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The Moral Atheist

This issue of The Moral Atheist is being distributed by email and snail mail. The issue has some intriguing topics of current importance written from perspectives the mainstream media prefer not to deal with, but should. If you want the entire 24-page magazine, just ask and we will send it as a PDF. If you find it interesting, we invite you to join AFHR as a member or supporter.

Meanwhile, the following is taken from the AFHR Report so you get an idea of what we are up to. (We will also be submitting an amicus brief to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Final Exit Network in their fight for our right to choose self-deliverance over a slow and painful death. But more on that next time.)



Mike Newdow reports that he is almost done collecting statements from plaintiffs (including AFHR) for his challenge to "In God We Trust" as our national motto engraved on our money. He plans to file the lawsuit in seven district courts before year-end. (Minnesota is in one of them.)

Challenges based on the Establishment clause have generally failed because the principle has been seriously perverted, so Newdow is basing this one on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a religious freedom issue — the right of nonbelievers to be free of government enforcing the religious beliefs of others on us. Newdow asks, "If we allow 'In God We Trust' on currency, where does the insertion of religion into government end?" Prior to the filing, plaintiffs who have submitted statements will have a chance to review them and make any changes before they are submitted. Plaintiffs with minor children will be told the name under which they will appear anonymously in the lawsuit.

Our comment: The most popular uses for "In God We Trust" money are for cash-only currency transactions such as paying for prostitution, illegal drugs, illegal firearms, back-alley gambling & bribery. Why would a god want His name on our filthy money? AFHR member Dick Segers added this observation: "If you take God off of the money, not much happens. But if you take the money out of God, He evaporates. And for the future, please keep your gods off our credit cards."



My handyperson, Fio, who can fix anything that goes wrong in a house just got married to her partner, Deb. The wedding video makes you wonder what has been wrong with people for so many years (centuries, actually) that an event so beautifully human could have been stigmatized and criminalized. We all know, of course, that the hate has come from irrational religious beliefs. Inexplicably, this has not been recognized much in the LGBT community, with too many of them wanting to suck up to "affirming churches" and carefully avoiding any criticism of traditional religion itself as the cause of their persecution.

Someone finally made that truth-telling breakthrough. In the 20 Aug/2 Sep issue of Lavender magazine there is an article by Thomas Ehnert titled "What Do We Do when Love Doesn't Die?" Here is a sample:

"It is unnatural to hate. Hate must be taught. And let's be honest. It is religion that teaches it in most cases. Who first taught anti-Semitism? Who defends the proposition that women are to be obedient to men, and in most cases still keeps them out of the pulpit and away from the altar? From what book were slaves taught to be obedient to their masters? Who first taught that mixing of races was immoral? Who taught that GLBT people are an abomination?"

Ehnert notes that every bit of progress made by the LGBT community has been despite the hatred and opposition from religious organizations. He echoes the observation so insightfully made by our columnist Bill Sierichs that decent people who don't want to hate chose to give up their traditional beliefs so they could be moral and see the humanity in those they had been taught to hate.

We need more voices of reason like Thomas Ehnert who are willing to tell the truth about where so much irrational hate comes from.



This magazine has been examining the changing nature of religion and how atheists might respond to that. Some atheist groups want to operate as a god-free church to demonstrate the value of a religion-free life. Others reject any association with religion for its toxic history, inherent divisiveness and barbaric outbursts of inhumanity.

As for the liberal religionists they have been secularizing religion by adopting the science based and human centered values long advocated by atheists. This has gone so far that a few years ago a Presbyterian church announced that it was henceforth atheist although still Presbyterian. Currently, the Reform arm of Judaism (its most liberal faction) has announced that its new prayer book makes a belief in God optional and is supportive of feminism and gay rights. And all surveys show the number of "nones" (those who don't affiliate with any religion) is increasing.

