Friday, August 1, 2008

Anti-Atheist Bigotry

vjack, over at Atheist Revolution, is talking more seriously in recent weeks about ending anti-atheist bigotry (or, at least, fighting it).

I recommend his most recent posting on the subject: Ending Anti-Atheist Bigotry.

As it turns out, of course, I hold that one of the biggest sources of anti-atheist bigotry is the government's own statement that those who are not "under God" are to be thought of as belonging in the sme family as those who do not support 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all'.

It is expressed by the government's own motto, "If you do not trust in God, then we do not think of you as being one of us."

Teach these messages to young children, and a great many of them will be anti-atheist bigots for life, more than eager to assert that atheists do not "share our values" and that, as "one nation under god" we certainly cannot allow atheists to be elected to public office or hold positions of public trust.

You certainly would not want your child to marry one.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Florida Appeals Court on the Pledge of Allegiance

A Florida appeals court declared today that a state law requiring parental permission to refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance at school was constitutional, but the part of the law that required even those students who refused to say the Pledge (with parental permission) to stand was unconstitutional.

See: Jurist: Federal court rules part of Florida Pledge of Allegiance law unconstitutional.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Atheist Priorities

Vjack, over at Atheist Revolution, has a post that is concerned with picking one's battles.

Of course, I have picked mine already (and Vjack has acknowledged that and supported it). But there are a point that I wish to make on this topic.

It is utterly stupid for us to be spending so much time fighting each other over what battles to fight that we do not have any time or effort left to fight any battles.

I know that there are people who think that opposing 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' is a mistake because of the strength of the backlash that such a camapaign will generate. I believe that they are mistaken - that there can be no victory anywhere unless these tools for propagandizing children are removed. But I am not going to spend only a fraction of my time fighting such critics. I will spend the bulk of my time fighting the Pledge and the Motto themselves.

I recommend that others do the same. Whatever priority you think is most worth pursuing . . . pursue it. Don't spend your time telling everybody how good a plan it is. Show them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Message on Patriotism

Here is a message on patriotism that deserves some recognition.

The Meaning of Patriotism.

Patriotism is ACTION inspired by a profound sense of RESPONSIBILITY to one's country. American patriotism is a duty to act toward the creation of a more perfect union. Sometimes that duty means voting. Sometimes it means becoming a warrior or politician. Sometimes it means protesting and civil disobedience. Sometimes it means raising your voice and speaking strongly in advocacy for your position on an issue.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Atheist United Indivisible Day Speech

Stuart Bechman has posted his speech for the Indivisible Day rally in Ventura, California.

Promoting "One Nation Under God"

Just a couple of news articles that I wanted to bring your attention.

From the New York Sun, Daniel Johnson, Healthier than Europe Is."

America is the best proof that Tocqueville was right: religion is beneficial — indeed essential — for democracy to flourish.

Danville News, A Blessed Nation

The Fourth may have had its fireworks but Mount Calvary Church held its God & Country Day celebration Sunday.

The event honored veterans of wars with musical performances, recognition of the church’s military veterans, a patriotic video and a sermon emphasizing the United States’ Judeo-Christian roots. The gala also featured the posting of the colors by the Martinsville/Henry County Veterans Honor Guard.

“Our nation has survived because of these four words and the truths they represent – ‘One nation under God,’” said Gary Robertson, senior pastor at Mount Calvary Church, during his sermon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pledge as a Sign of Patriotism

Another set of data showing how the Pledge of Allegiance is used to denigrate atheists and to provide a barrier between atheists and public office.

USA Today had a poll in which they asked people what certain actions said about an individual's patriotism. (See: USA Today Flag Pins, Protests Both Patriotic)

According to the poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that saying the Pledge of Allegiance indicates that a person is patriotic by "a great deal" or "a moderate amount".

The poll did not ask what I think is the more interesting question. Does not saying the Pledge indicate that one is not patriotic?

Since the United States Government has decided to create a Pledge that a large group of Americans cannot say, then it is entirely unfair to hold that not saying the Pledge of Allegiance is a sign of poor patriotism (or that saying the Pledge of Allegiance is a sign of patriotism). Where patriotism is held in high esteem, this gives an unfair advantage to those who are capable of saying the Pledge and puts those who cannot say the Pledge at a disadvantage.

So, where the Pledge itself is discriminatory, the people are wrong to hold that it is a sign of patriotism or virtue. Where the Pledge is taken as a sign of patriotism or virture, it is wrong to have a pledge that is discriminatory. We can have a discriminatory pledge without patriotism, or a patriotic pledge with out discrimination, but no sense of justice can condone having a pledge that is both patriotic and discrimiatory.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama on Patriotism

Yesterday, in a speech on patriotism, Obama said, "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign."

The fact is, this is a lie. Obama questions the patriotism of others every time he says the Pledge of Allegiance, which he has repeatedly done since opponents began spreading the lie that does not say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The pledge itself calls those who do not support "one nation under God" unpatriotic. Just as it calls those who do not support union, liberty, and justice for all unpatriotic.

That the Pledge calls the patrotism of such people into question is the easiest thing on the planet to prove in the context of the Obama campaign. What did it mean to say that Obama did not say the Pledge of Allegiance? It meant that he was unpatriotic. If he had refused to say the Pledge because he did not believe in God, he would have still been branded unpatriotic. The Pledge questions the patriotism of any who do not believe in God. Q.E.D.

Technically, we might want to give him a friendly intepretation that he will not question the patriotism of other candidates in this campaign - whereas it remains open season on the patriotism of private Americans, such as those who do not support 'one nation under God'.

Certainly, it would be foolish for Obama to question the existence of spies and others who would sell out their country for cash by selling secrets to other governments. Clearly, it would be foolish to deny that there are people whose patriotism is questionable.

Certainly, Obama will continue to engage in the practice of putting those who do not support 'one nation under God' on that list.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Indivisibility Day

I have heard that Atheists United in Los Angeles will be promoting 'indivisibility day" on July 3rd and 4th.

They will be holding a rally at the government center in Ventura on July 3rd, and will be handing out pies on Santa Monica Pier on July 4th.

I am wondering if other organizations have events planned.

Friday, June 27, 2008

School Official Seeks to Punish "Lack of Respect" During Pledge

Another school official, this one in Norwich, Connecticut, wants to discipline children who do not show respect while the Pledge is being said.

(See School official: Disrupt pledge, face discipline)

Part of the article discusses children who actually engage in disruptive behavior during the Pledge of Allegiance. As far as disciplining children who disrupt school activities - there would be little objection to that. Yet, there is no reason to single out the Pledge as the only time when disruption is to be prohibited. Children should be disciplined any time they disrupt school activities - Pledge included.

However, Charles Jaskiewicz, wants to define 'diruption' when the Pledge is recited a bit more broadly.

“If they don’t want to say (the pledge), I don’t have a problem with that,” Jaskiewicz said. “My belief is they should at least be required to at minimal stand up and respect.”

The article quotes a parent on the issue - one who thinks that the value of showing respect for the country trumps the value of showing respect for different religions.

“I remember back in my day, we all had to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” Dixon said. “Now, we have to be more tolerant of other religions. But that doesn’t mean they can disrespect our country. In fact, students who are found to be disrespectful should write an essay for their atonement.”

Of course, I would love to write an essay on the issue. Of course, I also think thta Dixon should be required to read it. It would have to do with the moral inappropriateness of a government policy that links 'having the right religious belief' with 'being a patriotic American' by having a pledge that only those with the right religious beliefs can say.

And it would have to do with the moral inappropriateness of a national Pledge that lumps not having the right religious beliefs in with rebellion, tyranny, and injustice, as the four great evils that no good American will participate in.

And it will have to do with the moral wrong in having the government, each day, tell its students, "Now all stand and join me in insulting many of those who are currently fighting to protect your freedom by saying that, if they do not support 'one nation under God', we promise to think of them the same way we think of those who will not support liberty and justice for all.'

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Agenda Item: Post 'In God We Trust'

Three Rancho Santa Margarita [California] City Council members said Wednesday they approve of displaying "In God We Trust" in Council Chambers and directed city staff to further study the issue.

(Orange County Register: Rancho considers displaying 'In God We Trust')

In saying this, the Council members gave as their reason that this is the national motto, and that is good enough. Apparently, they are not concerned at all with any protests one might make against the legitimacy of this action. So long as the Federal Government endorses the policy, they will to.

