Alcoholics Anonymous:
A Lie We Keep Hearing
Terry Joyer

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 9:12 AM

It makes sense that you would find this interesting, because you appear to have the same warped sense of morality that many Twelve Steppers display.

Why do so many Twelve Steppers viciously condemn me for doing something that I have never done? I have never condemned anyone simply for being a Twelve Stepper. What I do condemn is the blatant dishonesty and insane rage that loyalty to the Program inspires people to practice against the Program's critics (as if to criticize the Program is to criticize the individuals who join the Program).

Get this straight: It is the Program itself that I condemn, not the people who join it. It is the Program which teaches people that they are powerless, it is the Program that tells people that only the Program can help them -- and then drives them back to drinking because they cannot handle the religion in the Program.

And it is the behavior that the Program inspires its members to practice that I condemn. It is the dishonesty, the slander, the anger, the threats of physical violence, the acts of physical violence, the political maneuvering, and the outright lies -- just so they can give lip-service to the Program -- that I condemn. Because the Program teaches its adherents that if they don't give lip-service to the Program, they will die.

I don't condemn anybody for joining the Program -- or taking 12 3/4 years longer than one would think they'd need in order to figure out how to stop putting substances into their bodies (though I will denounce the Program for teaching someone that they still need to be with the Program for 13 years). But when somebody tells me that the Program works, they have just made a public claim, and I will show that this claim is simply not true. When people insist that the Program is good for you, I will show, by the dishonest behavior of its adherents, that loyalty to the Program has turned otherwise honest people into bald-faced liars.

Not everybody who joins the Program turns into a liar. In fact, after the first year, 95 percent of those who join AA today will have seen through AA's subterfuge and will have left the Program for greener pastures. But almost all who stick around eventually end up lying about AA's success rate or lying about one of AA's critics or competitors. This is what AA does to people, and this is why I strongly urge people to stay as far away from AA as possible.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 4:03 PM

I don't have to know someone to be able to detect that what they just told me is not the truth.

In 1988, without the benefit of even a drug- or alcohol-related charge, much less a conviction, I was court-ordered to practice your Twelve Step religion for three years. I balked on Constitutional grounds and was subsequently placed on a 30-day "hold," of which I served 24 days before being accidentally released by the jail staff. This was after having served all 180 days of a 180-day sentence for shoplifting to support myself after having been rendered barely able to hear by an infection and simultaneously barely able to walk from a virus that took up residence under the soles of my feet, producing lima bean-sized tumors.

After my release, I quietly did 25 months of your Twelve Step religion before being released of my obligation, wherein I have ever since been one of the busiest activists in recent times trying to restore my country to the secular status upon which she was founded. Seven and a half of those years were spent directly addressing the institutionalization of Alcoholics Anonymous as America's State Religion (wherein even her courts can get away with forcing you to participate) and spreading the word that Alcoholics Anonymous itself admits to its 95 percent rate of recidivism during the first year.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 11:47 PM

Justifying? No. I'm alive, but that's the only justification I have. Sometimes none of the choices we have are any good. I did my time and that solved the problem according to The People Of The State Of Oregon, who were the Plaintiffs in the case.

But, once I had completed my sentence, they sent me back to jail simply for refusing to undergo religious instruction in the form of Twelve Step meetings.

Methinks you're the weirdo for not admitting that it's wrong for my government to send me to jail for refusing to go to AA because (1) AA is nothing more than religious instruction and (2) AA simply does not work and, in many cases, impairs one's prospects for recovery. These were the reasons I gave to the judge -- long before I learned what I now know.

I do not drink right now because I am seeing a specialist who is a Seventh-Day Adventist, and he makes all his patients agree not to drink while they see him. Medical care is more important to me than a shot or two of Jamison or a pound of Guinness.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 4:31 AM

No. The fact that AA allows our government to exploit its program says nothing to whether or not AA works.

However, all AA needs to do so stop being complicit in this travesty is to agree to stop signing meeting attendance verification slips. Until AA does this, AA remains the primary culprit in this matter. I doubt AA will do this, because AA is way too greedy, and loves the fact that our government plays the role of AA's recruiting arm.
 

