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Atheist Law Center Seemingly Continues to Support Larry Darby:

Darby is the ALC's cofounder and former president; he's now running for Alabama Attorney General. Last month, I noted on this blog that Darby had complained about America's "Zionist-Occupied Government," helped organize a talk by denier David Irving, and seemed oddly interested in whether his questioner on this (me) was Jewish. Here's a message from Carol Moore, the Center's new president, which was sent in response to my blog post (which I had cross-posted to a discussion list):

[Quoting me:] "On the other hand, his having been involved in the group, and the Center's having hosted David Irving while Mr. Darby was president, makes me concerned about the group more broadly. It seems to me very important that irreligious people participate in public debate, to defend the legitimacy of their views, and to protect themselves against religious discrimination and hostility. I don't agree with everything that all atheist activists urge; for instance, I don't think that the Establishment Clause is properly interpreted as banning religious speech by the government. Nonetheless, there are indeed some egregious forms of discrimination against the irreligious (or the less religious), for instance in child custody cases - these should be assiduously fought. I therefore have nothing at all against atheist political movements in general, nor do I have any reason to believe that atheists generally have any hostility towards Jews, or affection for David Duke. Yet this makes it all the more important, it seems to me, for atheists who are deciding whom to ally themselves with - or for that matter, for members of other groups, such as Scouting for All or any marijuana decriminalization groups - to know Mr. Darby's views that I describe above, views with which I hope most atheists much disagree."

[Moore:] I simply do not understand "concerns" about the ALC simply because of Larry Darby and David Irving. It is important that citizens participate in the public debate, but it is even more important that ALL citizens receive as much information as possible so they can make up their own minds. Both Darby and Irving provided such information from different perspectives. Listening to all sides of issues does not mean that atheists "ally" themselves with those who disseminate such information. It means we embrace free inquiry and discussion first, and then chose our own level of acceptance of that information. For the record, Irving's presentation in Alabama last summer was a discussion of the English legal system as it related to his case. Would you have us ignore this first hand account simply because of other's opinions? It that were true, how on earth would anyone get through law school?

[Quoting me:] "Likewise, Alabama Democrats should know who's running in their primary, and should keep in mind the views I note above, even if some of them are tempted to agree with him on marijuana decriminalization, juvenile justice, or even religion in public life. (I doubt there are that many Alabama Democrats who do agree with him on those latter issues, but I imagine there are some.)"

[Moore:] Yes, there are enough Alabama citizens who agree with Darby's views to make Darby a viable candidate for AG. We "know" about Darby...he's been a reputable, consistent representative of our frustration with our current state government. We are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents. We can see through the smoke screen of the current status quo, listen to all sides of the issues, and make up our own minds. Doubts do not deter us — they challenge us.

[Quoting me:] "And it's also important for Jews — even in America, the place in the world in which it is probably safest to be a Jew — to be reminded that these sorts of views do exist in America, and in what might to many seem like quite unlikely circles."

[Moore:] This comment perpetuates the myth that Atheists are the enemy. America doesn't promise safety, equality, or fairness. America doesn't promise that you won't be personally demonized for your opinions — as some on this service seem to relish. America does, however, promise via the First Amendment the opportunity and the potential for a rational life, by stating explicity that the Government will stay out of religion. There is no quote on the Statue of Liberty that says "I lift up my lamp for the religious only." America promises a forum for all ideas, even those we may personally abhor. We are all enriched and enlightened by the forum and the participants.

I think this should give people a pretty good sense of where the Atheist Law Center stands on Larry Darby and his views.

As I said in my original post, "It seems to me very important that irreligious people participate in public debate, to defend the legitimacy of their views, and to protect themselves against religious discrimination and hostility. . . . I . . . have nothing at all against atheist political movements in general, nor do I have any reason to believe that atheists generally have any hostility towards Jews, or affection for David Duke. Yet this makes it all the more important, it seems to me, for atheists who are deciding whom to ally themselves with — or for that matter, for members of other groups, such as Scouting for All or any marijuana decriminalization groups — to know Mr. Darby's views that I describe above, views with which I hope most atheists much disagree. . . ."

