KENTUCKY ATHEISTS NEWS and NOTES
Date: November 17, 2006
Kentucky Atheists, P.O. Box 48, Union, KY 41091
Phone: (859) 384-7000; Fax: (859) 384-7324
Editor’s personal web site: http://www.edwinkagin.com
Edwin Kagin, Kentucky State Director, American Atheists, Inc.
(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)
ATHEISM IS A CONCLUSION NOT A BELIEF
To Unidentified Recipients:
KAGIN ON RADIO TODAY
WHO: Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists
WHAT: Is to appear on the Dr. Joseph Michelli show, a live radio call in talk show out of Colorado Springs, to be guest hosted by Jeff Crank.
WHEN: Friday, November 17, 2006, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm Eastern Time (drive
WHERE: 740 KVOR http://www.kvor.com/programming.asp
You can listen live here: http://www.kvor.com . You will need to sign up, but it is free and easily done.
This program will be sandwiched between the Sean Hannity and the Michael Savage shows.
The Vatican’s web site is: HYPERLINK http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm
Thought you should know.
From reader Jan:
So what’s with all the dinosaurs?
The world’s first Creationist museum – dedicated to the idea that the creation of the world, as told in Genesis, is factually correct – will soon open. Stephen Bates is given a sneak preview and asks: was there really a tyrannosaurus in the Bible?
Monday November 13, 2006
Just off the interstate, a couple of junctions down from Cincinnati’s international airport, over the state line in rural Kentucky, the finishing touches are being put to an impressive-looking building. When it is finished and open to the public next summer, it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world.
The Creation Museum – motto: “Prepare to Believe!” – will be the first institution in the world whose contents, with the exception of a few turtles swimming in an artificial pond, are entirely fake. It is dedicated to the proposition that the account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis is completely correct, and its mission is to convince visitors through a mixture of animatronic models, tableaux and a strangely Disneyfied version of the Bible story.
Its designer, Patrick Marsh, used to work at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and then in Japan before he saw the light, opened his soul to Jesus, and was born anew. “The Bible is the only thing that gives you the full picture,” he says. “Other religions don’t have that, and, as for scientists, so much of what they believe is pretty fuzzy about life and its origins … oh, this is a great place to work, I will tell you that.”
So this is the Bible story, as truth. Apart from the dinosaurs, that is. As you stand in the museum’s lobby – the only part of the building approaching completion – you are surrounded by life-size dinosaur models, some moving and occasionally grunting as they chew the cud.Beside the turtle pool, two animatronic, brown-complexioned children, demurely dressed in Hiawatha-like buckskin, gravely flutter with movement. Behind them lurk two small Tyrannosaurus Rexes. This scene is meant to date from before the Fall of Man and, apparently, dinosaurs.
Theological scholars may have noticed that there are, in fact, no dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible – and here lies the Creationists’ first problem. Since there are undoubtedly dinosaur bones and since, according to the Creationists, the world is only 6,000 years old – a calculation devised by the 17th-century Bishop Ussher, counting back through the Bible to the Creation, a formula more or less accepted by the museum – dinosaurs must be shoehorned in somewhere, along with the Babylonians, Egyptians and the other
ancient civilisations. As for the Grand Canyon – no problem: that was, of course, created in a few months by Noah’s Flood.
But what, I ask wonderingly, about those fossilised remains of early man-like creatures? Marsh knows all about that: “There are no such things. Humans are basically as you see them today. Those skeletons they’ve found, what’s the word? … they could have been deformed, diseased or something. I’ve seen people like that running round the streets of New York.”
Nothing can dent the designer’s zeal as he leads us gingerly through the labyrinth of rooms still under construction, with bits of wood, and the odd dinosaur head occasionally blocking our path. The light of keenness shines from the faces of the workers, too, as they chisel out mountain sides and work out where to put the Tree of Life. They greet us cheerily as we pass.
They, too, know they are doing the Lord’s Work, and each has signed a contract saying they believe in the Seven Days of Creation theory. Mornings on this construction site start with prayer meetings. Don’t think for a minute that this is some sort of crazy little hole-in-the-corner project. The museum is costing $25m (£13m) and all but $3m has already been raised from private donations. It is strategically placed, too – not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours’ drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US. And, as we know, up to 50 million of them do believe that the Bible’s account of Creation is literally true.
