Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Earlier this year, Fred Edwords started a project modeled after PhilyCOR, or the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason. The initial goal of PhilyCOR is to unite different atheist, humanist, and other secular organizations in order to build a stronger local community. While this has been a lofty goal, by looking at the various Coalition of Reason sites set up during the year, along with high profile advertising campaigns, the impact has not been worth the effort spent by members of the freethought communities the Coalitions of Reason's represent. The sites are lacking in new content, feature a handful of press releases and articles from news sources surrounding the "shocking" advertising in the local community and a small amount of local events lead by only a few members of the Coalition, which leads me to believe that having an external source (UnitedCOR) sweep in, spend money on an ad and leave has little impact.

So, what is the big deal? UnitedCOR comes in, invites a few chosen groups to join the COR, some accept, others join out of peer pressure, an ad campaign is run, and the groups are left to themselves. If only it were that simple.

Because UnitedCOR is an organization which is independent and undemocratic, run by Fred Edwords and an unknown benefactor who are choosing to spend money to further their own cause, the groups which are members have little say in what UnitedCOR does. It is clear from press coverage which follow billboards which appear in communities which have started COR's, that the COR's are formed to support interest in Greg Epsteins's new book.

Greg Epstein is the Humanist Chaplin at Harvard. He believes that the "New Atheism" of authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, has a bad image in the public, so rather then defending and supporting the rights of atheists to engage in open dialog and raise important issues regarding religion, he has instead decided to ride their coat tails with a movement he calls, the "New Humanism." "We are interested in anything that is good, without God," Epstein writes. He sees the "New Humanism" movement in stark contrast to the negativity of "New Atheism." I think this dichotomy is false. UnitedCOR carries this attitude that "New Atheism" must be stopped and replaced with "New Humanism."

What harm is there in joining a UnitedCOR sponsored organization? The benefit is that you receive some attention due to a website and billboard. My thought is that organizations can receive just as much, if not more, coverage for doing work in the communities their serve. The harm, is that these organizations then take place in the discrimination of other organizations UnitedCOR and related local organizers seek to exclude.

Do you mean to say that UnitedCOR, a group which seeks to, according to their mission, "to raise the visibility and sense of unity among local groups in the community of reason, to create a national dialogue on the role of nontheists in American society, and to improve the way that nontheists are perceived by average Americans," would exclude atheist groups? Yes.

In PhilyCOR, The Rational Response Squad was excluded due to objections raised by the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia. The Rational Response Squad an been an excellent resource in engaging an audience a generation or two younger then the membership of most freethought organizations. Their exclusion is shocking to me.

It is not surprising that a group which labels itself as an Ethical Humanist society would behave in this fashion, especially after the controversy in Chicago over a dis-invitation and later police action taken by the Ethical Humanist organization there. Our strength is in our diversity. Tolerance must extend to those with whom you disagree. I am not interested in listening to an atheist or humanist echo chamber.

In Minnesota, Atheists for Human Rights was excluded, under the excuse that they are a national organization and national organizations are not to take part in UnitedCOR groups. August Berkshire has had a long standing grievance with Atheists for Human Rights, for various reasons and used his role as organizer of Twin Cities COR to exclude this organization.

At its best UnitedCOR is an ineffective attempt to bring freethought groups together. At its worse, it seeks to exclude groups it chooses while promoting people it deems worthy, such as Greg Epstein.

If you are a member of a UnitedCOR sponsored organization, pay close attention to what is being thrust onto your organization and what is being done in your name. Whether you like it or not, the actions of UnitedCOR reflect on your group.

If you are considering joining a UnitedCOR sponsored organization, I would make sure that your organization's goals match with those of the organizer of your local COR. After all, we all strongly support rationality and careful thought. Groups have the freedom to choose for themselves but must be made well aware of the impact of their decisions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Evolution Solution (non-Wave version)

A majority of Americans reject evolution. You may have read the Gallup poll from this past February which counted only 39 percent of respondents as holding a belief in evolution. However, this problem is not new. While researching this problem, I have run into many polls from other organizations which constantly place a belief in evolution in the minority. The majority opinion is that God created humans in their current form. What can be done to better educate the public?

