Can Atheist Rock Beyond Belief meet Army Restrictions?

The truth of the US Army’s equitable treatment of “Rock Beyond Belief” has already been addressed.  Oddly, though, many people don’t know that RBB may not be able to meet the restrictions imposed upon it by the Army even if it does find the funding it needs to proceed.

What restrictions are those?  Well, the same ones put on the Christian “Rock the Fort,” of course:  Content.

Unnoticed by many has been the fact Fort Bragg restricted the content at “Rock the Fort.”  As noted in the After Action Report:

The bands and speakers stayed within the parameters that we gave them as directed by LTG Helmick, “in other words keep it low key…share encouraging music and a gospel message with no statements that are critical of other religions.” (emphasis added)

Shockingly, no one complained about the US military restricting the religious speech at what religious freedom critic Michael Weinstein described as a “Christian orgy.”

As previously noted, “Rock Beyond Belief” invited Michael Weinstein and Richard Dawkins to speak, two men who make their livings being “critical of other religions.”  Invited musical guests also have a history of similar criticism.  Does anyone really expect they could fill a stage for 8 hours with people whose lives revolve around attacking religion and meet such a stringent requirement?

The “shock” expressed above is, of course, facetious.  Michael Weinstein tries to convince unsuspecting people that Christians are trying to take over the government, saying Christians will stop at nothing to assert their “supremacy,” trampling on other religions along the way.

The truth is Christians often walk on eggshells — and follow rules and restrictions some might be surprised to learn about, as above — because they value their own religious freedom and respect that of others’.


  • The Billy Graham people are constantly critical of other religions in other venues, but were instructed not to be at this particular event. Some of the speakers and musicians lined up for RBB are critical of religion in other venues, but were not going to trash any religion at this particular event. This was discussed at the very beginning of planning RBB over five months ago (without Fort Bragg having to give us ‘parameters’). RTF’s message was ‘you need God,’ and the RBB message was going to be ‘you’re not alone if you don’t believe in a god.’ The reason that Richard Dawkins was the ideal speaker for this event was his “OUT Campaign,” which is simply the message that Atheists should openly be who they are and shouldn’t stay ‘in the closet.’ This is why Dawkins fit the message of RBB perfectly. Mikey would have talked about equality and Constitutional rights, and other speakers would have talked about religious freedom and the separation of church and state. RBB was not going to be an anti-religion event, no matter how many times you ignorantly say that it was. It was going to be a pro-religious freedom event with the message that non-theists in the military are not alone, and that they have the same rights as theists.

  • Given that the very nature of Christianity is to believe that non-Christians will spend an eternity in hell being tortured – and deserve it – isn’t it necessarily the case that any Christian message could be legitimately seen as “critical” to other religions (and non-religions)? Isn’t this exactly why we should not have government/military endorsed events related to religion at all?

  • @WWRID

    If you dont beleive why are you so worried with dogma? Dont hide your opressive views behind good intentions.

    And you militant-atheists have A LOT of religion in your heads…really. You think about religion all the time.

  • @Pete

    Why am I so worried about dogma? Why do I think about religion so often? Well… I feel completely inundated by religion (mainly Christianity) in our society – from people who want my children to pray in school; to those that blame every natural disaster on gay people; to others that think the planet is only 6000 years old and want children taught this as fact. The issue for me is simple: Christians believe a collection of wildly impossible supernatural ideas that guide their thinking about the way the world should function – and they actively work to make the world function accordingly. Of course this means they often have to reject science (evolution vs. creationism). They have to apply ancient rules – selectively, I might add – to modern society. And they often end up discriminating against those that don’t hold their views and values (intentionally or unintentionally). All of this holds back progress for the rest of us. That’s why I am worried. That’s why I think about religion.

  • @WWRID

    Militant-atheist drama, phony soap-opera and martir-complex at work…

    Nobody is forced to pray in public school. No civilization (of every religion or lack of it) wants “out-of-the-closet” gay people around EXCEPT Western Christian civilization (go figure that out), in ATHEIST-Communist China, Cuba and ex-USSR “out of the closet” gays are/were not allowed (go figure that out). Most dont beleive the planet is 6000 years old and nobody is forcing any children to be taught this fact, some just want schools to raise the possibly that there might be “intelligent design”.

    As for the “science” stuff, its just a childish way of saying something like: “Buahhh i am smart and you are not”. Just like the “freethinking” means something like: “Buahhh i am freethinker and you are a robot” or “reason” means something like: “Buahhh i am reasonable and you are not”.

    Dawkins wanting Atheists to call themselfs “brights” really says it all. Really, grow up.

    PS – For “freethinkers” you all say the same things and think the same things.

  • WWRID,

    You bring up a lot of discussions that are rather debatable, so I’ll start with the biggest one. The basis of our country is categorically opposed to the atheist viewpoint. That viewpoint established the freedoms that you are twisting to support your religious views, while not allowing others (case in point: not allowing a moment of silence in which a school child may pray).

    Pete brings up the second biggest point: competition of ideas is the path to truth, not suppression. With the exception of home-schooled children, every child will bring home some concept that is in opposition to what the parents teach. If intelligent design is so flawed then you should have no problem teaching your child what it is (so they can pass the test) and also why it is so wrong.

