all we cant even bring ourselves to think about the possibility of
that crazy? I have to be wrong about it, right? misery in such cases. Our mainstream social pointer on the
Weve got TV, the internet, the power to fly across a question of pregnancy is set at Boundless, Swooning Joy, and
continent in a few hours. Weve got eyeglasses and cell phones its difficult to even have a conversation about any other view.
and a car in every driveway. Books and libraries. Barbie and Crazy.
Buzz Lightyear and Happy Meals. Skiing and whitewater More crazy: Harold Camping, leader of Christian broadcast
rafting and skateboard parks. What could possibly be wrong ministry Family Radio Worldwide, received nationwide media
with our beautiful modern society? coverage for predicting the world would end on May 21, 2011.
But again, it is impossible to have a strongly held belief in This guy is so looney tunes Warner Brothers should sue him for
your head and not have it affect your thoughts and actions in copyright infringement. And yet his prediction was covered as
extremely powerful ways. Ways which, paradoxically, you straight news. As I recall, not a single newscaster said anything
might not even notice. critical about the man or his prediction.
What evidence do I have to support the claim? How about Lets take one more example of crazy, something with no
this: Did you know theres a safe and easy way to prevent obvious connection to Christianity. Forty-seven U.S. companies
teen pregnancy? A way to dramatically lower the number of have been involved in the manufacture of landmines. From 1969
abortions? Its simplicity itself: Provide sex education. Make to 1992, we exported more than four million mines to at least
condoms and other contraceptives available. Give teens the thirty-four countries. Even years after regional wars have been
facts and the tools to accomplish the early-life goal of not getting concluded, all those unrecovered landmines continue to cripple
pregnant. If you tell teens where babies come from, and let them women and children and kill farmersto the tune of 26,000
know that unexpected mommyhood and daddyhood will put people annuallyand also critically injure or kill wildlife.
a serious crimp in all those wild, youthful plans for being a jet- In Vietnam, more than forty years after the end of the war,
setting supermodel or a motorcycle-riding vagabond off to see landmines are still killing about one hundred people every
America, and if you then tell them how to prevent babies until yearabout sixty of which, on average, are children. There are
theyre consciously ready to be mommies and daddies, they will estimated to be 800,000 active landmines still in the country,
tend, statistically, to make a greater percentage of informed, wise enough to kill or critically injure the entire population of Austin

In the very near future, the big powerful


guy is going to destroy the entire earth
and all it containsevery last puppy
and baby and symphony and sunset.
8 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
works to un-teach everything elseto squash all questions, all

The craziness is doubts, all competitors for the public podium. To confuse every
discussion with lies and nonsense so its victims can no longer

almost completely
think straight about any subject. This is precisely why the phrase
President Trump is now a part of our everyday language.
This one institutionand it has no rivals in this mission,
invisible to the not anywhere in Earth cultureis religion.
Not religion the fluffy kitten. Not religion the friendly cat

people being that just occasionally scratches. But religion the tiger, with
its historically obvious teeth and claws: lies, intimidation,

crushed under it. subjugation, suppression, terror, torture, murder, and war.
A tiger that is still with us, and has, as its fierce main mission,
to get us to believe things that are unprovable, unsupportable,
undefendable ... but that somehow must be believed, supported
or San Francisco. and defended.
To some of us, this will come across as old news. Why am I To believe the unprovable, unsupportable, indefensible is
even writing about it? But the point is that the whole situation is somehow the greatest of virtues. To doubt it is the vilest and
wacky as hell. American companies. American workers. Going most terrible of sinsa threat to our own immortal souls.
to work each day to make landmines that wouldhow can I Teach that to a whole people, for all of their history, and you
put this delicately?blow the freakin legs off children. And then create not just craziness for the individual, but also profound
sleeping well that night. (Companies in the continental United misery, vast pain, and ugliness for hapless future generations.
States supposedly stopped manufacturing landmines in 1997, But the weird sort of reverse-miracle attendant on the whole
but the U.S. still has the largest stockpile of the clever little thing is that the craziness is almost completely invisible to
things in the world.) the people being crushed under it. As long as everybody stays
Someone sat down and invented these things, knowing they crazy, as long as you kill or discredit anyone who begins to edge
would kill mostly civilian adults and children. And someone toward sanity, the crazy can stay clamped down for hundreds,
else, a lot of someone elses, right here in America, thought it even thousands, of years.
was a dandy idea to make money off them. Following which, a And so it has. Occasional bright sparks of sanity have given
lot of other someone elses put them in fields all over the world us science, technology, medicine, and reason itself. But those
without bothering to note where they were. And three hundred sparks, like diamonds in mud, are used as tools to spread the
million someone elses just sort of sat back and yawned. crazy because they still exist in a matrix of crazy that pervades,
As it turns out, there is a connection to religion in the making opposes, or perverts just about every advance toward greater
and placing of landmines. The landmine industry flourished sanity, such that we have technological wonders gifted to us by
on U.S. soil for so many years because a majority of the people the sanity-sparks of scienceradio, TV, computers, the web.
involved, and a majority of the American public, didnt even Such that we can build landmines to blow the legs off children
bother to think about it. It wasnt important because, according and sleep well at night. Such that the freedom to not have
to their beliefs, nobody was really dying. They were only children is opposed by powerful voices right now, today, at the
passing on. highest levels of American government.
Besides, even if people were injured or killed way off in those Such that every major disaster in the world is followed by
distant places, that was all up to God, wasnt it? If their lives and televised religious voices blaming either the victims, marriage
deaths were wholly the responsibility of God, no mere assembler equality, pornography, or all of the above and using the human
of landmines here in America was guilty of any moral crime. horror as a sales pitch to raise money to grow more craziness.
Heck, maybe even God was using them as a tool of redemption Such that there are large numbers of us who accept that the world
for those godless heathens. is ending soon, and that this is a good thing much to be desired.
The point of all this is that theres a level of crazy built into Such that there are world-scale problemsglobal warming, for
our culture, and it appears to spring directly from the fact that instancethat cannot even be brought up in a public forum
were trained to be crazy. To think in an irrational manner and without being shouted down by a ready chorus of crazies.
believe unbelievable things. And such that the spreading and consuming of this deadly
This isnt some cultural accident, or just a simple holdover craziness is seenby most of us stillas the most staunchly
ignorance from the time when we were flea-scratching, upright and passionately defended human right.
beasts. This is organized. Deliberate. There is, in our society, And that, excuse me, is just plain nuts.
an established, streamlined, all-pervasive and aggressive-as-
hell institutionactually a collection of institutionshell- Hank Fox is the author of Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts
bent on spreading the crazy. We live in a society that features About Reason, Gods & Faith. A former blogger on the Patheos network
a Crazy School. (A Citizen of Earth) and Freethought Blogs (Blue Collar Atheist), he now
Crazy School doesnt just teach its own curriculum, it blogs independently as A Citizen of Earth.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 9


SWEDEN:
Atheist Altruism at Its Finest
by Mark Kolsen

A re human beings innately moral? Is Steven Pinker


correct that humans have evolved five moral
senses which vary in importance depending
on culture?1 Or is all morality learned and, as new empirical
evidence suggests, relative to your personality, especially your
openness to new experiences and alternative explanations?
Many religions claim that morality emanates from their
believers, even explicitly Christians.4
Zuckermans readers also know that most of the nations with
high morality ratings are secular nations. He has consistently
demonstrated the irony that the fundamental values and moral
imperatives contained within the worlds great religions, such
as caring for the sick...practicing mercy, charity, and goodwill
. . .and fostering generosity, humility, honesty, and communal
doctrines. My brother, a Catholic deacon, believes that people, concern . . .are most successfully established, institutionalized,
especially youth and adolescents, would behave immorally and put into practice at the societal level in the most irreligious
without religion. To him and many other believers, the lack of nations in the world today.5
evidence supporting his faith matters less than the good his Among these irreligious nations, Sweden may be the
faith allegedly spreads throughout the world. most irreligious and arguably the most moral. Statistically,
Of course, religious people can and do behave morally, but Sweden is always ranked among the five least religious nations
they arent more likely than their non-religious counterparts to and usually falls second to China.6 Sweden offers strong
do good.2 Sociologist and author Phil Zuckerman says that, in evidence that an atheistic, non-believing population may be a
some situations, atheists may have higher morals than theists: key factor influencing its government to behave morally, both
Psychological studies show that secular grown-ups tend to be domestically and internationally.
less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian, For example, consider Nicaragua in the early 1980s. A
and more tolerant, on average, than religious humans.3 His revolution had overthrown the U.S.-backed government
thorough empirical research has even swayed some religious of dictator Anastasio Somoza, and the new Sandinista-led
people to doubt their monopoly on morality. After reading government was viewed by Washington as a threat to the
Zuckermans books, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern hemisphere. Although the Sandinistas enjoyed popular
Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote, It is [not] impossible for support, the Reagan Administration secretly organized
[an] atheist to live according to some moral code . . .to live a life and funded an army of mercenaries known as contras to
that is ethically superior to at least some who would claim to be overthrow them. The contras killed 30,000 civilians and

If youd like to spread good throughout


the world, wouldnt you be better off
living in an atheist nation like Sweden?
10 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
Most of the nations with high morality
ratings are secular nations.
gradually destroyed Nicaraguas infrastructure. In 1984, the
Reagan Administration thumbed its nose at the World Court
when it ruled that U.S. intervention had broken international
law and ordered the Administration to pay reparations. In 1986,
after the Reagan administration belittled the international
communitys declarations that the Nicaraguan elections were
fair and open, many of us wondered who, in the international
community, could stop Reagans illegal and immoral war.
The only nation in the world with the guts to stand up to the
U.S. was Sweden. While other countries softened their criticism
in response to U.S. pressure and bullying, Sweden remained
steadfast in its economic and political support of the Nicaraguan
government. Over the course of a decade, from 1979 to 1989,
Sweden gave one billion Swedish kronor (approximately $125
million U.S. dollars) in assistance to Nicaragua. The Swedes
also provided technical assistance to help Nicaragua develop its
agricultural, medical, and technology sectors and, also, to help
the country harness its natural resources with minimal impact Source: Sweden Migration Agency
on the environment.
Sweden did this because the Social Democrats, especially receive health care, education, family and sick leave, three different
Prime Minister Olof Palme, were impressed by Nicaraguas pension accounts, and a variety of other benefits Americans can
commitment to reducing economic inequality. But this altruism only dream of. Taxes on wealthy Swedes are higher than taxes
also protected its own national interests. The government on wealthy Americans, but Sweden consistently sits near the top
understood that for small states to maintain their independence, of the World Happiness Report, highlighting the high level of
they had to stand in solidarity with one another. Throughout satisfaction in this region of the world.10
the 1980s, Swedish policy on Nicaragua ... proved to be an A variety of studies have confirmed Swedens international
overall stable policy in unstable times. The policy survived moral stature. Using data from the UN and other international
negative feedback, international tension, change of government organizations, the Good Country Index of 163 countries
in Sweden, and the death of Olof Palme, who was a central actor measures what each country contributes to the common good
in the policy. 7 of humanity and what it takes away, relative to its size.11 Using
None of this history will surprise anyone who observes relations seven key categoriesscience, technology, and knowledge;
between first- and third-world countries. Over the past fifty years, culture; international peace and security; world order; planet
Sweden has often been hailed as the most generous provider of aid and climate; prosperity and equality; and health and well-
to needy countries. It has taken in more Syrian refugees per capita beingthe index ranks Sweden number one.
(an astounding five per one thousand Swedes) than any other More evidence comes from the Human Truth Foundation,
western nation.8 With regard to its own people, Swedens total which gathers data from various sources (including the Institute
public spending is among the highest in the world relative to the for Economics and Peace, the Global Charities Foundation, and
size of the countrys economy.9 All Swedes, regardless of income, the United Nations) to create the Index of Morality Conscience
and the Good Life, based on twenty-three criteria. Sweden ranks
second among 196 nations.12 The Transparency Institute in Berlin
takes a different approach by using a corruption index to measure
morality. According to the Institute, Sweden ties with Finland as
the worlds second-least corrupt nation.13 The majority of nations
appearing in the top ten of these lists are also mostly secular:
Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and The Netherlands.
With all of these statistics, atheists have a new question to
ask theists who believe morality requires religion: If youd like
to spread good throughout the world, wouldnt you be better off
living in an atheist nation like Sweden?
Endnotes on page 37
Mark Kolsen recently retired from teaching high school in Wheaton,
Illinois. He is an avid fan of the Four Horsemen, the late Victor Stenger,
and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He strives to understand all facets of scientific
Source: migrationsverket.se cosmology and evolutionary biology.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 11


DOGMA WATCH Religion has had an enormous impact on the world. In this series, Michael B.
Paulkovich examines dogmas, myths, and religious notions past and present.

16 Saviors, 16 Flavors
by Michael B. Paulkovich

H ow many humans have been worshiped as gods?


