CrossingCurrents,
The Crosswinds Foundation Newsletter
 

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                                                August 12, 2009                     Vol. 2:7
 
Bob
In This Issue
Imagine No Religion?
Culture Tracks
Crosswinds World Update
Culture News
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Bob
In last month's issue, the "In the News" section contained an article about a billboard that had been placed in Alabama proclaiming, "Imagine There's No Religion". Being in the Bible belt, it has naturally generated much controversy.
 
One aspect of the story that didn't receive much coverage (at least not in a positive light) was the stand taken by an advertising company that refused to place the sign. Crosswinds' Board Member Tommy DeRamus, who works in the advertising industry, sat down with the General Manager who made the call not to place the sign and reports on his findings in this month's feature article.
 
In The News: More Billboards for Atheism

"In the News" contains a couple of related stories including an excellent reply to the "no religion" sign by retired pastor, Roger Lovette, that appeared in the Birmingham News. Another news story I encourage you to read appeared in the LA Times titled, "Must Science Declare a Holy War on Religion". You can read a portion of it "In The News" with a link to the complete article.
 
The articles in this issue confirm that atheists have an organized agenda to promote their beliefs; certainly, they have the right to do so. As such, Christians need to be aware this conversation is taking place and become educated on how to take part in the discussion.
 
America: Post-Christian?
 
Without question the religious landscape of America is shifting. This can be seen in a Newsweek Poll released a few months ago that asked if we are now a post-Christian nation. Some of the findings are in this month's Culture Tracks, with a link to the full report.
 
With trends such as those that appeared in this poll, is it any surprise that we find people who attend Christian Churches trying to incorporate other religions into their "Christian" beliefs? Be sure and read "Buddhism Strengthens Ties to the Church" in the "News" section.
 
Report From Romania/Eurpoe
 
A couple of men who are certainly engaging their culture are our team in Romania. Along with our regular features, this issue also contains an update from them. They are doing a great work there and are an important part of our team. Be sure and read their report and consider helping them in their efforts there.
 
Video Now Online
 
Last month I shared that we would be putting video segments on our website that will accompany our feature articles. The first video is now online and features the author of last month's article, Alonza Jones and professional counselor, Dr. Howard Eyrich addressing the subject of the modern state of marriage. You can view it HERE. 
 
Prefer Paper?
 
Are you like me and still like to hold paper in your hand when you read? If so, CrossingCurrents is also published each month in print format. If you would like to receive the print version just contact us with your mailing information. We'll still send you the E-letter, as well.
 
Many of our readers have become financial supporters of our efforts and for that we are deeply grateful. You are the ones who enable us to accomplish much through the information and training we offer that we might become those who influence cultural trends, rather than simply reacting to them.
 
Please let me know if we can be of help to you with any questions or information needs.

Blessings,

Bob Signature 
Bob Waldrep
 
If making a donation:
Please make checks payable to: Crosswinds Foundation
Mail to: P.O. Box 12143 Birmingham, AL 35202
Contact us at 205-327-8317 for credit card donations.
 
Imagine No Religion?  Lamar says "Imagine No Avails"
by Tommy DeRamus
 
AlonzaEarlier this year, our feature article was about atheist groups using mass transit systems to advertise their belief that there is no God. The focus was on a group in England that had placed signage on London buses proclaiming, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life".
 
In subsequent articles and news items we expressed how this was a growing movement. Now it has made it to the middle of the Bible-belt, central Alabama. A national atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and its Alabama affiliate, the Alabama Freethought Association recently purchased advertising space on a billboard, prominently located on well-traveled Interstate 20, which connects Birmingham and Atlanta with many other large southern cities.
 
The highly visible billboard, located about thirty miles from Birmingham, near Pell City, proclaims in large bold letters, "Imagine there's no religion". The advertisement is an obvious play on, former Beatle, John Lennon's song "Imagine" which includes:
 
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
 
Of course the implication here is that religion leads to wars and strife and without it there would be peace.
 
