Positive Atheism Forum
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How To Address People
Of Religious Prominence?
Gregory Tinker
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From: "Dan & Marquerite Johnson"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: family terminology
Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 9:13 PM

In Elizabethan Englant it seems lots of unrelated people called each other "cousin." Since we are all in the one human family I don't ming being called brother, and I can call almost anyone sister or brother if the situation calls for it. I wept when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed because to me he was a brother.

I can't quite call someone Mother or Father simply because people in their sect do so.

I recall a comment my father, a Lutheran minister, would make when he was wearing his clerical collar and someone would call him "Father," Dad would say, "I'm no father. I have five children at home."

Dan Johnson

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From: "Balsom-Heiser Family"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_How_To_Address_People_Of_Religious_Prominence_9555
Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 7:40 PM

Greg,

I believe in recognizing people by the titles they have earned.

Just because I have a fundamental disagreement with a person's philosophy doesn't mean I should hold their dedication, determination, or sacrifice in contempt. Using a title does not infer subservience on my part, but extends courtesy when I take the time to recognize their personal achievements.

I'm a member of the armed forces and am fortunate to have attained the rank of Master Sergeant. I'm addressed daily as "Sergeant" by people that have different philosophies, social status, and agendas than myself.

If you used "Sergeant" to address me, it wouldn't imply that you supported or endorsed me. It would simply acknowledge my personal achievements in a neutral manner.

Caveat: Don't confuse titles with terms of endearment such as "Sarge."

When I'm addressed as "Sarge", I must decipher the hidden message. "Sarge" implies respect when spoken by a subordinate; disrespect when used by a peer; endorsement when it comes from superior; brotherhood when it comes from a veteran; and suspicious when uttered by a car salesman.

When you use a term of endearment, you communicate something more than just acknowledgment of achievement. I recommend Atheists avoid using terms of endearment to address persons of religious prominence since it would probably be a regarded as a provocation.

Randy Balsom
www.usafbuttcrack.com

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum Questions; Lifetime Subscription Offer
Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 4:38 PM

In response to the question whether any of your fellow atheists have a problem with addressing a religious leader as "father", "reverend", or "brother". I have NO problem addressing a fellow human being as "father", "reverend", or "brother". I would hope they would, in turn, have no problem respecting my right to NOT believe as they do by not "preaching" to me.

Although this maybe a big assumption on my part, I do believe there are some lessons taught to us as children that should apply to everyone ie. "treat others as you would want to be treated". I don't care where the concept of common courtesy came from, to me it's just good common sense. "Respect" as Webster defines it is "an act of giving particular attention : CONSIDERATION." I believe "consideration" to be the key word. If we all showed a little more "respect" and "consideration" for one another's beliefs and every individual's right to those beliefs, whatever they maybe, I believe our world would be better for it. Let's not forget that if we want others to accept our beliefs we should accept theirs also.

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Cliff Responds:

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From: "Art Haykin"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_How_To_Address_People_Of_Religious_Prominence_9555
Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 6:20 PM

"Sir" or "ma'am" should suffice.

"Rabbi," by the way, simply means "teacher."

I kinda like "Skypilot."

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Cliff Replies:

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'Sky Pilot'
by Eric Burdon & The Animals
This anti-war song questions the role of the military chaplain.

He blesses the boys as they stand in line
     The smell of gun grease and their bayonets they shine
He's here to help them all that he can
     To make them feel wanted he's a good holy man

          Sky Pilot
          Sky Pilot
          How high can you fly?
          You'll never (never, never)
          Reach the sky

He smiles at the young soldiers, tells them it's all right
     He knows of their fear in the forthcoming fight
Soon there'll be blood and many will die
     Mothers and fathers, back home, they will cry

          Sky Pilot
          Sky Pilot
          How high can you fly?
          You'll never (never, never)
          Reach the sky

He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
     The order is given, they move down the line
But he'll stay behind and he'll meditate
     But it won't stop the bleeding or ease the hate

As the young men move out into the battle zone
     He feels good with God you're never alone
He feels so tired and he lays on his bed
     Hopes the men will find courage in the words that he said:

     Sky Pilot
          Sky Pilot
          How high can you fly?
          You'll never (never, never)
          Reach the sky

          [interlude]

"You're soldiers of God, you must understand
     The fate of your country is in your young hands
May God give you strength; do your job real well
     If it all was worth it, only time it will tell"

In the morning they return with tears in their eyes
     The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A young soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
     Remembers the words, "Thou shalt not kill"

     Sky Pilot
          Sky Pilot
          How high can you fly?
          You'll never (never, never)
          Reach the sky

 

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Art Responds:

I remember "Sky Pilot" from that old WWII song where the Chaplain on a destroyer took over the anti-aircraft gun and yelled, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

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"Oh, the Sky Pilot wrote it,
And here today we quote it,
What a sonofagun of a gunner was he!
Praise the Lorrd and pass the ammunition.
And we'll all be free."

