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May, 1985

A Journ.al of Atheist News and Thought

Atheism
and
Country
... See pg. 2

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AMERICAN ATHEISTS

is a non- profit, non- political, educational organization, dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of
state and church. We accept the explanation
of Thomas Jefferson that the "First Amendment"
to the
Constitution of the United States was meant to create a "wall of separation" between state and church.
American Atheists are organized to stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning
religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals and practices;
to collect and disseminate information, data and literature on all religions and promote a more thorough
understanding of them, their origins and histories;
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and interdependence
of all people and the corresponding
responsibility of each
individual in relation to society;
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Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and
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Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own
inherent, immutable and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that man finding his resources within himself - can and must create his own destiny. Materialism restores to man his
dignity and his intellectual integrity. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve
it. It holds that man is capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice. Materialism's "faith" is in
man and man's ability to transform the world culture by his own efforts. This is a commitment which is in very
essence life asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation and impossible without noble
ideas that inspire man to bold creative works. Materialism holds that humankind's potential for good and for an
outreach to more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited .

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American Atheists - P.O. Box 2117 - Austin. TX 78768-2117

Vol. 27 , No 5

May, 1985

American Atheist
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

Editorial: Atheism and Country - Jon Murray


Ask A.A.
News and Comments: Atheist Addresses State Legislature
Via Atheism
Another Sade: Part Two - Maurice LaBelle
Jesse on My Mind - Stephen B. Thorne
Thoughts on Sex, A Free Press, and Non-Authoritarian Society - Fred Woodworth
Born of Water - Lowell Newby
Minnesota Takes The Cake - August Berkshire
Poetry
The Case of Big Daddy - Frank R. Zindler
Digitizing Destiny - Margaret Bhatty
Dial-An-Atheist
Historical Notes
The Flood and Ark Stories - Madalyn Q'Hair
"
" - Gerald Tholen
Book Reviews
Me Too - Jamie Massey
Letters to The Editor
Classified Advertisement
Reader Service

5
6
8
11

15
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19
20
23
24
28
29
30
31
33
36
37
38
40
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On The Cover: To paraphrase an old English saying - "Now is the time for all good Atheists to come to the aid of their country." It
might be added that the time for such action is long overdue. Civilization has entered into a second Age of Enlightenment which, this
time, is originating, to an impressive degree, in our own nation. During the nineteenth century Enlightenment, physical and intellectual
release from the burdens of religio-political repression and the attempted proliferation of scientific information and rational thought were
bitterly opposed by church-controlled authoritarianism. The problems thus generated, in a large sense, were jousts between Left-and
Right-wing factions of religion in general. But, there existed a generous sprinkling of early Atheism which was largely responsible for the
necessarily limited success of the movement. If you have been reading the American Atheist magazine you are aware of much of the
history of the era. Today, the with even more rapid development of scientific (i.e. rational) knowledge, insanely fundamental religious
interests are again hopelessly trying to stem the inevitable; the further intellectual advancement of humanity. This time Atheism is in the
forefront. Be conscious of our true Americanism. Be proud of our inherent Atheism which willallow it to flourish.
G.Tholen
Editor/Robin Murray-O'Hair, Editor Emeritus/Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Managing Editor/Jon G. Murray, Assistant Editor/Gerald Tholen,Poetry/Angeline
Bennett, Gerald Tholen, Production Staff/Bill Kight, Gloria Tholen, Sandra M.P.
McGann, Douglas A. Barnes Non-Resident/G. Stanley Brown, Jeff Frankel, Merrill
Holste, Margaret Bhatty, Fred Woodworth, Frank R. Zindler.
The American Atheist magazine
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copyright 1984 by Society of Separationists, Inc.

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Austin, Texas

May, 1985

Page 1

EDITORIAL/Jon G. Murray

ATHEISM AND COUNTRY


April 5th, 6th and 7th of 1985, the
OnFifteenth
Annual National Convention

of American Atheists was held in Austin,


Texas. In 1968 the First Annual National
Convention was held in the same city. No
conventions were held in three separate
years due to fear of attendance and funding
difficulties therefore. The 1968 meeting, for
example, was characterized by guests diving
under the tables to hide from the media
which came to cover the event. The 1985
Convention was a far cry from the first.
Unity and Power
In 1983 we celebrated the twenty-year
anniversary of the founding of the American
Atheist organization. A new motto came out
of that Convention, held in San Francisco,
for the future of Atheism in this country.
That motto was "Unity today - power
tomorrow." We only had an apprehension at
that meeting, two years ago, that "unity" and
"power" would be the key concepts to our
continued success. Now, with the events of
the last two bitter Reagan years behind us,
we have come to understand that those
concepts are essential to not only our continued growth but to the far more basic goal
of survival of Atheism in our nation.
Atheists as Outcasts
Just in the past two years the "Wall of
Separation" between state and church, envisaged by the founders of our nation, has
been smashed flat by the combined fists of
religion and government. It is now obvious
that all of us, as Atheists, must work together to build a power base large enough to
prevent our being physically silenced in the
very near future - for certainly the next
four years under Reagan can only be ominous. Atheism has, with his administration,
been totally and irrevocably removed from
society. We find ourselves now as outcasts
who are no longer able to participate in the
normal processes of dissent within the social
order. Where heretofore we had an avenue
of dissent in the judiciary, this has now been
closed to Atheists. There is no possible hope
of appealing to the other branches of government - the executive or the legislative,
both captured by or capitulating to the
pressures of organized radical right religious

Page 2

elements of our society.


Convention

Relocation

The circumstances surrounding the relocation of the Fifteenth Annual Convention


of American Atheists are a case in point and
should serve as a beacon light for projected
activities in years to come. In the second
week of March several concerned persons
called the American Atheist Center to advise that a ninety-minute talk program on a
local all-religious radio station in Austin,
Texas, was broadcasting planned disruption
of the American Atheist Convention. Upon
investigation it was found that the boast was
made by a host of a religious talk show, small
in stature (physical as well as intellectual), a
born-again Christian who did not even have
a church of his own. He operated a "Christian fellowship" from a very small born-again
Christian book shop in a half-empty shopping center in the outskirts of Austin. Upon
investigation it was found that his "church"
rented a Junior High School cafeteria on
Sunday, complete with cooking odors, and
that his congregation consisted of an (alleged) two hundred members (counting the
kiddies), perhaps as many as forty or fifty
families.
Intimidation

Attempt

The plan proposed (which was actually


later effectuated) was to rent the other side
of a large ballroom in which the American
Atheist Convention was to be held. With the
two parts of the rooms separated only by a
thin pull-out wall-divider, the disruption
could be carried out by bringing in a religious
rock band, and several large church choirs
to make joyful noises to the lord so that the
Atheist speakers could not be heard. Also
with Convention registration tables side-byside, the prospect of joustling of the Atheists
by the fervid born-againers was much more
than a mere possiblity.
American Atheists did the logical and
reasonable thing: its Convention was moved
to a different hotel on the opposite side of
the city. The born-againers found themselves, on the days of the Convention, faced
with an empty room adjacent to their hootand-holler session. Their opportunistic balloon of interruption was burst so that their

May, 1985

efforts came to naught. American Atheists


can parry any thrust. I recount this to you
here because the absolutely incredible followed: President Reagan, informed of the
proposed disruptive plans, sent a letter of
encouragement to the born-againers - as
he continued to take a personal interest in
the activities of American Atheists and
Madalyn O'Hair.
Unequal Rights
Substantively, a group of pipsqueak, but
loud, religious fundamentalists forced this
year's American Atheist Convention to be
moved from one hotel to another - with the
President of the United States encouraging
the action and applauding at the sidelines.
Appeals to city officials to intervene fell on
deaf ears, as election day for the Austin
mayor and city council coincided with the
opening day of the Convention. Not alone
would we never have considered a premeditated disruption of a religious meeting, but
we could have suffered legal sanctions had
we attempted any such move. In every city
in the nation there are laws on the books
with prescribed penalties for disruption of a
"religious ceremony." No such laws exist for
the protection of non-religious speech or
assembly beyond the blanket statement of
the First Amendment. Religion -has gone
unopposed for so long that it has acquired
the power to make opposition to it a crime,
should that opposition turn to actual disruption. Religionists, on the other hand, can do
as they please using their religious convictions as a shield against the law that restrains
the non-religious. American Atheists moved
out of a motivation to prevent potential
property damage, physical violence, and a
circus atmosphere. The rational were forced
to counter the irrational by giving way, as
has always been in history. Willy-nilly, the
religious are bent on confrontation and
harm; the Atheists - as counterfoil adhere to reason and safety. The incident
forecasts a rough road ahead for all of us.
The fact that a small fanatical group was
successful in making us move our Convention, causing us considerable inconvenience, this year means that we can anticipate
more of the same with increasing severity in
succeeding years.

American Atheist

SHE.ELI DON', KNOW \ RON ...

Reason is The Answer

LET'S
We must keep in mind as we go along that
Atheism has a proud American heritage.
Some of the most valued contributors to
modern society (from many different nations) were and are Atheists. We are few,
but we are the elite and we should be very
proud of that. Atheists are Atheists, by and
large, because they are those who possess
the basic power to reason required to escape
from the systemic net of irrationality that
covers our daily lives. We are continually
bombarded, day and night, by religious,
political, economic, and ideologic irrationality in this nation. The United States is now,
in fact, the chief exporter nation of fundamentalist religion to the world, a title that has
a hidden warning for those of us who are
concerned with world politics.
The time is now for Atheists to make
themselves known in their communities and
to stand up and -show off both their courage
and their reason in the face of irrationality.
On Saturday, April 6th, a local television
station sent its camera crew to the Convention. With three hundred and ten seats filled,
those of us at the speakers' podium were
pleased to see Atheists smile into cameras
panned closely on their faces - the most
that anyone did to change appearance was
to check that a necktie was properly straight,
or that a dress was without a creasing fold.
Not one person dived under a table. What
does the cigarette ad stress? "You've come
a long way, baby." And, indeed, Atheism
has.

C-ONSUL T

TINKER-BELLE'
ON TI-f IS ONE....

Isolate and Eradicate


If we allow ourselves to be silenced and
isolated outside of society, we can be swept
under the rug for good. If,on the other hand,
we stand up and let our voices be heard in
unison, we will have much less to fear, at
least in the short run. The long run of human
concern, with education and science on its
side, can take care of itself. We must stick
together for the same reason that a herd of
antelope sticks together in the face of a pride
of lions. The ability to isolate is the ability to
eradicate. American Atheists gained from
the publicity which attended the scheme of
the born-againers to disrupt our Convention.
That gain came from concerted action and
determination with a proper evasive action
to throw the attack off-guard and make it
ineffective while strengthening and enhancing the position and image of American
Atheists.
But there are other factors unrelated to
the state/church separation battle, or the
continuing effort to have Atheism recognized as a viable alternative to religion. The
economic conditions of our nation make it
more difficult, in a continuing way, to assemble in convention as airfares, hotel accom-

Austin, Texas

May, 1985

Page 3

mociations, and restaurant prices rise. When


Atheists do, therefore, so assemble no matter what the cost one sees in the attendees
those who share the determination to stand
out among their fellows as purveyors of
reason within their communities. The cost is
admittedly high, monetarily and also psychologically. It takes a brave one to openly
identify and to dig into one's own pockets to
finance the adventure.
Sorry Warriors
In the perilous times in which we are, it
becomes more and more imperative that
Atheists do identify themselves as such.
Who else willsave our beloved country from
the plunge into medieval ages which seems
to be our destiny as the Falwellians mount
the attacks which will bring us to a state of
ignorance, mental servility, and stagnation
in science and in education? If we are so
frightened that we cannot even openly group
in order to flex our educational and political
muscles, we are sorry warriors in the cause
of freedom.
Lonely Leaders
It is extremely depressing to me that often
Atheists meet in order to get caught in the
trap of religious fly-paper: to engage in
endless circular arguments concerned with
biblical errancy, to repeat and repeat personal testimonial sessions of their salvation
from religion, to cling together in tiny groups,
meeting again and again, craving reinforcement that evolution is really here to stay. As
Atheists we do not need continual psychological stroking. Our strength is in our
uniqueness. Of course, we are "different"
from the herd. Leaders are' always lonely.
No one ever promised you a rose garden
when you started to actually use your mind.
Revolutionizing
I feel that some of the persons who remain
primarily concerned with striking out at the
Bible are not functional Atheists at all. They
are still deists or simply anti-clerics or some
other precursor of true Atheism. The physical trappings of faith, such as the Bible,
represent to them a reminder of the pain
caused to them by the dogma in which they
were reared as a youth. They need to punch
at this thing that was once forced on them
against their will.This makes them feel good
for the moment, but in the long run religion
can take allof these punches they can throw
and come back for more, renewed in vigor.
Atheists need only to find one another, to
meet, to sit down comfortably for the wonderment of finding that we all look, talk,
walk, dress, and appear to be ordinary
members of the human community. It is only
what is between our ears that makes us

Page 4

different. And, after we have come to know


one another on a social level, we can find our
areas of expertise as each of us undertakes a
part of the larger task of revolutionizing the
thinking of the citizens of our nation.
A first order of business is grouping for
survival in the next four Reagan years - a
primary objective. But in addition we need to
work in the larger area: how to deprogram
an entire nation from the formidible longterm indoctrination of religion which its
citizens have endured. We cannot do this
unless we are all introduced one to the
other.
Where The Battle Is
As the chief organizer of this year's Convention, I strove to chieve a blend of
educatic n, camaraderie, and recreation over
the course of three Spring days. Especially, I
wanted the persons assembled to look at,
and take pride in, the American Atheist
Center. I wanted as many as possible to see
the Austin, Texas, up front trenches. For
the first time, the Murray-O'Hairs opened
their home to over a hundred guests from
across the nation in order to make them feel
that "they had come home." I tried to say, in
every way, "This is where the battle is. This
The Atheist Alamo
If you ever go to Texas
Where they like a damn good fight
And you want to see some history done
To fashion matters right
When you've gone from San Jacinto
Where the massacre was won
To Goliad where heros died
Your journey's just begun
For valor wasn't conquered
At the Mission Alamo
So head yourself to Austin
There's a place you ought to go
To a little fort on Hancock street
Whose walls refuse to fall
And the battle there that's raging
Is the greatest one of all
It's the fight to free the human mind
From religious tyranny
And the courage of the seiged within
Is courage fit to see
As bold defiant volleys rise
From ramparts thinly manned
Religion's paying dearly now
To charge this rebel band
And no matter what the world will face
As ages come and go
Each noble mind will yet recall
This Atheist Alamo
- Gerald Tholen

May, 1985

is where the lines are drawn. This is how we


do it. Come and put your feet on hallowed
ground." I almost felt like Co!. Travis drawing the line in the dirt with his sword at the
Alamo for those of courage to step forward. I
cannot describe to all of you who have
supported this organization over the years
how good it made me feel to have that
challenge answered by one and all who came
to Austin this year. Although the staff of the
American Atheist Center stands ready to
continue in the face of any odds, it helps to
know that we have the moral and financial
support, now, of so many. In years past we
did not even have that. It feels good not to be
alone.
Renewed Resolution
The rewards from the Convention were
more than we had hoped. Daily the letters
are coming in - for the first time in fifteen
years - from persons who attended the
Convention. They have strengthened hopes.
They feel the beginnings of determination
rising within themselves. They are full of
pride. They were caught in three days of
wonderment, with excellent speakers, a
fabulous hotel, a city fresh with wildflowers
of the season, an American Atheist Center
more beautiful, functional, coordinated, and
equipped than they had in their wildest
dreams ever believed to be possible. The
letters are filled with intention and resolution.
Atheism and Country
Well, what is holding us back? The religious fundamentalist group which attempted to thwart or to disrupt the American
Atheists' Fifteenth Annual National Convention called its effort a "rally" for "God and
Country." It is instructive that in the sloganeering "god" came before country. Atheists
have always been America's finest citizens.
It has always been an Atheist out in front in
attempts to ameliorate the condition of
humankind. With a proud heritage of
Frances Wright, Thomas Edison, Luther
Burbank, Mark Twain, Clarence Darrow,
Margaret Sanger, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and many others, it is to the Atheists
that America owes much. We again, now, in
our time take up the cudgels for freedom of
speech, freedom of the press, freedom of
thought, freedom of the mind. We work so
that America willbe in the good hands of an
atheist majority as we move to overcome the
evils of religious facism now closing its
clamps upon the nation.
Freedom

and Justice

for All

We must remember that as Atheists we


are fighting for the rights of the religious
(cont'd on

pg.

39)

American Atheist

ASK A.A.
In Letters to the Editor, readers give
their opinions, ideas, and information.
But in "Ask A.A." American Atheists
answers questions regarding its policies, positions, and customs, as well as
queries of factual and historical situations.
I just found out that John Quincy Adams
swore on a lawbook, not the Bible, during his
inauguration. Why did he do that? Was he
an Atheist or just intelligent enough to
realize that church and state must remain
separate? Did any other presidents swear on
anything other than the Bible?
Source: NBC News, 3:40 p.m. EST, 21st
January, 1985
Joe Wanner
Pennsylvania
The Founding Fathers and the first five
presidents of the United States were deists.
They eschewed the Bible as a document of
import. Persons either attacking or ignoring
the Judeo-Christian Bible were Co/. Ethan
Allen, Thomas Paine, George Mason,
Benjamin Franklin and Presidents George
Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and john Quincy
Adams. At one point John Adams, in a letter
to Thomas Jefferson, purportedly said,
"This would be the best of all possible
worlds if there were no religion in it." We are
attempting at this point to authenticate the
quote. It is allegedly in a letter which
Jefferson wrote to Adams, quoting Adams'
earlier letter to Jefferson. John Adams was,
of course, the father of John Quincy Adams.
Deists, in the day and age of the founding
of our republic, adhered to a system of
thought that advocated a natural religion,
divorced from the Judeo-Christian Bible,
based on reason rather than revelation,
emphasizing nature's harmony and intelligibility, and rejecting the idea that the
Creator could interfere with the laws of
nature and the matters of mankind on
earth. Simply put, and as it appears in our
Declaration of Independence, the Founding
Fathers believed in "... nature and nature's
God." It is axiomatic that they would not
accept the Bible, but considering the political state of affairs at that time, it is not
surprising that most of the Presidents did
succumb and use the Bible for swearing in.
The younger Adams was, simply, a man of
bravery and conviction.
American Atheists solicits Atheist researchers to assist infinding the answers to
all of these queries. We would like to know
the comments concerned with John Quincy
Adams' actions at the time, and his replies, if
any.

Austin, Texas

It is high time American Atheists talked


about the prejudice present in all religious
people. They love their god because of the
moral teaching, parables, drama, and miracles in the Bible. Through the encouragement of faith, they gain a strong prejudice for
their god.
If religionists had more exposure to logic,
Atheism, scientific method, and relevant
science in school or elsewhere, they would
lose their prejudice. I don't think religionists
are insane, only ignorant. Religion is nothing
more than a superstition. Please explain why
American Atheists keeps saying religion is
insanity instead of a supersitition.
Richard Skarda
California
A superstition is a belief, or notion, not
based on reason or knowledge, in or of the
ominous (i.e., that which causes an irrational fear or portends evil or harm) significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.
Superstitions are that one cannot walk
under a ladder, have a black cat cross one's
path, and the like. Religion is a belief set. All
religions have a complete, often sophisticated, belief set which is the basis of that
religion. This primarily is concern over what
exists beyond the visible world - specifically in the acceptance that there is a
transcendent spiritual entity which (1) created the world, (2) governs it, (3) controls its
destiny and that of all individuals existing in
that world, (4) intervenes in history or in a
disruptive way in natural events as a response to supplications, rituals, and prayers
of its devotees, and (5) rewards and punishes after death certain individuals for their
adherence or nonadherence to the belief set
during life.
.
Persons who are psychotic are those who
are unable to relate to reality. Religious
persons are so consumed with their makebelieve god, make-believe heaven and hell,
and all of the accoutrement of their religion
that they are unable to cope with the reality
of living.
Some poor sap who evades walking under
a ladder is probably responding to the ominous idea that a bucket of paint or other
material could fall on his head. Even a
person who evades a black cat crossing his
path may be responding to an old adage
that such a creature (not visible in the dark
to a coachman) could startle horses on a
coach and cause an accident. This is totally
different than the irrational, and basically
insane, idea of "committing one's life to
Jesus Christ."
It is granted that religious people are

May, 1985

ignora.nt, but so were all Atheists at one


point in their lives. Upon educating themselves in respect to their prior religious
indoctrination they abandoned their irrational, i.e., psychotic, thinking, and restored
themselves to normality.
Religion is not mere superstition. It is the
acceptance of an irrational belief set, with
the consequent stultification of thought processes. American Atheists will continue to
differentiate between superstitions and religion, the former having some basic signal
in them to avoid a certain activity, but the
latter simply connoting insanity.
Christianity is defined by you as a "prejudice" coming from "a love of god based on
the moral teaching, parables, drama and
miracles in the Bible. " Judeo-Christianity is
characterized by intolerance of all other
ideas - particularly of science and knowledge. This is much more pernicious than
mere prejudice. The average Judeo-Christian fears his god rather than loves him.
There are few, if any, "moral" teachings in
the Bible. The parables have for a thousand
years been scrutinized for coherent meaning; none has been found by the most
earnest theologians. The miracles in the
Bible are as phony as Ringling Brothers,
Barnum and Bailey's unicorns.
What does it take to get a letter answered.
You guys never write replies to personal
letters.
Janice Mierzejewski
Ohio
What it takes is more hands at The
American Atheist Center. We continue to
be inundated with mail; there are not persons enough to answer it all. During the last
ten years we have devised innumerable
form letters to make reply, but the questions
and situations about which the Atheists of
the nation query are so complicated and
novel that many of the form letters are not
efficacious. We are back-logged, at the last
count, about four years in trying to make
individually tailored replies or to check on
state/church separation violations reported
to the Center.
This is not necessarily disastrous since
the violations continue, most often, for
decades. As quickly as we can work with
them we do so - finding that the problem is
still existing and that our resources are still
too meager to blunt the problem or to
eradicate it.
You can all help by financing the American Atheist Center as best as you can.
Meanwhile, be patient - and understanding, please.