    I’m worried about humanist dogma and the society my daughter will grow up in. “If you want it, go get it” is not a way to build character; it’s a way to build depression, debt and failure.

  • @Dealer – If you’re in favor of teaching so-called “Intelligent Design,” what do you think about also teaching creation myths from other world religions? Because ultimately, that’s what “Intelligent Design” is: a myth, without a single shred of evidence to support it.

  • @Dealer

    You appear to completely misunderstand atheism and secularism and humanism. Summing up the secular viewpoint with “If you want it, go get it” makes this clear. A couple of comments nonetheless…

    Competition of ideas is a great thing – if the ideas are truly competitive. Surely you would not want the idea that the earth is flat to compete with alternative explanations.

    You wrote: “The basis of our country is categorically opposed to the atheist viewpoint.” What does this mean? On what grounds do you make this claim? It almost seems like you are saying that the idea of freedom came from religion (Christianity in particular, I am sure). Is this your position?

    And for the record, I (and most atheists) support the idea of a moment of silence.

  • WWRID,

    I see commonalities among the three, and I probably don’t have all the lines right, but then, I doubt you know all the lines between different Christian theologies.

    I was taught the flat earth theory, in the scientific context that at the time, from a certain perspective, it seemed accurate. The facts were presented, flat earth lost rather easily to round earth. Evolution hinges on the scientific principle, which, at it’s core, is run by humans. Humans are prone to error. You are taking on faith that the scientists are honest in their reporting and their assumptions are valid. I’m not sure they are valid, and there is plenty of competing evidence (e.g. the parallel development of a woodpecker’s beak, neck bones, neck muscles, ability to find bugs through wood, etc).

    The second is so easy it’s almost amusing you ask. From the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The text mentions “nature’s God” which may not be the Christian theology, but certainly isn’t atheistic.

    I’m quite interested in other culture’s knowledge on our origins. By the way, how do you think life got to this planet? Don’t have the answer? Ok, I respect that but now do you reject my answer when you don’t have one yourself?

  • P.S. I’ve seen moment’s of silence cancelled because of the fear of lawsuits. I, like you, think they are acceptable, but not everyone else agrees.

  • @Dealer
    My opinion… Saying “The basis of our country is categorically opposed to the atheist viewpoint” based on language in the Declaration of Independence is a pretty big stretch. It’s an important document, for sure, but it was not intended to serve as “the basis of our country”. Maybe the Constitution would be a better reference for that purpose. In that document you will find this statement:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    This almost seems to put the atheist viewpoint on equal footing with religious perspectives. I wonder if this is what the founding fathers actually intended?

  • @Dealer

    One more thing on the “The basis of our country is categorically opposed to the atheist viewpoint” claim…

    I’m always shocked by this assertion, despite having heard it so many times. It almost seems that Christians who make this argument are willfully ignoring the most prominent and obvious tenets of both their own religion and the US Constitution. For example, take the Ten Commandments (and here we should note that there are Christians – many of them – actively trying to get the government to promote the Ten Commandments, so this is not some red herring I bring up). As a good Christian I am confident you know that God’s first commandment to His special creation is to have no other gods before Him. In other words, the most important commandment God can muster is to believe in Him and only Him.

    And then there’s the Constitution… The very first statement that our founding fathers came up with in the Bill of Rights… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. Pretty clear, isn’t it? The First Amendment basically says that God’s very first law CAN NOT BE LAW in the US.

    Always puzzles me…

  • WWRID,

    Good points. You are blurring more lines than I am. To be more accurate, our Founding Fathers believed in individual rights that were granted not by a government, but by a more powerful entity, namely God. That belief is a basis for our country – not that we did a good job at the beginning (slavery comes to mind).

    As a former Catholic, you should be familiar with Jesus’s teaching on giving to God what is God’s and giving to Caesar what is Caesars. There are other examples where God’s Word talks about how God instituted government writ-large. When taken to the final logical conclusion the text reads our government’s law-writing institution cannot deny someone life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness because they participated in a religious exercise. That doesn’t mean that God can’t deny me life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, it just means that Congress can’t.

    You started this conversation about how Christians differ in their views and values than non-Christians. Constitutionally they have that right, just as you have the right to think Christians are holding back progress. Personally I think that the rise of humanism is destroying the founding American value of personal responsibility and invention.

  • @Dealer

    I disagree with your assertion that our founding fathers believed that individual rights are granted by a deity – and I strongly disagree that those same individuals had Jesus in mind if they indeed were thinking about a deity in that context.

    My understanding is that our founding fathers were heavily influenced by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke – especially with respect to individual rights. Thomas Paine (not exactly a Christian) also heavily influenced thinking on the subject and is considered a founding father. None of these men relied on god to construct their positions on individual rights, freedom, liberty, etc.

    Further, you should be careful invoking the teachings of Jesus as a way of claiming that “God’s Word talks about how God instituted government”. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s might be your only example – and not a very powerful one – while you open up the opportunity for me to find examples of “God’s word” that makes suggestions that run counter to how we run our government and structure our laws. For example, the first four commandments tell us to 1) obey only the Christian god, 2) obey the Sabbath, 3) not make graven images and 4) not take god’s name in vain. All four of these are explicitly prohibited from ever becoming law by our Constitution.

