A Quarterly Newsletter
in this issue:
Because of a change in circumstances, combined with an encouraging response from our readers, we have decided to resume publishing The Canadian Atheist Newsletter. However, we now realize it is necessary to request a certain amount of financial support by way of a subscription rate in order to keep the letter going out to our individual readers. This has been suggested by many of our supporters. A subscription rate would also help share the cost of the distribution of 2000 copies to over 70 libraries in BC with the goal of eventually supplying copies to libraries across Canada.
We are suggesting $25 per year (or 4 issues) as a basic rate, from those who can afford it. As for the many who cannot contribute for any reason, we will continue to send the Newsletter, if requested. Of course, many of you have contributed more than this in the past and we don't want to discourage that kind of generous support.
A version of this message was sent on April 10 to about 150 of our readers who have Internet access. So far, responses and cheques have been encouraging. We will continue to send copies of the Newsletter to everyone on our mailing list through Issue 12. After that time, we will edit the list down to only those who have indicated their interest.
The date next your name on the mailing label indicates the month and year of your last contribution. If you sent help between January and June, the date will read 06/97. Cheques should be made payable to The Canadian Atheist Society and mailed to: PO Box 41613, 923 12th Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 6L1.
While changing the paper in the bottom of the birdcage, we often skim over the Christian Info News,--- a 40-page freebie, 60% ads, with a distribution of 370,000 monthly to Southwestern BC and the Okanagan area. It not only keeps us abreast of what the Christers are up to, but it helps to remind us just why we are atheists.
A version of a story we've all heard appeared in the Feb/97 issue. The director of player personnel with the Vancouver basketball team, Larry Riley, was on his way from Cincinnati to Detroit to watch tall people dribble, when a voice in his head told him to "go home". He boarded a different flight and the plane he was scheduled to get on crashed. What a break for Larry as his personal saviour chose to save his life and to kill all the other passengers on the plane instead! The article was presented with a nice dignified border and sans irony. Larry says he "can't wrestle with why God saved him and killed the others", but he's "certainly challenged to be a better Christian". (Wonder if he misses Curly and Moe.)
In the lead front page article of the April issue, are the smiling photos of the head coaches of Vancouver's football/hockey/basketball teams. The article explains how all three are "sustained by their Christian faith". Not noted is the fact that the three teams they represent are each the biggest losers in their respective leagues.
Another profile in the February issue tells of "author, scientist, lecturer, TV host, Hugh Ross, PhD. An astronomer, trained at UBC and U of T, "Dr." Ross goes around to big churches as head of an outfit called "Reasons to Believe", that "identifies scientific evidence which substantiate God's existence and supports the Bible's accuracy". The science faculty at UBC and U of T must be proud. It's too bad we haven't got a Canadian version of the Snuffed Candle Award. (See Flogging the Flim Flam. p4)
"Every sensible man, every honest man, must hold the Christian sect in horror. But what shall we substitute in its place? you say. What? A ferocious animal has sucked the blood of my relatives.
I tell you to rid yourselves of this beast, and you ask me what you shall put in its place?"
HUMANISM is an approach to a philosophy of life based on compassion, reason, intelligence and dignity of individuals in open democratic society.
For a FREE magazine write:
Box 3769-C Ottawa, ON K1Y 4J8
In a January 15/97 column in the Vancouver Province, typist Paul Schratz wrote about some shenanigans at a Sikh temple in Surrey, BC. We didn't pay much attention to the antics; it seemed to be just another case of religious fundamentalists battling with religious not-so-fundamentalists over the question of eating from tables as opposed to eating on the floor. Anyway, Schratz decided that this would be a good opportunity to knock our newsletter. Right out of the blue he came out with the comment, "Anti-religionist, Ray Blessin, who publishes the hate-filled rag (our emphasis) Canadian Atheist, probably just got himself two issues' worth of cover stories."
