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August 1995

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought


American Atheists, Inc.

is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the
complete and absolute separation of
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tral figure, who alone must be the within himself - can and must cresource of strength, progress, and ate his own destiny. Materialism reideals for the well-being and happi- stores to man his dignity and his inness of humanity;
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American Atheists, Inc. P.O. Box 140195 Austin, TX 78714-0195
Telephone: (512)458-1244. FAX: (512)467-9525 E-mail: BBS: (512)302-0223

American Atheist
August 1995

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

Amerial Atlieist

Arline McCarthy

The President's Desk

Ellen Johnson

From the new President of American

A date turns into an argument over religionand starts a young woman on the path to


Perception of Farrakhan
. Conrad Goeringer

The beginning of this feature could not be

located in the materials left behind by the
Murray-O'Hair's. The last half is still worth .

Director's Briefcase
Jon G. Murray

"The Tasks before Atheist Activism" are out

lined by the president of American Atheists.

Fifteen Years a Playin'

Conrad Goeringer


The voice of Tucson's popular Dial-AnAtheist service looks back at an outreach

that gave a lifeline to Atheists "in the closet."

Jesus and All that Fake Stuff

Treena Thibodeau

Talking Back


The Christian right has proclaimed its sup

port for a smaller federal government. But
enforcement of its social agenda would
necessitate the opposite: an intrusive police

Masters of Atheism
Emma Goldman


The fiery advocate of anarchism, birth control,

and women's rights explains ''The Philosophy
of Atheism."

The Probing Mind

Frank R. Zindler


As blockades are put in the way of basic science research and education by religion and
superstition, it is appropriate to ask "Whence
and Whither Science?"

Historical Notes




American Atheist Radio Series

Madalyn O'Hair


Rewriting the Constitution was on the agenda

of some Christians even before the ink was
dry, as the story of "The U.S. Congress and
the religionists" recounts.

Letters to the Editor

Leaving the Faith


Readers give their reasons why school is "No

Place for Prayer."


A young Atheist shares something special

dlih her little sister: freedom from religious

Their Own Worst Enemies?

Conrad Goeringer


The real story behind the famous lawsuit challenging the reading of the Lord's Prayer in the
public schools goes beyond constitutional principles and to the heart of Atheism.

A look at Farrakhan's background and rise

to power.

Ask A.A.

The Matter of Prayer

Madalyn O'Hair



Special Issue
Austin, Texas

August 1995

Page 1

Alerican Atheist

Membership Application For

American Atheists, Inc.

R. Murray-O'Hair
Editor Emeritus
Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Managing Editor
Jon q. Murray
Non-Resident Staff
Conrad F.Goeringer
Merrill Holste
Frank R. Zindler
The American Atheist is published by American Atheist Press.
Copyright 1995 by American Atheist Press.
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material. A catalog is available for $1.00.
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August 1995

American Atheist




You have probably all seen the
"...we Atheists know there
aren't any guardian angels movie starring Jimmy Stewart as the
helping us in our endeavors, aging dreamer George Bailey, Jr. who
nor do we resort to jumping passes his days away in Bailey Park
into the river when things waiting for his chance at bigger and
get bleak... We rol/ up our better things.

shirt sleeves and get to the

task at hand:'

Ellen Johnson, the new president of

American Atheists, has been a member of the Board of Directors of
American Atheists for the past ten
years. Married and the mother of
two, she is a second-generation
Atheist with an MA in political science. She is co-host of "The Atheist
Viewpoint," a cable-access TV show
originating in Staten Island, New

American Atheist

As the newly elected President of

American Atheists I can't help feeling
a little like George Bailey Jr. He
always had George Bailey Sr. to keep
the Bailey Building & Loan Company
going and to Battle the mean old Mr.
Potter. For years on end all of us have
also been comforted knowing that the
Murray-O'Hair family was there in
Texas keeping the organization going
and fighting the behemoth that is religion in America.
When the Baileys and MurrayO'Hairs got worn down they were patted on the back appreciatively and
told, as George Bailey Jr, did in the
movie, 'Wanna know a secret? I think
you're swelL"Well nothing lasts forever and in the movie George Bailey Sr.
died. For us the Murray-O'Halrs are
just not here.
Continuing on, the board of directors
of the Bailey building & Loan told
George that they wanted to keep it
going and appointed George Jr. to
take his father's place. For me, the
board of American Atheists also
wanted to keep things going and
asked me to take Jon Murray's place.
I am happy to be of service to this
organization and the Murray-O'Hairs
during this time of need. The board of
directors is working with me to do just
that. If you are reading this, then we
have been somewhat successful. You
should know who the current board
members are for they deserve recognition for all that they have done for

August 1995

the cause. They are Chris Allen,

Richard Andrews, Martin Bard,
Joseph Ben-David, Neal Cary,
Caroline Gilman, Conrad Goeringer,
Dave Kong, Henry Schmuck, and
Noel Scott.
We are pleased to have this special edition of the American Atheist
magazine for you, albeit a little late. It
was almost complete when the
Murray-O'Hairs left the office, and we
just put the finishing touches on it. It
is one of the best editions ever produced. Its political analysis, history,
science, and in-depth analysis of
prayer from an Atheistic perspective
are all testaments to the importance
of a purely Atheistic publication in
America. With your continued support we will be able to continue this
Unlike George Bailey Jr. we
Atheists know there aren't any
guardian angels helping us in our
endeavors nor do we resort to jumping into the river, as George did,
when things get bleak. If we did that
we would have been out of business
long ago. We roll up our shirt sleeves
and get to the task at hand. With the
help of our friends, supporters,
board members, volunteers, and a
very capable office manager at the
headquarters, Spike Tyson, we have
been able to pull American Atheists
through yet another crisis. Tough
times seem to be part and parcel of
the organization and it probably
always will be thus because we are
So step aside Mr. Capra and we'll
show you how Atheists get things
done. Oh, buffalo gals can you come
out tonight, come out tonight...

Page 3

Perceptions of Farrakhan

"Perceptions of Louis
Farrakhan exist on both
sides of a wide chasm




and views

of the world held by

blacks and whites."

Conrad Goeringer is an
antiquarian bookseller and
freelance writer who lives
on the cape of New Jersey


"I!" thundered the man at the podium

overlooking the Washington mall.
"II" responded the crowd.
"Say your name!"
A babble of names rose up from
thousands of lips.
"...Pledge to never abuse my wife by
striking her...
" Never poison my body with drugs...
" never use the 'B' word to describe
any female..."
The litany of sins may sound like a
guilt-ridden recitation one hears in an
evangelical church or tent-revival
meeting, but the venue was strikingly
different. For several hundred thousand black men, last October's Million
Man March on Washington was an
opportunity to reexamine the direction
of their lives and indeed the fate of the
whole civil rights movement in fin de
siecle America.
By just about any measure, it is not
a positive picture. Afro-Americans
face higher rates of mortality, poverty,
and unemployment than their white
counterparts. In some urban areas, a
black male is more apt to end up in
prison or jail than he is to graduate
from high school. Black females face
similar obstacles, including illegitimate children or abandonment by
husbands and the long, slippery slope
into the "welfare lifestyle." And overlaying these maladies is the persistent
racism that nearly any black in any
economic class inevitably encounters.
Despite the growth of a nascent
black middle class, most AfroAmericans lag behind whites in the
categories which really count-educational levels, hourly wage, and
home ownership. Families in Black
America break up with startling rapidity; and a growing number of unmarried, black teenagers exacerbates
that problem.
Comes, then, Louis Farrakhan, the
son of a "deeply religious and strongwilled woman" who immigrated from
Barbados to America in the 1920s.
Louis Walcott-

was born in 1933; his father had left

the family shortly after the boy's birth.
He grew up in the strict religious
ethos of Jamaican immigrants, who
were considered the "black Jews" of
Boston's Lower Roxbury neighborhood, and clustered around St.
Cyprian's Episcopal church.
In a recent profile of Farrakhan,
Washington Post writer Malcolm
Gladwell tells how the young Walcott
"was a devout Christian who sang in
the choir," and was ''troubled by profanity." He was also a gifted student
and athlete, and later won a track
scholarship to college. It was that first
trip beyond the safe confines of the
relatively prosperous and self-contained Roxbury community, though,
which opened his eyes to the "grim
realities of the Jim Crow South."
In 1952, he "fell under the spell of
a forceful and brilliant young ex-convict who was preaching the message
of Elijah Muhammad," Malcolm X.
Farrakhan followed Malcolm's own
rise up the organizational ladder of
the Nation of Islam, becoming head
of the local Mosque at age 24. Years
later, when Malcolm had his fatal split
with Elijah Muhammad, Farrakhan
stayed with the Nation. He outlived
both Malcolm and "Mr. Muhammad,"
survived the internal squabbles within the organization, and emerged as
head of the Nation of Islam.
Perceptions of Louis Farrakhan
exist on both sides of a wide chasm
which separates the experiences and
views of the world held by blacks and
whites. The latter know what they've
read In the papers, or seen on the
evening news. Farrakhan is depicted
as an anti-Semitic "hatemonger" promoting a noxious blend of black revolution and racial separatism. (Indeed,
spokesmen for various White Power
and Christian Identity groups have
declared that, in their vision of a
balkanized, racially divided America,
they can "live with the vision of Louis
Farrakhan,") For many blacks, even

Page 4

August 1995

American Atheist

Today, astrology is widely associated

with a range of beliefs and practices
identified under the label "New Age." A
number of studies have found evidence
that those with a firm belief in astrology
were favorably disposed to other New
Age claims about reincarnation, flying
saucers, ESP, quack health regimens,
and channeling. And like most (ifnot all)
New Age beliefs, astrology should be
labeled a pseudoscience.
The widespread popularity of astrology has attracted the concern of many
scientists and educators. In 1970, scholars released a public statement critical
of this ancient fortune-telling technique.
A number of books and articles examining astrology from a scientific perspective have been published; your local
planetarium and library are good places
to start. Carl Sagan's excellent book
Cosmos- has a succinct discussion of
astrology in Chapter 3.
While astrology is not per se a religion, it is part of a New Age religious belief system. Just as "Creationism"
(another pseudo-science doctrine, which
accepts a literal, biblical view of the origin of life) is based upon a religious belief, astrology is likewise founded upon
a mystical or magical worldview.
Government should not promote any
belief or activity which has religious
overtones of any kind. As New Age believers organize for social and official
acceptance of their various creeds and
practices - including tax exemptions
for their "churches" or recognition of
their "holy days" - it remains for Atheists to oppose such violations of the
First Amendment's
The zodiac is clearly an occult symbollinked to astrology. It has no place
on city property. Its presence there testifies not only to a violation of state/

2Carl Sagan, Cosmos: International Affairs

in the Modern Age (New York: Random
House, Inc., 1980).

Austin, Texas

church separation, but to the intellectual bankruptcy of our culture as well.

Incidentally, when you object to this
New Age superstition, you might point
out that such pseudo-sciences as astrology portray the universe as a pretty
dull place. The real mystery and excitement is found in science, where the
answers we learn not only often surprise
us - they lead to more questions!
Conrad F. Goeringer
Board Member, Charles E. Stevens
American Atheist Library and Archives

ent case: Jones v. Clear Creek Independent School District. 4 In this situation,
the school had made a rule that an invocation and/or benediction could be
included in graduation ceremonies if the
senior class voted for the prayer's inclusion, it was given by a student, and it
was "nonsectarian and nonproselytizing." The Fifth Circuit ruled that this
situation was constitutional, because
the prayer was not an official action of
the school. In the words of the court,
The practical result of our deciis that a majority of students can do what the State acting on its own cannot do to incorporate prayer in public high school
sion, ...

High school graduation

prayers - legal or not?
A group of my non-Christian friends
are trying to do away with the benediction at our high school graduation next
May. Is there any information of precedents? I believe there was a court case,
but I have no information.
David Yu Chen

If you live in Louisiana, the legality of

the benediction depends on who is saying it and who invited the prayer.
In 1992, the Supreme Court of the
United States ruled in Lee v. Weismanthat a high school could not include
prayers in its graduation exercises. In
the particular case, the prayer giver (a
rabbi) was selected by the school administration, and the content of the
prayer was controlled by the school. In
other words, the inclusion of the prayer
in the graduation ceremony was an official act of the school and was dictated
by the school. The Supreme Court held
that such a practice was in violation of
the First Amendment of the Constitution
of the United States.
.Also in 1992, the Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit ruled in a slightly differ-

3122 S.Ct. 2649, 120 L.Ed.2d 467 (1992),

cert. denied, 112 S.Ct. 3020, 120 L.Ed.2d
892 (1992).
August 1995

On November 18,1994, the Court of

Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in
Harris v. Joint School District No. 2415
that a similar practice in Idaho was

completely unconstitutional. This case

was not appealed to the Supreme
So what is the situation now? If the
prayer is school-sponsored, it is unconstitutional according to the Supreme
Court. If the students voted to have the
prayer, the precedent is less clear. If a
specific situation has not been reviewed
by the Supreme Court, standing circuit
court decisions rule. The Fifth Circuit
sets the precedent for Mississippi,
Texas, and Louisiana. The Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, and
The December 1994 American Atheist
discussed the graduation
prayer precedents in detail in its coverage of the Harris decision.

R. Murray-O'Hair
Editor, American Atheist
4977 F.2d 963 (5th Cir. 1992).
59th Cir. No. 93-35839, Civ.-91-00166-HLR
Page 5

Director's Briefcase

The tasks before Atheist



s an Atheist activist, I am confronted daily with the dilemma of

trying to effect change in the culture in which I live. I am a cause organizer because I feel that society could
change for the better. The news media
term for what I know as cause groups is
advocacy groups, that is, groups of persons who advocate a certain position on
a particular issue. That puts me in a
common boat with every person who
has ever taken to the stump to speak
out openly for any cause. The great
mass of individuals always takes the
path of least resistance. That is part of
our animal survival imperative. The
pack or herd members who go along
with the rules and do not deviate usually have a relatively smooth existence,
unless by chance or luck something disadvantageous or life-threatening happens because they are in the so-called
wrong place at the wrong time. The
questioner, the doubter, the nonconformist always has a harder time coping
with day-to-day existence, but it can be
said that such deviation also makes for
a more interesting life.AllAtheists know
the exigencies of a dissident life-style,
but at the same time we would not give
it up for anything.
Cause people look at the world a little
differently than most. We critically examine and compare the various social,
political, economic, and intellectual
structures that we run up against during
our lives. An example is in order here.
Most people look at a bank and see it as
an institution that provides a service for
them. When I look at a bank, I too see
an institution that provides a service.
But I also look beyond that and understand that any bank takes advantage of
me and that I am a victim of usury by
such institution. I know that all banks
WOUl9use me in the same way, the rules
of the game being the same for all of
them across the board. The important
aspect here is that I look past the surface of something to how it really is.
That is a cause person's way of approaching the culture in which he lives.

Introducing Atheism to
our culture must be a
multi-stage effort.

A graduate of the University of Texas

at Austin and a second-generation
Atheist, Mr. Murray is a proponent of
"aggressive Atheism." He is an
anchorman on the "American Atheist
Forum" and the president of American
Atheists, Inc.

Jon G. Murray
Page 6

August 1995

Most people take things they do every

day at face value and just go about their
lives. Cause people stop and analyze
everything. That constant analyzing
often does not make for maintaining a
calm stomach, and cause people are
often upset about what they see, hear,
and read. It is the individuals who analyze who are the catalysts for change in
any society. I am a cause person. It is in
my blood.
The particular area in which I have
chosen to attempt to effect change is
perhaps the most difficult of all. That
area is the impact of religion on our culture.If I were an economist, arguing one
theory of investment or banking over
another, I would be dealing with a topic
in which anyone can engage in rational
discussion and weigh the merits and
drawbacks of one theory versus another.
If I were an environmentalist, I could
gain support from a varied cross section
of the population on issues such as the
control of pollution or the need for recycling. If I represented a cancer research group, I would find that most
people would have a positive reaction to
cancer prevention or the search for a
cancer cure. That kind of rational discussion or the anticipation of a positive
reaction to the broaching of the subject
is not possible with regard to religion.

The religious matrix

Religion affects the very core of an individual's outlook on life. The way religionists comport themselves on a daily
basis and the kinds of decisions they
make are predicated on a highly emotional, ingrained matrix of standards
into which they were enculturated and
socialized. In their case, these standards
are a rigid set of "thou shalt" and "thou
shalt not" imperatives which are presented as set in concrete to be memorized and followed. The primary motivating factor is fear: fear that you willnot
experience life after death, fear that the
life after death experience will be a bad
one instead of a good one, fear that
some illwill befall you for any deviation
American Atheist

The Atheist simply eschews the dichotomous thinking of the theist

and understands that he is responsible for his own actions
and must deal personally, and not posthumously,
with the consequences.
from that set of imperatives, or fear that
you might be shunned by your brethren
for noncompliance. Atheists also operate
on a matrix of standards, but they are
more fluid. Our standards are situational principles which offer us a starting
point from which to weigh our response
to a given circumstance, based upon a
rational application of the fact situation
to that starting axiom. If we choose
courses of action which result in harm
to others or ourselves, we have simply
made errors and we are moved to try to
make any possible amends. If religionists make what turns out to be the
wrong choice in any situation, then they
have "sinned" or committed transgressions of the law of their god, who according to their belief system, already
knew in advance what paths they were
to choose. "Sin" carries with it punishment in the anticipated afterlife. The
Atheist opts for self-correction of behavior based upon the learning experiences
of present and past events and for restitution and reconciliation. The religionist opts for punishment and repentance,
repenting not to the object of harm, but
to a detached, ethereal deity.

community by how much of the time

they accede to the influence of the good
force versus the bad force. Their lifestyle is much like betting on the horses,
where they and their peers wager on
whether or not over the long haul of life
the good force or the bad force willprevail the most. The emphasis on individual inner direction of their lives is subordinate to the notion of outer direction
from a vague spiritual force which is
subjectively defined in the mind of each
individual theist. Though the overall

Black and white in

a technicolor world

concept of outer direction is culturally

learned, each theistic individual harbors
his own mental construct of the nature
and power of the good and bad forces.
The theist operates in a dichotomous
mind-set. If you ask theists about free
will, they will say that their deity allows
them absolute free will to do as they
wish. But if they do not do as the entity
dictates, they will be punished posthumously. At the same time, their deity
knows in advance if they will or will not
do as it directs. In addition to having free
will, they are subject to constant taunting by the good and evil forces attempting to push them toward one course of
free will action or another. All of these
situations cannot be present simultaneously except as a mental illusion.
The Atheist simply eschews the dichotomous thinking of the theist and
understands that he is responsible for

The situation we have in our society

at present is that the majority of individuals predicate their lives on a rigid set of
dogmas which they call "morality." This
does not yield to moderation by the
complexities of modern existence, as do
the situational ethics by which Atheists
and some other freethinkers conduct
themselves. It is as ifthe believing majority sees only in black and white, and the
non believing minority sees the world in
color. In principle, theistic morality
allows for only two motivations for behavior: good and evil. Theists believe
that they are pulled toward inappropriate behavior by an evil or dark force
and pushed toward appropriate behavior by the good or light force. Others
who share such a belief system judge
their relative worth within the theistic
Austin, Texas

August 1995

his own actions and must deal personally, and not posthumously, with the consequences.

The task of the Atheist

The task of the Atheist then, in the
minority, is to get the religionists, who
command the majority, first to begin to
accept the Atheist viewpoint as valid
and then to examine their own set of
what they call morals against what the
Atheist calls ethics. That is the task of
the Atheist activist and a hard one it is.
We find ourselves in a position similar
to the plight of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) in the Middle East.
The PLO for years refused to recognize
the sovereignty of Israel and the Israeli
government until Israel recognized the
PLO as an official agent of the Palestinian people, but Israel would not recognize the PLO until it recognized Israel.
That produced a stalemate. Given that
Israel is the far superior military power,
the PLO has had recently to capitulate
and recognize Israeli sovereignty in
order to survive and enter into peace
agreements. One day, when this country
becomes a theocracy, I anticipate that,
as an overt survival tactic, Atheists will
have to recognize religion as an official
prerequisite to citizenship and suffrage.
Even when that times comes, however,
Atheists willonly wear the mask of compliance and maintain mental reservation
as to the validity of theistic dogma. In
the meantime, the best approach is to
demand recognition of Atheism as a viable life-styleand stand firm for the establishment of the civil right to live as free
as possible from religion.
As a lifelong, second generation Atheist, I cannot view religion as an intellectually valid premise on which to base a
life-style. It is a civil right to accept, on
faith, any of the pivotal concepts of theism, such as the soul, sin, transubstantiation, omniscience, omnipresence,
omnipotence, virgin birth, resurrection,
miracles, numerology, demonology, a
devil, angels, possession, or the doctrine of imputation. But I am not obliPage 7

If an Atheist is granted an appearance on a national media outlet,

it must be in an adversarial context,
with a clerical opponent, a hostile host, a hostile audience,
and hostile callers.
gated to acknowledge any of those concepts as valid under the scrutiny of
rational thinking. Coexistence on a legal
plane is possible, but intellectual acceptance of the theistic mind-set is not.
There is no way that I can ever accept
theists as mental equals: No matter how
educated or intelligent they appear, I
know that they have a bug in their main
program - so to speak. They have
carved out a subroutine in their thinking
process that never gets operated on by
any other program, and they call that
their faith. I have been told by some that
this makes me an intellectual bigot. I do
not care. I cannot bring myself into line
with the voguish attitude of toleration,
pluralism, and cohabitation of the present decade. Now that the Republican
Right has gained majority political control, they expect that the vanquished
liberals should compromise with them.
It reminds me in a hokey way of the song
"The Farmer and the Cowboy Must Be
Friends" in the Hammerstein musical
Oklahoma. I detest the new phrase
"lighten up" which is hurled at me by
armchair liberal agnostics and humanists whenever I react negatively to any
advance of the Christian Right, as if I
should be complaisant in the face of
faith winning out over reason.

Disallowing criticism of religion

Atheists must also be realists and accept the fact that the religious majority
in this country hold all the cards. They
control the governmental apparatus
from the top down, from the federal to
the state to the county to the local
levels. They control the media in all its
forms, radio, television, film, and print.
They control the book publishing industry. The religious influence is so strong
that religion may only be talked about or
written about in the public sector in a
positive manner.
Many do not know that the same kind
of censorship of ideas has been applied
to political questions in many states of
our Union which have statutory provisions against teaching about commuPage 8

nism or socialism in public schools except in a derogatory manner. That is,

there are actual laws stating that no
teacher may teach that the political perspectives of communism or socialism
might contain any valid points. They
may only deride those political systems
and those who espouse their merits. No
discussion is allowed, and only one side
may be presented to students.
The same goes for religion. One side,
that religion is good for you (like eating

Atheists can have their opinions, but

they may not circulate them in a meaningful way which reaches a large audience. The large-scale dissemination of
ideas is the exclusive province of those
with the theist mind-set. If an Atheist is
granted an appearance on a national
media outlet, it must be in an adversarial
context, with a clerical opponent, a hostile host, a hostile audience, and hostile
callers. In short, the Atheist is never
allowed a forum in which to express a
position in dissent to religion which is
equal to the forum religion maintains.

Ignoring the opposition

your vegetables), is presented with no

counter. No real criticism of religious
dogmas will be allowed in the governmental arena because religion has been
of the utmost value to government as a
psychological pacifier and inducer of
compliance. It is certainly in the best interests of those who govern not to allow
criticism of a valuable tool of mass
manipulation. Likewise, no criticism beyond the jocular or satirical can be permitted on broadcast television or major
cable outlets, in major newspapers or
magazines, in films produced by the
largest domestic studios, or in books
issued by mainline publishers. Certainly
an Atheist can author his or her own
book, have it published by a vanity or
small press, and keep stacks of them in
the garage. But no bookstore will carry
it, no newspaper will review it, and no
distributor will push it.
August 1995

There exists a nonofficial undercurrent of systemic discrimination against

the Atheist viewpoint. There is selfcensorship among those. who control
the avenues of distribution of information. No direct laws need be enacted
against the airing of Atheist views, because those who control the airing
mechanisms would never think of allowing the Atheist viewpoint a chance, as it
poses an intellectual challenge to their
belief system which they cannot logically overcome. If one is happy existing in
a dogmatic system of "good" and "evil,"
it is not to one's advantage or in one's
interest to introduce a catalyst for doubt
of that thought system. If an alternative
worldview exists which is antithetical
and logically superior to one's own, the
best defense is to ignore it. So the position is taken that there is really no such
thing as an Atheist. No official, high or
petty, of government or institution,
would state openly that an Atheist has
no civilright to that opinion. At the same
time, they sanction every form of invidious discrimination, maligning, and subordination directed toward Atheists.
The situation has gone so far that it is
possible for any accused Atheist basher
to use the prevailing social aversion to
Atheists as a positive defense through
the simple expediency of exercising the
right to a jury trial. Anyone who wrongs
an Atheist knows that no jury would
convict him of wrongdoing because the
American Atheist

Prohibition of faith does nothing to lessen theism. One must educate the
practitioners of theism toward the knowledge that their faith system is
pointless. Simply prohibiting the public or congregational practice of
religion does nothing to expose religion's logical errors.
object of transgression, the Atheist,
must surely have deserved or brought
misfortune on his or her own head by
denying the presence of the deity. I have
never witnessed an Atheist being given
a fair trial, civil or criminal, in any state,
when a jury was involved. In front of a
judge only, perhaps justice could be had
because there would be a chance of getting an Atheist or agnostic upon the
bench. With a jury, anyone out of
twelve can poison the rest against the
All the general public knows, for the
most part, about Atheism is that it is a
viewpoint which is put down as trivial,
billed as hostile, defined as a "faith in
non-faith" (as negative psychology),
written out of history, blamed for a Pandora's box of social ills, mischaracterized by all sources of academic and
credible social standing, and even discounted entirely by some. Universities
do not recognize Atheism as a valid
point of view or acknowledge the role or
works of Atheists in history. The U.S.
Bureau of the Census does not officially acknowledge that Atheists even exist
as a measurable category within the
population. American Atheists has for
many years wanted a question on the
national census concerning religious
preference or lack thereof. The religious
lobbies are so powerful that they can
prevent such a question from being
asked, for fear of the percentage of nonbelievers that might be revealed. Again,
why acknowledge a system of logic
which could render your belief system
obsolete if it was given a chance to take
root? That would be self-destruction
from the theist point of view.

