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MARCH 2009 - S4.95

American Atheists Essential Reading List


Enjoy the introductory information provided in these books, which are of topics of interests to Atheists. These titles represent only
a fraction of the books available from American Atheist Press, yet collectively they provide a broad overview of Atheist thought.
I

STOCK~~ __ ~PR~L~C~E~
__P".~~,~G~E~S
S~T~YL~E~
Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller
An anthropologist advances Atheists and
Atheism beyond belief!

16010

$22.00

490

Paperback

Christianity before Christ by John G. Jackson


Christian doctrines are traced to their
origins in older religions.

5200

$14.00

237

Paperback

The Case Against Religion by Albert Ellis


A psychotherapist's view of the harmful
aspects of religious belief.

5096

$6.00

57

Stapled

Living in the Light by Anne R. Stone


Subtitled "Freeing Your Child from the Dark Ages"
This book serves as a manual for Atheist parents.

5588

$12.00

157

Paperback

Our Constitution: The Way It Was by Madalyn O'Hair


American Atheist Radio Series episodes about the myth
that our founding fathers created a Christian nation.

5400

$6.00

70

Stapled

What on Earth is an Atheist! by Madalyn O'Hair


American Atheist Radio Series episodes on various topics
of Atheist philosophy and history.

5412

$18.00

288

Paperback

The Bible Handbook by G. W Foote, W P Ball, et al.


A compilation of biblical absurdities, contradictions,
atrocities, immoralities ~
obscenities.

5008

$17.00

372

Paperback

An Atheist Epic by Madalyn O'Hair


The personal story of the battle to end mandatory prayer
and bible recitation in schools in the United States.

5376

$18.00

302

Paperback

65 Press Interviews by Robert G. Ingersoll


Ingersoll's 19th-century newspaper interviews
as a Freethinker and opponent of superstition.

5589

$15.00

262

Paperback

An Atheist Primer by Madalyn O'Hair


A humorous look at god concepts will help
children (and adults) have a clear view of religion.

5372

$6.00

30

Stapled

An Atheist Looks at Women & Religion by Madalyn O'Hair


Why attempts to reconcile religion with civil
rights for women are self-defeating.

5419

$10.00

42

Paperback

The Jesus the Jews Never Knew by Frank R. Zindler


A search of ancient Jewish literature yields no evidence
for the existence of any historical Jesus.

7026

$20.00

544

Paperback

The Great Infidels by Robert G. Ingersoll


How nonbelievers and Atheists have contributed
to civilization and enriched our lives.

5197

$7.00

80

Paperback

The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus by Rene Salm


Jesus couldn't have come from Nazareth
because no one was living there at the time.

16014

$20.00

401

Paperback

Illustrated Stories From The Bible by Paul Farrell


You can bet this book won't ever be used
In Sunday Schools!

16000

$16.00

172

Paperback

Jesus is Dead by Robert M. Price


Not only is there no reason to believe Jesus rose from the
dead, there is no reason to think he ever lived or died at all!

16005

$18.00

291

Paperback

Please see the order form enclosed with this magazine for member discounts and shipping details, or consult www.atheists.org.

AMERICAN ATHEIST

MARCH 2009
Vol 47, No.3

CONTENTS

ISSN 0516-9623 (Print)


ISSN 1935-8369 (Online)
AMERICAN

ATHEIST

AMERICAN
of Atheist

From The President


Ed Buckner

Letter from the Editor: Across Party Lines


Bill Hampl

The Jesus Lizard


David Eller

10

'Inauguration'
& 'Two Lines'
Poetry by Edwin Kagin

12

New State Director Announcements


Michael Doss & Greg Lammers

16

A Personal Story
George Nickle

18

The God Puzzle


Bruce Murphy

20

Where Have all the Miracles Gone?


Taylor Carr

PRESS

Managing Editor
Frank R. Zindler
editor@atheists.org

'A Journal

ATHEIST
News and Thought'

General Editor
Bill Hampl
editor@americanatheist.org
Design & Layout Editor
David Smalley
dsmalley@atheists.org
Cover Design
David Smalley
Published monthly
(except June & December)
by American Atheists Inc.
Mailing Address:
PO. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
908.276.7300
P
908.276.7402
F
www.atheists.org
2009 American Atheists Inc.
All rights reserved.
Reproduction
in whole or in part without
written permission is prohibited.

22

America: One Nation Under God


David McAfee

American Atheist is indexed in the


Alternative Press Index.

24

American Atheist Magazine


is given free of cost to members of
American Atheists as an incident
of their membership.

The Bible Belt


Dennis Altman

28

In Memory of a Life-Long Atheist


Roger Long, for his father - Virgil Warren Long

30

Aims and Purposes

31

State Directors Listing

Subscription
fees for one year of
American Atheist:
Print version only: $45 for 1 subscription
and $30 for each additional gift subscription
Online version only: $35
Sign up at www.atheists.org/aam
Print & online: $55
Discounts for multiple-year subscriptions:
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Additional postage fees
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All other countries: add $35/year
Discount for libraries and institutions:
50% on all magazine subscriptions
and book purchases

FR
you've
f
already read David Eller's
superb book, Atheism Advanced
(American Atheist Press, 2007),
you're excused. Eller says the essence of
what I want you to think about and says it
more eloquently, subtly, and effectively
than I can. A grossly oversimplified
version of his last chapter might be,
"N ot believing in any gods makes you an
Atheist; not accepting any ill-founded,
unsupported malarkey of any kind can
make you a good Atheist, a good skeptic,
a rational actor, and a conscientious
citizen." Eller's word for giving up
belief-not
just religious belief, but
any poorly supported notion, including
"belief in belief'-is
"discredism." I'm
not fond of the word, for some reason,
but I urge my fellow Atheists to go well
beyond simple rational rejection of one
or another religious propositions and to
think critically always and in all ways.
Our organization will-must-continue to fight for the rights and reputations

AMERICAN

ATHEIST-

MARCH

2009

of Atheists everywhere, especially of our


members but also for all who fail various
tests of religious orthodoxy. We will continue, I hope, to count among our number members of all the political parties,
conservatives as well as liberals or libertarians, socialists as well as free-market
enthusiasts. We welcome gay and lesbian
members, though we're not a gay rights
organization. We are not a women's rights
organization, but we practice and encourage gender equality. We have members
and leaders who champion gun control
and others who are instructors for the
National Rifle Association. We will not
support political parties or candidatesas a 501(c)(3) educational organization,
we cannot do so by law, but we shouldn't
anyway. As Eller noted on his last page,
"There is no single final form for an atheist world, just as there is no single human
culture." While we will not, as an organization, adopt specific political stances
nor go beyond fighting against religious

irrationality in all its forms, we should


all, as individual Atheists, strive constantly to be skeptical, to choose scientific analysis over
emotionalism,
to
be rational and
thoughtful. Avoiding the word "believe" may not be
all that important.
Avoiding the habit
of
unthinkingly
accepting
something-anything,
not just some god
concept-based
on mere belief is important.
I hope to see members of American
Atheists and other readers of this
magazine in Atlanta in April where
they can hear Dr. Andy Thomson, Mike
Malloy, N ate Phelps, and Michelle
Goldberg, and experience so much more
in a setting chosen with great care by
convention chair Arlene-Marie and
the committee she leads. And Richard
Dawkins !-literally
the most. famous
Atheist on our planet-will be there. It
will be stimulating and great fun. See our
Web-site or elsewhere in this issue for all
the details.

Is 'Not
Believe'
All We
Have to
Do?

