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50

MESSIDOR (July) 11981; Vol. 23, No.7

The Journal Of Atheist News And Thought

11TH ANNUAL NATIONAL


AMERICAN ATHEIST CONVENTION

11981

PI

BENITO JUAREZ
Benito Juarez was born on March 21, 1806 of native
, Indian parents, of Oaxaca: Mexico, Orphaned at age 3,
he was reared by an uncle and studied for the priest.hood until 1829 when he decided instead to turn to law
and science.
At thrs point he was formulating his own ideas of reform for Mexico and its politics, For this, he was exiled
in 1853_ He lived in New Orleans in semi poverty until
June, 1855 when the liberals took control of the national qovernrnent, Thrust into power, forced to' retreat to
Veracruz, Juarez enacted laws to curb ecclesiastical power. He nationalized a" church property. To weaken
clerical influence still further, he also nationalized the
cemeteries and put birth registrations and marriages under civil authoritity _ Finallv, the government separated
state and church and, guaranteed religious liberty to a"
citizens.
With these reforms, Juarez returned to Mexico City
to be elected to the presidency in 1861.
As president of Mexico', he observed, "To finish the
fraticidal war encouraged by the clergy, it is necessary to
deprive them of the wherewithall for their resistance, to
disarm them completely, and to attain this result is a real
necessity to carry out the reform, separating the church
from the state, suppressing convents extinguishing a"
kinds of religious congregations, closing the novitiates,
nationalizing the property of the clergy, allowing freedom of choice to the worshipper to support a cult and
establishing freedom of thought."
We honor this great Atheist, in the month of his
death (from a heart attack on July 18,1872).

I
I.

DENIS DIDEROT
Oiderot, the French savant, was born on October 5,
1713, the son of a cutler. Given an education and beginning study of law, he quit the latter in disgust and went
to Paris, there supporting himself by teaching and translating.
He early met and made friends with Rousseau and
O'Alembert. His first publication Philosophic Thoughts
was condemned to the fire by Parliament and subsequent writings brought his first imprisonment in 1749.
His grand project was the Encyc/opedie - A Dictionary of Science, Arts and Trades. The scheme was one of
immense labor for a standardization of then existing
knowledge. The project was a joint effort with d'Alembert, the first volume being issued in 1751. Its publicat'tion was suspended several times by the government, but
finaHy completed in 1765.
Oiderot was a complete Atheist and the pages of the
Encyc/opedie testify to what was called his Infidel Philosophy. No other set of books has been of such political
importance, or occupied such a place in the civil and
literary history of the race. Seeking not only to give information, but also to guide opinion, it was opposed to
-the clergy and treated dogma historicallv, attacking both
Christianity and the despotic government supporting it.
Oiderot died in Paris on July 30th, 1784. His last remark to his daughter, before his death, is reported to
have been, "The first step toward philosophy is incredulity."
Dider.ot is regarded as the chief of the skeptical
school which came to be known as that of the Encvclopedists. Humanity will ever be deeply endebted to this
bold son of Liberty and of Genius.
'Ameriqln Atheists honor him in this month of his
death.

II

i.

MESSIDOR (July) 11981; Vol. 23, No.7


ON THE COVER
NEWS
God's Country

'

p. 3

Eleventh National American Atheist Convention

ARTICLES
United World Atheists - The Opus Dei

12

FEATURED COLUMNISTS
The Problem with Atheists - Gerald Tholen

16

Atheist at The Supper Table - James E. Brodhead

17

The Music Goes Round and Round -Ignatz Sahula-Dycke

18

Notes from A Career in Radio - Fred Woodworth

American Atheist Radio Series - The Sixth Commandment

20
22

REGULAR FEATURES
Editorial - Jon G. Murray

Atheist Masters:
Am I An Atheist or An Agnostic? - Bertrand Russell
Poetry

':

Editor-in-Chief
Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Managing Editor
Jon G. Murray
Artist
Felix Santana
Poetry
Angeline Bennett
Robin Eileen Murray-O'Hair
Production Staff
Jeffrey Lee Hillhouse
David Kent
Ralph Shirley
Richard Smith
Gerald Tholen
Gloria Tholen
Non Resident Staff
James E. Brodhead
Ignatz Sahula-Dycke
Fred Woodworth

14
.

The Eleventh National American Atheist


Convention was held in Salt Lake City, in
April,1981.
This Convention is held annually at the
time when three events are celebrated by the
organization. The birthdays of the founder
of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray
O'Hair, and one of the founders of our nation, Thomas Jefferson, both fall on April
13th. The weekend closest to this date is
the ordinary date of the American Atheist
Convention.
Additionally, in an attempt to educate
the people of the world that religion has
seized the natural celebrant times of the
earth to dishonor them all with (usually
fictitious) religious events attached thereto,
American Atheists combine with these two
birthdays the celebration of the Vernal
Equinox.
The Vernal Equinox is that moment in
time when the sun appears to cross, the
equator and day and night are everywhere
of equal length_ This usually occurs about
March 21st.
Join us next year in the festivities. It is a
, time for Atheist to meet Atheist, a time for "
roisterous revelry, a time to celebrat that'
humankind is. This is a time to set out
religion for the fraud that it is and to call on
all to openly espouse the most intellectually
honorable position that exists: Atheism.

The American Atheist magazine is


published monthly by the American
Atheist Center, 2210 Hancock Dr.,
Austin, TX 78756, a non-profit, nonpolitical,
educational
organization.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768 0, 1981 by Society of
Separationists, Inc.
Subscription rates: $25./yr. $40/2years.
Manuscripts 'submitted
must be
typed, double-spaced, accompanied by
a stamped, self-addressed envelope;
The editors assume no responsibility
for unsolicited manuscripts.
The American Atheist Magazine
is indexed in
MONTHLY PERIODIAL INDEX
ISSN: 0032-4310

Austin, Texas

Messidor (July) 11981

IV

,$UPPORT
AMERICAN'
ATHEI$M

Page 1

EDITORIAL

JON GARTH MURRA Y

Closet Atheism
touches their life in a personal way, they are not willing to
I have just returned from a one month organizing tour of
combat religion in any way, either generally or specifically. Athe Eastern seaboard for American Atheists. I was accompanied by Mr. Gerald Tholen, National Chapter Coordinator for A- theists, in general, I find to have a view analogous to the religious view of salvation, which is one of paddling their own litmerican Atheists. What I say here and now is derived from not
tle canoe to heaven and to hell (in the literal and figurative
alone first impressions in many cities but from thought and
sense) without anyone else.
analysis of those impressions as the tour wore on.
Now, remember, I speak of the vast majority of Atheists I
About JWo years ago I set out on a mission to visit every
have met all over the country. There are some exceptions, but
chapter of American Atheists that had been formed up to that
they are very few, probably 1% or less. I am concluding from
, time and to try to found some new chapters in cities where the
personal experience and what has been said to me personally
response level of mailings Indicated sufficient interest. Over
by persons holding themselves out to be Atheists.
the past two years I have met my goal of visiting every chapter
Pending any direct encroachment of religion into the lives
or of starting those new ones. I wanted to get a sense of Aof these Atheists, they prefer to keep their Atheism [n the
theism in the United States from individual Atheists. I felt that
I needed to know what as many individuals as I could meet in closet. As long as it is in the closet it need _not be. applied to
anything. Atheism for them is something to be discussed at
that two year period thought about themselves as Atheists and
meetings, or the dinner table, or in terms of something they
what they thought about an Atheist organization and what
have seen on T.V. or heard on radio. They don't live their Athat organization should do or be from their viewpoint.
I must admit that I started out with some preconceived no- theism. It is a philosophy to discuss rather than a lifestvle to
live. Of what use is a value system based on rationai-inspections of what l.would find: I have had those notions shattered.
I thought I would find knowledgeable Atheists. That is to say; tion, eclectic selection of alternatives, if it is put on the shelf
to be dragged out at meet!Rg or convention time? It is of no
knowledgeable about the true meaning of the term" Atheist,"
its roots and its historical personalities. I have not found any
use, that is the answer. Atheism is something to be lived and to
really knowledgeable Atheists in that broad sense of the word.
be used day to day in one life situation after another or it is
They may know a great deal in their particular field of em- not Atheism at all.
We have now, for the first time in America, something new
ployment and have applied that information to a system of religious dogma and found that the dogma system was of no use in the theological area. We have a departure from the thinking
of the Baptist to whom I referred earlier to a new thinking
to them in the life they lead, but they have not tried to extend
based on extrovert rather than introvert reliqionist behavior.
.their Atheistic thinking into other areas. I have been in the
homes of Atheist sexists, Atheist racists, Atheist bigots, A- The electronic preacher is trying to get his conqreqation to act
on their religious dogma system and put that dogma into actheist anti-environmentalists, Atheist fascists.Atheist economic
tion in terms of all areas of their daily life. We, in turn, are trydeterminists and a host of others. That is to say that Atheists,
by and large, compartmentalize their Atheism like a religionist
ing to convince Atheists to put their Atheism to work in all
compartmentalizes his religion. A Baptist is a Baptist on Sun- areas. The success or failure of either group depends on which
group motivates its adherents to act in areas outside of philoday and any other day of the week he can be for or against
sophy in their thought system first.
anything else regardless of how it may agree or conflict with
If the evangelicals get more persons to become extrovert
his theology. As a Baptist his little packet of dogma from the
church only relates back to the church; it is religion for re- with their theology before we can get the Atheists to become
ligion's sake. Most Atheists I have met hold Atheism the same extrovert with their Atheism, they win. That is - they win the.
way; Atheism for the sake of Atheism. They either cannot nor country, the constitution and control of society, including the
will not apply Atheist thought outside of Atheism. I really do control .of Atheists. We must use the same tools as do they in
not have the answer to the questions yet whether it is' "can . order to win the race. They tell their congregations what can
or will happen to them if they do not act on their theology in
not" or " will not" and I know that a great deal of difference
order to scare them into acting. All T.V. commercials work on
exists between those two attitudes.
I feel that it is impossible to be an Atheist and at the same this same principle. They scare you into buying the product by
showing you an undesirable result if the product is not used. If
time be a racist, a bigot, against environmental conservation,
you don't use spray deodorant, you will stink; if you don't use
sexist or fascist. .The lifestyle of Atheism simply cannot fit
with one of these non-freedom, or non-community concern,
brand X your underwear will come out grey; it.vou don't use
viewpoints.
toothpaste Y you will have to go to the dentist an-d experience
pain while he drills cavities.
In a general way the compartmentlizing of one's Atheism
The commercial sell technique of fear works on everyone.
leads to a very egotistical and narrow life view. Atheists, by
and large, have a concern for themselves and their very close The commerical sell technique of fear certainly works for the
family members only. They could care less about the family evangelical leaders. They don't even have to project a valid i
next door or across the street. Until the hand of religion consequence for the non-use of theology and it still works .
. [con't. on-bottom of facing page.]
Page 2

Messidor (July) 11981

1-'

Austin, Texas

jfront ~agt l\tbittu


we art mall a~ btll ...
GOD'S COUNTRY

Several newspapers, during the last week of May, printed


what everyone one of them should headline, a column written
by Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post exposing the
insanity which drives the new Secretary of the Interior.
"Jesus mayor may not be returning any day now, but either way, James Gaius Watt, the secretary of Interior is comporting himself in pious watchfulness. He is quoted recently in
the Wall Street Journal saying that, 'My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until
.Jesus returns.'
"The Second Coming seems to be on the mind of Watt. He
told the House Interior Committee that 'I do not know how
many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.'
"If I get the theological drift of Watts' pastoral vision, the
land of milk and honey overseen by the Department of Interior - 770 million acres of publicly owned land - is now under divine mandate to be bulldozed, leveled, drilled, mined and
leased. down to the last holy square yard. Jesus might return
and be displeased that federal regulations prevented the strip
mining' of Appalachia, or that the coastline of northern California was kept free of oil rigs, or that national parks had too
many backpakers worshipping false gods and not enough timber companies dear-cutting the hills.
. "When Watt came to the Interior Department, it-was wellknown that he had been a faithful servant of right-wing commercialists intent on weakening the' nation's environmental
Editorial-

con't.

