An Interview with Damon Fowler and his Brother Jerrett

It’s been about a week since Damon Fowler‘s prayer-laced high school graduation ceremony. Since then, he’s been the victim of a lot of community backlash — it almost seemed like Damon was the only person willing to take a stand for church/state separation at Bastrop High School in Louisiana.

You all contributed over $15,000 toward a scholarship to help Damon out. Even after several days, I can’t get over that fact when I look at the number. Thank you to everyone who contributed. If you’d still like to chip in, you can do so until the end of the month:

You can also make a donation on behalf of Damon to the ACLU of Louisiana and FFRF.

A lot of readers have been curious about how Damon is doing. I sent along your questions to Damon and his brother Jerrett, and they were nice enough to offer responses:

What was Damon’s motivation for emailing his principal about the prayer?

Damon: I felt as thought it was a direct violation of the First Amendment, aside from being blatantly disrespectful of other religious views. A prayer at graduation to one specific god does nothing but separate the class into religious groups, anyway. The class of 2011 can’t unite under one specific view if they don’t all carry that view.

What’s the current living situation with Damon? What are his plans for the coming months and the next school year?

Jerrett: Damon is currently living with my sister, Heather. She’s in a 1-bedroom apartment in the Dallas area. This summer, I will be helping him register for classes, getting him a cheap car (because you just can’t live without a car here in Dallas), getting all his important documents from Louisiana, and, of course, we are looking into our legal options against Morehouse Parish.

As far as school is concerned, I will be setting him up with Dallas Community College to get some of his pre-reqs out of the way and helping him possibly get signed up for the University of North Texas in the Spring. This would all depend on what he actually wants to do with his life. I’m a firm believer that he shouldn’t go to a 4-year school without knowing exactly what he wants to do.

What are Damon’s college ambitions?

Damon: I’ve been looking into a few different things, but I can’t say with 100% certainty. I do plan on going to college soon, though.

Jerrett: Damon has mentioned to me that he wants to be a game programmer, but at this point I think it’s most important to focus on the core credits until he figures things out 100%.

While all this controversy was going on, did Damon have any student or teacher support at his high school (even in private, if not in public)?

Damon: I did. Though they didn’t agree with me, a couple teachers did show that they were proud of me for standing up for what I think is right.

Not to get into family gossip, but why were your parents mad about this particular incident? Was that out of nowhere? Was it building up from other things? Have they always been very religious?

Jerrett: My parents can be a little unpredictable about things. I heard rumors that they fully blame me for everything that my brother did in the last several months, from admitting that he’s an atheist to the school prayer incident.

It probably has a lot to do with the email I sent my mother when I was 23, after I left home to go to school the Dallas area. She kept trying to rule my life, asking me if I found a church in Texas. I finally got tired of it and told her, in a lengthy email, that I am agnostic and there is no way I’ll ever go back to Christianity. She tells me that I’ve gotten too smart and that because of that I have turned my back on God. Apparently, to her, there is a such thing as “thinking too much.” I think out of a reaction to what I did to her years ago, she’s lashing out at Damon. It just gives her an excuse to hate, to cut people off. It’s sad, but I can’t really do anything about it. All I can do is move on with my life. If she wants to be part of it she’s got to do a lot of apologizing, not only to me, but to my brother and sister as well.

Do you think reconciliation with your parents is possible?

Damon: I can’t say. It doesn’t seem likely at this time. Maybe in the future.

Jerrett: She needs to do a lot of make-up work if she wants to be in my life again.

Has Damon considered starting an atheist group at his college?

Jerrett: Both of the colleges that Damon wants to attend have secular groups already.

How can all of us help?

Damon: Really, any support is great. I never asked for much. When I posted that Reddit article, I was only looking for a little motivation and support because I knew I wouldn’t get any locally. I’ve gotten more than that and I’m very grateful for it. I thank all who have given their support, even if it was just a few seconds out of their time to tell me that they’re behind me on this.

Jerrett: My biggest fear is that, since this is the Internet, people will find other places to focus their attention. This is going to be a long and drawn out battle and there is little we can do to make it go faster.

The support so far is amazing, more than I could have ever imagined, however, I hope that the support doesn’t go away. We need the community behind us so that we have the strength to follow this through. This isn’t just for us, this is for everyone out there as well. Anyone who’s hurting, marginalized, ignored because of their lack of religion or religious preference. My dream is to see this through and to have full support all the way.

Is there any thing you both would like to say to readers that hasn’t been said already?