Ed Buckner, PhD
President of
American Atheists

MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

BILLHAMPL

as his position ('pro') on assassinating 'evildoers,' such


as the president of Iran. Also,
the reader learns Warren's
opinions ('anti') of homos exuals as well as unmarried heterosexuals who live together
in a sexual relationship.
After reading of Warren's biases-and as the blog entry continues, Hertzberg provides even more-I was
amazed by Hertzberg's next comment: "Nevertheless, the invitation to Warren looks to me
like another ofObama's brilliant chess moves."
Hertzberg defends his own stance, claiming
that Warren is "much less of a jerk" than
ministers such as Pat Robertson and James
Dobson. In addition, Hertzberg notes that
Miller is "polite and civil to people who
are polite and civil to him" and recognizes that issues such as global
warming and poverty are actual problems negatively
affecting our society.
This
justification
seems strange. If being
"much less of a jerk" than
Robertson and Dobson,
if being polite and civil
toward people who are
already polite and civil,
and if appreciating the
dangers of environmental
and socio-economic issues are qualifications,
then I can think of better candidates than Warren.
Explaining his reasoning, Hertzberg asserts
that Obama's choosing Warren exemplifies
Obama's reaching across lines of identity and
ideology, recalling the "wonderful lines from
the 2004 keynote": "We worship an awesome
God in the blue states. . . and, yes, we have
some gay friends in the red states." Frankly,
what makes these lines "wonderful" escapes
me, and although this keynote comment raised

ACROSS PARTY LINES

I continue discussing Atheism withIn popular culture, I want to consider


comments from Hendrik Hertzberg's
blog on New Yorker.com. Hertzberg is a
staff writer for The New Yorker and
a gifted prose stylist whose normal topic is political commentary.
He is the author of such books as
Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 and One Million.
What prompted me
to address Hertzberg's
blog
in American
Atheist is Hertzberg's
December 31, 2008,
entry, 'Three Strikes
(Strike Two: Pastor
Rick).' This particular entry discusses
Barack
Obama's
choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration. After noting that his own favorable opinion of Warren has declined over the past few
months, Hertzberg notes that Obama's choice
"has produced anger and/or hurt feelings in
many liberal and/or gay precincts" and Hertzberg writes that he himself "understand [s] these
feelings and sympathize[s] with them."
Why such feelings over Obama's choice of
this Rick Warren person? Well, after Hertzberg
notes that Warren "contends Jews and [A]theists are automatically hellbound." Hertzberg
presents some of Warren's other stances , such

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

my eyebrow-let's
say, my left one- Hertzberg's next comment successfully raised my
other. Hertzberg immediately notes, "I don't
worship any gods, whether awesome or lame,
but when Obama said this I didn't feel in the
least slighted."
I can only assume that Hertzberg has much
thicker skin than I do-perhaps
from all his
years of living in New York? Speaking as a gay
Atheist, I certainly do feel slighted. I do not
worship any god and am puzzled by the association of gay m~n and women with red states.
As Hertzberg continues, his tone becomes
more positive. He asserts that Warren's invitation should ease Obama's changing of federal
policies, "out of his [Obama's] sense of the
general good, [and] not lobbying ordinance in
a culture war." I'm with Hertzberg, on this one,
and all for using the power of reason in lieu of
fighting cultural wars.
For me, the most hopeful portion of Hertzberg's blog entry is its latter part, particularly
its strong conclusion. Toward the end, Hertzberg comments on his recent visit to the religious Covenant College, in Lookout Mountain,
Georgia. He notes that the students there as well

AMERICAN

as he himself live in bubbles, albeit in separate


bubbles: "Theirs: a constricted, six-thousandyear-old world ruled by an incorrigibly smallminded God, the secrets of which are to be found
in a black-bound anthology of un reliably translated old tribal stories, poems, directives, and
tracts" and "Ours: an unimaginably immense,
unimaginable ancient universe ruled by no one,
the wonders and beauties of which are continually being revealed to us through our sense and
our minds." With these lines, he astutely paints
the differing worldviews of believers and nonbelievers.
Finally, Hertzberg closes by noting that Warren's appearance "will have a calming effect
on evangelicals. The rest of us-liberals, gays,
secularists, unorthodox Jews, non-Christianist
Christians-ought
to stay calm, too." Obviously, Hertzberg is far more optimistic about Warren than are others. In this new period of United
States history, we are ruled by a new President,
one we hope will bring about great changes.
However, let us stand firm in our belief that our
universe is still ruled by no deity, incorrigibly
small-minded or otherwise.

ATHEIST

ANNOUNCEMENT

CORRECTION: Rene Salm, author of the article "Nazareth, Faith, and the Dark option" (American Atheist, January 2009) wishes to point out two errors that got past the
editing stage. In the second paragraph of the article it is
not the editors of BAlAS who are apparently upset at the
controversial Nazareth material, but those scholars who
have dug at Nazareth. Also, in the seventh paragraph, the
words "none of them an archaeologist" should be deleted,
as the academic credentials of one of the scholars involved are as yet unknown to the author.
MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEiST

The
Jesus
Lizard
By
David Eller

Something odd must be


going on in Christian heaven.
hristianity prides itself, indeed bases itself, upon its historical
uniqueness and its miraculous
claims. The key claim integrates both: there was, only
once in all of time, a mortal
born of a virgin-a
miracle
birth which only a supernatural being could have arranged
by spiritually impregnating the
virgin. If the miracle of virgin-birth did not happen, then
Christianity is false. But if it
happened more than once, in
fact if it is quite a normal occurrence, then it is no particular miracle, and Christianity is
wounded again.
So comes the news that
Flora the komodo dragon has
given birth to not one but five
babies although she has never
been touched by male hands
(or any other parts )-in other
words, a virgin birth (more
technically known as 'parthenogenesis, ' which is just Greek
for 'virgin birth'). And apparently this was not the first
time: another female komodo
gave birth to fatherless babies
in early 2006, and apparently
some seventy species of snakes
and lizards regularly reproduce
asexually.

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

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2009

What are good irrationalists find some comfort


like Christians supposed to do in that development, since
with this information? There they seem so unhinged about
are several possible interpreta- sex anyhow.)
tions, none of which will make
Another
more
disturbthem very happy. One is that ing interpretation is that their
'virgin births' are really not so god really was involved in the
miraculous after all: why, even miracle-lizards born without
a lizard can do it. Humans, they earthly fathers. Could it be that
could argue, don't procreate Jehovah is the mystery parent?
asexually, so it is still a miracle After all, if Yahweh can imwhen it happens to one of us. pregnate his human creatures ,
Perhaps, but one response is why not his reptilian creatures?
that maybe humans are finally Of course, one would be left
catching up to lizards with their to wonder why the all-father
parthogenetic abilities; maybe would do this. The only reawe are 'evolving' into asexual sonable answer I can imagine
beings. (Christians should even (other than a perverse attrac-

tion to lizards on the almighty's


part) is the decision to try again,
to start all over again. It is conceivable that Adonai has given up
on the human race and selected a
different 'chosen people'-who
are not even people this timeto do his work on earth. One or
all of the baby lizards may be the
lizard messiah, come to lead the
lizards to the light and the way
and the truth. Humans, in other
words, may have lost their divine
charge-and
who would blame
the big guy, after the mess humans have made with their opportunity. Time will tell: we have
to wait and see whether any
of the lizardlets

shows any precocious talents and,


especially, rises from the dead.
I can imagine only one other possibility: that the whole
human-virgin-birth story is just

"ivirgin
births'
are really
not so
miraculous
after all... "

that: a story. It might be that ancient humans noticed reptile virgin births and concocted a tale
about a human woman doing the
same. That is to say, it never happened. No heavenly father was
involved in the lizards' birth, and
no heavenly father was involved
in the baby Jesus' birth either-if
a baby Jesus was ever even born
at all. There are no miracles, and
certainly no supernatural babymakings, just nature doing its
odd and diverse things, to which
the undisciplined human mind is
prone to attach all sorts of precious but silly meanings.

Prof. David Eller is a cultural


anthropologist who has conducted field
research among Aboriginal societies in
Australia and now teaches anthropology
in Denver, Colorado. His recent college
textbook, Introducing Anthropology
Of Religion, is being hailed as the most
significant introduction to the scientific
study of religion in a decade.

MARCH

2009 - AMERICAN

ATHEIST

Inauguration
We had seen sights, but this mocked our imaginations
We had used words, but this defied our metaphors
We had once been, our heritage proclaimed,
"One Nation Indivisible, " and "Out of Many, One"
Until smallness of soul began to smother dreams.
Then, suddenly, sorely profaned, and wounded, soon to die
Our nation did an unimagined thing
We rolled away the stone
We shook the heels of history
upon retreating wrongs
We watched as hope,
long dormant, bloomed
And, through eyes blurred with tears,
We went outside and raised theflag.
-Edwin Kagin

10

AMERICAN

ATHEIST-

MARCH

2009

'T'woLines
rThefuture waits in one of two areat rines, two end{ess human queues
'And each of us is-in one {ine-there

is no other {ine to choose.

Our journey as human creatures has fashioned these two Cines


With very dijJerent features fo{(owina very dijJerent sians.
rThrouah kinadoms and throuah aaes these Cinesunbroken run
One {ine snakina into darkness; one {ine strainina for the sun.
One {ine ho(ds shinina visions of what humankind

can be

When at Castwe make decisions free of myth and tyranny.