Why does the same thing not work with Atheists? I don't have
the answer to that yet either. All I know is that it does not
work. On the other hand, telling Atheists that they are the
most wonderful persons in society by just being Atheists without their doing anything doesn't work either if the goal is to
get them to do something, which it is.
So, here we stand in a race with theology. The nature of the
beast of a religionist is in the favor of the theological side. A
religionist responds to all the time-tested commercial sell techniques. An Atheist responds to no technique. How does the Atheist even 'Catch up, much less win? The answer is that he
doesn't.
Two years ago I started out with the assumption that Atheists were smarter than religionists and could see around
commercial sell techniques, see that others responded to them
and that they had to respond too, based on their understanding of why others responded in order not to lose by default.
That assumption was wrong. So, I said to myself, "O.K. They
can't see around behavior modification techniques, use the
techniques on them." I tried that too, but it did not work. My
religious counterparts tried and it worked for them, since they
knew their people could not see around advertising techniques.
I have seriously misjudged the intelligence level of the aver, age Atheist. I know, now, that the Atheist movement can only
Austin, Texas

*
.

laws and the convervation movement that helped pass them.


"But now it turns out that in being a faithful servant of Jesus as well he is enlisting Christianity not only to qulde his
own private decisions - which are his business - but also to
shape governmental decisions on public policy, which is our
business. Watt is paid to be a public official upholding the
Constitution, not a public evangelist holding up his Bible.
"As a born-again scripture-quoter, Watt can doubtlessly
leap to the altar with favorite subdue-the-earth texts that make
it seem as if God created the earth just for Mobil Oil or Consolidation Coal. He is in the tradition of Norman Vincent
Peale, God's envoy to Wall Street. Peale's contribution to theological thought was that among American businesmen amazing grace leads to amazing profits. In Peale's time, the 1940's
and '50's, business men would strike their deals at the country
dub; today it's done at the prayer breakfast.
" ... Watt told a House subcommittee the other day that,
'With all of America's greatness, we still do not understand our
own wealth ... Today we do not know the full extent of our
mineral values, our agricultural values, our agricultural potential, or our oil and gas reserves.'
"And how do we find out? 'The only way at this time to inventory our lands to determine the quantities of oil and gas is .
to drill.'
"As the drill bits bore in, let Gabriel bloweth his horn and
Brother Watt quoteth Scripture: Blessed are the meek-turnedexploiters-and-developers,
for under the Reagan administration they shall inherit the earth."
succeed by returning to basics. Atheists have to be brought up
to the point where they have basic reactions based on achieving the goal of avoiding unpleasant consequences. They must
understand that they can do what their Atheism drives them
to do in many areas of social and cultural outreach, as a group,
without facing the consequences they would face individually.
The root to avoiding individual consequences of Atheist behavior is in collective simultaneous expression of that behavior.
Groups are far less likely, especially well organized and cohesive groups, to suffer, consequences of actions taken than are
individuals. This is a fact of history. The only large groups that
have ever suffered for their opinions are those in which the in. dividuals within the groups were willing to tolerate the suffering. The Atheist problem is that the majority of individuals
within the group are willing to suffer. As long as there are Atheists who are willing to accept the negative consequences of
being an Atheist, those of us who are unwilling to accept them
and know that we can have our Atheism in full public view
without negative consequences, vyill be forced by those willing
to accept them to do so as well.
Closet Atheists hurt all Atheists not just themselves. What I
have discovered in my 'travels is that we have a majority of
doset Atheists within the Atheist circle of proportions far beyond what I had thought. A reversal of that situation is the
first priority for the survival and happiness of those of us who
are already out.

Messidor (July) 11981

Page 3

..focus on ~tbetsts

. Page 4

anti we won't take It annncret

Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas


~Ia.1:

Following one of the worst starts for any Convention in recent years, plagued by inflationary costs, so'aring air fares, for a
time it was felt that perhaps the Eleventh Annual National American Atheist Convention would need to be called off. Salt Lake
City is not a major air terminal and the prices of air travel went out of of sight. Banquet meal prices soared. Hotel costs were a
part of the fantasyland which Atheists eschew. In late 1980, the idea wavered.
Then, John Edwards, the Director of the Los Angeles Chapter came through with an idea. Why not, he asked, just have a
"come if you will," but "stay where you like," dine out "where you want to dine" routine. Instead of the banquets, formal
meals, all-in-one-hotel routine - list all the hotels in the vacinity and let everyone bunk out, eat out, and stay out, as they
would.
It was decided to try to do that - and the Eleventh Annual National American Atheist Convention came to be one of the
best that we have ever had. Two large meeting areas were rented and made into one - with places for 200 persons, sitting in the
round, a large suite of rooms for the parties each and every night, a tremendous display area, near a commodious fire place and it all began. Later, as we chose the restaurants of our choice, we saw groups of Atheists in Italian restaurants, steak houses,
frontier restaurants, or at quick-food places for breakfast, or lunch.
Everyone came - the place was full. Chapter Directors, and official representatives were there from Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, California, Michigan, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, New York, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, jdaho,
Oklahoma, Oregon, the Virgin Islands, Washington, and Canada. During those three days the rooms were filled to capacity and
standing over and over again.
And near the end, as one of the best conventions ever neared its close, the vote was unanimous to do it again that way next
vear. All of Which proves again that Atheists, having enough brains to be Atheists, can even beat the high costs of inflation and
have their Conventions anyway. So - we will see you next year too.

",'
~.

s,

..

,'.:,",

':

........ .........

/ .....,

Robin M'urray O'Hair


Austin, Texas

Lloyd Thoren
Messidor (July) 11981

Page 5

The situation in Canada goes from bad to worse. Parochial


schools have full federal aid - with more and more tax dollars
constantly
pumped into them.
Now, since there is a move for new constitutions
in the
various provinces, for the first time an effort is being made to
quote a cite to god in them.
AI Hunt came to lecture on the deplorable, worsening conditions there - and to tell the American Atheists of the United
States that much. indeed. depends on conrlitions here.

Samanta Porter
When Mormons are accepted fully into the church, it becomes necessary for them to don Mormon underwear, which is
never to leave their body. Many even take their baths in these
suits, made out of light weight - but opaque - material. The
nipples, the belly button and the you-know-whats
are covered
by triple layers of cloth, since everything is so sinful about the
human body - but especially all of that.
Here two lovely, forever to' be nameless, American Atheist
beauties modeled the underwear
while Samantha Porter auctioned off about- eight sets - all to the better of the treasury
of the American Atheist Center.
_
Everyone felt that the Atheist models were Jooking betterevery momentas
-the flashlights clicked and more and rnor=
could be seen through the flashes of bright lights.
When it got down to selling those that the models were
- wearing - they refused to peal them off and beat a hastrv retreat to thundering applause.
This quaint,
uncomfortable,
unsanitary,
and shocking
coverage of the human body for fear of the lustful thoughts
that might be aroused by its display is an important
part of the
every day torture of the Mormon church which is visited upon
human beings innocently born into that church.

Page 6

Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

Gerald Tholen

Opal Fisher
Gerald Tholen, Omsbudsman
and National Chapter
Coordinator,
addressing the Convention.
Opal Fisher flew in from Idaho to give a presentation
honoring her late husband, Vardis Fisher. He is world re- ,
nowned for his "Testament
of Man" series which Opal
is now trying to reissue.
The most known, currently. of his works is Mountain
Man since that was the basis for the film "Jeremiah
Johnson"
which starred Robert Redford.
The living legend of Vardis Fisher ca"P.e alive in the
very personal recounting of his times with his wife. Opal.
Claimed by the Mormon Church as one of its own, Mrs.
Fisher quickly disavowed
Mormon hopes, from Vardis'
own writings and open stance. He had taken his A.B. at
the University
of Utah, his M.A. and his Ph.D at the
University of Chicago and taught at a number of universities before returning to his native Idaho to devote his
life to writing.
Everyone was delighted to find that Opal Fisher was
not a wife standing in the shadow of a husband alone
for her 'address was well written, documented,
lively and
of much interest. She need not stand in anyone's shade.
The Outstanding
Chapter
Director award went this
year to Larry McHoliand
of Tucson, Arizona.
Larry,
who is a professor at the University of Arizona, keeps
the word of American Atheism constantly
before that
college community
and the City of Tucson. He has appeared on more television and radio programs now than
any other Chapter Director or chapter person - and always handles the situation, not alone with ease, but with
aplomb.
His Chapter turns in a continuing
stream of memberships to the
American
Atheist
Center
from. this
presence of Atheism made felt everywhere in Tucson ..

Larry Me Holland

Austin,

Texas

Messidor

(July) 11981

Page 7

Richard Andrews

Chris Allen

The Salt Lake City Chapter of American Atheists is a very fortunate one
for it boasts the leadership supplied by Richard Andrews. He is an indefatigable enthusiast, worker and optimist. His own good cheer is a part of the
driving force of what makes the Utah Chapter click over and over again. With
unerring nose he is able to sniff out all of the wily deals into which the Mormon church dips for a tightening of its theocratic grip on Utah and then he
goes for the juggler vein of the scheme.
Himself the winner of the most Outstanding Chapter Director last year,
here we see him present an American Atheist Pioneer Award to another exMormon, G. T. Harrison.

