Tips for Atheist Ministers Performing a Wedding

Here are a few tips to consider if you plan on officiating an atheist wedding, ideas for what to say, and suggestions on what to avoid:

Know the law of the land

The anti-federalist spirit of America is alive and well in our nation’s marriage laws. Fifty states have produced fifty different standards, and sometimes they even differ on the county level. Before you agree to officiate a wedding, make certain that you fully understand your local laws. Call your local marriage licensing office to gain some insight and see what steps you need to take to help people get hitched.

In many states like Texas, Colorado, and Washington, all you need is your FCA minister title and your signature on the marriage license. However, more restrictive states require additional paperwork, including showing some sort of certificate, identification, or letter of good standing. States like Nevada require that you register with the state, and the application may take several weeks to process, so some due diligence is necessary for you atheist Elvis impersonators before your first Vegas wedding.

 

What the heck do I say?

In case you didn’t realize it when you decided to use your ordination, officiating a wedding requires public speaking. Hopefully, this is an activity that you are comfortable with already. (If not, you may want practice speaking in front of friends, family, and/or pets right away.) Preparing what to say during a wedding takes some careful planning, join the minister group Wedding Ceremony Ideas and check out the files section, Rev. Katherine Parks did a great job putting together a list of sources for ideas. Be sure to involve the bride and groom in this conversation. Ask them questions like, “How focused on atheism do you want the ceremony to be?”, “What ideas have you always wished for?” These open ended questions will give you more insight into what you need to incorporate into your presentation.

In the end, don’t stress out about the exact wording. Five years from now, few people will remember what you said during the ceremony, but rather how you said it and how you made them feel. Stand tall, use dramatic pauses, and make eye contact with as many people as possible. As the ceremony’s host, you hold the steering wheel of the crowd’s emotions. Make certain that you project the mood you want everyone to be in.

 

Represent the A-Team proudly

No pressure or anything, but you are a diplomat for the atheist community. We at the FCA know all of you atheist ministers are hip, fun, articulate people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misgivings and myths about atheists. It is important to remember that we are an underrepresented minority in most public settings.

You don’t need to wear an armband to adequately declare your atheism. This event is not about you; it’s about the love of two people. If you are approached by wedding attendees after the ceremony, a good rule of thumb is to keep your religious affiliation secondary. However, if people ask where you were ordained, there is no need to conceal your affiliation; feel free to name drop the FCA. This might spark a civil dialogue with a person who knew nothing about atheism before.

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your upcoming wedding. Many of you were asked to consecrate this event for a specific reason – most likely a close relationship with the bride and/or groom. You are a part of a chosen few. Relish in this unique opportunity to help two people express their love, because it is a moment that you won’t soon forget.

How can I help the FCA?

Help support the FCA by heading to our online store now.

What better way to demonstrate your official title as an atheist minister than an ID card to carry in your wallet or a Certificate of Ordination to proudly hang on your wall? (In fact, if you buy both, you get a discount.) As a community, the more that we can do to show off our status as ministers, the better our chances of gaining more complete acceptance and attracting new members.

Encourage your friends and family to get ordained today!

Becoming ordained online is a free and simple way to join an emerging community of like-minded religious skeptics. As more people become comfortable in expressing their atheism, the FCA continues to offer a virtual sanctuary for this growing community of non-believers. It’s important to send a simple message: You are not alone in your skepticism.

For all of those who have already supported the First Church of Atheism, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. We encourage you to keep up the good work that you do. You are proof that science and reason can make our world a better place.

christmas

By Rev. David McMahan

Tis the season again, for two months of pain and misery that fill me with rage and bitterness for every Jesus lover out there.  I hate this holiday and anything related to it.  This is the king of all holidays, which pretty much starts the day after Halloween and doesn’t stop until 2 weeks after New Years Day.  I used to love the holiday, I even have white christmas lights (due to lack of another name) up in my room year round, I like the way snow looks, etc…  I hate this holiday for many reasons which I will now list for you.

1. the religious aspect:
    A. It takes the original pagan holiday “Yule” and turns it into something the catholic/christian church finds acceptable. 
    B. The holiday seems to be more about Santa Claus than about the birth of the deity of the religion that bastardized it in the first place.

    C. It lies to children, I hate liars (although it does give us a great piece of ammunition when people say god exists, equating him to Santa).

