A democratic organization supporting separation of state and church, and promoting understanding and acceptence of atheism and freethought in our community

A democratic organization supporting separation of state and church,understanding and acceptence of atheism 

and freethought in our community

Hank & CleoHank and Cleo Kocol were charter members and former directors of AOF, founders of the Sun City Humanists in Roseville, and humanist heroes. Creative polymaths with restless, roving minds, pinwheels of purest energy, and constant inquirers, they wrote on a wide spectrum of topics.

Cleo Fellers Kocol (“Freethought Feminist”) began her writing career in the 1970’s.Her early published work, beginning as humor à la Irma Bombeck, went on to include one-woman, many-character plays performed throughout the United States, from Alaska to Florida and Boston to L.A.She taught creative writing to adults. She achievements soon included awards for her stories, a magazine column, a novel in print, two novels published electronically, and authorship of an essay in a college composition textbook. But she knew nothing about poetry. Then she attended a poetry conference, and “felt the top of [her] head explode.”

Since that day she concentrated on writing poetry when not traveling with her husband, givingpopular talks on history, taking part in community events, or socializing with family and friends. Ostensibly retired, she won one of three grand prizes in the Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest in 2003, and was delighted that  Natica Angilly and her group danced the poem at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. She chaired the El Camino Poets of Sacramento and was a member of the Poetry Club of Lincoln. She also founded and sustained the Sun City Humanists in Roseville.

Cleo published two chapboks, What A Dance We’ve Had and Waikiki Winter and Other Tropical Tales, as well as chapbooks in conjunction with Cleo Griffith, including The Society of Cleo Poets Volume III. She also published a biography of her life with her husband. She died in July 2016. Her personal website: http://www.cleofellerskocol.com/.

Hank Kocol was a professional health physicist for most of his career, responsible for ensuring radiological safety for nuclear projects. Field work imparted a hands-on acquaintance with the practice and philosophy of science. With an MS in Chemistry from Purdue University, Hank Kocol once worked for the former National Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Standards and Technology) in Washington, DC, and for the United States Public Health Service laboratory in Las Vegas, NV. He later worked for various federal and state agencies involved in health physics (radiation safety). He is also now deceased.

We miss them both.

by Hank Kocol

The dictionary definition of activism is "the doctrine or policy of taking positive, direct action to achieve an end, especially, a political or social end." Action, of course is defined as "the doing of something; behavior, habitual conduct."

So, before we take action or become activist, we must have a political or social end in sight. For people in this audience, we may have as many ends in mind as there are people. Some will be primarily interested in State/Church Separation. Others may be primarily interested in advancing rational, as opposed to superstitious, thought. Still others may wish most to make the term "atheist" an accepted term in this society, so steeped in religious acceptance. For many of us, as for me, there are multiple ends. I wish to advance and continue the separation doctrine brought to this country, paraphrasing James Madison, so that these shores would not be steeped with the blood of religious conflict as had Europe for centuries before, and since. How do we act in ways to promote separation?

I am very interested in public speaking. Thus, I have been a member of three Toastmasters chapters. If you know the Toastmasters culture, you are aware that the traditional meeting contains a portion entitled an "Invocation." Most of the time, the invocation is used as an excuse for someone to pray or proselytize a particular religious doctrine. In two of the chapters, which happened to meet on federal and State property respectively, I was able to eliminate that portion of the program simply by using the separation argument effectively. In the third chapter, the same end was accomplished by appealing to the diversity of our society. These are small steps, but they can be taken.

Recently, I gave a speech to my local speakers’ group concerning the "Ten Commandments Support Act." This Act, overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, in its infinitesimal wisdom, is its proposed solution to the school killings with which we have all become familiar in the past few years. The solution is to encourage the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools nationwide. I pointed out the fact that there are at least two versions of the Decalogue in the xtian tradition (protestant and catholic); most people are completely unaware of the existence of two versions. Which would be posted? If government decides to post one version, it is telling those of a different xtian tradition that they are not counted as important. Then what about students from other religious traditions, Judaism, Buddhist, Islam, Freethinkers? In speaking with Jewish friends, I found that Judaism does not emphasize the Ten Commandments, even though they appear in Exodus. Thus, I was able to question governmental intrusion into religion, and vice versa, without using the "A" word. I am sure that others here can come up with other separation issues which they can discuss from a Constitutional or fairness viewpoint.

In the same instance, I sent a letter to the editor of the local newspaper which did, in fact, publish the letter. I sent a revised version to "my" congressional representative who voted FOR the Act; he and I disagree so drastically, that if he were to say it was Thursday, I would be absolutely sure it really was Sunday. I do not expect to change his mind; I simply will continue to show him that there are residents of his district of a different mind from his. We can all write such letters. After all, I think that every newspaper in the country has a Letters-to-the-Editor page wherein readers can express themselves on current issues. The religionists certainly get their letters published; it is up to us to make our views known. Legislators need to become aware that there are different views out here.

In advancing rational thought, I have for years spoken to groups concerning the scientific method as a way of understanding nature and our place within it. I continue this mode of teaching even in private conversations when people ask my opinion on scientific matters. I am able to distinguish between superstition, hype, and rational thought with a few well-chosen comments concerning the topic under discussion, be it christ’s picture on a potato or alien abduction. Many of Carl Sagan’s writings come in very handy for this purpose.

As to developing an acceptance of atheism, I have been open about my philosophy, unfortunately, however, not as in-your-face as many religionists are; I am a bit more sensitive. When people ask about my religion, I usually simply say that I have none or that I consider the subject private, depending upon the circumstances. I see religion as, of necessity, entailing faith (the ability to believe something in spite of all evidence against it), and ritual. As a freethinker, I do not accept faith as a reason for any belief. If the conversation extends beyond religion to a philosophy of life (You MUST believe in SOMETHING), I describe myself as a humanist. Such definition can sometimes lead to a very interesting conversation concerning values, ethics, afterlife, etc. Some religionists, unable to imagine someone with NO faith or worship, ask sincerely whether I am a devil-worshipper; such a question can obviously bring in further ideas concerning faith and worship. With the appropriate audience, the conversation can then really take off.

Other activist activities with which I have been associated was a year-long picket of the under-construction mormon temple in Bellevue, WA, during the days of the fight for the ERA. I have walked in marches concerned with "Fight the Right" in San Francisco, with ERA marches, and in other parades concerned with various social issues. Since the founding of Atheists and Other Freethinkers in Sacramento about seven years ago, our identifying banner has been proudly carried on marches over the local area.

The question then arises, "What can each of us do?" especially those of us who must live in isolated communities where we feel like the only atheist around. How about those who are too shy or inhibited to march in public? I suggest starting small, perhaps writing letters to the editor and to your Congressional and State representatives. DO NOT get discouraged if the letters do not bear immediate fruit, nor all get published immediately. Newspapers have certain restrictions on published letters, such as length and frequency (some papers will not publish more than one letter per writer per month). Keep your letter to one subject. Do not try to solve all the world’s problems in one letter, a sure way to have the letter disregarded.

The same criteria apply to letters to legislators – short, to-the-point, single subject. Do NOT include threats to vote for the opponent, a sure way to be disregarded. Remember also to praise a legislator who does the right thing. I recently sent a letter to Barbara Boxer praising her stances with which I agree and thanking her for her support for my position.

ALL legislators have e-mail, so the letter you send does not even need postage. How easy can you get? All you need do is to compose and click on "SEND."

Report of FFRF Northern California Conference - July 31, 1999, San Francisco
by Hank and Cleo Kocol

The Northern California Mini-Convention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, FFRF, was held in San Francisco on July 30-31, 1999. With attendance count at 167, it was more than a mini-convention. Among those present were ten members of AOF: Steve, Janet, and Jason Borchers; Bea and Ken Dunn; Dave Flanders; Cleo and Hank Kocol; Eric Pengelley; and Paul Storey. The Convention proper began on the morning of Saturday, July 31, although a social hour and a Dan Barker Concert were held on Friday evening.

The Saturday program began with the FFRF-traditional non-prayer breakfast followed by the also traditional moment of bedlam.

Don Hewitson, Atheists of the San Francisco Region, and the local contact for FFRF who did the bulk of the work in organizing the Convention, spoke re "From Episcopalian Priest to Atheist Activist," delineating his work as a priest and his deconversion to atheism. He has been active in atheist circles ever since.

Ken Dunn, AOF member, spoke of being "An Atheist in a Foxhole" during some of the most intense battles in the Pacific in World War II. He also said that, of course, there were many other atheists in foxholes, contrary to the religious propaganda that stipulates otherwise.

Dr. Eric Pengelley then spoke concerning "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection – 140 Years On." He gave his usually great speech concerning the Theory of Evolution and made sure to include the MEANS with which Darwin says evolution occurs. Many religionists who argue against Drawinism fail to appreciate that the means is an essential part of the theory.

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, National Center for Science Education, spoke concerning "Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Teach Evolution." She reported on the latest problems in teaching evolution such as the anthropic argument as a new "design argument" as well as the old problems that still seem to arise. She made a very effective use of introducing the "F Word," eventually defining it as "Fact" and that the anti-evolutionists seem to have a problem understanding that scientific term.

Dr. Meg Bowman’s talk was entitled "An Atheist Do-Gooder." She described her activism in various fora for the past many years, from feminism and other social causes, to educational programs the world over, especially Africa.

The Activism panel followed with Nora Cusack, Don Havis, Cleo Kocol, and Hank Kocol each describing a particular definition and need for active participation, whether it be in civil disobedience, letters-to-the-editor, broad views of general activism, and social and medical causes. Some of the panel had no problem using the "A" word to others while some were more circumspect about leaving the closet. The panel was actually a great opening for audience members to discuss their own views and activities in the area. If the goal of the Convention organizers was to obtain audience participation in creative ways to be active, the goal was well met.

Annie Laurie Gaylor gave her presentation on "Women Without Superstition" which was, as usual, very well received.

After the banquet, George H. Smith discussed his first book, "The Case Against God," which had been written over twenty years ago and has a proud place in any freethought library. He is a very engaging and humorous speaker, keeping everyone’s attention.

Although the San Francisco newspapers completely ignored the Conference, a reporter from the Contra Costa Times did attend, took photographs, and wrote a report which was printed in the next day’s (Sunday’s) paper.

Science and religion: Are they Really Opposites?
by Hank Kocol

Within our education system today is a controversy which cuts to the very core of education. If we as a nation are to compete in a global economy, if we as a society are to make rational decisions concerning the implementation of technological advances, and if we are to extend the concept of critical thinking into all areas of out public and personal lives, we need to teach our children to accept real evidence concerning the world at large and out place within it. The best method we have learned to date to gather that evidence is the "scientific method." Yet today, in this most technological society, there is a determined effort to make the teaching of religion compulsory in science classes. I refer, of course, to the arguments concerning the teaching of creationism as science on a par with evolution.

Creationism is the view that the entire universe was created 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, with all life forms on earth essentially unchanged since then, as based upon the first chapters of Genesis.

Science, as a method, is a different world view of approximately 300 years old. It is a METHOD of determining the workings of nature and our place in it. Science is not, as is usually taught in the US, a collection of facts -- the distance of the earth from the sun, the dates of the phases of the moon, the listing of the chemical elements, Newton's Laws of Motion, Einstein's Theories of Relativity. Those "facts" are a result of the scientific method which is itself the essence of science.

What is the scientific method?
by Hank Kocol

It consists of several steps:

The observation of some natural phenomena;
The postulation of hypothesis to explain the observations.
The testing of those hypothesis by further observations;
The postulation of new or modified hypothesis;
The collection of many different, seemingly non-connected observations into a theory which explains all those observations.
The testing of the theory against future observations;
The development of a "mechanism" to explain physically how the effect occurs.

