Atheism+. Why I Am More Resolved Than Before To Support It

Jen McCreight quit blogging yesterday.  This from Almost Diamonds who wrote a post explaining some of the reason why.

I’m angry that Jen has been pushed to the point where she has to stop blogging.  She’s done so much, especially with the SSA, to help advance atheism.  The detractors say that those who support Atheism+ are trying to take over the atheist movement, that we are being hateful and divisive, that we are not thinking critically and are letting our emotions cloud our judgement.  

Of course it is emotional.  We are enraged and appalled at the misogyny that has become so apparent in the past year.  We aren’t automatons, but human.  Using our anger at the misogynists and others like them in the atheists movement to try to build something better is good, as Greta Christian says in her book.  

Anger can motivate people to right wrongs and gain rights and recognition in society.  We want to be seen as atheists who do more than just attack religion.  We want to take this movement to the masses, as it were, beyond the atheist community, by working openly, and publicly on important social issues that, until now, religion or other organizations have owned.  At least, that’s what I would like to see.  I think many who support Atheism+ feel this way too.

The people who drove Jen away want to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  It can’t, and won’t, stand.  But, I’m not going to attack those people, I’m going to ignore them.  They aren’t worth my time.  Instead, I’m going to do something positive and try to make Atheism+ a thing that will unite all those atheists who want to focus on social issues instead of just bashing religion and slapping ourselves on the backs for how much more clever we are than theists.  


Atheism+: Doing Good Without God.

It’s been said that getting atheists to agree on something is like herding cats.  I’d say it’s more like trying to herd cats into a tub of water.  Atheists tend to be an inquisitive bunch; an intellectually bunch.  We reject dogma and the authority that goes along with it, hence we are loathed to being told what to do and what to think.  You could say we are fiercely independent (at least I say that we are).  

Given all that, you can see why trying to get a consensus about where to go for breakfast might be hard enough, never mind were we should all stand on a particular social issue.  And that’s the real issue in getting us all to band together for a common cause: we don’t like to be told what we should think or feel.

Still, being openminded and skeptical (yes, they do go hand in hand) we are able to listen to each other and really consider what each one of us has to say.  This attitude tends to lead to civilized debates, respect for each other’s rights to express ideas, and compromise, or at least it should.  I believe that it can and that it does.

The atheist/humanist/secular/(add your own label here) movements have much more in common than they do differences.   Most of us in these movements (and most of us identify with more than one) understand this and this has allowed us to begin to come together in the past few years in greater numbers and with great effect in support of issues that we all feel that we have a stake in.

Still, there is an ugly side to us as well.  Anti-feminism has shown its self to be much more prevalent that most of us imagined it was.  This is both bad and good.  It is bad, for the obvious reason that it shows that we all are not as enlightened as we’d like to be.  It is bad because it distracts us from working together to achieve our common goals.

It is good, however, that this is now out in the open.  You can’t tackle a problem until you can first acknowledge it.  Also, it is an opportunity to clean house, as it were.  By exposing the misogynists in our midst ( actually they tend to expose themselves) we can shame them into recognizing  their misplace sense of privilege or shun them from our ranks.  It is vital that we do so because we have the fight of our lives with the religious and social conservitives on our hands.

This is where Atheism+ comes in.  The new movement is not an attempt to establish an atheist dogma, as some try to claim.  Atheism+ is an attempt to bring together atheists who believe that we have a responsibility to go beyond fighting against superstition or fighting for the separation of church and state.  We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as atheists to fight for social justice for everyone, theist and non-theist, the superstitious and the skeptical, the religious and the non-believers.  

Feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state are just a few of the issues that most of us feel are important and that we are doing a good job of brining to the forefront of the social and political forums.  

We have already begun to raise our profile in the general public’s minds.  Just this year we had the Reason Rally, which made the national news.  We also have many good organizations supporting critical thinking and humanist issues such as the Secular Student Alliance, CFI, FFRF, American Atheists, the JREF, and American Humanists.  

