Pseudonyms

Humble Jerry

“Humble Jerry” in 1975

Over the years I’ve used pseudonyms for one reason or another: for writing, to protect my privacy online, or for fun or humor. Here are some of them….

Humble Jerry

The first pseudonym I ever used was “Humble Jerry.” It was the name I used for a regular column I wrote for my high school paper (see above for the associated picture of me used with the column). I got the name from the speech president Gerald R. Ford gave when he pardoned Nixon. He said, “I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.” Rather than using “Gerry” as he was sometimes called, I distanced myself from making a direct reference by using “Jerry” instead. Above is the picture of me used in my column.

Celery Blink

This was the second pseudonym I used in the high school paper. It was an unusual combination of words made up to sound like a name if you didn’t know their meaning. In this case I picked a vegetable and facial expression. I even made up a family tree for Celery that included such names as: Asparagus Sneer, Pea Wink, Okra Frown, Artichoke Squint, and Arugula Smile.

Apriori Arkhai 

In online philosophical forums I sometimes used this name.  Of course, “a priori” is Latin “from former,”  meaning “knowledge that is justified independently of experience,” and  “Arkhai” is from Greek philosophy meaning “first principles” or starting points, so it’s somewhat redundant. I liked the alliteration.

Hugh Mann, A. Hugh Mann, and I. Hugh Mann

All these were obvious word plays for “human,” “a human,” and “I human.” I thought any of these could be good everyman names.

Som Osog

In religious debates with my brother I got tired of typing out “only son of god” and started to shorten it to the acronym “OSOG.” To tweak my brother a bit, when gmail came out, I decided to get that name for a gmail address, but they required at least 6 characters, so I picked “SOM” or “son of man” to put on the front end. I thought the result ended up sounding like it could be a middle eastern name.

Spurious Satrap

I thought this would be a good name for a pretentious government official, and I used the name in a humor piece. Of course, “spurious” means “not genuine, authentic, or true; not from the claimed, pretended, or proper source; counterfeit” and “Satrap” is a subordinate governor or official.

Ergo Naught

This is Latin for “therefore nothing.” I thought this would be a humorous name to conclude any nonsense writings.

Sine Nomine

This is Latin for “without a name.”  I thought it was a good generic pseudonym.

Nomen Dubium

This is Latin for “doubtful name,” which is another good generic pseudonym.

Anonymous

As almost everyone knows, “Anonymous” means “without any name acknowledged and/or known.” I thought it would be interesting to reimagine “Anonymous” as an actual person—possibly an ancient Greek or Roman philosopher referred to with a single name like Socrates, Aristotle, etc.–who had opinions on everything (and seemed to live forever). I also thought it would be interesting to release sayings into the social media under that name. Of course, “Anonymous” could be the first name for A. Hugh Mann.

Ignotus Anonymous

“Ignotus” is Latin for “unknown.” This would be for any occasion where the imagined person “Anonymous” required a first name. “Ignotus” could also be the first name for I. Hugh Mann.

Nonumnos

Early Greek for “nameless.” This one could be used in a similar manner as “Anonymous.”

My Birth Day

baby picture
In the 1950s, a polio vaccine was developed, the helical structure of DNA was discovered, the first organ transplants were performed, IBM developed the computer language Fortran, and the term “artificial intelligence” was coined.

The construction of the Interstate Highway System had begun, the civil rights movement had started, the Kinsey Reports were published, Hugh Hefner launched Playboy, and Walt Disney opened Disneyland.

Sir Edmund Hillary had reached the South Pole, the U.S. Nuclear Submarine “Nautilus” had passed under the Ice Cap at the North Pole, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was discovered on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

There was a conflict in Korea in the early years of the decade, and Castro overthrew the regime in Cuba by the end of it.

There was a “Cold War” climate in America with concerns about communism. And it was a period of conformity, conservatism, and consumerism.

At the end of WWII the United States had emerged as the world’s mightiest military power, and an era of prosperity had begun. The economy was booming, the suburbs were booming, and babies were booming.

Consumerism was king as banks began to offer more loans and credit. People were buying new homes in the suburbs, new cars with tail fins and lots of chrome, new time-saving household appliances, and new black and white televisions. Owning a television in the early years of the 1950s was a rare thing. By the middle of the decade, just over half of Americans owned one, and by the end of it, over three-quarters had one.

There were also signs of rebellion in this conformist climate with an anti-materialistic literary movement that appealed to “Beatniks” and the “Beat Generation,” who challenged the restrictive social and sexual mores of the time. Another type of rebellion seemed to be taking place in the art world with the advent of abstract expressionism which shifted the center of art culture from Paris to New York City.

And while Jazz was the preferred music of the Beat Generation, a new type of “devil’s music” began coming to the fore by the middle of the decade. Rock & Roll was beginning to have an impact with teenagers that would only grow over time.

While they were a concern to some, comic books were popular, as was science fiction, and people were flocking to theaters to watch horror movies in 3D.

The “Jet Age” was just beginning to go commercial with the first international passenger jets taking off by the end of the decade. And the “Space Age” was launched in 1957 with the Russian spacecraft Sputnik. The U.S. responded three months later with Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958. It returned data for four months, discovered the Van Allen radiation belt, and signaled the beginning of  the “Space Race.” Later that year, NASA was born on October 1, 1958.

But before NASA was born, and while Explorer 1 was still sending back data, I was born into this world in Concord, North Carolina at Cabarrus County Hospital on Thursday, February 13, 1958.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the middle of his second term as President, and I can say I was born when there were 48 states in the USA and 9 planets in our solar system.

Also happening on that day: Ford introduced the 300 hp Thunderbird, the city of Hiroshima asked former President Truman for an apology for the atomic bombing, and New Orleans had to cancel a pre-Mardi Gras parade because of 2 inches of snow.

Elvis Presley’s song “Don’t” was topping the music charts, “Old Yeller” was the #1 movie, and Jack Benny was hosting a “Shower of Stars” television special later that evening on CBS to celebrate his 40th(!) birthday party which would be the next day.

Of course, I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time. I was too busy adjusting to my new environment.

It wasn’t long before I had my first picture taken (above) and I got my name in the paper (a name that would be legally changed 6 months later to the one I have now).

birth announcement

Separation Between Church & State

A Secular Government

The Founders of our country significantly formed the first government in the history of the world that did not establish religion. They threw off the tyranny of rule by kings and churches—which had existed for centuries–and successfully founded a form of government by and for the People instead. This new government was based on the authority of the People alone, and this became history’s first secular government.

John Adams commented that, The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”

The only reference to religion in the body of the U.S. Constitution is in the negative…

“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” – U.S. Constitution: Article VI

As the “Father of our Country” George Washington observed, In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States,” and “Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of Rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their stations, to prevent it in others.”

And the First Amendment is mainly focused on the rights of the individual to have freedom of conscience and expression. This includes the right of the individual to express their conscience through speech, through the press, in assemblies with other individuals, and by petition to the government for redress of grievances. It also attempts to prevent government from imposing on the freedom of conscience of the individual by establishing religion, or by prohibiting its exercise. Thus, the first part of the First Amendment reads…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia (which the First Amendment is partially based and inspired), wrote that the First Amendment erected a wall of separation between church and state.” He felt that Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

James Madison, who is considered the “Father of the Constitution” and the “Architect of the Bill of Rights,” hoped that by doing so, the United States might free itself from the ceaseless strife that had soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.

Madison, who was also primarily responsible for pushing the Bill of Rights through Congress, expressed his interpretation of the First Amendment as a perfect” separation – between Church and State, commenting that, The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.”

Jefferson thought that mixing religion and government would lead to the corruption” of both. Madison thought that both would exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

There are no higher authorities than Jefferson and Madison regarding how the First Amendment should be interpreted because they had the most influence on the fact of its creation and existence. This was widely recognized at the time and by anyone who would bother to make a serious study of the subject.