Damon: I would like to say that I will continue the fight. I’m not backing down, and I will continue to stand for Constitutional rights as long as they’re violated. They’re there for a reason.

Jerrett: I would just like to reiterate that we really need the community to support us. This is a long battle and it’s not going to be easy. Please don’t be “Internet forgetful” about this. People are marginalized every day and we have to fight so that future generations can feel more free than us.

For anyone interested, after a conversation with Jerrett about what to do with the donation money, we’ve decided that I will send him the money straight-up and they will figure out the best way to make use of it. Since Damon’s college plans aren’t solidified yet, and the tuition wouldn’t go to just one school, this plan works for all of us.

I’ll provide proof that this transaction took place as soon as I can. Jerrett told me he will provide updates about the money on the Support Damon Facebook page.

  • Larry Meredith

    She [Jarret and Damon's mom] tells me that I’ve gotten too smart and that because of that I have turned my back on God.

    I didn’t think I’d see the day that a Christian would admit that intelligence directly effects a person’s faith.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    That’s a lot of money to give a young man with no well defined plans. Wouldn’t some kind of trust fund be better?

  • echidna

    That’s a lot of money to give a young man with no well defined plans. Wouldn’t some kind of trust fund be better?

    As I see it, Damon will have setup costs, the car, and living expenses before he even sees college. I don’t think he’ll be silly enough to blow it.

  • http://cycleamerica2009.blogspot.com/ Don Saito

    Hey Damon – your story was posted on AlterNet, which means *thousands* of people will see it. I don’t usually donate $$ to causes, but I have a good deal of empathy for your situation, and sent you $150. Good luck to you in your future endeavors. You’re an exceptional young man, and I have no doubt you will succeed in whatever you choose to do. Oh, and ‘thanks’ to Greta Christina, who put your story on AlterNet.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’ve always understood that being 18 means you’re an adult – a second class citizen – but still an adult.

  • http://fofdallas.org Zachary Moore

    The Fowler sibling are living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex? If they haven’t already, they might try joining one of the many local secular organizations represented by the DFW Coalition of Reason (dfwcor.org). Rough situations are made easier when you have a social support system to rely on.

    -Z

  • JoeBuddha

    I didn’t think I’d see the day that a Christian would admit that intelligence directly effects a person’s faith.
    Back in my “debating” days, I did have a Christian imply that intelligence might be a bad thing. When I asked him if that meant you had to be stupid to be a Christian, he said yes. Needless to say, since we found a point of agreement, that was the end of the debate.

  • Wendy

    I’ll ditto Zachary. There are pretty good secular support groups here. I know he’s probably overwhelmed with the offers of help, but Hemant if he needs anything let me know. I’m not in Dallas proper but about 45 minutes north and would love to help.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    She tells me that I’ve gotten too smart and that because of that I have turned my back on God. Apparently, to her, there is a such thing as “thinking too much.”

    “Reason is the enemy of faith – Martin Luther

    The “Original Sin” was of course, eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Think of what that really says about how god wants to relate with man.
    And the only way you can really know god is through “Faith” in unseen & unproven things. (Actually, you are supposed to have faith in other men (prophets, priests & parsons) who claim to have had god’s purpose revealed to them.)
    Oh, yes, Christians openly admit that intelligence (when used to think) directly effects a person’s faith.

  • Erin

    Hemant, I don’t know what you’re doing to provide “proof” that the money is transferred, but I live in the Dallas area currently and am totally capable of driving to them to take a picture (of say a check being handed over) or whatever you like. Email me if interested.

  • http://www.4molnars.com Amanda

    I’m proud of both Damon and Jerrett. My Atheist community is trying to keep track of this and offer help where needed. I’m sure Hemant will keep all of us informed!

  • Gibbon

    Having just skimmed through hemant’s previous posts on this suject, and also watching the video, I’m hoping that if Damon Fowler’s case does reach a court of law that it will be dismissed on summary judgement.

    Hypatia

    The “Original Sin” was of course, eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Think of what that really says about how god wants to relate with man.

    Or perhaps instead one could read Genesis 2 & 3 to learn the full name of the tree that Adam and Eve ate from, and the nature of the crime they committed.

    Your name is deceptive. Hypatia was a well educated woman, but you can’t even get correct the name of the tree that was central to the Genesis story.

  • Wendy

    uh wha?

    Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

  • Tom

    “That’s a lot of money to give a young man with no well defined plans. Wouldn’t some kind of trust fund be better?”

    I hope it goes to pay for college. If it doesn’t there will be angry people.