Occasionally, the method produces a statement of non-varying character in many situations resulting in the discovery of a NATURAL LAW.

Let's define a couple of terms which the public views differently from the way the terms are used by scientists. A hypothesis is a premise to be tested. Examples of hypothesis are:

Fusion can occur at low temperatures if a sufficient, but low, voltage is applied so as to overcome the electrical impulse of nuclei; If two liquids of different boiling points are mixed, the boiling point of the mixture will be between that of the individual liquids. Ocean tides are caused by far off-shore weather conditions. Colored filters work by adding a particular color to the light from a source. All these hypothesis have been proven incorrect, but they do illustrate the idea. An observation of a phenomenon leads a scientist to speculate on the generality of the phenomenon -- Does the phenomenon occur at various times, places, under various conditions?

Note that the observations are tested repeatedly. Other researchers are given the opportunity to test the findings by repeating the experiments; such opportunity can occur only if the original scientist was willing to communicate findings to others with sufficient information so that the work could be duplicated. If the original researcher does not communicate the findings, then the process stops.

Let's define the word, "theory": An explanation for a group of seemingly unrelated observations which can then lead to other observations which may confirm or negate the theory. Theories are tested and proven scientific ideas of the way in which nature works. The term does not refer to a guess.

The hypothesis and the theory must both be falsifiable; that is there must be some way to prove the hypothesis/theory to be false. A statement that the phenomenon occurs because "that is what god ordained" stops the process since that statement is seemingly irrefutable. If a falsifying experiment occurs, the result must be explained away or the hypothesis/theory modified or abandoned. For example, Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted, as a natural consequence of that theory, that fast-moving particles, near the speed of light, would gain mass; In fact, operators particle accelerators today use that expected increase in mass in the "tuning" of those accelerators. If the increase in mass were not noted, Einstein's Theory would either fall or need very basic modification. The theory was further proven by observation of such diverse phenomena as the orbit of Mercury and the life-times of sub-atomic particles at high velocities.

We speak of Atomic Theory as an explanation of various observed phenomena, from the Idea Gas Laws (Pressure, Temperature, and Volume are interrelated) to nuclear physics. Indeed, all of modern chemistry is based on the Atomic Theory. No serious scientist today doubts the existence of atoms. No one doubts the observations which have led to the formulation of Atomic Theory. True, there are many details of the structure and behavior of atoms that have not yet been determined. Yet, we cannot say that the existence of atoms is "merely a theory" as the creationists do with another "mere Theory."

When we speak of the Theory of Evolution, we recognize that all relevant data lead to corroboration of the theory that evolution has occurred and, indeed, is still occurring. We can compare skeletal and organic structures of various animals, observing the similarities and differences. We note the similarities of all life forms in growth, nutrition, waste elimination, reproduction and death. We can comp-are the DNA of various animals and observe the similarities and the differences. We can compare the structures, both anatomical and chemical, of animals in existence today with those which are extinct and only known through their fossil remains. We can date the fossils by their radioactivity as well as by geologic aging methods. All the observations lead to the inescapable conclusion of a long-lived earth, with changing environmental conditions, leading to evolution of various life forms, the interrelation of all life, and sufficient time for the evolution of all life on earth to have developed into its current structure. We are all interrelated. Yet, there are many people today who insist that evolution is "merely a theory." The statement that evolution is a theory describes it as one of the bases of our knowledge of the world today. Evolution is as much a basis of biology as atoms are of chemistry.

Remember that a theory is defined as a unified explanation of a seemingly unrelated group of observations; the theory must lead to other observations which can confirm or deny the theory.

Another example: Since early times, people have observed the sky with wonder. What are those objects up there, some of which seem stationary while others obviously travel across the sky? In early days, the objects were given supernatural meanings. They indicated that there was something out there larger than we; hence the heavens with angels and gods. Later, with the invention of the telescope and modern astronomy, scientists began to investigate the sky. We have learned that wee are on a mere speck, even less so in context of a vast universe. At first, we thought that the universe was unending - a symbol, if not the reality, of a god. With further observations, we learned that the universe seems to be finite and continually expanding. We know out small part in the whole.

Through calculations from the observed expansion we have learned that the universe is about 15 - 20 billion years old. Through dating of geological formations on earth, we have learned that the earth is about 5 billions years old. Both figures make sense; that is, they are internally consistent and they reinforce data from independent observations. Thus, a long-lived earth is indicated from evolutionary considerations, as well as from cosmology and geology. Such independent observations can only add to the certainty of our knowledge.

What has this to do with us? Is this the only possible way to learn about nature?

Differences between science and religion
by Hank Kocol

The differences between science and religion can be defined as follows:

Science, in its logical form, begins with questions about the operation of the universe. Religion begins with major premises which are not to be doubted, but accepted on faith.
Science devises various mental models of the mechanisms by which nature works. Religion accepts without question, a given model.
Science tests the models through observation of nature. Religion philosophizes about nature as it would exist if its major premises were true. There are no hypothesis or theories to be tested.
Science determines in advance the types of experimental results which would prove its model incorrect. Religion explains away, or disregards, any results which seem to violate its established dogma. Creationists have yet to describe the types of observations which would truly falsify their "theory". although they have been asked to do so many times.
Science is ever-changing as more information about nature is obtained. Religion always maintains its basic beliefs.

Very few Americans understand the differences between science and religion as stated above. Very few Americans understand the operation of science. Thus, very few understand the controversy between the teaching of evolution and of creationism as both being scientific. They fall for the "equal time" argument since both are "theories." They also fall for the either/or argument as if both views were equally valid and that these are the only possible world views.

Many people in the US and in many cultures in the world do not accept the scientific method or creationism as defined here. Other world views include Buddhism with its many planes view of the material and spiritual worlds, Hinduism with its reincarnation of souls, the evolution by design views of Catholicism and deism, the more liberal religions which accept a scientific view and yet insist on a correlative spiritual world, and Native American religions which espouse a kind of pantheistic philosophy of a spiritual world behind all natural phenomena. Modern creationists do not look for equal time for any of these other world views. While all those other views are interesting for anthropological and religious studies, only one explanation of life on earth, evolution, is scientific as defined by working scientists, and, therefor has a place in science classes.

A Gallop poll, in 1993, showed that 35% of Americans believe in literal creationism, 35% in theistic evolution, and 11% accept naturalistic evolution. Theistic evolution is that which I learned in catholic schools - even though evolution has occurred, god's direction was necessary to make it happen. Naturalistic evolution is the scientific explanation which needs no supreme being. I am reminded of the story if Laplace, a French astronomer and mathematician. When he showed his scheme of the universe to Napoleon, the emperor asked him where the scheme addresses god; Laplace's response was. "I have no need for that hypothesis, Sire."

The scientific method is not instinctive to humans. As we have seen, for a million years before the development of the scientific method, other world views were extant. People populated the world with spirits, good and evil, who held sway over all natural phenomena. These spirits were then given properties over various aspects of nature with different gods overlooking different phenomena. People spent much time and energy propitiating the spirit so that events would occur in ways beneficial to the supplicant. Gods were to be fooled or coerced into changing the natural order of things by us mere mortals. Some anthropologists now hold that the overturning of the many-gods concept and the adoption of one god was a great step in religious development of the human race. I frankly see no step forward, as the superstition remains. Imagine the various assumptions:

Superior beings could be coerced into behaving as we would like without their noting our presence. If there were such superior beings, they really cared how we behaved relative to them and to each other; hence all kinds of actions which are still displayed today, from prayers at sports events and before school tests to resources given to churches to be the agents for such propitiation. Nature was seen as very uncertain, so that a scientific method, as we have described it, would be useless, since replication of observation would depend upon a capricious agent. Prayer, the incantation of the appropriate "magic words" or some sort of good faith by the experimenter would be just as important as the procedure or the instruments.. We still have people thanking god for saving them from disaster, but no one seems willing to blame god when the disaster is not averted. Miracles were the foundation of actions of nature; really, prayer today seems to be the request for a miracle, some suspension of the laws of nature, so that the request can be granted. After all, what else is behind prayerful requests at sporting events, before school tests, and before airline take-offs?

As we learn more about nature, the spirit world retreated, albeit with returning regular forays, in the face of knowledge. Eventually, during and after the Renaissance over centuries, the scientific method was slowly developed.

Some of the more liberal religions seem to have accepted some of the methods and findings of science. Those religions seem to attempt a resolution between the scientific method of determining facts about nature and another realm they insist to be spiritual. Grant to Science those things that are Science's and to god those things that are god's. However, every time in history that there has been an argument between science and religion, the former has won out in the end. We can look back at the great science-religion controversies in the past: Galileo and Copernicus concerning the place of the earth in the universe, the study of cadavers to determine anatomy, the use of anesthetics in childbirth, the use of antibiotics for infectious diseases, all of which faced religious strictures, but today are generally accepted as important parts of our modern world.

In Western culture, we have found the scientific method to be the best method, so far, for determining the way nature works and of our place in the natural order of things. The method is so persuasive to me that as a scientist, I must agree.

Is the scientific method now set in concrete for all times, like another bible? I can only hope not. As a scientist, I would hate to be that dogmatic. There certainly can be another method developed later to take the place of the current scientific method; people years from now may very well laugh at our clumsy attempts to develop a world view when they have discovered a far superior one. To me, the method is just as evolving as out scientific knowledge and as we ourselves are.

When scientists prove something via the scientific method, does that mean that the answers are there for all to see for all time? Of course not. Again, knowledge evolves, new phenomena are observed, new experiments are performed, new theories are propounded and proven, existing theories are refuted.

Does this mean that we know nothing? again, of course not. Einstein did not prove Newton wrong. Newton's Laws of Motion are just as true today as they were in the 17th century when originally formulated. Einstein extended Newton's Laws into areas which Newton did not consider. More exact measurements of planetary motion did not prove Galileo wrong; they only refined his work. Later measurements did not show that the sun revolves around the earth. Almost always, with very few exceptions, science does not make strides by overturning everything that was known in a particular field. Almost always, strides are made by extending knowledge into heretofore unknown areas or by combining several previously considered unrelated phenomena.

Therefore, I do not look soon for a complete revolution in out current knowledge of the universe. WE can be fairly confident that what we know is fairly accurate as far as it goes, The distance to the moon will not be measured to be significantly different because of some new finding in the next century. However, there may very well be refinements in measurements which we have made,, and there will be new theories concerning phenomena we have not even considered yet. The proposal of string theory to explain the basic structure of the universe is one such. Complexity, an extension of Chaos Theory, is another. Findings in biology will very likely lead to new ways to treat diseases, perhaps methods having no relationship whatsoever to what we now recognize as drug therapy or surgery.

Do I paint an idealized version of the scientific method? Does it always work in such a cut-and-dried manner? Scientists are people; the scientific method was developed by and is used by people with all the foibles of people in any work field. Stephen J. Gould wrote a wonderful book, "The mismeasures of Man." which shows many errors of scientist in one small area of scientific pursuit - the measure of intelligence, We can all cite other misapplications of the scientific method from the Piltdown hoax to cold fusion.

Yes, some scientists keep their pet theories when others have proven them wrong, They are human who are swayed by prejudice, monetary consideration, politics, ego, friendship, competition, and all the other traits of humans.

However, the scientific method is self-correcting. Even if a particular scientist keeps to a long-dead theory, other scientists will recognize that for what it is and go on to other more rewarding persist. Even through the method is based on data, not authority, some great authorities have held sway over science years after the evidence was observed to prove them wrong. This is not to denigrate the authority of an expert in the field. However, an expert in one field talking outside that particular field, certainly should be questioned, and, even in the field of specialization, any comments need to make sense.