Additional evidence of that can be found in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was ratified in 1797, very early in our government’s history. Article 11 of the Treaty reads in part, …the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” Article VI, Sect.2 of the Constitution states that all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” The Treaty was ratified unanimously and the full text was published in The Philadelphia Gazette on June 17th, 1797 without any record of any public objection.

Later, when Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about his travels in America in 1830 he commented, I questioned the faithful of all communions; I particularly sought the society of clergymen, who are the depositories of the various creeds and have a personal interest in their survival … all thought the main reason for the quiet sway of religion over their country was the complete separation of church and state. I have no hesitation in stating that throughout my stay in America I met nobody, lay or cleric, who did not agree about that.”

Here is the testimony of an outsider in 1830, questioning clergymen and the “faithful of all communions,” and they all seemed to be unanimously supportive of the complete separation of church and state that they understood their government was based on.

In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted by Congress. It made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.

Ten years later, in one of the earliest church-state cases to come before the Supreme Court in 1878 (Reynolds vs. U.S.), Chief Justice Morrison Waite cited Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance, the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom, and Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists describing the First Amendment as “building a wall of separation between church and state.” He used these documents to help form his opinion about how the First Amendment should be interpreted. He felt Jefferson was the most key because he was the “acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure” and it therefore “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.”

But even before 1878, or even before 1868 (when the 14th Amendment was adopted), you can find quotes from presidents and representatives who understood that this country was founded on a separation between church and state. President James K. Polk said, Thank God, under our constitution, there was no connection between church and state.” Even earlier in 1843, President John Tyler wrote, The United States has adventured on a great and noble experiment.. that of total separation of church and state.”

There seems to be a common thread of understanding here that was generally comprehended and agreed upon for decades after the founding of America, from the clergy to Supreme Court Justices to presidents and representatives, that this country was based on a separation between church and state. This understanding continued afterwards, almost to the present day.

To give a few examples, President Grant said, Keep church and state forever separated.” President Hayes objected to any interference” of one upon the other. And President Garfield said, The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute.”

In 1947 , the U.S. Supreme Court finally and explicitly clarified that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment applied to the states in Everson v. Board of Education, affirming what should have already been implicitly established in 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but evidently had to be further clarified for those who had stubbornly resisted.

The Court ruled that: “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.'”

To those who would argue that the First Amendment ONLY forbids government from meddling with religion, but that it doesn’t forbid religion meddling in government, note the sentence in the ruling above that reads, Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups AND VICE VERSA” [emphasis mine].

The Court reaffirmed its position in its 1963 ruling in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp when it said: First, this Court has decisively settled that the First Amendment’s mandate that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ has been made wholly applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment…. Second, this Court has rejected unequivocally the contention that the Establishment Clause forbids only governmental preference of one religion over another.”

Note the last sentence above which says the Court “unequivocally” rejected the contention that the Establishment Clause forbids ONLY governmental preference of one religion over another” [emphasis mine]. The First Amendment DOESN’T read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion,” which is the kind of language one might expect if it was intended to ONLY forbid governmental preference of one religion over another.” The First Amendment doesn’t say “a religion,” it says “religion” period. The implication is that the government shouldn’t even preference religion in general.

–There are other Supreme Court cases which could be cited on this subject, but these will suffice for this essay.–

In the ‘modern era,’ President Kennedy, concurring with President Garfield, said, I believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute.” President Johnson said, I believe in the American tradition of separation between church and state.” President Carter said, I believe in the separation of church and state.” Even President Reagan was of the opinion that, Church and state are, and should remain, separate.” And more recently, President Obama said, “I believe deeply in the separation of church and state.”

Those Opposed

James Madison warned…

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

In 1863, eleven Protestant denominations, concerned about the omission of God from the Constitution, proposed to amend the Preamble to acknowledge Almighty God, the Divine Authority.” In 1864, the National Reform Association–formerly the Christian Amendment Movement–proposed an amendment to the Constitution, in order to constitute a Christian government,” by humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government….” Neither of these attempts succeeded. Further such attempts were made in 1874, 1896, and 1910, but none were successful.

Additional attempts to bring Christianity into the Constitution were made in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, for example, an amendment was proposed to recognize the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.” There were advocates for similar amendments after the 1962 Supreme Court ruled that government-sponsored and dictated prayer in schools unconstitutional in Engel v. Vitale. None of these proposals even came to a vote.

If our Constitution already established a ‘Christian’ nation as many suggest—even though it fails to mention anything about it—why all these efforts over all these years to make these kinds of amendments, and why did they fail?

However, the efforts by religious theocrats haven’t been entirely unsuccessful….

While the first attempts at amending the Constitution in 1863 and 1864 were unsuccessful, James Pollock, one of the members of the National Reform Association mentioned above, played an important role in getting “In God We Trust” on coins in 1864. And while the same kinds of efforts to amend the Constitution in the 1950s failed, they were able to get that motto recognized as our National Motto in 1956. And, two years earlier in 1954, they had succeeded in getting under God” injected into the Pledge of Allegiance.

The motto our founders gave us was E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One). It had been our de facto National Motto until 1956. That motto was secular and inclusive. The new National Motto “In God We Trust” was religious and exclusive. The original Pledge had also been secular and inclusive. Inserting under God” into it also made it religious and exclusive. Thus, anyone who didn’t believe in a monotheistic God was made to feel like a second-class citizen in their own country, and there wasn’t “justice for all.”

These efforts to make this country into a Christian theocracy continue to this day. Revisionist history mythologists and Christian nationalists like evangelical Christian David Barton have for decades been promoting the idea that the United States was founded as an explicitly “Christian nation,” and that “separation between church and state” is a “myth.” He publishes and propagates quotations from Founders and Supreme Court decisions that are either out-of-context, altered, phony, or unconfirmed to promote his viewpoint. He has been accused of “pseudoscholarship” and spreading “outright falsehoods.” One of his more recent books was voted the least credible history book in print” in 2012, and his publisher ended up disavowing it and withdrawing it from publication.

Nevertheless, his works in historical revisionism–including the out-of-context, altered, phony, or unconfirmed quotes he has propagated over the years–have spread all over the internet. It is the basis of what has been–and currently is–being taught to the children of many Christian parents who are homeschooling their children, and many have grown up to believe it. Those of like-mind help promote it, and many of our current government representatives believe it and endorse it.

They are engaged at every level of government, national, state, and local. They are the ones responsible for wanting to erect 10 Commandment monuments in front of courthouses; having In God We Trust” plastered on government buildings and vehicles; setting up crosses at veteran memorials, sanctioning clearly sectarian prayers before city council meetings; trying to get as much religion into public schools as possible; influencing what is taught in public school science, history, and sex education classes to accommodate their religious views; denying equal civil liberties to those who are LGBTQ; denying a woman’s right of choice to decide what happens to her own body; denying the science of climate change; and so on and on and on. They are actively engaged in passing laws that affect everyone, and they are actively engaged in establishing their religion–however, whenever, and wherever possible–despite whatever the Founders intended.

So, Madison was right to warn of us of the danger.

Of course, this isn’t a recent development. As covered above, there have always been people who have wanted to make this into an officially “Christian Nation,” Madison was aware of them in his time, which is what motivated his warning. And there has always been a segment of American society who assumed this was a “Christian Nation,” simply because of the Christian privilege resulting from the fact there is a Christian majority population here. So, in the past (and still today in many places), there was prayer in school, there were crosses erected at veteran memorials, and so on. But America has always been in the process of becoming, of living up to the ideals it was founded on, ideals that even its Founders weren’t always able to live up to in their own day. So, there have been great strides made, but vigilance has to be eternal, because the theocrats are highly motivated and determined to have their way, even if it means violating the constitution, or misrepresenting and lying about history or our Founders intentions. Some may be innocent, because they have be brought up to believe things that aren’t true and it fits so well with what they would rather believe. But some are willfully ignorant, and some are outright liars who know better.