Are our teachers failing us? Is there is an organized opposition to the theory of evolution which is simply more compelling then the evidence which supports a gradual change over millions of years? I will admit, creatures popping into existence, fully formed, makes for a great story, but when I want to learn about how things really are, I have to rely in science and empirical evidence, even if the story isn't as fanciful. Richard Dawkins continues the fight to educate the public about evolution with his book, "The Greatest Show On Earth." Will his book work? Will the people who buy it already reject the Christian creation myth?

I would say that it isn't a wasted effort. As I walked through a local book store, I saw the atheist books tucked in with science books, mostly about Darwin and evolution. While you can be religious and believe in evolution, I won't deny that there have been many who read about how evolution really works, not how they were taught in church and that one lie of creation unraveled the web of lies their church, family and friends had been telling them their whole life. Science has evidence, the comfort of predictability, while faith is an empty guessing game.

What else did I see in the book store? In the religion section, few books about evolution, but more books about how to either reject evolution or how religion and evolution are compatible. I'd like to see some of those science books sneak their way into the religion section. Would that have worked for you? I know many atheists who decided that the evidence for a god was lacking after reading "The God Delusion," which was more about evolution then it was in rejecting faith.

Last month, I attended "Atheist Coming Out Day" hosted by Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists at the University of Minnesota. Here, people sat in a circle and told their coming out story. What shocked me, was how many people were so new to calling themselves "atheists," and felt comfortable going to a group meeting to tell everyone about it. Out of the 60 people who "came out," more then a few were raised in conservative Christian families, including one child of missionaries, one child of Salvation Army parents, and one who was a Bible Quiz champion. All of these people strongly rejected evolution, until college. All it took was a freshman biology course with a brief introduction to evolution to realize they had been actively deceived by the people who cared about them. For some, the process of leaving faith behind took a few years, others left more quickly.

What is important, is that there is a community of like minded people who are there, if only to "come out" to, to share our experiences and to make it easier for the next wave of people to throw off life according to mythology and embrace reality.

Monday, September 7, 2009

B-Rated: Alien Contamination (1980)

Best Quote: Hubbard: [after slapping Col. Stella Holmes] This is just so we understand each other.

Super Short Summary: Alien "Cyclops" convinces space explorer to move it to Columbia to grow deadly alien space eggs, develop a distribution network and cover import-export business in order to sneak deadly alien eggs into New York City's sewers.

Why You Should Never Watch This Movie: While the 80's may have had it's moments, this movie will make you wish you never lived through it. Despite the lead female character's rank as a colonel, she runs around like a helpless woman while the lead male, Lutinent Tony Aris, acts like an arrogant, cocky male throughout. While that may be distracting, you'll be more distracted by the poor blood-splattering special effects and poor costumes of the investigation teams who are assigned to examine a biological agent which has killed a crew. The team climbs on board wearing painter's masks and open face suits which don't seal at the hands, wearing fabric mittens and exposed bottoms (you can see the actor's jeans!). I know it was the 80's, but that's just stupid.

If the Cyclops doesn't get you, the eye liner will.

B-Rating: BBB

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SSA 2009 Conference

On Friday, August 7, 300 atheists descended onto the Creation Museum in Petersberg, Kentucky. The Creation Museum, an Answers in Genesis project, is designed as a more traditional science museum than some carnival ride (as other "creation museums" have been). It presents evidence to support their pre-drawn conclusion that all that has ever happened in the past is contained in the Christian Bible. Since the Christian Bible contains lineages and ages of people, they conclude that that scientists who have used material evidence to come to the conclusion that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old must be mistaken about atheism.

Why were 300 atheists going to such a place? "To mock them," responds PZ Myers, evolutionary biology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. The goal was to fully understand what arguments were being made to support Creationism and fully expose such arguments as circular or based on poor reasoning. Dr. Myers made light of the event by riding a fiberglass dinosaur which featured a saddle. What started off as a fun event would shortly turn into a serious conference of about 100 attendees at Ohio State University in Columbus.

