Meetup.com Is Hosting Our Event Calendar

Meetup.com will be the main site to host our event calendar so I encourage everyone to sign-up there to keep current. Events will only be published on Meetup.

This web site has been transitioned to report on news, activism and SAS blog posts from members.

The Meetup page is:

http://www.meetup.com/IL-WI-Stateline-Atheist-Society/

You will need to sign up for Meetup, which is free.

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Secularism and Atheology: The Agendas

“Secularism and Atheology: The Agendas”
(
SEC 220-0613)
Online Seminar
June 1 – June 30, 2013

This one month short course examines what “secularism” means and surveys the broad agenda of secularism. This includes the agenda of atheology, the advancement of nonbelief in society. We will survey the dominant types of secularism and figure out how to keep them coordinated for maximum effectiveness, and also keep them harmonious with the advancement of atheism.

Seminar Topics:

  • The differences between being secular and being atheistic, and the different kinds of disbelief
  • The separate agendas of secularism and atheism over the past 300 years, and their impacts today
  • The new agenda of Atheology and its resources for defending disbelief over religion
  • The most effective ways to argue against religion in the defense of secular society and secular government

Readings: John Shook, “Atheism, Atheology, and Secular Philosophy” (four chapters of his next book), available free to students.

Your Instructors:

shookpicture.jpgJohn Shook, PhD, is Director of Education and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Inquiry and Education Coordinator for the American Humanist Association. He also serves as visiting assistant professor of science education at the University at Buffalo, teaching for the joint CFI-UB Science and the Public online masters program. From 2000 to 2006 John was professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. Shook publishes on philosophical topics regarding science, the mind, humanist ethics, democracy, secularism, and religion, and has debated the existence of God with leading theologians, including William Lane Craig. His most recent books are The God Debatesand as editor, Paul Kurtz’s Exuberant Skepticism.

 

About CFI Institute Online courses:

CFI 200-level seminar courses are taught at an intellectual level equivalent to an introductory college course. We expect students to participate in the class discussion at their own chosen pace, and there are no other writing requirements and no grading. These classes are entirely online — everything for the course except the book is provided on a CFI website. You will read the course lectures, follow links to other webpages, ask your questions, and participate in class discussion with the instructors and other students on our website.

There is no specific time that you must be online. There is no “live” part to these courses, and you cannot miss anything even if you can only get online at 6am or 11pm — you can log in and participate anytime, day or night, 24/7. A certificate of course completion is available to students who do participate online (as opposed to only lurking and reading, which is also an unobjectionable option for some students). Completion of eight courses at the Expertise 200-level is rewarded with the Institute’s Certificate of Expertise.

Online courses are now jointly advertised by the Center for Inquiry and the American Humanist Association, and both organizations encourage their members and affiliates to consider taking them. Online courses are the most visible sign that CFI and the AHA have entered a cooperative relationship on some educational programming. That cooperation is facilitated by Dr. John Shook, who now serves as education coordinator for both CFI and AHA.

Seminar Fee: $70 for general registration; $60 for Friends of the Center; $30 for students (valid education institution email required)

Ready to sign up? Register online here.

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American Humanist Association – Action Alert

Dear Friend,

When a request was made for inclusion of a humanist representative at the interfaith service attended by President Obama last week in the wake of the Boston bombings, the request was repeatedly denied. In response, the American Humanist Association has joined with other organizations in the community of reason in asking its members to submit a letter outlining their personal feelings about this.

Letters can be sent to BostonResponse@gmail.com. Responses will be collected and sent to those responsible for excluding representation from nontheistic groups. It’s important to remember that such exclusion occurred despite the fact that nearly 50% of the people in the Boston area describe themselves as not religious.

There was—we are happy to report—a secular memorial service organized by Humanist Community at Harvard this week. But this doesn’t correct the insulting nature of the government-endorsed event that purposely excluded nonreligious Americans during a time when community bonding and healing is most needed.

Below is a sample letter you can use to send to BostonResponse@gmail.com and add your name to the growing number of others in the community of reason who aren’t willing to be openly shunned. Feel free, of course, to modify this letter or write one of your own. But it’s important that as many people as possible make it known that we humanists are just as much as part of our communities as everyone else, and deserve to be treated accordingly.

