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APRIL 2007
Vol 45, No.4

American Atheist Magazine


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

CONTENTS
4

Designer
Elias Scultori
Cover Design
Tim Mize

by Ellen Johnson

16

Editorial Assistants
Gil and Jeanne Gaudia
Published monthly (except June &
December) by American Atheists Inc.
Mailing Address:
P.O.Box 5733
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phone - 908.276.7300
FAX- 908.276.7402
editor@americanatheist.org
www.atheists.org
2007 by American Atheists Inc.
All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part
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From The President


American Atheists Wins Jacksonville, Florida Lawsuit and
Files Amicus Brief In Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation

Michigan Shuts The Doors On The National Council


On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools
by Arlene Marie

12

A Lesson On Culture For Bill O'Reilly


by Brian Trent

21

Horse Trading: Christian Style


by Ron Wiggins

15

Are There Toilets In Heaven?


by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

23

The Probing Mind


Easter: A Passover Connection?
by Frank Zindler

God Would Be An Atheist


One Person's Moderation ... Is Another's Extremism
by Martin Foreman

Quackwatch
Chelation Therapy: Long On Claims, Short On Evidence
by Dr. Stephen Barrett

The American Atheist Radio Series


Profanation Of Sabbath Laws
by Madalyn O'Hair

22

A Personal Story
What Helps Make An Atheist?
by Roger Bouchard

30

Foxhole Atheist Of The Month


Richard Peters

Jesus Demands Creative Control Over Next Movie


The Onion

from the president

American Atheists Wtns


Jacksonville, Florida Lawsuit
And Files Amicus Brief In Hein v.
Freedom Front Religion Foundation
Ellen Johnson

n January 19, 2007, Jacksonville, Florida, Mayor John Peyton, Sheriff John Rutherford,
and Council President Michael Corrigan agreed to a mediated settlement in our lawsuit
against them for "holding, endorsing, sponsoring and otherwise conducting a prayer rally
in their official capacities as government officials."
On Saturday, August 12,2006 the city of Jacksonville, Florida held ''A DAY OF FAITH" at their
Veteran's Memorial Arena. It was dubbed, ''ARMING OUR PRAYER WARRIORS. A rally against
violence in our community." The DAY OF FAITH fliers further described the event this way:
"Our faith is our greatest strength and our faith community our greatest asset. We invite members of every worship center and faith organization to join hands and take back our neighborhoods."
The city wasted $110,000 of taxpayer money on this religious event, which could have been better spent
in ways that could actually affect the incidence of crime. One can only wonder what the city sheriff
was thinking.
American Atheists sued the above named persons, who agreed to settle out of court. They have
now issued a public statement agreeing to abide by the law from now on. Their statement says that,
regarding future City of Jacksonville, Florida programs:
1. Each program must have a secular purpose.
2. Each program must be one which neither advances nor inhibits religion; and
3. Each program must not foster an excessive entanglement with religion.
This directive is simply taken from the Supreme Court case of Lemon v. Kurtzman. Thpse three
requirements are the test to determine if an act violates the Establishment Clause. If the act in question
violates anyone of those three prongs, then the act is unconstitutional.
The city has paid our legal fees.
We are grateful to our legal counsel, Edwin Kagin and Lisa Lovingood for their excellent work
on this case.
American Atheists also filed an amicus brief this February, in the case of JAY F. HEIN, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED AND COMMUNITY INITIATIVES, ET
AL., V. FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION, INC., ET AL., As of this writing, the case
was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on February 28 of this year.
The issue before the Supreme Court is whether or not the plaintiffs have standing to challenge
the federal government's conferences, which are set up to help religious groups to apply for funding to
administer social welfare programs. The case is not about the faith-based initiatives themselves. We join
with FFRF to argue that they do.
In the meantime, we have a huge list of issues that we would like to litigate at both the local
and federal levels and we will do them as we can. Thanks to you, our members and supporters, we are
able to do as much as we do. You make all this possible. We appreciate your continued support and
generosity.

AMERiCANAnillsr-

APRlL2007

Letters to the Editor


Sam Harris' Israel Holds What Moral High Ground?
("HeadInThe SandUberals"bySamHarris,NovJDec:06AA Mag.)
Editor:
As much as I respect Sam Harris, I have to differ with his article
"Head-In-The-Sand Liberals."We all agree with the dangers of the
Muslim religion. But, to maintain that the present Israeli government holds "the moral high ground" is indefensible.
Israel is governed by religious fundamentalists who are no less
extremist than any fundamentalist Muslim or Christian. Their reli. gion and corresponding politics are based on their god's mythical
promises to Abraham that he will give Israel all the land between
the Nile and the Euphrates, which includes Palestine. The result is
the present immoral Palestinian apartheid state.
DePaul University political science professor Norman Finkelstein confirms the Israeli 'apartheid' view in his 12/18/06 Boston
Globe letter to the editor:
The Israeli human rights group BTselem conciuded:'lsrael has
created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based
on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the
same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality.
This regime ... is reminiscent of ... the apartheid regime in South
Africa:
The editorial board of Israel's leading newspaper Ha'aretz,
observed 'the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact;
millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation:
Israeli researcher Gershom Gorenberg concluded in 2003
that it is 'no accident' that Sharon's plan for the West Bank 'bears a
striking resemblance to the 'grand apartheid' promoted by the old
South African regime:
In March 2002 BBC News quoted Israeli senior Labor MP Gerald Kaufman "Israel has turned into a 'pariah state' under prime
minister Ariel Sharon and his ways of dealing with terrorism are
unacceptable. This is not what Israel is all about and I am sad about
it because Israel was founded in idealism."
Gideon Levy recently wrote in the Israeli paper Ha'aretz,"Gaza
is in its worst condition ever. The Israel Defense Forces have been
rampaging through Gaza-there's no other word to describe itkilling and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately ....
How contemptible all the sublime and nonsensical talk about 'the
end of the occupation' and 'partitioning the land' now appears.
Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before ....This is
disgraceful and shocking collective punishment."
Chris Hedges writes in the 1/8/07 issue of Nation magazine,
"Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of pod like militarized ghettos
with Israel's massive $2 billion project to build a 'security barrier:
This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank,
including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres
of Palestinian farmland:'
Honorable people of Jewish heritage are embarrassed and
angry at what Zionism has done to the reputation of Jews worldwide.lt is these same anti-Zionist Jewish people who call the present lsrael a "pariah state." Why? Because reputable Jewish people
know today's Zionist Israel is treating the Palestinians in a fashion
similar to the way the Nazis treated the Jews. When WWII Jewish
liberation fighters resisted they were called patriots, heroes. When

Palestinians resist the Zionist Israeli apartheid, they are called terrorists.
Fundamentalists literally interpret their respective holy books
to condone immoral actions. Whether Zionist, Muslim, or Christian,
not a one of them stand on any "moral high qround.t The actions
of fundamentalist political leaders like Ariel Sharon, Osama bin
Laden and George Bush demonstrate their callous disregard for
moral rectitude.
Lee Salisbury, Stillwater, MN

r>

Editor:
Sam Harris seems ito think that Israel holds the moral high
ground in their conflict'witn Hamas and Hezbollah. He went on
to say that,"unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of
people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney
then they will be unable to protect civilization from its enemies."
What nonsense. If that were the case I would go so far as to say,
thank god for liberals. They have a better understanding of what
is really going on.
Israel doesn't hold any higher moral ground because they
were only too willing after the holocaust to again return to the
Promised Land. When they returned they displaced 700,000 Palestinians, and following the dictates of the Old Testament began
making illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. They were
run out of Gaza, but they had a mind to hold all the sacred ground
in Jerusalem and they West Bank. Their intransigency went so far
as to say that negotiations would never take place while so-called
terrorism was carried on by the Palestinians. Again, I say what
nonsense. Negotiations have always taken place while conflicts
are carried on. What one must remember is that with this Middle
East business there are three theocratic democracies waging war
against the Muslims and the whole Muslim world is now involved.
As an Atheist I think a new branch of conscientious objector
should be employed in wars. No soldier should be made to fight
in any religious war. And all this war taking place now is religious.
They should be told the truth and the objective of any such fighting is to establish non-religious governments and constitutions
wherever necessary. Never should we hear that old refrain "ours is
not to reason why, ours is to do or die." Are you listening, Sam?"
R,Standiford, Fontana, CA

If I were called on to join the military in Iraq I would be furious. I would be thinking about a new type of conscientious objection. I would think twice about fighting in what turned out to be
a religious war. The U.S.should have known that after G.W. Bush
declared an end to hostilities that Muslims would be seeking revenge and certain factions would try to take control of the government. The u.s. should have known that free elections would never
work in a hot bed of fundamentalism. Putting in a theocratic type
of government such as the u.s. seems to be happy with has only
lead to more resentment and hostility. There should be no more
fighting until the u.s. forgets its romance with religious freedom
and puts into place non-religious secular governments that will
tolerate no religious nonsense and that will create walls of separation between church and state.
Ray Standiford, Fontana, CA

APRlL'lfJJ7

AMEluCAN ATHEIST

Jesus Demands Creative Control


Over Next Movie
by the onion-www.theonion.com
(Humor)
HOLLYWOOD,
(A-AFTER watching Mel Gibson's The Passion OfThe Christ
Monday, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ announced that He will
demand creative control over the next film based on His life.
"I never should have given Mel Gibson so much license," said
Christ, the Son of God."1 don't like to criticize a member of the flock,
but that close-up of the nails being pounded into My wrists-that
was just bad."
Our Lord did not limit His criticisms to Gibson's Passion; He
expressed frustration with historical inaccuracies in numerous film
adaptations of His life.
.
"There have been a lot offilms based on My life,and pretty
much all of them have gotten it wrong," Christ said."Just look at
Godspell-what
the heck was going on there? It's time I reclaim My
image."
Christ said He considered returning to the physical world to
make an accurate film depiction of His life for years, but seeing The
Passion prompted Him to finally descend from heaven, meet with
His agent Ronald Thatcher, and demand that He be attached as a
producer on any future projects.
"Ron has a history of telling Me that the filmmakers 'totally
understand' the Word Of God, and that the project is going to be
fabulous," Christ said."But when it comes out, it's all wrong, and
Ron claims everything fell apart in post-production. At that point,
there's nothing left for Me to do but say/Okay, fine. I forgive you all.'
Well, next time, I'll be shepherding the project through from casting to final edit to marketing."
Describing one of His biggest complaints, Christ said that no
film about His life has ever"made the apostles pop."
"In The Greatest Story Ever Told, the 12 are basically interchangeable," Christ said."Directors get the piety, but they don't
bring out the personalities behind the agape love. Some of those
guys were real cut-ups, you know. Simon Peter could make you
laugh until you cried tears of blood."
In order to bring these and other truths to light, Christ teamed
up with screenwriter Ron Bass,who wrote both Snow Falling On
Cedars and My Best Friend's Wedding. The two have been co-writing
a high-concept script, temporarily called Untitled Jesus Project.
"We're still hammering out the treatment, but I'm really excited about where it's headed," Christ said.Tt really beefs up My relationship with John the Baptist, something all of the other movies
missed. They always put in the beheading, but they leave out the _
quiet moments when John and I would hang out, eat locusts and
honey, and talk about the redemption of Man.1 think our friendship will really resonate with a lot of viewers."
Christ said He is also working on a heist film based loosely on
the loaves-and-the-fishes incident, but that the project is currently
stuck in development.
Christ talks with directors on the set of an upcoming cableTV miniseries about His life."1 tend to have problems pitching to
studio executives," Christ said."Last week, I appeared in a vision
before a D-girl at Sony, and I said, 'Be not afraid, for I am Jesus-I
have written a-treatment and Matthew McConaughey is interested
in the role of Herod.' Apparently, she was a little freaked-out by the
vision and she ended up passing on the idea. Ron said that next
time I should just schedule a lunch meeting like everyone else."
6

AMERICANATHEIST -

APRIL7JJJ7

Returning to film adaptations about His life and Word, Christ


said some inaccuracies can be traced back to the source material,
the New Testament.
"Remember, at the time the Good Book was written, I was
running around saving souls like a madman,"Christ said."1 couldn't
focus on a writing project, too. I basically gave My team of writers
the broad strokes and hoped inspiration would fill in the cracks.
Now, I'm not saying the New Testament isn't good-it
is. It's great!
But by the time I got around to reading the galleys, the monks had
already finished the first printing."
The Lord Jesus did have positive things to say about Martin
Scorsese's The Last Temptation Of Christ.
"Not only is Marty a fantastic director, but the story isn't the
same old, same old," Jesus said.Tt's like The Gospel of Mark filtered
through an episode of The Twilight Zone. I love it. My one problem
is with the casting of Will em Dafoe. He's good, but I think John
Turturro would have made a better Me."
In spite of His love for Scorsese, Christ said He has no plans to
simply make "the next Last Temptation."
"My movie about My life will be the greatest movie ever
shown," Christ said.Tt should be the last Word on Me. No more animated versions, no more musicals, and no more movies where the
scourging scene is so violent, you could put it in Fangoria.1 mean,
yes, being crucified is very painful. But I can't see devoting more
than, say,three minutes of film to it."
Jesus added:"My version will have it all: drama, laughter, a
spiritual message, and a couple of twists that will surprise even the
most devout. The best part is that it'll be 1 00 percent accurate."
Continued Christ:"Even with the top-notch screenplay Ron
and I are writing, I'll still need a great director to make the script
shine. Unfortunately, Gore Verbinski is already committed to Pirates
Of The Caribbean 2. If only he'd see that this movie is truly the
career path for the righteous, I'd be able to get a firm commitment
from Johnny Depp, too. Let us pray."

copyright 2006, Onion, Inc.


all rights reserved. reprinted with permission.
The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

NEW Affiliate
Atheists of Broward County Florida
www.BrowardAtheists.com
Ken Loukinen, Broward Atheists
PO Box 246743, Pembroke Pines, Florida 33024

NEW Life Member


AMERICAN
ATHEISTS
Welcomes New Life Member

Joey D. Smith - Corona, California

quackwatch

Chelation Therapy:
Long On Cla.im.s,Short On Evidence
by Dr. Stephen Barrett

helation therapy is a series of intravenous infusions containing EDTA, vitamins, and various
other substances. It is widely used because many people have been led to believe that it is a
valid alternative to coronary bypass surgery.
However, the American Heart Association, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the
Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment, the National Health and Medical
Research Council of Australia, and many other respected organizations have warned that no scientifically valid information suggests that chelation therapy is effective for that purpose. Nor does any scientifically plausible theory explain why it should be.
Proponents also claim-without
proof-that
chelation therapy is effective against kidney disease, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, multiple sclerosis, gangrene, psoriasis, and many other
serious conditions. A course of treatment consisting of 20 to 50 intravenous infusions costs several
thousand dollars. Because one type of chelation is useful in certain cases of lead or other heavy-metal
poisoning, some practitioners tell patients they have a toxic condition (diagnosed with inappropriate
hair, blood, or urine tests) and need treatment for that reason.
The primary organization promoting chelation therapy is the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which was founded in 1973 and has about 850 members in the United
States and Canada. The group conducts courses, sponsors a journal, and administers a "board certification" program that is not recognized by the scientific community. Most of ACAM's members advocate
other types of questionable treatment as well.
In 1998, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obtained a consent agreement barring
ACAM from making unsubstantiated advertising claims that chelation therapy is effective against ath.erosclerosis or any other disease of the circulatory system. ACAM had the opportunity to defend against
the government's charges. But instead of attempting to prove that its claims were valid, it agreed to stop
making them. The consent agreement is binding only on ACAM itself, not its individual members.
Although the FTC could bring action against individual doctors who advertise falsely, it usually
leaves that up to the state licensing boards. A few chelation therapists have had their licenses revoked,
but most practice without government interference.
Although many patients who undergo chelation therapy report that they feel better, there is no
reason to believe that chelation is responsible for the improvement. Without proper long-term followup and scorekeeping, it is impossible to know whether patients who "feel better" are typical or represent
only a small portion of those treated.
Chelationists generally recommend smoking cessation, exercise, and dietary improvement, the
same lifestyles factors advised by mainstream physicians. Without comparison to a control group, it is
impossible to tell whether EDT A chelation offers any additional benefit.
The symptoms of cardiovascular disease can vary considerably from one time to another. Only
well-designed studies can determine whether any improvement following chelation is greater than
would have happened in the natural course of the disease. The way to do this is to compare patients
who undergo the treatment with similar patients who do not.
Chelation therapists state they have administered millions of EDT A treatments to hundreds of
thousands of patients over the past 40 years. Yet they have failed to conduct properly designed studies to test their theories and measure their results. The few well-designed studies that have addressed
whether chelation is effective against cardiovascular diseases have been carried out by mainstream medical scientists. They found no benefit.

