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Atheist News from Edwin Kagin

KENTUCKY ATHEISTS NEWS & NOTES Date: May 05, 2009

Kentucky Atheists, P.O. Box 666, Union, KY 41091; Email: [email protected]

Phone: (859) 384-7000; Fax: (859) 384-7324; Web: http://www.atheists.org/ky/

Editor’s personal web site: www.edwinkagin.com

Editor’s personal blog: http://edwinkagin.blogspot.com

Edited by:

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.)

What Is An ATHEIST?

“ANOTHER THINKING HUMAN ENGAGED IN SEEKING TRUTH”
(Edwin Kagin, 2008)

To Unidentified Recipients:

Now “they” want the government to support teaching the history of religion.

Well, maybe we should do just that—teach the history of religion: the Crusades; the Inquisition; the Salem Witch Trials. That sort of thing.

And, there are more of us than “they” know. Maybe a lot more.

Your narrator was honored to be a guest on a Channel 12, Cincinnati, two part news story on Heaven and Hell. The actual electrons can be found (for now at least) here:

http://www.local12.com/content/special_coverage/story/What-Happens-After-You-Die/7ohx0EU6F0OXXXVsnAAVOg.cspx

http://www.local12.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoid=[email protected]

Don’t miss the commentaries on the stories. You might want to join it.

Edwin.

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AMERICAN ATHEISTS
http://www.atheists.org
May 5, 2009

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
ACTION ALERT
House Resolution on “America’s Spiritual Heritage”
Would Promote Religious Heritage Week

Action Needed Now to Stop Government Promotion of Religion!

On Thursday, May 7, 2009, members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus will hold a press conference in Washington, DC to launch a new effort at passing the “America’s Spiritual Heritage” resolution, formerly known as HR 888.

Introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA.), the measure would put Congress on record to “Recognize that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation’s most valuable institutions…” It would also decree establishment of a “Religious Heritage Week” “for the appreciation of and education of America’s history of religious faith.”

Among the religious right luminaries slated to appear at Thursday’s conference are Gary Bauer (“American Values”); Maureen Wiebe (American Association of Christian Schools); Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America); and William Murray (Religious Freedom Coalition); and James and Shirley Dobson (Focus on the Family). The event is schedule to coincide with ceremonies marking the National Day of Prayer, a Dobson-run event.

***

Legislators, particularly Congressional representatives in the House, need to hear from America’s Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and other secularists who are marginalized by this exclusionary and unconstitutional measure. Government has no business promoting religion, especially in the form of a one-sided “history” that ignores the important role of the First Amendment and Separation of Church and State. This bill is also being seen as a reaction to President Obama’s recent statement in Turkey to the effect that America is not as “Christian nation.”

LEARN MORE:

Visit the American Atheist web site at http://www.atheists.org and Dave Silverman’s NO GOD BLOG (http://www.nogodblog.com) for more background on this story. The full Resolution text can be found at the Congressional Prayer Caucus web site, http://www.house.gov/forbes/prayercaucus.htm/

CONTACT CONGRESS:

Send letters, faxes and E-mails to your Congressional Representative. Better yet, call. Visit http://www.visi.com/juan/congress for a complete listing, or the office House of Representatives site at http://www.house.gov . Be concise and polite. Tell your representative that this bill is a ploy to promote a “revisionist” view of American history, and that it does not mention the many negative effects religious orthodoxy and strife have had in our nation! Point out that government has no proper role in promoting religion, or a biased and un-balanced view of American history. Ask for a written response from your representative!

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS:

Join the conversation at the NoGodBlog.

SPREAD THIS ACTION ALERT!

(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)

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AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.
http://www.atheists.org
http://www.americanatheist.org

For more information, please contact:
Ed Buckner, President (770) 803-5353
Dave Silverman, Communications Director (732) 648-9333

ATHEISTS SEEK ROLE IN PROPOSED FEDERAL “RELIGIOUS HISTORY WEEK”

An Atheist public policy group says that it supports the call by conservative Christians to establish a Federal “Religious History Week,”
and already has suggestions for a proposed curriculum.

