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This Issue:

RETURN TO GALILEE
NO, VIRGINIA, THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUSE

XMAS BEFORE CHRIST


THE HERETIC

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
"Aims and Purposes"
1. To stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning
beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals and practices.

religious

2. To collect and disseminate information, data and literature on all religions and
promote a 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 the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the
maintenance, perpetuation 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 American Atheists 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 marr-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.

Volume

20, No. 12

'EDITOR IAL
COMMENT CORNER
NEWS
Atheist Teacher Won't Genuflect
Post-Mao Chinese Don't Need Religion
FEATURE ARTICLES
Dirty Old Santa Claus
Action Atheist - Arnold Via
The Day Of The Big Ones
No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus
Return To Galilee
A Letter From Grandpa
The Heretic
ATHEIST FILM REVIEW
Watership Down
ATHEIST BOOK REVIEW
Jesus Son Of Man

December,

2
3
5
7
9
10
16
18
21
22
27
35
36

Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair I Managing Editor: Jon Garth Murray
General Editor: Frank Duffy I Art Director: Joe Kirby I Production: Ralph Shirley
Circulation: John Mays I Non-Residential Staff: Ignatz Sahula-Dycke, G. Richard
Bozarth, James Erickson, Wells Culver, J. Michael Straczynski, Elaine Stansfield,
Bill Baird, Gerald Tholen
The American Atheist magazine is published monthly by American Atheists, 2210 Hancock
Drive, Austin, Texas 78756, a non-profit, non-political, tax-exempt, educational organization.
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX, 78768; copyright 1978 by Society of Separationists, Inc.; Subscription rates: $15.00 per year; $25.00 for two years. Manuscripts submitted
must be typed, double-spaced and accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The
editors assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts.

THE AMERICAN
ATHEIST
Post Office Box 2117
Austin, Texas 78768
Enter my subscription
NEW
Total Enclosed

MAGAZINE

for one year at $15.00

(two years at $25.00).

RENEWAL

Name

Address

City, State, & Zip


Austin,

Texas

December, 1978

.....

1978

ON THE COVER

The owl, as do the other birds,


endures through the winter, that
harsh season of striving and discontent
when nature seemingly
turns her back on the needs of all
creatures.
Life is harder in this time and
the small supply of wherewithal
so carefully
hoarded during the
fall now dwindles from day to
day. Foraging is more difficult.
More body energy is needed to
resist the cold. The barren trees
present no hospitable shelter.
The sturdy will survive. The
meek do not inherit the earth.
Perched alone, solitary, keenly
aware that it must rely only on
itself, the owl surveys the bleak
horizon.
And so it is with the
Atheist.
One mind, awake, wandering
among many sleeping minds,
finding no one with whom
there is comraderie.
But the point in time arrives.
for both mankind and the owl:
the Winter Solstice [22 Dec. '18
at 00:21 EST]when the apex
of winter is reached and the earth
in its angle and course around the
sun begins the return to the
blossoms
of
spring
and the
fruition of summer.
The Atheist has renewed hope
since (s)he is a part of nature.
And that renewed hope is that all
mankind will turn from the bleakness of religion to the summer of
fulfilled human thought, which is
reason.
Page 1

BY JON GARTH MURRAY

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE
The young generation
in America has popularized
the
phrase "Mother Earth," a concept which identifies our planet
as the beginning, as the provider, as the nurturer of mankind.
The Earth is all we have and all we know. It is home. We
require no special equipment
to thrive in its atmosphere.
We
belong here. We are adapted for life on this sphere spinning
through yet indefinable space.
The terminology
of the young is appropriate.
For in a
sense the Earth is mother to the realities which surround us.
Everything
we see is a product
of the resources contained
within its mass. We are confined, like it or not, to life on this
planet and the joys and problems which flow from that life.
We are free to investigate and speculate and even hallucinate about things outside the boundaries of our planet as we
may. Such speculation doesn't however, free us from the necesitv of coping with the realities of life on Earth on a daily basis.
The physical realities of planet Earth form an environment
which cannot be ignored. The weather, the air pressure, the
terrain, even the night and the day shape our behavior and our
attitudes.
Our physical environment
surrounds
us and we
cannot escape or ignore it.
Theism requires that one do just that. All religions tell
their adherents to ignore the environment
which embraces us
at all times so as to replace it with a fantasy world - a phantom environment
of mythical characters and ephemeral
laws
which effect nothing but the minds of their believers.
Such is nonsense.
Can you ignore that you are a man or a woman? Can one
be oblivious to the rain or to the cold or to the day or the night?
No, we must all learn to cope with the conditions in which we
find ourselves.
Can you ignore hunger? Theism asks you to do so. It asks
you to focus blearily only on those myths it projects on an
other-worldly
screen to hide the ever-present
realities of life
from view. In this impartial universe realities can be, and often
are, as unpleasant
as they are delightful.
They are always
there - theism or no theism.
How do the fantasy environments
created in the tales of
Hans Christian Anderson relate to reality? The answer is that
they don't. In the same manner of reasoning how do the fantasies about Jesus Christ or David Copperfield
or Peter Pan
relate to the actuality of our daily existence? Like all fairy tales,
not at all.
Those things which we can feel, imagine, hear and see are
celebrated as fact. Those things which we can imagine, we are
asked to celebrate as fact, in disregard of what we can feel and
hear and see. Does this make any sense?
Here in Austin, Texas, each year University
of Texas
students celebrate an event called "Igor's Birthday Party." Igor
is a donkey taken from Winny The Pooh. The frivolous celebration is fun. Those who participate do so for enjoyment only.

Page 2

December,

~/

1978

Christmas, likewise, is frivolous fun based on utter fiction.


Yet one cannot say so to a Christian, for (s)he would insist
that the event is quite serious and not to be taken lightly. For
the Christian, make-believe has become reality.
Well, reality for Atheists comes not out of the pages of a
fairy tale. I can observe the leaves fall and can feel the wind
grow cold. Eventually I can see the spring blossoms return again
as I bask in the sun. I am part of a cycle, a physical and evermoving cycle, a cycle in which I must participate
as must all
others of all species.
I cannot remove myself from what and where I am in disregard of the physical boundaries in which I find myself. Only
in one's dreams can one fly. Only in a dream world can a theist
retu rn from death.
Life is a series of wonderful experiences - to be enjoyed.
Even in defeat it is possible to laugh. I shall not in this or any
other year celebrate an illusionary escape from that sweet reality of life which is so dear.
With winter's arrival I want to see and feel the snow and
the cold and sit by a warm fire. I do not wish to celebrate the
birth of a character from a book of myths. I would rather enjoy my life.
In the spring I want to see the flowers and inhale their
fragrance.
I choose to run with my friends or picnic in the
park. I care not about the death of a storybook
character.
I
am concerned with life.
In summer I would swim and travel and enjoy the life-giving
sun. I need not kneel in a dark hall and be told that I am
damned because it is so written. I am not concerned with that
which is outside life.
In the autumn I want to see the crimson leaves and feel
the cooled autumn wind on my neck. I care not about giving
thanks to a myth for my food. I will instead thank the farmer,
and the trucker and the grocer - and I would wish them a
pleasant day.
In essence, I live. I celebrate my life and savor every minute of it. If ever I should lose myself in the pursuit of non-life
I will have lost my opportunity
to participate
fully and honestly in life itself. I shall have joined the ranks of the living
dead of theism.
During this and every season many wonderful
opportunities and experiences
present themselves in a continuing
panorama. These are the very best reasons for celebrating of which
I know.
I urge all to celebrate often as the experiences of life so
move them. Leave death and its monuments
to the theist community. They don't know what they are missing.
From all of us here at the American Atheist Center we
would like to wish you and yours a happy Solstice Season. In
all seasons may you enjoy the reality of that of which we are a
part, the wonder of life.

The American

Atheist

COeMeMENT

R
N
E

The Need, To Recapture The Nation's Symbol's

Appeasement

Dear Editor,
Would it not be more practical and substantive
to put the money and energy
that is going into the "In God We Trust" lawsuit to changing the tax-exempt
status
of religious institutions
and property?
Nathaniel Weintraub

Dear Editor,
With slight rewording the motto on
our currency
would put Atheists at
their ease and confirm the Theists in
their faith. The motto need only read
"In God Our Theists Trust" in order
to cool passions and excite admiration.

Mr. Weintraub,
All of our suits are "symoblic" suits because, frankly, these are the cheapest
ones.
If we wanted to force the churches to pay taxes on their real estate, we estimate that the cost of such a suit would be about $7 to $10 million. In addition, the
case would probably last about six to seven years, at least. This would mean that, in
order to file it initially, we would probably need $1 million to present the first evidence (professional evaluation of every individual piece of property owned by the
churches in a given geographical frame which would be the venue of the suit) and
thereafter, to sustain it we would need perhaps a quarter of a million dollars each
quarter (three months) of each year thereafter. It would take an entire firm of attorneys to handle it - and, they would need to do nothing but this work - so that
we would need to support one firm for those six to seven years.
Symbolic suits are important, yet they cost but a hundreth of that. Who does
not realize that we have lived and died for our flag? Why do we yet retain the
symbolic phrase "Remember the Alamo!" even though we are not endangered by
Mexican military intervention? Why do we cherish the symbolism of the White
House for our presidents' residence? Surely Carter, et al, could live in an ordinary
home in Washington just as well as in the White House. Symbols are powerful medicine ... and doctors gioe placebos to their patients in proof thereof. Why do Christians cling so tenaciously to the cross, the Jews to the Star of David?
If the words "In God We.Trust" were not of special importance to the religious
community in the United States, why did they approach Congress to have these
words put on our nation's coins and currency? Why does the government fight so
tenaciously to keep them, knowing full well that they are an illegal "establishment"
of religion? Why would the Senate and the House of Representatives take time to
pass bills to effectuate the situation? Why would a president of the United States
sign such unconstitutional bills?
The slogan is important enough to have all of our federal legislators involved
in the issuing of it on the coins of the realm.
If we did not have this slogan on our currency and coins, if our Pledge of
Allegiance did not say, "one nation, under God, " the religious community would
not be able to get the privileges and immunities from taxation which they now
have. Following the capturing of the nation's symbols comes the nation's tax dollars.
It costs you and every taxpayer at least $1,000 a year in taxes, overt and covert,
to keep the churches going so that the religious can get into their heaven. What
could you do with that $J,OOO/year for your family's well-being? Symbols not important! They are the staff of life of religion. They are the stock in trade of these
pious frauds. They are the rock upon which the religious build their claims to your
tax dollars.
If we could have our choice of money enought to fight the taxation of the real
estate of religious organizations, or money enough to fight all the symbolic suits we
need to fight, we think that we would come down on the side of the symbols.
Death is a reality, but heaven is a symbol. Religious persons give up a full life
on earth for that symbolic dream. We need to combat religious symbolism wherever
found, always.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Austin,

December,

Texas

1978

Stanley Paluch
Boulder, CO

Asterisk Atheists
Dear Editor,
In the September
issue of The
American Atheist, there was a 'letter
by Harold Riloff in which he says,
"bug off the Jews." Suppose I say, "bug
off the Catholics,"
and someone else
says, "bug off the Mormons?"
Is his argument any better than the others? I
say don't
bug off any religion but
attack them all.
Also, I would like to point out that
there are no "Jewish
Atheists"
any
more than there are Christian Atheists.
There are, however, some Atheists who
.do not have the guts to break their
emotional ties to their earlier religion.
I suspect Mr. Riloff is one of them.
Finally, he says "I am a Jew because
I am called one." If someone calls him
an S.O.B. does that necessarily make
him one? I have often been called a
Christian but that does not make me
one. Unless I adhere to the Christian
religion I am not a Christian. Likewise,
unless Mr. Riloff believes in the Jewish
religion he is not a Jew - no matter
what he is called.
Keep up the fight against ALL religions - Christian,
Jewish, Moslem
and the rest.
Louis Williams
Northglenn,
CO

Page 3

Atheist Teen-Ager Thinks For Himself

AA Mag In Sweden

Dear Editor,
Please let me re-introduce myself. I am Michael Marlow, 15 years old, from a
suburb of Cincinnati. I have written to you and have been reading The Bible Handbook for Atheists and A Few Reasons for Doubting the Inspiration of the Bible. I
now consider myself an Atheist.
With this consideration in mind, I have been having many arguments with the
religious community. I have been troubled by some of my teen-age friends in my
area who seem to accept what any preacher says as being fact. They are unaware of
the brain-washing techniques which have been used on them. They defend the Bible
yet really don't understand a bit of what they are talking about.
I wish that the teen-agers of today would take their religion more seriously. If
they do not understand that they are being taught pure fiction, they could waste
their life worshipping a god that isn't really there! Sometimes they consider me odd.
That just makes me laugh because they consider a person who questions what is put
in front of him to be odd! In what direction is mankind heading with such attitudes?
I really 90 appreciate the sample copy of The American Atheist that you sent
to me. It is filled with true facts. I would like to subscribe at the present time, but
as you know, the budget of a 15-year-old is not as prosperous as I would like.
Therefore, I am hoping that by my sixteenth birthday I can afford to subscribe to
this fine publication. I would also like to become a member as soon as possible and
receive the Insider's Newsletter, but again my financial situation is not sufficient.
However, I would like to order Lucifer's Handbook by Lee Carter. From reading
the Atheist Book Review, this sounds like a really valuable book.
Your born-again Atheist,
Michael Marlow
Cincinnati, OH
Dear Michael,
Your letter was most encouraging to we who work here atthe American A theist
Center. We are particularly pleased when we hear encouraging words from young
Atheists such as yourself who are already shouldering the responsibility of leading
their peers out of the shadows in which they yet dwell.
It is quite understandable to us that some of your peers would consider you
odd. If you persist in thinking for yourself and coming to your own conclusions on
all issues you can expect to be treated not just as an oddity, but as a threat to theists
who would have you genuflect before their neuroses.
As a thank-you for your kind words of encouragement, you will be receiving a
one-year subscription to The American Atheist, courtesy of the staff at the American
Atheist Center.
The Editor

Dear Editor,
I have great news for you and all
American Atheists. The very wellknown Professor Ingemar Hedenius
(from Uppsala University) and I have
opened the doors of Sweden to The
American Atheist magazine.
We have ordered a subscription of
the magazine for the Library of the
City of Stockholm, one of the largest
libraries in Sweden. Mr. Ulf Dittmer,
library representative, has gratefully
acknowledged receipt of our gift subscription.
So, I enclose my check for the first
initial subscription of The American
Atheist magazine for the Library of the
City of Stockholm.
J.M.F. Santana
Tumba, Sweden

Faith - Rational & Irrational


Dear Editor,
It is often asserted by religiously oriented persons that we Atheists have no faith.
Unfortunately, many of our number acquiesce in that assertion. I strongly object
because I think we do have faith, although that faith is of a different kind.
To these religious friends faith means a belief or confidence in the miraculous or
supernatural. Not to give credence to supernaturalism is to have no faith. We make
a mistake if we let them define the term, in much the same way we have as a country let the Soviet Union or China define what Marxism is. The word faith can be
shown to have two different aspects. It is very important that we make the distinction in replying to this charge. Faith is -either rational or irrational.
Atheism is a consequence of rational faith while most of religious faith is irrational.
Rational faith is always linked to our own experience with past events. If I assert that
mankind has the capacity to conquer disease it is because I have witnessed some diseases being practically wiped out during my lifetime. I have a rational faith that
.science (when not hindered by superstition) will be able to defeat these scourges.
On the other hand, irrational faith has no connection with past experiences but
is wholly based on the acceptance of what some authority asserts to be true and
that it must be believed.
When the science of logic is adhered to the Atheist faith and only the Atheist
faith is vindicated.
Andrew D. Kahn
Baton Rouge, LA

Page 4

December, 1978

~/

Recognition For Donors


Dear Editor,
I regret that you have decided not
to publish the names of those of us
who have contributed to the Mortgage
Fund. I would think there are many
besides myself who wish publicly to
express their concern for our constitutional rights which have too long been
taken for granted.
In the past, it has usually been minorities who have made crucial contributions to the development of our free
way of life. So it is now with our organization. I believe that some token
of public recognition should go to
those who desire it.
John L. Bergman
Palo Alto, CA
Dear John,
We are going to publish the names
of contributors to the Mortgage Fund
in the Newsletter which goes to our
members only.
Since one must be an A theist to
get to be a member, this will somewhat safeguard our financial status.
The magazine is accessible to everyone - and even the Jesuits, as an organization, subscribe to it.
MMO'H

The American Atheist

"II(';'~' _N_E_w:_s~"II""11111111~1!1!lllIlt11!1111'1';IIII[t111I.l'tl'{ltll
ATHEIST TEACHE
The letters to the editor column of
a newspaper presents a slim hope to
the citizens of our nation that their
voices can, sometimes, be heard. Those
of you who have written letters, however, have seen the chopped versions
which appear and you have, silently,
seen that hope - at least for you
dissipated.
Still, there is the hope, and it was
there for Bruce Hunter. He wrote a
letter to the editor of his hometown
newspaper in respect to a state-church
separation matter. He had the timerity
to sign his name to his opinion - and
the letter was printed.
Bruce Hunter, at that time, was
teaching mathematics at a high school
in Dallas, Texas. That high school, under the supervision of the Dallas Independent School District, continued
prayers and bible-reading despite the
United States Supreme Court ruling
that it should not. In fact, under the
leadership of a fanatical Baptist, the
entire school district intruded religion
everywhere it could. There were
Christian athletic clubs, religious assemblies, prayers at sporting events,
prayers and bible-reading in classrooms,
teacher prayer groups, and one principal sported a huge cross hanging
around his neck as an ordinary part of
his dress.
The day after Bruce Hunter wrote
the letter to the editor, he was called
to the principal's office as if he had
committed a crime. He was given a
written warning and his trouble began for he was identified then as being
one of the most dreaded and dangerous
species of Americans: an Atheist.
When a religious assembly was called, Bruce Hunter did not attend. As
Christian clubs mushroomed, Bruce
Hunter suggested an Atheist club.
When he was taunted by his students
in class, he calmly stopped and explained what an Atheist was.
He walked the school corridors
with dignity; he taught his subject
well. And, the next year he was
transferred to a school in a district

~WONT GENUFLECT

-r-r-

where religious domination was even


worse. Here he confronted daily the
cross on the neck of the principal.
Here his skills were not utilized and the
courses in higher mathematics, theoretical math, both of which he could
teach, were no longer assigned to
him. He was in effect demoted and
put on probation in a more demeaning atmosphere.
The blatant discrimination, the differential handling became the daily insult. Quickly the teacher who had
been commended for excellence became the teacher who "experienced a
marked decline in teaching performance." Because he would not kiss the
cross (this time hanging around the
neck of the principal) his "attitude
toward his principal" was characterized as "insubordinate."
When his
teaching contract came up for renewal he was dismissed. After 20
years of teaching, he would not be
able to obtain a job in the Dallas
Independent School District.
Hunter sued for his job back. At
that time, in 1976, your American
Atheist Center could not help him. We
were struggling to survive, but he
sought help from and obtained the financial assistance of the American Federation of Teachers, and went into the
United States District Court in Dallas.
On 24 October 1978, the judge of that
court ruled against Bruce's claim of
discriminatory handling and denial of
his First Amendment rights.
In an obvious hostile ruling the judge
stated: "The school board decision not

to renew this teacher's contract was


not in any way caused by the teacher's
beliefs or any protected conduct he
may have engaged in. . .. A teacher
must teach and when he can no longer
do so, he must be replaced unless his
inability springs from denial of his
First Amendment rights. That did not
happen here. In the final analysis
teachers ought to teach, not preach.
... The court has concluded that the
seeming insensitivity to Hunter's minority beliefs was more anger and
frustration at his petulant and insubordinate conduct than hostility toward
his beliefs."
Any Atheist knows about "insubordinate conduct" to god, his representatives or his believers.
Of course, the American Federation of Teachers which saw Bruce
Hunter through this first level cannot
go on. Therefore, the American Atheist Center has agreed to take up the
appellate court fight which will be
handled by its staff attorney, Paul
Funderburk. Meanwhile, a legal appeal
fund has been set up for the costs of
this case.
Edwin Pegelow, director, Dallas
chapter, American Atheists, and Professor Bruce Pringle, (sociology, SMU)
will serve as trustees of this fund, along
with Dick Nelson who heads the fund
appeal. The object: to have Bruce
Hunter reinstated as a mathematics
teacher and to have reimbursement of
salary lost from 1976 onward. Those
who can help, please contact:
Dick Nelson, Trustee
Bruce Hunter Appeal Fund
7417 Alto Caro
Dallas, TX 75248
We should all line up behind this
one. Bruce Hunter represents every
Atheist teacher in the United States
who needs to pretend to Christianity
in order to keep employment. Intimidation of Atheists must be stopped
and this case is a good one toward that
exercise.

