Humanism on the Move


Feb. 17, 2010

American Atheists has welcomed a study from the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal that reports that those who don't believe in God are as ethical as churchgoers and that religion is not the only avenue to the development of a moral code. American Atheists says the study will help dispel myths about nontheists.

"…You can, indeed, be good without a god. In fact, you can be excellent!" said Dave Silverman, vice president and communications director for American Atheists. "The ethical actions of millions of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and other non-religious people are proof of that."

The American Humanist Association celebrated Darwin Day last Friday by calling on all Americans to get involved in the fight to preserve the teaching of evolution in public schools.

"It's disgraceful that over 150 years after the publication of 'On the Origin of Species' the battle over evolution is still being played out in science classrooms," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "Efforts to insinuate 'Intelligent Design' or to 'teach the controversy' about evolution have been launched by anti-science, far-right ideologues who care more about enforcing a narrow religious agenda than providing our kids with the best possible science education."

Darwin Day, which is held every year on February 12, commemorates Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection. Each year, events are held around the country and the world to celebrate Darwin and science, including lectures, documentary screenings, potlucks and other events. This year, over 100 local events have been planned.

Several weeks ago, the American Humanist Association launched a petition that called on President Obama to issue a presidential proclamation declaring February 12 to be Darwin Day and recognize the importance of teaching evolution in science classes. Although the White House has so far been mute on the issue, the AHA says it is not giving up. "We'll be redoubling our efforts for next year," said Speckhardt. "Our petition garnered over 10,000 signatures after circulating for only a short while. Our goal is to hit 100,000 signatures before next year's celebration to really drive home to the Obama Administration that this is something mainstream America wants to see happen."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the federal government, arguing that a tax break for churches on housing gives religious groups an unfair advantage over non-profits. The rule has been in effect since the 1920's, allowing ministers who live in church-owned parsonages to do so without paying taxes on the property. In the 1950's, the tax break was extended to clergy of all faiths and all housing costs-even to the clergy's privately-owned homes.

"We think the law is rotten at the core," said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. "It is not constitutional, it is not fair and it is not necessary."

The Justice Department will likely file a response to the lawsuit by the end of February.

A United Coalition of Reason billboard was vandalized recently in Sacramento. The billboard, which read "Are you good without God? Millions are," was defaced with spray paint, which was used to add the words "also lost?"

The billboard was placed by the Sacramento Area Coalition of Reason last Tuesday, and is one of ten ads in the region. The United Coalition of Reason provided funding for the campaign.

"This shows loud and clear just how necessary our message is, because prejudice against people who don't believe in a god remains very real in America." said Rachael Harrington, coordinator of Sacramento CoR.

Clear Channel, who owns the billboard, will replace the billboard for free. "We are extremely pleased by this," said Fred Edwords, national director of United CoR. "Freedom of speech is worthy of everyone's defense. And it is only when those with minority opinions can safely go public about their views that people will have a chance to broaden their awareness of the wonderful diversity within their communities."