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Atheists books next to Bibles: If Georgia state parks allow Bibles in cabins, atheists say they will put secular books next to the Bibles.
Associated Press /
May 21, 2013
A national atheist group said Monday that it will donate its literature for use in cabins and lodges in Georgia’s state parks after the governor’s recent decision to allow Bibles there.
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David Silverman, president of the Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists organization, said his group is just waiting for an answer from the state on what the best procedure is to donate several books, including one titled “Why I Am An Atheist.”
“We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment,” Silverman said. “If the state is going to put Bibles in the cabins, they must allow alternate points of view — all alternative points of view without taking sides.”
But it was not at all clear Monday whether the atheist literature would find a place in the cabins alongside the Protestant Bibles.
Asked if the state would allow it, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, would only say that the governor’s office is working on regulations governing the distribution of materials with the Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General’s Office.
Silverman says he’s expecting the state’s decision to take no longer than it did for Deal to order the Bibles’ return.
“There are lots and lots of atheists in Georgia, and there are lots of atheists who visit Georgia,” Silverman said.
One of those atheists, Ed Buckner, was not happy last month when he discovered nine Gideon Bibles in the cabin he had rented with his family at Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia. When he complained, park managers removed the Bibles while they sought a legal decision from the Attorney General’s Office.
The AG determined the state was on firm legal ground because it hadn’t paid for the books. That prompted Deal last week to order the Bibles returned to the cabins at Amicalola and other state parks. In announcing the decision, the governor said any religious group was welcome to donate literature.
Silverman’s group responded soon afterward.
“We appreciate the governor’s invitation to place atheist books in the cabins and look forward to providing visitors with the opportunity to learn more about atheism when they visit Georgia’s beautiful state parks,” American Atheists Managing Director Amanda Knief said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy and Kate Brumback contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
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ATLANTA (Reuters) – A national atheist group said it plans to donate enough books on its views to be placed in all Georgia state park cabins after the state’s governor said Bibles should remain at the vacation properties despite an atheist’s recent complaint.
But Ed Buckner, the atheist who objected after finding nine Bibles in the state-run lodge he was renting, said on Tuesday he is skeptical that Georgia can find a practical way to allow literature from all groups to be equally represented.
“The right answer, and it’s the one I asked for from the very beginning, is to keep all types of religious books and literature out of state park cabins,” said Buckner, an author and former president of the non-profit group American Atheists. “I don’t know where you draw the line or how you draw the line.”
After Buckner complained last month, Georgia officials temporarily removed the Gideons Bibles from state-run lodges and cabins. Governor Nathan Deal ordered them returned last week, saying he did not believe “that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion.”
The governor said any religious group was free to donate literature.
In response, the American Atheists said they would donate popular atheist books, including “Why I Am An Atheist” by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, “god is not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, and “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.
“American Atheists does not believe the State of Georgia should be placing Bibles or atheist books in state park cabins; however, if the state is going to allow such distribution, we will happily provide our materials,” the group’s current president, David Silverman, said in a statement.
Whether those books will be placed in state lodges was not clear. Gov. Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson said on Tuesday the state is in the process of writing regulations on donated literature.
“We’ve not been in communication with any outside groups,” Robinson said.
In response, Gideons spokesman Malcolm Arvin said: “We believe that the Bible is the truth and their literature is not. The truth speaks for itself.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case that delves into the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state. Two residents of Greece, New York, said the town endorsed Christianity by allowing members of the public, who were mostly Christian clergy, to open meetings with a prayer.
Buckner, 67, of Atlanta, said he will not file a lawsuit against Georgia on similar constitutional grounds if the state can develop a policy that treats all groups equally.
But he said there would be many practical and political challenges to creating an all-inclusive policy.
“I think they’ve opened up a can of worms, and they’re going to have a tough time putting all the worms back in,” said Buckner.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Richard Chang)
I find it nearly impossible to write if I have access to the internet, mostly because of email. I’m surprised anyone gets anything of substance done anymore. I use Freedom to block the internet while I work.
The photo is from the Brooklyn Heights promenade across the East River looking out to Lower Manhattan. It was taken by my wife in 2010 when we lived in Brooklyn for a year. The spot was one of my favourites in the city and it was where I always took friends who came to visit. The view, especially at night, is unparalleled. Helicopters fly overhead, to and from landing pads atop skyscrapers. One gets the iconic sense of Manhattan. Norman Mailer had his apartment around there. I often thought of that and envied him his good fortune.
I fantasised about putting a bid on the place when it went up for sale, but the gangplanks and the crow’s nest aren’t my thing. Besides, I have two little girls. It’s a different era. I like boxing and camping and all that, but when I think of ladders, parapets, and gangplanks I mostly picture my kids falling off.
I aim for zen. I don’t always hit the mark. ”David’s folder” is a mixture of the mundane (“Admin”, “Resumes”, “Letters”) and folders that relate to my work. There’s one called “Stories” that contains all the stories I have written, published and unpublished, with various drafts thereof. I do some film work and there’s a folder named “Film Related”. Inside are treatments for things that haven’t, and likely, will never get made – mostly ideas for television shows that never got off the ground. There are other folders with the titles of particular film projects. There’s one called “Victoria Day” for the movie I wrote and directed a few years ago. There’s one named “Natasha Movie” for the adaptation of the title story from my first book which I’m writing and directing . There are individual folders for novels: “The Free World” and another for “The Betrayers”, the book I’m working on now. Then there are some more esoteric folders. There’s one called “Crimea 2011 Phonepics”, with photos of Crimea I took with, yes, my cellphone.
