Positive Atheism Forum: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?

December 06, 2001

We have touched on aspects of this subject before, but never as directly as Richard wishes to address this concern (see his letter, below). Also, as I explain in my response, the atheistic communities have changed considerably in the past year or two. Before, we hardly heard a peep from atheists when someone would stand up and vilify atheists or degrade the philosophy of atheism.

In recent weeks, though, we have seen reactions from the atheistic communities that can only be described as wild -- responding to various comments made by public figures as well as private citizens, suggesting that atheists in the United States are less than patriotic, less than American, less than human. It seems that President Bush's call for religiosity has not only prompted more than a few religious people to lash out against atheists, I suggest that his action has sensitized atheists to what we have to do to improve our situation in the United States. More often than not, it's the need for activism that turns people into activists!

To reply, simply hit Respond and keep the Subject line the same. I'll get these posted as quickly as I can, depending, of course, on how many responses we get (a lot of responses means a faster posting).

Thanks!
Cliff Walker

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Richard's Letter

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From: "richard hostmark"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: possible topic for dialog?
Date: December 05, 2001 8:51 PM

When discussing theism, there seems to be a mutually agreed upon laissez-faire undercurrent. It's as though the participants politely agree up front that the other's position is okay and they both support the other's right to maintain it.

While I do support people's right to believe whatever they wish, I think this is a grave oversimplification of the actual, dynamic role that theism (and particularly the Christian branches) play in modern American society. I can't idly pretend that theism doesn't daily intrude upon my life.

I think we can agree that the theists hold the vast majority of the positions of power in America -- right up to the Presidency. I understand that there are some states that forbid atheists from holding public positions at all.
 

I, for one, am sick of it. I am tired of having to pretend that we can all live in happy harmony. As far as I can see, we can't. Any enlightened society must let reason rule. Anything that hampers that end hampers our growth as a society. I think that we can easily show that Christianity has a long history of violence, oppression, and imperialism. Are we supposed to believe that those kinds of activities will suddenly stop? I have been moving further away from the classic "live and let live" attitude and closer toward a "Let's extinguish the scourge of religion from the face of the planet -- we'll all be better off." But these are two extremes within a very wide range.
 

I am finding it harder and harder to politely listen to people spout off about God, being blessed, etc. I am more frequently challenging people (as part of casual dialog, as friendly as possible) on their beliefs. We all know that the theistic standpoint is not defensible, and it crumbles rather quickly in the face of reason. That's why there's so much talk about faith. That's why it must be constantly reaffirmed. However, people seem singularly unwilling to relinquish this security blanket. That's really up to them, but I believe theological forces play a sinister role in society, and serve only to restrict society's growth.

I'm not getting militant about it. I am not out to make enemies or insult people. But I'm sick of being tacit about it. I'm tired of reason being the exception. I'm sick of the faithful and the faith.

Anyone else been going through this? Any believers care to comment?

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Cliff's Initial Response

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Richard Hostmark"
Subject: possible topic for dialog?
Date: December 06, 2001 12:37 AM

Let's see what the List says about this one. Now that the atheistic communities appear to have literally ripped open the closet doors over the past year or so, I'd like to see what they think about your proposal -- which has come up many times over the years, in numerous forms. I've always been reserved, and still am, somewhat, but because recent events seem to have changed quite a few aspects of atheistic activism, I'm extremely interested in finding out what the others think about this.

What I mean by "ripped open the closet doors" is shown simply by checking out our report about the time when American Immigration agents seized the Cuban child-refugee, Elian Gonzalez: in response, Miami Mayor Joe Carollo said of the agents, "These are atheists. They don't believe in God." A mere 21 months ago, and hardly anybody in the community of atheistic activists raised a cry! We got four whole responses to our dispatch (and a couple more much later)!

Compare this with what has happened recently: last month, atheists came out in droves to respond to various post-WTC vilifications of atheists. These vilifications (I am convinced) come in direct response to our President's call for religiosity. The several that have come to my attention have generated such wild reaction from the atheists that, for example, USA Today columnist Kathleen Parker eventually had to shut down the boards on her web site due to such heavy activity following the publication of a complex piece that many saw as her vicious slam against atheists, "God, Country Gain Fragile New Toehold." (This may have been a botched attempt at satire: as skilled as I am at determining such things, I remain undecided.)

The Letters Editor of The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia) told me that they'd never had a reaction quite like the one the atheists leveled against them for printing a letter from Gloria "Wendy" Ray, which told atheists to "Get off of our country" (among other things) and insisted that it's okay to believe in God however you want (that is, whichever Christian denomination you wish to belong to) as long as you believe.

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First, I like to distinguish between regular religion and those forms of religious expression that prove themselves to be intrusive, exploitative, or dangerous. Most religious people are as sane, rational, and concerned about what we consider the important things in life as you and I. The only difference is in our religious views, and most religionists hold their religious views privately. Thus, I do not like to lump all religion into the same category.

Secondly, while it is impossible for an atheist to remain openly atheistic and be elected to political office, this does not mean that there are not closeted atheists holding political office -- and doing what politicians (I am told) do best: lying to the public about their religious views!

Thirdly, there is one powerful position of influence where atheists do have the majority -- hands down: this field is science. The latest studies of the religiosity of workers and professionals in this field continue to echo what previous studies have said: those who work in fields that involve critical thought tend to shun the notion of the supernatural.

Finally, don't forget what I've been saying these past few weeks about the group of Americans who are under the age of 30. If we were to divide the group of Americans who don't believe in religion into two "sects," those 30 and above and those under the age of 30, the "sect" of unbelievers under the age of 30 would still constitute the sixth largest religious "sect" in the United States, smaller only than: Methodists (Wesleyans), "non-denominational Christians, 30-and-older nonreligious, Baptists, and Roman Catholics (in order of increasing numbers). We may like to hide at times, but nobody can deny that there is power in youth. Face it, though our life spans overlap, theirs will peak after ours has peaked; this is true for the "youths" of any generation.

Cliff Walker, publisher
Positive Atheism Magazine

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Readers' Responses

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From: "Ken Hark"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Miami_Mayor_Vilifies_Immigration_Agents_As_'Atheists'_9683
Date: December 06, 2001 2:37 AM

I totally understand the anger and frustration of people such as Richard. I'm a unusual critter in that I was born in to the fundamental religions and stayed faithful for forty years. Then I started to question every thing including myself. This is when I realized that I really did not believe and couldn't love a God that told his followers to go and kill men, women and children. This could not be a God or anything of "love". Then I knew that had to leave. God or no God I'm out of here. Even if there is a heaven, I don't want to be a robot under a evil dictator like that. Since then my none belief has only became stronger.

Most Christians I come into contact with are willing to listen to me. I tell them that I'm trying to be a good person for the pleasure of seeing how much people respond to me and therefore I get my reward right here. I can make my own heaven or hell here. Yes morality can involve Sex. A person can treat others badly in many other ways other than sex. Too many Christians think morality has only to do with sex. It is not the sex that is evil, it's the lying, violence, rape and child abuse.

When I tell Christians that I can not help being an Atheist, they have a hard time accepting it. I tell them that my being an Atheist is the same as their being a Christian. "It is only what we believe." They "believe in a God" and "I believe there is no God." So that makes me a believer. I believe that it's B.S. but I don't tell them that. Yes they do make us pissed off, but fighting them causes them to hate us even more. "Make them think." Ask them how they would change there life if one day they found out positively that there was no Heaven and no Hell, that they would die like any dog. Would they keep pouring money into the church? Would they continue being kind, honest, considerate, and benevolent? It has stopped most of them flat footed. It does not make most of the angry but it does send them away thinking.

