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Phyllis Officle

"God" omits to strike atheists dead in Alabama

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The Alabama Freethought Association (AFA) doesn't like the sound of "retreat". They call their convivial annual gathering at Lake Hypatia an "advance". The 2009 schedule promised an atheists vs agnostics softball game, a ceremony honouring atheists in foxholes, paddleboats, music, cartoons, and barbecue.

Lake Hypatia is named for the Alexandrian scientist and philosopher murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE, who has become an unofficial secular martyr. (There being no official secular martyr-selection procedure.) It's by Talladega National Forest. The state considers it Lake Joan, but the AFA sign on County Road 303 says Lake Hypatia. ("Joan ... of Arc?" I asked. "No, probably the developer's sister.")

Arriving on Friday, I found a registration table in the shade outside Southern Freethought Hall. On one side a cheerful blonde was saying, "I was raised p'lyg." On the other a dark-haired woman marveled, "Until a year ago I never knew an atheist. I thought they were all mean hateful people."

The AFA is a chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), based in liberal Madison, Wisconsin. They've been holding the Advance since 1991. It attracts 100-200 people, mostly from the South, many from communities where strong religious norms treat atheism as unthinkable and despicable. At the advance, nonbelief provokes neither shock nor outrage. The 2009 Advance included atheists who were once Black Hebrew, Catholic, Episcopal, Jehovah's Witness, Methodist, Mormon, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, or United Brethren church members. Or pastors.

Attendees' public expression of nonbelief ranges from Alice Cleveland, an energetic Alabaman who revels in fighting church-state trespasses ("They ought not to have done that!") to – I'll call her "Name Changed" – a thoughtful woman who said, "I live in silence, like my mother did." Her husband said their first advance, last year, had been "the best weekend of our lives."

It's lovely there, with sweet-gum trees, tiny new frogs by the shore, and fireflies in the evenings. As night falls, swallows swooping above the lake gradually give way to bats.

One afternoon a storm threatened. AFA director Pat Cleveland explained which wall to stand against if a siren sounded. I found Edwin Kagin, national legal director of American Atheists, studying the clouds. "There's your headline," he said. "'God Strikes Atheists Dead in Alabama!'"

There was a talk on the evolution of flight in birds. An Oklahoman ACLU director described having her house fire-bombed for suing over school-supported Bible study classes. Songwriter (and ex-preacher) Dan Barker and Pulitzer-winning cartoonist (and ex-Mormon) Steve Benson presented a revue with Barker's songs and Benson's "Jesus Christ" drawings, the ones that make editors say, "Jesus Christ, we can't run that!"

Everywhere people told stories. In scheduled events and between them, over meals and on walks, matters discussed included fleeing a polygamist Mormon sect at 18, trying to still religious doubts by starting one's own church, how you explain beer in the camp refrigerator to Baptist landlords (Yankees left it), winning arguments by quoting the Treaty of Tripoli, getting born-again to impress girls, and scripture-slamming on Chicago buses.

Although they substituted a "moment of bedlam" for a "moment of silence," the advance was no bacchanal. To a San Franciscan accustomed to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, their blasphemy seemed mild. Their T-shirts with atheistic slogans were crisp, probably because they're seldom worn outside the house. As people who had gone through intellectual struggles in comparative isolation, what they really wanted to do was talk. This crowd took great pleasure in reciting the first amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion ... ")

On Saturday afternoon Jeremy Hall, just out of the army (and two tours in Iraq), talked about being harassed for his atheism. He also described a nearly fatal encounter with shrapnel in Mosul, when he was at rear gun and the third truck in a convoy was blown up by an IED. "Hey, Hall, close call you had there," said an officer. "Do you believe in Jesus now?" "No sir, but I believe in ballistic glass."

The freethinkers gave Hall a standing ovation. They moved outside to gather at the monument to atheists in foxholes, which has the emblems of the branches of the US armed services engraved on the sides. Fifteen veterans stood around the monument to be honoured by the assembled infidels. The brief ceremony included a recitation of the pledge of allegiance without the inserted "under God" clause.

The group parted wistfully, planning to meet again at Occam's coffeehouse in Memphis, the FFRF conference in Seattle, or next year at Lake Hypatia.
Pukon_the_Treen

If you are interested in the very disturbing details of how the American army has become institutionally evangelical and it's conflicts increasingly couched in biblical 'good vs. evil' apocalyptic terms, then these two speeches from the Freedom From Religion Foundation conferences are very good; the first one particularly:

http://ffrf.org/events/2006/audio/mp3/weinstein.mp3
http://ffrf.org/events/2008/audio/JeremyHall.mp3
Silver

The evangelising of the American Army is all down to that murderous bubble-head, Dubya Bush. Seeing someone like him makes me glad I'm not of his religion.
Dave B

Re: "God" omits to strike atheists dead in Alabama

Sounds like a good place to visit Phyllis.