So, no, I don't think that atheists are the enemy of Jews (whether ethnic Jews, against whom atheists need have no animosity, or religious Jews, with whom atheists may simply have a disagreement). But it certainly seems to me that Jews, both ethnic and religious, should be pretty troubled by the Atheist Law Center.

UPDATE: Whoops -- originally wrote Larry Irving instead of David Irving (and not for the first time, sad to say). Larry Darby + David Irving somehow end up melding in my mind into Larry Irving, who as best I can tell is a perfectly fine fellow; my apologies to him. Thanks to commenter MM for the correction.

Cornellian (mail):
I found the post a bit hard to follow, and I've never heard of the ALC or Larry Darby, but any group that invites David Irving to give a speech is taking a position, not just providing a forum. Giving him a visitor's visa so he can come here and make a speech along with everyone else is one thing. Putting him up on an ALC podium under a "featured guest" banner would be something else entirely. Why would that particular group of atheists choose their associates so poorly?
1.3.2006 1:02pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
This really isn't news. William J. Murray's autobiography My Life Without God describes how his mother (Madelyn Murray O'Hair) was originally allied primarily with leftist atheists in the American Atheist Association, but by the 1970s, he noticed that many of the affinity groups were neo-Nazis. When he asked her why, "It's the money, dear."

I know that many atheists are proper, doctrinaire Marxists--but there's no great surprise to me to find that the crowd gathered around a group calling itself the Atheist Law Center would have neo-Nazi sympathies.
1.3.2006 1:19pm
MM:
In the first paragraph I think you mean David Irving, not Larry Irving.
1.3.2006 1:25pm
Medis:
This strikes me as a variant of the "the Libertarian Party is an oxymoron" problem. I know a lot of people who don't believe in the existence of God, but that lack of belief generally doesn't define their actual beliefs (which stands to reason). So the people for whom such a lack of belief is the dominant theme in their lives--the "activist" atheists--are going to tend to be a fringe bunch.
1.3.2006 1:26pm
frankcross (mail):
If you google this bunch, you find it is really trivial. I suppose that this shows that Anti-Semites can be found in any group. But I suspect the Atheist Law Center is much smaller than, say, the Christian Identity movement. And I certainly wouldn't identify Christians generally with that bunch.
1.3.2006 1:37pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Medis hit it on the head.
1.3.2006 1:39pm
Bruce:
We atheists should organize as a church, so we can then excommunicate the Atheist Law Center.
1.3.2006 2:02pm
John R. Mayne (mail):
Professor Volokh opines that Jews should be troubled by the Atheist Law Center. To the extent that it merits consideration by anyone, I'd suspect that the list of people concerned about it ought to include atheists; these folks certainly have the right to invite unbalanced purveyors of falsehoods to speak, but then people of all religious stripes ought to condemn them for doing so.

Tiny ineffectual groups of dubious size but some press tend to hurt the larger groups they claim to be allied with; Freddy Phelps is not helping Christianity any. I doubt the ALC does anyone any good, and it's hard for me to accept that Mr. Darby and his former group can harm Jews in any meaningful way.

--JRM
1.3.2006 2:06pm
Medis:
Bruce,

If atheists wanted to belong to a church without believing in God, they would just become lapsed Catholics.
1.3.2006 2:06pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Medis - or practing Unitarian Universalists.

nick
1.3.2006 2:14pm
Marcus1:
Just thought I'd point out, again, that if Clayton Cramer's comments were directed toward any religious group other than atheists, he would be rightfully denounced as a bigot. It's almost funny -- he wants to blame atheists for both marxism and neo-nazism at the same time.

And indeed, that conservatives do not denounce comments by those such as Clayton Cramer, may help to understand why atheists, broad and wide, don't have anything in particular to say about the Atheist Law Center.
1.3.2006 2:18pm
corngrower:
A quote, and I forget who uttered it.

The problem with athiests is not that they belive in nothing,,,Just, they will believe in anything.
1.3.2006 2:29pm
Steve:
So an atheist, then, will believe in God, since they will believe in anything? What an insightful quote.
1.3.2006 2:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Just thought I'd point out, again, that if Clayton Cramer's comments were directed toward any religious group other than atheists, he would be rightfully denounced as a bigot. It's almost funny -- he wants to blame atheists for both marxism and neo-nazism at the same time.
Huh? My point was that neo-Nazis atheists are not particularly new.


