Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 3, 1996 A M E
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 3, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#146 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/3/96
In This Issue...
* Atheists Challenge LDS President On Smear Of Non-Belief
* AA Press Release ~ Atheist Vet Says "He Wasn't In MY Foxhole!"
* Salt Lake City Atheists Take on Hinckley
* Right To Question Is "Secondary Target" in Hinckley-Mormon Attack
* About This List...
ATHEISTS CALL FOR MORMON CHURCH HEAD TO RETRACT SLUR
Representatives of Atheist groups this morning called upon the President
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to retract
statements he made over the weekend against non-believers, and to call off
his "new battle" against Atheism.
In a joint press release to the national media, Ellen Johnson, the
President of American Atheists, and Orin Tyson of American Atheist Veterans,
charged the Mormon leader with "slandering the 10-15% of Americans who
profess no religious belief."
The controversy began on Sunday when LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley
addressed the 78th National Convention of the American Legion which was
meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. In a speech to Legionaires at the Mormon
Tabernacle, Hinckley praised those "who have been defenders of our liberty at
great costs," a reference to the nation's veterans, and then warned that
"their sacrifices may be in vain unless the nation turns itself again to
Hinckley admonished the Legionaires that "As you once knew so well, there
are no atheists in foxholes." According to news reports, including a story in
the Salt Lake Tribune, he then warned that "those battles are over and
another battle goes on."
"The new battle is one against atheism," noted the Tribune.
Orin "Spike" Tyson, Director of the American Atheist office in Austin,
Texas and national commander of American Atheist Veterans, expressed concern
over Hinckley's statement, and added: "I hate to tell him, but he was never
in MY foxhole, or in any of the other tens of thousands of Atheist foxholes
in Vietnam." Mr. Tyson is a decorated vet and an Atheist, with military
honors that include Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, Presidential Unit Citation
and the Cross of Gallantry. In a separate letter to the Salt Lake City
Tribune, Tyson added that the remarks by President Hinckley "...have insulted
me and thousands of Atheist veterans."
The Utah Director of American Atheists, Chris Allen, also criticized the
remarks of the LDS elder, and charged that "Hinckley has picked up where Pat
Buchanan left off four years ago at the Republican convention."
"Both were using religion to divide our society," said Allen. "Both are
vilifying Americans who's only crime is not believing in their idea of a
Transcript of Press Release from AMERICAN ATHEISTS and AMERICAN ATHEIST
VETERANS... September 2, 1996
ATHEIST GROUPS CRITICIZE LDS BIGOTRY
Two Atheist organizations criticized the bigoted and hate-filed comments
made by the President of the Mormon Church (LDS) in a talk delivered
September 1 before the National Convention of the American Legion, which
included criticism of non-belief and the old canard that "As you know, there
are not Atheists in foxholes."
LDS head Gordon B. Hinckley praised those "who have been defenders of our
liberty at great cost," but he admonished his audience that "another battle
goes on." The Salt Lake Tribune, in covering the addresses, noted: "The new
battle is one against atheism."
Hinckley's remarks drew an immediate response from Ellen Johnson,
President of American Atheists, a national group representing Atheists and
state-church separationists. "Mr. Hinckley is slandering the 10-15% of
Americans who profess no religious beliefs." She added that the remarks did
not surprise her, "...in light of the Mormon record concerning women, blacks,
gays and other social groups who don't pass the LDS religious-litmus test for
social approval and equality."
Regarding Hinckley's "no Atheists in foxholes" remarks, Johnson added:
"One thing is for certain, there aren't any clergy there because they insist
on exempting themselves and staying out of foxholes." Orin S. Tyson,
National Commander of American Atheist Veterans declared: "I hate to tell
him, but he was never in MY foxhole, or in any of the other tens of thousands
of Atheist foxholes in Vietnam." The veteran noted that he is an Atheist, and
has military honors including Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, Presidential Unit
Citations and the Cross of Galantry. In a letter to Salt Lake City
newspapers, Mr. Tyson said that the remarks by the LDS President "have
insulted me and thousands of Atheist veterans."
Both Atheist representatives also criticized Hinckley's statement that
"Many of society's ills can be blamed on a failure to acknowledge god." Ms.
Johnson noted that Hinckley obviously hasn't been paying attention to the
epidemic of sexual crimes committed both here and around the world, by the
clergy who are professionally religious.
Mr. Tyson agreed and added: "If Hinckley were right then why is so much of
the world embroiled in religious strife?"
Both Johnson and Tyson declared that they are sick and tired of being the
currently fashionable "niggers" of the nineties, by every other religious
bigot in America.
SALT LAKE ATHEIST DIRECTOR RESPONDS TO HINCKLEY
(The following press release was issued this morning by Chris Allen, Utah
Director for American Atheists and the Society of Separationists.)