According to AA's own statistics, only about five (5) percent of those who join today will still be there a year from now. According to AA's own statistics, only between 1.6 and 2.6 percent of those who join today will still be there five years from now. That is a dismal recidivism rate, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, of all Americans who ever had a drug or alcohol problem but don't have one now, fully 80 percent took care of the problem without so much as reading a pamphlet. Very few people who solve their substance abuse problems do so by going to AA.

AA's success rate is much worse than chance, because AA teaches people that they are powerless to quit drinking. After hearing this, they throw up their arms and go, "Oh well! Bottoms up!" AA has just given them a perfect excuse to keep drinking.

I am particularly angry about this today because a former friend of mine, Julie, drank herself to death last week. She had Hepatitis C and just wouldn't stop drinking because she was convinced that she couldn't stop drinking. She went to AA and learned the powerlessness bit, but rejected the smarmy religious angle.

I was driven out of NA by a whisper campaign. A man who was once my friend (and once my sponsor!) told everybody that I had gone on television and said, "AA and NA ruin lives." I did not say this and challenged the man to watch a video of the television show in question. He refused. I also know that the man does not own a working television set and did not watch the program; he got the information from someone else who heard only part of what I said and did not accurately hear what I said. He did not watch it on TV, either, where there is a speaker reproducing what goes into the microphone: he was simply in the TV studio, barely picking up my unamplified voice. I told my former sponsor that this was not even my opinion -- and it wasn't at the time. However, that is my opinion today: AA and NA ruin lives with their defeatist philosophy.

Still, I do not blame people for getting suckered in to the Program. I do not denounce them for doing this. The pressure is intense, considering that almost everybody who says anything about substance abuse simply parrots the AA party line without ever questioning it. It's just not proper to question or criticize Alcoholics Anonymous -- or the Boy Scouts or Billy Graham or the Beach Boys.

While I won't fault people for joining, I will, however, reserve some of my most intense rage for those who repeat the AA party line, particularly those who know better than to tell us that AA works. All one needs to do is go to the same AA meeting for a month and watch all the newcomers come and go. All one needs to do is be the treasurer for a large NA group and count how many "Welcome" keytags they sell versus how many nine-month keytags. I was treasurer for two of the three largest NA meetings in Portland, and was both the Area and the Regional Literature Committee chairperson (and part of that job is to know how many keytags we sell). And this is what we sold: we sold about 30 "Welcome" keytags to every nine-month keytag. We sold seven to ten 30-day keytags to every nine-month keytag. AA and NA do not work. Otherwise, we would sell close to even numbers of each value of keytag.
 

I'm listening. Give us some facts. Demonstrate this very serious charge you level against me.
 

It is AA's supporters who are lying through their teeth about AA, who have done research and who know exactly how bad AA's recidivism rate is. But they lie to the public because AA's disease model is their only justification for even being in business.

The number of people in the United States who know more than I do about the various other recovery methods could easily fill the room where your home group meets -- no matter how small it is. I was active in the Twelve Step Program for many years, and still hold the record for submitting more material to the NA Literature Development Committee than anybody else has. I spent almost eight years, full time, studying the various other methods, teaching one of those methods, and advocating for social change trying to compensate for the fact that the Twelve Step model (the only model that is even remotely profitable) holds a virtual monopoly on the addiction "treatment" industry.

The reason AA dominates the field is because AA is the only model that makes a big deal out of addiction. It is the only model that even pretends that learning how to solve an addiction problem is worth paying for. Thus, the Steppers have put themselves into business "solving" this "problem" that they've created -- a "problem" which, to the others, is really no big deal (just stop putting that shit into your body and get a job: you'll be fine).

Perhaps you best do some research about me before you make your denouncements of me in a public forum. Perhaps you might want to start with my outline for the 1991 Traditions Workshop that I presented to the Washington-Northern Idaho Region of NA.

If you had done your research first, before spouting off like you did, you could have avoided the embarrassment and ensuing lack of credibility which inevitably results from telling lies about someone in a widely read public forum.

Your lies about me have cost you not only personal credibility, in that you are now shown to be a liar, but have also cost the Twelve Step movement that much more credibility in that the ratio of liars to truth-tellers among Steppers who write to our forum just tipped further toward the "liars" side (though it was already very lopsided in that direction before you added to our collection of Twelve Step lies).

Why is it that almost all the Twelve Steppers who write here feel it necessary to lie to make their point? Why don't they just leave it alone? Why can't they settle for saying, "I disagree with you, and I like it in AA even though it doesn't work for very many people"?