Now, we don't object to the term "rag"; that's a time-honoured way to refer to relatively- insignificant publications like ours and The Vancouver Province. But we did get snagged on the words "hate-filled", since he gave no fer instances. Maybe he was referring to our writing ABOUT hate, which is what we do a lot of, specifically the hate that fuels religions, such as the gunning down of young women by Muslims in Algeria for not covering their heads with a veil; the slaughter of over 4,000 people in that country in order to install their Islamic rule; the celebration by Orthodox Jews at the funeral of Baruch Goldstein, the murderer of at least 29 praying Palestinians, proclaiming him a "holy man"; the "ethnic cleansing" (mass murder of men, women and children) by Serbian Christians in Bosnia; and the murderous zealotry of Hindus and Muslims in India, etc., etc.
It is true that we have no respect for religions nor reverence for any of its purveyors and for this we do not apologize. Not as long as we have buffoons like Francis Cardinal Spellman spouting inanities like , "In religion alone lies the hope for lasting peace." and Time magazine continues to run its annual cover story about how more and more people are returning to "God".
We sent an e-mail to Mr. Schratz asking him to cite an example of the hate in our rag that so enrages him. We don't expect to hear back from him but it's nice to know that he has at least heard of our newsletter there being precious little evidence that he has ever actually read one.
From the spring 1997 Covert Action Quarterly: Explaining why his Christian Broadcasting Network was going to begin producing soap operas and game shows, Pat Robertson admitted, "Frankly, only a masochist would want to watch religious shows all day long."
Speaking of Pat Robertson, he and son Timothy are working on a deal to sell their International Family Entertainment, Inc. to Rupert Murdoch that would see the Robertsons pocket about lebenty jillion bucks. (Pass the plate, Rosebud.) But Robertson won't be making any rush deals. He's also a real good buddy with Zaire's 10 Billion dollar man Mobutu and is heavily into the diamond bidness there. After all, diamonds are forever. The whole story can be found thanks to Conrad Goeringer at: http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/
In a review of a documentary titled Licensed to Kill, by Arthur Dong, six convicted murderers of gay men all claim God as their accomplice. The murderers take Leviticus 20:13 literally. It was easy to kill the gay men, they say, because the bible says it's okay. Besides, they were already robbing them so it was just as convenient to kill them. They think it's a cinch to rob gay men because gays hesitate to go to the police. One of the Bible believing killers even thought the cops would go easier on him. Source: Stuart Klawans The Nation 4/28/97
To be an atheist requires strength of mind and goodness of heart found in not one of a thousand.
Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834) Poet, journalist, philosopher.
The following was an urgent Hale-Bopp message intercepted:
URGENT!! URGENT!! URGENT!! URGENT!!
TO: All Heaven's Gate Personnel
FROM: The Supreme Commander
MESSAGE: Due to recent solar flares and magnetic distortions between the Sun and the Hale-Bopp Comet, the pick up of the 39 Heaven's Gate passengers WILL BE DELAYED until the year 2224 when we will pass by the planet Earth again.
DO NOT EAT THE APPLE SAUCE AT THIS TIME!!
DO NOT EAT THE APPLE SAUCE AT THIS TIME!!
Thanks to Jim Heldberg & AACHAT
Organizing Atheists is like trying to saddle a flock of hummingbirds.
The difficulty is not fully apparent unless you happen to know that hummingbirds
do not normally form flocks.
The amazing discovery of the image of "Mother" Teresa in a cinnamon bun in Nashville, Tennessee prompted one of the intellectually challenged to declare: "This should be another example to the people of this planet that God is indeed watching us and Judgment Day is approaching faster than people realize."
Readers will recall our review of Christopher Hitchens' delightful little book The Missionary Position, which contains a full account of the hollowness of "Mother's" world view, and a detailed list of her crimes against humanity. The book is now available in paper-back published by Verso. Hitchens says, and we agree, that you should get some copies now to equip your friends to withstand the "tsunami of bullshit" that will break over them when "Mother" gives up the ghost. (This also gives us a chance to use the word "bullshit" again.)