And indeed, that conservatives do not denounce comments by those such as Clayton Cramer, may help to understand why atheists, broad and wide, don't have anything in particular to say about the Atheist Law Center.
Maybe most people can read what I said well enough to see that I wasn't blaming atheists for totalitarian fringe groups.

Still: because I denounce the Atheist Law Center, and point out that they aren't surprising--this is a reason for atheists to not denounce neo-Nazis who proclaim themselves to be spokesmen for your movement? What's up with that?
1.3.2006 2:53pm
Marcus1:
Corngrower, I believe a lot of things, but I don't believe that a talking snake offered an apple of knowledge in a garden of Eden. And I don't believe a bearded man or anybody else created the earth in 6 days 6,000 years ago. If that makes me gullible, then so be it.

The problem with atheists is that they reject the cherished beliefs of a lot of people. And instead of coming up with their own creation myth so others can feel comfortable, they suggest that the whole concept itself of religion is mistaken. Unfortunately, by refusing to play the game, that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. And those people then feel like they have to find some moral defect that would lead to atheism.

That's probably not the quote you were thinking of, though.
1.3.2006 3:10pm
corngrower:
Steve

What does an atheist belive in?

Oh, I forgot....WHY? And do not even get close Religious doctrine in your answer. What are an athiests core values and where do those values emminate from?

I know mine.

What are the substance of values of an athiest. (remember that religion is banned in communist Govt's)
1.3.2006 3:17pm
NickM (mail) (www):
The agnostic response to Marcus1 is that he has created his own creation myth; that within the limits of current human understanding, we do not and can not know, and to claim otherwise is unsupportable hubris. Rational disbelief of every religion's creation story does not imply acceptance of any "scientific" story that purports to preclude all other possibilities.

Nick
1.3.2006 3:21pm
Marcus1:
Clayton Cramer,

You should at least be honest enough to stand up and admit what you are saying and what you believe.

If I say "Hey, this and that, but I wasn't surprised to hear that [enter disfavored group here] would go out and kill a bunch of people," you don't have to wonder what I'm trying to get at.

Your statement speaks for itself. "I know that many atheists are proper, doctrinaire Marxists--but there's no great surprise to me to find that the crowd gathered around a group calling itself the Atheist Law Center would have neo-Nazi sympathies." It's called a smear, and of course, it's typical that you would deny it.
1.3.2006 3:28pm
Medis:
corngrower,

Different atheists will provide very different answers to your questions. And that is because "atheism" isn't an actual doctrine--it is just the lack of one particular belief. So to find out what any given atheist does believe, as opposed to this one thing they don't believe, you'll have to ask that atheist.
1.3.2006 3:29pm
Steve:
What does an atheist believe in? Hmm? What does a Christian believe in?

You can say "A Christian's life is centered around belief in God and Jesus Christ," but I would hope you know that that just isn't true. There are plenty of Christians who are devoutly religious, and there are plenty who hardly ever think about God.

Every person on earth has some set of core values that determines how they live their lives. Empirically speaking, there is no single set of "Christian values" that every Christian shares, it's just that the label enables us to pretend otherwise if we want.

I don't know why it troubles you that atheists have individually formed beliefs and you can't pigeonhole them all into a predetermined set of values. The fact is, the vast majority of Christians fit exactly the same description. We're all people and we all have our own beliefs.
1.3.2006 3:29pm
Larry Darby (mail):
It appears Volokh took it personally when he was exposed as being dishonest in his blog reporting (on another list).

Readers should be aware that Volokh is manufacturing much of what he writes in regard to Larry Darby and the Atheist Law Center, Inc.

Darby is an outspoken proponent of Free Speech (Free Inquiry, Free Thought) and is not fearful of the taboos in America that effectively keep criticism, indeed meaningful discussion, of Zionism and other faith-based topics quashed.

Volokh has little credibility among those who watch him closely and understand the nature of Trotskyism and the Neoconservatives who are in charge of U.S. foreign policy and other aspects of government.

For Light, Liberty and a USA-First Government!
1.3.2006 3:37pm
Marcus1:
NickM,

Well, I agree with you mostly. Most atheists will admit, I think, that you can't ultimately know how the earth was created, or ultimately know that there is no "god," whatever "god" could possibly be defined as.

