Você está na página 1de 32

$2.

50

American Atheist
A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

(Vol. 23, No. 12) December,

1981

NINE DEMANDS-ANOTHER

HUNDRED YEARS?

On January 1 , 1874, Francis Ellingwood Abbot published on the front page of his
weekly paper, The Index, nine demands for separation of state and church. At the
time, the National Reform Association (founded by presbyterians
and episcopalians) was attempting to amend the Constitution of the United States to endorse
christianity officially. Abbot was a leader in a counter movement to propound "a
religion of humanity," guided by reason and offering an organizational "home" to
non-theists.
In a nation predicated upon the political idea of separation of state and church,
we are-incredibly-nowhere
near attaining such separation. Since 1874, in 108
years, only one part of one of these nine demands has been wrested from
government and that by a bitter and protracted legal struggle. In June 1963, in the
case of Murray v. Curlett, reverential bible reading was barred from the public
schools of the nation (see point 4 below) by the Murray-O'Hair family, founders of
the American Atheists organization.
The nine demands are reprinted here to scream out to you, in a continuing way,
that American Atheists can not, dare not, permit another hundred years to pass
without attaining them. These are demands, now, for our times and for our
accomplishing.

!
~

!
,I

1. We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall no


longer be exempt from just taxation.
2. We demand that the employment of chaplains in Congress, in state

3.
4.

5.

6.

7.
8.

9.

legislatures, in the navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums, and all
other institutions supported by public money shall be discontinued.
We demand that all public appropriations for sectarian educational
and charitable institutions shall cease.
We demand that all religious services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and especially that the use of the bible in the
public schools, whether ostensibly as a textbook or avowedly as a "
book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.
We demand that the appointment by the President of the United,
States or by the governors of the various states of all religious festivals
and fasts shall wholly cease.
We demand that the judicial oath in the courts and in all other
departments of the government shall be abolished, and that simple
affirmation under the pains and penalties of perjury ~hall be established in its stead.
We demand that all laws directly or indirectly enforcing the observance of sunday as the sabb.ath shall be repealed.
We demand that all laws looking to the enforcement of "christian"
morality shall be abrogated, and that all laws shall be conformed to the
requirements of natural morality, equal rights, and impartial liberty.
We demand that, not only in the constitutions of the United States and
of the several states, but also in the practical administration of the
same, no privilege or advantage shall be conceded to christianity or
any other special religion; that our entire political system shall be
founded and administered on a purely secular basis; and that.
whatever changes shall prove necessary to this end shall be consistently, unflinchingly, and promptly made.

!
c
~

i'I
-.

!
!

FRIM'AIRE (December)

11,981; Vol. 23, No. 12


ON THE COVER

NEWS
The 39th International Congress of the
World Union of Freethinkers

11

ARTICLES
The Secular Proofs of The Historicity of Jesus Madalyn O'Hair
Some Thoughts on Evolution - Ian R. Bock
Demonstration Against Asatya Sai Baba in Bombay Yahya A. Lokhandwala

2
4
8

FEATURED COLUMNISTS
The Third Dimension - G. Stanley Brown
What Price Free Speech? - Gerald Tholen
Political Religionism - Ignatz Sahula-Dycke
Far Be It from Me - David L. Kent
Seasonal Schlock - Richard M. Smith

9
20
23
24
25

REGULAR FEATURES
American Atheist Radio Series:
The Solstice Season - Madalyn O'Hair
Poetry

Editor-in-Chief
Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Managing Editor
Jon G. Murray
Poetry
Angeline Bennett
Robin Eileen Murray O'Hair
Gerald Tholen
Production Staff
David Kent
Samuel Miller
Richard Richardson
Richard Smith
Gerald Tholen
Gloria Tholen
Librarian
Carol Kent
Non-resident Staff
G. Stanley Brown
Ignatz Sahula-Dycke
Fred Woodworth

27
3

The American Atheist is pub,


Iished monthly by the American
Atheist Center, 2210 Hancock
Drive, Austin, TX 78756, a nonprofit, non-political, educational
organization.
Mailing address: P.O. Box
2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117.
Copyright 11,981 (1981) by
Society of Separationists, Inc.
Subscription rates: $25/one
year; $40/two years.
Manuscripts Submitted must
be typed, double-spaced, and accompanied by a stamped, selfaddressed envelope. The editors assume no responsibility
for unsolicited manuscripts.
The American Atheist
is indexed in
Monthly Periodical Index
ISSN: 0032-4310

Austin, Texas

Frimaire (December) 11,981

PI

A timely illustration from Martin


Faerber's CLERICATURES, a 1982
calendar. Reprinted courtesy of Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen
eV. (International League of Nondenominational People) and Materialien
und Informationen zur Zeit: Politisches
Journal der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten (Materials and Information of the
Current Times: Political Journal of NonBelievers and Atheists).
. "Martin Faerber (born c. 1955) has
absolutely no respect for the established church, much less for the powers
that be in the business world. Five years
ago the young artist began to observe
his surroundings with a critical eye
when, as a hospital attendant in a
catholic clinic, he became involved in
union disputes. Then later for the boycotted Passau alternative newspaper he
drew Pastoral Epistle-For All Black
Sheep. Martin Faerber says that one
should dare to laughjrequently, a reaction which is hardly to be suppressed
with many of his caricatures. Yet with
many drawings, the laughter at encountering unexpected and pointed depictions can stick in one's throat, causing
strangulation." (8. Krueger in the Mittelbayerischen Zeitung of 19 December
1980)
"An ascetic, gaunt monk wanders
piously along his way; in the footprints
which he leaves behind, a human footprint alternates with the print of a
horse's hoof. The caption reads "A
Glimpse of Prayer" .... These are evil
pictures which the 25,year-old Martin
Faerber from Regensburg offers. Political caricatures in the tradition of
Simplicissimus, fullof scorn for those in
control of the state and society, bitter,
implacable." (Chr. Feldmarin, 10Decem- ,
ber 1980, on Bavarian Radio)

Page 1

THE SECULAR PROOFS OF


THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS
Madalyn O'Hair
La, streaming from the fated tree,
His all-atoning Blood!
Prometheus

-Aeschylus, in
547 b.c.

Bound,

We have in every country groups of Atheists. In New


Zealand they call themselves Rationalists, and from there
one of them, Patrick Campbell, has written about "jesus" as
follows, in a way that he terms The Mythical Jesus.
The study of the bible, known as the higher criticism,
shows that the first five books of the bible-genesis,
exodus, leviticus, numbers and deuteronomy=
alleqedly
written by "moses" In the 15th century before "christ," were
not written until five hundred years after "moses" was
. supposed to have died. There is not a tittle of evidence that
such a man as "moses" ever lived, yet these historically
worthless books are actually the literary foundation of
christianity.
The critical study of the bible has hopelessly shattered
the authority for the story of "jesus christ" no less than that
for the account of "moses." The higher criticism has
demonstrated
that the gospels were written long after the
supposed time of "christ." These conflicting and false
gospel stories, concerning which nobody knows who wrote
a single line, or how often they were subsequently rewritten,
tell the all-too-recognizable
pagan fable of a man or a god
whose father was a holy ghost and whose mother was a
virgin, a man who performed miracles, cast devils out of
fellow beings and even raised the dead. Cleverer by filr than
the brilliant medical scientists of this modern age, this man
restored sight to the blind, and, with a mere touch of his
hand, cured leprosy, known to the jews as "scourge of god."
Be all that as it may, the story of the crucifixion in itself is
sufficient to deny the miracles "jesus" is said to have
performed and to deny that he was god.
Clearly no man ever lived of whom the fantastic stories in
the gospels could be said to be a true and correct
description. This "jesus christ" was either a man or a myth.
As history and science both deny that the stories told of him
can be true, we stand on firm qround in asserting the myth
theory.
Profane history, which is a sober record of events that
have actually occurred,
is completely silent on "jesus
christ." The only sources of information concerning him are
contained in the pauline epistles and the four gospels of the
new testament. As we have already eliminated these as of
no evidential value, we are left with nothing further to
examine other than the alleged references to "jesus" by
jewish and pagan writers which religious apologists still use
to influence the gullible and the ignorant.
John E. Remsburg, in The Christ, names 42 writers who
lived within a century after the period when "jesus'' is
alleged to have existed. From all of their considerable
writings, only four passages can 'be found that might
possibly support the case for the historicist. The passages
(or interpolations)
are from the writings of the jewish
Page 2

historian Josephus and the three Roman writers, Tacitus,


Pliny the Younger and Suetonius. But of the four passages,
not a single one can withstand a critical test.
It is generally agreed that the strongest of them is the
passage which suddenly and irrelevantly interrupts
the
narrative of a jewish uprising, described in Jewish Antiquities, xviii, 3, 3, a classical work written by Flavius Josephus
late in the first century. This passage is as follows:
Now about this time there arose jesus, a
wise man, if indeed, he may be called a
man. For he was a doer of marvellous acts,
a teacher of such men as receive the truth
with delight. And he won over to himself
many jews and many also of the Greek
nation. He was the christ. And when on
the indictment of the principal men among
us, Pilate had sentenced him to the cross,
those who before had loved him did not
cease to do so. For he appeared to them
on the third day alive again, the divinely
inspired prophets having foretold these
and ten thousand other things concerned
with him. And until now the race of
christians
so named after him, is not
extinct.
Josephus,
born some years after the alleged death of
"jesus," was an extremely pious and proud jew, a point that
must be kept in mind in view of the passage attributed to
him, depicting "jesus" as the long awaited messiah. The
jews at that particular time were bestowing great attention
on matters pertaining to the coming of the messiah. In fact,
they were waiting with painful patience and desperate hope
for the messiah who was to bring peace and happiness to all
those suffering under the cruel Roman heel. Surely
Josephus, who worked with such careful sequence, would
not suddenly break the unity of his narrative to observe the
coming of "jesus" the messiah without proceeding
to
elaborate
on it and impress its significance upon his
religious brethren. The writer of the passage could only be a
christian. Certainly not a jew.
Perhaps the most important and illuminating fact, how
ever, is that the passage is not found in the early copies of
Josephus. Not until the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius
(about 320 christian era) do we come across it. It is
worthless as historical material because of the deliberate
falsifications of the wily Eusebius. who has long been
recognized as "the most thoroughly dishonest historian of
antiquity." It is Eusebius who is generally acknowledged as
the one who forged the absonanr passage.
The christian writer, archdeaco~ Frederick Farrar, in his
Liie oi Christ, i, 63, sums up the case in the following words:
"The single passage in which Josephus alludes to him is
interpolated, if not wholly spurious." While the freethought .
scholar Herbert Cutner in his work Jesus, God, Man or
Myth? trenchantly
stales, "The whole passage shrieks

Frimaire (December) 11.981

1/

The American Atheist

forgery, it aroused the most scathing contempt


from
Gibbon, and most christian
theologians,
thoroughly
ashamed of its unmitigated imposture, have denounced it in
no unmeasured terms. They did so because in their day the
question of the existence of "jesus'' was never seriously
raised."
In this second half of the twentieth century, it is significant
that we now find the christian apologists
thoroughly
alarmed at the ever increasing influence the mythicist is
exercising upon unprejudiced persons. Ignoring the rejection of the passage in Josephus by their own authorities in
the past, they now, devoid of scruples, present Josephus as
the supreme historical witness for "jesus." That is, of
course, when the opportunity
to do so unchallenged
presents itself.
The first of the pagan "witnesses" previously mentioned
is the Roman historian Tacitus. In his celebrated Annals
written early in the second century, he refers to the burning
of Rome in 64 c.e., and the Neronian persecution of the
"christiani" for having caused it. He describes them as a
"vast multitude" and says the cult was founded by christus,
who was punished as a criminal by the procurator Pontius
Pilate.
We can be certain that the number of christians (as we
understand the term) in Rome at that time was quite small,
anything but a "vast multitude." The city did, however,
contain large numbers of messianic jews, and the only term
a Roman could apply to a devotee of a messiah was
"christianus." It is clear therefore that Tacitus confused the
two and never investigated the history of christianity, much
less its origin.
Eusebius, who made a list of all the alleged jewish and
pagan references to christianity, strangely but significantly
makes no mention of the passage, or of Tacitus himself' Let
us here remember that it is this same Eusebius to whom we
are indebted for almost all we know of the history of
christianity down to the time of Constantine.
He was a
writer whose historical honesty was not without reproach.
Indeed, he himself confessed that he had related only such
matters as would redound to the glory of religion, and had
suppressed all that would tend to its discredit. The dubious
passage is further damned by the fact that it was not quoted
by any christian writer before the 15th century.
Pliny the Younger, proconsul of the province of Bithynia,
in Asia Minor, wrote a letter to the Roman emperor Trajan
(c.e. 113) in which he reported the presence in his province
of christians, who at daybreak on a fixed day, sang hymns to
"christus as if he were a god." (So have many other votaries,
to many other gods, but no one thinks of them as historical
persons!) The letter is of small moment, as it neither proves
nor disproves the historicity of "jesus."
The Roman historian Suetonius, a contemporary of Pliny
and Tacitus, relates in his Life of Claudius how the emperor
expelled the jews from Rome because "at the instigation of
one chrestus" they were continually making disturbances.
This is said to have taken place about 15 years after the
alleged crucifixion of "jesus"; therefore it can be assumed
that this chrest us, whoever he may have been, was a jew.
It is of more than passing interest that the name
"chr estus" (good) was common
in Rome. The term
"christus'' is Latin (from Greek) for messiah. (It is also a
name of the god serapis of Egypt.) It is possible, therefore,
that the riots '.recorded- by Suetonius could have
arisen from
,

disputes as to the nature of the messiah, and that Suetonius


may not have clearly understood the matter.
Summing up, it is apparent that even if the foregoing
passages were authentic and derived from earlier sources,
they would not carry us back earlier than the period in
which the gospel legend took form, and so could only attest
the legend of "jesus" and thus negate his historicity.
Before concluding the scrutiny of jewish and pagan
documents, we must not overlook the rabbinical writers of
the talmud. The fact that these writers had no independent
knowledge of "jesus" is proved by the way they confounded
-him with various "jesuses" whose adventures were known.
One of these, "jesus ben pandira," a reputed wonderworker, is said to have been stoned to death (and hanged on
a tree, not crucified) in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus
(106-79 b.c.) at Jerusalem.
Another, "jesus ben stada,"
whose date is uncertain, is alleged to have possessed great
occult power and could travel by flying (unaided') He also is .
said to have been stoned and hanged, not in Jerusalem but
at Lydda,
The great rabbinical scholar Israel Levi, however, tells us
that the notions about "jesus" that are to be found in the
talmud are "only the reflection in jewish circles of the
christian documents."
Few periods of the ancient world were so well documented as the period of Augustus and Tiberius. But no
contemporary
knew of the existence of a christian "jesus."
In accounting for the story of "christ," whether pursued
historically, literally, or philologically, it will be found to be
simply a G reek version of a recurring legend dating back to
the Sanskrit, dramatized and staged generally over Europe
during the middle ages and continued in this day in the
passion plays.
So "jesus," like all the gods of old, is gone, and there is no
evidence or reason for supposing that he was ever any more
of a reality than his countless predecessors.
~

Recollections of Santa
In the concrete forest of city square
Under glaring neon light
Stood a tipsy santa with groggy smile
Begging coins for the christian rite
And a young black stared as he ventured
To the crimson grotesque form
With the tilted cap and phony beard
And a flask to keep him warm

near

Then the churl gave out with a bogus laugh


As he tried to feign his show
But he reeled and fell in a drunken heap
In the slush of traveled snow
Then a saddened smile curved the young man's lips
At the plights of the tinseled towns
Where the ghetto folks bowed in drugged respect
To charades of religious clowns.

Gerald Tholen

,.

