Atheism Central for Secondary Schools
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An Exemplary Tale
- a sympathetic view of voluntary euthanasia - James Gerrand, editor
of the Australian Humanist
is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
"We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth from whatever source it comes to us - even if from former generations and foreign peoples. For him who seeks the truth there is nothing of higher value than the truth itself."
Al Kindi, philosopher, 814-840
"Few theologians would care to pursue their research to its logical conclusion and finally assert, as did Thomas Paine, that the biblical account of Jesus 'has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it.'"
George Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1989), pp. 203-204.
"If the ministers of the Church have often permitted nations to revolt for Heaven's cause, they never allowed them to revolt against real evils or known violences. It is from Heaven that the chains have come to fetter the minds of mortals".
"Freethought is respectable. Freethought is crucial. Freethought needs to be publicized."
Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: FFRF, 1992).
"A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence."
David Hume, 1711-1776
"The Ages of Faith, which are praised by our neo-scholastics, were the time when the clergy had things all their own way. Daily life was full of miracles wrought by saints and wizardry perpetrated by devils and necromancers. Many thousands of witches were burnt at the stake. Men's sins were punished by pestilence and famine, by earthquake, flood, and fire. And yet, strange to say, they (the clergy) were even more sinful than they are nowadays."
Bertrand Russell, "A Debate on the Existence of God" (1948) in Bertrand Russell on God and Religion
"For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and can never observe anything but the perception... If anyone upon serious and unprejudiced reflection, thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All thet I can allow him is that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may perhaps, perceive something simple and continued, which he calls himself; though I am certain there is no such principle in me."
David Hume, 1739
Dr Christopher French, BA PhD CPsychol FBPsS. My current research focuses on two main areas. The first is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and of ostensibly paranormal experiences. Although a large proportion of the population believes in the paranormal, the evidence presented to support paranormal claims is generally not very convincing in scientific terms. It would appear that on most (and perhaps all) occasions when individuals claim to have directly experienced the paranormal, plausible non-paranormal alternative explanations can be found. These alternative accounts often rely on the imperfections in human information-processing studied by cognitive psychologists, such as those related to memory, perception, and judgement. The psychology of deception and self-deception is also of relevance in this area. I often appear on the television and radio offering a sceptical perspective on a variety of paranormal claims.
My second major area of research is the relationship between cognition and emotion, particularly the effects of anxiety on a range of psychological processes including attention, implicit and explicit memory, the interpretation of ambiguous stimuli, and the use of imagery. This research examines the ways in which anxiety can bias information processing, in particular the processing of threat-related stimuli. I have been funded by both the ESRC and the MRC for research in this area.
In total I have authored or co-authored over fifty articles and chapters on these and other topics, and I have co-edited three books.
I am an atheist but am not a member of any humanist or secular group. I am a member of various "sceptical" groups (as well as the SPR!) and so I often come into contact with members of secular groups and find them to be very much on my wavelength.
Gerrard. I am a retired Australian communications engineer who has
been involved with the Humanism and the Skeptics causes for the past
20 years. I joined the Montreal Humanist Fellowship in 1975 when I was
working for the Civil Aviation Agency of the United Nations, helping
developing countries with their civil aviation. The Canadian Humanists
were holding their annual convention in Montreal that year so I went
along to meet Canadians with similar views to my own.
My main concern about the state of the Australian society is the poor level of scientific literacy (about 6% I would think paralleling the situation in the UK and USA). So many decisions, both personal and governmental, in our technologically based global society, require a scientific approach for the wisest results. This scientific illiteracy arises principally from our Australian primary school teachers being scientifically illiterate. They are mainly women who were put off science when they were at primary school by illiterate primary teachers.
Running second in my concerns is the unemployment affecting so many lives, none more so than our indigenous Aborigines. Much sympathy is expressed for the plight of our hunter/gatherers having to adapt to our modern technological society but the best practical help would be to provide employment and do everything possible to improve their education. I appreciated at an early age that science not religion was the way to understand the world about us.
I remember being skeptical at my Presbyterian Sunday School. The Presbyterians make a great icon of the tale of Moses and the Burning Bush that was not consumed. I suggested to the teacher that there was a lot of oil in the Middle East and this could have caused the ostensible miracle.
At 80 years of age I find I am still very busy what with Humanism and Skeptics causes, a grandparently concern wife my wife for our families of four sons and a daughter with seven grandchildren, being the Director of a Victorian medical support group for sufferers of the rare disorders of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome) and CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy - it has given me "feet of clay") and last but not least I am a passionate follower of the best football code - Australian Rules. What a remarkable skillful and exciting game it is!