Spreading misinformation
The mass media perpetuate a cacophony of voices which spread misinformations about Atheists and Atheism.
This is particularly true of the talk show
circuits, both radio and television, and
the letter and comment pages of the
print media. It is opined, for example,
that all that is presently wrong with the
Austin, Texas

public school systems, in each and

every community, is due to the removal
of religious ceremonies from those institutions some thirty-two years ago. The
failure of an educational system to keep
pace with a changing intellectual environment is laid upon the Atheist. It is
editorialized that Atheists stand against
freedom of speech because they seek
an end to government endorsement or
establishment of prayer, the ritual of

.~~~ .-...,--



talking to themselves performed by religious folk.

As a matter of historical fact, Atheists
have been at the forefront of the freedom of speech and press movements in
this country, primarily because they
sought the right to openly criticize religion. The real issue here is not one of
freedom of speech at all. It is rather the
nature of the act of prayer itself. Prayer
as a solitary act makes the actor look far
too foolish; therefore the theist prefers
to pray in a group. If this activity is to be
conducted in a public setting, such as a
city council chamber, all in attendance
must participate to save the theist the
embarrassment of talking to himself
alone. This is partly why there are congregations. Theists congregated together can do many ritual things that they
would feel sillydoing on their own. Atheists are not against freedom of speech
August 1995

when they demand not to be included in

acts of mass hysteria.
Atheism is said to be a catalyst to the
breakdown of the nuclear family. If
couples cannot get along within the
framework of their theism, how is the
Atheist to blame? Many Atheists whom
I know exist within nuclear family units
happily, but others opt for alternate
forms of relationships with companions.
The Atheist is accused of being in
favor of totalitarianism in prohibiting
acts of faith. Prohibition of faith does
nothing to lessen theism. One must educate the practitioners of theism toward
the knowledge that their faith system is
pointless. Simply prohibiting the public
or congregational practice of religion
does nothing to expose religion's logical
The Atheist is charged with being
amoral. In terms of the theistic good versus evil morality, that is true. But the
Atheist is logically ethical.
Of all the lies told about Atheists, I resent the most the theist claim that all
Atheists are just fakers, pretending not
to believe in a god, but on their deathbeds crying out to a deity. Such a slander is no more true than the phrase
"there are no Atheists in foxholes." Ifwe
were to say that all theists were fakers,
that they really knew that god was
make-believe and only pretended to believe for its social value, they would be
offended indeed. Somehow the Atheist
is not supposed to be likewise offended.
I am of the opinion that many theists
harbor serious doubts concerning some
of the major tenets of their faith, but
they fear to voice these doubts in public. Life in a world of proscribed thought
does not easily allow for questions to

The goals of activist Atheism

The first goal of an Atheist activist
must then be to gain public recognition
as holding not only an allowable, but an
intellectually valid point of view. We find
ourselves, as Atheists, after several hundred years of organizational effort, still
Page 9

Atheists must simply be themselves

and approach religionists as "different" without "aspiring"
to be accepted in the religionists' social order.
That is, we must secure a position for Atheists as separate, but equal.
mired in the stage of establishing our lifestyle as even allowable. Not all other citizens are even willing to grant an Atheist the basic civil right to hold that opinion. The threshold issue for us is establishing our inalienable civil right to our
opinion of religion, not just on paper but
in the minds of our fellow citizens.
After crossing that threshold, the second step is to address the fact that the
majority of citizens who might state at
first thought that they recognized the
civil right to be an Atheist, would not
necessarily translate that right into
social acceptability of the broader right
to freedom from religion in the public
sector. Having others acknowledge that
you have the right to hold a position privately is one thing, but convincing them
that your position should be respected
is quite another. The homosexual community faces a like problem. It is one
thing to get heterosexuals to grant the
right to sexual preference in private, and
quite another thing to get heterosexuals
to treat a homosexual's sexual preference as equal to theirs in the public sector. It is not enough to have others simply say that it is acceptable for us to
think what we care to think about religion. We desire them to acknowledge
that whatever it is that we do think
about religion must be accepted on a
par with their thoughts on the same subject. In short, we must gain respect for
our position. This is the point at which
we find ourselves, as Atheists, stuck at
the moment.
Many Atheists seem to miss the boat
on gaining respect for their life-style. We
cannot simper, whine, or beg for respect. It must be earned by Atheists
coming out of the closet and making
their position known to all those with
whom they associate, while making it
clear to one and all that they shall not
compromise on their Atheism but demand to be dealt with as they are. Apologetics do not garner respect. One can
also not earn the respect of others by
trying to show that one is "as good" as
they are. Atheists must simply be themPage 10

selves and approach religionists as "different" without "aspiring" to be accepted in the religionists' social order.
That is, we must secure a position for
Atheists as separate, but equal.
The third step is to use the separate
but equal status we have earned as a
podium from which to bring our ideas




with regard to religion into the mainstream arena of public debate. Once we
are able to hold forth in mainline media,
publishing, and government circles, we
can work on getting religionists to acknowledge that we are correct in our
criticism of their belief system. This can
be done, point by point, working with a
generation at a time.
The final step is the legal and cultural
integration of Atheism into a secular politicalframework which willinstitutionalize it as a norm instead of an aberration.
Women, with regard to suffrage;
Blacks, with regard to civil rights and
affirmative action; and Jews have gone
through a similar four-step process in
their struggles for equality. First, achieve
and legallydocument the basic civilright
to adopt an unpopular stance. Second,
convince the majority that your stance
is more than just allowable, that it deAugust 1995

serves their respect. Third, work to

have respect for your stance become
acknowledgment that your stance is
correct. Fourth, move to have your
stance integrated into the social framework and formalized into law (i.e., the
Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act).
The religious majority en masse will
likely never acknowledge the validity of
Atheism, any more than the Atheist will
acknowledge the existence of a god.
The crux of the matter lies in the fact
that only one side of the question can be
correct. There either is a god, with all of
the attendant faith baggage, or there is
not. Those who hold onto the god idea
as a matter of faith, with no empirical
proof, happen to hold a present monopoly on the means of enculturation. It is
up to Atheists to break up that monopoly. It is historically and anthropologically imperative not only for our own survival, but because we are the carriers of
an idea package that can make the
world better for all its inhabitants in the
long run.
We can do this thing, provided we do
it together with patience and perseverance. All of the other minority groups
which have gone through the process of
claiming their places on the cultural
mantle did not do so overnight or without sacrifice and suffering. Not only the
leadership, but the rank and file of every
social movement took a lot of heat.
Beatings, imprisonment, death threats,
being taunted and spat upon were all
sadly but simply part of the task that
needed to be done. If this country can
go from classifying a Black as threefifths of a man, or denying women the
vote, to according them the freedoms
they enjoy today, then it can be brought
into the light of reason and free thought
and out of the shadow of superstition. I
do not imagine for a moment that the
process willbe without more than a few
more bruises on our part, or without the
screams of recalcitrance of the faithful.
But the outcome will be worth more
than a thousand fold every drop of
blood or sweat it takes to achieve. ~
American Atheist

Fifleen years a playin'

ervice began on August 15, 1979,"
she said.
I had asked the rep from the
telephone company when that number
which had played so important a part of
my life for the past fifteen years had
been activated. Fifteen years - plus a
week. Thousands of people knew that
number; some dialed 623-3861 "religiously." It was the number of the Tucson Dial-An-Atheist's, and it spanned an
interesting period of my life,from August
15,1979, until its termination on August
During those fifteen years, the DialAn-Atheist message went out to those
willingto make the call and spend a few
minutes listening to what I had to say on
issues dealing with Atheism and state/
church separation. Ifthe periodic counting of incoming calls is any guide, more
than a million calls were made. We received mail from listeners throughout
the country, even some from Europe
and Australia.
Dial-An-Atheist was an important
part of the outreach being made by
American Atheists, especially during
the 1980s. It was a community-based
effort to "spread the word," and at one
time there were dozens of these recording
services in various American cities.
Times change, and so has American
Atheists. Community-based organizing
strategies ran up against the realities of
the 1990s, and the quaint though cumbersome network of regional Dial-AnAtheist recordings has slowly given way
to newer, perhaps better ways of information outreach. The weekly audience
for the Dial-An-Atheist services was
possibly in the thousands; outreach in
the 1990s, though, must reach millions
to be effective.

Looking back
It started with a tape answering machine purchased from the local Radio
Shack. When the Tucson Dial-AnAtheist began, a handful of press releases went out to announce its birth,
the first message was recorded, the calls
Austin, Texas

A retrospective on

Have you heard the good news?

There is
no god!

Conrad Goeringer is an
antiquarian bookseller and
freelance writer who lives on the
cape of New Jersey.

Conrad Goerinqer
August 1995

started - and the machine promptly

broke. And that was after two or three
different cassette tapes had, literally,
worn out. "These machines are meant
for home use," the salesman later told
me. "Twenty-five or thirty calls a week
at the max." Dial-An-Atheist was pulling
in that many calls in a day, so the need
for a heavy duty machine became obvious. One local business sold the Dictaphone 620, popular for such "high traffic" outlets as movie theaters. The new
machine was soon ensconced in my
apartment, and I quickly grew accustomed to the relentless clicking sound of
the tape starting as the calls came in.
Dial-An-Atheist soon became an experiment in testing limits and devising
theatrics "on the cheap." It would have
been all too easy to succumb to Topical Temptation - boring harangues
on arcane topics which nobody would
listen to (even if the call was a freebie).
Who wanted to hang on the line for a
lecture about "Religion and Scholasticism during the Low Renaissance"? Did
anyone really look forward to a program
on the wisdom of Augustine? I mean, if
you had been reared as a Roman Catholic, you wanted to escape all of that!
The solution was obvious - comic
relief. Dial-An-Atheist was soon featuring "mini-commercials" for gadgets and
services which existed only in the warped
imaginations of those who scripted the
program - usually me. My partner in
this aesthetic terrorism was sometimes
Bill Carton, whose own sense of the
ironic, surreal and absurd surpassed
even mine, the determinist product of
too many years spent in pursuit of a doctorate in philosophy. (He eventually received his coveted Ph.D., working as a
mechanic before finding employment in
a college.) Among his various personae
was his role as "Louis Rookemore," our
adaptation of the staid gentleman who
gives witty financial advice on PBS.
"To those looking for a quick investment return," said Louis Rookemore,
"I'd avoid the cults and stick with the
blue chip mainline churches!"
Page 11

"Really, Louis?"
"No doubt about it. Give 'em some
prayers, then take the money and run!"
We were both nauseated by the Sunday morning televangelists who were
endlessly quoting "the good book."

ters who populated Dial-An-Atheist.

The "Christian Chumps Broadcasting
Network" pleaded for listeners' dollars.
"Jerks for Jesus" begged for members.
"Prayer Wars" made its debut after
George Lucas and Star Wars became
household names, as did our spoof on
the papacy with "Vatican John and the
Temple of Gloom." The movie soundtracks in the background made it all the
more believable.

Of holy tortillas and oil slicks

If we weren't discussing religious
trivia such as differences between preBusinessman Lloyd Thoren (left) established the first Dial-An-Atheist in 1971
in Petersburg, Indiana. Conrad Goeringer (below) opened the second in 1979.

Armed with the "Spiritual Guide

to Gracious Living" (a compendium of the more embarrassing
quotes from the Bible), we
produced our own version of
Gawd's Word.
You certainly did not hear that sort of
thing on Mass for the Shut-In!
There is only so much of this in the
Bible, however, and our need for such
antics became nearly insatiable. We
were soon buying sound effects recordings and adapting them into our presentations, combining them with pop culture advertising and music. We conjured a pantheon of alternative characPage 12

and post-tribulationists, well, there were

always the daily newspapers - bottomless pits for mining the absurd, outrageous, and comment-worthy. Dial-AnAtheist prospered due, in part, to a
clipping sent by Walt Wilkinson of
Phoenix - and the culinary expertise of
a woman named Mrs. Barreras. It seems
that she had managed to bake a tortilla
which happened to have the image of
Jesus Christ on it. Local (and soon
national) media were captivated by this
unexpected revelation of religious inerrancy; the afternoon paper devoted
more than a full page to Mrs. Barreras'
creation. Thousands flocked to the
August 1995

Barreras household, much to the angst

of neighbors and local police who had to
contend with the ensuing traffic melee.
The credulous and the curious clamored
for a brief glimpse of the Holy Tortilla,
lovingly displayed in a velvet-lined box.
Dial-An-Atheist had much to say about
this bizarre phenomenon. Would the
Tortilla soon be listed alongside the
writings of Thomas Aquinas as a clear
and reasonable demonstration of god's
Not to be upstaged, a gentleman from
nearby Mesa, Arizona, revealed the following week that Jesus had also appeared to him, this time displaying His
Countenance on freshly-stained kitchen
cabinet doors. The media frenzy began
anew, and Dial-An-Atheist quickly found
itself on the scent of this revelation as
well. Our trusty machine clicked away
at all hours of the day and night, and
soon a second phone line - along with
another machine - was added to handle
the growing traffic.
We had learned an important lesson;
calls increased when our topics focused
on the more bizarre aspects of religious
faith. Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in
the reflection of a '56 Chevy helped to
generate hundreds of extra calls. So did
our report on the "Soybean Savior,"
where Jesus put in yet another cameo
appearance - this time in the rust outline on a Midwest grain silo. As with the
Holy Tortilla, traffic was backed up for
miles, and Dial-An-Atheist found renewed inspiration.
We soon discovered that even the
"heavy duty" tapes on our "heavy duty"
machines were no match for our volume
of calls. The Lighthouse Gospel Mission
provided us with yetmore calls and opportunities when their leader predicted
the imminent "end of the world" and
rapture. Convinced that the final days
were at hand, Lighthouse cultists sold
their property, gave away their possessions, and gathered together in anticipation of their voyage to heaven. The predicted deadline passed, of course, when
a newly revised schedule of celestial
American Atheist

events was announced. The new date (a

week later than the previous guess) was
no better, and the Rapturists remained
fully tethered to earth and the law of
Ayatollah Khomeini was a frequent
and deserving target of our incisive jest,
especially after we obtained a copy of
his infamous "Green Book." The programs were liberally spiced with tidbits
of Khomeiniana, especially this sage's
references to "impure" substances like
pus, or his advice on matters sexual.
The Islamic Nightmare was frequently
compared to "our own homegrown
gang of religious thugs and authoritarians," namely, Falwell, Swaggart, and
other stooges on the religious right.
And we delved into the fringe topics
of American pop culture, discussing
such subjects as flying saucers, crop
circles, astrology, quack medicine, and
phony religious revival "healings." (Hey,
how come these guys never cured acne
in front of a live audience?) Manilla
folders were soon bulging with a treasure trove of news clips devoted to the
absurd, ridiculous, and looney - and
how people believed it all. We always

made a point in comparing the uncritical

belief in the occult and paranormal with
more "respectable," yet equally foolish,
belief systems like organized religion.
The New Year marked a recapitulation of predictions made by psychics
and other soothsayers from the previous twelve months. California never did
slip into the ocean, no presidents died
while in office, and no alien civilization
bothered to contact us. Jesus didn't
make it back either.
Dial-An-Atheist mixed the bizarre
with the serious, especially in matters
relating to the First Amendment. We
crusaded on behalf of Salman Rushdie,
having some not-so-nice words for both
the Islamic mullahs and our at-home
crew of timid liberals and accommodationists who balked at defending the
famous novelist. Sorry, but "insulting"
somebody's religious fantasy should not
be a crime, even if Cardinal O'Connor
insists otherwise. The programs also
chronicled ongoing battles on behalf of
free speech. Movies, television programs, books, commercials, rap records - we defended the First Amendment rights of everyone from Middle

East feminist Taslima Nasreen to Luther

Campbell and the 2-Live Crew. Yo! Use
it or lose it!
At its peak, Dial-An-Atheist was generating more than 2,500 calls a week.
Only one of the machines had a counter,
but the one million figure for total calls
is probably not too far from the mark.

An Atheist underground
We promoted American Atheists'
meetings, lectures, and activities, and
slowly built up our mailing list. But we
also learned something, thanks to the
insight of Bill Carton. We inevitably
asked, "Who are all those people calling
in?" They weren't coming to meetings
or lectures, and when we had our information booth at the local street fair,
people would approach us (often timidly), glance around, drop money into our
donation jar, tell us "I like the Dial-AnAtheist!" - and promptly leave. They
didn't sign a mailing list, or join, or come
to a meeting. Bill had them pegged,
though. "They're part of an 'Atheist
Underground' out there who support
what we're doing," he remarked. DialAn-Atheist was, for these people, an

Taking Dial-An-Atheist to press

At their best, Dial-An-Atheist services were and are a mix of educational, enlightening, and sometimes humorous reactions to religion and Atheism in the
world. Often they provided a quick way to get alerts to members and supporters
of American Atheists, letting them know when a billwas up for passage or a picket
was scheduled. Perhaps most importantly, Dial-An-Atheist services provided listeners with a way to touch base with fellow nonbelievers.
Since much creativity went into the messages, it is only natural that they
spawned two American Atheist Press books. The Best of Dial-An-Atheist (published in 1982 and now out of print) reproduced scripts from both the Chicago
Dial-An-Atheist Service and the Austin Dial-THE-Atheist. In 1991American Atheist spokesperson Frank R. Zindler compiled Dial-An-Atheist Greatest Hits from
Ohio (still available). The messages range the gamut of Atheist thought - from
Bible criticism ("Tamar and the Three Studs") to defense of evolution ("Piltdown
Man") to philosophical problems ("Free Will and Evil"), and even a little godless
poetry and humor.

Austin, Texas

August 1995

Page 13

anonymous and private way of getting

an "ideological recharge." And it was
their way of reaching out to us.

Last days online

We literally wore out two recording
machines which had been "heavy-duty."
It took dozens of special tapes (at $10
each!) and hundreds of programs, but
eventually belts, gears, and other mechanical parts disintegrated in the accumulated years of incoming calls. Spike
Tyson, ever the master of technogadgetry, found a digital answering
machine with "electronic mailboxes."
Instead of a three-minute outing message, we could fit up to sixteen minutes
of information, opinion, and just plain
ranting into the weekly program. Callers
could access the mailboxes using their
touchtone phones - and best of all,
there was no tape to break, unwind, or
wear out. The last two years of the Tucson Dial-An-Atheist utilized this trusty
little electronic courier which performed
flawlessly. Sixteen minutes each week,
though, required more writing and researching than the "good old days." We
filledthe menu, though, with news from
the American Atheist Newsletter and
other sources, including the daily paper.

Changing times
Dial-An-Atheist was like producing a
'weekly mini-newsletter, and the "size"
had increased dramatically with the new
capabilities of the digital machine. Other
factors, though, were gradually rendering the Dial-An-Atheist obsolete, expensive, and cumbersome. Phone rates had
increased three-fold since its inception.
Advertising was more expensive. Adding new lines and new machines became
more costly. And - most important of
all - communications technology and
its relationship to social cause activism
was rapidly changing. The sheer costs
of local level outreaches such as DialAn-Atheist were becoming prohibitive,
and the size of our "target audience"
was far too small. We needed more
venues like the "American Atheist TelePage 14

vision Forum," which had audiences in

the millions.
As the regional Dial-An-Atheist services declined, the "Forum" expanded.
Last year, we added American Atheist
Online Services, allowing us to reach
the growing population using com put ers and modems. We communicate
through a FaxNet. And the mastheads
for the American Atheist Newsletter
and the American Atheist now boast
"electronic addresses" through Internet
and CompuServe. These new communications technologies are thriving and a remote voice on the telephone line
is no longer enough.
Faced with this prospect, it was time
to shut down the Dial-An-Atheist. The
plug was pulled on August 22, 1994.
Dial-An-Atheist was a faithful and
trusty servant. It was also very much a
ritual in my own life, when on nearly
every Sunday night, I'd pull up a chair in
front of the recording machine. Clutching a script in one hand, I grabbed the
microphone and started in. Often I was
alone, but on many recording sessions,
I would nod at Bill- his cue to become
a cranky evangelist or an out-of-thisworld biblical prophet badly in need of
Thorazine. I'd press the start button,
and it would begin: "This is Dial-AnAtheist ... "

is a serious aspect to all of this as well,

and in the future I hope to present both
sides in the pages of the American Atheist magazine.
There is also the "electronic frontier,"
cyberspace, the computerized world of
"online" information networks. Possibilities here are abundant. Rest assured
that the feisty "spirit" of Dial-An-Atheist
will live on, albeit through a different
medium. The universe of the electronic
bulletin board, of virtual hypertext, will
expand and co-exist with the more traditional mediums such as the printed
book and magazine. Atheists must learn
and master all of these tools. They are
part of my future, and they are part of
yours. Winning the "cultural" battle for
Atheism, state/church separation, and
reason will mean exploiting these technologies to the fullest. The potential is
indeed vast. There is no question that a
Brave New World is being born - but
exactly what kind of world it willbe is up
to us.
For this writer, however, one thing is
certain - Sunday evenings willnever be
quite the same. #


A postscript in real time

Since Dial-An-Atheist was so much a
regular part of my life- and being a sentimental slob about these things - well,
I'll miss it. It provided an outlet for me,
and possibly was entertaining and educational for its listeners. I certainly hope
Time and circumstances
though, so let me try to answer what
some of you may wellbe asking: "What's
I still have that urge to write, especially about Holy Tortillas, Soybean Saviors,
miracles which really didn't happen, and
the assorted antics of religious fanatics
everywhere. I hold firmly the proposition that P. T. Barnum was right. There
August 1995

Dial-An-Atheist telephone services provide. free of charge.

short comments on
state/ church separation and religion from
the Atheist viewpoint.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 647-8481
Columbus, OH
(614) 294-0300
Austin, TX
(512) 458-5731
Salt Lake City, UT
(801) 364-4939

American Atheist

Jesus and all that fake stuff

he other day, I received a letter
that ran as follows: "Please allow
Lauren to make up her own mind
about God/no God. I don't/won't allow
you to force your opinions on her." My
mother had curtly signed the bottom.
I knew the futility of defending myself,
of trying to impart any understanding of
the fact that my sister Lauren had
reached that crucial decision of "no
god" entirely on her own. I knew that
there was no hope for rational discourse
on the subject - no believer in god believes in the capability of the mind anyway, and the Atheist's argument tends
to be quickly dismissed on the grounds
of man's insufficient mental capabilities.
I knew too that it was imperative that I
write this article, even though I had been
for-bidden to do so.
In the middle of the summer, my sister
brought home a flyer from the Bible
camp to which my parents were sending
her. These flyers, as cheap and smeary
and righteous as the tracts zealots hand
out in airports, came home every day.
They were filled with accusatory and
pious messages, with Bible passages
printed on the bottom to be memorized
for prizes. The flyer that Lauren brought
home on this particular day was especially ingratiating, integrating a zealous
patriotism with "family values" and faith
in god. It even had the "salute to the
Christian flag," which was apparently
recited every morning along with the salute to the American flag:

For two sisters,

coming of age
means leaving the

Treena Thibodeau is a university

student. Though reared by a Protestant family, she realized several years
ago that the idea of god is ludicrous.
Madalyn O'Hair is her personal hero;
she writes, "I believe her Freedom
Under Siege should be required
reading for all Americans." Ms.
Thibodeau plans to be a writer, but
not, she notes, "at the expense of my
belief in rights for Atheists, gays, and
women - all people who are
subordinated by religion."

Tr eena Thibodeau
Austin, Texas

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Saviour for

Whose Kingdom it stands. One
Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again with lifeand liberty for all
who believe.
.I was enraged. Months later I would
receive that angry letter, censuring me
for "forcing my views" upon my little sister. But who was sending Lauren to this
Christian indoctrination camp?
In actuality, I had never discussed my
Atheism with my sister. Partially, this
August 1995

was out of fear of my parents' wrath they had not been particularly pleased
when I announced a few years ago that
I would not attend church services with
them any longer, but they figured that
there was still hope that my little sister
might turn out "normal." Another reason for my silence was that I tended to
agree with my mother. Lauren should
be allowed to freely form her own opinions. Instead, I tried to help cultivate in
Lauren things that comprised the essence of my own Atheism - the value
of self-esteem, the value of faith in reason, in man's ability to understand the
universe around him. Religion fillsa void
of doubt, of hopelessness, and of selfloathing. I have always thought that lessening this void makes religion less attractive.
However at this point, the people who
conspired to deal religion to my tenyear-old sister like particularly unscrupulous drug dealers were becoming too
overbearing. I felt that it was time to talk
honestly with Lauren about my own
convictions, and I waited for the right
Finally, we were alone one evening in
the kitchen. I was making a salad and
Lauren was at the sink, running water
over some tomatoes for me, conducting
a mock baptism for them to herself. I
snorted derisively and Lauren stopped
what she was doing and tried to look
"Do you believe in that stuff?" she
asked me. I hesitated for a moment,
wondering if my mother could hear our
voices, and then decided that I didn't
"No," I told her.
"Neither do I," she said. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"No," I answered, sitting down next to
her. "Do you?"
"No," she scoffed. "That's stupid. If
you go up in an airplane, there's no people on the clouds. There's only planets
and stuff."
I was intrigued and proud. Even I had
not developed my Atheism that young,
Page 15

or been so open, honest, and insightful

about it. I knew that Lauren did not like
being taken to church; she referred to
Sunday school as "," which
stood for "stupid, stinking Sunday
school," and which I found charming. I
had never guessed, however, the extent
to which my little sister had moved away
from religion and its affiliated organizations.
"David [the preacher of the church
my parents took her to] just says words;
they don't make any sense."
"Why do people preach?" I asked her.
"They just want attention," she responded, grasping the importance of
power to the fundamentalist clergy in
her own terms. "Besides," she added,
"people just say that stuff to make you
feel better about dying." I asked her
more questions, and she took on the
pride of the interviewed, continuing to
expound on "Jesus and all that fake
Lauren had stopped believing in a god
when she was nine, a year ago. "I would
never have believed if I hadn't gone to
Sunday school," she admitted. "They
teach kids lies - they were teaching me
all this bad stuff, and they had me going
for a while." I had to grab for a pen,
knowing I would look back at these
words and they would make me smile.
Lauren had managed to break free
from religion's secure burden in spite of
the fact that everyone around her
seemed to be of religious persuasion.
"My friends all play with the Ouija
board," Lauren said. "They think they
are talking to spirits." She laughed. "It's
just their hands moving it." Then she
looked more serious. She told me of
asking a young friend of hers if she
believed in god, and her friend responding, "What do you think Iam, a pervert?"
Lauren would tentatively approach her
friends attending Bible camp with her
and try to find others who thought as
she did. All she found was other tenyear-old girls who would chastise her, as
they had been taught, for taking the
lord's name in vain.
Page 16

"They tell you not to take god's name

in person - you're supposed to use
your own name," Lauren explained,
making a face to show what she thought
of that.
"What do you think would happen if
everyone stopped believing in god?" I
asked her later.
"It would be a better world," Lauren
declared. I didn't ask her if she thought
this was a possibility. I didn't want to
have to tell her that I didn't think it was.
I didn't want to talk about my conviction
that people will always seek the higher
universal purpose of reward in the afterlife, that people will always want power
through the big business of church;
people will always be afraid of selfextinction, of death as the end.
"Do you think anyone could change
your mind now?" Iasked her, teasing because I already knew her answer.
"Definitely not," she retorted. But it
was obvious that people would keep trying to persuade her back into the iron
maiden of religion.
Religion truly works only when there

is a collective group to support it, feed

it, pray to it, offer it money and attention. For this reason, a team spirit is promoted along with the holy spirit in
Lauren's life."You're on the Team!" proclaimed the flyer from god camp, with a
reminder of prizes for conforming to
your team's colors. This team spirit
includes patriotism, pride in your part of
some vague collective in place of individual pride. This team spirit includes familyand family values, preserved through
the annals of the church.
My little sister wears a derisive smile
and wrinkles her nose when she talks
about this collective, which she thinks of
as "they." She states, "they make you
believe, they scare you. They say god
knows your thoughts and makes you
into what he wants. They say he controls you. God doesn't control me; mom
and dad control me." She shakes her
head - "No, I control me." Self-respect
hangs heavily in the air and I hug her,
knowing that we have found our own
fundamental truths, and that truth
never minds standing alone. 3t

What are the origins

of the religion called Christianity?
Did it all start with a Jew
named Jesus?
Not at all, demonstrates historian John G. Jackson in Christianity before Christ. The elements
of the Christian religion existed long before Jesus
is said to have lived. For thousands of years before, crucified saviors born of virgins were worshipped. Jackson details the elements of the
Christ myth as they appeared in other, more
ancient religions.
Paperback. 238 pages. $9.00 plus $3.00 postage and handling. Stock #5200. Texas
residents please add applicable sales tax.

