Church Bulletin Unwittingly
Lauds Darwin, O'Hair?
Adrienne Bowley

Graphic Rule

"THE MAJORITY OF ONE"

What can one person alone do? We often hear asked. We feel hopeless, because we are not in a large group or organization with a lot of clout. Only stop and think for a minute and you will see that only one person has many times changed the whole world. Take for example John The Baptist who all alone told of the coming Christ, and what his mission was. He was not rich or famous however when he told of Christ coming gained many followers.

Martin Luther in the 1500s. During the dark ages when the Bible was hidden from the world, by chance found a copy of the Bible, and after reading it came to the conclusion that man is saved by "Faith Only". He was only one man, but we know that this is a widely taught and believed religious doctrine, and has man followers.

Madeline Murray O'Hara was only one person, and remember what she did? She took the U.S. Government to task about prayer and Bible reading in schools and other public places and won. She was an atheist and did not believe in God. She was only one person but look what she did.

Last but certainly not least Charles Darwin, who invented the theory that man evolved from monkeys. That the world was formed by a big explosion, this has developed over the years into what we now see and enjoy. Today because of one man's theory our children are forced to learn about this garbage in school, while learning nothing about God or the Bible.

These events occurred because one person can make a difference. These things happened as an example of "THE MAJORITY OF ONE" while we the multitude allowed them to succeed.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

When writing this response, I had overlooked the place where the bulletin writer said, "our children are forced to learn about this garbage in school, while learning nothing about God or the Bible."

I will still post this letter with my response intact, because these would be my sentiments had my (flawed) understanding of the situation been accurate -- had the man actually written what I though he had written. (I can hope, can't I?)

              -- Cliff Walker, Publisher

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Adrienne Bowley"
Subject: Re: Check this out, Cliff
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 7:20 AM

If you can give me a good reason for thinking this is bad or harmful, I'll consider it. Until someone does that, I will choose to give the writer the benefit of the doubt -- to the point of offering him my sincerest thanks for accomplishing, from the Christian side, what we at Positive Atheism are trying to accomplish from the atheistic side. I hope you can at least see my point even if you disagree with it; this is not a point that is easily made, so please indulge me for a moment or two.

Two of his four "majority of one" characters are flat-out heroes from the atheistic perspective. He is not denouncing or even disagreeing with Murray-O'Hair or Darwin. We have every reason to think he is holding both up as heroes for what they accomplished -- that he truly respects and appreciates the work they did and the results that followed. At minimum, he is attempting to put on the appearance of fairness -- but this is all I need to work with. With the appearance of conciliation from their side, I can move mountains toward making life easier and safer for atheists in America.

Allow me to entertain a fantasy of sorts:

Perhaps someone along the lines of Gandhi "spoke" to him, a Christian, in a way similar to the way Gandhi "spoke" to me, an atheist. Gandhi could see the good and the beauty incidental to every religious viewpoint -- even when adherents of various sects were killing one another over what we would call minor disagreements. He kept his practice of cloaking his ideas in religious language, though. Then he met Gora, who introduced Gandhi to the possibility that atheists might not only be capable of the pure motives which fuelled Gandhi's work, but to actually improve on Gandhi's work because of the atheistic perspective. WHen Gora called him on is practice of cloaking ideas in religious language, and suggested that he use planer, secular language, Gandhi said at one point: "You think I am superstitious, I am super-atheist!"

Gora dropped this subject. Later, Gandhi wrote: "Though there is a resemblance between your thought and practice and mine superficially, I must own that yours is far superior to mine. Having made that admission let me emphasize the fact that deep down there is a fundamental difference between you and me and, therefore, your thought and mine.... You will be better able to judge if you survive me and vice versa." There were no longer any "differences" between theistic Gandhi and atheistic Gora that could possibly impair the league they had formed in opposing the ravaging wrought by the more destructive religious movements in place at the time (particularly, untouchability -- they still disagreed on such fundamentals as whether the caste system should continue, but this never tarnished their association or even their friendship).