It occurred to us that the possibility of cloning humans should be cheery news for the religious. The no-sex-for-pleasure-only crowd could advocate no sex, period. Just crank out perfect little Sunday school students in a factory. Reminds us of a report in The National Catholic Reporter a while back: A Vatican-approved vibrating machine that attaches to the testicles had proved successful in gathering sperm for medical use as a "moral alternative to masturbation." The University of the Sacred Heart in Rome completed a survey of 17 men and concluded that "components that constitute the masturbation act would seem to be absent," such as "direct stimulation of the genital organ" and any "erotic feelings." The report added, they are still working to perfect the device by making it painful.
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the cheesiest Ghostbuster of them all? Dan Aykroyd, according to the American Council for Media Integrity who recently awarded the fading Blues Brother with the Snuffed Candle Award. This honour recognized Aykroyd for encouraging credulity, presenting pseudo-science as genuine and contributing to the public's lack of understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry. His latest effort, a stinker called Psi Factor, is a TV series that showcases paranormal occurrences allegedly based on" true" events from the files of something called the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research.
Perhaps it's that rarefied LA gaseous mixture they try to pass off as air, that has the poor guy actually believing in giant eggs that can incubate a flea the size of a warthog (according to Frank, May 21 ), but we can't dismiss the possibility that beliefs may have a price tag, especially when paid for in Yankee dollahs.
There's nothing more despicable than those who prey on the weak, the sick, the disoriented and lonely and the very, very young. This has always been the modus operandi of organized religion; if you can't ideally get them by the age of 5, wait ?til their down then pounce. This immoral recruitment technique is the foundation of Steppism, the basis of all 12-step recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc.
Steppism is the religious myth that the world is "diseased to the core" and can only be saved by embracing the 12-Step (God-based) Recovery Movement. From its beginnings back in the 20's to this day, its ?respectability' remains, for the most
part, unchallenged. In this so-called pluralist democracy, no other religious body in the United States has been granted such unprecedented privilege to grow and prosper with federal " approval" (read, tax breaks and recognition by parole boards).
The Steppism movement adamantly denies it is a religion but says it is more a "spirituality", while blatantly referring to "God" or a "Higher Power" as the source of all salvation. This mythical promise, mixed with a dollop of down home common sense and a smidgen of psychological truth, is enough to convince a broad community of addicted people to switch slave masters. Conscripts must buy into the 12-steppers' prediction of inevitable relapse unless they attend the program's meetings forever. Nonetheless, 95% fail within the first year.
As an answer to this lack of choice in American addiction care, several secular systems of treatment began to emerge. In 1985 Jack Trimpey, a clinical social worker and former alcohol addict, started to promote a new cure for substance addiction that he called Rational Recovery, the "revolutionary alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous."
Rational Recovery is a program that teaches Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT) which means learning the difference between "your" voice, which is the part of the brain called the neo cortex or new brain that allows humans to think, reason and use language, and the competing voice of the primitive mid-brain or "Beast Brain". The Beast Brain, referred to as "it", generates survival appetites oxygen, food, sex and fluids and being a dumb beast, it can sometimes be easily fooled into including booze and drugs in with the basic necessities. Since both brains share the same thinking centres, the same language, the Beast Brain is capable of enlisting the aid of all of the same tools, including auditory thoughts, visual imagery, and a wide range of feelings, in its pursuit of the substances it deems necessary for survival.
Recognizing the addictive voice of the Beast Brain, ie. "I don't want to drink but ?it' does," is a potent insight that helps one dissociate from one's own addictive mentality. Reclaiming the pronoun "I" from the Beast is the essence of AVRT, and it does not require labelling oneself "alcoholic", striving for moral or spiritual betterment or calling upon Higher Powers to defeat the Beast of Buzz. We'll drink to that!
Rational Recovery: The New Cure by Jack Trimpey (1995)
Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure by Chaz Bufe
Our thanks to Tim Kennedy for research on this.