And why is it that of all the people who write to our Forum and lie to us, it's the Twelve Steppers who are the worst? Why are the Steppers both more likely to lie and more desperate in their lies than even the Fundamentalist Christians who write to us? Why is this? Why do the Twelve Steppers, as a group, display our "Lies" trophy as if this is a source of pride of some sort? Why do the Fundamentalists run a distant second to the Steppers in this respect?

Why have the dozens of threats of physical violence and death threats that I've received all come from Twelve Steppers? What is it about the Twelve Steps that makes its members and supporters so utterly and pathetically desperate (seeming almost pathological about it) when it comes to defending the Program's reputation against criticism?
 

I don't know what you call it, then. You use a completely different definition for the word religious than the rest of us do -- kinda like Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty character, whose trait was that he made up his own definitions for the various words he used.

As an atheist, I am unable to distinguish between religious and spiritual. All the dictionaries I consulted were equally ambiguous in distinguishing between these two words as pertains to the religious-spiritual connection (not counting such definitions as "a religious devotion to baseball"). In other words, none of the definitions allowed for something to be one but not the other, as in your claim that AA is spiritual, not religious. The main exception that I noted is Merriam-Webster's (owned and published by the Christian Science Church), which described religious as being informal and personal and spiritual as being formal and ecclesiastical. Merriam-Webster's, the only dictionary we have that distinguishes these words at all, makes the opposite distinction from what the Steppers insist is the truth.

In July, 1996, the New York State Court Of Appeals (the Supreme Court in that state) ruled that Alcoholics Anonymous was "unequivocally religious," and added that "adherence to the AA fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization." As a finding-of-fact, the Court noted that "God" is mentioned in five of the Twelve Steps, describing those Steps as the "cornerstone" of the AA Program. The court said that meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous were "heavily laced with at least general religious content." True, the court rules on the legal definition of the word religious, but that's what I'm most concerned about anyway, the legal problems.
 

Of course you can!

As long as you lie to the other members about your atheism, you can be as atheistic as you want!

And it's okay to talk about whatever god you want -- as long it's a god.

But once you start ducking out of the Lord's Prayer ritual or announcing in meetings that you don't believe in God and the supernatural, it's all over.

Try it sometime and see:

For the next six months, refuse to stand up and join the others during the closing prayer ritual. Don't simply stand there in the circle with your mouth closed, refuse to join the circle to begin with. No fair slipping out the door unseen, either (as a lying atheist -- an atheistic hypocrite -- might do); we're trying to discover the reaction of groupers to your rejection of the AA prayer ritual. Do this openly and and do this publicly, but don't do it defiantly: you don't need to make a big show of it. Remember, as an atheist (this is an experiment: you're pretending to be an atheist), as an atheist, you don't hate prayer, you simply do not indulge. So just sit there, quietly, conspicuously, and watch while the others stand up, hold hands in a big circle, and recite the Protestant version of the "Our Father."

If asked to join (and they will, they must so as not to be alone; they must "for the sake of group unity"), humbly respond, "It's against my religious beliefs to pray in public" (this will make any Christians who have read the Sermon on the Mount start to twitch).

I promise you that you cannot do this without someone urging you to join the rest of the group in practicing this religious ritual: this will happen at every meeting. I promise! And whenever they ask you to join in, calmly announce that you don't believe in God. In a calm but confident voice that everyone in the room can hear, tell whoever invited you to join in that you think it's morally wrong for you to pray.

When someone eventually pulls you aside and pleads with you to join in "for the sake of AA unity," explain to this person that for you to pray is tantamount to lying. When they push you on the God issue (and some of them will get very pushy about it), tell them you checked into it and you just don't see what it is that everybody's talking about.

Do this every time you go to a meeting for a full six months and see how much of a "support group" you have left even after the first few weeks. I dare you! 'Cause if you don't believe in God, all you have left in AA is your "support group" -- and if you admit that don't believe in God in AA, you won't have any "support group" to speak of.