Like saying that, so long as the Federal Government endorses slavery, California should have also been a slave state. This whole thing about questioning something that the federal government might be involved in is, well, inappropriate.

Blais said that displaying the phrase is well within the city's rights and that he doesn't want to make this into a political issue. "I got about few $5 bills in my wallet," Blais said. "I got a few quarters in my car. They say 'In God We Trust' on them."

Thompson said he agreed with the mayor. "Again, it's the national motto," Thompson said "There's nothing wrong with displaying our national motto."

Of course, there is something wrong with the motto. There is, in fact, something wrong with displaying a sign that says, "If you do not trust in God then we do not consider you to be one of us." There is something wrong with putting it on the money.

They "urged city staff to research possible designs and locations for the phrase and place the issue on a future city council agenda."

This gives us some time to let the City Council know the problems that exist with posting such a sign.

Contact information for Rancho Santa Margarita

Zoning Board Member Yields to Pledge Pressure

Yet another American politician has been coerced into participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have been following the story of Vietnam Navy veteran and Zoning Board of Adjustment member Robert Field, Jr., who refused to stand for the Pledge at zoning board meetings. He felt that the Board should give all who come before it a sense of neutrality and participating in the Pledge would give the individation that the Board is bias - particularly where non-citizens and others who have reason not to say the Pledge are concerned.

Well, yesterday, he was pressured into changing his position on the issue. He will now stand.

See:, Veteran says he'll stand for pledge at meetings

There is a comment section attached to this article. I have submitted my comment. We will see if they approve it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Petitions, Signs, and Religious Morality

E Pluribus Unum Petition

The E Pluribus Unum petition is at 150 names.

I do not see this petition as something that will move Congress to act - at least not in the near future. That will require a lot of work to change public attitudes to the point that a legislator can vote on this issue without losing his or her job. However, signing the petition displays support for the effort of doing that work. It says that the goal is worthwhile.

Another California Town Considers "In God We Trust"

Another California town, Rancho Santa Margarita, is considering displaying the motto "In God We Trust" in city hall.

(See: Orange County Regiter, Rancho officials to discuss 'In God We Trust' motto)

I've posted my comment in the newspaper.

It is also possible to contact the City Council for the city of Rancho Santa Margarita through their Web Site.

Moral Argument Used Against Naval Academy

A story that has hit several large papers, such as the Washington Post and USA Today, concerns a letter from the ACLU to the Naval Academy calling for it to end its noontime prayer. The ACLU is grounding its letter on a 2003 Appeals Court ruling against the Virginia Military Institute that says that these types of exercises coerce individuals into participating in a religious service.

(Note: There is an excellent chance that Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas, would not agree that this counts as coercion, if the case were to go to the Supreme Court. Coercion requires threats of direct punishment, not merely social pressure.)

What pleases me about this article is that it mentions not only the standard legal arguments - the type that have gotten so many people angry at the law to the degree that the law is at risk of being changed.

I was, I must admit, pleased that the Navy Times was willing to cover one of the moral arguments that I could not find mentioned in the civilian press.

Pheneger said one of the Navy’s rationales for having noontime prayer — that it helps develop moral character — is wrong because it implies that those who are atheist or agnostic, or those who belong to minority religious faiths, have less capacity for moral growth.

“Where you develop your character is individual,” he said. “To say you can’t develop character traits outside of a religious context is ridiculous.”

(See: Navy Times, ACLU calls for USNA to end lunchtime prayer)

The statement is actually more than ridiculous. It is bigoted. It is one of the defining characteristics of prejudice that the bigot brands his victims as morally inferior. He asserts that his group (e.g., white people, people who accept the right religion) are inherently morally superior to the target group.

This rationale that links religion to morality - and the lack of religion to immorality - demonstrates bigotry against the non-religious. It represents the speaker's decision to prejudge religious people as morally superior to his target group. It does so by assuming that connection to religion is a part of morality - and it is something the atheist does not have.

(This is not to say that these people would assert that atheists can't be moral. They may assert that atheists can be moral, but only to the degree that they borrow their morality from Christians.

When, in fact, Christians borrow their money from secularists. Since there is no God - all of the morality that you find in the Bible is man-made morality that is assigned to God. Changes in secular ethics find themselves into religious ethics by theists twisting and distorting scripture to match their preconceived notions of right and wrong. There is as much good or evil in scripture as the reader wishes to find and read into it.

"E Pluribus Unum" poster

Sporkyy at Unscrewing the Inscrutable posted an endorsement of the E Pluribus Unim petition . The posting, 'Under God'/'In God We Trust' petition also contains a poster that demonstrates one of the moral problems with "In God We Trust" as the national motto. I would not mind seeing the poster in a few civic buildings and schoolhouse walls myself.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Insulting Charlie Fair

One of the things that needs to be done in fighting the Pledge is to get more veterans to realize how disgraceful their behavior is when they blindly endorse the Pledge as written.

About a dozen veterans showed up at the Zoning Board meeting in North Hampton to protest the fact that one of the members does not say the Pledge.

(See: Veterans fight for Pledge of Allegiance in North Hampton)

“Since Dec. 7, 1941, 524,000 Americans sacrificed their lives for that flag,” Fatello said during the meeting.

Mr. Fatello, one of those people who sacrificed their lives was Charlie Fair. He was a friend of my dad's - so close of a friend that my younger brother is named after him. He was an atheist. You have the gall to come here and demand that, in the name of patriotism, everybody in this council must stand and insult Charlie Fair by insisting that a person is not a patriot unless he fights for 'one nation under God'. You have the gall to come here and insist that people like Charlie Fair who do not support 'one nation under God' are just as bad - just as un-American - as somebody who does not support 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all'.

In the name of honoring veterans, you insist that this body dishonor Charlie Fair.

Mr. Fatello, look at the veteran standing next to you for a moment. Now tell me, Mr. Fatello, what your reaction would be if your government told you that, in the name of patriotism, you must insult him. You must tell the world that this veteran, who has served his country honorably, must be insulted, and that the citizen who fails to insult him cannot be a true patriot. Would you then, in the name of patriotism, insult the veteran standing next to you? Or would you tell the person who insists that patriotism requires insulting a fellow veteran to go to hell?

If it is the latter, then why are you not telling the people who insist that you insult Charlie Fair to go to hell?

Not only are you NOT telling the person who tells you to insult a fellow veteran to go to hell. You are the one demanding that patriotism requires that they insult a fellow veteran - that the say that a fellow veteran who honorably served is, nonetheless, no better than one who supports tyranny and injustice for all.

So you, Mr. Fatello, are the one who deserves to be told to go to hell - until you learn that soldiers who fought to defend this country deserve their country' respect, not your insults.

Speaking On "In God We Trust":

There are a lot of government buildings in the country today where you can find a sign that says, “In God We Trust”.

As part of the Pledge Project, if you live in one of these areas, I would like to ask that you go before whatever body is responsible for that sign and say something like the following.

Thank you for letting me speak to you today.

I come here today to ask this body to pass a resolution that says the following:

We hereby condemn any statement that explicitly or implicitly denigrates the patriotism or moral character of any law-abiding person that does not trust in a God, or that implies that such a citizen is not entitled to equal consideration and respect as a member of this community. We condemn any statement that suggests that our community should be thought of as consisting of two classes of citizens – a class of ‘we’ citizens who trust in God, and a class of ‘they’ citizens who do not.

I have it on good authority that there are people in this community who believe that our community should be divided into two groups. They want you to think in term of a “we” group of first-class citizens – true and patriotic Americans – who trust in God. And they want you to think that there is a second class of citizens, those who do not trust in God.

They want you to post a sign in city hall that tells anybody who comes to stand before you, “If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us.”

Putting up a sign like that is as immoral as putting up a sign that says, “If you are not white, then we do not think of you as one of us.”

I come before you as a member of that group that does not trust in God, because I think that there is no God to trust. It is my right that you recognize me as the equal to any other citizen in this community. Given that there are those who insist that you declare that those who do not trust in God are not one of us, I would like to propose that you recognize the right of citizens of this community to come before you and be recognized as equals by condemning the message that they would have you endorse.

I propose that you pass a resolution condemning any statement that implicitly or explicitly denigrates the patriotism or moral character of citizens based solely on the fact that the citizen does not trust in God. I propose that you repudiate any attempt to send the town a message that says that we are to be divided between an included ‘we’ group who trusts in God, and an excluded ‘we’ group that does not trust in God. I propose that you acknowledge the fact that this type of statement is as morally bankrupt as posting a sign that says that we should divide the community between a group of “we” citizens who are white, and “they” citizens who are not white.

