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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
(The following article was originally was originally published in the American Atheist Magagzine, vol.27, no.1 [January 1985])
If you happen to have been born with white skin and if you have not lived all your life as a Latter-day Druid nuncio trapped in China since the 1922 reorganization of the Kuomintang, without a doubt you have been visited by pairs of bright-faced, clean-scrubbed, conservatively attired Mormon missionaries, or "elders", as the eighteen-to twenty-year old boys prefer to be called.
THE BLACK SKINNED PEOPLE
If you happen to have been born with black skin, however, you may never have the opportunity to talk with any elders -- unless, of course, you might have had the misfortune to fall on top of a couple by stumbling onto a pit-trap set for them by the Baptist or other fire-breathing Protestant groups that are out to "get the cults." If this has happened to you, and if you managed to avoid impaling yourself on the pointed sticks at the bottom of the pit, and if at least one of the missionaries avoided the sticks as well, you will have been told that Mormon church -- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- is the one of the most thriving enterprises in America today. That it is a thriving financial enterprise, you might not have been told by the youthful elder. But you will have been told that this marvelous tax shelter was founded in 1830 by a fellow named Joseph Smith, Correction, Joseph Smith Junior.
SMITH'S NEW RELIGION
Smith got his new religion going by writing a book known as The Book of Mormon. The book was much too dull to make it as a novel -- Mark Twain called the book "chloroform in print" -- so it was marketed as a new bible. Having quite a flair for publicity, Smith pretended to have translated The Book of Mormon from a pile of gold plates dug out of a glacial hill in upstate New York -- with the help of a resurrected man, no less!
ABOUT THE BOOK OF MORMON
The book purports to tell of lost tribes of Israelites and others floating to South America, some in giant barrels, others in a boat. Arriving in America, they all turned into Indians, built cities, fought wars, received a visit from Jesus Christ after he couldn't make a go of it in Palestine, and finally killed each other off in A.D. 421. Shortly before the fatal fight -- a colossal battle allegedly waged at Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York -- a person appropriately name Moroni buried the plates for Smith to find.
Some day I will devote an entire column to The Book of Mormon. Here it must suffice to recount an amusing anecdote concerning the birth of the book.
THE "SEER STONE"
When young Smith claimed he had a magic "seer stone," a stone with which he could see inside hills and beneath the surface of the ground to inspect for buried treasurers and enchantments. The seer stone became transformed into the biblical "urim and thummin" with which he later claimed he could "translate" any language -- including "reformed Egyptian," the imaginary language in which his Jewish Indians supposedly had written their history. A locked box held what Smith claimed to be the gold plates bearing this reformed Egyptian Chaldee Jewish American Indian history.
TRANSLATING THE BOOK OF MORMON
Sitting in one-half of a room divided into two sections by means of a blanket hung from a rope, Smith would pretend to be translating aloud from the plates and would dictate The Book of Mormon to his secretary Martin Harris. Harris sat on the other side of the blanket, afraid to peek at the plates for fear he would be stricken with the plague, and the scab, and hemorrhoids, and the botch of Egypt. After many days of such inventive labor, 116 pages of manuscript had been written -- all of it supposedly translated by divine guidance by means of the magical seer stone.
And it came to pass...disaster struck! Martin Harris' wife, Lucy, stole the manuscripture and taunted her gullible husband, "If this be a divine communication, the same being who revealed it to you can easily replace it."
The impostor Smith was trapped. He knew it was impossible for him to reproduce the story exactly, although he should have been able to do so if there had indeed been divine guidance. To redictate it would be to invite disasterous comparison. At this point, surely, a lesser man would have given up the job of bible-writing and have become a used-mule salesman or a whortleberry farmer. But not Joe Smith -- no sir! He went right back to work and dictated The Book of Mormon.
SMITH AVOIDED BEING CAUGHT
How did he get away with it? How did he avoid being checkmated by Lucy Harris' threat to compare the new inspiration with the old one? Very simple. He added a preface to the first edition of the book. The preface claimed that the 116 pages had been translated from supposed Plates of Lehi and that the devil had caused the translation to be stolen and altered from what Smith had "translated." So that even if Smith were to produce a new translation word-for-word identical with the first, it nevertheless would appear to differ from the stolen pages because of the changes which had been made in the latter by the cunning of the devil. Therefore, god had changed the writing assignment so that The Book of Mormon no longer is a translation of The Plates of Lehi!
God's exact words, according to the preface, were: "I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing. Therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi."
As you can see, this god was still speaking King James' English even though it was now the year 1828. The preface did the trick, however, and Lucy Harris was neutralized.
SMITH WROTE OTHER SCRIPTURES
Encouraged by the success of his first bible, Joseph Smith proceeded to write other "scriptures." One of these is known as The Book of Abraham and is published today as part of a volume known as The Pearl of Great Price.
THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
Unlike The Book of Mormon, which merely dull or silly, depending upon how much coffee one has been drinking, The Book of Abraham has a rather unpleasant side. Until recent years, it was used to justify the racist policies of the Mormon church. Blacks formerly were not allowed to hold the "priesthood." Since almost all postpubertal Mormon males are priests and since Mormon women can't amount to anything unless they marry a man who does hold the priesthood, this dogma effectively kept Blacks out of the "white and delightsome" Church of Jesus of Latter-Day Saints.
