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AMERICAN ATHEIST
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought
Understanding religious violence
2nd Quarter 2018 and oppression is crucial to
Vol. 56, No. 2
curbing the human suffering
ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)
ISSN 1935-8369 (Online) it causes. On page 18, a clinical
psychologist specializing in the
treatment of combat-related
post-traumatic stress disorder
explains why religion may be
used to encourage the worst—
rather than the best—in human
nature.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Pamela Whissel
PWhissel@Atheists.org
LAYOUT and GRAPHICS EDITOR
Rick Wingrove
RWingrove@Atheists.org
COPY EDITOR
Karen Reilly In This Issue
RESEARCH ASSISTANT
Anthony J. Crincoli 4 Addressing the Rumors | Pamela Whissel
PROOFREADERS
Gil Gaudia
6 A Secular Grief Observed | Becky Garrison
Shelley Gaudia
Den Jackson 12 Bart Ehrman: The Passion of the Professor | Natasha Stoynoff
AMERICAN ATHEIST PRESS
MANAGING EDITOR 16 Barren and Batty Mitzvahs | Ross Rosenfeld
Frank R. Zindler
Editor@Atheists.org 18 COVER STORY: God the Dominant Ape | Hector A. Garcia
PUBLISHED BY
American Atheists, Inc. 26 BOOK EXCERPT: Time is Irreverent | Marty Essen
Mailing Address:
225 Cristiani St. 30 NOTABLE BOOKS: Four New Atheist Titles
Cranford, NJ 07016
Phone: 908.276.7300
FAX: 908.276.7402
31 Why I Am an Atheist | James A. Haught
www.Atheists.org
46 JOB POSTING: President of American Atheists
©2018 AMERICAN ATHEISTS INC.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole
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2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Addressing the Rumors

S ince the last issue of this magazine, American Atheists has


entered a significant phase of transition, which was made
public on Tuesday, April 10 with the announcement that the
Board of Directors had unanimously voted on Sunday, April 8 to
place President David Silverman on paid leave while it conducted
We are committed to transparency and openness about
this process and will release more information as it becomes
available.

Friday, April 13: Last night, the American Atheists Board


an investigation of an internal complaint regarding violations of Directors voted to terminate David Silverman as president of
of administrative policies. The board acted in accordance with American Atheists. Board Chair Neal Cary and Vice President
American Atheists’ bylaws in order to investigate the complaint, Kathleen Johnson will continue to fulfill the duties of the president
which had been brought to them on Saturday, April 7. while National Program Director Nick Fish oversees the day-to-day
The public announcement was posted on our website operations of the organization.
(Atheists.org), our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed. We also On April 10, 2018, the Board of Directors placed President
sent the announcement to everyone who has opted to receive David Silverman on leave pending a review of allegations
communications from us by email. brought to the board’s attention. Today’s announcement is
Shortly after the announcement was released, the board based on these findings, and the board intends to cooperate with
members received additional information from two women any future investigations.
individually accusing him of sexual misconduct. American Atheists is committed to creating and maintaining
On Thursday, April 12, the board unanimously voted to terminate an environment that is safe and welcoming to all. Based on the
his contract. On the following day, Friday, April 13, we released allegations made, and the evidence presented, the board believes it
another announcement in the same way as the first one. is prudent and necessary to reaffirm that commitment and move
Later on Friday, Buzzfeed News released a story about the forward with new leadership.
termination. The article quotes the women, one of whom allowed The staff of American Atheists will continue our mission to
the use of her full name. In response to the story, American advocate for the absolute separation of religion from government,
Atheists amended the April 13 announcement to include a to elevate the profile of atheism in public discourse, and to build and
statement about the article. strengthen communities that fully represent the growing number
In addition to my role as editor-in-chief of this magazine, I of atheists in America. We thank our members, supporters, and
am also American Atheists’ membership director, and it’s in this volunteers for their dedication and support of our mission.
capacity that I have had contact, either in writing or on the phone, Note: After American Atheists announced the termination
with every member and supporter who has reached out to us with of Mr. Silverman, a Buzzfeed news article was posted detailing
questions, comments, and concerns. These conversations have left additional allegations of misconduct. In response, National
me with the impression that most people heard our news indirectly Program Director Nick Fish released the following statement:
from blog posts, social media communities, the Buzzfeed article, “We take our obligation to create safe and welcoming
or word of mouth. Therefore, it’s probably helpful to reproduce communities for our staff, volunteers, members, and supporters
the official statements here: very seriously. We have zero tolerance for the type of behavior
alleged in these accounts. We will continue to demand the
Monday, April 9: On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, highest standards and accountability from our leaders, staff,
the American Atheists Board of Directors received a complaint and volunteers.”
regarding David Silverman, the president of American Atheists.
The board takes very seriously the concerns expressed and, in It’s only natural that this news surprised everyone. For nearly
accordance with organization policies, the board has placed Mr. eight years, David Silverman’s leadership as president elevated the
Silverman on paid leave while an independent investigation is profile of American Atheists, and through his firebrand activism, he
conducted. Mr. Silverman has pledged his full cooperation of the became a popular author, speaker, and public figure who inspired
investigation. countless Americans to come out of the closet and be openly
The board, led by Chair Neal Cary and Vice President Kathleen atheist.
Johnson, will fulfill the duties of the president while Mr. Silverman His immediate predecessor, Dr. Ed Buckner, who served as
is on leave. National Program Director Nick Fish will oversee the president from 2008 to 2010, was appointed volunteer interim
day-to-day operations of the organization. executive director on April 30. In this capacity, he is providing
While Mr. Silverman is on leave, American Atheists will advice to the board and guidance and support to the full-time staff
continue our work protecting the separation of religion and while the board conducts its search for new leadership.
government, elevating the voices of atheists in our nation’s public Because I have ongoing conversations with our members and
discourse, and supporting our members and atheist communities the general public, and because Ed (he prefers “Ed” in all but
across the country. the most formal circumstances) has leadership responsibilities

4 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


now, he wanted to hear the questions I’ve been asked so that he staff, and a dedicated network of members, supporters, and
could answer them to the best of his ability and then discuss his volunteers. The organization has never been and will never be
current role at American Atheists. about one leader. It is about our mission to advocate for the
absolute separation of religion from government, to elevate
Q: The board’s initial announcement mentions “a complaint” the profile of atheism in public discourse, and to build and
but provides no description. Did it include any allegations of strengthen communities that fully represent the growing
sexual misconduct?
number of atheists in America.
A: No. The first complaint alleged violations of American
Q: What are your hopes for the future of American Atheists?
Atheists’ policies, including allegations of undisclosed conflicts
of interest, as well as breaches of confidentiality and staff
A: My strongest hope is that we will preserve and protect this vital
management guidelines. It’s important to know that the first
organization until the board hires a new trustworthy, creative,
complaint was received before the two individuals brought their
dynamic, media-savvy leader. Because the board is charged with
allegations to the board.
acting in the best interests of the organization, choosing a leader
is arguably its most important function. I will have no vote and no
Q: That initial announcement also mentions an “independent
active role in that selection, and I want none.
investigation.” Will those results be made public?
But I know what I do want: an unabashed atheist with enough
activist experience to know that the leader is important, but
A: The investigation is now complete, but on the advice of our
not as important as the people who comprise the membership.
legal counsel, details cannot be shared because it’s a personnel
Someone who can make things happen in the short term but who
matter, and in standard practices of employment, the reasons for
can also see many years down the road. Someone who can lead
a termination must remain confidential. I can tell you that the
by inspiring and respecting all members of the staff and all our
investigator was an outside attorney with expertise in conducting
dedicated volunteers. Someone we can point to with pride when
internal reviews of this nature, and that the results corroborated
talking to theists. Someone who understands that a key part of
the board’s decision.
good leadership is to work to develop new leadership. Someone
For American Atheists in the near term, and well into the who will enhance our status and our strength while respecting the
future, the most important result of that investigation was the rules of our organization and the norms of civility.
recommendations regarding policies and actions the board
should undertake moving forward, and the board will carefully Q: Are you interested in returning as the next president?
consider all recommendations.
A: I took on this role because I am a committed atheist, a life
Q: The board announced, in the following order, that David member, and a longtime and strong supporter of American
Silverman was suspended, that an investigation was launched, Atheists. I’m proud to contribute again, but I will definitely not
that his contract was terminated, and that the investigation was be applying for the job. I’m only an interim this time around, and
not yet complete. Why did the board decide to terminate his an unpaid one by my own choice, because I am not the dynamic,
contract before the investigation was finished? powerful leader we must have right now. I fervently hope, for the
sake of the movement, but also for my own, that the board will
A: The investigation was a result of the allegations made in the find us that new leader swiftly.
first complaint, which relate only to conflicts of interest and We—the members, staff, and board—must look forward
failure to adhere to organizational policy. The additional alleged because there is still much work to do to earn the respect
sexual misconduct was not a subject of the investigation. The atheists deserve and to protect the rights that are ours. Threats
termination decision was made before the investigation was to the separation of religion and government emerge daily,
complete because enough information was already in hand, and and many of them are serious. Mindless bigotry, based on oft-
the board had lost confidence in his leadership. repeated hogwash equating religiosity with morality, continues
apace in many communities. We cannot let up, and I’m proud
Q: For a lot of people, David Silverman and American Atheists to say that the day-to-day operations at American Atheists have
were one and the same. Does the board fully appreciate what continued during this time without so much as a brief pause.
it’s losing? I am confident that, given the sterling qualities of our current
staff and board, we will advance, and we will thrive. But we can
A: David Silverman is a creative, dynamic man who is effective only do it with the help and dedication of our leadership, staff,
at attracting media attention and using it well. But, as one board volunteers, members, and supporters.
member remarked to me, “He was not who we thought he was.”
It is worth noting that the decision regarding the termination
was made without dissent from any board member, which
means it was made by a very diverse group of atheists (go to
Atheists.org/About/Board to read their profiles), all with a
well-developed sense of fairness and a good understanding of Pamela Whissel
how to evaluate information. Editor-in-Chief
American Atheists has a long and powerful legacy, a talented PWhissel@Atheists.org

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 5


A Secular Grief Observed
by Becky Garrison

Seattle, October 2016: Gary and me at his final class

I f you’ve ever laughed while watching the original cast of


Saturday Night Live, or several members of the casts that
followed, then you’ve been delighted by performers who cut
their teeth at The Groundlings, the legendary improvisational
comedy company founded by my dear friend, Gary Austin,
Paul Rubens is another alum, and there would be no Pee
Wee Herman if it weren’t for Gary Austin. That iconic grey suit
that Rubens dons to embody Pee Wee’s dorky, childish persona
hung in Gary’s closet long before it ever made its way to Pee
Wee’s Playhouse. It was the outfit Gary would wear on that rare
whose extraordinary talent for teaching, coaching, and guidance occasion when he had a formal job interview. It also served as
launched the careers of numerous comics who are now the costume he’d wear when auditioning for a nerdy character.
household names. The list includes Melissa McCarthy, Jimmy On all other days, he wore a Stetson hat, white cowboy boots, a
Fallon, Kathy Griffin, Will Ferrell, Lisa Kudrow, Craig T. Nelson, cowboy shirt, and blue jeans.
Maya Rudolph, Julia Sweeney, Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman, Jan The suit made its way to The Groundlings when Gary led
Hooks, Cheryl Hines, Will Forte, Jon Lovitz, Ana Gasteyer, an exercise where the students assembled a set of clothes and
Taran Killam, Chris Parnell, and Cheri Oteri. assumed a character shaped by the outfit. Rubens needed

