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January, 1985

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

$2.95 '

TheFIREBRINGERS
- Lightingthe Dark Ages

ATHEISM &, CHILDREN:


A MATTER OF FACT AND FICTION

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
is a non-profit, non-political, 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 are 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 histories;
to encourage the development and public acceptance of a human ethical system, stressing the mutual
sympathy, understanding
and interdependence
of all people and the corresponding
responsibility of each
individual in relation to society;
to develop and propagate a culture in which man is the central figure who alone must be the source of
strength, progress and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity;
to promote the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the maintenance,
perpetuation and enrichment of human (and other) life;
to engage in such social, educational, legal and cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial to
members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.
Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and
aims at establishing a lifestyle and ethical outlook verifiable by experience
and the scientific method,
independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own
inherent, immutable and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that man finding his resources within himself - can and must create his own destiny. Materialism restores to man his
dignity and his intellectual integrity. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve
it. It holds that man is capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice. Materialism's "faith'! is in
man and man's ability to transform the world culture by his own efforts. This is a commitment which is in very
essence life asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation and impossible without noble
ideas that inspire man to bold creative works. Materialism holds that humankind's potential for good and for an
outreach to more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

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American Atheists - P.O. Box 2117 - Austin. TX 78768-2117

January, 1985

Vol. 27, No.1

American Atheist
A Journal

of Atheist News and Thought

Editorial: Isolate and Eradicate - Jon Murray


Ask A.A.
The Firebringers - Maurice LaBelle
Dial-An-Atheist
Sermon from The Mansion - Euleta Usrey
Atheism and Children - Madalyn O'Hair
Atheism: An Opposite - What Christianity Can Mean to Children
- Lowell Newby
Pinpricking A Cult - C. G. Holland
Parental Authority - Chris Brockman
Raising Atheist Children - Barbara Gillette
Cults and The American Compromise - Jonathan M. Berkowitz
The Atheist Next Door - Steve and Nancy Orr
Poetry
The Mormon Book of Abraham - Frank R. Zindler
Reader Service
Historical Notes
India's "Third Nation" - Margaret Bhatty
Letters to The Editor
Classified Advertisement
Convention Announcement

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4
5
7
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18
19
21
23
24
27
28
29
34
35
36
38
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40

On the Cover Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be a child in today's world? Everyone has his/her own recollections of childhood. Yet,
most adults - in their middle or later years - tend not to realize that the world has changed significantly in the past twenty or thirty years. Though
Atheism is as old as time itself it was hardly deemed an issue of great importance until rather recently. Atheists themselves, for the most part, ignored the
necessity of advocating a life of natural beauty and of natural scientific education. The world's "adult" population has inherently viewed the child as a
possession; a play-thing of sorts - to be utilized at the pleasure of the parent and of the culture - to be mind-trained to "follow the system". But, what of
the child? Shouldn't parents place the well-being of their children in higher esteem? Shouldn't we want better things and better times - for them? Isn't it
time we began to "educate them out of" this nightmare world of demons and gods that has perpetualy perverted what should have been a natural paradise
fashioned by the highest order of livingorganism - the human? We herein devote much of this issue of our magazine to the discussion of raising Atheist
children. Perhaps some of the articles will help you to prepare a better place for your children or for ALL the children of the world. - G. Tholen
Editor/Robin Murray-O'Hair, Editor Emeritus/Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Managing Editor/Jon G. Murray, Assistant Editor/Gerald Tholen, Poetry/Angeline
Bennett, Gerald Tholen, Production Staff/John Crump, BillKight, Sandra M.
P. McGann, Alexander Stevens, Gloria Tholen, Beverly Walker, Non-Resident/G. Stanley Brown, Jeff Frankel, Merril Holste, Margaret Bhatty, Fred
Woodworth.
The American Atheist magazine
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ISSN: 0332-4310

1984 by Society of Separationists, Inc.

The A merican Atheist magazine is published monthly by the American Atheist Press
(an affiliate of American Atheists), 2210 Hancock Dr., Austin, TX 78756-2596, and a
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January,

1985

Page 1

ISOLATE AND ERADICATE


pages of this journal have been filled
------~yr----------------v____Therecently
with a good deal of copy con-

cerning the intrusion of religion into the


political arena, especially in the latter part of
1984, that having been an election year- In a
very broad sense, all of the writers who have
commented on the subject agree that religion and politics ought to be separate
spheres of endeavor within our society,
What is far more important than that is the
question - whence came the notion of separating state and church and why that separation should be continued or newly attempted?
There has been much political rhetoric in
the recent past national elections in respect
to the First Amendment constitutional provision of separation of state and church. The
names and remarks of the "Founding Fathers" have-been evoked by those in the
race on both sides of the separation issue. A
part of the political game plan has been to
interpret the intentions of the writers of that
document. That exercise has an air of futility
about it. This is 1985, not 1776. We are 209
years removed from those "Founding
Fathers." It is more necessary for us to
understand what is going on now with
respect to state/church relations and how
they affect us as Atheists, with more specificity than the media gives, than it is for us to
understand what went on in 1776.
The separation of state and church problem is multifaceted and very complex. The
greatest problem facing us in finding a
solution to the matter is a lack of education
in two crucial areas on a massive scale
among the people of this nation. The first
area is the political literacy level abroad in
the land. It is perhaps the lowest that it has
ever been. We, as a people, know damn little
about the actual way in which our governments (federal, state and local) function on a
day-to-day basis on all levels. Elections are
popularity contests bereft of intelligent examination of issues or the relative abilities of
various political systems to deal with those
issues. The second area is the religious
illiteracy of our population. Denominationalism has grown to such an extent that no
one knows what is orthodox in matters
religious on any question any more. Any
scatterbrained notion concerning any moral
or ethical issue of the day can be supported
by the theological view of one group or the
other. It is virtually impossible to get any
Page 2

theologian or lay religionist to own up to


being a part of a particular dogma that has
-been amply historically documented as a
continued thematic modus operandi of the
particular church that said individual attends
and supports. Religion is in the mind of the
beholder now as anything goes. Opinions
religious have no continuity now, to the
dismay of church leaders themselves who
cannot even educate their own flocks as to
the value of a particular dogma.
We cannot proceed intelligently as a
nation on a question such as separation of
state and church with a populace which
knows nothing about the theoretics of either
subject. We have all been exposed to an
overabundance of religious and quasi-religious opinion on the subject of religion and
government that has been almost totally
one-sided and of dubious quality. Material
on governmental systems other than the
prevailing standard single party oligarchy of
today is simply not allowed. Material on
Atheism or its freethought next of kin is
similarly either directly prohibited or disregarded. How can a people form an intelligent opinion on a subject so vital as statechurch separation when they ere ignorant of
past practices and working principles of
both religion and government? Having no
access to quality information in either area
only exacerbates the situation. One's views
on the topic of separation of state and
church are a product of one's inculturation
January, 1985

and emotional conditioning and depend


upon the accidents of time and geography to
a much greater and overriding extent than
upon education or investigation.
It is ironic, for example, that our modern
free public library system was kicked off by
an Atheist, Andrew Carnegie, and at the
same time it is that very system that supports a view of both religion and politics
based on the lack of availability of a diversity
of information on the subjects. American
Atheists has had a continual uphill struggle
to get atheist books and periodicals into
public libraries. Out of approximately nine
thousand main public libraries around the
country only about eight hundred, less than
ten percent, would accept afree subscription
to this journal. Recall, if you will, that it was
on November 17th, 1946, that the first
Atheist, Robert Harold Scott, was allowed
to use the word "Atheist" in a positive sense
on the airways in this country. The first
radio series by an atheist organization went
on the air on June 3rd, 1968, over forty years
after the introduction of radio as a medium
of expression in our nation. The first atheist
series of lV programs with content controlled by Atheists aired in June of 1980,
some thirty years after television came on
the scene.
Americans. have never been adequately
exposed to the notion of freedom from
religion as a viable social option in this
country. Generations have been reared
The American Atheist

political stumps across the nation last year, I


with the idea that only freedom of religion
found one editiorial published in the Rocky
was permissible. Coming from such a backMountain News of Saturday, September
ground can we really expect any more than
29th, 1984 by Henry Steele Commager (an
the kind of overwhelming support that the
electorate showed in 1984 for an adminis- . emeritus professor of history at Amherst
College) that actually said what has needed
tration that cozied up to religion to a greater
to be said for a long long time. It is worth
,extent than any previous one?
quoting here.
Freedom from religion (or any other ideo"We should not get bogged down in
logical stance that is personally intellectually
constitutional or legal controversies
repugnant to the majority) is a basic human
on this fundamental issue (religion in
right for all citizens. It is a right that has,
politics) but strive to fulfillthe ideal of
however, never been satisfactorily explained
the framers - to create and maintain
to them or offered forthrightly. Freedom
a political system that, so far as posfrom religion means more to us as Atheists
sible, establishes justice and insures
than just a clause in a government document that is sometimes useful in our effort to
domestic tranquility. To do so, we
maintain that freedom. It means survival. It
should resort to experience.
"'What influence,' Madison asked,
is because the constitutional concept of
separation of state and church is a means to
have 'ecclesiastic establishments had
the end of establishing and maintaining our
in the past? They have been seen to
erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins
fight to a goal of freedom from religion that
of civilauthority; they have upheld the
we have, as Atheists, such a profound
thrones of political tyranny; in no
appreciation for it. I am reminded of the
instances have they been the guardreligious notion of Cotton Mather of the late
ians of the liberties of the people. A
seventeenth century when he likened "faith"
just government, instituted to secure
to a slender thread on which one's "soul"
and perpetuate the public liberty,
dangled over the pits of hell. Our fate as
needs them not.'
Atheists dangles on a mere clause in a
"We must be clear about our own
government document and the interpretalogic, which is pragmatic, not speculation and potential for respect thereof. Ifthat
tive. We do notlimit prayer in public
thread is broken we can find ourselves in a
schools or forbid religious 'tests' besociety in which Atheism is simply no longer
cause the Constitution so provides;
allowed. It is our determination to retain the
the Constitution so provides because
sovereignty of our position that will ultiexperience taught its framers that
mately determine our fate as Atheists and
such actions would menace the peace
not the kind of blind faith about which
and harmony of our society."
Mather analogized.
Thank you Henry Steele Commager. Our
We must keep in mind that those who
founders did not intend for future generapioneered this little clause onto which we
tions to stagnate, clinging tenaciously to
hang did so out of a recognition of the perils
their eighteenth-century political formula in
of life in a theocracy, for they grew up in
a twentieth-century world. We do indeed
such a state in each of our original colonies.
need to be pragmatic, as they were in their
A few examples will suffice. In colonial
time. Religion has always been on the coat
Virginia the "Lawes, Divine, Moral and
tails of government because they have a
Martial" provided the death penalty for
symbiotic relationship with each other. The
speaking impiously of the Trinity, the death
church provides a docile electorate, obedipenalty for speaking impiously of one of the
ent to authority and conditioned to accept
Divine Persons, the death penalty for
outer direction instead of the inner direction
speaking against any known article of the
of their own conscience and intelligence. In
Christian faith. Conviction of a third offense
return, government provides the church
of breaking the Sabbath or of cursing was
with financial subsistence and the positive
punishable by death. Massachusetts decreed
reinforcement of setting the officialexample
through a General Court that any person
of faith as a necessary part of political
not freeing himself of suspicion of being a
success.
Roman Catholic "shall be jailed, then banThe old style entanglement of religion and
ished. Iftaken a second time, he shall be put
government was simple and overt. The
to death." The states of Rhode Island,
Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware banentanglement problem now is infinitelymore
ned persons from holding public office who
complicated because it involves a diverse
mixture of theologies. We have the Jews,
did not adhere to the prevailing protesJehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists,
tantism of those states. South Carolina
Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Scienadopted its constitution in 1778, which said
"The Christian Protestant religion shall be
tologists, Moonies, Falwellians, Krisnas,
deemed, and is hereby constituted and
Transcendental Meditationists, and Black
declared to be the established religion of this
Moslems to name just a few with which we
State."
must now contend that were not groups
Of all of the back and forth about the
that needed to be seriously considered in
founding of our nation resounding from the colonial period. When Henry VIUthrew

Austin, Texas

January, 1985

the pope's religion out of -England and


established his own church, or when Cardinal Richelieu ruled France, everyone could
see what was going on; the situation was
clear. Now with the PACs and Christian
Voice and the like we have an ever growing
list of denominations separated by doctrinal
disputes and ethnicity. All of these groups
are descending upon a hapless bureacracy
which is overburdened with the geometrically escalating problems of a twentieth
century society while operating under the
restraints of eighteenth century political
formulas.
Our judicial branch of government has
been trying to sort out this tangled web with
respect to separation of state and church for
over one hundred years now. In attempting
to do so the establishment of any legal
guidelines has always needed to be further
and further elasticized as one fact situation
after another presented a unique challenge
to the accepted formula. This has resulted in
the court simply giving up, and thus we now
have a major shift in judicial policy. The
. courts are now favoring the "free exercise"
side of the religion clause of the First Amendment in preference to the "establishment
clause" which has guided most of the landmark decisions in the last one hundred
years. Free exercise has traditionally had to
take a back seat to establishment considerations knowing that by doing so such
exercise could truly remain free. No established church has ever allowed trUe free
exercise. With the new court emphasis
organized religious forces willsoon establish
themselves so firmly that they willbe able to
deny free exercise without the court being
able to do anything about it.
The issue now is not whether religion and
government should be entwined but what
should be the fate of each considered separately. We must look at religion and proceed
to show as many persons as possible why it
is untenable from the perspective of rational
analysis. The issue, for example, is no longer
whether allowing religious ceremonies in
public schools is a violation of either the
establishment or free exercise clause of the
First Amendment but what effect those ceremonies willhave on succeeding generations.
Prayer, the root of religious ceremony,
is an irrational act that is emotionally destructive and conducive to nonproductive
thought patterns in adulthood. There can be
no squabbles over the proper role of religion
in government in a society that no longer
has religion. We must eradicate religion, or
it willeradicate us. Once religion is out of the
way we can then turn to a reevaluation of
our governmental system.
I am eclectic, as are most Atheists. I look
for the good in the things and ideas that I find
around me. I am not so intellectually dishonest as most Americans who operate in a
political vacuum. I know that a single party,
two-branch, capitalist oligarchy is not the

Page 3

only politico-economic system in the world.


Others exist contemporarily, and others
have existed historically. We must acknowledge these other systems and try to cull out
their good points and try to see if we can
incorporate them into our system to make it
better. We cannot afford to stagnate, clinging tenaciously to an eighteenth-century
system out of some kind of national faith
that it willsee us through. It is overburdened
and breaking down in many areas now. We
can change the format of our system to
adapt to the rapid pace of modern times and
the geometrically increasing complexity of
our population and its concerns without
abandoning basic principles. Freedom of
speech, thought, and expression; equal
rights and equal justice are basic principles
that have their roots in pre-governmental
times. They need not be jettisoned to remodel a political system that could be based
upon the health, education, and welfare
needs of the people it serves.
As we start a new year we must resolve to
attack the basic tenets of religion with more
vigor than ever before. We must confront
religion with science and intelligence at
every turn until it is forced to retreat. We
must strike out at sick ideas with the
tenacity of a good physician attacking a
crippling disease. We have to isolate the
core ideas of theology and cut them out of.
society like a surgeon isolates a tumor and
removes it before it can metastasize. Ifear
that many Atheists are not sufficiently terrorized by the rising presence of irrationality, rooted in theology, ifour present culture
is to be motivated off its collective posterior.
Shall we allow actual physical restraints to
be enforced on our ability to enjoy our
freedom from religion before we become
sufficiently aroused to take the offensive? I
sincerely hope not.
To those of you who quibble about the
need to be less abrasive lest we offend the
religious - remember that they never have
quibbled about offending you - and never
will. I see no fault in being the arrogant
defender of a lifestyle so far superior to the
alternative that it defies comparison. Icannot condone a culture wherein one is supposed to be proud of being dumb and
reluctant to exhibit intelligence. Please join
me in a New Year's resolution to become a
more arrogant Atheist beginning in 1985.

~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A second generation Atheist,


Mr. Murray has been the
Director of
the American Atheist Center
for nine years and is also the
Managing Editor of the
American Atheist.
He advocates "Aggressive Atheism."
Page 4

Ask A.A.
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.
You give us this nice long article on
Clarence Darrow but cut details of his death
and place of burial exactly, cemetary, etc.
Give details, please.
Melvin Blockinger, New York
Clarence Darrow died March 13, 1938, in
Chicago, Illinois. The established order
hated him so thoroughly that details are not
to be preserved. We are asking the Northern Illinois Chapter of American Atheists to
go to the newspapers of that date in the
excellent Chicago public libraries and find
more information which will subsequently
be printed here.
C"' ..:>

I thought it would be interesting to see


what the dictionary had to sayan Atheist
was, and I quote from Webster's New
Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe
Second Edition. You won't believe it, or
maybe you will.
"a-the-ism - the belief that there is no
God.
"A little philosophy inclineth men's minds
to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth
men's minds to religion. - Bacon.
. "a-the-ist, one who believes that there is
no God.
"By night an atheist half believes a God.
- Young."
Raymond Tabbita, Michigan
Over the years American Atheists have
done battle with encyclopedia and dictionary printers. We have consistently pointed
out that we, as Atheists, willgive all of them
the correct definition of Atheism and Atheist and that they need not seek the same
from hostile clergy.
This fight has been unsuccessful, but we
are willing to start again. In this we simply
need the help of all Atheists everywhere.
The address of the publishers of Webster's Dictionary is:
Merriam Webster Co.
47 Federal St.,
P. O. Box 281, Springfield, MA 01101
If enough Atheists write to them, after
having checked their own Webster's, perhaps we can finally get this changed. American Atheists will also be contacting them
again since it has been several years since
our last complaint.
We need to emphasize that there must be
a continuing assault on such reference publication houses. If you write and do not
receive a satisfactory answer, write again in
six months, and plan to keep up the barrage
for years.
January, 1985

Atheists have never learned that there is


strength in numbers, orgcmization, and determination. It is axiomatIC that should
Merriam Webster Co. receive one thousand
letters, that is better than receiving two.
Don't let Charlie do it; the most effective
way is to write a complaint letter yourself
-now.
c,,''''':1

After taking advantage of ordering some


of your back issues, Ijust finished reading
about the exhausting plight of Bruce Hunter, who lost his job on May 24, 1979,
because of atheistic beliefs. (American Atheist magazine, May, 1979).
First of all, can you tell me what has
happened to Mr. Hunter and ifhe either was
reinstated or found a teaching assignment
elsewhere? Being a teacher and occasionally writing editorials to the newspaper which
lend me supporting atheistic concepts, Ifear
that I, too, may become another Bruce
Hunter.
Gerald Lunderville, California
Bruce Hunter fought the Dallas Independent School District for reinstatement of his
job, couching the legal fight in civil libertarian terms. As indicated in the abovementioned magazine, American Atheists
assisted him on his appeal to the Fifth
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in New
Orleans, Louisiana, and then to the U. S.
Supreme Court. He, and we, lost. Incidentally, that case cost American Atheists
thousands and thousands of dollars.
Bruce, who taught math for something
like fifteen years, naturally could not give
the D.I.S.D. as a reference and as a last
place of employment. He did sales work for
some time, tried his hand at the manufacture and sale of plastic storm windows
and then finally disappeared somewhere in
California. An identical incident parted
Garry De Young from teaching biology in a
high school in Delaware. He, also, was
never able to return to teaching since
references are so important in this type of
career.
All of this only emphasizes why American
Atheists must be strengthened so that it has
the political, economic, and legal punch
sufficient to protect Atheists in these religious United States.
Have you tried using your dead greatgreat-grandfather's name on the Letters to
The Editor? That works. Although American Atheists in a continuing way ask all
Atheists to come out of the closet, we are
well aware of "delicate situations" when
this is not possible. Yet, the more who come
out, the more solidly impregnable our position in society will be.
Actually, in your situation you must be
wary.
The American Atheist

The following is the first of a series of


four articles on the French phi'osophes,
the intellectual leaders of the Enlightenment of seventeenth and eighteenth
century Europe.
The Enlightenment

"T

he. Empire of .Reas~n," ~he distinguished American historian Henry


Steele Commager calls the Enlightenment.
The French called it the "L'Age des
Lumieres," meaning the age of "Iight"understanding, discovery, and insight - a
period of legendary thinkers. The period
might very well be entitled the Age of
Research, because people "re-searched"
the great questions about the nature of the
human animal, society, and cosmos. Another name might be "The Age of Titans."
The works of such representatives of the
Enlightenment
as Jefferson, Franklin,
Adams, Madison, Diderot, d'Alembert,
d'Holbach, Condorct, Rousseau, Voltaire,
Montesquieu, Condillac, Turgot, David
Hume, Jeremy Bentham, George Berkeley,
Adam Smith, Edward Gibbon, Johann von
Herder, and Gottfried Leibniz recall the gift
of the last of the Titans, Prometheus the
Firebringer. It is from this Enlightened crucible that Atheism would emerge as a modern
system of thought.
The Enlightenment was an intellectual
movement which swept through the West in

the eighteenth century, accelerating by 1750


and cresting in Europe at the time of the
French Revolution and somewhat later for
the United States. The Enlightenment was
strong in England, Holland, Scotland, the
United States, and especially in France
where it was more organized than elsewhere. The Enlightenment was a loose
association of Atheists, deists, and liberal
clerics; it was not a school or group which
required a person to accept certain tenets.
Newton - Locke - Bacon
The roots of the Enlightenment were in
the Renaissance, but most directly its origins were in the works of three Englishmen:
Newton, Locke, and Bacon. The ramifications of the work of Issac Newton (16421727) on universal gravitation can hardly be
underestimated. His concept had a rapid
and profound impact on Western thought,
especially in France because of Voltaire's
publicizing it. Most people did not immediAustin, Texas

ately reject theism and accept Newton's


concept that universal gravitation is the
organizing principle of the cosmos Newton himself, it should be noted, remained a godist as did Voltaire. But, Newton's work stimulated minds of others and
soon spawned questions about traditional
explanations of the universe. Nevertheless,
because of Newton's work, the Western
mind was set on its way to seeing that there
is no god; there are only natural laws.
John Locke (1632-1704) cOhtended that
the human mind learns from experience
(external or internal) and then develops
complex ideas from simple ones generated
by those experiences. His conclusion that
the mind at birth is a tabula rasa (blank
blackboard) led not only to questioning the
view that human beings are given a soul at
birth, but to investigations into how people
can be educated, that is, what experiences
the individual should have in order to become a better person. A corollary was an
inquiry into what forces were keeping the
individual from developing properly. It was a
short step to think of the alliance of throne
and altar as having improper influence on
people. Locke himself was aware of this
problem when, in A' Letter Concerning
Toleration (1689), he argued against the
undue mingling of king and prelate, a concept which would deeply concern most
thinkers of the Enlightenment.
The third progenitor of the Enlightenment
was Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He contended that traditional, Aristotelian, methods
of thinking led people into error. It is cus-

tomary to credit Bacon with formulating the


method of inductive reasoning, which is the
basis of the "scientific method." Bacon's
theory of reasoning would have to be considerably refined before it attained its present outline. Armed with his well-known
statement that people should see "things as
they are, without superstition or imposure,
error or confusion," some people not only
began to cast questioning eyes on previous
knowledge because it might be based on
error but to evaluate traditional attitudes,
theories, and conclusions in a new, "scientific," way.
Linnaeus - Boerhaave
The flames of the Enlightenment were
fanned from an unexpected quarter. Carl
January, 1985

