"Atheism"-- throughout the latter half of the 20th
century, mention of atheism was always coupled
with one person's name: Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
As the nation's "leading atheist," she founded the
organization, American Atheists, and served as
its president for more than 30 years, until her death
in 1995 -- she was murdered, along with her son
and granddaughter for other reasons than being an
atheist. Perhaps her most significant act in behalf of
her anti-religious convictions was her victory in the
case before the US Supreme Court in 1963 by
which prayer was banned in American schools. In
1964, Life Magazine labeled her "the most hated
woman in America."

In today's news the name of a new person appears
most frequently in stories involving the activities of
atheists -- Michael Newdow. Newdow claims to
be a Doctor of Medicine, an Attorney, and an
ordained minister of the Universal Life Church (which
on the Internet offers ordinations at no cost and with
no statement of faith). For what it's worth, a review
of thousands of names of "ordained ministers" of\
ULC failed to discover Newdow's name.

Newdow gained media attention when he filed a
suit to ban the use of the words "under God" in the
pledge of allegiance to our flag, when used in public
schools. Two court attempts failed, as did similar
action to remove "In God We Trust," the national
motto, from our money. He filed actions against the
use of Jesus' name in inaugural prayers in 2001 and
2005, and lost in both cases. Now he has filed
another court action against the use of any reference
to God by either of the men who will offer prayers
at the upcoming Obama inauguration.

In this latest legal attempt, Newdow is joined by 17
other individuals and 10 groups representing atheists.
Their action is filed against Supreme Court Chief
Justice John G. Roberts, Jr, against officials in
charge of the inauguration, and against pastors
Joseph Lowery and Rick Warren who have been
asked to offer the prayers. The suit also calls for
the words "so help me, God" not to be used by the
president in taking his oath of office. The lawsuit
says that the prayers are exclusionary, because of
their showing "absolute disrespect to plaintiffs
and others of similar religious views .... ."

The logical question arises: How many people
of "similar religious views" do Michael Newdow
and his atheistic associates represent? To ascertain
an exact number of atheists in America is extremely
difficult. Polls and surveys present estimates which
vary greatly, because there are people who profess
no religious faith, there are agnostics and there are
atheists. Reported as percentages of the US
population, atheists range from as low as 1.7% to
as high as 8%. The figure which seems most widely
accepted is in the 3 - 4% range. The question arises:
how can such a small number of people command
so much attention and wield so much influence?

A new University of Minnesota study, which to
date has received very little coverage from the "elite"
media, found that people rank atheists below gays,
lesbians, recent immigrants and Muslims in “sharing
their vision of American society.” The University
announcement of the study summarized, "Even
though atheists are few in number, not formally
organized and relatively hard to publicly identify,
they are seen as a threat to the American way of
life by a large portion of the American public."
Dr. Penny Marshall, university sociology professor
and the study's lead researcher added this comment:
"Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the
U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the
rule of increasing social tolerance over the last
30 years.”

In media interviews defending his actions, Mr.
Newdow refers to the First Amendment's provision
of the right of free speech. A frequent response to
that argument is that there is a right to speak, but
there is no right to be heard. Political Commentator
Patrick Buchanan in his TV column last week spoke
to the Newdow position, "The village atheist has
the right to be heard; he has no right to be heeded.
While he has a right not to have his own children
indoctrinated in what he believes are false and
foolish teachings, he has no right to dictate what
other children may be taught."

The danger in the Newdow attacks is that he uses
the First Amendment as the basis for his position.
The First Amendment merely says that Congress
shall enact no law affecting an institution of religion,
and shall not restrict free religious expression. Newdow
does exactly the opposite -- he seeks, through the
courts, to restrict freedom of religious expression by
the American people. Atheism is not the dissent over
ordaining of gays and lesbians which is destroying the
Episcopal church. It is not the dissent between liberals
and conservatives over the right of women to kill their
unborn babies. It is not the dissent over the desire of
homosexuals to destroy the American family by
replacing traditional centuries-old concept of marriage
between a man and a woman with the new idea of
same-sex "marriage." No, atheism is way beyond all
that. It is an all-out attack on the basic premise of
religion: to worship God -- and as such is an attack
on Protestants, Catholics and Jews . . . and in fact,
on Muslims and all other forms of religious beliefs.