How many have declared themselves to be the
chosen one? From emperors to eighteenth-
century Shakers to modern-day mass murderers, many have
claimed divinity. Their status as gods and prophets is gained
by military might or public moralizing and sometimes nothing
more than charisma. They may have great nations of followers
Unlike fictitious Jesus, Augustus is a genuine historical
figure. But he and Jesus do have one real thing in common:
they were deified by their followers. Augustus reign as
a supreme being started in 9 BCE, when the Provincial
Assembly of Asia Minor implemented a proposal by governor
Paullus Fabius Maximus. They composed a resolution, the
Letter of the Proconsul to the Cities of Asia, which declared
who believe their every word, or they may be known only as that Augustus was fathered by Zeus but took human form
frauds and criminals, with those who once believed in them when he came down to Earth. Upon his death, Augustus
memorialized as victims. returned to heaven:
Roman emperors were considered gods in their day, so
lets start with Caesar Augustus, who figures into the story of Whereas the Providence... has brought our life to
the most well-known savior of our time, Jesus of Nazareth. the peak of perfection in giving to us Augustus Caesar,
According to Luke Chapter 2, Augustus ordered a census whom it filled with virtue for the welfare of mankind,
throughout the Roman Empire which required all residents to and who, being sent to us and to our descendants as
return to their cities of origin. Thats the tale wherein Mary and a savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in
Joseph went to Bethlehem and had to lodge in a stable among order; and whereas having become visible, Caesar has
sheep and cattle. fulfilled the hopes of all earlier times.

If any man come to me and hate not his


father, and mother, and wife, and children,
and brethren he cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:26)
12 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
With his twelve sidekicks, he took his
preacher show on the road, offering
counsel to peasants and nobility alike.
The proclamation also created a new calendar to further that I would be abandoning the greater struggle for virtue.
immortalize his name: ...[A]nd whereas, finally, that the On Prayer - Apollonius recommended that you pray that
birthday of the God has been for the whole world the beginning justice may be done, that laws be not broken.
of the gospel concerning him, therefore, let all reckon a new era On Family - He inherited wealth but gave much of it away
beginning from the date of his birth, and let his birthday mark because it was at best but a transitory toy. I gave it up to my
the beginning of [each] new year. brothers, my friends, and the poorer of my relatives.
The influence of this proclamation continues to this day. Of course, he never performed miracles despite claims of
The month of August is named for him, just as July is for Julius him healing the sick, but his life, as recorded by his biographer
Caesar. We commemorate other gods from that time as well. Philostratus, was apparently exemplary and one of the kindest
January is named for the god Janus, March for Mars, April for and most self less ever lived. In his Vita Apollonii (Life of
Aphrodite, May for Maia, and June for Juno. Apollonius), Philostratus wrote that Apollonius did not die,
The idea of the messianic head of state has stuck around. but was resurrected and physically elevated to heaven.
Emperor Hirohito of Japan was a deity in the eyes of his people
until he was demoted to demigod after the countrys defeat Jesus of Nazareth
in World War II. More recently, the paramilitary soldiers This first-century religious zealot claimed to have the
of Saddam Hussein had the motto that those who swear power of God to show sinners (i.e. everyone) the way to
allegiance to Saddam are swearing allegiance to God. God because he was the son of God. The Bible claims that
The rulersand the dear departed rulersof North Korea Jesus was conceived by divine intervention, healed the
are also deities in their country. Kim Jong-il (dead) is the son of sick, and warned that the world was going to end very soon
Kim Il-sung (long dead) and is the father of Kim Jong-un, the (Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 23:36, Mark 9:1, and Luke
third and still-living unit of a Korean divine trinity. 21:32). With his twelve sidekicks, he took his preacher show
More on Kim Jong-un later. For now, lets continue our on the road, offering counsel to peasants and nobility alike
survey of ancient messiahs and work our way up through the in a small area of Judea.
centuries to meet a whole smorgasbord of saviors, each with But if he truly wanted Gods word disseminated, why didnt
their own distinctive flavor. he visit Beijing, Alexandria, and/or Romethe metropolises of
his time? Details. Lets compare some words attributed to him
Apollonius of Tyana with the words of Appolonius:
The philosopher Apollonius enjoyed a large following of On the Mount - In his sermon on a mount, Jesus advised to
admirers and apostles who considered him a prophet of divine pluck out your eyes if you find yourself attracted to a woman or
birth. He supposedly led a life of moral perfection traveling and else you will be sent to hell (Matthew 5:28-29).
preaching throughout Syria, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and On Slavery - Jesus had no problem with it: Blessed is
India during the first and second centuries. He offered wise that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so
counsel to kings of many lands, all the while remaining humble doing... But if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth
and rejecting the label of deity. His documented words include his coming and shall begin to beat the menservants and
the following advice: maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken ... And
that servant, which knew his lords will, and prepared not
On the Mount - In his sermon on a mount to the Ephesians, himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten
he urged the study of truth, philosophy, and wisdom. with many stripes (Luke 12:43-48).
On Slavery - Apollonius said that you show yourself to be On Reason - Take no thought for your life, what ye shall
a good man when defending the liberty of your own land... eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall
[rather] than bringing slavery on a city. put on... Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither
On Reason - Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) wrote do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father
that he learned from Apollonius to be free with a certainty feedeth them ... Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall
beyond all chance, not to look to anything else but reason even we eat? (Matthew 6:25-31).
for a moment. On Virtue - Jesus reminded the Pharisees that they were
On Virtue - When the judges of the Olympic Games hypocrites if they didnt follow the uber-draconian rules of
requested his presence, Apollonius wrote, For myself, I the Old Testament: For instance, Moses gave you this law
would come for the spectacle of the physical struggle, except from God: Honor your father and mother, and Anyone

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 13


who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put great furniture, and the church still exists with a couple of
to death (Mark 7:10). childless members. Interested parties can go on their website
Jesus praised genocide as well: to inquire about becoming a Shaker.

Then he began to denounce the cities where Bernhard Mller


most of his mighty works had been done, because Born in 1788, Mller emigrated from Germany to
they did not repent. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to Pennsylvania in 1831. Claiming to be a prophet, he led his
you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you followers to the promised land of Grand Ecore, Louisiana,
had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have only to die shortly after their arrival. His widow continued his
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell mission and established Germantown Colony, a socialist utopia
you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment eagerly awaiting the imminent second coming of Christ. They
for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, were dispersed by the Civil War and eventually disbanded.
will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought Today, Germantown Colony is on the National Register of
down to Hades (Matthew 11:20-23). Historic Places, complete with a museum.

On Prayer - And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in Hong Xiuquan


prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22). So Gods a This Christian zealot, born in China in 1814, saw visions
celestial vending machine; in goes your prayer, out comes your and believed he was the brother of Jesus Christ. In his twenties,
wish. That vendor is still in business today. he had a nervous breakdown after failing a civil service exam
On Family - If any man come to me and hate not his father, for the third time. While recovering, he had a dream that he
and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, went to heaven where he met his spiritual family (different
yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple (Luke than his biological family on earth) and destroyed demons
14:26). This is what a return to good old Christian family that were plaguing heaven. Hong instigated a rebellion to
values would really look like. install himself as the heavenly king of the empire. As a result,
The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote that Jesus did not anywhere from twenty to fifty million people were killed in
die, but was resurrected and physically elevated to heaven China from 1850 to 1864 during the Taiping Rebellion.
(Luke 24:51).
Antnio Conselheiro
Shabbetai Zevi of Smyrna Conselheiro was a Brazilian who predicted that the end
A seventeenth-century religious zealot, Zevi was a of the world would be a four-year process. He wrote that in
Sephardic rabbi who claimed to be the long-awaited messiah. 1896, a multitude shall come up from the shore In 1898 there
He had a group of followers throughout southeast Europe and shall be a great scarcity of heads In 1900 all light shall be
believed the world was going to end very soon in tikkun, which extinguished. He may be commended for one thing: Despite
is the Hebrew concept of God ending and fixing the world. the Bibles approvaland even legislationof slavery, he
The prime minister of Constantinople had him imprisoned fervently opposed it. Conselheiro lucked out and never had to
and gave him the choice of death or converting to Islam. He answer for his End Times math mistake. He died in 1897, three
chose the latter. years before the non-apocalypse.

Ann Lee Thirih


Born a Quaker in England in 1736, Ann Lee believed that Fatimah Baraghani was a nineteenth-century theologian
one could attain perfect holiness through celibacy. Her frequent and prophet of the Bb faith in Iran. As an exceptional
public proclamations of Jesus imminent return garnered her beauty who was highly educated for a woman of her time, she
a group of loyal followers who emigrated to the U.S. in 1774. elevated herself to a notorious position in her faith through
They settled Niskayuna, New York, and became the United her zealous behavior and was given the moniker Thirih,
Society of Believers in Christs Second Appearing. Outsiders which means pure one.
colloquially referred to them as Shakers, after their form of For example, at one Bb assembly, and to the horror
worshipping through ecstatic dancing. of the men gathered, she exposed her face by removing
She healed the sick (they say), predicted the future (they the traditional veil from her head (a serious no-no under
say), and proffered claims of miraculous events. Because Islam) in symbolic rebellion against the restraint on women.
of their adherence to celibacy, the Shakers died off without She was revered as a martyr and saint after the Iranian
leaving successors. government executed her by strangulation (using her own
They do get points for being pacifists and for making veil) for breaking Sharia Law.

They do get points for being pacifists


and for making great furniture.
14 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
Joseph Smith
This inventor of the Mormon religion and founder of the
Billionaires and
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) claimed an
angel named Moroni visited him in 1823 to alert him of some slum-dwellers alike
golden plates buried in the woods near his house in Palmyra,
New York. Smith claimed that the plates, written in Reformed
Egyptian (there is no such thing), told the tale of a group of
must cough it up
people who were led by God from Jerusalem to the Americas
around 600 BC. or they forfeit their
planet and spend
Today, the LDS Church claims a worldwide membership of
over fifteen million. Adherents believe that each of the trillions
of planets in the cosmos has its own god, each of whom was

eternity in the Outer


previously human. A spirit child named Elohim, the offspring
of one of those post-human gods, is the father of Jesus who came
to earth to impregnate Mary.
One of Elohims other sons, Lucifer, convinced a third of
Elohims offspring (there were millions in total) to revolt. The
ones who passed on the offer and remained neutral were cursed
to have black skin. After his resurrection, Jesus came to the
Darkness instead.
Americas to preach to the Indians, who are actually Israelites. unclean spirits, and two hundred million soldiers riding on
Mormon couples in good standing with the church will fire-breathing lion-horses.
get their own planet for the husband to rule in the Celestial
Kingdom of the afterlifejust like Elohim! Good standing William M. Branham
requires a lot, not the least of which is to give ten percent of your Branham got an early start. In 1912, just three years after
income to the church, no matter who you are. Billionaires and his birth, he claimed that he heard voices. In his early twenties,
slum-dwellers alike must cough it up or they forfeit their planet he aspired to be a Baptist minister after hearing more voices
and spend eternity in the Outer Darkness instead. around the time that his brother died. He was ordained in 1932.
When his wife and daughter perished in the 1937 flood of the
Charles Taze Russell Ohio River, Branham figured it was God punishing him. In
Born in 1852, this fanatic got his start as a minister in the 1946, Branham received another message from God, this time
Christian primitivism movement, which strove to practice in via an angel who charged him with the heavenly mission of
the pure fashion of the first Christians. His interpretations of healing the sick and preparing everyone for the End Times.
Christianity rejected the bits about the holy trinity and hell fire/ Branham is considered one of the two founders (the other
damnation, so he did a very good job of glossing over all those was Oral Roberts) of the Healing Revival movement. They
times in the Bible where Jesus threatened people with said hell fire used the same medical techniques as Jesus: laying of hands
(Matthew 5:22, 5:29, 5:30, 18:9, 23:33; Mark 9:47; and Luke 12:5). on people or praying to God to remove the devils from the
When he founded the Jehovahs Witnesses in Pittsburgh in unfortunate victim. Accordingly, Branhams followers believed
1881, Russell claimed he was the Lords special servant, and, he was God incarnate. (It was actually the nonsense written
like Jesus, he was positive the world was going to end very soon. about Jesus healing methods that inspired the early Christians
He first claimed the End Times would come in 1874. Then to discard Hippocrates scientific method in favor of exorcisms
1904, then 1914, then 1915. The Jehovahs Witnesses revised and burnings at the stake.)
his predictions every few decades until the most recent, which On Christmas Eve 1965, Branham, unable to heal
was to be in 1994. We all know how that played out. himself, succumbed to injuries he suffered in a car accident
They believe this world is ruled by Satan, an angel whose six days earlier.
egotism went nuclear. They also believe Satan has backup
angels who are now demons, and they are positive that exactly Jim Jones
144,000 humansand not even one morewill make it to Born in 1931 and an ardent Marxist in young adulthood,
heaven. This number comes from Revelation 7:4: And I heard Jones founded the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ
the number of them which were sealed: 144,000 from all the and claimed to be the Messiah. In 1977, with Mao Zedong as his
tribes of the children of Israel. inspiration, he established Jonestown, a Christian-communist
Revelation is the same book that tells of a war in heaven, a mission cobbled together in an isolated patch of jungle in
beast with two horns like a lamb, a seven-headed dragon, frog-like Continued on page 36

This catastrophe is immortalized in the


expression
3RD QUARTER 2017
drink the Kool-Aid. www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 15
Why I Wont Take
My Daughter
to a Religious
Pediatrician
by Ross Rosenfeld

I would never be in favor of banning a religion in this


country, and I am in favor of allowing hundreds of
thousands of Muslim refugees into the U.S. So its
extremely important to me as a new father that my daughter
learn to love all people from all backgrounds.
I am an atheist and a liberal with liberal friends and relatives,
so any mention of religion in terms of life decisions is often a
about Gods plan, so we found a new one. Then, after my
daughter was born, she started to lose weight, so we took her
to the pediatrician. On the day of the appointment, the doctor
came in wearing a yarmulke. Having come from a Jewish family
and having many Jewish friends, I certainly have nothing
against the Jewish people. But the yarmulke definitely made me
feel uncomfortable. How can I trust this man to make the best
toxic subject open to accusations of bigotry and xenophobia. decisions for my daughter when he believes that he has to keep
But religion, despite being a crucial part of the identities of his head covered from a mythical man in the sky?
many people, is also a decision. And I believe that it is fair, under This is not to say that I think I know more than a doctor
some circumstances, to judge someone. I would never refuse to simply because he wears a yarmulke. I respect his medical
be friends with someone because of their religion or refuse to opinions, and I am, of course, a strong advocate of education
attend a restaurant because of the owners faith, but I do judge and licensing standards. But I need a doctor to be, at the very
presidential candidates in part based on their religious beliefs, least, skeptical of faith.
since those views may affect their policy decisions. I prefer that At our request, we saw a different doctor on the follow-up
science professors not be people of faith, but people who adhere visit and immediately asked if she was religious. She was taken
strictly to the scientific methodand I certainly dont want my aback and seemed somewhat offended by the question, but she
doctors to be religious. did admit that she was. We decided to look for a new practice,
Liberals often make the mistake of viewing religion in the and we found another group nearby that had no trouble stating
same vein as race: you are born with it, and it is unchangeable. affirmatively that their doctors were not religious, and they
But this, of course, is not the case. If you are okay with accepting were fine with my askingas they should be.
things on faith, it says something about how you think, and it is Im not going down a slippery slope; Im not planning to ask
a reflection on your analytical abilities. about their political views or get their credit scores. But religion
When my wife was pregnant, we started off with an is fair game when it comes to the medical field because religion
obstetrician who made us very uncomfortable when she talked and science are enemies.