This is an idea conveyed by FFRF local chapter president, Pat Cleveland, in interviews with local media. In fact, in an interview with the Birmingham News, Cleveland clearly inferred Christians are hostile and atheists peaceful stating, "There's no hostile intention [in placing the sign]". She then describes those responding to it as irate, claiming, "They're ugly, just hateful".
 
So, how peaceful is the FFRF toward those who disagree with their position? Consider their actions toward Lamar Advertising.
 
The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Alabama Freethought Association, originally sought to have their advertisement placed on a billboard with extremely high visibility in downtown Birmingham; however, they were rebuffed in their effort thanks to a courageous stand by Tom Traylor, General Manager of Lamar Outdoor Advertising's Birmingham office.
 
The (FFRF) sent Lamar a check along with an order and the vinyl for one of Lamar's bulletins near the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center complex along Interstate 20/59 in downtown Birmingham. In the advertising business, this is the easiest money to make - the display is already produced by the client (no production work to do) and the payment is already in the house (no billing or collection efforts to make). Just post the vinyl and deposit the check.
 
In today's economy, many advertising companies are offering discounts and deals not seen for 25 years or more, if ever. As many retail businesses struggle, their ad budgets have been slashed and companies like Lamar are feeling the pinch as well.  But when Tom Traylor saw the message on the FFRF vinyl he was faced with a decision - take the money or take a stand. Tom chose the latter, and we can all be thankful for what he did.
 
Tom said "it was offensive to me," and he added "I don't think it was the kind of message we wanted to stand behind." He returned the check and the vinyl to the FFRF, and when they were informed that Lamar had rejected their order they threatened to sue.
 
Eric Johnston of the Southeast Law Institute, says the law is with Lamar on this issue. According to Johnston, advertisers have the legal right to accept or refuse clients, or copy sent to them, based upon their own corporate criteria, which typically includes consideration of community standards.
 
Traylor says Lamar offices and their management have the responsibility to decide what is in the best interests of their company, and his personal Christian faith guided his decision in this case. Lamar's contracts give the company the right to reject any client's displays for any reason, so he doubts any efforts to sue the company will be successful.
 
Ultimately another local company took the FFRF's business, resulting in the display posted along Interstate 20 in the Pell City area. Regarding their not getting to place it at their first choice, the FFRF Alabama affiliate office says they were "censored" by Lamar. (Ibid, Birmingham News)
 
It is interesting the FFRF representative would describe those who oppose their sign as "irate" and "hateful" and at the same time express their own opposition to Lamar's right of refusal with threats of litigation and decrying it as "censorship". In the greater Birmingham area, we can be thankful that one man's "spiritual education" and concern for community standards gave him the courage and wisdom to make a decision and stand behind it.
 
Editor's note: A similar campaign has also been initiated in Fort Lauderdale, FL where a billboard has been placed proclaiming: "Being a good person doesn't require God. Don't believe in God? You're not alone." As in Alabama, it has created much controversy. See the "In the News" section for articles.
 
DeRamusTommy Deramus is employed by Means Advertising and serves on the Crosswinds Foundation Board.
You can email Tommy at:
tommy@crosswindsfoundation.org
 
Culture Tracks

"Cultural Trends Related to Religion in America"

footprints

 Statistical data reflecting some of the findings regarding the cultural footprints of Americans
 
The following data is from a Newsweek Poll released in April 2009, titled: A Post-Christian Nation? 

Concerning how they would classify their religious affiliation:
 
          81% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.
            6% identify as part of another religion
          11% identify themselves as Agnostics, or atheists
 
When asked, do you think religion as a whole is increasing its influence on American life or losing its influence?
19% responded increasing (Just four years ago, in 2005, 57% responded, "increasing". Interestingly, 1968 was identical to today at 19% down from 69% in 1957 which indicates how long it takes to again be viewed as having an influence.)
When asked, do you believe that religion can answer all or most of today's problems, or that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date?
 
