Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

my new creed

I picked this one up from the Freethought 2014 convention this past weekend in Nacogdoches, Texas. In the coming days and weeks, I'll be posting more things like this. Could be time to put the pedal to the metal.

For those of you who insist on assigning labels to people...

Monday, September 29, 2014

don't masturbate

Imagine the grandeur of the universe (and remember to click the pic) (not sure why these don't work too well in this format)

To see a better image, go here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Freethought 2014

This weekend the wife and I went to Freethought Convention 2014, the first-ever Freethought gathering in East Texas.  Held on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University (SFA) in Nacogdoches, Texas, the event was very well-attended. 

I was impressed with the broad spectrum of age groups I saw at the conference.  Far from just a bunch of older white guys, there were young men and women in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's (us), and older.  And about 50/50 male/female.

While all age groups were represented, it was a little light on people of darker skin color. Maybe only about 10% of attendees were black or Hispanic.  The secular movement, however, is growing rapidly, even in Texas.
The opening speaker was Dr. Brent Burt, for the last 18 years a Professor of Biology with a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at SFA, a Division I college of about 15,000 students in the piney woods of East Texas.  He gave a great talk on evolution.

Next up was Beth Presswood, a 25-year-old young woman who "came out" as an atheist to her family a few years ago.  Her talk was on the dangers of "coming out of the closet" as an atheist, and some of the consequences that can ensue, especially if your family is super-religious, as Beth's is.  Message: prepare yourself to come out, because it will happen.

After a two-hour lunch break, ex-evangelical pastor-turned-atheist Jerry DeWitt took the stage.  Jerry has written a book "Hope After Faith" that chronicles his journey which I definitely want to read.  He's still got a lot of the preacher in him and was very entertaining. He's the first pastor to publicly come out from the Clergy Project, a confidential online community founded by Dr. Richard Dawkins and Dan Barker to assist members of the clergy to make that transition "into the light" of atheism.  It is amazing the high percentage of preachers who become atheists.

Following Jerry was Aron Ra, currently the Texas State Director of American Atheists.  He brought a little fire and anger while covering some of the recent church-state news.  Really good and snarky.

Following Aron was Kathleen Johnson, currently the Vice President of American Atheists.  She served for over 20 years in the military, and is now chronicling sexual assaults in the military, with a focus on the religious overtones of the military.

Last was the headliner, Matt Dillahunty, host of the Atheist Experience, an Austin, Texas, public access program.  Matt became a"professional atheist" after losing his IT job this past January.  It looks like he is going to be quite successful following his bliss.

In the coming days I hope to make several posts centered on the things I learned and the people I met that are pushing the secular/ skeptic/ freethought/ agnostic/ atheist/ humanist movement in Texas and across the nation.  

(Cue the manifesto that Jerry DeWitt put up on the screen at the convention at the top of the blog.)

We got a real charge out of the convention. It's always great to spend time with people you can identify with.  Atheists!!  Come out, come out, wherever you are!  You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stand your ground

The police can and WILL lie to you.  Know your rights! 

Watch the video and go here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Freethought of the Day

Here is another in the endless series of Freethought of the Day messages from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  I love reading these.  You gain some historical perspective, and at the same time some encouragement and wise words concerning God and atheism from some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived on planet Earth.


September 26
On this date in 1849, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born in Ryazan, Russia. He enrolled in Ryazan Ecclesiastical Seminary in the 1860s. In 1870, he dropped out in order to study natural sciences at the University of St. Petersburg. He graduated in 1875, and went on to attend the Academy of Medical Surgery. Pavlov became a professor of pharmacology at the Military Medical Academy in 1890 and director of the department of physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in 1891, where he studied the physiology of the digestive system, often using dogs as research subjects. He wrote books about his research, including Work of the Digestive Glands (1897), Psychopathology and Psychiatry (1962) and Conditioned Reflexes (1960). In 1904, he earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work with digestive organs. Pavlov married his wife, Serafima, in 1881.

Despite Pavlov’s influential research on the digestive system, he is most famous for his discovery of classical conditioning: teaching an animal to associate a reflex with an unrelated stimulus. Pavlov made the discovery while researching the salivary glands of dogs, after he noticed that dogs salivated when they anticipated food in addition to when they began eating. This led Pavlov to condition the dogs to begin salivating when they saw or heard a variety of stimuli – most famously, bells. He accomplished this by ringing a bell every time he fed the dogs, making them associate bells with food.