The offensive passages are to be found in Chapter I, verses 20-27. Verse 24 ends with a reference to the biblical "curse of Ham": "From Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land."
Verses 26-7, referring to Pharaoh (whom Smith supposed to be a Negro), say that Noah "cursed him (Ham and his descendants) as pertaining to the priesthood. No Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could have the right of priesthood," and so on.
IN ALL FAIRNESS
Now I must admit, in all fairness, that these passages are rather mild stuff and aren't as bad as the bible passages which were used by the Christian clergy to justify slavery. And I must inform the reader that although missionaries still do not go out in search of black converts, Blacks nowadays can hold the priesthood if they desire. The head of the Mormon church -- the "Chief Seer and Revelator" -- a few years ago got a message direct from his god to change this policy. The change came just in the nick of time, too, since civil rights legislation was making it harder for racist organizations to feed at the federal money-trough.
THE TRANSLATION OF ABRAHAM'S PAPYRI
How did Joseph Smith come to write this book?
Well, it was 1835. The Mormons had moved from New York state to Ohio. Michael Chandler, a traveling showman, came to Kirtland on July 3, 1835, exhibiting some Egyptian papyri and mummies. Smith declared the papyri contained the autographic writings of the patriarchs Abraham and Joseph of Egypt and that he could read them! The Mormons bought the mummies and the papyri.
When Josiah Quincy visited Smith later at Nauvoo, Illinois, Smith told him, "That is the handwriting of Abraham...this is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron." In fact, the introduction to The Book of Abraham still reads, "The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt...written by his own hand, upon papyrus.
Armed with his magic seer stone, this would-be prophet set to work and "translated" The Book of Abraham. Unique among the holy books of the world, The Book of Abraham comes equipped with three illustrations.
The first illustration (Fig. 1) is accompanied by fantastic interpretation given by Joseph Smith. According to Smith, the "bird" in the upper right is "the angel of the Lord" and the man with the knife is an idolatrous priest trying to make a sacrifice of Abraham (the guy on the check-out counter to the left of the cash register).
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, when more and more scholars appeared who actually could read Egyptian -- even without the use of magic stones -- this interpretation was challenged. The "bird" was not an angel, but the ba or soul of a deceased person. Furthermore, it was claimed, its face had been changed. It should have a human face. The reclining figure wasn't Abraham; it was Osiris being called back to life by Anubis, the god of the dead and of embalming. The so-called priest -- it was claimed over one hundred years ago -- had been altered! He actually should have the head of a jackal and should not have a knife in his hand.
The second facsimile (Fig. 2) is rather different from the first, and Smith claimed it has to with astronomy. The accompanying explanation is chock-full of nonsense such as "one day to cubit," "fixed planets," and made-up words such as "Jah-oh-eh" and "Oliblish."
Although the writing in the illustration was too poorly copied for Egyptologists to make much sense out of it, it was noted a century ago that not everything was kosher. Although the writing along the top border is in hieroglyphics, starting at about one o'clock, the writing becomes cursive (hieractic), continuing to about five o'clock, where-upon it becomes hieroglyphics again! A similar peculiarity is seen in the right-central section of the figure. here each line is hieroglyphic on the left end and cursive on the right end. "Something's fishy here," said the experts.
The third facsimile (Fig. 3) Smith claimed depicts Abraham upon Pharaoh's throne discoursing on astronomy with Pharaoh behind him. The person standing in the center is a prince, flanked by the king's waiter, and the black creature on the far right is -- you guessed it! -- a slave.
Experts a hundred years ago said, "Baloney!" The scene actually depicts the judgment of a deceased person, and the characters are, from left to right, Isis (female!), Osiris on the throne, Maat (female!), the deceased, and Anubis the jackal-headed god. Today, of course, the experts still say the same thing. Unfortunately, the writing on the facsimiles was so poorly reproduced (deliberately, I would assert) that Egyptologists could not say for sure just what the writings did say, even though it was certain that Smith's interpretation was pure blarney.
THE CHANGE IN 1966
But everything changed in 1966. In that year, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, two ex-Mormons who became full-time debunkers of the faith of Brigham Young, obtained a microfilm of a document which had been hidden and suppressed by the Mormon church for over 130 years: Joseph Smith's notebook entitled "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar". Part of the microfilm contained material in Smith's own handwriting, with his signature..1
One such page reads "Valuable discovery of hidden records that have been obtained from the ancient burying grounds of the Egyptians, (signature) Joseph Smith, Jr." Other pages are in the handwriting of several of the "prophets" secretaries.
What is the nature of this notebook? It is, I believe, a show Smith put on for the benefit of his secretaries, a pretense of actually being able to decipher Egyptian. Champollion, in France, had just succeeded in deciphering Egyptian, but in the wilds of America no one yet knew this. So Smith was free in this notebook to make up anything he wanted, confident he could get away with it. After a number of pages of absolute word-hash, we see him making up The Book of Abraham.