'The news which fills one half of the magazine is chosen to demonstrate,
month after month, the dead reactionary
hand of religion. It dictates
good habits, sexual conduct, family size, it censures cinema, theater, television, even education.
It dictates life values and lifestyle. Religion is
politics and, always, the most authoritarian
and reactionary
politics. We editorialize our news to emphasize this thesis. Unlike any other maga~ine or newspaper in the United States, we are honest enough to admit it.

Austin,

Texas

December, 1978

Page 5

NEWS
Catholic Church losing ground on its home turf
Despite the fact that some 99 percent of Italy's 56.6 million people are
born into the Roman Catholic Church,
fewer than 10 percent of the overwhelmingly Catholic population take
their inherited dogmas seriously enough
to perform their religious duties.
In the assessment of the Roman
church, Italy has suffered a decline
since the days when the Papal States
ruled a 16,000-square-mile area from
Naples to Venice. Today the Vatican
holds only one-fifth of a square mile. Its
word is law only to those who care to
obey.
The church's influence on Italian
life began dwindling with the postWW II prosperity, industrialization and
migration from villages to' the larger
cities. Italian sociologists say that the
cities diluted the power of the family
and with it that of the Catholic
church. City life gave Italians a new

sophistication. Even practicing Catholics began dismissing church admonitions on morality, sex, birth control and
other issues over which the church has
for centuries claimed as its province of
absolute authority.
The Vatican's religious power was
formalized by the 1929 Lateran Pacts
between Pope Pius XI and Italy's Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. One of
these pacts, the Concordat, made Roman Catholicism the state religion of
Italy.
Among other controversial
clauses it required the Italian government to pay the salaries of parish
priests.
Currently the impact of the church
on Italian society is at the lowest point
in history. A telling defeat came on
1 Dec. 1970, when parliament legalized
divorce.
It was the first time in Italy's his-

Miracle of the Month Dept.


~

OLD SHOE DIVISION

A Catholic, Mexican-American woman in the U.S. southwest is the proud


concessionaire of a moldy tortilla the
skillet burns on which so resemble the
face of Christ that thousands of faithful Catholics hungering for refried miracles flock to view the crunchy Christ.
In heavily Catholic New Jersey
.another portrait in pasta of miraculous
origins nightly brings a hungering flock
of gnarled believers to the pizzeria of
Mr. and Mrs. Dominic Ca$hin [see
October issue, page 8].
Well ... if you are ready for this
month's miracle ... another savior of
specious origin has surfaced in still
another city thick with Roman Cathholies.
In Beauport, an of-necessity sleepy
little town on the outskirts of Quebec
City in Canada, thousands of pilgrims
are wending their way in droves to see
the well-worn and holy face of Jesus
Christ on the sole of a dead priest's
shoe.
The shoe was worn by Canon Cyrille
Labrecque who died of tuberculosis in
the spring of 1977. The mysterious
image is said to have appeared on his

Page 6

shoe sole while he was lying in state.


"Canon Labrecque was lying in an
open casket and we discovered that his
left foot was sticking up higher than
his right," convent secretary Sister
Marie-Claire Couture told a local newspaper.
"A minister came to pay his respects
and saw a face on the left shoe."
Convent founder Sister Julienne
Du Rosaire was reluctant to say the
image is actually that of Christ.
"We can't say for sure," she said.
"There is not proof. It is not clear
like a painting but everybody sees it.
Some take a few moments but there is
definitely something there."
According to one of the convent
sisters there are actually two images on
the shoe. One is a full-face image, the
other, a profile image, appears when
the shoe is turned upside down.
When laid on its side in the waning
rays of a Canadian sunset, the resinlike material of sour odor which adheres to the shoe's sole is readily
identifiable as the compressed fecal
remains of Canon Labrecque's two pet
St. Bernard's, Judas and Lucifer.

December, 1978

tory that parliament had approved a


measure fiercely condemned by the
Vatican and personally condemned by
the late Pope Paul VI. Outraged by the
legislators' actions, the church pressed
for a public referendum on the divorce
bill four years later - only to find that
60 percent of all Italian voters supported divorce.
The Vatican and Pope Paul lost
another major battle on their home
ground last May when Italy legalized
abortion.
A public opinion poll found 83 percent of all Italians favored legal abortion in certain cases. Faced with this
figure, the Vatican probably will not
push for a referendum on this matter,
though it has threatened Catholics
with excommunication
should they
partake of now legal abortion services.
Modern-day Italians have increasingly begun to ignore the medieval posturings of the Vatican on matters which
each individual 'should decide for him
or herself.
In the 1976 elections, 10 million
Italians ignored a church threat of
automatic excommunication and voted
for Communist candidates. In a recent
poll, 36 percent of regular churchgoers
said they disagreed with the Vatican
and believed it possible for a good
Catholic to be a Communist.
For example, in Naples thousands
of Neapolitans jam the city cathedral
on the first Saturday of May each year
to watch the congealed blood of St .
Januarius "miraculously"
liquefy in
two glass vials.
Yet those same Neapolitans keep
one of Italy's strongest Communist administrations in power in their city
government.
Waning Vatican influence and prestige has also hit at the very marrow of
the church.
A recent Italian bishops' conference bemoaned a 50 percent drop in
the number of boys studying for the
priesthood between 1961 and 1977.
In the same period, diocesan clergy
fell from 43,538 to 40,886 - while
Italy's population rose 6 million.
One bishop complained that "a
priest doesn't get the same respect
in Italy that he once commanded.
If the trends are not reversed we'll
soon be facing a Dark Ages for Christianity in this country."

The American Atheist

NEWS

POST-MAO CHINeSe

DON'T NEED RELIGION


C
H
I
N
E

3ij

Modern Chinese view the death of a


person the same way they view the
snuffing out of a lamp, and do not
worry about what happens to them after death.
So says Chao Fu-san, deputy director of the newly reopened Institute for
Religious Studies which has opened its
doors again in Peking after being closed
since 1966, when the Cultural Revolution began under Mao Tse-tung.
"Gods arise from fear," Mr. Chao
said, adding that the Chinese no longer
need religion. He said scientific knowledge of nature has brought a better
understanding of life and death.
"The relationship between man and
society has changed in a socialistic society, which is not self-centered," he
said. "Everyone in China today has a
purpose in life - to help the revolutionary cause - and no longer has the

personal fears of the past."


Article 46 of the Constitution of the
People's Republic of China, adopted on
5 March of this year, states that "citizens enjoy the freedom to believe in
religion and freedom not to believe in
religion and freedom to propagate
Atheism."
Chinese scholars now make use of
the Institute's lOO,OOO-volume library
to study Buddhism, Christianity, Islam
and other religions. The director, Jen
Chi-yu, told an interviewer that religious studies help develop an understanding of history, philosophy, art,
literature and political thinking.
Asked how many practicing Christians, Buddhists and Moslems there are
in China today, Mr. Jen said there was
no registration and no records were
kept, in keeping with the constitutional
guarantee of religious freedom.

China's Smiling Cynics


Asians are not exempt from experiencing the general human
reluctance to confront reality sans the rose-colored glasses of
religion. For religionists both East and West, actuality is the most
dreadful thing in the world, and their "faith" is a general conspiracy never to look at it or mention it.
In the "mysterious" Orient, the Chinese are notorious for
their earthy pragmatism. Primitive Buddhism as it was birthed in
India, and later transmitted through China to Korea and Japan,
was serenely atheistic. There more so than in the Christian West,
gods and the priests who create them have always been fair game
for the smiling cynicism of the poets.

T
H

E
I
S
M

The pastor adds some more lies


To the lies
Of the Bible.

In his mouth, the sutra;


In his heart,
"How much will they give me?"

God is believed in,


Because
He can't be seen.
Pray as you like,
The eyes of the Buddhas
Look straight in front.

December, 1978

Austin, Texas

The Bible invites us


To heaven
A little too much.

Page 7

NEWS
Lemons ...
Scandinavian Atheists don't fool
around when it comes to rendering
to god (and his envoys) that which
they justly deserve.
Hence it was that the recent debut
of Billy Graham's "Scandia 78" crusade
in Oslo, Norway, was marred by members of the Norwegian Society of
Heathens, anarchists and other demonstrators who climbed to the grandstand roof to rain tomatoes, lemons
and anti-Christian leaflets on the wooly
crowd of zealots who had come to hear
the multi-millionaire American crusader make his pitch.
"Billy G." drew a crowd of almost
20,000 for the opening day sermon,
but less than 200 came forward to
swear allegiance to Graham's Americanized Christ, and hostile demonstrations
continually interrupted the service.
"If only one of you witness as a
new follower of god, this meeting is
a success," Graham repeatedly told
the audience at Oslo's Ullevall soccer stadium, where he won more than
700 converts in a 1955 crusade.
Two of the demonstrator unfurled
a banner saying "Give the Christians
Power and They Will Kill."
Another heathen grabbed a microphone and shouted: "God is dead!"

swords ...
Speaking of religious crusaders,
"The Christian Soldiers," a force of
300 American volunteers for the Rhodesian guerrilla war, left London in
mid-September
for southern Africa.
The force of mainly Vietnam War
veterans is claiming the backing of
the Ian Smith government to fight under a Christian flag in the war against
black nationalist guerrillas.
Their precise destination and time
of arrival in Africa were not revealed.
Vietnam veteran Giles Pace, 34,
who heads the Emmanuel Volunteer
Brigade, said private funds had been
gathered in the United States for the
mission.
The brigade, mainly former U.S.
commandoes, paratroopers or Special
Forces (Green Berets) soldiers but
with some Britons, Germans and
South Africans, would be unpaid, he
said.
They had been recruited by a Reverend Paul Linstrom, a Chicago clergyman, "to fight the sword with the
sword."

Page 8

of the city corporation counsel's office, school officials determined the


district was not obligated to comply
with the request to permit copies of
the Youth Testament to be passed
out in the schools or on school grounds.
Although the bibles were not to be
taught or used in the schools in any
way, Johnson said school officials believed many parents might object to
their distribution.
The Gideons were seeking permission to distribute their book of myths
to all students in grades 5 through 12
in the city's public schools.
Acknowledging that some parents
and students probably would like to
receive the books, the superintendent
said he believed many others would be
offended by the distribution of any
religious material in school. Based on
the idea of separation of state and
church, Johnson said school board
members agreed not to allow the dispersal of the books to take place.
He noted that if the district had
permitted the distribution of bibles,
the door might be opened for any
other religious group to expect similar
consideration.

"If we can get our hands on the


guerrillas we will be more than happy to exterminate them," said Pace,
wearing combat jacket, parachute,
beret and boots.
The latter-day
crusaders intend
to set up their base at the Elim School,
near Umtali, where 12 British missionaries were killed in June.
Pace said they would be prepared
to chase guerrillas "even if we have
to cross the border of Mozambique."

and bibles
Another of continuing attempts by
Christians to gain access to the minds
of this nation's public school pupils
has been thwarted in Syracuse, N.Y.
That city's school district has turned
down an offer to have copies of the
New Testament distributed
to its
students as being too controversial.
Sidney 1. Johnson, superintendent
of schools in Syracuse, said the school
district has refused a recent request by
Gideons International to permit the
distribution of portions of the Bible to
Syracuse pupils because of the "sensitive" nature of the issue.
Johnson stated that on the advice

RADCLIFFE COLLEGE 10 Garden Street Cambridge,

Mass. 02138

September 5, 1978
Madalyn O'Hair
American Atheist Center
4408 Medical Parkway
Austin, Texas 78756

Dear Ms. O'Hair:


I am writing to acquaint you with the Schlesinger Library and
to ask that you consider the possibility of establishing a collection
of your personal and professional papers here.
The Schlesinger Library is Radcliffe College's research library
on the history of women in America. It collects unpublished and
published materials on the roles and achievements of women and
makes them available to scholars and students who come to the
Library from allover the country. It is our hope that, if you
have not already made another commitment, you will establish the
Madalyn O'Hair Collection here. Certainly your long crusade for
atheism snould be documented for future historians.
Some descriptive literature about the Library is enclosed which
I hope you will find of interest. I shall look forward to hearing
from you.

e..4~~~
Sincerely,

Patricia King
Director

The Arthur

and Elizabeth

December, 1978

~/

Schlesinger

Library

on the History

of Women

in America

The American Atheist

by WILLIAM MICHAEL FAGAN


The flames from the bonfire flew
high in the air, lighting up the entire
schoolyard. Two fat Christmas trees
were added, and the flames grew even
brighter. But not even the flames were
as bright as the Christian zeal showing
in the eyes of Joseph Aloysius Duffy
as he led the children in their chant.
Santa Claus, Santa Claus
There he is, Ma
Hanging from the flagpole
Ha, he, ha.

Had one looked closely, he might


have found traces of nostalgic tears in
the eyes of some of the kids. And at
the opposite extreme he might have
found a glassy-eyed fanaticism showing
in the eyes of others.
Monsignor Maguire mounted a small
wooden platform that had been erected
in the schoolyard for the occasion. He
was in high spirits. His old friend Monsignor Glendenning, national president
of the "Anti-Santa Claus League," had
just appointed him chairman of the organization's entire northeast division,
which included territory all the way
from the New Jersey-Delaware state
line up to Maine, and from the Atlantic
Ocean as far west as Altoona, Pennsylvania.
As director of the northeastern division, it would be his job to co-ordinate
all possible methods of attack which
might be effective in bringing about the
demise of this pagan symbol, Santa
Claus, who annually did so much to de'
tract from the Christian observance of
Christ's birth.
As Maguire waited to begin, thoughts
raced through his mind. If he made a
good showing in this activity, he might
start a national organization of his own
something like the "Anti-Easter Bunny
League." The Easter Bunny cut into
the church's take almost as heavily at
Easter time as Santa Claus did during

Austin, Texas

the Christmas season. Besides, the potentialities of this type of thing were
great. He might even eventually take
on Mother Goose, Little Orphan Annie
and that whole crowd of non-Christian
mythical figures. All except the old
woman who lived in the shoe and had
so many children she didn't know what
to do. Since it was obvious she hadn't
practiced birth control, he could probably use her as an example for the
young people.

more great men like you in America today to lead us during these trying times."
Maguire smiled and climbed down
from the platform. And once again Joe
Duffy began leading the children in
their chant.

Finally, Monsignor Maguire finished


his reverie and raised his hands in front
of him. And all was silence. The children moved closer to the platform to
hear their pious and reverent pastor.
To a great many people in Moronic,
New Jersey, Monsignor Maguire was a
saint on earth. In their daily prayers
they often gave thanks to god for allowing such a holy man to walk among
them.
"Studen ts." he said. "I'm here tonight to say a few words about this
pagan Santa Claus who is interfering
with our devotion to the Christ Child.
I know you are all thinking of tomorrow and the presents you will get. I
can remember when I was a young boy.
We were very poor, and one Christmas
my only pair of shoes had holes in them.
I knelt down and prayed to god that
someone would give me a pair of shoes
for Christmas.
My one hope was a rich aunt. But
my aunt didrr't give me a pair of shoes.
Instead she spent ten dollars to buy me
a spiritual bouquet. And for one year
after that all the missionary nuns in a
convent in Africa prayed for me each
day. If it hadn't been for the prayers
of those nuns, I wouldn't be a priest today, because I developed a terrible case
of the flu that winter and almost died.
I hope many of you will get fine
Catholic gifts like the one my aunt gave
me that Christmas. Well, I won't keep
you any longer. I see Mr. Duffy is eager
to get on with our rally."
Joseph Aloysius Duffy jumped onto
the platform. "God bless you Monsignor
Maguire," he said. "If only there were

Monsignor Maguire left the schoolyard, got into his car and headed for
the George Washington Bridge. He
crossed into New York City and the,
Borough of the Bronx, then traveled
over several streets until he came to a
block of white-stone duplexes with
small lawns in front of them. After
parking, he went up to the door of one
of the houses and rang the bell. A fiery
young red-headed woman opened the
door. She threw her arms around him
and kissed him on the cheek. Then she
whispered into his ear. "Mickey, promise me you won't say anything against
Santa Claus in front of the children."
She took his coat and hat and hung
them up. Maguire had tried for years
to bend the will of hisfavorite niece,
but the opposite had happened, and he
found himself meekly agreeing.
They entered a large room with a
fireplace and a large Christmas tree
under which were piled many presents.
Two little towheads scrambled up from
the floor and ran over to the Monsignor.
"Uncle Mickey, Uncle Mickey," they
screeched as they tugged' at his pants.
He bent over and hugged each of them.
Then they broke away from him and
ran to the tree. They struggled to carry
a large package across the room.
"Look, Uncle Mickey, a present,"
said little Carole.
"Hurry, see what it is," said Ronnie.
Maguire started to unwrap the package. A card that was attached flipped
open, And there written in a childish
scrawl were the words, "To Uncle
Mickey, from Ronnie, Carole and Dirty
Old Santa Claus," , ' I I ,/

December, 1978

Santa Claus, Santa Claus


There he is, Ma
Hanging from the flagpole
Ha, hs, ha.

