Atheists:
Going the Way
of the Dodo?
John Woodside

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2002 12:21 AM
To: Woodside, John JW SITI
Subject: Re: Positive Atheism, Cliff's Columns

My position is based more on the likelihood that a person's belief in gods and the supernatural (or the lack thereof) does not constitute the one deciding factor as to whether an individual is "confused" or morally corrupt or whatever. In fact, the presence or lack of a god-belief does not determine anything of significance, with one vital exception, which ought to drive my point home: a person who holds that a gods exist is a theist and a person who does not hold such views is an atheist. Aside from that, I cannot tell you much about a person if the only information I have to go on is whether or not the person is a theist. In other words, tendencies or likelihoods don't seem to be affected by one's religious loyalty or lack therein.

Rather, the thinking style that does make a difference (and often a very significant difference) is fundamentalism. Although some religious views set themselves up for fundamentalism, the tendency toward fundamentalism is by no means restricted to theism. I have noted that atheism can and does attract its fair share of fundamentalists. This was the direct subject of my December, 1999, column, "Atheism & Fundamentalism." (Gaah! Was that one that long ago?)

Fundamentalistic thinking within organized atheism, being at least noticable if not prevalent among most of the groups near where I live, has exacted a heavy toll from me in the various dealings I've had with the leadership. This thinking style, applied to the administration of atheistic organizations, was the direct inspiration (but not the subject) of "Why Advocate For Individual Activists?"

"Why Advocate?" is my latest proposal (or rough draft, if you will) for inclusion in that ongoing work known as "Introduction To Activistic Atheism."

I have prepared and will soon quietly release my response to complaints made against me by some members of the planning committee who put together the Oregon Symposium that we supported last summer. At the time, I was waiting for at least somebody who knew about this mess to at least say something in the way of disapproval of the behavior in question. I don't know anyone who wouldn't strongly condemn what these individuals did -- and not just one, but several people were involved. However, this is not what anybody ended up doing: several knew about it, a few were even encouraged to solicit responses from their neck of the woods. Nothing. After two months of silence, I decided to take the official position that what the representatives of these groups said both by their words and by their actions, reflects a
 

It's good to see that those things which took me so long to learn -- the hard way, of course -- when put into a modestly accessible format, can become so useful to so many individuals who stop by. Almost every other day I stop and wonder, "What am I doing?" Then I open up the e-mail program and see exactly what I am doing, and can only wish I had the resources to do more.

Over the past two weeks, I've been able to put together one, perhaps two hours each day. This has happened once before, that I got so far behind that I had no idea where to start, and that, in itself prevented me from even being able to get started. Victor, from the Netherlands, agreed to format a hundred or so Letters files while I got some other work done, and in no time, PAM was back on her feet. Today, I try to put in three or four hours a day into the January Print Edition, and then "level out" by formatting or answering Letters. I'll pull back out of it -- I promise! Hey! What else can I do at this point? Back then I still had other options, but health and other personal factors are severely limiting those options.

PAM, at this point, remains an open option, and has grown to become easily my most important work to date. I've watched more get done, to be sure, but I shared those chores with others. Also, my presence was expendable in all cases. However, never have I done work that has directly returned so much in the way of changing the world around me as I have since embarking on the PAM project three years ago, and her predecessor six-and-one-half years ago.

The work with addicted people comes close, and its importance may overshadow this work simply because numerous lives were spared in the process. And I watched many changes take place as well. But still, that was me doing someone else's work for them (for the most part).

PAM is my work if for no other reason than because it was I who served those twenty-four days for refusing to enter a faith-based rehabilitation program. It was I who concluded that I am clueless as to how to even start, there never having been something like what I saw even then as being needed. It was I who have been asking the questions, tugging on people's coat-tails and saying, "Hey, what do you think about this?" And it was I who have taken those responses and tested them to see if any of them hold any water, making numerous mistakes and recording those mistakes diligently into the Letters responses for all to see.

Every once in a while, I must take stock of what I have done, what I've been doing lately, where I think I'm going, and most importantly, my motive for doing this. Thanks for the opportunity to get a bit serious with at least somebody today!
 

You're not being "wildly optimistic" at all. In fact, based upon the data that has, of late, been coming from just about every side -- not to mention the most trustworthy data, that collected and analyzed by a team from the City University of New York (CUNY) -- I'm tempted to think of them as a tad pessimistic!

I am so glad your friend is dead wrong! Try just over 14 percent of American adults claiming to be "not religious"! And these are the raw figures: the real numbers are higher. We are the fastest growing religious group (if you'd call us that) in America, both by percentages and by sheer numbers. We didn't know this in June, 2001, because the study reporting these figures (the CUNY work) was released in November, 2001. Check out my piece, "Atheists Come to Power" (perhaps my most important work to date, as activism goes) and see what's been happening while most of us have been asleep.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2002 8:01 PM
To: Woodside, John JW SITI
Subject: Re: Positive Atheism, Cliff's Columns

I hate to disappoint you, but the Christian-New Age woman and I are still quite close -- ostensibly an "item," if you will -- ostensibly. It comes and it goes, but now that Tammy's gone (cancer, 1990), she's really all I have that even pretends to go in that direction. We at least put on a good pretense even if the real thing is fleeting. If nothing else, we probably could stand to be around each other like neither of us could stand to hang with anybody else we know. And the spark of attraction is there: it's always been there. Turns out that I made some pretty serious sacrifices in high school (or so she says), and I never knew about these it until this year.

But the religious question notwithstanding, we have much more in common than probably all the other women I've been close to up until now. Hell, when we were in the first and second and third grade, we spent the entire time not 200 feet away from each other. We didn't know each other's names, but we knew the face. In other words, we already know that "shorthand" that usually takes a couple years, or even decades to master. We already know it even if we never spent a day together, because we grew up not six months apart and not a mile away.

I am convinced that the part of the brain that gets religion is not the same part that builds bridges or raises children. Religion is drilled in from an early age and is very much a reflex. Never is it thought out except among those who went on to become apologists.

Ah, but in lieu of her (something that some might confuse as a miracle), I'd be entirely satisfied with a woman from another culture. I now live on the border of Portland's Rumanian community, and really love those people.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule