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f Atheist News a

A Journa I O

nd Thought

August. 1985




Court Era)
See page 5




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

August, 1985

Vol. 27, No.8

American Atheist
A Journal

of Atheist


and Thought

Editorial: America Taken Hostage - Jon G. Murray

Ask AA
News and Comments: The End of A Supreme Court Era
Pedophilic Priests
The U.S.S.c. Takes A Day Off
Epicurus, Forerunner of Jesus - T. A Stroud
The Vatican and Reagan Against Liberation Movements and Liberation Theology - Lukas T. Schmid
The Grip of Mormon Patriarchy - Shelley Spear



Historical Notes
An Acorn Is Not An Oak Tree- Frank R. Zindler
Jainism - Margaret Bhatty
Thinking Is Believing - Madalyn O'Hair
Me Too - Michael Hakeem
Book Reviews
Letters to The Editor
Classified Ads
Reader Service
On the cover:

This being the month of August, let's consider momentarily another use of the word august - i.e., awe- inspiring, admirable, majestic or
venerable. It has long been considered that the governments
of nations should be" august" bodies - especially the judicial branches thereof. The courts
were supposedly intended to be just; to administer fair treatment of individuals under the established laws of their respective nations. They were to reflect
unbiased judgements in a civilized and scholarly manner so as to further the pleasurable existence of the people and to protect the lives and property of all
- including, of course, even those minorities and/or "offenders" within the various cultures claiming to have social integrity. Unfortunately,
from time to
time, some such judicial bodies fail - miserably! Certain of these "experts" of justice become obsessed with their power and authority. They, seeking
reliqious- like adoration from their charges, play to the popular demands of special factions within the society - willingly catering to whatever inequitable
prejudices are strongest or more aggressive. You've seen this happen time and again in the annals of history. It is happening today in America - the
"home of the free and the brave." We would be wise to observe, very closely, the activities of our now right-wing fundamentalist
judges who are traveling a
path that angles away from true honesty and integrity, lest our "august" courts become cesspools of bigotry and favoritism.
G. Tholen

Editor/Robin Murray-O'Hair, Editor Emeritus/Madalyn O'Hair, Managing Editor/Jon G. Murray, Assistant Editor/Gerald Tholen, Poetry/Angeline Bennet,
Gerald Tholen, Production
Staff/Bill Kight, Claudia Kweder, Sandra M. P.
McGann, Laura L. Morgenstern, John Sherrill, Gloria Tholen, Non-Resident Staff
/Lowell Newby, Merrill Holste, Margaret Bhatty, Fred Woodworth, Frank R. Zindler.

The American Atheist magazine

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Monthly Periodical Index
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copyright 1985 by Society of Separationists, Inc.

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Mail to - American Atheists, P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117

Austin, Texas

August, 1985

Page 1


the past several weeks prior to
Overthe writing
of this editorial our nation

has once again been engulfed in the media

spectacular of yet another situation involving American citizens taken hostage abroad.
In the midst of the hoopla and the rush to
"expert" opinions we seem to have lost sight
of some basics. The largest portion of the
group of persons recently taken hostage on
a TWA flight out of Athens were Roman
Catholic religious pilgrims, of a sort, on their
way back from a visit to Rome, their holy
land. This means that from an Atheist viewpoint we had a situation of one group of
religious fanatics holding another group of
religious fanatics hostage: Moslems holding
Christian, mostly Roman Catholic, hostages.
In addition, Jews on board the airliner were
singled out for special attention. There is a
meaning to this observation that our American media is reluctant to point out. The
meaning is that the basic conflict in the Middle East right now has its foundation in differences of religious faith. Certainly politics
and territorialism enters into the roots of the
violence somewhat, but those politics are
based on the positions of theocratic states
and the territorial disputes are based on holy

our government chose to take sides in this

religious dispute, their powerlessness was
apparent to the small nations and small
groups then and since in conflict. The United States, by its intervention, laid itself open
for these smaller, nearly impotent, less-wellorganized groups, to seek to take pecks at it,
striking here and there where they could
with a hand bomb, a tiny determined group
of young martyrs, a dynamite-filled truck, a
quick flurry of gun shots down a city street.
What chance has a sparrow against a hawk?
Ultimate, manageable, vulnerable targets
had to be found which would give the groups
some leverage with the giant which had
intruded into their area. These were, finally,
our citizens, our non-civilian personnel, who
were caught in the middle there to be used
as pawns in the deadly game of hostage
standoff. Who indeed do we expect any
brand of Moslems in the Middle East to dislike when they know that every time an
enemy jet strafes their villages, or an enemy
tank rolls across their border, that it is either
U. S. made or U. S. financed? The other
superpower with interests in the area is not
backing the Moslem side of the dispute to
anywhere near the extent monetarily, militarily, or otherwise that we are backing our
chosen side.

