Positive Atheism Forum
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Readers' Comments On
Our Letters With Pastor Jeff
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From: "Gregory Tinker"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 4:31 PM

Something to consider -- the most annoying Christians are the ones who have lost the capacity for laughter. Everything is so damn serious with these people. They especially can't laugh at themselves. Be willing to find humor in some of Pastor Jeff's jokes, because a few of them are actually kind of funny. It sets a good example, it might throw him for a loop if you find humor there (remember, one of their biggest complaints is that atheists are so damn bitchy all the time -- although it does tend to be because of them in our faces) plus laughter really is the best medicine.

I like it!

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From: "Gregory Tinker"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Friday, March 09, 2001 5:41 AM

I was hoping you could explain to him why things like "can atheists get insurance for acts of god?" are humorous, but why most of the rest of his page is not. In fact, it is downright un-Christian. Let me get this straight -- belittling atheists is supposed to woo them to Christianity?

Jesus would be rolling over in his grave if (1) he had one (2) he was in it and (3) he was real. I don't seem to recall Jesus doing that kind of thing. Did he call Zaccheus a "short tax-collecting fuck" when trying to change his ways? Umm, no.

Greg

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From: "Gregory Tinker"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Friday, March 09, 2001 6:27 PM

But Cliff, it's so obvious what an act of God is when it happens, everyone knows it. :)

Which begs the question:
If I were to explode a bomb on the San Andreas fault and cause an earthquake, would the resulting earthquake still be considered an Act of God?

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

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From: Carey Sherrill
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
  Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 4:34 PM

Your letter to Pastor Jeff was civil and thorough and, unfortunately, most likely pointless. I say this for two reasons. First, as I argued in my previous letter, it is not reasonably possible for a theist not to be a bigot. As I may not have made clear in that letter, certainly there are bigoted atheists, but it is not their atheism that makes them so. For people with a religious upbringing, there is no separating their theism from their bigotry. They are symbiotic, possibly synergistic. As an adult you bring your bigotry with you regardless of which camp you support. An unsolicited letter from a member of a group for whom Pastor Jeff has little respect seems unlikely to affect his bigotry. The most you could hope for is to reason with him (as you did) to reduce his acts of bigotry. This brings me to my second reason. I agree with you and Todd Smith that theists and atheists have different perspectives on reason and faith. When the two come into conflict theists must prioritize faith. Reasoning with Pastor Jeff to reduce the acts of bigotry inspired by his faith seems unlikely to succeed. Frankly, I think it is a waste of time discussing reason and faith with an adult theist. The only hope I see is education in a child's formative years. Prohibit religious training before the first grade and then let the kids decide for themselves. I'm confident reason and atheism have nothing to fear from this approach. If Christians are really convinced their way is the Truth, they should be willing too.

Meanwhile, Pastor Jeff, by selecting and opposing the most radical atheists and atheistic perspectives, has set the standard by which the opposing camps may judge one another. So, in response, Christianity may be judged by the likes of Tomás de Torquemada (no introduction required), William J. Simmons -- a former Methodist preacher, who organized a new Ku Klux Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1915, as well as anyone else who has participated in the burning of a cross, William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin -- the judges in the Salem witch trials, and Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and maintainer of www.godhatesfags.com. There are many other examples, but these few so heavily tip the scale in favor of atheists, there is little reason to mention more. Viewed from this standard, which is the lesser evil, Pastor Jeff has a lot of work to do making a list of atheists whose actions balance the actions of these men.

Carey Sherrill

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From: "Jaime Carrillo"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 4:43 PM

Excellent letter!! As I read the ramblings of the Pastor I naturally became angry and wanted to respond. I view the pastor's characterizations equal to an translator who does not translate completely between parties not understanding each other's language. Both have an agenda to fulfill, ultimately personal gain, through deception. Whether willfully or due to ignorance, the Pastor's claims amount not only to slander, but lying. The presence of malice would be difficult to prove, or impossible, still I sense it in his statements. The idea that an atheist, who knows other atheists, could not find any who had become better adjusted after coming to terms with his lack of belief is absurd. Both the theists and the atheists find tremendous tranquility from accepting one's world view, and living accordingly. I for one was a closet atheist for many years before I had the courage to deny what so many friends and family held sacred. The age at which we are "taught" that god "is" and cannot be refuted lends itself to tremendous psychological impact. We need not look far to see the effects of poor parenting on children, there is no way for an adult to ignore the influences of childhood. Any theist would scoff at the concept that teaching god belief is poor parenting, and I certainly am not saying it is, but for me it became a barrier to critical thinking. I wonder if Pastor Jeff feels the barber analogy is universal? If so I better start telling everyone with a bad looking car that I can't help them if they don't bring their car to me!! Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