    Regarding your comment about humanism “destroying” personal responsibility and invention I have two comments:

    First, with respect to invention, the vast majority of scientists and technology leaders (the folks doing the bulk of the “inventing” in this country and throughout the world) are not Christian and in fact many are atheists. Bill Gates is an atheist. Warren Buffet is an atheist. Steve Jobs is an atheist/Buddhist. It appears that holding non-Christian, secular, humanist beliefs doesn’t slow down certain people’s ability to imagine, invent and produce.

    Second, I suspect you really don’t know a whole lot about humanism and instead you’re just assuming humanists think a certain way and hold certain values. I say this because I think you would not talk about humanism degrading “responsibility” if you understood it. I recommend you read up a little on what humanism is all about. Here are three links (the first is a simple list of affirmations that gives a clear picture of humanism).

  • Ah…here we go… “To be more accurate, our Founding Fathers believed in individual rights that were granted not by a government, but by a more powerful entity, namely God.”

    I’ve said all along…it is the “individual right” to believe, I say again “BELIEVE,” whatever he/she wants; so it’s not a majority rule or the individual right to press any religion [gods/deities etc…] on anyone else.

    I take it that Dealer may associate “humanism” (ambiguous) with atheism and it is not necessarily, but can be related. Most humanist are only concerned with “human” things (here and now), nothing supernatural. We would have blue-laws (some states still have them today kinda), “government enforced religious standards” if not for humanists–for example.

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a human derived, inspired, written and most quoted (not from god) Declaration of Independence statement in US history. God can’t take it away or deny it…ain’t his.

  • watchtower,

    you’re first because it’s shorter, and I don’t have much time right now. Legally, you are absolutely correct. If I physically force someone to go to church then I’m guilty of illegally detaining or assault, and probably a lot of other laws. The government has a responsibility to prevent that. I can legally pay someone to go to church, not that would be morally acceptable.

    I associate humanism and atheism on an individual level. In people I know, there is a strong correlation between atheism and humanism. In interest in full disclosure, there is also a strong correlation between non-devout religious people (all backgrounds) and humanism.

    According to the Declaration of Independence, the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were endowed by a Creator. They are secured by the government, but creation and protection are two distinct actions.

    Last point: God can and does take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When was the last time you saw the government create life?

  • Dealer — Good points, however, its not about “God” at all:

    * If it was endowed by God then it would have said “endowed by God” not “endowed their Creator” and it’s not implied either because we are not founded as a Christian nation.

    …that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights – natural rights, life, liberty and happiness…equipped by my parents, family, and friends (my Creators).

    1. The right to life – essential right to live, particularly that a human being has the right not to be killed by another human being…the government protects against this…laws, police, judges (courts), jail. This right also mean I can protect myself from being killed by killing (hopefully not) if I have to. When was the last time you heard/saw (and proven) someone was killed by a god? No one can blame a god (although they do it all the time) because he [the Christian god] is supposedly above reproach.

    2. The right to liberty – which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions. Freedom of individuals from outside compulsion or coercion, like government enforced religious standards.

    3. The pursuit of happiness – safety and security, only I can do this, and as the story goes, it is a pursuit and always will be.

    Sorry JD…I think we may lost the original bubble on this post.

  • Latest news on this issue…

  • Watchtower,

    You have a good grasp on what general rights the Declaration declares and is codified (although not written) in the Constitution. If you don’t believe God exists, then it’s impossible for me give examples where He worked indirectly. If I get hit by a meteorite on when I go pickup the mail, then I would assume that God wanted me killed. You may call it random, I’ll blame God. BTW, it is possible to kill someone and be perfectly morally justified in doing so. Therefore, it is not inherently evil to kill someone (often, in fact usually, is but not always). Regardless, if you don’t believe in God, how are you to know how He works?


    Thank you for the details on humanism. I’m not that familiar, but I have one overarching question after hitting those links. It sounds to me that humanism is a desire to improve individuals through reason but there is no absolute, overarching truth, no absolute right and wrong. Is that the case? If not, inform me what is right by a humanism’s book because I didn’t find it on those links. I also can’t respond back to your 2 latter points until that one is answered. Depending on your answer above I’m either justified in my logic, or totally wrong.

    You oversimplified the first 4 commandments: 1. If you put anything as a higher moral authority than God, you’re wrong. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other authorities out there than Him, just that He’s on top. 2. Graven images restriction applies to physical items to worship, not in general 3. Obey the Sabbath day means have a day of rest-where do you think weekends got their origin? 4. Taking the Lord’s name in vain does not mean ‘don’t use dirty words’ (that restriction is in ‘keep your temple -meaning your body/mind/spirit- clean’. It means you shouldn’t make an oath, swear that oath to God, and then break it.

    These commandments aren’t in place to guide governments in the laws they should set; they are to guide churches and individuals on what they should do with their free will. You can break 3 of the 4 you mentioned and not break any laws what-so-ever (work on Sunday, worship money, rely on the court system for your moral guidance). If you break the last one, you could get sued. In fact, it happens all the time.

  • @Dealer

    On your humanism and “absolute truth” comments… Would you please tell me one thing that is an absolute truth? And absolute right or wrong? I think humanism provides a reason-based framework for determining right and wrong but I’d first like to know from you what you think is an absolute right or wrong.

    On your Ten Commandment response… You’re going to have a hard time running away from the Ten Commandments given that these are the most direct admonitions from god on behavior. Further, it’s pretty common to have Christians in the US demand that the Ten Commandments be placed publicly because they are either a) essential to the values that our country were founded on or b) the foundation of our laws. Clearly they are neither. And if they are “in place to guide governments in the laws they should make” (your words, which sound vaguely familiar to those Christians who so eagerly press to make the Ten Commandments more prominent) surely you admit that the founding fathers did a pretty poor job following god’s guidance. After all, they explicitly and intentionally made the first four ILLEGAL.

  • Well Dealer, if you get hit by a meteor (hope you don’t of course) I’ll gladly concede it was your belief that it be a gods fault; because that would be more likely then just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It does bother me (as a caring person) that the Christian god would kill anyone because he is represented in Scripture (so I’ve read) as being primarily concerned with people and their salvation. It must be the “mysterious ways” thing that is the catch-all for things unexplainable…being in the wrong place at the wrong time notwithstanding.

  • watchtower,

    I wasn’t hit today, fortunately. He is concerned with people and their salvation, but where does it say that He wants us to stay here on earth? Why do you think that physical death is inherently evil?


    Absolute truth: 1. at one time, the world and all that was in it did not exist. 2. There is an entity, who has no origin, who just IS, who created the world and all in it. 3. That entity loves us so much that He sent His Son to [physically and spiritually] die in our stead so that we may never know [spiritual] death.

    On 10 Commandments: I don’t think you actually listened to what I said before about the legality of the first 4 Commandments. It may be illegal for Congress to institute the first 3, but anyone who chooses to practice them on their own accord is not in violation of them. The last one ‘taking God’s name in vain’ can be illegal in the context that someone who swears on the Bible to give the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth, but does not fulfill that oath is in violation of the law and can be detained for it.

  • watchtower,

    The Christian God kills all sorts of people throughout the Bible. Often it is because the person disobeyed God, so He killed them. (The flood killed almost everyone, there was the destruction of Saddam and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife in that, or the lie that killed Ananias and Safira). But then there are the people who did seemingly nothing to provoke God. (Like Job’s first kids. They were killed to teach Job something, or so that he could be an object lesson for the rest of us, or something.)

  • I wonder what this bullies are planning…If the event goes well, their whole “martir” theater goes down the drain. Perhaps, once again, cancelling the whole thing and blame it on the “conspiracy”? Making the whole event a very provocative, fail to meet the restrictions to try to cause some reaction and latter, by lying and using the corrupt biased media, create some soap-opera about how the evil Christians are after them?

    People should be on their guard and expect every dirty trick in the book. Let them have their whole event, let them be provocative. Besides, they cant help it but to be provocative, they are a bitter angry bunch.

  • Pete,

    To clarify your pronouns, it seems your comments are most applicable to the MRFF and their allies as they try to make hay off “Rock Beyond Belief.” With respect to military atheists, less than a half-dozen have been publicly associated with this event, and there is insufficient cause to call all atheists in the military bitter and angry.

  • @Pete
    Our big “dirty trick” is to try to reschedule RBB for the fall.

  • Why reschedule it, unless you’re willing to also meet the requirements…like paying for it yourself?

    Does your statement represent a concession that RBB will be funded by ideological adherents’ donations, as was RtF, as opposed to being funded by the government, as has been demanded?

  • @Dealer wrote: “Absolute truth: 1. at one time, the world and all that was in it did not exist. 2. There is an entity, who has no origin, who just IS, who created the world and all in it. 3. That entity loves us so much that He sent His Son to [physically and spiritually] die in our stead so that we may never know [spiritual] death.”

    Dealer – if you consider #2 and #3 to be absolute truths then we have nothing to talk about – at least on this topic. We’re simply not on the same playing field. Further, your #3 is an absurdity to me, never mind an absolute truth.

    But back to the main point of this interaction… You made reference to an “absolute right or wrong”. If there is such a thing please provide an example.

  • @end Wrote: “The Christian God kills all sorts of people throughout the Bible. Often it is because the person disobeyed God, so He killed them. (The flood killed almost everyone, there was the destruction of Saddam and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife in that, or the lie that killed Ananias and Safira). But then there are the people who did seemingly nothing to provoke God. (Like Job’s first kids. They were killed to teach Job something, or so that he could be an object lesson for the rest of us, or something.)”

    This religion is beyond illogical. You actually accept that your god killed children to teach “the rest of us” a lesson? Really? And you want to follow this god?

    I must say, you have no way out of this kind of insanity without playing the all-to-often played “His ways are mysterious” card. And if you play that card you are left having to explain how this “mystery” could not just as easily be exactly the opposite of what you believe. If god’s ways are truly this mysterious then isn’t it just as possible (just as much a “mystery”) that what god *really* wants from all of us is to reject the insanity and impossibility of the Christian story – and those that can’t figure that out get an eternity in torment? Isn’t this just as feasible if god is this mysterious?