As an example of authority, if Carl Sagan makes a statement about the current knowledge in astronomy, everyone should believe him, if the statement makes sense; if he speaks on economics, he has no more authority than any other non-economist. If Linus Pauling gives a lecture on the chemical bond, the study for which he received the Nobel Prize, we should believe him; when he makes statements about vitamin C as a cold preventive, we should ask to see the supporting data.

Eventually, science has pushed forward. Even falsification of data has occurred and been overcome, for example with the Piltdown man hoax; hence, the importance of communication, reproducibility, and continued experimentation and observation.

Communication in science occurs through the scientific publications, the method by which scientists communicate with each other the findings of their experimentation. The better recognized scientific publications are "peer-reviewed," meaning that prior to publication a submitted paper is reviewed by fellow scientists in the field who will judge the paper for scientific accuracy, conclusions worthy of the data, proper presentation of the data, and originality of the work. A scientist who bypasses the peer review process does not allow the scientific method to work. The results may or may not be valid; there is really no way of knowing. Sometimes a scientist will go first to the press to beat the competition to a finding in the eye of the public -- remember that scientists are human, too. Sometimes the scientist is aware that the findings may not survive the peer review process. I have seen controversial articles published even though the scientific "establishment" may disagree with them; I have seen further articles on the same subject without new data or new arguments be refused publication. I have never seen a program committee at a scientific meeting turn down a presentation by a controversial author simply because of the controversy. As a matter of fact, scientific societies deliberately sponsor symposia on particularly controversial issues.

How do scientific controversies become resolved? Do the scientific societies take a vote among the membership? Is the scientific process democratic? One might expect that from viewing news stories on scientific issues, a scientist from each "side" of an issue is presented, giving the public the idea that there is really a controversy, or that scientists are unsure of the answers to a question, or even that "no one really knows anything about it."

Science is not a democratic system. It is also, remember, non-authoritative. Science controversies are resolved by consensus. Scientists convince each other of their positions by proving the correctness of those positions through logical arguments based on observations of natural phenomena. When a consensus is reached, we can say that "scientists agree that..." Note, there is no vote. Also note that there very well may be some scientists who still dispute the consensus; they are welcome to continue to present data and arguments for their positions and, perhaps, change the consensus. The usual news story cited above is the equivalent of having the Flat Earth Society have equal time with telecasts of space shots.

Does science explain or provide values for our lives - definitions of truth, beauty, goodness, evil? The only values inherent in the scientific method are those that make it work. Honest communication of observation, lack of data, falsification, recognition of previous work, proper reference to others are all values in the method. The traditional response of the scientist to questions of value is that all of the natural world is grist for study by the scientist. It is up to the society to determine how the discoveries are to be used.

How about the morality of science and its advances? Some people say that there are some studies which should not be done, because the results have undesirable social consequences. Scientists have discovered the ways in which energy is stored in the atom; society decides whether weapons should be built using those discoveries. There is still controversy among scientists as to whether some of the weapons of today should have been built in the first place. The arguments depend upon the history of the times, the likelihood that less benign societies would produce such weaponry and control the world, and the political stripes of the parties concerned. There is no difference here from a similar discussion by non-scientists. There is no scientific response to the question of whether the weapons should have been built. Scientists cone in all shades of the political spectrum, just like any other group of people.

Should there be ethical considerations concerning new experimentation? I know of no scientist who would accept the position that any work, done in any way, without ethical considerations, is allowable. We, again, are the products of out societies and are bound by the same strictures as are the rest of us. Does that mean that no scientist would ever do anything immoral for the sake of data? That seems a naive question in the face of a society wherein some physicians perform procedures simply for the payment without consideration of the welfare of the patient, where some attorneys will violate the law and legal ethics to save a guilty client, where some manufacturers will knowingly sell products that are unsafe. It is up to society as a whole to prosecute such actions and it is up the scientific community to express its abhorrence of unethical data collection.

I took part recently in a discussion in a scientific newsletter, concerning the use of scientific data accumulated by means that most of us would consider abhorrent. The originator of the question asked whether data obtained, for example, from Nazi concentration camps, should be cited in future scientific publications, thus giving, perhaps, credence to the way the data were collected. Several responses were published, including mine. How would you have answered the question?

Surprisingly, the considered opinions of the scientists were similar. We all felt repelled by the way the data were collected. However, we all thought that if the data were scientifically valid, and there is the rub, it should be used as a background for perhaps future work which would, of course, be performed with all ethical strictures followed. If the data did show some important results in physiology, reaction to stress, or other fields, that data should be reviewed as scientific data normally would be. To disregard such really useful data would mean that we would not accept the fact of their existence and that future experimentation, albeit under different protocols, of course, would be needed.

For example, much of the data in my field of health physics, or radiation safety, is from the bombing of Japan at the end of World War II. If we disregarded such data because of real moral qualms about the bombing, we would not accept the existence of that data. Would we then protest that we know nothing about those effects? In the event of an accidental exposure to someone, would we simply use that newly exposed person as the source of knowledge of effects, unsure of treatment and the course of the disease, refusing to acknowledge that which was learned previously? That stance would, to me, show a lack of compassion to both the new victim and those who suffered in the bombings.

Again in my field of health physics, we have a continuing discussion on the use of societal resources in the radiation protection area. In some cases, regulatory agencies have decreed such a large expense, relative to protection., that some of us see a misapplication of scarce resources such that the net benefit of the regulations is negative. For example, EPA has proposed a standard for natural radioactivity in drinking water which will cost the water suppliers, and the paying public, about two billion dollars per year to comply. The savings in lives for that expenditure is statistically two. The point is not whether a life is worth a billion dollars; the point is that the billion dollars can be used to save many more lives in other ways, such as food for the poor, school lunches, inoculation against diseases, prenatal care, breast cancer screening, prostate cancer screening, sheltering the homeless. The amount of dollars is not the question; those dollars represent resources that will not be used in those other areas for they will have been spent here.

Where do we go from here? One of our societal problems, to my mind, is the lack of scientific knowledge among our populace. We have people in this country, seemingly well educated, decrying the lack of "scientific creationism" in our public schools. We have seemingly educated people talking about the "religion" of evolution. We have people asking for a 100% surety that "nothing will happen" when some scientific or technological advance is mentioned. Our students place very low compared to those in other industrialized countries on standard tests in science and mathematics. Out people fall for news stories of scientific advances that should leave any thinking person with more questions than answers after reading that simplistic story. For all those reasons, and more, I see a crisis of scientific illiteracy.

The press, the source of information for most Americans after their school years, has de-emphasized, science reporting in recent years. Half the newspaper science departments have been mostly eliminated since 1988, and those that remain are mostly in Scene or Modern Living sections of the newspapers. As a scientist, I have long decried science reporting in the press which often leave me with more questions than answers.

What to do about that? We must upgrade out scientific education. In my parochial grade school, the teachers used science as a disciplinary tool. "You kids were bad today, so we won't study science." I wish they had used religion as such a tool; it would have made more sense to forego the myths. Many of the teachers in grade schools, and even high schools, today have little or no science training; this is obvious when many of them agree that scientific creationism should be taught together with evolution in science classes.

Unfortunately, it will take another generation, to my mind, to decrease scientific illiteracy in our society. We continue to pay for the lack of educational commitment by our governments at all levels. Only a great commitment can begin to correct the problem. With budget cuts for education and increases in costs for prisons, I see no real change for the better in the foreseeable future.

Summary: The scientific method
by Hank Kocol

A summary: taken from lecture handouts

·         Observation of some natural phenomenon

·         Postulation fo hypothesis to explain the observations

·         Testing of the hypothesis with further observations

·         Postulation of new or modified hyupothesis

·         Collection of many different, seemingly non-connected observations into a theory explaining all those observations

·         Testing the theory against future observations

·         Development of a "mechanism" to explain physically how the effect occurs

·         Occasionally, the production of a statement of non-varying character in many situations resulting in the discovery of a natural law.

Some examples of hypotheses:

·         Fusion can occur at low temperatures if a sufficient, but low, voltage is applied so as to overcome the electrical impulse of nuclei;

·         If two liquids of different boiling points are mixed, the boiling point of the mixture will be between that of the individual liquids.

·         Ocean tides are caused by far off-shore weather conditions.

·         Colored filters work by adding a particular color to the light from a source.

An explanation for a group of seemingly unrelated observations. The explanation must lead to other observations which may confirm or negate the theory.

Examples of theories:

·         Atomic Theory

·         Einstein's Theories of Relativity

·         Theory of Evolution

Evidence supporting the theory of evolution:

·         Comparative anatomy

·         Similarities in life forms

·         Genetic comparisons

·         Comparisons of current life forms with fossils

·         Dating of fossils by geological and radioactive methods

·         Consistency of light-polarizing chemicals in all life forms

Results of studies:

·         Interrelation of all life forms, past and present

·         Long lived eatch with a changing environment

·         Continuity of life forms from the simplest to the most complex

Differences between science and religion:

·         Science begins with questions about the operation of nature; religion begins with major premises which are not to be doubted but accepted on faith.

·         Science devises mental models about how nature works; religion accepts without question a given model.

·         Science tests models by observing nature; religion philosophizes about nature as it would be if its model were true.

·         Science determines in advance the observations necessary to prove its model incorrect; religion explains away or disregards contrary evidence.

·         Science is ever-changing as more information is obtained; religion always maintains its basic beliefs.

Gallop Poll 1993

·         35% believe in literal creationism

·         35% believe in theistic evolution

·         11% accept naturalistic evolution

Assumptions of Religion:

·         Superior beings could be coerced into behaving as we would like without noting our presence

·         The superior beings really care about our behavior relative to them and to each other

·         Resources must be given to intermediaries (churches) between us and the superior beings.

·         Nature is very caprecious, so that observations are dependent upon the relation between the observer and superiour being.

·         People thank the superior beings for saving them from a disaster but no one blames the superior beings for producing that same disaster.

·         Miracles are the foundation for the actions of nature, so that prayers are the method of requesting that natural laws be violated in a particular instance.

Bertrand Russell (1940):

"One of the most important things to teach in the educational establishment of a democracy is the power of weighing arguments and the open mind which is prepared in advance to accept whatever appears reasonable.”

In Order of Importance
by Cleo Kocol

  • Terrorism, the use of force or threat to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, especially such use as a political weapon or policy.
  • Terrorist, one who uses such methods to coerce, frighten, demoralize, make fearful, etc.

Terrorists struck the United States September 11, and left a mark on our country, our people, and our government that will not soon be forgotten. Like December 7th, it, too, is a day that will live in infamy. But terrorism is not new to women. Most women, world wide have known some form of terrorism. Sometimes it was local, based on religion, traditions tied to a geographical area, a tribe, a long established way of doing, and sometimes it was widespread (war against witches), or a philosophy that said women are inherently evil and men need to be in total control. Today, in western society, terrorism has become more subtle, not condoned publicly. But not so in other parts of the world, such as the recent blatant sexist society of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Many Americans were shocked when they learned about the treatment of women in Afghanistan. So was I, but my shock came shortly after the Taliban issued their edicts against women's freedom. Stunned by what I was hearing and reading, I dropped nuggets of information about the women and the Taliban into conversations and letters and I was:

  • Disregarded
  • Asked, "what can you expect from primitive people?"
  • Told that we must all respect another's religious beliefs.
  • Was told, "that you feminists are always after men."

The number of women, and men, who showed concern was appallingly small. Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority and Mavis Leno, wife of the comedian and late night talk show host, wrote and talked about the Afghan women's plight, but mostly their words fell into a vacuum of "interesting things" less important than the latest politician's sexual peccadilloes.

