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NOVEMBER

1976

Vol: 18

No:11
$1.00

"...

one nation,
under God.

"

IN THIS ISSUE:
ELECTION

A Journa-I of Atheist

II

News and Thought

1976

SPECIAL
SALE
POSTERS

fREE RELIGION'S

On high quality

PRISONERS

paper -

21"

vellum textured

X 28"

$2.50
Free
famous
with

with

"Playboy"
quote

autographed.

The ide~ of God implies the


of human reason t
justice; it is the most decisive
ne9ation of hUMan liberty, ( nece~saril~
enib in the enslavement of mankina
both in theory t ~ractice.

Both

abdication

this

of

poster
picture

Madalyn

the

poster,
O'Hair,

17" X 22"

mailed

in a tube to reach

you uncreased.

He who deslres to worship God


must barber no childish illusions
about the matter bur bravely renounce
his libeTt and humanlt. BRKUHIH

Clip and mial


To: Society of Separatiqnists,
I enclose
of FREE RELIGION'S

Inc., P. O. Box 2117, Austin, Texas 78767


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ON THE

COVER

Excerpts from the text of President Ford's


Bicentennial Indpendence Day Proclamation:
The White House
THE

AMERICAN

Vol. XVIII,

ATHEIST

No. 11

Editor:
Contributing

BICENTENNIAL

MAGAZINE
November 1976

Madalyn Murray O'Hair


Editors:

Anne Gaylor
Jon Murray
Avro Manhattan
John Sontark

Cover Artist

Jo Kotula

Design and Layout Editor

Marilyn

Circulation

Samuel Miller

Manager

Printer

Hauk

Daniel Baladez

The American Atheist is published monthly by


the Society of Separationists, Inc., 4408 Medical
Parkway, Austin, TX 78756, a non-profit,
nonpolitical,
tax-exempt,
educational
organization.
Mailing address: P. O. Box 2117, Austin, Texas,
78768. Subscription rates $12.00 per year; $20.00
for two years. Manuscripts: The editors assume no
responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. A" manuscripts must be typed, double-spaced and accompan ied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

CONTENTS-THIS

ISSUE

INDEPENDENCE

DAY

~ l)roclamation
By the president of the United States of America:
I n recognition of the two-hundreth anniversary of the great historic events of 1776/ and in keeping with the wishes of the Congress, I ask that all
Americans join in an extended period of celebration, thanksgiving and prayer on the second, third,
fourth and fifth days of July of our Bicentennial
year-so that people of all faiths, in their own way,
may give thanks for the protection of Divine Providence through 200 years, and pray for the future
safety and happiness of our nation.
I call upon civic, religious, and other community leaders to encourage public participation in
this historic observance. I call upon a" Americans,
here and abroad, including a" United States flag
ships at sea, to join in this salute.
As the bells ring in our third century, as millions of free men and women pray, let every American resolve that this nation, under god, will meet
the future with the same courage and dedication
Americans showed the world two centuries ago. In
perpetuation of the joyous ringing of the Liberty
Be" in Philadelphia, let us again "proclaim liberty
throughout
a" the land unto a" the inhabitants
therof."
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set
my hand this twenty-ninth
day of June in the year
of our lord nineteen hundred seventy-six, and of
the United States of America the two hundreth.
-Gerald R. Ford
It is fashionable to emphasize, in these evangelical days, that this is "one nation, under god."
The true meaning of the phrase is adequately expressed on our cover.

News
ELECTION

1976!

..A.merican Atheist Radio Series


A Nation NOT Under the Christian God
The cartoon of civil protest, appearing on the
cover, is available in poster size at $5.00 each,
through Society of Separationists, lnc., P. O. Box
2117 / Austin, Texas, 78768.

From the days of the tampering with Lincoln's Gettysburg address, to the days on which
our era was predicated, the mindless have rallied to
the call. Indeed, on June 14, 1954, even our Congress participated when, on that date, a law was
passed to insert the phrase in our pledge.
The only way Atheists should
with the contempt it deserves.

handle

it

IS

traditionally
heavily Democratic
in political
suasion. Daley, of Chicago, is typical.

News

These 14 pivotal
states represent enough
electoral votes to win the White House in that big
raffle coming up.

EDITORIAL

As this issue of the magazine goes to press, we


hear from the news media that President Ford has
abandoned the South to Jimmy Carter and that he
will work his strategy for election in the Northeast
and key Western or Southern states most notably
Texas and California.
The solid "Bible Belt" by default thus belongs
to the "Bible Thumper".
There will be considerable down playing of
alleged religious issues -- that is apparent from the
conventions of both the Republican and the Democratic parties.
Knowing
how the Baptists truly hate the
Roman Catholics, and realizing that anything said
in respect to the limitation
of abortion
rights
could be interpreted
as support for the Roman
Catholic Right-to-Life'rs,
Carter has spoken of his
personal repulsion for abortion but the need to
back the recent Supreme Court trimester ruling. In
that way he straddles the line, satisfies both
Baptists and Roman Catholics while he thumps for
a basic "law and order" program for the red-necks,
'down home'.
Ford is more embattled.
He needs the Roman
Catholic vote and therefore has guaranteed that
ch urch (1) that it wi II receive help for its schools
and that (2) he does not condone "irreverence"
for
life.
Knowing
the Roman Catholic slogan of
"reverence for life" is synonymous for "anti-abortion", how-cute-it-is
for his speech writer to plug
that into Ford's utterances at the Roman Catholic
gathering in Philadelphia in early August.
But - there is the Ford strategy of giving the
South to Carter and working in the Northeast, etc.
How clever!

There are 14 pivotal states where the proportion


of Roman Catholics is large enough to
swing the national election. The Kennedys knew
this and worked that row. Ford, intrinsically a political animal, is not less astute.
The Roman Catholics make up middle America. They are the lower middle class, solidly bloced into the big cities, often in ethnic areas, and

'\\

The last time a survey was done, the


Kennedy forces did it, back in 1964, and the percentages can only be higher today. Those states and the
percentage of Roman Catholic citizenry
in them
are:
Ohio
Maryland
Montana
California
Minnesota
M ich igan
Pennsylvania

20%
10%
22%
22%
24%
24%
29%

Illinois
:
Wisconsin
New Jersey
New York
Connecticut
Massachusetts
Rhode Island

30%
31%
29%
.40%
.49%
50%
60%

Who does not know that Missouri is added to


the ranks of Roman Catholic stronghold after its
recent imbroglio
at the Conventions
of both
parties, concerned with the recent test case on the
abortion issue.
Then, of course, no one dare offend the Jews,
"lest they forget"
the considerable financing
of
which they are capable and for which Carter made
a special plea just" days before
the Democratic
convention.
Our foreign policy vis-a-vis the theocracy of Israel is a factor in this election.
Utah goes with the most conservative politics
because this fits what its church desires. .And, the
Mormons,
as the Evangelicals and th'e Roman
Catholics, love war, law and order, the death penal
ty and nuclear preparedness. Thev loudly disclaim
the rights of women, the E.R.A. [Equal Rights
Amendmentl,
abortion, eased family laws including no-fault divorce,
They all see it as the duty of the state to
finance the religious schools, and to aid busing (to
and from religious schools) but not to bus the
Blacks.
These are all state/church
separation issues.
The collective nose of the churches is everywhere.

Why?

November 1976/American

per-

Atheist

Willy nillv , whether he likes it or


American Atheist is going to be dragged
itics to fight them. By his quiescence for
has permitted them to grow to the point
now overwhelm the country.
Hence,
it and weep.

this

issue of

the

not, the
into polyears he
that they

magazine.

Read

The Editor.

FRANKL~ MY DEAlt
, OON'T~VE AD'MN.

R=tJ~

..

m;~~~A~,.~a

[source: Austin American Statesman, 8/24/76]

November 1976/American

';/

Atheist - 5

The

of

Perils

by Henry

One
candidates
chant:

Fairlie

There have been times recently when I have


dreamed that I was present at a play in which the
scene is placed outside a factory gate at dawn. Two
workers approach
and find 17 men on their knees,
at which the first worker exclaims:
Hush! hush! whisper who dares,
Every candidate's saying his prayers.
To

wh ich

the

second

worker

responds:

How wildly each his eyes doth roll,


As he seeks in heaven to take a poll.

November

1976/ American

Atheist

Political

-6

~/

Prayers

by one, the individual voices of the 17


are disentangled
from the murmuring

G. FORD; NOh, thou incumbent god, do not


forsake thy faithful servant! Thou hast said that
the meek shall inherit the earth. Deliver then unto
me the inheritance that is my due. "
J. CARTER; "Forqive me, 017 lord, for calfing vou person to person and asking you to accept the charges. Thou knowest that I will do the
same for you, when I am in your position. I am
sending you my autobiography to place by the two
volumes of your own. "

H. HUMPHREY; "Well, my good man, there


did not used to be any mention of you in Civics
112, when I taught it. But the American political
system is an open one, and we are not an exclusive
party. So welcome aboard. You are the daddy of
us all. Only last year I introduced a bill to enable
choirs of angels to draw welfare benefits between
one Christmas and the next, when they are out of
work." (At which, miraculously, choirs of angels
appear and sing round Humphrey's head.)

J. BROWN (who unlike others is not kneeling, but prostrate on the ground in a saffron robe):
"Kyrie
Eleison! Hare Krishna! In my father's
house, too, there were. many mansions. Hare
Krishna! Kyrie Eleison! But I don't live in them.
Kyrie Krishna! Hare Eleison! Help me to change
the chemistry of men's lives. Krishna Eleison!
Hare Kyrie!"
R. REAGAN:
"I think I should
that we have already built the kingdom
on earth in California. Nevertheless, I
my speechwriters to put references to
my speeches from now on. "

point out
of heaven
have asked
you in all

Whenever the name of god is dragged into an


election, it is difficult to be solemn. It is inappropriate, it is unseemly; and anyhow, one does not
know what it is meant to prove. One would not
have elected Joan of Arc to be President just because she heard bells in our heads.
It is true that the Christian Democratic Party in Italy, say, has never leaned much on the name
of god; but it is not entirely irrelevant to point out
that its long regime has been perhaps the most corrupt and scandal-ridden in post-war Europe, the
sustainer of a dolce vita which owes very little to
the Sermon on the Mount.
Moreover, the name of god makes some
sense in countries which have clerical parties and a
clerical tradition. Sanche de Gramont has pointed
out that, although "the French as a people can best
be qualified as moderately agnostic ... the church
has been recognized by nearly every regime as an
institution of public utility"
since the separation
of church and state in 1905. Rather like the church
itself, a clerical tradition has god firmly in his place
here on earth, a person of "public utility" who today, for example, helps to keep up the French
birth rate.
When I covered, the first referendum of Gen.
de Gaulle after his return to power in 1958, I insisted to my newspaper that the place from which
to report a French election was from the wine

country, and I enjoyed going from small town to


small town in Burgundy to take the pulse of
France, which was beating more hectically each
day since it was the time of the grape harvest.
But what enchanted me most was to watch
the cures run hither and thither in their cassocks
before a meeting in the town square; then stand at
the back of the crowd during the meeting with benign but sly smiles on their faces, and at last scurry across to the hotel de ville when the meeting
was over to report that they had done the work of
le grand Charles. They were engaged in a very secular enterprise.