  • WWRID,

    If there is no absolute truth, then there cannot be good and evil. Prove me wrong: explain your definition of good and evil. I gave you an example of truth and you rejected all of them; even without explaining away one of them.

    I’ll respond to your comment to ‘end’ once I understand how you determine what evil is.

  • JD :Does your statement represent a concession that RBB will be funded by ideological adherents’ donations, as was RtF, as opposed to being funded by the government, as has been demanded?

    I thought it was clear that the post contributed more than $50,000 to the RtF event or has that been respun?

  • @Dealer

    Funny… you provide me with three absolute truths without a single shred of evidence to support them and yet I am now on the hook to prove to you that you are wrong. Sorry, Dealer, but the burden of proof is on you (just is as it would be on me if I had made counter claims, like “it is absolutely true that there is no god”). Prove to ME that any of your absolute truths are actually true. Should be easy for you since they are *absolute* truths, right?

    I know you can’t do that so I’ll continue…

    Seems to me that you are assuming that there is some kind of necessarily supernatural construct behind the idea of “evil”. If that’s the case – if you feel that a) evil exists and b) it is a supernatural construct – then I will never provide a definition of “evil” that will satisfy you (since I don’t believe in any supernatural notion – and since you can’t prove that one exists).

    That said, I can provide a human-based definition of the term “evil” (after all, aren’t all terms created by humans?). To me, evil is anything that that causes suffering. Good, therefore, can be anything that reduces suffering and/or increases joy. I don’t need to fabricate an absolute truth to hold this position. I don’t even need to claim that the existence of good and evil is an absolute truth. That’s your requirement, not mine.

    Wikipedia’s definition is interesting as well… “Evil is the intention or effect of causing harm or destruction, usually specifically from the perception of deliberately violating some moral code.”

  • WWRID,

    I figured that you would counter the 2nd and 3rd absolute truths, but I haven’t heard your argument against the first. In fact, current scientific theories support that position, although there are different interpretations on how well the current Big Bang Theory and the Genesis story line up. There are some Christians who interpret the creation as 7 literal days. I counter with the definition of a day: what was the length of a day before God created the sun? Are you saying that the earth always existed and there was no set beginning of time?

    My definition of evil is not one you’d accept: God is good, the opposite of that is evil. In practical terms, it’s close to the wikipedia answer, but remove the ‘effect’ because a mistake is not evil, yet can cause harm.

    Here’s my question to you: imagine a married couple, 2.6 kids. There is no infidelity, no big secrets, no abuse; yet the husband and wife are not happy with each other and don’t provide each other joy. Should they get a divorce? I say, no. We can argue for a long time on whether that would actually reduce suffering or increase joy (I say it would not improve matters); but if your only goal in life is to decrease suffering and increase joy, then live on the strip in Las Vegas. Me, I have better goals.

  • @michaelb
    That accusation has been “unspun” here. The donations that supported Rock the Fort came from the Christian congregations on post.

  • Humanism is a life philosophy for the unchurched. It is not a “religion”, and most modern humanists would be insulted at the accusation. Humanists are Atheist (we don’t believe in the supernatural), but not all Atheists are Humanists. I’ve included the Humanist Manifesto III, which details the philosophy of Humanism.
    Geri Weaver, President: Central NC Atheists & Humanists

    Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

    The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

    This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

    Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

    Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

    Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

    Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

    Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

    Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

    Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

    Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

    For historical purposes, see preceding Humanist Manifestos: I and II.

  • @Dealer

    I figured that you would counter the 2nd and 3rd absolute truths, but I haven’t heard your argument against the first.

    I didn’t “counter” your arguments. I rejected them. I simply pointed out that the burden of proof is on you. You are making the claims here, not me. Back up your claims. Show me the evidence (any evidence!) that any of your claims – 1, 2, or 3 – are true. And on #1, I don’t really care. This is a claim of little or no consequence relative to this discussion – relative to the question of “good and evil” and relative to the claim to god’s existence. I’ll happily accept this claim if it helps move the conversation forward.

    As an aside, let me illustrate what I mean by “the burden of proof is on you” by making my own claims about absolute truths (insincere as they may be). It is absolutely true that the earth was created by an alien species of vastly superior intelligence. A second absolute truth, mankind came to earth from another plane of existence and this was caused by the same intelligent species.

    Shouldn’t I have to back these claims up? I can’t just make up my own truths. And just because many people might believe your truths… well, that doesn’t actually make them true.

    My definition of evil is not one you’d accept: God is good, the opposite of that is evil.

    So no matter what god does you would say it is “good”? Killing children, commanding the rape of a woman, creating a place of eternal torture… these and similar behaviors are all “good” simply because they are actions of god and therefore they cannot be evil. Hmmm… I guess we disagree on what makes something good versus evil. All of these acts – all of them – would be considered evil if performed by anyone other than your god.

    Here’s my question to you: imagine a married couple… [snip] Should they get a divorce? I say, no. We can argue for a long time on whether that would actually reduce suffering or increase joy (I say it would not improve matters); but if your only goal in life is to decrease suffering and increase joy, then live on the strip in Las Vegas. Me, I have better goals.

