All About Heaven

Her Glory, Ellen Johnson, the brilliant and beautiful President of American Atheists, will be on TV tonight as set out below.

The topic is “Heaven — Where is it? How do we get there?”

Now they didn’t ask me.

Had they asked me how to get to Heaven, I would have said:

“Turn Right. Go Straight.”

But if some of the people I know who think they are going to Heaven are going to Heaven, I think I would rather stay outside in the company of more honorable people like Ellen. And of course my dog.






The popular ABC News “20/20” segment “Heaven — Where is it? How do we get there?” — hosted by Barbara Walters will re-air on Friday,. December 22, 2006 beginning at 9:00 PM ET.

Among those interviewed is Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, who says that tales about a heavenly existence amount to “a myth.”

“Heaven doesn’t exist, hell doesn’t exist,” says Johnson. “We weren’t alive before we were born and we’re not going to exist after we die. I’m not happy about the fact that that’s the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have.”

Others on the “Heaven” special represent an overwhelming religious belief. They include Rev. Calvin Butts, the Dalai Lama, and Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf. The original program which aired last year included comments by disgraced preacher Ted Haggard, former head of the National Association of Evangelicals. That segment has been cut, and ABC edited in remarks from television preacher Joel Osteen.

WHO & WHAT: Barbara Walters interview with Ellen Johnson, re-airing of “Heaven” program

WHEN: Friday, December 22, 2006 beginning at 9:00 PM ET — check local listings

WHERE: ABC television network, a “20/20” special.


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


The Longest Night Is Just Before The ?

This morning as light yet later dawned with fearful tone I told unto my woman that with each new day the time of light grows ever shorter and that the time of the light is being eaten by the time of the darkness and that I feared that there might ere long be nothing that remained but eternal night with the light forever fleeing and forsaking our darkening world and all growing cold and silent as it surely had been before the light at the time of the first beginning. My woman answered unto me that the old ones had foretold that ere many days to yet come had been swallowed by the night that the days of lengthening light would return and that the crops would again grow and new lambs be born and the summer come as such has been and become in past seasons of lengthening darkness where fears had fled unfulfilled with the coming again of the spring and of the increase of the hours and days of the warming light. Yet know I that unto this season mayhap another end will follow as all of our sacrifices and pieties and prayers have of my speaking failed at drawing forth one further moment of precious light as darkness deepens despite our plaintively presented pleas and protestations and promises and the darkness shall verily and soon devour forever the light and forever overwhelm and overcome us all.

If by some miraculous magical force as yet unseen my woman speaks rightly and our destiny of darkness may be once again deferred then sayeth the word of



Christmas Letter

Dearest Beloved of Our Family in Christ,

There have been many changes this year for our family. Our beloved 17 year old daughter suffered blindness and paralysis after being struck by a drunk driver on her way home from Wednesday night church services. Aunt Polly died of liver cancer, following a long and painful illness. The family cat was smashed by a UPS truck. Mabel’s M.S. is getting worse and she can hardly do anything much anymore. Father had to have a triple bypass operation, and now uses a breathing tube. The house was burned down by sparks from the burning of Harry Potter books in our yard. Little Marvin got a chicken bone stuck in his throat at a church picnic and was rushed to the hospital where doctors had to remove his voice box, so he can never talk again, but God miraculously saved him. Miranda is now being home schooled after she left eighth grade to become a single mother. An abortion was out of the question, and we know God has given us a hydrocephalic grandchild for his own good and perfect reasons. Our oldest son had his left foot blown off in an ambush in Iraq while helping to bring Christ and Democracy to those poor heathens. We rejoice in the wisdom of our God, in His gifts, and in His plan for our lives. We bear grateful witness to all that our great and merciful God has done for us in the past year, and we praise the works of His hand. Oh, almost forgot. The dog died.