In his attack on secularism and in his image of a war with atheism,
Hinckley has picked up where Pat Buchanan left off four years ago at the
Republican convention. Both are using religion to divide our society. Both
are vilifying Americans whose only crime is not believing in their idea of a
It's an old ploy of religious demogogues -- blame a scapegoat and you can
kill two birds with one stone. Just blame the people who disagree with you
for the ills of the world and you can denigrate them at the same time as you
inspire your followers to give you more support. This is particularly
upsetting for those of us who really are atheists. We get enough
discrimination against us from the Utah theocracy as it is.
Hinckley views every effort to achieve separation of state and church as
an atheist attack. As he sees it, a government that is neutral with respect
to religion is atheistic and actually hostile to religion. He certainly gets
his way in Utah -- no danger of religious neturality springing up here.
As an example of government hostility to religion, Hinckley points to a
new law in New Jersey removing "so help me God" from courtroom oaths. I
invite him to look into the U.S. Constitution for guidance as to our founding
fathers' intent. Article II section 1 specifies the exact oath of office to
be given to the President, and it does not contain "so help me God." In
fact, aside from a reference to "the year of our Lord" in the date, the
Constitution makes no reference to a god at all. If there's a war being waged
here, it's a war by Hinckley and his kind against historical truth.
I charge that religion itself, and Christianity in particular, is
responsible for the ills of this world. James Madison noted as much in 1784
in his famous "Memorial and Remonstrance" (Section 7):
"During almost fifteen centuries, has the legal establishment of
Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? ... superstition,
bigotry and persecution."
Bigotry is a core value of Christianity. You can see it in the First
Commandment. It is the opposite of the First Amendment. The First
Commandment demands intolerance to the worship of other gods, and the First
Amendment demands that government be tolerant of religious diversity. The
fruits of the First Commandment are visible today in Belfast, Beirut and
MORMON HOSTILITY TO NON-BELIEF, SECULARISM ROOTED IN DOGMA
Our Right To Question Is A "Secondary Target" In Hinckley's Attack...
Opinion by Conrad F. Goeringer
While many Americans know about groups such as the Christian Coalition, or
the political activities of the Roman Catholic Church, few are familiar with
the doctrines and practices of the Church of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons.
Based upon the fabricated tales of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Saints or
LDS have prospered to become one of the world's fastest growing religions,
and already exercise considerable economic and political power in the western
U.S. Indeed, the Mormon presence in Utah has resulted in an on-going series
of First Amendment violations -- everything from government aid to Mormon
schools and seminaries, to scams involving church businesses.
The religion is a variant of Christianity, in that it accepts the divine
status of Jesus Christ. But where Christian sects rely to varying degrees on
the authority of the New and Old Testament along with conveniently-time
"revelations" from above, LDS doctrine fuses those texts with the Book of
Mormon, a fantasy-tale concoted by Smith as a young man. In his essay, "The
Mormon Book of Abraham," linguistic scholar Frank Zindler wrote:
"When young, Smith claimed he had a magic 'seer stone,' a stone with which
he could see inside hills and beneath the surface of the ground to inspect
for buried treasures and enchantments. The seer stone became transformed
into the biblical "urim and thummin" with which he later claimed he could
'translate' any language -- including 'reformed Egyptian', the imaginary
language in which his Jewish Indians supposedly had written their history. A
locked box held what Smith claimed to be the gold plates bearing this
reformed Egyptian Chaldee Jewish American Indian history."
Smith dictated his "sacred revelations" to a man named Martin Harris, a
"secretary" to was either a delusion fool or a con-artist. Smith sat in a
small room divided into two sections by means of a blanket hung from a rope.
Notes Zindler: "Smith would pretend to be translating aloud from the plates
and would dictate The Book of Mormon to his secretary...Harris sat on the
other side of the blanket, afraid to peek at the plates for fear he would be
striken with the plague, and the scab, and hemorrhoids, and the botch of
Egypt. After many days of such inventive labor, 116 pages of manuscript had
been written -- all of it supposedly translated by divine guidance by means
of the magical seer stone."
The tale of the "revealed manuscript" and "gold plates" becomes even more
incredible and convoluted, but Smith had put to paper a combination of
foklore, yarns, tall-tales, quasi Masonic doctrine, and scraps of embellished
ancient history, including metaphors and themes from other religious rantings
including the Christian Bible. In 1830 the book was published at Palmyra, New
York, and in a few short years Smith had a following of credulous believers
-- his own home-brewed religious cult.
Mormon hostility to Atheism, secularism and doubt of any kind is rooted in
a number of theological texts, including the story of a Smith-invented
character from his pseudo-history named Korihor.
Korihor is a non-believer and intellectual skeptic who poses questions
such as "How do you know what is true?" Some of his doubts resemble the
epistemological questions in other writings, including those of Lucretius
Carus (?96-55 bce) who authored "De Rerum Natura" (The Nature of Things);
indeed, Korihor remarks that "ye cannot know of things which ye do not see."
