Atheist Texts to Sit Alongside Holy Bible in Georgia State Parks

Atheists Texts to Sit Alongside Holy Bibles

Turn about's fair play for Georgia governor Nathan Deal, who may have to sit idly by as atheist writings are placed side by side with the Holy Bible on bookshelves in state park cabins, The Huffington Post reports.

The hubbub started back in April, when devout Georgian atheist Ed Buckner brought his family to Amicalola Falls State Park for a little cabin retreat, only to find nine Gideon Bibles dispersed throughout the rustic rooms. His swift complaints resulted in the books' removal, but the Attorney General's Office ultimately determined those Bibles had every right to be there because they weren't purchased by the state, but rather donated by religious organizations. Governor Deal, no doubt certain the invitation would go unnoticed, said any other religious groups were free to donate texts as well.

Well, Deal was wrong. President of American Atheists, David Silverman, has moved to donate numerous books to the state of Georgia, including Madalyn O'Hair's Why I Am an Atheist. Silverman had this to say:

We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment. If the state is going to put Bibles in the cabins, they must allow alternate points of view – all alternative points of view without taking sides.

It seems, however, that Deal and the state of Georgia don't want to play fair. Silverman hasn't received an official go-ahead for the donation. When asked if Silverman's donation would be approved, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson was reportedly evasive.

Seems shady. If you're cool with one religious perspective occupying state cabin shelf space, you have to be cool with all others. It's only fair. Then again, politicians and fairness don't always go hand in hand, amiright?

What does everyone think? Do Buckner and Silverman have the right to place atheists books in cabins?

Image of Why I Am an Atheist: Including a History of Materialism
Author: Madalyn O'Hair
Price: $9.00
Publisher: American Atheist Press (1991)
Binding: Paperback, 56 pages

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Comments

Dorian Grey's picture
Dorian Grey from Transexual, Transylvania is reading "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck May 21, 2013 - 2:20pm

I guess yeah, maybe it's fair, to have books of both opposing views put in there, but whether it's really worth the ungodly (haha) shitstorm that ensues is another question.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 21, 2013 - 3:18pm

I'm Buddhist/Muslim/Jewish/Shinto/Sikh/Pagan/Wiccan (ad nauseum).

Can I have my text displayed there, too?

Why can't I just bring my own text if I want to commune with nature? People are so self-centered, self-serving. So many people truly fail at understanding what it means to be respectful of others. 

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like May 21, 2013 - 5:38pm

[edit]

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 21, 2013 - 6:13pm

I'm the guy who stirred all this up on 28 April and in the days thereafter. My choice then--and preference still--was to quietly take steps to return our state parks to the purposes they can fulfill with excellence: to create and maintain places of natural beauty and, often historical significance, where Georgians and visitors can go to relax and reflect. I did not want or seek a lawsuit or a media circus: just fair and constitutional processes.

Of course every visitor to the parks has and must keep the right to bring any reading materials he wishes when he visits. But the state of Georgia should not be in the business of promoting any views on religion, nor even allowing any groups--Gideons or American Atheists--to place literature in cabins. We have fine libraries for that and citizens who can readily find materials that suit them. Governor Deal will not, I predict, be able to find a fair and equitable way to put everyone's "sacred" books or other literature at park users disposal. And he shouldn't try. There's a better way: keep government out of the religion business, period.  

 

Regards to all,

Ed Buckner, author (with my son Michael) of In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist Guide to Religious Liberty (Prometheus Books, 2012).

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 21, 2013 - 8:45pm

I'm sure they'll be able to get the atheist books in there, but it seems unlikely they'll be able to keep them between people throwing them out and having way less support then the Gideons do. 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 21, 2013 - 11:26pm

Ed, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts here. I agree with you. We're not talking private property here, we're talking state property supported by state taxpayers.

It's not rocket science.

SConley's picture
SConley from Texas is reading Coin Locker Babies May 22, 2013 - 5:34am

Nobody will read the atheist stuff anyway, it's always so petty and mean-spirited.

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 22, 2013 - 7:25am

SConley must not have read much "atheist stuff." His comment was petty and mean-spirited, ironically enough. Want a reading list of good atheist books? I can give you one with dozens of books on it--and no pettiness or mean-spirited to be found.

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 22, 2013 - 7:24am

Anyone who wants such a list, e-mail me-- ebuckner@atheists.org . And please, don't flood my inbox with lame insults. Thanks.  --Ed B.

