Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Run Down of Atlanta's Non-Religious Community Groups for Humanists, Freethinkers, Objectivists, Agnostics, Atheists, Naturalists, Brights, and the otherwise Non-Religious

Formal Organizations

These organizations are very well-established and are formal organizations. They have a long history of member involvement have regularly scheduled activities for members and guests alike.

The Fellowship of Reason


Home Page:

The Fellowship of Reason ("FOR") is a reason-based ethical community; that is, a group of people united by the idea that reason provides the best guide for understanding reality and living the best life possible.  FOR differs from faith-based organizations in that we believe each individual's purpose and success in life are derived from, and ultimately determined by, the individual - not a supernatural authority.

Is the Fellowship of Reason for You?

  • Are you interested in ideas?
  • Are you interested in continuing to learn?
  • Do you believe that personal happiness and well-being should be the  cornerstones of any ethical system?
  • Do you believe that reason, rather than faith, is the best guide to living?
  • Are you interested in friendships based on these ideas?
  • Do you know what you want out of life, or are you on a quest to find out?

If you answered "Yes!" to these questions, then the Fellowship of Reason is for you!

The Atlanta Freethought Society

Home Page:

The Atlanta Freethought Society is a non-profit educational organization that exists to provide a community for non-theists in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area through educational, advocacy, and social activities.

We are Atlanta's non-theist organization for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists, skeptics, rationalists, brights, or those otherwise self-identified as non-religious.

The Humanists of Georgia Association

Home Page:

Humanism affirms the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, and asserts that persons are responsible for the realization of their aspirations and that they have within themselves the power of achieving them. Humanism is free from any belief in the supernatural and is dedicated to the search for meaning and values for individuals on this earth through reliance on intelligence and the scientific method, democracy, and social sympathy. Humanism contends that human beings are a part of nature, that they have emerged as a result of continuous evolutionary process and that all their values -- religious, ethical, political and social -- have their source in human experience and are the product of their culture.

The Humanists of Georgia is a membership organization dedicated to building a socially nurturing and intellectually stimulating Humanist community. The Humanists of Georgia strives to achieve its goals through public advocacy projects, social concerns programs, community outreach programs, and watchdog activities.

Please visit their web sites to learn more about them. They try to coordinate their activities such that they do not overlap. That way, people can have a community of friends to enjoy some time with each Sunday, and also during the week or on Saturday sometimes.

Informal Groups

In addition to the formal organizations, there are several new groups popping up on the internet in, Facebook, and on MySpace. Here are links to those groups:

The Atlanta Atheists Meetup

Home Page:

To bring together atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers. What with this nation leaning towards becoming more religious, those of us who reject religion need to organize and combine our strengths. Even in a society that is supposed to be open and accepting, all too often we have to keep our atheism under wraps lest we be made pariahs.

21st Century Humanism Meetup

Home Page:

We are devoted to maintaining a continuing dialog between Humanists, Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics, and other people who believe in the basic goodness of human nature without supernaturalism.

21st Century Humanism fosters the preservation and growth of Humanism, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, separation of church and state, and the traditional Humanist values of reason, rationality, experience, and the scientific method in a post 9/11 world by examining the real problems experienced by humanists, agnostics, atheists, relativists, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, and others.

The Metro-Atlanta Brights and Freethinkers Meetup


Home Page:

Our group is dedicated to helping free people from their irrational beliefs and providing aid and community for those who have been enlightened and their families. All are welcome to join with us: agnostics, atheists, brights, freethinkers, humanists, naturalists, non-theists, skeptics, and open believers.

Read more at:

The Peachtree Freethinkers MySpace Group

Home Page:

This is a new group in the Atlanta area to network those who are atheist, freethinkers, humanist, agnostic, or otherwise non-religious who are professional younger adults (18-54). Like with the general demographics of MySpace, most so far are in their 20's, 30's, and some 40's. This is not a singles group so couples are also welcome. We are not trying to replace any current non-theist group in Atlanta but to provide a venue for the void of activities targeted to a younger crowd.

Activities will be up to the members... social mixers, movies, dinners, cookouts, outdoor activities, ball games, cultural events, parties, etc...

The Evolution Meetup Club
Home Page:

Evolution is an amazing concept that provides an accurate and big picture explanation for why things are the way they are. I was an anthropology-biology (essentially evolution) major in undergrad I love talking about it (particularly the philosophical aspects). If enjoy talking evolution as well then join this club and we'll find fun ways to meet up and talk about whatever evolutionary ideas that spark our interests.

The Atlanta Humanists

Home Page:

Are you tired of religious dogma? But, do you still recognize the need and the joy of getting together for social gatherings with your fellow citizens? Do you base your worldview on science, reason, and evidence? And, do you enjoy being compassionate and friendly to your fellow human beings? Do you prefer to focus on what unites you to others, rather than what makes you different? Do you tend to agree with atheists and agnostics in their view of religion, but feel like those labels don't really speak to what you do believe in, and you'd rather point to what you do indeed believe, rather than simply what you don't believe?

If so, you may be a Humanist!

"Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity." -- American Humanist Association

The Atlanta Interfaith and Nonfaith Service Association

Home Page:

There are many interfaith organizations that promote community service. There are also a few community service organizations for people who do not profess any particular faith.

What we don't have is a group that brings the two sides together for a common goal of serving others in the community. We need this at this time when the world appears divided across not only many different faiths, but also between those who profess faith and those who are secular. Media reports paint a picture of an America that is divided between "God-fearing religionists" and "God-denying secularists".

While we have different philosophical outlooks, there are a great many things we all have in common and behind which we can rally. Thus, the primary mission of this group will be for us to set aside any philosophical or theological differences and come together to engage in community service projects that serve others.

Groups Not Specific to Atlanta

Also of interest to Atlanta area non-theists should be some very popular Facebook groups:

Government + Religion = Disaster Facebook Group

Home Page: 
Members: 95,423

Atheist, Agnostic, and Non-Regligious Facebook Group

Home Page: 
Members: 11,054

The Freedom From Religion Foundation Facebook Group

Home Page: 
Members: 242


Interfaith Youth Core Facebook Group

Home Page:
Members: 131

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science Facebook Group

Home Page:
Members: 1,085

Secular Humanists Facebook Group

Home Page:
Members: 1,167

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fernbank Observatory and Emory's Science and Society Outreach Program

I went over to Fernbank Observatory tonight for about an hour to see if I could get a view of our moon tonight. I did. It was pretty cool  to see the moon through the 36 inch telescope. The astronomer, Dr. Sarrazine, also showed us Jupiter and some stars.

I talked with her for a while while she was closing up the observatory about astronomy and science-related programs in the Atlanta area. She gave me some handouts about the Atlanta Astronomy Club and about volunteer opportunities at the observatory.

When I got home I researched Emory and Fernbank's science outreach efforts in more depth. What I have found are some very good resources.