Pavlov described himself as an atheist who lost his faith when he was a seminary student. “In regard to my religiosity, my belief in God, my church attendance, there is no truth in it; it is sheer fantasy,” Pavlov told his student Evgenii Mikhailovich Kreps in the 1920s, according to the article “Pavlov’s Religious Orientation” by George Windholz (published in Vol. 25 of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1986). He continued: “I was a seminarian, and like the majority of seminarians, I became an unbeliever, an atheist in my school years.” Windholz also quoted Pavlov as saying, “There are weak people over whom religion has power. The strong ones – yes, the strong ones – can become thorough rationalists, relying only upon knowledge, but the weak ones are unable to do this.” D. 1936

“Humans saved themselves by creating religion, which enabled them to maintain themselves somehow, to survive in the midst of an uncompromising, all-powerful nature. It is a very basic instinct that is thoroughly rooted in human nature.”
—Ivan Pavlov, quoted in “Pavlov’s Religious Orientation” by George Windholz (published in Vol. 25 of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1986).

September 26
On this date in 1833, England's best-known proponent of atheism, reformer Charles Bradlaugh, was born in East London. Bradlaugh left school at age 11 to earn his living. When he announced his freethought views, he was forced to leave his family home, and found support among other freethinkers, including the children of oft-jailed publisher Richard Carlile. Bradlaugh worked as a coal merchant. After joining the army, he worked as a solicitor's clerk, learned the law and became a skillful attorney. He wrote and lectured about freethought under the pseudonym "Iconoclast." Bradlaugh briefly became editor of the freethinking bi-weekly periodical, the Investigator, in 1858. By the time he became co-editor of the National Reformer in 1860 he was a famed social reformer and orator, known in England and abroad. In 1866, he founded the National Secular Society. Bradlaugh had two daughters and one son with his wife, whose serious drinking problem broke up the family in 1870. Bradlaugh's challenge in 1868-69 of the Security Laws, inhibiting distribution of controversial periodicals, brought their repeal. 

He also championed land reform. In 1876, he and colleague Annie Besant were prosecuted for "obscenity" for republishing a birth control booklet, The Fruits of Philosophy, by American doctor Charles Knowlton. After a grueling trial, the pair were convicted and faced jailtime and fines, but were freed on a technicality. Bradlaugh was urged to run for Parliament in 1868, placing fifth. He ran several times before winning in 1880, but was refused seating because he would not take the religious oath. Bradlaugh was re-elected by loyal constituents four times before finally prevailing in his fight to be seated in 1886, a landmark for British freethinkers, but a legal fight that drained him financially. Bradlaugh persuaded Parliament to pass a bill permitting the right to affirm in 1888. Bradlaugh lectured three times in the United States in the 1870s, and was warmly received in India during his 1889 visit. His only surviving child, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, took up the freethought/reform cudgels, also defending her father's reputation from numerous "death-bed conversion" fables. D. 1891.

“I maintain that thoughtful Atheism affords greater possibility for human happiness than any system yet based on, or possible to be founded on, Theism, and that the lives of true Atheists must be more virtuous--because more human--than those of the believers in Deity, . . .
Atheism, properly understood, is no mere disbelief; is in no wise a cold, barren negative; it is, on the contrary, a hearty, fruitful affirmation of all truth, and involves the positive assertion of action of highest humanity.”
—Charles Bradlaugh, "A Plea for Atheism," Humanity's Gain from Unbelief (1929)

Come out of the closet!  Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Every single thing that Obama does seems to outrage someone on the right. It's really tiresome, but I suppose the ignorant people who watch FOX just eat it up. Gotta keep the rubes riled up! 

Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station) has some choice words on the "coffee salute."

Jim Wright - retired US Navy
America has become the land of the perpetually offended. We are the forever outraged, we Americans. It's a bullshit first world problem that afflicts those who face no real difficulty in their day to day lives. No difficulty? What's that you say? Yeah, listen, when you have to lug the day's water four miles from the nearest river on top of your head, get back to me. 