Faith is a euphemism for prejudice and religion is a euphemism for superstition.
Paul Keller, American rationalist
Many, if not most, private radio stations in Canada and the U.S., sell a chunk of their prime evening air time to James Dobson's Focus on the Family, a hugely influential and extemely wealthy fundamentalist Christian propaganda enterprise. We listened for a few minutes recently.
"Dr." Dobson hosted a routine by a couple of young fathers who are promoting books and tapes on how to organize "family night" at home. These enthusiastic young fathers of 4 and 5 year-old kids explained how to indoctrinate the young into religion. An astute 5 year old asked, how could God be real if we couldn't see him. Simple, says the Dad. Using a balloon, he explained how we can't see the air in the balloon even though it's real, ipso facto, God is real. In the next little con- game, the Dads offered a way to bring God to the Halloween scene. The kids were instructed to scoop the guts from a pumpkin with their hands and place the slimy mess at the base of a small ?cross' erected for the purpose. This, the kids were told, signified the cleansing of ?sin' from their hearts. This brought tears to the eyes of crafty ol' "Dr." Dobson. The point was clearly made that it is critical to ?get' the kids at a very early age. (Can you spell 'child abuse'?)
The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger
pain the second time around.
From time to time, as we all know, a sect appears in our midst
announcing that the world will very soon come to an end. Generally, by some
slight confusion or miscalculation, it is the sect that comes to an end.
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
English essayist, novelist, poet.
A must for any atheist's arsenal is Losing Faith in Faith: from Preacher to Atheist by Dan Barker. Presently Public Relations Director for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin, Barker is an avid defender of the unfaith on the talkshow circuit and at personal appearances across North America. An articulate writer and debater, Barker explains why after nineteen years as a preacher, touring evangelist, Christian song writer and performer, he left the Elmer Gantry-like subculture of ordinations and revival meetings to become an atheist. It was not an impulsive move, but came as a result of an intellectual journey that spanned a period of 4 or 5 years, gently rippling from faith to reason.
In 1983, Barker felt compelled to send a letter announcing his new-found atheism to more than fifty colleagues, friends and family members. In the letter he wrote, "I am not your enemy. Our enemy is the one who doesn't care about these subjects - who thinks that you and I are silly to be concerned with life and values. . . It is the non-thinker who bothers me and with whom meaningful interaction is impossible."
In 1987, he married Annie Laurie Gaylor, author of "Woe to the Women, The Bible Tells Me So" and an active member in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. In a public testimony read by a judge at Freethought Hall, they eschewed matrimony as "an historically unjust institution" that refuses to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while conferring upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority. They each announced their intentions to retain their respective birth names and to avoid the labels "husband" and "wife" as much as possible. They simply stated that being "peers, friends, and lovers", their marriage was a "loving contract . . . that requires no blessing above or beyond the mutual respect, admiration and trust of two individuals who cannot imagine not spending the rest of their lives together."
Unlike another recently-published Canadian evangelist who also rejected his "calling" but stopped just short of renouncing his feelings of mysticism regarding the Christ figure, there is not a hint of nostalgia or doubt in Dan Barker's born again atheism. When Oprah Winfrey had him on her show, she asked, "You went for seventeen years as a minister to not believing in God! What does that say about you?" "That I was wrong," Barker replied.
Losing Faith In Faith by Dan Barker is published by; Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. P.O. Box 750, Madison, WI 53701-0750 (608)256-8900
Right wing religious vocalists,
Predicted god-myth optimists
Charge that godless atheists
Have lesser brains than Calvinists.
Furthermore, we're egotists
Who don't believe evangelists.
I was once a Baptist organist,
A closeted secret humanist.
Skillful facile casuist,
Not exactly fabulist.
But then my reason did insist
That I admit I'm atheist.
I came out as freethought analyst
Not popular with Methodist!
They charge that I'm obstructionist
Who won't partake in eucharist.