A foray into Yale Divinity School to find


my spiritual purpose left me with more
questions than answers.
6 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
Paul Rubens needed something to wear,
so Gary lent him his suit, and Pee Wee
Herman was born.
something to wear, so Gary lent him his suit, and Pee Wee me to let go of being cool so I could get to the vulnerable place
Herman was born. of being me. Then he taught me the importance of “bombing”
At a memorial service for Gary, who died on April Fools’ when I had to venture into the unknown without a safety net.
Day 2017, Rubens talked about how that simple moment in Through him, I learned how to stay on my breath, write on
class changed his life. Such was the essence of Gary, whose my feet, and go. I learned from Gary that when my top priority is
horse-whisperer moves guided herds of artists to discover each for my work to make sense, I will end up with boring, predictable
of their singular voices. Gary changed my life as well. When I “sense”. But when I take a risk and follow my intuition—even if it
met him in 1996, I was a budding religion satirist based in New feels like nonsense—the audience will make connections to my
York City. Two years earlier, I had sold my first article to The words that I didn’t know exist.
Wittenburg Door, (spelled differently than the city of Wittenberg, One of the greatest lessons was to observe how his one-man
Germany), the nation’s only religious satire magazine, where I show, Church, took shape. In it, Gary recounted tales of growing
would eventually become the senior contributing editor. up in the Nazarene Church in Texas. By seeing him tell his truth,
As the oldest child of a debauched Episcopal priest and I learned how to reconfigure my critique of religion through the
college professor and an Earth mother, who both died from art of storytelling.
their addictions when I was a teenager, I had a religious Under Gary’s guidance, my work evolved from jokey, top-
upbringing that was unconventional, to say the least. A foray ten lists to satire that exposes the underbelly of the institutional
into Yale Divinity School to find my spiritual purpose left me church that caused both of us, and so many others, to walk
with more questions than answers. But once I entered The Door, away. The more truth I uncovered, the less I knew, and the less
I discovered my satirical voice and learned I was much better I believed. Like Gary, I could feel myself moving away from
suited to serve the church as a critic on the outside than as a calling myself a Christian into embracing the truth that I am an
devotional drone working within it. apophatic agnostic Anglican. I don’t have all the answers, but I
When I connected with Gary, I was looking for a teacher who will continue to ask questions while embracing the mysteries
could help me to physicalize my words by getting me out of my of life. I keep “Anglican” in my identity as a vestige from my
head and into my body. My work was witty, but something was childhood. I still connect to the rituals like walking a labyrinth
lacking both in my writing and in my personal life. I still called or—very infrequently—partaking of the Eucharist, even though
myself a Christian, though by then, my attendance at a few these acts no longer carry any Jesus-y sensations for me.
different Episcopal churches was no longer a quest to connect In 2014, I moved from the Northeast to Portland, Oregon.
to the tenets of the faith. Rather, I kept trying to reconnect to I had left organized religion by then and was finding my way in
the social-justice dynamics of the Gospel that my late father the sacred sexuality and spirituality of the Celtic ethos inspired
pursued until his alcoholism overran his idealism. But nothing by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. While I found my
seemed to be connecting. unique voice with Gary during my New York City days, in the
Given my family history, I felt (and still feel) relieved to have Pacific Northwest I found a culture that speaks to my evolving
missed the period of Gary’s life when his alcoholism, replete with sense of who I am. I could finally come into my own, free from
a narcissistic streak, raged so badly that he alienated many people, the religion that had defined me as a “Christian author.”
both personally and professionally. The man I met was tender Every few months, I was able to spend time with Gary
toward all animals—especially those in need of rescuing—his by trekking up to Seattle whenever he was in town from Los
students, and his second wife Wenndy MacKenzie, who became Angeles to hold classes. But just as my faith had evolved, so did
my voice teacher. my relationship with Gary as we approached our work with a
Gary took away my intellectual safety nets that I thought I real urgency. Gary had been diagnosed with a blood cancer that
needed to rely on to make my work witty and wise. He taught could be treated but not cured, so he became well aware that

Cancer killed my collaborator, and


no Disneyesque hocus-pocus will be
reconnecting us in some heavenly realm.
2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 7
I don’t have all the answers, but I
will continue to ask questions while
embracing the mysteries of life.
every moment of his limited time had to count. In the past, he reconnecting us in some heavenly realm.
might have worked with uncommitted students since his income While I was writing this, I talked to Wenndy, Gary’s widow,
came from teaching, but after his diagnosis, if you weren’t there who told me she’s now taken over teaching Gary’s students.
to work, he wouldn’t take you on. She isn’t him, obviously, and no supernatural intervention will
Our most heated arguments came about during this time. I bring him to me through her coaching. I don’t have delusions
had approached him about a project to write a book of stories about keeping Gary beside me like a cardboard character in
my grandfather would tell me about his coaching football in some cheesy song, though I do feel his presence when I listen
the Pacific during World War II and coaching the U.S. Olympic to his 2014 album The Traveler. But I now know that through
Wrestling Team at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. But while I saw his widow, and our memories of him, his spirit will always be
Grandpa’s stories as a compelling, unique angle on World War II present in my work.
history, Gary only saw a sports-obsessed jock oblivious
to the world around him, and racist and sexist to boot.
As this was not the Grandpa I knew, I fought back.
Finally, we came up with a structure that let
Grandpa’s stories sing. We set the scene in 1994, during
the last Christmas I spent with Grandpa, who was
ninety years old and ailing. With Gary’s characteristic
kindness, he helped me unearth the real reason I
listened so intently to Grandpa’s tales that Christmas.
I was trying to form a bond with my ailing grandfather,
one in which I could connect with this member of the
Greatest Generation beyond his larger-than-life stories.
When I completed the first chapter, I shared it at a
staged reading of student works, where Gary smiled as
I spoke. I knew then that we had found the format that
worked, and I looked forward to future readings, with
Gary by my side, as I continued to write.
By the time I was ready to send him the fourth
chapter in March 2017, he was in the ICU. He had been
hospitalized intermittently since 2014, so I thought
he’d be out soon after what was just another short
blip in his productivity. But cancer killed my creative
collaborator on April 1, 2017, and when I found out,
I didn’t quite know how I would go on with my life
without him in it. For months, every time I tried to pick
up Grandpa’s project, my body ached. Then, in July
2017, his Seattle family, both in law and of choice, held
a memorial where I shared a tribute to Gary. As I stood
there, I knew I had to get back to finish the project we
started together, even though the pain of mourning Coaching days during World War II. Grandpa is on the right.
was as deep inside me as the marrow in my bones. (Image courtesy of the Hawaii War Records Depository)
And it still is. But also embedded in my bones are
the twenty-one years of memories and the wisdom of
my mentor, collaborator, and friend. So, I have returned
to the last project we started together, and I continue to soldier Sports Stories by Roy B. Clogston (1905-1995) As Told to His Granddaughter
on without ever hearing him sing his country songs or tell yet Becky Garrison is available on Kindle at Amazon. You can follow Becky’s
another animal tale, and no Disneyesque hocus-pocus will be travels via Twitter and Instagram @Becky_Garrison.

8 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


Israel-Palestine Holy War

Two peoples claim this “holy” land.


They crave it more than peace.
Each side thinks God supports its stand,
So strife will never cease.

—Felicia Nimue Ackerman

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 9


ADVERTISEMENT

JESUS
THE LOVING – JUST – MERCIFUL – AND FORGIVING JESUS
IS THE JESUS PEOPLE LOVE AND WORSHIP
UNTIL ATHEISTS CONFRONT THIS FACT
THEY ARE FAILING MILLIONS OF INTELLIGENT PEOPLE
WHO WILL NOT LEARN THE TRUTH WITHOUT HELP

It is the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, the Jesus who BUT THIS WAS ONLY GOD’S SECOND SIN. WE RARELY
forgives his crucifiers, the Jesus who will not allow a single HEAR OF HIS FIRST AND GREATEST SIN, THE ONE
hair on the heads of innocent children to be harmed, who is EASIEST TO EXPLAIN, IMPOSSIBLE TO DENY, AND AS
loved — the Jesus in the flower garden and of countless beau- DIFFICULT TO DEFEND AS A SQUARED-CIRCLE.
tiful and affecting hymns.
It occurred BEFORE THE BEGINNING, before anything
There is no intellectual argument which can begin to could be blamed on man. There, he created human beings
cope with this powerful fact for the millions—but still only out of their innocent nothingness, KNOWING he would later
a fraction—of intelligent people who do not and will not read send most of them to Hell to suffer forever—never to die and
or hear our brilliant philosophic, historical, and scientific rea- never to receive mercy or forgiveness! [Jesus said ‘many’ to ‘a
sons why the whole story is man-made. lake of fire’ and only a ‘few’ saved.]

We should, for a change, try critiquing the religion on its own Where is the forgiveness in being forever damned? This
terms, and present the demonstrable scriptural and creedal must be denounced as the moral abomination it is, as Robert
facts in a way that, for some, will generate such moral disso- Ingersoll did so brilliantly.
nance that it will open them to learn more, while delivering a
never-heard-before moral rebuke to the rest. And we have it! The young, naturally open to new ways of thinking, and
always highly sensitive to issues of justice and fairness, can
The theologians have armed us with dogmas and creeds be expected to be especially responsive to this undeniable and
which make our case a logical certainty: These are: very simple argument. They are already our richest and
largest source for new recruits.
1. God’s attributes as defined by virtually all, if not all,
Christian denominations and sects: He is unchanging, all- After God’s first and second sins, dozens more of morally
powerful, needs nothing, knows everything, past, present, indefensible deeds fill the Bible. And thanks to the Trinity
future, and even possible; he a loving, just, merciful, and Doctrine, they are all incontestably the doings of gentle Jesus:
forgiving Father, who cares for us, and always hears our ONE with God always! And thanks to God being, in the words
prayers. In every respect he is perfect. of the Catholic Catechism, “the author of the Old and New Tes-
taments, in all its parts, whole and entire”, Christians can only
2. The Holy Bible—Both Roman Catholic and the Protes- defend them by reversing the meaning of words.
tant denominations with the vast majority of adherents,
declare it to be true and without error. The Catholic Church HOW MANY CHRISTIANS REALLY UNDERSTAND THAT
states: "For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the THE TRINITY DOCTRINE MAKES JESUS RESPONSIBLE FOR
apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical, the books ALL THE ATROCITIES RECORDED OF GOD IN THE OLD
of the Old and New Testaments, whole an entire, with all TESTAMENT, GENOCIDE AS WELL AS SINGLE CRIMES?
their parts, on the ground they have God as their author
and have been handed on as such entirely." (Catechism of From the Old Testament:
the Roman Catholic Church—The Profession of Faith—
105, page 31) • God/Jesus ordered, “… kill every male among the little
ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying
3. The Holy Trinity Doctrine, which making Jesus ONE with him. But all the young girls who have not known man
with the “Lord” of the Old Testament, always and forever. by lying with him, keep for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18)

With these as our authorities, our logical certainty is also • God/Jesus was so insanely enraged that he struck
an irreconcilable disaster by the moral standards of the Uzzah dead for touching the Ark, when God knew Uzzah
Sermon on the Mount. was only trying to keep it from falling. (2 Samuel 6:1-7)

By the standards of our civilization, nothing could be so From the New Testament:
fundamentally unjust and reprehensible as punishing the
innocent for the conduct of others, as God did to the descen- • We first learn of the greatest of all evil, eternal punish-
dents of Adam and Eve. ment in Hell. Jesus said the way to Hell was broad and
‘many’ would take it, while ‘few’ would be saved. No

10 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


ADVERTISEMENT

exaggeration, considering that one is damned for not loving


and believing in Jesus as savior—about 70% of all alive in
this world!

• God/Jesus caused the cold blooded murder of Ana-


nias, and three hours later, of his widow, Sapphira, for the
trivial offense of withholding some of their own property,
previously promised, to the commune “Saint” Peter had
established (Acts 5:1-11)

SO WHERE IS THE “HEART” POWER IN ALL THIS?


