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An in-your-face atheist remembered

Written by Peter Smith on .

kagin blowdryerHe was as blunt and mocking as he could be, arranging mock communion services and dressing up as a monk armed with a blow-dryer to de-baptize people rejecting their childhood faith.

Yet Edwin Kagin, the national legal director of American Atheists of the "in-your-face" wing of atheism, gained respected from the faithful who knew him and often opposed him.

The Kentucky attorney, who represented atheists in church-state conflicts and helped establish summer camps for disbelieving kids, died recently at age 73. My long-time colleague Andrew Wolfson writes a vivid portrait of him in the obituary here.

 

"I thought he was a very sincere person and a patriotic man. We we just disagreed on one big issue," said one Baptist minister and state representative whose legislation, requiring the state of Kentucky to give credit to Almighty God for its homeland security, was challenged unsuccessfully by Kagin.

Kagin, a military veteran, was as fervent an advocate for the second amendment as the first. I talked with him several times over the years. He believed strongly in the right to mock. He was fond of quoting the Treaty of Tripoli as hard evidence that the nation's founders rejected the notion of America as a Christian nation. He also regularly quoted James Madison on why he fought so doggedly against such things as the homeland security clause or a cross memorial at Ground Zero. Allow a small precedent to get established, he said, and bigger ones follow:

"... it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties," Madison said. ... "The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it."

I spoke with him a couple of years ago for a story on how the non-religious memorialize the dead. Given the growing numbers of people with no religious affiliation -- ranging from hard-core atheists to spiritual-but-not-religious types -- this is a phenomenon worth paying attention to.

Mr. Kagin had lost his wife and fellow atheist, Helen, in 2010, and he proudly talked about how he and other loved ones organized a memorial tribute service without a shred of prayer or hope for the afterlife. If anything, he said, secularists have a complete sense of closure upon the death of a loved one.

 

"it's been a process of grief" over the loss of Helen, he told me. "There's not been a day that goes by" without thinking of her.

But "we know nothing lasts forever," he said. "Everything ends. We don’t look for some false sense of being reunited, which is just wish-fulfillment thinking."

But disbelieving in the spiritual realm, he said, didn't preclude a sense of awe. Science, he said, shows that people are the sum total of elements that existed for eons before they were formed and will persist for eons afterward.

"We come from starstuff," Mr. Kagin said. "There's no telling where we've been. When we're dead, there's no telling where those atoms go."

In Mr. Kagin's case, they'll probably stay in close proximity to a courthouse door, vigilant against any experiment on their liberties.

Image is from this ABC profile.

 

 

 

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 04-04-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. Welcome back Paul Martin.

-The Winnipeg Free Press' recap. The Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

-The Associated Press' recap. The Penguins clinch the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division title.

-Highlights:

-Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby having a moment:

-Dan Bylsma holds court at the bench:

-Tanner Glass had a nice screen set up in front of Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (right) and Tobias Enstrom:

-Crosby speaks:

-Martin speaks:

-"That number doesn't really carry that much significance. But just playing your whole career for one team has been pretty cool." - Brooks Orpik on playing in his 700th career game.

-Happy 44th birthday to former Penguins forward Mike Needham. A sixth-round pick in 1989, Needham spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. Recalled by the Penguins from Muskegon of the IHL during the 1992 playoffs, appreared in five games for the Penguins during that Stanley Cup run and scored a goal as the franchise won its second championship. Needham formed the short-lived "Muskegon Line" with Jock Callendar and Dave Michayluk. Needham spent the bulk of the 1992-93 season in Pittsburgh and recorded 13 points in 56 games. During that spring's postseason, he saw action in nine games and scored one goal. The following season, he appeared in 25 games and scored one goal for the Penguins before being traded to the Stars in exchange for Jim McKenzie. In 81 regular season games with the Penguins, Needham recorded 14 points. In 14 postseason games, he scored two goals.

