Podcast #205 – Reverend Barry Lynn (Americans United)

We interview the Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. We discuss his (what shouldn’t be) controversial position as a Christian minister who advocates for secular government and freedom of all religious–or non-religious–expression. For more about Barry and Americans United visit au.org.


We discuss freethought pioneer Ethan Allen (yes, that Ethan Allen), as well as 19th century freethought publisher Charles Chilton Moore.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Dan Courtney delivers secular invocation in Greece, NY

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Greece v Galloway ruling (which stated that local governments can begin meetings with overtly Christian prayers, and need not seek out minority representation), secular activists have been lining up to “get in line” to deliver secular invocations. Naturally, local governments are leery of turning away these folks, lest they be accused of favoritism. And so it fell to Dan Courtney to deliver the first such invocation in the actual town of Greece on July 15th. One can’t help but note that the city council couldn’t resist introducing Courtney as “leading us in a moment of prayer.”

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Charles Chilton Moore

Gravesite of Charles Chilton Moore at Lexington Cemetery. Note the “Devil’s Advocate” hosta at the base of the marker, planted in 1984 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

While we were in Lexington, Kentucky over the Independence Day weekend, we made a brief pilgrimage to visit the gravesite of one of the lesser-known luminaries of the freethought movement.

Charles Chilton Moore (1837-1906) was, ironically, the grandson of Barton W. Stone (1722-1844) an influential preacher during the Second Great Awakening and a founder of the Restoration Movement.

Moore was born to a well-to-do Kentucky family, graduated college, became an itinerant preacher, was a military nurse during the Civil War, and even served for a time as pastor at Versailles First Christian Church.

As Moore himself told it, he invited a distant cousin to read and discuss with him a selection of books both for and against religion, in hopes of converting his cousin to Christianity through intellectual debate. In the end, the cousin embraced Christ and Moore became an “infidel.”

He resigned his church position and in 1884 began publishing the freethought newspaper the Blue Grass Blade.  The Blade, although sporadically published, was a sensation in Lexington, and attracted subscribers from around the United States. Moore railed against religious bigotry, political corruption, and argued for the abolition of the “liquor trade.”

In 1899 he was convicted under the Comstock Act of publishing “obscene” material (namely, articles and letters concerning birth control and “free love”). During his months as a federal prisoner at the Ohio State Penitentiary, he was well-treated by the warden and his fellow inmates, and wrote a rambling autobiography called Behind the Bars; 31498 (referencing his prison number). Moore’s sentence was commuted by President William McKinley, and his return to Lexington was celebrated at banquets and parties.

The Blade struggled on for a few years after Moore’s death, and copies are very hard to come by today. Moore, along with several members of his family, is buried at the beautiful and historic Lexington Cemetery, not far from the main entrance and a stone’s throw from the imposing monument to the famous 19th century statesman Henry Clay.

Moore is mentioned -briefly- in Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, and was the subject of Kentucky’s Most Hated Man, a somewhat flawed, but still useful, biography by amateur historian John Sparks. American Atheist Press has reprinted Moore’s books; indeed AA founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair honored Moore in 1984 (the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Blade) by planting a “Devil’s Advocate” hosta at the base of his gravestone.

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Podcast #204 – Whatever You Do, Don’t Marry an Atheist

A recent Pew Research poll shows that Americans express a (perhaps not so) surprising unhappiness at the prospect of an immediate family member marrying an atheist.


The Secular Coalition of America has fired executive director Edwina Rogers, after just two years of service. Rogers has served under a cloud of controversy since her original appointment because of her previous years of service to Republican causes. Nonetheless, SCA has made great strides during Rogers’ tenure. Let’s hope they can find a suitable replacement soon.

John and Allison go with Pastafarian-themed “prestige” car license plates. Will anyone notice? Will anyone care?

To listen to this podcast click here.


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Podcast #203 – Gohmert Strikes Again

Congressman Louie “Don’t Cast Aspersions on My Asparagus” Gohmert has a long history of saying ridiculous things. His latest blatherment occurred during the recent Judiciary Committee hearing on “The State of Religious Liberty in the United States,” in which we wasted precious time nitpicking the flavor of Barry Lynn’s Christianity. Rev. Lynn is both an ordained minister and <gasp!> head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Apparently Gohmert a) doesn’t like that a supposed Christian like Lynn should be advocating for religious freedom and b) doesn’t think that Lynn is an authentic Christian if he doesn’t believe exactly as Gohmert does.  Of course, Lynn’s personal religious beliefs are largely immaterial (or should be) when it comes to support of the Constitution.