Jaime Carrillo

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From: "Duval"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 5:55 PM

I may be dense but I don't see anything new in his comments. Nostrums will always be nostrums. He can' t be original as there are no original thoughts in Christianity. Why can't Christians admit that there are ideas and thoughts, that may be true and theirs might be false. (True for all religions that suppress thinking).

If I believed in reincarnation I would like to come back as an enlightener of people rather than to enslave their minds. People would be taught how to think not what to think.

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From: "Nicole Kilburg"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 6:24 PM

The web page contained sermon-aids or helps for the pastor needing material to concoct anti-atheist sermons.

One "truth" I take from the Bible is that "You shall know them by their fruit." Therefore, I know the originator of this web page to be exactly the kind of person who considers slander, malice, hatred and mis-statements to be perfectly acceptable material to give to pastors who give sermons to their "sheep." I expect nothing less from bigoted, small-minded, arrogant persons who call themselves Christians.

Every single Christian that I personally know fits this pattern. It seems that Christianity breeds insecurity which breeds hatred which doesn't seem to fit with the god is love theory.

Finally, all things that benefit mankind today originated from human beings who exercised their reason and intelligence (i.e., medicine, technology, etc.). I'd rather be an intellectual helping mankind than a Christian condemning it.

Nicole R. Kilburg, Esq.

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From: "Nicole Kilburg"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, March 08, 2001 6:38 PM

Dear Cliff:

Maybe in the future I will be able to react with such intelligent, insightful and gracious responses as you have to Christians recently and in the past. But for now, the people who come up with things like the "atheist sermon assistance" web-pages garner nothing but my vitriol and anger.

We are also emotional people.

Nicole R. Kilburg, Esq.

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From: "Chad Robb"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor Jeffs Sermon
Date: Friday, March 09, 2001 5:30 PM

I appreciated the level tone of one equal disappointed in another. Typically, when one portrays themselves as superior, the appropriate response is to inflate. To become equally or more fearsome in order to establish power. But this never works the right way. This is animal instinct. In the past, you appeared to be more brutal, apparently thinking facts phase fanatics. They might, but not if they are force-fed. They'll pass right through their system as devils work.

As a Positive Atheist, I am proud of this letter. It represented both aspects equally well.
 

This was one of my favorite parts. Now, his motivation to be nicer to Atheists is that they will not only identify themselves, but leave quietly.

On belittling a drunk for being a former Christian: (This is unlikely, since your anecdote goes out of its way to portray this man's inappropriate remark as the fruit of atheism itself, rather than simply the boorish indiscretion that it happens to be.)

True. I never seen Atheist solicitors harass the Christian children, telling them they'll end up somewhere if they continue dressing in some way, or going door to door "You didn't find Jesus -- did you?"

Atheists pride themselves often as being not as aggressive as Christians, with all their Ruthless Propaganda and uniformed brainkit dealers. People trained at tearing down the belief structures of others and refilling it with ICYHOT Gospel. So it cauterizes it's way in and it takes a hammer and chisel to remove. And so, the Atheist, proudly refraining from nabbing impressionable minds stays pure. Who would fake it?

Then again, orthodoxy is the last thing we need. Just some culture. Yeah.

The Church of the SubGenius is a Church for nonconformists. Atheists, Blasphemers, Scoffers! It's full of cult-like information but it is largely satirical. They have two books out now. If you are not already familiar with them.

It tells you not to take it seriously. And so you feel liberated to read their persuasive blather -- on and on. And at the end, you'll feel better about yourself, you'll have some directive, some ethics and principles, an enemy to despise and a saviour to adore. Eventually, this savior will become you because 'Bob' is only a prop. You love him and replace him being your own Bob.

Urm -- right. Well done.