    This is a bit of a convoluted story with a curiously strange conclusion (Las Vegas? Do you really think all atheists are hedonists? I hate Las Vegas!). It seems trivial in light of the subject we’re discussing.

    Let me try this approach… Name one thing that is absolutely, always immoral/wrong/evil. And do me a favor… provide for me your basis for why it is wrong. I presume it will have a biblical basis. I presume you will tell me that god stated that a particular action is always wrong (and deserving of eternal torture as a just, fair and merciful punishment) as your basis. Further, explain to me why the things god very clearly and very explicitly stated as being absolutely wrong (e.g., not obeying the Sabbath) are wrong.

  • From my Philosophy course:

    Moral evil – willful acts of human beings (such as murder, rape, etc.) – “killing” is not necessarily immoral, because we might need to kill to protect ourself or others from being killed.

    Natural evil – natural disasters (such as famines, floods, earthquakes etc.) – religious people may call these acts of a deity [god], but are completely explainable by known scientific discovery of how the world works. However, some will argue that god created the science for humans to “discover” the why these happen.

    Of these two types, we may further divide both of them into the following two classes:

    Physical evil – This means bodily pain or mental anguish (fear, illness, grief, war, etc.) – I don’t really consider fear a total evil, I call it help for survival in some cases.

    Metaphysical evil – things as imperfection and chance (criminals going unpunished, deformities, etc.) – some say deformities are gods will.

    Three qualities that most religious believers would not want to deny to God: absolute goodness (omnibenevolence), absolute power (omnipotence) and absolute knowledge (omniscience). Now, add to this the observation that there is evil in the world. Setting aside for the moment the question of how a good God could create a world with evil in it, why does such a deity not do something to help combat such evil? In our class, that was and still is the million dollar question.

  • watchtower, WWRID, Geri,

    I don’t have much time. So real, real fast.

    Geri – there are a lot of logical inconsistencies in your post, but the lifestances you mention: reason, compassion, experience are not compatible. Reason has no compassion; experiences are not rational; but while experience can lead to compassion, it can also lead to intolerance. Humanism relies on the concept that humans can reach perfection by the sum of their flawed parts. You can’t distill 100% alcohol; likewise you can’t reach human perfection.

    WWRID – you reject the one point that is supported by both the Bible and modern scientific theory. That’s not reason – that’s selective research. Speaking of that, I’m not familiar with God commanding rape by the way. If you think the discussion about the dissolution of a marriage is trivial, then I hope you’re not married. Moving to your challenge: hatred towards another person is evil. It may be rational, but it’s evil; even by your own definition: causes suffering, decreases joy, not rational. Under my definition, it’s the intent to do harm for selfish reasons and, oh by the way, God says hatred is comparable to murder. The rest of the story dovetails my response to watchtower (2nd paragraph).

    How is there something other than moral evil? The extension of metaphysical evil (random chance of a criminal getting away) is that mistakes are evil. I thought humanist’s don’t judge.

    God did do something to help us combat evil. Not only did God send His Son to die on our behalf, therefore not receiving what we deserve, and instead receiving His gift of eternity in His presence. He also sent the Holy Spirit to guide us during our struggles in this life. What are you expecting that He do? Snap his fingers and make life here a utopia? I’d rather my daughter grow up with character than live in a utopia.

  • @Dealer

    Your latest response in this thread…

    …you reject the one point that is supported by both the Bible and modern scientific theory. That’s not reason – that’s selective research.

    …seems to ignore the very clear statement I made on this claim. Here’s what I wrote:

    “ And on #1, I don’t really care. This is a claim of little or no consequence relative to this discussion – relative to the question of “good and evil” and relative to the claim to god’s existence. I’ll happily accept this claim if it helps move the conversation forward.”

    Regardless, the burden of proof is on you to show that any of your claims are actually true and my question remains open and unanswered: “Show me the evidence (any evidence!) that any of your claims – 1, 2, or 3 – are true.” As I said, you can ignore #1 – I accept it for the purpose of this discussion. I continue to look forward to seeing the evidence that surely must exist if you were so bold as to describe these claims as “absolute truths”.

    Regarding your response to my challenge “Name one thing that is absolutely, always immoral/wrong/evil.”… I think hatred certainly is not a good thing, but I don’t think that hatred – in and of itself, without some kind of correlated action – is evil. I don’t agree that hatred, by itself, causes suffering. Having the emotion of hatred doesn’t mean that a person will necessarily “intend to do harm” (your words). And finally, hatred is a legitimate human emotion, how can it be evil? If a drunk driver crashes into your family’s min-van killing everyone except you I would imagine that feelings of hatred will well up inside you – and justifiably so. This is not evil – it’s a perfectly normal human reaction.

    My point in asking you to identify one thing that is indisputably “evil” was to show that there really isn’t such a thing. Even if you look at your god’s clear commandments – not even a single one of these is universally evil (hell, some of them aren’t even mildly inappropriate – never mind evil). Hatred is a nice try, but surely there are conditions where a human being can feel hatred towards something or someone and not be “evil” for doing so. [I wonder why god didn’t highlight the importance of not hating things in something like the Ten Commandments… hmmm?]