In His Holy Name,

The Fundangelical Family

(by Edwin Kagin. December, 2006. Permission to reproduce without profit is given. If you make money on it, I want some of it. Edwin)


Just in time for the seasonal slander that Atheists are engaged in a “war against Christmas,” we offer this seasonal masterpiece.

The following is contained in Baubles of Blasphemy, by Edwin Kagin, published by the Freethought Press of Atlanta, GA, and edited by Edward Buckner. See: and



If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!
Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (not to be confused with Uncle Scrooge McDuck)

I can’t prove that no ungulate unit of reindeer persuasion can fly, any more than you can prove I don’t have two invisible unicorns that frolic in benign innocence at Camp Quest. I can’t prove there are no living dinosaurs (as the arkonuts challenge the skeptical to do) anymore than the arkonuts can prove the English text of Genesis they rely on is identical to the original version they hold was dictated, or inspired, by god. But if one says that all crows are black, there is no need to check every crow to falsify that assertion. All that is needed is to find one white crow, or any crow of a different color. Similarly, Santa skepticism can be soundly silenced by the production of one flying reindeer. Yet Christmasterians insist doubters disprove Santa, sleigh, and such, or keep silent, lest they destroy a child’s simple (mindless) faith. This method of proof proves useful later, as children, programmed to believe fantasy is truth, grow to adultery and unquestioningly follow the fantastic follies of faith of their fathers (and mothers–political correctness must not be permitted to fall down a personhole).

To be sure, Plato (not to be confused with Mickey Mouse’s dog) argued that, to conceive of something that is real, one must somehow get the perfect idea of that something from the place it really exits, to wit, the world of forms–a place somewhere that no one has ever seen. Reality alone wouldn’t do. Thus, everyone but philosophers know what a horse looks like, and kids know all about Santa without having to survive Philosophy 101.

Can we imagine, or even believe in, something that doesn’t exist? Sure we can. Just talk with those who have been abducted by aliens. If some unseen thing is believed by many, e.g., angels, it is called faith. If a thing is believed by only one, and is wildly outside the gates of common sense and experience, then the belief, e.g., suddenly realizing that one’s guardian angel is made of grape jelly and having him (there are no female angels–check your bible, you can win bets on this) on toast, it is called psychosis. The problem is that the invisible and the non-existence look much the same. Christmas beliefs fall somewhere between the province of priest and psychiatrist.

Christmas combines two contradictory images of godlike characters: Jesus, the Christ, who taught that to be saved one should sell all of their property and give it to the poor (the church later declared belief in this teaching a heresy), and Claus, the Santa, to whom children are taught to write letters requesting property–believed to be given by Santa, in one night, to those children of the world found worthy–in direct challenge to the counsel of the Christ. One should note, before teaching the latter belief system, that an anagram of Santa is Satan.

The day itself, meaning Christ’s Mass, is the same day the Romans used to honor their sun god with gift giving and feasting. Christmas is quite pagan. Its secular celebration involves rituals specifically forbidden by holy writ, like hewing down a tree, bringing it inside the house, decorating it, and praising it. This is as clear a violation of divine decree as public prayer, or celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of on the seventh day as ordered (Commandment IV). No wonder we are in such trouble these days with crime, inflation, and teenage pregnancies.

Unfortunate cultural consequences flow from the forced frivolity and jejune joy Christmas creates and requires. People get depressed when they don’t feel happy as they should, when they do not have their artificial expectations fulfilled, and when they cannot meet the unreasonable artificial sessional needs of others–like their mercenary relatives, and their materialistic, greedy, spoiled children–and get even deeper in debt by trying to behave as expected. Thanks to Tom Flynn, and his wonderful heresy The Trouble With Christmas, I chucked the whole thing a few years ago, and lived. Try it. You will feel better for it.