Why did I undertake this Quixotic task, and why in South
These examples show that the murders of infants and Bend, Indiana? I retired 26 years ago after running two of
other innocents, rape, genocide, mayhem and destruction, the largest direct marketing firms in the country. Our job for
including animals, detailed in the Old Testament, were all the dozens of national companies and non-profits, was to write
works of Jesus-God. copy, using print media, to persuade people in the mass mar-
ket to buy something, donate, join, sign a petition, buy a foreign
ANGER IS THE NATURAL REACTION WHEN IT FINALLY trip, ask for more information, and more. Our results were
REGISTERS, THAT YOU HAVE BEEN CHEATED, measured exactly.
DEFRAUDED, AND SWINDLED!
I was absolutely confident that the methods used in that
Of course, this is not a silver bullet. What is? But I suggest work would be effective to sell these ideas. Also, I wanted to
it is the only arrow in the atheist arsenal which can possibly make a public statement and leave a permanent record in the
counter the emotional appeal of the loving Jesus, whose allure public domain. I did NOT do it as the best way to reach our tar-
is compounded exponentially by his promise of a happy life get market. That will probably be in social media about which
forever in heaven. If it is a new and fresh case, that alone I know nothing—except that these messages will work, be-
argues for its use. cause human nature has not changed. But I must leave that to
others. I chose the South Bend Tribune because I ran ads like
It can only be expected to work on those already on the these with them about three years ago, and they agreed to run
weakest end of the faith curve. In addition to the young one every Sunday for 14 weeks, and, finally, because I could
mentioned above, others include, LGBTQ and their families, afford it.
unmarried couples and divorcees, who resent being told they
are living in sin and don’t believe it. Should not the atheist community do something to
counter the multi-billion dollar Templeton Fund? Endlessly
In addition, it can reinforce the “nones”—those answer- reinforcing ourselves does nothing to educate the masses. Just
ing surveys as having no religion—and other doubters, with a couple of million dollars a year to fund an ongoing Research
better more reasons why they are right. & Development, educational effort would be a giant step for-
ward. Programs can start small and evolve. Aren’t there rich
These arguments will put us on the moral high ground, atheists too?
force Christians onto the defensive, and humiliate them
with the task of defending the indefensible. Do you agree:

IT IS SO SIMPLE: GOD HAD INFINITE OPTIONS 1. That at the very least, the secular community should
AND INFINITE POWER. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT HE add these simple and lethal arguments to our arsenal, and
COULD BE A LOVING-JUST-MERCIFUL-FORGIVING aggressively look for opportunities to deploy them in talks,
FATHER WHO CARES FOR US, AND DAMN ANYONE debates, and writings?
TO SUFFER FOREVER.
2. That our organizations should be doing more to reach
In this very year I have taken this case to the 300,000 those in the masses who are already most likely to be
claimed readers of the South Bend Tribune, home of Notre receptive to the all the reasons the Christian religion is man-
Dame University, in the form of advertisements to be deliv- made and even evil?
ered every Sunday for 14 straight weeks, in 6 full pages and
the rest at least half pages. CORRECTION! They were on this Please email me at fellowfeather@gmail.com.
schedule, approved by the paper, when after printing 9,
they refused to print 1, and within days, cancelled the DOWNLOAD
remaining 4, with no explanation! You can download These ads may be easily accessed and downloaded
these—see below. at www.theingersolltimes.com. It will be in a tab titled,
The Infamous South Bend Atheist Ads.

Paid by fellowfeather@gmail.com. Comments pro or con will be answered.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 11


Bart Ehrman:
The Passion of the Professor
by Natasha Stoynoff

B ible scholar Bart Ehrman may be an atheist, but


there’s nothing like a scrap of ancient papyrus with a
few words from Chapter 18 of the Gospel of John scrawled
in Greek to give this historian the fervor of a come-to-
Jesus moment.
“It’s the oldest fragment of any book of the New Testament that we have,” Ehrman
explained of the credit-card-sized parchment he once had the opportunity to examine
at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England. “I’d known about it for
thirty years. I sat there for an hour, staring at it in its glass enclosure. It was thrilling.”
Early Christian writings, what they mean, and who wrote them has been the focus of his
thirty-plus-year career. But Ehrman, who is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of
Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wasn’t always an
atheist. He became a born-again Christian as a teen.
His subsequent schooling at the Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Princeton
Theological Seminary was the springboard to a personal journey that took him from
fundamentalism, to liberal Christianity, and then atheism. This baffled his family, who
became born again thanks to Ehrman, who served as a pastor after graduating from the
seminary. “They’re still evangelical Christian,” he says, “and they wonder what happened
to me!”
The truth happened—that’s what. The purpose of this unlikely journey was twofold:
To find historical authenticity and accuracy in early Christian scriptures, and to inspire
his religious studies students—first at Rutgers University, then at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1988—to look beyond the doctrine they’ve been taught
and think for themselves.
“I'm a firm believer in knowing what you believe and why you believe it,” says Ehrman,
who gets hundreds of emails every day from both admirers and critics of his work.
He has authored thirty books, five of them New York Times bestsellers and none of
them for the religiously faint of heart. Topics include: how Jesus the man became God,
the Bible’s contradictory explanations as to why God allows suffering, forgeries in the
Bible, lost scriptures, and questioning the very existence of Jesus.
His latest book, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the

12 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


World, examines why and how Christianity conquered the Roman Empire. (Spoiler alert:
Convince the pagans that the Christian god was more powerful than their gods).
“Gods have been worshipped for millennia,” he said. “Gods could provide what people
couldn’t provide for themselves. A human can’t guarantee rain, or that the livestock all
reproduce, or that the crops grow, or that a woman survives childbirth. You can’t control
those, but the gods can.”
While his aim is not to de-convert anyone, it sometimes happens by default. The
Teaching Company’s Great Courses series offers many lectures of his. About six years
ago, I picked up several of his audio lectures and began with his talk on the historical Jesus.
After just one listen during a loop around the Central Park reservoir, the deed was done,
and I was no longer a theist. As I chatted with Ehrman over the phone for this interview, I
learned that I’m not alone.

Do any of your students ever start questioning their And Jesus’ last name is Christ!
religious faith in class? They kind of laugh about that, but you can tell that some
Some put up huge barriers and put their fingers in their of them are laughing sheepishly, like, “Oh, I guess that isn’t
ears and start humming loudly because they don’t want to right, is it?” These kids grew up in church, so you’d think
hear what I’m saying. Others become far more thoughtful, they’d know something about the Bible. My students have a
and they eventually ask, “What do I really think?” It happens far greater commitment to the Bible than knowledge about
all the time. it, and they realize that pretty quickly in class, too, and are
surprised by it.
I imagine them having emotional, tear-filled revelations
and outbursts in the middle of your lectures. One of your audio lectures was the tipping point for
Nope [laughing]. I approach the topics with a good sense my atheism. You talk about Mary and Joseph going to
of humor. Students realize that I’m not trying to trash them or Bethlehem for the census, and you then point out there was
destroy anything. I’m just trying to get them to think. Rather no census!
than falling apart, they become more thoughtful. That’s the Everybody knew that Jesus came from Nazareth. But to
key for me. fulfill Old Testament prophecy, he needs to have been born
I have students all over the map. I have students who are in Bethlehem somehow. So you come up with a census. The
atheists. I have students who are Jewish. I have students who are question is whether somebody sat down and plotted it out and
liberal Christians. I have students who are very conservative said, “I think I’ll make this up,” or if it happened as a rumor—
Christians. I have far more conservative Christians than somebody just tells a story, and somebody else tells the story,
anything else because I teach in the Bible Belt. I’m not and after a while nobody knows where it came from. In either
interested in de-converting them or getting them to change event, the census did not happen. I just had this very discussion
their views, but I am interested in them being intelligent about in my undergraduate class, and I could see the light bulbs over
their religious views. If you’re not a knowledgeable Christian, the head of one of my students.
then you’re an ignorant Christian, and ignorant Christians are
really dangerous. But it wasn’t about facts when you became a born-again
Christian around age fifteen.
You’re famous for the quiz you give on the first class of In the beginning it was emotional. But I did become
every semester to see how much students—especially the convinced that you could argue for the rationality of
theists—actually know about Christianity and the New Evangelical Christianity, for the rationality that there really is
Testament. a God, that Jesus really is his son, and you could demonstrate
Every time, somebody says that [Saint] Paul’s last name is that Jesus rose from the dead, and that the Bible is inherent
“of Tarsus.” revelation from God.

I’ve gained a lot by becoming an atheist, but I’ve


also lost a lot, and there’s no reason to deny that.
2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 13
My students have a far greater commitment to
the Bible than knowledge about it.
So I’m having an emotional experience of Christianity at You usually say “agnostic” when you’re interviewed.
this time, but I was also on my high school debate team, so Most people probably think that agnostic and atheist are
I was into evidence as well and arguing cases and trying to two degrees of the same thing. In this view, agnostics are
prove things. Once I understood that evidence really matters, atheists who just refuse to admit it, so they’re kind of wimpy
I started recognizing the counter-evidence. I ended up atheists—that’s how atheists tend to view agnostics. And
leaving Evangelical Christianity when I realized the evidence agnostics tend to think that atheists are just arrogant agnostics.
just isn’t there. I think that they’re
describing two different
It was the problem of phenomena. Agnosticism deals
suffering that finally put with knowledge. If somebody
the final nail in the coffin says, “Do you know whether
for you. there’s a superior being in
I was teaching a class at the universe?” I’d say, “No.
Rutgers University in the How the hell would I know?”
mid-1980s on the problem Atheism deals with what
of suffering in the Bible. you believe. So, if somebody
That’s when I really started asks me, “Do you believe in a
thinking about it seriously. superior being?” the answer
I’d thought about it my is, “No, not at all.” I consider
whole life in some ways, but myself an agnostic with respect
the real questioning started to knowledge, but an atheist
then, and from there it was with respect to belief.
a domino effect. Things
started falling, and then the Am I correct that most
faith itself fell. Christians don’t realize they
were considered some of the
Even though it was a first “atheists”?
gradual, thoughtful The first Christians were
process for you, was it still called “atheists” because they
difficult? didn’t subscribe to the belief
It was terribly painful. in multiple gods. Everybody
It took me years to get over else in the world, apart from
it because my conservative, Jews, believed in lots of gods.
Evangelical faith was the There were gods of the state.
very core of my being. Every city had their gods.
I wasn’t someone who Every family had their gods.
became a Christian in order Every mountain had a god.
to attend church once a Every stream, every forest.
week and not think about Everything had a god, and
it otherwise. My entire life was built around my Christian Christians either denied they existed, or they said that those
faith. I went to a fundamentalist Bible school. I was involved gods were evil demons. So they were literally without the
in Christian ministry. I was trying to convert people. I was gods, and that’s what “atheist” meant.
teaching Bible studies. I was leading prayer groups. When it
disappeared, I felt the foundations of my existence shaken. For In your new book, The Triumph of Christianity, you explain
me, it was a very big deal indeed. I feel like I’ve gained a lot how and why Christianity was able to succeed and dominate
by becoming an atheist, but I’ve also lost a lot, and there’s no other religions. You begin by showing a lot of compassion for
reason, in my mind, to deny that. the believers of the other religions that “failed.”
A lot of friends who are colleagues and scholars in my
That’s the first time I’ve heard you call yourself an atheist. field questioned the book’s title because it sounds like I’m

14 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


The people who conducted the Inquisition
thought that Jesus was speaking to them, too.
celebrating Christianity’s triumph as a good thing. I’m not soon as Christians converted a person, it took that person
saying that it was necessarily a good thing, and I’m also not away from the pagan religions, so paganism eventually
saying it’s necessarily a bad thing. Every time one group disappeared.
wins, another group, or lots of groups, lose. The triumph of
Christianity led to a large number of losses. Did Christianity also triumph because people and society
I begin the book by recalling that in 2015, ISIS destroyed were ready to progress to a more compassionate way of
the glorious ancient temple of Bel in the city of Palmyra, thinking and living?
Syria. And then I point out that the first known destruction It’s an interesting thought. Of course, it’s hard to evaluate
of a temple in Palmyra happened in the fourth century, when what’s really going on in people’s minds, but it is true that the
Christian fanatics wiped out the temple of Allat because they Roman Empire had an ideology of dominance. The powerful
opposed paganism. When that happened, the pagans lost a lot are supposed to dominate the weak. It was perfectly fine for
of art, they lost a lot of literature, they lost a lot of architecture. a powerful nation, a powerful empire, or a powerful town,
As I say in the book, “I do not want to undervalue the to destroy their neighbors and enslave them. There was no
enormous benefits derived from the triumph of Christianity. ethical problem with that. There’s also no problem with men
Christians and non-Christians can surely agree that the cultural dominating women because men are more powerful, so they’re
glories we have inherited from the Christian tradition—the art, supposed to dominate women.
music, literature, and philosophy—justify our gratitude and But the Christian ideology was not dominance, it was love
awe. But every triumph is also a defeat, and the ecstasies of those and compassion. Men and women in the church are supposed
who prevail are matched by the agonies of those who lose.” We to be equal. Slaves and masters in the church are supposed to
have to be mindful about the gains and the losses. be equal, so you shouldn’t assert your power over someone
else. It’s a very different ideology. Whether that was attractive
The stories of these two temples are so similar, it’s startling. to people or not, I don’t know. It’s attractive to most of us today,
Fanatics are fanatics. but that’s the ideology we’ve inherited.

