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The Moral Atheist
May-June 2016
The May-June issue of The Moral Atheist is being distributed by postal mail and PDF's. Here's what the cover looks like:
There are a lot of interesting articles here. The cover story about our support for Final Exit Network is especially relevant. We really do have laws based entirely on notions that we are allowed to die only on someone's imaginary religious terms. If you want to check out the complete issue, just ask for it by either postal mail or as a PDF. Meanwhile here is our AFHR Report from page 3 that tells you briefly what we are up to:
AFHR Report


As reported in previous issues of TMA, Atheists For Human Rights is supporting Final Exit Network in its appeal of its conviction for "assisting in a suicide." That "suicide" was the self-deliverance on March 30, 2007, of Doreen Dunn, a Minnesota woman who had sought information from FEN about ways to end her life with dignity after years of suffering from an incurable medical condition.

AFHR is supporting FEN's appeal with funds from our Moral High Ground project and an amicus curiae brief submitted to the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals. To our supporters who helped cover our costs, thank you!

The article beginning on page 4 highlights the main arguments from FEN, AFHR's amicus, and the amicus from Freedom From Religion Foundation. AFHR and FFRF were the only freethought groups to provide this assistance. The First Amendment Lawyers Association and Death With Dignity also submitted briefs. None came from opponents of assisted dying and, given the absurdity of the ruling that is being appealed, this is understandable. All documents have been or are being submitted to the court (Death With Dignity is running late). Oral arguments will be scheduled soon and a ruling is expected this summer.

The case is unsettling in that, as our cover article explains, it exposes how far some courts will go to justify a ruling the judges want to give rather than one that meets the demands for facts and justice. How many ways can words be twisted to turn simple informational speech into a criminal physical action? How can a court interpret a governmental "compelling interest in preserving human life" as a mandate to impose a duty to suffer on those with no meaningful life left? What purpose is served?


We have had some success locally in removing inappropriate religious sentiments from civic affairs. The problem has been the Minnesota Democratic party's play-it-safe desire to fend off Republican charges of being "godless" by including the pledge of allegiance in the agenda for party conventions and events. Very likely, the Nones and outright atheists form the largest constituency group among the party activists, yet the sacred cow status of religion prevents an open rejection of religiosity.

Typically, when the pledge is called for, half of the attendees fall silent during the "under God" part. A while back one of our members openly objected to saying the pledge at a convention and got booed — not much, but enough that it intimidated those who would have voted against saying the pledge, so the objection was shot down.

Based on such experiences I have taken civic action behind the scenes, rounded up support against religious rituals and arranged to quietly leave that stuff off the agenda. The meetings go forward and no one ever notices the absence (or at least never says anything). Moving further along on this secularizing path, this year I succeeded in having a clause added to our district constitution (also passed as a resolution for the state constitution) that will make it hard to continue with the pledge and invocations that marginalize and insult the party's large nonreligious constituency.

It's a small and limited thing but as has been said, "Those who wait until they can do a whole lot of good all at one time never do any good at all."

Pay attention to the elections. Not just the presidential election but the local, state and federal elections from Congress to the town dogcatcher. Watch for statements that indicate a secular or religious worldview. Ask candidates how their religious views, whatever they are, will impact how they vote on issues. Don't focus on what they believe, only on how they intend to act on it. Be careful about forcing a secular politician to admit openly to having secular values. They have to get elected and don't need the sacred cow constituency crapping all over them. (They can talk about being secular after leaving office with a good reputation. That would help keep the sacred cow in the barn when the next secular candidate shows up.) Finally, vote!


For five years between 1989 and 1994 I helped CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty) lobby to repeal the Minnesota statutes that led to the faith healing death of 11-year-old Ian Lundman from an overdose of prayer for his otherwise untreated diabetes. We got almost nowhere with repeal thanks to legislators who thought protecting religious beliefs was more important than protecting children from their lethal consequences.

