America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront
Volume 1, Number 13
Execution of a Serial Killer: One
Man’s Experience Witnessing the Death Penalty
Joseph D. Diaz, Ph.D.
of the activities of the
says JOHN SHELBY SPONG best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism
image for details or visit your favorite online bookseller.
have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost
without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have
says RICHARD DAWKINS author of Unweaving
the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
Welcome to issue 13 of Fundamentally Aware. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my complimentary e-newsletter, be sure to sign up. You’ll find details in the lower left column.
we gear up for the upcoming Presidential election—a crucial one that
will lead to either a reversal of our dwindling civil liberties or,
much as I hate to consider it, a complete loss of democracy as we know
it—it’s more critical than ever that the American public be
educated on the major movement behind this agenda.
accomplish this, the facts must be available to the public--without
cost. Therefore, New Boston Books is donating copies of The
Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America to
public and college libraries. Please visit New
Boston Books and
share this offer with your library today!
also like to acknowledge the great contribution Americans
United for Separation of Church and State
continues to make toward this cause. The organization selected The
Fundamentals of Extremism as one of its membership renewal
incentives this year and has gone over very well.
you do not yet have your own copy of The
Fundamentals of Extremism, you can find used (and often new)
copies at great prices by visiting these direct links at Amazon,
& Noble, Abebooks,
issue of Fundamentally Aware examines the prejudice held toward
the approximate 20% of the American population of non-believers
(atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, rationalists, skeptics,
etc.) and the discriminatory practices of our government, as well as
that of private organizations and the businesses that cater to the
As always, please feel free to share your comments with me.
1. Censorship of Atheists and the Media by the Catholic Right
2. Politically Incorrect
3. The Story Behind Atheist’s Invocation
4. Discrimination Against America’s Non-religious
following is excerpted and abbreviated from Chapter 1 Introduction:
The Perils of Fundamentalism and the Imperilment of Democracy by
Kimberly Blaker in The Fundamentals of Extremism.
As Barbara M. Jones, author of Libraries, Access, and Intellectual Freedom: Developing Policies for Public and Academic Libraries, points out, “The religious right has become a particularly important interest group in shaping public opinion.” The Christian Right accomplishes this in several ways.
In addition to its ownership of many media outlets, Christian organizations and denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights have come to be known for their control of the media. They threaten lawsuits and public embarrassment and participate in letter writing campaigns. In addition, they boycott companies that sponsor programs or publications to which the Christian Right is opposed. Through such actions they are able to silence negative publicity and most programming critical of religion or in direct conflict with their views.
saw the reality of the media control firsthand when I unexpectedly
encountered the Catholic League—an organization whose purpose is to
prevent and eliminate all criticism of Catholicism and its leadership.
While less violent in nature, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a contradiction in itself, exists for the purpose of Canon Law 1369, which states: ‘A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who . . . utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.’
Following the publication of my opinion editorial, William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, immediately telephoned Editorial Page Editor Michael Stoll at the Examiner. Donahue charged that I had libeled “millions of Christians.”
According to Donahue’s account, he requested the Examiner “provide [him] with evidence, drawn from criminal records, that the Catholic League is a violent organization.” Stoll responded that while his criticisms may have been valid, my comment, “while less violent in nature,” was no more than a “rhetorical flourish,” as was obvious, and my own “opinion” to which I was entitled.
Following Donahue’s call, the League issued a news release on its website that later appeared in its print edition of the Catalyst, as well. Both of these are outlets dedicated to the harassment of all who dare speak out publicly against the abuses of the Catholic Church and its political agenda. Those who offend Catholics in any way are candidates for severe censure. Using my words out of context and misleading its own members, the League then persuaded, “We urge members to write to Michael Stoll, San Francisco Examiner . . . and ask why the newspaper still hasn’t dropped Blaker.”
the posting of the Catholic League’s news release, the Examiner was
bombarded with more than a hundred letters coming from states other
That, however, was just the beginning. Most letters to the Examiner had included words like “libel” and “slander.” Many went so far as to hope the League would sue the newspaper. One woman wrote requesting that the Examiner supply her with “proof” the League is a threat to liberty. Stoll responded:
I would note that many people of many political and philosophical persuasions consider a wide variety of institutions, people and ways of thinking a ‘threat to liberty.’ It is a statement that is pure opinion, and in my estimation does not require proof. Nor can it be proven or disproven. That is precisely why it appeared on the opinion page.
did this woman realize her own allies were busy stating my case for
A couple of League members even wrote that the Examiner should have automatically turned away my submission because I was “a known atheist.” A Nevada woman also insisted an editor’s note should have appeared underneath the commentary specifying, “that she is a noted atheist,” even though opinions expressed by believers hardly ever have an editorial note identifying the author’s religion.
actions of Donahue and these members of the Catholic League indicate
they are defending Catholic religious civil rights, not the religious
and civil rights of all. What also became apparent is whether
something negative said against Christianity or Catholicism is
“libelous” or pure fact is not important. What matters is that
public criticism of Catholicism takes place at all. This was evidenced
by several League members. A
Ironically, in December (2001), a freelance production assistant contacted the Examiner to discuss the fracas. While I was following up with the production assistant a couple of days later, he explained that a video magazine, American Catholic, had been asked to do a segment on Catholic bashing.