Our race, our creeds, our sex, and the re{iaions weyroc{aim
'1n this {ine yie{d to human needs we cannot a(ways name.
Some care(essfew within this {ine may hurt you and make you cry
'But vi{{ains in the other Cinewire ki(( you to watch you die.
rThose marchina in that other Cineseek to contra ( not to achieve
'By tryina to deceive our minds with {ies that they be{ieve.
Prizina money overfriendsh~,

and yower over human need

rThey do not work for kinsh~ but onfy for their areed.
'Anyone can {eave their {ine, whenever they seefit
'1fyerhays they chanae their mind, from facts, or acts or wit.

rNO

one must stay within a Cinewhere ru(es are {earned by rate

rThat dictate how we a{( must {ive, and breed, and {ave, and vote.
'1n the comina areat erection, one {ine wirefina(fy decide
'1f our future takes direction from the briaht or evi! side.
Set aside a({yious yassion of who you are and where you have been
What now must be in faShion is "Which {ine are you in?"
']-[OW

wireyou answer to the future when a new wor{d starts to dawn

']-[owwireyou te{( your chi{dren which side of history you were on?

-Edwin Kagin

rThere are but two areat questions to be raised when (ife must end,
"']-[owdid you use your roads and days?" 'And "Which {ine were you in?"
MARCH

2009 - AMERICAN

ATHEIST

11

CALIFORNIA
STATE DIRECTOR
merican Atheists Announces the Appointment
of Michael Doss as its New California Director

American Atheists is very pleased to announce the


appointment of Michael Doss as the new director for
California. Michael is based in Santa Ana, in the heart
of Orange County. Working with local affiliate Orange
County Atheists over the past several years, Michael
has spearheaded some important projects, including
monitoring city council invocations throughout the
county for sectarian bias and opposing almost a dozen
proposals to place 'In God We Trust' in public places.
Michael has excellent leadership skills and a background in journalism. We are delighted to have him
on board.
Michael takes over the California position from Dave
Kong. Dave has acted as state director for over 13
years. He is stepping down as California director so he
can focus on his new position as the Director of State
and Regional Operations for American Atheists. Dave
says "I wanted a very strong person for California. After an extensive search throughout the state, Michael
was clearly the most qualified candidate for the job. I
am confident that the California members of American Atheists will be represented well, and I am excited
about the new possibilities for our state."
With and informed, vibrant, and active Atheist community throughout California, Michael is taking over
an important role for the organization. Please feel
free to contact Michael at mdoss@atheists.org and
welcome him in his new position.

12

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

MISSOURI
STATE DIRECTOR

me-ricanAtheists is proud to announce


the appointment of Greg Lammers
as its new director for the state of
Missouri. Greg is a life member of American Atheists, and is already familiar
to many members across the country.
He has excellent writing skills, and is
looking forward to working with the
Atheists throughout Missouri. Greg is
already busy making contact with the affiliated groups throughout the state, and is
planning on holding meetings in his home
town of Columbia.

Greg is enthusiastic about working for American Atheists, and looks forward to making a real difference. He can be contacted at glammers@ atheists .org.

MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

13

_.

The

35th

National Convention

of

Thursday, April 9th 6:00 - 9:00 PM


Great Hearth Room Registration and informal reception with cash bar.
Friday, April 10th 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM Lullwater Ballroom & 7:00 - 9:30 PM Silverbell Room
Open Banquet, Award Ceremony, Members Meeting
Saturday, April 11th 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM Lullwater Ballroom & 7:00 - 9:00 PM Silverbell Room
Open Banquet, Honor Lifetime/Gift and Legacy Members
Sunday, April 12th Dining Room Hosted Breakfast
Arrive anytime between 8:00 and 11:00 AM and be greeted by your board members & directors.
Sunday, April 12th 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Afternoon Group Outing: Red State; Blue State; Old South, New South, From the Civil War to Civil Rights
Destinations being Stone Mountain and its many attractions, then on to the historical Ku Klux site and on to
Sweet Auburn, the birthplace and resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King. $50 per person. Includes box lunch,
transportation, and all admissions. Accessible for handicapped and limited mobility.
Additional information: President, Ed Buckner (770) 803-5353 or atheists.org/eventslNational_convention.

14

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
NATIONAL CONVENTION
APRIL 9-12, in Atlanta, Georgia
Emory Conference Center Hotel
1615 Clifton Road,
Atlanta, GA 30329

merican Atheists will host its 35th National Convention at the spectacular Emory Conference Center
Hotel in Atlanta, Ga. Make plans now for an exciting weekend of social events, outstanding talks by renowned speakers, workshops and so much more. We'll have a special convention rate at this world-class
meeting venue, plus extended 'shoulder dates' so you can visit the many tourism attractions in beautiful Atlanta!
Don't forget our Thursday night (April 9) Convention Jump-Start for an evening of fun with fellow Atheists from
around the world. Said to be the "Best Kept Secret" in Georgia, the Emory is a hidden oasis as its Frank Lloyd
Wright-inspired architecture and serene wooded views combine diverse meeting space, beautiful gardens, walking
trails, and much more to create a one-of-a kind experience.
The Emory is just 20 minutes from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The downtown business
district and vibrant Buckhead are less than 12 minutes from the hotel. Complimentary on-site parking is an added
bonus.
The Emory offers a two-tiered guest room rate. Guest rooms in the hotel are $109 plus tax for single/double. Guest rooms in the inn (directly connected to the hotel) are $89 plus tax for single/double and include breakfast. You must make your reservations directly with the hotel on or before March 10,2009 to enjoy our special
convention rate. Be sure to tell them you are with the American Atheist convention.
s
Emory Hotel reservations: 404-712-6000
www.emoryconferencecenter.com

Confirmed Speakers
Ed Buckner: President, American Atheists, Inc.
Richard Dawkins: Evolutionist/science celebrity
Mike Malloy: Nationally-syndicated talk radio personality
Jim Morrow: Award-winning writer and novelist
Dr. J. Anderson Thomson: Psychiatrist, researcher, author
Nate Phelps: Estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps
John Lombard: Beijing business owner, activist

Special Events
(D)evangelical Stand Up Comedy Troupe
"Mass De-baptism Ceremony"

MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

15

APersonal Story
By George Nickle

ymother always said that you can't argue with a drunk. I extend that rule to
religious people. God and drink seem
to have the same effect: they make a perfectly
intelligent and rational person believe all sorts
of things that are clearly false. Nothing brings
this fact home quicker than when your best
friend suddenly finds drink or god.
I'll call her Sara. We met our first day in film
school a decade and a half ago and have been
something akin to brother and sister ever since.
Sara was a member of Greenpeace and came
from a liberal family of educators and artists.
After graduation we moved to opposite sides
of the continent, but we visited. There were always cards, emails, and calls. About a year ago
she met a new guy: a Christian. About the same
time she also befriended an old nun and they
all got along just famously. Sara assured me
that I'd like this nun. She was ... 'spiritual.' I
did not receive the customary card or gift that
Christmas. Then my emails weren't answered
and my calls not returned.
I was close to Sara's sister-we'll
call her
Sophia. Sophia was in LA and we got together
for dinner. She was worried. Sara wasn't herself.
Sophia made it clear that now a whole range of
topics was simply off the table when you talked to Sara. She'd also cut their parents off. I'd
had enough and called from a business line so
she wouldn't recognize my ID and ignore me
again. She seemed glad to hear me, but put me
on speakerphone with her boyfriend. We were
introduced, and I played nice. I steered clear of
politics, sex, religion: all the good stuff Sara and
I had gone on about at length and in detail for
years. I called it 'Sara rated G.' Her sister called
these exchanges her 'Stepford Sara' talks.
I shot her an email, thanking her for the talk.
She emailed back. using a phrase I'd hear over
and over, 'so much has changed.' She didn't really explain what or how. So I just asked her
if she was a born again Christian. She said she
16