Dr. Barrett is a retired psychiatrist, nationally renowned author, editor, and consumer advocate. His quackwatch.org
website and free e-mail newsletter provide comprehensive information on health fraud, quackery and intelligent decisions. Dr. Barrett can be reached at sbinfO@quackwatch.org
APRlL2007

AMBuO\NAnmSf

the american atheist radio series

Profanation Of Sabbath Laws


by Madalyn O'Hair
The following is a transcript of The American Atheist Radio Series program No. 338. This episode was broadcast from KLBJ-Radio in Austin,
Texas on April 5, 1975 and it was titled: Profanation of Sabbath Laws, United States Colonies.

ello
there,
This is Madalyn Mays O'Hair, American Atheist, back to talk with you again.
The religious community likes to remind us that
our forefathers came here from Europe because they wanted the right
to "freedom of religion."
Let's look at just that-freedom of religion in respect to Sunday laws and church. Did the colonists freely flock to church on Sunday as we are given to believe or not? Was the attendance at church
coercive? Every Christian would immediately say that no one, ever,
was forced to go to church in the United States.
Well, lets look at the first law ever passed in the United States
in respect to this. This is an early law of Virginia. The Honorable
R. W Thompson, Secretary of the Navy, in an address delivered in
Washington, on May 16th, 1880, made the following statement concerning a law made before the organization of the regular assembly
in 1619:
"The very first statute passed by the Cavaliers of Virginia provided that he who did not attend church on Sunday, should pay a fine
of two pounds of tobacco. This was the first law ever enacted in the
United States, and was passed in 1617, three years before the Puritans
landed at Plymouth." (Sabbath Doc. No. 45, p. 15, New York)
In 1623 a further law was passed, and I have the actual copy
of that one which reads:
"Whosoever shall absent himself from divine service any Sunday without an allowed excuse, shall forfeit a pound of tobacco; and
he that absents himself for a month shall forfeit fifty pounds of tobacco." (Statutes at Large of Virginia, Hening 1619-1660, vol. i, p. 123)
In 1629 authorities were ordered to take care that the law was
carefully executed and by 1642 "church wardens" were bound to present to the civil authorities all cases of "profaning God's name, and his
holy Sabbaths." Gradually the law began to prohibit activities other
than that of attending church. By 1657 laws prohibited "traveling,
loading of boats, shooting of game," so that there would be a "better
observation of the Sabbath," and fines were increased up to "one hundred pounds of tobacco." By 1705 all general acts of profanation of
the Sabbath by working, playing, drinking, being absent from church
for one month, were included in one class with a penalty of "five shillings or fifty pounds of tobacco." In default of payment the offender
was subject to "ten lashes."
The addition of these offenses as violations of a law obviously
meant that first, people did stay away from church and second, that
they then did enter into such profanations as either working or playing on the Sabbath.
This was Virginia, where-cobviously=-one did not have freedom, then, of religion. One was required to attend church or to pay
a fine. What about the other colonies? In Plymouth there was a rigid
8

AMEuCAN

Arunsr -

APRIL XXJ7

common law requiring observance of the


Sunday until June l Oth, 1650. At that time
the general court enacted the following:
"Further be it enacted, that whosoever shall profane the Lord's day by doing
any servile work, or any such-like abuses,
shall forfeit for every such default ten shillings, or be whipped."
The next year, the general court
made it explicit that it intended that
people should be in church on Sunday.
On June 6th, 1651 the following was enacted:
"It is enacted by the court that
whatsoever person or persons shall neglect the frequenting of the public worship of God that is according to God, ...
everyone that is a master or dame
of a family, or any other person ,-at their own disposing, to pay ten ~
shillings for each such default."

-......
(Plymouth Colony Records, vol.
xi, pp. 57-8)
Such non-attendance at church was deemed to be, in this
enactment, "contrary to God and the allowance of the government,
tending to the subversion of religion and churches, or palpable profanation of God's holy ordinances." To make it even, more clear, the
law went further:
"Enacted by the court, that if any in any lazy, slothful or profane way doth neglect to come to the public worship of God, shall
forfeit for every such default ten shillings, or be publicly whipped."
(Plymouth Colony Records, vol. xi, p. 58)
By 1662 when it was found that people did not come to
church but did go to public drinking houses, a "Sunday Excise Law"
was passed which forbade the drawing of "any wine or liquor on the
Lord's day," with a ten shilling fine for every default.
When the poor colonists were forced to go to church, and
went to sleep there, even as we do now, in the year 1665, a law was enacted against "Sleeping in Church." Anyone found offending was to
be put in the stocks. By 1669 it was discovered that some people even
smoked on Sundays and this was forbidden by twelve pence fine.
By 1670 the court was fuming that people continued to
"slothfully, lurk at home" and orders were given to uncover them and
identify them to the court.
But, let's move on to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On April
17, 1629 the first general letter from the governor and deputy of the
company was issued. This required:

"that all ... surcease their labor every Saturday throughout the
year, at three of the clock in the afternoon and that they spend the
rest of that day in catechising, and preparation for the Sabbath ..."
Everyone was really set for church or else. Among the ''Answers
of the reverend elders to certain questions propounded to them," we
note the following on November 13, 1644. Remember the weather in
Massachusetts in November, and the need to keep warm there. The
elders set forth as law:
"So any sin committed with an high hand, as the gathering of
sticks on the Sabbath-day, may be punished with death, ... " (Records
of Massachusetts Bay, vol. ii, p. 93)
On the 4th of November 1646, the general court decreed:
"That wheresoever the ministry of the Word is established,
according to the order of the gospel, throughout this jurisdiction, every person shall duly resort and attend thereunto, respectively, upon
the Lord's days.... And if any person within this jurisdiction shall,
without just and necessary cause, withdraw himself from hearing the
public ministry of the Word, after due means of conviction used, he
shall forfeit, for his absence from every such meeting five shillings."
(Records of Massachusetts Bay, vol. ii, p. 178)
By 1653, the theocracy was fuming that still there was not
sufficient observance of Sunday, and ruled against:
"children playing in the streets and other places, youths, maids
and other persons, both strangers and others, uncivilly walking the
streets and fields, traveling from town to town, going on shipboard,
frequenting common houses," and "otherwise to misspend that precious time ..." (Records of Massachusetts Bay, vol. iii, pp. 316, 7)
The first offense brought a reprimand, the second a fine of five
shillings, the third ten shillings, and further offenses "they shall be
whipped by the constable" (five stripes).
Nothing could bring all the people into church and the laws
were more and more severe as the time passed. Constables were given
the right to go to places where people drank, or where Quakers might
be meeting and to break down the doors and arrest "according./o
law," (by 1667). In 1711 "'twelve hours' imprisonment" was ,added
for profanation of the Sunday.
In the New Haven Colony the situation was the same. There
the matter of Sunday desecration came before a civil court in December, 1647 and legislation seeming to be demanded, the same was
passed. This merged into the New Haven Code, which came out with
the enforcement of public worship:
"And it is further ordered that wheresoever the ministry of the
Word is established within this jurisdiction, according to the order
of the gospel, every person, according to the mind of God, shall duly
resort and attend thereunto, upon the Lord's days, at least, and also
upon days of public fasting or thanksgiving ordered to be generally
kept and observed ... "Now, what punishment was to be given to
those who did not obey?
"But if the court upon examination by clear and satisfying
evidence, find that the sin was proudly, presumptuously, and with a
high hand, committed against the known command and authority of
the blessed God, such a person therein despising and reproaching the
Lord, shall be put to death, that all others may fear and shun such
provoking, rebellious courses." (New Haven Colony Records, 16531655, p. 605)
And, in Connecticut:
"It is ordered and decreed by this court and authority thereof,
that wheresoever the ministry of the Word is established according
to the order of the gospel, throughout this jurisdiction, every person
shall duly resort and attend thereunto, respectively upon the Lord's

day and upon such fast days, ete." (Public Records of the Colony of
Connecticut prior to 1665, p. 524) Here the fine was five shillings ...
By May, 1684 it was ordered that selectmen, constables and
grand jurymen ... should promote due and full attendance. All work,
or play, on land, or water, was prohibited. All traveling was forbidden
except for church attendance. Playing and talking was forbidden as
was staying outside of the meetinghouse ("there being room inside"),
loitering, ... anything was punishable by fines.
In New York, fines were used for traveling, working, laboring,
shooting, fishing, sporting, playing ... and so one might as well go
to church, the intent to forbid anything else was clear, and this, of
course, extended to Pennsylvania, as well. There is ample proof that
these Sunday Laws were not a dead letter either. October 6, 1636,
John Barnes was found guilty of "Sabbath breaking" by a jury, fined
"thirty shillings" and "made to sit in the stocks one hour."
In 1639 Web Adey was arraigned for working in his garden on
Sunday. Before the year closed he repeated the offense and was "set in
the stocks" and "whipped at the post." (Both from Plymouth Colony
Records, vol. 1, pp. 44,68,86,92.)
In 1651 Elizabeth Eddy was arrested for "wringing out and
hanging out clothes on the Lord's day in time of service." Arthur
Howland for not "attending church." (Plymouth Colony Records
also.)
In 1651-2, Abraham Pierce, Henry Clarke, and Thurston
Clarke, Jr.~ere arrested for lazily spending Sunday, and staying away
from public service. In 1654-5 Peter Gaunt, Senator Ralph Allen,
and George Allen appeared to similar charges. Similar cases can be
quoted from many pages of the colonies history and legal records ...
Yet, the myth persists, that our ancestors, who came here from
Europe for Freedom of Religion, would never have dared to compel
anyone to go to church against their will. All one needs to do to refute
this is to read the history-that is, history which has not been rewritten by the Christian community.
This informational broadcast is brought to you as a public
service by American Atheists, a non-profit, non-political, tax-exempt,
educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute
separation of state and church. This series of American Atheist Radio
programs is continued through listener generosity. American Atheists
predicates its philosophy on materialism. I will be with you again,
next week, same day of the week, same time, same station. Until then,
I do thank you for listening-goodbye for now.

Carl Sagan: A Life


by Keay Davidson
"Davidson, an award-winning science
writer, has written an absorbing
portrait of this Pied Piper of planetary
science. Davidson thoroughly
explores Sagan's science, wrestles
with his politics, and plumbs his
personal passons with a telling
instinct for the revealing underside of
a life lived so publically."
- Los Angeles Times
paperback - 540 pp.
stock # 5593
$20.00 (AA Members Price: $18.00)

APRIl2007 -

AMERiCANAnmST

affiliated organizations
ALABAMA
North Alabama Freethought
Association (NAFA)
alabamaatheist@excite.com

Atheists of Silicon Valley


Mark W Thomas, Coordinator
408-278-7878
mark@godlessgeeks.com

The Wiregrass Atheists


Mac Clover, Coordinator
334-598-1207
eclover@sw.rr.com

East Bay Atheists


Larry Hicok, Coordinator
510-222-7580
info@eastbayatheists.org

ARIWNA
Tucson Atheists
Robert L Swango
8665 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710
520-298-8017
'Iucsonatheistts'cox.net

Humanist Sociery of Santa


Barbara
Richard Cousineau, Chairman
P.O. Box 30232
Santa Barbara, CA 93130
805-687-2371
chairman@santabarbarahuman
ists.org

CONNECTICUT
Norwich Atheists
Bill Russell, President
399 Laurel Hill Avenue
Norwich, CT 06360-6935
860-886-1683
NorwichAtheists@yahoo.com

FLORIDA

CALIFORNIA
Agnostic & Atheist Student
Assoc (AGASA)
Universiry of California at Davis
Jeremy Ross, President
ierross@ucdavis.edu

Orange Counry Atheists


Michael Doss, President
P.O. Box 10541
Santa Ana, CA 92711
714-478-8457
Michael@OCAtheists.com

Atheists & Agnostics Group of


Rossmoor
Richard Golden, Leader
3612 Rossmoor Parkway #4
Walnut Creek, CA 94595
925-933-3133
rgolden272@comcast.net
Atheists & Other Freethinkers
Don Knutson, President
PO Box 15182
Sacramento, CA 95851-0182
916-447-3589
Kevin Schultz,AOF Liaison to AA
schultkl@ieee.org
Atheists of North Coastal San
Diego Counry
Carlsbad, CA
info@AtheistsNSD.org
Atheist Coalition of San Diego
Jeff Archer, President
4245 Francis Way
La Mesa, CA 91941
619-465-9528 lekkerspikkels@msn.com

10

AMEIuCANAnrnsr
- APRlL2007

San Francisco Atheists


Jim Heldberg
P.O. Box 1741
Pacifica, CA 94044
650-359-6874
jheldberg@atheists.org

Atheist & AgnosticStudents Assoc.


