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Just For Laughs
Rich Zawadzki

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive Atheism, Cliff's Writings
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000 23:01:45 -0800

And what's so bad about living like a heathen -- that is, a person who "does not acknowledge the god of the Bible"? I live like a heathen all the time. I am a heathen, because I think believing the Bible is pure foolishness.

But this is America, isn't it? (Or is it?)

The term heathen is somewhat insulting, though, because it implies that someone who does "acknowledge" the god of the Bible is somehow superior to somebody who has no reason to believe that any such creature as the Bible-god exists. But, I'm kinda glad you used this affront up front, to prepare me for what was in store in the rest of your letter.

In fact, I'm somewhat offended that the dictionary uses the word acknowledge because their using that word presupposes the existence of the Bible-god -- something an impartial reference guide (such as a dictionary) ought never do when dealing with controversial subjects such as the existence of gods and their consorts, demi-gods (of late, downgraded to angels and demons), leprechauns, witches on broomsticks, talking dogs, rabbits in flying saucers, and more mutually exclusive Jesuses (Jesi?) than anyone would ever care to know about.
 

Don't most people do this?

I mean, a few otherwise fine people use epithets against folks they don't even know, but I think most people are trying to do the best they can with what they've got.

So, your remark raises a serious question for me: What is it about Christianity that makes so many Christians talk as if they're somehow superior to the rest of us when it comes to morality? I don't get it. It's not like there's any truth behind this assumption, and this behavior serves only to make the Christians in question appear arrogant.

It's this arrogance, more than anything else, which prevents me from even giving lip-service to Christianity (as doing so would surely reduce the bigotry that I endure on almost a daily basis). I'm too much of a man of truthfulness to assert what is flatly false simply because it might bring me gain. I would like to be able to find some redeeming feature in the Christian religion, though. If I found even one good thing, I would emphasize that feature in hopes of reducing the bigotry that I endure almost every day.

But no: I cannot find anything I like about the Christian religion -- anything. So, when asked, I will give the honest opinion of my mind and will suffer the consequences of being truthful.
 

Yes! This is America!

(I get this treatment all the time!)

This is America where even atheists may state the honest opinions of their hearts without being put to death!

And this is America where a Christian is free to cast doubt on the integrity of an atheist spokesperson without coughing up a good hard case against that atheist. In America, a theist need merely find an atheist's words "amusing" or "offensive" and the matter is settled. In America, the Christian is not required to make a solid case against the atheist, but may simply slight the atheist without fear.

But let the atheist try to do this to a Christian in America and see what happens! We never hear the end of it!
 

You are free to be a Christian, and in many situations in America, you'd better be a Christian if you wish to thrive.

But I am not free to be an atheist. True, I am an atheist and have been imprisoned for my atheism only once, but I am not truly free. I pay a very high price in that I am marginalized, discriminated against, written off, lied about, lied to, run out of social situations, ignored, panned, taken advantage of, and many other things. I lack the advantages of being a member of the majority, and am a member of a minority that is more widely disdained than homosexuals.
 

I don't get it!

What did I do to earn such concern? Are you concerned that I demand dignity in social situations?

Are you aware that I don't approach Christians and act superior to them or otherwise point out the differences between us? Are you aware that I have never tried to talk any Christian into becoming an atheist? Never! I publish a magazine whose target audience consists of people who already reject the many and varied god-claims made by theists.

So, in light of what I've said about the bigotry we endure, the discrimination and wholesale marginalization we currently endure and the torture, confiscations, and death sentences our forebears endured, why on earth are you concerned? I don't believe you! You tell me you're concerned, but your letter only dishes out more of the same! If you really wanted me to think you're concerned, you'd at least have made some move toward (if nothing else) acknowledging the problem -- much less helping us come up with a solution. But you're just another example of the problem!
 

Oh, now I get it!

Ha ha ha!

Ha. Ha.

