Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Atheist Church

"[W]hether atheism is a 'religion' for First Amendment purposes is a somewhat different question than whether its adherents believe in a supreme being, or attend regular devotional services, or have a sacred Scripture. The Supreme Court has said that a religion, for purposes of the First Amendment, is distinct from a 'way of life,' even if that way of life is inspired by philosophical beliefs or other secular concerns. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215-16, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972)."

Several courts have also ruled that atheists cannot be assigned to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous as part of their sentencing guidlines for alcohol related convictions.

In Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678 Kaufman argues that the prison officials violated his constitutional rights when they refused to give him permission to start a study group for atheist inmates at the prison, that the defendants' refusal to permit him to meet with other atheist inmates to study and discuss their beliefs violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

At one time it was thought (by some) that this right [referring to the right to choose one's own creed] merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism.

It was not thought to be this way by Jefferson and some of the other Founders. Jefferson wrote in his auobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, which pre-dated the Constitution:

"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting 'Jesus Christ,' so that it would read 'A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;' the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

So when the underlying principle had been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.

Atheism was Kaufman's religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being. As he explained in his application, the group wanted to study freedom of thought, religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices, all presumably from an atheistic perspective.

That is the definition of a church for the practice of understanding it. The First Free Church of Atheism exists for the study of freedom of thought, religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices, all from an atheistic perspective.

There is nothing more, nothing less, in its purpose.

Alcoholics can get sober without god, since there is none.
Bill Wilson was wrong about self-will; but we must direct our will toward what keeps us sober. A higher power (HP) is no power at all if it doesn't help us. But as you will read in the page titled Higher Power, Part 2, that HP does not necessarily need to be outside yourself. ©

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Atheist AA
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Free Assemblage of Metaphysical Naturalists LLC

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