I felt as if I had been assaulted by the lack of interest. I wanted to shout, I'm not talking about a minor aberration in a religion's belief system, I'm pointing out violations of human rights, violations that reminded me of the opening salvos of the Nazi terrorist attacks on the Jews before World War II. Jews were forced to wear a star of David, the women in Afghanistan were forced to wear the burqua, the dress that covered them from head to toe with only a mesh screen through which to see. Jews in pre-holocaust Nazi Germany were forced out of the schools, as teachers and students; the same treatment the women and girls in Afghanistan suffered. They were forced out of the schools as teachers and students, too. No more parallels are necessary for anyone to get the picture.

But the horrors perpetrated upon the women by the Taliban didn't stop there. Houses where women lived had to have the windows blackened so men wouldn't accidentally glimpse a woman's face. Or, horrors, her body. Women's freedom to be outside their homes ended. In order to go anywhere in the town, city or countryside, women had to be accompanied by a husband, father, brother, or other male relative. Women were routinely beaten for talking too loud, laughing, or because their shoes made noise when they walked down the street. Because women could not work, and so had no means of supporting themselves, widows had to beg. Minor infractions of the rules, like wearing white socks, brought beatings. Death by stoning happened for larger infractions, such as speaking to a man not part of one's household. A pattern of women being unimportant takes place daily in most Islamic countries. For example some men in the Middle East, when discussing their families, list only the males.

These kinds of harassment are exactly the way the Nazis operated against the Jews. In Afghanistan women, during the latter part of the 90s, were rapidly becoming non-persons. If the terrorists had not attacked New York City and Washington, I wonder how far the Taliban would have gone in their war on women. Extinction? Selective Genocide? It's not a far-fetched idea. They could have kept a few for breeding purposes and "comfort women" and done away with the rest.

Alarmed though I was, I was not surprised to find the Taliban treating its women in such a manner. Women of the Islamic world outside Afghanistan do not universally enjoy the freedoms women have in the West. The Koran, like the (Christian) Southern Baptist ministry of recent times, states that women are inferior to men. Throughout the Middle East, Islam is becoming increasingly fundamentalist. Women, while not house bound in Saudi Arabia, live under rules only marginally better than those in Afghanistan.

A man's honor is probably the most important aspect of Islamic society. I believe it is one of the reasons fights occur at the drop of a hat between people and countries. Because their late leader Attaturk, founded a secular society, the most Western of the Islamic countries is Turkey. Religion and government are not tied together. Still, the custom of honor becomes very important as evidenced in the vehement arguments among drivers of taxis, busses, and automobiles over who has the right of way. Drivers jump from their vehicles to confront one another.

But honor becomes most important in Islamic society in the matter of women. If a husband (father, brother, uncle, etc.) thinks his female relative has committed a sexual indiscretion, he is perfectly free to kill her, and he does. No proof is necessary and innocence or guilt is never established. It is his word against hers, and she is considered only half as important as he. The murderer is seldom punished. Such honor killings take place in the royal houses as well as among the general populace. And the women have no recourse. If a woman is raped, she must produce four witnesses who saw the penetration. Women, as a consequence, say nothing when it occurs, and it happens often.

Muslim societies have a sexual view of life that is appalling to westerners. For example, the Ayoatolla Khomeini of Iran wrote the following sentences: "Whoever marries a girl younger than nine years of age must not have intercourse with that girl whether the marriage is permanent or temporary. On the other hand, the husband can still enjoy himself with foreplay even if the bride is a baby being breast-fed. Foreplay means loving, caressing, rubbing, kissing and sodomy. Any man who has intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has committed an infraction even if the girl's vagina and rectum are not ripped. But if a man has intercourse with a girl nine years or older, and he tears the tissues combining the vagina with the rectum, he has not committed a crime and does not have to be responsible for the girl. However, it is better if he takes care of the girl as long as she is alive." In Islamic countries, girls become brides at incredibly young ages, and can be one of four wives allowed a man in the Koran.

I began to read about the intolerable treatment of women in these societies after I had visited Egypt and experienced the mind-set of two local men in Cairo. The first incident took place when my husband and I were strolling between Cairo's fabulous museum and our hotel. I spotted what in the States would be a small Mom and Pop grocery. I picked out a few bananas, gave the male clerk the money and held out my hand for the change. He pointedly handed it to my husband. The second incident took place in a large clothing store not far from the pyramids of Giza. My husband and I were wandering through the aisles, and became separated by many racks of clothing. A clerk, in a show of helping me, came up behind me and put his hands on my breasts. He faded away when he realized I was not alone. The actions of the two Egyptian men appeared to be the mindset of most of the men we encountered. The clerk gave my money to my husband, thereby negating my importance, and the clothing clerk touched me inappropriately, showing that women alone were open to harassment and undoubtedly worse. Similar occurrences did not happen in Turkey, and I attribute that to the secular constitution.

I was glad when the local press began to report on the terrible treatment of the women in Afghanistan. But these short articles were buried in my local newspaper's inner pages. Evidently the brutal treatment of women is not considered real news. But then the Taliban began breaking Buddhist statues.. Now the paper printed the report on the front page. Large headlines. Why? Because the statues were more important than the women! The statues had religious significance, and religion has become our albatross. We treat ministers, priests, nuns, sisters, brothers, and other religious officials as if they were gods. Their buildings of worship are taken off the tax rolls. Their actions are seldom, if ever, criticized.

Women, no matter the modernity of the country or the number of women in power positions, be it political, religious, or secular, are considered lesser than men. Take a fresh look at the case of Supreme Court Justice Thomas and Anita Hill. The men in power, our elected senators, practically lynched her and gave their imprimatur to Clarence Thomas, a man whom the American Bar Association scorned.

Denigration of women is reinforced by texts that are thousands of years old. Read the Bible. It's possible to count on one's fingers anything about women that's good but countless passages denigrate them. Read the Koran. It says women are lesser beings. Terrorist Mohammed Atta scorned women so much that he left word that he wanted none at his funeral.

All women in some way have experienced terror. All women, whether religious or not have internalized the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish message: women are not as good as men. As a consequence women in the United States grow up knowing they should avoid walking in dark streets or lonely places. Still many are attacked, raped, or murdered. Religion has brainwashed some men into seeing them as "the other."

Will women joyfully throw off the burqua? I doubt it. Women who are denigrated, made fun of, humiliated, harassed, and beaten year after year begin to believe the propaganda. Witness women in the U.S. who have been abused, verbally, sexually, and physically, stalked and killed. Fear can immobilize. Only in recent years have women in the U.S. been escaping violent environments - their own homes - to go to safe places. Organizations such as WEAVE give them and their children assistance. But no one, and no organization, tells men to clean up their act.

For years women's health clinics and the doctors who work there have lived with terror. The militant anti-abortion crowd have firebombed and killed clinic workers and doctors. Since September 11 hundreds of envelopes containing white powder have been mailed to these clinics, claiming the powder is anthrax. Fortunately, the powder tested negative. The FBI was certain who did it. Clayton Lee Waagner of the Army of God, had been on the loose since February, a prison escapee. With the police and the FBI's record of catching prisoners days or weeks after they escape, how come they didn't catch Clayton Lee Waagner long ago? Because it was not a priority action.

The silence in the western world regarding the Taliban's treatment of women was made clear by West Wing, a politically savvy TV show. The question posed: If such treatment had happened to a particular segment of society that included both men and women, would we have remained silent? The character involved didn't think so. I believe, if the group was one we thought inferior, we would have said nothing. Look how we ignored what Hitler was doing to the Jews. The bottom line seems to be what is politically expedient. And political expediency can be alarming. For a long time we in the U.S. have been in a cultural war with the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, our own homegrown Taliban. They blamed non-theists, homosexuals, and feminists for the September 11th tragedy. What makes that tirade important is that Bush is beholden to those same fundamentalist, take-us-back-to-the-dark-ages type people. And Bush has made a grab for power (think of the erosion of civil rights) that makes Dick Nixon's Imperial Presidency look like amateur week.

Do I have hope for the women of Afghanistan? Hope yes, but tempered by the knowledge, that women's rights are seldom society's priorities. I'm hoping women in Afghanistan are included in a meaningful way in the new government.

Not all women sat quietly and took the Taliban's abuse. Educated women, who had been the majority of doctors and teachers in pre-Taliban days, worked to let the rest of the world know what was going on. They also held clandestine schools in their homes for the girls whose education was cut off. They did these things knowing they could be beaten or killed as a consequence. But all put on the Burquas when they left their home. Many were used to it. In the countryside, it has long been the rule. The Taliban just upped the stakes.

What is the long term answer? Education. As people learn and grow, their propensity for believing in superstitious myths lessens. Like women's rights in the United States has been a slow process, so we cannot look for overnight miracles in Afghanistan. I keep remembering the Buddhist statues and the order of importance. But we can always dream of a true humanity and remind everyone that women are people, too.

Women and the Millennium
by Cleo Kocol

Women in the United States no longer have their very lives ruled legally by the men they call father, husband, or brother. Sweat-shop labor is rooted out whenever it rears its ugly head. Salaries are working toward equity. We have laws about sexual harassment and violence against women. Abortion is legal. Nearly half of medical and law students are female. But are we truly equal in the eyes of society? The church? The working world? No, sadly, no, and it is even worse in other parts of the world.

The backlash against women's equality is still with us. In some instances it has just gone underground, and the attacks have become more sophisticated. While touting "family values," the majority of elected officials in Washington, D.C., consistently vote against women's interests. They chip away a woman's right to an abortion. They talk about overturning Roe v Wade. If that isn't enough to show the respect accorded women by Congress, we are the only industrialized nation in the world that has not ratified the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It was first introduced in Congress when Jimmy Carter was president! We have no equal rights amendment, a simple statement that says women and men are equal under the law. Welfare mothers are still society's scapegoats. Although Congressmen speak eloquently about their love for the unborn, they do not, apparently, care for that child once it is born. Child care programs are few and costly..

With thinking that says and seems to prove that women are lesser humans, is it any wonder that society as a whole still regards men as superior to women? As a sop, some men offer women the Promise Keepers. When they say, "I will mend my abusive ways and take care of and respect women," the words have the ring of sincerity, but it is only their way of making women believe that men should lead and women should follow -- meekly. It's easy to see how the solemn, soul-searching and hand-wringing of the Promise Keepers can look good to a woman struggling to make ends meet, a woman working day and night to keep bread on her children's table. The Baptist Church tells women openly that man is head of the house, and she is second to him. And the Baptist women swallow and take it. After all, God's representative has spoken.

But all this is tame compared to other places in the world. In Afghanistan the Taliban says there will be no education for women! No kindergarten, no grammar school, no high school, and of course, no college. Women are sequestered in their homes, forbidden to work, forbidden to seek medical care, forbidden to leave unless accompanied by a husband, father, brother or son. If they are not covered from head to toe with a burqa, punishment can be tremendous. Instant stoning, imprisonment, or death can and does follow.

In comparison, American women live in the richest country in the world, the super power, the beacon of democracy. In the business world they can go as far as the glass ceiling will let them. They can also joust in the political arena. They can fight for tenure at universities. They can take all the traditional jobs they can get, and can fight for positions in the non-traditional fields. Women truck drivers, plumbers, and electricians join the nurses, teachers and secretaries of former years But still, society does not concede that women really count.

Few women know their own history. Most women are appalled when told that it took American women 72 years to get the vote. They are more familiar with statistics about men and war. Lincoln, Washington, Geronimo, Patton, Eisenhower, and Kennedy roll off their tongues. They recognize male sports figures much faster than they do female ones. Overall, women don't know their own heroines. Even today when various spokespersons, both women and men, bring the female heroes of the past alive again in TV documentaries and books, a majority of all people don't watch the shows or read the books. Most men regard it "women's stuff" and many women, taking their cue from the dominant member of society, slough off the information as "not that important."