S. Daniel Morgan, Pres.,
AAFSAatUF
5441 SW 88th Ct.
Gainesville, FL, 32608
352-378-8078
dmorgan@chem.ufl.edu
Rebirth of Reason in Florida
Luther Setzer, Leader
321-544-7435
LutherSetzer@yahoo.com

IDAHO
Idaho Atheists
Lori Howard
P.O. Box 204
Boise, ID 83701-0204
208-455-9222
IApresident@IdahoAtheists.org

Individuals For Freethought


Leaders: Paul Youk, President &
Keiv Spare, Publiciry director
c/o Office of Student Activities
Kansas State Universiry
809 K-State Union, Ground Floor
Students For A Nonreligious Ethos
Josiah Greene, Ananth Krishna,
and Adam Mann,
Co- Presidents
Manhattan, KS 66506
freethought@k-state.edu

LOUISIANA
Louisiana State Universiry
Atheists, Humanists, &
Agnostics
Mark Little, President
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
lsuaha-subscribe@yahoogroups.
com
New Orleans Secular Humanist
Association / NOSHA
Harry Greenberger, President
5331 Bancroft Drive, New
Orleans, LA 70122
504-282-5459

MASSACHUSETTS
ILLINOIS

Shasta Atheists & Freethinkers


Ed Coleman, President
P.O. Box 1544
Shasta Lake City, CA 96019
530-275-4626

Bradley Atheists
Bradley Universiry, Peoria, IL
Paul Turack, Founder
PTurack@Bradley.edu

COLORADO

IOWA

Atheists and Freethinkers of


Denver
David Eller, Coordinator
P.O. Box 22174
Denver, CO 80222
303-285-3482 x7118
athofden@onebox.com

Iowa Secularists
Brian Sabel, President
P.O. Box 883
Iowa City, IA 52244
319-321-5844
BSabel@IowaSecularist.org

Boulder Atheists
Co-chairs: Jill Maxwell (303604-4472) & Larry Bauman
(303-494-4926)
info@BoulderAtheists.org

KANSAS
Heartland Humanists
Jo Ann Mooney, Founder
P.O. Box 24022
Shawnee Mission, KS 66283-0022
913-432-8660
info@heartlandhumanists.org

Atheists of Greater Lowell


Steve Berthiaume, Director
Tyngsboro, MA
978-394-8729
stevieb@verizonmail.com
Boston Atheists
Zachary Bos, Organizer
617-358-2892
BostonAtheists@gmail.com

MICHIGAN
Michigan Atheists
Arlene-Marie
amarie@atheists.org
Freethought Association
Jeff Seaver, Executive Director
P.O. Box 101
Allendale, MI 49401
616-892-9300
info@Freethol!ghtAssociation.org

For informatipl;1~on
affiliatingyour group pleasecontact

affiliated organizations

Jim Heldbecg at Jheldberg<iPatheists,OJ;g or visit http://atheists,orglaffiliation/

Greater Flint Atheists and


Humanists
Flint, MI
Jason Galvas, Director
jason@flintatheists,org
Mid-Michigan Atheists and
Humanists
Jim Hong, Director
Jackson, MI 49201
517-750-3887
Iim@MMAH,org

MILITARY
Military Assoe. of Atheists &
Freethinkers
Jason Torpy
5710A Bixbywoods Court
Columbus, OH 43232
614-329-1776
Community@maaf,info

MINNESOTA
Campus Atheists & Secular
Humanists / CASH
University of Minnesota
Jacob Larson
cash@cashumn,org
Minnesota Atheists
Cynthia J. Egli, President
P.O, Box 6261
Minneapolis, MN 55406-0261
612-588-7031
pres@mnatheists,org

NEW JERSEY
New Jersey Humanist Network
Lisa Ridge, President
P.O, Box 8212
Somerville, NJ 08876-8212
732-658-6440
njhn@optonline,net

NEW YORK
Center for Inquiry - Long Island
Gerry Dantone, Coordinator
P.O, Box 119
Greenlawn, NY 11740
GDantone@CFIMetroNY.org
Freethinkers of Upstate
New York
Doug Schiffer, President
315-245-3596
director@funygroup,org
New York City Atheists
Ken Bronstein
Cooper Station
P.O, Box 93
New York, NY 10276-0093
212-330-6794
Atheists & Agnostics
Association of Cornell
9331 Low Rise 9
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
President: Greg Soltis
607-253-5925
cso7@corneiLedu
info@NYC-Atheists,org

MISSOURI
Community of Reason
Dr, Theo Schubert, Coordinator
5019 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO 64112-1156
816-561-1866
communityofreason@eatthlinknet

Hudson Valley Humanists


Ed Poll, Director
P.O, Box 961
Saugerties, NY 12477
845-247-0098
HVHumans@yahoo,com

Rationalist Society of St. Louis


(RSSL)
Don Land, President
P.O, Box 300031
St, Louis, MO 63130
314-440-6908
rhmnstts'netzero.ner

NORTH CAROLINA
Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics
Co-leaders: John P. Healy and
Sally Stapledon
Maiden, NC 28650
828-464-3356
ChariotteAthAg@gmail,com

OHIO
Free Inquiry Group, Ine.
Margaret O'Kain, President
Cincinatti,OH
Humanist Community of
Central Ohio
Doug Berger, President
P.O, Box 141373
Columbus, OH 43214
614-470-0811

PENNSYLVANIA
Atheist Station
Lorie Polansky, Founder
P.O, Box 1623
Altoona, PA 16603
814-949-7149
info@atheiststation,org
Humanist Community Services
of Northeast Pennsylvania
Brenda O'Prisko, leader
716 Archbald
Scranton, PA 18504
570-343-3316
NEP AAtheists@yahoo,com
Pennsylvania Nonbelievers
Steven Neubauer
45 Gravel Hill Road
Mount Wolf, PA 17347-9710
717-266-1357
South Carolina
Secular Humanists
of the Lowcountry
Herb Silverman, President
19 Wraggborough Lane
Charleston, SC 29403
843-577-0637
silvermanh@cofe.edu
Rationalists of East Tennessee
Daryl Houston
P.O, Box 51634
Knoxville, TN 37950
865-539-3006
info@rationalists,org

TEXAS
Houston Atheist Society
Gipson Arnold, President
P.O, Box 980811
Houston, TX 77098
info@godlesshouston,com
Metroplex Atheists
Colin Sewards
6 Forth Worth Court
Mansfield, TX 76063-2159
817-473-8213
director@metroplexatheists,org
Atheist Community of Austin
Steve Elliott
P.O, Box 3798
Austin, TX 78764
512-371-2911
info@atheist-community,org

UTAH
Salt Lake Valley Atheists
Stephen Clark
3343 S 825 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84106-1553
801-485-3103
henstep3103@hotmaiLcom

WASHINGTON
Southeast Washington Atheists
Jay Ledingham, Facilitator
2012 Tinkle Ave
Richland, WA 99352
509-943-5060
danderson@atheists,org

WISCONSIN
Madison Atheists, Univ, of
Wise,
Patrick Meade, President
239 Red Gym
716 Langdon St.
Madison, WI 53076
608-264-0845
madison atheists@lists,services,
wise.edu
SWiFT / Southeast Wisconsin
FreeThinkers
P.O, Box 3
Mequon, WI 53092

APRIL2007 -

AMERICAN ATHEIST

11

A Lesson On Culture For Bill O'Reilly


by Brian Trent

ultures-and the civilizations which give rise to themdon't remain frozen in time. They transform. They progress or revert, grow or retract, reach golden pinnacles of
accomplishments or implode. On lengthy enough timelines, they can do all of the above.
And like a cast of vibrant characters in the greatest epic since
Earthly life first crawled out of the muck, we've seen numerous models to learn from. Though few U.S. Congressmen and fewer Senators
heed such lessons, they exist anyway. We see cruel despotisms and
theocracies which smear the pages of history, but we also see astonishing progressive cultures which gave the world its highest art, science,
and humanistic principles. Side by side, only an ignorant spirit would
choose the former. What do we choose for the United States? What
will the history books say?
The United States of America is a civilization founded on
Greco-Roman principles. The concept of democracy was derived
from ancient Greece under Pericles, and its functional republic is the
Roman model perfected.
Pundits and strategists of the 21st century Gap campaign
tirelessly strive to advance a different view. From the echo chambers
of mass media, the evangelical Right pushes forward the fallacy that
America is a Christian nation, founded on Biblical principles.
It is of course nothing of the sort. Not only is America founded
on a secular Constitution (which in its own words is "the supreme law
of the land"), not only do the first ten words of the First Amendment
explicitly forbid a state-endorsed religion, but John Adams stated it
for the global record in 1792: "The Government of the United States
is not in any sensefounded on the Christian religion." The Founding
Fathers lefr it up to the American people to be as religious or nonreligious, as Christian or Muslim, as Hindu or Wiccan, as they wanted
to be. Government would remain neutral and secular.
Why is it important? Consider Rome at the height of its power,
where freedom of religion was generally allowed (except for the nasty
Druidic habit of human sacrifice). Having staked its eagle-headed
standards into most of the western world, Roman civilization enjoyed
multiple cross-pollinations with other cultures. The results were aweinspiring. A free exchange of ideas fed a pluralist civilization best
realized in one of the Roman Empire's grandest cities-Alexandria,
Egypt. There, numerous cultures interacted and, like the proverbial
stone soup, saw Egyptian culture (sporting merit badges in medicine,
architecture, and mathematics) meeting the Greeks (boasting unparalleled scientific inquiry, invention, and philosophy) meeting the
Romans' unflagging pragmatism which, together, gave the
world one of its greatest Golden Ages.
When Christianity was declared the state religion of the Empire in 311 CE, all that changed. The religious tolerance vanished,

12

AMEluCANAmEIST

APRIL2007

and in 391 CE the next "evanga-logical" step was taken: Other faiths
were outlawed, and the subsequent forcible conversion of cultures;
the destruction of pagan libraries; the crippling of humanity's artistic
and scientific inquiries to understand the universe; resulted in a culture of blind, unquestioning obedience.
This provides the unheeded message for American evangelicals today, who seek nothing short of a return to this medievalism.
Capitalizing on both the 9-11 attacks and recent natural disasters,
Crusader personas like Pat Robertson and long-time compatriot Reverend Jerry Falwell, blamed the tragedies on secular society's abandonment of God. More evils would befall America, Falwell preached,
unless we quickly embraced Biblical Law-the Old Testament code
of ethics, which in addition to condemning homosexuals, also says
citizens have the duty to stone disobedient children, sell daughters
into slavery, and smite those who work on the Sabbath. It also relegates women to positions nearly as subservient as the Taliban imposed. Said Falwell: "If we are going to save America and evangelize
the world, we cannot accommodate secular philosophies that are
diametrically opposed to Christian truth." The June 1999 issue of
American Vision's Biblical Worldview magazine, expressed the core
thesis of Christian fundamentalism: "We've been told that Christians
cannot impose their religious beliefs on others. Since heaven is at
stake, we have no choice." Same battle-cry, new century.
For American civilization which historically champions liberty, a fundamentalist government would slay the Constitution itself
and replace it with the Bible, the Koran, or whatever holy book the
"holy elite" rally by. The freedom of America is the freedom to be
diverse, independent, even dissenting-indeed,
it was formed as a
nation from the very act of dissention. Yet evangelical philosophy is
opposed to this diversity.
Possessing their own right to worship isn't enough for them;
they feel it necessary to crush the beliefs of others and convert.
Consider Gap Majority leader Tom Delay telling a fundamentalist gathering at the First Baptist Church in Texas that, "God is
using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for biblical worldview
in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me, He
is working with me." And forget the debate over homosexual marriage- commissioners of Rhea County, Tennessee (the same county
which arrested a teacher for teaching evolution) want the ability to
charge homosexuals with "crimes against nature." In the words of
Commissioner].C. Fugate, "We need to keep them out of here." In
the evangelical mind, "them" is anyone who dissents.
But it's deeper than that even. What kind of future can we
hope for when the leader of a nation believes in Apocalypse, not human progress? When disaster and tragedy are seen as advance shots
of the End Times-a concept which evangelicals embrace and desire?

Evangelical, Crusader-style civilization thrives on misery, suffering,


and tragedy. It gives them the greatest chance to peddle their religious
wares.
In 79 CE Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the towns of
Pompeii and Herculaneum under a sea of hot ash. People were swallowed whole by the rushing lava or sealed alive in caves to suffocate on poisonous fumes. Had there been mass media, it would have
dominated every toga-clad news cycle.
Predictably, many people blamed the calamity on Zeus. "Pompeii must have been wicked!" the doomsayers chanted. "Zeus has
punished them!" Since geological science hadn't been born yet, assigning divine character to natural catastrophe was the best explanation going ... despite the insult it posed for the innocent victims of
Vesuvius. Many a priest was certain to benefit from shouting this kind
of hysteria-"Obey
the
gods, or your city too will
be punished with fire and
brimstone!"
But of course,
volcanoes erupt. Earthquakes happen. And so do
tsunamis and hurricanes.
Geological and meteorological violence are part
of our planet's character
... the creaks and moods
of a living world. We, in
2005, know this. At least
most of us do.
"God
attacked
America and the prayers
of the oppressed were
answered," claimed an
Islamic website
after
Hurricane Katrina buried New Orleans. "The
wrath of the All-powerful fell upon the nation
of oppressors. Their dead
are in the thousands and
their losses are in the billions."
This
compares
nicely with the Christian
fundamentalists who, not
twenty-four hours after
the December 26th tsunami tragedy, claimed that God was punishing Asia. There was even a church-sponsored website proclaiming
the tsunami was divine vengeance against Swedes and homosexuals,
reminiscent of Reverend Jerry Falwell's proclamation that the September 11rh terrorist attacks were God's way of punishing America
for embracing secularism.
.
And they're at it again. Katrina has given fodder for many
religious salesmen who have various axes to grind. Narrow-thinking
Muslim and Christian extremists love disasters like Katrina, particularly in our age of television where they can point to the unending
stream of pictures and claim it's the advance shot of an Apocalypse.
It would be grimly amusing if such medievalism was far out
on the fringe, but it isn't. Evangelical and Islamic fanatics are all the
rage these early years of the 21st century. Fingers are pointed, and the

glittering-eyed zealotry of Final Judgment advocates becomes a chorus of hate, intolerance, and ignorance. During the Bubonic Plague
in Europe, church leaders blamed it on the Jews. Nothing's changed,
and belief in a fire-and-brimstone deity who exhibits the same traits
as Nazi Germany is alive and well in today's Crusading circles.
When the tsunami hit Indonesia, one church leader said it was
"a great opportunity to share the word of Jesus." Other congregations
went a step further, thanking God for the devastation and praying
that a similar event befall the "sinners" in America.
Thus we have Hurricane Katrina. On Jupiter there's a hurricane that's been raging for three hundred years and is roughly triple
the size of Earth. Rest assured that if there were human colonies on
the king of planets, Al Qaeda and Falwellian representatives would be
chalking up its devastation to their respective heavens.

