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January 1989

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

The Need for Front Door Atheism

Peck' Orders of Piety

God's Chosen People

$2.95

Alerican Atheists, Inc.


is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the
complete and absolute separation
of state and church. We accept the
explanation of Thomas Jefferson
that the "First Amendment" to the
Constitution of the United States
was meant to create a "wall of separation" between state and church.
American Atheists, Inc. is organized to stimulate and promote
freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds,
dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices;
to collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all
religions and promote a more thorough understanding of them, their
origins, and their histories;
to advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the complete
and absolute separation of state and
church;
to advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways the establishment and maintenance of a thoroughly secular system of education
available to all;
to encourage the development

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and public acceptance of a human tions of authority and creeds.


ethical system stressing the mutual
Materialism declares that the cossympathy, understanding, and in- mos is devoid of immanent-conscious
terdependence of all people and the purpose; that it is governed by its
corresponding
responsibility
of own inherent, immutable, and imeach individual in relation to society; personal laws; that there is no
to develop and propagate a social supernatural interference in human
philosophy in which man is the cen- life;that man - finding his resources
tral figure, who alone must be the within himself - can and must cresource of strength, progress, and ate his own destiny. Materialism reideals for the well-being and happi- stores to man his dignity and his inness of humanity;
tellectual integrity. It teaches that
to promote the study of the arts we must prize our life on earth and
and sciences and of all problems af- strive always to improve it. It holds
fecting the maintenance, perpetua- that man is capable of creating a
tion, and enrichment of human (and social system based on reason and
other) life;
justice. Materialism's "faith" is in
to engage in such social, educa- man and man's ability to transform
tional, legal, and cultural activity as the world culture by his own efforts.
willbe useful and beneficial to mem- This is a commitment which is in its
bers of American Atheists, Inc. and very essence life-asserting. It conto society as a whole.
siders the struggle for progress as a
moral obligation and impossible
Atheism may be defined as the without noble ideas that inspire man
mental attitude which unreservedly
to bold, creative works. Materialism
accepts the supremacy of reason holds that humankind's potential
and aims at establishing a life-style for good and for an outreach to
and ethical outlook verifiable by ex- more fulfillingcultural development
perience and the scientific method, is, for all practical purposes, unindependent of allarbitrary assump- limited.

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American Atheists, Inc. P.O. Box 140195 Austin, TX 78714-0195

American Atheist

A Journal

of Atheist

News and Thought

January

Editor's Desk

R. Murray-O'Hair
Director's Briefcase
Jon G. Murray

samples of his satires of Christianity.

4 A Plutonic Dialog

34

Lawrence Casler
A typical conversation with a theist
leaves little room for doubt that the
god idea can be funny.

Reviewing the last year, the president


of American Atheists sees "The Need
for Front Door Atheism"

Ask A.A.

10 Empty Pulpits

36

Victoria Branden

What do Atheists think about "psychic


phenomena"
and Bible warning
stickers?
Cover illustration by Igor
Smirnov. Reprinted from
Moscow News.

1989

Gays want a place behind the pulpit


of the United Church of Canada.

12 Mission of Hypocrisy

News and Comments

39

Benjamin Pendleton

God's Chosen People - Isrealis are


arguing over whether their nation
should be a theocracy or not. The
questions involved range from "Who
is a Jew?" to "Should theatres be
closed on the Sabbath?"

A former Mormon missionary relates


how his "god-given" duties led him
right out of the church.

Poetry

42

20 Report from India

Masters of Atheism:
G. W. Foote

43

Margaret Bhatty
The "Peck Orders of Piety" put at
least one Indian politician in a humiliating position.

"The Mother of God" had a rather


odd relationship with the three parts
of the Trinity.

Historical Notes

46

The Treaty of Tripoli, a four-year-old


minister, Australian Atheists, and
Thomas Paine are of interest this
month.

American Atheist Radio Series


Madalyn O'Hair

48

"An Evaluation of Religion's Effect on


Science" finds little to recommend
Christianity.

51

Me Too
A reader tells about his "jobs around
the house" on behalf of Atheism ..

Fun with Dial-An-Atheist


Frank R. Zindler
Volume 31, No.1

Austin, Texas

The man behind the voice of Columbus' Dial-An-Atheist gives a few

January 1989

28
Letters to the Editor

53

Classified Advertisements

56
Page 1

American Atheist
Editor
R. Murray-O'Hair
Editor Emeritus
Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Managing Editor
Jon G. Murray
Poetry
Angeline Bennett
Non-Resident Staff
Margaret Bhatty
Victoria Branden
Nawal el-Saddawi
Merrill Holste
Arthur Frederick Ide
John G. Jackson
Fred Woodworth
Frank R. Zindler
The American Atheist is published monthly
by American Atheist Press.
Copyright 1989 by American Atheist Press.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole
or in part without written permission is
prohibited. ISSN: 0332-43lO.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 140195, Austin,
TX 78714-0195.
The American Atheist is indexed in IBZ
(International Bibliography of Periodical
Literature, Osnabruck, Germany) and Alternative Press Index.
Manuscripts submitted must be typed,
double-spaced,
and accompanied by a
stamped, self-addressed envelope. A copy
of American Atheist Writers' Guidelines is
available upon request. The editors assume
no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts.
The American Atheist Press publishes a variety of Atheist, agnostic, and freethought
material. A catalog is available upon request.
All Christian Bible quotations are from the
King James Version, unless otherwise
noted.

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This is to certify that I am in agreement with the "Aims and Purposes" and
the "Definitions" of American Atheists. I consider myself to be Materialist or
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separation of state and church and American Atheists' efforts on behalf of
that principle.
I usually identify myself for public purposes as (check one):

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comfortable with the appellation "Atheist" may not be admitted to membership
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The American Atheist is given free of
cost to members of American Atheists as an incident of their membership. Subscriptions for the American
Atheist alone are $25 a year for oneyear terms only ($35 outside the
U.S.). Gift subscriptions are $20 a
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Page 2

Upon your acceptance into membership, you will receive a handsome goldembossed membership card, a membership certificate personally signed by Jon
G. Murray, president of American Atheists, our special monthly Insider's
Newsletter to keep you informed of the activities of American Atheists, and your
initial copy of the American Atheist. Life members receive a specially embossed
pen and pencil set; sustaining members receive a commemorative pen. Your
name willbe sent to the chapter in your local area if there currently is one, and
you will be contacted so you may become a part of the many local activities.
Memberships are nonrefundable.

American Atheists, Inc. P. O. Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195


January 1989

American Atheist

Editor's Desk

The magazine's new clothes


have found it very difficult to begin

the old format would now be a threepage article. With the fifty-six pages,
you willstill receive the same amount of
trite phrase such as "If you've read this information as you did in the old format.
far, you have probably noticed some Will the magazine be kept at fifty-six
changes in the American Atheist"? Or pages? The extra pages may not take
perhaps "This American Atheist is dif- extra time in the editing and proofreadferent from any other you've received"? ing stages, but they would cost more
Both sound like worn-out recordings.
time and labor in the printing and collating processes. More paper in each
But one purpose of the "Editor's
Desk" is to give readers insights into the magazine increases costs too. While
most important aspects of each issue of the production staff tries to catch up, it
the American Atheist: to tell why certain may be necessary to "cheat" a little bit
articles were chosen, to give a sense of with a forty-four or forty-eight-page
what it took to put an issue together, to magazine. But I wanted you to see the
supply an overview of the contents of new format in this first issue in all its
the magazine. And, after all, the most glory.
noticeable characteristic of this issue is
You willalso notice more photographs
the new format of the magazine.
and illustrations in these pages so that
Many of the changes in the format you can "see" some of the places, peohave come from readers' suggestions.
ple, and books about which we keep
For instance, many of you requested
writing. The staff of the American Athethat the text be set in larger type, and ist has access to the best Atheist library
that counsel has been heeded. The last in the world (the Charles E. Stevens
issue you saw was set in nine-point type American Atheist Library and Archives)
(with a ten-point leading) and this is set and will make greater use of the many
in ten (with an eleven-point leading). If drawings and prints in that collection.
you wish to contrast the two sizes, just Photographs of regular authors have
compare the type in captions and au- replaced the old illustrations so that you
thors' biographical notes (those are still can get an eyeful of your favorite columset in the smaller type size) with the nists. There's even new department art.
type in the articles. Others of you rec- The American Atheist is starting its secommended the use of "teasers" or sum- ond thirty years with this issue, so it's
maries at the beginning of each article, appropriate that it has new clothes.
and I have incorporated that suggestion
But does all this new scenery mean
also. Many of the changes are subtle that the American Atheist will be expe(compare the "dingbat" at the end of riencing a change in content? I would
each article to that in the old format). like to think that this magazine is conGenerally, I have attempted to make stantly developing into a better prodthe magazine easier on your eyes - I uct. Stagnation is a characteristic of refeel the topic under discussion is too ligious thought - not of Atheism.
In his "Director's Briefcase," Jon
important for you to miss a single word.
You willnote that this issue is fifty-six Murray writes of the need for Atheists
pages instead of the old forty-four. Be- to not just donate their money and their
cause of the "looseness" in the new for- sympathies to the cause but also their
mat (and the bigger type), there are few- bodies, that is, their time - on a picket
line or in a protest. In order to arm you
er words on each page and therefore
articles willtake up more room. For ex- more effectively for the battle for state/
ample, what was a two-page article in church separation and Atheist rights,
the American Atheist willtry to provide
samples of arguments you can use in
R. Murray-O'Hair
one-to-one situations and facts to back
the "Editor's Desk" this month.
IAfter
all, how could I start it? With a

Austin, Texas

January 1989

those arguments up. In a way, in the


past we have distributed cannonballs to
foot soldiers who have no cannons.
There is a need to start disbursing more
intellectual hand grenades.
More articles will be included which
tell you more about present Atheist activism. Religion in America is so crazy
and so dangerous that it is tempting to
devote all of our pages to castigating it.
But it is equally important to show you
the struggles and successes of American Atheists who are trying to make
this a safer world for the rational. Their
efforts may be as large as taking a cross
off a mountain or as small as having a
single Atheist book shelved in a public
library - but they are all steps toward
freeing humankind from religion and
excellent examples for future tasks.
Our tart commentary on religion past
and present will not change, however,
nor will our aggressive Atheist stance.
Whatever the magazine may look like in
years to come, I can assure you that as
long as I sit behind the editor's desk this
will be a magazine for militant Atheists.
The pages of the American Atheist
willstill bring to you the history of Atheism and freethought so that as you take
your Atheism "out the front door," you
will know what challenges faced Atheists in the past and how they overcame
them - or how they did not.
No nation is isolated on this planet,
so our pages willstill have state/church
separation and Atheist news from other
countries. In Europe Atheists are losing
whatever rights to ridicule religion they
ever had, as upcoming issues willshow
you. It is important that American Atheists keep abreast of the situation lest
blasphemy persecutions begin anew in
our nation also.
Let me know how you like the new
format, and please respond to the other
changes which will be made over the
next year. It is, when all is said and
done, a magazine prepared especially
for your education and edification. I do
not know if I am succeeding unless I
hear from you.~
Page 3

Director's Briefcase

The need
for front door Atheism
ver the many years that I have
been writing editorial columns
for the American Atheist magazine, I have usually attempted in each
January issue, beginning a new year, to
take a look at where American Atheists,
the cause organization, has been and
where it should go in terms of goals for
the new year. Unfortunately I now find
myself writing the editorial for the .Ianuary issue of the American Atheist in
March of 1989. How did we get that far
behind in publication?
Well, there are many reasons and all
of them will simply sound like just "excuses" to anyone outside of the "cause
biz." I am, therefore, not going to bother listing everything that went wrong
during 1988 to have the production
schedule of this journal now so far behind. I would only like for you, the
reader, to notice two very important
things about the American Atheist. The
first is that we have no advertising of
which to speak. We have one small
page of classified advertising. That
won't even pay for the ink on these
pages. Now pick up a popular news
monthly - just any magazine in the
grocery store. It will be filled with so
many pages of ads that actually you can
hardly read an article, if you can find
one, because it is "continued" so many
times around slick ads. The actual
number of pages of meaty article content
in a large-circulation, glossy monthly is
not, in most cases, equal to the fortyfour pages of content you get in the
American Atheist - even if the magazine you are comparing has over one
hundred pages. That means that the
entire cost of producing and mailing this
journal must be borne by its subscribers,
members of American Atheists who
receive it as an incident of their membership, or by outright donations from
deep in the goodness of the readers'
hearts. I don't know of a cause organization journal that is not in a similar fix,
although some do seem to get more ads
than we do. The second thing is the size
of the staff that puts out the American

t+J
,

It is time to take our


Atheism not just out of
the closet but out the
front door.

A graduate of the University of Texas


at Austin and a second generation
Atheist, Mr. Murray is a proponent of
"agressive Atheism." He is an
anchorman on the "American Atheist
Forum" and the president of American
Atheists.

Jon G. Murray
Page 4

January 1989

Atheist. The staff of a major news


monthly is hundreds of persons and in
some cases thousands. The American
Atheist is produced by one editor
(Robin Murray-O'Hair), one typesetter,
one proofreader,
one combination
artist and paste-up person, one press
operator, and perhaps half a dozen
volunteers who collate, stitch, trim,
wrap, tag, label, sort, and mail each
monthly issue. This may come as a
shock to some of you, but the American
Atheist is collated by hand. That is, we
walk back and forth at long tables
putting one sheet inside the next until
we have a completed magazine. Then
the stacks of collated magazines need
to be stitched, hitting each twice with a
single-head, floor model stitcher. Each
has to be trimmed in small stacks of
perhaps ten at a time. Then a small closure label has to be affixed to the open
edge of the magazine, again by hand.
Computer labels are affixed by machine
and the entire mailing is sorted and
bundled for bulk U.S. Mail. The whole
process, by hand, takes a group of
persons sometimes up to ten days to
accomplish. It could be done by machine
in two days maximum if we had the
funds to purchase about $500,000 more
in equipment and had a place to put it
all, such as a large factory or barn-like
"shop" structure.
Noticing just these two things gives
you a pretty good idea of what it is like
to be involved in small press production
of a despised minority journal in this
country. Neither of my two points
above are "excuses"; they are just
facts.

Cause organizations,
in general and in particular
You see, cause organizations are
unique entities. They do not operate
like any commercial business, although
in many respects they must mimic commercial enterprises. The difficultycomes
when the "product" being marketed is
an idea. We are not selling cogs, or widgets, or even services. Now some cause
American Atheist

After he welcomed Atheists to his city,


Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser was
given a "Special Recognition Award" by
Jon Murray.

groups, in fact, find it so difficult to market an idea alone that they, in essence,
give up and do rely on providing services - "membership" services, that is.
A number of the larger cause groups
provide special insurance packages;
hotel discounts; tour discounts; airline
incentives; discount prescription drugs;
cut-rate periodical subscriptions, even
to journals other than their house publications; free use of library, archive,
museum, or tourist attraction facilities;
affinity credit cards; and discount admissions to anything from public parks
to movie theaters.
American Atheists has found over
the years that it is simply not practical
for it to try to become a membership
service organization. This is mainly due
to the fact that Americans by and large
hate Atheists. We are the most despised
minority. Atheists have held that dubious
title as firm last place since at least the
end of World War II. We may as well admit that Atheists are the lowest on the
totem pole of minorities. A Black, lesbian Communist with AIDS could garner
more respect, or at least a little more
sympathy, from the public than an open
and avowed Atheist. That has nothing
to do with anything that Atheists have
or have not done; it is simply due to the
fact that religion has controlled our culture now for thousands of years, and
those in control make sure that whomever is most opposed to that religion
gets the worst reputation at all levels of
enculturation. The situation reminds
me of an interview I once read with
Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played
the character "Speck" on the "Star
Trek" television series for years. He
said in the interview that he is so wellknown as Spock that he could not detach himself from the image of that
character. Even though he has played
many other roles and is a fine and established actor, he is always billed as
"Speck" no matter where he goes or
what else he tries to do. He said that he
was annoyed by this and wanted to be
recognized as an actor in his own right
Austin, Texas

and not only attached to a single character. In the same way, Atheists have
been associated with the political concept of communism and with hedonism
for so long that even though they are
not like that "in real life," they cannot
shake that bad image.
I can just see an Atheist's walking into
a major hotel and saying that he wants
a room discount as a member of "American Atheists." It would be like saying
that he wanted a room in which to shoot
child molestation footage. How about
an Atheist's slapping down an "American Atheists" affinity Visa card to pay
for a purchase in a department store?
There are damn few who would do it,
because Atheism is not socially acceptable. I can imagine the scene with the
store manager being called to look at
the card to see if it could be accepted
and the purchaser having to argue that
there was indeed such an organization.
We are then back to what? Marketing an idea. The idea is that there should
be something called "separation of
state and church" and that this "separation" should be an enforced one. This
means that government, on all levels,
should be free of association with religion and should treat religion as a private affair. The other idea is that religion is bad for you. It's habit-forming
and diminishes your ability to think
straight, like a hallucinogenic drug. The
first idea is hard enough to sell, but the
second has proved to be almost impossible.

What is
state/ church separation?
With regard to the idea of separation
of state and church, the vast majority of
the populace holds the view that "separation" means that government cannot
step in and interfere with anything that
a church is doing. Churches are offlimits to government regulation, taxation, etc. They never think of "separation" the other way around, that religion cannot infiltrate itself into government in an attempt to use it to advance
January 1989

church purposes. In the thousands of


public appearances I have made, I find
that the majority believes that the separation of state and church principle is
one that says that the state can never
interfere with the church. The concept
of stopping the church from using the
state toward its ends or from interfering
with the state's operation never dawns
on but a very few. Along comes the
Atheist who says, "wait a minute how about looking at things the 'right'
way and keeping the church out of governmental affairs?" This is not only an
unpopular way of looking at things as
far as churchgoers are concerned, but
the government does not like the idea
much either. Governments depend
upon religion to keep the governed docile and easily malleable. The state uses
religion for its ends and in return gives
religion a favored status position and
helps it out - an "I'll scratch your back
if you'll scratch mine" relationship. If
you look at it from the viewpoint of the
church or the state, why break up a
good thing that works for both sides?
An Atheist sees, on the other hand,
that the only way he can get a shot at
talking about religion as being something that is not good for people to indulge in is to separate it from the protection of the state. The Atheist has to
strip the armor of the state off religion
before he can take on religion in an even
partially fair fight.
This kind of double-edged fight is difficult and takes a long time. The Atheist has to first separate two parties that
have had a long and fruitful relationship
and then take one of the two to task for
its idiocy and try to ultimately destroy it,
while at the same time keeping its longtime buddy from coming to the rescue.
That is exactly the fight that American
Atheists has taken on. Another problem arises when Atheists don't know
what the nature of the fight is and what
has to be done to win. It is therefore
necessary for the militant Atheist to educate other Atheists as to what has to
be done and to try to get them to help
Page 5

Much of January 1988 was spent trying


to keep R. Murray-O'Hair out of jail.

do it.
Imagine the following. You are a
member of the American Cancer Society. Your goal as a member is what
then? It is to ultimately eliminate cancer
as a disease, so that no one willever get
cancer again. Wouldn't that be nice?
Now then, imagine that the Cancer Society has been formed and is trying to
work for the elimination of cancer in a
culture in which the majority of persons
think that cancer is a good and desirable thing. People would go into special
little buildings once a week to try to get
cancer. People would be proud of having cancer and would wear little symbolic pieces of jewelry to announce to the
world that they are the proud carriers of
cancer cells. You, as a Cancer Society
member, would be horrified at this. You
would still want to try to save as many
of these deluded persons from themselves as you could, would you not? Of
course you would. That is exactly what
an Atheist organization and its membership feels like working in a religious
culture.
To continue this scenario, the first
task at hand then is identifying and
gathering up all the other persons you
can find who think that cancer is a bad
thing too. Then after they are assembled, what do you do with them? It does
not do any good for those who are already convinced that cancer is a bad
thing to just talk about that fact among
themselves, right? They must instead
develop techniques to convince the
persons who are proud of having cancer that they are killingthemselves and
to stop those who are trying to get cancer from doing so for their own good.
Now, add to this the complication of
having the state step in and endorse
cancer as a good thing. Public officials
go out of their way to be seen going in
and out of the little buildings that people
go to every week to try to get cancer.
They are sworn into office on a book of
detailed instructions on how to go
about getting cancer ifyou don't already
have it, and if you already do, about
Page 6

how to spread it to others. They let men


from the little buildings go into the
schools to try to get at your kids to tell
them how good it will feel for them to
get cancer. Meanwhile, back in the little
buildings people line up to get down on
their knees and put out their tongues to
receive little discs of cancer cells, or
others go into dark boxes to mumble
through a little hole that they have harbored thoughts that cancer may not actually be good for them, and they're so
ashamed of having thought such a thing
that they need to hide in the dark in that
box to tell a man in drag about it.
So, your small struggling group of
persons without cancer figures that the
thing to tackle first is to try to stop the
public officials from endorsing cancer.
Once you have done that, then you can
concentrate on ordinary people and
later eventually go after those little
buildings that dispense and teach about
the value of cancer. You try to do this,
and you find out that stopping the state
from endorsing cancer is a very large
task indeed.
Well, I hope by now that you see what
I am driving at. American Atheists has
been like that imaginary small group of
persons who don't have cancer in a culture that promotes that disease. Only in
our case it is not imaginary and is no
joke. American Atheists has been trying
to get the state to stop promoting religion for twenty-five years now, but with
little success. The main difficulty has
been trying to get Atheists to stop simply talking to themselves about the
problem and to do something about it.
We have been apparently unconvincing
in that regard.

A bad year for Atheism


In 1988 American Atheists did not
have a very good year. Most of the year
was taken up with fighting off government harassment and trying to maintain an even near to adequate staff at
the American Atheist General Headquarters. Staffing has been a perennial
problem, as it is with any cause organiJanuary 1989

zation. Most employees want a good


salary, job security, an opportunity for
advancement, and benefits from their
jobs. The problem with working for a
cause organization is that it often
cannot afford to pay a "good salary" to
an employee. An organization that is
funded primarily by donations cannot
compete in the job market with businesses that market products and have
more "steady" incomes, not based on
the generosity of a constituency from
month to month. Cause organizations
are also often tenuously "hanging on,"
and many of them come and go frequently. That does not offer much "job
security" to prospective employees.
Cause organizations don't have much,
if any, opportunity for advancement.
They are founded and run usually by a
founding family or clique, and no matter
how long someone works in them, he
cannot eventually rise to take control of
the organization. Cause organizations
are small and therefore often cannot get
health insurance plans or afford much
paid vacation or other benefits that
commercial employers can provide.
American Atheists has not been exempt
from these problems and as a result has
had a "revolving door" situation with
employees.
Despite the problems, American
Atheists did manage to accomplish a
few things in between other setbacks
during 1988. The following is a brief
month by month run down of some of
the major events.

January
In mid-December of 1987 the editor
of this journal, Robin Murray-O'Hair,
went to jail for refusing to take a religious oath or affirmation in order to fulfill her civic duty of jury service. The
first month of 1988"was taken up with
the attendant courtroom drama over
that act of civil disobedience. The issue
of whether or not a judge can force her
to take a god-oath has stillto be resolved
in the court and is likely not to be for a
couple more years yet. What a way to
American Atheist

Jon Murray gave a few words at the


Summer Solstice picnic held in Austin
at the time of the Grand Opening of the
new American
Atheist
General
Headquarters.

start out a year, though, to have the editor of your organization's journal jailed!
In the same month the American
Atheists General Headquarters building, from which this journal is published,
was equipped with a: state-of-the-art security system. Iwonder why an Atheists
Headquarters would need an alarm system? If we can get thrown in jail for not
swearing "So help me God," we may
end up needing more than a security
system.
The Headquarters did get a new
business telephone system in January
as well. American Atheist Press issued
the first in a series of anticlerical cartoon
books translated from Spanish by a
famous Mexican cartoonist. The American Atheist organization reached the
plateau of gaining at least one new
member a day during the first month of
1988, but more members meant more
paperwork for an already overloaded
staff.

carried the misquote.

March
In March the Texas Employment
Commission took the opportunity to
audit the employment records of American Atheists, following up on an complaint alleging that "time cards had been
altered." Since electronic time cards
have bites taken out of them every time
they are punched, and the ink in the
time card clock is indelible, tell me how
one could forge a time card? In this audit, as in everyone that any city, county, state or federal agency has done,
American Atheists came off with flying
colors. All records were absolutely in
order and in compliance with all existing laws, rules, and regulations. March
was also the month that the postal service gave a nice little present to us all:
a postal increase. Allthe other cause organizations loved that little gift, I am
sure, as much as we did.

April
February
In February much time was consumed
in putting the American Atheist Library
and Archives, Inc. together after extensive remodeling of its section of the
General Headquarters building had
been completed. The library is the
source of much of the material in the
American Atheist magazine, being a
rich research resource.
A national story on a new toy line of
"praying dolls" hit the media. This office
was called for comment, and I told a
wire service reporter prayer was an
exercise in futility and that it was "a bad
habit" for children to be given the
example of the dolls. I said that "it's the
same as having a doll that smokes or
shoots-up. You wouldn't want to teach
children those 'values.' Prayer is just as
much of an undesirable dependency as
either smoking or drug use." The reporter dropped the explanatory parts
of the quote and reported all over the
country that I had said "to me, it's the
same as teaching them to smoke, or
shooting up." Even Time magazine
Austin, Texas

In April the Eighteenth Annual National Convention of American Atheists


was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A
reporter from Playboy magazine was in
attendance, and media coverage was
generally good. The mayor of Minneapolis came to open the convention and
welcome the Atheists to the city. This
was a first in the history of Atheist conventions. Ron Marke, editor of the Rationalist News and secretary of the Rationalist Association of New South
Wales, came up from down under in
Australia to address the convention.
Over four hundred persons were in attendance during the three days of the
convention.

vatively invested and only the earned


interest or dividends thereon being allowed to be spent by the organization.
It is a concept shared by few other
cause groups of which we know. American Atheists thinks it is prudent to put
something away for tomorrow's battles
today. Also in May the office staff of the
General Headquarters was kept in turmoil by the antics of one employee who
had voluntarily separated from the office. That employee continued to reach
back into the organization to attack former fellow staff members. I suppose
that all the large corporations have this
problem all the time with employees
who quit or get fired. It hits home a little
harder though with a small and more
closely-knit staff.

June
In June Atheists from around the
country gathered for the Silver Anniversary Celebration of American Atheists in its twenty-fifth year. A combination Summer Solstice picnic, anniversary celebration, and official grand opening was held at the General Headquarters. There were 116 persons in attendance. Also, a representative from La
Libre Pensee, a French freethought
group, attended to bring special greetings from Atheist supporters in that
country. Just one day before the grand
opening festivities, the Travis County
Appraisal District notified us that the
property met the requirements for exemption from ad valorem (real estate)
tax, and that it was removed from the
appraisal rolls retroactive to January 1,
1988. In that last week of that month I
flew to New Hampshire to open a new
Chapter of American Atheists.