I am a hard core Atheist but I still have many Christian friends and I hope to make more Christian friends. I'm not trying to tare down their faith. I only want them to know that I can not help what I believe and do not believe any more that a black man can help being black or that I was born heterosexual. As far as replying to those such as Kathleen Parker, yes keep the letters flowing, but keep them in good taste. Keep writing and voting. That's all we can do.

Ken Hark

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From: "Michael Moore"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 4:31 AM

Hi Richard,

You have my vote.

Finding Cliff's site a few weeks ago and reading the materials there has brought a lot of clarity to my (a) religious views, and really helped me marshal my thoughts on the subject.

I've long had the "what a bunch of crap" attitude and was generally aware of and disgusted by the Religious Right's agenda, but it wasn't until I began reading all the letters and articles on PAM that I started really getting a feel for the pervasiveness of the assault by the theists on the Constitution and their fellow citizens who happen to think differently than they do.

I think we need to really watch that we not come across as too strident or shrill lest we provoke even more of a (more easily justified) backlash. Theists (and by this I'm referring to those who are intrusive or oppressive, not those who quietly go about their religion without bothering people) will have a field day as it is without giving them even more ammunition for their broadsides. At all times we've got to strive to seize the moral high ground.

But that doesn't mean you've got to roll over for them, just that you've got to pick your battles carefully.

The co-worker who fills their cubicle with 49 cutesy angels and natters on about "what a blessing" is probably best ignored as long as they aren't actively lecturing you, simply because you probably won't be able to get a reasonable discussion going. And as columnist "Miss Manners" would point out, religion and politics really shouldn't be a factor in the workplace.

That may sound, or actually be, an elitist comment, but I think there is a lot of truth to it. All people are not created equal in their reasoning powers, and there's no sense wasting time trying to get sense from many of them.

Besides, they've got a right to their speech just as we do. Maybe you can start filling your cubicle with rationalist and freethinker quotations, calendars (are their any), etc.

But if someone is harassing you at work, that is quite a different matter. However, each person will have to gauge their chances of successfully fighting back against the harassment, and it does appear that many times even if they are being harassed they'll find that the deck is at least slightly stacked against them when trying to get some redress.

We should try to truly be the "voice of reason" when we become involved in a discussion. If the other person starts getting hot and loud, try talking even softer -- they have to work to hear you and it can be an effective method for defusing the situation to a degree.

Put THEM on the defensive. Do as you've seen Cliff do -- make them actually explain what they are saying, don't let them get away with claptrap and buzzwords. Keep pulling them back to the topic until you wear them down (or they give up in disgust). As soon as you let them get the conversational bit in their teeth, you've pretty much lost the discussion -- since you can't have a discussion when each party is using a different frame of reference.

I just sent in my first Letter to the Editor to the San Francisco Chronicle this evening, a response to two other letters regarding the religion and cloning debates. It's a lot easier to start taking an activist stance if you'll read Ingersoll's arguments at the New Jersey blasphemy trial (you can find that on PAM). I read that for the first time today -- man, what an orator! Plus, you'll notice that he didn't get nasty about things. Rather, he kept making his point over and over, pulling up different irrefutable points, appealing to the better nature of the jury.

Jane (or Joe) average likes to think that they are nice, sensible people, and we'll have better luck catching them with sugar than with vinegar. Start off by attacking them, and you'll hear the storm shutters slamming shut on their mind. If you can make some calm, reasoned points that aren't perceived as an attack you may actually get them to think a bit. And if you can get them thinking, you might actually see them lighten up a bit. And that is no small accomplishment.

There was a cartoon strip that used to run in a local weekly newspaper called "B.B. and the Diva" by Rupert Kinnard. Diva hosted a talk show and when she'd get someone like Jesse Helms, etc., on the show she'd often have to administer a dose of "slapthology" to bring them back in touch with reality. There are a lot of times when I wish Diva could pay a visit to some of the rabid theists in the world.

There are a couple of used copies of Kinnard's BB&D book on a popular bookseller's web site -- if I'd known that I'd have ordered one last night when I ordered some other books. I couldn't find any samples of the cartoon on the web.

cheers,
Michael

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From: "Bob Howard"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Chrisian attitudes
Date: December 06, 2001 6:24 AM

Those of us who do not live in the US regard the attitude to atheists as amusing. I can't imagine a New Zealand Prime Minister saying atheists shouldn't occupy government positions. In fact the present Prime Minister is an atheist herself. Even our churches are reasonably careful what they say. Saying the sort of things American authority figures say brings scorn on their heads.

"One country, one people, under God " is the sort of phrase from American presidents which makes the rest of us squirm. We wonder what harebrained adventure the Americans are going to get into next in their God given self righteousness. I think these days one thing which does keep American presidents in check is the opinions of other Western leaders. The President can't afford to be too much out of line.

Now that might sound as if I am a Yank basher. I am not. I have great admiration for American achievement. I have great respect for people like Carl Sagan who always spoke sense. In fact generally his ideas were in line with mine or vice versa. I enjoyed and agreed with the sentiments in his last book "A demon haunted world".

I have been somewhat horrified at posts from Christians turned atheists in the US. As you say they seem to be pressured by friends, family and colleagues. That doesn't happen here. I will loudly tell anyone I am an atheist. If they don't like it tough luck. I have been told I have no morals and no purpose in life. I just ask them do you enjoy your life, your children, the outdoors, a walk along a beach? They don't enjoy life any better than I do.

My advice to Americans is to stand up to opponents. Tell them in no uncertain terms you are atheists. If they don't like it that is their problem. I don't know what the law is there but here you cannot discriminate on religious grounds here. If an atheist is discriminated against when applying for a job he has a remedy in law. If a church wants say a gardener to keep the church grounds they cannot advertise for someone of that faith. They must accept all applications.

We hear the outrageous loud proclamations of the far Right. You need to raise your voices and make yourselves heard. But make sure everything you ever say is logical and reasonable. It is very satisfying when Christians listen and admit you have a point.

Regards,
Bob Howard.

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 8:12 AM

It is time. I have confided my unbelief to only a few coworkers, because I fear being fired by my deeply religious, two faced administrator. I was outed by my Quaker friend to several people, who were totally shocked. One stated "I don't believe it. She is a better Christian than any of us." They all agreed, without consulting me, that I am merely a disgruntled Catholic who will eventually come around to "see the light" again. They spout their religious baloney more loudly in my presence now, hoping it will sink into my thick skull.

On the Internet, theists resent atheists intruding in their chat rooms and forums, and vice versa. We are all preaching to our own choir. I would like to see a forum inviting debate between the two groups. Perhaps we could plant a few seeds. And if we aren't complaining about their intrusion, they may find out how nice atheists can be.

Also, I am convinced that former President Clinton is one of the closet atheists who managed to fool most voters -- not because of his lack of morals. We know that has nothing to do with religion. I became convinced by the look on his face whenever he made religious comments, and noted that he only mentioned religion to arouse sympathy and support. It was not a continuous part of his everyday speech, as with truly religious politicians (and others).

In my twenties, I knew many self-professed atheists. Once they started having children, they withdrew into the safety of "Just-in-Case Christianity." They were willing to risk their own slim chance for heaven in favor of truth, but not their children's. They did not share my interest in science, which strengthened my non-religious convictions. I suspect many Christians are of this type. This may be why they feel so threatened by us.

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From: "InPRO IAfrica"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 9:25 AM

Hi All

Richard sounds like a really pleasant, amiable chap, respectful and concerned with others, but just feeling slightly trapped. Yes, I empathize with all you have mentioned, and much more.

My personal approach has tended to be more 'aggressive' (religion is only polite when it suits them, otherwise they go back to their killing and murderous ways), and in light of your comments, would encourage all to do so.

There is, however, a price to pay-are we prepared to pay it via actions? If not, stop complaining.

