Letter Submitted To
The New York Times
from Cliff Walker

From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: The Times Editor <letters@nytimes.com>
Subject: A hearty thanks from atheists!
Date: Friday, July 16, 1999 5:47 AM

To the Times Editor:

We commend The New York Times for refraining from using the word "atheist" when describing the World Church of the Creator. The New York Times deserves a hearty thanks for stopping short of using "atheist" and stating only the facts: The World Chruch of the Creator simply "does not worship any God." [1]

Although this group fits some dictionary definitions of the word, the use of "atheist" by some other journals [2] is seen as gratuitous and irrelevant by many traditional atheists. This group in no way resembles the "atheist groups" that comes to mind when most people hear the term, groups that propagate atheism (the lack of a god- belief) and the usual issues such as atheist dignity and state-church separation.

The World Church of the Creator is unique and warrants unique treatment. If nothing else, their peculiar use (or misuse) of religious terms such as "Church" and "Creator" should tip people off that this is a group to which ordinary buzz-words do not necessarily apply.

The most important reason for not using "atheist" to describe them is stated by the Church itself: When asked, "Aren't you afraid of being called an Atheist?" Matthew Hale replies: "Not at all. We recognize the term 'Atheist' for the derogatory smear word that it is." [3] Hale knows as well as anybody what happens when people hurl spiteful epithets at one another; he dishes it out and he gets it from others.

Mirriam-Webster's lists the word "wickedness as an archaic synonym for "atheism." The use of "atheism" as "smear word" has not gone away. Some studies show that more Americans think it is okay to discriminate against atheists than think it is okay to discriminate against homosexuals. [4]

While most of us (including atheist groups) are trying to stop hatred, it does nobody any good to stigmatize honest and good-natured atheist groups by unnecessarily (and improperly) linking them to a white supremacist group. This only serves to further inflame many people's hatred for all atheists by furthering public ignorance and misunderstanding about atheists.

Notes:

1. E.G., "The New York Times," July 5, 1999, "Suspect in Shooting Rampage Killed Himself, F.B.I. Says" by Bill Dedman.

Searches of the New York Times website for ("World Church of the Creator" AND "atheist") and ("World Church of the Creator" AND "atheism") came up empty.

2. E.G., Washington Post, Monday, July 12, 1999, "Path of Calif. Hate Crimes Led to Strictly Reared Brothers" by Rene Sanchez. Editor Jo Rector, who was responsible for this language, staunchly defends the use, and refused to discuss the various uses of this word.

3. FAQ About Creativity:
http://209.143.158.42/faq.html
or
http://209.143.158.42/frames.html

This is the "back door" to the website that usually returns a "Forbidden" error -- thanks to an anonymous American Atheists member.

4. "The New Republic," October 14, 1996, "The Last Taboo" by Wendy Kaminer.

This piece is posted on "Positive Atheism" at:
http://www.PositiveAtheism.org/writ/kaminer.htm

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292
http://www.PositiveAtheism.org/
editor@positiveatheism.org

"As soon as you're born
     They make you feel small..."
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     to such acts only as are injurious to others.
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