  • Gibbon

    Wendy, note the words in bold:

    “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

    Take note, it says “knowledge of good and evil”.

    Why do atheists deceive by truncating the name of the tree?

  • Wendy

    Why? Who knows? It’s shorter, it doesn’t really make a difference?

    I grew up evangelical christian and it was ALWAYS called the tree of knowledge. So ja it’s not just atheists that call it that.

    What’s the point of you pointing this out?

  • Nodscene

    As someone who donated money to this I can say I would not be upset if he doesn’t spend it solely on tuition or tuition at all. I also think it’s kind of rude to donate money to someone who obviously needs financial help in all areas (disowned after all) and then put limitations on how he can spend it. The last thing these young men need are more people trying to control their lives.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    I’ll agree with Wendy, even as an evangelical Christian it was pretty frequently called the “Tree of Knowledge.” That truncation isn’t an atheist deception, it’s a pretty common abbreviation.

    A little poking around the internet also brought me to a suggestion that the tree of knowledge of good and evil may have been a turn of phrase, like “searching high and low,” that effectively meant a tree of all knowledge. Plus, the second ‘of’ is actually a poor translation, and thus it is better translated from Hebrew as “tree of knowledge, good and evil.”

    Anyway, even if we stick with “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” it really doesn’t change the argument. Hypatia’s Daughter pointed out that God didn’t want humans to gain knowledge by eating from the tree, and whether that was knowledge in general or a specific subset of knowledge isn’t really relevant to the point being made.

  • Wendy

    Snuggly Buffalo said what I would have said if I had more caffiene in my system

    /plus any excuse to say Snuggly Buffalo

  • Julie

    Thanks! Regarding the money raised / trust fund idea: I donated and don’t mind how the money is spent (within reason) by Damon.
    His parents have cut him off both emotionally and financially and I wanted to help him get started with his new life. The way that he has acted in the last few weeks gives me hope that it won’t all go to hookers and blow ;)

  • Steve

    It also wasn’t literally about knowing “good or evil”. When they ate from the tree they became aware of their nakedness, not about bad things in the world. Though of course for Christians ‘naked = bad’. Anyways, it’s still god keeping people in ignorance and not letting them make their own decisions.

  • Meldroc

    Of course, the whole discussion of the story of Adam and Eve and the magic tree and the talking snake always forgets one question.

    If God didn’t want Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge (of whatever), why did He put it in the Garden?

    “You’re free to eat of anything you want, but don’t eat of the shiny, candy-like tree I put in a central location so you can easily reach it. I wouldn’t want you to succumb to temptation!”

    Or as Bill Hicks put it… “Does that bother anybody else, the idea that God might be F***ING WITH OUR HEADS?”

    To paraphrase Hicks, it’s some prankster god saying “Oh-ho-ho-ho!!! Let’s see how long they can resist eating from the Tree! Oh-ho-ho-ho! I’m a prankster God! I am killing Me!”

  • truthspeaker

    Punishing humans for wanting knowledge of good and evil is just as vile as punishing them for wanting knowledge in general. Using the full (English translation) name of the tree does not make Christianity look any better.

  • polyglot

    As always, it depends which translation you use:

    But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. –Amplified Bible

    “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, 17except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!” –Contemporary English Version

    but you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. –New Century Version

    except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad.–Good News Translation

    mas del árbol de la ciencia del bien y del mal no comerás; –Reina-Valera 1960

    en af skilningstrénu góðs og ills mátt þú ekki eta, því að jafnskjótt og þú etur af því, skalt þú vissulega deyja.” –Icelandic Bible

    well, you get the idea

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-Damon/103714833051042 Jerrett Fowler

    Hey guys,

    Those worried about the use of the money have nothing to worry about. I am managing the fund for my brother and any time we spend money it will be reported on the facebook page so that doners can see where their money is going. This won’t be pissed away on electronics, video games, and booze. It will be strictly used for living expenses and school.

    Jerrett

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    $15k is a lot of money. Just to protect everyone involved please check the relevant tax and gift laws so you don’t fall foul of anything.

    Gibbon

    Or perhaps instead one could read Genesis 2 & 3 to learn the full name of the tree that Adam and Eve ate from, and the nature of the crime they committed.

    Who cares if the tree’s name was the tree of life or Toby the Snake Tree? It’s a myth anyway. Only a real pedant will call you out for getting the name of the world ash wrong in Norse myth so why quibble about the Genesis myth? We all know what she meant.

    Genesis 2:9 says that there were two magic trees anyway but Adam only got to scrump the knowledge one rather than the immortality one.

