No Atheist Groups
Cooperated With Bush
Henry Neal Camp

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: failure notice]
Date: September 16, 2001 9:40 AM

We called for donations to the Red Cross within hours of the bombing -- 2:10 P.M. Pacific Time on the 11th, to be exact. This was precisely three hours after I found out about it (11:03 A.M. Pacific Time). Considering the fact that I immediately suffered a breakdown and was still in the middle of it when I issued the call to donate to the Red Cross is, I think, something you might wish to acknowledge in your assessment of our work at PAM.

I normally assume that people already know what to do in this respect, but this time I took no chances and repeated a message to the effect that the Red Cross desperately needs money, and that it needs money more than it needs volunteers. I got my information straight from the mouth of a just-activated Red Cross volunteer. I later warned the list about the scammers who are pretending to be collection points for the Red Cross and other rescue efforts. Again I double-checked my information before sending it out. This I likewise repeated because I felt it was too important to simply leave alone; I'd rather people be told something they already know than make a serious mistake on such a grave matter.

If falling apart emotionally to the point of needing emergency medical care is not an expression of sadness, compassion, and love, then I highly recommend that you look elsewhere for those needs which are met through the services that PAM provides: I most certainly cannot meet your needs.
 

The Red Cross is where donations should go in my opinion, not some sectarian group, religious or atheistic. I do not support the notion of atheist charities as you may have gathered from my many statements to that effect. Charity is everybody's responsibility if it is anybody's responsibility at all; thus, I support the notion of government agencies carrying the bulk of this responsibility.

In lieu of those, I recommend supporting charities that do not have any ideological agenda whatsoever (except to do the work and perform the services that their mission statement describe). If the only group doing something in a certain area is a sectarian group, go ahead and go along with it: support it if you are a volunteer and avail yourself of it if in need. Do this, however, while simultaneously making your position clear. I strongly recommend speaking up about it both publicly and to the group. Clearly express to both the dangers of doing charity work for the purpose of furthering an ideology, and urge the public to consider supporting a move to raise up an alternative organization. Work to change the situation so that an operation exists which is not aligned with any ideology. In lieu of that, if the group receives funds, come down hard on anything that might smell of exploiting the situation of the needy for the purpose of pitching an ideology. In the interim, one must, I fear, go along with it (or do without, as I have been known to do).

Part of our ongoing editorial statement is to the effect that powerful interests have discovered charity to be a highly profitable business enterprise, particularly when an ideology is tacked on to the charitable venture. I'm not about to suddenly go silent when catastrophe strikes, but will, rather, be all the more careful in first double-checking the integrity and accuracy of my position and message and then, secondly, making sure that what I have been saying all along continues to be said in a way that can be understood in light of the catastrophe. Finally, I re-examine my own motives to be sure that I am not exploiting the situation to further my own agenda, but am, rather, simply standing up to be counted as any given situation might arise (which is to be expected). I will do this in the most tactful manner that I can muster.

As for doing that I do here at PAM, I am certain that many others would be much more capable than I at doing what I do, I don't see anybody else doing much of what I do, and I do what I do because I think it needs to be done. So, in lieu of more competent people stepping up to the plate, you'll have to deal with me in all of my shortcomings if you wish to deal with this element of activism at all.
 

I do not envision the armchair critic when I think of our audience. Rather, I picture people who do not even need to be told what to do when situations such as this one strike. Thus, I sent out three messages specifically for the purpose of encouraging people to tell me how they felt about this and what they were doing. As many as I have been able to obtain permission, format, and post thus far are available in our Letters section. Many that I would have expected to have heard from are too busy in New York and elsewhere, volunteering for the Red Cross and similar agencies. These noble souls speak volumes by their silence.

Again, I have done all this at great personal expense: several people have suggested that I ought to be spending more time, energy, and resources trying to recover from what happened to me on Tuesday.