    D. It’s just another way for them to rub their religious beliefs in your face.  Also to any atheist here that say “merry christmas” what is wrong with you?  Stand by your religious disbeliefs and say happy winter solstice or something similar because I’d at least rather like to hear that out of you than what has been pounded into your skull by the theists.

2. the corporate aspect:
    A. The holiday does nothing anymore but encourage you to shop and buy buy buy and spend every dime you have on people who won’t appreciate it or remember what you got them (unless it’s REALLY good).  These days I ask for nothing, and when they won’t comply (they seriously won’t comply) I ask for money because at least then I can use it for something I really want then get something I’ll hate and find fault with.  They still get nothing, and maybe one day they’ll stop giving and I can be truly happy.  I hate mandatory gift giving and would rather get something home made and random if anything, not because a holiday requires it and a store offers it.

    B. Shopping for the holiday now starts in August, which you can imagine how annoying that gets.  Still the advertisements are at least reasonable until November.

    C. The spirit of giving is crap, what are you a communist?  You give to charity, you give because you’re told to, hell you even give because you HAVE to in taxes.  No one saves any money and therefore everyone goes broke.  People go into debt over this holiday and THAT ruins lives, just so they seem like good friends/relatives or to keep up with the Joneses.

    D. I don’t need a stupid holiday to show someone I care about them.  If I care I’ll buy them dinner or get them something at random if and when I think of it.  The people I care about already know I care about them and that’s what counts the most.

So to sum it all up, not everyone believes what they do, so they need stop shoving it in everyones face because it’s all just a bunch of humbug.

(I will say however it’s pretty awesome that I get the Grinch’s theme song as my ring tone on my friend’s phone, that was neat and really thoughtful on his part and better than any actual gift to me).

In God We Trust

By Rev. Chris Andersen

Throughout the course of my wanderings, the subject of religion and government has occasionally reared its head in discussions with friends, family, classmates, etc. While talking about the merits and negatives of including “In God We Trust” on our currency, I noticed a common statement: “It’s just four words. What does it matter?” The same is said concerning the phrase “One Nation Under God” in our pledge. On the surface, I may agree. My worry is that it will not end at just four words. So where will it end?

Hmmm, time for a brief history lesson:

A Gospel Minister, Rev. M. R. Watkinson, sent a letter in November 1861 to the Secretary of the Treasury. This was a time when religious fervor was en vogue during the Civil War. In the letter, Rev. Watkinson pleaded his case (from one Christian to another) that U.S. currency should recognize all mighty god in some form.

An excerpt from his letter:

“… no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.”
Within seven days of the original letter, the Secretary of the Treasury set about the process of devising a motto to include on the nation’s coins. In God We Trust first appeared on U.S. coins three years later in 1864. The motto’s appearance on our coins came and went… and came and went… and well, you get the point. That changed during the McCarthy period when in 1956 the President approved a law passed by Congress which made IN GOD WE TRUST our national motto. Beginning the following year, our new national motto would be printed on U.S. currency… coin AND paper.

The passing of this law came on the heels of another landmark event. Congress added the words “under god” to the pledge of allegiance two years earlier in 1954. One of the arguments of the day was that reasonable people should not object to the addition of just two words (sounds remarkably similar to what the reverend had said nearly 100 years earlier).

A decade later, government and religion were back on the front pages. The non-theist population started asserting its voice. An Atheist mother was enraged that her tax money was being used to buy bibles for public schools. Worse than that was the mandate that her son would take part in bible readings and prayer while attending school. When her son opted out, he was beaten by his classmates while the school officials turned a blind eye. The mother brought suit against the board of education. In a nearly unanimous decision (8-1), the Supreme Court agreed that mandatory bible readings and school prayer were unconstitutional.
In the years since, many have argued that the establishment clause of the constitution either does not exist or does not apply because of past precedent. What precedent you may ask? You guessed it… Government endorsement of religion on U.S. currency, Government endorsement of religion through our national motto, Government endorsement of religion in our official pledge of allegiance.
People who want religion integrated more into our government / education / society often claim that a few liberal judges have hijacked the legal system and are legislating from the bench. This argument just doesn’t hold water. Judges have pointed to the establishment clause consistently over many decades. These are not isolated cases involving a few radical judges. The dual protections of the first amendment have been cited by dozens of courts and judges over a sustained period of time. Both liberal judges as well as ultra-conservative judges have pointed to the constitutional protections in their findings.

