Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

San Francisco Atheists - New Blog

This is the blog of San Francisco Atheists, a "non-prophet" organization affiliated with American Atheists. Posts are authored by San Francisco Atheists Steering Committee members.

Opinions expressed in the Posts here are solely those of the author, and not always the opinion of San Francisco Atheists or American Atheists.

Dissenting and agreeing Comments are welcome, but preachy, vulgar, or hateful Comments are promptly deleted.

Welcome to our blog!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Atheists in Foxholes Rally

Washington DC, Veteran’s Day, Nov 11, 2005
Speech by Jim Heldberg

Atheists make America strong.

I served the US Navy as both a sailor and an officer. Yes, I went through 2 boot camps.

I’m proud that I served under President John F. Kennedy. But an hour after I was commissioned, he was assassinated. I still miss him.

I started a war. No, not by myself, but I helped start a war. I was a deck officer on the ship that put the first US troops into Vietnam at the Chu Lai landing in 1964. I came home safe, but the names of some of my shipmates are on that black wall a few blocks away.

I managed a large Navy school. I had 100 instructors and 1,000 students, working 2 shifts day and night, studying topics from mathematics to metallurgy, learning to operate nuclear-powered Navy ships.

Atheists make America strong.

For most of us, the passing years have not dimmed the intensity of our time in uniform. Like you, I worked hard in the military. I worked hard as a veteran, too. I raised children, sent family members to war, worked 3 careers, paid big taxes, took part in government, and voted in every single election. I fly the American flag in front of my home every day, as I’m sure many of you do, too.

No one dare call us unpatriotic. Atheists make American strong.

Terrorism is today’s threat. Terrorism isn’t new. It has been used in every war. (pause) Today’s religious terrorism is different, though. It’s hard to stop people who want to kill to prove who has the best imaginary friend. But the best solution to religious terrorism is on a bumper sticker on my truck. It says, “Atheism cures religious terrorism.”

Atheism has been around much longer than religion. After all, we were here first. Strangely enough, American religion thinks they have Atheists pinned down. They do have us out-numbered, out-spent, out-organized, out-lawyered, out-advertised, and maybe even out-rifled.

That’s what the British thought about the Continental Army, too. General George Washington’s army spent several years ducking and running, learning and training, until they were big enough, strong enough, smart enough, and ready enough to take America away from England. I’m sure the Atheist Army assembled here today won’t let religion take America away from us.

Against the forces of religion, today’s Atheists are like Washington’s army. We’re still mostly Minutemen, dedicated amateurs doing a important jobs, sometimes on only a few minutes’ notice. But, we’re more than just Minutemen. We’re recruiting, we’re building, and we’re training. We now have Special Forces to use for specific battles. Sometimes we win. More important, we’re growing stronger, and we’re learning to fight better.

We’re much more powerful than we appear, because we have the ultimate weapon: the truth. Religion is really afraid of us. One Atheist can scare a thousand religious folks. You know that. So, multiply the number of people here today by 1,000, and that’s how strong we really are. Veteran Madalyn Murray O’Hair scared millions, and she changed American history.

Unfortunately, much of today’s Atheist manpower is still on the reserve list. We know that 30 million Americans are non-religious. But most of them are still waiting to join our fight. We need to mobilize our Atheist reserves. We need to cultivate our allies, too.

We need to get even better organized. Veterans can lead the way. The US military is the most organized group in the world. The military taught us how to organize a fight for land, water, air and space. Let’s use those skills to organize a fight for America’s brains and future.

Atheists make America strong. Stronger Atheists will make a stronger America.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Evolution a religion?

Letter to Editor, San Ramon Valley Times
By Burt Bogardus

A Sept. 28 letter claims that "evolution is just as much a religion as the belief in God," and its teaching in public schools should therefore be unconstitutional.

I strongly agree with the writer that religious indoctrination has no place in public schools. Sectarian schools can perform that role well enough.

But what is religion? The word derives from the Latin religare--to bind or restrain. Most religions contain the following elements:

(1) A "Holy Book" (e.g. Koran, Bible) delineating specific beliefs and behaviors to which adherents must strictly conform.
(2) Belief in the existence of one or more invisible, all-knowing, all-powerful beings.
(3) Prescribed rituals (e.g. sacrifices, fasts, prayers) to propitiate the gods and curry their favor.
(4) Special intermediaries (e.g. priests, ministers) who claim to intervene on the supplicant's behalf.
(5) Observance of "Holy Days" (holidays).
(6) Belief in a supernatural existence after death, in which rewards or punishments are meted out.