It's shameful that there are those, who two thousand years after Pompeii, still cling to an outdated view of the cosmos. Nature
caused an event which for us was devastating, and it is the generosity
of our fellow humans-Christians,
Atheists, Jews, Wiccans, Hindus,
and all the staggering pluralistic diversity we enjoy in America-who
are helping out those in need.
The outpouring of this aid is tremendously moving. As with
the tsunami effort, a recent poll suggested that three in 10 Americans
have given money/supplies. It's a tribute to humanistic principles,
and a good sign of things to come ... because tragedies will happen
again. There are rocks floating in space that will eventually impact
Earth. There are volcanoes which are even now cooking up magmatic
violence. And there will be more earthquakes, mudslides, and hurncanes.
APRlL2007 -

AMERlCANAniElST

13

There always have been. To paraphrase an old maxim, a tree


falling in the woods is only a tragedy if someone happens to be sleeping beneath it ... but either way, it's a natural event.
Two thousand years ago, a Greek scientist said "People think
epilepsy is divine because they don't understand it. But I propose that
someday we will know what causes epilepsy, and in that moment it
will cease being divine. So it is with everything in the universe." Nature hurt us, humanity helped us. It's as simple as that.
A progressive society contrasts sharply with the poisonous culture of nationalistic fascism which fueled the Nazi regime, the totalitarian atmosphere of Stalin's Russia and Communist China, or the
evangelical mania of medieval Europe. This includes holy wars, Inquisitions, and papal decrees to convert the Americas "by any means
necessary" which, of course, allowed for the genocide of the Aztec
and Inca civilizations.
America today is flirting with all three poisons. The unifying
patriotism in the days following 9-11 has been exploited shamelessly.
The culture of the
George W Bush Administration has pushed a fanatic jingoism
which equates dissent (which Thomas Jefferson called the "highest
form of patriotism") with aiding terrorists. The natural fear of future
terrorism has aided a new brand of totalitarian ambitions, of which
the renewed PATRIOT Act is but one example. And the evangelical
agenda of the current White House is not only antithetical to America's fundamental fibers, but is a running leap towards theocracy and
state-endorsed purges. It isn't by accident that the current president
enjoys using the word "crusade" when speaking of his dealings with
other cultures.

Progressive, humanistic civilization is not only possible, but


it yields the greatest benefits to history. The Classical Age of Greece
and the Italian Renaissance stand as vibrant bookends, while the
millennia in between gave the world torturous Inquisitions, witchburnings, holy wars, and a Lord-of-the-Flies-like degeneration of all
the ancients had built. Progress was heresy; blind faith was the only
acceptable state of society, and the religious elite grew bloated and
corrupt with each passing century.
The choice for America is spelled out in that contrast. Will we
be a Crusader society, or a progressive Golden Age?
At this point, it's impossible to tell.

Brian Trent is a contributor to The Humanist magazine,


Americal Chronicle, and ePluribus
Media. His novel Remembering
Hypatia was published in 2005
and was nominated for Book of
the Year by ForeWord Magazine.
Brian is a journalist, novelist, and
screenwriter currently residing in
Connecticut. www.rememberinghypatia.com He can be reached at
brian e trent@hotmaiLcom.

1BeLieve
'THe~e lSLAMIC,
Fp..NA11CAl.., FUNOAMeNTAL\~T

ReL\G\OU~

GRoUP~

NeeD OOR P~AVeR~...

GRAB
A SNAKe AND
SOl

LeT'S srART

PRAYlNG.

14

AMERICANATHEIST -

APRlL2007

Are There Toilets In Heaven?


by Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

acquaintance of mine sat with us on a park bench and discussed the beauties of nature. Edna's
quite an amateur biologist. Having recently rescued a baby owl that had fallen from its nest, she
had replaced it and taken videos of the whole incident, and, later, she gave my wife, Jeanne, and
e a copy.
As we sat there along the banks of Oregon's beautiful Willamette River on a sunny day in July, Edna
commented, "How beautifully designed the world is. Isn't God wonderful?" I was somewhat taken aback. I
sensed that Jeanne was reacting in the same way. Edna knew so much about wildlife and the flora of the region,
and having told us previously that she was patt Native-American, I was expecting something more along the
lines of, "Ain'tnature grand?"
She continued preaching to us with numerous references to god, Jesus Christ and the Bible. My wife
who sat between us on the bench knew that I was biting my tongue, and occasionally nudged my arm, as if to
say,"Now don't get statted (on my usual anti-religious argument)."
I was behaving magnificently until Edna said, "If it weren't for all this beauty, I would not be able to wait
to get to heaven, and see my wonderful husband, Wilfred."
Jeanne nudged me again, but this time she whispered into my eat, "Okay, go for it."
"So you really believe in Heaven," I asked?
"Absolutely! Don't you?" She was incredulous.
"Nah," we chorused.
The conversation continued with questions from us like, "What's it like there? What do you do all
day?" You know, the typical Atheist incredulity, sprinkled with an admixture of subtle sarcasm and futile
pedantry.
"Is there sex in Heaven?" I asked slyly. "Of course," was the instant retort.
"What kind of sex? Oral sex, anal sex, homosexual sex, or just plain missionary-position sex?" (It's a
good thing Jeanne was there to lend an air oflegitimacy to my apparently lewd and lascivious behavior.)
"Well, uhhhh, ..." stammering and disjointed exclamations were begun and abandoned, whereby
Jeanne rescued her by asking, "Is there good food up there?"
Edna, eager to get away from the unholy sex talk blurted out, "Of course, all the best foods!"
"So do we have to excrete it?" was my next query.
There was a brief hesitation, ... "Yes."
"Where?"
Very self-assuredly,"There's toilets."
"Where do they flow to?"
There was that hesitation again, "Same as here."
It was at this point that images of gigantic waste-treatment plants, toilet paper watehouses and superWal-Matt-sized stores selling equally enormous packages of toilet-paper rolls floated before my glazing eyes.
After all, every Christian who has ever died, is up there evacuating their bowels and bladders and, ... hey, ...
maybe that's where all this global pollution is really coming from.
Recognizing the utter hopelessness of any kind of mutual understanding, we patted somewhat cordially,
with expressions of "See you later," and "Enjoy the rest of your walk," but all three of us knew that that conversation was the epitaph for the end of a (to use the cliche) "beautiful relationship".
How can there be any meeting of the minds when one person's world is firmly situated in the immediate, on-going reality oflife on earth and another looks forward to gold-trimmed porcelain toilet bowls-in-thesky ... with Wilfred sitting on one of them?
Gil Gaudia is professor Emeritus at the SUNY college at Fredonia. He was also a clinical psychologist
and a fellow at The Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan, and now devotes his time to writing. His novel Outside,
Looking In, is a thinly-veiled autobiography of an Atheist. Dr. Gaudia can be reached at gjgaudia@adelphi.net
APRlL2007 -

AMERlCANATHEISf

15

Michigan Shuts The Doors On


The National Council On Bible Curriculum
In Public Schools
by Arlene Marie

ichigan'sFrankenmuth and Howell school districts are


to be commended for rejecting the National Council
on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) in
their public schools.
In late December 2006, Howell Michigan became the center of
debate on Bible study when, resident and parent, Tim Thatcher proposed that NCBCPS be offered as an elective in Howell High School.
When I testified against the proposal at the Howell School
Board meeting on January 8, 2007, I found myself in the company
of angry parents maintaining that separation of church and state is a
myth; that America is a Christian Nation founded on the Bible; and
that our Founding Fathers read the Bible and never intended to keep
God out of our government.
Those comments represent the popular argument in favor of
invoking the Bible curriculum in public schools. My first experience
with the NCBCPS began in January 2004 in Michigan's Frankenmuth School District, when resident, Marcia Stoddard proposed that
the curriculum be added to Frankenmuth High School.
In the course of a year-long battle with the Frankenmuth
School District, and upon rwice testifying at their board meetings,
I repeatedly heard the same arguments favoring the curriculum as
I heard in Howell. Often, proponents offered a broader argument
in favor of NCBCPS's curriculum, citing questionable, if not bogus quotes from our Founding Fathers; obscure observations of the
Supreme Court; the legality of public nativity scenes; distortions of
Thanksgiving as a holiday; the motto "In God We Trust," and even
congressional prayers. But the center fold to these arguments lies with
undocumented claims that the curriculum is constitutional and is offered in hundreds of schools in a number of states.
As you can imagine, I am hard pressed to address these issues,
much less expose the backbone ofNCBCPS in the three to ten minutes granted me at hearings. And, while the media is ever present, the
thirty-to forty-five second time slot on TV or the paragraph or two
published by the press barely scratches the surface. But it is a story
worth telling. NCBCPS may be coming to your town soon.
The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools
was founded by Elizabeth Ridenour in 1993, for what appears to be the
goal of proselytizing in the public schools. On the September 14, 1995,
radio program "Truths That Transform," Ridenour stated, "We're just
trying to expose the kids to the biblical Christian worldview ... "
On the other hand, NCBCPS claims they want to introduce
Bible classes in public schools to improve students understanding of
history and literature. But 1, together with other critics and various
scholars view NCBCPS as merely using the Bible course to serve their
larger political agenda-an agenda to dismantle separation of church
and state.

16

AMERiCANAiHEIsr -

APRlL2007

Holding NCBCPS's political agenda as my top priority, I began my testimony at Howell's school board meeting with an expose of
David Barton, whose views prompted considerable controversy when
the Republican National Committee hired him to stump for President Bush at churches in 2004. Barton was named one of the nation's
"25 Most Influential Evangelicals" by Time magazine in 2005. He is
a self-described historian and is founder and president of "WallBuilders," a historical revisionist group that publishes and sells most of
Barton's controversial books and videos. Of particular interest to me
is that Barton serves on NCBCPS's advisory board and his materials
are used and/or recommended by NCBCPS.
In speaking about Barton's materials, I reference Brent Walker,
Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee who wrote a critique of
Barton's video America's Godly Heritage. Mr. Walker states, "(Barton) peddles the proposition that America is a 'Christian Nation,'

legally and historically. He also asserts that the principle of churchstate separation, while not in the Constitution, has systematically
been used to rule religion out of the public arena, particularly the
public school system. This is not a new argument, but Barton is especially slick in his presentation. His presentation has just enough ring
of truth to make him credible to many people. It is, however, laced
with exaggerations, half-truth and misstatement of fact. His citation
of supporting research is scant at best and at times non-existent."
Mr. Walker cites some of Barton's most prominent and problematic claims such as, his claim that fifty-two of the fifty-fivesigners of
the Constitution were orthodox Christians and many were evangelical
Christians. But Barton offers no support for this claim and scholarly
opinion is to the contrary. Also, Barton argues that the signers of the
Declaration ofIndependence were Christian and so the u.s. was founded as a Christian Nation.
Again, offering no scholarly
support for this claim.
An article in Church
& State Magazine, July-August 1996 titled, David Barton Falsifies American History, adds to the concerns
of the Baptist Joint Committee.
Spearheading an effort to verity the accuracy
of Barton's quotes, was Robert S. Alley, University of
Richmond professor of humanities emeritus, who was
joined by a number of certified historians, firms devoted
to the writings of Madison
and Jefferson and various
Universities. But it was the
Library of Congress who
had the last word-Barton
was cornered and he admitted to fabricating the quotes
and created a pamphlet that
listed his bogus and questionable quotes. Sadly, that
pamphlet receives little or
no attention. However, Barton's "Unconfirmed Quotations," as he refers to them,
are posted on WallBuilders' web site with a notation that some of the
quotes have been confirmed though I have no evidence of that from
Dr. Alley or any historians or scholars.
Thanks to the efforts of Blair Scott, Alabama State Director,
American Atheists, Inc., here are some of the bogus quotes that you
should immediately refute if you see them used in a letter to the editor, in an online forum, or anywhere else for that matter. Additional
bogus quotes and comments regarding David Barton from Scott can
be found on my web site www.michiganatheists.org.
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this
great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not
on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" - Patrick Henry
"The only assurance of our nation's safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion." - Abraham Lincoln

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God


and the Bible." - George Washington
"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based
upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is
impossible that it should be otherwise. In this sense and to this extent, our civilizations and our institutions are emphatically Christian." - Holy Trinity v. U. S. (Supreme Court case)
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization,
not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the
future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and
all of us to govern ourselves ... according to the Ten Commandments
of God." - James Madison
It should be noted that Barton's video, America's Godly Heritage questioned by the Baptist Joint Committee was banned from the
classroom in Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, Northern District of Mississippi, 1996. It is unclear as to the extent of its
current use by NCBCPS today, but in 2005 they were known to
continue recommending and using it in their curriculum, including
the video, Foundations of American Government typically shown at
the beginning of the course and as an introduction to promoting
NCBCPS's curriculum to prospective school boards and community
supporters.
I viewed this video in 2004 and was appalled by the narrator,
David Barton, who railed that America has descended into social chaos since Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools,
and presented misguided arguments that our Founding Fathers never
intended separation of church and state.
I agree with Dr. Mark Chancey, Professor of biblical studies at
Southern Methodist University who stated, "Foundations of American Government is not an educational video; it is political propaganda."
The most troubling issue I encountered when I first began
my battle with NCBCPS in 2004 in Frankenmuth, Michigan, was
difficulty in procuring a copy of their curriculum. However, I was
eventually able to browse through their curriculum, housed in a huge
binder, and immediately realized that it appeared disorganized. Statements were taken out of context, and I doubted many of its claims. I
was hesitant to make statements regarding NCBCPS's curriculum to
the media or in my writings, without the benefit of a scholarly review
for reference, which was lacking, as NCBCPS doesn't readily make
their materials available to scholars.
However, I stood on firmer ground for my testimony at Howell Public Schools in 2006, due to an in-depth analysis of the council's
curriculum by Dr. Mark Chancey, who is a member of the Society for
Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, the American
Academy of Religion, and the American Schools for Oriental Research. He was commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN),
a mainstream voice to counter the religious right, to evaluate whether
NCBCPS's curriculum is nonsectarian in nature and thus appropriate for public school usage and also to assess its overall quality.
Chancey's thirty-three page report , The Bible and Public
Schools, portions of which I included in my testimony in Howell,
was released August 1,2005, with Chancey's detailed concerns about
the lack of the scholarly quality in the NCBCPS curriculum. The
TFN executive summary states, "Dr. Chancey's report shows how
the curriculum advocates a narrow sectarian perspective, taught with
materials plagued by shoddy research, blatant errors and discredited
or poorly cited sources."
I must share my favorite, disgusting, yet laughable example
of shoddy research noted by Chancey, "The curriculum cites a 'reAPRlL2007 -

AMERlCANA:rHEisr

17

spected scholar' (unnamed) who claims that archaeological evidence


'always confirms the facts of the Biblical record.' Yet, that 'respected
scholar' claimed elsewhere to have seen Jesus' school records in India,
records from the lost continent of Atlantis and evidence that Egypt's
Great Pyramid of Giza was used to transmit radio messages to the
Grand Canyon thousands of years ago."
In its conclusion, the executive summary states, "The problems detailed in Chancey's report include a blatant sectarian bias,
distortions of history and science, numerous factual errors, and poor
sourcing ..."
It is interesting to note that a vast number of biblical
scholars throughout the country reviewed/he report. Once they
affirmed they were satisfied wi th Chancey s basic standards of research, they then supported the conclusion that NCBCPS's curriculum is not appropriate for use in public schools and endorsed
Chancey's findings.