  • Pam Townsend

    “I’ve gotten too smart and that because of that I have turned my back on God.”
    Wow. Yeah, that struck me too. Maybe if she says it out loud enough times the gravity of that statement will sink in.
    If my kids came home Baptist I wouldn’t turn my back on them. Ever.

  • Jackie

    “I hope it goes to pay for college. If it doesn’t there will be angry people”

    Well, I won’t be one of them. I don’t care HOW Damon spends the money. I gave with no conditions attached.
    College is NOT for everyone.
    I have four children. All successful in their chosen professions. One son earns over $100,000 a year, so it is possible :)
    My only hope for Damon is that he finds happiness and support. You know what Damon? Take some of that money and buy something totally frivolous, you deserve it!

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: @Meldroc: “If God didn’t want Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge (of whatever), why did He put it in the Garden?”

    Good question. Assuming A&E were immortal — or at least, extremely-long-lived — before eating the fruit (which a lot of folks in the JCI tradition claim), then it was inevitable, with continuous exposure to that tree over a long period of time, that one or the other of them would, eventually, break down and eat from it.

    It can’t logically have been anything other than a set-up. God must have intended for them to eat from the tree, sometime.

  • Wendy

    Toby the Snake Tree.

    Best thing I’ve heard today. I’m SO calling it that from now on.

    Damon’s got a LOT of start up expenses. Car (cannot NOT have one in Texas), insurance, rent etc.

  • cbc

    I agree with Jackie. As a student, I have taken out more in loans than I like to think about, and a huge chunk has been living expenses. And what if he doesn’t like college? A less crazy set of parents, if able, would have likely offered him more financial support regardless of his path.

    I’m also happy to hear that his brother sounds very sensible and able to guide Damon. (I’m all for getting cheap intro credits at a community college!)

  • http://amillionwordstogo.blogspot.com aynsavoy

    Jerrett: Damon has mentioned to me that he wants to be a game programmer, but at this point I think it’s most important to focus on the core credits until he figures things out 100%.

    As the wife of a game developer, let me say that even if Damon decides he definitely wants to pursue game programming, don’t go in for one of those schools/programs that focuses specifically on game development. Go to a good school with a strong computer science program; learn about the platforms that are used for the games you like and try them out; and keep playing games.

  • http://happyatheists.com Slickninja

    I donated $4 to the kid. Its hard to say what he’ll do with it, to be honest I wasn’t even sure what I was donating to since the kid doesn’t have defined plans, but I figured I had $4 of empathy.

  • laura

    Jarret,

    We will not “internet forget” but it goes both ways. With all the money we have sent your brother, we do expect to hear from him too. He is visible now as well, and with these donations, I believe there will be some “accountability” and expectations. Damon, this is your opportunity to shine in the world and become the best you can be!

    Laura

  • Michelle

    Not exactly the main topic, but I’m in total agreement with Jerrett’s opinion for cheap intro credits! I’m at a state funded school now and it’s tuition now costs more than the equally as good private school I debated going to. That $15,000 would be gone in less than a year and for someone supporting themselves that’s near impossible to live off of.

    Good luck to the Fowlers! Thank you for taking a stand. I’m sorry this issue hit your family so hard.

  • Chris

    Doooo eeettt! Go for video game programming! That’s what I’m going to school for, although I would suggest, as an alternative, going for Computer Programming as a major with either a focus or a minor in 3D graphics or anything else they offer that would help with video game programming. A Computer Science degree is much more flexible than (specifically) a video game programming degree if they offer that degree at whatever school he decided to go to.

  • Annie

    As a contributor to the fund, I too do not care how the money is spent. Getting an A.A. from a community college is a nice and relatively cheap way to get a chunk of credits out of the way (and to give yourself time to explore future options).

    As for the tree of knowledge discussion, I want to share one of my favorite quotes:

    “We must question the story logic of an all-knowing all-powerful god, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.” -Gene Roddenberry

  • Min

    As a guy with a comp sci degree who has a side job teaching classes in a game development program at a local college, I’d highly recommend instead majoring in computer science and learning about game development in specific in your spare time. Game programming is a very competitive field, and if you can’t find a decent job in that field, your odds of getting a good job outside of it decrease drastically if you have such a specialized degree.

  • Scott D

    When I give money to someone as I just did to Mr. Fowler, I give it unconditionally. If he chooses to use it for college that’s great and if he needs a car that’s perfectly fine.

    He’s one brave kid and I wish him well.