Encourage all atheists to speak out, and it becomes more regular, more acceptable. Get on the radio and TV, discuss it openly at dinners (playing the victim often gets females empathizing and thinking a little more). Differentiate between belief (however profound) and facts. Point out the hypocrisy of believers (many available examples). Point out the Sept 11 attacks are yet another religious crisis or war, with Bush as fanatical as the Muslims in certain areas, as limiting, as dogmatic and closed-minded, etc.

He would love to be able to force all into Christianity, and does not really believe in democracy (given half a chance). Point out the other roughly 10 current 'wars' in the world that revolve around religion. Point out that atheist can even be nice people sometimes. Point out we take total responsibility for our own morals, as we get judged her and now, and don't have an eternal forgiver and life giver. Use the same tactics as religion -- appeal to the heart and the conscience, get people feeling proud and self-righteous (the core of all evil in religion!!) about their atheism.

Even sometimes throw a little light-hearted scorn on the idea of a god, of eternal life, etc. Challenge the difference between the value of faith vs. deeds or works. Why would a good worthwhile god want to have followers blindly believe in him (question the motivations and character of this apparent god -- does it make sense? -- get people to commit to actually answering these questions, and not avoiding them).

One can carry on indefinitely with examples. The trick is to activate and to do. If lots of people do a little, we will (have?) start making a difference. It is a long term project.

Get in touch with 'atheist' or critical thinking groups.

I have personally started to push Critical Thinking in whatever way I am able. For me, the answer to all this lies in the education of the young -- get society to accept critical thinking as an educational requirement and necessity, get children to openly and happily question all things.

Intimidate religious, unquestioning adults with questions about the morality of dogma vs open thinking, questioning and opinions vs belief and faith (in nonreligious areas) -- don't talk about or attack religion openly in critical thinking. Start pushing critical thinking courses at schools (ask the teachers if education is meant to be about critical thinking or rout learning, -- is it not to train children or people to think for themselves?) -- push critical thinking socially, in adult education courses, university courses, with journalists, the media, etc. We all know by now that few believers will change by having discussions (although I have succeeded in 'converting' (to atheism) a number of people now (to varying degrees) by such questioning and discussions). It has to start with the young, and be multi-faceted, just like religion is. We have to be prepared to be assertive, and not sit back and complain about the results (of us doing little or nothing).

Religion has had and used its martyrs to get to where it is now, and I believe, to get a ground swell of atheists, we need the same -- people to speak out openly and proudly -- we need to stand up and be counted, speak our opinions without worry or hesitation.

In South Africa, we see more and more religion being pushed publicly, politically, socially, in the media, etc., and it sickens me. It's insidious and subtle tentacles pervade all areas of society, increasing all the time (head of SABC TV is a bishop, can you believe it?)

Atheism sits safely in science, maybe, for now. I am sure most of you have seen that there is now a religious movement to get science to accept religion more and more, to state openly that both can live side by side (which they cannot, as they occupy totally different areas or functions). These points need to be openly and publically debated. Unfortunately most athiests don't want to be involved in the contentious debate, and back off, resulting in religion gaining ground.
 

Summary:

I firmly 'believe' that the only route forward as a 'movement' for change and acceptance of athiesm, is to be open and vocal.

Paint athiesm as a good, decent and proud position, full of real-life integrity.

We need to group and work together to be more effective.

We need to see how religion works (very effectively) and use the same techniques to win people over to atheism -- even if semi-mindlessly initially.

We need to push critical thinking in all education at all levels, especially with the young. We need to attack adult dogma and bigotry openly and with conviction.

We all have to be prepared to pay the price (whatever it is to each individual).

Are you?

Get active!

Peter Brossy
InPRO PC Software Training

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From: "Chester Twarog"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 1:20 PM

Yes, it's time to stop being Polite!

I don't know how much time that I have personally spent researching the biblical text finding innumerable instances which biblically prove that there just wasn't only one god then and all of the barbaric stuff done by "god" and for "god" and there isn't any god and Jesus was not divine, and on and on that I would rather have been doing reading and art and stuff.

For example, telling a religious person that the Old Testament proves my point, I can point to and read to them Psalm 86: 8 "Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord." But they try to argue that since "gods" is small "g", it doesn't mean "Gods." Well, "what did the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, etc., worship? Gods!" We are reading only about the "one true God of Israel."

And, the biblical "God" of the Hebrews is totally unscientific [the Hebrew were totally unscientific].
 

Obadiah 1: 3-4 "You (Edom) are proud because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. 'Who can ever reach us way up here?' you ask boastfully. Don't fool yourselves! Though you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down. I, the Lord, have spoken!"

See? the Lord and the Hebrews thought the "stars" were rather close objects, within our own atmosphere and no clue that stars were very, very distant -- and why apocalyptic references have "stars falling out of the sky". Science and religion compatible? Bah!

The Book of Job chapters 38-41 has god asking Job lots of scientific and historical questions that Job, of course, couldn't answer but would only answer "God" did it. However, all of these questions have been and are being answered by science -- not religion. But reading Job, everything that happens on Earth is the God's responsibility -- "He" admits it! How will the religious cover that? "You got cancer?" well, "God" gave it to you! "A tornado ripped through and destroyed your town?" well, "God" sent it! Read the Book of Job. "Problems?" "God sent Satan" Job 1:1-2.

Chet Twarog

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Added: December 6, 2001

From: "D.J. Brown"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: RE: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 2:15 PM

Hi Cliff,

I, too, have recently become more aggressive about my atheistic beliefs. I find it intolerably insulting when people who know that I'm an atheist still tell me that all the good in my life comes from their Christian god, and that all the bad stems from Satan and my lack of "faith." My latest tactic, and it seems to be working, is to deal with these people in the same way that they deal with me -- I outright insult their beliefs. It's one thing when a stranger says something along the lines of "God Bless" or "Praise Allah," but when someone knows that they are going to offend you -- it's gloves off time.

I simply think that if they want to impose on me their beliefs, that they should be willing to listen to mine.

What entertains me the most is to first refer to their ideas as "mythology." Then I refer to their church as a "theatre." Then I tell them that they're wasting their life on fantasy. What usually follows is argument from design, a speech about what real happiness is, and so on. Then I used to get a speech about how my life would never improve and I'd never get a job until I "accept Jesus into my heart." ( I was unemployed and suffering from depression several months back ). Of course, that little argument seemed to disappear when only three weeks later I got hired as a programmer for $150k/year. Now if these arrogant theists bother me I just tell them that if only they too would worship my yellow and blue painted rock that their lives would improve (one of them tried to steal my yellow and blue painted rock on the grounds of it being a false god).

I don't know, but maybe I'm a little harsh. I've only had one theist take a swing at me, but I guess he didn't believe in my yellow and blue painted rock (he didn't get the best end of that one). Most of the others have stopped trying to convert me altogether. My brother, on the other hand, still barges into my place and yells at the top of his lungs, "Praise Jesus! Woo! It's a happy-Jesus good morning!" Not exactly my favorite way to start the day, but overall the tactic has greatly improved my life.

I thought that I would feel bad, guilty, for being so brutal to these people. In the end though, I feel better about myself and much more confident with my atheism. I've also had to listen to far less god-talk and no more ministers at my door asking me why I'm "running from God." (my mother actually sent ministers to my place to try and convert me -- she's a right-wing fundamentalist who started her OWN church, so you know what I'm up against here).

In fact, my own new confidence and willingness to defend my beliefs has started to affect the younger members of my family. Once all as hard-line about Christianity as my mother and grandparents, many of them are becoming tired of religion and starting to become confused about it. I've got a whole story about the time one of my 10 year old cousins said, "But Grandma, D. J. actually makes sense and I can't even figure out what you're saying." (he was grounded and prayed for several weeks). I've got another cousin who at the age of 12 was riding with me to see a movie (Star Wars EpI?) who said, "You know, I don't think I believe in all this God stuff. I believe in science." I was so proud. :)

I don't actively tell these kids that religion is wrong (my fiancée does, and I tell her that doing that is no different than theists saying atheism is wrong -- it should be a choice). My little brother recently asked me, "What's wrong with the Bible?" I was a little thrown off, but responded, "There are many things in the Bible that contradict themselves and many people doing very bad things. But I'm not going to tell you what. I don't think it's my place to try to convert you to or from any set of beliefs." That's about the best I could put it to him (he's 13).