Thank you for your time.

American Legion to Pressure Zoning Board Member on Pledge

I have written a couple of times about Robert Field Jr.'s decision not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance at zoning board meetings. He argues that the Board sits in judgment of a number of people who, for various reasons, would not appropriately take the Pledge (e.g., foreign nationals) and does not want to give the impression of bias or exclusion at these hearings.

According to a story in, Legion members to attend ZBA meeting in response to Pledge protest American Legion Post 54 has sent out an email to American Legion members and others to show up en force to "show support for the colors".

The title itself is misleading, since Field is not protesting anything.

But the main message is clear - that you are in serious trouble if you are somebody who is in an elected or appointed position in the United States where the Pledge is recited, yet you are somebody who, for some reason, cannot (honestly) recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Again, the Pledge is a gate to keep atheists out of public office.

Fayette Councilman Opposes Pledge

Fayette, Iowa city council has been asked by the Fayette American Legion to begin each session with the Pledge of Allegiance

( Fayette council delays decision on Pledge of Allegiance)

One councilman, Doug McReynolds, opposes the meaure, claiming that he took an oath to uphold the Constitution and does not need to renew it twice a month. He is coming up against a counter argument that says if children in school can say the Pledge daily, then the Council can say the pledge twice a month (when it meets).

Another, stronger argument that McReynold used was that the the Council represented all citizens. It is easy to start with that foundation and point out how the Pledge denigrates anybody who does not support 'one nation under God' in the same way it denigrates anybody who does not support 'liberty and justice for all'.

I view incidents like this as opportunities to inject some of the moral arguments that I have written about into the public debate. I think that Mr. McReynolds deserves a word or two of support.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Actions by Others

Atheist United is sending out an email warning its members of the upcoming decision and directing them to a couple of the Pledge Project posts (Table of Contents, Sound Bytes) in making responses.

Mattew Goldstein took the wording from my Letter to Candidates and turned it into an online petition: E Pluribus Unum petition.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Suggested Letter to Candidates

I have typically advised against sending letters to political candidates.

On the issue of 'under God' and 'In God We Trust', in particular, a candidate who takes whateve Political candidates are going to tell the people what the people want to hear, and the people do not want to hear that there is something objectionable in 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' in the motto.

However, we may be able to do something that will tone down the political reaction to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision when it comes out.

I have looked up my local county party web sites where there is a list of candidates for public office. I am then sending those candidates that I judge might be receptive to the arguments the following email:


In the next few days, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will release their decisions on whether 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto violate the Constitution.

I would like to take a short piece of your time to give you some facts about these policies.

If you look at history, the reason 'under God' was added to the Pledge of Allegiance was to keep atheists out of public office and, in general, to promote public animosity towards atheists. This happened in 1954, during the McCarthy era. Their specific target was atheist communists, but they actually targeted all atheists.

You already know that 'under God' serves as a gate to keep certain 'undesirables' from winning a seat in government. You have seen it in the way that the LIE told about Obama's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance is enough to threaten his campaign. You can imagine the effect it would have on any candidate's chances of winning an election if that candidate were to actually refuse to say the Pledge.

The American Sociological Association reports that Americans see atheists as the least trusted minority - the group that they see as least sharing their American values. This is not at all surprising when schools teach children that those American values include 'one nation under God'.

They learn these values starting on the first day of school, when a government teacher stands in front of them and tells them that there are four values that run opposite to what all good American support; atheism, rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.

Atheists (or at least those unwilling to lie about their beliefs) are now entirely blocked from public office. Over half of the population says that they would not vote for an atheist candidate.

Allowing students (and others) to sit out the Pledge at all does not mitigate the harm done. This is typically interpreted as, "Students have freedom of speech, and this means they are free to hold anti-American values if they want to. In opting out of the Pledge, they are certainly showing disrespect for everything good in this country, but one of those good things is freedom to treat this country with contempt."

Besides, the message is still there for those who stay behind and who do say the Pledge. They learn the government's message that links patriotism to 'one nation under God' and links atheism with being unpatriotic. Denying this is as absurd as denying that the Pledge links support for liberty and justice to patriotism.

In fact, having atheists conspicuously sit out the Pledge reinforces the lesson that atheists cannot be good and patriotic Americans. Rather than mitigating the harm, their exclusion adds to the harm.

Setting up a Pledge of Allegiance to serve as a locked door to keep (honest) atheists out of public office is not at all consistent with American democratic values. Teaching bigotry to young children - teaching them that people who do not support 'one nation under God' are just as bad as those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all' - is not a proper school function.

You know how successful this campaign against atheists has been at promoting bigotry against atheists. You know it by what it would cost you politically to endorse the facts that I have written about. That is proof enough that what I write is true.

The question is: Are we going to continue to promote bigotry as a core American value? Are we going to continue to continue to teach children that the four most important American values are religous bigotry, union, and liberty and justice for all?

*Contact Information*

Suggested Letter to Schools

I would like to recommend that you identify any schools in your area where students routinely say the Pledge of Allegiance and send the school a letter like the following:


I would like to bring to your attention that your school might be teaching a pernicious form of bigotry.

If you look at history, the reason 'under God' was added to the Pledge of Allegiance was to keep atheists out of public office and, in general, to promote public animosity towards atheists. This happened in 1954, during the McCarthy era. Their specific target was atheist communists, but they actually targeted all atheists.

The American Sociological Association reports that Americans see atheists as the least trusted minority - the group that they see as least sharing their American values. This is not at all surprising when schools teach children that those American values include 'one nation under God'.

Even a LIE told about Obama's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance is enough to threaten his campaign. You can imagine the effect it would have on any candidate's chances of winning an election if that candidate were to actually refuse to say the Pledge.

Atheists (or at least those unwilling to lie about their beliefs) are now entirely blocked from public office. Over half of the population says that they would not vote for an atheist candidate.

They learn these values starting on the first day of school, when a government teacher stands in front of them and tells them that there are four values that run opposite to what all good American support; atheism, rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.

By the way, I do not think that allowing students to sit out the Pledge at all mitigates the harm done. This is typically interpreted as, "Students have freedom of speech, and this means they are free to hold anti-American values if they want to. In opting out of the Pledge, they are certainly showing disrespect for everything good in this country, but one of those good things is freedom to treat this country with contempt."

In fact, it simply reinforces the lesson that atheists cannot be good and patriotic Americans to have atheists conspicuously excluded from the Pledge of Allegiance. Rather than mitigating the harm, their exclusion adds to the harm.

This is a lesson that we should not be teaching children in our public schools.

At least, to the degree you are allowed to do so consistent with the law, I would like to request that you find some productive way to mitigate against these harms.

*Contact Information*

School Replaces Pledge with Constitution

I have been tracking for a while a story about a school in Oregon, Capitol Hill Elementary in Southwest Portland, that replaced the Pledge of Allegiance in graduation with singing the Preamble to the Constitution instead.

They have gotten international flak for this.

I have not reported it because the reason that the principal gave for his decision was, in my mind, rather stupid. It was because, he said, the principle contained the words 'under God' and he did not want to offend others, such as Muslims.

This got the Muslims upset because the principal was saying they did not believe in God. Which, as I said, sounded stupid and was not something I wanted to get into the middle of.

But, the school has received a number of emails on the issue, and have been attacked by Bill O'Reilly, according to a recent news article.

(The Oregonian, School catches flak for not reciting pledge.)

According to the article:

Shelby has answered each e-mail by saying that Wilson's explanation "was a quick one, not the full one," and that Capitol Hill has students with many beliefs who don't fully participate in the pledge.

"As the document this great country of ours is founded on, the preamble is a fitting text to recite as a show of respect and patriotism," Shelby's reply says. "The principal of Capitol Hill Elementary has not removed the Pledge from the school, nor has she altered its wording in any way. Students will continue to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Capitol Hill Elementary School."

Given this explanation, I think they should have some support for this decision, and some comments that explain why they should reject the pledge the rest of the year.

School contact page:

Friday, June 20, 2008

South Carolina "I Believe" Licene Plate

Today is getting to be a busy day in the Pledge Project.

In South Carolina, a lawsuit has been announced against the legislature for approving a vanity plate that says, "I Believe."

I wrote in an earlier posting when Florida considered the same style of vanity plate that I have no moral objections against it. The person who buys the plate is making a personal statement (using the personal pronoun 'I'), so I see it as being permissible.

