Humpty Dumpty Cliff
And His Toadies
John Romero

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: John Romero
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999 12:35 PM

Ya, atheophobia.

It likes to distort or even misrepresent the atheistic position and then criticize that distortion of our position -- even if that is not genuinely our position. In doing this, atheophobia will even misuse words to make its point, such as using a word that means "deeply and faithfully religious" to describe an atheist. At other times, atheophobia accuses atheists of being hypocritical, for example, telling us that we "use the same tactics" that we criticize our poopnents [sic -- typo: "opponents"] for using -- without even describing those "tactics" (much less demonstrating that we have used them). Finally, in the absence of any argument stronger than simple statements, atheophobia asks, What will people think? and then throws in some name-calling and probably huffs and shines its nails over its accomplishment against us.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: John Romero
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999 1:27 PM

You still haven't made an argument, only statements -- many of them falsehoods.

I have never resprted to making a case against spmepne based uopn pne pf their tyopgraohical errprs! [Wherein Cliff swaps the letters "p" and "o" as per his original typo.]

And when I do quote someone, I at least copy and paste what they said so that even the typographical errors are intact. I would never respect someone who takes a typographical error, changes the spelling of that to something else, and then proceeds to base his case upon his own misspelling of his opponent's typo!

Of all the words you could have chosen to describe an atheist, you chose one that means "deeply and faithfully religious." This is not unlike calling someone a "dogmatic agnostic." I rest my case in claiming that yours is a typical example of the vitriolic treatment that we get from some theists and from some self-proclaimed agnostics.

It is this behavior -- this very behavior that you display -- that the word atheophobia was coined to describe. The word is not itself an argument any more than the word "racism" is an argument against anything. Both words are designed merely to describe.

Your use of falsehood to make your case against us is matched only by that of some of the more contemptible fundamentalist Christians who routinely write to this forum and try to set us straight (except your errors are probably more embarrassing than any we've received from Christians). The word we use to describe this behavior (not argue against it) is atheophobia.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: John Romero
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 12:15 AM

You are a liar.

I knew I had not said this, knowing that I would never word a statement the way you have claimed to quote me. However (in case my memory and my ethical system fails me), I did a thorough search of our website for any incidence, anywhere, of anyone on our website saying that anybody was "fearful of accepting the non-existence of God," and this "quotation" does not exist anywhere on our website. It is not something I would say; it is not the way I would word such an concept.

Then, after manufacturing a phony "quotation" and attributing it to me, you have the audacity to use your own falsehood as the basis for your argument against me -- your claim that I have committed name-calling by saying something that I never said.
 

Yes, you can use it this way. If your intention is to be vitriolic, your use is justified by any rules of English syntax. Your use of devout to modify atheists cannot be construed as conveying anything but a condescending attitude toward atheists. Had you meant to convey anything other than a disdainful attitude toward atheists, you would not have been justified in using this combination. But this was your intention, as is clear by the rest of your statements here and elsewhere.
 

Is this logic properly applied to the commonly accepted meaning of the word homophobia upon which the word atheophobia is based? Were the people who used to burn us at the stake just being eight-year-olds? Was that gang of young men who called me a "faggot" and beat me up (without first checking to see if I was gay) just being eight-year-olds?

I wonder who has the bias? Is it the people who lie about us and then use those lies to justify their spiteful behavior against us? Are they the ones with the "built-in bias"? Or could it be that those of us who are trying to live our own lives are the ones who have a built-in bias (but cannot, because busybodies keep insisting that we are evil, spite-filled, liars, etc.)?
 

Are we "trying to ride their coattails with this word coinage business"? Is this the only possible motive for our act?
 

This, itself, is two lies in one.
 

Inquiry? No. Your entire tone, from the start, has been accusatory. Your initial "inquiry" contained only one question: "What are your readers to make of this -- those who are searching for some answers, rather than your toadies?"