 

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It's supposed to be based on an actual incident.

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From: "Ford Family"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum Questions; Lifetime Subscription Offer
Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 1:57 AM

This has happened to me on several occasions, my method has been to use their title, but I do make it quite clear to them that I am an atheist, and I do point out that I am a strong atheist, I believe due to the emphasis I place on the word strong, I get their respect, and no questioning is pursued.

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From: Conrad Goeringer
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Fw: AANEWS for Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 7:51 AM

As for addressing religious persons, how 'bout "Hey you"?

Conrad

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Added: February 5, 2002

From: "John F. Hirling" <Skypilot@ev1.net>
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: February 05, 2002 9:55 AM
Subject: FORUM_How_To_Address_People_Of_Religious_Prominence_9555

Personnally, I prefer John.

I've found it fascinating over the years that some people sense a need to address clerics with an honorific and that some clerics find the need to request or even demand them. I have some affinity for the use of Dr. where the degree exists but, again personally, I only ask that it be used in writings where everyone's educational honorifics are used.

Long ago, I was a practicing attorney. One of our judges demanded that we all address each other as 'doctor.' It was one of the most ridiculous exercises ever required of me. I have a M.Div (and some other alphabet soup) and am actively engaged in vocational ministry as solo pastor of a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). As a person who believes that all of us humans are 1) children of a divine creator, 2) that we all fall short of perfection, and 3) that all people are called to ministries in and for the world (please take ministry as a theologically neutral term), I'm concerned when honorifics divide us.

Clearly, I have no problem with the term 'skypilot' but I wouldn't want to be addressed that way any more than I would like to be addressed Reverend.

John F. Hirling
Oaks Presbyterian Church
Houston, Texas
skypilot@ev1.net

p.s.

I've listened to the lyrics from "Skypilot" several times lately and I'm not convinced the term was meant to be derogatory. My sense is that the lyrics express the frustration of trying to be of spiritual benefit in an ungodly situation.

jfh

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John F. Hirling" <Skypilot@ev1.net>
Subject: Re: FORUM_How_To_Address_People_Of_Religious_Prominence_9555
Date: February 05, 2002 2:44 PM

Hear, hear!

I'm way backlogged, but I'll get this posted and into the discussion as soon as I can. But as my (atheistic) Grandmother used to tell me,

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The Hurrieder I Go,
The Behinder I Get!

 

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Or maybe it was a sign in her kitchen. I only remember hearing her say that all the time, so it probably was a sign. In any event, I think it's a good thing to keep this saying in mind whenever your situation gets like mine.

What the Hell? I'll post it now! I can make the file look prettier while I'm at it!

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Oh, and didn't I get that botched lyric in Eric Burdon's "Sky Pilot" right? It finally came out on karaoke last year: the version sucks because the kept in three minutes worth of guns and airplanes and bombs, but left off that incredible final two-verse stanza! But at least it's singable and that's what's important. And when the second "Sky-y-y Pilot" in the final refrain (of the short version) comes around, I thrust the middle-right finger of my right hand proudly and defiantly into the air and sing it like it has some meaning!

And I'd do that whether or not the term "Sky Pilot" is considered derogatory, because it's not the Sky Pilot himself that I'm gesturing, as much as the whole concept of war and why we even need to go to war. I also comment, at the beginning of the song, that the war effort uses -- exploits -- the Sky Pilot for the purpose of filling the minds of our boys with visions of the afterlife, a cosmic sense of duty, and a false sense of justice.

I've noticed that hardly anybody from my generation knows what the term "Sky Pilot" means in that song. Even fewer recognize that Burdon, et al, are portraying the Sky Pilot as collaborating with the war effort rather than being on the side of the soldier (like he's supposed to be), that is, being an advocate for the boys who don't want to be there, who don't really know why they're there (who didn't know the truth about why they were in Vietnam), and, most importantly, don't know if they'll ever get to go home.

I will mention that in an upcoming print edition, we're featuring a piece supporting the notion of the miliary Chaplain.

Oh, and in spell-checking this letter, I notice that "religous" is misspelled in the link code to that Forum file. I'll get right on it! Thanks to Dreamweaver's global search and replace, I won't even need to open the file and I'll have fixed all occurrences of that error with a single mouse click. But actually, that will be a good enough excuse to go ahead and post this letter anyway!

Thanks for your thoughts!

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

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