Category Archives: Uncategorized

One Nation Indivisible

One Nation Indivisible

On June 21st, 2010, Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics, a group I’ve been a part of for many years, put up our first billboard. After considering a couple of options, the group decided on a simple message that would coincide with July 4th.

The billboard simply reads “One Nation Indivisible” and is intended to spotlight the contradiction of placing “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. To quote Joseph Stewart, the person who came up with the concept: “When the words ‘under God’ were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance between ‘one nation’ and ‘indivisible,’ they made a lie out of both those ideals because you can’t have an indivisible nation if you draw a line between the godly and godless. We all belong here.”.

One Nation Indivisible - Vandalized

Over the following weekend, one or more persons defaced the billboard by spray painting the words “under god” and an arrow pointing between “One Nation” and “Indivisible”. However, this stunt has seemed to have backfired as word of the vandalism spread, the story of the billboard grew even bigger than before and is now being covered by many more news outlets both National and International. This news coverage has also brought in a flood of new members to CAA. The crime has been reported to the police and a new billboard is expected to be installed before the 4th of July holiday.

Many people responding to the story (and even some news anchors) were not aware that the words “under God” did not actually appear in the original pledge of allegiance written in 1892. (They were added in 1954 in the midst of the McCarthy era and under the fear of Communism.)

I believe that our country can never truly achieve the pledge’s goal of “liberty and justice for all” until the separation of church and state that our founding Fathers conceived of is fully realized. Hopefully this small consciousness raising effort will help to plant a seed in those who see the billboard or read about it in the news.

Unicycled the Booty Loop for the First Time!

Had a great unicycle ride today! I took my usual route to Freedom Park and did a few laps around the water. I got a lot of the usual comments and one man sitting on a bench even took my picture. After unicycling by the soccer fields and baseball fields, I found myself at the East Blvd. entrance to the park. I realized I was just a couple minutes away from the famous “Booty Loop” (where the “24 Hours of Booty” charity event is run), so I thought I’d give it a try.

I couldn’t believe it… I was actually able to ride my first lap around the 3 mile Booty Loop without stopping. I decided to try for a second lap and completed it with only one UPD (UnPlanned Dismount). It was great to be out on the course with so many cyclists. (They were all passing me of course.) I received a lot of positive comments from many of the people on the loop and a few puzzled looks as well. One cyclist actually pulled ahead of me, stopped at an intersection and took my picture as I rode by. She said she had never seen a unicyclist on the Booty Loop before.

This was my first ride with a Speedometer/Odometer, so I was able to track my distance more accurately.

Total Miles: 11
Avg. Speed: 7.2 mph
Ride Time: 1:31


Since I’ve been spending so much of my time unicycling lately, I decided it’s about time to add a “unicycling” category to my blog.

Just to catch up: I’ve been unicycling since July, 2008 on a 24″ Torker CX unicycle. I’ve just recently upgraded my ride to a 36″ Nightrider Pro unicycle. I’ve been on about 5 rides with the Nightrider and it’s unbelievable.

The Nightrider tire rides so smooth and the extra speed is amazing. I love being able to feel the wind in my face as I ride!

It took me about 10-15 minutes of getting the feel for it and getting my confidence up. I learned quickly that I had to lean forward more than with the 24″. Pretty soon I was zipping around the neighborhood with no problem.

I went with the Qu-ax 145mm ISIS crank arms which are a little shorter than the standard 152mm that I’m used to. This together with the size and weight of the 36″ wheel makes it a little more challenging to accelerate or to slow down on a sleep hill, etc. Hopefully a little more leg strength will compensate for this.

Freemounting a unicycle is always a challenge for me. After watching a few videos online, I’ve settled into a rolling mount technique that works for me. I can now land a freemount within about 1 to 3 tries pretty consistently.

The standard gel saddle is a ten-fold improvement over my Toker CX seat. I feel like my weight is more evenly spread over it. I’ll see how it does for longer rides and decide if I want to upgrade it later to a KH fusion or something.

