Monday, September 14, 2009

AANEWS for Monday, September 14, 2009

#1276 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 09/14/09
A Service of AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide movement that defends
civil rights for non-believers; works for the total separation of
Church and State; and addresses issues of First Amendment public
"ATHEIST is really a thoroughly honest, unambiguous term, it admits
of no paltering and no evasion, and the need of the world, now as
ever, is for clear-cut issues and unambiguous speech."
-- Chapman Cohen
In This Issue...
* A public disgrace! Darwin film unable to find US distributor.
* Worth Noting --Karen Armstrong on God, more...
* Join American Atheists
* Dave's blog
* Resources
* About this list...
Producers of a new film about the life of naturalist Charles Darwin
have been unable to secure a company to handle distribution in the
United States.
According to Oscar-winning director Jeremy Thomas , the theme of
the forthcoming movie "Creation" is deemed "too controversial for
religious America"
The production opened the recent Toronto Film Festival and won rave
reviews. Starring Paul Bettany and Martha West, it traces the agony
and achievements of a young Charles Darwin in his "struggle between
faith and reason" as he penned his landmark work on evolutionary
biology, "On the Origin of Species." The Daily Telegraph newspaper
notes, "it has been sold in almost every territory around the
world, from Australia to Scandinavia ... However, US distributors
have passed on a film that will prove hugely divisive in a country
where according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39%
of Americans believe in the theory of evolution."
In the course of the movie, Darwin agonizes over the sudden death
of his 10-year-old daughter and his loss of faith in God.
Production of the film has been closely followed by Christian
bloggers and web sites, and only recently was mentioned in the
mainstream media. Its release "is virtually certain to provoke
massive controversy" and spark new debate over evolution, science
and religion according to one Telegraph reviewer. The producers
have even opened a special resource service aimed at trying to
answer objections from Christian organizations who may find the
film blasphemous and objectionable.
One Christian web site,, is characterizing Charles
Darwin as "a racist, a bigot and a 1800s naturalist whose legacy
is mass murder." It also described evolutionary theory as
"half-baked," and stridently claimed that Darwin's work resulted
in the horrific deeds of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen, along
with "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic
engineering." The Daily Mail reports that producer Jeremy Thomas
is astounded that such opinions find a wide and credulous audience
fully 150 years after the publication of Darwin's seminal work,
and that religious sensibilities constitute a near-insurmountable
barrier to finding an American distributor for this film.
"The film has no distributor in America," Mr. Thomas opined.
"It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the U.S.,
and it's because of what the film is about. People have been
saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yes nobody in
the U.S. has picked it up."
And more: "It is unbelievable to us that this is still a real hot
potato in America," says Thomas. "There's still a great belief
that He made the world in six days. We live in a country (the
United Kingdom) which is no longer so religious. But in the U.S.,
outside of New York and Los Angeles, religion rules."
Thomas is only partially correct, though in his assessment of
the American religious landscape. Religious fundamentalists are
not a majority of the population; and the ranks of us who describe
ourselves as having "no religion" -- a figure that includes Atheists,
Freethinkers, Humanists and other "seculars" -- has been steadily
growing. It is the fundamentalist Christians, though, who are among
the most politically organized in the country, as they saunter forth
to carry out "the Great Commission" and forge a "godly society."
The fact that religious prejudice can intimidate Hollywood
distributors and studios in so blatant a fashion is testament to
a number of disturbing trends.
One is the regrettable complacence of the scientific and
educational communities who, until recently, assumed that
creationist fantasies were a relic of the 1920s and small pockets
of backwoods provincialism. With a public school system and the
gradual enlightenment of the population, surely fundamentalist
ideas concerning the origins of life would dissipate. After all,
mainstream Protestant bodies and even the Roman Catholic Church
announced that there was no conflict between modern scientific
findings (like evolutionary processes, "deep time" and insights
into the chemistry of life itself) and their brands of religion.
Why worry?
The second is a deadly combination of ideological revanchism and
sheer determination by fundamentalists to proselytize and organize.
Creationism is alive and well, from the lavish Creationist Museum in
Petersburg, Kentucky to dozens of advocacy and legal groups seeking
to introduce this religious doctrine into the public schools under
the veneer of providing students with "alternative" explanations"
of how life and the universe began. We ignore these ideological
initiatives at our peril. America remains a sophisticated
technological society with a first-rate scientific establishment
(although some see erosion of this position); but socially and
culturally, we fail to live up to those lofty standards.
The fact that a film about Charles Darwin cannot be brought --
at least for now -- to audiences in America is evidence of the
religiously-driven intellectual bankruptcy plaguing our land. It is
also a call for all enlightened Americans to, well, get our hands a
bit dirty in the battle over teaching creationism, and the rest of
"good science," in schools and defending Darwin in the public square.
When, during the opening of the Creationist museum in Kentucky a
year ago Freethought activist Edwin Kagin organized the Rally for
Reason," he received widespread support. Some potential allies,
though,decided to sit out this battle, surmising that a public
demonstration at the gates of the newly-minted museum, would simply
draw unwarranted attention to the event. In other words, advocates
of "good science" and fact-based public policy should, presumably,
ignore the vocal and politically savvy movement of creationists and
"Intelligent Design" partisans in hopes that they will -- what? --
go away?
That is a gamble we as a culture simply cannot take.
We hope that "Creation" finds a willing and enthusiastic distribution