Inquiry does not lie about me and then ask me to answer to that lie.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: John Romero
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 3:54 PM

When you say that I said (or labeled people) something, and then place that something within quotation marks, you indicate your intent to quote me. If what is enclosed within those quotation marks is not something that I have said, you have attributed that quotation to me falsely. I am not making this up: this is how English works.
 

The working definition for "atheophobia" is linked from the very top item on our front page, and is also contained in the current front-page column of our magazine, a copy of which is linked from every index on our webpage. It is also linked from the American Atheists website and from two others that I know of.

Your etymology is based on a perjurious and philosophically untenable definition for the word atheism. Atheism is simply the lack of theism. If you think there is a God out there but that we cannot know any more than this about God, you are a theistic agnostic; if you don't know whether there is or is not a God, you are an atheistic agnostic (in that you lack a god-belief). This is how the majority of atheistic philosophers have defined the word over the years. How most theists (and some dictionaries) define it is unfair because it presupposes the existence of God and then says that atheists deny that presupposed "fact." This definition biases the very discussion that the word atheism intends to describe.

Mirriam-Webster's goes so far as to list, as a synonym for the word atheism, the word wickedness. Though MW is merely reporting how some people have used the word, this use (but not the reporting of it) is, in our opinion, atheophobic.

Your application of phobia seems inconsistent with the commonly accepted use as it is applied to the word homophobia -- upon which this word is clearly based.

While one of the definitions (#4) superficially sounds like your (false) understanding of what the word means to us, our definition was carefully worded in a sincere attempt to avoid the very criticism you have leveled against your own caricature of the word. If another atheist activist or organization had coined this word, and had used your caricature for the definition of the word, I would have opposed it as sternly (though not as rudely) as you have opposed your caricature of what we mean.

Our hope was that people would intuitively substitute intolerance toward gays and lesbians with intolerance toward atheists. Our goal is to point out that this intolerance exists and that it is vicious. One glance at our Letters section will show that this prejudice prevails; we have tried to coin an easily grasped word to describe this phenomenon.

Wendy Kaminer describes a study that shows that more Americans think it is okay to discriminate against atheists than think it is okay to discriminate against gays and lesbians. This is a serious matter that warrants serious attention. We think that the coining of a word to describe this problem is long overdue.

For example, a hoax is being spread that one of the gunman in the Columbine massacre asked Cassie Bernall if she believed in God, and that when she answered yes, he shot her. Investigators, early on, cast serious doubt upon this story; nevertheless, her parents proceeded with the publication of their book, "She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall." This falsehood has been cited on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in arguing for some very frightening pro-Christian, anti-everybody else legislation. The "martyrdom" lie also has the effect of portraying non-Christians as being capable of murdering Christians for no other reason than that they are Christians. Many Christians find this hoax enticing because it appears to fulfill one of the more questionable sayings attributed to Christ, and because this tale has proven to be extremely successful in fueling the culture war that some Christians have waged against the rest of us.

The limitations of the English language prevent us from coming up with a word that is intuitive as to what we do mean and, at the same time, is free from the possibility of being misconstrued by our opponents. Oh well. The difference between disagreeing with us and atheophobia is one of displayed attitude.

I was hoping for some thoughtful criticism of our move to coin the word, but the only criticism we have received thus far started off by calling us "toadies." Perhaps further criticism will come our way, but in a more dignified form. Hypothetically, the criticism against the word atheophobia will be the same as that against homophobia.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Atheophobia
Date: Thursday, October 21, 1999 3:29 AM

My previous letter contains the word "Judaeophobia." Ummm, anti-Semitism works just fine.

Here is an example of atheophobia in action. I think you will agree. I may get to posting the accompanying typewritten letter when I am done with this month's magazine.
 