To me, it seems that the triumph of Christianity was like What about the persecution of the Christians? It’s not as
a math equation with all the right components. In other extensive as we’ve been led to believe. Is hiding in the
words, another religion could have triumphed had it been catacombs completely made up?
the one to combine the right ingredients. The Christians were not hiding out in the catacombs in fear
Christianity was the only evangelistic religion in the of their emperor killing them. That’s just a legend.
ancient world. Other religions had no desire to convert you
because they all were both polytheistic and welcoming. If And yet, so many believe this is true.
you wanted to worship their god, you could without giving It’s amazing what some Christians believe.
up your other gods. If you wanted to start worshiping Apollo,
then you would just start worshiping Apollo. You wouldn’t If you could go back in time, what would you ask Jesus?
have to stop worshiping Zeus or Athena or anyone else you If I could have one evening with Jesus, I would like it to
happened to be worshiping. be during his last week in Jerusalem. I would like to find out
Christians, on the other hand, wanted converts. The who he thinks he is, and what he thinks is going to happen in
Christians were also exclusivist. If you accepted their God, the future.
then you couldn’t worship the others. Judaism was the only
other exclusivist religion, but they didn’t go out and try to win Something like, “What are your intentions, young man?”
converts. Jews didn’t care whether you became a Jew. They just Exactly. I don’t think he came to be crucified. I have a
wanted to be left alone to be Jews. very clear view of who I think Jesus was, and it’s a view that’s
different from what most people in our society think, but it’s a
The threat of eternal damnation if a Christian did worship view that a lot of scholars have had for a long time, and I’d like
other gods also contributed to the triumph. to know whether it’s correct.
Right. Christians said, “You need to convert, you can’t I’d also like to talk to some of his followers after his death.
worship the other gods, and if you don’t worship our God, What did they think, why did they think it, and why did they
you’re going to hell forever.” Christianity is the only religion believe he rose from the dead? I’d love to know how many
saying these things, and there wasn’t any competition. As people actually claimed to have seen him.
Continued on page 37
2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 15
Barren and Batty Mitzvahs
by Ross Rosenfeld

O ne of the kids I tutor struggles with both


math and science, so he needs all the help and
practice he can get. Yet, strangely enough, his parents force
him to spend several hours a week studying neither math
nor science, but Narnia. That’s right, Narnia, as in The Lion,
able to at least draw them a map.
Unlike Narnian, Hebrew is a real language. But the kids
I work with who go to Hebrew school don’t learn to read or
speak it. No, they learn to sound out Hebrew, not understand
it, because they take those lessons for one reason only: their
the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And it doesn’t stop with the bar or bat mitzvah, where they’ll wholeheartedly pledge
C.S. Lewis books. He must familiarize himself with all the themselves to the magic man in the sky. And they have no
fanzines, the invented back-stories, the fictional names and choice. You see, if they don’t, he might become angry with
dates, and he must be able to speak Narnian so that he can them, and...well...who knows what he’ll do? Destroy a city?
communicate with the lion Aslan. Make them miss the final shot in the big game? They don’t
Okay, it’s not Narnia he’s forced to study, but it is something know what will happen, but they do know it will be bad, so
just as implausible: Judaism. Since early childhood, he’s been they go to Hebrew school in order to perform the magic ritual
“learning” all the “facts” and “dates” associated with the Jewish that will make them, at thirteen (an age when Mom still drives
heroes who never actually existed. He’s learned that the Red them to soccer practice), a grown man or woman.
Sea was parted by Moses, even though it wasn’t. He’s learned They attend Hebrew school for at least two hours a week
the history of Passover, when that wily character, God, decided for several years. It’s an awful lot of study time to waste on
to screw with the Egyptians just for his own entertainment. He things that never happened. And it’s not just time, it’s money,
learned how the Jews—for some reason—spent forty years in too. Lots of it! There’s the cost of the Hebrew school tuition,
the desert, even though God (supposedly the most powerful the cost of the service in the temple, and, of course, the cost
force in the universe) was their good buddy and should’ve been of the big party.

Many parents who force their kids


to attend Hebrew school don’t really
believe in any god themselves.
16 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
Walk in to some of these parties, and you’d
think we were honoring the Apollo astronauts.
Here’s the strangest thing of all: Many parents who force who looked like they stepped out of a Stanley Kubrick film.
their kids to attend Hebrew school and force them to cram for These aren’t even parties, really. They’re Roman triumphs
their bar or bat mitzvahs and insist on having a grand party to dedicated to adolescents. Richard Branson hosts less ridiculous
celebrate it all don’t really believe in any god themselves! A lot of affairs. Mentions of God, of course, are nowhere to be found
them know it’s hogwash, nonsense, absolute rubbish. But they because the only one being worshipped is the kid. I’m amazed
have to keep up with the Joneses (or, in this case perhaps, the that the parents never seem to grasp the incredible irony of
Cohens or the Rosenblums), and throw a tremendous party spending the morning in temple hearing about the importance
in order to show their devotion to a simple Jewish life devoted of humility and devotion to God, then spending the evening
to God. guzzling martinis as they watch videos dedicated to the
It’s true that people also spend ridiculous sums at other greatness of a thirteen-year-old who’s flunking math.
events, like weddings. But a wedding makes sense in a way: it’s If you really want your kid to help others—to perform
the celebration of two people choosing to commit their lives mitzvahs, as my old tribe says—then make sure they learn
to one another and perhaps start a family together. But a bar about math and science and history, rather than forcing them
mitzvah is dedicated to a kid who’s all of thirteen and hasn’t even to “learn” hocus-pocus that won’t do anything for anyone.
accomplished the goal of completing middle school. Yet walk in They must have real knowledge in order to be good servants
to some of these parties, and you’d think we were honoring the of humanity. And humanity needs as many good servants as
Apollo astronauts. Douglas MacArthur got less fanfare. possible because, I’m sorry to inform you, gods don’t actually
At the entrance of one party I attended, giant gold letters exist. Which means your kid isn’t one, either.
about twelve feet in the air spelled out the kid’s name. Huge
posters of his picture also towered over us everywhere like Zeus Ross Rosenfeld is an educator and historian who has written for the
from Mount Olympus watching us from above. Another party, Daily News, The Hill, Newsday, Newsweek.com, and numerous others.
which took place at a Ferrari dealership, featured a marching His latest book is History and Hamilton: A Critical Analysis of the Lin-
band—as if the Ferrari dealership weren’t loud enough. I’ve seen Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow Broadway Show. He is a member of
dancers with disco balls for heads and drinks served by ladies Long Island Atheists, an American Atheists Local Partner.

Jesus and Mo

© JesusAndMo.net

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 17


Cover Story

God the Dominant Ape


Understanding religious violence and oppression requires a careful look
at how we have projected our own psychology onto our vision of the
sacred.

R eligion, especially its oppressive and violent tendencies, is rooted in


the deep evolutionary past. There are unmistakable parallels between the
features of primate societies and human religious rituals, and Dr. Hector
Garcia, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of combat-
related post-traumatic stress disorder, lays out these connections in Alpha
God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression. His incisive
analysis goes a long way toward explaining the historic and ongoing
violence committed in the name of religion. The following is an excerpt
adapted for this magazine.
What is God? Many would say that God is love, or God is and male, and his portrayal demands reckoning. Scripture
beauty. For others, God is an immaterial being, the creator of depicts this god as one who rains fury upon his enemies and
the universe. God has been described as compassionate and slaughters the unfaithful. It also shows him policing the sex
merciful, as the ultimate moral authority, or the ultimate source lives of his subordinates and obsessing over sexual fidelity.
of goodness in the world. The pious draw from this vision of God Extremists, drunk on this vision, steer airplanes into buildings
a sense of awe, purpose, hope, and empathy. From this vision, or obliterate themselves in crowded marketplaces. They foment
masses of people around the world convene around a shared sexual shame and engage in genital mutilation, acid attacks, and
sense of wonder, appreciation, and unity, and they cultivate so-called honor killings. They start inquisitions and witch hunts,
between one another an environment of kindness, generosity, religious wars, and religious conquests. They seize ideological
and support. This vision of God is indisputable, insofar as it control and breed superstition, ignorance, and prejudice. And
forms the phenomenology of the religious worship of God. they also seek to enforce a prohibition against questioning God,
But there is another vision of God that is just as real. The leaving such inhumanities unexamined, sometimes for fear of
majority of the world’s believers worship a god that is fearsome the treatments just described.

18 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


Men of power have historically conflated
themselves with God in order to secure more power.
Critically, we now live in an age in which religions clash with apes, using violence to obtain evolutionary rewards such as food,
women’s rights as gender equality strains against its margins, in territory, and sex. Humankind may have managed to create things
which theocratic regimes are gaining control of nuclear arms, like tools, weapons, and religions, but we remain one species of
and in which dangerous fundamentalism is increasingly taking great ape that emigrated from Africa.
hold around the world. This is a crucial moment for us to force This can be difficult for many people to hear because as humans
the wedge of inquiry, if only to better understand the means by we have a tendency to think of ourselves as unique and to hold
which religion may be used to encourage what is worst—rather ourselves above other species. But we have DNA like all other life
than what is best—in human nature. forms—which ultimately shapes our brains and influences the
We may begin by questioning whether there is something manner in which we think—and we share as much as ninety-nine
common to the perpetrators of the kinds of violence and percent of our DNA with nonhuman primates. And like other
oppression listed above. The seemingly obvious answer is that animals, we are organic beings that live, eat, reproduce, and die.
these acts are almost exclusively committed by men. In the rare As such, we require things like food, sex, and territory to fulfill our
instances where they are committed by women or children, the organismic destinies. None of this should be surprising.
acts are almost always influenced or coerced by men. This is an However, it may be surprising to realize that while the god
important starting point. Since another common root to these of the Abrahamic religions has powers that humans do not, he
acts is purported religiosity, a second key question becomes, is remains unnecessarily preoccupied with what are ultimately
there something common to the vision of God behind them? very human, and very ape-like, concerns. God is portrayed as
Here we arrive at the crux of the matter: the common vision is being omnipotent (possessing infinite power), omniscient
that of God as man. (having infinite knowledge), omnipresent (present everywhere),
I argue here that God was created in the image of man. This immaterial (without bodily form), and eternal, meaning that he
argument is not new. Thinkers have made this connection since at never dies. This raises the question—Why should such a god
least the time of the ancient Greeks. However, there are good reasons concern himself with such pedestrian pursuits as food, sex, and
not only to emphasize that God was created in the image of man, territory? Why demand food as a sacrificial offering or order the
rather than the other way around, but also to study the dominance conquest of biblical lands if he has no need of either to survive and
characteristics portrayed in God—most notably because men of can create worlds by simply speaking them into being?
power have historically conflated themselves with God in order The answer is that God is an alpha male, a dominant ape. In
to secure more power and have used this power to enact further other words, depictions of the Abrahamic god, and of male gods
violence and oppression. This pattern has emerged again and again from religions around the world, reflect the essential concerns of
across religious history as men have summoned divine legitimacy our primate evolutionary past—namely securing and maintaining
to justify their worst impulses. God himself is frequently portrayed power, and using that power to exercise control over material and
as engaging in violent acts, thus serving to validate the destructive reproductive resources. Understanding God therefore requires
actions of the powerful. an understanding of man’s evolved legacy within primate social
This is most evident among the Abrahamic religions ( Judaism, hierarchies; and understanding religious violence and oppression
Christianity, and Islam), whose scriptures all too frequently depict requires taking a careful look at how thoroughly we have projected
a despotic male god. The Abrahamic God is the most widely our own psychology onto our vision of the sacred.
worshipped man-based god, with followers comprising over fifty Our evolutionary drives have limited the reach for goodness
percent of the world’s religious practitioners. And certainly a in religions because they—like our religions—evolved in a
tyrannical God is not unique to the Abrahamic traditions; many savage world where survival was tenuous, and where aggression
(even polytheistic) religions around the world have dominant male promoted survival. Human potential is so vast, but we may have
gods who go around behaving like dominant male humans. limited ourselves by the gods we created.
To understand such a god, we must first understand the minds For those who may take offense at my premise, it may also be
of men, for it is these minds that think up ways to oppress and kill. worth mentioning that I am not claiming that your god really is
Arguably the best way to understand the ultimate basis for male a dominant ape. In fact, I am arguing that in reality there is no
violence and oppression is through the evolutionary sciences. supernatural being, or any kind of superordinate consciousness,
Such disciplines reveal the ancient underlying motivations for out there that resembles men or apes, in neither form nor behavior.
violence and oppression, molded as they were by the process of My own opinion is that if there is a higher power (and I have yet
natural selection. The patterns of behavior for such motivations to see evidence that there is) it certainly doesn’t resemble any of
were passed on by our primate ancestors and are easily evidenced the obvious, simplistic, and species-centric characterizations that
in living nonhuman primates, our closest living relatives. have been widely proposed throughout the history of religion.
Despite his upright stance, his clothes, and his sometimes good Rather, such characterizations arise from our evolved
table manners, man rarely surpasses his most primal impulses. psychology, which is strongly dedicated toward navigating
Accordingly, men often seek out dominance in the manner of male interactions with other humans, particularly those with power—