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

wasn't, yet, but


launched into how
Christianity
had
so much 'wisdom'
to offer. It made
her 'happy.' I proceeded
carefully
George Nickle has a BFA
in Filmmaking from the
and found that
North Carolina School of
while she and the
the Arts. He runs Sovereign
boyfriend
didn't
Distribution, a DVD label that
attend a church
releases independent films
and documentaries focusing
they did listen each
on GLBT issues. He recently
week to a preacher
finished his first Science
called T.D. Jakes.
Fiction novel.
I googled him and
one look at this diamond-encrusted, fat (whatever happened to 'gluttony' being a deadly sin?)
oaf made me know it was much worse than I
feared. She was learning to come to terms with
tithing (I am sure to T.D. 's great pleasure) and
declared it was really best if I never tried to
defend anything in her past or my current life
that didn't conform to the boyfriend's Christian
views because he would '(she put this in quotes)
'take up the sword against me.'
Then there came the insistence that god is
everywhere, everything. I told her I thought she
had the same concept of spirituality she'd had
in film school. Now she said 'Jesus' and 'God'
instead of 'Goddess' and 'Nature.'
Sara had had problems, but who doesn't?
The nun and the boyfriend had obviously moved
in when she felt vulnerable, and I just knew
they'd pulled out the Hippie-Jesus on Sara. You
know him: he's the one that people who know
better than to be Christian use as an example
of why they are Christians. Hippie-Jesus is all
about love and brotherhood and rej ecting material goods (T.D., how will you explain the mansions and diamond rings to Hippie-Jesus?) and
more! You expect to find Hippie-Jesus breaking
bread with a homosexual, some lesbians, and a
rainbow of people at the last supper. Oh, and the

meal was vegetarian too. Gone is the angry Jesus in the temple, the Jesus who encouraged his
follows to forsake their families for him. This
is the Jesus that got hold of Sara. I could fight
him.
And then every cliche of fundamentalist
politics came streaming from her keyboard.
Hatred for the government, Greenpeace, environmentalists who didn't want to cut down
trees left and right, the IRS, etc. I had to tell
her I didn't think she actually wrote this hateful email. She told me we couldn't be honest
any more, and when I asked "what is friendship without honesty?" that was that. She didn't
even get to tell me about how much she loved
Sarah Palin, an ordeal through which she'd put
her sister. She'd moved past even Hippie-Jesus
into hateful, right-wing fundamentalism.
There is no reasoning with this. There is
something beyond logic at work, and I don't
know how to counter a deep desire for some
kind of artificial 'happiness' and a faith in things
you have to convince yourself is real, even if it
means buttressing it with an entire worldview
that is the antithesis of everything you've ever
stood for.
Sophia holds out hope. She thinks that if
her sister is so interested in religion she'll just
take her to a nice Buddhist temple-something

"God
and
drink
seem to
have the
same
effect. "

not so scary like that.


But this is where my
own mother's warning about arguing
with a drunk comes
in again: you can't argue with a Christian.
These people are constantly told that the
greatest validation of
their faith is suffering and persecution.
When you tell them
the truth, they see it
as persecution, and it
pushes them deeper
into their sickness.
You can't argue with
someone drunk on

god.
And so I am left with more than a decade
of wonderful memories and experiences that
can no longer be shared. See, they all took
place here in the natural world, and the person I
formed them with has chosen to spend her time
concerned with a place I cannot follow, because
it doesn't exist.

I'JN~O Cf-?&wOIW6 'l)UR. f'r\.OM \"0 ~ :!<-~t;\\JEM-DIcAL. ?t>& C.\Al...\~


lT'5 11<.\( ~
'fONCR. q: PR/W;R
<,

MARCH

~ _ ",

HIli

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

17

The God 1
PUZZ e
I
By

Bruce Murphy

'ma subscriber to DonExodus2's


channel
on
YouTube (http://www.youtube .com/user/DonExodus2).
He's a Christian who has made
some excellent science videos. He's not a creationist, but
he did make a two-part video
on why he believes in god. He
seems to be intelligent, highly
educated and yet, he believes.
I have always been fascinated
by people like this. I suppose
the only real answer is that
they want to believe.
In trying to think of an analogy for why this is, so I came
up with a 'god puzzle.' Imagine we believe that god gives
us a great puzzle to solve and
all the abilities we'd require
to solve it. We go out into the
world and begin finding pieces
of the puzzle (the beauty of
butterflies, DNA is the building
block of life, gravity is warping of space/time, etc.). We eagerly put these pieces together

18

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

knowing that the fi- ~~


nal picture will :--'--'~------~
be the definition of
what god
is. However, when
we have only a few
pieces left we look
at the puzzle and are
horrified! Instead of a
description of god, we
can plainly see it says,
'God does not exist.'
As a freethinker,
we can overcome our
shock and become
enlightened. We've
done it-we've solved
the puzzle! For a
believer, the truth paralyzes
them. Their options are to
let go of their preconceived
ideas or to deny what they see
(maybe demons are tricking
them). They may smash the
puzzle and attempt to hide the
pieces forever. Or, in the case
of educated believers, they

simply refuse to
~ finish it. They'll
continue
. to collect
puzzle
pieces but
will stop putting
them together.
They'd rather
spend time
finding pieces
than solving puzzles.
I always thought that
this would make a good
plot for a story. God
exists; however, god
decides to create a puzzle
that proves god's non"existence. This god
gives people the ability
to discover this truth. Upon
their death, god gives the
greatest reward to those who
use their abilities properly
and stand firm in their belief
that there is no god. Heaven,
it turns out, is reserved for
honest atheists!

The Founder's Friends


So many of you help American Atheists with donations and other financial support-and we wanted to find a way to say "Thank You!" We
are pleased to announce the re-establishment of an American Atheist
tradition- The Founders' Friends, begun by the Murray O'Hair family.
Those contributing $50 or more to American Atheists will have their
names and amounts entered in subsequent issues of the American Atheist. Just fill out the blue card with the information requested, include
your gift, and mail it back to us in the enclosed envelope. Be sure to
check the appropriate box authorizing us to thank you by printing your
name and contribution amount in the magazine. Mailing addresses will
not be mentioned. This is our way of saying THANK YOU to an extraordinary group of people- those of you who want to "do more" and
financially support the critical work of American Atheists!
American Atheists thanks the following persons for their generous
contributions to our cause.

Dick Hogan, TX - $200


Howard M. Palmer, CT - $100
Stanley Bradley, OH - $50
Edwin Hughes, MI - $100

by Kathleen Johnson
Senior Master Sergeant (Retired) Timothy
Cathers served in the United States Air Force
for more than twenty-four years. During his
long career, he deployed in support of Desert
Storm and operations in South America, earning
several commendations. Upon his retirement, he
served as a civilian in Afghanistan, supporting
the Army and Marines during Operation
Enduring Freedom.
During his military and civilian deployments,
Senior Master Sergeant Cathers endured small
arms fire and dozens of enemy rocket attacks,
during which his Atheism never faltered, and
he recalls he never had any thoughts about
god or gods. Since he always served openly
as an Atheist, he was even turned down for a
specific military job by a senior officer because
of his Atheism and has faced several conversion
attempts from senior officers. In spite of these
challenges, he completed an honorable military
career and continues his service as a civilian.

MARCH

2009 - AMERICAN

ATHEIST

19

hat do the parting of the red sea, the feeding of the five thousand, and Muhammad's
journey to heaven with the archangel Gabriel all have in common? These are 'higher grade'
miracles that most believers consider less likely to
occur in our modem world. Some believe that these
astounding performance pieces still can happen, but
they're just very, very infrequent ... and rarely corroborated by any evidence or documentation. Others
believe that such stories were probably more meta-

raculous, stating that science cannot fully account for


the process. Anyone who stayed awake in their health
or biology classes knows that's not true, but it is most
bizarre that believers seem fine with god's profound
acts now being reduced to mundane, everyday events.
The philosopher David Hume said that "no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the
testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would
be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors
to establish." Find out if there's even a slight chance

:E~::~:i~:~~where
have all
f:~~ili:~e~f:
the mi racles gone
Then there's a third
group of believers
that are most interesting: those who
assert that god no longer walks on water among us or
sends plagues of judgment for our evil worldly leaders. It is indisputable that he once did, but that's just
not how he operates these days. God seems to have
suddenly changed his modus operandi (ignoring for
a second the fact that such a god supposedly does
not change, according to many religions). Although
he apparently considered ancient and remote areas of
Palestine important enough to perform miracles in, he
shies away now, in a world full of so much technology and science, when a true miracle might be one
hundred times more credible and convincing than any
of those from the biblical days. Perhaps god is just
experiencing a little bit of stage fright.
Luckily, for those religious persons who still have
a desperate desire to add more meaning to their beliefs, 'lower grade' miracles are bigger than ever. The
Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich, near-death experiences, mediums who talk to the dead, crying statues, ghosts-these are all taken by the superstitious
as foundational support for their belief in an afterlife.
For the moment, let's put aside the fact that everyone
of those examples can be explained without resorting
to a divine connection. One can only help but wonder
why it does not bother serious believers, the idea that
even finding your car keys could be attributed to a
miracle these days. I've spoken with some individuals
who literally consider the birth of a child to be mi-