          48% responded can (87% in 1957)
          25 % responded old-fashioned (7% in 1957)
 
When asked, do you consider the United States a Christian nation, or not?
 
          62% responded, yes
          32% responded, no
 
Read full report: A Post-Christian Nation?
 
Crosswinds World Update
ROMANIA
 
Our men serving in Romania are having an impact, not only in their own country but other parts of Europe, as well. The following is just a brief listing of the activities of the Crosswinds Foundation in Romania.
 
AlonzaBetween June 26-30, Nelu taught and preached in Spain among Romanians who have established Churches in the Barcelona area. During July, he also had the opportunity to preach in Vienna, Austria.
 
In addition to these preaching opportunities, during July, Nelu also spoke at a conference in Pancota on the topic "Christian Integrity, Morality and Spirituality into Contemporary Culture".
 
AlonzaIeremia has also been busy this summer preaching every Sunday of June and July at Churches in Ploiesti and the surrounding localities, such as, Brazi and Ploiestiori. In addition to this, Ieremia has taught two summer classes at Timotheus Bible Institute in Bucharest on the subjects of Christian Apologetics and History and Philosophy of the World Religions: Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, Judaism.
 
Nelu and Ieremia have quickly become and important part of the Crosswinds team. If you would like to help with their financial report just indicate "Romania" on your gift.
 
Culture In The News
Excerpts From NewspapersMedia News Stories Reflecting Trends In American Spirituality
 
Religion Makes World Richer
Birmingham News, July 19,2009
by Roger Lovette

Driving down the highway the other day, I saw this huge billboard smack dab in the middle of the Alabama Bible Belt: "Imagine No Religion."
 
Hmm. "No religion?" I thought as I drove. Without religion, I don't know if I would have made it.
 
Growing up in a family with a lot of conflict barely underneath the surface, I found solace in a little mill church up the street. Church members befriended me and loved me. Later, they would take up nickels, dimes and dollars and send me off to church camps and, much later, to a Baptist college in Birmingham. There, I found myself stretched in ways that still boggle my mind. Doors and windows that I did not even know existed opened little by little to a larger world. No wonder I found myself as a minister years later.
  
The apostle Paul said we have the treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. I have seen the earthiness of those all-too-human vessels, but I have also witnessed a wonderful transcendence in this very human place called church.
 
The good side of church and religion can be seen in almost every good cause that we have. Without healthy religion, there would be no hospitals, no orphans' homes and no charity work that spans the globe. There would be no Salvation Army or Red Cross.
 
Many of our major universities began as religious institutions. And every year, believers, flawed and human, board planes and travel to faraway places to help hurting people around the world.
 
We cannot ignore the dark side of religion.
Sunday worship still might be the most segregated hour of the week -- not only for blacks but for gays and immigrants and those who don't have the right kind of clothes.
And yet, this same church has a wondrous side. From our earthly ranks have come Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa and a multitude of others. All these have helped change the world.
 
As I drove along, I tried to imagine a country without religion. How poverty-stricken we would be without the great music and art and breathtaking architecture that have come from this all-too-human institution...No, I cannot imagine a world without the contribution that faith has made in my own life.
 
One of the Latin roots for the word "religion" means to bind. That binding does not mean to tie down or to restrict. Poor faith does that.
 
This binding, I think, is something like a rope -- a strong cable has tied me to other people and a wide and wonderful world of hope and possibility. Without that kind of religion, the world would be poorer indeed.
 
View Complete Article 
 
Beyond Belief: Atheists Push for Greater Visibility and Acceptance
08-01-09, Miami Herald
 
There's nothing unusual about churches advertising Sunday services, but South Florida atheists are turning that idea on its head: Why not promote the belief that there is no God?
 
``Most people are under the impression that atheists lack morals and ethics. We are trying to dispel that myth,'' said Ken Loukinen, founder of the 400-member Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists, which is sponsoring a controversial billboard in Broward County.
 
``Being a good person doesn't require God,'' the sign declares. ``Don't believe in God? You're not alone!''
 