Should I be granted a Christmas wish, it would be that the holiday be canceled, and that the whole show appertaining to this business of Christmas not be done at all. Please understand that I do not care if others celebrate Christmas if they wish, nor would I suggest that they be prevented from doing so. I just don’t want the holiday to be compulsory for me or anyone else–any more than I want other people’s prayers, that they have an absolute right to pray, to be forced upon me by public officials or upon children by public schools. One who would rather decline gets somewhat tired of listening to those who absolutely and uncritically assume all good people celebrate Christmas, and that something is horribly wrong with anyone who ignores the invitation to attend their compulsory party. Failing the unlikely event of Christmas being made optional, I would alternatively wish, in seasonal answer to Virginia’s famous question, that we might see something in the public press, for innocent children, like:

Dear Virginia,

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. It is a myth that has been cruelly used to deceive children for the pleasure of adults who unwittingly destroy children’s sense of basic trust by teaching them that the world is something other than it really is.

I know this news must be a shock to you, and I am truly sorry for your discomfort. But it is not my fault. The person who tells you the truth should never be blamed for the hurt that comes from learning that others have lied.

You should not believe in Santa Claus any more than you should believe in fairies, or in demons waiting around to pull you under the earth, or in angels lurking about to transport you above it. People do not need to believe foolish things to have love and compassion and caring, any more than they need a special season or holiday to be nice to one another.

If things believed prove false, does that mean peace, and sharing, and kindness must dissolve like mist along with the untrue things? Of course not! We don’t need magic to have happiness, and wonder, and joy. Our beautiful world is full of these things, and they are very real, and our real world holds more interesting and wonderful people and things than any fairyland anyone could ever even imagine.

Some adults are afraid of things they don’t understand, and they teach children to believe in magic. But the truth is really far more exciting. Wouldn’t you rather learn what is on real planets, that are millions of miles away, than believe reindeer can fly? Have you ever seen the northern lights? I have, and I can tell you they are more beautiful, more mysterious, and more wonderful than any pretend story anyone could ever invent about elves that have workshops at the North Pole.

Is it okay to pretend and to believe things we know are not true? Of course it is! And it can be a lot of fun. Intelligent people love to play. Any time you watch a movie or a play or go to a costume party you are playing and pretending something is so that is not.

We know those aren’t real people in the TV–only images of them–but we know we are pretending, and this is fun and much different from believing a falsehood. Would it be
wrong to tell a friend of yours, who firmly believed there were really small people inside the television set, that his or her belief was not true? Would it be right for you to be condemned for destroying that friend’s childlike faith? What if several of your best friends thought they could fly, and set off for a bridge over a 600 foot deep gorge to prove it? Would it be wrong for you to politely try to convince them that they just might be mistaken, no matter how firmly they believe they are right? Would you be destroying their childhood or saving their future?

Follow the truth, no matter where it may take you. And don’t pay any attention to those who think comforting falsehoods are better than understanding the world as it is. If you ever have children, teach them trust by telling them the truth. By the way, just in case you didn’t know, the stork didn’t bring you. You are here because your parents had sex.

Keep questioning, Virginia, and don’t feel it is the least bit wrong to demand correct answers.

Asking questions is what makes us human.

Your friend,

Uncle Edwin

proof by precondition for intelligibility

Ignorance, while regrettable, can lead to some interesting discussions.

On Wednesday, November 29, 2006, your narrator had the honor of appearing on the radio talk show of Pastor Gene Cook. The show is called “The Narrow Mind,” a title with which Pastor Cook (he let me call him Gene on the air) seems quite proud, said title implying, as it seems to do, that Gene has a narrow mind regarding his understanding of “Truth,” and therefore proudly disregards anything that argues contrary to such understanding. Here is (should be—this is not a precise science) the narrow mind: .

The show can be (unless they have pulled it) heard here:

If they have yanked the proffered “free download,” try here:, compliments of the Department of Copyright Violations. If anyone should sue, it will only make them more famous and we can share our profits with them. While you are at it, you can check out the blasphemous website which enjoyed quite a nice jump in visitors following this historic show.