If the church in France, when it is engaged


in such earthly works, has god in his place, the English have, of course, gone one step further: they
have the church in its place. The attitudes of the'
Reformation are bred even into the English Catholic. One of the most celebrated of English Catholics in recent years, Msgr. Ronnie Knox, was once
asked why, although he was a monsignor of the
church he had never been to the Vatican. He replied ~ith imperturbability:
"If one is a 'firstclass passenger, why should one go down into the
engine room:"
As for the Church of England---which over
the centuries has reduced the Sermon on the
Mount to the strenuous injunction, "Play up, play
up and play the game!" and condemns the evididence of sin, when it is capable of recognizing it,
with the stern admonition, "That's netcricket!"since its prelates are appointed by the prime minister in the name of the monarch, its subjection to
the state is complete.
On public issues, it is the spokesman of expedience, of the raison d'etat. The first debate to
which I listened in the House of Lords was when I
was a schoolboy during World War II. There was a
solemn argument as to whether contraceptives
should be issued to British troops. For hours the
lay peers discussed the morality of the question until, at last, the Bishop of St. Alban's rose in his
- white lawn sleeves to speak for the Lords Spiritual, the bench of bishops. It was not for him, he
said, speaking for the church, to enter into the
questions of morality that were involved; those
, could be left safely to the Lords Temporal. But
with the fall of Singapore, the rubber supplies of
the British Empire had been seriously endangered,
if not actually cut off. Rubber was urgently needed
for the tires of aircraft wheels; should it be wasted
on contraceptives?
November 1976/American

Atheist - 7

"Hear, hear!" murmured the Lords Temporal, most of whom had been absolute bounders
when they were junior officers; and as I left the
Palace of Westminster, .I found myself humming,
"There'll
always be an England," once more
sucked into a reluctant admiration of my oppressors.

NEVE~ AcTUAll~ SPOKE


TO GOO 81JT ONCE, WHEN'
r

I HIT MY HEAr> 6ETTfN6


off A PLANE, / THINK
, ( SAW HIA'l. /-IE WAS

Vf~Y Nl(E.

WNffE HOUfE' PRAVcr\


(3REA\(E4STI flRf' NoT
JJOU6H " , we MUS T
(jRING GoO HIA1~eLf
INTO GOVEJ(A/"f.1ENr,

fRErE/U~(v IN If
{"I(pl( CA(JfiVGr ?ofT.

But none of this applies in the United States.


In spite of the separation of church and state, or
because of it, there is always a tendency for the
name of god, when it is let loose in the political arena, to get out of control. The American people .
always seem to an outsider to be on the verge of an
Awakening: a Great Awakening, a second Awakening, a Third Awakening and all kinds of Little
Awakenings.
Since there is no one god with whom the
state is in alliance, everyone is free to have his or
her own god; and there are more public men in
America who come forward to proclaim that they
are fit for public office because they have heard
bells in their heads than in any other country in
the world. And although I trust the common sense
of my two workers at the factory gate, I think it is
depressing and, if it continues, will be alarming, if
a serious political debate is sidetracked by matters
which are of no political concern.
To take the most obvious example: I happen
to think quite a lot of Jimmy Carter as a politician.
I think he is a heavyweight, and America and the
free world could do with a heavyweight. I missed
his interview with Bill Moyers and asked a friend at
PBS if I could watch a tape. So early one morning,
in a small office, the cassette was shoved into the
machine, and I watched.

~~

,II/V? 60,kvl?E /F /,'


. fHE IJEYlt

qn

Nt .I'fEAKI(~A(;

6o1(tf IJEl?tWI/(f) JIt",U{


~-...... J/fM ClE;11EN'J;

'?iJllIIE /loLl!)"'Y,
6E/?fllw/~ l&?rER,
I

5HVIJEKI,

,;If~)"

/III/I} I,,, I

,{rrING

..

I(EEI'

oe

iI~~\ llI(E. rlllJ II!

I think that the early morning is the time


to watch such an exercise. On the whole, my picture of Carter was not much damaged, but then I
was leaning over backward to give him ever.y benefit of the doubt, and the fact remains that' several
times during the interview my hair curled at some
of his answers. There are some things one distrusts
when they are made public. Confessions are one.
Orson Welles once said that there are two
things which cannot be shown in the movies: the
act of prayer and the act of sex. I have no wish to
be offensive to Jimmy Carter, but he should stop
trying to put his act of prayer on the screen. What
Orson Wells meant was that the acts of prayer and
of sex are the two ultimately private acts of which
we-are capable. It seems to me banal, when it is not
odious, to be invited to watch Carter at prayer,
through a one-way window, voyeurs of his devotions.
Even if we are ready to listen to his own versions of his prayers-from
"Today" in the morning
until "Tonight" in the evening, we have all become
gapers and gawkers-then
we ought to be given
god's versions as well. If I were god, I would not
take kindly to having my correspondence with one

November 1976/American Atheist 8

"".

of my children distributed as a publicity handout.


As the Bible tells us, god is a very jealous god-he
needs to be, so many people take his name in vain
-and as th is campaign proceeds, if I were he, I
would be looking around for some thunderbolts to
throw.

But if Jimmy Carter takes us into the confessional box, and pulls aside the grille, what are
we to say of Jerry Brown? (No wonder the state
governments of the United States are going to pot,
if their governors are always engaged in private
communications with their maker.) I find the ecstatic torpors of Jerry Brown not only unacceptable in a serious politician but what we used to call
"school-girlish."
I often wonder, if, when he is engaged in his personal colloquies in his pad in Sacramento, he is doing much more than twisting his
braids with one hand and writing excruciatingly
with the other, "Dear Diary ... "
One is willing to let one's politicians find
whatever solace they require. After all, one of the
greatest of British prime ministers, W. E. Gladstone, the spokesman of the Nonconformist
conscience in his day, used to fill his evenings by going
into the streets and communing with prostitutes,
saying that he was bent on their salvation; and we
now know from his diaries that he returned from
these nocturnal peregrinations to flagellate himself.
Well, that's interesting to know, but it does not alter our picture of a very great statesman.
And all of this bringing down of god into the
political arena takes place in a country in which
Thomas Jefferson said that it did not matter to
him if his neighbor believed in one god or in 20,
since it neither broke his leg nor picked his pocket.
And that is exactly the trouble: in one god or in
20-and the 20 can be stretched to 20 million, as
everyone thinks that he can find god within himself, or can speak to him from a clod of earth in
Georgia or in a-pad in California.

I happen not to bel ieve that god exists, or


ever existed. But the idea of god seems to me a
rather serious one; and insofar as we contemplate
the idea of him, it seems to me also that he must
be allowed to be what a friend of mine calls some
of his friends, a "rather superior person." He is
not easily accessible, and the encounters with him
of the saints and mystics, whose accounts we can
trust, tell of terrible acts of self-immolation as well
as almost torturing
moments of ectasy of which
few of us are capable.
Beside these, the easy sob-stuff of today's
cults is too facile. I once saw a bumper sticker in
Boulder, Colo., where it is needed, which asked of
the "Jesus Freaks" the kind of question which the
Inqu isition itself asked of many of the "Jesus
Freaks" of its day: "If Jesus is the answer, what is
the question?" And I once looked up from a desk
in a university library in Texas to see the graffiti
scribbled on the wall: "If god is dead, who will
save the Queen?", a question that so unnerved me
that I could not work for the rest of the day.
But my point is that these wry questions
seem to me to honor the idea of god-whether
we
believe that hE!exists or not-more than those who
claim a facile communication with him, with little
evidence of effort or pain.
As the presidential candidates this year announce their conversions, one by one, one begins
to wonder if there has been anything like it since
a Chinese general baptized his army with a hose. I
entirely sympathize with Hugh Sidev, who has
complained that it is reaching the stage in this campaign when one is unequipped to report it unless
one has been to a theological seminary or at least
a Baptist Sunday school.
Ah, it will be said, much of what you say is
true, but the "religious issue" (as it has been dignified) reflects a concern about the deep spiritual

o
N
Q

November 1976/ American Atheist - 9

malaise of the American people at this moment.


When I hear talk of a "deep spiritual malaise" in
a political context, my hackles rise. It means that,
any moment now, the American people will be offered a "sense of purpose," and off they will be
once more, to save the world.
*

One of my mentors in politics has been Harold Macmillan-which


is one reason why I quote
him so often; the other is that he is so quotableand when he was being accused in 1963 of having
failed to give Britain a "sense of purpose," a phrase
which had crossed the Atlantic from the campaign
of John Kennedy, he said to me: "If people want
a sense of purpose, they should get it from their
arch bishops."
"But we don't have any archbishops," many
Americans have said to me in response; "that's why
we look to our politicians."
And one American put

it even more vividly to me: "Apart from our politicians, that's one reason why we create new
churches every decade. It was Economics in the
1930's; Psychology in the 1940's; Management in
the 1950's; Scciology in the 1960's .... ," and then
he hesitated.
"And

in the 1970's?"

I asked.

