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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Letter to the Editor Competition
American Atheists Letter to the Editor Competition 2011
The Letter to the Editor Competition 2011 is open only to members of American Atheists. To enter, either mail a clipping or send me a link to your published letter. Be sure that the date your letter is published and name of the publication is included. Entries must be published between January 1 and December 31, 2010. Guest editorials may also be submitted. Entries need to be received on or before January 30, 2011. Don't forget to include your contact information -- address, telephone number, and e-mail address if you have one.
Letters and guest editorials can cover any issue of importance which advances the Atheist cause. Entries will be judged by educational content, persuasiveness, and how well they portray Atheism in a positive light. Members of the American Atheists board, officers, and State and Regional Directors are ineligible to enter. The winner will be announced at the national Convention 2011, receive an American Atheist award plaque, and be offered the opportunity to read their winning entry at the Convention awards dinner. All entered letters will be displayed at Convention 2011.
Send your entries to:
P. O. Box 828
Previous Competition Winners:
2010Galen RoseDamariscotta, MN\An Entreaty to Parents --\
The Free Press (serving midcoast Maine), September 17, 2009
An Entreaty to Parents --
I am writing in response to \A Challenge to Parents,\ by Judy Howlett,published in the September 10 edition of this newspaper. Ms. Howlettwrote, \I am going to make arguments for church school attendance. Seeif you can make as many valid arguments against church schoolattendance.\
Ms. Howlett stresses the positive, communityaspects of church, with which I have no problem. When people worktogether to improve their own and others' well-being, that is laudable.But, of course, that happens outside of church, too.
Incontrast to Ms. Howlett, I would say to parents, \Please, please, DONOT send your children to church school!\ Let's face it, church schoolexists for the purpose of indoctrinating children into a specific,Bible-based worldview. It is a perversion of real education, since ithas nothing to do with teaching children how to think; its purpose isto teach them what to think. The teachers in these schools are intenton convincing the children that the Bible has all the answers, that theBible is truth incarnate. In fact, nothing could be further from thetruth. According to Matthew 21:21, \Jesus replied, \I tell you thetruth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what wasdone to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throwyourself into the sea,' and it will be done.\ But we all know that noone can actually command a mountain to throw itself into the sea. Thisis nonsense. All we have learned through science about how the worldreally works has begun with doubt. According to the Bible, disease iscaused by demons. Had no one doubted this, we would never have learnedthat disease is caused by microorganisms, toxic chemicals and geneticaccidents. According to church schools, doubt is the greatest error andoften the devious, undermining work of Satan. In the real world, doubtis the first step to discovery and true understanding of the world asit is.
If you send your child to church school, her teacherswill fill her head with superstitious nonsense. Do you really want herto believe in talking snakes, magical fruit trees, witches, ghosts,demons, dragons and 900-year-old men? They are all in the Bible. Thesestories were made up thousands of years ago by primitive, superstitiousbarbarians who knew next to nothing about how the world really works.Do you really want her to believe that this God she is being taught toworship has created a hell for those who doubt the dogma or otherwisedisplease him? There is a website, exchristian.net, that regularlypublishes the testimonies of people who suffered for decades with theagonizing fear that they or their friends and family might end up inhell because of their doubts or minor \sins.\ Some of these people wereseverely damaged, emotionally and intellectually, by these Biblicalteachings.
Ms. Howlett implies that without church school yourchildren are likely to grow up without morals. But in order to teachthem morality from the Bible you must deceive them about much of whatis in that book; you must carefully hide from the children thosepassages that command the execution of disobedient sons (Deuteronomy21:18-21), homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13) and anyone who works on theSabbath (Exodus 25:2). Even little children today would not accept sucha repugnant \morality.\ And I would argue that none of us reallylearned morality from the Bible anyway; we learned all the essentialsfrom our parents and other caretakers as tots, before we knew anythingabout theology. Remember the book All I Really Need to Know I Learnedin Kindergarten ? It was in kindergarten, and before, that we learnednever to hurt others on purpose, to not take others' toys, to clean upafter ourselves, and all of the other really important stuff. Nobodyneeds church school for this.