But we still use the term atheism to denote that, whether or not something like that is possible, it's not something we believe. Sure, there could be a god -- there could be a Zeus! -- but I'd be pretty surprised. It doesn't require anything more to be an atheist. Simply that I don't believe in "God" any more than you believe in "Zeus."

I disagree, thus, that I've created my own creation myth by being an atheist. I simply don't believe the one involving god. As far as other theories I find credible, I don't think I have any that are unique to atheism.
1.3.2006 3:54pm
Paul Johnson (mail):
In case anyone thinks the post from "Larry Darby" is a spoof, I don't think so. It's consistent with his rhetoric on the "other list" he refers to.
1.3.2006 3:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

You should at least be honest enough to stand up and admit what you are saying and what you believe.
Oddly enough, you read something there that I not only didn't write, but I didn't even think.


If I say "Hey, this and that, but I wasn't surprised to hear that [enter disfavored group here] would go out and kill a bunch of people," you don't have to wonder what I'm trying to get at.
Huh?


Your statement speaks for itself. "I know that many atheists are proper, doctrinaire Marxists--but there's no great surprise to me to find that the crowd gathered around a group calling itself the Atheist Law Center would have neo-Nazi sympathies." It's called a smear, and of course, it's typical that you would deny it.
What makes it a smear? I know that there are non-Marxist, non-neo-Nazi atheists. Where did I say that there were not?
1.3.2006 3:55pm
Marcus1:
Clayton Cramer,

Ok, how about this one: "I know Catholics tend to be sexually repressed social reactionaries, but it doesn't surprise me at all that a group of Catholic priests would molest thousands of young boys."

Enter Clayton Cramer: "What? That's not anti-Catholic. I don't know what you're talking about."
1.3.2006 4:04pm
corngrower:
Medis and Steve

Medis, you give a lawyers answer. In that you do not address the question. Why waste your time proffering a non-answer? My question? What does an athiest belive in?
Your response? 'Gee, dont know. Ask one.' The larger issue is that in your deffense of athiests, you, Medis, could not, in all your humble knowledge come up with even one. Hum?

Steve

Hum? Every person on earth has core values I just asked for a single example of that. You, like medis offer a non answer to a question. And I did not bring up ANY religious belief structure. You did that. Now come up with an example of a life that believes in nothing??? Oh! and I am waiting
1.3.2006 4:06pm
Robert F. Patterson (mail):
I find several (maybe a lot) of non-sequiturs in some of these comments. FOr example, Steve says that because some Christians do not live up to their beliefs, therefore Christians do not have a set of beliefs. Yuk!
And if atheists have beliefs, there must be some other definition of belief to the one I know. A belief, I have always learned, is a certainty of judgment based, not upon direct knowledge, but upon the word of another who is in a position to know and is truthful. Upon what grounds does an atheist believe anything? Or, put another way, why does an atheist hold himself obliged to obey a law? And especially, when that law is based upon man's freedom to obey or disobey, where does an atheist derive his conviction that man is free?
If a religious-minded person oppresses an atheist (God forbid, anyhow), why is that immoral? What is the source of the atheist's right NOT to be oppressed?
1.3.2006 4:10pm
Steve:
You want an explanation of the core beliefs of one particular atheist, corngrower? Do you really question that they have any?

Your point seemed to be that atheists as a group do not have a single, consistent set of beliefs. My response is that Christianity is a belief system that offers a core set of beliefs, but if you were to focus on individual Christians rather than Christianity itself, there's no way they all have a single, consistent set of beliefs.
1.3.2006 4:11pm
Marcus1:
Corngrower,

As an atheist, I think it's important to be honest. I think it's also important to be generous to other people and treat them with respect. I think it's also important to be thoughtful and to prevent yourself from carelessly doing things that you wouldn't do if you thought about it. I also think it's important to take care of responsibilities and not to hurt other people.

I think it's important to be honest because unless I am honest, I would have no right to expect the same of others. The same is true for most of the others. I don't believe them because I was told to believe them, but rather because I think they are good principles worth living by.