May
In May the American Atheist Trust
Fund became active again just one year
after it had been closed down while
American Atheists was under attack
again by the state of Texas. The idea of
the Trust Fund is that it is a perpetual
fund into which Atheists can donate
money with that money being conserJanuary 1989

July
In July the staff counsel for American
Atheists had to quit for personal and
family reasons and move to California
from Texas. American Atheists, Inc.
and American Atheists General Headquarters, Inc. were both granted complete tax exemption by Internal RevePage 7

nue Service and declared exempt from


franchise taxes and from sales tax in the
state of Texas. Prior to their formation
in 1987, only Society of Separationists,
Inc. and the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives, Inc.
had held exemptions - the former is
the mother corporation which has been
around since 1963. The latter was
formed in 1971. Robert Sherman, a
National Spokesman for American
Atheists and American Atheist Press's
only reporter, was able to obtain full
credentials to be accepted as a reporter
to the Democratic National Convention
in Atlanta, Georgia. That was the first
time a representative of an Atheist publication had ever been admitted with the
rest of the press corps to a major party
nominating convention. Then the president of the bank in which American
Atheists keeps its funds gave advance
notice that the bank was going to fail.
We were able to move the funds to another institution in time. Our bank was
actually declared insolvent in August,
and it was one of 144bank failures in the
United States so far that year. A paper
shortage developed in Austin, Texas, in
July and was so severe that it made the
local newspapers. Due to the shortage,
the price of the paper on which this
journal is printed rose from the February
1987 price of $8.00 per thousand sheets
to $10.40 per thousand in July 1988.
Also during the month of July, the Phil
Donahue show reran a full one-hour
1971 interview of Dr. Madalyn O'Hair,
founder of American Atheists, as a
"Golden Oldie."
August
In August the typesetter of this journal
received a summons for jury duty in
Austin, Travis County, Texas, and almost suffered the same fate as editor
Robin Murray-O'Hair. The northeastern
states' Chapters of American Atheists
held their third annual regional meeting
in Connecticut during this month. Also
in August American Atheist Press issued the first of four volumes of a work
Page 8

Ricky Sherman and his father Rob have


gone to court to return the Pledge of
Allegiance to its original secular condition.

written by Soledad de Montalvo, a


Swiss author and daughter of European
nobility. The work, Women, Food and
Sex in History, will be a monumental
Atheist work when all the volumes are
completed.

he did not commit. The Michigan Chapter of American Atheists held its fourth
annual state convention. Also in October, Robert Sherman filed a suit in the
Northern District, Eastern Division of
the Federal District Court of Chicago,
in regard to the Pledge of Allegiance with his son Ricky as the plaintiff - objecting to the inclusion of "under God"
in the Pledge. In Virginia Arnold Via,
American Atheists state director there,
stopped a Bible study program at a federally funded senior citizens center.
And in Columbus, Ohio, a member of
American Atheists stopped a program
whereby high school students were given credits toward graduation for assisting several area churches with outreach
to the aged. Finally, Robert Sherman
attended the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a
reporter for American Atheist Press.
This was another first, as had been his
attendance at the Democratic convention months earlier.

September
The September issue of Playboy
magazine featured a full-page report on
the Eighteenth Annual National Convention of American Atheists in its
"Playboy After Hours" column. A new
Chapter of American Atheists was established in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. It was also in September that I was
invited to appear before a congressional House subcommittee on coinage
concerning the possible redesign of
some coins. I presented an argument to
drop the offensive "In God We Trust"
phrase from the coins in any proposed
new designs.

November
In November, Dr. Madalyn O'Hair,
founder of American Atheists, fell and
broke her hip. She was hospitalized and
had an operation to replace the ball of
the hip joint with a metal prosthesis.
The injury pulled editor Robin MurrayO'Hair and me out of the office for most
of the next two months.

December

October

In December Howard Kreisner, a


member of American Atheists in San
Diego, California, filed suit against the
nativity scenes displayed there in Balboa
Park every year during the "holiday"
season.

In October the police in Houston,


Texas, arrested the president of American Gay Atheists, charging him with
stealing a Bible from a public monument
and replacing it with a pornographic
magazine. The charge was completely
and absolutely false. Nonetheless, true
to form, the Texas "justice" system
placed him on probation for an act that

We spent the entire year essentially


trying to get our act 'together in order to
try to do public outreach toward the
goals of separating religion from its big
brother protector, the state, and then
convincing people that they should give
it up. We were unable to actually get
substantive outreach done to do much

January 1989

American Atheist

This 1971 interview of Bob Harrington


and Madalyn O'Hair helped establish
Phil Donahue's talk show career.

of that convincing. That is not good and


has to be corrected. The work of American Atheists is too important to be
mired down in logistical concerns.

Front door Atheism


As to the future, Ithink that a change
of tactic is definitely in order. Freethought groups in this country, the precursors to American Atheists, have
spent a lot of time in introspection and
argument among themselves. American
Atheists has also spent a lot of time arguing with Atheists as to what needs to
be done and how to do it, while nothing
actually gets accomplished. Meanwhile,
the religionists march on with their sick
ideas. Enough is enough. We simply
need, at this point, to just drop those
persons who can't see the need for action, consolidate those who do, and go
on with a leaner, meaner fighting force.
The dead wood just has to be trimmed
out of the movement at this point in
time. They will catch up and rejoin the
ranks from underneath later on when
they see the frontline troops in action.
If it is not possible to stop the state
from endorsing and promoting religion,
then we simply must turn to the business
of trying to show people that religion is
bad for them despite the state's endorsement. That is the task of the future for Atheists. Just look around you.
All kinds of advocacy groups are out
there, advocating this and advocating
that. Nonsmokers groups are working
to try to get smokers to quit smoking
and to try to prevent persons who have
never smoked from starting. Anti-drug
groups are out trying to get persons
who are hooked on drugs off them and
to prevent others from getting hooked.
The so-called pro-life people are out in
force trying to convince expectant
mothers not to have abortions. The environmental groups are trying to educate everyone as to the value of recycling and not polluting. I could go on
and on with all the groups that are trying to change public opinion. American
Atheists simply has to get on the advoAustin, Texas

cacy bandwagon. We have something


to advocate too - a saner America. It
is time that we began labeling religious
people as the "looney tunes" that they
are, to their faces, and quit slinking
around the back alleys and coming in
the back door. Atheism is a front door
position. If the little men in the white
coats are going to come and haul somebody off for being a few bricks shy of a
load, they can just pass by the Atheists'
house this time and head straight for
the televangelists and then trickle on
down to the garden variety preachers.
Atheists need to be willing to be
proud advocates of their position. If we
can't get any satisfaction in the courts
and in the halls of Congress, then we
have to take to the streets and the airwaves. When the "emperor has no
clothes," everyone simply can't stand
around as ifhe does -like that old children's story goes. In the case of religion,
we are dealing with something much
more serious, because in this case the
"emperor has no brains." We have one
of those occupying the White House
right now. President Bush simply cannot
be allowed to get away with saying that
Atheists aren't full citizens.
This journal then will also begin to
take on a new look - starting with this
issue - and a changing content during
1989. You willbe seeing more "how to"
material to help you develop into a positive advocate of the superiority of your
Atheist life-style. But you can't know
where you need to go if you don't know
where you've been, so you will see historical articles too. They will be aimed
at showing you what Atheists have
done in the past and what has worked
and what has failed. In order to convince
someone that religion is not a good
thing, you have to know what is wrong
with it yourself. This journal will have
more in coming months to teach you
what is wrong with religious thinking
and show you how to point it out to
others. This author has tried, in recent
past issues, to educate you as to how
our government got involved with proJanuary 1989

moting religion and how the personnel


of its various branches think when it
comes to dealing with religion. American Atheist Press has more books on
tap to show you how religion works
from the inside so you can find its weak
spots. The American Atheist is not just
to provide coffee klatsch chatter. We
expect you, yes you, to start using the
information in your journal to fight.
Your future is at stake, your children's
future is at stake, the future of your culture is at stake. If you don't start to get
tough now, then we will all have plenty
of time to talk about what we "could"
have done as we languish in the detention camps which now dot the nation.
Coming up we have a report about
Atheists in Germany and Austria going
to jail for blasphemy that willraise your
hair - and don't think it can't happen
here.
To do this we still need your help.
Your monetary help is not enough anymore: we now need your body too. We
need bodies on picket lines; we need
bodies at rallies; we need bodies to
knock on doors; we need bodies to go
to media outlets; we need bodies to go
to libraries; and we need bodies to write
letters. Atheism is no armchair point of
view. Church is for people who just
want to sit in rows and get their consciousness lowered. If you are just receiving this journal to flip through it
casually and let it gather dust, then
maybe you still belong with that church
crowd. Ifthe religious can stand outside
abortion clinics with signs that say
"baby murderers," we can stand outside
of churches with signs that say "mind
murderers."
The unions are up in arms; the environmental groups are mad as hell; the
animal rights groups are fighting angry;
the pro-prayer bunch is out on the
streets; the pro-lifers are putting their
bodies on the line; the free speech advocates are speaking up; and it seems
like the only concerned folks who are
sitting on their posteriors are the Atheists.~
Page 9

Ask A.A.

Psychic phenomenon
There are several areas in which ostensibly scientific research, and/or
common experience would seem to refute Atheistic or skeptical viewpoints.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the
following:
1. Kubler-Ross' findings about near
death experiences.
2. Deja vu.
3. "Psychic" communication between
identical twins.
Philip Milstein
Massachusetts

In "Letters to the Editor," readers give


their opinions, ideas, and information.
But in "Ask A.A.," American Atheists
answers questions regarding its
policies, positions, and customs, as
well as queries of factual and historical
situations. Please address your
questions to "Ask A.A.," P.O. Box
140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195.

Page 10

(1) Kubler-Ross confesses all in just


the descriptive phrase used, "near
death experiences. " That is, the person
making the report was alive during the
experience. In cases of extreme physical
distress, blood pressure, oxygen intake,
chemical composition of the blood or
loss of blood, ingestion of medication,
exposure to variable temperatures,
metabolic changes, almost anything
can and does set our clocks askew giving rise to every conceivable hallucination or fantasizing.
One of the very odd aspects of it all
is that in a culture where the people
have never been exposed to the J. e.
idea (Tibet for example), J.e. is never
envisaged during these periods of distress. This would lead one to deduce
that even our hallucinations are culturally determined.
If anyone wants a real bang-up hallucinatory experience, the current
drugs of common use can readily be a
resource.
Kubler-Ross engages in wish fulfillment for those persons who have
religious inclinations - only that and
nothing more.
(2) In cases of deja vu we have only
the imperfect memory of the person
who or event which is so confronted.
Usually there is a desire upon the part
of the person to interpret the confronted place or situation as equivalent to
January 1989

that which had previously occurred,


but generally speaking, it is perhaps at
most only one or two elements which
bring such recollections, imperfect as
they may be. Our imaginations immediately add the missing parts because we
desire to have a deja vu experience.
(3) No human being has "psychic"
communications with another human
being. After extensive readings concerned with these experiments, it becomes apparent that the results are
wish fulfillments of the experimenters.
If anyone human being were capable of
"psychic" communication, we all would
be. It would be generic to the human
race.

Stamping out religion


I wanted to ask if American Atheists
would sell any rubber stamps with the
various American Atheist slogans on
them, specifically a rubber stamp with
the American Atheist symbol?
Greg Gillespie
Minnesota
We had not planned to sell any such
rubber stamps. There are many rubber
stamp stores in all cities and the prices
for such stamps are very low. If we
bought them we would need to mark
up the price and charge you also for
postage and handling.
It would be better if you simply
clipped out or photocopied the best
American Atheist symbol you see in the
material you receive and took it to such
a rubber stamp store.
Any slogan can also be made into a
rubber stamp quite easily. The stores
are prepared to do this for you - and
costs are quite minimal.

Bible warning stickers


I see that the Jew-Christers have
found another reason to pester American Atheists (so what else is new?).
They're mad as hell because your Bible
warning stickers have been showing up
in their hotel Bibles. It seems to me that
American Atheist

you have a simple response. Just say:


"We only sell the Bible stickers. We
would be delighted if people would buy
them and place them in their own
Bibles. If some people choose to put
them in other people's Bibles, that
certainly is nothing we have any control
over. If the hotel owners found used
gum in the pages of their holy books, it's
not likely they would sue the bubble
gum factory."
Isn't this the obvious answer, or is it
more complicated than that?
Robert Bandonis
Pennsylvania
American Atheists has indeed been
contacted by various hotels because
traveling Atheists do put "warning"
stickers on the Gideon Bibles which
they find in their rooms.
Formerly, many Atheists simply
placed the Bibles in the toilets, causing
unending plumbing problems. Also
many Atheists "liberate" the Bibles and
dispose of them once they leave the
hotel rooms.
Atheists pay for rental of these rooms.
American Atheists consider it to be an
insult by the management that religious
propaganda isforced upon room occupants. Frequently, the Bibles are left
open at particular pages and lying on
the beds.
At the Tenth Annual National Convention of American Atheists in Detroit,
Michigan, everyone registered at the
hotel, in an act of defiance, simply
brought all of the Gideon Bibles to the
front desk one morning and left them
there, not indicating from which rooms
they had been taken.
Some hotels have complained to
American Atheists that the Bibles are
personal property of the hotel. At other
times we are informed that they are
personal property of the Gideons. The
entire issue, however, is that they are
an affront to Atheists who have paid
money for housing, not for the intrusion
of religious propaganda into their
Austin,Texas

rented space.
Currently, the attitude of American
Atheists is that it is the individual choice
of any Atheist as to what he wants to
do with the intruder Bible or other offensive religious material he finds in a
hotel room which he has rented.

name. You may designate any of the


following as beneficiaries - the address
for all of them is the same. They are
listed alphabetically.
American Atheists, Inc.
American Atheists General
Headquarters, Inc.

Insuring atheism's future


How truly excellent the American
Atheist magazine is! I especially enjoyed and learned from the June issue
about the history of Dr. O'Hair's work.
Dr. O'Hair is a heroine equal to any
this world has ever seen. Until I read the
history of her work in the June issue, I
never knew what adversity and suffering
she endured in championing the Atheist
cause. I hope that someday someone
will write a book-length biography of
Dr. O'Hair or that Dr. O'Hair will write
a detailed autobiography.
I thank all of you at the American
Atheist General Headquarters for your
leadership and for your courage. There
are no folks in this land whom I admire
more.
If someone wanted to leave the proceeds of a life insurance policy to the
American Atheist organization, what
officialname and mailing address should
be used on the insurance policy to designate the organization as the beneficiary?

The Prison Atheist League of


America, Inc.
The Society of Separationists, Inc.
The Charles E. Stevens American
Atheist Library & Archives, Inc.
United World Atheists, Inc.
7215 Cameron Road
Austin, Texas 78752
If you want to discuss any bequest,
call attorney David Roth at (512) 4581271.
We thank you for making inquiry; all
of these organizations are dedicated to
the advancement of American Atheism
and to the complete and absolute separation of state and church.~

"=

Roger Holloman
North Carolina
All of our Atheist organizations are
now tax-exempt. Therefore any contribution which anyone wants to make is
tax deductible on the ordinary 1040 tax
returns everyone uses each year. In
addition, if any of you desire to leave
money, estates, stock, or insurance policies to the organizations, there will be
no inheritance tax and all the gifts you
designate will be received by any organization(s) you name in a will.
We suggest, however, that you do
send copies of any documents you execute to the organiz~tions which you
January 1989

"I guess it was a lot easier to bring


people back: from the dead before
modernembalming."

Page 11

News and Comments

God's chosen people

Il

The people of Israel


are divided over the
importance of
Jahweh's laws in a
supposedly secular
state.

The news in this magazine is chosen


to demonstrate, month after month,
the dead reactionary hand of religion.
It dictates our habits, sexual conduct,
and family size; it dictates life values
and life-style. Religion is politics and,
always, the most authoritarian and reactionary politics. We editorialize our
news to emphasize this thesis. Unlike
any other magazine or newspaper in
the United States, we are honest
enough to admit it.

n Israel, as in many other nations in


our time, doublespeak is a systemic
part of the political dialogue. What is
said is not meant; what is meant is not
said. To report then on occurrences in
this nation, or that, is extremely difficult
because the media language gives a
false sense. And so it is, especially with
Israel. Combing through scores of news
reports, the gross misuse of language
impinges on understanding, and it is
only with a knowledge of history that
one can sort out what is or is not happening.

my blessing and I was afraid that


the first rabbi would send a curse
after me.

Two rabbis with beards visited


my house and promised me a
blessing if I voted for them.

Jews have been a people because of the Torah; it has kept us


together as a people. When you
break away from the Torah and
its commandments, you fragment
the people.

The story turned out to be typical, as


many others related being personally
approached by the rabbis who buttonholed them with promised blessings or
curses. In the lower income groups,
where faith healing and miracle cures
are believed, Likud lost 4 percent of its
votes while the support for the ultraOrthodox soared.
The head of Israel's Election Commission, however, became so angered
The November 1, 1988, election
by the ultra-Orthodox tactics that he
On November 1, 1988, the religious censored a SHAS advertisement late in
parties in Israel won a surprising victory the campaign because it included the
at the polls, doubling their strength, fill- words, "God is watching what you do."
ing the pious with pride, and sending
chills down the spine of the largely sec- The Lubavitchers
ular populace of Israel which saw the
One analyst, Shmuel Sandler, a social
election as a signal that the country was scientist from the religious Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, noted that religious
entering an era of religious coercion
and intolerance. Everyone was taken groups that had remained aloof from
aback - professional pollsters, stunned
politics in the past had launched a wellpoliticians, and average citizens.
organized campaign. After it was all
Unable to see the large picture, many over, some credit was given to the entry
of a Brooklyn (Crown Heights section),
of the secular Israelis were concerned
most with Sabbath closings, whether
New York rabbi, who worked with the
movies could be shown on Friday eve- Habad Hassidim. Rebbe (rabbi) Menanings, and if pork would be available to chern Mendel Schneerson, now age
those who had a taste for it.
eighty-two, is the leader of a group of
The media, attempting to find the twenty thousand Brooklyn Jews who
reason for the startling success, ques- calltheir faction of Judaism the Lubavitch
tioned everyone. A cleaning woman at Hasidic group, which also has tens of
Israel State Radio gave the first clue. thousands of members around the
She had switched her lifelong allegiance world. Their message is simple: Jewish
to the hard-line Likud party to the ultra- unity must come by enforcing one standard on all Jews:
Orthodox Agudat Israel party because:

Later the woman was pressed by


campaign workers of the ultra-Orthodox, Sephardi-led SHASparty to switch
her vote for another blessing:
But I told them I couldn't do
that because I had already received

Page 12

January 1989

The Lubavitchers promise to keep 613


Torah laws and 13 ancient principles
that guide all Hasidim, and Rebbe
Schneerson has been their undisputed
American Atheist

News and Comments

leader since 1950. Roughly speaking,


the Torah are the laws of Moses given
in the first five books of the Old Testament, and these are held to have been
given directly to the Jewish people from
god. The Orthodox require strict compliance to them. The Conservatives believethat the Torah was divinelyinspired
but written by men. Therefore, its laws
can be changed to meet new situations.
Reform Jews revere the Torah but feel
that its laws are no longer binding on
the Jewish people, although they do
observe some traditions.
According to Orthodox law, a Jew
must have a commitment to the law in
all matters: Sabbath observance, kosher laws, circumcision for men, the
immersion of women each month in a
ritual bath. Anyone in non-compliance
is held to be a non-Jew. American Atheists has for over thirty years pointed out
that Judaism is a religion - not a race
- and that persons who were Jews and
have abandoned that religion cannot
identify themselves as "Jewish Atheists." They are, simply and only, Atheists.
Rabbi Schneerson
endorsed the
Agudat Israel party in the election. The
voting card which the Israelis were
handed at each voting place carried a
picture of Schneerson and a blessing in
Hebrew:
This is the time to rise and vote
for Row 3 [the Agudat Israel party]
for the unity of the nation. In merit
of this will be fulfilled in you and
your family the blessings of the
Rebbe [i.e., Schneerson] and the
Hasidic masters and the holy men
of our generation, who bless those
who vote for Row 3 - with children, long life,and abundant prosperity.
As if that was not enough, the far
right religious parties had chartered
flights from the United States loaded
with hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews ordered back to Israel from
Austin, Texas

religious seminaries so that they could


vote - and then immediately return to
the United States.

the Likud has tolerated the intolerable


demands of the religious parties.
These demands are based primarily
. on the proposition that the Jews are
The struggle for power
god's chosen people and that Israel was
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, now given to them by god. Rabbi Menachem
age seventy-three, head of the rightist Porush, who heads the Agudat Israel
Likud party, tried to gain the support of party, put it clearly:
the religious parties for a coalition government. His words to the worried naI livein the state of Israel because
it's holy land. We are fulfillingthe
tion were to the effect that he was trying
for such a coalition only to retain the
call of our fathers. We are not
"status quo." The status quo is a term
here because the United Nations
let us, but because God promised
which relates to a series of laws and
"understandings," dating from Israel's
us.
earliest days as a nation (1948), that are
supposed to govern secular-religious
Rabbi Moshe Peretz of SHAS amrelations in the nation. The "status quo" plifies that those who complain of the
idea:
requires that the Israeli army observe
kosher rules and that public transporta... don't have any right to settle
tion and movie theatres be shut down
(in Jerusalem) on the Sabbath.
in Israel ifthey are willingto throw
The four religious parties won 18 of
away the religious heritage passed
the 120 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli
on from our ancestors.
parliament). Likud won only 39 seats.
Israel was given to the Jewish
people for one overwhelming reaThe center-leftist Labor party, led by
son. That is, to livelifeas described
Shimon Peres, secured 38. Potential
allies of the Likud won 7 seats. With a
in the Torah.
coalition of those 7, the 18 of the reliFollowing those religious convicgious parties, and the Likud seats,
Shamir could influence 64 votes, 3 more tions, the religious demands have included:
than the number needed to dominate
the Knesset. (Sixty-one votes are needed
to form a government.)
new laws establishing strict guidelines on conversion to the Jewish
Even the Labor party, seeing the
faith; legislation which would dictate
handwriting on the wall, decided to
that people who convert under Recourt the religious groups. This prompted one Agudat Israel leader to remark:
form or Conservative Judaism are
excluded from being Jews. Basically
We felt bad the last four years,
this is a demand to revise Israel's
Law of Return which grants autolike the fifth wheel. In the Knesset,
the leaders of Labor always, always
matic citizenship to all Jews. The
religious parties want the state to
voted against us. Now, they are
ready to be good boys.
recognize as Jewish only those born
to Jewish mothers or converted by
Orthodox rabbis;
The love affair between the Likud
and the religious parties has continued
more money for religious schools;
since 1977 when the Likud took power. tougher laws against abortion and
against Christian missionary activiIn order to gain biblical sanction to Lities;
kud's insistence that geographic Israel
embraces all the land between the Jor- tougher laws against the performing
of autopsies;
dan River and the Mediterranean sea,
January 1988

Page 13

News and Comments

tougher laws against archaeological


digs near cemeteries;
increased
power for rabbinical
courts;
exemption from military service for
students at yeshivas (religious
schools);
religious control of such cabinet ministries as education, interior, and
housing; and
the restriction of Sabbath activities,
the closing down of buses, taxis, theaters, restaurants, businesses, and
organized sports events, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Over the years, by supporting or not
supporting either the Likud or the
Labor party, the ultra-Orthodox have
managed several impressive religious
victories. The most notable triumph of
the ultra-Orthodox was to have the
national airline, El AI, grounded on the
Sabbath. Another major gain was a
1953 law that handed control over all
marriages and divorces to the rabbinical courts. Later, by joining with the
Likud faction, they won tougher review
procedures for abortions.
In regard to religion and education,
Rabbi Porush put it squarely, "If there
is mathematics that oppose religion, we
don't teach it."
Asked about evolution, his reply was,
"You don't look like a monkey to me."
Still another feature of the ultraOrthodox is their eschewing of birth
control, family planning, and abortion,
so that their average family has 8
children, while Orthodox families average 4 and secular families average 2.6.
The Orthodox feel that they will be a
majority in forty years and do not want
to alienate too much the people they
willtry then to convert. One lawmaker
from the Agudat Israel party made it
clear:
We shall grow in number because only we immigrate to Israel
and because we don't have abortions and family planning.
Page 14

The land of Israel will maintain


its Jewish image, its Jewish values. In a Jewish country, the Sabbath is a Jewish value.

Bible-based religious law. All of the


ultra-Orthodox dedicate themselves to
a life of religious study.