A friend of mine, Kris, celebrated her three-year anniversary at a large 5:30 meeting. When she started talking about how she doesn't believe in God but stays clean by volunteering in hospitals and jails, over half the people in the room got up and walked out over about a five-minute period. It was pathetic. Kris and her husband, Dirk, worked sacrificially both at the Hospitals and Institutions Committee and for that 5:30 meeting. The two of them donated more time and money than practically anyone else -- but you wouldn't know it to hear people talk because they took anonymity seriously. Nobody knew. They gave people rides to recovery meetings, rides to committee meetings, rides to committee commitments -- not just across town but across the state. Kris once gave a woman from Washington and I a ride from Portland to Salem. Then she waited for our committee meeting to end (five or six hours) and drove us back home -- and she wasn't even a member of the committee!

But they other highfalutin NA members all stood up, one-by-one, and walked out on her anniversary meeting. They did this as she was admitting to the group that she does not believe in God.
 

Why, Charlie Brown? Whatever for? This period was probably the most miserable phase of my entire life -- up there with the time I was a Fundamentalist Christian and running rings around the time I was sick and homeless and unable to hear or walk.

It took me years after being in the Program to get up the nerve to drink again. Now (except for the next several months while I see this specialist who's making me abstain), I drink without getting into trouble. I have learned both how to abstain if I want to and how to drink responsibly if that's what I want to do. AA is wrong. Alcohol abuse is a behavior, not a disease. It is sheer irresponsibility. Alcohol abuse is pure self-indulgence and nothing more.

Society feels sorry for the "alcoholic," but I don't. Why? Because I've been there. I've been one of those who lied to my family and friends by telling them that I couldn't help it. All along, though, I did it because I had nothing better to do with my life (so I thought). Today, I still cop a buzz now and then, but only when I can justify it -- only when I can afford it and when my health is up to it and when I have the time. I won't drink unless I have enough money to spend on it, and I won't drink unless I am feeling healthy enough to handle it. I won't drink when I'm depressed. And I won't drink more than the predetermined amount that I have already allotted to myself over the course of an evening. Everybody who drinks responsibly does this, either consciously or unconsciously. Everybody. Since I've had problems in the past, I must do this consciously and deliberately. My father does the same thing, but he never even thinks about it. He just does it.

So why should I go to AA again, and get shunned and dissed and threatened and beat up -- again? Why should I go and listen to what I know is a lie?

As that John Giorno poem goes, "I don't need it / I don't want it / And you cheated me out of it!"

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

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 5:58 AM

You said "AA works." You never qualified it until I called you on what you did say. AA either works or it does not work; it either has a track-record to back up the claims its supporters make for it, or only a handful of people who try it stick around for longer than a few meetings.

To state, at this point in the conversation, that it does not work for everyone is an understatement bordering on sheer deception. AA admits, in the memo describing the Triennial Survey, that AA doesn't work for about 98 percent of the people who try it.
  

Many die needlessly because they have been deceived (by AA and by AA's supporters) into thinking that "alcoholism" is a disease -- when the medical profession doesn't even use the word alcoholism! AA tells problem drinkers that they cannot control themselves and thus need supernatural assistance -- and they go along with that notion and drink themselves to death. I say that they can control themselves and then show them how to stop (or moderate). Then they live normal lives -- once they've stopped believing and acting upon The Big AA Lie.
 

What does this have to do with AA admitting that about 98 percent of those who try AA will not be in AA's life-long program in five years?

Perhaps you've blinded yourself with your loyalty to AA so that you cannot feel the rage and anger that perhaps you ought to feel every time a newcomer does not "keep coming back" -- every time a newcomer goes back out and dies because the Program simply does not work.
 

How can people make decisions for themselves when they only ever hear one side of the story? How can people make an informed choice when the only opinion available to them is The Big AA Lie?

I wasted a big part of my life and will most likely die young because I didn't hear the truth until it was way too late. Everybody who pretended to know anything about drug addiction told me that you cannot help it, that it is a disease for which there is no cure -- that only a miracle would help me, so I'd better get some religion. Okay, bottoms up, then! Shit! If I had only known then what it now takes me about twenty minutes to teach someone, dying young would not be a virtual certainty for me.

Okay, if I have to die young, at least I'm not going to die silently. I'm going to do all I can to keep from taking anybody with me.

You know what? Fuck you!

Go fuck yourself with a big zucchini!

You know why? Because you're one of those assholes who lied to me way back when (and took my parents' money for it in the process)!

If I had only known that it's a simple matter of realizing that it wasn't really "Me" who craved the stuff, but that it was just an appetite gone haywire -- a conditioned reflex -- a hallucination, if you will. If only I'd known that I do have full control over my arm muscles!