Furthermore, I'm communist,
A faith rejecting sensualist.
Now condescending religionists
Really piss off atheists.
I'm proud to be a realist!
Not just a bible idolist,
Or trinity ventriloquist.
Why can't we just co-exist??
Guess I'm still an optimist.
By Dorothy B. Thompson
Once again the anti-choice juggernaught, Campaign life Coalition, is mobilizing its minions to campaign for control over how people are to conduct their lives and deaths. In its recent 12- page propaganda sheet entitled Euthanasia sent to most households across the country, it uses fear to foist their religion-based beliefs on the general public fear that legal euthanasia for the terminally ill will not be voluntary, fear that it will be forced on the helpless for the sake of convenience or economic expediency.
The paper has a cover photo of an elderly couple, the man in a wheelchair nattily dressed with a walking stick at his side sharing, along with his grey-haired wife, a happy cuddle with a lovely baby (supposedly) great-grandchild. The sub-script says, "A society is best judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members." What a pretty picture. No contraptionalized hospital bed surrounded by tanks and tubes and monitors and fluid bags. No foul smells, no bedsores. No moans, no screams, no gagging, no endless pain-filled days turning into endless pain-filled nights. No family or friends forced to witness the unbearable suffering of their loved one. But, is this not what propaganda is all about?
According to this flyer, once assisted suicide is legalized, it will open the flood gates to legalized murder a possible power imbalance between the young and the old. (Perhaps the very child this elderly couple is holding will have them shipped off to the boneyard as soon as he is old enough to hold a pen.) What are the safeguards, the guarantees? Well, any so-called "civilized society" will ensure that laws drawn up regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide will err on the side of protection of the individual from outside forces. But, what guarantee is there now for "death with dignity", the utmost personal attention, the best palliative care, and the best pain control that modern medicine can offer, for everyone? Realistically, none.
Jack Baribeau, the editor of this propaganda sheet, glibly states, "The ?quality' of life should never be used to determine the value of life." We can't help but wonder just what ?quality' he is referring to, the inability to still be able to play a good game of racquetball? Sue Rodriguez, a victim of ALS ( also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), died in l994. She was arguably Canada's best-known spokesperson for the right to die by assisted suicide. In spite of the best of palliative care, her "quality of life" degenerated into having to have someone hold her head up for her, someone to carry her around from chair to bed, to bath, to toilet and it was a struggle for her to breathe, swallow or cry without choking.
She fought literally to her last breath for the legal right to a merciful, dignified end for herself and others, but it was denied by our "civilized" legal system. Sue Rodriguez's last resort was that of covert assistance to die, generally agreed to be a wide-spread practice. But it was her respect for the law, as long as it was law, that extenuated her suffering to the point of being intolerable.
Although the 1994 public hearings by the Special Committee of the Canadian Senate resulted in a report endorsing the legality of two controversial life-terminating practices: the withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (which includes starving and dehydrating), and "treatment aimed at the alleviation of suffering that may shorten life" (a high dose of pain killer), it stopped short on recommending the legalization of doctor- assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia a real ethico-logical inconsistency.
Just who are the chief enemies of compassionate death? Dr. Jack Kevorkian who has received the 1994 Humanist Hero Award from the American Humanist Association, singles out organized religion, organized medicine, and organized big business. While these guardians of morality rant about slippery slopes, suffering as an ennobling experience, "God's will" and even references to Nazi Germany, those who have no legal escape from their endless pain must wonder, as one letter writer did, "What is more sinister, being allowed to die, or being forced to live?"
"The Roman Catholic Church is the greatest criminal organization outside the mafia." So said Michael Enright, host-in-waiting of CBC radio's bore-athon, Morningside. Wow! Suddenly the fan is spraying it out in all directions! But, just when we thought it would be safe to listen to Mourningside without nodding off, damned if he didn't go and apologize.
