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State/Church Bulletin

7th Circuit: Remove Decalog

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Dec. 13 that a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the municipal building in Elkhart, Ind., is unconstitutional.

The appeals court overturned a 1999 district court ruling dismissing the challenge.

In its 2-1 ruling, the court said that constitutional principles "simply prevent government at any level from intruding into the religious life of our people by sponsoring or endorsing a particular perspective on religious matters."

Citizens are required to "come into direct and unwelcome contact with the Ten Commandments to participate fully as citizens of Elkhart," the court ruled, nor could the 6-foot tablet be stripped of its "sacred significance."

Plaintiffs are Elkhart residents William A. Books and Michael Suetkamp.
Kentucky Officials Show Contempt

Officials in McCreary and Pulaski counties rehanged the Ten Commandments in their courthouses in defiance of a federal judge's order. The ACLU filed a motion on Dec. 7 asking that the officials be held in contempt. The officials filed a legal memo in late December insisting the commandments are not "religious" in their overall display of "historical" documents.
Pastors Oppose Courthouse Nativity

Thirty-two pastors signed a letter to county officials in Lafayette, Ind., opposing a Nativity display on the Tippecanoe County Courthouse lawn in December.

The county banned such displays in 1999 after allowing a creche on the courthouse lawn every Christmas for nearly 30 years. After a group of two dozen residents petitioned commissioners to change the policy, the pastors noted, "Their agenda is not reflective of the mainstream Christian community."
Christmas Lawsuit on Appeal

A federal appeals judge told litigant Richard Ganulin of Cincinnati in December that he must show how the celebration of Christmas as a national legal holiday harms nonbelievers.

Judge Boyce Martin Jr. said philosophical or religious objections are not enough to support a lawsuit asking to scrap the designation of Christmas as an official holiday. Martin is one of three judges hearing the case at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"As a matter of law, it cuts me out, it excludes me, I'm an outsider, I'm an observer. It's a sectarian celebration," Ganulin said.

Ganulin, who sued the federal government in 1998 (and was a speaker at the 1998 FFRF convention), said he is not attacking Christmas, only the unconstitutionality of the federal law making it a national holiday.

A federal judge in December 1999 threw out Ganulin's lawsuit, saying he lacked standing and failed to show how the legal holiday harmed him.
Mojave Cross Removed

The National Park Service agreed in late October to remove a Christian cross from the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, Calif.

The site of the cross was routinely used as a gathering for Easter and other memorial services, but was not open as a venue for other forms of religious expression, according to the ACLU of Southern California. The complaint was brought by a former Park Service employee.

"Leaving a cross standing on federal land when a service is over promotes Christian beliefs over others, which is not the role of the government. Federal park land is for all of us, whether we are Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or none of the above," said Peter Eliasberg, staff attorney.
Bad Postal Precedent

The U.S. Postal Service announced late last year its plan to issue a postage stamp in 2001 to recognize the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, or "feast of fast breaking," that marks the annual fasting month of Ramadan.

Although the Post Office regulations forbid issuance of religious stamps, the Post Office began issuing "Madonna & Child" stamps in the 1960s. U.S. Muslim groups have lobbied for a stamp for years.

Since there are some 29 million unreligious Americans in this country compared to between five and 10 million Muslims, where is the postage stamp in homage to freethought?
Religious Extortion?

The White Meadow Temple, a Conservative synagogue in New Jersey, filed suit this fall against a congregation member who quit the congregation, contending it was owed $1,455.02, including attorney's fees. Rockaway resident David Slossberg quit the temple in 1996, after being defrauded by an Orthodox Jewish business partner who later went to jail for his crimes. Slossberg told the rabbi he did not have the money to pay dues, nor did he wish to belong anymore.

The synagogue claims Slossberg signed an agreement, which it cannot produce, pledging "dues, assessments, pledges or donations" for the year 1996.
Rather Pathetic

Charles Coppinger, 36, the Arizona Legislature's chaplain for the last four sessions, went on a 90-hour "spiritual fast" in late December to save his job, spending his nights outside the state capitol in an armchair, drinking diluted juice and taking only restroom breaks.

The Senate announced on Jan. 22 it will no longer have a chaplain, but will keep open the chaplain office for visiting clergy invited by lawmakers "to attend their spiritual needs."

Coppinger, whose position was funded privately, revealed last fall that he is gay, resulting in consternation by his conservative supporters. Also causing consternation was a revelation that he had settled embezzlement charges with a previous employee.
State Tax Dollars at Work

New York State taxpayers have spent nearly $2.5 million under the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act to spruce up churches, synagogues and houses of worship around New York.

The Albany bureau of the Syracuse-Herald Journal (Dec. 18) revealed the legislation authorizing the $1.75 billion bond act, approved by voters in 1996, provides money to preserve properties listed on the state and national registers of historic places. Although the bill did not specify houses of worship among properties eligible for funding, it did not rule them out.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that administers grants to houses of worship requires that all work be exterior. State parks commissioner Bernadette Castro told the Herald-Journal: "The commissioner does not want something done that will allow only the congregation to enjoy, but rather the whole community to enjoy." The houses of worship are supposed to produce matching grants.
HUD Chastises Lutheran Program

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development "chastised" Lutheran Social Services of Northern California on Nov. 6 for placing HIV/AIDS patients in residential hotels that violate city housing codes and state elevator safety laws, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

HUD official Joan Hall said: "We made it clear that under HUD programs, we expect our housing funds are going to be used to house people in decent, safe and sanitary environments."
Council Prayer Criticized

The City Council in Redwood City, Calif., is unusual among Bay Area cities in starting meetings with a prayer led by local ministers. For the past two decades, Pastor Dennis Logie of Sequoia Christian Church has orchestrated the invocations as president of the Redwood City Clergy Association.

Following criticism by the ACLU, Mayor Ira Ruskin said he found the worship ritual "thought provoking." Council member Colleen Jordan told the San Mateo Daily News: "I believe government was never intended to be godless."

ACLU attorney Margaret Crosby, while admitting the Supreme Court ruled legislative prayer is allowable in the Marsh vs. Chambers case out of Nebraska in 1983, points out the California Constitution is far stricter than the federal.
Bible Classes Create Strife

Controversy is following adoption of bible classes at high schools, such as a class at Duncanville High School, Tex., taught by a retired pastor and former bible college professor. As many as 200 Texas public schools may offer bible studies, although the Texas Education Association doesn't keep track.

The Duncanville class is not a "bible as literature" class. The entire fall semester is spent on the "Old Testament" and the spring semester on the "New Testament." Students must memorize the books of the Old Testament and weekly assigned bible verses, "identify leading kings of Israel and Judah," and memorize the 23rd Psalm, among other assignments.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation launched a major complaint to the TEA in 1995, calling the Texas bible courses "Glorified Sunday School," and noting some school districts were actually using curriculum written for Sunday schools.

In Illinois, the Messac County High School is offering a course on the bible for the 2001-02 school year as an elective "history" class for juniors and seniors.

"To teach it as history, you have to teach facts and accept miraculous events," said ACLU spokesperson Ed Yohnka. "How do they plan to handle teaching the parting of the Red Sea, the Plagues of Egypt or being led by the voice of God? We find this whole approach to teaching bible in public schools troubling."
Utah Tax Credit Urged

A Republican state legislator plans to sponsor a bill in the 2001 session to grant taxpayers up to $2,500 in tax credits for sending students to private and religious schools. State Rep. John Swallow contends it's all in the name of "helping" public education. "We need to get our children taught on someone else's nickel. It's one way to save public schools," was Swallow's unusual rationale. The plan would siphon off $2,500 per student that would otherwise go to public schools.

A new nonprofit group called Children First Utah has raised $1.35 million--$1 million of that coming from John Walton, son of Wal-Mart's founder--to help send low-income children to private schools. Walton is helping to fund 76 Children First affiliates nationwide, then lobbying government to take over the programs. Utah has the smallest percentage of children attending private schools in the nation, at about 2.6% compared to the national average of 11%. Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt does not support tuition tax credits.
Polygamy Will Be on Trial

The first trial for polygamy in Utah since the 1950s has been delayed until late spring, but is putting the practice under the spotlight.