David Chris Allen, of Utah, and chief


side-kick and running mate of Rich AnAndrews the Director of the Utah Chapter of American Atheists, is slowly
becoming a hero-first-class with the entire
national organization.
Chris is a computer programmer, but
also he dabbles with video recording of
.every kind.
For the Convention he put together
not alone the looping American Atheist
Television Forum for continuing display
but two presentations of material he had
accumulated over the past several years.
Every time an Atheist gets on the tube
and opens his (or her) mouth, Chris is
there with his recorder. Every time the
"Scientific Creationism" debate hit the
airways, he was again on top of it.
An "Advent" screen [6' diagonally)
was rented for the Convention to show
his two offerings - a 65 minute review of
Atheism in the news and a 30 minute survey of the creation-evolution controversy
Everyone stayed glued to their chairs
and this video presentation became one
of the most interesting agenda items.
. The most unique accomplishment was
a video presentation of a sing-along, complete with bouncing ball, for the music of
John Crump's records, both of which,
were presented - and both of which sold
well, then, - through Chris' efforts.
The success of the David Chris Allen
programming was so great that similar
contemporary video reviews will now be
presented at next year's Convention.

G. T. Harrison is the author of an


unending stream of articles and books
concerned with the duplicities and the
deceits of the Mormon church.
In an unending battle, of fifty years
duration at this point,
with that
church, he seemingly gets sharper as
time continues.
G. T. addressed the Utah Convention on the subject of Mormonism and
it was a rousing speech, based on his
latest' That Mormon Book. Many of
you have already enjoyed his Mormonism Now and Then, and Mormons Are
Peculiar People.

Educated in Brigham Young Academy, with a degree in law from the


University of Chicago - G. T., because
of his anti-religious writings, was never
admitted to the Utah Bar.
When any church can seize power,
it punishes as it can any voice against
it - and the Mormons are true to
form.

Page 8

. G, T. Garrison
Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

to

Jon Murray presents a national award


Virginia State Director,
Arnold Via,

for his extraoardinary


achievements
in
founding three chapters in that state, assisting with the organization
of the Washington,
D_C. Chapter and founding the
PALS program
which resulted
in the
formation
of an Atheist Chapter in the
Virginia State Prison. [PALS = Prison
Atheist Leagues]
Although Atheists in prisons in the United - States comprise
a miniscule
percentage of the prison population
the discrimination
against Atheists in the prison
systems is overwhelming_
The prisoners
and the relatives
of the inmates
are
thought
to be fair-game
for religious
hucksters and the emphasis on religion is
appalling,

Arrold V:

This year, a delightful surprise was-due to the American Atheist of The Year
for Fletcher Pence was in the audience. Fletcher has a woodworking
shop in the
Virgin Islands where he lives and manufactures
pieces of incredible beauty. For
this award, this year, he had brought from his St. Croix Life and Environmental
Arts Association, a magnificent mahogany clock, which he had designed himself -,
Fletch's work is so beautiful that many of you will want to order from him writing to St. Cleap, Box 245, Frederiksted,
St. Croix, V.1. 00840.
Fletcher it was a beautiful gift - and so were, the pen and ink stands you
made for Jon Murray and Madalyn O'Hair. [We did drink that bottle of rurnl]

Howard Kreisner
Austin, Texas

Messidor

(July) 11981

'Jon . Murray presents


the "American
Atheist of The Year" award to Howard
Kreisner, the Director
of the Houston
Chapter of American Atheists.
After the last American Atheist Conention, Madalyn O'Hair and Jon Murray
had been invited to speak onthePacifica
Foundation
radio outlet
in Houston,
Texas, station KPFT.
As is always their habit, they asked the
station manager to air the American Atheist Radio Series, or alternatelav to permit an Atheist voice to be. heard. Howard
Kreisner was asked to follow up with the
station and manage "something
- anything," and manage he did!
Offering to take a spot on Sunday
morning,
reserved for an alternative
religion program called "Other Religions"
Howard proposed
an experiment
to be
called "The American Atheist Hour."
The success of the program has been
nothing short of phenomenal.
Since its
inception on May 4th, 1980, at 8:00 AM
it has grown to be one of the accepted
voices of Houston, and a prototype
for
all Atheist "talk shows" to come.
Howard has consistently
managed the
format, the content, the presentation,
the
advertising, the functions associated with
the show - and won the "American
Atheist of The Year Award" for those well
developed efforts and the excellent media
outreach now firmly established.
Congratulations
Howard.
It is through your success that Pacifica
foundation
is going to try with another
such Atheist Hour in New York City.
Page 9

Every
Chapter
tries to contribute
. something
to the sales table. Detroit has
become the most proficient
in button
making,
but
more
recently
has also
branched
out into bumper stickers and
T-shirts.
"Uncle Henry," Schmuck does all of
the work involved with it, then frequently gives a part or all of the proceeds to
the national American Atheist Center.
In this picture Arnold Via can be seen
"against the wall" and not in his graphic
uniform.
However,
he did don that
famous uniform later in the afternoon for
picture taking. Those of you who have
not seen this walking "button display" do
not know what you have missed!
Samantha
Porter is working the table
in this picture and she was caught here
: making change. Hey, Sam! that's a no-no .
. Simply keep the change next time - for
the cause!
At every national American Atheist Convention
there is a display of books, pamphlets, tapes, records, T-shirts, artifacts.' buttons, embossed cups, bumper stickers and other items to delight the hearts of just about everyone.
The book tables perform a number of functions,
because it is here that the Atheists usually gather to talk. It is here that the
curious religious folks come to be shocked by the display, to wonder that there is such a broad base of Atheist material, to purchase certain items themselves.
At this convention,
David Chris Allen had put together a continuous
loop showing of the first of the American Atheist Television Forum. At a comfortable
fireplace setting, right near the book display, with several couches and a large coffee table, the
small color television played the program over and over so that everyone could get an idea of what the Forum was.
This area was the most crowded, most visited spot at the Convention.
Always successful it is one of the way of financing of
~both the Conventions themselves and of the American Atheist Center.

We are just now becominq aware of


how fortunate
we have been to gain the
services of John and Minerva Massen, the
latter being the Director of the San Francisco Chapter of American Atheists - but
John being caught here perusing booklets
at the table.
They have been an unending source of
fine suggestions for improvement
in the
national operation,
particularly
in respect
to Chapter outreach.

Bob Fenn, Denver Colorado Chapter.


has recently been making three dimensional plastic signs which can be affixed
to metal with magnets. These sold nicely
and just the corner of one is seen at the
bottom right. The most popular of all of
these states simply,
"Religion
is the
problem - not the answer."

Page 10

Messidor

(July) 11981

Austin,

Texas

The American
Atheist Convention
is
moved around the United States so that
members in each area have- a chance to go
to a Convention
near home - not paying
a fortune for transportation.
The Conventions
have been held in
New York City, Orlando, Florida, Dallas
and Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Los
Angeles, California, Chicago, Detroit and
Salt Lake City.
Those Chapters
bidding for the Convention
in their
areas
are:
Atlanta
Georgia, Houston,
Texas, Phoenix,
Arizona, Washington,
D. C. and there is a
suqqestion
for Reno, Nevada. Both San
Francisco
and Los Angeles, of course,
want the Convention
there again whenever that is possible.
The National Office of American Atheists is currently exploring a suggestion
of John Massenfor
a Washington,
D. C.
site and, on its own, locking over the possibilities in Atlanta, Georqia.

Actually, you have not seen partying until you come to an American Atheist Convention.
It goes on every night during the
t!.lJee days of the Convention - and in some of the rooms all night.
Ellen Mardan, the Director of the San Deigo American Atheists Chapter, was accompanied
to the Convention by Lee Goland,
who has written numerous Atheists songs. Here you can see Lee plucking away at the party.
The bar is to the right - although it is difficult to ever see a drunken Atheist. They are, by-and-large, social drinkers and at
the Convention everyone tries to be sociable. It is always good to renew old acquaintances
and here Madalyn O'Hair is caught
giving an old friend from Detroit, Michigan, a big hug - Robert Hawisher, who has been with the organization
forever ..
In Utah, the Convention
was based in the Hilton Hotel and the luxurious "Presidential
Suite" was rented for the parties. In
keeping with the Atheist idea of only having"one
time to go round," a good time was had by all.

I.

By and large, the President of the organization is an historian.


As she has researched the importance
of coptinuinq
national conventions,
and local conventions for those of like-mind supporting
a
cause organization
has been apparent
in
history
- particularly
in the United
States.
The First American Atheist Convention 'was held in Austin, Texas, in 1967,
There were about eight people in attendance and two of those dived under a
table
when
newspaper
representatives
came in.
At one point the reprisals against the
Atheist Center and the fear - of the Atheists of the United States were so great
that the Conventions
were called off for
several years because of lack of funds,
lack of attendance and too much hassle.

Austin, Texas

Messidor

(July) 11981

Page 11

UNITED WORLD ATH ..EISTS


CATHOLIC GROUP SAID TO BE SECRETIVE AND
PSYCHOLOGICALLY DAMAGING

ENGLAND

OPUS DEI

[The Freethinker
magazine,asister
Atheist voice
of London, England, has reported in Vol. 101, No.2,
February, 1981 issue, fully on a recent London Tjaies
newspaper story concerning
the Opus Dei, which information has only filtered
to the United Stetes.l