PageS

NEWS AND COMMENTS

ATHEIST ADRESSES
STATE LEGISLATURE
In December, 1984, Ohio State Rep.
Paul Jones, D-Ravenna, tried to get a
bill passed in the Ohio Legislature to
remove the religious exemption from
the child absue laws (sections 2151.03,
2151.421, and 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code), but lobbying groups such
as the Christian Science Church succeeded in scuttling Jones' bill. That left
intact the following language:
"Nothing in this section shall be
construed to define as an abused
or neglected child any child who is
under spiritual treatment through
prayer in accordance with the
tenets and practice of a wellrecognized religion in lieu of medical treatment."
To save the children, once again, Rep.
Jones introduced another bill (House
Bill No. 67) which seeks to remove such
language from the laws of Ohio. Hearings on the bill were held on March 21,
1985, at the Ohio State House, before a
subcommittee of the House Children
and Youth Committee. The subcommittee was chaired by Rep. Jane Campbell.
Frank R. Zindler, representing the
Ohio Chapter of American Atheists testified before the subcommittee on that
date. He told reporters, "I cannot tell
the legislators how to vote but it is my
hope that if they have a better understanding of the constitutional and social
dimensions of the issue, they will be
able to take whatever action is needed
to make Ohio as safe a place for children as are most other states."
The text of his addresS follows:
Introductory Comments
I am Frank Zindler, speaking on behalf of
the Central Ohio Chapter of American
Atheists. American Atheists is also known
as the Society of Separationists. We are an
educational organization devoted to the
maintenance of absolute separation of state
and church. It is one of our major tenets that
most of the evils of the world are the result of
ignorance or at least are made worse by
ignorance. Our educational out-reach is,

Page 6

therefore, an attempt to help solve some of sometimes bitter pills to swallow. That the
the world's most serious problems. It is child should have a say in the matter seems
not to be a concern of at least some of the
hoped that by sharing the atheist understanding of the question of faith-healing - as legislators 'who voted last December to
maintain the religious exemptions from the
well as our understanding of the requirements of the Federal Constitution with re- laws against child abuse.
The idea that the child should be allowed
gard to "tate-church separation - the Ohio
State Legislature may be assisted in arriving to live long enough to be able to develop a
religious opinion differing from that of his
at the best possible solution of the problem
parents - if it is thought of at all - is
posed by the religious abuse of children.
First let me share my understanding of the rejected in horror by parents who, like the
biblical patriarch Abraham, are ready and
various constitutionally secured freedoms.
The Federal Bill of Rights guarantees free- willingto sacrifice their little Isaacs as a sign
dom of speech, freedom of religion, and of religious devotion. But unlike Abraham,
freedom of the press - to name but a few of who is reported to have had second thoughts
in the matter and spared his son at the last
its guarantees. But none of these freedoms
minute, a number of Ohioans have felt they
is absolute or without bounds. All freedoms
must be balanced against one another, and had to equal the "faith" of the biblical judge
Jephthah who actually sacrificed his daughone man's freedoms must be weighed
ter to his god.
against the freedoms of his fellows. Justice
In Western religious tradition, children
Holmes stated in a famous dictum that
freedom of speech does not extend to falsely traditionally have been viewed as chattels
to be shaped and molded accrying "fire!" in a crowded theater. It is also -objects
accepted that freedom of the press does not cording to the neuropsychiatric biases reextend to the printing of libel. And - until I sponsible for the theological opinions held
moved to Ohio several years ago - I by their parents. Only with the relaxing of
religion's grip upon Western civilization have
thought it was common understanding that
freedom of religion did not extend to the we come to see that the child has rights of his
own, and that the state has a legitimate
performance of child sacrifice.
But to my shock, child sacrifice as a interest in the protection of children against
religious right would appear, de facto, to be abuse and mistreatment by their parents. If
parents want to handle rattlesnakes as a
legal in the State of Ohio. Both when reading
the statutes and when reading the news- religious act, that is their own look-out. But if
papers this impression is confirmed. We parents expect their five-year old children to
do it, the state cannot be indifferent. The
need not recount the particular recent cases
of children dying for their parents' faith. state must save the children.
These have been well documented by the
media, and the legislature doubtless has
House Bill No. 67
more details than I do. It is sufficient for our
purposes simply to note that the principle of
One of the most shocking features of the
religious freedom has been perverted: In relevant sections of the Revised Code is the
Ohio the religious "freedom" of parents has repeated use of the phrase "in accordance
with the tenets of a well-recognized relibeen extended to the point where their
children have none at all. The dead know gion." This phrase is prima facie in violation
of the no-establishment clause of the First
nothing of freedom.
Judging from the published remarks last Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is
unconstitutional because it attempts to
December of Sen. Lee Fisher of Cleveland,
create by law a hierarchy of religions: "recthe religious freedom of parents is thought
to be essentially without bounds. If parents . ognized" or officially sanctioned religions,
believe they can stop hemorrhage in a child's and "unrecognized" or illegitimate religions.
Now it is neither the duty nor the right of
severed limb by prayer, the state is to stand
by reverently watching and, after the child is government to judge the legitimacy or truth
of any religion. Nor is it legal for government
dead, do no more than to cluck consolingly
that the trials of faith are often arduous and to establish religion in general in a position

May, 1985

American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS


superior to non-religion. With regard to the
topic under discussion - child abuse and
neglect - it is not for the government to
decide that a given child was allowed to die
for "legitimate" religious reasons and another child's death resulted from application
of "illegitimate" religious doctrines, It is the
duty of government, completely without
regard to the particular religions involved, to
save the children,
Clearly, the "well-recognized religion"
phrase must be eliminated in order for the
Ohio statutes to comply with the First
Amendment. It is truly astonishing that such
wording ever slipped into the laws of this
state.
Sec. 2151.03
Lines 2.15 - 2.21 of the proposed bill are
ungrammatical and unclear in meaning as
they stand. The phrase "is not a neglected
child for this reason alone" is ambiguous:
does this mean that the child is neglected,
but is to be considered neglected for other
reasons in addition to the reasons given in
the preceding phrases, or does it mean that
mere "spiritual treatment" by itself is insufficient to define the child as neglected?
The addition of subsection (F) [which
defines a neglected child as any child "who,
in lieu of medical or surgical care or treatment for a wound, injury, disability, or
physical or mental condition, is under spiritual treatment through prayer, if the failure
to provide the medical or surgical care or
treatment results in serious physical harm to
the child"] is, in my opinion, a step in the
right direction. I would caution, however,
that restricting this subsection to physical
injury may be too narrow. It must be remembered that many religious groups consider aberrant behavior to be the result of
demonic possession, and it is not at all rare
for an emotionally disturbed child to be
treated by exorcism instead of psychiatry.
The long-range emotional and mental damage resulting from such abuse is difficult to
measure, but it is very real nevertheless.

recognized religion, acting in his official or


professional capacity, having reason to believe that a child less than eighteen years of
age ... has suffered any wound, injury,
disability, or condition. of such nature as to
reasonably indicate abuse or neglect ... "
It would almost appear that this section
was designed to allow Christian Science
practitioners to escape responsibility for the
deaths and injuries at which they attend. For
according to the tenets of this "well-recognized religion," there is no such thing as
physical illness. One cannot really have leukemia for the simple reason that one doesn't
really have any blood at all - let alone red
and white corpuscles! According to this
sect, disease - indeed matter itself - is an
illusion, the result of disordered thought.
Death also is merely an illusion which, for
reasons Mary Baker Eddy never succeeded
in answering, we allexperience. So perverse
is our proclivity to such illusion, in fact, that
we repeatedly imagine we see even dead
plants and animals!
Now a Christian Science practitioner
could - with a completely clear conscience
- claim that the sickness and death of any
child dying during his manipulations was not
reported because (1) the child wasn't "sick"
in the first place and (2) the child isn't really
"dead." Moreover, we must remember that
these practitioners are required to remain as
ignorant as possible of the symptoms and
classifications of diseases. Not knowing the
symptoms of disease, a Christian Scientist
can plead truthfully to have had no reason to
expect disaster.
.
I believe that this loop-hole can be closed
by adding, perhaps at line 3.17, a sentence
such as "Disbelief in the reality of physical
illness or biological death on the part of the
officials listed supra does not release such
persons from the obligation of reporting
under the terms of this statute." We may
note also that in Indiana, all citizens have a
legal obligation to be reporters of child
abuse, and thus long lists such as we see in
lines 2.24 - 3.4 are unnecessary.
Sec. 2919.22

Sec. 2151.421
This section of the law requires various
official and professional persons to report
suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
There is a problem in this section which is
rather peculiar in that it provides a loop-hole
with which adherents of one particular religious sect may avoid compliance.
Lines 2.35, et seq., continuing the list of
responsible persons, include any "person
rendering spiritual treatment through prayer in accordance with the tenets of a well-

Austin, Texas

This section deals with endangerment of


children. Since line 7.12 mentions the treatment of both "physical or mental illness or
defect . . . by spiritual means through
prayer," it is only consistent to amend line
7.19 to discuss treatment failure which results "in serious physical or mental harm to
the child."
Apart from the suggestions listed above,
House Bill67 as offered by Rep. Paul Jones
appears to be both necessary from a social
point of view, and well thought out from a

May, 1985

legal point of view.


Conclusion
If published accounts are any guide to the
nature of the dispute over this bill, it would
appear that the major opponents of the bill
have been representatives of the Christian
Science church. I have already mentioned
some of the astonishing beliefs of this sect,
and we need not examine them further.
Rather, in concluding my testimony before
this committee, I would like to analyze some
of the arguments which have been published
and attributed to a Christian Science spokesman named W. R. Evans.
In a letter to the Children and Youth
Committee, Evans is said to have opposed
this bill because it would "prevent Christian
Scientists from legally practicing faith healing." I believe this is an exaggeration. Faith
healing would still be allowed, provided that
additional medical care were provided in
cases where it was necessary. The believers
would still be free to claim that it was the
prayer, and not the penicillin, that cured the
double pneumonia.
Evans' letter claims that "a doctor could
failin his treatment of a child and not be held
legally liable, while a parent practicing faith
healing would be." This argument fails on
two counts. First, it fails to acknowledge that
a doctor can be held guilty of malpractice if
his treatment is not in conformity with
practices considered to be the most efficacious by the medical profession at that point
in the evolution of medical science. Secondly, it presumes that the probability of successful therapy is just as low with medical
treatment as it is with faith treatment.
What the Christian Scientists and other
mental healers need to do is demonstrate to
this committee and to the world of medical
science that the expectation of cure is just as
great with their system as it is with accepted
medical procedures. Let them show, for
example, that in mice infected with plague
bacilli prayer preserves as many animals as
does streptomycin. Let them show that in
dogs in a state of hypovolemic shock due to
massive blood loss, prayer prolongs life as
reliably as does blood transfusion. The fact
that no medical procedure is ever one
hundred percent reliable does not mean that
such procedures do no good at all or no
better than faith healing. No prudent person
in this age of science willwant to give up our
hard-won knowledge of the workings of our
bodies and go back to the Dark Ages view of
demons and spirits as the cause of disease. It
is not, I hope, naive to suppose that all the
members of this legislature are "prudent
persons."

Page 7

NEWS AND COMMENTS


Finally, Evans says that "the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, and many insurance companies acknowledge the effectiveness of
Christian Science treatment" I can only say
that ifthis is true, it is terrifying. It means that
these other agencies are in need of education with regard to the facts of faith

healing. It does not mean that the Ohio State


Legislature should play monkey-see, monkeydo.
Ihope that in sharing with the committee
an atheist understanding of the issues relating to House Bill67, I have made it easier
for the committee to arrive at a constitution-

ally defensible and socially responsible solution of the problems involving the religious
abuse of children. If there are any questions
concerning my testimony, or if I can be of
further help, please ask me now or at any
time in the future.

VIA ATHEISM
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, "via - 1: by way of, 2: through the medium of, 3: by means of'
On May 6, 1925 an event occurred which
would make a difference to American Atheism in our times: Arnold Via was born. The
squawking, red-faced brat began immediately to set up his howls in the world, and fortunately for all of us - he has never quit
American Atheists is very pleased to honor
Arnold Via on his day of birth and to tell the
world that we are happy that he is one of us.
Those of you who do not know Arnold Via
are missing something, but you can find out
a little about him by reading feature articles
in prior American Atheist magazines: "Action Atheist: Arnold Via" which appeared in
the December, 1978 (Vol. 20, No_ 12) issue,
"Viva Via" in the February, 1980 (Vol. 22,
No.2) issue, "Prison Atheist League of
America Challenges Religious Influence in
America's Prisons" in the April, 1983 (Vol.
25, No.4) issue, and "The Recycling of An
Atheist" in the October, 1983 (Vol. 35, No.
10)issue. He was featured on the front cover
of the February, 1980, issued under the title
"Our man in Virginia" but, actually, he
would be "our man" anywhere in the world.
Via has worked long, hard, and arduously
for the concept of Atheism and poured his
own money into what he has advocated for
more years than he cares to admit His most
recent magnanimous act was to drive from
Grottoes, Virginia, to Austin, Texas, to
spend two weeks on the repair of the roof of
The American Atheist Center. Characteristically, almost as an aside, he finished establishing the first Chapter of PALA (prison
Atheist League of America) in a federal
penitentiary while in Texas. Heretofore, he
has had his efforts focused on the state
prison systems. In the Bastrop, Texas, Federal Penitentiary, situated thirty miles east of
Austin, Texas, Hugh Dalton battled for two
and one-half years to establish.the Chapter,
recognized finally by the Warden on February 13th, 1985. And Via was in attendance
for the first meeting.
Arnold Via's first involved fight for Atheism began in 1976 with the issuance of his
Page 8

own book, One Step toward Atheism which


succinctly stated his position. It had happened that he had a "Letter to the Editor"
refused by his local newspaper and felt that
he was entitled to speak his piece as, were
the religious in his community and state. A
Christian creationist had written a "Letter to
the Editor" denying evolution and the newspaper refused, in those early days, to print
Via's response. Almost immediately he set
to a veritable campaign of letter writing and
ad purchasing, at a time when ads for atheist
material were routinely turned down by
newspapers everywhere. By 1978, he had
broken through all barriers and was able to
place, without censorship, any ad that he
desired to place.
Watergate brought another facet of Atheism to life in Via's career. Disgusted by the
antics of Charles Colson and his efforts to
organize Christian Fellowships in the prison
system, knowing that those institutions were
already overburdened with religion, Via
made his first foray into the Virginia State
Penitentiary system in August, 1980, although Atheists are few in the prison system,
only _03%(by which is meant less than 1%of
the prison population is Atheist). Incarcerated Atheists are subjected to a religious
indoctrination which can only be described
as frightening. Parole is almost impossible
without a statement of reliance upon god
and a minister. The religious community is
permitted to move into the prison system to
intimidate, coerce, and drain money from
both the prisoners and the prisoners' families. Via had been corresponding with a man
in the Virginia State Penitentiary, and he
found that in the tens of thousands of
prisoners there, thirteen Atheists were included. He immediately reached to the prison's educational department to see if he
could find those Atheists and meet with
them. He understood that the penal system
in the United States saw "each convict as a
sinner rather than a criminal" and he decided to change it all. His plans were set
May, 1985

askew almost immediately when the prison


refused to grant a charter of recognition to
his proposed Atheist group. He made headlines across the nation when Warden J. P.
Mitchell of the Virginia State Penitentiary
prison denied approval for a Chapter of
American Atheists in his prison. A threatened law suit and a continued three month
negotiated push by Arnold and the atheist
prisoners finally won entry into the prison
for a new, but associated with American
Atheists, group - PALA. Currently, Via has
PALA organized in twenty-three states with
a single resolute reason: to free prisoners
from jail-house religion. In 1984 he issued
two awards: a PAL of The Year Award to
Hugh L. Dalton in the Bastrop, Texas,
Federal Penitentiary for his federal fight and
a PAL of The Year Award to William B.
Randolph in the Buckingham Correctional
Center in Dillwyn, Virginia for his state fight
Via's first outreach to the prisons had
been under the auspices of American Atheists since he had begun the first Virginia
Chapter of that organization with a Virginia
state grant of authority to operate there on
March 20, 1980.
An indication of his involvement is shown
by his budget for the year 1980, which
included extensive newspaper advertising,
Newsletter expenditure, telephone bills, and
travel expenses:
January:
$1,127.11
February:
421.60
March:
1,446.75
April:
523.60
May:
189.90
June:
386.76
July:
$2,050_50
August:
531.92
September:
815.72
October:
1,023.15
November:
498.31
December:
799.63
The total expenditures
of the year
($9,795.05) included a $50.00 check each
and every month toward the mortgage of
American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS


The American Atheist Center. The January
expenses included a 1980 issue of the Encyclopedia Brittanica donated to the Charles
E_ Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives, Inc. Via is not a millionaire, He has
earned his livelihood the hard way, being
now retired from the Merchant Marines. It
was only on a direct order issued to him from
the President of the organization, Dr.
Madalyn O'Hair, that he finally agreed to
stop or moderate his financing of the Virginia Chapters and PALA and stop helping
with advertising money other scattered Chapters throughout the nation, as well as continuing to assist the National Office with the
mortgage, American Atheists is, or ought to
be, an organization in which everyone tries
to help, to the limit of their ability, but the
National office felt it was inherently unfair for
Via to do so much when there are so many
Atheists who do so little. Arnold Via had set
up seven Chapters in Virginia, but unfortunately, he had to bear most of the financial
cost of them aiL
But Via continued his activities. In 1981,
he challenged another Virginian, Jerry Falwell, to take up concerns of living persons
instead of those of "unborn fetuses in a
host's belly." He noted in his challenge:
1. PALA supports a Constitutional
Amendment that would guarantee every child in America three square
meals a day, to age eighteen.
(The Moral Majority supports a President who is dedicated to the reduction or elimination of all school lunch
programs, food stamp programs, and
aid to dependent children programs.)
2. PALA supports a Constitutional
Amendment that would guarantee every child in America free medical and
dental care to age eighteen.
(The Moral Majority supports a President who is dedicated to the reduction or elimination of all health care
programs, both for children and the
elderly.)
3. PALA supports a Constitutional
Amendment that would guarantee every child in America (who is unwanted
by its natural parents) a good home,
operated by professional child care
experts and paid for with general tax
revenues.
(The Moral Majority considers multimillion dollar television stations to be
more important than the welfare of
these children.)
PALA challenges your right, Jerry
Falwell, to load this country with
cheap propaganda about unborn children, while you ignore the most basic
rights, the most fundamental needs of
millions of children who are already
here, crying out for help.
Austin, Texas

Year after year, each January, Arnold Via


has met the opening of the Virginia General
Assembly, with a picketing sign which calls
for abolishing tax exemptions for all church
businesses, stocks and bonds.
On April 29, 1980, Via protested, as a
single picketer, against the massed demonstration of "Washington for Jesus" when a
reported 100,000 zanies paraded in the
nation's capital. Choosing a strategic corner, where the paraders had to slow to turn,
he stood for ten hours, alone, armed only
with a counter picket-sign in single opposition to them all.
On June 21st, 1980, Arnold Via coined a
new phrase, and opened each of his Dial-AnAtheist service messges with "Welcome to
the wonderful world of Atheism." His was
one of the first such services across the
nation and was dutifully reported in the
Washington Post newspaper.
In Janurary, 1981, Arnold Via was after
the National office of American Atheists to
start a fund-raising effort through the sale of
"lifememberships" which he thought should
sell for five hundred dollars, at least. The
perception at that time was that Via incessantly nagged, stating over and over again
that five hundred dollars was a modest sum,
that this was a viable fund-raising effort, that
every Atheist should be proud to have the
term "Lifer" attached to him - and as proof,
he proferred his check #439 for five hundred
dollars on February 3,1981. He insisted that
it would be prestigious to number the "Lifer"
memberships, the lower the number, the
more honor attached thereto - and he
wanted Life Membership number one.

group, however, was more severely restricted in its activity than any other group in
the prison.
Again and again, Arnold has hit the newspapers, television, and radio in Virginia, in
his one-man campaign to wake up the state.
His hard-hitting monthly Newsletter was
mailed across the state to every Atheist he
could shock out of the closet. By May, 1981,
he was involved in a heavy legal fight to force
the Richmond Public Library to accept and
display the American Atheist magazine. In
June, 1981, he decided to picket Falwell's
Thomas Road Baptist Church, and with
twenty-seven members of his Chapter he
showed up with a crucified frog on a small
cross, on which the legend ran "He died for
our sins."
On June 6, the Virginia State Prison
system refused to permit the inmate who
was writing a newsletter for the prisoners to
send such a Newsletter to any other inmates, notifying that such mail was returned
"unauthorized" since the penal institution
permitted correspondence only ifthere "is a
family or codefendant relationship" between
prisoners.
But on November 17, 1981, meanwhile,
Via recieved an award from the State of
Virginia for his volunteer work with the
prisoners at Staunton Correctional Center,
near his residence. He works hard and well,
carrying his convictions into action again
and again.
June of 1982 is another example, for in
that month alone he had appeared on two
television interviews and four radio call-in
shows and in six newspapers, often making

Not actually accepting that it would work,


the National office of American Atheists
decided to go along with Via, and the "Lifer"
members now stand as an elite class. He was
right - the scramble for the low numbers
began, primarily at the 11th Annual National
Convention, held in Salt Lake City, Utah,
1981.
The Virginia State Penitentiary finally capitulated and permitted the first chapter of
PALA to be formed there in April, 1981. The

local front-page news. A most memorable


quote in the Covington Virginian of May 22,
1982, was, "I'm just like any other human
being except I have horns." It should be
added that horns and all, he was caring for
his eighty-five-year old invalid mother during
all of the time of this activity.
In August, 1982, he decided to establish
the first Atheist cemetery in the United
States, and appeared, on September 7,
before the Augusta County, Virginia, Board

May, 1985

Page 9

NEWS AND COMMENTS


of Zoning Appeals, for a permit for the
"American Atheist Infinite Cemetery" on a
1.5 acre tract of his acreage on the north side
of Rte. 614, in the Middle River District,
Grottoes, Virginia. The permit was granted.
And on August 30, he buried the first
Atheist, Fredrick Conway, age 34, who had
died of cancer at the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia, on August 12.
The burial excited news media across the
nation, since neither embalming nor a coffin
was used. The body, curled in a fetal position, was buried nude because - as Via put
it - "we come into the world that way and
we go out that way. The dead don't have
control of their bodies. It's the livingwho go
through all the ritual." The entire expense
for the interment amounted to $26.00, most
of which was spent on gasoline ($17.00) for
the one-way trip from Richmond. Another
$5.00 went for the plastic sheet in which
Fredrick was temporarily wrapped and $4.00
was the cost of fiftyfeet of quarter-inch rope
to bind the plastic covered body on its ride in
the bed of his pick-up truck.
In another battle, in December, 1982, Via
was at the Augusta County School Board
meeting to challenge the distribution of
Gideon Bibles in the schools of that district.
A hard working, pragmatic man of direct
approach, Via shoots straight from the shoulder without mincing words. Imagine our
surprise then to receive a letter from him in
1983 which said:
A dreamer and his dream
to the death he carried it,
to the end he would rather see,
his dream and the ideals
wrapped within
unfold to encompass
all that is him.
Relentless struggle sees
even the strong weaken
at times,
but it is the true victor
who carries it through
regardless of opposing
currents and streams
his outstretched arms
reaching and straining
for that light, colored green ...
It was, then, no surprise that he should
officiate at an Atheist marriage in the State
Prison on May 14. The bride was sent home
to change her blouse, which was "too suggestive" but a maid of honor who wore the
same kind of apparel was approved to stay
for the ceremony.
Arnold Via attends every Convention
every year, no matter where it is celebrated
in the United States: Washington, D.C.;
Detroit, Michigan; San Francisco, CaliforPage 10

nia; Austin, Texas. He travels to Indiana


regularly for the American Atheists' Solstice
picnics. He drove to Webberville, Michigan,
to picket City Hall there on behalf of an
Atheist policeman fired of his Atheism.
He began in March, 1982, to try to convince the State of Virginia to issue an
automobile license plate for his Cadillac
which would openly identify him on the
roads. Permitted six letters only, he asked
for, but was refused, individualized license
plates which carried messages as follows:
NO-GOD, NOO-GOD, GOD-LES, DOGGOD, and GOD-DOG. When arguments
erupted over each of these, he tried for
ATH-IST, ATHE*ST, A-THEST, ATHEST,
and A-3'ST, but had to settle in the end for
ATH-EST.

