Our Humanity, Naturally

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The Myth of Militant Atheism

Why are atheists vilified? What is a militant atheist?

Nine bullets fired from close range ended the life of Salman Taseer last month, making the Pakistani governor the latest high-profile victim of religious violence. Taseer had the audacity to publicly question Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and for this transgression he paid with his life.

Taseer joins a list of numerous other high-profile victims of militant religion, such as Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor killed by a devout Christian assassin in 2009, and Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker whose provocative movie about Islam resulted in his being brutally murdered in 2004.

With this background, it is especially puzzling that the American media and public still perpetuate the cliché of so-called "militant atheism." We hear the disparaging term "militant atheist" used frequently, the unquestioned assumption being that militant atheists are of course roaming the streets of America.

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In fact, however, while millions of atheists are indeed walking our streets, it would be difficult to find even one who could accurately be described as militant. In all of American history, it is doubtful that any person has ever been killed in the name of atheism. In fact, it would be difficult to find evidence that any American has ever even been harmed in the name of atheism. It just does not happen, because the notion of "militant atheism" is entirely fantasy.

When the media and others refer to a "militant atheist," the object of that slander is usually an atheist who had the nerve to openly question religious authority or vocally express his or her views about the existence of God. Conventional wisdom quickly tells us that such conduct is shameful or, at the very least, distasteful, and therefore the brazen nonbeliever is labeled "militant."

But this reflects a double standard, because it seems to apply only to atheists. Religious individuals and groups frequently declare, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, that you are a sinner and that you will suffer in hell for eternity if you do not adopt their supernatural beliefs, but they will almost never be labeled "militant" by the media or the public. Instead, such individuals are called "devout" and such churches are called "evangelical."

The lesson here is clear. If you're an atheist, shut up about it. If you are open or vocal about your atheist worldview, you are a "militant atheist." Be silent, even though that same standard does not apply to those who passionately disagree with you.

This, to be sure, explains why so few Americans openly identify as atheist. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, indicates that only about 81 percent of Americans affirmatively believe in a god (about 69 percent believe in a personal God, while about 12 percent believe in some kind of "higher power"), meaning about 19 percent do not. Yet despite the fact that almost one in five Americans don't affirmatively believe, only a tiny fraction of those dare to identify openly as atheist.

Analyze those numbers all you want, but the inescapable conclusion is that millions of Americans are in the closet about their religious skepticism. This, in turn, only serves to validate and legitimize the religious right, because it suggests that there is something wrong with a secular worldview. By keeping atheists closeted, the religious right can claim the moral high ground and influence public policy more than it should.

Therefore, maybe it's time to end the myth of militant atheism?

 

Order Dave Niose's new book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans.

 

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Article Copyright 2011 David Niose

 

Agreed!

Like the comic in the article, when I think of militant Islam I think terrorism, poor treatment of women, etc, when I think of militant Christianity I think of the crusades, witch hunts, mothers killing their children thinking god gave them a sign, the Vatican condoning the use of condoms in an AIDS stricken Africa, etc. When I think of militant Atheism I think of some dude being witty on the internet. Maybe Richard Dawkins frowning sternly. Thats it.

Some will try to pin mass murderers like Hitler on Atheism, but thats just silly. Reading his autobiography its clear he was not an Atheist for one, and even if he was it would not matter as Atheism did not provide him a reason for the killing.

As Hitches often puts it, a bad person will do bad things regardless of religion, a good person will do good things regardless, but a good person will only do bad things in the name of religion.

I think overlooking the

I think overlooking the communist and the millions that they brutally murdered is a slight oversight on the part of the writer. Athiesm is a religion in istlelf. It revolves around the worship of ones will.

Christianity also has promoted science for centuries, which they should do since they founded it. You may be suprised to find so many innovators in the field were persons of faith, and continue to be factors in the current age. Science does not contradict religion, it just makes us realize how much we really do not know.

The same old misinformation...

Just because some brutal dictators have been atheists does NOT mean, & never HAS meant, that anything they did was IN THE NAME OF atheism. That's the key point that believers (almost always Xian, too - imagine that!) leave out when trying to make false comparisons in this issue. And, no, atheism is NOT a religion - tho' this silliness about "worshiping the will" is a new one on me.