The alleged psychological damage comes from the


severe regime of the society and its emphasis on selfmortification. In the words of the "whistle-blowing"
former member, Dr. John Roche, of Linacre College,
Oxford, there are unhappy consequences for some
It is alleged that the Catholic society, Opus Dei, is
members: "Personal identity suffers a severe battering;
secretive, power-seeking, psychologically dangerous,
some are reduced to shadows of their former selves,
and exercises commercial arid political influence. In The
Times of 12 January a full page article by Clifford
others become severely disturbed." He also demanded
Longley' (former Religious Affair correspondent and
that Opus Dei be "thoroughly and exhaustively investigated by the Church."
himself a Catholic) and Dan van der Vat gave a "Profile"
Instruments of Self-Mortification
of the organization. Much information was claimed to
be based on details given by a member who made
In halls of residence a quasi-monastic regime is
detailed notes before leaving the Opus Dei.
imposed on young numeraries-as
one level of member
are called. They are apparently expected to wear the
The Times report gives alarming details of the way in
which a branch of the Catholic Church operates. There
CHis, a strip of metal rather like chain mail with the
is evidence that this secretive group is seeking to
points of the links bent inwards, for two hours a day,
increase its influence and has found greater favour with
usually around the top of one thigh so it (and the
Wojtyla than with the two previous popes. When even ' resulting contusions) cannot be seen". The Times piece
Catholics criticise their own murkier parts, it is surely
also alleges that a "whip with five or six thongs" is used
time for wider public concern at some Catholic actiby numeraries on their own buttocks while praying. The
Times contains drawings of these medieval-looking
vities. The not dissimilar practices of groups such as the
instruments of self-mortification.
Unification Church .(Moonies) have led to questions in
The Opus Dei deny many of the allegations. But the
Parliament; but with the Catholic Church, which boasts
strict regime was also reported in a letter from a former
over 70 members of the House of Lords and many MPs
student who resided at an Opus Dei hall of residence.
there is not likely to be any such clamour.
Mr. Barber (The Times, 17 January) said :'The rnost "
The worse aspects of Opus Dei appear to be its
secrecy and its potential damage to young people. The
dangerous aspect of the work of Opus Dei isjts insidious
Opus Dei claim that they are quite open about their aims
nature." He also described the absurd lengths taken to
and do not withhold information. But their telephone
prevent males from coming into contact with female
number is not in the London telephone directory! and, kitchen staff: "A small hatch was cut into the wall at a
when finally contacted their spokesman was very relevel of two feet so that if one wanted to see a female
luctant to talk on the phone. He arranged an interview . one would have to contort oneself in a quite ridiculous
manner."
for a Freethinker representative, which was cancelled
Women are separated into a distinct section in Opus
at the last minute. He said that non-believers were
Dei and marriage is not highly regarded.
entitled to attend meditation-type meetings and become
Self-mortification was given much emphasis by the
residents at student hostels. However, he said that the
organisation's founder, r\Aonsignor Escriva. A section of
group's journal, Cronies, was not available to the public.
his book of meditations is devoted to "Mortification" and
According to The Times article membership of Opus
contains phrases such as "Where there is no mortiDei is by invitation only and should not be disclosed
even to close relatives. To be fair, this did not deter SOl11.e fication there is no virtue" and "Let us bless painl Love
painl Glorify painl" Masochism may be acceptable
members from openly writing to The Times disputing
amongst consenting adults in private, but it surely
the report and praising the group's charitable activities.
should not be acceptable from a public proselytising
"One of its principle attractions is the carefully fostered
body. It is, however, unlikely to be condemned by a
feeling of belonging to a chosen elite," is a comment in
Church which places a masochistic crucifixion at the
The Times article. Even the Catholic weekly, The Unicentre of its faith.
verse, not noted for its liberal stance, said that "It is
almost as though the organisation wishes to foster a
Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by Monsignor Escriva,
quasi-masonic air of elitism made more enticing to
a Spanish priest, who had studied law and theology and
worked m.countrv parishes and poor districts of Madrid.
potential members by an air of mystery. That kind of air
is unhealthy." The editorial added " ... it is frequentlytru
It aimed to be a Secular Institute fostering perfection
that those who appear to behiding something have
among all people, especially professionals. As the name
"God's work" indicates, there is an emphasis on using
something to hide."

Page 12

Messidor (July) 11981

1/

Austin, Texas

one's work to promote "God's purpose". The group aims


to recruit professionals of high calibre. Although it is a
lay organisation The Times article suggests that it is
dominated by priests. From Spain it spread around the
world, now having a reported 75,000 members. It was
given a Decree of Final Approval from the Holy See in
1950.
Opus Dei has always been controversial in Catholic
circles, especially in Spain, where it was closely associated with Franco's regime. After the liberalisatioi"l
following the death of Franco, much was written in the
Spanish press about Opus Dei. During the period
Spanish bishops attempted to disassociate themselves
from the former regime and conflict in the Vatican was
caused by this. Montini (Pope Paul VI) is thought not to
have favoured Opus Dei.
Reports have indicted that Wojtyla is much more welldisposed towards Escriva. It is said that he was seen
praying at Escriva's grave at the time of his election to
the papacy. Moves to make Escriva a saint are thought
to be sympathetically regarded by Wojtyla, and this is an
example of Opus Dei's potential increased influence.
There have been reports that Opus Dei are attempting to
obtain control of the Vatican radio, at present run by the
Jesuits.
The tortuous machinations of Vatican politics are not
of crucial concern to Freethinkers. But any struggle for
greater power by an organisation with a reactionary
political background is likely to be very important in the
future of a papacy which combines up-to-the-minute
trendy public images with traditional theology.
The Times article reports that Opus Dei has gained
influence in Latin America. It is thought to have a close
association with Archbishop Trujillo, president of the
Latin American Conference of Bishops.
Spain is where Opus Dei achieved its greatest economic and political influence. During the late sixties,
towards the end of Franco's reign, the Minister of
. Economic Planning, the Minister of Industry later Foreign Minister, and the Minister of Commerce later of
Finance, were all members of Opus Dei. The Times
article writes of Opus Dei's influence in Spain: "It was
not done by Opus Dei as such but by three of its
members whose presence in the government nonetheless brought OD influence in Spanish politics to its
peak in the period 1969-73."
Octopus Dei
The Times article continued with comment on financial influence: "If the fresh air of post-Franco democracy
in Spain has blown away OD's influence at the political
summit, though not at still significant lower levels of the
state apparatus, its connexions with big business are
very large and continue to grow." The large conglomerate RUMASA, a holding company with more than
300 subsidiaries, including 21 banks and 13 of Spain's
largest firms, is often called "Octopus Dei" in Spain. It's
shares are not quoted and its profits not disclosed. (A
bottle of sherry brought at Augustus Barnet, suggests
The Times article, might contribute minutely to Opus
Dei's coffers, since it owns the firm and deals in sherry.)
Opus Dei was established in Britain in the' early

Austin, Texas

1950s. It was registered as a charity in 1964. Its main


funds are deposited in the Netherhall Education Associatior)i(registered as a charity) with fixed assets in
1978 ofJ.85 million, mostly in property.
The society aims to recruit young people. It has been
vigorously opposed in Oxford, where students have
been warned of the methods of Opus Dei by Catholic
clergy. It has found that the older the members' are
when the join the more likely they [line omitted from
original-Ed]
individuals at younger than student age.
A letter to The Times (16 January) from Father H.S.
Thwaites; a chaplain to overseas students in London,
defends OD and its influence over the young. He wrote
that the criticism of OD was reminiscent of attacks on
the Jesuits in the seventeenth and eighteenth century,
attacks which "did not recognise that the Church
Militant needed a new sort of militia. And it could be the
same today. It would seem that many of our young
people, reared in a permissive society, feel the need of
the direction and discipline that Opus Dei apparently
offers."
The secrecy of Opus Dei has included attempts to
control what is written about them. A famous example
of censorship took place in Spain in 1979. A Catholic
priest, who edits an important Catholic journal Vida
Nueva, received documents which enabled him to
produce an 8-page pullout section on Opus Def. After
the journal had gone to press he received a visit from
two men who said they were from the secretariat of the
Opus Dei in Spain. They tried to persuade him to
withdraw the article, but he refused. Shortly afterwards
the publishing company ordered him to withdraw the
article, and under heavy pressure he did so. But the
attempted secrecy misfired, when a statement was
included saying that the section was torn out of the
magazine, and much scandal and publicity about OD
resulted.
,::
There is no doubt more to be found out about Opus
Dei's activities in England and abroad. There is evidence
that the sect is a public menace. It is the unacceptable
face of Catholicism. (Is there an acceptable. face, some
readers will immediately ask.) Any doubts which leading Catholics have about the organisation will no doubt
be investigated behind closed doors. The prestige which
Christianity, unfortunately, still retains in this country
will no doubt prevent the kind of public inquiry or
questions in Parliament which has been raised by the
activites of groups such as the Scientologists or Moonies.

Messidor (July) 11981

Page 13

One hundred years after Christ had died suppose


some one had asked a Christian, What hospitals have
you built? What asylums have you founded? They would
have said "None." Suppose three hundred years after
the death of Christ the same questions had been asked
the Christian, he would have said "None, not one." Two
. hundred years more and the answer would have been
the same. And at that time the Christian could have told
the questioner that the Mohammedans had built asylums before the Christians. Hecould also have told him
that there had been orphan asylums in China for
hundreds and hundreds of years, hospitals in India, and
hospitals for the sick at Athens.
Here it may be well enough to say that all hospitals
and asylums are not built for charity. They are built
because people do not want to be annoyed by the sick
and the insane. If a sick man should come down the
street and sit upon your doorstep, what would you do
with him?You would havetotake him into your houseor
leave him to suffer. Private families do not wish to take
the burden of the sick. Consequently, in self defence,
hospitals are built so that any wanderer coming to a
house, dying, or suffering from any disease, may immediately be packed off to a hospital and not become a
burden upon private charity. The fact that many diseases are contagious rendered hospitals necessary for
the preservation of the lives of the citizens. The same
thing is true of the asylums. People do not, as a rule,
want to take into their families, all the children who
happen to have no fathers and mothers. So they endow
and build an asylum where those children can be sent
~arid where they can be whipped according to law.
.Nobody wants an insane stranger in his house. The
consequence is, that the community to get rid of these
people, to get rid of the trouble, build public institutions
and send them there.
Now, then, to come to the point, to answer the interrogatory often flung at us from the pulpit, What institutions have Infidels built? In the first place, there have
not been many Infidels for many years and, as a rule, a
known Infidel cannot,;get very rich, for the reason that
the Christians are so forgiving and loving they boycott
him. If the average Infidel, freely stating his opinion,
could get through the world himself, for the last several
hundred years, he has been in good luck. But as a matter
of fact, there have been some Infidels who have done
some good, even from a Christian standpoint. The
greatest charity ever established in the United States by

Page14

a man - not by a communityto get rid of a nuisance, but


by a man who wished to do good and wished that good to
last after his death - is the Girard College in the city of
Philadelphia. Girard was an Infidel. He gained his first
publicity by going like a common person into the
hospitals and ta,king care of those suffering from contagious diseases - from cholera and smallpox. So there is
a man by the name of James Lick, an Infidel. who has
given the fi nest observatory ever given to the world. And
it is a good thing for an Infidel to increase the sight of
men. The reason people are theologians is because they
cannot see. Mr. Lick has increased human vision, and I
can say right here that nothing has been seen through
the telescope calculated to prove the astronomy of
Joshua. Neither can you see with that telescope a star
that bears a Christian name. The reason is that Christianity was opposed to astronomy. So astronomers took
their revenge, and now there is not one star that glitters
in all the vast firmament of the boundless heavens that
has a Christian name. Mr. Carnegie has been what they
call a public-spirited man. He has given millions of
dollars for libraries and other institutions, and he
certainly is not an orthodox Christian.
Infidels, however, have done much better even that
that. They have increased the sum of human knowledge. John W. Draper, in his work on "The Intellectual
Development of Europe," has done more good to the
American people and to the civilized world than all the
priests in it. He was an Infidel. Buckle is another who
has added to the sum of human knowledge. Thomas
Paine, an Infidel, did more for this country than any
other man who ever lived in it .
Most of the colleges in this country have, I admit, been
founded by Christians, and the money for their support
has been donated by Christians, but most of the colleges
of this country have simply classified ignorance, and I
think the United States would be more learned than it is
to-day if there never had been a Christian college in it.
But whether Christians gave or Infidels gave has nothing to do with the probablility that a little Jewish king
was not going to die of a boil. And if the Infidels are all
stingy and the Christians are all generous it does not
even tend to prove that three men were in a fiery
furnace heated seven times hotter than was its wont
without even scorching their clothes.
The best college in the country - or, at least, for a
long time the best - WaS the institution founded by Ezra
Cornell. That is a school where people try to teach what