Linnaeus (1707-1778), a Swedish biologist,


systematized the classification and terminology of biology, and the system later proved
quintessential to zoology and mineralogy,
both of which became popular during the
Enlightenment. Fundamentally, his system
solved a communication problem between
biologists, who consequently, could exchange discoveries more easily than before.
Although he was a devout godist, his work
was banned by Pope Clement XIII because
it challenged the classifications of Moses.
Nevertheless, Linnaeus' work led to an
accelerated study of natural sciences.
Initially, the Enlightenment was generated
by discoveries in the sciences (Newton and
Locke) and logic (Bacon). The concepts of
universal gravitation, tabula rasa, and inductive reasoning were seen by their discoverers as showing god's wonderous work,
but these concepts proved so vast that
others would have to develop the implications of them. That was the work of the
people of the Enlightenment. But Newton,
Locke, and Bacon had done their work well:
they left a legacy others would build upon.
The University of Leydon proved to be a
test tube to show how the Enlightenment
functioned. One of its greatest professors
was Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738). A
typical man of the Enlightenment, he was
brilliant in several fields, such as medicine,
chemistry, and botany, and he was also the
most celebrated and influential medical professor of his time. People came from allover
Europe and America to study with him,
including Linneaus, and his textbooks, in
which he preached Newtonianism, were
famous. Not only did the students learn
from Boerhaave medicine, Newtonianism,
and concern for the well-being of people, but
at the university they also met other students and long-lasting friendships resulted.
In the years to come, letters flew between
them, and thus new discoveries and ideas
- were quickly disseminated. For instance,
the young Paul-Henri Thiery, who would
become the Baron d'Holbach, went to the
University of Leyden, listened to Boerhaave,
and made friends with such Englishmen as
John Wilkes and Horace Walpole, who
became figures in the English Enlightenment, and from them Holbach met other
Enlightened English minds. On a visit to
England, he met David Garrick, who would
supply him with books in English - a soucre
which would last for years. When d'Holbach's friends came to Paris, they dined with
him and were introduced to such people as
Diderot, Rousseau, Grimm, or other fine
minds from all over Europe who were also
visitingParis. So the fraternity of Enlightened
minds quickly grew.
Dissemination
The growth of Enlightened thought is
reflected in the proliferation of scientific
Page 5

associations: Berlin Academy, St. Petersburg Academy (1725);Stockholm Academy


(1739);Royal Society of Copenhagen (1745);
Institute of Bolgna, Academies des Sciences
in Paris and Royal Society in London were
well established by the early eighteenth
century _Each was devoted to understanding
"natural science," and it should be underscored that this new breed of thinkers did
not consider themselves "scientists;" that
term would not come to be used until the
nineteenth century. These people called
themselves "natural philosophers," that is,
"seekers of wisdom about nature." Such
issues as virgin birth, succubi and incubi, the
temperature of the flames of hell, and how
many angels can dance on the head of pin
did not concern such intellects. They were
preoccupied with scientific examinations of
biology, botany, zoology, mineralogy, anatomy, and ethics. While these individuals
were not primarily concerned with gods,
souls, responsibilities of priestcraft, and
elevation of the host, such issues would be
considered because they were impedimenta
to their work.
The rapid development of printing was
significant in the emergence of the Enlightenment. Printing led to the proliferation of
books, monographs, reports, essays, and
extended letters, all of which stimulated
investigation and discussion between scholars. It also became fashionable for wealthy
people to have sophisticated personal libraries. For instance the Baron d'Holbach
was justly proud of his personal library of
three thousand volumes, which was one of
the largest in Europe.
Censorship
The Enlightenment did not develop without obstacles. Censorship was a major
problem. In France, it was very difficult to
find a person who would print works which
had failed to obtain the approval of the royal
censor. Even to possess some books was
criminal. For example, an apprentice received two copies of a forbidden book,
d'Holbach's Christianity Unmasked, from a
peddlar and then sold one to his master,
who subsequently reported him to the
police. The peddlar, his wife,and the appren.tice were arrested, pilloried, whipped, and
branded; the apprentice was sentenced to
nine years and the peddlar to five years in a
galley ship, and the wife was ordered to
work in a hospital for the rest of her life. In
1749, Diderot was put in solitary confinement at the Vincennes prison for the Letter
about The Blind.
One way to circumvent censorship was to
change the type of work. Instead of writing a
treatise against the Roman Catholic church,
Voltaire, in Candide (1758), told a story
about the utopia of El Dorado, which became a veiled opportunity for him to present
his deistic concepts as well as disdain for

Page 6

Jesuits and other Catholic prelates. In El


Dorado, priests are not necessary for the
well-being of the people; there everybody
worships "God from morning to evening,"
but they do not pray; everybody is a priest.
Fortunately, there are "no monks to teach,
argue, govern, intrigue, and burn at the
stake everyone who disagrees with them."
Other writers used pseudonyms or wrote
anonymously. They would also have their
works printed in Paris, but on the title page
there would be a note that the book was
printed in London or Amsterdam. Others,
such as the Atheist La Mettrie, would make
a convincing argument and then add a
comment or two about the soul in order to
satisfy the censor and thus gain the imprimatur of acceptability.
Popularizers
So many complex and revolutionary ideas
about human nature, society, and cosmos!
Who but the person with the wealth to study
in great universities, travel to foreign cities,
and collect massive libraries could understand them? "Popularizers" helped to disseminate, interpret, and simplify new ideas
for the masses. One of the finest was
Bernard de Fontenelle (1657-1757), who
popularized the Copernican theory (Comments on the Plurality of Worlds; 1686).
The intellectual advances of the Enlightenment were considerably aided by inept
political and religious rulers in France. Louis
XIV died in 1715, and Louis XV was hardly
equal to the task of suppressing the rapidly
developing philosophical attitudes. According to Lanson, with the ascendancy of Louis
XV to the throne, "the bankruptcy of the
Church, the nobility, and the throne, that is,
all the pillars of the old regime, was finished,
or their end was imminent." While the
Enlightenment was gnawing at the philosophic foundations of the old regime, the
principal occupation of the rulers in France
was financial, rather than philosophical.
France had increasingly serious financial
problems, which culminated in 1788 when
the revenues amounted to 503 million livres,
but expenses were 629 million livres. The
deficit was 126 millionlivres, and the interest
on the debt was 318 million livres, or about
fifty percent of expenditures. Something
had to be done, and, consequently, Louis
XVI eventually called the Estates-General,
which proved to be the impetus for the
French Revolution.
Jansenites
While the French government was weak
and.financially troubled, the Roman Catholic church was also having problems which
distracted it from the advancing Enlightenment. Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638) was a
Dutch theologian whose theories conflicted
with those of the Jesuits. The various points

January, 1985

of difference between the two contending


factions eventually became so serious that
the dispute had to be resolved by the pope,
but problems persisted. Jansen's views outlived him, and eventually his followers centered in the convent and abbey of PortRoyal in France. In 1705, Pope Clement XI
ruled against the .lansenists, and Louis XVI
consequently had the buildings at PortRoyal razed and the nuns dispersed. The
matter would not rest, and, if Stendhal
accurately recorded his generation, Jansenism continued to be a significant issue as late
as 1831 when Stendhal wrote his masterpiece, The Red and the Black. To add to the
disrepute of the Jesuits, they meddled in
political affairs so frequently that they were
expelled from the Portugese Empire in 1759,
France in 1764, and, on June 21,1773, Pope
Clement XIV was forced to suppress the
Jesuits - they would not be fully restored
until 1814. The Jansenist controversy and
the expulsion orders helped to dispel the
theological authority of the Jesuits. The
Enlightenment successfully evolved because
the opposition was unable to defend itself
adequately. Such great minds as d'Holbach,
Diderot, and Voltaire, rather than devoting
their talents to the service of the Church,
devoted their brilliance to attacking throne
and altar. Fortunately, the Church was
unable to match wits with men of the
Enlightenment.
A major alternative to traditional religious
views was deism, which was a profound
force in the Enlightenment. In fact, most of
the Enlightened thinkers were deists. Unable to share traditional religious concepts
and concomitantly influenced by the rise of
science, these people found satisfaction in
believing in a god but not in an organized
church, Jesus, after-life, or the efficacy of
prayer. The classic example of deism's god
was given by Voltaire, who said that the
universe is so perfect that it must have been
created. He used the analogy of a clockmaker who made a clock, set it in motion,
and then left it. This allowed view left people
free to study that clock and find out the
principles of its operation. Deism proved to
be a "half-way house" for those who could
not accept Christianity, and it would be only
a short step from deism to Atheism.
Other Worlds
One of the most important influences on
the Enlightenment was the impact of travel
journals. There were two major travel books,
the first of which was Cooke's voyage of
1769 to the South Pacific in order to study
scientifically the transit of Venus - "perhaps the first great international scientific
enterprise." Cooke's trip and journal helped
introduce the Western mind to other South Pacific - cultures, which became the
focal point for investigation of many Western
ideas. Removed from the pollutants of throne
The American Atheist

and altar, such "natives" became intriguing


to the Enlightened minds. Diderot used the
travel journals of Bougainville to demonstrate Diderot's ideas of human nature.
Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (17291814)
was a: mathematician, lawyer, soldier, served in the French diplomatic corps, went to
Canada with Montcalm, founded a colony
on the Falkland Islands, and from 1766
1769, he explored the islands around Tahiti.
His book, Trip Around the World, appeared
in 1771. The following year Diderot wrote
The Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville, but it was not published until 1796. In
one of its parts, Diderot tells the fanciful
story of the chaplain of the Bougainville
party, who visits a Tahitian king; after
dinner, the king offers him his naked wife
and three daughters from whom the chaplain is to select a companion for the night
"- but ifyou want to do me a favor, choose
the youngest of my daughters, because she
has not yet had any children." The chaplain
replies that he cannot accept because of
"his religion, his position, good morals, and
honesty." The king comments that "I don't
know what this thing is you call religion, but I
can only have a poor opinion of it, because it
keeps you from tasting innocent pleasures
to which nature, the sovereign mistress,
invites all of us ... I don't know what this
thing is you call 'position,' ... are the morals
of Tahiti better or worse than yours? ... I
think your bizarre precepts are contrary to
nature and reason .... "
Parallel to the interest in travel journals,
people of the enlightenment were fascinated
by the American Indians, the "noble savage."
Admiration for them was so high that some
Europeans thought that "Perhaps, after all,

there was something to those theories that


the Indians were the descendants of the
survivors of Troy who, seeking to escape
the wrath of the Greeks, fled the length of
the Mediterranean and were blown across
the Atlantic to a more hospitable home.
Make of all this what you will, but clearly it
endowed the Indians with all the virtues, the
courage, and the dignity of the heroes of
classical antiquity." Jefferson was more interested in Indians than in slaves' or women's
rights. Could it be that these people could
live without throne and altar? Could it be
that they could be civilized without benefit
of Christian education? Could the human
being be noble and admirable without prelate?

and science, the Enlightened thinkers found


Christianity untenable in the light of reason,
and as the Enlightenment evolved, its proponents began to see the implications and
possibilities of their work. Could it be that
peole were basically reasonable? If so, then
what forces kept them in a state of unreason? Was Divine Right Absolutism - the
principal defense for absolute monarchy necessary for government? Was the cosmos governed by natural laws or the plan of
a deity? The result of such questions was
that materialism must replace godism, science must replace metaphysics, and logic
must replace belief. Such would be the work
of the "Encyclopedists." ~

Watershed
The Enlightenment was a "watershed" in
Western thought, a time of sloughing traditional beliefs and advancing in new directions with new tools, especially the "scientificmethod." Thoughts spawned by Newton,
Locke, and Bacon led the men of the
Enlightenment, as Prof. Commager has
rightly concluded, to recognize "no bounds
to their curiosity, no barriers to their
thought, no limits to their activities or for
that matter, to their authority." Common
bonds were questioning tradition, empiricism, fascination with science, toleration,
faith in progress, rejection of theology, and
secularism. Prof. Commager is right: "Patience was not one of their virtues." They
wanted change - the sooner the better.
They might disagree about the nature and
extent of the changes, but transformation
was an important concept in their vocabulary.
Spawned by a strange mixture of godism

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Prof. Maurice M. LaBelle holds
a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature.
He presently is teaching in the
Department of English at Drake
University in Des Moines, Iowa.
His work has been published in both
French and English in scholarly
journals throughout the
United States, Canada, England;
and France.
He has lectured in the United
States, Canada, Yugoslavia,
and India. His book
on the French Atheist Alfred Jarry
(Alfred Jarry, Nihilism and
the Theater of the Absurd)
appeared in 1981. He is presently
working on a project on the
Marquis de Sade.

II.o..._DI_A_L-_A_N_-_A_T_H_E_IS_T_I

__

The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments on state I church
separation issues and lor viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.
Tucson. Arizona
San Francisco. California
Denver. Colorado
Atlanta. Georgia
Northern Illinois
Central Illinois
Des Moines. Iowa
Lexington. Kentucky
Boston. Massachusetts
Detroit. Michigan
Minneapolis/St.Paul. Minn
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623-3861
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Austin. Texas DIAL-THE-ATHEIST ... (512) 458-5731


Houston. Texas
Dial-A-Gay-Atheist
Salt Lake City. Utah
Northern Virginia

January, 1985

(713)
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664-7678
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280-4321

Page 7

Euieta Usrey

Sermon from the Mansion


Euleta Usrey hails from Arkansas. The following is an excerpt
from her book And the WASP God Said ....,
which will be released by the American Atheist Press
in January, 1985.
And seeing the multitudes, he came out of the White Mansion; and when he was set, his Cabinet came unto him;
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor; for theirs is the labor of the earth.
Blessed are they that mourn; for they dare not be angry.
Blessed are the meek; for they shall forfeit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst; for they shall be too weak for protest.
Blessed are the merciful; for they shall not oppose us.
Blessed are the "cold in heart; for they shall serve the WASP god.
Blessed are the war mongers; for they shall save the economy.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for capitalism's sake; for theirs are the poorer nations of the earth.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute and shall say all manner of evil against you truthfully, for my doings.
Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in the government; for so persecuted they the slaveholders which were before you.
Ye are the exploiters of the earth; but ifthe exploiter have lost his zeal, wherewith shall it be exploited? It is thenceforth property of all people,
and given according to need.
Ye are in control of the world. A country that is in control cannot be humane.
Neither do humane men control this country, but those capable of exploiting the most laborers.
Let your propaganda so go forth, that they may believe your good words, and obey your WASP god, which is in the White Mansion .:
Think not that I am come to represent the masses, or the workers; I am not come to represent, but to control.
For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass, one factory or one building shall in no wise pass from the capitalist, until all the people
revolt.
Whomsoever therefore shall break one of these least command ments and shall teach people to control their own lives, the same shall be called
a criminal by the Authority; but whosoever shall do and teach the commandments, the same shall be called a law-abiding citizen.
For Isay unto you, that except your deceit and cunning shall exceed the deceit and cunning of the laboring masses, ye shall in no case enter into
the privileges of the wealthy class.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment;
But Isay unto you, that whosoever is angry with his employer shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his neighbor, let us
resist, shall be in danger of the courts; but whosoever shall kill people in foreign countries shall be rewarded for military leadership.
And if thou bring thy taxes to the collector, and there rememberest that thy neighbor hath evaded his appointed share;
Leave there thy information before the officials, and go thy way; thy neighbor shall be audited and charged, and thou shalt be rewarded for thy
treachery.
Agree with thine employer quickly, while thou art in the public with him; lest at any time the employer deliver thee to the judge, and the judge
deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, 'til thou hast been made servile.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit any crime;
But I say unto you, that whosoever thinketh upon the system to question its legitimacy hath committed a crime already in his heart.
And ifthy closest relative confide such to thee, turn him in, and cast him from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
perish, and not that thy whole family be under observation.
And if thy closest friend confide such to thee, turn him in, and cast him from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
perish,and not that all thy acquaintances should be under observation.
But let your communication be, "Yes, sir; No, sir," for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say unto you, that ye resist no Authority; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if thy creditor willsue thee at the law, and take away thy cost, let him have thy pants also.
And whosoever shall hire thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that taxeth thee, and from him that would reduce thy wages, turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, love your enemies, obey them that abuse you, do good to them that hate you and pay for them which spitefully rule you, and
persecute you.
That ye maybe the patriots of the WASP god which is in the White Mansion; for he maketh his government to rule for the powerful and against
the weak, and declareth taxes on the poor and credits for the wealthy.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? No sacrifice hath been made.
Ask not what the government canst do for you, but what ye canst do for the government.
Be ye therefore intimidated and subdued, even as your fellowAmericans are intimidated and subdued, that harm doth not befall thy household.

.~

Page 8

January, 1985

The American Atheist

here are literally thousands of books


on humanism, freethought, rationalism,
and even Atheism. Magazines, journals and
scattered articles have been written by the
tens of thousands on the subject of nonbelief. Each month, this journal (through its
"Historical Notes" column) attempts to reo
view important issues of yore. In searching
through all of the above, it is surprising that
nowhere is there a direct concern" with
children or the issues of Atheism which
affect children's lives. The Truthseekerpublished in December of 1884 a book of
illustrated stories for children, the merits of
which are not known since the book is not
extant. Almost one hundred years later in
1978 American Atheists brought out a small
booklet for toddlers and in 1981, attempted
to issue a series of short stories for children,
but the effort died aborning from a number .
of difficulties attendant therewith. Other
than these several small efforts, the literature
has been devoid of material for children.
Also, Atheist have had meetings for literally
hundreds of years. Presumably children were never in attendance for they have
never been mentioned in reports of the meet-

natural surgery is peformed. Even recent


medical reviews consistently proclaim that a
newly born male infant cannot feel; at the
same time that the anti-abortionists bring
forth numerous proofs that the embryo
before birth responds to all stimuli. Often
the circumcision is performed without any
anesthetics, even local. this is simply a
barbaric relic of religious ritual which needs
to be stopped. Every atheist parent should
simply say "no" to the operation and let it go
at that. Rules of bodily cleanliness can be
taught any child. We don't snip off the nose
simply because it occasionally dribbles. Reason proposes that this ritualistic religious
butchery should be stopped unless significant medical findings can support the practice, and no such findings are anywhere
available or likely to be.
Once baby is home, a number of questions arise. If both parents are Atheists,
there is no need for a "christening" at the
church. But, what should one do if one or
the other set of grandparents is religious and
insist that the priest be brought in, the
church be visited, or other religious rituals
performed. It's a quandry. Do you insult the

dt~~%tw
ings. Altogether, the silence is deafening. It
is as ifthere has never been an atheist child.
One can only presume that no one has
ever had the courage to face up to the
subject of children and Atheism. Yet, the
child is confronted daily with issues of
importance to Atheism. Since no one dares
to speak to the innumerable instances where
this occurs, American Atheists may as well
take the parents by the hand, sit down
quietly, and discuss this matter of overweening import for the parents and their children.
Facing The Issues
One of the first confrontations with religion is the plight of the male child even
before he leaves the hospital. Shall he, or
shall he not, suffer a sexual assault, by the
knife, known as circumcision? This is clearly
a religious ritual. It has nothing to do with
"cleanliness" and genital health and everything to do with physical trauma to the male
sexual organ and psychological trauma to
the small infant. The only other consideration involved is the quick, easy, additional
surgical fee which an attending physician
can skim off the parents. There has not been
adequate research into the practice, but it
has been, nonetheless, accepted in most
American hospitals. The underlying theory
is that the average American male is so
insufferably stupid that he cannot keep his
glans and foreskin clean unless this antiAustin, Texas

January, 1985

religious grandparents? There is no need for


that. It is only necessary to tell them firmly
and plainly that, being Atheists, you do not
desire to have your child subjected to symbolic religious rituals which are intellectually
repugnant to you. If the argument is raised
that the child is too young to know what is
occuring, an honest reply is that you know.
That is sufficient to deter you from offering
your child for participation in the event. If
the grandparents see that your Atheism is
held so lightly that you willvoluntarily submit
to this demand, the level of religious outreach to the child will only increase. But
what to do if one parent is religious and the
other is an Atheist? Over and over again, in
civilization the pattern has developed that
the rational concedes to the irrational in
order to avoid unpleasantness. Although
this is almost a rule of international law, it is
nowhere more apparent than in family situations. It is always the rational Atheist who
"understands the needs" of the irrational
religious person in the home and who, out of
that understanding, bows to the religious
request. It is always the flexible, outreaching
partner who yields to the inflexible, rigid
one. That may be a way of maintaining a
tenuous peace or truce between partners as
one constantly sublimates one's intelligence
to the non-thinking attitude and opinions of
the other, but it is a false peace, and basically
the partners know that. One solution is to
Page 9

maintain that it is not appropriate to submit


a child, a mere babe, to a ritual in which (s)he
cannot knowingly participate. A second
solution is, as an Atheist, to refuse to be
involved in such a ritual yourself. If your
partner then says, "All right, you stay home,
and I'lltake the baby to church for christening," the Atheist should simply point
out that is schismatic to the relationship,
that there must be an understanding between partners concerned with any event
involving their child. This time, let the "love
filled Christian" understand your position
and yield to you, since you hold fast to your
principles. A third solution and probably a
much needed one is to sit down with your
mate and go over your relative rights in the
marriage concerning religion and Atheism. It
willcontinue to be a thorn-in-the-side if you
don't. If you had a child with a religious
person you can expect difficulties. Religionists are not reasonable people. An appropriate solution would be that you do not
interfere with your partner's religious practices nor your partner with your Atheism. In
respect to any child, you can and should
demand that the unwitting child not be
indoctrinated into religion during its legal
minority. Hold firm that religion should be
introduced to the child, if at all, when the
child reaches an age of intellectual discretion
and can make a knowing evaluation and
selection. Compromise on this issue loses
the child to religion. An Atheist must be
adamant in this situation.
If it is not a christening, it is going to be
baptism if the religion involved has infant
damnation, requiring early baptism, as a
tenet. The same situation will develop except that it will be exacerbated if the religious person concerned feels that the child's
soul is endangered. It is going to be necessary for an Atheist to face this equipped with
all the arguments that can be mustered
concerning a "soul." The basic reality is that
a "soul" is an imaginary entity. The individual unique personality of a human being is
physically based, derived from hereditary
factors and lifeexperiences and is located in
the brain bank. In regard to life experiences
the personality is developmental. When the
brain is destroyed by rapid physical deterioration (death) the unique personality simply
ceases to exist. An analogy can be the
"erasing" of a song from a casette. When it
was electronically recorded by impulse reo
ception on the tape it existed to be played
over and over, always unique in and of itself.
But, if the tape is destroyed, the song is
gone. It did not exist by reason of its "soul"
but rather as a physical entity. All animal
forms, in their "unique personalities," are
the same. The argument that the soul is an
essence, substance, or animating principle
which is the actuating cause of life and
manifests itself in the thinking, willing, and
knowing of a human being is simply superb
rot. Because in Christainity a "soul" is
Page 10

regarded as immortal, separable from the


body at death, you can beat the Christian on
his home ground. God created one "soul"
according to the Christian Bible. That one
soul, which' was Adam's, being immortal
could be passed along only at his death,
since it remained house in Adam until then.
Adam's children could not take his soul,
until it was released at the time of his demise.
That one soul was never divvied up among
his heirs. God did not say to souls, "Be
fruitful and multiply." The idea of souls
giving birth to little souls to float out and
enter the bodies of newborns, seeking them
out wherever to make the invasion is ludicrous at best. The idea of souls once inhabiting one body then racing to another at the
time of the death of the first or floating
upward to an undefined area designated as
heaven is patently absurd. Christians are
faced with the fact there there was, for all
times, only one soul, that of Adam, and
according to their mythology there is simply
that one somewhere, somehow, floating
around in eternity waiting to be reunited
with Adam's body when that is released at
the time of the final judgment. (Eve did not
get a soul according to the founding fathers
of the Christian church.) Put the religious
partners on the defensive. Ask them to do
some rational, scientific research on the
subject. Let them carry the burden of proof.
Watch how soon their arguments fade.
And stand firm that your child shall not be
involved in a religious ritual, such as baptism, until that age of intellectual discretion
is reached. That buys you some time to try
to rear the child without religious indoctrination.
What do you do if a relative or friend
wants to stand as a godfather or godmother
to your child? Explain that the idea is
repugnant to you, but that you are very
pleased that the relative or friend wants to
relate to the child and his/her possible needs
as the child grows to adulthood. Call that
relationship anything you want to call it, just
so you leave out the word "god." This is an
especially painful situation if you are a single
parent who is involved. Usually a single
parent is the mother and there may be an
onus placed upon her already. Ignore the
criticism and proceed with being a good
parent.
What happens next as the child reaches
the age when (s)he can walk and talk? If
daddy or mommy is an Atheist is this kept a
secret from the child for fear that (s)he might
talk in the neighborhood or to relatives?
What happens when a religious relative or
friend shows up? Do you accept a tiny fish
(the emblem of Christianity) signet ring?
What if grandpa brings a religious medal for
his grandchild, Auntie Ruth comes with a
crucifix, or cousin Melvin brings a rosary?
Again, if both parents are Atheists this
should be no problem. Thank the donor for
the offer of the gift, effusively if you so
January, 1985

desire, but point out that the religioussymbolism involved is sufficiently discomforting to
you that you would rather not have your
child become familiar with it, especially in its
immature years. Hand the present back to
the donor, but not in the presence of the
small child. Tell the child that it was nice of
grandpa, or Auntie Ruth, or Melvin to think
of them, but don't offer an explanation. The
child willnot understand, and if the incident
is enlarged, it might become a focal point of
memory. The child will forget. Don't be a
hypocrite by taking the gift and putting it in a
drawer. Every time you open that drawer it
willonly be a reminder to you that you used
deceit in the face of a confrontation. The
incident is not worth your losing some of
your self esteem by being forced into a
position wherein you needed to dissemble.
You are both atheist parents: when your
child goes out to play, what are you going to
say when he comes home and tells you that
Frankie can't play tomorrow because he's
going to church and what is church? Are
you going to tell him that church is a bad
thing? Will you send him to church with
Frankie and his family? Willyou take him to
church and sit sullenly through it all? There
are many things that family doesn't do. You
can simply explain, at your child's level of
understanding, that this is one of the activities in which your family does not engage.
There are probably any number of examples at hand. "Daddy doesn't go fishing like
grandpa does." "Mommy doesn't wear hats
like Aunt Jean." Be matter of fact. Don't
make a big deal out of it. "We don't go to
church," is a plain and simple answer.
But what if one parent is Atheist and the
other is religious and the religious one goes
to church every Sunday? You have a problem. Again, if the age of the child is tender,
daddy may go to work every day while
mommy stays home. Mommy goes to church
on Sundays while daddy stays home. Children accept situations they see. Daddy
shaves; mommy doesn't. They recognize
that there are differences of all kinds between themselves and other children, between adults and especially in behavior.
Don't short change your child's intelligence
and perception. It is sufficient to tell him/her
that going to church is something that one,
or both parents, do not do. It is when neighbors intrude and ask to take your child with
them or when relatives or a spouse insist
that the child accompany them to church
that again religion has raised its ugly head.
An Atheist should very simply explain, "I am
an Atheist. I am rearing my child free of
religious indoctrination. (S)he is not going to
go to church during his/her impressionable
years." There is no need to equivocate.
Your position should be a flat one. The
responsibility of rearing your child is yours.
It is not that of your neighbors, friends,
business acquaintances, relatives or your
The American Atheist

local politicians. There is no need to yield.