Fernbank Science Center

Fernbank Science Center's slogan is "From the Forest to the Stars". Read about it at I live just 8 minutes away from it, and only 5 minutes from the history center.

Here is an excerpt about the center from its factsheet,


Fernbank Science Center is a unique educational science resource center, classroom and woodland complex located in a suburban area of northeast Atlanta near Decatur. Fernbank has been operating since 1967. It is an agency of the DeKalb County School System and is open year-round. Fernbank is a founding member of ASTC, the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The Fernbank complex includes our partner-in-education, Fernbank Museum of Natural History.


  • Self-guided as well as guided tours of Fernbank Forest
  • Exhibit hall with a variety of interpretations of the life and physical sciences; frequent traveling exhibits
  • Home Composting Demonstration Site with a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden
  • Test rose gardens of the All-America Rose Selections and American Rose Society organizations
  • Planetarium programs for the public in the evenings
  • Viewing in the observatory through Fernbank’s 36-inch telescope

Fernbank Observatory

This content is taken directly from the Fernbank web site at

The Fernbank Observatory houses a 0.9 meter (36-inch) Cassegrain reflector beneath a 10 meter (30 ft.) dome. This is the largest telescope in the southeastern United States and one of the largest instruments ever dedicated to education and public viewing.

In addition to educational classes for school students, free public observing open houses are offered every
Thursday and Friday evening from 8:00 p.m. (or dark) until 10:30 p.m. weather permitting
An astronomer will be available to position the telescope and answer questions.
For more information contact us at 678-874-7102.

Images taken from the Fernbank Observatory:

The Moon

M42, the Orian Nebula

Interview about the Observatory

Interview with Dr. Sudduth and Dr. Sarrazine about the Fernbank Observatory

Emory's Science and Society Program


The Emory College Program in Science & Society aims to instill the thrill and importance of science in Emory students, especially non-science majors, and in the Emory and Atlanta communities at large.

We promote a better understanding of the impact of science on society, and work with the Science, Social Science, and Humanities disciplines to convey the message that science is vital across disciplines – that science is not merely a collection of facts but is, at its core, a way of thinking and of approaching problems.

We invite you to join us as we continue to explore the interface of science with social issues, including ethics, religion, and morality.

Science in Your Life Radio Show


The goal of Science in Your Life is to increase awareness and understanding of science in our everyday lives and how that science integrates with the environment, the economy, our health, entertainment, transportation, how we think, and how we express our thoughts.

The Program in Science & Society was developed in 1998 and is a part of the Emory College Faculty Science Council. The Program aims to instill the thrill and importance of science at all levels. Promoting a better understanding of the impact of science on society, the program seeks cross-disciplinary acceptance of science as not just a body of facts but as a way of thinking.

WABE 90.1 FM was Georgia's first public radio station. WABE broadcasts a mixture of mostly classical music and National Public Radio and Public Radio International programming. The station is active in and has a long tradition of excellece in education and science, airing such nationally successful shows as the Infinite Mind and Word for the Wise.

The Coordinator of Science in Your Life is Dr. Arri Eisen, Senior Lecturer in Biology at Emory and Director of the Program in Science & Society. The radio portion of the project is hosted by Ted Vigodsky and produced by Daren Wang at WABE. Ashley Cimino, Undergraduate Project Coordinator, helps bring each portion of the program together. Ajay Pillarisetti is the webmaster.

Science in Your Life Archived Episodes

CDC's EXCITE Program for teaching science and epidemiology to young people:

Dr. Frans de Waal's research about primates:

Dr. Scott Lilienfield's Demystifying Pseudo-Science:

Chemistry tames the Supercomputer:

The Curious Minds Podcast

I'm starting a new podcast called The Curious Minds Podcast. It's at We are just getting started, but looking to interview people in the sciences, humanities, business, music, arts, etc. Check out our promo MP3 on that link and stay tuned for our first episode to appear sometime soon.

Other Resources

The Atlanta Astronomy Club:

Fernbank Museum of Natural History:

Portland Oregon Astronomy resources: (this one is for you Mom!)


Originally posted Posted 12/17/2003 at 7:54 PM


Whoever said the best things in life are free spoke the truth
Sit back for a moment and recall bygone days of youth
Nothing meant more than sun in the sky and dirt on the ground
In trees, fields and streams were true treasures found
And when the evening sun vanished below the horizon,
The moon and stars appeared as the long night had begun
While creation rested to gain strength for another day,
Children dreamed all night of the next morning for play
And after dawn when to the birds' songs they would awake,
Off again to the trees, streams, and fields would they take
photo taken on Clifton Road, Druid Hills, Atlanta GA

photo taken on Clifton Road, Druid Hills, Atlanta GA from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's parking deck

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Intolerance is the New Old Toleration (Or, the Resurrection of Harry Houdini and Carl Sagan

I had a long instant-message session with my friend Karl from Texas tonight. I have been chatting with him since long before I had my current job, long before I worked at my last job for four years, before my job before that of 4 years, and my 4+ years of college. I was 17 when I first started chatting with him in an old #U2 chat room. I think he was 16, which is the current age of my own brother. I built a web page for that IRC chat channel. It was the first time I tried to teach myself how to do that kind of stuff, and then I learned PERL and CGI programming to give some interactivity.

A lot can change in twelve years. I now have a career programming interactive information systems after those humble beginning. The entire world now communicates via the internet. We were among the tail end of the early adopters back then, but now we're nearly thirty, and tonight's conversation was not about which U2 album is best or which lyrics are the most meaningful. Instead, both of us now own our own residences, have full-time employment, and are furthering our educations, he with a master's degree, and myself with a technical certification.

Tonight's conversation matched with equal proportion the expansion of our own worlds of personal responsibility our concern over world events and the future of that world. There are a great many things about which he and I can agree that need not be mentioned except for one.

We are both grateful that we live in a country wherein our rights for free expression are explicitly protected in our laws. This enables us to disagree about our definitions of "religion", "god", and what have you. He argues that "atheism" is a form of religion and cites a court ruling that agrees. I argue that the lack of belief in a supernatural deity does not constitute a religion. The distinction is probably not all that important to world events is it?

But, we can discuss it freely, thankfully. The same cannot be said for many Muslims living under the laws of their countries. We are both extremely concerned about militant Islamic fundamentalists that brutalize their own people and westerners, and intimidate the followers of moderate, progressive strands of Islamic teachings. Interestingly, Salman Rushdie will be coming to Atlanta and teaching and speaking at Emory University near where I used to work. His speaking events will be worth attending.

What I finally attempted to argue for was a form of intolerance that Sam Harris has called for in public discourse. In fact, what he is calling for is no different from the current intolerance we already practice in every single strand of public discourse except when it comes to religious beliefs.

Here is a short list of things we are correct to refuse to tolerate.