In the end, we atheists have to be as adamant about protecting reason as theists are about protecting doctrine -- only ten times more so to make up for the population difference. We have to teach children about reason and logic at a young age so that they might have the chance to actually choose a religion (and who knows, armed with reason and logic, how many would become atheists?). We have to stop tolerating theists when they try to degrade us, no matter how subtly. We have to make theists aware when they make a religious remark, and make them self conscious about it, and break their habits of assumption. We must be willing to defend atheism in whatever we do and to whomever would challenge us. We must be willing to aggressively "attack" any theist who would attack our beliefs. We must be willing to challenge the theist's foundation of morality and to define what true morality is. We must do all this before we will be heard.

Is this a call to arms for atheists? Of course. We need to pick up our pens and open our e-mail clients and start writing letters and nitpicking every conceivable religious outlet. Perhaps if we just all agreed to write two letters a week to someone in the media, in the government, or an advertiser or sponsor, and complain about any religious infraction we can find -- or point out flaws. Let them know that we're out here, that we're watching, and that we won't miss anything.

Thanks for listening.

D.J. Brown
UltiSite Development
http://www.ultisite.com/

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From: "Carey"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 2:49 PM

Richard is not alone in his frustration. I look at most religions, particularly Christianity and its siblings Judaism and Islam, as undeserving of any respect. I disagree with Cliff that the quietly faithful are any less culpable for religion's intrusions; I think they vote and they support their churches, synagogues, and mosques, thereby perpetuating the status quo. My dilemma comes in drawing a line between atheistic activism and atheistic evangelism. I don't want anyone telling me what to think so I am reluctant to tell anyone else what to think. I will answer questions and respond when lied to, but, so far, I won't go church to church tearing down the faith of strangers. Theists have a right to believe what they want. Atheists have a right not to be affected by those beliefs. I liken it to smoking; smoke if you must, but don't do it anywhere near me. Where do you go when rights overlap?

There is a major difference, however, between theistic evangelism and atheistic evangelism; theists make their own claims about what is truthful, while atheists say we've examined these claims and, based on evidence verifiable by anyone, found them not truthful. Theistic evangelism is mind control and atheistic evangelism is consumer protection. In so doing, atheists take away the simple, static, comfortable answers and replace them with complicated, variable, new answers. Experience tells me that not many people are willing to cope with this kind of switch. It is estimated that 40% of Americans do not use their seat belts regularly. A simple, three second effort that can save their very lives, and they won't do it. Would you chastise your family, your friends, your neighbors, a stranger for not wearing their seat belt? What are you willing to do to protect yourself from fellow citizens and fellow citizens from themselves?

Carey

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From: "Steve"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Date: December 06, 2001 3:47 PM

Thank you!

I'm so glad there are other humans that think like me. I'm so tired of faking it to fit in (praying at meals etc.).

Carl Sagan is my "god." Astronomy is real. My advice for Christians: Buy a telescope, see what's real.

I believe atheists are more advanced. It will take many, many years for the world to come around.

Wish we could be here to see it.

Keep up the good work!

Steve
Dallas, Texas

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From: "Ken Whitley"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 4:24 PM

Cliff,

To speak out while being an Atheist minority might be a wondrous or a tragic event depending on the circumstances surrounding the individual or group that brings attention upon themselves. The squeaking wheel might get the grease or get caught up in a fanatical type religious persecution by some local group with nothing better to do. Also, speaking out, as I have in the past, might convince many friends, family and neighbors that nothing we comment on is worth listening to by religious folk. To them I sat on the right-hand side of their devil. I usually got many religious persons, afterward, trying to convert me back into their fold and they would not take "No" for an easy answer. It was hard not to yell at them thereby making a fool of myself in their eyes. I was this poor lost soul that their God had commanded "them" to save. They had a new challenge, and I had became their target, as if saving my person would insure them glory. It became at times suffocating and difficult at work.

I'm a helicopter pilot veteran from the Vietnam era and was a few years back tossed out of a Vietnam veteran pilot's organization simply because I was an Atheist. Nothing more, nothing less, except, I had spoke up about my Atheist beliefs because I figured I was among deep bonded friends and peers. I learned there that silence "is" golden. I opened up afterwards to only those I trusted and found none-threatening. I often feel the same rules apply to Atheist that apply to gays in our military, that is, if you speak up to the other side about who you are -- you might later regret it after one gets thrown out of the very _____ you once belonged to and wanted to include within your career, club, organization, etc., as part of your social order.

Maybe those past killers of Vietnam simply wanted to punch their "get into heaven card" later in life by throwing me out of their group, but no matter their reason, it hurt me tremendously for my former flying brothers to disown me in such a fashion. So be careful at speaking out because most religious folk do not practice what they preach. The bad ones find no limit in bad acts toward the poor soul that had, to them, gone astray.

At times after the war, I used to wish I could believe in "their" God. Just to fit in. But no longer, because my religious idealism has been removed from me permanently, not by choice, but during hard combat where my life seemed lost and without hope. There, I found the personal knowledge that Atheism was absolutely correct. Don't ask me "how" exactly this event took place because I cannot answer this question and give it justice.

Today, I reside in a mansion where religion is banished, but find this place a comfort and super nice during this -- my later life phases of being. :-)

Regards,
Ken Whitley

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From: "Mont Buckles"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 7:14 PM

Howdy,

I agree with Richard. I am tired of listening to the steady stream of religious blather. Every night on the news there are religious stories, every politician has to proclaim their faith before they can get elected and most people you talk to are constantly proclaiming their faith in various ways.

I recently had an encounter that really made me mad. I am from Utah and half of my immediate family is Mormon. My mom and dad, who are retired, just went on a Mormon mission to Russia for 15 months. The day of their farewell party was also the day of my brother-in-law's grandfather's funeral. So between these 2 events, all day we had to endure non-stop religious blather. I would have just stayed home except then I would have to listen to how bad I am because I don't love and support the other family members. Atheists can't win.

I have come out at work and notice some interesting effects from it. For instance after the September 11 tragedy, everyone was doing their 'thanking of god' for it not being worse and what not. When they caught themselves doing that in front of me they would stop themselves. I could tell they were at least thinking about the irony of their statements. There was also the story of a woman who survived the tower collapse only to die on that plane crash a while later. Someone at work said "I guess god wanted her to die." I just laughed and said, sarcastically, "Yeah that was my first impression, too." I think they even noticed how silly they sounded. If I hadn't been around I think they would make those statements without even questioning it. At least now they notice how often they do it, even if they don't stop.

Mont Buckles

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From: "Clare Jarboe"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 06, 2001 7:36 PM

Hi, I am writing in response to the letter written by Richard concerning moving forward to "extinguish the source of religion from the face of the planet." I am writing this prior to reading Cliff's response to the letter.

First I have to write by saying, that we still live in America. Although it is not right that even our own president is preaching religion, it is also not right for us to "extinguish" them. Freedom of religion applies to them as much as it does to us. But part of our fight to raise up atheism should not be to put down theism. Recall the fight for racial equality. African Americans were not trying to "extinguish" Caucasians from the face of the planet -- they were trying to rise themselves up. Prove that they can be equal without violence, under the guidance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now we must do the same thing. We must rise up; be recognized; stop being discriminated against. But we must do it with a positive attitude. This is "positive atheism," after all is it not? Any negativity that we give towards theists is what has given us a bad name in the past. We must work to remove that image, and create a new image of equality, and of good moral character. We cannot give them a reason to discriminate against us. And they will take whatever they get to throw a bone at us. So we must be wise in our course of action.