However, that said, I believe there are militant atheists. Madalyn (sp?) Murray O'Hare comes to mind. & she freed the public schools from the imposed bigotry of - surprise, surprise! - Xianity! When I think "militant atheist", I think someone who actively works to bring about his beliefs to others. Lucky for the rest of us that atheists have no creed that says "Kill the unbeliever!" Or, rather, the "believer."

And, for the record, I do believe in God, but also in evolution: I'm Jewish.

Th thing is, the COmmunists

Th thing is, the COmmunists actually cpied the term "Militant Atheism", and while tis true, beign killed by an Atheist is not the same thing as beign killed in the name f Atheism, its stupid to think the Communists didn't kill in the name of Atheism when they lined Theists agaisnt walls and shot them specificaly to promote State Atheism by eradicating beleivein God.
\
They did this, byt the way. They killed peopel simply for beleiving that God exists, in order to create a totlaly Atheistic society. How is that not killing in the name of Atheism?

I don't believe that Atheism

I don't believe that Atheism is a religion, which is:

–noun
1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

-There is no "set of beliefs", and in reality Atheism is a mere displacement of religion. It is the absence of belief of higher powers.

Arheism is nort A Displacement of Rekligion.

In today's dialogue, we often think of Atheism as the opposite of Religion, but for this to be True, we'd have o think of Religion as a synonym for Theism. The Truth is, Atheism is not incompatible with the definition of Religion you yourself provided. While Atheism in and of itself is not a Religion, neither is Theism. However, the alternatives to Religion that many Atheists promote, such as Secular Humanism or Ayn Rand's Objectivism, are, in fact, nothing but godless Religions. We may today find many objecting to this and saying they are Philosophies, not Religions, but when all is said and done, Religion is nothing but Philosophy, with the distinction between the two being really nonexistant.

The New Atheism is to me a Religion, not simply because I think Atheism is a Religion, but because they go beyond belief there is no God ( and lets face it, the "lack of belief" route claim makes no sense given the active claim that God doesnt exist) and into realms of ethics, morality, and the nature of our existence, ect... thee's more to contemporaneous Atheist thought than just "Lack of belief in a god" and to say otherwise is to kid ourselves.

Atheism is not the opposite of Religion or the displacement of Religion. In itself Atheism is the belief that there are no gods, and in today's world, Atheism is simply a component aspect of a Greater Philosophy one adheres to.

What ridiculous comments. No,

What ridiculous comments. No, atheism is not a religion. Atheism says absolutely nothing about one's beliefs; only that one doesn't believe in a God or Gods. Many Buddhists are atheists, for instance. Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby.

And saying that atheism revolves around a 'worship of the will' is one of the most wilfully ignorant and inane things I've ever heard. ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF SYSTEM. Atheists can have all kinds of morals; many are humanists, which has nothing to do with hedonism, and no more of them blindly follow their will (which implies murdering people who anger you and raping people who appeal to you) than any other group of people.

Of course Christianity wasn't the driving force for science; these were the people who locked Gallelio away for having the nerve to point out that Jupiter has moons which obviously don't orbit the Earth. If you know anything about history you'll know that it was in fact a REJECTION of religious dogma (Catholicism in particular) which led to a general development and spread of the concept of intellectual autonomy, which itself led to the Englightenment and hence modern science.

Null set; Christianity encouraged science

Atheism is a null set of religious beliefs. It is empty and vacuous as a belief system. It believes in nothing.

Historically, Christianity has been both at odds and in jibe with science. I can't remember who - perhaps Newton - that said his scientific investigations were carried out because they have "religious signignificance".

You can't make sweeping statements regarding this, or even generalizations.

Another amazingly ignorant post

Christianity encouraged science? Again, you have descended to new depths of willful ignorance and stubborn stupidity.

It was christianity that forced Galileo to recant his statement (with proof, unlike you) that the earth revolved around the sun.

It is christianity that has told everyone that we must not use condoms, even to prevent the spread of AIDS.

It is christians that said vaccinations cause autism. It is christians that deny their children medical air so they cam "pray" them to health.