The Irrational Politics of Religions

Impotence of Minorities
When disputes between either individuals
or nations are based on religion, they are
more emotional and irrational than disputes
based on economics or territorialism alone.
The very nature of religion is irrationalism,
and irrational thinking is a catalyst for emotional and erratic behavior. This has been
demonstrated throughout history - that
persons are able to slaughter one another
with more vigor and with more frequency
over religious differences than any other.
The current war between Iran and Iraq is a
good modern example.
We Americans then wonder why our travelers, military, or consulate personnel are
targets for hostage-takers. The answer is
simple. We have chosen to enter into an
essentially religious dispute and to take the
side of one particular religion, giving the
theocracy governed by that particular side
of the question the monetary and technical
support of an international superpower, in a
geographical area which is strife-ridden with
small nations' disputes. No other superpower has inserted itself in the area. When

Page 2

Thus we can see that America has generated with its own actions the hatred that
eventually comes to a head in a hostage
situation. Even when the side of the religious
question that we chose to back does something of equal or greater "wrongness" compared to the taking of a few innocent persons, we turn our back and pretend not to
see what has taken place. A case in point is
that Israel had held over seven hundred
Moslems in military prison camps for years,
against international law and without benefit
of a trial. The persons holding the American
hostages were involved in standoff negotiations for a matter of weeks with the stated
object of pressuring Israel into releasing
their fellows. But the lesson cries out - to
reach to Israel it was necessary to peck as
hard as possible at its superpower ally,
We must also keep in mind that both the
United States and the side that we back in
the Middle East refuse to directly negotiate
with the other side. By refusing to negotiate

August, 1985

we force adherents of the other side of the

religious issue to take drastic measures to
force us, and Israel, into dialogue - to force
us to listen to their complaints. An openminded negotiation process with all parties
involved meeting face to face would lessen
the amount of terrorism in the area. When
the white majority allowed no voice or civic
representation to the Black minority in this
country, what did the Black minority do?
They rioted. They did so because they had
no other choice. They were denied any voice
through regular "civilized" channels and
thus could not be heard. The same is true in
the Middle East.
In the wake of the recent TWA hostage
situation Americans are calling en masse for
military retaliation against Moslem communities by the U. S. military. Such retaliation will
not solve any of the problems in the area and
will only make the Moslem communities
hate America that much more and make
them that much more determined to respond with like retaliatory violence. Only the
retaliation willbe on a level of lesser sophistication since that is the level at which they
find themselves in this unequal battle.


Throughout all the media attention given

to this most recent hostage situation something occurred to me that was a revelation of
sorts, if Atheists can have such things. We
decry the taking of hostages or we belittle
the nations which we claim keep their citizens as perpetual hostages, while at the
same time we keep one another, here at
home, hostage as well.
I know that at this point you must be .
thinking, "What does he mean - we hold
one another hostage? What is he talking
about?" It is really very simple when you
think about it. Let me explain. To do so I
must digress slightly. During the recent hostage situation with the TWA passengers, a
number of radio talk shows around the
country were talking about something they
labeled the "Stockholm syndrome." This refers to the phenomenon of persons who are
held hostage hearing only one side of an
issue pumped into them over and over again
while they are being held, until at some point
in their bondage they begin to agree Withand
even support the side of their captors. A
classic example in the United States was
that of Patty Hearst. It is well documented