QUOTES FROM SMITH'S NOTEBOOK
The word-hash is so mad, however, that I cannot resist quoting a few lines. Smith's explanation of the meaning of a simple vertical stroke -- a single line -- is as follows:
"Beth-Ba-eth. This character is from the first degree. It has an arbitrary sound or signification which is Beth; and also a compound sound which is Za and comprise one simple sentence for its signification. It is only increased or lessened in it signification, or enlarges the sentence. Two connections increases its signification still: Three increases it still: Four increases still and five still, This is as far as a sentence can be carried in the first degree." (punctuation as in original)
Proceeding to the pages containing the characters from which The Book of Abraham was derived, we find Egyptian characters arrayed vertically on the left side of each page, with the verses of scripture allegedly translated from them on the right. At the top left of one such page, we find a character resembling a backward "E" --from which Smith derives the seventy-six words of verse 13 and 14 of Chapter 1!
CAN IT BE BELIEVED?
Can it be believed? Seventy-six words from one character? The idea becomes even more preposterous when we find that this character isn't even an entire Egyptian word: it's just a "determinative," a sign used to give the reader a clue as to the general meaning of the word of which it is a part. In this case, the sign signifies "water." The word of which it is a part is the Egyptian word for "pool."
The real find, however, in the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" was the discovery of Smith's working version of Facsimile 2, the circular figure (Fig. 2, p 32). In exactly every place where the Egyptologists had claimed there was something fishy in the published plate in Joe's notebook we have empty spaces and called it inspiration! The critics could not have been vindicted more perfectly.
AN AMUSING ITEM
An amusing item: in the notebook version of Facsimile 2, the hieroglyphics are clear enough to be read. At about nine o'clock we can make out a hieroglyph of a bull. Reading from there towards six o'clock, we apparently can make out the phrase, "great bull who can copulate without equal..." Can this be a cryptographic prophesy of the second coming of Brigham Young -- who had how many wives?
The "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" would have been enough evidence to convict Joseph Smith of fraud, even if we didn't have any further evidence. But we do, we do!
THE "SMOKING PISTOL"
The "smoking pistol" itself has been found -- not in the vaults in Salt Lake City, but in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
The smoking pistol consists of the actual papyri Smith got from Chandler, the traveling showman -- including the papyrus from which the characters in the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" had been copied, and the papyrus original of Facsimile 1. Although the papyri had been discovered in the museum in the same year in which the Tanners had published the "Grammar," it wasn't until the following year, 1967, that the papyri were given to the Mormon church by the museum.
THE DIVINE GUIDANCE
The divine guidance which is supposed to guide the "Chief Seer and Revelator" of the church apparently was vacationing on the planet Kolob in 1967, for the church authorities foolishly agreed that the papyri were authentic and were indeed the originals from which Joseph Smith translated The Book of Abraham.
THE OFFICIAL STORY
The official story -- the hope, as it were -- was that the papyri had burned up in the great Chicago fire, although there is evidence that at least some Mormon officials knew the papyri still existed and thought it best to let sleeping dogs lie. Although the plates from which The Book of Mormon had been translated had been taken back to heaven after Smith's library card expired -- conveniently making it impossible to check up on Smith's claims -- the papyri behind the Abraham opus were still on earth, and could be checked! Publication of the papyri dealt what surely must be the death-blow to The Book of Abraham.
EXAMINING FACSIMILE 1
If we examine the original of Facsimile 1, we see that the head of the so-called priest is missing. The experts said he should have the head of Anubis the jackal-god. Smith, not knowing anything about Egyptian religion, put a man's head on the figure. There is no knife in the picture either. Strike two. Smith made it up. There is no head on the ba-bird. Strike three. Smith put a bird's head on the ba -- not an unreasonable mistake if a man is uninspired and knows no Egyptology. But for the founder of a religion and a man who claims divine guidance in his interpretations, this is devastating.
But the picture wasn't the only thing "Holy Joe" filled in out of his fertile imagination. If we examine Fig. 4, a picture of the scrap of papyrus from which Smith derived the entire Book of Abraham, we may note the arrow pointing to the backward "E" discussed previously. Three lines below it, we can see some of the characters used to fill in the right-central part of Facsimile 2 (sector 14 right side of Fig. 2). Unfortunately, Smith inserted these characters upside down. How odd of god to tell Smith what all these squiggles meant, but never thought to tell him which way was up!
CONTINUING OUR EXAMINATION
Continuing our examination of Fig. 4, we note that there is a deep, triangular cleft in the papyrus, extending from the upper right-hand corner downward to the fourth line of writing. The characters on both sides of the fissure can be found in Smith's notebook, together with the corresponding verses of The Book of Abraham.
Guess where in this papyrus Smith got the anti-Negro verses! The whole holy business about the "curse of Ham" comes from the hole! As Smith copied the characters from the papyrus into his notebook, he made up the curse-of-Ham characters to fill in the cleft in the original. Embarrassingly, he made up too many of them to fit in the space available!
Egyptologists have now translated all the Joseph Smith papyri -- including the parts Joseph said could not yet be revealed -- and we can say without fear of contradiction that the materials have nothing to do with Abraham or with Blacks. They are delightfully pagan in nature, and nothing Jewish can be seen in them. They are part of the Book of Breathings -- a late abridgment of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In fact, these papyri date from approximately the beginning of the Christian era and are about two thousand years too late to contain the autograph of Abraham!