Those are not sweeping statements or even generalizations. They are facts, something that you reject. Yes, I think you are a christian. You lied about not being one, but you increasingly reveal through your own statements that you are. But a religion founded upon lies naturally attracts liars.

BTW, I TOLD you to hang onto your ass and not lose it again. But did you listen? Nooooooo. To be fair, even using both hands, maybe you never found it?

I didn't say that

I didn't say that Christianity - the bureaucracy - "encouraged" science but rather that religiosity motivated it in many cases.

The church is a power structure like the Soviet Union: they won't cede their power politely. However, no Christian theocracy has killed as many people as the atheists. Deal with the facts.

There are some religious idiots who will put their kids and even themselves at risk but that is not conclusive proof of atheism's superiority.

Atheism says nothing and means nothing except whatever delusions its adherents assert.

Ignoring facts again

"no Christian theocracy has killed as many people as the atheists" You're parroting the fundie line again. The facts are, no regime, has killed people only because of their religion. Probably the greatest mass murderer of all time was Joseph Stalin. Even in his case, it has never been solidly established he was an atheists himself. WHat is established is the, like other dictators, he would eliminate anyone that was perceived to be a threat to his power.

Whereas christians have tortured, killed and "disappeared" millions solely because of their religion, or lack of it. The muslims are catching up with them, but the christians have hundreds of years start on them.

Atheism has no delusions. You are not an atheist or you would never say something so stupid. I have caught you in another lie. But a religion founded upon lies does attract liars.

Again, you decline to deny

I have caught you in your lie about being an atheist and said you are a poe. You're a christian trying to make atheism look bad. You have been totally unable to keep your christian bias from your posts. That has revealed your true leanings.

I have called you out on so many things that you haven't even tried to deny. But, "Some truths we hold to be self-evident" and it would be silly to even admit they have been said. When you have no answer, the most common theist ploy is to pretend nothing has ever been said. Sadly for you mental defectives, ignoring a truth doesn't make it go away. Only presenting verifiable evidence to the contrary can do that. Presenting evidence is something you only tried once and that turned out so badly for you that you have never attempting it again.

Here's where I handed you your head again. Sorry, your ass. It's easy to confuse them because they are both full of shit. LOL!

"Here's what it really says.
Submitted by James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil on October 10, 2011 - 4:04pm.
Taking your first link:

Being the very one; identical: the same boat we rented before.
Similar in kind, quality, quantity, or degree.
Conforming in every detail: according to the same rules as before.
Being the one previously mentioned or indicated; aforesaid.

Note that the words use are "identical" and "conforming in every detail"

Your own examples prove my point. Actually, they prove both of my points. First, that "same" does mean "exact" and not similar. Secondly, that you are a total moron when it come to posting things that disprove your own statements. No wonder you attempt it so rarely."

Want to try again? Want to accept my offer of a free trip, the first hit and a weapon if you need one? Want to match my offer? Would you like to tell the truth for once? Everyone knows it will be "none of the above". Who is the "asshat" now? ( thought you would appreciate seeing your favorite insult)

Water off a duck's back

"I know you are, but what am I?"

Gee; regressing to school boy bully tactics? That's the extent of your rhetorical arsenal?

You still have to admit that "the same" and "exactly the same" are not, well EXACTLY THE SAME. Nor is it a redundancy in terms.

A weapon? You are crazy. I am handy with most but I don't need one to put you in your place.

In this battle of wits I almost feel guilty in attacking an unarmed man such as you.

You're the one that must admit

I demonstrated that your definition of "exact same" didn't prove what you claimed but did prove my point. It's no surprise that you decline to accept your own evidence when it contradicts what you choose to believe.

Yes, I'll even provide you with a weapon. What you have to provide is proof of who and where you are. I've asked for that many times and you ignore it every time.

What that proves is you are a liar and a coward.

Try coming up with some original insult, the "battle of wits" remark was old 30 years ago. You might also try to think of something that doesn't involve juvenile sexual or scatological remarks.

BTW, I also proved that your dogma remarks were wrong, too. In fact, every time you have tried to prove anything, I have shown that you were wrong. You naturally ignore those because you refuse to comprehend factual statements that do not agree with your delusions.