Except for American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, most of these, while they might have many atheists as members, are not atheistic groups.  What Atheism+ is, or can be, is a way for those of us who self-identify as atheists to get out and fight for social issues in public where we can meet “average” people and have them get to know us.  It will allow us to be seen as people who care for others, who do good things.  This is vitally important if atheists hope to ever become accepted by a society that currently sees us a amoral, selfish, heartless.

I urge those of you want to fight for social justice for everyone, who want to fight against misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, poverty, and ignorance to consider joining the Atheist+ movement.  Talk about it with your friends and family (if they are still talking to you, that is), write about it, blog about it, tweet about it, set your Facebook profile picture to the Atheists+ symbol (see below), join the Atheist+ forum.

Let’s show the world that we are not only good without God, but we do good without God.


Apluslogo sm

Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.

Dehumanizing Atheists

This vile piece of hate came to my attention the other day:

Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.

Now, based on his other tweets, TeaPartyTony is nothing but a hate spewing, racist, misogynistic jerk.  I try to avoid these types, but what made this stand out for me was the part about Atheists having no souls.  

Given some of Tony’s other tweets, he expects to see atheists burn in hell, but here he says we have no souls, so I guess we can’t go to hell.  I doubt Tony sees the conflict between his two statements, but then again, I’m guessing that he probably doesn’t care.  In either case, he is putting atheists in a class of people who he considers to be subhuman.   

This tactic of declaring those who you dislike as less than human goes back into antiquity.  We like to think of ourselves as good people, or at least as adhering to some kind of moral code.  To hurt or kill another human goes against most peoples’ moral code, so when they find themselves in conflict with others outside their group they have to find a way to rationalize the hate they feel.  They need to make their opponents less than human, less like them.  This allows them to resolve the cognitive dissidence that they have to grapple with by treating another person badly.

Religion has a very effective way to dehumanize people.  It can claim that the hated group either have no souls, or more commonly, have souls that will be tormented in hell forever.  In this way, they become not so much less human, but less worthy of being treated like humans.  Using religion to dehumanize someone is even more effective than the usual method of just calling someone inhuman.  By claiming that their god has decreed that the hated person(s) are damned, all responsibility for hating, persecuting, hurting, and killing another human begin falls on the god, not his/her/its followers.

It is a very insidious, and very effective, way to justify treating others as less that deserving of the same rights that you have.

Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.

A Born Again Atheist? It’s More Accurate Than The Christian Kind.


I saw a picture of this button on DeviantArt.  I liked it, but it got me thinking.

Born again Christians use the term “Born Again” to denote their belief that when they accept Jesus as their personal savior they are “born again” in spirit.  This phrase and concept is taken from  John 3:1-36,

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. …

To say, as the button above does, that an atheist is born again once they reject theism is not quite the same thing.  It is really more of a reversion.  

In Islam, converting to Islam is said to be actually reverting because of the Islamic believe that everyone is born a believer in the one true god, but later is lead astray.  Of course, this makes the erroneous (in my view) assumption that there is one true god.  

An atheist is someone who does not believe in any god/gods,  or any supernatural begins like angels, devils, demons, jinns, etc. So to say that you are a “born again” atheist is about as true statement as you can get since none of us are born with a belief in anything, never mind a god or gods.  These beliefs are usually learned or taught to us.  

That’s not to say that, left to our own devices we wouldn’t create a god or gods on our own to explain the world around us.  This is human psychology and is where religions come from in the first place.  We have evolved to see agency (a specific animated cause) in everything around us, perhaps from the survival need to see a predator instead of just a bunch of leaves or grass in the bushes.  Sure, we could assume that it is just a random pattern, but if it were a lion, we’d be lunchmeat.  Those of our ancestors who assumed that something living was there survived to reproduce and pass on this evolutionary trait.  

This need to see agency in the things around us also gave rise to giving agency to things unseen as well.  When trying to answer what is basically the meaning of life (which we all know is 42, of course), we naturally assigned agency to explain that as well.  A rain god must cause the rain.  A wind god must cause the wind.  Ditto for all of the other things in nature.  

