Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Triangle children target of dark gospel message

No child, in any context, should ever be told, “You deserve to die. But, that is the day‐in, day‐out message of the Good News Clubs. When I first heard about how the Good News Clubs entered public schools with an after‐school program for elementary school children which centers on the most shaming elements of the Christian message, I was shocked. Since then, my search for information led me to some very important, recent contributions to the subject. After realizing that elementary school children right here in the Triangle are on a weekly basis told they deserve to go to hell, I have been shocked into action. I hope you will be, too.
Many of you had the opportunity to hear Katherine Stewart talk about Good News Clubs at a recent TFS meeting. I was unable to attend, but I have read her book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, and I have seen her interview on the RDF website. I would also recommend to you a web resource that has been well researched and is in my mind among the best overall treatments of why Good News Clubs are such a threat: The website’s author, Eric Cernyar, has firsthand experience with the psychological abuse tactics employed by CEF, and seeks to mobilize freethinkers to act. It is his assertion that, “however well‐intentioned the teachers are, the Good News Club curriculum which they tragically and submissively employ is psychologically and emotionally harmful.” (
In Attack of the Theocrats, author Sean Faircloth makes the following point: “We have a moral obligation to fulfill our humanist heritage, a heritage that America’s Constitution embodied first and most boldly. We Irish have a saying: we lost all the wars, but we had all the good songs. Well, the poets, the writers, the philosophers, and the greatest statesmen, they’re on our side – but that’s not sufficient.” (p. 141For decades, secularists have been known for opposing public symbols of religion: the ten commandments hanging in the courtroom; the cross in a public park; the manger scene in front of City Hall. Without taking away from the correctness of those legal fights, Faircloth calls us to a higher form of activism, one in which we challenge religious bias in current law for the sake of those who are suffering under it. Challenging symbols is important, but defending the defenseless much more so.
In Stewarts book, she recounts how a CEF trainer instructed a group of volunteers on how to lead children into the message: “The Bible says our hearts are dark with sin…Anything you can think or say or do that goes against the laws of God that makes him unhappy. Even a little baby is a sinner. Within a few minutes of being born, he’s squalling and crying, because he wants it his way. Punishment for sin is to be separated from God forever.” (The Good News Club, p.235) And, there is no ambiguity about what separation from God means. The Good News Club curriculum contains 252 references to Hell, averaging two mentions per lesson. A typical group exercise from the curriculum involves using individual students to point out to the group that every child, even that individual, is a sinner who deserves death (see
There is work to be done, both locally and nationally, if we are to see the successful expulsion of Good News Clubs from public schools. In August, a group of TFS volunteers with a 3‐camera film crew gained access to the Good News Spectacular in August. The footage, along with interviews with Stewart and Cernyar, will air in a documentary, with filmmaker Scott Burdick at the helm. Good work is being done in other fronts as well. There is a national effort underway to accurately assess the impact of CEF, and the work of educating the public is ongoing. There is much more work to be done, though, and the need for many volunteers. There is a need for people who are willing to do research, distribute flyers, post links to social media sites, and talk to school officials about policy decisions. What are you prepared to do to take a stand against Good News Clubs in the Triangle? In the US?

No child, in any context, should ever be told, “You deserve to die. Join the effort to end this insidious practice within the Wake County Public School System and beyond.

I’m your friendly neighborhood, angry… what was that?

It was great discovery for me, the discovery that there were thousands of nonbelievers across the country being mobilized, though perhaps not easily, into a force – political, social, time will tell – the likes of which not seen before in this country.  I heard the clarion calls to action these past couple of years by the leaders of the modern atheist movement, and I continue to be stirred by the speeches from this year’s Reason Rally.  The continued flow of speeches, debates, books and conferences advances the battle lines in the cultural and academic war between reason and superstition, even as groups like the Secular Coalition are marshaling political forces for a more powerful nonfaith lobby.  Sometimes, it seems, the lines could not be drawn more sharply.  I must confess that I enjoy this trend quite a bit.  I was deluded by religion for many years, deluded others into religion.  I am rooting for the nonfaith movement, even as I am a part of it. 

At the same time, I don’t want my neighbors to think I am the “angry atheist,” right?  With Dawkins’ “mock them, ridicule them... in public…with contempt!” ringing in my ears, when I talk to religious people, I often nonetheless search for the least offensive answers so as to appear kind.  After several knock-down drag out debates on my Facebook page, debates during which I thought I had been rather polite, I was still called arrogant and a jerk (among other less printable names).  So, I would like to be your friendly neighborhood atheist, but I find it very hard to be so when confronted with people who become apoplectic at my denial of god.  When a personal stance against faulty logic is interpreted as a mean-spirited personal attack, horrible things are often accused.  Sometimes, there’s just no getting around the “angry atheist” label, even if you’re the nicest atheist on the block.

Anger can often be mistaken for passion, and passionate people can become justifiably angry.  If you haven’t heard it yet, drop what you’re doing and listen to Sean Faircloth’s talk, “Can Religion Justify Bullying Children?”  He doesn’t sound angry giving the speech, but he is certainly passionate about the safety of children.  And, check your own pulse after the talk; mine was way up!  There is a time and a place for anger, and if it pushes us to make it to that next action meeting, or send that email, attend that conference call, then maybe being angry is not so bad, after all.

So, hi there, everyone.  I’m your friendly neighborhood, sometimes angry, atheist.    Hope you don’t mind.