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Welcome to the nation's most morally active and innovative atheist organization!
The Moral Atheist
September-October 2015
This issue of The Moral Atheist is being distributed. The cover story about religion and tax exemptions is especially provocative. Do we really need the religion clauses in the First Amendment any more? Did we ever?
For a full copy of TMA by PDF or postal mail, just ask!
Beliefs, Non-beliefs, and Tax Exemptions:
The Constitution's Unworkable Religion Clauses.

The Death of Lavanam:
Atheism and the Atheist Centre in India
Lose a World Renowned Advocate
for Morally Active Atheism.

AFHR Report


AFHR is involved with the Minnesota chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and now we have a nationwide AU initiative to announce. This is especially relevant to AFHR because of our unique nationwide membership.

Here is the situation, from George Kane, board member of the MN Chapter (along with myself and Randall Tigue). If any of you can help this effort in your area individually or with a local freethought group, let us know so we can pass your information on to AU:

Today I am writing to you, the leader of a local secularist organization, for two reasons. The first is to apprise you of a new initiative from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which they have dubbed "Protect Thy Neighbor" (PTN). We expect that there will be a backlash from the religious right to the recent Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage a legal right everywhere in the country. Already there have been cases of government clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages, claiming religious freedom permits them to disregard the law. There have been similar claims of religious privilege by employers to avoid the reproductive health care mandates of the Affordable Care Act.

The national office of Americans United wants to know of such incidents all over the country, so they can assist the victims. I would like you to visit the Americans United site at to read about the PTN initiative, spread the word to your membership, and tell us about any cases that your members encounter of discrimination justified as an exercise of religious freedom.

The other reason I am writing is that I am hoping to foster cooperation between the Minnesota Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and like-minded local groups. Our focus is on separation of church and state, and we will appreciate it if you keep us apprised of any violations you find. We are also interested in working with your organization on separation activities that your organization is undertaking. Perhaps we can work together in other ways, such as educational programs and events.

George Francis Kane, Director, Minnesota Chapter
Americans United for Separation of Church and State


We need to clear up something about The Moral Atheist and what it means to be a responsible journalist. That doesn't mean a "journalist" like those at Fox News who have a reputation for validating the saying (attributed to many writers), "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on."

One of our members asked how important or necessary it is to give credit for material written by someone else and used in a letter for publication in TMA. The letter included a brief poetic segment and it was not clear whether that was the work of the letter writer or someone else. It turned out to be from a copyrighted poem by someone else. The letter writer thought it would be OK to use it without attribution. He said it was fair use. I disagreed but the letter writer was sure the copyright laws favored his view. Some basic principles about fairness, honesty and getting facts straight (also known as Journalism 101) were being a bit scrambled here. I realized that not all of our readers necessarily understand the importance of attribution so I told our letter writer I would explain it in this issue. Here it is:

  • I am a professional journalist but I do this as a volunteer to advance the cause of atheism. I have a B.A. degree in journalism earned with straight A's and with over four decades of experience. I know what I'm doing.
  • Don't use copyrighted material without permission. Small segments (called fair use) are OK if the source is acknowledged. Credit must be given where credit is due. After all, which is better—to withhold credit and imply you're a better writer than you are or to give credit and show you're an honest writer who is well read? It's OK to copy ideas (there are no original ones—all writing is rewriting) but express them in your own words in your own way.
  • If you use quotations from a murky source you still should give attribution if only "It's been said that . . .." It comes down to this: If you didn't write it, don't pretend you did.
  • With TMA, journalistic integrity prevails over legal hairsplitting to justify unfair use, so just give credit. I am proud to be part of a profession so premised on truth telling and exposing society's destructive myths and illusions that it is essential to democracy. (Yes, I know the mainstream media tend more toward timid accommodation than exposure but the principle stands.) I hope this explanation has been useful. Thank you all for your support.


We have been getting requests for authorization to be marriage celebrants from people who heard about our lawsuit. It is a pleasure to accommodate them. It seems the preferred celebrant for secular couples is a friend or family member. That's good. We can see that as symbolically freeing them from the traditional patriarchal control that church and state once had over marriage.

We don't charge for this (although we might later on) because we are interested right now in getting totally atheist marriages well established in practice. That will be helped in the future by a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th District (which includes Minnesota) that upheld same-sex marriage. The ruling rejected an attempt to moot the case by promising to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in support of same-sex marriage in the future. The Court of Appeals said a promise for the future can't make a current case moot.

If we had that ruling when we filed our lawsuit, the judge would not have been able to say Washington County's promise to allow atheist marriage registrations in the future made our case moot. The ruling would have had to be on constitutional issues, which we would have won. But now we have a solid precedent to win on those issues if we can just get another county to reject our applicants.


In This Issue

3AFHR Report. (See above)
4How Redefining Religion Undermines the Constitution's Religion Clauses.  MarieAlena Castle
6Religious Liberty: You Do Need It.  Tim Gorski
8Lavanam, Leader of India's Atheist Centre, Has Died.  MarieAlena Castle
9Atheism and the New Universal Human.  Lavanam
10CHRISTIANITY IN ITS OWN WORDS. "Help! I'm Being Repressed! Part 5."  William Sierichs Jr.
13Why Christianity is Immoral.  Jon Nelson
15The Thicket.  Stephen Van Eck
16WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? Current title.  Bill van Druten
BACK COVER: A Moral Sense Based on Myths and Illusions.

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
* Ask how this might apply in your state.

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.
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 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.

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

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:




Phone messages may be used on our website.



Letters and articles are welcome!

CalendarTop of Page

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


5:00 to 6:30 PM
Happy Hour

Ol' Mexico Restaurant, on Lexington, two blocks north of Larpenteur, Roseville.
Call Paul Craven, 763-788-8918.


1st Tuesdays
11:30 AM
Lunch Social

Old Country Buffet, County Road. B2, (east of Fairview). Roseville.
Bob & Marilyn Nienkerk, 612-866-6200.


1st & 3rd Mondays
6:30 PM

Larpenteur Estates party room, 1276 Larpenteur Ave. W., St. Paul.
George Kane, 651-488-8225.


3rd Wednesdays
11:30 AM
Charley French Memorial Lunch

Dragon House restaurant, 3970 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights.
Private room.
Bill Volna, 612-781-1420 or 1322.


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.


18 September:
The DVD is the award winning film, The Theory of Everything, (reviewed in the July-August TMA) about scientist Stephen Hawking. What amazing acting by Eddie Redmayne! See it!


16 October:
The DVD is The Imitation Game, the haunting portrayal of Alan Turing, whose genius gave us the computer and led to victory in WWII. But he was gay so religious dogma negated everything, inflicted hellish persecution, and drove him to suicide. See this!



Twin Cities Meetups
Email Scott Muir, Video Manager 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