Eventually, logic dictated that the gods must all be ruled by a god of superior power, just as we were ruled by a chieftain or king.  As time went on, logic again told us that our entire universe must have come from somewhere and that there had to be something even greater than the existing gods.  A creator god was born and eventually, this creator god not only ruled over the other gods, but completely did away for the need for them.  Everything could be explained as the actions of this one, all powerful god.

As time went by, our inquiry into the workings nature took on the form of ideas followed by testing.  This lead to the scientific method which then lead to amazingly accurate explanations and predictions of the workings of the universe.  The forces that controlled nature could now be explained without the need for god or gods.  This didn’t preclude the actual existence of them, but eliminated the need for them to explain the things that they had always been needed for.

Once we saw that we could explain nature without having to resort to “god did it”, many of use came to the belief that since there is no need for a god, there probably isn’t a god at all.  

The need to explain the world we live in is universal.  The need to see agency is deeply ingrained in our brains.  This need has driven how we explain our world and has shaped the explanations that all the varied cultures have come up with, leading to all the different gods that have ever been postulated to exist.  But the agency we are wired to see doesn’t actually exist.  It was evolved to protect us, not to explain anything.

While we are born with this need, we are not born with a belief of any kind.  Beliefs are shaped by those around us, by social settings.  Most of us accept those beliefs because they are reinforced by our inclination to see agency in non-animate things.  Even as children, we try to use reason and logic to make sense of the world around us, but reason is often trumped by socially enforced beliefs.  It is extremely difficult to shakes these beliefs, but when we let reason and logic guide us, we can finally let go of these beliefs and are “born again” into the state in which we were first born, a state of not knowing.  Then our minds are clear, pure, and ready to find the real answers to the meaning of life.

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,”.

Christopher Hitchens wrote this in the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair.  Hitchens was in the presence of those friends when he passed away from complications due to esophageal cancer onThursday at the age of 62.

Hitchens was fearlessly outspoken on every topic he cared to cast his sharp, insightful mind on, wether it be atheism, Mother Teresa, or the latest health fad.  Not only was he outspoken, but he spoke more eloquently and persuasively than anyone I’ve ever heard.  His command of the English language, and his powerful and precise use of it was second to none.  He is the only modern author that I’ve read where I would need to look up a word at least every four or five pages.  Yet his vocabulary was never archaic or pedantic, but rich, flowing, and precise.

He is probably best known for his championing of atheism.  Considered one of the founders of the New Atheists, as well as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennet), he was unapologetic, even harsh, in his criticism of religion and faith.  As he persuasively and beautifully put it:

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

He was reviled, yet often respected, by those of faith with whom he corresponded or debated.  Many of these, upon the announcement last year that he had terminal cancer, offered their prayers for him.  While he had no belief in prayer, rather than scoffing at them, he responded:

…that, if they want to pray for him, it’s fine by him. “I think of it as a nice gesture,” he said. “And it may well make them feel better, which is a good thing in itself.” (

As always, he showed his great and deep understanding of humanity, both the good and the bad, and sought to expose it’s ills, while steadfastly supporting the inalienable human rights that we all share.

Others have eulogized him much better than I can.  Steven Novella beautifully states:

“His fellow materialists have to face this reality as well. Hitchens is gone. His brain – which was everything he thought, felt, remembered, and all the insight he had to offer the world – no longer functions, and never will function again. The same fate awaits us all. Without regret, Hitchens seemed to understand the flip side of this reality – we are the lucky few who get to live.  So make the most of it while you can.”

A sentiment Hitch would have totally agreed with.

PZ Myers plainly and persuasively wrote:

“Hitch is dead. We are a diminished people for the loss. There can be and should be no consolation, no soft words that encourage an illusion of heavenly rescue, no balm of lies. We should feel as we do with every death, that a part of us has been ripped from our hearts, and suffer pain and grief — and we are reminded that this is the fate we all face, that someday we too will die, and that we are all “living dyingly”, as Hitch put it so well.