But some women have always fought to better the lives of all women and, by consequence, of men. In an egalitarian society, men don't have to prove themselves "manly." In 1363 Christine de Pizan wrote The Book of the City of Ladies. In it she took on Aristotle and many of the early male writers who denigrated women. In her day misogyny was rife, and she was cognizant of the fact. She was one of the rare women who received an education, largely because of her own instigation and determination. Most women aren't that strong. Throughout the years women have been reviled. They have been burned as witches. Condemned for speaking truths, they have been banished, shunned, or punished in myriad ways. Today punishment is more subtle. Women who speak out without reservation can be sidelined, kept from full participation in society.

In 1981 seven women went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the shenanigans of the Illinois legislators who were doing everything to keep the ERA from passing. The women were slandered and ridiculed, not only by the legislators who were against them, but by many men and women in general.

When men, such as Dick Gregory, went on hunger strikes for civil rights, or earlier when Ghandi did it for India's independence from Britain, people applauded. In 1981 one of the women hunger strikers was told "you're too fat anyway." The women hunger-strikers were acting out of deep convictions, doing an action they felt necessary for helping all women. They weren't looking for personal glory or attention. Each in her own right had a full and productive life. Above average in intelligence and education, their thinking had taken them ahead of their society. While women's rights gained more and more credibility as an issue, radical actions on behalf of them were too startling for most people to embrace in the 1970's and 80's. Women were raised to be nurturers, martyrs, non-complainers, not revolutionary activists.

What one overriding factor continues to fuel the continuing, very often now, subtle attack on women? Religion. Although some women fight for recognition and changes in their particular denominations, most take the word of mostly male ministers, priests, and rabbis that second place is the word of God. When you bring in the final authority few women have the spunk to fight it. To do so is to "go against the grain," become a pariah, an outcast.

Yet, according to many studies of Americans, the majority of people who claim to be religious believe because they think God did a good job of setting up the world. In other words, they believe in a God the creator, a Deist position that is not much different from that of the Founding Fathers!

When pushed against the wall, only a small percent believe in miracles, virgin births and other superstitious nonsense that may have made sense to an uneducated populace when the Bible was written. Fewer still follow the dogma of their denominations. Few American Catholics eschew birth control. In fact, if you scratch deeply enough, you find that most Americans attend church because it is a "good" place to be social. In fact, most religionists concede that one doesn't need religion to be morally good and make ethical decisions.

So what do we need to bring society into a more egalitarian mode? First we must educate the general populace about the Big Bang, about evolution, and about science in general. We need more Carl Sagans, not more ivory tower scientists. We need more talks, articles, stories and documentaries showing the ongoing "sameness" of religion from pagan times to now, showing how nothing is new, merely a borrowing of past traditions. That there were always trinities and virgin births, that the idea of a god did not sprout with Christianity, rather that there were many gods and goddesses.

Today, thanks to civil rights, the women's movement, and the sexual revolution, women have evolved socially. No longer are women expected to be homemakers, ignorant and innocent about sex, and "above" it. No longer are they ghettoized. They can go almost as far as they can. But limits are still in place, due to corporate greed, slimy politicians, and religious dictates promulgated by the Religious Right. The problem is that not enough Main Line Churches and not enough liberal leaning men go to the mat for women's issues. If true equality is to be won in the next century, women will have to seize every opportunity to bring it about. Otherwise if women limp along at the same rate they have, the next millennium will be approaching before women can claim a true equality with men.

by Cleo Kocol

When Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and editor of Freethought Today, asked me to participate in the FFRF mini-conference in San Francisco, July 30 and 31, I hesitated, not because I didn't want to take part, but because she called me an activist. I didn't consider myself one. I remembered my overwhelming response to freethought and feminist activism in the past, and contrasting my more low-key involvement now, I had trouble calling myself an activist. But, indeed I am.

What does it take to be an activist? Involvement. Dedication. Commitment.

But at your own pace.

This can mean anything from taking tickets at an event, making the coffee, to being the main speaker It can mean speaking up at a secular meeting where everyone else assumes everyone is Christian. Not letting religious baggage corrupt secular affairs, you might ask "what about the non-believer, or the Buddhist, or the Jew?"

This can mean something as simple as calling your neighborhood party a holiday party, not a Christmas party. Sometimes this will lead to further explanations.

This can mean writing a letter to the editor of your local paper or a magazine. Being concise, literate, and not preachy is all that's necessary in addition to sticking to one subject.

Being an activist can also mean coming "out of the closet" in a limited or full scale way. You can say you're a-religious, or non-religious or use the terms atheist, agnostic, freethinker, humanist or skeptic. It can mean educating people who are less informed, speaking out at feminist meetings where the majority are "new age" or into goddess belief. This can be as simple as letting others know about your own involvement with freethought groups. If they already know and respect you, this works really well. I remember vividly the first time I picketed a Catholic Church. This was in New Jersey in the 1970's and this particular church was abrogating the line between church and state, being very outspoken regarding abortion. A group of us from the National Organization for Women picketed outside the church. This was in the days when we weren't that sophisticated, so we all had homemade signs. Most of the signs read something like, "Keep Your Hands off My Body." But I carried one that said "Shut Up or Pay Taxes."

The church was large and half-way through our demonstration a car emerged from the rear of the church with a priest and three nuns. It was clear that they hadn't realized we were there. When they spied us, their mouths flew open, they shook their heads in indignation and wagged their fingers at us. It was as if they were saying, "you naughty girls." Most people, whether Catholic or not, reacted in similar fashion. Priests and nuns were sacrosanct. People were indignant that we had the audacity to say that the church was doing something wrong. Well, I persisted.

You can, too. After Annie Laurie Gaylor unmasked their pedophilic activities and published a book about their sexual perversions, priests can no longer hide behind their clerical collars.

Letters to legislators as well as to papers and magazines, appearances on television, radio, and before members of clubs can be effective. I found that all subjects for talks left some avenue for injecting a thought about freedom of and from religion within its body. At meetings where talk about starting with a prayer injects its ugly head, ask whose prayer and name several off-shoot religious groups.

The point is that no one has to be on the front lines of action, but he or she can still be an effective activist. Find your way. And if it involves going the whole enchilada, don't forget we picket Promise Keepers, we march for freedom of non-belief, we debate fundamentalists, and we become spokespersons for our group. But do so only if you're informed and comfortable doing such. If you're among the rest of us, write for your newsletter, create a website, stuff envelopes, keep records, make telephone calls, E-mail, but in some fashion, some way, get involved. You'll sleep better when you do.

Stop The Suffering
by Cleo Kocol

With her hair long, her eyes bright, and her manner assured, Meg Bowman, PhD radiates a confidence that can only come from seventy years of life, a number she readily admits to. A recently retired sociology professor at San Jose State, Meg still leads groups throughout the world and comes back both energized and indignant. Her latest crusade is to eradicate female genital mutilation. She's on the board of FORWARD USA which is headquartered in San Jose.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, is not new. Nor is it the first time that this subject has been addressed in freethought organizations. Fran Hosken, the American Humanist Association's 1987 Humanist Heroine, has been working to educate Americans about this practice since 1975. She is editor of WIN (Women's International Network) News, a quarterly publication with subscriptions at $35 annually. She can be contacted at 187 Grant Street, Lexington, MA 02420-2126.

What is FGM? It is the removal or partial removal of female genitalia and in the most extreme form stitching the raw surfaces together until adhesion is achieved, leaving only a very small, inadequate opening for urine and menstrual flow. Although some people refer to the procedures as female circumcision, that term is misleading and anatomically incorrect and minimizes the suffering. (A comparable surgery on males would be to cut off the head of the penis.) A brochure from FORWARD USA states that FGM is an ancient practice affecting millions of girls and women in 26 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Immigrants and refugees have also carried the tradition with them into the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. The operation is performed for cultural reasons. Although often thought of as a religious belief, nothing in either the Christian Bible or Koran supports FGM.

"I could have died, like my friend Geneat. She was six years old like me. I was 'circumcised' in 1960 at the age six years. I remember every detail of that mutilation. I have suffered quietly for years. The pain and shock is something I can't think about even now, 35 years later," says FORWARD founder Mimi Ramsey.

This butchery is done to girls who are between seven days to 14 years of age. Usually very primitive means-glass, razor blades or scissors-are used without anesthetics or antiseptics. My own knowledge of female genital mutilation in the USA comes from medical practices during the sixties that still advocated female clitoridectomy although infrequently. Today in America FGM is against the law, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. But many girls are not sure about the trauma they went through. They do not know what it is that was done to them. Today teenage girls from countries where such abuses take place, even teenage girls who have immigrated with their families to the United States, ask, what is normal? How should I look and feel?

What can we do? Talk about the issue to friends and organizations. Become a member of FORWARD USA. A donation of any amount will be used to spread the word. FORWARD will send you brochures which you can copy. They can also provide you with a video and information about how to use a house party to spread the word. Also you can write to the head of the World Health Organization and encourage them to promote increased action against the practice of FGM.

Contact Gro Harlem Grundtland at WHO, CM-1211, Geneva 27, Switzerland.

Addresses: FORWARD USA
2040 Forest Avenue, Suite 2,
San Jose, CA 95128
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Looking at the Balkans
by Cleo Kocol

How far does violence have to go before people are incensed? Do we call a halt when one person is murdered, one woman raped, one community destroyed, one country decimated? Or do we wait until those numbers escalate? Or do we decide that blame should be apportioned, parents chastised or jailed for their children's crimes, and in the case of foreign communities and countries, do we decide that national borders, religious and cultural differences are more important than human lives? It seems to me that national borders and religious affiliations are the answer. We wait until the toll on human life is astonishingly large before we act. In the thirties and early forties we dismissed what was happening in Europe as not our problem. We were isolationists. Others sided with the Germans, rationalizing their actions. Joseph Kennedy was an apologist for Hitler. Lucky Lindy (Charles Lindbergh) admired much that the Nazis were doing. Ordinary people belonged to the German Bund (a Nazi German front organization). A shipload of Jews desperately seeking to escape the concentration camps came to the West seeking asylum. They were turned away from one country after the other, including the United States.

Our record in Yugoslavia is not much different. We literally did nothing for years even though horrendous stories were coming out, stories straight from the mouths of those who were involved. People who witnessed ethnic cleansing (an Orwellian term that attempts to distance one from the atrocities when we all know it was another holocaust; just no ovens this time) told us about it; women who survived institutionalized rape (not all did; many were shot after the deed) wrote to other women. Feminists contacted other feminists. Men who were starved and tortured were shown on Western television.. They were the ones who survived as systematic killing became the norm.

But America is the country of compassion. At least we like to think so. In the Constitution it is written that we protect minorities and individuals; we even list specific ideals such as freedom of speech and press. Perhaps that is what saves us in the end. We want to live up to those principles. When we finally act, we come down on the side of right. I deplore that it takes so long for us to act, and I deplore that so many still look for ways to rationalize horrendous deeds. No matter whether an air war was the vehicle to use in Kosovo or not, no matter the history of that troubled region, no matter that we did not act in other similar cases, ultimately we're talking about people - humanity. It makes no difference that all governments have more than one motive in all their endeavors, whether it be war or peace -- killing innocent people, removing others from their homes, raping, pillaging, and destroying are too monstrous to tolerate. It's time for all countries to put aside the boundaries of nationalism in such cases and unite to stop further atrocities.