It is the case that the legislature would be wrong to allow one religion this type of plate and deny it to others. This would amount to giving one religion special powers denied to other religions. But it is the refusal to grant this opportunity to others that would be morally objectionable, not the decision to grant this opportunity to Christians.

On the other hand, South Carolina allows people to buy a vanity plate with "In God We Trust". Given that this is a bigoted statement that says, "The government sees those who trust in God as being one of us, while those who do not trust in God are not to be considered one of us."

As such, "In God We Trust" is an immoral use of government power to promote religious bigotry within the state. That is not morally permissible.

Anyway, Tim Funk has asked for opinions on the matter, and I have sent him mine.

Atheists United Press Release on the Pledge Case

Stuart Bechman of Atheist United has a press release out announcing anticipation of a "favorable ruling" in the 'Under God' and 'In God We Trust' cases. (Atheists Expect Favorable Ruling in CA Pledge Case).

The press release makes use of arguments found in the Pledge Project - that the these practices are motivated and supported by a desire to block atheists from public office and from having a public voice.

Follow Up on Pledge Cases

The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board voted to allow students to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance. (In-Forum: D-G-F Amends Pledge POlicy - Students Can Sit).

However, the article still expresses the debate in terms of those who think that students should stand and show respect for the flag and those who fought to defend their freedoms, versus those who think that students have a right to sit and show contempt for the flag and those who defend our freedoms.

Nowhere is there a hint of the fact that the Pledge itself shows disrespect for many of the people who have fought for our freedoms, or the fact that the Pledge links patriotism with belief in God (thus linking the lack of belief in God with a lack of patriotism).

The article literally screams that a patriot would stand and say the Pledge, and that no patriot could object to this practice.

Which, as I have been arguing, is exactly wrong.

Meanwhile, the North Hampton Zoning Board will have its next meeting on Tuesday, June 24th. As the article announcing the meeting reports (Seacoastonline: Around the Town)

This is the ZBA's first meeting since controversy followed a board member's decision not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance nor to recite the pledge. Robert Field Jr. said he did so because he doesn't feel reciting the pledge is appropriate for the ZBA, which sits in judgment of other people's business, as in a courtroom.

The mere fact that this is considered news shows that there is coercion in this society to say the Pledge of Allegiance - and that a large number of people use the pledge to make judgements of others.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Note of Appreciation

I would like to thank Vjack over at Atheist Revolution gave the Pledge Project a very strong recommendation. (See Getting 'Under God' Out of the Pledge).

Oil: More Drilling?

President Bush is an idiot.

Oops, did I write that out loud?

While my other blog is being used for the Pledge Project, I still need to express some exhasperation at Bush's stupidity regarding his recent speech on energy policy. Bush said that we need to open offshore drilling and start drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge in order to "strengthen our national security."

This shows as much wisdom as telling a person who is facing a severe cutback in pay at work that he needs to drain his savings account as fast as he can - because what is most important when you are suffering a shortage in income is that you maintain your current standard of living. Adjusting to the fact that you will have less income is obviously not recommended, at least by this President.

The way that I protect my personal financial security is by saving money - by holding on to a reserve that I do not spend so that, if some disaster strikes that eliminates other sources of income, I still have income that I can use. As long as I maintain a large reserve of money, other people have less power over me.

And to the degree that the United States maintains a large reserve of oil that we can draw upon in a crisis, to that degree other countries have less power over us.

Bush's policy of using up our reserves deprives us of options and gives others power over us.

This is the opposite of protecting national security.

All of these criticisms of Bush's policy apply equally to McCain's call for drilling off shore as well. These are idiotic practices that will back America into an energy corner from which we will have few options for escape.

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board and the Pledge

In Forum is continuing to cover the upcoming Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board meeting (see: Pledge policy may be on its last leg where the policy that requires students to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance is being reviewed.

The rule violates state and federal law, but there is a lot of public pressure to keep the rule anyway because children must be taught respect for the flag and for the people who fought for their freedoms.

Or so the argument goes.

Board member Jerry Anderson said he understands residents’ concerns about spending education dollars on litigation; but, as a veteran, he can’t bring himself to vote for an amendment he deems offensive to the country’s troops:

Against the issue of respect for troops, the article discusses two arguments for changing the policy. (1) Freedom of speech (students have a right to hate their country and show disrespect or the troops if they want to), and (2) fiscal responsibility (we do not have the financial resources to fight a lawsuit).

Note that the Pledge Project is about introducing a set of arguments into this debate that have so far been ignored - the moral arguments against having 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. News coverage of this school board meeting illustrate why we need to introduce those arguments.

Nothing is said here about the Pledge of Allegiance with the words 'under God' teaching the opposite of respect.

With the words 'under God', the Pledge says that there are four great evils in the world that no patriotic American would support - atheism, rebellion, tyranny, and injustice. This is quite the opposite of a message of respect for those who do not believe in God, some of whom are among those who fought for our freedoms.

Unfortunately, the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board seems to shun email. I cannot find an email contact on their entire website.

I have, however, written to the paper.

Also, if you know anybody in the area:

- What: Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board meeting

- When: 5 p.m. Thursday

- Where: Administrative conference room, Dilworth Elementary School

- Info: (218) 287-2371

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beloit Councelor Retreats from Pledge Stance

One of the stories I had been watching regarding the use of Pledge of Allegiance to control access to elected office came to a close today. This story comes from Beloit, Wisconsin.

Councelor Sheila De Forest originally declined to say the Pledge of Allegiance at city council meetings because, in her view, she owes her allegiance to a set of principles, not to a piece of fabric.

However, the outrage over her refusal was so strong that she decided to surrender to those who valued reverence to symbols over reverence to the things symbolized.

De Forest Decides to Recite Pledge

"I realize that the choice I made a long time ago not to say the pledge is serving as a distraction from the important work that my colleagues and I have before us," De Forest said in her statement.

I would have considered it a virtue for somebody who holds public office to less interested in symbols compared to that which was symbolized. I would applaud her commitment (and watch to see if she stands true to those principles).

In fact, this is yet another story that points to an unpleasant fact - that 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is a tool used to reserve elected office only for those who can pledge allegiance to God, and to deny elected office to all others.

As long as 'under God' remains in the Pledge it will be used as a religious test for public office - an object whose chief value to those who support it is to serve as a nearly impenetrable barrier between those who do not believe in God and public office.

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School Board Meeting

I would like to give a reminder that on the evening of June 19th (Thursday) the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school board will vote on a change in the school policy.

Currently, the policy requires students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and four students were suspended recently for failure to do so. The policy change would permit the students the option not to stand.

The arguments so far have been legal arguments and legal threats. "Allow students to sit or face a lawsuit that their right to free speech is being violated - a lawsuit on an issue that the Supreme Court has already decided in our favor."

In this context, the claim is easily interpreted as saying, "Children have the right to show contempt for the country and the people who sacrificed for their freedoms if they want to. You cannot show them to respect either." The assumption being that to remain seated and not saying the Pledge is an expression of disrespect.

The moral arguments against the Pledge are not being presented.

The wrongness of a government telling its citizens, "In our eyes, a person who does not support 'one nation under God' cannot be a patriot, in the same way that a person who does not support 'liberty and justice for all' cannot be a patriot," is not mentioned.

Today, a guest editorial appeared on In-Forum, a local news service, stating, Reciting teh Pledge at D-G-F Schools Should Not Be Optional.

The real issue here is about loyalty and respect – respect for the people who fought to give these little snot-nosed kids all the rights they do have.

This, of course, is false. The Pledge (with the words 'under God') shows the opposite of respect for some of those who fought for those freedoms. It teaches disrespect for all who do not support 'one nation under God'. If any should deny this, then ask them, "What does the Pledge say about people who do not support liberty and justice for all? Does it say that they are worthy of respect or that they deserve their nation's contempt? Whatever the Pledge says about these people, it says the same thing about people who do not support 'one nation under God'."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend Activities

Rats. I accidentally posted this entry on my regular board, rather than here.

I you were to open up Google News and do a search for "pledge of allegiance" you would discover page after page of reports of events where, "Person P lead the pledge of allegiance."

I had one commenter state that he had never encountered the Pledge of Allegiance after junior high school. The most likely reason for this is that the reader simply did not attend civic events - graduations, government meetings, celebrations honoring fallen soldiers, cub scout or boy scout events, and the like.

Either that, or he lives in an unusual part of the country.