Page 9

Arnold Via is a one-man action committee dedicated to the promotion of


American Atheism.
Singlehandly he has been more
responsible than any other member for
a large volume of ad space and column
inches of newspaper coverage promoting the American Atheists organization, The American Atheist magazine,
and our annual April conventions.
Arnold puts most AA chapters (30
nationwide)
to blushing shame in
that he is entirely self-motivated and
unswerving in his determination to
make the Atheist position known to
his fellow citizens.
The ..American Atheist Center in
Austin has been receiving a steadily increasing number of inquiries from
Americans who share the Atheist philosophy but were not aware that such
an organization as American Atheists
even existed, much less that we published a 36-page monthly magazine full
of Atheist news and thought.
It is as a result of the media appearances of Dr. Madalyn O'Hair and AA
Secretary Jon Garth Murray that most
inquirees learn of our organization and
catch our Austin address - if the particular radio/TV station will allow
Atheists but 10 seconds of the hours
and hours of air-time allotted weekly
the Elmer Gantrys of the air waves.
Local Supplement
A necessary supplement to the fulltime efforts of the American Atheist
Center is the media activities of action
Atheists such as Arnold Via. The
national staff needs the assistance of
members in every state who will see to
it that public libraries and newsstands
in their locale subscribe to and prominently display America's only Atheist

Page 10

December, 1978

publication.
We must overcome the advertising
ban against us so that other Atheists
can be reached. The large distributors
of national magazines are yet afraid to
handle an Atheist publication - yet
they willingly deal in the hardest of
pornography. We must therefore depend on our members and subscribers
to see to it that The American Atheist
reaches their libraries and newsstands
and that advertisements such as the
one on page 11 are placed in as many
newspapers as possible.
This ad is "camera ready" and we
encourage all who read this to clip it
out and have it run in your local newspaper so that we might spread the good
word.
One function of The American
A theist magazine is to force the news
media to lift its blackout of the
continuous violations of the statechurch separation amendment to the
U.S. Constitution.
It is through the efforts of determined individuals such as Patricia Voswinkel [see "Voswinkel Sues NC Libraries," November issue, p. 5] and
Arnold Via that our journal is circulated to public libraries and the readers
of daily newspapers are exposed to advertisements informing them that they
are not isolated in their Atheism and
that there is a national organization of
like-minded individuals doing something.
The large ad on page 11 is a reduced
copy of one of several Arnold reguIarly runs in newspapers in his home
state of Virginia. A well-read man who
doesn't shun opportunities to defend
his thinking in debate, Arnold's letters
to the editors of those same papers often sets off debates which rage for
weeks as the local clergy is quick to
demand that the editors deny a forum
to Arnold and his Atheism.
It was just such a letter by Via
responding to an earlier letter denying
evolution and boosting divine creation
which eventually
led to Arnold's
authoring a book, One Step Toward
Atheism, because a Virginia newspaper
would not print his reply to the religionist.
"I had an axe to grind and a message
to get across," the bearded Atheist of
Grottoes, Virginia recalled, "and the
News- Virginian's refusal to print it
prompted me to pursue publication."
Ten years ago, he reflected, only an
Atheist publisher would publish Atheistic material and at one time there
was only one in the country.
"Yes, we are making headway in
our goal to become respected and ac-

The American Atheist

cepted in society," Via continued. "AI


though Atheism is older than Christianity, Atheists
have never been accepted.
"You would be surprised to know
how many 'closet Atheists' there are
in this country,"
he added, "people
who believe in our philosophy
but are
ashamed to come out and say it.
"These are people we hope to reach,
and as we make Atheism more and
more respectable to the general society,
we will have more and more followers," he said.
Arnold Via has been an Atheist for
21 of his 51 years, but even living in
an area like Virginia where religionists
thrive has not bothered him.
"Live and let live is my motto," he
laughed.
"I have no problem socializing."
As far as changes in his personal life
since his book was published,
there
have been few to date. Arnold is resigned to getting a' few more "hate
letters"
from religionists
whose faith
cannot tolerate nonbelievers.
"You have to be thick-skinned
in
some ways," he noted. "But since the
book came out, I do feel more aggressive, less alone and more encouraged
about our cause."
For those Atheists who have asked
themselves
how they working alone
can possibly act to deter the encroachment of religion into all our lives, they
need only follow Arnold Via's example.
Arnold has been placing ads in Virginia newspapers since July of 1975 to
the present day. His imaginative and
provocative ads and lettters to the editor in defense of same have kept the
letters section of The News Virginian
newspaper
one of the livliest sections
that daily has to offer.
It is through such efforts as Arnold
Via's that other Atheists scattered and
isolated throughout
the nation may be
reached. If we had an Arnold Via in
each and every state we could have
The American Atheist magazine reach
the libraries and newsstands as well as
putting an end to the advertising ban
against the common sense of Atheism
material
which
religionists
find so
threatening.

AN OLD. OLD QUESTION:


Doesa god really exist?? logical thinkers say NO! Here are a few good simple reasons of my own.
.
1 I have never seenhim (her) (It). and I don't know anyone who has. 2. I have never talked to her (him)
(ihem)' and I don't know anyonewho has. 3. I have never seenanything she (it) (he) has invented. MAN IS
the inventor 4 I have never seen a miracle, and I don't know anyone who has. 5. I have never seen an
angel, has a~y~ne, lately? 6. I have never had a prayer answered, has anyone? "TH E IDEA OF A god
STANDS FOR THE POSSIBLE ATTEMPT AT AN IMPOSSIBlE CONCEPTION. WE KNOW NOTHING
ABOUT THE NATURE OF god." (Edgar Allen Poe)

THE BIBLE:
I don't bel ieve a word in the Christian bible, nor in any other so called sacred book: be,it the Tripit aka,
the Agamas, the VedasBrahmanasUpanishads, the Analects, the TaoTeh.Kmg, the Kojik i, the Avestas,
the Tal mud-Tor ah, the Apocrypha, the Koran.
..
...
. .'
'Db.
I find the Christian bible full of contradictions, absurdities, atrocttles. Immoralities, mdecencles,
scenities, unfulfilled prophecies and broken promises.
Then what do I believe in? some may wonder.
SnowWhite and the seven Dwarfs, Three little Pigs and Donald Duck.
0
"WE CANNOT KEEP THE OLD BELIEFS THE OLD CREEDS, I F WE WOULD. THEY BELONG T A
CONDITION OF MIND WHICH IS FAST BEING OUTGROWN." (John Burroughs)

JESUS: THE SON OF MAN.


What was the crime that Jesus committed to merit crucifixion?
Viewing it in historic perspective, from the Roman point of view, it is quite evident that he was charged
by Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, with the identical crime that had been charged against ALL
the other captured "bandits:" sedition. He was accused of attempting an armed uprising as "King of the
Jews," The historian Tacitus indicates that Jesus was believed by the Roman authorities to have been
the leader of a conspiratorial band. I agree.
ATHEISM IS ALIVE i' ATHEISM IS WORKING i' ATHEISM IS HERE TO STAY - Join the tens of
thousandsof Americans that read the "AMER ICAN ATHEI ST" magazine every month. Enioy Freedom
From Rel.igion._

SUBSCRIBE TODAY
TO THE ALL NEW

AMERICAN
,1\THEIST
MAGAZINE
and receive free
the 282-page book on Atheism
What on Earth Is An Atheist
by Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair
The American Atheist is the only monthly journal of Atheist
news and thought published in the United States today.
The American Atheist is current in its news and its philosophical presentations of Atheism and related fields.
The American Atheist is a highly sought after publication by
serious students of the materialistic view and the concept of
separation of state and church.
Subscribe now and receive the next 12 issues of the American
Atheist and receive free What on Earth Is An Atheist by Dr. O'Hair.
This paperback book features the transcripts of her first
52 radio broadcasts on Atheism in the history of America.

--------------------------------------~-Yes, I want to subscribe to the American Atheist for one year (12 issues).
Please rush me my free book. I enclose $15.00 to the '

American Atheists
P.O. BOJ[ Z117
Austin, TX 78768
Austin, Texas

December,

1978

Page 11

ON OUR WAY
Ignatz Sahula-Dycke
Our Drowsing Outposts
The longer I live the more I worry about the complacent view
our fellow Americans are taking of the active part now being
played in their governmental affairs by the various religious sects.
But even more worrisome is that most of our educators, whose
job is the imparting of knowledge, are as complacent about it
as all the rest. Yet they, above all others, should be keeping
themselves and the entire nation sharply aware that the high
standard of living we Americans enjoy will be lost to us unless
we know and also understand what made it possible.
The forthright educator's most important duty is making
lucid to everyone that itwas made possible by the great difference
between the way we Americans govern ourselves and the way
it is done elsewhere by others. Article 1of our Bill of Rights
provides for the separation of state and religion; rights of free
speech or of the press; assembly, and petition for redress of
grievances - this giving us franchise to govern ourselves without
interference of religion. Otherwise we'd be hearing plenty from
the clergy about what some "god" said we were to do - or else.
Despite the above safeguards, religion boldly interferes in
education; gets VIP treatment in the press, on the radio and
television; has astute lobbyists dickering for it with everyone
of whatsoever power in the halls of Congress. And whenever
one of a group of educators worries about the dire possibilities
of these goings-on, his words, regrettably, get drowned out by
the sonorous chorus of complacent snoring being done by the
rest of them. There doesn't seem to be a single agnostic or
humanistic or atheistic educator in the whole blessed bunch.

Mum Educators Guilty


Of the lot, not one official discerns the menace of it; none
has so much as moved a finger to rouse our sleeping numbers
while our most precious treasures, our liberty and personal
freedom, are being piecemeal ghosted away under our very
noses. I hope that these so-called educators, who've only served
this matter as ordinary pedagogues, will note that "piecemeal
ghosted away" tells about as well as any three words can, what's
happening and has already been done to our national morale -.
and all because they've kept mum.
Here all of us are: the people of a country that other nationals
enviously respect and call "the land of the free" - a people
who made this nation the leader of the world in a mere 200
years. And what made this possible? Primarily the opportunity
that America gave to all who came here to get away from living
under governments that were in cahoots with conniving ecclesiasts who, by preaching a doctrine of submissive fealty to nonexistent ghosts, haunts and wraiths, wrested from the people
their natural right of governing themselves as they alone saw
best, and alone willed and by vote consented.
To these early adventurers who came here and thenceforth

Page 12

December, 1978

~/

called themselves Americans, the word "America" symbolized


freedom from the peonage, serfdom and vassalage in which
everyone of the world's "god-guided" monarchical governments
was keeping them. They came risking all because America promised them relief from the fetters of religion. All of this, clearly recorded in history, but now for inept reasons purposely softpedaled or entirely ignored in our schools, should especially in
a free nation like ours be made known to everyone by its educators.
But in how many schools, of all that you've heard about,
have you seen this openly taught? Very few. In most of them
today the religiously predisposed teacher dishes out during history class almost the same kind of gush abeut supernatural guidance that the first Europeans came to America to escape. "God?"
Were any of these hardy pioneer newcomers at all concerned
about such a thing, the word only represented what they wanted
to hear as little about as possible.
They painfully learned that every time they heard in Europe
the word "god" it only meant they were about to be squeezed,
throttled, taxed, jailed and deprived of a bit more freedom and
wherewithal than up until then they already had been. They
remembered. They knew how their joy of living and working
was, through the hypocritical urging to "trust in god," taken
away from them. Hence America was the kind of place they all
loved, and many died for, because it gave them the freedom
and self-respect they craved so much and for so long. But, since
those early American days things have undergone marked change.
It's no mystery why now this is so. Any nation that shows
signs of prosperity as ours did, from the very beginning, has always - and without exception - been immediately cased by
the emissaries of that ephemeral "god" for the possibilities of
the loot and the power that could be wrung out of the trusting
folk whom these apostolic evangelists knew they could mesmerize with lies about the providential "god" who generously
distributes rewarding largesse to all who believe.
In how many schools is it made known that this entrapment
by religion is what our American Constitution was designed to
keep us safe from? And with what is it that the various sects
are again trying to entrap us? For one, they're telling us about
the nationwide "spiritual rebirth" taking place these days hoping to see us join the thoughtless parade, like sheep that follow the leader to the shearing pen or the butcher's knife.
But this time even these "men of god" don't realize that this
vaunted "rebirth" actually signifies that people are thoroughly
sick of the Nicenist plotting our Constitution forswore and are
looking for something better, for anything that will satisfy the
inquiring temper laudably characterizing the new generations.
Now why hasn't a single educator opened his learned face
to say that every child, when (s)he is old enough to go to school,
is also old enough to hear what in fact our founders did that
enables her/him to have a publicly funded school to go to? Do

The American Atheist

none of these scholastic experts realize the crucial importance


tion and sadistic narrative. The parochial authorities of course
of their indifference about teaching this?
rank this as esoteric education, although it's nothing but pure
What the child hears from religious quarters outside of school and simple brainwashing.
hours today is neutralizing if not completely ruining what little
What is it that of late enabled parochial schools to gain this
good our schools are doing by way of educating that child. revised status? They existed without governmental help until
And don't they know that the religiously superstitious nonsense
comparatively recent decades when for good reasons their own
the students see in the papers, and hear on the radio and tele- people turned away from them. Hence their comeback into
vision, in Sunday school and in church, in most cases far out- favor is due to nothing but the lobbying engineered by those
weighs the hour or two of their weekly class lessons in world who want to employ the schools for their own ends - all at a
time when it is easy, or being made easy for the ecclesiastics,
history?
. I seem to be lambasting only the educator, but please note to get their fingers into the public till. Is it possible that memthat in the very first paragraph I qualified my criticism by in- bers of Congress are really so blind as to fail to see what this is
dicating that the educator should only be held responsible for leading to? If so, they certainly don't deserved being trusted,
school-work and what he does or does not do. All of us thus or re-elected.
actually must shoulder whatsoever blame attaches here -espeAlmost anyone could say that these reputedly astute legiscially so the news media and the advertisers who use them, and lators would at least understand that when the religious axe
no less our elected representatives in both houses of Congress.
goes to work, their heads will be the first to roll. Their jobs are
Members of the latter group have distinguished themselves legislative jobs: plums of the very kind the ecclesiastics are
by sticking their heads in the sand whenever any question
avid for and are doing everything possible to get.
about organized religions' arrogantly pushy behavior was preOne foxy cleric already sits in Congress; and is, no matter
sented to them for review or correction. They - nearly all of how forthright, serving two masters; but undoubtedly keeping
them - know that a show of sympathy for religious "beliefs"
mum about it - possibly hoping that none will remember histranslates into votes, and those who are willing to stick their tory's record of clerical meddling in Europe's political affairs.
necks out in such instances are members of a very small minori- Should by rare chance none in Congress remember it, then all
ty - if any such remains at all active in Congress. Please note should take a refresher in the history of religion instead of
how parochial schools are being favored there of late -and this beating the bushes for votes during their vacations.
Any citizen who says they're statesmen obviously forgets
although we have (or are supposed to have) a public school system second to none - one sufficiently capacious to instruct all that this congressional contingent isn't even slighly conscious
that it is being ambushed by the clerics entrenched in the taxof this nation's young.
Nevertheless, I've read that federal aid is already being piped exempt parish hall of the church next door, all far more discito parochial schools. The religious lobby in Washington put plined than Congress is for any exercising of power, which, in
over another of its astute coups, although our Bill of Rights' such an eventuality, would as always be despotic.
first article forbids Congress to make any law establishing reliWhile writing these lines I constantly ask myself if I'm being
gion.
Think for a moment about the following. The only tenable overly indicting of the theistic aggregation. I pause, and - rereason that any religious group can give for its operation of viewing all that I've learned about its past and present behaviorparochial schools is its desire to teach its students the one thing trust history and carry on.
Not infrequently at such times there comes to mind that
that the public schools straddle because it's redundant - namely religion. Take my word, however, for this: that in dealing eminent humanitarian of recent memory: Hitler, who, for all I
with religious history no parochial school will present it unex- know, might have taken the cue from Christian ism when he
purgated, but scrubbed clean, devoid of all cruelty and bestial- said that people were more likely to fall for a Big Lie than a
ity with which religion's record is so replete; and that,in the in- little one. Well, to my mind, and I have said this many times bestance of doctrine, this will be painted for the students all as fore, the Christianist lie looks like the biggest and the most arsweetness and light, though being little more than crude inven- rogant one in all history because it's so unimaginatively crude.

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December, 1978

BRING

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ADMITTANCE

Page 13

SOLSTICE

Despair not the lowness of the sun in the sky


For a new year is being born
in these lowly circumstances of the ever-virgin universe
for only the northerly parts of our world.
Our Old Man Year realizes the coming of his end
Beard flying white, dressed in red and fur
brings us gifts to remember him fondly
in sweet bribery, in soft slurring, telling
"'s and a close," no, not "Santa Claus."
Celebrate that year! Set up a tree
green with life throughout our deaths
Put upon it lights to burn as Moses' bush
and upon your houses menorah lights
to keep hope and joy during the dark days
of the sun's retreat.
Accept the gifts and say a good word for the Old Year
Run-out hour glass over his shoulder
yielding his place to a naked babe on wobbly legs
vulnerable to our weak resolutions in his initiation.
This new year too shall grow old and die at the solstice
as did his innumerable predecessors
wearing sunset red and the white of clouds and snow.
Despite its sorrows and despairs,
.
the old year's passing leaves us with a gift
insurmountable - another year.

SOLSTICE REVERIE

When
man was young, midwinter paeans rose
Above stone altars, as the chill earth turned.
The sun fulfilled man's hope and longer burned
As solstice festivals drew to a close.
~hrough
anguished centuries the homing sun
Was met with feasts and revelry.
A star, a manger babe, a green fir tree,
Became new symbols of the respite won
7Qy

IN SOL'S PACE

our forefathers from dark winter's sting.

?liJ They gave light greeting. We must give it birth,


Through love that shall illumine each man's worth
And by its glow lead all mankind to spring.
-Letha Curtis Musgrave

Kenneth H. Bonnell

GREETINGS

OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE

~he

sun has completed its journey


~he Sun god was worshipped at Yuletide
And now will return once again; To gladden
By peoples all over the earth
the crops and the vineyards,
Who knelt and gave thanks and oblations
And comfort the spirits of men.
To honor their patron's rebirth.

4ar saner to worship

<tere Jesus and all of his coherts


Had made their appearance in time;
Or even ere glorious Homer
Had written one immortal line-

Than kneel to the god of the Christians


With horrors and wars in its train.

Ao, in line with this old pagan custom,


~ From which our holiday grew;
But freed from the latter's delusions,
I send my best greetings to you!
-B. M. Saner

~hen Athens was still in the future


And Memphis was still in the mold;
By bards of the barbarous peoples
The story was told and retold.
Yes, even before the god Krishna,
Whose legend the Christian Church thieved
And tagged on their mythical Jesus
A story by millions believed-

Page 14

December,

this day star,

,.}J Which brings us the heat and the rain.