THE MAJOR RELIGIONS
The major religions of the world began too long ago for anthropologists to be able to reconstruct accurately the complex interactions between fraud, delusion, and honest ignorance which went into their manufacture. In the case of Mormonism, however, a very scientific case can be built up to show quite unambiguously the role of chicanery in the formation of this most uniquely American religion. Joseph Smith dared to invent a new religion in the age of printing!
1 Footnote: A free catalogue of suppressed Mormon documents, including the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar", and anti-Mormon books published by the Tanners may be obtained by writing to Utah Lighthouse Ministry, P.O. Box 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110 [back]
0 2012-02-28 20:16:18 102 youth & family 0 2 articles and issues
Articles and Issues
Many issues surround the nontheistic families of America are on the right column.
3 2010-10-21 12:01:15 103 youth & family 0 3 questions and answers
Note: This is a reply to a letter asking for advice. This 15 year-old boy is being forced to go to church against his will, and he asked how to get out of it, and what he could do to make himself feel better. Here's my response
I understand how bad it must be to be forced to attend church when you know it's all bull. I was there, when I was your age. I expect it's worse for you given the current state of the Catholic Church.
Here are a couple of suggestions.
1) you need to go if your parents are going to force you. You are only two eyars away from college, and religious freedom, but until then, if your parents are going to force you to go, you should go.
2) Make the best of the situation. Learn about Catholicism as much as you can, and listen well to the non-answers they give to the hard questions. Make it a game (it really IS fun) to try to catch them in lies.
3) When the collection plate comes around, drop in an envelope, in which you have written a note of protest. Just a line like "Donation withheld on morality principals" or "please pay your protperty taxes" will drive them buggy, and make you happy!
4) Find OTHER people who agree with you. Join an Astronomy, physics, or science club. Join a Humanist club if you can. Subscribe to a magazine if your parents will let you (I recommend American Atheist magazine or one of the Skeptical Inquirer). this will keep you brain in the "On" position.
5) Start looking at colleges with active Atheist organizations. It will make you feel better to have something to which to look forward.
Thoughout my life (or at least my high school days when I became better educated) I have always felt left out. I have felt like I have been unable to fully speak my mind due to the fact that......(gasp!) I am an evil, evil atheist. In high school I played football all four years. Before each game our entire team would gather into a large group and have a team prayer. This prayer would be offered by a father of one of the players who was some sort of priest, or minister, or witch doctor, or whatever he was. I always felt highly uncomfortable during these prayers as they blatantly went against what I believed. I did not want to make a fuss about it so I tried to act like I was praying by bowing my head when in actuality I was just vowing to try to play my best and "leave it on the field" which was my personal motto for football. I was trying to be a team player and keep everybody happy and unified. Nobody had a clue what I was doing or what my beliefs were.
Like all good things football came to an end and our graduation ceremony came around. At the graduation ceremony there was a "moment of silence" that lasted about 2 minutes in which we are all obviously expected to bow our heads and pray. I again just acted like I was part of the crowd and did as I was supposed to. Lowering my head and playing with the buttons on my gown for a few minutes. Making myself feel uncomfortable being ashamed and left out due to my beliefs. In front of so many people and my entire class of around 200 graduating seniors it was hard to be an individual. All of this compromising of my beliefs for the comfort of others (as if me being non-religious should in any way have anything to do with anybody but myself) left a strain on my conscience. I decided it was time to come out of the closet and let my thoughts and beliefs be known to at least my two best friends. Jokingly we held an AA (Atheists Anonymous) meeting where I stood up and said to them "Hello my name is Justin.....and I am an atheist." They took it well and since neither of them are deeply religious it didn't seem to effect them at all. A few months went by and people started talking around me about my beliefs and why I believed what I did. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable excepting and being proud in who I was and not having to cover anything up. I am in no way an active atheist (sorry Dave but we all have our short comings) but when asked I was very loud and argumentative when talking or debating about the existence of god. I was shocked to find out that more people were open to my beliefs then I had thought would be. Granted, I still got the "You are going to go to hell if you don't change you ways" type of statements (which are funny in their own right but I won't get into that right now) but all in all people just liked to argue with me in the hope that I will be "converted" and see the light of god or whatever.
Then it struck.....one day my best bud told me that me talking about being an atheist and letting people know about it made him feel uncomfortable. He felt that he was being excluded and discriminated against just by being associated with me and that (since he was always around me when I was in discussion about things) people thought he believed what I believed as well. He said that he would appreciate it if I would just keep my beliefs to myself and not tell anybody about them. He wanted me to "just act like [I] was religious so that people wouldn't argue with [me] so much and we would be accepted as part of the crowd".
I think you can see where my question is Dave. What should I do? This person is like a brother to me and yet he is asking me to do something that I don't want to do. I like who I am. I really want to make him feel comfortable around me and not think badly of me but I also want myself to feel comfortable and be able to speak my mind when somebody makes a statement that is counter to my beliefs. What does one do when confronted with sacrificing or compromising their beliefs for the comfort level of a dear friend? I am aware that I am dramatizing it by saying my beliefs will in some way be comrpomised because they won't be changed at all, but I think you get what I am saying.
