Two whom it may concern:
I appreciate your recent communication via e-mail, and hope that the onset of springtime finds you in good health. I also trust that a physical copy version of your demand is forthcoming.
Being somewhat of a human in about everything I do, I cannot divorce who I am and who you are from any interaction; thus, I will not get directly to the point of your letter. If I thought for a moment that doing things the way that I do them was somehow wrong or immoral, I would be offering apologies at this point, but since this is the only right and correct and proper way I know of to respond to your letter, I do so with no regrets other than the fact that I have somehow become involved in your affairs.
Cliff Walker and the Positive Atheism Project
I have been a social activist of one stripe or another for almost my entire life. During the early 1980s, I became a full-time activist, often living hand-to-mouth in order to continue working on several issues that have always meant a lot to me. Quite often these were issues that had been ignored by the so-called professional activists.
In the winter of 1986-87 I became ill: I lost almost all my hearing over the course of a single weekend, due to an infectious micro something or other. Simultaneously, a fungus that had attacked the soles of my feet made them ripe for contracting the most acute infestation of plantar warts that the poverty doc in Portland, Oregon had ever seen: 17 on the right foot and 12 on the left, sparing only the left heel. Ranging in size from split peas to lima beans and sinking their roots to but a membrane's thickness away from the bone, walking became quite painful and communication was -- well -- forget it: people did not believe me when I said I could not hear because I did not know how to sign! (Of course! Why didn't I think of that? Perhaps we could write an article for *Reader's Digest*: "Stop Signing and Regain Your Hearing"!)
Although medicine generally uses more sophisticated testing, this was precisely the response of the Santa Barbara County Health department just days before my long-time friend, the late R&B singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins, made arrangements for me to come back here to Portland. At this time I had merely lost my hearing, and still had no idea what was in store for me with de feet.
So during one of the iciest winters on record, I would spend an hour or two struggling the five blocks to the market to keep warm and shoplift a small dinner. This continued until a woman with a different bouquet of equally harrowing problems took me in under the wing of her tiny welfare check (which they don't give to men, here), and traded for . A doctor whom I knew because of his involvement in Klezmer music (though I had no idea at the time that he was also a doctor) performed weekly surgery on my feet for seven or eight months, and I once again could walk without extreme pain.
Eventually, though, I was jailed for the several times I had been caught shoplifing during this whole affair. After serving every minute of that entire sentence, no "good time," no "work time," the judge ordered me to undergo religious instruction at a faith-based religious rehabilitation outfit.
I objected to this on religious grounds, telling the judge that I am an atheist (the first time I ever used that self-description!) and that there were no theists in our family tree for several generations back. Had I known then what I know today, I would have reflexively parroted novelist Kurt Vonnegut in calling atheism "the faith of my fathers."
Regardless, I proudly and defiantly refused to go along with the judge's orders, and stood fully prepared to serve eight-and-one-half years in the State Pennitentiary -- for shoplifting. I already knew that the religious instruction was intensely persuasive. I already knew that I would be expected to take on the belief that a fatherly rescuing deity wants to take care of us, to keep us out of our own self-made troubles, but will do so only if we grovel in abject humility before Him and obedient subjection to His will (whatever THAT means). I also knew that to FAIL to submit to this instruction in a manner deemed acceptable by the local leaders of this sect would be grounds for sending me back into physical custody (the mind never having been freed in the first place).
For this, I was placed on a "30-day hold" (Oregon's generic, "Think about *that one* for a while, *sucker*!!!" nonsense nonsentence) and sent back to the cell that I had called "home" for most of the previous 179 days.
After serving the "30-day hold," I was still required to join the religious program, and the damage from the ensuing impairs my life to this day.
Such an experience would make an full-fledge political activist out of somebody who has never even bothered to vote before, but for me, this experience defined the remainder of this 32-year-old's life.
Having spent over eleven years fighting this specific form institutionalized bigotry, having seen several victories, in principle, in the circuit and appellate (NY) court level, I have since embarked upon a more generalized course. My goal is first to identify ways in which atheists (nontheists) might change our behavior so as to specifically address the bigotry and stigma we endure from virtually all sides.
In addition to this, I make myself available to those who have chosen to jetison the "faith of their fathers" to become atheistic, realizing that if Americans wish to change from atheism to theism, they would need to walk but a half-mile in any direction from where a given individual stands and chances are that she or he will a full-time expert, highly trained specifically in help people make such decisions. However, I know better than to even hang a shingle or even to take out an ad in the local "Nickel-Saver"-type classified rag: wishing to enjoy what remains of this plesant, rain-free morning, I dare not ponder what would happen to the building which supports such a shingle, not to mention the body of the individual who hung it!
As a man of integrity, I take all allegations of immorality very seriously.
I would be most happy to honor your request if I had more to go on than a terse, demanding e-mail. Our Intellectual Properties attorney will certainly want to see some written documentation that you do, in fact, control the text which is posted, which was allegedly authored by Scott Fredericks (although we have no way of verifying even that, due to the nature of the publication from which we obtained the text -- see below).
Your -- Uhh -- Pamphlet
The text that we posted came to us in a box of yellowed old Freethought pamphlets and books mixed with a smattering of Racism flyers, á la George Lincoln Rockwell and an organization in San Diego, whose name eludes me at the moment (I'd look it up, but being gravely ill, I am too weak to lift the huge box which contains what remains of my library that has yet to be placed on the bookshelves in my new home).
The pamphlet in question, the one which contained some semblance of this posted text, came to us exactly as posted (though probably with fewer typos). What I mean is that the pamphlet had the title, the byline, and the text. That's all. That's all we had and that's all we had to go on. No copyright mark, no publisher's slug. From all appearances, this item was printed and distributed with the only intention of obtaining for itself a modest distribution, perhaps given away to friends or to those who attended the meetings of a specific group or visited a specific table at a convention. The work itself, the writing but especially the typesetting, printing, and publication, was anything but professional.
Frankly, the work does not give the impression that anybody cares about it in any respect; it gives no appearance of being something that anybody would value or seek to protect.
Why Would We Post This Stuff!?
Although I have always made the final editorial decisions here, I was from the beginning entirely opposed to posting the Fredericks pamphlet, to tell you the truth. Little can be said for the quality of the grammar or the presentation, and the argument is particularly lame. The work offers no suggestions for change, but simply harps on theism (which might be okay if it were funny, if it made some new points, or if it had a catchy "hook" that would give critics of theism "a new song to sing," if you will).
The reason I posted it at all was to placate the man who donated the box of material to me! This was during my very first weeks of operation, and he sent the material as a way to "get a leg-up," as they say. He kept asking and asking, and so I finally rifled through the box and found a half-dozen short works that did not look as if they amounted to much.
I very much appreciated this gesture, and at the time was hoping there would be more in the box that I could find useful. As it stands, I merely made a good friend and a strong and enthusiastic supporter from the deal, which is better than anything that could have been in the box, to be sure.
Since e-mail is neither formal nor binding, please send this request in writing: for all we know you could be the -- whatever -- at Evil·Mutants·com (and a more cordial, humane tone wouldn't simply be nice, it would be much more effective toward accomplishing what are probably your true goals, too).
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight years of service to people with no reason to believe