Sincerely,

Roy Speckhardt
Executive Director

_________


SAMPLE LETTER to send to  BostonResponse@gmail.com. (You may also use our Action Alert system by clicking here.)

I am disappointed to learn that humanist representation was denied during a recent government-endorsed memorial ceremony to honor lives lost in Boston.

The overtly religious ceremony attended by President Obama was aired on all the major television networks and focused almost exclusively on religious faith, even though nearly half of the people in the Boston area are non-religious. Religious words bring comfort to some but not to all. Which is why it is so important, in the process of bringing such comfort, that no one should be made to feel like an outsider. And this is particularly important when government officials are invited to attend or speak. They represent every citizen.

Official exclusion of humanists and other nontheists who wished to participate in the service meant that the voices of approximately one in five Americans went unheard at a devastating and crucial time. And this is despite the fact that Greg Epstein, Harvard University’s humanist chaplain, who is endorsed across the spectrum of the secular movement, requested inclusion.

When public memorial services reflect only the sentiments of the religious community, nontheists are more than just left out. They are also made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country. We find it demeaning to be shunned and prevented from participating in the grieving process of the rest of the community and nation.

Therefore, in the future when tragedies strike, please let the healing expand to all by embracing nontheistic voices whenever possible. Such a policy will not only be fair to us but will benefit society as a whole—for it will mean that we Americans are ready to embrace our diversity. There are many available nontheistic representatives across the nation. And the inclusion of such voices will allow a community to truly heal, removing those fractures that exclusionary events tend to foster.

Thank you for your consideration.

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New Course: The Science of Free Will

“The Science of Free Will”
(
SCI 224-0513)
Online Seminar
May 1 – May 31, 2013

Instructor: Richard Carrier, PhD, philosopher, historian, and author
Instructor: John Shook, PhD, CFI director of education and AHA education coordinator

 Click here to register now!

~••~

This four-module short course discusses the intersection between science and philosophy in defining and understanding free will, with the aim of learning the latest science on the nature and existence of free will and how to critically approach philosophical uses of it. Students will not only learn about the relevant elements of brain science, but also how to identify common philosophical fallacies in reasoning about free will.

Seminar Topics:

-The varieties of free will and the differences among them
-Identifying causes and the role of personal identity in making decisions (and what the latest brain science has to say about both)
-The nature and purpose of assigning responsibility to personal agents (in law and daily life)
-The difference between determinism and fatalism, and the importance of addressing both personal and genetic-environmental causes of decisions when thinking about social, political, and moral systems.

Readings: Sam Harris, Free Will (2012). Students will purchase their own copy (print or electronic). Additional readings will be provided electronically at no cost to students.

Your Instructors:

[object Object]Richard Carrier, PhD, is the renowned author of Sense and Goodness without God and Not the Impossible Faith, as well as numerous articles online and in print. He received his PhD in ancient history from Columbia University in 2008, and now specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism, the origins of Christianity, and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. For more about him and his work visit www.richardcarrier.info.

 

 

shookpicture.jpgJohn Shook, PhD, is Director of Education and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Inquiry and Education Coordinator for the American Humanist Association. He also serves as visiting assistant professor of science education at the University at Buffalo, teaching for the joint CFI-UB Science and the Public online masters program. From 2000 to 2006 John was professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. Shook publishes on philosophical topics regarding science, the mind, humanist ethics, democracy, secularism, and religion, and has debated the existence of God with leading theologians, including William Lane Craig. His most recent books are The God Debatesand as editor, The Essential William James.

 

About CFI Institute Online courses:

CFI 200-level seminar courses are taught at an intellectual level equivalent to an introductory college course. We expect students to participate in the class discussion at their own chosen pace, and there are no other writing requirements and no grading. These classes are entirely online — everything for the course except the book is provided on a CFI website. You will read the course lectures, follow links to other webpages, ask your questions, and participate in class discussion with the instructors and other students on our website.

There is no specific time that you must be online. There is no “live” part to these courses, and you cannot miss anything even if you can only get online at 6am or 11pm — you can log in and participate anytime, day or night, 24/7. A certificate of course completion is available to students who do participate online (as opposed to only lurking and reading, which is also an unobjectionable option for some students). Completion of eight courses at the Expertise 200-level is rewarded with the Institute’s Certificate of Expertise.