A federal bill, the Spiritual Heritage Resolution introduced by Rep. J.
Randy Forbes (R-Va.) details how religion and politics have played vital roles in American history. The measure has won enthusiastic support from members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, as well as Gary Bauer and James and Shirley Dobson of the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer.
The bill will be re-introduced after NDOP events this Thursday.

“We think that ‘Religious History Week’ can be a tool for informing the public about the positive and negative roles that religion has played,”
said Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists. “Our organization would like to participate and make sure that this federal event presents an objective, scholarly view.”

Among the topics Buckner suggested were discussion segments on religious authoritarianism in colonial-era America; the notorious “Blue Laws” that punished those not observing the Sabbath; the use of public taxes to support “Established” religions prior to the American Revolution; the effects of religious orthodoxy on free speech and other civil liberties; the resistance of religious groups to the Revolution and “disestablishment” of churches; support by religious groups for segregation, racism and stopping women from having voting rights; and the more contemporary role religious groups play in opposing equal treatment for gays, lesbians, youth and women seeking abortion and birth control.

“We have other topics we’d like to bring up, too, as part of this wonderful event,” said Dr. Buckner.

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists cautioned that those introducing the Spiritual Heritage Resolution “should refrain from cherry picking only the positive things some religious groups have done throughout our country’s history.”

“We have to acknowledge that, yes, many progressive religious leaders had good ideas. These must be weighed against the role religion, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, has played in retarding political, social and even technological progress.”

Mr. Silverman added that he and Dr. Buckner look forward to working with any federal or private agencies planning the “Religious History Week” if the bill is passed by Congress.

“We just have so many wonderful topics to bring up,” said Dr. Buckner.

(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)

American Atheists, Inc.
PO BOX 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel.: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402

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From reader Jan:

(hyperlinks to other stories at main link below)

http://www.alternet.org/rights/139788?page=entire

40 Million Nonbelievers in America? The Secret Is Almost Out
By Ronald Aronson, Religion Dispatches. Posted May 5, 2009.

Secularists have very quietly become one of America’s largest minorities — how long before they use their power?