Overall, I love my new Nightrider Pro and I can’t wait to put many, many miles on it!

Getting the feel for my new Nightrider Pro Unicycle
Getting the feel for my new Nightrider Pro Unicycle
One of my first rides on my new Nightrider Pro Unicycle
One of my first rides on my new Nightrider Pro Unicycle

Inside the Mind of a Tea Bagger

My first attempt at a comic…

Inside the Mind of a Tea Bagger

Atheism and Morality – UNC Charlotte 2/20/2008

I gave a one hour presentation entitled “Atheism and Morality” last night at UNC Charlotte to an audience of about 42 people. It went pretty well despite not being able to show my PowerPoint slides due to technical problems. The audience participated throughout and asked plenty of good questions at the end. I received some very positive comments afterwards as well as even more questions.

Continue reading

Atheists Can’t Hold Office in North Carolina?

I got a call last week from Tim Funk, a reporter for the Charlotte Observer’s “Faith and Values” section. He discovered that the North Carolina constitution contained a section which states: “the following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God”. I’m mentioned briefly at the end of the article.

He asked me if I was aware of this section of the constitution and I said “no, but I’m not surprised”. So far as he could tell, nobody has ever challenged it in court. It seems that a prominent North Carolina Catholic was responsible for getting the language of the consitution changed in order to allow Catholics and other “believers in Almighty God” to serve as well.

Link to article.

My Experience at the 2007 Atheist Alliance Convention

Me and Richard Dawkins

The 2007 Atheist Alliance International convention in Washington, DC did not disappoint. The biggest names were all there including Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and more. The recent rise of the so called “New Atheism” was clearly evident when the convention sold out within weeks. Previous conventions attracted no more than 200 people, while this year’s event had 500 attendees with 600 people on the waiting list.

After a short fundraising event on Thursday evening, the convention got started on Friday night with hosts Margaret Downey, Herb Silverman and Bill Creasy and featured a hilarious appearance from “Pastor” Deacon Fred from the Landover Baptist Church. Next, Richard Dawkins took the stage with a very enthusiastic reception. I overheard some criticism that he didn’t seem to tailor his presentation for the all atheist audience instead pulling remarks from previous talks and writings. In his defense, he did give us an interesting glimpse of his experiences since releasing The God Delusion.

Sam Harris followed and what he said had everybody talking about it the next day. He basically started out saying that, since everyone in the audience was pretty much in agreement with his arguments, he could just throw some “red meat to the lions” or he could talk about the things where he might disagree with the audience. Of course, he chose the latter. He dedicated the first half of his talk to the idea that we shouldn’t call ourselves atheists. He claims that using the label of atheist is a liability and hinders our ability to get our message heard. The mood of the room started to shift a bit during this part. I think most people thought this point was too idealistic and that we have to have some label to organize under.

Sam’s final point concerned the exploration of meditation and contemplation that he touched on in The End of Faith. He basically tried to make his case that we should take seriously the study of meditation and critically study its possible benefits to human happiness and not simply dismiss it just because the practice has historically been pursued mainly by religious followers. At this point, the air was pretty much leaving the room. All in all, I completely respect Sam Harris even more for telling people what they may not have wanted to hear. He proved to me that he’s not in this to win a popularity contest, but instead to honestly explore the best possible solution to the negative effects of religious faith. Read the transcript of Sam Harris’ speech and see what you think.

Saturday was a whirlwind of events. After attending a session on handling the media and secular parenting, I ran into our fellow Charlotte atheist Joseph Stewart for lunch which was then followed by a 6 hour block of speakers. First up was Eddie Tabash who gave a very sobering talk about the threat of the religious right. One of the main points he stressed was the importance of the Supreme Court in the fight to maintain the separation of church and state. He also stressed that it’s important which senators we elect since they have the power to confirm Supreme Court judges.