SConley's picture
SConley from Texas is reading Coin Locker Babies May 22, 2013 - 9:27am

You atheists are a touchy and defensive lot. You're like those people with "no soliciting" signs and the reason they have them is because they know they wouldn't be able to stand up to salesmen. Hence the sign.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 22, 2013 - 10:23am

I don't think it is fair to call all atheists as a group anything, except non believers, but the ones who seem to get published/popular do seem to be the least mellow of the group. I know several atheists who are cool with me being a Christain and vice versa. Live and let live. But the writings on the subject seem, if not exactly as Conley describes them, at least some what devoid of logic and/or joy. Some seem to care about their ideas, but I've never seen one I would describe as fun. I think that the sadness is what really stops people from reading it.

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 23, 2013 - 11:10am

"Touchy and defensive," SConley? Is that worse or better than "petty and mean-spirited"? Best I can tell, without knowing you, is that both phrases mean you don't understand or care about or know about the subject.

Cite me something--anything--that "us atheists" say or do, and then I can decide if everyone named SConley is ignorant and rude--or maybe it's just you?

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 23, 2013 - 11:10am

And, Dwayne--at least you should get credit for inveighing against over-generalizing and in favor of fairness, for which I'm grateful.

But I'd have to say that your circle of atheist friends (or at least friends who you know are atheists) may be too small. I know thousands of atheists, including dozens who're published writers. They/we run the gamut of mellow to pissed off, joyful to logical, etc., at least as widely as the many Christians I also know.

If logical, joyful, knowledgeable, witty, and interesting atheists is what you seek, there are lots of books to choose from. Dale McGowan's Atheism for Dummies is suberb on all those counts, and I know him personally and know that he's well educated, bright, convivial, witty, and joyful in person as well as in his writing. Fine husband and father, too.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 11:31am

Hi Ed. Just a few comments/questions here. My understanding of atheism is limited at best. I'm going to be brief here because I just lost my much more lengthy comment. 

In the absence of a god, how does something come from nothing?

Isn't atheism simply a different kind of faith, a faith in the scientific method over mythology to (eventually) answer fundamental questions about how we are here in the first place?

If you define atheism as a philosophy that places no faith anywhere, neither science nor religion, how do you answer the question of where you come from? Do you ask yourself that question?

Just FYI, I consider myself agnostic. If I lean anywhere on the spiritual spectrum, it would be toward Buddhism and Taoism, mainly for the philosophy behind them about how to live a simple, meaningful life on my own terms.

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 23, 2013 - 2:29pm

M E Snyder,

Thorough answers to your reasonable questions would require books, not blog comments. I can recommend many good ones, including Atheism for Dummies (see earlier comment). Below are some very brief and therefore necessarily superficial answers.

     1. In the absence of a god, how does something come from nothing?

Theism gives no real--only an apparent--answer to your question. Calling whatever the forces or energy that got "something" going by the name "God" explains nothing whatever about our origins. We--humanity--know nothing about anything "before" the Big Bang and cannot, in principle, even ask reasonable questions about it, since that is considered (by cosmologists, of whom I am not smart enough or educated enough to be a member) the beginning of time as well as space. Anyone who thinks everything has to be preceded by something else are left with a quite similar question: Waht caused "God"? If the answer is that He is an uncaused cause, just substitute "the universe" for "God" and our dilemma, the paradox if there is one, is unresolved.

2. Isn't atheism simply a different kind of faith, a faith in the scientific method over mythology to (eventually) answer fundamental questions about how we are here in the first place?

If atheism is a faith, not collecting postage stamps is a hobby. Atheism is my conclusion after considering, as best I can, everything about man and the universe. I have confidence--limited, tentative confidence--in the scientific method because it has demonstrably been the best approach we humans have come up with to increase our understanding and our control of reality. I am a skepticabout all things, not just about gods.

3. If you define atheism as a philosophy that places no faith anywhere, neither science nor religion, how do you answer the question of where you come from? Do you ask yourself that question?

See above two answers. Atheism is the conclusion that the natural world, governed by natural principles, is all there is. That is not a joyless or daunting conclusion, by the way. Life is no less grand, no less full of satisfying things, for thinking that there are no gods, fairies, angels, spirits, etc. While I've concluded that there are no ultimate purposes of life or the universe, I've certainly not concluded that I--and all those I know and love--have no purposes. It's up to us to live well and love. Technically, I too, am an agnostic, since I've concluded that there are no gods but no way to conclusively demnstrate the complete lack of such beings. I am, as George Smith has called it, in Atheism: The Case Against God, an atheistic agnostic. Someone who believes there are any gods can certainly be a theistic agnostic.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 23, 2013 - 3:48pm

@Ed - Maybe I was unclear.