American Atheist

that persons tend to identify with their

oppressors after a period of time. This sort
of thinking has only been applied to relatively small groups of persons held in close confinement in the past. Why could it not, however, be applied on a larger basis?
We, here in this country, are exposed to
only one side of many issues. We are
exposed to a single view of what is alleged to
be the best world economic system, the best
world social structure, the most desirable
world stance on religion, the best world
mode of dress, the best world diet, and
much more. The way in which Americans
are involved in all of these facets of culture is
supposed to be the best for all persons no
matter where located. We come quickly to
believe that every person in the world should
emulate our position in regard to many
issues or our conduct in many, if not all, of
these areas. We all participate in a sociocultural monitoring of one another. We are
all very concerned, whether we like to admit
it or not, with the image in the mind of others: What willthe neighbors say if I am seen
doing this, or wearing that, or driving this, or
heard saying something not in agreement
with stated beliefs?
What Will "They" Think
When we go to work we are wary of our
coworkers and we constantly think, "What
willthey think of me if I do or wear or say so
and so?" This is particularly acute among
persons of a minority race, religion, or viewpoint. Atheists are one such group. Every
Atheist I have ever met in this country is
worried constantly about what others will
think about the fact that (s)he does not
"believe in god." It does not matter ifthis fear
is expressed or not or even ifthe individuals
are aware that they have such a fear. Every
Atheist I have ever met does. I do myself.
Whenever I am asked by a perfect stranger
in the course of a conversation that is struck
up - say, on a public conveyance - "What
do you do? Where do you work?" I have a
built-in hesitation factor while the thought
races through my brain, "What will (s)he
think of me when I answer this question?" I
know that I may be rejected out -of-hand as a
human being simply because of the label that
I carry. I will have no chance to get across
what kind of person I am, what my value
systems are, what my personality is really
like. If I want to be able to idly chat with the
person for several hours while we are in
transit, I might say, "I am a corporate
officer." If they push for information, I can
add," ... in a publishing company." We can
get back then to a normal, even trivial, pleasant conversation. It has been very hard for
me to make myself overcome that hesitation
factor and just blurt right out, "I am an Atheist activist," for example. Being a reasonably
prudent man, I know the consequences of

making such a statement.

We all find ourselves in similar situations
at our places of employment. We must have
a working relationship with fellow employees in such a situation and we cannot jeopardize that fragile niche, job security, by
revealing that about ourselves which is not
acceptable to others in the work place. We
also find ourselves confronted with the same
thing while socializing with friends. Desiring
their company, wanting human interchange,
we are constrained to withhold our opinions
while with them. We keep asking ourselves
with relatives, subconsciously, "What will
they think?" when we have deviated from a
norm to which we know they adhere. Most
of all, during our school days, during those
years when we are in educational institutions, we are particularly trapped into tailoring our personal habits, mannerisms, and
responses to the perceived desires or norms
of others. Thus we hold our own uniqueness
hostage to the interpretations and judgments of others.
There are those of us then who come
along from time to time who participate in
this hostage role to a much lesser degree
than others. Such persons are often looked
upon as crude, indecent, abrasive, pushy,
intolerant, antisocial (and a host of other
adjectives) because they act with some
degree of spontaneity, failing to hold back
for that small moment of "What will they
think of me?"
The Beam in Our Eyes
We look on the television and see throngs
of Iranian women in chadors and say, "How
can they wear those things?" while each and
everyone of us have our own psychological
chadors. We do not realize that the Iranian
women can and do subject themselves to
wearing the physical chadors for the same
reason that women in this country subjected
themselves to wearing anatomically unsound
footwear for years. They hold themselves
hostage to the "what willothers think of me"
syndrome. When I go out on
engagement, I wear a conservative, good,
business suit. I am uncomfortable in suits,
and I really don't like neckties either, especially in hot climates. I wear a suit so that my
physical appearance will not overshadow
what Ihave to say at the podium in the minds
of the audience. It is part of my speech, in a
sense, like an actor wearing a period costume in a play. I do not want to appear in
attire that is sufficiently deviant from the
norm to shift the attention of my audience
from what I am saying to what I am wearing.
This is different than wearing a particular
kind of clothing out of fear of what others will
think of you as a person. I know how
extraordinarily radical my verbal presentation is, and in these instances I want the
audience to have the opportunity to listen to

me, to accept or reject my ideas on their own

merits. I want a fighting chance. A lecture
situation gives that to me.
In all of the above instances, however,
there is no hope to explicate one's position.
A chance remark at work, a passing statement to someone whose company one is in
for a short period, a sentence or two at a
social function, a quip while with relatives, all
can develop quickly into a debacle from
which one cannot easily extricate oneself.
Therefore, we dissemble. We are all guilty of
deceit. We permit each person we meet to
think that we share the common, communal, ideas of the cultural pool in which we are
then located. It comforts me somewhat to
rationalize that we do so because in each
such situation we know we do not have the
"fighting chance" we need to make our positions known in such a way that they would,
by their overpowering logic, be accepted by
I think that we must all ponder the question of what does it say about us that we are,
in essence, "thought policemen or policewomen" in the minds of those around us?
Each of us is keeping those we contact in line
and they are keeping us in line. Our culture
would never change ifit were not for the very
few in each generation who break this circle
from time to time. No one breaks free from it
totally. It is just that some persons participate in it one hundred percent and others in
lesser percentages. It is those of us who
break out from time to time of the caring of
what others think of us who deliver hostage
people from the terror of conformity. Often
the break comes in regard to specific topics
that change society for better - or for
worse. We then simply carry the one hundred percenters along in our wake.
To Sum It Up
We wonder why people take other persons hostage in the physical sense to aid
them in a political or a religious dispute while
we are all in a sense hostages within our
cultures and in our relationships with one
another. Why should it be more wrong for
one person to hold another hostage with a
gun than to hold another hostage through
psychological or social fear? We must start
both individually and as a nation to look at
those things that we do for fear of what
others willthink or say just as closely as we
look at what we do when someone has a gun
in our face. I think that it is equally as bad for
us to hold ourselves hostage to the thoughts
of those around as it is for someone to overt1yhold us - you or me - hostage with a
gun. We should all remember that the next
time we find ourselves thinking less of someone because they have transgressed a social
norm or find ourselves in the grip of hesitation over what others will think of us in
return. That should not be part of an Atheist
(Cont'd on