But I digress. The program generated a number of remarks, many favorable, and many idiotic. Some just plain ill informed. As modest retrains the posting of the favorable comments, let us consider the following masterpiece of logic and presentation, which may or may not have been inspired by the radio show—probably was—surely sent in good faith to straighten me out, and a few replies thereto. The plugs for my website, and for Camp Quest, are indeed appreciated. The names of the parties are redacted for the sake of their family and friends, if any (clever readers will figure out who the correspondent is and how to contact him anyway):

Dear Mr. Kagin,

Recently a friend told me about your camp, Camp Quest, an unique camp for children of secular humanists. I visited your website[i] and noted that, according to your 2005 Camp Director’s letter, you offer a prize of a “godless (without “in god we trust” on it—made before 1954) one hundred dollar bill” to any camper who can prove that two invisible unicorns do not reside at your camp. I assume this challenge is to develop critical thinking skills in your campers, helping them understand that believing in something that can’t be seen is irrational. Therefore, belief in an unseen God also is irrational. Neat-o.

Do you also give a $100 prize for identifying straw man arguments on your website? If so, I’d like to submit the following for consideration of that prize.

In your Director’s letter regarding the unicorn challenge, you state that “Campers come up with the oddest refutations—like Edwin should have to prove that the two invisible unicorns are there. How ridiculous! It is pointed out that I have faith, and that is all that is needed? Isn’t it?” Later in your letter, you mention that campers are assigned a project to offer advice to inhabitants of another planet to consider “whether or not their emerging society should be encouraged to develop along lines of critical inquiry or along faith and belief in the supernatural.”

The way these examples are worded assumes that critical inquiry and faith in God are incompatible. I assume from the context of your letter that you define faith as “blind” belief, devoid of reason or evidence. However, claiming that belief in God is based solely on “blind” faith is a straw man argument—one that, as you point out in your letter, is easily knocked down.

May I suggest that by presenting belief in God in this way you actually are doing a disservice to your campers. By providing a refutation based on a flimsy caricature of theism, instead of developing critical thinking skills in children you provide them with a false sense of security for their atheism. A more robust approach would teach children about the actual reasons theists claim a belief in God and then go about refuting those reasons.

I suggest that your campers would be better instructed by explaining to them that everyone, whether theist or atheist, begins his worldview by first making a foundational assumption about the nature of reality. As it turns out, when it comes to beginning assumptions, there are not many options. You identified two in your letter, either nature is all that exists (atheism), or both nature and the supernatural exist (theism).[ii] Since that’s the case, then a proper starting point for teaching critical thinking skills would be to evaluate these two assumptions in light of our experience.

So let’s apply some good ol’ empirical reasoning to life experience. For example, everyone senses a concept we call justice. We may quibble over exactly what is just and what is not, but deep down we all intuitively know that some human actions are right and others wrong. So the question is: Which beginning assumption, atheism or theism, provides a sufficient foundation for this common human experience?

On the atheistic worldview, the beginning assumption is that only nature exists—molecules in motion, if you will. These initial molecules did not have a sense of justice. Then, it is further assumed that, over time, molecules bumping into each other developed the capacity for moral reasoning. But how can something (molecules with a sense of justice) come from nothing (molecules with no sense of justice)? Given a cause/effect universe, that’s a stretch, isn’t it? All of our experience suggests this cannot be. In fact, it smacks, not of rational thought, but of irrationality, of even, dare I say it, “blind” faith in the unseen ability of molecules to produce something that was not there before.

