Your Turn: It’s Time For Lifestyle Rebellion by August Berkshire

St. Cloud Times, April 19, 2008
 
Times Writers Group member Mike Williamson believes we should turn to the Bible and Christianity as a cure for modern-day sexual immorality. (“It’s time for cultural rebellion” April 11) Really?

Williamson condemns, as we all do, the sex crimes alleged to have been committed by a 32-year-old man against a 13-year-old girl in Becker.

But what does the God of the Bible tell the Israelites to do after conquering the Midianites and killing every man? “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Numbers 31:17-18.)

How are children treated elsewhere in the Bible? It is permissible to sell your daughter into servitude (Exodus 21:7). Disobedient sons are to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And, anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death (Exodus 21.17).

When young people mock the baldness of God’s prophet Elijah, Elijah calls upon God to send two bears from the woods to attack the youths. God obliges, and the bears maul 42 young people. (II Kings 2:23.)

In the town of Sodom, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the mob outside his home, rather than turn over two visiting angels (who, being emissaries from God, presumably could have made a miraculous escape). (Genesis 19:8)

Williamson advocates virginity until marriage. Is this because the Bible says non-virgin brides should be stoned to death? (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) Finally, there is the Bible’s God-ordained ritual of male circumcision, often performed on infants and children with little or no anesthesia.

Williamson talks about “the creator’s good plan for man and woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.” But, according to the Bible, God has no problem with polygamy (Genesis 29:17-28; II Samuel 3:2-5) or a married man having concubines (II Samuel 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chronicles 11:21).

What other “family values” might we learn from the Bible? According to Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26.)

Thus the mythical biblical gods of Jehovah and Jesus would be the last place we would want to look for family advice.

Many of the polygamous cults in this country that abuse women and children are Bible-based. The male clergy that sexually abuse children are ostensibly biblical God-believers. Why should we be surprised at these facts, given the Bible’s endorsement of patriarchy and women and children as property?

Yes, as Williamson advocates, it is time for a rebellion – but a rebellion away from Christianity.

We must get rid of the “sinful, forbidden fruit” aspect of sex, which only serves to make it more appealing to young people. We need comprehensive sex education for our young people – abstinence-based, not abstinence-only.

If we look to European countries, which have largely replaced Christianity with secular humanism, we find that young people engage in just as much sex as Americans of the same age, but it results in far fewer pregnancies and STDs. Ignorance and bliss do not go hand-in-hand.

Religion has failed, yet continues to do damage to society. It’s time to try something new, something that tends to improve the lives of people wherever it is embraced: atheism (the disbelief in arbitrary, “supernatural” authority) combined with humanism (which includes ethics based on compassion and evidence).

A lifestyle based on God-belief collapses when no evidence for gods exists. A lifestyle based on atheism and humanism has a greater chance for success because it is reality-based.

This is the opinion of August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists, the state’s oldest, largest and most active atheist organization.

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MN Atheists National Day of Reason

Minnesota Atheists strongly value the separation of church and state. To remind our government of who they represent, we make our collective voices heard in the State Capitol while our fellow citizens observe the National Day of Prayer. Every voice counts. If you can take a long lunch break, or have the free time, we would appreciate making your presence known with us. You'll be hearing from the leadership of Minnesota Atheists, as well as from our members. Prepare to be moved by famous speeches you may have heard before, and listen for original orations on separation and the rights of atheists.

Come be a part of history and make your voice heard.

For information about the event, you can contact info@mnatheists.org

When

Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM

Where

Minnesota State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul , MN 55155

Who should come

All supporters of the separation of church and state with rational-based leadership should attend.

How to find the organizer(s)

"Our event takes place in the Rotunda."
--Bjorn Watland
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Public Charter School Accused of Being a Religious School

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights.  Star Tribune columnist, Katherine Kirsten, writes that, "Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food - permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day."  School buses don't leave until after extracurricular activities at the school, including Islamic Studies is over.  In the article, Kirsten cites teacher Amanda Getz as a source on what happens in the school, including prayer led by administration and teachers in the gym, teachers escorting students to perform ritual washing and the treatment of Islamic Studies as a part of regular coursework. 

Minnesota Atheists strongly value our Constitution and the Establishment Clause.  While, at this time, it is unclear whether there has been any Constitutional violation, and further investigation is necessary, Minnesota Atheists would be concerned about a misuse of public funds for religious activities.  By protecting the secular nature of public education, the rights of citizens of any faith, and of no faith are upheld.  We support any effort to ensure citizens, especially children citizens, are not discriminated against by our government.

If you have further information about TIZA, or are aware of potential violations of the Establishment Clause in public education, please write to us at info@mnatheists.org.  We have experienced members who could point you in the right direction if further action seems warranted.

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Congress Passes Over 140 Overtly Religious Earmarks Worth Almost $30 Million

The Secular Coalition for America has researched the budget for fiscal year 2008 which was passed by congress and determined that over 140 earmarks , or special directed funding to a project, worth almost $30 million dollars, are going to constitutionally suspect religious activities.  Before you blame the "religious right," both parties favor religious earmarks.  Some of the largest recipients of earmarks for religious activities include higher education institutions and addiction recovery programs, including Minnesota Teen Challenge*.  Minnesota Teen Challenge is closely tied with the Assemblies of God, the world's largest Pentecostal organization.  Richard Scherber, Executive Director in 2004, had this to say about the success of his treatment facility; "The combination of our program length, our curriculum and most importantly, the role of faith in Jesus Christ to change hearts, all come together to result in these renewed lives." Ministries are also among groups receiving federal dollars.

The Secular Coalition for America has sent a letter to members of Congress who are responsible for these potentially unconstitutional funding projects.  These activities are clear evidence that Faith-based Initiatives and Charitable Choice must be rejected by the next President to ensure an equal playing field between secular organizations and religious organizations which play by the rules and those who do not and violate the seperation of church and state.

*Minnesota Teen Challenge Director of Administration, Eric Vagle, has provided this statement in response to allegations that any federal monies will be used by his organization for religious purposes:

“Minnesota Teen Challenge is scheduled to receive a direct grant from the federal government to be used exclusively for a non-religious drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.  This program contains no religious content whatsoever and has been presented to over 30,000 junior and senior high school students across the state.  Minnesota Teen Challenge is aware of, and in agreement with the constitutional restrictions placed on receipt of government funds.  We take great care to ensure that all federal money is strictly accounted for and that none of the dollars are ever used for religious purposes.”

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