Children of the Border

Hey all,

We know that everyone has been very busy with concerns regarding the BP oil spill and assorted effects it has had on our Gulf Coast community.

Our friend Sebastian recently wrote us to remind everyone of the efforts of Humanists still helping those suffering in Haiti.

We encourage everyone to keep them in your thoughts and if you are able...please consider a donation to this heartfelt Humanist effort ~ Children of the Border.


Dear Steve:

We sent you a letter last week asking for help from your local
organization (The Great Southern Humanist Society ) for our projects in Haiti and
the Dominican Republic.

Did you receive it? If not, could you please let us know so that we can
update your address and send you a copy? I have also attached a PDF copy
in case you want to forward it to other members of the group.

At the bottom of this message I included some relevant links where you
can get information about our projects, and a PDF copy of a brochure we
prepared for the 69th American Humanist Association annual conference.

Best regards,
Sebastian Velez, Children of the Border Director

Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
26 Oxford St. Cambridge MA 02138

Assistant Resident Dean and Sophomore Advising Coordinator
Kirkland House
Harvard University
95 Dunster St. Cambridge MA 02138



Our main page


Humanist Network News podcast interview


Letter from Haiti while delivering aid donated by the American Humanist


Humanist Charities updates from our work in Haiti


Humanist Charities main site


Harvard Gazette Article about our work in Haiti


Harvard Gazette Article about out work in a Haitian orphanage


Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy article about our Haiti Earthquake relief


Harvard Haiti Benefit concert, where we spoke along with the Harvard
University President Drew Faust


Article in the Harvard Crimson about Director Velez's speech at the
benefit concert



A mention in the NY Times


Press release by the Norwegian Humanist Association

Video about La Casa de Salud

Video of our community health worker explaining the birth control pill
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Subverting the American Family Association's Bigotry

I subscribe to the online American Family Association newsletter. If you are from Mississippi, you are probably familiar with the AFA. They have a radio station which is very popular among our devout christian fellow citizens. Very much in the James Dobson, Jerry Falwell version of good old time religion. The reason I subscribe to their newsletter is that it is always good to see what they are taking seriously. I learn from this site much earlier about issues affecting my world than I would from mainstream media or even the non-religious cyberverse. The AFA is the organization behind the referendum to get human life declared as starting at conception, for instance. I found out about this campaign first on the AFA website.

American bigotry
Their latest campaign involves a university student in Georgia, a good christian young woman who has views on homosexuality informed by her faith. Views she has voiced in her counseling classes. Yes, she is a counseling psychology major with religiously informed, negative opinions on homosexuality. The Augusta State University faculty decided she could not graduate holding such without having some interaction with actual homosexuals, in order to find out what their life is like, and recommended she take part in some sensitivity exercises about homosexuality before she became eligible to graduate. They did not say she had to change her views; they just said she had to have some contact with the homosexual community before she graduated. She refused.

The AFA was outraged. They claim this impinges on her rights to her religion. They have one of those links you can click on and send a form letter to the Georgia State Board of Regents to express your displeasure at the Augusta State University's infringement on the young woman's freedom of religion. I clicked on this link, wiped out the text of the AFA's form letter, and put in my own text supporting the ASU's position. I stated that this woman had a right to her religious beliefs, but beliefs are not facts. I said that it is comparable to allowing a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for a legal, prescribed contraceptive to a woman because it violates his or her religious beliefs. Health providers have to separate their religious beliefs from their legal obligation to provide appropriate health care to their clients, or we will have real problems.

I can't tell you how much fun it is to use their contact information to subvert their message. I am even listed as a pastor on their website (I am the one and only ordained minister of the First Church of the All-To-Human Revelation), so I have some juice. The First Church of the A-T-H Revelation is a church I started as a project for a religion class I took as an undergraduate at Western Michigan University studying under the remarkable Dr. E. Thomas Lawson. I used the seminar on Rationality and Religion I was taking to recruit members to my church. We met weekly at our class, and later at a two-for one special at a local bar, to establish that the congregation met weekly and consisted of at least twelve people. That made my church official in the eyes of the State of Michigan. I even performed a wedding ceremony. The couple I married in 1978 are still happily married, enviously wealthy, with five wonderful children. You could say I quit the marriage biz while I was ahead.