Please, don't send your childrento church school! Why not take them to the Rachel Carson tidal pool inBristol instead, and help them to begin discovering how the worldreally works. Or, get them a small microscope and let them see some ofthose amazing microorganisms for themselves. The real world is filledwith wonders; to fill children's eager young minds with superstition isa shame. The future belongs to those who accept reality and seek tounderstand it. Superstition should always be aggressively discouragedand shown for what it is -- a damaging wound to individual human mindsand a destructive impediment to the progress of mankind.
2009Niko TherisLaguna Beach, CA\One and only beautiful, natural and happy life\The Laguna Beach Independent,
March 21, 2008One and only beautiful, natural and happy life
April Fool's day is approaching and this damned fool (the damned part taken literally by some) would like to comment on foolishness.
Psalm 14;1 says, \The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.\ The psalm goes on to say, \They (me and over one million other Americans) are corrupt, have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.\
Guess who it is that we see on TV and read about in the newspapers that are caught being corrupt, doing abominable works (especially sexual abuse of children and the cover up of same) and doing bad things? It's the very people who embrace Psalm 14:1! So who is the fool, or more to the point, who is it that is being fooled?
I/We are not foolish enough to believe that we don't have equal rights in this democratic secular nation. I for one am not foolish enough to passively let the majority marginalize or silence me. This fool in his heart feels that the U.S. Constitution gives him the right to lead an unobtrusive life (contrary to the pious).
Most importantly, I/we imbue our children with humanistic ethics, kindness, values and morality. We cherish our children's youthful innocence, spontaneity and joyfulness. We prolong and savor those irreplaceable childhood joys by abstaining from indoctrinating them with fearful hell and damnation ideas.
What is beyond belief (pun?) is that anyone would sacrifice experiencing this one and only beautiful, natural and happy life for some nebulous otherworldly promises. And I'm not fooling.
Niko Theris,Laguna Beach
2008Niko TherisLaguna Beach, CA\Non-religious want tolerance\Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, Friday, September 7, 2007
Non-religious want tolerance The sense of fairness and justice (morality?) compels me to comment on the last vestige of socially acceptable discrimination in America. It is the discrimination against one in seven of Laguna Beach residents who don't self identify with a religion, and are secularists, or humanists, or agnostics or atheists.
Because we (yes, I'm one of them) are unfoundedly demonized by so many of our \good\ neighbors, I'd like to attempt to describe who we really are.
We're grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, and youngsters mature enough to probe and discern important matters. We're your nex-door neighbors. We're schoolteachers and students. We're patriotic American citizens. We proudly march in the Patriots Day parade, some of us even playing in the bands.
We're your co-workers. We're members of the same business and social organizations that you belong to. We own shops, businesses and galleries that you visit. We also shop in town.
We obey civil laws. We pay taxes. We attend city council meetings. We serve(d) in the military and some of us, contrary to the old canard, actually in foxholes.
Our divorce rates are low, and we rank extremely low in prison populations. Really?
Yes, really. And we also volunteer alongside you in bookshops, in feeding the homeless (without pushing our life-stance on them), at a youth shelter, in our beautiful wilderness park, in thrift shops, at our schools, and on and on.
The amazing thing is we do all these things not seeking promise of some future reward, nor in fear of eternal damnation if we don't, but because it's the decent human thing to do.
You don't see us and know who we are because we hesitate to reveal ourselves; we're conditioned to withhold our identity in the anticipation of scorn. However, we do exist and our numbers are growing. Wouldn't it be grand if everyone had the graciousness to pay homage to the faith they claim to believe in by practicing its tenets of love, compassion, tolerance, charity, brother/sisterhood, and accept all others as equal citizens?
Niko Theris,Laguna Beach
2007Gilbert D. ShapiroTuscon, AZ\Atheism is a liberating world view\
Arizona Daily Star, Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Atheism is a liberating world view Atheists are \seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public,\ according to a national survey conducted by the University of Minnesota.