Again, prove who and where you are and I'll be there. You'll try to run, but you won;t know for sure when I'll appear. That will be the last mistake you'll ever make. People in permanent disability care don;t get to make choices so mistakes are nnot possible.

Your are Pythoesque

I gave you concrete examples of the difference between "the same" and "exactly the same" and you merely continue to gain-say.

Proof of who I am and where I am? WTF?

You first, bully-boy.

You have never proved anything, let alone offered any evidence or argument. Since trash talk is the only thing you can sensibly respond to - although feebley - that's what I use.

Look, if I gave you my exact address here in China, what would you do, really? Nothing! You allege that you would spring for a flight for me to come to Brazil, but why wouldn't you come to China? And even if you did, what would you do? Nothing!

You're still a cowardly liar and moron

Your example, as I showed, proved exactly the opposite of what you wanted it to believe. But facts never meant anything to you did they?

Yes, prove who and where you are. You're such a coward that you'll never do that. I've made repeated requests and offers and you have either ignored or declined them all. The proof of that is in your own posts.

Me first? No problem. What do you want as proof. I've shown you where to find me in videos and posts. I do not hide behind fake names like you. Just tell me what you want. But you will never reciprocate, will you? "You first" is just another evasion on your part. I'm calling your bluff, as usual.

I have disproved every claim you have ever made. Your saying I have not is further proof that you're a liar and an idiot. Come out from your sewer, and face me personally. That's the request I've made many times and that you have evaded every time.

First, I have no reason to believe that you're in China. You've lied so much, you have no credibility at all.

Prove beyond doubt or discussion who and where you are.

I'll come to China or to whatever septic tank you call home. What would I do? Give you the first hit, then destroy you in the next ten seconds. As I promised, you would never walk, talk, look, or think the same again. Don't believe it? Put up or slink away as usual. YOu think I cannot or will not? Then why do you continue to hide and lie? That's a redundant question. The answer is because you continue to be a coward, intellectually, ethically, and physically. Prove who and where you are, and I'll be there. You know that to be true and that's why you refuse to do it.

You're a disgusting piece of human excrement that could improve the ethical and intellectual level of humanity by leaping from a cliff. But you don;t have the courage or ethics to do that, either.

I have proved everything I have said

Including that you're a liar and a coward. Prove where you are and you'll learn the hard way that I am everything I say. I know you've seen my videos and already know that. It's the reason you're hiding and will continue to hide. You're a craven little worm that can only talk tough when you're safely hiding behind a fake name and the internet.

Prove who and where you are, I'll be there and you'll regret you ever hear of computers and especially, me.

Water off a duck's back

"I know you are, but what am I?"

Gee; regressing to school boy bully tactics? That's the extent of your rhetorical arsenal?

You still have to admit that "the same" and "exactly the same" are not, well EXACTLY THE SAME. Nor is it a redundancy in terms.

A weapon? You are crazy. I am handy with most but I don't need one to put you in your place.

In this battle of wits I almost feel guilty in attacking an unarmed man such as you.

Still a coward, aren't you?

You couldn't even correctly read your own dictionary reference. That's OK, all you did was prove what a mentally-deficient person you are. Thanks for confirming my statements about that.

Yep, you're still evading me and pretending you are not.

Yes, I'll grant you any weapon you want. In fact, I would prefer it if you had one. Then anything I do to you will be legally justified. Not that it will matter any longer to you. You're only handy with hiding and lying. YOu couldn't put a cockroach in its place, far less me.

This has not been a battle of wits. It's been me telling the truth, being open an honest and you being a cowardly liar demonstrating your stupidity and craven attitude.

I'd like some proof that "no

I'd like some proof that "no Christian theocracy has killed as many people as the atheists." Stalin might have been anti-theist, but in no way was his anti-theism the reason he massacred millions. Hitler, on the other hand, was Christian and believed he was doing a service to God by killing Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and atheists. The Spanish Inquisition was a Catholic-driven movement. I'm not going to argue your other points, because frankly they're your opinions and I respect that, but you're really wrong on this one. Millions of murders can be pegged on the followers of Jesus.