Frimaire (December)

Austin. Texas

II

11,981

Page 3

SOME THOUGHTS ON EVOLUTION


Dr. Ian R. Bock
Senior Lecturer in Genetics at La Trobe University
Arguments for and against evolution have been raging
since the publication of Darwin's monumental
Origin of
Species to the present day. The first great assaults were
launched by the religious communities, for the elementary
reason that what Darwin proposed contradicted the "word
of god" as current fashion then dictated its interpretation.
Interestingly, as scientific understanding of the mechanisms
underlying evolutionary changes became clearer, at least
some of the major denominations
seem to have come to
accept evolution, or at least do not oppose its teaching; the
hand of their god is now seen to have initiated the original
evolutionary "experiment"
rather than to have created
everything in its present form. These days, dogmatic
statements against evolution continue to stem from the
fundamentalist groups, Moron Majorities and the like who
still demand a literal interpretation of the biblical accounts
of creation (though how we're supposed to reconcile the
divergent accounts in genesis is not explained). However, at
various times attempts have been made with arguments
which are evidently quite seriously intended to be logical!
scientific to disprove the possibility of evolutionary changes;
such phenomena as increase in complexity, for example,
have led people, not all of them motivated by religious
bigotry, to propose that no known natural mechanism(s}
can account for progressive
evolution. This essay will
examine some elementary evolutionary phenomena
and
their scientific explanations.
Simply stated, "evolution" is the concept that similar but
different species are related by descent from a common
ancestral species. The potato and the tomato, again species
showing many similarities (especially of floral structure), are
also believed to be derived from a common ancestor. Very
similar species are placed in the same genus; at higher levels
of natural classification (family, order, etc.), that is to say at
levels of organization
where more basic attributes
are
shared, all of the included species would also be descended
from a (more distant) common ancestor. In fact there is
some evidence to suggest that the origin of life on earth was
a unique event (for example, the universality of the genetic
code), in which case all species of animals, plants and
microorganisms
are ultimately descended from the same
"organism," but the concept of evolution does not require
that life originated only once and indeed evolutionary
studies are concerned
with events subsequent
to the
origin(s} of life. Since that origin, however, two major
classes of changes have been occurring. On the one hand,
organisms and parts of organisms have frequently changed,
especially with increase in complexity; and on the other
hand, species have increased in number.
At one level, anti-evolutionary arguments are concerned
with evidence, usually with denying the existence of the
latter. Although the evidence in favor of evolution has been
presented many times in the past, the current activities of
the fundamentalists suggest that it is worth repeating.
Firstly, given that similarities among the various extant
(i.e., still living) species of organisms suggest relationships
and descent from common ancestors, it is logical to look for
Page 4

evidence of the latter in the fossil record. Fossils are known


from very many different animal and plant groups, and there
are many lineages for which complete sequences showing
gradual transformations
over very long periods have been
found; of course fossils are most abundant in those groups
in which the organisms possess hard parts (shells, bones,
etc.) which preserve
more easily. One of the bestdocumented
examples of a complete fossil series is the
evolution of the horse. The starting point taken in any such
lineage is of course arbitrary, but particularly well preserved
fossil series are available following a small North American
animal with generalized dentition, four toes on the front foot
and three on the hind foot. Over a period of tens of millions
of years, progressive trends in the evolution of the modern
horse traceable
through successions
of fossils include
substantial increase in size, lengthening of legs and feet,
increases in the size of the middle toes with simultaneous
reductions of the others, specializations of the dentition,
modifications of the skull, and increase in brain size. Apart
from the main line of descent leading to the modern horse,
various other radiations leading to species which subsequently became extinct are preserved in the fossil record.
The complete past histories of the evolution of various
other modern species (especially
of vertebrates
and
molluscs) are similarly well preserved in fossils; other well
preserved fossil lineages represent
groups now entirely
extinct. It would be tedious and redundant at this point to
multiply examples of gradual long-term evolutionary transformations as evidenced by the fossil record; practically any
textbook of palaeontology abounds with examples which
any interested
person can consult. The statement
is,
however, sometimes made that gaps in the fos-sil record of
some particular
lineage really mean that there is no
evidence of gradual evolution at all. Not only does this
"argument" conveniently ignore all of the complete fossil
series known, but a gap in the fossil record does not even
prove a gap in the fossil record since some future discovery
may well reveal what is now still unknown (does anybody
seriously pretend that no more fossils will ever be found?).
There is thus abundant fossil evidence to indicate that
species of animals and plants are not necessarily static
entities over long periods of time. Evolution is the only
rational explanation for the fossil sequences now known as
well as the manifold similarities existing among the various
groups of extant species.
The fossil history may be regarded as primary evidence in
favor of evolution. Other or secondary lines of evidence
should also be mentioned.
Firstly, there is evidence from comparative morphology:
anatomical similarities in various groups of species indicate
relationships. The skeleton, musculature, etc., of man and
gorilla suggest a rather close relationship between these
species; the floral structures of tomato and potato similarly
suggest close relationship. Again, practically any textbook
of biology abounds with examples which the interested
reader can consult.
Secondly, there is evidence from comparative physiology:

Frimaire (December) 11.981

The American Atheist

similar physiological processes occur in groups of similar


species of animals and plants.
Thirdly, there is evidence from comparative ethology [the
study of behavior]: similar behavior patterns occur in
groups of similar animal species.
Fourthly, there is evidence from comparative biochemistry: similar biochemical processes
occur in groups of
similar species of animals, plants and microorganisms.
Fifthly, there is evidence from comparative embryology:
similar developmental processes occur in groups of similar
species. Comparative embryology is especially interesting
since ontogeny [the development of the individual] appears
to be very "conservative";
stages in the distant past history
of the species may appear as transitory phenomena during
embryological development.
The early human and other
mammalian embryos briefly possess aortic arches and "gill
slits," as do modern fishes and the distant ancestor of
modern mammals (which also gave rise to modern fishes in
a separate lineage) This phenomenon
of "phylogenetic
recapitulation"
is entirely unintelligible if divorced from an
evolutionary perspective.
(At one time the phenomenon
was held to be a "law" by which the ontogeny of every
species was supposed to pass through all the successive
stages of its past evolutionary history; it is now clear that
phylogenetic recapitulation cannot he taken so rigidly, but
there IS no doubt that at least some stages of past
evolutionary
history appear
as transitory
phenomena
during the early embryology of many species.)
Sixthly. there is evidence from comparative
biogeography: t he overlapping or adjacent distributions
of many
similar species are most easily explicable by the hypothesis
that all are derived from a single ancestral species.
Seventhly, there is evidence from comparative genetics:
similar genetic systems exist in similar species. At the level
of individual genes. the "same" mutation has on. occasion
been detected in different species Some species have been
found to possess identical gene orders or sequences;
in
other cases, similar species have been found to differ by
several rearrangements
of t he genetic material, phenomena
also found to occur III living populations within one species.
All of the above lines of evidence clearly indicate that
modern living organisms show relat iouships to one anot her
explicable only by the hypothesis that they share common
ancestors;
t here is no evidence to suggest any other
interpretation
of existing and past biological diversity.
However, anti-evolutionary
arguments of a separate kind
(that is. not concerned with simple evidence of the nature
discussed above) are sometimes leveled at the apparent
"impossibility" of some of the phenomena of progressive
evolutIon. How can an organ as "perfect" as (say) the
vertebrate
eye, which only appears to make sense as a
complete unit, have arisen by the gradual processes of
change usually ascribed to evolutionary phenomena? The
theory of natural selection requires not only that all
evolutionary changes be more or less gradual, but that each
stage in a new development be useful. What use (so the
argument runs) is half an eye') This is perhaps the type of
question that is seized upon most eagerly by latter-day
"intellectual"
opponents
of evolution (as against mere
ignorant bigoted fundamentalists
who cannot even admit
the existence of complete fossil series); their position is
perhaps most graphically represented by the following not
infrequently quoted "thcorv" it is asserted that a tribe of
Austin,

r exas

monkeys hammering away at a set of typewriters would be


unlikely (to say the least) to produce the complete works of
Shakespeare;
and that one can attach no greater probability to the idea that the sum of a large number of random
mutations can account for the evolution of such complex
organs as the vertebrate
eye. The problems posed to
evolutionary
theory by the phenomena
of progressive
evolution, in particular
the origin of new organs, are
therefore worth examining in some detail.
To put the matter in clearer perspective, it is necessary to
introduce some elementary genetics.
The organism begins life as a single ovum or egg cell
fertilized by a single sperm or pollen cell, and develops
through a complex series of cellular divisions, migrations
and differentiations into the individual that is finally hatched,
born or sprouted and grown. (Of course development
is
simpler in microorganisms,
but their existence does not
affect the points at issue here.) Some organisms (especially
in the plant kingdom) can reproduce asexually, that is to say
by budding, but cellular divisions, migrations and differentiations are still involved. Science is still ignorant of
many of the causes of differentiation,
and a complete
explanation
of why some cells form (say) liver, other
pancreas, others muscle, etc., is not yet at hand, but at least
some of the phenomena associated with differentiation are
understood and at some future time the complete explanation will presumably
be elucidated. The fertilized ovum
contains a complete genetic complement
or "blueprint"
specifying the processes which result in the development
and subsequent
functioning of the organism. This genetic
complement
consists of a large amount of information
coded in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); the DNA is functionally subdivided into a number of genes, each of which
specifies some ultimate (usually protein) product, or is
involved in the regulation of other genes. The number of
genes in (say) a human cell is still a matter of dispute, but is
certainly at least of the order of thousands. All genes are not
active in all cells at all times - if this occurred the result
would clearly be chaos. During development and differentiation, certain genes are "switched off" or deactivated so
that in the cells of a differentiated organ only some (a small
part) of the initially complete genetic complement is capable
of functioning. Genes, then, are portions of DNA molecules; their primary functions are concerned
with the
production of specific substances or with the regulation of
other genes. The interaction of all processes leads firstly to
normal development and then to normal functioning of the
organism.
Occasionally, a gene mutates. One of several possible
causes (radiation, chemical mutagens,
etc.) effects an
'alt er ation in t h rhpmirClI <tructure
of' part of a DNA
molecule (or in some cases a rearrangement
of parts of a
DNA molecule) and the affected gene no longer functions
as before. Mutations are occurring continuously
and at
random, and spontaneous
mutation rates have been measured for several species. Depending on the nature of the
change induced by the mutation in the DNA, the gene in
question may cease to function altogether;
or it may
produce an altered product; or, if it was a regulatory gene, it
may alter the cellular processes with which it was concerned. 'Mutations in those cells destined to differentiate
into sperm and ova are of greatest consequence
since their
effects may be manifest in the next (and following) genera-

Frnuaire (December)

IV

11.981 )

Page 5

tions. Since mutations occur in organisms already more or


less well adapted to their environments, it follows that many
mutations willupset some aspect of that adaptation, that is
to say willbe harmful, willbe selected against in their effects
on natural competition, and will be lost. Sometimes,
however, a mutation may produce a change in an individual
which confers on it an advantage in its normal competitive
existence with other organisms (i.e., in the cliched "struggle
for existence"); the individual bearing the beneficial mutation may survive and reproduce at the expense of other
individuals and the mutation willthus increase in frequency,
perhaps ultimately displacing the gene previously existing at
the point in the genetic material where the mutation
occurred. Mutation, then, is the primary or ultimate source
of genetic novelty.
A second and potent source of genetic novelty is
provided by sexual reproduction. During the processes
which lead to the formation of male and female gametes
[reproductive cells - sperm and ova], genes are physically
shuffled into different combinations (a description of the
details of this process - meiosis - may be found in
practically any elementary textbook of biology). Again, the
process is random with respect to the particular novel
genetic combinations produced. Unlike mutation, recombination does not actually create novel genes; but it creates
novel combinations of genes and these different genetic
combinations provide the potential for an enormous range
of variation in a sexually reproducing population. One has
only to look at mankind to realize the range of variation
unlocked by genetic recombination: no two children of any
familyare identical (except, of course, in the special case of
monozygotic twins, which originate from a single fertilized
ovum). Indeed (with the same reservation), no two people
are identical. A little calculation may illustrate why this is so.
Suppose that in man there are 5,000 genes, each of which
may exist in either of only two (mutant) forms. There will
then be 2 x 2 x 2 x ... 5,000 times, or 25000 potential genetic
combinations - 35000 if all combinations of two genetic
variants per genetic locus are admitted (AA, Aa, aa; BB, Bb,
bb; etc.). This number is so enormous it is impossible to
contemplate. The present population of the world is
equivalent to about 320, a minuscule fraction of the former
number. In fact, according to astronomical estimates, the
number 35000 (or for that matter 25000) is very considerably
greater than the number of elementary particles in the
visible universe! It is therefore clear that the number of
potential genetic combinations in man following from the
assumption of 5,000 genes (probably an underestimate) in
each of two forms (at least in some cases also an underestimate) is far greater than can ever be realized, and similar
considerations apply to other sexually reproducing organisms. In fact the number 5,000 could safely be reduced
to 500, or even to 50, without affecting the conclusion that
the scope for variability generated by genetic recombinations is virtually unlimited.
Mutation and recombination thus provide the sources of
variation observed in natural populations. Now natural
populations of animals and plants do not, as already noted,
necessarily remain unchanged over periods of time. Populations - species - may change in response to a need to do
so. If the environment changes (or if some population
migrates to a new environment), different pressures willbe
exerted on the species. Ifthe changes are substantial, one of
Page 6

two possible outcomes is likely: the species may adapt


accordingly; or it may not. In the former case, some
changes (of form, function, behavior pattern, etc.) are
probable; in the latter case, extinction is probable. Of
course if the environment remains constant, there is no
pressure for species to change and they appear not to do so;
the celebrated coelacanth, unchanged for tens of millions of
years, is not a witness against the whole framework of
evolutionary theory as the fundamentalists like to proclaim,
but merely an ancient species stuck in a stable habitat. The
impetus, then, for evolutionary change is change in the
circumstances of the species in question. The mechanisms
permitting such changes are mutation, and the recombination of existing genetic combinations resulting from
normal sexual reproduction. Natural selection acting on the
range of variation provided by these processes may lead to
alterations in the species. How rapidly do natural populations change to cope with an altered environment? There
have been periods of relatively rapid change in various
organisms as evidenced by complete and accurately dated
fossil sequences, but the process still seems slow by the
standard of an ordinary human lifetime. It is instructive,
however, to look at what has been accomplished in several
species within historical times when man has purposefully
contrived to produce changes. The fact that genetic
recombination and selection alone can produce major
changes is very clearly illustrated by the rapid results that
have been achieved by artificial selection in domesticated
animals and plants. How different is a cabbage from a
cauliflower? Technically, both are members of the same
species, that is to say both have been derived from the same
original populations, but selective breeding has produced
enormous differences between them. Similar arguments
apply to the domestic dog; again, great differences have
been produced in a relatively short time among various
breeds that have all originated from one or two species.
Recombination and selection are manifestly capable of
producing substantial changes.
,'".
Changes within populations and species are thus wrought
by the effects of natural selection acting on the variation
produced by mutation and recombination. But to return to
progressive evolution, can these simple processes account
for the gross lonq-term changes observed in so many
lineages?
The origin of complex organs was long regarded as a
thorny point. It was postulated at one time that mutations
having particularly large effects ("macromutations") might
be responsible for the sudden appearance of whole new
organs, but this theory is effectively ruled out by the
extreme unlikelihood of such suitable mutations occurring,
by the fact that mutations are almost always unique and a
new macromutation would appear in one individual only.
and that hybridization between that individual and a normal
one of the same species would be unlikely to lead to wenadapted offspring. In any case recourse to such bizarre
theories is quite unnecessary. Curiously, it was long
believed that the well-known phenomena of ordinary
population genetics as discussed above could not account
for the origin of whole new organs - until it was quite
clearly explained that they can! To return to the eye, not
only vertebrates possess eyes. Many molluscs (snails, etc.)
possess eyes, the cephalopod [octopus/squid] eye being
especially well developed and in many respects similar to