We pass the site where one day an animatronic Adam will squat beside the Tree. With this commitment to authenticity, I find myself asking what they are doing about the fig leaf. Marsh considers this gravely and replies: “He is appropriately positioned, so he can be modest. There will be a lamb or something there next to him. We are very careful about that: some of our donors are scared to death about nudity.”
The same will go for the scene where Eve is created out of Adam’s rib, apparently, and parents will be warned that little children may be scared by the authenticity of some of the scenes. “Absolutely, because we are in there, being faithful to scripture.”
A little licence is allowed, however, where the Bible falls down on the details. The depiction of a wall-sized section of Noah’s Ark is based, not on the traditional picture of a flat-decked boat, but one designed by navy engineers with a keel and bows, which might, at least, have floated. “You can surmise,” says Marsh. When you get inside, there’s nifty computer software telling you how they fitted all the animals in, too.
The museum’s research scientist, Dr Jason Lisle, has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He realised he was a Christian while he was an undergraduate, but didn’t spread it around: “People get very emotional about the issue. I don’t believe we should ever be obnoxious about our faith. I just kept quiet.” And how did he pass the exams? “I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs.”
The museum’s planetarium is his pride and joy. Lisle writes the commentary. “Amazing! God has a name for each star,” it says, and: “The sun’s distance from earth did not happen by chance.” There is much more in this vein, but not what God thought he was doing when he made Pluto, or why.
Now, we are taken to meet Ken Ham, the museum’s director and its inspiration. Ham is an Australian, a former science teacher – though not, he is at pains to say, a scientist – and he has been working on the project for much of the past 20 years since moving to the US. “You’d never find something like this in Australia,” he says. “If you want to get the message out, it has to be here.”
Reassuringly, on the wall outside his office, are three framed photographs of the former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh – “cricket’s never really caught on over here” – and inside, on his bookshelves, is a wooden model of a platypus. On top of the shelves is an array of fluffy poodle toys, as well as cuddly dinosaurs. “Poodles are degenerate mutants of dogs. I say that in my lectures and people present them to me as gifts.”
Ham is a large man with a chin-hugging beard like an Old Testament prophet or an old-fashioned preacher, both of which he is, in a way. He lectures all over the world and spent a month in Britain earlier in the summer spreading the message to the faithful in parish halls from Cornwall to Scotland. “We want to try to convince people using observational science,” he says. “It’s done very gently but forthrightly. We give both sides, which is more than the Science Museum in London does.”
This is true in that the Creation museum does include an animatronic evolutionist archaeologist, sitting beside a creationist, at one point. But there’s no space for an animatronic Charles Darwin to fit alongside King David and his harp.
On the shelf behind Ham’s desk lie several surprising books, including Richard Dawkins’ latest. “I’ve skipped through it. The thing is, Dawkins does not have infinite knowledge or understanding himself. He’s got a position, too, it’s just a different one from ours. The Bible makes sense and is overwhelmingly confirmed by observable science. It does not confirm the belief in evolution.”
But if you believe in the Bible, why do you need to seek scientific credibility, and why are Creationists so reluctant to put their theories to peer review, I ask?
“I would give the same answer as Dawkins. He believes there is no God and nothing you could say would convince him otherwise. You are dealing with an origins issue. If you don’t have the information, you cannot be sure. Nothing contradicts the Bible’s account of the origins.”
We wander across to the bookshop, which, far from being another biblical epic, is done up like a medieval castle, framed with heraldic shields and filled with images of dragons – dragons, you see, being what dinosaurs became. It is full of books with titles such as Infallible Proofs, The Lie, The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved and even a DVD entitled Arguments Creationists Should Not Use. As we finish the tour, Ham tells us about the museum’s website, http://www.AnswersInGenesis.org They are expecting 300,000 visitors a year. “You’ve not seen anything yet,” he says with a smile.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006
From reader Nadia:
Guess Who Doesn’t Believe in God?