"That's perhaps the most depressing of all,"


he responded. "lVe seem to be back to the idea of
Personal Salvation; and when that idea gets loose in
the land, it is so rudderless there's no telling where
we will go."
Personal Salvation in an affluent society too
easily becomes a form only of Personal Indulgence:
Eat health foods, learn to kayak, do weaving, make
leather belts, embroider them, embroider
everything, strew flowers in one's path and make sure
that one knows one's mantra. What a recipe for
Iife; and all those students who flock to see Jerry

"

,.
[source: Austin American Statesman, 6/20176]

November 1976/American Atheist - 10

Brown--rather than to hear, for there is not much


to hear-are reflections exactly of his own ecstatic
torpor.
But there is another reason why the idea of
Personal Salvation should be resisted when it is
brought into the political arena. One simply does
not know where its dictates will carry a man when
he is in office. A man who closes his eyes several
times a day to ask god to let him do what is right
is all to Iikely to close them at least once too often
and hear god telling him that he is doing rightjust because that is what he wants to hear-and go
waving his sword all over the place, like Joan of
Arc.
Jimmy Carter was much more convincing,
and much more reassuring, when he talked of his
experience in the Naval Academy or of his stern
rural upbringing or of the little schoolhouse. In the
broadcast sense of the word, those were political
experiences, relationships with the society of men,
and not revelations, wh ich we have no way of
checking, of his relationship with a personal god.
So, please, America! You have put the name
of god on your dollar bills, and that is very democratic of you: Every American with a dollar carries round his own personal psalter with him But
don't write him into your politics. We cannot interview him. We do not know what he would like
us to do. And you did not create your civil society
200 years ago to reduce political choice to one between "Amazing Grace" and Zen Karate.
[source: Washington Post, 5/23/76]

There is a hidden religious power base in


American culture which our secular biases prevent
many of us from noticing. Jimmy Carter has found
it.
Usually in America, when we say "Protesant," we think of slender white New England
churches. We think of Puritans; of Exeter, Andover
and Groton; of Yale Divinity School and Riverside
Church. We mean our Pilgrim forefathers. We think
of sobriety, strictness, severity, hard work.
'
Most of this is wrong. Overwhelming numbers of Protestants in the United States are evangelicals, fresh from an experience of conversion, who
speak easily of "fellowship,"
"tenderness," "conversion" and "love."
The most understated demographic reality
in the United States is the huge number of evangel-

ical Protestants, Jimmy Carter's natural constitu- ency. They are to be found not only in the "Bible
Belt," south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but all over
the United States, in small towns and large cities.
The lowest estimate of their numbers is 31 million;
a plausible figure is 40 million-two-thirds
of all
white Protestants. Not all are Democrats; many
outside the South are Republicans. Everywhere
one can find them on the radio, the religious evangelists and the missionaries. They are always upbeat, full of grace and smiles, happy beyond the
expectations of more hardened secular folk. They
believe they have experienced grace.
Not all politicians, even when they try, can
touch the inner springs of this evangelical sensibility. When Richard Nixon went to Nashville, it felt
wrong. When he spoke to friendly crowds in North
Carolina, he came somehow as a stranger, affirming
words that weren't his. native tongue. But when
Jimmy Carter speaks, millions of Protestant Americans experience a sudden smack of recognition.
He's for real. He's them, in their idealized selves.
Carter's role for evangelical Christians may
be rather like John F. Kennedy's for Catholics.
Coming out of South Bostin, Kerinedy had wealth
and education and class; he was a polished version
of their dreams. His words echoed their harsh experience ("Iife is unfair"),
but in his voice they
heard their own accent and in their hearts they saw
themselves as they would like to be.
Carter seems to understand very well-perhaps too well-this
symbolic importance of the
presidency. What most Americans want primarily
(though not solely) in a President is a.person they
can look to and say: "He represents me. He is us."
The President personifies the nation.
Kennedy proved that a Catholic could execute the public symbols in a credible way, even in
a fresh, exciting way. (Norman Mailer said it felt
like electing an outlaw sheriff.) In the same sense,
electing Jimmy Carter President would be a little
like electing an outsider, one who is like Andrew
Jackson was in his special distance from Virginia
and Massachusetts. Yet Carter's rhetoric and manner have a ring of familiarity and, given the demo-graphics, a ring of plausibility.
For if America is a Protestant nation-and
its self-understanding, reinforced especially. by the
symbolism of this Bicentennial year, is preeminently Protestant-it
is not a Puritan New England nation; it is an evangelical nation. The symbolic tradition on which Carter draws so effectively is one of
five major symbol systems among American Protestants.

November 1976/American

Atheist - 11

The first and most Protestant tradition takes


its signals from the Northeastern upper class: from
the bar associations, from the state and national
supreme courts, the corporate philanthropists, the
major divinity schools and their theologians, from
Jonathan Edwards to Reinhold Niebuhr.
This upper class stream of Protestantism is
only a minority stream, however. The old Northeastern churches of the American
past have
shrunken considerably. In not more than two or
three counties in the whole United States do they
constitute a plurality. Such churches include the
Congregationalists
(now the church of Christ),
the Unitarians, the Emersonian transcendentalists
and humanists, a portion of the Episcopal church
and-to extend the list too far, perhaps--the Presbyterians (who lay frequent claim to the office of
secretary of state).
By contrast, the evangelical stream--the Baptists, the Methodists, the Seventh-Day Adventists,
the Disciples of Christ and many other groups, in
some ways affecting even the Southern Presbyterians and Southern Episcopalians--are not only our
most populous version of Protestantism, but our
fastest growing as well. The evangelicals are enormously strong in California, Oregon and \Nashington. One finds them in every state, not least in
Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida,
North Carolina, \/Visconsin and even upstate New
York. Alongside the more formal German, Dutch
and Scandinavians, the evangelicals seem more
emotionally warm and intimate. Their roots-are
in the lower class. John Wesly taught them "a religion of love," and itinerant Baptist preachers encouraged them to feel Christianity, to feel Christ
within them and to be "born again."
We have had only a few major national political leaders to articulate this second great Protestant tradition in our national life. Lyndon Johnson
did, and so does George Wallace. Yet neither man
acheived the education, polish, the class of Jimmy
Carter. As Billy Graham towers above other evangelists in his smoothness and modern ways, so also
Jimmy Carter's speech has an almost flawless deftness. He has a cosmopol itan way. He speaks for
the national superculturs, not just for a subculture.
When commentators
marvel at Carter's
broad appeal, it is because highly educated people
hard ly ever study the Iives of the vast majority of
American Protestants. lvlost theological books are
in the "high" Protestant tradition.
In the "low
church ," the oooks--many of them best -sellers-are mainly books of devotion and piety, sermons,
exercises in awakening religious feeling. At the
height of the "god is dead" craze, Billy Graham's

November

19761 American

Atheist

- 12

books and Hal Lindsay's and many others were seIling at hundreds of thousands of copies per title.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the
prayer meetings of concerned political figures in
Washington spread far more widely and more deeply than an occasionally curious press could really
probe.
A third great Protestant tradition is that of
the denominations
of the Midwest. Most influenced by the Lutherans (German and Scandinavian) and by the more formal Calvinism of the
Dutch and German reform traditions, the Midwestern Protestant symbols differ from both Northeastern and Southern symbols. Dwight Eisenhower,
Hubert Humphrey, Gerald Ford, Harold Hughes,
Warren Harding, such men exemplify a religion of
pragmatic
salesmanship and optimism=a
little
more proper and more decorous than, not quite so
experiential
as, the Southern symbols. Norman
Rockwell is not Nashville.
Scandinavian Protestants like Henry Jackson
also have their own style, a little on the non-glamorous, serious, solid side. Somber Lutheran traditions are strong (the mood of fngmar Bergman's
films). Distrust of flashiness and a sense for order
are high on the list of approved qualities. Eric Sevareid is our most public model of the style. Scandinavians admire reserve and taciturnity,
seriousness and hard work. The symbolic world of rural
Minnesota is not like that of rural Georgia. Jackson's Protestantism is not like Carter's. It is equally
unfamiliar on the national stage.
The fourth tradition is that of the "Prairie
Purifiers"---William Jennings Bryan, George,McGovern, Fred Harris, Ramsey Clark-who want to purify the nation's soul and to bring it back to its
ideals. Both populism and civic-religious "Awakenings" mark this tradition.
Fifth come the many
black traditions, most of which have shared roots
in the second, evangelical white tradition.
The attractive featu res of the evangel icaI
symbol system are many: Bill Movers and Jimmy
Carter have a similar charm. There is also an underlying tough moral passion: Joseph Duffey Tom
'Yicker, Willie Morris, Morris Dees and many other
liberals from the South have blazed a trail for Jimmy Carter.
In this symbol system the moral dimension
of human life has a high salience. The "morality"
of issues figures prominently as an attraction. The
moral values most confidently praised are those of
intimate human relations: honesty, compassion,
love,. gentleness, courtesy, decency. The eye looks
for signs of these in its search for alliances , for rec-

[source: Austin American Statesman, 8/3/76]


ognizable anchors of trust. Gleams of recognition
unite one "good 01' boy" to another. There are
ways of testing one another out, detecting frauds,
getting beneath the elaborate charm and politeness
of gentlemanly presence. Outsiders to this symbol
system may not know the signals. Insiders move
about in it inherently.
On the national stage, resistance to Carter is
not so much because those in other symbol systems are "prejudiced against Southerners" or are
afraid "they
don't own Jimmy."
Rather, the
source of discomfort is that they do not know at
first hand the pressures that shaped him, his inner
demons and his inner angels. They can't confidently imagine scenarios of various pressures upon him
and predict how he will act. He is, from his point
view, an outsider breaking in on their world. But
they are, from their point of view, outsiders who
can't
quite understand what makes him tick.
The tragedy of American pluralism is that
there are many "outsiders"
in American public
life--a vast horde of strong individuals from various
traditions who have never exercised control over
the presidential (and other national) symbol systems: Blacks, women of various culture, Latinos,
but also Poles, Italians, Jews, Japanese, Scandinavians and many others [Editor's note: also American Atheists] . Each cultural style is a little different. Each takes a certain getting used to.

WI

>0"''''-

The Democratic Party in the Northern industrial states is very largely Cathol ic, Jewish and
Black. All three cultural traditions are justifiably a
little suspicious of too much morality from Protestant political leaders. ("Protestant"
and "moral"
are almost synonyms in American discourse.)
. Blacks more than Catholics and Jews are familiar
with the Carter symbolic style; they, too, are evangelical, Protestant and Southern in tradition. Carter awakens Blacks, too, in recoqnitiorn But Catholics and Jews-and some Protestants as well-have
very hard-headed fears about th is "outsider":
Can Carter be counted on in foreign policy?
Is his mind firm enough? Or will he use moral language as a cover for retreat to isolationism? To have
supported the war in Vietnam was not a liberal
position, but neither was it dishonorable. Why does
Carter now describe his support then as due to a
"rational ization
we' affl icted ourselves with?"
Can Carter be counted on to ease racial ten_ sions in Northern cities? Such cities are not monocultural like Southern cities, divided chiefly by
race, but pluralistic and teeming with conflicting
lines of interest, power and force. Not only Blacks
are concentrated; so also is each ethnic group. Bus. ing is not the same sort of issue in the North as in
the South; it is more bitter, perceived as more unfair. Is Carter for unions or against them, and in
what ways? (The evangelical tradition has a partly
anti-union historv.)