If you rely on the scientific method to make


life-or-death decisions, you should, at the
very least, cast a skeptical eye on religion.
16 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
One of the pediatricians at the original practice claimed that

Religion
religion and science can coexist because they do not interfere
with each other. I dont buy it. If you rely on the scientific
method to make life-or-death decisions, you should, at the very
least, cast a skeptical eye on religion. Just as I wouldnt entrust

is fair game
my money to a banker who thinks that twenty bucks can buy
a Rolex, Im not going to trust my daughter to a doctor who
believes in superstitions.
Our new pediatrician does something I like a lot: he

when it comes questions things. His questioning led to the testing of our
daughters stool and the discovery of her milk allergy. He

to the medical
recommended that my wife abstain from eating dairy if she was
going to breastfeed, and that we incorporate formula into the
babys diet. We immediately saw a reversal: our daughter began

field because
gaining weight and started sleeping better. Today, she is an
overall happier baby who just had her first birthday.
History is full of lessons about why we have laws and

religion and institutions that protect religious freedom and the freedom of
expression. Yet those lessons do not require us to pretend that

science are
superstitions presented as religious beliefs are just as valid as
logic and reason.

enemies. Ross Rosenfeld is a historian, educator, and political pundit who


has written for numerous websites and publications, including The
Hill, the NY Daily News, Newsday, Newsweek, and The Dictionary of
American History. He is also vice president of Long Island Atheists. His
fantasy novel for middle-grade students, The Stolen Kingdom, is a free
download on Kindle.

Support American Atheists every


time you shop Amazon.com!
At no additional cost to you, American Atheists will
receive a donation from Amazon of .5% of your total
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Go to Atheists.org/Amazon and select American
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3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 17


A Little Bit O Soul
by Gary Reed

T here were no telltale signs that something


memorable was about to happen. Just the opposite,
in fact. It was the last hour of a two-semester,
mandatory philosophy course. The professor, an ancient Jesuit
priest, was lecturing in a low monotone. He was not making
eye contact. He appeared to be focused on the point in the
back of classroom where the ceiling met the wall, but was
to do with the subject of the days lecture. It was an obvious
ploy to reduce the amount of material he could cover, and thus
the amount they would need to study for the final exam.
This priest had two Ph.D.s, one in philosophy and the other
in physics. Plus, he had been a college professor for a very long
time. There was zero chance he did not understand the game
afoot.
probably just staring into space. In short, if such a thing were Even so, on another day, I might have joined in the effort,
possible, he seemed even more bored than we were. if only to relieve the boredom. But that day, I was unusually
This was a long time ago at Xavier, the Catholic university relaxed. It was spring, it was the last day of the academic
in Cincinnati. Back then, at least in that particular academic year, and life was good. I just sat there, somewhere between
waystation, exams did not include material not covered in philosophic and catatonic, waiting for the class to end.
class. With that in mind, some enterprising fellow students But my classmates knew something that I didnt: This
were blitzing the elderly priest with questions that had nothing ancient cleric was one of the earliest activists in what would

When not teaching, he gave talks and


busied himself sounding the alarm
about the evil inherent in allowing
women to control their own bodies.
18 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
At what point in human evolution did God
begin this business of infusing souls?
become the Pro-Life movement. When not teaching, he gave jokes about teenagers knowing everything, I was up in air
talks and busied himself sounding the alarm about the evil about, well, pretty much everything. So, how, I wondered, did
inherent in allowing women to control their own bodies. This this priest know, with such absolute certainty, that God infused a
was in the late 1960s, a few years before Roe v. Wade. soul into that cell, and did so at that exact moment?
Redoubling their efforts, my classmates began throwing Souls, so far as I knew, didnt weigh anything, didnt have
questions at the priest about abortion and birth controlnot an electrial charge or cause a chemical change, and were not
because they were interested in his views, but because those otherwise detectable. The Bible, obviously, didnt say anything
topics interested him. They evidently hoped the priest would about sperm DNA and egg DNA meeting and hooking up. So,
not be able to resist the temptation of discussing something he how did this frail old man know that God infused a soul
actually cared about. whatever a soul wasand did so at that precise moment with
With that, the game took an interesting turn. The priest such complete certainty?
had a pained expression on his face. He knew full well
what they were up to, but apparently something about their Divine foresight
questions betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the Of course, I could not very well ask the old priest that
Catholic Churchs position on abortion or contraceptiona question. I would have gotten a lecture about faith and the
misconception he felt compelled to terminate. need to trust God, or something else equally uninformative.
How many of you have heard an And quite possibly a lower grade due to a

The Bible,
explanation, he asked the class, of the bad attitude or poor class participation.
Churchs position on abortion and birth But it occurred to me that there was
control? something I could ask. Before my internal
Only about one in four raised their
hands. That in itself was remarkable, obviously, editor had a chance to head things off, my
hand went up. I was sitting right in front of

didnt say
because most of us were completing our the old priest, and he nodded at me.
fourteenth or fifteenth year of Catholic If I understand the biology right,

anything
education. We knew what the Churchs I said, in the case of identical twins,
position was, of course, but curiously, no that first cell, the zygote, splits into
one had bothered to explain it. two new cells that separate and develop

about
The old man acknowledged the show independently. The old priest may or
of hands, gave up on the assigned material, may not have nodded to indicate that he
and launched into an abridged explanation understood what I was saying. I dont

DNA.
of the Churchs view. He probably said a bit remember. But he didnt cut me off.
more than I remember, but essentially, he When that happens, then? I asked.
went to the blackboard and drew an x or Does the soul that God just infused split
some other symbol to represent a sperm cell in two, in some sort of spiritual mitosis,
and a different symbol to represent an egg. or does God recall it and issue two new
He then drew arrows from each to a circle. ones? I think my question caught the old
The circle represented the ovum that forms when the sperm priest off guard, or maybe he was just distracted, because he
fertilizes the egg. simply muttered something about divine foresight and then
At the moment the sperm and egg unite and form a lit into two guys sitting near the door. They had been having
new cell, he explained, God infuses an immortal soul and a whispered conversation between themselves for several
transforms that cell into a human beinga person. Anyone minutes, and their conversation had become louder and more
who intentionally destroys that cell, or the embryo it develops annoying.
into, kills that person. This wasnt about killing a cell or a Before the priest had gotten very far with those
bundle of cells; it was about killing a living being with an miscreants and could turn his attention back to me, the bell
immortal soul. rang. He surrendered and dismissed the class, and I made my
I was probably nineteen years old then, and despite all the escape unscathed. The ancient professor had not eviscerated
Continued on page 34

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 19


The Cautionary Tale of a
Dystopian Philadelphia
A Review of Michael
Fridgens Ruth3:5
by Sam Witt

A ll that thou sayest unto me I will do (Ruth 3:5).


This passage of obedience and submission is
not merely a reference to scripture. These words
represent a resident of Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Ruth3:5.
In Philadelphia, everyone is named after a Bible verse. In
Philadelphia, everyone obeys, no one questions the word of
God, and women submit completely to their husbands. No
one goes near the citys outer wall. There is no need because
controlled by the GovernChurch. What she learns in school
and what she can do in her spare time is encased in wall-to-wall
religious indoctrination. There is not a moment of her life that
is truly hers. For example, Ruth has a fascination with womens
fashion and creates her own colorful hats and secretly models
them for herself. Since the GovernChurch forbids women
from wearing hats or donning colorful attire, she risks severe
punishment for her hobby.
there is nothing but Philadelphia, the last city on Earth. Her best friend, Two Samuel1:26, may be a male who, in
Ruth3:5, by Michael Fridgen, is an exploration of how far a turn, has a few extra privileges, but he is no stranger to hardship
disagreement can go among religious sects of the same faith. since he is named for the verse that says, I am distressed for
It is an Orwellian look at what can happen when one sect has thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto
complete control of the government and polices self-expression, me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
suppresses originality, and maintains its version of facts at all Harassed due to the nature of his name, Two Samuel1:26
costs. Its the story of how one girls desire to express herself and finds solace in his own thoughts, which makes him an ideal
know the truth upsets both her community and also the outside friend for someone like Ruth. His older sister broke too many
communities she doesnt even know exist. GovernChurch rules and, as punishment, found herself in the
Enter the life of Ruth3:5, an inquisitive, intelligent girl infamous Magdalene Houses in MensTown, a place where
whose individuality is stifled at every turn by an extreme men go to escape their families and take out their frustrations
fundamentalist Christian regime. Everything from the clothes on young, captive girls. Two Sam wants nothing more than to
she wears to the amount of time spent with her father is strictly see his sister again.

It is an Orwellian look at what can happen


when one sect has complete control of the
government and polices self-expression.
20 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
Fridgen has done a noteworthy job of
building a world that will both fascinate
and raise the blood pressure of atheists.
Ezra2:41 is an old woman who spends her days as a and Greek Catholiceach populates a different region of the
building custodian. Her verse says, The singers: the children nation, thereby creating a country both religiously diverse and
of Asaph, a hundred twenty and eight. She has secrets to keep segregated.
and motivation to blend in. She has agreed to help Two Sam This aspect of the book is reminiscent of M. Night
by providing him information about how his sister is faring, as Shyamalans The Village. By suppressing curiosity and making
long as Two Sam repays her with updates about Ruth3:5. Two citizens fearful of what lies beyond the confines of their
Sam is uncertain why Ezra shows interest in Ruth, and Ezra comfortable, daily existence, a government can foster an
knows she cannot tell him that she is Ruths grandmother ignorant, complacent community. Ruths freethinking reminds
because grandparents are a nearly nonexistent concept us all to question everything, even if there are consequences.
in Philadelphia. Not only would Two Sam have difficulty Religious oppression of women is nothing new, especially
understanding this relationship, revealing as much could put in the Abrahamic faiths, and Philadelphias Christianity is no
her own life in jeopardy. different. Women have very specific, unappreciated functions
Jeremiah48:10 is not a man to upset. His verse fittingly says, in society, and they fare worse if they make trouble. For older
Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and women, breaking a rule might mean hard labor or even death. If
cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood. He is shes young, she faces a short life of rape and abuse in MensTown.
the captain of the Inquisitors, the GovernChurchs enforcers. Ruth is willing to speak her mind and express herself despite the
Jeremiah has order to maintain and old scores to settle. He is risks in doing so, and she embraces an uncertain life on the run
single-minded in his hunt for Ezra and knows of a way which if it means a chance of true freedom.
may draw her out of obscurity: he will anonymously bring a By allowing us to walk in the shoes of each character in this
contradictory Bible verse to Ruths attention. Her insistence complex web, Fridgen adds depth to the narrative in a way that a
that its an error will bring trouble raining down and force Ezra single point of view would not. Despite this dynamic mechanism
out of hiding to protect her granddaughter. for storytelling, its unclear at times who the main character
Ruth takes the bait, does the unthinkable, and questions should be. Ruth3:5s storyline is sometimes overshadowed by
a Bible verse in school, which invites the wrath of the the time given to Ezras perspective, and it can feel like this is
GovernChurch. This sets off a chain of events in which Ruth, really Ezras story.
Ezra, and Two Sam move underground while the whole city There are times when the dialogue from Two Sam and Ruth
goes on high alert. Following a series of instructions left on feels like it belongs to people much older and more mature.
an ancient iPraise device (even in dystopic Philadelphia, no In such a repressed environment where religious instruction
one escapes Apples influence), the trio tries to escape not takes precedence over other learning, the pair seem more
just Jeremiah and his inquisitors, but also the law-keepers of a articulate and refined than one might expect. There are
neighboring city no one knew existed. Out of the frying pan other dialogue issues as well, such as certain characters who
and into the fire, they quickly come to understand that the new externalize their thoughts frequently to the air around them
city they have discovered, influenced by a different version of or speak in wordy, cumbersome ways. While these issues
Christianity, is just as terrifying as the one they left. were somewhat of a distraction, they didnt reduce my overall
Like real religious groups, the Christians in Fridgens enjoyment of the story.
Philadelphia are convinced that they hold the correct Fridgen has done a noteworthy job of building a world that
interpretation of scripture. This takes creative license, shall we will both fascinate and raise the blood pressure of atheists.
say, on some of the finer points of the religion. For example, there Anyone who has fallen out of the faith will sympathize
is no concept of Santa Claus. Instead, Jesus himself delivers with Ruth, Two Sam, and Ezra as they fight back against
presents to all the homes on ChristBirth. Jesus crucifixion the oppressive leadership and begin to question everything
took place in Boathouse Row, a historic site in Philadelphia. As theyve been taught. The level of control exerted by the
is often the case, this brand of Christianity evolved to fit what is GovernChurch over the populace is a nightmare scenario
convenient and ignore whatever is not. that serves well as a cautionary tale.
By having the citizens of Philadelphia believe that theirs The genre of dystopian adventure is a crowded one in
is the only city on Earth, the author imagines a world where publishing, but Ruth3:5 stands out as a worthwhile read for
differing religious viewpoints are sequestered from one another. atheists and anyone else who recognizes that its not impossible
Perhaps this bleak Philadelphia of the future is not that far- for religion to take over our government.
fetched. While not as extreme as the Philadelphia in the book,
Lebanon is a country full of religious boundaries, even among Sam Witt is a board member of the Greater Cincinnati Tri-State
sects of the same faith. Sunni and Shiite, Greek Orthodox Freethinkers, American Atheists Affiliate of the Year for 2016.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 21