Frankly, I fail to understand how evolution bears any resemblance to the above.

The precepts advanced by Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 have withstood scientific scrutiny for almost one and a half centuries. They are controversial in only one sense--they flatly contradict the puerile creation mythology found in the Book of Genesis.

For 2,000 years, religion (specifically Christianity) has been the enemy of scientific advancement. If America is to play a significant role in the future, it must cease binding the developing minds of its youth with the shackles of ancient superstition.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fundies Fan Flames

Letter to Editor, San Ramon Valley Times
By Burt Bogardus

The religious right leadership (Robertson, Dobson et al) have gleefully seized the gay rights issue with even more zeal than their other divisive pet topics--abortion, school prayer, vouchers and creationism.

If the Christian fundies would cease fanning the flames of anti-gay bigotry, the widespread prejudice against lesbians and gays would be greatly diminished.

While you or I may not find same-sex unions to be our cup of tea, the decision is not ours to make. It is hard to understand how two gay people committing themselves to one another threatens the relationship or marriage of anyone else.

These Christian busybodies need to redirect their excess energies toward purging their churches of pedophiles and other perverts. I suggest they heed Christ's advice about casting the first stone.

Amending the Constitution should be reserved for matters of importance.

Monday, April 25, 2005

No Saint

Letter to Editor, The Argus (Fremont, CA)
By David M. Mandell

Well, Pope John Paul II is dead. So what.

After reading about him it's obvious the pope was no saint.

You would think with all the millions of people mourning over him, he was a saint. But he wasn't. The only good thing he did was wave his arms and hands blessing everybody.

I would say as an atheist, he was an excellent public relations man. But what did he do that was so bad?

The worst is that he banned condoms in Africa resulting in millions of babies who would die because their mothers had no milk. Banning condoms also caused thousands of HIV deaths, and left families throughout the world producing so many kids that they have to live in squalor.

Next he ordered bishops in the U.S. to oppose civil rights laws that protect gays and lesbians (including hate-crime laws), leaving them outside the boundaries of legal protection.

Then he told heterosexuals what to do: no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no oral sex, no anal sex, no masturbation, no remarriage, no divorce, no artificial insemination, no three-ways, no swinging, no sterilization, no legal abortion, no stem cell research, no women priests, and no death with dignity because you are forced to live against your wishes.

And let's not forget he didn't stop the priests from sexually abusing thousands of children.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Pope's New Plan

By Don Havis
April 19, 2005

Have you heard? The new Catholic Pope, Benedict XVI, AKA ex Hitler Youth, Joseph Ratzinger, vows that he is going to get busy immediately on one of the most critical societal problems that the church faces. Helping the growing poor? Allowing priests to marry? Revising anti-birth control edicts? Cracking down on pedophile priests? Of course not! The greatest threat facing the Catholic Church today is its rapidly decreasing numbers of young men opting to give up the “things of this world” to become priests. The Catholic Church has a huge recruitment problem, not unlike the problem the U.S. federal government has in recruiting more cannon fodder for its latest war on the infidels in Iraq. The prospects in both cases are proving to be a very hard sell.

This situation leads directly to the important “inside information” I have to share with you. According to my secret sources inside the Vatican (Yes, we atheists have our spies too), the new Pope Benedict XVI is making plans to greatly enhance the desirability of the priesthood for young men—well, certain young men. The good Pope is preparing a new encyclical to be announced and implemented very soon. Taking a leaf from one of many of G. W Bush’s successful P.R. campaigns, Pope Benedict XVI has come up with a catchy name for this new bit of canon law. It will be known as the “Leave No Child’s Behind Alone” law. The thinking of the Pope and his advisors is that, unfortunately, the increasingly negative social pressures on pedophiles—the traditional source of recruits for the priesthood—has made that calling less and less attractive. The new conservative but brilliant Pope figures that church punishments such as pulling priests off the job for “pretend rehabilitation” has not been a productive procedure since it only reduces the much needed frontline troops. Taking a page from the U.S. military, where punishment for those military personnel who engage in sexual harassment is almost unheard of, the Pope proposes to take an even bolder approach by increasing the opportunities for the sexually frustrated neophyte priest. “Double your pleasure; double your fun” will be the new advertising mantra as the Pope’s new law calls for at least doubling the number of altar boys at each and every Catholic Church in the world. To sweeten the pot, poor families will be offered a generous stipend for each young male, eight to thirteen years old, that they register to be altar boys. My spies tell me there will be the small matter of a “confidentiality agreement” clause for both the parent(s) and the boy to sign…something about “death by stoning” for squealers, but probably nothing to be concerned about.