Eleven percent of U.S. adults admit they don’t believe in God. Surprisingly, while 73 percent profess a belief in God, they are riddled with doubt, not certain God actually exists.
Specifically, 42 percent admit they are not “absolutely certain” there is a God, while 15 percent are only “somewhat certain.” Eleven percent think there is probably no God and 16 percent aren’t sure, according to this Harris Poll of 2,010 U.S. adults conducted in 2006. There is no consensus on God’s gender, form or degree of control over events on earth.
Not all who describe themselves as Christian or Jewish believe in God. Indeed, only 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews say they are “absolutely certain” there is a God. However, 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as “born again” are absolutely certain there is a God.
Who is absolutely certain there is a God?
People in all age groups 40 and over (63 percent of those ages 40 to 49, 65 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 65 percent of those ages 65 and over) compared to people in age groups under 40 (45 percent of those ages 18 to 24, 43 percent of those ages 25 to 29 and 54 percent of those ages 30 to 39); Women (62 percent) slightly more than men (54 percent); African Americans (71 percent) compared to Hispanics (61 percent) and Whites (57 percent); Republicans (73 percent) more than Democrats (54 percent) or Independents (51 percent); People with no college education (62 percent) or who have some college education (57 percent), compared to college graduates (50 percent) and those with post-graduate degrees (53 percent).
How often do we attend religious services?
35 percent attend once a month or more, including 26 percent of these who attend once a week or more. 46 percent say they attend services just a few times a year or less. 18 percent never attend.
Is God male or female?
The public is almost equally divided between those who think of God as male (36 percent) and “neither male nor female” (37 percent), with 10 percent saying “both male and female.” Only one percent thinks of God as female.
Does God have a human form?
A substantial plurality of the public (41 percent) thinks of God as “a spirit or power that can take on human form but is not inherently human.” 27 percent think of God as a “spirit or power that does not take on human form.” Only 9 percent of adults think of God as being “like a human being with a face, body, arms, legs, eyes, etc.
How much control does God have over events on earth?
Less than one-third of all adults (29 percent) believe that God “controls what happens on Earth, including 57 percent of born-again Christians. A plurality (44 percent) believes that God “observes but does not control what happens on Earth.
Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
About half (51 percent) of all adults, including a majority of Catholics (63 percent), believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. 32 percent believe they do not. 16 percent are not sure. Among born-again Christians, 54 percent say they do not worship the same God, while 34 percent say they do.
Are believers declining?
Three years ago, in an identical survey, 79 percent of adults said they believed in God and 66 percent said they were absolutely certain that there is a God. In this new survey, those numbers have declined to 73 percent and 58 percent respectively.
–From the Editors at Netscape
Student tapes teacher proselytizing in class
Accept Jesus or ‘you belong in hell,’ he said
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
BY KEN THORBOURNE
A Kearny High School student has accused a history teacher of crossing the line between teaching and preaching — and he says he’s got the tapes to prove it.
Junior Matthew LaClair, 16, said history teacher David Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist preacher in town, spent the first week of class lecturing students more about heaven and hell than the colonies and the Constitution.
LaClair said Paszkiewicz told students that if they didn’t accept Jesus, “you belong in hell.” He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the “Big Bang.”
LaClair, who described his own religious views as “non-Christian,” said he wanted to complain about Paszkiewicz to school administrators, but feared his teacher would deny the charges and that no one would take a student’s word against a teacher’s. So, he said, he started taping Paszkiewicz.
“I would never have suspected something like this went on in a public school,” LaClair said yesterday. “If I didn’t have those CDs, everything would have been dismissed.”
The Jersey Journal has listened to the recordings and no one is disputing that it is Paszkiewicz who is speaking. Paszkiewicz, a teacher at the high school since 1992, did not return phone messages left for him at the high school. Principal Al Somma declined to comment.
Superintendent Robert Mooney, who called Paszkiewicz “a wonderful teacher,” said he was aware of the issues raised by LaClair — and the recordings — and that “corrective action” would be taken. He refused to elaborate. As of yesterday, however, Paszkiewicz was still teaching his class, Mooney said.