Tom Green, 52, who lives in a cluster of mobile homes in the desert with his 5 current wives and their 29 children, is charged with four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport for $50,000 in welfare the state gave his family, as well as one count of child rape.

That charge stems from having sex with his common-law wife Linda, now 28, when she was 13. He married the 5 wives, including two sets of sisters, when they were between 13- and 16-years old. Green has had 10 wives since 1970. It took a 26-page diagram to illustrate all of Green's marriages, divorces and offspring.

Gov. Mike Leavitt, who himself is descended from a polygamous great-grandfather, originally did not favor prosecution of violations of Utah's 105-year ban on plural marriage.

"But this is a man who has taken 13- and 14-year-old children, deprived them of any education, married them, impregnated them, required the state to pay the bill and has raped a 13-year-old girl.

"If we can't prosecute for conduct like Tom Green's, we have no business prosecuting crime," Leavitt said.

The Utah legislature raised the state's minimum marriage age from 14 to 16 in 1998, after Tapestry Against Polygamy, a group of former polygamous wives, championed the reform.
Japanese Proposal Alarms Buddhists

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who just survived a recent no-confidence vote, has caused consternation by campaigning to emphasize religion in schools. Mori wants to update national curriculum guidelines for the first time since 1947, including placing "a perspective on religion" in public schools.

"We absolutely must not repeat the mistakes of prewar Japan, when the freedoms of thought and religion were trampled by compulsory religious education," wrote the head of a Buddhist group, Daisaku Ikeda. Shinto was Japan's state religion during World War II.

Last May, Mori got in trouble for saying, during a speech to Shinto religious officials, that Japan was a "divine nation" centered on the emperor.
Iranian Journalist "Defames Clergy"

The chief editor of the weekly magazine Cinema-Sport, journalist and cleric Ali Afshai, was defrocked and sentenced in late December to four months in prison for "defaming the clergy."
Prisoner: Police Used God

Condemned murderer Raymond Morrison Jr., 32, argued before the Florida Supreme Court in early January that it should overturn his conviction and death sentence because Jacksonville police took advantage of his Christian beliefs to get a confession.

Police officer Antonio Richardson, a church pastor, "ministered" to Morrison during the investigation and took him to the police department chapel. Morrison said he was coerced into giving a statement implicating him in the 1997 stabbing of an elderly, disabled man. Public Defender Chet Kaufman said police used church and religion as "law enforcement arms":

"They talked about prayer, they talked about getting right with God, they talked about being saved."

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Don't Do What Jesus Would Do!

As a guide for choosing attitudes and behavior, many Christians encourage young persons and others to ask, "What would Jesus do?" That slogan is often abbreviated on Christian jewelry and other items as "WWJD." The idea is that if people would think and act the way Jesus did, the world would be a better place.

But is a WWJD mindset really what the modern world needs? If advocates of that philosophy would examine Jesus as depicted in the bible, they might realize that his views can cause great harm to individuals and communities.
Violence

What would Jesus do about the problem of violence in society? The bible indicates he would make it worse by promoting violence as a favored method of dealing with problems. Unlike modern civilized people, he did not limit the acceptability of violence to situations requiring self-defense or the defense of others.
Violent Afterlife

Jesus taught that when he returns to earth, he will cause infinitely more gratuitous violence than is contained in any slasher film. At that time, he will send his angels to gather people and cast them into a furnace of fire, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.[1] Also at this glorious homecoming, he will order persons to "[d]epart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."[2] The book of Revelation tells us that this everlasting inferno is a place where people are tortured forever,[3] where "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night. . . ."[4] That hideous state of affairs is illustrated in Jesus' story of the beggar Lazarus who went to heaven and the rich man who was consigned to Hades. Jesus described the rich man as suffering torment in the flames.[5]

Elsewhere, he indicated that the same fate will befall everyone who does not accept his message.[6] This will include the vast majority of humanity.[7] Thus, we have the role model of the WWJD folks causing not only the death but eternal torture of billions of people--many of them simply because he disapproves of their religious beliefs.
Violent Parables

Jesus' parables contain further illustrations of the types of violence he supported. By failing to condemn the violent acts described in those stories, Jesus implied that such behavior was acceptable.

Consistent with his other teachings about the afterlife, Jesus approved of torture in a parable relating to Judgment Day. This story involves a king who forgave a servant's debt but later found the same servant treating harshly a debtor of the servant. Jesus asserted that the king became angry and delivered the servant "to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. . . ." Jesus went on to say that God will do the same to people who do not forgive the trespasses of others.[8]

There is also a parable in which Jesus condoned dismembering people. That story concerns a servant who, after being put in charge of his master's property, began to bully the other servants and eat and drink with drunken friends. Jesus explained that if the master returns when the servant does not expect him, the master will cut that unfaithful servant in pieces.[9]

Jesus endorsed the killing of defenseless people for their political differences, when he related a parable about a nobleman who went to a far country to receive a kingdom and then returned. Jesus described the new king as ordering that "those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."[10]

In a parable involving servants waiting for their lord to return from a wedding, Jesus supported the beating of people. He explained that the servant who knew his lord's will but failed to do it "shall be beaten with many stripes." And the servant who did not know his lord's will but "did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."[11]

Kidnapping and the violent treatment of the victim are other actions Jesus favored, in a parable that compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who made a marriage for his son. When the king saw a guest who was without a wedding garment, he told his servants to "[b]ind him hand and foot . . . and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."[12]

So in these parables, Jesus spoke approvingly of persons who torture, dismember, slay, beat, kidnap and otherwise cause extreme misery. He applauded this behavior, and indicated that he and his Father will do the same to people. That lesson, in fact, appears to be the point of the parables. Do we really want persons to think of these actions when they ask, "What would Jesus do?"
Violent Laws

Another way that Jesus espoused violence was by supporting the Law of Moses. He said he did not come to abolish that Law but to fulfill it.[13] He warned that anyone who sets aside even the least of the Law's demands, and teaches others to do so, will be lowest in the kingdom of heaven.[14] According to him, it is "easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail."[15]

This approval of the Law of Moses means endorsement of that code's horrible requirements concerning the death penalty. The Mosaic Law prescribes execution as the punishment for cursing one's parents;[16] being a stubborn and rebellious son;[17] being a witch, medium or wizard;[18] worshiping gods other than Jehovah;[19] enticing a friend or family member to worship other gods;[20] working on the Sabbath;[21] gathering sticks on the Sabbath;[22] not being a virgin on one's wedding night (applies to women only);[23] blasphemy;[24] adultery;[25] and homosexuality.[26]

The method of carrying out the executions was normally stoning.[27] For other infractions of the Mosaic Law, the punishment could be a flogging.[28] For certain violations, the penalty was mutilation or amputation.[29] It is hard to imagine how anyone with a brain or heart could uphold such a barbaric and absurd legal code.
Violence Incited against Family Members and Others

Jesus not only implied that he approves of violence in this life, but explicitly asserted that he intends to cause it. Contrary to the "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" talk during the Christmas season, Jesus stated: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division . . ."[30] This divisiveness clearly includes violence, for he said he "came not to send peace, but a sword."[31]

In connection with his promise to send a "sword," he explained that he will "set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."[32] And he predicted that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household."[33] Thus, he advocated divisiveness within families and the use of violence against one's own family members.

Among all Jesus' violent teachings, parents would be wise to consider that one, in particular, when deciding whether to have their children ask, "What would Jesus do?"
Family
Hate Your Family

Besides endorsing violence against family members, Jesus showed in other ways that he is not a supporter of family values. He never married or fathered children; instead, he urged people to hate their families and themselves. In his words: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."[34]
Desert Your Family

Jesus encouraged people to abandon their families and promised rewards for doing so. He said: "There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."[35] He even criticized a man for wanting to say goodbye to his family before leaving to follow him.[36]
No Divorce

There were moments when Jesus apparently had a mood swing regarding his view that people should hate and leave their spouses. But here he swung too far in the other direction, by prohibiting all divorce.