Frimaire (December) 11,981

1:1

The American Atheist

and as good as the vertebrate


eye, although there are
differences in the details of construction.
Now when one
looks at the whole range of molluscan eyes, one finds a
complete series ranging from a simple sensory plate
composed
of only a few light-sensitive
cells, through
grooved plates, more deeply- grooved plates with concentrationsof light-sensitive cells, rudimentary
vesicular eyes,
better developed vesicular eyes, right up to eyes with
functional lenses. Similar series are to be found in other
groups, especially in annelids [worms]. In several large
invertebrate
groups, then, eyes may be observed at all
stages of perfection in living species, all useful to the
organisms which possess them. If these eyes are arranged
in a series, one can trace a gradual transformation from very
simple to very complex. Of course these stages do not
necessarily represent exactly the path followed by evolution in the development of the most elaborate eye, but the
implication is clearly that a complex eye could have evolved
by gradual improvements to an extremely simple and basic
structure. In the case of the vertebrate eye, no complete
extant series is available showing successive possible stages
in improvement, but it appears that vision is more important
to vertebrates
and hence species with inferior vision are
likely to have been eliminated in competition. (Fossils are of
no help since soft organs like the eye do not fossilize.)
Given, then, nothing more than mutations, recombination
and natural selection, it is easy to envisage, with the aid of
the examples mentioned above, the development
of a
structure as complex as a vertebrate or octopus eye by
innumerable intergrading transformations,
each successive
stage useful to the species which possessed it.
Consider now another very complex organ, the mammalian inner ear. This structure
contains three minute
bones or ossicles responsible for transmitting sound from
the ear drum to the auditory nerve. Can the origin of the
mammalian inner ear be explained by a series of gradual
transformations?
In fact the mammalian inner ear ossicles
can be traced right back to t he bones of the jaw articulation
in fishes (and by implication to the fish ancestors of modern
mammals). One ossicle, the malleus, developed from the
articular bone of t he lower jaw, which in fishes (and
amphibians and reptiles) joins the lower to the upper jaw.
Another ossicle, the incus, originated from another bone
which in fishes (and amphibians and reptiles) is also part of
the jaw articulation. The third ossicle, the stapes, is the
result of a transformation
which started from the hyomandibular bone in fishes, joining the jaw to the brain case;
in amphibians it is reduced to the small columella, the only
auditory ossicle possessed by members of this group; in
later-evolved groups this ossicle moved deeper into the ear
and in mammals it is the deepest of the three auditory
ossicles. The three auditory ossicles of the mammalian ear
thus developed from earlier bones with quite different
functions, but at all stages the transformation
was gradual
and at all stages the organ present was useful. It appears, in
fact, that new organs have frequently arisen during evolution by modification of older structures
to perform new
functions.
Many other examples could be cited of gradual transformations leading ultimately to great differences over long
periods of time; the transformations
from reptiles to birds
and (separately) to mammals are of particular interest and
are discussed in most textbooks of vertebrate comparative
Austin, Texas

anatomy. In many cases intermediate forms became extinct


as they were displaced by competitively superior later forms
(thus the fossil Archaeopteryx combines both reptilian and
avian features and cannot be assigned to either class), and
this makes the latter look striking and isolated, but the
intermediates have all existed and there are no difficulties in
explaining the gradual origin of complex new organs or
. structural types. Thus no mysterious phenomena need be
invoked to explain major evolutionary changes or innovations; mutation, recombination
and selection can account
for the origin of an eye or an ear or a bird just as they
account for the better-known
phenomena
of ordinary
animal and plant breeding.
What, then, about the monkeys-typewriters-Complete
Works of Shakespeare
theorists? What have monkeys and
typewriters
to do with the probability
of mutations,
recombination and selection by themselves producing new
organs or structural types? If it isn't already obvious, the
answer is, precisely nothing. The proponents of the monkeyShakespeare
"theory" have missed a crucial (but quite
elementary) point of genetics/embryology.
Granted: mutations occur at random; but - here's the catch - a complex
organ (or organism) is not the sum of a number of random
events. As explained above, the organism and all its parts
develop by a complex series of cellular differentiations. The
processes occurring during embryology are controlled by
genes, and most if not all gene effects interact. What the
monkey-Shakespeare
"theory" is really proposing is that
the vertebrate eye developed by a fortuitous concatenation
of unrelated mutations - one for the lens, one for the
retina, one for the optic nerve, etc. - and since all of these
units function together, all of the supposed mutations would
have to occur together. Of course this would be unlikely,
but - this is the crucial point entirely missed by the monkey
theorists - the genetic material of the organism does not
consist of a series of genes bearing a simplistic one-to-one
relationship to the adult structures and their parts. There is
no such thing as "a gene for the lens," "a gene for the iris," "a
gene for the retina," and so on. Each orga'~, or part of an
organ, may be influenced by many genes; and the genes that
exert these influences also affect other parts of the body.
And if this is not exactly what one would expect to find,
there is abundant
experimental
evidence of such phe
nomena. (Significantly, perhaps, the monkey theorists are
not biologists and seem to be entirely unaware of the most
elementary phenomena associated with gene action.) The
genes, t hen, specify in the first instance a series of chemical
products. These products interact to promote development and differentiation of the organism. Interaction builds
upon interaction until the final stages of development have
been completed.
A mutation in a gene will result in
production of an altered primary gene product. The latter
will affect the interactions
subsequently
occurring and,
depending on the nature of the mutation, perhaps lead to an
adult organism differing visibly from what is regarded as
normal for the species. Beneficial effects are likely to be
preserved by natural selection and thus the genes which
caused them will be preserved.
So much for evolutionary changes. To return to the point
that species have increased in number as well as undergone
gradual transformations,
the reasons for this phenomenon
are also very easily understood. From time to time the range
of a species is subdivided. This may be a gradual process, as

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Page 7

when a long-term climatic change subdivides the range of a


very widespread species, or it may occur quite suddenly, as
when a flock of birds or insects makes its way (for example,
with the aid of a strong wind) to a new area. If now the
separated
populations
inhabit differing environments,
selection will act differently on the populations, and some
degree of divergence is likely. Of course if the subdivided
populations inhabit similar environments, it is likely that the
populations will remain similar. By and large, however,
separated populations in different environments will probably come to differ in due course, and if two (or more)
originally united, but now separate, populations of one
species are subjected to greatly differing selection pressures, it is likely that they will diverge with respect to various
characteristics.
Such divergence may be so great that the
populations concerned would no longer be able to interbreed even if subsequently reunited; at this point speciation
may be said to have occurred.
Speciation, then, is simply a by-product of the effects of
selection acting to adapt populations to local environments,
and as explained above it is not an "all or nothing"
phenomenon.
It may happen that two populations in the
process of divergence are reunited, in which case there will
be a mixing of the separated "gene pools" and a breakdown
of any isolating mechanisms in the process of development.
Speciation appears to be a quite gradual process in almost
all cases (it may be rapid after a population bottleneck or in
a few exceptional cases). Studies on several species of the
fly genus Drosophila, for example, have demonstrated
all
degrees of reproductive
isolation (the generally accepted
criterion of specific status) among various populations of
the same "species," that is to say, incipient species have
been discovered which do not admit of simple classification.
(This is exactly what one would expect if, as explained
above, the process of speciation is gradual.).
The fact that geographically separated populations of a
species frequently differ is widely recognized by the application of the terms "subspecies" or (more commonly) "race";
subspecies or races represent populations that have been
separate for some time and have diverged with respect to
one or more characteristics,
but have not (yet) attained
specific status, that is,. reproductive
isolation from one

another. A moment's reflection on the human species and


this point should be clear.
Speciation, then, except in a few special cases, involves
separation of parts of what was orginally one population.
Differing selection pressures on the separated populations,
sometimes combined with chance effects if very small
populations have been involved. may force evolution along
different lines. and divergence may in time be so great that
the populations are no longer capable of interbreeding. All
stages of the process involve nothing more than the action
of natural selection on the range of variation generated by
mutation and recombination.
Over great periods of time,
changes in lines of descent may be so great that it is
convenient to recognize the end products of divergent
evolution as different genera of different families. etc.,
rather than merely as different species, but the same
processes of selection, mutation and recombination
are
ultimately responsible for the differences.
To summarize, the primary case for evolution is t he fossil
record which, despite some gaps in some lineages, provides
clear evidence
of gradual and continual
progressive
evolution over hundreds of millions of years; other lines of
evidence point independently to the same conclusion. The
phenomena of population genetics - mutation, recombination and selection - are well known to account for
variability and change within populations and species. Long
term evolutionary changes resulting in speciation and in
substantial differences between starting point and final
result, or in the appearance of new organs or structures, are
explicable by the same simple phenomena
of ordinary
population genetics. The genetic material of the organism is
functionally subdivided at the molecular level into thousands of individual genes. Development and functioning of
the organism are the result of multiple and complex
interactions among these genes. Mutation in one gene is
likely to affect many processes
or organs; there is no
simplistic one- to-one relationship between genes and adult
structures and their parts, and anti-evolutionary.,arguments
which rely on the unlikelihood of fortuitous combinations of
suitable genes to assemble the various parts of a new organ
or structure are entirely irrelevant.

United World Atheists


Demonstration Against Asatya Sai Baba in Bombay
On Tuesday, May 12th, 1981, about one hundred volunteers, including twenty women, belonging to Maharashtra
Rationalist Association, Rashtra Seva Dal and Suvichardharak Mandai, demonstrated
against self-styled Satya Sai
Baba and against the participation of Mr. O. P. Mehra, the
Governor of the secular state of Maharashtra, in a religious
function at Dharmakshetra,
Bombay.
They shouted slogans such as "Sai Baba is not a saint but
a trickster Shaitan," "Shame on the governor of a secular
state participating in a religious function," "Asatya Sai Baba
is a Cheat and a Hermaphrodite,"
and "Dr. Bhagvantham,
the stooge of Asatya Sai Baba, is a victim of religio-maniacal
neurosis or of avarice for lucre."
Hundreds of gullible people coming to attend the function
PageS

were aghast at the sudden demonstration


castigating the
Governor and the Asatya Sai Baba.
Meanwhile. Captain Tandon, the aide-de-camp to the
Governor,
came out from the pandal of the function,
barefooted and without military headgear, to receive the
memorandum
of protest from Mr. Y. A. Lokhandwala,
President of the Indian Rationalist Association
and the
leader of the demonstrators.
On Mr. Lokhandwala's
declaring that his improper outfit was denigrating
the
dignity of the head of the state, Mr. Tandon lost control over
his temper and hurled filthy abuse against Mr. Lokhandwala,
whereupon all the demonstrators
lay down prostrate on the
road demanding written apology from Capt. T andon.
Thereupon
all the demonstrators,
including Mr. Y. A.

Frimaire (December) 11,9S1

The American Atheist

Lokhandwala,
President, I.R.A.; Mr. Manohar Kadam,
Secretary,
Rashtra Seva Dal; and Mr. M. K. Savant,
President, Suvichardharak Mandai, were arrested, removed
to the police station, and honorably released after several
hours.
The next day the Governor invited Mr. Lokhandwala to
Rajbhavan and expressed his deep regrets for the whole
episode and for the misbehavior of his ADC.

OBSCURANTIST FANA TICISM


With the advance
of systematic
knowledge
of the
physical and material world and things pertaining to life
which has smashed to smithereens
many a myth and
superstition, the obscurantist forces dwelling upon illusory
beliefs are frantically trying to hold their own by arousing
fanaticism among gullible believers all over the world,
especially in countries ruled by and overwhelmingly populated with muslims.
Scientifically thinking, all religious scriptures are the
outcome of the contemplation of well-meaning persons who
. intended to better the destiny of the people then living
around them, having been mentally agitated by their then
existing sorrowful plight, and expressed their views in short
and simple words which were later elaborated
into
voluminous scriptures by the fertile brains of some of their
followers. Hence, it is inconceivable
that any of those
scriptures
were revealed by any illusory supernatural
power.
That being so, the recent attitude as reported in the
newspapers, of the present rulers of Pakistan, Indonesia

and other muslim countries insisting on stoning to death


anyone accused of adultery, banning vasectomy and tubectomy for controlling the explosive population problem,
amputating hands and other limbs for certain other crimes,
etc., drawing authority from the quran to do so, seems to be
savage and absurd to all those having a scientific secular
outlook on every aspect of life and human relations.
The present -day ferocious obscurantist attempts of christian and zionist cults in America to infiltrate and overpower
the state, despite the First Amendment
to the American
Constitution
separating religion from the state - of the
islamic cult in almost all countries overwhelmingly populated and ruled by muslims - of the hindu cult in India very
. surreptitiously
brainwashing and proselytising the people
through radio, television, and newspapers
and through
religious worship, ceremonies, and display of deities even in
hospitals, schools, police stations, railway stations, workshops, bus depots, government
and public offices and
places -- all indicate their frantic efforts to perpetuate the
mental slavery of the gullible people. It is a sad commentary
for a nation like India, avowedly secularist,
when the
meaning of secularism is blatantly and purposely distorted
by all concerned to mean equal respect for all religions to
meet their ends.
It is high time that right-thinking,
rationally disposed
citizens all over the world, especially muslims, should raise
their organized righteous indignation against and call a halt
to such obscurantist fanaticism.
Yahya Lokhandwala, President
Indian Rationalist Association

Looking Up
G. Stanley Brown

THE THIRD DIMENSION


Distance - that is the third dimension. As we look up in
the sky many of us perceive of the heavens (pardon me!) as
an inverted bowl, hung with the sun, moon and stars. There
is no clue to their true distance, so it is easiest to assume
they are all at the same distance. The dimensions of height,
width and depth are collapsed to two - the directions of
north-south and east-west. Stars are understood by where
they appear to be in this two dimensional world and
variation in distance is ignored. Those who think astronomy
is studying constellations are satisfied with this approach.
The ultimate misconception
of the actual situation
appeared one day when I was explaining the appearance of
the phases of the moon to an astronomy class. I mentioned
that before and after first quarter the moon moves farther
from the sun and approaches the phase of full moon. Then
the movement is reversed so that before and after third
quarter the moon moves closer to the sun. A student
thereupon asked, "If the moon gets closer and closer to the

sun, then why do they not collide at the phase of new


moon?"
While trying to emphasize
the effect of variation of
distance on objects we see in the sky, I have used
quotations from the World Almanac. "The planets move
rapidly among the stars because they are very much nearer
to us than the stars are." If planets are so much nearer, how
can they move among the stars? Two different viewpoints
are involved here. "The sun is 400,000 times as bright as the
full moon and gives the earth 6 million times as much light as
do all the other stars put together. Actually, most of the
stars that can be easily seen on any clear night are brighter
than the sun." So which is it? Is the sun brighter or the stars
brighter? This conflict of words is resolved by the physical
consideration of distance.
Astronomy would not be a science without the techniques of calculating the distance to what is out there. If we
do not know the distance we cannot know the size (in

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Austin, Texas

II

Page 9

kilometers); we cannot know the speed and direction of


motion (in kilometers per second). Our knowledge of the
chemical composition of stars and their internal pressure
and temperature would be impossible without good
distance measurements; so would our modern understanding of our solar system, our galaxy, and other galaxies.
The distances in our universe are determined in a
pyramid fashion. We determine a small one, use it to
calculate a larger one, and use the latter to calculate a still
larger one. If the first is in error it causes errors in all the
others. All determinations involve error and these errors
accumulate as we get to larger distances. Hence the
pejorative phrase "astrophysical accuracy" is heard in
discussions. The largest distances in the universe have a
percentage of error which varies with the progress of
research in astronomy and with which scientist is dominating which technical controversy. However the smaller
distances are tiJore certain and the future is unlikely to alter
our basic understanding of the nearby stars.
.
This paper will describe how astronomers calculate the
various distances. It may provide a perception of the kind of
thinking involved and the strength of assertions made by
astronomers about distance. We will begin with the earth,
its size, and work outwards. Each step is a link in a chain and
each distance must be firmly established before moving on
to a larger distance. The principles are straightforward, but
the measurements can be tedious.
First we need to know the size of the earth. And before
even that we must decide ifit is round. Observation of ships
on the horizon has shown their apparent sinking due to the
curvature of the earth. The hull disappears from view before
the smokestack as the ship sails away. If you stand on the
seashore with your eyes 5~ feet above the water you willsee
a horizon 2.9 miles away. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse on
the Outer Banks of North Carolina has a height of 200 feet
and can be seen up to 20 miles at sea. The Sears Tower in
Chicago, world's tallest office building, can be seen over
Lake Michigan for only 50 miles because the curvature of
the earth has an accelerating effect relative to distance. The
range is proportional to the square root of the height.
A flat earth assumption makes it difficult to explain why a
summer day in New York is longer than the same day in
Miami. A round earth assumption makes it easy to explain
why airplanes flying from London to Tokyo leave England
headed north, not east or west. Another consideration is
the fact that eclipses of the moon can be seen at all hours of
the night and the shadow of the earth on the moon is always
round. For those who believe the astronauts have actually
gone to the moon, the photographs they took ofthe round
earth are convincing.
The size of the earth can be estimated by observing the
sun from two different locations at the same time. Taking an
extreme case, suppose one person sees the sun on the
horizon and simultaneously another knows it is directly
overhead. If we can assume the sun is very very far away,
then it is safe to conclude that the two observers are apart
by a distance of Yt of the circumference of the earth.
Support for the assumption of a distant sun will subsequently be described.
It is not necessary for the two observers to be so far apart
in order to get a good estimate of the size of the earth. A
smaller distance between observers will mean a smaller
change in apparent position of the sun. For example, 'an