Austin, Texas

August, 1985



Page 3

In Letters to the Editor, readers give
.their opinions, ideas, and in/ormation.
But in "Ask A.A." American Atheists
answers questions regarding its policies, positions, and customs, as well as
queries of factual and historical situations.

While I am no science-fiction "buff," I have

always enjoyed the series Star Trek. Sure,
it's often a thinly disguised morality play, but
it does go well with late night popcorn and
Now some friends have told me that the
show was once censored by theists somewhere in the South. Is this true? I can't
imagine any scenes that could be considered
spicy or controversial.
Jorge Orton
It may be hard to believe, but it is true. In
1977, KXTX- TV, Channel 39, of the DallasFort Worth Metroplex area censored eight
key episodes in its re-run series.
KXTX- TV was an affiliate of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), a Virginia-based evangelical company. Its purpose was - in the words of the station
manager - to "spread the gospel of Jesus
Christ." The main avenue of approach for
this purpose was slickly produced programming, featuring live faith healing, ceo
lebrity talk shows, and rock'n'roll-like gos
pel music. It also aired, however, nonreligious programming, mainly syndicated
re-runs. The station's plan was that unsaved viewers would tune in for Petticoat
Junction or Marcus Welby, M.D. and remain long enough to catch the commercials
for religious products and perhaps a gospel
show. The station manager said "Frankly,
we use them as bait." One of the baits
selected by this station was Star Trek.
Star Trek often explored the possible
effects that contact with alien cultures might
have on traditional human values, but this
exploration, and the occasional resulting
criticism of present political and religious
systems, fit well within the harsh standards
that the NBC of the 1960s set for its shows.
It was not, however, the vaguely "liberal"
religious stance of the series which upset
KXTX-TV but Star Trek's depictions of
things resembling occult forces, demonic
possession, and witchcraft. .
Seven shows were originally struck from
the re-run cycle. They were: "Where No

Page 4

Man Has Gone Before," Star Trek's second

pilot episode, in which ESP and telekenesis
were shown; "Wolf In The Fold," which
features an incorporeal murderer, once
known as Jack the Ripper, who borrows
bodies and literally feeds on terror; "The
Lights of Zetar," in which a young woman is
possessed by a disembodied and migratory
intelligence; "Return to Tomorrow," wherein highly advanced and very old beings take
over Captain Kirk's and Dr. McCoy's
bodies; "Catspaw," a seasonal, Halloween
episode complete with witches, wizards,
and various spooks; "Private Little War"
starring a sorceress with a penchant for
ritual incantations; and "And The Children
Shall Lead Them," in which children are
found playing among their parents' bodies
and using a chant to summon an evil
Once the local Star Trek fans noticed the
missing episodes, a protest was mounted.
KXTX- TV relented somewhat; six of the
shows would be shown. "And The Children
Shall Lead Them" was still on the blacklist,
however. According to the May, 1977 issue
of Starlog, the station programming director
felt that the airing of the show would
increase the "likelihood that children watching the program might be led into believing
that they can conjure up evil spirits." At this
point, however, the station cut a sequence
out of "The Menagerie" which featured a
Orion slave girl, a green temptress possessing charms that any man would literally
find irresistable.
Not surprisingly, the station manager
expressed firm approval of "Bread and
Circuses," an often violent episode which
revolved around the Christian-likf'! "followers of the sun. "

You say that the American Atheist magazine is in about nine hundred libraries across
the nation. Well, it isn't in mine! Why don't
you have it in all of them? How can Ihelp?
Lizzie Hill
If one considers that in the history of the
United States no out-out-out Atheist magazine was ever permitted into either public
libraries or in colleges and universities, our
record is excellent. As a matter of fact it is
typical that American Atheists breaks ground
for the first time everywhere and then
scattered little groups of not-so-brave lesser

August, 1985

persons follow in its wake .

