Review of a speech given by Margaret

In 2000 Margaret gave a speech at FIG Leaves, the PDF contains an article about that speech.

Margaret Downey is a woman with a mission: she
wants to save our society from the TAR pits. Growing up
near the George C. Page Museum of La Brea, California,
she became fascinated with the ancient animals’ struggles
to escape the tar pits and wondered how she would have
fared in such a struggle. Later she came to see that all of
society is in a similar struggle with a different kind of TAR:
Tradition, Authority, and Revelation. They have much the
same effect as the other kind of tar, eventually smothering
their victim. She sees critical thinking as the only mode of
escape for all of us. 

Ms. Downey points out that traditions are so
embedded in society that their original purpose is frequently
lost to us. Much of the time we blindly follow along with
tradition without giving thought to their origins. From the
seemingly harmless traditions of the marriage ceremony
(the bride’s veil, the bridesmaids and groomsmen) to the
more manipulative traditions of religion, they all encourage
us to fall into line with society’s expectations without clearly
thinking things through. 

Ms. Downey supports same sex marriage. She
believes that marriage represents a way in which the
government unnecessarily intrudes into our private lives.
She encourages women to keep their maiden names rather
than risk losing their identities. And she strongly
encourages parents to plan ahead to avoid perpetuating
the widely accepted myths of society: Santa Claus, the
Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc. She may not have
been the most popular mother in her neighborhood, but she
was very proud of never having lied her children. She
never needed to convince them to trust her, because trust
was the very foundation of her relationship with her

Baptism was singled out as the very act of dipping a
child into the TAR pit of society. She finds it especially
unsettling that a 2 week old baby is placed through this
ceremony when there is obviously no freedom to choose on
his/her part. One highlight of the evening was an unbaptism
ceremony for anyone who wished to make his/her
previous experience null and void. In the tradition of the
“Association to Delete Baptism” formed in Rome, Italy, Ms.
Downey requested that her own name be stricken from the
Catholic Church Records. Those who chose to participate
were given a certificate after they answered affirmatively to
the following declarations: 

? ? Do you recognize that rationality and strength of human
reason is humanity’s best hope for solving problems
and providing the possibility of a peaceful future? 

? ? Do you accept the universe as a fully natural and
recognize it supplies no evidence of a supernatural
being or deity? 

? ? Do you deny the inherent sinful nature of mankind and
the personification of evil in the form of a devil or other being?
Critical thinking is the ROPE with which Ms. Downey
believes that you can rescue your child from the TAR pits.

Reason, Objectivity, Principles, and Evidence form the
ROPE. Objectivity prevents children from believing that a
single right answer exists to every single question. They
should not limit their knowledge by anyone’s restrictions.

She finds the much touted 10 Commandments especially
wanting as Principles with which children can face life’s
choices. And she thinks that if children ask questions,
demand proof, and pursue answers, they will find Evidence
to support their beliefs. This is in stark contrast to religious
parents that can only advise their children to “have faith”.

Ms. Downey points out that teaching your children to
think critically is “2 E Z”. You must set an Example, thus
tying the ROPE around yourself before throwing it to your
child. Your child not only needs the Education that schools
can provide but also “enriching life experiences.” And
parents and children must have a Zest for life, because this
is our one and only opportunity to live. 

Ms. Downey showed an episode of “The Dinosaurs”
called “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. It told the story of a
primitive dinosaur society of Pangia that was paralyzed with
worry about how and why they came to exist. The Council
called a meeting to assign blame to the child who
originated all the questioning about their existence. Rather
than discussing the problem and seeking an honest
answer, they called in the experts and chose the
explanation that the most “thick skulled simpleton” was
willing to accept: they originated from the “giant magic
flying potato”. Soon “The Great Book of Potato” was
written, holding all the answers to all of their questions, and
life had meaning again. Potatoism permeated all facets of
their lives, including the science class and especially the
government. Soon anyone who refused to follow potatoism
was ostracized and even sentenced to be burned at the
stake. When rain suddenly spoiled their planned execution,
they were forced to reconsider their reliance upon easy
answers to difficult questions. The show ended in the
beginnings of a free discussion of possible explanations to
the dinosaur’s existence.

Appropriate door prizes were handed out for those
who shared their family’s experiences avoiding the TAR
pits. Ms. Downey warned that ceremonial deism is the
most dangerous prejudice that we face. The Pledge of
Allegiance and the addition of “In God We Trust” to our
currency encourage our children to think that everyone
believes in God, and those who choose not to must
somehow be found wanting. After a break, there was a
brief question and answer period. The discussion turned to
funerals and legacies. People often ask Ms. Downey if she
doesn’t fear death without hope of an afterlife. She views
her deeds now as building an afterlife for herself. She lives
by her conscience rather than choosing the easy path.


Source, we were only able to find an email for this pdf, [email protected]