Book Excerpt

Atheist Answers
by David McAfee

I have been an atheist as long as I can remember, and Ive been inundated with
questions about atheism for almost as long. After graduating from college with a
degree in religious studies, I began writing about secular issues for this magazine
and other outlets. Over the past seven years, Ive published five books, and, needless
to say, the questions keep coming. Atheist Answers is a collection of my responses to
some of the most relevant and interesting questions Ive been asked. This article is an
adaptation of two chapters: Evidence & Belief and Afterlife. I hope my ramblings
help you solidify your own ideas, and even create some new ones.
How do you know there is no God? Our knowledge is very limited, whose nonexistence I cant prove, and I dont believe in most
so isnt it possible for there to be something keeping the order? of them.
I dont claim absolute certainty on the non-existence of
god, but uncertainty is not enough to warrant belief. Nobody Can God and religion coexist with science?
knows exactly how we got here, but Im more comfortable with A lot of the conflict between religion and science stems
following the scientific evidence than I am in proclaiming the from the stagnancy of scripture. When the Bible is seen as the
existence of a deity out of my own ignorance of the facts. The divinely inspired word of God even though it makes ridiculous
distinct lack of evidence pointing to a god is exactly why I dont claims like man being made from dirt and the earth being
believe in one. created in six days, you get generations of people who fight
against our evolving understanding of our origins. If you look
What evidence do you have against the existence of God? at organizations that have consistently impeded the progress of
We have lots of evidence against certain types of gods, science, youll see that they are most often religious in nature.
including prayer-answering deities. Intercessory prayer, for
example, has been extensively debunked by the scientific method. Want proof of God? Look at the human eye. That design did
not happen on its own.
But can you prove that God does not exist? Should we conclude that God is an eagle then? An eagles
No, and Ive never said I could. There are a lot of things eyesight is up to eight times better than a humans.

Our physical matter is recycled into


the atmosphere in order to start the
process of being all over again.
22 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
Believers often forget that most
atheists used to be religious.
How can you look at something like a flower and say its construction in it. I would agree that its counter-productive to say
is by complete chance? anything with certainty. An atheist doesnt say definitively
If you understand how evolution by natural selection works, that there is no God in any shape or form; an atheist merely
you know that a flowers appearance is anything but complete disbelieves.
chance.
Isnt the theory of evolution just the same as the theory behind
You people have to at least believe in something. How do you get religion?
through the day? A scientific theory, like evolution by natural selection,
With facts. requires a substantive explanation acquired through the
scientific method which is then repeatedly confirmed by
Both skeptics and religious people sincerely think their beliefs are outside experts. If you could present this kind of evidence for
true. What if its our skepticism, and not religion, thats really
holding back society and causing harm?
any religion, Id be a follower.
Skeptics dont consider their beliefs to be true, they merely
Love is real, and we cant measure that.
require that claims be the result of empirical research. What if
were wrong? is a useless question for someone who has a truly Yes, using brain scans, we can measure exactly which parts
evidence-based worldview. If Im proven wrong, Ill change my of the brain react when we experience the chemical reaction
position. known as love.

Dont you ever feel connected to something bigger than yourself, How would you explain the happenings that people call miracles?
that the universe is trying to tell you something, or is it all just a What most people call miracles are merely placeholders
bunch of coincidences? for anything unexplainable. Throughout the history of
I do feel connected to something bigger than myself: the humanity, there have been millions of unexplained phenomena
earth, my fellow animals, the universe, and the cosmos. That that were later determined to be of natural origin. Not once,
last one is bigger than you or me and any man-made god or however, has the opposite occurred. We have never had a
vague spiritual idea you can come up with. It encompasses scientific understanding that was replaced with a supernatural
everything you have ever seen or ever will see and it created us or miraculous explanation.
humans out of the same materials that make up the stars, trees,
rocks, and planets, as well as the chemicals that produce love, What would it take to change your mind?
anger, and happiness. If there were substantial, testable, peer-reviewed evidence
that showed the presence of a deity to be highly probable, Id re-
I just cant fathom everything exploding into existence from nothing evaluate my position. But that will never happen because of the
with no outside force helping. How can you say there definitely is very nature of deities. At the end of the day, a believer has to rely
no God in any shape or form? on faith. If the Abrahamic God somehow proved his existence
There are a lot of theories, but no solid proof of anything to the world, I would believe in that deity. But I still wouldnt
yet. I would urge you to fight the desire to fill that unknown worship it.
with God. Saying I dont know is perfectly acceptable,
and in many cases its the only honest answer. While we How can atheism be logical?
have a number of ideas about how the Big Bang could have If I showed you a picture of a forest and told you there was
come about without an omnipotent deity, I can assure you someone in the picture and you couldnt find him, youd declare
that there are zero scientific theories that explain the origin he doesnt exist, but he could be under a pile of leaves.
of an omnipotent CreatorGod. Its possible that some If you show me a picture of a forest and told me there is
detached deistic god started it all, but without evidence someone in the picture, Ill search and examine and put your
pointing to that notion, it doesnt make sense to believe claim under scrutiny. If I dont find something, I wont take a

I would consider my beliefs quite


malleable, because they are shaped
by the evidence put forth.
3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 23
Life is special because it is finite.
leap of faith and simply believe the person is there. I wont know as a way to learn more about what they believed to be Gods
for sure whether youre right or wrong, but thats exactly why it creation. Today, when scientific discoveries contradict with
follows that I wouldnt believe in the existence of that person. If established religious dogma, many adherents to religion fight
you tell me theres a person in the forest who died for my sins, to preserve the status quo. Regardless of how things began,
resurrected others, flew on a winged horse, or otherwise defies this backlash has caused religion to be a major impediment to
natural laws, Im unlikely to believe you, especially when you contemporary science.
cant prove someone is there in the first place.
What do you have to say about well-known authors like Lee Strobel,
How do you stay skeptical all the time? Peter Hitchens, or C.S. Lewis? They were all atheists who realized
Understanding the processes of thinking and forming they were wrong.
ideas is the best way to make yourself better at it. Our mind is Naming a few people who found religion later in life doesnt

If the
constantly making connections that arent there, prove their religious beliefs to be true. If
but we can train ourselves to recognize this and it did, the opposite would also be logical,
adjust our thoughts accordingly, instead of simply and I would point to famous non-believers
believing. who used to be religious as evidence for
atheism.
How are you so firm in your beliefs?
Abrahamic

God
Where do you get the idea that I am firm in I often hear from believers that gods
my beliefs? I would consider my beliefs quite cannot be proven because it first takes a
malleable, because they are shaped by the evidence leap of faith before letting go to see the
put forth. I am on a lifelong journey to rid myself of proof within yourself. What would you
false beliefs and sacred cows, so its necessary for say to that?
me to be willing drop long-held beliefs if scientific Believers often forget that most

somehow
data proves them to be false. I also am open to atheists used to be religious, that many
adopting new ideas based on fresh empirical non-believers used to think they had a
evidence. Firmness in beliefs is what causes people personal relationship with their God,
to shy away from looking at those ideas with a
skeptical or critical eye. proved his and that they used to feel the power of
prayer. Theyve since learned that their

Ive been having doubts about my non-belief. Its existence feelings were internal emotions and not
some external force.

to the world,
hard to imagine sometimes that we are alone without
a guiding force. What are your thoughts? I think that without a belief in a loving and
just God, most people would become very sad,

I would
My advice is to simply follow the evidence.
If youve found some action or force that must bitter, and angry about the world. Do you
be attributed to a deity, then you are sitting on think some people need religion?
an enormous discovery. Most likely, however, If you were right, then countries with
you perceive a guiding force because you are
a pattern-seeking animal who sees coincidental believe in high rates of atheism, like Japan, France,
The Netherlands, Denmark, and Iceland

that deity.
beneficial outcomes in your own personal life as would be filled with hate groups, crime,
a sign that someone is on your side. suicide, and more. We do not see that. We
can also look at highly religious nations
Do you ever wish you were wrong?
There are a lot of things I hope Im wrong But I still like Afghanistan (the country with one
of the highest rates of depresssion) or the

wouldnt
about. I think it would be great, not to mention U.S. (where only one in three Americans
scientifically groundbreaking, if we were to prove say theyre very happy) for comparison.

worship it.
the existence of psychic ability, gods, or any form Im not saying atheism necessarily leads
of afterlife. But my hopes cant be used in place of to happiness, but its statistically clear
evidence, so I separate my desires from my beliefs. that the opposite is not true.

Do you think religion in general has had a positive or negative If you dont believe in God or Heaven, what is the meaning of life?
influence on the advancement of technology, or has it not had any Shouldnt it be a persons own responsibility to give life
effect on it at all? meaning, instead of having to rely on heavily flawed religious
Religious people brought about the scientific method traditions to provide the framework? It is my sincere opinion

24 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


Uncertainty is not enough to warrant belief.
that our precious time on earth should not be spent attempting Im an atheist and have been happy this way up until six months
to justify unbelievable acts of cruelty, death, and disease as a ago when I started to develop a fear of dying. Do you know anyone
part of Gods plan. Instead, we should find ways to make this else with this problem?
life happy and satisfying without regard to the unknowable Mark Twain said, I do not fear death, in view of the
nature of an afterlife. fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years
before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest
If you have no belief in life after death or any sort of afterlife, inconvenience from it. I see death in a similar light.
dont you feel a sense of pointlessness? You live a long life as a good Ive never feared it, only accepted it as an inevitability, a
person, but for what? motivator for accomplishing as much as I can in this life
The fact that we dont have any evidence for an afterlife without dreaming of the next. Fear is a common tool in the
doesnt depress me or make me sad. We, like all other religious treatment of death. By threatening believers with
animals, get one amazing life to live, and it is special because torture for behaving badly and promising to reward them
it is finite. This inspires me to make the most out of the one with paradise for doing good, religions are capitalizing
life I know I have. on what is already known about humans: we recognize our
impending death and therefore fear it.
I like the thought of reincarnation and the light at the end of the
tunnel in a near-death experience being the light you see when Ive been an atheist for a year and recently had a close Christian
youre being born. relative die. I ended up praying to God in the hope that if there is an
We know why people tend to see a white light (among other afterlife, she is happy there. Do other people do this?
visions) near death, so, no, its not possible that it is a light you Im sorry to hear about your relative. While I personally
see when you are born. There are also more humans being have never prayed, I think that people who leave religion
born now than at any time in the past, making a 1:1 ratio for (especially those who have done it recently) might identify
reincarnation physically impossible. I think our knowledge of with your situation. Whether they pray out of grief, a sense of
our own impending death makes us prone to making up these familiarity, or as a last-ditch effort to solve a problem, I think
more comfortable afterlife stories. a number of non-believers do this as they transition out of
religion. In any case, if it makes you feel better and doesnt
Reincarnation still makes the most sense. Dont be bad, or harm anyone else, I say go for it!
youll come back as a cockroach. Who decided a cockroach is
inferior to us? I like believing that Ill be with my parents and grandparents when
If theres no afterlife or judgement day, it means a man I die, so why cant you just leave well enough alone?
who is kind and gentle, who helps the poor, and a man who Seeing your family again after death can be a nice thought,
is rude and selfish, and believes in destruction, are just the but not when you inject other religious concepts into the
same, does it not? mix, namely Hell. If someone doesnt worship properly, or
They arent the same. One does good in the world and the other was simply born into a different denomination or religion,
does bad. But in death, yes, the same result as a dog or goldfish. Christianity says that theyll be tortured for eternity. Its
comforting to me to know that isnt a possibility for myself or
So what do you think happens when we die? any of my loved ones.
When we die, the same thing happens to us that happens
to any animal when it dies. Our brains no longer function and When you die, youll finally realize that you were wrong!
our physical matter is recycled into the atmosphere in order Just waitI bet my life on it.
to start the process of being all over again. To me that is a I bet I wont know anything when I die. My brain wont be
beautiful idea at which I marvel every single day. This is my working, so I dont know how I could know anything. I find
version of spirituality. evidence more convincing than confidence.