Military training
The West Bank
and the Gaza Strip
Working for the religious, of course,
is the attitude of the non-observing
Jews who nonetheless "respect tradition."
The Likud opposes returning any
occupied West Bank or Gaza territory
to the Arabs. In fact, Shamir has announced plans to build more Jewish
settlements on the West Bank. The
Labor party proposes trading territory
for peace with the Arabs. This presents
a small problem, for the religious parties
themselves have within them a small
schism. The National Religious party
represents Orthodox Jews - and this
party won five Knesset seats. It has
given a high priority to the issue of the
occupied territories, arguing that Israel
must keep the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. Avner Shaki, its leader announced,
We only want to give the Jewish
public a clearly Jewish character,
which is required by ... the fact
that Israel is a Jewish state.
The Sephardic Torah Guardians
(SHAS) party representing the ultraOrthodox are still awaiting the coming
of the promised Messiah and reject the
legitimacy of the state of Israel until that
saviour arrives. However, in the meantime, the party is perfectly willing to
take a hand to the governing of the
state, especially in regard to religious
obligations of the citizenry. This group
won six seats and promptly announced
that it would be willingto join a government with Shamir depending, "on the
degree to which Likud willmarch to our
demands." The Agudat Israel, another
ultra-Orthodox group, won five seats.
The Flag of Torah won but two. All of
these groups want Israel to be ruled by
January 1989

The issue of compulsory military


training is a thorny one. The Defense
Ministry of Israel estimates that about
twenty thousand Orthodox Jewish
men use their status as students in Israel's yeshivas (religious schools) to
evade conscription.
The Orthodox
men receive their first draft notice at
age sixteen, but obtain an endless chain
of draft postponements until they are
no longer eligible for military duty at age
fifty-five. The Labor party, worried
about carrying its votes, dropped a proposal to draft yeshiva students since its
stance led it to be charged as "antireligious." Ardent Zionists do special
military service, dividing their time
between army duty and yeshiva studies.
The Labor party, Israel's original secular, socialist leadership, has not been a
traditional ally of religious parties. But
to make its platform more palatable to
the growing religious movement, in
September 1988, it officiallydropped its
proposal to draft yeshiva students. One
Labor candidate put it neatly when he
explained that his party was "ready to
pay the price to the religious if they'll
support us."
This was all a result of the painful last
four years in Israel. Sixty-one votes are
needed to form a government and neither Labor nor Likud received them in
1984, which caused a "coalition government" during that time. In 1984 there
had been eleven small religious parties.
In Israel at that time, twenty-four thousand votes were needed to win a single
seat in the Knesset. Nearly fifty-nine
thousand Israelis divided their votes
among the eleven small parties - and
all failed to get a single seat while, in
sheer numbers, the fifty-nine thousand
votes were worth three and a half Parliament seats. The small parties' seats
meant everything as Labor and Likud
continued to run neck and neck. And
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News and Comments

sixteen new parties - primarily religious


- appeared for the 1988 election.
Nonetheless the religious parties
were jubilant, for they had won what
was obviously a "swing vote" in the
Knesset and were in a position to bargain with Shamir that he should carry
out the religious groups' agendas. Without hesitation, they immediately made
it known that, compromise or not, they
would use their new "kingmaker" power
in the Knesset to enact all of their religious platforms. A member of the Agudat Israel party announced, "We will
put an end to pornographic posters."
He also proposed enacting legislation
forbidding "public desecration of the
Sabbath" by closing all movie theatres
and banning soccer games on Friday
nights and Saturdays. Yet, at the announced victory there was dancing in
the streets of Mewa Shearim, the ultraOrthodox enclave in Jerusalem.
The squabble between the seculars
and the religious, of course, dates back
forty years to the time of the establishment of the state. Israel has no constitution since its founders could not
agree on religion's place in it.
But Israel is peopled, basically, with
so-called Atheists, those who claim
they are "secular Jews." Only 25 percent
(some media report 20 percent) of the
populace of 4.5 million (some media
report 3.5 million) are considered to be
religious Jews, but 17 percent are Orthodox. The balance of the 25 percent
are Reform or Conservative Jews. The
ultra-Orthodox call themselves Haredim
(god fearers) while the secularists refer
to them with the snide term dosim (religious). The Haredim wear black
seventeenth-century Eastern European
kapotah (Iongcoats). The seculars see
the ultra-Orthodox as parasites and resent their deferment from military service. In Jerusalem, where the balance
between secular and ultra-Orthodox is
about half-and-half, ugly incidents have
occurred. (Some media report that only
340,000 Jews live in Jerusalem, a city of
431,000.) Tel Aviv is another matter
Austin, Texas

since its population is overwhelmingly


secular. During this last year, in Jerusalem, the ultra-Orthodox made an attempt to shut down secular movies and
pubs on Friday nights (the beginning of
the Jewish sabbath) and the ensuing
"Sabbath Wars" were fought out in the
streets. One Likud officialnoted sarcastically that the Haredim, with their
black coats, ear locks, and outlandish
behavior "bring out the anti-Semitism in
a lot of people." Another, reacting in a
half-joking way, said, "The next time
you come and see me, don't be surprised
to find me wearing a yarmulke and a
beard." The "Sabbath Wars" which
went on apace all year long in Ramot
section of Jerusalem - not reported internationally - were, however, real
and prolonged. Theatres were picketed; billboards announcing pictures
were ripped down; "sinful" movie-goers
were jeered at by angry black-garbed
mobs which hurl stones; cinemas were
vandalized; some street fighting was
bloody; bus-stop shelters were burned;
yeshivas attacked. The strength of the
two sides willbe tested again in February
when Jerusalem holds city elections,
where approximately 40 percent of the
population is religious.
David Hartman, an Israeli philosopher, put it another way:
The very commitment to live
here is to accept people in their
differences respectfully. In the
name of religion, we are developing an oppressive attitude. I see
this as the most critical period in
the history of the Jews and of the
whole country.
As the results of the election were felt,
he later added sadly, "The Jewish world
is going to discover that Israel isn't what
they thought it was."
Columnist Moshe David said in the
daily newspaper, Maariv:
If there is a God - and I am
ready to give UP. my stubborn
January 1988

Atheism if you can prove it then he will see to it that the religious try to cancel soccer games
on the Sabbath.
A Haredim, complete with kapotah,
black hat, and ear locks, opined: "We've
been strengthened. The character of
our country will be more religious."
And, actually, many were talking of the
country being turned into a theocracy,
without knowing that it had been that
for many, many years.
After the elections, the president of
Israel, Chaim Herzog, was required to
formally invite Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir to form the next government. In
the jockeying, Shamir, desperate for
the ultra-Orthodox support, promised
the religious groups to support legislation under which only Orthodox rabbis
could approve conversions to Judaism.
In order to effectuate this, it would be
necessary to vote an amendment to the
Law of Return. As noted above, the current law defines a Jew as anyone born
to a Jewish mother or converted to
Judaism. The proposed amendment
would add the words "in accordance
with Halacha (Jewish religious law)."
The Halacha would nullify conversions
performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis who do not strictly observe
such requirements. Shamir also pledged
to pass laws requiring strict observance
of the Sabbath. When Shamir capitulated
to the ultra-Orthodox on the issue of
the "Who is a Jew?" amendment, his
cabinet secretary Yosi Achimeier,
made the following announcement:
The prime minister told the parties he thinks we have a majority
in the Knesset to pass the amendment, and within three months of
forming the new government they
would be able to have it. He said
to all of them he promised it would
pass.
Of course there will be resentment among American Jews, but
then it will calm down.
Page 15

News and Comments

In the new cabinet which Shamir has


put together, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis
willcontrol the Interior Ministry, which
gives them control over all questions of
personal status; the Education Ministry,
where the country's curricula and cultural matters are decided; the Housing
Ministry; the Religious Affairs Ministry;
and the Knesset's powerful Finance
Committee. In addition, ultra-Orthodox
deputy ministers will share the reins of
the Absorption and Labor Ministries.
Israel's deputy premier, the second in
command in the nation, willbe Yitzhak
Perez, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who rejects the teachings of Darwin and tried
to ban daylight saving time as an offense
against god. In 1985 he interpreted a
train-bus collision in which twenty-six
children died as divine retribution
(god's revenge) for the country's desecration of the Sabbath and the presence of women in the armed forces.
Shamir's concessions are unprecedented.
On November 12, 1988, more than
twenty thousand people attended a
protest rally in Tel Aviv, calling for reform of the electoral system to insure
that a small bloc like the religious parties could no longer have such power.
The demonstrators obviously did not
understand that the basis of the power
was in Likud. One man, David Levy, a
deputy prime minister, understanding
the basic issue, quit as head of the
Likud negotiating team, saying he was
disgusted that Likud had continued to
yield to pressures from the rigorously
ultra-Orthodox. Meanwhile, the president revealed that he had received
thousands of letters calling for a new
"national unity" government which
would exclude the religious parties. An
analysis of the letters revealed that 64
percent called for a new national unity
government to exclude the religious
parties; another 10 percent complained
about the inclusion of the religious parties without offering a solution; another
17 percent advocated reforming the
electoral system to preclude situations
Page 16

such as that which had occurred; the


rest protested the inclusion of far-right
nonreligious parties in the government.
A national opinion poll published in
the daily newspaper of Jerusalem,
Yediot Achronot, indicated that 68 percent of the public favored a new LikudLabor government. However, several
similar surveys before the elections had
suggested that the vast majority of Israelis opposed the idea. A large advertisement in the same daily, signed by
fifty academics from universities across
the country said,
We, voters of the right, left, and
center in the '88 elections demand
the leadership of our parties to immediately halt the negotiations
with the religious parties to establish a narrow government.
The advertisement could hardly be
called either blunt or brave. In Tel Aviv,
on November 9, a woman standing in a
park gathered 721 signatures in three
hours for a petition asking the president
to "convene an emergency government
of Labor and Likud" - a solution which
had proven to be unworkable over the
past four years.
The independent Jerusalem newspaper Haaretz worried that the newfound
strength of the four winning ultraOrthodox parties threatened "a division of the country" and called them "a
Khomeini-ist phenomena." Many international journals questioned if Israel
was turning into an Iran.
The religious parties used the short
twenty-one-day legal period given between the election and the formation of
a government to milk from both Labor
and Likud as many concessions as possible. Cynics reported that both parties
"are offering everything, selling their
grandmothers" to persuade the religious parties to join each or the other.
They also saw the election result as a
presage of the "redemption" of Israel,
one of the last steps before the Messiah
would come.
January 1989

By November 23, the Labor party


decided to give up. It had been negotiating that its leaders would hold two of
the four top cabinet positions. It did not
want to agree to remain in the government for the entire four-year term, and
it wanted a guarantee that an international peace conference would not be
prohibited. At that time when all negotiations fell through, the Labor party issued a formal declaration:
It has become clear that no
basis exists for entering negotiations for establishment of a wide
coalition government.
A prime difficulty is the fear that ifthe
demands of the rabbis of the ultraOrthodox parties are not met, a "no
confidence" vote could be had in the
Knesset and with that would come the
potential dissolution of the government.
The Israeli parliament finally met on
November 21, 1988, with hundreds of
non-observing Jews demonstrating
outside the building, many with signs
which read "No to the Jewish Ayatollahs." Inside there was turmoil. Fifteen
leftist deputies refused for hours to be
sworn in by the temporary speaker
because they did not like his politics. A
fight erupted over the election of the
permanent speaker, with one party
chief parading before television cameras
with a sticker across her waist that
read, "I am a God-fearing secularist."
One member simply shouted insults at
another while still another taunted with
a chant. Mutual insults were freely exchanged and finally Shimon Peres notified Yitzhak Shamir that the Labor party would not form a ruling coalition with
the Likud unless it agreed to a United
Nations sponsored Arab-Israeli peace
conference. But on November 14, 1988,
Shamir had rejected any possible initiatives from the PLO's Palestine National
Council Meeting in Algiers. Although
he stated that he would consider a new
coalition with the Labor party, he ruled
out giving it "an equal share of power."
American Atheist

News and Comments

Peres meanwhile told Israel Radio that gregations across the United States. Its portant Jews in that city, and the Pittsanother Likud-Labor government was 3,000-member general assembly, at burgh Press of November 27 reported
unlikely. The Likud and the Labor par- that meeting, voted to adopt a resolu- the reactions of a score of converts to
ties had so closely shared in the votes tion calling on both major parties in Is- . Judaism. The San Francisco Chronicle
of November 1 carried statements of
during the last election that they had rael to take the "Who is a Jew?" debate
shared power equally during the "last out of political bargaining. The resolu- complaint.
Also shaken to its core was the Unitfour years, rotating the prime minister- tion, signed by 176 of the 200 trustees
ed Jewish Appeal, founded in 1948,
ship, each party holding it for twenty- of the reform organization, read:
which has for forty years raised funds
fivemonths. This had simply resulted in
for Israel. In 1987 it collected $720 milThe issue, with its ideological,
a deadlock on most issues, with much
lion, from about a million donors,
moral and communal implicapent-up bitter feelings. Shamir was
roughly a third of all Jewish households
tions, should not be decided in the
adamant after the ultra-Orthodox vicin the United States. The debate has
context of political accommodatory: "Israel can't have a government
struck at the heart of the fund-raising
tion of or ensuring the maintethat speaks in two voices." He wanted
effort. The disenchanted American
nance or downfall of a particular
complete control.
government. World Jewry should
Jew, two generations away from the
This naturally brought a rift in the
alleged Holocaust, with the current denot be divided by a political apLabor party between those who wanted
nouement of religious aspirations upon
proach to the issue of "Who is a
to prevent the establishment of a narhim, may have a second thought about
Jew?"
row government of right-wing and relicontinued contributions. Some have,
gious parties at any price and thus supindeed, noted that as the United States
The group claimed a right for North
ported Labor's joining Likud for a "naAmerican Jews to speak out and to be government continues to pour .money
tional unity" government and those
who, under Shimon Peres, were "dubi- heard on the issue because of the role into Israel - a minimum of $3 billion a
Jews around the world, and especially year - support for Israel is most effecous about dealing with Likud."
Among United States Jews the devel- in North America, had in Israel's forma- tively dispensed in the United States
opments in Israel prompted officials of tion and because they are part of "Klal Congress and that voluntary contribuat least twenty-seven Jewish organiza- Israel (Jewish unity)." In making its tions should cease.
In the San Francisco Bay area, where
tions to send telegrams and letters, as statement, the organization set up a
Jews are 220,000 strong, the word most
well as to make telephone calls, to confrontation with the Lubavitcher
often used to describe the "Who is a
Israeli leadership. Many of the Conser- Hasidim of Brooklyn and its Rebbe
Jew" amendment was "outrageous."
vative and Reform Jews spoke bitterly: Schneerson.
Jews, of course, are the only citizens The Hasidic Jewish rabbis shot back
of our nation who are permitted to have that the American Jewish leaders were
It's the authority of the only
dual citizenship in both Israel and in the "arrogant," trying to use "blatant ecoJewish state in the world saying
United States, and the issue does affect nomic blackmail" in the fight. A Jewish
those of you who adhere to Conthem. In a 1988 study by the Council of author, Ze' ev Chafets, attempted to
servative or Reform movements
Jewish Federations, 9 percent of the explain it all:
are not really full-fledged Jews.
five to six million American Jews (in
We don't like being considered
Liberal Jews in America are not
Canada and the United States) identisecond-class Jews.
religious. Judaism has become
fied themselves as Orthodox; 34 perIsrael-ism for them, and this is a
Meanwhile, the Council of Jewish cent identified themselves as Conservasymbolic disenfranchisement.
Federations, a group representing mil- tive; 30 percent said they are Reform
lions of Jews in the United States and Jews; and 27 percent expressed no afCanada, sent a mission to Israel to op- filiation. The New York Times Interna- Well, it is simply time that they awakened from their dream and took a good
tional of November 21, 1988, devoted
pose any "Who Is A Jew?" amendment
look at their religion - probably the
which would change the definition of half a page to comments from outraged
Jewish identity. The council, meeting in New York Jews of importance, indicat- sickest religion in the world.
The reply of the two chief rabbis of
New Orleans in mid-November, claimed ing that money formerly sent to the
to represent 95 percent of the 5.5 to 6 state of Israel could now, perhaps, be Israel was to criticize the American
million Jews in North America, with targeted for specific projects in Israel. Jewish organization for making a "big
1,000Orthodox rabbis, or 90 percent of The Minneapolis Star- Tribune of No- fuss" over the proposed amendment. In
the Orthodox rabbis with major con- vember 12 interviewed many of the im- a joint news conference they simply
Austin, Texas

January 1988

Page 17

News and Comments

stated that the changes would affect


only Israel and would directly touch
only the few non-Orthodox converts
who immigrate to Israel each year.
They called for a halt to public squabbling over the proposed legislation.
Rabbi Modechai Eliahu, who represents the Sephardim, attacked both the
Canadian and the American Jews who
had threatened to curtail political and
financial support for Israel ifthe amendment was adopted. "Those who give
money to the land of Israel are doing
themselves a favor," he said.
The exchange revealed that Jews
overseas, principally from Canada and
the United States, contribute $400 million to $500 million a year to Israel. Ifthe
threats of curtailment of money are
carried out, it is estimated that Israel
might lose $100 million a year.
On November 18, Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir met with a group of angry United States Jews over the amendment issue, the first time that Israel had
ever experienced a rift with United
States Jews. Among those who went to
Israel were Rep. Howard Berman, (DCalifornia) and Rep. Jim Courter (RNew Jersey). However, the media report on this meeting was meager and
what its object or effect were unknown.
Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to
Washington, Moshe Arad, set upon by
other angry United States Jews, cabled
Jerusalem in mid-November:
I implore you to discuss and reassess the grave implications the
law would have on the relations
between Israel and the Jewish
community, and, as a direct result,
the ramifications on our standing
in the United States.
Harry Wall, head of the Israel office of
the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith, who then discussed the matter
with Shamir on November 18, said, "He
[Shamir] is now realizing the depth of
the rage, the depth of the anger on this
.issue. "
Page 18

The upshot of it all was an expressed


hope that the matter could be sent to a
committee to study so that it could languish there for days, weeks, months, or
years. Meanwhile, a small group calling
itself the International Federation of
Secular Humanistic Jews met in Brussels
and came up with the answer to "Who
is a Jew?" The statement was short,
"Any person who declares himself/herself to be a Jew."
Slowly it is becoming obvious that
Israel is in a crisis position. The question
is: is Israel a religious state that functions according to Orthodox Jewish
law, or is Israel a democratic state with
concerns for its largely secular population? Those concerned do not see that
the issue was settled after the Second
World War. The claim of Jews upon
this land is that they are the "Chosen
People" of god, and that Israel, given to
them by god, is their "homeland."
Given that basic premise, it is surprising
that it took forty years for the crisis
which Israel is experiencing to arise.
The government of Israel cannot repudiate the premise upon which it was
built. And the Old Testament, which is
the sacred book of the Jews, posits a
repressive, fundamentalist, bizarre,
and basically irrational religion. And it is
that Old Testament that is Israel's
single justification for the seizure and
settlement on Palestinian land. Given
the basic premise for the founding of
the nation in this particular geographic
area, it was obvious to many that a Jewish state would be based on a nationalism that in turn was based on the religion of the Old Testament.
The influx of Jews from throughout
the world brought those from North
Africa, Iraq, Yemen, and Kurdistan, as
we't'tas horn Europe, ann the Un1teu
states. The Sephardic Jews from Asia
and Africa could only follow the biblical
admonition to "Be fruitful and multiply." They had come for spiritual fulfillment and because of their religion, not
for political expression, and naturally
moved slowly to ultra-Orthodoxy. They
January 1989

did not stay in the small communities in


which they first found refuge, such as
Mea Shearim, or Bnai Braq near Tel
Aviv. As did immigrants to America
who first came to ethnic quarters in our
cities, they have in the past forty years
burst from those areas to move throughout the land.
In a sense a similar situation had occurred in the United States. When
Black slaves were first brought to the
nation, no thought was given to the fact
that their numbers would grow by both
continued importation of slaves and by
the ordinary process of reproduction.
Today with a nation approximately 12.1
percent Black, public attention is pressed
upon the problems of this group of
persons.
The ultra-Orthodox in Israel, like the
fundamentalists in the United States,
see modern society as having strayed
from the straight and narrow of the true
religion. Both stress a need for strong
religious binds to combat moral decay,
drug abuse, pornography, the breakup
of the family and other social ills.
Slowly the media began to speculate
as to what it all meant. "Why" one columnist after another asked, "Israel?"
On the one side stands the secular or
liberal Jew who feels that Israel is a
pluralist home to Israelis of various religious intensities who want to live in a
modern tolerant state. On the other,
fundamentalists preach rigid adherence
to the Old Testament, and the Torah, in
a would-be biblical state. Even as stated,
the dichotomy does not present the
issue. There is no such person as a secular Jew. A Jew, by definition, is a person who has opted for Judaism, and it
matters not ifthat is with great intensity
or with laxity. There are hundreds of
"mou'e'f'f'l tdl'e'in, .-..t'<>tnt~C;;' i,\" lJ,\hi.cb:JelJl~
or persons of any other religious persuasion may live.Throughout the United
States, for example, Baptists of every
degree of persuasion, from the most
passionate biblical literalist to the most
cynical roue, may live out their lives
without conflict with the culture. No
American Atheist

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religionneeds a special homeland where


its laws are rules for all of humanity in
certain geographical confines. This is a
retreat into a fantasy world, a return to
pre-human history.
For a Jewish philosopher to cry to
the world, "Why have we come home?"
is to distort history and reality. Israel Jerusalem - is not "home" for the
Jews except in their mythology. Their
last brief stay in that region ended with

their expulsion by the Roman army in


A.D. 70. They have no claim to the land
which has been in the hands of the
Palestinians for over nineteen hundred
years.
In a sense it was a wonderful dream
for the Jews: their very own heaven on
earth had materialized with the founding
of the state of Israel, and for many years
during the diaspora Jews held tightly to
it. But realities began to intervene even