So there you have some beliefs of an atheist. As the others pointed out, though, those are just my beliefs, not necessarily the beliefs of any other atheist. But then, I know a lot of religious people don't share your beliefs either, so how is it any different?
1.3.2006 4:16pm
Medis:
corngrower,

You are right that I pointed out that your question was based on a faulty premise (that atheism is a doctrine), rather than trying to answer your question (which I didn't do because it was based on a faulty premise).

But if you are actually interested in getting a sense of the variety of things atheists believe, you can look for the Volokh thread in which nonreligious people were asked to explain why they are moral. It contained a lot of interesting, and diverse, answers to one of life's many important questions.
1.3.2006 4:23pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I hope that I too have little credibility with Darby and his band of self-important paranoid cranks. I wonder if I can get a Darby Seal of Disapproval.

Marcus - if you acknowledge that there may be some supernatural creator force, even if you know of no name or description of it, and even if you tend toward thinking there is none, then you are not really an atheist. You are an agnostic. There are plenty of differences in gradation of belief within agnosticism, but the difference between thinking it's highly likely there is a god and highly unlikely there is a god is one of degree, while the difference between thinking it highly unlikely there is a god and believing there is no god is one of kind.

Nick
1.3.2006 4:25pm
Medis:
NickM,

You actually raise a basic definitional problem. In my own experience, people tend to disagree about the exact difference between atheism and agnosticism--and some think the categories overlap. Various people have worked out well-defined categories, but no one system in particular seems to have caught on.

Of course, these are hardly unique definitional problems. Still, I think this is part of the more general problem I am suggesting--basically, that defining categories of people based on what they do not believe is a problematic enterprise.
1.3.2006 4:38pm
Dan Simon (www):
Larry Darby + David Irving somehow end up melding in my mind into Larry Irving, who as best I can tell is a perfectly fine fellow; my apologies to him.

Good thing you didn't mix him up with Larry David....
1.3.2006 4:47pm
Marcus1:
NickM,

Well, my response may well be then that the difference between the vast majority of people, including those who call themselves atheists, is a difference of degree rather than kind.

A great deal has been said, however, of the definitions of atheism and agnosticism. Many, probably most, prominent thinkers on the issue say one can be both an atheist and an agnostic. I am not a prominent thinker, but I consider myself both.

Of course, a person can be an agnostic Christian too. It's not either-or. The problem with your narrow definition of atheism is that it mischaracterizes most people who call themselves atheists, and leads to the accusation of "arrogance" where it doesn't really exist.
1.3.2006 4:53pm
pwb (mail):
Corngrower,

First, I'm not clear on what the point of your question is "what do atheists believe". I suppose it's something like "what is supported by evidence and reason".

Atheists can easily develop a set of core values without needing faith and god. Here's a decent attempt:
Secular Humanism
1.3.2006 6:59pm
socialstatics (mail):
I admit it, I though the Darby post was a clever satire of a lunatic fringeist.
1.3.2006 7:09pm
Eric Muller (www):
Larry David is an atheist?
1.3.2006 8:03pm
minnie:
Eugene writes "It seems to me very important that irreligious people participate in public debate, to defend the legitimacy of their views, and to protect themselves against religious discrimination and hostility. "

Thanks, Eugene. Maybe sometime we can even give them the vote, and allow them to sit in the front of the bus. That is, if they're not contagious or anything.

In the meantime, please defend the "legitimacy" of your own views, since you think that is required if one is to participate in the public debate and protect oneself from hostility.
1.3.2006 8:11pm
Cornellian (mail):
Volokh has little credibility among those who watch him closely and understand the nature of Trotskyism and the Neoconservatives who are in charge of U.S. foreign policy and other aspects of government.

Now that's creepy.
1.3.2006 8:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Minnie: I wonder whether you might have misunderstood my point, which was stressing the value of organized atheism, not condemning it. As to defending the legitimacy of my views, I try to do that all the time on this blog (and elsewhere). That surely isn't required to participate in public debate -- but it is required to protect oneself from hostility, since if one doesn't defend the legitimacy of one's views, others might well think the views are unsound, misguided, or even harmful.
1.4.2006 2:25am
corngrower:
Sorry people, my bad. What I ment to say is not 'What do atheists belive in' But WHY do you believe it? With out a 'core' it is imposible to navigate your life and sort out seemingly simple quandrys on a regular basis

Marcus

You state things that are important to you. Well I might think that something that is important to me his having your TV in my living room. Or I might think that having sex with you spouse (even if they disagree about my thoughts of things important) is important. You then switch to being honest,because if you weren't you would have no 'right' to expect the same from others (sounds verrry creeeepppily like the GOLDEN RULE)! But again, and I repeat. WHY?