November 1976/ American Atheist - 13

In buying into a new symbol system, citizens


will want to know with greater clarity just what
they are buying. George McGovern's rise in 1972
was equally meteoric. It was launched from the
fourth Protestant tradition-the
"Prairie purifiers."
The farther he burned across the sky the faster he
burned out. Protestant popu Iists have trad itionally
failed to stir the Northern urban working class.
Carter is different from McGovern; he is much less
threatening in style. He does not seek to "purify,"
but to "heal" and bring "love." When McGovern
spoke of "love," it had a punitive, reforming ring.
Carter's tone offers warmth
and consolation.
Carter faces two symbolic difficulties. The
first is that his own cultural tradition tends to use
pietv=sincere. deep piety-as a way of inspiring
trust; it tries to gain as much room for pragmatic
maneuver as it can. This is because the theology of
that tradition does not exercise itself in developing
logical connections between piety on the one hand
and practice on the other.

the white ethnic urban vote but an overwhelming


majority
to offset the conservative rural vote.
Then, if Carter' should later let the urban ethnics
down, is he prepared for their renewed cynicism
and hostility? Playing as he does with "love" and
"decency" could lead the nation, even involuntarily, into the most corrupt betrayal of all. To make
morality a political ploy is a besetting American
temptation.
So the Democratic race comes down to Carter, who took a leaf from Sherman's march on Atlanta and has sneaked around the dominant Northeastern Protestant style. He touches the evangelicals of all social classes quite deeply and rings bells
in some other symbol systems, too. Most commentators
have underestimated
the evangelical
symbol system he brings to life. Whether he wins
this time, or loses, even in a very brief appearance
on the national stage Carter has made certain that
this symbol system will not be ignored so blithely
in the future. He has moved it from the outside in.
[source: Michael Novae, Washington Post, 4/4/76]

Normally, a full political morality requires


(1) a goal, (2) a set of guiding principles for getting
there, (3) Cl practical platform, and (4) execution.
When Reinhold Niebuhr, [Editor's note: a theologian] for example, with others founded New
York's Liberal Party, it was precisely to supply
steps (2) and (3). Years of intellectual effort went
into this word. In evangelical traditions there is no
comparable
body of political
doctrine:
Billy
Graham leaps from (1) to (4). The difficulty
is not personal; it is shared by the whole tradition;
One has to trust the individual leader because one
is at the mercy of his instincts and his intelligence,
case by case. Carter refuses to take middle positions distant from his basic piety because such middle positions, in many cases, have not been worked
out in his tradition. He will have to invent them as
he goes. He needs "time" to study them. He is not
dodging issues or feigning ignorance. The gap
between piety and practice is, indeed, a gap.
Carter's second symbolic difficulty
is that
many voters, not least those of the Catholic working class in the industrial states, do not want a President to be merely a symbolic leader. Many semicynical voters "vote their pocketbook."
They get
enough morality,
so to speak, in church. They
want to know what happens in the paycheck, on
the job, in the neighborhood.
Can Carter make enough working people
who are not evangelical see themselves in him? In
states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and
others, the Protestant voters are mainly Republican
or suburban Democrats; for a Democrat to carry
these states, it is not enough to win a majority of

November 1976/American

Atheist - 14

II

The looks are strikingly the same--streaked


blond hair, crinklv-eved
smile. Then comes the
same soft monotone, the repeated phrases, the unhurried Southern drawl. But Jimmy Carter's faithhealing sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, is not talking
politics.
Across the country-with
crowds of .thousands , or with individuals-Stapleton
calls upon
Jesus to heal the emotional wounds of the "inner
child" of each one's long-ago past. As she asks
them to close their eyes and relax, Stapleton invites Jesus to enter their imaginary world, punctu
ating her sentences with the fervent, almost hypnotically
repetitious,
"And we thank you, Jesus... r r
Stapleton, 46, is as much a source of interest
in some religious circles as her brother, the current
Democratic presidential runner, is in politics. Her
'''inner healing" ministry combines principles of
psychology and spiritualism-a
hybrid that confuses and disturbs many in both worlds, not to
mention the nonbelievers who scoff at either, or
both, disciplines.
She has been denounced as an "anti-scripture witch disguised as the angel of light" by some
fundamentalist
ministers. She has been embraced
by many other religious groups, such as the Charis-

matic Catholics who speak in tongues. And when


she does not use her "inner healing" method,
which would not be well received, she is popular
as an evangelist with Baptist and Methodist groups.

There are five root causes of adult emotional


suffering and negative behavior, she feels, "causes
that are basically there because of inadequate
love." The word "love"
is almost whispered.

Some psychiatrists have scoffed, others seek


to learn her principles, which, to some nonbelievers, sound amazingly simplistic as she insists the
healing of emotional problems is all done by the
Holy Spirit.

Her five basic causes--fixed primarily in the


first five years of life---are fear, frustration,
guilt,
inferiority
and loneliness (or rejection). She feels
she has the "divine gift of wisdom" to help people.
She conducts her subjects on a "faith imagination"
trip. While they imagine a point in their
childhood, Stapleton asks them to recall a room,
to sit on a couch as that little child, then brings Jesus into that picture. Step by step she asks them to

Stapleton, who has had 30 hours of graduate


study in psychology, insists she is not a "psychotherapist practicing without a Iicense" as her rei igious detractors claim. Psychiatrists can "bring a
degree of healing by probing the past," but the difference, she feels, is that "only the Holy Spirit can
move back into these areas and remove the scars. By
inviting his presence, you're switching all responsibility from you to him"

Her cases vary dramatically.


Some are just
working out problems in their marriage or parents
handling rebelious teen-agers.

After leading a meditation at Hollywood's


Presbyterian
Church
in California
Stapleton
put her own work aside "until Jimmy gets in the
'.Vllite House. We are extremely close," says Stapleton, who has been campaigning part-time for her
brother but has now decided to "put 'politickin'
first."

Other cases are more grim. A woman who


screams hysterically
at her no-longer-repressed
memories of being raped by her father. A homosexual who weeps because he never knew his father. The sobs of an exhibitionist,
four times imprisoned, who recalls the traumatic reason he is unable to have normal sex.

Stapleton is a handsome woman. Unlike the


stereotype that some hold of the devout, she is
decidedly chico-eye shadow and mascara accent her
blue-grey eyes. She wears gold loop pierced earrings and turtleneck sweaters. Her slim hands are
man icu red, her nai Is palely lacquered. She dri nks
wine at dinner. She looks like a suburban mother
of four=the role she played to the hilt until a devastatingly "dark periods" in her own life, when she
was so miserable she wanted to die, led her to her
"inner healing" ministry.

Stapleton leans forward as she recalls that


case. "1 had him imagine the home he lived in
when he was 12 and I asked him to walk through
it, with Jesus. It took a long time. Finally, he said
he'd been through all the rooms. 'Except one' ...
and then I knew. I asked him what room He said
'the second-floor bathroom.' I said 'Let's go in that
room with Jesus.' He was shivering and.crvinq and
begging not to go in. I said, "Well, let's let Jesus
go in alone. His light, his love, removes every negative thing. Therefore that room is pure and clean."
Finally, he was in the room and oh, the tears were
just running down his face, and he sobbed how a
member of his family had caught him rnasturbating. He was called terrible names and beaten until
the blood ran down his legs."

Today,
of "miracles"
occasions.

she serenely and unabashedly talks


and how god came to her on several

Asked if people in the campaign were fearfu I that her work might be considered pol itically
harmful, Stapleton replies, "Of course!" She adds,
"Since Jimmy's not concerned about it, I'm not">
although she frequently states, with a laugh, "Jimmy is so busy he has no idea of what I really do.
He thinks I'm a Billy Graham evangelist." She feels
certain, however, that he would be "pleasantly
surprised."
In addition to those seeking marital or child
rearing help, Stapleton counsels the outcasts from
society and most churches-homosexuals,
drug addicts, alcohol ics, prostitutes and sexual perverts.

recall their parents, their feelings.

Having the man recall his trauma was only


the first step. "Jesus now had to heal those memories. I started with Jesus blessing his head, his eyes,
"his lips, repeating always that every part of him
was whole and clean ... so that he would no longer
be filled with shame and terror."
Today, she says, that man is happily married. There are countless other "testimonials"
ShE
says, explaining that she only works with the wil
ling. After the initial breakthrough, there are often
repeated meditations until the "unconditional
lOVE
of Jesus" can alter people's lives.
<

November

1976/ American

Atheist

- 15

Although she has conducted meditations for


her children-Lynn, 25, Scotty, 24, Patti, 21, and
Michael, 17-and many of her friends, Stapleton
says she has not worked with her brother. "If I
had ever been able to detect any emotional trouble, I would have forced myself on him to work
with him."
Jimmy and Ruth Carter were close as they
grew up with another brother and sister on their
father's peanut farm in Plains, Ga., a town so small
that it takes less than two minutes to drive the
length of the main street. Jimmy married Rosalynn
Smith, Ruth's best friend.
Through the years, Jimmy, 5 years older,
and Ruth remained "spiritually close," although
they are "total opposites" in many ways. Calling
herself a disorganized, philosophical thinker,
Stapleton adds, "Jimmy's got a mind I wouldn't
even get into or relate too-it's all logic, order, reason-- a steel trap." When Carter campaigns, "if he
goes into a drugstore, he asksif there is a janitor in
the back he can say hello to. He doesn't miss a
thing."
His sister says he is dually propelled--by
god's will and his will.
"The other day, we were campaigning and I
was so exhausted and I told Jimmy I did not see
how he did it. He said, 'Honey, I can will myself to
sleep until 10:30 a.m. and get my assbeat, or I can
will myself to get up at 6 a.m. and become President."
"He has a deeply spititual side and I am the
only one allowed in," sayshis sister. (In fact, there
are those advisers who would just as soon play
down Carter's most godly passagein his speeches
including his mother, "Miss Lillian," now 78.
("1 told him to quit that stuff about never telling
a lie and being a Christian and how he loves his
wife more than the day he met her," she hassaid.)
His sister recalls a day when, shesaysCarter
made a "total committment" to religion. After
Carter lost to Lester Maddox for governor in 1966,
he walked with Ruth in the woods and asked,
"You and I are both Baptists, but what is it that
you havethat I haven't got?"
"I said, 'Jimmy, through my hurt and pain I
finally got so bad off I had to forget everything I
was. What it amounts to in religious terms is total
commitment. I belong to Jesus,everything I am."
He said, 'Ruth, that's what I want.' So we went
through everything he would be willing to give up.
Money was no problem, nor friends, nor family.
November 1976/American Atheist 16
Ioi .