ist - - - - --

~~~~~~-----~~~~~~-------. t r
Oia\ A MinIS e _o~a\A past~r
Ola\ A Pray
_-------cher

_--- 385-1111
_--- 452-1798
-476-6669
-~~ 478-0223
452-0223
385-2025
---._n

_-----------====_-

from the beginning. Now most recent


events are such that the problem of
Israel can no longer be ignored. We see
a fragmenting of the supposed unity of
the Jews, although to any observant
student of Israel's history that unity had
always been more imaginary than real.
- Madalyn O'Hair
Compiled from news services

ia
nd
_-- 331-8 0
___
000
Ola\ A Revere
. t
.
-- 836A Sa~n Tc CreationIst -- _ 454-1682
lentl I _-----------:-_-_--472-2030
mn ------ _-- 441-8813
------ _-- 925-1087
~.~-,---~--- 331-772
"_346-002

DIAL-AN-ATHEIST
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Page 19

Masters of Atheism

The mother of god

One of the authors of

The Bible Handbook


looks at the myth of
the Virgin Mary.

This month's essay is by G. W.


Foote (1850-1915), the president of
the National Secular Society in
Great Britain. Hefounded the Freethinker in 1881 and edited it until
his death. In 1883he was sentenced
to one-year imprisonment, with labor, for publishing satirical sketches
illustrating Bible stories. The same
sense of humor that landed him in
jail also produced the following essay. The twenty-three
page pamphlet was "issued for the Secular
Society Limited, by Pioneer Press
(G. W. Foote & Co., Ltd.)" in 1932.
The price for this little masterpiece
was two pence.
Preface To First Edition

Ii

Atheism has a long, proud history of


publishing and speechmaking. Unfortunately, however, much of that history is inaccessible to modern readers,
surviving only in rare booklets, books,
and pamphlets housed in scattered
libraries and private collections. The
American Atheist attempts to make
some of that literature more available
to modern Atheists by reprinting
essays by yesterday's "Masters of
Atheism." These reprints are
produced courtesy of the Charles E.
Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives.

G. W. Foote
Page 20

he present pamphlet represents


one of the very few unfinished
manuscripts left by the late G. W.
Foote. The unceasing calls of conducting a weekly paper never possessing
capital enough to secure adequate assistance, of lecturing and writing, combined with the duties of the leader of the
militant Freethinkers of Great Britain,
left little time or inclination for work that
could be postponed. In such circumstances, most men are content to do
the day's work as it arises, and to look
forward with a sense of relief to a leisure
hour - when it can be had. But, after
all, thirty-five years' work as editor of a
paper like the Freethinker was a record
of which any man might have felt proud.
Of the vigour of his work therein thousands of readers in all parts of the world
have borne ungrudging testimony.
But although The Mother of God is
unfinished, it is not incomplete - that
is, it is complete so far as it goes. Very
little more was to be added to carry out
the author's plan, and although this
little might have been added, one feels
that G. W. Foote's large circle of admirers would prefer it as he left it. These
willcertainly welcome a hitherto unpublished pamphlet from one of the most
powerful pens ever wielded in the serJanuary 1989

vice of Freethought.
Had this pamphlet been issued without the author's name on the title-page,
no one who knew G. W. Foote's writings would have been in doubt as to its
author. There is in it all his customary
directness of utterance, forcefulness of
phrasing, and simplicity of style. Unlike
those writers who love to parade their
learning, G. W. Foote never intruded
his on the reader. His writings were never encumbered with a mass of references - useful as these may be; he never sought to break down an opponent's
defences by sheer weight of metal, a
plan which so often leaves the reader
dazed rather than convinced; he- was
content to give the results of his research
in a paragraph, sometimes in an epigram. Let an informed writer go through
The Mother of God, and he will realize
how easily it might have been expanded
into a volume. It is comparatively simple
for anyone who can scribble, to write a
big book on a subject that he may only
have "read up" for the purpose. The art
of the writer and the skill of the thinker
is shown by the compression of a subject within small limits, and in such a
way that the reader loses none of its
salient features.
Of this art G. W. Foote was an admitted master. No other British freethinking
writer has possessed the same quality
in so enviable a degree. His phrasing
was always so simple and so apposite
that superficial readers were apt to
overlook the vast amount of reading
and the careful thinking it expressed.
His aim was always to awaken the interest of his readers. If that were done, a
fuller study of the subject was fairly well
assured. If it were not done, nothing
else mattered. In the present case, his
powers of sarcasm, irony and his wide
knowledge of theological literature, are
brought to bear upon one of the most
stupid of Christian superstitions. And in
that future day when students of comparative mythology will marvel at the
human mind ever having descended to
such depths of fatuity, one would fain
American Atheist

hope that the name of G. W. Foote will


claim its due recognition as one of the
world's liberators. He himself would
have asked for no greater or better
reward.
Chapman Cohen.
I.
Only one person in human records
- or rather in Christian records - was
an absolute orphan. This was Adam.
He was an orphan from birth - if we
may say so of one who was not even
born. He had no father and no mother;
in which respect he was resembled by
Melchizedek, only that gentleman, at
least as referred to in the New Testament
must have been both a mythical and a
mystical character, for he was also without beginning or end of days. * Poor
Adam had no childhood. He missed the
most delightful part of human existence.
No father told him things or had a game
with him. No mother hugged and kissed
him and prattled delicious nonsense in
his ears. His lifehad no spring. It began,
so to speak, in the summer, and soon
passed into the winter. Eve herself was
less unfortunate, for she was not made
of clay. Her father was a warm rib, and
she had a live companion at the outset
of her career. One's heart goes out in
pity towards the first man. Considering
all he lost by the very fact of his being
the first, it was hard that he should be
punished so terribly for his first slip.
There was no First Offenders' Act then,
and the poor fellow got penal servitude
for life for his first transgression.
No wonder the second person of the
Trinity decided to be only half an orphan. Jesus Christ had no father - at
least, they say so. True, it is stated that

*Melchizedek is a priest and king of Salem


mentioned in Gen. 14:18. In Heb. 7:3 he is
described as "Without father, without
mother, without descent, having neither
beginning of days, nor end of life."
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the Holy Ghost stood towards him in


that capacity; but this is only one of the
little comedies of the Christian faith; for
the Holy Ghost was the third person of
the Trinity, and the Trinity is one and
indivisible, so that the Holy Ghost was
Jesus Christ too, and Jesus Christ was
the Holy Ghost, and both of them were
God the Father. Which things, as Paul
says, are a mystery. But be that as it
may, it is certain that Jesus Christ
avoided the melancholy fate of Adam.
He dispensed with a father, and preferred to have a mother. The artists picture him as a handsome, happy baby,
nestling in her loving arms, or clasped
to her devoted bosom. Herein, at any
rate, he displayed some good taste and
natural feeling. Poor, indeed, is the man
who has no recollection of his mother.
We do wrong to sneer at the Frenchman who is melted and smitten to his
knees by the magic of "Ma Mere." He
bends before the deepest and holiest
fact of life; for maternity lies at the bottom of all intellectual culture and moral
discipline. It is the first sacred fount of
disinterested love. So it was right on the
part of Jesus to have a mother, and the
world would never have worshipped
him without.
The mother of Jesus Christ was
Mary of Nazareth; and if he at his birth
was "the Infant-God," as Milton terms
him in the Ode on the Nativity, she was
the mother of God;
A great many Protestants willcall this
blasphemous. But that only shows their
January 1988

ignorance. The expression "Mother of


God" has been used by several Protestant poets, even in Puritan England.
. Amongst the Catholics it is quite classic.
The "Ave Maria" says: "Holy Mary,
mother of God, pray for us sinners now,
and in the hour of death." Another
Catholic prayer runs: "We fly to thy patronage, 0 Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers, 0 ever
glorious and Blessed Virgin." We might
give a thousand corroborative extracts
from Catholic writers; but, instead of
doing so, we will cite the language of a
Pope, which should be conclusive. Pius
the Ninth, in an Encyclical Letter, dated
1846, wrote as follows:
In order that our most merciful
God may the more readily incline
his ear to our prayers, and may
grant that which we implore, let us
ever have recourse to the intercession of the most holy mother
of God, the immaculate Virgin
Mary.
So far from having any hesitation on
this point, Catholics have revelled in
emphasizing it. St. Ligouri said that "All
is subject unto Mary, even God himself." This must be on the principle of
once a mother always a mother, and
once a son always a son. So the Catholics pray more to Mary than they do to
Christ. St. Bernard beheld two ladders
extending from earth to heaven. Christ
was at the top of one, Mary at the top
of the other. Those who climbed up his
ladder fell back, but those who climbed
up hers succeeded, for she stretched
out her hands and helped them. From
which it appears that Christians should
pray to Mary instead of Jesus; making
friends with the mother and leaving the
son alone.
What will those who regard the expression "Mother of God" as blasphemous think of a worse expression that
was employed by St. Jerome, one of the
greatest Fathers of the Church, who is
Page 21

Now, if Mary was indeed the Mother of God,


their relationship was a frightfully mixed affair.
She was the wife of her own father, daughter of her own husband,
sister of her own son, and mother of her own brother.
the author of the Vulgate (Latin) Bible?
This saint was so enamoured of virginity that he became a monk and persuaded his sweetheart to become a
nun; and writing to her mother, as
Jortin says, he "calls ~Eustochium the
nun, His Lady, because she was the
spouse of his Lord, and reminds the
mother of this lady that she has the honour to be God's mother-in-law." It
seems impossible to go beyond that.
Now, if Mary was indeed the Mother
of God, their relationship was a frightfully mixed affair. She was the wife of
her own father, daughter of her own
husband, sister of her own son, and
mother of her own brother. The brain
reels under this awful mystery. One can
only exclaim with Othello that "Chaos
is come again."
II.
The fullness of time had come for
God - that is to say, the Christian
God, the God of the Bible - to make
a bold stroke for the world's salvation.
He had been four thousand years thinking about it, and now he meant business.
Indeed, it appears that he had resolved
upon it immediately after, or even before, the fall of Adam. But the mills of
God grind slowly, at the rate of one revolution in several millenniums. It was
four thousand years from Adam to
Christ, and it is nearly two thousand
years from Christ to the present time.
Forty centuries were required to make
a beginning, and nineteen centuries to
get very little further; so that the world
will hardly be saved before this planet
becomes too cold for human habitation; and the last remnants of our race
will almost be glad to miss salvation in
order to make sure of warmth hereafter.
God had made many minor, abortive
attempts at salvation. He had drowned
all mankind except eight persons, who
stocked it afresh. He had called Abraham to be the father of his chosen people, the Jews. He had worked a vast
Page 22

variety of miracles, which ought to have


converted everybody. He had sent
prophets, and inspired a number of
writers, and even written certain commandments with his own "finger." But
all these attempts were vitiated, and
therefore frustrated, by one essential
drawback. All the instruments of God,
from Noah downwards, had been infected with original sin; and this mistake
was now to be rectified. A new messenger was to be sent from heaven without
a trace of that infection; and as he was
not to be dropped down full-grown, but
to begin his career on earth to all appearances like other men, it was necessary that his generation should be miraculous. He was, therefore, brought
into the world without the assistance of
a father. His mother was supernaturally
impregnated by the Holy Ghost, and in
due time the sinless Saviour appeared.
Mary of Nazareth was selected as the
vehicle of his introduction. There is
nothing in the New Testament about
her youthful career, but a good deal of
information is contained in two "Apocryphal" Gospels - the Gospel of the
Birth of Mary and the Protevangelion.
They tell us that she was born as miraculously as her future son, that she
walked nine steps when she was nine
months old, that at the age of three she
was taken to be educated at the Temple
in Jerusalem, that she walked up the
stairs like a grown woman, and danced
a jig to the admiration of all Israel; that
she enjoyed the conversation of angels
and daily received visitors from God;
that the priests resolved she should be
married at the age of fourteen, that all
the marriageable men of the house of
David had to cast lots for her, and that
the lottery ticket was won by Joseph,
who begged to decline the honour on
account of his advanced years; that he
was compelled to marry the girl, that he
took her home and left her in a virgin
state while he went out carpentering,
that on returning to his domicile he
found her in an interesting condition,
that the priests charged him with having
January 1989

"defiled" her himself, that they subjected him to the ordeal of drinking "the
water of the Lord," a filthy concoction
which is described in the fifth chapter of
Numbers, that Joseph's innocence was
proved triumphantly, and that he went
home again with Mary "rejoicing and
praising the God of Israel." According
to Celsus, a rumour was afloat amongst
the early enemies of Christianity, both
Jews and Gentiles, that Mary had an intrigue with a Roman soldier named
Panthera. But we merely mention these
things in passing, and fallback upon the
New Testament story. Mary is therein
a young woman engaged to be married
to a carpenter called Joseph. Had they
been tied up by a Rabbi, the Holy Ghost
might have been too late. It was necessary, therefore, to be prompt, and even
"previous." And this is how it was managed. According to Luke, the only evangelist in the secret - and how he learnt
it the Lord only knows - the angel
Gabriel was sent from heaven to tell
Mary that she was to become a mother
without the co-operation of Joseph.
The conversation between the lady and
the angel is fully reported by Luke, but
the language is too crude for reproduction. Suffice it to say that the lady was
naturally sceptical, but her doubts were
removed, and when the angel "departed" she was satisfied that she would
give birth to the Son of God.
III.
It is generally agreed, at least by
Catholic writers, that the angel Gabriel
appeared to Mary in human form; some
say as a handsome young man of twentyfive; which would render the miracle
more intelligible. According to Bonaventure, in the Rev. Dr. Oakeley's
translation, Gabriel was the "faithful
proxy" of the Trinity. He accepted the
embassy with a "beaming countenance": Then rising on the wings of joy,
he quits the heavenly courts, and
American Atheist

Gabriel departed, and Mary and the Trinity were alone together. What
followed is best left to imagination. But the theologians will talk,
even when decency suggests silence, and we are bound to follow them,
although we shall do so with the greatest- circumspection.
is instantly present in human
shape before the Virgin Mary,
whom he discovers in the innermost retreat of her lowly dwelling.
Yet not so rapid was his flight but
that the Blessed Trinity, prevent"
ing their ambassador, was in the
dwelling before him.
Which seems to show that the Trinity
mistrusted the faithful proxy.
Evidently all the speaking was left to
Gabriel; and, in one sense, we wish this
explanation had to be written by him,
instead of by us; for the subject is rather
scabrous, and we are only impelled to
deal with it by a sense of duty.It is a fact
that the Catholic Church, and to some
extent the Anglican High Church, place
the most elaborate treatises on the
Mother of God, and the Immaculate
Conception of Jesus Christ, into the
hands of young people - girls as well as
lads; and if the poison is disseminated it
isnecessary to furnish the antidote; nor
can it be helped ifthe antidote is obnoxious as well as the poison, although it
must be so in a minor degree, and that
only temporarily, since its action and
object are remedial.
According to Romish and Ritualistic
writers, Mary had to be brought into a
proper state of docility and receptivity.
"Mary," said the late Dr- Pusey, "was
not yet the Mother of God, for the Holy
Ghost vouchsafed to await her consent
ere working within her chaste womb
the Incarnation of the Word." The
Month of Mary, a common Catholic
work, is still more explicit: On the assent of the Virgin to
the proposition made to her hung
the destinies of the human race,
How the angels of God must have
paused in breathless expectation
of her answer! And when they
heard issue from her mouth the
words: "Behold the handmaid of
the Lord: be it done unto me according to thy word"; how the
vaults of heaven resounded with
Austin, Texas

the glorious anthem of "Glory to


God on high, and peace to men of
good will," which, on the night of
Christ's nativity, re-echoed from
the earth! What would have been
our condition if Mary had not
yielded this ready compliance
with God's will? We have every
reason to conclude, that man
would not have been redeemed.
God could, of course, have employed other means, but there is
nothing to make us believe that he
would have done so. On the contrary, all that we know of the
ordinary course of his providence
tends to warrant the contrary inference.
Catholic writers have gone to the
length of saying that Mary's assent to
this mysterious proceeding was necessary, not only because her free-will had
to be enlisted, but also because the
faithful in after ages might see, as St.
Ligouri puts it, that "every grace given
to man in virtue of the merits of Jesus
Christ is conveyed to him by the hands
of Mary." Father Saurez expressly declared it to be the general sentiment of
the Church that "the intercession of the
Mother of God is not only useful, but
even necessary to salvation." St. Peter
Damian asserted the same thing. "Our
salvation," he wrote, "depends on the
will of the blessed Virgin." So that it is
she, rather than the Pope or St. Peter,
who holds the keys of heaven and hell.
Now, suppose that Mary had refused
her assent: how awful would have been
the fate of the whole human race! None
of us would have seen salvation. We
should all have gone to hell. And it was
a very ticklish situation. So much depended on so little. We assume that the
"innermost retreat" of her dwelling was
not the kitchen, but her bedroom. She
had retired for the night, and was perhaps in an advanced state of deshabille
- nearly ready to pose for the "altogether-" At such a moment, Gabriel's
sudden appearance "in human shape"
January 1988

must have been alarming; for it can


hardly be supposed that the young lady
was accustomed to such visitors. How
natural it would have been if she had
cried "Mother!" "Joseph!" and alarmed
the whole household. In that case, Gabriel would have vanished as he came
- perhaps through the keyhole; the
blessed Trinity would have flown after
him; the Incarnation of the Word would
have been postponed indefinitely; and
thousands of years might have elapsed
ere the attempt was renewed. Dear,
good Mary! How fortunate for us that
she was so quick of intuition and so
prompt in compliance!
Gabriel departed, and Mary and the
Trinity were alone together- What followed is best left to imagination. But the
theologians will talk, even when decency suggests silence, and we are bound
to follow them, although we shall do so
with the greatest circumspection.
Let us first hear the famous Bonaventure; who, by the way, belied his name
on this occasion: Although the Person of the Son
alone was made man, yet the
whole Blessed Trinity took part in
His Incarnation, the Father and
the Holy Ghost cooperating with
the Son in this august mystery.
Here, then, be specially attentive,
and try to embrace all that passes,
as if.present at the sacred scene.
what scope may not be afforded
for your meditation in that lowly
dwelling, where such Personages
are assembled, and such unutterable Mysteries accomplished. For
though the Holy Trinity be undoubtedly everywhere present,
yet, in this place, on this occasion,
you must conceive It present in a
more especial way, by reason of
the unspeakable work then and
there effected.

According to Luke, or the writer of


the third Gospel, whoever he was,
Mary was "overshadowed" by the Holy
Page 23

Catholic writers have produced hundreds of pages of indecent speculation on this subject. Some have held that the Holy Ghost took three
drops of Mary's heart's blood to make the body of Jesus.
At least one divine held that she conceived through the ear.
Ghost. Now, this is an extraordinary
expression. It reminds us of the Greek
stories of Leda, or of Correggio's great
picture of Jupiter and 10, which produced
such an effect upon the mind of the Rev.
James Cranbrook, of Edinburgh, one of
the pioneers of Rationalism in Scotland.
Catholic writers have produced hundreds of pages of indecent speculation
on this subject. Some have held that the
Holy Ghost took three drops of Mary's
heart's blood to make the body of
Jesus. At least one divine held that she
conceived through the ear. It was the
"heresy" of Joan Bocher, or Joan of
Kent, in the reign of Edward VI., that
Jesus did not take his body from his
mother, but only passed through her as
light through a glass. For entertaining
this opinion she was committed to prison for twelve months, during which
time her conversion was taken in hand
by many famous Protestant divines, including Ridley, Lever, Whitehead,
Hutchinson, and the great Archbishop
Cranmer. She admitted, in reply to
Hutchinson, who left an account of his
controversy with her, in his treatise on
The Image of God, that the Saviour was
of Mary's seed, according to the prophecy in Genesis; but he was of Mary's
"spiritual seed," not her "natural seed."
Nothing could shake her conviction on
this point, and the Protestant divines,
finding it impossible to effect her conversion to the true doctrine - that is to
say, their doctrine - determined that
she should be put to death as an incorrigible heretic. Cranmer was employed
to overcome the scruples of the youthful monarch, who long refused to sign
the warrant for her execution; but he
yielded at last, though with tears in his
eyes, throwing the responsibility of the
act upon the Archbishop, and the unhappy woman was committed to the
flames. She may not have known it, but
she followed the opinion of some of the
early Christian "heretics," others of
whom denied that Christ had a body at
all, and affirmed that he was a phantom
or a celestial substance. Some believed
Page 24

in his natural generation; for instance,


the Cerinthians, and probably the
Ebionites. According to the Mohammedan teaching, which no doubt embodies certain early Christian ideas,
Gabriel appeared to Mary in the finest
bloom of adolescence,
in order to
"moderate her surprise" (as Sale says)
and perhaps "to raise an emotion in her,
and assist her conception." Commentators of that faith assert that he "blew
into the bosom of her shift, which he
opened with his fingers, and his breath,
reaching her womb, caused the conception."
But we cannot, at this time of day,
and in an essay like this, penetrate further into this controversy. The holy
men who took part in it had no shame
or reticence. "They search into the
mysteries of generation so profoundly
and exactly, and examine them in such
a gross and naked manner," said Dr.
Fleetwood, Bishop of Ely, more than
two hundred years ago, "that even the
chastest and most delicate translation
of their Latin into English would not fail
to wound, or, at least, to disorder, our
imagination."
Instead of following these beastly divines into the dirty kennels and pigstyes
of their heated imaginations, let us take
a specimen of the rapturous, allusive
style in which modern Catholics are
fond of indulging. The following is extracted from a Month of Mary, written
by two French priests, translated into
English by a lady, and published with
the sanction of Cardinal Wiseman: The Holy Spirit overshadowed
her, and formed of the most pure
blood of Mary in her chaste womb,
the body of the Man-God. Who
can tell all the graces with which
the Lord favoured her in that
blessed moment? ... St. Luke,
who only relates what he learnt,
either directly or indirectly, from
the Blessed Virgin, says not one
word upon this ineffable mystery,
upon which Mary kept a profound
January 1989

silence. She, without doubt, could


not have explained it, for such an
operation was beyond all words
and all conception. It appears, at
least, that she could not speak of
the ecstasy into which she was
rapt in that happy and supreme
moment, nor of the heavenly delight which then overwhelmed her
soul.
This is very suggestive writing, calculated to raise a flutter in the bosoms of
young females, for whom it seems to be
specially designed. In the next sentence
the authors - whose book, we repeat,
is translated by a lady - tells us of the
pious silence maintained by Mary when
she had "recovered from her rapture"
- which is sailing very close to the wind
of sensuality.
Well, the child thus mysteriously begotten was God Almighty himself. It
seems a shocking blasphemy to say so,
but it is the teaching of Christianity, and
whoever ventures to disbelieve it is destined to everlasting punishment. "She
nourishes God at her breast," says
Bishop Ullathorne in reference to Mary's
suckling her offspring; and it must be
equally true that she washed God and
performed the necessary domestic offices, although it sounds a great deal
less poetical.
IV.
We are informed that the primal
curse upon Eve, and through her upon
all her daughters, was revoked in the
case of Mary, who brought forth her
Son (with a capital S) without pain or
sorrow. The reason of this was that she
escaped the universal taint of original
sin. It was discovered by her fanatical
devotees, although it was not known to
the writers of the New Testament, that
Mary also was born in peculiar circumstances. Her father and mother, Joachim
and Anne, received her as a kind gift
from heaven. They had no children, and
had given up all hope of any, when an
American Atheist

"She nourishes God at her breast," says Bishop Ullathorne in reference


to Mary's suckling her offspring; and it must be equally true that she
washed God and performed the necessary domestic offices,
although it sounds a great deal less poetical.
angel promised them a daughter, as a
son had been promised to Abraham
and Sarah. This was in their old age,
and their having a child at that time was
at least wonderful, if not miraculous.
Some writers, indeed, have asserted
that Joachim was physically incapable
of becoming a father; others that Anne
laboured under a preternatural impotency. Mary was begotten, however,
without "the poison of concupiscence."
Spinellus, the Jesuit, says that her parents were simply "inebriated with spirituallove," and were "by a special privilegeof God" preserved from all carnal
pleasure. But this idea was scouted by
St. Bernard, who urged that it might as
wellbe said that Mary, like Jesus, was
conceived by the Holy Ghost. What the
"Immaculists" were trying to do was to
get Mary into the world without original
sin, which, as the Council of Trent declares, "is transfused by propagation."
But, after all, they could not deny the
propagation; they were unable to get rid
of Joachim as they had got rid of Joseph; and they were at last obliged to go
another way to work. They started an
ideawhich, in the course of several centuries, permeated the whole Catholic
Church, and was finally elevated into
the dogma of the Immaculate Conceptionof Mary. This dogma was proclaimed
bythe Pope at St. Peter's on December
8, 1854, to a vast audience of thirty
thousand persons, brought together
from all parts of Christendom. Amidst
breathless silence, and with his face
bathed in tears, whether natural or artificial,the Pope solemnly declared as
follows:It is a dogma of faith that the
Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the
first instant of her conception, by
a singular privilege and grace of
God, in virtue of the merits of
Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the
human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.
This was a very clever way out of the
Austin, Texas

difficulty. The knot had no longer to be


untied with fumbling fingers soiled with
dabbling in sinister impurities; it was cut
once for all with the clean, bright sword
of a miracle. All the questionable old
speculations about the connubial experiences of Joachim and Anne could
be cast aside, or left in the background,
as out of harmony with the purer and
severer taste of a higher civilization.
Moreover, an end was put to the embarrassing questions of sceptics with
regard to the natural side of this theory
of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
First, the Christians had a miraculous
God's Mother; next, they had a miraculous God's Grandmother. But why
stop there? Logic demanded a further
retrogression. Ifthe world rested on the
back of an elephant, and the elephant
rested on the back of a tortoise, what
did the tortoise rest on? And if Jesus
was conceived miraculously, and Mary
was conceived miraculously, they were
stiIIlinked on to the chain of original sin
unless Anne was also conceived miraculously. Nay, the mother of Anne would
have to be conceived in the same way,
and Anne's grandmother, and Anne's
great-grandmother, and so on up to
Mother Eve. But this was more than improbable - it was absolutely impossible.
For in the line of Christ's descent there
were four ladies of easy virtue - namely,
Tamar, who played the harlot by the
roadside, and had a child by her fatherin-law; Rahab, the brothel-keeper of
Jericho, to whom the Jewish spies resorted by instinct or inspiration; Ruth,
who had a curious night-adventure in a
barn; and Bathsheba, who committed
adultery with David while her husband
was engaged in fighting the king's
battles. Four such ladies as these were
enough to destroy the value of any immaculate chain, whose strength must
depend, of course, not upon its strongest, but upon its weakest links. This was
obvious to the astute leaders of the
Catholic Church, who therefore propounded a dogma which cut the whole
business short at the birth of Mary, by
January 1988

making the miracle one that was wrought


upon her and not upon her mother.
Being born by a special miracle without original sin, Mary was a sinless being all her lifetime. Such is the doctrine
of the Catholic Church, but it was not
the belief of the early Christians. They
were satisfied with the idea that Mary
conceived as a virgin, and remained a
virgin after giving birth to Jesus. This
was the first step on the path which terminated at Rome on December 8, 1854,
and it sufficed for a considerable time.
According to the Gospels, Jesus had
four brothers - James, Joses, Simon,
and Judas - and an unspecified number
of sisters. Every unsophisticated reader
of the Gospels would take them to be
the children of Mary by Joseph. Mary
herself, indeed, speaking on one occasion to Jesus, referred to Joseph as
"thy father." But the early Christians
got rid of this awkward text by a characteristic explanation. They contended
that Mary was not speaking on affidavit,
but informally; that the divine origin of
her son was a family secret, only known
to herself and her accommodating husband; that it would never be betrayed to
others by inadvertent speech; and that
the Virgin Mother always kept up the
fiction of Joseph's paternity. This explanation was fanciful, but it served the
turn. In the course of time, however, as
Mary became a more venerated figure,
it was denied that she ever had marital
relations with Joseph. At first it was
maintained that the brothers and sisters
of Jesus referred to in the Gospels were
children of Joseph by a former marriage; subsequently, it was held that Joseph also lived in perpetual virginity;
finally,the brothers of Jesus were transformed into his cousins, and to affirm
otherwise was declared to be a blasphemous impiety.
Thus is religious history written and
interpreted! It is not the history that determines the ideas, it is the ideas that
determine the history. The natural order of things is reversed. The records
contain, not what really happened, but
Page 25

Thus is religious history written and interpreted!


It is not the history that determines the ideas,
it is the ideas that determine the history.
The natural order of things is reversed ....
what ought to have happened; and are,
therefore, not actual history, but the
fictions of a pious imagination.
Mary's perpetual virginity is a Catholic dogma. It is also accepted by the majority of Protestants. The latter held it