I am as sick as the next person of being put down, being considered a lower being because I do not believe in a god. I don't agree with believers at all, yet although I do not understand their beliefs, I can still live beside them. That is a basis our country has been founded on.

Clare Jarboe

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Added: December 8, 2001

From: "Samuel Rivier"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 07, 2001 3:40 AM

I'd like to make a quick comment to Richard.

Maybe it's just because of the community I live in, but religion doesn't seem to be all that big a problem. It's not like people walk around the streets yelling "praise jesus," or anything like that.

And even though I managed to get some public areas, namely schools, in my community to remove "God Bless America" signs, they never really bothered me. My argument was rather one of appropriateness, that with the emphasis schools place on dress and behavior, their own appearance should be placed under that same watch.

My point is that we should attack church-state violations where they spring up, and where we know we have right on our side. We can thus preserve our dignity to others, as well as ourselves. But when we try to attack the "root" of the problem, religion in general, we become a crack pot group, fighting an overwhelming majority about something nonexistent, completely destroying all credibility we may once have held.

Samuel Rivier

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From: "Christian Ambrose"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 07, 2001 7:41 AM

I feel the same way. Going to a Catholic college, I get hammered a lot with religion and am even seen by some of these people as a freak of nature. I have been told that I'm violating nature and in theology class had to read a short story written by Fannie O'Connor called "Good Country People." She's a good writer but the atheists in her story are the stereotypical atheists; this does not help my fight against the stereotype and is quite annoying.

Anyway, I get sick and tired of religious people acting like religion is what makes people ethical and that atheism encourages unethical behavior. I myself have shown considerable restraint in times that I could have illustrated atrocities committed by religious people in the past and what I've seen religion do to people up close and personal. I try to be polite even in times that I have to explain the dark side of religion. I'm getting tired of religion intruding my life as well. I'm getting more outspoken on religion myself. I think that what we should do is show that we can live in harmony with each other if the believers agree to use reason and not their religion restrict society. I know this is a tall order; it may never happen.

What we should do is continue to show how atheism can be a positive alternative to religion and make an effort of being even more ethical than what would be expected of a Christian. However, there will be people who would label that as an atheist having Christian morals. Sometimes they just don't get it; however, remember that there are reasonable christians. They tend to be the better educated ones and perhaps education for everyone is what will finally help the harmony. Education may also finally remove that scourge of religion from earth. At least one can hope.

In reason,

Christian L. Ambrose

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From: "Krista Dixon"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 07, 2001 6:59 PM

Yes it is time to stop being polite to religion. While I don't really think militancy and violence are not the way to go I do believe we have to stand up and be counted. Other minority groups have been are also)in the position of being put down for being different. They have leaders who stand up and fight for what they believe in. I say we must follow suit. Letters to the editor, media coverage, friendly conversations, etc. must be used to get our message across that atheists are not a bunch of dangerous weirdos. We are friends and neighbors of those who would condem us. Is there no freedom of consciousness?

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From: "Tony Castleberry"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 08, 2001 3:38 AM

Funny you should bring this up. I have come to the conclusion that yes, we should become more vocal and outspoken and also that I will be joining an "atheist organisation" (maybe two!) whether I agree with everyone else in that group or not if for no other reason than it is high time we had some real lobbying power.

I have been engaging in (mostly) respectful debate at nearly every message board, book store and bus stop it seems for the last year or so at least (everytime I am approached by a theist or my opinions on religion are solicited anyways) but I try not to go beyond my intellectual means in doing this (meaning there are ahteists far better equipped for such debates than I so when a theist asks me about, say, radiometric dating methods or something I try and suggest a book or website that can provide answers without getting things mucked up). Most of what I have been doing is clearing up misconceptions about what atheism is and isn't (theists tend to think we are all "strong" atheists of the "You're an idiot for believing!" variety).

Tony Castleberry

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From: "Randy Leacock"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 08, 2001 5:54 AM

My simple answer: 911

The events of September 11 of this year has caused the vast majority of thinking people whom are "Good Christians" to have their entire belief system shattered. This total doubt in what their god allowed to happen to innocent people results in a natural response to intensify their own drum beating and lashing out against others. They must have a scapegoat and that scapegoat happens to be atheists or their concept of what atheists represent (a threat to their dearly held belief system).

This self doubt kicks in the need for superiority over someone else. They can't publicly lash out against those they feel superior to like Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, Liberals because that would expose them for what they really are (spineless weasels). However they can justify in their own minds the killing of thousands of Afghanistan-Arab (non-Christian) "terrorists" by someone other than themselves in a far away place. This isn't really killing people -- it is killing their "doubt" in their own "god." (Don't get me wrong, I have no love for terrorists or terrorist activity).

As Richard mentions in his letter that most of the positions of power are filled with theists. This results in self-persecution of those in power if they are to try to do anything publicly about those attacking and intimidating the last politically correct group left to attack. We must rally together and offer as much support to one another as we can.

Now may be the time to think about running for public office. We may have to use tactics like putting a fish on the back of our cars (not the "Darwin" one!!!) to make it appear we are one of them. Or using many of the catch phrases that indicate you are (Okay, wink, wink and) one of the good ole boys! The one trouble with this plan is that the few atheists I do know don't thrive on power or deception.

The one quote I really like is: "You didn't see any atheist terrorists on those four airplanes on September 11."

These were just some thoughts I had after reading Richard's letter. I hope they make some sense.

Randy Leacock

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From: "Art Haykin"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 08, 2001 10:51 AM

Religion, and all its implications, is pathology, plain and simple, and fanatical religion is psychotic. Among other things, it serves as an elaborate defense mechanism for those who need something to turn to when the realities of life smack them in the face, and it seems to offer a system of morals and behaviour that simply couldn't or wouldn't exist without it. This notion is patent rubbish.

Face it, most people are not critical, differentiated thinkers, and have little or no real knowledge of science or of how nature works. Add the that, the sheep mentality of letting others do their thinking for them. It is ever thus, and not likely to change any time soon. The numbers are staggering, and a mere 1/6th (or less) of the world's people feel no need for any God, or to believe in anything supernatural. Add to that, the power factor: religion is big business, and the need to control others is endemic in the psyche of man.

There is no "Atheist Movement," as such, and I doubt that there ever will be. There are a few vocal groups and individuals here and there, but they have little power, support, resources, organization, and determination. Religion, faith, belief, superstition, etc., are memetic imperatives, and are part of the fabric of life. They are not simply going to go away!

The events of 9/11 have given religion an unprecedented shot in the arm: money is flowing into their coffers, and attendance is way up. Jerry Foulmouth and Pat Robberson are having a field day, as are all the other whores selling their filthy wares.

And you will note that they, the believers, always have a response to everything, and the answer to nothing.

A lie that is congenial to one's point of view is always better than a truth that challenges it.

Art Haykin
Bend, Oregon

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From: "Tina Browning"
To: Positive Atheism Magazine
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: Sat, 8 Dec 2001 04:56:05-0800 (PST)

Richard has echoed my frustrations verbatim.

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Added: December 17, 2001

From: "George Gaffney"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Sent: December 09, 2001 11:47 AM
Subject: I don't think it's tacitly right to up the pressure!!!

I think it would be tactically disastrous to change tack.

With all due respect to them whatever their "ism" you or we do not have to play their game.

It is only in politics one gets away with that form of "terrorism."

No, I'm afraid it's only in the sheer strength of presentation of the true facts relating to atheism that strides will be made!.

It would be inane of me to even begin to outline the factors in the theists favour! Remember, they will stoop to almost any level to make their case. And, they have the numbers!!

Sincerely,
George Gaffney.

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Cliff responds:

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George replies:

Cliff,

Thanks for your reply.