~fym~
HIS PECULIAR
OF

RELIGION.

Needless to say, Chancey's report caused quite a stir at NCBCPS. They rigorously defended their curriculum claiming that the
serious factual errors the report cited were merely minor scholarly disputes and its curriculum exhibited no problems more serious than an
occasional typographical error and a missing footnote or two. TFN
reports that NCBCPS stated in an August 4, 2005, press release that
the TFN report was erroneous and had been produced by far left,
anti-religion extremists promoting totalitarianism and trying to ban
the Bible from public schools.
In response to those claims, Dr. Chancey states, "The report
itself has been endorsed by more than 180 scholars, including Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews; dozens of Roman Catholics;
and a wide range of Protestants. In light of these facts, the NCBCPS's
repeated public statements that the report was produced by and re18

AMERICAN

AnmST -

APRIL 2007

Hects the views of anti-religion extremists who are attempting to ban

the Bible from public school are indefensible."


In response to Chancey, and cornered much as David Barton
was, NCBCPS held a press conference on September 9,2005, in Washington, D.C., with actor Chuck Norris speaking on the organization's
behalf, to announce the official release of a revised curriculum.
Upon review of the revised curriculum, Dr. Chancey commended NCBCPS for making some changes but he cautioned citizens, educators and scholars that they have good reason to remain
concerned about the NCBCPS curriculum. In his report, The Revised Curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in
Public Schools, Chancey cites that the revised August, 2005 edition
of their curriculum, like the older March 2005 edition, does not
identify any author and continues to rely on popular-level (rather
than scholarly) resources written from a conservative Protestant
perspective.
For
instance,
Chancey states, "NCBCPS's revised curriculum's, Unit 17, The Bible
in History, still goes beyond Bible discussion
of the Bible's influence
on American society to
make a broader argument
for an increased role of
religion in public and
civic life. There is simply
no other explanation for
the new content on pages
237-240 entitled 'Observation of the Supreme
Court,' which discusses
the legality of civic nativity scenes, congressional
prayers,
Thanksgiving
holiday, the motto 'In
God We Trust,' and the
phrase 'One Nation Under God.'''
And, according to
Chancey, "Unit 6 of the
~~
revised curriculum, He/,~
brew Law includes outof-context
quotations
from the Fathers implying that separation of church and state is misguided. Since no quotations from famous figures supporting church-state separation are
included, the curriculum's own position is quite clear-and it is the
position of the NCBCPS's endorsers and advisors-the belief that
America was founded as a distinctively Christian nation and should
remain so."
Most troubling to Chancey is the fact that the new curriculum still clearly reflects a political agenda. He states, "It seems to
Christianize America and Americanize the Bible. It continues to recommend the resources of Wall Builders ... and still advocates showing that group's video, Foundations of American Government at the
beginning of the course."
There is little doubt that NCBCPS members Ratter themselves as an educational organization while operating in a secretive

manner guarding their curriculum, boasting about their popularity


without a shred of documentation, while claiming they have never
been contested in court.
For several years I have publicly questioned the constitutionality of NCPCPS's curriculum, often citing Gibson v. Lee County
School Board, filed in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division January 1998.
This lawsuit resulted when on October 21, 1997, the Lee
County SchooI'Board voted 3 to 2 to adopt NCBCPS's curriculum
in the presence ofNCBCPS members.
People For the American Way, the ACLU of Florida and a
Florida law firm obtained an injunction prohibiting the school district from teaching a "New Testament" curriculum in a high school,
bible history class. The court held that the curriculum presented matters of religious faith, such as the miracles and resurrection of Jesus,
as historical fact, and thus violated the constitutional requirement
that any teaching about the Bible in public school must be presented
objectively as part of a secular program of education.
It is interesting to note that while this lawsuit named NCBCPS no fewer than forty-four times, NCBCPS denies it was their
program. Yet People For the American Way state, "The New Testament curriculum enjoined by the court was written by a North Carolina-based organization affiliated with the Religious Right that calls
itself the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools."
Nevertheless, as reported January 6, 2007, by the Detroit
News, Elizabeth Ridenour, president and founder of the NCBCPS
stated, "We have never received one complaint from one school district in our 13 years."
Perhaps Lee County did not complain to Ms. Ridenour,
but upon settling this case they withdrew the curriculum and paid
$95,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.
Also, in the January 6 Detroit News article, Ms. Ridenour
stated, "The Bible course curriculum has been voted into 373 school
districts in 37 states, including Michigan." However, since Ms. Ridenour and NCBCPS do not release information supporting these
claims, they cannot be verified. And to add to their insolent behavior
they provide a reason for their secrecy by citing a privacy clause.
My question is, "What is private about doing business with
public schools?" But, the privacy clause is a notion eagerly supported
by Gary Glenn, President of American Family Association in Michigan, a conservative Christian organization and a sponsor of NCBCPS. In his brief testimony before the Howell school board, Glenn
appeared to be out of order as he began by attempting to discredit my
testimony hurling personal insults in my direction, then condemning
the district's refusal to post "In God We Trust" in their schools and
charged they (Howell schools) promoted homosexuality.
Finally, Glenn's condemnable posturing took on the role of a
protective mouth piece for NCBCPS, supporting Ridenour's claims
of the popularity of her curriculum, praising its constitutionality and
without exception defending their privacy clause.
La Rae Munk of Eaton Rapids, board member of the American Family Association of Michigan also testified on January 8 before the Howell school board. Ms. Munk introduced herself as an
attorney representing NCBCPS. Like her comrade Glenn, she began
her testimony by attempting to discredit me. Then, Munk presented
a brief, unsupported argument defending the constitutionality of
NCBCPS's curriculum, its popularity and its policies, as if to render

l"

a legal opinion.
I am amazed at the number of jo rnalists who repeatedly, and
seemingly without question, publish NC CPS's claims of popularity

in public schools while not even flinching over the privacy clause.
How does that saying go-"If you hear it often enough it must be
true?"
As for me, I do not accept NCBCPS's boastful claims. I seriously question their privacy clause. I suspect it is merely a term
they use to silence the media. I
feel certain that NCBCPS's secretive policy is evidence of their fear
that identifying the public schools
that may be using their program
will, once again, invite an opportunity to expose and challenge
their controversial curriculum in
a court of law.

Arlene Marie is American Atheists Michigan State Director. She can be reached at
amarie@atheists.org

Not By Design
The Origin of the Universe
By Philip A. Stahl
Few questions are as fundamental in
man's timeless quest to understand
himself and his surroundings as
"Where did the universe come
from?" Its amazing orderliness
and complexity, and especially the
intricate structure and enormous
variety of life on Earth, are often
taken as evidence for a Grand
Design-some intelligence beyond
our experience that is responsible
for the patters of the cosmos."How is
it possible," people ask/that all this
could have happened by chance?"
In language easily grasped by the non-specialist, Victor
Stenger explains the fundamental structuring of the universe
as a chance event, with space, time, matter, and the laws of
nature the results of spontaneous processes. Historical and
philosophical material is intertwined with numerous examples
from everyday life in order to show how this picture is
consistent with a universe devoid of original plan or design.
The idea that the universe and everything in it was created
by some divine law-giver's Grand Design is a romantic notion
whose mystique holds much appeal for many philosophers and
theologians, but Stenger demonstrates that all the evidence
points to the hypothesis that the order we observer around us
evolved from the exponential inflation of the universe from an
original featureless black hole approximately 10-33 centimeter
in diameter, which is even more awe-inspiring.
VICTORJ. STENGERis professor of physics at the University of
Hawaii, and has been visiting professor at Oxford University,
Heidelberg University, and the National Institute for Nuclear
Physics in Italy.
'

Hardcover - 203 pp.


stock # 7000
$25.00 (Members Price: $22.50)

APRIL2007 -

AMERICAN ATHEIST

19

Atheist Singles
04-01-07 myself?

Now let me see, what can I say about

My name is Rocky. I'm 43 years young.

the guitar, drums and other instruments.

I play

I work with

many forms of martial

arts, for the art of it, not for

harm. I have a golden

Labrador.

would
natured

I trained

him. You

love him. I'd like to meet a warm, loving, good


woman

motorcycle.

and I'm hoping

she will like my fancy

I have a boy 25 and a girl 21, who do not

live with me. I do not smoke, drink or go to bars.

The "Atheist Singles" service is a benefit of membership in American Atheists. It is intended to help members find that
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representiQ9

The

YOU

Fo I\aers

nenCls...

January -

Madalyn

1/8 -

APRlL 2007

Michigan

State Director

held a press conference

the National
Michigan

1/8 -

Council of Bible Curriculum

Michigan

at Howell

regarding

State Director

Council

of Bible

in Public Schools) January

8, 2008.

The Florida Times Union ran a story on


American

Atheists winning

Jacksonville,

1/24 -

Atheists

School Board Meeting

NCBCPS (National

Curriculum

1/23 -

in

for the Howell,

Public Schools.

Arlene-Marie,
testified

with TV

News regarding

Public Schools being proposed

lawsuit

in

Florida.

Ellen Johnson

was a guest on "Charlotte

Talks"

on WFAE radio, to discuss Atheism.

1/25 -

To Our Cause.

The Stuart News in Florida ran a story on our


win in the Jacksonville

1/30 -

AMERICAN ATHEIST

Atheists

Ellen Johnson,

channel.

10, TV 6, TV 4 and the Detroit

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Horse Trading:
Christian Style
by Ron Wiggins

grew up in a grace-saying, gospel-quoting, little church in the


wildwood-loving South where one acknowledged a favor or
kindness by saying: "Why, that's mighty Christian of you." The
other side of that was: "You're goin' to the devil." That's what
you said if somebody was mean or spiteful. Un-Christ-like, in other
words. In the 1950s it was understood that the daily scripture reading
in grade school and compulsory recitation of the Lord's Prayer were all
that stood between a fallen mankind and apocalyptic annihilation.
Those minimalist pieties were good for keeping our nation in
God's good graces. Upkeep of the individual immortal soul was a lot
more high-maintenance. Add to collective worship, the individual
duties of Sunday-schooling, the regular church services, Sunday evening services for extra credit and Wednesday evening prayer meetings. Going through the motions was not enough. You had to love
God and the Baby Jesus with all your heart, strength and soul.
Still, that wasn't good enough, the old folks said. They clucked
their tongues and blessed their souls and lamented at what a bunch
of back-sliders this present generation was. City life, the automobile,
indecent movies and television were to blame. They distracted from
godliness. What was needed, they sermonized, was a return to farm
values of dawn to dusk toil, honesty and God-fearing behavior. Folks
were more upright in the old days. Deals were sealed with a nod and
a handshake. A man's word was his bond. In those days, perhaps up
until fifty years ago, we were reminded time and again, we were a
Christian nation. Heck fire! Locks weren't even invented until 1952,
because you didn't need them, we were assured.
I took all this guff with a pillar of salt. If people were a bit
more trustworthy in a rural, bygone America, maybe it's because if
you cheated someone, they knew where to find you, and there was no
shortage of horse whips and tar pots.
I let that dog lie for many years until ten years ago when a reader of my newspaper column in the Palm Beach Post sent me a yellowed
clipping from a Grange publication (The Grange, a farmers union organized in the mid-1800s to fight railroad and bank monopolies, was
outspokenly pro-Christian, and anti-Semitic). The article was devoted
to horse care. In an accompanying note, my correspondent wrote:
"And they say used car salesman are crooked. Get a load of this."
What followed were some recipes for making a lame horse appear healthy, and a healthy horse appear lame.
How to make Foundered and Spavined Horses go off Limber:
Take tincture cayenne, 1 oz; laudanum, 2 ozs., alcohol 1 pint; rub the
shoulder well with warm water, then rub the above on his shoulders and
backbone; give him one ounce of laudanum and one pint of gin; put it
down his throat with a pint bottle; put hisfeet in warm water as hot as he
can bear it; take a little spirits of turpentine, rub it on the bottom part of
hisfeet with a sponge after taking them out of the water; drive him about
a mile until he comes out limber as a rag. If he does not surrender to his
pain, tie a thin cord to the end of his tongue.
Now is this not curious? Why would anyone go to so much
trouble to make a lame horse appear ready for the Preakness? Could it
be that by making a sick and worn out horse appear game and frisky,

an unsuspecting buyer would pay top dollar for an animal otherwise


bound for the packing house? Wouldn't this be lying AND stealing
in the same transaction?
The Grange article gives another prescription for making an
"Old Horse Appear Young." The elixir calls for combining one ounce
each of tincture of asafetida, cantharides, oil of cloves, oil of cinnamon, antimony, fenugreek with a half gallon of brandy - to be
administered to the steed ten drops to the gallon of water.
I'm a benefit-of-the-doubt-giver from way back, so I will suppose that the Christian Granger was forgiven for wanting a sprucelooking horse to pull the buckboard. Keeping up with the Joneses
was surely an acceptable vanity. The notion of making an old horse
appear younger is a more dubious proposition. Nowadays if you roll
back the odometer, it's a felony and you go to jail. In the "a man's
word is his bond day" wasn't cheating your neighbor good for an Eticket to hell?
The next advisory is a poser. Why would a horse's owner want
to make an animal "appear as foundered"? And yet, here it is: "Fasten
a fine wire around the pastern joint at night, smooth the hair down,
and by morning he will walk as stiff as if foundered." This must have
passed as a bucolic parlor trick in the good old days. My irrepressible
cynical side wonders if such a horse were committed to a race, might
he leave the gates at fifty to one? More likely, a bidder might sneak
into a corral the night before an auction and "wire" a horse so he
could pick him up for pocket change and then remove the painful
wire. What's a little pain to a dumb brute where money is involved?
It's called dominion over animals and God's all for it.
Another possibility-I'm
wicked to even imagine these
things-you buy a horse for top dollar and then make him appear
crippled in hopes the honest previous owner will give you a healthy
rebate. Say it ain't so, Nineteenth Century Grangers!
I mentioned earlier that members of the farmers' union embraced God-given values. You'll find them in The Ten Commandments
of The Grange as they appeared in the Oshkosh Weekly Times of 16
December, 1874. "1. Thou shalt love the Grange with all thy heart and
with all thy soul and thou shalt love thy brother Granger as thyself" It
closes with: "10. Thou shalt have no Jewish middlemen between thy
farm and Liverpool to fatten on thy honest toil; Choke monopolies,
break up rings, vote for honest men, fear God and make money. So
shalt thou prosper and sorrow and hard times shall flee away."
Bottom line-let's hear no more claptrap about the sterling
values of a Bible-toting Jeffersonian yeomanry. Gov. Willy Stark in
Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" observed that man "is
conceived in sin and born in corruption, he passeth from the stink of
the didee to the stench of the shroud." And given that timeless truth,
how did Moses and the Grange omit that Eleventh Commandment?
Count your change; trust but verifY;watch your hat and coat.
And now if you'll excuse
me, I'm feeling a bit spavined, so
I think I'll tie a thin cord around
my tongue and consult that half
gallon of brandy in the medicine
cabinet.