1) We are right to be intolerant of a surgeon who claim to be qualified to operate on you with only an undergraduate degree in chemistry and no medical degree to justify his belief, and that of his peers, in his abilities.
2) We are right to be intolerant of a car mechanic who refuses to show us diagnostic readings or other instrument print-outs that explain how he justifies his belief that your car needs $2,000 worth of repairs when all you did was bring it in for an oil-change and an alignment.
3) We are right to be intolerant of a man who would claim that it's not his fault when he rear-ends you while talking on his cell-phone and you are waiting patiently at a red-light, simply minding your own business and waiting for the light to turn green so that you can be free to continue on to your destination.

Why then do so many Americans find it so hard to turn the very same intolerance of credulity on their religious beliefs?

The reason is that they have grown up believing their religion to be true, or approximately true, if not completely true. Certainly those who attend denominationalist churches tend to have a more reasoned, seasoned, approximate faith than those who cluster around most "non-denominational" churches.
However, at the core of all Christian religions is the unfathomable, inexplicable miracle of a physical Resurrection. This belief is paramount. Without this belief, as St. Paul attests, their belief is for naught. Of course, you can find Christian theologians or critical analysts who do not accept a literal, physical resurrection, but you cannot find a mainline Christian denomination, to my limited knowledge.

This, I believe, is to the detriment of Christians. They allow themselves the belief in physical miracles for their own religion, at least in principle and in theory, yet they disbelieve in the miracles of Hindu believers, or Islamic believers. On what grounds do they hold this intolerance toward other religions? The grounds, of course, vary from person to person. I was told by Chip Ingram that demons perform demonic manifestations in other religions. I have written elsewhere why I believe this is absurd, so I will not recount it here. Other Christians say they accept miracles in other religions. Others, usually older, will simply not enter the conversation.

But, entering this conversation is a must for Christians to engage with today's world. We live during a time in which lunatic Islamic adherents believe that their idea of the creator of the universe has instructed them to kill non-believers. Many of them also unfortunately believe we are waging a war against Islam as Christian crusade, thanks to George W. Bush's ill-fated speech after September 11th, 2001.

As Sam Harris has stated, many Americans don't really understand what it means to be prepared to die for their faith. They can't even comprehend taking their faith so seriously as to literally want to kill in the name of their God. Yet, the Old Testament states that God instructed the Israelites to stone their obstinate sons and daughters to death in the town square. Obviously, Christians don't believe in this kind of punishment for their teenage children. It is, quite frankly, disgusting and repulsive that anyone would think the creator of the universe would ever inspire a human being to inscribe this kind of law. A Christian apologist could argue that times were so uncivilized back then that this was the most civilized thing that could be done in the context of the society of that time. This claim would be a pure assertion, with absolutely no basis in fact. It would be just as absurd.

Since we do not adhere to the Old Testament laws letter-for-letter, since most Christians believe that Jesus ushered in a different kind of God-consciousness, one based upon love, forgiveness, and kindness, we ten d to take it for granted that our religious heritage of the last couple hundred years is more docile than militant Islam.

But, that doesn't get Christians off the hook for the elephant in their tea cup that is the belief in physical, literal miracles. David Hume's famous statement that no testimony to a miracle is sufficient unless believing that it was not a miracle would be even more miraculous is similar to Carl Sagan's statement that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". However, Sagan's statement actually asks too much. An extraordinary claim, such as the claim that many dead people came back to life when Jesus died and walked around Jerusalem when he came back life (Mattew 27:52) is not a claim that requires extraordinary evidence. It is a claim that requires simply evidence, period.

Yet, there is absolutely no evidence outside of apocryphal Christian texts that attest to this miracle. Christians, ask yourself this:
Is the resurrection of one man, seen by several at first, and then by about 500, more miraculous than the resurrection of many dead saints seen by many people?

Of course, we don't know what "many people" is in this context, but we do know that it is a plurality in both cases. We know that the Romans occupied Jerusalem at the time. We also know that no secular historian wrote anything about many dead people coming back to life and walking around Jerusalem.
Some would say I'm making too fine a point of contention here. But stop and ask is this really the case? Is it really too much to ask for some physical evidence of something that you simply would not believe today?

Imagine someone came into your house and told you he had seen a man get shot, die, get buried, and then come out of his tomb and ascend into heaven. You would think this person was a stark raving lunatic! Why then do you believe that it was even remotely possibly that something of the same physical nature occurred 2,000 years ago in a time when people didn't have cell phones, video phones, camcorders, basic photography, or any other recording devices? I contend that you believe it because you grew up believing it, but certainly not because you have any kind of verifiable knowledge. And, you certainly have no more grounds for believing this to be literally true than a Muslim has for believing that the angel Gabriel revealed the Quran to Mohammed in a cave.

I am open to the evidence. I always have been and always will be. I will never say that I am absolutely certain that the Resurrection didn't happen or even that Gabriel didn't reveal the Quran to Mohammed. But, what I will say is that I see absolutely no reason to believe that either event is literally true.

Finally, I leave this post with a thought experiment that I've written elsewhere.

Remember the story about God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Hebrew slaves? We all know this story. Many of us believe that it literally happened. Others don't believe that. Well, how would God manifest his powers today?

Imagine that militant Islamic adherents kidnap some children of Christian parents and drop them off into a desert, far away from any communications networks. These children have their cell phones with them. They try to place calls, but it is no use. They begin to pray to Jesus for help. Suddenly, a cell-phone tower springs up out of the ground! The children make their calls and get through to someone who can help. The responders begin to trace the GPS position of the cell-phone tower and send rescue teams!

But, the militants, now in the distance beyond the sight of the children due to the earth's curvature, see the tip of the huge tower over the horizon. They begin to turn back, and quickly approach the tower, this time with murderous rage and indignation. The children begin to run for their lives. Suddenly, the cell phone tower crashes down on top of the militants, killing them and sparing the children.

Yahweh has saved his people through the power of modern technology.

If only you could believe it. The same intolerant, bewildering incredulity you have toward that absurd story is exactly how I see your religious miracles, Christians and Muslims. They are incredibly unlikely to have ever taken place, and the only sane response to that realization is to come to the table with humility, reason, and a mind that asks first for evidence before belief.

Some say there isn't a conflict between religion and science. If that's the case, it's only because somewhere in Plato's world of the forms they gave a war of ideas and nobody shared theirs. Ironically, in a war of ideas, those who choose to lay down their intellectual arms for the sake of conversational tolerance turn a blind eye to the militant around the corner who is picking up a real gun or strapping on a real bomb.

For these reasons, I believe we must be intolerant of credulity. We must look at all belief systems with Occam's razor and we must continually question our assumptions. When a Muslim says that he can die for Allah and reach heaven, we must ask him to give epistemological reasons and factual evidence for this claim. We must also ask the Christian who says that Jesus is God's only way to provide evidence.

It is only wishful thinking to state that I wish both Muslims and Christians would sit down and have a pray-off to demonstrate the power of their gods. This will never happen, but these criticism must be stated, over and over if need be.