Over the past several years, there has been a push to include the Pledge of Allegiance into more and more events (particularly events involving young children), just as there is a push to put the national motto "In God We Trust" in more and more buildings. These are all parts of a movement to brand America as a "Christian" (or at least a "religious") nation - at least in the sense that if you are not Christian, these people want to make sure that the government tells you that you do not fit in here. That you are not wanted.

One of the projects that fits into the Pledge Project is to get the Pledge removed from these ceremonies. Here, the argument would be, "It is simply wrong to begin a ceremony by insulting many of the people who would attend. The Pledge states that a person who does not support 'one nation under God' is as bad as a person who does not support 'liberty and justice for all'. This type of insult cast at peaceful and law-abiding citizens is a poor way to start a ceremony."

If the claim is brought up that this is our way of honoring the flag, the answer could be given, "This ritual has the same moral qualities of a ritual that takes a group of people from the audience, ties them to stakes, and has the audience throw rotten fruit or spit at them. That this is said to be a ceremony in which Americans show their respect for others is bizarre at best. In fact, it is a lie added to an insult. This ritual is not ment to show respect at all. It is meant to show and to foster contempt against a group of peaceful and law-abiding citizens based simply on their beliefs."

Of course, the defenders of 'under God' will complain about how atheists simply will not be happy unless all mention of God is removed from the public square. Against this, the answer is, "Opposition to 'under God' is anti-religious in the same way that opposition to segregation was anti-white. There are plenty of ways in which a person can mention God in the public square other than to insult others by comparing them to 'those who hate liberty and justice for all'. I would recommend that you choose one of them instead."

If they seek a recommendation, I have already given one. It would be a pledge that does not contain the words 'under God', but one in which the speaker is free to add 'so help me God' at the end. This allows mention of God in the public square in a way that does not say, 'no person who denies the existence of God shall be considered a patriot.'

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day Observances

It's flag day, and news organizations are taking the opportunity to tell the country how great it is that America is "one nation under God" and that our motto shows our devotion to a creator.

For example, (Utah) has an article, "One nation under God: Church leaders value diety reference in pledge.

There is a comment option for this article if you would like to leave a comment.

Middletown Journal (Ohio) has an article, Navy veteran speaks up about Old Glory for Flag Day"

Conrad said he sees a lot of disrespect for the flag. They've never had to live in a country that's not represented by that flag and what it stands for. . . . They don't know how blessed we are," he said. "Under God — one nation under God — and we are."

An article at, Veterans Beat: 'Pause for the pledge' on Flag Day is a patriotic plan tells of plans to make the Pledge an increasingly important part of Flag Day celebrations.

Since 1980, Americans all across the country have paused for a moment on June 14 at 7 p.m. (EDT) to say simultaneously the 31 words of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. . . . President George Bush is considering an invitation to lead Americans everywhere in the National "pause for the pledge" over television and radio at 7 p.m. (EDT) on Flag Day. Joint Resolutions have been introduced in both Houses of Congress to make the "pause for the pledge" a regular part of Flag Day. Governors and mayors across the country have been invited to join in this national program. Incidentally, the Army usually invites area mayors to participate in the program by proclaiming "Flag Day" in their respective communities. The effect of this simple ceremony each year has been a stimulating experience at home and a sign of unity abroad.

The article contains the following opinion.

OPINION: A personal comment if I might. From time to time you hear about some off-base group that seeks to promote the abandonment of the voicing of the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools. These groups have made their similar condemnation of our flag, going to the extreme of putting a match to it or defiling it in other despicable ways. If it were not for the main stream media, the TV folks especially, attempts to attract attention to their unstable cause would go unnoticed. Hopefully, some of these television networks will come to understand that they are being used.

Friday, June 13, 2008

School Board Refuses to Consider "In God We Trust"

Okay, the Journal is open for business.

First order of business.

Yesterday, I wrote that the Fountain Valley CA was planning to discuss a measure to put "In God We Trust" behind the dias in 6" letters.

Well, the school board did not even put forth a motion to consider the proposal. John Broscoe showed up to pitch the proposal. However, the school board members responded by saying that this has nothing to do with promoting education, so they were not going to consider it.

(See: Orange County Register, Fountain Valley trustees decide not to pursue "In God WE Trust" display.)

Superintendent Marc Ecker commended the board at the end of the meeting for staying true to its mission of teaching and learning, and for "keeping at arm's distance what I feel is dangerous and distracting." It "doesn't further one child learning how to read, or kept safe, or have any part of the curriculum,'' he said about the motto display.

Which is a good enough reason for a school board to reject a proposal.

Pledge Videos

A commenter on the Atheist Ethicist blog made a suggestion that he later followed up with on his own blog.

Still, reading one of Alonzo's posts recently got me to thinking about the Blasphemy Challenge that drew a lot of interest last year. As you may recall, the Blasphemy Challenge involved people filming short videos of themselves "denying" the Holy Spirit and posting them on Youtube. Well, I figured, why not adopt the same idea for The Pledge Project? How about we make videos of ourselves and others saying the Pledge of Allegiance sans the words "under God"?

In it, he has taken the next step and produced a video of his kids saying the "Pledge of Allegiance" without the words "under God."

A lot of people come up with ideas. They give their ideas more merit when they act on them.

I think this idea has merit. One of the complaints about the current pledge is that it gives the impression that those who do not believe in God are not patriots - that they are not loyal Americans - in virtue of their unwillingness to pledge allegiance.

They conveniently ignore the fact that this is due to an unwillingness to lie - an unwillingness to say that America is now or ever has been under a being that does not exist.

In my book, A Perspective on the Pledge, I have the protagonist standing after the rest of the class gave a pledge of allegiance to give his own pledge - precisely to illustrate some of the problems with the existing pledge.

I have written to the Rational Response Squad and asked if they would like to take up this idea.

In the main idea, I would like to recommend that readers take up the challenge. Let me know what you do.

Now . . . I gotta go find somebody who can make me a video.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Marilyn Walton: The Pledge Respects All Who Sacrificed

For anybody who would like to practice writing arguments about the merits of 'under God' in the Pledge before the 9th Circuit Court delivers its opinion, here is another opportunity.

There is an editorial in The Oxford Press, Flag had meaning to POWs of World War II that says (about a person who refuses to stand for the pledge):

. . . someone might remind her in no uncertain terms that she is showing the greatest disrespect not just to her country but all those who sacrificed for her.

I wrote a letter telling how the pledge disrespects those who served without believing in God because it equates a person who does not support 'one nation under God' with somebody who does not support 'liberty and justice for all'.

Or, in other words, the government has said, "Unless you support one nation under God your allegiance means nothing to me."

I would like to encourage others to respond.

Fountain Valley CA debates "In God We Trust"

Here's a relevant news item.

The Fountain Valley School Board is going to debate tonight whether to put the words "In God We Trust" behind the dias "in words six inches tall or taller."

(See: OC Register, "Fountain Valley schools consider 'In God We Trust' tonight.")

According to the article:

The motto will "have people think about our country and our governance," Briscoe said. It "belongs up there. It reminds them the basis of governance is our creator."

Well, the proposition that the basis of our governance is our creator is false, since it puts the basis of our governance in that which has never existed. And that which has never existed cannot be the basis of that which does exist.

The article has a comment section, and in the comment section I wrote the argument that I would like to see join these traditional arguments.

You want to put a sign up in a government building that effectively says, "If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us."

It's about as sensible as putting up a sign that says, "If you do not believe in Jesus, we do not consider you one of us," or "If you are not white, we do not consider you one of us."

That's not the type of sign we should ever find on a government building (or on the government money for that matter).

What I would like to read tomorrow is that somebody actually went to the meeting and gave this argument to the Board itself.

"Just as you have no moral right to vote to put up a sign that says, 'We do not consider those who are not white to be one of us,' you have no right to vote for a sign that says, 'we do not consider those who do not trust in God to be one of us."

I'll be looking tomorrow to find out what was said.

Secularist Support

*turns on lights*

Okay, the first meeting of the Pledge Project volunteers will now come to order.

Roll call....

Alonzo Fyfe.


Okay, we have a quarum.

Our first order of business:

Atheist Ethicist received a comment on a blog entry concerning the activities of In God We Trust - America. This organization is attempting to get the national motto posted in all government buildings. The commenter in this case spoke up against one city's plan to post the national motto. As a result (or so it seems reasonable to believe) her house was vandalized.

I propose that we lobby an organization that fights in defense of separation of church and state to set up a way of providing support for people such as this who stand up for secular values. I propose sending a letter to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State encouraging them to adopt such a policy.

