Monday, August 20, 2007

God Bless Me, It's a Best-Seller!: Politics & Power:

I'm liking Christopher Hitchens more all the time. This article is about his unexpected experiences on his tour of the United States. This account is my favorite.

June 5, Los Angeles: A three-hour debate with the Reverend Mark Roberts, senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, in Orange County, on Hugh Hewitt's conservative Christian chat show. Very nice of Mr. Hewitt. The Rev doesn't accuse me of not knowing what I'm talking about: indeed, he's very civil about the book. At one point I ask him if he believes the story in Saint Matthew's Gospel about the graves opening in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and the occupants walking the streets. Doesn't it rather cheapen the idea of resurrection? He replies that as a Christian he does believe it, though as a historian he has his doubts. I realize that I am limited here: I can usually think myself into an opponent's position, but this is something I can't imagine myself saying, let alone thinking.

The crazy things Christians say. We all know they do that, I mean, split what they believe and what they know into two totally separate mental compartments, but how often do you hear one come right out and admit it?

Here is the link to the entire article:

God Bless Me, It's a Best-Seller!: Politics & Power:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Patriotism For All

Yesterday, I had a very brief exchange about the Pledge of Allegiance in the schools. The person with whom I was speaking still doesn't understand what the fuss is about, and still thinks its just the awful secularists trying to take God out of American life. And it got me thinking again about the pledge--how come so many people can't see how divisive it is to have the school systems not only endorse their particular form of monotheism but also equate it with patriotism? As if us non-theists or polytheists cannot be equally patriotic?

Anyway, I found this site (Patriotism For All - Home) and was actually pretty impressed by it. It lays out just what the issue are with the pledge. It also suggests what I think are some plausible ways of dealing with these issue while at the same time giving kids an outlet to express their patriotism at schools if they so desire.

My favorite solution is just to change the pledge to non-sectarian and non-divisive pre-1954 form:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which is stands,
One Nation Indivisible,
Liberty and Justice for All.

Also besides the religious aspect of the new pledge, I find that "One Nation Indivisible" constitutes a complete thought on its own. And a particularly poignant thought given that the pledge was written not long after the Civil War. Breaking that up by inserting anything is a disservice to the pledge.

Source: See for a brief history of the Pledge.

Thanks to Emmett Fields at the Bank of Wisdom for the 'Pledge of Allegiance' image above. You can get that design on a poster at

Monday, August 13, 2007

Faith of an Atheist

Just in case you wondered (if anyone has even read it yet) my last questioning bit on faith was inspired by this UU sermon.

A devout atheist would say, take your attention out of the unknown, out of the heavens. Turn it instead with full concentration on your own life, your own experience. The faith of an atheist, is the remarkable notion that this is enough. What we see with our eyes, and touch with our skin, and know with our minds, and live with our lives must be enough. This human existence must redeem itself, must bless itself, must create itself. The faith of an atheist is not a faith in god, but in life itself. That is faith.

Faith of an Atheist

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What is Faith? Part 2

I haven't gotten much response to my video question "What is Faith?". I've been giving it a bit more thought, and have come to what I consider a surprising conclusion. I think this is a Unitarian Universalist side coming out...

I've decided to give the word "faith" a bit of reconsideration. Now, don't get me wrong, I still hold the idea of faith as absolute belief regardless of and even in spite of evidence to the contrary in as much contempt as any atheist out there. However I also find that, outside of fundamentalist and evangelical circles at least, this is not what is meant by the word. But like lots of English words, this one is rather, well, ambiguous. It has lots of different meanings that don't necessarily have anything to do with unsupported belief. Quite often when people use the word faith, the intended meaning is more like "trust" or "hope"--even if the evangelicals and fundies want to twist that meaning back into "trust" in a god or "hope" for life after death, which just pushes us back to the old contemptuous meaning of the word. So, are we just going to concede the word to the fundies and evangelicals then, since they are so attached to it?

I'm still debating in my mind on this one. Maybe it's just because the word is in such use in the language. And maybe I just want to still use the word because it makes it easier for me to accept that my fellow UU's are using the word in the rational sense--and it seems to me that they usually are. Is there anything wrong with an atheist saying they have faith in human compassion? Or in reason itself, for that matter?

What do you think? Is it still a useful word to use, or not, or is it just too likely to invite confusion?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Assertive Atheism

Just when I thought I'd already found all the good atheist themed sites on the Internet I stumbled upon this one when actually looking for something else...have a look, it's a good one.