Tyranny of the Majority

Many will argue that the “majority rules” in a democracy, so Christians should have their way and everyone else should just accept it and learn to live with it.

Madison was worried that the biggest threat to this Democratic-Republican form of government would be from a “tyranny of the majority.” He wrote to Jefferson in October 1787 asking when a majority… united by a common interest or passion cannot be constrained from oppressing the minority, what remedy can be found…?” He predicted that If [one] sect form a majority and have the power, other sects will sure to be depressed.”

He went on to say that he hoped that the new nation would be large and diverse enough, with enough different interests and parties… that no common interest or passion to unite a majority of the whole number in an unjust pursuit.”

In another letter to Jefferson, he wrote: Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

In Federalist Paper 51 he wrote, “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”

Earlier, in his Memorial and Remonstrance, he wrote, Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”

Baptists in Madison’s time, for example, supported the separation between church and state. They were a minority Christian sect at the time, and they understood how separation of church and state would help them. They understood the point Madison was making. Baptist minister John Leland, for example, was a significant advocate of separation between church and state in the founding era. Unfortunately, many Baptists began to change their opinion once their numbers grew.

Some argue that they are being persecuted if they have to play on a level field with others. This is the consequences of being so long in the majority and having their way; it’s the result of Christian privilege. As Founder Benjamin Franklin–sometimes called “The First American”–pointed out, If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution.”

Some of the same people who are so irrationally worried about the imaginary threat of having Islamic sharia law in America–that they feel they have to pass laws keep it from happening–are the same people who promote their own Biblical laws, or they pass so-called “Religious Freedom” bills designed to discriminate against the civil liberties of others. They understand why it’s important to have their civil liberties protected from the religious laws of others, but they seem to have no issue oppressing others with their laws based on their religion.

This would seem to go against their own “Golden Rule” commandment of doing unto others as they would have done unto them. That point seems to get missed so often by Christian theocrats that one wonders if they even understand—or are aware of–the implications of their own prime directive.

Conclusion

For over 100 years, Supreme Court rulings have cited Jefferson’s interpretation that the First Amendment established a “wall of separation” between Church and State. Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and “Architect of the Bill of Rights” thought that the First Amendment meant a “total separation of the Church from the State.” Both of these men–who had most to do with this specific amendment–thought that the First Amendment would protect the “Freedom of Conscience” of every citizen, both thought that any entanglement between the two would corrupt both Church and State, and both thought that separation was “absolutely essential in a free society” to protect the civil rights of everyone, the religious and nonreligious alike.

This is why it’s important to fight for a secular government that maintains the Constitutional principle of separation of Church and State.

For more information:

The Separation of Church and State – introduction

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Is America a Christian Nation?

Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church

James Madison on Separation of Church and State

Church-State Separation – Issues

U.S. Constitution

Overview

From 1775 through 1781, the Second Continental Congress functioned as our de facto national government without a Constitution. In 1781, the first Constitution of the United States of America, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, were ratified. From 1781-1789 the Congress of the Confederation operated as our national government.

In 1788, the Articles of Confederation were superseded by the ratification of a new United States Constitution. Significantly, this Constitution did not establish religion, something no government had ever done in the past.

In 1791, the Bill of Rights was adopted as the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (The First Amendment reads in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”).

In 1797 the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified (Article 11 of the Treaty reads in part: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”). Article VI, Sect.2 of the Constitution states that “all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” The Treaty was ratified unanimously and the full text was published in The Philadelphia Gazette on June 17th, 1797, without any record of any public dissent.

In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. It made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.

For more information:

The U.S. Constitution – transcript

The Bill of Rights – transcript

Treaty of Tripoli – transcript (see Article 11)

Treaty of Tripoli

Little-Known U.S. Document Signed by President Adams Proclaims America’s Government Is Secular

U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

Overview

The original Pledge, as written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy in 1892, read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

At a National Flag Conference in 1924, the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution changed the words “my Flag” to “the Flag of the United States of America.”

From 1924 through 1954, the Pledge read:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1954, during the McCarthy era and Cold War “red scare” of communism, a bill was passed by Congress, and was signed into law, adding the words “under God” to the Pledge:

The Pledge currently reads:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Thus, a secular and all-inclusive Pledge was replaced by a religious and exclusive Pledge, dividing the “indivisible” and not providing “justice for all.

For more information:

History of the Pledge

Controversy about the Pledge

Circuit court decision, reactions, etc.

Appeal to the Supreme Court 2003-4

Pledging Allegiance to God

Restore the Pledge

Boycott the Pledge

U.S. National Motto

Overview

On July 4, 1776, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were appointed by Congress to prepare a design for the Great Seal of the United States. Although this first design was rejected, the motto it contained-“E Pluribus Unum”-was retained in the final design that was approved in 1782. As a result, “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One) became our de facto National Motto.

During the Civil War Era, eleven Protestant denominations began a campaign to add references to God to the U.S. Constitution and other federal documents. Their efforts resulted in the phrase “In God We Trust” being added to some Union coins.

Later, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed his disapproval, writing: “…it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.” He thought it came “dangerously close to sacrilege.”

In 1956, during the McCarthy era and Cold War “red scare” of communism, Congress passed a joint resolution making “In God We Trust” our National Motto.

Thus, our secular and all-inclusive Motto was superseded by a religious and exclusive Motto.

For more information:

History of the National Mottos

E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One)

In God We Trust

The Original Motto Project

God Wills It

Written sometime in the mid-2000s.

Launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II, the First Crusade hoped to liberate the “Holy Land” from Muslim control. “Deus Vult” (God wills it!) was their battle cry as they left a 2,000 mile path of destruction from Western Europe to Jerusalem, murdering thousands of Jews along the way in what some call the first Holocaust. Once they arrived, these “Christian” soldiers “purified” Jerusalem by killing almost everyone in the city. Cleric Raymond of Aguilers wrote, “In the temple of Solomon, one rode in blood up to the knees and even to the horses’ bridles, by the just and marvelous judgment of God.”

The First Crusade was not the last. When “Saint” Bernard of Clairvaux launched the Second Crusade, he declared, “The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified.”

There were at least 8 other numbered Crusades, and six that were not numbered as such. They extend hundreds of years from the first and cost an unknown number of lives.

For example, in one of the six unnumbered Crusades, launched in 1209 by Pope Innocent III against Albigenses Christians in southern France, tens of thousands were tortured and murdered after instructions were given to “Kill them all. God will know his own.”

In the 13th Century, Inquisitions began against Albigensian heretics and torture was given holy sanction by Pope Innocent IV. By the 15th Century Inquisitions began to focus on witchcraft and up to 2 million accused witches were tortured and murdered over the years, lasting until the 17th Century.

I’m really just starting to scratch the surface here and I’m just giving the antiseptic version of events. I’m tossing off millions of people in a few sentences without even mentioning the gory details or getting into the personal agony, pain, and sheer terror each of them must have felt.

On the other side of the world during this time: Mayan’s in central America were cutting out hearts and beheading virgins while children were being burned in Peruvian temples, and later, the Aztecs were killing children so that their tears might cause rain, they were killing and skinning virgins, cutting out their hearts, eating their bodies, and sacrificing 20,000 people a year to their gods.

In India, the Thuggee sect was murdering another 20,000 people a year to their goddess, while the spread of Islamic armies from India to Morocco killed millions of people over 12 centuries.

Wait! There’s more!!! We are just getting started and I’ve just been skimming!

By the 17th Century conflicts between Protestants and Catholics had begun….