While the tone of the Creation Museum trip was full of mockery, the conference itself featured a strong theme of cooperation. For example, Jesse Galef, Communications Associate for the Secular Coalition for America, gave an inspiring presentation about how to reach out to your elected officials. Should atheists look for non atheist allies when lobbying? "It can certainly help get attention - showing that it's not just atheists who support the side," Galef responds. Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the SCA, later spoke about the importance of reaching out to non-atheists and getting them behind our causes. "We need to get the soccer moms and Joe Six-Packs of the world to care about our issues, Faircloth said." One way to do that is to show clear harm. In many states and counties, religious organizations are exempt from health and safety regulations. This has resulted in the needless deaths of children from dangerous day care facilities and staff. It is absurd to replace government audit and inspection with religious authority.

The next day, Ashley Paramore, the Events Coordinator for Students for Freethought at Ohio State and an SSA board member, spoke about the importance of service projects to an atheist student group. Inspired by Ashley Carter from University of Illinois Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers, she organized a service project trip to New Orleans to repair damage done after Hurricane Katrina. What is unique about Ms. Paramore's project is that at the start she coordinated with the Thomas Society, a campus Christian group. There were several benefits to working with another organization: First, the Thomas Society had organized service projects in the past, were familiar with transportation, group insurance, feeding people, etc. Second, she was able to spend more time getting volunteers since she wasn't planning everything. Lastly, one of the goals of a service project is to break down the stereotype that atheists don't volunteer. By working with a religious group, Paramore’s group not only made that case, but they get a lot of time to dialog with people to break down stereotypes on both sides.

PZ Myers presented his keynote address, "Counting Coup," on Saturday night. While many may recognize him for his unapologetic bashing of the religious (this is the focus of his talk, his skill is to get people to pay attention by whacking them with colorful words), even he sees himself as part of a larger movement. He knowingly ignores diplomacy, choosing instead to cause reactions that will cause some to think differently than they had. After the talk, an audience member asked, "When is diplomacy okay?" "Diplomacy is always okay," Dr. Myers responded. He thanked the efforts of people like Sean Faircloth who are able to speak more kindly to others.

I would recommend supporting the efforts of the Secular Student Alliance and our local alliance member, the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists at the University of Minnesota. You can visit their sites at and

Monday, June 22, 2009

How to get a geek into the woods, or Geocaching

Last year, after our wedding, we hauled ourselves up to Duluth to get away for a day or two. On our jaunt, I wanted pie and had heard of Betty's Pies, which is on the way to Two Harbors. So, we get pie, but have time to kill, so we stumble into Gooseberry Falls State Park. At the visitors center, there are displays of stuffed animals in the area, birch canoes, etc. But, there are also brightly colored signs advertising Geocaching at the State Parks (sponsored by Best Buy.)

We wander over to the info desk, check out a Garmin eTrex GPS, received a sheet with instructions for the GPS and headed out of the door.

We did get lost, but wandering around a state park isn't boring, even if you are lost. We eventually followed the right path to lead us to the "cache." We hiked on well established trails to an outhouse which overlooked Lake Superior. It was a great view and something we wouldn't have found on our own.

We were hooked. When we came back home, I plugged in coordinates to a few caches in Como Park and one that was stuck in a train on Energy Park into my car's GPS. We had no luck finding anything and stopped looking. We started up again about a month ago, because our friends, Crystal and Vic, started Geocaching. They were actually finding things like Geocoins, and Travel Bugs. It sounded really interesting, so we headed out with the Mio DigiWalker c310x. We didn't find anything.

We found a Garmin eTrex Venture HC for about $85 refurbished to up our game a bit. Still, the caches we tried to find were elusive. It looks like the Como area is more difficult then we would like and was probably a bad place to start out.