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 19


The bellicose ancient cradle of civilization
was not a cradle of gender equality.
an ancient task that remains critical for our present-day survival. lower-ranking individuals seek eye contact and proximity with
If I am right, then the deviant sides of God really implicate our prestigious individuals—often in order to gain valued information.
own conceptual limitations and have little to bear on that “higher In illustrating the difference between dominance and prestige, the
power,” however defined. authors evocatively offer the great paraplegic physicist Stephen
Better understanding religious violence and oppression is Hawking as the exemplar of pure prestige, and the high-school
so crucial to curbing the human suffering it causes, that the risk bully as the exemplar of pure dominance.
of asking provocative questions must be taken. To this end, we One can argue that the Abrahamic god, and perhaps particularly
require a better understanding of what instinctive drives we, as the figure of Jesus Christ in the Christian New Testament, also
creatures of biology, bring to religious belief and practice, for it is makes use of prestige as a strategy for achieving status; however,
these drives that are ultimately behind every form of violence and the Abrahamic god’s use of dominance is robust, and the use of
oppression. fear to maintain rank is widely documented. This dominance has
four main components:
Dominance Defined
In order to take a more evolutionarily informed look at God, 1. Intimidation: Dominant males use dominance displays
it is worth taking a bit of time to clarify a few terms and basic to intimate greater size, whereas lower-ranking members
evolutionary ideas. First of all, what is dominance? And what does demonstrate submission by intimating smaller size (e.g., shrinking
it mean to primates such as humans? down), averting eyes, or communicating emotions such as fear
All great-ape species have male dominance hierarchies and and humility (as opposed to anger and pride).
there is a relative lack of female dominance hierarchies among
the great apes. Males, with the notable exception of bonobos, 2. Territorial acquisition: Dominant males often control
typically dominate females. Dominance status is often associated territory, which I define not only as tracts of earth but also as the
with greater male violence; dominant chimpanzees, for example, control of resources within specific geographic boundaries. These
show agonistic displays more often, start aggressive interactions resources have key implications for males’ evolutionary fitness,
more often, escalate aggression more often, and win aggressive most importantly food and females, both of which dominant
interactions more often than their lower- ranking counterparts. males commandeer upon winning territory.
Humans, like other primates, for the greater part live in
hierarchical societies. While the degree to which human societies 3. Sexual control: Following evolutionary drives, dominant
are rank-stratified varies across cultures, there is rank structure males often monopolize sexual access to females. They will mate-
even in relatively more egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies. Rank guard and show great rage and sexual jealousy when their sexual
has important implications for behavior. claims are challenged. They often spend great energy attempting
In their article “The Evolution of Prestige,” published in the to stave off the sexual ambitions of their male rivals.
journal Evolution and Human Behavior (2001), anthropologists
Joseph Henrich and Francisco Gil-White emphasize that high 4. Violence: Dominant males will enact violence to establish
status involves a system of rewards in which males receive and maintain rank status, and the resources associated with it.
“preferential reproductive access to females, food, and spaces, Sometimes this involves killing.
as well as a disproportionate amount of grooming from others.”
They also note an important characteristic of human hierarchies, To begin to understand how such appetite-driven tactics
which is that rank status may be maintained through either might have become associated with our notion of the divine, it
“dominance (force or force threat)” or through “prestige (freely helps to understand how combative much of human history has
conferred deference).” been. Perhaps nowhere is that history more poignant than in the
In dominance hierarchies, status is reinforced with aggression Middle East during the biblical age, when the turbulent forces of
and fear, and the lower-ranking typically avert eye contact, humanity were forging the identity of the Abrahamic god that
yield space, groom their superiors, and make other submissive we have today. In the history outlined below we may also begin
gestures. Prestige, as described by the authors, is characterized to understand what the meteoric spread of a dominant male
by the relative absence of fear and is maintained by high-ranking god owes to his intuitive appeal, particularly for primates whose
individuals demonstrating merit, skill, wisdom, or persuasiveness. minds, by way of biological evolution, come predisposed to fear,
Rather than averting eye contact and seeking greater distance, to submit to, and to follow dominant males.

The deviant sides of God implicate our own


conceptual limitations.
20 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
Top photo: Nikolai Yezhov (far right) was a commissioner under Josef Stalin (second from right). After Yezhov fell out of favor
and was executed, Stalin had him removed from all historical records, including pictures (bottom photo). This tactic dates back
millennia. When Pharoah Amenhotep IV ascended the throne of Egypt, the priests of the reigning god Amun held considerable
political influence. To collapse this power structure, Amenhotep “deposed” Amun, replaced him with the god Aten, ordered all
images of Amun destroyed, and forced anyone with the name Amun to change it.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 21


Even polytheistic religions around the world have
dominant male gods who go around behaving
like dominant male humans.
How a Dominant Male God Rises to Power common among male primates.
History reveals in striking form how men have historically Historical scholars, including Wright, argue that as people
conflated themselves with God as a means to amplify power, and moved from nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers into larger agrarian
how male gods rise to totalitarian rule in the manner of men— societies, their religious needs changed to reflect a new lifestyle.
through violence and killing. With a critical read of history, we With larger populations, the roles of gods began to reflect social
are also able to account for the Abrahamic god’s domineering concerns rather than the forces of nature. Notably, gods began to
temperament, which he appears to have inherited from effective more actively regulate social interactions and punish breaches of
warlords of the biblical age. morality and cooperation. Wright argues that hunter-gatherers, who
A number of scholars, perhaps most notably Robert Wright, lived in small, close-knit societies, had little need for gods to oversee
have traced the evolution of god concepts and religious practices in-group processes; these societies were small and transparent
as humans moved from hunter-gatherer societies to chiefdoms and enough to be regulated from within.
eventually to nation-states. They illuminate an intriguing history, As societies grew into larger chiefdoms, gods became “the
within which flows a rather complex confluence of cultural, guardians of political power, supervisors of economic performance,
political, militaristic, and psychological forces, all shaping the and supporters of social norms that let unprecedentedly large
countenance of God (or gods). While my book’s main focus is on numbers of people live together.” For example, the Tongan gods of
the evolutionary angle, I am obliged to give some attention to this Polynesia were said to punish theft with shark attacks. In chiefdoms,
history, for it illustrates the thunderous path toward monotheism dominant men often possessed divine authority, or were walking
in the Middle East that brought us the Abrahamic religions and gods on earth. Breaking the chief ’s laws became the same as
does much to shed light on the evolving need for dominant male breaking the laws of God.
gods. In doing so, I favor the structure and interpretation of this As populations grew to state levels, the power of the gods
history as told by Wright in his 2009 book The Evolution of God. grew commensurately with the power needed to regulate greater
Wright begins his account by outlining five categories of masses of people. Similarly, the tasks of the gods became more
supernatural beings seen consistently across groups of hunter- specialized, reflecting the growing complexity of social order and
gatherers, designed largely to explain the natural world: greater division of labor. As states began to subsume ethnically
diverse bands of people, there was a need not only for regulating
1. elemental spirits (e.g., inanimate phenomena, such as in-group behavior but also for regulating interactions between
wind, moon, stars, with personality and soul), states. As diverse peoples and their gods came into contact,
2. natural phenomena controlled by supernatural beings political leaders began to create rules reflecting international
(e.g., a personified deity who controls the wind), law, steeped always in religious belief—in this era, religion,
3. organic spirits (e.g., coyote spirits, tree spirits), law, and politics were inextricable. In order to foster trade and
4. ancestral spirits, and, importantly, commerce, and simply through sustained contact, many states
5. high gods (which Wright describes as “a god that is in either incorporated the gods of their trading partners or at the
some vague sense more important than other supernatural very least tolerated them.
beings and is often a creator god”). Thus many early religions in the Middle East remained
polytheistic. But even here, under relatively peaceable coexistence
All of these classes involve human projections. Now, because with other gods, dominant male gods set to the male-typical
we evolved in ranked societies, the natural extension is that business of establishing territory.
our projections are ranked socially. Even in early religions we International-relations theorist Adam Watson writes in The
can observe male dominance behaviors in conceptions of god, Evolution of International Society (1992) that in third-millennium
particularly “high gods.” For example, the Native American B.C.E. Mesopotamia, “Enlil, the king of all the lands and the father
Klamath tribe’s sun god, Kmukamtch, was jealous of his son, of all the gods, marked out a boundary for the god of Lagash and
Aishish, and spent a great deal of energy trying to seduce Aishish’s the god of Umma by his decree. The king of Kish measured it
wives. Gaona, the dominant god of the !Kung San of Africa, raped out in accordance with the word of the god of legal settlements,
his son’s wife and ate two of his brothers-in-law. Both sexual and erected a stone boundary marker there.” The territoriality
acquisitiveness and mate competition are dominance behaviors of male gods began to take on greater proportions, following the

Human potential is so vast, but we may have


limited ourselves by the gods we created.
22 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
To understand such a god, we must first
understand the minds of men, for it is these minds
that think up ways to oppress and kill.
evolutionary dictates of the powerful men who represented them, ruled over other gods in the pantheon, rather than that one god
a line that was often intentionally obfuscated. For example, when was the only god in all existence. Like a pantheon of bureaucrats,
the king of Umma violated Enlil’s decree, he was “punished by the there were many other gods during this period of ancient Babylon,
army of Lagash (or as the historical record has it, by the god of each performing different functions; in the ninth century B.C.E., a
Lagash through the army of Lagash).” census turned up around sixty-five thousand gods.
And so the needs of gods began to transform to include With the identities of male leaders and male gods so intertwined,
transnational territories and codes of behavior for larger and one could understand the motivation to consolidate divine
larger masses of people. identities—doing so could prove a fast-track to consolidating
Gods moved toward monotheism alongside high-ranking power, whereas leaving a host of other gods in position had the
men who were increasingly able to consolidate entire populations potential to confuse (and ultimately dilute) the king’s power
under autocratic rule. One example structure. But again, it should be
comes from Babylon, an important recognized that dominant male gods
enemy of ancient Israel, where the are the creations of men (rather than
Abrahamic god was born. Hammurabi, women) specifically. The bellicose
a Babylonian king in the early second ancient cradle of civilization was not a
millennium, championed the god cradle of gender equality. Powerful men
Marduk and utilized Marduk’s image to wrote the doctrine, designed the laws,
materialize his own political ambitions. and set the special relationships with
Hammurabi, credited with creating their gods. The historical uses for these
one of the first legal codes, was sure gods were the male-typical pursuits
to emphasize that his law-making of territory and power, following an
capacities were divinely authorized by ancient legacy of male primate behavior.
the gods Anu and Enlil. The two gods, The meshing of gods and kings may
according to Hammurabi’s code, then have also dissuaded rebellion, or as
promoted Marduk to supremacy and historian Will Durant remarked, “All
assigned him “dominion over earthly the glamor of the supernatural hedged
man.” Marduk’s image was steeped about the throne, and made rebellion a
in references to mate-competition— colossal impiety which risked not only
he was a glorious, sexually potent, the neck but the soul.”
dominant male god (described as Other gods have assumed
having the heart of a kettle drum and monolatristic, if not virtual
the penis of a snake that produced monotheistic, positions. One example
golden sperm, for example). comes from Egypt, another important
With the lines blurred between god enemy of ancient Israel. The Egyptian
and man, more specifically between god Amun came to dominate the
Hammurabi and Marduk’s supremacy, the way was greased for pantheon of Egyptian gods, a position gained by a series of
Hammurabi’s dominion of all Mesopotamia. Though Hammurabi successful Egyptian military campaigns that Amun symbolically
died before this was realized, Babylon ultimately managed to defeat spearheaded. Amun became known as the “king of gods,” the
Mesopotamia, and Marduk became the head of the pantheon of “prince of princes.” He became an ultimate god, the greatest of
gods across the subsumed territories, either by subordinating the transcendent deities of Egyptian religious history, and his priests
resident gods of the conquered or by sequestering their functions. amassed great political and economic power from riches won in
For instance, Adad, who was once the god of rain, became the military campaigns. As Wright tells it, when Pharaoh Amenhotep
“Marduk of rain.” Nabu, who was once the god of accounting, IV inherited the throne upon the death of his father, he may have
changed into “Marduk of accounting.” But still, this was an example had good reasons to feel threatened by a god with such power.
of monolatry, rather than monotheism—meaning that one god It wasn’t long before Amenhotep deposed Amun and put Aten