On the subject of divorce, he said: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. . . . Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."[37] He additionally claimed that anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.[38] On occasion, though, he backed away from a total prohibition on divorce, by allowing it in situations where a spouse has committed "fornication."[39]

Unfortunately, by preventing divorce in all other situations, his teachings require spouses to stay married even when love has irretrievably died, such as where one of them turned out to be extremely abusive and exploitative. To prohibit divorce and remarriage in those cases is simply a prescription for human misery.
Abuse Your Children

Jesus also endorsed child abuse. He specifically approved the Mosaic Law's command that, "Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death."[40] He denounced the Pharisees for not following that cruel and nonsensical instruction, which he described as a "commandment of God."[41]

From these teachings, many persons guilty of neglecting or abusing their family members could receive a green light to continue by asking, "What would Jesus do?" Others would be encouraged to behave likewise. And some spouses who are the recipients of that treatment would have to endure it and not leave the marriage.
Health Care
Spurn Medical Science

What would Jesus do about the issue of health care in society? He would increase health problems by discouraging reliance upon medical science. He taught nothing about germs, bacteria, sanitation or medical science. Rather, he promoted the idea that disease is caused by demons or sin, and that cures should be obtained by supernatural means. He pointed to demon possession as the cause of epilepsy,[42] blindness,[43] muteness,[44] insanity,[45] convulsions[46] and crippling disability.[47]
Rely on Supernatural Cures

As for the supernatural methods of curing such problems, Jesus explained to his disciples that certain types of demons can only be exorcised by prayer and fasting.[48] On another occasion, faith was the remedy he prescribed, when he cured a leper and then told him that "thy faith hath made thee whole."[49] He also advocated laying hands on the sick as a means of healing, when he promised that a sign shown by believers is that "they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."[50]

Forgiveness of sin and avoidance of sin are other methods he supported for curing and preventing illness. Right before healing a man who had palsy, Jesus told him: "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."[51] And after healing a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years, Jesus admonished him to "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."[52]

It is noteworthy that, on one occasion, his cure of choice involved cruelty to animals. He healed a demon-possessed madman by sending the demons, at their request, into a herd of about 2,000 swine. The pigs then ran into a sea and drowned.[53]

Because Jesus thought that the cause of maladies is spiritual, it is understandable that he would recommend supernatural cures rather than scientific ones. But the error of these teachings is shown by the many tragic cases of people--often children--who have died from treatable illnesses after ignoring medical science and following what Jesus did about sickness.
Handle Deadly Snakes and Drink Poison

Jesus also had other views that cause illness and death. He said that his followers can take up serpents--not excluding poisonous ones--without being harmed.[54] And he stated that believers may "drink any deadly thing" without suffering adverse effects.[55] Would the WWJD crowd want their children acting on these teachings?
Sex

No discussion of Jesus' unhealthy teachings would be complete without mentioning his views on sexuality. Jesus had some downright crazy and pernicious ideas about that subject.
Abhor Sexuality

He was so opposed to sex that he thought people should be sent to Hell for having a sexual desire. He taught that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."[56] The book of Galatians informs us that adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God.[57]
Mutilate Your Body

To avoid being eternally tortured for having a natural sexual urge, Jesus recommended self-mutilation. He said: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."[58]

He made similar recommendations for preventing other types of sexual activity. Apparently referring to masturbation, he advised that "if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee . . ." to avoid being sent to hell.[59]

And he endorsed castration. He told his followers that "there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."[60]

Do the WWJD people really want persons to hate sexuality and mutilate themselves in an effort to avoid sexual desire and activity?
Rudeness, Name-calling and Insults

Jesus could be quite rude to people. After he accepted a Pharisee's invitation to a meal, the Pharisee asked him why he did not wash before partaking of the food. Jesus then went into a tirade against the Pharisees, accusing them of injustice and calling them fools and hypocrites. He also said there was nothing inside them but greed and wickedness, which seems inconsistent with the fact that one of them had just invited him to the meal. And he didn't let up this verbal attack after a lawyer protested that he was insulting them.[61] On another occasion, Jesus labeled the Pharisees and scribes as hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, vipers and murderers.[62] This name-calling is hardly the way to win friends and influence people.[63]
Temper Tantrum

The same can be said of his rudeness in the temple. There, Jesus overturned the tables and chairs of the sellers and moneychangers, scattered their coins, and used a whip to drive them and their animals out.[64]

Many judges today would not only impose a fine and jail time for such vandalism and physical assaults, but would also sentence the offender to attend conflict resolution classes.
Insults Mother

Although it is difficult to top rudeness in a place of religious devotion, Jesus did so by being discourteous to his mother. While he was at a wedding, she informed him that there was no wine. His curt retort was, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come."[65]
Inconsiderate to the Poor and Hungry

Moreover, Jesus likely was discourteous to many people when he, while hungry and looking for food, became piqued at a fig tree that had no figs. The season was not right for the tree to have figs, yet he cursed it and caused it to wither.[66] As a result, no one--including the poor and hungry--could obtain figs from that tree in the future.
Callous to the Sick and Suffering

One of the worst examples of his rudeness--and downright callousness--was shown when a Canaanite woman begged him to help her daughter, who she said was being tormented by a demon. When the woman pleaded for aid, Jesus ignored her at first. Then he explicitly refused to assist her, saying he was sent only to the house of Israel. After that, while she continued her pathetic begging, he added insult to injury by stating that it is not proper to take the children's bread and cast it to "dogs" such as her. He only relented and healed her daughter after the woman argued that "the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."[67] Apparently, if she had not come up with that response, Jesus would have let her and her daughter continue suffering even though he had the power to stop it at any time. Such a man in no way deserves to be a role model for young people.
Productivity, Possessions and the Pursuit of Happiness
Reject Material Possessions

Jesus' teachings are inconsistent with developing productive citizens and eliminating poverty. Our society offers financial rewards to motivate persons to produce goods and provide services that satisfy the needs of others. But Jesus taught people to reject material possessions and financial gain.

He advised a wealthy young man to "sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."[68] After the young man went away sad, Jesus told his disciples: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."[69]

Along the same lines, he said "whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."[70] He also taught that a person cannot serve God and money.[71] And he said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth . . . But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . ."[72]

Clearly, Jesus was opposed to capitalist self-interest as a means of motivating people to be productive and useful.
Eschew Food and Happiness

Along with preaching against material possessions, he opposed having enough to eat and otherwise enjoying life. He proclaimed: "[W]oe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."[73] Poverty, hunger and sorrow were what he advocated for this life. He stated: "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."[74]

Thus, unlike the Declaration of Independence, Jesus did not endorse the "pursuit of happiness." Happiness was for an afterlife, not this life. As a result of these teachings, parents can lead their children to throw away the American Dream by encouraging them to ask what Jesus would do.
Don't Bother Planning

The success of most human enterprises is highly dependent on good planning, but Jesus denigrated that activity. He taught his followers: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow. . . ."[75]

In other words, Jesus believed that by focusing on spiritual matters, a person's material needs would be supernaturally met. He therefore saw no reason to think about physical requirements or plan to meet them. Instead, he thought that any physical needs could be met by simply asking God.

He proclaimed: ". . . What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."[76] Reasonable people know that the world does not operate in this manner. The countless unanswered prayers demonstrate that it does not work this way. By telling persons to have no desire for material goods, to not be concerned about obtaining food or clothing, to make no plans for the future, to not think about the next day, and to expect their physical needs to be supernaturally met, Jesus prescribed an attitude likely to produce drifters, derelicts and lunatics rather than productive and valuable members of society.
Justice
Injustice in this Life

Jesus' philosophy also is antithetical to producing justice in society. One of his commands was to "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. . . ."[77] That teaching would eviscerate the justice system by completely eliminating the judiciary.

But under his philosophy, there would be no need for judges anyway. He said to "resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."[78] He further ordered that "him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. . . . [A]nd of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again."[79]

Under those doctrines, his followers are not to oppose crimes against persons or property. They are even to allow criminals to obtain more than they sought in the first place. The upshot is that crime pays in this life, criminals go unpunished and the victims receive no recompense for the harm done to them. It would be difficult to come up with a philosophy better calculated to produce evil, injustice and misery.