The Revelation of my church was that we are all alone in a big, cold, uncaring universe, and our only chance of surviving is to take good care of each other, because no big sky-daddy is out there to take care of us.

Check out the AFA and subvert their message. It is fun.


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The Gulf Oil Spill: 100 Days Later

BPIt has been 100 days since the BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began. 100 long, tense, and uncertain days. We still do not have a relief well, but the temporary cap seems to be helping to slow the rate at which additional oil is entering coastal waters. Nobody seems to know how much oil is already there, and if the reports I'm hearing are correct, we may never know.

Questions also remain about the long-term impact of introducing astounding volumes of a chemical dispersant into the waters. It seems to be concealing the surface oil fairly well, but I haven't heard anybody sounding particularly confident that this is a good thing. And then there is the fact that nobody seems to know what this stuff will do to the environment.

In addition to taking a hard look at how federal regulators could have contributed to this disaster, it sounds like the feds are planning to investigate BP, Transocean, and Haliburton. Call me skeptical if you will, but I have some trouble believing that we will see real accountability. Then again, I'm not even sure what it would look like at this point.

What is clear to me is that Mississippi and other Gulf coast states are going to feel the impact of this spill for quite some time. This presents the federal government with another opportunity, much like what we saw during and after Hurricane Katrina. Do our leaders put their money where their mouths are and demonstrate a real commitment to the Gulf coast states, or do they turn their backs yet again? Will we be treated like a valued part of the United States, or will it be business as usual?

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Now That's Christian Advertising!

This ad is from Oklahoma, but it occurs to me that it would be right at home here in Mississippi. I don't watch enough of the major networks to see much local advertising, but I'd be surprised if we didn't have some of this in our state.

Only 27% of U.S. Southerners Accept Evolution

science educationFollowing up on my recent post about evolution in Mississippi, we now have some data to examine. A poll on evolution and creationism by Angus Reid Public Opinion reveals some disturbing evidence of idiocy in our part of the world. Data were collected from the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada. Not surprisingly, the acceptance of evolution was lowest in the U.S. In fact, a whopping 47% of Americans indicated that they think some sort of god created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years! Another 35% chose evolution, and 18% were unsure.

As if that wasn't bad enough (and it is), things deteriorate even further when one considers the U.S. data by region. The percentage of people accepting evolution in the South drops to 27%, with 51% preferring creationism. Only 27% of the people in our area accept the reality of evolution, the foundation of modern biology.

Full results in the form of a .pdf file can be found here.

H/T to The Godless Monster

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Evolution is Taboo in Mississippi

I had an interesting conversation with a woman who moved to Mississippi within the last few years and is still struggling to adjust. She's teaching an undergraduate course at a state university and was surprised to observe such negative reactions from the students to the subject of evolution. I thought I'd mention this here because I'm not convinced that most people realize what a problem this is in our state, even at the university level.


We all know that red states where evangelical fundamentalist Christianity reigns supreme often struggle with evolution in junior high and high school. It should not surprise us one bit that these problems continue at the university level. And yet, I continue to be shocked and disappointed that higher education does not necessarily have an easier time dealing with such topics.

The idea that a college professor might not feel safe discussing evolution in a university classroom is appalling. But doing so can bring direct confrontation from students, complaints by students and their parents to university administrators, poor course evaluations, and other negative outcomes. We'd all like to assume that university administrators and department chairs would protect faculty in these situations, but this does not always happen.

What this means is that the religious delusions of a loud minority has the power to harm the education other students receive. This is unacceptable.