On Sept. 14 — the fourth day of class — Paszkiewicz is on tape saying, “He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he’s saying, ‘Please accept me, believe me.'”
He adds, according to the tapes: “If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross … And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you.”
Paszkiewicz didn’t limit his religious observations to personal salvation, according to the tapes.
Paszkiewicz shot down the theories of evolution and the “Big Bang” in favor of creationism. He also told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark, LaClair said.
On Oct. 10 — a month after he first requested a meeting with the principal — LaClair met with Paszkiewicz, Somma and the head of the social studies department.
At first, Paszkiewicz denied he mixed in religion with his history lesson, and the adults in the room appeared to be buying it, LaClair said. But then he reached into his backpack and produced the CDs.
Update of the foregoing from reader Len Zanger:
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Public school teacher tells class: “You belong in hell”
The following is from Paul L. LaClair, a NYC attorney who lives in Kearny, New Jersey, and is posted with his permission. David Paszkiewicz, the teacher described here engaging in incompetent teaching and dishonesty, http://www.kbaptistchurch.org/e/about/ is apparently a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church in addition to being a public school teacher. LaClair’s son Matthew has previously garnered attention for
http://barnson.org/node/640 protesting Bush administration activities by refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. He seems to be a principled and courageous young man who has caught a really bad teacher:
Kearny, New Jersey November 10, 2006
A history teacher at the local public high school here may have bitten off more than he cares to chew this fall. Self-described conservative Baptist David Paszkiewicz used his history class to proselytize biblical fundamentalism over the course of several days at the beginning of this school year.
Among his remarks in open class were statements that a being must have created the universe, that the Christian Bible is the word of God, and that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark. If you do not accept Jesus, he flatly proclaimed to his class, “you belong in hell.” Referring to a Muslim student who had been mentioned by name, he lamented what he saw as her inevitable fate should she not convert. In an attempt to promote biblical creationism, he also dismissed evolution and the Big Bang as non-scientific, arguing by contrast that the Bible is supported by what he calls confirmed biblical prophecies.
After taking the matter to the school administration, one of Paszkiewicz’s students, junior Matthew LaClair, requested a meeting with the teacher and the school principal. LaClair, a non-Christian, was requesting an apology and correction of false and anti-scientific statements. After two weeks, a meeting took place in the principal’s office, wherein Paszkiewicz denied making many of these comments, claiming that LaClair had taken his remarks out of context. Paszkiewicz specifically denied using the phrase, “you belong in hell.” He also asserted that he did nothing different in this class than he has been doing in fifteen years of teaching.
At the end of the meeting, LaClair revealed that he had recorded the remarks, and presented the principal with two compact discs. The teacher then declined to comment further without his union representative. However, he fired one last shot at the student, saying, “You got the big fish … you got the big Christian guy who is a teacher…!”
Commenting on the situation, LaClair’s father, attorney Paul LaClair said, “In a few short weeks, this teacher has displayed bigotry, hypocrisy, arrogance and an appalling ignorance of science. The school’s administrators seem not to appreciate the damage this man is doing to young minds. He has some real abilities as a teacher, but this conduct is the intellectual equivalent of the school cafeteria serving sawdust.”
The student and his parents have requested that the teacher’s anti-scientific remarks be corrected in open class, and that the school develop quality control procedures to ensure that future classes are not proselytized and misinformed. They have also referred the matter for disciplinary action. No apology has been forthcoming from the teacher or from the school. The parents state that because of the administration’s inaction, they have taken the matter to the school board this week, from whom they are awaiting a response. Some local press from this story is expected this week; the blogosphere may generate more attention.
(This came to my attention from a post on the SKEPTIC list by Paul Harrison–thanks, Paul.)
UPDATE (November 15, 2006): This story
has now been reported in the Newark Star-Ledger.
The Jersey Journal has picked up the story and
put some of the audio online. The story is also being picked up by NYC-area radio and television–the LaClairs have been interviewed by or have scheduled interviews with WCBS radio, 1010 WINS radio, Fox 5 News, and NBC 4 News.
posted by Jim Lippard at