Although Jesus' followers are supposed to accept the shaft in this world, he promised that their docility will ultimately work to their advantage in the next life. He assured them that, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."[80]
The Innocent Punished in an Afterlife

Jesus promised that there will be punishment in the afterlife, but his views of justice are logically deficient on that subject, too. One of the basic requirements of justice is that the innocent shall not be punished. Jesus taught, however, that his generation would have to answer for "the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world . . . From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias . . . verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation."[81]

The people of Jesus' time were certainly innocent of harming prophets who lived and died before the existence of that generation. Nevertheless, Jesus proclaimed that his contemporaries would be called to account for the harm done to those ancient prophets.
Disproportionate Punishments in an Afterlife

In order for justice to be upheld, there also must be proportionality between offenses committed and punishments administered. That is one of the principles underlying the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

But Jesus preached that "he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."[82]

According to the bible, the Holy Ghost is part of the Godhead,[83] so it is hard to see how that being could be harmed by the words of a puny human being. Yet Jesus indicated that eternal punishment--with no forgiveness--was an appropriate penalty for this harmless act.

Likewise, Jesus claimed that "whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."[84] Although calling someone a fool is usually rude (such as when Jesus did it), advocating eternal punishment for that reproach is absurdly disproportionate.

The same conclusion applies to his teaching that people deserve eternal damnation for refusing to believe he is the Son of God.[85] The failure to accept that belief harms no one. Yet Jesus required infinite punishment for disbelief in his divinity.

Jesus would flunk out of law school his first year for clinging to such ideas about justice.[86] Children should not be taught to think that way.
Religious Persecution a Natural Byproduct

Regarding Jesus' teaching that unbelief deserves eternal punishment, a further problem is that it can lead to religious intolerance and persecution. If a society really believes that holding incorrect religious views causes people to be eternally tortured, it is logical for that society to view the proponents of heretical religious beliefs as the worst possible wrongdoers in society.

Under that line of thinking, the harm inflicted by other criminals is limited to this world, but the act of promoting erroneous religious doctrines produces infinitely more harm. It causes the eternal torture of the souls of persons who adopt the mistaken religious views. Stopping the proponents of unorthodox theological ideas then becomes imperative. The rationale is that, just as there is a right to use force to protect oneself and one's family from physical harm from a criminal, there is justification to use force to stop those whose promotion of false religious views can harm the eternal fate of people's souls. The result is religious intolerance and persecution.

Further incitement for that attitude is contained in the Mosaic Law's requirement that blasphemers should be put to death, as mentioned above in connection with Jesus' support for the Law of Moses.[87]
Conclusion

So here we have it, the person the WWJD folks point to as an exemplar of virtue! He is a man who supported the use of extreme and unnecessary violence--including torture, dismembering, slaying, beating, and kidnapping--in dealing with people. He also wanted the death penalty imposed for a multitude of trivial acts.

Moreover, he promoted division in society; encouraged persons to hate, abandon, and use violence against their families; prohibited people from divorcing abusive spouses; taught that disrespectful children should be killed; discouraged medical treatment by favoring spiritual means for curing illness; was cruel to animals; said his followers could handle deadly snakes and drink poison; abhorred sexual desire and activity and encouraged persons to avoid both by mutilating their bodies; hurled insults and engaged in rude name-calling; treated his mother discourteously; vandalized property and physically assaulted people; failed to show consideration for the interests of the poor, the sick, and others; wanted people to give away all their property and have no desire for financial gain; espoused hunger and sorrow; denounced planning and self-reliance; said that innocent people should be punished for the wrongdoing of others; promised horrible punishments for harmless acts; and promoted religious intolerance and persecution.

With Jesus holding such views, no wonder the great nineteenth-century agnostic Robert Ingersoll said that if a man were to follow strictly the teachings of the New Testament, he would be insane.88 And insanity is exactly what the WWJD philosophy is. Its supporters need to wake up to the fact that they are advocating extremely irrational and harmful doctrines.

Joe Sommer is an attorney with the state government of Ohio. He received a B.B.A. from Ohio University and a J.D. from the University of Toledo. A member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for over 20 years and currently a board member, he has also been active with the Humanist Community of Central Ohio for many years. Additional writings by him are posted on his website at www.humanismbyjoe.com.
Footnotes

1 Matthew 13:41-42
2 Matthew 25:41
3 Revelation 20:10-15
4 Revelation 14:11
5 Luke 16:19-31<
6 Mark 16:16; Revelation 21:8
7 Matthew 7:13-14
8 Matthew 18:23-35
9 Matthew 24:45-51
10 Luke 19:11-27
11 Luke 12: 47-48<
12 Matthew 22:2-14<
13 Matthew 5:17
14 Matthew 5:18-19
15 Luke 16:17
16 Leviticus 20:9
17 Deuteronomy 21:18-21
18 Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27
19 Deuteronomy 17:2-5
20 Deuteronomy 13:6-11
21 Exodus 31:15
22 Numbers 15:32-36
23 Deuteronomy 22:20-21
24 Leviticus 24:16
25 Leviticus 20:10. (At John 8:1-11, however, Jesus arguably did not support enforcement of this provision in the story of the women caught committing adultery. But that story is not in the earliest and most reliable New Testament manuscripts.)
26 Leviticus 20:13
27 E.g., Deuteronomy 13:6-11; 21:18-21; 22:20-21; Numbers 15:32-36
28 Deuteronomy 25:1-3
29 Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 25:11-12
30 Luke 12:51
31 Matthew 10:34
32 Matthew 10:35
33 Matthew 10:36
34 Luke 14:26
35 Luke 18:29-30
36 Luke 9:61-62
37 Mark 10:9, 11-12; Luke 16:18
38 Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18
39 Matthew 5:32; 19:9
40 Mark 7:10-13 and Matthew 15:4-6 (Jesus is referring in these verses to Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9.)
41 Mark 7:7-13 and Matthew 15:1-6
42 Matthew 17:14-21
43 Matthew 12:22
44 Id.
45 Mark 5:1-13
46 Mark 1:23-27
47 Luke 13:11-13
48 Matthew 17:14-21
49 Luke 17:12-19 (And at Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48, Jesus healed a woman and then said her faith had cured her.)
50 Mark 16:17-18 (Also, at Mark 8:22-25, Jesus healed a man by laying hands on him.)
51 Mark 2:3-12
52 John 5:8-9,14
53 Mark 5:1-13 and Luke 8:26-33 (Matthew 8:28-32 says the demons were driven from two men.)
54 Mark 16:17-18
55 Id.
56 Matthew 5:28
57 Galatians 5:19-21
58 Matthew 5:29
59 Matthew 5:30
60 Matthew 19:12
61 Luke 11:37-52
62 Matthew 23:13-36
63 See generally, Carnegie, Dale, How to Win Friends and Influence People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981)
64 Matthew 21:12-13; John 2:13-17
65 John 2:1-3
66 Mark 11:12-14 and 20-21
67 Matthew 15:22-28
68 Matthew 19:21; Luke 18:22
69 Matthew 19:24; Luke 18:25
70 Luke 14:33
71 Luke 16:13
72 Matthew 6:19-20
73 Luke 6:24-25
74 Luke 6:20-21
75 Matthew 6:25-34
76 Mark 11:24 (Similar teachings are at Matthew 21:22 and John 14:12-14, 15:7, and 16:23-24.)
77 Luke 6:37
78 Matthew 5:39
79 Luke 6:29-30
80 Matthew 5:5
81 Luke 11:50-51
82 Mark 3:29
83 I John 5:7
84 Matthew 5:22
85 Mark 16:15-16
86 For additional examples of disproportionate punishments, see the above discussion of Jesus' support for the death-penalty provisions of the Mosaic Law.
87 See footnotes 19, 20 and 24, above, and the accompanying text.
88 Greeley, Roger E., (Ed.) The Best of Robert Ingersoll (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1983), p. 6.

%767 %America/Chicago, %2013

Doomsday

True, the rabid Christian Right only represents a small percentage of the population, but they still number in the millions of organized, dedicated ditto-heads. The leading fanatical religious groups have a combined income of hundreds of millions per year. In militant followers and financial resources, we don't compare in the slightest!

To make this nightmare apocalyptic, consider: If we are to believe the polls, about 90% of Americans are favorable to Christianity. At least 70% believe in angels. About 60% accept as true the salient myths and dogmas of the Jesus Cult. Slightly over one-third believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible. Over 30% are convinced that Christ will return in their lifetimes!