Get some semantics

Being "atheist" is not NECESSARILY the same as being "anti-atheist", at least in practice.

This goes back to the other semantics about what it means to be "militant". The author of the piece in question sets up a straw man, knocks it down, and like dominoes, the supposedly smarter atheists fall for it while other say: "Wait a minute."

So let's correct the record, to reflect practices rather than theory or semantics.

While being an atheist does not require one to attack religion, they have been doing a pretty good job of it for the last 50 years or more. Being militant does not require using weapons and death but rather activists, writers and lawyers (the author of the article is all three) to agressively make your point in the public sphere by using the courts and the guns of the state as their own.

Hitlers Christain Motives...

The "Bitler was a Christain and hsi Relgiion caused th Holocaust" line make sno sense. Supposeldy he was a Catholic, but he had many Catholics killed in the Holocaust, includign Bishops, simly for oposign his Regime. If he were a devut Catholic,w oudltn he have lsitened tot he Magesteria when they condemend his Movement?

Hitler wasnt motivated by his Relgiion, andin fac wasnt even relaly a Christain. He said so himself to his own private curcle.

Hitler was an Opportunist.

Please dotn wuote Mein ampt, that was propoganda fort he masses, not his provate beleifs.

Biblical Christianity and

Biblical Christianity and Catholicism is not the same. This is where your ignorance lies. Catholicism in the Middle Ages was a hindrance to progress and still is. Christians on the other hand have advanced science! "The intellectual climate that gave rise to modern science (roughly three centuries ago) was shaped decisively by Christianity. Not only were most of its founding fathers themselves devout Christians (including Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, and Pascal) but the biblical worldview provided a basis for modern science to both emerge and flourish. Christian theism affirmed that an infinite, eternal, and personal God created the world ex nihilo. The creation, reflecting the rational nature of the Creator, was therefore orderly and uniform."
Read more: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/06/science-christianity-are-they-comp...

Again, Christianity has not told us not to use condoms but Catholicism did (mainly) which is not true Christianity. True Christian, people who understand what it means to be a follower of Christ do NOT deny vaccination or rely simply on prayer when comes to healing. You are using sweeping statements and paint Christianity with a wide brush that to me shows that you have no clue what real, classic Christianity is. And it was not founded upon lies either! Another ignorant statement!

Obviously, you have never met

Obviously, you have never met any of those evangelicals or quasi-cult Christians. They make the medieval Catholic Church look reasonable.

A few points. The Communists may have been atheists, but they didn't act in the name of atheism. They acted in the name of Marxism (or Leninism/Maoism/whoever brought communism to that place-ism). They denied religion in order to pave the way for a socio-political ideology that was also dogmatic and doctrinal. In the US, an atheist is unlikely to be a communist. Usually, we're secular humanists.

Science and religion are indeed fundamentally at-odds. On the surface, it might seem that they are compatible in that they seek some sort of objective order. However, the bedrock of science and secularism is that it has to be skeptical. The use of reason and logic to advance a position means that divine fiat is never an acceptable response. You need empirical evidence, logic, and reason.

Religion's stance is, at base, authoritarian. All religion amounts to 'because-god-said-so-ism'. Try to reconcile literal interpretations of the bible with any argument for it being the basis of a system of objective morals. Religious arguments break down logically far before the secular arguments do if the basis by which we're judging is empirical. That's what secular people do. We live and breath this empirical reality.

Well Done

Even though you were a little too easy in your reply, it was well-put and contained facts. But you are addressing a theist. To be that, one has to reject facts and rational thinking.

As someone else said, "You cannot reason a person away from a position that they did not reach through reason."

It's also significant that anyone not of his particular sect is "Not a real christian". That's an easy cop-out, isn't it?

Again, well done and thanks for being a voice of truth and rational thinking.

ACTUALLY...

EVEN if what you said abotu Galileo were True, and it's not, that's the sole example anyone can find, unless willikgn to lie abotu Hypalita or Bruno as Sagan and his Disiple Tyson did.