~o

VIrgInIa

0 ~

ATH-EST
o

Via again began to nag the National office


throughout 1983 to obtain transparent decals of American Atheists' logo in a circle to
place on the inside of automobile windows.
And again, these were finally tailor-made so
that they would be available to members
everywhere.
By late December, 1983, he was able to
convince the Virginia State Prison that a
"Winter Solstice" party should be held for
Atheist prisoners. Although all of the December dates were given to religious groups,
the Solstice was finally celebrated at the
prison on January 7,1984, well attended by
over one hundred paid guests from the
prison population, together with family and
girl friends.
On March 19, 1984, a member of PALA
was able to obtain a copy of his "treatment"
plan from his "counselor" to find that in the
"Self Improvement Area" that counselor
had noted, "Randolf claims to be an atheist
[sic] and doesn't appear to have any worthwhile objectives." A referral to the National
Prison Project of the American Civil liberties Union in Washington, D.C. brought a
quick complaint by the ACLU to the prison
which emphasized, "To eliminate a possible
infringement of protected first amendment
rights, our office would suggest that a new
treatment plan be written leaving out any
reference to inmate Randolfs religious preference." PALA also vigorously objected,
noting, "May I suggest that all extrinsic
references to Mr. Randolfs personal philosophical beliefs be deleted from future treatment plans."
May, 1985

Via weathers the continuing harassments


of the system, such as a refusal on March 3,
1984, to permit him to mail his PALA
Newsletter, The Virginian within the prison
system of that state. The Virginia Department of Corrections was arrogant enough to
not even notify him of this action taken and
had he not been a careful reader of Virginia
newspapers he would not have been informed. Under the most adverse conditions,
the membership of PALA has continued to
grow. A continuing game plan of the prison
systems is to frequently and arbitrarily move
Atheist prisoners so that they are scattered
and isolated. In addition, there is a refusal to
forward their mail so that often their American Atheist magazines are returned, costing excessive postage charges.
Via's home has been accepted as a halfway house for parolees when they are first
dismissed and he has had two paroled
atheist visitors as guests in his home.
On October 12, 1984, a member of PALA
in the Virginia State Prison at Richmond
staged a protest when inmate religious leaders took the stage in the main prison dining
room calling for a minute of silent prayer for
an execution scheduled that night. And,
again, Via stood with him, seeing what could
be done.
Together with a Maryland attorney, Bob
Zauner, he has in his most recent activity
protested on behalf of PALA proposed rules
on "Religious Beliefs and Practices of Committed Offenders" issued by the Federal
Bureau of Prisons. The primary opposition
was to the payment of chaplains from general revenue funds, rather than the use of
volunteer free chaplains.
And this comprises only a short summary
of the activities and the good that Arnold Via
has undertaken during his association with
American Atheists. We are pleased to honor
him onthe day of his birth. Hang in there,
Arnold; we expect you to fight for another
thirty years yet. In line with your continuing
effort, we offer to all one of the cartoons
which you have distributed widely.
We mean to say by this cartoon that there
are millions of Atheists out there and more
of them should be carrying the ball. Although, like Barkus, Arnold is willing, we all
need to understand that it takes a team, not
a single man.

Happy Birthday, Arnold, from all of us at


The American Atheist Center, who love
you.

American Atheist

The following is the fifth of a series of


articles on the French philosophes, the
intellectual leaders of the Enlightenment of seventeenth and eighteenth
century Europe. The first article on the
Marquis de Sade appeared in the April
issue.
de Sade (1740-1814) has
Theone Marquis
of the most heinous reputations in

Western thought, but modern scholars have


reassessed the events of his life, and he is
currently viewed as a man of vast learning; a
person who analyzed the human animal with
an intellectual ardor and courage seldom
equalled; a creator whose influence has
been significant, although subterranean. He
considered himself to be an extraordinarily
lucid and enlightened philosopher, an eighteenth century Socrates - the supreme
logician, the seer victimized by hypocrites
and diseased minds. He was correct. He
proudly called himself an "Atheist philosopher." Even in the depths of despair during
his twenty-six-year imprisonment, he never
recanted.
Sade was a creation and creature of the
Enlightenment, and he should be considered
not only within the historical context of the
Enlightenment, but also in light of his enduring contributions to Western thought, especially Atheism. His philosophy is frequently given inadequate attention, however,
because of the fascination with his personal

lifeand because of his use of sexually explicit


scenes to demonstrate his concepts. In this
article, I have deliberately omitted many
aspects of Sade's methodology in order to
highlight some of his most significant precepts. I am concerned with Sade as a man of
the Enlightenment rather than as a forerunner of Krafft-Ebing and Freud.
Sade's ideas are especially provocative to
Atheists because he reconstructs ethics on
non-Christian foundations. Thus, he challenges Atheists to re-orient their morality.
Given the ingrained Judeo-Christian ethical
code, Sade has posed a Herculean task for
Atheists to eradicate the teachings of school,
parents, society, government, and church.
But he accepted the challenge.
After being in prison for three years, Sade,
at the age of forty-two, began the first of his
extant writings, Dialogue between a Priest

Austin, Texas

and a Dying Man (Dialogue entre un Pretre


et un Moribund; July 12, 1782). While this
work is of little literary value, it contains
many of Sade's lifelong philosophical concepts. Briefly, a priest arrives at that "fatal
hour" to minister to a dying man, and the
two men subsequently discuss theology.
Sade, like many of the philosophes, delighted in exposing the errors and contradictions in Christian theology. The goal of
such intellectual gymnastics was to degrade
Christianity and to defend one of Sade's
favorite themes: Atheism.
One of Sade's arguments for Atheism is
that nature is self-generating; therefore,
there can be no god. The Dying Man says
that "things necessarily occur; there is no
supra-human intelligence guiding Nature."
He chastizes the Priest for believing "in what
you do not understand . . . I defy you to
prove the existence of this god you talk
about ... Your god is a product of your
emotions." He develops the contention
when he later states that "natural effects
must have natural causes; because natural
causes explain occurrences, why invent
unnatural ones such as a god, the existence
of which, logically, would have to be explained ... in short, it is clear that your god is
unnecessary." The Dying Man gives the
Priest sage advice: "Study physics carefully
and you will understand nature better; develop your ability to reason; get rid of your
illogical concepts. When you have done so
you will have no need of a god."
Sade continues the attack on Christianity
when the Dying Man rhetorically asks the
Priest, "if I were to be so ignorant as to
accept your preposterous ideas about the

&;~~(J;9?JeJk
existence of some imaginary being who
requires people to worship him, then tell me,
how I should worship him?" Should he, the
Dying Man asks the Priest, "follow the
daydreams of Confucius or the absurdities
of Brahma; perhaps I should bow to the
Great Snake God of the African Blacks; or
should I pray to the Sun God of the Peruvians; maybe the god of Moses is the correct
one; or do you suggest that I follow Mohammedanism; which Christian sect is the right
one? ... be reasonable," the Dying Man
admonishes the Priest, "your Jesus is no
better than Mohammed, Mohammed no
better than Moses, and the three of them
combined no better than Confucius, who

May, 1985

did after all have some wise statements, but


the others were lunatics." Sade's emphasis
on cultural relativity was quite common in
the Enlightenment, especially after books on
travel to other cultures began infiltrating
French society. Of special significance were
the travel journals of Cooke (1769) and
Bougainville (1766-1769), both of whom travelled to the South Pacific.
The Priest raises the last possible defense
for Christianity - the concept of an afterlife
- but the Dying Man says that there is
"nothing at all" after death. Once again, like
a true titan of the Enlightenment, Sade
returns to an observation of nature: "I have
seen in Nature only perpetual generation
and regeneration. Nothing ever 'ends' in
nature, my friend, nothing; man today, worm
tomorrow, the day after tomorrow a fly;
such is the cycle of life."
Of Education
Sade was freed from prison on April 2,
1790, and while hawking his miserable plays
he wrote Philosophy in The Bedroom (La
Philosophie dans Ie Boudoir; 1795). This
work focuses on a favorite subject of Enlightenment thinkers: the education of a
young person. The instruction becomes a
platform for Sade to analyze human nature
and propound his ideas about its proper
development; his answers make him one of
the most revolutionary thinkers of the Enlightenment.
In Philosophy in The Bedroom, Eugenie
de Mistival, a young, pubescent girl, wishes
to learn about herself and life.While Madame
de Saint-Ange, a notorious libertine, instructs her, the authority in all matters is
Dolmance, a homosexual. As the work
progresses,
other characters
join in
Eugenic's instruction. Her education formally begins when she says that some human
actions are "indecent." Dolmance immediately dismisses "decency" as "A Gothic
expression [which is contrary] to Nature!"
Sade poses the fundamental question of
who is to decide what is "decent?" Morality,
he states, is relative to culture, and thus
there are no absolute definitions of "vice"
and "virtue." Eugenie naively believes that
"there must be some actions which are so
dangerous and evil that everyone would
consider them to be criminal." Dolmance
assures her that ''There are ... none, not
even stealing, incest, murder - not even
parricide." She is shocked, but he comments that what are considered crimes in
one society are "honored, exalted, and
viewed as exemplary" in another.
After he has established the philosophic
foundation stone that there is no absolute
definition of virtue, Sade then posits his view
that morality should be based on a person
being "natural," that is, obeying one's inclinations. Of course, a person will have to

Page 11

disregard the abnormal moral teachings of


Christianity, because only when an individual is free, he reasons, can a person
become wise and recognize that, "your body
is your own, yours alone; you are the only
person in the world who has the right to
determine how you are to enjoy your body."
For example, in order to be natural, certain
Judeo-Christian dicta must be rejected, especially the strictures against a person having premarital sexual experience. Madame
de Saint-Ange contends that "Such ridiculous [laws about not having premarital sexual relations] are the creations of men, and
we women must not submit to them."
Sensationalists
Sade considerably extended and refined
many of his views in Eugenie de Franval
(1788). In this work, Sade broaches a forbidden subject, the ultimate taboo - incest. He
shows how far he was willing to carry his
logicthat people must be free to be "natural,"
that is, following their sexual proclivities.
Pubescent Eugenie feels "the fire of desire";
consequently, she wants to experience "the
delights" and "ecstasy" of sexual intercourse. She falls in love with her father, who
understands, encourages, and then satisfies
her sexual cravings. Were Franval and
Eugenie wrong to have sexual relations?
Does incest deserve the condemnation it
has received? Not according to Sade; to him
the first premise of morality is that "Selfinterest is the concern of everything a person
does." This definition of the human animal
as a pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding creature was an advanced concept in the Enlightenment but by no means unique to
Sade. There was a considerable school of
psychologists, the "sensationalists," who
thought that the human animal operated on
the basis of the sensations of pain and
pleasure. One of these people was Julien
Offray de la Mettrie (1709-1751), a pupil of
the great scientist Herman Boerhaave (16681738) at the University of Leyden. La
Mettrie's most famous work is Man the
Machine (L'Homme Machine; 1748), and
there is reason to think that Sade had read
this work. Franval also defends incest as
being natural for some people; moreover,
the moral strictures against incest must be
seen as a manifestation of cultural relativity,
a subject which fascinated Sade. Eugenia
reasons that when a moral dictum varies
from one culture to another, then that
stricture cannot be considered sacred. She
defends incest on the basis of consenting
adults having the right to practice whatever
sexual act they want. Eugenia rhetorically
asks, "Do we disturb you when you seek
your pleasures? Respect us when we seek
ours." Franval adds that "Beauty and love
are oblivious to legislative laws . . . which
must be crushed beneath our feet because

Page 12

cated abstract issues in a manner readily


understandable to the unsophisticated. The
"philosophical story" is "pop philosophy."
This is the literary context of Justine and
Juliette: The two novels are didactic rather
than erotic; the depictions of sexual activity,
Virtue and Vice
including flagellation, sodomy, rape, homosexuality, as well as murder, bondage, and
Sade's masterpiece is Justine, or the child molestation serve only to exemplify
Misfortunes of Virtue (Justine, Ou les Mal- philosophical points. Sade, however, went
heurs de la Vertu; 1791). The work began as further than any other philosopher in the
a short story in 1787,and three revisions and Enlightenment in using sex to illustrate his
four years later it had become a novel of concepts.
about three hundred pages. Because of the
Justine is the story of Juliette and her
sexually explicit episodes, the work proved younger sister Justine, who are orphaned
popular, and it went through five editions in when they are fifteen and twelve years old
Sade's lifetime. He revised the work in 1797 respectively. The difference in age is imporand published it with a companion work. tant because Sade considered fourteen to
The complete title of that edition is The New be the age of maturity for a girl. The two girls
Justine, nr the Misfortunes of Virtue, Fol- are thus "left at liberty to become whatever
lowed by the History of Juliette, Her Sister they want." Again Sade uses young people
{or the Benefits of Vice} (La Nouvelle to show the effects of education. Juliette is a
Justine, Ou les Malheurs de la Vertu, Suivie "sensationalist," that is, she has determined
de I'Historie de Juliette, Sa Seour {ou les that it is morally better to seek pleasure
Prosperiies du Vice}; 1797); the two novels rather than pain; consequently, she elects to
total about one thousand pages. The comple- be a libertine. Justine follows the other path
mentary nature of these two novels is fre- when she concludes that, "I prefer to die
quently and unfortunately overlooked when rather than be immoral ... Yes, I would die a
evaluating Justine. The most significant differ- thousand time's before I would disobey the
ence between the two works is that Justine Christian principles I was taught as a child."
is markedly anti-feminist; Juliette is decided- The two girls follow separate paths.
ly pro-feminist. The distinction is important,
Justine encounters a series of monstrous
because without a knowledge of Sade's
characters, both male and female, who
attitude toward women in Juliette, Sade
reason with her and lecture her about huappears as a sadistic misogynist in Justine.
man nature, society, and the cosmos, but
Juliette presents the clearer view of Sade's
she lets her Christian morality restrict her
attitudes toward women because when he rationality. Consequently, she never underwrote the last version of JustinejJuliette, his stands herself, especially her sexuality. She
life was relatively pleasant. After thirteen
meets Monsieur Dubourg, "one of the richyears in prison, he was free; he had found est merchants of Paris." Impoverished, she
the woman who would become his mistress
asks him to take pity on her and give her
for almost a quarter of a century; his divorce
some money; he asks her: "What right do
freed him from the woman he had come to you have to expect a rich person to help you
hate, a detestation which became all the if you are useless to him? ... The virtue
more intense when she became a nun; and which you so conspicuously flaunt is worthhis mother-in-law, who had him put in prison
less in this world; really, what ignorance to
for thirteen years, was gone. There was no kneel before its altars, inhale its incense longer a reason for him to hate women.
no, no. That virtue of yours won't help you at
The second issue which clouds the study
all. The only thing which will help you get
of Justine is the sexually explicit content.
ahead is that which brings you money or
While Sade admitted to "spicing up the
power." She then gets a menial job with a
work" in order to improve sales, the novel is notorious usurer, Monsieur du Harpin. He
quintessentially a conte philosophique, that
teaches her that theft is logical because only
is, a story which is philosophical rather than
two out of every twenty thieves die on the
literary. The line between asking the reader
gallows; mathematically, the chances of capto enjoy and to think is frequently vague, but
ture and execution can be reasonably risked.
the authors of "philosophical stories" un- Harpin tries to enlist Justine in his plot to
questionably wanted the reader to contemsteal, but she resists; in turn, he plants a
plate a particular philosophical position. In valuable ring in her room and reports her to
Candide, Voltaire wants the reader to de- the police; she is, of course, immediately
cide if this is truly "the best of all possible
arrested. "I defended myself," she comworlds"; Upton Sinclair, in The Jungle (1906) plains, "but it didn't do any good."
wants the reader to consider socialism. The
In prison, she meets Madame Dubois, a
"philosophical story" in the eighteenth cen- person who has "committed every coneivtury was a marvelous art form designed to able crime." Imaginative, she has arranged
perplex the censor, expose, and ridicule a for the prison to be set afire so that during
contrary philosophy and to present compli- the ensuing confusion she and Justine can
they hinder our pursuit of happiness, impede our ability to reason, and keep us from
the most delightful pleasures. Such laws are
despicable!"

May, 1985

American Atheist

escape. She knows that "many people will


be burned to death, but don't worry about it
- when our lives are at stake, forget other
people!"Madame Dubois' words prove prophetic: Twenty-one people die in the fire while
she and Justine escape. She invites Justine
to join her band of robbers. Justine refuses;
her reward for her "virtue" is to be sexually
assaulted.
Justine escapes the bandits with one of
their victims, Monsieur Saint -Florent, whose
lifeshe has saved. He, in turn, takes her into
a forest, suddenly knocks her to the ground,
"does with me everything he wants," robs
her, and leaves her with little to cover her
nakedness. Recovering, she spies two men
who have come to the forest to have homosexual relations; one of them is the Count de
Bressac. She is discovered by them and
subsequently taken to Bressac's castle
where she becomes a maid to his aunt.
Justine learns that Bressac hates his aunt
and is plotting to killher so he can inherit her
wealth. Before the murder, Bressac teaches
Justine that religion must be seen within
social, political, and psychological contexts
because rulers use it as a means of restraining their subjects.

Wolves devour lambs, lambs are eaten by


wolves - the strong overpower the weak,
the weak are victimized by the strong.
That's nature!"
Justine miraculously escapes from the
monastery. More monsters and lectures
await her. Eventually, she sees two men
trampling a man beneath their horses'
hooves. After the two men leave, she rushes
to his rescue; he is Roland, who proves to be
an extremely successful counterfeiter. He
takes her to his castle, but instead of rewarding her, he enslaves her. She begs him to
remember that she came to his help, but he
echoes the "sensationalist" when he answers her by asking "Do you think I have any
obligation to you for helping me? Think!
When you came to my aid, you followed
your inclinations. You followed what gave
you pleasure. Jesus, Jesus! How can you
possibly think that I owe you anything for the
pleasure you received?" As expected, she is
sexually abused, and after she prays to God
for help Roland comments that "He doesn't
help you, does he? He allows your virtue to
be punished; in fact, he has delivered you
into my hands. That's really a great god
you're worshipping! Come ... it is time for
me to kill you."

Christianity Evaluated
God Evaluated
Bressac scorns Christianity. As the Enlightenment progressed, Christianity, especially Catholicism, came under increasing
vilification, and Sade was one of the most
extreme blasphemers. He calls Jesus a
"worthless Jew, the child of a whore and a
soldier ... born in a filthy barn, yet he had
the cheek to masquerade as the son of the
creator of the universe." The disciples are
described as "intellectually bovine teenagers" who were probably homosexuals.
Bressac tries to enlist Justine in his plot to
murder his aunt by offering her a fortune,
but she refuses. In spite of Justine's attempts to save her, the aunt is murdered by
her nephew. Justine is subsequently captured by Bressac, tied up in a forest, attacked by three dogs owned by him while he
watches with his lover, and left to fend for
herself.
During her wandering, she happens upon
a Benedictine monastery "occupied by four
lonely monks of renowned faith." In reality,
they are among the most debauched creatures in all of literature. During one of the
intermezzi in the sexual circus, one of the
licentious priests lectures Justine that a
person's character and desires are formed in
the womb; thus education is incapable of
changing them. He describes people as
rapacious beasts, comparable to the tiger or
the leopard. "Ask the lamb," he continues,
"why it exists, and it will tell you that it
doesn't understand why the wolf eats it. Ask
the wolf why the lamb exists, and he will
answer that the lamb lives to be food for him.

Austin, Texas

Justine eventually escapes only to be


arrested again, but now she is acquitted of all
charges. As she is about "to see a glimmer of
happiness at long last," she meets a baroness: Madame Dubois. She shows Justine her
"jewelry boxes filled with gold and diamonds." She proudly states that "these are
the riches of my work; had I been 'virtuous'
like you, I would now be in prison or
hanged."
Justine tells her "0 Madame ... Providence, which eventually is always just, will
not suffer you to enjoy it for long." Dubois:
"Wrong! ... You constantly talk about God!
Jesus Christ! What gives you the idea that
this God is a force of order and virtue? Don't
you see the endless examples of this God's
injustices and absurdities? Wars, plagues,
and famines - such are the gifts from your
God. How about your own life - do you
mean to tell me that your God loves you?"
Justine counters by asking how Dubois will
manage to suppress her feelings of guilt for
her crimes. "Guilt? Lord, what an illusion!
Nothing but the babble of a person who is so
weak that he or she can't get rid of it."
Justine asks if there is "Celestial Justice"
where "criminals" willbe punished. "I think,"
the baroness replies, "that if there were a
God, there would be no evil on earth; look
around you - evil exists. Therefore, evil
must be willed by this God, who must be
barbarous or else so weak that He can't
prevent evil; either way; He is disgusting ...
isn't atheism better than believing in that

May, 1985

contemptible thing?"
The baroness asks Justine to aid her in a
crime, and Justine agrees, but only to save
the victim. Her efforts, of course, fail. More
problems beset her, including threatened
decapitation, but she escapes. Then, in a
burning building, she tries to save an infant
from death; but she trips, the child accidentaly falls from her hands and is burnt to
death. She is immediately grabbed and flung
into a carriage; there is a woman in the
carriage; it is Dubois. Justine has been
returned to the hands of her enemy. "Well,"
the baroness asks, "what do you think of
Christianity now?" Dubois instructs her that
"your God is nothing but an hallucination.
you find a concept of God in the minds of the
deranged. The only function of this hallucination is to deceive people and create wars
between them. The greatest service a person could have rendered humanity would
have been to cut the throat of the first
person who spoke the word 'God.'"
In spite of her innocence and virtue,
Justine is arrested for setting fire to the
house where the child died. As if in a
nightmare, she is surreptitiously taken from
the prison to a chateau, and in many convoluted scenes, she meets some of the
monsters who have tormented her. All have
prospered; she, of course, is brutally assaulted. "Good God in Heaven above," she
laments, "why don't I receive the slightest
kindness from You? I am awash in a sea of
evil!Why is it that this God, Whom Iworship
so fervently, punishes me, but He rewards
with wealth and happiness those people who
have defiled and debauched me?"
Reunion
Suddenly, Justine meets Madame de
Lorsange, and they both learn that they are
the orphaned sisters. Lorsange is now a
woman of incredible wealth. She and her
husband secure Justine's pardon from the
king, who nullifies all legal proceedings
against her, silences the newspapers which
have attacked her, and gives her a royal
pension of a thousand crowns a year.
Lorsange and her husband take Justine to
their luxurious country estate. There is a
storm. Madame de Lorsange is terrified by
the wind and lightning, and she begs Justine
to close the shutters. Anxious to help her,
Justine "runs to the windows, which are
already being broken; she fights to close
them, but the wind is too strong and she is
driven back to the center of the room - and
then a bolt of lightning strikes her - it hits
her in the right breast, goes to her heart, and
explodes in her abdomen. God! What a
miserable, hideous thing to see." Such is the
reward of virtue.
The story of the Countess de Lorsange is
quite quickly told, although Juliette is a
longer novel than Justine. Sade summarizes

Page 13

Juliette in the introduction to Justine. He


calls her a "priestess of Venus," but she is
more accurately described as a Goddess of
Eros. She is a total libertine. "Her rise was
not easy, but she sold herself efficiently and
expensively. Unlike Justine, she completely
rejects the moral codes she was taught as a
young girl. In her social and financial ascendancy, she ruins six rich men (three ambassadors, two bishops, a cardinal); marries the
fabulously wealthy Count de Lorsange, and
seeking freedom from the chains of marriage, murders him; she kills three or four
children (she cannot remember how many);
brings about the deaths of thousands of
people; and eventually becomes the mistress of a very wealthy man. Within a period
of fifteen years after her separation from
Justine, she gains the title of "countess,"
becomes very wealthy, has very expensive
jewels, and owns three magnificent homes.
Such is the counterpoint of Justine; such are
the rewards of vice.
On March 6, 1801, Sade was arrested for
having written a pamphlet against Napoleon,
who had come to power in 1799. Sade did
not write it, but facts never had much
influence on his life.Also, the fame of Justine
and Juliette made him a suitable target for
Napoleon's attempts to stabilize his regime,
one aspect of which was to curb the "moral
excesses," in his eyes, of the French Revolution. Sade would never be free again.

performed by the inmates including, sometimes, Sade. He invited leading figures of the
Parisian theater as well as socialites and
businessmen to see the performances; it
was considered quite an honor to be invited
to them and an even greater one to have
dinner with him in his room. These productions were quashed by an administrative
zealot.
The Marquis de Sade, "the divine Marquis" as one scholar called him, died quietly
on December 2, 1814. His concepts about
human nature and ethics continue to stimulate COl itroversy, and this intellectual excitement is exactly the way it should be for
Atheists. Sade saw the need to eradicate
godism from human existence, but he was
one of the few who recognized that ifgodism
is rejected, then the ethical structure based
upon it must also be rejected. How, then,
should morality be reconstituted from the
rubble of Christianity? Sade wanted an
ethical system founded on the realities of life
and human nature, not on the basis of some
mythical deity. Ethics, to him, should be
based on reason, not on the self-interest of a
gold-mitered prelate or a richly-bedecked
king. The integration of reason and ethics
can be gained by giving up the ignorant belief
in an afterlife, the debasement before robe
and ring, and the rejection of reason and
learning for wine and wafer.