The Thirty Years’ War, according to Wikipeida:

Over the course of the war, the population of the German states was reduced by 30 percent; in the territory of Brandenburg, the losses had amounted to half, while in some areas an estimated two-thirds of the population died. Germany’s male population was reduced by almost half. The population of the Czech lands declined by a third. The Swedish armies alone destroyed 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.

Damn! Millions and millions killed.

Then there were the Puritans, starting their own little theocracy in the New World and torturing accused witches before they murdered them.

By the 19th Century, Buddhists in Burma were sacrificing men to sanctify the capitol, Muslims were murdering tens of thousands of followers of the Baha’i Faith, Muslims and Hindus were killing Christians in India, while in Bucharest, Christians were murdering Jews in the ghetto.

Throughout the 20th Century, there were many more violent conflicts between and within various Christian and Jewish and Islamic and Hindu sects that continue to the present day.

Today’s Conflicts

Over the centuries, more people have been killed for religious reasons than for any other. One of the main reasons our Founders wanted to separate church and state in the U.S. was to “keep forever from our shores the blood that has soaked soil of Europe for centuries.”

Today, almost every conflict in the world can be divided along religious lines. Even where it is not the root cause of conflict it is an exacerbating factor. Most every religion promotes the vanity that its adherents are right, special, or “chosen” above others and that it has divine authority for its claims of ultimate truth. Because these various claims cannot be resolved objectively by evidence or reason, it frequently leads to violence and conflict. There can never be “peace on Earth” as long as differing groups all claim to be in possession of ultimate divine authority based on superstitious exceptionality dogmas that cannot be rationally resolved.

These types of conflicts are an increasingly dangerous threat now that we have the ability to wipe ourselves off the face of the Earth.

Consider the current so-called “war on terror.”

Al Qaeda is an Islamic militant organization. Their objectives include the end of foreign non-Muslim influence in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate (an Islamic form of government based on Islamic theology). They have launched a jihad (or “holy war”) against us. A couple of the reasons bin Laden became angered at the West and launched this jihad is because of our support of the state of Israel in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, as well as the fact he objected to the U.S.(which he considers a country of “infidels”) setting up a base in Saudi Arabia on what he considered “sacred” soil. The terrorists praised “Allah” on 9-11 and thought they would become “religious martyrs” by their actions, thereby receiving what they believed would be 40 virgins in the afterlife (based on their religion).

Many Christians believe this conflict will bring about Armageddon and that this part of the world is where the battle will begin. Many of them also support the state of Israel because they believe certain objectives must be accomplished by this Jewish state before the “Rapture” or the “Second Coming” can happen, so they are supporting certain things that will lead to conflict and look forward to the “End Times.”

Many Muslims and Arabs believe the “war on terror” is a war on Islam itself and is a threat to their religion and way of life. Many of them also believe in a “final battle” between themselves and the people they consider infidels — and many of them are doing what they can to bring it on.

So we have believers on both sides driving the current global conflict of our times.

Some other recent or ongoing violent conflicts where religion has been either a cause or an exacerbating factor include: all the conflicts resulting from the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel (hijackings, suicide bombings, the Munich Massacre, the Six Day War…etc.), the thousands of people killed in the conflict in Northern Ireland over the years between Catholics and Protestants, the Hindu-Sikh-Muslim massacres in India, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between the Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Serbian Orthodox factions (with over 220,000 people killed), the hundreds of suspected witches killed in South Africa every year, the Muslim insurgency in Thailand against the Buddhist majority. Christian rebels in the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda (who enslave and/or rape 2,000 Animist and Muslim children a year, hoping to build a Christian theocracy based on the 10 Commandments), the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in Afghanistan, the conflict between Sunni & Shiite Muslims in Iraq, the massive genocide being conducted in the Sudan by the National Islamic Fundamentalist government there (in waging jihad on its own people in the South, who they consider to be non-believers that must be totally eliminated or converted to Islam — with millions killed, forced into slave labor, raped, forced into religious conversions, or given ritual female genital mutilations), as well as all the religious conflicts over the past few years in Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Nigeria, Macedonia, Kurdistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tibet.

And all this is just in the past 80 years or less.

Even religious moderates are a threat because they help create the soil for extremists to flourish. As long as people accept the premise that it is possible for someone to have some kind of direct communication with ultimate divine authority, then they are giving a certain amount of legitimacy to anyone claiming it happened to them. They cannot effectively challenge anyone – no matter how extreme – that claims that authority. They can only dispute who has the better line of communication, and that dispute cannot be resolved using reason.

If extremists see that most of their society buys into this premise, they might either believe it themselves, and come to the conclusion it is happening to them, or believe they can get away with making the claim that it does.

On the other hand, if most of society rejects this premise, there would be a lot fewer people blowing themselves up or crashing planes into buildings, and the world would be a better place as a result.

Hitler and Communism

Many believers point to Hitler and the Nazi party as a counter example….

In all his public speeches, Hitler claimed to be a Christian and said things very similar to what you might have heard from Robertson and Falwell in the past. He framed what he was doing in religious terms (to motivate other believers) and included nonbelievers (atheists) in his persecutions and spoke out against them.

Hitler saw himself in the role of a Martin Luther-type reformer of Christianity into something he called “Positive Christianity.” He was hoping to merge Church and State into a “Volkish” version of Christianity with himself at its head.

The anti-Semitism was based on religion (the “Christ killer” story), the Aryan “Volkism” was based on a “folk” religion, the “Positive Christianity” their constitution supported was based on religion, the overwhelming majority of their population and their troops were Christian (approx. 2/3 Protestant and 1/3 Catholic), Hitler was a self-professed Christian, the slogan that the SA troops had on their uniforms was religious (“Gott Mit Uns”), they persecuted nonbelievers and people of a different religion (the Jews), so to think that religion had nothing to do with the Holocaust and that most of these people didn’t think of themselves as Christian runs contrary to all the evidence.

Sure, some can argue that there have been atrocities that resulted from Communism (or more properly, totalitarianism), but this ideology has many of the dogmatic aspects of religion with “cult-like” leaders at their head (a good example is the current leader of North Korea who considers both himself and his father divine). In most respects, these were ideological religions.

In none of these cases can you say that any atrocities were committed based on Enlightenment Principles of Reason.

Some could also argue that there may be other causes for conflict besides religion, or that there would still be violent conflict without it. Maybe so, but religion has always been an exacerbating factor even when it wasn’t at the heart of the conflict. At least without religion one exacerbating factor will be removed from the equation in those cases.

In the Beginning….

This was published by The Humanist for the Humanist Network News on May 13, 2010.

In the Beginning….

…there was void, or chaos, or nothing, or everything and nothing, or water, or darkness, or wind, or mist, or a mist of lights, or air and water, or a tree, or a shell, or a blue lotus, or an egg, or many eggs, or many regions, or different planes, or a sky world, or heaven, or heaven and earth together, or heaven and water together, or six heavens and six hells, or ice and fire, or a supreme formless Entity, or several Entities, or Tao, or some combination thereof with various modifications.