Saying I dont know is perfectly


acceptable, and in many cases
its the only honest answer.
3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 25
Hillary, Women, and Patriarchalism
by Brian Bolton

H illary Rodham Clinton was the first


woman to become a major party candidate for the office
of President of the United States. She was defeated by an
unqualified, foulmouthed, ignoramus who has regularly
expressed his contempt for women, even though he claims
that he loves them. W hile it is not surprising that a
dominated, agrarian, Middle-Eastern societies. Therefore, the
treatment of women in the Bible reflects the cultural context in
which these chauvinistic rules and beliefs developed. Because
these misogynistic edicts, decrees, and mandates were codified
in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, they became part of a vast
compendium of commandments that devotees today believe to
majority of men voted for Donald Trump, it was stunning be Gods perfect word.
that fifty-three percent of white women actually refused
to support the first female presidential candidate who had Origins of Patriarchalism
a good chance of winning. It was only after God created animals and birds, which Adam
The outcome of any election is determined by many then named, that God fashioned woman as Adams helper from
interacting factors, but there is some evidence that patriarchal his spare rib (Genesis 2:22). The woman, Eve, caused the fall
religious indoctrination assumed a primary role in the of humankind, at which time death entered the world. She ate
2016 presidential race. A slight majority of Catholic voters the forbidden fruit and gave some to her husband, and he ate it
(60%) favored Trump, while an overwhelming majority of as well (Genesis 3:6, 12). Eves punishment was painful labor
fundamentalist Protestants (81%) preferred the bellicose in childbearing and total submission to her husband (Genesis
billionaire. From the latter figure, it can be concluded that 3:16). In 1 Timothy 2:13-14, Paul provided the Christian
Donald Trump is the exemplar of the Christ-centered life rendition of this fictitious event when he said that because Eve
because this term is central to fundamentalist ideology. was the one who was deceived, it was she, and not Adam, who
The justification for patriarchal domination as a God- became the sinner.
given mandate is, of course, Holy Scripture. Because so many Obedience and subjugation of women are dominant themes
Americans accept the myth of Judeo-Christian nationalism, throughout the Bible. For example, God approved of multiple
it is entirely appropriate to look to the Bible as the source for wives and concubines for men (Genesis 4:19, 16:1-4; Judges
this severely oppressive, anti-woman theme in fundamentalist 8:30; 2 Samuel 5:13; and 1 Kings 11:3), but he did not endorse
Christianity. multiple husbands for women. Moreover, a womans pledges,
The content of the Bible was recorded, transmitted, vows, or obligations could be subject to patriarchal nullification
and compiled over a span of almost two millennia in male- (Numbers 30).

The treatment of women in the Bible


reflects the cultural context in which these
chauvinistic rules and beliefs developed.
26 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
God ordered the rape of Davids
wives to punish his disobedience.
Unjust Punishments violent. She killed General Sisera by hammering a tent peg
God generally considers women to be less valuable than men through his skull into the ground while he was asleep (Judges
(Leviticus 27:1-7), an attitude reflected in several degrading 4:17-22). Delilah betrayed Samson to the Philistines for a
Biblical regulations and judgements, such as the classification monetary reward. The Philistines subsequently gouged out his
of a mans wife as one of his possessions along with his slaves eyes and imprisoned him (Judges 16:4-21).
and livestock (Exodus 20:17). In a frightening illustration of Evil Jezebel was most certainly the worst of all scriptural
cruel injustice, God ordered the rape of Davids wives to punish shrews. She arranged for Naboth to be falsely accused of
his disobedience (2 Samuel 12:11-12). In another instance of blasphemy and then stoned to death so that her husband could
grisly punishment that should mortify pro-life zealots, God take possession of Naboths vineyard (1 Kings 21:7-16). She was
caused a woman to abort her fetus because she committed so diabolical that the prophet Elijah fled because he was afraid
adultery (Numbers 5:21, 27). of her (1 Kings 19: 1-9). She suffered a brutal death herself
Equally horrible is the command that an unbetrothed (2 Kings 9: 30-37). Many centuries later, Jesus criticized the
virgin must marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 2: 28-29). church in Thyatira for tolerating a false prophetess, also named
Interestingly, some Muslim countries like Jordan and Jezebel (Revelation 2:18-23).
Morocco have similar laws on their books and are currently The depiction of women as untrustworthy even extends to
changing or revoking them. political symbolism, as when Israels lack of fidelity to God is
represented as the adultery of a faithless wife in Hosea 1-3. In
Some Capital Crimes fairness, it should be noted that there were heroines among the
In additional heinous decrees and actions, God requires Hebrew women, including Ruth, Rahab, and Rachel.
that women be killed for violations that are not viewed as
crimes in contemporary Western societies. For example, Christian Womanhood
an evil enchantress must be executed (Exodus 22:18), and Along with slaves and children, wives are commanded to be
unchaste brides must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy under the jurisdiction of their husbands. Paul is the preeminent
22:21). Lots wife was instantly destroyed for disobeying the New Testament spokesman concerning Christian marital
Lords command to not look back when her family was f leeing relationships. He said repeatedly that wives should submit to
Sodom (Genesis 19:26). Arguably the most abhorrent event their husbands in everything because the husband is the head
in the Bible is Jephthahs sacrifice of his daughter, whom he of the wife, just as Christ is head of the church (Ephesians 5: 21-
unknowingly promised to God as a burnt offering (Judges 23, Colossians 3:18-25). He did, however, stress that husbands
11:29-39). Why did God not spare Jephthahs innocent should love their wives and not be harsh with them.
daughter as he had done previously with Abrahams innocent Peter reiterated this advice concerning spousal submission
son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18)? and declared that wives should exhibit purity and reverence
in their lives. He referred to wives as the weaker partner (1
Disgusting Attitude Peter 3:1-7).
Several gruesome episodes with a common theme illustrate In addition to marriage, Paul provided specific admonitions
another feature of Gods disgusting disregard for the lives for women in the church. They should dress modestly, with
of women. In one of them, Lot offered the men of Sodom his decency and propriety, adorning themselves only with good
betrothed daughters in lieu of his male guests because handing deeds. Women should learn in quietness and full submission,
over the guests would have violated the accepted standards and they cannot teach or have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:
of hospitality. But the men of Sodom rejected the young girls 8-15). Moreover, it is disgraceful for women to speak in church
(Genesis 19: 4-10). In another episode, a Levite offered his (1 Corinthians 14: 34-35). Although Jesus did not specifically
concubine to a group of men in a similar circumstance; she address womens status in his ministry, it is clear that men were
died as a result of the ensuing gang rape (Judges 19:20-30). He preferred. All twelve apostles were men, and the Last Supper
cut the deceased concubine into twelve pieces and distributed was a stag affair, while women were typically portrayed as
them to the tribes of Israel, precipitating a murderous war with committed helpers or servants.
the Benjamites (Judges 20, 21). The Christian Testaments description of womens roles is
There are an additional four ghastly events in which the consistent with the definition in Proverbs 31 of the wife of noble
bellies of pregnant women were ripped open with swords, character as capable, dutiful, dedicated to family, and fearing the
killing them and their fetuses (2 Kings 8:12, 15:16; Hosea Lord. The restrictions, limitations, and standards detailed above
13:16; Amos 1:13). are enforced in many fundamentalist Christian churches today,
even after two thousand years have elapsed. Does this testify to
Treacherous Women the enduring truth of traditional scriptural views of women or to
There are many Bible stories about treacherous, dangerous, the obstinacy of the dominant ecclesiastical patriarchy?
dishonest, manipulative, untrustworthy women. Three are
notable for their savage behavior. Jael was clever, fierce, and Brian Bolton is a retired psychologist living in Georgetown, Texas.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 27


Free Speech - continued from page 4
despite our presidents call for team owners to do just that. Its
also why none have been arrested, so the president has invoked
the court of public opinion to impose the consequences instead.
Poor taste is one of the most prosecuted crimes in the court
of public opinion, where mob rule wins the day and anyone
who shows up can be judge, jury, and executioner. American
Atheists frequently finds itself a defendant in this court, usually
on the grounds that weve erected a billboard with a message
about taking Christ out of Christmas.
Comedian Kathy Griffin is another atheist whos been hauled
into the court of public opinion by the poor-taste police. Ten
years ago, when she won her first Emmy Award, she had this to
say:

A lot of people come up here and they thank Jesus
for this award. I want you to know that no one had less
to do with this award than Jesus. He didnt help me a
bit. If it was up to him, Caesar Milan would be up here
with that damn dog. So all I can say is: Suck it, Jesus! This
award is my god now!

Just like the outrage over American Atheists billboards, this within hours of her post, every venue where she was still to perform
outrage was predictable and failed to have a negative effect on cancelled her appearance. CNN fired her from the New Years Eve
her popularity. gig shed co-hosted with Anderson Cooper for the past ten years.
This year, however, things got weird when she made a The double-standard machine was on full blast when she
statement on social media that arguably amounted to nothing decided it was in her best interest to plead guilty in the court of
more than garden-variety political commentary. On May public opinion to the non-existent crime of making a political
30, she posted an image on Twitter and Instagram of herself statement through art. The machine went into overdrive when
holding a plastic Donald Trump head dripping with fake blood. it came out that she was under an FBI investigation into whether
The caption read, There was blood coming out of his eyes, she intended to assassinate the president, which was opened
blood coming out of his...wherever. Other than changing her and closed in a matter of days.
to his, this was a direct quote from Trumps own description Fortunately, her remorse was short-lived. At the end
of another female television personality, Megyn Kelly, when of August, she retracted her apology and announced new
she moderated one of the Republican primary debates. performance dates in Europe, Asia, and Australia on what was
Griffin was in the midst of a national tour at the time, and now called the Laugh Your Head Off World Tour, complete
with a poster that reproduces the infamous photo with a globe
substituted for Trumps head.
But the jokes really on us as a nation because now the rest
of the world is laughing its head off at the Land of the Free
because its actually the land of Viva free speechunless its
offensive to me.
A little over a month before this all hit the fan, an art exhibit at
the University of Alaska was coming to a close after a six-week run.
The show featured work by Department of Art faculty members
including Thomas Chung, an assistant professor whose painting
Everything depicts a young Hillary Clinton in a white pantsuit
embracing the leg of a naked Chris Evans (the actor who stars in
the Captain America film franchise) who is holding the severed
head of Donald Trump that drips blood onto Hillarys outfit.
The exhibit was thirty-seven days into its forty-day run
before a gallery visitor posted Chungs painting on Facebook
to question its appropriateness on a campus funded by tax
dollars. The post went viral enough to catch the attention of
the local news stations, which prompted hundreds of calls and
emails to the university that were threatening enough that
Chung had a police escort on campus for a while.
The gallery visitor who started it all was just that: a visitor
not a student, faculty member, or other employee of the university.
For what its worth, Trump carried Alaska with 51% of the vote
compared to Clintons 39%, and as of this writing, his approval
rating in that state is still higher than the national average. So why

28 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


Axiom of the New Man
Slavery was so cherished by the Greeks,
And their fantastic gods created poetry;
The Romans renamed them in the colosseums.
The first Jews made god a jealous thing,
Then Christians made a Jew their king.
Moslems and Hindus swear by holy scrolls
That in some perfect heaven clings
Eternal grace where cartoon angels sing;

Source: "Stephen Miller Will Go


On Any Show. Seriously, Any Let the past rest in the grave and be appeased
Show." YouTube.com That we were but the infants of stupidity,
Lost to the hysterical madness of instincts
didnt the uproar there ignite much sooner than it did?
A gallery understandably carries more gravitas as a venue That instruct the beasts in the jungle,
for visual arts than Instagram. Maybe its Chungs nod to
Greek mythology that makes the difference. He modeled And ruled our history like a disease.
Chris Allen/Captain America after a piece of art in the Vatican
Museum: Antonio Canovas Perseus Trimphant, a sculpture
of Perseus holding the head of Medusa (talk about gravitas). O fathers that dwelleth in the heavens,
Well probably never know why one severed Trump head is
less offensive than another, but its clear that any depiction of Would you not just remain where you lay,
a severed Trump head is going too far in the opinions of quite And leave us to our own devices?
a few Americans.
We do know that a severed head from farther down the The rival tribes have been your sorry theme
chain of command isnt offensive. Back in February, White
House policy advisor Stephen Miller was pilloried in a video
In this and every other century;
on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The video included a We have had enough of jihads and crusades,
few seconds of Millers decapitated head superimposed into a
scene from Game of Thrones. The head is still talking, so could How each breed hates the other breed;
it be that decapitation is okay as long as the victim doesnt die? I stand here and I do not redeem.
Or maybe the Game of Thrones angle provides a protective layer
between the joke and the viewers sensibilities because Colberts I say to prophets of bully gods and greed,
ratings didnt plummet after the video was aired.
Every issue of this magazine contains at least one article or Let our voices be a choir of understanding!
image that crosses the line into someones idea of poor taste. From Let our song be the praise of our singing!
the letters I receive, I know that even atheists can find the content
offensive. I get a lot of suggestions to tone down some of the rhetoric Let us make the first commandment Peace!
in order to attract a readership beyond the hardcore, in-your-
face atheists. But the articles that get the most complaints about
crossing the line are also the articles that get the most comments O fathers now trapped in your heavens,
thanking us for not shying away from controversial subjects.
This is exactly why free speech is one of the greatest deals of Keep your silence if you please;
all time. Protected speech is, by definition, speech that may be
in poor taste according to someone. If that werent the case, it We are on our way to reinvent you,
wouldnt need protection. As we go to the distant planets in fleets
Of flying spheres that stare into the galaxies.

