Darwin Day is celebrated around the world on February 12, the 205th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has been working valiantly to designate that date as a national holiday. Last week Holt once again introduced H.R. 467.
The resolution "recogniz[es] the importance of science in the betterment of humanity."
Holt's resolution touts "the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution," "the monumental amount of scientific evidence" that supports the theory, and notes that evolution's "validity ... is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics."
The resolution chastises science-deniers: "the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change" and "the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems."
As science educator Bill Nye stated during his debate with creationist Ken Ham this week, “If we abandon all that we’ve learned. . . if we abandon the process by which we know it. . . if we stop looking for the next answer, we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries, other economies. . . We have to keep science education in science.”
If resolved, H.R.467 will ensure that the House of Representatives:
(1) supports the designation of Darwin Day; and
(2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.
The voices of science and secularism must be heard. Ask the U.S. House to hold Darwin Day and pass H.R.467!
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Please help us honor Charles Darwin’s enormous contributions to progress and science, contact your U.S. Representative to support H.R.467.
To find out who your representative is, type in your zip code on this website to find your representative. Click on their name to contact them.
Call, email, fax, write, tweet or Facebook them. Do whatever it takes to be heard!
THANK DARWIN DAY SPONSORS
Take a moment to thank Rep. Holt. Rep. Holt, a nuclear physicist by training, who self-identifies as a Quaker and deserves our gratitude for his efforts. Do feel free to identify yourself as a nonbeliever, atheist, etc., so he knows the secular bloc has clout (and good manners)!
Letters: 1214 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5801
Fax: (202) 225-6025
(Representative Holt will only accept email from residents in New Jersey.)
CONTACT YOUR SENATOR
Ask your Senators to support Darwin Day while you're at it!
WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Supporting Darwin Day would make an excellent and timely topic of a letter to the editor to your local or favorite publication. Don't forget social media and online news comment sections to help spread the word.
Thank you for your activism. Freedom depends on freethinkers, and Darwin Day deserves your support!
Freedom From Religion Foundation
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
By Andrew Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
I expected to spend a good bit of this blog tearing apart President Obama’s entire address at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast. But I couldn’t make it past his topic sentence without cringing and as the bible says, “gnashing my teeth.”
Prior to Obama’s remarks there were prayers and bible readings and religious music. Lots. The readings, as befit the Christian bent of this insincere gathering, were mostly from the New Testament. In the Smarmiest Performance of the Year category, Steve Green, a Christian recording artist, sang “He Holds the Keys” which begins with this savage imagery:
Death rides blackened clouds across the sky
The Son of man lays down to die
With every pounding blow upon the nail
Thunder rumbles all through hell
And from death's barren womb the captives cry
Who is there to free us should He die
It’s a good thing the presidents of Albania and Haiti were on hand to hear that message. National Prayer Breakfast Co-Chairman and theocrat Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said of Green that “the only thing that exceeds his incredible voice is his humility.”
President Obama picked up the humility thread and ran with it. He began by saying the prayer breakfast was an occasion to do two things: “ to pause with humility before an Almighty God. . .  to remember the admonition from the Book of Romans, which is especially fitting for those of us in Washington: ‘Do not claim to be wiser than you are.’”
President Obama proposes that we come with “humility before almighty god.” This is interesting because in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the word “humility” does not appear. It often speaks of being “humble” or “humbled” before god, but the biblical use of this word does not have the unpretentious or respectful connotations we think of today.
In the bible, to be humble before god means to fear god. God will punish those who don’t fear him. For instance, in Deuteronomy 8, god “humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you.” Like the good totalitarian he is, Yahweh starves you, and then comes to you as a savior, thereby breeding the sickly love of master that religion thrives on. And again, God put “you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you. . .”
When King Ahab discovers that his wife Jezebel was thrown from a window and eaten by dogs (at the command of the god President Obama felt he should honor using his government office), “he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly.” Not content with simple punishment, Yahweh brags to Elijah, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.” 1 Kings 21:29. Breaking Ahab is God’s idea of humbling. Oh, and for good measure God is going to punish Ahab’s innocent son, because the religious concept of justice involves punishing the innocent — it’s even in the Ten Commandments.
Even if the biblical god did mean humility in the sense that President Obama used the word, nothing about religion is humble. Religion claims to know the ultimate truth to the universe on the basis of no evidence, only faith. What could be more arrogant than claiming an answer to the ultimate questions — how did we get here, are we here for a reason, etc. — without any evidence whatsoever?
Indeed, religion itself seems to conflict with the second prong of President Obama’s theme (don’t claim to be wiser than you are). If we should not claim to be wiser than we are, how can one claim to know the ultimate truths and origins of the universe without evidence? It’s a wonder the brain doesn’t explode trying to deal with this doublethink.
While religion and humility do not go together, religion and fear certainly do. After all, Proverbs 9:10 says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
President Obama began his remarks by, as Martin Luther King Jr. once put it, “merely mouth[ing] pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.” This terrible, fearful, and internally inconsistent message marred what no doubt intended to be a positive overall message.