The human race has fought for millenia to
ride the world of slavery. Should you teach
your child the merits of slavery now? Should
you teach your child ideas which should be
abandoned by the human community? Would
you indoctrinate a child that men are better
than women, that one race is inferior to
another, that violence is the solution to
differences of opinion? There is no need, in
our day and age, to poison the young human
mind with the idiocies of prior ages.
Much of your difficulty willbe alleviated if
you are quietly open and insistent upon your
Atheism. It is only when you conceal it that
difficulty arises. If a Methodist, a Roman
Catholic, a Jew, a Presbyterian can openly
adhere to a religion, you have the same
inalienable right to your opinion concerned
with religion. As a matter of fact, the religious persons with whom you associate
should be ashamed of their non-rational
position and you should be quite proud of
your rational one.
Fairy Tales
Another issue arises with children's stories. Pumpkins don't turn into coaches. Rabbits do not live suburban lives. Cats can't
talk. Dogs don't wear clothing and go to
town. Choo-choo trains don't have human
characteristics. There was no magic Mary
Poppins' umbrella. Wooden boys cannot
take on human characteristics. Noses don't
grow when one lies. There are no red-nosed
reindeers. A woman can't live in a shoe.
There was no Mother Goose. Every preposterous non-rational children's tale is not
alone an insult to nature, natural law, and
the intelligence of a child but a preparation
for that child to begin the process of acceptance of god and miracle stories. There are
no supernatural characters such as the
Hulk, fairies, Paul Bunyon, leprechauns,
Superman, gnomes, Snoopy, and goblins.
It is the duty of all Atheists to take their
children to see four or five Santa Clauses
and to explain that there could not be a real
Santa Claus when they can talk to half a
dozen in the city . Tell the child that these are
grown-ups dressing in funny suits to "make
believe." In fact, have your ever thought
about that phrase, "make believe"? It is a
coercion to acceptance on faith of an unprovable proposition. Your child has seen adults
dressed as clowns to sell tires or hamburgers. They have seen advertisements of
"Smokey the Bear." They know that adults
often act in an absurd way, usually to sell
something. The Santa Claus sales routine is
the best of all.
Instead of these unreal tales, your child
willlove to hear stories about when you were
growing up, real stories with real persons in
real situations. The stories which your children read, or have read to them, should be
both rational and possible. It is conceivable
that a child could find a small injured doe and
Austin, Texas

nurse it to good general health, so that it can


be returned to nature or delivered to a zoo
when it has attained a certain growth. It is
not plausible that a child could ride on the
back of a horse in flight, pitted against the
forces of evil. Atheists, as a class, must do
something concerned with this initiation of
their children into god ideas. Heroes constantly defy the laws of nature; they are
frequently mysterious beings, Christ figures.
The entire genre of outer-space cinemas
reinforces god ideas: 2001, Star Wars, Star
Trek, The Black Hole. In one recent Star
War film, the hero - a la Jesus Christ actually was borne up to the top of a
pinnacle where he was tempted by Darth
Vader - a la Satan - with dominion over all
lands if he would go with the Powers of
Darkness. It was straight from the New
Testament. If that is not enough the entire
demon possession series, starting with the
Exorcist, lays the predicate of demonology
and the need for the saving hand of minions
of the church. Every child who sees these
movies should have them dissected by the
atheist parent, revealing to the child that this
is a none-too-subtle indoctrination for acceptance of an entire set of ideas with which
Atheists are in conflict. Amityville-type cinemas should have discussions attached to
them. When has your child ever seen hurricane winds sweep through your dining room?
Relate these absurd ideas to the child's
actual experiences. Don't permit a situation
to develop wherein your child is psychologically "printed" with one of these films without a counterbalance of both explanation
and scoffing. The child should be reinforced
that just as there was no Frankenstein
monster, no Dracula vampire, there are no
ghosts or goblins, no consuming spirits,
detached voices, winds, ghouls, monstrous
shadows, walking resurrected cadavers from
the grave, nor other supernatural creatures
of this sort anywhere, nor have there ever
been any in history. Tell your children that
this is not alone pure fantasy but fantasy
based on erroneous ideas. Then introduce
your children to the paleontological world of
dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, with
which they willbe fascinated. Your children
willrespect you more for having the courage
of your convictions, the patience to supervise their education, and the loving care to
guide them.
Every Atheist should stop for one Saturday morning and watch the television cartoons with the kiddies. the continuing Jesus
Christ "saviour" theme permeates them all.
Casual conversations with the children can
aid them in making accurate assessments of
what they see. There is no need to "deprive"
them of the cartoons as long as they understand the thesis developed behind them.
Holidays
From the time that they are small, religious
holidays have a powerful influence on the
January, 1985

children. Last month's "Christmas" is a case


in point. The Christian lifetheme of rewards
and punishments for being good or bad is
vested early in the children. The adult religious person faces a final reward or punishment after death, and the small child is
conditioned to it in many ways, and one of
them is the Santa idea:
"You better be good;
You better not cry;
You better not pout;
I'm telling you why;
Santa Claus is coming to town."
As a god watches over all, judging all, the
fear of surveillance is put in the mind of the
child:
"He sees you while you're sleeping;
He knows when you're awake;
He knows if you've been bad or good;
So be good for goodness' sake."
The child is not to be "ethical" for reasons of
being a part of human culture. The child is to
function for the sake of goodness - and one
can easily translate that to the sake of god.
What does an Atheist parent do at Christmas? Everyone is home; it is a legal holiday in
the United States and most businesses are
closed. Relatives can descend or alternately
it is time to visit family - grandparents,
brothers and sisters. Department and grocery stores are bright with Christmas decorations. Christian music pumps out over
Musak speakers, radio, or television. Houses
in the neighborhood are decorated. Ifa child
is small, it is easy to carry off the season as
the celebration of Winter's Solstice for that
is indeed what it is. But once the child is old
enough to understand that everyone else is
celebrating Christmas there is a tendency to
go along with the crowd. Well, atheist parents, now you know how the Jews feel on
Hanukkah. And, the Jews give you one
solution which is to celebrate your Solstice
withour reference to what is going on in the
general culture around you. So, go ahead
and celebrate; the human community has
entirely too few happy occasions anyway.
Have a Solstice tree. Have music, and good
food, merry times and happiness. Visit and
entertain. Even have a feast - a turkey if
you want to do that, but have your turkey on
the Solstice, not on Christmas day. Remember, and point out to your children, that this
is in reality a pagan holiday taken over by
religion, because it could not be suppressed
by the Christians in the western world. You
can point out that all people, everywhere, in
all ages, celebrated this natural day. Now,
the Christians have one day, the Muslims
another, the Jews another, the Hindus another as they bicker; that religion has caused
division and argument over the date. There
is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts,
having a grand old time, and making certain
that relatives, friends, neighbors and business acquaintances know that what you are
celebrating is the oldest festival of man, one
revered by Atheists, and that some day they
Page 11

will be joining you in these ancient, but still


contemporary and wholely natural, festivities.
To frighten children with a "boogeyman,"
such as a grinning, all-seeing, all-knowing,
and underneath it all judgmental Santa
Claus, is to lay the premise of a "devil" and
eternal damnation. Underneath that happy
exterior lurks something sinister, and that
many children are frightened of Santa
Claus, screaming when mommy delivers
them to is lap, evidences their instinctive
fear of the laughing but malevolent Santa.
Halloween with the emphasis on ghosts,
vampires, werewolves, and other bizarre
unnatural creatures is another reinforcement. Find an alternate way to celebrate in
your home. The lovely fall colors of orange
and brown can be used for a secular theme.
Have a "harvesting" party that night and tell
your children about the gathering and storage of foods for the winter that was necessary "in olden times" and the need to
celebrate that there was enough to see the
populace through the winter. There are still
times of harvesting in our nation, at this
season, and a short trip to any countryside
outside your city can give the children a view
of farmlands. ''Thanks'' -giving is a wonderful time to recount how the Indians and the
white man finally sat down at a dinner truce
and thanked each the other for there not
being hostilities in the time recent to the
festival. There is need to emphasize the
good idea, not the god idea.
Children are too much under attack as it
is, assaulted on allsides with the predicate of
unreality. An actor is shot three or four
times and still walks down the street in the
next cinema, a foretaste and reinforcement
of life after death. Fantasy constantly defies
the law of nature. Easter bunnies, for example, are mysterious beings even as are
souls. But, Easter is no different; it is very
easy to understand the true nature of the
event. Find the Vernal Equinox on your
calendar - in 1985it is on March 21st - and
teach your child about the "rebirth" of
spring. The newly born animals, the budding
of flowers and trees is a wonderful joyous
symbolic time for all families in the world.
The horrible depiction of a bloody Christ
dying on a cross is not the value symbol your
children should have of this delightful season.
But what about your child in school? You
can bet that the public school which your
child attends will drag religion into his/her
life. What does an atheist parent do when a
child comes home and says that the teacher
asked the students how many went to
Sunday school this week and everybody
raised their hands except your atheist child?
When the child comes home and asks,
"What is Sunday school?" what should be
said? The easiest reply is that it is a special
school, usually with a church, that some
children attend on Sunday mornings and
Page 12

therefore is called "Sunday school." And,


incidentally, anyone can see the subtle propaganda that the churches have attached
thereto by naming it a "Sunday school"
instead of a "religious indoctrination class."
Tell your child quite frankly that this is a
religious school and that each kind of church
teaches its own version of religion in that
church school. If your children are very
curious about either church or Sunday
school, why not take them to one? With a
parent sitting next to them, they will know
that someone is trying to help them understand. Sit through a church service and
watch your child squirm with boredom.
Make some mental notes and when you
leave the church go over them with your
child. Responsive readings can be explained
that the people there are so dumb they
would not know what to say if it wasn't
written down. They read it in unison, like
sheep. Point out to the child that no one may
ask the minister any questions as he goes on
and on. He doesn't permit it - while, of
course, daddy and mommy try to answer all
the questions. Listen to the words of some of
the hymns and you will be startled. Explain
them in plain English to your child to the best
of your ability. No child wants to be "washed
in the blood of the lamb." Even a child will
see that religion is foolish without your
belaboring some of the points. Go to a
church and ask the minister if you can sit in
on a Sunday school class with your child. He
will be so anxious to get a new customer's
checkbook and to corrupt a new child's
mind that he willgladly make arrangements.
Listen to everything that is said and carefully
disabuse your child when you leave the
building. Be certain that the child sees the
collection plate going down the aisles and
even in front of him/her so that (s}he knows
that religion costs money; that it is like going
to the movie in that everyone there pays to
see the show.
On a Sunday when you have a special
outing, if you happen to pass a church point
out to your child that your family is going to
have a wonderful day at a picnic or on a trip
while the poor little children who are being
taught religion have to go to the church you
are passing. Your remarks need not be
snide; they can be constructive and educational. You are in a pitched battle for your
child's mind, and don't think that you aren't.
If your child is older and wants to go to a
church with a friend, find out what denomination of church it is and then try to educate
your children about it. If the child goes to a
Methodist church, find out a little about
Wesley. His life and doctrines were so ugly
that a few choice facts given to your child
can make him/her pause concerned with
that brand of Christianity. The same goes
with Luther, Calvin, and the rest of them. In
the United States the story.of Mary Baker
Eddy is edifying (sorry about that!), since
you can easily see how she stole her _ideas
January, 1985

and from whom. The same goes with Joseph


Smith the founder of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). The
Seventh Day Adventists and the Pentacostals had equally bizarre beginnings. When
your child is old enough the most fascinating
story that can be read is that of the Inquisition. We have yet to find child or adult that is
not absorbed in that story. Dr. O'Hair is
currently at work on a children's book titled
The Bible According to Saint Madalyn
which is hilarious. Every Bible story is being
reinterpreted accordinBto sanity, reason
and logic, and they all come out as absurd.
But until that is published you can read some
of the Bible tales yourself and explain them
to your children. You will be able to laugh
together over them.
And, what do you do about the Bible?
Suppose your child says that (s)he wants to
read it? At what age should that be tried?
What Bible are you going to get for him/her.
What part of the Bible would be the best to
tackle? It is to the benefit of Atheism,
actually, if your child does not get his/her
feet in the flypaper. The Bible is such an
absurd, contradictory, error-ridden book
that the child can get deeply bogged down
into nit-picking and spend his/her life in a
futile exercise.
If your children are impressed by others
with the Bible, (after all President Reagan did
declare 1984 to be "The Year of the Bible")
introduce them to a number of other bibles
and read some parts of them with your
children. They are unintelligible gibberish,
and your children will recognize them as
such. Purchase the Veda, the Upanishads,
the Koran, the Oasphi, for they are all
available in paperback. Sit down at the
kitchen table with your child, read some of
them aloud to each other, and try to make
sense of them. It is worth the effort knowing
that you are fighting for the sanity of your
child. You willsoon see any of these bibles,
including the Judeo/Christian one, laying
unread wherever your child puts his/her
discarded junk.
When your child is old enough and has
had some encounters with the idea "Jesus"
what are you going to do about it? Suppose
the child asks you, "Who is Jesus?" Note the
present tense of the verb there, for many
persons feel "he" is alive and well now; "in
their hearts" they say. Simply tell your child
that this is another kind of make believe
story, just like Rumpelstiltskin, Brair Rabbit
or Goldie Locks. These were tales made up
in olden days when there was not any real
education, or science, or sense of history.
Be frank with your child and tell him/her
about prehistoric, primitive man and how
difficult it was just to have the idea of the use
of fire dawn on humankind. Tell him/her that
there was once no such thing as a wheel. Get
some Time/Life books. They are cheap,
usually available at public libraries, well
illustrated, and written at such a level that a
The American Atheist

grade-school child can understand them, A


part of the series includes such books as The
First Men, The Missing Link, Cro-Magnon
Man. With the religious fundamentalist fighting the schools they are probably not available in public schools, You need some tools
to help you as you try to acquaint your child
with the underlying ideas of religion and how
false they are. Plenty of help is at hand.
The Jesus story is not difficult to overcome at all if you have any familiarity with
the New Testament. If you don't - avoid it.
If you do, you may want to tell your child,
frankly, that no one really knows anything
about a person named Jesus or if he really
existed as an historical person. If the child
persists with questions tell him/her that the
only information is in what is called the Bible
and that this information is conflicting. If the
child wants to see what you are talking
about, have him/her look at the "synoptic
problem." Simply put it is that the four
stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
contradict one another in respect to every
alleged event. Look at these conflicting
stories with your child and show him/her
how impossible it is to accept anything from
this so-called "holy" book. Take your child
to a court room one day and let him/her note
how a stenographer takes down the statements of each person. Explain that no
impartial, unbiased witness was there for
any event in the Bible and that no one can
possibly say what was spoken, word for
word, without such a stenographic record,
which was not made at the time.
Through all of this it is apparent, that
much of your difficulty willbe overcome by
taking a strong, consistent stand for your
commitment to Atheism. If your religious
friends, relatives, and business acquaintances know that Atheism means as much
to you as their religion does to them, they
willbe wary about confronting you and you
will be able to sail through many of these
situations with no difficulty.
Death
What does an Atheist parent do ifthere is
a death in the family? A child needs to know
that all organic organisms terminate. It is as
simple as that. On the other hand, the
undertaking industry is predicated on the
Christian idea of resurrection. A corpse is
dressed in its best clothing. The face is
skillfullytreated with cosmetics so that seemingly, "He is just sleeping." The body is filled
with preservative liquid to maintain it, practically for the viewing period, theoretically
for much longer. The word "enbalming"
implies that the flesh is put in such condition
that it can be reanimated when it "rises" on
that final day of "judgment." It is absolutely
essential that your child be shown that what
is taking place is nonsensical. There is
enough in contemporary news about organ
transplants to give you some help. Children
see leaves on trees die, fall, and rot every
Austin, Texas

year. They see plants and pets die. How


often have you thrown away some vegetables from your refrigerator because they
were putrid? Children see all this and take it
in. They ~an early be told that our species,
like any other, terminates. Children see
graveyards, which are everywhere. This
again is a part of the idea of placing the body
in a temporary spot to await its resurrection.
If there are none in your immediate vicinity,
take them to one. Get out of the car and
read some headstones. Talk about the fact
that one plot might contain an entire family
and tell them how old each was at death.
Surely you have grandparents yourself whose
graves you can visit, about whom you can
give your children some incidental stories.
Explain cremation to them, the donation of a
body to a medical school for use as a
cadaver. Be descriptive, explain death as an
unavoidable finish, which it is. Children see if
you grieve over a loved one or not. Children
see that the lives of these people have
terminated. If death is treated as a matter of
irreversible fact, a child is more likely to
understand and accept it. American Atheists are opposed to the current notion that
children should be spared the details of
death. They can go to the funeral home and
to a funeral just the same as can anyone else.
They simply need to have a knowledgeable,
concerned adult with them to explain to
them, to sit close to them, to understand
them, and to help them to relate to this
inevitable situation.
Likewise children can cope with illness, if
they are given supportive understanding.
There is no reason that they cannot visit in
hospitals, having been told what ails grandmother, dad, or cousin Sam. If they are told
why there is an operation, they will understand. If they are taught that hospitals are
places where there is an attempt to restore
people to health they willbe pleased with the
idea of hospitals. Unfortunately Roman
Catholic hospitals usually are fullof religious
sloganing, virgin Marys and even statues of
Jesus. The author, some years ago, was
appalled to find that the very famous Johns
Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland,
had a life-size but plaster Jesus standing in
the foyer with arms outstretched. If the ill
really trusted in J. C. as a healer there would
be no need for the hospital. The entire
matter was evidence of gross hypocrisy and
the clout of the churches in that city. Children should be told that some people still
cling to their teddy bears, or their security
blanket, and that religious symbolism is just
that in our culture. Kids understand what is
put in their terms.
There are numerous specific instances
when you, as an Atheist, are going to have a
confrontation because of your children. You
need to handle the situations honorably and
with some elan.
Example: You become an Atheist at age
forty three. You, however, reared your chilJanuary, 1985

dren to be Methodists because that was


your religion. Your children are now young
adults. What are you to do when the full
realization comes to you of just how wrong
you were? Do you simply hide your Atheism
from your grown children? Do you avoid any
discussion of it? Do you open a conversation
with them and tell them that you were wrong
to rear them as theists? It is only honest to
make your position known. You should talk
this over with your children. The simple and
best thing is to confess that during that
period you were religious and you honestly
believed that you should rear your children
in a specific religion. Then reveal to them
what caused you to begin to doubt, what you
did about that doubt, and finally what were
the convincing logical postulates that caused
you to repudiate religion (or perhaps, specifically, your own old religion.) If, otherwise,
you did a good job of child rearing, they will
understand and appreciate your openness
about your new position. Answer directly
and honestly any questions that they ask.
But don't prosyletize Atheism. The single
most objectional feature of Judeo/Christianity is its intolerance. This is manifested in its
practioners' desire to convert everyone to
their faith. If your children come to Atheism
out of their own exploration of the tenets
thereof, welcome them into the fold. If you
need the kick of conversion, forget it. They
may, in order to please or to placate you,
give a show of agreeing. Atheism is not of the
heart, it is of the head. Explain your position;
do not try to convert; let it go at that. If they
love, they love you, and they will understand.
Now consider that vis-a-vis your parents,
you are stilltheir child. They are both fervent
Methodists. Do you handle the situation
with them as you did with your children?
Can you find any number of excuses not to
do so with your parents - their age, their
health, their religious commitment? What
about your amour propre? How do you
handle what you feel about yourself if you
become involved in deceit of close family
members? It is more honorable, even more
atheistic, to handle the situation the same
with your parents as you have with your
children.
Example: You live in a socio-ethnic community where religion still binds the inhabitants tightly. The religious customs are
almost overpowering. Your son reaches puberty at which time it is the custom to have a
bar mitzvah for him. Your son has decided
he is an Atheist also. What do you do? Even
in a close knit socio-ethnic community it is
best to be yourself, without pretense. Conceivably you could be forced into a charade
in these circumstances. Don't do it. It is at
this point you set the example for your child.
Simply say that your son is entering manhood biophysically, psychologically, and socio-culturally without resort to a religious
ceremony since none is needed. Your child
Page 13

standing with you, or you, standing with


your child's position, can reinforce it with
dignity. Ifyou expect your child and yourself
to be traumatized, or ostracized, it is important for you to reassess the reason that you
remain in such a socio-ethnic community. Is
it worth it? Even ifa furor results, you willstill
be respected for taking your stand. It is
better to be hated and respected than to be
disdained as a weakling who yields on principle.
Remember that the religious in their inner
heart of hearts (ifwe may use such a term as
Atheists) know that you are right and they
are wrong. They have suspected their position more times than you have. They have
remained with it through weakness, and
they often don't really respect themselves.
Example: You son convinces you to go
to his high school football game. You are
both Atheists. You are horrified when a
prayer is said over the loudspeaker and
everyone stands to pray. You can't believe
your eyes as the coach kneels with the team
and says a prayer on the field, your son
kneeling with them. What do you do? Just sit
there. Don't stand up. Don't bow your head.
Don't pretend you are praying. Someone
has to break the tradition and it may as well
be you. If others see that you have courage
enough to do it, next time there may be
more than one who sits through the prayer.
After the game, seek out the coach and tell
him that you object to your son being
coerced, by peer group or authoritarian
pressure, into prayer (a group religious
exercise) before a game. There is no need to
argue. There is need for belligerence. Make
your dissent known. Then ask your son why
he had not reported the practice to you. If
his answer is "Because, I want to play
football," a serious discussion is necessary.
If your son plays well and is essential to the
team, they willtolerate (what a helluva world
to have to use) your son's Atheism. If he is
not essential to the team, persuade him to
drop out rather than to practice the deceit of
participation in something which he actually
does not accept. Ifnecessary both incidents,
the prayer of the spectators and the team's
prayer on the field, should be reported to the
school principal, the school board, the board
of education, or wherever a continuing complaint will lead you. You need to hold your
ground in this matter every inch of the way
because you are speaking not alone for the
honor of your and your son's own position
but for Atheists in your community.
Example: You live in a socio-ethnic community where religion still binds the inhabitants tightly. The religious customs are
almost overpowering. All the little girls are
going for confirmation. The wearing of the
white dress, the chance to be the star for the
day in your family, beckons to your small
daughter. You are an Atheist in a RomanCatholic community, and your daughter
wants to play that role, not really knowing
Page 14