1978

The American

Atheist

NATURE'S WAY
Gerald Tholen
More Psychiatric Implications of Religion
For many years I have known
that there is a psychological, or psychiatric connection between religionism
(supernaturalism) and emotional instability _ It becomes increasingly obvious
that people who can bring themselves
to hold juvenile fears of devils, gods,
and the like must lack the ability to
face the real and natural circumstances
of existence.
Obviously this unfortunate
situation reaches even into the highest
levels of our national political system.
One can hardly conceive of an instance
of greater lunacy than the current one
which- finds our president insisting on
a nationwide program involving the
improvement of Americans' mental
health, while at the same time he invokes the guidance of a supernatural
"spirit" to facilitate his actions.
It would seem that he should be
the prime subject for a psychological
"investigation."
Yet, such abnormal
situations persist daily in our lives.
The most recent account concerning my feelings was included in a
newspaper article written by George
W. Cornell, the religious writer for the
Associated Press.
It seems that a psychological
study has been made of certain persons
involved in high religious positions, i.e.
priests, bishops, ministers and the like.
A certain Dr. Mark J. Kane of the
Adelphi University Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies has published
a book dealing with such psychological
information entitled, Lions Of God,
Lambs Of God.
Kane relates that extensive tests
were administered
to 50 Catholic
priests and 50 Protestant ministers and
those test results indicate varying degrees of "dependency" and "passivity"
among the participants. Apparently
these qualities are more pronounced in
clergymen than in persons of most'
other fields.
With such testing results in hand
one wonders how it is that the clergy
would assume that they should be the
"authorities" sitting in judgment of
the morality and social activities of the
masses. Indeed, how could they be
judged authorities on anything when
they display noticeably more dependency than the very persons whom
they presume to judge? This would

suggest a situation corresponding to


the old adage about "the blind leading
the blind."
According
to Cornell's article,
Kane states that a majority of the
clergy also display other similar
traits, including: "a tendency toward
loneliness, a great need to love and receive love and attention, weak ego
strength, inner conflicts over dependency and authority, and inhibition
of aggressive tendencies."
An immediate observation is that
any social worker could tell us that
these same "tendencies"
are also
notably present in problem juveniles
-and people of unsound emotional
circumstances, and/or those suffering
ill effects from drug abuse. Yet these
individuals of dubious emotional stability are proclaimed as our worthy
"spiritual advisers!"
The most interesting finding related
by Dr. Kane is that these "spiritual
leaders" also manifest "a desire to expiate an existing sense of guilt, which
may indicate a kind of masochism."
(Masochism is a psychological conditionin which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain, and
humiliation.) This should be great
news for the leather goods and whipping freaks!

He explains that Catholicism's mandated celibacy is responsible for the


priests' greater degree of "passive receptiveness." His findings thereby imply that Protestant ministers, who enjoy a more liberal sexual 'existence,
fare somewhat better than their Catholic colleagues.
Freud came to the same findings
years ago and, of course, the clergy
bitterly condemned him for his research. Psychiatrists will also tell us
that mentally or emotionally disturbed
people violently oppose the diagnosis
that they "have problems."
The obvious implications of Dr.
Kane's study are that the members of
the clergy seem to be confronted with
considerably more abnormalities than
members of the flocks they attempt to
minister to. A cruder explanation can
be found in the Atheists' claim of longstanding: "Ministers are not playing
with a full deck."
If, in the future, more investigative psychiatric studies are made in
this area it is certain that we will
find, as I originally stated, that any
person pretending to make a career
of defending irrational claims will
eventually be found to be-intellectually
and mentally incompetent.

"I seem to be having difficulty breathing."

December, 1978

Austin, Texas

Page 15

The

Bay

0'

"I don't

The

Big
Ones
By

G.R.
Bozarth
Page 16

know what's

He keeps talking about

'Marching

Luke was tall, athletically


slender,
blonde, blue-eyed, intelligent (top five
percent of his class at BYU), and nauseatingly
pious. In other words, an
ideal moron - er, Mormon. Or Latter
Day Saint. And Luke was saintly - how
else would you describe a 25yearold
virgin who had read the entire Book of
Mormon without once being bored?
Luke stood with a group of other
equally ideal and saintly Morons Mormons! (damn Freudian slips!) - before the gold baptismal font supported
on the rumps of 12 gold oxen. They
stood in military formation that pleased
the eyes of Bishop Knumbknuts,
who
was a retired Marine Corps major general. The old warrior felt the thrill of
command,
of coming battle. It was al
most like the good old days in Nam!
He felt a profound challenge in the mission given him by the president of the
LDS himself!
Knumbknuts
addressed
his men:
"Boys, you all know why you're here.
You're the best! When you hit the font
for the dead, they accept the restored
Gospel! You've all saved souls lesser
men would've scarcely impressed. How
do I know? Well, I'm authorized
to tell
you that god has revealed to our president your unfailing successes! Job well

December,

'j

1978

wrong with him!


to a different

drummer'."

done, as we say in the Corps!"


Luke felt a surge of pride swell his
breast, attended
by a deep sense of
humility
at his own sinful worthlessness so that his pride in his achievement would not be a sin. He had never
mentioned
it, but he had had his
doubts about the effectiveness
of his
temple work for the dead. After all,
being baptized on behalf of Nietzsche
had been, well, rough! And how could
he feel confident
he had saved such a
degenerate philosopher
as Nietzsche?
But, now, to know, to be sure! Like,
wow, you know.
Knumbknuts
went on, "This revelation is what brings us here, men! The
president
wants to go after the Big
Ones! I mean, he wants baptisms on
behalf
of those previously
thought
hopeless! He wanted a special force of
the best assembled to hit the font for
the hard-core
sinners!
You are that
group, men! You boys are going to
make 1 April 2025 go down in history
as the day the souls of the most notorious sinners of all time accepted the
restored Gospel!"
A quiver of excitement
and a sense
of awe at the challenge went through
the group of young, handsome
men.
Luke was especially affected.
He had

The American

Atheist

had no idea his work for Nietzsche


would lead to such glory - and he reminded himself how pathetically
unworthy he was of such an honor. He
said a silent prayer asking god for help,
adding that he knew such a miserable
sinner as himself, whose uncontrolled
lusts every week or so licentiously frolicked in shameful wet dreams, didn't
deserve it.
Bishop Knumbknuts
took out of abriefcase a stack of envelopes. Holding
them up for the special baptismal force
to see, he said, "Here they are, boys!
Each envelope contains the name of
the dead wretch you're going to hit the
font
for. Remember
the words of
Alma 17:14: 'Assuredly it was great,
for they had undertaken
to preach the
word of god to a wild and a hardened
and a ferocious people.' "
Knumbknuts
passed out the envelopes, which were received in trembling
hands. Nervous fingers tore open the
envelopes. The first to read the person
he was to be baptized on behalf of was
a tall, dark brown black. He gasped
aloud.
"Idi Amin!"
he cried in horror.
"Bishop
Knumbnuts,
there is some
mistake.
Idi Amin! Impossible,
sir,
im possi ble !"
Bishop Knumbknuts
growled, "Who
is going to do it, eh, mister? You don't
expect a white man to get baptized for
a nig ... er, African,
do you? You
nig ... I mean,
Africans
made such
a big deal about getting into the priesthood, so now you're in!" Muttering

under
his breath,
the old retired
general cursed, "Blasted nigger-lovin'
Kimball!"
The young black fell silent, ashamed
at his moment of weakness, but at least
not feeling alone. Shocked,
stunned
voices
were crying
out:
"Stalin!"
"Hitler!"
"Nero!"
"Mao Tse-tung!"
"Ingersoll!"
"Nixon!"
and so on,
speaking names to strike terror and repugnance in the pious soul of the most
saintly Moron - damn it, Mormon!
Luke, though, said nothing. He had
read the name of his dead person and
had paled as if just condemned
to read
every issue of The American Atheist
ever published.
He felt a wave of dizziness, almost sickness. He felt weak,
overwhelmed.
Tears spilled from his
eyes.
It isn't fair! Why me? his tortured
thoughts ran.
"I can't,"
he croaked like a frog
with acid indigestion.
"What do you mean, you can't?"
snapped Knumbknuts,
who didn't like
at all the less-than-enthusiastic
display
his command was showing.
Shivering
beneath
the withering
glare of the Old Corps "Crotcher,"
Luke sobbed,
"I can't! This is too
much, sir! I know. I did Nietzsche, sir,
I know! Please, sir, not this person.
Let me get baptized for a dozen popes,
but I can't handle this one, sir. It's impossible. If I stayed in the font until my
ass wrinkled, it would do no good!"
The fact that saintly Luke actually
said "ass" in the temple showed to

Knumbknuts
how distressed the young
man was. Or should have. But the presence of cowardice in his outfit drove
him out of his Latter Day Saint gourd!
And, as he usually did when angry, he
reverted back to being a Marine -- specifically a battalion
commander
in a
Recruit Training Regiment.
Jumping in front of Luke, shoving
his face up nose-to-nose,
he roared,
"You can't, puke? You miserable, pisscomplexioned
puddle of pig vomit!
You will do it! You will do it now!
NOW, hog, NOW! I mean now, you
clap-infested
limpdick!
Get in that
goddamn font, you non-qual, pus-leaking asshole, before I rip out your eyeballs and let the dog turds you got for
brains out of your cesspool skull!"
Like hundreds
of thousands
of
Marine Corps "boots"
before him, the
ferocious blast of innovative obscenity
pulverized his civilized mind and made
him eager to do anything the insaneeyed, bellowing maniac desired. Luke
hustled up the steps to stand on the
edge of the font, the pure water waiting to receive him in the name of the
poor dead person assigned to him.
"Let's hear it, boy!" Knumbknuts
shouted.
"Yell out that name! I want
'em to hear you out in the street!"
"MADALYN
MURRAY O'HAIR!"
Luke bellowed, and jumped in like a
Marine making a suicide bayonet charge
against 20-to-odds.
But he knew that even if the whole
Tabernacle
Choir was in there with
him, it would do no good.

You are Atheists. You want to meet other Atheists. You want to see what they are like. The place
to do it, the time to do it is in Dallas during the weekend of April 13-14-15 when Atheists from both
the U.S. and abroad will convene at the Ninth Annual National Convention
of American Atheists.
1978 is about over and our get-together
is just around the corner. Plan for it NOW by writing for
details from:
John Mays, Convention Coordinator
P.O. Box 2117
Austin, TX 78768

Austin, Texas

December,

1978

Page 17

No

f({1~o

~VIRGINIA,THERE

No
I~SANTA CLAUS
o

When we consider whether to perpetuate the Santa Claus myth, we are


examining two fundamental
philosophical concepts:
1) Is it wise to lie to children?
2) Is it in their best interests to deny
reality to them, and to raise them in
a mystical,
unknowable
environment?
These concepts are distinct, in that
there can be a lie without
resort to
mysticism,
and there can be mysticism without a lie. A lie must include
the intent to lie. If a parent truly believes in anything (Santa Claus, astrology, god, evolution,
etc.), the education of the child in the parent's honestly
perceived truth is not a lie.
The two concepts come together in
the Santa Claus myth. Adults, with
full knowledge that it is not true, explain this story to children as if it were
true. It is fully the intent of the adult
to deceive the child into believing in
Santa Claus. Our question is, is this a
good idea?
The classic reply to a child's question was an editorial by Francis Pharcellus Church, published in The New
York Sun on 21 September 1897. This
editorial has been reprinted every year,
probably
more than any other newspaper article ever written.
Here is the complete editorial:

IS THERE

A SANTA CLAUS?

We take pleasure in answering at


once and thus prominently
the communication
below, expressing
at the
same time our great gratification
that
its faithful author is numbered among
the friends of The Sun:
"Dear Editor,
"I am eight years old. Some of my
little friends say there is no Santa
Claus. Papa says 'If you see it in
The Sun it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth, is there
a Santa Claus?
"Virginia O'Hanlon
"115 W. 95th Street."

Page 18

by
Robert A. Steiner
Virginia,
your
little friends
are
wrong. They have been affected by the
skepticism of a skeptical age. They do
not believe except they see. They think
that nothing can be which is not comprehensi ble by thei r Iittle minds. All
minds, Virginia, whether they be men's
or children's,
are little. In this great
universe of ours man is a mere insect,
an ant, in his intellect,
as compared
with the boundless world about him,
as measured by the intellgience
capable of grasping the whole of truth and
knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion
exist, and you
know that they abound and give to
your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! How dreary would be the world
if there were no Santa Claus! It would
be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike
faith then, no poetry, no romance to
make
tolerable
this existence.
We
should have no enjoyment,
except in
sense and sight. The eternal light with
which childhood fills the world would
be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You
might as well not believe in fairies!
You might get your papa to hire men
to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even
if they did not see Santa Claus coming
down, what would that prove? Nobody
sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign
that there is no Santa Claus. The most
real things in the world are those that
neither children nor men can see. Did
you ever see fairies dancing on the
lawn? Of course not, but that's no
proof that they are not there. Nobody
can conceive or imagine all the wonders

December,

1978

there are unseen and unseeable in the


world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and
see what makes the noise inside, but
there is a veil covering the unseen world
which not the strongest man, nor even
the united strength of all the strongest
men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry,
love, romance, can push aside that curtain and
view and picture the supernal beauty
and glory beyond.
Is it all real? Ah,
Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank
god he
lives, and he lives forever. A thousand
years from now, Virginia, nay, ten
times ten thousand years from now, he
will continue to make glad the heart of
childhood.

First, foremost, and overwhelmingly


important
in our analysis is our interpretation
of Mr. Church's knowledge
and intent:
A) Did Mr. Church truly believe
that there is a Santa Claus? i.e., did he
tell Virginia O'Hanlon the truth, as he
saw it?

...........

OR

B-1) Did Mr. Church truly believe


that there is not a Santa Claus? i.e.,
did he knowingly,
intentionally,
and

The American

Atheist

willfully lie to this eight-year-old child?


B-2) If so, was it his sincere, mature
opinion that the lie was in the best interest of this little girl? Did he honestly
believe that a lie would help her, while
a truthful answer to her searching question would do her harm?
Based upon some research, and
based primarily upon my analysis and
interpretation, I come up with the following answers to the above questions:
A) Mr. Church was an intelligent
person, and very aware of the world
around him, I conclude that he did
not, at that adult stage in his life,
truly believe that there is a Santa
Claus.
B-1) In light of the answer to question A, we must conclude, and I do
conclude, that Mr. Church did indeed
knowingly, intentionally,
and willfully lie to eight-year-old Virginia
O'Hanlon.
B-2) From all I have read about Francis Pharcellus Church, it is my considered opinion that he was a warm, intelligent, compassionate, intellectually
curious, gentle human being.
I conclude that, without a shred of
malice, Mr. Church honestly believed
that this obviously intelligent eightyear-old girl who went to great lengths
to seek out the truth would be most
helped with a lie.
This little child sought out a person
who was, to her, the highest authority
in the whole wide world on this topic.
Her letter stated: "Papa says 'If you
see it in The Sun it's so'."
Then, with the total trust and innocence of which all children and
few adults are capable, she implored:
"Please tell me the truth, is there a
Santa Claus?"
And Mr. Church lied to her!
Based upon some conversations I've
had on the subject (not enough to qualify as a sufficiently large random sample, in order to present a table of statistics), I perceive that many persons
will be uncomfortable with the word
"lie" used in this context. Before attacking the word, some self-examination may be in order. Is the discomfort caused by the belief that the
word "lie" is inaccurate? Or does the.
uneasy feeling spring from the recognition that the word "lie" is indeed
correct in this context? Reference to
any dictionary or book on logic will
reveal that the Santa Claus myth has
all the elements of a lie.
Consequently, we need dwell no
further on whether this is a lie. Our
analysis will concern itself with the
question of whether the perpetuation
of this lie is a wise idea.

Austin, Texas

As with all mysticism and falsehoods which are sent forth masquerading as the truth, the Santa Claus
myth demands of the believer unthinking faith, denial of reality, denial of
the value of self, and the suspension
of logic and reason.
Based upon the reverential awe
with which Mr. Church's editorial is
viewed, I think it is fair to view it as
the best or one of the best defenses of
the Santa Claus myth.
Here was an obviously intelligent,
bubbling, alert child who went on an
extensive search to learn the truth.
And Mr. Church compared her intellect
to that of an ant. Why did he not praise
her for her intellectual curiosity?
He told her that, although she never
saw fairies dancing on the lawn, that's
no proof that they are not there. Using that logic, how do you handle the
little child who wakes up from a
nightmare at 1:30 a.m., and expresses
fear that there are lions in the closet?

Normally, a parent would assure


the child that there were no lions, and
would boldly and bravely open the
closet door and say: "See, there are no
lions in there!" And then, of course, a
little cuddling would be in order. But,
applying the Santa Claus-type logic,
the fact that the child does not see the
lions does not prove they are not there.
To follow through, the parent must
now set forth one set of rules for fairies,
and another for lions.
Then life becomes confusing for the
child, governed by irrational and contradictory rules. No longer are the senses to be trusted. There is no way to
assemble known facts and to infer logical conclusions from them, for the
rules keep changing. Each new perception cannot be tested against known
facts and past experiences; after all, if
you don't see fairies and they are there,
and if you don't see lions in your
closet and they are not there, what
happens when you don't see little
lambs? Are little lambs governed by
the stated rules of fairies, or by the
stated rules of lions in the closet, or

December, 1978

by some other set of rules which have


not yet been disclosed?
Logic and
thinking are of no value; the only way
to know anything is to be told by
some higher authority who knows.
Next topic: the gifts. It is deemed
beneficial to introduce a Santa Claus
who is never seen (or is seen on every
corner, depending upon how the
adults handle the many contradictions
in the myth), and who judges the
worth of the child every day of the
year, and who gives or withholds presents in accordance with the child's behavior.
It seems almost too obvious to mention that the child would be delighted
to know that his mother, father, aunt,
uncle, grandma, grandpa, etc., love and
care enough to give a present. How
much more beautiful for any child to
know that a person really cares, and
to be allowed to bask and dwell in that
love and caring! Why deny the child
that wonderful experience?
An honest, sincere "I love you" or
"I care about you" from even one person has to mean more to a child than a
million Santa Clauses. If you care about
a little child, don't hide it! Say it!
Show it!
Consider the example of a very nice
little child who has complete faith in
the Santa Claus myth. She has been a
model child all year long, not out of
fear of Santa Claus, but just because
she is a very nice person. "Santa Claus"
brings her very modest presents, because her parents are quite poor.
This child has an obnoxious, spoiled
cousin who lies to her parents all the
time. And yet, this obnoxious cousin
comes from wealthy parents, and
"Santa Claus" brings her wall-to-wall
toys and games, as well as luxurious
clothes. How is it possible for the poor
child to reconcile the gifts with the
concept of a just Santa Claus? What
rationalizations must she go through?
Or does she just accept herself as no
good?
Now we come to the concept of
"the lie." When a child grows older and
realizes that the beloved parents have
lied, this disillusioned child is led inescapably to one of two conclusions:
1) My parents lied to me, and they
were wrong to do so.
2) My parents lied to me, but it is
proper for adults to lie to children.
They did it because they love me.
Take your choice. But then, of
course, the choice is not yours. The
choice and judgment belong to the child
alone. If you are consulted, you may