BY TAYLOR CARR

20

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

of a rational explanation behind a supposed miracle,


and then Occam's Razor will do the rest of the work.
The video sharing website YouTube is littered with
countless collages of alleged miracles. For the Christians, anything resembling a cross is miraculous, and
for the Muslims, anything resembling the Arabic word
for 'Allah' or 'Muhammad' is miraculous. But think
how common it really is to see two lines intersect in
the shape of a cross, or to pick out one coincidental
pattern in a mass of scribblings that spells out' Allah' or 'Muhammad.' When a holy book promises that
there will be signs and wonders, people tend to interpret it however they please, because the passages are
intentionally vague. Since god doesn't seem to be in
the business of producing grand spectacles anymore,
many believers are left to look elsewhere for miracles
and some are so eager to see them that the most minor
and insignificant details catch their imagination.
Part of this forced retreat in the scale of what can
be deemed miraculous comes from the unrelenting
nature of science. As new discoveries and understandings continue to strip the mysticism from how we view
the world, one can no longer make an argument for divine intervention of a higher grade. It certainly seems
dumbfounding how selectively Christians can believe
whole-heartedly in miracles like those in the bible, yet
if someone else were to report a similar event today,
the same Christians would probably label that person

delusional. Science and reason are closing the gap,


even on the all-too-common allegations that one's recovery or 'healing' from some ailment is miraculous.
When one out of ten patients-all suffering from a
common disease-survives and attributes his survival
to god, our attention typically does deviate from those
other nine patients who ultimately died because they
received no miracle. In many cases a small survival
rate is to be expected, and it's not an unnatural work
of god if one person successfully recovers every once
in a while. Furthermore, sometimes doctors purposefully underestimate the survival rate in order to be
safe and avoid being sued.
When faced with challenging questions on the issue of miracles, the response I frequently get from
believers is that despite all the miracles in the bible,
people still chose not to believe in god. He does work
miracles today, but they largely go unnoticed or denied
by the majority. Apparently god's primary motivation
for performing miracles is to persuade us to believe in
him... yet for unknown reasons, he persists in his mysterious and unsuccessful ways. Maybe he has finally
given up after trying so hard for so long. Christians
say god sometimes does things purely for his own

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glory, to attest to the


extent of his majesty
and power. They use
the universe as an example, with the other
countless numbers of
planets, stars and solar
systems merely existing as testimonies to
god's greatness. So if
god is creating things
for his own amusement, he could be per
forming miracles for
the same reasons, and
not just out of failed
attempts to get us to
believe. The believer who holds on to miracles will
find all kinds of excuses to dodge difficult questions.
They'll encourage the rest of us to have an open mind
while they themselves scoff at the mere suggestion
that there may be reasonable explanations for their
expenences.
Surely you are not telling me that everyone who
says they've seen or witnessed a miracle is delusional!
So goes the common arguing point for many believers, making an appeal to a majority, as if that means
there must be someone somewhere who honestly experienced a true miracle. However, I don't believe every miracle incident can be chalked up to delusion,
but it's a false dichotomy to claim everyone is either
deluded or that there must be some actual miracles.
As with UFO sightings and other phenomenon, I'm
sure some of these individuals have seen or experienced things they cannot quite explain. Yet to draw
any further conclusion is just playing into the human
tendency we have to fill in the blanks with whatever
we think best explains away the gaps in our understanding, which incidentally tells us why people of
different religions see different signs representing
their different gods. Miracles make peoples' everyday
lives seem a little more interesting and not so dull, but
let's not get too caught up in the hype, out of our own
willingness to experience something extraordinary.
There are plenty of fascinating, extraordinary things
right here on earth, and in my opinion, no miracle
would ever be a worthy substitute for some of the bizarre beauty we see in reality.

"One can
only help
but wonder
why it does
not bother
serious
believers... "

MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

21

he United States of America is the land of freedoms; our federal Constitution guarantees the
citizens of this nation the freedom of religion,
speech, press and individual opportunity to pursue happiness. The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to
be governed by a secular political system, commonly
known as the 'separation of church and state'; this simply means that our government should be free of religious influences in order to avoid a nation oppressed by
a religious majority much like the one that our constitution's framers had escaped. One may see that, on the
surface, the American Government is primarily a secular entity in that America, unlike some countries, does
not have a national religion, but many things about this
country's formation, monetary systems, and laws are
anything but secular.
The Principle America Was Built Upon
The attitude of many early Christian missionaries
who helped shape today's society was that of Christian superiority. Most of these early
settlers sought to destroy any
Native American who refused
to convert to Christianity. The
idea that you should destroy
something simply because of
your own ignorance or fear of
anything that is different from
what you know is what I am
standing against. I believe that
violence should not be justified in any way, especially by
using something that you hold
sacred, such as a religion or
spiritual belief. Manifest Destiny is the archaic belief that
many Americans shared in the
early 1800s that it was America's 'destiny' to control the
entire North American continent. To many early American settlers, this meant that it
was god's will that the United
States of America expands its
territory from the east coast
to the west coast. These early
Christian 'Puritans' thought that by colonizing the west
coast, they would bring their Christian values and ideals to the 'uncivilized' native residents. In actuality,
what they brought instead was death, disease, and many

other hardships focused mainly on the Native American


'savages' that inhabited much of this area during that
time.
Manifest Destiny was far too often used as a tool of
justification for cruelty and unethical treatment of the
Native Americans. These Natives were thought of as
inferior beings because of their lack of organized religion and primitive lifestyles. This foundation of Christian superiority in America has continued with every
President of the United States being Christian and in
some cases, thanking Jesus for America's greatness.
George Bush stated his belief that god is watching over
America by saying, "Our Founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing.
May we always live by that same trust, and may God
continue to watch over and bless the United States of
America." This 'god is on our side' mentality has carried over into our military actions; it is often said that

AMERICA
One Nation Under God

god is watching over our soldiers and it is god's will to


spread our democracy. When I hear these words from
our elected leaders, I cringe in disbelief of how history
does, indeed, repeat itself. I think of the tribal Native

Americans; I think of every war and taken life justified separation of church and state through our federal laws
involving abortion, the definition of marriage, and emusing god's name.
bryonic stem cell research.
American Money
'A woman's right to choose,'-the
right for a womThough the ideas of a government with a Christian agenda began in the early times of our settlers, an to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy
it has continued until this very day with the printing while it is in a non-viable state. Abortion laws, at this
and coining of all American currency. 'IN GOD WE time, are determined at the state level as opposed to the
TRUST' appears on all forms of American money from federal level. This means that each state may create its
the penny to the one-hundred dollar bill. Similarly to own laws determining who should be able to receive
the pledge of allegiance, the U.S. government began an abortion, at which time an abortion should be leprinting 'In God We Trust' on all American legal tender gal, and spousal and parental consent on the matter, as
as a way to increase religious sentiment in a time of long as the states abide by the federal constitution in not
restricting abortions during the first triconflict. This addition to our currency
mester. Many Christian politicians find
was added during the civil war as the
this practice 'against God' and therefore
nation's Christian population increased
dramatically. According to the Secrewould never condone such a program.
Yet abortion continues to be available
tary of Treasury in 1861, he began to
for women who seek it during the first
receive an influx of letters demanding
trimester and with some exceptions into
that the union make a coin recognizing
their faith. The first of these letters was
the second trimester. During the second
written to secretary chase by Rev. M. R.
trimester of pregnancy, because the risk
to the mother's health grows larger for
Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from
an abortion during this time, the state
Pennsylvania. In this letter, Reverend
"may regulate the abortion procedure in
Watkinson states that by producing such
ways that are reasonably related to maa coin, "This would relieve us from the
ternal health." During the third trimesignominy of heathenism. This would
place us openly under the Divine protection we have ter, because the Supreme Court has determined that a
personally claimed." The 'IN GOD WE TRUST' motto fetus become viable at this time, the state may choose
first appeared on an American two-cent coin in 1864.
to regulate or even prohibit abortions.
Traditional Christian va-lues promote peace, love,
In 1837, an Act of congress declared that any motto
printed on American currency is the sole decision of "turning the other cheek", and following the life of
Congress. This means that the mint could not make any the Christ. This is all too often forgotten when Chrischanges without additional legislation through the leg- tian extremists and fanatics take their personal beliefs
islative branch. The legislative branch of our federal too far. This is extremely obvious in the fight against
government controls the printing of money and, though a woman's right to choose by extremist 'pro-lifers.'
it raises much controversy, the presses continue to print Women have been killed, abortion clinics have been
the phrase on all American legal tender. This is a true bombed, doctors have been attacked, and in some cases
example of Christianity in the American federal gov- women have been denied medical care because they
ernment. Congress has upheld its decision of printing terminated a pregnancy. This act of "Christian terrorthe phrase as an 'American tradition.'
ism" is the same terrorism that we fight against in the
Our Laws
Middle East. America is blindly in denial to these acts
Though it may be less clear at times than 'one na- ofterrorism and violence in our own country and refuse
tion under God' or 'IN GOD WE TRUST,' the more to acknowledge these Christian terrorist extremists as
controversial issues continue to rise from the Christian- such. The separation of church and state continues to
ity-based moral fabric woven into our society. Because be a phantom in American society today; however, I
America is a democratic nation, majority rules; there- believe that one day our nation will realize its potential
fore it is not surprising that everything from the laws by living up to its Constitution and becoming a truly
that we make to our everyday life choices are some- free country without theistic influences and laws.
how connected with Christianity. Because of the Christian majority in America, we continue to see a lapse in