Then, I asked, 'What about all political ambitions.'


He said, 'Ruth! You know I want to be governor.'
I would use it for the people! I said, 'No Jimmy.'
"But he really meant it and became connnected with part-time religious work. So he went
to Pennsylvania and New York (on a Baptist missionary tour for lessthan a year). Jimmy's a Baptist and to commit your life, Baptists think you
have to go off and be a missionary somewhere."
According to his sister, shegot Jimmy back on the
political track. "The fact that he was willing to
give up his god (politics) was commitment
enough."
(Carter, campaigning in North Carolina, said
his sister's story was "basically accurate." But he
said it was incorrect to say that he considered
breaking away from politics to go into a religious
life. "Ruth may have had an impression, but that's
actually not right.")
Stapleton says Carter has never had the personal conflicts she has had. It wasn't until shewas
29 years old that she in fact knew she had any
problems. "I thought I had the perfect life, the perfect childhood. My feelings were so deeply repres-.
sed that it took me months before the inner healing could work.
"We've always been such a secret. family.
Not only did I not let anyone know I had a problem, I didn't let myself know. There is an awful lot
of pride in our family. Father always told us there
is no one in the world better than you, and you're
no better than anyone else. It was brainwashed
into us."
,-.
Ruth and Jimmy were treated much differently by their father. "With the boys, Dad was a
strict disciplinarian," she said. "He believed the
boys should be raised to work for a living. From
the time he was six, when the bell rang on the farm
Jimmy went to work with everyone else." When he
got into trouble, he was whipped with a twig. Car-ter still vividly recalls being whipped for taking a
penny out of a collection plate. On the other hand,
their mother gave "unconditional love," Stapleton
said.
"Jimmy got the perfect combination of the
strong male image and the warm compassionate
love of mother. If she hadn't been there, Jimmy
could haveprobably been a tyrant."
But Ruth was spoiled by her father. "I had a
double problem. My father overindulged me which
conditioned me to think I was the best, and then
my mother didn't overindulge me. That made me

I'M FOR CARTER BECAUSE HE


WON'T LIE TO US. AND HE
BELIEVES IN AMERICA!

---,...-------

"

LlSTENI NOBODY IS MORE HONEST "


THAN FORDI BESIDES, HE'S MORE
E~CTABLEI\
_

YEAH? WELL CARTER GOES TO


CHURCH EVERY SUNDAYI

BIG DEAL! FORD


SOMETIMES GOES
TWICEI

'---

I LOVE THE INCiSIVE


DEBATE OF A PRESIDENTIAL
CAMPAIGN.

November 1976/American

Atheist - 17

feel rejected, even though I now real ize she was


just treating me normally. But if you can irnagine
that every person I rnet in my whole life who
didn't overindulge rne therefore didn't love me!
... Well, I lived in a world of rejection. You can
stand it as long as you blame it on others and so I
had bad neighbors, a bad husband, bad children,
a bad minister, bad friends."
For years, Stapleton realized none of this.
She went frorn high school ~,~ayQueen, a flirtatious, spoiled Southern belle ("girls were not supposed to make decisions") into a marriage at 19
with a teen-age beau frorn Americus, Ga. She
and Bob Stapleton, a veterinarian who everyone
calls Bobby, rnoved to Fayetteville to save the marriage because "every time I had a problem I would
run nine miles to horne."
Ruth Carter Stapleton was never prepared
for the responsibilities of mothering the children
she had so qu ickly. "I became an overcontroll ing
mother out of my insecurities. That scarred the
children, particularly Lynn, the oldest--but we are
now working things through."
Stapleton's life was constantly changing. She
went from Southern oelle to a rei igious "goodygoody" who wore drab clothes and no make-up.
"I must have been very repulsive to people who
were real people. All the answers were simple-just pray. And yet I could no more forgive."
Finally, all of her problems she had so long
hidden came to the fore, almost inexplicably, when
she needed help one day and real ized that prayers
didn't work. "I hated myself and subconsciously
wanted to die. People lit candles, prayed for me.
A psychiatrist said, 'You're suffering too much-there's no way to help you. YOLI needed medication.' After I exhausted every resource, I had to
come to grips with the fact that the problem was
inside me."
It took years of working at it, evolving her
"inner healing" ministry, before she made it out of
her problems.
She said she has had a couple of religious
"experiences,"
her most recent two years ago.
"I woke up in my sleep and there was this
light, this glow in my room. Something inside me
said I was moving into a place of 'unconditional
love.' My total healing took place when I fully
realized god was a god of love, not one who punished ."
Stapleton feels that because she has overcome her problems, "although I'm still not cornNovember

1976/ American

Atheist

- 18

pletely there yet," she can. "So what I'm doing for
others. I can relate. Even in an airport, I have the
greatest ministry. I can pick up hurt."
Stapleton's private world has been engulfed
by her ministry and her travels. Her pleasant Rambler shows the worn signs of a busy family. She
sighs that they are going to have to find the time to
get it repainted.
Her relationship
with her children seems
warm--she squeals with del ight when Scotty, a biochemistry college major, and his girlfriend stop by
on a Sunday afternoon. Her daughter, Patti, who is
getting married in May, is her secretary.
Her husband takes a back seat manager's
role, seemingly cheerfully, and putts golf balls on
the den shag rug as she gives interviews. She says
frankly that there were 17 "noncommunicating"
years and an "awful lot of problems" but that the
last four years have been 'wonderful.'
She and her husband have formed her ministry into a nonprofit organization called "Behold,
Inc. " She gets no salary and contributions
go into
travel and speaking expenses.
For years, Ruth Carter Stapleton kept her
religious political life separate, even as she worked
in her brother's campaigns for governor.
It was partly to keep her separate 'dentitv.
"But also, so many who are religious look at politics as ugly and dirty and so many in politics look
at deep religion as something weird. I would like
to bridge that gap."
.".
Anonymity
is now fading, but she doesn't
seem to mind, and is fascinated by the trappings cf
national campaigning. She has turned the press section of Carter's plane into a confessional at times,
talking to reporters about their problems.
Looking serene, she says, "I am now so happy in my new work. You' know how Jimmy believes he is going to be President? Well, I am the
same-I am so sound in my theology, in my psych, oloqical presentation."

white

Ruth Carter Stapleton flashes the pearly


Carter smile. "Nothing
can shake me."
'Profound'

Event

Jimmy Carter says "a deeply profound religious experience that changed my life dramatically" in 1967 has given him "an inner peace" that
guides him in politics.

In a talk to a wealthy contributor


on the
patio at a sumptuous Winston-Salem home earlier
this year. Carter said that as a result of the experience, "1 recognized for the first time that I had
lacked something very precious-a complete commitment to Christ, a presence of the holy spirit
in my life in a more profound and personal way.
And since then I've had an inner peace and inner
conviction and assurance that transformed by life
for the better."
Carter did not specify precisely what the
"deeply profound rei igious experience" was, ex-cept to say that "1 don't think I'm ordained by god
to be President" and that the "only prayer that
I've ever had concernirrq the election is that I do
the right thing. And if I win or lose, my religious
faith won't be shaken."
I n a press conference Carter was asked to
elaborate on his remarks. He said he had always
been an active member of his Baptist church, "but
in 1967, I realized that my own relationship with
god, with Christ, was very superficial. And because

of some experiences I had that I won't describe in. volving personal witnessing in states outside of
Georgia among people who were very unfortunate
and who did not speak English, and otherwise, I
came to realize that my Christian life, which I had
always professed to be pre-eminent, had really
been a secondary interest in my life.
"And I formed a very close, intimate personal relationship with god, through Christ, that has
given me a great deal of peace, equanimity and
the ability to accept difficulty without unnecessarily being disturbed, and also an inclination on a
continuing basis to ask god's guidance in my life.
"It was not a profound stroke of miracle.
It wasn't a voice of god from heaven. It was not
anything of that kind. It wasn't mysterious. It
might have been the same kind of experience as
millions of people have who do become Christians
in a deeply personal way."
Carter said that "1 don't think god is going
to make me be President by any means. But what-

[source: Austin American Statesman, 6/18/76]

,,,,)
~.)

~\~3

--

November 1976/ American Atheist 19

ever I have as a responsibility for the rest of my


life, it will be with that intimate personal continuing relationship ... "

He continued his second and ultimately successful quest for the governorship at the time, he
said.

In the Winston-Salem talk, Carter said he has


always been impressed "very vividly" by the late
Reinhold Niebuhr's saying. "The purpose of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world."
[Niebuhr is a theologian.]

"1 was really getting to be well-known in


Georgia," he said, "and it was more convenient for
me to go do this kind of Christian work where I
was not well-known and nobody would recognize
me."

Carter said he had "spent more time on my


knees the four years I was governor in the seclusion of a little private room off the governor's office than I did in all the rest of my life put together
because I felt so heavily on my shoulders that the
decisions I made might very well affect many, many people."

As for going off to pray, Carter said: "1


don't think that ought to be said in a mystical way.
It's just a standard part of my life. When I have
intense pressure on me or difficult
decisions to
make, I habitually go off by myself. When I'm at
home in Plains [Ga.] I go up and take a walk in
the woods or in the field."

In a separate interview with the former


Georgia governor in Winston-Salem, Carter told of
a conversation he had with his sister, Ruth Stapleton, an evangelist, around 1966 in a pine orchard
on the family farm in Georgia in which he expressed a desire, even at the cost of never being governor or President, to have the same inner peace his
sister had.

In the praying room off his governor's office, he said, "There was no wave of revelation that
came over me, no blind flashing of light or voices
of god or anything. I just had a quiet feeling thatwas reassuring. But I wouldn't want it to be connoted as a mystical set of events. It's a typical experience among Christians."
[source; Washington Post, 3/21/76]

She counseled him to get more involved in


the religious life, he said, and as a result he began
to do what he called "pioneer mission" work with
families in Northern states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Massachusetts, who were without religious beliefs.
Contrary to reports that such service was a
mixture of politics and religious work, Carter said,
"There wasn't anything political about it. I was in
a town in Pennsylvania where I never dreamed of
going back to, and I've never been back there.
And very few people knew who I was, and nobody
knew I was a candidate for governor, even the folks
that were working with me. I had been defeated in
'66 and I went up there as a farmer, as just a
Christian layman."

It was probably accidental, but god has become an issue in the presidential elections. Jimmy
Carter, who is now known as "front-runner,"
has
admitted to having a very close relationship to god.