Women in 1848, 1948, and 1998
by Cleo Kocol

As the 150th Anniversary Year celebrating the first women's rights convention is nearing an end and 1998 is almost over, it's time to take stock. How have the brave words and deeds of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other women and men who attended that first meeting been carried out? At a time when women did not address meetings, they not only conducted one but spoke out about the inequality between the sexes and, to the horror of many, asked for the vote. Have equal rights been attained? Is equality between the sexes the norm? Yes and no. As Hillary Rodham Clinton stated in Seneca Falls in 1998 at the site of the first convention, "No benevolent ruler bestowed equal rights. Women worked for their rights, were jailed for their rights, and even died for their rights." Although change for the better has occured, it has been at a snail's pace, and every step forward has fostered a backlash against the women's movement. For example it took seventy-two years of unrelenting work by the women of 1848, work continued by their daughters, and then by their granddaughters before women finally got the vote.

I'm sure Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be saddened to hear that women today are still discussing many of the same issues that she addressed during her lifetime. Let's look at some of the issues as they were in 1848, 1948,and in 1998.

In 1848 education and decent jobs for women were nil. The women who had to work toiled at miserable jobs for miserable pay which the men in their lives claimed as their right. Women's role was to get married and produce children. A hundred years later, in 1948, high school for women was routine and career choices (meaning the work one would do until marriage, still the number one goal) were teaching, nursing, being a secretary, and pay was commensurate with this interim status. Of course women worked at a variety of other jobs - waitress, sales clerk, cashier, to name three, and all such jobs were gender specific. Classified ads stated, Jobs for Women or Jobs for Men. A janitor who cleaned offices was paid more and had more status than a scrub woman who cleaned offices or homes. Truck drivers and delivery persons were all men. Busses were all driven by men. Construction, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work were all considered men's work. Women were ghettoized, sometimes in positions where appearance counted more than ability. But ironically being a lifeguard, where skimpy bathing suits were worn, was not considered women's work. Neither was a flagger on a highway construction site. Women in the arts were classified as woman writer, woman painter, as if their sex made their abilities somehow different, perhaps impaired. Much of that has been changed by 1998. Today, women not only routinely seek out higher education, they are moving in greater numbers into non-traditional jobs and into the professions. No one blinks at seeing women engineers, doctors, lawyers, and architects. Even the arts have changed. Women stage and movie stars routinely describe themselves as actors; the term actress is slowly being replaced as are other diminutives that tend to lessen the importance of the work involved.

But discrimination still exists in the professions and conditions similar to hazing happen far too often during training, especially in medical schools. And in all positions, jobs, and careers, women still are paid less than men in similar or the same positions. This discrepancy, brought to the nation's attention during the 1970's by feminist activists, resulted in women's wages going on the average from 59 cents for every dollar a man made to 75 cents today.

So, yes, women's lot has improved, and women today walk, talk, and exhibit a confidence that the women of 1948 or 1848 lacked. Today's woman knows she is equal. The women in the earlier times wondered and often believed the propaganda foisted upon them by the white, male power structure. Society agreed that women were less than men. As Ellie Smeal so rightly said in Seneca Falls in 1998, "Today, corporate greed and the religious right fight to keep women in a subordinate position." In 1848 women were told they were the afterthought of a creator, taken from man's rib, formed as a helpmeet, a lesser being, a woman who brought about humanity's downfall and thus had to pay for it again and again.

In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was starting to recognize that religion held women in "their place." In 1885 in a speech she asked, "What power is it that makes the Hindu woman burn herself on her husband's funeral pyre? Her religion. What holds the Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons perpetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion."

During the time of the first woman's rights convention, Stanton was already the mother of three of her eventual seven children. Highly ineffective birth control focused on home remedies such as ginger root tea, one teaspoon in a cup of hot water, or women tried a ginger root douche in an effort to control their bodies. Abortion was also a bloody, behind-the-scenes procedure. By 1948 change was seen. Condoms were fairly universal and the diaphragm had been introduced during that decade. But abortion was against the law, spoken about in whispers. Still women braved it rather than be the object of scorn and ridicule, the Scarlet Woman of 1948. It was estimated that a 1,000,000 women died each year in illegal, back-alley abortions.

Today, in 1998, we have more birth control methods, including the pill, but abortion has only been legal since 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled it a privacy issue. But since that day the religious right, including the powerful Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Church, and the LDS Church, commonly called the Mormon Church, have fought to keep women from having abortions. Rare but documented cases list girls who were victims of rape or incest who have been forced by their parents to give birth. These foot soldiers for inequality have infiltrated every segment of society, including school boards and state and federal government. Zealots have waged terrorist attacks upon doctors who do perform abortions and upon clinics where it's possible to get an abortion. Men and women have been shot, injured and killed. Fewer and fewer doctors elect to do abortions as attacks upon them escalate. Waiting periods and parental consent laws further erode a woman's right to choose.

But difficult and sometimes non-existent access to abortion is not the only horrendous thing happening to women in 1998. Charlotte Bunche, of Rutgers University, was one of the well-known feminists who presented a new Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls. She stated, "We must remember that what happens to women in Afghanistan has relevance to women worldwide." Worldwide, women are routinely circumcised, made to bear unwanted children, or submit to forced sterilization.

In her day Elizabeth Cady Stanton said that healthy women were no less sexually aware than men. But on the whole women were far from free to be sexually responsive or to have control of their own sexuality. In 1948 women, whether in the home or the workplace, were considered sex objects. Sexual harassment in the workplace was taken for granted, and though it happened in it virulent form infrequently, lesser forms were everyday occurrences. Women had little control, waiting for the "right" man to come along, to invite them on a "date" and eventually one of the "right" ones to marry them. Sex before marriage often occurred between engaged couples, and occasionally between others. In the latter circumstance, if the girl became pregnant, often her family whisked her out of town to a home for unwed mothers where she gave birth and put her child out for adoption. If her family was unable to afford such actions, the boy was usually forced to marry the girl, or if the girl kept the pregnancy secret, she was forced to go to an abortionist, such act usually financed by the boy.

It's a joy to watch today's woman saunter through her day, head up, eyes bright, speech at the ready. She knows her rights. If she gets hit upon by a lecher at work, she documents the happening. Sexual harassment is no joke to her. She knows the difference between it and harmless flirting. Harassment happens when her job is at stake.

It's obvious that I could document or recall many aspects of women's lives, contrasting 1848, 1948, and 1998. We have made strides but they are so unremittingly slow that it irks me and all thinking women. My hope for the new year is that we keep the advances we have made so that we can march into the millennium with a good foundation from which we can work for full equality. It's long past due.

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks
Reviewed by Cleo Kocol

(published by Anchor, of Doubleday, copyright 1995)

For six years prize-winning correspondent, Geraldine Brooks worked in the Islamic world. Traveling and living in various countries that are linked by their belief in Muhammad, she managed to speak with, interview, and sometimes have friendships with the women. What came through with shocking clarity is the fundamental hypocrisy of this rigidly segregated, male-dominated society. The Koran, according to Brooks, is often in direct contrast with what is practiced.

One of the apparent contradictions she observed was the dyed red hair of Ayatollah Khomeini's widow; but a friend explained to her, "The Koran encourages us to be beautiful for our husbands." Another was the Shiite Muslim custom called sigheh. This appears to be a temporary liaison between a man and a woman. When sex is involved, the transaction differs from prostitution because the couple goes to a cleric to record their contract, and in Iran any children born of the union are legitimate. A sigheh contract can also be drawn so a boy can see a girl without a veil or get to know one in a dating situation. The length of the contract can be brief or long.

Although the degree of women's subjection varied from country to country, everywhere Brooks found appalling evidence of widespread abuse of women. In some countries, genital mutilation of girls is a given. Often mothers and aunts perform the surgery to insure the girl's "purity." As a result sexual pleasure is gone and usually lifetime suffering follows, often death during childbirth. Some form of "the veil" is worn in all the Islamic countries and is getting more prevalent. Pity the poor girl who has a lock of hair showing. Repercussions can be horrendous. Early pre-pubescent marriage for girls is not abnormal, schooling varies from country to country, but overall schooling for girls is not considered important. Women are forbidden to drive cars in Saudi Arabia. Ghastly penalties abound for sexual transgression in all the countries. Death by stoning happens, and execution by family members is not uncommon. A man's "honor" is thus restored.

Not surprising is that sex is very important, discussed, joked about, and laughed about often, the men sometimes leading double lives, especially those rich and affluent. What was surprising was to find a limited budding feminism, women wanting to be educated, wanting to be doctors and lawyers, and more surprising yet was to find some truly happy marriages, husbands and wives who had respect for one another. As one can imagine, respect for women in Islamic countries is not widespread.

The anecdotes related and the author's experiences in the various countries give the book a cumulative power more shocking than a pure recital of fact.

The Promise Of The Promise Keepers
by Cleo Kocol

On Saturday, October 4, 1997, our country's capital was once again inundated with people who had a message to bring. In the past we have seen similar assaults on the senses by groups hoping to catch the attention of the nation and communicate their directives to elected representatives, including the president. Women's rights groups, gay groups, racial equality groups, and just about anyone with a political agenda have held marches and rallies. It's the American Way. The Promise Keepers vow they are different. They say they have no political agenda, nothing but love of God and belief in the bible. Reconciliation with god is their stated goal. They aim to be good husbands and fathers, to stop running around and doing ungodly things. Who can't applaud? It all sounds fine. I have no quarrel with anyone who wants to exercise their freedom of speech or their freedom to worship and believe as they want. But only a cursory look at this movement makes it clear that everything Patricia Ireland and the National Organization for Women, John Swomley and the ACLU, state about the Promise Keepers is absolutely on target They say the Promise Keepers are dangerous.

On the Mall in Washington, D.C., the leaders - President of the Promise Keepers, Randy Phillips and the various ministers who came from all over the nation -- exhorted the men present to confess their sins, to repent their misdeeds. Although no weeping and gnashing of teeth was seen on my TV screen, the men dutifully fell to their knees, and those who had room, prostrated themselves, butts in the air, noses to the ground. It was a pitiful display of blatant hypocrisy of a group that has more than one ax to grind

Former football coach, Bill McCartney of the University of Colorado, started the whole movement with meetings in stadiums. Using the language of sports, he talked about a return to god. The sports analogy was carried out in Washington, D.C. Many of the men wore baseball caps or T-shirts with sports or war type slogans (A soldier in the army of the lord, read one. Another read Real Men). At one point these "real men" were told to "huddle" in groups of five or six and pray. They were to come as sinners before god.

I was disgusted with the whole thing. In the first place, any man knows that abusing his wife and kids, sexually and physically, is wrong He doesn't have to go to Washington, D.C. to be told the obvious. But obviously, these men are not thinking men or they wouldn't have been manipulated as the 500,000 or so present were. And that goes for the women who are married to them, who castigate feminists and declare sweetly that Promise Keepers has made their men behave, be good men. Well, who am I to deny that If they stopped beating their wives and sleeping with their daughters and kicking the hell out of their sons, good for them. And if those women don't mind being second class citizens, okay, it's their choice. But what about the rest of us? Are we to be innocent bystanders?

I don't think so. It's very clear that the Promise Keepers agenda wants to get everybody into their boat, and the acid-toned diatribes by the women attached to the PK movement will sound like music compared to the actions of the PK themselves. In my opinion they're working themselves into a frenzy like the Christians did during the Crusades. Except now the "other" is everyone who doesn't believe their particular brand of Christianity.

No one really speaks out against them. President Clinton said, "No one can doubt the sincerity of the hundred of thousands of men," and his voice held the soft smile sound of one who is lauding, not denigrating. Women commentators at the rally asked the listening public, who could be against a movement that says men should be kind to women? Senator Joseph Biden, on Face the Nation, did his usual two-step, mealy-mouthed accommodation of this revolutionary group.