Well may some Atheists reject the concepts of the Marquis de Sade, but these
Atheists would be well advised to remember
one of the lessons of the Enlightenment:
Think clearly and reasonably. The same for
those who agree with him - do not blindly
follow. There has been enough of that in
Western culture! Sade's lasting contribution
to Western thought is that he argued that all
of the Judeo-Christian teachings, rationale,
theology, ethics - all of it - must be
rejected and then there must be a new
Renaissance
of science, materialism,
Atheism. The controversial Marquis de Sade
is a part of that "rebirth of learning."

IMPI

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Prof. Maurice M. LaBelle holds a Ph.D.
in Comparative Literature. He
presently teaches in the Department
of English at Drake University in Des
Moines, Iowa. His work has been
published in both French and English
in scholarly journals throughout the
United States, Canada, England, and
France. His book on the French
Atheist, Alfred Jarry (Alfred Jarrry,
Nihilism, and the Theatre of The
Absurd) appeared in 1981.

A Decline
Sade continued to write while in prison,
but his work never regained the quality of
Justine; even Juliette shows marked signs of
Sade's decline as a master of the "philosophical story" because he began to repeat
his philosophy without marked effect. From
1806-1807, he worked on The Days of
Florbelle, or Nature Unmasked, Followed
by the Memories of the Abbe de Modose
and the Adventures of Emilie de Volnange
(Les Journees de Florbelee, Ou La Nature
Devoilee, Suivies des Memoires de L 'Abbe
de Modose et des Adventures d'Emilie de
Volnange). Little more than a month passed
after he had finished the work when the
police raided his room and confiscated several manuscripts among which was The
Days of Florbelle. These texts were burned
after his death at the request of his family.
He wrote a very long novel, The Marquise
de Gange (1813), which is a feeble, philosophic Gothic tale of the faithful wife being
brutally harassed by her villainous husband.
His short stories are of little interest and his
plays are of even less stature. In both genres
he had turned to trivial, hackneyed plots as
well as those focusing on historical figures, a
subject which keenly interested him. His
creativity, however, was directed to producing plays at the mental hospital at Charenton (c. 1803-1810). These plays were

Page 14

UYou. missionaries-to-be. must show the


natives that all their sraven idols and imaees
are of heathen ori2in
May, 1985

American Atheist

Stephen B. Thorne

JESSE ON MY MIND
a dream the other night that I thought
IIhadshould
share. Well, it seems that a
famous theme park in Southern California
was 'becoming too secular for a Baptist
senator from North Carolina. He decided to
ask a millionconservatives to buy stock in its
parent company and give it a more proper
focus on the world. There would be no more
Tomorrowland with its praise of the false
doctrine of science. Frontierland didn't put
enough emphasis on the work of the religious pilgrims of the past, and as for New
Orleans Square, well, you know what sin
goes on down there during Mardi Gras!
These good folks set about their task of
redeeming this playground of the evil Secular Humanists without delay and the park
was soon reopened for business. Surprisingly,few people showed up for opening day.
Some berry farm nearby was drawing the
lost souls of the area to it in record numbers.
In my dream, Iwent to the renovated park to
see what damage had been done.
The first change that I saw as I went
through the turnstiles was that the famous
mouse had been replaced by blooming flowers planted to form the image of some man
nailed to a cross with red flowers coming out
of his side. "Some amusement park," I
thought as I entered.
As I walked down the main (and only)
street leading away from the entrance, I
noticed that the shops were no longer candy
and film shops but were now bookstores
specializing in only one book! What ever
happened to diversification, I wondered as I
went along. On my right was a special free
attraction. The marquee read "Great Moments with William Jennings Bryan." I was
going to go in, but I noticed a surly-looking
man in a five-hundred-dollar suit at the door
with a gold plate for a "love offering" and
thought better of it. As I went along, I heard
some delighted squeals of praise up ahead
and the pace of the crowd quickened to see
what was the matter. Well, it was the Virgin
Mary and the Twelve Dwarfs, er, Apostles
waving and asking folks if they were saved.
"Saved from what," I wondered, seeing no
apparent danger around me.
One of my favorite places in the old park
was the big castle in the center of the place. I
always used to look very closely to try to see
Tinkerbell. Imagine my disappointment
when I saw, instead of some empty fairy's

Austin, Texas

castle, an empty hospital direct from Tulsa


- a scaled down version of that august, yet
unlicensed, facility.
As I walked out the other side of the
empty hospital, I saw a very gay (if such a
word could be used here) scene. I was
pleased to see that the old carrousel was still
in place, but dismayed to hear that the organ
was grinding out "A Mighty Fortress is Our
God" as it went around. I cut to the right
(verily the only direction one seemed able to
travel in here - always to the Right) and
went around the carrousel. Itried to find Mr.
Toad's Wild Ride, but found Mr. Reagan's
Wild Ride instead. My curiosity got the
better of me and I got in line. All the schoolaged children in the line were instructed to
be silent for a moment. That's when I first
got an inkling of the horrors to be found
inside. My turn was next and there was no
escape. It looked like a landslide of people
behind me. Butterflies rose in my stomach
as I got into the car. It lurched forward and
around a sharp corner. It got dark, but as
soon as it had done so, a bright light shone
on a large copy of the First Amendment of
the Constitution.
As you might have
guessed, the car smashed right through it
and picked up speed! A large picture of
Thomas Jefferson popped up in front of me
and the car swerved to the right (of course!)
just in the nick of time. On I went, twisting
and turning through the Constitution and its
defenders. Near the end, a picture of the
Warren Court and Madalyn O'Hair jumped
up in front of me, and the car ran them
down! I closed my eyes for the last few
seconds of the ride, afraid of what terrors
and errors lay ahead. When the car came to
a halt outside, I got out and almost stumbled
from shock. I felt like saying something to
the people in line, but remembering that I'm
named after a guy who was stoned to death,
I remained silent.
I was going to go to the Matterhorn, but
found that it had been transformed into Mt.
Sinai, complete with a burning bush.
I left this area to go the site of the old
Tomorrowland, only to find that Tomorrowland was now Revelationland. I had
always liked the ride in the old Tomorrowland where you went inside the atom to see
how it worked. I got in line for the ride, but
imagine my surprise when, instead of the
black half-moon-shaped seats, I saw camels!

May, 1985

I got on top of one and went through the


portals at the start of the ride. A voice came
from a speaker at the back of the plastic
camel's neck, and it described how we were
all getting smaller and smaller. Instead of the
familiar water molecules getting larger, I saw
needles getting larger and larger. Finally, my
camel approached the eye of one of these
needles and swerved at the last second, and
the voice from the speaker reminded me
that it was easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of heaven (so give your
tax deductible check to ... ).
I next went to the train station to take a
ride into the past and see the dinosaurs and
the Grand Canyon. I was surprised to see
Bible stories in diorama instead. The train
came to a halt at what used to be the station
at New Orleans Square. Itwas now Temple
Square, and two well-scrubbed white boys in
blue slacks, short-sleeved white shirts, and
blue ties were there to greet everyone who
was getting off. Idodged these two and made
my way into the square itself. I passed a
souvenir shop that was selling monogrammed underwear. The problem seemed to be
that only the letters B, Y, and U were on any
of the garments. Pairs of young men dressed
like those at the train station were riding
around the area on ten-speed bicycles. They
had long handled brooms which they used to
keep the square lily white.
I left Temple Square and went to a small
portion of New Orleans Square that still
remained. The ride here was Primates of the
Vatican, right next to the Blue Nun Restaurant. I got in line and could see the
waiters and waitresses of the Blue Nun in"
their monk and nun garb across the water of
the ride. I finally was able to get into one of
the ride's boats. As the boat began its trip
through bayou country, an eerie voice intoned, "dead men need your prayers, dead
men need your prayers." The first scene that
I saw was a ship full of Jesuit priests arriving
in Japan. As the boat progressed, I saw
more scenes of Roman Catholic priests
arriving and collecting various treasures of
art and pornography for the Vatican collections as well as collecting money from
public sources and bingo games. They were
singing a song as the boat went along. It went
something like this:

Page 15

Yo ho, yo ho, the celibate life for me


We drink and swear and yet we wear
A cloth that is Most Holy
From birth to death we own your lives
And live on tax-credits solely!
Yo ho, yo ho, the celibate life for me!
The priests that were singing these lines
were very finely dressed in full priestly
regalia and were led by a man in a white coat
that would put any owned by Liberace to
shame. As the ride ended they appeared to
be marching on to Congress to ask for more
money.
My next stop was at the replacement for
Adventureland, Adventistland. I took a ride
on the Bible Adventure Cruise which was
located where the old Jungle Adventure
Cruise used to be. The boats were shaped

like miniature arks, only with big glass observation panels in the sides so that we could all
see. We pushed off and went through a
rainfall area while the tour guide, who was
dressed like Noah, told us about the forty
days and forty nights of rain and so on. Our
next stop was at the Red Sea where we saw
the water part, Jews cross, and Egyptian
soldiers drown. After this, we saw Jonah
swallowed by a whale and Jesus Christ walk
on water. We next went to a jungle area and
saw a missionary with some natives. I
thought that I saw some soldiers raping
native women through the trees, but dismissed this as my imagination. Finally, we
returned to Mt. Ararat and disembarked.
I left the ride and passed the Holy War
Shooting Gallery where various infidels were
targets. I came closer to the gallery to get a

better look. I saw many that I recognized,


but one in particular caught my eye.
I woke up in a cold sweat.

IMPI

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Stephen B. Thorne is a graduate
psychology student at the University
of Texas at EI Paso. His current
research interests are suggestion,
subliminal perception, beliefs about
demonological causation of psychopathology, and the acculturation of
Mexican-Americans and the
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory.

.~.

Page 16

May, 1985

American Atheist

Fred Woodworth

THOUGHTS ON SEX, A FREE PRESS, AND


NON-AUTHORITARIAN SOCIETY

o much has been written, said, and sung


about sex! Only what is it, anyway? The
man from Mars will be lost in utter bafflement if he tries to find out by reading
anything other than, perhaps, some clinical
description, because complete confusion
reigns over the simplest definitions: Is it an
act or an emotion? Both, neither, something
else? I'm reminded of the old marriage
manuals that dealt with it as something that
occurred inside of a permanent "commitment" to another human being and nowhere
else. Back then, sex was exalted to such a
ridiculous degree that the orgasm had to
take place within a special state and churchsanctioned arrangement or it was disapproved completely. Today the trend is to
substitute ideology for religion, so that "incorrect sex" provokes the familiar old ire
and priggish objections. The new Puritans
pop up, curiously enough, at both the far
Right and Left ends of the political spectrum,
where the rampant individualism of Capitalist Christianity and the groupthink obsession of "progressive" Communalism curve
around in a bizarre aping of the Einsteinian
universe, to meet each other on the common ground of authoritarian repression.
How thoroughly muddled the thought is
over there can be seen by paying attention
to the subjects of rape and pornography.
The extreme fanatics of the Left apparently
regard rape (forcible sexual intercourse) as
an evil at least as much because it is sexual
intercourse as because it is forcible; otherwise they would condemn ordinary acts of
violent imposition of one person's will on
another the same way they do when the
imposing results in an act of sexual gratification by the aggressor. For the Religious
Right wing, pleasure itself seems to be taboo, and hence the arguments made out by
those spokesmen allude to the volatile,
uncontrollable passions that willresult iffree
sexual activities are condoned by society.
But again the key word is sex, not just
passion or uncontrollability (or violence,
which the leftist feminists like to talk about);
otherwise they'd try to stamp out baseball
games, not just pornography.
What puts this monumental hatred for
sex on the level of a deadly peril to a free
society is the willingness of persons having

Austin, Texas

this obsession to ignore the rights of fellowhuman beings, and in their zeal, to force
conformity by all to the moral code that they
have received from either the Bible or texts
of extreme anti-individualism.
Thanks to the unhealthy coalition of extremists, many intellectual and personal
choices are beginning to come down to mob
rule by the prudes, censors, and bigots. Less
and less is it felt that one has the right to read
or write anything he or she chooses; instead,
everything needs to pass a review board of
balefully glaring inquisitors who think (or
claim that they think) people are liable to go
out and emulate whatever they find on the
printed page. If that belief is true, then
literature is in for a rough time, because in
general it contains more and worse depictions throughout its length and breadth than
the little backwater of porn ever will.How do
we know that reading Shakespeare's scene
might not induce someone to pour poison
into another's ear? Ifreading a description of
a rape will cause an individual (a male of
course) to think of raping someone, why
doesn't a scene of robbery. in a play influence
somebody to become a stick-up man?
The old-time Puritans, it will be recalled,
deplored fiction - all fiction - for precisely
this reason. For hundreds of years, in fact,
literature had to have a "moral"; otherwise it
would lead readers astray from the path of
righteousness.
Oddly in line with the concept of doublethink is the attitude of the modern attempted censor, vis-a-vis freedom to print,
read, and think. As always, everybody's in
favor of "freedom of the press," though if
you listen closely over a long enough time,
you wait to hear the but that comes along in
a second: "Sure, I believe totally in freedom
ofthe press, but. .. ", "Freedom is a precious
right, but . . ." etc. but - always but.
Following the but is the individual's real
statement, which in every case reduces the
former to a subordinate idea (ifnot clause):
"But it has to be exercised responsibly"
(meaning: in a way of which I approve); "But
the press must serve the public good" (what
I conceive of as good).
Some of the latest antics of the international opposition to pornography recently
were seen in the city where I live. In proud

May, 1985

announcements to the newspapers, members of a women's group called "Take Back


The Night" vowed to photograph anybody
entering an adult bookstore where magazines of which they disapproved were sold.
Photography, reminiscent of the tactics of
the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, implies the
keeping of files and a subsequent penalty
somewhere down the line to be suffered by
the photographee. The photographed person is supposed to think, "Will I be denied a
job some day because of this?" "Will my
employer fire me if they send him a copy?"
"Will my landlord make me move?" And
then he backs off and is, in a word, intimidated. Intimidation is the hallmark of authoritarians, who realize their ideas are so defective that no one willever accept them, so that
they have to be imposed by force.
These are the people who appeal not to
the persuasion of freely-acting individuals in
an open society, but who sneeringly try to
force everybody under the sun to conform
to their wishes. Such rapists of liberty are
substituting, in place of the evil that they
mistakenly see in sexually-explicit literature,
an even larger evil which is censorship and a
magnified role of dominance in the modern
world.
.
How to oppose them is indeed a problem.
In the local case, I took direct action,
printing up a leaflet arguing against authoritarian methods and distributing it at the very
time of the photographing of porn-patrons.
Proving again that the name of the game is
dominance, these women not only snapped
my photo, but when they found I was
present in direct opposition to them they
took an additional half-dozen pictures (which
were later, I am told, handed over to the
police with the recommendation to investigate me as a "possible rapist").
Still later, violence occurred at my home
when someone visited in the dark of night to
smash the windshield of my car and leave an
ominous garbage can on the seat.
Ifthis all sounds familiar, it should: it is the
age-old story of movements so convinced
that they were right that any means could be
used against those who disagreed. From the
Holy Crusades that massacred in the name
of Jesus to the axe-swinging teetotalism of
the Women's Christian Temperance Union

Page 17

and the fierce fanaticism of the National


Socialist Party, the common thread is utmost self-righteousness combined with disrespect for anyone of an opposing view.
How fundamentally destructive and selfcontradictory fanaticism is can be seen from
the way it invariably corrodes the main
principle it sets out to defend: the Christian
Crusaders murdered in the name of what
they said was a high ethic; the WCTU was
driven to excess, not temperance; the Nazis
destroyed Germany while trying to make it
strong. The same self-crumbling goes to
work whenever the United States sets out to
destroy "communism" and ends by destroy-

Page 18

ing, actually, democratic principles, and it


will be seen in the future when "feminists"
create a repressive society that will ultimately hurt women along with men.
Authoritarianism and social fascism are
weapons that, like the atomic bomb, are too
horrible to be used, no matter what you hate
or how bad it may be. If the unhealthy
amalgam of Right- and Left-Wing sex-haters
does not vanish soon (one hopes by collapsing under its own weight of absurdity)
we willsee not a drift toward freedom, but a
blinding retreat away from it, haunted by the
shades of Stalin, Hitler, J. Edgar Hoover,
and the Ayatollah Khomeini. ~

May, 1985

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Fred Woodworth, a committed activist
and political theorist is the founder,
editor and publisher of the weD-known
anarchist magazine, "The Match." He
is the author of "There Is No God," the
single most popular pamphlet which is
issued by The American Atheist
Center.

American Atheist

Lowell Newby

BORN OF WATER
following entry appeared in my
TheMississippi
Educational Television

Guide for February 15, 1985: '''Born of


Water.' The seventeen year old son of a
fundamentalist preacher, facing the baptism
ritual, is torn between his personal beliefs
and family obligations."
"Undoubtedly the heart- warming story of
how a modern day prodigal was brought into
the fold by some deeply moving, possibly
tragic experience," I said to myself. "Well,
what the heck; it might be good for a laugh.
Besides, one never knows ... "
I am happy to report that "Born of Water"
was not what I expected. The son, played by
Shaun Cassidy, was not just another tortured agnostic ripe for conversion but a
bonafide non-believer. And to the credit of
the writers, he got that way not by having a
game leg or by seeing his sister die in a car
crash, but by simply thinking things over and
deciding that religion is a farce.
The story opens at a baptismal rehersal
the day before the son, along with several
other young people, is to be baptized. The
boy is obviously reluctant to take part in the
ritual, so after the others have left, his
mother explains to him that his father is
unpopular with certain influential members
of the congregation, and that they are just
looking for an excuse to get rid of him. Not
wanting to make things tougher than they
already are for his father, the son resigns
himself to play along.
The next scene is at a carnival later that
night. At the urging of his friends, the son
enters a burlesque show where he is spotted
by an older man who is a member of his
father's congregation. "I never expected to
see the preacher's kid here," the man jeers.
"And I never expected to see one of my
father's deacons," the boy retorts. Meanwhile, things are warming up on stage, and
one of the girls dances over to the edge of
the platform beside which the boy is standing
and puts her legs over his shoulders - from
the front. Led by the deacon, the men in the
audience immediately begin making use of
all the creative lewdness at their disposal
while the son just stands there looking
mystified. About this time the cops rush in,
and everybody scatters. The son and the
stripper flee to his father's church.
As they stand before a 3-D picture of
Jesus that was donated by a funeral home,

Austin, Texas

the attractive young stripper pulls out a pint


of whiskey and announces that she is going
to have sex with the boy. As she embraces
him, he reminds her of where they are. She
replies that she has never been inside a
church before, although she was once propositioned by a Mormon missionary. The son
looks thoughtful for a moment, reaches up,
and turns our the light over the picture, and
the two disappear out of the view of the
camera in the direction of the floor.
Lovemaking over, they turn their attention to the pint of whiskey, after which the
son begins to play rock music on the church
organ. Awakened by the noise, the preacher
and his wife enter the church at the same
time as two passing policemen. Following
the sound of giggling which is coming from
the front of the church, the four are shocked
to find that the young lovers are having a
bath in the church bapistry.
The next scene is in the family's kitchen
the following morning. The son apologizes
for his Saturday night shenanigans to his
surprisingly unperturbed father. He then
says that he will go through with being
baptized, but he begs his father not to make
a big deal of it. The father quietly walks
away.
Halfway through the morning worship
service, the father and son again confront
one another in the vestry as the boy helps his
father into his baptismal robes. Their words
are not hostile, but the hurt that they each
feel is apparent. They appear to be simply
going through the motions of preparing for
what is to be a meaningless ritual.
As the ones ahead of him are baptized in
somewhat rapid succession, the boy moves
forward anxiously. When his turn comes, he
steps down into the water, but his father
ignores his plea to hurry up and get it over
with and launches into a sermonette. By the
time he is finished, his son is crying. Seemingly oblivious to what is happening, the
father then asks him questions about whether he trusts "in his Lord and Saviour, Jesus
Christ." "No," he answers in whispers but
with increasing agitation. By the time the
father is ready for immersion, the son has
become nearly hysterical and struggles to
break free. The father tries to baptize him
forcibly, and the two thrash about. The
congregation arises in disbelief as the boy
finallymanages to climb over the front of the

May, 1985

baptistry and to run from the church. At this


point, the show ends.
As for criticisms of the show, an argument
could be made that the scenes with the
stripper were not strongly connected with
the rest of the plot. Their main tie seemed to
be the further exposure of the hypocrisy of
the father, along with that of the church
members who attended the burlesque show.
But they were also tender, happy, healthily
sensual moments (with the exception of the
burlesque show itself) that provided relief
from the sadness that pervaded the rest of
the program. Significantly, the boy's apology
for profaning his father's church showed
that he felt no remorse for what he had done
but only for the fact that he had hurt his
father.
"Born of Water" was unusual among
television shows about religion in that it
presented non belief as a respectable option.
In the final analysis, the boy refused baptism
not because he was rebellious, but because
he was too courageous to surrender his
integrity even under enormous pressure.
His parents, on the other hand, lacked their
son's courage. True, they loved their son,
but the bottom line was that they were
willing to sacrifice him in order to please
their congregation. I recommend this show
highly, and I thank the American Film Institute for making it possible. ~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lowell Newby, a freelance writer, says
of himself, "Being introspective by
nature, my interest in Atheism centers
around the innermost effects that it
has upon the individual, particularly
one who lives in a theistic environment
such as we now have in the United
States."

Page 19

AUGUST BERKSHIRE

MINNESOTA TAKES THE CAKE


marks the one-year anniverMaysary1985
of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/
St. Paul) Chapter of American Atheists.
Like many Chapters, our formation began
with a visit by National officers. In this case
Madalyn O'Hair and Jon Murray came to
the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis in
March 1984.
Before their arrival, notices of a Chapter
formation meeting were sent out to all local
people on National's mailing list. Eighty people showed up for the meeting, of which
forty signed a list expressing interest. This
list, plus two armloads of information and
literature from Jon Murray, were given to
myself and Keven Hardisty.
During the next two months several informal meetings were held, from which
emerged a core of about fifteen people.
Finally, on June 3, we held our own first
officialmeeting and elected temporary Chapter officers. In October 1984 these officers
were re-elected to a full year's term.
Although some Chapters hold their monthly meetings in conjunction with a brunch or
dinner, we decided against this since the
cost might be prohibitive for some people.
Instead we have rented meeting rooms and
asked for one dollar per person donation,
which usually covers the cost. We currently
meet in the Fireplace Room of Willey Hall at
the University of Minnesota. This is nice for
many reasons: it is centrally located, it has
ample free parking nearby, the room is
quiet, comfortable, and private, and holding
meetings at a University gives us a certain
accessibility which is inviting to newcomers.
Our monthly Chapter meetings tend to be
held 2:00 -4:30 P.M. the first Sunday of every
month. At first, attendance was about twenty, but by February 1985 it had risen to
thirty-five. We have discovered that Atheists
love to talk, and so at every meeting we
schedule either a speaker (with subsequent
questioning) or pick a topic of general interest to discuss among ourselves.
Goals
From the beginning, our primary concerns
were education and membership. Legal activity, we decided, could be done better after
we had established ourselves. It took many
months of meeting, talking, and socializing,
but we now have a Chapter with a good solid
membership, in which people can feel confidence, pride, and a sense of belonging,
Page 20

unity, and friendship. We are no longer


individual Atheists, but a group of American
Atheists. I would rank this as our greatest
accomplishment to date, for it will form the
foundation of all future success.
There are many benefits of Chapter membership. First, there are interesting meetings. Second, we have an informative and
'upbeat I tonthly Newsletter. Third, we have
the four season's parties (attendance at our
Spring Equinox Party was thirty-one). And
we have just established a Chapter lending
library.
This is all in addition to the benefits of
National membership, which include being a
part of the best and largest Atheist organization in the United States, and subscription to
the American Atheist.
We also run a Dial-An-Atheist service,
with messages changing weekly. We try to
make the tape about something in the
previous week's newspaper - a local event
if possible. If it's a slow news week then we
use a general topic such as "Life After
Death" or "Reason us. Faith". The placement of a single ad in any newspaper can jam
the phone lines for three days!
Wisdom
It is not a very comfortable or wise thing
for a Chapter to be constantly asking for
donations. Consequently, we have tried to
make everything pay for itself. Room rental
is covered by one dollar per person donation. Our Dial-An-Atheist service is maintained by a pledge drive every six months.
And money from memberships, renewals,
and book sales pays for the Newsletter,
postage, advertising, and incidentals. Our
goal is to eventually have a membership so
large that annual dues to National (paid
through us) will cover all expenses.
Currently we have no separate annual
dues to join the Chapter. We feel it is our
obligation (and pleasure) to make our Chapter so attractive to Atheists that National
membership alone will sustain us. We feel
that a Chapter belongs to and should serve
its members.
It is the policy of the National American
Atheist Center to let local Chapters keep
half of the money for books sold through
that Chapter. Consequently, we always keep
a good stock of the more popular Atheist
books on hand for ready sale at our Chapter
meetings, and willspecial order any book for
May, 1985

W 1Jv11 ~
4

qd

HAl

WI

BIRTI

MINNI
CHAf

nm

which a member asks.