American Atheist Press

P.O. Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195
Telephone: (512) 458-1244
FAX: (512) 467-9525

August 1995

American Atheist

Their own worst enemies?


got it backwards.

the Christian right

T wingForhasyears,
been promoting an agen-

Despite the pledge of

"less government," the
Christian right's social
agenda can result only
in more powers for Big
Brother. And the
"religionization" of
many political issues,
especially those
. .
concerning privacy,
threatens a muchneeded critique of
liberal statism.

Conrad Goeringer is an antiquarian

bookseller and freelance writer who
lives on the cape of New Jersey.

Conrad Goeringer
Austin, Texas

presence in thirty-one others.

Successfully backed a number of
candidates for office in the party primaries, including Oliver North, David
Beasley, and Ron Lewis.

da which they claim will result in less

government. Traditional conservatives,
especially those inside of the Republican
party, have welcomed the politicized
According to some studies, including
evangelists with open arms. And why one appearing recently in Campaigns &
not? Party officials readily admit that the Elections,' the Christian right is "domireligious right constituted the "foot sol- nant" in eighteen states. Nearly all surdiers" who helped sweep Ronald Rea- veys conclude, however, that the impact
gan into two terms of the presidency
of groups like the Christian Coalition is
with comfortable margins. George Bush either "substantial" or "dominant" in
needed their support in 1988;some pun- more than 60 percent of state GOP hierdits claim that Bush "traded" on issues archies.
such as abortion, about which the "liberal" Bush of the 1970s was more flexi- A new face on the
ble. And in a contest over "lesser evils," Christian right: Ralph Reed
The Christian Coalition is receiving
the Christian right almost succeeded in
givingBush another four years; BillClin- more public attention - and possibly
ton can probably thank Ross Perot for more support as well - because of the
efforts of its new head, thirty-something
his 1600Pennsylvania Avenue address.
Congressional races in 1994, as well Ralph Reed. The Georgia native is a typas the presidential contest in 1996,again ical product of the Reagan era. He
focused a good deal of attention on the joined the Young Republicans at the
Christian right. By many accounts, they University of Georgia and became the
are better organized and funded - and group's national executive director folmore politically adroit - than ever. lowing his graduation. He learned the
Much of the credit for this goes to an or- ropes in Washington, D.C., working for
ganization known as the Christian Co- such conservative stalwarts as Jesse
alition, the brainchild of television evan- Helms, Jack Kemp, and Newt Gingrich.
gelist Pat Robertson. Using a network of But it was at George Bush's inaugural
some 60,000 local churches and congre- dinner that he managed to link up with
gations along with a small army of volun- Pat Robertson. The "700 Club" evangelist had run against Bush in the primateers, the Coalition has:
ries, not so much in the role of a spoiler
Won about 40 percent of the races as a force pushing Bush further to the
they entered in 1992. More than 500 right. The price of Robertson's votescandidates with ties to the Coalition and his army of well-heeled, grass roots
or other segments of the religious volunteers - was some horsetrading
on such platform issues as abortion and
right have been identified. Others
were "stealth" candidates running for school vouchers.
After taking over the Christian Coalimostly local-level offices, especially
school boards, where they faced little tion, Reed began to change the approach the religious right had been takor no opposition.
ing to politics. Robertson's and other
. Distributed over forty million "voter's
guides" through the religious com- groups had been "top down," nationallymunity, profiling candidates on key
issues such as abortion and Gay
IJohn E Persinos, "Has the Christian Right
Won total control of GOP hierarchies
Taken over the Republican Party," Campaigns
in a dozen states and "substantial"
& Elections, September 1994, p. 22.
August 1995

Page 17

and truth at the end of the

twentieth century.

directed movements focusing on

presidential or congressional races.
Beginning in 1990, the Coalition
began organizing on the local
level, precinct by precinct. One
observer noted that they took Tip
O'Neill's dictum to heart - all
politics is ultimately local. They
also began making serious efforts
to broaden their base and moderate - at least for public consumption - their local rhetoric.
Reed is best known for a statement made to a Virginia newspaper reporter:
I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and
travel at night. You don't know it's
over until you're in a body bag.
This described Reed's"stealth politics"
- and for a while it worked, until Coalition-linked candidates were ferreted out
by the media, Democrats, and even at
times worried Republicans who did not
want to be painted with the same brush
as the evangelical right.
Now the Christian Coalition has taken a new tack - it is a "kinder and gentler" Christian right, trying to reach out
to Jews, Catholics, and non-evangelical
conservatives. Reed calls it a "true Rainbow Coalition," a play on Jesse Jackson's political imagery. The Coalition
claims to disavow the politics of stealth,
and some issues such as Gay rights are
being carefully repackaged and reworked. In his book Politically lncorrect,2 Reed tells the country that Christian evangelicals don't want to condemn
or preach, but merely desire to "participate." "What do religious conservatives
really want?" he asks. "They want a
place at the table in the conversation we
call democracy." Reed goes on to define
this evangelical constituency as:

2Politically Incorrect: The Emerging Faith

Factor in American Politics (Dallas: Word
Publishing, 1994).
Page 18

an essentially defensive struggle

by people seeking to sustain their
faith and their values .... They
are far less interested in legislating
against the sins of others, and far
more interested in protecting their
own right to practice their religion
and raise their children in a manner consistent with their values.'
To wage this "defensive struggle,"
Reed calls for a "new ecumenism" to
unify Jews, Protestants, Roman Catholics, and any other religious elements
which can be brought under the Christian Coalition umbrella.
Not all Coalitionists, though, may be
as "warm and fuzzy" as Ralph Reed. A
number of journalists did some "stealth
politics" of their own and managed to
attend a Coalition meeting in Washington which marked the group's fifth anniversary. From the volunteer ranks, anyway, itwas the typical line about "filthy"
and "disgusting" Gay rights marches.
Participants cheered a Roman Catholic
priest, the Rev. Richard Neuhas, who insisted that
Christians have another city (the
city of God) and are better citizens
because of that. We Christians are
the great champions of reason
3Reed, Politically Incorrect, p. 18.
August 1995

Pluralism, anyone?
Ralph Reed is nevertheless presented as a bright and new face in
the otherwise stodgy and hostile
sea of personalities which comprises much of the religious right.
"The values we're bringing to bear
in the public debate are of an expansive, bright, and prosperous
future, not an intolerant and meanspirited past," he insists. Under
Reed, the Coalition's objectives
are "safe neighborhoods, schools
that work, a smaller government, lower
taxes." Doing this requires a federal income tax deduction of $10,000 per child
(currently it is $2,500), a school voucher
system coupled with "back to basics,
abstinence-based curriculum in public
schools," overturning Roe v. Wade, and
a constitutional amendment for balanced budgets.
And he's taking his time about it all.
National elections are only a year away,
but Reed thinks in terms of a long-term
social movement requiring four or five
decades to work its dreams into a reality. According to a recent article in USA

The biggest obstacle, Reed says, is

the news media's portrayal of
them [the religious right] as uneducated, intolerant hicks easily
by blow-dried
Reed says,
The only thing that stands between
us and that chance is that caricature, and the fear. Ifwe can redress
that fear and shatter that stereotype, we'll have our chance."

4"Religion as Politics," USA Weekend, September 16-18, p. 5.

S"Religionas Politics," p. 5.
American Atheist

Despite the promises of "less government"

and, presumably, more freedom,
the religious right suggests a cultural and social agenda
which can only give more power to the State.
Public rhetoric,
internal contradictions

nearly anything associated with communist regimes or writings was to be

Before Mr. Reed and his evangelized automatically opposed. What commucohorts are given their "chance," how- nism abhorred, the right wing eagerly
ever, Americans may want to look be- embraced, even if this anti-communism
yond the rhetoric about safe streets and placed one in the company of police
less government. If the Christian right is statists and fascist goons. The bias in rea movement based in part on the fears spect to "lesser evil" politics was as blaand anxieties of modernity, it is likewise tant as any found on the left. Liberals of
a religious-social cause based upon a the 1930s may have been romanced by
paradox. Despite the promises of "less idyllic visions of the workers' paradise
government" and, presumably, more and "Uncle Joe" Stalin, but the old relifreedom, the religious right suggests a gious right was ambivalent (ifnot covertcultural and social agenda which can ly supportive) of Nazi Germany. Cold
only give more power to the State. Its War era politics found the religious right
positions on abortion, censorship, de- desperately finding good things to say
fense, drugs and alcohol, crime, and nu- about the Rhee dictatorship in Korea, or
merous other issues would all require Chiang Kai-Shek's one-party rule in
Taiwan. At least they weren't Atheists
vigilant and aggressive government
like the other dictators in Moscow and
intrusion into personal lives.
Worse yet is the penchant of the Peking.
With the demise of international comevangelical right to "religionize" political
issues, effectively removing them from munism, the right was cut adrift, severed
from the ideological pole which had for
the arena of rational political discourse.
For decades, various incarnations of the so long defined its posture. There were
religious right have sounded the alarm few if any communist regimes left to
about everything from fluoridation of kick around. What to do? If the menace
water, programs in
wasn't in some faraway country, perhaps
schools, and gun conhe or she was lingertrol to the uses of national identity cards
ing closer to home.
and voicing of "politiThe hunt for new encally incorrect" posiemies ended in America's own backyard.
tions. Most of the
Indeed, the new touchpoints raised - usually colored with relistone for the religious
gious and apocalyptic
right was announced
by Pat Buchanan and
overtones - have
Dan Quayle at the
been quickly dismissed by mainstream
1992 Republican Napolitical pundits.
tional Convention.
"It's those right-wing
The Cold War had givnuts again."
en way to a "cultural
war," a "conflict of
"Pretty soon, they'll
be saying that the
values" over the internal direction of Amercommies are behind
this ... "
ica. The leering faces
It is indeed those
of hated Red commis"right -wing religious
sars were replaced by
wackos." Aside from the religious bias, multiple villains of the post-modern
they also boast a long tradition of reac- world - drug pushers, pornographers,
tive anti-communist theology wherein evolutionists, abortionists, lesbians,
Austin, Texas

August 1995

homosexual males, and other detritus of

the "secular humanist" movement.
Playboy was more dangerous than a
Soviet Typhoon sub. The KGB was
small change when measured against
the amorphous gallery of one-world
governmentalists, international bankers,
witches, drag queens marching in parades (or teaching in schoolsl). The
Enemy was here at home.

Less government promised,

but not delivered
Despite the rhetorical promises of
"less government," the Christian Coalition and its religious right allies would
deliver anything but a system less statist
than what presently exists. There is simply no way that the agenda of the religious conservatives can function without beefed up government machinery,
especially in areas involving personal
life-styles, First Amendment rights, and
other civil liberties related issues. Curiously, this point is rarely mentioned by
the liberal opposition. On a variety of
"hot button" issues, religious rightists
inevitably resort to the coercive police
powers of the State in search of a solution.
Abortion: Banning abortion would require federally mandated legislation
"with teeth," since the anti-choice
movement has had poor luck in state
legislatures and local courts. Hospitals
which provide abortion services would
have to be brought into line using the
bureaucratic machinery already in place,
including Medicaid funding, research
grants, and other devices. Abortion clinics can be outlawed, of course, but local,
state, and federal police agencies would
have to be mobilized, probably expanded, to investigate the inevitable
"abortion underground." As with the
"war on drugs," a whole machinery of
surveillance, monitoring, and arrest
must be put into place. Then there is the
use of the already overworked judicial
systems. Violators would have to be
tried, convicted, and incarcerated. And
Page 19

Would they outlaw women working

or restrict employment hours for women
(an experiment tried somewhat unsuccessfully in Nazi Germany)?
what about the women getting the abortions? Millions of people would be
dragged into the labyrinth of the criminal justice system. The sheer scale of
such an attempt would require more
police, courts, prisons - and taxes.

and growing alliance of drug dealers,

government officials, and "organized
crime" thugs. It is the rationale for a
growing array of frightening police
powers - no-knock raids, seizures of
personal property before conviction,
corrupt officials, and other abuses.

The drug war: Like much of the "libfamily": Complex

eral" political establishment, the reli- The "traditional
gious right generally supports a vigor- economic forces, including the developous prosecution of "illegal" drugs. In ment and expansion of a competitive
more extreme cases, there are calls for global economy, have rendered the onewage earner family economically diffioutlawing even alcohol, thus repeating
the disaster of the Prohibition-era exper- cult to sustain, ifnot obsolete. How does
iment. Yet the "war on drugs" has be- the religious right propose to reverse
come not only a threat to civil liberties this trend - the product of inevitable
with its swarm of informants, raids, and free market forces? Would they outlaw
corrupt enforcers, but a financial boon- women working or restrict employment
doggle as well. Most crime is drug- hours for women (an experiment tried
related. The largest group of federal in- somewhat unsuccessfully in Nazi Germates is serving time for drug crimes (58 many)? Reed proposes tax breaks for
percent in 1991;62 percent in 1994). A families having children. Yet without
good portion of criminals in state insti- commensurate
cuts in government
tutions are there for violent offenses spending, single people would end up
which are drug-use related. Despite the carrying this shifted economic burden.
Is this fair? If economic incentives to
dedication of more money, personnel,
and prisons, the drug war has not had a have more children act to increase popsubstantial impact on either drug use or ulation, the long-term effect is to foster
the drug supply. It is estimated that the need for additional public infraabout 10 percent of drugs entering the structure spending - everything from
country is ever seized, despite high- roads and schools to health care. Where
does this spiral of spending end? The
profile and well-publicized "operations."
By some estimates, there is a five-year "traditional" nuclear family - children
living at home with a married man and
supply of cocaine in the United States;
even ifthe border were magically sealed, woman - has never been the life-style
drug supplies would be plentiful, and of the majority of persons in the United
production would probably shift toward States at any point in history. In pluraldomestic "designer" chemicals and istic America, different people have
different definitions of "family"; what
other drug alternatives.
While the drug war helps to employ does the religious right propose to do
hundreds of thousands of police, inves- about these alternative life-styles or
tigators, judges, clerks, jailers, prosecu- social experiments? (Are there enough
tors, and defense attorneys, it does so at jails?)
a staggering cost. According to such
books as Underground Gouernmenr,s
Military and defense: Whereas their
liberal counterparts often favor "national
drug money binds together a corrupt
service," or a more benign "national registration," the religious right generally
supports the draft and compulsory mili6James T. Bennett and Thomas J. Dilorenzo,
service. In addition, they retain
Underground Government: The Off-Budget
Public Sector (Washington, D.C.: Cato Insti- much of the apocalyptic jingoism left
tute, 1983).
over from the Cold War - many insist
Page 20

August 1995

that we must "remain strong" - if not

to fight a reviled communist adversary,
then prepared to take on some "Antichrist" figure who might emerge on the
world scene in the future. Dangerous
trends, including use of the military in
the drug war or to "secure our borders"
and put down "civilunrest" draw little or
no opposition from either liberals or the
religious right. Martial law and "temporary" states of "emergency" become
more common and palpable to a credulous population.
"Pornography" and other "moral issues": A wide range of materials books, theater, television programs,
commercials, recording lyrics, even
electronic "cyberspace" - are of almost
obsessive concern to the religious right.
Traditionally, religionists have maintained a vigilant watch for "obscenity" in
media, but lately this focus has expanded
to include "violent" programming (in
this they have found a surprisingly enthused audience of liberals, especially in
the Grundyesque personae of Tipper
Gore & Co.).
But how would the religious right deal
with such "problems"? For starters,
they would have to use the power of one
of the most invasive federal agencies,
the Federal Communications Commission - the very group many of them
oppose because of the "fairness doctrine" and other restrictions.
Prosecuting a vigorous "war on smut"
would involve much the same scale of
the drug war. Tax revenues would have
to rise in order to fund local, state, and
federal programs to detect and prosecute "pornography." With the sheer
array of magazines, books, lyrics, programs, and other forms of communication, this would require a huge bureaucracy. Courts would become even more
glutted (especially if they are already
packed with defendants resulting from a
beefed up "war on drugs"), and valuable
social resources would be diverted to
train and hire prosecutors, investigators, and ultimately jailers and prison
American Atheist

guards. This is a "make work" scheme

using the criminal justice system as a
new version of the WPA.
Many people are now using computer technology - everything from CDROMs to FAX/modems to communicate and exchange information. Already
there are adult-oriented computer bulletin boards. Government is far behind in
the race to even keep track of cyberspace, let alone police it. What does the
religious right propose? Only an expensive system of taps and other electronic
intercepts can control the content of
what people are sending or receiving on
Internet and other services. Previously,
preachers and prosecutors tried to
close down magazine or book publishers; now this task becomes complicated
since electronic publishing renders the
production apparatus more diffuse and
The war on smut is part of the schizoid view the religious right has of the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Constitutional literalists interpret the
First Amendment to mean what it says
and implies - in much the same spirit
the religious right so strongly interprets
the spirit and intent of the Second
Amendment, the bearing of firearms.
The role of religion in society: Religious conservatives interpret the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment to prevent government from interfering in the affairs of the churches not the other way around. Such a selective interpretation, though, is fraught
with problems. What about profit-making operations within religious groups?
Givinghospitals, communications groups,
day care centers, and other profitmaking businesses special tax exemptions simply because they are affiliated
with religious movements constitutes
"socialism for the churches." What
about genuine, private sector entrepreneurs who must compete with these
nonprofits and still pay various taxes? Is
this free enterprise? Most certainly, it is
not - there is no level playing field when
Austin, Texas

haps the major guru of the

religious right - warns his
readers about an ancient
satanic plot to establish a
one-world dictatorship.
All of the traditional bugaboos
of the right are
dragged out of
the political attic and into the
The problem
spotlight - international
of praxis
bankers (tradiIt is this contionallya eupheflict between
mism for Jews, the infathe vision of less governmous "Gnomes of Zurich"),
ment and the reality of
the Trilateral Commission,
having to utilize the State
Freemasons, and others.
to legislate a social, moral,
Some religious right literaand political agenda, which
rests at the core of religious conserva- ture abounds with references to hidden
tive praxis - its attempted integration cabals whose goal, according
of theory and action. Experiments in Robertson, is "nothing less than a new
banning pornography, outlawing abor- order for the human race under the
tion, and instituting "family values" is a domination of Lucifer and his followsocial engineering project on par with ers." Robertson weaves a tapestry
anything about which a liberal Roosevel- which has been spun out of right-wing
tian would have dreamed. It is made all ideology for decades. The enemy is
the more disturbing by its reliance on inevitably anti-religious, secularist, and
sheer police force and government co- cunning. This hidden adversary is murky,
ercion. Reed speaks of weaning the reli- its origins lost in the dusty pages of hisgious right from an "intolerant and tory books - perhaps it is the Illuminati,
mean-spirited" past - but how is this to a Jewish "Synagogue of Satan," or some
be achieved without relying on the coer- other order whose roots stretch back to
cive mechanism of government? Even- antiquity. Soon the "true church" will
endure the persecution of this ungodly
tually, the religious right must confront
a stark reality - a considerable seg- conspiracy as it establishes its onement of the American population does world state and one-world church under
not fit into the church-going mold one the leadership of the Antichrist. To even
finds at meetings of the Christian Coali- exist, one will be required to bear the
"Mark of the Beast," a tattoo or other
tion. There are millions of homosexuals,
sign foretold in the Book of Revelation
evolutionists, Atheists, single mothers,
and others who are not "Americans" as that "no man could buy or sell without
the religious conservatives define the the mark of the beast."
Fishing for enemies has given rise to
a large net wielded carelessly by reli. What to do with all of these people?
gious rightists. One-world government
is usually identified with the United
The Mark of the Beast:
Nations or other organizations like the
privacy and other problems
In his 1991 book The New World Trilateral Commission or the Council on
Order (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991) Foreign Relations. The "mark of the
evangelist Pat Robertson - now per- beast" is the supermarket bar code or
religious groups, under
the cover of special taxexempt privilege, can
amass considerable wealth
and the concurrent political influence
such wealth
brings, at the

August 1995

Page 21

There are legitimate issues raised and exploited by the religious right
which still deserve analysis and attention. Since these topics are usually
associated with the conspiracy politics of the fundamentalist Christians,
they are too quickly dismissed by the general media
similar device - perhaps a tattoo or
subcutaneous electronic chip. Another
tool is found in the arsenal of the Antichrist for keeping track of the Christian

Psyching out the religious right

If there is any truth in the proposition
that we fear most what we see in ourselves, one wonders about the significance of the "mark of the beast." Most
religious rightists look to chewing gum
wrappers, soup cans, and credit cards
for signs of prophetic fulfillment about
the mark, while ignoring more obvious
events such as concentration camps in
Nazi Germany. The National Socialist
practice of mandated badges to identify
Jews, homosexuals, political dissidents,
and others (first in public, then in concentration camps) may appeal to some
people even today. Is there a lingering
nostalgia for the "misguided" Nazis,
who nevertheless carried on a crusade
against "godless communism"? Religious conservatives would not identify
themselves as Nazis or Nazi sympathizers - and many probably are not. But
in the demonology of the religious right,
Hitler plays no small role for "holding
back" the red tide and defending "Christian civilization" from eastern hordes. If
fascist movements, freshly animated
throughout Europe and the former
Soviet Union, manage to cater to a religious agenda, tomorrow's brownshirts
willprobably not be condemned, at least
not too strongly, by religious conservatives.

Real issues, clouded reasoning

There are legitimate issues raised and
exploited by the religious right which still
deserve analysis and attention. Since
these topics are usually associated with
the conspiracy politics of the fundamentalist Christians, they are too quickly
dismissed by the general media - and
especially by liberals - as artifacts of
the paranoid imagination, totally discredited due to their source. The association of issues with "religious nut
Page 22

cases" is unfortunate; it makes rational

discourse about them difficult, at times
impossible. Civil libertarians especially
must manage a delicate balancing act addressing such issues forthrightly and
critically, yet managing to avoid the religious detritus which is, so often, injected
into such controversies.

Cabals, intrigues,
and the "old boy network"
Far from being a "satanic plot," traditional far right targets such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Trilaterals, and "international bankers" exist as
a very real factor in preserving or shaping corporate and international arrangements. Often these groups represent
the board memberships of powerful internal corporations and banks; their
corporate strategies overlap the objectives of nation-states. Understanding
the emergent economic "new world
order" - and its impact on labor, natural resources, and small economic units
- demands an understanding of international political groups. The membership roster of the CFR reads like a
"who's who" of finance, corporations,
government bureaucracies, and the intelligence community. It is quite a "power
lunch" when CFR types or other groups
A number of "left" scholars such as
Domhoff, Mills,Barnet, and others have
labored to integrate the organizational
nexus of these "higher circles" into a
meaningful structural theory. Some
have used Marxian analysis, seeing the
CFR, World Bank, and other groups as
an effort to "internationalize" ruling economic elites. Mills grappled with the
problem at the opposite end of the spectrum, trying to define the notion of
"power" in regional communities, and
applying this model to larger social
units. The "big boys" of the CIA, Fortune
500, and other "clubs" do indeed meet,
scheme, intrigue, and jockey for advantage. Their moves affect the lives of
millions of people - as witnessed in the
new economic arrangements coming
August 1995

out of the European Economic Union,

or the North American Free Trade
Agreement. Do they have power? Most
certainly. Is it total, absolute, and enduring? Not in a competitive, global marketplace where the playing field is constant1y changing and new, dynamic players
are constantly entering the game. Rather
than constituting a static "ruling class"
or "conspiracy," the post-modern power
elite plays an ever-changing game of
"King of the Mountain." The stay on top
is brief, competitive, and often brutal.