I have since decided that to argue over whether a god exist is one of the stupidest topics to get into a heated disagreement over (and certianly to kill one another for). Instead, by giving this church bulliten writer the benefit of the doubt, we can imagine a man -- a Christian -- doing his job as a Christian and at the same time appreciating work that, when it took place, was violently opposed by many vocal Christians. This is the best-case scenario that I can think of and would like to think it is true.

Can I find any solid reasons for doubting the best-case possibility? When I try to imagine a worst-case scenario, I cannot see one that is bad enough for me to have a problem with. He's almost completely out of step with the truly destructive Christians such as Robertson and Falwell, and this is a good thing. He cannot be a fundamentalist and write about these people without giving himself away, and that is also good.

He is holding up two heroic moments among atheistic lore -- the discovery of evolution and the successful fight against government-sponsored ritual. We atheistic activists almost constantly hold up these two events as among the most important examples of people successfully working toward goals we desire. The writer sees these two monuments to human (and humanistic) progress as among the four he will highlight to make his point that one person can make a difference for good. (Had he included a Hitler-type, we could assume the door was open to consider these examples as bad or unwanted. That the worst is not clearly evident forces me to assume the best for this man, as I would for fellow human.)

His examples of Christian heroes are less flattering than those his skeptical or atheistic heroes. This is only because he places the Christian "spin" on the meaning of these heroes' accomplishments. John the Baptist shattered the myth that Abraham's or one's parents could act of faith could work on your behalf before God. (We wouldn't want to call John the mentor of Jesus, would we? Especialy in a church bulletin! I can understand this.) Martin Luther wrested the Gospel out of the hands of the priesthood. What does that mean to me? What good did that accomplish?

Sure it shattered the hold that the Catholic Church had on Europe. But more than that, it brought the skill of reading to a whole new class of people! They learned to read from reading the Bible -- or they learned to read so that they could read their Bibles. The reasons discussed in the bulletin pale in significance to the fact that more people can read and can teach this skill to their children -- and he missed this point entirely. What do you expect, his audience consists of Christians, so he took the prerogative of giving the Christian characters a Christian spin. So what? I can't fault him for that! But that's all I see wrong with the whole thing.

From this one burb in a church bulletin, I can see very little to complain about. In fact, I think it is good to see such complimentary sentiments coming from a church and lauded upon two of the finest dignitaries from our side of the discussion.

Positive Atheism has done the same thing in recent months. The April and May issues have, as their main features, articles written by Baptists or Baptist sympathizers. These pieces were so eye-opening that I even paid the expense of a special issue (16 pages) to be able to squeak May's feature into a single issue. You will now hear us hold up as heroes of freedom the likes of Roger Williams and Thomas Helwys.

Our willingness to hold these Christian heroes as our own heroes as well will serve to open the same doors of communication that their honor of Murray-O'Hair and Darwin open. In fact, our gesture is not as complete as theirs because Darwin and Murray-O'Hair are widely vilified by name, whereas the preacher of a religion and the founder of that religion are hardly singled out by advocates for atheism except in the most generic terms: rarely if ever are they vilified by name.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

I then sent this response to Ms. Bowley:

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Adrienne Bowley"
Subject: Re: Check this out, Cliff
Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 6:56 PM

The response I wrote for this was way off-base because I overlooked (didn't notice) the part where he says, "our kids are forced to learn this garbage."

I posted it with a disclaimer to the effect that these would have been my opinions had my flawed understanding actually been accurate.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Adrienne Bowley"
Subject: Re: Check this out, Cliff
Date: Thursday, June 22, 2000 10:36 AM

He back-handed Madalyn by complaining that although they were learning evolution, they couldn't learn about God and the Bible in the Public Schools -- "learning nothing about God or the Bible." Madalyn is the "culprit" here.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

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.