It is also National policy to let a Chapter
keep half of any National membership money the Chapter takes in. Therefore, when we
send new people introductory material we
also send them a National application blank
with our local address on it. We also put
these applications in our Newsletter from
time to time, and send them to people whose
memberships are about to expire.
We find, however that most people still
send in their applications to the National
office. Our future plan is to also mail out a
self-addressed return envelope and possibly
to offer gift premiums for signing up through
the Chapter.
We are very conservative with the members' money and are constantly looking for
ways to reduce spending. For example, we
hope to have a bulk mailing permit as soon
as possible.
The Best for the Best
But we are willingto spend a little more to
get quality. The room in which we meet
costs us thirty-five dollars, compared to
twenty dollars for the old room. The new
room, however, is far superior and may be
partially responsible for drawing more memAmerican Atheist

~py
tDAY
~SOTA
ITER
bers. Similarly, the main page of our Newsletter is printed on a very attractive golden
buff colored paper for twenty dollars, which
we could have done for free if we wanted
plain, white paper.
We have also had the good fortune to
have had three people become Life members this past year, which added $750 to our
treasury. Then again, these people became
Lifers largely because they enjoyed our local
meetings and wanted to support our Chapter.
Chores
The success of the Twin Cities Chapter is
the combined efforts of all its volunteers.
From the beginning our Chapter duties were
spread out so that no one person would get
overworked and "burnt out."
As Director, Ihave been the officialspokesperson for our group. I have been interviewed by newspaper and television. I also
write our monthly Newsletter, as well as
most of our Dial-An-Atheist scripts and
many "Letters to the Editor." I call new
people and also oversee all Chapter activities.
Tom Parish, Vice-Director of our Chapter, has taken over when I have been out of
Austin, Texas

town. He has been responsible for getting


and keeping our Dial-An-Atheist line in service, coordinating our volunteer efforts at
PBS television, arranging for our Chapter
T-shirts to get printed, and was initially in
charge of setting up the American Atheist
News Forum locally. Tracy Williams, his
wife, has been an alternate voice on our
Dial-An-Atheist recordings.
Shirley Moll, Chapter Secretary, handles
almost everything concerning record-keeping, printing, and mailing. She takes minutes
of our monthly meetings and does the layout
of our monthly Newsletter. She maintains
and updates our mailing list and sends out
information to new, interested people. Shirley often single-handedly folds, staples,
stamps, and labels over two hundred Chapter newsletters in a single night. (When such
heroics fail, she has been known to draft her
husband, Bill, and their daughter, Laura).
She also reads two newspapers daily and
clips out interesting articles for use in our
Dial-An-Atheist scripts.
Cora Wheeler, Chapter Treasurer, does
an excellent job of maintaining records of all
our financial transactions, and is very
prompt in mailing our quarterly reports to
National. She has also become known as
our ace letter writerv Whereas I like to
deliberate a few days, Cora often fires off a
sharp, incisive "Letter to the Editor" overnight. The newspapers locally have been
pretty good about printing most of our
letters with minimal or no editing.
Kevin Hardisty, National Liason Officer,
was in contact with the American Atheist
Center for over a year before our Chapter
was formed. His knowledge enabled us to
get off the ground much quicker than we
normally would have been able to do. He
declined the job as Director because of time
commitments with his family and job. (He
still drives an hour and a half each way to
work!) Kevin and I have kept National
informed of our Chapter activities. In addition, he handles book sales at our monthly
meetings.
On the Tube
Alexander Stone has single-handedly taken upon himself the task of getting the
American Atheist News Forum on every
television cable station in Minnesota! So far
we have eight signed up, with many more on
the way! This is painstaking, time-consuming
work, but it is very valuable in that it
educates our state and should result in many
new members.
Carol Leck and Marilyn Nienkerk have
helped coordinate our parties. Marilyn Nienkerk and Glen Gorsetman have also provided us with supplements to our monthly
Newsletters. Carol Leek and Richard Dick
(who is also our unofficial photographer)
staged a wonderful presentation of the life
and works of Robert Ingersoll at our DeMay, 1985

cember 1984 Chapter meeting.


Tonei Sackey volunteered not only to
make our Chapter display for the April 1985
National Convention, but is also our Chapter Librarian.
Billand Karen Falardeu printed two of our
first three Newsletters, and keep a backup
chapter mailing list in their computer.
Bob Nienkerk stands ready, willing, and
able to join Cora Wheeler and myself when
we get interviewed by the media.
Burl Gilyard has mentioned our group
several times in his "street" newspaper,
Page Five, and in January 1985he invited me
to speak at his high school philosophy class.
Awards for meritorious long distance driving to get to our meetings go to Otto and
Mary Kral and Tim Paterek (all from Wisconsin), Walter Kile (one hundred miles one
way!), and Toivo Helin (who often stops in
on his way from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to
Duluth, Minnesota).
Other people who have made important
contributions to the success of our Chapter
this past year include Art Anderson, Thomas
Bauch, Carl Bloomquist and Florence
Worob, David Boeckmann, Tracie Burge,
James Erickson, Harold Kahn, Helen Lynch,
Bruce Merill, Mark Mesick, Mike Neudecker, LeRoy Osterman, Kristi Peterson,
Kenneth Poore, William and Renate Sperber, Carl Steinert, Jeffry Wujek, and Charles
and Dorothy French.
A Look Ahead
We have been fairly low key this past year,
establishing the framework of our Chapter
and slowly but surely adding new members.
Following are some highlights of our past
year. As you can see, we engaged in no legal
activity and had little media exposure.
In the upcoming year we plan to increase
our visibility through newspaper, radio, and
TV interviews, as well as greater advertising,
and sponsoring public speakers and public
book sales and literature handouts. Legal
activity, however, may have to wait another
year.
No Atheist group has ever been this
successful in Minnesota before. Almost everything we do is new to us, and we feel it is best
to proceed cautiously and optimistically. If
we keep taking positive steps we're bound to
build an active and successful chapter.
Highlights of the Past Year
March 30, 1984: Dr. O'Hair and Jon
Murray visit Minneapolis for Chapter formation meeting.
April - May 1984: Several informal meetings held.
May 1984: Chapter P.O. Box and bank
account opened.

Page 21

May 29, 1984: An interview of Jon Murray


and Chapter members August Berkshire,
Carol Leek, Cora Wheeler, and Richard
Dick appears in the Minneapolis Star &
Tribune
June 3, 1984: First official Twin Cities
Chapter monthly meeting held at the Coffeehouse Extempore, Officers elected.
June 1984: First Chapter Newsletter published.

January 31,1985: Chapter Director August


Berkshire answers questions about Atheism
for a philosophy class at Washburn High
Schoo!.
February 3, 1985: Chapter meeting attendance hits 35!
February 18, 1985: Several Chapter members go to see Prof. Philip Kitcher (evolutionist) defeat Duane Gish (creationist) in a
debate at the University of Minnesota.

March 23,1985: Spring Equinox Party held


at Chi-Chi's Restaurant. (attendance - 31)
April 5-7, 1985: The Twin Cities Chapter
sends fourteen people, including four of its
five officers, to the Fifteenth Annual American Atheist Convention in Austin, Texas.
May 1985: A pot luck dinner willbe held to
celebrate our First Year Anniversary and
the opening of our Chapter Library. ~

June 9, 1984: Six Chapter members volunteer to answer phones for a local PBS
television auction. (Credit was given on the
air.)
June 23,1984: Summer Solstice Picnic held
at Minnehaha Park.
August 6, 1984: Dial-An-Atheist begins
operation.
August 19, 1984: Seven Chapter members.
volunteer to answer phones for a PBS
pledge drive. (Credit was given on the air.)
August 19, 1984: A one-minute interview,
featuring Chapter Director August Berkshire, appears on WTCN (channel 11) TV
Evening News announcing the new Dial-AnAtheist service.
September 1984: Twin Cities Chapter Tshirts designed and sold for $8.00 each.
September 23,1984: Fall Equinox Picnic
held at Minnehaha Park (attendance - 20).
October 7, 1984: Chapter officers reelected to full year term. (attendance - 18)

The 1984-85 Twin Cities Chapter officers (left to right): Shirley Moll (Secretary),
Cora Wheeler (Treasurer), August Berkshire (Director), Tom Parish (Vice Director), Kevin Hardisty (National Liaison Officer).

November 4, 1984: The Chapter meeting


features Prof. Van Mueller of the Minnesota
Friends of Public Education, who document
the millions of dollars in public Minnesota
tax money which goes to private and parochial schools every year. (attendance - 24).
December 2, 1984: The Chapter meeting
features a presentation of the life and works
of Robert Ingersoll by Chapter members
Carol Leek and Richard Dick. (attendance
-23)
December 15, 1984: Winter Solstice Party
at the home of Carol Leck. (attendance -27)
January 6,1985: First Chapter Meeting at
the Fireplace Room, Willey Hall, University
of Minnesota. (attendance - 29)
January 1985: Our monthly Newsletter
features seven "Letter to the Editor," written by Chapter officers, which appeared in
local newspapers during the preceeding
month.

Page 22

A typical Chapter meeting in the Fireplace Room, Willey Hall, University


Minnesota (Feb. 1985 - 35 people in attendance)

May, 1985

of

American Atheist

POETRY

A Theological Debate Going On


I don't know what
All the excitement was about
The other day but apparently
Someone had fallen from grace into the
Sea or something or other like that.
From the way everyone's bustling
About you'd think it was time
To turn on the TV again.
It all reminds me of the time
I was on a suspension bridge
And there was a theological debate going on
Between a monotheist and an Atheist
And the one was saying that
All men were afraid to die.
And the other was saying not so.
And their words were getting pretty hot
But finally the holy man
Said he wasn't afraid to
Die because he knew God would save
Him and to prove it he said he
Would jump off the bridge and drown.
Now wait a minute said the other man
Don't do that you've only got one
Life to live you know.

To be alive!

Ha! So little you know, the holy man


Sneered as he perched on the
Hail, I'll show you.
And with that he flung himself
Into the air across the
Sparkling crescent waves not seeming
To mind it one bit until
Just before he hit the
Raging water we heard him yelling out,
"Oh shit, I'm sinning!"
And that was the last thing
He said.

To see,

To feel music in my ear


And sun on my back;
To know that of all the dead,
Senseless matter of the universe,
I am alive,
To touch
a woman;
To hear,
a cat purr;

a flower;
To smell,
a pine forest;
To taste,
a kiss;
To experience wonder,

I don't know but maybe


I'm impious because those
Theological debates never did
Appeal to me much.

To know the joy of love returned;


Life!
-

Austin, Texas

Tom James

May, 1985

Lowell Newby

Page 23

THE PROBING MIND/Frank R. Zindler

THE CASE OF BIG DADDY


or more than a decade, one of the
F
gravest threats to the wall of separation
between state and church has been the
concerted attempt by fundamentalist Protestants to impose something known as
'creation science' upon science students in
public schools. Unable to convince the scientific community that magical views of
human and animal origins can be considered
valid science and should, therefore, be included in science texts, the bibliolaters have
left no stone unturned in finding other ways
to insinuate their theo-geo-biological phantasms into public school science curricula.
Campaign Tactics
Creationists have tried to get laws passed
establishing creationism as legitimate science - as though scientific truth could be
decided by governmental fiat. But such laws,
like the Missouri statute setting pi at the
value of exactly 3.0, have impressed the
courts no more than they have impressed
the scientific community. Thus stymied, the
creationists have had to resort, on the one
hand, to colossal nation-wide propaganda
campaigns and on the other to local campaigns of intimidation of school boards.
Although these tactics rarely result in the
teaching of creationism, they succeed in
getting the topic of evolution quietly dropped from the list of subjects covered. In
short, the creationists are getting what they
wanted all along. The equal time bills were
always a second-best solution in their eyes.
What the creationists have always wanted is
the elimination of the hated theory of evolution.
The IDustrated Word
Curiously, one of the most useful tools in
the propaganda campaign against evolution
science has been a miniature comic book a little twelve-page horror entitled Big
Daddy. This travesty of science was first
published in 1972by Jack T. Chick, who still
holds the copyright. Chick Publications produces a large number of different comics, all
of which are propaganda for a militantly
fundamentalist type of Christianity. Many of
these unfunny comics are strongly antiscience in their thrust.
I have no idea how many copies of this

Page 24

particular little booklet have been sold, but I


am quite certain that since the time of
Charles Darwin, no single anti-evolutionary
propaganda piece has had such wide dissemination. Big Daddy is sold in every
fundamentalist book shop. I have received
unsolicited copies in the mail, and it is
distributed to laundromats, dentists' offices,
and hospital emergency rooms. And, of
course, it can be found down-wind of every
fundamentalist
church from Maine to
Guam. It is quoted (usually without attribution) by fundamentalist preachers in their
letters to the editor more than any other
piece of anti-evolution literature known to
me.
Since evolution is hardly taught any more
in our public schools, this comic book
represents the only encounter with evolutionary ideas that hundreds of thousands of
young Americans willever have. The distortions of fact and philosophy found in this
comic are a serious threat to science education in this country, and it is high time this
little comic book had a public examination.
The present article and its sequel will attempt to do just that. In this installment, I
shall examine the origins of the booklet, and
I will point out some of the fallacies of
informal logic contained therein. Next
month, I will examine the scientific errors
with which its pages are so tightly packed.
Enter the Hero
The plot of the comic begins with a
buffoon of a biology professor asking his
class, "How many of you believe in evolution?"
Thunderously, all the students (Fig. 1)
reply, "We do!" All except one, that is. One
student (Fig. 2), apparently modeled after
Pat Boone, says he believes in the Bible
instead. The professor (Fig. 3) blows his top
and threatens to throw the kid out. But he
relents, saying that he will systematically
tear our hero's beliefs to shreds in front of
the entire class.
As can be expected, the student is made
to appear as though he knows more biology
than the professor, coming up with what
seem to be unanswerable arguments against
evolution. The professor gives up and quits
his job, and the student converts the class to
fundamentalism.

May, 1985

Copyright regulations prevent me from


going through the entire comic book frameby-frame, but the fair-use provisions of the
revised copyright law permit me to show a
few excerpts for purposes of criticism.
It is fair to say that, from cover to cover,
the entire comic book is an embodiment of
what in informal logic is known as the ad
hominem fallacy. The ad hominem fallacy is
the fallacy whereby one attacks the opponent instead of the argument. The fallacy
comes in two forms: the abusive species and
the circumstantial species.
The abusive species involves what is basically name-calling. In a comic book this abuse
is effected by what Iwillcall "name-drawing,"
instead of name-calling.
Figure 1, utilizing this fallacy, shows just
what kind of people believe in evolution.
Evolutionists are made to look like the
legions of the great unwashed. In the front
row, we have Susie Sympathizer on the left.
We can be sure she's doing things outside of
class that god only intended to be done
within the bounds of wedlock.
Next to her, we have a Timothy Learystyle acid-freak. Not only have drugs burned
his brain out to the point where he believes
in evolution, he's wearing a peacenik-commieban-the-bomb pendant, confirming the view
that evolutionists are probably communists
trying to subvert both motherhood and
apple pie.
On the right we have a black militant of a
sort, replete with a necklace of tiger's teeth.
From his dark glasses, we can tell that he's
also a heroin addict. The rest of the class
appears to be composed of a variety of
dimwits who share an allergy to soap. To
draw one's opponent as an immoral freak is
no different than to call him an immoral
freak.
Our creationist hero (Fig. 2) is quite
clearly modeled after Pat Boone, although in
this particular picture he uses too much eyeshadow. He bathes regularly, and his hair is
fitting for a true American man. He is
earnest, serious, and respectful; he believes
in the Bible. The verbal abuse to which he is
subjected allows Mr. Chick to employ another fallacy, the "appeal-to-emotion fallacy": the reader willside with the underdog
against his persecutor. The many funnylooking caricatures to be found in the comic
book are also examples of the appeal-to-

American Atheist

emotion fallacy. It is easier to laugh at


something than it is to try to understand it.

Fig. 1 (left) A typical coUege biology


class, according to Jack Chick.
1972 by Jack T. Chick

The Villain
Our typical biology professor (Fig. 3),
however, is a closed-minded, short-tempered buffoon. He is pot-bellied, bald, and
wears pince-nez glasses. As can be seen
from his hands - which are trying to
strangle the air - evolutionists are a violent
and thoroughly unpleasant lot. Again we see
the ad hominem abusive species fallacy. If
we were to call someone a short-tempered,
closed-minded slob, it would be no worse
than this graphic portrayal.
I have already noted that the ad hominem
fallacy also comes in what is known as the
"circumstantial species" In this form we
attack our opponent, not by calling him
names, but by appealing to special circumstances of his personal situation - hence
the term 'circumstantial.' To see/how this
circumstantial species of ad hominem attack
is employed in this comic book, we need to
consider who the expected reader of the
book is likely to be.
In most cases, the reader will be young,
white, Protestant, and lower middle-class.
He or she is unlikely to be overburdened by
excessive education. Keeping this in mind,
and remembering that the comic first appeared in the early seventies, let's reexamine
the three figures to look for the circumstantial fallacy
In the case of the class portrait, we see
people who represent everything our reader
has been taught to fear. Suzy Sympathizer
will suggest not only left-wing politics but
sexual promiscuity as well. The unclean
acid-freak will remind the reader that one
toke (!) on a marijuana cigarette will addict
him, and lead to a life of violent crime. The
typical reader can be expected to fear drugs
and the drug culture. Hence, he will be
against evolution if druggies are for it!
It was a propaganda genius who thought
to put a black militant with an Afro hairdo in
the front row. We can expect the typical
reader to be afraid of Blacks who" don't stay
in their proper place." This frame willappeal
to the reader's fear that Blacks are trying to
take over America and have even infiltrated
our colleges. Enlisting the aid of racial prejudice against the theory of evolution may be
a stroke of apologetic genius, but it is hitting
below the belt.
The appeal to circumstance in this frame,
then, can be seen as an attempt to associate
evolution with everything the typical reader
may be expected to fear and distrust. This is
simultaneously the fallacy of 'guilt by association.'
Reexamining the hero of our book, we see
an appeal to special circumstance - Pat
Boone types are greatly admired by people
such as the typical reader might be. The
hero is polite, white, clean-cut, and brave.

Austin, Texas

WHAT MAKES YOU THINK


EVOLUTION IS UNTRUE?
BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS
THAT EACH KIND--

Fig. 2 (right) The hero in the fight against


godless evolution.
1972 by Jack T. Chick

HOLD IT, YOU

FANATIC!!

I COULD HAVE YOU JAILED FOR THAT!l


YOU EVEN MENTION
IN THIS SCHOOL -

HOW ~~{g
THE WORD BIBLE

YOU KNOW

UNCONSTITUTIONAL! ---

ITS

D~ YOU TALK

,.0 ME, IT WILL BE @Hgj)i" IN.


SCiENTIFIC TERMS!

DO YOU

UNDERSTAND?

Fig. 3 A typical response of a typical biology professor after being chaUenged on the
subject of evolution.
1972 by Jack T. Chick
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness
with God." Thus, part of the circumstantial
appeal of this frame is to the anti-intellectualism of the hypothetical reader.
But we have in this frame also an appeal to
another circumstance of the typical reader:
the circumstance that he probably thinks
-like President Reagan - that the Supreme
Court ruled it illegalto pray in school. He will
believe the text to be correct when it says, as
quoted here, "I could have you jailed for
that! How dare you even mention the word
Bible in this school- you know it's unconstitutional!"
Of course, the Supreme Court never said
. any such thing. What it ruled out of bounds
was school-enforced oral prayer and bible
Downgrading Education
reading as devotional exercises. It never outOne of the first Bible verses our typical lawed truly voluntary prayer or the nonreader will have memorized is 1 Cor. 3:19, reverential academic study of the Bible and

Somewhere, along with his high school


diploma and his Sunday school attendance
pins, he is preserving his grandmother's
recipe for all-American apple pie.
Our professor, however, is depicted in
such a way as to appeal to the circumstance
that many of the readers will be suspicious
and fearful of higher education and so-called
"egg-heads." There is a deep stream of antiintellectualism running through American
society, and many feel that professors are
not only absent-minded, but frauds leading
America - if not straight to hell - at least
toward appeasement of the godless-commie
Russians.

May, 1985

Page 25

other scriptures. This frame can be expected to arouse the more paranoid fundamentalists who see everywhere the unfolding of a "secular humanist" plot to obliterate
religion by governmental fiat. The conspiracy theme is reinforced in a frame where
our born-again McCarthyite stands up, waving a "chart showing some amazing findings
which are rarely made public!" The invited

HEIDELBERG MAN

AtISTAALQPITllfCUS

1965 Time Inc.

1972 by Jack T. Chick

Fig. 4 (left) Australopithecus


with a
stone tool, in EARL Y MAN, by F. Clark
Howell.
(right) Australopithecus after having
lost his tool and having evolved into
"Heidelberg Man" in BIG DADDY

inference is that the wicked humanist evolutionists have been suppressing the truths of
paleontology in order to overthrow the
Christian world-order and the county government.
Upgrading Force
Among the other fallacies of informal logic
to be found in Big Daddy is the argumentum
ad baculum - the appeal to force. "Agree
with me, or you'll get yours," is the underlying message in this fallacy. At the end of
the booklet, when the hero has taken over
the class, one of the students worriedly asks
him, "What if I don't believe this and die what then?" To this our hero replies, ''Then
you'll die in your sins and be eternally lost."
This is our old friend, the threat of hell-fire
and damnation. We need only recall that
neither logically nor morally does might
make right.
One finalfallacy we may note is the 'strawman' argument. Here one decisively overthrows an argument which isn't actually
supported by his opponent. When our hero
observes that scientists are less than perfect
in their knowledge, he ignores the fact that
science has never claimed absolute knowledge of anything. His exposure of Nebraska
Man as being nothing more than the tooth of
an extinct pig is presented in such a way as
to make the reader suppose Nebraska Man
was a critical pillar in the temple of evolutionary theory. In point of fact, almost no
scientists of my acquaintance have ever
heard of Nebraska Man - still less do they
base any hypotheses upon this man of
straw. I will discuss the interesting case of
Nebraska Man in the second installment of
this article.

Comparative Centerfolds
As it happens Big Daddy also has a similar
center-fold. Actually, Big Daddy has part of
the same center-fold. As readers may be
aware, creationists love to cite the Second
Law of Thermodynamics to the effect that
the universe is running down, not up, and

,ADVANCED

AUSTAAI

"f'ITHECUS

1965 Time Inc.

PEKING MAN
1972 by Jack T. Chick

Fig. 6 (left) Howell's Advanced Australopithecus, with half-raised dub.


(right) The same, after having raised
his dub higher and having evolved into
Peking Man in BIG DADDY

Origins

NEBRASKA MAN

PAAANTHROPUS

@1965 Time Inc.