M~ssidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

they know instead of what they guess. Yet Cornell


Infidel in the town where I lived. Give us time and we
University was attacked by every orthodox college in the
will build colleges in which something will be taught"
United States at the time it was founded, because they
that is of use. We hope to build temples that will be
said it was without religion.
dedicated to reason and common sense, and where
Everybody knows that Christianity does not tend to
every effort will be made to reform mankind and make
generosity. Christianity says: "Save your own soul,
them better and better in this world.
whether anybody else saves his or not." Christianity
I am saying nothing against the charity of Christians;
says: "Let the great ship go down. You get into the little
nothing against any kindness or goodness. But I say the
life, boat of the gospel and paddle ashore, no matter
Christians, in my judgment, have done more harm than
what becomes of the rest." Christianity says you must
they have done good. They may talk of the asylums they
love god, or something in the sky, better than you love . have built, but they have not built asylums enough to
your wife and children. And the Christian, even when'
hold the people who have been driven insane by their
giving, expects to get a very large compound interest in
teachings. Orthodox religion has opposed liberty. It has
another world. The Infidel who gives, asks no return
opposed investigation and freethought. If all the churexcept the joy that comes from relieving the wants of
ches in Europe had been observatories, ifthe cathedrals
J
.
another.
had been universities where facts were taught and
Again the Christians, although they have built colwhere nature was studied, if all the priests had been
leges, have built them for the purpose of spreading their
real teachers, this world would have been far, far
. superstitions, and have poisoned the minds of the
beyond what it is to-day.
world, while the Infidel teachers have filled the world
There is an idea that Christianity is positive, and
with light. Darwin did more for mankind than if he had
Infidelity is negative. If this be so, then falsehood is
built a thousand hospitals. Voltaire did more than if he
positive and truth is negative. What I contend is that
had built a thousand asylums for the insane. He will
Infidelity is a positive religion; that Christianity is
prevent thousands from going insane that otherwise
negative religion. Christianity denies and Infidelity admight be driven into insanity by the "glad tidings of great
mits. Infidelity stands by facts; it demonstrates by the
joy." Haeckel is filling the world with light.
conclusions of reason. Infidelity does all it can' to
I am perfectly willing that the results of the labors of
develop the brain and heart of man. That is positive.
Christians and the labors of Infidels should be comReligion asks man to give up this world for one he knows
pared. Then let it be understood that Infidels have been
nothing about. That is negative. I stand by the religion of
in this world but a very short time. A few years ago there
reason. I stand by the dogmas of demonstration. ~
were hardly any. I can remember when I was the only

JOIN THE PICKoET LINES!

~l

The Virginia and Washington D.C. Chapters of


American Atheists will be picketing Jm-ry Falwell's
Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchberg, Virginia,
on Sunday, July 5, 1981. Call or write Arnold Via,
P.O. Box 827, Grottoes, VA 24441, [telephone: (703)
370-5255] for details.
.
Pickets will assembleat Holiday Inn (the Blue room)
~--=--l.., at 7:00 A.M. Rte, 29 South Expwy (Exit at Odd Fel"tNI!>T~ '.
JERR'(F6UL-UP, low's Rd) near Lynchburg.
Do yourself a favor on the anniversary weekend of
the founding of our nation: fight religious bigots!

Austin, Texas

Messidor (July) 11981

III

Page 15

NATURE'S WAY
GERALD THOLEN
If I've learned anything at all in the
past few years it's that Atheists have a
very unique peculiarity - nearly all of
them seem apologetic for their lifestyle and opinions. In talking with
them one can feel an underlying need
to be "disgustingly honest" and very
"moral." They seem compelled to
rationally explain their positions to
every person who may chance to
question their intellect. The fear of a
social error or educational mis-statement seems to cause them to emit an
aura of insecurity. It seems ironic
that we Atheists are quick to point
out the paranoias incorporated
in
religion when we, ourselves, tend to
lose identity through
"closet" Atheism. Getting overly shy Atheists
to identify is as impossible as trying
to get religionists to give up their god.
The difficulty in reaching them lies in
the fact that they are convinced of the
"overwhelming awesomeness" of religion's alleged authoritarian
position. Perhaps it never occured to
them that the so-called awesomeness
of religious persecution today lies on
a one to one basis. The Inquisition
. ended many years ago. Everything
today is on a personal level. It can be
logically explained to a boss or a
spouse that everyone is entitled to an
opinion and that it can be quite
interesting to exchange ideas rather
than form hatreds over them. Yet,
some Atheists just can't seem to
change their outlooks and give up
their reluctance to discuss their lifestyles. This situation has brought me
to a new realization. Perhaps what
we are seeing is simply an individual
feeling of inadequacy - an intellectual insecurity. They may, in fact, feel
incapable of countering religious positions. If their conversational
opponent should happen to be a parent or
other respected person, the Atheist
may feel that he/she is attacking the
person rather than the idea. On the
other hand it is commonly understood that religionists attack not only
the Atheists' ideas but his character
as well. Perhaps Atheists are too free
with displays of respect for other
people. Especially when those people

Page 16.

More on Closet Atheists


see the Atheist as being automatically "evil." If you are one of those
closet Atheists who is anxious to be
respectful of the religionists' philosophy perhaps you should make
some further considerations.
Have
you been given equal consideration
by him/ her? Are you "guilty" of any
other thing than simply thinking? If
the person who is offended by your
Atheism is a relative or friend, do you
really have an otherwise close relationship with them? Have you really
tried to make yourself aware of the
implications
of Atheist logic? Can
you really respect the religious point
of view when their very own claim is
that their god "so loved the world"
that he fooled around with someone
else's wife. Jon Murray and I have
been doing considerable traveling lately (as m..oney allowed) in an effort to
point out the need for Atheists to
involve themselves. Certainly I don't
need to remind you of how long
Madalyn and Jon did the same thing.
For a time it seemed that Atheists
just wouldn't respond. Recent political events have helped to convince
some of the hold-outs that human
rights can - and will be - distorted
and destroyed if religion has its way.
At any rate, the American Atheist
Center may soon be faced with a new
and totally different problem. It may
come in the form of a tremendous
surge of Atheists coming OUT of
their hiding places. There quite likely
could be a staggering demand for
information
and aid to the many
people who have not previously been
affiliated with us. Such an educational assistance program would be
very costly in both manpower and
financing. The next few years should
prove very interesting for the organization. Pound for pound we have
managed well against religion. We
have consistantly beaten them on an

Messidor (July) 11981

1..-'

intellectual basis. They know that we


are winning in the media and there is
nothing they can do about it. Their
new tactic is to legislatively destroy
the Constitution by electing Congressmen with well programed minority
voting blocks. This will necessitate a
. greater educational effort on our part
than ever before, plus the handling
of thousands of new members as I
mentioned earlier. The only way that
we can succeed in achieving our goals
is to progressively grow at a rate that
we can manage and to provide for
.information outreach to match. We
can only look to ourselves for financial and manpower aid. And - if
anyone thinks that a single Atheist
hero or even a small group of Atheist
heroes can do' what needs to be done
---.:just think back over some names
like Anthony, Ingersoll and Bradlaugh. They tried very hard. However, they caused very little overalf
change in our society. Their-failure
was due to the fact that they never
managed .to incorporate a following
to continue their efforts. Their efforts
were philosophical rather than dedicated to educating large numbers of
people who were in agreement with
their concepts. It has only been in our
lifetime that there has been an organized effort to further Atheism. The
most knowledgable
Atheists of all
times are among us now. From our
present nucleous we have the option
to go forward - or to fail. There is
no reason to hesitate to live your life
honestly and openly. As an Atheist
you know that is foolish! You can do
yourself and your friends a great
service now more than any other time
in the past. Make it a point to discuss
your Atheism as much as religionists
discuss their insane mythologies.
And while your at it - encourage
your Atheist friends to support the
organization that has led the fight.

Austin, Texas

THE ATHEIST AT THE SUPPER TABLE

With this issue. James E. Brodhead joins the cointributors to American Atheist magazine. A professional actor.
his most recent TV. part was on Little House on The
Prairie. and he will be featured in this fall's Paramount
release. First Monday in October. in the role he played on
the stage with Henry Fonda. During the 1960's. he took time
out to serve on the masthead of Time magazine as a staff'
correspondent (reporting the trial of Sirhan Sirhan. and'
cover stories on Johnny Carson. Sandy Dennis. and Rowan
& Martin's Laugh-In). before making his screen debut in
Kotch in J97J.
His continuing column will be titled The Atheist at The
Supper Table.
.
Back in 1858, Oliver Wendell Holmes published a collection of essays, poems and ruminations, good sense frosted
with keen wit, called The Autocrat of The Breakfast Table.
Such was its success that he followed it in later years with
The Professor at The Breakfast Table.' The' Poet at The
Breakfast Table. and Over The Teacups.
Breakfast in Victorian times was a more stately occasion
than it is today, and the rationale behind those collections,
apparently, was that though some came stumbling and
sleepy to breakfast, and others were bright-eyed and alert,
all were receptive to the "autocrat" - a charming person of
strong convictions - in the freshness and promise of a new
day's beginning.
That's not how it is at our house nor, I suspect, at yours.
Unlike the Victorian-Edwardian ideal, with kidneys and
kedgeree simmering on the sideboard, our breakfasts are
hectic moveable feasts. Thev're served and eaten over
hurriedly-scanned newspapers before My Best Friend (who
married me 18 years ago) leaves for law school, the boys
leave for junior high, and J head for my desk. Given the right
time of day, however, Mr. Justice Holmes' premise was a
good one. There's nothing like sharing food and drink in a
friendly setting, to promote the sharing of ideas.
Forty-five years the British writer Jan Struther, in Mrs.
Miniver (not that sappy MGM movie, but the splendid
London Times series on which the characters wre based),
wrote an essay called "A Pocketful of Pebbles." She
described how Mrs. Miniver and Clem saved up for each
other bits of news, insights into human nature, jokes and
thoughts, as if tucking bright pebbles into their pockets.
"This was the cream of marriage," she wrote, "this nightly
turning out of the day's pocketful of memories, this deft
habitual sharing of two pairs of eyes. two pairs of ears. It
gave you, in a sense, almost a double life: though never, on
the other hand, quite a single one." And with two bright,
observant sons, of course, there are 'almost four times as
many pebbles.
It's in the evening that ideas flow fast and free in our
house, that we emptyour pockets of pebbles. We call the
Austin. Texas