Men have summoned divine legitimacy to justify


their worst impulses.
2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 23
God remains unnecessarily preoccupied with what are
ultimately very human, and very ape-like, concerns.
(a sun god) in his place, and then declared himself Aten’s son. was violence conducted up close and personal, where you made eye
Aten eventually became the creator of the world. In the story contact with your attacker before he physically hacked you to pieces
of Amenhotep and Aten we can see not only human power and (with dull bronze and later iron weapons), killed your entire family,
territoriality exercised through the gods, but also human jealousy. and burned your city to the ground. Unless you possessed great
Under Amenhotep, any person named Amun was forced to change power, or allied yourself with someone who did, you were subject
his or her name. to raids or conquests of these kinds. Lesser states often paid tribute
Similarly, any depiction of Amun was erased from existence, to more powerful kingdoms for protection lest they be annihilated.
from wherever it appeared. Though Aten symbolically embodied Powerful men appointed male gods as their generals, and success in
both the masculine and feminine, this level of possessiveness is battle (or in genocide) was often attributed to the gods. Of course,
traceable to the behaviors of despotic men. Joseph Stalin, for this is not the only epoch of human history in which agonies of
example, used similar tactics when he assumed control of Russia this kind occurred, but as great populations began to emerge in the
and had the images of men fallen from favor erased from history cradle of civilization, there was a corresponding growth of the scale
books, currency, and political sculptures; he had most of these of warfare.
men exterminated altogether. It is worth noting that this business It is not difficult to understand how, in environments marred
of marking over the territorial markers of one’s rivals is known to by warfare and existential uncertainty, the religions of a people
would reflect a need for a fearsome, protector
male god. Likely these gods reflected the warlord
kings of those epochs, who performed the same
function for their people—men who rose up
and took arms against invading enemies, or who
invaded enemies for their resources. Further,
ancient Israel was at a distinct disadvantage
because it was situated between two superpowers
of its time, Assyria and Egypt, and was often
subject to slavery and slaughter between the two.
Forming alliances with one or the other was not
much of an option, as Wright describes it, because
for “a small state wedged between two great
powers, ‘alliance’ often amounts to vassalage.”
Moreover, kings in this region were not only
taxed with aggressive encounters from outside
groups—they were also required to maintain a
stable in-group hierarchy, which often necessitated
Hector Garcia speaks at TED Talks Live - War and Peace. You can see his talk, aggression. Sectarian groups within a nation’s
"We train soldiers for war. Let's train them to come home too," at TED.com. borders could weaken the entire state, rendering it
(Photo courtesy of Ryan Lash/TED) less effective at coordinating common goals such
as defense. More often than not, these fissions
primates and proliferated among the gods of the biblical age. were headed by their own dominant male leaders (and their
The ancient Israelites, too, were at first polytheistic. Yahweh godheads), who could handicap the force of a nation with petty
was a god that emerged from a pantheon of other gods and was squabbling. But fiercely dominant male leaders had the power
initially neither monotheistic nor possessing of many of the to punish factionalism and to cement alliances. Israel’s strategic
transcendent qualities he later came to embody. There are many and size disadvantages made the need for in-group cohesion all
references to other gods in the Bible, and in the history of Israel, the more urgent. As always, the men who shouldered the task of
before monotheism took hold. fusing in-group schisms did so at the level of humans and gods
It is important to understand the geopolitical environment of simultaneously.
the ancient Middle East when the first Abrahamic religion, Judaism, Within a history of blood-loss and slavery, a series of powerful
and its monotheistic god, Yahweh, were gestating. Conquest kings in Israel began addressing the need for a more powerful god.
involving the slaughter of entire cities was not uncommon. This In around 640 B.C.E., King Josiah assumed the throne of Israel

24 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


Why should God concern himself with such
pedestrian pursuits as food, sex, and territory?
and began to consolidate power under Yahweh, simultaneously and eventually solidified Yahweh’s singular divinity. The concept
removing traces of other gods. Deities of the region—for began evolving from roughly, “You shall have no other gods before
example, Astarte, Chemosh, Milcom, and Baal—mostly syncretic me” to “There are no other gods.”
gods formed from centuries of cultural merging, were deemed The Israelites began developing what has been described as
abominations. All altars, idols, and other religious accoutrements retribution theology. From this age of suffering comes a litany of
of the gods were destroyed, along with their temple priests. redresses that Yahweh begins to extract from the oppressors of Israel,
According to the Bible, Josiah “slaughtered on the altars all the in the fashion of dominant human lords of the ancient Middle East.
priests of the high places who were there, and burned bones on Yahweh proclaims in the book of Isaiah, “I will make your oppressors
them” (2 Kings 23:20). Scripture began to police dissent as means eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as
to ensure consolidation. Of Josiah, the Bible reads, “Anyone who with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior,
does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (49:26). For Israel’s
I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the enemies, Yahweh promises fearsome retribution:
name of other gods, or presumes to speak in my name a word that
I have not yet commanded that prophet to speak, that prophet Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your
shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:19-20). feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land
Similarly, if anyone dared to suggest worshipping other gods, that of Israel, therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and
person should be killed, “even if it is your brother, your father’s son, give you as plunder to the nations. I will cut you off from the
your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy
intimate friend” (Deuteronomy 13:6-9). And if you came across an you, and you will know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 25:6-7).
Israeli town worshipping other gods, “you must certainly put to the
sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people The list of retributive threatening goes on and exemplifies the
and its livestock. Gather all the plunder of the town into the middle need for a warrior god to protect and avenge his people against
of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder their subjugators. In a political environment run by strongmen,
as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It is to remain a ruin one needs a god based on strongman psychology, one equipped
forever, never to be rebuilt” (Deuteronomy 13:15-16). for maneuvering within the dominance hierarchies of men. My
This strategy of intolerance was a design of Josiah’s ambitions intention in reviewing this history is to show the context in which
to expand the Israeli empire, first by uniting southern and northern the three great monotheistic religions arose. Notably they arose
Israel under one god. Though Josiah’s prescriptions for nonbelievers from an explosion of population density in the Middle East, where
were brutal, such was the tenor of this merciless age. For instance, merciless slaughter at the hands of men encouraged the people to
later when King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled against the Babylonians, turn to strong, warlike leaders (to protect against the other men of a
King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, burned it to the ground, similar bent), and to gods who were similarly fearsome.
and killed Zedekiah’s son in front of him, gouged out Zedekiah’s Many of the patterns outlined in this history have occurred
eyes, and took the greater part of the city into Babylon as slaves. before, repeating for millions of years across the savage, primeval
Knowing the importance of the godhead (perhaps even believing it), landscapes of our primate ancestors. As in ancient Mesopotamia, the
Nebuchadnezzar was sure to destroy Yahweh’s temple. savannas and rainforests of Africa have witnessed dominant males
Israel, like other states of the region (for instance, when Israel leading bloody incursions, capturing territories, killing in-group
subjugated the Moabites), also suffered through many years of males, and protecting against outsider males assembled ominously at
conquest and slavery—it served, for example, King Cushan- the border. Humans are unique in having created supernatural agents
Rishathaim of Aram-Naharaim for eight years, and King Eglon of Moab that perform these functions alongside their mortal counterparts.
for eighteen years. The Israelites were also exiled and held in captivity The religio-cultural contexts in which dominant male gods arise are
for nearly fifty years after being conquered by the Babylonians during rooted in our biological heritage.
the fifth century B.C.E. (a conquest the Babylonians saw as evidence
of the supremacy of their god Marduk). Hector Garcia, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the
Wright goes so far as to argue that this stint in exile was the treatment of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. He is also
most profound in Judaic history and an important catalyst in an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University
the development of monotheism—for just as national religion of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. You can read his
can unite a people, so can national trauma. From their trials and Psychology Today columns, see his TED Talk, and listen to his interviews
humiliations, the Israelites began transforming God to a redeemer, at Hector-Garcia.com.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 25


Book Excerpt
Time is Irreverent - an atheist science-fiction novel
by Marty Essen

W hen the Krichards, a species


of time-travel specialists from
forty light years away, learn of United
States President Handley’s game of dodge
the mushroom cloud, they race to Earth
to investigate. For them, preventing
Earth’s annihilation is a worthwhile
endeavor, but they will only proceed if
the human they deem best qualified to
represent Earth agrees to travel back to
the year 31 A.D. and alter the events of
the past. Instead of a brilliant scientist or
an elite athlete, they select Marty Mann,
a mildly successful travel writer, whose
only superpower is not taking life too
seriously.
What could possibly go wrong?
The following excerpt is from the
chapter “Nellie Gets Stoned.” The
Krichards in the story go by Chrissie
and Tina because their real names
are impossible for people on Earth to
pronounce. Humans Marty Mann and heterosexual and Nellie is a lesbian.
Nellie Dixon are best friends. They We join the story in Galilee, where
met when Marty traveled from the year Marty and Nellie have just been
2020 to 2056, where Nellie is living in transported to 31 A.D. Through implants
a theocracy, Jesus is the Official God of in their heads, they communicate
the United States of America, women and with Chrissie and Tina, who remain
minorities have no rights, and being gay on their spaceship and observe the
or lesbian is illegal. Their close friendship action on Earth via a robotic house fly
is a complicated one because Marty is accompanying the humans.
26 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
Whoosh! of baskets and what looked like a primitive crutch lashed
Everything went white. between them. He led the animal to the backstage area,
Everything went bright. removed the crutch, and unloaded the baskets.
“Ow!” I shouted, shielding my eyes. “Chrissie, do we have The preacher gathered his entourage backstage. Although
any historically accurate sunglasses hidden in our pockets?” we were too far away to hear any words, he was obviously
“Sorry. You’ll have to wait a while. Sunglasses won’t be giving everyone instructions. Soon, all but three of the people
invented for at least another thousand years.” dispersed, including a man carrying the crutch as if it were a
“Maybe that’s the problem. People during biblical times briefcase. The preacher and the man with the donkey stayed
were running around half-blind. Let’s tell them that if they behind, along with a woman who was carefully applying
wear sunglasses, they’ll be just as powerful as the sun god. brown clay to her face from a ceramic pot she had pulled from
We’ll give them a few thousand pairs in return for promising one of the baskets.
to treat women as equals and never, ever starting another war. “Tina, Chrissie,” I whispered, “are you watching this?”
They’d go for it in a second.” “See the fly that just landed on your knee?” Tina asked.
Chrissie ignored my comment and asked, “How are you “Yes.”
doing, Nellie?” “Don’t slap it.”
“It’s going to take a while to get used to having voices Nellie covered her mouth to repress a laugh. Then, talking
in my head. Other than that, I’m ready to kick some through her fingers said, “Keep that away from us. Swatting
misogynistic ass.” flies is pure instinct for me.”
I peeked around some boulders before saying, “Chrissie, The fly took off and hovered several feet away.
we’re going to go check out the area. I see a few people milling “Is that better?”
about, so we may not be able to respond if you or Tina say “A few more feet,” Nellie said. “I can still hear the wings.
anything to us.” It’s giving me the creeps.”
“Understood.” “Okay, now that we know you can see what we see,” I said,
Nellie and I walked ahead about fifty feet and climbed “what do you think?”
onto a large rock that sat atop a cluster of even larger ones. “I think the preacher is a flimflam man,” Chrissie said.
The hilly area was full of boulders framed by dry, scraggly “I agree. And for us to pull this off, we’re going to have to
trees. The potato pulpit was about sixty feet in front of us, out-con the con man.”
and anyone who stood up there to preach would face away “Or out-god the god,” Tina said. “That’s why I gave you the
from us. It was a perfect forum for public speaking because in butane lighter the first time we tried this.”
front of the potato-shaped rock was a wide, flat area strewn “We’ve seen this before with religious leaders on other
with pebbles, sand, and grass. People could sit there in relative planets,” Chrissie added. “Which is why you must not
comfort. Off to the sides were more boulders that onlookers underestimate your competition. The most pious-looking
could lean against or sit on, and behind the potato pulpit was a person could slit your throat in a second.”
shallow pit that shielded the backstage area from view. Finally, Nellie pointed at the gathering crowd. “This place is going
off to the right, someone had stacked numerous large rocks to to fill up fast.”
create steps to the top of the pulpit. “It’s almost show time. Chrissie, Tina, unless you see
I whispered to Nellie. “We should hang out here and something from your housefly view that we absolutely have
observe for a while.” to know about, please stay out of our heads. We need to
“I was going to say the same thing.” concentrate. Nellie, I’m glad you don’t have a shy bone in your
Our rock was just wide enough for both of us to sit on with body. Let’s be over-the-top on this and play off each other.”
our legs hanging over the edge. Nellie pointed. “That man “Hey, I’m the only one here who is truly born again. What
approaching from between those trees over there looks like do I have to be bashful about?”
the preacher we saw on Tina’s monitor.” When the stream of spectators slowed, the preacher made
“I think you’re right, and his entourage is right behind his final preparations backstage. While he was doing that,
him.” Nellie and I descended from our rock and worked our way
Nellie chuckled. “They called them disciples back then.” into the crowd. When I realized that I couldn’t understand
“Same difference.” what anyone was saying, I said, “Psst. Tina, I don’t think my
One of the men was leading a donkey saddled with a set implant is working. All I hear is gibberish.”