Thanks for your letter. I understand your problem, and here's my input.
Your friend is a friend, and is not trying to convert you or squelch you. However, he is not an Atheist, and does not want the stigma associated with being one (as is his right). However, you Are an Atheist, and you have the right to say as you see fit.
The answer is actually very simple, and I do it all the time. You may have read that my wife is not an Atheist, and she also has similar feelings to your friend.
When anyone asks me about religion, I tell them the uncensored truth. All the time. Then, IN THE SAME CONVERSATION, I seque to my wife, who I explain is not an Atheist, and yet we get along so well despite our differences. I turn the awkward moment into a statement of tolerance, thereby making the intolerant feel bad. I ALWAYS do this, because it makes my Atheism less of a big deal and tolerance towards Atheists the subject of the conversation.
Suggest this to your friend. Explain to him that you can't lie or squelch your feelings, but you respect his comfort to an extreme, and you will make an effort to speak of his religious beliefs when you speak of your nonbelief. His reputation will become the "theists with the Atheist friend" -- which is true, and he should be able to handle that.
And, together, you can promote a little tolerance in an intolerant world.
I'm a 21 year old college student from Georgia. I have been going out with my girlfriend now since we were both 16. I am an atheist and she is an Episcopalian. We have talked about getting married before but never have settled it out so that it can work. Of course we plan to have kids in the future and she wants their religious (or non-religious) future decided before we choose to have them. I feel that the kids should be let to choose for themsleves but then again you can ask a two-year-old to rationally do that. Some say let them be untouched by religion until teen ages and then let them choose, but my girlfriend says that wouldnt work because what if they die before then and are not baptised (or belive in god)...etc... they'll go to hell..etc. Well, there's that problem and then there's the marriage. I want to get married to this girl, and nothing will make me change my mind about this. But she wants, obviously, to get amrried in a church or at least by a priest, and then i said well, we can get it done by a judge. But then she said that wouldnt work because marriage is a sacred religious rite...etc. Well then i said fine we could have a priest do it, but then #1 that makes me look undecided about my beliefs, and #2 she would always know that the marriage was done in a religous way, which i do not belive in, and only to please her, therefore I would not think it as important as she does. Well all that is really getting heavy on our shoulders. I'm sure we are not the only people who've been in this situation and contacted y'all before so i ask for help. Please if there is anything you could say to us that would, if not resolve our troubles, lead us in that direction. What to do about marriage, and about kids. (oh and dont even think of saying kids w/o marriage... haha i've tried that one, don't work). But I know this for sure. I love her, and she loves me, and we want a future together, but we really need outside help before we go any further.
Please, any help we would appreciate. Oh and if you are wondering why we are contacting you instead of going to a priest or a public counselor, is because we know priests are undoubtably super-biased, and we dont want to see a public counselor because there are fees which we dont really have the money to pay for right now, and there is also the fact that even though you all are atheists too, you have a secular way of thinking (at least thats what we get after reading your webpage). Thanks in advance for any help you can give us. If you need us to contact you for more information, whatever it may be, please feel free to do so and we will provide it. Good day.
Thanks for your letter. You are in a tough situation and you are right to get help.
Mixed marriages can work, but they are a challenge. Not so much with the wedding itself, but with the children. You may agree to compromise, but you will have to deal with the consequences. For instance, if you and your wife agree that the kids will not go to a Christian school, but will go to CCD, you will still cringe at the CCD classes.
Of absolute importance is long and deeply honest discussion. Do not say what you want the other person to hear. Do not say you can handle CCD for your children if you cannot. She should follow the same rules.
If there is no overlap between what you both want, then you will both have to compromise. However, be aware that this agreement will be binding and not changable unless both parties agree.
For example, my wife is a believing Jew. We have a daughter who is three. My wife and I decided to expose our daughter to both ideals and let her choose. We also agreed to pick a religious sunday school for her to attend. Now that she;'s three, I feel the bile in my throat when she mentions God to my daughter. I am trying to get my wife to consent to a nonreligious sunday school, but she is under no oblication to concede -- we already have an agreement. If she says no, then I'm stuck with our deal.
You will need to commit yourselves to your deal. You will also need to commit yourselves to making sure the families each obey the deal as well.
Of highest importance is that you raise the children in a loving home secure in their parent's love. Don't hide your differences. Don't go to church even though you don't believe. Your kids will know you are lying and they will trust you less. Let them know that Mommy and Daddy disagree, and that's OK.
That's the secret for good kids.
Best of luck!
im an atheist since 12,(15 now) and im constantly harrassed every DAMN Day...the kids always think there kewl when they say..."so where do you go when you die"......and of course i say that well.....kill yourself and tell me what happens.....lol....anyway can you give me an answer to that question that dosent lead to more harrassment...i feel that i have to constantly represent the entire atheist community every day so please give me the answer that represents the feelings of the community ....a community i only find in your website .....which i thank for you having....I know you have court battles and protests to organize (which i hope to be a part of) so i hope you have time to answer me ....thanks bye.