The research, reported in April's American Sociological Review, sadly confirms to me that many of our citizens are uninformed and undereducated. The conclusions are an insult to an estimated 30 million Americans who are honest, rational, moral and unfortunately far too quiet.
It is therefore time for atheists to \come out of the closet\ and shout out loud the famous line, \I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any longer!\
I certainly do not speak for all atheists, but I think I can briefly clear up some misconceptions and clarify a few atheists positions.
Let's first affirm that atheism is not a religion. It is quite simply a fundamental world view that asserts that to date there has been no evidence for the existence (reality) of gods. Logically, it is therefore incumbent on believers to support their claims rather than the reverse.
The evidence that we do have argues quite strongly that the Judeo-Christian deity does not exist. For example, God is traditionally described as all-powerful, -knowing, -present and -good and not of time or space. Like square circles and married bachelors, it is an incoherent statement on its face and proven so by a simple reality check.
Scientific research just published in the American Heart Journal has found that praying for someone's health to improve is ineffective. Miracles (events that violate natural laws) have never been documented. Indeed, there has never been confirmation of divine intervention or, for that matter, anything supernatural.
Spirituality, regrettable for many, has never been shown to be anything more than just heightened human awareness. The suffering and misery resulting from tsunamis, earthquakes, famines, etc., are testimonies that nature is exquisitely indifferent to all living things.
Evolution, a nondebatable scientific truth (like gravity), denies the divine character of man as portrayed in the Bible. Faith, the underpinning and the engine that runs religion, is defined as belief without reason. In the rational world, if one has supportable reasons for a position, then one would not need faith. For atheists therefore, all belief has to be based on reason, logic and rational thought.
Atheists have observed that the deeper the religious belief the more there is a lack of intellectual integrity.
Whereas atheists would change their position the minute there was evidence for a god or for the supernatural, religionists are so hard-wired and vacuum sealed in their beliefs that they freely admit that their position is not even open for discussion.
Atheism is the liberating view incorporated in the philosophy of secular humanism. Its central theme is that man alone is solely responsible for his destiny on earth. Morality has been shown to be a product of human development over thousands of years; no deity is necessary to counsel us about right and wrong.
Atheists are continually amazed that Americans can reason with such clarity and critical thinking on most aspects of life except when it comes to God and religion. God, faith, religion, and the supernatural are, in the atheist's world view, the causes of the delusional wishful thinking that has at best, wasted man's time and at worst, been responsible for his most awful behaviors.
Gilbert D. Shapiro,Tucson
2006Allen CoxTacoma, WA\Public resources shouldn't promote religious views\
The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington, Saturday, December 17, 2005
Christmas: Public resources shouldn't promote religious views Letter writer Anthony DePersio (TNT, 12-15) expresses that church-state separation has gone too far.
Is the state preventing him from saying \Merry Christmas\ on his own time or putting up a Christmas tree in his home (and calling it a Christmas tree), or setting up a manger scene on his front lawn, or attending whatever church services he likes, or purchasing Christmas gifts from any merchant he chooses, or opening his Bible and reciting the Ten Commandments from his rooftop?
People of faith in the W.S. who complain about being religiously censored don't have a clue what religious persecution really is.
This is a religiously diverse nation. The state's job when it comes to religion is to make sure public resources (money, real estate, human resources) aren't used to promote religious views (such as a Ten Commandments display in a courthouse).
Is it fair for the government to promote Christianity over, say, Buddhism? And no one is forcing atheism on anybody just by making sure government doesn't use public resources to promote one religion over another.
Also, use of the word \godless\ as though it's derogatory represents the alarming degree of intolerance many in the country seem to have against others who don't share their views. It's a direct, arrogant slam against the millions of Americans who do not believe in a God. Atheism is a perfectly legitimate point of view.
Oh, and a Happy Winter Solstice to all.
2005Richard A. BusemeyerBoca Raton, FL\Think about what you believe in\
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Monday, May 17, 2004
Think about what you believe in
Is it any wonder that the vast majority of people believe that there is something called a \God\ and that our lives revolve around and are affected by that belief?