  • Rich Wilson

    You can also make a donation on behalf of Damon to the ACLU of Louisiana and FFRF.

    or Americans United

  • Gabriel

    And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. Genesis 3:22-23 NIV

    I have always read these two verses as an admission by god that he feared man. That has always been original sin. The crime that was commited was learning and becoming like god. To this day people who learn are feared by the ignorant.

    Since these would have been based on the other bronze aged gods that were familiar to the tribes that eventually became the Jewish people they would have been a more flawed set of gods. Reading the early chapters of the bible gives the impression that god didn’t claim to be alone just the supreme god.

    • gsw

       Just as the imams suppress the fact that al’Lah was one of over 300 gods – he even had a sister al’Lat.
      Patriarchal religions hate goddesses.  

  • jenea

    A message for Jerrett:

    First off, a big fat “good on you” for stepping up for your brother. As much as I am disgusted by your parents’ behavior right now, they have to have done something right to raise such awesome sons.

    I think it’s great that you are helping Damon focus on what comes next after college as a means to focus those energies productively, but it is asking a lot for an 18-year-old to “know 100%” what they want to do with their lives. I would echo what other people here have said: getting a well-rounded (if highly marketable) education will give him options when he’s done. Remember that for many young people, college is a means to help figure out what you’re passionate about and what comes next. Obviously his situation is such that being focused is important, but a little wriggle room is healthy.

    And a message for Damon:

    You’re totally my hero. Also, the video game industry can be brutal. Look for every opportunity to get involved NOW even while you’re still in school, even if that means fetching coffee for developers, or even if it’s just an informational interview. Expect to put in long hours.

    We’re all pulling for you guys!

  • Margy

    What Wendy, Annie, and jenea said.

    I also contributed to the fund, and I don’t much care how the money is spent. It sounds like Jerrett has a ton of common sense and is okay with assuming a parental role. I’m sure he will oversee the fund wisely. (And being from Dallas, I can vouch for the fact that a car is essential there.)

    As a couple who never had kids, my husband and I are stunned than anyone would disown their own children. Jerrett and Damon sound like very intelligent, reasonable, mature people to me, and I’d bet that their sister, Heather, is the same way. What kind of parents are not proud of kids like these?

  • Rich Wilson

    Also, the video game industry can be brutal. Look for every opportunity to get involved NOW even while you’re still in school, even if that means fetching coffee for developers, or even if it’s just an informational interview.

    I’m not in the industry, but the best advice I got from a game programming class I took for fun was: “write something, mod something, do something” If you don’t have anything tangible to show your resume will get tossed. But if you can show them a level mod you’ve done, or a game engine you’ve written, or some demos using OpenGL or ActiveX or ANYthing, you’ll be off on the right foot. Try http://nehe.gamedev.net/

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    ATTENTION DAMON & FAMILY

    sorry to shout, i just want to make sure you see this. money is tight for me right now, *but*

    i am a college admissions counselor with over a decade of experience in “top 20″ college admissions counseling. i’ll advise and help you with scholarships, college choice, programs, etc., for free. drop me a line. hemant has my real email; i give him permission to give it to you. (the gmail, Hemant) i’ve gotten kids into and funded them for really special and selective programs like at famous ivies and of course the school i used to work for, the UChicago. home of many proud, loud atheists.

  • http://chronosynclasticinfundibulum.wordpress.com/ Salo

    I wish the Fowler’s the best of luck. Like the other who donated and commented, I want you guys to use the money in whatever manner you think is best. I grew up in the DFW area, and I know a lot of people who went to DCC, NCTC, etc for their pre-reqs before moving on to UNT and said that it was a great decision.

  • Baconsbud

    I wish there was a way to help others who have had similar problem but the press never got a hold of it. A charity which helps young atheist who have been thrown out or forced into a new location because they don’t sit down and shut up like good christians do when they see a wrong.

  • Gibbon

    So judging by all the responses, am I to take it that you all believe that coming into the possession of the knowledge of good and evil would not change anything? The fact that the Bible describes Adam and Eve as passing judgement on their nudity only after eating from the Tree suggests to me at least, that regardless of whether it conferred knowledge of everything or just of good and evil, the real problem in the eyes of God was that Adam and Eve had become capable of and had started to pass judgement on what was right and wrong.

    It almost seems like God would have preferred it that humans had remained amoral animals that had no concept of good and evil/right and wrong. Wouldn’t we have been just that if we had no knowledge of what was right and wrong?

    Considering that the whole story basically forms the foundations of the Christian moral theory, it would seem to me that the origins of morality is the message that it is trying to convey. It does not matter if the myth is factually true or not, because the truly important aspect is the message; the moral of the story.