To help lighten the mood of the room, Eugenie Scott next gave a spirited recounting of the “Intelligent Design” trial in Dover, PA. As an active participant in the trial, she was able to give us the inside details of the case. The highlight was when she led us through the “evolution” of the book Of Pandas and People used by the Creationists over the years. She clearly showed how all references to “Creation” were replaced with “Intelligent Design” after losing a landmark court case in 1987. She reminded us that the Dover trial was an even bigger victory because not only did they prove that teaching ID in school was unconstitutional (which was all they had to do to “win”), they went even further to prove that ID wasn’t science.

A surprise hit at the conference was Matthew Chapman who is the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin. Matthew works in Hollywood and has written or co-written several successful movies including Consenting Adults and Runaway Jury. He’s written several articles about the Dover trial and ended up writing a book about it called 40 Days and 40 Nights – Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin and Other Oddities. He was the first person to bring up the topic of women and religion. He thinks the final step in the feminist movement is for women to change and/or renounce all remaining religious traditions that view men as dominant over women. He also made an interesting connection between how a country/government takes care of its citizens and the effect this has on how much people rely on religion. He argues that a country that provides basic needs to its people (such as universal health care, etc.) will create a more happy and healthy citizenry that will be less likely to rely on religion.

After a short break and a security sweep of the room, Ayaan Hirsi Ali took the stage and charmed everyone with her articulate and soft spoken recount of her experiences growing up as a Muslim in Somalia. After being forced to marry, she fled to the Netherlands and obtained refugee status, went to university and eventually won a seat in the Dutch Parliament. After a script she wrote called Submission (which criticizes the treatment of women in Islam) was made into a movie, the director was murdered. A note was left at the scene saying that she was next, so she now travels with security wherever she goes. Her description of life as a Muslim woman was both fascinating and frightening. When asked what can be done about it, she indicated that some women are trying to change the system from within, but, for her, the only solution was remove herself from that world. She said that the cognitive dissonance of maintaining the Muslim faith was too much for her to handle and she cites dissonance as the main tool for defeating fundamentalism of all types.

Christopher Hitchens was the last speaker and he didn’t disappoint. It was classic Hitchens. After a fairly short set of remarks, he decided (since he could “feel the solidarity”) to just open up the floor for questions. Rather than me trying to describe it for you, I would suggest watching a clip of it online if you can find it. The evening culminated with a banquet and an award ceremony for Daniel Dennett.

By Sunday morning, I think everyone was still reeling from all the previous day’s events and a certain lack of sleep. Margaret Downey presented an interesting session about the importance of secular celebrations. Margaret, in addition to being president of Atheist Alliance International and coordinator of the AAI convention, is a recognized Secular Humanist Officiant and performs non-religious unions for couples who want a ceremony without any references to God. In many states there is something called a “Self-Uniting Marriage License” which allows marriages to be recognized without a member of the clergy officiating. Apparently, many of the county clerks who issue marriage licenses don’t understand self-uniting licenses and often will deny atheists/agnostics from getting them. Margaret has taken on this issue and works with atheist couples to insure that their rights are not denied. For more information, visit

The last event before the closing ceremony was a Welcome to the World / Secular Naming Ceremony for the twin daughters of Matt and Shannon Cherry. PBS was on hand to film the event. Margaret Downey lead the ceremony which included a poem read by Matt, naming of the children’s mentors, readings from relatives and even some brief words from Richard Dawkins (lucky kids!).

In between the Sunday events, I was able to talk to Daniel Dennett briefly. He remembered the radio show that we did together back in January. I thanked him for all of the insights I received from his books and other writings.

I also managed to meet my hero Richard Dawkins. Of all the big names there, Richard Dawkins was one of the most visible and could be seen walking amongst the crowd throughout the convention. When I saw a good opportunity, I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him about the Charlotte Atheists group. He was kind enough to have a picture made with me. Before I let him go, I thanked him for everything he’s done and told him that he was an inspiration for so many of us.

Overall, I had a great experience at my first atheist convention and I feel that it will take some time for it to all soak in. It was quite a feeling to be surrounded by that many freethinkers and to be able to tap complete strangers on the shoulder and have an instant bond with them. Although there were many reminders of the challenges we face ahead, it was nice to enjoy this moment in the sun if only for a short time.