"When I die, I die, just like every other living thing in the universe. No fairy tales, just honesty and common sense. I would love to believe that all the good guys go to heaven, all the bad guys go to hell, and we all live happily ever after forever, but that is just fantasy. IN the real world, all living things die, so the only immortality you can ever achieve is through actions that have lasting effects, I try to make the world better every day, instead of looking forward to a nonexistant life after death"
If that doesn't work, have "animals" in your back pocket.
"Do you believe doggies and kitties go to heaven? How about really smart dolphins or monkeys? How about really dumb people? How about a person that is dumber than the smartest monkey?"
1. How do you feel about public buildings sucn as high school gyms being used for religous gatherings such as rallies and concerts?
No problem, provided the religion pays a going standard rate for the usage of the rooms. These rooms should be available for any reason, or none at all. It would be wrong to allow a church rally, but not a blood drive, and it would be wrong to charge one group, and not a church.
2. What is your position on a public high school band or choir giving a concert in a church?(This was recently an issue at my school).
Inappropriate. The high school band should not be made to give a concert of religious nature, as the band is likely to contain nonreligious kids. Even if they were all religious, it is also illegal to require a student to participate in any religious ritual.
However, I think it would be OK if a band were to play for a church for a fee to raise money, as long as the band would charge any other organization the same money to perform. Also, the music must be secular.
3. How do you feel about school children singing Christmas carols and other sacred music in public school?
First of all, no music is sacred. That being said, if you are talking about one student humming christmas carols to himself without disturbing others, that's fine. Otherwise, see the first paragraph of number 2
4. What about Christmas programs in public schools?
See number 2. public schools are for all kids, not just religious Christians. In order to include everyone, the school should remain neutral on the subject of religion.
5. Should elementary school classes celebrate holidays with such things as parties and decorations?
Specific holidays should be limited to nonreligious holidays. Holiday season parties are acceptable as long as all holidays are treated equally and none is given any preference (Christmas=Solstice=Chanukah=qwanzaa=new years)
6. Do you agree with student-organized, student-led prayer in school if it does not interfere with other students and/or classes?
Yes. Student-led prayer groups outside of class time are legal and fine with me. It is only when it interferes with other students, either by prohibiting movement (blocking doorways) or school-mandated moments of silence that we take issue. Also, it should be noted that all activities must be equal. Christians, Jews, Scientologists, Moonies, and Atheists should all have the exact same rights to gather.
By now, you are seeing a sense of fair play that is a consistent theme.
7. Should attire that depicts religious symbols such as WWJD? T-shirts be allowed in school?
Dress codes need to be consistent. If WWJD tshirts are allowed, then Atheist, moonie, and scientologist shirts must also be allowed. Again, consistency and fairness.
8. How do you feel about Christmas carols and Christmas prgrams being aired on pulic TV and radio?
Public TV is actually not public. It is private, in that it is not owned or run by the government. As such, it should be guided by market demands, free of regulations. If I don't like to watch it, I can turn the channel. Religious broadcasts are protected by the First amendment and I would defend their right to broadcast.
NOTE; There are rumors of American Atheists efforts to ban such programming. They are false -- I promise. We in fact support everyone's right to free speech, even if we don't agree with what they are saying.
9. Has religion been erased from the public arena in ways not intended by the framers of the Constitution?
Quite the contrary. The framers made this country in a concentrated effort to be different from the English government and its state-church. They never envisioned the current entanglement of religious PACs in government, or god statements on our money and our pledge of allegiance (not added until the 1950s). Religion permeates our lives, whether we want it to or not (I CAN NOT work on christmas). In conclusion, religion and government were never intended to mix (hense the First Amendment -- it goes both ways, and only then is the theory consistent).
I have an interesting situation for you. I grew up in a Christian household, which is to say that I went to church and learned about god and heaven and all that bit. When I was old enough to make up my own
mind, I did. Atheism just seems to make more sense. My wife is a christian, however, and the subject (while tricky at times) has allowed for lots of interesting conversation. Whenever it is an issue in our lives, like our
marraige, I just kind of go with the flow. I know how important it is for her, and have no need to disillusion her. My problem is with our children. I have two lovely kids (a boy at 1 and a girl soon to be 3). My parents have
given me a hard time about the concept of infant damnation (that my kids would go straight to hell if they died before being christened) My wife didn't seem too worried about it so we let it pass. Something inside me says
that they should go to church as well. That they should be given the same opportunity to make up thier own minds. But I also feel that sending them off to church is just like letting a perfect stranger try to brainwash my kids into believing
the biggest of all myths. I'm worried about making the wrong decision about this, and more worried that I will drag it on until it no longer matters. What do you think.
I am the mother of two children ages 6 and 11. I, of course, agree that
the idea of damnation is just plain silly.
Regarding church attendance. I agree that our Atheist children would
benefit from the experience of attending various religious ceremonies.
However, your children are too young. At the ages of 1 and 3 they will only
get swept up in the ceremony, song, pretty building and social aspects of
church attendance. They aren't going to learn anything intellectual. They
need to be a little older when you can explain to them what they are hearing
and what it means.
I do not suggest that they need "regular" church attendance either. They
need more time learning to live their lives as Atheists. They need every
opportunity to experience life without a reference to the supernatural.
After years of knowing that they can live their lives without it, then you
can teach them what religious people think and do and compare it to what
Atheists think and do.