As for government, its idea of neutrality is and always has been that religion is to be accommodated regardless of the inconvenience and harm to others (see the Hobby Lobby ruling, with more of that to come). Lately, in response to religion's intrusion into the public sphere, atheist groups have insisted that they be accommodated too. However, there is no way to be accommodated without further entrenching religion's influence. We get tax exemptions, can take turns giving invocations at city council meetings, and even add an atheist monument on public property to complement the religious icons. But what this does is prevent religious rituals and icons from ever being removed.We establish and ensure their permanence by our participation! But we are so few that these sparse attempts at inclusion and public visibility put us at the level of kids running a lemonade stand. So how is that working for us?

Instead of playing "Me too" with religion, why not work to get religion out of government entirely? Why not speak up in non-atheist forums as Thomas Ehnert did in Lavender magazine? Why not stand up to the god-nazis with the moral clarity of our own sincerely held beliefs in decent and humane laws? Why not insist that those beliefs be accommodated? After all, they are the only ones that should be, since they are civic virtues. Unverifiable religious beliefs are not, so they have no place in government.


In the Nov-Dec issue of The Moral Atheist

* AFHR Report

* The Limitations of Knowledge: Drug Testing vs Faith, Hope, and Nature's Imperatives.  Niles Ross

* A Bit of Hope to Ease Our Yearning to Know.  Cecil Bothwell

* The Worst Teachings of Jesus.  Stephen Van Eck

* Defining Religion.  Jon Nelson

* Erase the Mistake of Race.  Tim Gorski

* CHRISTIANITY IN ITS OWN WORDS. Kill the Confederate Myth! (Special article). William Sierichs Jr.

* Winter Solstice Party Invitation.

* WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? A Possible but Unlikely Conversation.  Bill van Druten


* BACK COVER: "Know ye the old barbarian; the barbarian come again."


A Way to Find Peace
in a World in Pieces

How Atheists Celebrate the Yuletide


By MarieAlena Castle
Communications Director, Atheists For Human Rights


David Crumm, Detroit Free Press Religion Writer [1], wrote, "Dr. James O'Neill, medical director of the Clarkston Ambulatory Care Center, said the study [2] supports his belief that religion contributes to a healthy lifestyle."

"People come in to see me who have headaches or chronic aches, depression, disruptions in their family, problems on their job, they're taking drugs or alcohol. The first thing I'll ask someone like that is about their spiritual life," O'Neill said. "Some people are offended or defensive, but I explain that we all need a moral yardstick for our behavior . . ."

A closer partnership between medicine and religion might help soothe many social ills, O'Neill said. "In today's world, we've stopped appreciating each other and looking out for each other's needs. What can draw us all together on that is our spiritual life."


Here is my email to David Crumm:

Thanks so much for including an atheist perspective in your article. We do appreciate it and hope you will continue to seek our views. We think they are valid and deserving of consideration.

For example, your article mentions how various religious groups celebrate the winter holiday season. We atheists also celebrate it but actually are closer to the original intent. We celebrate the winter solstice - nature and the "return" of the sun - an end to long dark nights as we look forward again to spring. It's Yuletide - literally, the turning of the wheel of the year in the Scandinavian tradition. Every holiday tradition can be traced to ancient sun worship, including feasting, gift-giving, decorated trees, family gatherings, and festive lighting. Even Jesus (a carbon copy of the Roman god Mithra) is just the latest in a long line of sun-gods, all of them born of a virgin at the winter solstice, and all of them nothing more than mythical representations of the sun as it rose in the sign of Virgo (as the constellations were configured 2000 and more years ago). The life-giving sun was "born of a virgin." Atheists certainly don't worship the sun as originally intended, but we do celebrate our common humanity. It is unfortunate that a holiday that could be celebrated as a unifying element for everyone has been co-opted by religious institutions and made divisive.

About the religion=longevity issue, I must say I am offended by Dr. James O'Neill's comment equating spirituality with morality ("... we all need a moral yardstick for our behaviour ..."). The most common question asked of atheists is, "How can you be moral without religion?" Given religion's historical record and current daily reports of religion-based mayhem and massacre, we are tempted to ask how one can be moral WITH religion. By the way, will those longevity studies examine the role of this mayhem in life expectancy? Will they include the suicides of homosexual teenagers who cannot live with the social rejection induced by religion? Will they include the children who die of medical neglect because their parents believe in faith healing? Will they include the thousands of maternal deaths that occur annually worldwide due to religion-based denial of contraceptives and safe, legal abortions? Just asking.