I nominate Alonzo Fyfe to draft the letter.

Letter drafted:


My name is Alonzo Fyfe. I run a blog called Atheist Ethicist ( in which I am currently focusing on the issues of 'In God We Trust" as the National Motto and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

One of my postings concerned the activities of a group called In God We Trust - America, whose goal is to get the national motto displayed in every civic building in the country.

In response to my posting on this issue, I received a comment from a woman whose house was vandalized as a result to standing up against the posting of such a display.

See Los Angeles Daily News, Vandals hit home of Lancaster City Council Critic (

This is one of several stories that I have heard about people who have stood up for secularist principles suffering great costs. Some of them have faced vandalism. Others have been forced to move and are at risk of physical injury. I know that you are well aware of these risks.

I believe that these people deserve our support, and that we do not do ourselves any favors by forcing such a heavy load onto so few soldiers.

I looked through your web site to discover whether you provide some sort of assistance - other than legal assistance - for individuals standing up for secular values. I could not find mention of these types of services, so I thought I would recommend them.

Specifically, I would like to ask if you would consider setting up a victims' support fund to provide some sort of compensation for people who incur costs that can be reasonably attributed to their decision to stand up for secular values - people like the woman mentioned in this article.

Given your limited resources, I am not asking that you actually provide this help. Rather, I think it would be useful for your organization to serve as a conduit that reports on these moral crimes, collects contributions from those who would like to help the victims, and then passes that support on to the victims.

Sometimes the best help for somebody who takes a stand on this issue is simply to send them a note of appreciation. Unfortunately, posting their names and addresses on line only makes them more vulnerable to attack. An option that avoids this risk would be for an agency such as yours to collect the well-wishes for these people (which may well include money and other gifts) and to forward them to the intended recipient.

This site would serve two purposes.

First, it will provide assistance to those who have been made to suffer for the act of standing up for freedoms that we all share.

Second, it will serve to publish and make people aware of the types of violence that secualrists are subject to - something better than anecdotal evidence and rumors.

If you decide to set up such a project, please let me know. I would be honored to be one of the first contributors to such a project.


Alonzo Fyfe
Atheist Ethicist

All of those in favor of sending this letter say aye.


All those opposed . . .


The ayes have it.

Motion carries.

Meeting ajourned.

we will convene again this evening.

*turns off lights*

Judge Heinhardt Hospitalized

An article that I found in the New York Sun reports that Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the judge who ruled against 'under God' in the Pledge in 2002 and who sat on Michael Newdow's follow-up case which is the focus of the new lawsuit, has been hospitalized.

I wish him well, and I wish for him the best care that medical science can provide.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Pledge Project: Project Center

Let me turn the lights on here a bit. This place needs some dusting. Does the electricity still work? Can we get some lights on in here? LIGHTS!

Well, it seems that the equipment here still works. That's a good start.

Yes, this is the site I hope to use for the day-to-day operations of the Pledge Project once the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases its decision. Here, I hope to collect the news of who is saying what, when, where, and how to contact them.

My hope is to address some of the things people say with respect to 'under God' with the arguments things I have been saying in The Pledge Project.

This site hasn't been used in a while - in a couple of months really. But it shouldn't take much effort to get it cleaned up and set to serve those of us who want to participate in the Pledge Project.

So, let me get busy getting this site organized.

And . . . welcome.

I am glad you came.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Florida's "I Believe"License Plates

Apparently, the Florida state legislature is approving a vanity license plate that has a specifically Christian message. (Source: CNN)

The plate contains a cross, a stained glass window, and the words, "I believe."

I have absolutely zero problem with this. For two reasons. The first is that the purchase is entirely voluntary. The second is that the plate contains the word "I", not the word "We". So, it is a statement about the owner of the car, and a statement that will almost certainly be true whenever it is displayed.

In fact, I think it would be a huge embarrassment to oppose this particular act. An embarrassment - not because people would react with hostility towards such a prohibition, but because they have good reason to do so.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Failure of "Expelled"

It looks as if the movie "Expelled" has been a complete failure. Rather than the $15 million that the producers were hoping to acquire on opening week, the movie made less than $3 million. I do not know what the expenses were for this movie, but I think that there is a good chance that it will have been a net loss for those involved. In the mean time, the Truth Tickets counter campaign must have been a net benefit for the National Center for Science Education, since the donations came with no expense on their part.

In addition, the movie provided me with a benefit that I certainly value. Spending 8 months as a first-page hit for those doing Google and Yahoo internet searches for the movie meant a lot of visitors to my blog that I would have otherwise had. Some of them became regular subscribers. The movie brought me - and continues to bring me - a level of exposure greater than the combined value of all of my other work.

And I would like to think that this first-page hit for the past 8 months, immediately available for those looking for information on the movie - is at least partially responsible for the movie's failure. If this is true, then I would conclude that I had made an important contribution to making the world a better place than it would have otherwise been.

Even though my efforts here are negative efforts - an effort that does not actually count as 'promoting good', but as 'avoiding harm'.

I would like readers to reflect for a moment, that a significant portion of the failure of Ben Stein's movie can be traced to getting Christians to reject Stein's message. A lot of Christians rejected a group of their own. If they had not done so, then this piece of hate-mongering propaganda would have been a success.

Just a thought.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Very Good Week

On my other blog, I am still dealing with a surge in readership that has now lasted for two weeks. This is almost entirely due to Ben Stein's movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. By chance, my criticism of that movie ended up on the first page of searches for that movie on Google and Yahoo, and there were a lot of people apparently interested in what an atheist ethicist had to say about the issue.

Readership is up 300%.

It was all I could do to try to keep up with comments. I am grateful . . . very grateful . . . for regular readers who took up that part of the duty themselves. In particular, I would like to thank Eneasz and Martino.

As luck would have it, in the midst of this surge of visitors to my blog, I would get a terrible stomach flu. Four about five days, it was all I could do to get my regular blog postings written and posted. However, with all of these new visitors coming to the site, I wanted to make sure to give them something to read.

In addition, Cocore (the Colorado Coalition on Reason) has named me one of their "Secular Movers and Shakers" for the State of Colorado.

And, I filled out all of the paperwork to get the book A Perspective on the Pledge to appear at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online book publishes so that people will find it easier to buy.

So, a busy week. Plus a flu.

I'm all better now.

And I thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Where do Atheists Get Their Morality?

I would like to suggest an alterantive answer to the question, "Where do atheists get their morality?" than the standard attempt to defend some moral theory.

The answer that I would like to propose is:

"A lot of theists want to know where atheists get their morality because theists are bigots looking for an excuse to hate their atheist neighbors, and 'You are morally inferior to us' has long been a favorite dehumanization technique of the hateful bigot. Clearly, atheists do quite well when it comes to behaving morally, at least as well as their Christian counterparts. It may be natural to express some curiosity as to why this is the case. But to cast atheists as morally inferior in order to generate a reason to hate them - that's not a course that a truly moral person would ever pursue."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fox Review of "Expelled"

Some people have expressed surprise that even Fox News would give the Ben Stein movie "Expelled" a bad review .

It may actually make some sense.

The Republican Party is actually a coalition of several forces. Two of the dominant forces are big business and religious fundamentalism.

In the case of Intelligent Design and the quality of education, the two forces come into conflict.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson suggested a reason not to be surprised by these types of findings in discussing the Dover Pennsylvania trial over intelligent design. He said that he was relieved to hear that a Bush-appointed judge was hearing the case because "Republicans are scared to death that they might die poor."

Big business needs an educated workforce. Pharmaceutical companies need employees who can find cures to disease - drugs and treatments that can be sold for billions of dollars. Energy companies need employees who can understand the hundred-million year history of a rock formation so that they know where the oil might be found.

The ignorance that Ben Stein is promoting with his movie might appeal to the religious fundamentalists, but it is not necessarily a welcome development to the owners of big business.

And Fox News serves the interests of its big business allies.

So, there might not be so much of a mystery to discover that Fox News has also attacked the movie Expelled. It's just that the company knows who has the money to pay their bills. And the people with the money realize that real-world business requires that at least a few people have a grasp of real-world science.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Expelled and the Anti-Expelled

Something happened in the Expelled universe today.

I had mentioned that I was accustomed to 30% of my hits each day coming from people who were searching for "Ben Stein Expelled" or something similar, and landing on my post, "Ben Stein: Expelled".

Well, today I got twice as many hits from searches than I have received on any other day to date.