"/ think of
every war
and taken
life justified
using god's
name. "

MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

23

THE BIBLE BELT


By Dennis Martin Altman

n 1994 I left my home turf in


the media centers of New York,
Chicago, and Washington, D.C.,
to join the faculty of the University
of Kentucky in Lexington.
I knew what everyone knows
about the people of the Bible Belt
(BB) ; that the people were mostly
poor and rural, and for the last forty
years, they've been voting for any
candidate who invoked religion
more than three times in any given
speech. And, being a naive Northern Atheist, I simply assumed that
they voted as they did because they
really were religious. What I hadn't
realized, was that these people were
so whipped and warped by their religion addiction that they had mashed
it into something that even Jesus
Christ couldn't recognize.
James Baldwin once said that
African Americans took White
America's religion and made it into
something that they never could. I
now know that he was talking about
more than gospel music.
Religion, or what they call religion, is the keel ofthe South's identity. When people meet in other areas
of the country, they first ask where
they live and whom they know, and
maybe what they do for a living. In
the BB, the "What church?" question comes first.
BBers are steady churchgoers. The church and fellow congregants comprise their whole social
atmosphere. Their membership and
participation in church activities
are their credentials, and they wear
them proudly. They love the belongingness of -it, They feel tingles of
delight when they see signs like the
recent billboard campaign that was
supposedly made of messages from
24

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

on high. On one of them, in white


words against a black background,
it said: "Don't make me come
down there!" And it was signed ....
"God" They love that stuff, because
it makes them feel that they're in a
grand and glorious club. The image
of their deity is that of a good ole'
boy who's just another member of
the club.
In the BB, church membership
is a validation of status, and they declare it in every possible way. They
use religious expressions in their
conversations, and they advertise
their commitment via song, jewelry, holiday celebrations, tattoos,
and bumper stickers. If Christianity
had a secret handshake, they'd use it
all the time. But while the church is
their universe, they certainly don't
feel the pull of its gravity. If one
were to take the 'quotes' attributed
to Jesus in the Bible, he'd see that
the folks of the Belt live in absolute
denial of it all.
The Belt leads the nation in divorce and murder,' two offenses on
which Jesus was particularly outspoken. Accordingly, it's no surprise
that they rack up the worst numbers
in the country in teenage pregnancies, STD/HIV IAIDS, and infant
mortality.
But when well-meaning public health officials show them that
communities that expand sex education in public schools have successfully reduced their levels of
teen pregnancies, those officials are
well advised to bring their resumes
up to date. They have no future in
BB-Iand. Ditto for any advice they
have that involves condoms. And
ditto for being serious about evolution, affirmative action, the Big

Dennis Martin Altman is a


professor at the University of
Kentucky, and author of The
First Liberal -- A Secular Look
at Jesus' Socio-Political Ideas,
How They Became the Basis of
Modern Liberalism; and can be
reached at www.thefirstliberal.
com and denalt2@gmail.com.
Bang, peace demonstrations, clean
needles, and anything the ACLU
wants, anywhere.
In sum, the people of the Bible
Belt are deeply religious Christians
Gust ask them), but they treat Jesus
more as a hood ornament than a deity.
And those people are severely disadvantaged in other ways
as well. The Belt lags behind the
rest of the states in every aspect of
education, health care, income and
most other measures of achievement. Looking at Kentucky alone,
the state ranks a poor forty-seventh
among the states in percentage of
residents with bachelor's degrees,
and it's rated thirty-fifth in the proprietary 'smartest state' index created by author Morgan Quitno." In
terms of per capita income, Ken-

tucky ranks forty-fifth among the


fifty states.'
Kentucky only gets near the top
in listings of negative factors. It's
eighth in diabetes, fourth in cancer
deaths, and seventh in deaths from
heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions." These lamentable numbers have been tabbed
as the 'Kentucky Uglies' by observers, and they provide the backdrop
to the most severe of the commonwealth's contradictions.
However, while Kentuckians are
statistically underpaid, unhealthy,
and undereducated, they tend to
vote as if they were rich, strong, and
well prepared for any professions

'Yes' to all of the above.


Savvy politicians have learned
to play them like fish on a line. They
continually convince the poor, rural people of the Southern states to
vote against their own best interests
and keep conservative candidates in
power.
Conservative Pols court poor
Southerners
because
they're
easy. They vote emotionally. They
respond to candidates who swagger like John Wayne in a WWII
movie. The candidates aggrandize
the military, wave the flag, and belittle those who rely on welfare payments. And when the candidates get
in some kind of trouble, like be-

"...where Jesus is more of a


hood ornament than a deity... "
they might care to pursue.
The voting pattern holds true
for the rest of the Bible Belt as
well. They all rank unfavorably
among the fifty states in terms of
income, health, and education, but
they continually vote against any
candidate with a program to correct
those shortcomings. In the recent
election, only one of the Bible Belt
states voted for change. That was
North Carolina, which has recently
had large infusions of retirees from
the North. The rest of them voted to
keep things just the way they are.
What's wrong with this picture?
Are they politically naive? Do
they hold a distorted view of how
government works? Are they unaware of the achievements of Liberal programs which improved
health, education, and prospects for
employment for other poor, rural
Americans? Have they been blindsided by their preoccupation with
other issues that obscure their view
of their own world? The answer is

hind in the polls. they quickly gear


down to their old standbys, the Furious Four. These are the candidates'
Weapons of Mass Distraction: Gun
Control, Abortion, Flag-burning
and Same-sex marriage - four
issues that get poor Southerners
mad as hell, but rarely touch their
lives. These distractions take the focus off the real issues, so the poor
dupes end up voting for more tax
cuts for the rich guys, and yielding
less help for schools, economics and
health care. That's why education
levels and public health statistics
in Southern states remain the worst
in the nation. And as long as these
people keep so steeped in what they
call religion, that's the way it's always going to be.

Bibliography
I. Divorce: The Associated
Press computed divorce statistics
from data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center
for Health. The data showed that the
highest divorce rates were found in
the Bible Belt. "Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round
out the top five in frequency of divorce ...the divorce rates in these
conservative states are roughly 50
percent above the national average"
of 4.211000 people. Eleven southern
states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona,
Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North
Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
South Carolina, and Texas averaged
5.1/1000 people. (LA data are not
available; TX data are for 1997.)
Nine states in the Northeast (Connecticut,
Massachusetts,
Maine,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New
York, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, and Vermont) averaged only
3.5/1000 people.
2. Education State Rankings
2006-2007,
<www.morganquitno.
com/ booksinfoED.html>.
3. Kentucky Association for
Economic Development,
<www.
kaedonline.org>.
4. Kentucky School of Public
Health report, 2006.

Murder: FB[ Uniform Crime Statistics for 2005 (published September 2006)
Regional Murder Rates per 100,000 People
Executions since
200[
[976
Region
2005
2004
2003
2002
South
6.6
6.9
6.7
856
6.6
6.8
West
5.8
5.7
5.7
5.7
5.5
66
Midwest
4.7
4.9
5.1
121
4.9
5.3
4.4
Northeast
4.2
4.2
4.1
4.2
4
MARCH

2009

- AMERICAN

ATHEIST

25

&,.......~.

ODS Presently

Affiliated

with American Atheists


Agnostic & Atheist
Student Association
(UC Davis)
Jeremy Ross, President
jerross@ucdavis.edu

Atheists & Agnostics


Group of Rossmoor
3612 Rossmoor
Parkway #4
Walnut Creek, CA 94595
(925) 933-3133
rgolden272@comcast.net

Atheist Coalition of
San Diego
Jeff Archer, President
4245 Francis Way
La Mesa, CA 91941
(619) 465-9528
lekkerspikkels@msn.com

Atheists & Other Freethinkers


PO Box 15182
Sacramento, CA 95851-0182
(916) 447-3589
aa-liaison@aofonline.org

Atheist Community
of Austin
PO Box 3798
Austin. TX 78764
(512) 371-2911
info@
atheist-community.org

Atheists and
Freethinkers of Denver
David Eller. Coordinator
PO Box 22174
Denver. CO 80222
(303) 285-3482 x7118
athofden@onebox.com

Atheists for
Human Rights
5146 Newton Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55430-3459
(612) 529-1200
communications@
atheistsforhumanrights.org

Atheists of Greater Lowell


Steve Berthiaume, Director
50 Danforth Rd.
Tyngsboro. MA 01879
(978) 394-8729
stev ieb@verizonmail.com

Atheist Humanist Society


of Connecticut and
Rhode Island
Bill Russell, President
399 Laurel Hill Avenue
Norwich, CT 06360-6935
(860) 334-6769
NorwichAtheists@yahoo.com

Atheist Station
Ron Stauffer, President
PO Box 1623
Altoona. PA 16603
(814) 949-7149
info@atheiststation.org

26

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

Atheists of Silicon Valley


Go to Web Page to contact.