And big brother is

In an article titled "Electronic Leash,"
writer Lisa Crosby recently discussed
the disturbing potential of implanted,
subcutaneous bio-chips:
This is the story of the not-toodistant future, a future in which
microchips injected underneath
the skin willtrack people's whereabouts, or link personal data to a
computer database. . ..
Crosby admits that her article describes a situation which for religious
fundamentalists is the fulfillment of
biblical prophesy. The use of implant
chips or similar technologies to monitor
and control human beings is reminiscent of the "mark of the beast"; it has
long been the bete noire of fundamentalists, who were initially perturbed
when the supermarket bar codes were
first introduced in retail establishments
to facilitate pricing and inventory control. "Today, injecting a microchip into
animals is routine," notes Crosby. Since
its invention in 1985, the microchip has
evolved from use solely in computers
and other electronics into a subcutaneous "tag" for living creatures. Zoos use
microchips, as do ranches and the U.S.
Marine Fisheries. Crosby notes that
there is even a microchip pet identification system which can reveal the pet
owner's name, address, and other information.
American Atheist

It may not be that much of a leap from

using this technology on farm animals
and your pet cocker spaniel to utilizing
it to monitor, track, and control human
beings. An ordained Baptist minister
named Lindsay Williams warns that by
1995,California willhave in place a fiber
optics systems and the computer hardware to track every automobile on
every mile of road in the state. Good
news, perhaps, if your new Lexus is
heading for the neighborhood chop
shop, or ifyou seek a white Ford Bronco
on the congested L.A. freeway system.
But cars aren't the only things which
can be tracked electronically. A Miami,
Florida, surgeon currently holds the
patent for a biochip that could be used
to track humans; already there has been
interest in this system, supposedly for
locating lost children and wandering
Alzheimer's victims. "The device would
emit a signal that could be monitored
through a cellular system, and possibly
by satellites," notes Crosby. One wonders: ifconcern about Alzheimer's is the
real motivation, why not spend the
money seeking a cure?
And a recent issue of Futurist magazine
paints an even less ambiguous use of
microchip technology. According to a
Colorado parole officer, the microchip
implant could be used to monitor "low
risk" offenders, replacing the existing
ankle bracelets used in some police
jurisdictions already. That is just the
start; a future generation of bio-chips
could monitor an "offender's" physiological reactions and alert the "appropriate" authorities (inevitably, the cops) if
"aberrant" behavior is indicated or
anticipated. Better yet, Robocops of the
twenty-first century could implant subcutaneous drug-dispensing units similar
to the Norplant contraceptive; "violent"
or "anti-social" persons could be remotely sedated or even incapacitated.
Much of this Orwellian vision is being
eagerly embraced as the "alternative" to
the high cost of prison incarceration.
Futurists see other uses for the bio-chip
though, including automatic debit credit
Austin, Texas

of purchases without the need for carrying cash or even a credit card - just
wave your chip implanted hand over a
scanner. Tim Willard, a former managing editor of Futurist, says, "Conceivably, a number could be assigned at
birth and go with a person throughout
life. . . . It could be used as a universal
identification card that would replace
credit cards, passports, that sort of
thing." The bio-chip
would have a "range
of functions that will boggle the mind."
Lisa Crosby's article is a disturbing
one. The branding of
human beings for "socially acceptable" or
politicallycorrect reasons should strike a
disturbing chord in
those of us worried
about the threat to
individual rights by a
growing and menacing state. But for the
Christian right, while
all of this may smack
of apocalyptic nightmares, there is an equally disturbing
question: What is there to prevent a
right-wing religious theocracy from
using such draconian and oppressive
technologies for its own purposes? The
evangelicals, despite their somewhat
antediluvian beliefs', have shown themselves to be incredibly adaptive to the
modern gadgetry of twentieth century,
high-tech communications. Satellites,
FAXmachines, computer bulletinboards,
the latest marketing tools and methods
- all typify the modus operandi of the
religious right. Would a religious dictatorship, "one nation under god," be any
different? Would evangelicals really care
ifGays were implanted with bio-chips to
make sure they weren't frequenting
playgrounds? Is there any reason why a
modern theocracy wouldn't utilize all of
the resources available to secular dictatorships? How else would a governing
August 1995

body of religious zealots make sure that

everyone else is behaving?

Iran and the limits of dictatorship

We can gain some idea of how theocratic dictatorships operate by examining
countries or regions where religious
movements wield total or considerable
political leverage. In Iran, the overthrow
of the Shah resulted in the restructuring
of the secret police
apparatus known as
SAVAK and its integration into the "Islamic Revolution."
Like its predecessor,
the Islamic state is
concerned about potential internal opposition and maintains
- a widespread network of informants
and agents. There is
considerably more
emphasis placed on
the "environmental
policing" of society,
however; newspapers, clubs, private
associations, publishing houses, and the electronic media are
all strictly monitored. Movies are censored, often banned, and Iran - like
many other Middle Eastern countries worries about the "cultural contamination" which is fostered by modern communications technologies such as satellite dishes or cellular computer networks.
A number of Islamic countries already
prohibit private ownership of satellite
dish receivers. In Saudi Arabia, there
are severe fines for owning the dishes,
and police scour cities, towns, and the
countryside scanning yards and rooftops. In addition, the country has a formal organization of mutawahs, clerical
police who patrol areas to enforce
Islamic codes of dress or behavior. (During Operation Desert Storm, there were
widespread stories of female U.S. troops
defying the mutawahs, even causing the
Page 23

robed clerics bodily harm. The Saudi

media buzzed with such reports; one
commentator noted that it didn't matter
ifthe stories were true - people wanted
to believe them.)
In the United Nations, some countries (particularly those with large Muslim populations), with the support of the
Vatican and other religious groups, have
tried to limit the use of direct broadcast
satellite systems. Television -like other
aspects of culture - is perceived as a
tool for reinforcing the religious perception of the world, not as a medium to
foster questions and doubt.
Ironically,Ayatollah Khomeni's rise to
power was facilitated by one of the more
prosaic artifacts of popular culture: the
tape cassette. Recordings of the ayatollah's messages were smuggled into Iran
and duplicated for a wide, credulous
audience. Enough people pushed the
play button, and the revolution was on.

and civilliberties. But technology, along

with the scale of political organization, is
multidimensional; there exist unanticipated consequences, problems and outcomes. The invention of the telephone
did not destroy social gatherings; television didn't kill radio; movie theaters did
not vanish as a result of laser discs and
VCRs. Computers, while certainly an
aid to the government, have likewise
provided a rapidly growing and lucrative
field for cyber-crime.
The same might be said of the implanted microchips. Like the 1950s popular wet dream of a personal helicopter
in everyone's backyard (remember? It
would replace the earl), or the equally
fanciful visions of Norman Bel Geddes?
and the 1930sfuturists, microchips may
never be used in human beings - or on
a very limited scale. If it is tried, the system may very well break down due to
technical problems, including outright
sabotage. Those chips may be as easy

Selective indignation
The ability of religious movements to
embrace technology - despite reactionary agendas - suggests that the
theocratic state would be as draconian
and Orwellian as any invented by a
Stalin, Pol Pot, or some techno-geek.
The religious right has no aversion to
using technology, and they certainly
have a social and political program
which would necessitate a full, vigorous
employment of police-state resources.
While they may fear the "mark of the
beast" or other measures used against
them, I suspect that its members would
be far less indignant if similar measures
were employed against Atheists, Gays,
"criminals," and others not befitting
their peculiar standards.

And the' good news is ..

Concerns over bio-chips, the ubiquitous habit of using credit cards, and
other means of tracking location, spending habits and other data, even the
prospect of a "world government" - all
of this should be of interest to anyone
emphasizing the primacy of individuality
Page 24

7Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958),American

theatrical andindustrial designer.

to alter or counterfeit as the best currency. Like the arms race between the
nations, the technology marathon between government and the citizenry
shifts back and forth. Maybe the microchip is already fostering a future generation of cyber-revolutionaries.
Civil liberties questions can be considerably more basic than the hypothetical use of Star Wars technology on human beings, though. The religious right
can worry about the "mark of the beast"
by some millennialist Antichrist dictator
- that hasn't prevented them from supporting restrictive laws right now. Christian Coalitionists are still trying to ban
books in libraries, protesting "smut" on
television, and worrying about people's
sexual orientations. Despite the rhetoric
of "participating at the table we call
democracy," they are political bullies
who can make little or no claim to supporting the Bill of Rights. Their idea of
"less government" is ludicrous, ifnot impossible, by their standards.
The only way for god's bullies to act
is with a club. ~

Two things that you can do

to help American Atheists
1. Watch for news items in your local paper or any news magazines concerning separation of state and church. Clip all the
items you find and send them to American Atheist General
Headquarters, making sure that they are marked as to their
source and date of publication. These clippings are a rich
.source of information for a variety of publications issued from
G.H.Q.and can even be the basis for litigation in the separation
of state and church area.

2.Write letters to the editor of local newspapers and magazines

on issues important to Atheists, such as state/ church separation.
Let them know that there are Atheists in their community concerned about the intrusion of private religion into public life.
American Atheist General Headquarters
P. O. Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195
Telephone: (512) 458-1244 FAX: (512) 467-9525

August 1995

American Atheist

Leaving the faith

uch an argument just wouldn't
happen these days, but this one
actually went on all evening. Margaret had been invited to dinner by a
fourth-year resident at Saint James. He
had come into the hospital pharmacy on
Friday morning to ask about the availability of a new vaccine, and that very
afternoon phoned to ask ifshe was busy
Saturday night. Sister Mary Frances
overheard the conversation and rolled
her eyes, plump freckled cheeks smiling
beyond the tight white band of her coif.
"Oh, oh! a date with the handsome Doctor Reedy."
They decided to try the Barcelona, a
new restaurant in town, and found it to
be quiet and underpopulated for a Saturday night. For a few moments they
looked around, admiring the Spanish
cantina look of the place. Margaret felt
slightlyuncomfortable and wished something other than ordinary remarks
would come out of her mouth. They
talked about the hospital, then the nuns
who directed St. James, then religion in
general. Margaret had never heard anyone say, "I'm an Atheist." But Paul said
it as calmly as "let's have some sangria."
Her first thought was that, of course, he
wasn't serious. People didn't talk like
that. No one she knew had blatantly disowned god. Once in a while the merits
of different religions had been discussed, but Margaret wasn't interested.
She felt that her Catholicism was a part
of her, with nothing left to question.
It was 1948;all the rules were in place.
Margaret didn't eat meat on Fridays,
attended mass on holy days of obligetion, and observed all the Lenten reo
strictions. It was a habit and a duty. On
Sunday mornings, wearing what her
mother called "a decent Sunday dress,"
hat, and gloves, she went off to mass,
leaving her roommate home to clean the
small apartment. Margaret disliked
housecleaning and felt she needed to
learn to cook, so in a fair distribution of
labor, she took care of the marketing
and earnestly consulted Cooking for
Two as she prepared their evening

A date, a doubt, a
questioning mind and a step toward

Writer Arline McCarthy notes that

"Leaving the Faith" is "completely
autobiographical, with names and
places changed. I'm an older woman
who has just decided to sit down and
write a few things for my
grandchildren. "

Arline McCarthy
Austin, Texas

August 1995

meals. Her roommate was a young

woman whose churchgoing was confined to weddings and funerals since her
days of enforced attendance at a Methodist Sunday school. She was perfectly
satisfied to follow the Golden Rule and
never discussed religion.
The waiter, dressed like a toreador,
brought their salads, fragrant with olive
oil and oregano. And with the hearty appetites of youth, Paul and Margaret
smiled at each other and began their
dinner, sharing a basket of warm breadsticks. It was delicious, and probably
should have been enjoyed with dinner

table pleasantries, but Margaret wanted

to get back to the subject of his Atheism.
She asked him how he had come to
such an idea and told him that she found
his absence of any belief to be shocking.
A crusading urge that she had never felt
before pushed her to tell him all the beliefs that were so important to her. Paul
asked what her reasons were for believing as she did when she had no proof.
Was it just a leap of faith? These two.
didn't become angry - never raised
their voices. It was a polite argument,
but soon she began to see that he, not
she, was armed to do battle, and he was
not going to give ground. In fact, Paul
now seemed bent on seeing her change.
He was taking the conversation off on a
Page 25

Then he leaned forward and told her that he was sorry,

but he couldn't comprehend why she had never questioned
any of the dogma she had been taught. He called it
"pure, unexamined belief." Margaret had never heard that phrase.
strange course, a course full of hurdles
that she felt she must leap with reasonable answers. He was dismantling all religionsand making a belief in a supreme
being sound like a folk tale. He laid out
his logic, one statement after another.
She was defending her beliefs and even
others' beliefs, trying to leap those hurdles, feelinglike some sort of mental athlete, thinking fast, trying to remember
things she had learned as a child, knowing positively that no matter what he
said, nothing would move her from her
Paul sat for a moment as the waiter
cleared away the plates and brought
coffee. Then he leaned forward and told
her that he was sorry, but he couldn't
comprehend why she had never questioned any of the dogma she had been
taught. He called it "pure, unexamined
belief." Margaret had never heard that
phrase. She decided to think about
what it meant later, after she had convinced him she was right. She had to
cling to what she believed. That's what
true faith was. This fellow could talk all
he liked. He would never sway her. She
allowed herself a mental peek at martyrs
bravely facing the lions in the Coliseum
at Rome, then quickly shut it out. She
was a grown-up having dinner with a
person she liked and respected, and he
was definitely disturbing the equilibrium
of her life. Was it the sangria? Margaret
felt a little off balance. This was an impossible conversation. Finally, tired of
trying, she said in exasperation, "If you
had ever been a Catholic, you'd understand."
"I was born a Catholic. Where do you
suppose I got the name Paul Vincent
So he had been a Roman Catholic,
but had left the church. She almost
couldn't believe it. She had never known
anyone who simply walked away. He
was intelligent and educated - and
seemed to be a good person. How could
he have done that? The meal was finished,
but they sat over coffee, still talking,
never giving in. It was a complete standPage 26

off. Paul saw nothing but foolishness in

her beliefs, and she refused to accept
any truth in what he had to say. She also
realized that this man was not going to
agree that anything was true simply because she believed it to be true. And so
the dinner at the Barcelona came to an
end, politely, with a feeling on both sides
that there was no more to say to each
For days, Margaret thought about
that strange evening with Paul. One Saturday morning she attempted to make
bread for the first time. After the mixture had been sitting in the
bowl for several hours, she
lifted the towel and saw the
warm, yeasty dough fermenting.1t looked like a livingbrain
- like her own brain bubbling with doubts growing
larger and out of hand. She
hadn't told Paul that mass
was often a dull routine, or
that she sometimes had to
fight sleepiness while kneeling in the pew. As the weeks went by
and Margaret continued thinking about
it, things he had said began to seem
more and more sensible. The old doctrines of the church, firmly established
in her mind years before, had been
sorted out and laid before her. It made
her uneasy to question them. She wanted
to be loyal to her heritage, but could she
fool herself into continuing to believe in
every single tenet of the Catholic faith?
Her growing anxiety needed some
resolution. If she could pluck up the
courage, maybe a priest could help her.
One Saturday afternoon, she knelt in
the dark confessional and heard the
priest slide back the little door. His voice
came through the curtain: "In the name
of the Father, the Son and the Holy
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
Then a dusty list of misdemeanors gossip, polite lies. He gave her the usual
penance, a few short prayers to recite.
The moment had come. Before he
had time to slide back the tiny door and
August 1995

turn to the penitent waiting on the other side, Margaret made herself say,
"Father, I think I'm losing my faith. At
mass I'm just sitting there not really taking part - not praying and sometimes
getting sleepy."
She waited with some apprehension
to hear what he might say to her. A rebuke, perhaps? No. As though he heard
this complaint every day of the year, he
asked her how old she was. "Twenty."
At that he said calmly, "Well, that's to be
expected at your age. Everyone starts
to question at that time. When you
leave, go next door and speak
to the housekeeper about
giving you some books to
borrow. After you have a look
at them, I'm sure you'll feel
better about our Holy Mother the Church."
With some relief, She returned to a pew and silently
prayed her penance - the
usual Our Father and two
Hail Marys. Then she went
out through the heavy front doors and
stood for a while on the steps of the old
church looking over at the priest's
house. How could she word the question
to the housekeeper? She felt she had
already gone too far and really didn't
want to go back. The books probably.
wouldn't help her now. She descended
the stairs and walked slowly over to the
rectory gate. She put her hand on the
latch, noticing the red and yellow leaves
that had fallen on the path leading to the
door. After a moment Margaret took
her hand away and walked home.
What would her parents think about
her becoming a "fallen away" Catholic?
Would she miss the beauty of the ancient music, the candles, the smoky air
full of rich fragrance from a swinging
censer? The great cathedrals of Europe
would no longer be hers. Could she just
walk out on this with nothing to replace
it? Margaret went to mass the next day
and took communion - trying to draw
up some spiritual comfort from the well
that was running dry for her.
American Atheist

Wednesday of that week was All

Souls' Day. Vera Rotello and Margaret
had planned to go to noon mass. Vera
worked in her office, and the two young
women always used their lunch hour on
holy days to go off to church together.
Margaret had not discussed her problem with anyone other than the priest
and said nothing to Vera about it. They
left the building in a downpour, scurrying through wet leaves as the fall wind
slashed rain through the streets and up
around their ankles.

Damp and cold, they cowered under

their umbrellas on the safety island in
the middle of the street waiting for the
street car, helpless to avoid the dirty
water splashing up from passing cars.
After several minutes of this, Vera tilted
her umbrella and cocked her head up at
Margaret, black eyes impatient. "Let's
forget mass and get some lunch!" In the
few seconds before Margaret answered,
her mind took a hurried tour over all the
things she had been weighing. Was this
the moment for the final decision?
Would she renounce the years of learning from the gentle nuns who believed
so strictly in the one "true faith?"
Until that moment she had believed
that if she were to willfullymiss mass on
a Sunday or a holy day, it was a mortal
sin punishable by hell. There was no
grey area. The rules were there. If she
wanted to belong, she followed them
and believed them. Yet she couldn't believe in hell and had begun to have
strong doubts about the existence of
heaven. Margaret at that moment made
the decision. If a god existed somewhere, he must be so powerful that he
probably didn't need worshipping and
shouldn't care whether anyone went to
mass or not.
Austin, Texas

If such a transcendental experience

as being "born again" can actually happen, Margaret felt it. She said to herself
later that it had been like chains dropping off. Suddenly she was at peace,
guiltless. In those few seconds she knew

that nothing should be worshipped.

Nothing needed to be worshipped. A
new energy suddenly spilled out. She
cried, "Let's go!" and together they
splashed toward a nearby lunchroom. ~

An Atheist Epic
by Madalyn O'Hait
On June 14, 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance
was changed to include the words "under
On July 11, 1955, President Eisenhower
made the slogan "In God We Trust" mandatory on all currency. The national motto
was changed to the same god phrase on
July 30, 1956.
And in 1959 a self-admitted Atheist challenged school prayer.
The 1950s - it was the decade of "Father Knows Best" and the Red
Scare. A good American was a Christian American - or at least a
religious one. The enemy was "godless communism," and our best
weapon against it was the Christianization of America.
But a Baltimore woman challenged all that.
She simply said "no" to mandatory prayer - and started a controversy that still rages today.
That woman was Madalyn Murray. And An Atheist Epic is her
story, from the first complaint to the public school that required her
child to say the Lord's Prayer to the day the Supreme Court gave its
decision in the landmark school prayer case Murray v. Curlett.
New edition; now includes photos.
302 pp. Paperback. Stock #5376.
$10.00 plus $3.00 postage and handling per book.

Available from:

American Atheist Press

P. O. Box 140195
Austin, TX 78714-0195
VISA and MasterCard phone and FAX orders accepted;
just call (512)467-9525 any time of the day or night.

August 1995

Page Zl


vising entity in order to plead their cases

for becoming one of those whose soul
shall be accepted for continuing and
eternal life, and to be provided with special consideration and attention in the
human and material life known to them.
A problem in the back of my head for
many years was how to dispel this illusion.
Prayer has always appeared to me to
be the most vulnerable point for attack
on the panoply of religious ideology.
Shown not to be efficacious, I reasoned,
the practice of prayer would atrophy. I
here are four basic irrational ele- was therefore always an enemy of it. Yet
ments of religion which hold the I had other matters to which I had to
minds of men in captivity. Those ele- attend: earning a living, rearing my chilments must be met head-on in order to dren. Meanwhile, in the game plan of
have humanity survive. At no time in his- theopolitics, there came to be a public
tory, prior to the advent of American display of prayer after World War II
Atheists, have they been directly and ex- which was particularly annoying to me.
p~icitly confronted, and the time has Annoying - only that and nothing
come when it is a necessity.
In the midst of my life, however, I inThe four ideas are:
advertently stumbled upon a full-scale
1. that there is a superintending force in prayer fight which was to consume
the universe concerned with and thirty years of my efforts. A Baltimore
governing not only the thoughts, but school board requirement was that a
the ultimate fates of individual per- parent must accompany a child to
school on the first day of attendance in
2. that each individual person, or an order to register the child - and I had
agent of such a person, can be in di- children. Wanting to transfer my older
rect communication with that gov- son from a private to a public school, I
erning authority by the use of prayer; went with him one fateful day in 1959. I
3. that conformity to the wishes of that don't know why we were late getting
outside, ethereal, invisible power will there. I don't remember where we finalcause the death of our material bod- ly parked the car. I don't know how we
managed to enter by the wrong door.
ies to be insignificant;
4. that an invisible essence (the soul) is But walking down long corridors in Balreally the only existing form of life timore's Woodbourne Junior High
School, my son and I passed room after
which is important to all.
room from which we heard the echoes
The use of these religious ideas has of the Lord's Prayer being recited by the
empowered those who would control students.
When we finally gained the administhe mass of humankind. Entire nations
have been led down primrose paths by trative offices, we were held up intermiadroit use of this ideology. In the United nably by "paperwork" and finally by an
enforced rule that it was necessary for
States, after the Russian Revolution
which appeared to be premised in Athe- a parent to discuss "a transfer" with the
ism as well as the anti-capitalist tenets of principal. What I had envisaged as taking a quarter of an hour dragged on to
communism, there was a concerted
political effort to Christianize the nation an hour or more. But, finally,with it finand to equate that religion with the ished, I opened the door to leave. It was
socio-economic system of capitalism. then that I remembered having heard
To accomplish this purpose, the admo- the prayers, and I turned back to the
nition of Jesus Christ had to be incul- principal to ask why prayers were being
cated into the populace: "Every knee recited by the students in a public
shall bow" (Rom. 14:11).
It was thus that, as an Atheist, my un. The most powerful of the four god
ideas is that which gives individual hu- happiness concerned with prayer culmiman beings hope of being able to com- nated in a lawsuit. My complaint against
municate with the superior and super- those school prayers, begun in the fallof


-The reasonsfor
Atheists to reiect
school prayer go
far beyond



Born on April 13, 1919,Dr. O'Hair

initiated the United States Supreme
Court case Murray v. Curlett, which
removed reverential Bible reading and
prayer recitation from the public
schools of our nation in June 1963. She
founded American Atheists in the
same year. Together with GORA she
founded the United World Atheists,
sponsor of the triennial World Atheist
Meet. A champion of freedom of
speech, freedom of assemblage, freedom of conscience, and the right to be
free from religion, she is known nationally and internationally as an Atheist

Page 28


August 1995

American Atheist


1959, continued until the decision of classmates heard the Bible read, and
Murray v. Curlett was handed down that at the time of prayer would stand
almost four years later - by the Su- and "move their lips as if reciting the
preme Court of the United States on prayer" so that they would not "offend"
June 17, 1963.
the religious and prayerful students in
Since I have been attacked, particu- the room.
larly by the so-called "liberal" left, as
After about fourteen months of fighthaving "no part" in the prayer issue, it is ing, I was able to force the school board
time that there is a clarification of what to amend the requirement so that my
actually happened. I am rather angry sons could be excused from participatthat "freethought," "civil liberties," "hu- ing in the exercise, since it was both remanist," and state/church separationist
pugnant and offensive. This was not,
organizations and publications desire to however, available until the attorney
read an Atheist out of history.
general of the state of Maryland (at the
There is no "Lord's Prayer" in the request of the state superintendent of
public schools of the United States be- schools) issued an amendment to the
cause I, as an Atheist,
school board rules on Nochallenged it specifically. I
vember 17, 1960. That
want that shown in the
amendment read:
records of our culture as
it is shown in the legal recAny child shall be
ords of just what went on
excused from par"back then" in the early
ticipatingin the open1960s.
ing exercises or from
There is much brouattending the open.
haha currently about
mg exercises upon
"prayer" - and that term
written requests of
is used in a generic sense
his parent or guard- in the public schools,
any sort of prayer, but the
real "hurt" to the ChrisMeanwhile, news of
my revolt against recitatians is that the prayer
fashioned by their beloved
tion of the Lord's Prayer
J.C. is no longer perhad hit the media, and
In the midst
the reprisals against me
of my life,
Each and every school
began. When I insisted
day, in the public schools
on pursuing the case lehowever, I
gally, my employer, the
of Baltimore, my two sons
City of Baltimore, through
were forced to hear passages from the KingJames
immediate supervistumbled
Version of the Bible read
sor, Mrs. Lazarus, in the
upon a fullDepartment of PublicWelto them and to recite the
so-called Lord's Prayer as
fare, told me that I had
scale prayer
given by Jesus Christ in
"brought disgrace" to
fight which
the city by my adamant
the Sermon on the Mount
(Matt. 6:5) in the New
confrontation with the
was to conTestament. When I dispublic school system and
sume thirty
covered that prayers had
that I was fired for misconduct in that the "disinvaded the public schools,
years of my
I could not countenance
grace" had redounded
upon the city's Departthe exercise.
At first I tried to find an
ment of Public Welfare.
amicable settlement with the particular
I had no intention of tempering my reschools involved, then with the Balti- solve to remove the prayer from the
more Board of Education, and finally public schools, come what may to me
with the Board of School Commisand mine. When the hostility, the reprisioners of Baltimore. No administrative sals, and the sanctions came, I factored
remedy was available, no matter what them in as unavoidable.
approach was used. The ultimate decision
When I hit the legendary stone wall in
which was handed down after a fullyear negotiations, I sued John N. Curlett,
of effort was that my sons would "assume President, Individually, and (all of the
an attitude of reverence" while their members) Constituting the Board of
Austin, Texas

August 1995

School Commissioners of Baltimore

City, Maryland. Having hired a private
attorney, I filed for a writ of Mandamus
from the Superior Court of the City of
Baltimore. There was, at that time, a
procedure for applying for such a writ.
Mandamus was the name of an order
which issued from a court of superior
jurisdiction, directed to a municipal entity (such as the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore City) commanding the performance of a particular act (rescinding the rule which provided for opening exercises in public schools
which embraced Bible reading and
prayer recitation) and directing the restoration of the rights of my sons not to
be coerced into prayer (the right of
which they had been illegallydeprived).
The one rule which I wanted to have rescinded was Sec. 6 of Article VI of the
Rules of the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore City, adopted in
1905, which read:
Section 6 - Opening Exercises. Each school, either collectively or in classes, shall be opened
by the reading, without comment,
of a chapter in the Holy Bible and/
or the use of the Lord's Prayer.
The Douay version may be used
by those pupils who prefer it. Appropriate patriotic exercises should
[also] be held as a part of the general opening exercise of the school
or class.