In LDS doctrine, Korihor is not only epistemologically incorrect in
accepting reason and rejecting faith and divine revelation -- he is, more
importantly, a tool of the devil. In this respect, the Mormon view of
Atheism and skepticism resembles the position of many Christian writers, who
see non-belief as simply a "trick" or "deception" by satan. What for Atheists
is a matter of philosophical disagreement becomes, for many religionists, a
kind of epistemological "conspiracy theory." Believers are assured that any
doubts concerning religious doctrine, including the existence of supernatural
entities ("god", "angels", "devils", "hell") should not be considered on
their own merits, but as artifacts of diabolical manipulation. It is the
doubt which is the illusion, not that which is doubted.
A July 1992 article in an official LDS publication called "Ensign" by
Gerald Lund titled "Countering Korihor's Philosophy" warns Mormon faithful
against the temptations of intellectual skepticism. Korihor "rejects
prophecy because prophecy deals with the future, and you cannot 'see', or
experience, the future with the physical senses." Lund then assets that
"There are a number of corollaries, or inferences, that flow out of Korihor's
Among these "corollaries" is the belief that epistemological doubts
concerning religious teaching serve as a tool for Satan to "destroy the
children of God."
"Why would Satan care about such things as our view of metaphysics and
epistemology?", asks Lund.
"If we accept the assumption (sic) that there is no super-natural reality,
then it logically follows that there is no God. If that is the case, then
man is the supreme being. It also follows that if there are no eternal
realities, then there are no eternal consequences for man's actions..."
While Atheists and non-believer ethicists may disagree with how Lund
extrapolates his conclusions, it is easy to miss his central thesis and
interpretation of Korihor -- namely, than manifestations of doubt (and
certainly Atheism) are not legitimate intellectual predispositions, but
merely reflections of "deception" and "trickery" by god's supernatural
counterpart and bad-guy rival, satan. While Lund does not specifically
mention Atheism, the "Ensign" piece does refer to the "Humanist Manifesto II"
and its declaration that: "We believe that traditional dogmatic or
authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above
human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species..." Lund goes
on to cite another "Humanist" paragraph: "Science affirms that the human
species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know,
the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in
a social and cultural context."
Lund also echoes Church admonitions about even debating with
non-believers: in the story of Korihor, for instance, the skeptic is
physically seized and dragged before officials who then call upon the prophet
Alma. Writes Lund:
"The first thing to note is that Alma does not get into philosophical
debate with Korihor. He doesn't allow himself to be pulled onto the ground
that Korihor tries to define as the area of debate. There is a great lesson
in that. We combat false philosophies with revelation and true doctrine, not
Even more chilling is the contention that Korihor -- the symbolic icon of
skepticism and inquiry -- is both a tool of the devil, and something worse.
"In effect, Alma says to Korihor: 'You know that we don't profit from our
service in the Church, but you say we glut ourselves on the labor of the
people. Therefore I say you deliberately twist the truth.' It all comes
down to one irrefutable conclusion: Korihor is a liar."
Smith's incredible tale about Korhior has shaped LDS perceptions about
doubt, Atheism, and even the validity of secular institutions. It is also a
tale which has striking parallels with stories in the Old Testament
concerning those who "doubt" prophetic figures such as Moses, or even Jehovah
himself. In Smith's account, the "Zoramites" -- the object of missionary
endeavor by the believer Alma and his sons -- end up killing Korihor, and
bask in their new found faith and religiosity. Lund notes that prior to
their proselytization by Alma:
"They 'had fallen into great errors.'
"They had rejected the traditions that they felt were 'handed down...by the
childishness of their fathers.'
"They refused to 'believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.'
"They did not want to be 'led away after the foolish traditions of our
brethren,' which they believed did 'bind them down to a belief in Christ'."
The "demonization" of non-belief, skepticism and Atheism in Mormon
doctrine seems to reflect a tendency found in other religious systems as
well. Historians and writers have noted the disturbing penchant of
Christianity to "demonize" groups such as Jews, gays and women. Even
modern-day Muslims must confront the notion that non-Islamists are
"infidels." And within certain Christian sects like the Reform Church, there
is an on-going debate on the status of "non-believers" and the problematic
question of whether or not they may be "saved." Groups such as the Southern
Baptist Convention seem to be shunning the ecumenical call for diversity and
tolerance, and embarking on an aggressive proelytization of Jews and others
whose souls are considered to be in need of immediate salvation.
For Atheists -- indeed, even a wider constituency of doubters, skeptics
and possibly "honest" religious seekers -- the issue involves far more than
"trickery" and "deception" by satan. The right to question (and, ultimately,
accept or reject) religious belief or any other supernatural claims involves
a fundamental perception of how society does and should operate. It is an
ominous sign when religious authorities seek to reduce honest disagreement
and differences of lifestyle and opinions to a level of simplistic and
dogmatic metaphors based upon the tales of Joseph Smith -- or any other
"source." It is also disturbing when critics -- both outside of the church
and, potentially, within it as well -- are dismissed as mere victims of
trickery, or, worse, "liars" in the tradition of Korihor.
Secularism and the right to doubt and "secondary targets" in the recent
attacks launched by President Hincley in his address before the American
Legion. It is a chilling prospect when he attacks not only millions of
Americans who profess no religious belief, but their very right to do so and
their intellectual integrity.
About This List...
AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement
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