what the significance of the step to be taken


is. Plan an alternate activity. Take her somewhere else, or have an event in your home.
Buy her a beautiful dress so she can strut
here stuff - but not a white one! Take her
picture in her new dress, out on the lawn if
you have one so that the neighbors can see
her. Perhaps this is the day that you should
be purchasing a pet for her or doing whatever it is that will give her a feeling of
"specialness" with her own family. Have her
bake her first cake this day and serve it to
everyone in her new dress. Give her a feeling
of accomplishment and satisfaction. Confirmation is essentially a passive activity.
Make certain your child has an active role in
what is done that day. Involve her in love and
understanding. You can do this with elan so
that when she swaps tales the next day, her
attitude with her playmates willbe, "Well, all
you did was get confirmed, but I did such
and such."
In both of the above examples, the importance of letting your position be known is
clearly seen, If from the beginning, the
community knows an Atheist is dwelling in
its midst, you willnot be caught in a surprise
foray. Your children will not need to make
momentous decisions and neither will you.
The level of expectation which the community has in respect to religious participation by
you and your family will adjust to the real
situation.
Example: Your family is invited to participate in a wedding and for whatsoever reason
it is essential that you do so. Your son, who
is four, is suggested as a ring bearer, and
your daughter, who is six, is suggested as a
flower girl. The bride asks your wife to be the
matron of honor. Both your children are
anxious to participate since they love the
person being married, and your wife is also
emotionally obligated. The wedding is to be
held in a fundamentalist church which has a
raving minister. Both you and your wife are
Atheists. What do you do? You have certain
relationships that you do want to preserve. If
you have made your Atheism clear, it won't
be difficult. Remember that all eyes are really
on the bride and groom. It is their ceremony,
not yours. Tell them that you cannot participate in the ritual but that you are happy to be
there and participate with them in the event.
Go to the wedding. But when heads are bent
in prayer, keep yours aright. Retain your
dignity. Sit through it but don't participate.
When everyone reaches for the hymnal, just
sit (or stand) there without touching it. Ifyou
don't want to shake hands with the minister
or compliment him on his rantings, don't do
it. You have no relationship with him; you
don't need to do what is repugnant for you to
do. Your wife can be matron of honor
without bowing her head to pray. Your
children can wait patiently, heads erect,
looking around, until the nonsense is over.
Tell your children what your family is doing.
Honesty, all the way around, is better than
January, 1985

deceit.
Example: You are invited as a guest of
your child to an organizational meeting. All
present stand, face the flag, put their hands
over their hearts, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Since you do not accept that ours is
"one nation under God" what do you do?
What does your child do? You both stand
there quietly (ifyou stood up when asked to
do so, not knowing what was coming) and
wait until the pledge is completed, without
reciting it, without putting a hand over your
heart. Ifthe announcement is made to stand
for the pledge simply don't get up. This
takes guts - and is not for the faint of heart.
If you are asked why you are not participating simply say that the Pledge of Allegiance
was altered on June 14th, 1954, to include
the phrase "under God" and that you do
not, as an Atheist, accept that this is a nation
under god's direction. You think that it is,
basically, a nation under a constitution,
instead. Sometime after the meeting, talk to
the chairman, or the officer of highest rank
who is present. Explain that such an exercise is offensive to Atheists since it forces
them to exclude themselves from the pledge
saying. This impugns your patriotism, which
you deplore, the situation is every awkward,
and you suggest that the organization reviews the need for the Pledge at its meetings.
A gutless Atheist willsay the pledge up to the
phrase "under God," omit that, and keep on
going. Everyone in the room, however, has
the perception that all persons have said the
total Pledge including the "under God." By
pretense, an Atheist can "pass" in a crowd
and then feel guilty the rest of the day. The
question is: do you want to do that? In this,
as in every incident in these examples,
explain to your child what your action was
about and why. Your child will admire you
for having the courage of your convictions, if
not then, when (s)he is more mature.
Example: You take your child to the park
to listen to the music on the Fourth of July
and to see the firework display over the
river. The band strikes up the song "God
Bless America" and everyone stands and
turns toward the podium where the flags
are. Some persons put their hands on their
hearts. What do you do? Ignore it and
continue to do what you were doing before it
started. After the music is over, wind your
way to the band stand, and complain to the
conductor that this is a religious piece of
music and that you feel it is inappropriate for
a city sponsored Fourth of July celebration.
Have your child go with you, so that (s)he
can see what is happening. Follow up on
your complaint to the city council, or to the
mayor. Don't be intimidated. As your pursuit of this complaint continues tell your
child how it is progressing. You may just
manage to have it stricken for the following
year.
Example: You go to a P.T.A. meeting
with your child who is in the orchestra which
The American Atheist

is performing that night. The meeting is


begun with a request for all to stand for the
prayer. At that point the room will be quiet
momentarily, so speak out in a nice strong
voice and state that as an Atheist you object
to a function in a public school being started
with prayer. Request that the prayer be
dropped from the evening's agenda. If you
are overridden by the person(s) conducting
the meeting, remain seated quietly during
the prayer. (Your author was assaulted at a
P.T.A. meeting at one point for doing just
this. Later she escaped from the meeting
intact, amid snarling hostility, by leaving
after her granddaughter's performance but
before the agenda was finished.) The next
day contact the principal of the school and
the office of the P.T.A. in your city to file
formal verbal complaints concerned with
the prayer. Follow these with written complaints, start on the route of "exhausting
administrative remedies" as you continue.
You may just stop the practice. You may
not, but at least you have tried, and the
P.T.A. knows that there are Atheists in the
school district.
Again, as always, your child needs to
know the why and the wherefore of what
you have done. As you continue with the
complaint(s) keep updating your child on
the results. Make him/her feel partnership in
the endeavour.
Example: Your child signs up for the glee
club (or the band, or the orchestra) at his
school. He is excited and delighted at the
opportunity. As the semester wears on he
finds that almost half of the songs which are
played are religious. He tells you about this.
What do you do? What does your son do?
It is simply your duty to go to the school
and talk to the band, orchestra, or glee club
director. There are sufficient secular songs
in the repetoire of music. There is no need to
introduce religious songs in such public
schools programs for any reason. You should
tell your child that you are speaking to the
persons in charge and intend to pursue the
matter. Meanwhile, he can continue with the
class he has chosen or for which he has been
accepted. His presence there is a constant
reminder to the instructor. Go to the principal, the school board, or even the board of
education if necessary. If there is never a
complaint the assumption is that everyone
is accepting of the status quo. Unless and
until Atheists speak up our children will all
continually be forced into such situations.
Example: You graduated from a high
school which had a "Senior Prom" as one of
the events associated with your graduation.
You have always loved to dance and are
proud of your ability. Your children have
often seen you and your spouse dancing,
which you even do at home, from time to
time. Your company transfers you to Texas.
Your children are of such an age that they
are about to graduate from high school.
Your daughter comes home and tells you

Austin, Texas

that dancing is a sin and that the school has


never had a "Senior Prom" and there willbe
none this year, the year of her graduation.
What do you do?
You call on the principal and advise him
that the idea of dancing as a sin is obviously
religious based and that the school, as a
public institution, should not be enforcing
the moral codes of any religion. Request
that the question be put to the students as to
whether or not they desire a "Senior Prom."
In your most polite fashion attempt to
educate the principal to the reality of the
20th century. If you gain nothing, you have
at least tried, and your daughter knows that
you have done that much. You have been
her champion in the matter. If it is put up to
the kids, and they vote it down - what can
you expect from a community that had the
rule in the first pace? Let it drop. You tried. If
it is put to the kids and they vote to have a
prom - help how you can out of your prior
experience.
Example: Your first grader wants you to
come to school to see her class's first play
which willbe staged in the cafeteria. It is for
first graders and their families only. You go
and your daughter is "Mary" in the nativity
scene, all dressed up in a crepe paper costume and loving being the center of attraction. Sit through the play. When your daughter runs to be hugged and kissed, tell her
what a great actress she is. Then, as the
meeting disbands, get the first grade teacher(s) and ask why a nativity scene was a part
of the celebration. Explain the principle of
state/church separation. Request that this
type of religious activity be excluded from
further public school presentations. The
next day, see the principal. Your child has a
number of additional years in the school,
and it will only be worse as it continues.
Straighten out the situation now. While
supporting your daughter in her "acting
career" you must still tactfully tell her that
there was a question in your mind about the
type of play that was picked for presentation
since it was religious. Assure her that be it
religious or not she would be a star in any
play.
Example: Your child is in the fifth grade
and comes home with a Gideon Bible which
was given to him at school. Take the Bible
and explain to your child that it is a religious
book. If he wants to see some of it, read to
him or recommend that he read (while you
listen) one of the most boring and obtuse
parts of it. Try Numbers beginning at Chapter 1, for example. When the child is sufficiently turned offthat evening, take the Bible
and put it away for use in any legal test which
may come up. The next day, contact the
principal of the school. There are numbers
of legal cases supporting that Gideon International cannot pass out its Bibles in the
public schools. Contact the American Atheist Center, and it willsend you copies of the
cases. Use them to press your point. Go as
January, 1985

far as your can go, to the school board, even


to the board of education. At each level tell
your child anecdotes about what is happening.
Gideons International has constantly ignored all court rulings which have been
made applicable to it, passing out Bibles by
whatever means it can. This is a despicable,
well financed organization. The going is
rough with it when a fight builds. Call or
write Scott Kerns, Director, Houston Chapter of American Atheists, P. O. Box 92008,
Houston, TX 77206-2008 as to his recent
experience with the Gideons. The Atheist
Center can help you with advice only on this
since a law suit is time consuming and costs
tens of thousands of dollars - and the
Gideons will get around the usual adverse
decision somehow.
Example: Your child starts high school
and comes home on the first day of school to
tell you that "scientific creationism" is being
taught together with evolution, on an equal
basis, in his science class. Introduce your
son to a publication of the National Academy of Science, titled Science and Creationism. (Copies may be obtained from the
American Atheist Center.) Again, it is a duty
laid on you by the 20th century that you go
to the school at such a time that you can call
on the science teacher after class and ask
why a religious theory is being taught. Acquaint the teacher with the opinion of the
National Academy of Science, which is the
official science advisory body to the government of the United States. Ask to look at the
text books. Discuss the theory with the
teacher. Take the matter to the principal ifit
is an administrative matter. Ifit is a matter of
state law, get a copy of the law from your
state congressional representative, read it,
and weep. Atheists have been too little and
too late in this fight in a consistent manner.
They have not funded The American Atheist
Center to intervene in the political process
at all. Now, all you can do is to complain to
your congressman. Start a demand that the
attorney general of your state issue an
opinion on the constitutionality of the teaching. Request the decisions on legal cases
regarding such teaching from the American
Atheist Center.
You are in for a long, drawn out, nasty
fight. Explain to your child that it will be
rough going, but stick to it. The religious
fight for their principles; you should do the
same.
Example: Your children want to join the
Boy Scouts (or the Girl Scouts). The meetings are held in the local church. They often
start with a prayer. One of the "badges" that
is given is for religion. Friends of your
children are in the Scouts and they want to
join too. What do you do? Your explain to
your children that it is against your principles and better judgment to have them
participate in an organization where they will
constantly need to pretend that they are
Page 15

something which they are not and where


they will need to engage in some activity
(prayer) which they really don't accept as
being efficacious. The sad fact of life, you
must tell them, is that often people are
desirious of being included in a group and
the desire cannot be fulfilled. You, yourself,
would love to be in the Rockefeller familybut
that is not possible. This is simply an early
lesson for the atheist child. The Boy Scouts
and the Girl Scouts were incorporated by
the Congress of the United States, and it
should be possible to file a discrimination
suit to stop the practice of exclusion of
Atheists.They alsoare I.R.S.501(C)(3)organizations which means that they can receive gifts
or contributions which are tax deductible to
the givers. It should be possible to maintain a
suit to ask for a revocation of the tax
exemption, also. Suits such as this willtake
from five to eight years to work UP to the
United States Supreme Court, if they can
get to that level at all. They are enormously
costly and would perhaps run near to half a
million dollars in attorneys' and expert witnesses' fees and costs of printing records
and legal briefs. Unless you are a superbucks family there is nothing that can be
done at this level. The American Atheist
Center is not funded to help legally in such a
situation. In addition, this type of case is
often decided on procedural rather than on
substantive issues. The courts, fearing to
handle them or to offend the religious community, kick the cases out of court on any
pretense.
Example: Your family goes to visit a
friend or relative for dinner. At the table the
host bows his head and starts to pray. Your
children know that your entire family is
Atheist. What do you do? You sit quietly
with head unbowed and watch your children
to see if they do the same. They, in turn, will
probably be watching you. After the "grace"
is over you turn to the host and quietly,
politely but firmly, state that you, your family
and your children are Atheists and that it is
offensive to you to be a captive audience to
sit though a prayer. It is your firm conviction
that the host provided the bounty on the
table and not god. You should say that you
are very pleased to visit, you enjoy their
company, but in future such dinners, you
and your family will wait in the living room
until the grace has been said since you do
not want to be disruptive to their beliefs or
their religious routines.
Now, suppose your child is asked to
dinner at the home of a friend, and at the
beginning of the meal the father in the house
says "grace." Your daughter is "on best
behavior" and does not know what to do, so
she just sits there. Give the kid a break, dad!
When she tells you about it, be supportive of
her and tell her that is just about all she can
do if she is a legal minor and a guest of
another child in the home of the child's
parents. She could later explain to her friend
Page 16

that it was an~mbarraSSing moment for her


since she did not know what to do. Actually
this is a delicate, sensitive situation, and it
should be handled by an adult.
In a different situation, you have invited a
family to your home for dinner. You all sit
down at the table and as everyone is getting
comfortable, the head of the invited family
says, "May I say the grace?" or questions,
"Shall we have grace?" The simple reply is
that as Atheists you eschew the use of
prayer completely, including grace at the
table. You proceed with the meal.
Example: Your son is in the ninth grade.
A classmate has been killed in a tragic
automobile accident. The teacher, on the
following day, asks the class to bow their
heads in prayer for the soul of the "departed" classmate. What should your son
do? He should remain quiet, sit through the
prayer. After the class is over he should
approach the teacher and tell her that this
was offensive to him. He, too, was a friend of
the classmate and for the teacher to call for
prayer actually excluded him since he could
not join in the prayer. He felt grief over the
death of his classmate but participation in a
religious prayer was not a way that he could
demonstrate that grief. The next day you
should call the teacher and reinforce what
your son has told her. You should also
report the incident to the principal with the
same comment. You could suggest that
those who desire to attend the funeral
should be given time off from school and that
expressions of sympathy with the family
should be exercised in the presence of the
family.
Example: Your fifteen year old daughter
has a crush on a religious freak. He is both
insistent in respect to his religious behavior
and pushy with your daughter. He demands
that she go to church with him on Sundays
and to Bible meetings on Wednesday nights.
Sit down with the boy and explain to him
that his religion is his concern but that it is
both inappropriate and immoral for him to
attempt to manipulate your daughter through
her emotional attachment to him. Advise
him that your Atheism and that of your
children is your concern and that he must
keep the lines of demarcation. You can set
down a rule that when he is in your home he
will meet your standards of behavior and
when he takes your daughter out he must
not intrude his religious activities into the
dating process. Be absolutely firm with your
daughter in this regard. Rots of ruck because you have a snowball's chance in hell,
but better you stick to your guns than
surrender at the first encounter with "love
and the enemy." Be there to pick up the
pieces when your daughter has the inevitable bad experience in the relationship and don't tell her "I told you so." She knows
that.
Example: You are watching a T.V. feature one evening, and a major character in
January, 1985

the action is either a priest, a nun, or some


other religious person. When the feature
concludes discuss with your children the
one dimensional type casting which always
goes with this favored representation of
religion. Explain to them that people are
people and that the persons in religion or in
religious orders have no monopoly on either
morals or ethics. Give your children a chance
to make their evaluation of the intrusion of
religion into the plot. Ask if they felt that it
was necessary to cast this person as a
religious functionary and why. If you don't,
your children will constantly, unwittingly
and off guard, have religious ideas reinforced through this medium of type casting
and of the inclusing of secondary bit parts
emphasizing the goodness of religion in
personality types.
Example: Your child wants to go to a
pajama party and to stay overnight with a
friend. You agree. When she comes home
she tells you about the "funky" food she had.
When you delicately pose questions to her
you come to a realization that she was in a
Jewish home which insisted on kosher food
and kosher dietary rituals. You explain to
your child that certain religions arbitrarily
place restrictions on foods of different kinds,
but that your family eats whatever is nutritious. Explain to her that the Roman Catholic order for fish on Fridays long caused
havoc with public institutions. You can tell
some amusing tales of hospitals, schools,
the armed forces, struggling with the dietary
meals of that single church. Isn't she pleased
that your family doesn't need to go through
any hassles over food because of religious
restraints? Distinguish the difference between Uncle Harry needing a special diet
because he is diabetic and her friend's family
having their diet dictated not by health
needs but by religion.
Example: You go to church every Sunday with your wife who is religious. You
have had your children confirmed and baptized and have insisted on church attendance. The entire family consists of full
communicant- members of the Baptist
church. You have been careful so that your
family, friends, relatives and business acquaintances think you are religious. Actually, you have been a closet Atheist for years.
You never met an Atheist. Your only knowledge is that you have seen an Atheist on
television. You want to surprise your wife
with a tenth year anniversary present and
think you will hide it in her closet. While
trying to do so, you uncover a stack of
American Atheist magazines, Newsletters,
booklets and your wife's membership card
in American Atheists. Stunned, you sit
down and read real atheist material for the
first time in your life. As you do, your wife
returns from the store and walks into the
bedroom. You are in a state of semishock to
find out that she is an Atheist too and you
don't really know what to do or to say. You
The American Atheist

barely whisper the question, "You're an


Atheist?" and she pauses for some time,
looks at the evidence on the bed and in your
lap, and says, "Yes." You suddenly realize
that she has been going to church and
pretending to be religious to please you
since she thought you were religious, that
her first reaction was one of fear of what you
would say or do, and then that she had
decided to stand her ground and answer
truthfully, What do you do?
Well, you should have been honest in the
first place. Look at the years you wasted!
Now, also, your children are probably lost,
and you have been caught in the utmost
deceit. You and your wife have a lot of
talking to do. You should both come clean to
your children and tell them that you have
been fearful, pretending to be religious only,
and tell them why - if you can think of any
good reasons. Try to repair the damage and
begin that by stopping yours and your
children's attendance at church.
Example: Day after day there are stories
on television and radio and in newspapers
and magazines concerned with the religious
zanies and their instrusion into the politics of
the nation. Your children see, hear, and read
them. You subscribe to cable television and
several of the channels are exclusively for
religion. Every Sunday morning the tube is
taken up with church services on almost
every channel. You see your children flip
through the channels, listen to the news
stories, or you see your children read them
in the newspaper or magazines. What do
you do?
You make a special note of the articles
and discuss them all with your children, at
their level of comprehension. One Sunday
morning, you stay with one of the religious
broadcasts, making side comments to your
children concerning the activity. Analyze
the news. Don't be afraid of it; don't pretend
it isn't there. It willget worse over the next
four years, and you cannot fight what you do
not know about. Start the preparation of
your children to join in the fight by demonstrating to them that it is important to you
that religion does not intrude itself into every
arena of life and that you, for one, willbe on
the front lines to try to save the idea of
separation of state and church.
Example: Your husband is an alcoholic,
and you and the children cannot stand it any
longer. You take the advice of Ann Landers
and decide that you willcontact Alcoholics
Anonymous for help. The organization sends
a bundle of literature, and you find that the
AA solution is to turn to god. You feel let
down. You don't know what to do for your
husband, you children, or the problem in
your home.
Write to American Atheist Addiction Recovery Group (AAAR.G. - see advertisement on page 40, of this magazine).
There is help, and BillTalley, the Director of
the organization, will give of himself gener
ously to help you, your children, and your
Austin, Texas

"alky."
Example: You have a divorce pending,
including custody of the children and your
husband threatens to disclose to the judge
that you are an Atheist in order to get
custody. What do you do? Don't let him
blackmail you. Comport yourself with the
utmost dignity in the court proceedings and
be the one to causally mention that you are
an Atheist if the subject of religion is raised.
The judge might also be one; closet Atheists
are everywhere. It is important to be honest
first with yourself and your children. There
is nothing of which to be ashamed in the
position of Atheism, and you should refuse
to be intimidated because you are one. The
wife is always the most likely to get the
children in a divorce anyway. Grin and bear
it.
Example: You have a divorce, and you
have the children. Your husband has visiting
privileges once a month. He uses these to
indoctrinate the children into his fundamentalist religion. During the summer he has the
children for a month. They come back to
you filled with ideas of hell, punishment, and
a vengeful god. They are shaken by their
experiences. What do you do? If you are a
warm, love filled, understanding, and outreaching parent, you can give your children
the emotional support they need in this
difficult situation. Don't "run down" daddy.
Simply answer the children's questions as
best as you can about religion. Explain to the
children that there are people who are
religious everywhere. It is the religious ideas
themselves that are not valid. The people
who hold them have been taught to accept
them as true from the time they were as
small as your children. Your children need
to know that. Daddy's way of handling
religion is one way; mommy's is another. Be
patient. If you rail and rant, if you "counterfrighten," if you go to a personal attack you
will only turn your children off. Live your
Atheism day by day and the children will
understand which is the better lifestyle.
Example: One evening you walk into the
kitchen where your child is sitting and doing
homework. You have nothing to do. You are
bored. You pick up a thick world history
book and flipthrough it. There is a picture of
"the crucified Christ on the cross" on one
page. You are shocked and you scan through
the book further. You find that it is laced
with religious propoganda. In dismay you sit
down and carefully go through the tome to
find that it is full of distortions, misinterpretations, misrepresentations, and in several instances outright lies concerned with
religion. You are appalled at what you find.
Welcome to the wonderful fantasy world
of 1984 public school history textbooks
which are being widely distributed in grade
and high schools throughout the nation.
What should you do? There is very little, if
anything, you can do. The radical right wing
religious nuts have worked assiduously for
the past twenty-five years to distort and
January, 1985

rewrite history with a favorable religious


bias. You are "too little and too late" as the
saying goes. However, explain to your son
that the politics of the nation in respect to
religion are extremely reactionary and that
something must be tried to protect his and
your family's freedom of conscience. Then,
go to your own room and write out a
contribution check for the American Atheist Center which is trying a rear-guard
fight over the text books at this time.
Summary
All of the foregoing is only a partial
examination of what lurks around the corner for Atheist parents. Every example is a
true story. An Atheist who is not open and
honest with himself, his family, his friends
and relatives is an actual supporter of
religion, whether he can intellectually justify
or accept being that or not. If no one
protests, the religious go merrily on with the
supposition that there is no opposition to
their ideology, their plans, their activities,
their dominance in the culture and their
intolerance - because what they are doing,
thinking and saying is the final, ultimate
truth. If it were not, they argue, it would be
challenged, and it is not being challenged.
There are literally and actually millions of
Atheists in the United States and their rights
are trampled daily. Their children are subjected to a continual, intensified, barrage of
religious propoganda. The recent triumphant and personal win of Ronald Reagan at
the polls is and will be interpreted as a
mandate for radical right wing fundamental
religion to move to the center of the political
stage. Hard times are ahead, and the only
persons who can stop our nation's slide into
religious medievalism are the Atheists. Stand
proud; Atheism is the single finest personal
intellectual position in the world. Be proud
to be a part of it and to be a parent in the
unique position of having the ability to free
your child from the bonds of intellectual
subservience which religion represents.
In every instance where you stand your
grounds, it is necessary to involve your
children and to teach them. Take them with
you; have them read the letters that you
write; let them do some of the telephoning.
Seek their imput. If the children are lost, the
future is lost. It is time that the Atheists of
our nation cast off their fears and get to the
work at hand.
Allthe "liberation" fights currently abroad
in the land are not recognized for what they
are - only partial liberations: women's lib,
Gay lib, Black lib, kids' lib. The ultimate
liberation is the liberation of the mind from
all of the old dogmas. And that is the essence
of Atheism.

IMPI

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Madalyn O'Hair is the founder
of the American Atheist Center
and all activities associated
therewith.
Pagel?