on what may be called a basis of convenience. It is not an article of faith with
them, but they think it shows a proper
respect to the mother of their Lord.
They feel bound to reject the notion
that Mary gave birth to her divine baby,
and then settled down in connubial bliss
with Joseph.
Catholics and Protestants both press
into the service of Mary's virginity whether temporary or perpetual - the
prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin
shall conceive, and bear a son." But
anyone who takes the trouble to read
the seventh and eighth chapters of
Isaiah willsee that the prophet is referring to a child who is to be born in the
immediate future, not several hundred
years afterwards. Moreover, the translation in the generality of Versions is
fraudulent. The original word almah
does not mean a virgin at all. It simply
means a young woman, whether single
or married; and, unless there was a time
when it was wonderful for a young
woman to conceive and bear a son, it
must be allowed that there was no miracle in the case, and very little prophecy.
The conception of a virgin mother
was not borrowed from the Old Test ament. It was totally foreign to the mind
of the Jews. They had several cases in
their Scriptures of marvellous children
being born of aged or barren mothers,
but the miracle was always operated
through human agency. This idea was,
however, very common in the East.
Most of the saviours of antiquity were
born of women and begotten by gods.
There was no necessity for invention on
the part of Christians. They had merely to borrow from the common treasury
of Oriental superstition. Even the doctrine of the immaculate conception of
Mary was, in Gibbon's opinion, borPage 26

rowed from the Koran, where it is


"darkly hinted," but "more clearly explained by the tradition of the Sonnites."
This is, at least, consistent with chronology, for the Koran belongs to the
seventh century, while the doctrine in
question was, in the twelfth century,
branded by the great St. Bernard as a
blasphemous novelty.
Far earlier was the doctrine that
Mary was the Mother of God. The title
began to be used in the first half of the
fifth century. Mary was called Deipara.
The word means more than mother in
the domestic sense. It refers to the process of parturition, and justifies the
terrible sneer of Gibbon - "As in zoology we familiarly speak of oviparous
and viviparous animals." Instead of the
Mother of God, it might almost be
translated the Dam of God. The expression was distasteful to many, but
they were the minority, and orthodoxy
is the opinion of the majority. The patriarch Nestorius preached against it as
rash and recent, and savouring of Paganism; but he was condemned and degraded at the Council of Ephesus in
June, 431. He was proclaimed a heretic,
his opinion on this subject was damned,
and everybody was damned who did
not damn him. Nestorius was banished,
tortured, and pursued by bigotry whereever he fled; when he died it was given
out that his tongue had been eaten by
worms, and when he was buried the tradition arose that the rain of heaven
never fell upon his sepulchre. Such
were the advantages he gained by opposing the fashionable superstition of
his age; and thus the doctrine of the
Deipara triumphed and became a point
of faith to worship the immaculate
Mother of God.

v.
Naturally, the mother of God enjoyed her share of the strange honours
that were paid to the whole of the Christian pantheon, from God the Father
down to the humblest and obscurest
January 1989

saint. Pictures of Christ were multiplied


by pious imagination; and, in the masterly language of Gibbon: The fruitfulprecedent was speedily transferred to the Virgin Mary,
and the saints and martyrs. In the
Church of Diospolis, in Palestine,
the features of the Mother of God
were deeply inscribed in a marble
column; the East and West have
been decorated by the pencil of
St. Luke; and the Evangelist, who
was perhaps a physician, has
been forced to exercise the occupation of a painter, so profane and
odious in the eyes of the primitive
Christians. The Olympian Jove,
created by the muse of Homer,
and the chisel of Phidias, might inspire a philosophic mind with momentary devotion; but these Catholic images were faintly and flatly
delineated by monkish artists in
the last degeneracy of taste and
genius.
Even a sepulchre was invented for
the Mother of God at Ephesus, and its
authenticity was asserted by a synod;
but Ephesus was superseded by the
holier Jerusalem, and her empty sepulchre was shown there to pilgrims from
all parts of Christendom. In the course
of time, as Gibbon says, it "produced
the fable of her resurrection and assumption, in which the Greek and Latin
Churches have piously acquiesced."
This fable is one of the most monstrous and fantastic instances of Christian superstition, and is in every way
worthy of the Church that celebrated
the pious care with which Mary preserved the portion of her son's anatomy
that was amputated at his circumcision;
together with the blood and water that
fell from his hands, feet, and side, upon
the cross; and all the nails with which he
was fastened up by his executioners.
It is related that the Mother of God
survived her son a considerable time.
Some say she died at fifty-eight, some at
American Atheist

George William Foote

sixty-three, and some a great deal older. At last she prayed for her release,
and an angel was sent to tell her that
within three days her son would take
her to himself. All the Apostles were
gathered together to be present at her
obsequies. St. John was preaching at
Ephesus, and in the middle of his sermon
there came a clap of thunder, and he
was whisked through the air to her residence. Many wonderful circumstances
attended her decease. Jesus himself,
with angels, patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, came
from heaven and stood by her bed; the
whole celestial company singing songs
and hymns in her honour. When she
gave up the ghost her body became so
luminous that the maids could not
touch or look upon it. Peter and Paul
carried the corpse to the sepulchre,
John went before with a palm sent from
heaven, and the rest of the Apostles followed in couples. A most sweet odour
pervaded the air. The Jewish highpriest tried to stop the funeral, and laid
his two hands upon the bier; whereupon both his arms withered and were
torn off at the elbows. But, on Peter's
advice, he knelt down and kissed the
bier, and professed himself a Christian;
whereupon his arms were immediately
fastened on again. Being laid in the
tomb, the body was "waked" for three
days and nights; at the expiration of
which Mary was raised from the dead
byJesus himself, who took her from the
old to the new Jerusalem. St. Thomas,
as usual, was absent. He was too late to
see the body of Mary, but he had the
smallerconsolation of seeing her empty
sepulchre, which was a proof that she
had gone elsewhere. Besides, he found
a spring of manna boiling up inside it,
whichwas enough to satisfy the stoutest
incredulity.
Upon this ridiculous fable the Catholic Church bases the Feast of the Assumption. Whether the Mother of God
died at Ephesus or Jerusalem, the
Church is assured that her body did not
see corruption, but that she was raised
Austin,Texas

George William Foote was born on


January 11, 1850, and he died on October
17, 1915, having lived his entire life in the
London, England, area.
Although he was totally committed to
the cause of Atheism, he - also - received
little or no notice in the freethought histories of the day. That he spent his oneyear term in jailat hard labor is conveniently
forgotten. The history of the cases of blasphemy should write his name large.
In 1881 he founded the Atheist journal
The Freethinker and remained as its editor
until 1915. His major writings during this period, all published in London,
consisted of The Bible Handbook, with W. P. Ball, in 1888; Bible Romances,
in 1880; The Book of God, 1899; Christianity and Progress, with a Chapter
on Mohammedanism, 1917; Crimes of Christianity, with J. M. Wheeler,
1885;Flowers of Freethought, 1893-4;Infidel Death-Beds, 1892; The Jewish
Life of Christ being the Septhe Tolduth Jeshu, with J. M. Wheeler, 1885;
Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh, 1891; Secularism, the True Philosophy of Life, 1879.
from the dead and taken bodily to
heaven, and welcomed there by the
most splendid procession of angels and
archangels. It is also taught that, as
Jesus sits at the right hand of God the
Father, Mary sits at the right of God the
Son, and reigns eternally as Queen of
heaven. "The Father," says the Month
of Mary already quoted, "acknowledges
her as his beloved daughter, the Word
for his divine mother, and the Holy
Spirit for his chaste spouse." No wonder,
therefore, that she does as she likes,
and is to all intents and purposes omnipotent. The Father fondly gives in to his
daughter, the Son obediently yields to
his mother, and the Holy Ghost discreetly obeys his wife. Praying to Mary
thus saves a lot of time, and produces
the most satisfactory results.
Of a piece with this fable is the famous story of the House of Loretto.
This contained the chamber in which
Mary was born, in which she received
the annunciation, in which she conceived
the Saviour of the world, and in which
she bred him till he was twelve years of
age. Nobody took any notice of it for
more than three hundred years after
these occurrences, but it was "discovered" at Nazareth at the instigation of
St. Helena, the mother of Constantine
January 1988

the Great; the same lady whose wealth


and position induced the Christian
priests to discover the very cross upon
which Christ was crucified. A chapel
was built round it - or so they say and it was much frequented by pilgrims
until the Holy land was conquered by
the Saracens. For a long while it was in
the possession of those wicked enemies
of the true faith; but on May 9, 1291, a
team of angels carried it through the air
to the coast of Dalmatia, where it attracted a multitude of devotees. In the
course of time, however, their ardour
cooled, and the Mother of God had it
shifted again by the angels into Italy. At
first it was located in a wood, which was
a resort of robbers who levied blackmail
upon the pilgrims; so it was once more
removed by the angels to a mountain,
and finally to the highway in the Papal
state at Loretto, a few miles south of
Ancona. Two centuries later, in 1518,
Leo the Tenth pledged the Papal infallibilityto the truth of the miracle, which
was further authenticated in a Bull of
Pope Julius the Second. Pilgrimages to
the House of Loretto were long fashionable in Europe, and the Church reaped
a rich harvest from its credulous visitors.~

Page 27

Fun with
Dial-An-Atheist
"~'~

,~

here are ChaptersofAmericanAtheists


allover the country,
and wherever there isa Chapter~there is a Dial-An-Atheist
te[ep~one service?;e. directorygfthe servicesSllrrently in oB:?
eration isPllblished. el~~llereJn thisf(lagazine -..Read~rsY>'iIIl1ote..
thi1t inaS9ition to Di~!]~~~~theist;tfj~fe. 9r~.~q~~~I<ea~~tQ~i~~<
lines, and there is thei.;erypopular Dial-THE:AtheisferVice, whei~ ..
. one may hear the voiteandreasorted
argument dtE)r. Madalyn
O'Hair, the Grande Dame of Atheisniherself.
.....
...............
In a sense, these Atheist information lines are alow-budget an- .
swer to the media monopoly held by religious propagandists. CBN
they are not, but Dial-An-Atheist lines accessible across the land dO
allow the editorial voiceofreason to be heard -despite the nearly
total suppression of Athetstnewsand
opinion in tq~commercial.
religionisJ-~earing press and broadtastllledia" ........i{
. ..
.i

Ofteh~h~t1iessage$t6behear4qnJbiaFAt'l~!hi$t(t:>A!\)line$
areseii8u~evE?ph~~yystuff:plasJortheaBpt1Honofsfji~i/
sacrifice (Ee.,repealoffeIlgiQus exemptions in state laws all6wing(
fanatical parents to withhold medidllcare fromtl1eir children),
warnings of breaches ir{the wall of separation of stat and church,
miniature essays on thkm~aning of lif~and the foundations of eth<
ical heh~v~or, etc. SOIl)eservices haveeven-been known to carry
poetry so-sophisticatedjt-doesn't rhyme!
Ofteri;however, th~Diaf-An-AtheistJines are opened to what
might b~caUed "didadtilevjty~~:t1ies$~gesthat are #mnyand satiri

i2~l)y~ti~stfu6u~eq.nd~lchiQfqqqfQrthQ~gQt.]h~t'rrolyaiqlki!

(s6metimes\r~ferreaF9a$nthe~~Wfjolly~~~bte")i$a
natur~1>f9r<
burlesque-type Dial-Ari:;e.theistmessages! Satiricaltieatment of the >
Bible is often superior to sober, scholgdydeburikingof The Book,
which some Atheists feefgrants an aura of undeserved dignity to
volumes which might better be thought of as "Gideon-plops." Of
course, most Dial-An-Atheist services include both types of Bible
criticism from time to time.
.
...i
Two Bible-burlesque examples which Ithink readeiswillenjoy arifi
from my supposed "retranslation\~dftH~.scrjptuies;)'3"amaran4Jb~;(

Three Sit,\ds'lana~'Q~t1i~Golder1:aemdtrhQias;11.....................;<;i
:""':":::::::~:,:,:.:

.. ,-.

Frank R. Zindler
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Formerly a professor of biology and geology, Frank R. Zindler is now
a science writer. He is a member of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, and the
American Schools of Oriental Research. He is the director of the
Central Ohio Chapter of American Atheists.
Page 28

January 1989

American Atheist

,
1

Tamar And The Three Studs


Today I want to share with you a story from the thirtyeighth chapter of Genesis. This is the story used by the
Roman Catholic church as grounds for opposing birth control, masturbation, and who knows what else. My feeling is
that the story has nothing at all to do with birth control or
masturbation. If it proves anything, it may be an argument
for legalizing prostitution. The translation is my own. Its
superiority to the King James version willbe obvious. The
story is usually known as the story of Onan. I prefer to call
it "The Story of Tamar and the Three Studs."
Once upon a time, there was a young woman named
Tamar. Her husband, a man named Er, did something
naughty - Er erred - and god zapped him dead before he
had sired any children. So Judah, her father-in-law, told his
other son, Onan (Tamar's brother-in-law), to sleep with her
and produce offspring for his dead brother. Although most
of the appropriate anatomy did become involved, Onan's
"heart" wasn't in it, and he "spilled his seed upon the
ground." So god zapped him dead also.
Time passed, and father-in-law Judah left home to go to
Timnath "to shear some sheep" (heh, heh, heh!). Tamar,
however, knowing his route and perceiving his true character, got to the turnip patch before the big bad wolf did.
Dressed like a prostitute, she waited for her father-in-law to
come by. When Judah came by, he didn't realize it was his
daughter-in-law, and he said to her:
Austin, Texas

"Hey, baby, let's shear some sheep, heh, heh, heh. Catch
my drift?"
"How much will you pay?" she asked.
"I'll send you a kid from my flock," Judah replied.
"Will you give me a pledge until you send it?" Tamar
bargained.
"OK," he said, and gave her his seal and its cord, and his
walking-staff. Judah did not spill his seed on the ground. He
got her pregnant.
Three months passed, and Judah was told that his widowed daughter-in-law Wi3S expecting.
"She is, is she? Bring her out so she can be burned," he
said.
But when she was brought out, she said, "The father of
my child is the man to whom these things belong," and exhibited Judah's seal, cord, and staff (the wooden one).
Judah looked at the things and said "Oops!" (oopseth in
the King James version), and promised not to have intercourse with her again. Tamar was not burned, and Judah
was not blamed for having had intercourse with someone
he thought was a prostitute. And they all lived happily ever
after.
Since no one punished Judah for sleeping with a prostitute (or Tamar for being one), we must conclude that prostitution is not really against the teachings of the Bible.

January 1989

Page 29

o Dem Golden Hemorrhoids


I've finally gotten back to work on my new, improved
translation of the Bible: Today I want to read you my version of the story in 1 Samuel, chapter 4, etc., about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant.
Once upon a time, in the days when Israelites were still
in the business of killing off all the neighboring peoples of
Palestine, they got into a fight with the Philistines, and got
stomped pretty bad - losing four thousand men.
"What went wrong?" they asked each other. Usually Jehovah had helped them kill Gentiles with great efficiency,
but now the tables appeared to be turned. "Let's go fetch
the Ark of Covenant," they said, "the box in which Jehovah
is kept between two cherubim. With Jehovah in his box
here beside us, we can't lose!"
And it came to pass, they went to Shiloh and got their
god-in-the-box, along with the god's two bodyguards,
Hophni and Phinehas - the sons of Eli, the Judge of All
Israel. They should have been suspicious of a god who had
to have bodyguards, but alas! They all went back to play the
Phillies.
Well, sir, the Israelites got whomped even worse than
they had been the first time: they lost thirty thousand men.
Worse yet, the Phillies hard-balled Hophni and Phinehas
right on their soft spots, captured the god-in-the-box, and
took it home with them, thinking it might be a good place
to keep their dirty socks.
One of the Israelites fled the battle and ran back to tell
Elithat the god-box hadn't worked at all, that maybe Elihad
forgotten to supply the batteries for the thing. Now Eli was
ninety-eight years old, blind, and sitting on a chair beside
the town gate. When the soldier told him that his two sons
were dead and that the god-in-the-box had been stolen, Eli
fellover backward off his seat and broke his neck and died ..
Eli,you see, was very fat and couldn't stand on his head very
long without developing structural defects. Eli had been
Judge over Israel for forty years. This is fortunate, for if he
had ruled thirty-nine or forty-one years, he probably
wouldn't have gotten into the Bible at all. In the Bible it's
always forty this or forty that - few other numbers ever get
into the "Good Book."
But the story gets worse. Eli's daughter-in-law, the widow
now of Phinehas, heard what had happened. Being far along
in pregnancy, she collapsed and gave birth to a son. As she

Page 30

January 1989

lay unconscious dying, the woman attending her consoled


her: "Don't worry, honey. It's all right. The baby is a boy!"
Unimpressed, the unconscious woman died and named her
son Ichabod. (The sequence of events is exactly as recorded in holy writ!) "lchabod" means "gone is the glory."
Meanwhile, back in the Phillies's home stadium, things
were in turmoil too. The Philistines had taken the god-inthe-box to their Temple of Dagon. That night, when all the
priests of Dagon were sleeping, Jehovah opened the lid of
his box (errkhh!), crawled out, and went over to Dagon and
kicked him in the behind, making him fall on his face on the
floor. Jehovah went back into his box, and the next morning the priests discovered Dagon on the floor. They put him
back up where he belonged, and the next night Jehovah got
out of his box again. This time, not only did he push Dagon
over onto the floor, he cut off all the parts of Dagon that
stuck out from his body. This really rattled the priests the
next morning when they found the pieces strewn about.
Although Jehovah later on would kill Uzzah dead on the
spot for daring to touch god's own box when it was about
to fall off an ox, the PhiIlies who had made off with the box
didn't get a reprimand from the umpire. But they did get
their comeuppance - literally. Jehovah smote them all with
hemorrhoids, so that hardly a man in the whole country
could sit down. As I said, this was a "comeuppance"!
What to do? The Philistines decided to send Jehovah (still
in his packing crate) back to the Israelites. But they decided
to send an offering along with it. So they made five golden
hemorrhoids (I'm not making this up) and five golden mice,
and put them in a treasure chest. Then, since they couldn't
find any Federal Express envelopes big enough, they loaded
the god-in-the-box and the hemorrhoid-holder on a wagon
drawn by two cows and aimed the whole contraption in the
direction of Israel and said, "Don't call us, we'll call you."
When the Israelites saw the returning god-box, they
rejoiced. Straightaway, they chopped up the wagon for
kindling and burned up the two cows for a sacrifice. Jehovah inhaled all the vaporized cow tissues and blessed the
Israelites - all except for the seventy he killed because a
couple of them had snuck a peek inside his box. And the
Israelites lived happily ever after, and the Philistines went
extinct.

American Atheist

Sex-Change Priest
Bible burlesque is not, however, the only type of
amusement available on Dial-An-Atheist lines. The
subject of sex - especially as it relates to things religious - is always an attention-getting source of jollity. Sex is a problem not only for individual preachers and churches (as in the message "Sex-change
Priest"), but for the whole foundational philosophy of
Judeo-Christianity
itself (as in the message "God's
Transcendental Genitals").
Glory Gee to Beezus! The Vatican is all in an uproar. It's
in a pickle that could bring on a revolution both in the airhead realms of theology and in the smoke-filled realms of
altars. It seems that an Italian priest known only as Father
Paolo - after more than twenty-five years of changing wine
into blood - has had a sex-change operation, but stillwants
to continue being a priest. For many years, Father Paolo,
or Sister Paola - or whatever its name is now - wore
women's clothing under the clerical vestments. You might
say that Father Paolo wore dresses under his dresses.
"I carried out my role as a priest always feeling as though
I was a woman," Father Paolo told the Italian newspaper La
Stampa. "Now I want to be a woman and still feel like a
priest."
This is a cute problem for the Roman Catholic church.
For, you see, Roman Catholic teaching holds that once a
man has been ordained a priest, he remains a priest forever.
At the same time, however, the church does not allow women to be priests. If it lets a man became a priestess, it will
be very difficult to keep women from becoming priests. And
if women start presiding over the cannibal feast known as
the Eucharist, it willmake Jesus look like a male chauvinist

Austin, Texas

pig for not having appointed any women to be disciples.


On the other hand, if our transsexual is found to be no
longer a priest - and Cardinal Jose Castillo Lara, the
president of the Vatican's "Commission for the Authentic
Interpretation of Canon Law" says exactly that - it means
that Paolo has lost the magic powers needed to turn the
wafers of goldfish food into god-bod and the Mogen David
into heavenly hemoglobin. In that case, we might be able to
discover the anatomical basis for the magic power produced by priests during the "miracle of the mass."
Either the power resides in one or more of the organs lost
in the sex-change operation, or the growth of breasts after
the hormone therapy has somehow neutralized generalized
powers otherwise distributed throughout a priest's body.
Somehow, I doubt that the growth of breasts willbe found
to be the problem. I have seen lots of priests who were
amply endowed in the pectoral region, and they seem to
have been as successful as the more masculine priests in
transubstantiating the bread and wine into muscle and
blood.
If this reasoning be sound, it leaves a priest's you-knowwhat as the source of the power that generates those incredible edibles. Of course, we still cannot be sure ifit is the
wizard's wondrous wand that produces the dine divine or
whether more inscrutable (or is it inscrotable?) parts of the
pubic paraphernalia turn the trick. Obviously, this is a problem beyond our powers to resolve completely. We can only
hope the pope will convene the Vatican's council of surgeons and succubi to look into the matter. If the council issues a report, we would hope it would be followed by a
movie version. After all, that would probably be the first Xrated film ever produced by the Vatican itself.

January 1989

Page 31

God's Transcendental Genitals


Recent attempts by liberal Christian groups to remove
sexist language from the Bible have met with howls of angry
protest from the fundamentalist faithful. To be sure, much
of the common-gender prose which has been produced appears to be rather ungainly stuff. Something is lost when the
"Son of Man" is transmogrified into the "Child of Humanity." But the objections are not based on aesthetic or literary grounds. The objections come from religionists who
know that god is masculine and that women are secondary
creatures put here for man's enjoyment. Does it not say in
1 Cor. 11:8-9, "for the man is not of the woman, but the
woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the
woman; but the woman for the man."
Surprisingly, the fundies never seem to worry that ascribing gender to a spirit is meaningless. What can it possibly
mean when one says "god is a male being," if god doesn't
have a body? Now, of course, in the good old days of religion, gods and goddesses did have bodies - Venus and
Apollo being celebrated to this day for their alleged good
looks. But it is at least two-and-one-half millennia since
Yahweh (Jehovah) had a body. There is some recent archaeological evidence that Jehovah used to have a wife
named Asherah, and perhaps a second wife named Anet.
But ever since the religionists had a shake-up by King
Josiah in the seventh century B.C., Jehovah has had to
Page 32

January 1989

make do without a body. Small wonder, then, that he has


had to go wifeless as well!
If words are to retain any meaning at all (admittedly a
concern of little weight with most religionists), if Jehovah is
a male spirit, he must possess the spiritual equivalent of
testicles and a penis. Ifso, we must ask of what possible use
these transcendental genitals might be. Do the testes produce spirit sperms? If so, have these organs been put to use
only once in the history of the universe - namely, in the
impregnation of the Virgin Mary?
Considering that our universe is at least fifteen billion
years old, and considering the fact that if Jehovah created
it he would have to be older than that, it is amusing to contemplate the dogged determination of the deity - keeping
his phantom phallus ever at the ready, waiting for a particular galaxy to form, for a particular star within it to form
planets, and for lifeto evolve throughout the course of fourand-one-half billion years, until one particular primate
female appeared with whom he could find employment for
his intangible tool.
Considering the extremely great amount of time required
for the First Coming, it would appear that those persons
awaiting the Second Coming are going to wait an awfully
long time!

American Atheist

Split-Soul Soup
This medley of Dial-An-Atheist messages would be
distressingly incomplete if it did not include one example of a Dial-An-Atheist message pokingfun at one
of the hot social issues of the day. Since the overwhelming majority of people who object to freedom
of choice in the matter of abortion are people whose
objections are based on the theological presupposition that zygotes have souls, I end this article with the
message, "Split-soul Soup."
A Roman Catholic member of the mandatory motherhood movement recently was asked what happens when a
single zygote (fertilized egg) splits and turns into twins whether each baby would come out with half a soul, or if
one would have a whole soul and the other would be a
soulless zombie. The Roman Catholic readily replied that
since god is omniscient, he would know in advance that the
single zygote would produce two babies, and thus he would
zap two souls into the single zygote - making it possible
for us to commit double murder by flushing a single cell
down the toilet!
Whatever the case mayor may not be with fully separate
twins, there is a problem when a single zygote begins to
form twins but doesn't divide completely, as in the case of
Siamese twins. What happens when the separation ends
with two bodies but only one head? Or two heads but only
one body? Or how about two partial heads sharing one
brain? Or how about one body, one head, and no brain?
And how about the not uncommon condition where the .
object born looks more like a slug-filled cabbage than a
vertebrate? How many souls does it have? What about the
case where twins form, but one never develops beyond
early stages of differentiation and remains as a parasitic
growth in the abdominal cavity of the other twin? Does the
parasite have a soul, and willit be resurrected in glory?
It is now possible to take normal zygotes and separate
them after the early stages of cell division into clumps of
cells which will form twins, triplets, or litters. If this were
done with human zygotes, would god - knowing that some

Austin, Texas

unbelieving scientist was planning to make a clone out of


the zygote - zap into it enough souls to go around? If so,
this means we would be able to control god. If we wanted
god to make more souls for us to experiment with (ifexperimenting with souls were possible), all we would have to do
is divide the conceptus up into the number of souls we
wanted god to create. Neat!
If we were to divide a conceptus in two, let one part grow
into a baby, and deep-freeze the other to be used for artificial implantation and surrogate pregnancy ten years later,
would the part to be frozen have a soul? Where would it be
located in the deep-freeze? What if the freezer were to go
off several years later, and the would-be twin were never to
make it past the four-celled stage? Would god know in advance, and not give it a soul? Or would he give it a soul even
though it will never become a baby - as happens naturally
to about one-third of all conceptions? Ifgod gives the neverto-be twin a soul, willit go to hell? Limbo? How about caviar
heaven?
As interesting as the previous experiment may be since it gives humans the power to control god's acts there is an even more interesting problem for the compulsory
pregnancy people to solve. It is now possible to take two,
three, or any small number of fertilized eggs - each one of
which might by itself become a baby - and fuse them all
together to make just one mosaic baby. If each zygote has
one soul at conception then this composite baby must have
two, three, or more souls! Of course, god in its prescience
might know that some of these zygotes would be fused and
have no need of their own souls, and god might create some
zygotes without any souls at all. But this, of course, would
violate the Roman Catholic teaching that every zygote has
at least one soul.
We will leave it to the theologians to decide how many
souls result when one fuses a human zygote with a genetically nearly identical chimpanzee zygote. Will the part
human/part ape creature have a soul at all? Will its hybrid
body be resurrected? Willit wear golden slippers with openings at the sides to accommodate the prehensile big toes?

January 1989

Page 33

A Plutonic dialog

Il

Sometimes speaking
to a theist is like
talking to someone
from another planet.

Lawrence Casler (B.A., Harvard College; M.A., Harvard University; Ph. D.,
Columbia University) is professor
emeritus in the Department of Psychology, SUNY-Geneseo. He has written more than forty articles on such
diverse subjects as nudism, hypnosis,
infant development, and "Hamlet." His
published books include Is Marriage
Necessary? and Nrjd on 387 Glizzits a
Day.

Lawrence Casler
Page 34

'II never do it again. It's a waste of


time. It leads to hard feelings. It's
pointless.
The scenario is always the same. I'm
at a party, and somebody finds out I'm
an Atheist. (No, I don't go around advertising the fact, but the word gets
around. Sometimes, my religious orientation becomes part of my identity, as if
it's the most important thing about me.
"Joan, I want you to meet Larry Casler.
He's an Atheist.") The first thing Joan,
or John, does is look at me very carefully.
Clearly, there's a suspicion that something is wrong with me. When Joan or
John reluctantly comes to the conclusion
that I have the usual number of heads,
and that I look more like a regular person than like a Russian or a Martian, a
dialog ensues. It follows a very predictable course.
I'm going to present the dialog exactly
the way it went the last time I got involved. I say "last time," because it was
- believe me! - the last time it willever
happen. The two characters are L.
(c'est moi), and P. The "P" stands for
"Pluto," and the dialog deserves to be
called Plutonic. Pluto, you may recall, is
the name of a benighted planet that is so
far away from earth that intelligent communication is impossible.
P: So you're an Atheist.
L: Yep.
P: How can you be an Atheist?
L: It's easy. It's probably easier than
being a believer, because the Atheist
doesn't need to overlook or rationalize
anything.
P: But every human being has to have
faith.
L: Idisagree. I'm a human being, and
I don't have faith.
P: You must have faith in something.
Don't you have faith in logic, or the
scientific method?
L: I wouldn't call it faith, exactly, but
you can if you want to. I certainly don't
have faith in god, because I don't believe she or he exists.
P: (smugly) Don't you see? That
proves god exists. You can't have an
January 1989

opinion about something that doesn't


exist.
L: Really? So if I tell you that I don't
believe in five-headed dinosaurs who
have plaid skin and speak Swedish,
does that prove that such creatures
exist?
P: Well, no. That's different. You're
not being serious.
L: I'm beginning to find this boring.
Why don't we talk about Picasso, or the
threat of nuclear holocaust, or sex,
orP: Are you afraid to talk about religion?
L: Nope.
P: I can prove to you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that god exists.