Resistance from the Left

The Maryland Civil Liberties Union
absolutely refused to be involved in any
manner in this suit, although I attempted
to persuade it to do so over a period of
many months. In fact, the attorney for
the ACLU said to me,
What is the matter with prayer?
A little prayer never hurt anyone.
Iwent to the public schools here in
Baltimore and said the Lord's
Prayer every day even though Iam
a Jew. That never hurt me.
I went over the head of the Maryland
CLU to the national office of the ACLU
in New York and to Ira Glasser. The national ACLU also said "no way," despite
the fact that it now takes credit for the
The Emergency CivilLiberties Union,
headed up and financed by Corliss
Lamont, also refused to assist. Lamont,
Page 29

of course, was then and still is a primary even notified their members of what was
financier of the American Humanist
happening. I think that I was primarily
Association (AHA). I also asked the looking for intellectual support. I wantAmericanHumanist Association, through ed one of those groups, or one of the
its headquarters in Yellow Springs,
officers in the groups, to agree with me
Ohio, and through its local groups in that prayer was irrational. If they could
both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, not do that, I was asking for legal supMaryland, to assist, and the answer was port, even by proclamation, to proceed
a flat "No way." In fact, I won the ani- against the school commission under
mosity of the American Humanist Asso- the rubric of the First Amendment to
ciation for insisting that I go on with the the Constitution of the United States.
case whether the AHA helped or not.
There were at the time several small
As I look back on it now, I must have "freethought" and "rationalist" groups
been quite mad, for I also petitioned di- in the United States. The Friendship
verse branches of the Ethical Culture Liberal League of Philadelphia, afraid to
Society (which was then largely Jewish) openly identify itself as Atheist, did put
in New York, in New Jerse.y, in Pennsyl- short informative articles about my
vania, and in Baltimore to assist. Again, squabble with the Baltimore public
that assistance was declined. Finally, schools in its publication, The Liberal,
having persons come to me from the from time to time. But the only real offer
Unitarian church exalting the efforts of of the old men involved in that organizathat religion toward "fairness" in our cul- tion was to take over what I was doing
ture, I asked the Unitarian church both since they were concerned that it was a
in Baltimore and in Boswoman who was attemptton ifit would assist in the
ing to challenge prayer.
case. The answers from
I had to prove,
The other freethought
both were complete repuin court, that
groups were too involved
diations of my efforts.
the prayer
in internecine warfare to
There was an organizarecitation and
unite behind any effort to
tion then known as Protemount a real campaign in
stants and Other AmeriBible reading
behalf of the removal of
cans United for Separadid indeed
tion of Church and State,
Charles Smith of the
headquartered in Silver
National Liberal League
Spring, Maryland. Ostenreligion in the
in New York gave a check
sively it advocated state/
public schools,
for $5,000 to the attorney
church separation, but in
However, had
who drew up the Applicaactuality it was merely a
there been no
tion for a Writ of MandaBaptist-dominated, antimus. That was the only
Catholic group. I contactactual financial help I ever
ed it by making a personal
Amendment," I obtained from any of the
trip to its headquarters
would have
He also
and by talking to its prind d
permitted me to write a
cipal officer, Glenn L. Arprocee e
small article on the case
cher, when he came to
with my
in one of the issues of his
Baltimore to give a speech
monthly magazine, The
on the need for church
Truth Seeker.
and state separation. The
1 I want to make it clear
organization refused to assist in any way
I mean to say that all of these organizations were both rude and insulting. I
telephoned. I wrote. I got in my automobile, drove to the cities in which they
were located, and visited their headquarters. I talked to their officers. Not a
one can say that they were not, in depth,
notified and kept abreast of the developments of the case. Not a one can say
that they encouraged what I was doing
or that they helped in any manner whatsoever. For the most part, none of them
Page 30

that my objections to prayer were based

on the logic of my Atheism. I will get to
that, but first you must know what I
tried to do legally.
I had no remedy at law. My only recourse was to rely on the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States. That
is, that government is precluded from
making a law "respecting an establishment of religion." I had to prove, in
court, that the prayer recitation and
Bible reading did indeed "establish" religion in the public schools. However, had
August 1995

there been no "First Amendment," I

would have proceeded with my protest.
The First Amendment only provided me
with a possible legal stand, as differentiated from my intellectual stand. Even
so, that provision was not adequate.
The full First Amendment states:
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.
At the time that the Billof Rights was
written, sufficient documentation was
not made in respect to the development
of this amendment. Today we would
simply shrug and say that "there was no
paper trail." Despite sophisticated
guesses, there is really no evidence on
which to make a case as to the exact intended definition of the "establishment"
or "free exercise" phrase. In any event,
since Iwas not a signatory to that instrument, or a citizen of the nation at the
time that it was accepted as a governing
document, I have never felt any real
compulsion to swallow the Constitution
whole. When all is said and done, it was
written by slave owners, ignored any
rights of women, catered to the propertied, counted a Black man as only threefifths of a human being, and created the
equivalent of the House of Lords in the
U.S. Senate. It certainly did not protect
the Atheist.

"Your petitioners are

Atheists . . ."
From the very beginning, the lawyers
of the City of Baltimore treated me in a
very cavalier way. The comments made
to the newspapers were derogatory and
insulting. None of those persons knew
me or my children. There was no reason
for deliberate untruths to be spread
throughout the media. And when my
application for a Writ of Mandamus was
filed, their ultimate insult was to not
even reply to it. Instead, the attorneys
for the city filed what is called a "demurrer." This was a statement that even admitting everything I had said in my complaint was true that, as they were set
forth in my papers to the court, they
were insufficient for me to proceed on
them. They boldly stated that the legal
American Atheist

consequences of the acts of which I

complained (even if they were true)
were not of such significance that they
should be put to the necessity of answering them in a court of law - or anywhere else.
Well, when a party in a lawsuit files a
demurrer, that does admit every fact
well pled. And included in what I had
pled for myself and my sons was the
statement that the rule which required
Bible reading and the recitation of the
Lord's Prayer:
threatens our religious liberty by
placing a premium on belief as
against non-belief and subjects
our freedom of conscience to the
rule of the majority; it pronounces
belief in God as the source of all
moral and spiritual values, equating these values with religious
values, and thereby renders sinister, alien and suspect our beliefs
and ideals, promoting doubt and
question on our morality, good citizenship, and good faith.
I further pled that since my sons had
been excluded from the exercise, they
had been subjected to reproach and insult, that the practice had a tendency to
destroy the equality of the pupils, and
placed my sons in a disadvantageous
position with respect to other pupils.
Additionally, I particularized what
Atheists held:
Your petitioners are Atheists
and they define their life-style as
follows. An Atheist loves himself
and his fellowman instead of a god.
An Atheist knows that heaven is
something for which we should
work now - here on earth - for
allmen together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help
through prayer but that he must
find in himself the inner conviction
and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it.
An Atheist thinks that only in a
knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellowman can he find
the understanding that willhelp to
a life of fulfillment.
Therefore, he seeks to know
himself and his fellowman rather
than to know a god. An Atheist
knows that a hospital should be
builtinstead of a church. An Atheist
knows that a deed must be done
Austin, Texas

instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life

and not escape into death.
He wants disease conquered,
poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand
and love man. He

wants an ethical way

of life.He knows that
we cannot rely on a
god nor channel action into prayer nor
hope for an end of
troubles in a hereafter. He knows that
we are our brothers'
keepers and keepers
of our lives; that we
are responsible persons, that the job is
here and the time is

Court of Baltimore City was against me,

the attitude of all of the above organizetions was "We told you so." The religious and the media gloated. I realize
that now the Baptists, and the Methodists, and the Presbyterians, and the
Episcopalians, and all other mainline Protestant religions repeat and repeat
that they were against
prayer in school, that they
were happy when it was
found to be inappropriate. But "I was there,
Charlie" when it all happened, and they are
damned liars.
Now, recently, there is
much ado about the case
of Engel v. Vitale, but that
case had not as yet been
decided at the time my
case was being fought out
From the very
in Baltimore, Maryland.
beginning, the
Also, that case was conlawyers of the
cerned with New York's
voluntarily recited soCity of Balcalled Regents' prayer in
timore treated
public schools. That is,
me in a very
the Regents of the Board
.of Education of the State
oo.valier way.
of New York had comThe comments
posed a twenty-two-word
made to the
prayer - with no reference at allto J.C. - which
they felt was innocuous
enough to pass muster, .
and insulting.
even with Jews:

The Superior Court of

Baltimore City rendered
a decision for the school
board on April 27, 1961,
stating that the demurrer
to the writ of mandamus
was sustained. This was
based on two grounds:
(1) that I had not stated a
good "cause of action"
since the school board
was acting in its discretion by requiring the Bible
reading and prayer recitation. And (2) that I had
not "spelled out any violation" of our constitutional
None of those
Almighty God, we
right which I professed to
persons knew
acknowledge our dehave for myself and my
me or my
At the time of the filing
Thee, and we beg
Thy blessings upon
of the suit, there was still
There was no
us, our parents, our
much argument in the
reason for
teachers and our
courts over what is called
"standing to sue" - someCountry. Amen.
thing which a mere taxuntruths to be
payer did not have. Howspread
In respect to my Baltiever, I had filed the suit as
throughout the
more case, what was rea resident of Maryland, a
peated in the public
taxpayer, and I recited
schools was the Lord's
that I was a mother with ------- Prayer, that is, the Prayer
two children who were in compulsory
of Jesus Christ, given by J.C. in the Serattendance at the public schools of Bal- mon on the Mount, in the New Testatimore. That, I felt, should give me ment (King James Version) to wit:
"standing to sue." In the course of the
suit, the Superior Court simply asOur Father which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
sumed, without deciding it, that I had
Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will
such standing.
When the decision of the Superior
be done in earth as in heaven.
August 1995

Page 31

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts, as we
forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and
the power, and the glory, forever.
Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13)
The Roman Catholics and the Jews
were both opposed to this prayer. The
Roman Catholic version given in the
Douay Version of the Bible is, of course,
different by omission of everything after
the word evil:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy willbe
done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.
And forgive our debts, as we
also forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.
Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13)
Across the nation in laws, codes, and
regulations in thousands of school districts, it was the Lord's Prayer (not just
prayer) that was ordered to be recited.
The religious hated me for attacking
that hallowed prayer. They hated me
with a vengeance, and across Baltimore
Iwas the subject of many sermons, from
many religious podiums, in many
churches. I know because persons who
were angry over those sermons in their
churches contacted me and told me
what was going on. I was particularly
malignedin the Roman Catholic churches
of the city.
The "liberal" elements of the nation,
all of whom refused to be of assistance,
were furious because I based my dissent
to prayer in Atheism. One and all, they
advised me I had no right to go outside
of the framework of the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment to the
Constitution. Prayer was to be questioned, if it was questioned at all, on the
basis that "different religions would
want different prayers," but that there
was nothing inherently wrong with
prayer itself. This was a totally and
wholly dishonest approach. What was
at issue were the prayers to Jesus Christ
which Jews found offensive, and the
King James Version of the New Testament which the Roman Catholics found
offensive. Like it or not, Jews are powerPage 32

ful in politics, finance, and .---------.

communications in the
country. Jews dominate
the liberal factions of politics. The Regents' prayer
in New York was deliberately fashioned to eliminate
the reference to Jesus
Christ so as to maintain
religious expression, but
not to insult the Jews.
Then, so as not to either
annoy or insult the Christians, the Regents' prayer
was not addressed to Yahwah, Jehovah, or the "I
Key court
Am That I Am" of the
rulings on
Jews. The bland "god"
which covered the de'
prayer in the
nominational disagreepublic
ments was utilizedinstead.
One must remember that
both Baltimore and New
Engel v. Vitale. State-comYork had heavy Roman
posed prayer found unconCatholic populations.
stitutionaL Supreme Court,
Meanwhile, I - as an
Murray v. Curlett. Bible
Atheist - insisted that
reading and prayer recithe prayers were inapprotation found unconstitupriate because there was
tional. Supreme Court,
no god to whom they
Collins u, Chandler Uni
could be addressed.

Climbing the ladder

of appeals
Therefore, I appealed
my lost case to the Court
of Appeals of Maryland,
for the September 1961
term of that court, still
working only with a private
attorney who represented me and my sons, the
students involved. Please
remember that I had graduated from law school in
1952, and the work on the
case was mainly my own,
with my hired attorney
having little or no time to
handle the case himself.
The case was argued
twice before the Court of
Appeals of Maryland. The
initial hearing was before
five judges, and the questions presented were two:

fied School District. Prayer

at school assemblies found
unconstitutionaL Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1981.
Karen B. u. Treen. Classroom prayer found impermissible. Fifth Circuit Court
of Appeals, 1981.
Wallace u, Jaffree. Silent
prayer found unconstitutionaL Supreme Court, 1985.
May v. Cooperman. Silent
prayer disallowed. Third
Circuit Court of Appeals,
Jager u, Douglas County
School District. Football
game invocations ruled unconstitutionaL Eleventh Circuit,l992.
Lee u, Weisman. Graduation invocation ruled unconstitutionaL 1992.
Jones v. Clear Creek
School District. Graduation
invocation ruled constitutional if student-initiated,
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1992.

1. whether the mandamus was a proper

action with which to test the constitutionality of the school board rule,
2. whether the provisions of the regulaAugust 1995

tion under attack violated a constitutional

right my sons and I
had as Atheists.
Naturally, we lost on
that first try in 1961.
Then the Court of Appeals agreed to hear oral
arguments again. The second arguments
heard before seven judges,
and these were restricted
to the constitutional issue.
The Court of Appeals
finally held on April 1,
1962 (three years after
our initial complaints),
that the First Amendment
"was not intended to stifle
all rapport between religion and government."
This was a twenty-twopage decision in which
the lower case decisions
upholding the constitutionality of prayer and
Bible reading were approved. The court recited
many precedents for its
decision beginning from
1854 and forward, those
cases being from Texas,
Colorado, Maine, Iowa,
Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Minnesota, and New York. In each
instance, prayers had been
held to be appropriate.

Seeking equal

We had also pled the

Fourteenth Amendment,
in that my sons had been
denied equal protection
of the laws. The Court of
in essence
laughed at this, holding
that "the self-exile" of my
sons from the Bible/prayer
exercises could have had
a deleterious effect on relationships with other students, but that the Fourteenth Amendment could
not and did not provide protection from
embarrassment or psychological discontent arising out of nonconformance
with the mores of the majority.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland
therefore affirmed the lower court deciAmerican Atheist

sion on April 2, 1962. At that time, the

Supreme Court had not as yet ruled on
the New York Regents' prayer in the
Engel v. Vitale case. I had sixty days to
appeal and filed with the Supreme
Court before June 2, 1962.
That court handed down its decision
on the New York Regents' prayer case
three weeks later on June 25,1962, and
then granted certiorari (review) of our
case on October 8, 1962,just a little over
four months later. Our case was put on
the Supreme Court docket as No. 119.
In the case of Engel v. Vitale, the New
York Court of Appeals had upheld the
use of an officially composed Regents'
prayer, after indicating that objecting
students should be permitted to remain
silent or be excused from the exercises,
that is, that there be no compulsion or
coercion. Only the teacher (on the publicpayroll) who led the prayer was under
any coercion - and not one teacher in
the entire city of New York had complained. The prayer was adjudged to be
"denominationally neutral" at the time
of its composition, but the New York
court found that it did not conform to all
of the tenets of the Jewish, Unitarian,
and Ethical Culture groups.

The sanctity of religion

The Supreme Court found that prayer
itself was a religious exercise, despite
the contention of the State of New York
that it was simply a short averment
based on the spiritual heritage of the
nation. Reviewing the denominational
arguments concerned with types and
wordings of prayer over a period of several centuries, the Court then declaimed
that religion "is too personal, too sacred,
and too holy to permit its 'unhallowed
perversion' by civil magistrate." The
actual kernel of the Supreme Court ruling was short:
[w]e think that the constitutional
prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion
must at least mean that in this
country it is no part of the business of government to compose
official prayers for any group of
the American people to recite as a
part of a religious program carried
on by government.
That is all that there was concerning
prayer in that twenty-nine-page decision. Only that statement, and nothing
more. As one reads it now, there is still
Austin, Texas

nothing regarding the nature of prayer

in the decision.
And there was I saying that there was
nothing "too personal, too sacred or too
holy" about prayer. that it could not be
junked. I wanted to go to the substance,
the nature of prayer. I was challenging it
in every radio appearance! that I made.
Migawd! how they all hated me. My
position was one of upsetting the apple
cart. I think, at that time, the liberals,
civil libertarians, and do-gooders hated
me much more vehemently than did the
mainline churches or run-of-the-mill

The word of the lord

in Pennsylvania

This, of course, is how the federal

courts get rid of persons who want to
challenge the status quo. The courts
never get to the real issues involved. Instead, they deal with what are called
"procedural issues," a sample of which
is indicated by the above. Many substantive cases have died through the "abstention" issue, the state courts being
notoriously difficult in which to gain any
win. Among others of the cases which
have been killed in this manner are the
cases where federal abstention was
practiced in which Blacks tried to get
justice in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, or Arkansas.
The Schempp case was concerned
with 24 Pa.Stat. 15-1516,as amended,
Pub. Law 1928 (Supp. 1960 Dec. 17,

When the decision in our own case

had finally been handed down by the
Maryland Court of Appeals in April
1962, we discovered that a related case
At least ten verses from the
was also being fought in Pennsylvania.
Holy Bible shall be read, or caused
This had been brought by the Schempp
to be read, without comment, at
family, who lived near
the opening of each
Philadelphia. In that case
Prayer was to
public school on each
the family had attempted,
school day by the teachin a federal court, to enjoin
be questioned,
er in charge.
entorr iment of a Pennif it was
The schools in Pennsylsylvania statute providing
questioned at
vania utilized the Protesfor the reading without
all, on the
tant King James Version
comment of ten verses
from the Bible, daily, in
basis that
of the Bible, the Roman
Catholic Douay, the Republic schools.
vised Standard Version of
The questions before
religions would
the Bible, and the Jewish
the Pennsylvania Court
want different
of Appeals were hardly
Holy Scriptures.
prayers," but
The complaint in the
case indicated that there
that there was
1. Was there a substantial
was also a unison recitanothing
federal question?
tion by students and teachinherently
2. Was the doctrine of
ers of the Lord's Prayer.
abstention applicable?
Such recitation was not
wrong with
covered by the challenged
That is, must the fedprayer itself.
eral courts abstain from
statute. The two religious
This was a
taking jurisdiction of
exercises were then foltotally and
the case because it
lowed by students' recitaproperly belonged in a
tion of the Pledge of Allewholly
state court?
giance - against which
3. Did the parents have
no complaint was made.
"standing to sue?" Did
One of the Schempp chilthey, as guardians, have
dren, Ellory, contested
"an immediate and direct interest in the Bible reading, refused to stand durthe spiritual and religious develop- ing the recitation of the Lord's Prayer,
ment of their children?"
and finallyrequested that he be permitted
to leave the room. In court, he testified
that he did not believe in the divinity of
Christ, the Immaculate Conception, the
!Please remember that this was all before
of an anthropomorphic god or
the advent of television talk shows. In fact,
the Trinity,but that all of these doctrines
I appeared on the very first "Phil Donahue
were read to him during the course of
Show" which was broadcast out of Dayton,
his instruction at Abington High School.
Ohio. Radio was the rage.
August 1995

Page 33

At the hearing, however, the family

Any child shall be excused from
such Bible reading, or attending
gave evidence that they were religious
such Bible reading, upon the writ("of the Unitarian faith") and members
ten request of his parent or guardof the Unitarian Church in Germanian.
town, Pennsylvania, where they regularly attended church.

Naturally, they immediWhat is

The amended statute,
ately had all of the help
passed at the Pennsylvathey needed. The Ameriprayer? There
nia Congressional Sescan Civil Liberties Union
is a determinasion of 1959,was approved
provided attorneys for
tion by the
by the governor of the
the case. The American
Commonwealth on DeJewish Congress filed an
religious to
cember 17, 1959.The Suamicus curiae, as did the
force the
pre me Court on October
PennsylvaniaState Educarecognition
24, 1960,vacated the judgtion Association.
of the
ment of the lower court
The Schempps
and remanded the case to
peared in court to testify
dependence of
the federal district court
that the "doctrines" purthe civil
"for such further proceedveyed by a literal reading
authority as
ings as may be appropriof the Bible were "conwell as the
ate" in light of the statute
trary to the religious beamendment. The same
liefs which they held and
entire populathree-judge court then
to their familial (religious)
tion of the
granted a motion to
teaching." The three-judge
nation upon a
amend the pleading, to instatutory United States
elude the amendment to
District Court for the Eastgod, to make
the statute. However, Ed
ern District of Pennsylvathe United
Schempp decided "after
nia rendered a judgment
States truly
careful consideration" that
for the Schempp family
"one nation
he could not have his chilholding that the statute
dren excused from the
requiring the practice of
under God."
morning ceremonies for
Bible reading was uncon- ------- fear that they would be
stitutional under both the Establish- labeled as oddballs or Atheists. He
ment and the Free Exercise clauses. In thought that their classmates might
a related "Finding of Fact," it held that
"lump all particular religious difference[ s] or religious objections [together]
The practice of the daily reading of
as 'Atheism.'" He opined that at the time
ten verses of the Bible together
of the hearing the word atheism was
with the daily recitation of the
often connected with "atheistic commuLord's Prayer in the public schools
nism," and had "very bad" connotations
of Abington Township is a relisuch as "un-American" or "Red," with
gious ceremony.
"overtones of possible immorality."
That testimony certainly helped us,
And in a "Conclusion of Law," the dis- as Atheists, a helluva lot in our Maryland
trict court held that the combined prac- case.
tice "constituted an establishment of
At this point, the Jewish Community
religion and an interference with the free Relations Counsel of Greater Philadelexercise of religion." On November 12, phia assisted the Schempps with an ami1959,the school district took a direct ap- cus curiae. The case itself had expandpeal to the Supreme Court of the Unit- ed to the Schempp us. the School Dised States.
trict of Abington Township, the Principal
of the Abington Senior High School and
Opting out of prayer
the Principal of the Huntingdon Junior
But the State of Pennsylvania got High School in Abington Township.
busy immediately.The legislators thought Ellory had graduated from high school
that they could save the exercise of and was out of the case, but the younger
Bible reading by passing an amendment
Schempp children, Roger and Donna,
to the statute. Legislative bodies can were still in school. The Superintendent
move with extraordinary alacrity when of Public Instruction of the Commonthey so desire. The amendment to the wealth of Pennsylvania was permitted to
law was:
intervene as a party defendant.
Page 34

August 1995

In the revised case, it was represented that the Bible reading was conducted
in the school buildings, by and under the
authority of the local school authorities,
and during school session.
A hearing was subsequently held on
the amended complaint, and judgment
was rendered on February 1, 1962. The
court held that the doctrine of abstention did not apply and that the federal
court could make the decision in regard
to the family's complaint. Also, the familyhad "standing to sue" and could challenge the Pennsylvania statute requiring
Bible reading in public schools. Further,
the statute requiring the Bible reading
violated the Establishment Clause as
applied to the states by the Fourteenth
Amendment, notwithstanding the provision in the statute for excusing a child
from the reading.
After the second hearing, the court
issued a final decree:
The defendants (school board)
are perpetually enjoined and restrained from reading and causing
to be read, or permitting anyone
subject to their control and direction to read, to students in the
Abington Senior High School,
Abington Township, Montgomery
County, Pennsylvania, any work
or book known as the Holy Bible
as directed by Section 1516of the
Pennsylvania Public School Code
of March 10, 1949, P.L.30, as
amended, in conjunction with, or
not in conjunction with, the saying, the reciting, or the reading of
the Lord's Prayer; provided, that
nothing herein shall be construed
as interfering with or prohibiting
the use of any books or works as
educational, source, or reference
The School District of Abington
Township, Pennsylvania, appealed the
case, and the Schempp case was put on
the Supreme Court docket as No. 142.

The great moral value

of the Bible
Several experts were brought into the
Pennsylvania case at the first hearing
(177 ESupp. 398) to evaluate the Bible,
and the decision noted that the experts
held that:
the Bible was of great moral, historical, and literary value. This is
American Atheist

conceded by all the parties and is

also the view of the court.

that rule got to the Supreme Court of

the United States it read:

Opening Exercises. Each school,

The trial court finally found, particueither collectively or in classes,
larlyas related to the Jewish Holy Scripshall be opened by the reading,
tures, that the Pennsylvania statute rewithout comment, of a chapter in
quired the reading of a Christian document (the Bible) and preferred the
the Holy Bible and/or the use of
the Lord's Prayer. The Douay verChristian religion.
sion may be used by those pupils
The decision was rendered narrowly
who prefer it. Appropriate patriotin regard to the Pennsylvania law requiring Bible reading because
ic exercises should
that was the issue before
be held as a part of
the court.
the general opening
The Schempp case was
of the
seen as concerning Bible
school or class. Any
reading in the public
child shall be exschools; the Murray case
cused from particiconcerned recitation of
pating in the openthe Lord's Prayer in public
ing exercises or from
attending the openThe Schempp family
ing exercises upon
(husband, wife, and three
the written request
children) permitted themof his parent or
selves to be photographed
in their home, reading
It was only in
from the Bible and porJustice
In my case, I particularized my Atheist ideas and
traying themselves as deStewart's
stated that the rule, as
voutly religious. They condissenting
practiced, violated Athetinued to claim to be of
the Unitarian "faith" and
. opinion that
ists' rights. The state of
Maryland had admitted
to be in regular attenthe rights of
that both Bible reading
dance at the Unitarian
Atheists were
and the recitation of the
Church in Germantown,
Philadelphia, where they
Lord's Prayer (version
and their children regumentioned:
above indicated)were mandatory in the public
larly attended religious
"What our
schools. Despite this adservices. Without equivoConstitution
cation, they declared that
mission of facts, four judgthey faithfully read the
es of the Maryland Court
Bible at home and had
protects is the
of Appeals, with three
judges dissenting, affirmed
sought only to disconfreedom of
the ruling of the lower
tinue its use in the public
each of us, be
I confronted the media
he Jew or
with the information that
The Supreme Court
(1) I did not accept the
Christian or
Bibleat all,either in school
The Supreme Court
or at home and that (2)
then heard arguments on
prayer was not efficacious
Buddhist or
the combined cases on
since there was no god to
Freethinker, to
February 27 and 28, 1963,
whom anyone could pray.
believe or
and rendered a decision
In the Murray case, I
on June 17, 1963. The Suwas attempting to prevent
pre me Court affirmed the
the schools from enforcing ------- judgment of the lower
a rule made pursuant to Art. 77, 202 of court in No. 142 and reversed and
the Annotated Code of Maryland. Dur- remanded, with directions, case No.
ing my administrative battles with the 119. Mr. Justice Clark wrote the majorschool, the rule had been amended so ity 8-1 decision, and Mr. Justice Stewart
that dissenting children could be ex- dissented.
cused from the religious exercises upon
The decision written by Mr. Justice
request of their parents. By the time Clark was just twelve pages long.
Austin, Texas

August 1995

Mr. Justice Douglas wrote a two-page

concurring opinion.
Mr. Justice Brennan wrote a thirtynine page concurring opinion.
Messrs. Justices Goldberg and Harland wrote a two-page concurring opinion.
Mr. Justice Stewart wrote a five-page
As I read that Supreme Court decision in order to write this article, I was
surprised to find that in all of those sixty
pages there is little or nothing said of
prayer in general or of the Lord's Prayer
particularly.Justice Clark quickly pointed
out expert evidence had been given in
the Pennsylvania case that portions of
the New Testament were offensive to
Jews and that the hassle over Bible
reading had to do with the fact that the
Holy Bible was, in practice, preferential
to the Christian religion.
A review of religion and of state/
church separation cases in the nation
was then undertaken by Clark, without
reference to prayer. The most that was
said in all of those pages was that prayer
is a religious ceremony, period.