So, a lot more people were searching for the movie today, or a far higher percentage of those who were searching for the movie were clicking on my posting.

Anyway, today I posted in my regular blog a call for people to purchase Truth Tickets to counter the money that the backers of Exposed will make on the documentary.

If you have a blog, I would like to ask that you make a donation and invite your readers to do the same. If you are a member of a discussion group, I would like to ask that you post something to the discussion group. If you know somebody who has a blog who might listen to your advice, I would like to ask that you recommend that the person participate in this project.

Otherwise, we will be living in a country where the tendency to view any mention of 'evolution' to be comparable to speaking in defense of Hitler will be even stronger than it is today.

Legislator to Atheist: "You have no right to be here."

This is a story that deserves mention.

Representative tries to put the fear of God in atheist

The story itself deserves mention.

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, "What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

"This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

However, what deserves even more mention is this:

Outside of Change of Subject, where I posted a transcript and the audio, Davis' repellent, un-American outburst received no attention whatsoever.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Responding to Insult

Here is a true proposition.

“Aggressive secularists” must start to live up to their name.

It is the title of an article about the response to the statement from the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, who states that there is "a militantly atheist and secularist lobby" that believes that we " have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people".

(See The Uncomfortable Truth of Easter)

This is the type of statement that deserves an appology - like a statement about a Muslim lobby that wants to exterminate the Jews or a Jewish lobby that wants to conrol all the money.

And, yet, where are the people demanding this apology?

This is just the most recent in a long list of insults cast against 'secularists' that have gone unanswered - which simply produces the effect that they just keep coming, one after another.

Fishing for Compliments

I am looking for people who will say nice things about my book Perspective on the Pledge that I can put on the final cover (and maybe use in some promotional stuff), and/or say something nice about the blog postings from which the book was made (towards the same end).

I can email a copy of the manuscript to any who might be interested in reading it for this purpose.

I found a few complimentary things said about it on the web.

Bay of Fundie
December 13, 2007

I just discovered a great short story over at Atheist Ethicist, entitled “A Perspective on the Pledge”. It puts the Pledge controversy in a different light. I highly recommend you check it out.

The Daily Doubter:
December 07, 2007

Over at Atheist Ethicist, Alonzo Fyfe has juxtaposed white supremacism onto the Pledge of Allegiance in order to [demonstrate] the wrongness of the phrase under God in it. A truly excellent post that should be read by any justice preparing to rule on the Pledge being recited in schools.

Posted by KC, February 7, 2008

Just a quick note to point out this excellent post by Alonzo Fyfe over at Atheist Ethicist about the loyalty oath here in America.

The Two Percent Company
January 22, 2006

One of the posts that we really liked was Alonzo Fyfe's post on Atheist Ethicist entitled A Perspective on the Pledge. It's a great example of using a simple analogy to showcase why the inclusion of "Under God" in the pledge is dead wrong.

Anybody else?

Oh, you're also free to tell me how horrible the story was or how worthless, but I probably won't use them. Please don't be offended. It's standard practice in this type of activity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Practice and the Pledge

I need to get into some good healthy debates on 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'.

I have decided that I need some practice in confronting the types of arguments that people might actually give in trying to defend these two policies.

Over the last couple of days, I have been debating somebody on this issue on This By Us, which I found when somebody posted a link to my article.

I could very much use more of these, if only to be in practice. Because I want to be well practiced by the time the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases its decision.

Recommendations, anyone?

The Torture Memo

An article on MSNBC tells about the Justice Department memo that says that the President has the power to unilaterally alter or ignore international treaties.

I will let the Constitutional scholars debate the legitimacy of such a claim.

My interest concerns the two lines at the end of the article.

Yoo's memo became part of a debate among the Pentagon's civilian and military leaders about what interrogation tactics to allow at overseas facilities and whether U.S. troops might face legal problems domestically or in international courts. Also of concern was whether techniques used by U.S. interrogators might someday be used as justification for harsh treatment of Americans captured by opposing forces.

Neither of these address my concern - the greatest concern of the memo. This is the degree to which the Bush decision will be viewed as justification for the leaders of other countries to engage in torture generally - not just against Americans, but against their own people.

We have lost the moral authority to condemn torture. To criticize other countries that engage in torture, when we condone it, makes us hypocrites.

Furthermore, in claiming the right to ignore international treaties, we have given every other political leader the right to ignore international treaties.

When you make a moral choice, you make that moral choice for everybody. If you are not willing to make that moral choice for everybody, then it is wrong to make that choice for yourself. There is no sense in saying, "There is one moral rule for us where we may do whatever we please, and a different moral rule for everybody else where they must also do whatever pleases us."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pledging Allegiance in my Niece' School

My niece, who attents a local school, announced today that her school will start having students say the Pledge of Allegiance tomorrow. She knows my views on the matter, but I am not inclined to pressure her to adopt a position that would put her in stress at school.

In the realm of morality, there is a category called 'supererogatory'. This means going above and beyond the call of duty to do that which is right. As much as I object to the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, I recognize the difficulty in a student actually taking a stand on the issue - particularly a stand akin to what Shawn takes in A Perspective on the Pledge.

It is not that those who refuse to take such a stand are villains. It is, rather, that those who choose to take such a stand are truly heroes, for going above and beyond the call of duty, and doing things that we can reasonably expect most of us will be afraid to do.

The Costs and Benefits of Religion

On the National Catholic Register website, there is an article in a series of posts allegedly providing answers to atheists. This specific article, Religion Does More Harm Than Good attempts to answer the objection that religion is a net cost to society.

In one sense I agree with the author. The argument that religion is a net cost to society lumps several things called 'religion' together that can easily be separated. The argument that medicine can be considered a net harm if we lump all of the bad medicine (including the ignorant and superstitious practices) in with the good medicine is telling. We can, in fact, separate different aspects of religion as we can separate different aspects of medicine. The question is not whether religion is a net harm or benefit, but whether an identifiable subsection of religion can be a net benefit.

Still, whether we are talking about all of religion, or any subset of religion, the accounting system typically used to argue that religion is a net benefit is one that no business or economist would accept.

I made this point in a posting called, Melvin Konner: Hope, Benefit, and Prohibiting Religion from the 2006 Beyond Belief conference. If somebody comes up to you with a business proposal saying that, if you accept his proposal, he can return a profit of $50 million, this certainly argues that his project would be a net benefit. However, what if you could devote the same resources to a second investment which, in turn, could deliver $200 million in revenue in the same time period? Now it is not enough to argue that the first option provides a net benefit. The question is whether the first option prevents you from making an investment that is potentially even more valuable.

If we had taken all of the money spent on religion, and all of the time spent studying scripture and teaching people to adopt religious beliefs, and spent that time instead on scientific research, teaching science, and getting people to understand how the real world really works, what would the benefit of that have been?

If the value is higher than the value of what religion provided with the same commitment of resources, then this would argue that religion is a net harm. It does not matter that religion did good. The real question is whether we could have done even more good with those same resources committed to another purpose.

If we could have done so, then the 'cost' of religion is the benefits we gave up by investing in religion instead of a more productive alternative to religion.

Yet, still, as I said, it is a mistake to say that all religion is alike. The fair question to ask is whether there is any subsection of religion that provides a better rate of return than anything else we could have done with the money. Insofar as we think it is permissible to spend money on dining out, sports, computer games, and other wastes of time and effort, religion does not need to prove itself to be particularly beneficial to prove itself to be a legitimate way for people to spend time and effort.

Future Posts

I am, as it turns out, way behind on the writing that I want to do.

I want to address the problem with a desire utilitarian calculus expressed in the comments in my posting on Justice.

I want to formalize some comments I made to the posts on a series of posts that The Barefoot Bum wrote on game theory.

I want to write a response to evanescent's The Meaning of Life - It's Right Here!. Some of the statements made are false.

These are all parts of a new project that I am taking on in my blog - a project of engaging other blog writers on ideas of value and ethics.

Focusing, of course, on writers I can respect because they actually seem to have an interest in the quality of arguments.

Oh, and I've got to (1) update my web site with links to my blog postings, (2) update the Introduction page to the Beyond Belief 2 series with the most recent postings in that series, (3) read and give final approval to the "Perpsective on the Pledge" book before making it universally available.

Where will I find the time?

Monday, March 31, 2008


Carnival of the Godless #88 is up and running at Atheist FAQ. I do not have a posting in this edition, but I intend to read through many of the entries to get ideas for future blog postings.

Humanist Symposium #17 is up and running at Mind On Fire. I do have a posting in this one - a blog entry that I wrote on the desire-utilitarian view of justice.