There is an old saying, origin unclear but most offered American, that I do not subscribe to: "There are no atheists in the foxholes".

I rate this with Pascal's Wager - basically convert on your death bed, just in case!

I should have died three times so far. I shouldn't have survived my heart attack 11 years ago and would have died twice more if my little, built in, electronic friend had not given my ticker an 800 volt slap when it misbehaved!

None of these experiences have ever shaken my belief that there are no such thing as God and the here-after. Though I have found myself remembering bits of a sci-fi story from many years ago where someone found out the afterlife existed, though not in the form that God wobblers think of it.

Delrick53

Re: "God" omits to strike atheists dead in Alabama

Dave B wrote:
Sounds like a good place to visit Phyllis.

There is an old saying, origin unclear but most offered American, that I do not subscribe to: "There are no atheists in the foxholes".

I rate this with Pascal's Wager - basically convert on your death bed, just in case!

I should have died three times so far. I shouldn't have survived my heart attack 11 years ago and would have died twice more if my little, built in, electronic friend had not given my ticker an 800 volt slap when it misbehaved!

None of these experiences have ever shaken my belief that there are no such thing as God and the here-after. Though I have found myself remembering bits of a sci-fi story from many years ago where someone found out the afterlife existed, though not in the form that God wobblers think of it.




Talking to some of my former colleagues who fought in the Falklands, the only conversion that happened there was non-smokers becoming smokers.

I don't know who came up with the 'foxholes' thing, but it's total nonsense. Both my grandfathers lost their faith in WW1, and I suspect there were millions more like them.
They could never admit it of course.
Shaker

Quote:
I don't know who came up with the 'foxholes' thing, but it's total nonsense. Both my grandfathers lost their faith in WW1, and I suspect there were millions more like them.
They could never admit it of course.


One who did admit it was Harry Patch, the last surviving individual who fought in the trenches who died very recently aged 111. There's a rather good book about him called The Last Fighting Tommy. Before active service he'd been mildly religious.

He wasn't afterwards.
Judders Lady...

Was it an atheist who came up with it?

People lose their faith because the truth was not firmly rooted.
The sower and seed which falls on the rocks, paths and soil etc.

Love JL.xx
Dave B

admin. wrote:

One who did admit it was Harry Patch, the last surviving individual who fought in the trenches who died very recently aged 111. There's a rather good book about him called The Last Fighting Tommy. Before active service he'd been mildly religious.

He wasn't afterwards.

I am not surprised that such an experience could remove any thoughts of a beneficent God rather than reinforce such.

I would guess that no films could ever represent the true conditions of the trenches and no amount of reading, even with one's empathistat turned fully up, can reproduce the experience for the reader.
Dave B

Judders Lady... wrote:
Was it an atheist who came up with it?

People lose their faith because the truth was not firmly rooted.
The sower and seed which falls on the rocks, paths and soil etc.

Love JL.xx
I think I understand what you say Lady but, in the old axiom, truth is always the first victim of war.

But in any war can the claim that "God is on our side" ever be true? If so then that God is no better than those he leads.
Leonard James

Anybody who is aware of the terrible suffering that goes on in this world and still believes that a 'loving' God knowingly set the whole process in motion is seriously deluded.
Lexilogio

I think people who witness, or are involved, in terrible events, can go different ways.

Some turn to religion, some turn away. For some, things stay the same.

I think anger can play a part. Len made a good point about the terrible suffering. If you are part of, or a witness to terrible suffering - it would make you upset, and angry. That could make you turn to religion, as an answer and way forward. Equally, for some, their anger against that happening could be misdirected to God.

I heard a wonderful thought for the day the other morning, about the line in one translation of the Lord's Prayer - do not lead us to the time of trial. I hope I never have to face the levels of suffering that others have.
Dave B

Lexilogio wrote:
I heard a wonderful thought for the day the other morning, about the line in one translation of the Lord's Prayer - do not lead us to the time of trial. I hope I never have to face the levels of suffering that others have.

I heard that as well, one of the more memorable TFtDs. But some might say that it is only adversity that gets them going.

Though I did not get into any actual fire fights in my RAF service (did get a gun pointed at me once, by a very nervous militia teenager - brown trouser time) I fully understand the old saying the war can be long periods of mind numbing boredom interspersed with short periods of mind numbing terror.

You learn to switch on very quickly, take swift decisive action, then switch off. After a while you do not feel normal in the switched off mode and find that you only feel "real" with adrenalin flowing. I was never a sportsman but can understand that for some of them it is like a drug.

It can be frightening and short of joining the emergency services there is little in civvy street to match. I can understand those that end up in the courts for violence after serving in places like Afghanistan and then leaving the army without sufficient preparation and support.
Lexilogio

Quote:
You learn to switch on very quickly, take swift decisive action, then switch off. After a while you do not feel normal in the switched off mode and find that you only feel "real" with adrenalin flowing. I was never a sportsman but can understand that for some of them it is like a drug.


For me that is the emergency operating theatre. Or was. Hours of mind numbing boredom (Where is that   surgeon?), followed by a massive adrenaline rush - which could last several hours.

They used to call us adrenaline junkies....
Dave B

Lexilogio wrote:
For me that is the emergency operating theatre. Or was. Hours of mind numbing boredom (Where is that   surgeon?), followed by a massive adrenaline rush - which could last several hours.

They used to call us adrenaline junkies....


Yes, such people have my deep respect. The surgeon who effectively saved my life when I had my MI missed his flight to go on holiday in so doing (I found out later that he had an "Apex" ticket and could walk into any subsequent free seat to the same destination, but his family got there before him.)
Lexilogio

Dave B wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
For me that is the emergency operating theatre. Or was. Hours of mind numbing boredom (Where is that   surgeon?), followed by a massive adrenaline rush - which could last several hours.

They used to call us adrenaline junkies....


Yes, such people have my deep respect. The surgeon who effectively saved my life when I had my MI missed his flight to go on holiday in so doing (I found out later that he had an "Apex" ticket and could walk into any subsequent free seat to the same destination, but his family got there before him.)


I've worked with surgeons like that. And surgeons who spend 3 weeks annual leave per year operating in poor countries for free. And surgeons who would earn a fortune in the private sector who spend their time operating on the homeless etc...
Not all are like that of course - but I've had the priviledge of working with some who would deserve a knighthood. Unfortunately they are never the ones who get them.
Dave B

Lexilogio wrote:

I've worked with surgeons like that. And surgeons who spend 3 weeks annual leave per year operating in poor countries for free. And surgeons who would earn a fortune in the private sector who spend their time operating on the homeless etc...
Not all are like that of course - but I've had the priviledge of working with some who would deserve a knighthood. Unfortunately they are never the ones who get them.
I don't know whether he was actually working in the States anyway but, in one of the Radio 4 progs they had an account of a "health fair" in America.

They interviewed an Brit surgeon there who was treating Americans who could not afford medical care. It was like listening to an account from a third world country.

A friend's niece has been working on one of the mobile eye clinics in Africa. She says the transformation in the lives of older people when they get rid of their cataracts makes her own eyes water.
Judders Lady...

Dave B wrote:
Judders Lady... wrote:
Was it an atheist who came up with it?

People lose their faith because the truth was not firmly rooted.
The sower and seed which falls on the rocks, paths and soil etc.

Love JL.xx
I think I understand what you say Lady but, in the old axiom, truth is always the first victim of war.

But in any war can the claim that "God is on our side" ever be true? If so then that God is no better than those he leads.


Hi Dave B,

Is truth the first victim of war?

War, usually starts from mens fears about the actions of others and the threat to their safety and freedom.

I believe men will, as Adam did, always make decisions which lead to someone suffering injustice. I prefer to think of God as being the greater good and way to injustice being dealt with.

Is there ever a right side in war?

The commandments say " Thou shalt not kill"
How do you stop men starting wars? How does it reflect on their Gods when they do?

Love JL.xx
Dave B

Judders Lady... wrote:

Hi Dave B,

Is truth the first victim of war?

War, usually starts from mens fears about the actions of others and the threat to their safety and freedom.

I believe men will, as Adam did, always make decisions which lead to someone suffering injustice. I prefer to think of God as being the greater good and way to injustice being dealt with.

Is there ever a right side in war?

The commandments say " Thou shalt not kill"
How do you stop men starting wars? How does it reflect on their Gods when they do?

Love JL.xx

'Morning Lady,

I checked and it seems it was Rudyard Kipling that coined the phrase, "The first victim of war is truth."

I agree about the fear being the progenitor of war, but then some sort of reason is required. Thinking back over a few of the major wars there was often a false, or at best distorted, reason. That this happened in the invasion of Iraq is now becoming more clear (in my mind at least!)

Nazi propaganda about Poland, the Jews and all other "enemies of the Fatherland" had more fiction than fact in them. I doubt that all the wartime reports on the BBC were 100% accurate and honest, they will have been fed their information by those who wished the people to see the official view of events.

I wonder what tales were told of the behaviour of the Islamic forces to encourage the youth of England to go on crusade? And similar tales were probably told on the other side.

I think that any right minded person would like to see the end of killing, but if it has not happened since mankind first started to think in a "human" way I doubt that it will happen soon. I hate the idea of killing anyone, but I know that if a foreign force were to invade the UK with military tactics I would be in the queue to be issued with a gun.
Judders Lady...

Dave B wrote:
Judders Lady... wrote:

Hi Dave B,

Is truth the first victim of war?

War, usually starts from mens fears about the actions of others and the threat to their safety and freedom.

I believe men will, as Adam did, always make decisions which lead to someone suffering injustice. I prefer to think of God as being the greater good and way to injustice being dealt with.

Is there ever a right side in war?

The commandments say " Thou shalt not kill"
How do you stop men starting wars? How does it reflect on their Gods when they do?

Love JL.xx

'Morning Lady,

I checked and it seems it was Rudyard Kipling that coined the phrase, "The first victim of war is truth."

I agree about the fear being the progenitor of war, but then some sort of reason is required. Thinking back over a few of the major wars there was often a false, or at best distorted, reason. That this happened in the invasion of Iraq is now becoming more clear (in my mind at least!)

Nazi propaganda about Poland, the Jews and all other "enemies of the Fatherland" had more fiction than fact in them. I doubt that all the wartime reports on the BBC were 100% accurate and honest, they will have been fed their information by those who wished the people to see the official view of events.

I wonder what tales were told of the behaviour of the Islamic forces to encourage the youth of England to go on crusade? And similar tales were probably told on the other side.

I think that any right minded person would like to see the end of killing, but if it has not happened since mankind first started to think in a "human" way I doubt that it will happen soon. I hate the idea of killing anyone, but I know that if a foreign force were to invade the UK with military tactics I would be in the queue to be issued with a gun.


Hi Dave B,

IMHO -The real cause behind most wars is the 'thirst for power' and the drive to keep what power they already have.

Most men in power like their position and the authority and purpose it brings to their lives. Fear is a very powerful force and one which when fed on personal hatreds and  bias is pretty powerful.

It is called the 'necessary evil' when fighting for your own freedom and the preservation of your own life and that of your family.
It is kill or be killed in a war. Let us hope we never have to make such a decision.

Love JL.xx

Dave B

Judders Lady... wrote:
Dave B wrote:
Judders Lady... wrote:

Hi Dave B,

Is truth the first victim of war?

War, usually starts from mens fears about the actions of others and the threat to their safety and freedom.

I believe men will, as Adam did, always make decisions which lead to someone suffering injustice. I prefer to think of God as being the greater good and way to injustice being dealt with.

Is there ever a right side in war?

The commandments say " Thou shalt not kill"
How do you stop men starting wars? How does it reflect on their Gods when they do?

Love JL.xx

'Morning Lady,

I checked and it seems it was Rudyard Kipling that coined the phrase, "The first victim of war is truth."

I agree about the fear being the progenitor of war, but then some sort of reason is required. Thinking back over a few of the major wars there was often a false, or at best distorted, reason. That this happened in the invasion of Iraq is now becoming more clear (in my mind at least!)

Nazi propaganda about Poland, the Jews and all other "enemies of the Fatherland" had more fiction than fact in them. I doubt that all the wartime reports on the BBC were 100% accurate and honest, they will have been fed their information by those who wished the people to see the official view of events.

I wonder what tales were told of the behaviour of the Islamic forces to encourage the youth of England to go on crusade? And similar tales were probably told on the other side.

I think that any right minded person would like to see the end of killing, but if it has not happened since mankind first started to think in a "human" way I doubt that it will happen soon. I hate the idea of killing anyone, but I know that if a foreign force were to invade the UK with military tactics I would be in the queue to be issued with a gun.


Hi Dave B,

IMHO -The real cause behind most wars is the 'thirst for power' and the drive to keep what power they already have.

Most men in power like their position and the authority and purpose it brings to their lives. Fear is a very powerful force and one which when fed on personal hatreds and  bias is pretty powerful.

It is called the 'necessary evil' when fighting for your own freedom and the preservation of your own life and that of your family.
It is kill or be killed in a war. Let us hope we never have to make such a decision.

Love JL.xx


You seem to have given two causes for war now, "fear" and the "thirst for power" - not quite synonymous. On reflection I would go for the second as being the fundamental reason, but that makes little difference to how much the truth suffers - the power seekers will use whatever they can to justify their  actions and get the people behind them. That also allows them to spread the blame I suppose.

Is "men's" specific to the male gender or synonymous with "mankind's" in your mind?

Care to start a thread dedicated to the justification or otherwise for war?
Silver

Leonard James wrote:
Anybody who is aware of the terrible suffering that goes on in this world and still believes that a 'loving' God knowingly set the whole process in motion is seriously deluded.



The Eagle continues to annoy me with the bilge and lies he comes out with. He acts like a little kid with his endless spamming, his drastic overuse of the word "love" and his overuse of smilies. I don't know how he gets away with all the off topic spamming in his near 5,000 post thread. Is he a friend of the moderator or something?
Leonard James

Eagleman is hopelessly lost in a juvenile world of his own contrivance, but he seems a nice guy basically.

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