Dr. Pat Duffy Hutcheon says:
"I am an agnostic in philosophy and a writer, sociologist and educator by profession, with broad experience both in teaching at all levels of the public school and university system and in policy-oriented research. An interdisciplinarian in practice as well as theory, I did my graduate work in sociological/anthropological and social-psychological theory at the University of Calgary in Canada, Yale University and the University of Queensland, Australia. Among my most recent publications are LEAVING THE CAVE: EVOLUTIONARY NATURALISM IN SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996) and BUILDING CHARACTER AND CULTURE (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999)".
I'm reading BUILDING CHARACTER AND CULTURE right now (Feb 2000) - the sweep of the book is amazing - I'm learning a lot. A.U.
Family-oriented, Steve Locks is married to Wendy and dotes on his daughter Amy. From Loughton in Essex, Steve was born only just down the road from the author of this site. Steve studied Physics at Birmingham University and works as a Medical Physicist in Radiotherapy Physics in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Steve's web site (link from image) deals in quite moving terms with the experience of deconversion from Christianity and the positive benefits this can provide. Partial to a beer with his friends, Steve can neverthless chuck about words such as metaphysical, scientific, religious, ethical, ontological and epistemological with ease when he wants to. Apart from being nutty about physics Steve has read widely on religious themes and has a hankering for philosophy. His web site provides some excellent links on all these topics.
Wicasta Lovelace says:
"Well, The Watch is not really an atheist project at all, but has a Pagan nature and focus. We were formed to keep Pagans (and atheists) abreast of the activities of the Religious Right. I myself could probably be summed up as a determined agnostic ...
We have a long way to go. The biggest enemy we seem to be facing is apathy. Most people prefer to think that "it can't happen here," even though history shows us quite clearly that it already has. Several times.
I think the activities and history of the Religious Right in America pretty much speak for themselves".
Dan Mahler, a physician - a Plastic Surgeon by profession, is the chairman of A.L.E. - Israeli Association for the Prevention of Religious Coercion, under which HOFESH website is acting. Together with his colleagues, Dan Mahler's specific campaign is against the recent Jewish missionary institutes, freely acting in Israel under the clear or tacit blessing of most official orthodox establishments. Dan and his wife Sophia wrote the book "The Souls' Hunters - an answer to the Teshuva", Zmora-Bitan publisher., Tel-Aviv, Israel, January 1998, dealing with this specific issue.
Marilyn Mason says: I work for the British Humanist Association as their Education Officer. I used to be a teacher, of English, General Studies, and Philosophy, and would like to see Philosophy much more widely taught in schools. Taking up Philosophy as a mature student certainly helped me to clarify my ideas, though I think I'm sceptical by nature. As a child I did try quite hard to believe what everyone else at school apparently believed, but never really succeeded. By sixteen or so I had stopped trying, and I have not worried much about religion since then. Going to a christening when I was about nineteen made me determined not to participate in religious ceremonies in the unthinking conventional way that many people do. My husband, my grown up daughters, and many of my friends and extended family share my basic beliefs so I have never felt particularly isolated. But I have often felt indignant at the common assumption that religion and morality are the same thing, and sometimes felt the need of ceremonies that were relevant to my life and beliefs - so I'm very comfortable working for the BHA.
Click here for pop-up portrait of Derrick
I'm an Arizona science teacher/author/speaker/debater doing what I can to fight creationism in the public schools and discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America (atheists can join the Boy Scouts in the UK - perhaps the Pilgrim Fathers went the wrong way when looking for religious toleration - Atheism Central) and defending freethought, humanism and church/state separation. In fact, I debated two representatives of the Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, just the other night.
Here's a copy of a letter I just wrote to the Arizona Civil Liberties Union to give you an idea of the type of activism I'm currently involved in:
I am an 8th grade science teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School, a public middle school in Sierra Vista, AZ. For years the school has had a club program with the club meetings taking place during the regular school day. Clubs are teacher initiated and sponsored. Every other quarter, the administration puts a form in the teachers' mailboxes asking the teachers to tell them what club the teachers want to sponsor. Students are never formally polled as to their interests. The administration simply compiles a club list based on the forms the teachers submit and then the students choose from that list.