This outrage, it's a disease common to those who have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep and endless access to cheap goods and more TV channels than they could view even if they did nothing else. Yesterday, I stood in line behind an angry disaffected hipster at the coffee shop who spent ten minutes ordering a pumpkin spice chai tea latte with various ingredients, a drink that totalled - and I shit you not - $14.98. He held the line up for twenty minutes with his bullshit. Fifteen dollars for a cup of tea. Fifteen dollars for a cup of tea, folks. Twenty minutes of screwing around, and the pretentious little prick STILL wasn't happy. And we all had to listen to him complain to the barista about his goddamned tea. I wanted to snatch him up by his nasty little goatee and smash his fucking head on the counter. 

That's what America has become, right there, a bunch of privileged snots mad because our chai tea latte isn't hot enough. 
We're outraged all of the time because we've got nothing better to do than be outraged all the damned time. 
Listen to me, when the worst thing that happened to you today is that the president waved at a Marine with a cup of coffee in his hand, when THAT's what you've got to be offended by, then you really don't have any actual problems. You're just being an asshole. 

It's a symptom of the larger disease. 

When the only thing you've got to be upset about is that two gay people want to get married, if that's what offends you, you're just being an asshole. 
When the only thing you've got to be pissed off about is that other people worship a different god from yours, or go to a different church, or don't believe in gods at all, then you're just being an asshole. 
When you're outraged at the idea that some woman somewhere is getting an abortion, but meanwhile the thought of millions of children starving to death, or dying of preventable and treatable diseases, of suffering from poverty and neglect, or dying under the fall of our bombs doesn't bother you, you're just being an asshole.
When the only thing you've got to be outraged by is that you feel you're being persecuted for your religious beliefs, or your race, or your gender, or your sexual orientation even though you're a member of the overwhelming majority and you provably benefit from that fact every single day, then you're just being an asshole. 
When the worst thing in your day is that we're not at war enough, that we aren't bombing or invading or killing enough, if that's your beef, then you are an asshole. 
Other countries? Other places in the world? Their leaders are chopping off heads. Literally chopping off heads. Chopping off hands. Murdering. Raping. They're gunning people down in the streets. They're invading their neighbors. People are starving to death and they've got no choice but to drink out of the same river they shit in.
America? We're outraged that the president waved at a Marine with a cup of coffee in his hand. 
THAT's what WE've got to be upset about. 
He shouldn't be saluting at all. 
Reagan started this idiotic bullshit, no president before him raised a salute, not even Eisenhower. 
The president is a civilian. There is no law, statute, regulation, or US Code that requires him to salute. Period. Nor should he. And in point of fact, the people who set up this country SPECIFICALLY didn't want the president to be a member of the military - which is why we put civilians in charge of it. 
The president shouldn't be saluting in the first place. Period. A nod, a verbal acknowledgement to the military folks guarding him is sufficient. 
Listen to me carefully: We don't want the president, this one or any other, acting like they are a general. This is the United States of America, and it's long past time for you to remember that. 
Addendum 2: 
Folks, something I'd point out to you, the President is left handed, as am I. 
The president was descending the steep boarding ladder of Marine 1, very likely he was holding on to the rail with his dominant hand, as would I, i.e. the left one. Out of habit, likely he was holding his coffee in his right, as would I. Both without thinking about it - because, and I'm guessing here, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES just might have other things on his mind than which hand to hold his coffee cup in. 
This exact thing happened to me, as a military officer, more than once. Holding my coffee cup, moving through the ship, step out on the deck, and get saluted and have to switch hands or nod or just plain fuck it up and salute with my cup. Because, you know, we're all human. Some of us are left handed humans operating in a right handed world. 

Again, if this is what you have to be outraged by, you're an asshole and I don't care which hand you're using.

Jim's website is here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama at the UN

President Obama gave a 38-minute speech at the United Nations.  It's a good one. 

It could have been a real barnburner.

Reading the text while listening to the President speak, I flash to Teddy Roosevelt. (I can really only imagine what Teddy sounded like. We have been watching - only thru Episode 3 so far - the new Ken Burns' documentary on PBS "The Roosevelts," and while there is a lot of video suggesting Teddy was a pretty forceful speaker, there is not much audio.) 