Point taken. I would still be concerned about public perceptions!

Perhaps a chunk of those "Non Religious" may not be prepared to own up about their non-belief "in public" and therefore might not be as accurate as one might imagine.

The groups 30 under and over is indeed impressive, that fact is good for general consumption and can be made into a valuable subtle strength. Could be getting to the stage of not being seen to be defensive. Not that you are but, one has only got to speak in the atheists favour to risk being be branded defensive.

Sincerely
George Gaffney

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Cliff responds:

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From: "Craig Wilkins"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: December 10, 2001 5:23 PM

I think that it is extremely important for atheists to stand up for themselves. If we continue to let the religious majority treat us this way, we are basically saying that it is okay. The more we let them think it is okay, the more that will prove their point to the mindless masses. All atheists need to speak out. If you don't want to admit that you are an atheist for personal reasons, at least stand up for the cause. I don't have to be a woman to advocate for women's rights. The more support we get from the masses, the better. Once more people's neighbors are okay with people being atheist, the more likely the individual will be okay with it. Bottom line, atheists need more public support or we will continue to be looked at as less than human irrational "godless heathens," as they like to call us.

On a more personal level, I think one needs to be a little more careful in revealing one's atheism to family and friends. I have found too often that people stop listening once you say the word "atheist." More care and conversation needs to be put in for a loved one to understand why you don't believe in what they hold to be Truth. It is quite impossible to be as militant about my atheism as I would like to be around family, especially, because it just plain scares them.

So, basically, what I feel is that on a public level, where government is involved especially, atheists need to stand up for themselves the same way every other oppressed group has done and emerged with equality over time. But be careful when discussing religion with family if they are religious, because a strong atheist attitude threatens their very foundations.

On both levels we desperately need to emphasize how "atheism" does not in any way equate with "evil."

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: FORUM: Time to Stop Being Polite
Date: December 10, 2001 6:06 PM

I'm personally trying to strengthen my own campaign of polite assertiveness and education. Too often I've heard folks characterize us as "angry," which is a major turnoff (except perhaps for young people). Though we have every right to be angry, such an approach must be very rare, extremely carefully chosen. Generally, we can make more use of a combination of (1) legal stances for our civil liberties, and (2) educating the public far more assertively than we have in the past to the presence of ethical, kind, atheists, who are good citizens, good neighbors, and simply good folks you'd like to get to know better.

My livelihood is risked by "coming out," but I'm trying to feel less fearful. I've written to columnists in our newspaper recently who since 9-11 have slammed atheists. One in a gardening column (!) I read regularly, wrote that no atheist could be a gardener. I wrote to her privately, telling her kindly that she was quite wrong and inviting her to my garden, plus added a few factoids showing that atheists can be good citizens too. She never replied, but I'd like to think she will think twice before she gives way to such bigotry again.

Another wrote a sneering attack of an atheist who'd called him to say he was feeling excluded by the President's focus on religion. I wrote to him asking that he not fan such divisive flames further, with similar factoids. He too did not reply, but a later column referred to all of us pulling together, including the nonreligious, in a more inclusive way than he had before.

My letters to the editor educate on Jefferson, church-state separation, calls for ethics that transcend divisive religious sects, but don't fully "out" me.

Though just a volunteer, I got permission from a national humanist group to speak on their behalf before my state legislature to educate about how mandating "In God We Trust" signs on all public schools unnecessarily excludes the ethical nonreligious and unpatriotically violates the wishes of our country's founders. It allowed the press to report that groups (plural) (not just the ACLU) opposed the bill, which helped legislative opponents kill it.

I do fully "out" myself much more than I once did in selected friendly private conversations, and try to consistently challenge statements like "Everything happens for a reason," or "we should do nothing; it must be God's will."

So it's pretty chicken, but a good middle road for many of us.

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From: "Brian Holly"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Is it time?
Date: December 12, 2001 2:00 PM

I guess I've been kind of slow on the uptake, but reviewing the controversy about Kathleen Parker's USAToday column finally helped the penny to drop for me. This is a human rights issue, and what Ms. Parker and those like her are doing is inciting religious hate. So the question is: how should we respond?

First of all, I think we have to speak up in a new way, and we have to challenge the sham "morality" of those who demonize and vilify us. We can no longer pretend we are above the fray. We can no longer afford to spend all our time elaborating elegant philosophical variations of David Hume's arguments while in the public forum the term "atheist" becomes the cultural and religious equivalent of the vilest racist epithets. Today, no one can get away with using the "n" word in civilized society, and that is solely due to the actions of heroes like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who stood up against prejudice and bigotry. The Gay Rights movement is another example we must look to. When will we, like the patrons of the Stone Wall, decide we're not going to take it anymore. Do we have the same moral courage? Are we prepared for the firestorm of hate and abuse that standing up and speaking out inevitably entails? I'm confident that we are, but we need to wake up.

But this does not mean being impolite. It does not mean vilifying religion, as some of us seem to enjoy so. It means speaking the truth about the cultural brownshirts for whom religion is a tool to legitimize hate. We know that, just as the KKK were a tiny minority of the white community, the Kathleen Parkers are a tiny minority of the Christian community. And it makes no sense to alienate the majority. Rather we must enlist them in the cause of treating atheists with dignity and respect. We must motivate them to challenge the use of demeaning and untruthful stereotypes of atheists. Yes, we think they have embraced mistaken views, and we will be happy to discuss that with them if they are interested, but that is not why we demand their attention at this moment. Rather, we must demand that they attend to the moral issue, and we must demand that they take action against those in their own ranks who spread lies and hate about atheists. We must shame them into action.

Brian Holly

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From: "Anthony Heath"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: FORUM:_Time_To_Stop_Being_Polite_To_Religion?
Date: December 13, 2001 10:03 PM

After reading Richard's letter and the responses to it I say that it is way past the time to stop being polite. I think it's time we actually start doing something and stop whining about having to sit through prayers over the Ramadan, Christmas, Mithra's Birthday, Kwaanza, Consumerism Day Turkey Dinner.

Why should we try to live in peaceful coexistence with people who don't tolerate us?

Why should we try to respect someone's belief when we know that it is wrong?

Why should we support groups that teach exclusion and intolerance?

Why should we let them have their way with the world we live in?

Why should we allow wars to start that are based ultimately on a single insane notion?

Why should we keep quiet about irrational actions taken by people in power?

Why can't we atheists as a significant percentage of the population petition the government for redress of our grievances as guaranteed by the Constitution? Why can't logic and critical thinking win against insanity and irrational "systems of belief"?

Aren't we supposed to be able to think more clearly than your average believer? Well, let's think of a way to make a change.

Our system of government is designed to be on our side. I say we do what we can to try to get it back.

I'm cutting the "god" out of all my money. I'm buying books of atheist and rationalist literature. I'm outright telling people that I have no reason to believe irrational claims. I'm talking with people about what atheism really is. I'm talking about how the president is violating the constitution. I'm voting. I want to do more. Somebody give me something to sign!! I want to change things!

I want to badly to be part of some kind of attempt to change things for the better.

Anthony Heath
Chalfont, Pennsylvania

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From: "Gregory Luton"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Sent: December 14, 2001 8:29 AM
Subject: FORUM:_Time_To_Stop_Being_Polite_To_Religion

I have to disagree with you Cliff. Your Christian friends are not sane. They are not sound of mind. They are sick with a disease that permeates the human population of this planet. Science is not free of this disease either, as several writers here have inferred. "The Big Bang Theory" is a good example of how creationist mythology has bent the minds of scientists and stands in the way of human understanding.

It is not really correct to say that everyone has a right to their own point of view and apply this to someone espousing a theistic dogma. That is really saying that everyone has a right to be sick and to go around infecting other people. Belief in a diety is not sane rational thought. It is insanity and should be treated as such.