Pamela Whissel Mark Fishbein


Editor-in-Chief markfishbein@comcast.net
PWhissel@Atheists.org

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 29


Helping Kids Experience Awe
Without Religion
by Maria Polonchek

30 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


O ne of my earliest childhood memories flashes to
a brief but powerful scene on a quiet hilltop in southern
powerful music from the choir, stale
cracker nibbles with shots of sweet

I
Texas at sunrise. The spring air grape juice tasting one and the same
was chilly, but I felt warm and safe on my tongue.

remember
holding hands with the people next I was taught that experiencing
to me as our group formed a circle awe is only possible through God,

how it
and sang hymns. I would have been so when I started to have doubts
six or seven, wearing an Easter dress about the religion of my childhood,
that matched my little sisters and one of my greatest concerns was

made
a Sunday hat with pastel ribbons. that I would no longer have the
That morning, my mother had ability to experience those feelings
woken us while it was still dark so that were inherent to some of the
we could join the churchs sunrise best moments of my life.
service. I cant see the specific Since then, Ive learned

me feel:
colors of the sky anymore in my that religion doesnt have a
minds eyethey blend in with monopoly on awe. Its a common
the others that have followed misconception thats easy to

small but
but I remember how it made me debunk once you understand how
feel: small but important, part of awe works. Anyone, religious or
something bigger than I realized not, is capable of experiencing
was possible.
I didnt know it at the time, important, awe. Keltners research suggests
that human beings have an innate,

part of
but what I experienced during fundamental need to experience
this moment was awe, an emotion awe. He describes the need as an
that scientists and psychologists emotion that has evolved in us to
have only begun to research and ensure that we cooperate within
understand in the last two decades.
A foundational leader in the study something social collectives. His research,
published in peer-reviewed

bigger
of awe, Dacher Keltner of the psychology journals, has found
University of California Berkeley, that the experience of awe nurtures
explains that awe is that sense of feelings of altruism and empathy,

than I
wonder we feel in the presence of boosts creativity and academic
something vast that transcends our performance, and discourages
understanding of the world (Awe, both narcissism and the sense of
the Small Self, and Social Behavior, entitlement.

realized
Journal of Personality and Social As a mother, I naturally began
Psychology, 2015, vol. 108, no. 6). to wonder how to foster these

was
I find this definition helpful, as it connections in my children.
names both the cause and effect of Growing up in the church had
experiencing awe. Like the sunrise shaped my experiences of awe
service at Easter, most moments throughout my childhood, so my

possible.
of awe from my childhood are own children, who are being raised
intertwined with religion: the glow outside of religion, will have some
of candles in a darkened sanctuary, very different references.

Human beings have an innate, fundamental


need to experience awe.
3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 31
The experience of awe nurtures feelings of
altruism and empathy.
When I asked Keltner to name the number-one trigger from their parents. Our job as parents, I feel, is to make
of awe, his answer surprised me. I assumed he would sure our children have opportunities to experience awe
point to naturethe sunrise, the mountains, the ocean, and to help them understand that there is value in the
etc., but I was wrong. Its other people, he said. Their feeling itself. Its okay if our kids arent as impressed as

One of my
magnanimity. Keltner gathered we are by the Golden Gate Bridge
data from twenty-five countries and if were not as impressed as they

greatest
encompassing a diverse pool of are by the taste of five different sodas
cultures including Americans mixed together. Whats important is
as well as the indigenous Himba that we encourage and respect how
in Namibia. He has found the and where they do find awe. Then,
number-one triggerwhether
its in the U.S. or among the
concerns if were lucky, well learn from their
experiences as well.

was that
indigenous Himba in Namibia This feeling is difficult to arrange
to always be the same: the or plan because awe pushes the
profound generosity of others. limits of understanding and can

I would
This is good news for families therefore come close to crossing
whose resources may be limited the boundary into feelings of fear.
whether its temporal, financial, or People who are unwilling or unable

no longer
environmental. to restructure their thinking in order
Nature as a trigger of awe to accommodate awe may find the
comes in second place, but the experience terrifying. We can help

have the
scene doesnt have to be as big children make the leap from fear to
or dramatic as we might think. enjoyment by encouraging them to
Simply looking up at the sky; wonder, ask questions, and, most

ability to
being around water, trees, or importantly, let them know theyre
animals; or studying insects or not alone in their search.
the stars can be awe-inspiring. An It can be hard for parents to admit
important point Keltner makes is we dont always have an answer, but
that because of our fundamental,
innate need to experience awe, experience if we can embrace and admit to our
children that we dont know exactly

those
the triggers are as varied as how big the sky is, how the universe
human beings themselves. Art, was formed, or what happens when
music, and science can score big we die, we let them know its okay to
points in different people. Let wonder, to explore, to ask questions,

feelings.
your child take the lead: turn and keep searching for answers that
up the volume to their favorite may never be found. This alone can
songs, encourage their passion for be awe-inspiring.
photography, or their interest in
dinosaurs and space. Maria Polonchek is the author of In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a
Children will identify their own versions of awe, but Religious World has written parenting essays for Brain, Child magazine,
Keltner reminded me that its their job to be different The Friendly Atheist blog, and the book Have Milk, Will Travel.

Anyone, religious or not, is capable of experiencing awe.


32 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017
Old and new ideas
clash as a young
science professor
in the post-Civil
War South faces off
against traditional
valueswith
surprising results.
Only $2.99 on Amazon to download on any computer.

The patriarch Bishop Irenaues


of Lugdunum lived in the
second century. He collected
and evaluated the scrolls that
eventually became the New
Testament. This fictionalized
account of his adventures include
fascinating details about the
nascent Catholic Church and life
in the Roman Empire.

www.MiltonTimmons.com
www.ScrollSeekers.com

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 33


A Little Bit - continued from page 19

Given divine foresight and all that,


does God infuse an immortal soul into
that poor, doomed cell anyway?
me, and God hadnt struck me with a thunderbolt. did God begin this business of infusing souls? Scientists
But I left with lots of unanswered questions. By divine think that one of our forebears, a Homo ergaster, first stared
foresight, the priest meant that God knew what would into a campfire about 1.5 million years ago. Did that clever
happen in the future. God would, therefore, know in advance chap have a soul? Was it a regulation human soul or a
that my hypothetical zygote would split, and that the new different, less evolved model?
cells would go their separate ways. So, God would wait What about the Neanderthal who, more than 30,000
until after they separated before going about the business of years ago, made the etchings in Gorhams Cave, near
infusing a soul or, in this case, two souls. Gibraltar? Did he have a soul? And what about the Cro-
In the late 1960s, a rock band called The Music Explosion Magnon men (or women) responsible for those later cave
had a hit song called A Little Bit O Soul. It was a catchy paintings? Did they have souls?
tune. Once you heard it, you had trouble getting the damn There are billions of galaxies, each with a billion or more
thing out of your head. One couplet claimed, when you're stars, and vast numbers of those stars have planets. Many of
broke in two, you need a little bit o soul to see you through. those planets are, or were, or someday will be similar to our
own. It is likely, scientiests tell us, that there are, or were, or
Is that how it is with zygotes? someday will be, sentienent beings on at least someand,
The obvious next question wasnt, Well, what if the new quite possibly, manyof those planets.
cell splits again, as in the case of triplets or quads? The
answer to that was obvious: more divine foresight. God is Does God infuse souls into little green men?
all powerful and does not have a problem with premature If youre raised Catholic, you learn early on that God
infusion. is all knowing and all wiseway better at knowing
No, my next question would have been, Sometimes the everything about you than even Santa Claus. But back
zygote simply doesnt attach to the uterine wall. It quickly when I was a young child studying my Catechism, there
dies, and the body discards it. Given divine foresight were already over two billion humans on the planet. Today,
and all that, does God infuse an immortal soul into that there are more than three times as many. Thats a lot of
poor, doomed cell anyway? Wouldnt that be a waste of a sperm and eggs and zygotes for God to keep track of. Does
perfectly good soul? God ever get distracted, or peeved, and not infuse a soul
More to the point, wouldnt it be a cruel joke to tell that in some zygote? Is that what happened to Hitler? And
poor doomed cell it has an immortal soul and free will; to tell it while were on the topic of Hitler, what happened to divine
to choose wisely or end up in hell; and then, in the next second, foresight when that bastard was conceived? Why didnt the
say, Sorry, times up. Off to the afterlife! almighty give that malevolent little zygote a gentle nudge
If the answer to that question is, No soul for you! then off the uterine wall before things got out of hand?
is that what happens if you stretch the timeframe just a little? My ultimate questions today are still the same initial
What happens when God knows that the embryo, or whatever questions that popped into my head back in that classroom in
the correct biological term is, will not spontaneously come Alter Hall at Xavier University: First, How, kind Sir, do you
undone immediately, but will do so a few seconds or minutes know that God chooses to spend his time infusing souls into
after forming? Does he inject a soul into the zygote anyway? zygotes, so that he can have the pleasure of rewarding some
Or, given divine foresight, does God once again elect not to do and torturing the rest for all eternity? And second, Will this
such a cruel and useless thing? be on the final exam?
If not, then what if the terminating eventspontaneous or
notdoesnt occur for a couple weeks or months? Does divine Gary Reed recently retired from practicing law and now writes full
foresight still come into play? And whatever the answer, how time. His legal thriller, A Fatal Cell Phone Video, turns on an ambiguous
do you know that with such certaintly? cell phone video, but plays out against the background of the current
Father, forgive me, but at what point in human evolution anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric.

34 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


Support American Atheists by purchasing an autographed copy for $50
($25 is tax-deductible where allowed by law), and receive a free one-year
membership. Order online at Atheists.org/FightingGod or send payment
to American Atheists, P.O. Box 158, Cranford, NJ 07016.

David Silverman
President of American Atheists

A sometimes funny, always informative look into the mind behind


Americas frontline of Atheism. Dave reminds us that religion is
everyones enemy.
~ Taslima Nasrin, human rights activist and author of Shame and Revenge

Author
Cliff Somers

Pastor Rice Broocks says he has "evidence" to prove that


"God's Not Dead."

Cliff Somers begs to differ.

Is He or Isn't He? provides a new take on much of the old


theological evidencewith a bit of humor thrown in.

Available at barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com,


itunes.com, and googleplay.com.

Published by Page Publishing Co., New York, N.Y.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 35


16 Saviors - continued from page 15
Guyana. Jones believed that he and his followers would make it looks like: endless praise and adoration, limitless abnegation
to heaven and live forever in mutual joy if they all died together. and abjection of self, a celestial North Korea.
On November 18, 1978, the cult members910 men, women,
and childrendied in a mass suicide, most of them by drinking Edgar C. Whisenant
a punch laced with cyanide and sedatives. This catastrophe is In 1987, Whisenant published a book, 88 Reasons Why the
immortalized in the expression drink the Kool-Aid, which refers Rapture Will be in 1988. On Borrowed Time is the online
to someone who blindly follows an idea, no matter how absurd. version, complete with audio and available to all at MYKEC.
net/whisenant. Many Christians (mostly in the Bible Belt) sold
David Koresh their homes in preparation for the glorious end of the world.
Born Vernon Wayne Howell in 1959, he legally changed his This self-proclaimed messiah proffered an argument based
name in 1990 to David Koresh after the biblical Persian king on Jesus parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-36 and Mark
who freed the Jews in Babylon. Koresh was a member of the 13:28-32): This generation shall not pass, prognosticated
Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church, a reform movement Jesus, till all these things be fulfilled. The year 1988, as it
within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He co-founded the would turn out, was followed by a year that historians would
Branch Davidians, a faction in the reform group that broke come to call 1989, and thus Wisenant was in error.
away. Koresh fought his way to the top of the cult after claiming The end did come for Whisenant, in May 2001.
to have received visions and instructions directly from God.
In 1993, Koresh and seventy-five of his followers died in Michael B. Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer and freelance writer
a fire on their Waco, Texas, compound after they refused to who also contributes to Free Inquiry and Humanist Perspectives. He
surrender to a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and is a contributing editor for The American Rationalist and author of
Firearms. Federal authorities had been investigating Koresh on Beyond the Crusades, published by American Atheist Press with a
several accusations of child abuse and sexual abuse, but the fire foreword by Robert M. Price.
killed him before they were able to bring him to trial.
References
Jeffrey Don Lundgren Cartlidge, David R., and David L. Dungan, Documents for the
Lundgren was born in 1950 in Independence, Missouri, the Study of the Gospels. Cartlidge and Dungan, 1994.
home of a Mormon splinter group, the Reorganized Church Chidester, David, Salvation and Suicide: Jim Jones, the Peoples
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Believing God gave him Temple, and Jonestown. Indiana University Press, 2003.
signs to build his own ministry, he used his photographic Chin, Shunshin, and Joshua A. Fogel, The Taiping Rebellion.
memory to master scripture quotes, which impressed some M. E. Sharpe, 1982.
folks enough to follow him as a cult leader. Chryssides, George D., Historical Dictionary of Jehovahs
In 1988, he predicted the End Times and Second Coming Witnesses. Scarecrow Press, 2008.
as May 3 (his birthday), but as it would turn out, the end of Fredrich, Carl Johann, and Friedrich Hiller, Inschriften von
the world did not occur. In 1989, Lundgren murdered five Priene. Gruyter, 1906.
members of the cult for being disloyal (they refused to live in Graham, Robert Bontine Cunninghame, A Brazilian Mystic:
his house with other cult members). The victims were a family Being the Life and Miracles of Antonio Conselheiro. Dodd,
that included three girls, ages fifteen, thirteen, and six. He was Mead and Co., 1920.
executed in Ohio in October 2006. Hitchens, Christopher, Letters to a Young Contrarian. Basic
Books, 2001.
Kim Jong-il Hitchens, Christopher, Visit to a Small Planet. Vanity Fair,
Taking place in Russia on a bleak February day in 1941 to June 2001.
a Korean woman and the commander of a Soviet Brigade, the Jones, Christopher P., Letters of Apollonius. Loeb Classical
birth of Kim Jong-il supposedly included a double rainbow and Library, 2006.
the appearance of a glowing new star that caused winter to turn Flavius Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, translated
immediately into spring. If this did happen, it went unnoticed by Christopher B. Jones. Loeb Classical Library, 2005.
by every meteorologist in the world. North Korean propaganda Perriman, Andrew, Otherways. Open Source Theology, 2007.
makes many extraordinary claims for their leader. He never Kang, Chol-hwan, and Pierre Rigoulot, The Aquariums of
defecates, for example. Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag. Basic
Kim Jong-il was the Supreme Poopless Leader and deity Books, 2005.
until his 2011 death. He remains the Eternal Party General Reilly, Thomas H., The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: Rebellion
Secretary, and his son Kim Jong-un has taken his place as and the Blasphemy of Empire. University of Washington
Supreme Leader of North Korea. Press, 2010.
After his 2001 visit, Christopher Hitchens described Milhorn, H. Thomas, Crime: Computer Viruses to Twin Towers.
North Korea as a surreal nightmare of famine, isolation, Universal Publishers, 2004.
repression, and nuclear peril. Its no wonder that, as one of the Sassoon, Joseph, Saddam Husseins Baath Party: Inside an
most articulate anti-theists of the twentieth century, Hitchens Authoritarian Regime. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
equated North Korea with the Judeo-Christian concept of Tosches, Nick, King of the Jews: The Greatest Mob Story Never
the afterlife: Just consider for a moment what their heaven Told. New York: Harper, 2006.