Since then, we have crawled over Central Park and Villa Park in Roseville, Crosby Park in Saint Paul and Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. We have left a bunch of Travel Bugs we purchased to leave in caches, a handful of geocoins, and some trinkets. It's been fun, even if we've both been soaked, exhaused, muddied, pricked, bit and frusturated.

For more information on Geocaching, visit

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why Organize?

American's who do not believe in any gods (we would call them atheists, although they may not) are a large part of the population. Some polls would say that there are more atheists in America than Mormons and Jews combined, however, we are either underrepresented, or our politicians are lying about their religious beliefs. If nearly one in five of us are atheists, as some polls suggest, why are we treated as a much smaller minority? Much of that has to do with numbers and organization.

Right now, across the country, atheist groups are scrambling to make themselves known to people who had no idea there w
as a group for them. They are doing this through ad campaigns, websites and radio shows. There are some who say that we are recruiting members to a hate group. I would say people are willingly joining a hated group. By being organized, by being a part of a group, whether as a dues paying member, or not, you are helping. The more you participate, the more you make others around you comfortable to be who you are without fear, or shame. We should not be afraid to say that we're going to a spaghetti dinner for Minnesota Atheists on the weekend when a coworker asks us what we have planned.

Don't we live in a tolerant society? After all, we have the separation of church and state to protect atheists and the religious from interference from churches and the government. We should be able to have an event in the public without fear of harassment, but we're not there yet. As atheists, many of us are not interested in debating with the religious about the existence of God, the accuracy of the Bible, or whether Jesus rose from the dead. However, simply by holding a sign with the Minnesota Atheists logo, you open yourself up to harassment.

Jeannette Watland, Associate President for Minnesota Atheists, held a sign at the last Flying Spaghetti Monster spaghetti dinner in Como Park to direct people to where the dinner was being held. She was only out there for 20 minutes, maybe a few hundred cars drove by, but in that time she was called names, yelled at, honked at, told to, "stop proselytizing," and forced into debates with people about the origin of the Universe. Just for holding a sign.

By getting involved, by speaking out and standing out, you are helping to educate the public. We live in a diverse community; however, our existence is hidden. We are your neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. We have morals and deal with the same problems in life as anyone else. One quote Jeannette remembered from her experience was from a mother pushing her child in a stroller. "What's that word mean, mommy?" "Atheist? That's a dirty word." With your help, people will see that it isn't.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


MN Atheists April President's Column - "Our Atheist Community"

What makes Minnesota Atheists different? In the Twin Cities alone, there are many groups which could fall under the "Freethought" banner. There is a student group - the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists of the University of Minnesota - and non-student groups like the Humanists of Minnesota, Atheists for Human Rights, and Minneapolis Skeptics. As I wrote last month, Minnesota Atheists' slogan is, "Positive Atheism in Action." What does that say about these other groups? Are they negative? Hardly. We are a diverse group, with many different political opinions and different thoughts about how to dialog with religious people, but the organization as a whole acts in a certain way, which I believe attracts curious atheists.

First, we strongly support equal rights. Regardless of religion, sex, race, ability, economic status, or sexual orientation, you deserve to be treated equally under the law. From this general position, we march in gay pride parades and speak out at the capitol about the importance of keeping church and state separate.

Second, we acknowledge that religious people are not stupid for having supernatural beliefs. From this, we make presentations to schools and in the public about atheists, stating our views and fostering understanding by engaging in respectful dialog. This is one of the most difficult things to do, because it is easy for those who grew up believing in a god to forget what that was like, and how strongly some us believed, only to have had someone ask probing questions, in person, through a book, or the Internet, which began a process of reasoning which led to atheism. Starting with respect does not mean pandering, but allowing a conversation to be built on what is presented, rather than on assumptions about each other.

Lastly, we join together as a community to bring dignity to the label we assign to ourselves as atheists. Some criticize atheist organizations for acting too much like a church by having regular meetings, pot lucks, picnics, signing songs, and having fun together. But our community is important to all of the people who are a part of it, and to all of those who don't yet know that they are not alone.