L: That's nice.
P: Well?
L: Well what?
P: Don't you want to hear my proof?
L: Look. You willprobably say something I've heard before, or something
that is full of logical holes. I have no desire to talk you into Atheism, and I don't
understand why it's so important for
you to talk me out of Atheism. I have an
enjoyable life; I am a useful member of
my society. I would rather be who I am
than who you are. So what's the point?
P: You're running away. You're afraid
to believe in god.
L: Oh.
P: Please let me prove to you, using
cold logic, that god exists. Do me that
favor.
L: Okay. I try to make people happy,
as long as it doesn't take too long.
P: First, you willagree that everything
has a cause.
L: No.
P: What?
L: I don't agree that everything has a
cause.
.
P: You have to agree! Everybody
knows that everything has a cause.
L: Don't tell me what I have to
believe.
P: But how can you L: I don't like words like every and all
or none. Remember when our teachers
American Atheist

P: How can you be an Atheist?


L: It's easy. It's probably easier than being a believer,
because the Atheist doesn't need
to overlook or rationalize anything.
used to tell us that all snowflakes are
different? How did they know? Did they
go around looking at every snowflake?
Of course not. As a matter of fact, Iread
recently that identical snowflakes have
been found.
.
P: You're digressing. Can you think
of anything that doesn't have a cause?
L: Not at the moment. I'm willing to
grant that everything probably has a
cause. Is that good enough for you?
P: Okay. What would you say is the
cause of your existence?
L: That's easy. My mother and father,
in what I hope was an enjoyable encounter for them both, engaged in an
act of sexual intercourse. A sperm from
my father fertilized P: I know all that. But what caused
you to be a human being, rather than
some other creature?
L: Oh, I see what you're getting at.
You want to talk about evolution. I have
no quarrel with that. I am descended or, as I prefer to believe, ascended from lower forms of life.
P: Are you made up of living cells?
L: Yes, I believe I am.
P: And what are the building blocks
of those cells?
L: Molecules.
P: And what formed those molecules?
L: Atoms.
P: And what formed those atoms?
L: I guess electrons and protons, and
stuff like that.
P: And what created those electrons
and protons?
L: I have no idea.
P: (triumphantly) You see?
L: Beg pardon?
P: God made those electrons.
L: How do you know?
P: He had to.
L: I didn't know god had to do anything.
P: What I mean is that everything has
a cause, and the cause of electrons is
god.
L: I get it. If we don't know what
makes something happen, we say god
Austin, Texas

did it. Instead of referring to That


Which Is Not Known, or TWINK, we
refer to god. Actually, I prefer to think
of TWINKY: That Which Is Not Known
Yet. If it pleases you to call a yet-to-bediscovered cause god, go ahead, but
you certainly haven't persuaded me. By
the way, what caused god?
P: What caused god? That's a silly
question. Nothing caused god.
L: Oh. I thought you said everything
has a cause.
P: Yes. I forgot. Well, god caused
himself.

L: Aha! So things can cause themselves. Well, maybe that first electron
caused itself. I find it easier to believe
that electrons are self-creating than
that god is self-creating. But again, I'm
not trying to convince you. You can believe what you want to. Can you tell me
how you happen to know that god
created him - or herself?
P: Why do you say "him" or "her"?
God is male. You're being disrespectfuL

L: I didn't know that male is more respectable than female. Are you sure
that god is male? How can you know for
sure that god has a penis, rather than a
vagina?
P: Now you're being vulgar.
L: Have you always thought of penises and vaginas as being vulgar? If we
are created in god's image, then P: You're deliberately getting off on a
tangent.
L: Don't tell me what I get off on. Remember, it was you who insisted on the
penile nature of God the Omnipotent.
(looking at my watch) Can we wrap this
up? The classical music station is playing
a new recording of Beethoven's Seventh
tonight, and I want to get home in time
to hear it.
P: You aren't arguing logically. I'm
saying that everything has a cause, and
that god is the first cause, therefore god
exists. You just have to have a little
faith.
L: (trying not to laugh) If that's your
idea of logic, I'm delighted you're not an
January 1988

Atheist.
P: I admit I haven't done a great job,
but that doesn't mean god doesn't
exist. I'm sure I can find a minister or a
theologian who can convince you.
L: No, thanks. I'm really not interested.
Why don't we talk about something
else, like Picasso, or sex, or the threat
of nuclear holocaust?
P: There you go again, running away
from the issue. God has nothing to do
with Picasso, or sex, or the threat of nuclear holocaust.
L: Hey, maybe there's hope for you
after all. You just said something that
made sense.
P: I didn't mean it. God has everything
to do with those things. You're trying to
fluster me. The devil is inside you.
L: Look what's happened. This started
out as a friendly conversation. Now
you've started raising your voice and
being abusive. Isn't it obvious that your
logical argument has failed? Why don't
we just stop and P: Not so fast! Okay, I agree that
something went wrong with my argument. You outfoxed me, somehow. But
here comes a friend of mine, somebody
who's a lot more rational than I am. (to
friend) Hey, come over here for a minute. I want you to meet Larry. He's an
Atheist.
P's friend: (to me) You don't say!
Well, don't worry about it. You don't
have to be an Atheist much longer. If
you're an open-minded, intelligent person, I can prove to you, using nothing
but airtight logical arguments, that god
exists. He is omniscient, omnipotent,
and benevolent, and he's in this room
right now.
And that's when I scurried away, as
fast as my atheistic feet would carry
me.~
The Case Against Religion by
Albert Ellis presents a psychotherapist's view of religion. 57 pp. Product
#5096. $4.50 postpaid. A.A.P., P. O. Box
140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195.
Page 35

Empty pulpits
or comic relief from wars, rumors
of wars, threats to the environment, and allthe rest of the world's
ills, I frequently turn to the religious
page of our weekend paper. Recently,
here in the True North, some of the
most hilarious events have arisen from
an attempt by the United Church of
Canada to introduce a measure of tolerance and enlightenment: to permit
the ordination of homosexuals.
The United Church, I should explain,
since I believe it doesn't have a precise
American equivalent, was created by
the union of the Presbyterian and Methodist congregations. Though not a flawlessly happy union (many Presbyterians
refused the amalgam and continued as
a separate entity) it has been generally
successful. It has the largest congregation in Canada, and its leadership has
fought consistently to introduce reforms.
It permits the ordination of women and
is now struggling to have homosexuals
treated as normal human beings.
Predictably, this has raised a great
howl from the pinhead contingent.
Writers of letters to the editor have risen to new heights of hysteria and incoherence to condemn it; one of them attributes it to a program of the Devil's:

Canadian churches
insist that the ministry
is no place for a Gay.

Victoria Branden was educated at the


Universities of Alberta and Toronto,
ending with an M.A. in English. In the
midst of work in publishing, journalism, and education, she has written
three books: Mrs. Job, Flitterin' Judas,
and Understanding Ghosts. She notes,
"I started on a career of Atheism at a
young age when I was trying to teach
the story of Noah's Ark in Sunday
school, and one of my students burst
into tears at the thought of god
drowning all the poor little bunnies
and pussycats."

Victoria Branden
Page 36

to delude, delete and destroy


God's Biblical word, commandments and part of the doctrine of
all religious organizations existing
today. This, Satan believes can be
accomplished, by a minority of
sinners (by present Biblical text)
in a large church organization, appealing to the majority, to allow
them, to not only be ordained as
ministers and religious leaders,
but to let them rewrite the Bible
passages, relating to homosexuality, lesbianism, promiscuity and
other unnatural sex acts so their
particular sexual orientation would
be condoned, and sanctioned by
the United Church of Canada and
its majority of heterosexual
members.
January 1989

It's a bit difficult to untangle the syntax, but generally speaking, it can be
concluded that he's against ordination
of homosexuals.

Sexuality and the pulpit


The assumption is that, until now,
there have been no gays among the
clergy. In fact, that profession has always attracted homosexuals. Incalculable numbers of Church of England pulpits would have been empty and silent
for years without them. They have not
used their position to promote or defend
their cause, but they've certainly been
there.
Their sexual preference may go undetected for years, often for life,because
- contrary to the conventional stereotype - they can't all be identified by
limp wrists and high-pitched voices.
They rarely resemble Liberace, though
they sometimes look like Rock Hudson.
"It was the drama of the ritual that attracted me to the priesthood," a friend
of this persuasion once told me. He was
dark and handsome, with a magnificent
bass voice and a heavy beard. All the
ladies in the congregation were mad
about him. No one could understand
why he never married. (He was in the
Anglican priesthood, not R. C.)
The church has also drawn its share
of pedophiles (not synonymous with
homosexuals).
Right now, a priest
(R.C.) in Newfoundland is facing seventeen charges of child molestation. In
spite of frantic efforts to hush up the
scandals, there has always been an ongoing pattern of child abuse in association with clergy, choir leaders, Sunday
school teachers, et al. (Not all of them,
I hasten to add, before you start writing
letters. I was a Sunday school teacher
once myself, and sang - badly, but unmolested - in the choir.) Nor is this
confined to the church. It surfaces in
every profession that gives the pedophile access to unsuspecting children
and places him in a position of authority which makes it difficult for the child
to resist - teaching, Scouting, coachAmerican Atheist

ing sports.
It is far more difficult to forgive the
pedophile than the homosexual who
consorts with consenting adults. My reaction, like that of most people, is to
foam at the mouth with rage when I
hear of such cases. Nevertheless, we
have to remember that these unfortunate people are victims of an affliction
over which they have very little control
and which usually can be traced back to
a history of abuse in their own childhoods. That's what's so appalling about
it - the vicious circle of selfperpetuation.
It is also interesting to note the tolerance extended to heterosexual peccadilloes among the clergy, while the intolerance of even non-active homosexuality is acute. An ongoing source of
drama during my childhood in an Ontario
small town was the scandalous behaviour of our spiritual pastors and masters. In our church (C. of E.) a new incumbent in the pulpit fell violently in
love with a handsome widow, relict of
his predecessor. She had a large, grownup family; he had a young wife and several children. The romance became an
open scandal, and the young wife committed suicide.
In spite of the tragedy, and the unedifying activities which led to it, there
was no condemnation by the church only a lot of furious hushing-up of the
unpleasantness. The death of the wife
was less important than the silencing of
gossip. Our spiritual leader was moved
to a different parish, he and the Other
Woman got married and he remained
an ornament of the pulpit for many a
long year.
This was perhaps the most sensational of the many scandals involving
the clergy in our one little town, but difficulty in keeping their hands off the
ladies in the congregation seemed to be
an occupational hazard in the profession. But if their preference had been
for young men, the howls would have
shaken the heavens.
One writer of letters to the editor proAustin, Texas

claimed his tolerance of the aberrants,


urging that they must be allowed access
to god's word, but that they should be
required to undertake a cure for their
condition:
... Pastoral care for homosexual
persons would include direction
toward God's present text and
experience of healing which would
make possible a change to abstinence or heterosexuality.
The idea behind this (if idea is not too
charitable a word) is that homosexuals
choose their orientation out of pure
perversity, a desire to be wicked - possibly egged on by the Devil. (Our correspondent appears to be in Satan's confidence, for he repeatedly tells us what
Satan wants, what Satan believes, and
so on.)
While a certain number of homosexuals do, in a sense, consciously choose
a male rather than a female lover, they
are a minority: the vast majority of them
have no choice. But there are a few
"normal" males who turn to homosexuality because of excessive timidity
with the opposite sex, and they can
sometimes be "cured" by psychological
treatment. This is not generally recognized, but I've personally known several men who fallinto this category. Some
of them, after a homosexual period,
decide that they really prefer women;
they get married, settle down, and
become good husbands and fathers. I
used one of them as a character in my
first novel. The reviewers had never
heard of such a thing and were derisive.
Nevertheless, the character was drawn
from life.
The Kinsey Report of 1948 found that
35.5 percent of the males studied had
had one or more homosexual encounters; Kinsey believed that the actual figures (as distinguished from those derived
from surveys) would prove higher. Psychologists agree that men who are normallyheterosexual may become inverted
if deprived of female partners. The husJanuary 1988

band of one of my friends experienced


this in a Japanese prison camp during
the war: "There weren't any girls," he
explained plaintively.He wasn't ashamed
of it, and once removed from the circumstances which created it, he and
most of his fellow prisoners returned
happily to heterosexual relations. He
added that the most macho of the prisoners, those with the strongest sex
urge, were the first to fall.
It is also well documented that in remote areas, otherwise normal men will
have sexual congress with animals, notably sheep. During the war, my husband once sat on a court martial which
was trying a young boy who had been
caught in congress with a goose. He
came from a remote rural area and apparently never really understood why
he was being tried: no one had ever
suggested to him before that there was
anything wrong with it.
One of the recommendations of the
court martial was that when he felt "like
that" he should seek out a prostitute.
This continues a long-standing Christian
precept: it doesn't matter what you do
with a woman, but you must stay away
from animals and other men. That's a
sin.
Homosexual behaviour occurs among
many animals, usually (again) when deprived of normal sexual outlets. Not
much use reading the Bible to wolves
and elephants and chimpanzees, though
they're all guilty. Some human societies
have accepted homosexuality as normal
- both highly developed ones like classical Greece and primitive ones in
Africa, New Guinea, Australia, and
North America. In some Indian tribes,
homosexuality was considered to be a
sign of holiness, and shamans were
often chosen because of it, not in spite
of it.
Even in societies where homosexuality is harshly repressed, it still occurs
and is not prevented by fear of punishments as draconic as castration or
execution.
There are four possible causes: (1) a
Page 37

genetic aberration; (2) an endocrine disorder; (3) a psychological condition, or


(4) a combination of two or more of
these. There are cases of geneticallycaused "inter-sexuality" - that is, male
homosexuals regarded as more or less
feminized males, or "intergrades" who
are genetically female but who appear
to be males, and take a male role in society. Physical intersexuals can be
found in practically all animals, sometimes as a result of diseased adrenal
glands. That is, sexuality is not clearcut, but shades off by degrees.
It is a complicated and difficult matter
which cannot be solved by preaching.
There was no psychological understanding of sexual behaviour in biblical
times, and the attitude on all sexual activity was frequently cruel and repressive.

Bible Teaching
Before we accept Bible teaching as a
guide to behaviour in this field, we
should give it a little critical inspection.
Most people who have read the Bible at
all must have come across the horror
story in Genesis where the angels, in
the shape of men, visited Lot in Sodom
and the Gay community demanded
that the men be handed over for sexual
purposes. Lot refused, but offered
them his two virgin daughters: "Let me,
I pray you, bring them out unto you,
and do ye to them as is good in your
eyes; only unto these men do
nothing; ... "
An even more horrific incident occurs
in Judges 19. A man's concubine ran
away from him and went home to her
father; the man pursued her, was graciously entertained by her father, and
took the girl away with him. When they
stopped for the night, the local homosexuals clamoured for the man but his
host made the (apparently) standard
offer:
Behold, here is my daughter a
maiden, and his concubine; them
I will bring out now, and humble
Page 38

ye them, and do with them what


seemeth good unto you; but unto
this man do not so vile a thing ...
[S]o the man took his concubine,
and brought her forth unto them;
and they knew her, and abused
her all the night until the
morning ...
In the morning, the man found the girl
fallen at the door of the house, unable
to move or speak; so he killed her. The
homosexuals in both cases are pretty
horrible, but how about those respectable hetero males who turn their daughters and girlfriends out to be abused? Is
this really any guide to moral conduct?
In neither story is there the faintest suggestion of criticism either of Lot or of
the unnamed man in Judges.
In fact, religion may contribute to unhealthy sexual behaviour. An article in
Psychology Today on sexologist John
Money states,
Again and again Money reverts to
religion, with its concepts of sacrifice, guilt and atonement, as
being twisted in with pathological
sexual attitudes and behaviour.
"It's quite uncanny how many rapists and lust murderers come
from homes that were rigidly religious and antisexual."
John F. Higdon, a clinical psychologist, has also remarked on the negative
influence of religion on children: "It is
common knowledge among child protection workers that many or most abusive homes are fundamentalist in nature"
("Dissociation: Natural explanation for
'Supernatural' Phenomena," American
Atheist, February 1988).
Higdon's concern was with Multiple
Personality Disorder, the psychological
condition in which a person has two or
more personalities which take turns
using the same body (Sybil, Three
Faces of Eve, etc.). It apparently occurs
as a result of the coming together of
three basic features: severe and proJanuary 1989

longed child abuse, religious fundamentalism .in the family of origin, and the
child's pronounced
ability in seJfhypnosis, or dissociation:
Religious fundamentalism, then,
is seen as being used as an exceedingly harsh and powerful
social control mechanism which
can excuse away gruesome, prolonged, and outrageous mistreatment of children.
Such abuse is the basis for much
sexual aberration, as well as for M.P.O.
Allthe Bible reading and prayer in the
world will not put an end to homosexuality, although gentleness and tender loving care might prevent its nongenetic occurrence.
And are we quite sure that we want
to get rid of homosexuals? Many of our
greatest artists have been members of
that community. Gay-haters may not
realize that Leonardo and Michelangelo
were both homosexuals, while Hitler
and Mussolini were staunchly hetero.
Included in the Gay community were, in
this century, novelists like Christopher
Isherwood, E. M. Forster, Marcel Proust;
poets like Wystan Auden; actors like
Sir John Gielgud, Montgomery Clift these come to mind without even checking. The world would have been an infinitely poorer place without them. Ifwe
made an exhaustive survey of the contribution of homosexuals to society
over the ages, we would certainly find
that the world would have been poorer
without them. We might also find that a
good many of them were members of
the clergy.
Before anyone suspects me of writing
this from personal axe-grinding motives,
perhaps I should go on record to establish my bona fides: unambiguous
heterosexual. Not through any virtue
on my part, I hasten to add; I just
happen to have been born that way.~

American Atheist

Mission of hypocrisy
lthough

my parents were never

active members, the overwhelmA ing


domination by the Latter-day

A young Mormon
was sent to Columbia
to bring people
into his church;
as a result, he left it.

A Salt Lake City native, Benjamin


Pendleton served as a missionary from
August 1982 to March 1984. In 1987 he
graduated from the University of Utah
with a B.A. in Political Science and a
certificate in Public Administration.
Now married with one daughter, he is
a member of the Utah Chapter of
American Atheists. He writes that he
has been an active Atheist for four
years.

Benjamin Pendleton
Austin, Texas

Saint Church in the Salt Lake Valley


had a profound effect upon my early
beliefs and worldview, as it inevitably
does with anyone who is raised within
the church's sphere of influence. Even
those who are adamantly opposed to
Mormon theology find the formidable
infiltration of L.D.S. dogma into every
aspect of life within the Salt Lake community to be virtually inescapable. The
church is in literal control of every aspect of local governments, schools and
industries. The church exerts further
control over the individual lives of all
active members in its ever-increasing
worldwide congregation. Having been
raised in this type of environment, perhaps I should not feel ashamed of having blindly contributed to the most valuable aspect of the church's infrastructure: the missionary program. In retrospect, my life as a Mormon missionary
did more to awaken me to the hypocrisy
and absurdity of religion than any other
event of my life.
.
I was nineteen years old, a university
freshman, and still a virgin when the
church called me to serve as a full-time
missionary in Colombia, South America. It wasn't forced upon me; I wanted
to serve. Never having known life outside of the valley, I knew only that any
young man who wanted to be accepted
by the Mormon community had virtually no choice but to volunteer two years
of his life to the missionary program not only to gain the respect of other
church members, but also to greatly facilitate his chances of marrying a good
and upstanding Mormon girl. So it was
on those pretexts that I left - wanting
desperately to assimilate myself into a
society and life-style that I would eventually come to despise.
The first two months of any foreign
mission are spent at the Missionary
Training Center near the BYU campus
in Provo, Utah. The training center's
proclaimed purpose is to give missionJanuary 1988

aries a crash course in any of the numerous languages that are spoken in
various foreign missions, and also to
coach them on the deviously efficient
proselytizing techniques the missionaries use to convert the world's "heathens"
to the "gospel truths" of Mormonism.
But the training center has a much
more important purpose, albeit undisclosed: to give the church full mental
control of the missionaries it sends out
to all parts of the world.

Training tools: fear and guilt


This important objective is accomplished in the training center by creating an overwhelming sense of fear and
guilt within each individual missionary.
This fear and guilt not only compels
missionaries to confess all of their
"sins" to the church authorities, but
also serves to police their blind obedience to the strict rules and guidelines
they are ordered to live by. It is a fear
that the mission leaders exploit to insure that their army of teenage preachers willnot be distracted by women and
sex. It is a fear that is used to insure that
the missionaries will slave ten hours a
day in the worst of conditions, without
pay and without supervision. It is a fear
that insulates missionaries from curses
and ridicule, the humiliation of having
thousands of doors slammed in their
faces, the discomfort of straw beds in
the living quarters they share with mosquitos and rats. It is a fear that allows
the missionaries to endure these and
other hardships while their mission
leaders reap the benefits of their endeavors, comfortable and secure in
plush estates provided by the church. It
is, in essence, the perfect form of brainwashing: obedience based on the fear of
god's retribution.
While in the training center, the missionaries are daily indoctrinated with
these fears. "Unless you are completely
obedient, you will never learn the language." "Unless you accept fully and
practice faithfully all of the gospel teachings, you will not be successful, nor will
Page 39

you be worthy of god's protection." In


short, the brainwashing techniques are
extremely effective. They work because
any young man who is about to be sent
to a foreign country where he knows no
one and where he doesn't understand
the language, desperately needs security and assurance. The church exploits
this and becomes a security blanket for
the missionaries - they must only
obey. I entered the Missionary Training
Center a confused but carefree teenager - I left a fully programed zombie
in the hands of a church I was willingto
serve in any possible way.
In its short one hundred and fifty-year
history, the L.D.s. church has moved
from an obscure and persecuted polygamous cult, to one of the most successful worldwide businesses in the modern
world - a business that uses religious
salvation as its chief commodity. Every
member of the church is required by
commandment to provide 10 percent of
his personal income to the church as a
"tithe to the Lord." If a member refuses
to pay, or cannot afford to pay, he is
considered to be in violation of one of
the lord's commandments and cannot
actively participate in church functions.
Needless to say, these tithing payments
add up to billions of tax-free dollars
each year for the church's voluminous
coffers. And like any good business, the
church is continuously attempting to increase its profits; hence, the missionary
program. Each year thousands of Mormon missionaries, who pay their own
livingexpenses, bring thousands of new
members into the church. These new
members translate directly into everincreasing profits for the church. The
missionaries believe they're bringing
salvation to the people they convert,
but in reality they are only bringing in
more illicitprofits for the church.

My mission
When I arrived in Colombia I was
quickly shuffled off to a small town
called Palmira where I was to spend the
first month of my mission. My companPage 40

ion and I lived in a small bedroom that


we rented from a Colombian household. The frame of my bed was partially
eaten away by termites whose persistent
mastication kept me awake at night. Indeed, it seemed like everything in Colombia was rotting away. I spent hours
on my knees each night, begging god to
help me learn the language and to help
me cope with the strange and unfamiliar
culture. I had always been told that if I
prayed constantly and fervently that
god would answer my prayers. He
never did.
Despite my desperation, thoughts of
leaving the mission were never seriously considered. Missionaries who leave
before they complete two years of service are treated like outcasts in the
Mormon community; to give up on a
mission is to give up on family, friends,
and an entire life-style. To many Mormon adolescents, a mission is merely a
two-year sentence that is committed to
them by their pious community: a sentence that must be served in order to be
accepted among their people. Like
most missionaries, I was determined to
stick it out no matter what became of
me. I dreaded waking up each morning,
but in spite of that, I eventually learned
the language, I preached, and I baptized.
Over forty people went into the
amoeba-infested baptismal fonts with
me to emerge cleansed and free of sin.
I can only take solace in the fact that
most of the people I baptized soon gave
up on Mormonism and apostatized. Indeed, the majority of converts to Mormonism remain active for less than a
year. As soon as they discover that in
Mormonism the price of salvation is 10
percent of their entire incomes, most
new members decide that they simply
can't afford to buy their way into heavJanuary 1989

en. A small percentage of the converts,


however, are completely beguiled by
Mormon teachings and remain active
for life. It is that small percentage of
converts who remain active and obey
the law of tithing that the church is really after with its missionary program.

Finances and converts


In spite of my deep commitment to
the church during my mission, I remember being angered on several occasions
by many of the proselytizing instructions given to us at the bi-monthly regional conferences. On one occasion
the mission president backhandedly encouraged us to baptize only those
whom we could assume to be "financially stable." It seems that two missionaries had encountered an impoverished
family of four living in one of the larger
Colombian cities. The unfortunate
plight of this family had left them begging for their meals and had them
spending their nights in a plywood
shack underneath the soccer stadium.
In spite of their hardships, all of the family members expressed their desire to
join the Mormon church. The mission
president, however, refused to allow
the baptism to take place: "People who
cannot control their own lives financially, cannot possibly make good members of the church."
It wasn't until nearly the end of my
mission when the fog started to liftfrom
my brain and I began to realize what
was really taking place. By that time, I
was fluent in Spanish and very much acclimated to the Colombian culture. I
had learned to understand and respect
the Colombian people, and I no longer
felt like the church was my only lifeline
to truth and direction in my ideas. It was
only after the church stopped acting as
my security blanket that I realized the
manner in which the Mormon church
was exploiting the people in these Third
World societies.
When Mormons in the United States
pay tithing, they do so with the knowledge that a great majority of their tithes
American Atheist

can be written off from their federal and


state income taxes. For many Mormons, the United States tax laws make
it more beneficial for them to pay tithing
than not to pay at all - hardly a sacrifice. South American Mormons, however, don't have it quite so easy. The
average South American worker earns
about $700 per year in United States
dollars. This means that an average
South American Mormon who wishes
to obey the "law of tithing" must forfeit
about $70 per year to the church - an
amount that leaves that person's family
on the virtual brink of starvation. And in
South America, there is no governmental welfare program to fall back on when
times get tough.

Church welfare
On several occasions I attempted to
dip into the church's own welfare fund
to help out some of the suffering families
Imet. However, I soon discovered that
acquiring Mormon welfare funds was all
but futile. I was told that in order for the
Colombian families to qualify for church
welfare money, they had to show that
they had faithfully paid their tithing for
at least six months. It was an enigma to
me how the church expected someone
who has nothing to pay 10 percent of
that nothing to the church! I later realized that the church had created the infeasible policy in order to keep its socalled "welfare funds" intact. To my
chagrin, I eventually discovered
that
the church's ballyhooed "welfare program" consisted
merely of sending
women missionaries
to Colombian
households in order to teach the South
Americans how to live like the good
White people in North America, usually
attempting to eradicate long-held, ancestral customs in the process. Indeed,
if it can be said that the church has a
motive other than profit for sending
missionaries to all parts of the world,
that other motive would be the church's
ethnocentric desire to Americanize as
much of the world as possible. I know
now that by bringing Colombians into
Austin, Texas

the Mormon church, I not only indoctrinated them with the lunacy of Mormon dogma, but I also squandered
many of their previously-held
habits
and customs by teaching them to live,
think, and even eat the same way as
millions of pious Mormons in the United
States.
The L.D.s. church is no different
from any other multi-national corporation that expands into South and Central America to exploit the abundant resources and cheap labor that these developing countries offer, exporting the
excess profits back to the United States
without any thought of re-investing
those profits into the starving economies of the host nations. But at least
other multi-nationals are helping somewhat by providing badly needed jobs for
the residents
of these Third World
countries - the L.D.S. church, on the
other hand, only takes their money.
This fact is well illustrated by an incident
that occurred within the first weeks of
my arriving in Colombia to serve as a
missionary. Unfortunately,
I was too
brainwashed to comprehend
its significance until years later. .
My companion and I were strolling
down the market street in a small village