(-"~.
Luckily, god intervened at the last minute
and saved Isaac's life (after all, he had
promised Abraham years earlier+that he
would make a great nation out of Isaac). The
whole episode had merely been god's cruel
idea of a loyalty test and doesn't really prove
his position on human sacrifice one way or
the other, so let's pass on.
''Then the spirit of the Lord came
upon Jephthah. . . . And Jepthah

unusally conscientious in trying to be "good


Christians" (or is there a difference)? For
the answer , let's turn to the book which they
claim justified their actions and see what it
has to say. If it denounces such brutality,
then it stands vindicated, but ifit really does
condone or worse yet encourage, acts such
as these, then how can any person with even
a rudimentary sense of right and wrong
consider it the word of god?

n Saturday, October 27, 1984, John


. Lane and Cynthia Palmer of Lewiston,
Maine, crammed their four-year-old daughter into their apartment stove, wedged the
door shut with a chair, and turned on the
heat. Screams of, "Let me out, Daddy,"
were soon followed by the smell of burning
hair and then silence. When a neighbor went
to inquire what was happening, Lane answered through the door that he was "cooking Lucifer." The following Monday, the
couple were led into district court carrying
Bibles in their manacled hands. Their little
girl was dead.
On that same Monday in Albion, Indiana
David and Kathleen Bergmann were sentenced to ten years in prison for allowing
their nine-month-old daughter, Allyson, to
die of meningitis without seeking medical
aid. Their explanation was that they had
depended on "The Great Physician" to heal
her. When Judge Roger B. Cosbey implied
that he would consider granting the
Bergmanns probation ifthey would promise
to take their remaining children to a doctor if
the need arose, they refused. They would
obey the Bible they said. .
As horrifying as these crimes might appear to Christians and non-Christians alike,
the people involved claimed to be obeying
what they perceive as God's words - the
Bible. Therefore the question must be asked:
Were these couples insane or were they just
Page 18

"Nothing which a man devotes to


the Lord from his own property,
whether man or beast or ancestral
land, may be redeemed. Everything
so devoted is most holy to the Lord.
No human being thus devoted may be
redeemed, but he shall be put to
death." (Leviticus 27:28-29)
I have been a student of the Bible most of my
life, but I did not know it contained anything
like this. I am shocked to find that the same
act which our culture considers barbaric
when practiced by some primitive tribe in
the jungles of South America is also a part of
the religious tradition of the "meek and
lowly Jesus." But, of course, the Bible is a
very old book that has been printed in many
different versions, so perhaps this passage is
the result of an interpolation or a printer's
error. Therefore let's consider the matter
further.
"And he (a god) said, 'Take thine
son, thine only Isaac, whom thou
lovest, and get thee into the land of
Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt
offering upon one of the mountains
which I willtell thee of.' ... And they
came to the place which God had told
him of; and Abraham built an altar
there, and laid the wood in order, and
bound Isaac his son, and laid him on
the altar upon the wood. And
Abraham stretched forth his hand,
and took the knife to slay his son."
(Genesis 22:2, 9-10)
January, 1985

vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said,


'If thou shalt without fail deliver the
children of Ammon unto my hands,
then it shall be, that whatsoever
(whosoever) cometh forth of the doors
of my house to meet me, when I
return in peace from the children of
Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's,
and I will offer it up for a burnt
offering.'
"And Jephthah came to Mispeh
unto his house, and, behold, his
daughter came out to meet him with
timbrels and with dances: and she
was his only child .... And it came to
pass at the end of two months, that
she returned unto her father, who did
with her according to his vow which
he had vowed." (Judges 11:29-31,34,
39)

It is important to note that, according to


the Bible, this atrocity was not the act of a
raving lunatic, but rather the act of someone
who was inspired by "the spirit of the Lord."
The Bible does not mention whether or not
god made everything up to Jephthah simply
by giving him twice the number of daughters
that he had originally had, as he did with
Job.
\ During my research for this article, Icame
across numerous other references indicating
god's delight in human sacrifice, but not one
where he unreservedly condemned it. The
reasons for his enjoyment are diverse. In
Jephthah's case, he merely wanted a show
of gratitude, but on another occasion, the
lynching of seven innocent rrien was necessary before he would end a three-year
famine (II Samuel 21:1, 3-6, 9, 14). And
during the time of Moses, he ordered that
the heads of men who had had intercourse
with Moabite women be "... hung against
the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord
might be turned away from Israel," Numbers 25:4.
The American Atheist

But aside from sacrifice for reasons of


atonement or thanksgiving, the Biblical god
also considers murder (often of one's children) as a fitting punishment for a surprisingly
large variety of sins. For example, according
to Leviticus 29:29, the Jews were told that if
they did not obey god's rules that they
would be forced to eat their own children.
Children were also to be killed for striking or
cursing their parents, according to Exodus
21:15-17. Passages such as these make it
abundantly clear why "mainsstream" churchgoers are encouraged to read the Bible only
under the direction of carefully censored
study guides. They also indicate that there is
no Biblical authority for claiming that the
couple in Maine did not murder their little
girl by divine decree since, after all, the Bible
gives so many precedents for such an act.
As for the second example, the one in
which a couple allowed their little girl to die
rather than take her to a doctor, their action
is clearly vindicated by the Bible.
My research has turned up hundreds of
verses about the efficacy of prayer for doing
everything from defeating one's enemies
(Psalms 17:17) to moving mountains (Matthew 17:21), but it is in the area of healing the
sick that god is clearly at his best. Blindness,
leprosy, paraplegia, insanity, even death,
are no match for the prayers of the Christian.
I have yet to find a single occasion in the
Bible where the prayers of such a one failed.
James 5:14-15, is explicit, "Is there any sick
among you? Let him call for the elders of the
church; and let them pray over him, anointing
him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the
prayers of faith shall save the sick, and the
Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath
committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
This verse leaves no room for any ifs, buts,
or maybes; neither does it allow the possibility of god working through drugs or
surgery or any other treatments, because
they are clearly not necessary - "the prayer
of faith shall save the sick". Either you
believe this verse or you don't; there is no
middle ground. The Bergmanns believed,
and their little girl is dead as a result of their
error.
So after reading what the Bible has to say
about these two recent crimes, allow me to
rephrase my original question, because the
question is really not, "Is the Christian insane?" but rather, "How insane is he?" I
assert that he is insane in proportion to the
strength of his faith, because the more he
believes, the more out of touch with reality
he is. Consider the Bergmanns, for example. Having been failed by "God's inviolate promise" once, they are stillwillingto
give him another chance even ifit means the
loss of their remaining children, one of
whom is still within its mother's body.
I suggest that people such as the Bergmanns who really can believe all of the
hundreds of absurdities, contradictions, and
atrocities found in the Bible can believe

Austin, Texas

anything. And if they can believe anything,


they are likely to do anything, because every
last concern for a rational ethic, every last
glimmer of critical intelligence, willhave long
since been abandoned. They see themselves
merely as instruments of the "holy spirit",
and their days are spent in innumerable
divinations by which they seek to know the
willof that spirit.
As Atheists, let us forget any thought of
trying to reason with such people, because
they are beyond the help of reason. Perhaps
with prolonged care in an institution such a
one could be reached, but since Congress is
not likely to soon appropriate funds for the
rehabilitation of demented religionists, the
best that we can do is to combat their efforts
to control our society. Of course, this
implies that we should also do everything

possible to support and encourage one


another, because each of us surely needs all
of the help he or she can get in.the effort to
battle this cancer called Christianity. [jf]

- praise His name for placing in your hand


- His holy Rod.
"The rod of correction is only placed in
the hands of those who know God.
"The Body of Christ (the only church)
loves the Rod of God."
My response, in a letter to the editor, was
published May 20.
"An item titled The Rod of Correction'
which appeared in the Daily Progress on
May 10, advocates that parents beat the hell
out of their children. Inflicting such pain on
another is sadism, and the person who does
it is a sadist.
"Sadism is not just in pornographic films
but most common at home. It is these
brutalized children who, when adults, make
up a large prison population and haunt
wives and women with abuse and rape.
"Any adult who beats a child is also a
coward. The disproportionate size makes
child abuse possible. Let the sadist who
advocates the 'Rod of Correction' try his
hand at 'rodding' an adult of equal strength.
"Was this article a statement of Daily
Progress's editorial policy? If it was a religious advertisement, it was unsigned and
did not occur in the weekly religious section.
It was not news.

ather Huart N. Hevin, Decay's cartoon


in the June issue of American Atheist,
dealt with two biblical quotes, one from
Proverbs 23: 13 about beating a child with a
rod; the other, 2 Kings 6:28 concerning
eating one's son. As each issue is prepared
two months in advance, Decay must have
been precognitive relative to an episode in
Charlottesville, Virginia, that began on May
10,1984.
On that date a black-banded notice was
published in the local newspaper, the CharlottesvilleDaily Progress, entitled, in quarterinch letters, "The Rod of Correction". The
text, in eighth-inch letters, read:
"How could you bring little ones into the
world and deprive them of God? You do
every time [sic 1 - you withhold His rod."
"His rod of correction will not kill them
you see - for if you don't use it - they will
be lost for eternity.
"Ohl What a perverted mind to let your
child run free - and then when they are lost
for eternity they willweep and say 'Why did
you spare the rod - I am in Hell to stay.'
"It is not how the world views His correction you see - for His love fills the rod
and saves them eternally.
"To those who see their child loving God

January, 1985

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lowell Newby, a freelance
writer from Mississsipi,
was heard to say: "I suspect that,
rather than being an isolated
fact about themselves that Atheists
have in common, their Atheism is
a due to many other
positive similarities that
have yet to be identified.

Page 19

"One might expect a Quaker who owns a


newspaper to shed responsibility for this
brutality by requiring a signature of responsibility for such cowardly sadism, unless it
was the newspaper's policy too."
I received twelve letters personally, eight
of which were also sent to the editor. A
minimum of six additional letters were published, but the total number is unknown
because I left town and the editor's final
statement of June 17th mentions others.
With these personal and published letters
as a data base I made a brief analysis. Most
of the letters which advanced corporal punishment were from Charlottesville, suggesting that the core was here but had
tentacles in Richmond and counties surrounding Charlottesville. Return addresses
were on five personal letters, three from the
same address in a white collar section of the
city. The occupant's surname at this address agreed with one correspondent who
gave no address, but was the only one to use
a typewriter. The telephone directory had
provided my address since published letters
are identified only by writer's name and
town. I found no phones registered for any
correspondent giving a name and address.
All letters but one were written on cheap,
lined filler paper or pages torn from a spiral
notebook.
Judged by given names, eight were definitely female and three male. The unsigned
letter, appeared from internal evidence to
be from a female, showing that nine, seventyfive percent, were female. Using surnames,
three families were represented by two
members, mother-daughter, and motherson. The relationship in the third family
could not be determined. All were adults,
and their grammar and composition indicated a seventh to tenth grade educational
level.
I concluded these people were members
of the (lower?) middle class since they could
afford no phone, had no adequate writing
paper handy, and the educational level was
inadequate for and uncritical in the educational problem they had set in their newspaper article.
Generational passage of the "rod" from
parent (mother) to child was stated in most
letters. Handing down the "rod" from mother
to daughter willbe illustrated from a motherdaughter combination. The mother wrote:
"In response to your letter on 'Coward's
Rod of Correction' I want to let you know as
a born again child of God's, who has been
disciplined by sword (word of God), because He loves me so much and it is because
of that great love that He has disciplined me
and continues, that I would share in His
holiness. I have been in deep mourning over
the sins of my children and also my sins,
because of his love for me.
"Also I am a mother who believes in
disciplining, and disciplined the way God
directed me, through His word and because
Page 20

of it, I have seen one of my children turn


from evil and am beginning' to see another
one of them turn from evil. Some trust in
chariots, some in horses, but I will trust in
the Lord, because He has proven to me
when I do what he says to do, He will do
what He has promised.
"It is because of my mother's rod of
correction on my life, that I received God's
correction, and she should have used it
much more than what she did. No one said
you should quote 'beat the hell out of your
child'. Only the blood of Jesus will remove
an evil heart, but one should stand against
their evil ways, as God has ordained. God is
against evil hearts. From out the abundance
of the heart the mouth speaks. May He open
your eyes to the truth of the word and let
you see that you are calling evil, good, and
good, evil. God is for delivering man from
evil of his ways, sin, which is rejection of
God, saving him and turning him to walk in
His ways. This is not religion, but a relationship to God."
Now the daughter:
"Mr. Holland when you say that parents
who use the rod on there [sic] child are
sadist you are speaking out against God's
annointed [sic] who stand against evil. My
mother loved God so much that she was
willing to correct me when I was envolved
[sic]in evil. It was not her hatred of me, but it
was her love toward me that wanted me to
go the right way. Proverbs 23:13-14. Do not
hold back discipline from the child although
you beat him with the rod, he shall not die.
You shall beat him with the rod and deliver
his soul from Sheol. So you see Mr. Holland,
correction is a good thing and will keep my
soul from hell."
The June, 1984, American Atheist magazine with DeKay's Father Huart N. Hevin
and P. de Angelis' cartoon of the mother
explaining to her small child the necessity
for prayer came at a time when local newspapers published a Virginia state panel
report that "urged groups responsible for
the care of children to spare the rod and
avoid corporal punishment" (June 6); carried the story of the Tennessee woman
convicted of killing her twenty-month-old
child by roasting him in an oven (June 6 - 2
Kings 6:28 in DeKay's cartoon); a Wyoming
teenager who killed his father to end years of
beatings and abuse; and a New York woman
who was found guilty of putting her twin
sons through a brutalizing nightmare of pain
and torture (June 7).
I cut out the American Atheist's cartoons
and newspaper items, pasted them on paper
and sent xerox copies to those who provided a return address. I asked, "Don't you
read anything but the Bible? Like - child
rearing, child psychology; even Dr. Spock
and Ann Landers?" The mother of a motherdaughter combination, the only one to reply,
returned the two sheets with comments and
an Ann Landers item. The latter affirmed
January, 1985

that parents were at fault for children's


unruliness and asked, "When willthey (parents) learn that discipline is love? Permissiveness is the coward's way out." The
mother's comments were to the effect I had
not received the truth; "children willrise up
against parents and have them put to death
(Mark 13:12)"; and made references to 1
Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:8,
Acts 5:39, etc.
Thus my effort to promote more debate
was less than successful.
In a published letter not sent to me one
Charlottesville woman reiterated the theme
of the correspondents, "I am one who has
been corrected by a mother ... the way God
instructs her to." This was due to her
evilness. A Richmond woman said, "You
would be a coward if you did not use God's
rod of correction, which is love ... ", and
similar statements indicating she too was a
cult member. One non-Charlottesville man
tried to span the gap between sadism and
"guidance" by writing that the shepherd's
"rod" was used to direct sheep, not beat
them.
Two newspaper correspondents took a
stance similar to mine. One wrote, "Throughout history atrocities have been committed
in the name of religion. However, I believe
the worst must be hitting a small defenseless
child. If it is an illegal assault to strike an
adult, why shouldn't it be the same to hit
children?" The other writer apparently used
strong words deleted by the editor. In
essence he said, "Mr. Holland's letter ...
apparently hit the whackos where they live."
The third supporting letter was a sermon
based on Christian parenting espoused by
"The 700 Club". It did not advocate beatings.
Finally the editor had his say under "The
Rod: a case study in failure to communicate." His entering statement was, "It began
as one of those small errors that can crop up
in the running of a daily newspaper, especially when its normal routine has been
disrupted ... " He is referring to the absence
of "paid advertisement" notice accompanying the cult's message. To have added this
would only have removed the responsibility
for it from the newspaper. Was this omission an error for which he must apologize?
And to whom is he apologizing?
The editor then summarized briefly the
letters received by the newspaper and a
conversation with a friend. He concludes
the message was a piece of poetry because:
"rod" and "god" rhyme; symbols and catch
phrases make the message stick in readers'
minds; he quoted the Battle Hymn of the
Republic about "His terrible swift sword"
saying the "sword" was a symbol of divine
punishment; claims symbols "mean different things to different groups. That's how
wars get started."
If we can avoid wars with symbols of
uniform and unquestionable meaning, dictionaries have been complete failures as

The American Atheist

tools of peace. I would conclude a threat of


death is in the phrase from the Battle Hymn
which mentions the sword. The idea that
poetry is all rhyme and carries no solid
thoughts is stupid. Icertainly agree with him
that symbols and catch phrases make penetrating points and would refer the editor to
"sadism" and "coward" as disturbing symbols to the cult.
.
Sadism/sadist was mentioned in my correspondence five times without anyone
quoting a dictionary definition. Did they
know Webster's: "a sexual perversion in
which gratification is obtained by torturing
the loved one; and love of cruelty conceived
of as a manifestation of sexual desire"? I
doubt it. Nor did they mention the reciprocal of sadism: masochism. The letters
show the love idea associated with the
generational passage of the sadomasochistic
relationship. In the mother's letter I quoted,
the non-existent god, a symbol of her harsh
conscience (superego, "mother's rod"), disciplines her and puts her into mourning
(depression), all because of "love". She
wanted more of the "rod of correction"
which is the masochist's need: "My mother
should have used it much more than she
did."
The daughter thinks of her mother as
"god's annointed" who loved her when she,
the daughter, was beaten. This theme is
reiterated many times. Some examples - "I
thank you Mom and Dad for correcting me .
. . I can see the benefit of correction now
where I once hated it", (male, age 28); "I
used to get in the most ungodly drunken
brawls . . . secretly rebelling against (my
parents) ... they did whip me, and it was
good for me", (male, age 24); "May you
(parents) know that I loved your discipline"
(female); "... (I am) the mother oftwo small
children and I know the value of using the
rod of correction ... (evilness) was even
appearing in my 2 yr. old daughter ... " (what
P. de Angeli's cartoon was all about) "...
and I give honor to my mother for her
correction by the rod on me ... my son is
now a child of God and the rod was used on
him ... "
I contrast two methods of raising children. On the one hand are modern studies of
children which advocate understanding the
child's psychology at each developmental
age and using this understanding to deal
with the child's internal emotional forces
and internal and external reality. The goals
are, briefly, to give the child, when an adult,
skills in reality testing and emotional stability
to adapt to the culture in which it lives. No
correspondent referred to this method. The
cult's rod of correction is a second method.
If the child displays acts contrary to the
adult's preconceived idea of what a child
should do, displaying "evilness", the rod
which has no relationship to the child's acts
or understanding is introduced as a Pavlovian conditioner to convert acts from
Austin, Texas

"evil" to those approved by god "for love".


This makes the adult administrator of sadomasochistic conditioning (whippings), and
the child as recipient of the need for being
beaten to control behavior, both said to be
manifestations of "love", and by the authoritative symbol, god. Such beatings are not
repeated unless they produce pleasure in
the adult. The child revolts until it finds a
reward.
These cult people are caught in a savage
trap defined by ignorance, lack of critical
reasoning, and reliance on authoritative
figures.
The cult was shaken by my challenge and
rationalized advocacy of beatings by saying
it really did not mean "to beat the hell" out of
children, and it tried to find solace from guilt

ne of my favorite bumperstickers advises "Question Authority"; it rides


behind both my vehicles. If people would
heed this warning, the world would surely
come to be a better place to live.
Another concept, which I'd like to see
made into a bumpers ticker , is "Let It Begin
With Me." This one could be put next to any
other message to announce that the person
who displays it is serious and sincere. This
would be an especially meaningful qualification since most often unsolicited advice is
directed at others by self-righteous hypocrites who fail to heed it themselves.
Atheists are quite familiar with this syndrome through objective observation of
religion. Religion also provides Atheists with

by spreading the association, saying anyone


was a coward who did not correct their
children. They themselves suffer from guilt
by association. I was repeatedly warned by
friends I had better watch what I had to say
about them or they would burn my house
down. [jfl

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


C. G. Holland writes that
he is a "crab Atheist who
molted and stopped getting
ahead by going backwards."

good reason to take to heart (and mind) the


questioning of authority. I feel comfortable,
therefore, in inserting here a conceptual
bumpersticker, to wit:
Having put forth my advice and advertised my own willingness to follow it, I now
issue you a challenge. Are you willing to
question authority, and are you willingto let
it begin with you?
I have little doubt you all answered in the
affirmative to the first part of my challenge,
even with regard to non-religious authority.
Just as fundamentalist Christians are wont
to transfer their need for "guidance" (and
the corresponding need to impose it on
others) to politics (victimless crime laws),
entertainment (banning "pornography"), and

education (authoritarian church schools), I


would expect Atheists to carryover their
desire for freedom from religion to freedom
from other means of oppression.
Insofar as the second part of my challenge
is concerned, I think there was also mostly
affirmation. But to make this meaningful, I
want you to consider both propositions
contained in my bumpers ticker in light of
positions of authority you actually occupy
or are likely to occupy in the future.
Many of you have professional authority,
but the group I'm aiming this essay at mostly
are those who possess parental authority.
The rest of you don't go away though. What
I have to say to those of you who have or
expect to have children or grandchildren is
relevant to the exercise of all kinds of
authority. The subject of authority is especially apropos of Atheist parents, howJanuary, 1985

Page 21

ever, since I doubt if there are any who


haven't experienced at least a passing twinge
of anxiety at the thought of their children
defying them and rejecting Atheism.
There are two basic meanings for "authority." The first is someone who holds the
power to make rules or laws and enforce
them; the second is someone who is known,
or reputed or assumed to know, a lot about
a particular subject. The two meanings are,
to a certain extent, interactive. A "legal"
authority may well occupy that position by
virtue of being an "intellectual" authority.
An intellectual authority may have gained
that status through the exercise of political
influence, i.e. the wielding of legal authority.
Authority: Artificial and Natural
For both meanings of "authority" there are
two further divisions, artificial and natural. A
natural authority possesses authority because s/he actually is or does or knows,
whether or not s/he seeks to be an authority. A natural authority is one to whom
people turn, without compulsion, for answers and guidance. Parents are natural
authorities to young children.
An artificial authority is one who assumes
authority by means which have nothing
inherently to do with whether s/he is a
natural authority. Police are artificial authorities; scholars may become artificial
. authorities by earning degrees; many parents maintain artificial authority over older
children by threat of force. It is possible to
exercise both natural and artificial authority
at the same time, but artificial authority
diminishes natural authority; natural authority makes artificial authority unnecessary.
What follows is an attempt to delineate
some attitudes that lead to some methods
which, applied deliberately, constitute a
strategy for interrelating with children.
These very general methods will tend to
preserve natural authority and aid children
in questioning artificial authority. Since each
human being is an individual, thinking, feeling personality and moral operation, these
methods come with no guarantee of working with perfect precision or predictability.
The wonderful and disarming fact is that
children are people. The influences on them
and their motivations are extremely complex. Parents are but one factor influencing
them; we can only try to be as significant a
factor as possible.
Parents should always treat their children,
and hopefully all children, as human beings.
This may sound trivial at first, but most
people treat children as a sort of separate
species without the rights and dignity of full
human beings, and this attutude has very
significant effects. In addition, many adults
don't like children. This dislike is no doubt
exacerbated by the idea of children's special
status. Feeling good about treating children
as metaphysical equals may require you to

Page 22

do some thinking on just what a human


being is.
Children, as young human beings, tend to
reflect the manner in which adults look upon
them, and especially those adults closest to
them. If you treat your children as stupid
(either overtly or subtly) they may wellcome
to think of themselves as stupid. If you treat
them as troublemakers, you may have a
self-fulfillingprophecy on your hands. There
is a tremendous psychological difference between "you did a bad thing" and "you are a
bad boy."
If children are treated as people (albeit
young, fragile, and inexperienced ones),
with personality, minds, opinions, rights,
and dignity of their own, they probably will
become comfortable and competent in displaying and utilizing these things as they
mature. And they willcontinue to deal with
you as a human being and not just as a
parent.
Interacting with children human being to
human being will also naturally regulate
your exercising of arbitrary authority. As
with any other person, you willfeel a need to
explain and justify applications of artificial
authority over your children. As I have
already pointed out, parents are natural
authorities to young children, but it is good
to establish the practice of explaining authority early on, long before a child expects
it or is even able to fullyappreciate explanation. You might think that this would develop
into a rather complicated process, but most
parental authority is easy to explain because
it has a legitimate object. Insisting, for
instance, that a child not play in the street,
go swimming alone, or drive recklessly, is
pretty straightforward. It should be noted,
however, that any simple explanation will
assume a mutual understanding, developed
over a period of time through many discussions, of the nature of parenthood and
parental obligations, the rights of children,
the nature and source of authority, the
feelings of parents (such as love, responsibility, and worry), and so on. Practice will
make such communication with children
that much easier.
Practicing explaining and justifying the
use of parental authority will result in your
invoking it less. You'll find yourself restricted to using it only for good reason, i.e.
when you can explain and/or justify it. Your
children willgain an ever-increasing respect
for your authority because they'll know you
invoke it only with good reason. They will
probably come to question it less, and you
willfeel more comfortable when questioned.
Your authority willremain natural authority.
'To be able to explain and justify exercising parental "legal" authority (time limits,
room cleaning, etc.) with much success
(you'll not fool your children long with
phony excuses), you'll find it necessary to
find real justifications. To set yourself up as
an "intellectual" authority (on right and

January, 1985

wrong, television, or grammar), it will be


necessary to know what you're talking
about, to become a real authority. To maintain your credibility you'll also have to learn
to say, "I don't know." The work involved in
deserving and preserving your parental authority will, in itself, make you a better
person as well as a better parent.
Through the practice of explaining and
justifying your parental authority your children willcome to expect and respect honesty
and genuineness from you. Consequently
they will come to demand these qualities
from other authorities. You willbe enhancing
your own natural authority and teaching
your children to question authority at the
same time.
Common Sense
I suspect that none of this will come as a
great revelation to any of you - it all seems
rather common sensical. And it is! Good
parenting is a matter of common sense, but,
as the saying goes, common sense is an
uncommon virtue. One of the reasons for
this, I'm convinced, incidentally, is that
artificial authorties (by far the predominant
kind) have established and carefully maintain the myth that any solution to a problem
that's worth anything must be complicated
and abstruse. In other words, "real" solutions are available only to or through
authorities. (You know whose jobs and
status that notion preserves!) Natural
authorities, on the other hand, tend to seek
and find explanation in increasingly simple
terms, because that's how nature is, simple
and elegant.
The problem then is how to introduce and
sustain simple elegance through common
sense in your relationship with your children. Unfortunately there is no simple and
elegant solution to this, from authorities or
otherwise, given the complexity of individual personalities
and circumstances.
Though there is no single comprehensive
method, the following may help you in your
situation.
Don't expect common sense to magically
characterize your parenthood if the rest of
your life is an irrational mess. (This is a
problem so many religious parents have.)
You have to make common sense, that is
clear thinking and consistency, your typical
method of operation. Your parenthood depends upon and shares in the rest of your
life, and your parental authority is affected
not only when you deal directly with your
children.
You are the most important element in
your children's environment and remain
one of the most important throughout their
childhood. You are, therefore, continually
influencing your children, continually acting
as a role model - good or bad. Inconsistencies in your own philosophy and your
behavior resulting therefrom will not be
conducive to either preserving your natural

The American Atheist

parental authority in the eyes of your children or consistency on their own part. So
pledge now to get your act together, start
examining some of those unexamined assumptions, look at how the parts of your
philosophy of life fit together. Not only will
this enhance your parental authority, but oh
the incidental benefits to yourself!
Allow your children to know you. The
"distance" of artificial authority tends to
remain just that - distance. Nothing cuts :
down psychological distance as well as
getting "up close and personal." Be open
and honest with your children and chances
are they'll be open and honest with you. But
don't expect honesty to be a cure-all in itself.
If you open up and expose to your children
an inner you that is a morass of irrationality
and problems, it probably won't do much to

enhance your natural parental authority.


