secleftmast1 (9K)

Interconnect Radio Show Transcription

Transcribed by Doug Berger

*Note* This is a rough transcription of the radio show in which Doug Berger was a guest. Basically I listened to the archive audio files and typed most of what was said. If you need exact wording or want to experience how the show felt, please check out the audio archives at

Interconnect March 6, 2006 9 am to 10 am WMUB radio Oxford, OH

Guests Edward Tabash and Doug Berger

Topic - Civil rights for Atheists

Segment 1 12 minutes 31 seconds

Host - Welcome yada yada Edward Tabash yada yada yada Doug Berger brack brack brack. How did you become an Atheist/Humanist?

Tabash - (a 7 minute personal story involving his relatives who survived the Holocaust)

Berger - Had Humanist ideas since High school. Unchurched due to single mom working on Sundays. Atheist first. God not relevant. Met founder of HCCO then became a Humanist as it fit my world view.

Host to Berger - Is it necessary to be an Atheist in order to be a Humanist

Berger - No

Host - So the distinction would be the application of reason and logic?

Berger - And compassion. Using science as a tool to discover our world. Belief in God is a separate issue.

Host - Let me ask both of you, where do you find hope?

Tabash - Fantasy is more attractive than reality. The fact that we can't fabricate a story of immortality doesn't mean it exists just because it would be a more pleasant thought. What characterizes the Atheist/Secular Humanist POV is one of stark realism. It deals with what IS not what you want it to BE.

Host - You used the words "pleasant thought". Pleasant vs Hope They might be different things.

Tabash - You find hope by the application of reason mixed with compassion within the framework of a finite existence. You maximize your individual life span to provide as much comfort and support for others and yourself.

(Editors note: He means hope is what you make it as we have only this life to live)

Host - We need to break here yada yada yada Tabash and Berger....


Segment 2 10 Minutes 30 seconds

[Bit of "Imagine" by John Lennon plays us out of the break]

Host - Welcome back yada yada Tabash and Berger brack brack call us e-mail us etc.... Once again Ed, we were talking about finding hope.

Tabash - [rehashes his earlier statement before the break] But the problem isn't between the perspective of the believer and non-believer but in America today the problem is the awesome prejudice against the non-believer, I would say that the Atheist/non-believer is the most unjustly despised people in minority in America today. [He then tells about the polling that indicates that most voters would rather vote for a gay person for elective office than for any Atheist candidate]

Host - Are there any elected officials who are Atheists or known Atheists?

Tabash - None out of the closet.

Host - Let's bring this home to Ohio. Doug do we have issues with civil rights for Atheists and Humanists in Ohio? Where do you see problems in Ohio.

Berger - I have observed the things Ed talked about because there is this assumption that Atheists are negative people that they can't hold a public office. There hasn't been anything directed at Atheists as people since to do that opens one up to a lawsuit but other issues effect us like the 10th grade science issue where it would have allowed the teaching of Intelligent Design and the pledge controversy and things like that. [Yes I forgot to mention the Reynoldsburg Nativity scene, Doh!] They aren't burning Atheists at the stake but it is subtle discrimination.

Host - What is the status of things like public prayer and displays of 10 commandments teaching of Intelligent Design are laws moving in favor of religious favoritism or is it supporting separation of church and state?

Berger - Edward would have more details on that but while we have won some small victories there is a movement toward a Theocracy and it is a struggle. We have to fight it every single day. We can't sit back and think it will work itself out. Groups like Americans United and American Atheists file lawsuits every day and I think it is telling that we have these same issues come up every single time where they are trying to intertwine government and church. My philosophy is that the government should not be in the religious cheerleading business. That is something they are not suppose to be doing.

Tabash - Actually we were moving toward more neutrality before President Bush started remaking the Federal court system. Until Justice O'Connor retired in June 2005 we had 6 justices who had the view point that no branch of government could favor the believer over the non-believer and now with Alito and possible another appointment to replace Stevens or Ginsburg we would have for the first time in 60 years 5 Justices who support the view that the federal government could promote religion generally.

[Note: I disagree that O'Connor was a friend of separation of church and state. She is the one who introduced ceremonial deism to legalize suspect religious practices by government bodies. She did vote our way in the Kentucky 10 Commandments case so maybe her view had modified by then]

Host - Lets take a break


Segment 3 9 minutes and 48 seconds

Host - Welcome back yada yada yada Tabash and Berger. We have a pile of e-mails for our guest and we invite you to call in and if you want to be anonymous just say so. Let's get to some of the e-mails.

James in Indiana writes about essay "I believe" by Penn Jillette that said he isn't an Atheist if that means he doesn't believe in God as that assumes one exists. He said he knows there is no God. Maybe we need a new word Atheist seems too negative. God is just humanities greatest fairy tale. Gentlemen any reaction to these comments?