As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive.

It’s what Hitch would have wanted of us.

It’s how Hitch lived.”

The non-beleiving and humanist community has lost a great spokesperson, but more importantly, the world has lost a great human being.  I think the world would be a much better place if we could all follow Hitch’s example of living life to the fullest and fearlessly seeking justice for all of us.


More Atheist Thoughts

Yesterday I posted my suggestion for an atheists crest.  Today I have a good quote that I think every atheist should memorize to use whenever someone asks them why they don’t believe in god.

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”  …Stephen F Roberts

Of course, feel free to paraphrase so that it flows naturally for you.

Sexism Among Atheists and Skeptics

There is a great blog post from PZ Myers that discusses sexism in atheism.  I just want to add that this problem is also found within the skeptical community as well, perhaps not quite to the same extent, but close.

This is just a microcosmic example of what we find in society at large.  I would say that the problem of sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities isn’t nearly as entrenched or as vicious as in, say, the gamer, science, or other similar communities, which is a good thing.  If we can make the efforts that PZ describes, we can be leaders in including women as equals.

As atheists, skeptics, and secular humanists, we already have a greater sense of, and support for, social justice than the population at large.  We need to keep working to include all segments of society in our communities and show the often bigoted, sexist, and racist religious believers what real brotherly, and sisterly, love means.

Why Are Atheists So Angry

As most of you who read this blog know, I was at the American Atheists Conference in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend.  One of the speakers was Greta Christina, a wonderful blogger, writer, editor, and speaker.  She gave an excellent speech titled, Why Are Atheists So Angry, which I wrote about very briefly about in an earlier post.  I also recorded her speech and posted the videos which you can fine here.

A friend of mine responded on my Facebook wall to my various post about the conference and asked:

“so why are athiest so angry? please just the headlines”

Unfortunately, I can’t give just the headlines because that would never do justice to the question.  I decided to transcribe all the reasons that Greta gave in her speech and publish them here. Please understand that I am not a stenographer, so I may have missed a few words or something here and there, but I think it is pretty accurate overall.

People are so used to whispering around religion that an everyday voice sounds like a shout.


I am angry that atheists get pegged for being angry and confrontational simple for existing and being open about who we are.


I am angry that according to a recent Gallop pool, only 45% of Americans would vote for an atheist president.


I am angry that that is took until 1962 before atheists could serve on juries, testify in court in every state in the country.


I am angry that atheists in the U.S. are frequently denied custody of their children in divorce cases strictly because they are atheists.


I am angry that the Iranian atheists blogger in Iran who said that they have to blog anonymously or they will be executed.


I am angry that that school boards across the country, 80 years after the Scopes trail, have to spend money and resources fighting the drive to teach creationism and ID in schools.  This is money that can be spent on making real improvements for our childrens’ education.


I am angry that science teachers in public schools often don’t teach evolution, or only give it a cursory mention even when teaching it is sanctioned nor ever required, because they are afraid of sparking controversy and don’t want to deal with angry fundamentalist parents.


I am angry that women are dying of AIDS in Africa and South America because the Catholic Church has taught them that using condoms makes baby Jesus cry.


I am angry that preachers tell the women of their flock to submit to their husbands because it is the will of God even when those husbands are beating them to within an inch of their lives.


I am angry thatt the belief in karma and reincarnation gets use as justification for the caste system in India.


I am angry that people bon into poverty and despair are taught that it’s their fault, that they must have done something bad in a previous life and that the misery they are born into is their punishment for that.


I am angry that people in Africa are being terrorized, driven from their homes, tortured, and killed over accusations of witchcraft; not in the middle ages, not in the 1600s, this is happening now, today, as we speak.


I am angry that so many parents and religious leaders terrorize children who:


a) have brains that are hard-wired to trust adults and believe what they are told.

b) are very literal minded.


are told stories of eternal burring and torture to insure that they will be too frightened to ever question religion.