  • Heather

    I’m not an Atheist, but I was seething after I read the article on alternet this afternoon. The mob mentality down there was shocking. I donated $200…not concerned about how its spent. I was really thinking that $20K is not nearly enough for a college kid thats been disowned by his parents.

  • mike

    The First Amendment prevents Congress from passing any law for, against, or trying to prohit the practice of religion. Please stop taking it out of context to prohibit people from praying in public places. This amendment was made so that no one could stop the practice of religioun anywhere or at any time…especially the government.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • Daniel Schealler

    @Gibbon

    One of the interesting parts of that story that was only pointed out to me recently is that although Adam and Eve are cursed because they ate the fruit of knowledge, they were only cast out to prevent them from eating of the tree of life.

    I wasn’t aware of that dichotomy until it was recently pointed out to me… And it twists the meaning of the story in an interesting way (to me).

    Relevant passage is Genesis 3:22.

    Keep in mind everyone that I’m an atheist and am looking at the Bible in a literary sense.

  • echidna

    Gibbon:

    …am I to take it that you all believe that coming into the possession of the knowledge of good and evil would not change anything?

    Acquisition of knowledge changes how we view the world. None of us are saying otherwise. We are saying that the bible makes it quite clear that, for the sake of religion, it is better to be ignorant.

    It does not matter if the myth is factually true or not, because the truly important aspect is the message; the moral of the story.

    The moral of the story is that the desire for knowledge leads to loss and despair, because the gods (not just El) wish to keep humans ignorant and servile.

    We reject the moral as well as the myth.

  • Adam

    Hihi

    I’m a little perturbed that his money is being ‘managed’ by his brother, if he’s old enough to take on a school (and indeed an entire town), he’s old enough to use the money we gave /him/ without a leash.

    Donations are exactly that, donations, with no strings attached. I think he’s likely had enough of people attempting to control his life!

    • Georgina

       
      I have not seen his exact age mentioned – if he is not quite 18 yet – his parents could get hold of the cash – maybe as a lever to get him to recant!

  • Larry Meredith

    judging from the comments on here, nobody would be upset if the scholarship were to pay for a 50′ HD plasma and a lazyboy with cupholders.

  • Sarah

    Jerrett,
    You, Damon, and your sister Heather are such an inspiration. It’s amazing how well you and your sister are taking care of your brother through all the crap he’s had to deal with. The fact that Damon not only has the support of a large internet community but people so close to him is awesome. I’ve been following this story every day since I first heard about it and there’s no way I’ll forget about you guys. I wish all of you the best.

  • anAtheist

    why oh why did you have to title it a scholarship, what good can come from trickery. Honesty is the best policy. This really sucks bid time.

  • Audrey Le Fleur

    @Larry Meredith-
    I doubt this young man would be so foolish. He’s shown remarkable maturity and resilience.

    @Adam
    Sometimes having guidance when you are starting out for yourself in the world is helpful. Jerrett seems nothing if not concerned for Damon’s welfare. He (and their sister) are clearly looking out for his best interest. I have no doubt Damon’s needs will be met.

  • echidna

    Jerret,

    Adam, it could be wise to keep the money at arms length for the sake of safety, so that no-one can force money out of Damon, who may be a little vulnerable at first.

    I trust Jerret recognizes that this money is intended to get Damon on his feet, including a little spending money.

  • Adam

    Hihi

    Ahh, I didn’t really think of that, I suppose he is still quite young and guidance from people who genuinely have his best interests at heart can be no bad thing.

    Went through something similar when I was 18 (although nearly 20 years ago now and I didn’t have an entire town gunning for me so it’s not that comparable, similar parents though who were more concerned about what people (mostly church people) thought of them than actually parenting)

    I know (from personal experience) it’s all too easy to move from one controlling situation to another but I could have phrased the above somewhat better, certainly wasn’t trying to imply his brother was out for himself or anything.

  • ButchKitties

    Please stop taking it out of context to prohibit people from praying in public places

    If you’d stop taking our words out of context, you’d realize that nobody here is trying to prevent anyone from praying in public. We are only trying to stop people from violating the Establishment Clause. Public school graduations are paid for with tax money. Opening a tax-payer funded event with a prayer amounts to using MY money to pay for YOUR religious expression. It also excludes people from a public activity on the basis of religion. It sends the message: This graduation ceremony is only for Christians.