Morality has nothing to do with either religion or a lack thereof and everything to do with the absolutely essential need of people for each other. It's an evolutionary imperative. People will do anything to be accepted by their group. If they feel rejected by one group, they will find other groups ... sometimes called gangs. If they cannot feel accepted by any group, they may become suicidal or homicidal. How many mass murderers had lots of friends?

Almost all atheists come from a religious background, sometimes intensely so. None of us as far as I know lost our moral sense when we abandoned religion. In fact, we think we improved it. No more "wretched sinner" self-flagellations. No more holier-than-thou attitude. No more arrogant proselytizing. No more seeing "sin" in natural, consensual, non-exploitive sexual behavior. No more opposing legitimate scientific inquiry because of some ancient religious ideas. No more immature fantasies about an afterlife. No more looking for miracles to bail us out of difficulties.

What we gained was self-esteem and independence combined with a deeper compassion for others based on our common humanity and common destiny as we travel together on this speck of cosmic dust. We look to each other, not to some imaginary deity. May we live long and prosper!

[1] About David Crumm
[2] 1998 study, headed by Robert Hummer and Christopher Ellison, University of Texas, and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Atheists For Human Rights now certifies Atheist Wedding Celebrants

All-atheist authorization nationwide.*

We no longer need a contrived church affiliation to solemnize marriages.

Select one of our registered celebrants or choose a friend or family member to officiate at your wedding. We will provide that person with atheist certification at no charge.


We can help.

Call 612-529-1200 or email Communications Director

To Our Fellow Freethought Organizations:

We offer document templates and information at no charge so you can authorize your own celebrants.

Create memorable weddings that reflect secular values.
* Ask how this might apply in your state.

The Best Policy Guide for a Religiously Neutral
Secular Nation

The first full-size book by AFHR Communications Director Marie Alena Castle, published by See Sharp Press, Tucson AZ, and written at their request.

All proceeds go to support AFHR outreach activities. Available from Barnes and Noble in stores and on-line, and from Amazon.com. Cover price $14.95, 236 pp.

"Culture Wars is an engaging, compelling and important book. The public is so unaware how fragile our constitutional rights are. The book reminds me of our military men and women who return to the states as amputees and then speak strongly against intolerance because they understand that's what the fight was all about."
— Andrew Dawkins, Minneapolis MN. Attorney, former Minnesota state legislator

"Culture Wars is brilliant, readable, to the point, and thorough. Marie Alena Castle has given us a timely book that deserves a wide and serious readership."
— Cecil Bothwell, Asheville NC councilmember, author of The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire.

"Over the years I have read many books on this subject, but Culture Wars stands head and shoulders above the crowd."
— Earl Lee, librarian, author of Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity.

"I was amazed and entranced by Ms. Castle's breadth of knowledge, her passion and compassion, and clear-headed convictions."
— Arvonne Fraser, former U.S. Ambassador to the United States Commission on the Status of Women.

"The author's grasp of theology and understanding of its irrelevance to how we live are impressive. This is rare in books about religion."
— Kirk Buchanan, former Roman Catholic priest.

Check out our signature activity,
our Moral High Ground Fund

It's the only one in the country to help poor women pay for abortions, and to support gays and other groups victimized by religion-based laws.
Check out our list of donor premiums!
No trinkets, mugs, or t-shirts —
just things to satisfy your mind.
ArticlesTop of Page
About UsTop of Page
Our Philosophy
Atheism accepts the natural world as all there is. To live without god beliefs is intellectually stimulating. To find one's own purpose and be responsible for one's own life is exciting. To be free of the imagined surveillance of good and evil spirits is liberating. To seek a peaceful world through work and friendship and civic action is life-affirming.
-- MarieAlena Castle, March 1994
It is the role of unbelievers to force religions to be benign.
-- Martin Marty, Lutheran theologian, Minneapolis MN,
   28 April 1998
Let us become post-religious, post-national Universal Humans.
-- Lavanam, Atheist Centre, India

Atheists For Human Rights is a national, ethics-driven organization upholding an atheism that is confidently held, morally active, and vigorously opposes religions that are politically and socially predatory or harm innocent people.