Despite his credentials of having been bathed and raised in Catholicism, combined with having been called "simply the best broadcast journalist in the country", Enright's apology in the Globe & Mail offered the possibility that his remarks may have been "ill-informed". He really didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings.
We guess this means that even though he is said to be "positively obsessive about the importance of human and civil rights", Enright won't be interviewing people on Morningside such as the Mothers of Plaza De Mayo. This leading Argentinian civil rights group is charging that the Pope's envoy to Argentina from 1974-80, Cardinal Pio Laghi, had "initmate knowledge of the torture, extermination and disappearance of political opponents of the repressive military junta......and gave advice on the most Christian and compassonate way to execute people..... allowing the deportation or execution of liberal nuns or priests." Cardinal Laghi, a buddy of ex-pres. George Bush and said to be in the running for the popeship, is currently enjoying his exalted position as the Vatican's Prefect of the Congregation of Catholic Education, in charge of Catholic schools and universities world wide. (Van. Sun. May 22/97)
And there's more. But it won't coming from Michael Enright on Morningside who will likely be holding true to the government-recommended daily dose of stimuli for CBC radio touting the Compleat Moose Poop Cookbook and holding telephone interviews with the Radish Lady of Alberta. We can go back to sleep now.
Anyone who engages in the practice of psycho- therapy confronts every day the devastation wrought by the teachings of religion.
Nathanial Branden Ph.D. "The Psychology of Self-esteem."
We have not heard of any progress made in the investigation at the time of this writing. All we have learned is that the IRS has confiscated the O'Hair family home in Austin over a tax dispute, and board member, Spike Tyson, ensconced therein since the family's disappearance, has been turfed. However, in the past couple of months, several feature articles have appeared in top-of-the-line (such as it is) mainstream publications Vanity Fair, Time, etc. They were not flattering depictions of Madalyn & Co. (Did we think they would be?) and their "facts" regarding the case were as equally sketchy as those found in less prestigious publications. But the positive aspect is that the story of the mysterious disappearance of the Murray-O'Hair family, after 2 years, has finally received international mainstream media coverage. At last, the story was deemed important enough to be of interest to their international readership.
We are surprised that the folks at American Atheist, Inc. don't see it this way. Their official policy, which they are urging all atheist members and freethinkers everywhere to adhere to, is NOT to discuss the missing O'Hair family with the media (dismissing the media's interest as "fascination with gossip"), UNLESS
equal press is given to relevant atheist issues of the day. In other words, "Until you hacks tell everyone what good stuff we're doing, we're not talking to you about the disappearance of our leaders." Hey, that'll larn ?em!
Apparently, what Ellen Johnson is most concerned and highly indignant about is the crass commercialism of the press their bold-faced use of high-profile people such as the O'Hairs to actually "sell advertising." Hello? What she fails to appreciate, however, is the dire necessity to keep the O'Hair disappearance fresh in the ?public consciousness' (a fleeting thing at best), because once the media loses interest in the case, and they will if all they get is stonewalling from the American Atheists, Inc., it won't be long until the only reaction to the mention of the once (in)famous atheist's name will be, "O'Hair who?" And any vital information or clues concerning the family's fate that might have come forth as a result of the invaluable publicity produced by mainstream media coverage, will remain in obscurity.
Going on vacation? Likely gonna meet up with that obnoxious Born-Again brother-in-law but there's no room in your knapsack for a 5-lb tome like 'Deceptions and Myths of the Bible'? Then travel light with:
The Bible Tells Me So, by Owen T. Fauvel
Fauvel on patriarchal religions:
If the qualification for leadership lies in what is between the legs rather than what is between the ears, then it should not be surprising that our society will be governed by the penis instead of the brain.
So easy to read, even religionists will be able to understand it! And yet, it weighs no more than 4oz. and will tuck neatly between your Tilley hat and your slouch socks. Get a copy today for only 5 bucks, postage paid. Write to: Owen T. Fauvel 4735 Lakeside Road, Penticton, BC V2A 6J7