God, if you're out there, resurrect Harry Houdini and Carl Sagan. We need Houdini to find a way to get us out of this mess and we need Carl Sagan to argue forcefully once more for intolerance of credulity and tolerance of science as he did in The Demon Haunted World.

Since I don't believe that's going to happen, I'm going to have to physically do the next most sensible thing, which is to try to carry on Sagan's efforts in whatever way I can through my own writings.

Any body want to play the part of Houdini? The last time he tried to come back from the dead, he failed.

Harry Potter Meets Doc Brown

Originally posted Thursday, June 10, 2004
Click here to listen to me reading the podcast version of this post

Today we were supposed to go to Callaway Gardens, but it rained too much, so I decided to go to work to finish up preparations for the security training that will be tested starting tomorrow when my coworkers return from a conference. My grandparents, uncle, and great grandma went to Virginia Highlands today and then we went to see the new Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film.

I was very pleased with this film. At first, I found it too super-fantastical and silly, but it quickly delved into symbolism about the battle between good and evil and the mystery of existence that I enjoyed. It was a metaphor for our journeys as human beings from being frightened of the "dementers" that haunt our psyche to becoming fearful only of fear itself. These dementers are the obstacles and barriers we face from our pasts that for years and years on end we are certain we will never overcome. But, the story shows that they can be overcome.

One of the most interesting parts for me was when Harry and his companions traveled back in time to save two innocent lives. I interpreted this on several levels. On the first level, it can be seen as it was portrayed. The characters actually traveled back in time and caused certain events to happen that prevented others from taking place. In the course of the scene, Harry from the future, having already witnessed someone who saves him from the dementers in the past, thinks the one who rescued him was his own father, who had passed away many years before. His companions assure him that no, his father had been killed years ago, but Harry is convinced. It is only when they go back in time and see the evil that is about to be visited upon themselves that Harry is forced to step in and take the place of who he thought had been his father! This is brilliant!

I see a deeper metaphor to this scene as well, and it makes me now think of the film Back to the Future as well. When Harry was so certain that it was his father that rescued him from the dementers, but suddenly had to step in to save himself, he moved from childhood to adulthood in that instant, when he became the steward of his own well being. He gave up illusions that somebody else was going to save him and took responsibility for his own future.

In the final scene of the film, Harry and his companion return to the scene of where they left to go back in time, just in time to catch a glimpse of themselves vanishing. Their bed-ridden friend witnesses the vanishing and the sudden reappearance on the other side of the room with astonishment. He asks them something like, "How can you be in two places at the same time!"

The gentler, even more brilliant subtext to this is that we are all in two places at the same time. Perhaps I should say we are all in each moment as it happens now, as it was before, and as it will be. Harry may have thought that it was his father who saved him even though it turns out that it was really himself. But, the two are really one in the same in the end as Harry achieves adulthood, fulfilling his expectations of what his father was to do.

One of my favorite quotes that I hope always stays with me no matter how lost or angry or confused I get is from George Washington Carver. I think it sums up the wisdom within this film quite well:

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

This recalls the paradoxical scenes in Back to the Future when Marty looks at the photograph of himself and sees himself disappearing, underscoring to him even more how important it is that he perform the right action at the right time. Marty achieves his goal by inspiring his future father to stand up for his future mother when he decks the bully Biff. As a result, Marty returns home to a completely different world than he knew wherein Biff waxes his father's car and everyone in the family treats each other and those outside the family, including Biff, with kindness and respect. This so perplexes him that he can hardly believe his eyes or ears.

How fortunate it was for Marty that he was able to travel into his past and bring to pass just one right action to demand respect for his mother that cascaded a chain of actions bringing him into a future so foreign and so unimaginably beautiful to him and his family and friends. How all the more fortunate it is for those of us who live today, in the here and now, to begin to be able to put into place those principles of kindness and respect and honor.

When we begin to do this on a second by second basis it grows into minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and year by year. How fortunate for us that by doing these things now, we will need neither a Delorean with a flux capacitor and a Mr. Fusion nor a magic broom.

As both these films illustrate, the destiny of a lifetime rests not in the distant future, but in the actions and attitudes we bring to the people we are with each and every moment of our lives.

Of this I am absolutely certain.

Back to the Future Delorean with Mr. Fusion at Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA

Currently listening :
Mystical Garden
By Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Release date: 06 August, 1996

Satan and The Demons

Good morning! Today I want to discuss a topic that a lot people are afraid to discuss. But, I think it's a good one, because if you look around our world you see a lot of insanity.  You've got people fighting each other, ostensibly because of their religious beliefs. Maybe it's really because of power, money, greed, but a lot of the people doing the fighting believe that their religion is superior to somebody else's and any need to take 'em out!

For example, 9/11: you have Osama bin Laden, we're lead to believe, commanding terrorists and terror cells. And, what do these people believe? They believe that Allah, the Muslim name for God, is directing their war efforts! He has a divine plan and a divine will, and it is his will that these fundamentalist, fanatical, Islamic adherents take out the West. They don't agree with our morals. They don't agree with our culture that we try to export to the rest the world. Maybe they have some genuine concerns with that. I would not disagree with that. But, is taking the lives of many innocent people the right way to go about it? And, in doing so, is believing that you're going to go to heaven and be rewarded rational? I don't think so.

Let's talk about this concept for a second. You've got this idea of Heaven and Hell, right? OK. What did people in the past used to think about the Sun? They thought the Sun revolved around the Earth. They looked out at stars and thought they were heavens, saying "Wow, look at the heavens, look at the stars!" They saw the sun moving. The Sun brought them light, energy and warmth. At the end of the day the Sun disappeared. Where did it go? It went underneath the Earth: The underworld! Wow! What a concept! People used to think the Earth was flat. And, this hot, burning, scorching sun burned up everything under the world. And, where is hell located? It's always down. And, heaven is always up. We still to this day talk about going up to heaven or down to hell. Who am I to say that people who live on the other side of the world are devilish creatures, that they are in hell? And, when they say that their talking about me! If I go down I go to the fiery core of the planet. I don't go to hell. I may come up on the other side of the planet if I can make it through the core, but there's no hell underneath the Earth. Unless, maybe we really do get burned up inside of the core. Who knows! But, when we go up, we go into space, into outer space where there are many other stars. And, now scientists have found there are over 100 other planets in solar systems outside of our own.

Let's talk about this being that rules hell, shall we? His name is "Satan". OK, Satan. We're told that this Satan has demons, and demons can manifest themselves in the world performing Satanic miracles to draw glory away from Jesus Christ the true lord and savior. And, what else about Satan? Satan wants a lot of glory! Yes, yes he wants all the glory for himself. He used to be an angel, one of the beings of light, one of God's great creations. But, he wanted all that glory for himself. This cat was greedy! So, he tried to topple God, and God kicked his ace out! He took demons; he took angels with him and turned them into demons. So, we're told that these demons can come along in jump into our brains and infiltrate our minds and cause us to do crazy things, lunatic things, evil things!