As reported recently in the New York Times, a South Carolina chapter of Habitat for Humanity prohibited a group of Secular Humanist volunteers from wearing their “Non-Prophet Organization” T-shirts; a Charleston-area teacher “came out” as a nonbeliever after years of church dinners and demurrals; and Humanist Loretta Haskell struggled over her role as a church musician. While such stories remain commonplace, a related story with a substantial bearing on these anecdotes is one of America’s best-kept secrets.
A recent Newsweek cover—in a bid to (finally) match the celebrated 1966 “Is God Dead?” cover of Time—read, in the shape of a cross: “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” Editor Jon Meacham’s story highlights Newsweek’s latest poll results showing that 10% fewer Americans identify as Christian today than twenty years ago. But more importantly, and mentioned only in passing, is the growth among atheists and secularists of all stripes.
According to the latest American Religious Identification Survey(ARIS) of more than 54,000 adults, between 2001 and 2008 the number willing to identify themselves as atheist and agnostic has gone from under 2 million to 3.6 million. Small numbers compared to the whole, of course, but most notably it’s a rise of 85% of those willing to describe themselves as living without God during the years of our most overtly religious presidency!
Even more newsworthy, when the widely-scorned labels “atheist” and “agnostic” are replaced with specifics about beliefs (“There is no such thing” as God, “There is no way to know,” or “I’m not sure,” and added to those who refused to answer) it turns out that over eighteen percent of Americans do not profess belief in a God or a higher power.
According to ARIS, then, there could be as many as 40 million adult nonbelievers in the United States!
Personal God Going the Way of the Dodo?
Consider: If these numbers are correct, nonbelievers amount to more than the highest estimates of African Americans or gays. Secularists are one of America’s largest minorities. It is no longer possible to proclaim, as the Gallup Poll announced fifty years ago: “Nearly all Americans believe in God.” That is today’s most significant change.
So what explains the impressive increase among those willing to identify as atheist or agnostic? For those who think that books and ideas simply don’t matter, it is dramatic tribute to the success of the “new atheist” writers—including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. To paraphrase the title of Dennett’s book, their goal has been to “break the spell” of religion—and they have evidently helped more Americans “achieve” that goal.
If a new confidence is in the offing it is also visible in the American Humanist Association’s scandalous Christmastime bus ads in Washington DC (“Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”). No less striking is the “Out” campaign (“Come Out,” “Reach Out,” “Speak Out,” “Keep Out,” “Stand Out,”) especially among students and young people.
One of the few writers who has paid attention to these phenomena, Konstantin Petrenko, writing for Religion Dispatches, does so in order to dismiss them [see “Godless America? Say Hello to the ‘Apatheists’,” March 19, 2009]. He stresses the discrepancy between those embracing the “atheist” or “agnostic” label and those who describe themselves as not believing in God. “It appears that most of the unaffiliated individuals are not atheistic or anti-religious in any activist sense, but are rather apathetic toward organized religion and reluctant to join any particular denomination or sect.”
True enough, but the same can be said of most religious believers. This is no reason to downplay the fact that so many have clearly fallen away from religion—that is, they live their lives without any sort of God. Nor can we ignore ARIS’s statement that the six percent of Americans who refuse to answer the question about their beliefs “tend to somewhat resemble ‘Nones’ in their social profile and beliefs.” Which means, according to ARIS’s most striking conclusion: “The U.S. population continues to show signs of becoming less religious, with one in five Americans failing to indicate a religious identity in 2008.”
Furthermore, among those who do, over 12% of the total sample describe their belief in ways that ARIS concludes are “deistic (a higher power but no personal God).” One in eight American believers are as religious as… Thomas Paine. Those who continue to believe in a traditional Jewish, Christian, or Muslim personal god have dropped to under seventy percent of the American population. Despite all efforts to ignore or minimize this, it is big news.
Moments of Prayer into Moments of Silence
And the discrepancy between those willing to be public and open about their religious disbelief and those who are not is also big news. Among nonbelievers, judging from my discussions with hundreds of them over the past several months, many are not “new atheists” (militantly doing battle with religion) but are, inPeter Steinfels’ terminology, “new new atheists.” These people are not primarily concerned with arguing against the belief in God, but are trying to find ways of coexisting in a society in which both nonbelievers and believers can expect to be around for a long time to come. They shy away from labels as they seek their own bearings and their own comfort zone in today’s America.
Secularists welcomed President Obama’s shout-out to nonbelievers during his inaugural address, but are painfully aware that when launching his campaign he criticized them for trying to keep religion out of the public square, but not the religious right for its attempts to erase the line between church and state.
They worry, along with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, that Obama’s renewal of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative in the new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships has not ruled out proselytizing and discriminatory hiring for religious social service programs that are granted Federal dollars. And they wince when recalling that he subjected himself to the informal religious test of being drilled like a catechism pupil by Rick Warren on his own particular way of believing in Jesus Christ (the same Rick Warren who announced that he would never vote for an atheist for president).
Above all, rather than combating religious belief at every turn, many nonbelievers would cheer if the President initiated a genuinely multicultural approach to both believers and secularists in today’s America. This might entail, as was not done at the Democratic National Convention last August, inviting secularists as well as believers to platforms that normally exclude the irreligious (i.e. the “values and unity” event preceding the Convention that was exclusively for religious believers). It might entail as much political attention being paid to nonbelievers as believers at public events—transforming moments of prayer into moments of silence. In other words, it would mean abandoning the implicit assumption of so much of American public and private life that religious values, norms and practices apply to everyone—and show respect to American’s enormous nonreligious minority.

Ronald Aronson is author of Living without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists and the Undecided (Counterpoint, 2008). He teaches history at Wayne State University.

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