Online courses are now jointly advertised by the Center for Inquiry and the American Humanist Association, and both organizations encourage their members and affiliates to consider taking them. Online courses are the most visible sign that CFI and the AHA have entered a cooperative relationship on some educational programming. That cooperation is facilitated by Dr. John Shook, who now serves as education coordinator for both CFI and AHA.

Seminar Fee: $70 for general registration; $60 for Friends of the Center; $30 for students (valid education institution email required)

 Ready to sign up? Register online here.

 

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Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago – April 2013 Newsletter

logo

Here is a link to download the April, 2013 issue of the Chicago Ethical Humanist, newsletter of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago. In it, you will find information on our upcoming programs and activities.

Or, view it on their web site here.

All Sunday morning programs run from 10:30 a.m. to noon and are open to the public.

For more information:
Visit us on the web at www.ethicalhuman.org
Send an email to office@ethicalhuman.org
Call us at 847-677-3334 
Drop in for a Sunday morning program at
7574 N. Lincoln Ave. in Skokie

Be sure to stay for the coffee hour and speak with anyone wearing a “Welcome” ribbon to learn more about our community.
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An Open Letter to the Secular Community

What follows is an open letter from the leaders of several national organizations.  

*  *  *

An Open Letter to the Secular Community

It is an amazing time to be part of the secular movement. Look at what’s happened in 2012 alone.  We held the Reason Rally, the largest event our community has ever had, which brought over 20,000 atheists, humanists, and other secular people together on the National Mall. We are growing, attracting new people, and drawing more attention than ever before.  A big part of that growth is thanks to our large and dynamic online community.  Online secular communities have helped people encounter new ideas, deepen and broaden their thinking, and even change their minds.

A Problem with Online Communication

At the same time, the fact that so much of our community is online brings with it certain challenges.  Communicating primarily online can make it difficult to recognize each other’s humanity. Online we don’t have the same vocal and physical cues to tell us what another person means by his or her comments, so it’s easier for misunderstandings to develop. The instantaneous and impersonal nature of online communication also makes it much easier for these misunderstandings to escalate, or for civil arguments to turn into bitter fights. Like many online communities, our comment and forum threads all too often become places for name calling and even threats, rather than honest dialogue based on mutual respect. Between the small but vocal number of abusive participants (often called “trolls”) who hurl threats and insults, and the overheated rhetoric of some ordinarily friendly and reasonable people, our online environment is in danger of turning toxic. Fortunately, our secular values of reason and compassion give us tools to rise above the lowest common denominator of online communication.

Our Position and Our Pledge

We, the leaders of the undersigned national secular organizations, pledge to make our best efforts toward improving the tone and substance of online discussions. The secular movement as a whole is friendly, welcoming, and committed to the use of reason and evidence as a means of resolving disagreements. We refuse to allow the deplorable conduct of a few to debase the reasonable, appropriate, and respectful conduct of the overwhelming majority of our community.

We seek to promote productive debate and discussion. We firmly believe open and candid discussion is the most reliable means of resolving differences of opinion and bringing about needed change.

Insults, slurs, expressions of hatred, and threats undermine our shared values of open and candid discussion because they move us away from an exchange of views supported with reasons.

Of course we will disagree with each other on some issues, but we can do a better job of expressing our disagreements. We can resolve to avoid mischaracterizing the positions of others, relying on rumors as the basis for our opinions, and using inappropriate tactics such as guilt by association. Instead, we can give one another the benefit of the doubt, strive to understand the whole story, and de-escalate rhetoric to foster more productive discussions. We can become better at disagreeing by treating each other like reasonable human beings.

It takes patience to educate people, but we can change how people think by having a constructive dialogue.  If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t bother in the first place to communicate online about important issues.

The Debate over Sexism and Feminism

Before listing some specific recommendations regarding improvement of online communications, we have observations about one particular set of interrelated issues that has engaged much of the secular community in the past year, namely sexism within the secular movement, the appropriate way to interpret feminism, and the extent to which feminism, however interpreted, should influence the conduct, policies, and goals of movement organizations. This set of issues is worthy of careful consideration, but in a few areas our positions should be very clear.