OK, all right, I'm following you. But, let's ask a rational question now. In our modern day and age when we have medicine that, I will admit, does not cure psychiatric illness, but alleviates the symptoms, what kind of conclusion do we draw? Do we say that these chemicals that go into our bloodstream and modify our brain chemistry are also acting on supernatural spirits? Come on! Do supernatural beings have anything more powerful than chemicals at their disposal? I would think so! So, why is it that our modern medicine can alleviate symptoms of so-called "demonic possession"? And, why is it that demonic possession is more prevalent in some denominations (or maybe I should say demoninations) than others? Why in the mainline protestant churches do you not have people recommended for exorcism quite so often as in Pentecostal or Nazarene churches? And, why do some of these other denominations not value higher education quite so much as some of the other more mainline denominations? Just a question.

Another question: I was told by a pastor that the miracles attributed to other religions are attributable to "demonic activity". There is angelic activity over here and demonic activity over there.

OK, I'm tracking you!

But, let me ask you a question then: If demons can physically manifest phenomena in the world, they're not really that interested in glory are they? Because, if they were, I think that Satan and demons would get on television tonight and, say, multiply food in the name of Osama bin Laden. Wouldn't that draw glory away from Jesus? I think it would. But, you don't see that. Why? Well, Christians might say, "Because God doesn't allow it". Well, how come he allows demonic things to take place over here and over there; something that somebody else always saw or heard. And, when you have a pastor talk about it it's something that he witnessed. But, he has no evidence: no video evidence, no graphical evidence, nothing. 

You know, Jesus was said to have cast out a "legion of demons" from a man and thrown them into a herd of swine. And, then the swine ran off a cliff. OK, this leads us to believe that demons are not just some kind of personification of illness or ailment. They're a spiritual-physical being. Spiritual-physical, whatever, trans-physical. I don't know, I'm not up on all this theology. But, if Jesus believed that then I believe that we should be able to see evidence, not hearsay, of these things. I think that's a reasonable concern and a reasonable demand. But, we don't. And, again it's only those certain denominations that are certainly so sure that the demons are spiritual-physical real beings, and not some of the more mainline.

So, this leads us to believe that religion changes. Religious thought changes over the years.

Another thing about these religious books: they were written by men. And, when you talk to pastors about the formation of the canon sometimes they don't want to answer your questions. One question I had was about the crucifixion account in Mark and Matthew. Most scholars believe that Mark was written before Matthew. And, if you read Mark's crucifixion account it says that when Jesus died and then the curtain was torn, and then the guard said, "Surely this was the son of God", or something like that. But, if you then read Matthew's account it says that the curtain was torn and then at that moment there was a great earthquake and the earth did shake and many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised in their tombs and after his resurrection they came at their tombs and walked around the holy city and were seen by many.

OK, I got you. But let's ask a question: what independent attestation is there to this miracle? What did the secular historians write about this miracle? Nothing. Not a thing. There are some apocryphal writings, apocryphal Christian writings about this, but nothing in the secular history. This is a fantastic miracle. This is more fantastic than the resurrection of one-man because this was the resurrection of many men seen by many. 

You have to question the integrity of these books. It is your duty. You cannot blindly believe. You must question. And, when you question, do not simply ask Christians. Ask skeptics. Do not take what is written in these books as absolute fact. You must question. Thank you.

On Wanting to Be Christian

It's interesting to me when people speak to me as if I know nothing about Christianity. They assume that because I profess no belief in it, that I do not understand the stories or that I have not been to church or that I have not heard the "good news" proclaimed that Jesus has born the sins of the world and is my redeemer. They think that I do not know that all I have to do is accept Jesus's atoning sacrifice and that by doing so I will be clinching a place in Heaven by his side when the world comes to an end. They assume that if I only knew these things like they do, then I'd want to be Christian.

But, as that paragraph should attest, this is just not the case. I took religion in general, and Christianity in particular, very seriously for about two years in my mid twenties. Some might say that's not a long time. But let's think about it from an objective point of view for a moment by juxtaposing a couple of hypothetical situations side by side.

Assume that you grew up Christian and then moved to Saudi Arabia in your mid twenties. You were very skeptical of Islam during your youth. But, you began attending Mosque and reading the Quran while in Saudi Arabia. You tried with all your might and will to believe in the teachings of the Quran, many of which you found to be common sense, elegant, beautiful, and deeply moving. But, you had a hard time believing some of the stories, and just could not believe it "literally." That is, you just couldn't believe that an angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad and revealed God's laws to him literally.

Would you be an infidel for not believing in Islam? To the Muslim you might. But, when you returned to America, you could continue to be a Christian and nobody would think the worse of you!

Now, put on my shoes for a second. You grew up reading about mythology and many religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and others that are more obscure. You also grew up with a deep fascination and appreciation of the scientific method and for historical research and evidence based discovery. You grew up around a family of people who not only were artistic, but also very discerning and skeptical and didn't get played for fools by televangelists or fortune tellers or get-rich-quick scams. In short, they worked their butts off to accomplish what they accomplished, with no help from magical beings.

So, even with that appreciation for science and discovery and mythology you put all of that aside when you were 26 and started attending a Christian house of worship out of the deep-felt desire to connect to the some 80 to 90% of the rest of the nation's purported belief system. Like you did when you went to Saudi Arabia (hypothetically) and attended the Mosque, you began to appreciate the stories and parables and, most of all, the ritual and fellowship. But, something inside you did not let you believe in magical beings or miracles.

Would you be an infidel for not believing in Christianity? To the Christian you might. But, when you returned to a community of those who have studied Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, mythology, science, history, and much else, nobody would think the worse of you!
What's more, when you went to work the next day and you sat at your desk to do some hard work you would not be surprised that the work didn't just accomplish itself out of the sheer will of your mind. No, you would gladly work hard to accomplish the end result. And, those around you would do much the same without any surprise that work did not get accomplished without their effort.

Even more still, you and your coworkers would be shocked, surprised and downright skeptical if someone came in from outside the office and told you that they just saw a man get shot by a firing squad and die, and then he rose from the ground and was lifted away by a cloud and was seen by hundreds of others. You'd probably tell him that you weren't born yesterday or that you have some ocean-front property to sell him in Arizona.

This last paragraph is the condensed and modernized version of Christianity. When you ask me to believe it, I will engage you in open minded conversation, but don't be surprised when I ask you to step into my shoes and open your own mind.

What Happened to All the Miracles?

It is not uncommon to hear people speak about the miraculous work of their god in their life or in the events in the world. However, it is almost completely unheard of for a scientist to use a god or a supernatural explanation as part of an explanatory hypothesis. It is completely without precedent to find an accepted scientific theory that uses a god or a supernatural explanation.

I remember a time when I was trying so hard to believe in literalistic religion, despite my brain fighting against me every step of the way, that I nearly convinced myself that a miracle happened. Thankfully, wiser friends advised me that I was just lacking sleep and trying to believe too hard.