Tell them Marty Mann and Nellie Dixon will return


with more amazing non-miracles in three days.
2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 27
He grabbed the man’s crutch and threw it into the
backstage area, so he could reuse the prop later.
“That’s because I haven’t activated the vocal translator prop later. To conclude the illusion, the injury-faking actor
function yet. Once I do, any words you say in English will took a few steps before crying out, “I’ve been healed!” and
come out in Aramaic. Since you don’t have a hind brain, the bounding around on the pulpit.
process will tax the Broca’s area of your single brain. If you More healings followed, including the woman who had
talk too much, your speech may become temporarily slurred.” covered her face with clay, claiming to have leprosy, and a
“How much is too much?” man from the entourage, claiming to be blind. Others taken
“We don’t know. You and Nellie are the first humans we’ve directly from the audience had ailments that were not visible.
tried this on.” Yeshua declared most of those people possessed by demons,
Nellie and I looked at each other. I smiled nervously, and which he—after much showmanship—exorcised from their
she comically dropped the lower lip on the right side of her bodies.
face. The service concluded with Yeshua announcing that
“Okay, we’re ready,” I said. he’d be back in three days for another sermon and more
“Activating now.” healings. In the meantime, he needed donations to continue
Suddenly, the clutter of Aramaic voices around us became God’s work. As men walked through the audience, collecting
a clutter of English voices. whatever people brought to give, I nodded to Nellie, and the
“Can you understand me, Nellie?” two of us bounded up onto the stage.
“Yes. Can you understand me?” I looked out over the audience and yelled, “Yeshua has
“Yes. But it’s weird. I’m hearing English while your lips deceived you! The man with the crutch wasn’t really injured.
are speaking Aramaic. Have you ever watched a foreign film I saw him walking just fine before the sermon. I also saw the
dubbed into English?” woman apply clay to her face to trick you into believing she
“Sure.” had leprosy.” I reached down and picked up a glob of clay that
“That’s exactly what this is like. We’ll have to be careful Yeshua had tossed on the pulpit during the mock healing and
and remember that we can’t read each other’s lips.” squeezed it through my fingers.
We sat off to the side as the show began. Whether or not The crowd roared in anger as Yeshua and his entourage
we were watching the actual Sermon on the Mount, I can’t slinked away.
say. Even if it was the real thing, the words couldn’t possibly “That’s right!” Nellie yelled. “He’s—”
match any Bible since primitive writing techniques wouldn’t “Woman!” the audience bellowed.
allow for someone to blend into the crowd with a reporter’s Nellie and I looked at each other in confusion.
notebook to record the words. Also, at least fifty years would She tried again. “The demons—”
pass between the time of the sermon and the writing of the “Woman!” they roared. This time several in the crowd
Gospel of Matthew. pelted the pulpit with stones, one of which caught Nellie in
One thing that did strike me, however, was that the the shoulder. Fortunately, she wasn’t seriously hurt, and just
preacher introduced himself as Yeshua. Many historians as fortunately, no one in the crowd knew what Nellie meant
believe that Yeshua is the true Hebrew name for Jesus. If those when she flipped them off.
historians are correct, perhaps I was indeed looking at the Chrissie entered our brains. “Marty, Nellie, in A.D.
man we had hoped to find. Then again, Yeshua was a common 31 it wasn’t proper for a woman to speak to men like that,
name at the time. especially in public.”
No matter what, I had to chuckle to myself at how closely I reached into a hidden pocket, grabbed my butane lighter,
the proceedings resembled tent revival services in modern flicked it on, and turned the flame all the way up. “My name is
times. After the sermon, it was time for the miracles. First Marty Mann! I can instantly make fire and hold it in my hand,
up was the man with the crutch. Workers made a big show of yet I am not a god. The woman next to me is Nellie Dixon,
helping him up the steps. Then after Yeshua looked up to the and she is not my wife. In fact, she is not any man’s property,
heavens and shouted a prayer, he grabbed the man’s crutch nor will she ever be. The next time she speaks, you will show
and threw it into the backstage area, so he could reuse the her respect. You will not yell at her. You will not throw stones

Fortunately, she wasn’t seriously hurt, and just as


fortunately, no one in the crowd knew what Nellie meant
when she flipped them off.
28 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018
Let’s tell them that if they wear sunglasses, they’ll be
just as powerful as the sun god.
at her. If you do, you will regret it.” I nodded for Nellie to spread. When Nellie noticed that the camera battery was
continue. running low, she started requiring people to pose in small
“We are here today bec—” groups. In all, she took more than seven hundred shots.
“Woman! Woman! Woman!” By the time the photo shoot ended, we had our own
I calmly pulled an oversized firecracker out of my pocket, entourage. Somehow, we had to figure out how to ditch
handed it to Nellie, and lit it. She lobbed it at a man who was them, so we could communicate with Tina and Chrissie
just about to pitch a stone. without looking like we were out of our minds. Walking
The man smiled, thinking Nellie had made a weak, girlie away or saying we had to go home didn’t work because they
throw. Then it exploded! followed us like adoring groupies. We finally achieved success
The firecracker didn’t hurt anyone, nor had we wanted by giving them all jobs in our promotions department and
it to. The noise was all we were after. Nellie glared down at reframing what we had already asked the crowd to do.
the man, who was now cowering behind others in the crowd. “Go to every village within walking distance and spread
“When I speak, you will show me just as much respect as you the good news,” I said.
show a man, or the next one goes down your tunic!” “Tell them Marty Mann and Nellie Dixon will return with
The man, his face full of fear, bowed his head and moved more amazing non-miracles in three days,” Nellie added.
off to the side. Once we were sure we were alone, we returned to the
“Now, I know everyone has already had a long day,” I potato pulpit.
said, “so we won’t keep you here much longer. We have two “Scotty, beam us up,” I said.
messages for you today. First, don’t be fooled by miracles. “Who’s Scotty?” Tina asked.
Everything Yeshua did up here was a sham. No one was “Never mind. It’s just something from an old TV series
actually healed, and demons do not exist.” I leaned in close to that goes through my head every time you suck me back up to
Nellie’s ear and whispered, “Women.” the ship. I think we’re done here for now, but as you obviously
She nodded and picked up where I left off. “Second, heard, we need to come back to the same place in three Earth
women are not inferior to men, and you should never consider days.”
them ritually unclean. Would anyone like to challenge me on “We can send you there directly, and you’ll arrive in
that?” seconds, or you can come back to the ship, get a good night’s
A man moved through the crowd to approach the pulpit. sleep, and go back in the morning.”
Nellie held out her hand, and I placed another firecracker I looked at Nellie, and she pointed skyward. “I hate to
in it. whine, but I’ve just mingled with hundreds of people on a
The man, his eyes wide, retreated as quickly as he could. planet where antiperspirants and deodorants have yet to be
“Wise move,” Nellie hissed. invented.” Her voice slowed, and she began to slur. “I would
“Come back here in three days and bring everyone you really like to take a long, . . . hot shhhowweer.”
know. Tell them Marty Mann and Nellie Dixon will do “Get into position. I’ll have you back on the ship in an
something amazing. Something that is real. Not just a trick.” instant.”
Nellie’s scowl transformed into a bright smile. “Until then, Nellie and I embraced.
how about a group picture?” She pulled a digital camera out of Whoosh!
a hidden pocket and snapped one from the pulpit. No one, of Everything went white.
course, had any idea what she had done, so she hurried down Everything went aah, civilization!
the steps to show the image on the screen to those closest to the
pulpit. When they still didn’t understand, she started taking
individual photographs. At first, people were fearful of the Marty Essen began his career as a features writer for Gig Magazine. His
images, but eventually, after a little patient coaxing, they grew first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents,
braver. Before long, both men and women were pointing and won six national awards, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune named it
howling in laughter, thrilled to see themselves on the screen. a Top Ten Green Book. His second book, Endangered Edens: Exploring
As Nellie worked the crowd, making sure she took the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto
everyone’s picture, I stayed close, making sure she stayed safe. Rico, won four national awards. He is also a popular college speaker
I also pulled up anyone who tried to kneel or bow to us, each who has performed a stage version of Cool Creatures, Hot Planet on
time saying, “We’re not gods. We’re just showing you what hundreds of campuses in forty-five states. His website is MartyEssen.
humans can accomplish on their own.” com and he blogs at Marty-Essen.com. Time is Irreverent will soon be
The crowd stayed for hours and even grew in size as word available as an audio book.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 29


Notable Books
Emancipation of a Black Atheist Atheists in American Politics: Social Movement Organizing
by D.K. Evans, Ph.D., 168 pages, Pitchstone from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries
Great journeys by Richard J. Meagher, Ph.D., 162 pages, Rowman & Littlefield
often start with a single One of the first
question. For D.K. works to take atheism
Evans, a newly married seriously as a social
professional in the movement, this book
Christian-dominated highlights key moments
South, that question within the political
was, “Why do I believe history of American
in God?” It led him to atheism dating back
a years-long search to to the late 1800s. A
better understand the number of intertwining
nature of religion and factors are often
faith, particularly as necessary to enable a
it applies to the Black movement to “take off ”
community. In addition in American politics,
to immersing himself and Meagher, who is
in the works of John an associate professor
Henrik Clarke, Yosef- of political science
Ben Jochannan, Hubert at Randolph-Macon
Harrison, and John G. Jackson, he spoke with other Black College, explains how
individuals who had also come to question their core religious advances in technology and new political opportunities
beliefs. He calls on everyone, especially those in the Black have helped atheists finally gain at least some measure of
community who rely on blind faith, to question their own beliefs. legitimacy in American politics. Professor Meagher’s research
included several visits to the American Atheists’ Charles
E. Stevens Library and Archives, which he mentions in his
The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the acknowledgements.
Classical World
by Catherine Nixey, 315 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
For centuries, Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom
Christianity’s conquest by Andrew Copson, 153 pages, Oxford University Press
of the West has generally While it is the best
been considered a way to hold together
triumph. But this diverse societies,
“victory” entailed an secularism is under
orgy of destruction in threat around the world.
which Jesus’ followers Religious states like those
attacked and suppressed in the Arab world have
classical culture, helping always been in conflict
to pitch Western with insurgent secularists,
civilization into a but republics such as
thousand-year-long today’s India and France
decline. Just one percent are now facing challenges
of Latin literature would from the resurgence of
survive the purge; religious identity politics.
countless antiquities, Author Andrew Copson
artworks, and ancient is the chief executive of
traditions were lost the British Humanist
forever. The evidence Association. In this
of early Christians’ campaigns of terror has been hiding in plain book, he tells the story
sight in the palimpsests and shattered statutes proudly displayed of secularism, taking in momentous episodes in world history
in churches and museums the world over. Author Catherine such as the great transition of Europe from religious orthodoxy to
Nixey resurrects this lost history, offering a wrenching account pluralism, the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and
of the rise of Christianity and its terrible cost. the origins of modernity.

30 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


Why I Am an Atheist
by James A. Haught

I am an atheist because honesty requires it.