My spies tell me that the whole effort will be headed up by one of the former Pope John Paul II’s favorites, Cardinal Bernard Law, of the Boston area Catholic diocese fame. My sources have also told me that Cardinal Law is already working with a Madison Avenue advertising firm to devise a catchy acronym for the worldwide movement to double altar boy stock. Rumor has it that the name of the new Catholic unit to handle both the recruitment effort and to implement the Leave No Child’s Behind Alone law will be the United Priests (space) for a Youth Opportunities Union of Religious Seminarians. Should be a winner!

The author can be emailed at

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Letter to Editor, San Ramon Valley Times

By Burt Bogardus

George Bush Sr. once told a reporter that he didn't consider Atheists to be citizens. Truly the sins of the father have been visited upon the son, for it would be hard to identify any president in history more hostile to the First Amendment than George W. Bush.

We are already forced to endure numerous unconstitutional offenses: God in our congress, God in our courtrooms, God in our public parks, God on our money, God in our flag salute, God in our national motto, God in our oaths of office -- and yet these religious zealots are forever planning new assaults on Jefferson's "Wall of Separation" between government and religion. They seek to usurp the public school system to indoctrinate other people's children with their pet religion, and strive to add religious amendments to our Constitution. Millions of American tax dollars are being misused to bribe religious businesses favorable to the Bush regime.

George Bush owes his presidency to Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others of their ilk. Anyone who tries to argue that he is a proponent of church/state separation is either deliberately deceitful or grossly ignorant.

Burt Bogardus

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Letter to Editor, Contra Costa Times
By Burt Bogardus

The following letter was printed with a few modifications in the Contra Costa Times "Saturday Forum" of Saturday, March 12, 2005. The question posed was "Does displaying the Ten Commandments in a public building violate the principle of separation of church and state?"

Religious Right leaders have bamboozled their very gullible followers into believing that the Ten Commandments form the foundation of America's legal system.

This preposterous claim would be instantly dismissed by anyone who actually opened his Bible and read Exodus, Chapter 20.

Only three are in any way relevant to modern American law: The sixth (don't kill), the eighth (don't steal) and the ninth (don't lie). Furthermore, the ancient Hebrews were hardly the first society in history to recognize the wisdom of proscribing murder, theft and perjury.

Seven of the ten are merely moral or religious guidelines: Don't follow other gods, don't make idols, don't insult God, respect the Sabbath, honor your parents, don't commit adultery, don't envy your neighbor. Seventy percent of the Decalogue is irrelevant to our current legal system!

Why are there no commandments condemning wars of aggression? Genocide? Slavery? Torture? False imprisonment? Abuse of women? Child abuse? Aren't these more important than coveting thy neighbor's ox or ass?

The Decalogue, crosses, menorahs and other religious symbols have no place on tax-supported public property, and should be immediately removed.

Burt Bogardus

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What Would It Take for Me to Believe in God?

by Jim Heldberg

At one of those dreary debates about "The Existence of God," a young christian asked me, "What would it take for you to believe in god?" He meant a christian god, of course, not all the others.

It sounded silly, like asking someone, "Who would you be if you weren’t who you are?" I should have asked him, "And what would it take for you NOT to believe in god?" But I suspect he couldn’t have answered, and probably never even thought to ask himself his own question in reverse.

But when I pondered his question days later, it didn’t seem quite so silly. It’s a simple question, and perhaps it deserves a simple answer. After all, I’ve changed my mind before on many things. I’m not really that stubborn. Surely I’d be willing to change my mind on this, if… if… Well, if what?

After more thought, I had the answer. I’d change my mind if there were good reasons, with good data. I’m a realist, a scientist. The answer to "What Would It Take for Me to Believe in God?" is:


The evidence I want is simple. Here is a list of the "godly characteristics" of evidence I’ll need. This is an unusual list, but since I’m answering the question, I get to make the list.