The "pre-eminent" textbook

Justice Douglas concurred, but he
too said nothing of prayer. Justice Brennan also lacked any discussion regarding prayer in his thirty-nine page opinion.
He did take several pages to talk of the
history of "morning devotional exercises" as free public schools gradually
took the place of private and sectarian
schools in the nineteenth era. He noted
that it was not until about 1910 that
twelve states made such practices compulsory and named Massachusetts, Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Tennessee,
and Illinois; the rule in Maryland had
been instituted in 1905 and that of Pennsylvania in 1913. In all of his references,
there was emphasis that the "values" to
be derived from Bible reading were sufficient to justify the practices. The Bible
was "pre-eminent" among textbooks; it
instructed in "morality"; it taught "the
truths" of religion. The Bible, however,
had always been viewed as a "sectarian"
Goldberg and Harlan said nothing of
prayer. It was only in Justice Stewart's
dissenting opinion that the rights of
Atheists were even mentioned:
What our Constitution indispensably protects is the freedom
of each of us, be he Jew or AgnosPage 35

tic, Christian or Atheist, Buddhist

or Freethinker, to believe or disbelieve,to worship or not worship, to
pray or keep silent, according to
his own conscience, uncoerced,
and unrestrained by government.
The difficulty is that, seemingly, no
one willtake the authority to sit in judgment on the fundamental principles of
religion or on its precepts which result
in such a manifestation as prayer. There
is a general accedence to religion; a tacit
understanding is that it shall not be
Iam an Atheist, and "it is up with this,
Iwillnot put."

The matter of prayer

The bottom line of the thirty-six years
of litigation which has continued without
interruption in the nation following this
Supreme Court decision is prayer.
What is it? Why is it important enough
to consume billions of hours of the time
of individuals, millions of dollars of expenditures, hundreds of thousands of
hours of legislative bodies' activities,
and legal cases enough to clog judicial
bodies on local, state, and federal level?
What is prayer? There is a determination by the religious to force the recognition of the dependence of the civil authority as wellas the entire population of
the nation upon a god, to make the United States truly "one nation under God."
But the religious think it is not enough
that (according to them) there is a god,
but it is also necessary that humankind
be dependent upon that god, converse
(communicate) with that god through
prayer, and be judged by that god at the
time of death.
Prayer is the very breath of religion,
its most quintessential, characteristic
activity. Without prayer, there would be
no religion. Every religion which has
ever existed has been premised upon
prayer, that is, communication with a
god. If there is no communication between a god and his "communicants,"
there is no use of a god.
Yetthere is no recognition in the United States that the issue is prayer itself,
not the use of prayer anywhere, whether in schools, in legislative bodies, in
private or public gatherings. Those persons who most fervently fight prayer in
the public schools themselves believe in
the efficacy of prayer. What is inadmissible in the squabble is an appreciation
and understanding that those who want
Page 36

children to pray are simply arguing over human beings of their humanity. Leavthe locus of the prayer and, except for ing aside the direct order of the mythoAtheists, not arguing over prayer itself. logical J.e. in his alleged and "beloved"
Prayer is supplication to the unknown
Sermon on the Mount that public prayer
to remedy a felt inadequacy of the sup- is hypocritical since those who pray in
plicant. It presupposes that there is an public simply "love to be seen of men"
intellectual power, a big sysop in the sky and willreceive no reward from god for
with a software program of problem
prayer, he puts all on notice to pray to
solving, that the sysop is amenable to "thy Father which is in secret" and that
being addressed by human beings
"thy Father which seeth in secret shall
through projection, and that subsequentreward thee openly," an injunction totally petitions addressed to that sysop can ly ignored by the religious and by school
be answered, most frequently by the administrators.
modification or suspension of natural
But more to the point, he advises that
laws or normal consequences of human "your Father knoweth what things ye
have need of, before you ask him."
Teaching all children that prayer is What then is the need of prayer?
efficacious (i.e., capturing the rising genJ.e. then further advises, "After this
eration intellectually) is
manner, therefore pray
accepted by all theists
Prayer is the
ye," and gives the Lord's
since the idea of commuPrayer. This prayer dinication with a god supvery breath of
rects humankind away
ports the idea of the exisreligion; its
from existence, from the
tence of a god - butmost
earth and from nature,
tressed along by the exisand confirms that the suptence of the supplicant.
plicant wants god to swalThat such a god may becharacteristic
low up the earth when his
come aware, through that
"kingdom" arrives. Begcommunication, that a
ging wherewithal for exisprayer supplicant exists
tence (bread), the suppliestablishes the supplicant's
prayer, there
cant is concerned with
identity as a human being.
would be no
sins - to do which god
Prayer is a test of exisreligion. Every
himself might tempt us.
tence not only of a god
h h
But nonetheless, the supbut of a person: "I think,
re igion w ic
plicant then affirms that
therefore Iam" transmutes
has ever
god, in heaven, alone has
through "I speak, thereexisted has
the power to establish his
fore I am" to become fibeen premised
kingdom on earth and to
nally, "God answers my
derive glory from it.
communications, thereupon prayer,
What a helluva debasefore Iam." This is demonthat is,
ment of humankind!
strated again and again
Of course, Icould not
by the cries of individuals:
with a god. If
permit my sons to repeat
"Imust know who I am; I
this palaver every day of
am seeking self-identificathere is no
their school lives. But my
tion; Imust find myself."
attack on the Lord's
Mindless repetition of
between a god
Prayer was too threatencollective prayer when it
and his
ing to religion, and Iand
is not needed for specific
my family have been pay"communi pro blem soIving- a moming t h e price 0f ostracism
ing prayer of all children
cants," there is
from the culture ever since.
in a school situation, a
no use of a
Perhaps one day in the
collectiveprayer in a house
future, the people of the
of worship, a prayer at a
world will catch up to me
public meeting, a prayer
1 and mine. Perhaps there
to open a legislative body - beguiles the may be a regression to the fourteenth
individual into accepting that all people century as the religious sink lower and
pray, and this motivates individual
lower into intellectual barbarism. I know
only that the place to fight them is here
The Lord's Prayer which was the sub- in the United States, that the time to
ject matter of the Murray v. Curlett case fight them is now, and that the persons
is particularly pernicious. It strips all who must fight them are Atheists. ~
August 1995

American Atheist

T a/king Back

No place for prayer

Amedeo Amendola of New York

This month's question:

What's wrong with
having prayer in the
public schools?

There is nothing wrong with prayer in

school or at home or in church or in a
movie or in court or anywhere else. People should be free to pray, whether silently or not, even though prayer is an
exercise in futility and part of the religious fraud. Similarly,one should be free
to speak out, to pursue one's own career, to hurt oneself, or to sacrifice oneself to a god. It is the domination of others that is wrong. (Domination is the
common denominator of all wrongdoing: murder, rape, theft, etc.) Requiring
prayer or requiring others to stop their
activities during prayers in the classroom, the school cafeteria, the courtroom, jail, or public parks is an imposition upon and a domination of others,
just as it would be an imposition to require either imitation or respect (the
desisting of activities) at the opening of
a classroom, court, or other proceeding
for readers of the best poems, for
showers of the best movies, for sexual
matters, or for abortion performers.
People should be free to submit to
gods, to take drugs, to commit suicide,
or to say or do anything, provided they
do no harm to others and do not demand
that others imitate or respect their activity. The issue is simply civic, not one
concerning the substance of religion,
art, or Atheism.

Californian Frank L. Atkin answers


So you're having a hard time dealing

with the religious zanies who bug you
with what you feel are stupid
questions? Talk back. Send the
question you hate most and American
Atheists will provide scholarly, tart,
humorous, short, belligerent, or funpoking answers. Get into the verbal
fray; it's time to "talk back" to religion.

Austin, Texas

One problem resulting from a policy

of prayer in public schools would be that
it would lend favoritism to a particular
sect of religion. It is doubtful that Christians would want to allow other religions
a turn at the daily school prayer. Suppose prayer were instated in public
schools and, to make the policy equitable, each religion gets a turn to sponsor
the daily prayer. Muslims could instruct
students to sit on a prayer rug and bow
toward Mecca. Devotees of Krishna
would have students dancing and chanting "Hare Krishna." Practitioners of
August 1995

Santeria might have students cut off the

heads of chickens as part of their ritual.
And, of course, Atheists would get their
turn, since so many ministers claim that
Atheism is just another religion anyway.
Would Christians be eager to accept
this policy of pluralism? I think not. I suspect their intentions for school prayer to
be an "us only" deal. The bottom line is
that either one religion has favoritism or
students would be exposed to a plethora of religious nonsense. Either way,
prayer is inappropriate in the public

Stephen H. Frey, a retired engineer

and born-again Atheist, answers:
The same thing is wrong with prayer
in the schools that is wrong for prayers
anywhere - it serves no useful purpose
at best and provides false hope at worst.

Kenneth J. Schmidt, a musician

and teacher living in New York
City, explains:
I support the right of people to pray,
anywhere, anytime, so long as they do
so inside their heads and make no audible sounds. They have always been free
to do just that. But this is not enough for
those who seek control. They want all
to bow head and bend knee.

Warren J. Medak, a reader from

Washington state, responds:
Vicarious prayer in the schools is not
the answer to expanding the mind to
creative thought and understanding.
George W. Johnston, a deaf teacher
of deaf children, instructs:
There is really nothing wrong with it.
It is just plain stupid to me, but if people
and kids want to pray, they can. Allthey
have to do is follow their Bible and sit
quietly and pray to themselves. But that
is not the question. They want to make
a scene out of it and have a ceremony,
a recital so that they can shove it down
the ears of all the others. In other words,
they do not really want to pray; they
want to make others pray.

My kid doesn't want to pray, and to

push it in his face is wrong. Also, the
Supreme Court said he can't be exposed
to it by force under Murray v. Curlett
(374 U.S. 203, June 1963). CASE
Would they like to pray-in school out
loud and then have the principal acknowledge the Atheists and give a few of
their points like, "god is make-believe,"
"religion is superstition," etc.?

Michael Ledo, a health physics

technician who enjoys expressing
his opinion whenever possible, has
a question of his own:
There is nothing wrong with prayer in
school. I prayed every day in school,
and I turned out okay. What's wrong
with teaching Christianity in mythology
Irene Brown, a graduate student,
feminist, and Atheist, responds:
.Schools are taxpayer-supported,
mostly public institutions. Atheists pay
taxes, and school prayer violates the
First Amendment of the Constitution.
Besides, with U.S. education sinking
below that of many other countries, one
would think that we had higher priorities, such as teaching academic basics
rather than religious hocus-pocus.

South Carolina is home to John N.

Maguire HI,who makes his answer

paper (which, by the way, is the only

good reason for keeping a Bible around
the house).

New Jersey Atheist John W. Martinez is succinct:

Prayers are personal; they don't belong in a public school.
Brian E. Nevish gives his personal
account in reply:
My little sister cried at my high school
graduation. Despite separation of state
and church, despite the fact that of 110
people in my class only ten were Baptists, despite the fact that the majority of
my high school class were not Baptists,
two Baptist hellfire and damnation
preachers turned my graduation into
two four-hour long revival meetings.
They said Jews were going to hell as
Christ-killers. They said Mormons were
going to hell because they were not
"true Christians." Neither were Greek
Orthodox Catholics, Roman Catholics,
Amish, Methodists, Lutherans - or any
believers other than Baptists. My little
sister cried because her Jewish friends
were being condemned to hell. She
cried because she and the rest of my
family were Roman Catholics. She cried
because she knew I had left the church.
When people talk about prayer in the
public schools, they mean they want
your children to learn their prayers, not

the right to think for themselves. I was

always told to say my prayers before I
went to bed, but never why. One is not
supposed to question religion.
I also believe it is unconstitutional. It
is a blatant endorsement of religion by
the government.
Kansas reader Jim Penick couldn't
put it any more simply:
Schools aren't churches.

Andy Vena, a Life Member of American Atheists and 86-year-old bachelor, provides a fitting end to this
The same as what's wrong with prayers
anytime, anywhere - they are useless,
are never really answered. They are a
waste of valuable school time and tax
money, an exercise in futility. There is
nobody "up there" to hear or answer
them. Leading kids to rely on a fallacy is
stupid, wrong, and harmful to our

Prayer in the schools? A form of medieval brainwashing for the peasants, to
make them stupid and controllable and proud of it! Understanding life is
better than brainwashing.

Rob Pennington of Michigan can

joke about the matter:
Not enough room.
Oregonian Peter Schaap overviews

the problem:
Full-time professional magician
and proud Atheist Peter Sosna
Besides being against the law and
contrary to the First Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States, it is
offensive to a great many people, not all
of them Atheists. It is as offensive as asking you to use your family Bible for toilet
Page 38

I'll tell you what I think is wrong with

prayer in schools. It teaches kids wishful thinking alone willsolve problems. It
makes children and adults feel powerless against the powerful. It makes children believe that their lives are being
controlled by something else, not themselves.
It also takes away their right to choose,
August 1995

American Atheist

Muster~ of Atheism

The philosophy of Atheism

The following lecture is reprinted
from the second edition of Philoso-

Noted anarchist
Emma Goldman
describes the
manipulation of religion
and the idea of god
for the purpose of the
suppression of
mankind. Her claim is
that the god idea itself
is inherently evil.

Atheism has a long, proud history of

publishing and speechmaking. Unfortunately, however, much of that history
is inaccessible to modern readers, surviving only in rare booklets, books, and
pamphlets housed in scattered libraries and private collections. The American Atheist attempts to make some of
that literature more available to modern Atheists by reprinting essays by
yesterday's "Masters of Atheism."
These reprints are produced courtesy
of the Charles E. Stevens American
Atheist Library and Archives, Inc.

Emm Goldman
Austin, Texas

phy of Atheism and the Failure of

Christianity: Two Lectures by Emma

Goldman. The fifteen-page booklet

was issued by the Mother Earth
Publishing Association in 1916 in
New York City.
Emma Goldman (1869-1940), d
noted for her anarchist agitation in
the United States, after her immigration in 1885. She was repeatedly
jailed for her political and anticonscription activities, finally being deported in 1919. She founded Mother
Earth, a magazine, in 1906.
o give an adequate exposition of
the Philosophy of Atheism, it
would be necessary to go into the
historical changes of the belief in a Deity,
from its earliest beginning to the present
day. But that is not within the scope of
the present paper. However, it is not out
of place to mention, in passing, that the
concept God, Supernatural
Spirit, Deity, or in whatever other term
the essence of Theism may have found
expression, has become more indefinite
and obscure in the course of time and
progress. In other words, the God idea
is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is
learning to understand natural phenomena and in the degree that science progressively correlates human and social
God, today, no longer represents the
same forces as in the beginning of His
existence; neither does He direct human destiny with the same iron hand as
of yore. Rather does the God idea express a sort of spiritualistic stimulus to
satisfy the fads and fancies of every
shade of human weakness. In the course
of human development the God idea
has been forced to adapt itself to every
phase of human affairs, which is perfect1yconsistent with the origin of the idea
The conception of gods originated in

fear and curiosity. Primitive man, unable

to understand the phenomena of nature
and harassed by them, saw in every terrifying manifestation some sinister force
expressly directed against him; and as
ignorance and fear are the parents of all
superstition, the troubled fancy of primitive man wove the God idea.

August 1995

Emma Goldman was called advocated

free love and birth control, serving as an
intellectual role model for later reformers
and feminists.

Very aptly, the world-renowned atheist and anarchist, Michael Bakunin,'

says in his great work "God and the
State": "All religions, with their gods,
their demi-gods, and their prophets,
their messiahs and their saints, were
created by the prejudiced fancy of men
who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties. Consequently, the religious heaven

IMikhaii Aleksandrovich Bakunin (18141876),Russian anarchist and writer; leading

anarchist in Europe (1861-76).
Page 39

sive negation of human liberty, and nec- erful and lucrative industry in the world,
essarily ends in the enslavement of man- not excepting the industry of manufacturing guns and munitions. It is the inkind, both in theory and practice."?
Thus the God idea revived, readjust- dustry of befogging the human mind and
Who witt diHvt:t a $ede3" of Lectures in
ed, and enlarged or narrowed, accord- stifling the human heart. Necessity
l~o:rUand on Vhal Su-"j~et$
to the necessity of the time, has knows no law; hence the majority of thePortland, Sub/eel and Dates:
SUfldag, AUllu$t 151, (;I P. }I<Idominated humanity and will continue ists are compelled to take up every subTHE PfHLOSOPHY OF ANARCIUSM
to do so until man will raise his head to ject, even if it has no bearing upon a
S"ndoj/, Ai<,q,;st1st, 8 p, }If,
the sunlit day, unafraid and with an deity or revelation or the Great Beyond.
.Monday, At(gust 2"d, 8 P, lIf,
Perhaps they sense the fact that humanawakened will to himself. In proportion
as man learns to realize himself and ity is growing weary of the hundred and
Tue.dav, A~gu.tS'd. 8 P, }If,
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE-Th e Intelone brands of God.
mold his own destiny theism becomes
lectual Storm Center of Europe
How to raise this dead level of theistic
superfluous. How far man willbe able to
W.dn.saal/. AUf/uM 4th. 8 P. H
JEALOUSY-ItsCause and Possible Cure
is really a matter of life and death
ThursrJ/ly. August su, 8 p, lit,
denominations. Therefore their
Friday, August 61h, 8 P. M.
tolerance; but it is a tolerance not of unhis dependence upon God.
CONTROL (Why and
Already there are indications that the- derstanding, but of weakness. Perhaps
How Small Families Are Desirable)
Saturd(ll/, Augts.$.t n, 8 P. M.
that explains the efforts fostered in all
ism, which is the theory of speculation,
publications to combine varieis
scicussion of Homosexuality)
Sunday, August 8/h. 3 P: M.
ence of demonstration; the one hangs in gated religious philosophies and con
the metaphysical clouds of the Beyond,
Sunday, August 8tlr, 8 P.
while the other has its roots firmly in the
soil. It is the earth, not heaven, which
8 Lectures MOTHER ~;ARTfi.Subscrivtion $2.(,0
man must rescue if he is truly to be
ScandinaviaJl Socialist HaD, 41_ 4 Yallill
The decline of theism is a most interesting
spectacle, especially as manifestBefore she was deported, Goldman leced
anxiety of the theists, whatever
tured throughout the United States.
their particular brand. They realize,
is nothing but the mirage in which man, much to their distress, that the masses
exalted by ignorance and faith, discov- are growing daily more atheistic, more
ered his own image, but enlarged and re- anti-religious; that they are quite willing
versed - that is, divinised. The history to leave the Great Beyond and its heavof religions, of the birth, grandeur, and enly domain to the angels and sparrows;
the decline of the gods who had suc- because more and more the masses are
ceeded one another in human belief, is becoming engrossed in the problems of
their immediate existence.
nothing, therefore, but the development
How to bring the masses back to the
of the collective intelligence and conscience of mankind. As fast as they dis- God idea, the spirit, the First Cause,
covered, in the course of their historically- etc. - that is the most pressing quesprogressive advance, either in them- tion to all theists. Metaphysical as all Russian-born anarchist Alexander Berkselves or in external nature, a quality, or these questions seem to be, they yet man (1870-1936) worked with Goldman
even any great defect whatever, they at- have a very marked physical back- and was deported with her in 1919.
tributed them to their gods, after having ground. Inasmuch as religion, "Divine
exaggerated and enlarged them beyond Truth," rewards and punishments are flicting theistic theories into one denommeasure, after the manner of children, the trade-marks of the largest, the most inational trust. More and more, the varby an act of their religious fancy. . . . corrupt and pernicious, the most pow- ious concepts "of the only true God, the
only pure spirit, the only true religion"
With all due respect, then, to the metaare tolerantly glossed over in the frantic
physicians and religious idealists, philosophers, politicians or poets: the idea of 2Michael Bakunin, God and the State (New effort to establish a common ground to
rescue the modern mass from the "perGod implies the abdication of human York: Mother Earth Publishing Association,
nicious" influence of atheistic ideas.
reason and justice; it is the most deci- n.d. [1916]), pp. 23-24, 25.
W.t. l..s~t
M"od!ra td!.u 4B

*.f~ r~v~
tn. ieun~(1, ytnnlrt'tlt. It

llmmD QJolbmDD



Page 40



August 1995

American Atheist

It is characteristic of theistic "tolerance" that no one really cares what the

people believe in, just so they believe or
pretend to believe. To accomplish this
end, the crudest and vulgarest methods
are being used. Religious endeavor
meetings and revivals with BillySundayas their champion - methods which
must outrage every refined sense, and
which in their effect upon the ignorant
and curious often tend to create a mild
state of insanity not infrequently coupled
with eroto-mania. All these frantic efforts find approval and support from the
earthly powers; from the Russian despot
to the American President; from Rockefeller' and Wanamaker> down to the
pettiest business man. They know that
capital invested in Billy Sunday, the
YM.C.A., Christian Science, and various other religious institutions will return enormous profits from the subdued, tamed, and dull masses.
Consciously or unconsciously, most
theists see in gods and devils, heaven
and hell, reward and punishment, a
whip to lash the people into obedience,
meekness and contentment. The truth
is th~t theism would have lost its footing
long before this but for the combined
support of Mammon and power. How
thoroughly bankrupt it really is, is being
demonstrated in the trenches and battlefields of Europe today.
Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness? Yet
after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the
agony of the human race. Confucius
cares not for the poverty, squalor and
3WilliamAshley Sunday (1862-1935), American professional baseball player (1883-91)
and Presbyterian evangelist.
4John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937),
American industrialist and philanthropist;
the University of Chicago and Colonial Williamsburg are among major beneficiaries of
his fortune.
5John Wanamaker (1838-1922), American
merchant, U.S. postmaster general (188993).
Austin, Texas

misery of the people of China.

Buddha remains undisturbed in
his philosophical indifference to
the famine and starvation of the
outraged Hindoos; Jahve continues
deaf to the bitter cry of Israel;
while Jesus refuses to rise from
the dead against his Christians
who are butchering each other.
The burden of all song and
praise, "unto the Highest" has
been that God stands for justice
and mercy. Yet injustice among
men is ever on the increase; the
outrages committed against the
masses in this country alone would
seem enough to overflow the very
heavens. But where are the gods
to make an end to all these horrors, these wrongs, this inhumanity to man? No, not the gods, but
MAN must rise in his mighty wrath.
He, deceived by all the deities, betrayed by their emissaries, he,
himself, must undertake to usher
in justice upon the earth.
The philosophy of Atheism expresses the expansion and growth
of the human mind. The philosophy of theism, if we can call it phi- Evangelist Billy Sunday was a frequent target
losophy, is static and fixed. Even for Emma Goldman. This cartoon appeared
the mere attempt to pierce these on the cover of the May 1915issue of Mother
mysteries represents, from the Earth, the magazine she published.
theistic point of view, non-belief in
the all embracing omnipotence, and Joseph McCabe" well points out in his
even a denial of the wisdom of the divine "Existence of God":" "a law of nature is
not a formula drawn up by a legislator,
powers outside of man. Fortunately,
however, the human mind never was, but a mere summary of the observed
and never can be, bound by fixities. facts - a 'bundle of facts.' Things do not
Hence it is forging ahead in its restless act in a particular way because there is
march towards knowledge and life. The a law,but we state the 'law' because they
human mind is realizing"that the universe act in that way."
The philosophy of Atheism repreis not the result of a creative fiat by some
divine intelligence, out of nothing, pro- sents a concept of lifewithout any metaducing a masterpiece chaotic in perfect physical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It
operation," but that it is the product of
chaotic forces operating through aeons
of time, of clashes and cataclysms, of 6Joseph Martin McCabe (1867-1955), Atheist
repulsion and attraction crystalizing
and materialist lecturer and author of over
through the principle of selection into two hundred books.
what the theists call, "the universe
7Joseph McCabe, The Existence of God
guided into order and beauty." As (London: Watts & Co., 1913).
August 1995

Page 41

is the concept of an actual, real world

with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal
world, which, with its spirits, oracles,
and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.
It may seem a wild paradox, and yet
it is pathetically true, that this real, visible world and our life should have been
so long under the influence of metaphysical speculation, rather than of
physical demonstrable forces. Under
the lash of the theistic idea, this earth
has served no other purpose than as a
temporary station to test man's capacity for immolation to the willof God. But
the moment man attempted to ascertain the nature of that will, he was told
that it was utterly futile for "finite human
intelligence" to get beyond the allpowerful infinite will. Under the terrific
weight of this omnipotence, man has
been bowed into the dust, - a will-less
creature, broken and swarting in the
.dark. The triumph of the philosophy of
Atheism is to free man from the nightmare of gods; it means the dissolution of
the phantoms of the beyond. Again and
again the light of reason has dispelled
the theistic nightmare, but poverty, misery and fear have recreated the phantoms - though whether old or new,
whatever their external form, they differed little in their essence. Atheism, on
the other hand, in its philosophic aspect
refuses allegiance not merely to a definite concept of God, but it refuses all
servitude to the God idea, and opposes
the theistic principle as such. Gods in
their individual function are not half as
pernicious as the principle of theism
which represents the belief in a supernatural, or even omnipotent, power to
rule the earth and man upon it. It is the
absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing
effect upon thought and action, which
Atheism is fighting with all its power.
The philosophy of Atheism has its
root in the earth, in this life;its aim is the
emancipation of the human race from all
God-heads, be they Judaic, Christian,
Page 42

Mohammedan, Budhistic, Brahministic,

or what not. Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created
its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man's lot since gods
began. There is but one way out of this
blunder: Man must break his fetters
which have chained him to the gates of
heaven and hell, so that he can begin to
fashion out of his reawakened and illumined consciousness a new world upon
Only after the triumph of the Atheistic philosophy in the minds and hearts of
man will freedom and beauty be realized. Beauty as a gift from heaven has
proved useless. It will,however, become
the essence and impetus of life when
man learns to see in the earth the only
heaven fit for man. Atheism is already
helping to free man from his dependence upon punishment and reward as
the heavenly bargain-counter for the
poor in spirit.
Do not all theists insist that there can
be no morality, no justice, honesty or
fidelity without the belief in a Divine
Power? Based upon fear and hope, such
morality has always been a vile product,
imbued partly with self-righteousness,
partly with hypocrisy. As to truth, justice, and fidelity, who have been their
brave exponents and daring proclaimers? Nearly always the godless ones: the

Atheists; they lived, fought, and died for

them. They knew that justice, truth, and
fidelity are not conditioned in heaven,
but that they are related to and interwoven with the tremendous changes
going on in the social and material life of
the human race; not fixed and eternal,
but fluctuating, even as life. itself. To
what heights the philosophy of Atheism
may yet attain, no one can prophesy.
But this much can already be predicted:
only by its regenerating fire will human
relations be purged from the horrors of
the past.
Thoughtful people are beginning to
realize that moral precepts, imposed
upon humanity through religious terror,
have become stereotyped and have
therefore lost all vitality. A glance at life
today, at its disintegrating character, its
conflicting interests with their hatreds,
crimes, and greed, suffices to prove the
sterility of theistic morality.
Man must get back to himself before
he can learn his relation to his fellows.
Prometheus chained to the Rock of
Ages is doomed to remain the prey of
the vultures of darkness. Unbind Prometheus, and you dispel the night and
its horrors.
Atheism in its negation of gods is at
the same time the strongest affirmation
of man, and through man, the eternal
yea to life, purpose, and beauty. ~

Where there's a will, there's a way

(to help Atheism)
Atheists who approve of the work of American Atheists and
desire to contribute to its continuance after their deaths. can
include American Atheists or the American Atheist Library in
their wills. Both corporations are tax-exempt. For information
regarding the best way to ensure that your intentions are
carried out, please contact:

Atheist G.H.Q.
140 195
Austin, Texas 78714-0195
Telephone: (512) 458-1244 FAX: (512) 467-9525


August 1995

American Atheist

The Probing


Whence and whither science?

ike religion, science has its roots in
the superstitious
primal substratum of human prehistory. Like religion, science seeks to discern the
causes of things and to understand why
the world is the way it is. Indeed, in the
earliest stages of recorded history, as in
many nonliterate, tribal societies yet today, no distinction can be made between science and religion.
As time went on, however, science
and religion began to diverge - ultimately to become mutually exclusive
cognitive phenomena.
While superstition - in its essence, the false association of causes and effects! - has never
ceased to be an integral component of
religious thought, science progressively
has sought to eliminate false causal
associations and to discover the true
causal relations hiding in the confusion
we call nature. Success in discovering
the real laws of cause and effect progressively made science extremely accurate
in predicting
certain aspects of the
future, such as eclipses of the sun. Much
to the annoyance of the would-be prophets of religion, whose predictions repeatedly are falsified by history, scientists routinely and correctly predict the

Science would provide

improvements in health,
living, and knowledge in
just a few short
decades - or years.
But religion and
superstition may
blockade its way.