This could force other candidates to"assure


the American people they have a closer relationship with god and the media might demand full disclosure from everyone running on both the Republican and Democratic sides as to where they stand
on the god issue.
I must admit that although I've tried on maoccasions to have an interview with god, I've
never succeeded. But I was' fortunate to have a conversation with the Angel Gabriel, who is god's director of communications.
;1'{

Carter said it IMlUld


Carter said it would not be accurate to draw
from this that he broke from political life for a
time and devoted himself exclusively to missionary
work. He said he went north from time to time
working with some of 100 families identified as
non-Christian by his church through long-distance
telephone calls.

Gabriel told me, "Despite what you read in


the newspapers and see on television, god is staying
out of the presidential primaries."
"Does

In one Pennsylvania community,


he said,
"\AJe witnessed to them about our Christian faith
and when we left, we had organized a new
church."

November 1976/American Atheist - 20

he have any

favorites?"

I asked.

"He considers them all good men who he


is sure would lead the country toward prosperity,
happiness and love."

"Has
politics?"

gad always stayed out of American

"Yes, he has. There have been some supporters of presidential candidates who have claimed
that their man is closer to god than any of the opponents, but we have never authorized anyone to
make this claim. God feels whomever the American
people want to elect is their own business. All he
asks is if things don't turn out as they were expected, that the voters don't blame him."
I asked the Angel Gabriel if this had happened in the past.

makes. Americans have a tendency to blame everything that goes wrong in the world on god. But he
never gets credit when things go right."
"And this upsets him?"
"He has feelings, too."

[source:

[source:

Art Buchwald,

Seattle

Post-Intelligencer,

syndicated

columnist)

6/7/76)

'.~~~~'
';~::>~1
..

lilt happens all 'the time," Gabriel, replied.


"If you recall, President Nixon held all those prayer breakfasts in the White House. He wanted the
American people to think that he was really closer
to god. But we never had anything to do with the
prayer breakfasts. The White House selected the
preachers and also invited the guests. It became a
political event. God hates political events and never goes to them if he can possibly avoid it."
"But almost every fund-raising event and every political rally is opened by a prayer from a
priest, a minister or a rabbi, depending on which
state the affair is being held in. What does god do
about that?"
"Everyone running for public office has a
priest, a minister and a rabbi trying to intercede for
him. If god had to listen to everyone of these entreaties he wouldn't get anything done. We" up here
assume that the prayers are more for the audience's
benefit than for god's."

'To show my gratitude hdiv about

"1 know this is a tough question, but does


Jimmy Carter have a more personal relationship
with god than any of the other candidates?"
"We never comment on god's relationships
with any of his believers. In god's eyes, they are
all his children, and it is his desire that the best
man wins."
"Angel Gabriel, has god been in touch with
President Ford since his defeat in the North Carolina primary?"

second spot?'

GOOfgiLAWS

COME

AHEAD
-SAYS CARTER

OF

MAN'S

Jimmy Carter', says he believes Christians


have a responsibility to disobey civil authorities
when they believe that their governments act con_ trary to the laws of god.

"Once the Americans select their President,


god will support him?"

Carter, a deacon in his local Baptist church,


also said he thinks Christians should strive to respect civil authorities and be prepared for the consequences if they do not obey them.

"He has always supported the President of


the United States. But at the same time he can't
be responsible for all the decisions a President

His commonts came in a brief news conference following a Sunday school lesson about a
teaching that Christians should respect and obey

"No comment."

November

1976/American

Atheist

- 21

civil authorities

because they are instituted

by god.

So at least Madalyn and Atheism got a free


plug thru Walter Cronkite on national television,
for free.
[source: letter from Wes Fritche, Houston, Texas]

Carter, who often speaks publicly of his religious convictions, did not give any examples of
how his interpretation of the biblical text might
apply to contemporary issues.
He cited a passage from the Book of Romans, King James version, which reads:
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher
powers. For there is no power but of god; the
powers that be are ordained of god.

Jimmy Carter's open espousal of his Christian beliefs in the 1976 Presidential campaign has
raised the issue of religion's place in politics more
arrestingly than it has been raised in any Presidential race since John F. Kennedy's in 1960.

"Who so ever therefore resisteth the power,


resisteth the ordinance of god; and they shall receive to themselves damnation."

In Mr. Kennedy's case the question was whether a Roman Catholic could be elected and what
the consequences would be for relations between
church and state.

Carter, asked his feelings about the passage,


replied:
"Paul in the lesson this morning taught very
clearly that a Christian's duty ... is to obey civil
authorities ... But a distinction
is drawn when a
public servant ... disobeys the word of god.

The church-state concern has re-emerged


with Mr. Carter's candidacy, and in addition the
question for the 51-year-old
Southern Baptist is
whether a deeply committed evangelical Christian'
can appeal to an overtly more secular culture with
his frank admission of conservative Protestant piety.

"At that point, it's the responsibility of a


Christian to ask whether his government accurately
reflects the will of god ... and if the judgment is
that it doesn't obey the will of god, then the
duty of a Christian is to obey the will of god."

Mr. Carter began to speak of his faith in the


campaign for the North Carolina primary,
on
March 23, and remains the only candidate in this
Presidential campaign to do so. His showing in the
primaries appear to support the view that his
openness on religion has not hurt him.
.":.

a Christian has the responsibility


of trying to shape the government so that it "does
Carter said

exemplify the teachings of god."


[source: Journal Times, 6/28176]

And the nation's religious climate suggests


that the former Georgia Governor's stance of evangelical theology is not only widely shared but is also growing more rapidly than any other Christian
perspective.

Madalyn O'Hair got a plug on Walter Cronkite's Democratic Convention broadcast at 11 :25
p.m., Houston TV channel eleven on 7/14/76Houston time.
Jimmy Carter had talked to a priest and
Catholic women about abortion. Carter had a Negro Baptist preacher, preach the benediction at this
closing part of the Democratic Convention in N. Y.
The TV camera then switched to Walter Cronkite
sitting high above the convention floor below.
At this time Cronkite said, over the national
television network hook-up.:
"Jimmy Carter has discussed and talked to
and about most everything concerning religion
EXCEPT! Madalyn O'Hair the Atheist. Maybe he
should have her on too."
November 1976/American Atheist 22

The Rev. Dean M. Kelley, author of "Why


~he Conservative Churches are Growing," estimated
In a telephone interview the number of Christians
who readily identify with Mr. Carter's evangelical
outlook at 40 million. Others put it as high as 50
milfion.
In addition, as Mr. Kelley and others point
out, millions more Christians and non-Christians
are .svrnpathetic to the candidate's theology because it evokes elements of a widely held faith in
a personal god and a nation richly blessed.
The current evangel ical movement, whose
most celebrated spokesman is the Rev. Billy Gra-

C~MJt6ed

eA1ifefL(

o.{-

P(OMIS~O('1

~Oie5/

00

,
/'

[source: Sunday Record, 4/18176)


November 1976/American

'I

Atheist - 23

ham, grew out of earl ier stages of fundamental ism.


It inherited some of the biblical and moral views
of fundamentalism but has generally developed a
more relaxed, open spirit toward both religion and
the world.
The Southern Baptist Convention, whose
ranks include Mr. Carter and Mr. Graham, is the
largest single evangelical church, with 12.7 million
members and an average yearly growth rate of
250,000.
Though a broad range of churches define
themselves as "evangel ical," the phenomenon is
more a religious state of mind than a strictly identifiable branch of Christianity. Other Christians, including Roman Catholics and some members of
main line Protestant groups, embrace basically the
same outlook on the need for personal faith, Biblical teaching and evangelism.
"Every indication is that evangelicalism is
skyrocketing,"
says Gerald Strobber, who is coauthor of a book, "Religion and the New Majority,"
subtitled
"Billy
Graham, Fundamentalism
and the Politics of the 70's" in 1972. "Nothing is
stopping it."
The book contends that Mr. Graham speaks
the language of the new or "silent" majority of
voters, the same group to which Mr. Carter would
presumably appeal.
The former Governor's style of subjective,
fervent faith has also frequently won enthusiasm
among Blacks, from whom he has drawn sizable
support. His most eloquent testimony to his beliefs during the New York campaign came in a
Black Methodist church in Buffalo. He is comfortable in such settings. Mr. Strober cites such indication of the vitality of evangelicalism as upward
spiraling enrollments
at conservative seminaries
and ballooning sales of evangelical books.
Mr. Graham's latest book, entitled" Angels,"
for example, has astonished its Doubleday publishers. Since being introduced in September, 1.3 million copies have been placed in print. "The Living
Bible," a Biblical paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor,
has sold 19 million copies in three years.
Dr. Martin Marty, a University of Chicago
historian, believes the Carter theology has Ita huge
constituency"
and would prove a possible stumbling block only for a small minority of "semisecularized" voters.

five

He divides the nation's religious map into


districts: the Baptist-dominated
South, the
November 1976/American Atheist - 24

Methodist-oriented
mid-South, the heavily Lutheran upper Midwest, Mormon Utah and the nongeographical urban "pluralist"
community.
Mr. Carter would presumably have trouble only in the last
area because of its secularist tendencies,
Dr.
Marty bel ieves.
Mr. Carter says his decision to talk about his
convictions in the midst of the campaign came after a prayerful thought.
"When the media began to emphasize my beliefs," he said in an interview on his last day of
campaigning in New York, "1 did not know how to
deal with it; whether to answer the questions or
say I didn't have a comment."

"1 decided to tell the truth," he continued,


"not to conceal it but reveal it. If there are those
who don't want to vote for me because I'm a
deeply committed Christian, I believe they should
vote for someone else."
Like Mr. Kennedy in 1960, Mr. Carter is
apparently appealing to the nation's sense of fair
play to eliminate religious identification
as a negative bias. While it is not at all certain that the.
subject would come close to raising the same con-

cern that it did in 1960, it has already drawn-widespread attention.