Revolutionary? Yes! They want a return, they say, to biblical ways. The man is to lead, the woman to follow and these excerpts from the exhortations on the mall give indications of their plans for the future. ".everyone is to take Jesus Christ as their savior. the sin of homosexuality cannot be excused.as the church goes, so goes America.go back home and wake up your church.go home and win our cities to faith in Jesus Christ.take the gospel to the world.men go home and win your cities.The time is short; Jesus Christ is coming."

Okay, I have a fundamental problem with men who do reprehensible acts and then say that god has ordained that they should have the final word over women and children. Goody for them that they have temporarily suspended their evil behavior, but inasmuch as they gave control of themselves over to god, who is going to bear the brunt of their anger and hostility next? Everyone who doesn't believe in their narrow-minded ways. This is a cultural war, one not of our choosing, but it is firmly in place. It began in the late seventies and has grown incrementally since. Every time one branch of its bigoted tree gets cut down, another rises.(don't be misled by that hugging by whites of blacks and latinos at the mall in D.C., those same men are the ones who want to spit in the eye of every uppity black and send all latinos back to Mexico or some other Latin American country whether they were born in the US or not )

Harsh language? I don't think so. I think the kind of fundamental sexist, racist religious bias that is at the root of all groups such as Promise Keepers goes very deep, and all the pussy-footing by organized political parties and church groups who don't really swallow their message will give them time to get entrenched in American society.

These are a few of the things that the Promise Keepers and their supporters say:

It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement. - Rev. Jerry Falwell

Don't you understand, mister, you are royalty and God has chosen you to be priest of your own home? -- Tony Evans

We will not compromise. Whenever the truth is at risk, in the schools or legislature, we are going to contend for it. We will win. - Bill McCartney

Take back the nation for Christ. - Bill McCartney

Abortion has become "a second civil war." - Bill McCartney

I believe that slavery, and the understanding of it when you see it God's way, was redemptive. -- Wellington Boone

Homosexuality is an abomination of Almighty God. - Bill McCartney

I believe that feminists of the more aggressive persuasion are frustrated women unable to find the proper male leadership. If a woman were receiving the right kind of love and attention and leadership, she would not want to be liberated from that. - Tony Evans

Justice Scalia's Religious Opinions
by Cleo and Hank Kocol

Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's jurisprudence regarding the First Amendment has sparked controversy. What do jurists think of Scalia's decisions regarding religion? Recently three law professors from the Mainland participated in a symposium at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. The panelists were: Erwin Chemerinsky, University of Southern California; Kathleen M. Sullivan, Stanford Law School; and William K. Kelley, Notre Dame Law School. Chemerinsky is the author of over ten books on Constitutional Law issues, and one of America's pre-eminent Constitutional scholars. Sullivan, listed in the National Law Journal as one of the fifty most influential women lawyers in American, is a top Constitutional scholar and litigater who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelley served as law clerk to Kenneth Starr, Warren Burger, and Antonin Scalia; he was also assistant to the Solicitor General, U.S. Department of Justice.

During opening statements, Chemerinsky maintained that Scalia flip-flops when a case has issues concerning his beliefs. According to Chemerinsky, Scalia's philosophy, called "original meaning," puts the Republican platform and the framers' intent in line with Scalia's beliefs. Scalia believes in majority rule, giving no protection to minorities in areas of religion. It concerns Chemerinsky that Scalia frequently uses sarcasm against the opinions of his fellow Justices. He throws around terms such as "ludicrous," "beyond absurd," "preposterous," "ridiculous," and has used the words "vandalizing the court." At one time, he said that Justice O'Connor's opinion was "the least responsible of all."

Sullivan defined the four possible positions on the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. One can be strong or weak on either clause. She defined Scalia as being weak on both clauses. Justice Stevens holds the "secularist" position, that religion is vestigial in modern life; he is strong on Establishment and weak on Free Exercise. Sullivan said that Scalia is biased toward majority rule and believes that this position is based in the Constitution. As a man of faith, he is sympathetic to minority religious practices and some of his opinions have supported minority religions. He maintains, however, that minority rights are already secured through the political process. He maintains that religion is a strong force in American life.

Kelley said that it was difficult to say where the line exists between permissible and non-permissible accommodation of religion. He also said that one faith was not harmed by accommodation to other faiths and that judges should not be the be-all and end-all of protecting religious rights.

In the Question-and-Answer period following the introductory remarks, the question of military chaplains was brought up. The panel agreed that there is a place in the military for chaplains, that those in the military most often did not have access to clergy. But, the panel also agreed that chaplains for legislatures are not necessary because legislators are free to see the clergy at any time.

Chemerinsky and Sullivan agreed that a public subsidy to religion through school vouchers could be the start of a slippery slope. As an example, they asked, "How can one say that the money will go only for secular activities rather than to religious indoctrination?" They felt that school vouchers would become a total subsidy to religion. Chemerinsky, when asked how the current court would vote regarding vouchers, said that he believed it would uphold vouchers. Kelley believes that vouchers would be upheld if the system is sponsored by private groups, rather than by government; he believes that government-sponsored vouchers would be in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The panel discussed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). They all agreed that if such a law were passed in an individual state, that law may be legal and binding depending upon that state's Constitution. It may be the right of Congress to pass such a law for the nation. All of this was speculation on the part of the panelists. The more liberal members of the panel said that the RFRA could be seen as an establishment of religion.

Kelley described Scalia's original intent argument as holding that the Constitution means today exactly what it meant in 1789 when it was written. Sullivan pointed out that the Constitution says "he" when discussing the President, and thus, this interpretation would forbid a woman from running for the Presidency. Chemerinsky also agreed that the interpretation of the Constitution must change with the times.

In an issue important to Hawaii with application to the entire nation, a question arose concerning religious symbols on the doors of state legislators in the Capitol corridors.* O'Conner's opinions seem to hold that the test is the "reasonable observer" rule - "What would a reasonable observer think? Would he/she think that such symbols are a reflection of government support of religion, or simply that of the individual legislator?" She maintains that the observer would see the legislator's, not legislature's support. This seems to reflect the current thinking of the Court. Sullivan added that she agreed that that would be the interpretation, but that her opinion is that all posters and christmas trees should be removed from government property.

An audience question addressed an issue of geothermal drilling on sacred Hawaiian lands. The question was, "How does one prove religious beliefs?" The local court required proof of injury to the god Pelee whose property that was. The difficulty of an answer in such a case only proves the authors' stance for the strict separation of state and church.

* Mitch Kahle, President of Hawaiian Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, and a personal friend, was viciously attacked by a legislative aide at the Hawaii Capitol Building last year while Mitch removed such religious symbols from office hall doors.

Women's Rights Convention
by Cleo Kocol (1998)

This is the 150th anniversary of the First Women's Rights Convention which was held in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848. The germ of the idea first occurred to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in London, England, when they attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. Although avid abolitionists, the women were not allowed to be seated on the floor of the convention and were not allowed to participate. English clergymen, holding bibles, declared the subjection of women was ordained at Eve's creation. Elizabeth's husband, Henry Stanton, and others spoke on the women's behalf, but they were in the minority. George Bradburn said, "If anyone can prove to me that the bible teaches the subjection of one-half the human race to the other, then the best thing I can do for humanity would be to bring together every bible in the universe and make a great bonfire of them."

In 1848 Elizabeth saw Lucretia Mott again at Waterloo, NY, where Lucretia was visiting her sister, Martha C. Wright. While drinking tea with the two women and their friends, Jane Hunt and Mary McClintock, Elizabeth suggested a convention and the women agreed. On July 14, 1848, they put the following announcement in the Seneca County Courier:

A convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel at Seneca Falls, NY, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10:00 A.M. During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott of Philadelphia, and other ladies and gentlemen will address the convention.

They had five days to plan. Stanton wrote a Declaration of Sentiments. Based on the Declaration of Independence it began, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal." The Declaration had eighteen resolutions; the one stating that women should have the vote being the most controversial. Even those who supported Stanton's other proposals balked at this resolution. Even her husband said that if she insisted upon presenting the resolution he would leave town. She was adamant; so was he. But ex-slave Frederick Douglass agreed to support her. At the convention a heated debate followed the reading of the franchise resolution, and a vote was taken. The resolution barely passed, although all the other resolutions were passed unanimously.

After the two-day convention, the ladies were lambasted by the press. Editors, outraged at such unwomanly behavior, said the demands in the sentiments would "demoralize and degrade women." But the newspaper accounts, while chastising the women, brought the convention to the attention of the nation. Everyone debated the issue: were women really equal to or the same as men?

The rights asked for at Seneca Falls included some we are still petitioning for today: equal rights in the professions, the trades, at the universities, in political office, and in the churches; the right to make contracts, to sue and be sued, to testify in court, to have equality in marriage, to control our own property, and to have wage equity.

Two weeks after the first convention another was held and the movement grew. Eventually the main thrust would be the vote. This was not a reality, however, until 1920. Although Susan B. Anthony was not present at that first historic convention, she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton became firm friends and workers for women's rights in the years to come.

Although the original five women at Seneca Falls had no idea how many people would heed their call and attend that first convention, three hundred arrived, an awesome amount when you remember that they had no telephone, no radio, no television, and no automobiles. What they had was a newspaper announcement printed five days before the event, horses and wagons, and a burning need recognized by all women.

This year women and men will converge on Seneca Falls to honor our foremothers, to assess how far we have come and how far we have to go. Look for me there. For the freethought feminist, it is a pilgrimage long overdue, but what better year to make it? In New York State, events will take place at Seneca Falls, Rochester, and Geneva.

For information, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or the website at www.rochester.edu/SBA/Forum98.

Ruth of Daniel
by Cleo Kocol

It would be a hot day, Kimberly thought as summer breezes lifted the prayer banners at the end of the park and fluttered the God is Glory sign over the town hall. She felt lethargic, but still she jumped when she heard her real name. Although she'd never stopped thinking of herself as Kimberly, no one had called her that since the new Constitution was adopted. Turning toward the speaker, she said, "My name is Ruth."

As she faced the other woman, good memories bombarded her mind. She and Caroline had gone to school together, been best friends. But now Caroline wore the non-believer's pin and held a handful of free speech brochures. Kimberly had seen them lately in theaters, restrooms, almost everywhere.

"I suppose you had to change your name," Caroline said, and although she didn't offer one of the propaganda sheets, Kimberly was overwhelmingly aware of the cover's title, "Would a just God beat children?"

"I'm late for an appointment," Kimberly said, walking swiftly away. It didn't do to be chummy with an unbeliever. Besides, she hadn't told a lie; she did have a designation. Oh, god, how she would have liked to talk to Caroline again.

Hurrying out of the park, she approached a bus stop where a group of older people watched with head-nodding interest as a woman used a plastic discipline wand on a toddler. The child, as so often happened, screamed at the top of its lungs while onlookers encouraged the mother who had not yet drawn blood.

Words ran clockwise, and then in the opposite direction, through Kimberly's mind. "Spare the rod and spoil the child, spoil the rod and spare the child." Was she losing her mind?

Turning down a tree-lined side road, she drank in its beauty. Sprinkler systems whirred water over green lawns in front of sturdy buildings where important people still lived. Only the ownership had changed. Caroline's place had been third from the corner. Damn she had looked young, peaceful seeming, her eyes direct. Devil eyes, some said. Kimberly imagined the vaulted ceilings and cool interiors of the churches. Columns and brick added touches of grandeur to stucco. Mine eyes have seen the glory, she repeated in order to shut out the bad thoughts. But Caroline's face intruded.

"A bloom for the Lord lies in each seed strewn wisely." Oh, how the Crusade Group had discussed that sentence. Daniel, who used to be Ricky, said it had much more than a literal meaning. He contended the sentence related to all aspects of life. Ezekiel, whose former name Kimberly didn't know, had said it might mean converting the Jews.