To his credit, President Obama did acknowledge freethinkers, noting that “freedom of religion” includes the freedom “to practice no faith at all.” But that uncontroversial statement was spoiled, not only by his contradictory first lines, but the forum in which it was delivered. Freedom of religion does not truly exist without freedom from religion — and both require a government that is free from religion. The positive parts of Obama’s message rang hollow in the room full of conservative Christian politicians at an event organized by the shadow Christian organization dubbed “The Fellowship” that began during the Red Scare of the 1950s. See Jeff Sharlet, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
As is now the fashion, the president concluded by quoting the words of that bastion of morality, Richard Nixon — the first president to end a speech with that now hackneyed canard: “God bless America.” Of course, like every other president, President Obama neglected to credit Nixon with first using the phrase on April 30, 1973, to distract from the growing Watergate scandal.
DAN BARKER and ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR are co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-hosts of Freethought Radio. A former minister and evangelist, Dan became a freethinker in 1983. His books, Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist (1992) are published by the Foundation. His newest book, The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God, was published by Ullysses Press in January, 2011. His previous book, the autobiographical Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, was published in 2008. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Religion, Dan now puts his knowledge of Christianity to effective freethought use. A professional pianist and composer, Dan performs freethought concerts and is featured in the Foundation's musical cassettes, "My Thoughts Are Free," "Reason's Greetings," "Dan Barker Salutes Freethought Then And Now," a 2-CD album "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," and the CD "Beware of Dogma." He joined the Foundation staff in 1987 and served as public relations director. He was first elected co-president in November 2004.
Annie Laurie was also editor of Freethought Today from 1984 to 2009, when she became executive editor. The paper is published 10 times a year. Her book, Woe To The Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published in 1981, is now in its 4th printing. In 1988, the Foundation published her book, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 book, Women Without Superstition: 'No Gods, No Masters'is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. A 1980 graduate of the UW-Madison Journalism School, she was an award-winning student reporter and recipient of the Ken Purdy scholarship. After graduation, she founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection,a monthly advocacy newspaper, from 1980-1985. She joined the Foundation staff in 1985. She has been co-president since 2004. She co-founded the original FFRF with Anne Gaylor (see below) as a college student. Photo: Timothy Hughes
FFRF President emerita
ANNE NICOL GAYLOR is a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and is now working as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She owned and managed successful small businesses and was co-owner and editor of an award-winning suburban weekly newspaper. A feminist author, she has done substantial volunteer work for women's rights (including serving as volunteer director of the Women's Medical Fund). Under her leadership the Freedom From Religion Foundation has grown from its initial three Wisconsin members to a national group with representation in every state and Canada.
Director of Operations
LISA STRAND is director of operations of FFRF. She has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit (primarily association) management, including 15 years as executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association. She is married with a daughter, as well as two cats, a guinea pig and an untended garden that will someday be beautiful.
REBECCA S. MARKERT attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. After graduating from UW–Madison, Rebecca spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany. In the fall 1999, she returned to the United States and began working as a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for United States Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she returned to Madison, Wisconsin, to work on Senator Feingold’s 2004 re-election campaign. After the campaign, Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008.
Rebecca is the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first staff attorney and primarily works on Establishment Clause cases. She is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.
PATRICK ELLIOTT, the Foundation's second staff attorney, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in school, Patrick took an interest in the First Amendment and constitutional law. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in July 2010, after working part-time for the Foundation since February. Patrick is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.
ANDREW SEIDEL graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. In May of 2011, Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award. He has written a book on International Human Rights Law and his essay on the role of religion in government and the founding of our nation placed second in the FFRF's 2010 graduate student essay contest. Andrew is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer; his work has been displayed in galleries in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. He joined the FFRF staff as a constitutional consultant in November 2011.
ELIZABETH CAVELL received her B.A in English from the University of Florida in 2005. After college, Elizabeth spent a year as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps*NCCC. She attended Tulane University Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2009. After law school, she worked as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado. She joined the Foundation as a staff attorney in January 2013, after working for the Foundation part-time since September 2012.
SAM GROVER received his B.A. in philosophy and government from Wesleyan University in 2008. He first worked for FFRF in 2010 as a legal intern while attending Boston University School of Law. In 2011, his article on the religious exemptions in the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate was published in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 2012, Sam worked as a law clerk for the Vermont Office of Legislative Council where he drafted legislation on health care, human services, and tax issues. He returned to work as a constitutional consultant for FFRF in the fall of 2013. Sam has written a paper on counterterrorism and the law that was published by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City and has traveled to southern Africa to work under Justice Unity Dow of Botswana’s High Court.
KATIE DANIEL is the bookkeeper/executive assistant/staff baker at FFRF. She was born in California and has lived in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Missouri. She moved to Madison in 2005 to attend UW-Madison and graduated in 2009 with a BA in Gender & Women's Studies and a Certificate in LGBT Studies. She joined the foundation staff as a student clerical employee in September 2008 and started as the full-time bookkeeper in 2009. Unlike many of the Foundation's staff members, Katie is religious and considers herself a practicing Wiivangelical.