Chad Robb

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From: "Richard Mohley"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Friday, March 09, 2001 3:14 PM

I worship a pine tree in my back yard. When you understand why you dismiss my god, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

Richard Mohley
Portland, Oregon

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From: "Christian Ambrose"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: "Open Letter" Forum; Almost Back in the Swing
Date: Friday, March 09, 2001 9:52 PM

I do happen to like it. You weren't too hard on him at all. I think that if atheism is more properly explained, then myths about atheism will lose some credibility. You could mention the fact that some Christians are sympathetic to our movement (in the spirit of tolerance and treating everyone the way they would treat Jesus -- whatever works) and in light of such bigotry in their ranks are often afraid to speak out for us due to possible persecution and rejection from their own. If such bigotry is at least minimized than such Christians will more likely speak out on our behalf as we can use all the allies we can get.

=====
Ciao,

Christian L. Ambrose

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From: "RCJ21483"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Pastor_Jeff's_Sermon_9192
Date: Sunday, March 11, 2001 4:34 AM

To Pastor Jeff,

I've read Cliff's letter to you and have read over your site, including every line of the "atheists" sermon. Your sermon uses common fundamentalist jokes to try and show atheists as ignorant for not following God. I have a question for you: do you think we atheists are truly so idiotic and bashful and hate-filled as your sermon says we are? Have we truly done anything at all against society, religion, other minorities, or individuals?

I think Cliff's letter to you is a highly informative and non-aggressive question for you. Why are you using such strong verbal attacks on us? In reading your sermon, I do see a number of errors of common sense in your questions that I think you overlook simply because you have an extremely biased view of atheists. My question still stands: what have atheists done that is so terrible to merit all of this hatred?

Perhaps you'll point to the Heath County High School shooting by Michael Carneal. Press reporters called Carneal an "atheist" and said that he associated with anti-Christian groups. Is that all you read about Carneal? Perhaps it would interest you to know that he was a Christian who attacked other Christians. Why? Because the Christian prayer group members attacked him in the hallways of school for not participating in public prayer with them. The priest of his church also came forward and openly stated that he was a regular church goer and not a freethinker.

Or maybe you remember the name Elian Gonzales. When he was carried back to Cuba in tears, the mayor of Miami said, "these are atheists [at work]." Do you think they were really atheists, the people carrying him away? Or were they state and federal employees who had been given a command to remove him from the country and were following their instructions?

I would hope that you could remove your bias and seeming hatred against atheists long enough to at least ponder these questions. You are probably wondering now, though, I'd imagine, what have atheists done for the good of humanity? Maybe so, maybe not, of course I can't tell what you're thinking. Why might their good deeds not be publicly stated? -- perhaps there are too many people like you running around thinking that since they're atheists, it's not worth noting. Why might atheists not do good deeds? -- maybe because an atheist fears retaliation from Christian fundamentalists, like you for "coming out of the closet."

I would bet that if you really pondered why atheists tend to hide themselves away -- fearing anti-freethinking persons like yourself -- you might see that atheists are not fools (and may even know more of the Bible than you!). You'd be surprised to see how closely atheists tend to study religion and philosophy before making a decision that it's not right for them.

-RJ

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From: "Roger Scott"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: "Open Letter" Forum
Date: Saturday, March 10, 2001 10:46 PM

hi Cliff

I share your concern with the Atheist jokes collection.

I think they are frequently characterized by a deep lack of understanding of the atheist position. It is also occasionally spectacularly wrong, as with this paragraph about an alleged atheist dilemma.

1. The 1st dilemma he cites is a "lack of unity." He begins with a word on how unified Christians seem, in their stand against abortion and in the fact that they do not openly criticize one another. He says history has shown atheistic attitudes towards each other have been nothing but outride hostility... The atheists hate the agnostics, who hate the humanists, who cannot stand the rationalists, who keep their distance from the realists, who will not speak to the Unitarians, and on and on it goes - they cannot even agree on the simple concept that "there is no god."

Christians are not unified. It is not possible to distinguish among rationalists, atheists, humanists and realists (whoever the latter group are.)

I have just had a look at the [notes on his] website for ANGELS. It is full of stories about people surviving life threatening situations against the odds. What I find objectionable about these stories is the assumption that no other explanation is possible. How can they be sure that God, via angel intermediaries, has intervened on their behalf? Even worse, in a way, is the unstated belief that God has chosen them for intervention.

As a reader of several daily newspapers, I have little doubt that many people who have asked God for intervention have not experienced the outcome for which they have prayed. Are these people who figure in the website claims ignorant of the misery about them? Are they aware that their claims imply some special relationship with God? Is this not arrogance of a very high order?

cheers

Roger Scott

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