-Happy 40th birthday to former Penguins forward Lasse Pirjeta. Acquired at the 2004 trade deadline in a deal which sent Brian Holzinger to the Blue Jackets, Pirjeta spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. Pirjeta finished 2003-04 by playing in 13 games and scoring 12 points for the Penguins. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Pirjeta appeared in 25 games for the Penguins in 2005-06 and scored seven points. Midway through the season, he was assigned to Kloten of the NLA in Switzerland. In 38 games with the Penguins, he recorded 19 points.

-After the Jump: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has some tough love for prospect J.T. Miller.

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Raging Fire

Written by Rob Rogers on .

I wish I didn't have to draw a cartoon about another senseless shooting ... but I live in a country where the gun lobby rules. 

040414 Raging Fire

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#SEENSneakPeek: Fab Fashion event at Pittsburgh Zoo

Written by Admin on .

'Twas a fab night of fashion and glitz at the Pittsburgh Zoo. And trust us: Fashion for the Wild it was. "The event was a benefit in support of elephants, wild cats, primates, conservation education, and other significant upcoming projects."

WTAE's Sally Wiggin and actor David Conrad hosted the event. Check out the photos and video below to get a feel of what it was like!

 

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Talkin' Bout Practice - April 3

Written by Sam Werner on .

IMG 1143We're entering the back end of Pitt's 2014 spring season now, and the Panthers took the field for practice No. 9 of the season today. Here's a quick rundown...

- Today's session was focused more on individual and positional drills than teamwork. It makes for less interesting viewing, to be sure, but given that the theme of spring is just getting better individually and as a team, rather than competition, it makes some sense.
"There's a little bit more teaching, less plays," Chryst said. "We'll get more plays tomorrow. That's the biggest difference; we'll get more 11-on-11 tomorrow with officials."

- No new injuries or players returning from injury today. Gabe Roberts and Adam Bisnowaty were in shoulder pads and helmets, and took part in individual drills, but not in the team sessions. Zach PokerDevin Cook and Ejuan Price were also limited. LaQuentin Smith and Bam Bradley were held out entirely.

- No significant depth chart changes today. Pretty much the same as it has been all spring. The only difference today was with Manasseh Garner out with an excused absence, Chris Wuestner stepped in to take some of the first-team reps at receiver. That's a position, though, that's in flux during spring with a lot of guys moving through both teams.

- One spot that I've been keeping an eye on is the cornerback position, and I think it's pretty interesting. It looks like Titus Howard and Trenton Coles are battling for the starting cornerback job opposite Lafayette Pitts (with Howard having the edge right now), but Jahmahl Pardner has been seeing a lot of action as the first-team nickelback in pass situations. Today, we even saw Wisconsin transfer Reggie Mitchell as the first-team nickelback for a brief spell. That likely means that there's something about Pardner's skill set that they think translates better to the nickelback spot than Coles'. Coles, meanwhile, has been primarily with the second team at cornerback (though he did see some first team work earlier this spring).

- The only extensive team drill Pitt did today was a red zone session at the end of practice. They ran six 11-on-11 series starting at the 20, with quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson rotating through with the first and second team. On the whole, it was pretty unsuccessful for the offense. The first two drives were stopped before the offense could get a first down, first on 3rd-and-6 and then on 3rd-and-2.
The first touchdown of the period came on the third session — first team offense vs. first team defense with Anderson at quarterback. On 3rd-and-3 from the 13-yard line, Anderson threw a perfect back-shoulder throw to Tyler Boyd in the right corner of the end zone. Most receivers probably wouldn't have come down with it, but Tyler Boyd is not most receivers. He showed great body control to get some separation from his man and make a diving touchdown grab.
Anderson was also responsible for the second, and final, touchdown of the period, when he hit Isaac Bennett on a two-yard swing pass to cap off a four-play drive that was sparked by a 12-yard keeper by Anderson.
Voytik finished 1/4 for 5 yards and four yards rushing in three red zone series.

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