But, what is a miracle? The site offers various entries for the word. Here is the first:

An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God: "Miracles are spontaneous, they cannot be summoned, but come of themselves" (Katherine Anne Porter).
 WikiPedia offers a lengthy entry about miracles as well. Given that different religions and even the same religion may not agree upon what a miracle is, where can we even begin? Let's just start by thinking about some common miracle stories that come to mind.
  • God parts the red sea to allow the Hebrew slaves flee from the Egyptians, but God causes the waters to flood in on the Egyptians when they attempt to cross.
  • Jesus multiplies small portions of food into many portions for a large crow.
  • Jesus instantly converts water into wine.
  • When Jesus dies on the cross, many holy saints come back to life in their tombs.
  • Three days after Jesus dies, he comes back to life and appears to several people, and eventually to about 500 people.
  • The holy saints who had risen in their tombs when Jesus died leave their tombs and walk around Jerusalem and appear to many people.

These are common stories we hear, especially in religious institutions like churches or in religious literature. I have chosen only Christian and Jewish stories because most in my culture are familiar with these.

How likely are you to believe that something like this happened yesterday? What if I and three or four other people told you we saw several bodies come out of their graves and walk around the town?

Or, to be more modern, what if we told you that we had been kidnapped. blindfolded, and dropped in a desert with just our cellphones? When we tried to use the phone to call for help, there was no signal. But, suddenly a powerful cell tower grew out of the ground and allowed us to make calls. With the help of GPS tracking, eventually rescue teams found us. But, if it were not for that cell tower growing out of the ground, we would have perished.

How would you react to such a tale? You'd say we were pulling your leg. So, why do people want to believe in miracles from  many thousands of years ago? I believe it brings comfort to people. They grew up in church or in a culture that speaks of these things, and they feel safe believing them. They feel like it gives them a history and a tradition.

Oddly, these are the same people who would never in a million years take their vehicle to a car repair shop that promises to fix their car by prayer or magic. They know that some things just don't work that way. Yet, they feel justified in believing in the miracles of Jehovah or Jesus.

Is it impossible for miracles to occur? I cannot say that it is. I can even think of a way to make an analogy that would demonstrate how they could occur. Imagine that you live on a video tape. The person playing the video tape has seen the video before and decides to change things up and have a little bit of fun with you. He presses the pause button, modifies the tape such that you now are wearing a bright pink tank top,  sun glasses, shorts, and sandals. He then presses play again. You would never even feel the pause button or feel any lapse of time. Instead, it would feel to you as if one moment simply moved into the next. Unfortunately, you had just walked into the door of an important business meeting full of people you've never met before. Everyone turns around to see you dressed very inappropriately. You had hoped to gain their business, but now your brain is confused, because you could have sworn you dressed appropriately.

Would there be any scientific test for this miracle? I don't think there could be. Because you exist at the mercy of the tape player, the tape player can modify the  tape reality any way he pleases and you won't be able to do a thing about it, nor will you even be able to predict when it occurs. This could be an analogy to a god or supernatural forces doing something similar in our world.

But, do things like this really happen? Or, have we explained more and more events with less and less doubt as to their physical explanation? I believe it is the latter. Richard Carrier recently said that there has never in the history of science been a situation in which a phenomenon was originally explained as supernatural or the work of God, subsequently was explained by physics, and then later still reverted to explanation by God.


As with all things, I advise you to make your own mind up about this. Maybe the truth is that there is simply one "miracle", existence itself. Everything else is natural and the deeper we  study nature, the more and more we will understand its principles and the principles of existence.

Until such a time, I'm not believing in walking dead men, risen saviors, parted waters, multiplied food, or statues that can drink milk. I spoke only about Christianity in this post, but take a look here for some Hindu "miracles", even caught on live video:

As you can see from that video, no religion has a monopoly on miracle claims, but at least Hinduism now has some video evidence, right? If you're like me, you realize that this phenomena can be created through a simple process called capillary action. You can try it at home. Just put some milk on a spoon and hold it up to a rounded rock or other surface. A good prop to use is one of the small pagoda waterfall fountains you can put in your kitchen to create ambience.

The moral of the story is that we should not let a miracle be an explanation for anything. We should seek the scientific explanation, which is almost always much more intellectually satisfying and stimulating to our curiosity. When something cannot be explained, simply let it be a mystery. Someday, you or someone else may understand it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why I Think I May Be a Humanist

My tongue in cheek title is a spoof on Bertrand Russell's (1) "Why I Am Not a Christian" (2). I have never really given Humanism much thought until recently. But after reading the basic principles of it in several places and listening to some podcasts from the Institute for Humanist Studies, I think I may just well feel fine about classifying myself as Humanist.

In the Humanist Network News podcast (3) episode #18 (4), cognitive scientist and popular author Stephen Pinker (5) makes the following statement, emphasis mine:


Stephen Pinker: ... I'd like to begin with a question. Why am I here? Why are all of us here?

In my case, I study the human mind, and in studying the human mind I inevitably face the assumption which almost everyone in the field shares, that the mind is a product of the brain, a biological organ, and that the brain was shaped by natural selection and the evolutionary process. That doesn't leave any room for some immaterial entity called the soul, a ghost in the machine. It doesn't leave much room for a narrative of the universe in which humans were put on Earth for a purpose, a moral purpose given by some animate entity, which they are charged with carrying out.

On the other hand, even though I am a materialist, as are most people who study the mind, I still feel that there is a place for meaning and purpose and something larger than ourselves. But when you have this set of beliefs you can feel awfully lonely. I did not have many friends on the politically correct left, and I had even fewer friends on the religious right, and I was kind of feeling, I can't be the only person who has this set of beliefs. They just seem so obvious.

And then at some point, a few years ago, it occurred to me: I'm a humanist. That's what I am.

Humanist Principles

From the Institute for Humanist Studies' web site,, Humanism is defined as:

Are you a humanist?

  • Do you try to live an ethical and fulfilling life without religious belief?
  • Do you think science and reason lead to more reliable knowledge than faith?
  • Do you support secular government and an open society that guarantees human rights for all?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, you might be one of the millions of humanists on Earth -- people who live meaningful, fulfilling lives based on reason and compassion.

Humanism in brief

Humanism is a philosophy of life inspired by humanity and guided by reason. It provides the basis for a fulfilling and ethical life without religion.

  • Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values.
  • Humanists see no convincing evidence for gods, the supernatural, or life after death.
  • Humanists believe that moral values are properly founded on human empathy and scientific understanding.
  • Humanists believe we must live this life on the basis that it is the only life we'll have -- that, therefore, we must make the most of it for ourselves, each other, and our world.

Humanist philosophies have arisen separately in many different cultures over many thousands of years. Whether or not they use the term humanism, tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people around the world agree with the humanist philosophy of living a happy and productive life based on reason and compassion.