Recently President Ford's campaign director, Stuart Spencer, said that Mr. Carter's beliefs could become a factor in a race between
the two men. Mr. Ford is an Episcopalian.
A Carter-Ford race would match two candidates with similar religious beliefs. Mr. Ford is
known to have become strongly evangelical in recent years. His son attended
Gordon-Conwall
Seminary in Massachusetts, a leading evangelical
school, and he is a close friend of the Michigan
evangelist preacher Billy Zeoli. The difference between the two men thus far is that Mr. Ford's beliefs have been muted to a far greater degree than
Mr. Carter's.
However, Mr. Ford shows signs of seeking to
keep his religious identity clear. For instance, recently he made a point of stopping at Wheaton
College, in Wheaton, 111., the nation's most prestigious evangelical college and Billy Graham's alma
mater, an action regarded by some observers as not
at all accidental.
Many political observers say that Mr. Carter's decision to explicate his faith during the
North Carolina primary campaign contributed to
his victory. The state is a heavily Baptist one.
As he explained it, the salient features of
Mr. Carter's spiritual biography emerged. Born in
the ruralcornrnunitv
of Plains, Ga., he .spent his
formative years in a distinctly Baptist culture, a
mixture of revivalist religion, traditional folkways
and prevailing mores.
But not until after his defeat in his first attempt to become Governor in 1966 did he have
what Baptists term a "conversion
experience."
Mr. Carter has not disclosed details, but he says he
came away from it with "an inner peace and inner
conviction and assurance that transformed my life
for the better."

years I was Governor in the seclusion of a little private room than all the rest of my life put togeth. er." But he disavows all contentions that his prayer
life has experienced the miraculous.
There has been no serious challenge to Mr.
Carter's sincerity or his spiritual credibility. Most
uneasiness appears to stem from a fear that an
evangelically minded President might use his power
to advance his beliefs or violate the separation of
church and state.
Interest in religion's role in politics was generated during the Nixon Administration when President Nixon had regular Sunday morning services
in the White House and frequently consulted with
Mr. Graham. Public debate over this and other
forms of civil religion has particularly stirred those
worried that public officials would manipulate religious symbols and language for personal advancement.
Mr. Carter's supporters
say that Baptists
have been in the forefront of struggles to maintain
a wall of separation between church and state and
that the candidate's
record shows nothing that
could raise any objections on this score.
"1 've never tried to use my position as a public official to promote by beliefs, and I never
wou Id," Mr. Carter said.
He has said that he believes personal example is the best way to influence others and that
matters such as abortion and premarital sex should
not be legislated against, though he opposes both
personally.
Mr. Carter also rejects any sugg';stion that he
has a mesiah complex.
"1 don't think god is going to make me President by any means," he said at a recent news conference. "But whatever I have as a responsibility
for the rest of my life, it will be with that infinite
personal cotinuinq relationship."

In a talk to a' Buffalo congregation, he said,


He began reading the Bible avidly, and still
"I
believe
I can be a better President because of my
does. Like many evangelical Christians, he balks
faith."
He
said he did not ask god, "Let me sueat a literal view of the Scriptures, an article of faith
ceed,"
but,
"Let me do the right thing."
among the fundamentalists.
Asked on a television interview if he agreed
with St. Paul's admonition that wives be "subject
to their husbands," Mr. Carter tactfully explained
that he had tried to accept that teaching but could
not.
that

He believes in the power of prayer, recalling


he "spent more time on my knees the four

Mr. Kelley believes that Mr. Carter, "like


Billy Graham, speaks in the inherited idiom that is
the closest to a common explanation of the meaning of life that America has."
This view, Mr. Kelley said,
with the vast majority of the publ ic.

"resonates"

[source: New York Times, 4/11/76)

November 1976/American Atheist - 25

The

Hidden

November 1976/American

Atheist - 26

Religious

Majority

American
A Nation
Program 411
KLBJ Radio

Atheist
NOT

Under

18 September 1976
Austin, Texas

Hello there,
This is Madalyn Murray O'Hair,
Atheist, back to talk with you again.

American

Organized religion in the Colonies, before


the nation was founded and the Constitution
adopted in 1788, had over a century and a half in
which to exhibit some kind of concern for human
brotherhood and to respect the principle of freedom of conscience. It never happened. On the contrary, the intolerance, the repressions, the factional
strife over doctrinal differences were so bad that
by the time of the Revolution many of the more
educated of our leaders had left Christianity and
opted for Deism. Unfortunately,
adequate information about this is never made available to those
who acquire their education in our public schools.
There the impression is given that this is a nation
founded on Christianity.
Deism is only briefly
mentioned, although intellectual
leaders of the
Revolution
were committed
to the concept.
Deism was the system of thought that advocated a natural religion, divorced from the JuJeoChristian 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, the Founding
Fathers believed in nature and nature's god.
Among those who disapproved of Christianity as it
manifested itself in the Colonies were Colonel
Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, George Mason, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams,
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Quincey Adams.
Colonel Ethan Allen, the revolutionary hero
of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, wrote a fullscale attack against the Christian religion, entitled
Reason the On IV Oracle of Man. In the book's
preface he declared, "I am no Christian, except infant baptism make me one." And on the subject of
praver: "Prayer to god is no part of a rational religion, nor did reason ever dictate it."
Thomas Paine--of whom John Adams said,
"Without the pen of Paine the sword of Washinqton would have been wielded in vain"--wrote Age

Radio
The

Series

Christian

God

of Reason, a bitter attack on the Christian church


and its theology. His central credo: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church,
bv the Roman church, by the Greek church, by
the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor
by any church that I know of. My own mind is my
own church." He added, "All national institutions
of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish,
appear to me no other than human inventions, set
up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."
Benjamin Franklin, in his Autiobiography,
explained how he "became a thorough Deist." Of
Christianity he wrote: "I wish it were more productive of good works. I mean really good works,
not holyday keeping, sermon hearinq, or making
long prayers filled with flatteries and compliments
desired by wise men."
George \J\lashinaton said, "The government
of the United States is in no sense founded upon
the Christian religion."
John Adams declared, "This would be the
best of all possible worlds if there were no rei igion
in it."
James Madison wrote, "Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of
maintaining the purity and efficacv'<of religion,
have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More
or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the
clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both,
superstition, bigotry and persecution."
Thomas Jefferson went even fu rther: "I have
recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity)
one redeeming fea_ ture. They are all alike founded upon fables and
mythologies. The Christian god is a being of terrific
character-cruel,
vindictive,
capricious, and unjust." Few people know that Jefferson was so disenchanted with organized Christian religion that he
attempted to create his own Bible. He introduced
it as a "wee little book" and called it The Philosophy of Jesus Christ. "It is," he wrote, "a paradigm
of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of
the book and arranging them on the pages of a
blank book, in a certain order .... Inextracting the
November

1976/American

Atheist

- 27

pure principles which he taught, we should have to


strip off the artificial vestaments in which they
have been muffled by priests, who have travestied
them into various forms as instruments of riches
and power for themselves." An inspection of the
book reveals that Jefferson weeded out the illogicalities and the absurdities in such a way as to give
Jesus a new dignity and stature.
As for the great national documents relating
to the founding of our nation, not one of them recognized either Jesus Christ or Christianity. The Articles of Confederation, proposed in 1777, did have
one reference to Deism in the phrase "great god of
the universe"; and the Declaration of Independence included such deistic terms as "Nature and
Nature's god" and "Divine Providence." In the
Constitution,
however, even such vague references
were quite deliberately avoided by the Founding
Fathers. It is important to remember that the Constitution was written more than a decade after the
signing of the Declaration of Independence, and
that by this time religious groups were demanding
that some reference to the Christian god, to Christianity, or to Jesus Christ be included in that instrument. Yet not only were such references not included, but safeguards against such religious intrusions were establ ished.
One of the first guarantees established in the
Constitution was that there be no rei igious test for
office. On August 30, 1787, Article
V I was
adopted, and it read, " ... no religious Test shall
ever be required a5 a Qualification to any Office or
public Trust under the United States."
The Constitution in this respect was an echo
of Virginia's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, drafted by Jefferson in 1779 and passed by
the state legislature in 1786, just a year before the
Constitution was drafted. It also held that a man's
religious beliefs could not be made a condition for
holding public office. Writing about the law in his
autobiography, Jefferson said:
Where the preamble declares that coercion
is a departure from the plan of the holy author of
our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the words Jesus Christ, so that it should
read a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ,'
the holy author of our religion. The insertion was
rejected by a great majority, in proof that they
meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its
protection, the Jew and Gentile, the Christian and
the Mohometan, the Hindu, and infidel of every
denomination.
Indeed, much of the literate world known to
the West was beginning to accept this attitude. Not

November 1976/ American Atheist - 28


lii

long after, it so happens that the fledgling nation


attempted to conclude treaties with other nations,
and some of these were of the Muslim faith. Some
indication of our religious posture was felt to be
needed in the treaties, and so this clause was inserted:
As the government of the United States is
not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity
against the law, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the States never have entered into any
way or act of hostility against any Mohometan nation, it is declared by the parties thet no pretext
arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an
interruption of harmony existing between the two
countries.
The most famous treaty citing this provision
is the Treaty of Tripoli concluded on February 10,
1797. The same statment was made in separate
treaties with Algiers and with Tunis.
The churches fought back. Even after the
Constitution had been ratified, the religious leaders
of the Christian community began to press for some
acknowledgment of their religion by the predorninantly deistic national leaders. On October 27,
1789, the First Presbytery Eastward in Massachusetts and New Hampshire made a protest to George
Washington because there was no "explicit
acknowledgment of the only true god and Jesus Christ
whom he has sent, somewhere in the Maqna Carta
of our country."
In 1793, the year Philadelphia
was stricken by the yellow fever, the Reverend
John Mason preached a sermon in which he declared that the plague was being sent as a visitation from god (the Christian one) because he had
not been recognized in the supreme law of the land
(at this time Philadelphia was the capital of ;~hr]
United States). In 1803 the Reverend Samuel H.
Wylie, Doctor of Divinity
of the University of
Pennsylvania, preached a sermon in which he asked
rhetorically,
"Did not the framers of this instrument [the Constitution]
in this ... resemble the
fool mentioned in Psalms 14:1-3 who said in his
heart, 'There is no god'?" In 1811 Samuel Austin,
Doctor of Divinity and later president of the University of Vermont, preached a sermon in Worcester, Massachusetts, in which he said that lack of
recognition of god was the "capital defect" in the
Constitution,
which "will issue inevitably in the
destruction of the nation." These few examples
should be sufficient to indicate the unhappy reaction among the clergy.
Reading colonial history immediately prior
to the Revolution,
specifically
the theological
clashes between the states, one finds that the