  • echidna

    butchkitties,
    The establishment clause protects your rights too. Imagine if the school was led in a Hail Mary, a Buddhist prayer or a declaration that there is no god. Everyone should be protected from a religion they don’t subscribe to in a setting that is under government auspices.

  • William K

    Kudos to Damon for standing up for principle and defending the U.S. Constitution. You sir are a true American.

    I applaud Jerrett for doing the right thing and proving that blood indeed is thicker than water. You and your sister stood up for your brother when no one else would.

    As for your parents, much shame be upon them, they broke a sacred trust between parent and child.

    I am also proud of the atheist and freethought community for standing by Damon by giving him the moral and financial support needed in Damon’s time of need.

    To throw in my two cents worth in regards to the discussion of the Garden of Eden myth, as a person interested in ancient Middle Eastern cultures and history I am familiar with the Sumerian origins of the myths found in Genesis: Shinar is the Hebrew word for Sumer; edin is the Sumerian word for “uncultivated plot of land”; the goddess Ninmah, under the instruction of the god Enki and with the aid of Nanshe, creates man out of clay; Tagtug, another name for Ziusudra (Noah) is deified after the flood and becomes a gardner. He is commanded by Enki to eat of every tree of the garden except for the cassia tree. Tagtug disobeys and eats of the cassia fruit. Enki punished Tagtug by removing his immortality by allowing him to succumb to sickness, thus ending the longevity of the prediluvian kings. The name of the goddess Ninti means “lady of the rib”

    There are a few more, but this post is long enough already.

    Again, many thanks to the Fowler siblings.

  • MercuryChaos

    helping him possibly get signed up for the University of North Texas in the Spring.

    FYI, there’s a pretty awesome atheist group at UNT: .

  • Audrey Le Fleur

    And speaking of the donated funds, why not buy the kid a new gaming console, since his (which he paid for himself if I’m not mistaken) was lost due to the ignorant actions of his mother. And maybe a summer trip (next year) backpacking through Europe? I know the exchange rate sucks, but would be a good experience for this young man. Maybe some of his European supporters can offer him a couch and a tour of their respective cities?

  • FreeAndUnFreeSpeech

    Yet Another Comment about the Damon fund. I’ve been following the story almost since day 1. I think Jerret has the right idea, and I don’t think many donors would disagree with this; clarity on where the money goes is all that most donors would want.

    But don’t forget about the folks on the other side of this argument. Clarity is good, but also means that for every dollar spent on non-tuition expenses, no matter how necessary, there’s going to be a spate of “Ha ha! Look at what he spent the money on! He suckered the donors!” comments.

    You can (and should) ignore them, but out of self-defense you might want to collect any comments you can find like “I just donated X and I think he should spend it on whatever he likes.”. Might lead to better answers for the expected media questions about the money.

    (fair disclosure: not a donor, but I would be one if I wasn’t temporarily lacking an easy way to donate in time for the deadline..)

  • Larry Meredith

    @Audrey Le Fleur

    some people sure are being encouraging of that though.

    Jackie:

    Take some of that money and buy something totally frivolous, you deserve it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mthecheese Michael

    I fully support Damon. I’m an atheist in the Dallas area and attend one of the community colleges here. If you ever need any help, I’ll be happy to do what I can. Good on you for sticking up for what’s right.

  • Jalitha

    Two things: please set up a way to donate on the page that you’ll be using to share Damon’s progress. I won’t be the only one who finds out about this too late to make the “end of month” deadline.

    Also the thing that always struck me about the Genesis story is that god blatently lies to Adam and Eve. He told them they would die, knowing full well that they would not. (And please don’t feed me any lines about “spiritual death” or “become mortal”. He quite clearly says they will die that day.)

    It was the serpent, who was supposed to be Satan, the “Father of Lies”, who told them the truth.

    This struck me even as a small child, growing up in a very Evangelical Christian home. But I learned to keep my mouth shut. It hurts to be beaten.

    • Georgina

       What cured me was learning that Satan’s real name was Lucifer – Bringer of Light (i.e. knowledge), and that in some cultures he was Prometheus (bringer of fire, knowledge).

      The Father-God priests made all the nice, people & knowledge loving gods into devils – because intelligent people tend to ask serious questions the shamans cannot answer.  

      Just ask Galileo.