"What a startling idea," the Assistant Cleric for the reinstitution of crusades had said after a dead silence. Then he had laughed, and the people had laughed with him as they always did. When the new Constitution was implemented, there had been little time to proselytize. Non-believers, Jews, Bahais, Hindus, and assorted sects had been left pretty much alone once they'd registered. All they had to do was wear their pins to school or on the job. After all, this was still a democracy.

Kimberly continued down the block. Before the wars to save humanity's souls, she had been nominal in her belief, attending church seldom, thinking about it even less. During those years when the Believers, Free-thinkers and Non-believers had fought it out, she had paid little attention. While others changed the Constitution, she was immersed in her job. A computer programmer, she spent her off time talking On Line. Silly stuff she supposed now, giving on screen hugs and kisses to men in Baltimore and teasing with that fellow from L.A.

And then Daniel had joined the firm, awed her with his expertise and shook her with his dedication. God and Country equaled the USA, he said. Learning and Prayer went hand in hand. A clean mind equaled a clean soul. Heaven and Earth are full of thy glory. He had convinced her to repent her lackadaisical ways, bemoan her ignorance, and plead for another chance. Marriage had followed shortly.

During the early years Kimberly was like a disciple, with the master. "So what do you want to know today?" Daniel often asked before replacing his work clothes with his crusader's uniform. "Why do non-believers have to register and wear the pin?" Kimberly asked once. It seemed punitive, and wasn't Christianity about kindness? Daniel explained in slow and easy language, with utmost patience that it wasn't a case of punishing anyone, merely a case of government needing to keep track. All that talk about discrimination at work and school was just that - talk. In 2010 more freedom -- and peace -- existed in the United States than at any time in its history. Remember all that violence in the 1990's.

Daniel said prayer made everyone free. Hadn't the new President said so in his inaugural? When students and teachers prayed in school, they set up a chain reaction directly to God.

Then why do I feel so at odds, Kimberly wondered often. When the unbeliever's literature came in the mail she hid it beneath the undergarments The Cleric had blessed at her marriage to Daniel. Now, she rang the bell at the side of the Regional Clerics' House. An aproned older woman answered the door. "Blessed day to you." "And to you," Kimberly said. "Ruth, of Daniel Johnson, I've come for my quarterly appointment with The Cleric."

The woman checked a list.

Soon Kimberly was seated in a straight chair across the desk from the head Spiritual Guide in the District. A good-looking middle-aged man, he fingered a heavy gold cross and smiled at her. "So, Ruth," he glanced down at a paper in front of him, "how has it been going in the Daniel Johnson home? Children well?"

"They're fine, your worship, sir."

"Let's see. There's young Daniel, Job, Esther, and little Ezra. Do I have it right?"

"Yes, sir, your worship." v "And they're growing in the faith, secure in family, diligent in prayer, mindful of their elders?"

"Yes, sir, they're good kids."

"Looking over your file, I see that last year Ezra wasn't doing his homework."

"Yes, sir, but he got over his slothful ways."

The Cleric wet his lips. "How did you handle it?" Kimberly wanted to forget all that. Her heart slammed against her chest as she whispered, "My husband followed the edicts for raising a Godly child."

A drop of spittle danced on The Cleric's lower lip. He licked it off and swallowing asked, "Did he raise welts?"

Kimberly nodded.

"So he bled for the Lord. My heart bleeds for him, too. We are all in concert, the aberrant child, the grieving parent, your sorrowful Cleric. Now." He smiled. "How are you and Daniel getting along?" Kimberly knew she was frowning, the lines in her face even more pronounced than ever. She couldn't smile, no matter that The Cleric was staring at her, cocking his head, and peering down through the bottom of his glasses.

"Daniel and I aren't getting along very well," she acknowledged, knowing she'd never tell about the times she had failed to have a clean and orderly home, the times she had made less than acceptable dinners, the times she had said she was too tired for sex, the times she had gained weight, not curled her hair, forgotten to put on makeup. The list went on in her head.

"In what area aren't you getting along?" The Cleric leaned across the desk, eagerness in every line of his body.

She and Daniel had argued bitterly over Ezra. After his cleansing beating, she had crept in to her son during the middle of the night, soothed his sores, whispered words of love. Daniel had said she'd broken the covenant with God. "I have trouble settling in to being a full time homemaker," she said, knowing she had to say something before The Cleric began to ferret out private details.

Fingering his cross again, he said, "My first wife, God rest her soul, forgot that one must try again and again for true womanliness in marriage. Perhaps your problem has a simple solution. You need to try harder. Shall we repeat the Maxims?"

Kimberly nodded and fell to her knees, pleased that he fell to his knees also. With them both reciting the list of "A woman should," he would not notice that she hadn't memorized the Maxims word for word.

After it was over, he suggested that if her attitude didn't improve she should take a True Woman Seminar.

"Thank you, sir, thank you," she murmured and hurried out.

Back near the bus lines, the bells at the Government Church of the Cross boomed. Noon, and people poured from office buildings and filled the streets. She wound her way through them. When Government announced the beatings in the park for juvenile offenders, she had concurred.

After all, her oldest was only five at the time, and the memory of the two punks who had robbed and beaten her was fresh in her mind. Psychiatrists had long said punishment was the best deterrent for wayward children.

As she entered the main square, heat waves bounced off the sidewalk. If she cut through Riverside Park and took the bike trail home, the walk would be pleasant and would leave her no time to go On Line again. Last week she'd run into an agnostic on Open Computer Time. He -- or was it a she? -- had brought up the forbidden names. Darwin. Russell. Asimov.

Maybe she should have confessed to her Spiritual Guide. Everyone made jokes about it. Confessed to The Cleric. Talked about it to my God Group Leader. Explained to my Soul Family. But it wasn't mandatory -- yet.

For years she'd avoided doing the Pious People Projects, praising the Lord on the street corner, tithing over a quarter percent, giving away her clothes and personal belongings. Still, she never talked against those things either, she thought, her frown biting deeper. She never discussed or excoriated or sat at the feet of the powerful as others did. She just existed.

Threading her way through a group of people at the entrance to the park, she passed men in business suits, women wearing long gowns, young people in God and Country T-shirts, and school kids in uniform. Clerics in full regalia waved incense, carried crosses, brandished bibles. The few non-believers stuck out like red dresses in church. A small group of them made way for her as she took a path to the main sidewalk. After all, she wore the mark of Consecration on her forehead. Every morning she repainted the D for Daniel.

"What's going on?" she asked a woman who stood on a bench and peered into the distance. The crowd was larger than usual, and the possibilities endless. Government Sponsored Religion made sure people had plenty of venues for expression. It could be spontaneous self-flagellation, orchestrated Bible reading, or even a joyous Sing for the Lord.

"They caught a kid spray painting the new wailing wall," the woman answered.

The wall was an earnest expression of the Government's good will toward Jews. No matter that no Jew ever stood there, True Believers protested the senseless desecration.

"They're gonna flog the kid," the woman said to Kimberly.

"Oh, no!" Kimberly cried.

The woman's scowl grew. "Serves him right. Damned vandal."

Hurrying, Kimberly took the path towards the river. The flogging would take place near the bandstand, center park as usual. With luck she could be out of the park in minutes.

She was mistaken. Already a whipping post had been set up on the bluff, and she had to thread through throngs of shouting, hollering people to reach the bicycle path. She turned to go back, but already the way was closed as eager bystanders linked hands, holding everyone in.

Panicky, she edges by dozens of kneeling, praying youths, pushed past observers with binoculars and cameras and people muttering, "God be with you."

Children brought by parents so they could observe first hand the wages of sin asked her to pray for them.

Kimberly nodded. If she were late getting home, the neighbors would know she was off schedule again, the children would write it in their daily records, and Daniel would chastise her. "Excuse me, pardon me." "Trying for a better spot, eh?" The woman's double chins quivered, and her eyes were lost in folds when she smiled.

"No, I just want to get to the river."

The smile disappeared. "Aren't interested in seeing a sinner get his just desserts? Not one of them non-believers are you?" Her sow eyes opening wide, the woman fixed Kimberly with a stare.

"Do you see a pin?" Kimberly retorted.

"You coulda left it off," the woman said suspiciously. Kimberly brushed the woman aside, elbowed her way through a gang of chanting youths, and circled a group of wheelchair bound elderly.

"Hello, Kimberly." Caroline appeared at her side.

"What are you doing here?" Kimberly cried. Didn't she know an unbeliever was beaten -- justifiably the judge ruled -- for not participating properly at a flogging last year?

"Some friends and I came to protest. We don't feel he should be whipped for merely writing words."

"Spray painting." Kimberly corrected, looking ahead, Once, before the wars, she and Caroline had taken turns reading Asimov out loud at a Reader's Theater program. Why was Caroline forcing her to think? "What words?"

"The beautiful forbidden ones," Caroline said. "Free thought for one." Kimberly shook her head violently. "I don't know what you're talking about." Why didn't Caroline leave her alone? Pushing and shoving, she moved rapidly toward the bluff.

People crowding the ramparts called for the beating to begin. Flailing chants and blood rhymes followed.

"Let's go, let's go. We want to see the blood flow. Red and ripe, day and night, beat him hard, beat him right."

Shivering, afraid, Kimberly searched for a way through the crowd. Criminals were tied to a stake and people, chosen by lots, ran forward to pull at the culprit's clothing. They ripped and tore until the sinner's shirt or blouse hung in tatters, and the back was bare. Ahead, she caught glimpses of the boy. If only she had a clear view. Something about him... Tall.

Job, her eldest was taller than Daniel. Unlike his father in all ways. Questioning. Always questioning.

Pushing closer, she saw the boy's wavy hair, saw the remains of his fine blue shirt, saw his frightened eyes, and it was like a knife pushing slowly into her heart, killing her by inches.

"Job, oh, Job, " she cried. He'd read the books, too. Spoken the words. Her son. Flesh of her flesh.

Past the rope barrier, across the grass, she ran, fleet of foot now, determined.

They caught her near the flogger.

Held her back as the whip rose and fell, tore flesh from his proud and then bloodied back.

She felt his pain like a needle pressing into her brain, drilling holes of sanity.

When they let her go to him, she took his head into her lap and let her tears wash the blood flecks from his face. Through a blur she saw the crowd. High with the day, they laughed as they formed a line and filed past her muttering prayers for her soul. Prying her arms loose, the authorities took Job away for Spiritual Cleansing.

Kimberly's legs trembled as she pushed herself up. She felt heavy and old, her hands stained with Job's blood, his cries echoing in her mind.

The grass was slick with blood.

She slipped, and someone reached out to help her.

Through a haze Kimberly recognized Caroline. "Thank you," she murmured.

"You must let me help you."

Kimberly shook her head. Whatever she did she had to do on her own. Leave Daniel? Join a protest group? Go to another country?

Caroline pressed something against her hand. "You may want this later."

Still in shock, Kimberly let whatever touched her hand fall to the ground and watched dumbly as Caroline disappeared into the dwindling crowd.

Is this really happening to me, Kimberly wondered. Would she wake up tomorrow and find the nighmare over? No, she thought, thinking of Job, of Daniel, of all of them. How could she have been an observer, a follower for so long?

What was wrong with thinking and free speech?

"I am not Ruth," she whispered, and then louder, she said, "My name is Kimberly. Do you hear? Kimberly."

Another mother gone looney over the whipping. People moved away from her, out of the park. She looked down. In the grass trodden by the feet of the faithful, gleamed a straight forward piece of gold. Trembling Kimberly rubbed the consecrated cross of Daniel from her forehead and, shakily, reached for the pin of the unbeliever.