All because of a lack of information.

But you sit there and suggest that I am not allowing people to make their own decisions? Tell me, how can more information -- how can the other side of the argument -- prevent someone from making decisions? (Or did you even read this far?)
 

I am not trying to save you from anything. I didn't write to you, you wrote to me. It was you who suggested to me that, "Perhaps you should try it AGAIN." I don't even care about you. My entire role in this whole dialogue has been to show that you are lying.

I don't even care that you are a liar! Your deceitfulness does not bother me in the least. But you will not log onto my Forum and lie to me without me showing both that you have lied and discussing the truth of the matter.
 

Did you even read what I wrote last time? I doubt it very seriously, because your reply came only a few minutes after I sent it.

"Work the Steps or Die!" is anything but a "suggestion." AA is very coercive in its "suggestions." AA has a captive audience with their backs up against a wall, and AA comes off as very authoritative. AA also has the almost unanimous endorsement of the press and those physicians and counselors who have not specialized enough to know any better. And those who have specialized have, for the most part, specialized in selling only the AA product.

From the AA "Big Book":

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"To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster ... To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 44)

"But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life -- or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 44)

"But [the newcomer's] face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored. We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 45)

 

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Anybody who disagrees is written off as "prejudiced," or "handicapped by obstinacy," or having "intellectual pride," or any number of tricky and derogatory slanders:

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"...as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results..."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 46)

"Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you..."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 47)

"[We] often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things make us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned.... Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became ... open minded on spiritual matters.... In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on pages 47-8)

"If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you."
(AA cofounder "Dr. Bob" on page 181)

 

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AA lies to the public in telling us that AA is about quitting drinking. AA is not about quitting drinking but its "main object" is to proselytize people into joining the AA religion -- as is admitted in this passage from the "Big Book":

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"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.... [That] means, of course, that we are going to talk about God. Here difficulty arises with agnostics."
(AA cofounder "Bill W." on page 45)

 

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AA is not about quitting drinking, AA is about AA. You have made this very clear by your continued belligerence in refusing to even address my criticism of AA.

I do not have a problem with people joining AA. But I do have a serious problem with people like you, people who lie and lie and lie and lie and lie in their defense of Alcoholics Anonymous.

You did not even bother to address the several challenges I made in my last letter. I spent quite a bit of time writing it, but I doubt that you even took the time to read it and see what it says. This (I suspect) is because your mind is already made up. You have presented nothing even remotely resembling a refutation of my case, but have merely parroted the same slogans that we always hear whenever a Twelve Stepper writes to us -- bald assertions and nothing more.
 

Your organization is a very powerful lobby whose defeatist philosophy has monopolized an entire branch of medicine -- a branch of medicine which ought not even exist because drinking is a behavior, a form of irresponsibility, not a disease. AA is merely an extension of the groups which ushered in the Prohibition Era. When it became clear to even them that Prohibition doesn't work, they simply took a different tack. One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln speeches was when he was invited to speak to AA's predecessor, the oxymoronically named Washingtonian Society (as Washington, like most Colonials, was a heavy drinker by today's standards). Back then, Lincoln called the Washingtonians liars to their faces, and today I find myself calling many AA members liars to their faces.
 

So, then, when you told me that AA works, was this in response to your experience of new people coming in to AA and staying there? Does your group or area actually have a recidivism rate that differs from AA's report on the Triennial Survey? that differs from what most AA groups experience?

Or does your report differ from what your experience has shown?

My opinion coincides with my experience, which happens to jive with AA's report: very few people who try AA stick around for very long. People go to a few AA meetings, drink in the concept of disease and powerlessness (pun intended). They recoil from the cult-like, very, very persuasive religious aspect of AA, they leave, and they often drink themselves to death because they bought the powerlessness business, hook, line, and sinker.

That's what Julie did. That's what she told me the last time I saw her, was that she couldn't help it, that she had this disease that could never be cured. Whether she actually believed this or was just lying to me in order to justify her theft and continued drinking is anyone's guess. But while we cannot know whether she believed this line or what influence it actually had on her drinking, there is one place and one place only where she could have possibly learned to talk this way: she learned it from an Alcoholics Anonymous member.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Terry Joyer"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 5:58 AM

Now I know you didn't even read that last one. It's still in my OutBox!

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

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