Also, don't think that allof this or any part
of it is going to have a significant effect
overnight. Parents are natural authorities to
their young children. With a little work, this
relationship can generally be maintained. It
is, however, a process that's done a little at a
time over a long period. If you lose your
natural authority, it's likely to take a long
time to fullyregain it. In either case, the time
to start working on your relationship with
your children is now.
If you have older children and your natural authority has slipped, I advise you to not
fall into the trap of increasing dependence
on increasingly ineffective artificial authority.
Instead, start out fresh now to rebuild the
foundation of a good relationship. Think
things through and then sit down with your

aising children is a complicated business these days. Outside influences


abound, and more so for the atheist family
with its open, knowledge-hungry, inquisitive
attitude. We Atheists welcome information
about the world around us with a fervor that
gives our children knowledge far beyond the
constricted bits of data spoon-fed to religiously raised children. With this exposure,
our children must be given the total freedom
from religion that will guarantee them the
optimum in reasoning skills throughout their
lives.
Allowing a religious spouse or grandparents* to inundate our children with any
amount of religious doctrine willundermine
their emotional health and their Atheism.
They are impressionable and their minds are
in the forming stage. The values they learn
now are the values they won't easily abandon throughout their lives. Thinking it is
"fair" and cleverly "progressive" in allowing
the little ones the "benefit" of a well-rounded
start (i.e. religious, in addition to atheist,
teachings) is a serious misconception. Thinking one may allowso many conflicting values
to rain on those little minds, and that later,

when the kids are older they'll be able to


choose the logical line of thinking, having
been given choices and options along the
way, is pure poppycock.
Ifyou wouldn't expose your youngsters to
the philosophies of Charlie Manson, don't
expose them to psychotic theism. If you
wouldn't expose them to the inhumanity
and prejudices of Hitler, don't expose them
to the ills of theism. If you've struggled for
freedom from a religious background, remember that struggle and give your offspring a stress-free, guilt-free start that will
ensure their self-pride and conviction as
Atheists. Then, after you've given them
your very best, weeding out the junk, after
they developed the healthy, logical minds of
Atheists, when they've matured and are
armed with your best, they may be given
information about the religious mind. They
will,then, view it from a superior stance, and
you will be secure in the knowledge that
they will view it with an incredulous and
hearty disdain.
This writer speaks as much from experience as from books. I'm a third generation
Atheist on my mother's side. I know the
recent frustration of learning that my father,
whom I've always known as an Atheist, has
* The problems created by Atheists and religslipped back to the self-negating position of
iouspeoplelivingtogether certainlyare not easily his childhood: believing in a god. I know the
solved.Prioritiesand compromises,or unwillingness to compromise,set otherwiselovingpeople strength and sureness of my own position as
on horrendous collisioncourses. The nature of one who was raised in a totally god-free
home, I know, too, the joy and pride of
this problemisextensiveand not to be addressed
here, although the author recognizes its close passing on that strength with deliberate and
vigorous attention to protecting my sons
connectionwiththe subject at hand.
Austin, Texas

January, 1985

children and say, "I've been thinking about


what it means to be a parent. .. " and start to
introduce some common sense into your
lives.
Finally listen to Ingersoll on raising children. "Let the children have liberty. Be
honest and fair with them; be just; be tender,
and they willmake you rich in love and joy."

00
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Brockman, author of
What About Gods?,
a primer on religious skepticism
for children,
has two teenage daughters
and a nine year old son.

from the sickness of religion. The result is


their maturity and wisdom at ages far
younger than childen not so instructed
Another result is not generation gap, but
generation bonding as time passes and each
child, at his own level of understanding,
comes to realize more and more what has
occurred and is occurring in our family that
sets us apart from the religious around us.
They feel an excitement and pride; they feel
a specialness about our family, about themselves. I know because they've told me so.
(Reprintedfromthe May/June 1983issueofthe
Michigan Newsletter of the Detroit Chapter of

AmericanAtheists.)

1..p1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Barbara Gillette is now in the process
of rearing fourth generation Atheists.
She is a poet whose work has appeared
in the American Atheist
from time to time.
A resident of Michigan
Mrs. Gillette is a former officer
of the Detroit Chapter
of American Atheists.

Page 23

Johnathan M. Berkowitz

CULTS AND
THE AMERICAN COMPROMISE

"What defines a cult?" Though the definition


of a cult is at best nebulous, psychologists
and sociologists generally agree that cults
possess three basic attributes.
Millenium
The first attribute is a belief in the millennium. To those who adhere to the millennium theory, all history is a result of the
struggle between good and evil and through
divine intervention, good will inevitably
triumph over evilin a consuming apocalypse.
In the aftermath of the apocalypse, all evil
will have been destroyed and the good, a
god's chosen people, will inherit the earth.
This millennium vision is perhaps the paramount attraction of cults because it safely
divides the world. The cult members are all
good; non-cult members are all evil.

What Defines a Cult?


we hear the word "cult," we
Whenimmediately
imagine a vacant-eyed

post-adolescent chanting Hare Krishna. We


see this individual as a social misfit who, for
some dark reason, has not integrated himself into society. This image, though all too
often true, is over-simplified, and is based
more on emotion than fact. Unfortunately,
emotions often prevent us from seeing the
sociology of cults and the reasons why they
attract certain people during different historical periods. While we see cults as dangerous to both the individual and society, we
rarely ask why they are dangerous and how
they came to be that way.
In order to successfully combat the cult
menace, a menace to which each one of us
may be susceptible, we must first understand what a cult is and how it evolves within
a society.
Perhaps the first step to a more objective
understading of cults is to ask the question

Page 24

Messiah
The second attribute most cults possess
is a self-proclaimed messiah. Most of these
messiahs claim to have received a divine
revelation concerning the coming apocalypse and have been personally chosen to
spread a god's message. The messiah is an
important element in a cult's psychology
since it is the messiah, not his god, around
which the cult revolves. To a cult, its
messiah is an actual embodiment of its god,
who, if followed, will lead them into salvation. Though the messiah rarely claims to be
a god, the position he holds within the cult
and the veneration his followers offer him
are often god-like.
It should be understood that a belief in the
millennium or a messiah does not automatically confer cult status to a particular
group. Jews, for example, during the Middle
Ages, believed in the coming of a messiah,
and, to this day, many Christians believe in
the second coming of Jesus. Revelations,
the last book of the New Testament, deals
particularly with the apocalypse. What differentiates these established religions from
cults is not their belief systems, which are
often similar, but their intensity. Most established theologies include the millennium
and a messiah, but their treatment of those
concepts is more symbolic than literal. Cults
interpret them literally. Cult members be-

January, 1985

lieve that their messiah is a messenger from


their god and that the world willsoon suffer
an apocalypse.
Control over Membership
Another difference between cults and
established religions is the degree of control
each exercises over members' lives. This
third characteristic is the best index to
determine whether or not a particular group
is a cult.
Much of our daily lives is regulated by
outside forces. We must awake at a certain
time to go to our jobs and return home at a
certain time to meet the obligations of our
families. Throughout our lives we are subtly
told by our society what is expected of us
and what ideas are appropriate to hold. We
are, in a sense, controlled by our society.
This control is not total since we do excercise a degree of free will.Some of us are able
to make life-style choices without suffering
any retribution from society - as long as we
do not exceed its limits. This choice is often
dictated by a compromise between the
needs of the individual and the needs of the
society. Within a cult, however, there is
never a choice. Many cults, such as The
Way International, the Children of God, and
the Unification Church, regulate every aspect of the daily lives of their full-time
members. When a member eats, sleeps, or
evacuates is strictly governed by these
cults. They restrict each member's movements both inside and outside the cult's
property and keep all contact with the
outside world to a minimum. Contact with
parents, friends, or relatives is discouraged,
and any attempt to communicate with these
individuals is often violently opposed. Days
are filledwith cult-related activities to insure
that each member has no free time for
reflection. What free time there is is usually
devoted to prayer. We would have to conclude that a cult is a group that exercises
nearly total authority over the lives of its
members. Compared to the mainstream
society, the amount of control a cult exercises over its members is enormous.
"Why Do Cults Exist?
The next important

question for our

The American Atheist

understanding of cults is "Why do they


exist?" From the Great Awakening of the
eighteenth century to Father Divine in the
twentieth, extreme religious groups have
occupied a significant position in the cultural
spectrum of America. The prevalence of
cults, however, has not remained constant
throughout American history. Cults experience ups and downs as a result of the
historical period of which they are a part.
Thus, in order to answer the question of
"Why do cults exist?" we must examine the
times in which they flourish.
Cults tend to gain in popularity in times of
social upheaval. Institutions that once served as a point of reference for a society
begin to break down. From the 1960s to the
present day there has been a rapid social
revolution. The counterculture movement
modified many of our basic social institutions such as the church, the schools, and
the family. From the 1970s to the present
day our economy has been radically changed
as a result of our vulnerability to the international economic system. These changes,
needless to say, have upset many lives.
Many people who had once enjoyed the
stability of familiar institutions have been
confronted with new institutions with which
they either do not agree with or to which
they are unable to adapt. Finding their past
no longer useful, their future threatening
and their present ambiguous at best, many
people become culturally disoriented. Due
to their disorientation, these people often
search for cultural anchors that would give
them the stability they need to function
within their society- It is these people who
are most prone to cult membership because
cults, given their sociological characteristics, provide a social system to which they
can relate and in which they feel comfortable. In short, cults reorientate the disorientated into a new social system that
belongs exclusively to the cult.
This partially answers our question of
"Why do cults exist?" and explains why
certain people join a cult. Cultural disorientation, however, is not the only reason
for such a decision; other factors often
predispose the young to cult membership.
The period between adolescence and
adulthood is an awkward time, filled with
anxiety and uncertainty. No longer children,
these post-adolescents cannot enjoy the
security of total dependence on parents
and, unlike adults, their identity within a
society, which is usually maintained through
an education, a career, and a family, has not
yet fully matured. The situation of these
young people is essentially the same as the
culturally disoriented adult. Not yet fullyintegrated within their society, they become
disoriented and, thus, search for a system
that willreorientate them. Cults provide this
orientation. Cults, by controlling the lives of
their members, give them the security of

Austin, Texas

total dependence and the overwhelming


responsibility of saving the world from satan.
The cult member does not have to worry
about making the grade in college, finding a
job, or moving out on his own. He is one of a
god's chosen people 'who will inherit the
earth after the apocalypse. To the postadolescent, this is a safe life; all questions
are answered, and the future is controlled
by the benevolent hand of a god.
This short description probably answers
many of the questions asked about cults. It
has been demonstrated that cults offer their
members the important psychological need
of an all-encompassing world-view and the
sociological benefit of belonging to a group.
One would be inclined to think this is a noble
function - but is it? Are cults benevolent
assimilators which prepare their members
for success in the outside world or are they
authoritarian institutions who indoctrinate
their members into a world that has little
resemblance to reality? Unfortunately for all
cult members, it is the latter.
The Dangers
Cults assimilate members into a reality
that is both secure and stable but by its very
nature, has little, if any, resemblance to the
external world in which we live. As indicated, there are three basic attributes that
most cults possess: a belief in the millenium,
a self-proclaimed messiah, and the complete
control of the lives of their members. It is the
sum of these three attributes that constitute
the dangers of cults.
As we know the millennium vision divides
the world into all good and all evil camps.
Cult members are a god's children and are
all good. Those outside of the cult do the
work of a devil and are all evil. This division
of the world into all good and all evil is
thoroughly unrealistic. As WillaAppel noted,
the millennium vision most cults possess is
more like a child's fairy tale rather than an
adult's version of reality. The world is seen
in black and white with no shades of gray. All
questions have simple answers, and the
future is preordained. Though the millennium vision suits the cult's needs, its oversimplification of reality fails miserably when
it is applied to the outside world. By providing a definition of reality that is extremely
simplistic and rigid, cults instill in their
members a dogmatism that cripples any of
their dealings with the dominant outside
world. The cult's division of the world into all
good and all evil also leads to a contempt for
anyone outside of the cult that could, and
often has, erupted in violence. The murders
at Jonestown and the stockpiling of munitions by Hare Krishnas exemplify the destructive potential of cults.
The existence of a messiah has its own
dangers. The messiah is the actual leader of
the cult and his word is believed to be the
"Word of God." Within the cult a messiah is

January, 1985

unquestionably obeyed by all cult members.


Self-proclaimed messiahs, such as Jim Jones,
have been notorious for their psychological
instability and paranoid theology. These
peculiarities of cult leaders coupled with a
large following of cult members who will
obey their every word permits infinite
possibilities of both psychological and physical violence.
Another danger of cults is their intense
indoctrination techniques which destroy
their members' individuality and free will.
Those individuals who decide to join a cult
immediately begin an intensive program of
indoctrination. New cult members are completely cut off from the outside world and
often spend up to sixteen hours a day in
cult-related activities. They are forced to
participate in confession seminars where
they are psychologically manipulated and
humiliated. They are allowed little time to
sleep and are hurried from one activity to
another, thus keeping them both emotionally and physically exhausted. Anyone who
has studied mind control techniques will
immediately recognize this as brainwashing.
Once the initial indoctrination phase concludes, the cult still controls every aspect of
the members' lives. Alldecisions concerning
members' private and public lives are made
by the cult, and, as a result of this, the
member becomes socially and economically
dependent on the cult. This dependence,
consequently; perpetuates the cult members' brainwashing. What this means for the
cult members is a permanent state of hypnotism where action is mere movement and
personal freedom an unknown word. Obviously, we can all see the dangers of this.
The ability to think for one's self and the
possession of a realistic perception of the
world are necessary for survival. Yes, we
are all indoctrinated to some extent by our
society. Through education, religion, and
the family, we are taught what we can
expect from society and what society expects from us. We give up some of our
freedom for the general good of the society,
and the society gives us certain freedoms so
that we may maintain ourselves as individuals. As we grow older, we gain more
experience and freedom and eventually become fullyintegrated members of our society.
This is part of the normal development
process which enables us to survive. What a
cult represents, however, is the total subversion of the individual to the group - a
subversion that reduces the cult member to
an "it." Individuality and free will, which are
destroyed by the process of brainwashing,
are considered to be the work of satan and
the desire to possess these qualities is
believed to be demonic. The average cult
member's lifeis a lifeof slavery while the cult
itself possesses a freedom that transcends
law. Cults not only go beyond the "law ofthe
land" but also pervert human nature.

Page 25

CONCLUSION
Cults obviously pose a threat to the
individual and the society but what can be
done about it? Many people would like to
annihilate the cults. Unfortunately, this
would still not solve the problem and would
result in the destruction of many whose
membership in the cult was dictated largely
by circumstances beyond their control. The
best answer to the cult problem is to cut
cults off from their source of power. Cultural disorientation is a large contributor to
cult power. To take away this source of
power from the cults means that we ourselves will have to reorientate the disoriented instead of allowing the cults to do so.
To do this, we must reorganize many of our
social and economic institutions to accomodate those people who find it difficult to
integrate themselves whithin the main-

stream of society. Furthermore, we must


also begin to more fullyrealize the social and
economic problems many of our young
people face in a rapidly changing world.
Once this is done, we will have dealt the
cults a crippling blow. In this process, however, of reorganization and reorientation we
must never forget the autonomy of the
individual and the obligations this autonomy
imposes upon us. For if we ignore the
autonomy of the individual, we too, become
a cult.IMPI

1974.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jonathan M_Berkowitz
is currently working as
a history instructor at the
University of Bridgeport and
completing his degree in history
at New York University,

~~7"

Page 26

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Appel, Willa. Cults in America: programmedfor Paradise. New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1983.
Bromley, David G. and Shupe, Anson D.,
Jr. Strange Gods: The Great American
Cult Scare. Boston: Beacon Press, 1981.
Stoner, Carroll and Parke, Jo Anne. All
God's Children: The Cult Experience Salvation or Slavery? Pennsylvania: Chilton
Book Company, 1977.
Vitzthum, Richard C. The American Compromise: Theme and Method in the Histories of Bancroft, Parkman, and Adams.
Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press,

January, 1985

The American Atheist

THE ATHEBTNEXT DOOR


"The Atheist Next Door" is an attempt to supply information regarding
the contemporary Atheist, his feelings,
problems, and perspectives. And it is
written by the experts in this field:
everyday American Atheists. Each
month the life and opinions of an Atheist are spotlighted in this column through
the answers to a questionaire.
This month's "Atheist Next Door"
was compiled by Steve and Nancy Orr.
They wrote: "We live in Marysville,
Washington and are in our mid-thirties.
Steve is a mailman and Nancy is an RN.
We have been married fifteen years and
are expecting our second son (we
peeked!) in November of 1984.
"Our activities include flying to Reno
several times a year, para mutual investing at our local horsetrack, bingo,
and the most risky gamble of all - the
stockmarket.
We also like to collect
books and read. Our thirteen-year-old
son is a self-taught wizard on his Adam
computer."

Why are you an Atheist?


Steve Orr: Even at the age of five I
thought something was not right when adults
kept acting as though god was real. My First
Baptist Sunday school teacher always
praised me for memorizing the verses so
well. I was just too shy to scream out my
thoughts of "Are you guys for rea!!? No one
is there. Don't spoon feed me. This is just
another cartoon!" I didn't have the confidence or skills to challenge these adults. I
just held back my doubts as I grew older.
Atheism was one of those sour words such
as abortion and communism.
Many years later, after my college education, I came to find out my father was
reading radical literature out of Austin,
Texas. I picked up All the Questions to see
what the matter could be. Within minutes I
knew I was an Atheist, a mad Atheist, and a
proud Atheist. An enormous weight was
lifted off my emotions.
Why be an active, open Atheist?
Nancy Orr: My husband's philosophy and
mine differ a little on this question. This has
occasionally caused arguments in our family.
I'm not sure if the viewpoints are typically
differences between men and women or just
between differing personalities, but it is
interesting to explore.
My husband is much more open in dealing
with others than I. He enjoys getting into
Austin, Texas

philosophical debates on the topic of religion with the people he works with and with
anyone who brings up religion. I tend to save
any thought -provoking arguments for friends
or people whom I care about. Although I
certainly won't go along with any religious
bull, I don't intend to get into arguments
with people who obviously won't have an
open mind.
He finds it more difficult to have a religious person among his friends. He has no
patience with it. On the other hand, one of
my best friends is a nun. She is very open,
and we have a rousing good time fighting
over our ideals. We remain good friends. I
have patience with someone who feels this
way because I'm aware their mind is closed
to protect their values. If they know there is
someone they can talk to when they are
ready, it will help them to come around. It
also helps them to know that we Atheists
are not bad people who willjump on them
for their beliefs. We can all live together as
long as no one imposes their beliefs on the
other. In this tide of political blackmail which
is upon us, I feel this is a very important
message to Christians.
My husband is very anxious for my son to
write reports mentioning Atheism for school.
I try to stress to him that this is great only if
he feels comfortable doing this. However, it
may be emotionally very difficultfor a thirteenyear-old to go up against a teacher whose
values are unknown. We let our son know
that he willhave our support if he does this,
but I feel very strongly that I don't want him
to be pushed into doing it.

If you have or intend to have children,


how did/are/will you deal with Atheism
and religion with them?
Nancy Orr: Atheism has evolved in stages
in our home. Our son Stevie is now thirteen
and we have another on the way. With our
first son, we simply did not give him any
religious training. He was aware that some
of his friends were getting it but was also
aware of our ideas on the subject. We tried
not to influence him with these ideas. We felt
that when he came of age he would make up
his own mind on the subject. We really
didn't want him singled out for negative
emotional feedback from other kids.
Were we ever surprised when my fatherin-law invited some local Atheists to his
home. Our son boldly announced that he
was Atheist and proud of it! At first I tried to
tell him that ten was too young to have made
that decision, but he convinced me otherwise.
He started talking Atheism to his friends.
January, 1985

One of them was going to C. D. at the


Catholic church weekly in the evening. One
night the boy told his teacher, "You don't
expect us to believe that Jonah really lived
inside of a whale, do you?" Shortly after that
he proudly told my son that he too is an
Atheist.
With our next child I think we'll be more
open about Atheism. After all, the religious
certainly aren't hesitant to raise their children with their beliefs! I'm sure it will be
beneficial to learn the powers of reason,
rather than hocus-pocus.
My husband and I have always enjoyed
the tradition of Santa Claus, and this willbe
a hard one for us to tackle with the next
child. We hesitate to instill fairy tales into a
reasoning mind for fear it willbe too easy to
put religion in there also.
We took the time to read about why
circumcision is done. It willdefinitely be out
with the next child. It is religious mutilation
instituted by the "moral majority" in a ridiculous attempt to keep children from discovering their own sexuality.
We're proud of our son and the way
things have turned out. I'm sure we'll still
have hurdles to clear in the future. For
instance, my husband's next fear is that our
son willmarry a girl whose parents insist on
a church wedding! He says he couldn't
attend. Would love to hear other people's
experiences with this problem.

Would you feel comfortable married to


a theist?
Steve Orr: I can't imagine being married
to a god groper. I tend to place astrologists,
star gazers, and reincarnated people under
the general title of "air heads". I'm very
negatively impressed when I see someone
light up a smoke or wear a cross. Where
would I go for intelligent conversation? I
must clearly live for today and when I work
hard at something I believe I should get the
appropriate credit - not some elusive spirit
person. I suppose the only way I could live
with a church-goer is to bar the whole
subject from our conversation. Even that
would be stifling. No, I just couldn't marry a
theist.

Do you feel that the general .situation


for Atheists has grown better or worse
in recent years?
Steve Orr: Although the number of Atheists is growing, we willhave a harder time. If
(cont'd. on p. 37)

Page 27

POETRY

WILL THE REAL "GOD" PLEASE STAND UP?

FIRST SONG OF INORON THE UNBELIEVER


the heavy multitude
embrace their evening prayers.
they roll practiced syllables
on slick accustomed tongues,
and reek of incense and blind worship.
believing that tomorrow is everything,
they strangle their short dutiful days
with constant apprehension.
they are as half-mad children
smattering amid rich colorful relics.
rare unreachable minds
lost in idolatry,
kneeling to unseen deities.
tragic madness ....
to find this childishness,
palatable.
bray mcdonald
THIS WORLD
All my days are
the diamonds of my life,
precious
beyond the universe's power
for keeping secrets.
Some as rough as
hungry desert diamondbacks,
needing care and patience
to make them radiant
and tame.
Some as vibrant
and lustrous
as refined gold,
or the sparkling wet chasms
of a lover's eyes.
Some small, some forgotten,
all forever lost
but for the gift whereby
the coal of slippery events
is pressed into memory's rock.
And when the time comes
to dig no more,
when the last diamond
is surface bound,
this proud pinnacle
standing on my bearish hind legs
while merging with the vast unknown
will exude
an infinitely deep gratitude
for every happened thing
in every diamond day.
Edward Krall

Page 28

January, 1985

There is a god, you say to me


Why won't that god then comfort me
And set me free from all life's pains
'Til only blessed peace remains?
Oh, no, my friend, it cannot be
That this great gift of superiority
Is vested in one so supreme
That all one has to do is dream
A dream and, poof, one's dream comes true
I won't believe, no, willyou?
For if you do you are a fool
More foolish than insane
But then, my friend, there's others who'll
Say you're the one to blame.
'Tis ignorance they'll say, 'tis true
And out of ignorance it grew.
This notion that if we behave
We shall rise up out of the grave
And meet our maker in the sky.
Which often makes me wonder why
If heaven is where the saved will go
And all the others down below
Where is this heaven, out in space?
May I submit, there's no such place.
The place we go is in the earth
The state the same as before birth.
It's only natural to me
Our fate should be the same
Saved or sinner you shall see
It's not as some would claim.
Thomas J. Shaw

WE THEOLOGIANS
We theologians can't agree
If Jesus lived or not
If Herod killed the little boys
Or if it's just plain rot
We can't agree if wise men brought
Th' Christ kid any toys
Would Christ support th' E.RA?
His twelve apostles: boys
We can't agree on who wrote what
Or which books to throw out
It seems we're experts on a god
We don't know beans about John B. Denson

I take comfort in knowing


This earthly life is
The only place I'm going.
There's no need to worry
About some cosmic judge's fury,
About trials by standards and laws
Full of inconsistencies, intangibles, and flaws.
My only conern
Is judging myself.