The Truth is, the Catholic Churhc in particular has advanced Siciences. One of the largest and most signifigant Observatories int he word isthe Vatican Observatory, the Catholic CHurch rusn many Reearch Universities, such as Notre Dame, and the Catholic Chruch runs Hospitals where medical Researhc is conducted.

Indeed, even in the past, the Catholic CHruch bult Universities, and served as the Patron of many Scintists, such as Nicolas of Cusa.

It is a simplistic Narrative to see Relgiion a odds with Sicnece or the Relgiiosu Institutions as always tryign to hinder Science.

It is also silly tot hink the Enluigthemnemtn broguth abotu Modern Scinece.

Didn't the Enligthement brign us the Reign Of terror iN France?

The idea that when Relgiion ruled the world we had the Dark Ages, which ended when we cast aside Relgiion inf aovur iof Reaosn and then saw massive Advancement is just a Mythology in todays Secularist Religion. Its no more True than when David Barton argues that Thomas Jefferson was a Devout Evangelical Christian, or when Adoph Hitler promoted the idea of The Jews runnign Western Culture intot he ground to take over.

The "History" that reveals the Warfare between Science and Religion was lalgey invented in the 19th Century, and has been discredited for he last century.

By the way, even Galileo was not punished for merley suggestign the Earht gos roudn the Sun, but forpromotign his ideas withotu evidence. Even this didnt see him befoe the Inquisition until he lashed out at his Patrons, the Church.

The Galiloe Affair was mroe complex than you give it credit for.

By the way, these are

By the way, these are sweepign statemnents and voergeneralisations.

"""It is christianity that has told everyone that we must not use condoms, even to prevent the spread of AIDS.

It is christians that said vaccinations cause autism. It is christians that deny their children medical air so they cam "pray" them to health."""

Actually, it is Catholisism that says we must not use COndoms, not "Christianity". One of the problems with you is that you are so Hell Bent on attacking Chfisianity as a wole that you make no distinction between Christian Groups, as if all Chruistians share exactly the same beleifs. Should Methodists who actually hand out condomsn in Africa be condemend by you because the Catholic CHurch opposes Condom Use?

That's even assumign the anti-COndom stabnce is clealry wrong. Even many modern Atheists who have researched the situation in Africa don't think the Free distribution of Condoms is heloing. The situation regarding Condoms to combat AIDs is itself a whole lot more compelciated than a simple "Comndoms save lives and the evil Christaisn refus t give them out" pattern you rpesent.

Speakign of which, the claim that Vaccines cause Autism did not come from Christainity. It came from Sceintists who pubished a Report. That Report may have been deeply flawed and rejected by the Scientific COmmunity, but ithit the rpesses and was beleived by a wide margin of society. It was not, hwoever, promoted by any Mainline Christain Church. It's not liejk the Catholci Chruch (Yoru main target above" issued a Papal Edict that told the Faithful never to vaccinate their Children.

As for not givign their CHidkren Medical Care ebcause they think prayer will heal them, how many Chruistaisn do this? Aain, the Catholic CHruch, which you assaulted earlier, outright runs Hosptials. If the Catholcis turly beelived Medicine to be inneffective and they coudl merley rpay and fidn Healing, why run Hospitals?

So do methodists, Presbyterians, even Baptists.

The vast majority of Christaisn do, in fact, seek medical care in hopsitals if their CHidlren ebcoem sick, withonly a slight minority refusign to on Religiosu Grounds. SO why do you say "The Christains" refuse medical Treatment for their Cuidlren?

Isnt;' this simply a Lie?

Wrong again, as usual.

Perhaps you have forgotten the Dark Ages. Perhaps you have ignored the pope's opposition to using condoms, even to prevent the spread of AIDS,

Saying atheism believes in nothing is the cry of theists who, like you know nothing about atheism. But then, you seem to know very little about anything. Mostly, like theists, you believe whatever makes you feel smug and comfortable. Facts and verifiable evidence simply do not exist in your world.

"Saying atheism is a religion

"Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby."

Well put. Don't over think it everyone.

Stamp collecting?

Atheism is a fundamental, although incomplete worldview. A hobby is not part of your worldview unless you are, well, insane.

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Dave Niose is an attorney, activist, and writer. He is president of the Washington-based American Humanist Association.

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