just outside of Cali. Lying in the stone
courtyard
of an immaculate
Roman
Catholic cathedral was what appeared
to be a dead child. His' frail body was so
thin that one could clearly see the outline of his skeleton through his tightly
drawn skin. On his arms and legs were
several silver-dollar-sized wounds that
were open and leaking puss. His leg
bones, deformed from rickets, were
twisted backward so that he couldn't
walk, and there were thick callouses on
his hands and knees from dragging himself along the ground. He wore nothing
but a loincloth and looked strikingly
christlike, sprawled out on a piece of
cardboard on which someone had inscribed for him a desperate plea for assistance in big, red letters. He must.
have been there for some time because
he had accumulated quite a large sum
January 1988

of coins, tossed onto his cardboard


placard by passersby on their way to
the market. My companion,
a native
Colombian, had seen this all too many
times before, and certainly would have
passed by the obstacle without so much
as a grimace if I hadn't stopped myself.
I was riveted to the scene. My companion, seeing my consternation, attempted
to explain to me that situations such as
this were very common in Colombia,
but I didn't really understand
what he
was saying, as my Spanish-speaking
abilities were still very poor. It was irrelevant anyway - I could tell just by looking at my companion's face that he felt
ashamed
of my having seen such a
daunting sight on my first few days in his
country. Another passerby,
noticing
the large sum of money the young boy
had accumulated, thought it prudent to
attempt to rouse the boy so as to keep
the donations from being robbed, or
perhaps the man just wanted to see if
the boy was merely sleeping or if he had
already died. The man gently nudged
him with his foot, but the boy didn't stir.
The man nudged him again somewhat
harder. The boy's eyes blinked open
and he stared straight ahead without
moving. Eventually, the boy managed
to push himself up onto his knees and
he methodically
began collecting the
loose coins into a pile in front of him. My
companion
tugged
at my sleeve,
"Vamonos."
In my pidgin Spanish I supplicated to
my companion: "Isn't there anything we
can do? Maybe we could tell the mission
president - the church will help him."
My companion turned to me, putting
both hands on my shoulders and looking me straight in the eyes. "There's
nothing we can do," he said slowly and
deliberately, making sure I would understand. "That boy will be dead by tomorrow morning." I felt like I was about
to cry, but I held it in. "Vamos Elder, we
have more important work to attend
to." So we left, and began looking for
more converts to baptize into the only
true church of god. ~
Page 41

Poetry

A Counter-Conversion

Someday

The Path

It was two years ago.


I was struck sick;
my inner resources were being
devoured by a virus.

a wiser world will say


"They tried."
Perhaps five hundred years from now
small scraps of evidence will show
.. we tried.
An ordinary person, then,
may look at Atheistic proof
that we were here
.. and tried.
Someone may be aghast
that myth corrupted fact,
that in the murky, stubborn past
were those who worshipped fallacy.

Join me in a walk my friend


Along the path of reason
Fear not the monsters left or right
Their sight is short
They will not strike.

After treatment there was no improvement.


The prognosis: poor. Delapidated,
I was set up in a hospital room
to get better or die
at over a hundred dollars a day.
Remembering then the myths, legends,
and other holy graffiti,
I began to pray for
what else! my own survival ...
or some eternal happiness.
Halfway through some psalm,
I had a vision:
I saw the walls of my small
intestines under attack.
The white corpuscles were valiant
in defending, but the virus
changed shape and size
to elude the forces of good.

They dot the landscape as we walk


Gods and devils of small minds
Look ahead, or look at me
We'll stroll the path
In reverie.

Deities along the way


And gardens of reprieve
Someone may stand in moonlit truth, Where will the path
Lead us, you say
gaze at stars with godless calm
Trees cause not the wind to sway.
unstupified, unstaggered, free
.. because we tried.
The path is ours to push along
In eternity's direction
Angeline Bennett
We'll leave behind
The kneeling men
Our journey goes beyond their ken.
Barbara Jo Sutton

As I witnessed this battle,


the idea of cause and effect
rushed into my mind:
this battle was physical!
I was a body. Love, sorrow,
joy and pain, a body;
my thoughts and concepts
a function of this body.
I accepted this reality.
If I were to die,
at least I knew the truth, at last!
But the battle turned; I was to live
by a physical grace.
Sitting up in bed, I held
a picture of my wife and son,
thinking of my only life,
filled with material wonder.
Steven Buller

Page 42

Revival Meeting
Our hired hand,
Dressed elegantly in borrowed clothes,
Stepped out of the fog one night to address the meeting.
Clouds, he said, are the spirit babble of the wind.
Or was it, wind is the spirit babble of the clouds?
Does it matter?
To us, cattle liven the valley,
As do a lonely shed holding heat against the snow,
Windmills pumping cool water to anoint our head,
Wire fences bidding begone the shadow of death.
Thomas A. Easton

January 1989

American Atheist

Report from India

Peck orders of piety


n the first week of December newspapers carried startling photographs
of a venerable white-bearded Sikh
tied to a pillar in the Golden Temple at
Amritsar while a few hundred devout
Sikhs watched in silence. Other photographs showed the same gentleman
sitting crosslegged on the floor cleaning
shoes, or washing pots and pans. He
had an iron plaque hung about his neck
inscribed with the words "I am a sinner.
May God help me."
The penitent was none other than
Surjit Singh Barnala, former chief minister of the Punjab, leader and president
of the Longonwal faction of the Akali
Dal.
This was the second time Barnala
had submitted to dusting the footwear
of the faithful. He performed the same
holy chore when still chief minister two
years ago ("Time Running out in Punjab?" American Atheist, December
1986). On that occasion he was obliged
to make suitable gestures to mollify the
high priests for having done his duty as
a chief minister. He had sent police into
the Golden Temple to flush out Khalistani terrorists hiding there.
Submissive gestures as observed in
our simian cousins might appear embarrassingly explicit to our more refined
human sensibilities. But I doubt if an
ape presenting its rear to a superior adversary is really much different from the
displays in which humans indulge before
their gods, and within religious peck orders and hierarchies. Nothing debases
human dignity more than the acting out
of subservience and humility.
To convince the opposite party of
one's sincerity, submissive behaviour
must project credible gestures of appeasement and self-abasement. So people lower their bodies closer to floor
level, bend, crouch, kneel, or fall flat on
their faces. More imaginative forms of
abasement are kissing a pontiffs big
toe, washing a godman's feet and swilling the water off as amrit (holy water),
chewing betelnut directly from the
guru's mouth, or passing round a bowlful

An Indian head of state


was tied to a.pillar for
ten days because he
put governmental
responsibilities before
religious duties.

In 1978, your editors, assisted by


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

Margaret
Austin, Texas

Bhatty

January

1988

of his morning's micturation.

Excommunication
and submission
However, Barnala's submission to indignity was rather more complex in its
implications. It clearly proved that the
Sikh priesthood is again bent on getting
a stranglehold on Punjab politics.
The press described his humiliation
as "ignominious and medieval in spirit."
One magazine cast doubts on the old
man's sincerity by callingit "a pantomime
of penance." "The whole exercise," it
said, "was reminiscent of the irrationalities of a medieval theocracy."
But medievalism is where we are at in
India today. Excommunication, social
ostracism, rigorous and demeaning
forms of penance, proscription, anathema, and similar strictures are being
used as instruments of power in our
religions. This kind of intimidation soon
returns backsliders and sinners to the
straight and narrow.
Regrettably, Barnala was one Sikh
leader who displayed moderation and
sanity in that lethal mix of religion and
politics that today passes for Sikhism in
his state. He was even courageous
enough to declare that government is
above and beyond priestly sanctions
emanating from the Golden Temple.
For this he was excommunicated.
His application to be accepted back
into the fold was submitted to the same
high priest who had thrown him out.
Bent on a kind of priestly vendetta, this
man extracted his pound of flesh by
imposing humiliating penance. To rational observers the vision of Barnala, the
moderate tied to a pillar and cleaning
shoes and utensils in the temple, symbolised a further regression by Sikhism
into medieval fundamentalism. His capitulation to theocratic tyranny, and his
willing acceptance of punishment for
acts he performed as a democratically
elected leader from a multi-religious
electorate, further confounds the problem of restoring the strife-torn state to
some semblance of secularity.
Page 43

The Golden Temple of Amritsar (where


Surjit Singh Barnala, former chief minister of the Punjab, did his penance) is
the religious center for over sixteen
million Sikhs worldwide.

The punishment
In response to Barnala's application
for readmission to the brotherhood, the
head priest ordered him to dissolve his
particular faction of the Akali Dal and
resign as its president. He replied that
he could not legally abolish the party,
but he dissolved the executive and front
organisations, and resigned from its
leadership.
Presenting himself before the Akal
Takht (the Sikh Vatican), he is reported
to have stood humbly for hours with
folded hands and downcast eyes while
the high priests conferred within. Later,
in a voice choked with emotion, he
accepted the punishment prescribed.
For a week he was to clean shoes at the
entrance of a gurdwara (Sikh temple),
sweep and wash down floors, and scrub
pots and pans used in its community
kitchen. The plaque round his neck was
to be worn at all times for eighteen days.
He was also ordered to arrange five
non-stop recitations of the Sikh holy
book, each lasting forty-eight hours.
After making a donation of Rs. 1,100
and distributing prasad worth the same
amount, he had to offer prayers before
the Akal Takht. And having abased
himself utterly, he was readmitted into
the Sikh brotherhood.
By being tied to a pillar in the Golden
Temple, Barnala made some history.
He became the second person to suffer
this indignity. The first was the powerful
Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (17801839),who was asked to present himself
before the high priests in 1820. He had
refused to obey their orders to put aside
a beautiful Muslim dancing girl he had in
his harem. The Maharaja dutifully made
gifts of money and was tied to a pillar to
be given five lashes. But his subjects
protested and he was let off, since he
had demonstrated his respect to the
Akal Takht by willinglysubmitting himself to it.
Page 44

The Akal Takht was built in 1606 as


the centre from which the priesthood
could issue edicts and commandments.
Fundamentalists envisage this building
as becoming a source of authority for
every Sikh in every corner of the globe
to obey. As "the throne of the Almighty,"
it has now become a symbol of Sikh
militancy dominating Punjab politics.
Barnala is only one among countless
politicians who have been excommunicated and then reinstated after suitable
penance. Zail Singh, when president of
India, meekly submitted to the dictates
of the Akal Takht. As a result, when he
left office in 1985, his patriotism was seriously doubted, and he was openly accused of having links with Khalistani
terrorists. However, he was spared the
indignityof cleaning shoes and scrubbing
utensils.

The seat of Sikh power


The Akal Takht was rebuilt several
times in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit
Singh and a golden dome now tops the
four-story building. During Operation
Blue Star, when Indira Gandhi had
troops enter the Golden Temple to capture terrorists holed up there, the Akal
Takht was severely damaged by rocket
and gunfire. This desecration few Sikhs
were prepared to forgive her. Though
she had it rebuilt at government expense,
they later tore it down and rebuilt it
themselves.
The spectacle of various priestly
cliques, moderate and extreme Akali
factions, Khalistani terrorists and similar warring groups each claiming that
they alone speak for the Sikh community, has proved over and over again that
religion in the Punjab remains a cynical
power game. The absurd postures of
piety assumed by religionists fool nobody. Surjit Singh Barnala was simply one
more victim.
Civilised Indian opinion deplored the
January

1989

sorry spectacle he made of himself. By


shifting from his earlier stand of ignoring
the clergy, said one commentator, "he
had surrendered to its primitive authority." Others described the penance as
degrading, humiliating and unjustified.
Orthodox Sikh opinion denounced
the criticism of Barnala's capitulation to
the clergy as "a contempt of the immortal
- the Aka!''' Said one activist, "Such
acts strengthen the roots and heritage
of the Sikhs."

Barnala's motives
But what of Barnala himself? We
know that gestures of submission are
always highly motivated even when
made before one's gods. What did he
hope to gain from appeasing his denigrators? It is alleged that his two sons
have political ambitions which they
could not realise if he remained outside
the community, so his wife pressured
him into repenting. The truth is that
when his government was replaced by
President's Rule from the Centre, he
found himself in a political wilderness.
He can now return to Akali politics with
some credibility as a Sikh in future elections.
However, his own view of his penance
was different. In an interview with India
Today (31 December 1988, New Delhi)
he was asked why he submitted. "I am
not a communal person," he replied:
But Lam a deeply religious person.
I believe in the supremacy of the
Akal Takht. I feel it might help in
solving many problems both in
the state and in the party.
But didn't he think it was high time to
separate politics from religion? How
would he react to a ban on such religious
punishments? "Who will do it?" he
demanded:
The Centre can't do it. They
themselves start their own politics
from religious places. They will
get trapped ifthey attempt to sepAmerican

Atheist

arate the two. Will anyone ask


why they are rubbing their noses
on the floor of every temple,
mosque and church?
He was right, of course. Every political
party now kowtows to religious hierarchies to garner votes. During the recent
election campaign in the state of Tamil
Nadu, the most devout Hindus in this
country turned out to be Rajiv Gandhi
and his Roman Catholic wife, the way
they made the rounds of temples,

bowed before the idols, participated in


pujas and were garlanded by Brahmin
priests. Today Hindu revivalism is
throwing in all it has, and uneducated
ascetics, sadhus, holy men, and tantriks
are returning to the world they had
renounced in a bid to promote a Hindu
state.
While writing this article I opened my
local English newspaper and came
upon a photograph. Datelined Mathura,
it shows a briefly clad white-bearded
Hindu holy man on top of the platform

on which he lives. Like St. Simeon


Stylites, he never sets foot on the
ground. He therefore blesses those
who ask for it by dangling one boney leg
over the low railing and placing his foot
firmlyon the top of their heads. Standing
below in this photograph, in a posture
of humility and abasement with folded
hands to receive this dubious blessing,
is another chief minister - N. D.
Tewari of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
There's one born every minute!~

Homework
(or how to find a good book)
Actually there is no better place in the world
to "get away from it all" than your local library.
And AmericanAtheists needs your help there
more than you can appreciate. There is a code
word for old anti-religious material and once
you glom onto that, you are in for an enlightened time.
That word is freethought, or its derivatives
freethinking or freethinkers. Check the main
files under this term - and be prepared for the
open expanses of new ideas which will come
tumbling out around you - and many of them
dated in the I 700s or the 1800s.
Simply sign out the oldest book on the subject you can find, take it home, and snuggle
down into your own special chair for the time
of your life. There are heroes and heroines galore you will meet on those yellowing pages.
And maybe you will come across some more
information that American Atheists needs to
fill out the history of many of these folk. Your
intellectual life will be enriched as you go
down the old byways and understand the beginnings of the revolt against religion, the

struggle to articulate the dissents. Often you


can feel the fear in the pages reaching out to
you as those timorous yet brave freethinkers
attempted the first modern fight against religion.
If you are lucky enough to get an honest historical book or two, you will be appalled by the
recountings of brutality visited upon the minds
and the bodies of any who dared to criticize
religion in any era.
All of this is "homework" which will bring a
sense of pride to you, which will be fulfilling,
which will add to your sense of intellectual
stature. In a sense you will be doing more for
yourself than you will be doing for Atheism. So
as you become engrossed in it all, don't forget
to send information regarding the title, author,
publishing date, and publisher to the Charles
E. Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives, Inc. And if our Library doesn't have
the book here, we probably will be able to
obtain it on an interlibrary loan so that we can
photocopy it. Then everyone will be happy.

Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library


P. O. Box 14505
Austin, TX 78761-4505

Austin, Texas

January 1988

and Archives, Inc.

Page 45

Historical Notes

Joel Barlow negotiated the famous


treaty which denies that the United
States is a Christian nation.

110 years ago


In January 1879, the National Liberal
League announced its platform for the
upcoming presidential election of 1880:
"1. Total separation of church and
state, to be guaranteed by amendment
of the United States Constitution;
including the equitable taxation of church
property, secularization
of the public
schools, abrogation
of Sabbatarian
laws, abolition of chaplaincies, prohibition of public appropriations
for religious purposes, and all other measures
necessary to the same general end .... "
The proposed
amendment
to the
United States Constitution was widely
distributed:
Religious Freedom Amendment
Proposed as a substitute for the
First Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution
Article 1.
"Section 1. - Neither Congress nor
any State shall make any law respecting
an establishment of religion, or favoring
any particular form of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
permitting in any degree a union of
Church and State, or granting any special privilege, immunity, or advantage to
any sect or religious body, or to any
number of sects or religious bodies; or
taxing the people of any State, either directly or indirectly, for the support of
any sect or religious body, or of any
number of sects or religious bodies; or
abridging the freedom of speech or of
the press, or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble and to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances.
"Section 2. - No religious test shall
ever be required as a condition of suffrage, or as a qualification to any office
or public trust, in any State. No person
shall ever be deprived of any of his or
her rights, privileges or capacities, or
disqualified for the performance of any
public or private duty, or rendered incompetent to give evidence in any court
of law or equity, in consequence
of any
Page 46

opinions he or she may hold on the subject of religion. No person shall ever be
required by law to contribute directly or
indirectly to the support of any religious
society or body of which he or she is not
a voluntary member.
"Section 3. - Neither the United
States, nor any State, Territory, municipality, or any civil division of any State
or Territory, shall levy any tax, or make
any gift, grant, or appropriation, for the
support, or in aid, of any church, religious sect, or denomination,
or any
school, seminary, or institution of learning, in which the faith or doctrines of
any religious order or sect shall be
taught or inculcated, or in which religious rites shall be observed; or for the
support, or in aid, of any religious charity or purpose of any sect, order, or
denomination whatsoever.
"Section 4. - Congress shall have
power to enforce the various provisions
of this Article by appropriate
legislation."
The entire matter was reported in the
January 2,1879, issue of The Index (vol.
10, no. 471).

That's real money


In the same issue of The Index it was
reported that the average salary of the
archbishops and bishops of the Church
of England was $26,750 - which in 1879
would have been a small fortune.
In another issue (no. 473), in the
same month, it was further reported
that Worcester,
Massachusetts,
had
$1,930,700 of untaxed real estate mostly
belonging to the churches,

65 years ago
12, 1924, issue of The
(vol. 51, no. 2) reported
extensively on "The Treaty with Tripoli:
What It Implies." The essay began:
"Article 11 of the famous treaty made
with Tripoli on the third day of January,
1797, is often quoted and referred to as
evidence of the wholly secular character of our government as established
and understood by our fathers. It reads:
The January

Truth Seeker

January 1989

As the government of the United


States of America is not, in any
sense, founded upon the Christian religion; as it has in itself no
character
of enmity against the
laws, religion, or tranquility,
of
Musselmen; and as the said states
never entered into any war, or act
of hostility against any Mohammedan nation it is declared by the
parties, that no pretext, arising
from religious opinions, shall ever
produce an interruption
of the
harmony
existing between the
two countries.'
"This treaty was negotiated by Joel
Barlow, the poet, to whom Paine entrusted the manuscript of the first part
of the 'Age of Reason' just before being
taken to prison. It was very necessary,
to make the treaty effective, to mention
the subject of religion. First, because in
all governments where the Christian religion was the religion of the majority of
the people it was recognized by law.
The United States government was the
first exception. Second, because it had
been a principle with Christian nations
that no faith was to be kept with an infidel government. Lord Bacons was the
first man of note in Europe to advocate
just and honest treatment
of nations
not Christian. This treaty was made
during the administration
of Washington. Barlow acted under Washington's

!"American State Papers," Foreign Relations,


vol. 2, p. 19.
2Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English essayist,
philosopher, and statesman.
American Atheist

Ron Marke (left) has led Australian


Atheists for over twenty years. A favorite
of freethinkers, Thomas Paine (middle)
suffered from occasional abuse from
editorial pens, as seen in the 1791
cartoon (right).

instructions, hence it can truthfully be


called Washington's treaty and its ideas
Washington's ideas. It was presented to
the Senate by John Adams on May 27,
1797 (Washington's term having ex
pired on March 4), and ratified, thereby
becoming a legal treaty."
The article was written by Franklin
Steiner of Chicago, Illinois.

40 years ago
On January 2,1949, Marjoe Gortner,
born January 14, 1944, performed his
first marriage ceremony just two weeks
before he would become five years of
age. He had been ordained as a minister
in the Church of the Old Time Faith
three months prior. According to the
February 1949 issue of The Truth Seeker (vol. 76, no. 2), which reported the
event, the only reaction from other clergy was indignation that the kid was invading their field and could siphon off
some of the revenue they ordinarily
received.
The little minister "got better." Marjoe, visiting The American Atheist Center in Austin, Texas, in the mid1970s,
confirmed to American Atheists that he
had abandoned all religious ideas.>

30 years ago
Donald J. Smith, a prisoner in the
Oroville, California jail who objected to
being forced to listen to religious songs
being sung by a band of soul-savers who
visited the jail regularly, had only one
recourse: the warden gave him cotton
to stuff in his ears. Smith complained
that if he had to listen many more times
to the unmelodious singing of "The Old
Rugged Cross," he wouldn't have any
sanity left when his trial came up.
In 1988 a Florida employer who held
prayer meetings in his plant suggested
the same remedy for those who did not
desire to participate.

3Abook on the life of Marjoe was written by


Steven Gaines, Marjoe (New York: Harper
& Row Publishers, 1973).
Austin, Texas

The 1959 incident was reported in the


January 1959 Progressive World (vol.
12, no. 11).
20 years ago
Ron Marke, the honorary secretary
of the Rationalist Association of New
South Wales, announced the first edition of a new journal, The Australian
Rationalist, published in January 1969.
Conceived as a bi-monthly, the publication was financed by the Rationalist
Society of Australia, under the leadership of Mr. Laurence Bullock and Mr. J.
Cambell.
The January 18, 1969, issue of England's Freethinker related that "Of his
own association Mr. Marke is pleased
to report that their numbers are increasing and that their activities are to
be expanded."
Many years later Laurence Bullock
became one of the founders of United
World Atheists - and, of course, Ron
Marke was the featured foreign speaker
at the Seventeeenth Annual National
Convention of American Atheists in
Denver, Colorado, in 1987.
The English Freethinker of March
1969 (vol. 89, no. 10) reported on a continuing phenomenon among freethinkers - the worship of Thomas Paine:
"An old democratic tradition has
been revived by the Thomas Paine Society. In the early part of the nineteenth
century radicals would meet in numerous towns of Britain for a dinner to celebrate Thomas Paine's birthday on the
29th of January - the main toast would
be to 'The immortal memory of Thomas
Paine.'
"On Saturday evening, 25th January,
members and guests of the Society sat
down in the restaurant of the Bull
House at Lewes - the house, where
Paine lived for some six years, when he
was an excise officer there - and ate a
truly sumptuous dinner, that had been
modelled by the proprietor of the Bull
House, . . . on authentic eighteenth
century recipes."
January 1989

Thomas Paine, a deist, wrote The


Age of Reason as a reply to the Atheists, whom he hated. The first French
edition was issued "to stop the people
of France from running headlong into
Atheism." In a letter to John Injjnskeep,
mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Paine explained his work in this fashion:
"My motive and object in all my publications on religious subjects . . . have
been to bring man to the right reason
that God has given him."
As we eulogize the many achievements of this man - and they were
many - we must nonetheless be aware
that he was not one of us, as he made
clear in the Age of Reason, Part I:
I believe in one God and no
more; I hope for happiness beyond
this life.
In 1937 The Rationalist Annual, published by The Rationalist Press Association, London, England, in the article
"The Bicentenary of Thomas Paine" by
J. P. Gilmour, reported that in 1797, in
order to make known the "Religion of
Humanity," Paine, with five families,
founded in Paris the Church of Theophilanthropy. In the inaugural address
he gave, he expounded an "original"
argument for the existence of a deity,
based on the postulate that motion is
not a property of matter. ~
Page 47

American Atheist Radio Series

An evaluation of religion's
effect on science

IiJ
Christian ideas were
the premise for a great
deal of scientific
misthinking.

When the first installment of a


regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute,
weekly American Atheist radio series
on KLBJ radio (a station in Austin,
Texas, owned by then-President
Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit the
airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation
was shocked. The programs had to be
submitted weeks in advance and were
heavily censored. The regular production of the series ended in September
1977, when no further funding was
available.
The following is the text of American
Atheist Radio Series program No. 90,
first broadcast on March 30, 1970.

Madalyn O'Hair
Page 48

r. Andrew Dickson White, in the


preface to his volumes on the
History of the Warfare of Science
with Theology in Christendom- talks
about Christianity in this wise:
My work in this volume is ... that
... I simply try to aid in letting the
light of historical truth into the decaying mass of outworn thought
which attaches the modern world
to mediaeval conceptions of Christianity, and which still lingers
among us - a most serious barrier
. . . and a menace to the whole
normal evolution of society. (p. vi)

At the end of the first volume he points


out that as injurious as was the absolute
blocking of any kind of scientific exploration, even more injurious to the evolution of science, and in many respects
more destructive, was the influence of
mystic theology and theories which
penetrate, permeate, vitiate, sterilize,
and distort every branch of science and
have done so for hundreds and hundreds of years.
As an example he uses the ancient
mystical theory of numbers which the
Christian theological spirit has placed
enormously in all science. The sacred
power of the number three was seen in
the Trinity in that religion, in the three
main divisions of the universe, in the
three angelic hierarchies, in the three
dominions, in the three principalities, in
the three classes, and in the three degrees of attainment. But there was no
reason at all for the force of the mysticism of the idea of three to be given
prominence in any of the sciences. He
points out that we are bound by the
mystic three even yet in all of our
thinking, which we fool ourselves into
thinking is scientific. He points out:
three dimensions of space;

12 vols. (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896).


January 1989

three dimensions of time: past,


present, and future;
three realms of the visible world:
sky, earth, and sea;
three constituents of man: body,
soul, and spirit;
three kingdoms in nature: mineral,
vegetable, and animal;
three primary colors: red, yellow,
blue.
Ah! the list is long of our continuing
follies.
He scoffs that the magic number seven bound us to the concept of seven
planets in our solar system, seven days
in our week, seven liberal arts areas in
our colleges and universities. He points
out the ridiculous idea of twelve signs of
the zodiac, twelve months of the year,
twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles
of Christ.
For over a thousand years we were
stuck with the idea that the perfect line
is a circle, and that the planets must
therefore move in absolute circles, a
notion which led astronomy astray
even when the great truths of valid findings were everywhere in sight. Our
earth had to be round because of this
idea.
He shows how the idea of transubstantiation coerced the development of
transmutation of metals with hundreds
of years and millions of man and brain
hours wasted on this exercise. It is
heartbreaking to see the ideas of the resurrection of the human body woven
into the process ideas of distillation and
of sublimation. The idea that all inorganic material was invested with spiritual
significance could only have led and did
lead to the arguments and experiments
on behalf of the philosopher's stone.
Strong investigators were drawn far
away from the only' paths which could
lead to fruitful truths. Throughout texts
of the ages we find that in chemistry the
student was told that in mixing his
chemicals he must repeat the psalm Exsurge Domine, that on certain chemical
vessels must be placed the last words of
American Atheist

[W]e find that in chemistry the student was told


that in mixing his chemicals he must repeat the psalm Exsurge Domine,
that on certain chemical vessels
must be placed the last words of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus on the cross.
There was a welter of thought, and
the greatest thinkers devoted themselves to adding new ingredients to the
strange mixture of theological-ridden
half-truths.
Van Helmont.s after he had broken
away from alchemy and opened one of
the great paths to chemistry, even after
he had announced to the world the existence of various gases and the modes
of their generation, was not strong
enough to free himself from theological
bias; he thought the gases he had discovered, were in some sense livingspirits, beneficent or diabolical as it occurred
for them to be.
One of the most important geniuses
of chemistry, Basil Valentine," was so
fearful of danger that he concealed his
entire work during his life.
The establishment of Christianity,
Dr. White documents, was the single
biggest tragedy in all of human history,
for it began a new evolution of theology
which was ruinous to mankind. It completely arrested the normal development of the physical sciences for over