  • We are committed to making atheism visible in the community as a rational, responsible voice for secular morality.
  • We sponsor well-advertised public forums regularly with well known speakers on topics related to the common good and maintaining a secular government.
  • We run high-visibility "bold & proud" ads for our activities in mainstream newspapers and on radio.
  • We produce atheist videos for our website video outreach project and also make them available on CDs.
  • We submit letters and commentary articles to the media that are frequently accepted.
  • We meet with media people to discuss our concerns and encourage fair and balanced coverage of atheism.
  • We meet with public officials to make them aware of the secular community and express our concerns about the intrusion of religion into legislative action and to stress the importance of state-church separation.
  • We wrote a proclamation declaring 4 July 2002, "Indivisible Day," which was signed by Gov. Ventura on our behalf, causing an uproar by "Christian nation" fundamentalists that was front-page news in the St. Paul and Minneapolis papers.
  • Our visibility generates invitations to debate religious-right radio talk show hosts on their political/social agenda and state-church separation.
  • We are unique among atheist organizations in that, as a matter of official policy, we oppose the religious right's assaults on our freedoms and come to the aid of its victims. We do this with reason, civility, pride, and a passion for truth and justice.
  • We provide a strong and effective voice for human rights within the atheist community and are developing a national network of citizens who seek the social and political right to be religion-free. We walk the talk. Our board consists of activists willing to help with the tasks of our organization. Our bylaws impose a high level of ethical standards. We operate openly and honestly at all times.
  • Membership is open to all who reject supernatural beliefs and support the principles and policies of this organization. We thrive on new ideas and welcome everyone who shares our goals.


As usual, we offer 3 free issues of The Moral Atheist full 24-page magazine, by postal or email, so you get a good idea of what we are all about. Just send your postal or email contact info to: Communications Director

Moral High Ground Project

The Moral High Ground project has chosen the following funds to provide support and protection for these groups and to counter the efforts of religious zealots to impose their religious doctrines through law (other funding mechanisms may be added as resources increase):

Philanthrofund scholarship

Like the other Moral High Ground funding projects, it is unique in the freethought community. Each year since 2002 AFHR has donated $500 to be awarded to a GLBT openly atheist student at Pfund's major awards ceremony. This has created visibility and respect for AFHR within the GLBT community.

Grants to poor women to help pay for abortions

At least $200 each is given annually to funds such as the Women's Medical Fund, administered by Anne Nicol Gaylor from Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin, and through the North Dakota WIN (Women In Need) Abortion Access Fund, administered by the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. These funds serve poor women in areas where religion-generated abortion laws are irrationally restrictive and punitive.

Support for physician aid in dying

As opportunities arise, we support efforts by physician-aid-in-dying organizations so the terminally ill who want to die with dignity on their own terms have the legal right to do so.

Protection for children harmed by faith healing

As opportunities arise, we support the efforts of CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty) to protect children from harm where state laws define faith healing as healthcare and exempt parents from prosecution when they allow children to die by substituting prayer for medical care.


Outreach Activities

Atheists for Human Rights is focused primarily on reaching out to the public in morally active ways to advance the atheistic worldview.

Charitable Outreach

We donate to secular charities that help young people and the homeless.

Highway Cleanup

In 2005 we took on an Adopt-A-Highway cleanup project. The work is done three times a year in spring, summer and fall. Large highway signs identify AFHR as the cleanup crew for a 4-mile stretch of highway in Lakeville that passes many churches.

Minnesota Alliance Of Peacemakers

We joined MAP and have participated in several of their events urging peaceful solutions to world conflicts. MAP is a coalition of churches and secular organizations working together in the cause of peace.

Interfaith Dialogue

AFHR is represented by invitation at regular interfaith gatherings hosted by Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to find common ground in our common humanity to address the causes of social conflict and stress.