angular change of 90 for the sun meant a distance of Yt of


the circumference. If the angular change were 10 the
distance would be 1/36, or if 1 the distance would be 1/360
of the circumference. This technique of measuring small
angles and distances works if the two observers and the
place where the sun appears in the zenith are all located on
a great circle about the earth. A great circle is any "straight"
path around the earth which bisects the earth. Usually one
observer is directly north of the other and the time is noon.
This method was first applied by Eratosthenes of Greece
approximately 2200 years ago and the circumference found
was within 1% of the modern value. If Columbus had
believed Eratosthenes he would have known that the New
World he found was too near Spain to be India.
With the circumference of the earth in hand we can go on
to determine the distance to the moon. This is found with
the aid of the concept of parallax: the apparent change in
direction of an object when viewed from two different
places. For example, if you hold up your thumb at arm's
length and close first one eye and then the other, you will
see your thumb change places with respect to the visual
background. It will appear (l) to move, when what has
actually moved is the place of observation. Similarly we can
observe the moon from opposite sides of the earth, and it
will not appear to be in the same place with respect to the
background stars. The amount of directional change
depends on the distance between the two observations and
the distance to the moon. If we observe the moon from
opposite sides of the earth, so that it is near the horizon in
both places, the difference in apparent direction willbe 2.
This tells us that the distance to the moon is about 30 times
the distance between the two observation points. The
method works for shorter distances between observers,
who will measure smaller angles. In all cases the angle
between the two apparent places in the sky is the change in
angular direction, because the background stars are much
much farther away than the moon. Figure 1 is a diagram of
parallax observations of the moon.
Modern calculations of the distance to the''moon use
radar and laser light pulses. When the astronauts went to
the moon they placed mirrors there which would reflect
light from a powerful laser aimed through a big telescope in
West Texas. By measuring the time required for a round
trip of the light, the scientists can obtain extraordinarily
accurate distances.
Now we consider the distance to the sun. Is it more
distant than the moon? At first you might think you cannot
tell by simply looking up in the sky. However, you can, ifyou
assume the moon is spherical and illuminated by the sun.
Perhaps you have noticed the first quarter moon at the time
of sunset. The moon is evenly divided into sunlit and dark
halves and the angle between the sun and moon is 90.
These two facts prove that the sun is much farther away
than the moon. Figure 2 portrays the earth, moon and sun
from far above the earth's north pole. In the left portion we
see the true situation. On the right we see the arrangement
if the sun were only twice as far away as the moon. The
angle between the sun and first quarter moon is 60. A sun
which is farther away willcause a larger angle. This method
was first used by the Greek astronomer Aristarchus 2250
years ago to estimate that the sun must be 20 times farther
away than the moon. Actually it averages 389 times farther.
The most straightforward modern method for measuring
Continued on page 21

Page 10

Frimaire (December) 11,981

The American Atheist

The 39th International Congress


of

UNION MONDIALE
WORLD UNION
WEL TUNION
UNIONE MONDIALE

DES LIBRES PENSEURS


OF FREETHINKERS
DER FREIDENKER
DEI LIBERI PENSATORI

In

Lausanne, Switzerland, 23rd to 25th October, 1981


WORLD UNION OF FREETHINKERS
The history of this organization, issued by it, states that in 1880 a
number of distinguished thinkers of that time founded the
International Freethought Federation (or International Federation
of Freethinkers) in Brussels, Belgium. The founding fathers are
alleged to be twelve. (Jesus christ had twelve apostles, didn't he?)
They were D. M. Bennett of the United States, Giovanni Bovio of
Italy, Charles Bradlaugh and Herbert Spencer of England, Ludwig
Buchner, Wilhelm Liebknecht of Germany, Ramon Chies of
Spain, Jakob Moleschott of Holland, Cesar de Paepe of Belgium,
Charles Renouvier and Clemence Royer of France, and Karl Vogt
of Switzerland.
D. M. Bennett of the United States has been historically noted
by the organization as being its first president, and thirty five
international congresses have been held in its 101 years of history.
The obvious interruptions to its proceedings have been during the
periods of the first and second world wars. The Congress in Rome
in 1904 established its Charter of International Freethought, and
the 1929 Congress in Luxembourg reaffirmed and completed it. In
1931, a Congress in Berlin reestablished the ties with German
freethought which had been broken after the first world war. By
1934 a Congress in Barcelona was to preside at the laying of the
foundation stone of a monument to Jose Ferrer, Spanish Atheist
and originator of the free school movement in that country. But
the Congresses were interrupted by the second world war and
then reinstituted at Rome, in 1949.The last three Congresses were
held in London in 1966, in Paris in 1973, in Rome in 1978. Now the
38th Congress has just been completed in Lausanne, Switzerland
in October, 1981.
At the 1936 Prague Congress, the associated organizations
accepted a standard of operation which consisted of a formal
declaration for a uniform internal organization which would
include "all the freethinkers of the whole world" regardless of race,
nationality, social class or party; an invitation to all existing
international organizations to merge or to cooperate fraternally.
This being accepted, the name of the group was then changed to
its present one: World Union of Freethinkers. A subsequent
Rott~rdam Declaration fixed the principles of the organization:
(1) an unconditional hostility to all reactionary forces;
(2) a complete endorsement of secular, popular, scientific
education;
(3) a defense of democratic rights of all persons, regardless of
sex;
(4) a commitment to an economic and social order on earth for
all mankind which would obviate the need for a hereafter;
(5) to spread the word among the working class so that
credulous persons can be freed of the influence of clerical reaction
which restrains that class in its struggle for a livelihood, peace and
freedom.
It is rather important, then, to know what a freethinker might be
and whether or not this nomenclature includes Atheists, especially
since the "composition" of the group is noted as being that of

groups, associations and federations of freethinkers, and of


individual freethinkers in countries and regions where there is no
organization, who adhere to the fundamental principles of Freethought and who pledge to live according to these principles, to
spread, to advocate and to defend them in all circumstances." The
objectives of this World Union of Freethinkers consist in supporting, helping, consulting and advising freethinkers and in creating
among the freethinkers and their organizations, their friends and
sympathizers solid mutual links of effective friendship, solidarity
and fraternity.
The governing body is an "International Council" composed of
the delegates of the affiliated federations which have paid up
membership fees. This Council elects an Executive Buteau of
seven members from its own ranks, which Bureau then administers the World Union. The Council meets each two years and a
Congress is held generally every four years.
The Executive Board is composed of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Secretary of Information, Treasurer and two
Board Members. A Restricted Bureau is composed of the
President, the Secretary and the Treasurer which regularly
consults and instructs the Executive Bureau and the International
Council. This Restricted Bureau meets as often as is necessary. ~
The International Council's decisions "become an imperious
rule for all the organizations" associated therewith. Allresolutions
are settled by majority vote, with one vote for every organization
counting 500 members, one supplementary vote for every additional 500 members, with no federation permitted to command
more than one-third of the votes.
So, what is "freethinking"? Again, an historical sketch issued by .
the organization explains, "Modern Freethought originated from
English materialism in the beginning of the 18th century, with the
(Irish) philosopher Anthony Collins (1676-1729) a friend of Locke
and Newton and author of A Discourse of Freethinking, Occasioned by The Rise and T-he Growth of A Sect, Cal/'d Freethinkers,
published in 1713. Later, prominent promoters of
Freethought were the French encyclopaedists Diderot, Baron
Thiry d'Holbach, Voltaire and the (French) philosopher Claude
Adrien Helvetius. In 1793, during the French revolution, various
issues of a paper called "Le Libre Penseur" (Freethinker) were
published. But it was in 1848 only that a Freethought movement
could really be organized. From 1860 to 1871, the LlBREPENSEE
was a body that fought the French empire of Napoleon III. After
the suppression of the Commune (a revolutionary committee that
took the place of the municipality of Paris in the revolution of 1789
and usurped the authority of the state) the LlBRE PENSEE,
obliged to go underground, was one of the most important
ideological combat groups with the aim to establish a secular and
social republic."
It was following this, in 1880 that the distinguished "group of
twelve" allegedly founded the International Freethought Federation. The list of names, above indicated, were preserved but little if

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Austin, Texas

JY

Page 11

any information appeared to be available about a number of them.


However, the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives, Inc., fortunately, has material published about this date.
D. M. Bennett, an attendee at the first Congress, but not an officer
of it and certainly not the first president as WUFT claims, wrote
voluminously concerned with the 1880 meeting in Brussels and his
subsequent attendance at the 1882 meeting in London. For
example: no one saw, met or heard of Giovanni Bovio, Ramon
Chies, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Jakob Moleschott, Charles Renouvier,
Clemence Boyer, Herbert Spencer or Karl Vogt.
Who were they that their names are invoked?
Giovanni Bovio (18 ) was a Professor of Political Economy
at the University of Naples, a deputy to the Italian parliament. In
both his writings and in parliament he opposed the power of the
vatican and the reconciliation between church and state. He
constantly advocated liberty of conscience and promoted the
institution of a Dante chair in the University of Rome. He wrote
The History of Law and presented a copy to the International
Congress of Freethinkers, in London, in 1887, when he finally
attended one of the Congresses.
Ramon Chies y Gomez (1845 ), the son of a distinguished
Spanish Republican, was educated without religion by his father.
He took an active part in the Revolution of 1865 and at the
proclamation of the Republic of Spain in 1873, he became the civil
governor of Valencia. He founded a newspaper and later began a
freethought journal (1883) Las Dominicales del Libre Pensamien to, through which he became a well known champion of
freethought. The police closed the International Freethought
Congress which met in Madrid in 1892. It is not even possible to
presume he was there.
Jakob Moleschott (1822-1893) was a scientific Materialist and
medical doctor. He was a Professor of Physiology at the University
of Heidelberg, from which position he was forced to resign
because of his views, but he later took the same type of
- professorship at Zurich and later still at Turin. Becoming a
naturalized Italian, he became a Senator in 1876 and in 1878 a
Professor at the University of Rome. He is often described as "the
father of the modern Materialistic movement." He is credited with
coining the phrase "survival of the fittest" in respect to his defense
of the Darwinian theory.
Charles Renouvier (1815-1903) was an ardent (French) radical
and follower of critical philosophy. He advocated a philosophy of
Personalism.
Cesar De Paepe (1842- ) was a Belgian socialist, affiliated with
Desire Brismee who was the founder of Les Solidaires, a
Rationalist society. He became a medical doctor and was popular
with workmen's societies. He wrote on public hygiene, political
economy and psychology. A political and social reformer, it is
reported that a monument to him exists in Brussels.
Clemence Royer (1830) was of a Catholic French royalist
family.Visiting first in England she conceived the idea of educating
women and in 1859 she opened at Lausanne, Switzerland, a
course of logic and philosophy for women. Writing on taxation, in
1860 she shared a prize with Proudhon in competition on the
subject. In her The Origin of Man and of Societies published in
1869 she affirmed the scientific view of human evolution and'
challenged the christian creed. Had the WUFT had information
concerned with her history, surely it would have visited, at
Lausanne during its Congress there the place of her experiment
for the education of women.
Ludwig Buechner (1824-1899), a German physician, lost his
professorial chair at the University of T uebingen, in 1855, over the
publication of his book Kraft und Stoff (Force and Matter) which
defended Darwin's theory of evolution and set forth modern
tenets of materialism. He attended both the first and the third
Congress ofWUFT. In London, England, in 1882 he addressed the
Congress on his Materialism.
Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826-1900) of Germany, was a friend of
Karl Marx and a leader of the German Social Democrats.
Page 12

Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891), lecturer, author and Member


of Parliament, was England's most outstanding and outspoken
Atheist.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), journalist and philosopher was
an outstanding English defender of Darwinism. His most famous
work dealt with what he called "Synthetic Philosophy," in which he
applied the doctrines of evolution to the phenomena of mind and
society no less than to animal life.
Karl Vogt (1817-1895) of Germany, a naturalist, was elected to
the National Assembly, but was deprived of his chair and exiled
because of his support of the revolution of 1848. Becoming a
Professor of Natural History at Geneva, Switzerland, he created a
sensation with his lectures endorsing Darwinism. He wrote for
freethought journals of both Germany and Switzerland.
D.M. Bennett of the United States reported carefully in his
weekly journal "The Truth Seeker, Vol. 7, 1880," as well as in his
book A Truth Seeker Around The World, A Series of Letters
Written While Making a Tour of the Globe, Vol. 1 published in
1883, concerned with the first and third meetings of the WUFT, at
both of which he was a participant. The First Congress met on
August 29th, 1880, with 225 persons in attendance, where one
M.F. Goffin ofBelgium was elected President, NOT D.M. Bennett.
Since Mr. Bradlaugh could not be in attendance he had sent his
daughter Hypatia and Annie Besant. Indeed Annie Besant was
elected to preside over the meeting. Her subsequent defection to
Blavatsky's theosophy has caused her name to be dropped from
much of Atheist history. But, Atheist she was at that time and an
effective fighter for the cause. George Jacob Holyoake (the father
of "Secularism" and the last person in England imprisoned for
Atheism) and Ernst Haeckel of Germany (the father of "EcoI99Y"
and a devout Atheist) both sent warm greetings but were unable to
attend. Drs. De Paepe and Buechner were present, but other than
these, Bennett knows nothing of "the twelve" prominent freethought pioneers.
A meeting was had in 1881 in Paris, but is not officially
recognized since the politics of "socialism" was there married to
the cause. A rump meeting was had in London, on September 25,
1882, which came to be an official Congress. Charles Bradlaugh
called the meeting to order and Annie Besant, D.M. Bennett and
Ludwig Buechner were the most notable in the attending group.
Organizations from six countries were official members: England,
Canada, United States of America, Germany, Belgium and
Holland. A Hindu society from Madras, India, had made application, but none other. There was much difficulty reported with
the French, especially with a large and important organization
called Union Anticlericale and its argument with La Federation
Francaise de la Libre Pensee. The former was more radical than
the latter.
We are left, from WUFT's report and subsequent research, with
the impression that the WUFT puts together its history much as
does the christian church, adding illustrious names as it will
without reference to its actual history, eliminating references to
those of whom it does not approve, such as Annie Besant, or
Holyoake.
Our American Atheist Library and Archives yielded else, for
there was also, for example, a report of one Freethought Congress
in London, England, in 1946 when every speech given and every
paper issued spoke to "Humanism," while "Freethought" practically disappeared from the agenda. All of this behooved that the
history of the idea of "Freethinking" be researched also.
WHAT IS FREETH OUGHT?
In her What On Earth Is An Atheist! Dr. O'Hair points out that
the first use of the word "freethinker" apparently was in a letter of
William Molyneau, French philosopher, to John Locke, an English
philosopher, on April 6, 1697, in which Molyneau referred toJohn
Toland as a "candid freethinker."
Janus Junius (John) Toland (1669-1722) originally wrote his
book Christianity Not Mysterious in 1696 when he posited that an

Frimaire (December) 11,981

The American Atheist

Jean Gremling - Pres. WUFT

Egon Haak

(Member of Parliament - Luxembourg)

'Der Freidenker'

Jim Herrick, Editor

Left to right:

'The Freethinker',

London

magazine, Germany

Jon Murray, Madalyn O'Hair, USA &


Lavanam, Indian Atheist Centre

---"'-.,"'~

~.;J~:"'<

&m.:~

"GRtS ~LAUSANNEs '

Roger Labrusse, Pres. French Freethinkers

Austin, Texas

Dr. Madalyn O'Hair addresses the Congress

Frimaire (December)

11,981

Page 13

Executive Board, WUFT - from left to right:


Rene Labregere - France - V.P.
Jean Gremling - Pres.
Adolphe Bossart - Pres. Swiss Freethinkers
Banner advertizing Congress on

Jean Kaech - Switzerland,

Lausanne public street

Seery. of Information

Erich Wernig - Germany, V.P.


Le'on Rousseau - Belgium, Treas.

G. Th. Gutz - Holland - Seery., WUFT

Madalyn O'Hair & granddaughter

Robin

on the streets' of Lausanne

Adolphe Bossart, Pres. Swiss Freethinkers

Page 14

Frimaire (December) 11,981

The American Atheist

Grandson of Dr. Auguste Forel &

Frank L. Schutte - W. Berlin

Member of Swiss Parliament

IntI. Conf. of Non-believers

Jon Murray, Dir. Amer. Atheist Center

Giorgio Conforto

Marja Kerminen & Erkki Hartikainen

addressing Congress.

Pres. Giordano Bruno Assoc., Rome

Secretary,

Swiss Freethinkers

- hosts

to the Congress

Austin. Texas

- Italy, Asst. Secy. WUFT

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Finland

Page IS

Conventioneers

assembled on opening day

Le'on Rousseau - Belgium, Treas. WUFT

Representative

Richard Eu. Klucsarits - Pres.