I, for one, am proud to be a part of such a diverse community, and to feel free to mingle with fellow atheists, no matter where I am. We may not have much in common, but we have at least one thing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunsara Taylor - "Away With All Gods" Tour at U of MN

by Bjorn Watland
On a crisp November evening at the University of Minnesota, a surprisingly large crowd gathered in a basement auditorium to hear from Sunsara Taylor, an unapologetic Revolutionary Communist and militant atheist. Hearing the views of a communist isn't as shocking as it may be in other arenas of the public; however, it isn't often that a communist will admit that they are also an atheist. Sunsara Taylor is not ashamed of either her Revolutionary Communism, or her atheism, as she presented Bob Avakian's book, "Away With All Gods, Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World."

Sunsara Taylor's presentation began with a description of the horrors that wait to greet the curious reader of the Bible. "I wouldn't give this book to young children to read," Taylor mentions, also calling the Bible, "The most blood-thirsty book." The specifics from the Bible she mentions are the practice described of stoning women who were not virgins on their wedding night, God commanding soldiers to kill children, men, and women who have known a man, but leave the virgins for yourselves, and the series of plagues sent by God.

Citing these examples from the Old Testament of the Bible, Sunsara Taylor makes the statement that you cannot separate the New and Old Testaments, as some more progressive Christians might like to do. Jesus is often separated from the horrors of the Old Testament, however, by what basis would you consider Jesus to the divine without fulfillment of the prophecies found within the Old Testament? "Jesus is not someone you would want to follow or should follow,” Taylor exclaims. "He didn't end slavery; instead he taught how slaves should be obedient to their masters. He didn't stop patriarchy. He continued to preach that disease and illness are caused by sin."

Taylor explores the concept of sin. Sin is caused by the "Fall" of humanity. Christians believe that Eve was deceived by the Devil to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and then deceived Adam. What this means for women who inherit this original sin, is a special punishment or curse, which is painful childbirth and obedience to their husbands. The problem with this treatment of the nature of humanity, is that it creates a society which is patriarchal and these ancient myths should not be carried on today in the modern era.

Next, Taylor ties in ancient Biblical myths with practice in society today. She cites Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as one man and one woman. Proponents of a heterosexual definition of marriage use the Bible to argue against gay marriage. However, the Bible doesn't even treat marriage as between one man and one woman. King Solomon, in the Bible, has hundreds of wives and hundreds of concubines. "Sex existed long before people made up religions, and marriage is defined by societies, not by a god," Taylor reasons.

The next section Taylor dives into is all about the difference between science, religious faith, and to a lesser extent, art. "Science is not cold and bereft of meaning," says Taylor. The difference between art and religion is that art does not mandate that you accept it as a representation of reality. "Humanity cannot live without art, but must live without religion," Taylor quotes from the book.

Taylor has peppered her presentation with fleeting mention of being a communist, and mentioned some of the experiences that have formed her opinion of religion, such as attempting to defend an abortion clinic from violent protesters and actually reading the Bible only to learn about the horrible treatment of women, and other violence found throughout the book. At the end of her presentation, she attempts to tie in the rationality and reason of science and atheism and communism.

Taylor, like the books she is presenting, is not meant to be nice to religion, and not meant to take ideas lightly. She asserts that the idea of the "Golden Rule," only works on an individual level, and not in societies. Scarcity is no longer a problem in the world. We have the means to provide shelter, food, and safety to every person on the planet. We can feed the whole world, but people in food producing countries are starving because food is produced, and exported to "imperialist countries, like this one," asserts Taylor. We need to get rid of the means of production relations that are based on exploitation and rid ourselves of class distinction.

What are the options for the individual, according to Taylor? "Faced with the horrors of the world, you have three options," Taylor follows. You can grab all of the goodies and possessions through a global network of exploitation, close your eyes to the exploitation or you can open your eyes and confront the oppression and change the world you live in.