I am angry that children are taught by religions to hate their bodies and their sexuality.


I am angry that female children get taught to hate and fear their femaleness, and that queer children get taught to hate and fear their queerness.


I am angry that in fundamentalist, Mormon, polygamous cults, girls are raised from birth to believe that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t marry whatever man they are told to marry by their preacher, in most cases when they are teenagers, and in some cases when they are as young as 13, and in some cases younger than that.


I am angry that in the non-fundamentalist, non-polygamous entirely mainstream Mormon Church girls are raised from birth to believe that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t marry, have lots of children, and be submissive to their husbands.


I am angry that gay kids are raised from birth that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t deny and suppress their sexuality.


I am angry that in Salt Lake City, Utah, 40% of all homeless teenagers are gay because they have be kicked out of their house by their Mormon families.  Yeah, let’s hear it for family values.


I’m angry about the Muslim girl in the public school, who was told in the public school by her public school, taxpayer paid teacher, in the United States, in the classroom, that the red stripes on Christmas candy canes represented Christ’s blood, that she had to believe in him and be saved by Jesus Christ, or she would be condemned to hell and that if she didn’t there would be no place for her in his classroom.


I’m angry at the Sunday school teacher who told comic artist Craig Thompson that he could draw in heaven, and that she said this with the complete conviction of authority when, in fact, she had no basis whatsoever for that assertion.  How did she know that, as she asserted, that you could sing in heaven, but that you couldn’t draw?


I am enraged at priests who rape children and tell them that it’s God’s will.


I’m angry at the Catholic Church who consciously, deliberately, and repeatedly, for years, acted to protect these priests who raped children, and literally acted to keep it a secret.   I’m angry that they placed the Catholic Church’s reputation as a higher priority that children not being raped.


That the Catholic Church is now trying to argue in court that protecting child raping priests from prosecution and the shuffling of them from diocese to diocese so that they could continue raping children in new diocese and keep hidden from view, is constitutionally protected freedom of religion.


I’m angry about 9/11.  That after 9/11 happened that people of Middle Eastern decent were attacked and their businesses vandalized, because the were Muslims, or because people assumed that they were Muslims even if they weren’t because they blamed all Muslims for the attacks.


I’m angry that Jerry Farwell blamed 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, and People For The American Way.


I’m angry that this theology of an angry, wrathful god exacting revenge against pagans and abortionists by sending radical Muslims to blow up buildings secretaries and investment bankers.   I’m angry that this was a theology held by a powerful widely respected religious leader with million of followers.


I’m angry that little girls are getting their clitorises cut off because their parents’ religion teaches that it is necessary.


I’m angry that many people try to defend religion against the charge of female genital mutilation by saying, “Oh, that’s not what the religion really teaches if you look at the religions text, etc.”  The fact is that Islamic religion, as it is actually widely believed  and practiced; and not just Islam, but other religions in the region as they are actually believed and practiced teach that little girls need to have their clitorises cut off.  And it enrages me that so many people defend the religion and not the children.


I’m angry about honor killings.


I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies, women who have sex outside marriage, women who date outside their religion, women who spend time with male friends, woman who disobey their male relatives are executed.


I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies that even women who have been raped and be, and are, exacted for the crime of adultery.  I’m angry that the ones who only get imprisoned and beaten are the ones who get off lucky.


I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies, girls as young as nine years old can be married against their will.


I’m angry that when a nine year old girl in Brazil was raped, the doctors who preformed an abortion on her and the family who approved the abortion were excommunicated.  And I’m angry that there was no excommunication for the man who raped her.


I’m angry that in 13 states in the United States, child care centers operated by religious organizations don’t have to adhere to basic standards of health and safety and don’t even have to be licensed.   I’m angry that children in these child care centers have been harmed and have even died because of poor on nonexistent staff training and grossly unsafe conditions, and that the operators are immune from prosecution.


I’m angry that seriously ill children needlessly suffer and die because their parents believe in faith healing and believe that medicine treatment will anger their god.  And I’m angry that in 39 states in the United States these parents are protected from prosecution for child neglect.