My children are not inclined to think in terms of gods or anything
supernatural. They have had a solid Atheist upbringing in the world of
reality. We talk about religion and I try to explain what religious people,
from as many different religions as I can, think and do.
In about a month or two we will be publishing a book called "Living in
The Light" by Anne Stone. A wonderful book on rearing Atheist children. I
think you will love it. Check our web site in April for it. www.atheists.org
If you have any more question don't hesitate to ask. I hope this is of
some help to you. Your children don't know how lucky they are.
Ellen Johnson, President
Below is a letter we received from a high school student objecting to two of our platform issues: School prayer and Creationism teaching (both in public schools). We thought it was a good idea to answer this letter on the web, so everyone could see our responses. Also, because the letter addresses two issues, I will split the letter, answering the issues individually.
" I am 16 years old and a Christian in a public school. Now you say what is the point of a moment of silence. I think a moment of silence is a plus for anyone. Some people just may want to stand there and stare around the classroom, but others might want to bow their heads and pray to their God that they believe in. I think that is very ignorant and narrow minded. Even though you may not believe in a God, you still should hold respect for those who do. As a Christian, I do not judge others by what they believe in. I have several friends that are atheists, and I don't mind. WE both discuss what we believe. I think you need to start showing a little bit more respect for everyone else in this nation. "
The moment of silence idea is a method to inject forced prayer into the classroom. We all know the largest force in drug use is peer pressure, and this is the reason for school prayer efforts like this one. To stop class (for everyone), make everyone stand, and give them a choice between praying or "standing there and staring around the classroom" is far from fair for those who don't wish to pray in a group. Who would want to stand around and stare at their fellow students praying?
This is especially true where those not praying would be immediately visible to their peers. Suddenly, the non-praying students are given a choice: be open about their choice not to pray, or to pray against their will. Silence is no longer an option; they must either pray or be "outed" as a minority. Most kids would do anything rather than open themselves up for being an outcast, and in this case it means praying - against their will. There is nothing optional about it, and this is wrong.
The schools are there for everyone (not just religious kids), and their purpose is to teach, not preach or single out nonreligious kids. We all know that a moment of silence is just a spoken word away from sponsored prayer, and we all know that it's wrong to force religion on kids who don't want it, against the wills of the parents.
Is this inconsiderate? Let's think about that. Among all the major religions, none of them require group prayer. They all say God can read your thoughts, and that every prayer is heard. Furthermore, Christianity speaks directly against public prayer in Matthew 15.
So, none of the religions need organized prayer for students; it is never required. Today, many students bring their bibles to school and pray to themselves whenever they so choose, without forcing their beliefs on others or making others stop doing what they wish and "stand looking around the room" while they pray.
I suggest you ask your Atheist friends if they wouldn't mind standing silently and staring at the walls every day, just so you could pray (which you do anyway).
In summary, the religious people don't need it, the nonreligious people don't want it, and the only thing it would give us over what we have today is more division in classrooms and yes, a few kids praying against their will.
So no, I don't think WE are the ones being inconsiderate at all. Indeed, it is those who would push their religion on other people who are the ones guilty of the very crimes of which they accuse us. A little respect FOR other people might be a nice thought!
"At our youth group on Wednesday, we talked about evolution vs. creation. And my science teacher from last year said that Evolution is supposed to be taught as critical thinking. And if evolution can be taught as critical thinking, then so can Creation. I think people should hear both sides of the controversy."
Creationism and critical thinking are mutually exclusive. I would wholeheartedly support any teaching of creationism in public school if it was given the scrutiny and critical though that is afforded scientific theory. Science is supposed to teach the scientific process, which takes a theory, supports it with evidence, and proves or disproves the theory. Creationism cannot be supported with any evidence at all. I mean NONE. Conversely, there is a mountain of evidence against Creationism, and even more supporting darwinistic evolution. Therefore, to teach Genesis in an arena reserved for critical thinking is counter-intuitive.
Furthermore, this is not a "both sides" situation, because there is more than one religion out there, all of which have their own "theories" of how the world began, and all of those theories having the exact same amount of evidence (none). Who are YOU to say that the Jewish version of Creation has more standing than the Shintoistic, Norse, or Greek mythologies? They are, after all, theories, right? Maybe we should teach all of them in science class.
Perhaps as well, we should be required to teach evolution in churches, so "all sides" of this controversy can be taught to more people. After all, if the church's argument is that people should be informed, then shouldn't the church practice what it preaches? If we have no place to teach only scientific principles, then why should they have a haven for godspeak?
Or maybe, just maybe, science class should be reserved for science, and church for religion. If religion doesn't like the fact that science is proving their "theories" wrong, maybe they should take the hint and change their theories, instead of trying to mute science or squelch its teachings.
3 2012-02-28 20:16:18 119 0 6 military
Justin Griffith, Military Director
One of my priorities as Military Director for American Atheists is to speak out as an Atheist and active duty serviceman, and to help our military and veteran members gain access to resources specifically tailored to their needs when they need to network with other military atheists or they experience discrimination.
"Atheists have served in the military proudly and with distinction and Atheist military members and veterans refute the lie that there "are no atheists in foxholes." - Kathleen Johnson, former Military Director and current Board Member for American Atheists.