Never does a day go by that we don't hear the words \God bless you\ after someone sneezes. In the event of some tragedy, invariably someone will say, \Thank God it wasn't worse\ or \Thank God I didn't get killed.\
We are asked through the media to pray for one thing or another, be it a family in crisis or an area hit by something like a tornado. Not only are we subjected to the words \under God\ in the Pledge of Allegiance, but we see the words \In God we trust\ on our currency.
Our churches operate \tax-free.\ They pay no real estate tax, no income tax, so sales tax. Is it any wonder then that they can build them here, there and everywhere in ever more elaborate fashion? How can a nonbeliever compete with all of this? How can we ever hope to persuade others to at least think all of this through? Can they honestly believe that there is some mystical being out there guiding our lives and listening to those prayers, be they prayers for a home run in baseball or for some good fortune in the lottery?
I happen to be an atheist. After having been born to a Catholic family and consequently being raised and educated in that tradition, I was somehow able to decide for myself what I believe and what I don't believe.
I venture to say that there are not many who have any idea as to what it means to be an atheist. The very word conjures up the notion of a bad person, a communist or one who opposes religious people. Not true. An atheist simply does not believe in the notion of a \God.\
Furthermore, in the world in which we live, constantly barraged by the acceptance of the notion of a \God,\ it becomes extremely difficult for most people to even imagine anyone not believing. Think about it.
Richard A. Busemeyer,Boca Raton
2004Bob AlexanderSaginaw, MI(letter unavailable)
2003Steven NeubauerMount Wolf, PA\What if Pledge said 'under no God'?\
The York Dispatch, Monday, August 5, 2002
What if Pledge said 'under no God'?
Ed Foster complained about an unseen but \widespread move to eliminate religious expression from public discourse.\ Btu is there really a vast left-wing conspiracy out to get Foster and his God? Of course not. The problem isn't, as Foster claimed, people publicly expressing their views about religion. The problem arises when a government that is supposed to equally represent all citizens endorses, or gives the appearance of endorsing, one religious view over another.
And Foster's assertion that \under God\ should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the Bible has \shaped our culture\s underlying ethic\ is an ope admission that the \God\ in question is the Judeo-Christian God, not some nebulous deity that believers of all religions might embrace.
But is American really founded on biblical principles? The first four of the Ten Commandments virtually outlaw freedom of religion and are a cruel mockery of our First Amendment rights, as are other biblical laws that make many common forms of expression crimes punishable by death.
To say that the Bible, replete with tales of violence, hate and oppression in the name of God, inspired American notions of equality, justice, tolerance and civility is to lose all credibility as an intellectually honest, insightful citizen. Indeed, the fact that so many people insist that our laws are based on a book that demands the summary execution of nonbelievers is in itself a telling indication of the appalling insensitivity and duplicity inherent in belief in the biblical God.
Even so, people are free to stand on any street corner and publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance with any reference to God they wish to include. But those who demand that \under God\ remain in the Pledge that is recited in our public schools should ask themselves these questions: If all public school children were asked to stand and recite the Pledge with the words, \one nation, under no God,\ wouldn't Christians see this as an illegal government endorsement of atheism over Christianity? Even with the option of leaving the room, wouldn't they feel that Christian children were being coerced by authority figures into renouncing their God by affirming their patriotism?
Wouldn't Christians in this situation think their rights as Americans were being violated? Wouldn't they then be the first to demand government neutrality in the area of religion? Wouldn't they be right?
East Manchester Township, PA
2002David MandellFreemont, CA\Science needed for us to progress\
The Argus, (date unavailable)
Science Needed for Us to Progress
The Dec. 6 Argus editorial gave an excellent explanation on the topic, \California Ignores science education in Schools.\
One paragraph in particular state: \Rather than taking a holistic approach and giving our children the best comprehensive education possible, we're leaving beg holes in what they know.\
Besides scholastic holes in their curriculums, they are deprived of the biggest gift of all -- their ability to reason logically in an illogical world. Because logic is the basis of all science, every child therefore needs science in order to exercise their powers of reasoning.
Is it then any wonder that there is such a conflict between science and religion?