The first of its kind in the state, the sign directs passersby to www.freethoughtflorida.com, where they can donate toward putting up similar signs throughout Florida. Over the past six months, atheists in a dozen other states also have launched advertising campaigns.
 
In a bid for greater acceptance and visibility, atheists are also undertaking community service projects, organizing children's camps and engaging in other activities often associated with religious groups.
 
Best-selling books like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great have popularized the idea of atheism as a cause rather than simply a stance. And polls show that fewer Americans are embracing religion.
 
According to the American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released this year, 15 percent of Americans claim no religion, making them the only group to grow in every state since 1990, when the ``nones'' made up 8 percent of the U.S. population. Atheists make up a smaller portion -- 2 percent -- but they've almost doubled their numbers in the past two decades.
 
...``If everybody who was atheist came out of the closet, you'd see how many of us there really are,'' said Loukinen, 46, a firefighter.
 
The billboard may be working: About 30 people attended a recent Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists' get-together at a Davie restaurant, up from the usual dozen.
 
...One of a half-dozen atheist groups in South Florida, Atheists and Secular Humanists has four chapters from North Miami to Deerfield Beach and recently launched a parenting discussion group. Another group for nonbelievers, the Center for Inquiry, has chapters in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and hosts speakers and educational events.
 
On Dec. 25, South Florida will have its first weeklong camp for kids from atheist families at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Fort Lauderdale, complete with a ``Socrates Cafe'' and even Bible study -- for cultural literacy. Organizers, who include Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists, Humanists of Florida Association and the Center for Inquiry, expect about 60 campers.

View Complete Article
 
Atheists' Billboard Raises Neighbors' Ire
08-01-09, Miami Herald 
 
A Fort Lauderdale billboard promoting atheism gave its religious neighbors a headache -- an unintented but probably unavoidable consequence, the sign's sponsors say.
 
The billboard at Sunrise Boulevard and Northwest 27th Avenue -- which read, ``being a good person doesn't require God'' -- ``should be in no part of the community,'' activist Essie ``Big Mama'' Reed said. Soon after it went up, Reed picketed against the sign for about a week with students from Team of Life, a neighborhood camp she runs for underprivileged children.
 
...Pastor James Ray of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, one of several houses of worship in the vicinity, said congregants complained about the 10-by-40-foot billboard.
``Everybody has their freedom of speech, but most of us know this universe is not here by a bang,'' Ray said.
 
Ken Loukinen, founder of Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists, said his group picked the location because, at $2,200 a month, it was the most affordable one available.
A month-long lease expired this week, and the atheists' message is being resized for a 10-by-36-foot billboard at Commercial Boulevard at Northeast Fourth Avenue in Oakland Park, which will go up Monday. Loukinen said he won't be surprised if there are objections there, too.
 
``We could have made that billboard with kittens and hugging puppies, but as long as it says `atheist,' they'll protest,'' he said, adding that the new sign will be slightly revised. On the first one, he said, ``We accidentally capitalized `God.' ''

Read Complete Story
 
Buddhism Strengthens Ties to Church
08-09-09, The Denver Post

What in the recent past seemed exotic and foreign is now almost routinely folded into "the fold."
 
Buddhism is not only accepted as a mainstream American religion, it is a path increasingly trod by faithful Christians and Jews who infuse Eastern spiritual insights and practices such as meditation into their own religions...And they are contemplating contemplation itself.
 
There are Jubus - Jews who bring Buddhism into their practice of Judaism - and Bujus, who are Buddhists with Jewish parents. Then there are UUbus, or Unitarian Universalist Buddhists, and Ebus, or Episcopalian Buddhists. There are Zen Catholics.
 
"There is a definite trend and movement that will not be reversed," said Ruben Habito, a laicized Jesuit priest, Zen master and professor of world religions at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "We are in a new spiritual age, an inter-religious age."
 
People are hungry for a deeper spiritual experience - meditation, mindfulness, personal transformation, deep insight, union with God or the universe.
 