Assertive Atheism

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Particle Physics - Higgs Boson - What’s in a Name? Parsing the ‘God Particle,’ the Ultimate Metaphor - New York Times

An interesting article, and a come-back for anyone who has a religious person bandy about the 'god particle' as evidence that science has found god.

Particle Physics - Higgs Boson - What’s in a Name? Parsing the ‘God Particle,’ the Ultimate Metaphor - New York Times

What’s in a Name? Parsing the ‘God Particle,’ the Ultimate Metaphor
Published: August 7, 2007
The biggest name-dropper in
science, Albert Einstein, mentioned God often enough that one could imagine he
and the “Old One” had a standing date for coffee or tennis.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I just got this newsletter from Edwin Kagin, who is the director of American Atheists in KY. I wanted to post this since I think it's both very interesting and troubling. And because he gave clear permission and encouragement to post in blogs :)

Date: August 02, 2007

Kentucky Atheists, P.O. Box 48, Union, KY 41091; Email:
Phone: (859) 384-7000; Fax: (859) 384-7324; Web:
Editor's personal web site:
Editor’s personal blog:
Edited by:
Edwin Kagin, Kentucky State Director, American Atheists, Inc.
(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)
To Unidentified Recipients:

The report below is forwarded from the Military Director for American Atheists, Kathleen Johnson who is currently serving on active duty in Iraq.

This report is about an issue in Iraq. I don’t think there will be any surprises in this report for most of you because this is the reason American Atheists exists. Just the same, it still has quite a bit of impact. This is the battle we are fighting and sometimes it can be tough. Not all of our battles are this hard, but they vary by degree only.

I’m including the article in Stars and Stripes that Kathleen mentions in her report below at the bottom of this email. As per Kathleen’s request, please send any emails of encouragement to the brave young soldier who is mentioned below by using Kathleen’s email which follows.

Kudos to this brave young soldier for having the courage to stand up for his beliefs and right to express them freely in the face of such drastic opposition. Kudos to the other brave soldiers who had the courage to participate. And Kudos to Kathleen Johnson for leading our cause in such a hostile environment. They all deserve medals for bravery. Not just for standing up for their beliefs, but also for being in Iraq in the first place. Whether you agree with this war or not, our troops deserve at least that much.

It’s my personal opinion that if all Atheists stood up for their beliefs and were as vocal as these soldiers we would not be facing the discrimination we are facing today. We would be perceived as a much larger majority that should not be trifled with. I’m proud to be a part of the national organization that fights for the civil rights of Atheists in the face of this discrimination.

Kathleen’s report follows.

Bart Meltzer,
Director of State and Regional Operations,
American Atheists, Inc.

ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)


Thought you'd be interested in this report of the first-ever meeting of Atheist service-members in Iraq under the umbrella of the MAAF-Iraq chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. This meeting was put together by the same young MAAF member who recently had his second letter published in the Stars and Stripes.

One of our members, a young Atheist enlisted soldier, thought he would like to see if he could generate some interest in MAAF meetings at his Forward Operating Base (FOB) here in Iraq (not the base I'm at, by the way). He got things coordinated and started hanging flyers, and after weeks of having to re-hang his flyers almost daily because some vandal kept tearing them down, he finally succeeded in having a small MAAF meeting. I wasn't there because the meeting wasn't on my FOB, but I knew he was holding it and was expecting to hear from him after the meeting. Keep in mind that this young soldier did everything right - he went through the Chaplain's office and jumped through all the hoops it takes to legally hold meetings that are religiously or philosophically based. Four soldiers attended this meeting - all of them very junior enlisted soldiers with the exception of one Major (an O-4), who claimed to be a "freethinker".

Well, to make a very long story a little shorter, the Major turned out to be a fundamentalist Christian who verbally berated the other attendees, accused them of plotting against Christians and disrespecting soldiers who have died protecting the Constitution, and threatened them with punishment under the UCMJ for their activities (said they were "going down") and said he would do whatever it took to shut the meetings down. Keep in mind that by this point, he had two of the attendees (one soldier fled when the shouting started) standing at the position of attention so that he could yell at them, berate them, and humiliate them. This apparently went on for several minutes at which time the Major shut down the meeting by saying he wasn't some "push-over Chaplain" and that he would not tolerate the meetings to continue.

The young MAAF member who hosted the meeting is absolutely freaked out about what happened, but he said he's going to continue with the meetings and isn't going to be bullied by the prayer warriors. I've advised him to immediately notify the Chaplain sponsor of what happened to get guidance while I try to figure out what to do next. I should hear something back from him tonight sometime and there's even a small possibility I might be able to score a mission to his FOB and attend one of his meetings in the next few weeks (if I do, I'll meet with the Chaplain in person).