Religions serve important social functions outside of teaching their dogma. Most people are social animals by nature and religions give them the opportunity to congregate and a forum for social interaction. If the religious disease is to be treated then some organization is going to have to exist to fulfil these other aspects that cater to human needs. Universities are organizations that offer ritual, opportunities to congregate and a hierarchical system of social interaction. That is why science seems detached from religion even though it is not. "God does not play dice" has no context outside of a theistic viewpoint.

If rational thought is to become dominant over religious insanity there will have to be social organizations to support it. Communism has attempted this but it is dogmatic, based on unsound economic principles and easily taken over by dictators. Even with these faults it has attracted millions of followers. People are tired of the shackles of infirmity and ready far a new paradigm. Atheism does not fulfill the social functions, but perhaps a political party with atheism as a plank would.

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Cliff responds:

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Gregory Replies:

Hello Cliff,

Thank you for your timely response. I appreciate the work you are doing with your web site and am amazed at the volume of it.

Of course you are right about the majority of people in the U.S. being theists and we are not in a position to treat them as sick people. Even if that were not the case it would not be right to restrict their freedoms of speech and religion. I realized this when I wrote the original letter and I edited out most of what I had written to get it down to a succinct point that I felt compelled to make; i.e.: belief in a deity is delusional therefore it is not sane. I really have no idea what to do about that other than to try to avoid theistic pitfalls whenever possible. Which gets us to your next criticism of my letter.

"God does not play dice," no matter how you slice it, it comes up theist. I am very cognizant of Einstein's view of "God," and I went back and reread some of his letters to be sure I understood what he was trying to say. No matter what he or you write about this, if god is an undefined subject the sentence makes no sense. When he said this he was talking to other scientists who knew exactly what he meant, so in context the sentence is understandable, even if not grammatically correct. That is the problem. We give an undefinable subject the status of a noun. So does science. This is a fundamental flaw in our logic pattern. This flaw is a basic premise (God is). Everything built upon that premise is therefore unsubstantiated. Therefore science is not logically substantiated. This does not mean all of science is incorrect. It does mean many, if not most of it's conclusions are not valid. The calculations are not wrong, but the reasoning is insubstantial. I think the outcome of this failed logic is hugely apparent in quantum physics and Einstein contributed a great deal to the confusion.

As we emerge from the mists of superstition our vision of the universe around us is going to become much clearer. It is only when we can see where we are going and where we have been that we are going to realize just how lost we really are.

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Cliff responds:

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Gregory Replies:

Thank you again for your reply. I had read your discussion about pantheism already but that Spinoza discussion was new to me and very interesting. In appreciation I would like to share something with you. Perhaps you have heard of this or considered it yourself before, but if not I think you will find it fascinating.

It seems to me that the perfect symbol for an omnipotent omnipresent entity would be a sphere with a vacuum inside. It could not be a perfect vacuum because that does not exist and if did it would crush any container that is concievable. It would be too powerful to contain. A significant vacuum would be a good symbol because a theist would look at it with wonder and say "Everything else has been removed and only God is left," while an atheist would answer and say "Yeah see, I told you, there's nothing there."

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Gregory again:

I guess I expected some type of reply to my post about symbolizing an omnipresent omnipotent entity with a vacuum. I am sorry if I offended you with my jocular terminology. I was hoping you would reply as to whether you had heard of this symbolism before. It is very powerful imagery. It is something I thought of myself I think, however, I read a great deal and might have picked it up from someone else. It seems to have left you speechless which implies you are totally overwhelmed by the concept or you hold it in contempt. Since the logic is sound I assume you are overwhelmed.

I would like to open a discussion concerning relativity, gravity. and the theistic propaganda that supposed scientists put off as cosmology (Big Bang Theory). Would you be interested in hosting and editing this discussion? I admire your application of logic and respect your dedication to the pursuit of truth, whatever that might mean. I do not consider myself as an an atheist, although I strongly disbelieve in any type of diety. I am a human being. A human being striving to bring a sense of rationality to an irrational world. I think we could add another dimension to your web site. Logic unencumbered by theistic superstition. It is very powerful, but you spend all your time parrying questions on an irrelevant topic, theism. Don't you think there is more to your philosophy than bashing christians? I sure do. A firm grasp on reality is an absolute necessity for understanding the world around us.

Knowledge is power.

Are you ready to play with the big boys?

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Cliff responds:

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Added: March 22, 2002

From: "Bill Lewis"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: January 05, 2002 11:50 AM

Hello everyone

This is my stance, and what I intend to do about it.

1) Since all religious beliefs (Muslim, Christian, Judaism, Buddhism, Satanism, and all the other "isms") rely on the supernatural as a given for their very existence-I will challenge the idea of the supernatural. That is, something unexplainable within the framework of science.

2) It seems curious to me that in the last hundred years or so of searching, no verifiable, testable proof of anything outside of nature has ever come forth. Ghosts, demons, angels, zombies, Black Magic, White Magic, etc.

3) What I am doing personally is putting my money where my mouth is (so to speak).

I have written or drawn something (or a series of things) on a standard size sheet of typing paper.

It is sealed in an envelope and no one but me knows what is on it.

If anyone can send me a reasonable description of what is on it, I will give you my computer and all my software, attached hardware, etc. ( I offer this, because it is my most prized possession.) I don't care how you do it -- White Magic, Black Magic, Oujii Board, Prayer, call Cleo the Psychic -- whatever.

4) Besides winning my computer and everything dear to me, you will win a convert. I will totally reverse my position on the matter, and have to believe in the supernatural.

If it is proven that there is a supernatural (outside of nature) I would be forced to admit I have been wrong all these years. I would gladly do it, if it gets me closer to the truth.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Looking forward to challengers

Bill Lewis

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From: "Tennille J. Haberman"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: January 06, 2002 5:21 AM

I am 25 years old. I want to share with you the day I decided to come 'out of the closet' as an Atheist. While growing up, I always wanted to feel included (like most of us do); therefore, tried to force myself to believe that there was a god such as everyone else believed (so I thought).

It took a co-worker's atheistic remark two years ago for me to stop and think to myself, "This person is actually 'open' that he is an Atheist? And he's not scared to let others know? Wow!!" I immediately became interested to speak to this person and, knowing that I wouldn't suddenly become secluded and possibly discriminated against, I enthusiastically shared my atheistic belief with him. It was the most exciting and joyous moment of my life -- being able to let go of this sick and hallucinating thought that there was a god.

Since then, I have shared this belief only with my close friends and family. I think one day in the near future I will be strong enough to tell everyone I know that I feel this way. Right now, I'm terrified at the thought that acquaintances or co-workers could 'freak out' on me and seclude me in everyday activities if they knew I thought this. So, I keep it to myself, for the most part. Three of my best friends are against my beliefs, but they are open to some conversation. They are careful not to offend me with any God or Jesus-related paraphernalia and respect me as a human being. I appreciate this and try not to offend them, either. They pray for me because they don't want God punishing me for not believing, come Judgment Day.

But it is very hard for me to understand how intelligent they all may seem -- except, of course, in their decision to believe in God. I pity their belief and think they are simply brainwashed idiots. Of course, I don't say this to them, but I think it to myself quite often. It's just too bad their parents raised them to be this way and that the 'fear of God' has so much power (in their minds) to make them fearful for their lives to think otherwise. It just absolutely makes me sick.

In regards to Atheists being stereotyped as 'evil people', if you were to ask any of my (all but one) theist friends what kind of personality I have, you would get a response similar to the following: that I am a great mother, sister, daughter, coworker, and friend that has a good lifestyle, great ethical values, and would never let them down. That has to tell you something.

