Typos Noted;
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Mick Emouse

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"We are concerned with weather nature, in whole, or in part, shows any evidence of design."

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "mick emouse"
Subject: Re: A spelling mistake in a Chapman Cohen article and questions about the site
Date: October 10, 2002 1:13 PM

Thanks! It's good to see that people do read these works that have had such a powerful impact on my life.

Though I was very careful to triple-check most of the material I posted, this Chapman Cohen piece was very early, being one of the first things I ever published. Much of what has been corrected on this site has been due to the patience and generosity of the readers to take time out and let me know what they've found. Indeed, maintaining a 124-megabyte text-intensive web site (by last year's measurement) is no easy deal.

I don't use the "[sic]" mark unless not doing so would introduce confusion as to what the text is actually trying to say. The "[sic]" mark is, in my opinion, mostly for tweaks who wish to appear more scholarly than is justified by their subject matter and their readership combined. I simply cannot make this pretense in good faith.

However, I do watermark my e-text conversions. By watermarking I mean introducing very minor alterations into the text. Sometimes these are spelling errors wherein nobody would ever mistake the error for what is supposed to be there (such as your "whether": nobody would read that one as written; all would silently translate or, as most people do, simply pass it over).

I got this idea from "cartographer's errors." Once I was with my Dad as he covered the route for a business he had started. (We had two whole customers at the time, each paying $12 a month to access the thousands worth of equipment and supplies he had amassed!) We had never been to this fellow's home before and it was on this hill that had a grid of streets on its face, reaching to the crest. We even drove to the crest to look at the spectacular view on the other side. The Thomas Brothers Atlas said that his street was the second street down from the crest of the hill. We drove up and down that street several times and just could not find the address! We even got out to see if maybe his place was behind another property with an access road! Nothing!

Then we got stupid and drove to the corner to check the street sign. Yup! It turns out that his street was the crest of the hill! His lot overlooked the other side of the hill! We were on the second street down from the crest, but Thomas Brothers said it was the third street down! Dad cursed the ineptness of the day's workers.

Much later, when studying typesetting, I learned how Thomas Brothers and others protect their work. With a map, it would be easy for someone simply to trace the information and re-draw the streets. No fair: You've gotta hire your own planes aerial photographers, take photos, go down to City Planning, and drive on a whole lot of roads. Either that, or you may purchase the information from Thomas Brothers for a substantial fraction of what it cost them to obtain this information.

How they prevent someone from going to the book store, buying a copy of their map, and tracing the information from it is to place phony streets onto the map. The only way you could be sure you have eliminated all the phony streets would be to go ahead and do the work legitimately! Otherwise, if your map has even one of these phony streets on it, Thomas Brothers gets to cook your goose!

My favorite "textual cartographer's error" (if you will) is to exchange the comma with a coordinating conjunction for the semicolon or vice versa. The latter is mainly for silent reading whereas the former is the only one conducive to reading out loud (though a good reader would know how to either work around it or even substitute the comma and coordinating conjunction. No writer of radio and television news script who used the semicolon more than once would still be working in that field! News script is literally an entirely different language from what you'll see on the printed page.

Thus, this was not a watermark but an oversight. It will, however, now become an oblique watermark in that by noting it, if I ever see a copy which has the other spelling, I can justify further investigation to determine if it was copied from my conversion sometime before today!

The magazine began its eighth year in September, and the web site is to augment the magazine.

As I mentioned, the web site is here to support the magazine, which is the bottom line.

I became an activist in Middle School during the Vietnam War and the 1968 Presidential election, and have been an activist of one stripe or another off and on ever since. In 1986 I became a full-time activist simply because I had lost several skills due to various illnesses and acute emotional trauma, and had basically rendered myself to a state where this was the only thing I could do. Besides, of the three projects I worked on that year, Anti-Apartheid, Homelessness Awareness, and Drug Law Reform, the first two were wildly successful to the point where in each I had worked my way into a position of having had a small but direct hand in both victories. Those stories are scattered throughout the Letters section and my Column; creative use of the Google fields on our front-page will enable anybody to piece together much of those stories.

By 1988 I had been imprisoned for refusing a court order to undergo religious instruction (actually, a "30-day hold" which may be invoked for literally anything). This marked my entry into the field of Separationism, which, as far as I can tell, will probably end up being something I do for the rest of my life, if not the only thing. Like solitary confinement or blunt emotional trauma, gross injustice of this calibre has a way of changing a bloke forever.