I was born in 1932 in a little Appalachian farm town with
no electricity or paved streets. It was the Bible Belt, but
my parents never went to church. They sent me briefly to
rural Sunday schools, because that’s what all children in my
town did. I remember laboriously trying to pray as a first-
grader, but quickly abandoned it. Even then, it seemed like a
pointless effort. I don’t think my Sunday-school attendance
lasted past second grade.
There were only thirteen students in my high school class.
After graduation, I moved to Charleston, West Virginia, and
landed a newspaper job at the Charleston Daily Mail, thanks
to my great-aunt, Jane Folden. She was a proofreader and Digging through files at the Gazette in the 1970s
got me hired as an apprentice printer on Linotype machines
in the old-style hot lead print shop. However, I thought it
would impress girls if I was a news reporter, so I worked to say you’re certain of gods, devils, heavens, hells, angels,
without pay in the newsroom on my days off from the print demons, miracles, messiahs, prophecies, and other church
shop. Soon after, our rival, The Charleston Gazette, gave me dogmas when not a shred of real evidence exists.
a reporter job. In the newsroom, I found myself surrounded In the 1950s, I joined the Charleston Unitarian Universalist
by bright newsmen who were worldly cynics eager for congregation, which consisted mostly of Ph.D. chemists and
trustworthy knowledge. They sneered at the stupidity of Ph.D. college professors. It was largely an atheist assembly,
hillbilly preachers. which appealed to me. Once, a Unitarian friend told me I’m
Some reporters recruited me into a Great Books course at an agnostic, not an atheist, because I didn’t have an ultimate
our public library, where we debated the world classics. I was answer to the question of God’s existence.
amazed by the dialogues of Socrates and other philosophy I disagreed and rephrased the issue: “Do you think an
treatises which showed that the finest minds throughout invisible spirit rules the universe, listening to your thoughts,
history had struggled to fathom a purpose of life, if any. and will burn you forever because of them?” He replied, “Of
That newspaper became my university. course not.” So I said, “You see, we’re both atheists.” After
My city editor was a brilliant, witty iconoclast in the consideration, he agreed.
mold of H.L. Mencken, the famed curmudgeon of the The In the second chapter of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell
Baltimore Sun. He laughed at pomposity, especially that of to Arms, some military officers taunt their unit’s naïve,
backwoods religion. One day I asked him, “You’re right that young chaplain. “All thinking men are atheists,” a major tells
all this Bible-thumping is nonsense, but what is true? Why him. To me, that’s a reliable maxim. Since Ancient Greece,
are we here? Why does the universe exist? Is there a meaning intelligent seekers have concluded that the supernatural
to life? What answer can an honest person give?” claims of religion are hokum. Today’s skeptical thinkers can
He eyed me sharply and said, “You can say, ‘I don’t know.’” be proud to be part of this record of honest doubt.
Bingo. That rang a bell in my head that hasn’t stopped
since. I became convinced that the only honest approach is to James A. Haught has been at the paper (now The Charleston Gazette-Mail)
admit bafflement. I saw that it’s dishonest to claim to know since 1951, except for a few months in 1959 when he was press aide to
supernatural things that nobody can know. It’s untruthful Senator Robert Byrd. He still works full time as editor emeritus.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 31


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Questioning Your Faith &
Looking For Answers? Errata

In the Q1 2018 print edition, “God is


a Slave Owner’s Best Friend” includes
text from a different article. Please
disregard the paragraph preceding
the block quote on page 24.

In “Our Growing Secular


Demographic,” the Public Religion
Research Institute was incorrectly
identified as the Public Religious
Research Institute.

Follow a former FBI Special Agent on his Our apologies to the authors and
journey of doubt, scholarly examination readers.
of Catholic doctrine and his exit from the
Church after seven decades of allegiance.

Advertise in American Atheist magazine


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• American Atheist is sold in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide.


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Bart Ehrman - Continued from page 15
Those twenty years after he was crucified are so murky. that are more open and affirming, with more concern about
Very murky. We don’t have a single Christian writing for poverty, women’s rights, and gay rights. It’s a scary moment for
the next twenty years. Christianity right now because if that trend continues, the two
billion Christians in the world will all have a very conservative
Maybe they were so upset over losing their leader that they social agenda.
had to find a way for it to make sense.
That’s plausible. Their severe loss may have led to their Trump supporters.
having visions. Yeah, Trump supporters. Him a righteous man.

In your book Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest I’ve heard some of his supporters say, “God chose him to
Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories save us.”
of the Savior, you point out that such visions are common, Unbelievable.
even today.
A lot of people have visions of deceased loved ones. People Did you hear what reality-actress and former White House
seeing their grandmother in their bedroom two weeks after staffer Omarosa Manigault said about Vice President Mike
she died is very common. Religious figures like the Blessed Pence? He thinks Jesus tells him what to say and do. He
Virgin Mary show up all the time. literally hears his voice.
Scary. The people who conducted the Inquisition thought
Christianity may have triumphed, but where will it be in that Jesus was speaking to them, too.
fifty or one hundred years? Will it still be around?
The most unsettling trend is that the growing churches
tend to be the Evangelical ones, which have a very conservative Natasha Stoynoff is an award-winning journalist and New York Times
theology and a very conservative social agenda. The churches bestselling author. She lives in Manhattan and is working on her
that are losing numbers hand-over-fist are the liberal ones second screenplay.

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 37


STATE AND REGIONAL DIRECTORS
Interested in joining this list? Visit Atheists.org/State-Directors or contact Jim Helton at JHelton@Atheists.org.

GULF COAST REGION INDIANA NEW JERSEY Lubbock:


Aron Ra Assistant Bill Goers Tracey Benefield
AronRa@Atheists.org South Bend: Troy Moss BGoers@Atheists.org TBenefield@Atheists.org
TMoss@Atheists.org
MIDWEST REGION NEW MEXICO Tyler: Peggy Downing
Jen Scott IOWA Doris Rashad PDowning@Athests.org
JScott@Atheists.org Justin Scott DRashad@Atheists.org
JustinScott@Atheists.org UTAH
MILITARY DIRECTOR Assistant Dan Ellis
Kathleen Johnson KENTUCKY Southern NM: Tylan Tapley DEllis@Atheists.org
KJohnson@Atheists.org Johnny Pike TapleyT@Atheists.org
JPike@Atheists.org VIRGINIA/D.C.
ALABAMA NEW YORK Larry Mendoza
Chuck Miller Assistants Assistant LMendoza@Atheists.org
CMiller@Atheists.org Bowling Green: Long Island:
Michael Steward Thomas Sheedy Assistants
Assistant MSteward@Atheists.org TSheedy@Atheists.org Charlottesville:
Mobile: Kristine Klopp Silvia Park
KKlopp@Atheists.org Lexington: Joshua Buckman OKLAHOMA SPark@Atheists.org
JBuckman@Atheists.org Meaghan Newman
ARIZONA MNewman@Atheists.org Chester: Curtis Smith
Don Lacey Louisville: Richard Heath CSmith@Atheists.org
P. O. Box 1161 RHeath@Atheists.org Assistants
Tucson, AZ 85641 OKC: Tim Ward Newport News:
DLacey@Atheists.org Morehead: Kayla Bowen TWard@Atheists.org Aiden Barnes
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Assistant Tulsa: Amanda Baggett
Phoenix: Ronnie Litchfield Paducah: Nate Crawford ABaggett@Atheists.org Reston: Eric Herrman
RLitchfield@Atheists.org NCrawford@Atheists.org EHerrman@Atheists.org
PENNSYLVANIA
ARKANSAS Spottsville: Jacob Mounts Assistant Sterling: Eric Santiago
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WASHINGTON
Rogers: Karen Dempsey MASSACHUSETTS TENNESSEE Bart Meltzer
Karen.Dempsey@Atheists.org Zach Bos Assistants BMeltzer@Atheists.org
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CONNECTICUT PHorst@Atheists.org Assistant
Dennis Paul Himes MINNESOTA Tacoma/Olympia:
P. O. Box 9203 August Berkshire Murfreesboro: Daniel Bennett
Bolton, CT 06043 ABerkshire@Atheists.org Gayle Jordan DFBennett@Atheists.org
DPHimes@Atheists.org GJordan@Atheists.org
MISSISSIPPI
Assistant Assistant TEXAS
Durham: Patrick McCann Gulfport: Sarah Worrell Vicki Gettman
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GEORGIA MISSOURI Assistants


Scott Savage Assistant Dallas: Nathaniel Walters
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38 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


THANK YOU, LIFE MEMBERS!
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Members or by upgrading their Life Memberships to Silver or Gold. Thanks to the following for their continued support
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2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 39


AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
State Group Name City Site
LOCAL PARTNERS
FL FLASH - Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists Boca/Miami/Davie 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
KY Tri-State Freethinkers (KY, IN, OH) Union http://www.meetup.com/Tri-State-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 2ND QUARTER 2018


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, Morehad State University Morehead Facebook.com/msussa

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

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

MA Boston Atheists Boston http://bostonatheists.org

MD Freethinkers Union at McDaniel College Westminster <none>

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 41


AFFILIATES AND LOCAL PARTNERS
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 O’Fallon Freethinkers O’Fallon 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

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

42 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


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

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

2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 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:
Atheism 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.

Atheism 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.

Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own
inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind,
finding 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. Materialism’s ‘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.

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

44 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


AMERICAN ATHEISTS
AMERICAN MEMBERSHIP
ATHEISTS FORM
MEMBERSHIP FORM
YES! I support the separation of churchtheand state ofand want to promote
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andwith
agreement
& State
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promote acceptance
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Your privacy is very important to us! We will never share or sell your information. For questions regarding Membership and/or Donations, please
contact the American Atheists Development Department by email at development@atheists.org or by telephone at (908) 276-7300.

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Individual Membership $35 / Year • 1 Membership Card
• Members’ Newsletter
Sustaining Membership $120 / Year Includes: • Full website access
Sponsoring Membership $250 / Year • E-Magazine subscription

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Lifetime Supporter $1,200 OR $100 / month
SILVER Lifetime Supporter $2,400 OR $200 / month Paper Magazine
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2ND QUARTER 2018 AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org | 45
American Atheists Job Posting
Position
President

Reporting Relationship
Board of Directors

Status
Full time, exempt

Position Overview
The President of American Atheists provides visionary leadership, stewardship, and a
powerful influential voice for atheists. In collaboration with the Board of Directors and
senior staff, the President will develop and oversee the implementation of programs and
strategies to continue our mission to advocate for the absolute separation of religion
from government, to elevate the profile of atheism in public discourse, and to build and
strengthen communities that fully represent the growing number of atheists in America.

Responsibilities
• Provide visionary and inspirational strategic leadership to cultivate a robust,
creative, responsive, and welcoming environment for staff, affiliates, volunteers,
members, donors, and coalition partners.
• Serve as primary spokesperson for the organization actively promoting our mission
through motivational speaking engagements and all forms of media.
• Identify and develop opportunities for advocacy through coalition building, creative
media campaigns, and other direct actions.
• Oversee the long-term financial stability and growth of the organization and set
priorities to support the needs of the programs and staff.
• Develop a strong and transparent working relationship with the Board of
Directors and ensure open communication about the measurement of financial,
programmatic, and donor engagement information against stated goals.
• Identify opportunities for program funding by cultivating, stewarding, soliciting,
and maintaining a portfolio of major donors.
• Expand the influence of American Atheists.

46 | AMERICAN ATHEIST | www.atheists.org 2ND QUARTER 2018


Preferred Qualifications
• At least five years of management experience, either in the non-profit, for-profit, or
public sector.
• Extensive knowledge of and commitment to the separation of religion from
government and a personal investment in the mission of American Atheists.
• Outstanding communication skills, including extensive experience as an outgoing
and high profile spokesperson; demonstrated ability to communicate effectively
and persuasively, both orally and in writing, to articulate the priorities, programs,
and mission of American Atheists; and experience in both traditional media (print,
television, radio, etc.) and digital media.
• Proven success as a relationship builder and fundraiser; demonstrated experience
and capacity to raise funds from major donors and secure gifts in the six-figure
range.
• Excellent coalition building skills with an ability to work effectively with a variety of
internal and external stakeholders.
• Strong commitment to the professional development of staff; successful track
record of recruiting and retaining a diverse team.
• Demonstrated ability with budget and financial management.

Compensation
Salary will be commensurate with experience. Additional benefits include paid sick,
holiday, and vacation days; 401(k) with employer match, health insurance and dental
insurance.

Location
This position can be based anywhere and will require significant travel.

Deadline for Submissions


July 7, 2018

To Apply
Please send your resume and cover letter to: PresidentSearch@Atheists.org.

American Atheists is an equal opportunity employer. It is the policy of American Atheists to provide equal
employment opportunity to all persons, regardless of age, race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual
orientation, gender identity or expression, political affiliations, marital status, non-disqualifying physical or
mental disability, or on the basis of personal favoritism or other non-merit factors, except where otherwise
provided by law.
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