Some of us are more "free" than others of us. Some us may say anything we like without suffering the consequences of speaking irresponsibly. This is one of the benefits of being a member of the majority when that majority practices exclusivism against non-members.

The rest of us (including myself) recognize that "free" speech in no way absolves us from speaking responsibly, that is, in speaking respectfully and truthfully. And if we do speak irresponsibly, we pay for it with our credibility.

Fortunately for many Christians, though, any attempt to point out untruthfulness or spitefulness in their speech is answered with accusations that we are somehow trying to prevent them from "speaking out for the Lord."
 

Sounds like fun!

(I wonder why I'm not laughing.)

Could it be that I've had to change bars one more time due (once again) to the fact that it got around that I'm an atheist? so I'm staying home on a Friday night rather than grabbing a well-deserved reprieve from this cracker-box apartment where I live and work? I just don't have the nerve to go out there tonight. Maybe tomorrow, but not tonight.
 

If this is a joke, do you want me to answer it?

Or are you just making fun of atheists because you're so superior to us that you can act this way and fear no consequences? Do you think that not even your credibility will be tarnished by your behavior?

Don't you realize that acting this way speaks volumes against the claims that the Christian religion is effective at turning people into moral citizens?

Next question.
 

I always understood factorial to mean something completely different from what you say here. But then, I haven't taken a math class since the 1980s.

First, it doesn't take any faith to acknowledge facts -- such as acknowlegding the fact that 6! equals 6×5×4×3×2×1 equals 720. It doesn't take any faith to acknowledge the fact that no evolutionist claims that evolution happened just by chance, and that evolution could be calculated by laying odds. It doesn't take any faith to suspect that only those opponents of evolution who are either ignorant or dishonest or both would caricature the theory of evolution the way you have here, because those who've studied evolution know that this straw-man you've presented is not evolution at all.

But it takes pure faith to take a bunch of figures rattled off by a preacher as fact, and to repeat them indiscriminately to someone you don't even know -- without even checking to see if what the preacher just told you is even true -- without having enough understanding to know whether it even applies to the subject you're pretending to discuss -- just so you can try to convince somebody that yours is a philosophy of truthfulness and that your opponent's is a philosophy of falsehood.
 

Yes. The most recent charitable thing I did was pay taxes so that the government could fund Christian "charities" so that the Christians could gloat that they're so generous with my tax dollars. I did this just so that Christians could be happy -- threw them a bone, so to speak.

The truth is that the churches allot only about three percent of their massive incomes to charity, and much of this goes to administration. Other so-called Christian charities are pure business -- except that by calling themselves "Churches" they can avoid paying the taxes that the rest of us must then make up for.

I just love the Christian spirit of giving!
 

Does the American Red Cross have a cross as its symbol because it was founded by a Christian?

I didn't think so.

Was the Carnegie Foundation founded by a Christian? the Ford foundation? the Smithsonian? Planned Parenthood?

I didn't think so.

Just go to any grocery store and see the fruits of Luther Burbank's wonderment of nature and love for humanity. You don't even have to log on to the Internet to see what Bill Gates has given the world, just power up your computer and watch your screen.

Was woman's suffrage achieved by a band of Christian women with the aid of their Christian supporters? Was India's independence fought by a man who said, "I am a super-Christian"? Was India's first Prime Minister a devout Christian? or even a Hindu or a Muslim? When Martin Luther King went to India, who did he visit, and why? Was the American Civil War won by a President whose close friends called him a devout Christian? Was the Revolutionary War won by a General and inspired by a writer who were known to be men of prayer?

I didn't think so.

Was anaesthetic medicine developed by Christian physicians with the full support of Bible-believing clergy? Was radioactivity discovered by a loving couple who prayed to the Christian godhead for success in with experiments? Did the one who mapped out the theory of relativity believe in a personal god? Were the light bulb and the phonograph invented by a Christian? Was DNA discovered by a pair of Christians stumping for creationism?

Guess again.