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Meet Pastor Steve Gaines

Pastor Gaines (Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN) has been in the news recently after he outed a softball coach for being gay and then banned her from coaching. But as Unreasonable Faith points out, this is the same Pastor Gaines who learned that one of his fellow clergymen had molested his own child and did nothing about it.

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Sumner Hill Junior High School Needs to Hear From You

Sumner Hill Junior High School in Clinton, MS, is a public school. They are part of the Clinton Public School District. The following is from their website:
We believe...

Faith in God is the cornerstone of our community.
Again, this can be found on the web page of a public school in Mississippi.

Contact information for the school is as follows:

Sumner Hill Junior High School
400 W. Northside Drive
Clinton, MS 39056
Phone: (601) 924-5510

The school's principal, Willie McInnis, can be reached via email at [email protected]. Please remember to keep any correspondence respectful, and please share any responses you receive.

It may also be worth contacting the Freedom From Religion Foundation and/or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, both of whom make it easy to report violations via online forms. It would probably be most effective if the reports were made by someone in Clinton.

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Summer Activities for Atheist Families

Summer FunAustin Cline ( Agnosticism/Atheism) has some suggestions for activities atheist parents can do with their children this summer.

My personal favorite involves visiting a national or state park. I have many fond memories of doing this with my parents when I was a child. I credit these experiences, at least in part, with my lasting appreciation of nature. The parks were such an ideal way to learn about the world while having fun.

If you have some good ideas that are not on Austin's list, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Atheist Billboard in Austin, TX

The Austin Coalition of Reason has erected a billboard along I-35 with a simple message of inclusion. My only complaint is that it should have said "Don't Believe in Gods?" I wonder how long it will last before the vandals come?

Austin Billboard

I also wonder if we'll ever see something like this in Mississippi. If there was ever a place where being an atheist would make one feel alone, it would have to be here.

H/T to the Atheist Experience

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America: He Who Yells the Loudest Wins

As I brace for the onslaught of fireworks until well after 2:00 am on Sunday night/Monday morning, I can't help thinking that one of the things wrong with America today is conveyed quite well by this great cartoon. In today's America, truth seems to have been replaced by the notion that the one who yells the loudest or the most often wins.

The infusion of Christianspeak into patriotism is something I have always despised. Even when I was a Christian, I never quite understood why some people found it necessary to insist that America was God's favored nation. It always seemed to me that every country would claim this and there was no way to know who was right.

When it comes to anti-atheist bigotry, it is not surprising that there is little concern for truth. But those with the loudest voices have been given media platforms the rest of us lack, and they are doing their best to perpetuate the old stereotypes at our peril. And what are we doing? What can we do?

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MS Gulf Coast Atheist and Freethinking Association Meetup on July 11

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Atheist and Freethinking Association has scheduled their next meetup for Sunday, July 11 at 3:00 pm in Gulfport. For more information, see their page.

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What is High School Like for Atheists in Mississippi?

Not having grown up in Mississippi, I don't have a clear idea of what high school is like in this state for atheists. Is it as bad as I'm imagining? I guess I'm trying to figure out whether the kids tend to be as bigoted against atheists as so many of their parents do. If so, I would think high school here could be a rough experience.

Hopefully some of you who grew up here can enlighten me.

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Central MS Atheist Meetup on July 7

The Central MS Atheist Meetup Group has scheduled their next meetup for Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at 7:00 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Jackson. For additional information, see the group's page.

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Christian Bigots Vandalize North Carolina Billboard

A billboard placed along the Billy Graham Parkway by the North Carolina Secular Association was vandalized. What was so offensive about the billboard? It contained a phrase from America's original pledge of allegiance: "One nation, indivisible." Evidently, these Christian bigots hate traditional America.

As most educated people know, "under god" was not added until 1954, the result of a campaign by a Roman Catholic organization, the Knights of Columbus. It was an effort to distinguish the U.S. from godless Communism and marked an important point along the path to equating atheism and Communism in the minds of most Americans.