The relatively new science of socio-biology offers a response to this impasse. Social biologists suggest that evolutionary theory explains how molecules gradually developed into living organisms, and over time, those organisms which developed a mutated “cooperating” gene were naturally selected for their ability to better survive and reproduce. This resulted in homo sapiens inheriting this cooperating gene, or what we refer to as moral behavior.[iii]

However, this scenario, while an interesting story, only confuses the matter on two counts. First, we all tend to look up to people who sacrifice themselves for someone else. This ultimate form of morality, called altruism, is completely out of synch with evolution’s focus on the struggle for survival. If the goal is to pass on your genes, helping someone else pass on theirs makes no sense. It’s not just that evolutionary theory has not yet provided a satisfactory explanation for altruism, it’s much more than that. The insurmountable problem is that Darwinism is counter to our experience.

And second, the Darwinian story does not provide a satisfactory explanation because evolutionary theory is driven by random, chance mutations. And actual experimentation in the laboratory has never shown that point mutations of DNA are able to add any new information content to the genetic code. In other words, what scientists have found is that mutations either delete information or rearranges information that is already there, but they never add any new information. And new information in the genetic code is needed to generate unique organs, tissue, cells, and eventually, thought processes, if we expect to begin with a non-moralizing molecule and end up with one of its descendents having a sense of moral justice.[iv]

Based on this short critique, we find that we cannot adequately explain a fundamental experience of life by beginning with atheistic assumptions. Let’s turn to the alternative to see if we fare any better.

On the other hand, if we start from the other assumption, the idea that God exists and has the attribute of moral reasoning, and we further assume that God created man with a moral capacity, we have a sufficient cause to
explain what we all experience, those pesky moral notions. This is the only logical position. No “blind” faith at work here. Just a little good ol’ deductive reasoning.

Ah, but the objection may be raised, “If God is the cause of everything, then what caused God?” Interesting question, but it’s not pertinent to the discussion. That’s because every worldview begins with assuming something is real and this reality is, by definition, eternal, therefore having no cause. Either we begin with assuming matter is eternal or God is eternal. So there is no going further back to any other “causes.” Either “In the beginning, Matter” or “In the beginning, God.” Both views are equally religious, since they answer an ultimately “religious” question, “What about God?” Additionally, each position is equally a starting point from which to construct a worldview. The question is which assumption is more logical, given other things we know about the universe, life, and ourselves.

Please note, I am not suggesting that just because we can’t explain how something comes into being we insert the phrase “God did it” to fill in our lack of scientific knowledge. My argument is not this so-called “God of the gaps” argument. It is the opposite. I’m basing this line of reasoning on what we do know. We do know we all experience a sense of justice. We do know we live in a cause/effect universe. We do know the limits of what genetic mutations can accomplish, and that, in fact, mutations lead to a overall decrease in useful information.

So, once again, the issue is, how can non-moral molecules develop the ability to sense moral concepts? Or, for that matter, what about love—does love come from non-loving molecular interaction? Or, along the same line of reasoning, how can we arrive at rational thought, given non-rational matter and randomness as the only building blocks?

Over one hundred years ago Nietzsche correctly concluded that in a universe devoid of God, there is no morality, nor love, nor rational thought. So how can anyone use rational thought to make claims about the nature of reality or the non-existence of God? This is quite a quandary! Maybe, instead of calling your organization, “Camp Quest,” you might consider renaming it “Camp Quandary.” Just an idea for your suggestion box.

I wish you the best as you seek to develop critical thinking skills in the lives of the next generation. The fact that you have that desire demonstrates the imprint of an Intelligent First Cause, the only rational explanation for that very human sensibility.




Instead of sending me the $100 reward for identifying the straw man argument on your website, please use the money to purchase some good books on why it makes sense to acknowledge the existence of God. May I suggest the following as staples for your camp library:

1) Faith Has Its Reasons, Boa & Bowman.

2) Unshakable Foundations, Geisler & Bocchino.

3) Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig.

4) Philosophical Foundations for A Christian Worldview, Moreland & Craig.

5) Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga.