Taylor does not hold back in her presentation. During the evening she called Sarah Palin a Nazi for the practice of charging rape victims for rape kits because they contained emergency contraception. We should not feel good about being American, no matter who is President, because we are a nation which dropped two atomic bombs on cities in Japan, have killed a million people in Iraq, and carry out secret CIA operations, such as hidden prisons. She asserts that abstinence only sex education has genocidal implications and the Bible fuels it. She believes that humans have no inherent nature to be good or bad, and that the problems we see today were caused by the emergence of classes, private property and the state. In order to change the world, you must act in opposition to the oppressor in order to benefit the oppressed.

From the audience, a number of people raised concerns about the viability of a communist society, citing examples of failed attempts in the USSR and China. Taylor lauded the successes of Maoist China in raising the life expectancy from 33 years to 65 years in a short time as the country transitioned from feudalism. Among those who raised concern, one was an anthropologist, another an economist and another merely had concerns that humans, as animals, had a capitalist nature that is difficult to overcome. She handled criticism of communism, which made up the majority of the discussion afterwards, very well. As a speaker, she is confident, assertive, and concerned about understanding the point of view of the questioner.

Bob Avakian’s book, "Away With All Gods," as presented by Sunsara Taylor, is different from other atheist books, like those from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, in that it proposes a radical political agenda as an opposition to religious fundamentalism.

Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (CASH) presented Sunsara Taylor. CASH is known as, "The Best Damned Group on Campus, " are an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance and have been serving atheists, skeptics, and humanists since 1991. For more information about CASH, visit

Bjorn Watland is a board member of Minnesota Atheists and Camp Quest of Minnesota. He also serves as an editor for the SSA eMpirical.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Atheist Women on the Radio

A change is in the air. Minnesota Atheists, the largest and most active atheist organization in the state, as been led by at least one founding member of the board since its creation in 1991. This year, that will not be the case. Jeannette will be serving as associate president, and I will be serving as president.

What does this mean for an organization of nearly 400 supporters? Well, the same activities and programs will continue, but a greater focus on community building, including activities for families and charitable works will inspire a greater number of people to participate.

To highlight these changes, Jeannette was featured on the radio with new board member Crystal. You can download the podcast here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dan Barker v. Dinesh D'Souza "Can We Be Good Without God?" Debate

On January 29th, with temperatures many degrees below freezing, an estimated 1,300 students and guests filled a lecture hall to hear a debate between Dan Barker, author, former minister, and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Dinesh D'Souza, author, public policy maker, and Christian. The topic: "Can we be good without God?" Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists joined together with Campus Crusade for Christ at the U of MN and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship to host the event.

Mr. Barker, arguing the affirmative, began by thanking a number of people who did not profess a belief in God, yet performed great humanitarian acts, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Edward Gordon and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross whose organization helps those in need regardless of their belief or lack of belief. Clearly, this shows that one can be good, even extraordinarily good, without a belief in a god.

Mr. Barker then quotes from the bible, Psalm 14:1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." "The bible is wrong," exclaimed Mr. Barker. He continues to quote Thomas Jefferson, "If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God." Mr. Barker explains, "Thomas Jefferson thought that the urge to do good was an instinct, which is not far from where biology is now taking us by revealing the genetic purpose of altruism." When we hear of a horrible act, such as someone killing their family, we will refer to it as, "an inhumane thing to do." To do good, must therefor, be a part of what it is to be human.

How does Mr. Barker define goodness? "When a person acts with the intentions of minimizing harm in the world."

The best action to take is decided upon by analysis of the situation and requires thought, not blind obedience. If you are only acting in a certain manner because you wish to have a reward in the afterlife, you are acting for selfish reasons. Mr. Barker ends his opening statement by exclaiming that everyone in the audience was "smarter person than the God of the bible, and better people than Jesus ever was."

Mr. D'Souza takes a slightly different approach, first undermining the credibility of Mr. Barker by criticizing his self applied label as an "evangelical atheist." "Why is Dan an evangelical atheist? I don't go around writing books about how I don't believe in unicorns." Mr. D'Souza explains why he feels that Mr. Barker is an evangelical atheist later in his presentation.