    And by the way, if there is not a single example of something this is universally evil then what does this say about the absolute authority of god? What does this say about the need for absolute truth?

  • Dealer —

    Evil is usually seen as the opposite of good so, as an example, if the sunshine is good (but not swelteringly hot) and tornado’s are bad how is that a moral evil (because its an act of god…or the devil maybe?) I’m seeing a run over with WWRID on the subject so I won’t drivel on too much as we appear to be converging. I’m seeing evil more like an “emotional” way [a saying, state of mind etc] of describing a bad thing, unlike the devil being the root of all evil, as that saying goes. I don’t believe in the devil, so can’t really relate much further than that. Does this make sense?

    I think the random chance of a criminal getting away is a usually a mistake on the establishments part (laws, evidence etc), but emotionally described as an evil thing because a murderer might have escaped jail or even death themselves.

    I’ve never be able to understand the “dying on the cross for our sins” event because “sin” is a religious (moral code) issue and I don’t believe in that either. I’m not saying that those that do are wrong (or right) either because we are free to believe whatever we want to.

    I was surprised that you want your daughter to grow up with character than live in a utopia, but I was under the mistaken impression that a religious life was a utopian life (in the biblical sense) as such that I understand anyway. Good for you & your daughter by the way.

    Now get on with the WWRID thread…this is getting very interesting! ;-)

  • WWRID,

    I submit that I will not be able to provide tangible proof of the last two truths, but that doesn’t stop conversation about the first. But if you need proof that the majority of scientists believe in the Big Bang theory, I don’t know what to tell you. From ( “The widely held belief that the Universe began in a fiery explosion, 10-15 billion years ago. The cosmic microwave background, big bang nucleosynthesis, and the observed Hubble expansion of the Universe are considered proof of the big bang theory…” Both Biblical scholars and Berkeley teachers think that the earth at one point did not exist.

    About absolute evil: I spoke imprecisely. I mean hatred as the conscious decision to harbor the emotion of anger towards another person; not the immediate flash of emotion. Harboring hatred most certainly causes suffering for the person who harbors, and often their family, friends and the object of their hatred. Hatred may be natural, but I choose to believe that we humans are better than just raw reactionary emotions. I think you may agree with me that humans are better than animals.

    If you consider any normal human reaction as exempt from being evil, consider abnormal human activity. Consider lust turning to rape, vengeance turning to homicidal killing sprees. How are those not evil?

    You say that you do not need God; you don’t need to define something as universally evil; you don’t need something that is absolutely true. Try this truth on for size: at some point, maybe tonight, maybe next century, but at some time, you will die, and so will I.

  • @Dealer

    Dude! I accept your first “absolute truth”. Move on. It’s a big “who cares”. You might as well have said that your first absolute truth was “I had a bran muffin for breakfast this morning”. It’s not a claim of consequence. Whether or not the earth existed forever or did not exist forever has nothing to do with your two subsequent claims to absolute truth (here they are again in case anyone forgot: “2. There is an entity, who has no origin, who just IS, who created the world and all in it. 3. That entity loves us so much that He sent His Son to [physically and spiritually] die in our stead so that we may never know [spiritual] death.”).

    What is of consequence (indeed – it is the centerpiece of this entire debate about religion in the military, and more broadly in society) is this very clear fact: You make two claims and assert that they are both ABSOLUTELY TRUE and yet you have no evidence for either. This is precisely the problem with religion (and religious extremism in particular, and I assert that treating religious claims – like your #2 and #3 above – as being absolutely true without evidence is extreme). The very idea that religion requires that people believe something to be absolutely true without evidence is a cancer on the human race.

    On absolute evil… Lust is not evil. Vengeance is not evil. Rape might be, and homicidal killing sprees seem pretty evil but simply having an emotion or strong feeling – no, that is not evil. This is a great example of the twisted thinking that comes with religion. Religious people often claim that a person cannot have a sense of right and wrong without “god” – without some kind of universal moral framework that is supposedly provided to us by some supernatural being (and documented in the bible, apparently). I say the exact opposite is true. I think religious thinking – the kind of weak-minded thinking that lets a person believe something to be absolutely true even without evidence – allows people to operate without any kind of clear, grounded sense of morality.

    Using the bible as your source of right and wrong? Seriously? Have you actually read the bible? I can site scripture that will show you where god said something is “wrong” (e.g., making graven images, working on the Sabbath) and nearly every Christian on the planet would say that the actions associated with god’s words aren’t actually all that bad. I can site scripture that seems to indicate that god doesn’t frown on certain acts (e.g., slavery, rape) that every Christian on the planet would agree is terribly wrong. This is why I challenged you to provide a single example of a universal wrong – and to tie it to the bible. You can’t. [Hatred is a nice try, though. Better attempt than other Christians I know.]

    And finally, yes, we are all going to die. Are you implying that I should have a fear of death and that I should abandon reason and rational thinking so that I can cling to a false hope of having the chance to live forever? No thank you. And please… can we not encourage cadets to adopt this kind of thinking, too?