fifteen hundred years. The main cause
of this arrest was that there was created
an atmosphere in which the seeds of
physical science could hardly grow, an
atmosphere in which all seeking in nature for truth as truth was regarded as
futile. The general belief derived from
the New Testament scriptures was that
the end of the world was at hand, that
the last judgment was approaching,
that all existing physical nature was
soon to be destroyed. Therefore, the
greatest thinkers in the church generally
poured contempt upon all investigators
into a science of nature, and insisted
that everything except the saving of
souls was folly.
This beliefappears frequently through

2Hans Van Helmont (15771644), Belgian


chemist.
3Basil Valentine (ca. 1400-?), German
alchemist.
Austin, Texas

the entire period of the Middle Ages,


but during the first thousand years it is
clearly dominant. Contempt was poured
over all such studies and all worldly
sciences were declared to be "absurdities," "fooleries."
Then, too, there was established a
standard to which all science which did
struggle up through this atmosphere
had to conform - a standard which
favoured magic rather than science, for
it was a standard of rigid dogmatism obtained from literal readings in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The most
careful inductions from ascertained
facts were regarded as wretchedly fallible when compared to any view of nature whatever given or even hinted in
any poem, chronicle, code, apologue,
myth, legend, allegory, letter, or discourse of any sort which had happened
to be preserved in the literature which
had come to be held as sacred.
For over twelve centuries the physical
sciences were thus discouraged or perverted by the dominant orthodoxy. For
those twelve hundred years the minds
in control of Europe regarded all real
science as futile and diverted the great
current of earnest thought directly into
theology. The next stage in this evolution was the development of an idea
which acted with great force throughout the Middle Ages, the idea that science is dangerous. And it was during
the MiddleAges that persecution became
systematic and very cruel. Laws were
enacted and enforced with rigor. Old
severities were taken up anew. The simplest efforts in physics, chemistry and
even mathematics were looked upon
with dread. The popular mind was possessed with terror at the thought of science. The great building period of cathedrals was fraught with it. Demons
and witches manifested themselves in
every picturization of the ideas of the
era.
Every great theologian entered into
this belief and aided to develop it. The
fathers of the early church were fulland
explicit, but the medieval doctors of
January 1988

theology became more and more minute in description of the operations of


the black art of science, denouncing it
everywhere. The horror of magic and
witchcraft increased on every side, and
in 1317 Pope John XXII4issued his bull
Spondeni pariter, leveled at the alchemists but in reality dealing a terrible
blow to the beginnings of chemical science. The pope called on all rulers, secular and ecclesiastical, to hunt down
the miscreants who thus afflicted society, and he increased the powers of the
inquisitors in all parts of Europe toward
this purpose.
The impulse given to childish fear and
hatred against the investigation of nature was felt for centuries. Chemistry
alone became known as the "devilish
art." Pope Eugene IV,5 in 1437 and
again in 1445, issued other bulls exhorting inquisitors to more diligent searches
for offenders and to having them delivered over for punishment. But even
forty years later, in 1484 came the most
terrible bull of all when Pope Innocent
VIII,6 in his Summis Desiderantes, let
inquisitors loose upon Germany. Again,
in 1504 Pope Julius IF and in 1523 Pope
Adrian VI8similarly ruled.
The systematic suppression lasted
for hundreds of years. The Reformation
really did little to change it. Roman
Catholics and Protestants, vying with
each other to prove their orthodoxy,
equally suppressed and punished every
active, seeking human mind. In Germany alone from the mid-fifteenth to the
mid-sixteenth
century, more than
100,000 persons were victims of this

4John XXII, Jacques Duese (1244-1334),


pope from 1316 to 1334.
5Eugene IV, Gabriello Condulmaro (13831447), pope from 1431 to 1447.
6Innocent VIII, Giovanni Battista Cibo
(1432-1492), pope from 1484 to 1492.
7Julius II, Giuliano della Rovere (1453-1513),
pope from 1503 to 1513.
8Adrian VI, Adrian Forensz Dedal (14591523), pope from 1522 to 1523.
Page 49

The medieval battlefields of thought


were strewn with corpses of great men, fine minds, valid ideas.
Every man of real mark, every foremost thinker in any field
was charged, harrassed, imprisoned, or murdered.
"search and destroy" operation. This
means - and think of it in these terms,
translated to the United States and to
today - that in the United States, now
and for the next one hundred years, the
three leading scientists in the nation
were killed each day. Three today,
three tomorrow, three the next day hunted down, tortured and systematically killed because they were scientists.
Would that put fear into your heart and
turn you away from chemistry? This
widespread terrorism was part and parcel of Christianity. The medieval battlefields of thought were strewn with
corpses of great men, fine minds, valid
ideas. Every man of real mark, every
foremost thinker in any fieldwas charged,
harrassed, imprisoned, or murdered.
The church forbade the study of
"physics or the laws of the world" in a
papal bull of Pope Alexander III.9 On
every man who lifted his voice came the
brunt of the battle. Scientists were forbidden to lecture. The seats at the universities were taken from them. St.
Dominic-? - made a saint by the church
for investing the Dominican order "condemned research by experiment
and observation." The Franciscan order did likewise - and Yilttoday they
are exhalted and acclaimed as "giving"
to all mankind. The only thing they ever
gave to mankind was misery.
A little sadly, I read to you from page
390 of volume 1:
Put together all the efforts of all
the atheists who have ever lived,
and they have not done so much
harm ... to the world as has been
. . . done by the narrowminded
conscientious men [of Christianity]
who persecuted, and closed the
path which [these men] gave [their
lives] to open.

9Alexander III,Orlando Bandinelli (ca. 1100


1181), pope from 1159 to 118I.
lOSt. Dominic (1170-1221), founder of the
Dominican Order of Preaching Friars.
Page 50

In France, Charles Vll forbade the


possession of furnaces and apparatus
necessary for chemical processes. In
England, Henry IVl2 issued a similar
decree. In Italy, the Republic of Venice
followed these examples. Antonio de
Dominis'" was judicially tortured and
murdered for his investigations into the
phenomena of light. The chemist John
Barrillon'" was thrown into prison.
In Spain everything remotely
classified as scientific research
was crushed out among Christians, so that to this hour, the
Spanish race, in some respects
the most gifted in Europe, which
began its career with everything in
its favor and with every form of
noble achievement, remains in intellectual development behind
every other nation in the Western
world.
The theological atmosphere settled
down about the great universities and
colleges and stifled all scientific effort in
every part of Europe. It is one of the
great wonders in human history that in
spite of this deadly atmosphere a considerable body of thinking men, under
such protection as they could secure,
still persisted in devoting themselves to
the physical sciences. In Italy John Baptist Porta" was writing the first book of
meteorology. His research in optics
gave the world the camera obscura and
possibly the telescope; in chemistry he
seems to have been the first to show
how to reduce the metallic oxides. He
was summoned to Rome and forbidden

llCharles V (1337-1380), king of France


from 1364 to 1380.
12Henry IV (1367-1413), king of England
from 1399 to 1413.
13Marco Antonio de Dominis (1566-1624),
Italian theologian and ecclesiastic.
14John Barrillon (?-1553), French chemist.
ISGiovanni Baptista Porta (1537?-?), Italian
scientist.
January 1989

to continue his investigations, and this


so late as the last half of the sixteenth
century.
In 1657 the Accademia del Cimento
at Florence, Italy, was opened under
Prince Leopold de' Medici. It had as a
fundamental law "the repudiation of
any favourite system or sect of philosophy, and the obligation to investigate
Nature by the pure light of experiment," and here scientific investigations were begun with energy. Borelli"
in mathematics and Redi'? in natural
history were there. Heat, light, magnetism, electricity, projectiles, digestion,
and the incompressibility of water were
studied by the right method and with
results that were enriching the world. It
was a fortress of science, and siege was
laid to it immediately. To shut it down,
"Leopold [de' Medici] was bribed with a
cardinal's hat and drawn away to Rome,"
and with the protector gone, the rest
was easy. Borelli was finally left a beggar. Oliva killed himself in despair. Science and mankind were set back another
four or five hundred years, and it only
took the church ten years to do it with
this academy.
It could happen again. Men of science
are afraid today. This is why we bring
you this series. The programs are sponsored by the Society of Separationists,
Inc., a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization, dedicated to the complete separation of state and church.
Religion is a private affair, or it ought
to be. It should be supported solely by
its practitioners and certainly not assisted by government favors, government
recognition, tax exemption or financial
help of tax funds for its churches, its
schools or its other institutions. We ask
your help in the fight. Make a contribution to the cause, for your sake as well
as everyone's. ~ .

16Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679), Italian physician and scientist.


17Francesco Redi (1628-1698),
Italian
scientist.
American Atheist

Me Too

Getting the word out


nent

the article "Jobs Around the

on page 30, September


A House,"
1988 American Atheist.

This reader has been


doing "jobs" around
the house for Atheism
for decades.

Back in 1985 I had American Atheists


"custom print" for me about $1,300
worth of Atheist tracts and pamphlets
- about 35,000 pieces of eleven different titles (see below). I had intended to
distribute them by (a) enclosing one or
more in all my personal outgoing mail,
up to the limit of the postage stamp, (b)
sending them out in those postage-paid
business return envelopes that I receive
in my "junk mail," and (c) handing them
out to friends, etc.
I did this, but it proved too slow a way
of disposing of 35,000 pieces! Then I
gave birth to an idea: I asked myself why
not put them under windshield wipers?
Great! So I use to fill up a homemade
canvas shoulder bag with several hundred assorted pieces, and I did use up
thousands that way. Many streets in my
city (Philadelphia) are just clogged with
parked cars after supper, bumper-tobumper because many homes don't
have garages. Even my own driveway
looks more like a parking lot than a
driveway at times, thus making it very

easy to cover lots of cars per mile - or


per hour - of walking.
I have found that the best time to do
my "canvassing" is at dusk on Friday so
car owners will see (and perhaps read)
my message Saturday morning or Sunday morning before church. Street
lights or long summer days make it possible to work two or three hours. Nobody bothers me at that time of day. If
a car owner asks, "What have you got
there, buddy?" or "May I have one?" I
simply reply, "Something to think
about," give him one, and keep right on
walking. I don't stop to argue or debate.
And I find it best to walk on the street
side of the cars, not the sidewalk side,
and facing traffic. And I make sure
there is no rain or snow in the forecast,
for this would soak and make "limp" my
tracts and discourage people from
reading them.
But towards the end of my "stock," I
decided to make up packets of tracts instead of leaving only one piece per
windshield wiper. This not only offers
more arguments for my cause - if the
recipient will read my stuff - but gets
rid of more tracts per minute of can-

Andy Vena's Pamphlets


The following pamphlets were commissioned by Mr. Vena from American
Atheist Press:

"Me Too" is a feature designed to


showcase short essays written by
readers in response to topics recently
covered by the American Atheist or of
general interest to the Atheist
community.
Essays submitted to "Me Too" (P.O.
Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195)
should be 650 to 1500 words long.

Austin, Texas

"An Atheist Speaks," by Robert H. Scott .


"The Bible In The Balance," by Charles Smith, editor of Truth Seeker.
"Ambassadors of God," selected by Woolsey Teller.
"God's Heaven," from Robert Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
"The Case Against Religion," by James Hervey Johnson.
"Religion is a Gigantic Fraud," also by Johnson.
"Christian Principles," by Fred P. Wortman.
"The Golden Rule, Vatican Style," The Liberal, 1962.
"Is There a Supernatural World?" by Marshal J. Gauvin.
"The Ridiculous Concept of Soul," by Andy Vena, plus other shorts.
"Christianity's Bloody Record," by Woolsey Teller.
These pamphlets and other pamphhlets are available for sale from the
American Atheist Press. (Unfortunately, at this writing, not all of Mr. Vena's
pamphlets are in stock). If you wish to emulate Mr. Vena's work, you can
order a sample of one of each of the available pamphlets for $3.00.
January 1988

Page 51

vassing.
There is, however, this everpresent
drawback, common to all indiscriminate distribution: most of this valuable
material falls into unreceptive hands
and closed minds. People either don't
bother to read it at all{toss it away) or,
reading it, fail to take it seriously and to
think about the subject - and subscribe
to the American Atheist or write in to
join us or order more books, etc. The
dominant attribute of the human race is
its stupidity. But - heck and double
heck - I know no better way to "reach"
people! Oh, if only everyone who got
my tracts would read them, think about
Atheism versus theism, and become
members of American Atheists. But no,
they don't respond that way - well,
maybe a small percentage might have,
Idon't know, can't tell for sure. But I
tried.
I'm pushing eighty, and although in
good health, Icould "kick the bucket"
at any time involuntarily. My kinfolk
(brothers and sisters) don't share my
Atheistic views and might very well
"chuck" or "ditch" my precious stock
of Atheist tracts if Ileave too much of
it.
So, that's how I've been doing "jobs
around the house" for whatever good it
has done or may do yet. I thought you'd
be interested in knowing this.
I also just sent in (on November 3) a
$500 contribution - one of many because I believe Atheism is the best of
all causes to support in this wretched
United States society of ours. I hope
you receive enough support from my
fellow Atheists to carryon your commendable work.
-AndyVena
Pennsylvania

ATHEIST BUMPER STICKERS!!


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bumper stickers. In blue on white, red
on white, or green on white, you can
get your message across. The stickers
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Page 52

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A plastic Falwell.

therefore have a short life - perhaps


one month on your car. But the price
is so reasonable that you can tear off
the old and put on the new anytime
you want to change messages.
Dr. O'Hair's automobile is known
throughout Austin as she sports her
favorite: "Save you? God Can't Even
Cure Acne!" Choose anyone of the existing slogans listed below.
The price is a mere 50C each postpaid; you'll love them. Please allow
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January 1989

American Atheist

Letters to the Editor

The Monster
who was
Mark Twain

Mark Twain: Atheist or theist?


In the article ~'TheMonster Who Was
Mark Twain," (American Atheist, October 1988), we perceive a new scheme
to worm belief in gawd into the lives of
us Atheists. The old method was to
have us grovel at the feet of god when
on our deathbeds - as in the cases of
Voltaire and Ingersoll - when there
was no chance to fight back (convenient
for the religionist).
The new method is to have us awed
by gawd during our childhood, when
we are equally helpless.
The circumstances of Samuel Cleo
mens' meeting the woman who was to
become his wife are well known. A
friend of his in Nevada showed Clemens
a product of the then infant technology
of photography - a picture of his sister,
a not-bad-looking girl. Clemens ex
claimed, "I am going to make her my
wife!" and before long he went back
East and did.
Clemens may have expected that the
pragmatic and picturesque rough Ianguage and habits of her brother, as
found in the frontier mining camp, ran
::nA~~n::bl.e
in the family.
What an awakening! She devoted the
rest of her life to hen-pecking her husband on the subject of reverence, as
only a Christian fanatic can. And she
trained her daughters to keep up the
, good work.
Poor Mark Twain! He was man
enough to view marriage as a fifty-fifty
proposition. He salvaged some of his
half when and if he could, for which he
acquired the label of humorist.
"Letters to the Editor" should be eiNow we have the spectacle of the rether questions or comments of general
ligionists' smearing their Christian fertilconcern to Atheists or so the Atheist
community. Submissions should be
izer over the memory of one of our best
brief and to the point. Space
and brightest.
limitations allow that each letter
Eric M. Frederick
should be three hundred words, or
Montana
"nO"n.

tiS"

preferably less. Please confine your


letters to a single issue only. Mail them
to: American Atheist, POBox 140195,
Austin, TX 78714-0195.

Austin, Texas

etc.
But your article was the missing piece
in the jigsaw puzzle of this great man! I
wondered about his duality . Your article
answered my questions. As an avid fan,
I wondered whether he was "fish or
fowl," so to speak.
You know, I can sympathize with
him. I'm the (unfortunate) son of an insane "Holy Roller" (Pentecostal), selfanointed preacher. He never succeeded
in brainwashing me, but he did succeed
in screwing up my subconscious mind!
Intellectually, I'm a 100 percent Atheist
- emotionally (when I'm drunk, which
is every night) I go through the hell old
Mark went through. You probably can't
appreciate this since you [the editor]
weren't subjected to a religious brainwashing in childhood. I've fought my
way into Atheism.
Now, re: "Letters To The Editor"
same issue, page 43, by Ann S. Bland;
I can answer her letter with just one
word - bull!
Her letter identifies her as a "Reaganite," a fundie yankee doodle, etc., ad
nauseum. Please spare us these utterances of our enemies. We don't need
reminders that those stupid, unmitigated
morons are out there! Save the space
for worthwhile letters.
Milan Rafayko
Kentucky
P.S. I could refute that lying United
States propaganda against Stalin, but
space won't permit.

New Age nuttiness


I'm into my seventy-third year. I've
been a Mark Twain fan ever since I was
about twelve years old. I have every
book (except one) of his works, biographies, a huge book, of photographs,
January 1988

The in-depth report on the "New Age


Movement" [Director's Briefcase, October 1988]was a superb job of research
and there is no doubt that you [Jon
Murray] labored long and hard on this
Page 53

Letters to the Editor

project. If you could only lecture at colleges with the selfsame words. I actually
read the whole article several times to
get its full impact and then passed it on
to others interested in this movement.
Unfortunately, I have zany friends just
like everybody.
.
On another note, there is a great deal
of marketing going on right now on
subliminal tapes that are supposed to
reach the subconscious mind by going
through the conscious mind - through
the back door so to speak. Even though
there is nothing religious about it at the
moment, do you have any ideas or conclusions about subliminal effectiveness? I would really appreciate a personal reply or an essay on this in the
American Atheist magazine. You can
bet that sooner or later the religious will
get ahold of this even ifit is a phony, because phony is their middle name.
Frank P. Sison
Louisiana

Animal rights
A thousand cheers for your expose
["Us Animals," Editor's Desk, October
1988] on the hypocrisy of religious animal lovers. As an animal rights activist
and an Atheist, I've been fuming for
years about the movement's attempts
to repaint religion as a friend of animals.
The basis for this supposed friendship,
like every other facet of religion, is open
to whatever interpretation one prefers.
The truth is that religious thinkers
since the beginning of time have glorified
humans at the expense of our fellow animals. Christianity is perhaps the worst
offender of the mainstream religions
(along with its bedfellow, Judaism). It's
no accident that Santeria and Voodoo,
religions with a heavy emphasis on animal torture, also have heavy Roman
Catholic influences.
Any attempt to whitewash the Bible's
ugly chronicle of brutality against animals is wishful thinking. Even J.e., that
supposed champion of the oppressed,
preaches the ascendancy of man over
Page 54

beast. His unmistakable opinion can be


found four verses before the famous
comparison of the lilies of the field to
Solomon's glory, the dubious "proof"
that J.e. loved nature. When it comes
to the "fowls of the air," he simply asks
us, "Are ye not better than they?"
It's about time animal rights activists
admitted that superstition is responsible for most if not all of humanity's delusions of grandeur, including our imagined superiority over animals. It hardly
makes sense to hope that the villain in
this tragedy will now come to the animals' rescue.
Leslie Lyon
Utah
In her Editor's Desk feature in the
October 1988 issue of American Atheist, Robin Murray-O'Hair writes: "Religious tradition is one of abuse of animals. For religious individuals to pretend otherwise in an effort to reconcile
their theologies to their own emotional
reactions to their pets is appalling." It
certainly is, but it goes much deeper
than just the theists' love of their dogs
and cats.
A Benedictine monk-astronomer, Fr.
Jaki, has written several books that
claim the West owes its science and
technology to the Roman Catholic
church! Jaki is not alone in this either;
other Roman Catholic theologians have
made the same claim. The outfit that
was responsible for the gruesome torture-murder of Hypatia - and which
still considers the man who ordered this
foul crime to be a "saint"; the same outfit that burned Giordano Bruno at the
stake for the heinous crime of saying
that the stars are suns seen from a great
distance that may harbor inhabited
worlds of their own; the same outfit that
for years opposed vaccination and surgical anesthesia, etc., is now to be considered as the patron of science. Is it
really any wonder that religionists
would attempt to "put animals into religion" despite the fact that they haven't
January 1989

been there for the last four thousand


years? Except for one brief passage
about not swiping every egg from a
bird's nest, there are no biblical injunctions mandating any regard for animals
whatsoever.
Religion is a lie that feeds and thrives
on lies. Science is good, so religion
claims to have brought it to man. Animals are now seen to be good, therefore
religion willabsorb animals into its belief
systems. From day one, Judeo-Christianity has spread by watching where
people are going, then jumping in front
of the crowd with the claim it's been
there all along. Once again, the leopard
is changing its spots.
Joe T. Penrod
Nevada

Leaving religion
The personal story of Cathalynn
Labonte-Smith ("Is God Only a Prayer
Away?" American Athiest, October
1988) and the Mormon church is typical
of how most religions and cults operate.
I would like to see more testimonies
like this on the slavery of faith and the
freedom of Atheism. Anyone who has
left a family religion like Mormonism,
Roman Catholicism, Islam, Judaism,
could write some of the most heartrending, but liberating stories possible.
All of these experiences would be inspiring.
Alan Snow
California

Tactics
In reply to Mr. Bokamper's letter in
the October 1988 American Atheist,
let's stop being on the defensive. Christians do not hold the moral high ground,
and never did. Secondly, there is no
reason to seek their respect; they have
done nothing to earn it. More importantly, any moral or ethical position
may not be attacked due to the failure
of people to live up to its principles.
Rational, insightful, and clear arguments are incompatible with religion,
American Atheist

Letters to the Editor

especially Christianity.
Many fine thinkers from many ages
have done an outstanding job of forming
a god-free system of morals and ethics.
Again there is no need to take the position that we must measure up to religionists' standards; It is they who hold
the low ground.
I fear that religion is mankind's greatest threat. We must get people to understand that it is this life that matters
and not the next, and that there is no
god that will protect America in a nuclear exchange. Otherwise, the issue of
respect will be a moot one.
The way to get to a Christian is via
the pocketbook. Revamp the tax laws
and a larger burden would fall upon the
church membership to support its religion. Given the choice of a new color
television or keeping a fat cat in the
pulpit, the Christian willopt for the television. Property tax exemption might
be a good place to start.
Remember, get god off our money
and out of our pockets. (How's that for
a slogan?)
Thomas F. Kroenke
California

Confused facts
Had I found an article by a "scientific
astrologer" in Scientific American, I
would not have been as offended and
dismayed as I was to find the article
"Murmurs of 'Mighty Oak' " by Victoria
Branden in October's American Atheist. It should be obvious to anyone

trained in science (the author boasts an


M.A. in English) that the antinuclear
movement and the ecology movement
are both irrational semi-religions.
Science uses method and measurement and is a rational attempt to analyze
and describe facts. Religion derives
from vague irrational fears, mostly fear
of the unknown and fear of death.
Like the ancient maps that said,
"Here be monsters," and pictured dragons and sea serpents, the "greenies"
see mutant hordes from B-grade horror
movies arising from atomic power. But
there are no fifty-footspiders, no glowing
zombies, no crawling eyes. So the
greenies link the decline in SAT scores
to atomic power, despite the fact that
Japan's scores have improved and the
fact that the Japanese seem to be doing
much better than Americans. (In their
country, 60 percent of the electricity is
nuclear-generated. )
Boring-again Christians blame the
decline in SAT s on banning prayer and
think Japan's success has been caused
by Christianity reaching Japan. Sane
people say that schools are overcrowded
and teachers are ineffective. Or Japan
is using better technology and letting
engineers rather than accountants run
their industries. The Sixteenth International Congress of Genetics (in Toronto,
Canada) still finds no evidence of birth
defects, infant deaths, chromosome
damage or mutations among 24,000
children of Hiroshima or Nagasaki survivors. Tell that to Branden! But like
most of the "greenies," her mind's

made up. Don't confuse her with facts.


Fear of the unknown induces a kind
of paranoia in people: demons, witches,
Jews, or Communists are out to get
them using spells, cats, banks, or fluoridation. The radiation emitted by TMI
was described in the Kennedy report as
around 400 millirems. Since 800 rems
can be fatal, this amounts to half of onetenth of 1 percent of a fatal dose. The
press picked up this number and described it as several chest x-rays. But
the press failed to explain the reasoning
behind that number: in order to receive
several chest x-rays, someone would
have to stand in all three cooling towers
at once, for a full year, and since clothing absorbs radiation, this impossible
and imaginary victim would have to
stand in all three cooling towers at
once, stark naked for a fullyear, inhaling
but not exhaling. The deer "contaminated by Chernobyl" were about as
radioactive as a pack of cigarettes.
Branden urges people to stop nuclear
power. "The electorate must rise up in
wrath and destroy them," she says.
This too, is a religious, superstitious
sentiment rather than a scientific,
rational, or Atheistic one. Keep the
atom symbol. Keep the mind supreme
over fear. Keep to the prideful knowledge
that human beings are wise enough to
control their own destinies rather than
the superstitious fear that "there are
things we weren't meant to know."
Brian E. Nevish
California

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January 1988

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January 1989

Publications
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American Atheist

suggested

Amertcan Atheist
introductory reading list

II

Literature on Atheism is very hard to find in most public


and university libraries in the United States - and most of
the time when you do find a book catalogued under the
word A theism it is a work against the Atheist position.
Therefore we suggest the following publications which are
available from American Atheist Press as an introduction

1. Why I Am An Atheist, including a history of materialism, by Madalyn O'Hair. Stapled. 41 pp. Product #5416
............................................................................................
3.25
2. The Case against Religion: A Psychotherapist
Dr. Albert Ellis. Stapled. 57 pp. #5096

s View by
4.00

3. All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American


Atheists with All of the Answers by Jon Murray and
Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 348 pp. #5356
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4. What on Earth Is an Atheist! by Madalyn O'Hair.
Paperback. 288 pp. #5412
6.00
5. An Atheist Speaks by Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 321
pp. #5098
6.00
6. All about Atheists by Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 407
pp. #5097
6.00
7. Ingersoll the Magnificent by Joseph Lewis. Paperback.
342 pp. #5216
8.00
8. Essays on American Atheism, vol. I by Jon G. Murray.
Paperback. 349 pp. #5349
9.50
9. Essays on American Atheism, vol. II by Jon G. Murray. Paperback. 284 pp. #5350
7.50
10. Essays in Freethinking, vol. I by Chapman Cohen.
Paperback. 229 pp. #5052
7.00 _
11. Essays in Freethinking, vol. II by Chapman Cohen.
Paperback. 240 pp. #5056
7.00
12. Life Story of August Comte by F. J. Gould. Paperback.
179 pp. #5132
5.00
13. The Logic and Virtue of Atheism by Joseph McCabe.
Stapled. 58 pp. #5280
3.00

into the multifaceted areas of Atheism and state/church


separation. To achieve the best understanding of thought in
these areas the featured publications should be read in the
order listed. These by no means represent our entire collection of Atheist and separationist materials.
14. Atheist Truth vs. Religion's Ghosts by Col. Robert G.
Ingersoll. Stapled. 57 pp. #5156
3.25
15. Some Reasons I Am a Freethinker by Robert G.
Ingersoll. Stapled. 37 pp. #5184
3.00
16. Our Constitution - The Way It Was by Madalyn
O'Hair. Stapled. 70 pp. #5400
3.00
17. American A theist Heritage: Jefferson, Franklin,
Lincoln, and Burbank by Joseph Lewis. Stapled. 56 pp.
#5212
4.00
18. Fourteen Leading Cases on Education, Religion, and
Financing Schools. Paperback. 273 pp. #5500
5.00
19. Sex Mythology
#5440

by Stie Racca.

Steotcd.

55 pp.

3.00

20. Women and Atheism, The Ultimate Liberation by


Madalyn O'Hair. Stapled. 21 pp. #5420
2.50
21. Christianity Before Christ by John G. Jackson.
Paperback. 237 pp. #5200
7.00
22. The Bible Handbook (All the contradictions, absurdities,
and atrocities from the Bible) by G.W. Foote, W.P.
Ball, John Bowden, and Richard M. Smith. Paperback.
372 pp. #5008
7.00
23. The X- Rated Bible by Ben Edward Akerley. Paperback.
428 pp. #5000
8.00

All of the above publications are available at a special set


price of$100.00 - a savings of $25 off the single issue price.
Postage and handling is $1.50 for orders under $20.00;
$2.50 for orders over $20.00. Texas residents please add 7%
percent sales tax.

American Atheist Press, P.O. Box 140195,


Austin, TX 78714-0195

HISTORY OI
FREEDOM OF
THOUGHT

"It is a common saying that thought is free. A man can never be hindered from thinking whatever he chooses so long as he conceals what
he thinks. The working of his mind is limited only by the bounds of his
experience and the power of his imagination. But this natural liberty
of private thinking is of little value. It is unsatisfactory and even painful to the thinker himself, if he is not permitted to communicate his
thoughts to others, and it is obviously of no value to his neighbours.
Moreover it is extremely difficult to hide thoughts that have any power
over the mind. If a man's thinking leads him to call in question ideas
and customs which regulate the behaviour of those about him, to
reject the beliefs which they hold, to see better ways of life than those
they follow, it is almost impossible for him, if he is convinced of the
truth of his own reasoning, not to betray by silence, chance words, or
general attitude that he is different from them and does not share their
opinions. Some have preferred, like Socrates, some would prefer today, to face death rather than conceal their thoughts. Thus freedom
of thought, in any valuable sense, includes freedom of speech."
- J. B. Bury
A History of Freedom of Thought