Science develops the mind to think with reason and logic. Religion does not.
Science has to prove with certitude its statements and accomplishments. Religion does not.
Regretfully for religion, science disproves many -- if not all -- of its suppositions. And that is the hidden underlying reason for not teaching science in schools.
Are we as human being going to progress intellectually or stay stagnate with continuing religious degenerative teachings? Albert Einstein said: \One think I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious think we have.\
David M. Mandell
2001Steven NeubauerMount Wolf, PA\Preaching About Religious Bigotry\ York Daily Record,
Monday, June 26, 2000
Preaching about religious bigotry
\What are you people doing here?\ was a common response to the presence of the PA Non-believers at the York Street Fair. Even thought our informal poll found that 16.6 percent of the fair crowd were atheists or agnostics, Christians were shocked and outraged that we would dare to express our views in public.
This irrational fear of exposure to rational thought may help explain why so many American children grow into adults who can't reason properly or behave ethically. One study showed that 99 percent of adults committing criminal acts were given religious training as children.
Many of these abused children are sold the lie that a story about a resurrected god-man is a literal historical fact. Worse yet, they are told that only belief in this mythical being will earn them an eternal award.
Murderers and child molesters who have accepted Jesus are assured of heaven. But all unbelievers, even those who have lead exemplary lives, will be tortured and tormented forever in the \lake of fire.\
The big business of Christianity and that includes all the Sunday morning hucksters, not just those on TV -- has placed a \Christian only: sigh at heaven's gate. Even if heaven is imaginary, the intent is no less evil than a \whites only\ sign at a water fountain or a \No Jews allowed\ sign at a country club.
It is no wonder that so many children trained in this sort of irrational bigotry grow up unable to tel good from evil.
When non-believers speak out, it is not because we have a right to do so, but because we have a moral responsibility as citizens to help remove the corrupting and divisive influences of religion from our community and our nation.
Steven NeubauerMount Wolf, PA
2000Chester W. TwarogW. Dover, VT
To the Editor:
I think the well-intentioned community members for their genuine outpouring of criticism and outrage over my complaint and the removal of \God\ from the Christian mural quote of Jesus, \With God All Things Are Possible\ (MT 19:26/MK 10:26). I was not removing \God\ from the school, nor preventing students from expressing themselves. This Christian quote violates the religious neutrality of a public school because it supports a particular religious belief, Christianity, and does not allow the free expression of other religious or nonreligious (atheist, agnostic, Hindu) beliefs. I complained about the school mural after serious reflection and biblical research (Yes, I do read the Holy Bible and encourage everyone to read it cover to cover). The local school board had not considered these sensitivities when they approved the mural quote 10 years ago and the student artist probably didn't know it was an original quote of Christ.
I am a science teacher and a physically disabled Vietnam era Air Force retired veteran with 20 years of honorable service. I support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I have never prevented anyone from expressing their religious beliefs, then or now. However, I am frequently prevented from openly expressing my atheistic views and I am frequently harassed because of them.
Some students in my eighth grade class made discriminatory and intolerant remarks about another religious gro9up in the community. I politely rebuked them for their remarks explaining that everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs. In spite of that, some students made false accusations to their parents to get me into \trouble.\
\Under God\ and \In God We Trust\ were not originally part of the Pledge of Allegiance nor on our monetary bills. The U.S. Congress voted to include these quotes in response to Communism in the 1950s. Please check your historical facts. I lead my eighth grade science class in the Pledge of Allegiance every day without any restrictions although, as an atheist, I don't say \under God,\ Some students shout out \under God\ to antagonize me, but I just smile and let it go.
Further, I don't deny nor prevent any student from wearing or showing their crosses. Most Christians are wonderful, communtity-oriented, loving and giving. However, the \cross\ personally offends me because it also symbolized Christian intolerance, torture, cruelty, genocide and brutality towards others and other Christians. Some groups of Christian Fundamentalists are even planning to use terrorism or suicide to initiate imaginary \End Times\ in Israel and elsewhere in the next few years.
Chester TwarogDover, VT
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