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Herb Silverman
Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America and founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina. He ran for Governor of South Carolina in 1990 to challenge the state provision that prohibited atheists from holding public office. After an eight-year battle, he won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association and an advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance. His latest book is Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt. Herb is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston.

Entries by Herb Silverman

Heritage and Hate

(11) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 6:19 PM

After living in the Northeast my entire life, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1976 to teach at the College of Charleston. I came with stereotypical ideas about the South, but was certainly open to changing my mind and hoped I would. Charleston is a lovely city, known for...

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Tragedy in South Carolina

(11) Comments | Posted June 19, 2015 | 8:56 AM

Many of us in Charleston, South Carolina began grieving on Wednesday night when we heard that a white gunman had killed nine innocent black people gathered at the historic Emanuel AME Church, three blocks from where I live. This church, with a primarily black membership, once was a secret meeting...

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A Christian Response: To What?

(23) Comments | Posted June 3, 2015 | 2:23 PM

When I heard that a Christian Renewal prayer rally called "The Response" would be coming to the largest auditorium in my hometown of Charleston on June 13, I mostly said to myself, "Ho-hum, here we go again with another unproductive prayerfest." But my interest piqued when I learned...

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A Very Brief History of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

(25) Comments | Posted April 28, 2015 | 11:23 AM

First there were the Jews, with their holy book; then there were the Christians, with their holy book; and then there were the Muslims, with their holy book. Together they formed the three major monotheistic religions, with lots in common and lots not.

Christianity, a cult of Judaism that...

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Experiences With South Carolina Law

(7) Comments | Posted April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

When South Carolina leads a national story, it's usually because of a horrible hurricane or racial incident. There hasn't been a major hurricane lately in my hometown of Charleston, but North Charleston recently became the focus of national and international attention when a white police officer named Michael Slager shot...

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We Have a Religious Right to Be a Bigot

(64) Comments | Posted April 1, 2015 | 4:05 PM

"In Indiana, Using Religion as a Cover for Bigotry," an editorial in the March 31 New York Times, reminded me of a line by Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca as he accepted a bribe: "I'm shocked, shocked to learn that gambling is going on in...

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What Does It Mean to Support Israel?

(17) Comments | Posted March 24, 2015 | 4:57 PM

In a recent piece about Israel, I chose the deliberately provocative title, "Why I No Longer Support Israel." I did so because of America's unwavering support for Israel. Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on anything, but they all claim to love America and to love Israel. We hear...

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Why I No Longer Support Israel

(930) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 12:11 PM

My family shed "tears of joy" on May 14, 1948, when the Jewish State of Israel was established as a safe haven for Jews. I was five at the time and didn't quite understand its significance, but I had been taught that an integral part of Judaism was...

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Patriotism, Religion, Obama

(8) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 9:02 AM

Periodically we hear Republicans skeptically ask if President Obama is a patriot who loves his country, and is he a Christian? I'm more interested in why people ask these questions, and how their answers of "No" or "I don't know" reveal more about the questioners than about Obama....

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An Atheist Reaction to the Chapel Hill Tragedy

(7) Comments | Posted February 20, 2015 | 3:54 PM

I was horrified when I heard of the tragic murders on February 10 of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My sorrow was compounded when I learned that Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were shot by an atheist, Craig Stephen Hicks....

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Prayer: What Is It Good For?

(5) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 11:00 AM

The 1969 protest song "War" asks "What is it good for?" and answers "Absolutely nothing!" If I substituted "Prayer" for "War," I would qualify my answer with "Almost nothing."

Prayer can be good for its placebo effect when believers feel they are doing something constructive, which might...

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An Atheist's Favorite National Day of Prayer

(13) Comments | Posted May 9, 2014 | 2:55 PM

In 1952, Congress established the National Day of Prayer. It has been observed on every first Thursday in May since 1988, but this year's day of prayer celebration was my favorite--by default. It was the first I've attended, quite by accident.

Here's how that happened. On Thursday,...

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College of Charleston Times, They Are a-Changin'

(4) Comments | Posted May 2, 2014 | 5:57 PM

I moved to South Carolina in 1976 to be a math professor at the College of Charleston, a school founded in 1770 that had been receiving modest publicity for its steadily improving liberal arts program. However, it became even better known in 1998 when the College's then-president Alex Sanders jokingly...

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A Few Kind Words for Satan

(10) Comments | Posted March 12, 2014 | 3:09 PM

As an atheist, I'm often asked if I believe in Satan because "I have to believe in something." I point out that I don't believe in the existence of any supernatural forces, including Yahweh, Satan, angels or devils. But I can make theological and strategic cases for embracing the mythical...

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In Defense of Snake Handlers

(23) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 12:03 PM

Before we get to the snakes, what do we mean by religious freedom? I think it means that individuals can practice, promote, and proselytize for their religion, but that government cannot favor one religion over another, or religion over non-religion. If government exempts an action from law because of a...

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Groundhog Day and Darwin Day: My Favorite Holidays

(2) Comments | Posted February 17, 2014 | 5:14 PM

Several years ago, the math department at the College of Charleston, where I was a professor, hired a new administrative specialist in January. On February 2, Groundhog Day, I excitedly told her that Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow, which meant six more weeks of winter. When she laughed, I...

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Science Versus Bible: To Debate or Not to Debate?

(420) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 1:49 PM

The atheist community is deeply divided about religious fundamentalism and creationism, but not about whether such preposterous claims have any validity. They disagree on whether scientists should debate fundamentalists about the "science" of the Bible. I think both sides have reasonable arguments in the debate on whether to debate.


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War, Mathematics and God

(73) Comments | Posted January 29, 2014 | 5:10 PM

I've been actively engaged in two wars in my life, but I don't receive or deserve veterans' benefits. My most recent service occurred during the manufactured war by Fox News, the "War on Christmas." Yes, I plead guilty to wishing people "Happy Holidays" around winter solstice time, and I have...

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Mixing Religion and Politics

(40) Comments | Posted March 9, 2012 | 7:10 AM

It seems a bit odd that a Mormon and two Catholics are the leading presidential candidates in a Republican party dominated by Protestant evangelicals. Unfortunately, this is not a sign of the religious diversity espoused by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960, when he assured Protestant ministers in Houston...

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South Carolina Primary Humor, Intentional and Unintentional

(10) Comments | Posted January 22, 2012 | 8:25 PM

For me the highlight of the South Carolina primary campaign was hearing Stephen Colbert speak to an overflow crowd on my College of Charleston campus. I think he is the most honest "politician" of the primary season, and he spoke both eloquently and humorously about what should be a critical...

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