  • john

    WOW. I come from a country where it is a criminal offense to blaspheme. Being an Atheist, it means I am a criminal by default (it is considered blasphemy to say that god does not exist), but even in this backwater excuse for a country (no not Iran… Ireland), no judge would actually punish you for being Atheist and saying so and they would have to answer to the big EU lawmakers if they did. Jeez makes me really not want to visit USA, and I’m not just doing the America bash that’s so popular these days, some of my heroes are/were Anerican (Jimi Hendrix, Mark Twain, William Burroughs to name a few). It just freaks me out. Seriously, I wouldn’t feel safe from the christians. Anyway. I’ve donated a few bucks.
    Here’s a quote from another of my heroes;-
    “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything”
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Jeff

    Go Damon! (and Jerrett!) Behind you 100%

    It’s people like you, people with courage, like MLK Jr, who change things.

  • Cory Bates

    Hey Damon, I donated, and I totally understand that life in America is expensive whether you’re going to college or not, I’m just glad you got that 15k, it should relieve a little of the stress of moving and getting your life started in a new city. I hope you feel the support and empathy you’re getting from everyone here and remember it; when times are tough for you, just think about all of these people who believe in you and stand behind your bravery and integrity. Best of Luck man.

  • Cory Bates

    Wait now it says 31,095. Did someone match the donations, or did someone just give a ton of money?

  • Lucille

    I am so glad that Damon stood up for what he believed in. Coming from a part of the Bible Belt myself, in school, I stopped saying the pledge of allegiance every day, because I was sick of saying “Under God,” and after a while, not only did people notice, but some gave funny looks.

    What happened at Damon’s high school is along those lines, and in my opinion, does reflect the growing presence of Christianity in government and schools. It is still disconcerting to a great amount of people if someone says they are an atheist in my area – but I cannot imagine the hardship Damon had to go through.

    While it is too late to give anything anymore, I hope he knows that he is not alone out there, even if the people who are most supposed to understand him have apparently abandoned him. Do not forget that – eventually your parents will need you, and when that time comes, leave them to their god for help. Stay safe out there!

  • Mike

    It appears that Jerrett is making the decisions and is asking for the money. He is determining what classes he is going to take, he is handling the car he is going to get etc. He did graduate from High School and is 18 correct?

  • http://www.reddit.com Arthur

    North Louisianans don’t speak for all Christians, as we’re taught to love even our enemies. Keep in mind that we’re not all mean people, and some of us have regular lives and cherish atheist or agnostic friends, while still doing our best to follow the Christian God. School prayer does go against constitutional rights, and it shouldn’t be the school’s responsibility to make sure the “Christian” students get their prayers in for the day. To each their own, and while this is obviously a poor case, it’s tough for any government, local or federal, to accommodate the beliefs of everybody. Even retribution is limited.

    • Georgina

       Maybe, since you are a christian, you could get your church community and pastor to inform the school of this?
      Possibly – as christians – you could inform those involved that they are ‘misunderstanding the message of Jesus’?

      You see, like all those muslims that claim that Muhammed was actually a soft-centred emancipationist but who refuse to denounce the terrorist organisations, just saying “this is not a christian deed” doesn’t help much.

      Deeds speak louder than words. 

  • Atheist Zombie

    Oh no, you can’t be serious about giving Damon all that money!
    He’ll probably spend it on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes, you know how evil and irresponsible atheists are.

    Good luck Damon, keep up the fight, I hope you have a wonderful future and may it always be gods free.

    Zeus Bless Us All

  • Ann

    First I love that your mom admits that you’re too smart for God. Second I want to tell you how sorry I am that you had to grow up in such a place. I’m sure there’s lots of people that I went to school with that would have loved to have prayer in school but that would never happen because there would have been so many more people ready to fight it. I guess I got lucky. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone and that intelligence is slowly spreading.

  • http://www.harvardhumanist.org Jonathan Figdor

    My girlfriend lives in Dallas, Tx, so if you all want an interview with him from a Friendly Atheist friend/reader, I’d love to do one.

    JPF

  • http://twitter.com/thenichm Nich Miller

    How did I miss this!?! I’m in Crossett; I’m literally 25 minutes from Bastrop. I was there today, in fact. What the heck?! I wish I had known this was all going down in time to help out. We bible-belt Atheists have to stick together. I was lucky enough to graduate with a class (2010) that wasn’t too preachy. 

  • Anonymous

    Damon is a hero. Continue the fight!

  • Valdir

    First sorry by my english.
    I live in Brazil  and I am an atheist too. If I was he, I would invite his brother to open an English school in Brazil. The other think I may say is that everything here go on samba. If he asked  not for praying, they laugh a lot, but they praied the some way but nothing like that was going to happen. There are beautifull girls, good beaches, good clime,  good universities but his portuguese should be good to go in.
    valdirbar@gmail.com


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