Page 19

find yourself in that tangled web which


makes a distinction between proper
and improper lies, just and unjust lies.
All right, what should Mr. Church
have done? Many children who had
been fed the Santa Claus myth for
many years would hear of the column.
Many parents who told the myth to
their children did so with the best of
intentions, and in the sincere belief
that it was in the best interests of the
children.
Upon Mr. Church would have been
the obligation to be truthful, tactful,
and gentle. The following is my idea
of how Mr. Church might have handled
the reply:
Thank you for writing, Virginia. I
compliment you on your interest, and
admire the fact that you did not give
up in looking for an answer. It is a
pleasure to number you among the
friends of The Sun.
I also appreciate your papa's confidence in us. By encouraging you to
follow through on your search for the
truth, your papa has guided you along
the path to use your mind and to learn
more. This is one of the finest qualities
a parent can help a child to develop.
Virginia, you are lucky to have a papa
who takes this interest in you.
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.
The gifts and joy and love in your home
are caused by the people in the home.
It is possible to explain the happiness

in your life in terms of reality; that is,


using only facts and nature and things
as they really are.
Look up your chimney, Virginia.
Could a Santa Claus fit down there?
Or maybe you don't have a chimney.
Or maybe you do, and you have a
friend who does not.
I believe that it is not good for people to believe in impossible things.
Presents come from people, and presents usually cost money. It would be
unfair to tell a child whose parents
cannot afford gifts that there is a
Santa Claus. That child could not possibly understand why Santa Claus
would not give him or her gifts. If
the truth were gently told to the
child, certainly it could be accepted.
Children, as well as adults, can be
very understanding when they are told
the truth. On the other hand, if they
are told impossible stories, it is not
possible for them to make sense out of
what happens.
Now there are parents who tell
their children that there is a Santa
Claus. These parents love their children, and believe that they are doing
the correct thing for their children.
Virginia, people have differences in
opinion. While I accept that these parents mean well, it is my opinion that
they and their children would be bet-'
ter off if the truth were told.
How much better for a child (and
for an adult) to see the world for what

Los Angeles

Detroit
Date:
Time:
Place:

Speaker:

Price:

Saturday, 23 December 1978


Cash bar opens at 5:30, Dinner
at 6 p.m.
Sheraton Hotel In Southfield,
17017 West Nine Mile Road
(east of Southfield
Hoad and,
west of Greenfield Road)
Dr. Madalyn Murray Q'Hair, author of Freedom Under Siege,
president of American Atheists
$20.00 per person

Advance
reservations
are necessary
must be paid in full by 5 December.
further information
please contact:
Loretta Cruz
Atheists Detroit Chapter
P.O. Box 37056
Oak Park, M I 48237
(313) 721-6630

American

Page 20

it is! Won't you be much happier


knowing how things really come about,
and realizing that a great portion of
what happens to you in life can be
directly caused by you? No fairies, no
monsters, no Santa Clauses, no evil
ghosts.
Once you know the truth about all
of these things, then your mind is free
to pursue further knowledge. And
your imagination can wander for more
fanciful joys. Surely you have played
games with your friends in which you
pretended bunches of things. These
games are fun because you all know
they are games. Suppose you played a
monster game with your friends, and
one of your friends truly believed that
this game could turn one of you into a
monster. That would be terrible!
No, Virginia, there is no Santa
Claus. But with your alert mind and
your curiosity, there can be fun, imagination, romance, warmth, love, and
happiness.
There are people in this world, children and adults, who believe in impossible things. They are always looking
around for a Santa Claus to magically
solve all problems. Truth in your life
will bring you peace and joy which
cannot ever be imagined by these people.
Thank you for writing, Virginia. You
have done a favor for me, in that you
have helped me sort out some of my
own thinking.

Decem ber , 1978

and
For

Date:
Time:
Place:

Speaker:

Saturday, 16 December 1978


Social hour 6-7 p.m., Dinner at 7
Redwood
Room,
Hollywood
Roosevelt
Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.
George H. Smith,
author
of

Atheism: The CaseAgainst God.


Price:

$15.00 per person.

Advance reservations are a must. All reservations must be paid by 5 December. Advance reservations can be made sans money,
but they must be paid for by 5 December.
Contact:
Don Latimer
. American Atheists LA Chapter
15339 Naranja Ave.
Paramount, CA 90723
(213) 634-8055

The American Atheist

To:

Travel and Exploration Council,


Supreme Plan Corporation

From:

Explorership CL-248-A

Via:

Sector Commander, IV Segment A-28

Subject:

Permission for aforementioned ship to return to Sector 14, quadrant LX-123, Solar
System Sol, Planet 3, for further native
pacification.

Kritos

Reason for request is contained in attached personal statement of Crewman GS-12-M-1482,


offspring of ship.
FIRST ATTACHMENT:
My designation is GS-12-M-1482.
I am a crewman assigned
to my birthship. CL-248-A. I am completing the first life cycle, and, prior to beginning my second, I request permission to
return to the planet of my birth.
Records will show that at the time of my incubation period, my birthship experienced
a severe explosion of its fourth
rear atomic drive-shaft motor. The incubator in which my eggsheath lay was damaged and all other eggsheaths were destroyed. The ship commander
took the only means at hand
available to complete the incubation period necessary to ready
me for Iife cycle.
In accordance
with standard
procedures,
Explorership
CL-248-A landed on the nearest planet, which was planet 3,
Solar System Sol, quadrant
LX-123, Sector 14. My developing eggsheath was placed, by crewmembers
flying down from
the mothership,
within the body of a female native of the
planet, called Earth, and the native was advised she would be
delivered of a Kritos being and would be recompensed.
Because of the backwardness
of the natives, the female did not
understand,
nor did her spouse, although crewmembers
flew
to him and attempted
to explain that his wife was incubating
a Kritos being, to be called GS-12-M-1482.

Austin,

Texas

When the incubation


period had terminated,
the native
family having removed by slow animal locomotion
to another
inhabited place, the mothership
removed to above the new location. Crewmembers
were sent at the time of deincubation
to bring me aboard.
However, before the mission could be
completed,
you will recall, the Ilrian emergency began and Explorership
CL-248-A was ordered immediately
from this sector.
I was forced to remain on Planet 3, during the time it
made 33 journeys around its sun. During that time in accordance with established
Kritos procedures,
I attempted
to remain in contact with the native population,
to instruct, enlighten and improve the primitive lot of the inhabitants.
I was successful
in some areas - food and medicine but was opposed
by officials in others - 9_overnment and
ethics. Opposition became so bitter I was condemned
to perish
and had been executed and interred before I could communicate with the mothership.
When my message was received,
crewmembers
were at once dispatched,
my place of burial
entered and I was resuscitated.
As we were ascending toward
the mothership,
natives witnessed what to them was a supernatural phenomenon.
Since my departure,
many natives have
sent communications
to me requesting my return.
Earth has completed
almost
2,000 cycles around
its
star. In view of the repeated inquiries and prayers I received
from the planet for my return, this request is again forwarded.

NOTATION:
It is felt by this Command that the inhabitants have not yet progressed enough for Kritan,
assistance. It is further felt that if you were to reappear suddenly among the inhabitants, attempts
would be made to destroy you a second time.

December,

~~j
~f2

1978

PERMISSION OENIEO .

Page 21

Art Jones, 77, retired from the North Carolina National Bank in 1967 as a senior vice president after 30 years' employment
with that prestigious institution. He represented Mecklenburg County in the North Carolina legislature from 1967 to 1971.
About a year ago, Art began writing long letters to his two grandchildren living in Charlotte, North Carolina, every couple
of months "to get them to think more." (His grandchildren are Dome, 16, and Danna, 12. They are the children of Mr. and Mrs.
Jack Pentes of Charlotte.)
Art Jones' eloquent letters to Dome and Danna were published by The Charlotte Observer on that daily's Opinion and
Analysis page under a headline reading: "We Trust A Mythical God - A Letter From Grandpa. " The following week, the Observer
printed an entire page of reader response to Mr. Jones' correspondence. In addition to the expected rush of "nut mail" from
Christians angered by Mr. Jones' disinclination to worship their god, many enlightened readers expressed delight and admiration
for the letter and the paper's courage in printing it.
American A theists' North Carolina Chapter Director Patricia Voswinkel alerted the Austin staff of The American Atheist
to this eloquence from the East and we present it in this Winter Solstice issue with Art Jones' permission for the benefit of our
readers who have been inquiring about Atheist material especially authored for young people.
Mr. Jones wishes his letter to be prefaced with the following:
Teens "dig" mature thought only if it is expressed in words they easily understand, especially in matters referred to as
metaphysics. The mature thought behind my simplistic letter to our grandchildren identifies with George Santayana's definition:
"My Atheism, like Spinozs's, is true piety toward the whole universe; it denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image
to be servants of their own human interests. "

a
Hi, you wonderful grandyoung people.
In my last letter, we talked about
who you are and where you came from.
You told me you liked it a lot. You
told me there didn't seem to be much
in it that you could really differ with
or argue about. Perhaps this one just
could stir up some questions.
In this letter, some things and ideas
may be set forth that you might not
agree with. When I was your age, I
wouldn't have agreed with them either.
In fact, I would have violently disagreed! But after more than threequarters of a century of thinking such
things through, I have strong convictions about this subject.
It is about "religion" and "gods"
and "spirits." They are in the same
category as fire-breathing dragons, leprechauns, hell-fire devils, ghosts, angels
with wings and harps and other such
beings. All are fanciful inventions by
humans who would have other people
believe they truly exist. People make
them up, just like they make up witches and fairies.
For a couple of million years, our
ancestors believed that everything in
the world had a "spirit" or a "god"
or a "soul" inside - the sun, moon,
bushes, trees, rocks, the ocean, rivers,
lakes, etc.

Page 22

If the wind brought a hurricane, or


an earthquake occurred, harming and
killing people, it was thought that the
god or spirit in the wind or in the
earth was angry about something people had done (or not done). Or if one
broke a leg, or there was a drought, or
a big flood or they had a shortage of
food, things were done, tom-toms
beaten, chants sung ... to get back on
good terms with that god who did
them harm.
(Even today, we see Henderson
Belk telling the world that his god
caused the assassination of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy in revenge
for their father's importing scotch
whiskey, which Belk considered evil.)
In primitive times, it seemed that
someone in the group or tribe had
better luck than some others in getting
the gods to do favors for humans. If
their mumbo-jumbos
brought rain
when needed or seemed to heal a sick
one that person became "big-heap
medicineman" - in other words, a
"priest" who could get gods to do
things for them.
They were magicians, monks, theologians, etc., and today they are ministers, rabbis, bishops, cardinals and
popes. Over long periods of time they

December, 1978

organized groups of people with similar beliefs in gods and spirits. These
various beliefs became religions generally practiced in buildings called
churches, mosques, cathedrals and so
on.
,-.
The world's main religions are
Christianity (divided mainly into Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox
and Protestantism),
Judaism, Islam,
Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Each one believes differently from the
others. At least one religion, Buddhism,
does not have a god, but his followers
treat the founder, Buddha, like a god.
Some religions, such as Hinduism, have
many gods.
Most of the Western world profess
to believe in one god, but that one god
is really three gods in one - a father
god, a god who is the son of the father
god and something called the "holy
spirit," who is a god, too. The three
are one; the one is three. Of course,
that doesn't make sense, but then religion doesn't make sense, either.
What is religion? Good question.
All religions teach that some selfappointed humans can "get through"
to their particular god in some other
world better than some other humans

The American Atheist

can. The general term is "priests." The


priest, having gotten next to god and
become buddy-buddy with him (today
there are no "hers" among the gods),
goes about the business of inducing
the god to do things for the church
members who go through all the right
rituals and who pay their dues. In return for pushing it, and brainwashing
the young in such beliefs, priests get
money, goods, services and prestige.
(Note the worldwide publicity and
prestige the new pope received.)
The history of religion is a bloody
history, filled with fighting and killing those of different beliefs, murdering those of other faiths, cutting the
throats of their own young as "sacrifices" to please their gods.
A few centuries ago, believers in
the Christian religion attacked and
killed other people just because those
people believed in the Moslem religion.
They thought it was what their Christ-

ian god wanted them to do. They called


it the Holy Crusades.
The same thing is going on today in
the Mideast. Each side calls on its god
to help murder the other side's men,
women and children.
Dome and Danna, you may not
have thought much about these ideas
... or maybe you have. Very probably,
you may not believe as I believe and
what I have tried briefly to share with
you in this letter and suggested you
think about. My beliefs are quite different from those of the majority of
people, and to differ is not easy.
Most people believe in the kinds of
religion preached in most churches,
printed in most newspapers, ranted
about over radio and TV. A letter
such as this to you would never be
allowed in the press or accepted for
audio over the air. You would not
have these views if I didn't set them
forth in this way. You may disagree

with these views; I did at one time.


Agree or disagree, write me about
your thoughts. I'll be glad to discuss
any questions or points of view you
have.
It's good to know that humans
don't have to believe in a god to be
good, or to be honorable, or kind to
people and other animals, or work for
the good of others. Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Franklin, Francis Bacon and
Julian Huxley were such persons.
Two things Papa J would urge upon
you:
1) Gods are not real. People made
them up. You can unmake them in
your own mind. You need not believe
in any god.
2) Think! Keep your mind open!
Mama J and I love you both more
than you can ever know!
Take care now, and write me whatever you think.

GRANDPA'S POSTSCRIPT: All it was, was a simple letter, one of a number from a grandpa to grandchildren (with no
intention of publication). It sort of said with Robert Ingersoll, "With soap, baptism could be a good thing."
It indicated that "A philosopher is like a blind man in a pitch-black room groping for a black cat that isn't there; if he lays
claim to having found it, pronto ... he's a theologian!" Then, wow ... the deluge!
Mine was a small effort to counteract the attempt by clergy of all religions to mind-control the education of the very
young, which it has done from time immemorial. My "sin" was putting ideas in the heads of young people ... urging them to
think for themselves. For the clergy to do the same thing ... to put their ideas (all different) in the heads of children in Sunday
schools (Protestant), parochial schools (Catholic) and similar devices for Jews, Moslems, etc., ... that is laudable. Thus, the very
young are brainwashed before they reach the age of ability to think and reason for themselves. Apparently most adults stay

~~ If grandpa's letter had been addressed to his adult peers, it wouldn't

have caused a ripple.


Readers would have simply chuckled with Dwight Eisenhower that "An Atheist is a guy who
can watch a Notre Dame/Southern Methodist football game and not care who wins!" and
let it go at that.
Meanwhile, one out of every three living humans will go on either believing in no
god (the Buddhists) or in many gods (the Hindus), and much of the Western world
will go on believing in three gods. Why not all of us cooperate in making this
the beautiful world of its potential, without the religious violence of the
Mideast and the religious brouhahas locally? All grandchildren would
like that!

Austin,

December, 1978

Texas

~~j

Page 23

XMAS
BEFORE

CHRIST

As I have said, there is no clue in the Gospels to the time


of the year when Jesus is supposed to have been born: except,
indeed, that it cannot have been midwinter, for that is the rainy
season and shepherds would not be out in the night. Even Jewish mothers would cherish birthdays; but Miriam of Nazareth
either forgot the date of that very wonderful day or omitted
to mention it in her communication, late in life, of the remarkable story. Early Christendom found itself in the peculiar
position of telling the world of the most tremendous birth there
ever was on this planet and being quite unable to say when it
happened. It was centuries before even the year could be determined; and then it was determined wrongly. Nobody now
holds that Jesus was born in the year 1A.D.
The result was that for several hundred years the various
churches celebrated the birthday of the lord on different
dates. The eastern churches generally kept it on January 6,
which is now the Epiphany. Other churches chose April 24
of 25, and some placed it in May. It was not until 354 A.D.
that the church chose December 25 as the anniversary of the
birthday of Christ. Rome was then the leading church; and
why Rome hesitated so long, and why in the middle of the
fourth century (when it was, with imperial aid, trying to bring
in the whole Roman Empire) it had chosen December 25, we
must now see.
In order to realize it, to see how the rise of Christianity is
a very human part of human evolution, let us imagine ourselves
as members of the small and obscure group of Christians in
Rome, say, in the fourth century. We have two poor meeting
places - one of them is a room above a small wineshop - in
the despised quarter of Rome beyond the river (the slope of
the Vatican Hill) where criminals live and the dead are buried.
Joyous Roman Revelry
Midwinter approached and Rome is lit up with joy. It is
the festival of the old vegetation-god Saturn who (as a god)
died, or was displaced by Jupiter, the sky-god. But he has a
fine temple on the Capitol, and his festival lasts seven days and
is the most joyous time of the joyous Roman year. For one
day slaves are free. They don the conical cap of the freedman
- as good Christians continue at Christmas to don such caps
of paper, and hilarious Americans don them at festive dinners
today - and sit at table while masters wait on them.
Stalls laden with presents line the streets near the Forum;
and the great present of the season is a doll, of wax or terra
cotta. Hundreds of thousands of dolls lie on the stalls or in
the arms of passersby. Once, no doubt, human beings were
sacrificed to Saturn, and, as man grew larger than his religion,
as he constantly does, the god (or his priests) had to be content
with effigies of men or maids, or dolls. Crowds fill the streets
and raise festive cries. It was a time of peace on earth - for
by Roman law no war could begin during the Saturnalia - and

Page 24

December, 1978

Early Christian cult leaders


commandeered mankind's reverence
for a fact of nature - the life-giving
sun's rejuvenation at the winter
solstice - so as to claim divine
omnipotence over humanity.
The
world has been suffering from this
bastardization ever since.
BY JOSEPH McCABE
of good will toward all men.
For a whole week, from December 17 to 24, no work is
done. The one law is good cheer, good nature. But the 25th
also is a solemn festival, for it is marked in large type in the Roman calendar "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun."
Neither Romans nor Christians understood these things.
The festival went back far into the mists of prehistoric times.
It had been earlier a one-day festival, the feast of Saturn: a
very important magi co-religious festival for insuring the harvest
of the next year, rejoicing that the year's work was over, and,
no doubt, helping and propitiating the god of fecundity by
generous indulgence in wine and love. Dimly, also, these people knew that the mysterious winter dying of the sun was arrested. It was on the turn. But only an accurate astronomy
could decide which was the real day of solstice, so they celebrated the 25th as the great day of the sun's rebirth.
We can all understand the anxious debates of these early
Christians about the birthday of the lord. Christ was the real
sun that had risen upon the world. Why not boldly take "the
birthday of the unconquered sun?" That would, incidentally,
help to conciliate "the masses." But all this ribaldry and license and fooling ... besides, there was another reason.
While the Christians gathered dingily in their two little
back rooms on the Vatican Hill, there was another and more
prosperous Asiatic religion housed on the same hill. Mithraism,
as it was called, gave the Christians a very anxious time: not
merely because it spread more rapidly, and was more respected
but because it was so strikingly like Christianity.
Mithra was an old Aryan sun-god. The reform of the Persian religion by Zarathustra had put the ethical deity Ahura
Mazda so high above the old nature-gods that he was practically the one god. But Mithra stole upward, as gods do, and
Persian kings of the fifth century B.C. put him on a level with
Ahura Mazda.
Then the Persians conquered and blended with Babylon,
and Mithra rose to the supreme position and became an intensely ethical deity. He was, like Aton, the sun of the world
in the same sense as Christ. He was honored with the sacrifice
of the pleasures of life, and was himself credited with no
amours as Zeus was. Drastic asceticism and purity were demanded of his _worshippers. They were baptized in blood.
They had a communion-supper of bread and wine. They worshipped Mithra in underground temples, or artificial caves,
which blazed with the light of candles and reeked with incense.
And every year they celebrated the birthday of this god
who had come, they said, to take away the sins of the world;
and the day was December 25. As that day approached, near
midnight of the 24th, Christians might see the stern devotees
of Mithra going to their temple on the Vatican, and at midnight it would shine with joy and light. The savior of the world
was born. He had been born in a cave, like so many other sungods: and some of the apocryphal Gospels put the birth of
Christ in a cave. He had had no earthly father. He was born

The American Atheist

to free men from sin, to redeem them.


