For Immediate Release
New York City Atheists Inc.
Press Contact 212-879-2687
First Professor to Teach a Course on Atheism
Traces Clash of Science & Religion Throughout Ages
Courageous Cornell Univ. Prof Shakes Up Ivy Halls
By Debunking Faith
New York, May 21, 2009—He’s everything you ever thought an Ivy league professor could be: Stately,
thoughtful, gentle and steeped in the Classics. But Dr. John Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Classics at
Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, is also something else: He’s a courageous debunker of religion. He is, in
fact, the first professor to teach a course in Atheism in a major U.S. university.
Dr. Coleman, who has taught classical archeology at Cornell for 38 years, decided that he wanted to try
something new before he retired from a long and luminous career. He wanted to wake up, shake up his
students by getting them to look at evidence and arguments put forward in favor of atheism.
Why atheism? Partly, it was precisely because of his classics background. “I wanted to provide a historical
perspective on beliefs about gods based on my studies of the classical world. And I wanted to go into the
ancient origins of the conflict between science and religion,” he says.
Atheism Taboo in Schools
In his course, “Atheism Then and Now,” which he has taught now for three semesters, he examines how
the conflicts between atheistic and religious views play out in contemporary politics, social life and
international affairs. “Though atheism is overlooked, or even taboo in universities,” he notes, “it offers
young people new ways of thinking about the physical world, human society, morality and the meanings
of their lives.”
Moreover, “atheism has a long and creditable history,” the professor notes. “Atheists tend to value what
leads to happiness in this world: prosperity, peace, tolerance, a healthy environment, independent though
and freedom of expression.”
Atheists Demonized, Marginalized
Despite this, atheism has been neglected in American universities. “It is, of course, no mystery why
atheism is not commonly taught as a subject,” says Dr. Coleman. “Religions enjoy favored status in this
country, including significant tax breaks. Atheism is a threat to this favored status since it not only
questions the truths of religions but tends to undermine their cultural authority.”
Religions have fought back against atheism by seeking to marginalize and demonize atheists with
accusations of immorality and untrustworthiness. “The hostility directed toward atheists can be effective
at discouraging any and all dissent,” says the professor.
Come, hear this educator who refuses to leave academia without revolutionizing the curriculum and
lighting the candle of truth. He is speaking at the New York City Atheists monthly meeting this coming
Thursday. Come, be inspired, show your support of this courageous teacher and vow to help us at NYCA
start courses in atheism in every high school in New York City and in every college where freedom
WHAT: “Teaching Atheism in the Classroom—A Revolutionary Idea
in America,” a talk by Dr. John Coleman, professor
emeritus at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
WHEN: Thursday, May 28, at 6:30 pm
WHERE: SLC Conference Center
352 Seventh Ave. (Bet. 29th & 30th)
COST: We would appreciate a donation of $5 to help cover the cost
of the conference room
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Director of Communications
New York City Atheists
Kenneth Bronstein, President
New York City Atheists Inc.
New York City Atheists Inc. is a 501C not-for-profit educational association dedicated to the separation of
church and state and to promoting the atheist lifestyle and values. All are welcome including agnostics,
humanists, skeptics, freethinkers and those just questioning and seeking.