evening meal "dinner, "there are candles on the table.and we


may not sit down till eight, but it's a simple meal. Whatever
we may call it, in terms of cosiness and camaraderie, it's
supper. It's a table like Badger's or Ratty's or Mole's in The
Wind in The Willows. where ideas, intimacies and humour
can be swapped, and whence: after a difficult day, one rises
feeling relaxed, or sleepy, or refreshed (or any combination)
- but in any case, better than when one sat down.
If your home is like ours, there are contending philosophies to be discussed, even after nearly two decades of
marriage. My Best Friend and I were both raised as
Episcopalians; but I began calling myself an agnostic at 25
(i.e., "I don't know whether there's a god or not, and don't
think it matters. ''), and matured into Atheism ten years
later. She still nurtures an intensely personal ember of
Christianity, and the boys look back and forth, like
chipmunks watching a tennis match as, with stubborn good
humour, she parries my thrusts of rationality.
Rationality is winning, I think. Best Friend proposedthat
the boys be baptised last summer. I objected, but went along
after my favourite free-thinking aunt compared the rite to
getting a college degree - "one may never need it, but if one
.does, it's there" - and I had warned the minister that I
didn't think it would' 'take." A laid-back young man, he
agreed that it might not, but that it would get the boys to
thinking about religion. And Atheism, I added. That it did.
They discussed it between themselves, and now are swinging
over to the irresistible logic of Atheism. And there's still love
and laughter around the table.
The point of all this is that Foolwell's foamings to the
contrary, Atheism is anything but anti-family, and is
probably becoming more pervasive in U. S. society. I'm an
optimist, especially with regard to our history: I look back
over the past two decades, the past four, and through books,
the past century; and it seems as if we always manage three
or four steps forward for every two steps back. The present
know-nothing political climate and the Moron Majority (of
which more in future in this space) are spectacular backward
steps, but the country will rebound ... is rebounding,
through the quiet determined enlightenment of growing
numbers of Americans who recognise religion as a particularly virulent form of superstition.
Some of us have the impulse to throw up our hands (or
just throw up) and say we can't do anything about it. But
Atheism doesn't have to be a hair shirt woven of boosterism
and sacrifice. If you're fervently committed, relatively
unencumbered (intentional pun), and choose to spend all
your time, energy and money fighting the dead hand of
superstition on our society, well cheer you on with fervent
gratitude, and whatever resources we can spare. But if, like.
me, you're not a joiner - on the contrary, you're almost
impossible to pry loose from hearth and family - you can
still do a lot of good for the cause of rationality. humanist
Atheism by leavening your ideas with humour, and offering
them to family and neighbours in a happy, relaxed setting.
Shucks, ma 'am, that ain't blood on my hands, nor horns
on my brow. Just a little barbeque sauce, and the budding of"
fresh and free thinking. Try it. You'll like it.
Dig in.
.
.

Messidor (July) 11981

James E. Brodhead

Page 17

ON OUR WAY

Ignatz Sahula-Dycke

THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND


Anyone at all conscious of the
religionary propagandizing
that
during the past ten or fifteen years
has been choking the air waves,
can't avoid wondering what other
adjective besides INSANE could
aptly describe the drive of the evangelists for the frightened sucker's
buck. Those who among this evangelistic wolf-pack are most successful count as "saved" not those
whose feet scuff through the sawdust and, standing abashed under
the podium contritely repeat the
standardized abject supplication to
the preacher's god, but chiefly
those who prove the intensity of
their misconceived craving for heaven by the sum contributed when
the hat is passed around. And the
more intensely the preacher conveys to his listeners the anguish
suffered on the cross by the "son
of god," the more ample the take .
. This pitiful interlude, which here
in our USA takes place countless
times each year at the convenience of both itinerant and resident preachers, is widely presented
to the public as religious "crusading" and, generally, as worship.
Nevertheless, although largely a
fraud because belief in a god (or
. gods) of any kind derives from
superstition, presenting a show of
this type and accepting money for
it is entirely lawful, and in most
instances widely featured in the
public prints and fawningly praised.
Aside from the moneys thus acquired by the numerous syndics of
this evangelistic business, any
reasoning person can't help but
wonder to what extent this variety
of showmanship is moral, if at all;
and whether or not these sycophants of religion aren't prompted
by sadism - driven into it by
preaching hell, damnation,
and
punishment, and deeming normal
that 'sinful' men should pay and
make up in penitent suffering for

Page 18

the infractions against the dictates


of whatever god the evangelist
tells everyone he represents. It
strikes me as extremely bizarre
that todav's christianity has dropped to a level so low as to stimulate
this species of speculation; this
might well be what sharing christianity's "g"reat good news" will
deteriorate to, and possibly cause
religion's demise. Every question
such as this only leads to yet
another, and as one after another
pops up, all of them call for answers. Yet very few if any of them
are of the kind that anyone could
call new - all were asked centuries ago; and all have their roots
deep in our remote racial past.
In Europe, in the early eighteen
hundreds, questions that dealt with
religion were being answered pretty much as they had been for the
previous hundred years. The people rested in their religion-spun
cocoons, only here and there astir
in response to the newer philosophic thinking already done and
to a minor extent made known in
England, Germany and France of
that day. After the publication, in
1859, of Darwin's speculations about human origins, the French
response to it wasn't anywhere
near as marked as in Hegelian
Germany and, there, considerably
less emphatic than in England. In
France, even had the French not
been as conscious as they were of
the science-dynamized
outlook
then rife on the Continent, they
already were, for fifty years, as
anti-clerical as Darwin's thesis was
to make the British in the next few
decades.
Here on this side of the Atlantic
in our fifty-year-old republic, Darwin's ideas were at best viewed as
daring gropings for something that
might add substance to existing
beliefs about the purpose
and
meanings of life. The American

Messidor (July) 11981

III

citizenry was far too busy then,


attending to the problems of its
own nation's expanding frontiers
to bother overmuch about the
goings-on in Europe, especially
those that it viewed suspiciously
whenever originating in the British Isles. So, for the time being
contented in our ocean-insulated
domain, we reverted to the lazy
belief (which our founders warned
us against) that god would attend
to our every problem. In this one
respect we dropped behind the
rest of the Western nations. and
today sit stuck in pretty much the
same place as then.
Under existing circumstances,
all of the christian cults agree on
one point-that
their god represents an entity slated to remain
forever a taunting mystery. They'd
all be far more realistic were they
to summon the courage to face a
bit of knowledge a lot more important, which confirms that the human brain hasn't developed enough
to understand which the human's
senses are by life constantly being
assailed to note and contend with.
Volumes have been written on this
subject, but I for one see no sense
in the kind of philosophic doubletalk that builds a fortress where a
cabin would serve the facts much
better: such as that in ourselves,
and not in some god, is our best
source of help. But, reared as so
many of us are to pretend that we
are the-favorite creations of a god,
we come up with the same old
hackneyed "god only knows", as
though an honest "I .don't know
but I'll try to solve it" when facing a
problem were something wewere
able to articulate only at the god's
discretion. Whenever we this way

Austin, Texas

ask any god to think for us we


comport ourselves like morons.
Naturally enough, to have handy
on the front burner a god that so
many people assume to be eternally unknowable suits the religious hierarchs to a T; they don't
need to try to explain the lying they
do about this "unknowable" deity.
But truth will out, because anything said to be inexplicable sooner
or later arouses man's inquisitiveness, sets him to thinking about it,
and gets solved. The compass, telescope, microscope, the horseless
carriage, flying machine, computers, space travel - all these were
deemed unknowable until man's
irrepressible nosiness penetrated
to their core and put them to everyday use.
Mysteries have always been the
stock-in-trade of the priesthoods,
and keeping them unsolved and
preventing the solutions from becoming common knowledge their
main concern. The clerics are keenly aware that knowledge will eventually unmask every religious pretense, and demonstrate how fraudulent religious mysteries actually
are. The priesthoods know that
they live by leave of their believers'

ignorance, and that keeping the


people from thinking is the best
way to keep them exploitable. This,
for the priests, has been no small
task for nearly the century and
more since Darwin published his
Origin of the Species. So in the
current squabbles between evolutionism and creationism, let's remember that Darwin, a ministerial
student, would only after deliberation and circumspection publish
findings tending to uproot biblical
beliefs, and that in the category of
natural history his statements are
as authoritative as are those of
scientists in all other fields.
In speculative moments such as
this I plead honesty, even if a crude
variety of it. I'm impelled to call a
spade a spade and dub religionism
an artifice devised for collecting
pelf and not for any further inquiring into questions of theology.
Believers of course don't see religion in this light; they accept it
and worship in it as dished out to
them in its clerically contrived disguise. Religion isn't truthful about
itself-conceals
the fact that it's a
badly concocted pill heavi Iy sugared to help make human despair
about death momentarily bearable

and ingestible (which would be


more or less honest if so purveyed), but is something substantively
and miraculously assistful come to
man from his religion's god in
heaven. An Atheistic outlook is,
for me, the best was to confute
such clerical wile" and also the
sensible way to conduct my thoughts
into wholly satisfying, realistic, and
genuinely humanistic channels.
I'm not alone il'l feeling this way;
countless thousands of other Americans are of like outlook; every
day more are joining in it. Atheism
is a way of life: a way out of
darkness into light. Atheism promotes aspirations and self-expression; facilitates insights obtainable in no other way; is the best
faith of all that exist. But the best
to be said about American Atheism is that it is a prime way to
conserve and protect genuine Americanism by keeping alive and
carrying forward the ideals that
inspired our founders to conceive
a nation guided by a Constitution
dedicated to ther realization of the
desires of the nation's citizens-a
government in which the founders
wanted no religion to meddle or
plav any part,