F. Cumont, the great authority on Mithra, has laboriously
collected for us all these details about the Persian religion, and
more than one of the Christian Fathers refers nervously to the
close parallel of the two religions. The Savior Mithra was in
possession, had been in possession for ages, of December 25, as
his birthday.
He was the real "unconquered
sun:" a sun-god
transformed
into a spiritual god, with light as his emblem and
purity his supreme command.
What could the Christians do?
Nothing, until they had the ear of the emperors. Then they
appropiated
December 25, and even bits of the Mitharaic ritual;
and they so zealously destroyed the traces of the Mithraic religion that one has to be a scholar to know anything about it.
The Saturnalia
and "the birthday
of the unconquered
sun" and the birthday of Mithra were not all. A Roman writer
of the fourth century, Macrobius, in a work called Saturnalia
discusses the practice of representing
the gods in the temples
as of different ages. He says:
"These differences of age refer to the sun, which seems to
be a babe at the winter solstice, as the Egyptians represent
him in their temples on a certain day: that being the shortest day, he is then supposed to be small and an infant."
And this is confirmed
ditions from, a Christian
Chronicle. He says:

by, and receives very interesting adwriter, the author of the Paschal

"Jeremiah
gave a sign to the Egyptian priests, saying that
idols would be destroyed
by a child-savior, born of a
virgin and lying in a manger. Wherefore they still worship as a
goddess a virgin mother,
and adore an infant in a manger.
(Col. 385 in the Migne edition, vol. XCII.)
The explanation
is, of course, ludicrous.
As I explain in
an earlier work on Egyptian religion, Horus, the deity in question, was a very old sun-god of the Egyptians. In the adjustment
of the rival Egyptian gods, when the tribes were amalgamated in
one kingdom, Horus was made the son of Osiris and Isis. The
latter goddess was, as I said, the sister and the spouse (or lover)
of Osiris; but whether we should speak of her as "a virgin
mother" is a matter of words. In one Egyptian myth she was
fecundated
by Osiris in their mother's womb; in another and
more popular, she was miraculously
impregnated
by contact
with the phallus of the dead Osiris. Virginity in goddesses is a
relative matter.
Whatever we make of the original myth, however, Isis
seems to have been originally a virgin (or, perhaps, sexless)
goddess, and in the later period of Egyptian religion she was
again considered
a virgin goddess,
demanding
very strict
abstinence
from her devotees. It is at this period, apparently,
that the birthday
of Horus was annually
celebrated; about
their

Austin,

Texas

December
25, in the temples. As both Macrobius and the
Christian writer say, a figure of Horus as a baby was laid in a
manger, in a scenic reconstruction
of a stable, and a statue of
Isis was placed beside it. Horus was, in a sense, the Savior of
mankind. He was their avenger against the powers of darkness;
he was the light of the world. His birth-festival
was a real
Christmas before Christ.

In passing, we may recall that just such a spectacle is presented in every Roman Catholic church in the world on December 25. Catholics will tell you that St. Francis of Assisi
invented this tender and touching method of bringing home to
men the humble birth of the redeemer.
I know too much
about Francis of Assisi to imagine that he had ever read the
obscure Paschal Chronicle, in which I discovered this interesting passage some years ago. But certainly
some other
Christian writer had seen and reproduced
it, and it had come
to the knowledge
of Francis. If a Catholic prefers to believe
that Francis of Assisi did in reality conceive this method of
representing
the birth of Christ, he could not give us a better
proof of the identity of the Christian and the Egyptian belief!
The Catholic "crib" is an exact reproduction
of the "show"
exhibited in Egyptian temples centuries before Christ; and the
Egyptian legend itself is thousands
of years older than Jeremiah. On the analogy of the Christian practice we may infer
that the Egyptian legend described Isis as having given birth to
her divine son in a stable. In Alexandria
there was a similar
Greek celebration
on December 25 of the birth of a divine son
to Kore (the "virgin.")
And this is not the end. The Greeks had a similar celebration. The general idea of a divine son being born in a cave
was, as we shall see presently, common; or there were actually
several scenic representations
of the birth of these gods in their
festivals. M. M. Robertson
gives three in his Christianity and
Mythology (p. 330). Hermes, the Logos (like Jesus and John),
the messenger of the gods, son of Zeus and the virgin Maia,

It's only marsh gas; forget about

December,

it. Pass the flask."

1978

Page 25

was born in a cave, and he performed extraordinary prodigies


a few hours after birth. He was represented as a "child wrapped
in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Dionysos (or
Bacchus) was similarly represented. The image of him as a
babe was laid in a basket-cradle in the cave in which he was
born. There is a good reason to think that Mithra was figured
in the same way.
We understand why the church so long hesitated to put
the birth of Christ at the Winter Solstice, and why there was
no scenic representation of the birth until the Middle Ages.
From end to end of the Roman Empire December 25 was the
birthday of the unconquered sun, of the Savior Mithra, and of
the divine Horus and they and the others I have mentioned,
whose festivals were in other seasons, were represented almost
exactly as the birth of Christ was described in the Gospels and
is depicted in Catholic churches today.
And we must not overlook the Teutonic element. Every
Roman was familiar from childhood with the great midwinter
festival; and in the earliest days of the Christian era the religions of Persia and Egypt, with similar festivals, spread over the
empire. But the nations of the north also had their greatest festival of the year in midwinter. To these northern barbarians,
shuddering in the snow-laden forests beyond the Danube, the
return of the sun was the most desired event of the year; and
they soon learned, approximatley, the time - the Winter Solstice - when the "wheel" turned. The sun was figured as a
fiery wheel; and as late as the 19th century there were parts of

~OB~~~'s
DICTIONARY

J. Michael Straczynski

AMEN -n- The signal that it is time to wake up and leave


the church.
AMERICAN REVOLUTION -n- A celebrated battle
which overthrew a beneficial monarchy and replaced it with
a monarchical benefactor.
AMIABLE -adj- Your feelings toward a person who has
the wisdom to see in yourself an Individual of Quality.
AMMUNITION -n- The Christian's Fifth Gospel.
AMOROUS -adj- Horniness with a college education.
AMUSEMENT PARK -n- An arena, usually outdoors,
where people go to eat indigestible foods, lose their life savings, become nauseated and be harried by screaming children,
all in the name of Having a Good Time.
ANATOMY -n- Pornography without its clothes on.
ANCESTRY -n- A family tree that does not bear shaking
too strenuously, lest something disagreeable tumble out.
ANCHOR -n- See SPOUSE.
ANCIENT -n- The previous generation to the present generation, until such time as the next generation arrives, at
which time it becomes Pre-history.
ANECDOTE -n- The public speaker's cure for insomnia.
An unfair retaliation taken against a group of people foolish
enough to have forgotten the tar and feathers.
ANNIVERSARY -n- A day of self-flagellation, whereupon
we renew past mistakes and retell old lies.
ANOMALY -n- A fact which does not support my theory

Page 26

December, 1978

~I

France where a straw wheel was set on fire and rolled down a
hill, to give an augury of the next harvest.
Bence "yule" (from the same old Teutonic word hoel or
wheel) was the outstanding festival of the ancestors of the
French and Germans, the English and Scandinavians. The sun
was born; and fires ("yule-logs," such as are burned in British
homes at Christmas today) flamed in the forest-villages, the
huts were decorated with holly and evergreen, yule trees were
laden with presents, and stores of solid wood and strong drink
.were lavishly opened. This lasted until "Twelfth Day," now
the Epiphany.
Thus almost the entire civilized world of more than two
thousand years ago "had its Christmas before Christ." "The
figure of Christ," says Kalthoff, "is drawn in all its chief features before a line of the Gospels was written." At least the
figure of Jesus in what is deemed its most captivating form was
drawn in every feature long before it was presented in the Gospels. The first symbol of the Christian religion, the manger or
basket-cradle of the divine child, the supposed unique exhortation to humility, was one of the most familiar religious emblems of the Pagan world. Had it been exhibited to a crowd
in one of the cosmopolitan cities of the empire, it would have
been strange or new to very few. One might pronounce it
Horus, another Mithra, another Hermes, another Dionysos;
but all would have shrugged their shoulders nonchalantly at
the news that it was just another divine child in the great family of gods. The world flowed on. The names only were changed.
of the universe.
ANTHOLOGY -n- A collection of stories or poems that
no one of taste would even think to read individually.
APHRODISIAC -n- A compound or compounds said to
induce extreme sexual desire in members of the opposite
sex. Such compounds, if they are successful, may also be hazardous. For both safety and security, it is advised that any
samples of such compounds be forwarded to the compiler
of this dictionary for analysis and research in the best interests of science.
APPRECIATE vt- Noting a characteristic in another that
reminds us of ourselves.
.
ARK -n- A boat designed to carry flies, fleas, cockroaches,
diseases, rats, vermin, bacteria and other forms of pestilence
for the benefit of future generations.
BASEMENT -n- A subterranean receptacle suitable for
planting mushrooms and disagreeable spouses.
BAYONET -n- A device used to point out the error of
another's ways.
BEATIFIC -adj- The end result of the passing of much
time, during which memories are softened and a thief becomes a saint.
BEATITUDES -n- The Sermon on the Mount, wherein
the meek were informed that they were blessed and that
they would inherit rent control, smog, nuclear waste and
urban renewal after they put the cat out and did all the dishes.
The response of the meek is not recorded.
BEAUTICIAN -n- A specialist trained to lift your face in
order to gain better access to your pocketbook.
BED -n- A ship of state upon which many marriages have
hit the rocks.
BEDPAN -n-Arepository forthose particular afterthoughts
entertained about the medical profession.
BEELZEBUB - A foremost international diplomat well
noted for his respectable contributions to the political field.
BEFRIEND :vt- To see the possibility for securing a future
advantage and/or profit.
BEGGAR -n- A dedicated theologian whose support is invisible and ineffable.

The American Atheist

The
Heretic
by Jean Nourse

Her mind wandered among old thoughts, gleaning fragments of past knowledge which she added like bits of mosaic
to the colorful scene passing around her. Sitting alone on a
bench, a small stationary island in a stream of humanity, her
mind dimly associated this pageant with heathen marketplaces jammed with worshippers of Baal. Christmas was a sin.
Down the long, glittering mall people jostled, bumping, laughing, some hurrying, some dawdling at windows. Colorful,
gypsy-like, they were intent on spending their money and
energy.
Yes, pagan. She remembered her Atheistfather. "You have
to study the history of all religions," he would caution her,
"before you can decide anything about it!"
She had tried to decide, attending wistfully Sunday school
with her friends, somehow never feeling the sense of belonging
she was searching for. Instead she accepted the Great American
Dream in its entirety. Then as she grew and learned and experienced times of war, times of depression, and times of frustration, she was at first disillusioned. Later she came to know
that all her goodness stemmed from herself, and that she only
felt well when she did well and that well-being came from her
environment, herself, and that she could change herself, her
friends, her abode, her life in any way she wanted to.
Unfortunately, she was trapped in this WASP ghetto of a
town by low rental housing. Her apartment was lovely, very
adequate, but there was no way she could afford to move to
a more congenial place.
Her eyes followed a young mother, obviously pregnant,
with two excited children prancing at her side. Yes, pagan. Virgin and child began with Venus and Cupid. There were many
such statues left over in Rome when Paul of Tarsus went there.
Infant Baptism was practiced by the Persians. The very devil
was originally the god Pan - horns, hoofs and all.
Certainly most of the crimes and wars in history were
committed in the name of some religion or other. The "immaculate conception" of the virgin stemmed from an old Roman
feast which celebrated the conception of Juno. So this holiday,
too, was an enlargement of a messianic myth, handed down
from the ancients.
Still, she wished she could recapture the old feelings of
love and warmth which had energized her youthful holiday
activities when she had felt so much "a part of."
With these thoughts she was unaware of herself as a pathetic
"part of" the phenomenon of the "holy rush." A forgotten
old woman, sitting primly, her neat feet crossed, her hands
holding her purse tidily in her lap in the middle of the celebration of the marketplace.

Austin,

Texas

She wearied thinking of the holiday. She went through


something like this every year. The past was gone. The family
reunions, the fun they had made of birthdays, the generosity,
the once-a-year demonstrations of love. Why had they done
it? None of the family had ever been religious. Better forget
it, blot it out. She was weary now of filling up time, being
good to others. She was bored with tottering old Bertha, her
present neighbor.
She lifted the edge of her sleeve with a finger to look at
her watch. Might as well go home and warm up the beefnoodle soup from yesterday. She had no energy left with
which to seek new companions, and even if she did, to share
herself with them. She had yet to find a real kindred Atheist
in this reactionary town!
At home in her little one-room apartment she lighted the
gas under the soup pot. If she turned on her fading television
she would see more of the same old thing; jingle sell, jingle
buy.
Someone had given her a large, green, bayberry candle.
She found a match and lighted it, placed it on the coffee table
next to the telephone and sat down on the couch. She stared
into the flame. At once she was three years old again, standing
hand in hand with her mother. The tree before them blazed
with tiny candles. In those days, the tree was lighted only for
as long as the candles lasted. The ornaments sparkled and
seemed to dance with delight as they watched. A feeling of
well-being suffused her, a glow of warmth and love.
That's what made it operant, love, she thought. Why did
they have to put god into it? Then she had repeated the same
rituals with her own child, carried it on, bought presents, decorated trees, shown more love, especially at that time.
That's the way we got seduced into it, she went on thinking. And then the greedy merchants exploited that love, coopted our human desire for unity. What centuries of sheep we
have been. Some day perhaps we'll celebrate the birth of man's
real humanity instead of some non-existant deity. A festival of
lights and love without having to buy anything to make it work!
We'll be able to shed that insecure, fickle part of ourselves, to
realize our highest human potential!
She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The image
of the candle flamed behind her eyelids.
She sat up and reached for the telephone.
"Hello, Bertha? Come on over and have supper with me
tonight! "
She would put the candle in the middle of the table and
celebrate her own humanity!

AH, GHRISTMAS
When first the jingles begin to play
(I'm that bored with them)
Seems Christmas never goes away
As if there were no months between past holidays
Streaming into one long ribbon of scheming
None good, some mean, bright, expensive, crass
But this too will pass
And next time I'll be wondering
What happened to last summer
And all that green, green grass!

December, 1978

Jean Nourse

Page 27

A JOYOUS ATHEIST
G. Richard Bozarth
The Atheist Letters-4
My latest letter-debate with Vacaville's religionists took on
new fire when on 29 Mar 78 the Reporter ran an editorial supporting U.S. Senator Hayakawa's efforts to get the PackwoodMoynihan Bill passed in the Senate. You can imagine my reaction. I sent in a long letter of protest, which was largely a rewrite of the news story in the April 78 issue of The American
A theist. An abridged (also botched) form of this letter was
published in the 5 April issue of the Reporter.
The letter would be redundant here. But my main points
were that parochiaid is unconstitutional, it is a Catholic plot to
enrich itself, and that, contrary to the claim of the editorial,
most parents who send their kids to parochial schools are seeking the religious influence to be had there rather than better
education. I declared in the letter, "The Packwood-Moynihan
Bill is evil! It is a deathblow to our public school system! It is
a direct assault on our constitutional rights!"
As you might guess, this did not go unchallenged. Two letters
appeared in the 9 April issue of the Reporter. I answered their
charges in a letter published, complete and unabridged, on 14
April.

with hard evidence Freedom Under Siege by Dr. M.M. O'Hair,


which is in Vacaville's public library. If we are paranoid, the
documented arguments of Dr. O'Hair should then be only tissue
fantasies easily disproven by hard, real, rational evidence. Or,
is all you have just an uneducated opinion?
Freedom is under siege, and the enemy is religion. Our founding fathers certainly thought so, which is why they established
freedom from religion. I suggest you read some Tom Paine, Tom
Jefferson and the rest as a beginning. Freedom is under siege,
and the American Atheists is one of the very few organizations
with the clear-sighted valor to man the defenses.
To Mr. Michie: You say education is dead because evolution
rather than Genesis gibberish is taught. If you know anything
of European history, then you know Christians like yourself
once thought education was dead when it was no longer taught
that the sun orbited the earth. Christians such as yourself in
those past centuries knew without doubt god had created the
solar system with the earth at the center. Education admirably
survived the extinction of that bit of religiously perpetuated
nonsense. It will survive the extinction of the nonsense of divine

The Charges
1. "Atheists seem to be a very paranoid group. They think
that around every corner or behind every bush is a religious
person just waiting to jump out and convert them."
2. "I should 'research [my] subject a little more thoroughly'
because many parents do send their kids to parochial schools
for the quality of education there.
Mrs. Gary T. Runow
3. "Our public school system has already had the deathblow
struck and may I add by the atheistic idea of evolution"
4. "I have no faith in a church, but in the one and only true
god."
. 5. "Atheists cannot understand the Bible because the only
way to truly understand it is to be personally enveloped with
the holy spirit."
David Alan Michie
The Answer
To Ms. Runow: I am well aware there are parents such as
yourself who send their children to parochial schools with the
idea that the education there is better. However, you are a small
minority. Even the religionists openly admit that parochial
schools exist to insure that priests have a new crop of obedient
faithful from each new generation to keep them employed.
This goal is not going to change. Your secular motives for sending your daughter to a parochial school are not for an instant
going to change their sectarian goals.
As for my research about this, and to answer the charge that
Atheists are paranoid, I challenge you to rebut in detail and

Page 28

December, 1978

"Hey, wouldn't it be funny if, some day,


some nut actually believed all this crap?
The American Atheist

creation.
What it will not survive is the extinction of the ability to
teach true, proven knowledge. Not one single shred of hard,
scientific proof supports the biblical descriptions of our origins.
Not even the Bible supports it, for there are two radically different authors. I refer you to the Jerusalem Bible, or the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in case the holy ghost failed to inform
you of this during one of your envelopments with him.
Your faith in god and Jesus is not proof of their existence.
If faith is a proof of divine existence, this planet then must be
overpopulated with deities. Every religion supporting every current god survives because of the faith of its members in that
god's existence. Their faith is just as strong, as certain, as convinced, as positive as yours. Their faith is sustained by their
equivalents of your envelopment with the holy ghost. If your
faith proves your god, then just as absolutely, their faith proves
their god. However, since most gods insist in their holy books
all other gods are superstitions, it is obvious faith is useless in
proving the existence of god.
Can't you do better than faith? Surely, something like a
god ought to be rationally provable to a rational mind by a
presentation of irresistible proofs that by themselves convince
and do not rely on mystical faith. After all, you might have faith
that Ohm's Laws are a false description of the behavior of electricity, but even if you had a billion believers of this faith, electricity would consistently and without fail act according to
Ohm's laws. Where, then, are religion's Ohm's Laws?
Atheism is easy to abolish. Just produce a god. Surely, if all
of you Christians got on your knees and said, "Pretty please,
prove to rotten old Bozarth you are who you are," he'd do it.
Didn't he promise to respond favorably to your requests?
Meanwhile, I'll continue in my Atheism to support and fight
for the cause of American. Atheists. We are the best realistic
hope for America.
The Charges

1. "One of the more cynical of your contributors-has overmuch to say about his belief in nothingness."
2. "Humans contemplating the existence of god are as helplessly ignorant as fish, ants, and microbes contemplating the
existence of humans."
3. "It can hardly be held that the discoveries of science deny
the existence of god."
4. "It should be obvious to the Atheist himself (or herself)
that he has bet his life on death. Even if he wins, he cannot
hope to shout to us in triumph, 'See, I was right! There is no
god. We are all dead, dead, dead!' Anyone may go to the track
and bet his wad on an also-ran-only a fool would stake his all
on a nag he knows will die in the stretch."
Selah
The Answer

(Unpublished)

In the 19 April 78 issue Selah accuses me of cynicism. Why


am I allegedly cynical? Because I don't believe in god! What
strange nonsense! Cynicism is defined as expecting "nothing
but the worst of human conduct and motives: misanthrope."
Dear Selah, you are as wrong about me as you are about god.
When I think of human life, I think in terms of the Apollo
lunar missions and the work of the magnificent Leakeys in
Africa.
When I think of human life, I think in terms of the plays of
Shakespeare and the works of Nietzsche.
When I think of human life, I think in terms of heroes and
heroines like Voltaire, Jefferson, Ingersoll, Solzhenitsyn, and
O'Hair.
When I think of human life, I think of many of the men I
served with and under in nine years in the Marine Corps'; men
I will always remember with pride, respect, and affection.