Austrian Freethinkers

Swiss Social Democrat Party

Reception of delegates & Executive Board

Conventioneers

& Italian speaker

Madalyn O'Hair & Jon Murray, left.

Page 16

Frimaire (December) 11.981

The American Atheist

historical examination of the new testament would show that


on science and secular education, an awareness of the need for
christianity was founded on judaism and was the fulfillment of the
state/church separation, a denouncing of capitalism combined
prophecy of the old testament. Since this was a subtle attack on
with a cry for social justice, and a demand for peace and
the theory of christianity as a revelation he came under censure
disarmament.
and was forced to leave his native Ireland. By 1702 he had
A definite outreach to religion was heard on a number of
occasions in the themes of preservation of tolerance, safeguarding
disclaimed the book, saying he was conformed in his ideology to
of religious opinions, the need for unity despite backgrounds, the
the established church of England. Later, he coined the word
need for dialogue, and with the Belgium spokesman defining that
"pantheism," the idea behind the word being that god is a
state's laicity organizations as a religious movement, primarily
transcendent reality and that the material universe and man are
seeking funding from the state.
simply manifestations thereof. His proposed last work was to be a
The organizations immediately demonstrated through their
demonstration of "the verity of divine revelation against atheists
spokesmen that they were unorganized, small, poor and impotent.
and all enemies of revealed religion."
They knew nothing of remedial actions for their situations, spoke
Anthony Collins (1676-1729) attempted to compile inforrnalongingly of the youth to whom they made no appeal and
tion concerned with freethinkers and issued a book in 1713
completely ignored the problems of women in the modern world.
Discourse on Freethinking. What he thought this to be is ably
illustrated in one striking descriptive sentence, "Ignorance is the
The third day of the conference was devoted exclusively to
foundation of atheism and freethinking the cure of it."
discussions concerned with "Freethought and youth for a future
The English knew these persons as "freethinkers;" the French
without dogmas." Almost every representative speaking was grey
as "esprits forts;" and the Germans as "Freigester." It was later
haired and obviously aged, some into their seventies. Being totally
that they came to be known in France as "libres penseurs" and in unacquainted with youth, except as a fond memory, their
Germany as "Freidenker,"
speeches strayed over related subjects and often into memories.
As to what a freethinker held, there is a spectrum of thought,
When it came time for the guest organization representatives to
but basically they were thought to be intimately related to deism in speak, Jon Murray arose and introduced himself as a representheir ideology. They wanted a self-evident, self-consistent, unitative of youth, being of the very tender (in that group!) age of 26.
versally binding natural truth, which they felt they could find by
He spoke primarily to the aspirations of the youth of our times, but
free examination of religion, the social order and nature. It was
the need of the youth to learn from the older, to have the torch
also about this time that the grand lodge of the free masons was
passed from the old hands to the young, to be made well aware of
established (1717) in England. Some writers posit that deism failed
the problems surmounted and the deeds done, but nonetheless to
because methodism swept everything before it; others that deism
face the present and the future and solve the problems which are
failed because the masons supplied the pageantry and rituals
current. He recognized that the contemporary difficulties have
needed so that barren deism could not compete; others that it was
roots in the past of which the youth needed to be cognizant, but
the purgative needed to remove the dogma and ecclesiasticism
that the solutions for them were in the present and the future.
from christianity so that it could survive; others that it was the
Other guest speakers included Erikka Hartikainen, who
basis for modern unitarianism.
reported extensively on his attempts to secure a review of his
Deism, of course, in final analysis does posit "nature and
Finlandic problems with the International Committee for Human
nature's god," and an ethical life of conscience.
Rights, at Geneva, during the last several years. Lavanam
The search after a universal basis of truth (reflecting the desire
reported on the current "moral Atheist movement" in India, which
for a return to a catholic orthodoxy) would be axiomatic in a
included the efforts of The Atheist Centre there to separate not
historical period when there was a rising number' of denornalone church and state but church and education, church and
inations, as christianity split first into catholic and lutheran and
social work, church and social development. He emphasized the
subsequently the many splinters of the protestant denominations.
need in India to find a secular nationalism for that country instead
Also, the concept of "free thinking," as pointed out by Jon Murray,
of a religious nationalism. A German speaker.iFrank Schuette,
would be a logical extrapolation of the religious theory of "free
emphasized that the focus must be not alone on religious dogmas
will."
but on the sociological and political fields, which are also
The difficulties of this research, of course, are in the finding of dominated by religious positions. He felt the need to legitimize the
the primary sources, since the religious communities of all nations
Atheist position, to have Atheism recognized as a voice which
have not quelled their ardor of book burning. Lord Herbert of
represented another significant minority.
Cherbury (1583-1648), now and then referred to as the "father of
James Herrick pointed out that England has an established
deism" could well be important to read-if his works could be
church and no constitution. The work of the organizations there
located. Charles Blount, another English writer, in 1680 published
had been, therefore, to combat "superstition" generally as a first
from Lord Herbert's manuscript notes The Two First Books of
task, with work against astrology and other myth. He emphasized
Philostratus Concerning the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus. The
that England is being threatened by a non-christian religion, the
book, prohibited in 1693, is now cited as a possible construction of muslims, who now come to that country in large numbers.
a "christ" figure, when viewing the mythological theories of jesus.
When all of the papers had been read, a visit was made to a local
With deep roots in religion, "Freethinking" and "Freethought"
park there to pay homage to Auguste Fore!' His grandson, a
can only be the weak precursors of a vigorous and proud Atheism . member of the Swiss parliament, had addressed the Congress
which could only come to flower in modern history. It was with that
earlier reaffirming his grandfather's freethought. Later research in
somewhat in mind that Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, Jon Murray, the
the American Atheist Library and Archives revealed that Dr. Forel
Director of the American Atheist Center, and Robin Murrayhad been the organizer of the "International Order for Religion and
O'Hair visited the Lausanne Congress of the WORLD UNION OF
Ethics," which was founded in Berne, Switzerland, in 1908.
FREE THINKERS.
Auguste Henri Forel was born in Morges, Switzerland, in 1848. He
was professor of psychiatry and Director of the Asylum at the
1981 CONGRESS
university of Zurich from 1879 to his resignation in 1897, but he
The Congress lasted for three days and was characterized by wrote with authority on a remarkable range of subjects. His work
speeches given by representatives of organizations officially on ants (Die psychischen Faehigkeiten der Ameisen und einiger
affiliated with WUFT. The themes of these, flavored by the
anderen Insekten) was awarded the Academy Prize and was
historical, socio-cultural and economic histories of the countries
translated into various languages, while he wrote with equal
from which the speakers came, were a rejection of an undefined
distinction on the anatomy of the brain, insanity, prison reform
authority, condemnation of dogma and obscurantism, emphasis
and social morality. His chief atheistic work is Vie et Mort (1908).
Frimaire (December) 11,981

Austin, Texas

,,,:v

Page 17

He was the leading scientific man of modern Switzerland.


At another point in the conference a popular Socialist party
representative addressed the delegation, assuring that the aspirations of the Socialist party were coincident to those of Freethought. Later, another visit was made to the chateau which is
used by the city of Lausanne to meet with visiting dignitaries and
groups. A representative of the government there addressed the
gathered Freethinkers informally while we all sipped wine and ate
hors d'oeuvres.
The Congress was concluded with several resolutions which
were to be issued to the European press:
(1) that the problems of physical misery and starvation in the
underprivileged countries are a threat to world peace; and
(2) that the competition and thrust for hegemony of the
competing capitalist and imperialist countries, with the attendant
ruinous course of arms-building, are a threat to world peace; and
(3) that the hypocrisy of appeals to the public charity of
government or of private organizations in the face of the basic lack
of food and the arms buildup is not a viable solution.
Therefore, the Congress resolved that there should be a ,dismantling of the arms arsenals and a buildup of stocks of food for
the world and particularly the deprived nations, together with an
arguing for secular, social, democratic institutions which would
not rest on the abuse of political and capital or economic
determinants.
The Congress was attended by and large by executives and
administrators of mostly continental Freethought groups. A
number of editors of Freethought opinion journals were also in
attendance. All of these people met in a lounge of the Continental
hotel on Friday the afternoon before the formal initiation of the
Congress, hopefully to meet the officers of the World Union of
Freethinkers and to have some information discussion. That was
not to be. It is possible that your representatives are not informed
enough of the mode of holding meetings, but we, and others,
expected to be welcomed, informally, asked to introduce ourselves and in turn be introduced to the officers and controllers of
the World Union of Freethinkers. It was not to be. The warmth of
Texas hospitality does not extend to Switzerland. The officers
clustered at a table and by and large ignored the persons
assembled. We were delighted to see again Erikka Hartikainen of
Finland, Lavanam of India, and James Herrick of England.
Subsequently we also met Frank Schuette of Germany, with
whom we immediately established rapport.
The pre-Congress publicity consisted of a half-hour interview of
Mr. Conforto of Italy on a radio station, together with Mr.
Gremling of Luxembourg, while the rest of us waited for their
return that Friday afternoon. This delayed the initial work of the
executive committee. However, when they returned, there was
stilllittle or no outreach, and the most meager statement was given
to those assembled who were hoping for outreach and friendship.
The meeting finally drifted apart, as each went his own way for.
dinner.
Subsequently, Erikka Hartikainen, Lavanam, Jon Murray,
James Herrick, Frank Schuette and Dr. O'Hair met to form a
nucleus group with the purpose of reactivating and infusing new
blood into the World Union of Freethinkers. It was agreed that we
would meet either in England or on the continent during 1982
(perhaps June) to see what could be done toward that end.
As an attempt was made to analyze this Congress, to divine the
reasons for which it was called and to calculate its impact, effect or
results, it became clear that the following were all considerations.
In the tradition of being an old institution, the meeting was called
for the sake of a meeting. Since meetings had been held, allegedly
for about 101 years, it simply was important to keep on meeting to
carryon an obsolete tradition, still honored by old men, perhaps to
assure themselves that something once existed. It has been the
custom, when it was possible, to publish a booklet containing the
text of the papers read, probably in imitation of scientific
gatherings which do the same. Even if the papers were of no
Page 18

import, if they consisted of "talking to oneself," out of habit the


publication thereof was continued, and this will probably be the
result of the current Congress. There were no work sessions to
see what real situations faced each nation and each organization
or group of organizations in those nations. We came away not
really knowing the national cultural problems facing the Atheist
organizations. There were no work sessions around techniques of
recruitment, financing, propagandizing, media outreach, modes of
organization, interaction with friendly governments, particularly in
the socialist states (which comprise most of Europe).
We were left with the vague feeling that the groups feel that
there may be nothing to fight since only 3% to 7%of the population
is church involved in Europe. Yet, when 10%of salary is deducted
in West Germany and given to the church in the same manner that
social security is deducted in the United States, we could not
understand why the German outreach was not to eliminate this
forced support of the church in Germany. On the other hand,
there is no recourse in Europe, no basis to challenge the existing
structures. The goal is apparently the state/church separation
written into the Constitution of the United States in 1789, not yet
realized in Europe. But the freethinkers as a group, or the
Atheists, have fallen into apathy. There has not been a turn from
religion, but rather a drift, not occasioned by any organized or
freethought or Atheist effort.
Religion has withered. It has died of old age and lack of interest.
It is no longer in vogue. It has gone out of style, like high button
shoes, perhaps with some sadness. What remnant lasts today is
seen in the observance of the unimportant, sometimes in a formal
way but without enthusiasm. The personal affairs of the Europeans are more important to them. In the United States it is the
lower middle class and the working class, the Archie Bunkers, who
are saturated with religion. In Europe, the upper class church
hierarchy, usually associated with the roman catholic church,
influences and saturates the government at the apex with religion.
Religion is not a matter of public importance in Europe. It is not
reported by the media. The newspapers, magazines, radio and
television ignore the institution. Religion has been defused by
cultural change. Churches, empty of attendants, are turned into
discos, schools, avant garde shops, and the populace which
ignores religion does not see it as a problem. The problem is
nuclear war.
The Congress was, in fact, totally in the shadow of more
important European events: the massive peace demonstrations in
every country of Europe. And those peace demonstrations were
totally secular. There were 250,000 in the streets of London. As we
sat and listened to inane addresses of old men saying that
something must be done for peace, such as a declaration written,
not alone the youth but every age group was involved in massive
street protests. There were 100,000 in Berlin, 100,000 in Milan,
100,000 in Austria-all with the message Yankee go home, and
take your missiles with you. The United States is seen, and rightly
so, as a warmongering nation threatening the peace of the world, if
not its continued human existence.
All of Europe is socialist, marxist or communist, in whole or in
part, and continuing to turn more and more to that socioeconomic doctrine. The United States is cordially envied for its
technological expertise and cordially hated for its imperialist
capitalism. There is no longer any effort to hide this in Europe. It is
in the media constantly. It is a presupposition in conversation. The
prior trips of the Murray-O'Hairs to Europe, over a period of
twenty-plus years, have seen this come into being, slowly taking
root and growing. Like it or not, the United States has lost the
ideological war, which is why it now posits the use of force, or even
sees Europe as a throw-away, a nuclear war theater if necessary.
Your representatives went out of hope, seeking Atheists or
Atheist organizations as we do always. We came back affirmed in
our growing conviction that the battle is in the United States. It is
here that the forces of extreme reaction exist and supply the world
with fear, with threat, with insanity. The future of the globe

Frimaire (December) 11,981

IV

The American Atheist

depends on the current clashes of military, political, and religious


reaction' with Atheism, science, and education in the United
States. It is as simple as that, in the final analysis. We aspire to the
challenge and the task but have a full understanding of the
meagerness of our resources, the lack of coordination between
the viable, reasonable segments of our nation and the basic fears
which pervade our culture and often preclude the outreach
needed.
We willcontinue the effort, both nationally and internationally,
doing what desperately needs to be done as we can do so. We
solicit your continuing support in that effort.
The participating organizations included:
Deutscher F reidenker
Dortmund, Germany
Le Centre d'Action Laique
Brussels, Belgium
F reidenkerbund
Osterreichs
Vienna, Austria
Freidenker-Vereinigung
der Schweiz
Lausanne, Switzerland

L'Union Rationaliste
Paris, France
National Secular Society
London, England
Internationaler
Bund der Konfessionslosen
Berlin, Germany
La Raison, La Libre Pensee
Paris, France
Libre Pensee de Geneve
Geneva, Switzerland
Association Suisse des Libres Penseurs
Ruti, Switzerland
Vapaa Ajattelija
Helsinki, Finland
La Ragione
Rome, Italy

C.V.

Visiting organizations were American Atheists, United States


of America, and The Atheist Centre of India.