Christians say their god is "in the image of man (or woman)." That’s fine, and a big improvement over being invisible. So, show me the god. Visibility must be the first piece of EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god isn’t a man or woman, despite their looks. That’s easy to check. If the god drops its pants for a thorough medical inspection, and has no sex organs, that’s more good EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god is immortal. That’s also easy to prove -- Superman did it in the movies. Bullets fired at this god should cause no damage, and many christians have a gun handy. Fire shouldn’t harm it, which can be proved in any kitchen, fireplace, welding shop or furnace room. It won’t drown, which can be verified at any bathtub, beach or bay. It should be immune to all diseases, which the National Center for Disease Control could prove, very carefully. It should be immune from death by old age, which would be hard to verify in one lifetime, but after it lived 2 lifetimes, or 3, or 10, that’s more EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god knows all human languages. This would take a while to verify, but the number of languages is known, so the god’s language skills wouldn’t be difficult to prove. Oddly, the christian god can’t write, so only spoken language can be used, but that makes it simpler for interviewers to get the EVIDENCE. A good explanation of why a god with great language skills is unable to write, and seldom even speaks, will provide more EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god hears, and answers, multiple prayers simultaneously from remote worldwide locations. A simple 2-step process can verify this, with the naked god locked in a secret bank vault without communication equipment. While a large number of people speak audibly, or pray silently (their choice), to the god at the same time in various languages, the god tells interviewers what the pray-ers said. When the process is reversed, the god talks to pray-ers who tell interviewers what the god said. Since the god can’t write, and usually communicates silently, that would have to be accounted for in the process, but it might still work. Standardized testing could confirm that messages sent both ways were accurately received, contributing to the EVIDENCE. Although prayer communication is commonly thought to be nearly instantaneous, delays measuring several years have been reported by christians. This needs to be explained, but does not need to be demonstrated as EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god can create universes and even life. In this area, I’d generously award full credit for only partial EVIDENCE. I’d give no credit for creating life, since man has already figured out how to do that, and no credit for creating a parallel universe, since I couldn’t even tell. The god doesn’t have to create something splashy, like a galaxy. Creating another moon around the earth would be EVIDENCE that could be verified by everyone. Creation of a new oil field would be very nice, and verified by geologists. An explanation of how these creations were achieved would earn extra credit toward EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god can work a wide variety of miracles, from walking on water to moving mountains and restoring life to dead people. I’d score easy on this and not require all purported miracles to be proved. I’d allow the god to choose which miracles to perform, and accept a few samples as sufficient EVIDENCE.

Christians say their god is all-wise. That’s vague, but being wiser than men is easy to prove. The god could prove this by giving solid answers to major human questions, such as:

COSMOLOGY: What happened at the big bang? What is dark matter and dark energy? What’s inside a black hole? Can the universe expand forever? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? If so, where is it, and what is it like?
BASIC SCIENCE: Is time travel possible? Is there a unified field theory? Is there any truth to string theory? What’s inside the earth? What’s inside a quark? Is there any limit to the number of elements that can be created? Is there a smallest atomic particle? Is the speed of light constant? Is light a particle or a wave? How can life be created quickly, without tedious evolution?
HISTORY: What killed the dinosaurs? What killed the Neanderthals? Who killed JFK?
MATHEMATICS: Does pi ever repeat? What’s the next prime number?
RELIGION: Identify the correct religion, if any, and close down the rest. Is every prayer heard, or only prayers repeated often by large groups? Explain how immaculate conception and resurrection work.

Those are big questions, but not un-godly large. Many other questions could be asked, but these should be sufficient. A god should get them all right, of course, with no partial credit for partial answers. I don’t know how to check the accuracy of any of the answers, but universities could work on it. Probably the god could help verify the answers, in order to add to the EVIDENCE.

If the evidence showed a god passed these tests -- visible, sexless, immortal, communicated invisibly and simultaneously in all languages, created a moon, worked miracles, and answered major questions -- I would not only believe that it existed, I would probably even consider it a new species. Would I worship this weird new god-thing? Certainly not, but I might want it for a pet, so I could learn from it. Even better, I’d like to be its agent, and use it to make big money. I would give the god a better name than "God" because I wouldn’t name a dog "Dog", or a child "Child." I couldn’t be friends with it, any more than I could be friends with my cat or computer. Since it could never reproduce and was doomed to be alone forever, it might be tempted it to commit suicide, but could it do that? Only it would know. Should I insure it?