Habito, who calls himself a Zen Catholic, is one of the experts who say the search is a little like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. The quest for meaning ultimately leads some, like Dorothy, to their own backyards.
 
...For many Christians cut off from the past, or alienated from the faith of their upbringing, Buddhism has served as the bridge to ancient wisdom.
 
"The problem is the contemplative tradition in the Christian Church has had its ups and downs over the centuries," said Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and leader in the Centering Prayer movement, a modern revival of Christian contemplative practice.
 
"There is growing permission to turn back to some of the early church practices and pieces that helped us to be whole," said the Rev. Stuart Lord, an ordained Baptist minister and new president of Naropa University, a Buddhist-founded institution. "I've been studying Buddhism and meditation for about seven years. I look at it as helping a person lead a fuller Christian life." 
 
Read Complete Story
 
Must Science Declare a Holy War on Religion?
By Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum
08-11-09, LA Times
 
This fall, evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins -- most recently famous for his public exhortation to atheism, "The God Delusion" -- returns to writing about science. Dawkins' new book, "The Greatest Show on Earth," will inform and regale us with the stunning "evidence for evolution," as the subtitle says. It will surely be an impressive display, as Dawkins excels at making the case for evolution. But it's also fair to ask: Who in the United States will read Dawkins' new book (or ones like it) and have any sort of epiphany, or change his or her mind?

Surely not those who need it most: America's anti-evolutionists. These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they'll heed.

Dawkins will, however, be championed by many scientists, especially the most secular -- those who were galvanized by "The God Delusion" and inspired by it to take a newly confrontational approach toward America's religious majority. They will help ensure Dawkins another literary success. It's certainly valuable to have the case for evolution articulated prominently and often, but what this unending polarization around evolution and religion does for the standing of science in the U.S. is a very different matter.

It often appears as though Dawkins and his followers -- often dubbed the New Atheists, though some object to the term -- want to change the country's science community in a lasting way. They'd have scientists and defenders of reason be far more confrontational and blunt: No more coddling the faithful, no tolerating nonscientific beliefs. Scientific institutions, in their view, ought to stop putting out politic PR about science and religion being compatible.

...A smaller but highly regarded nonprofit organization called the National Center for Science Education has drawn at least as much of the New Atheists' ire, however. Based in Oakland, the center is the leading organization that promotes and defends the teaching of evolution in school districts across the country.

In this endeavor, it has, of necessity, made frequent alliances with religious believers who also support the teaching of evolution, seeking to forge a broad coalition capable of beating back the advances of fundamentalists who want to weaken textbooks or science standards. In the famous 2005 Dover, Pa., evolution trial, for instance, the NCSE contributed scientific advice to a legal team that put a theologian and a Catholic biologist on the stand.

Long under fire from the religious right, the NCSE now must protect its other flank from the New Atheist wing of science. The atheist biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for instance, has drawn much attention by assaulting the center's Faith Project, which seeks to spread awareness that between creationism on the one hand and the new atheism on the other lie many more moderate positions.

In this, Coyne is once again following the lead of Dawkins, who in "The God Delusion" denounces the NCSE as part of the "Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists," those equivocators who defend the science but refuse to engage with what the New Atheists perceive as the real root of the problem -- namely, religious belief.

...the New Atheists have chosen their course: confrontation. And groups like the NCSE have chosen the opposite route: Work with all who support the teaching of evolution regardless of their beliefs, and attempt to sway those who are uncertain but perhaps convincible.

Despite the resultant bitterness, however, there is at least one figure both sides respect -- the man who started it all: Charles Darwin. What would he have done in this situation?

It turns out that late in life, when an atheist author asked permission to dedicate a book to Darwin, the great scientist wrote back his apologies and declined. For as Darwin put it, "Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science."

Darwin and Dawkins differ by much more than a few letters, then -- something the New Atheists ought to deeply consider.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum are coauthors of the new book, "Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future."

Read Complete Story
 
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