I am innately more sensitive about this issue than most simply because instead of going to church, we studied American history. Why? That was our family's only common bond: we were all Americans of one stripe or another! Like many family units which have Native American Half-Breeds in their lineage, our unit features people from widely differing backgrounds.

I was raised an atheist with absolutely no cultural roots as most people experience cultural roots. I am not Jewish or English or even Half-French, Half-German: I have at least eight major cultural roots that I can rattle off, each of which has influenced me. However, what has influenced me the most -- what has influenced most of those in this wind-gnarled family tree -- was the fact that we have no cultural roots. We're Half-Breeds for several generations, having had to make our own cultural identity. Even after we finally assimilated into "White" culture, we still weren't really "White" on the inside: all that happened was that enough European blood came overseas and mingled that we looked White. Far be it from more than a handful of us to think like most of our neighbors.

However, everything I've ever heard about "What is an American?" fits us: we consist of Native American, Colonial settler, Revolutionary-Era signers of both the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, nineteenth-century American Freethinkers, nineteenth-century immigrant, nineteenth-century British Secularists, nineteenth-century Half-Breed, with a whole slew of adoptions and orphaned children in between, all accepted into the family because that was all we knew. We didn't know about breeding or lineage or pure anything: we were Americans, the only heritage we knew. That's the only thing I can say about my culture.

And wouldn't you know it? The letter I fielded immediately prior to this one was from a Christian (which originated in Turkey? probably; Palestine? perhaps; Rome? most definitely) who told me to leave the country that my great-great-great-(etc.)-grandfathers first immigrated to tens of thousands of years ago, that other ancestors later both fought for and then voted into existence! And because I want this country to remain the way they made it, he thinks I should leave. No, he's welcome to stay here, too, if he wants, but I hate to see him making such a grave mistake as telling me to leave! I hate to think that I have played even a passive role in the just desserts that this fellow and his fellow followers will harvest for their (I'll say it) wickedness. The bigotry does not hurt me as much as it harms my country, and it is for my country's sake, primarily, that I do this. I cannot stand to see my country fall apart like this. Yes, it does hurt me, too, but I am used to the pain, having first encountered it in the second grade and having never lived a year when I didn't feel at least some aspect of its blunt blows.

A sickly child, I was adopted, to boot. Then my little brother died when I was very young. A condition of some sort in the nerves of my arms and legs made it impossible for me to do well at break-time sports in grade-school and later. I was back then (and still am today) abjectly shy. I'm also no stranger to emotional trauma. I have been quite a stranger when it comes to coping with it, though, waiting until my 30s to even get a clue as to the nature of the problem, much less how to live with it (to walk around it, actually).

A couple of times in high school I was taken in by the Christian groups. Not the groups, actually, because I've never been much of a group person. Rather, I was always taken to individuals, and it was the enticement of the one-on-one evangelism that I always had trouble withstanding. Then, of course, as soon as you've been "won," the individual ignores you, knowing only how to "win" souls, and not how to actually be a friend.

Is "winning souls" what they do to compensate for their ineptness in real social skills? I guess we all have our hang-ups, don't we? Or perhaps once they've become fully indoctrinated, the ability to maintain newly won friendships gets substituted and thereby impaired by "personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In any event, they have no compensation for any lack of social skills on your part: the Twelve-Step myth of "We'll love you until you can love yourself" is just that: a myth.

I tried several paths, much of which being what Evangelical Christians might call the occult, although that is a misnomer. I also lived at the Hare Krsna temple for a while (notice how I spelled it, though the ANSI Code Page used in this e-mail contain no umlauted "s"). Mostly, though, I "did my time" in religion with my face buried in a Bible. At one point, for three years, I truly wanted for the Christian religion to be true, this despite the fact that after three years I still had no real friends in the church. The only true friends up until that time were the "druggies" I hung with in high school. These were the friends, not the spite-filled "Well, I'll pray for you, Brother!"-type Christians I kept encountering in the various churches I attended. So I studied, mainly to be able to know that what I was doing was the right thing. I also wanted to be able to look someone in the eye and say that I've made a decision because I think it's true, not out of emotional trauma or a need to fit in.


Studying the Bible and studying Church history eventually became the main things that enabled me to leave. That took no small amount nerve, either. Much of what it took to leave and a lot of what it took out of me is covered elsewhere, especially in the Editorial Columns. If you browse those (the "Previous" and "Next" links at the tops of the Editorial Column files), you should be able to tell you've come across a pertinent one with the first paragraph.

Not considering myself the most interesting subject, I hope this explains a little bit nonetheless.

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

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.