In this primordial Initial State, either Kamui, Udan, Hadau, Pangu, Mbombo, Mangala, Damballah, Olurun, Unkulunkulu, Hiranyagarbha, Purusha, Brahma, Vahiguru, Ptah, Dayuni’si, Allah, Jehovah, Tu-chai-pai, Maasaw, Jamahara, Marduk (or Assur), Atum, JoMulJu, Gitche Manitou, Ahura Mazda, Con Tiqui Viracocha, Esaugetuh Emissee, Inktomi, Coatlique, Chaos, a Spirit, the “King Above the Sky,” the “Grandfather of All Things,” the “Holy Supreme Wind,” the Dreamtime gods, a supreme formless Entity and the Archetypal Man, Izanagi and Izanami, Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Langit and Linaw, Tepeu and Gucamatz, Jehovah and Elohim, Olodumare and Obatala, Niflheim and Muspelheim and Ginnungagap, Nu/Naunet and Amun/Amunet and Kuk/Kauket and Huh/Hauhet, Earth-Initiate and Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society, men and women living in the Sky World, the ground of being, the trickster in the form of Raven, the Goddess, a small bearded man inside a white and yellow disc, a water beetle, a bird, two loons, or some other divine, or supernatural, or superhuman, or extra-human being (or beings) or elemental essence or concept that I might have overlooked…

…either dreamed, spoke, vomited, stole, shed, caused, separated, gathered, blew, churned, collected, stabbed, split, made, impregnated, laid eggs, planted seeds, gave birth, brought forth, arranged, formed, melted, sacrificed itself, was sacrificed by others, masturbated, or some other such action or series of events that eventually resulted in the creation of the universe as we know it.

Whew!

Later, in some cases, either Alcmene, Athena, Chimalman, Coatlicue, Cybele, Devaki, Hera, Hertha, Isis, Juno, Mary, Maya, Nana, Neith, Nutria, Ostara, Rohini, Semele, Shin-Moo, Sochiquetzal, or some other virgin mother whose name is lost to us (or who I may have overlooked), may, or may not have, given birth to other gods or god-men like….

Kukulcan, Huitzilopochtli, Krishna, Horus, Osiris, Serapis, Mars/Ares, Buddha, Lao-kiun, Attis, Dionysus/Bacchus, Quetzalcoatl, Jesus, Adad, Adonis, Apollo, Heracles (“Hercules”), Alcides, Baal, Bali, Beddru, Crite, Deva Tat, Hesus, Indra, Jao, Krishna, Mikado, Mithra, Odin, Prometheus, Quetzalcoatl, Salivahana, Tammuz, Thor, Wittoba, Xamolxis, Zeus’s children, Zarathustra/Zoroaster, Zoar, or a dozen or more others I missed, many of whom were either crucified or executed in sacrifice for mankind.

From there it gets more complicated. In fact, were I to continue, it may become entirely incomprehensible.

What I attempted to do is combine stories from many of the various beliefs of the past and present. The point is to show how many there are (and these aren’t all of them by a long shot).

They can’t all be true, so how do I determine which one to believe in? I’ve been told my “eternal soul” might be at stake and I don’t want to bet on the wrong horse after all.

Should I pick whichever one is the oldest? I don’t know which one that might be since many were passed down orally for many years before they were written down. The oldest ones might have been lost by now anyway.

Should I pick whichever one has the largest number of adherents? I’m not sure that would be right. There have been times in the past that more people believed something different than they do today. Christianity has the largest number of adherents now, but that wasn’t always the case. Did the truth change at the moment belief in Christianity exceeded whatever beliefs were more popular before it? If Islam overtakes Christianity in number of adherents in the future (considering it is growing faster), would that make a difference in whether or not it’s true?

Also, since the majority of the world’s population doesn’t believe in Christianity would that outweigh the fact that it had the largest number of adherents? What if people stopped believing in it entirely?

OK, I just sent my Southern Baptist brother an email. I asked him hypothetically if in 5,000 years (more or less) no one believed in Christianity anymore, would that mean it was wrong.

He said no.

Although this in no way constitutes a scientific survey by any stretch of the imagination, I suspect this would be the opinion of most believers. Obviously there have been many things in the past that most people believed that turned out to be wrong, so I can’t decide this based on the number of adherents.

I guess that rules out my next question; that is: “Could I dismiss all the ones no one believes in anymore simply because no one believes them?”

It would also rule out my question: “Should I decide by whichever one was oldest that still had adherents?”

Should I believe in whichever one is the most recent? Since new religions keep popping up, I would have to expect to have to change my beliefs every so often. That doesn’t seem to be very smart.

What if I picked based on what my parents’ believed? Would that make sense? I guess that’s no way to tell which one is true for sure. It appears that believing what your parents’ believed has resulted in people coming to many different conclusions.

I think Newton was a pretty smart guy… should I choose based on what he believed? I know there have been other very intelligent people that had other beliefs, so I can’t go by that.

What if I picked based on what most people around me believed so that I won’t be shunned or ridiculed? I don’t think that would be very courageous or any more likely to result in me choosing correctly.

Should I pick based on which one I like best? Would that be the best way to decide which one is true? I know from experience that the truth about something is not always the most appealing thing I might want to believe. What if I pick one I really like and it turns out to be wrong? I might spend eternity in hell-fire or something.

Maybe I should believe the one that makes the most terrible threats for not believing it? If I do that at least I’ll know I won’t suffer the worst fate among all the options….

The problem with that is that there are several of them that seem equally bad. Also, what if a new one comes along that threatens something worse?

What if I just come up with my own? Evidently some people have done it; why not me?

I suppose coming up with my own wouldn’t necessarily make it true (no matter how fun it might be).

What if I put a list of all the gods I know down on paper, close my eyes, and ask for guidance before I put my finger down somewhere on the page without looking?

Hold on….

It looks like the old Korean god JoMulJu wins! Believers have always told me to ask for guidance and put my faith in something and I would get an answer. If that is true, JoMulJu is the one true God!

Hmmm… The problem with that is it seems when other people do it they get other responses. Maybe that isn’t the best way to do it either.

Are there any of them that seem to have anything special about them, something to recommend them above the others? Hmmm….

Let’s see… several claim that their prophecies have been fulfilled, so I can’t go by that. There are many that claim a Son of God figure, death and resurrection, healings, revelations, miracles and such things, so I can’t go by that. We have already ruled out judging by whichever one is the oldest, has most adherents, is oldest that still has adherents, is most recent, is most threatening, is most appealing….

What else?

Can I judge based on the effects various religions have on adherents? Maybe that is the something special I could look for?

Buddhism might be the least violent, but then there are the Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses…. Christians might have the most material wealth overall, but that seems like it might be contrary to their own scriptures…. Jews seem to have survived as a people for a long time despite facing some really harsh attacks over the years…. Islam seems to be more dynamic lately….

It seems there are some unique things about each one, but how do I pick which unique thing is more important (or relevant), or if being unique in some way is any more likely to make something true?

Can I eliminate some based on how silly or absurd they seem? Some of them seem pretty strange: a god vomiting the sun, a god being impregnated by an obsidian knife, a god placing land on the back of a golden frog, a god making a woman out of a bear, a god making a man out of clay, a god making a woman out of a man’s rib…. If you get into them you find everything from winged horses and virgin births to “stopping” the sun and parting the seas. Most of them are filled with hard to believe, miraculous, or supernatural claims.

I guess if I had to pick one that had the least absurd aspects, Buddhism might come out on top (or maybe some of the ones I didn’t cover like Jainism or the Baha’i Faith).

But some may make the argument of fideism, that is, credo quia absurdum or “I believe it because it is absurd.” So I might not be able to rule out something just because it seems absurd.

Can I judge by their “holy” books?

I’ve read most all of the holy books of the major religions. They all seem to have internal problems that their adherents have to do tortured and convoluted back-flips to explain. Another problem is if I pick any one of them, I will find their adherents interpreting the same holy book differently, which leads to different sects within each of the various beliefs….

That compounds my dilemma. Even if I pick one out of these, I’ll then need to pick among the different sects. There might be just enough difference between the Baptists’ and the Catholics’ requirements for salvation, for example, that it would significantly affect my fate. And then there are all the different Baptists, and the different individual interpretations even within the same congregation…but I’ll not worry about that right now.

Some people claim to have had personal revelations from their God, but you can find people claiming personal revelations in every religion that has adherents. I’ve had my own epiphany moments, but I’ve never had some supernatural being providing revelations to me even when I was open to receive them. The only person I found I was talking to when I prayed as a kid was myself. Even if I did have some God come down and talk to me, how could I distinguish it from some mental delusion (or some powerful demon posing just to lead me astray)?