Chris Brockman
The American Atheist

THE PROBING MIND / Frank R. Zindler

THE MORMON BOOK OF ABRAHAM

f you happen to have been born with


white skin and if you have not lived all
your life as a Latter-day Druid nuncio trapped in China since the 1922 reorganization
of the Kuomintang, without a doubt you
have been visited by pairs of bright-faced,
clean-scrubbed, conservatively attired Mormon missionaries, or" elders", as the eighteento twenty-year-old boys prefer to be called.
If you happen to have been born with
black skin, however, you may never have
had the opportunity to talk with any elders
- unless, of course, you might have had the
misfortune to fall on top of a couple by
stumbling onto a pit-trap set for them by the
Baptists or other fire-breathing Protestant
groups that are out to "get the cults." If this
has happened to you, and ifyou managed to
avoid impaling yourself on the pointed sticks
at the bottom of the pit, and ifat least one of
the missionaries avoided the sticks as well,
you wili have been told that the Mormon
church - the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints - is one of the most
thriving enterprises in America today. That
it is a thriving financial enterprise, you might
not have been told by the youthful elder. But
you will have been told that this marvelous
tax shelter was founded in 1830 by a fellow
named Joseph Smith. Correction, Joseph
Smith Junior.
Smith got his new religion going by writing
a book known as The Book of Mormon. The
book was much too dull to make it as a novel
- Mark Twain called the book "chloroform
in print" - so it was marketed as a new
bible. Having quite a flairfor publicity, Smith
pretended to have translated The Book of
Mormon from a pile of gold plates dug out of
a glacial hillin upstate New York - with the
help of a resurrected man, no less!
The book purports to tell of lost tribes of
Israelites and others floating to South America, some in giant barrels, others in a boat.
Arriving in America, they all turned into
.Indians, built cities, fought wars, received a
visit from Jesus Christ after he couldn't
make a go of it in Palestine, and finally killed
each other off in A. D. 421. Shortly before the
fatal fight - colossal battle allegedly waged
at Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York
- a person appropriately named Moroni
buried the plates for Smith to find.
Some day I willdevote an entire column to

Austin, Texas

The Book of Mormon. Here it must suffice


to recount an amusing anecdote concerning
the birth of the book.
When young, Smith claimed he had a
magic "seer stone," a stone with which he
could see inside hills and beneath the surface of the ground to inspect for buried
treasures and enchantments. The seer stone
became transformed into the biblical "urim
and thummin" with which he later claimed
he could "translate" any language - including "reformed Egyptian," the imaginary language in which his Jewish Indians supposedly had written their history. A locked
box held what Smith claimed to be the gold
plates bearing this reformed Egyptian Chaldee Jewish American Indian history.
Sitting in one-half of a room divided into
two sections by means of a blanket hung
from a rope, Smith would pretend to be
translating aloud from the plates and would
dictate The Book of Mormon to his secretary Martin Harris. Harris sat on the other
side of the blanket, afraid to peek at the
plates for fear he would be stricken with the
plague, and the scab, and hemorrhoids, and
the botch of Egypt. After many days of such
inventive labor, 116 pages of manuscript
had been written - all of it supposedly
translated by divine guidance by means of
the magical seer stone.
And it came to pass ... disaster struck!
Martin Harris' wife, Lucy, stole the manuscripture and taunted her gullible husband,
"If this be a divine communication, the same
being who revealed it to you can easily
replace it."
The imposter Smith was trapped. He
knew it was impossible for him to reproduce
the story exactly, although he should have
been able to do so if there had indeed been
divine guidance. To redictate it would be to
invite disastrous comparison. At this point,
surely, a lesser man would have given up the
job of bible-writing and have become a usedmule salesman or a whortleberry farmer.
But not Joe Smith - no sir! He went right
back to work and dictated The Book of
Mormon.
How did he get away with it? How did he
avoid being checkmated by Lucy Harris'
threat to compare the new inspiration with
the old? Very simply. He added a preface to
the first edition of the book. The preface
January, 1985

claimed that the 116 pages had been translated from supposed Plates of Lehi and that
the devil had caused the translation to be
stolen and altered from what Smith had
"translated." So that even if Smith were to
produce a new translation word-for-word
identical with the first, it nevertheless would
appear to differ from the stolen pages
because of the changes which had been
made in the latter by the cunning of the
devil. Therefore, god had changed the writPage 29

ing assignment so that The Book of Mormon no longer is a translation of The Plates
of Lehi; it's a translation of The Plates of
Nephi!
God's exact words, according to the
preface, were: "I will not suffer that Satan
shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
Therefore thou shalt translate from the
plates of Nephi."
As you can see, this god was stillspeaking
KingJames' English even though it was now
the year 1828. The preface did the trick,
however, and Lucy Harris was neutralized.
Encouraged by the success of his first
bible, Joseph Smith proceeded to write
other "scriptures." One of these is known as
The Book of Abraham and is published
today as part of a volume known as The
Pearl of Great Price.
Unlike The Book of Mormon, which is
merely dull or silly, depending upon how
much coffee one has been drinking, The
Book of Abraham has a rather unpleasant
side. Until recent years, it was used to justify
the racist policies of the Mormon church.
Blacks formerly were not allowed to hold
the "priesthood". Since almost all postpubertal Mormon males are priests and
since Mormon women can't amount to
anything unless they marry a man who does
hold the priesthood, this dogma effectively
kept Blacks out of the "white and delightsome" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints.
The offensive passages are to be found in
Chapter 1, verses 20-27. Verse 24 ends with
a reference to the biblical "curse of Ham":
"From Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land."
Verses 26-7, referring to Pharaoh (whom
Smith supposed to be a Negro), say that
Noah "cursed him (Ham and his descendants) as pertaining to the priesthood. Now
Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he
could have the right of priesthood," and so
on.
Now I must admit, in all fairness, that
these passages are rather mild stuff and
aren't as bad as the bible passages which
were used by the Christian clergy to justify
slavery. And I must inform the reader that
although missionaries still do not go out in
search of black converts, Blacks nowadays
can hold the priesthood if they desire. The
head of the Mormon church - the "Chief
Seer and Revelator" - a few years ago got a
message direct from his god to change this
policy. The change came just in the nick of
time, too, since civil rights legislation was
making it harder for racist organizations to
feed at the federal money-trough.
How did Joseph Smith come to write this
book?
Well, it was 1835. The Mormons had
moved from New York state to Ohio.
Michael Chandler, a traveling showman,
came to Kirtland on July 3, 1835, exhibiting

Page 30

some Egyptian papyri and mummies. Smith


declared the papyri contained the autographic writings of the patriarchs Abraham
and Joseph of Egypt and that he could read
them! The Mormons bought the mummies
and the papyri.
When Josiah Quincy visited Smith later at
Nauvoo, Illinois,Smith told him, "That is the
handwriting of Abraham ... this is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written
'by his brother Aaron." In fact, the introduction to The Book of Abraham still reads,
"The writings of Abraham while he was in
Egypt ... written by his own hand, upon
papyrus."
Armed with his magic seer stone, this
would-be prophet set to work and "translated" The Book of Abraham. Unique among
the holy books of the world, The Book of
Abraham comes equipped with three illustrations!
The first illustration (Fig. 1, p. 31) is
accompanied by a fantastic interpretation
given by Joseph Smith. According to Smith,
the "bird" in the upper right is "the angel of
the Lord" and the man with the knife is an
idolatrous priest trying to make a sacrifice of
Abraham (the guy on the check-out counter
to the left of the cash register).
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, when more and more scholars appeared who actually could read Egyptian even without the use of magic stones - this
interpretation was challenged. The "bird"
was not an angel, but the ba or soul of a
deceased person. Furthermore, it was
claimed, its face had been changed. It should
have a human face. The reclining figure
wasn't Abraham; it was Osiris being called
back to life by Anubis, the god of the dead
and of embalming. The so-called priest - it
was claimed over one hundred years ago
- had been altered! He actually should
have the head of a jackal and should not
have a knife in his hand.
The second facsimile (Fig. 2, p. 32) is
rather different from the first, and Smith
claimed it has to do with astronomy. The
accompanying explanation is chock-full of
nonsense such as "one day to a cubit,"
"fixed planets," and made-up words such as
"Jah-oh-eh" and "Oliblish."
Although the writing in the illustration
was too poorly copied for Egyptologists to
make much sense out of it, it was noted a
century ago that not everything was kosher.
Although the writing along the top border is
in hieroglyphics, starting at about one
o'clock, the writing becomes cursive (hieratic), continuing to about five o'clock, whereupon it becomes hieroglyphics again! A
similar peculiarity is seen in the right-central
section of the figure. Here each line is
hieroglyphic on the left end and cursive on
the right end. "Something's fishy here," said
the experts.
The third facsimile (Fig. 3, p. 33) Smith
January, 1985

claimed depicts Abraham upon Pharaoh's


throne, discoursing on astronomy, with
Pharaoh behind him. The person standing in
the center is a prince, flanked by the king's
waiter, and the black creature on the far
right is - you guessed it! - a slave.
Experts a hundred years ago said, "Baloney!" The scene actually depicts the judgment of a deceased person, and the characters are, from left to right, Isis (female!),
Osiris on the throne, Maat (female!), the
deceased, and Anubis the jackal-headed
god. Today, of course, the experts still say
the same thing.
Unfortunately, the writing on the facsimiles was so poorly reproduced (deliberately, I would assert) that Egyptologists
could not say for sure just what the writings
did say, even though it was certain that
Smith's interpretation was pure blarney.
But everything changed in 1966. In that
year, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, two exMormons who became full-time debunkers
of the faith of Brigham Young, obtained a
microfilm of a document which had been
hidden and suppressed by' the Mormon
church for over 130 years: Joseph Smith's
notebook entitled "Egyptian Alphabet and
Grammar". Part of the microfilm contained
material in Smith's own handwriting, with
his signature.'
One such page reads, "Valuable discovery of hidden records that have been
obtained from the ancient burying grounds
of the Egyptians, (signature) Joseph Smith,
Jr." Other pages are in the handwriting of
several of the "prophet's" secretaries.
What is the nature of this notebook? It is, I
believe, a show Smith put on for the benefit
of his secretaries, a pretense of actually
being able to decipher Egyptian. Champollion, in France, had just succeeded in deciphering Egyptian, but in the wilds of America no one yet knew this. So Smith was free
in this notebook to make up anything he
wanted, confident he could get away with it.
After a number of pages of absolute wordhash, we see him making up The Book of
Abraham.
The word-hash is so mad, however, that I
cannot resist quoting a few lines. Smith's
explanation of the meaning of a simple
vertical stroke - a single line - is as follows:
"Beth-Ba-eth, This character is from
the first degree It has an arbitrary
sound or signification which is Beth;
and also a compound sound which is
Za and comprise one simple sentence
for its signification It is only increased or lessened in its signification by its
connection with other characters. one
connection with another character,
gives it a compound signification, or
enlarges the sentence. Two connections increases its signification still:
Three increases it still: Four increases
still and five still, This is as far as a

The American Atheist

Fig. 1. Left: The original papyrus from which


Smith derives "Facsimile 1" of The Book of
Abraham. Faint traces
of pencil line can be
seen where Smith attempted to complete
the figures
on the
mounting paper.

sentence can be carried in the first


degree." (punctuation as in original)
Proceeding to the pages containing the
characters from which The Book of Abraham was derived, we find Egyptian characters arrayed vertically on the left side of
each page, with the verses of scripture allegedly translated from them on the right. At
the top left of one such page, we find a
character resembling a backward 'E' -from
which Smith derives the seventy-six words
of verses 13 and 14 of Chapter I!
Can it be believed? Seventy-six words
from one character? The idea becomes
even more preposterous when we find that
this character isn't even an entire Egyptian
word: it's just a "determinative," a sign used
to give the reader a clue as to the general
meaning of the word of which it is a part. In
this case, the sign signifies "water." The
word of which it is a part is the Egyptian
word for "pool."
The real find, however, in the "Egyptian
Alphabet and Grammar" was the discovery
of Smith's working version of Facsimile 2,
the circular figure (Fig. 2, p. 32). In exactly
every place where the Egyptologists had
claimed there was something fishy in the
published plate in Joe's notebook we have
empty spaces! Smith filled in the empty
spaces and called it inspiration! The critics
could not. have been vindictive more perfectly.
An amusing item: in the notebook version
of Facsimile 2, the hieroglyphics are clear
enough to be read. At about nine o'clock,
Austin, Texas

Fig. 1. (cont'd)

Below: Facsimile 1 as it appears in modern editions of The Book of


completed details.

Abraham, with erroneously

January, 1985

Page 31

'."

,
(-

Fig. 2. Left: The working version of


Facsimile 2. taken from Smith's Egyptian
Alphabet and Grammer. Note use of hieroglyphic. not cursive, characters and incompleted borders and other empty areas.

.: ,
.

~,

'.. " ..
... ~.~~).'

",'r: ',~.

'I')'
. -.
. ,
. .1;,' ..

...
\~.~
...
.~..

.~~.

..
)l

~
1ft

:-;. ';:7Jf. J

\..: "

-~.

'

";,..., ..- .,/ ~ -f' .:~.:'16


-a:::.
la UJ"."O
.

~. '11!.I...
i H. i,j=-:'-, ~y -fD-v;.

I'll)'
. . .
.
.

.,
.
7~AI'
. ~ u-

~~"

Page 32

Fig. 2. (cont'd) Below: Facsimile 2 as it


appears in modern editions of The Book
of Abraham, with cursive characters taken from a different papyrus (see Fig. 4.)
and inserted upside-down into the spaces and border.

/t ~/..

,,'")("e . ~

.~

-".

~:

If

.~.

.:

.I.-;\~

January, 1985

we can make out a hieroglyph of a bull.


Reading from there towards six o'clock, we
apparently can make out the phrase, "great
bull who can copulate without equal. ... "
Can this be a cryptographic prophesy of the
second coming of Brigham Young - who
had how many wives?
The "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar"
would have been enough evidence to convict Joseph Smith of fraud, even if we didn't
have any further evidence. But we do, we
do!
The "smoking pistol" itself has been found
- not in the vaults in Salt Lake City, but in
the Metropolitan Museum in New York
City.
The smoking pistol consists of the actual
papyri Smith got from Chandler, the traveling showman - including the papyrus from
which the characters in the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" had been copied, and
the papyrus original of Facsimile I. Although
the papyri had been discovered in the
museum in the same year in which the
Tanners had published the "Grammar", it
wasn't until the following year, 1967, that the
papyri were given to the Mormon church by
the museum.
The divine guidance which is supposed to
guide the "Chief Seer and Revelator" of the
church apparently was vacationing on the
planet Kolob in 1967, for the church authorities foolishly agreed that the papyri were
authentic and were indeed the originals
from which Joseph Smith had translated
The Book of Abraham.
The American Atheist

Fig. 3. Left: Facsimile 3 as it


appears in modern printed editions of The Book of Abraham.
The original has not yet come to
light. See text for details.

The official story - the hope, as it were


- was that the papyri had burned up in the
great Chicago fire, although there is evidence that at least some Mormon officials
knew the papyri still existed and thought it
best to let sleeping dogs lie. Although the
plates from which The Book of Mormon had
been translated had been taken back to
heaven after Smith's library card expired conveniently making it impossible to check
up on Smith's claims - the papyri behind
the Abraham opus were still on earth, and
could be checked! Publication of the papyri
dealt what surely must be the death-blow to
The Book of Abraham.
If we examine the original of Facsimile 1,
we see that the head of the so-called priest is
missing! The experts said he should have
the head of Anubis the jackal-god. Smith,
not knowing anything about Egyptian religion, put a man's head on the figure. There
is no knife in the picture either. Strike two.
Smith made it up. There is no head on the
ba-bird. Strike three. Smith put a bird's head
on the ba - not an unreasonable mistake if
a man is uninspired and knows no Egyptology. But for the founder of a religion and a
man who claims divine guidance in his
interpretations, this is devastating.
But the picture wasn't the only thing
"Holy Joe" filled in out of his fertile imagination. If we examine Fig. 4, a picture of the
scrap of papyrus from which Smith derived
the entire Book of Abraham, we may note
the arrow pointing to the backward "E"
discussed previously. Three lines below it,
we can see some of the characters used to
fill in the right-central part of Facsimile 2
(sector 14, right side of Fig. 2). Unfortunately, Smith inserted these characters
upside-down. How odd of god to tell Smith

Austin, Texas

Fig. 4. Below: The scrap of papyrus from which Joseph Smith "translated" all 1,125
words of The Book of Abraham and also managed to have enough left over to fill in the
blanks in Facsimile 2. Arrow points to backward 'E' determinative signifying water.In
Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammer, this character is made the source of
seventy-six words of English "scripturel"

..
January, 1985

Page 33

what all these squiggles meant, but never


thought to tell him which way was up!
Continuing our examination of Fig. 4, we
note that there is a deep, triangular cleft in
the papyrus, extending from the upper
right-hand corner downward to the fourth
line of writing. The characters on both sides
of this fissure can be found in Smith's
notebook, together with the corresponding
verses of The Book of Abraham.
Guess where in this papyrus Smith got
the anti-Negro verses! The whole holy business about the "curse of Ham" comes from
the hole! As Smith copied the characters
from the papyrus into his notebook, he
made up the curse-of-Ham characters to fill
in the cleft in the original. Embarrassingly,
he made up too many of them to fit in the
space available!
Egyptologists have now translated all the
Joseph Smith papyri - including the parts
Joseph Smith said could not yet be revealed
- and we can say without fear of contradiction that the materials have nothing to do
with Abraham or with Blacks. They are
delightfully pagan in nature, and nothing
Jewish can be seen in them. They are part of
the Book of Breathings - a late abridge-

ment of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In


fact, these papyri date from approximately
the beginning of the Christian era and are
about two thousand years too late to contain the autograph of Abraham!
The major religions of the world began
too long ago for anthropologists to be able
to reconstruct accurately the complex interactions between fraud, delusion, and honest
ignorance which went into their manufacture.
In the case of Mormonism, however, a very
scientific case can be built up to show quite
unambiguously the role of chicanery in the
formation of this most uniquely American
religion. Joseph Smith dared to invent a new
religion in the age of printing!

IMPI

Formerly a professor of biology and


geology, Frank R. Zindler is
now a science writer. A member
of the American Assoc. for the
Advancement of Science, the
American Chemical Soc., and
the American Schools of
Oriental Research, he is also
co-chairman of the Ohio Committee
of Correspondence on Evolution
Education, and director of the
Central Ohio Chapter of
American Atheists.

'Foctnote: A free catalog of suppressed


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The American Atheist

HISTORICAL NOTES
20 Years Ago ...

100 Years Ago ...


Those wondering ifthe religious were any
more inclined to deal with the real world a
hundred years ago than they are today
should read the following which was taken
from the "Notes and Clippings" section of
the January 10th, 1885 edition of The Truthseeker.
"The students of a Western theological
seminary are reported to have discussed the
question whether, in the case of a prayer
having been read from a printed slip on a
formal occasion, and there having been a
typographical error entirely reversing the
meaning of a passage, the petition was
received by Providence as uttered or as
originally written. The debaters spent a
whole evening over the point, and then had
a tie vote."
The same issue remarked on a phenomenon which continues to our times.
"The only son of the bishop of Rochester
has been received into the Roman Catholic
Church. Protestants, says the London Freethinker, readily perceive that the conversion
of an alleged "Infidel" to Christianity proves
the incontestible truth of the religion he
adopts. But somehow the conversion of a
Protestant to Roman Catholicism proves
nothing but the terribly insidious nature of
the Romish system and the weakness of
human nature."

60 Years Ago ...


The Haldeman-Juiius Monthly's motto
was "Make the World Unsafe for Hypocrisy". And, its "Foreword" for the January,
1925 issue had this optimistic statement:
"Less than five hundred years ago the
Church was in complete control. It had
obliterated the superior civilization of the
Ancients, and imposed its own insane, barbarous and unreasoning dogmas on helpless and seemingly hopeless peoples. The
escape was slow, each step demanding
massacres, each ounce of freedom demanding its pound of flesh. But mankind
went on, and is still going forward, though
each step has been slow and heavy because
the church has tirelessly and brutally held
on, refusing to give an inch without resistance. The battle has not been won, but the
worst of it is over. The church willnever be
complete master of our lives, our fortunes,
and our thoughts. It will control less and
less, until the day comes when freethinkers
willmaster the world, and churchmen, protected by tolerant freethinkers, will be per-

Austin, Texas

mitted to follow their folly provided they do


not interfere with the lives and the ideas of
those who do not accept their vapid notions.
(signed)
E. Haldeman-Julius"

30 Years Ago ...


Hugh Robert Orr penned the editorial for
the Progressive World of January, 1955.
This is what appeared under the title "A
Reply to the Bishops":
"'Atheistic materialism,' both here and
abroad, is the real enemy of the United
States, declared the Roman Catholic bishopsat their annual meeting in Washington,
D. C.; in November.This was the theme of
their official published statement ...
"Now just what is this dreaded thing they
call 'atheistic materialism? The meaning of
'atheistic' is clear enough to intelligent persons. But in the minds of many others it has
taken on an untrue connotation. For these
persons, an atheist must necessarily be a
very wicked man. They either do not know,
or are stubbornly unwilling to concede, that
some of the world's noblest characters have
been atheists ...
"And what is 'materialism'? As a philosophy, materialism holds that what we call
'matter' is antecedent to what we commonly
call 'mind,' and that mind ... is the product
of the naturalistic evolution of the material
world. Materialism is opposed to the 'spiritual' or 'idealistic' philosophies ... To the
materialist, there can be no feeling or mental
activity apart from a livingmaterial organism.
"But what are the bishops saying in their
statement? They are proclaiming the falsehood that the atheist-materialist is necessarily motivated by materialistic greed ...
"Those who live in glass houses should
never throw stones. And those who represent an institution with a history such as that
of the Roman Catholic church only lay
themselves open to the charge of hypocrisy
when they raise their voice against atheistic
materialism ...
"Yet that is just what is being said by
those fourteen prelates whose statement
officially represents that undemocratic,
authoritarian, and coercive institution which
at one time despoiled kings and nobles of
the domains, which siezed possession of
more than half of Europe, which promotes
wars to retrieve its material losses, which
demands not only millions from the rich but
even the widow's mite, and which exacts
endless tribute from the living for the salvation of their dead ... "

January, 1985

The Liberal, which called itself" A Rationalist and Freethought Journal," was not
above a little humor, as can be seen from
this little excerpt from its January, 1965
issue:
" ... two wife beaters of that town (Amherst, Ohio) were sentenced by the Mayor
to $50.00 fine and 10 days in jail but suspended sentence on condition that they
attend church at least 45 weeks within the
next 52 weeks. We submit that this is an
unconstitutional penalty contrary to the
clause forbidding cruel and unusual punishment."
The churches have always been in the
business of grabbing money wherever pos. sible, but especially from the taxpayers. An
item in the London, Freethinker called attention to such an effort in the United States.
"Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania has complained about the terms being
demanded by the YMCA of Harrisburg, for
. its building which the state is anxious to
acquire. The Association is asking for the
immediate payment of $395,000, whereas
two private appraisals listed the value of the
property at $281,750, and a third gave it as
$292,400. Moreover, under the terms of the
proposal, the YMCA would continue to
occupy the site for nearly two years, rent
free, getting interest on the $395,000, and
delaying Capitol extensions plans. Small
wonder that the Governor should complain!"