I’m angry about what happened to Galileo, still.  And that it took until 1992 to apologize for it.


I’m angry that what happened to Galileo is, relatively speaking, a walk in the park.  I’m angry that astronomer Giodarno Bruno was burned at the stake for, among other things, advocating that the sun was one star among many.


I get angry when advice columnist tell their troubled letter writers to talk to their priest or minister or rabbi where there is absolutely no legal requirement that the religious leader have any professional training in counseling, and that the advice they offer isn’t based on any evidence about what does and doesn’t work in people’s lives, but is based purely on what their religious doctrine tells them God wants.


I get angry when religious leaders opportunistically use religion, and people’s trust and faith in religion, to steal, cheat, lie, manipulate the political process, take sexual advantage of their followers and, generally speaking, behave like the scum of the earth.  I get angry when it happens over, and over, and over again.  I get angry at the fact that we open up the newspaper and see the headline, “Religious leader behaves like the scum of the earth.”, that we all shrug and say, “Oh, what, that again?  It must be wednesday.”


I get angry when people see this happening and and still say that atheism is bad because without religion, people would have no basis for morality or ethics, they can just do whatever they want.


I’m angry that when my dad had a stroke and went into a nursing home, the staff asked my brother on intake, “Is he Baptist or Catholic?”.  And I’m not just angry on behalf of my atheist dad, but I’m angry on behalf of all the Jews and the Buddhists and the Muslims and the Neo-pagans and the Hindus who’s families were almost certainly asked that same question.


I get angry when religious believers make arguments against atheism, and make accusations against atheists, without having bothered to talk to any atheists, or read any atheist writing.  I get angry when they trot out the same old “atheism is a nihilistic philosophy with no joy or meaning, and no basis for morality  or ethics, when if they spent 10 minutes in the atheist blogosphere…they would discover countless atheists who experience great joy and meaning in their life, and are intensely concerned with right and wrong.


I get angry when believer say that the entire, unimaginable hugeness of the universe was made solely and specifically for human begins, when atheists say that humanity is pretty much an infinitesimal eye-blink in the vastness of time and space, and then they accuse atheists of being arrogant.


I get angry when believer argue against atheists by saying that we are intolerant or mean, we’re superior, we’re whinny, and we are, yes, angry, without actually making an argument for why we’re wrong and they’re right.


I’m angry that I have to know more about their religion then they do. They say things about the text and tenants of their religion that are flatly untrue and I have to correct them on it.


I get angry when believer  consider any criticism of their religion, i.e. pointing out that their religion is a hypothesis about the world that has to stand up on it’s own in the market place of ideas, as insulting and bigoted.


I get angry when believer accuse atheists of being intolerant for saying things like, “I don’t agree with you”, or “I think you’re mistaken about that”, and “What evidence do you have to support that position?”.


I get angry when believers respond to some, or all, of this litany of offenses by saying, “Oh well, that’s not the true faith.”  “Hating queers, rejecting science, and stifling questions of dissent, and cutting off people clitorises and so on, that’s not the true faith.  People who do that, they’re not real Christians, they’re not real Jews, they’re not real Muslims”. As if they had a pipeline to God. As if they had any reason at all to be sure what God wants and they know what true Christianity is, and the billions of others who agree with them have clearly got it wrong.

Christopher Hitchens’ Letter to American Atheists

The main reason I initially wanted to attend the American Atheists Conference this weekend was to hear Christopher Hitches speak.  He is one of the most eloquent, thoughtful, and powerful writers and speakers about atheist issues today.  Unfortunately, he has been battling what seems to be terminal cancer since last year, and was unable to attend.  I pass on his letter which I present verbatim from PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula:

Christopher Hitchens was scheduled to appear at the American Atheist convention, but had to cancel because of his illness. He sent this letter instead.

Dear fellow-unbelievers,

Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstitition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit…) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson’s wall of separation. And don’t keep the faith.


Christopher Hitchens