The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions – again often the legacy of our religious heritage—that limit opportunities for both women and men.

Unfortunately, the discussion of these issues has suffered from the same problems that plague online discussion in general—although arguably to a greater extent.  Some blogs and comments actually exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. Hatred has no place in our movement. We unequivocally and unreservedly condemn those who resort to communicating in such a vile and despicable manner.

Our Approach

Here are some things that we plan to do to make our online secular community a place where we can exchange ideas and views instead of insults.  We hope that others may also find this approach useful.

  • Moderate blogs and forums.
    Any organization or individual engaged in blogging or administering a forum has an obligation to moderate comments. Slurs, threats, and so forth beget more of the same. Keeping our online spaces free of these elements creates a civil climate that makes it much easier for people to engage issues productively.
  • Go offline before going online: pick up the phone. 
    When you hear that an organization or member of our community is doing something that you think is wrong or bad for the community, call and talk with them, find out what they are actually doing and why they are doing it.  If you don’t have a phone number, send a private email and arrange a time to talk.  So much of the time there’s more to the story, and talking to another person on the other side of the issue can help us more fully understand the situation.  Plus, a phone call makes it easier for people who are making mistakes to change course, because they aren’t on the defensive as they would be after being called out publicly.
  • Listen more.
    We miss the nuances and differences within “the other side” once an issue becomes polarized, while continuing to see our side as filled with nuance and distinctions.  There is a tendency to stop listening and treat everyone associated with an opposing position as a monolithic group. People can be painted with views that aren’t their own just because they may disagree with some aspects of your own position. We should listen more so we can see distinctions among those with opposing views and start to move toward a more accurate understanding of the issues rather than being deadlocked into two entrenched camps.
  • Dial down the drama.
    It’s tempting to overuse inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric. It gets attention. We should be cautious about using this tactic within our community because of the long-term damage it does to relationships and morale. When critiquing people within our community, everyone should remember that our goal is to persuade our allies to see our perspective and modify their opinions. Insults don’t change opinions; they harden them.
  • Be more charitable.
    We should remember that the purpose of argument within our community is to come to shared and correct conclusions that move us forward, not to score points against the opposing side. To that end, we should apply the principle of charity, which tells us to aim our argument against the best interpretation of the opposing arguments rather than picking off weaker versions. By applying the principle of charity we will elevate the discussion so we’re actually talking about our real differences, not just engaging in a pointless exchange.
  • Trust but verify.
    Before we believe and repost something we see, we should ask ourselves about the evidence provided and the context. It’s easy for multiple people saying the same thing to look like a lot of evidence, but if their statements are all based on the same original source, they do not constitute independent verification. We should look for the original data and corroboration from independent sources before believing and spreading claims.
  • Help others along.
    We should remember that we weren’t born knowing the things we know now. To get to the reasoned conclusions that we’ve reached, we learned by reading, thinking, and talking with others. When we encounter someone espousing a view we think is based on lack of knowledge or experience, we should remember that we have all held ill-informed views. We should cultivate patience and try to educate instead of condemn.

By improving our online culture, we can make this movement a place that engages, fulfills, and welcomes a growing number and increasing diversity of secular people.

Sincerely,

David Silverman, President, American Atheists
Rebecca Hale, President, American Humanist Association
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Chuck VonDerAhe, President, Atheist Alliance of America
Richard Haynes, President, Atheist Nexus
Ayanna Watson, CEO, Black Atheists of America, Inc.
Mandisa L. Thomas, President, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Mynga Futrell, for Brights Central, at The Brights’ Net
Amanda Metskas, Executive Director, Camp Quest
Ronald Lindsay, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry
Tom Flynn, Executive Director, The Council for Secular Humanism
Jan Meshon, President, FreeThoughtAction
Joseph McDaniel Stewart, Vice President, FreeThoughtAction
Margaret Downey, Founder and President, Freethought Society
D.J. Grothe, President, James Randi Educational Foundation
Stuart Jordan, President, Institute for Science and Human Values
Jason Torpy, President, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Secular Coalition for America
August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance
Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation
Fred Edwords, National Director, United Coalition of Reason

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Easter Challenge

FROM FFRF:

Header

 

Leave No Stone Unturned

by Dan Barker

From FFRF blog

I HAVE AN EASTER challenge for Christians. My challenge is simply this: tell me what happened on Easter. I am not asking for proof. My straightforward request is merely that Christians tell me exactly what happened on the day that their most important doctrine was born.