Atheists United for a


Rational America
PO Box 2073
Iowa City, IA 52244-2073
(319) 400-5328
rationality.ruies@
gmail.com

Boston Atheists
95 Melville Avenue
Boston MA 02124
(6 J 7) 935-4951
BostonAtheists@
gmail.com

2009

Boulder Atheists
PO Box 19468
Boulder, CO 80308-3974
(303) 258-3974
info@BoulderAtheists.org

Bradley Atheists
(Bradley Univ.Peoria)
Paul Turack, Founder
912 N Elmwood Ave.
Heitz Hall. Room 112
Peoria.lL 61606
(309) 677-1421
PTurack@Bradley.edu

Campus Atheists, Skeptics


and Humanists (CASH)
(Vniv ofMN)
126 Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
CASH@cashumn.org

Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics


Dan RusselJ-Pinson,
Coordinator
info@ChariotteAtheists.com

Florida Atheists & Secular


Humanists (FLASH)
Ken Loukinen, President
P. O. Box 246743
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
Browardatheists@mac.com

Free Inquiry Group, Inc.


Margaret O'Kain, President
PO Box 19034
Cincinnati, OH 45219
figinfo@gofigger.org

Freethinkers
of
Upstate New York
Doug Schiffer. President
(315) 245-3596
director@funygroup.org

Freethinkers
United Network (F. U. N)
3854 I 39th Ave SE
Bellevue, WA 98006
(425) 269-9108
.wendita99@hotmail.com

Gator Freethought (UF)


gatorfreethought@gmail.com
Community of Reason
Dr. Theo Schubert.
Coordinator
5019 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO 64112-1156
(816) 561-1866
info@communityofreason.net

Connecticut Valley Atheists


650 Bolton Road
Vernon, Connecticut 06066
(860) 454-8301
info@cvatheists.org

East Bay Atheists


(510) 222-7580
j nfo@eastbayatheists.org

Heartland Humanists
PO Box 24022
Shawnee Mission, KS 66283
(913) 738-4442
info@heartlandhumanists.org

Hudson Valley Humanists


Ed Poll, Director
PO Box 961
Saugerties, NY 12477
(845) 247-0098
Hv+lumansccyahoo.com

Humanist Community
of Central Ohio
PO Box 141373
Columbus. OH 43214
(6]4) 470-0811
infO@hcco.org

Humanist Society of
Santa Barbara
Richard Cousineau, Chairman
PO Box 30232
Santa Barbara, CA 93130
(805) 687-2371
chairman@
santabarbarahumanists .org

Idaho Atheists
Lori Howard
PO Box 204
Boise, ID 83701-0204
(208) 455-9222
IApresident@
IdahoAtheists.org

Individuals For Freethought


Paul Youk, President & Keiv
Spare, Publicity Director
c/o Office of Student Activities.
Kansas State University
809 K-State Union
Ground Floor
Manhattan, KS 66506
freethoughtevk-state.edu

Iowa Secularists
PO Box 883
Iowa City, fA 52244
contact@iowasecularist.org
Info: Local meetings in Des
Moines, Cedar Rapids. and
Iowa City (will expand as
interest develops).

Long Island
Secular Humanists
PO Box 119
Greenlawn,NY 11740
LlSecHum@aol.com

Military Assoc. of
Atheists & Freethinkers
Jason Torpy, President
519 Somerville Ave.
PMB 200
Somerville, MA 02143
Comrnunitywmaaf'.info

Minnesota Atheists
PO Box 6261
Minneapolis. MN 55406-0261
(612) 588-7031
info@mnatheists.org
Info: Group produces live
"Atheists Talk" radio show,
Sundays. 9-10 a.m. CST
(AM 950 KTNF or http://
all1950ktnf.comll isten).

Nashville Secular Life


707 Cynthia Ct
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
(865) 567-6892
atheists-699@meetup.com

New Jersey
Humanist Network
Lisa Ridge, President
PO Box 8212
Somerville, NJ 08876-8212
(609) 403-8238
NJHN@comcast.net

New Orleans Secular


Humanist Association
Harry Greenberger. President
529 Saint Louis Stree. Apt 3
New Orleans, LA 70130-3681
(504) 282-5459
nosha.secularhurnanism .net

Metroplex Atheists
TelTYMcDonald. Chairman
1332 Martin Court
Grapevine, Texas 76051
Terry@MetroplexAtheists.org

New York City Atheists


Cooper Station
PO Box 93, New York, NY
10276-0093
(212) 330-6794
info@NYC-Atheists.org

Michigan Atheists
Arlene-Marie, President
PO Box 25
Allen Park, MI 4810 I-0025
(3 I3) 938 5960
amarie@atheists.org

North Alabama
Freethought Association
Aaron Sakovich, Organizer
PO Box 41
Ryland, AL 35767-0041
nafa@thenafa.org

Mid-Michigan Atheists
and Humanists
Jim Hong, Director
(517) 750-3887
Jim@MMAH.org

Northeast Pennsylvania
Freethought Society
Rodney Collins. Organizer
PO Box 2501
Wilkes-Ban'e, PA 18703
(570) 793-1837
alrgc@yahoo.com

Oklahoma Atheists
aok@oklahomaatheists.info

Orange County Atheists


Michael Doss, President
PO Box 10541
Santa Ana, CA 92711
(714) 478-8457
contact@OCAtheists.coll1

PA Nonbelievers
Steven Neubauer
45 Gravel Hill Road
Mount Wolf, PA 17347-97 I0
(717) 266-1357
PANonbelievers@aol.com

Rationalists of East Tennessee


Daryl Houston
PO Box 51634
Knoxville, TN 37950
(865) 539-3006
info@rationalists.org

Rationalist Society of
St. Louis (RSSL)
Dr. William Martin, President
PO Box 300031
St. Louis, MO 63130
info@rssl.org

Rebirth of Reason in Florida


Luther Setzer, Leader
(321) 544-7435
LutherSetzer@yahoo.com

Saint Petersburg Atheists


Gary Thompson
PO Box 22304
Saint Petersburg. FL
(727) 577-9150
easy8@TampaBay.IT.com

San Francisco Atheists


900 Bush Street, #210
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 771-9872
info@sfatheists.com

Secular Humanists of
the Lowcountry
PO Box 32256
Charleston, SC 29417
(843) 670-0290
president@
lowcountryhumanists.org

Shasta Atheists &


Freethinkers
Ed Coleman, President
PO Box 1544
Shasta Lake City, CA 96019
(530) 275-4626
shasta@atheistalliance.org

South Lake Atheists and


Freethinkers
(Groveland)
Go to Web Page to Contact

Southeast Wisconsin
FreeThinkers
(SWiFT)
PO Box 3
Mequon, WI 53092

St. Olaf Agnostic and


Atheist Society
Koya Kato, President
1500 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057
(507) 646-2879
aas@stolaf.edu

Tucson Atheists
9114 E Wolfberry St
Tucson, AZ 85747
(520) 664-0722
,t>;ZA the ist@cox.net

Western Colorado Atheists


Anne Landman
PO Box 1434
Grand Junction, CO 81502
(970) 263-9199
WestemColoradoAtheists@
yahoo.corn

Santa Cruz Atheists


(831) 335-823 I
howard@burman.net

Seattle Atheists
Kyle Hepworth, President
(425) 402-9036
hepworth@gmail.com

MARCH 2009

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

27

y father, Virgil Warren Long,


recently died at the age of 97, an
affront, if you will, to those who
think believers live longer. In his memory I
would like to offer a few anecdotes regarding
his happy atheism.
My father was born May 20, 1911, in
Alameda, Ca. of parents of eastern European
descent, and non-practicing Catholics. He grew
up in San Francisco and San Mateo, where

to go play golf. Lousy golfer that he was, he


wanted to make a statement.
Eight years ago when he was 89, his grandson,
a budding filmmaker, interviewed him. One
thing he asked was the eternal question about
how we got here and where we're going. He
said simply, "Evolution answers everything."
Finally, on his deathbed, fully knowing he
was dying, he was comforted in knowing that he
lived a longer, happier, healthier and wealthier
life than most eo Ie