1972 by Jack T. Chick

Fig. 5. (left) Paranthropus


emptyhanded in EARLY MAN.
(right) The same, but with a tool, after
having evolved into "Nebraska Man" in
BIG DADDY

Page 26

What do we know of the origin of this


booklet? How did this anti-evolutionary book
evolve? On the first page, Chick expresses
his deepest appreciation to a creationist
named Bolton Davidheiser, "for helping to
make this book possible." But he really
should have thanked the great anthropologist F. Clark Howell and the editors of
Life Nature Library since they are the
source of much of the book's material.
Although Mr. Chick may deny the fact that
he himself has evolved, he cannot deny that
his anti-evolution book evolved from evolutionary sources. One of the book's "ancestors" is Howell's well-known, popular
book Early Man.
This book was copyrighted in 1965 and
1967 by Time, Inc. and took five or six years
to evolve into Big Daddy. One of the interesting features of the book is its fold-out
showing thirteen stages in primate evolution.

May, 1985

HOMO

PllTDOWN

fflECTUS

1965 Time Inc.

MAN

1972 by Jack T. Chick

Fig. 7 (left) Homo erectus, a form known


from dozens of fossil finds.
(right) Instead of being used to represent Peking Man (an actual form of
Homo Erectus), H. erectus has degenerated into the fraudulent Piltdown Man.

American Atheist

state that if any kind of evolution occurs, it


can only involve degeneration. I must admit
that in the evolution of the comic book, Big
Daddy, this principle of degeneration is
clearly in evidence.
Before involving ourselves in the rather
complex interrelations between the two
center-folds, let's see what else Big Daddy
owes to Time, Inc.
On page eight of the comic, we have a
drawing of a Neanderthal skullcap and a text
which reads, "Here is the first and most
famous clue to early man, the Neanderthal
skull cap! Modern dating methods show
man to be older than Darwin could have
imagined."
On page seventeen of Howell's book, we
see the same skullcap, with the cracks in the
same places. The fine print just under the
picture reads "The Neanderthal skullcap,
disputed until more complete finds were
made, was the first and most famous clue to
early man." By leaving out the phrase which
I have italicized, Chick craftily leaves the
reader with the impression that we have only
a single skull cap of Neanderthal Man. The
notion that only one Neanderthal individual
is known is reinforced later in the comic
when it is asserted that "the famous Neanderthal skeleton found in France over fifty
years ago is that of an old man who suffered
from arthritis." In reality, of course, parts of
more than one hundred Neanderthal individuals are known, as well as quite a few
absolutely complete skeletons.
The Bare Bones
On page ten of the comic book, we see the
professor twiddling what looks like a chicken
bone in the air and exclaiming, "pieced
together by fragmentary fossil evidence,
science can show the stages of man's long
march from ape-like ancestors to sapiens!"
If we turn to the fold-out sheet in Howell's
book, we read: "What were the stages of
man's long march from apelike ancestors to
sapiens? Beginning at right and progressing
across four more pages are milestones of
primate and human evolution as scientists
know them today, pieced together from the
fragmentary fossil evidence." Incidentally,
the invited inference in the comic book is
that fragmentary evidence is automatically
very shaky and inconclusive. But the fact of
the matter is, one well-preserved molar
tooth can be as convincing and conclusive to
a good paleontologist as a fingerprint or hair
would be to Sherlock Holmes.
In the same frame of the comic where the
professor is twiddling the chicken bone, the
professor is made to gloat over the "wonderfu~ names like . . . Propliopithecus . . .
Proconsul . . . Dryopithecus to Paranthropus to Homo erectus and on and on to
modern man!"
It just so happens that on the same page

Austin, Texas

as that from which the "fragmentary fossil


evidence" phrase was taken, we have an
artist's reconstruction of Pliopithecus and
Proconsul! Turning the page of the fold-out,
we see a picture of Dryopithecus, and over
once more we find Paranthropus and ... on
and on to Modern Man. What a coincidence!
Going Bananas
On the cover of our comic, we find an
amusing picture of an ape-man munching on
- what else? - a banana. On page nine of
the comic, we see the professor holding up a
picture of the same ape-man, a species
formerly called Paranthropus. The caption
underneath the picture reads "Paranthropus: 1,000,000 years old," with the professor
commenting ungrammatically, "Now, this
small-brained and heavy-jawed MAY have
favored the more lush habitats of Eastern
and Southern Africa!" On page fifty-seven of
Howell's book, we find a portrait of Paronthropus which appears to be the source
from which the cartoon was derived.
We are reminded that the creationists
always claim that ifanything evolves at all, it
can only degenerate. Once again they prove
their claim. Although the comic book version
had a grammatical error in it, the "ancestral"
book is grammatically correct. It reads:
"Paranthropus, small-brained and heavy
jawed, may have favored the more lush
habitats of Southern and Eastern Africa."
The inference we are invited to make by
the comic book is that Paranthropus is
believed to have been in the line of descent
to man and that the oldest examples are one
million years old. But on the same page from
which the "heavy-jawed" phrase was misquoted, Howell says that by one million
years ago, Paranthropus had become extinct. Elsewhere he makes it clear that
Paranthropus was an evolutionary sideline,
a dead-end.
Pictoral Family Tree
I shall conclude this examination of Big
Daddy's ancestry by showing how the foldout of Howell's book evolved into the centerfold of Chick's slick picture book. As it turns
out, seven of the eight figures in Chick's
parody of an evolutionary series are taken
directly - with a bit of scrambling of names
and sequences - from Howell's series of
fossil forms!
Lack of space forces me to skip some of
the early species in Howell's evolutionary
series, so I shall begin with his figure of
Australopithecus. Australopithecus (Fig. 4,
left) is a very important fossil for understanding human evolution. With a brain no
larger than that of a gorilla, but walking
erect, it was as beautiful a connecting link as
one could hope to have to connect apes and
humans. Since this represents a very import-

May, 1985

ant piece of evidence for human evolution,


we willnot be very surprised to learn that not
only does Australopithecus not appear in
Chick's line-up, it does not appear anywhere
in the entire comic book.
I should qualify that last statement.
Australopithecus does not appear by name
in Big Daddy. His picture does show up,
however, under the name of Heidelberg
Man (Fig. 4, right).
Howell's next figure, Paranthropus (Fig.
5, left), we have already discussed with
regard to the plagiarism of the "heavyjawed" phrase. He too does not appear by
name in Chick's line-up, but his picture does
appear with the alias of Nebraska Man (Fig.
5, right).
The next figure, which Howell labeled
Advanced Australopithecus (Fig. 6, left),
also does not appear by name in Chick's
line-up, but his slightly altered image is there,
with the name changed to Peking Man (Fig.
6, right).
Homo erectus (Fig. 7, left), also does not
appear by name in the Big Daddy line-up,
even though Peking Man was a variety of
Homo erectus. Instead, the figure of Homo
erectus reappears in the comic book with
the name of Piltdown Man (Fig. 7, right).
I need not complete the demonstration of
how the center-fold of Chick's booklet was
derived from the fold-out of the Life Nature
Library source. By now, readers willhave an
idea of what one faces when dealing with
creationist literature. An utter disregard for
truth, a total lack of concern for accuracy in
the simple matter of illustrating fossil forms
- as shocking as this may be to readers - is
lamentably commonplace in creationist literature. A person who thinks he has knowledge of absolute, eternal truth before he
even enrolls in the school of nature cannot
be expected to pay much attention to the
difficult lessons taught by the subtle masters
of that school.
In a sense, everything I have considered in
this article is but a prelude to the most
important question - the question of how
accurate is the science of Big Daddy? Part II
of "The Case of Big Daddy" will show how
comic-book science is even worse than
comic-book logic. ~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Formerly a professor of biology and
geology, Frank R. Zindler is now a
science writer. A member of the
American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the
American Chemical Society, and the
American Schools of Oriental
Research, he is also co-chairperson of
the Committee of Correspondence on
Evolution Education and Director of
the Central Ohio Chapter of American
Atheists.

Page 27

REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty

DIGITIZING DESTINY
ne topic which never fails to rouse
strong feelings in our local press is any
O
challenging of the infallibilityof astrology. An
article I wrote based on material from the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific was
attacked on the charge that "Western science" does not apply to us and those who
think so exhibit a slavish mentality.
Once more, the final argument of the
pundits is that the truth is hidden in the most
ancient texts and that only scholars of
Sanskrit and other dead languages can
really understand it. Hindu astrology alone is
absolutely reliable.
All arguments on this silly subject start
with the profound statement "Astrology is a
science." Almost all Indian newspapers and
periodicals carry astrology columns. The
Indian Rationalist Association has tried in
vain to persuade editors to stop the practice.
Our protests have gone unheard and our
letters have never been published.
Most editors agree that the astrological
predictions are what make their publication
sell. But there are also a small number of
excellent papers which do not carry columns and have no problem with circulation.
Nevertheless, there are people who will
buy five or six papers for these forecasts
only. We also have a booming business in
almanacs traditionally brought out from famous centers by Brahmin priests. These
provide guidance for daily, hourly, and minute by minute routines on when to travel by
train, when not to go east, west, north, or
south, when to launch a new venture, and
much else. It is said that the swearing-in of
some of Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet ministers
was delayed because the time chosen was
inauspicious for the gentlemen.
My next article willbe on astrology and its
significance in the government of this country.
I believe we have the only college of
astrology in the world. It was inaugurated
during the prime ministership of the superstitious Morarji Desai, better known for his
positive views on urine therapy.
Most popular astrologers, writing in English, follow the western system of signs. But
the Hindu system, where signs are determined by the movement of the moon, is
regarded as better for more detailed predictions. The moon takes two and a half
days to transit each of the twelve signs;

Page 28.

hence the exact time of birth is very important. Since this detail isn't available to
newspaper astrologers obliged to forecast
the same fate for thousands of readers
under each birthsign, they also make predictions according to the first letter of people's names. For example, those born under
Leo (Si; lh) are likely to be given names
beginning with k, i. m and I.
Most papers, however, find it simpler to
follow the western system so that readers
need only look up their birthdays and signs
to know their fate for the coming week. One
of our Sunday supplements carries a column
by Peter Vidal from London. Readers are
unaware that he is dead and that the forecasts are made in his name by a syndicate. I
read somewhere that when the column
failed to arrive on time on more that two
occasions junior reporters sat down and
wrote up the forecasts.
Says one pundit" Astrology is more than a
science, because science is based on fixed
data, while here, the subject goes beyond
the laboratory and covers the general universe." This particular astrologer also writes
very popular scripts for comic books.
Says another pundit, "Astrology is an
open chart based totally on mathematical
calculations. There is no suspense at all in it.
It works like a computer."
According to a third astrologer, the allegation that it is unscientific and based only
on "sixth sense", the "third eye", or "intuition" is false. "You are born at a particular
moment, when the moon is in a certain sign.
Counted from that, the transits, i.e., the
planetary configurations, appearing in the
Zodiac, are taken into account." This particular pundit has been doing newspaper
columns for thirty-six years.
But if you ask these profound thinkers
why forecasts differ so widely across the
length and breadth of this country or why
can't all of us master this "science", they
begin to bemoan the host of charlatans in
the business who are giving it a bad name.
"Nobody goes into things in depth," says
one. "The same priest who does the horoscopes, also performs ceremonies for birth,
death, and marriages on the same day - for
ten different families. Society is to blame for
this. It doesn't recognize astrology as it used
to do in ancient times. Newspaper forecasts
are nothing but exploitation. Even twins

May, 1985

born of one cell have differences in their


horoscopes, how then can the same thing
apply to all those born in one month? In
olden days the horoscope was made according to the time of conception, because
then even sex was indulged in according to
the time of favourable stars. The right occasion would probably occur just once or twice
a month. Naturally, the products of such
unions were superior human beings. No
wonder that in ancient times, people were
better, maybe illiterate, but at least they
were obedient."
Well, now you know it: the present sad
state of Indian astrology is due to uncontrolled and indiscriminate sexual activity
without any respect for the stars!
It might be mentioned here that "stars"
are not all those we see in the night sky, but
only about twenty-eight - those within the
stages of the moon.
There are some pundits who deny that
astrology is a science. "The predictions are
not made on scientific data," says one, "but
on intuition. The ancient rishis (sages) had
this gift and translated it into language for us.
The practice of astrology helps deepen the
astrologer's intuition."
Another very popular forecaster claims
he takes four hours to work on each column,
which is why he can guarantee you seventy
percent success. "Destiny can't be changed,
but I help you face it, like telling you it's going
to rain anyway, so you better carry an
umbrella." His contention is that astrology is
not only intuition, it is poetry, it is art. "I play
it very naturally. I float, maybe because I'm a
poet."
It is this floater-cum-poet who has strongly denounced the arrival on the Indian
astrology scene of two computer companies, both based in Bombay. You can get
your total future worked out in fourteen
minutes flat. There is no chance of human
error on the more detailed calculations.
The owner of one company declares that
the human astrologer is certainly best and
that he doesn't want to confront tradition.
So they willnot give conclusions, only pure
calculations in their readings. They will not
try and play god.
The two companies are already denouncing each other as frauds, with one accusing
the other of having stolen its programs. "It is
inferior to ours. I should know, I produced

American Atheist

that program."
Predictions come out in Indian-English
but use traditional terminology like "You will
have a lot of cows" which, in modern terms,
means you will flourish. Uranus, Neptune,
and Pluto are excluded, since the ancient
astrologers were unaware of them. Besides,
"other planets have had thousands of years
of charting behind them."
Professional astrologers approach them
with their predictions. If there is any divergence the man is made to see the error of his
ways and goes offfeeling foolish. Computers
can't lie. "We've had astrologers coming to
us from Delhi to settle disputes," says one
manager. "As far as calculations go the best
astrologer can't compare with us. What
we're saying is simple: Only God knows for
sure. But we are among the people next to
"
Him,
With that kind of sponsorship, digitized
forecasting is going to make serious inroads
on traditional preserves and challenge the
poets and intuitionists now earning their
bread by making suckers of us. For the sake
of novelty, a number of newspapers will
soon start dishing up computerized forecasts. This willsend a lot of respected sages
into the wilderness.
What are the gravest charges against
digitized astrology?
It makes no allowance for essentially
human factors like soul, presentiment, or
intuition. One of the most widely read as-

trology magazines published from Bangalore


declares on its masthead 'Those who know
astrology can only indicate in a way what will
take place in the future. Who else, except
the Creator Brahma, can say with certainty
what willdefinitely happen?"
(The publisher of this magazine was once
challenged by the rationalists to demonstrate his craft at a public meeting at which
he would read the fate of a number of
unknown people from their palm prints. A
considerable crowd assembled, keen to see
the astrologer triumph. He didn't show up.)
Most astrologers who otherwise insist
forecasting is scientific will blame errors on
faulty data about birth times, or the intervention of some unseen element. To make
doubly certain most also use numerology,
palmistry, signs, and omens, along with
planetary positions. All this puts a computer
at a disadvantage. A mere machine can't
cultivate intuition. It can't scan a client's
palm. It knows nothing about I-Ching, tarot
cards, dreams, signs, and omens, or even
the actual time at which the question is
asked (horary astrology).
A computer doesn't understand human
psychology. It doesn't have the human ability to touch, soothe, and reassure the person in distress. It can't talk smoothly. It can't
con people into feeling good about being told
what they want to hear. It is faceless. It is
unresponsive. It is cold. As an off-shoot of
technology, it has no soul.

"In India at least," declares the poet-cumconman who functions largely on intuition,
"the astrologer is the therapist. While there
are a few bad eggs, there are quite a few
astrologers not lacking in integrity, understanding, patience, knowledge, skills and
basic psychology, out to heal, and many
times succeeding in this mission. Oyotishi
(Astrology) means the light of God and for
that we need the divine element, and that,
surely, cannot be supplied by the computer.
The reading, therefore, cannot be totally
fulfillingfrom the human viewpoint."
In other words, brother, there are more
ways than one of parting fools from their
money. And who should know better than
old pros like us?

IMPI

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

hi the

year 1978, your editors, assisted


by Joseph Edamaruku, editor of an
Indian Atheist publication, combed
India seeking writers who would
consistently offer an interpretation of
Indian religious events. Margaret
Bhatty, in Nagpur, a well-known
feminist journalist, agreed that she
would do so in the future. She joined
the staff of the American Atheist in
January, 1983.

m--I-

D_I_A_L-_A_N_-_A_T_H_E_IS_T_I __

tR

The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments on state/church separation
issues and viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.
Tucson, Arizona
San Francisco, California
South Bay (San Jose), California
Denver, Colorado
South Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Northren Illinois
Des Moines, Iowa
Lexington, Kentucky
Boston, Massachusettes
Detroit, Michigan
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Austin, Texas

(602) 623-3861
(415) 668-8085
(408) 377-8485
(303) 692-9395
(305) 925-7167
(404) 455-8860
(312) 335-4648
(515) 266-6133
(606) 278-8333 .
(617) 969-2682
(313) 721-6630
(612) 566-3653
(505) 884-7360

Schenectady, New York


Sierra Nevada
Columbus, Ohio
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Austin, Texas--DIALHouston, Texas
Dial-A-Gay-Atheist
Salt Lake City, Utah
Northern Virginia

May, 1985

(518) 346-1479
(702) 972-8203
(614) 294-0300
(405) 677-4141
(503) 771-6208
(412) 734-0509
THE-ATHEIST_(512)

458-5731

(713) 664-7678
(713) 527-9255
(801) 364-4939
(703) 280-4321

Page 29

HISTORICAL NOTES
100 Years Ago ...
The Truth Seeker of one hundred years
ago reflects a continuing activity on behalf of
what it describes as "liberalism." Issued
weekly in New York City as a sixteen-page
tabloid-size newspaper, much of the reporting was of organizational activity, coincident with lecturing. In city after city, spokespersons were welcomed by the mayor and
had lengthy exchanges with leading politicians including state and federal representatives and senators. There were five issues
of the Truth Seeker printed in May, 1885,
and the activity during this spring or early
summer month is typical.
Samuel P. Putnam and Charles Watts
were lecturing in the West under the auspices of the American Secular Union. Robert
G. Ingersoll was then president of the National Liberal League, Watts was Vice President, and Putnam was Secretary. The League was headquartered at 33 Clinton Place,
in New York City.
The lecturers were greated with much
sympathy in Liberal, Missouri, which had
been founded as an "infidel" town. The
editor of the local newspaper and the owners
of the National Hotel escorted the speakers
and entertained them. The newspaper
write-ups were highly complimentary. Mr.
Putnam's talks were on "The Demands of
Humanity" and "The New Heaven and
Earth" while those of Watts' were on "Secularism and Christianity" and "The Aims and
Methods of Liberalism." The lectures, which
lasted two days, found capacity audiences.
The series was repeated in Ft. Scott,
Wichita, and Dodge City. In the latter town
the Opera House was filled to hear the
atheist speakers and the reception was so
warm that Putnam and Watts stayed an
extra day to deliver additional addresses.
The schedule was grueling - April 25th to
27th in Kansas City, Missouri; May 3rd in
Chicago, Illinois;May 10th in Grand Rapids,
Michigan; May 12th and 13th in Springport,
Michigan; May 14th in Sturgis, Michigan;
May 15th at Auburn, Indiana; May 24th in
Louisville, Kentucky; May 28th in Nashville,
Tennessee; May 29th at Cleveland, Ohio;
May 31st at Alliance, Ohio; June 7th at
Canton, Ohio; June 21st at Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania; and June 28th at Salamanca,
New York. It was not uncommon at all to
have 1000 to 1,600 attendees at such lectures. It was necessary to end the series at
Albany, New York where they were to meet
with Robert G. Ingersoll and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton at the Freethought Convention of
1885 in that city. It should be remembered
that this type of lecture circuit riding was
undertaken when the major form of transportation was by train or horse carriage.
In Dodge City, the sheriff of the county

Page 30

agreed to be an organizer for the Secular


Union. In Wichita, one Mr. Mathewson, "the
first white man to ever set foot in Kansas"
volunteered for the job. The Governor (Mr.
McComas) was highly flattering in his remarks to the newspaper concerned with
both Putnam and Watts. He was the author
of two books, The Divine Problem and The
Religion of Christ. In the latter book, he
claimed that evidence made it clear that
Christ did not die upon the cross but
survived for many years. In the former, he
presented Platonic and Pantheistic philosophy. In Kansas City, Judge Arnold Krekel
undertook to assist in setting up a Secular
Union chapter.
In each city, the newspapers reported
most favorably on the speakers, the Kansas
City News, for example, stating that they
were, "two public teachers of exceptional
excellence. . . . These gentlemen come
among us to voice the new gospel of that
. already large and rapidly increasing army of
truth seekers who believe in the authority of
truth and that alone, whether in the old or
new creed, whether founded on religious or
scientific grounds ... "
Meanwhile, C. B. Reynolds was lecturing
at Philadelphia on the subject "Why I Left
The Pulpit," and the Truth Seeker was
attempting to raise enough money to purchase a tent for him so that he, too, could
start touring. Another ex-minister, J. H.
Burnham, was hitting the lecture trail in
Michigan and in Canada - always to packed
houses.
While this was going on in the United
States, the Central Committee of the University of Rome was soliciting money through
the Truth Seeker for the purpose of erecting
a monument to Giordana Bruno in the
Piazza Dampo de Fiori. It had collected,
internationally - with the help of Charles
Bradlaugh of England - 7000 francs and
had obtained interest on the money so that
the fund was 8,500 francs. A deputy of the
Italian Parliament, the celebrated sculptor
Ettore Ferrari, was chosen to make the
statue.
During May, Ingersoll was delivering his
lecture on "Blasphemy" in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. W. F. Jamieson was in Minnesota to deliver lectures
every Sunday during May in St. Cloud, Sauk
Rapids, Fergus Falls, Breckenridge, Moorehead, Glyndon, Herman, Morris, Lake City,
and intermediate points. And W. S. Bell was
lecturing in Elgin and Rochelle, Illinois on a
continuing tour of that state. Also, two
generals of the U. S. Army were speaking in
favor of freethought throughout the same
state, General Trumbull and General Stiles.
The Chicago Liberal League, meeting in
Hershey Hall, presented "a beautiful gold
watch and chain" to its president in apprecia-

May, 1985

tion of her services in that city. E. Walker,


meanwhile, began his lecture series in
Omaha, Nebraska, whence he continued
into the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota.
The Park Commissioners of New York, in
May, passed a resolution to open the Museums of Art and Natural History in Central
Park to the free use of the public on Sunday,
in direct opposition to the wishes of the
religious organizations in that city.
At the end of the month, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a decision on a
case challenging the public statutes which
declared "whoever travels on the Lord's
day, except from necessity or charity, shall
be punished by a fine not exceeding ten
dollars for each offense." It found that if a
man takes a short walk "for air and exercise," or to "call on a neighbor," he is not an
unlawful traveler or breaker of the Sunday
law. In reaching this conclusion, the court
laid much stress on the brevity and innocent
purpose of the walk. The editor of the Truth
Seeker opined, "This decision is enouraging
and indicates that some time in the latter
part of the twentieth century Massachusetts
willhave outgrown her pantalet and pinafore
days."
In Dubuque, Iowa, the Young Men's Christian Association sold its effects, closed its
doors and disbanded, for lack of financial
and other encouragement from the citizens
of the city. And the Congregational minister
was forced to resign and seek another
congregation as the church split over the
Harrison-Blaine presidential race.
In Stockholm, Sweden, there was formed
a "Society for Religious Freedom" which, it
was hoped, would reach to Finland also in an
effort to effectuate separation of state and
church in both countries. It was the declared
aim of the society "to abolish all those laws,
regulations, and institutions that still bind
together church and state."
In all of these efforts, the seeds of the
destruction of the organizations were evident since all of the secular unions, the
religious freedom groups, the liberal leagues
held open membership as being "undenominational." Each group took up "a position of
complete neutrality as regards the personal
opinion of its members in matters of religion." Reading the reports it is obvious that
spiritualists - the ghost watchers of the era,
those who communed with the dead over
Ouija boards and in seances, Unitarians,
Congregationalists,
Quakers, and "liberal" clergy of all establishment churches
were welcomed into the ranks.
And every group was plagued with political schisms. The umbrella under which they
all operated was too wide, attempted to take
in too many opinions, and failed because of
the weight of the diversified burdens which
were undertaken. 00

American Atheist

American Atheist Radio Series / Madalyn O'Hair

THE FLOOD AND ARK STORIES


When the first installment of a regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute, weekly American Atheist radio series on KTBC 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 on October 18, 1975, when no further funding was available.
The following is the text of American Atheist Radio Series program No. 369, first broadcast on November 21, 1975.

n the date of the writing of this program, Iam to appear on a radio confronO
tation with a gentleman who declares that he
has discovered the Ark of Noah. It seems to
be a propitious time, therefore, to cover
some "Absurdities in the Ark and Flood
Story," as given by Kersey Graves in his
book, The Bible of Bibles, written about a
hundred years ago.
He states:
If there were no other errors or
absurdities in the Bible, our faith in it
would diminish at every step in the
investigation of the ark and flood story
as related in the sixth chapter of
Genesis. The avowed purpose of the
flood, the means employed, and their
failure to accomplish the end desired,
are all at war with our reason and our
moral sense.
1. The first question that naturally
arises in considering this story is, Why
should so many millions of innocent
beings - men, women, children, animals, birds, etc. - perish as a penalty
for the sins of a few thousand people?
2. The reason given for this wholesale destruction was the wickedness
and moral depravity of the human
race. But is it true that the whole
human race was in that state at that
period? According to Manetho and
Herodotus, Egypt was in a state of
high civilization and moral culture ...
China was also far advanced in the
arts of civilization and in morality ...
India (was) in a similar condition.
There could, therefore, be no justice
in drowning all these nations in order
to punish a few thousand rambling
Jews ...
3. An enlightened moralist of the
present day would decide that it was a
species of injustice to destroy all the
land animals, and let the fishes and
aquatic animals live. It looks like partiality ...