Atheism is an ever present danger to our Christian
faith . . . and it will not soon go away.

On the lighter side, if there can be a lighter side, in
California Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell decided to
create a new word for "Atheists," thinking this would
encourage them to come out of the closet in spite of
the heavy prejudice against them. Taking their cue
from homosexuals and their embracing of the term
"gay," Geisert and Futrell suggest that "bright" be the
synonym for "Atheist." Richard Dawkins wrote in The
Guardian: "People reluctant to use the word
atheist might be happy to come out as bright."

Of course, it depends on what is meant by "bright."
The Bible states: "The fool hath said in his heart,
There is no God." (Psalm 14:1) "Bright" may not
be an accurate term for atheists.

And to this the Founding Fathers agreed: "In
circumstances as dark as these, it becomes us,
as Men and Christians, to reflect that whilst
every prudent measure should be taken to ward
off the impending judgments, …at the same time
all confidence must be withheld from the means
we use; and reposed only on that God rules in
the armies of Heaven, and without His whole
blessing, the best human counsels are but
foolishness." -- John Hancock, 1775

Some Random Afterthoughts . . .

We are still planning a major essay on the meaning
of Evangelical and Evangelicalism in a soon upcoming
issue. We will discuss what is an Evangelical ... who
are today's Evangelicals ... and who are not, despite
claims that they are.

It's that time of the year again. It seems that at
the start of every year the "seers," the self-named
"prophets" and "prophetesses" suddenly appear
with their revelations and predictions. 450 years
ago there was Nostradamus, and interpreters are
still working with his predictions. In more recent
years there was Edgar Cayce and Jeane Dixon and
the media made much of their guesses about the
future. And now in recent years Pat Robertson, the
wealthy founder of the Christian Broadcasting
Network, and one-time presidential candidate, has
joined their ranks. In his organization's recent annual
prayer retreat he told his staff that God had told him
that Americans would embrace socialism in 2009,
and that the economy would rebound under an Obama
administration. He added that God said that "nothing
would stand in the way of a plan by Obama to
restructure the economy in the same fashion as
the New Deal in the ’30s." One would almost
have to believe that God spoke to Robertson, since
he was not born until 1930, could have known little of
the New Deal, and by the time he was 12 years old
and ready for the Boy Scouts, we were already into
World War II. Robertson may be out of his league
as a credible predictor.

The fallout from the Madoff "Ponzi" scheme. It
wasn't just some individual investors who lost money
and were hurt by the largest fraud case on record --
larger than the massive Enron debacle. As the news
unfolds, it becomes evident that some large charities
were seriously affected. World Magazine reported
that the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation which
has financed hundreds of Jewish youth trips to Israel
posted this notice on its website: "The programs
of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation
and the Robert I. Lappin 1992 Supporting
Foundation are discontinued, effective
immediately. The money used to fund the
programs of both Foundations was invested
with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.
The money needed to fund the programs of the
Lappin Foundations is gone." They're not alone.

The JEHT Foundation, which supports reform of
the criminal justice system, said it would also shut
down because its largest donors were Madoff
investors. The Chais Family Foundation, which
gives about $12.5 million each year to Jewish
causes in Israel and in the former Soviet Union,
shut down after losing millions with Madoff. As
the story continues to develop, thus far no
Evangelical Christian organizations are known to
be victims of the Madoff scandal. However, most
of the victims of Madoff's scheme are still unknown
to the public. The fact that Madoff has finally been
exposed is little consolation to the thousands of
investors who probably will never see their money.

A Founding Father's view of government:
"Government is instituted for the common good;
for the protection, safety, prosperity, and
happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor,
or private interest of any one man, family, or
class of men; therefore, the people alone have
an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible
right to institute government; and to reform,
alter, or totally change the same, when their
protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness
require it." -- John Adams, 1776

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