Believers should eagerly take up this challenge, since without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Paul wrote, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (I Corinthians 15:14-15)

The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

Since the gospels do not always give precise times of day, it is permissible to make educated guesses. The narrative does not have to pretend to present a perfect picture–it only needs to give at least one plausible account of all of the facts. Additional explanation of the narrative may be set apart in parentheses. The important condition to the challenge, however, is that not one single biblical detail be omitted. Fair enough?

I have tried this challenge myself. I failed. An Assembly of God minister whom I was debating a couple of years ago on a Florida radio show loudly proclaimed over the air that he would send me the narrative in a few days. I am still waiting. After my debate at the University of Wisconsin, “Jesus of Nazareth: Messiah or Myth,” a Lutheran graduate student told me he accepted the challenge and would be contacting me in about a week. I have never heard from him. Both of these people, and others, agreed that the request was reasonable and crucial. Maybe they are slow readers.

Many bible stories are given only once or twice, and are therefore hard to confirm. The author of Matthew, for example, was the only one to mention that at the crucifixion dead people emerged from the graves of Jerusalem, walking around showing themselves to everyone–an amazing event that could hardly escape the notice of the other Gospel writers, or any other historians of the period. But though the silence of others might weaken the likelihood of a story, it does not disprove it. Disconfirmation comes with contradictions.

Thomas Paine tackled this matter two hundred years ago in The Age of Reason, stumbling across dozens of New Testament discrepancies:

“I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted,” he wrote, “first, that the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be true, because the parts may agree and the whole may be false; secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves the whole cannot be true.

Since Easter is told by five different writers, it gives one of the best chances to confirm or disconfirm the account. Christians should welcome the opportunity.

One of the first problems I found is in Matthew 28:2, after two women arrived at the tomb: “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” (Let’s ignore the fact that no other writer mentioned this “great earthquake.”) This story says that the stone was rolled away after the women arrived, in their presence.

Yet Mark’s Gospel says it happened before the women arrived: “And they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.”

Luke writes: “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.” John agrees. No earthquake, no rolling stone. It is a three-to-one vote: Matthew loses. (Or else the other three are wrong.) The event cannot have happened both before and after they arrived.

Some bible defenders assert that Matthew 28:2 was intended to be understood in the past perfect, showing what had happened before the women arrived. But the entire passage is in the aorist (past) tense, and it reads, in context, like a simple chronological account. Matthew 28:2 begins, “And, behold,” not “For, behold.” If this verse can be so easily shuffled around, then what is to keep us from putting the flood before the ark, or the crucifixion before the nativity?

Another glaring problem is the fact that in Matthew the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples happened on a mountain in Galilee (not in Jerusalem, as most Christians believe), as predicted by the angel sitting on the newly moved rock: “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him.” This must have been of supreme importance, since this was the message of God via the angel(s) at the tomb. Jesus had even predicted this himself sixty hours earlier, during the Last Supper (Matthew 26:32).

After receiving this angelic message, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17) Reading this at face value, and in context, it is clear that Matthew intends this to have been the firstappearance. Otherwise, if Jesus had been seen before this time, why did some doubt?

Mark agrees with Matthew’s account of the angel’s Galilee message, but gives a different story about the first appearance. Luke and John give different angel messages and then radically contradict Matthew. Luke shows the first appearance on the road to Emmaus and then in a room in Jerusalem. John says it happened later than evening in a room, minus Thomas. These angel messages, locations, and travels during the day are impossible to reconcile.

Believers sometimes use the analogy of the five blind men examining an elephant, all coming away with a different definition: tree trunk (leg), rope (tail), hose (trunk), wall (side), and fabric (ear). People who use this argument forget that each of the blind men waswrong: an elephant is not a rope or a tree. You can put the five parts together to arrive at a noncontradictory aggregate of the entire animal. This hasn’t been done with the resurrection.