Formerly a professor of biology and

geology, Frank R. Zindler is now a
science writer. He is a member of the
American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the
American Chemical Society, and the
American Schools of Oriental
Research. He is the Ohio
Spokesperson for American Atheists.

Frank R. Zindler
Austin, Texas

lWe may suppose that common superstitions, such as the notion that black cats
bring bad luck, have their origins in actual
events. If a black cat crosses one's path
shortly before disaster strikes, a causal relation is easy to infer. So "natural" is this proclivity to infer causal relations between
events closely associated in time, it even
seems to be found in non-human animals. It
occasionally happens that a rat beginning to
be trained in a Skinner box to press a lever
to receive food rewards just happens to turn
around clockwise (or counterclockwise) immediately before pressing the lever. The instantaneous appearance of a food pellet
(reinforcement) is then followed by another
twirl of the rat and another lever press. It is
as though the rat has made the false association "twirl + lever press = food." Of course,
if the rat had read the laboratory manual it
would know the correct equation is "lever
press = food"!
August 1995

outcomes of numberless
and natural situations.
But there is a further fundamental difference between science and religion.
Science is reductionistic in that it tries to
explain the unknown in terms of the
known. Contrariwise, religious explanations frequently explain the unknown in
terms of the even less known - the old
fallacy of ignotum per ignatius. Thus,
while Benjamin Franklin explained lightning in terms of electricity (something
that had already been studied in the
laboratory), religionists explained it as
an expression of the wrath of Thor, or
Zeus, or Jehovah. Some still do, despite
the fact that the psychodynamic
principles underlying Jehovah's
alleged behavior are completely unknown - and
will forever remain so!
The long struggle of emerging science
with change-resistant
religion in the
West is too well known to require recounting in detail. The Christian burning of the library at Alexandria, the papal
closing of Plato's academy, the outlawing of the study of astronomy and mathematics, the prohibition of dissection of
the human body - in short, all the
Christian contributions to that benighted era known as the Dark Ages - are
part of the stock in knowledge of most
Atheist readers of this column." The war
of the Roman Catholic church against
Copernicus and Galileo, the war of Protest ants and Roman Catholics
against Edward Jenner and his lifesaving vaccinations,
and the ongoing
crusade against Darwin are also well

2Unfortunately, none of this is likely to be

known by other classes of readers. The religious control of the public schools is now so
oppressive that no history teacher would
dare to teach any of this story. Worse yet,
schools are now under pressure to teach
"about" religion - i.e., about all the good
things religion has done. It is unclear, however, just what "good things" will be left to
teach after students are told that once upon
a time the Roman Catholic church brought
about reform of the calendar.
Page 43

Most mind-boggling of all,

medical research building upon biochemical research in general
is providing a profound insight into
the most basic and lethal disease of all: aging.
known. Science and its applied incarnation, technology, have come a long way
after great struggle with the forces of
and are now poised to
make discoveries and inventions of awesome significance.

On the edge of breakthrough

Space permits mention of only a few
of these imminent developments, and I
shall have to content myself with the discussion of some I see beckoning in astronomy, medicine, psychology, anthropology, and biotechnology.
Now that the Hubble space telescope
is finally working, it is retrieving information of great significance
for understanding the origin and early evolution
of our physical universe. It is entirely
possible that further discoveries from
space, coupled with experiments in particle physics here on earth, within our
lifetimes will be able to answer weighty
questions such as, Was there a time before the Big Bang? Will our universe expand forever? Did the world begin as a
quantum fluctuation in a void? Did time
itself begin? It may even tell us that all
these questions are meaningless.
In medicine, it seems inconceivable
that a cure for AIDS will not be found if
research continues even at the grudging
pace of the present. Coupled to the discoveries in AIDS research will be fundamental improvements
in our understanding of how the immune system
works, which should result in breathtaking power to fight diseases of all
sorts, including cancer. Cancer research
itself has entered a new, exciting phase
as the chemical and genetic bases for
cancer development are being worked
out in minute detail. Increasingly, gene
therapies for reversing the genetic accidents causing cancer seem feasible. Indeed, some already exist and I have had
occasion to read reports of such research
that make me quite optimistic that the
scourge of cancer may soon go the way
of smallpox.
Most mind-boggling of all, medical research building upon biochemical rePage 44

search in general is providing a profound insight into the most basic and
lethal disease of all: aging. The disease
of senescence is not the result of a single
dysfunction; and so efforts to control or
reverse it have been largely futile in the
past. But increasingly we are coming to
understand what aging is all about, and
biochemical and biotechnological interventions to halt or reverse it seem altogether plausible. The discovery of "suicide genes," which
when activated cause
cells to self-destruct,
along with the mechanisms that activate or inactivate them, has
of immense significance. The discovery of the
that eventually causes
cells either
to stop dividing (and thus become incapable of making up for the loss of neighboring cells
that die) or to start dividing uncontrollably (and thus become a cancer) is
literally of life-and-death importance. To
live as long as one desires should not
remain impossible too much longer.
In psychology, the most basic breakthrough of all is on the verge of being
made: explaining the nature of that dynamic process we call mind and understanding how it relates to the electrochemical fluxes that shuttle back and
forth within that enchanted loom we call
the brain. The practical implicatiori of
this development, of course, is that we
shall become increasingly capable of
"fixing" minds that come unraveled or
go astray. Readers will agree that this is
both a promise and a threat. It will be
wonderful to be able to cure mental dysfunctions such as autism and the destructive psychoses that drive people to
pluck out their eyes or bake their chilAugust 1995

dren in the oven to drive out the devil.

But what about "cures" for homosexuals or Roman Catholics? Or for people
who vote Libertarian? This all seems not
In anthropology,
a great number of
long-standing puzzles seem poised for
solution. The dating of the arrival of the
first humans in the Americas is being
nailed down, and an understanding
how native Americans are related to each other and to
Asians and other human
groups is beginning
to develop. The evolutionary
Homo sapiens
has come to be
are becoming
ever more clear,
as fossil after fossil discovery is
wrested from the
silent soils of the
Old World continents. But even more
significant than the
fossil finds have been the insights gained
from the application of molecular genetics in the service of anthropology.
of DNA sequences
most of the living "tribes" of human beings has allowed reconstruction
somewhat tentative) of our evolutionary
relationships with each other and to discover the migrational histories of various groups - such as what are now recognized as the three major groups of
Native Americans. The degree of genetic
relatedness among all people has proven to be surprisingly close. The human
genome project, devoted to the mapping of all genes on the 46 human chromosomes and to the sequencing of the
DNA of which each gene is made, is now
in full swing, and tremendous progress
should soon be made in understanding
how our genes result in that marvel of
the world, the human body with its
brain. Spin-off from the genome project
already has provided the sequences of
American Atheist

Because all living things are products of messages spelled

with the same four-letter alphabet, it is possible to combine features of
one species with those of another.
It is possible, in fact, to design completely new forms of life.
defective genes associated with particular diseases. Part of the same genome
technology is teaching us to transfer
genes, to replace disease-causing genes
with their normal counterparts.
Even more surprising than the discovery of the close interrelatedness within
our own species, however, has been the
finding that we are also very closely related to our first cousins, the African
great apes. Our genes are 99 percent
identical to those of the chimpanzee and
98.5 percent identical to the genes of
gorillas. This has been a bitter pillfor the
creationists to swallow. They still believe
humans were divinely created, completely separate and unrelated to all
other living things!
When the human genome project is
completed, anthropology will be in a
position to embark upon one of the
most audacious projects ever imagined
- the recreation of a living common ancestor of apes and humans. With the

could be synthesized, bundled into

chromosomes, and inserted into a primate egg for incubation in a surrogate
mother (perhaps a gorilla). Creationists
would be able to shake hands (and perhaps prehensile feet!) with one of their
The ethics of such an undertaking are
controversial, to say the least. But if it
were decided to attempt such an adventure, major breakthroughs in genetic
engineering and biotechnology would
be needed - breakthroughs that may
or may not be imminent. Although artificial transfer of genes from one organism to another is now a daily commonplace, transfer of whole chromosomes
does not yet work very well. Creation of
an entire cell nucleus with all its genes
has never been done. Even the transfer
of naturally formed nuclei to mammalian eggs has yet to be done successfully,
i.e., in such a way as to produce a
"clone" of the animal from which the

human genome sequenced and stored

in computer databases, it will be comparatively easy to sequence the genomes
of the great apes as well. By comparing
the variant DNA messages that store
the information on how to make orangutans, chimps, and humans, it should be
possible (using the same sort of techniques Bible scholars use to reconstruct
the ancestral texts from which variant
biblical manuscripts are descended!) to
figure out how the genetic "recipe" read
that once produced the last common
ancestor of chimps and humans, or the
last common ancestor shared by gorillas with chimps and humans. Then, a la
Jurassic Park, the ancestral sequences

nucleus was taken. Although frogs and

fishes were cloned successfully by nuclear transfer experiments back in the
mid-sixties, to this day no warm-blooded
animal has been cloned. For a living primate to give birth to her ancestor, major
developments in biotechnology and
genetic engineering willbe needed.
Which brings us to consider more
specifically the subject of genetic engineering, or "biotech" as it most commonly is called. It is possible to hybridize human cells with chicken or mouse
cells and get the products to reproduce
in tissue cultures. Fertilized eggs can be
fused, and babies can be produced
which have four or more parents. Human

Austin, Texas

August 1995

genes can be transferred into bacteria

or yeasts and made to produce normal
human proteins such as insulin in great
quantity. Viruses have been harnessed
to drag normal human genes into cells
which lack them or have defective forms
of the genes. Genetic diseases are being
cured. Genes are being transferred
among our crop plants as well, and we
are engineering fruits and vegetables
with hitherto unknown combinations of
characters and qualities.
Biotech is possible because of the fundamental discovery that the main difference between a man and a mouse and
a moss is that they are spelled differently - or rather, the genetic messages
that encode them are spelled differently.
When the A, T, C, and G components
that make up a DNA molecule are
arranged in one way, they spell out the
instructions for making a human being.
Arranged in a slightly different way, they
code for a chimpanzee. Considerably
greater differences in arrangement code for monkeys and gibbons. Still greater differences
produce mice and whales - and
mosses and molds. It is precisely
because humans have not been
specially created that they share
the same common chemical currency with all other living things.
Because all living things are products of messages spelled with the
same four-letter alphabet, it is possible
to combine features of one species with
those of another. It is possible, in fact, to
design completely new forms of life.

Roadblocks in the way

The developments that glimmer just
beyond our time horizon may very well
come true. Then again they may not.
There is no guarantee that the p .tr it of
science willcontinue unabated. l\, .nan
has walked upon the moon since December of 1972,and the future of particle physics (needed as an adjunct to astronomy for understanding the early
history of the universe) appears bleak
since Congress killed the Texas SuperPage 45

The stultifying effect that creationists have had on the teaching of biology
in U.S. schools is both pervasive and pernicious.
Quietly and insidiously, the subject of evolution has disappeared
from most school rooms in the United States.
Collider project. Newt Gingrich and his
fellow savages may succeed in abolishing the U.S. Geological Survey and the
Department of Education. And many
antiscientific forces have emerged which
may very well prevent many, if not all,
.the breakthroughs discussed above
from becoming reality.
The stultifying effect that creationists
have had on the teaching of biology in
U.S. schools is both pervasive and pernicious. Quietly and insidiously, the subject of evolution has disappeared from
most school rooms in the United States.
Because biology makes no sense except
in the light of evolutionary theory, fewer
students enter college understanding
the biological foundation upon which so
many of the expected breakthroughs
depend. But creationists aren't the only
anti-intellectual roadblocks in our path.
Twenty years ago, no one would have
expected or predicted the recrudescene
of Native American religion and superstition that has all but brought North
American archaeology to a halt. Five
years ago, yielding to pressure from
what one can only describe as ancestorworshipping Indian groups, the federal
government passed NAGPRA; the Native American Graves Protection and
Repatriation Act. The many pre-Columbian skeletons and artifacts that have
been collected and studied by our great
museums are now being surrendered to
shamans and medicine men for magic
ritual-assisted reburial. In many cases,
much could be learned about America's
past by restudying these remains with
new techniques now being perfected.
But alas, Native Americans have gotten
the crazy notion that these remains are
"sacred" and are in fact their own ancestors - despite the fact that in most
cases the possibility of a given bone being related to a given claimant is vanishingly small or altogether impossible.
In Idaho, where a state law similar to
NAGPRA has been in effect for some
time, a 1O,675-year-oldfemale skeleton
was returned to the ground in 1992after
having been studied only three days by
Page 46

a single physical anthropologist. The

skeleton and associated artifacts were
buried on the Shoshone-Bannock reservation, a hundred miles away from the
place where they were discovered.
Diana K. Yupe, incredibly an anthropologist as well as a Shoshone-Bannock Indian, has been quoted in the pages of
Science- as saying that the skeleton is
"our Mother; the Mother of us all.... To
us, she is our ancestor, and hers is not
just a decomposed body; she is alive."
How could an "anthropologist" come to
be so abjectly unscientific?
In Arizona, where construction of a
giant telescope on Mt. Graham has
been vociferously opposed by Native
Americans who claim the mountain itself as a sacred object," a similar state
law in 1991 forced an archaeologist to
surrender eight hundred skeletons and
two thousand Hohokam funerary vessels when a tribal council objected to the
study of human remains. Everything
was reburied on the Ak-Chin Reservation. Nothing shall be learned about
those Indians! At the Smithsonian in
Washington, two thousand skeletons
have been returned for inhumation, and
fourteen thousand more are soon to go.
As gloomy as the future is for anthropology, the forecast for medical science
- and the possibility of its finding a cure
for old age - seems even more overcast. The reason may surprise many
readers. Allthe expected breakthroughs
in understanding the human brain, the
nature of AIDS, cancer, and other dis-

3Virginia Morell, "State Laws Provide a

Glimpse of the Future," Science, vol. 264 (1
April 1994), p. 21.
4Construction of the telescope has also
been halted because an endangered species
of squirrel inhabits the mountain top. As far
as I have been able to learn, however, studies have not shown the telescope would be
a danger to the squirrel. Meanwhile, park
authorities at Devils Tower in Wyoming are
trying to bar climbers from the mountain
during June, when the volcanic remnant is
especially sacred to another Indian group.
August 1995

eases including senescence, depend on

experimentation upon live animals. Increasingly, however, animal experimentation has become more difficult or
actually impossible due to lobbying
(with the resultant hamstringing legislation) and terrorist attacks from various
animal rights organizations. Originally
founded for the admirable purpose of
preventing cruelty to animals, some
groups have become fierce and misanthropic enemies of medical science.
Aided by the fact that there are admitted abuses of animal experimentation in the cosmetics industry and elsewhere, some animal rights activists have
waged war against animal research of all
kinds, no matter how noble its purpose.
Dozens of laboratories
have been
bombed, burned, and trashed by these
terrorists, and in England at least one researcher has been assassinated. At the
Ohio State University (my own backyard!), a court has just ordered the university to release to animal activists a list
of all professors carrying out animal research, so that they can be harassed at
home as well as in the laboratory. Considering the fact that several laboratories here have been vandalized in the
near past, and considering the fact that
I myself was physically attacked by an
activist when she learned that Ijormerly
conducted experiments involving brain
surgery on cats, the prospects for medical research in Ohio do not seem
bright. Nationwide and in Europe as
well, physiological research is being hindered legislatively to the point where it
could very well come to a halt before
long. The prospect of physical immortality - so clearly possible and attainable
by developments now taking place in
biochemistry and physiology - may
prove to be a will-o'-the-wisp. An Olympian life span may elude us not because
it really is a phantasm, but because the
powers of irrationality and misanthrophy may prove more powerful than reason and philanthropy. A battle is engaged. I believe it is the most momentous war our kind has ever fought. ~
American Atheist

Historical Notes

202 years ago

For publicly professing Atheism, he was

arrested under a Massachusetts blasphemy statute in January 1834. After
four years of litigation,he subsequently
served a three-month jail sentence
when his conviction was upheld by an
appellate court in 1838.

The yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, then the largest city in the United
States, became a major disaster during
August 1793_Stephen Girard (17501831) volunteered to superintend the
Bush Hillfever hospital where he nursed
the sick day and night.
An Atheist, he later left his entire fortune of $7,500,000 to charity, over
$5,000,000 of which was in trust to the
City of Philadelphia for educating poor,
White, orphan boys. His will stipulated
that no minister could ever set foot in
the institution (Girard College). This
provision was later nullified in court.

Scott Nearing, American sociologist,

antiwar crusader, and back-to-the-land
advocate, was for many years a member
of American Atheists. Born on August
6, 1883, Nearing died a century later at
his farm in Harborside, Maine, on August 24, 1983.

175 years ago

110 years ago

John Tyndall was born on August 2,

1820 (died 1893). An Irish physicist, he
was a popularizer of science and an agnostic. His Belfast Address, given to the
British Association, on the relation between science and theology gave rise to
acute controversy. In it he challenged,
"We claim, and we shall wrest from theology,the entire domain of cosmological

It seems that Atheist

always been under
attack by self-proclaimed believers.
At least that was
the case in the
nineteenth century,
when attorney and
orator Robert G.
Ingersoll (18331899) toured the
United States, attracting hundreds to his lectures criticizing Christianity and the Bible. In
its August 15,
1885, issue, The
Truth Seeker, Robert G. Ingersoll,
then an Atheist who was born on Auand freethought gust 11, 1833, is honnewspaper, not- ored.with. a ~tatue in
ed this about one Peoria, Illinois,
of his critics, the brother of Jesse

151 years ago

Abner Kneeland (born 1774)died on
August 27, 1844. Kneeland founded

Abner Kneeland was a carpenter before

he studied the Bible and became an
the Boston Investigator, the first rationalist periodical in the United States.
Austin, Texas

112 years ago

Frank James, murderer and

train-robber, is attending the revival. services conducted by Sam
Jones at Pattsburg, Missouri.
Whatever else may be said against
Colonel James, he has always
been a pious man. During his
whole career he never shot a man
August 1995

or stopped a train on Sunday, and

no man has denounced Colonel
Ingersoll in stronger terms than
this same Colonel James.

95 years ago
Atheist John Scopes was born on August 3, 1900 (died 1970). On May 25,
1921,Scopes was indicted for and later
convicted of and fined $100 for illegally
teaching the theory of evolution in biology classes in Tennessee. The case, a
cause celebre, became known as "the
monkey trial" and featured verbal duels
between two of the nation's best known
attorneys: William Jennings Bryan and
Clarence Darrow.
43 years ago
Blaming the decline of Western civilization on Atheism is nothing new. It was
all the rage back in the 1950s, when
pious patriots were pushing pro-god legislation through Congress. The Liberal,
a monthly rationalist and freethought
journal, sounded the alarm at the very
beginning of the McCarthy-era "god and
government" craze with this news note
in its August 1952issue:
Secularism called deadlier than
Reds. Francis B. Syre, the U.S.
representative to the United Nations Trusteeship Council, said
that "the deadening secularism of
America and the Western World"
is a more serious danger than the
"massive power of Soviet Russia."
Sayre declared that "human activities divorced from God lead to
inevitable disaster."

20 years ago
The August 30, 1975,broadcast of the
"American Atheist Radio Series" was
titled "Jefferson on Christianity" and focused on the third president's criticisms
of the Christian Bible. The moderator of
the series, Madalyn O'Hair, noted that
Jefferson's "administration was probably the most purely secular that the
country has ever had. Christians were
Page 47

accorded the same privileges accorded

to Deists, Atheists, and Jews, and no

capacity to recognize a fraud and

refuse to believe in fairy tales and
Santa Claus.
10 years ago
American Atheist Press issued The XRated Bible, an examination of the sexual passages in the Christian Bible,
during August 1985. Before the end of
the month, the first printing had sold
out, in large part due to media attention.

5 years ago
Jon Murray, R. Murray-O'Hair, Paul
Tirmenstein, and Madalyn O'Hair at the
1985 American Atheist Convention.

14 years ago
In August 1981, American Atheists
sued the State of Mississippi to end its
constitutional provision which excluded
Atheists from holding office or positions
of public trust. The litigant in the case,
member Paul Tirmenstein, eloquently
put forth the reasons for the suit in this
statement to the media:
I am bringing this suit on behalf
of every citizen of this state who
has the kind of patriotism that
calls for obeying and supporting
the Constitution of the United
Section 265 (of the Tennessee
constitution) specificallybars Atheists from holding office in Mississippi. This mandates belief in a
mythical supernatural god, which
an Atheist refuses. This religiously
motivated attempt to bar men of
the mental capacity and calibre of
Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Edison, Albert Einstein, and Luther
Burbank, Atheists all, from holding office, is unequivocally unconstitutional, and should be so declared by the court. A mere declaration of its unconstitutionality is
insufficient to correct this insult to
and discrimination against those
Americans who have the mental
Page 48

The August 1990 issue of the American Atheist Newsletter reported on .

separation activism of
American Gay and Lesbian Atheists,
based in Houston, Texas:

American Atheists in Houston

are fuming because

churches of that city are now being used for polling places. Nothing could be a more egregious
affront to state/church separation
under which the nation allegedly
functions than to force the citizens
of such a nation to go to a church
to vote. Mark Franceschini and
Don Sanders [officers of American Gay and Lesbian Atheists] are
in that position and slowly accumulating evidence to start a legal
challenge to the exercise.
Mark Franceschini was magnificent last election. He went to the
church and demanded that the
polling booth be carried out into
the street so that he could vote because he refused to step inside of
the church to do so. Although it
took a little time, he got his demand, with a Roman Catholic
priest standing and fuming on the
steps of the church as he watched
the procedure.
Don Sanders and Mark Franceschini are a two-man wrecking
crew against church domination in

1 year ago
President Clinton made the case
against absolute separation of state and
church at a White House prayer breakfast on August 30, 1994:
Don Sanders (above) and Mark Franceschini, now both deceased, kept a vigilant
watch on First Amendment violations.

Sometimes I think the environment in which we operate is entirely too secular. The fact that we
have freedom of religion doesn't
mean that we need to try to have
freedom from religion. . .. [T]hose
of us who have faith should frankly admit that we are animated by
that faith, that we try to live by it
- and that it does affect what we
feel, what we think, and what we
The remark was reported in the September 1994 issue of the American
Atheist Newsletter.

August 1995

American Atheist


Breaking Icons
So carefully cast, we
Erect them to make
Sense of a random world
Harness chaos
Control nature's passions
Protect the unprotectable.
We rationalize irrationality
Gild the statues to hide the cracks
Afraid to go back to
Primal time and place.
Afraid to erase ancient thoughts,
Dry rotted and crumbling
Tumbling fast toward extinction.
We shore them up
Imploring forgiveness for
A glimmer of forbidden vision
Afraid to face our fears and not
Grovel before that which is formless
In whom we set all store
Of hope.
We grope like blind men in the light
Call night day and call day night
And hold all our sins responsible
For every blight upon the land.
We would believe in a Grand Scheme
Praise the Schemer and chart our days
To follow his mysterious ways
And gild the statues
That they stay gilt
Remain prayworthy
Before they are forever broken
And returned to the dust and silt
From whence they came.