The case extended into a long-running controversy over government funding the training programs of Christian Science care facilities. Finally, in November a federal court ruled against funding, noting that no real training was provided, there were no standards for evaluation and both the care facilities' staff members and the evaluating commission members were required to be Christian Scientists. It's gratifying to have a rational closure on at least this part of a tragic case, but why weren't these "training" shortcomings recognized and compensation denied years ago?


Since June is popular for weddings (no idea why) we remind you that, thanks to our lawsuit last year, atheists can have church-free weddings. No need for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pleasantly subversive as that is.

So far we have authorized 13 atheists to officiate at marriages All are registered in the state and certified by Atheists For Human Rights. If you have a wedding coming up and want to be the celebrant, just email us. No charge for this service.


In the May-June issue of The Moral Atheist

3   AFHR Report
4   When Hell on Earth is OK: Legal Dithering on Assisted Dying. MarieAlena Castle, Dick Segers, Sanford Berman, Rob Rivas, Randall Tigue
8   What is the Enduring Question? Tim Gorski
9   The Ultimate Theological Quandary: The Concept of Theological Time. Stephen Van Eck
10   The Popes: Saints or Madmen? Jon Nelson
12  CHRISTIANITY IN ITS OWN WORDS "Help! I'm Being Repressed!" Part 8 William Sierichs Jr.
15  The Heavenly Logic of Abortion: The Bible Tells Us So. Roger Hartman
A Report from Bill's Adjutant Assistant Nuncio.

Bill van Druten
BACK COVER: Identity Politics as an Electoral Qualification.
Check out our list of donor premiums
and the new easy-to-use form!

No trinkets, mugs, or t-shirts —
just things to satisfy your mind.
Check out our signature activity,
our Moral High Ground Fund

It's the only one in the country to help poor women pay for abortions, and to support gays and other groups victimized by religion-based laws.
Atheist Wedding Celebrants

Atheists For Human Rights now certifies Atheist Wedding Celebrants

All-atheist authorization nationwide.*

We no longer need a contrived church affiliation to solemnize marriages.

Select one of our registered celebrants or choose a friend or family member to officiate at your wedding. We will provide that person with atheist certification at no charge.


We can help.

Call 612-529-1200 or email Communications Director

To Our Fellow Freethought Organizations:

We offer document templates and information at no charge so you can authorize your own celebrants.

Create memorable weddings that reflect secular values.
* Ask how this might apply in your state.

The Best Policy Guide for a Religiously Neutral
Secular Nation


The first full-size book by AFHR Communications Director Marie Alena Castle, published by See Sharp Press, Tucson AZ, and written at their request.

All proceeds go to support AFHR outreach activities. Available from Barnes and Noble in stores and on-line, and from Amazon.com. Cover price $14.95, 236 pp.

"Culture Wars is an engaging, compelling and important book. The public is so unaware how fragile our constitutional rights are. The book reminds me of our military men and women who return to the states as amputees and then speak strongly against intolerance because they understand that's what the fight was all about."
— Andrew Dawkins, Minneapolis MN. Attorney, former Minnesota state legislator

"Culture Wars is brilliant, readable, to the point, and thorough. Marie Alena Castle has given us a timely book that deserves a wide and serious readership."
— Cecil Bothwell, Asheville NC councilmember, author of The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire.

"Over the years I have read many books on this subject, but Culture Wars stands head and shoulders above the crowd."
— Earl Lee, librarian, author of Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity.

"I was amazed and entranced by Ms. Castle's breadth of knowledge, her passion and compassion, and clear-headed convictions."
— Arvonne Fraser, former U.S. Ambassador to the United States Commission on the Status of Women.

"The author's grasp of theology and understanding of its irrelevance to how we live are impressive. This is rare in books about religion."
— Kirk Buchanan, former Roman Catholic priest.

ArticlesTop of Page
About UsTop of Page
Our Philosophy
Atheism accepts the natural world as all there is. To live without god beliefs is intellectually stimulating. To find one's own purpose and be responsible for one's own life is exciting. To be free of the imagined surveillance of good and evil spirits is liberating. To seek a peaceful world through work and friendship and civic action is life-affirming.
-- MarieAlena Castle, March 1994
It is the role of unbelievers to force religions to be benign.
-- Martin Marty, Lutheran theologian, Minneapolis MN,
   28 April 1998
Let us become post-religious, post-national Universal Humans.
-- Lavanam, Atheist Centre, India

Atheists For Human Rights is a national, ethics-driven organization upholding an atheism that is confidently held, morally active, and vigorously opposes religions that are politically and socially predatory or harm innocent people.