Ron Wiggins is a retired columnist for The Palm Beach Post.


He can be reached at
vlavtildark@bellsouth.net .
::0

APRIL'2007 -

AMERICANATHEIST

21

A Personal Story
What helps make an Atheist?
by Roger Bouchard
rom the age of seven years onward, I easily saw
through the illogical, hypocritical beliefs and actions
of religions. The following experience in my past may
have helped to make me an Atheist, though there are
numerous other reasons too.
I was born in a small jerkwater town in Ontario, Canada in
1933, a family of five children, one brother and three sisters. I
was approximately six years of age when my mother died, at age
twenty-nine, at a Catholic hospital. Over the years, my inquiring
sister, concluded there had been an error in drugs administered,
involving some kidney ailment. This was the Hotel View Hospital
with nuns parading everywhere. In the meantime, back at the
ranch, my father could not look after us. We were poor as church
mice, and so, my younger sister went to my grandfather's home,
and the four of us went to the local orphanage run by priests
and nuns, who were well-fed, fat and sassy.There are numerous
experiences I could relate, but the following one is somewhat
unforgettable. The orphanage building was a stately, outstanding building on approximately five acres, in the center of town,
and the orphans played in the back yard, about three acres wellfenced in by a typical wooden Tom Sawyer-type fence.
Get ready to share with me, the beating of my life. One summer evening, one of the older boys found a loose board in the
fence near the nuns' private little park, in which
there were fruit trees, benches, flowers- their little
escape. I was six or seven years of age, as I followed
the older boys about 100 feet into the Garden of
Eden, and we all collected a few small green apples.
I recall picking them off the ground, as I was not
too tall. About a dozen of us returned to the yard
through the board-fence opening, back to the
play pen. That same evening, as we were preparing for bed in our bedrooms, consisting of about
forty, small, single cots, dressed in our hospital style
gowns, I recall myself being directed to the end of a
line of boys, as the line slowly moved forward.
The brain and youth might filter certain painful
experiences in life, but I'll explain, as best I well remember, and have never forgotten. One of the cots
in the center or the room was the focus of attention,
and as each boy arrived at the cot, he was made to
lie down on his stomach, flat on the bed. There was
two or three nuns who instructed the older boys to
hold our wrists and ankles, stretching us on the cot.
The nun lifted our loose garment to our shoulders revealing our tiny, sensitive, bare asses: as the
two older boys held us, the nuns began whipping
our butts. I remember screaming and contorting as
best I could to try to avoid the blows. There were
not just one or two strokes, but it went on and on.At
one point my brain told me, you can stop screaming
now Rodger, it doesn't hurt ANYMORE,and I do recall
becoming silent. Their whip was an old fashioned

22

AMERiCANATHEIST -

APRlL2007

ironing cord about the thickness of a little finger, doubled over,


for a better grip. The whip made a whistling sound as it swung
downward. The last blows felt like whipping a piece of cardboard
or box material, because the flesh was now 100% numb.
I later discovered that this penalty was for trespassing in
their private Garden of Evil- That apple tree- Ohhhh Those precious apples. It is quite possible that this experience among others was straw that completed the camel's doubts. Heaven help
us with people like that at the helm.The description of this event
was not written by a senile old fart, but by a very healthy and
youthful seventy-three-year-old.1 have built my own house, also
a 12000 sq. ft. barn (alone by the way) and in my senior youth I
find time for my 2002 Gold Wing motorcycle and a BMW 1200,
which I still enjoy, especially on sunny days. I've raised forty head
of Hereford cattle and as you can surmise, little dust settles on
my bones.
My favorite TV programs, which I greatly absorb, are the Science and History channels, especially those about our universe,
often hosted by Carl Sagan, a famous cosmologist. If one wished
to arrive at a sensible and realistic philosophy, or belief, he or she
might try watching thirty to fifty TV series on the universe. That
experience will bring you down to earth, and reality, if you have
even half a brain.

the probing mind

Easter: A Passover Connection?


by Frank Zindler

adalyn Murray O'Hair once quipped that the main


difference between Christians and cattle is that Christians come into rut twice a year - at Easter and at
Christmas - whereas other ungulates have only a single season in which to feel the frenzy. As we now approach the silly
season ofEastertide, it may be of interest to reflect upon the origins of
the religious festival that bears the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess
of fertility and the dawn-Eastre.
We find a clue to the origin of Easter in the fact that 'Easter'
isn't easter in all European languages. In French it is called Paques,
in Spanish it is Pascua de Resurreccion; in Italian it is Pasqua, and the
Easter season is il tempo pasquale. (Readers will see here the meaning of the Italian personal name Pasquale.) Although all three of the
languages cited descend from Latin, their names for Easter actually
derive from the Greek Pascba, which in turn derives from the Hebrew
Pesacb, a word meaning 'Passover.' Thus, at least for Mediterranean
Christians, Easter implies a connection with the Jewish celebration
of Passover.
The nature of this connection - at least superficially - is easy
to discover from a reading of the so-called Passion narratives of the
gospels that now form a part of the Christian New Testament. Although there are disagreements in the details provided by the evangelists, they roughly agree in placing the Last Supper, the Trial of Jesus,
the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus in the time-frame of
a Jewish celebration of Passover. According to John 19: 14, Jesus was
crucified on "the eve ofPassover"-although
some manuscripts have
"Friday in Passover." Anciently this was understood to mean that Jesus
had been crucified on the fourteenth of the Jewish month of Nisan.
The other gospels, however, place 'Good Friday' on the fifteenth of
that month. In any case, the supposed 'First Easter' of the Christians
is supposed to have occurred in the midst of the Passover festival of
the Jews. This scriptural connection between the two holidays is so
strong in the minds of many believers, that for many Easter is 'the
Christian Passover'-of which I shall have more to say later.

Passing over to Passover ...

Many people assert that we cannot understand the real meaning of Easter unless we understand the real meaning of Passover, and
so it may be illuminating to refresh our minds concerning the Jewish
seasonal silliness before considering the Christian festal foolishness.
Although the standard explanation is that Passover celebrates the miraculous freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and their 'Exodus' to the promised land of Canaan/Palestine, archaeology knows
of no Hebrew presence in Egypt at the required time and increasing
numbers of scholars now are coming to view the tall tales of the Torah

as so many tendentious legends concocted to justify the real estate


claims of Jude an priests and kings of a much later time.
The Torah tale of the first Passover begins (Exodus 3:21-22)
with Yahweh, the pet god of the Israelites, telling the Proto-Jews to
ingratiate themselves with the Egyptians and then rob them:
'1 will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians
that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed. Every
woman shall ask her neighbor for jewelry of silver and gold
and for clothing. Load your sons and daughters with them
and plunder Egypt. " [NEB}
After everything was made ready for the Holy Heist, Yahweh
told the Jews to kill, cook, and consume a lamb or kid, using the
blood to help the forgetful and less-than-omniscient godlet distinguish Jewish homes from Egyptian houses in the dark. The ghoulish
affair is described in Exodus, chapter 12:
On the tenth day of this month let each man take a lamb
or a kid for his family, one for each household... Your
lamb or kid must be without blemish, a yearling male.
You may take equally a sheep or a goat. You must have it
in safe keeping until the fourteenth day of this month, and
then all the assembled community of Israel shall slaughter
the victim between dusk and dark. They must take some
of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the
lintel of every house in which they eat the lamb. On that
night they shall eat the flesh roast on the fire; they shall
eat it with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs. You are not
to eat any of it raw or even boiled in water, but roasted,
head, shins, and entrails. You shall not leave any of it till
morning; if anything is left over until morning, it must be
destroyed by fire. [NEB}
After telling the Jews that they must eat the meat, head, and
guts with their belts fastened, their sandals on, and holding a staff in
their hands (I'm not making this upl), Yahweh tells them that he is
about to inaugurate the divine institution of mass murder:
It is the LORD's [i.e., Yahweh's} Passover. On that night
I shall pass through the land of Egypt and kill every firstborn of man and beast. Thus will I execute judgement, I
the LORD, against all the gods of Egypt. And asfor you, the
blood will be a sign on the houses in which you are: when I
see the blood I will pass over you; the mortal blow shallnot
touch you, when I strike the land of Egypt. [NEB}
APRIL2007 -

AMERICAN ATI-IEISI

I often wonder why modern Jews aren't embarrassed by this


story and why on earth they continue to celebrate a festival commemorating it. After all, the Exodus fable admits that the gods of Egypt
are real. Secondly, it says that Yahweh - their 'LORD' - got even with
those gods by killing innocent people and animals. Thirdly, it claims
that the great Jehovah ordered deception and robbery. Fourthly, it
admits that this petty Near Eastern godlet couldn't tell Israelites from
Egyptians unless they had blood on their doorposts! Wouldn't any
decent person be ashamed to be associated with such a catalog of
crudities and crimes?

Despite all these ethical and theological problems, the moral


outrage known as Passover has been celebrated for over two thousand
years. In modern times, most Jews outside Israel celebrate it as an
eight-day-long festival, but Israeli Jews and Reform Jews observe it
for the biblically specified seven-day period. In either case, Passover
begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of
Nisan (Abib or Aviv). In the year 2007 this coincides with sundown
on April 10. In Israel, the first and seventh days of the festival are
'full festivals,' meaning that one is to abstain from work as though
it were a Sabbath day and take part in special prayer services and
special holiday meals. In the Diaspora, with its eight-day celebration,
the first two days and the last two days are full festivals. During the
entire period, only unleavened bread - matzo - can be eaten, and all
leaven and leavened food products are scrupulously removed from
the house.
Although modern Jews generally lament the destruction of
the Temple of Yahweh in 70 CE as a catastrophe, it really was great
good fortune for those with modern sensitivities as it changed forever
the nature of the Passover sacrifice and the Passover meal. We may
recall that Yahweh demanded that a special Paschal Lamb (Korban
Pesach) be killed, roasted, and eaten head, shins, entrails, and all. And
yes, Jews had to eat it with their belts fastened, their sandals on, and
while holding a staff in their hands. They don't have to do that any
more. Instead, they just memorialize this sacrifice by placing a roasted
shankbone on the table during the ceremonial meal (Seder) held on
the first evening of Passover. Best of all, they no longer have to take
24

AMERICAN

Arnasr -

APRIL 2JXJ7

a cuddly little lamb to a priest to have him slit its throat. No, all that
now is passe.
The Passover Seder takes its name from the Hebrew word for
order, in reference to the specific program followed during the long
ceremonial meal. There are fifteen parts to the order of service, including four blessings, eating matzo, bitter herbs and other foods,
and drinking four cups of kosher wine. From an anthropological perspective, the Seder supper is much more primitive than modern readers might suppose. That is due to all the 'blessings' -the magical use
of words to bring good luck and increase fertility. It is easily forgotten that blessings are the opposite
of curses, and that both types of
verbal excrescence originally were
believed to be efficacious-that is,
they were intended as magical incantations that could affect their
target for good or for ill as the case
might be.
As already indicated, the
Passover holiday is generally interpreted as the celebration of the
liberation of the Jews from their
supposed servitude in Egypt and
a commemoration of their exodus
to the 'Promised Land'-with
all
the property rights and privileges
pertaining thereto. However, there
is evidence in the Torah itself that
this is a later tradition superimposed upon an earlier spring harvest festival. (In the Near East territory relevant to the Passover stories
of the Hebrew Bible, the first harvest is collected in spring, not in
autumn as is customary in Europe and North America.) Leviticus
23: 10 mandates a nature feast, a sacrifice of the first fruits of the field.
Many scholars understand this as a fertility festival that later gave rise
to Passover as commonly understood.
The thesis that Passover began as a spring fertility festival is
supported by the results of etymological studies of the Hebrew word
pesach (,Passover') itself. The related verb pasach, which can mean
'passed over,' can also mean 'danced' or 'skipped,' and may refer to
the skipping of young lambs and kids. Thus, Pesach may originally
have been a vernal (spring) festival celebrating the birth of young
lambs and kids which took place around the time of the vernal equinox. This would help us understand why a lamb particularly is the
sacrifice required at Passover and why the holiday is celebrated in
spring near the vernal equinox.
Passing over Passover to Easter
We have already noted that the gospels relate the Passion narrative to the time of Passover and that some Christians consider Easter
to be the 'Christian Passover.' Just as Passover falls at different times
in the solar Gregorian calendar, so too does Easter-the date of which
is defined in a round-about way but clearly is tied to Passover. The ancient Christians known as the Quartodecimans ('fourteenthers' in Latin) celebrated the Christian Passover on the fourteenth ofNisan-the
date on which the Jews marked the beginning of Passover. In Western
Christianity generally, however, Easter falls on the first Sunday after

the first Paschal full moon on or after the vernal equinox. (The equinox usually falls on March 21, and a Paschal full moon is determined
by consulting religious tables rather than by actual astronomical observations, but it is usually close to astronomical reality.)
As I have noted already twice, some Christians celebrate a
'Christian Passover.' Anciently, it would appear that this coincided
exactly with the Jewish Passover and could be celebrated on any day
of the week permissible for Passover. Almost certainly, this was the
practice of the Judaizing Christians who viewed Christianity as an
outgrowth ofJudaism rather than as a solar mystery religion that had
recently 'gone public' -a religion whose mysteries had all been rewritten and recast as apparent biography and history.
Christians organizationally closer to the solar mystery-cult
origins of Christianity, however, insisted on celebrating not a Christian Passover but a completely separate Resurrection Memorial-on a
Sunday, the day of the Sun God. (The earliest representation we have
of Christ is a mosaic found underneath the Vatican. In the picture,
Christ is shown as Helios driving the solar chariot through the sky.)
Anicetus, Bishop of Rome around the year 155 CE, defended
the ending of the pre-Easter fast (Lent) on the Sunday after 14 Nisan
- what is now called Easter Sunday - rather than on 14 Nisan as
maintained by the Church Father Polycarp from Asia Minor. Later
popes anathematized the Quartodecimans and outlawed the Christian Passover as a feast celebrated at the same time as the Jewish
Passover. The Catholic Church became ever more anti-Semitic in its
rejection and suppression of the Judaizers in the Church. Finally, at
the Council ofNicaea in 325 CE, the emperor Constantine the Great
squashed forever Jewish-style celebration of Easter.
Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine (Bk. 3, ch. 18) quotes Constantine as saying "it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews,
who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are,
therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. ... Let us then
have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we
have received from our Saviour a different way."
A letter that Constantine allegedly wrote to bishops who had
been unable (or unwilling?) to attend the Council ofNicaea is recorded in Section 1.9 ofTheodoret's Ecclesiastical History. Reporting on
the affairs of the Council, "The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine"
explained the Easter controversy thusly:
It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the
custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival
because, their hands having been stained with crime, the
minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. ...
Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who
are our adversaries .... avoiding all contact with that evil
way. . .. who, after having compassed the death of the
Lord. being out of their minds, are guided not by sound
reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them .... a people so utterly depraved.
. .. Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected. in order
that we may no more have any thing in common with
those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews.
Et Resurrexit ...
If Easter originally had nothing to do with the Jewish Passover, what exactly was it all about? This is difficult to answer, be-

The Atheist's Handbook


to Modern Materialism
By Philip A. Stahl
Philip A. Stahl has written numerous
general astronomy articles including
forThe Barbados Advocate a series
called "Discovering the Stars"from
1975 through 1990. He has also
authored or co-authored specialist
papers in journals such as Solar
Physics,and The Journal of the
Royal Astronomical Society of
Canada as well as in the Meudon
To Modern Materialism
(France) Proceedings on Solar Flares
Philip .\. Slhl
(1984) while serving as the Editor
ofThe Journal of the Barbados
Astronomical Society (1977-1991).
Mr. Stahl taught and lectured in Physics,Mathematics and
Astronomy in Barbados before returning to the U.s. in
January, 1992.While in Barbados, he participated in debates
on evolution with priests, ministers, scripture teachers, and
religious colleagues. In addition he's had many letters and
articles on Atheism and humanism published in the Barbados
press, as well as in The Baltimore Sun.
From The Atheist's Handbook to Modern Materialism:
"The beauty of Materialism is that it is minimalist by definition.
By its very nature, focusing on manifestations of matter, fields
and energy, it excludes distracting and unverified entities such
as spirits, souls ..."