ROCK BEYOND BELIEF!
Visit the Rock Beyond Belief web page!
Rock Beyond Belief is an ambitious project that will be putting on a free festival consisting of secular speakers and musicians, both big name and small. We are a small grass-roots outfit, but we have the backing of many major secular and military foundations. Currently we are focusing on a large-scale event that will be on the main post parade field on Fort Bragg. Eventually Rock Beyond Belief wants to spread the message to many other military installations.
Thank you, Colonel Sicinski: Rock Beyond Beliefâ€™s earliest attempts were not taken seriously by Fort Bragg. The situation has changed drastically in the months since our first approach fell through. Fort Braggâ€™s Garrison Commander, Colonel Sicinski has made the right call, and has now approved our event with the full support and government co-sponsorship that was promised.
More Shipboard Shenanigans:In the below section concerning prayers on Naval ships, I have included a position letter from the Department of the Navy in which they explain their position that prayers on ships are necessary. However, there can be no possible explanation for this next issue on at least one Naval ship.
An active duty member of the Navy, who is currently at sea, reported that the only available meal on a particular day during the holiday season contained a program and menu that specifically included a sectarian prayer as part of the meal. According to our informant, who must remain anonymous in order to safeguard his career, the menu included this prayer:
"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Eternal God, this joyful day is radiant with the brilliance of your one true light. May that light illuminate our hearts and shine in our words and deeds. May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do. May we share in the divine life of your son Jesus Christ, even as he humbled himself to share our humanity. Bless us and the feast that you have provided for us, let us be thankful for the true gift of Christmas, Your Son. Amen."
You can see the actual menu here.
I wonder what form of mental gymnastics the Navy would use to explain this?
Army Discriminates Against Atheists
American Atheists has learned that the United States Army is discriminating against atheists by making all soldiers take an assessment that measures their "spiritual fitness." Responses that fail to indicate an appropriate level of spirituality cause the responder to fail the test and to be advised to seek further training and counseling. Further, although individual names are allegedly stripped from responses, commanders receive aggregated reports of the responses within their units so that they can "fix" issues through unspecified means.
On 23 Dec 2010, American Atheists forwarded a letter to the Secretary of the Army alleging the test discriminates against atheists and demanded use of the test be ceased until such time as the discriminatory elements can be addressed and removed. Click here (PDF) and here (PDF) to see the original letter.
More details can be viewed on the NoGodBlog: Army Requires Spiritual Fitness: Discriminates Against Atheists.
UPDATE: In response to the letter sent by American Atheists, we received a written response. In summary, it consists of two pages of mental gymnastics trying to explain how the word spiritual isn't religious and how mandating Army personnel take a religious test and receive religious training isn't a violation of equal opportunity polices. Read the letter here (PDF).
UPDATE:In response to the overwhelming criticism the Department of the Army received in mandating Army personnel complete a Spiritual Fitness Assessment and mandatory training if deemed "spiritually unfit," the Army issued an order making the Spiritual Fitness training optional. This is not the solution we were hoping for (we demanded the Army quit using the assessment), but it is a start. You can read the order here (PDF).
Shipboard Prayer by the US Navy
On September 9, 2010, American Atheists, along with several other organizations, co-sponsored a letter drafted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to protest the Navyâ€™s policy of forcing all sailors to endure a broadcasted Christian prayer on the USS Abraham Lincoln and other ships. These prayers are broadcast throughout the ships, including in private staterooms, and all sailors are required to be silent and to suspend activities during the prayers.
It is American Atheists' position that such prayers are illegal andinappropriate and must cease. The letter can be read here (PDF).
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation and the Huffington Post broke the story that last May, an entire training unit was compelled to attend a Christian concert by a band that self-labeled as "Christian Warriors."
Approximately 80 soldiers elected to not attend the concert and were allegedly punished by losing pass privileged and being assigned work details.
Some of these soldiers then attempted to file Equal Opportunity complaints but were allegedly rebuffed.
American Atheists has corresponded directly with the personnel involved in overseeing the Department of Defenseâ€™s Equal Opportunity Program and has requested an investigation.
We have received a response that an investigation is ongoing. More information will follow as it is received.
UPDATE: In response to action taken by American Atheists, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Department of Defense ordered Trijicon to provide kits to remove the bible verses. American Atheists has received confirmation that the kits are being distributed to units and that the verses are being removed. This situation will continue tobe closely monitored.
On January 18, 2010, ABC news released an alarming report stating that thousands of rifle sights used by the military in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with bible verses. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a multi-million dollar contract to manufacture the sights and provide them to Army and Marine Corps units.
Rules of conduct, drawn up specifically for the mostly-Muslim combat zones, were put in place in order to prevent the appearance that US Forces are not engaged in a war on terror but are instead operating a crusade against Muslims. The inscriptions on these sights, which are components of weapons of war in a Muslim combat zone, bear references such as "2COR4:6," which appears to refer to Second Corinthians 4:6 which reads "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
A spokesman for the manufacturer confirmed the markings are bible verses, states there is nothing wrong with them being there, and dismisses any criticism as comments made by people who are "not Christian."