  • We are committed to making atheism visible in the community as a rational, responsible voice for secular morality.
  • We sponsor well-advertised public forums regularly with well known speakers on topics related to the common good and maintaining a secular government.
  • We run high-visibility "bold & proud" ads for our activities in mainstream newspapers and on radio.
  • We produce atheist videos for our website video outreach project and also make them available on CDs.
  • We submit letters and commentary articles to the media that are frequently accepted.
  • We meet with media people to discuss our concerns and encourage fair and balanced coverage of atheism.
  • We meet with public officials to make them aware of the secular community and express our concerns about the intrusion of religion into legislative action and to stress the importance of state-church separation.
  • We wrote a proclamation declaring 4 July 2002, "Indivisible Day," which was signed by Gov. Ventura on our behalf, causing an uproar by "Christian nation" fundamentalists that was front-page news in the St. Paul and Minneapolis papers.
  • Our visibility generates invitations to debate religious-right radio talk show hosts on their political/social agenda and state-church separation.
  • We are unique among atheist organizations in that, as a matter of official policy, we oppose the religious right's assaults on our freedoms and come to the aid of its victims. We do this with reason, civility, pride, and a passion for truth and justice.
  • We provide a strong and effective voice for human rights within the atheist community and are developing a national network of citizens who seek the social and political right to be religion-free. We walk the talk. Our board consists of activists willing to help with the tasks of our organization. Our bylaws impose a high level of ethical standards. We operate openly and honestly at all times.
  • Membership is open to all who reject supernatural beliefs and support the principles and policies of this organization. We thrive on new ideas and welcome everyone who shares our goals.


As usual, we offer 3 free issues of The Moral Atheist full 24-page magazine, by postal or email, so you get a good idea of what we are all about. Just send your postal or email contact info to: Communications Director

Moral High Ground Project

The Moral High Ground project has chosen the following funds to provide support and protection for these groups and to counter the efforts of religious zealots to impose their religious doctrines through law (other funding mechanisms may be added as resources increase):

Philanthrofund scholarship

Like the other Moral High Ground funding projects, it is unique in the freethought community. Each year since 2002 AFHR has donated $500 to be awarded to a GLBT openly atheist student at Pfund's major awards ceremony. This has created visibility and respect for AFHR within the GLBT community.

Grants to poor women to help pay for abortions

At least $200 each is given annually to funds such as the Women's Medical Fund, administered by Anne Nicol Gaylor from Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin, and through the North Dakota WIN (Women In Need) Abortion Access Fund, administered by the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. These funds serve poor women in areas where religion-generated abortion laws are irrationally restrictive and punitive.

Support for physician aid in dying

As opportunities arise, we support efforts by physician-aid-in-dying organizations so the terminally ill who want to die with dignity on their own terms have the legal right to do so.

Protection for children harmed by faith healing

As opportunities arise, we support the efforts of CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty) to protect children from harm where state laws define faith healing as healthcare and exempt parents from prosecution when they allow children to die by substituting prayer for medical care.


Outreach Activities

Atheists for Human Rights is focused primarily on reaching out to the public in morally active ways to advance the atheistic worldview.

Charitable Outreach

We donate to secular charities that help young people and the homeless.

Highway Cleanup

In 2005 we took on an Adopt-A-Highway cleanup project. The work is done three times a year in spring, summer and fall. Large highway signs identify AFHR as the cleanup crew for a 4-mile stretch of highway in Lakeville that passes many churches.

Minnesota Alliance Of Peacemakers

We joined MAP and have participated in several of their events urging peaceful solutions to world conflicts. MAP is a coalition of churches and secular organizations working together in the cause of peace.