I don't know how to get in touch with victims or their families. The best I can do, again, is to solicit and post expressions of those feelings, and those expressions are available on the Internet. You can also read what several armchair critics have said, since whatever I do (or any atheist, for that matter) is never enough for some people. I'm just one man who supports this entire operation on a disability pension plus a handful of donations here and there. The donations add up to almost half of the expenses on a good month, and I have pulled the entire month's expenses at least twice during the past twelve months.
 

As for solidarity with the President, I don't know how I could live with myself after having told others to do something that I would never do myself. I do not support the President either in how he is handling the catastrophe or in how he is using the tragedy to make political and religious statements. I strongly suspect that the President is making serious mistakes in both areas. President Bush does not have my support.

Indeed, no President ever gets my support simply for being the President. I cannot do that and never have been able to do that -- for the President, for a boss, even for my Dad. (Hi, Dad!) For this and other reasons I did what I could to avoid military service: I most certainly would have spent much of that time in the brig over this one personality quirk. I can think of more effective ways to serve my country than to be "taught a lesson about authority."

The President's job is to administer the country according to the provisions set out the Constitution. My respect is not part of his salary. He may earn my respect by doing his job well and by upholding our Constitution, and many Presidents have done just that, specifically, President Carter, who upheld the Constitution like no other President has whose term coincided with my lifetime.

The President is not a coach; the United States is not a football team.

Of the over 600 pieces of e-mail I have received since September 11th, only one, a very antagonistic Christian, has shown specific support for the President. A few others suggested that we join him in solidarity "for the sake of unity" or "because he is our President," but these can be counted on one hand (including yours). All but one were already posted in our Forum when I received your missive. The rest, if they expressed any opinion at all, were at least as disappointed in how our President is handling this disaster as I am, if not more so.
 

I agree that the culprits must be identified and dealt with in the sternest terms (which, to me, means life terms in Marion, not execution, which would be the capstone of honor in any Fatwa situation and would create a martyr in any other situation). We know this is not how Bush will handle it; rather, I can just visualize him mocking a condemned criminal moments before his execution: he has a reputation for doing this, you know.

I also believe we ought to focus on routing as many known terrorist groups as we can track down, and focus on identifying more groups that may not yet be known. In fact, I have believed this for such a long time that if I had been setting up the priorities, most of these groups would be gone by now.

Furthermore, I have always been alarmed at the lax security involving commercial airliners, both passenger and freight. I cannot fathom even one passenger jet being hijacked in this day and age, not to mention four successful hijackings during the same hour. I have for a long time recommended that an armed soldier representing the interests of the United States be aboard each flight, both passenger and cargo, and that this officer need to have, say, six or eight years in the force to qualify for the job. I have long been critical of the false economy that has kept the price of flying lower than its actual costs -- simply because the industry is cutting so many essential corners. Ditto for nuclear power.

Finally, we've ourselves to blame for bin Laden's fundamentalism in the first place, since we exploited fundamentalist Muslims for the purpose of fighting off the Soviets twenty years ago. While I was not doing this particular line of activism back then, I was always a vocal critic of exploiting indigenous peoples to fight our dirty little wars in general and was a vocal critic of what we were doing in Afghanistan in particular. Osama bin Laden is very much our creation.
 

I disagree with issuing statements to the effect that bin Laden is the prime suspect unless they know they already have enough to convict him even in a Pakistani court. I disagree with involving innocent civilians in our pursuit of the criminals or the known terrorist groups because to do this makes us terrorists as well. To go after bin Laden by trying to grab Afghanistan would be a monumental waste and to go to war with them and Pakistan (which would be required in order to get ground troops into Afghanistan) would be exactly what bin Laden would want to have accomplished by bombing New York and Washington (if he did, indeed, do it -- and I think he did).

Thus, the cartoon imagery that I drew represents the mentality that I see happening in America: the call to prayer precedes the call to war. The call to war supposedly keeps us unified in the face of disaster, and the unity will serve to bring enthusiastic support for the war effort. Where was I when the Gulf War broke out? I was one of over 15,000 people participating in the largest demonstration in the nation that day, in Portland, Oregon. I still feel today how I felt at that moment.