THE 12TH NATIONAL ANNUAL CONVENTION OF AMERICAN ATHEISTS willbe held at the Rosslyn West park Hotel,
1900 North Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, Virginia, on April 9th, 10th, and 11th of 1982 (Easter weekend). The registration fee for the
Convention is $20.00 per person; $35.00 per couple; students and those 65 and over, $10.00. The registration fee is payable in advance to
the American Atheist Center, P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117, preregistration deadline March 24th, 1982. Accommodations at
the West park are available at the special Convention rate of $45.00 per night for a single, double or triple, plus 9% local tax, or $49.05 per
night total. Reservations must be made directly with the Rosslyn Westpark by deadline of March 26th, 1982. Reservation cards, postage
paid, for the making of your room reservation with the Westpark will be available from the American Atheist Center in January.
The Convention program of events is currently being set up. Final determination of speakers, activities and programs for each day will
be available at a later date. Paid subscribers to this Journal as well as members of American Atheists, the organization, willbe notified in
greater detail about Convention particulars as soon as they become available, via a special mailing.
SOLSTICE CELEBRATIONS (chapters announcing celebrations; call your Dial-An-Atheist number for details): TUCSON; 12/20
2:00 pm; (602) 899-7411. BERKELEY; early Dec.; write Box 713, Berkeley, CA 94701. LOS ANGELES; 12/134:00 pm; Bruno's Italian
Ristorante, 3838 Centinela, Mar Vista (West LA); Madalyn O'Hair and Jon Murray present; (213) 460-4326. SAN FRANCISCO;
12/205:30 pm; Rusty Scupper Restaurant, 1800 Montgomery Street (nr Pier 39); $8/person; (415) 974-1750. TAMPA BAY; 12/202:00
pm; home of Patrick Tifer, 113Timberview Dr., Clearwater, FL ATLANTA; 12/207:30 pm; Western Sizzlin' Steakhouse, 3172 Roswell
Rd NE, Buckhead, Atlanta; (404) 329-9809. CHICAGO; 12/21 7:00 pm; "Bula" Bulicek's apartment in Oak Park; potluck, BYOB; (312)
335-4648. DETROIT; 12/125:30; Riviera Family Restaurant, 13400 W. 8 Mile Rd; (313) 721-6630. NEW YORK CITY; 12/23 7:00 pm;
The Humanist Center, 2328 Broadway (betw 84th and 85fh sts) -2d fl,NYC; $6/person; P.O. Box 2935, Grand CentralSta, NYC 10163.
PORTLAND; 12/216:00 pm; home of A W. Adkins, 402 SE 30th St; potluck supper; (503) 287-6461. PITTSBURGH; 12/134:00 pm; ~
Viking Motel, Banksville Rd; (412) 734-0509. NASHVILLE; 12/202:00 pm; First Unitarian Universalist Church Bldg, 1808 Woodmont
Blvd. HOUSTON; 12/12; call chapter phone 664-3114. VIRGINIA STATE PENITENTIARY; 12/2112:30 pm; multi-Purpose room.
Other chapters may later announce celebrations; those with Dial-An-Atheist numbers are: PHOENIX (602) 899-7411. SACRAMENTO (916) 989-3170. DENVER (303) 692-9395. SOUTH FLORIDA (305) 584-8923. LEXINGTON (606) 278-8333. BOSTON
(617) 344-2988. EASTERN MISSOURI (314) 771-8894. NORTHERN NEW JERSEY (201) 777-0766. ALBUQUERQUE (505)
884-7360. UPSTATE NEW YORK (518)346-1479. CHARLOTTE (704) 568-5346. OKLAHOMA (405) 677-4141. RHODE ISLAND
(617) 344-2988. DALLAS (214) 690-5327. SALT LAKE CITY (801) 364-4939. NORTHERN VIRGINIA (703) 370-5255. [703-JOYCLUB). RICHMOND (804) 359-4043. MILWAUKEE (414) 442-9786.

Black male Atheist desires to sing and dance with R&B,


rock or jazz band in the New Jersey area.
David Vann III
2116 Apollo Street Apt #2A
Ocean, New Jersey 07712
IF YOU ARE GA Y AND A THEIST,
PLEASE CONTACT:
Gay Atheists League of America
P.O. Box 14142
San Francisco, CA 94114
Membership: $15.00/year
($1O.00/year for students and senior citizens)
Send to the same address for subscriptions to the GALA
Review. Subscriptions $1O.00/year; $11.50/year in Canada
and PUAS; elsewhere $12.50.

Would like to contact fellow Atheists in the Dallas area,


married and in their 30s.
Mrs. Kenneth B. Mongere'
2246 Lockwood
Carrollton, TX 75006
(245-0831)

Electrical design engineers who are currently unemployed


should contact:
Sid Schereff
Tech-Mark Associates
450 7th Avenue New York, NY 10001
(212) 947-6027
who has offered to assist in placing qualified Atheists at no
charge.

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Austin, Texas

Page 19

Nature's Way
Gerald Tholen

WHAT PRICE FREE SPEECH?


Freedom of speech was, and still is, one of the most costly
freedoms ever attained by mankind. Over the centuries,
poor people were required to maintain absolute silence
regarding their personal political opinions. Our founding
fathers and mothers fought a revolution to become "free
citizens" who were able to petition their government, hold
peaceful assembly, and publish their opinions. This, of
course, was a noble ideal. Like any ideal, it has its inherent
horrors, such as medicine show quacks, who, through
exercise of free speech, sold snake oil remedies to gullible
crowds they managed to draw in with the aid of trickshooters and belly dancers. Even silly little things like that
cost the public a bundle.

psychological problems but had really good intentions. We


are told that they are not typical of mainstream religionists.
I'm weary of such absurd excuses. I, and many others, have
repeatedly stated that religion is a form of insanity, unsoundness of mind, and a psychiatric inability to relate to, or
accept, reality. Would you allow a mental patient to instruct
your child in school? Would you allow strangers to tell your
child "ghost stories" if those stories actually seemed to
disturb him or her'? Yet, not only your children, but you,
your friends, their children, and everyone else is told such
things daily. Our televisions, radios, public schools, public
offices, every facet of our daily lives informs us that a holy,
godly ghost is watching our every move.

The right of free speech also has a price tag.


It's called personal responsibility.

Religiosity is idiotic. The practices


are the perfect fraud.

Anyone of us can cite dozens of instances where certain


individuals have made malicious statements or told untrue
tales and were subsequently held liable for them. If untrue
statements were not punishable under the law, certainly the
victims of such statements would pay the consequences.
One way or another, somebody has to pay for a freely
spoken lie. On the other hand, if a malicious tale is true, its
victim is sure to pay even more. This is why our legal system
MUST have laws concerning libel and slander. Unfortunately, people do not always sayar do what is in the best
interest of all concerned.
Instead, we see self-interested
people who act with little concern for their neighbors. I think
we refer to this as the "me" generation. I endorse the idea of
putting "me" first as long as it's not at someone else's
expense. The idea that I'm trying to express is that we
should only pay for RESPONSIBLE free speech.
Lately I've heard one or two complaints
about our
positions regarding the so-called free speech liberties of the
religious community. I have always maintained that the right
to criticize is a precious one. People died to obtain such
rights. Legitimate criticism deserves utmost respect. At the
same time, in each of those criticisms, the critics may not
take into consideration
the complete picture of what has
happened. We feel that religionists should ALSO be held
liable for their statements and practices. No one should be
entitled to make claims without verification. In our egalitarian society, there should be no "chosen
people."
Perhaps, after centuries of repeated claims by godists, we
have become immune to the fact that there are adults who
tell children about frightening things like devils and ghosts.
This may not seem important to grown, mature individuals,
but look at it through a child's eyes. Remember how it
affected YOU at age 3. Is religion affecting the children of
Ireland and the Middle East? Has religion affected the lives
of the followers of the late Jim Jones?
Every time we bring up Jim Jones or the Inquisition or
Jerry Falwell, we are quickly offered excuses implying that
those people are just extremists,
that they had unique

There are no laws designed to protect the innocent from


religious mania. Religionists continue to plague civilization
without the slightest shred of evidence and without" any
check on their insanity. They are free to make any
statement - concerning anythinqo- in any given situation simply because they "believe." If preachers were restricted
to holding their sermons within an "I think" context, it
would be a different matter. This has never been the case.
They speak only the "gospel" truth. If you do not believe
then you will surely suffer at the hands of their mythical
bogey-man gods. For this, they charge a fee. What an ~
incredible scam! The part I like best is that this beautiful
ruse has worked on so many millions of people for so long
that we have apathetically learned to tolerate it. Now more
than ever before, P. T. Barnum's observation that a sucker
is born every minute is supported by the available evidence.
I doubt that anyone will ever be able to pull open the curtain
and expose the incredible "wizard of heaven."
In a recent 12 year study, Dr. Zena Blau found the overall
effects household religion has on children. Her findings
disclose that children of roman catholic and baptist parents
scored lower on I.Q. tests- than other children. The more
strict and fundamental the religiosity, the lower the intellect.
I'm sure Dr. Albert Ellis would agree in that he has to deal
more directly with the psychological victims of religiosity.
Shortly after Dr. Blau's findings were made public, I was
asked to comment on them by a Los Angeles newspaper
reporter. The reply required few words: "We (American
Atheists) have been saying the same thing for years."
Those who criticize us for saying there ought to be a law
to protect people from religion should take heed of their
own situation. There are laws to keep people from trying to
sell other people the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet, unthinking,
well-intentioned men and women will fight to defend the
"rights" of religious hucksters to sell a product they can
neither display nor verify. Their racket costs everyone
billions each year. You see, the preacher's speech isn't free.
It's costing everyone, everywhere.

Page 20

Frimaire (December) 11,981

IV

of godism

The American Atheist

THE THIRD DIMENSION

con/inlledfrom

page 10

TO

DISTANT
STAR

FIGURE

1.

DIRECTION
TO
SUN
90

Qj

:.>~

~,.-~
-,
-",

-:-.:

FIGURE

the sun's distance requires measuring the speed of the earth


in its orbit, relative to the sun. This can be done with a large
telescope and a device called a spectrograph
and the
principle of the Doppler shift (see your encyclopedia).
When the speed is known (it is 30 krn/sec), multiplying by
the number of seconds per year gives the circumference of
the orbit. Dividing by 2 pi (approximately
6.28) gives the
average distance to the sun (about 1.5 x 108 kilometers).
Another method which does not require a large telescope
or spectrograph is available. Solar distance can be found by
observing Mercury and Venus when they are directly
between the sun and earth. These planets have a parallax
against the solar background just as the moon does against
the stellar background. By measuring the exact location of
their tiny silhouettes their distance can be calculated. There
is a formula which gives the earth's distance from the sun if
the following are known: the distance between the two
points of observation,
the apparent angular change with
respect to the solar background, and the ratio (distance of
planet from sun)/( distance of earth from sun). If we assume
the planetary orbits are circular this ratio is provided by
Kepler's Third Law (see Johannes Kepler in your encyclopedia).
A third method makes use of the movement of the earth
due to the moon. Both the earth and moon move about a
point between the center and surface of the earth, called the
barycenter (4672 km from the center). The masses of the
earth and moon are balanced about this point and the
center of the earth and moon move about it. The movement
provides an opportunity
for parallax measurements
of
nearby planets. The technique
is complicated
by, the
simultaneous movement of both the planet and the earth
Austin, Texas

2.

about the sun, but astronomers


are comfortable with such
problems. They can compute the distance to the planet,
and by knowing the shape of the planetary and earth orbits,
their relative sizes and where each is in its orbit, they can
calculate the distance to the sun,
These computations
are directed by analysis involving ~
algebra, geometry and trigonometry. The power of mathematics is demonstrated
by the fact that all of the above
methods produce the same result within the limits of errors
of measurement.
Today radar measures the distance to
planets and indirectly to the sun. The agreement still exists.
The sun is the first star whose distance we have
determined,
We must use our knowledge of the sun's
distance to know the distance to the next nearest star,
Proxima Centauri, a faint companion to Alpha Centauri.
Again we use parallax, and movement is provided by the
earth about the sun. A star which is nearby relative to
background
stars is photographed
twice with 6 months
between the photographs. In this time the earth has moved
nearly 800 times the distance to the moon, from one side of
its orbit to the other. Precise measurement
of the photographs reveals tiny displacements of the image of the close
star relative to the other stars. The larger the displacement,
the closer the star, and vice versa. In this way Proxima is
found to be 270,000 times farther away than the sun. The
method works for stars up to roughly 25 times farther than
Proxima Centauri. Beyond this its accuracy diminishes
because of errors in the photograph measurements.
Astronomers
have several other ways of determining
stellar distance. These include analysis of observations
of
double stars, moving clusters of stars and individual stars
when some good assumptions are made. These work for

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Page 21

stars which are too far for parallax measurement


but also
have their range limit. One method which works for almost
any distance is the use of the inverse square law for light
propagation. This describes an exact relationship between
apparent brightness, actual brightness, and distance. It
defines actual brightness to be the apparent brightness at
some standard distance and then provides the ratio of the
two brightnesses when the distance is different from the
standard. When the distance is twice the standard, the
apparent brightness is ~ the actual brightness. When the
distance is tripled, the apparent brightness is 1/9. If a light of
any kind is moved 100 times farther away it will appear
10,000 times fainter. The inverse square law says that if we
know the true brightness and the apparent brightness, we
have the distance.
A particularly fruitful application of this law was stumbled
on by Ms. Henrietta Leavitt in 1912. She was studying
cepheid variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds. These are
variable stars whose brightness changes in a very repetitive
fashion with a clearly measurable period. The Magellanic
Clouds are two satellite galaxies of our galaxy which can be
seen only from the southern hemisphere. Ms. Leavitt found
many cepheids on a series of photographs
and measured
their average apparent brightness and period of fluctuation.
Upon looking over her data she noticed that the bright stars
had long periods and the faint stars had short periods. This
relationship existed for apparent brightness and she knew it
also existed for actual brightness, because all the stars were
in the same galaxy. Thus they must be all at the same
distance plus or minus a few percent.
These data did not provide the distance to these stars
immediately. What was needed was the actual brightness of
several of the stars. Fortunately this same kind of star exists
in our own galaxy and the stars are close enough for their
distance to be determined by the methods only mentioned
previously. They are too far for parallax measurements.
After about thirty years of work, astronomers were able to
determine the distance to local cepheids. Their period and
average apparent brightness were known. Hence the true
brightness was known by the inverse square law. Therefore
we have the relationship
between
period and actual
brightness
and it becomes
possible to determine
the
distance to Ms. Leavitt's stars. Because all were cepheids,
the period of variation gives the actual brightness. With the
actual brightness and apparent brightness we know the
distance. This technique provides distances to galaxies
which are limited only by the size of the telescope. By
photographing cepheids in the Andromeda galaxy in 1944,
Walter Baade was able to obtain its current distance. It is
512,000 times further than Proxima Centauri. This proved
that this beautiful spiral was far beyond the stars of our own
Milky Way galaxy and is an entire galaxy of 100 billion stars
by itself.
What can be done if a galaxy is so far away that its
cepheid variables
are too faint to detect? We need
something still brighter whose actual brightness is well
known. One candidate is the very brightest stars in a whole
galaxy. These can be up to 400,000 times brighter than the
sun. The upper limit in brightness exists because a still
brighter star would produce so much energy in its core it
would blow apart. An even brighter standard is supernovae.
These are stars which do blow apart, catastrophically. They
are massive stars which have reached a stage of their life
Page 22

cycle wherein the core of the star implodes. The collapse


rebounds and the result is temporarily 4000 times brighter
than the brightest stable star. This is as bright as some
entire galaxies of stars and can be detected at a distance up
to 500 times the distance to the Andromeda galaxy.
Beyond stars we are left with using entire galaxies as a
brightness standard. Galaxies appear in groups, and if we
select the brightest members of the group we can have
some confidence in the actual brightness existing there.
Our largest telescope with its sensitive instruments
can
detect light which is 5 million times fainter than the faintest
stars an unaided human eye can see. The Andromeda
galaxy can be seen by most unaided eyes, and the light
received left the galaxy 2.2 million years ago. The light from
the most distant known galaxies left them billions of years
ago. Their distance can be represented
by a number and a
unit of distance, but it cannot be appreciated by the human
mind. The accuracy of such a number is in doubt because
such galaxies are being seen as they were when they were
very young. Research predicts that galaxies will die with
age. So they could be actually brighter than old galaxies in
our neighborhood.
On the other hand, distant young
galaxies may be dimmed by rarefied matter in all that space
between us and them. Astronomers
will continue to strive
to know the distance to all they find.
Distances in this paper have been given as multiples of
something; for example, the sun is approximately 400 times
as far away as the moon. The purpose has been to change
the starting point of the picture so that it is more cornprehensible. Expressing astronomical distance in miles from
the earth obscures insight into the actual arrangement
of
planets, stars and galaxies. The distance to the moon is
vast, but it can be seen as a tiny part of distances in the solar
system. This is vast, but it should be seen as a still smaller
part of the distance to the nearest star, ete. The reader
should now have a sense of the presence of a foreground
and a background the next time he/she looks into the clear
night sky.
,,,":
This paper began with illustrations of the confusion that
can arise in describing the location and brightness
of
celestial objects if distance is ignored. Superficial use of
words without insight into meaning opens the door to word
play. The difference in viewpoint of theist and Atheist can be
likened to the difference between a person who sees only
constellations and another who appreciates the depth out
there. Both are talking about the same thing, but one is
taking a subjective point pf view, the other an objective
point of view. To one the sun is the brightest thing in the sky.
To the other, galaxies are brighter. If the subjectivist cannot
comprehend
variation in distance, or refuses to, then
further discussion is hopeless. The sun will always be
brightest, obviously. Such a person has no interest in an
external point of view. The theist looks up, sees what is
described
as beauty, and feels more important.
This
perception of beauty is an emotional response which does
not depend on distance. The human need to feel important
causes concentration
on the view.
Atheists also see beauty in the sky and need to feel
important.
But they see a different
meaning in the
panorama of light. They see a depth which makes their
activity irrelevant from the perspective of the vastness of
cosmic space and time. Their emotional
response
is
bounded by a physical reality. They do not expect the sky to

Frirriaire (December) 11,981

DI

The American Atheist

contribute solutions to internal human problems.