Austin, Texas

6. But "Noah found grace in the


eyes of the Lord," and was placed at
the head of this grand scheme; being,
as was assumed, although a drunkard, the most righteous man that
could be found.
7. The Lord instructed him to build
an ark five hundred and fifty feet long,
ninety feet wide, and fifty-fivefeet high
- about the size of an eastern warehouse. Think of putting two of every
species of animal, and seven of every
species of clean beast, and fowls of the
air! - there being one hundred and
fifty thousand, or, as some make it,
five hundred thousand species of animal, one hundred and twelve thousand kinds of birds, and fiftythousand
species of insect. [Kersey Graves
wrote this book in 1879.]
8. And God ordered to be taken
into this ark food sufficient to supply
these millions of mouths. This alone
would have required forty such vessels ...
10. Consider for a moment what
amount of food would be required for
each species of animal. The four elephants ... would consume a ton of
hay in two days, making more than
one hundred and fifty tons in twelve
months. The fourteen rhinoceroses
would consume one thousand and
fiftytons. And then the horses, cattle,
sheep, goats, asses, zebras, antelopes, and other mammalia, would
require at least two thousand tons
more; making in the aggregate three
thousand two hundred tons ...
11. The seven hundred and eightyfour thousand birds (one hundred and
twelve thousand species) would require grain, which would make it necessary to store several thousand
bushels.
12. The three thousand flesh-eating
animals, including lions (one lion
could eat fifteen pounds a day), cats, .

May, 1985

dogs, jackals, hyenas, skunks, weasels, crocodiles, snakes, eagles,


hawks, buzzards, etc., would require
about forty wagon-loads to be slaughtered and fed to them each day; for all
would require fresh meat but the
buzzards.
13. And otters, minks, gulls, kingfishers, spoonbills, storks, etc., would
require fish for food, which must be
either preserved in tanks for the purpose, or one hundred and fifty persons would have to be employed all
the time in catching them; and there
were only four men to do this and
perform all other labor. ..
14. There were nine hundred species of fly-catchers, - those that feed
on flies, beetles, and other insects. We
are not informed whether flies were
included in the registered list or not;
but they would, of course, be impudent enough to take up their quarters
in the vessel without invitation.
15. About two hundred and fifty
birds known as bee-catchers would
have to be supplied with this kind of
insect: this would be, to say the least,
rather stinging business.
16. Many cans of cockroaches must
have been saved to feed the birds-ofparadise.
17. There are several kinds of anteaters also, which would have required much time to be spent in
searching for ants in the cracks of the
vessel, or in collecting them off the
water.
18. The four hundred and forty-two
monkeys would require fresh fruit;
and it is not probable anybody had the
forethought to can it for them.
19. Sixty-five species of animal feed
on insects; and it would have been
necessary for several persons to
spend most of their time in crawling
after millipeds, fleas, wood-lice, etc.
20. There would have been work for

Page 31

fiftyboys in providing leaves and flowers (if there were any possibility that
they could be obtained while merged
in twenty-seven feet of water) for the
animals that feed on these things.
21. Besides food, fresh water must
have been stored up for most of these
animals, as they could not have endured the salty water of the briny
deep.
22. Noah and his family must have
studied ornithology and natural history many years to know what kind of
food to save for the various kinds of
birds and animals.
23. Naturalists estimate that there
are fourteen different climates, each
with animals adapted only to the temperature and natural growth of that
locality. How, then, could they all
endure the change of being removed
to the vicinity of Mount Ararat. ...
24. And think of the immense labor
required to obtain this innumerable
collection of animals! In the first place,
either Noah or his God must make a
trip to the polar regions to obtain the
white bear, the reindeer, the polar
dog, etc.
25. And then the Rocky Mountains
must be scaled to find and catch the
grizzly bear. Some time and labor
must have been required to obtain the
rattlesnakes, copperheads, vipers, cobras, snapping turtles, etc., of the
torrid zone ...
27. To do all this hunting and catching, and conveying to the ark, of the
million and a half birds and animals,
would have required a larger number
of persons than Napoleon or Xerxes
ever commanded; for, as the whole
thing is related as a natural occurrence, we can not assume that they
made the journey of their own accord
29. And how could this immense
multitude of respiring and perspiring
animals live and breathe in a vessel
with but one little twenty-two-inch
window, and that in the third story,
and shut up most of the time to keep
the rain out ... How could they be
kept thus for a whole year without
breeding pestilence and death?
30. All animals require light; and
total darkness must have reigned in
the two lower stories ...
32. We are told that "fifteen cubits
upward did the water prevail, and the
mountains were covered." Fifteen cu. bits (twenty-seven feet) would not
cover nine-tenths of the buildings now
on earth. Ararat is seventeen thousand feet, and Everest twenty-nine
thousand feet high ...
34. Who or what conducted the ark

Page 32

to Ararat when the waters subsided?


In the Brahminical flood story a fish is
said to have performed this feat, and
dragged it to Mt. Hinavat; but Noah
and Moses are silent on this point.
35. The peak of Ararat is perpetually covered with snow and ice;
hence it must have been rather difficult and dangerous of the biped and
quadruped cargo to descend from it.
36. And what was there to prevent
the nine hundred carnivorous animals
from devouring the sheep, hogs, poultry, :abbits, minks, hedgehogs, etc.,
as they tumbled pell-mell down the
mountain together ...
38. Many Oriental nations have
traditions of a flood, and some of them
of several floods. Xisuthrus of Chaldea built a ship, in which he saved
himself and family during a mighty
flood which overflowed the world;
also Fohi of China, Menu of the Brahmins, Satravarta of India, and Deucalion of Greece. Hence it appears
that there were several families saved
besides that of Noah's. Egypt and
India have stories of two floods occurring at different periods ... All these
stories are evidently older than that
recorded in the Judeo-Christian
Bible ...
40. Lepsius has traced the existence of several races or tribes of
negroes up to a period within fortyeight years of Noah's flood; this would
seem to indicate that some of Noah's
family were negroes ...
41. The dynasties of Egyptian kings
can be traced back several thousand
years before Noah's time ...

43. And the assumed divine author


of the flood admitted it was an utter
failure, - that it entirely failed to
accomplish the end intended; for it
was declared but a few centuries after,
that "the imagination of man's heart is
evil, and only evil, continually," which
is evidence that the wicked folks were
not all drowned by the world's inundation.
44. With respect to the many difficulties and impossibilities I have enumerated as lying in the way of carrying
out this experiment of the flood, it is
sometimes argued in defense, that, as
the whole thing was in the hands of
God, such obstacles would not be a
straw in his way. But such persons
have failed to notice that it is nowhere
stated or implied that it was to be
accomplished by miracles. A miracle
could have destroyed all the wicked
inhabitants of the earth in a moment,
without any flood or other means.
45.... It is declared over and over
again, that the whole earth was covered with water, and every living thing
destroyed. If it had been only a partial
deluge, all that would have been necessary for Noah to do to save himself
and familywould have been to migrate
to some dry country; and the doomed
sinners might have saved themselves
in this way ...
47. One thing in connection with
this flood story is not clearly explained
in the Bible: Methuselah's time was
not out until ten months after the
flood began, according to Bible chronology. Where was he during this ten
months?

What is your opinion of nuclear


disarmament Blackwell ?
Blackwell !

May, 1985

American Atheist

NA TURE'S WA Y / Gerald Tholen

"
"
" will, I
Thehope,titlerelayof tothisyouarticle,
specifically the area

of discussion I would like to emphasize in a


precise and easy to understand manner.
You will, of course, immediately recognize
that"
" carries no hint of communication, no symbolism, no tangible or ascertainable information of any nature. It has no
dimension, no measurable qualities, in fact,
no existence at all.
I could have given the article any of
several identifying names such as "nothingness," "much to-do about nothing," or "no
place." Any such title would perhaps have
been suitable. However, such words (titles)
have been used repeatedly in conversations,
in explanations, and - of all unpardonable
places - in science. Those of you who have
read some of my past essays may be aware
that Itry diligently to stress the use of proper
terminology and definitions in order to eliminate any chance of inadvertant misunderstanding. Yet, little by little, I get the feeling
that words like nothingness are perhaps
intended to inject some seemingly innocent
attempts at idea simplification in areas where
lengthy explanations would otherwise be
necessitated. I then compare the use of such
words to certain colloquial expressions like:
"he didn't go anyplace." The fact is that it is
quite impossible for someone not to go
anyplace. To prove a point may I offer
another colloquialism, "everybody's gotta
be someplace!" The proper statement in this
case would have been, "he did not change
the location of his presence," or, perhaps,
"he did not go to a different place." Now this
little illustration may seem to be irrelevant to
any serious discussion and Iwould not waste
your time with it if I did not think that there
exists some behind-the-scenes similarity between such inappropriate use of colloquial
language and certain professional journalistic expressions - and also the use of
certain words and expressions in the contemporary fields of science.
Actually, I had originally intended to write
about an entirely different subject matter
this month but I was quite intrigued by the
comments of a gentleman who wrote to me
in response to some of my statements in a
prior article (one that did have a title):
"While Hell Freezes Over," American
Atheist, March 1985. As you will see, his
letter centered primarily on the legitimacy of

Austin, Texas

the use (or non-use) of the word nothingness


as a descriptive noun in scientific writing and
the subsequent comprehensibility of such
"scientific" writings. I was happy to receive
his very nice letter and I think it may indeed
be helpful in demonstrating a point that I feel
is important to all (including myself) persons
who seek to understand the basic operational principles of the system ordinarily
refered to as the Universe.
The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Tholen,
I enjoy reading your articles in the
American Atheist each month. Since I
am an Atheist I usually agree generally
with your viewpoints. I doubt if the
two of us have any basic disagreements.
It is only for your edification (Ihope)
that I am sending you these reprints of
three articles on the question of the
development of the observable universe.
In your March 1985 article entitled
"While Hell Freezes Over" you stated
that you were "astonished" and "staggered" by the statements of book
reviewer David Schramm (who is a
physicist) particularly the one about".
.. everything (having been) generated
from nothingness".
Although I could be wrong since I
don't know Mr. Schramm nor have I
contacted him, I believe you took Mr.
Schramm's statement literally when
he was just being cute, i.e., speaking
allegorically and somewhat facetiously.
Of course, hard-nosed Atheists
such as ourselves would prefer highenergy physicists to speak in a straightforward manner, but some of their
discoveries and theories the last few
years are so far-out and hard to express to lay people that they sometimes wax a little too poetical for the
average rationalist's taste.
As you will see from the enclosed
articles "nothingness" is a term widely
used by modern-day reputable physicists to describe a natural (not mystical or supernatural) "reality" - from
which emerged through natural evolutionary processes the observable

May, 1985

"
universe, including, of course, ourselves.
Physicists talk about "space-time,"
about how there really isn't any
"things," that each "thing" so called is
really an "event" or "process." If
you've ever read any of the works of
Albert Einstein, the idea that "space"
is "curved" and that it can be warped
by the presence of matter shows that
the idea "nothing" is just a human
abstraction that may not have any
corollary in the real world. Space can
have properties, ergo it really isn't
"empty."
The "atomistic" or "mechanistic"
materialism of the nineteenth century
is not the "state of the art" view of
reality today. "Matter", i.e. atoms or
even the particles which make up
atoms revealed in the cyclotrons of
the high energy physicists, may just be
something which emerged or evolved,
naturally and spontaneously from a
deeper type of "material" reality so
strange that atheistic physical scientists may refer to it as "nothingness."
Just as "mind" evolved or emerged in
time from "life,"which in turn emerged
naturally and spontaneously from
"matter," matter in turn emerged from
-what? Nothingness, something that
is impossible to describe in terms of
matter, energy, and even space-time.
Knowledge, even for Atheists, is
never certain and neuer complete.
The problem is that the latest findings
of physics, the ultimate science, is
beyond anything we've thought of or
experienced before, so that even comprehensible language to describe it
needs to be invented. Just keep in
mind that the term nothingness used
by modern day physicists doesn't reference any mysticism, supernaturalism, or Platonian idealism. Ninety percent plus of physicists are Atheists,
i.e. materialists.
J. L.
In answer to his comments several things
might be helpful. First, for clarity, the standard dictionary definition of nothingness 1. The condition or quality of being nothing;
non-existence. 2. Insignificant.

Page 33

As you can see already, there exists some


difficulty because definitions one and two
(the only ones listed in the dictionary I
happen to be holding) are quite contradictory. Insignificant certainly does not imply
non-existence It only implies small or relatively unimportant. Non-existent, on the other
hand, is quite precise. If a "scientist" uses
the word nothingness to describe a condition wherefrom matter or energy can be
"created," does he mean from a condition of
absolute non-existence, as implied, or from
a status of insignificance (small or relatively
unimportant). In either case, I find the use of
the expression ridiculous. On the one hand
it would imply that the "insignificant" material- whatever it may be (including allof the
known particles or sub-particles and possibly including yet even smaller unknown
quantities that are yet unmeasurable by
present devices) is not so insignificant as to
render it incapable of generating all of the
matter and the energy of the entire universe.
On the other hand, we're left only the asinine
insinuation that all of this matter and/or
energy derives from "non-existence." But
then, perhaps I am a bit slow in my understandings of the English language. Perhaps
Mr. L. is correct in saying that there may be
other implied meanings in certain writings
that are only allegorically intended. It would
be interesting then to know how noted
physicists like David Schramm, Steven
Weinberg, John Wheeler, and Carl Sagan
actually define the word "nothingness" in
both common and scientific language. Do
they simply mean insignificant or do they
mean non-existent?
It may not seem important to anyone
impressed by flowery i.e. allegorical (abstract or spiritual) meanings inserted into
contemporary explanations. It is quite common to ordinary conversation. In fact it is so
common that, quite often, language borders
on the edge of having little or no material
meaning at all. Not so, you say? Then let's
consider a noun that has been used over the
ages in fictional literature: cockatrice (a
legendary monster with a deadly glance,
supposedly hatched by a serpent from the
egg of a cock, and commonly shown with the
body of a serpent and the head, tail, and
wings of a cock). Now cockatrices are
mentioned in various mythological writings
including the Judeo-Christian Bible (Isaiah
11:8,14:29,59:5, Jeremiah 8:17). Most people can instantly visualize (mentally) the
image of a cockatrice when the word is
uttered. Yet, there is no uniformly accepted
nor universally-agreed-to concept which positivelyidentifies a cockatrice. It is because, of
course, there has never been, nor is there
now, nor willthere ever be such a creature.
It is forever non-existent!
I am simply trying to explain that there are
many words, concepts, expressions, and
mythological insinuations that have no basis

Page 34

in fact. And they never have had. Yet, these


meaningless sound utterances by human
vocal cords, conjured from the wanderings
of human imagination, are quite abundant in
everyday language.
George Orwell, in his book 1984 predicted
that we would experience a time of "doublespeak" or "double-think"; that we would
come to make a practice of uttering sounds
with intentionally misdirected meanings. He
was only partly right, of course. We have
always had with us the essence of doublespeak end double-think - and by everyone
in general. Perhaps he intended to imply that
this practice would only be noticable in the
politics of authoritarian rule. If people have
been, as I claim, historically preconditioned
to such a practice, there is little difficulty
indeed required to transfer such 'garbage
language' tactics to partisan nationalism and
entire nations of people can then easily be
deceptively led down the garden path of
pompous ignorance.
As time goes on I'm sure that more and
more people will begin to realize that a
goodly portion of the descriptive terms
and/or concepts developed over the ages
will eventually come to be regarded as
useless simply because many of the expressions are factually meaningless. The colloquialization of language, while perhaps
innocent of harmful intent, is, nevertheless,
harmful when applied to certain areas where
strictly formal language is required for the
purpose of scientific understanding. One
could hardly apply colloquializations (misuse
of formal expressions) to mathematics. I
cannot imagine that Frank Zindler, also a
writer in American Atheist magazine and an
articulate biologist, would use the word
"cockatrice" in his discussions of evolutionary processes! Why then, should noted
physicists use the word nothingness (which
describes absolutely nothing) in their ex
planations of the origins or physical generative processes of material energy substances? I will answer my own question
-again. It is because physics, along with
biology and all other branches of scientific
study, is infested with people who do not
understand its basic principles. People like
Frank Zindler (and many others) have been
fighting (intellectually) for years to expel the
progenitors of "creationism" from the
studies of natural biology. They have had to
do so in order to purge mythology from the
pages of science texts. Why? It is because
ignorance of the facts of scientific investigation has been perpetuated in the minds of
non-scholarly people for so many centuries
that words like "cockatrice" are readily
accepted common language. (So much so
that it has come to be accepted as having
what appears to be a "universal understanding".) Everybody seems to "know"
what a cockatrice looks like. Similarly, everybody "knows" what Santa Claus looks like

May, 1985

- at at least in the English-speaking nations.


My point is that "nothingness" has the
same descriptive qualities as both cockatrice and Santa Claus - or god for that
matter. It is a "special" word intended to filla
void in the minds of naive people by those
who lack scientific answers to yet unanswered questions in quantum physics and in
numerous physical theoretics.
Mr. L. suggested, in his letter, that I,
perhaps, may not be acquainted with certain
Einsteinian ideas about "space." To the
contrary, and as I have mentioned in other
articles, Einstein held two separate and
totally different concepts of "space." One, of
course, is the popularly-quoted statement
that "space displays curvature." Einstein
was aware that space, in its entirety - at
every point in the universe (cosmos or
whatever) -is occupied by substances either static (material) or kinetic (energy).
And, throughout all of these substances in
the "observable" system, those energies or
materials, by natural cause, tend to "warp"
or curve rather than travel in geometrically
straight lines. Newton also was aware of this
totally natural phenomenon. Many people
are not aware of the second definition of
space which Einstein also recognized: that
empty space - devoid of all energy and
atomic substance could not possible have
any shape - curved or otherwise. This is
simply because "empty space," which does
not exist, could not possibly be fitted with
characteristics which apply only to existing
things i.e., size, shape, and all the other
terms applicable only to "some things" (existences).
In the opening paragraph of Mr. L's letter
he stated that he and I are essentially on the
same "wavelength" in so far as basic physics
(Ipresume) is concerned. Yet he later states
(last paragraph) "Knowledge, even for
Atheists, is never certain and never complete." This, of course, is far from correct.
Once again I will say here for all people to
either understand (or disagree with) - two
plus two equals four, period, end of discussion. Likewise, something - some form of
measurable, empirical substence - cannot
be generated (manufactured) from nothing,
excalmation point -likewise, end of discussion.
The idea that certain departments of
knowledge are (and forever will be) subject
to amendment - or worse yet, abandonment, is the argument of the philosopher
- not the true scientist. Some may lackadaisically infer that nothing is sure - no
information complete; that gravity is not perpetual and, in fact, somewhere, someday
- a rock may fall upward instead of downward. The Bible is full of such crap, and
appropriately so - it is a book of meaningless words and ideologies. I am greatly
saddened that stories from the Bible and
from Little Bo Peep and other folklore and

American Atheist

fairy tales are so ingrained in the human


imagination that, at times, they overlap into
those portions of the human mind that
should be exclusively reserved for factual
realism.
The few people who are dedicated to the
scientific method are in an extraodrinarily
precarious position. They are dedicated to
the task of questioning not only the information related by their colleagues but even
to a relentless evaluation of their own
thoughts and theories. It is their nature to
question and analyze. When proven physical laws are finally and arduously determined, how easy it seems for the unscholarly
philosophical dreamer to refute the findings
on the basis of something they call faith simply because they have been mind-trained
by society into an obedience that parallels
whatever primitive fanaticism happens to be
in vogue.
I willtherefore make the followingoffer to
anyone. For every bit of "nothingness" any
reader sends to me I willsend them a crisp,
new one hundred dollar bill. Of course, if I
receive a blank postcard or a letter on which
nothing is written, or an empty box, let me
remind you that you have, in fact, sent me
something nevertheless. The only way in
which any clever hopeful could possibly
"win" the challenge is to send me nothing! In
which case, of course, I could not possibly
respond with payment.
"Nothingness" is simply an extension of
primitive ignorance - whether used in science or common language and it is not, as I
have stated, alone in this role. The language
we use in all aspects of our culture is equally
distorted and/or misused. What of our socalled legal system of justice? Is there truly
equal treatment "under the law," or are our
laws adjustable to circumstance? Can a
socially "repulsive" individual be judged on
the same considerations afforded the more
acceptable types? Here again, words can be
twisted to suit the equally twisted egos of the
majority. The prejudices of stored memory,
the bigoted little attachments to the various
minorities, are often subconsciously included in the treatment of those individuals
during the legal estimations and evaluations
of human rights.
When laws are slanted so as to be made
into retalitory clubs which are wielded by a
particular social class, can those same laws
be legitimately called a "legal system?" What
about another word in our own system of
communication - treaty! Is it an equitable
agreement between two warring states in
order to bring an orderly end to hostilities?
Not hardly! In nearly all cases, especially in
more recent history, it is not an agreement
at all, but rather, it is a dictum issued to the
vanquished explaining how the conqueror
plans to change previous geographical circumstances and also rape the economic
stability of a defeated people. Why don't we

Austin, Texas

call it that? Similar perversions of language


occur in every facet of human interaction.
I rather think that the problem of wrongful
usage of language expressions lies in a
psychological corner of the human brain
which is scarcely recognized. People like to
think of themselves as being fair-minded,
considerate, compassionate, extremely intelligent, and all things that are "nice." In
order to maintain this 'cloak of dignity and
goodness and brilliant intellect, we must
stick to a particular web of word utterance
and/or writings. After all, one should not be
"obscene," should one? Therefore our primitive religious concepts of good and evil
enter even into the very words that we speak
- quite often in an unrealized manner.
There are two ways in which we achieve
this vocal prudery. One, of course, is quite
commonly understood - it is the pluralistic
system wherein many words have identical
meanings. Some of them have been labeled
usable in society and some have not. We all
know that there are dozens of utterances
describing body functions and sexuality, and
we all know which of them are "acceptable."
This, of course, is not the area with which
this article concerns itself. I am concerned
here only with the lie; the intentionally
deceptive device in communication - or the
meaningless words and phrases which leave

the listener with what amounts to an openended, non-instructive statement issued by


someone who also wishes to deceive or by
someone who is actually as ignorant in the
particular area of instruction as is the victimized listener.
One of the favorite pastimes of children is
storytelling. My, how youngsters like to
exaggerate their fantasies in order to impress their young friends. Adults do the
same thing. The "scientist" who may feel
compelled to display his or her genius for all
to see becomes trapped quite often in his or
her own deficiencies. Some, then, not being
able to cope with the lack of complete
comprehension, must resort to cover-ups
that will not betray their ignorance publicly
- so they use expresions like "nothingness." This is most unfortunate. ~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The "common sense" man of Atheism,
Mr. Tholen is the product of
the Gulf Coast marshes of Texas.
While he's not slaving over
the American Atheist
as its Assistant Editor,
he's writing poetry of which
an Atheist movement can be proud.