There are people in every active religion that think they hear their God speaking to them or claim some personal revelation, so I can’t go by that.

So how do I pick? If I want to bet that one of these is correct, if I want to bet that there is some absurd or supernatural explanation (rather than a natural one that we don’t yet understand), how do I decide?

See, it isn’t a 50/50 chance here. It isn’t like I can just bet there is a God rather than bet there isn’t to cover my ass (Pascal’s Wager), I’ve got to decide which supernatural explanation of the ones that have been proposed is the correct one (and I’ve got to consider the possibility that there is a supernatural explanation that no one has conceived of yet — or that there could be some supernatural explanations that might never be conceived — that could be the correct one).

I know there will be some believers that read this and think they have some convincing reason for their belief that I didn’t cover. I’ve been studying this most of my life and I haven’t seen or heard a convincing one yet. There is nothing they can say that I haven’t heard something similar about regarding another religion. If there is something they think is unique, then believers of other religions have some other unique thing they can say about their religion as well.

“True” believers of any of these religions should try to talk to “true” believers of some of the other religions. If they spend some time listening to the other believer’s argument, I’m sure they will find things that will seem absurd to them, things that don’t make sense, and things that appear outrageous. That is how they all sound to me. If they can understand why they don’t buy what a “true” believer of another religion is saying (or why they reject most all the other beliefs I’ve touched on here), they will begin to understand why I’m not buying what they are saying.

I’m sitting here in a default position of not actively believing in any of these, just like a newborn baby. I’ve been told I should take a “leap of faith” in one direction or another into belief, but how do I decide which way to leap? It seems to me that leaping in the wrong direction might be worse than not leaping at all.

I don’t actively have to do anything not to believe something, I don’t have to believe one thing to not to have a belief in something else, and I don’t even have to know with absolute metaphysical certainty if something is true (or not true) not to believe it.

What would cause me to take such a leap into belief?

I would have to be provided some compelling reason and, as Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Until and unless someone or something provides me with that evidence, I see no reason to move from my default position.

I don’t have to prove that all these beliefs (and the gods that go with them) aren’t true. If people ask me why I don’t believe in God, I have a right to ask them which one they are talking about. Since some people have a different idea about what they mean by God (e.g.: Nature, a “force” as opposed to a being, etc.) than anything I’ve covered here, I think I have a right to ask them to define what they mean by “God,” so I will know what they are asking me. If they don’t want to define what they mean, then how can I know what they are talking about? I’m not aware that I possess any mind-reading abilities.

If they can describe what they mean, then I might be able to answer them. If they can’t, then the best answer I can give is that I’ve not seen any compelling reason or evidence that would motivate me to take that “leap of faith” into belief in any one of these many supernatural options.

On the most basic level; theism is “a belief in a God or gods,” a-theism is “without a belief in a God or gods.”

I guess that makes me an atheist.

The Gods Themselves

This was published by The Humanist for the Humanist Network News on June 9, 2010.

There are thousands and thousands of supernatural beings that people have believed in over time.

Here are some of the ones that start with the letter “A” (feel free to skim):

A, A’as, A’ra, A-a, Aa Maakhuer, Aabit, Aaghu Gugu, Aah, Aahmes Nefertari, Aakuluujjusi, Aasith, Aataentsic, Aatxe, Ab Kin Xoc, Aba khatun Baikal, Abaangui, Abaasy, Abaddon, Abandinus, Abarta, Abassi, Abat[t]ur, Abeguwo, Abello (Abellio), Abeona, Abere, Abgal (Apkallu), Abgal, Abhijit, Abhijnaraja, Abhiyoga, Abira, Abnona, Abora, Abowie, Abraxas (Abraxis, Abrsax), Abu, Abuk, Abunciada (Abondia, Habondia), Abundantia (Abundita), Abziu, Acala, Acat, Acatl (Omacatl) , Acaum (Ah Can Cum), Acaviser, Acca, Acca Larentia, Accasbel, Acchupta, Acco, Achelois, Achiyalatopa, Achlae (Achelous, Acleloos, Aclelous), Achtland, Aclla, Acna (Akna), Acolmiztli, Acolnahuacatl, Acoran Gran Canary, Adad, Adamanthea, Adamisil Wedo, Adam[m]as, Adaro, Addanc, Adekagagwaa, Adeona, Adeos, Adhimukticarya, Adibuddha, Adidharma, Adimurti, Aditi, Adityas, Adonis, Adonis, Adrammelech, Adrastea, Adrasteia, Adro, Adroa, Adsullata, Aea, Aeacoc, Aebhel (Aeval), Aebhel Afekan, Aed, Aedos, Aegeria, Aegir, Aelus (Aiolos) , Aengus, Aeolos, Aequitas, Aericura, Aerten (Aerfen, Aeron), Aesculapius (Ascelpius), Aesir, Aesma Daeva, Aestas, Aesun, Aether, Aetna, Aeval, Afekan, Afi, Afreet, Ag’o, Agaman Nibo, Agamede, Agas, Agasaya, Agathos Daimon, Age Fon, Agischanak, Aglaia, Aglibol, Agni, Agni Hindu, Agnikumara, Agnostos Theos, Agrona, Agrotera, Agu’gux, Aguara, Agwe, Agwe, Agwe, Agweta, Ah Bolom Tzacab, Ah Bolon Dz’acab, Ah Chun Caan, Ah Ciliz, Ah Cun Can, Ah Hulneb, Ah Kin, Ah Kin Xoc, Ah Kinchil, Ah Kumix Unicob, Ah Mun, Ah Muzecab, Ah Patnar Uinicob, Ah Peku, Ah Puch, Ah Tabai, Ah Uaynih, Ah Unicir Dz’acab, Ah Uuc Ticab, Ah Wink ir Masa, Aha, Ahat, Ahau Chamahez, Ahau Kin, Ahemait, Aheramenmthoou, Ahladini-Sadini (Parvati), Ahmakiq, Ahnt Alis Pok’, Ahnt kai, Ahone, Ahriman, Ahsonnutli, Ahti, Ahuic, Ahulane, Ahura Mazda, Ahurani, Ai Ada, Ai Apec Mochica, Ai Tojon, Ai Tupua’i, Aiakos, Aialila’axa, Aiaru, Aibell, Aibheaeg, Aida Wedo, Aidin, Aido Wedo, Aife (Aoife), Aige, Aijo, Ailsie, Aimend, Ain, Aine of Knockaine, Aino, Airmid, Airsekui, Airyaman, Aisha, Aisha Qandisha, Aittsamka Bella, Aitu, Aitvaras, Aius Locutius, Aizen-Myoo, Aizen-Myoo, Aja, Aja, Ajalamo Yoruba, Ajatar, Ajaya, Ajbit, Aje, Aji Suki Taka Hi Kone, Ajok, Ajtzak, Ajysyt Yakut, Aka, Akasagarbha, Akelos, Aken, Aker, Akerbeltz, Akert khentet auset[s], Akeru, Akewa, Akhushtal, Akkadia (Isara), Akkadia (Sulman[u] Mesopotamia), Akonadi, Akongo, Akras Karelian (Egres) , Aksayajnana-Karmanda, Aksobhya, Aktunowihio, Akuj Akuj, Akusaa, Akycha, Akycha, Al Kahdir N. (Kahdir), Al Lat, Al Shua, Al Uzza, Ala, Ala Ibo, Ala Muki, Alaaye (Olodumare) , Alaghom Naom Tzentel, Alaisiagae, Alako, Alalahe, Alalu Ossetian, Alalus, Alastor, Alatangana Kono, Alaunus, Alauwaimis, Albasta, Albina, Alcis, Alecto, Alecto of Eumenides, Alectrona, Alemona, Alephus, Alfhild, Alfs, Alignak, Alii Menehune, Alisanos, Alk’unta’m Bella, Alkonost, Allah, Allatu[m], Almaqah, Almha, Almoshi, Aloadae (Aloidae), Alom, Alopurbi, Alpanu, Alpheus, Alphito, Altan Telgey, Altria, Aluelp, Aluluei, Am-Heh, Ama, Ama No Uzume, Ama Terasu, Ama-arhus (Amat-Ama-arhus, Arad-Ama-arhus), Ama-Tsu-Mara, Amaethon, Amagandar, Amakandu (Sakka[n]) , Amalthea, Amasagnul, Amaterasu O-Mi-Kami (Amaterasu), Amatsu Mikaboshi, Amaunet, Amayicoyondi, Amba Dravidian, Amberella, Ambikas (Mataras) , Ambisagrus, Ame No Uzume, Ame-No-Kagase-Wo, Ame-No-Mi-Kumari-No-Kami, Ame-No-Minaka-Nushi-No-Kami, Ame-No-Tanabata-Hime-No-Mikoto, Ame-No-Toko-Tachi-No-Kami, Ame-Waka-Hiko, Amelenwa, Amelia, Amen, Ament, Amesha, Ami, Amida, Amimitl, Amitabha, Amitolane, Amm, Amma, Amma, Amma, Ammavaru, Ammit, Ammon (Amen), Amn, Amogahasiddhi, Amoghapasa, Amon (Amun), Amor, Amphion, Amphitrite, Amponyinamoa, Amset (Imset), Amsu, Amun, Amunet, Amurru, Amymone, An, An Zu, Anael, Anahita, Anahita, Anaitis, Anala, Ananke, Ananse, Ananta, Anantamukhi, Anantesa, Anapel, Anasuya, Anat (Anath), Anath, Anatis, Anatu, Anaulikutsai’x Bella, Anbay S., Ancasta, Anceta, Andarta, Andjety, Andrasta Icene, Andriaahoabu, Andriam Vabi Rano, Androgyne, Andromeda, Andvari, Anextiomarus, Angels, Angerona, Angina, Angitia, Angitia, Angpetu Wi, Angru Mainya, Angus, Angus Mac Og, Angus Og, Anguta, Anhouri, Anhur, Ani, Anieros, Anila, Aningan, Anjea, Ankalamman, Anna Kuari, Anna Perenna, Annalia, Annallja Tu Bari, Annapatni, Annapurna, Annis, Anpao, Anqet, Ansa, Ansar, Anshur (Ashur, Asshur), Antaboga, Antai, Anteros, Antevorta, Antheia, Anti, Antu, Anuanaitu, Anubis, Anuket, Anukis, Anulap, Anumati, Anunit, Anunitu, Anunnaki, Anuradha, Anus (Anann, Anu), Anwho, Anyigba, Anzety, Aondo Tiv, Apa, Apacita, Apam Napat, Apap Teso, Apate, Apaturia, Apedmak, Apep, Apesh, Apet, Aphaea, Aphrodisias, Aphrodite, Aphrodite Pandemos, Apis, Apiu, Apo, Apollo, Apolonia, Aponibolinayen, Apophis, Apozanoltl, Appias, Apsaras, Apsu, Apuat, Aquilo, Aquit, Arachne, Aralo (Aparajita, Aray), Aramazd, Aranyani, Aranzahas, Arapacana, Ararat, Araua, Arawa Suk, Arawn (Arawen, Arawyn, Arrawn), Arazu, Archons, Ard Greimme, Ardhanarit savara, Ardra, Arduinna, Ardvi Sura Anahita, Ardwinna, Arebati, Areimanios, Ares, Arete, Argante, Arge, Ari Au Tchesf, Ariadne, Arianrhod, Arianrod, Aricia, Arimanius (Areimaios), Arinna, Aristaeus, Aristatos, Arito, Arjuna, Arma, Armaz, Arna’kuagsak (Nuli’rahak), Arnakua’gak, Arnamentia, Arnemetia, Arom Kafir, Arsan Duolai Yakut, Arsay, Arsu, Artaius, Artemis, Arthapratisamvit, Artio of Muti, Aruna, Arundhati, Aruru, Arvenus, Arya-Tara, Aryaman, Aryong Jong, As, As ava, As-im-babbar (Nanna), Asa Poorna, Asalluha, Asar, Asase Afua, Asase Ya, Asbit, Ascelpius, Asertu, Asgaya Gigagei, Ashera, Asherah, Asherali, Ashi, Ashiakle, Ashima, Ashimbabbar, Ashirat, Ashis, Ashkit, Ashnan (Asnan), Ashtaroth, Ashur, Ashvins, Asi, Asiaq, Asima Si, Asintmah Athabasca, Asira, Asis Suk, Askelpios, Aslea[s], Aso, Asokottamasri, Asopos, Aspalis W., Asrael, Asratum, Assur, Astabis, Astamastara, Astapaios, Astar, Astaroth, Astarte, Astarte, Astarte, Astarte, Asterodeia, Asthertet, Astlik Georgia, Astoreth, Astraea, Astraeos, Astrik, Asuha-No-Kami, Asuras, Asurkumara, Asvayujau, Asvins, At Em, Ataa Naa Nyongmo Gan, Atabei (Attabeira), Ataecina, Atahensic, Atai, Atalacamani, Atanea, Atanea, Atar, Atargatis, Atasamain, Ate, Atea, Aten, Atete, Athena (Athene), Athirat, Athor, Athtart, Atida, Atira, Atius (Tirawa), Atl, Atlacoya, Atlahua, Atlaonin, Atlas, Atma, Atoja, Atropos, Attabeira Atahensic, Attar, Attis, Atua Fafine Tikopia, Atua I Kafika Tikopia, Atua I Raropuka Tikpoa, Atugan, Atum, Atunis, Au, Au Co, Auchimalgen, Audjal, Aufaniae, Augeus, Augralids, Auilix, Aura, Aurita, Aurora, Ausaitis, Auseklis, Auset, Austeja, Auster (Notus), Austrine, Autyeb, Auxesia, Avalokitesvara, Avatar, Avatea, Averruncus, Aversa, Aveta, Avfruvva, Avrikiti Fon, Awitelin Tsita, Awonawilona, Axiocersa, Axo Mama, Aya, Ayaba, Ayas, Ayauhteot, Ayauhteotl, Ayi’ Uru’n Toyoy’n Yakut (Uru’n Ajy Toyo’n), Ayida, Ayiyanayaka, Ayizan, Aylekete (Agbe), Ayt’ar, Ayurvasita, Ayyapan, Azacca, Azapane (Bele), Azele Yaba, Azer Ava, Azi, Aziri, and Azizos.

It is an alphabet soup of supernatural beings up there (aren’t you glad I didn’t go through the whole alphabet?). You could just about stir up some random combination of letters and come up with a god. There are even some different ones with the same name.

Some of these are creator gods; some are chief gods; some are gods of the sun or moon, some are gods of fire, water, rain, and war; some are demons or gods of the underworld; some are gods of storms and other natural catastrophes; some are gods of various human passions or sex; some are gods of the fetus, some are gods of women and children; some of the names are of whole hosts of supernatural beings; some are gods for construction workers, sailors, or other trades; some are local gods; some are gods for potato crops, wine, salmon, etc.; some gods are for toothaches or other pains and illnesses, there are even a couple of gods for bees in this list — and this is an incomplete list of just the ones that begin with “A.”

I didn’t notice a god of incontinence, but I’m pretty sure I could find one if I looked hard enough.