In Valent v Board of Review, a New Jersey court has ruled that a hospital’s policy of allowing only religion-based objections to employee vaccinations violates the Constitution. While this is a victory for neutrality with respect to religion, it fails to resolve the question of whether nonsensical (but otherwise secular) anti-vax objections should be allowed.

Sigh. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of COSMOS has come to an end. Nonetheless, it’ll be available on disk and will likely enjoy a long life in reruns.

Plus: The Baseball Bat of Doubt and other listener feedback.


Finally, if you’re in Atlanta June 21-22, check out the Atlanta Coalition of Reason’s Summer Solstice Launch Weekend!

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #202 – American Atheists v Shulman

American Atheists mull their next move after the court turns down their lawsuit to declare religion-based tax exemption unconstitutional. See AA v Shulman.


The son (and grandson!) of snake-handling preachers who died handling snakes has SURVIVED being bitten by a snake. Now THAT’S news.

A family in Pakistan stoned their daughter IN FRONT OF A COURTHOUSE and are expressing no remorse.

Finally, if you’re in Atlanta June 21-22, check out the Atlanta Coalition of Reason’s Summer Solstice Launch Weekend!

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #201 – Linda Stephens (co-plaintiff, Greece v Galloway)

We interview Linda Stephens, co-plaintiff (along with Susan Galloway) in the recent Supreme Court case Greece v. Galloway, in which the court ruled that prayer–even sectarian, predominantly Christian prayer–before city council meetings does not violate the Constitution. Several secular groups have already launched compaigns in response, and at least one Satanist has offered to provide the invocation at a city council meeting in Florida.


More bad news for separation of church and state. The Massachussetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools does not violate the Constitution.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy “10 Commandments” Moore believes the Constitution is only for Christians anyway.

Finally, if you’re in Atlanta June 21-22, check out the Atlanta Coalition of Reason’s Summer Solstice Launch Weekend!

To listen to this episode click here.

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SCOTUS is wrong on Greece v Galloway

By now most of us have had a chance both to recover from the initial shock and to absorb some of the details of this week’s Supreme Court ruling on Greece vs. Galloway.

Briefly, the Court was asked to decide if the town of Greece, NY, violated the Constitution in inviting mostly Christians to deliver prayers–often quite sectarian prayers–before meetings of the town council. For almost ten years ALL of the monthly prayers were Christian; during the tenth year (once complaints were lodged) four non-Christian supplicants delivered the prayers, but since then the prayers have returned to being exclusively Christian.

The Court’s ruling is a hodgepodge of tepid and specious rationalizations. At least there are spirited dissents by Breyer and Kagan. If you haven’t read it yet, go here.

Back so soon? Here we go… Continue reading

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Podcast #200 – Bart Ehrman (How Jesus Became God)

Whoohoo! It’s taken nearly seven years, but we finally crossed the 200 mark.

For this special episode, we interview biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman, whose latest book is How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (available in hardcover, in audio, and for Kindle). For more about Bart and his work visit bartdehrman.com.


We discuss Damon Linker’s puzzling essay “Why atheism doesn’t have the upper hand over religion,” which asserts that atheism is incapable of explaining altruism in human beings. Huh.

John recommends Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: A History (available in paperback, in audio and for Kindle), an interesting look at how questioning minds have overturned orthodoxy and challenged the reigning paradigms, from ancient Greece and China to the 21st century.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #199 – Blood Moon

We look at the controversy in some Christian circles regarding the recent “blood moon” lunar eclipse. Is it a sign of the End Times? (Probably not.)


Parents in Oviedo, Florida claim a public school teacher stopped their kindergartener from praying before lunch. Is this a legitimate beef, or just a cheap publicity stunt engineered by a father who just happens to work for a Christian book publisher who just happens to be publishing a book (by a Fox News personality, no less) about how put-upon Christians are in the U S of A nowadays.

Louisiana lawmakers are advancing a bill that would declare the Holy Bible as the official state book. Really.

Check out Chuck Hall’s new book Playing Chess with Pigeons, a collection of refutations of common religious attacks against nonbelievers.


Atlanta SkeptiCamp is May 2-4, 2014! For more visit atlantaskeptics.com/skepticamp

Atlanta Coalition of Reason (“ATL CoR”) is holding a pair of kick-off events June 21-22, featuring rapper Greydon Square, satirist Sam Singleton, author Jeremiah Camara, and comedian Steve “The King of Consciousness” Hill. Tickets are on sale now! For more visit unitedcor.org/atl

To listen to this episode click here.

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