Founding Fathers had become completely disenchanted with each colony's insistence upon a particular sect established anti supported financially by
tax funds and the body politic. Thus arose the idea
called "disestabl ishment," which held that each
sect should support itself and not be legally, politically, and financially "established" as the only official religion in a particular state. This move was
well received by minority religious groups, which
desired to see pluralism or a number of diverse
sectarian groups legally acceptable in each state.
The Baptists, for example, fought long and hard
to dissuade the new state legislatures from continuing to recognize legally only the Anglican (or Episcopal) church, the Congregationalists, or any other
established church of the colonial era. The federal
leaders supported such efforts.
Virginia, the home of presidents, led the
way. Its Declaration of Rights, drafted in part by
James Madison and enacted June 12, 1776, advocated "free exercise of religion." An act later the
same year, which suspended payment of tithes or
church taxes, effectively disestablished the Church
of England, although final confirmation
of this
disestablishment awaited passage in 1786 of Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom.
Jefferson's act, already noted, declared that, in
Virginia, "no man shall be compelled to frequent
or support any religious worship, place, or ministry
whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall
otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions of belief; but that all men shall be f-ree to profess... their opinion in matters of religion."
Similarly, the churches were disestablished
in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey in 1776
and in New York, North Carolina, and Georgia in
1777. South Carolina waited until 1790. In New
York and in most of the New England states, however, assistance to the churches' in the form of land
endowments did persist until 1800. Connecticut's
church, moreover, did not yield its grip until 1818,
when the new constitution
there decreed separation of church and state. In Massachusetts the constitutional
amending did not come until 1833.
The legislature of Virginia ventured beyond
disestablishment.
In the colonial period it had
granted lands to the towns in the state for the support of religious worship. After the Revolution,
reaction against the old established church eventually reached such a pitch that in 1799 and 1802
the legislature repealed the earlier grants. The state
seized not only the original lands but also all their
appurtenances-buildings,
church
furnishings,
books and even communion silver. It took everything that had belonged to the "Established

Church of Virginia" as of July 5, 1776. All properties were sold, and the proceeds used for public
purposes.
<,
The Virginia churches' bitter fight to have
their land restored is one of the most famous in
legal annals, and it led to a direct confontation between Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story and exPresident Thomas Jefferson. Story, speaking for
the Supreme Court in decisions handed down in
1815, held that Virginia's repealing acts were contrary to the Constitution
and hence void. "If the
legislature posessed the authority to make such a
grant and confirmation,"
he said, "it is very clear
to our minds that it vested an ... irrevocable title.
We have no knowledge of any authority or principle which could support the doctrine that a legislative grant is revocable .... Such a doctrine would
uproot the very foundations of almost all the land
titles in Virginia, and is' utterly inconsistent with
... the right of the citizens to the free enjoyment
of their property legally acquired." This part of
Story's argument-affirming
the rights and security of property and contract-is
perhaps sound, but
Story went dangerously on to declare that the
First Amendment, citing freedom of religion, was
actually proposed and adopted for the encouragement of Christianity.
His famous argument reads:
Every American colony, from its foundation to the revolution, ... did openly, by the whole
course of its law and institutions, support and sustain in some form the Christian religion; and almost invariably gave a peculiar sanction to some of
its fundamental doctrines ... Probably at the time
of the edootion of the Constitution, and of the
[first]
amendment to it. .. the geiferal if not the
universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state
.... The real object of the amendment was not to
countenance, much' less to advance, Mohometenism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian
sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical extablishment which would give to a hierarchy the
exclusive patronage of the national government.
Story later reaffirmed this opinion in another case, in which he wrote: "It is also said, and trutv. that the Christian rei igion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania."
Jefferson was incensed by the interpretation
given by Story, and he wrote a memorandum
strongly disputing the accuracy of the maxim that
Christianity is a part of the common law. His study
is a careful historical and legal one. Later, in a letter to John Cartwright dated June 5, 1824, on the
subject of a book that Cartwright had written, Jef-

November

'/

1976/ American

Atheist

- 29

'

ferson wrote:
I was glad to find in your book a formal
contradiction at length, of the judicial usurpation
of legislative powers; for such the judges have
usurped in their repeated decisions that Christianity is a part of the common law. The proof of the
contrary, which you have adduced, is incontrovertible .... What a conspiracy
this, between
Church and State!
The disestablished churches did not give up
in any of the colonies and tried to rally their people wherever they could. Soon a fight developed
around their "incorporation"
in the new nation.
Incorporated
institutions
then were given unusual
rights, notably the power to levy a tax on the
members of their communities.
This provision was
an extension to the colonies (and thus the states)
of a right that had its beginning in the ecclesiastical corporations
of England. In order to finance
itself, the Episcopal church in Alexandria, Virginia,
tried to incorporate
through the U. S. House of
Representatives. James Madison, strongly believing
that churches should be self-supporting
through
free contributions,
vetoed the bill that would have
incorporated
the church, because he conceived it
as a violation
of the concept of separation of
church and state.
Nine years later, for
Virginia state constitutional

the same reason, the


convention
of 1829

forbade the incorporation


of a theological seminary by the state legislature. Today the constitutions of both Virginia and West Virginia still contain the restriction
that "the General Assembly
shall not grant a charter of incorporation
to any
church or religious denomination."
Not all states,
however, provided these safeguards; and in some
states, the churches under the corporate status
granted to them continued to exercise the power
to tax their own adherents well into the 1860's,
when such power was finally withdrawn
everywhere.
This informational
broadcast is brought to
you as a public service by the Society of Separationists, lnc., a nonprofit,
non-political,
tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to the
complete separation of state and church. This series of American Atheist Radio programs is continued through listener generosity. The Society of
Seperetionists, Inc. predicates its philosophy on
American Atheism. For more information,
or for
a free copy of the script of this program, write to
P. O. Box 2117, Austin, Texas. That zip is 78768.
If you want a free copy of this particular script
ask for number 411. The address, again, for you is
P. O. Box 2117, Austin, Texas, and that zip, agai"n,
is 78768.
I will be with you next week, same day of
the week, same time, same station. Until then, I
do thank you for listening and 'goodbye' for now.

~
~

~
American Atheists convened in the Seventh
Annual National Convention meeting in New York
City, New York in 1976 laid upon The American
Atheist Centre the burden of raising money for
three federal law suits:
1) to compel the Treasury Department to
stop revenue sharing funds to states which support
religion through legislation.
2) to compel Health Education and Welfare
Department
to cut off funds (from Primary and
Secondary School Aid Act) to any school district, in any state, which commingles religion with
education.

These three law suits, which will


go to the United States Supreme Court,
ably be litigated for a 3 to 5 year period:
ipate that each one will cost about

But $300,000 over a (say) four year period


is only $75,000 a year--$6,250 a month ...
In fall/winter
of 1976 we plan to file suit
number 3, above. We will delay on the other 2
until spring of 1977 .. For number 3-we
would
only
need $100,000--in
four
years. That
is
$25,000 a year, or a mere $2,082 a month.
I'Ve CAN do this. Please help. Donations may
be sent to:

3) to compel the Census Bureau to comply


with existing law and survey property (and wealth)
held by the churches.
I

UNDERSTAND

WORK

THAT

OF THE SOCIETY

FORTH,

THEREFORE,

EXEMPT

DONATION.

November

THE

1976/ American

Atheist

SOCIETY OF SEPARATIONISTS,
P.O.Box2117
Austin, TX 78768

LEGAL

BATTLES

OF SEPARATIONISTS

I ENCLOSE

AND

THE

OTHER

iJlUST BE CARRIED
AS MY TAX

(check or money order please)


- 30

eventually
,wili probVVe antic$100,000.

INC.

THE SOCIETY

OF SEPARATIONISTS,

Inc.

"Aims and Purposes"

1. To stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds,
dogmas, tenets, rituals and practices.
2. To collect and disseminate information,
data and literature on all religions and promote
more thorough understanding of them, their origins and histories.

3. To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways, the complete and absolute separation
of state and church; and the establishment and maintenance of a thoroughly secular system of
education available to all.
4. To encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system, stressing
the mutual sympathy, understanding and interdependence of all people and the corresponding
responsibility of each, individually, in relation to society.
5. To develop and propagate a social philosophy in which man is the central figure who alone
must be the source of strength, progress and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity.
6. To promote
perpetuation

the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the maintenance,
and enrichment of human (and other) life.

7. To engage in such social, educational, legal and cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial
to members of this Society (of Separationists) and to society as a whole.
"Definitions"

1. Atheism is the life philosophy (Weltanschauung)


of persons who are free from theism. It is
predicated on the ancient Greek philosophy of Materialism.
..
2. American Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the
supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics verifiable by
experience, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority or creeds.
3. The Materialist philosophy declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable and impersonal law; that there is no
supernatural interference in human life; that man-finding
his resources within himself-can
and must create his own destiny; and that his potential for good and higher development is
for all practical purposes unlimited.

The Society of Separationists, Inc., is a non-political, non-profit, educational, tax-exempt organization. Contributions to the Society are tax deductible for you. Our primary function is as an educational "watch dog" organization to preserve the precious and viable principal of separation of state and church. Membership is open to
those who are in accord with our "Aims and Purposes" as above. Membership dues is $12.00 per person per year.
An incident of membership is a monthly copy of "American Atheists Insider Newsletter". We are currently forming local chapters and membership in the National organization automatically gives you entrance to your local
chapter.
.

The Truth,
at last, Revealed

about

Shocking? Perhaps. But it is only a small


part of the fascinating mountain of evidence gathered in FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE by attorney
Dr. Madalyn Murray O.Hair and her researchers as
part of their ongoing fight to preserve the First Amendment guaranty of the separation of state and
church - a guaranty of not just freedom of religion but freedom from religion.

FREEDOM
UNDER SIEGE
by Madalyn

Organiz ed Religion

Murray O'Hair

Organized religion is working to destroy your


freedom. It strives to influence your elected representatives and to write the laws under which
you live, to regulate your children's schools and
dictate what is taught there, to censor your entertainment and choose what you and your neighbor can see and read, and to determine for all
women the right to control their lives and their
bodies. And it is your money that makes this
tyranny possible. The churches have their billions
invested in profit-making
enterprises; and their
wealth grows daily from gifts, grants, rents, interest, capital gains and government subsidies. They
are now financial giants, no longer dependent upon
their parishioners for support. What they count on
is their freedom from taxes. The churches' billions
are accumulated at your expense.

Official
government
and church
figures
prove that churches have as their membership only
a minority
of our citizens. This books shows the
continuing
pressures that this minority
exerts on
the lives of the majority of Americans.
Dr. O'Hair deals with politics, not religion;
with separation of state and church, not Atheism.
This report shows how your treasured liberties are
slowly being eroded as the churches increase their
power over every aspect of American life, limiting
your freedom of choice and even your access to information regarding those choices.

FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE dares to focus


on the facts about this growing threat - a threat
that our politicians and the press, radio and television have been unwilling to confront.
HARDCOVER - 282 PAGES - $8.95
.:-:"

..

Clip and mail


To:

Society of Separationists,

Inc., P. O. Box 2117, Austin,

Texas 78767

I enclose
Please send me [ ] copy (les)
of FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE, at $8.95
.55 postage and handling
$9.50 per copy
or charge to my MASTERCHARGE
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