DONIT BE"AFRAIO

UNLOCK ITIJJ

LEASE-

SACK

OPERATIONS

Submitted by Portland Chapter, American Atheists

Austin, Texas

Messidor (July) 11981

Page 19

Fred Woodworth

NOTES FROM A CAREER IN RADIO


variably, no matter to what depths the programs sank,
no matter whether the preacher was just incoherent or
whether he was yipping like a dog while his "local"
congregation was praying in tongues in the background,
Asa teenager, my first job was at a small-town radio
at the end an unctuous announcer with a deep, restation in an isolated outpost of the Bible Belt. Although
sonant voice would make sure you got the address to'
it was separated by a thousand miles or so from the
send in money. "That address again .. , .", "That address
backwards region that ordinarily bears that name, the
one more time .... ", "In case you didn't have a pencil
village possessed a distinct intellectual kinship to at- . and paper, the address is .... " Whether you could hear
titudes of the jumping-jesus red necks of the South. A
or comprehend the information supposedly being precommon sight around town was the pickup trucksented that would enable you to escape permanent
driving yahoo with his bent-brim cowboy hat, chewing
torment in Hell and journey instead to eternal bliss,
on a matchstick and listening to the country music
apparently counted for less - much, much, less - than
programming, interspersed with yelling and screaming
whether you knew where to send five bucks to get your
religious fundamentalist tapes that were broadcast
Temple Tabernacle Prayer Cloth ("PRAYED over at our
from KQVM, the "Quality Voice of Mormonville".
all-night gospel revival," the prayers evidently soaking
These were the times when a fourteen-year-old with
in like cleaning fluid).
a cracking voice could hold down a radio job with no FCC
While Eschol (that's Es-Kole) Cosby's Radio Gospel
license at all. Hand-cranked telephones were still in use
Hour ground and thumped in the other room on tape, I
around there (the radio station number was 606);
used to turn off the air monitor and pull the news in
peace although sometimes, when the mood struck me, I
electricity itself was unreliable - it went into hiding
whenever it had competition from a thundershower or would sing along with my own -words to the Cosby's
snowstorm - and progressive social views were untheme:
"There's room at the trough for youuuu .... "
heard of. Abortion was known as a whisperinglyFading the theme under his voice, Eschol would begin to
rumored practice of east-coast sluts who flew to Sweden for it; homosexual behavior, had there been any,
preach: "Yes, there IS room at the cross for you.
Someone slipped and fell. Was that someone you? Jeewould have gotten the offending "queers" mangled and
stomped to a jelly by tough hayseeds; and women's
zus will help, if you'll only call on him. Gee-eee-zus .... "
I used to wonder why Jesus didn't bother to help these
liberation hadn't been thunk up yet by the commie pinko
people before they'd slipped and fallen, but from some
lezzies. (Female yahoos with high-teased hairdos road
of the letters we got from people who enjoyed the show,
around jammed right up next to their men in the pickup
I had to conclude that if I had been Jesus, I wouldn't
seat, even if their knees got sore as hell from bumping
have helped them either. They were morons.
on the dashboard over the transmission tunneL)
Another unforgettable on our hit-parade was "Aunt
Out at the radio station, our manager, who also
Bertha and her Happy Family", of Grand Rapids, Michiowned the place, catered to these people. It wasn't hard
to give them what they wanted, usually. We had an gan. This embarrassing, ludicrous show was scheduled
to run at 11 :00 am on Saturdays, right in the middle of of
abundant supply of Kitty Wells and Hank Thompson
high-spemy shift. Worse yet, Aunt Bertha recorded her
records, a hookup with the United Press (before it was
twaddle on ultra-flimsy tape which was prone to break
UPI) and a teletype machine in a closet so we could
two or three times in the course of the half-hour, so I had
pretend to report the news, and cheap, whining relito leave the monitor on and actually listen to the cloying
.gious shows on tape that flooded in from around the
stories and songs - scotch tape and scissors at hand for
country and got on the air free of charge.
a quick splice in case Jesus let her down. If the tape
My favorite saying from those years is "Lay your
broke a hymn would trail off into a squawk and a
hands on the radio, and be healedl" I used to wish
momentary gabble of high-speed, mouse-like voices
fervently that the dunces who tuned in to hear this stuff
and I would drop my news copy to sprint for the control
would lay their hands on the radio, preferably while
room.
soaking wet and sitting in a filled bathtub. Often the
One of Aunt Bertha's programs I recall with particular
programs would begin calmly enough, but as the
clarity. In the story-time portion of the show, which was
preacher warmed up we'd get to hear the real frothing,
a drama invariably featuring some hackneyed biblical
screeching, groaning, hoarse-voiced babbling, punchomily, a small boy was portrayed as having told some
tuated with amens and halleluyas, that expresses the
absence of thought Christianity's all about. But in- trivial lie to his sister. The sister, in an attitude of injured

Page 20

Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

holiness and oh-so-Christian phoney dignity at finding


the lie out, solemnly foretells god's eventual punishment (ominous, religious-y organ chords). Then, later,
Johnny is playing with firecrackers and he drops one
into a milk bottle. It blows up before he can run and
flying glass blinds the kid. Blinds him! This is god's
punishment. "Well, boys and girls",
says Auntie,
"Johnny learned to obey god's laws, but he did have to
pay a terrible price, blah, blah." Good thing he didn't
steal a candy bar, too, or spit on the sidewalk; no telling
to what lengths the Christians' puppet god would have
gone to unleash the Aunt-Bertha style sick estimation of
justice.
This particular program almost resulted in my leaving
the station then and there when I complained and
suggested we drop the show. It was wrong, I told the
manager; it was a gross, barbaric travesty of .ethics.
Rather than address the issue at hand, he escaped into a
familiar bluster: "I don't need some pimply-faced kid
telling me how to run my radio station!"
Actually, the only reason I wasn't fired over the
confrontation was that there were so few people in the
area who could read that it was too hard to replace me. A
large portion of on-the-air work is material that has to be
read aloud and if you never learned to read, or only
learned it well enough to puzzle out the speedometer on
your pickup, an announcer you'd never be. The Mormon
schools in the area had turned out generations of
illiterates, so that station had to import disc-jockeys
from other parts of the country. These outsiders were
never happy in Mormonville, which consisted of eight
bars, seventeen gas stations, and not much else, so they
didn't stay long. Most of them regarded the radio station
itself as a joke and when they didn't leave oftheir own
accord, their laughter got them fired.
Another thing that kept me from getting fired was that
I knew too much. I had hung around even before the
station went on the air, helping to move equipment into
place, wiring things up, inventing switching systems,
digging post-holes for transmission lines to the tower,
trenches for the ground radial system, and so on. I
literally knew the place from the ground up.
While the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the religious
broadcasts blared on, offending any sensible person, it
always seemed to me that so much of the operation of
the radio station was based in illegalities and circumventions of the law. The owner had a license for the
station that limited him to broadcasting 250 watts of
power, daytime only, which meant that at best we could
have been heard under normal circumstances about 35
miles away. But there was a shunt across the antennacurrent meter, so that it continued to indicate the
prescribed 3.13 rf amps, even though the ancient
transmitter had been jacked up to a far higher output.
The old Collins was well-built enough to withstand most
of what was being done to it, but now and then a huge
radio tube - big around as a melon - would begin to
glow like an ultraviolet lamp, and with a spectacular
sizzling arc would fuse its internal elements. To keep
this from happening, a gigantic air-cooler was installed
in the wall right behind the transmitter, and the power

interlocks were rewired so that the rear panels of the


machine could be kept open to the icy blasts. This was
illegal, but necessary to keep the extra power from
literally melting the circuits. In case a car drove up out
front and an unfamiliar man with a suit and a briefcase
got out. my standing instructions were to dash in and
turn of the refrigeration, close the transmitter doors, .
and presumably, pray to the same Jesus who couldn't
even keep Aunt Bertha's tapes from breaking, that we'd
stay on the air without blowing up or melting down
while the FCC inspector was there.
Believe it or not, the station was never cited for this
practice, nor for many others, which included having a
tower that was thirteen feet too long, thus making it a
superior radiating antenna.
With the hefty signal we were pumping out, the
station got regular OSL cards from Alaska and Hawaii.
(A OSL is a verification of reception sent out by
hobbyists in short-wave or broadcast listening.) Once
we even got one from Germany. But when the fanatics
on the tape got really to howling, I had to ride gain
studiously to keep some shriek from overmodulating so
far that the hard-pressed final output tubes would not
blow.
The job at the radio station got me enough money to
get well out of town, and at age 21 I left never to-return.
By then I had had enough of religion to last a lifetime:
live broadcasts from Salt Lake City of the Mormon Church's "conferences" that featured senile, barely comprehensible "elders" and "prophets" grunting and babbling; taped shows from the Seventh-Day Adventists
claiming that "the devil" had put the fossils in the rocks
to draw man away from the "knowledge" of the Bobble.
These various sects, all with roots in a deep tradition of
historical opposition to science, nevertheless eagerly
made use of the electronics developed by rational
people, and sent out over the airways the very same
irresponsible, lunatic message of their forebear who
persecuted and hindered the scientists who developed
electrical knowledge, physics, and other disciplines we
take for granted today.
In their exploitation of this medium of communication, the religionists I remember did more than grab a
fast dollar. Their harangues were more than the deluded exhortations of crazy fanatics. These old broadcasts of theirs were -the foundation of a monstrous
edifice of progandistic power which today exerts immense control. It was a short step from howling about
.Jesus and asking for money to electing an evangelistic
President and turning back the social clock. Religious
broadcasting, once a curiosity of backwater radio stations, has forced its way into television and into the
homes of millions of people, where it now exerts a
tremendous force in molding the opinions of voters. The
evil effects of this industry, its efficiency in perpetuating
itself, and its authoritarian premise that its commandments are holy and must be obeyed by all, make it a
power to be feared - and opposed.

Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

1/

Page 21

THE AMERICAN ATHEIST RADI


THE
SIXTH COMMANDMENT

Hellothere, this is Madalyn Murray O'Hair, American


back to talk with you again;'
The sixth commandment is found in Deuteronomy,
Chapter 5, verse 17, and in Exodus, Chapter 20, verse
13. It says, simply and precisely,
"Thou shalt not kill."
Let's see how the American Atheist writer, Joseph
Lewis, deals with this commandment. He begins with
this observation.
Many theologians contend that the five previous
commandments are supposed to deal with man's relation to god and that the remaining five, beginning with
this one, with man's relation to man. Assuming this
premise to be correct, would this account for an important difference that distinguishes the first half from the
second - the element of reward and punishment?
In the first five the lord threatens punishment or holds
out the possibility of reward. In this commandment
there is no stipulation of reward for its observance, or
punishment for its violation. What is one to assume
from this difference? Is it that the commandments
dealing with our supposed relation to god are more
important than the ones dealing with man's relationship to man? Is one half of the decalogue more binding
than the other half?
It is universally maintained that there is nothing more
valuable than life. The law of self preservation prevails
not only among the so-called civilized races, but also
among the primitive. The same condition exists even in
the animal world and, from the most careful observation, among all forms of life.
To kill is to commit an irreparable deed.
Since the rule of life is so universal, why was it
necessary to repeat it in the commandments? Was this
injunction not to kill based on a belief in animism and
the fear of blood contamination?
Also, what do we do about the most basic tenet of
Christianity? Every Christian will tell you that Jesus
Christ died for us. If Jesus had not been killed, all
mankind would have been deprived of salvation. The
thrust of the story of Jesus Christ is the need to have
him killed. How does this coincide with the maxim not to
kill? How can biblical scholars not see that what is
forbidden in the old testament is exalted in the new
testament? Even Jesus Christ himself saw the inconsistency ofthis, as indicated in Chapter 16, verse 21 and
Chapter 26, verse 28 of Matthew and Chapter 8, verse
31 and Chapter 9, verse 31 of Mark. I quote only John,

Page 22

Chapter 7, verse 19:


"Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of
you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?"
What would we as citizens of the United States say
about electing to the Presidency a man who had
deliberatley murdered another? Joseph Lewis tells you,
and I quote:
"Can a hangman ever be President? is the question. The amazing answer is that not only can a
man who has killed a human being be President,
but one actually was. The killing was not done in
self-defense, but merely because he was paid to do
it. It seems that in 1872, when Grover Cleveland
was sheriff of Buffalo, New York, two men were
sentenced to death for murder, and rather than
delegate the task of execution to someone else,
Grover Cleveland sprang the trap that killed the
man." (From the New York Evening Journal, April
19,1931.)
From this we may see that a peremptory command. ment of "Thou shalt not kill" is impossible of fulfillment.
Each and every act must be subject to the conditions
surrounding it.
.:
Let us take several examples other than that of
President Grover Cleveland. For years there has been
agitation by enlightened people for recognition of the
fact that there are times when killing becomes an act of
mercy. Humanitarians have been pleading for years that
children born with irremediable mental and physical
defects should be permitted to pass out of life in the
quickest and least painful way. The entire field of
euthenasia is now being considered more objectively
than ever before. When a person is dying, should we
continue the life by use of machines knowing that there
is no viable personality left, but only - to use a common
expression - a 'vegetable' left to be human life?
How are those people who are victims of religious
homicidal mania to be considered? Killing is no less
killing when done as "God's will." Those who kill under
the influence of religious delusion "in the name of God"
have not even the excuse of extenuating circumstances.
Their only explanation is that they have biblical sanction
to support their murderous deeds. There are constant
examples of another type. If parents refuse life sus~
taining medical care to their child, because of religious
beliefs, does the state have the right to coerce the
parents to seek that aid? Is the right of parents to a
religious belief superior to the right of the child to life? If

Messidor (July) 11981

Austin, Texas

the child dies, should the state charge the-parents with


homicide?
There are thousands of examples cited in our newspapers constantly. In his book Mr. Lewis gives about 30
bizarre and cruel examples, all of which evidence
twisted thinking.
But we can calculate from criminal statistics just how
many murders will take place inour nation this year, or
in our city. We know for instance that-there are more
murders on Saturday than on other day of the week. The
incidence of murder is high on the Fourth of .Julv.Labor
Day and during the Xmas season.
If god had not meant any killing - how easily he could
have programmed this into human' beinqsl But the fact
is that most persons are provoked easily to anqer. The
urge to kill when it becomes an all-consuming passion,
completely dominates the mind to the exclusion of other
thoughts.
Yet we have the conscientious objector to war who
will risk imprisonment rather than to be placed in a
position in which he will need to kill a fellow human
being.
What also are we to say about suicide? Is the person
who takes his own life guilty of violating this commandment? Suicide also takes place year after year.,
among all ages and classes. The Roman Catholic
Church considers self-destruction a mortal sin because
of this commandment. Yet, Catholic priests have committed suicide.
More important sometimes than the precepts of a
moral code is the example set by the one who promulgates them. If the originator of the code does not follow
his own precepts, he not only invalidates the worth of
those codes, but very often diminishes greatly the
possibility of their benefiting others. So what do we do
with the fact that Moses was a murderer? He killed, not
in self-defense, but under emotional stress. He saw an
Egyptian smiting a Hebrew (Incidentally, at this point he
did not even know that he was himself a Hebrew.) and
when he saw this, as described in Exodus, Chapter 2, _
verse 12,
"And he looked this way and that way, and when
he saw that there was no man, he slew the
Egyptian, and hid him in the sand."
It was not enough for him that he might smite the
Egyptian as the Egyptian had smitten the Hebrew - he
went further - he killed the man. This was deliberate:
in that moment premeditated, murder. First, he made
sure no one saw him. Secondly he summarily killed the
man. Thirdly, he covered the evidence of his deed by
burying the body in the sand. All of this was because he
saw him strike a Hebrew. The death sentence was
pronounced on the man by Moses. He did not utilize the
legal procedures of the time and age; he took it upon
himself to be the judge, the jury and the executioner. He
then remained in hiding for two days. What happened
then?
Exodus, Chapter 2, verse 13:
13. And when he went out the second day, behold,two men of the Hebrews strove together; arid

Austin, Texas

he said to him that did the wrong, "Wherefore smitest


thou thy fellow?"
The question of Moses indicates that he sought to
interfere in the quarrel. Judging from his answer, it
becomes evident that Moses had absolutely no justification for the murder he had perpetrated. For, in the
next verse we read:
14. And he said, Who made thee a prince and a
judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou
killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said,
"Surely this thing is known."
Even his fellow Hebrews condemned his act against the
Egyptian and he had, apparently, seen Moses deliberately kill one man without justification. Faced with
the knowledge that his crime was known, Moses feared
the consequences. He became frightened and did what
murderers almost invariably do: he fled from the.scene
in the hope of escaping. The narrative continues in
Exodus, Chpater 2, verse 15:
15. Now when Pharoah heard this thing, he sought
to slay Moses. But Moses fled form the face of
Pharoah and dwelt in the-land of Midian: and he
sat down by a well.
We need to ask: if god intended that we do not kill one
another, why would he tell a person who had violated
the commandment to impart that very commandment to
the people of the earth?
What also do we do about war?
David Lloyd George, England's colorful prime minister during the First World War said,
"The last war was made by monarchs, statesmen.
warriors, who were all Christians, everyone of
them. It was not the pagan, the A theist the infidel.
It was Christian ministers, kings and Christian
emperors. "
What also do '('Ie do about capital punishment?
The archbishop of York had something to say about
the death penalty. This was it:
"For some reason, which I think idiotic, there is
special sentiment against hanging women," he
said. "I wish Englishwomen would rise in protest.
It is a horrible insult to them and they ought to
resent it with ferocity."
So the archbishop wanted to kill both men and women
by hanging ....
This commandment is no more a prohibition against
murder than the other commandments were what we
take them for today. It is an ancient taboo that has been
carried down through the centuries by a people who
have maintained their primitive culture, fears and
superstitions. Like the five previous commandments, it
was formulated exclusively for the Jews, and was a
taboo based on the superstitious belief in animism
against spilling blood because of the fear of blood
pollution. The confusion concerning its meaning today
is due to the fact that it has been restated in language
with a modern connotation, either designedly or through
ignorance, which gives it an altogether different meaning from what the commandment originally intended to
prohibit.

Messidor (July) 11981

lV

Page 23

This commandment was based upon the ancient:


belief that blood was life and that the spirit of the slain
would return and seek revenge. This belief prevailed
among the Hebrews from the earliest times and was
also prevalent among the other Semitic and primitive
races. Beyond that it had no significance whatsoever
and was never intended to have any. It was devoid of any
moral implication. That this is obvious is seen from,
reading further in the bible, particularly' Numbers,
Chapter 35, verses 33 and 34.
33. So ye shall not pollute the land where veare:
for blood it defileth the land and the land can not be
cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by
the blood of him that shed it.
34. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall
inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among
the children of Israel.
~
The entire idea that the spirit of life was in the blood is in
the specific warning in Deuteronomy, Chapter 12, verse
23:
23. Only be sure that thou eat not of the blood; for
the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the
life with the flesh.
There is a similar provision emphasizing the taboo'
against eating blood in Genesis, Chapter 9, verse 4:
4. But flesh with the life thereof, which' is the
blood th'efeof, shall ye not eat.

This is the reason why orthodox Jews even today will


eat only 'kosher' meat. To be kosher, the animal or fowl
must be killed and prepared for cooking in such a waytht
no blood remains in its body.
However, insofar as killing was concerned, as long as
those to be ki lied were not Jews, the lord god incited the
Israelites to kill as many as possible. This is in the
history of the bible killings of the Hittites, the Amorites,
the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Jebusites.the Midianites. In all ofthese instances, in respect
to killing the lord god seemed to say, 'More, more, more,
I'm still not satisfied.'
There was no divine ordinance against killing, it was
which was shed by the Jews themselves which was
important to the lord. The crime of murder was little, but
the crime of getting blood on the garments, this was
great. It was the fear of the sin of spilling blood with the
resulting contamination - not any humane, moral or
ethical reason, that was responsible for the formulation
of this commandment as a part of the decalogue of a
primitive people obsessed with the superstitious belief
of animism.
And that is what Joseph Lewis, American Atheist
author, thought of the sixth commandment. Next week,
we look at his remarks concerned with the seventh
commandment.

Celebration of Winter Solstice


ON A

Yucatan Holiday
Designed for you in co-operation
History and Birding Tours, of Houston, Texas.

with

Peregrine,

Inc., Natural

The Winter Solstice occurs this year at 5:51 P.M .. (E.S.T.) on


December 21st. This holiday is planned to include that time. During a week of
sightseeing, relaxation,
and study among Mayan ruins, sunny beaches, and tropical
jungles, you will enjoy the companionship
of people of similar interests while you
delve into such widely diverse subjects as shell collecting, archeology,
star-gazing,
swimming, bird-watching,
or simply loafinq.
The backdrop for your dream vacation is the fabulous Yucatan
Peninsula, steeped in Mayan and Toltec history, enriched by a unique flora and
fauna, and the whole thing bathed by balmy Caribbean breezes. There is a Flamingo colony to see, a marvelous beach to comb, where you may find Conch, TurkeyWing, and Lions Paw Pectin shells among others. We will explore the fantastic
ruins of Uxmal, Kabah, and Chichen Itza, all under the aegis of experienced
naturalist-guides. There is much to see, to do and to enjoy.
Address your inquiry
PEREGRINE,

Page 24

to:

INC., P. ,0. Box 3062, Houston,

Messidor

IV

(July) 11981

Texas 77001

Austin,

Texas

JOIN
AMERICAN
ATHEISTS
P.O.ABOX.2117
AUSTIN, TX 78768

Send $20.00 for one year's membership and you will receive
the first newsletter, a membership card and a certificate.

~~~-- uTHE

CHURCH IS, AND

~'? ALWAYS HAS BEEN,


INCAPABLE OF A FOR-

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