Was the development of the birth control pill financed by a Christian hospital -- or even the Government?

Nope. It was a private citizen, an atheist, a woman, who funded this research with her own money.

But I've heard this pill called "a Godsend" more than a few times, and have heard people thank the Christian god for many things which we have done ourselves from the sweat of our own brows -- and against the opposition of busybody Christians who cannot live their own lives but must live our lives for us.
 

Is the Baptist hospital you mentioned run entirely and exclusively by donations from Baptists?

I didn't think so.

In fact, the Roman Catholic hospital I went to earlier this year sent me only one copy of a bill, which I misplaced, and now I must deal with a collection agency. They didn't even have the decency to send me a second warning before running me through!

Also, is St. Joseph's Crippled Children's Home a place where an atheist could take her child and trust that her child will never once be indoctrinated with religion while staying at the home?

I didn't think so.

And does St. Joseph's Crippled Children's Home exist entirely and exclusively on the donations of worshipers of St. Joseph?

No. They not only take tax money and a tax deduction (which equals two donations from me) but they also solicit donations from anyone who will give (including many atheists), who then get a tax deduction for their donation (which equals a third donation from me). And if anybody staying there qualifies for welfare or Social Security, the Home gets to keep every dollar of it (which equals a fourth donation from me).
 

If atheists only comparatively recently worked it out so that we no longer have to get burned at the stake for our opinions -- and if only a two or three years ago an atheist had to go to the Supreme Court in order to qualify to be a Notary Public because he refused to lie on the form that asked him if he believed in any gods -- and if a man only this year was fired from a tenured position at a public university for being outspoken about his atheism -- and if the atheist who is writing to you at this moment was "held" for 24 days in county jail simply for refusing to undergo religious instruction -- then who on earth would support an "atheist" organization?

And tell me why any such organization should polarize the community by allying itself to a controversial viewpoint -- atheistic or theistic?

If it's anybody's responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, it is everybody's responsibility. This is why atheists and others established the various welfare systems -- which the churches are busy trying to dismantle so that the helpless will again be at their mercy and will again be a captive audience for their control-issue evangelism.

Yes, but many of these ills have been done simply because the culprits believed in a god. "Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings." (Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.)

Meanwhile, much good is done by various people of various persuasions. This is because human nature tends toward compassion -- unless a dogma inspires the humans in question to work toward abandoning their human nature. "Fatally powerful as religious systems have been, human nature is stronger and wider, and though dogmas may hamper they cannot absolutely repress its growth." (Mary Ann Evans, who, in order to get published in this Christian-dominated society, called herself George Eliot.)
 

This question deserves one response: Have Christians done anything except in the name of Christ? that is, have Christians done any good thing for any other reason except as an advertisement or hustle for their religion? Here's another one: have any Christians done anything except by the coercion of Hell's fire or by the bribery of Heaven's mighty rewards?

Have any Christians ever done anything simply because they knew it was the right thing to do?

My answer is: Yes, Christians have done many good things simply because it was the right thing to do, but you wouldn't know this to read the many letters from arrogant Christians that we receive on this forum.
 

Better than that! Were it not for the claims of theists, we wouldn't even be atheists, but regular people! But these claims are not only rammed down our throats, we are also expected to support them not only financially but by politely refraining from issuing much-deserved criticism. And if we don't refrain, the Christians will make sure we have hell to pay -- even though there's no such place as hell (there is only France, as Frank Zappa once pointed out).

But again, if you haven't figured it out, Positive Atheism is about atheists, and we don't give a rat what Christians think or whether any Christians ever de-convert to atheism. Our website and magazine are here for atheists, and you are visiting our website as a guest. If you wish to maintain any semblance of credibility, please act like the guest that you are.

Besides, there's no work in this. If I needed to support myself, I'd do something else. As big as this operation has become, I still pay most of the bills. I simply want to make it less likely that future atheists will have to endure what I've had to live with my whole life.
 