Happy reading.

"Google bombing" Expelled

There are a bunch of people out there trying to "google bomb" Ben Stein's movie "Expelled."

I actually don't know what this is supposed to accomplish.

I do know that, if you search Google for "Ben Stein Expelled" or any of a number of other options, my posting, Ben Stein's 'Expelled' is second on the list of hits - and that this posting accounts for about 30% of the hits on my Atheist Ethicist" site each day.

I kinda like that. I like the fact that the dominant criticism of the movie not only says that the people responsible are doing bad science, but they are making the world a worse place.

Science saves lives. ID theorists cannot give us a single piece of useful information - that can actually make predictions about the real world, helping us to cure disease or avoid the things that actually cause measurable real-world death and suffering.

I'm kinda hoping all of this google bombing doesn't knock me out of this position.

Perspective Cover

I want to start using this blog for what it was originally meant for - a journal, of sorts, of my efforts to make the world a better place than it would have otherwise been.

I have released the book Perspective on the Pledge as a private publication, but I am going through the hoops of making it generally available through your local bookstore.

I am in a dispute with unnamed others about the cover. I worry that a cover where a black child is saluting what appears to be a Confederate flag might put off potential buyers. On the other hand, the cover does depict the intent of the book - to look at what it is like to live in a country where the government's official pledge is to view you as inferior to your fellow citizens.

Of course, somebody who does not know the contents will not know what a book, with a black person saluting a confederate flag, could possibly be about. It could relate to any number of socially charged issues. Which would make people nervous - make them want to stay away.

So, we have a classic dispute here in art vs. business. will this cover help to sell books? Should it matter?

I have a couple of weeks to decide. Then, everything gets set in concrete.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Review:Whorton Hears a Who

I came across an interesting review of this movie today.

And what has Hollywood done with this gentle plea for tolerance? It has been turned into something that looks astonishingly like far-right propaganda about how Christians are a persecuted minority -- as if this were 100AD in the Roman Empire -- and loudmouthed atheists are ruining everything.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dishonest Questioning

Kellym78 has a well written criticism of those who sought to portray planned parenthood as a racist organization in, Abortion is a Racist, Genocidal Act.

She demonstrates that the people who participated in this campaign are liars who concocted a process whereby they can 'bear false witness' against others, collecting evidence that can be easily distorted into providing support for their desired conclusion.

One of the things that I am noting more and more is how the culture of the religious right is a culture of lies and deception. Its members apparently have no love of truth. The are people who have decided where they want to go, and are willing to use any and every dishonest trick in the book to get there.

Please note, in saying this I am not condemning all members of the religious right. I only note, once again, that where intellectually honest members may exist, they are far too few and far too weak to have any effect when we look at the whole of the culture, where lies and other forms of deception are the order of the day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Progress Report: Perspective - New appendix and cover art.

Technically, this is the blog where I should be reporting on my progress for the Perspective on the Pledge book.

Today, I got a first look at some artwork that will probably provide the cover. I provided an idea for the cover. However, a friend of mine supplied a very interesting suggestion.

I also added a second appendix - this one on offense. Obviously, people are going to protest that the story is offensive, and will attempt to reject it on those grounds alone. Or they will interpret the story as objecting to the story's equivalent of 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' on the grounds that they are offensive. The appendix makes clear that I do not consider offense to be a morally legitimate concern. It's truth that matters, not offense.

And, on the issue of freedom of speech, I argue that freedom of speech implies a freedom to criticize. What the right to freedom of speech protests people from is not criticism, but from violence (including the violence inherent in government censorship).

I sent a querry letter to a potential publisher, Prometheus Books, three weeks ago, but I have heard nothing back. If I do not hear back soon, or hear back with a negative response, I will go ahead with my plans to self-publish. I want to have this book available sooner rather than later.

Then comes the issue of promotion . . .

I will have more to say on that matter later.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

All Children are Born Atheists?

vjack at Atheist Revolution is bringing forth the absurd claim that all children are born atheists. His reasoning is that the definition of atheism is a lack of belief in a God. Children lack a belief in a God. Therefore, all children are atheists.

If 'lacking a belief in God' can make one an atheist, then every rock and flower and chirping bird is an atheist.

This is simply not how competent English speakers speak.

In truth, the definition of a word is what it means to competent speakers within a language. If we look at the way competent English speakers use the term 'atheist', it means 'one who believes that the proposition 'God exists' is certainly or almost certainly false.'

One has to have enough cognitive capability to have a belief about God, and that belief must be the belief that the existence of such an entity is so unlikely that it has no practical value.

Which means that the statement 'all children are born atheists' is false.

We could, of course, make it true by inventing our own language - by inventing a new term for 'atheist'. But let's not then lie and say tht this is the definition as if all competent English already use the term in this way. Instead, our 'proof' that all children are born atheists would be like the following proof that you cannot split an atom. The meaning of 'atom' is 'a' (without) 'cut' (or 'that which cannot be cut or broken into parts') So, the idea that some scientists have that we can split an atom is absurd.

The fact is, 'atom' does not mean 'without cut', and 'atheist' does not mean 'without belief in God'.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Responding to, "In God We Trust" defense.

There is an editorial (In God - and Democracy - We Trust that defends the posting of "In God We Trust" in public buildings.

I thought it deserved a response.

I would suggest that others respond as well.


A national motto of “In God We Trust” simply means one thing.

It means that the most important doctrine governing the United States – the principle that is so important that we elevate it to the top spot – is the idea that the population is to be divided between a “we” who “trust in God”, and a “they” who do not.

It is a motto of exclusion – of segregation – that says that certain people (those who do not trust in God) do not belong here. “We may tolerate their presence, but we certainly do not want them to get the idea that they are welcome. Only those who trust in God are welcome. Only those who trust in God are ‘we’”.

Indeed, this was why “In God We Trust” was adopted as a national motto in 1956. It was the McCarthy era, when “the enemy” was those ‘atheist communists’. We certainly do not want those ‘atheist communists’ to feel welcome over here, so we (the Congress of the United States) adopt the motto “In God We Trust” specifically for the purpose of making this subgroup feel excluded.

Only, the motto targets not only atheist communists, but all atheists.

It does not matter how popular such a sign may be. What matters is whether the sign says something that people should be proud of. We can well imagine a community that is 85% white voting to put a sign that says “White Power” in City Hall. (A sign that is not in any way qualitatively different than one that says, “Power to those who believe in God” or “In God We Trust”), its popularity does not make it right.

Alonzo Fyfe
Atheist Ethicist

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bigotry and "Community Values"

From The Friendly Atheist, there is a post from yesterday titled, Local Government Shouldn't Be Serving God concerning the "mission statement" of the City of Hudsonville. That statement says:

The City Commission and Administration of the City of Hudsonville strive to serve God through the strengthening of family and community life and are committed to excellence in providing quality municipal services.
We Pledge to protect the lives and property of our citizens, provide for responsible and orderly growth, and to promote the beliefs and convictions, economic opportunities, and quality of life for all residents.

Apparently, the Grand Rapids Press thinks that "the mission statement hardly poses a threat to religious freedom or the Constitution. The sentence simply reflects deeply held community values."

That’s it. Nobody is being asked to subscribe to a certain set of beliefs or take part in a ritual not to their liking. Nobody is being forced to pray to a foreign deity, or to any deity at all, for that matter. Nobody’s being asked to agree. In fact, in a democracy, dissent is actively encouraged. In defining their mission, city leaders sought to make a statement about value and purpose that reflects their community.

Are people being forced to pay taxes?

Is it not the case that they are being forced to pay taxes to an organization that reports itself to be "striv[ing] to serve God"?

If this is true, then people are not being asked to subscribe to take part in a ritual not to their liking - they are being forced by law to contribute to such a ritual.

And what does this statement say about the position of any atheist who might want to run for public office? Clearly, he cannot subscribe to the "mission" of serving God. So, the statement does force citizens to subscribe to a set of beliefs - it forces political candidates to subscribe to the mission of serving God, and disqualifies any candidate who cannot subscribe to that mission.

This statemetn may well reflect strong community values. However, Jim Crowe laws, when they were in effect, also reflected strong community values. It is also the case that Jim Crowe Laws, and the Hudsonville mission statement, both express the value of exclusion and segregation - of taking two groups of people who by right should be considered political equals, and elevating one group above the other.

If these are "strong community values", then there is something wrong with that community - and with the paper that endorses them.