Which brings me to another shady area -- as a mother, I have a 4-year-old daughter who hears others talk about Jesus and/or God quite often. I'm not sure the best way to knowledge her of my understanding. One day I will teach her my beliefs, hoping that she will agree. But when? It scares me that others will have the same impact on her as they did on me while growing up -- fearful of being outnumbered, thus being different and feeling secluded. It's not right that society does not accept atheism and I'm scared that she could be discriminated against, if her peers or mentors (to include teachers, daycare providers, etc.) found out. She's too young and unknowledged to defend herself and these views. Does anyone have any pointers for me?

I have only met two people in my life that are Atheists, or at least that have shared with me this belief. One is only an acquaintance, so I haven't been able to converse and share my thoughts with her. The other is a male friend (co-worker), who I absolutely adore for many reasons. The biggest reason is I respect his way of sharing his atheistic views with anyone at anytime and stands up for us. I hope that I will be able to do the same soon. I want you to know that these kinds of websites are great tools, especially for those of us who don't know where else to get support. They are also a great reminder that there are others who believe the same and, in turn, there is hope for a better and more comfortable future for human kind.

Tennille J. Haberman
Sacramento, California

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From: "Mark Pomerleau"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: January 25, 2002 1:48 PM

I would agree that it is time to stop being polite.

I would not agree that it is time to be rude, or pick fights, or vilify the "true believers". I'm happy to complain about stupidity, even rant from time to time, but I'm not going out of my way. I'm in a minority. I know this. I'm also as convinced of my own correctness and righteousness as the worst Evangelicals are.

Aren't convictions great?

I do think we should at least be willing to return politeness. I receive it form time to time. It happens.

I have friends that are religious. We don't discuss this sort of thing often, though, because I think it's an argument that cannot be won. But a thinking person can accept that other points of view can be valid. At least that religion can be an important part of a person's life.

In some societies, a religion can be integral to culture. Everyone needs to recognize this simple fact. Many don't. (By the way: This is why I think missionaries should be cooked and eaten. With onions and turnips, preferably.)

Atheism works for me in my cultural situation. I wouldn't try to convert a Jivaro Indian to it.

That said, I won't vote for or support bible-thumpers of any color. I won't let people believe that I'm of any faith. And I won't be told that somehow that will result in any kind of immorality. Because faith, God/Yahweh/Gaia/Allah/Shiva/The Almighty Dollar/J.R. Bob Dobbs/WhatHaveYou, religion and morals are all human constructs.

And I won't shut up just because faith is "hip" right now.

And I think I can raise moral children without having them in a cult. Or subscribing to jingoism. I'll just teach them to use their minds and get along with fellow humans. And not to set cats on fire.

I won't be told how to live my life, or how to think. Anybody who wants to can fuck off, thank you very much.

I've been told "You should spend time in church. It'll make you a better person."

To which I've responded at least once "You should spend less time in church. It'll make you a better person."

So anyway, I think we should keep in mind that most people are somewhat religious. (Most Americans, anyway. I'm an American, in case you hadn't guessed by now.) It's not my place to make anyone "come around" to my way of thinking.

But I certainly won't listen to an argument that hasn't been thought through.

However, as someone in the forum already said, "We are all preaching to our own choir." I would wonder why the choir keeps getting preached at, though -- maybe they like it.

I hope this comes across as at least somewhat coherent -- Mark P. (an ex-Catholic, left-wing, gun-owning, enviro-fascist crank living in Montana. Is there an organization for those? Or at least a bumper sticker?)

Mark Pomerleau

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From: "Woodside, John JW SITI"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: February 01, 2002 1:03 PM

Dear Cliff,

This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

I have said for many years that atheists, agnostics (and even reasonable deists) have simply been too non-confrontational with respect to this issue, especially during these troubled times in the aftermath of 9/11. Guys like President Bush and John Ashcroft are not content to only fight terrorism -- they can and will use their current popularity and support to push through as many "Christian" agendas as they can. Count on it in the months and years to come.

If we don't guard the hen house, we may find ourselves living in a country where Roe v. Wade has been overturned, Christian prayer is mandatory at public schools, defendants in court must swear on the Bible, etc. etc. Being polite to these people (Bush & Ashcroft & their ilk) will only encourage them to press on, I'm afraid.

This situation is not unlike dealing with the bully in the playground. The bully will run roughshod unless someone successfully challenges him.

-- John

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From: "Ward M. Newcomb, MD"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Sent: February 09, 2002 6:08 PM
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?

I am tired of Bush's religious propaganda. Like many religious fanatics they all claim this was a country founded on Christianity, that atheists have more morals and blah, blah, blah.

Actually our founding fathers hated Christianity. Here is what some of them had to say:

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"The Christian God can be easily pictured as virtually the same as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, evil and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed, beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of the people who say they serve him. The are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."
-- Thomas Jefferson

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
-- James Madison

"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man"
-- Thomas Jefferson

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I totally agree that religious fanatics are more corrupt than an atheist could ever be.

Audious!

Matt Newcomb

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From: "Eric Coronel"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Sent: March 19, 2002 11:30 PM
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?

Most of you people are pathetic. By you, I mean not so much this Cliff fellow as all the respondents and the original letter-writer, Richard Hostmark. Cliff Walker, at least, seems to be able to discuss such a matter without resorting to self-righteous drivel about irrationality and lunacy.

I personally am not too sure about what I believe, but even were I to realize I believed there was no God, I would not begin slandering all "theists" with ignorant generalizations, displaying my ill-informed thought processes for all to see.

You people all wonder why atheism has a bad reputation, and why it must sometimes be kept hidden? Read your letters, but pretend they're written about atheism instead of theism. You might learn something about yourselves, although it seems doubtful.

-- Someone who respects atheists and all else who can discuss their views respectfully and intelligently

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From: "Antiaesthetica"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: Question: Is It Time, Yet, To Stop Being Polite To Religion?
Date: March 22, 2002 12:12 AM

Hi there,

I don't know if this discussion is still active, but I 've only just come about your site, which I found most refreshing.

I am not an American and I do not live in the US, but considering that I am on the receiving end of American foreign policies and market commands like every citizen of this world I feel I may have something to contribute.

Religion is being used by your presidents to subdue, direct and shortcircuit intellectual powers in your nation with the ultimate goal of instilling into your nation a sense of surreal self-righteousness that provides your leadership with the necessary carte blanche to do as they please globally. How else can a president summon missionaries with a whole nation's blessing to go and bomb whole countries to a pulp on a number of pretexts, the most common one involving repeatedly the word 'god' and 'our great nation' and 'God bless America' and other slogans that rational human beings associate with a primitiveness one hoped would have been extinct by now. By our western thinking, can it be possible to assume that the only way to bring a country back to order (whatever that order may be!) is to bomb it to extinction? The motives for such methods we all know, such as the oil routes (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are better and more democratic than Iraq and Iran!) that are more useful to us. The wording used to convince the countries that produce the deadly missionaries is appaling, all involving god and flag and country in a pathetic holy trinity.

Sadly, in the spirit of globalisation and under the banner of American leadership, our European leaders are adopting this stance, thus confirming a rapid regression to the dark ages. Only these dark ages are different, because the age of enlightenment, rational thinking, Marxism, etc., have already happened. So what do we do now? How do we contain self-righteousness that reached its optimum in across-the-Atlantic Christianity, gave Islam all the ammunition it needed to act with the well-known catastrophic repercussions and has turned every other remaining religion into its spitting deadly image? And all in the service of sustaining oil routes, arms trading and supply that provide the West with much of its wealth.

The US is a terrifying combination of being the world's biggest arsenal, the world's biggest market and the world's richest country supported by the West's most primitive approach to right and wrong issues, all based upon a god ideology that has nothing to envy from the Christianity of the past that used all its powers to subdue, annihilate and enforce its incredibly basic ethical code that frankly is an affront to human intellect and the thousands of years it took to evolve.

Best regards
Isabella Constantinidou
Athens, Greece

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