Another analogy sometimes used by apologists is comparing the resurrection contradictions to differing accounts given by witnesses of an auto accident. If one witness said the vehicle was green and the other said it was blue, that could be accounted for by different angles, lighting, perception, or definitions of words. The important thing, they claim, is that they do agree on the basic story–there was an accident, there was a resurrection.

I am not a fundamentalist inerrantist. I’m not demanding that the evangelists must have been expert, infallible witnesses. (None of them claims to have been at the tomb itself, anyway.) But what if one person said the auto accident happened in Chicago and the other said it happened in Milwaukee? At least one of these witnesses has serious problems with the truth.

Luke says the post-resurrection appearance happened in Jerusalem, but Matthew says it happened in Galilee,sixty to one hundred miles away! Could they all have traveled 150 miles that day, by foot, trudging up to Galilee for the first appearance, then back to Jerusalem for the evening meal? There is no mention of any horses, but twelve well-conditioned thoroughbreds racing at breakneck speed, as the crow flies, would need about five hours for the trip, without a rest. And during this madcap scenario, could Jesus have found time for a leisurely stroll to Emmaus, accepting, “toward evening,” an invitation to dinner? Something is very wrong here.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, none of these contradictions prove that the resurrection did nothappen, but they do throw considerable doubt on the reliability of the supposed witnesses. Some of them were wrong. Maybe they were all wrong.

This challenge could be harder. I could ask why reports of supernatural beings, vanishing and materializing out of thin air, long-dead corpses coming back to life, and people levitating should be given serious consideration at all. Thomas Paine was one of the first to point out that outrageous claims require outrageous proof.

Protestants and Catholics seem to have no trouble applying healthy skepticism to the miracles of Islam, or to the “historical” visit between Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni. Why should Christians treat their own outrageous claims any differently? Why should someone who was not there be any more eager to believe than doubting Thomas, who lived during that time, or the other disciples who said that the women’s news from the tomb “seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11)?

Paine also points out that everything in the bible ishearsay. For example, the message at the tomb (if it happened at all) took this path, at minimum, before it got to our eyes: God, angel(s), Mary, disciples, Gospel writers, copyists, translators. (The Gospels are all anonymous and we have no original versions.)

But first things first: Christians, either tell me exactly what happened on Easter Sunday, or let’s leave the Jesus myth buried next to Eastre (Ishtar, Astarte), the pagan Goddess of Spring after whom your holiday was named.


Here are some of the discrepancies among the resurrection accounts:

What time did the women visit the tomb?

  • Matthew: “as it began to dawn” (28:1)
  • Mark: “very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun” (16:2, KJV); “when the sun had risen” (NRSV); “just after sunrise” (NIV)
  • Luke: “very early in the morning” (24:1, KJV) “at early dawn” (NRSV)
  • John: “when it was yet dark” (20:1)

Who were the women?

  • Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
  • Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
  • Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
  • John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)

What was their purpose?

  • Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
  • Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
  • Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
  • John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)

Was the tomb open when they arrived?

  • Matthew: No (28:2)
  • Mark: Yes (16:4)
  • Luke: Yes (24:2)
  • John: Yes (20:1)

Who was at the tomb when they arrived?

  • Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
  • Mark: One young man (16:5)
  • Luke: Two men (24:4)
  • John: Two angels (20:12)

Where were these messengers situated?

  • Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)
  • Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)
  • Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)
  • John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)

What did the messenger(s) say?

  • Matthew: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” (28:5-7)
  • Mark: “Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” (16:6-7)
  • Luke: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (24:5-7)
  • John: “Woman, why weepest thou?” (20:13)

Did the women tell what happened?

  • Matthew: Yes (28:8)
  • Mark: No. “Neither said they any thing to any man.” (16:8)
  • Luke: Yes. “And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.” (24:9, 22-24)
  • John: Yes (20:18)

When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?

  • Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)
  • Mark: Yes (16:10,11)
  • Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)
  • John: No (20:2)

When did Mary first see Jesus?

  • Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)
  • Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)
  • John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)

Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?

  • Matthew: Yes (28:9)
  • John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)

After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?

  • Matthew: Eleven disciples (28:16)
  • Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
  • Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to eleven (24:13,36)
  • John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
  • Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead). (I Corinthians 15:5)

Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?

  • Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
  • Mark: To two in the country, to eleven “as they sat at meat” (16:12,14)
  • Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
  • John: In a room, at evening (20:19)

Did the disciples believe the two men?