THE RTHEIST'S
HRNDBOOH
1.lih~J I" Ik

nit h.!I-d

L \tahl

Paperback. 250 pp.


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cause Christianity began as a mystery religion and the mysteries that


it originally guarded in secret remain ... well ... mysterious. Even
so, it is abundantly clear that Christianity began as a solar cult that
focused on the mysteries of the sun. The solar origin of the Christian
cult is still to be discerned in the rites and observances that attend the
modern festival.
Consider first the Easter fire. Before midnight on Holy Saturday, after all lights have been put out, in many churches there is the
kindling and blessing of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Paschal
candle-a symbol of the Risen Christ. The new fire, I assert, is simply
the new sun that will illuminate worshipers throughout the course of
a new year. (In many ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures, the new year began in spring at the equinox.)
Even more strikingly solar is the modern continuation of
the ancient practice of the Sunrise Service, where worshipers hold
a prayer service coincident with the rising of the sun on a Sunday
morning. To be sure, this apparently pagan practice is rationalized
ad nauseam and forced it la Procrustes into a Christian framework.
Even so, it provides a window through which to peer into the past
practices of the cult.
If Easter is a solar festival, what is to be made of the pervasive
resurrection motif that defines not only the festival of Easter but even
the Christian religion itself? We may find a clue in the timing of the
festival.
As we have seen, the date of Easter is defined in terms of the
vernal equinox, and we must try to understand the significance of
APRlL2007 -

AMEiuCANAn-iEIST

25

that equinox to ancient Mediterranean minds. Unlike most moderns,


the ancients were extremely aware of what was going on in the skyespecially in the night sky. The motions of the heavenly bodies were
followed carefully even by ordinary people, who used the sky as a
celestial time clock and calendar combined. In ancient times, the vernal equinox was the time that the sun - a god, you know, like all the
other heavenly bodies - appeared to climb above the celestial equator
and grow in warmth and strength. The sun moved from death to life.
The sun had been resurrected.
It is perhaps of interest to note that the apparent path of the
sun (the ecliptic) does not intersect the imaginary line of the celestial
equator at a right angle, but rather at an acute angle of 23.5 degrees.
To speakers of Greek - as were the inventors of Christianity - the
intersection of the rwo lines must have seemed just like a giant letter
Chi, an X-shaped letter of the Greek alphabet. It is no accident, I suggest, that the oldest versions of the Christian cross are indistinguishable from graffito Chi-so Nor is it accidental that the oldest known use
of the Chi-Rho symbol (the symbol that looks like a capital X with a
capital P superimposed upon it) is as an abbreviation for Chronos, the
Greek god of time who had become identified with Mithra-a Christlike god of another solar mystery cult popular at the turn of the era.
Having just mentioned "the turn of the era," I must explain
the phrase as it relates both to our understanding of Easter and to
Christianity. Just what was it that marked the end of one era of time
and the beginning of a new one? The birth ofJesus of Nazareth? This
is not likely, as there was no inhabited place called Nazareth at the
time Jesus was supposed to have lived there. Rather, the 'New Age'
was marked by an apparent motion of the sun or, rather, a motion of
the Sun God.
The so-called Christian Era began when the sun at the vernal
equinox moved from the zodiacal sign of Aries (the lamb or ram) into
Pisces (the fishes). A consequence of the 'precession of the equinoxes,'
the position of the sun at the vernal equinox against the fixed stars
slowly moves along the line of the zodiac, traversing a single sign in
a little over 2,100 years. Mithraism, a mystery cult that immediately
. preceded Christianity, appears to have been founded to mark a previous precessional transition-the
movement of the vernal equinox
from Taurus (the bull) into Aries. The next 'New Age' will be the Age
of Aquarius. As the song says, we now are at "the dawning of the Age
of Aquarius."
There are many telling parallelisms berween Christianity and
Mithraism, Not only were Christ and Mithra both born of virgins
on the winter solstice, they both were savior gods. A central icon of
Mithraism was the image of a sacrifice: Mithra slaying a bull. This
appears to have been a symbolic recognition of the 'killing' of Taurus,
as the sun god Mithra moved out of Taurus into Aries. Not acciden- .
tally, I suggest, Christ is represented as a sacrificial Iamb. I think this
represents the movement of the sun god Christ Helios from Aries
into Pisces. When Judaizers tried to reinterpret the Christian mystery
cult as actually a derivative ofJudaism, the celestial 'Iamb' became the
Passover lamb-while still continuing to be a celestial being!
Christ as the 'Lamb of God' thus symbolizes the passage of
the sun out of the astrological sign of Aries. But what of the zodiacal house into which it moved to inaugurate the New Age? The astrological symbol for Pisces is rwo fishes, usually joined by a piece
of fish-line. Although modern fundamentalist Christians sport the
symbol of a fish on their muscle shirts and on the rear ends of their
SUVs, this was not true in ancient times. The early Christians used
rwo fishes to advertise their religion-exactly the same symbol used
by astrologers to mark the zodiacal sign of Pisces.
26

AMERICANAnmsr

APRlL2007

Resurrections

in Spring

Many scholars have noted the similarity of Easter and its resurrected god to the rites and saviors of the other mystery cults current at the turn of the era, and many fundamentalist Christians have
decried and disavowed the obviously pagan elements associated with
the festival. While I cannot discuss this interesting question in any
detail, I may simply note that it is likely that all the dying and resurrecting savior gods who were popular at the time Christianity was
invented - Mithra, Osiris, Attis, Tammuz, et al. - were resurrected in
spring. It is likely too that they all were symbols of fertility, of both
fields and flocks. In northern spring around the time of the vernal
equinox, vegetation revives from apparent death, and animals that
soon may die now bear young that will survive them. Small wonder
then, that the celebration of Easter in many places and numerous
ages has involved elements appropriate for fertility cults. Easter eggs
scarcely require explanation, and it is hardly surprising that the eggs
are delivered by an Easter rabbit, not an Easter elephant.

Frank R. Zindler is the managing editor of American Atheists


Press and the author of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, a book that argues
that the ancient Jews never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, they had
never heard of Nazareth either. Formerly a professor of biology and geolo~ for many years now he has worked as a linguist and science writer.
He receives e-nail at editor@atheists.org.

The Jesus Puzzle


by Earl Doherty
Why are the events of the Gospel
story, and its central character Jesus
Dld~_wilh._koIChri'l?
of Nazareth, not found in the new
Testament epistles?
Why does Paul's divine Christ seem
to have no connection to the Gospel
Jesus,but closely resembles the
many pagan savior gods of the time
who lived only in myth?
Why, given the spread of Christianity
across the Roman Empire in the
first century, did only one Christian
community compose a story of
Jesus' life and death-the Gospel of
Mark-while every other Gospel simply copied and reworked
the first one?
Why is every detail of the Gospel story of Jesus' trial and
crucifixion drawn from the passages of the Old Testament?
The answer to these and other questions surrounding the New
Testament will come as a shock to those who imagine that
the origins of Christianity and the figure of Jesus are securely
represented by Christian tradition and the Gospels. With the
arrival of the third millennium, the time has come to face the
stunning realization that for the last 1900 years, Christianity
has revered a founder and icon of the faith who probably
never existed.
paperback - 380 pp.
stock # 5599
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god would be an atheist...

One Person's Moderation


... Is Another's Extremism
by Martin Foreman

astyear my reluctantly Atheist mother read the first four


columns of God would be an atheist ... and resolved never
to read another. My writing was too aggressive, she said.
I didn't ask which column had offended her. It could
have been my depiction of the evolution of religion or my assertion
that traditional religious morality is moral only in name.
My analysis of the Noah myth was designed to produce laughter, not outrage, and my wondering about how Creationists explain the
koala's long journey from Mount Ararat in Turkey to eastern Australia
made a serious point. [Ed: wouldn't it be more problematic to explain
how it got from Australia to Mount Ararat in the first place?]
The most likely offender was my riff on the importance of
men in many religions. Noting God's preference for priests with testicles, I suggested solemn rituals to reassure congregations that their
priest, imam or rabbi was appropriately equipped.
Others have been turned off by my musings. My ex-partner,
an agnostic, thinks I should not disturb those who are comforted by
religion. I occasionally lose subscribers when I skate into explicitly
sexual territory-although
I would prefer people dropped out after
reading one of my less well argued pieces.
Nor am I the only author to give offense. New York times
columnist Nicholas Kristof recently vented his anger at Richard
Dawkins', Sam Harris and other members of the "Atheist Left", accusing them of being as intolerant as the religious right.
As proof of their (imlrnoral equivalence, Kristof pointed out
that Atheists Mao and Stalin were responsible for millions of deaths.
In rebuttal, Harris and others pointed out that unlike Christians,
Jews and Muslims who kill for their faith, no leader in history has
killed to impose Atheism on their own or a neighboring people.
Do those of us who argue consistently and repeatedly against
religion stand on the fringes of society? Will we-should we-be relegated to a footnote in history, like the Wobblies, the Shakers and
American Tories?
Few people see themselves as extremists. Like the one soldier
in the platoon marching on the wrong foot, we are convinced that
everyone else is out of step.
And we can always point to people or ideas more extreme than
our own.
After all, I don't want to ban religion. I just want to make it a
crime for an adult to involve children in any form of religious activity,
including the teaching of Creationism or "Intelligent" Design.
I don't want to tear down churches or destroy religious artifacts. Some of the grandest architecture and most beautiful paintings
and sculptures have religious themes.
I don't want to burn any Bibles or Korans, but I do want them
shelved in the fiction section of bookshops and libraries.

My greatest anger is for those who kill and wound in the name
of faith, but I would treat them no differently in the judicial process.
Individuals would be tried and sentenced by regular courts, and political leaders by the International Court of Criminal Justice (ICCJ).
(The sooner America stops claiming exemption from the ICCJ, the
more effective that court will become.)
In a free society, the behavior of individual adults is of no concern to the state or their neighbors, as long as that behavior respects
the freedom of others and as long as the vulnerable are protected. I
have no more objection to Christians worshipping God than I do to
marijuana smokers, model railroaders or students of Klingon.
Reluctantly, however, I accept that these views, based on
sound principles of reason and freedom, are considered extreme by
the majority of Americans. [Are these really considered "extreme" by
the "majority" of Americans?]
But like every other extremist, I want my views to become
mainstream. I want the Pope and his equivalents in other religions to
be relegated to the fringes of society.
So I write this column to propound my views and persuade
others to accept them. (Given its association with religion, I avoid the
word "convert" when discussing Atheism.)
But how effective is GWBAA ... ? While it may make some
believers reconsider their faith, none of the Christians who write to
me are convinced by my arguments.
Yet it would be surprising if they were. Faith is the product of
years of indoctrination and the development of a specific mindset. A
900 word column by someone who thinks very differently from you
is unlikely to change your mind, unless it is already moving in that
direction.
I suspect that most of my readers know that God is an illusion.
But I hope I still provide at least some of you with the tools we all need
to chip away at the ignorance and superstition which surrounds us.
We can reassure ourselves that much of the mainstream began
at the edges. Civil rights, heliocentricity and Barney, were all once
minority preoccupations. Today Atheists are extremists, but one day,
hopefully soon, we will be recognized as the voice of moderation.
If God existed, he would ...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an Atheist.

All Rights Reserved Martin Foreman


Mr. Foreman can be reached at martin@godwouldbeanatheist.com

APRlL2007 -

AMERiCANATHElsr

27

news

Churches Use
Super Bowl
Sunday To Reach
New People
by Matt Sedensky
Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP)-FooTBALL's
faithful will file into house parties, bars
and, of course, Dolphin Stadium on
Super Bowl Sunday to observe their
holiest of holy days. But they'll also
turn out in force at churches actoss
the country, which are tapping the
popularity of sports in hopes of saving souls.
Organizers of church-sponsored
Super Bowl gatherings see the events
as a departure from the formality
of organized religion-the
type of
events that could make someone
who doesn't typically attend services
feel more at hom~.
"It's a way of reaching out into
our community in a very informal,
low-key way where we show people
we're regular Joe~ like they are without the pressurCf of church," said
Pastor Luis Acosta of Pines Baptist
Church, a Southern Baptist congregation north of Miami in Pembroke
Pines.
Pines Baptist has been holding
Super Bowl eve' ts for a few years
and expects about 300 people, mostly men, at its flag football game and
watch party this year. The church
drew about 250\ people to a block
party Jan. 13 w~ich featured NFLrherned games, r former Dolphins
..
I
hs an d zi
I
payers
slgnmg
alltograp
gIveaways including I plasma television.
Acosta said the church doesn't
take a heavy-handed approach to
nonbelievers who join in such events.
There won't be so much as a prayer
at the Super Bo' I Sunday event. If
a guest enjoys himself, a member
might invite hi~ to a church social
group meeting, then maybe a Bible
study, then perhaps an actual service.
"We just follow God's lead,"
Acosta said.
Pastor Mike Pierce of the non-denominational Poplar Creek Church
in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett,
Ill., takes a similar approach. About
100 people will watch the game on
the big screen in the sanctuary. Like
28

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APRIL 7007

other church events-including


a
carnival, a play and a pig roast-it's
meant to simply create a friendly,
fun environment, but not an overtly
religious one.
"We don't turn everything into a
spiritual event," Pierce said. "Good,
clean fun is still spiritual."
Many pastors agree, simply trying to make their churches welcoming environments for new guests.
Carrollwood Baptist Church in
Tampa has been holding a Super
Bowl gathering for more than I}
years and attendees have become''so
comfortable at the event that some
bring recliners from home.
"I like it because it's very laid
back," said Robert Smith, a 32year-old Rockford, Ill., resident who
has attended Super Bowl parties at
Dominion Christian Center there.
"There's no pressure."
Churches also are aware many
people are unwilling to do anything
other than watch the game on Super
Bowl Sunday.
"We can offer a good event surrounding something the culture uses
or we can just hold church and no
one's going to come," said Jim Waters, an associate pastor and minister
to students at First Baptist Church
in Milton in the Florida Panhandle.
Like many other churches holding Super Bowl events, the Milton
congregation will screen "Power to
Win," a video featuring Christian
NFL stars, during halftime.
Some churches are using the Super Bowl as an opportunity to reach
the poor.
A number of Nashville churches will host the homeless, feeding
them, washing their clothes, letting
them watch the game on big-screen
TVs and giving them a bed to sleep
in on Super Bowl Sunday. And at St.
Joseph's Catholic Church in Libertyville, Ill., members will gather donations to help fund the parish food
pantry, another one for the larger
community, and a school under construction for African orphans.
William Baker, a retired University of Maine professor who has
written two books about sports and
religion, says the interplay between
the two dates back to ancient times,
and that in modern-day America,
evangelical Christians make the
most of the relationship. He calls
sports part of the new "American

trinity"-along
with religion and
patriotism.
"Any visitor from Mars on Super
Sunday, whether he watches television or goes to the stadium in Miami," Baker said, "would say these
people believe, maybe in God, but
for sure they believe in the American flag and in the flyover military
display and in patriotism, but most
surely they believe in sports."
Baker said evangelicals had long
rejected sports-for
the gambling
it often fueled, for it often being
played on the Sabbath and for the
general bacchanalia that it was associated with. But they eventually
realized they shared athletes' winor-lose take on the world (only one
team steps off the field victorious,
and only believers are rewarded after
death) and wanted to take advantage
of the immense reach of athletic
competition.
"Sport becomes a kind of fish
hook to catch the unbelievers," he
said.