It is funny how you can find gods of water; gods of oceans or seas; gods of rivers, springs, and mists; gods of rain; gods of running or fresh water, etc., all from the same group of people. There seems to have been a lot of gods who were specialists in their fields…. Or should I say field? In many cases, while there might have been a god of the crops (who must have been like an overseer), you could still dig up a god of the potato crop (for example), who was just in charge of that specifically. Of course, he might have to have dealings with the god of the soil or earth, the god of the sun, and the god of the water or the rain (while appeasing the god of the storm or the god of droughts).

In other words, people seemed to have some very specific information about these beings. It wasn’t like some vague notion that there is this god that has been hanging around… or there is this god that has something to do with liquid or growing things. It is like they knew their names and specifically what their areas of responsibility were. They even seemed to know stories about them, their history, their personality types, events in their lives, other supernatural beings with which they interacted, what would make them pleased or angry, and so on. They seemed to know their gods fairly intimately, almost as if they lived around the corner and popped by on occasion to gossip over tea and crumpets.

I don’t guess most of the people reading through this list truly believe that most of these supernatural beings really exist, so where did all this information come from?

I mean, there are a lot of gods here and this is just the tip of the iceberg. That is a lot of detailed information about a lot of supernatural beings that had to come from somewhere. Where did it come from?

Where did they all come from?

If they aren’t real, if the stories aren’t true, then they must have been made-up.

Who made up all these stories?

It seems fairly evident to me (although I expect there will be some who differ), that it was human beings that made this stuff up.

Why did they make it up?

Well, there might be a number of reasons for that, but I would venture to guess the main reason was to explain what they didn’t understand.

Where did all these gods go? Why don’t most people believe in most of them now?

Could it be that as people begin to understand more and more about how nature really worked more rational explanations replaced them?

I can hear some believers making the claim (on one level or another): “But my god is different! He is much more sophisticated than these other gods.”

Yeah? In what way? Wasn’t he originally made of the same stuff as these others were, out of the imagination of the human mind? Old Jehovah, for example, started out as a tribal war god that lived on a mountaintop before he “evolved” into the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, supreme creator God Being that we are presented with today. This conception is more sophisticated only in that he has made himself less available for examination and detection than he supposedly was when people were much more ignorant about the world than they are today. Although he is supposedly more powerful than he was formerly, he uses his power with such subtlety that even the best scientists can’t tell the difference between his actions and events unfolding as they would have if he wasn’t even there at all.

If all these other “lesser” gods have been exposed for the shams they really were when the light of knowledge was pointed in their direction, how are gods people still believe in today any different than these others except that they have managed to retreat into the last refuges of darkness where the light has yet to shine? They have removed themselves not only beyond human detection but beyond all human reason as well. They have become increasingly irrelevant and nonsensical. Yet despite all this, believers claim to know some fairly intimate details about their histories, their natures, their personalities, their desires, what makes them pleased or angry, their plans, how they want us to act, what they have in store for us, etc., etc., but they don’t want to define their god, no sir. It is “beyond human understanding and reason,” they will say.

I see no good reason to take these claims any more seriously than the claims made before about all the other gods.

We haven’t found proof of one supernatural being yet, out of all the ones that now seem to have been demoted to the mythological realm. If we had run across at least one or two of the lesser ones when we were learning about our universe, it might make sense to think we might run across some more powerful ones later. We’ve never captured a demon to study, or an angel that has fallen from the sky. We haven’t ever turned up even an elf or a fairy or any other supernatural thing ever. It looks like in all this time we might have found one scrap of irrefutable evidence of something or anything that was supernatural: a magic wand, a genie in a bottle, a magic hat with an unlimited supply of rabbits….

Finding something like that wouldn’t necessarily prove or disprove a god, but it might demonstrate that supernatural things were at least possible.

Not only is it the case that there is no empirical evidence for whatever god you might believe in, there is no evidence for any god, or gods, or supernatural beings, or supernatural things, or any evidence whatsoever that the word “supernatural” might mean anything more than the word “imaginary.”

If we can’t tell the difference between something that is supernatural and something that is imaginary, then why should we give any more respect for people’s claims of knowledge about a supernatural god than we give for other people’s claims about an imaginary friend?

Questions About the Bible

A  Jehovah’s Witness asked me if I had any questions about the Bible.

Let’s see…

If God is all-knowing, didn’t he know Satan would rebel before he created him? Didn’t he know that Eve would eat the fruit? Didn’t he know in advance that he would banish Adam and Eve from the Garden? Either he knows everything or he doesn’t.

If God is perfect in every respect, not needing anything from any outside source to complete himself, why did he create humans, the universe, etc.?

If God created everything, wouldn’t he be ultimately responsible for what he created (esp. if he knew the end result, being all-knowing and all)? If I put a baby in a crib with a knife, I know that that baby is likely to cut itself. If I am all-knowing, then I would be considered to be even more at fault (responsible) if I put a baby into a crib with a knife and KNEW in advance that it would cut itself. According to the Bible, God places Adam and Eve into a Garden and tells them the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is forbidden. It’s worse than putting a baby in a crib with a knife.

Why would this God punish Adam and Eve for not obeying him if they didn’t know any better before they ate the fruit? Why would he punish their descendants since they weren’t even there? If my father commits a crime, is it justice that my grandchildren have to suffer for it?

If your God created everything and knows everything, isn’t he creating people who he knows will be eternally tormented in hell before he creates them? That seems like a pretty sick and twisted God to me.

Why would a God ALLOW anyone to be eternally tormented for temporal crimes (or so-called “sins”)?

The Bible says that the punishment for eating of the fruit is death (“for in THE DAY that you eat of it, you shall die”). That doesn’t seem to be the actual result. Instead, no one dies right away. Perhaps you could argue that “morality” is what is meant, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either, because God seems worried that they might also eat of the tree of life (“and live forever”). This implies unless they ate of the tree of life, they were already mortal. So, why did God make an empty threat about what would happen if they ate of the fruit of good and evil?

While we’re on that subject, who is God talking to when he says things like, “Behold, the man has become like US, knowing the difference between good and evil” or “Let US make man in our image,” or “Come let US go down, and there confuse their language,” etc.?

That last quote was when God seemed worried that humans might get together to accomplish things that might be some kind of challenge to God himself (“this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them”).

He seems kind of afraid that humans might eat of the tree of life and become immortal like he is, so that is the reason they are kicked out of the Garden. Later, he seems to be afraid that they might build a tower that reaches into the heavens and that “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them” if they do, so he confounds their language to stop it (even though, we’ve now build larger buildings than they could have ever built in the past and have sent objects into space much further and still not breached any domain he seems to have been worrying about).

Later, God “regrets” he has made “man,” and he causes a flood to wipe most of us out. How can a being like God is supposed to be “regret” anything? Didn’t he know what was going to happen before he started all this “in the beginning”?

He also claims to be “jealous,” which most human beings consider to be a petty emotion. It’s as if he is “needy” of our worship and approval (not commonly associated with a ‘perfect’ being). And didn’t he know in advance what to expect? Every time he is angry about something it appears he didn’t expect it or know what was going to happen in advance.

This God of yours seems to be more like a petty tyrant in need of absolute obedience and worship, and he doesn’t appear to be all-knowing, all-powerful, or all anything except a petty asshole with superpowers (fearing what humans might accomplish that might challenge him, if he doesn’t keep a close eye on us and knock us down if we get too uppity in his eyes).

We haven’t even gotten out of Genesis yet, and I’m only scratching the surface of the questions I could ask.

Obviously, whoever wrote Genesis wasn’t even there to give an accurate account of what happened. You have to believe whoever wrote it down was “inspired” by the God you believe in in some way. Not only do you not have any idea of who wrote it, you really have no idea if they were really “inspired” or not. You are buying all this on FAITH without any empirical evidence (and it contradicts the empirical evidence that we do have about the origins of the earth). Your FAITH is just another word for credulity. Why should we believe your mythology more than the mythology of thousands of other myths (and religions)?