I am not competent to comment on any of the details, but I do think that at least this much is happening, and I don't like what I see. I owe it to myself and to our audience to say what I see or, at least, to refrain from saying it if I don't see it. This I think I have done to the best of my ability.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

 

Mr. Camp issues a wholesale denunciation of all "atheist groups," suggesting that we "Let them see that we have a heart, are moral and disciplined, are just as loving as anyone." Interestingly, PAM was the only thing resembling an "atheist group" (or an atheist anything) listed in the CC section of his dispatch (although we are by no means a group): the rest were various journalists and news rooms. Was Mr. Camp implying that he spoke about all "atheist groups," or is PAM the only one he checked on? Most importantly, did PAM match his scathing description of the "atheist groups" he so scathingly denounced?
     After pointing out that PAM did not fit his degrading description, and after explaining why we were not quick to offer any statements on September 11, Mr. Camp immediately changes his tune about "having a heart," being "moral and disciplined," and being anything remotely resembling "loving." Mr. Camp appears to simply be making noise rather than trying to make an honest statement; he appears more interested in discrediting myself (and possibly others) than he does in practicing the "moral discipline" that he accuses us of lacking.
     Following President Bush's "Day of Prayer" and Rev. Jerry Falwell's much discussed analysis of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, we received many bigoted e-mails condemning us for our atheism. As if these aren't frightening enough, particularly for an atheistic activist, Mr. Camp chooses to make bigoted statements about my medical disability!
     Mr. Camp further backpedals, insisting that we should have made these statements "in the beginning." Excuse me, we did more than that: our position on all the basic issues discussed in our response were either already liberally posted throughout our web site and thoroughly discussed in our e-mail dispatches over the years, or were contained in the several dispatches we issued on September 11, 2001. Early on September 11th, we had not enough information to form a detailed opinion regarding the other matters discussed, such as the proposed war with Afghanistan, but our opinion on the policies has been discussed in various places.
     There was really nothing new said in our response to Mr. Camp, who, again, appears to be making noise solely for the purpose of discrediting his ideological opponents. Since PAM is the only "atheist group" (or atheist anythying) listed in the CC field of his dispatch, we believe his goal was to discredit PAM in particular. Having been a subscriber to the e-list and an unpaying recipient of numerous complimentary issues of the print edition for many years, Mr. Camp has no excuse for not knowing our position on these matters or about my medical conditions, which frequently prevents me from doing timely work on the PAM project.

 

Graphic Rule
Added: September 16, 2001

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
CC: [suppressed]
Subject: Re: your reply
Date: September 16, 2001 9:36 PM

Ilk? Whatever do you mean by that?

You are a bigot, Mr. Camp, if you would call a life-long and debilitating medical condition "a cop out."

[Additional note not sent: Everything I did say (what I could even formulate into thoughts at the time) is on record for all to see. Likewise, the statements of the other atheistic organizations are a matter of public and permanent record. I fell short of calling you a liar in your assessment of the other organizations, but I will not do that now: your assessment of the atheistic organizations with which I have been in communication is pure falsehood. Case in point: below is a blurb for the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (S.H.A.R.E.) which is actively working to bring aid to those affected by this tragedy, and has done similar work for a long time.

The only exception is the fact that few if any of us feel right in endorsing the way President Bush has handled this tragedy. He may hold the office of President but we feel George W. Bush has fallen way short of executing the duties of that office during this crisis as well as at other times. The atheistic and Humanistic groups I've contacted are almost unanimous on this point (none I've contacted agree with him, though some have not issued an opinion either way.]

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

 

Secular Humanists Aid and Relief Effort

What you can do to help:

Many humanists have contacted us asking what they can do to help in this time of national tragedy. Of course, you can donate blood at the nearest blood bank. You can also send a contribution to S.H.A.R.E. (Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort), which will direct the money collected to a fund established by the City of New York for families of the uniformed services personnel who lost their lives in the rescue effort. Please make your checks out to the Council for Secular Humanism, note on your check that this is for S.H.A.R.E., and send to:

     CSH,
     PO Box 664,
     Amherst, NY 14226-0664

Thank you.

 

 

Graphic Rule

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