10 Years Ago ...


The Indian journal The Atheist printed
this response in the "Questions and Answers" section of its January, 1975 edition.
"Q: What do you think of meditation?
You mayor may not believe in God ... But
sitting in meditation yields peace of mind ...
"A: That meditation yields peace of mind
can be a fact. But it means also withdrawal
from social obligations.
"Because man has the faculty to think, he
does occasionally think silently over the
problems that confront him. But meditation
is a withdrawal from the responsibility to
solve problems instead of thinking calmly
for fuller involvement in affairs. Those who
meditate shake off responsibility in the
name of peace of mind. This is an escape
which an active society does not permit. ..
(signed)
GORA"

Page 35

REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty

INDIA'S "THIRD NATION"

sI write, a group of Indians is obA


serving the birthday of the founder of
its sect. He was a man of peace named Guru
Nanak, born in the Punjab in 1469 during
bitter times when Muslims had subjugated
almost the entire peninsula and ruled from
Delhi. Hatred and intolerance prevailed.
Nanak's simple message of brotherhood
declared, "There is no Hindu. There is no
Mussulman."
Eight days before the time of writing two
followers of this apostle of communal peace
gunned down Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
They did so in fulfillment of a religious vow.
Iought to mention here that Indira Gandhi
was not related to Mahatma Gandhi. She
was the only daughter of former Prime
Mininster Nehru and had married a Parsi
named Feroze Gandhi. As a child, however,
she was greatly influenced by Maliatma
Gandhi since her family was at the storm
center of the movement for Indian independence. Ironically, both she and Mahatma
Gandhi fell victim to the bullets of religious
fanatics in a country whose people never
tire of telling how tolerant and non-violent
they are. Gandhi was slain by a Hindu
Brahmin who believed he made too many
concessions to the Muslims when Pakistan
was created by vivisecting his beloved
motherland. Indira Gandhi was killed by
Sikh extremists who want to carve out yet
another chunk for themselves and create
the Sikh state of Khalistan.
Anywhere in the world Sikhs are easily
recognizable by their beards and turbans.
They tend to cultivate a martial tradition in
their religion which would have worried
their founder who was actually a Hindu
reformer. Nanak's message was syncretic in
spirit, striking a sensible balance between
Islamic fanaticism and intolerance and Hindu
ritualism, caste and idolatry. He preached
monotheism and equality which won him
many converts from people desiring to
break free of a caste-ridden value system.
His followers were called shishya (Sanskrit
for disciple) which is now "Sikh."
Beginning with Nanak (1469-1539) there
were ten gurus in all. The last was Guru
Gobind Singh (1666-1708).Sikhism captured
the imagination of the Punjabi peasantry, a
robust and turbulent people. Their constant
quarrels with the rulers of Delhi earned
them the displeasure of the Mughals. Their
Page 36

leaders were captured and publicly impaled


or executed. The ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur
refused to be converted and had his head
.cut off in Chandni Chowk in Delhi. He was
succeeded by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth
and final guru, who was then just nine years
old.
Convinced that the Sikhs must make
themselves strong enough to fight repression, he transformed the sect into a militant
fraternity. He decreed that henceforth they
were to be called khalsa - the pure ones and assume the name of Singh (lion). They
were to be perpetually prepared to do battle
by assuming the five "Ks" as marks of the
true Sikh - kesh (hair), kanga (comb),
kara (steel bangle), kirpan (short dagger)
and kachcha (under-drawers).
Meat was added to their diet. Holy warriors or soldiers of the faith were called
akalis (similar to the Islamic ghazies). The
Muslim concept of martyrdom in Jehad
(holy war) was matched by dharmayudh.
Suicide squads were raised called Nihangs
(Persian for crocodile). There are twenty
thousand of these today, largely nomadic,
armed with ancient swords, spears, shields
and flintlocks; and usually high on hash.
The Islamic prohibition on alcohol was
matched by a ban on tobacco. When an
Akali-dominated government ruled Punjab
state a few years back, an official notice was
sent round saying that no Sikh with shorn
hair should be appointed to office. In the
capital of Chandigarh, where half the secretariat houses the Punjab government and
the other half that of Haryana state, officials
wishing to have a smoke had to stroll down
the corridor to the Haryana end!
The tenth guru, the much-revered Gobind
Singh, was murdered by Muslims. Because
of historical circumstance Sikhism developed
a strong anti-Muslim bias, quite unlike anything their founder had imagined.
The partition of India in 1947was achieved
by the simple expedient of drawing lines
through Punjab and Bengal to create two
wings of the Islamic state of Pakistan. But
this left five million Sikhs and Hindus on the
Pakistan side and fivemillionMuslims on the
Indian side. The migration of these great
hordes of people on foot and by every
means of transport available sparked off the
bloodiest slaughter the plains of Hindustan
ever witnessed even during the many incurJanuary, 1985

sions of armies of barbarians from central


Asia.
The Sikhs in the Punjab were the worst
sufferers. Today, thirty-seven years after,
they in turn confront the Hindus with surreptitious help from their old enemies, the
Muslims in Pakistan. Sikh extremists have
training camps over the frontier and evade
arrest by crossing into that country. Enormous quantities of arms and ammunition
have been brought in through Pakistan.
To the Hindus this appears as treachery
of the worst sort, a betrayal of the motherland. They resisted the breaking up of their
country to create a Muslim state and are
resolved they will not stand by to see it
further weakened by creating a Sikh state.
For Sikhs, their age of greatest glory was
when Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839)
established a kingdom which extended from
the Khyber Pass to the Sutlej River and from
Kashmir to the desert of Sind. After his
death it disintegrated and was annexed by
the British in 1849. The modem Sikh vision
of Khalistan is a revival of that glory with
territory approximating Ranjit Singh's former kingdom.
In a sense we are still reaping the whirlwind sown by self-seeking politicians during
the struggle for freedom. To establish their
own power bases they thought up the "Two
Nation Theory" to support their contention
that Hindu and Muslim culture simply could
not be reconciled and therefore, as distinct
"nations", they ought to be granted separate
sovereignty. By dividing the sub-continent
according to the religious make-up of its
population West and East Pakistan was
created. What was left of a truncated
peninsula became India.
The "Two Nation Theory" was effectively
debunked when East Pakistan went to war
against West Pakistan. Despite being Muslims, the Bengalis of East Pakistan wished to
throw off the yoke of Punjabi domination
from West Pakistan. This was achieved with
India's help creating the populous Islamic
state of Bangia Desh.
At the time of partition talks with the
British government a question was raised by
Sikh leaders who put forward a claim as a
"Third Nation." However, Nehru's Congress party assured them their claims would
be given due consideration after independence. Their hopes were belied. Discontent
The American Atheist

simmered in the Punjab, fueled by Hindu


bigotry and dominance in areas which Sikhs
regarded theirs by natural right. It was a
repeat of history with confrontation with the
rulers from Delhi.
For more than three years now Sikh
extremists have been carryinq out a campaign of killing, abduction, bombing, and
sabotage in the Punjab, Delhi, and Rejasthan. Moderate Sikhs have been gunned
along with Hindus. The terrorist tactics
were spearheaded by a fanatical, illiterate
Sikh priest called Sant Bindranwale. To
evade arrest he holed up with his followers
in the Golden Temple in the holy city of
Amritsar. "Hit -men" came out of the shrine,
carried out their missions, and went back
into hiding. For months Mrs. Gandhi's
government hesitated to sent police in for
fear of hurting the religious sentiments of
the entire community.
Finally, last June, the Indian army launched
"Operation Blue Star" to purge the shrine of
criminals. It met with strong resistance. The
entire complex had been fortified, and the
extremists armed with the most sophisticated weapons available on the international
market. Casualties were high among the
Indian soldiers. We were never told how
many Sikhs died. Sant Bindranwale was
among the dead in the basement of the
temple. Sikh sources from abroad put the
dead at three thousand including many
women and children trapped inside the
complex. Bodies were disposed of in a mass
cremation with the city still under heavy
curfew.
The historic buildings of the holiest of
Sikh shrines were damaged, the chief being
the Akal Takt, a kind of Vatican, whence
fiats go out to the faithfularound the world.
This was restored by a pro-government
Nihang chief and his shaggy followers because the five high priests wanted to display
the ruins to devotees and whip up more
anti-government feeling. All Sikhs were
deeply hurt by the desecration of their
Golden Temple. None were prepared to
accept the argument that the desecration
really took place when it became a place of
refuge for murderers and terrorists.
An astonishing quantity of arms and ammunition turned up, not only in the Golden
Temple but in other Sikh shrines. The army
operation had the support of the people
because it made life a little safer for the
common man. Pakistan's role was condemned, though it still denies it supported
Bindranwale, Possibly the bravest man at
Mrs. Gandhi's funeral was President Zia of
Pakistan.
The storming of the Golden Temple
rankled deeply. But it also divided the
community in different ways. Sikhs number
ten million, which is just two percent of our
population, but they have spread into every
major city in the country and made their
presence felt by their industry and enterprise.
Austin, Texas

President Zail Singh has stood on the side


of conciliation and sanity - for which he
was excommunicated by the high priests.
There are many Sikh intellectuals who insist
that it is possible for the community to live
with the rest of us Indians without needing
to establish a separate state.
But the orthodox believe that Sikhism
was shaped largely by political expediency,
and for its adherents religion and politics are
one. Only in a Sikh state can the religion find
free practice, a state in which Atheism and
un-Sikh thinking will be replaced by the
"Sikh way of life."
Khalistan would include not only large
areas of north India but a sizeable chunk of
Pakistan. This fact has not yet dawned on its
Muslim sympathizers across the border!
Militancy remains part of the Sikh ethos.
Every prayer ends with the words, Raj
karega Kha/sa, aki rahe na hoye (the kha/sa
willrule one day and nobody will be able to
stand up to him).
The assassination of Indira Gandhi was
the old savage equation of an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth. Many Sikhs exulted,
believing the insult done to them and their
shrines had been avenged. The killers were
both Sikhs of her own bodyguard who she
refused to mistrust. One had been part of
her household for eight years and grown
close to her family. But religious fanaticism
does not stop for such sentimental niceties.
The protagonists of India's "Third Nation"
are undeterred by the Hindu backlash which
took the lives of many of their community
after Mrs. Gandhi's death. Nor are they

people of common stock polarizing into two


groups because one excises their foreskins
and the other prefers to keep theirs. The
'Third Nation" of Sikhs was also Hindu at
one time, but it stakes its claim to sovereignty
simply because its followers keep their hair
and beards, carry three items of hardware
on their person, and sport a particular kind
of underwear!

I~I

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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 weD-known feminist journalist, agreed
that she would do so in the future.
She joined the staff of
the American Atheist in January, 1983_

THE A THEIST NEXT DOOR


(Cont'd. from page 27)

Reagan and Falwell have their way with the


Supreme Court our road to the next century will be a rough one. I'm already preparing myself to accept more of a religious
presence in public life. But really, they can
never change an Atheist's mind-set with
mere laws. We will still be present to ask
embarrassing questions and generally to be
a real thorn in their side. Our only future is
to educate the young and preserve Atheist
heritage.

Does a candidate's
stand on an issue
important to Atheists, such as school
prayer, determine whether you vote for
that individual?

worried too much about the repugnance


expressed by the international community.
Their campaign will go on. They also have
the present prime minister and many other
high officials on their hit list.
It intrigues me as an Atheist to watch the
antics of the pious and the bizarre power
games which they play in this country.
Ethnically, all spring from a common stock
which once embraced Hinduism. History
saw thousands converted to Islam. This
process, we're told, created two "nations." I
wish I could believe that. What I see are
January, 1985

Steve Orr: Quite often, yes. It often boils


down to the lesser of two evils. Our local
senators are moderate Republicans who are
a darn sight better than Reagan on most
issues. Though against organized school
prayer, they rationalize and hedge on moments of silence and religious meetings at
public schools. They would undoubtedly
pick a better Supreme Court than Reagan
will. I wrote to our local newspaper suggesting Supreme Court picks should be
rotated from House to Senate to President.
I have been going on the assumption that
a known infidel couldn't be elected. Guess
who was elected mayor of Portland, Oregon!
Page 37

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


There has been too much fuzzy thinking
on ABORTION. The question is not, "When
does life begin?". That is a loaded, intellectually dishonest question which presumes
the desired answer in the phrasing of the
question. The real question is, "When does
a fetus become a human being?"
An egg is not a chicken. A tadpole is not a
frog. A caterpiller is not a butterfly. And, a
fetus is not a human being. A human being is
an air-breathing animal. An embryo must go
thru many stages of evolution to change
from an aquatic appendage of its mother to
a self contained independent air-breathing
mammal (human being). In short, an ernbryo is not a baby until it issues from its
mother, takes that first breath, and is severed
from its mother by the cutting of the umbilical cord.
Abortion is a private matter between a
woman, her husband, and her doctor. The
government should butt-out.

Significantly, none of the copies of other


magazines such as Time, Newsweek, etc.,
was ever returned in this manner although
my address label plainly indicated to whom
the periodical belonged. The copy of American Atheist bore no such identifying label.
The implication was clear. Atheistic material
was not welcome in the AA reading room.
Up to that time I had continued to attend the
meetings and some of the social functions,
and merely walked out when the meeting
was closed with the Lord's Prayer. After
that incident of the magazine I have discontinued my association with AA. And for
whatever it's worth, I have been without the
solace of alcohol without the help of any
so-called "Higher Power."

M. L. Schlesinger
Indiana

In a recent "The Atheist Next Door" the


question was asked "If you intend to have
children how willyou deal with Atheism and
religion with them?" Steve Paige Streeter
said "(I am not married now)" which rubbed
me the wrong way. As a "naturalist" I not
only believe it's possible to reproduce without marriage - but I carry it a step further
and believe marriage was invented by the
religious to make us mate for life (like so
many penguins) for what motive, I can only
guess.
My question is who invented this thing to
which governments (especially the U.S.)
have adapted and mingled with (i.e. tax
exemption for spouse & dependents, divorce courts, name changes, etc).

Some time ago someone sent a letter to


this column complaining of the religious
nature of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. In view of the fact that I have had
somewhat the same experiences that were
related by the writer, I should like to make a
few comments on the subject of the alcoholic atheist.
I first became affiliated with AA back in
the fifties. Little by little I too, was alienated
by the constant references to a "higher
power," and the fact that six of the twelve
steps of AA refer directly to God. One of the
steps requires the supplicant to "turn his life
and his willover to the power of God." This
made it impossible for me to practice six of
the suggested "Twelve Steps." Every time I
raised an objection to the religious nature of
AA, I was given the nonsensical and contradictory answer that "AA is not a religious
program, it's a spiritual one'."
My last association with the organization
was here in my hometown of Fayetteville,
North Carolina. The Group here maintains
a clubhouse where members can relax,
read, play pool, watch television, sip coffee,
and simply socialize with other members.
Books, magazines, newspapers and other
reading materials are placed conveniently
on tables in the recreation room. Just as an
experiment, I casually left a copy of the
American Atheist Magazine on one of the
tables in the reading room. The following
night when I dropped in, the member on
duty handed it back to me as soon as I
entered, saying, "Here John, this must be
yours."

Page 38

John C. Henderson
North Carolina

c,..."":)

Richard Curtis
Texas

In your September issue of American


Atheist, Jon Murray wrote that the Arnerican Jewish community "made" Jackson
"publicly apologize" to "them." Jews aren't
the only Americans who were owed an
apology for Jackson's racist comments.
Nobody, black or white, gets away with
open bigotry in the race for being President
of the United States.
You went on to state that you can't see
why Jackson, a leader of a large minority,
should "have to grovel for less than 3%" (of
our population). According to this logic,
having a strong numerical backing entitles a
candidate to a certain amount of public
bigotry. Since Jews are a small percentage
of the American public, it's not so bad to use
them as a scapegoat. You don't even mention what Americans wanted Jackson to
apologize for. Jackson's blaming Jews for

January, 1985

his not receiving the vice presidential candidacy of his party, his embracing PLO leader
Arafat, whose organization murders athletes
and schoolchildren in Europe and Israel, not
to mention his general warmth to Soviet
satellites such as Cuba and Syria, sure seem
worthy of apologizing for to say the least.
I turned the page to Mental Circumcision,
an article which states that the "fanatical
Jews were unable to live within any other
nation ...Their record is one of defiance of
any secular power..." and, incredibly, the
article goes on to state that "the only way
they were ever 'handled' was to be dispersed, isolated, or annihilated ....as they
formed small enclaves within other nations
they demanded and obtained, through intransigent behavior, special exemptions from
laws and customs applicable to all."
No wonder Mr. Murray and the mystery
Jew-hater of the second article are sympathetic to black antisemitism and hostile to
U.S. interests. It is because they are Whites
who feel the same way.
(I greatly doubt you'll publish this letter.)
Daniel Sterling
Ohio

I have a response to Mr. Daniel Nuerenberg's letter on p. 5 of the November


American Atheist, concerning Atheism and
homosexuality.
Let me make it clear that I do not
"believe" in homosexuality. My studies in
anthropology, psychology, and biology lead
me to hold an opinion that homosexuality is
a problem, not an "alternative lifestyle." I
apologize to no one for that opinion. You
may disagree if you wish.
However, Mr. Nuerenberg's labeling of
homosexuals as "freaks, crippled sick degenerate sex deviates," etc., is clearly out of
line. Although I do not personally adhere to
the view that homosexuality is "natural," I
reserve the right for homosexuals to live
their lives free of religious bigotry and
homophobia-inspired hate.
Homosexuals, regardless what a heterosexual like me thinks about the issue, have
been oppressed by religion, as have blacks,
women, children, and others. They deserve
a place in our community. They are human
beings.
Mr. Nuerenberg displays intolerance more
befitting a Christian than an Atheist. I have a
question for him - is your hatred of homosexuality a left-over from religion? Are you
sure you are REALLY an Atheist?
Jeff Governale
Illinois

The American Atheist

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


May I tell you the best regards from
Finland from the members of Finlands Freethinkers and from myself, too. At the same
time I would like to thank You for the
"American Atheist" you sent me. I've been
very keen on reading it and I appreciate your
work very much, Your paper is made very
well and it is fullof interesting articles. I have
sent some of them to the Freethinkers
Union of Finland to promote our work here
in Finland.
I am very happy that we met at Helsinki in
1983, when the Third World Atheist Conference was held here. For us it was a very
important conference and I hope it gave
something also to the international Atheist
movement. As I could read from the American Atheist about your Function in USA, I
was very happy to notice that your work is
very important and useful for the whole
world and especially for the Atheists of all
countries. I wish to you and all American
Atheists everything good for the future and
success in your work. I hope our cooperation between you and we here in Finland will
go on!
Pentti Suksi
Finland

c.,.,)

Within this day of the receipt of the


October issue of your magazine, I shall with
dispatch register with you my repugnance
for the insert appearing under the rubric,
POTPOURRI, and titled THE SUPREME
TESTES. The image of the printed snippet
has the indigenous quality of bestial inhumanity.
I am disgraced by having received into my
home, this month, the American Atheist
Journal bearing such kind of unenlightening, loathsome item.
Elendra S. Stahn
Minnesota

In your article, "National Bible Week


Infringing your Rights", you quote Lev 11:20.
This paragraph (verse, if you insist) mentions "fowls that creep, going on all four".
The writer calls this statement ludicrous,
but fails to elaborate. Had he checked out
Deut 14:17, he would have discovered its
true significance. "Of all clean birds ye shall
eat. But these are they of which ye shall not
eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage (lists 19
different raptors) and the bat". The four
legged "fowl" is, in fact, the bat. Notice that
the jerk who wrote this did not know that
the bat is a mammal, not a bird! Even the
most casual of observations willshow that a
bat is much different from any bird, "clean"
or otherwise. Since God created bats, you'd
Austin, Texas

certainly think He would have remembered


that littledetail while"inspiring" His Scripture.
During Bible Week, many of you willhear
some Reverend claim that the Bible is free of
error. At college, I met a Bible-thumper who
told me that the Bible was the only ancient
book containing no scientific errors. He
further claimed that whenever anyone
claimed otherwise, he handed that person a
Bible to actually prove it. So far, he said, no
one had been successful. I took him up on
his proposition and pointed out the paragraphs you mentioned, plus the one from
Deuteronomy. Somehow I never got to tell
him about the geocentric solar system mentioned in Joshua 10:12-13.
Joe T. Penrod
Ohio

Scenario
(If the bible said "all red-headed folks are
demonically possesed and must be incarcerated for three years) and (the U.S. govt
passed a law that all red-headed children
would be jailed from ages 18 thru 21), this
would be (just another) clear cut case of
entanglement and contrary to the establishment clause perpetrated by the theists.
Therefore it is incumbant upon atheists to
(1) be against the U.S. law
(2) be against the sick religious (passage)
(3) in our kindness we should protect and
take the - "red-headed" person(s) under
our wing.
We should rejoyce in our convictions no
matter how repugnant "red-headed" folks
are to the majority (moral or otherwise). We
should cherrish our new-found comradery
and never let them be discriminated against
again.
Were we to respond with antiseptic statements like "we cannot patrol the hair salons
of America" or "one's hair color is just a
matter of personal prefence and ifthey don't
want to be persecuted they could die it." or
"at this stage of organizational infancy it
would be ii-advised to take on a controversial issue". This would be irresponsible.
In this fight our resources would not be
divided, they would grow with a snow-ball
effect: yet this is what we have done to the
homosexual.
Richard Curtis
Texas

First, for A. Medwin: If you don't write


your views to your politicians, they'll never
know you're out there, as the National
Office . . . has reminded us several times.
Also, by giving your views, you're adding
one more element to their(uh), thinking, if,
ever so brief, who knows what might happen, ifit was done often, and by up to 25%of
their constituancy?
I don't think we should concede anything
to the religious! The Washingtons, Jeffersons, Paines, Lincolns, etc, lived as men of
their times. But, they had Atheistic ideas,
and were sometimes treated as Atheists of
their times. If it weren't for such men, and,
the ones before them we overt Atheists,
today, would be in "a closet's closet" ....or
hung!
For S. Becker: So there are nit-pickers as
Atheists?! To Answer "all that", God is
Man's concept of the unexplainable - it
becomes habitual for lazy minds.
My first Idea is, when and ifyou get room,
run a page or two as a column titled "YOUR
TURN", or, some-such, for the long letters,
such as S. Becker's, that might have something of concern to atheists. True, his seemed
like long-winded nit-picking, to me. One a
month, or one quarterly, What-ev-er ....
Idea #2, again deals with space. A column
like "FORUM NEWSFRONT", in "PLAYBOY". Just run several of these short
articles, no comment on a page, once monthly, or quarterly?
Al Davis
Indiana

NOTICE
Letters to the Editor must be either
questions or comments of general
concern to Atheists or Atheism.
Submissions should be brief and
to the point. Space limitations allow
that each letter should be 200 words, or
preferably less. Please confine
your letters to a single issue only.
Mail them to:
American Atheists
PO Box 2117
Austin, TX 78768-2117
Thank you.

I'd like to answer two letters in November's issue,. make a couple of suggestions,
and am enclosing one of those clippings you
never get enough of.
January, 1985

Page 39

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15th Annual National Convention


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AMERICAN ATHEISTS
Register now to attend this meeting of Atheists in
the nation's ATHElSTcapitol- AUSTIN, TEXAS.

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Date: APRIL 5,6 & 7,1985

U
T
A

Write to:
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January, 1985

Couple - $35.00

The American Atheist

Help Children IIGrow Up"


Mythologitis is not an illness easily cured! Neither is it one casually gained. It is
chronic in nature and infectuous through innocent trust. No child ever wrote a book
of fairy tales nor did children invent the fictitious characters therein. Goblins and
gods have always been the irrational products of primitive "adult" brains which
were then poured into the absorbent minds of infants .
. Be forewarned of the tactics used by the "elders" - the inventors of witches,
warlocks and - the most dangerous monsters of all - the warriors!
Read these Atheist books which are conscientiously designed for the naturally
inquiring minds of children.

ATHEISM AND CHILDREN

an A.THEIST
PRIMER

(ten essays from the American Atheist)

Did you know


all the gods
came from
the same
place?
by

Madalyn
Murray
O'Hair
Illustrated by Joe Kirby

FREEDOM OF THE MIND FOR CHILDREN

All children are born as Atheists. That is, they are born without
a religion, just as they are born
without a language. Religion, like
language, is a learned thing, not an
inherited one. You can inherit
your skin color, or eye color, or
height or any of a number of other
physical characteristics. Inheritance of behavioral characteristics
is still debatable in Scientific circles. It is known, however, that
you don't inherit your religion in a
genetic sense. Religion is a learned
thing. Therefore, your religion, like
your language, is for the most part
an accident.
The term "born again christian" .
which is now in vogue is, then, a
misnomer. Since everyone is an
Atheist at birth and later acquires
religion as a learned thing, he or
she could only then correctly be a "born again Atheist" if, that is, the
"born-again" anything concept is valid.
On the basis of experience most persons teach their children to
brush their teeth regularly. Then, on the basis of experience, why not
counsel children against a philosophical bent which will cause them
unpleasantness later on? The essays from various points of view in
this book willgive you some food for thought.

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