Austin,

Texas

When I think in terms of human life, I think of many admirable people I work with now, and of their basic and saneness.
When I think of human life, I think in terms of the many,
many admirable and wonderful people I had the joy of meeting at the Eighth Annual American Atheist Convention.
When I think of human life, I have to agree with Will and
Ariel Durant, who have also given up god, yet wrote in their
The Age of Napoleon, "All in all, in life and history, we have
found so many good men and women that we have quite lost
faith in the wickedness of mankind."
This from the godless. What do I read when I turn to the
theologians and religionists? Selah speaks of the human species
in terms of hopelessly ignorant fish, ants, and microbes. Billy
Grahm in his book, Angels, describes all humans as depraved DEPRA VED! Augustine in his Confessions exhausted his supply of adjectives to describe how inherently worthless and corrupt humans are. Guilt and sin are the basic doctrines of all religions. How much more cynical can one get than to believe in
the odious dogma of the original sin?
Selah is radically wrong. Atheism has freed me from cynicism. Remember, it was a religionist who wrote the ultimate
expression of cynicism: "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!"
The discoveries of science do deny the existence of god.
Selah tells us microbes and ants can never know about humans.
True. However, if these animals possessed a rational, curious,
reasoning intelligence like we humans, then they would also
develop a science that in the process of discovering the secrets
of the universe would produce ample evidence of the existence
of humans and much information about how humans live life.
She says fish can never know the inner workings of a ship.
True. However, if fish possessed the same sort of intelligence
we humans have, then this would not be true. To discover the
nature of ships, their scientists would do what our sceintists
have done to discover the nature of alien planets - send manned (fished?) and robot missions out to collect data. And
among the data would be certain proof of human existence.
No such proof has been found of god's existence, yet the
fellow is supposedly present everywhere, and so full of love for
the world that one must wonder why he doesn't. make himself
conclusively known to stop all the bloodshed that is currently
going on because of the differing opinions religionists have on
whose god is the real god.
As to her remarks about religionism being one big gamble
like a horserace, wouldn't it be nice if all religionists did was
bet on the existence of their various gods? Unfortunately, they
kill for their chosen steed. And where they are forbidden to
kill, they try to take over the betting windows and ban betting
on all other entries using laws.
Lastly, no Atheist has any desire to shout in triumph "I
am right!" after death. Because there is nothing after death,
we do all our triumphant shouting in life. Atheism is right and
it is true precisely because religionism is like betting on a
horse race where invisible horses no one has ever seen run on a
track no one can give the location of, and all bettors run about
claiming to be winners with equal certainty.
Why do I write these letters? Aside from the fun of it, my
reason was eloquently stated by Ralph Shirley in his column,
"Polemic Synopsis," in the May '78 issue of The American
Atheist. I cannot say it any better, so I will quote:
"Since it is not possible to determine who might be a potential Atheist, literature debunking religion should be provided
to as many people as possible, especially to the young. We
shouldn't feel that there is no use trying to educate believers
because, although the non-thinking sheep will pass it up and
spurn the greatest of wisdom, those few who have good reasoning ability will seize upon the information like. a young
tiger having its first taste of meat."

December, 1978

Page 29

Roots of Atheism
n.M. Bennett/ American Atheist

****

ROOTS OF ATHEISM

****

n.M. Bennett/American

Atheist

read further, but it seems to me quite unnecessary. It is an


announcement of what is a fact. In the early history of the
world woman did play an important part. I need only refer
to the very commencement of the civilization of the world;
she has played it ever since, and those of the other sex have
taken control; they are the ones who make the laws, and
oblige women to submit. But he says here what may be
true. She has undertaken to playa more important part,
and when she succeeds, better methods of sexual intercourse and reproduction will be matured than exclusive
male wisdom has yet invented.
"Of course, it is a prophecy; it is an announcement
that woman will take her position on the plane of equality
and take her share in the management of society, in the
passage of your laws and in the execution of your ordinances. That is what is meant by it: that she will be in
every respect equal to man and maintain her position as
such, ...
"Now, is there anything obscene in that? Does it excite
in the mind, or would it in any well-regulated mind, any
such thought as lasciviousness? Is there anything about that
that excites man's lust and desire for sexual intercourse? It
is perfectly absurd to say that from that proposition any
such conclusion can be fairly drawn. I know that this jury
cannot believe that any such thing would result."

During D.M. Bennett's trial for distributing Cupid's


Yokes through the mails, defense attorney Wakeman moved
from page to page of that booklet taking time to specifically
read those passages to the jury which Anthony Comstock and
his Christian crusaders from the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) found objectionable. Time and again the "obscene" passages had to do with natural sexual matters and the
(equally threatening) growing sentiment in the United States
at that time for the emancipation of women from the stifling
yoke of oppressive Christiany its male propagators had for centuries chained them to.
Wakeman refers the jury to page 7:
"I will begin a little back, and read from where I left off
on the sixth page. 'The principles of nature, derived from a
careful study of essential liberty and equity, are a sager
guide than crude codes which come to us from the ignorant
and despotic past.' Now comes what is objected to, commencing with., 'Woman, who, being up first in the morning
hours of history, played a winning hand in this marriage
game, is again coming to the front; and, in the parliament
of reason, where the thought, impulse, attraction, and conscience of both sexes have free play, better methods of
sexual intercourse and reproduction will be matured than
exclusive male wisdom has yet invented.'
"That is a remarkable passage in itself. I was going to

Page 30

December, 1978

But, predictably, the jury of 12 male Christians - all wellconditioned to such by their religious upbringing - did profess
to believe absurdities and D.M. Bennett was found guilty of
sending "blasphemous" materials through the mails. The verdict was confirmed upon appeal. The sentence imposed
was 13 months imprisonment and a fine of $300.
Bennett had expected as much, knowing as he did the systematized bias against Atheists so inbred and solidified in
Western civilization that few are able to stand clear and use the
light of impartial judgment so much feared by religionists.
As a long-time journalist who knew the immense power of
the printed word in those times when they had neither TV nor
radio, Bennett sought to state his case to the nation's press. He
did exactly that in his A Circular Letter, which reads in part:
"To the Editors, Publishers, and Thinkers of the United States:
"A jury were constrained to render a verdict against me this
month in the Circuit Court of the United States of this District,
under a charge and certain rulings of Judge Charles L. Benedict,
which, in my view, deeply concerns the world of thought, and
the freedom of the press, of speech, and of literature. The indictment was for mailing a copy of a pamphlet called Cupid's
Yokes, written and published by E.H. Heywood, of Princeton,
Mass., which had been sent to Anthony Comstock at Granville,
N.Y., under one of his decoy names, in the usual course of my
book trade.
"The charge in the indictment was that the book was 'obscene,' under the United States postal law on that subject,
which Mr. Comstock caused to be passed in 1873. I defended

The American Atheist

D.M. Bennett / American Atheist ((.;.:.;.:.* ROOTS OF ATHEISM

* (~(~*

D.M. Bennett/American

D.M. Bennett / American Atheist ~:.;.:


.. :(.,x ROOTS OF ATHEISM

* ;.:.*

D.M. Bennett/ American Atheist

on the ground that the law is unconstitutional, and also that


the book is not obscene even under the wording and fair application of that statute.
"1) To show this, my counsel offered to prove by 40 or
more witnesses, editors and literary men and booksellers of
great experience and established reputation, that this work,
for mailing the whole of which I was indicted, was not of 'an
obscene or indecent character,' but a social polemic, and would
not be classed as an obscene work in the trade or in literature
or in the general use. The judge at once excluded all such evidence.
"2) My counsel then offered to prove, by experts of great
knowledge and experience in the use of words and language,
the true meaning of the words 'obscene' and 'indecent,' and
that they did not apply to this little work. The judge ruled out
all evidence of this kind.
"3) I then, by my counsel, asked to have the whole pamphlet, consisting of only 23 pages, read in evidence to the jury,
so that they could see from the whole of it whether it was
fairly classed as an obscene book or not. The prosecuting attorney then for the first time said that he would only rely
upon certain passages which he would mark. Thereupon the
court ruled that not the whole book but only those passages
should be read to the jury. The court then excluded all of the
book except the 22 short and isolated passages then pointed
out by the prosecutor, and which were largely notes quoted
from Plutarch and other standard authors.
"4) My counsel then, in summing up, began to compare
those 22 passages with similar ones in the common literature
of the language, so as to show that neither in expression nor
thought could they be classed as obscene, and that if they
were so classed nearly every library, periodical, and newspaper
in the land must also be condemned, from the Bible down to
the New York Herald. The counsel was stopped by the court,
and all right of comparison was excluded and forbidden.
"5) My counsel then proceeded to read the portions of
the book in questions which, in his view, helped to explain
the passages objected to and make them innocent, if they were
not so in themselves. The court limited counsel in so doing to
such context as it deemed proper for that purpose. For instance, the court stopped the counsel and refused to allow him
to read the concluding page of the pamphlet, which determines
its scope and tendency, and which, in my view, renders perfectly harmless the isolated passages and notes objected to.
Dictates Of The Court
"6) This being a criminal case, I claimed that the jury were
'the judges of the law and fact' under the statute, and should
determine and apply the definition and purpose of its words.
The court held that the jury must take the law and 'test definitions' only from the court, and stopped counsel in his efforts to show the jury what the true meaning and purpose of
the words of the statute were.
"7) After these rulings the charge of the court was, in manner, effect, and influence, an authoritarian direction to the
jury to bring in a verdict of guilty. It magnified the evil and extent of obscenity (of which there is very little), extolled the

Austin, Texas

(+

Atheist

importance, necessity, and constitutionality of the law, and


gave 'test definitions,' which the court said it had used in
previous cases, and which, at the request of the foreman of the
jury, was sent in to them. This to me astonishing definition,
therefore, took the place of the statute, which was not before
the jury, and of course compelled conviction, as it had done, I
am informed, in every previous case of the kind before that
judge. This 'test' reads as follows:
'The Test of Obscenity is, whether the TENDENCY of
the matter is to deprave and corrupt the morals of those
whose minds are open to such influences, and into whose
hands a publication of this sort MAY fall.
'LEWD means having a TENDENCY to excite lustful
thoughts.
'Passages are INDECENT within the meaning of the
statute if they contain obscenity, that is to say, matter
having THAT FORM of indecency which is CALCULATED
to promote the general corruption of morals. '
I mpartial Verdict Precluded
"Under this charge and test, delivered in the most authoritative manner, the jury doubtless felt that they had no choice
but to approve the marked passages as blameless in the point
of conventional morality, in whosesoever hands they might fall,
or to bring in a verdict of guilty, and of course they did the
latter. What may not be corruptive to minds sufficiently COTruptable? One of the jurymen held out all night, from 4 o'clock
p.m. until 7 o'clock the next morning, as a protest against this
test, which as he said, would condemn nearly every library and
newspaper in the land, including his own.
"There certainly are few books and papers of a religious,
polemic, literary artistic, scientific, radical, or reformatory
character, in which some isolated passages, or pictures, quotations, or advertisements may not be found that a jury sufficiently ignorant or bigoted may not deem, or be made to believe, to have a tendency to corrupt the morals of those open
to such influences, and into whose hands the publication may.
fall. The Bible would be the first book to be condemned under this test, as Mr. Parker pillsbury has plainly shown in his
pamphlet, comparing passages from it to those objected to in
Cupid's Yokes. Our general literature, past and present, would
fare no better, as would have been shown in this trial had the
court permitted.
"It is plain that Mr. Comstock's society, and similar societies now being formed throughout the land, armed with this
test, and under such rulings, have a censorship over the press
and the mails of the most insidious and dangerous character,
and which they may enforce against almost any editor and
publisher and author at will. What liberty there is left in literature is largely the result of their forbearance, or the refusal of
prosecuting officers to listen to them. Mr. Lant, Mr. Heywood,
and myself, all editors of liberal newspapers, have been attacked
under this law, evidently, and I may say avowedly, for the
purpose of destroying our papers. This I offered to prove, and
could have proved in this trial, to have been the object of this
prosecution, but the court would not permit it to be done.

December, 1978

Page 31

"The danger is none the less common because it is my ox


which is being gored now. On social, moral, and even theological subjects, the 'freedom of philosophising'
in our so-called
'free' America, is no greater than it was with Socrates of
Athens, Galileo in Italy, with Venini in France, with Servetus
in Geneva, or Shelley in England. The pretext in every act of
persecution
has always been in substance the repetition of the
charge against Socrates,
'that he was introducing
new gods,
and depraving
and corrupting
the morals of youth.'
Upon
these pretexts,
juries seldom have firmness and intelligence
enough not to render the required verdict of 'guilty,'
for
they do not know what liberty of thought means or requires,
and the court always assures them, as did Judge Benedict in
substance, and with fine irony in this case, 'that prosecutions
of this character
have nothing to do with the freedom of
press.'
"Let me say on this point that my only object in selling
this pamphlet was to vindicate the liberty of thought, and of
the press, and of the mails. I have always announced that I did
not approve of it, but as long as Mr. Heywood did, I declared
that he had the right to mail it as a part of his right to publish
it, and as a necessary part of the freedom of the press.
"The reception which the opponents of this pamphlet have
given it, is in my view the most mistaken possible. They have
not tried to answer it at all, but have resorted to the brute
force of legal persecution,
under a false pretext of obscenity.
This course has had the effect to increase its circulation from
a few hundred to about 30,000. I do not know of any good
and short answer to this pamphlet in print, but I would gladly
print and circulate any such answer if the opponents
of the
views presented will furnish me with it. The object of the pamphlet is to show that a freer love between the sexes, controlled
by self-government
and an enlightened conscience, is desirable,
and that our marriage laws and customs should be amended or
abolished in the interest of a higher morality and purity, which
this author thinks will be one day realized. A Christian philanthropost, a Baptist clergyman of Boston, a few years ago, gave
us a very able little book (published
by Campbell & Co.) in
favor of polygamy. Rev. J.H. Noyes, of the Oneida Community, has for years circulated his pamphlets, advocating cornmunity marriage, or coinogamy.
Now let those who are in favor of
monogamy as it exists under our present marriage laws, sustain
it against these assailants by facts, reason, and fair arguments,
and not resort to Mr. Comstock's
inquisition
under the pretext of 'obscenity,'
which, if it really exist, they thereby circulate a thousand fold. I promise, and shall be glad to publish
and circulate any concise work in favor of legal monogamy
that may be furnished me, provided it is as able and as free
from obscenity as the works I have referred to.
"That this pamphlet
in question is not in any fair sense

'obscene' will be apparent


upon its examination.
It does not
belong to that class of works at all, but is a reformatory
social
polemic aiming, in the author's view, at a higher plane of morality. Few approve of its conclusions,
but that it is not amenable to the 'obscene law' has been attested by the thousands
who have read it, including Hon. Charles Devens, the present
Attorney
General of the United States, Hon. Elizur Wright,
and over 1,000 others who have with him signed or indorsed
a defiance of prosecution
on its account, and many others.
The witnesses who appeared in court to testify to the same effect were some of our best citizens, well-known in the trade
and in literature.
When there is such an intelligent opinion to
the contrary a prosecution
on this ground seems to me ridiculous. In a case of real obscenity there is no such difference of
opinion, and no real opposition.
"In conclusion, what I ask of the Press and Trade and every
Thinker is to do what each can to protect their own rights and
liberties which have been assailed in perhaps their humblest
member."
Here's something for "modern-day"
Atheists who are yet
afraid to be identified: after D.M Bennett's appeal was denied,
a petition bearing 200,000 names, asking for the pardon of
Bennett,
was sent to President Rutherford
Hayes. President
Hayes himself stated that he did not regard the implicated
works as obscene.
However, Anthony Comstock got busy and had ministers
sign a petition which he sent to Mrs. Hayes who was very pious.
The substance of that petition was that an "infidel" should
not be set free. Hayes did not pardon Bennett and he was
taken to Albany, New York, to serve out his prison term.
He remained
in prison from 28 July 1879 to 29 April
1880, being released early for "good behavior." But, while he
was in prison he had time and he wrote a two-volume
book,
900 pages in each, titled The Gods and Religions of Ancient

and Modern Times.


Anthony
Comstock's
plan to cause Bennett's newspaper
to fail by imprisoning
him failed in another way. Public interest was aroused and new subscribers were obtained because of
his jailing. His release was celebrated at a reception at Chickering Hall in New York. Because Bennett had been ill while in
prison, he accepted the financial support of friends to pay for
a recuperation
trip to Europe in 1880.
D.M. Bennett never did fully recover, however, and he
suddenly became quite ill within two years and died on 9 December 1882. A thousand
of his many friends contributed
a large sum for a monument
over his grave in Greenwood
Cemetery, and Atheists visiting Brooklyn, N.Y. are invited to stop
by the grave site of D.M. Bennett, Atheist hero.

GEORGE JACOB HOl YOAKE was the last person, in England, to have a trial by
jury for "the crime of Atheism."
Arrested in December of 1840, he came to trial in August of 1842, was found guilty
and sentenced to six months in "gaol." The experience was so devastating that this good
Atheist later, in 1851, invented the term "Secularist"
as a more acceptable cover word for
Atheist. Some "modern"
Atheists still hide behind this and other terms of convenience.
During the next three months our "Roots Of Atheism" series will be following the
heartbreaks of this valiant man.