[ii] Actually, As the philosopher David Stove pointed out, altruism—the willingness, that is, to sacrifice for others—is obviously disadvantageous in what Darwin called “the struggle for life.” In a world where the goal is to pass on your selfish gene, helping someone else pass on theirs makes no sense. there is a third option: only the supernatural exists (pantheism), but the sake of simplicity, I’ll just evaluate the first two options, atheism and theism, since, you would agree that supernaturalism in any form is irrational.

[iii] Richard Dawkins champions this idea in his book, “The Selfish Gene.”

[iv] For a greater explanation of why evolution fails to explain genetic “progress,” see my article, “Of Monkeys and Men: What the Genetic Code Reveals,” at


Now this person does not win the godless $100 for lots of reasons. The easiest to explain reason is because the prize is only open to Camp Quest campers, and a check of relevant records reveals him not to be such.

For the more serious student, the following replies may be of interest.

Larry said:

I don’t have time to respond right now but see;
for scientific refutation of the person’s argument.


And Dr. Robin said:

Dear Chuck,

I think you will find many interesting possibilities in the real world of gene duplication, polymorphisms, additions and mutations if you choose investigate the literature among various model organisms. Below is one on gene transfer for example and another by gene addition. Just look on and you have a world of literature to read on so many angles that all point to basically the same direction as a net result to explain humans — evolution of simpler to more complex over time.

I don’t have time right now to address your issues with science and facts but the fact is genes do move around and with all the building blocks of genetic information in the DNA all ready there in “simpler” organisms adding more should not be so hard to envision. Then these changes produce longer genes or more genes, basically more DNA to have more functions as well as mistakes.


Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Nov 7; [Epub ahead of print]

Evolution of the syntrophic interaction between Desulfovibrio vulgaris and Methanosarcina barkeri: Involvement of an ancient horizontal gene transfer.

· Scholten JC,

· Culley DE,

· Brockman FJ,

· Wu G,

· Zhang W.

Microbiology Department, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Mail Stop P7-50, Richland, WA 99352, USA.

The sulfate reducing bacteria Desulfovibrio vulgaris and the methanogenic archaea Methanosarcina barkeri can grow syntrophically on lactate. In this study, a set of three closely located genes, DVU2103, DVU2104, and DVU2108 of D. vulgaris, was found to be up-regulated 2- to 4-fold following the lifestyle shift from syntroph to sulfate reducer; moreover, none of the genes in this gene set were differentially regulated when comparing gene expression from various D. vulgaris pure culture experiments. Although exact function of this gene set is unknown, the results suggest that it may play roles related to the lifestyle change of D. vulgaris from syntroph to sulfate reducer. This hypothesis is further supported by phylogenomic analyses showing that homologies of this gene set were only narrowly present in several groups of bacteria, most of which are restricted to a syntrophic lifestyle, such as Pelobacter carbinolicus, Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans, Syntrophomonas wolfei, and Syntrophus aciditrophicus. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all three individual genes in the gene set tended to be clustered with their homologies from archaeal genera, and they were rooted on archaeal species in the phylogenetic trees, suggesting that they were horizontally transferred from archaeal methanogens. In addition, no significant bias in codon and amino acid usages was detected between these genes and the rest of the D. vulgaris genome, suggesting the gene transfer may have occurred early in the evolutionary history so that sufficient time has elapsed to allow an adaptation to the codon and amino acid usages of D. vulgaris. This report provides novel insights into the origin and evolution of bacterial genes linked to the lifestyle change of D. vulgaris from a syntrophic to a sulfate-reducing lifestyle.

Matrix Biol. 2006 Sep 19; [Epub ahead of print]

On the origins of the extracellular matrix in vertebrates.

· Huxley-Jones J,

· Robertson DL,

· Boot-Handford RP.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK; Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.

Extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key metazoan characteristic. In addition to providing structure and orientation to tissues, it is involved in many cellular processes such as adhesion, migration, proliferation and differentiation. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis of ECM molecules focussing on when vertebrate specific matrices evolved. We identify 60 ECM genes and 20 associated processing enzymes in the genome of the urochordate Ciona intestinalis. A comparison with vertebrate and protostome genomes has permitted the identification of both a core set of metazoan matrix genes and vertebrate-specific innovations in the ECM. We have identified a few potential cases of de novo vertebrate ECM gene innovation, but the majority of ECM genes have resulted from duplication of pre-existing genes present in the ancestral vertebrate. In conclusion, the modern complexity we see in vertebrate ECM has come about largely by duplication and modification of pre-existing matrix molecules. Extracellular matrix genes and their processing enzymes appear to be over-represented in the vertebrate genome suggesting that these genes played an active role enabling and underpinning the evolution of vertebrates.




Dog, I wish I was that smart.

And just what does “proof by precondition for intelligibility,” as advanced by Pastor Gene Cook, mean?.


Rev. Mendle Adams Speaks to FIG TONIGHT. Edwin Tomorrow. Atheist Student Expelled

Y’all come and hear Rev. Adams, y’hear.

Free Inquiry Group (FIG) Talk at Vernon Manor, 400 Oak Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.

FIG is an affiliate of American Atheists.

Election 2006: What does it Mean For Us?

Results in recent elections have been attributed to voter blocs such as “soccer moms”, “Nascar Dads”, and “values voters”. The election in 2006 is labeled as a referendum on the war in Iraq. The results of this election will play a significant role in how the presidential election in 2008 is framed.

Reverend Mendle Adams will join FIG on Tuesday, November 28 to discuss the results of elections and analyze its impact on the major social issues of today, including how religion and government will operate in the new Congress.

Born in a fundamentalist Christian home, Reverend Adams was raised attending fundamentalist Bible School and College. However, as a reverend, Mendle has championed causes of social justice, working for Equal Rights Ratification, Witness of Peace, The Nuclear Freeze, and Gay Rights. As ecumenical campus chaplain at Oklahoma State University, Reverend Adams was the only clergy member to join the ACLU lawsuit against the board of regents to allow the students to show the The Last Temptation of Christ. The movie was deemed “blasphemous” by the Board of Regents, but the ACLU suit was victorious in court, the movie was shown, and the Chairman of the Board of Regents was forced to step down. Reverend Adams also served in the Indiana House of Representatives, where he established his credentials as a ‘thoughtful and liberal Democrat’.

Mendle Adams has been the senior pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ since 1997. Mendle met FIG members, Edwin and Helen Kagin, while he was a pastor in Union, Kentucky during the campaign to defeat the location of the Answers in Genesis “Creationist Museum” next to the Big Bone State Park in Boone County. With Mendle‘s range of experiences and expertise, he is sure to provide a lively presentation that will lead to deep discussion on the next trends in Washington.



Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists will be the guest on the Gene Cook Show this Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006. You can call in with your questions and comments, and the program can be downloaded from the internet.

WHO: Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists.
WHAT: Will appear live on the radio call-in talk show “The Narrow Mind” in California, hosted by Gene Cook, for an open discussion on Atheism and Christianity

WHEN: Wednesday, November 29, 2006, 12:00 – 1:00 pm (Eastern Time). 9:00 – 10:00 am (PDT).

Click the title for the link. The call-in number is 1-800-466-1873. The phone lines are open and an MP3 of the program should be available (free) very soon after the program ends.


Suspension of Disbelief

Art Student Expelled—For Atheism?

Bob Averill’s classmates at the Art Institute of Portland had finished up their work in a character development class on November 8, and were chatting to pass the time until class was over. The discussion moved toward spirituality. Averill, a Game Art Design student and a devoted atheist—he even runs a blog called Portland Atheist—sidled over and joined the conversation.

It was the last time he’d be in an Art Institute class—within two weeks, he was expelled, less than a year before he’d hoped to graduate.

In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings.

“I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer,” Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. “In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so.”

Averill says he wasn’t trying to disprove the other student’s religious beliefs, but “to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven.”

