KENTUCKY ATHEISTS NEWS & NOTES Date: September 6, 2009, 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
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:
“Answers in Atheism,” the Internet radio sensation, will (should be—this is not a precise science) be on today, Sunday, September 06, 2009, at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. Topics discussed will (should) include Camp Quest reports, and the lawsuit filed by American Atheists that resulted in a declaration of unconstitutionality of the part of the Kentucky Homeland Security law that required a belief in god. For details see: www.answersinatheism.net
JOIN AMERICAN ATHEISTS.
THE FEE HAS BEEN REDUCED TO ONLY $20.
THAT IS BECAUSE WE NEED TO COUNT YOU MORE THAN WE NEED TO COLLECT FROM YOU.
YOU CAN STILL BE A MEMBER OF ANY OTHER GROUPS OR ORGANIZATIONS.
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
A A N E W S
#1274 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 09/05/09
KENTUCKY TO APPEAL RULING AGAINST HOMELAND SECURITY
GOD PROMOTION PLAQUE, PROGRAMS
KAGIN: “REGRETTABLE” WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY
, Ready For Supreme Court If Necessary
The State of Kentucky announced Friday that it would appeal
a court ruling that struck down legislation requiring the
Commonwealth’s Homeland Security Office to display a religious
plaque and incorporate “dependence on God” in its training
Two statutes, passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001
faith-based terrorist attacks, were challenged by American Atheists
and a cohort of plaintiffs who maintained that they violated
key portions of both the U.S. Constitution and the Kentucky
Constitution’s prohibition about establishing religion.
The hastily passed bills mandated that the new department “publicize
the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on
Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”
Another statute called upon the Director of the new office to
promote the religious message, and prominently display the plaque
“at the entrance to the state’s Emergency Operations Center…”
The text of the statue declared:
(1) No government by itself can guarantee perfect security from
acts of war or terrorism.
(2) The security and well-being of the public depend not just on
government, but rest in large measure upon individual citizens
of the Commonwealth and their level of understanding, preparation
(3) The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved
apart from reliance on Almighty God as set forth in the public
speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham
Lincoln’s historic March 30, 1863 Proclamation urging Americans to
pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours of American
history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy’s November 22,
1963, national security speech which concluded: “For as was written
long ago: ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but
in vain.’ “
Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists took
the issue to court. The Kentucky Attorney General promptly
filed for a motion to dismiss, and disingenuously argued that the
statutes honored god and had little or nothing to do with religion.
On August 26, however Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate denied
the Commonwealth’s request, and made a summary judgment in favor of
the plaintiffs. Wingate opined that the statutes clearly established
religion, and said that while the legislature had broad authority, in
the case of the two statutes, “the secular purpose has to be genuine,
not a sham and not merely secondary to a religious objective.”
Despite the 17-page rebuke of the Commonwealth’s arguments,
though, the Attorney General’s office decided to appeal at public
expense. Mr. Kagin called the move “regrettable,” and told reporters:
“I would not be at all uncomfortable taking the facts of this case
before the U.S. Supreme Court. I think the statue is so blatantly
unconstitutional that any court would find it unconstitutional.”
Shelly Johnson of the state’s Attorney General office declared:
“We believe there is a clear distinction in the law between
acknowledgement of religion, which has been permitted for years,
and the establishment of religion, which is prohibited by the
Constitution. The statute in question merely acknowledges religion
and should have been upheld by the court.”
Associated Press writer Roger Alford noted the importance of the
case. “States in the Bible Belt such as Kentucky, cannot afford to
concede this court battle, even when legal grounds are shaky…”
Western Kentucky University political science professor Scott Lasley
concurred, noting the partisan electoral aspects of the case.
He observed that Attorney General Jack Conway is seeking the
Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in the 2010 race.
“The reality of the situation is that for most attorneys general
that (not challenging the court ruling) would be the end of their
political careers. It’s just the reality of the situation, given
the political environment you’re operating in.”
The rise of militant atheism
Published: Sunday | September 6, 2009
Is religion good for society? Is the Bible really a good book let alone ‘The Good Book’? And does God really exist? Can we prove it? A group of militant atheists have been giving a resounding and vehement “No!” to all these questions, much to the consternation of Christians.
In the last few years, Christians have experienced their own Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There is no mystery to them, as they have made no attempt to disguise their identities or agenda. They are named Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. They have written some profoundly disturbing books in the last four years: The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins); The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris); Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Daniel Dennett); and god is not Great (Christopher Hitchens). Hitchens and Dawkins are the most dreaded of these four “beasts” in Christian fundamentalist demonology.
Unknown to most Jamaican Christians, including many pastors and theologians, there has been an intense, fierce and furious intellectual battle taking place over God in North America and Britain particularly, in the last four years. A new, militant atheism has arisen. The New Atheists, as they have been dubbed, have been carrying out their work with evangelistic and evangelical zeal. It’s about time, they say, as for too long thinking, rational people have allowed Christians to dominate the public space, influencing public policy to great societal damage, with their myths and dogmas.