36 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


Why I Am - continued from page 46 Sweden - continued from page 11
for myself was an option and that my questions really were Endnotes
worth asking. 1. Steven Pinker, The Moral Instinct, January 8, 2013
Next, I read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. NewYorkTimes.com
When I revealedwith much trepidationmy doubts to 2. Elizabeth Palermo, Religion Doesnt Make People More
Chuck, I learned that he was even further along the skeptics Moral, Study Finds, Sept. 11, 2014, LiveScience.com
path than I was! But neither the books nor Chuck were the 3. Phil Zuckerman, How Secular Family Values Stack Up,
reason for my shift. This journey was mine and no one elses. May 6, 2017, LATimes.com
The practice of letting others make my decisions was finally 4. Albert Mohler, A Comprehensively Secular Life? A
losing steam. Conversation with Phil Zuckerman, Dec. 7, 2015,
During this time, I kept trying to fit into the religious world, AlbertMohler.com.
but doing so became increasingly unproductive. I lost some 5. PSYWWW.com/psyrelig/zuckerman.htm
of my status in Campus Crusade when I didnt participate as 6. Rick Noack, Map: These Are the Worlds Least Religious
frequently. Under the harsh light of reason, I saw their message Nations, April 14, 2015, WashingtonPost.com
for what it really was: conditional love. Once I was officially 7. Anders Djurfeldt and Klara Jamison Gromark, Sweden,
on the fringe, I understood that I was going to have to give Nicaragua and the Sandinistas, Lund University
everything some serious thought because my doubts were Department of Political Science (TinyURL.com/
making too much sense to ignore. I knew what I had to do, even SwedenNicaragua)
if it meant renouncing much of who I thought I was. 8. Deidre McPhillips, The Tragic Numbers Behind Syrias
Fast forward. I dropped out of school (it was too much), Refugees, Dec. 19, 2016, USNews.com
married Chuck in the church (still clinging), started living as 9. Joe Meyers, Foreign Aid: These Countries Are the Most
a real adult (scary stuff at first), and eventually finished my Generous, Aug. 19, 2016, WEForum.org
college education. As Chuck and I happily continued to build a 10. WorldHappiness.report
life that didnt need religion, I was no longer able to reconcile my 11. GoodCountry.org/index/results
beliefs with facts and evidence. Instead, I appreciated that there 12. Vexen.co.uk/countries/best.html
are scientific explanations for a great many things I attributed 13. Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, Jan. 25, 2017,
to God, and part of the wonder of this world is that we dont Transparency.org
need a pat answer for everything.
By the time I discovered Robert Ingersoll (in many ways
still my favorite) and Sam Harris, I was able to think critically
about what they said, rather than swallowing it whole as I had
done with religious texts. At its core, my atheism has led me to
continue to question and to rely on facts and rational thinking
even when its tempting to fall back on my feelings or someone
elses opinion.
The journey continued this way until ten years ago
because Chuck, our son Charlie, and I had no idea there were
other atheists around. Enter the North Alabama Freethought
Association. Chuck and I love to tell the story of when he
overheard a conversation in a Huntsville coffee shop one
Saturday morning. He inserted himself into the discussion to
comment on one of their questions and then asked, Are you
guys a bunch of atheists?
Weve been a part of that community ever since. Today, Im
on the board as secretary. This group has given me the chance
to speak openly and to have intellectual discussions in a part of
the country that, while not as oppressive as my college days, has
a church on every corner and a preacher at every water fountain.
My journey is far from over. I am acutely aware that I dont
have enough time to learn everything I want to know, and
its still a challenge to reject irrational habits after years of
indoctrination. Nonetheless, I revel in being responsible for my
own life in a world that I am eager to make more equitable and
compassionate.

Cathy Puett Miller the community impact director at the United Way
of Madison County, Alabama. She is an also an educational consultant,
author, and researcher. Her husband, Chuck, is American Atheists
Alabama State Director.

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 37


WELCOME, LIFE MEMBERS!
S ince the last issue of this magazine, 25 members of American Atheists increased their commitment by becoming
Life Members or by upgrading their Life Memberships to Silver or Gold. Thanks to the following for their continued
support to further promote our shared goals and values:

LIFE SILVER GOLD


William Ameen, Jr. Glen Loev Douglas Barnes Phil Ferguson
Hany Aziz Pascale Luse Robert Boomsliter Jim Wheeler
Gbolagade Babalola Cliff Nielsen Timothy Gibbs This level includes two free
admissions for life to our annual
Michael Boone Joel Rosenfeld Robert Kresek convention.

Jay Campbell Susan Schindler Cherie Ohlsson


Roy Crawford Aaron Schrab This level includes free
admission for life to our annual
Reuben Fournier Herb Silverman convention.

Jonathan Friedel Steven Solomon


Alan Gold Mario Stanton
Stand with us by making an investment in the future of American Atheists by becoming a Life Member today.
Call 908-276-7300 x102, email Pamela Whissel at PWhissel@Atheists.org, or visit Atheists.org/Life-Membership.

REGIONAL DIRECTORS
For detailed information, visit Atheists.org/State-Directors or contact Greg Lammers at GLammers@Atheists.org.

DIR. REGIONAL OPERATIONS CONNECTICUT MINNESOTA TEXAS


Ken Loukinen (S. Florida Reg. Dir.) Dennis Paul Himes Randall Tigue Vicki Gettman
KLoukinen@Atheists.org P. O. Box 9203 RTigue@Atheists.org VGettman@Atheists.org
MILITARY DIRECTOR Bolton, CT 06043 NEW MEXICO UTAH
Kathleen Johnson DPhimes@Atheists.org Doris Rashad Dan Ellis
KJohnson@Atheists.org FLORIDA DRashad@Atheists.org DEllis@Atheists.org
ALABAMA John Porgal OHIO VIRGINIA/D.C.
Chuck Miller JPorgal@Atheists.org John Welte Larry Mendoza
CMiller@Atheists.org GEORGIA JWelte@Atheists.org LMendoza@Atheists.org
ARIZONA Scott Savage OKLAHOMA WEST VIRGINIA
Don Lacey SSavage@Atheists.org William Poire Jim Spence
P. O. Box 1161 IOWA WPoire@Atheists.org JSpence@Atheists.org
Tucson, AZ 85641 Randy Henderson PUERTO RICO WASHINGTON
DLacey@Atheists.org P.O. Box 375 Shirley Rivera Bart Meltzer
ARKANSAS Ankeny, IA 50023 SRivera@Atheists.org BMeltzer@Atheists.org
Steve Foster RHenderson@Atheists.org
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SFoster@Atheists.org KENTUCKY Brian Stack
CALIFORNIA Jen Scott BStack@Atheists.org
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LHicok@Atheists.org MASSACHUSETTS Sarah Green
COLORADO Zach Bos SGreen@Atheists.org
Randy Gotovich P. O. Box 15274
RGotovich@Atheists.org Boston, MA 02215
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38 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


This book exposes the pre-Judaism roots
of Christendom and the fabricated Jesus
tales. It provides exhaustive evidence for
the oppression, forgeries, and horrors
committed in the name of Jesus.

Paulkovich presents all this evidence in a style


suffused with a lively dose of humor
The American Rationalist

Available in paperback and e-book at


BeyondTheCrusades.com

Advertise in American Atheist magazine


Every issue of American Atheist reaches thousands of readers in a variety of ways.

American Atheist is sold in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide.


All members of American Atheists receive this magazine.
American Atheist is available as an iPad and iPhone app.

Contact PWhissel@Atheists.org

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 39


AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
For the most up-to-date list, visit Atheists.org/Affiliates or contact Greg Lammers at GLammers@Atheists.org.

State Group Name City Site


LOCAL PARTNERS
FL FLASH - Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists Orlando http://www.godlessflorida.com
GA Atlanta Freethought Society Atlanta http://atlantafreethought.org
IA Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers Des Moines http://www.meetup.com/Iowa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers
MN Minnesota Atheists Minneapolis http://mnatheists.org
NE Lincoln Atheists Lincoln http://www.lincolnatheists.org
NY Long Island Atheists Lynbrook LIAtheists.org
OK Atheist Community of Tulsa Tulsa http://www.ACTOK.org
PA PA Non-Believers York http://www.panonbelievers.org
TX Metroplex Atheists Arlington http://www.metroplexatheists.org
UT Atheists of Utah Salt Lake City atheistsofutah.org
AFFILIATES
AK Alaskan Atheists Anchorage http://www.meetup.com/AlaskanAtheists/

AL Auburn Atheists & Agnostics Auburn http://www.facebook.com/groups/auburnatheistsandagnostics/

AL Birmingham Atheists Meetup Birmingham http://www.meetup.com/atheists-132

AL Marshall County Atheists & Agnostics Marshall http://www.themcaa.org

AL Montgomery Area Freethought Association Montgomery http://www.montgomeryfreethought.org

AL North Alabama Freethought Association Huntsville http://www.meetup.com/thenafa

AL UA Alabama Atheists and Agnostics Tuscaloosa http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2234029305

AL UAH Non-Theists Huntsville http://www.facebook.com/uahnontheists

AL West Alabama Freethought Association Tuscaloosa http://www.meetup.com/westalabamafreethought

AR Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Little Rock http://www.ARFreethinkers.org

AR ArkLaTex Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists Texarkana http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128265161357

AR Southwest Arkansas Atheist Community Nashville http://goo.gl/K2koj

AZ Reason Riders Glendale Reasonriders.com

AZ Tucson Atheists Tucson http://www.meetup.com/Tucson-Atheists/

CA-N Atheist Advocates of San Francisco San Francisco http://atheistadvocatesofsanfrancisco.com/

CA-N Atheist Community of San Jose San Jose Sanjoseatheists.org


CA-N Humanist Community in Silicon Valley San Jose www.humanists.org

CA-N Atheists and Other Freethinkers Sacramento http://aofonline.org

CA-N Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics Fresno http://www.cvaas.org

CA-N Contra Costa Atheists & Freethinkers Pleasant Hill http://www.meetup.com/Contra-Costa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers/

CA-N East Bay Atheists Oakland http://www.eastbayatheists.org

CA-N San Francisco Atheists San Francisco http://www.sfatheists.com

CA-N Santa Cruz Atheists Santa Cruz http://santacruzatheists.org

CA-N Rosmoor Atheists Walnut Creek http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S Atheist Coalition of San Diego San Diego http://www.atheistcoalition.org

CA-S Humanist Fellowship of San Diego San Diego http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S Atheist Society of Kern Bakersfield http://goo.gl/K2koj

CA-S Backyard Skeptics Villa Park http://www.backyardskeptics.com

CA-S Humanist Society of Santa Barbara Santa Barbara http://www.santabarbarahumanists.org

CA-S New Atheists of East County Jamul http://www.meetup.com/New-Atheists-of-East-County/

CA-S Orange County Atheists Orange http://www.ocatheists.com

CA-S Riverside Atheists and Free Thinkers (RAFT) Riverside http://RiversideAtheists.org

40 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


CO Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver Denver http://athofden.tripod.com

CO Boulder Atheists Boulder http://www.boulderatheists.org

CO Metro State Atheists Denver http://metrostateatheists.wordpress.com

CO Pikes Peak Atheists Colorado Springs http://goo.gl/K2koj

CO Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers Grand Junction http://westerncoloradoatheists.org

CT Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI Norwich http://atheisthumanist.org

CT Connecticut Valley Atheists South Windsor http://www.cvatheists.org

DC American University Rationalists and Atheists Washington http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=34367344446

DC Washington Area Secular Humanists Washington http://www.wash.org

FL Atheists of Florida Tampa http://goo.gl/K2koj

FL Central Florida Secular Alliance Dunnellon http://cfsecularalliance.weebly.com

FL Florida Atheists, Critical Thinkers & Skeptics Longwood/Orlando http://www.meetup.com/Critical

FL Gator Freethought (UF) Gainesville http://www.gatorfreethought.com/

FL Ocala Atheists Ocala http://www.meetup.com/Ocala-Atheists/

FL Sarasota-Manatee Atheists & Secular Humanists (SMASH) Nokomis http://goo.gl/K2koj