Evolution is one of the most solidly established facts of science. The only alternate explanations offered are (1) that a race of aliens have been tinkering with our DNA for several billion years, and that the universe is steady-state with no beginning; (2) that one or more of over 5,000 gods and goddesses (and their consorts) created life.

If nobody has been able to establish the existence of any of these gods, and if evolution is so firmly established, transcending many different branches of science (to the point where "Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution" -- or so says Ukrainian-American geneticist and zoologist Theodosius Dobzhansky), then evolution is really the only explanation worth considering. All other explanations are such stretches of the imagination that as a man of truthfulness I would be very uncomfortable advocating any of the other positions I have encountered. If evolution weren't so firmly established, I'd simply say, "I don't know," because the other explanations are just way too far off the mark.

But to ask if we believe in evolution is to ask a loaded question.
 

We have already covered Hovind's lies, and will not give any more space to him. The search engine in our Web Guide will take anyone who is curious to our discussion of his breach of trust against the gullible.

Your affiliation with Hovind explains a lot about the tone of your letter.

Meanwhile, have a nice life. As far as we can tell, it's the only one we get. You can do what you want, but I choose to treat my fellow-humans with as much dignity as I can muster, lashing out only against acts of indignity. I do this because this is the only life each of my fellow-humans will live, and who am I to make things tougher for them than they already are?
 

If you get this response before I've posted it, feel free to consider yourself respected by me.

However, I'll write what I want because you are not a member of our target audience. We are trying to end the stigma and the bigotry and the discrimination that atheists endure, and as far as I'm concerned, you're a big part of the problem; you're certainly not part of the solution, and it's the solution that we seek.

Again, have a nice life. I mean this with as much sincerity as I do when I tell people, "Merry Christmas."

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: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Positive Atheism, Cliff's Writings
Date: Sunday, December 03, 2000 12:53 AM

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  He who fights with priests may make up his mind to have his poor good name torn and befouled by the most infamous lies and the most cutting slanders.
     -- Heinrich Heine
 

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We will honor your request for us not to write to you. Thus, I will send this response to myself and post it. Had you not made this request, I would have asked you not to write back to us: your hate-filled communications are not conducive to our goals. We invite civil dialogue from theists, and even solicit thoughtful criticism of our views. But bigotry such as you exhibit here and in your first letter is not acceptable.

So, consider yourself notified: We will forward any future communications from you to your server's abuse team.
 

Again, being a man of truthfulness, there's a big reason why I abhor fundamentalist Christianity above all other religions: the tribal totem loyalism advocated by this particular dogma has shown itself to be most effective at callusing the hearts of humans and alienating them from their innate senses of compassion and their natural curiosity to discover truth.

Again, in America, a Christian may make a sweeping comment such as this without fear of tarnishing the reputation of Christianity. We atheists do not have this privilege, and no matter how carefully and thoroughly we prepare our arguments, all a Christian need do is reply with an unsubstantiated remark such as this.
 

I get this ad hominem every time I respond to someone who is such a flaming bigot that to even try to contain my contempt toward that person would be an inappropriate response on my part.

Are you any different from the protagonist in the old Lou Reed song?

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  Hey, man, what's your style?
    How do you get your adrenaline flowing?
Hey, man, what's your style?
  How do you get your kicks for living? ...
 
                                       Well you
get somebody to
    come on to you, And then you
get somebody to
    come on to you, And then you
                                              you
kill him, now
            -- Lou Reed, "Kicks" (1975)
 

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Your disregard for humanity and for truthfulness is the most chilling (shark-like) example I've encountered in at least a year.

Had you acted in a more dignified manner, I would have had a much easier time while disagreeing with you (and I think you knew this when you wrote). But your sheer arrogance and your initial contempt toward me (a man you don't even know) warrants a stern response from me. And, the sternness I used in preparing that response you exploit for the purpose of passing judgement upon my entire character. Then you use your (mis)judgement of my character to condemn the philosophical position that I hold.