Let's All remember I have yet to mention religion so all must stop the assumptions of the source of my core values.

Please stop confusing churches and God.
1.4.2006 10:10am
Marcus1:
Corngrower,

You're right, it does sound creepily like the golden rule, because that's pretty much what it is. A person has to be nice to other people if they want others to be nice to them. I can't take something of yours unless I want you to come after what I have. It makes a lot of sense. That's WHY I believe it. Because it makes sense.

You seem to think I need some additional reason, or some additional belief that I can't support in order to be a whole person. I've found that isn't true. I've found I'm perfectly happy and fine sticking to what makes sense.

Of course, you say, I could simply decide that rape or murder are important to me. Now, I don't think that makes much sense, for a lot of reasons. The thing is, though, that even with religion, people dome up with some crazy things. For instance, some people thought their religion instructed them to blow up the World Trade Center. With all their faith in God, they couldn't figure out that that was a bad idea. So in the end, I'm not sure religion, or even belief in a god if you want to distinguish, seem to always lead people to the right thing anyway.
1.4.2006 10:27am
corngrower:
STOP IT!!

I have not brought religio into this debate. Why does everyone assume that I am forcing a religious debate.

I just ask where do you get your core values from????

I know mine. What are yours?

Some are motivated by fear (I cant hit him, I'll be pounded into a puddle of blood)

Some are motivated by wanting to be liked (Sure I'll go to bed with you because for at least a short time I feel loved)

Some are motivated by hate,envy,etc. My core values get me around my emotions.

AGAIN!! WHY??? Do you belive what you belive?
1.4.2006 11:13am
Marcus1:
Corngrower,

All I can say is that I bet my core values are pretty similar to yours. I have a feeling you're not going to accept any explanation for why I have them. If my reason -- that I think they are sensible and good for me as well as other people -- isn't good enough for you, then it's not, but it's good enough for me.

I also have principles for getting around emotion. As I said, one of my principles is that it's important to be thoughtful so you don't do something carelessly that you wouldn't do if you really thought through it. Unfortunately I can't give you a 5 word answer for why I think that is important, but I think I have good reasons, which I've basically expressed.

I would also point out that there is an element of default to it. I've looked into other bases for core values, and I don't think they add up. For instance, asking God what to do. To me, that isn't helpful. First of all, I've never seen or heard from a god, which makes me doubt that they exist. Second of all, even if there is a God, or two or three, it seems impossible to know what they want. Basically, it doesn't tell me what to do at all. And there are more problems than that.

So I guess I'm kind of stuck trying to decide for myself what's good or bad. But even if I believed in god, that's pretty much what I'd be doing anyway. I'm just more straight-forward about it.
1.4.2006 12:04pm
corngrower:
Marcus

No one can ask Any God, what to do. If? you had a knowledge of the subject you say you have of religion, that you are so able to pontificate about, you would know that God granted man free will. That is of what I speak. I know where my core values come from. You just make yours up. Day by day. Sad
1.4.2006 3:44pm
NickM (mail) (www):
"The Golden Rule" is an outcome-maximizing strategy for interactions. Game theory proves that. Mutual well-treatment is the condition which rational actors will arrive at to maximize their personal benefit. Isn't logic in the service of self-interest a sufficient basis to rest one's core values on?

Nick
1.4.2006 5:14pm
Marcus1:
Corngrower,

Where do your values come from, would you like to share? And what values do you think I'm missing?

You sound rather closed-minded to me. I find it sad to think you would believe that your way of looking at the world is the only acceptable perspective. If you would be more open-minded, you would see that belief in the supernatural is not the only way to have core values.

What if God told you to murder an innocent child? Would that necessarily make it right? I think you'd find your core values exist independently of your belief in the biblical god.
1.4.2006 5:19pm