As I read the text, I keep "hearing" Teddy deliver it with gusto.  The speech is excellent. Hearing it would be so much better if Obama would "pick it up" a bit.  Pick up the pace. Show a litle fire, a litle heat.  Obama's rhetorical habit of verbally falling off a cliff with the last word or two of a sentence is frustrating.  If you are not reading along with the text and just listening to him, you might not understand some of the things he says, because he gets so quiet at the end of almost every sentence. 

Anyway, on a different level, we won't have peace in the Middle East, or with Islam, until Muslims begin to conveniently "forget", or simply agree to overlook, some of the more, shall we say, distateful and inconvenient passages in the Koran, much like Christians have learned to do regarding the Bible.

Christians long ago started de-emphasizing the more brutal passages in the Bible. All that slavery, rape and killing, let's just kinda forget that.  Muslims have to learn to do this with the Koran.  There is really no need to kill the infidels.  Women don't have to be clothed from head to toe. You can do it, Muslims!

At this point in time, however, Obama's failure to utter "Allah" even once during the speech will not be viewed favorably by those religious freaks cutting off heads in the Middle East.

The President's speech:

Just in case the video does not appear, you can watch the speech AND read along with the text by clicking here. Don't live in fear.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

the lovely Amanda

from Juanita Jean's (The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.) website:

Amanda went to dinner in Dallas Thursday night and guess who she ran into at the restaurant?  She tells me that this is a Sangria fueled photo.  I believe it because Sangria also makes me do hand signals.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Recently I have been thinking about what, if anything, atheists can do about the recent flare-up of ISIS. These guys seem to be religiously insane.

Sam Harris has been thinking about it too, and he recently published an article he calls, "Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon." You may recall that Sam is considered to be one of the leading "new Atheists" these days.

Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America
In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim…. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way…. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”
More British Muslims have joined the ranks of ISIS than have volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. In fact, this group has managed to attract thousands of recruits from free societies throughout the world to help build a paradise of repression and sectarian slaughter in Syria and Iraq. This is an astonishing phenomenon, and it reveals some very uncomfortable truths about the failures of multiculturalism, the inherent vulnerability of open societies, and the terrifying power of bad ideas.
No doubt many enlightened concerns will come flooding into the reader’s mind at this point. I would not want to create the impression that most Muslims support ISIS, nor would I want to give any shelter or inspiration to the hatred of Muslims as people. In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.
But a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammad Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has). If you can find an important distinction between the faith he preaches and that which motivates the savagery of ISIS, you should probably consult a neurologist.
Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran. The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity. It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. Each of these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scripture.
Suddenly I am respecting copyright.  You can find the rest of this article here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ben Sargent

Ben Sargent is regularly featured in the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, and the toon today was too good - and too tragic - not to repost.

Once again, sorry America for the right-wing fundies in Texas who seem to be able to get any kind of crazy shit into textbooks.  Someday Texas will pull its head out of its ass again.

Click the pic if the text is too small.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Speaking of drugs, here is a particularly insidious, dangerous one = gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin.

gabapentin chemical structure - RUN!!

Gabapentin was originally discovered by the Japanese 40 years ago, who sold it to Parke-Davis, which became Warner-Lambert, which was then bought by Pfizer.  So now Pfizer is responsible for this disaster.

There has been ample literature about the side-effects of gabapentin (for example, here and here) and lots of publicity about the fines that these companies paid for illegally marketing this drug, like here.

My own personal experience with the drug is an eye-opener.

I had surgery on my feet to remove two pinched nerves (one in each foot) 7 years ago. Lingering pain in my feet has prompted me to search for pain relief, from orthotics to physical therapy to yoga to electrical stimulation to acupuncture to pharmaceuticals.  

One of the pharmaceuticals prescribed for me about three years ago, as a way to lessen the nerve pain in my feet, was Neurontin.  

After the second dose of Neurontin, as I recall, I began to hear voices.  Whispering voices. Saying something I could not quite make out. But there were voices, many voices, and it was spooky.  I quit taking it after the second dose.

I told my doctor about the experience and he changed the Rx to Lyrica, another Pfizer product. After a single dose of Lyrica, the voices returned.  I quit taking Lyrica.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am still having pain in my feet.  Mostly they ache and burn but sometimes there are sharp stabbing pains. 