Finally, you have the audacity to lump all atheists into your hate-filled fundamentalist Christian tunnel-vision:
 

Very few Christian bigots will encounter atheists who are happy about encountering a Christian bigot. The only atheists I know who would snicker upon encountering you might be the one or two Satanists who would consider your being a fundamentalist Christian to be an even more fitting curse than even they could conjure! Even if the atheist you meet actually is happy (I had a blast preparing that response last night), the Christian bigot will color his interpretation of the encounter with his preconceptions.

You don't even know me and you don't know the over 1.2 billion nontheists (atheists) in the world, yet you say, "They're angry and bitter all the time." How can you judge so many people -- wholesale judgement -- based upon one man's response to your boastful taunting? What could have possibly callused your conscience that you would act this way toward your fellow-humans -- just so you can advocate a particular religious viewpoint?

I'll tell you what: any time I encounter the level and the extent of bigotry that you displayed in your previous letter, that bigot will see my angry side, and will see it without having to bring her or his imagination into play!

And you know what? I think you already knew that when you wrote to me. That's why I titled the piece the way I did and posted it long before sending you the response.

I can relate to your family member (assuming you are being more truthful about your family member than you have been in other respects). And I'd wager that this family member seems angry and bitter to you because that person is angry and bitter when in the presence of a bullyragging rigorist such as yourself.

Thus, rather than continue to roll over and take it from behind, I decided to stand up for what is right. This includes opposing those crafty and dangerous sojourners who dwell among us and who wreak havoc upon the rest of us: we who call this life our home and who endeavor to make this life better for all humans (including those whose citizenship is alleged to be in "Heaven").
 

Ah, yes! Threats of physical violence! Because you cannot persuade us through reason, perhaps you can persuade us by dispatching The Big Volcano Guy after us! (And you seem like the type who'd just love to peek over into the edge of Hell and watch people burning alive. I'll bet you can hardly wait!)

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  [10] But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
[11] For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
[12] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
[13] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
     -- Romans 14:10-13
 

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I agree that hasty judgement of others is wrong, but Paul's motive for avoiding this behavior is twisted: the reason judging people is wrong is because this tends to produce inaccurate results, thus exposing one to making a fool of oneself and subsequently impairing one's credibility -- as you have done here and as you did in your previous letter. I find it best to limit my discussions to people's behavior and to let their character speak for itself. And only when one's behavior impacts me do I even speak out at all.

Also, to be coerced with threats of violence ("Yo gonna burn in Hell!") or to be enticed with promises of reward ("You'll get 72 virgins, all to yourself, if you die during a fatwa.") is not morality. Morality is doing something because you have determined it to be the right thing to do. Christian coercion and Islamic enticement may be an effective way to control some people, but to behave a certain way for these reasons is not morality.

Finally, for religious leaders to coerce or entice people this way is the epitome of immorality because the leaders are lying to the people in order to control their behavior (usually to the religious leaders' personal advantage)!
 

Whatever that means! I'd ask you to explain but I'd rather not hear from you any more. I'm not that curious.

And I guess scrambling to grasp any negative-sounding statement that you can come up with will suffice to spread your vitriol against us atheists. Besides, two or three bigoted fundamentalist Christians might even buy it, and might learn to hate all atheists after hearing a ditty such as this!
 

Your adherence to The Religion Of Brutality has turned you into something that barely resembles a human.

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  Any body of men who believe in hell will persecute whenever they have the power.
     -- Joseph McCabe,
           What Gods Cost Men

The man who is always worrying about whether or not his soul would be damned generally has a soul that isn't worth a damn.
     -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
 

 

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So be it. I didn't approach you, you first wrote to me. If you make claims, then you can expect to get responses from certain people. Had your religion remained private, your religion would also have remained none of my business. Most importantly (to me, anyway), your religion would have retained respectability (dignity) in my eyes.

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

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.