Third Time In
Court For Suit
Over Censorship
Of Religious
Poster
by William Kates
Associated Press Writer
SYRACUSE,NY (AP)-An
upstate
New York school district censored
a kindergartner's poster because it
contained a drawing of Jesus, a lawyer for the boy's family said as the
case returned to federal court for the
third time.
"The law is clear that schools
may not discriminate against the
religious viewpoints of students
who address permissible subjects
in response to class assignments,"

Mathew Staver, a lawyer for Liberty


Counsel, a Fla.-based civil libertarian education and legal defense organization, said Tuesday.
The case of Antonio Peck was
sent back to U.S. District Judge
Norman Mordue after the U.S. Supreme Court last April refused to
hear it. The high court's action left
in place a decision made in October
2005 by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals that the case should go to
trial to determine if the poster was
censored by the Baldwinsville Central School District because of its
religious viewpoint.
The Peck family had sought a
jury trial but Mordue last week rejected that.request, On Monday, the
judge heard testimony from the boy's
mother, Joanne Peck, his former
teacher, and his former principal.
Mordue gave lawyers 60 days to
file any additional legal papers. Staver said a ruling was not likely until
later in the year.
"We think we have shown that a
secular picture would not have been
covered up and this was censored
only because of its religious nature,"
Staver said. "And that is unlikely that
anyone would have misconstrued
the full display of Antonio's picture
as the school district supporting the
establishment of a religion."
. The lawsuit dates to June 1998,
when Peck and his classmates at the
Catherine McNamara Elementary
School in Baldwinsville were given
an assignment to create a poster
about the environment.
Antonio, now 14 and in seventh
grade, turned in a poster with religious images and written references
to God and Jesus. School officials
rejected it and allowed Antonio to
submit a second poster.
The second poster was a crayon
drawing of children picking up garbage, with a kneeling man in a flowing robe nearby reaching out his
hands to the clouds above. There
were no words identifying the figure
as Jesus.
School officials displayed the
poster, but it was folded in half so
the picture of the robed man was not
visible. Teacher Susan Weichert and
Principal Robert Creme, who testified Monday, objected to the poster
because they said it promoted one
religion over another and could offend others.

news
The Pecks, who attend a Pentecostal church, sued in November
1999, accusing school officials of violating Antonio's First Amendment
right to free speech. The family also
said the suburban Syracuse school
district violated federal guidelines
regarding religious expression in
public schools.
In dismissing the case the first
time in 2000, Mordue said Weichert
had good reasons for rejecting the
poster: It didn't fulfill the assignment,
it may not have been Antonio's work
and it could have given other parents
the impression the school district
was teaching religion.
The appeals court overturned
that ruling, saying the Pecks were
entitled to investigate their claim in
court through discovery, including
depositions.
Mordue again dismissed the case
in August 2004 after ruling the discovery process produced no new evidence that would cause him to rule
differently.

Removal Of Cross
From Virginia
College's Historic
Chapel Raises
Ruckus Among
Alumni
by William Kates
Associated Press Writer
WILLIAMSBURG,VA {AP)-As
a
Catholic, Vince Haley often went
to Mass at the College of William
and Mary's historic Wren Chapel
when he was an undergraduate in
the 1980s. Also a Catholic, school
President Gene R. Nichol often goes
to the 120-seat chapel alone at night
to think in the quiet.
Both agree the chapel is a sacred
space meaningful to students, alumni, faculty and staff of the public
school who use it for religious services and secular events.
They clash, though, over what
to do with an unadorned, 18-inch
brass cross that had been displayed
on the altar since about 1940.
Nichol ordered the cross removed in October to make the chapel more welcoming to students of

all faiths. Previously, the cross could


be removed by request; now it can be
returned by request.
"It's the right thing to do to
make sure that this campus is open
and welcoming to everyone," Nichol
said. "This is a diverse institution religiously, and we want it to become
even more diverse."
Haley and more than 10,000
supporters who have signed his
online petition since last fall want
Nichol to put the cross back on the
altar permanently. More than 1,100
students, alumni and others have
signed a petition in support of Nich01 since Jan. 3l.
In response to early protests,
Nichol decided In December to
return the cross to the chapel on
Sundays, and he recently created a
committee that will examine the role
of religion at public universities and
the use of the chapel.
The school's governing Board of
Visitors meets this coming Thursday and Friday, and Haley and his
supporters-including
some alumni
who have threatened to withhold
donations until the cross is permanently restored-want
the panel to
overrule Nichol. The board's agenda
will not be available until midweek,
a school spokesman said.
"The message that is sent by removing the cross is that we no longer
value that part of our heritage, and
that's a mistake," said Haley, research
director at the American Enterprise
Institute for former House speaker
Newt Gingrich. "It reflects a view
that religious symbols-religion and
the public expression thereof-are
somehow an obstacle for us to get
along with one another."
Nichol, who became president
in 2005, said perhaps 20 people
mentioned concerns about the chapel's cross to him during his first year
and a half in the job.
"Does that marvelous place belong to everyone, or is it principally
for our Christian students?" Nichol
said. "Do we actually value religious
diversity, or have we determined,
because of our history, to endorse a
particular religious tradition to the
exclusion of others?"
William and Mary, founded by
royal charter in 1693 with a mission that included training Anglican
ministers, is the nation's second-oldest university after Harvard. Alumni

include President Thomas Jefferson.


William and Mary became a
public school in 1906.
The chapel, built in 1732, is a
wing of the Wren Building, which
the university says is the country's
oldest academic building in continuous use, built between 1695 and
1699.
The issue has drawn the attention of prominent conservatives
including Gingrich, who recently
weighed in with an opinion column.
The student assembly defeated
a resolution to rerum the cross, and
Nichols' decision was endorsed by
faculty and by Campus Ministers
United, Jewish and Christian clergy
who advise campus religious organizations.
Student Clare Ngomba said she
was initially shocked by Nichol's action because she is a Christian, but
said she came to agree with him.
"Because we're a public college,
it's a better thing so that people are
more open and more welcomed into
the community," said Ngomba, 19,
of Fredericksburg.
Ro' ee Mor, a student from Israel,
said that as an Orthodox Jew he was
uncomfortable when he and other
freshmen were taken to the chapel
during orientation.
Since the cross' removal, he
sometimes goes to the chapel to
meditate. "I feel more an integral
part of the community due to this
symbolic action," he said.
Oscar Blayton, a Williamsburg
lawyer who in the early 1960s was
the first black person to attend William and Mary as an undergraduate,
sees having the cross on display all
the time as religious bigotry.
"Some of these people that are
upset about the cross issue have a
notion that it is a predominantly
Christian community and Christians have more rights than other
people," Blayton said.

Judge Sentences
Foreigners For
Partying, Alcohol,
Unmarrieds
Mingling
Associated Press
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA-A Saudi
Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend
several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party
where alcohol was served and men
and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The defendants were among
433 foreigners, including some 240
women, arrested by the kingdom's religious police for attending the party
in Jiddah, the state-guided newspaper Okaz said. It did not identify the
foreigners, give their nationalities or
say when the party took place.
Judge Saud al-Boushi sentenced
the 20 to prison terms of three to
four months and ordered them to
receive an unspecified number of
lashes, the newspaper said. They
have the right to appeal, it added.
The prosecutor general charged
the 20 with "drinking, arranging for
impudent party, mixed dancing and
shooting a video for the party," Okaz
said.
The paper said the rest of those
arrested were awaiting trial.
Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation ofIslam under which it
bans alcohol and meetings between
unrelated men and women.
The religious police, a force
resented by many Saudis for interfering in personal lives, enjoys wide
powers. Its officers roam malls, markets, universities and other public
places looking for such infractions
as unrelated men and women mingling, men skipping Islam's five daily prayers and women with strands
of hair showing from under their
veil.
In May, the Interior Ministry
restricted the powers of the religious
police to just arresting suspects, because the police sometimes had held
people incommunicado and insisted
on taking part in ensuing investigations.
2007 The Associated Press

APRIL 2007

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

29

Foxhole Atheist of the Month


Richard Peters
am most definitely an Atheist. I've gone through the full cycle
of emotion regarding Christianity. Like a pendulum, I've swung
from casual acceptance, to agreement, to full conversion, to biblethumping extremism; then back again through doubt, skepticism
and finally opposition. I lost my faith shortly before joining the Army
in 2002 and serving five years. I went through rwo tours in Iraq. One
for fifteen months, starting in May 03, and another twelve-month tour
starting Nov 05. My highest rank was equivalent to corporal, bur because I had a bit of a rebellious streak, I never made sergeant. Which
is not something I regret; because I was quite disrespectful, and "too
opinionated. "
To make a long story short, I've finally moved on to bigger and better things. I married an amazing German woman, (I was stationed in
the Deutschland in berween deployments) and am currently working
on a degree in engineering at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. If you want to hear about an interesting anecdote from
Iraq; a violent moment where I defied convention and remained an
Atheist, here's one for you.
I suppose this could be the scariest moment of my life, which actually came after the action. But first, here is a brief explanation of fear in
combat before I go into that. Prior to your first fight you don't know
enough to be afraid; after the first one it becomes somewhat routine.
During a fight you are far too busy for such an extraneous emotion as
fear. Your biggest worry isn't something as mundane as an Automatic
Kalashnikov (AK) round through the neck or testicles, rather it is angst
over letting your team down. In this whirlpool of adrenaline, anger, and
a primitive lust for "glory," fear has no chance to take hold.
During the After Action Review (AAR) in which there are several
critiques of your behavior, you will hear if your contributions to the
fight will be praised, ridiculed or (worse) not even mentioned. It's after
the fact that you begin to shake. Back at the camp, it is only after a
shower, over coffee and cigarettes, and reflecting on what happened,
that your knees begin to go weak. Thankfully, by that time you can
shrug it off, saying, "well what's done is done."
Back to the plot. My scariest moment occurred after returning to
the camp very early one morning back in August. That night our patrol
had a pair of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), which are like a bazooka, fired at us. The first one detonated berween my truck and the next
truck. The second swooshed right over our heads and blew up about
four feet in front of us. I was driving and heard the gunner shout "it just
bounced off of us." I told him rockets don't bounce and put the matter
out of my mind. We were the rear vehicle and the shots came from 5
o'clock, so we stopped and engaged. The gunner began laying suppressive fire while I jumped out, moved down the left side of the vehicle and
added my rifle to the mix, while the vehicle commander in the front
passenger seat, call him "Sergeant M," did the same on the right side.
The problem was, that as soon as we began to fire, we looked more
closely at where the gunner was blazing away, and saw that it was a fuel
truck. The gunner's tracers were turning the fuel tank into a modern art
masterpiece. Some part of my mind recalled high school chemistry class
and I dived right back into the driver's seat, inside my armored truck,
so fast that I bumped helmets with Sgt. M doing exactly the same, both
of us expecting the fuel truck to explode.
While he calmly called over the radio for everyone to hit the ground,
I slammed the gas down and cursed the truck for refusing to move
while in park. All the while our slap-happy gunner was trying to write

30

AMEuCAN

Arunsr -

APRIL '2fJJ7

a novel with bullet holes into the side of that fuel truck. You probably
guessed that the fuel truck didn't explode considering my being alive
today to tell such rambling stories. It didn't, and luckily, we returned to
base. As we were sitting around smoking and joking with the rest of the
platoon in the break area, I told the gunner "man that was close," and
prepared to launch into my heroic and witty tale of how I saved us from
a blockbuster fuel truck explosion.
With his typical graceful ignorance he replied "I know, I saw that
rocket ricochet right off the roof." Thwarted and frustrated, I browbeat him saying, "Rockets don't ricochet, moron, you must have been
dreaming,.like when you thought that fuel truck was an Iraqi tank."
He replied, "No, seriously, come look." With a flashlight and a
crowd we went out to the truck and sure enough, there was a dent and
a skid mark from the rocket's exhaust on the roof, only six inches above
and a foot behind my seat. Suddenly, my "careful understanding" of
the tactical situation crumbled. How ironic that everything blows up in
Iraq except a fuel truck that we were shooting at.
The lesson, of course, is don't over react to the unknown. The analogy being that religion is an overreaction to the unknown in life. My
fears and the gunner's fears were different. I worried about the fuel
truck; he saw the rocket ricochet and was so anxious to stop additional
rockets that he sprayed his machine gun with abandon. He became
reckless and overreacted, thus nearly killing us all. I do not intend to be
too rough on him; in his place I probably would have done the same,
because I too had missed the real threat and also, I learned a valuable
lesson about overreacting to the unknown.
This is where it is expected for me to explain how I took that lesson
and applied it to theology to find some spiritual peace. Quite the contrary. My mind did immediately jump to the subject of death, and the
mythology I had been fed like the "life after death" theory. However,
the lesson I learned was less abstract, but nonetheless analogous. To
leave no doubt as to interpretation I am using irrational, irresponsible
firing as a metaphor for religion: religion is a dangerous overreaction
to an unknown threat, and is the lesson this Atheist learned "in the
foxhole."

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