But the writings on the subject seem, if not exactly as Conley describes them, at least some what devoid of logic and/or joy. Some seem to care about their ideas, but I've never seen one I would describe as fun.

With 'one' meaning the writings and 'some' meaning atheists themselves. I'm unfamiliar with the works you brought up, and honestly my to read list (books I already have) is so long that any new editions will be a few years away. And to be honest I've always considered the idea of atheism so just out there that I have trouble finding anyone besides George Carlin who doesn't seem to take it too seriously. No offense intended.

@Snyder - I think it should be pointed out that the scientific method itself is ''agnostic", since God(s) can not be proven or disproven. and as I understand it comes largely from the Muslim researchers and Franciscan monks.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 5:28pm

Ed, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. It's educational, and it's very much appreciated. Please don't construe any of my questions as willfully disrespectful in any way. I just find it all fascinating.

Here's where the bug is for me.

The following statements I interpret as assertions of faith, inherently irrational statements, and at odds with the philosophy that drives atheism as non-atheists (at least this one) have come to understand it:

While I've concluded that there are no ultimate purposes of life or the universe...

and

...since I've concluded that there are no gods but no way to conclusively demnstrate the complete lack of such beings

Of course there is nothing wrong with these statements, I just find contradiction here. I'll check out the book. 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 5:54pm

Sorry, one other thing regarding the following statement:

Atheism is the conclusion that the natural world, governed by natural principles, is all there is.

I understand, I think, what you're saying here. But it seems needlessly self-limiting in terms of worldview, since you can't possibly know this for sure. I see it as another assertion of faith. Also, a statement like this precludes even the consideration of impermanence, consideration of "why" questions like Why am I here? 

I think it's so important to ask why, especially when the "what" of the statement I quoted above is not proven (or disproven).

I should add, the only reason I've not considered myself an atheist is because of the questions I've asked in these messages. 

Do you consider atheism a form of faith? Should I stop trying to define it as a faithless philosophy? If so, I then find little motivation to consider it as a worldview much different from the countless religions I could choose from, except that adherence to its tenets would render questions about the meaning of existence pointless. I could accept that restriction, I suppose, if the statement quoted above could be proven true. 

 

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore May 23, 2013 - 6:16pm

A very funny video for any and all dogmatists ... Dawkins reads hatemail.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=-ZuowNcuGsc&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D-Z...

 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 6:59pm

It's funny, and it's sad, and it's a bit disturbing.

Funny because all of the hypocrisy, sad because of all the hypocrisy, and disturbing.. because of all the hypocrisy.

That said, there was a certain smugness to the reading, an elitist air, and a joyless humor expressed by the unseen sycophants. 

I can't blame them, but the optimist in me hopes they don't sink to that level too very often.

 

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore May 23, 2013 - 7:11pm

To be fair: an Englishman could simply read the ingredients from a Wheaties box and sound smug.

 

 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 7:28pm

That's true :)

Ed Buckner's picture
Ed Buckner May 23, 2013 - 8:21pm

It seems as if I'm just repeating myself, but I very much appreciate the tone of M E Snyder's remarks, so let me give it another try: my atheistic conclusions, including the several you pulled out, are conclusions I've drawn after years of reading, observing, and thinking about these matters. I do not think of such conclusions as--nor present them as--irrefutable truths or even as evidence. They are necessarily tentative conclusions, but they are, for me, well-supported by all I know and have learned. I mentioned in my earlier post that I am an agnostic atheist--and this is exactly what I meant by that label. I certainly do not think it makes any sense at all to consider atheism a faith, just the result of having confidence in what I have learned and observed.

George Carlin was a genuinely funny man, but he's far from the only funny atheist--and I know many atheists who love the humor of Carlin, Lewis Black, Woody Allen, Bill Maher, Greta Christina, Jamilla Bey, and many others.

My books-I-own-and-am-going-to-finish-reading list goes on and on, so I sympathize with Dwayne on that score.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder May 23, 2013 - 9:03pm

Hi Ed. I don't feel I'm asking the same questions, even if you feel they require same/similar answers, but I do appreciate the time you've taken to respond. Be well.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 24, 2013 - 4:56am

From what I have seen there are some atheists who don't make their beliefs a big deal and are funny, but Carlin was the only one I ever found who was funny regarding atheism. Other authors like Asimov might have been atheists and wrote fun/funny books, but they didn't really address their atheism in the fun/funny ones.