Interfaith Dialogue

AFHR is represented by invitation at regular interfaith gatherings hosted by Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to find common ground in our common humanity to address the causes of social conflict and stress.

Speakers Bureau

Since 2004, about three times a year, we have been invited to give presentations on atheism to educational and social service agencies for their diversity training programs. Videos of all speakers here.

Fireside Chats

These monthly discussions about atheist issues are occasions for socializing as well as developing ideas for further activism.

Public Forums

This major outreach project was begun in June 2006 and continues. The purpose is to show the public how atheists support our constitutional freedoms, seek rational solutions to issues of civic concern, and promote the common good. These events are heavily advertised in local newspapers and on Air America radio.

Hub of AtheismTop of Page
The Hub of Atheism Hub meeting room, viewed from the top of the stairway Hub meeting room, viewed toward the front entrance

Welcome to the
Hub of Atheism!


Atheists For Human Rights has a geodesic dome as its headquarters. This unique architecture was developed by Buckminster ("Bucky") Fuller (1895-1983), an atheist, architect, environmentalist, and inventor. His ambition was to use science to help solve human problems and to find ways to do more with less.

The tragic death of his young daughter inspired him to find "what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity." The epitaph on Fuller's tombstone says, "Call me trimtab," referring to a small but critical aircraft part that holds a stabilizing component in position.

Much of Fuller's philosophy is expressed in the goals and strivings of Atheists For Human Rights.

Contact UsTop of Page

5146 Newton Ave. N.
Minneapolis MN 55430-3459

If you need directions, call:

or email:
Communications Director.

Leave us a voicemail by calling:

612-DAMN-Y'ALL (612-326-6925)


Phone messages may be used on our website.



Letters and articles are welcome!

The Hub CalendarTop of Page

If you are not a regular attendee,
call to find out if the schedule has changed.

Fireside Chat


3rd Fridays   6-9+ PM
Hub of Atheism,
5146 Newton Ave. N., Minneapolis
Call (612) 588-1597 or
email Communications Director

Always free food and beverages.


20 May:
Last Fireside Chat until September. The religious right is polluting politics so we will show "The Brainwashing of My Dad": A filmmaker documents how a good liberal got turned into a right wing lunatic. Start time is 7 PM.


June, July, August:
No Fireside Chats. Come to Freethinkers potluck picnics, Sundays, 12-3. 12 June: Columbia Park, Columbia Heights. 17 Jul: Wabun Picnic Area, Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis. 21 August: Columbia Park.
Email George Kane for directions.


Monday Happy Hour: 5:00 to 6:30 PM
Ol' Mexico Restaurant, on Lexington, two blocks north of Larpenteur, Roseville.
Call Paul Craven, 763-788-8918.


1st Tuesdays: 11:30 AM Lunch Social
NEW LOCATION (Old Country Buffet has closed.) Dragom House restaurant, 3970 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights. Private room. NEWLY EXPANDED BUFFET.
Call Marilyn Nienkerk, 612-866-6200.


1st & 3rd Mondays 6:30 PM Toastmasters
Larpenteur Estates party room, 1276 Larpenteur Ave. W., St. Paul.
George Kane, 651-488-8225.


3rd Wednesdays 11:30 AM
Charley French Memorial Lunch Discussion Group
Dragon House restaurant, 3970 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights. Private room.
Bill Volna, 612-781-1420 or 1322.



Twin Cities Meetups
Email Scott Muir or visit Twin Cities Atheists

Southern Minnesota Meetups
Email Crystal Dervetski



Local: Ad hoc discussions at social events.
National: Announcements and discussions on AFHRbod Yahoo Groups, first 10 days of the month. To get on the list, just give us your email address. Significant issues discussed are covered in The Moral Atheist for reader feedback. It's all open. Decisions, if needed, are formed by consensus if possible.



Our videos are played in Minneapolis and St. Paul on public access stations.
In Minneapolis, they are on MTN Ch. 75 at 7:30 PM. Mondays and other "fill-in" times.
In St. Paul, they are on SPNN Ch 15 at 6 PM; Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 AM and 11 AM.
Thanks to Paul Craven for handling this.

LinksTop of Page