In Memory of a
Life-Long Atheist
By Roger Long
he met my mother and raised three children.
Our names are Roger, Gordon, and Lenore:
deliberate non-Biblical names.
He once said that the saying 'There are no
Atheists in a foxhole' is bunk. He said a good
friend of his who was in WW II said, "I was in
a foxhole, and I was an Atheist. Still am."
My sister, at a sensitive and questioning age,
sat down with him to have a serious discussion
about God. He said, "Why talk about a dead
issue?" End of discussion.
My mother was an active Episcopalian, and
if there was a potluck dinner, only then would
he darken the church doors. Once, with us kids
in tow, as we entered the church for the dinner,
a friend of my father's called out, "Virgil,
what are you doing here? I thought you were
an agnostic or something." He said, "I'm not
an agnostic-I'm
an Atheist!" It suddenly got
real quiet, and my mother probably prayed she
could suddenly become invisible.
When I was baptized in my mother's
Episcopalian church, my father made it a point
28

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

and that when he


stopped
breathing
that would be the
end of him. End of
Virgil Long
discussion.
1911-2008
As for me, a 69
year old life-long Atheist, I have a childhood
impression of mom rushing us off to church,
while dad is still in bed reading the Sunday
funnies. I have no problem doing that even
today.
Since there would be no religious service,
we had a get-together at the house for family
and friends. It was not about mourning his
death, but celebrating his long and happily
godless life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Roger Long is afather of two, and a
former teacher of Art & Spanish. He
currently lives with his wife in the
San Francisco Bay Area.

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MARCH

2009

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

29

AIMS & PURPOSES


American Atheists, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the complete
and absolute separation of state and church, accepting the explanation of Thomas Jefferson that the First
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was meant to create a "wall of separation"
between state and church.

American Atheists is organized:


To stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning
religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices;
To collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all religions
and promote a more thorough understanding of them, their origins, and their histories;
To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete and absolute
separation of state and church;
To act as a "watchdog" to challenge any attempted breach of the wall of separation
between state and church;
To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and
maintenance of a thoroughly secular system of education available to all;
To encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system
stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and
the corresponding responsibility of each individual in relation to society;
To develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central
and must itself be the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being
happiness of humanity;

and

To promote the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the
maintenance, perpetuation, and enrichment of human (and other) life; and
To engage in such social, educational, legal, and cultural activity as will be useful
and beneficial to the members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.

DEFINITIONS
Atheism is the comprehensive world view of persons who are free from theism and have freed themselves of supernatural beliefs.altogether. It is predicated
on ancient Greek Materialism .. It is predicated on ancient Greek Materialism.
Atheism involves the mental attitude that unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical
outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws;
that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind, finding the resources within themselves, can and must create their own destiny. It
teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve it. It holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on
reason and justice. Materialism's "faith" is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own efforts. This is a commitment that is,
in its very essence, life-asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation that is impossible without noble ideas that inspire us to bold,
creative works.
Materialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

INFORMATION ABOUT TAX DEDUCTIONS


IRS rules state that the tax-deductible portion of membership dues can be found by subtracting the fair-market value of any goods or services that you
receive in return. For most of our membership types, your dues are actually LESS than the fair-market value ($40 per year) of a subscription to our
magazine. This means that your membership dues are NOT tax-deductible. Life membership dues are also NOT tax-deductible. (If we sold Life magazine
subscriptions, they would cost at least as much as life memberships.)
The only membership type that is fully tax-deductible is the Associate membership because Associate members do not receive a magazine subscription.
For the Couple/Family ($65) and Wall-Builder ($150) membership types, $40 covers your magazine subscription. The remainder of your dues ($25 for
Couple/Family and $110 for Wall-Builder) are considered to be a tax-deductible donation. For multiple-year memberships, the same fraction of your dues
(1/3 for Couple/Family and 11/15 for Wall-Builder) is tax-deductible (in the year that those membership dues were paid).
Also, any donations that you make IN ADDITION TO your membership dues are fully tax-deductible.

30

AMERICAN

ATHEIST

- MARCH

2009

~
MILITARY DIRECTOR
Kathleen Johnson
CMR 422, Box 910
APOAE 09067
kjohnson@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/mil

FLORIDA STATE DIRECTOR


Greg McDowell
P.O. Box 680741
Orlando, FL 32868-0741
(352) 217-3470
gmcdowell@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/fl/

ALABAMA STATE
DIRECTOR
Blair Scott
PO Box 41
Ryland, AL 35767-2000
(256) 701-6265
bscott@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/al/

IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR


Susan Harrington
P.O. Box 204
Boise, ID 83701-0204
(208) 392-9981
sharrington@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/id/

ALASKA STATE DIRECTOR


Clyde Baxley
3713 Deborah Ln.
Anchorage, AK 99504
(907) 333-6499
cbaxley@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/ak/

ILLINOIS STATE DIRECTOR


Sandra Van Maren
P.O. Box 1770
Chicago, IL 60690-1770
(312) 201-0159
svanmaren@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/il/

ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR


Monty Gaither
P.O. Box 64702
Phoenix, AZ 85082-4702
mgaither@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/az/

KENTUCKY STATE
DIRECTOR
Edwin Kagin
P.O. Box 48
Union, KY 41091
(859) 384-7000
ekagin@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/ky/

CALIFORNIA STATE
DIRECTOR
Michael Doss
(714) 478-8457
mdoss@atheists.org
P.O. Box 10541
Santa Ana, CA 92711
Mark W. Thomas (Asst. Dir.)
(H) (650) 969-5314
(C) (650) 906-1095
mthomas@atheists.org
900 Bush Street, Unit 210
San Francisco, CA 94109
http://www.atheists.org/ca/
CONNECTICUT
STATE
DIRECTOR
Dennis Paul Himes
P.O. Box 9203
Bolton, CT. 06043
(860) 643-2919
dphimes@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/ct/

MICHIGAN STATE
DIRECTOR
Arlene-Marie
amarie@atheists.org
George Shiffer (Asst. Dir.)
gshiffer@atheists.org
Both can be reached at:
P.O. Box 0025
Allen Park, MI 48101-9998
(313) 938-5960
http://www.atheists.org/mi/
MISSOURI STATE
DIRECTOR
Greg Lammers
.glammers@atheists.org
P.O. Box 1352
Columbia, MO 65205
(573) 289-7633
http://www.atheists.org/mol

NEW JERSEY STATE


DIRECTOR
David Silverman
1308 Centennial Ave, Box 101
Piscataway, NJ 08854
(732) 648-9333
dsilverman@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/nj/
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
DIRECTOR
Wayne Aiken
P.O. Box 30904
Raleigh, NC 27622
(919) 602-8529
waiken@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/nc/
OHIO STATE DIRECTOR
Michael Allen
PMB289
1933 E Dublin-Granville Rd
Columbus, OH 43229
(614)-678-6470
mallen@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/oh
OKLAHOMA STATE
DIRECTOR
Ron Pittser
P.O. Box 2174
Oklahoma City, OK 73101
(405) 205-8447
rpittser@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/ok/

State Directors
UTAH STATE DIRECTOR
Rich Andrews
P.O. Box 165103
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
randrews@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.orgiut/
VIRGINIA STATE DIRECTOR
Rick Wingrove
P.O. Box 774
Leesburg, VA 20178
(H) (703) 433-2464
(C) (703) 606-7411
rwingrove@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/va/
WASHINGTON
STATE
DIRECTOR
Wendy Britton
12819 SE 38th St. Suite 485
Bellevue, WA 98006
(425) 269-9108
wbritton@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/wa/
WEST VIRGINIA STATE
DIRECTOR
Charles Pique
P.O. Box 7444
Charleston, WV 25356-0444
(304) 776-5377
cpique@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/wv/

TEXAS STATE DIRECTOR


Joe Zamecki
2707 IH-35 South
Austin TX 78741
(512) 462-0572
jzamecki@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/tx/
TEXAS REGIONAL
DIRECTOR FOR DALLAS!
FORT WORTH
Dick Hogan
dhogan@atheists.org
http://www.atheists.org/dfw/

Contacting State Directors


Our directors are not provided with contact information for members in their area. If you're
interested in working with your Director on activism, please use the listing on this page to
contact them. They would love to hear from you!
If you live in a state or area where there is no director, you have been a member for one year
or more, and you're interested in a Director position, please contact:
David Kong, Director of State and Regional Operations

dksf@atheists.org