company in the United States, and that the public supports this
film at the box office. Failing this, we further tarnish our
international image and continue to jeopardize the education of
further generations.
-- Conrad Goeringer,
Editor, AANEWS
Links used in this report:
Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America' A
British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor
because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American
audiences, according to its producer.
Web site for The Rally for Reason
Wikipedia entry on creationism
Web site for "Creation," the film.
Muslim woman presses French panel for burqa ban Her voice trembling
with emotion, the leader of an advocacy group for Muslim women and
girls urged a French parliamentary panel on Wednesday to press for
laws that would ban the wearing of Islamic body- and face-covering
veils. Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly
created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas
and niqabs - part of France's effort to integrate its growing Muslim
population while preserving its heritage and secular roots.
Godless work: Edmonton atheists to pitch in to clean Alberta highways
In a press release today, the Society of Edmonton Atheists announced
its plan to participate in the Government of Alberta's "Caring for
Alberta Highways" program. On Sunday, this merry band of heathens
will be cleaning the stretch of Highway 2 North near the city's
international airport. The godless work will begin in the morning
and last until the organization's 3.2 kilometre stretch of adopted
road is free from litter.
Americans Don't Believe in Church/State Separation Americans may
believe in the importance of religious liberty, but for some reason
they don't also believe in separating church from state. These views
aren't compatible unless one thinks that a religious government
would protect the rights of religious minorities. More likely I
think, though, is that most Americans just don't think very deeply
or seriously about the positions they adopt.
Elizabeth mosque organizes national prayer gathering for Muslims in
Washington, D.C. A mosque in Elizabeth, Dar-ul-Islam, is spearheading
a national prayer gathering next month in Washington, D.C., that
organizers are billing as the first event of its kind -- organized
prayer for tens of thousands of Muslims outside the U.S. Capitol
building. The event will not include political speeches or placards,
just prayer, said Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam and
a main organizer of the event, which is scheduled for Sept. 25.
The Architect of 9/11 In 1994, Mohamed Atta traveled to Istanbul
with a student group and continued onward to visit Dittmar Machule
in northern Syria, where the professor was doing fieldwork on
a Bronze Age village under excavation. But Atta found himself
more interested in the traditional urbanism of the nearest major
city, Aleppo. Atta was hardly the first student of Middle Eastern
architecture drawn to Aleppo. Along with Fez in Morocco and Sana'a
in Yemen, Aleppo is considered among the best-preserved cities in
the Arab world. When he decided to write his thesis on the city,
he returned later that year to conduct more extensive research.
Out, Out, Damned Atheists: Karen Armstrong weighs in on God. The
latest salvo in the war between the atheists and the believers
comes from the doyenne of religious intellectual history, Karen
Armstrong. Her tone is one of high-minded irritation. Her argument
is compelling. To oversimplify: "faith" and "reason" are not like
political parties. You don't join one after having been convinced
via argument of its validity.
A Mind, Even if It's Just a Couple of Pounds of Meat, Is a Terrible
Thing to Waste (From Discovery Institute) - The world is awash
with charities. Most are quite worthwhile. For pennies a day, you
can send a child in an impoverished country to school, and kindle
a lifetime of learning. But there remain many unmet needs. What
about people living in ideological poverty? We've all heard the
stories. Materialist philosophers of the mind who deny that the mind
exists. Full professors of evolutionary biology who misunderstand
demonstrations of the existence of God that are routinely mastered
by teenagers in Introductory Philosophy courses. Atheist authors
of letters to Christian nations who excoriate religion and ignore
the unparalleled atrocities of atheism. Unrepentant Trotskyites
who scold Christians for adherence to a messianic ideology.
Faith-Based Double Standards In 2001, President Bush issued his
first executive order as president. He created a program to encourage
religious organizations to receive taxpayer funds to perform social
services. The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, as it was called,
infuriated many. Civil libertarians said it violated the separation
of church and state, liberals suggested that the office was paying
off political supporters, and even Christian conservatives worried
about the tentacles of government regulation.
Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America' A
British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor
because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American
audiences, according to its producer.

Religion in America in Decline Religion in America is on the decline
and has been dropping since the turn of the century. That's not an
atheist's happy dream. It's the conclusion of researchers at Faith
Communities Today (FACT), the multi-year study of American religion
quarterbacked by the Hartford Seminary's Hartford Institute for
Religion Research.
How Atheists View Religion The struggle between religion and reason
for the hearts and minds of the people goes back at least as far
as ancient Greece and has been played out time and again through
the ages. Throughout the 21st century, modern civilization
will confront a wide range of intellectual, moral, and social
challenges. One of the most difficult issues to settle will be the
proper role of religion in the public sphere.
Here's a "stimulus package" for Atheists! We know that times are
difficult. Nonbelievers are like everyone else in the country
--you can get laid off or put on part-time, you can see important
investment and home value evaporate. And many people are cutting
costs, postponing vacations, cutting back whenever and wherever
they can.
So, American Atheists is making it easier than ever before to join
up in the fight for Reason, separation of church and state, and
the effort to give America's unbelieving community "a place at the
table" in the discussion over First Amendment public policy. You
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