I saw an orthopedic surgeon last week and he suggested that I try a new compound that he said was showing some promise in treating my type of pain. He didn't say what was in it, and like a fool I did not ask. It was compounded in Dallas and arrived in the mail on Friday.

I noticed gabapentin was one of the three ingredients in the cream. Remembering my earlier experience with the drug, I wondered if a topical application, as opposed to oral administration, might produce not-as-strange effects, so I decided to try it.

On Saturday, I tried the first dose.  It is entirely possible that I took an overdose of medication on Saturday. I followed the instructions that arrived with the compounding cream but, before I could get the cream to come out of the dispenser, a good bit of golden-colored, transparent liquid came out of the dispenser and got all over my feet.

I assumed that this liquid might have been some type of bonding agent that held the other ingredients together, but I suppose it is possible that that liquid contained a multiple dose of gabapentin.  There were no instructions to stir up the compound if it had separated in transit, so I didn't, and I got a large amount of that golden liquid on my feet.

This was about 3pm on Saturday. I was finally able to squeeze some of the actual cream out of the dispenser and rubbed it all over my feet. (The recommended dosage was 1 to 2 grams, but there was no way provided to measure the actual dose.)

By 5pm, I began to feel like I was tripping on LSD. 

I was having trouble swallowing - dysphagia - a side-effect of gabapentin. But worse, I felt like I had gone mad. Or that the entire world had gone mad. 

Watching TV, nothing made sense. Reality had become untenable.  

I am an atheist, but I had the distinct impression that I had died and was waiting for the demons or spirits or perhaps Jesus Christ to walk around the corner and take me away.

Somehow I remembered that gabapentin was in the compounding cream, and surely that was what was responsible for my delusional thinking. It was a very unnerving experience. I can absolutely understand how some people could have suicidal thoughts while on this drug.

By 10pm, the effects had worn off, and I promised my wife that I will NEVER take gabapentin in ANY FORM WHATSOEVER in the future, and I urge you in the strongest terms to be SUPER CAREFUL before you take this drug!  

  • Research the effects carefully.  
  • Do not take the drug while at work.
  • Be sure someone is with you and that they know what you are taking.
  • Tell your doctor.  
The fact that this drug is still on the market is borderline criminal.

Friday, September 19, 2014

drug tolerance

While one study is certainly not definitive, this may explain a lot.  Thus far, the primary means of testing is still on rats.  It's high time we began some serious human trials on the effects of THC. Can I see a show of hands?

Females Build Up Tolerance To Marijuana Faster Than Males, Study Finds

Despite a shortage of research on the topic, it's been suggested that drugs affect men and women differently. And because of the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and medical marijuana in 23 states, it's now more important than ever that women understand how THC affects their body chemistry specifically.

Researchers at Washington State University have found evidence indicating that females may build up a tolerance to marijuana more easily than males do.


The study focused on the pain-relieving effects of THC on male and female rats. In this case, rats made for good subjects, because, like humans, rats have a menstrual cycle (albeit one that lasts four to five days instead of 28), and they experience similar ovarian hormone fluctuations, which affect pain.
At the beginning of the trial, the female rats displayed a higher sensitivity to THC than the males. However, after 10 days of testing, researchers found that the female rats were needing higher doses of THC than the males just to experience the same degree of pain relief. In other words, while female rats started out being more sensitive to THC, after 10 days, they ended up less sensitive.
More at link.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Air Force backs down

What kind of religious freaks are running the Air Force anyway?  "I will kill whoever you tell me to, so help me God!"

On September 11, 2014, the Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Michael Weinstein wrote an excellent letter to SecDef Chuck Hagel, urging him to direct the Air Force to drop the "so help me God" part of the oath to the Air Force.  In less than a week, the Air Force changed its policy.  Well done, Mikey!

Here's the letter, followed by the recision of the policy.

The Honorable Chuck Hagel 
Secretary of Defense 
1000 Defense Pentagon 
Washington, DC 20301-1000 

Dear Secretary Hagel: 

I write you on behalf of our MRFF clients, 17 active duty USAF non-commissioned officers, who intend to reenlist in the USAF sometime in the next 9 months. These honorable NCOs have been specifically told by their commanders that they MUST end their respective enlistment oaths with the words “so help me God,” or face draconian and certain expulsion from the United States Air Force (USAF). 