This collective idiocy is due to two interlocking conditions: The tax exemptions for religion permit the fanatics to amass great wealth from donations and business ventures. Hence, they lack for little in spreading their propaganda and effecting political influence. Their task is made incredibly easier by our shoddy educational system. Our schools, at nearly all levels, seriously neglect the teaching of a comprehensive history and comparison of religions. Even when taught, such courses are frequently biased or otherwise inadequate. Virtually absent from curricula are courses that touch upon critical thinking and the need for skepticism. A religion-toadying mass media don't help. The United States has some of the world's finest research institutions, but on average, we are a country of general knowledge and scientific illiterates. Small wonder that among advanced nations, ours is the most religious by far.

It must be impressed upon the freethought community, and anyone else who will listen, that the horrors of the Middle Ages, when Christianity was in absolute control, were not the result of an off-beat biblical interpretation, just one of many possible renderings of Scripture. It is the only logical interpretation possible if the Bible is assumed to be true in every word and to reveal god's will accordingly. The logical end point of rigid belief in biblical inerrancy is brutal theocracy with the stifling of secular learning, the gory suppression of dissent, and the extermination of "witches." The medieval inquisitors, torturers, and gatherers of wood for execution pyres were merely being consistent.

The Christian or biblical reconstructionists whose raison d'etre undergirds the "thinking" of Pat Robertson and his ilk, openly advocate the killing of those with whom they disagree or are found morally lacking in their opinion. Though the lash of the Christian Right now falls heaviest upon abortion physicians and the sexually "immoral," all not in their camp must be made aware that they are next on the list. (See, for example, Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.)

The rabid members of the Christian Right are so dedicated to their awful cause because they think they are buying a niche in "heaven" and avoiding the "hell" reserved for the rest of us. No matter how groundless and utterly silly this is, to deeply believe it is powerful motivation. Regretfully, history shows that irrational fanaticism frequently overwhelms reason. We must be equally dedicated ourselves to maintain what freedom we have left and leave a world worth living in for our descendants. To fail means an eventual return to the Dark Ages with modern technology to enforce control. (All freethinkers must become activists!)

Alex Simpson
Alaska

%767 %America/Chicago, %2013

Doomsday

True, the rabid Christian Right only represents a small percentage of the population, but they still number in the millions of organized, dedicated ditto-heads. The leading fanatical religious groups have a combined income of hundreds of millions per year. In militant followers and financial resources, we don't compare in the slightest!

To make this nightmare apocalyptic, consider: If we are to believe the polls, about 90% of Americans are favorable to Christianity. At least 70% believe in angels. About 60% accept as true the salient myths and dogmas of the Jesus Cult. Slightly over one-third believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible. Over 30% are convinced that Christ will return in their lifetimes!

This collective idiocy is due to two interlocking conditions: The tax exemptions for religion permit the fanatics to amass great wealth from donations and business ventures. Hence, they lack for little in spreading their propaganda and effecting political influence. Their task is made incredibly easier by our shoddy educational system. Our schools, at nearly all levels, seriously neglect the teaching of a comprehensive history and comparison of religions. Even when taught, such courses are frequently biased or otherwise inadequate. Virtually absent from curricula are courses that touch upon critical thinking and the need for skepticism. A religion-toadying mass media don't help. The United States has some of the world's finest research institutions, but on average, we are a country of general knowledge and scientific illiterates. Small wonder that among advanced nations, ours is the most religious by far.

It must be impressed upon the freethought community, and anyone else who will listen, that the horrors of the Middle Ages, when Christianity was in absolute control, were not the result of an off-beat biblical interpretation, just one of many possible renderings of Scripture. It is the only logical interpretation possible if the Bible is assumed to be true in every word and to reveal god's will accordingly. The logical end point of rigid belief in biblical inerrancy is brutal theocracy with the stifling of secular learning, the gory suppression of dissent, and the extermination of "witches." The medieval inquisitors, torturers, and gatherers of wood for execution pyres were merely being consistent.

The Christian or biblical reconstructionists whose raison d'etre undergirds the "thinking" of Pat Robertson and his ilk, openly advocate the killing of those with whom they disagree or are found morally lacking in their opinion. Though the lash of the Christian Right now falls heaviest upon abortion physicians and the sexually "immoral," all not in their camp must be made aware that they are next on the list. (See, for example, Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.)

The rabid members of the Christian Right are so dedicated to their awful cause because they think they are buying a niche in "heaven" and avoiding the "hell" reserved for the rest of us. No matter how groundless and utterly silly this is, to deeply believe it is powerful motivation. Regretfully, history shows that irrational fanaticism frequently overwhelms reason. We must be equally dedicated ourselves to maintain what freedom we have left and leave a world worth living in for our descendants. To fail means an eventual return to the Dark Ages with modern technology to enforce control. (All freethinkers must become activists!)

Alex Simpson
Alaska

%767 %America/Chicago, %2013

Doomsday

True, the rabid Christian Right only represents a small percentage of the population, but they still number in the millions of organized, dedicated ditto-heads. The leading fanatical religious groups have a combined income of hundreds of millions per year. In militant followers and financial resources, we don't compare in the slightest!

To make this nightmare apocalyptic, consider: If we are to believe the polls, about 90% of Americans are favorable to Christianity. At least 70% believe in angels. About 60% accept as true the salient myths and dogmas of the Jesus Cult. Slightly over one-third believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible. Over 30% are convinced that Christ will return in their lifetimes!

This collective idiocy is due to two interlocking conditions: The tax exemptions for religion permit the fanatics to amass great wealth from donations and business ventures. Hence, they lack for little in spreading their propaganda and effecting political influence. Their task is made incredibly easier by our shoddy educational system. Our schools, at nearly all levels, seriously neglect the teaching of a comprehensive history and comparison of religions. Even when taught, such courses are frequently biased or otherwise inadequate. Virtually absent from curricula are courses that touch upon critical thinking and the need for skepticism. A religion-toadying mass media don't help. The United States has some of the world's finest research institutions, but on average, we are a country of general knowledge and scientific illiterates. Small wonder that among advanced nations, ours is the most religious by far.

It must be impressed upon the freethought community, and anyone else who will listen, that the horrors of the Middle Ages, when Christianity was in absolute control, were not the result of an off-beat biblical interpretation, just one of many possible renderings of Scripture. It is the only logical interpretation possible if the Bible is assumed to be true in every word and to reveal god's will accordingly. The logical end point of rigid belief in biblical inerrancy is brutal theocracy with the stifling of secular learning, the gory suppression of dissent, and the extermination of "witches." The medieval inquisitors, torturers, and gatherers of wood for execution pyres were merely being consistent.

The Christian or biblical reconstructionists whose raison d'etre undergirds the "thinking" of Pat Robertson and his ilk, openly advocate the killing of those with whom they disagree or are found morally lacking in their opinion. Though the lash of the Christian Right now falls heaviest upon abortion physicians and the sexually "immoral," all not in their camp must be made aware that they are next on the list. (See, for example, Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.)

The rabid members of the Christian Right are so dedicated to their awful cause because they think they are buying a niche in "heaven" and avoiding the "hell" reserved for the rest of us. No matter how groundless and utterly silly this is, to deeply believe it is powerful motivation. Regretfully, history shows that irrational fanaticism frequently overwhelms reason. We must be equally dedicated ourselves to maintain what freedom we have left and leave a world worth living in for our descendants. To fail means an eventual return to the Dark Ages with modern technology to enforce control. (All freethinkers must become activists!)

Alex Simpson
Alaska

%766 %America/Chicago, %2013

Secular CD Makes History

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce the release of its first musical CD: "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," featuring Dan Barker, the first CD of its kind. The 2-CD collection of contemporary and some historic freethought music contains 34 songs--more than two hours of secular entertainment!

The listener-requested compact disk set includes 31 digitally remastered favorites from the Foundation's three previously released cassettes: "My Thoughts Are Free" (1987), "Reason's Greetings" (1992) and "Freethought Then & Now" (1999)--plus three new releases. The cassettes will remain in stock for anyone preferring tapes.