By keeping phrases such as “in god we trust” and “under god” in our official government psyche, we keep the door open for fundamentalists to claim precedent. The fight is ongoing to bring organized prayer and bible readings back into public schools. If the religious wing manages to get that through somehow, do you think they will be satisfied? They weren’t satisfied with having coins minted with “in god we trust”. They weren’t satisfied with having a religious national motto. They were not satisfied with making every citizen in the country acknowledge a god in order to pledge their allegiance to this nation and its flag.

If they gain momentum, what will be next? Will they once again start banning any books that are not in agreement with the bible? Strike classes from school curriculum which do not conform to biblical stories? This is not much of a stretch, but what will be next? Will we start enforcing more laws from the bible? Start snuffing out any atheistic movements as well as Wiccans and Satanists? After that we may move on to tell Muslims that they have their own countries they can live in. After all, this is a nation founded on CHRISTIAN principles. If we do not stay vigilant in the protection of the separation principles of the first amendment, we could end up like the people of England before the settlement of America; being forced to adhere to a narrow religious interpretation. This may not include Mormons. It may not include Jews. It may not include Protestants if the government happens to follow catholic principles instead. It is in everyone’s — religious or not — best interest to maintain a strict separation of church and state. By allowing religion into the government business, we allow government into religious business. I don’t think anyone really wants that.

What We Need

To make this easy
god = whatever your religion’s deity
satan = whatever your religion’s evil person
bible = whatever your religion’s holiest book

earth_1_apollo17
Religion is a wonderful thing, that everybody should embrace and believe.
4000 years ago.

But this is 2009. And the vital role religion once played has been replaced by science. The truth is we don’t need an explanation for where thunder comes from or why sky twinkles at night anymore. And we certainly don’t need moral guidance from sources that time and time again prove to be corrupt, hate filled, and narrow minded.

What we need is a scientific community willing to step up to the plate. One willing to be proactive in politics, in the local community, and one on one with the people. What we need is a populous willing to pitch in, in the name of science. What we need are more television programs with scientists explaining where we are and where we could go. What we need are regular local meetings where the scientific community listens to the questions the people have, and then comes back with real answers. What we need are organized efforts in politics to counter the pro-religious influence. What we need is rational thinking based alternatives to churches, religious holidays, bibles, missionaries, private schools, and community support groups.

What we need is to show that religion isn’t the best answer, or the safe answer. It is the exact opposite! It holds you back and keeps you in fear. it shuts your mind to the world as it really is. and limits your ability to live happy, or benefit humanity.

What we need are role models in high places and small. Willing to stand up and say “I don’t believe. And I don’t need to. I am an intelligent and moral person because I choose to be”. What we need is to show how many we are, and the good we do everyday. To let believers know that they are welcome with us, and give them the tools and support to believe in themselves for a change.

Thank You
or
Sorry
Reverend Paul J. McMaster

The Dragon In My Garage

The Dragon In My Garage
by
Carl Sagan

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle–but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floates in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative– merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.”

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons–to say nothing about invisible ones–you must now acknowledge that there’s something here, and that in a preliminary way it’s consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it’s not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you’re pretty sure don’t know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages–but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we’re disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I’d rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren’t myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they’re never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon’s fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such “evidence”–no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it–is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.
-Carl Sagan

P.S. (From the FCA) EXACTLY!!!!! For fucks sake.

Atheist wedding

I was asked a while back what I would say at an atheist wedding and at the time I didn’t really know what to say. I was pondering the other day about exactly how I would go about performing an atheist wedding. What would I say? My wife and I had written our own vows for our wedding and I don’t really know what a normal wedding is like. Then it dawned on me that I don’t need to say or do anything. Why should I? My wife and I knew exactly what to say to each other when we got married. What’s the point of repeating after someone? We didn’t need anyone to tell us what marriage meant. No one needed to tell us that we would love each other for the rest of our lives. The couple love each other. They don’t need me to do anything for them but make it legal. And why can’t they just stand before everyone by themselves without some central figure taking attention away from them on their special day? It’s all about them and their love for each other. They can express their love for each other and their commitment to each other just fine by themselves. They don’t need anyone telling them what marriage means or how much they love each other. They don’t need to repeat after me that they’ll honor and cherish each other. No this is their day all about them and their love for each other. They do not need a go between for a higher power. There is nothing I can add to what they already have.