What willbe the name

Of that which comes crashing
Like a giant meteor
Hurtling through earth's crust
Smashing those senseless creations
To become the creator
Of a brave new world?
Will we stand in homage
As we did before
Or prostate, knell
Touching foreheads to the ground?
Or reel like dervishes
In a trance?
Will we ever give up the romance
With a superior who is or is not?
Take stock of the world
With a bookkeeper's eye?
Worship neither suns, nor earth
Nor moons, knowing they are made
Not of magic mystery but
The essence of simplicity:
Gas and simple rock.
Barbara Wind Morcheles

Partway there
When early man danced to his heartbeat
left his art on cavern walls
led the hunt for foe or mammoth
blinked in wonderment at stars
Someone must have grappled with
the thought of blind servility
to something never quite defined
in terms of simple rationale.
Somewhere within an artless mind
there lurked an embryo intellect
which questioned praise and sacrifice
as means to stem malicious moods.
Somehow the premise trickled down
to lodge in more ambitious thought
to stabilize, and hone, and mold . . .
to offer hope for sanity.
Angeline Bennett

Austin, Texas

August 1995

The Existential Motorcycle

AI, greasy-handed muse
of motorcycle repair
and resurrection;
Bruno, patron saint
of leather and chains
with holy tool box
and skull rings on each finger;
Angels of Acceleration,
goggled and helmeted,
with biker babes
clinging to your wings;
Spokernaster, tattooed spirit
of wind-in-hair
and freewheeling motion;
I call upon you all,
invoke your power,
request your divine presence
here in this little garage . . .
As suspected,
I am on my own
without gods
or providence or karma
or magic or luck
or even the hand of fate.
There will be no miracles
in this here garage,
just me and my own hands
relying upon one another just me and my own hands.
Robert J. Parran

Unreal estate
Myoid pastor
for a price
promised housing
in heaven;
My new pastor
for the same price
guarantees a
choice location.
Is that competition
or misrepresentation?
Kenneth Snelling
Page 49

American Atheist Radio Series

The U.S. Congress and

the religionists

The battle over the
place of religion in the
godless government of
the United States
began before the ink
was dry on the

here is no mention of a god or of

Jesus Christ in the Constitution of
the United States. Often, people
feel that this was an oversight and that
ifthe Founding Fathers had it to do over
again, there would be such a mention.
Don't kid yourself. There has been a
strong fight in every generation to get
god into the Constitution, and I want to
acquaint you with just a very few of
those efforts.
On October 27, 1789, the First Presbytery Eastward in Massachusetts and
New Hampshire made a protest to
George Washington because there was
explicit acknowledgement of the
only true God and Jesus Christ
whom He has sent, somewhere in
the Magna Charta of our country.

When the first installment of a

regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute,
weekly American Atheist radio series
on KLBJ radio (a station in Austin,
Texas, owned by then-President
Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit the
airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation
was shocked. The programs had to be
submitted weeks in advance and were
heavily censored. The regular
production of the series ended in
September 1977, when no further
funding was available.
The following is the text of "American
Atheist Radio Series" program No. 56,
first broadcaston June 23,1969.

Madalyn a'Hair
Page 50

In 1793, the year Philadelphia was

stricken by the yellow fever, the Rev.
John Mason preached a sermon in
which he declared the plague was sent
as a visitation from god because he was
not recognized in the supreme law of
the land. At this time, as you willrecall,
the capital of the United States was situated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1803, the Reverend Samuel B.
Wylie,l Doctor of Divinity of the University of Pennsylvania, preached a sermon
in which he said,
Did not the framers of this instrument in this . . . resemble the fool
mentioned in Psalms 14:1-3, who
said in his heart, "There is no
In 1811, Samuel Austin," Doctor of Divinity, afterwards president of the Uni-

,lSamuel Brown Wylie(1773-1852), Reformed

Presbyterian clergyman.
2Samuel Austin (1760-1830), Congregational
clergyman, pastor of the First Church in
Worcester, Mass. (1790-1815), and president
of the University of Vermont (1815-21).
August 1995

versity of Vermont, preached a sermon

in Worcester, Massachusetts, in which
he said that lack of recognition of god
was the "capital defect" in the Constitution, which "will issue inevitably in the
destruction of the nation."
Of all the ministers of the time who
could never reconcile themselves to the
new order of things, the Rev. Timothy
Dwight of Yale College was foremost
and most insistent. In 1812 he proclaimed, "We commenced our national
existence, under the present system,
without God." In 1813, he added to his
The grossest nations and individuals, in their public acts and in
their declarations, manifestos,
proclamations, and so on, always
recognize the superintendency of
a Supreme Being.
By 1884, with persistence, the church
establishment was able to influence a
candidate for president of the United
States, and on January 18, 1844, James
Buchanan- introduced into the United
States Senate a memorial inspired by
the religionists demanding that god be
recognized, Christ acknowledged as
the Savior, and the Bible made the supreme authority in law.
It is rather interesting to note that
James Buchanan was involved in the infamous Ostend Manifesto which pressed
for the annexation of Cuba to America,
as a slave state. He became president in
1856, although he did not win a majority
of the popular vote.
Finally a national organization was
founded to force the acceptance of the
recognition of god in the Constitution.
This was called the National Reform
Association, organized in 1863, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a journal
called The Christian Statesman, first
published in 1867.

3James Buchanan (1791-1868), U.S. senator

(1834-45) and U.S. president (1857-61).
American Atheist

There is no mention of a god or of Jesus Christ in the Constitution of the

United States. Often, people feel that this was an oversight and that if the
Founding Fathers had it to do over again, there would be such a mention.
Don't kid yourself.
The first attempt of this organization
to put god in the Constitution was in
1874,when a billwas reported by a committee in Congress. Here it is:
43d Congress, 1st Session
House of Representatives,
Report No. 143.





February 18, 1874- Ordered to

be printed.
Mr. Benjamin E Butler from the
Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the following:
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the petition of E. C. Goulet and others,
asking Congress for "an acknowledgment of Almighty God and the
Christian Religion" in the Constitution of the United States, having
considered the matter referred to
them, respectfully pray leave to
"That, upon examination even
of the meagre debates by the
fathers of the Republic in the convention which framed the Constitution, they find that the subject of
this memorial was most fully and
carefully considered, and then, in
that convention, decided, after
grave deliberation, to which the
subject was entitled, that, as this
country, the foundation of whose
government they were then laying, was to be the home of the oppressed of all nations of the earth,
whether Christian or pagan, and
in full realization of the dangers
which the union of church and
state had imposed upon so many
nations of the old world, with great
unanimity that it was inexpedient
to put anything into the Constitution or frame of government which
might be construed to be a reference to any religious creed or doctrine.
Austin, Texas

"And they further find that this

decision was accepted by our
Christian fathers with such great
unanimity that when the amendments which were afterwards proposed in order to make the Constitution more acceptable to the
nation, none has ever been proposed to the state by which this
wise determination of the fathers
has been attempted to be changed.
"Wherefore your committee
report that it is inexpedient to legislate upon the subject of the
above material, and ask that they
be discharged from the further
consideration thereof, and that
this report, together with the petition, be laid upon the table."
In 1896,again the plea was introduced
in Congress. On March 11, 1896, the
Committee on the Judiciary gave it a
The proposed amendment to the
Constitution would have made it read as
We, the people of the United
States (acknowledging Almighty
God as the source of all power and
authority in civil government, the
Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler of
nations, and His revealed will as
supreme authority in civil affairs)
in order to form a more perfect
union ....
The freethinkers of the nation rallied
to the cause and appeared at the hearings
in Congress. They included Samuel P.
Putnam,' president of the Freethought
Federation of America; General William
Birney" and Dr. W. A. Croffut,> two

4Samuel P. Putnam (1838-92), American

freethought lecturer.
5William Birney (1819-1907), Union soldier
and lawyer.
6William A. Croffut (1835-1915), American
journalist and author.
August 1995

prominent freethinkers in the United

States capital.
The following is an important part of
that hearing. Rev. Dr. McAllister made
the main argument for the amendment,
and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee asked him what he meant by the
phrase regarding Jesus Christ's will as
being supreme authority in civil affairs:
Chairman: "What do you refer to
as his revealed will?"
Dr. McAllister: "The Bible."
Chairman: "Then you wish the
Constitution to recognize the
Bible as supreme authority in civil
affairs, do you not?"
Dr. McAllister: "Yes, sir."
Chairman: "Then the supreme
authority-that is the law-in civil
affairs must be construed and enforced by the courts, must it not?"
Dr. McAllister: "Certainly.':
Chairman: "Then the next step
would be that the construction of
the Bible would be thrown into the
courts, and you would have conflicting decisions."
Actually what the Reverend Doctor
McAllister had in mind was that the
church should interpret the Bible and
that civil administration of law would
necessarily then become a function of
the church.
Both in the 60th and in the 61st Congress; this amendment to drag god into
the supreme law of the land was again
introduced, but at no time, except the
first, in 1874, did a committee make a
report on it. Up to the year 1910there
were sixty-nine religious measures of
this nature introduced into the Congress of the United States. All of them
failed. Let's look at a few of the others,
at random.
In 1888, Senator Henry W. Blair? of

7Henry William Blair (1834-1920), lawyer;

member, U.S. House of Representatives
(1875-79); and U.S. senator (1879-91).
Page 51

The religious community

was especially furious
about the delivery of mails on Sunday and its battle against that was early in our republic's history.
New Hampshire introduced an amendment to the Constitution of the United
States, Section 2, which read:
Each state in this Union shall establish and maintain a system of
free public schools, adequate for
the education of all the children
livingtherein, between the ages of
six and sixteen years inclusive, in
the common branches of knowledge, and in virtue, morality, and
the principles of the Christian
The religious community was especially furious about the delivery of mails
on Sunday - and its battle against that
was early in our republic's history. On
January 4, 1811,a petition was sent in
from the Synod of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to "prohibit mail stages and postriders from traveling and post offices
from being kept open on Sunday." This
was referred to the postmaster general.
On the eighteenth, twenty-fifth, and
thirty-first of the same month, similar
petitions were presented from other religious bodies. The postmaster general
answered the petitioners that he could
not comply with their demands. And
four times - on January 3, 1812; on
June 15, 1812;on January 27, 1815;and
on February 10, 1815- more petitions
were presented, and each time the committee took no action on them. The religious persons were so angry that they
placed chains across streets, secured
by padlocks, to prevent the mail coaches
from passing.
The General Assembly of Illinois
passed a resolution on February 14,
1831,that the inaction of the Congress of
the United States in this matter met with
their "decided approbation."
On May 21, 1888, another bill was introduced into Congress which would
have prohibited any mail matter being
"collected, assorted, handled, or delivered during any part of the first day of
the week," i.e., Sunday.
What no one seems to realize is that
Page 52

with this kind of persistence, irrationality

always wins. Do you get any mail on
The history of chaplains in Congress
is an interesting one. When the first
Continental Congress came into session, it was proposed that proceedings
be opened with prayer. The proposal
met at first with opposition. Afterwards
it was decided to have prayer, and the
Rev. Dr. Jacob Duche," Rector of Christ
Church, Philadelphia, was invited to
officiate. However, Duche later turned
traitor to our cause of independence,
tried to induce George Washington to
do likewise, was compelled to leave the
country, and had his property confiscated by our infant republic.
When the Constitutional Convention
met in 1787, the suggestion was made
again that prayers should start the deliberations, and at that time, the idea was
However, when it came to the new
government going into operation, the
religionists won. And James Madison."
in a letter to Edward Livingstone.P written on July 10, 1802, spoke of this:
It was not with my approbation
that the deviation from it took
place in Congress, when they appointed chaplains, to be paid from
the national treasury. It would
have been a much better proof to
their constituents of their pious
feeling ifthe members had contributed for this purpose a pittance
from their own pockets.

8Jacob Duche (1737/8-1798), Anglican clergyman and chaplain of the Continental Congress who renounced the American Revolution in 1777.
9James Madison (1751-1836), fourth president
of the United States (1809-17).
lOEdward Livingstone (1764-1836), lawyer;
member, U.S. House of Representatives
(1795-1801 and 1823-29); and U.S. senator
August 1995

There has been continuing opposition to chaplains in Congress. On December 27, 1839, a heated debate was
held in the House upon the subject,
when a motion was made to reconsider
the vote on the resolution which authorized the appointment of chaplains.
On December 7, 1840, Representative Cooper!' of Georgia asked permission to offer a bill abolishing the salary
of chaplains. Many times in the 29th
Congress, protests were made against
the illegal chaplain imposition, and on
the twenty-second of December 1845,
when thirteen candidates for chaplain
were before the House seeking appointment.
In the Senate in 1850,Senator Underwood'! presented a petition praying
Congress to abolish the office of chaplain. When a chaplain was to be elected
before the Civil War, the fight was on
again, and on February 28, 1860, blossomed into a verbal brawl.
As it stands there is no legal authority for chaplains, their appointment, or
their pay. It is an arbitrary proceeding,
without authority of law and contrary to
the Constitution.
Funds are taken
which belong to you. A national chaplaincy, no less than a national church, is
an establishment of religion.
Today, however, there is no more
fighting. The chaplains won hands
down, and yes, the pay is $30,000 a year,
and yes, you pay for that." ~

llMark Anthony Cooper (1800-1885), member, U.S. House of Representatives (183943).

12Joseph Rogers Underwood (1791-1876),
Kentucky legislator and jurist; U.S. senator
13Asof December 1994, the annual salary of
the Senate chaplain was $155,700. The
House chaplain receives $123,000 a year.
American Atheist

those who do not subscribe to the

Muslim theology and lifestyle, Louis
Farrakhan is already an established
"spokesman," a "messenger" in his
own right. Farrakhan may "tell it like it
is," even if he does represent an
extreme geopolitical turf when compared to the aging civil rights movement and the mainstream black
But it is Farrakhan's religious and
social conservatism that calls for
equal scrutiny along with his historical revisionism (especially concerning alleged Jewish involvement in the
slave trade) and crank Afro-centrist
theories of culture. Farrakhan's
emphasis on atonement, spiritual
faith, even the social structures
which underpin his nostalgic yearnings for his youth, all place him in a
religious camp with some strange
companions. His own rambling, twohour discourse at the Million Man
March was less a call to political
action than it was a sermon. True to
form, Farrakhan began his panegyric
with praises to Allah. He spoke of
"great teachers," and conjured
Mohammed, he exhorted onlookers
to mend their ways and examine
their souls, in the tradition of any religious messenger.
The vision of the future according
to Louis Farrakhan-at least that
which emerges from his remarks
during the Day of Atonement-is
essentially that of an ordered, disciplined and religious patriarchal society. Males, true to the teaching of the
Koran, are head of a household, a
social unit as tightly wrapped and
defined by deistic fiat as by the theories of Frederick Engels in "The origin of the family, state and the private
property," or the nostalgic yearnings

of the Promise Keepers Movement.

As in the disutopian anticipations of
the religious right, the nuclear family
becomes the building block of a larger, ethnic community; there is no

mention of "individual rights,"or "alternative lifestyles." There are no gay

men, lesbian women, communal living arrangements, or single mothers
who display the arrogance of raising
their own offspring. There are proud
and strong males who marry properly
behaved females and procreate families. The males are potent, and their
wives modest, quiet, and "useful"
when the circumstances require it
There is no libertine debauchery.
There are certainly no ethnically
mixed marriages. Louis Farrakhan's
world is as conservative and traditionalist as the goal of Pat Robertson, or
"Coach" Bill McCartney whose
packed-stadium revival meetings for
men only typifies the alleged angst of
the masculine soul confronting the
anomie and dislocation of postmodernism.
The Farrakhan world is economically parochial as well. Farrakhan
implored his Million Men to "support
black businesses" including "black
newspapers, black radio, black television." One hears the echo of Patrick
Buchanan or Ross Perot with their
"America First" economic xenophobia;
or perhaps a shared vision with the
religious right that Hollywood and the
rest of the entertainment/news industry "hates America," peddles secular
humanism, or is in the hands of
whites or Jewish cabalists.
Farrakhan's peculiar interpretation
of the Islamic creed is not shared
even by the majority of practicing
Muslims in the United States. Even
so, his world view is essentially
shaped by religious doctrine. One
trembles in the prospect that, after
the framers
of the
Constitution for their role in the establishment of slaveocracy, he would
Enlightenment Era reforms they did
institute, including republicanism and
the separation of church and state, let
alone the Bill of Rights. Or is
Farrakhan even more extreme, a kind

of "Muslim Reconstructionist" who

would remake the nation and the
world into a Procrustean "Islamic
Republic"-if only he had the power?
Like the Christian right, Farrakhan
and his movement use theology as a
compass in plotting a vision of how
the individual relates to the rest of the
social order, and to history. There is
no libertarianism here; the individual
Is not the basic unit of society.
Indeed, it becomes the task of each
individual to submit, to God, the
Prophet, the Messenger, the clerical
Institutions, the social contrivances of
family, and ultimately to a theocratic
One can plow through the Nation's
writings, or Farrakhan's speeches, or
the pages of the FINAL CALL without
finding mention of individual rights
and civil liberties.
In this, Farrakhan begins to echo
religious conservatives who have had
their fill of individual rights, options
and alleged excesses. Religious
rightists today display a rhetorical
fascination with "family values" and
the sovereignty of local/state governments, not with some Jeffersonian or
even anarchistic view of individual
autonomy and self-determination
(with perhaps the exception of the
very wealthy or corporations which
survive through state largess). In
anything, both Farrakhan and the religious conservatives would distrust
the individual as a potential rogue.
The "person" is besotted with original
sin, and can function properly only by
"submitting" (Farrakhan), or participating in the quintessential churchmandated institutions such as marriage, a view advanced by divorced
neo-conservatives such as George
Glider. And individuals are "selfish"
when they do not put their religious
and social Obligations foremost; they
do not serve their respective "communities" as William Bennett would
have us do.
Not surprisingly then, Farrakhan

American Atheist

August 1995

Page 53

Letters to the Editor

The irreligious roots of

the United States
Right-wing religious claims that our
nation was founded on Christianity are
a gross exaggeration of the very limited
extent of religious adherence found in
colonial America.
Jon Butler's book Awash in a Sea of
Faith (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1990) notes that by 1649 more
than 50 percent of Boston's men stood
outside the church (p. 61). Gerald
Moran's study of seven early Connecticut towns reveals only two communities in which roughly half of the men
were church members in 1675 or 1680
- Middletown (54 percent) and Farmington (45 percent). Four towns - New
Haven, New London, Stonington, and
Woodbury - reported adult male membership rates of 15 percent (Ibid., pp.

In Boston, Samuel Mather admitted

in 1780 that "not one sixth" attended
public worship (Ibid., p. 191). New York
City's church adherence rate in eighteenth-century colonial times probably
did not approach 15 percent (Ibid. p.

During the Revolution, there was the

further wrinkle of 75 percent of the Anglican ministers leaving their parishes
because they supported or were supported by the Crown (Ibid., p. 206). All
but one of the Anglican churches in the
American colonies were ransacked by
patriots (Ibid., p. 207). Recall that the
"divine right of kings" was a church
"Letters to the Editor" should be
either questions or comments of general concern to Atheists or to the
Atheist community. Submissions
should be brief and to the point. Space
limitations allow that each letter
should be three hundred words or,
preferably, fewer. Please confine your
letters to a single issue only. Mail them
to: American Atheist, P. O. Box
140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195.

Page 54

Jim Senyszyn

Inmates taking over the asylum

What is one to do? The inmates have
taken over the asylum, or I should say,
the guardians have become like the inmates. I'm on the staff of a mental health
clinic, where the administrative director
believes in past lives; one of my supervisors believes in an incorporeal god;
the other believes in higher powers
August 1995

(which possibly means the same). One

of my colleagues believes in everything
mystical, magical, and fantastic (she
says that she has a need to believe); four
others were talking about how wonderful
her spiritualist is (she can tell her things
about herself that nobody could have
knowledge of). Another therapist believes in the efficacy of her tarot cards.
There is one therapist who is now in
private practice who, when I asked her
what would happen and how would it
change her life, if she discovered there
was no god, said that she would feel
lonely. I remind you, these are all trained
There is a certain paradox to psychotherapy. On one hand, the therapist as
a role model is helping clients deal with
reality and helps them change some of
their pathogenic beliefs and behavior.
Then there are many therapists who
promote some of the most superstitious,
reality-avoiding beliefs imaginable. Many
therapists out of their awareness help
certain clients regress to an infantile,
symbiotic relationship with a parent/
god figure and relinquish a certain
amount of self-responsibility.
There are around forty-five therapists
on our staff. Though I don't know them
all, most that I do talk with are magical
thinkers. The sad part is they are not
aware that they are. As the research
shows, every therapist will influence
their clients overtly or covertly as part of
the therapy. If all therapists were tested
for their magical thinking, 75 percent
would be found to be magical thinkers
(based on the sample of my clinic). This
is an area that the examining boards fail
to look at and don't want to face. A sad
commentary on the mental health profession.
Newton Joseph

Religion, abortion, and the AMA

While we thought all along that the
churches are the major culprits in denying a woman's right to an abortion, it
American Atheist

seems that the burgeoning medical profession of male elites first prescribed a
dose of death to abortion rights as early
as 1820.
They began quickly enough by first
denying that a woman could tell if she
herself felt movements of lifeinside her.
Yet, while these male obstetricians
denied the sense of "quickening" more
apparent to a pregnant woman than to
an exterior observer, the woman was
also told life began at the moment of
conception. Abortion was criminalized
in the nineteenth century and labeled
murder, even though childbearing was
more dangerous than abortion itself.
Women were denied entrance to this
all-male medical credential movement.
Midwives were relegated to obscurity in
a matter of decades, as the twentieth
century codified the doctor's realm.
Even the Hippocratic Oath was altered
to suit the whims of the AMA when it
was formed in 1847. The original Greek
was altered to please the foes of abortion
and surgery. Along with the hypocrisy
being ordained through their new Code
of Ethics, the AMA likewise proudly
proclaimed that male children were
blessed with a soul forty days after conception, while for a female child that
blessed event occurred on the eightieth
Needless to say, the church couldn't
stay away forever. Dr. Horatio Storer,
good Christian that he was, labeled
women who sought abortion as wayward derelicts, committing a "physiological sin." Thus, doctors became pseudo-

priests. The clergy at that time must

have felt ignored and hurt to be isolated
from the limelight.
Once the all-male fold took their campaigns to the political arena, the religionists were only too eager to join in the
triumphant march of the 1920s. And, as
Paul Harvey would say, "That's the rest
of the story."

sure to know that you are there for us

who are a long way out in the territories.
I certainly get the feeling at times that I
am alone in the wilderness of blind fanatic religionists. It gets creepy - and so
again, thanks for the communications
and the realization that you are there at
Donald G. McQuarrie

Gerald P. Lunderville

Famity values, Christian-style

A pro-choice pope?
The pope and other Christians opposing abortion act as if they don't understand the implications of their own religion.
If their religion be true, aborted fetuses must go straight to heaven. A little
holy water sprinkled on the fetus would
make this even more certain. Their god
would not damn an innocent little fetus.
Whereas the baby allowed to be born
could grow up to become an Atheist and
thereby end up in hell. So the aborted
fetus would be infinitely better off than
the born baby.
If they understood their own religion,
they would support abortion.
Robert A. Bloomer

Not alone
I want to express my sincere and
deep appreciation for all the devotion to
the cause and the hard work you are doing. It is a comfort and an uplifting plea-

Here are the perfect family values the family values of the perfect family,
the Christian god family.
The Christian father god infinitely tortures his children in hell (infinite evil, infinite immorality, infinite cruelty, infinite
child abuse, infinite hatred).
The Christian father god commits
premeditated mass murder on his children in the biblical flood (genocide).
The Christian father god commits
incest with his child, Mary (sexual child
The Christian father god sacrifices his
son to himself (premeditated murder).
Christians eat the Christian son god
in perfect communion (cannibalism).
These are only a few of the perfect
moral examples and perfect family
values of the perfect Christian god family. How could anyone possibly improve
on such perfect moral examples and
perfect family values?
Paul Keller

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August 1995

Page 55

and the religious conservatives share and its stand on the "evil of drink"
a retinue of common enemies. Think finds growing support on the conserof black activist Dolores Tucker team- vative right, and even in the ranks of
ing up with William Bennet at the liberals anxious to cash in on the "cul"Empower America" movement to ture war" faddism sweeping the coundemand an end to "gangsta' rap." try.
It is not that great a step from
Farrakhan and The Nation, too, have
joined the crusade, .and there are declaring war on the fringe elements
numerous reports about black of society (often the product of cerchurches throughout the country tain social and religious assumptions
leading sometimes violent confronta- rather than a cause) to a wider agentions against music outlets. Similar da on behalf of enforced conformity,
attacks are taking place against bill- orthodoxy, and uniform belief. The
boards promoting alcohol or tobacco more convoluted and all-embracing,
products, or even stores that sell the more totalistic an ideology like
such items; the tone is as much reli- Farrakhan's is, the more it must natugious and moral as it is health-con- rally lead to the exclusion of non-conscious. At times, the hostility spills formists as heretics, slanderers, blasover to wider targets, including phemers and sinners. Farrakhan may
Jewish or Korean merchants. The embrace the desert mystic-strongdrug issue resonates with both man Mohammar Khadafi as a conFarrakhan's movement and the reli- sultant in planning the liberation of
gious right (and its fellow travelers) black Americans, but he remains
as well. The Nation's security branch, hardly interested in the cause of, say,
known as the "Fruit of Islam," now dissident writers like Salman Rushdie
hire-out in housing projects through- or Taslima Nasrin who displayed the
out the country; drug dealers quickly audacity to question religious orthodisappear, although the actual impact doxy and authority.
One might legitimately wonder
of having the looming Fruit around
has yet to be established. Like the exactly where the limits of tolerance
religious conservatives, The Nation is rest with Louis Farrakhan, or where
prohibitionist concerning drug use; the limits of the power he seeks may

end. The Fruit of Islam were originally formed to protect The Nation from
white police and their dogs, now it
haunts the black community as a
self-appointed enforcer, a black
equivalent of the Guardian Angels.
The enemy is not just the "white
devil" in uniform, but the unrepentant
black man or woman who has not yet
atoned, submitted, and adopted the
program of Allah. This turning-inward
mirrors the phobia of the religious
right; the Evil Empire of communist
menace has been replaced by a
craftier and more subversive foe, one
right at home-the pornographer, the
Atheist, the drug dealer, the divorce
lawyer, the single mother, one of a
host of the morally fallen and sinful.
Farrakhan shares with his conservative religious brethren a conviction
that, ultimately, the path to any social
redemption begins only with commitment to moral, religious principles;
and that social change is possible
only when one obeys, submits, or
"gets right" with God.
For both Louis Farrakhan and his
counterparts on the religious right,
America has met the enemy.
And we are it.


OL~ TE5TN"\ENr- Sl)t E ?

Page 56

August 1995

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,0fl~e pe
Jl:>le, a'!]110 t5lp~t:

fOr a


"Christianity inculcates the necessity of supplicating

the Deity. Prayer may be considered under two points of
view; - as an endeavor to change the intentions of God,
or as a formal testimony of our obedience. But the
former case supposes that the caprices of a limited intelligence can occasionally instruct the Creator of the
world howto requ'ate the universe; and the latter, a certain degree of servility analogous to the loyalty demanded
by earthly tyrants. Obedience indeed is only the pitiful
and cowardly egotism of him who thinks that he can do
something better than reason."

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab