Blasphemous Blogging: The Blog of Edwin Kagin

Blasphemy is the crime of making fun of ridiculous beliefs others hold sacred. This blog is about satire, truth, inquiry, and critical thinking. It is about enjoying life before death. It is about how some try to control many through their notions about a make believe supernatural world and imaginary rewards and punishments after death. This blog says that blasphemy is a good thing, a healthy thing, and a good antidote to harmful superstition. This blog is about freedom. Edwin.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Atheist News from Edwin Kagin November 28, 2007


To Unidentified Recipients:




Atheism, Utah Crosses, The Golden Compass, Jewish Atheists &

Everything Else You Want to Talk About...

DAVE SILVERMAN, Communications Director for American Atheists, will be the guest tomorrow night (Thursday, November 29, 2007) on the "Answers in Atheism" Internet radio show. Hosted by raconteur and curmudgeon Edwin Kagin (co-founder of Camp Quest), "Answers in Atheism" can be heard on the internet beginning at 7:00 PM ET. There program are archived for those who are unable to log on to the web site, which is frequently over-loaded with calls and listeners!

DAVE SILVERMAN serves as national Communications Director for American Atheists, and is a veteran of numerous news-talk and public affairs programs. He runs the NoGodBlog ( You can call in to the show on a toll-free number, 877-814-9287 (local: 859-384-7000) or send your e-mail questions/comments to .

WHO & WHAT: Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists on the "Answers in Atheism" program streaming live on the net.

WHEN: Tomorrow, Thursday November 29, 2007 beginning at 7:00 PM ET; show is archived after airing.

WHERE: . You can call in to the show on a toll-free number, 877-814-9287 (local: 859-384-7000) or send your e-mail questions/comments to .


(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)


Sent in by reader Fred

Camp Quest in Time Magazine:

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007

Sunday School for Atheists

By Jeninne Lee-St. John / Palo Alto

Sunday morning at The Children's Program at the Humanist Community of Palo Alto, California.

Kathrin Miller for TIME

On Sunday mornings, most parents who don't believe in the Christian God, or any god at all, are probably making brunch or cheering at their kids' soccer game, or running errands or, with luck, sleeping in. Without religion, there's no need for church, right?

Maybe. But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. "When you have kids," says Julie Willey, a design engineer, "you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on." So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.

An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. "It's important for kids not to look weird," says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it's O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have.

The pioneering Palo Alto program began three years ago, and like-minded communities in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., plan to start similar classes next spring. The growing movement of institutions for kids in atheist families also includes Camp Quest, a group of sleep-away summer camps in five states plus Ontario, and the Carl Sagan Academy in Tampa, Fla., the country's first Humanism-influenced public charter school, which opened with 55 kids in the fall of 2005. Bri Kneisley, who sent her son Damian, 10, to Camp Quest Ohio this past summer, welcomes the sense of community these new choices offer him: "He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world."

Kneisley, 26, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, says she realized Damian needed to learn about secularism after a neighbor showed him the Bible. "Damian was quite certain this guy was right and was telling him this amazing truth that I had never shared," says Kneisley. In most ways a traditional sleep-away camp--her son loved canoeing--Camp Quest also taught Damian critical thinking, world religions and tales of famous freethinkers (an umbrella term for atheists, agnostics and other rationalists) like the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The Palo Alto Sunday family program uses music, art and discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration. One Sunday this fall found a dozen children up to age 6 and several parents playing percussion instruments and singing empowering anthems like I'm Unique and Unrepeatable, set to the tune of Ten Little Indians, instead of traditional Sunday-school songs like Jesus Loves Me. Rather than listen to a Bible story, the class read Stone Soup, a secular parable of a traveler who feeds a village by making a stew using one ingredient from each home.

Down the hall in the kitchen, older kids engaged in a Socratic conversation with class leader Bishop about the role persuasion plays in decision-making. He tried to get them to see that people who are coerced into renouncing their beliefs might not actually change their minds but could be acting out of self-preservation--an important lesson for young atheists who may feel pressure to say they believe in God.

Atheist parents appreciate this nurturing environment. That's why Kitty, a nonbeliever who didn't want her last name used to protect her kids' privacy, brings them to Bishop's class each week. After Jonathan, 13, and Hana, 11, were born, Kitty says she felt socially isolated and even tried taking them to church. But they're all much more comfortable having rational discussions at the Humanist center. "I'm a person that doesn't believe in myths," Hana says. "I'd rather stick to the evidence."

Copyright � 2007 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Arizona removing roadside memorials

Families upset over state policy; officials point to safety concerns

Lindsey Collom
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 6, 2007 12:00 AM

Janie Hartmann thought someone was playing a "sick joke" when a collection of candles, flowers and mementos left by friends all but disappeared from the Glendale roadside where her son died late last year.

She recently replaced some of the items, and those, too, went missing.

It wasn't until after the third try that Hartmann learned the identity of the perceived "vandals": the Arizona Department of Transportation.

For friends and family, a roadside memorial often marks the last place where their loved one was alive. But to state transportation officials, the memorials are erected where they don't belong.

ADOT has been quietly removing them as part of its policy to not have any memorials on their on-ramps or highways, even if they are off to the side, angering people who have lost loved ones on Arizona's roads.

The roadside memorials, ADOT says, are too much of a safety hazard and can be too distracting for motorists.

Some states are reluctant to discourage memorials, while others are more aggressive about removing clutter and distractions from rights-of-way. However, ADOT officials acknowledge they've done a bad job of communicating their policy to the public and are reviewing how to best get out the message.

"It 's one of those things where (lawmakers) want to be sensitive," said Anne Tiegen, a transportation-policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislators. "Unfortunately, tragedies happen, and the state has to balance being understanding to the families who have experienced tragedies while balancing visibility and safety concerns."

Vigilant about safety

Nearly half of all states regulate roadside shrines. States such as California, Florida and Washington allow state-sanctioned markers for a fee when requested by an immediate family member. Others, including Oregon and Wisconsin, prohibit memorials altogether.

Only Alaska and West Virginia encourage families to express their grief by assembling personalized tributes.

Arizona law does not have a statute that specifically targets memorials, but there is a general provision that prohibits items from being placed along a freeway.

"It's really an issue of safety," said Julian Avila, community-relations project manager at ADOT.

Avila said workers remove memorials as part of routine freeway maintenance, which includes roadways, embankments, ramps and certain portions of access roads. The items are then stored until someone claims them.

A grieving family

An ADOT storage facility held tokens from the Matt Hartmann memorial until last week, when Avila delivered them to Janie Hartmann's workplace.

Matt, 20, died in the early-morning hours of Dec. 10 after being thrown from his motorcycle on the Loop 101 access road near 59th Avenue, about a mile away from his Glendale home.

Almost immediately, friends congregated on the roadside to create a memorial that included a steel cross, trinkets, candles, flowers and a guest book inked with names and messages.

The memorial helped comfort Janie and her husband, Steve. Janie said she didn't think she could drive that street again after Matt's death, but "the memorial made it possible."

"I would go up there every night and light candles," Janie said. "I felt closer there than at his gravesite because that's where he took his last breath. His body is at the gravesite, but his spirit left at that bush."

The bush where Matt's bo dy was found, and the memorial there remained untouched for months. It's not clear when ADOT maintenance crews finally took notice.

ADOT's approach

ADOT does attempt to contact families to reclaim removed items, although the process is "informal," Avila said. That process includes scanning items only for contact information.

In all the roadside memorials ADOT has removed so far, it has yet to find telephone numbers or other information that could trace the items back to a particular person, Avila said.

But Janie says the family "became victims" all over again when the items were removed. She believes she never would have recovered Matt's memorial if she hadn't sought media attention.

She says ADOT crews removed a guest book that contained his name and prayer cards from his funeral.

After the memorial vanished Sept. 7, Janie made numerous calls to police, city officials, even ADOT, to find out what happened. Two days after her story ran in The Arizona Republic on Sept. 25, she received a call from Avila.

So now, Janie is trying to figure out how to rebuild the shrine outside ADOT's jurisdiction but still near the spot where her son died.

She may not have resistance from Glendale officials, who last week issued a statement saying the city "will not intervene as long as the memorial does not create a safety hazard for traffic or pedestrians."

Janie says her fight is not just about her son's tribute but about all memorials.

"It's not all about Matt," Janie said. "It's about all the memorials and why they're there and why people should be a little more heartfelt, not mock them, not vandalize them. Certainly the state of Arizona should not be allowed to very coldly cut things down and put them in the back of the truck.

"They all have stories; they all were people who were loved."


Sent in by reader Z;

From the "there is no such thing as bad publicity" dept.


November 28, 2007

What all directors pray for

Catholics are boycotting The Golden Compass because it promotes atheism. What a wonderful gift of publicity

Christmas has come early for Chris Weitz, director of The Golden Compass, the film version of the first novel in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. Roman Catholic groups in the US are calling for a boycott of the film. Bill Donoghue, the president of the Catholic League, has said that he fears the film may cause children to read the books, which “promote atheism for kids”.

And if Mr Weitz is really lucky, Santa may deliver what every director prays for, if pray they do: a condemnation from the Vatican. Elizabeth, the atrocious costume drama starring the luminous Cate Blanchett, could have sunk into deserved obscurity had it not been for an obliging Vatican official who described it as “an antipapal travesty”. As one seasoned hack observed, those are words you get on far too few actors’ blogs these days.

It must be tough being a Vatican frontman. On the one hand, you know that the movie version of Catholicism being peddled by most contemporary film-makers, from The Da Vinci Code to The Golden Compass, is almost certainly a lurid cocktail of old-style Protestant cliché and a very modern willingness to shock religious sensibilities – apart from Islamic ones, obviously. On the other, you are conscious that the epithet “controversial” is what every film distributor longs for.

Dorothy Parker identified the phenomenon back in the Thirties in a review of the supposedly risqué French play, Aphrodite. The Mayor of New York, she wrote, “did more for the box office receipts in a single day than the combined efforts of the most talented press agents could have accomplished in a year. The Mayor had but to say that he had heard a rumour that there were scandalous goings-on at the Century Theatre . . . and the house sold out for eight weeks in advance.”

So what’s the solution? Lofty disdain is one option. It’s hard though, given a really gross travesty of all you hold dear. I sat through a performance of Jerry Springer – The Opera, next to a couple of men who plainly thought they were being exquisitely daring by chuckling at the depiction of Christ as a nappy-wearing coprophiliac. By the end, they were applauding their own broadmindedness quite as much as the play. My reaction to their reaction was to want to poke them in the eye.

The really cool approach, I think, is that of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He took part in a dialogue with Pullman on the subject of his trilogy at the National Theatre in which he made it clear how much he enjoyed the novels. It was impossible to sustain the fiction that Christianity is a sinister conspiracy against liberty and reason in the face of Dr Williams’s genial desire for a civilised conversation. An imprimatur from the Archbishop of Canterbury for The Golden Compass, however, is precisely what its makers would want least.


Anonymous rdwray said...

Without religion there is moral basis, therefore, atheism has no moral values.

6:57 PM EST  

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