Speakers Bureau

Since 2004, about three times a year, we have been invited to give presentations on atheism to educational and social service agencies for their diversity training programs. Videos of all speakers here.

Fireside Chats

These monthly discussions about atheist issues are occasions for socializing as well as developing ideas for further activism.

Public Forums

This major outreach project was begun in June 2006 and continues. The purpose is to show the public how atheists support our constitutional freedoms, seek rational solutions to issues of civic concern, and promote the common good. These events are heavily advertised in local newspapers and on Air America radio.

Hub of AtheismTop of Page

Welcome to the
Hub of Atheism!


Atheists For Human Rights has a geodesic dome as its headquarters. This unique architecture was developed by Buckminster ("Bucky") Fuller (1895-1983), an atheist, architect, environmentalist, and inventor. His ambition was to use science to help solve human problems and to find ways to do more with less.

The tragic death of his young daughter inspired him to find "what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity." The epitaph on Fuller's tombstone says, "Call me trimtab," referring to a small but critical aircraft part that holds a stabilizing component in position.

Much of Fuller's philosophy is expressed in the goals and strivings of Atheists For Human Rights.

Contact UsTop of Page

5146 Newton Ave. N.
Minneapolis MN 55430-3459

If you need directions, call:

or email:
Communications Director.

Leave us a voicemail by calling:

612-DAMN-Y'ALL (612-326-6925)


Phone messages may be used on our website.



Letters and articles are welcome!

CalendarTop of Page

If you are not a regular attendee, call to find out if the schedule has changed.


5:00 to 6:30 PM
Happy Hour

Ol' Mexico Restaurant, on Lexington, two blocks north of Larpenteur, Roseville.
Call Paul Craven, 763-788-8918.


1st Tuesdays
11:30 AM
Lunch Social

Old Country Buffet, County Road. B2, (east of Fairview). Roseville.
Bob & Marilyn Nienkerk, 612-866-6200.


1st & 3rd Mondays
6:30 PM

Larpenteur Estates party room, 1276 Larpenteur Ave. W., St. Paul.
George Kane, 651-488-8225.


3rd Wednesdays
11:30 AM
Charley French Memorial Lunch

Dragon House restaurant, 3970 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights.
Private room.
Bill Volna, 612-781-1420 or 1322.



Fireside Chat

3rd Fridays
6-9+ PM.
Hub of Atheism, 5146 Newton Ave. N., Minneapolis
Call (612) 588-1597 or
email Communications Director

Always free food and beverages.


20 November:
By special request, our DVD is Star Trek: Generations, one of the best of this atheistic TV/film franchise created by atheist Gene Roddenberry. Stars both Patrick Stewart and William Shatner as Enterprise captains.

Yuletide Tree Come to our WINTER SOLSTICE PARTY!

19 December - 1 TO 4 PM
on Lexington Avenue, two blocks north of Larpenteur, in Roseville, MN, in the PARTY ROOM.
We'll have a really good holiday buffet.
$20 in advance, $25 at the door (includes buffet,
beverage, tax, tip, entertainment).

* * * Program * * *
A Seasonally Merry Show
"The Jesus Freezes Follies"

Clarence Darrow (Randall Tigue) meets climate change denier Jesus (John Dingley) on Mt. Everest as Hell freezes over.

Music by John Annen

Welsh Storyteller and Singer John Dingley



Twin Cities Meetups
Email Scott Muir, Video Manager or visit Twin Cities Atheists

Southern Minnesota Meetups
Email Crystal Dervetski



Local: Ad hoc discussions at social events.
National: Announcements and discussions on AFHRbod Yahoo Groups, first 10 days of the month. To get on the list, just give us your email address. Significant issues discussed are covered in The Moral Atheist for reader feedback. It's all open. Decisions, if needed, are formed by consensus if possible.



Our videos are played in Minneapolis and St. Paul on public access stations.
In Minneapolis, they are on MTN Ch. 75 at 7:30 PM. Mondays and other "fill-in" times.
In St. Paul, they are on SPNN Ch 15 at 6 PM; Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 AM and 11 AM.
Thanks to Paul Craven for handling this.

LinksTop of Page