  • WWRID,

    You asked about absolute truth, I gave a total of four. Two you reject because they must be taken on faith. The two you accepted are scientifically proven, so I think you have a problem with belief. There are many things in life that you have to take on faith: how do you know that your parents loved you. I’m a parent; I know we make mistakes.

    You asked about absolute evil: you say that rape isn’t necessarily evil and that killing sprees are nothing more than an emotion. I would say you don’t have a good sense of good and evil. I would like to know what scriptures you use to justify rape. If you are talking about slavery in the American history sense: that wasn’t what Mosaic law setup. Mosaic law had all slaves released every seven years, unless the slave chose to become a permanent slave. There are more detailed rules, but it wasn’t anything like what happened in this country a couple of centuries ago.

    You said that decreasing suffering and increasing joy is good and the opposite is bad. Prove any case where rape and homicidal rampage is not evil.

  • @Dealer

    You asked about absolute truth, I gave a total of four. Two you reject because they must be taken on faith. The two you accepted are scientifically proven, so I think you have a problem with belief.

    That’s right – I’m going to be a stickler and reject any claim to ABSOLUTE truth that doesn’t have evidence to support it. Call me a critical thinker, I guess.

    Regarding my parent’s love… I’m not completely “taking it on faith” that my parents loved me. First of all, at least I know that there is such a thing as love (unlike, say, virgin birth). And I know what kinds of behaviors are consistent with a loving relationship – and I observed those things with my parents. So while it is possible that my parents didn’t actually love me I think I am on safe ground – with evidence to back it up – they that did. You, on the other hand, are making claims about things that don’t have evidence to back them up. Worse, these claims are about things that are *known in the observable world to be impossible*. People born of virgins, dying and coming back to life… pretty extraordinary claims with no evidence behind them.

    I think rape is a repugnant, evil act. My point here was that lust, by itself, is not evil. But you’ll have trouble showing me that the Christian god condemned rape. In fact, he is on record of having used rape as punishment (of someone other than the person who was raped, no less). See 2 Samual 12:11.

    I did not say that “killing sprees are nothing more than an emotion”. Where did you get that? You may be confusing my main point here which is that having an emotional feeling like vengeance (or lust) is not, by itself, evil. Acting on such a feeling by killing people is indeed evil. Although surely there are exceptions to this that I expect you will agree to. Example: The fighter pilot (if I may) who has vengeance in his heart, perhaps because his wingman was killed two days prior, and proceeds to drop bombs on the people who are suspected of shooting his wingman down is clearly on a “killing spree” and is clearly vengeful, but is not necessarily acting immorally under the circumstances. The point here should be clear to you: there are actions that might seem absolutely wrong (killing people) but are not under certain circumstances. Yet another blow to the claim that god provides absolute clarity on good and evil.

    And on that note, let’s revisit rape… If criminals entered your home during a dinner party and, at the threat of the death of your children in front of you, commanded you to rape one of your dinner guests would it be evil and absolutely wrong for you to rape her? See, it’s tough coming up with absolutes.

    Mosaic law had all slaves released every seven years…

    How progressive. How totally moral.

    Let’s be honest, god (and Jesus, although of course they are the same, somehow) didn’t seem to think slavery was all that bad. See, just for starters, Genesis 17:12… Exodus 12:44… Exodus 21:16… Leviticus 25:44-46… Ephesians 6:5… Mathew 8:5-9 (too bad Jesus didn’t take this opportunity to comment on slavery).

  • WWRID,

    You implied a few days ago that there were no absolute truths: “Would you please tell me one thing that is an absolute truth?” I told you two, that you later agreed to, yet somehow that’s not good enough.

    You also asked for an example of absolute good and evil. I did, you rejected it for a poor reason. Apparently there is an exception to evil: if everyone does it, it’s acceptable, therefore it’s not evil. That’s the problem with humanism. If a majority of people do it, then it can’t be evil because it’s now normal.

    Your fighter pilot example shows how little you know on what combatants should do. You can target legal combatants, and you can fire back in self-defence; but you’re not allowed to strike someone just because you think they might have killed someone you know. In your terms: it may be human to have vengeance, but it doesn’t increase joy nor decrease suffering, so therefore it must be evil. That’s your definition, and your example still loses.

    Rape in the Bible: 2 Sam 12:11 doesn’t have anything to do with rape. It has to do with a man whose wives found other men. Pretty lame example.

    Slavery in the Bible: there are a lot of things in the Bible that God allowed, not because He wants people to do them, but because He can still give guidance when we are doing things our way. Guess what, divorce is in the Bible too, but it doesn’t mean that God wants us to get divorces. By the way, Matthew 8 is about the centurion’s servant, not slave.

    Rape in your scenario: you don’t think there is evil in that scenario? I said rape is evil and it still applies. In your scenario there are multiple victims, but there is still evil.

    You say lust is not evil. Explain how lust is good according to your own definition. Where’s the joy, where’s the decrease in suffering?

    Again, I think you have a problem with belief. If you only believe in things you can prove: then prove to me where and how on earth life was created. I doubt you have any more proof that amino acids swirling in a tide pool created life (at least that was the current theory when I was in school) as I do when I say that God created it.

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