Definitions of humanism

Humanism is:

"...seeking, without religion, the best in, and for, human beings." Chambers Pocket Dictionary

"...a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason." Merriam Webster Dictionary

"...a non-religious philosophy, based on liberal human values." Little Oxford Dictionary

" appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality... Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God." Oxford Companion to Philosophy

"The rejection of religion in favor of the advancement of humanity by its own efforts." Collins Concise Dictionary

"That which is characteristically human, not supernatural, that which belongs to man and not to external nature, that which raises man to his greatest height or gives him, as man, his gr.eatest satisfaction." Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences

"A system of thought that centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth." American Heritage Dictionary

I also like the WikiPedia definition:

Humanism is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities—particularly rationality. It is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems and is incorporated into several religious schools of thought. Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means in support of human interests. In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, Humanism rejects the validity of transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on faith, the supernatural, or allegedly divinely revealed texts. Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of the human condition, suggesting that solutions to human social and cultural problems cannot be parochial.

Local Atlanta Resources

For those in the Atlanta area interested to learn more about Humanism, check out this site: for the Humanists of Georgia.

There is also the Atlanta Freethought Society,, and the Fellowship of Reason:

This is definitely something I want to check out more about.


  1. Bertrand Russell:
  2. Why I Am Not A Christian, by Bertrand Russell:
  3. Humanist Network News podcast:
  4. Humanist Network News episode #18 Transcript:

Some of Stephen Pinker's Books

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Measure and Meaning of a Life Well-Lived

The Measure and Meaning of a Life Well-Lived
By Joshua Scott Gough, 30, about his Great-Grandmother Carola Laurel Gough, 96 (1911-2007)
August 25, 2007, First Baptist Church, Salida CO

How does one assess the both the measure and the meaning of a life well-lived?

When it comes to my great-grandma Carola the first is boundless, and the other eternal, it seems to me.

By measurement, we can look at each other and count the number of descendants from her and her husband Gene: 3 children, 13 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and even one great-great grandson. Or, we could travel the world and visit homes and cafes to see all of her paintings that hang in places like Alaska, California, Colorado, Denmark, and Africa. Further, we could scour through our cabinets and old shoe boxes and count the number of letters she wrote to each and every one of us, written by hand, and addressed by name.

She sent her own personal journals and travel diaries to my mother Kathryn, her eldest grandchild, to have her help publish her autobiography. She started the project, and now we can all help finish it. Scanning and transcribing is well underway. See for more information. So, when that project is complete, we can count the number of pages she and Gene have shared with us. All of these are treasures that we measure far greater than gold.

Lastly, by way of measurement, we can count the years she lived: 96; the number of months: 1,153; Days: more than 35,000; Hours: more than 843,000.

So, what of these numbers? What of these measurements?

When we measure our annual salary or the amount of money we need to retire in numbers far greater than the number of days and hours in a span of 96 years, what can we say about such numbers to qualify their quantity? What can we say of the quality in such quantities? What do they "mean"?

For the meaning of a life well-lived we look again to each other, to the faces of Gene and Carola's descendants and their spouses and children; we see them in ourselves.

We look at and we feel the serenity and peacefulness depicted in her paintings. And, we read and we realize with never-ending and unrepayable gratitude the dedication and passion expressed in their writings.

When we do this the message of her life reaches out and surrounds us like a big, warm blanket.

That message is love.

It is love for life.
It is love for this world.
And, most importantly, it is love for each other, whether family, friend, or foreign.

I feel like the most fortunate person to have spent so much time in my life with Gene and Carola, from the time I was about 5 until now at 30. Not many people get a chance to learn life lessons from their mother's father's parents.

Most recently, I feel so thankful that I had an opportunity to spend some precious moments with Carola last month in Alameda and to say a few loving words to her.

She gave a message for all us when I was there with Kerry. She said:

"Thank you to all of you for coming to visit me; all my kids, my grand-kids, and great-grandchildren, and friends. I love you all. If this thing works itself out, I'm going to send an announcement to all of you and we'll have a big celebration."

During her time in the hospital, whenever we mentioned going to lunch or dinner, her persistent refrain was that she wanted to make us something to eat and to sit down to eat together.

This is of course reflected in quotes from her. I spent a lot of time hiking mountains in Georgia, New York, and Colorado with her. On these treks she told me things like:

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

"I always felt like God was right there with me, with his hand on my shoulder, not some pie in the sky."

"Whatever God or Mother Nature had to throw at me, I ran to meet it head on. Sometimes I said, 'God, well what do you want me to do that for?'"

"I didn't want to hit the rocking chair just because I'm 90. When you get older, you can either put yourself on the shelf or do something about it."

One last anecdote from last month. Before I said goodbye to drive back to Matt & Christine's, I told her:

"Great-grandma, spending time with you, seeing your artwork, learning how you have embraced change in your life, and seeing the example you set by volunteering with children in your 90's has made me believe that I can accomplish and good and noble purpose."

Then, even though the stroke had affected her ability to speak clearly, she leaned forward off her pillow and said with as much force and clarity as possible a message to each and everyone of us:

"You can!"

I close with one last direct quote from her:

"I don't eat, I dine." She spoke this when encouraging people to relax and take time to enjoy each other's company and conversation during meals.

Should I live 96 years myself these is nothing more wise I could ever imagine to say.

Thank you, Carola Laurel, you are an eternal inspiration who lives now in all of us and will be passed on forever.

Please visit Carola's web site at to see her paintings on the web and in 3D and to learn more about the Carola L. Gough Foundation, under whose name we will publish the book asked us to finish for her. Please help in any way you are fit and able to.

Also visit to learn much more about the entire family and see thousands of photographs.

Thank you

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

TheocracyWatch: Bow Down and Obey, or Stand up and Fight

This post is dedicated to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, without whose voice of reason and pen that crafted a call to freedom none of us would likely be here today.



And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

Thanks Also to YouTube

I am so thankful also for YouTube. Thank you to the creative people who built it. Read about them here: They have done their part to enable the rest of us to take back this nation through self-education from the powers of unreason that currently threaten freedom of thought and religion, not just in the United States, but all around the world. This post will focus on the United States and the rise of theocratic aspirations among a group of politically well-connected theologians and pastors.

Quotations that Support the Separation of Church and State

Ed Buckner and his son Michael have compiled a large collection of quotes that defend the separation of church and state at:

Both Ed and his son are members of the Atlanta Freethought Society, which you can learn about at:

You can get in on the conversation with other Atlanta area people interested in these topics by subscribing to the Atlanta Freethought Society Forum's newsletter at:

First Freedom First

This is a great video that demonstrates why the United States of America is a democratic republic, not a theocracy. We are not Iran. This video features more than a dozen of all kinds of different beliefs discussing why the First Amendment protects all of us and why we must defend it against those who would take it from us. The web site for the organization that created it is:

Selected Quotes from the Founding Fathers on the Dangers of Government-Sponsored Religion

Here are a couple of good collection of quotes about the dangers of religion in the hands of governments by such people as Thomas Jefferson, the author our very own Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States. It also contains quotes from James Madison, the fourth President.