However, the journalistic investigation quickly took a turn. According to the freelancer, in his attempt to uncover these injustices, he instead unmasked much to the contrary. What he found was the Catholic League wielding its power against anyone who exposed the Church or the League. It appeared that the program would instead develop into an expose of the intimidation tactics used by the Catholic League in its efforts to keep negative publicity under wraps. As would be expected, the segment never materialized.
this story in its entirety in The
Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.
Councilman Gilliard of
in Freethought Today May
Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in
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Story Behind Atheist’s Invocation
the appearance of an article about me in The
Post and Courier (
story began when a number of local organizations held a "Meet the
Candidates" forum prior to the last Charleston City Council
election. Each sponsoring organization was allowed to ask one question
of the candidates on the panel.
organization to which I belong, the Secular Humanists of the
Lowcountry, asked this: "As you know, the City Council starts
meetings with a prayer. Since you will represent all your
constituents, not just those who are religious believers, will you
consider periodically allowing nonbelievers to give the
invocation?" Kwadjo Campbell was the only candidate who agreed.
After winning the election, he invited me to give the invocation at
the council meeting on March 25.
invocation is usually, but not always, a prayer. So why would an
atheist like me want to give an invocation at a City Council meeting?
Certainly not because I wanted to offend religious council members --
in fact, I prepared an inclusive invocation that I hoped all would
appreciate. I looked forward to the presentation with the hope it
would encourage more tolerance toward everyone in the community.
Mayor Riley introduced me, I was startled to see several City Council
members leave the room. When I finished the invocation, council
members Bleecker, Gallant, George, Gilliard, Lewis, Waring and
Campbell (who had arrived late to the meeting) walked back in, just in
time to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
of the councilmen who left, Wendell Gilliard and Robert George, later
stated their reasons in the March 27 Post and Courier article.
Councilman Gilliard said an atheist giving an invocation is an affront
to our troops, who are "fighting for our principles, based on
God." I guess Gilliard apparently believes our troops are
involved in a holy war. However, we are not the Taliban.
is free to base his or her principles for going to war or objecting to
it on the dictates of personal conscience. The principles of our
country, on the other hand, are based on our secular Constitution,
which makes no mention of God. That same Constitution guarantees the
right of all citizens to be represented and not shunned by their
elected officials, regardless of the religious beliefs of those
George said he "would not have been comfortable had he
stayed." He then gratuitously said about me, "He can worship
a chicken if he wants to, but I'm not going to be around when he does
it." Perhaps Councilman George does not realize that many of us
who stand politely for religious invocations believe that praying to a
god makes no more sense than praying to a chicken.
trying to understand the walkout, I contacted some of the council
members who had participated. Councilman Gallant gave me a biblical
justification from Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart,
'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is
not one who does good." He went on to tell me, as did other
council members, that the walkout was not personal.
knew the walkout was not personal, because those who left did not know
me personally. I knew they could not have left because of the words in
my invocation, since they did not stay to hear them. Frankly, I would
have been less upset had the walkout been personal.
goal was not so much to be liked by council members as for them to
listen to one more segment of the community they represent.
one who tries to turn lemons into lemonade, I have noticed some
positive results stemming from this incident. The Associated Press
distributed the story of the walkout to newspapers around the country.
I have heard from Christians in many places, including
sent me a number of scriptural passages both for and against the
action taken by council members. One argument for the walkout is in II
Corinthians 6:14-15. "Believers must not commune with
unbelievers. What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness,
light with darkness, believers with infidels?" I also received
citations from Christians opposed to opening the council meetings with
a prayer. They sent me this, from Matthew 6:5-6. "When you pray,
be not like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues
and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. When
you pray, enter into the closet, shut the door, and pray to thy Father
permit an atheist to give an interpretation of this last biblical
passage. I think it distinguishes between vertical and horizontal
prayer. Vertical prayer is directed upward and can be done silently.
Horizontal prayer must be audible because it is meant to be heard by
other humans. May I suggest a way for Charleston City Council (and
other city councils across the nation) to become more inclusive
without offending anyone? Start each meeting with a moment of silence.
Silverman is a
Against America’s Non-religious
following is just a few examples of the discrimination that is endured
by those Americans brave enough to openly profess their lack of
many Americans, it is a threat to job security to be an “admitted”
Boy Scouts of America bans not only gays, but atheists as well.
common myth that “there are no atheists in foxholes” serves to
perpetuate the misperception that only the religious hold strong
patriotic values and are willing to die for our freedom. The Military
Association of Atheists and Freethinkers destroys this unreality.
Silverman was the victor in a South Carolina Supreme Court battle to
become notary public. He
shares his ordeal in detail in The
Fundamentals of Extremism. But here’s the story in brief:
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