As for immediate action, he's going to get me the names of his Chaplain sponsor and the name of the officer who disrupted the meeting. My intent right now is to make a formal report to the most senior Chaplain I can find along with possibly an Equal Opportunity complaint against the officer if we can get him fully identified. I may not be eligible to make that complaint because I wasn't there, but I can at least smooth the way for this young troop to make one if he elects to. At the very least, I can make the EO office formally aware of what happened there.

More info will follow when I get it, but right now, feel free to disseminate this information since I've intentionally sanitized it for names and locations. I will be happy to forward any words of support to him if they get mailed to my address - he could really use some encouragement right now, I think.


Kathleen Johnson,
Military Director,
American Atheists, Inc.

ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)

Read the Constitution

It seems to me the author of “Atheist revival bad …” (letter, July 13) needs to read the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend, and study some American history.

Our nation was not “founded under God, upon Christian principles.” The first settlers of the new world were seeking, among other things, escape from religious persecution, not to form a faith-based colony. As Americans, we are granted the freedom of religion, which includes not having one, not the freedom to choose which form of Christianity we follow.

The author seems to think Camp Quest is somehow dangerous to our country and our youth, when in fact it’s people exercising their right to free assembly. The number of religious-based summer camps far outweighs the atheist ones, and those based on a system of beliefs will prove to be more of a “training ground” than any that encourages free thought.

I highly doubt any of the children at Camp Quest would be chastised if they thought a higher power might exist. On the other hand, what would happen if a child at a Christian retreat voiced doubt that Jesus was the son of God?

Atheists come from every walk of life and many are educated about several faiths. As a child I was fortunate enough to be allowed to attend many churches. By the third grade I knew there was no God, and still educated myself by attending a variety of services. This is common with a lot of atheists. Many people force their children into the family religion and shun other beliefs, that’s the true “brainwashing.”

There is no atheist revival, we’ve always been here as a silent minority, most just choose to live their own lives and let you live yours.

Staff Sgt. Gene Horrigan
Al Udeid Air Base,

Camp Quest is legal

After reading “Atheist revival bad for U.S.,” I couldn’t help but laugh. Does no one research anything for themselves anymore? Or do they just repeat what they heard from someone else?

The writer complains how atheist children have their own summer camp (Camp Quest). And that someone else is actually happy about it. Well, it’s 100 percent legal, because of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s just as legal as any other private organization, such as Bible camps and churches. The next thing that bothered me was the claim that the U.S. was founded “under God.” And that it was based on Christian principles and values. Well, that just sucks for a lot of people, doesn’t it?

Since America is a Christian nation, I guess everyone else is just second-rate! Sorry (insert religious minority here), you’re not good enough. Nowhere in the Constitution is there a mention of a God. Religion is referenced as exclusionary. Such as stating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” (Article VI) That sounds secular to me.

The U.S. is a free nation. The First Amendment applies to every private citizen. And that includes us atheists. It is the individual freedoms that make our nation great.

Spc. Jeremy Hall
Camp Speicher, Iraq
As the author observes, “…a nation that forgets what made it great is destined to fail.”
Perhaps he, and the un-American Major discussed above, would be happier in the army of some other country.
Do you feel safer knowing that these persons are in the Army of the United States of America?
Why do they hate our freedom?
Atheist ‘revival’ bad for U.S.
I have to say that I was very disturbed to read the article “Atheists are happy campers at Ohio retreat” (July 8). From just looking at the picture next to the article with the children playing together, you would think that they were just at an outside function participating in a fun activity. But when I read the article, I found there is a lot more to it than that.
The author of the article seems to be overjoyed and ecstatic about young teenagers being at a summer camp where the existence of God is happily denied and refuted, speaking of a revival of atheism and Camp Quest (the name of the summer camp) being a training ground for the atheist movement. How sad to see yet another example of God being kicked out and pushed aside in our society, and young kids being taught — or, in my opinion, brainwashed — to do it.
I wonder how long it will be before America becomes a completely secular society when I see and read things like the Camp Quest article. We already have people fighting daily to remove God from our money, the Pledge of Allegiance and more. As one girl who was quoted in the article stated, “This year, I stopped getting up and saying the pledge,” because it includes the words “under God” in it.
Like it or not, our nation was founded under God, upon Christian principles and values, and yet it seems people, such as the ones who founded Camp Quest, continue to ignore and defy it and encourage others to do the same. It seems to me a nation that forgets what made it great is destined to fail.
Spc. Matthew B. Cravens
Hanau, Germany


I'm sure there are plenty of good, even saintly selfless people out in the world, but I don't think Mother Theresa should be our example...