Tabash - We don't need to get hung up on words. I don't see a problem with Atheist. Where a secular society is superior to a theistic one is in the area of stem cell research. Because some believe that an immaterial soul enters an egg at fertilization we are denied all the possibilities of medical research through the use of stem cells. The ban promoted by the religious right would do what the Church did in the Dark Ages - set back medical research for centuries. Society would be better off if government policy wasn't grounded in appeasing some supernatural force.

Berger - I don't mind calling myself an Atheist. I acknowledge people having negative ideas about Atheists due mainly from the propaganda we've gone through. I'm a child of the cold war and I remember being told we're Americans and we need to do our best over those godless Atheists in the Soviet Union. That stuff filters through and becomes part of you. All I can say is you have to meet Atheists before you can judge them. You can't judge them by a word.

Host - This is Interconnect phone lines are open. Glen from Dayton you are on the air.

Glen - I agree about the discrimination.... I am troubled by the argument put up. It seems both gentlemen are arguing against a childlike view about a deity and that is an easy thing to dismiss. What about spirituality in general?

Tabash - We are talking about civil rights for Atheists and non-believers and what we are striving for is a society and legal structure that insures that no matter how much you disbelieve in the spiritual or religious it doesn't lessen your rights. To have full legal equality it is not required to have any supernatural or spiritual belief. I don't want more rights I just don't want less rights I want the government. to be neutral in religious matters. I think we also need to be cautious of the new age left as we are of the religious right where they judge people not on fundamentalism but think we are missing something or have an inferior outlook if we don't have some kind of spirituality. We need to mature to a point where people have equal dignity and worth irregardless of any transcendental beliefs.

Host - Lets take a break


Segment 4 14 minutes

[My Sweet Lord by George Harrison plays us out of the break]

Host - Welcome back yada yada yada Tabash and Berger brack brack brack. We have a pile of e-mails and callers so lets see if we can address some of them quickly.

[read comments from e-mails]

Nancy writes that because they don't go to church she was turned down from adopting a baby but would be able to adopt an older child. When I told my friends they weren't outraged and one suggested I go to church so I could qualify.

Let's go back to the phones. The lines are filled so please be patient. Domeko you're on the air go ahead

Domeko - I'm a Catholic and I agree that secular humanists should be treated equally but I object to religion being said to enslave your mind. I still believe in science and evolution and it seems it is almost becoming discrimination against religion.

Tabash - The difference is we don't want the government to favor anyone. What we are facing is a government dominated by the religious right wing with the President, Congress, and now probably the Supreme court who want the government to openly push religion. Look at what the Catholic church has said about non-believers. We need to get rid of the notion that religion is exempt from critical examination and doubt. The reaction of Muslims to the Danish cartoons was out of bounds for example and people must realize their cherished religious beliefs have a special exemption from ridicule and doubt than any others beliefs. The right and left must understand there can't be any artificial politically correct barrier to free speech and free expression. We take it as an automatic default that all POVs are open to criticism and ridicule but religious POVs some how need official insulation from being offended.

Host - We an e-mail from Dan. [Dan comments about the increase in numbers for non-believers] Doug Berger do you have an idea about why that is the case?

Berger - I think what it is is a disconnect between what people believe and organized religion such as churches and other religious groups. Most people sincerely hold their beliefs about a deity but they don't like the place they go to worship. A lot of times you see people not practicing their religion and that leads to them thinking well if I'm not practicing my religion then what's the use in it. They then fall into agnostism, humanism, and some into atheism.

Host - This is Interconnect. We have Karen on the line.

[Karen reads her favorite bits from the Affirmations of Humanism and describes her car getting keyed because she had a Darwinfish sticker on it]

Host - We have time for one more caller. Lou you are on the air.

[Lou describes the peer pressure she has experienced against her Atheism in the last 5 to 10 years and it is making her angry. Is she alone in that feeling]

Tabash - With the rise of the religious right with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 there has been a strong move to link basic morality with being in a supernatural being. With the President and Congress now dominated by the religious right and almost certain take over of the Supreme Court there is now an anti-intellectual unfair unjust hostility toward the non-believer that we've never seen before. That's why I said at the beginning of the program that we Atheists are the most unjustly despised minority in the country today.

Host - We're just about of time and we lost Doug Berger so why don't you fill us in on what is happening in the area of civil rights.

Tabash - Unfortunately the law of the land indeed the fabric of our liberties is dependent on the minimum of 5 judges on the Supreme Court at any one time. With the addition of Alito to the court it is very much in doubt as to whether we will have continued across the board government neutrality in matters of religion. It could be within a decade we will begin to see a legal then social environment in which people and local branches of government will be able to overtly discriminate against the non-believer.

Host - Thank Edward Tabash for being on the show today and we have links to information about you and Doug's group on our website at

Layout and Contents ©2006 Secular Left