Page 32

Decem ber, 1978

~I

The American

Atheist

The American

Atheist

111!!:1

Radio .:11111111111111
::t~t~:r

Solstice Seasofl
In 1968, the first year of broadcasting
for the American
Atheist Radio Series, we sent out, all over the United States,
copies of what we called "The Solstice Season" program. We
printed it in our literature and distributed
it in a small broadside.
When The American Atheist magazine was issued later
(we could not afford to publish it in 1968), we reprinted the
article as the featured radio program script in December. Since
then, for a number of years it has been repeated yearly in the
magazine.
We are happy to do so again this year. We hope that our
new subscribers
will come to love it as much as have our old
subscribers
and the listeners who have requested
a repeat of
it in our American Atheist Radio Series.
Program

30 ....

23 Dec. 1968 ....

KTBC ....

Austin,

TX

******************************************
Hello there,
This is Madalyn Murray O'Hair, American Atheist, back to
talk with you again..
Someone stole something
from me. I don't like it. What
was stolen from me - and from you - was one of the most
beautiful
holidays
in the world. Robert
G. Ingersoll
(an
American Atheist hero of earlier days) was also angry about
this theft. Let me read to you what he had to say about it.
He wrote a very famous "Christmas Sermon." It was printed
in the Evening Telegram newspaper,
New York City, New
York, on 19 December 1891. The ministers of the day attacked
the newspaper and demanded
a boycott
of it. The Telegram
accepted the challenge and set off an issue across the country.
The paper printed the Rev. Dr. J. M. Buckley's attack, and
Robert
Ingersoll's
answer. It developed
into a real donnybrook.
Let's hear what Ingersoll had to say.

"The good part of Christmas is not always Christian, it


is generally Pagan; that is to say, human and natural.
"Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but
with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition
thereafter.
"It taught some good things, the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has
been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of
finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great
for mortals to bear. It has billed the future with fear and flame,
and made god the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined
to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied
with that, it has deprived god of the pardoning power.
"And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from
the Pagan world the old festival we know as Christmas.

Austin,

Texas

"Long before Christ was born, the sun god triumphed over
the Powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas
the days began perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors
were worshippers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory
over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun.
Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans
the best it has.
"I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set
apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not
enough play. We are too much like the English.
"I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought
a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to god
than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am
in favor of all the good free days, the more the better.
"Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget, a good day
to throwaway prejudices and hatreds, a good day to fill your
heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others
with sunshine. "
Would you believe that such a warm Christmas sermon
could cause religious people to launch a vicious attack on a
newspaper for publishing it? ingersoll used the word "borrow."
He said that Christians borrowed
the Pagan holiday. I use a
stronger word. They stole it. They stole the .most beautiful
holiday of man - and for what?
They claim that this is the birthday of Jesus Christ. Let's
look at their scholars, and their history, and see if this is a
fact. You most probably all know of A.T. Robertson,
the late
professor
of New Testament
Greek at the Southern
Baptist
Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
He had written
a standard textbook
on the so-called Broadus Harmony of the
Gospels and it is used in every school of religion across the
land. In this book is summarized
all the findings of religious
scholarship
in relationship'
to Jesus Christ and, among other
things, the date of his birth.
After a lengthy exploration
of when Jesus Christ may
have been born, Dr. Robertson sets the date at - hold on now
- the summer or early fall of the year 6 or 5 B.C. Did you
hear that? He set the date in the summer or the fall. Recently,
the idea of the first week of January has gained some following.
But no one who is a religious scholar anymore accepts or believes 25 December as the birth date of Christ.
One must calculate from the possible death of Herod, or
the appearance
of the so-called star in the East, which could
have been a comet recorded by the Chinese or a conjunction
of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. But the Greenwich Observatory says that the conjunction
appearing as a single star was
very unlikely. Or one can judge the "time of universal peace,"
that is the "time of no war" about which the heavenly host
sang. But there was never any stoppage of war in that time.
One can guess from the so-called ministry of John the
Baptist, or the age of Jesus upon his entry into the ministry,

December,

1/

1978

Page 33

or the building of the Temple of Herod, or the closing of the


Temple of Hanus, or the so-called census of Augustus Caesar.
All of these lead the poor theologians in ever-increasing directions away from the idea of Christmas and the year "zero" or
"one" of our present calendar.
Actually, the idea of December the 25th is untenable. All
the ancients in Christian history had various days for Christ's
birth. Clement of Alexander, who was closer to that alleged
event in time, said it was May 20th. April 20th and January
6th have always appeared as possible dates. Why did the
Christians want the 25th day of December? Why that particular date? Why did they deliberately steal this very important
date from the Pagans?
There are four points in our calendar which we use and
which we call "solstice" or "equinox" points, two of each.
The latter is easy: we say that the equinox is when the sun
crosses the equator of the earth and day and night are everywhere of equal length. The sun does not actually cross the
equator, we all know that. But with the earth's natural tip on
its natural axis as it whirls around the sun, this seems to be
so. Then, either one or another part of our old ball or earth
gets the most sun. But on these two occasions, the days are
equal in length everywhere and this occurs about 21 March
and 23 September by our current calendar.

~I~~:-;,\

ance that all the greens would return in their seasons. The
light of the sun and the twinkling light of stars became important in symbolism as well as in fact.
The mysterious parasite, mistletoe, ever green, intrigued
primitive peoples. It all needed to be celebrated, to be noted
with awe. If one could not give life as the sun did - one could
give else, such as a sharing of food or the precious few personal
items they had. But, above all it was a time or revelry. Life
had been renewed. It was the most joyous of all human occasions. There were universal singing and dancing and laughing and well being. It was wild and wonderful and human and
warm. It was the best of all festivals. It was the gayest of all
feasts. It was the warmest and best of all collective human.
activities.
The Christians were no fools. If they permitted the Pagan
holidays to continue to exist, it could challenge the basis of
the mournful Christian religion, with its great emphasis on
death. First came edicts outlawing the Pagan holiday. But
nothing so wildly wonderful and natural as this could ever be
outlawed.
Then the solution came to incorporate it into the Christian religion. Oh, it took some time. It took many years to
effect the change. It took much propaganda. It took many reprisals and sanctions against those who continued with the old

~* "6~~bI66~lb~IO~11
O~5:b6'b'\----/

U ~IUlUlIJIU U Uu

11~flfllfllO'MJlm
The solstice is something different. We don't go around
the sun in a circle; we tour around it - on our earth - in an
ellipse, which is a flattened circle, or oval. When we are in the
points furtherest away from the sun, we have another phenomenon. Twice a year, when the sun is at its greatest distance
from the celestial equator, about 21 June when the sun
reaches its northernmost point on the celestial sphere, or
about 22 December when it reaches its southernmost point,
we call these moments the solstice. The solstice in December is
the time when the days of the year, in our hemisphere, are the
shortest.
Primitive and pagan peoples were not idiots, you know.
They saw this. Apparently at the first, they feared that the
days would get shorter and shorter and shorter and finally what if there were only night! What a frightening thing, when
the sun was so necessary for life, from common observation.
So when the day came for the sun to overcome the darkness,
and for the sun to cause the days to be longer - even if just a
minute longer - it meant that there was not going to be eternal night. The sun had won a fight again. Darkness had had to
recede and slowly the days would get longer and longer until
spring and summer, with food growing again and the life cycle
being renewed again, would be everywhere on the earth.
And so every primitive culture had a festival or a feast
on this day. It was celebrated in China, in India, in South
America, in Mexico, in Africa, in every single place where man
could watch days and nights and seasons. There were presents
given on this great day, exchanged as a symbol, for the sun had
brought the most precious gift of all to man: the warmth
needed for life and a recycle of the seasons again.
The ancient people noticed other things also. Certain
trees stayed green all year round, a promise of the abundance
of spring and summer to come again after winter, a reassurPage 34

December, 1978

1/

festival. But, eventually the Christian religion won the day.


There were changes in calendars, also. When the Gregorian
Calendar was changed to the present day calendar, the Winter
Solstice - or Christmas - shifted a few days, so that 25
December, by our present calendar, came officially to be designated as a Christian day.
..
It took a thousand years, and more, to rob the people of
the earth of this grand holiday and to replace it with a personalized myth story of a "new god born," a god of a horrible,
punitive, new religion called Christianity.
But, it is even easier now, with mass media. There are
many of you in the listening audience old enough to remember Armistice Day. That was the day on which World War I
ended and it was celebrated for 30 years or more until a
second global war broke out. After we veterans came home
from that second war we found that there was no more
Armistice Day. Instead, there was a Veterans' Day. All the
people in the listening audience tonight who are 25 years
old or younger have never even heard of Armistice Day. They
only know Veterans' Day, for that is all that they were ever
taught.
That's how it is with Christmas. That is how it was with
the Winter Solstice. Finally, no one ever heard of the solstice and its festivities - and everyone came to believe that
the Christians were celebrating the birthday of Christ and that
was all that this holiday had ever been.
But biblical scholars know better and Atheists know better and we celebrate that old and wonderful and joyous season. We even sell Winter Solstice greeting cards for this season
of the solstice and the New Year - which, really, are both one
and the same. Let me read to you what we print traditionally
on our Winter Solstice cards.
Joyful and cheerful, with mistletoe and signs of the sea-

The American Atheist

'son, the greetings are to wish one and all the glad tidings of
a wonderful Winter Solstice season. The legend inside the card
reads:
December 25th, by the Julian Calendar, was the Winter
Solstice. This day, originally regarded by the Pagans as the day
of the nativity of the sun, the shortest day of the year - when
the light began its conquering battle against darkness - was
celebrated universally in all ages of man. Taken over by the
Christians as the birthday of their mythological Christ, this ancient holiday, set by motions of the celestial bodies, survives
as a day of rejoicing that good will and love will have a per-

petual rebirth in the minds of men - even as the sun has a


symbolic rebirth yearly.
This informational broadcast is brought to you as a public service by the Society of Separationists, Inc., a non-profit,
non-political, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated
to the complete and absolute separation of state and church.
This series of American Atheist Radio Programs is continued
through listener generosity. The Society of Separationists, 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.

Film
Review

WATERS
DOWN

elaine stansfield
You may love "Watership Down," or you may hate it, but
it is an extraordinary film. It is an animated feature, made in
England, produced by Martin Rosen, distributed in the U.S. by
Avco Embassy Pictures, and faithfully adapted from Richard
Adams' book of the same name.
My problem was that I didn't want to see it. I do not especially care for animated features, and although some time
ago I did tackle the book, I grew impatient with it, being unable to handle all those rabbits speaking English, and put it
down. I was perfectly well aware that it was supposed to be
full of symbolism, which I also don't care for very much.
But I happen to be a fanatical animal lover (I wept bitter
tears reading Bambi, Black Beauty, and Lassie) and the plight
of the rabbits trying desperately to understand why humans
were plundering their world, their frantic attempts to get away
to some kind of safety, the dissension among themselves as
they tried to reason it all out - all this really got to me.
It is surprising how one gets involved. Indeed, the entire
audience at the screening I attended got involved to the point
of cheering the hero, hissing the villain, and gasping or groaning when the heroine was in trouble. Yes, adults were cheering
on the rabbits. There is identification there. Perhaps underneath
all our braggadocio we sense how much rabbit there is in each
of us.
The rabbits have their god, nature, exemplified by the sun,
and they call him Frith. Their belief is that from the sun
comes all the good things in nature, the cycles of the seasons,
the green and productive earth, water, trees and forests,
enough to make a well-ordered and comfortable life. (This belief makes a lot more sense than most of the ones man has devised.)
The rabbits live within this eco-system according to nature's plan, neither over-using nor despoiling their habitat, until one day the most psychic of the rabbits issues a warning:
"Something terrible is about to happen, we must leave the
warren and seek a place farther away, higher, clearer."
A small band, frightened and 'convinced the warning is
accurate, takes off. The others, scornful, remain. It is not very
long before a survivor, scarred and dying, finds them to tell
his dreadful story. Humans had come with bulldozers to dig up
the land, and hundreds of rabbits, trapped, died as the bulldozers filled their tunnels leaving no escape.

Austin, Texas

"Why do they hate us so?" asks one.


"They don't hate us," replied the survivor, "we only
happened to be in their way."
Now our little band of rabbits has another terrible obstacle
to their progress. Dissension, fear, death by man, and destruction by bulldozers, have spawned rabbit dictators supported
by bands of thugs. When our rabbits manage to foil the wicked
dictator and trap him into being killed by a guard dog, this is
the place where the audience cheers.
The ending is bittersweet. They do, indeed, find their
clear high place, and settle down to colonize it. But how long
will this new, hard-won place, which is not as comfortable as
their old home, be safe?
Only Frith knows, and that is questionable.
These innocent creatures, doing the best they can, again
remind us of the joke currently going around about the goldfish swimming in their bowl, as one says to the other, "If there
is no god, then who changes the water?"
There are certainly science fiction elements in this story
too, which add to the intriguing aspects of the overall symbol.ism. The over-population of the all-powerful humans who continue to "take more" as a solution to their mounting population problems, makes an interesting comparison to the mowing down of the rabbit population. And the questions about the
rabbits colonizing the new place are highly applicable today.
- In any case, this is somehow a moving and touching drama,
saying a lot of things to us, on many different levels, and very
few of them indicate traditional religious concepts. Rather we
are aware of the reality that if help is to come, it must be from
our own (rabbit) efforts, and of our own devising.
A lot of thought went into this film, and it is deserving
of our careful consideration, for the title surely refers to our
water planet.
One warning: since the film was made in England, the
voices are all British, and sometimes hard to understand, but
the rhythm begins to flow for you after a while.

December, 1978

(Note: to those of my science fiction friends who read


my review on "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters," please be
aware that the sub-heading "Sci-Fi and the Occult" was not
mine. Science fiction addicts are very fussy about their abbreviation, which is always s.f., not sci-fi.)

Page 35

Jesus Son Of Man


by Rudolf Augstei n
The founder
and publisher
of Der Spiegel, Germany's
equivalent
of America's
Time, has recently
published
an
English translation
of his German best seller, Jesus Son of
Man." The translator,
Hugh Young, has achieved that great
desideratum
of translation,
he has made his hand in the
book invisible.
This volume is introduced
by a brief but graceful preface by Gore Vidal, who quotes
Diderot's
Enlightenment
stunner that "Never has any other religion been so fecund
in crime as Christianity;
from the murder of Abel to the
agony of Caleb, there is not a line of its history that has
not been bloody ...
the abominable
cross has caused blood
to flow on every side." Vidal ends his preface by noting
that if Rudolf Augstein were a citizen of certain countries,
he would undoubtedly
be tucked
away into some convenient
booby
hatch
for
"psychiatric
rehabilitation"
because he questions
the absolute truth of history,
"a.k.a.
God/Jesus"
and its priests in their various guises. We might
add from bitter personal
experience
that were he to live
in certain other countries
and be sans the wealth, prestige
and power he has, he would be unable to find a publisher
of any kind for a book even so slightly tainted with Atheism
as is Jesus Son Of Man.
Vidal concludes
with the typically
Vidalian
comment
that Jesus Son of Man is a "a highly useful and informative record of continuing
human folly."
We agree wholeheartedly
and recommend
the book to any Atheist who
needs to reinforce
his individually
arrived at conclusions
that the entire
Christ
legend obviously
belongs
in the
annals
of mythology
rather
than
taking
up space
as
pseudo-h istory.
Born a Roman
Catholic
and indoctrinated
in Jesuit
educational
institutions,
Augstein grew up in the strictest
Christian orthodoxy.
As an adult, however, his observation
and study made him an agnostic, and then as he approached
the age of fifty, he began to take an intense interest in the
figure of Jesus.
His research
in Christology
resulted
in a book which
became
overnight
perhaps
the most explosively
controversial work on religion since Hans Kung's famous investigation into papal infallibility.
The thrust of this book is not that Augstein does not
believe any more, since Agnosticism
and Atheism are becoming much more commonplace
the world over as science
and technology
push back the frontiers of ignorance. What
does, however, bring down upon the author's head the wrath
of orthodox
Christians is that Augstein claims that an overwhelming
number
of Christian
biblical scholars no longer
believe Jesus was divine or that the Gospels are authentic
history.
Augstein further claims that the churches withhold information from the people because they want to keep their
power, and without a divine and historically
provable Jesus,
Christianity
has no supernatural
claims. "Scientific
research,"
he says, "is in agreement
that we can't prove the historical
existence
of Jesus of Nazareth."
The Gospels are flatly not
historical documents.
Almost all the scholars agree that none
of the evangelists knew Jesus and they don't know who the
evangelists
themselves
were, thereby
making the Gospels
anonymous.
The earl iest document
relating to Jesus is one

Page 36

December,

1978

of Paul's Epistles, and it is known that Paul did not know


Jesus and was not even very interested
in his pre-resurrection
personage.
The most famous actual historical
account is by Flavius
Josephus, a Jewish historian writing more than half a century
after the fact. Josephus
goes into minute detail. about the
reign of Herod but fails to say a word about the slaughter
of the Holy Innocents.
Nor does the ancient historian bother
to note the mere bagatelle of the rising of the dead who
(according to the Gospels) appeared to many in the city of
Jerusalem,
a happening
which might have had a bit more
impact in most other cities, the author suggests.
The book touched
upon an exposed nerve in the consciousness of the German reading public and was attacked
and condemned
on many sides. Despite the rage and hostility
(historically
usual when the shadow
of doubt
flits
across the face of faith) Jesus Son of Man provoked, it was widely-read and quickly became a best seller of major importance
because even Augstein's
most severe critics had to admit
that it was an entirely sincere inquiry and the author had
done hisflomework
thoroughly.
One Christian critic carps
that the book is provincial
because religion is backward
in Germany,
that Augstein is not scholarly
enough in that
he used primarily
German sources without
consulting
the
French and English studies, was not immersed enough in
the ethos of the Roman-Mediterranean
1st century,
and
that he did not hunt hard enough for evidence which would
disagree with h is thesis.
Theologians,
in their anxiety
to disc.edit
this honest
modern
look at the Jesus story say there is nothing new
in the book, and Augstein openly states that most of what
he writes has been known for a century or two, but these
astonishing
ideas have been kept as "trade secrets"
among
the theologians,
aided and abetted
by the churches
in
keeping the layman ignorant
of their somewhat
less than
exact knowledge.
The refusal to enlighten
the common
folk engenders.
the author's severest criticism of the churches.
He says that
Jesus never thought
of himself as a savior, and despite the
fact that the churches
concur sub rosa, they continue
to
teach their outdated
notions to justify their existence.
Augstein feels that because of this double dealing, the churches
must be precluded
from trying to exert any political
or
social power whatsoever.
Augstein says that he is only "probing
how the Christian
church dares appeal to a Jesus who never existed, to teachings he never taught, to mandates
he never issued, and to a
claim that he was God's son, which he never presumed for
himself. "
The U.S. edition
of the book closes with an impartial
critique in the form of an afterword by David Noel Freedman.
Priced at $12.95,
this English language version of Rudolf
Augstein's famous Jesus Menschensohn under the title Jesus
Son of Man will make an extremely
welcome addition
to
the permanent
library of any reader interested
in pondering
the imponderable
of the historical existence of Jesus Christ.
Should the book whet his appetite for further Christological
excavations,
the copious
bibliography
and notes appended
to this book will serve as a road guide for the rest of his
days.

The American

Atheist

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