The student, apparently offended, complained to the teacher. Averill was called into a meeting that evening, he says, with the Art Institute’s dean of education, associate dean, and the dean of student affairs.

According to Averill, he was told the meeting was “because of my altercation with [the other student].” Averill says he pointed out that he’d “only offered a different viewpoint in a discussion that [my classmate] had started.”

“They didn’t respond well,” Averill told the Mercury. “Their mantra was ‘no discussing religion in school,’ which is fine except that I did not initiate the conversation, she had.” Averill was suspended for four days, until a judicial hearing with the dean of student affairs.

Immediately after the meeting with the deans, Averill found a classmate who had witnessed the initial conversation, and dragged him to the dean’s office. “I thought I could clear this up, this is just a misunderstanding.” (The witness did not respond to an inquiry from the Mercury.)

But the associate dean, Averill says, “told me she didn’t want to hear from me again that day. So she reported it to the dean as rude and belligerent behavior.”

At the judicial hearing, on November 17, Dean of Student Affairs Ron Engeldinger was more focused on the “rude and belligerent behavior” report from the associate dean, Averill says, than on the initial conversation about religion.

Then Engeldinger, he says, brought up the fact that Averill had had some trouble with three instructors in October. “The thing is, I had already had a meeting with the associate dean about [that]. We resolved the issue and I apologized to the professors involved.” Averill was surprised that Engeldinger brought it up again.

“I expressed that I felt discriminated against as an atheist, and he informed me that mine was not a protected class of people,” Averill says.

Averill has since contacted the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in the Midwest. He says the Freedom from Religion Foundation told him to seek legal counsel, and he expects the ACLU will respond to his inquiry within 60 days.

According to an emailed letter from Engeldinger, Averill had violated the student conduct policy. The decision to dismiss Averill was “not the result of a single action on your part, but a series of actions. I believe that, in several instances, your actions have been aggressive, demeaning, and threatening and that this demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” Engeldinger wrote.

The student who complained on November 8 wished to remain anonymous, but her account backs up Engeldinger’s letter. Her complaint was not the only reason he was sent into the Dean’s office. The teacher even told me that my complaint was the ‘last straw’ as SEVERAL other complaints were stated before mine.”

However, she says she “did not wish for him to be expelled or get in trouble and I had no idea that it was going to happen until after the fact.”

On Monday morning, November 20, Averill met with the school’s president, Dr. Steven Goldman, to appeal his dismissal. “He upheld the dean’s decision to throw me out,” Averill says. “He offered to re-admit me if I underwent—get this—psychiatric evaluation.”

Goldman declined to discuss specifics without Averill’s permission.

“I can say that we have never suspended or terminated or disciplined or otherwise troubled any student at any time about religious issues. It’s never even come up as an issue,” says Goldman, who also teaches a comparative religion class at the school. Given the Art Institute’s liberal arts curriculum, there is no policy against discussing religion or philosophy, “or any other subject as far as I know. We have an academic community in which people are free to explore ideas.”

A Blog in Time

Dear Doomed Reader,

I am pleased to advise that, with the able assistance of my brilliant and beautiful daughter Heather (email available upon application and satisfactory background check) and my friend Len, that this electronic communications miracle will be (should be–this is not a precise science) spitting forth blasphemies in a more regular and timely manner than heretofore achieved by this aging blogger.

You are invited to inform anyone you wish of this publishing event initiated on November 26th (the date Howard Carter busted into King Tutankhamun’s tomb, the date “Casablanca” premiered at the Hollywood Theater in New York City, and the date porn star Aurora Snow was born), 2006.

There is some method by which you can be informed when new stuff is posted here, but I don’t know what it is. If you can figure out how to do so, you are welcome to do so.

In closing this announcement, let us observe that the future has never been brighter, which is a terribly discouraging commentary on the past.

Edwin, by dog.