As you are certainly aware, the U.S. Air Force has just recently started applying a completely unlawful religious test as a mandatory standard for re-enlistment. Non-theistic airmen are now given the options of either lying in their oath of service by falsely affirming belief in a deity, or being unscrupulously denied the opportunity to serve. Clause 3, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids any religious test from being exacted by our government. As the supreme law of this country, that clause supersedes AFI 36-2606, which was modified to deny the religious freedom of our airmen in October of last year, and 10 USC 502, which was modified in 1962 to require those words in the enlistment oath at the height of the Cold War and as a result of other now irrelevant factors to the matter at hand. 

By allowing this noxiously unconstitutional practice to continue, the USAF is  willfully disregarding the United States Constitution in open defiance of numerous, dispositive Supreme Court rulings on the matter. The following ruling by our nation’s highest Court powerfully elucidates the USAF's current failure: 

“Where the state conditions receipt of an important benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith, or where it denies such a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, a burden upon religion exists. While the compulsion may be indirect, the infringement upon free exercise is nonetheless substantial.” -Thomas vs. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division, 
450 U.S. 707 (1981) 

Until now, it has been understood by the United States armed forces that people of any religion are rightfully free to serve this country. In a time of increasingly polarized fundamentalist theocratic hostility, what good will be accomplished by deliberately leaning the singular most lethal organization ever to exist on this planet towards a reflection of ISIS? At the outset of the Cold War, our country exacted far greater harm on its own citizens than our enemies abroad due to the paranoid zeal of ignoble people like Senator McCarthy. We became our own enemy. There is no reason any conscious, breathing human being should look at today's situation and suggest that a reiteration of those horrendous times is in order, and yet that is exactly where we find ourselves. 

In August of this year, some 10 months subsequent to the modification of AFI 26-2606, the DoD approved of USMEPCOM Regulation 601-23 which quite explicitly states in part "that the words 'so help me God' may be omitted at the end of the oath" of enlistment should a service member choose to do so. Clearly, the DoD does NOT in practice, even remotely, support a rigid 
enforcement of 10 USC 502. Any efforts to do so are a disingenuous and disgraceful interpretation of the law, serving and pandering to what is nothing more than a pathetically partisan, conservative theocratic agenda. 

“Believe or be gone” was NOT the motto of our founders, and it’s not an idea that our predecessors fought and died for. With a single command directive, Mr. Secretary, you can immediately remediate this bigoted issue and prevent any valuable airmen from being wrongfully discharged from the military for failing a BLATANTLY unlawful religious test. We are calling on you to uphold your oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

Secretary Hagel, will you please have the courage to do so? 


Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. 
Founder and President 
Military Religious Freedom Foundation 

CC: Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force 
General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force 

Air Force changes contentious religious policy

Under Pentagon guidelines, American servicemen and women who re-enlist are required to sign a specific written oath. In the Air Force, that’s proven to be a bit more controversial than expected.
The oath seems pretty straightforward. Signers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”; “bear true faith and allegiance to the same”; and “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” But it concludes, “So help me God,” and for atheists, that’s a problem.
In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit those final four words without penalty, but the Air Force has made it mandatory. In fact, as we discussed over the weekend, an airman was recently told he would be excluded from military service, regardless of his qualifications, unless he does as the Air Force requires and swears an oath to God.
At least, that was the policy. Abby Ohlheiser reported late yesterday that the Air Force has agreed to change its approach.
After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states “so help me God,” the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath.
Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement.
In a written statement, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said, “The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now. Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.” She added that Air Force officials are “making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”
It’s worth emphasizing that the Air Force didn’t have a lot of choice – it was facing the prospect of a lawsuit officials were likely to lose.
Remember, the U.S. Constitution – the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms – says quite explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
And yet, the Air Force, which has been embroiled in religious controversy before, was applying a religious test, making an oath to God a condition for military service.
As for the unnamed airman who was prepared to go to court over this, his paperwork “will be processed to completion,” the Air Force said yesterday.
Postscript: This resolution will likely disappoint some in the religious right movement, who had rallied behind the Air Force’s policy. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer recently said, “There is no place in the United States military for those who do not believe in the Creator.” He added, “A man who doesn’t believe in the Creator … most certainly should not wear the uniform.”
One wonders what Fischer might have said to Pat Tillman.