Why do theists extrapolate to their god from their two
dimensional reality and Atheists concentrate on their three

dimensional reality? The answer to this question


the distance surveyed by this paper.

is beyond

On Our Way
Ignatz Sahula-Dycke

POLITICAL RELIGIONISM
It could be deemed of no import, and perhaps even
excusable, if it took place in some jungle or backwoods
region, but is almost criminal when millions of people citizens of a known civilized nation - accept it as a veritable
fact, exist in fear of it, and, tremblingly call it god and
worship it. Most of this perplexing situation is due tothe
thoughtlessness
in whose grip struggles every individual
whom due to sloppy tradition this variety of insanity assails.
It's actually a kind of self-abuse!
Consider that every human (no less than every living
organism) is a searcher for freedom and that, in his most
highly developed form, he constantly seeks emancipation
from the kind of intellectual morphinism that the practice of
god-worship
imposed on him. Every human brain, if
uninjured, instinctively craves whatsoever supports its free
inquiry for cogent answers - and especially resents the
brand of intellectual necrosis innate in god-worship which,
on the part of the sundry religions, amounts to nothing
more than the deification of ignorance.
Just because countless numbers of us are nowadays
aware that the above-mentioned
spoil-joy predicament is a
fact, doesn't mean that it will of itelf wilt and die. It continues
to stupefy the newborn as they come along, leaving them,
befuddled and made rationally and emotionally dull by the
preachers who profit from perpetuating
it, to their own
devices when seeking escape from it. They in most cases fail
because this self-abnegating
outlook into which their
hidebound progenitors shunted them has turned within
them into a habit too strong to overcome. Also, many a
believer actually loves the chains the preachers forged for
him, feeling that the heaven promised him after death is
ample recompense for wearing the church-irons while alive.
Right or wrong, others hang on too scared to quit; or,
chewing their religious cud like lowing kine, just stay put.
Now, although in ratio to population growth, the freethinking Atheists have during the past thirty or forty years
been far outstripping the believers, the believers - to avert
utter rout - have forgotten all faith, and have been
resorting to political chicanery. Today, believers of course
outnumber reasoners such as Atheists, though not nearly
as much as any observer might assume from the bombast
the believers have been induced to generate in Congress
and elsewhere on the political front. The politicians readily
lend themselves to this effort, ever aware that no matter
how religiously hysterical any of their constituents might be,
their vote counts just as much as any other kind.
So, as though inflation and no jobs weren't trouble
enough, every reasoning American now must in addition
stand guard against this newly allied contingent of religionistic activists and mountebanks
who, in positions of
Austin, Texas

authority in our political and governmental


complex are
doing everything feasible that could (and if successful
would) turn this country of ours into a theocracy. Most of
these Constitutional
backsliders
have, of course, been
elected by voters of similar persuasions who, reared in the
tradition of Salem strictness
and memories of Cotton
Mather, insist that every American should first of all give his
allegiance to god, and only afterwards to our flag, Constitution and country. There's nothing like religious zealotry
for making anyone addle-brained.
Something
to which these gospel-daffy dunderheads
have probably
never given any thought,
is that the
Constitution which they're thus attempting to sunder is the
instrument without which their current activities would be
summarily punished as treasonous. Their way of attempting
this - by dishing it up as worship -- has been a favorite of
the godlorn whenever they see dwindling the numbers of
their erstwhile addicts, they at long last realizing that all
clerical palaver about god and the hereafter is nothing but
superheated
air. There are no holy religions - only
perfidious ones.
But how, when he resorts to religion for purposes of
political gain, does a Senator like Jesse Helms get his peers
to put it down as mere religious overenthusiasm,
and not a
matter of grave injury to every American!' The selfrighteous Helms used every trick in the political book when
he led an attempt to circumscribe
the scope of the
responsibilities of the Supreme Court, in which everyone
recognized the fine hand of the Moral Majority. The attempt
was buried. But why - in that august assemblage - it
raised the dander of only three or four of Helms' confreres is
still a congressional riddle.
The religious fascists, even when they sleep, doso with
eyelids open; they keep on t-rying, skip no angles. The lone
comforting thing about matters such as this is that they
happen in a world wherein the actors only hold center stage
for a short time before passing into oblivion. Characters of
this' kind typify what De T ocqueville predicted
would
periodically but forever plague our American system of
self-government.
Well, during the past five or six decades
we outlived Teapot Dome, the great Depression,
Pearl
Harbor, McCarthyism,
Nixonism and Watergate,
and
chances are good that our present troubles will go the same
way. The American people, after all, are no easy mark.
We've survived as a nation, in a world that has for two
centuries been every day growing crazier, because the few
wise men by whom this country was established made it
known throughout the world as a place of refuge from the
persecutions of religious tyranny.
Hence, it's no small irony that today it's also a land where

Frimaire (December) 11,981

Page 23

religious bigotry and sectarianism hold nonconformers


to
be a group apart from the majority of citizens, only partly
franchised, and in no few cases still waiting for the day of the
reputed political freedom that like a giant magnet pulled
them here. Is anything freedom that's only granted after
swearing on the bible that you believe in a god? It's little
short of arrogance to tell such people either to like America
or leave it when those who say this ignore the very
principles - chiefly tolerance - which made this land of
ours preeminent. It's encouraging that public resentment is
steadily growing against activism of this variety. Not long
ago no less than the president of Yale delivered a lengthy
address sharply critical of such politically hyped- up religionists; and recently even Senator Goldwater made news
raking them over the coals.
In preparing oneself for dealing with matters of t his nature
there's only minimal help to be got from a crash study of
philosophy or its history. It would be equally erroneous to
select from the brilliant thinkers of the past some particular
individual as one's favorite. In going through the list of them,
we discover that philosophizing (at least during the past few
centuries) was a cumulative process in which each of the
thinkers, as they emerged, contributed his bit to the fund of
thinking that served mankind - as well as it could - before
and up to his time. And almost everyone of those deserving
to be called great left to us for our consideration the maxim
that it's fatal to believe that "here and now, at long last, is the

ultimate truth."
Truth has as many facets, all brilliant, as a diamond gem;
and as many colors and hues as a master painter's palette.
Hence - although we can admire the way a particular
savant has in his phrasing shown us that yet another side
exists besides those already made known to us in some
previously composed thesis -- he tells us that it's only
another step in what the mind of a prudent thinker will
discover to be an ever-rising stairway to hoped- for truth.
It is for this reason that I -- when apotheosizing
our
nation's Founders - feel myself to be on solid ground. The
Declaration and the Constitution
with its Bill of Rights
which constitute the solid rock upon which our system of
self- government has developed, is similar to the stairway
the philosopher climbs in his quest for truth. The Founders
wisely - and I believe purposefully --- recognized that they
produced something malleable, and interpretable in divers
ways -- that would serve us in whatsoever straits, always
compatible with the times. It is this quality that nowadays
tempts every religious bounder and Jackanapes to probe it
and try to change it to suit his self serving designs.
It can be confidently assumed that the Constitution
of
Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Franklin will at times such
as those of the present, and the future as well, he found of d
fibre far tougher than any yet penetrated by backwoods
johnnies of the type who'd wax powerful at the expense of
their fellow-citizens.

Here and Now


David L. Kent

FAR BE IT FROM ME
The current put-down of Atheists is to accuse them of
forming a religion of secular humanism. Well, let us see.
Atheists do not have the essential characteristic of religion,
which is belief. in ignorance. Atheists have neither liturgy,
ceremony, ritual, revelation, dogma, ecclesiastics, miracles,
nor deity. The accusation of "religion" is as fishy as the
Susan B. Anthony "in god we trust" one dollar piece.
Obviously so, so what is this accusation designed to do? It is
intended to force Atheists to become passive, to shut up
and behave themselves, to confine themselves to philosophical debate, secular or otherwise, and stand back. No
Atheist who sees the damage caused in society by religion
will be cowed by that accusation.
.
We recently received a letter dealing with this.question, in
which its writer neatly boxed himself in. Here is his letter, in
full:
"Thank you for your information and the free copy of
your news journal. As an atheist I have seen the problems
that religion has caused. That is why I am not going to join
your organization. Tome, being an atheist is much more
than not accepting a deity. To me it represents individuality,
anti- collectivism, and freedom from duties to any organizetion. In the pamphlets you originally sent me you stated that
it was my duty as an atheist to join your group. I do not
recognize such
duty. You stated that I was in fact my
brother's keeper. I am not. Tome, you have simply started

Page 24

Frimaire (December)

another religion. The only difference is you worship a


collective instead of a deity. I believe in my ~~n life. My life,
my ideas and my beliefs are not a means to any end. They
are ends in themselves.
I apologize for troubling you. I
thought your group represented
something entirely different. Once again, thank you for your information.
Sincerely, Brad Ross Meyers [Indiana]"
I will answer Mr. Meyers in this way. My wife is an
advocate of home birth. Because she feels strongly about it,
should .she join and become involved with the National
Association of Parents' and Professionals for Safe Alter
natives in Childbirth or a similar group? That association
urges parents and midwives advocating home birth to pool
their efforts. She is also an advocate of breastfcedinq.
Should she therefore become involved with La Leche
League, which strongly emphasizes
the help nursing
mothers can give to one another'? She is moreover an
advocate of home schooling. Should she become involved
with and subscribe
to John Holt's "Growing Without
Schooling" newsletter? Are you prepared, Mr. Meyers, to
label every cooperating group of people in our society a
religion? If, because of your notion of "individuality, anticollectivism, and freedom from duties," you find yourself
unable to acknowledge moral obligations or duties toward
any group of people, prepare yourself for the anchoritic life.
You are your.brother's
keeper (not in the biblical sense of
11.981

The American

Atheist

accountability, of course) whether you like it or not, as long


as you live in society. Atheists are involved, interested in
their rights, concerned with other people, and their individuality is not jeopardized
in the slightest when they
cooperate for certain purposes.
Atheists realize that life is dynamic, not static as religion
would have it, and that complex living organisms are hardly
tidy enough for the "ends versus means" arguments of high
school days. In short, Mr. Meyers, your argument "just
don't fly." Whether we begin with Buckminster
Fuller's
proposal of international cooperation through the worldwide electrical grid as a means to preserve the human race,
or lesser attempts toward sanity, such as the current
massive anti-nuclear demonstrations
throughout Europe,
humans will organize for their own benefit, and have a duty
to do it.
It may not be far-fetched to suggest that this is the
direction of human evolution. Consider the statement made
this month by Paul McLean, a neurosurgeon
in the Brain
Evolution Laboratory of the National Institute of Mental
Health:
"Evolving to its great size, the human brain is three brains
in one, retaining the distinctive features and chemistry of
the brains of ancestral reptiles, early mammals and late
mammals. In the evolution from reptile to mammal two key
changes were the development
of nursing and maternal
care. Through the agency of 'newer' parts of the brain, a
parental concern and concern for family have been generalized to other members of the species, a psychological
development that amounts to the evolution of responsibility
and what we call conscience."
Mr. Meyers' evident fear of involving himself with an'
active organization such as American Atheists reminds me
forcibly of a strange aspect of church history. Thanks to
Manichaeism and Neoplatonism, the early christian church
found itself saddled with a strong impulse toward asceticism,
an impulse to which it finally succumbed. This fear of the
worldly-fear
of "sins"-eventually
produced the doctrine
of celibacy, the vow to abstain from sexual intercourse, as a
step toward freeing men from the "evil" influence of the
world.

The practice of celibacy prompted Gregory VII in the


11th century to enforce it universally as a means of
protecting the church's property. As long as the clergy
could marry, the possibility existed that benefices and
acquired lands would become hereditary and so create both
bases of antagonistic power and an aristocratic priestly
class. So many of the married clergy resisted this unnatural
requirement that Gregory finally enlisted the secular power
to reduce any "erring" clergymen and absolved the laity
from obedience to the incontinent
clergy. This unprecedented withdrawal of clerical immunity and privilege was a
colossal blunder, as it turned out, since nearly every
reformer and heretic in succeeding
centuries based his
withdrawal from the church on the evidence of clerical
"sins."
Nevertheless,
the long and miserable history of celibacy
has continued from the days of Origen, the noted christian
writer of the third century who castrated himself and later
rather regretted it, on down to such hypocrites as the late
Jean cardinal Danielou, one of France's most prominent
intellectuals and one of the staunchest defenders of priestly
celibacy. According to the New York Times of June 25,
1974, the 69-year-old cardinal Danielou was found dead on
May 20th in the fifth floor apartment of Mimi Santoni, a
24-year-old nightclub stripper. The cause was given as a
burst blood vessel, and a large sum of money was found on
the cardinal's person. At the funeral ceremony his fellow
French cardinal Garrone remarked, "Our existencecannot
fail to include an element of weakness and sorrow." You
bet, cardinal Garrone, and a bit of hypocrisy, too. As the
weekly paper Le Canard Enchaine said, "Between ourselves, faithful friends, we would not find it at all scandalous
if he had died in the arms of the beautiful Mimi. In our eyes it
is a very beautifuldeath.
And, alas, we have never preached
the doctrine of priestly celibacy." Which leaves us with a
lovely little cautionary tale of the holy hermit who tried to
fool mother nature. So don't try too hard to escape
completely from your moral obligations toward people with
whom you are sympathetic, Mr. Meyers, or you may come
to a bad end when the time for action arrives.

Toward More Intelligence

SEASONAL SCHLOCK
The solstice season is upon us again for the umpteen
millionth year in a row, and this year it looks like the fad for
religious propaganda is the Fraud of Turin (more vulgarly
known as the Shroud of Turin) and hereafter abbreviated
FOT . Indeed, the religionists are getting their meal on a
silver platter. They don't have to do any work. Such
seemingly unlikely apologists for superstition as Science
News, Science 81, and Harper's magazine-not
to mention
your never-too-responsible
local newspaper-are
doing it
for them. Isn't it just a coincidence that all of the fuss over
the FOT is occurring just before the solstice season, just
like the fuss over it earlier this year was made just around
vernal equinox (more vulgarly known as Easter)? The only
Austin. Texas

Richard M. Smith

semi-science rags that haven't joined in the act yet, as of this


writing, are the bizarre Omni and the Hearst publication
Science Digest. Given their propensity to pander to supernaturalist tastes, it shouldn't be long before their pages, too,
are gushing with the "glad tidings" for believers. Only one
general journal of science, Scientific American, has consistently disdained to stoop to such shortsighted
tomfoolery. Given its propensity
to be logical, sane, and
respectable, doubtless it will not succumb to the tide.
The religious forces will surely tout this upsurge in FOT
publicity to sway their audiences. Why, the newspapers and
even "science" and "liberal" magazines seem to say there
might be something to it. All the publicity is bound to help

Frimaire (December) 1I.981

Page 25

the god business. Believers everywhere will be encouraged


that their peculiar set of beliefs has gained attention and
possible reinforcement
from these publications. It may be
that images of the shroud will replace nativity scenes in
many places.
The Atheist, having become inured to the third rate
mentality of some of the aforementioned
periodicals, can
only laugh. Newspapers
are always reporting on faith
healers, "miracles," and other assorted religious garbage
with minimal, if any, critical content. Systematic analysis is
totally absent in their religious sections. That they cover the
FOT almost gawkingly only adds to their lack of credibility.
Science News, a short weekly which covers science like a
wire service, has never been a topnotch intellectual choice.
It regularly punctuates its reporting with cutesy proverbs
referring to ~'god," and, if it can, it will show a famous
scientist being buddy-buddy
with the pope. It regularly
injects religion into its pages.
Its physical sciences editor, Dietrick Thomsen, embarrassed himself on the FOT subject. A year ago he wrote a
long article extolling the possible authenticity of the FOT
and totally ignoring the excellent work of Joe Nickell
(whose "The Turin Shroud: Fake? Fact? Photograph?"
appeared in Vol. 22, No.6 of The American Atheist). Now
that the alleged "scientists" who worked on the FOT last
year are revealing themselves for the clowns that they are,
Mr. Thomsen
made an about-face
in early October,
devoting yet another whole article to the subject, but this
time decrying the time, energy and publicity that scientists
are giving to the FOT! No doubt he will spend another page
answering
the numerous
letters to the editor which
appeared
in subsequent
issues crying out for more
coverage of the FOT. All the hoopla has rather destroyed
the credibility of that periodical.
Harper's magazine is dilettante. Personally I have never
been very satisfied with its contents, and its treatment of the
FOT had the character of an adventure story.
That Science 81, which is published by the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, would stoop
to devoting a whole article to the FOT is a little surprising,
but I suspect that that is because it is trying to wean readers
from its more sensationalist
rival, Science Digest. Let us
hope that Science 81 does not break its back bending down
to these readers. If it stoops too low, it will be regularly
reporting that there may actually be something to supernaturalism, to creationism, to UFOs, to astrology, and to
many other assorted d~classe topics that Science Digest
usually vomits up. Isaac Asimov's presence on the staff of
Science Digest is incongruous,
although he does add to
what straight reporting it has. Anyway, if Science Digest
does not "report" on the FOT and other such pseudoscientific matters, it is only because Science 81 has started
to step in its mud and "scoop" it.
All in all, the appearance of numerous articles on the FOT
does not enhance its credibility in the slightest. Rather they
tend to diminish-the credibility, as we have seen, of the
periodicals that published them. None of these gives decent
coverage of Joe Nickell, the only person whom I've read
who has a possible shot at explaining the production of the
FOT. Since the vatican will never allow him to study it
directly, we can rest assured that the FOT will be a
continuing public spectacle and church revenue source for
some years to come, at least untileverybody
finally gets
. Page 26