BILL DUNN is the editor of Freethought Today. He has a degree in history and mass communications (journalism emphasis) from the University of South Dakota and has worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor in South Dakota and Wisconsin since 1980. Bill joined the Foundation staff in July 2009. He has two daughters, Kaitlin Marie and Jamie Lee.
LAURYN is the publicist & assistant editor at FFRF. She was born in Wausau, Wisconsin and has also lived in Nagasaki, Japan. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2012 with her B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media, concentrating in Technical Communication and International Studies. She also received a double minor in Journalism and English. Lauryn moved to Madison in January 2013 and enjoys reading about astrophysics, basking in the sun like a turtle and creating art at coffee shops. Lauryn is a practicing Pastafarian.
DAYNA LONG is an administrative assistant at FFRF. Originally from Illinois, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received a degree in English. She has been with FFRF since July 2013. She spends her free time volunteering for the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and admiring her beautiful cats.
PHYLLIS ROSE is a retired library administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been volunteering 3 afternoons a week at the FFRF office since 2000. A Lifetime Member, Phyllis provides oversight, clerical and editorial support. Phyllis serves as an officer on the Foundation's governing body.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the formation of a new FFRF Honorary Board of distinguished achievers who have made known their dissent from religion.
The FFRF Honorary Board includes Jerry Coyne, Robin Morgan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Ernie Harburg, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Jacoby, Mike Newdow, Katha Pollitt, Steven Pinker, Ron Reagan, Oliver Sacks, M.D., Robert Sapolsky, Edward Sorel and Julia Sweeney.
“We are so pleased that these outstanding thinkers and freethinkers have agreed to publicly lend their endorsement to the Foundation, and its two purposes of promoting freethought and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.
- Jerry Coyne, Ph.D., professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, is author of the popular book 'Why Evolution is True' and the blog of the same name.
- Richard Dawkins, probably the world’s most famous contemporary atheist and a distinguished evolutionary biologist, is Oxford professor emeritus. In his blockbuster book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
- Daniel C. Dennett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts, and author of the bestselling book about religion, Breaking the Spell. In a newspaper article about his nonbelief, Dennett once wrote: “I’ve come to realize it’s time to sound the alarm.”
- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments For the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction and a research associate in Harvard’s psychology department, is FFRF Freethought Heroine of 2011. Goldstein is a 1996 MacArthur Fellow (the “genius” award). She has taught at Barnard and in the Columbia MFA writing program and the Rutgers philosophy department. She’s been a visiting scholar at Brandeis and at Trinity College in Hartford.
- Ernie Harburg, a retired research scientist, is president of Yip Harburg Foundation and co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? Ernie has dedicated his retirement to furthering the lyrics, music, memory and progressive views of his freethinking father, the lyricist Yip Harburg, author of classic songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and of Rhymes for the Irreverent, recently republished by FFRF.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet, historian and author of the acclaimed Doubt: A History and The End of the Soul, told the FFRF 2009 convention audience: “If there is no god — and there isn't — then we [humans] made up morality. And I'm very impressed.”
- Susan Jacoby, bestselling author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, and program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, told FFRF convention-goers in 2004: "[President] Kennedy had to speak about his religion because he was suspected of insufficient dedication to the Constitution's separation of church and state. Today's candidates are suspect if they display too much dedication to secular government."
- Robin Morgan, feminist pioneer, global activist, author of the groundbreaking "Sisterhood is Powerful" and more than 20 books, was formerly Ms. Magazine editor and consulting editor. She is the co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Network and Women's Media Center and currently hosts "Women's Media Center Live" the radio "talk-show with a brain."
- Mike Newdow is working pro bono to challenge such violations as the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. He told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments: “I am an atheist. I don't believe in God. And every school morning my child is asked to stand up, face that flag, put her hand over her heart, and say that her father is wrong.”
- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard, is author of The Blank Slate: “I never outgrew my conversion to atheist at 13.”
- Katha Pollitt, “Subject to Debate” columnist for The Nation, author and poet, has spoken out regularly and energetically as a freethinker, in such columns as “Freedom From Religion, Sí!”
- Ron Reagan, media commentator, describes himself in a radio ad he taped for FFRF as: “Unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
- Oliver Sacks, M.D., the compassionate neurologist and bestselling author, describes himself as “an old Jewish atheist.”
- Robert Sapolsky, a neurologist, Stanford professor and bestselling author, once suggested FFRF put up a sign at its conventions: “Welcome, hellbound atheists.”
- Edward Sorel, satiric cartoonist and irreverent illustrator who is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and whose caricatures have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, has been a Foundation member since the 1980s.
- Julia Sweeney, comedian and actress, is writer/performer of the play, “Letting Go of God”: “How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!”
- Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic journalist, is author of the bestselling God Is Not Great: “Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”