FL Secular Student Association at Univ. of Central FL Orlando http://ssaucf.com

FL Humanist Community of the Space Coast Satellite Beach http://goo.gl/K2koj

FL St. Petersburg Atheists St. Petersburg http://www.meetup.com/atheists-209

FL Tallahassee Atheists Tallahassee http://www.tallahasseeatheists.com/

FL Treasure Coast Atheists Stuart http://www.meetup.com/atheists-600

FL Williston Atheists Morriston http://goo.gl/K2koj

GA Albany Georgia Atheists Albany http://www.albanygeorgiaatheists.com/

GA Gainesville Atheists Gainesville http://goo.gl/K2koj

GA Atlanta Freethought Society Atlanta http://www.atlantafreethought.org

GA Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta Atlanta http://www.blacknonbelievers.org

GA Fayette Freethought Society Peachtree City http://www.meetup.com/Fayette-Freethought-Society

GA Atheists United, Kennesaw State Univ Kennesaw http://goo.gl/K2koj

GA Kennesaw State U. Student Coalition for Inquiry Kennesaw http://www.facebook.com/ksusci

GA Macon Atheists & Secular Humanists Macon http://www.meetup.com/georgiamash/

IA Atheists United for a Rational America Iowa City http://rationalamerica.com

IA Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers Des Moines http://www.meetup.com/Iowa-Atheists-and-Freethinkers

IL Chicagoland Freethinkers Chicago http://www.meetup.com/chicago-freethought/

IL The Chicago Freethought Project Chicago http://www.facebook.com/thechicagofreethoughtproject

IL IL/WI Stateline Atheists Society Rockford http://www.meetup.com/statelineatheists

IL IWU Atheist, Agnostics, and Non-Religious Bloomington http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5558627959

IL The Secular Segment Mt. Vernon http://www.secularsegment.com

KS Secular Latino Alliance Kansas City Secularlatinos.weebly.com

KS U of K Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics Lawrence http://www.kusoma.org

KY Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky Lexington http://www.facebook.com/groups/kyhumanists/

KY Lexington Atheists Lexington http://www.meetup.com/The-Lexington-Atheists-Meetup-Group

KY Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers Louisville http://www.louisvilleatheists.com/

KY Secular Student Alliance, Moorehad State University Moorehead Facebook.com/msussa

KY Tri-State Freethinkers (KY, IN, OH) Union http://www.meetup.com/Tri-State-Freethinkers/

LA New Orleans Secular Humanist Association New Orleans http://nosha.org

MA Atheists of Greater Lowell Lowell http://www.meetup.com/lowellatheists

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 41


AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS

MA Boston Atheists Boston http://bostonatheists.org

MD Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College Westminster <none>

MD Secular Student Alliance, Frostburg State University Frostburg Secularstudents.org/frostburg

MD Maryland Freethinkers Annapolis http://www.mdfreethinkers.com

ME Maine Atheists and Humanists Waterville http://goo.gl/K2koj

MI Atheists @ Oakland University Rochester http://www.facebook.com/AtheistsAtOU

MI Atheists, Skeptics, & Humanists Assn, N. Michigan U. Marquette http://goo.gl/K2koj

MI Michigan Atheists Detroit http://michiganatheists.org

MI Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists Lansing http://www.mmah.org

MN Atheists for Human Rights Minneapolis http://atheistsforhumanrights.org

MN Campus Atheists Skeptics & Humanists Minneapolis http://cashumn.org

MO Black Freethinkers of Kansas City Kansas City http://www.meetup.com/Black-FreeThinkers-of-KC/

MO Columbia Atheists Columbia http://www.meetup.com/The-Columbia-Atheists-Meetup-Group

MO Joplin Freethinkers Joplin http://www.joplinfreethinkers.org

MO Kansas City Atheist Coalition Kansas City http://www.kcatheists.org

MO MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics Columbia http://muSASHA.org

MO OFallon Freethinkers OFallon http://www.meetup.com/OFallon-Freethinkers

MO Rationalist Society of St. Louis St. Louis http://www.rssl.org

MO Secular Student Alliance @ UCMO Warrensburg http://www.centralskeptics.org

MO Springfield Freethinkers Springfield http://www.meetup.com/SpringfieldFreethinkers

MO Springfield Skeptics Springfield http://goo.gl/K2koj

MO St. Joseph Skeptics St. Joseph http://stjosephskeptics.org

MO We Are Atheism Grandview http://goo.gl/K2koj

MS Humanist Ethical Atheist Rational Thought Society Biloxi http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/HeartsOfTheSouth

MS Great Southern Humanist Society Biloxi http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/southernatheist

MS Mississippi Humanist Association Jackson Mshumanists.org

NC A-News Raleigh http://www.apartmentJ.com

NC Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics Charlotte http://www.charlotteatheists.com

NC Hickory Humanist Alliance Claremont http://goo.gl/K2koj

NC MASH Ft. Bragg Fayetteville http://www.mashfortbragg.org

NC Sandhills Secular Society Hope Mills http://goo.gl/K2koj

NC WNC Humanists Fairview http://www.wnchumanists.org

ND Red River Freethinkers Fargo http://redriverfreethinkers.org

NE Omaha Atheists Omaha http://omahaatheists.org/

NJ Camden County Humanists Blackwood http://goo.gl/K2koj

NJ New Jersey Humanist Network Somerville http://njhn.org/

NJ Secular Student Alliance @ Montclair State Univ. Montclair http://secularstudents.org/montclair

NJ South Jersey Humanists Oceanville http://goo.gl/K2koj

NJ William Paterson Univ. Secular Student Alliance Pompton Lakes https://www.facebook.com/SSA.WPUNJ

NM Roswatheists Roswell http://www.meetup.com/Roswatheists

NM Atheist Community of Santa Fe Santa Fe http://goo.gl/K2koj

NV Reno Freethinkers Reno http://www.RenoFreethinkers.org

NY Freethinkers of Upstate New York Syracuse http://www.funygroup.org

NY Gotham Atheists New York https://www.meetup.com/GothamAtheists/

NY Hudson Valley Humanists Saugerties http://hudsonvalley.humanists.net

NY Long Island Atheists East Setauket Meetup.com/li-atheists

42 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


NY New York City Atheists New York http://nyc-atheists.org

NY Ward Melville High School Secular Student Alliance East Setauket http://goo.gl/K2koj

NY Westchester Atheists Chappaqua http://www.meetup.com/atheists-504

OH Free Inquiry Group Cincinnati http://www.gofigger.org

OH Freethought Dayton Dayton http://www.meetup.com/freethoughtdayton

OH Humanist Community of Central Ohio Columbus http://www.hcco.org

OH Mid-Ohio Atheists Mansfield http://midohioatheists.org

OK Atheist Community of Tulsa Tulsa http://www.ACTOK.org

OK Oklahoma Atheists Oklahoma City http://www.oklahomaatheists.com

PA NEPA Freethought Society Wilkes-Barre http://www.nepafreethought.org

SC Piedmont Humanists Greenville http://www.PiedmontHumanists.org

SC Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry Charleston http://www.lowcountryhumanists.org

SC Upstate Atheists Boiling Springs http://goo.gl/K2koj

TN Memphis Atheists Memphis http://goo.gl/K2koj

TN Memphis Freethought Alliance Memphis http://memphisfreethought.com

TN Nashville Secular Life Nashville http://www.meetup.com/secularlife

TN Rationalists of East Tennessee Knoxville http://www.rationalists.org

TX Atheist Community of Austin Austin http://atheist-community.org

TX Corpus Christi Atheists Corpus Christi http://www.meetup.com/CCAtheists

TX Denton Atheists Denton http://www.meetup.com/The-Denton-Atheists-Meetup-Group

TX El Paso Atheists El Paso http://www.elpasoatheists.com

TX Freethinkers Association of Central Texas San Antonio http://FreethinkersACT.org

TX Golden Triangle Freethinkers Beaumont http://goldentrianglefreethinkers.org

TX Houston Atheists Houston Meetup.com/Houston-atheists

TX Kingwood Humble Atascocita Atheists Atascocita http://www.kha-atheists.org/

TX Lubbock Atheists Lubbock http://www.meetup.com/atheists-496

TX Secular Humanist Society of East Texas Nacagdoches http://goo.gl/K2koj

TX UNT Freethought Alliance Denton http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7647566521

TX Wise Free Thinkers and Skeptics Wise http://www.meetup.com/Wise-Free-Thinkers-and-Skeptics

UT Salt Lake Valley Atheists Salt Lake City http://nowscape.com/a

VA Beltway Atheists Leesburg http://www.meetup.com/Beltway-Atheists-Inc

VA NOVA Atheists Leesburg http://www.meetup.com/NOVA-Atheists

VT Atheists of Rutland Vermont Rutland http://www.atheistsofrutlandvt.com/

WA Seattle Atheists Seattle http://www.seattleatheists.org

WA Tri-City Freethinkers Pasco http://www.tricityfreethinkers.org

WI Southeast Wisconsin FreeThinkers Milwaukee http://swiftnow.org

WV Kanawha Valley Atheists and Agnostics Charleston http://goo.gl/K2koj

WV Mountain State Freethinkers Martinsville http://www.meetup.com/Mountain-State-Freethinkers

WV Morgantown Atheists Morgantown http://www.morgantownatheists.com

WY Wyoming Atheists Facebook.com/groups/wyomingatheists

US Atheist Nexus http://www.atheistnexus.org

US Black Atheists of America http://www.blackatheistsofamerica.org

US Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers http://www.militaryatheistsorg

Intl Southeast Asia Freethought Association

Intl Atestas de Puerto Rico San Juan http://goo.gl/K2koj

Intl Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society http://www.patas.co

3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 43


AIMS AND PURPOSES
A merican 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 of them, their origins, and their histories;

To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete and absolute separation of state and church;

To act as a watchdog to challenge any attempted breach of the wall of separation between state and church;

To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and maintenance of a thoroughly secular
system of education available to all;

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 humanity;

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 the members of
American Atheists and to society as a whole.

Definitions:

A theism is the comprehensive world view of persons who are free from theism and have freed themselves of supernatural
beliefs altogether. It is predicated on ancient Greek Materialism.

A theism involves the mental attitude that unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-
style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of
authority and creeds.

M aterialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent,
immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind, finding
the resources within themselves, can and must create their own destiny. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth
and strive always to improve it. It holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on reason and
justice. Materialisms faith is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own efforts. This is
a commitment that 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.

M aterialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes,
unlimited.

44 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


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3RD QUARTER 2017 www.atheists.org | AMERICAN ATHEIST | 45


Why I Am an Atheist
by Cathy Puett Miller

I am an atheist because I finally woke up after spending


the first twenty-five years of my life not thinking for
myself. Its as simple as that.
During my Methodist upbringing, I was a good southern
girl. I did what Momma and Daddy told me to do and hid my
doubts and other sinful thoughts from everyone. I relied on
what my loving parents taught me about faith, which allowed
to lead Bible studies in the dorms, and I was assigned several
prayer partners through a pyramid scheme. I even met my
boyfriend, Chuck, through this group. I read the Bible front to
back as a way to prepare for teaching the Bible study, and also
to be able to prove whatever point I was making. It wasnt too
long before I was openly condemning people who had known
me all my life by telling them they were going to hell.
me to push responsibility for my life off on a supernatural being. As I moved higher up in the organization, I started noticing
I was blind to why any such idea would be flawed because inconsistencies and manipulation by the leadership. They
everyone I had ever met believed in God. were all smiles as they authoritatively hand-picked those who
I had no exposure to any world view other than the one I would advance and discarded the unfit members who werent
grew up with when I left small-town America at eighteen to spiritual enough. I attended an even more conservative
attend Florida State University. There, I quickly found myself Church of Christ at home during breaks and found their dogma
spending most of my time with the first first two girls I met on to be even more inconsistent.
campus (a junior and a senior) who embraced me when I didnt Questions crept in, a few at a time, then faster: Why was
know anyone else. They invited me to dinner and introduced me my faith weak if I was simply asking a question? How could a
to lots of other nice people who made me feel just as welcome. loving God condemn people to hell for using the brain he gave
Within a day, I learned that they belonged to Campus them? Why does God choose to save only some people from
Crusade for Christ and they worshipped on Sunday at the natural disasters while others perish by no fault of their own?
Church of Christ adjacent to the campus. They helped me Why arent my earnest prayers answered? And perhaps the
navigate campus and college life in general. They shared their biggest: Why does almost all of humanitys progress, like the
lives and lots of hugs with me. Because I had no filter other than improvements in education and social structure that advance
my feelings, I equated their friendliness with integrity because equality for each human being, conflict with the Bible? If this
I assumed they knew what they were talking about. And I was book is so holy, then why are there so many stories of God being
prime for the picking. Because no one from the Methodist faith an asshole?
reached out to me on campus, switching to the Church of Christ That was when I realized that I was letting other people
(with their frequent Bible studies and even more frequent prayer think for me. Cracks in my faith started to form. Then, one day,
groups) seemed easy and harmless. when exploring the philosophy and religion section of Barnes &
It would take too many words and too many tears to explain Noble (doing research in my zeal for God), I came across Why
everything that happened from that freshman year until my I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell. Afraid that Id run
senior year. Suffice it to say that I deeply regret how I spent that into someone from church, I slipped the small book behind a
time. My grades suffered in the name of Jesus because Campus notebook, hid in a corner, and read the entire thing right then
Crusade was more important than studying. I was groomed and there. When I was done, I had my first inkling that thinking
Continued on page 37

46 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 3RD QUARTER 2017


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