  • Mark: No (16:13)
  • Luke: Yes (24:34–it is the group speaking here, not the two)

What happened at the appearance?

  • Matthew: Disciples worshipped, some doubted, “Go preach.” (28:17-20)
  • Mark: Jesus reprimanded them, said “Go preach” (16:14-19)
  • Luke: Christ incognito, vanishing act, materialized out of thin air, reprimand, supper (24:13-51)
  • John: Passed through solid door, disciples happy, Jesus blesses them, no reprimand (21:19-23)

Did Jesus stay on earth for a while?

  • Mark: No (16:19) Compare 16:14 with John 20:19 to show that this was all done on Sunday
  • Luke: No (24:50-52) It all happened on Sunday
  • John: Yes, at least eight days (20:26, 21:1-22)
  • Acts: Yes, at least forty days (1:3)

Where did the ascension take place?

  • Matthew: No ascension. Book ends on mountain in Galilee
  • Mark: In or near Jerusalem, after supper (16:19)
  • Luke: In Bethany, very close to Jerusalem, after supper (24:50-51)
  • John: No ascension
  • Paul: No ascension
  • Acts: Ascended from Mount of Olives (1:9-12)
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Has Pennsylvania Religious Right no shame?

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March 28, 2013

Pennsylvania state Rep. Tim Krieger has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would outlaw the use of pseudonyms in litigation challenging religious symbols on public property. In a memo to representatives seeking co-sponsorship, Krieger said the bill is in direct response to lawsuits by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Pennsylvania families challenging two Ten Commandments monuments donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in front of public schools.

The students and parents, with one exception, filed using pseudonyms because of community hostility and fear of retaliation. Krieger graduated from one of the defendant school districts and says he remembers the Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Junior High School. FFRF is also suing over a commandments monument in front of Valley High School in the New Kensington-Arnold School District. Read more about the two cases:

“These legislators need to put their religious views aside and understand that protecting children from harm is a paramount interest of the state,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. She noted the long, documented history of threats and reprisal against Establishment Clause plaintiffs, most recently against Jessica Ahlquist, who won a federal court ruling against religion in her Rhode Island high school. For more details, read FFRF and the ACLU of Ohio’s filing for plaintiff pseudonyms in another recent lawsuit.

Additionally, a Pennsylvania pastor addressing the Connellsville Eagles on March 27 told them that in filing to remove the monument from the junior high, FFRF is “trying to destroy our country,” according to a news report in the Daily Courier.

Rev. Ewing Marietta, a leader of the “Save the Ten Commandments” group, called the court battle “ground zero” and, the newspaper reported, “drew parallels” that seemed to compare FFRF with Nazi Germany and commandments backers with the United States allies during World War II. Notably, the bill will have no impact on the type of legal challenges it seeks to regulate. Both of the Ten Commandments cases were filed in federal court.

“One would hope that elected legislators would have a basic understanding of government and know that they lack the ability to regulate the First Amendment and the federal judiciary,” added Gaylor. The U.S. Supreme Court promulgates the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge Terrance McVerry of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued an order in December allowing the plaintiffs in FFRF’s New Kensington case to proceed using pseudonyms.

McVerry found that community members had expressed threats of violence and ostracism and said: “The Court finds that this basis upon which the Does fear disclosure is substantial and that there is a substantial public interest in ensuring that litigants not face such retribution in their attempt to seek redress for what they view as a Constitutional violation, a pure legal issue.” Attorneys for the New Kensington plaintiffs filed a request March 22 asking for a protective order. Judge McVerry issued an order today limiting the disclosures of the plaintiff’s identities. FFRF and its attorneys plan to proceed with a similar request for pseudonyms and a protective order in Connellsville.

In FFRF’s 2012 challenge of the Pennsylvania Assembly’s “Year of the Bible” resolution, U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds but took the House to task. Connor wrote that his rebuke of legislators was “directed to the blatant use of legislative resources in contravention of the spirit – if not the letter – of the Establishment Clause.”

He continued, “At a time when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania faces massive public policy challenges, these resources would be far better utilized in meaningful legislative efforts for the benefit all of the citizens of the Commonwealth, regardless of their religious beliefs.” On FOX TV’s “O’Reilly Factor” on March 27, megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress criticized state/church separation principles in general and attacked the Freedom From Religion Foundation by name.

Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, denied there is any freedom from religion in the First Amendment. O’Reilly claimed the First Amendment had been “perverted” by being invoked to stop particular violations.

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American Atheists files suit against IRS

American Atheist AffliateAmerican Atheists and two co-plaintiffs today filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky a lawsuit demanding that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stop giving preferential treatment to churches and religious organizations via the process of receiving non-profit tax-exempt status under the Internal Revue Code (IRC) procedures and definitions.

“American Atheists receives tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3),” said American Atheists President David Silverman, “but because the organization is not classified as religious it costs American Atheists, along with all other secular non-profits, significantly more money each year to keep that status. In this lawsuit, American Atheists and the other plaintiffs are  demanding that all tax-exempt organizations, including those characterized as religious by the IRS, have the same requirements to achieve tax-exempt status.”

For example, in order to qualify for nonprofit tax-exempt status, any religious or secular organization must demonstrate it exists to benefit the public. After that basic element is established, religious non- profits are almost always declared automatically tax-exempt under the current IRC rules and definitions. However, secular non-profits face a lengthy application and a fee, which can be as high as $850.

“Religious organizations and churches are treated differently from secular organizations,” explained American Atheists National Legal Director Edwin Kagin. “The exemptions are applied in a way that discriminates solely on the basis of whether an entity’s members express beliefs and practices accepted as religious. The IRS treats your organization better if you profess belief in a supernatural deity.”

The lawsuit also covers discrepancies in how secular and religious organizations are treated in maintaining their tax-exempt statuses. Secular nonprofits complete Form 990 annually, which details information about finances, donors, volunteers, and personnel; the IRS estimates it requires 211 hours to complete the Form 990, which is then public information. Religious nonprofits are exempted from filing the Form 990, so there is no public record about their finances, donors, volunteers, or personnel.

“The IRS hands religious organizations a fundraising advantage,” Silverman said. “It puts American Atheists at a significant disadvantage when it comes to fundraising because many Americans choose not to reveal their atheism for fear of prejudice and discrimination.”

American Atheists and its co-plaintiffs are asking the Court to find that such disparity of treatment between religious and secular non-profit organizations is unconstitutional and require the IRS to make the tax-exempt filing process uniform for all nonprofit organizations.

The lawsuit can be found in its entirety here.

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URGENT: Tell Your Senators to Oppose School Vouchers in 2014 Budget Resolution

Right now, the United States Senate is in the midst of debating its 2014 Budget Resolution. Tomorrow the Senate will begin final voting, at which point it will consider at least two amendments that would create a federal private school voucher program.

Sponsors of school voucher programs sell vouchers as a cure for our ailing education system. However, vouchers are actually a backdoor attempt to take money away from our shared public schools and funnel it to private schools — the vast majority of which are sectarian institutions that indoctrinate children with religious dogma and pseudoscience.

CFI opposes school voucher programs and urges you to immediately contact your senators and tell them to vote “no” on any voucher amendments.

School voucher programs are a big problem. Why?

  1. They force taxpayers to fund religion. These programs take public funds away from public schools in order to fund private religious schools. This violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  2. They force taxpayers to fund the teaching of religious dogma. Private religious schools are not required to follow most state or federal education standards, so they can—and do—replace evidence-based curricula with faith-based religious tenets.
  3. They force taxpayers to fund religious discrimination. Since private religious schools don’t have to follow most standards, they can not only teach religious dogma, they can also discriminate in hiring and firing and ignore other standards designed to ensure equality in education.
  4. They force taxpayers to fund ineffective programs. Various studies by the Department of Education and other groups have found that school voucher programs do not necessarily improve academic achievement.

Instead of supporting private and religious schools, taxpayer money should support the public school system, which provides a religiously neutral, constitutionally sound, and evidence-based education.

Please contact your U.S. Senators today and tell them to reject any amendment that would create a school voucher program! Thank you!

Take Action - Say No to Vouchers!

You can read more about the problems with school vouchers by downloading our position paperhere.

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Frans de Waal’s Bottom-Up Morality: We’re Not Good Because Of God

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