"No man complains of his neighbor for ill management of his affairs, for an error in sowing his land, or marrying his daughter, for consuming his substance in taverns ... in all these he has liberty; but if he does not frequent the church, or then conform in ceremonies, there is an immediate uproar."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1782

"Lincoln was very politic, and a very shrewd man in some particulars. When he was talking to a Christian, he adapted himself to the Christian ... he was at moments, as it were, a Christian, through politeness, courtesy, or good breeding toward the delicate, tender-nerved man, the Christian, and in two minutes after, in the absence of such men, and among his own kind, the same old unbeliever."
-- Lincoln's former law partner, William A. Herndon
 

Disagreeing with a homosexual, or even disagreeing with, for example, the notion of homosexual "marriage" (as opposed to, perhaps, a domestic partnership contract) is not homophobia. However, demanding that homosexual couples not be granted the same benefits as married heterosexuals is, to me, homophobic. When I was living at the housing authority, they granted any couples -- of any type -- the same rights and privileges that they granted married couples. If we all acted in all matters like the housing authority does in this matter, I think the word "homophobia" would sound foreign and inappropriate even to homosexuals.
 

"You can't go to jail for what you're think-ing..."
-- the song "Standing on the Corner" by The Four Lads (later covered by Tom Waits)

Some homosexuals think heterosexuality is aberrant behavior, and call such people by an undignified name: "breeders." If this becomes a problem, should we coin the term "heterophobia"? Only if it becomes a problem. And it would only become a problem if homosexuals somehow became dominant or a majority, and then proceeded to trounce the rights and dignity of others. (I have some experience with this because I used to work at a place that was dominated by lesbians, and I live in a section of Portland, Oregon, which is to lesbians what Castro Street in San Francisco is to gay men.) When you act on your opinions, your opinions are no longer private.

Here is one reason why homophobia and atheophobia are problems in America. Our country is dominated by fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians. I have three different surveys that place the number of Americans at 45 to 47 percent who believe the creation account in Genesis is literally true -- down to the age of the earth being between 1,000 and 10,000 years. This is truly scary. This general flavor of Christianity also makes much ado about the tribal totem mentality of the Old Testament god. This god dealt mostly on a national level and had little to do with the individual. When one person sinned (for example, pissed on a wall -- I kid you not), the entire town suffered. When two people looked into the Arc of the Covenant, several thousand people were killed as punishment.

Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians fear that they are going to be judged by the volcano god if other people practice homosexuality. They forget the passage where Abraham haggles with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God agrees that he would spare the city if there were but five righteous people in it. Thus, fundamentalist and Evangelical theology (sans the Abraham passage) has homophobia, etc., built into it. Homophobia, in this case, is more than the natural abhorrence that many feel toward even the thought of homosex, it is this plus it is institutionalized by the nationalistic tribal totem elements of the religion. Atheophobia has been institutionalized, too: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" -- Psalm 14:1.
 
 

I don't see why not. Nobody persecutes Quakers or Baptists any more. The Irish-Americans seem to have come a long way. Both of these advances took lots and lots of diligent work.

As an anti-apartheid activist I could conceive -- in early 1986 -- not only the inevitable release of Nelson Mandela but his eventual election to the presidency of a post-apartheid South Africa. (He was still in prison at the time and anti-apartheid sentiments were still not very popular in America.) I am sorry to admit that I was the only activist at the U.C. San Diego shantytown demonstration who was talking along these lines, and I think this was that I was not a full-time, permanent activist, but U.C.-Divest project was just a gig to me. I was also a full decade older than any of the students, and had witnessed more cultural changes. What I witnessed in 1986 was a lot of diligent and passionate work, a few strokes of luck, and some opportunistic political maneuvers which resulted in U.C. pulling $4 billion out of South African portfolios. This one move took off like a snowball and within a few months it had become somewhat unpopular not to be anti-apartheid. By then I was finishing up some anti-homelessness work. Before I ever heard of Rush Limbaugh, I made the observations that anti-homelessness activism is two things: (1) a very lucrative business; (2) a wonderful opportunity for unbridled sex with underage teens. At that point, I lost my taste for organized activism; I have never respected people who are greedy either for money of for sex.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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