Included in the new CD are many of Dan's oft-requested songs, such as the very first freethought song he wrote after leaving the ministry, the bluesy "You Can't Win with Original Sin." Other favorites include: "Nothing Fails Like Prayer," a cha-cha traditionally performed at the Foundation's annual convention during the "nonprayer breakfast;" Dan's touching renditions of Ingersoll prose and poetry in "Love" and "Declaration of the Free"; "The Battle of Church & State" (to the tune of "Jericho"); the "Stay-Away Pope Polka"; and of course, "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," his conception of what Mr. Rogers might sing to children . . . were he an atheist.

Among the historic songs are a rousing rendition of the feminist anthem of 1912, "Bread & Roses"; Joe Hill's "Preacher & the Slave" performed with Kristin Lems; the German freethought song from the 1500's, "Die Gedanken Sind Frei" ("thoughts are free"), also with Kristin; and Tom Lehrer's ever-popular "Vatican Rag."

Joining the tried and true are three new songs by Dan recorded for this collection. "Freedom From Religion," an energetic rock-ballad a la Elton John, based on Foundation president Anne Gaylor's saying that "there can be no religious freedom without the freedom to dissent," will make you smile. "We, The People," a driving mambo (complete with freethought background vocals), affirms America's secular heritage. "Lucifer's Lament" is a tongue-in-cheek, laid-back hip-hop, complaining that the Man Upstairs is upstaging the devil. Dan begins the song on the lowest note of the piano, and had fun playing the "Onward, Christian Solders" interlude in the locrian mode (the "Devil's mode").

The attractive 2-CD collection is available for $20.00 postpaid (that's 59¢ a song!) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701. Order it online here.

Also on the album: "Sunday Morning Blues"; "The World Is My Country," waltz based on Thomas Paine; "God's Grandeur," a "showtune," lyrics by Philip Appleman; "I Don't Need Jesus" and "Life Is Good!" in "gospel" style; "Blood Brothers," "Promise of Dawn" and "Higher Mind" ballads; "Freethinker Blues"; "Reincarnation," lyrics by cowboy poet Wallace D. McRae; "Just Say 'NO' To Religion," protest rock; "FFRF," lyrics by Ruth Green; "No Gods, No Masters," tribute to Margaret Sanger; "The World's Need," by Ella Wheeler Wilcox; "The Time To Be Happy Is Now," waltz based on Ingersoll's creed, with children's vocals; "The Trinity," hilarious rendition of Ingersoll; "Vicar of Bray," amusing 18th-century English ballad; "No Hurry To Die," humorous rhumba for kids of all ages; "Solstice Tribute," turning a Christmas carol on its head; and "Benediction," a secular "hymn" by Sherry Matulis.

%764 %America/Chicago, %2013

Darwin Updates the Book of Genesis

In his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin offered a novel explanation for the earth's diversity of plants and animals. All the myriad forms, he wrote, came into being through "natural selection" much as new varieties of dogs and pigeons are brought into being through artificial selection. Natural selection, at first called a theory, eventually won a place in world thought as an established principle. The transformation of genetic lines through time by means of natural selection came to be known as evolution.

Darwin's idea emerged in a century when leading scientists were beginning to doubt current estimates of the earth's youthfulness (a few thousand years). They were also learning that certain faunas and floras which had been fossilized long ago differ greatly from those still alive. They were beginning to recognize the what of changes in life's patterns but were still unclear as to the how and why. They could only imagine the hidden forces that might have caused some species to vanish from the fossil record while allowing others to survive.

Darwin based his explanation of three known qualities of living organisms. First, no two individuals are identical. (Today, we know the main reasons for variation, including genetic mistakes and genetic drift, the random shuffling of genes during reproduction, and hybridizing in the wild.) Second, every organism produces more offspring than it needs to replace itself. Witness the male rabbit, successfully fertilizing forty females in one day, and the oyster, shedding 60 million eggs in a season. Third, every organism is continuously engaged in what Darwin called the struggle for life--the struggle to find food and shelter; the struggle against pathogens, predators, and competitors; and the struggle against environmental hazards such as drouth, storm, flood, wildfire, and frost.

So, Darwin reasoned that the interplay among these forces brings about "the preservation of favoured races" or (in later editions of The Origin) "survival of the fittest." In this context, the fittest are simply the ones that contributed most to the gene pools of later generations. Fitness can thus be judged only in hindsight, by studying the success or failure of the individual genetic line through geological time. Darwin's conclusion "was essentially statistical and based on population dynamics" (Nobel prize-winning immunologist Sir Peter Medawar).

Natural selection has been proved and its pace has been measured in at least a hundred studies of plants and animals in the wild and in studies of microbes in cultures. For example: English sparrows were brought to eastern North America around 1850. In the next century and a half, their descendents spread rapidly over the entire continent from Canada to Central America, meanwhile evolving into three distinct varieties which are now fully equivalent to wild zoological subspecies. And, in test-tube studies (where bacteria can clock up a new generation every 3.5 hours) scientists recently ran natural selection "fast- forward." The bacteria, which at the start of the run had been randomly divided into three populations, evolved after ten years into three genetically distinct strains.

In certain intellectual backwaters of America, however, Darwin's idea is still rejected by millions who insist that only Almighty God could have created the splendid Circus of Life in which Homo sapiens plays the star performer. These millions--the "creationists"--argue that, because a clear explanation for life's rich diversity was written in the Book of Genesis nearly two thousand years ago, all secular revisions should be ignored or even opposed.

But the creationists' point is rebutted by men and women who hold that the Genesis story is only a myth. They see no need to bring magic into the debate; they choose a natural over a supernatural explanation. As did Darwin himself. He died disillusioned with divine intervention in earthly matters. "There seems to be," he wrote, "no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows."

Curiously, he had written earlier (in the first edition of The Origin) that life had "been breathed into a few forms or into one . . ." In the second (1860) edition he added, to the word "breathed," the words "by the creator." Some believe that the kindly Darwin made this addition to reassure his deeply devout wife that evolution is, after all, the handiwork of a Purposeful Mind.

Harvard University's Stephen Jay Gould points to "the embarrassing paradox of a technological nation [America] entering a new millennium with nearly half its people actively denying the greatest biological discovery ever made." He is referring, I think, to a recent survey of more than 1,200 college freshmen, in ten different schools, which indicated that 45 percent were skeptical of the "theory" of evolution.

Should we condemn those who reject Darwin's grand idea or, rather, should we pity them in their ignorance? Should we condemn American education at elementary and middle-school levels for failing to stimulate intellectual curiosity? Answers to these questions will vary with one's cultural background.

John Maynard Smith, among the greatest of twentieth-century evolutionary scholars, wrote in 1993 that Darwin's idea "is the only workable explanation that has ever been proposed for the remarkable fact of our own existence, indeed the existence of all life wherever it may turn up in the universe."

Natural selection, while deceptively simple at first glance, still poses many problems in its finer machinery. The evolutionary biologists, historians, and philosophers who are searching for solutions are surely reaching levels of spiritual exhilaration that others reach in probing the mysteries of religion.

After earning a Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Washington, Victor Scheffer entered service in 1937 in the federal Bureau of Biological Survey as a wildlife management biologist. On a National Science Foundation grant, he studied at Cambridge University in 1956-57, where he wrote his first book, Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses (1958).

Eleven other books, most of them dealing with outdoor values and biology, would follow. The Year of the Whale (1969) helped spark the marine mammal conservation movement of the 1970s.

Dr. Scheffer taught at the University of Washington as a part-time lecturer from 1966 to 1972. He served as chair of the first U.S. Marine Mammal Commission from 1973 to 1976.

His honors include awards from the Department of the Interior, the John Burroughs Memorial Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Society for Conservation Biology, the American Society of Mammalogists, and the Society for Marine Mammalogy.
Norton's Darwin Just Released

The Third Edition of Norton's Darwin (Indiana University), edited by poet and Darwin scholar Philip Appleman, a Foundation member, has just been released.

The critical edition examines the history of ideas preceding and following the watershed of the Origin of Species, Prof. Appleman writes, and "situates the current evolution controversies in their rich and intriguing context."