Thomas Jefferson on Christianity and Jesus

Thomas Jefferson wrote a book about Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus. Read about his writings here:

Here a few other quotes from Thomas Jefferson about Christianity and Jesus:

  • Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
  • But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
  • Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear. --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
  • Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802 (emphasis my own)
  • The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

You can read more quotes from Jefferson about religion here:

The Bloodshed in Europe Lead to Their Views and To the First Amendment

These guys had seen the blood shed in Europe. They knew first-hand what happens when governments enforce religious belief upon people.

You can read a book about the many wars in Europe that were, at least ostensibly, fueled by religious differences here:

These wars are part of the reason that the founding fathers wrote the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in this way:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first clause in the first sentence is known as the Establishment Clause, and you can read more about it at these links:

The second clause in that sentence is known as the Free Exercise Clause, and you can read more about it at these links:

This Can't Happen to Us, Right? Wrong!

It's comforting to think that politicians can't enforce their own particular religious viewpoint upon us as citizens. We think that this cannot happen. This is just a comforting illusion. It's not based on reality. It can happen to us, and there are people trying to make sure that it does happen to. They are known as Dominionists, those who believe in Dominionism. You can learn about Dominionism on TheocracyWatch's web page here:

Theocrat: Rousas John Rushdoony

Or, you can read some quotes from one its major champions. I think these quotes should be enough to give anyone the picture loud and clear.

Rousas John Rushdoony is considered one of the pioneers of Dominionism. Here are some quotes from Rushdoony:

  • Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life. [R.J. Rushdoony, _Thy Kingdom Come_,1978]
  • One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies. (p 100) [R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law]
  • Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristrocracy. [R.J. Rushdoony, Reconstructionist theologian, from _The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism In America_, published by ADL]
  • God's covenant with Adam required him to exercise dominion over the earth and to subdue it (Gen. 1:26 ff) under God according to God's law-word.
  • The restoration of that covenant relationship was the work of Christ, His grace to His elect people.
  • The fulfillment of that covenant is their great commission: to subdue all things and all nations to Christ and His law-word. [R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ:Craig Press, 1973)]

TheocracyWatch: Informing Citizens About the Rise of Dominionism

If you are interested in what these people are trying to do to your government and your own religious freedom, you can visit, a watchdog organization at Cornell University.

Here are five videos on YouTube about Dominion Theology. They paint a very scary picture about the history of this movement.

Here is another brief video by someone on YouTube. No, he's not famous or well-known, but the video clips of people he shows and the writings that he presents are from well-known public figures, like Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell.

What Can We Do?

We can start by paying attention. Turn off the television. Tune into history. Tune into YouTube and find information that is not being fed to you by corporate media that is often controlled by conglomerates that don't care to tell you anything about history. Speak out against theocracy in America. There are several organizations that help with this cause.  The largest one that I know of is Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

If you are from Georgia, they have a Georgia chapter at:

Also, here is Jeffrey Selman's web site. He is the man who defended the Separation of Church and State against the Cobb County School Board:

More Resources

Some more interviews with Ed Buckner about Church & State separation:
  • America Is Not A Christian Nation
    Freethought Radio features southern secular activist Ed Buckner, Ph.D., talking about how to combat the myth that America is a Christian nation. Ed has a chapter in the new book, "Everything You Knew About God Is Wrong." The show also features some timely news updates and commentary. (MP3, 51 min, 23.5 MB)
  • The Constitution, Politics, and Church & State (Real Audio), an interview with Ed Buckner (2000)
    T. J. Walker interviews Ed Buckner of the Atlanta Freethought Society about American politics, U.S. constitutional history, and his new co-authored book Quotations That Support the Separation of State and Church.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Richard Dawkins: The Enemies of Reason, Etc.

"Science is the poetry of reality" -- Richard Dawkins, The Enemies of Reason Part I, 41:25

"Science replaced private prejudice with publicly verifiable evidence" -- Richard Dawkins, The Enemies of Reason Part II, 14:46

Richard Dawkins is awesome. He is really confronting the insanity of unreason and superstition in our world as hard as he can right now. He's taking the battle to the foreground, visiting psychics, visiting astrologers, and submitting claims to empiricism.

Here is Richard Dawkins confronting irrationality and delusion in video form, following on from his book The God Delusion.

You can read more on WikiPedia:

And on his web site:,1556,Enemies-of-Reason,Google-Links

Here is an excerpt from WikiPedia

Is it rational that the dead can communicate with the living and give sound advice on how they should live their lives? What about sticking pins into your body to free the flow of Chi energy and cure your illness? Or the bending of spoons using your mind alone? Is that rational? Richard Dawkins doesn’t think so, and feels it is his duty to expose those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell. He will take on the world’s leading proponents in their field of expertise, meet the victims who have used them and expose the history of the movements – from the charlatans who have milked these practices to the experiments and testing that have failed to produce conclusive results.

Part I

This reminds me very much of Carl Sagan's Cosmos in which he explains how ridiculous astrology is. One of the most interesting parts for me is at minute 36, when he discusses B.F. Skinner's experiments with Pigeons and shows how they developed superstitious beliefs when he rewarded them randomly with food. The pigeons would do things like looking over their shoulder to try to "invoke" the random food dispersal mechanism.


  • Post-modernism and relativism have lead to the closing of physics departments.
  • Post-modernism has lead to valuing private feeling over verifiable evidence.
  • The internet is both a help and a hindrance to truth.

Part II

This part discusses the history of medical advances thanks to science and reason, but today there is far more retreat into irrational belief and superstitious theories.


  • Tried and tested scientific medicine is under attack from superstition
  • Shows how a formerly traditionally trained general practitioner is now talking about "Chakras" might be "black holes" inside the body. (This is completely insane)
  • Shows how quantum theory is increasingly used by people like Deepak Chopra are capitalizing on the ignorance of people.
    • Famous physicist Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand quantum theory."
  • In his face-to-face interview with Chopra, he confronts him on the use of scientific language.
  • Homeopathy:
    • The irrational claim that diluting a medicine makes it stronger!
    • They just use water that has a "memory" of active ingredients that are not actually president any more.
      • This is more than insane.
    • People can call themselves homeopaths without any credentials

Richard Dawkins at TED Talks

Richard Dawkins is Oxford University's "Professor for the Public Understanding of Science." Author of the landmark 1976 book, The Selfish ... all » Gene, he's a brilliant (and trenchant) evangelist for Darwin's ideas. In this talk, titled, "Queerer Than We Suppose: The strangeness of science," he suggests that the true nature of the universe eludes us, because the human mind evolved only to understand the "middle-sized" world we can observe. (Recorded July 2005 in Oxford, UK. Duration: 22:42) - More TEDTalks at