Christians, for example, have been at the forefront of the struggle against the right of gay people to live without stigma and prejudice; the right to have a “loving and legal marriage”; the “right” to adopt and rear children. Christians have stoutly opposed women’s sovereignty over their own bodies, tyrannising public policy on abortion, as the atheists would see it. Christians have opposed stem cell research which would benefit people undergoing intense suffering. They are said to be responsible for untold suffering in places like Africa where AIDS has been rampant, because of the teaching of Christianity’s largest denomination (Catholicism) against the use of condoms. Catholic teaching forbidding policy on artificial birth control has both swelled and harmed populations in Latin America where Catholicism has been strong.
Christians, charge the New Atheists, have been responsible for supporting or giving justification to some of the most obnoxious social evils which mankind has known. Christopher Hitchens sees religion as child abuse and devotes a whole chapter in his book, “god is not Great, defending that thesis.
“Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry; invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry; contemptuous of women and coercive toward children, organised religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience,” Hitchens spews in his highly polemical and angry book. (He sees it as justified outrage; the sort rational persons should exhibit to the kind of atrocities religion fosters, in his view).
And it is not only that Christians, as fallible human beings, have not been able to live out the ideal of the Bible and, therefore, they engage in atrocious behaviour. No, say people like Dawkins and Hitchens. That is how the Christians’ God behaves. Explains Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticide, genocidal, filicidal pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously bully.”
Some Christians might even condemn me for quoting this “blasphemous” passage from the Gospelof Dawkins; a passage which would, under previous era, land him in jail. But people would be shocked to know that long before Hitchens wrote that, the revered American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said, “The Christian God is a being of terrific character – cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust”. But now the New Atheists are popularising their ideas through the big American media, of which they have become darlings. Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens’ books have been best-sellers on the New York Times lists (Dennett is more sober and restrained, hence less of a pull for media.)
The New Atheists have been helped considerably by a growing group of Christians, including scholars and pastors, who have become atheists and who are now openly confessing their atheism. From the 19th century particularly, with the rise of Biblical criticism, a huge percentage of Biblical scholars have rejected conservative views that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Many Biblical scholars see the Bible as a human book, limited by culture and history and not by any means immune from error.
One prominent Biblical scholar who has become an atheist and who is a celebrity in the big American media is Professor Bart Ehrman who over the last few years has produced a stream of books devastating to Christianity and the Bible: Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind who Changed the Bible and Why; The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture; Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew; Lost Scriptures: Books That Did not Make It Into the New Testament; God’s problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question – Why we Suffer and his most recent; Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t know About Them).
Ehrman was a Bible-believer, Gospel-toting Fundamentalist Christian schooled in the most conservative Evangelical seminaries in America – Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton. But he later went to Princeton where he gained a PhD in New Testament studies. In his book God’s problem he tells how he lost his faith after becoming a pastor and preaching every Sunday and holding prayer group and Bible studies.
“I realised that I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world given the state of things. For many people inhabiting this planet, life is a cesspool of misery and suffering. I came to the point where I could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge of it.”
I could no longer believe
Unlike what almost every Christian might believe, Ehrman did not leave willingly, but tried to hang on to his faith until he simply could not anymore, his faith bursting under the weight of contrary evidence, as he would see it. “I did not go easily. On the contrary, I left kicking and screaming, wanting desperately to hold on to the faith I had known from my childhood. But I came to the point where I could no longer believe”.
In the view of the New Atheists like Harris, Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens, only the tiniest minority have the courage to leave an unthinking faith, which is what all religious faith is ultimately. Besides, the vast majority are simply not bright enough to realise they what they believe is an illusion, a myth, a fable like those from Greek legends. In fact, Dawkins has angered Christians for years by saying he cannot see how any educated person can believe in God. He says the evidence for evolution is too overwhelming and coercive for any person who claims to be educated to deny that evidence and say he does not believe in evolution.
He says atheists should be simply called Brights for those who are not atheists are not bright. (Dawkins , from the prestigious Oxford University, is considered the most arrogant of all the new atheists, followed closely by Hitchens). Hitchens says in his book, god is not Great: “Religion comes from a period of human pre-history where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from bawling and a fearful infancy of our species and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.”
The growth of Islamic fanaticism and terrorism; the danger of militant Islam to democracy and peace and the 9/11 experience have served to reinforce the view that religion is bad for society. In addition, the New Atheists are buttressed by scientific evidence which seems to prove that religion is harmful to sociological and psychological health.
An international survey of 23,000 persons in 17 democracies shows that “in general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with high rates of homicide, juvenile and early mortality STD-infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies”. (See Gregory Paul’s article in Vol. 7, 2005 issue of The Journal of Religion and Health).
Secular Europe scores higher on a number of indices of social health than the more religious United States. Japan, which is a highly secularised society, is far more peaceful and sociologically healthy than religious America.
Says Gregory in his Journal of Religion and Society essay: “The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the democracies, sometimes spectacularly so. No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. The US is the least efficient Western nation in terms of converting wealth into cultural and physical health”. And a religion is a major factor say the militant atheists.
Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]