Although the 1970 Norton Critical Edition served for 30 years as a standard college textbook, the third edition is so radically revised that "it is virtually a brand new book," and of interest to the general reader.

New work is included by Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, Kevin Padian, Eugenie C. Scott, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Michael Ruse, Frans de Waal, Noretta Koertge, George C. Williams, George Levine, Stephen Jay Gould, Gillian Beer, Ernst Mayr, and many others. A new introduction by Philip Appleman is included.
Celebrate Darwin Day
Born February 12, 1809

". . .For my part I would as soon be descended from [a] baboon . . . as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies . . . treats his wives like slaves . . . and is haunted by the grossest superstitions."--Darwin, Descent of Man

"I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.

"And this is a damnable doctrine."

". . . The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by a man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws. . .

"The state of mind which grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which was intimately connected with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which is often called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain the genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the existence of God, any more than the powerful though vague and similar feelings excited by music. . .

. . .The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.--Darwin, Autobiography (1958 version, restoring the original omissions from Darwin's Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, published posthumously in 1887)

%759 %America/Chicago, %2013

"We Done Good"

Clarence Reinders, a Life Member of the Foundation, was principal plaintiff in the lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenging a shrine to Jesus in a public park in Marshfield, Wisconsin. The city responded to the lawsuit by selling the land under the statue to a group formed to "save" it. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the Foundation's favor, ordering the erection of disclaimers and a fence to differentiate the shrine from the rest of the park.

 

I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed that we were unsuccessful in removing the religious idol from the public park.

However, the more I look at the accompanying picture the more I am convinced that this was the best possible outcome of our efforts.

The Praschak Memorial Group could have moved the idol to another location and the City of Marshfield could have saved itself $60,060.00 of our legal expenses plus other expenses, like the cost of the erection of the fence and the two large disclaimer signs, and that would have been the end of it. Case closed. In a short time nearly everyone would have forgotten all about it.

But now our successful defense of the First Amendment will be long immortalized. We have encaged behind an iron fence for all to see the central figure of a major religion. There are two huge disclaimer signs stating affirmatively the principle of separation of church and state. And this will be ongoing into the distant future.

Whenever anyone looks at the idol in its newly-imprisoned setting he/she will see the fruits of our labors in defense of the First Amendment. With the fence and disclaimer signs we have left our freethought mark of state/church separation for posterity.

The idol cannot now be viewed except through our American secular lens, driving home daily to the viewers their true First Amendment rights. The religious shrine will now be viewed, surrounded and sanitarily confined, by a memorial to the First Amendment.

We done good.

%759 %America/Chicago, %2013

"God Made Them Do It"

God sent attackers. Two Rastafarians who set a cathedral ablaze and killed a nun in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, told police they were sent by God to combat corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. Source: Associated Press/Lincoln [NE] Journal/Star, Jan. 2, 2001

Bible made him do it. A court in Cranbrook, British Columbia, rejected defendant Darryl McDowell's plea that the bible gave him the right to discipline his family with a 30-inch wooden rod, finding him guilty of assault in early November.

God's warrior nabbed. A Pennsylvania man who said God called him to be a "warrior" by killing abortion providers and who claimed "the Lord made me invisible" once when escaping from police was convicted in Illinois of various federal charges. Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 7, 2000

Religion dangerous for mental health. Mississippi mother Sharon Cross Gray told neighbors that Jesus and God told her to stab her 2-year-old daughter on the front steps of her church. The condition of the toddler was not reported. Gray's sister was found innocent by reason of insanity for killing her son, 11, by slitting his throat in 1998. Source: [Macon] Telegraph, Nov. 29, 2000

Muslim tragedy. San Francisco-area police have charged Kenneth Earl Tyson Jr., with killing girlfriend Naima Melody Johnson the day after she removed her traditional Muslim headdress and put on makeup to serve as maid of honor at a friend's wedding. Source: AP/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin [Ontario, CA], Dec. 15, 2000

Couple acquitted. A faith-healing couple was acquitted of child abuse charges for waiting hours to seek medical help after their 2-year-old son died from brain-swelling after being stung 432 times by yellow jackets. Prosecutors were forbidden to tell the jury that Whylie and Kelly Johnson, Melbourne, Fl., belong to a Christian sect equating medicine with sorcery. Source: Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 2000

Ouch! Convicted Brazilian rapist Flavio dos Santos Cruz, 23, sliced off his penis and flushed it down the toilet, saying the amputation would bring him closer to God, citing instructions from the Sermon on the Mount. Source: Reuters, Jan. 5, 2001

God is a nudist? An agitated man apprehended by police in Oshkosh, WI, for walking naked down a street explained "I am God," and recommended that "all people should get undressed." Source: Capital Times, May 24, 2000
Ashcroft: "Jesus Is King"

Former Missouri U.S. Senator John Ashcroft, expected as of presstime to be approved as U.S. Attorney General, was handpicked by the Religious Right, according to a news story in the Jan. 7 New York Times. The Times noted that if confirmed, Ashcroft "would reach the highest office ever attained by a leading figure of the Christian right."

In response to media pressure, Bob Jones University, where Ashcroft accepted an honorary degree in 1999, released the video transcript of his remarks there. Ashcroft told the segregationist college:

"Unique among nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. And because we have understood that our source is eternal, America has been different. We have no king but Jesus."

In a statement, the Foundation noted: "The founding fathers who threw off the yokes of kings and monarchies likewise ensured through our founding document that government and citizens would not be yoked by the tyranny of religion. . . .

"Ashcroft's intemperate, inaccurate and inflammatory remarks at Bob Jones University raise a red flag that should alarm any thoughtful individual. Many U.S. citizens are unbelievers, Jews and other nonChristians who do not recognize Jesus as 'king,' nor do the vast majority of nominally religious, unchurched Americans."
BSA, UW Tie Leaves "Sauer" Taste

The Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted the University of Wisconsin-Madison in January over its concerns about UW men's hockey coach Jeff Sauer fundraising for the Boy Scouts of America on UW time. The local Boy Scouts of America, in a news release announcing a $3.5 million fundraising drive, said Sauer would "kick off" the fundraising at a UW hockey game.

"We believe that Mr. Sauer is free to aid the Boy Scouts as much as he likes--but only on his own time and property," Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote Chancellor John Wiley.

The University responded that Sauer would not be allowed do a fundraising pitch at the game. However, officials said any groups that sell group tickets at a discount are introduced before the game. The troop was also given use of a suite where Sauer greeted ticketholders prior to the game.

Gaylor censured the University for failing to join the many cities, public schools and corporations that have have cut off ties with Boy Scouts.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing the leadership of Reform Judaism, sent a memo in January to Reform Congregations nationwide urging them to sever ties with Boy Scouts because "of values and ethics that conflict with ours."

Churches and rightwing groups are threatening to overturn anti-gay ordinances in Broward County and Miami-Dade County, Florida, in response to cut-offs of public aid to Boy Scouts.

%758 %America/Chicago, %2013

Letter Box

Greetings from the South Pole

Greetings from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Jon Emanuel here, member since 1993.

If you're wondering what I'm doing down here, the answer is cooking dinner for our crew of 220+ scientists and the people who support them. This is my second tour proudly supporting science as a contractor to the National Science Foundation.

I'm sending a photo I thought you might enjoy. It was taken on the Solstice.

In it, you'll find the spot marking the Geographic South Pole---the very bottom of the globe. That's me holding a copy of Freethought Today, which I brought all the way down here from my home in Alaska. The copy is wrapped around the actual "South Pole" marker--thereby crossing every time zone and line of longitude on the planet. "Freethought Around the World"---pretty cool, eh?

Hope you're all having a great time up there--I hear it's colder there than it is here! I should be visiting Wisconsin sometime in the spring. I'd love to stop by the Hall and say hello.

Jon Emanuel
Alaska
Let Reason Prevail

Kudos for your placement of the "Winter Solstice" plaque in the Capitol rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin.

I recently showed friends from abroad (Netherlands and Taiwan) the architecture of the Capitol. Both were impressed that such a magnificent structure could be left open to the public without guards or security of any noticeable sort. My explanation was that, as a free nation, trust is placed in the judgment of the people who own the building (that is, the general public) to use and protect their own resources.