"YES, J1.lDAS I LJ I<E THE


CAKE ... BUT. .., AH ... ,I

May, 1985

Page 35

.BOOK REVIEWS
Religion on Capitol Hill
Myths and Realities

Who Runs Congress?

ing and relgion-saturated. The authors, however, felt the queries were almost secular.
by Peter L Benson and Dorothy L Williams
One example will suffice to show the
San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row
nature of the survey. Question number 49
224 pages, $11.95
was: Which, if any, of these religious experiences have you had? A legislator, knowing
that the survey is going to be released to the
public and will be seen by (religious) voters
in his home state or district is asked to make
his is a 5%" x 8~" hardback book,
which has been three years in the writ- one of s even choices in response:
A. The experience of having God
ing. Although this is advertised as a scholarly
speaking to me.
book, one must read through an amazing
B. The experience of feeling God's
amount of drivel in the first several chapters
as the authors set out, chatting informally, to
presence.
C. The experience of feeling one
advise of their reasons for writing the book,
how they determined to proceed, with whom
with Sod.
D. The experience of feeling united
they discussed the idea, how it was financed,
with the universe.
the approach to the U. S. Congress, and the
E. A born-again experience in which
sales techniques used to convince the test
Jesus entered my life.
sample subjects to participate in what is said
F. The experience of speaking in
to be a scientific sampling.
tongues.
It appears that "Search Institute" has
G. The experience of specific anexisted in Minneapolis, Minnesota for twenswer to prayer.
ty-three years. It is allegedly an independent,
Even ifone is assured that one's individual
non-profit research group, the purpose of
reply will not be identified, it would be
which is to explore the connections between
political suicide to make a response in conpeople's religious beliefs and their attitudes,
tradiction to the question. The researchers,
values, and behaviors. Since BillyGraham's
however, naively assured themselves that
organization is headquartered in Minneapothis could not happen since the questions
lis, when one reads this "scientific" survey
some questions immediately come to mind were so mundane, even innocuous from
their point of view. Naturally twenty-two
as to whether or not this is a thinly disguised
percent had heard God speak to them,
religious group using the "scientific method"
thirty percent had a born-again experience,
of research to reinforce existing JudeoChristian religious ideology, all under the and seventy-eight percent had felt God's
presence. Over eighty percent felt that the
innocuous pseudo-neutral name of "Search
Institute." The Lutheran Brotherhood and Bible was the word of God, and three
percent babbled in tongues (glossolalia).
the National Endowment for the Humanities
Other queries were simply sickening, as
were the primary donors for the project
undertaken, which was to inspect the im- the true-or-false choices for:
God works to protect and preserve
pact of their religious ideas upon the deciour social institutions and structures.
sions made by legislators in the federal
God has blessed America more
Congress.
than other nations.
Pointing out that only 535 men and womGod has a plan for my life.
en hold the power to set the laws and devise
There is not one Atheist in the United
the policies that govern daily life in the
United States, the authors, with a myriad of States who would NOT be able to predict
the outcome of the survey, another reinassistants (all dutifully mentioned and
thanked) picked a random sample of legis- forcement that "ours is a Christian nation."
The book could easily terrify Atheists,
lators to interview. A total of one hundred
particularly since it points out the almost
and twelve senators and representatives
insurmountable job ahead. Read it; you will
were chosen, of which eighty were actually
immediately triple your support of American
interviewed on tape for thirty-five minutes
each. Prior to the taping, a listing of fifty Atheists and throw yourself bodily, intellectually, and monetarily into the fight.
questions was offered to each interviewee.
All of these surveys, "scientific," popular,
From the answers, one hundred and twenty
four "units of information" related to specific or religious have one prime goal - to
convince each individual in the nation that if
beliefs were given scores, and from this the
he is not religious something is inherently
study was analyzed and conclusions drawn.
Thrity-two of the sample picked, that is, wrong with his personality and his head. It is
a call to the herd of believers, an attempt to
twenty-eight percent, declined to participate
intimidate, psychologically isolate, and bruin the survey. Upon reading the questions,
talize the Atheist.
one understands why there would by so
many refusals. By and large, they are insult-

Page 36

May, 1985

by Mark Green
New York: Dell Publishing Company
428 pages; $4.95

his is a one-inch thick, sturdy paperT


back, 4" x 7", reissued in updated
form four times since its original publication
in 1972. The current release was in late 1984,
and it continues to be the most widely read
book on the nature of the U. S. Congress.
The PACs (Political Action Committees)
have, especially with this year's U. S. Supreme Court decision, taken on particular
significance in the political game. Therefore,
the opening chapter of the book deals with
the reality of their political influence, and the
author names specific legislators with the
amounts of money which influenced them
on particular votes. Next to the PACs,
perhaps the most important bribes to our
politicians come from the practice of giving
"honoraria" to them as speakers.
The book looks over the "lobbies" of
chambers of commerce, the medical associations, business, labor, religion, single-issues,
the New Right, oil, sugar, milk, lawyers, and
consumer protection organizations.
The committees of the U. S. Congress
have inordinate power, and few persons
realize their functions or scope. The impact
of seniority, secrecy, and rules of procedure
need not be an enigma to an ordinary
citizen, and the revelations in the book are
written in clear, concise, and understandable
language.
When it comes to actually looking at the
"rulers" in Congress, the author patiently
reviews Senator Robert Dole, Representative Dan Rostenkowski, and John Dingell,
Henry Waxman, "Tip" O'Neill, Jim Wright,
Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, Edward Kennedy.
One chapter deals with the interaction
between the White House and Congress.
Unfortunately, similar information is not
available concerning the current interaction
between the U. S. Supreme Court and
Congress, as the latter attempts to legislate
around court decisions and the former attempts to abrogate legislation by judicial fiat.
For a touch of the scandalous, one chapter deals with the legislators as miscreants
- engaging in bribery, conspiracy, perjury,
mail fraud, salary kickbacks, campaign financing violations, income tax evasion, extortion, and obstruction of justice.
An especially useful index gives many
addresses to gain additional information
about our Congress. These 535 persons rule
our entire culture and as Atheists, it is
urgently important that we become knowledgeable concerned with the game plan.
American Atheist

ME TOO

"Me Too" is a feature designed to


showcase short essays written by readers in response to topics recently covered by the American Atheist or of
general interest to the atheist community.

contention, are more inclined than are theists to become vegetarians. Atheists are
generally unafraid of "eating the fruit of the
tree of knowledge." They often pride themselves on their intellect and calim to understand their actions. They also claim to have
replaced arbitrary morality with ethics based
upon science and reasoning.
Judeo-Christians generally don't feel as
great a need to ponder the rightness of their
actions. Their faith in the moral authority of
the Bible precludes ethical reasoning. Atheists, on the other hand, don't have their own
little "book of answers." They instead either
follow traditional morality and rationalize
their behavior or search for ethical principles that are practical for daily living.

apparently works to the benefit of the natural order. Predators strengthen the prey
species by weeding out the sick and the
weak. Dominant males produce healthier
offspring by monopolizing the females.
Even though self-interest works for the
animal kingdom, it is not-an ethical principle
but actually just an observation of life.Ethics
imply choice, and one can hardly speak of a
wolf or a bear as being ethical or unethical
because they lack dietary choice.
Our situation is altogether different. Recent science has shown vegetarianism to be
healthy, and our technology has provided an
amazing variety of tasteful alternatives. No
longer are we in the position of primitive man
struggling to survive. We are now faced with
choosing between allowing animals a more
natural existence and causing them needless suffering in the oppressive conditions of
factory farms. (Those readers who still believe that animals are raised a la Old
McDonald in a wholesome environment
then killed painlessly should look into the
caging of hens and the anemic diet forced on
veal calves. The atrocities perpetrated upon
animals in the production of our food, as well
as in medical experimentations, surpass in
number and horror those inflicted upon
ourselves.)

Rationalizing

An Ethical Principle

Benjamin Franklin's wry comment is sadly


true where our treatment of animals is
concerned. He stated, "One of the advantages of being a reasonable creature is that
one can find a reason for whatever one
wants to do." Similarly, Ingersoll wrote, "If
priests had not been fond of mutton, lambs
never would have been sacrificed to God." I
must add, in the same vein, that if Atheists
were not fond of roast beef, they would not
claim such close kinship to carnivorous
animals in dietary matters. Instead, they
would assert the intelligence and compassion of which man is capable.
Most people rationalize eating meat by
discussing taste, habit, and convenience;
though the real clincher for theists is their
god's alleged permission. The main rationalization for eating meat that one hears from
Atheists can be called "the argument from
nature." As other animals eat each other,
we, being a part of nature, are right in doing
so also. This argument is specious because
people are probably the only creatures faced
with such a dietary choice. We borrow the
"ethical" principle of self-interest from observation of the animal kingdom, because it

Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation


and Practical Ethics, puts forth the ethical
principle of equal consideration of interest.
This idea is based somewhat on Jeremy
Bentham's utilitarianism, in which acts are
encouraged that promote pleasure and prevent pain. Singer states that equal consideration of interests suggests "we give equal
weight in our moral deliberations to the like
interest of all those affected by our actions.
This means that if only X and Y would be
affected by a possible act, and if X stands to
lose more than Y stands to gain, it is better
not to do the act."
This is an excellent principle for human
relations. Why not extend it to animals?
Singer argues that the same reason we condemn racism and sexism can be used to
condemn "speciesism" or the arbitrary discrimination against individuals of a different
species. Racists and sexists have claimed
that non-whites and females are less intelligent than white males. If this were, on
average, found to be true, still there would
be non-whites and females who are clearly
more intelligent than some white males.
Using this basis, discrimination against these

Essays submitted to "Me Too" (P.O.


Box 2117, Austin, TX, 78768-2117)
should be 500 to 700 words long.
t amazes and saddens me that most
IAtheists
still eat animals. Atheists, it is my

Austin, Texas

May, 1985

non-whites and females would not be justified.


.
Carried further, one can see that we
would be no more justified in eating pigs than
eating severely retarded humans. Of course,
if intelligence were used to determine one's
rights, it could also be said to be as just to eat
retarded humans as it is to eat animals. This
we find repugnant, yet if an unintelligent
being receives preferential treatment, then
we must ask for what reasons? Ifwe have no
reasons, then we are in the same positions
as the racists and sexists who discriminate
along the lines of race and gender.
The matter of intelligence, though, is
largely irrelevant to equal consideration of
interests. A black woman, a white man, and
a lamb suffer roughly the same when deprived of their basic needs. Most of the
animals we exploit have a nervous system
very much like our own and probably experience pain much as we do. That is the
crux of the matter. A creature has interests
to the extent that it can suffer pain and enjoy
pleasure. Jeremy Bentham extended our
compassion and broadened our sense of
justice when he wrote, "The question is not,
can they reason? nor can they talk? But, can
they suffer?"
Many people claim to love animals. They
dote on their pets and are repelled by
cruelty, blood, and death. On the other
hand, they do not face up to the tragic
results of their everyday decisions. Christian
Morgenstern noted that "if modern civilized
man had to kill the animals he eats, the
number of vegetarians would rise astronomically." Similarly, if people realized the lack
of ethical basis as well as the results of their
dietary choices, they would opt for a more
human lifestyle.
Richard Lyng, President of the American
Meat Institute, in addressing the ethical
question of the propriety of killing animals
for food, said "it is impossible to deal logically with this issue." Atheists know better.
We can deal logically with anything.
"Men ought to be most annoyed by the
sufferings which come from their own faults.

~
- Jamie Massey
Texas

Page 37

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

the main difference between Atheists and


theists is that the former think the law of
probability always holds, whereas the latter
think it stops working somewhere up the
line, and needs to have a "god" to help it out.
That gets 'em every time. Try it.
Ed McCravy
South Carolina

Every easter I always get asked my opinion of the shroud of Turin. The story goes
that jesus's dark tomb was the camera, the
shroud was the film, and the heavenly light
from jesus' ressurection was the flash bulb.
Thus the shroud is a snapshot of jesus one
second before he rose from the dead. I
always say Ithink it's a fake like the Piltdown
man hoax. I wish I had some information on
the shroud which I could know to be unbiased. We Atheists need to discredit this
shroud because it's being used as "undeniable evidence" of the resurrection. I'd like
to hear what other Atheists think about the
shroud. Has it really passed all the scientific
tests for authenticity as is claimed?
Another area we need to delve more into
is the one-shot big bang theory . Too many
scientific people equate the one-shot big
bang with "god's creation." I favor the
oscillatinguniverse theory: big-bang-collapsebig-bang-collapse-big-bang-collapse, ad infinitum. This way there was never a beginning,
and matter/energy needs no creator. The
oscillating universe theory also helps defeat
probability arguments for goddism. Some
argue that 10 billionyears is not enough time
for enough random trials to have been made.
to produce something as unlikely as the
process of life. But with the oscillating universe theory, if necessary each big bang
could even be considered as a separate trial.
Speaking of probability I'd like to report
that I've had some good results lately in
making christians think just by flipping pennies. I shake three pennies around in my
hand and let them fall randomly on the
carpet. I do this over and over until they all
fallheads. then I say. "See, I very disorderdly
tossed these coins into the perfect order of
all heads. And what's more they fellthis way
without any help from god! If the law of
chance can cause a few disordered objects
to come into perfect order in a few trials
without 'divine help', then don't you think
that same law of chance can cause zillions of
objects or particles to come into perfect
order in zillions and zillions of trials, also
without god's help?" Then I simply say that

Page 38

As a modern day Atheist, I am always


pleased to hear of contemporary souls (no
pun intended), especially celebrities, shedding their ancestral beliefs and challenging
today's religious dogmas.
The American Atheist magazine (May
1984) ran an article regarding George
Carlin's attitude and jokes about his catholic
background. John Lennon's song "Imagine"
has been called a banner for Atheism. Well,
now we can add the name of Bruce Lee Siu
Loong to the list of famous non-believers.
In Alex Ben Block's paperback The Legend of Bruce Lee, our Kung Fu hero told the
author in 1972 that he did not believe in god.
Lee's wife is quoted as saying, "he believed
man is a self-made product. Bruce believed
religions divide people, just as styles divide
people. If all the religions of the world were
one, the world would be united in brotherhood." Bruce was brought up to believe that
if you want something done, do it, and don't
ask a god for the impossible.
I think that the fundamentalist abortion
clinic burners have fulfilledtheir own desires
and are using god as a scapegoat for their
villainous crimes. They obviously do not
possess the mental capacity to act on their
own. Bruce Lee would say that being one
with the mind and body is the only way to
accomplish anything. Physically, the antiabortionists can destroy a building, but they
have no spirit to bless them for their performance. To say that they are carrying out
the willof god is hogwash.
Gerald P. Lunderville
California

Gerald Tholen is mistaken when he attacks the notion that matter can be created

May, 1985

from nothing ("Nature's Way," American


Atheist, March 1985, p. 29). Nor should he
use it as a stick with which to beat certain
physicists who have written books and articles about it. Far from being the product of
"idealism" (absolute and otherwise), this is
an experimentally verified fact which has
been known for nearly thirty years now.
A consequence of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is that everywhere, throughout apparently "empty" space, sub-atomic
particles are continually being created from
nothing and disappearing after 1023 of a
second. While they exist they exert forces
on stable "real" particles which have been
detected.
Naturally people have extended this phenomenon into the realm of speculation
(which is how scientific theories are born). If
small sub-atomic particles can be created
from nothing, why not the universe as a
whole? Plausible scenarios have been put
forward, but nobody knows whether or not
they are true. They are reasonable speculations which are consistent with the laws of
physics, which is how scientific knowledge
advances.
Mr. Tholen is also mistaken if he believes
that these ideas support, or are supported
by, religion. If the universe did begin in this
way, then by Heisenberg's principle it was
the product of a completely random process, which no god or intelligence of any
kind could have controlled. This theory, if
true, would be yet another demonstration of
what Atheists have always known since the
days of Democritus, that the universe is
governed solely by scientific laws and by
chance.
These theories come from the "new physics," which Mr. Tholen is right in believing to
be a new perception of "the same old
physics that has always governed nature."
However it still appears bizarre and incomprehensible to many people. Some physicists - Paul Davies, Christine Sutton and
my colleague David Schramm are mentioned by Mr. Tholen - do a good job of
trying to explain it to a mass audience (even
. if they do sometimes go over the top in their
enthusiasm). I hope nobody has been put off
from reading their books by Mr. Tholen's
comments. Atheists ought to be able to tell
the difference between this kind of popular
science writing and the sort of covert religious stuff of which Mr. Tholen complains
(perhaps he was thinking of Capra's The
Too of Physics and certain books by Robert
Jastrow).
Dr. Michael J. Harris
Texas

American Atheist

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

I am a newcomer to "organized" atheism


having started to go to the meetings here in
the Detroit area about two and a half years
ago, and just recently I"formally" joined last
fall. Every month I can hardly wait for our
monthly social meeting and also to receiving
the American Atheist journal and other
mailings, both of which I consider a breath of
fresh air in this hostile society overladen with
religion as it is.
In your February, 1985 issue on music,
Steve Becker in his article "Quest for Ire,"
pages 1314, writes of John Lennon's "...
majestic anthem 'Imagine' ... considered by
many to be Lennon's masterwork ... " I
would like to correct the record by stating
that in a radio interview with Lennon shortly
before his death he admitted that his wife,
Yoko Ono, was the one who actually wrote
"Imagine" as well as numerous other songs
attributed to him, and he said this very
matter-of-factly as if to say, of course,
doesn't everyone's wife actually do a good
part of a man's work for him. Having been a
wife myself, I could only concur. Being a
staunch feminist and an officer in NOW
(National Organization for Women), I wish
to set the record straight.
Also in your February issue were two
letters, one against education and the other
for education as a primary means toward
furthering Atheism. As one who has been
dedicated to "educating" all my life, to what
seems no avail, I can only concur with the
first letter, by Norman Ghinger. Education is
not enough, it is too slow, and we need more
direct action by any legal means short of
getting rifles and guns. I for one am not
willingto wait until the country is "educated"
as I fear I'll be long dead by then and unable
to enjoy the kind of everyday life free of
religion that I dream of. I was pleased to see
in the latest insider's newsletter the statement "American Atheists cooperate with
other cause organizations at every possible
chance," as I believe, too, that we should join
with other groups whenever possible and
form connections for everyone's benefit. It
was good to see that in the November issue,
the editorial by Jon and the News and
Comments section both sounded a call for
more activism and less silence on our part,
for our very survival ifnothing else. Another
way is for us, individually and together, to
enter the partisan political process, which I
have found to be easier than I thought,
having been elected a precinct delegate and
then delegate to the state convention for the
Republican Party (yes, some of us are actually Republicans). I would encourage every-

Austin, Texas

one to become active and not rely on mere


"education," as I for one simply can't wait
that long.
Thank you for a good magazine and
newsletter, for a good center, and for a good
organization.
Karen E. Sundberg
Michigan

Though the editor's response to my initial


letter ("Ask AA," November 1984)has satisfied me that homosexuality is not properly
the business of A.A., there have been severalletters since on the subject. These show
a surprising (to me) uniformity of opinion
that homosexuality is an impairment. Perhaps the authors might look a little closer to
home for the impairment?
Jeff Wilson
California

C""~

I enjoyed the article on The Mormon


Book of Abraham by Frank R. Zindler.
Based on my experiences, the Mormon
Church has got to be one of the ugliest
organizations in contemporary America.
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder, enjoyed
mariage so much that he married several
women. When his first, legal wife questioned
his right to so many wives, Joseph got a
revelation from god. This revelation made
polygamy a divine order, and made marriage
an absolute necessity for attaining the highest glory in the next life.
As a Mormon, I had a very unhappy
marriage, so much so that I have had no
desire to try it again. This meant that no
matter what, I was disqualified in the hereafter. The failure feelings drove me almost to
suicide.
If they continue as they want, someday
the entire world willbow to Mormon leaders.
I'd appreciate seeing more articles about
them specifically, disputing their claims and
warning people of the dangers they present.

NOTICE
"Letters to the Editor" must be either
questions or comments of general
concern to Atheists or Atheism.
Submissions should be brief and to the
point. Space limitations allow that each
letter should be two hundred words,
or preferably less. Please confine your
letters to a single issue only.
Mail them to:
American Atheists
PO Box 2117
Austin, TX 78768-2117
Thank you.

ATHEISM

AND
COUNTRY
(cont'd from pg. 4)

folks who oppose us. They wish to do away


with the First Amendment guarantees,
which aid them perhaps more than they aid
us. Each and every religious group in the
nation should be supportive of our First
Amendment stand on separation of state
and church, yet they are unable to see the
broader picture through the blinders of their
denominational differences. It is the Atheist
who is the true patriot in terms of making
"freedom and justice for all" more than just a
hollow phrase. Our judicial system has used
minorities of all types over the years to
define and delimit the bounds between the
providence of government and the circle of
freedom surrounding each individual. And,
in that circle is where the Atheists have
always been.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


A second generation Atheist,
Mr. Murray has been the Director of
the American Atheist Center for nine
years and is also the Managing Editor
of the American Atheist. He advocates
"Aggressive Atheism."

BillShawn
Utah

May, 1985

Page 39

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American Atheist

SUGGESTED AMERICAN ATHEIST


INTRODUCTORY READING LIST
Knowing that Atheist material is very hard to find in most public library sources 'in the United States,
American Atheists suggest the following publications which are available from us as an introduction into the
multifaceted areas of Atheism and state/ church separation. To achieve the best understanding of thought in
these areas the featured publications should be read in the order listed. These by no means represent our
entire collection of Atheist and separationist materials. A more complete catalogue is available upon request
for $1.00.
All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists with All of the Answers
by Jon Murray and Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [paper, 360 p.]
Freedom under Siege, The Impact of Organized Religion on Your Liberty And Your Pocketbook
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [cloth, 282 p.]
Separation of Religion and Government
by Frank Swancara [cloth, 246 p.]
Why I Am An Atheist, including a history of materialism
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [booklet, 40 p.]
What on Earth Is An Atheist! (A collection of programs from the American Atheist Radio Series)
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [paper, 287 p.]
Pagan Origins of The Christ Myth
by John G. Jackson [booklet, 30 p.]
Sex Mythology
by Sha Rocco [booklet, 55 p.]
A Few Reasons for Doubting the Inspiration of The Bible
by Col. Robert G. Ingersoll [booklet, 30 p.]
Atheist Truth vs. Religion's Ghosts
by Col. Robert G. Ingersoll [booklet, 45 p.]
The Logic and Virtue of Atheism
by Joseph McCabe [booklet, 58 p.]
~
An Atheist's Bertrand Russell
ed. by Jon G. Murray [booklet, 50 p.]
Essays in Freethinking, Vol. I
Essays in Freethinking, Vol. II
Essays in Freethinking, Vol. III
Essays in Freethinking, Vol. IV
by Chapman Cohen [booklets, 112 p.]
$4.00 each, or set of four vols:
American Atheist Heritage: Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, and Burbank
by Joseph Lewis [booklet, 55 p.]
Our Constitution - The Way It Was
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [booklet, 54 p.]
Women and Atheism, The Ultimate Liberation
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [booklet, 22 p.]
Fruits of Philosophy
by Charles Knowlton, MD [booklet, 58 p.]
Why I Left The Roman Catholic Church
by Charles Davis, formerly Britain's leading catholic theologian
Letters from A Roman Catholic
by Carolynne Simms [two in one booklet, 27 p.]
War in Vietnam - The Religious Connection
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [booklet, 83 p.]
An Atheist Epic: Bill Murray, The Bible and The Board of Education
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair [paper, 316 p.]
Essays of An Atheist Activist
by Jon G. Murray [booklet, 67 p.]
The Ten Commandments
by Joseph Lewis [cloth, 644 p.]

Order from:

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