I use Microsoft Word to write novels, stories and essays. I use Final Draft for screenplays. I use a Moleskine notebook when I’m out, but I’m not very conscientious about it unless I’m travelling. I have an iPhone. I’ve long been behind the times and resisted getting one of these things, but I have it now and do use it for the occasional note.
I keep another notebook at my side on my (clutter-free) writing desk and use it, mostly, when I am stuck for a word. Were someone to open it they would find an entry like this: “accommodating, disinclination, drinking, sipping, apportioning, weighing, calibrating, calculating, assessing, absorbing, ingesting, inspire, aduce?” They would also find pages where the chronology of action is worked out and the history, psychology and motivations of the characters are more explicitly spelled out than they would ever be in the book.
The internet has changed my reading habits, but if I get my hands on something good, there’s no internet, no anything, that can draw me away. I’d like to believe that’s the case for other people too. There’s no point worrying about it. We can’t change it. The flow of technology is moving inexorably in one direction.
I don’t really understand Twitter. I have a Twitter page and I even have some 800 followers but they’re not getting much from me. Sometimes, feeling guilty about letting my followers down, I try to come up with something. But I am nearly always at a loss. Most of what I see on the feed is either dull or frivolous. I don’t wish to add to it. And anything really interesting I am inclined to reserve for my real work, or even for my journal. I do follow @NietzscheQuotes. He never disappoints, but how many of us are Nietzsche?
I used to be suspicious of those poems that rhyme;
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I felt a snobbish need to sneer, or spurn, or shirk
such verse. To understand it took too little time.
But our easy reading’s actually her damned hard work.
There you go: a little token for Sophie Hannah, as a confectioner might present a cupcake to a master pâtissier. Now let’s have the real thing, addressing a similar concern: “He’s highbrow in a big, big way/But when he sees that I’m/The one, he’ll think that it’s okay/For poetry to rhyme.” That’s from “When a Poet Loves a Composer”, and in the previous stanza she’d confessed to hiding from the beloved her notion that music should have “a tune”.
And if there is room for the haunting melodies of Wallace Stevens, or the teasing near-tunes of John Ashbery, or the sonorous but occasionally baffling organ-notes of Geoffrey Hill, then there is room for the spiky, memorable, catchy tunes of Sophie Hannah.
At some early point in her development, she must have seen a Wendy Cope collection and thought: that’s for me. Isn’t it funny how men don’t write like that? Though sometimes Kingsley Amis did, and even answered that question in “Something Nasty in the Bookshop”: “We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff/Can get by without it./Women don’t seem to think that’s good enough;/They write about it.” There may well be a nod towards the bookshop setting of Amis’s poem when Hannah says, in “Before Sherratt Hughes Became Waterstone’s”: “I’ve seen a few customers looking dismayed, /Too British to voice their objection,/But how can I help it? I like to get laid/Just in front of the poetry section.”
If you do not laugh at that then there is little or no hope for you. It is, mind, one of the few poems that doesn’t seem to be cross with men. If you are a swain contemplating the gift of this book to your inamorata, you had better be very confident in the solidity of your character and the strength of your love. Hannah, or her poetic persona, would appear to have a knack for attracting the Wrong Type of Man, and she dissects them forensically. (I gather she is better known as a writer of psychological thrillers.) That her wit, and the very form she writes almost all of her poetry in, give her pronouncements the oracular force of inevitability will not make you feel any easier, however much you want to applaud her for rhyming “Casablanca” with “wanker”.
As Amis said: “And the awful way their poems lay them open/Just doesn’t strike them./Women are really much nicer than men:/No wonder we like them.” Among her parade of Unsuitable Men the poet walks, herself not entirely the most Suitable of Women, but not afraid to say so. In “A Fairly Universal Set” – she is also very good at titles – she lists all the people she is jealous of: “Your enemies, and most of all, your exes,/Everyone you have ever seen or met …” Incidentally, poetics fans, it’s a Shakespearean sonnet, a form she does rather well.
You should by now be getting the idea that what she does, she does very well indeed. And just because the poems tend towards the rumpty-tumpty-tum, this does not mean they cannot cover a wide range of emotion or expression. It is, indeed, the very art of choosing and placing the words that makes the poem go rumpty-tumpty-tum and invites our attention and respect.
“My top-note is frivolity/But beneath, dark passions guide me” – coming from a poem, this is not an assertion we should take purely at face value, but it’s something we should consider. So: love the frivolity – I don’t think I’ve read a more charming poem that takes advantage of a regional linguistic quirk than “Wells-Next-the-Sea” (“I came this little seaside town/And went a pub they call The Crown”, etc) – but also love the passion beneath it. Just because something makes you smile, or laugh out loud, doesn’t mean it isn’t deep.