For several years now, a 6th grade teacher at our school has sponsored a Christian Students Club. Right when she formed the club, I took my concerns to my building administration and to the district administration saying I thought the club was in violation of the separation of church and state. I was told the club was perfectly legal.
So, my first question is: Isn't a teacher-initiated, teacher-sponsored Christian club in a public school illegal? This question may be addressed immediately. I am willing to file a grievance if I can have help from the AzCLU. Now, since we do currently have the Christian Students Club, I have decided to make myself available as a sponsor of an Atheist Students Club, in order to give moral balance to our club program. I have already submitted the club form and am awaiting word from my administration.
My second question is: If the administration denies an Atheist Students Club, isn't that in violation of the Equal Access Act? Again, I am willing to grieve, get involved in a law suit, etc., but I need help from the AzCLU. Lastly, I would prefer having no clubs that blur the separation of church and state in the public schools but, if this Christian club is allowed to continue, then an Atheist club should be allowed for moral balance.
Sincerely, Derrick Neill
Douglas Rankin holds degrees in Foreign Languages and Linguistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kent State University in Ohio, with additional graduate work at the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University. He was a school administrator in Germany and Austria and instructed foreign languages and English in Florida and New York before entering the business world. Articles, reviews, and stories by and about Douglas A. Rankin have appeared in various atheist and freethought publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. Retired and living in North Carolina, Rankin is an honorary ordained minister who continues to pursue research in linguistics and biblical studies.
Douglas Rankin also says this about the religious right in the USA:
"I wish more citizens were concerned about this. The religious right is trying to force their views into law. They are pushing for a constitutional amendment to force compulsory prayer and bible studies in government tax-funded schools, as one example. The Christian Coalition has powerful lobbies that pressure legislators to deny equal rights to gays, to prevent sex education in the schools, to deny women the right to an abortion, and to regulate the conduct of business in regards to such matters as alcoholic beverages and sabbath days."
Bob Seltzer is a recent Ph.D. student in the Department of Philosophy at the University at Albany, State University of New York.
Bob says: "My interests and specializations are the Philosophy of Language and the Philosophy of Mind -- but I am also interested in Ethics (both theoretical and applied) and the Philosophy of Religion (specifically with the Problem of Evil and with the Divine Command Theory of Morality). My dissertation concerns David Kaplan's theory of Demonstratives and Indexicals (specifically, the roles of intentions for demonstrations and demonstrative utterances) and Tyler Burge's theories on the ascriptions of propositional attitudes in opaque contexts." Ouch! Do you understand all that?
Fountain Day marks the time when the State University of New York's main fountain begins operating in the spring. A large portion of the University Community gathers for the afternoon festivities.
Kim Walker: "I live in Sydney, Australia. Yes, that's right, we get the internet down here too" says Kim, who cannot understand why people think he has a girl's name.
"We (Australians) know that the world has a way of squashing all pretensions, like so many bugs under its thumb, and all you can do about it is sit back, shake your head, and laugh at it" says Kim.
Being Australian he's real sensitive and ready to share that photo of him that his mother likes with anyone who visits his web site - but no need - Atheism Central can take you there even faster than he can. Click the link and read what makes "A World of Difference."
Dov Wisebrod says:
"I won't bore you with an autobiography. It suffices that I once practiced a rather orthodox form of Judaism, and now, happily, I do not. Consider DETOX an ongoing project of religious recovery, an affirmation of the power of informed reason to dispel nonsense, and, well, my turn to laugh at the gods.
Most of what I write is satirical "edu-tainment," with titles such as "God Apologizes for 20th Century." I recently wrote a "straight" article, however, in which I explained simply, concisely and briefly my thoughts on creationism (my personal obsession). It was well-received, and I think your audience would appreciate it."
It may be difficult for readers in the UK to understand just why the evolutuion versus creationism debate is so important to American atheists since it has largely been won here (unless there is a resurgence of religious fundamentalism). The creationists are a powerful lobby with the ability to influence law-making and public administration. This demonstrates what American atheists feel:
Creationist "How many
fingers do I have?"
Thank you to all those making such a positive contribution to this site and its objectives. A.U.
If you have your own web pages with a clear atheist, agnostic, freethought, humanist, or sceptic theme you are invited to contribute to the guest pages with an article of between 700 and 3000 words. The page will be adapted to include key stylistic elements from your site.
If you do not have your own web pages but still wish to contribute I will develop another section for you.
Title: 'Atheism Central for Secondary Schoolsl' Copyright © 1998, Alan Urdaibay visit our sponsor.