When we came across the Winter Solstice plaque, I was struck by the fact that our conversation about freedom was so boldly reflected in your statement. There, amidst the tree and otherwise relatively subdued holiday displays, was the beautiful line, "Let Reason Prevail." It struck a chord in me. I think I shall adopt it as my personal motto.

At home, I found your website and sent the quote to several friends.

Craig Walker
Wisconsin
Kudos for Eric Zorn, Student Essays

I loved "No Graven Images & Other Reflections," by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn (Dec. 2000). It is total common sense, easy to read. Every word is exactly what I wish I had the talent to formulate and express.

I wonder how long until our rural area will have journalists like Mr. Zorn? Our only paper continues to appall my senses with extreme right-wing opinions from columnists and the editor!

Freethought Today "washes" my mind of the daily pollution I suffer here in Mormon country!

I always am impressed with the student essays you publish. They are wise way beyond their years!

Connie Chabot
Idaho
Proudly, Unequivocally Secular

When I received the December Freethought Today, which I usually read from cover to cover (always a joy), I had to read the back page first, lured by the headline ("The Facts vs. The O'Reilly Factor").

No need to guess how O'Reilly would do on the Foundation's State/ Church Quiz. He is obviously a bully pulpit tactician. His weak-kneed semi-mea culpa, "The Constitution itself is a secular document," is evidence that he got a lot more intelligent flak than he is willing to acknowledge.

As for FFRF & Freethought Today and all you good people involved, I acknowledge and shout with fierce enthusiasm, "Long may you continue in your great work."

As for me, I'm proud to be unequivocally secular--like the Constitution.

Mildred Perpigna
Washingto
Why Didn't I Think of That?

Recently I was in Border's bookstore and came across a book titled A Complete Idiot's Guide to the Bible.

How come I did not think of this title?

T. Hartin
Illinois

Editor's note: In addition to this book, which is for real, there is also one titled "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the World Religions" and another called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Prayer"!
Counterbalance Welcomed

If the ranks of freethinkers indeed include billionaires, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, as indicated in "Who's Who in Hell?" (Dec. 2000), one wonders why we do not hear of their contributing significant sums to the cause. Such would be a welcome counterbalance to the many opposing contributions coming from the Wal-Mart, Domino Pizza, and other such fortunes, not to mention the huge amounts raised by televangelists.

Just think what might be accomplished if freethought controlled a media empire comparable to Pat Robertson's!

John G. Fletcher
California
Two Dedicated Members

My daughter is about to turn 18 and I could think of no more appropriate coming-of-age gift than her own membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She has lived vicariously through mine for the six years I've been a member now and has even emailed you about issues that concerned her. She looks forward as much to my copy of Freethought Today as I do, though she waits patiently for me to finish it first. I thought it about time she got her own.

It will be a real pleasure to receive two issues at our address. Rest assured you have two dedicated members here.

Donna Hamel
New York
Visitors Like Freethought Today

I have been enjoying Freethought Today for the past few months. My brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting from Canada for Thanksgiving, had the same reaction I did when they saw an issue of it--they had to have it!

I would like to purchase a subscription for them.

Thank you! Keep up the great work you are doing for all of us freethinkers!

Colleen A. Zaccaria
Pennsylvania
Thumbs Down on Templeton

After many years of membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I sadly must allow my membership to lapse because of the unfortunate relationship with the Templeton religious organization.

Over 90% of top scientists are nontheists, and should be aware of the terrible history of suppression of science by religion that continues to this day. I do not want any interference with cloning and genetic engineering (it could prolong my life) because the religious think it might be some god's exclusive business.

Until this relationship ends, I cannot continue to support AAAS.

J.B. Osborne Florida
Credit Atheist, Not Miracle

Some need proof that atheists can be good folks:

As I walked down the street, returning from holiday food shopping, I looked down and saw a beautiful wallet. I picked it up. To my surprise it was full! This happened at a bus stop so I was sure it had been dropped as the owner boarded.

At home I went through the wallet and found a name and address but no phone number. The owner lived only a few blocks away, so I decided to deliver it. My knock was answered by a woman who summoned her son, saying, "Your wallet has been miraculously found!"

Both hugged and kissed me, then invited me in and told me the real story. He had been robbed at gunpoint--almost killed! They both had been distraught ever since.

Their appreciation and constant reference to god encouraged me to say I was an atheist. They were astonished! They now have personal experience with the fact that atheists can be good folks and this was a surprise.

June Krebs
Pennsylvania
Bible Belt Time Travel

I recently made a 28-day trip from California to New York and back. Part of what made it pleasant was playing Johnny Appleseed. The only difference was that I did not plant apple seeds, but thought seeds, FFRF "nontracts."

I left nontracts everywhere I went, particularly at public telephones. I found it gratifying that perhaps someone with lingering doubts, especially in the so-called bible belt, would be pulled over to reason if they read it.

Also, when paying for services, I used cash. I offered bills that had the words "In God" from "In God We Trust" obliterated. Altogether I must have distributed over 200 nontracts and bills totaling over $1,000. It's fun and I recommend it to other freethought travelers, no matter what their mode of transportation.

By the way, when traveling east, you will set your clock back one hour as you enter each time zone so that you're in the same time frame as those who live there. When you enter the bible belt, set it back 2,000 years for the same reason.

Niko Theris
California
Uneasy in Religious State

I just wanted to thank you for the work you do. I came upon your website about two years ago, when I was a student at the University of Oklahoma. It had a profound effect on my thinking, as I had been a member of a Southern Baptist Church for my entire life (no big surprises there, coming from Oklahoma).

I was struggling with some doubts that I had about my faith, which can be largely attributed to the philosophy classes I was taking in school. I was feeling a lot of guilt, and was still holding on to my irrational fear of the possible consequences of not believing. Most of my family and friends are extremely religious, and I was concerned about the possible impact that my lack of belief could have on those relationships. Once I read the story of Dan Barker's experience with some of these things, I felt much more confident about my position. I now have a son who is 19 months old, and he will be raised in an environment where he is free to think and decide for himself.

Living in a very religious state, it is not always easy to hold the views that I do. I often visit the Freedom From Religion website, and it helps me gain some perspective. You do really great work.

Courtney Kneifl
Oklahoma
Catholic Component of Supreme Court

It cannot be denied that Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy consider all abortion to be murder. They are bound to do so by the infallible Papal Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," which they consider a "higher law" than the U.S. Constitution that they swore to uphold.

Let's face it, they believe that a Bush Presidency will lead to a Supreme Court that will overrule Roe v. Wade and approve parochial school tax vouchers; while a Gore Presidency may not, and that these "higher law ends" justify the means--the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 political intervention in the Florida 2000 election to prevent a full hand count of votes, a fateful precedent to interfere in all future state elections.

Who knows what some future American Mussolini, Stalin or worse, will do some day with such a power?

The tragedy is that such unprincipled opportunism destroys the integrity of the Presidency, the separation of church and state, and the balance of powers that our forefathers gave their all to establish. The Justices' names will live in infamy.

John Tomasin, Esq.
New Jersey
Try Subversive Wording

In his great student essay "One Nation . . ." (Nov. 2000), Eric Breitenstein related how he would get through the choral recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at school, by substituting subversive words of his own choosing.

I had a similar experience years ago, when I participated in a Twelve-Step program, and each meeting ended with everyone joining hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. As an atheist, I just couldn't bring myself to say those words, and yet I didn't want to make a fuss or to draw attention to myself. So I composed my own prayer, to sound so much like what everyone else was saying that nobody noticed me, no matter how loudly I "prayed":

Our Powers are within,
Whatever be their name.
What they have done, what still may come,
This Earth can yet be as Heaven.
Live then this day, and without dread,
And forgive your own trespasses
As you forgive those who trespass against you.
And be not led into temptation,
But flee away from evil,
For Time is the Healer,
With power to restore me,
Forever and ever, Amen.

Richard Packham Oregon
Dear Dr. Laura . . .

OK. We capitulate. After being emailed and sent umpteen copies of the below clever, anonymous letter circulating everywhere, we're finally publishing it in Freethought Today for the record. It's worth reading, again!

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Lev. 20:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Anonymous

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