He then admits that Christians and atheists can be honest, that Christians don't hold a monopoly on virtue. However, he seeks to examine where these virtues come from, because we take these virtues for granted.

How are we, as Americans taking virtues for granted? Mr. D'Souza follows us through the development of Western Civilization, explaining how the uniquely Christian virtues of compassion, preservation of life, and the abolition of slavery changed the world we live in today.

Mr. D'souza claims that if we are to look to the other parts of the world for our virtues, such as the abolition of slavery, compassion, the equality of women, science as an autonomous enterprise, they are not to be found until the introduction of Christianity. Compassion to Aristotle was "a vice" according to Mr. D'Souza. Christianity was the force behind the abolition of slavery in Europe in the 4th and 10th centuries, and Quakers and Evangelical Christians were responsible for ending slavery in the United States. The concept of Universal Brotherhood is unique to Christianity and serves as the foundation of the rule that, "no man has a right to rule another without consent," and is also the foundation of democracy. No historian will argue that Western Civilization was built upon two pillars, Rome and Jerusalem.

Mr. D'Souza goes on to make an argument that science is based on faith. He states three things science is based on. Those are, "We live in a rational universe. We live in a lawful universe. The rationality of the universe mirrors the rationality in our mind." He then exclaims that, "There is no reason. Science is based on faith. God is rational, so the world is rational. You have to take the fact that the world is rational on faith."

He ends is opening statement by stating that if we are to look at the products of a secular morality, we should not look to countries like Sweden and France, but rather look at the regimes of Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, and Castro. "Atheism is responsible for the mass murders of history." Mr. D'Souza explains that though Christianity may have been responsible for the Spanish Inquisition, which only resulted in 2,000 deaths, and the witch trials, with resulted in only a few hundred deaths, atheism was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people just in the 20th century.

Religion transmits morality, not philosophy, Mr. D'Souza explains. "We can be good without God, but we won't know why," he ends his opening.

Through cross examination and rebuttals, Mr. Barker and Mr. D'Souza focused on the claims made in each opening.

Mr. Barker focused on his opponents claim that the virtues which are unique to Western Civilization can be found in the bible, such as Universal Brotherhood, the sanctity of life, and equality for women. He also was critical of Mr. D'Souza's treatment of the term "law" as it refers to physical laws of nature. He explained the difference between prescriptive laws, which would be the kind a society would create and descriptive laws which are explanations of the results of experimentation.

Mr. D'Souza responded to the opening of Mr. Barker with, "Humans occupy two domains, the way things are, and the way things ought to be. Darwinian logic is selfish, the power to do good rejects the inner voice. An internal voice, “the whisper of God,” is not natural, and speaks against the Darwinian voice." He also was uncertain of the explanation provided by Mr. Barker on the concept of "laws." He asserted that we are still taking science on faith when we assume that the speed of light is the same here as it is on a planet 5 million light years away.

Closing statements by Mr. D'Souza included the assertion that radical Christianity's treatment of the bible is the same way atheists treat the bible. To take the bible literally is wrong. It was written by many people over many years. "What is the motive for unbelief?
The main motive for rejecting God is, 'If God is not, everything is permitted.' With God, we can have a more moral life."

Mr. Barker ends his argument by reminding the audience that he has lived his life as a minister and as an atheist. "My life has an atheist has been more fulfilling by far." If Christianity is the standard for morality, then why are there no universal agreements on moral issues? "We need to divorce ourselves from the childish morality of the bible."

Both debaters are skilled and have debated each other before. Mr. Barker appeared to have been arguing from the position that we can be good without a belief in a god. Both Mr. Barker and Mr. D'Souza agreed that one can be good without a belief in a god. However, Mr. D'Souza had two focuses of his argument. One is to prove that there is an external agent required for morality, which makes us different from animals. The other is that Christianity has proved to be a force for the greatest good for humanity. From these two points, Mr. D'Souza could be interpreting that without the existence of a god, there would be no morality, so ones belief or lack of belief is irrelevant. The other interpretation handled by his second point is that you can be good without a belief in a god, but you can be even more moral with a belief in a god.