Frimaire (December)

JiI'

bored withit. In the meantime we Atheists can glean some


laughter at all the fools still gawking at it bouche ouuerte.
After all, it is quite clear (as the popular press has failed to
note) that the FOT would violate the scripture upon which
the jesuchrist myth is founded. As The American Atheist
has noted previously (6/80 p. 14), John 20:7 says there were
several cloths, a napkin for the head and "linen clothes" for
the body. Either believers must reject their bible (selfcontradictory
as it is) or they must reject the FOT. They
cannot have their wafer and eat it, too.
Passing on to another aspect of the solstice season, I
would like to leave an Atheist solstice thought with you.
We can expect that the millions of people in the U.S. still
living in the dark ages will desperately try to claim that what
is a seasonal celebration is instead a perverted birthday of
some prehistoric mythical character. "Put the christ back
into xmas," they will cry. "Don't fall in love with gift-giving
and partying. The important thing is to remember it's jc's
birthday and to love him instead," they will moan.
Fortunately,
those of us who are sane have removed
ourselves completely from such morbid thoughts, and only
the sad spectacles who force themselves to submit to the
adulteration of pure merriment have to endure them. Poor
things. There but for blind chance go you or I. But for a
slight random quirk of historical circumstance,
we might
have been born and reared in an environment
such as
middle ages Europe or backwoods America, which .permitted little opportunity to break the bonds of superstition.
But for a slight random quirk in genetic makeup, perhaps,
we might have been born without as strong a desire to
understand and master ourselves and our environment and
to enjoy life to the fullest possible extent. But for blind
chance we could have been born in puritan New England,
where the values of morbidity worshipers were ascendant
and everybody was forced by law to be dull and dreary
during the solstice season.
It's enough to make you want to stop and .~'count your
blessings" of the dice of fate to be intelligent, strong-minded,
and endowed materially and educationally enough to be a
20th-century Atheist. Not to us belongs the almost endless
worry over whether or not we've pleased some supersanta
or over whether we've understood
such and such bible
verse correctly. No. We are above that. Atheism is mental
contentment in a still too superstitious world. It is from that
contentment
that we draw the strength to continue to
struggle to bring a little more enlightenment
to the world
despite the obstacles of tradition and social inertia. That
mental contentment
is far sweeter than any worn-out xmas
carol.
Merry Solstice

If you enjoy Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll's remarks


concerned
with christmas and christianity in "The
Solstice Season" [p, 27], you'll be sure to treasure his
A Christmas Sermon and The Controversy
It
Aroused, a soft-boundthirty-paqe
booklet available
for $3.00 from American Atheist Press, P.O. Box
2117, Austin. TX 78768-2117. This farnous booklet is
comprised of the original "Sermon" as published in
the New York Euening Teleqram for December 19th,
.1891, and includes Ingersoll's replies to the many
attacks made on him and the "Sermon" by various
christian clergymen, who had attempted
a boycott'
agah;st the newspaper for daring to publish it.

11,981

The American

Atheist

The American Atheist Radio Series


Madalyn O'Hair

THE SOLSTICE SEASON


Fourteen years ago we sent out, all over the United
States, copies of what we called "The Solstice Season"
program which we had broadcast in the American Atheist
Radio Series. We printed it in our literature and distributed
it in a small broadside.
For a number of years, it has been reprinted in each
Winter Solstice issue of The American Atheist. We are
happy to do so again this year. We hope that our new
subscribers will come to love it as much as have our old
subscribers.
This is Madalyn Murray O'Hair, American Atheist, back
to talk to you again.
Someone stole something from me. I don't like it. What
was stolen from me-and
from you-was
one of the most
beautiful holidays in the world. Robert G. Ingersoll (an
American Atheist hero of earlier days) was also angry about
this theft. Let me read to you what he had to say about it.
He wrote a very famous "christmas
sermon." It was
printed in the Evening Telegram newspaper, New York
City, New York, on 19 December, 1891. The ministers of
the day attacked the newspaper and demanded a boycott of
it. The Telegram accepted the challenge and set off an issue
across the country. The paper printed the rev. dr. J. M.
Buckley's attack, and Robert Ingersoll's answer . [t developed into a real donnybrook.
Let's hear what Ingersoll had to say:
"The good part of christmas is not always christian, it is
generally pagan; that is to say, human and natural.
"Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but
with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of
everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and
perdition thereafter.
"It taught some good things, the beauty of love and
kindness in man. But as a torch- bearer, as a bringer of joy,
it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences
to
the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a respon
sibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future
withfearandflame.
and made god the keeper of an eternal
penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons
of men. Not satisfied with that. it has deprived god of the
pardoning power.
"And yet it may hQLJedone some good by borrowingfrom
the pagan world the old [estivai we know as christmas.
"Long before christ was born; the sun god triumphed
over the powers of darkness. About the time that we call
christmas the days began perceptibly to lengthen. Our
barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they
celebrated his lIictory over the hosts of night. Such a
festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all
religions is the worship of the sun. Ctvistionity adootedtbis
festival. It borrowed from the pagans the best it has.

"I believe in christmas and in every day that has been set
apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not
enough play. We are too much like the English.
"I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a
blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to god
than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I
am in favor of all the good free days, the more the better.
"Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget, a good
day to throwaway prejudices and hatreds, a good day to fill
your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of
others with sunshine."
Would you believe that such a warm christmas sermon
could cause religious people to launch a vicious attack on a
newspaper
for publishing it? Ingersoll used the word
"borrow." He said that christians borrowed the pagan
holiday. I use a stronger word. They stole it. They stole the
most beautiful holiday of man-and
for what?
They claim that this is the birthday of jesus christ . Let's
look at their scholars and their history and see if this is a
fact. You most probably all know of A.T. Robertson, the
late professor of new testament Greek at the Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He
had written a standard textbook on the so-called Broadus
Harmony of the Gospels, and it is used in every school of
religion across the land. In this book is summarized all the
findings of religious scholarship in relationship to jesus
christ and,among
other things, the date of his birth.
After a lengthy explanation of whenjesus christ may have
been born, Dr. Robertson sets the date at-hold
on nowthe summer or early fall of the year b.c. 6 or b.c. 5. Did you
hear that? He set the date in the summer or the fall.
Recently the idea of the first week in January has gained
some following. But no one who is a religious scholar any
more accepts or believes December 25th.
One must calculate from the possible death of Herod, or
the appearance of the so-called star in the East, which could
have been a comet recorded by the Chinese or a conjunction of the planets Jupiter' and Saturn. But the Greenwich
Observatory says that the conjunction appearing as a single
star was very unlikely. Or one can judge the "time of the
universal peace," that is the "time of no war" about which
the heavenly host sang. But there was never any stoppage
of war in that time.
One can guess from the so-called ministry of John the
baptist, or the age of jesus upon his entry into the ministry,
or the building of the temple of Herod, or the closing of the
temple of Janus, or the so-called census of Augustus
Caesar. All of these lead the poor theologians in everincreasing directions away from the idea of christmas and
the year "zero" or "one" of our present calendar.
Actually the idea of December 25th is untenable. All the
ancients in christian history had various days for christ's

Frimaire (December)

Austin. Texas

~I

11,981

Page 27

birth. Clement of Alexandria, who was closer to that alleged


event in time, said it was May 20th. April 20th and January
6th have always appeared as possible dates. Why did the
christians want the twenty-fifth of December? Why that
particular date? Why did they deliberately steal this very
important date from the pagans?
There are four points in our calendar which we use and
which we call "Solstice" or "Equinox" points, two of each.
The latter is easy: we say that the equinox is when the sun
crosses the equator of the earth and day and night are
everywhere of equal length. The sun does not actually cross
the equator, we all know that. But with the earth's natural
tip on its natural axis as it whirls around the sun, this seems
to be so. Then, either one or the other part of our old ball of
earth gets the most sun. But on these two occasions, the
days are equal in length everywhere, and this occurs about
March 21st and September 23rd by our current calendar.
The Solstice is something different. We don't go around
the sun in a circle, we tour around it-on our earth-In an
ellipse, which is a flattened circle, or oval. When we are in
the points furthest away from the sun, we have another
phenomenon. That, along with the 23 inclination of the
earth, causes the solstices. Twice a year, when the sun is at
its greatest distance from the celestial equator, about June
21st when the sun reaches its northernmost point on the
celestial sphere, or about December 22nd when it reaches
its southernmost point, we call these moments the solstice.
The solstice in December is the time when the days of the
year, in our hemisphere, are the shortest.
Primitive man and pagan man were not idiots, you know.
They saw this. Apparently at the first, they feared the days
would get shorter and shorter and shorter and finally-what
if there were only night! What a frightening thing, when the
sun was so necessary for life,from common observation. So
when the day came for the sun to overcome. the darkness,
and for the sun to cause the days to be longer-s-even ifjust a
minute longer-it meant that there was not going to be
eternal night. The sun had won a fight again. Darkness had
had to recede and slowly the days would get longer and
longer until spring and summer, with food growing again
and the life cycle being renewed again, would be everywhere on the earth. "
And so every primitive culture had a festival or a feast on
this day. It was celebrated in China, in India, in South
America, in Mexico, in Africa, in every single place where
man could watch days and nights and seasons. There were
presents given on this great day, exchanged as a symbol, for
the sun had brought the most precious giftof all to man: the
warmth needed for life and a recycle of the seasons again.
The ancient men noticed other things, too. Certain trees
stayed green all year round, a promise of the abundance of
spring and summer to come again after winter, a reassurance that all the greens would return in their seasons. The
light of the sun and the twinkling light of "stars became
important in symbolism as well as in fact. The mysterious
parasite.mistletoe, ever green, intrigued primitive man. It all
needed to be celebrated, to be noted with awe. Ifone could
not give life as the sun did-one could give else, such as a
sharing of food or the precious few personal items they had.
But, above all it was a time of revelry. Life bad been
renewed. It was the most"joyous of all human occasions.
There was universal singing arid dancing and laughing"and
well being. It was wild and wonderful and human and warm.
Page 28

It was the best of all festivals. It was the gayest of all feasts. It
was the warmest and best of all collective human activities.
The christians were no fools. If they permitted the pagan
holiday to continue to exist: it could challenge the basis of
the mournful christian religion, with its great emphasis on
death. First came edicts outlawing the pagan holiday".But
nothing so wildlywonderful and natural as this could ever be
outlawed. And then the solution came: incorporate it into
the christian religion. Oh, it took some time. It took many
years to effect the change. It took much propaganda. It took
many reprisals and sanctions against those who continued
with the old festival. But, eventually the christian religion
won the day. There were changes in calendars, too. When
the Gregorian calendar was changed to the present-day
calendar, Solstice-or christmas-shifted a few days also, so
that December 25th, by our calendar, came officially to be
designated as a christian day.
It took a thousand years, and more, to rob the people of
the earth of this grand holiday and to replace it with a
personalized myth story of a "new god born," a god of a
horrible, punitive, new religion called christianity.
But it is easier now, with mass media. There are many of
you in the listening audience old enough to remember
Armistice Day. That was the day that World War I ended
and it was celebrated for thirty years or more until a second
world war broke out. After we veterans came home from
that second war we found that there was no more Armistice
Day. Instead, there was a Veterans' Day. All the people in
the listening audience tonight who are twenty-five years old
or younger, never even heard of Armistice Day. They only
know Veterans' Day, for that is all that they were ever
taught.
That's how it is with christmas. That is how it was with the
Solstice. Finally, no one ever heard of the Solstice and its
festivities-and everyone came to believe that the christians were celebrating the birthday of christ and that was all ~
that this holiday had ever been.
But bible scholars know better and Atheists'know better,
and we celebrate that old and wonderful and joyous season.
Let me read to you what we have traditionally printed on our
cards for Solstice and the New Year [really both one day].
Joyful and cheerful, with mistletoe and signs of the
season, the greetings are to wish one and all the glad tidings
of a wonderful Winter Solstice season. The legend inside
the card says:
December 25th by the Julian calendar, was the Winter
Solstice. This day, originally regarded by the pagans as the
day of the nativity of the sun, the shortest day of the
year-when the light began its conquering battle against
darkness-was
celebrated universally in all ages of man.
Taken over by the christians as the birthday of their
mythological christ, this ancient holiday, set by motions of
the celestial bodies, survives as a day of rejoicing that good
will and love will have a perpetual rebirth in the minds of
men-even as the sun has a symbolic rebirth yearly.

Frimaire (December) 11,981

J$appp
~ol~tict
The American Atheist

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
American Atheists is a non-profit, non-political, cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial to
members of American Atheists and to society as a
educational organization, dedicated to the complete
and absolute separation of state and church. We whole.
accept the explanation of Thomas Jefferson that the
Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude
"First Amendment" to the Constitution of the United which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason
States was meant to create a "wall of separation"
and aims at establishing a lifestyle and ethical outlook
between state and church.
verifiable by experience and the scientific method,
American Atheists are organized to stimulate and independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority
promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning
and creeds.
religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals and
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of
practices; .
immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its
. to collect and disseminate information, data own inherent, immutable and impersonal laws; that
and literature on all religions and promote a more there is no supernatural interference in human life;
thorough understanding of them, their origins and that man-finding his resources within himself-can
histories;
,
and must create his own destiny. Materialism restores
to encourage the development and public to man his dignity and his intellectual integrity. It
acceptance of a human ethical system, stressing the teaches that we must prize our lifeon earth and strive
mutual sympathy, understanding and interdependence
always to improve it. It holds that man is capable of
of all people and the corresponding responsibility of creating a social system based on reason and justice.
each individual in relation to society;
Materialism's "faith" is in man and man's ability to
to develop and propagate a culture in which transform the world culture by his own efforts. This is
man is the central figure who alone must be the source
a commitment which is in very essence lifeasserting. It
of strength, progress and ideals for the well-being and . considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligahappiness of humanity;
tion and impossible without noble ideas that inspire
to promote the study of the arts and sciences
man to bold creative works. Materialism holds that
and of all problems affecting the maintenance, per- humankind's potential for good and for an outreach to
petuation and enrichment of human (and other) life; more fulfillingcultural development is, for all practical
to engage in such social, educational, legal and purposes, unlimited.

YOUR CHANCE
TO GIVE GIFT
SUBSCRIPTIONS
THIS SOLSTICE
SEASON
to next year's all new

American Atheist

Special Solstice Gift Price!

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

Give the gift that will keep on


giving-gift subscriptions to The
American Atheist are thoughtful
expressions which will reward the
recipient with a year's worth of
enlightening news, features, cartoons
and poetry. Better yet,
it's inexpensive: the first one-year
subscription is $20; each additional
one is only $15. Your own renewal
may be included in your gift
order at these same low rates.

P.O. Box 2117, Austin, Tx 78768-2117

rl

redress of grievances . AMENDMENT

I Congress shall make

~
~

~
~

c:

Q)

Ec:
~

Q)

>
o

o
OJ
.s:

c:

.~
~
OJ

C.

-c
c

ru

..
OJ

..0

E
OJ
V'l
V'l

ru

If we must play the theological gamet


let us never forget
that it is a game.
Religion, it seems to met can survive only
as a consciously accepted system

>- ALDOUS HUXLEY

OJ

..~

o
"'"!
...,
zr

..0

ru

OQ

"C

of make believe .

-....,

c:::J

i:::t:

ru

C7Q

r..-

OJ

0.

tr

-o

/'t)

Cl)

0.

CIJ
c.

CIJ
.s:

.-~

Q/