American Atheists had to sue in federal
court in order to establish a precedent so
that magazines concerned with Atheism
would not continue to suffer discrimination
and rejection.
Patricia Voswinkel, Director of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Chapter of American
Atheists, together with the national organization, filed suit in the U. S. District Court
for the Western District of North Carolina
to bring this precedent in 1978. The Public
Library (system) of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County were charged with having
refused to receive and display the magazine. The result of the suit was that the
library system agreed to accept the American Atheist and to display it in a manner
comparable to that of religious periodicals
received by the library. The magazine was
to be treated upon the same basis as those
representing the viewpoint of organized
religion. The Court Order was signed by the
federal judge on October 12, 1978.
If you want the American Atheist magazine in your local library, go and ask the
periodicals department to order it. If it
declines, write and ask for a copy of the
case of Patricia Voswinkel and American
Atheists v, County of Mecklenburg and the
Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. All you need to do is to show
this federal case to your local library: ifyour
library accepts and displays religious magazines it must also accept and display the
American Atheist.
Many libraries are suffering "hard times"
with the cut-backs to public institutions
which the Reagan Administration
caused. If they cannot pay for the subscription - will you pay for it? Write and ask
about "library rates."
Help is needed. Most often American
Atheists finds that if someone will go to a
library and either inform or request, the
information that such a magazine is available and that a library client requests it are
all that is needed. The librarians are most
often pleased to know there is such a
journal and pleased to have it. When libraries never hear from anyone the librarians feel there is no interest. Show the
interest and the result willbe a happy one all
the way around.
All you need to do is advise us the name of
the person to whose attention we need to
start sending the magazine, how the library
desires to be billed, or if it is your treat, send
a check or money order.
We thought you would never ask!!

American Atheist


Jefferson's Wall of Separation
between State and Church
On July 1, 1985, the U. S. Supreme Court
handed down two rulings having to do with
the Title Iprogram of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965, under
which the churches of the United States
have been accommodated with tax money
for many of their educational programs. A
small thin rank of concerned activists who
are motivated primarily against the Roman
Catholic Church receiving these grants has
kept up the good fight against such distribution of tax money for approximately twenty
years. They lose as often as they win and the
U. S. Supreme Court has toyed with nonsensical explanations for its decisions as it
has slowly eroded Jefferson's wall of separation between state and church.
The public school system of the United
States, depending primarily on funding from
local real estate taxes, had been underfinanced for two hundred years. During recent times since World War II, there had
been incessant knocking at the doors of the
federal government for aid. But an enormous drawback had been the intervention
of the Roman Catholic Church in the federal
political arena, with its minions deliberately
blocking the passage of a bill for such aid
unless the parochial schools of that church
were included in the largesse. Under the
Kennedy administration the battle was allayed since he had pledged, as a Roman
Catholic president, he would not not give
such special aid to the schools of his church.
Upon his death, Lyndon Baines Johnson
needed the Roman Catholic vote both to
shore up his administration and for reelection. He therefore compromised with
the church in order to obtain clear sailing for
the first large-scale federal aid to education
program. Under the program, from the
beginning, federal funds were sent to public
school districts, which were then required to
provide instruction - on an equal basis for impoverished children in both public and
parochial (religious) schools. At the time this
was felt to be a politically feasible way for
government to aid parochial-school students
without unconstitutionally subsidizing the
propagation of religion. Knowing full well
that such aid (given under even the guise of
aid to impoverished children) was in fact in

Austin, Texas

derogation of the concept of separation of ment. In order to effectuate the desired end
state and church, various schemes for the
of direct tax money aid to the churchdistribution of the funds were undertaken in schools, elaborate schemes have been made
hundreds of school districts - and were in a and peculiar definitions have been coined to
number of instances immediately chal- pretend that the tax aid does not directly or
lenged. In a series of what is called case-byindirectly assist the churches which own and
case First Amendment jurisprudence, the . operate the schools in question. This is, of
U. S. Supreme Court has timidly ap- course, patently absurd. Religion is aided.
proached this unsettling educational probThe Court, forced into a review of these
lem, slowly but certainly backing away from state laws because of litigation brought by
a "strict construction" of the First Amend- opponents of such aid, has slowly permitted
ment "wall of separation" as more and more
the states to provide church-related schools
pressure has been brought for increasing aid with secular, neutral, or nonideological servto religion in the "school cases." The two ices, facilities, or materials such as bus
recent cases are but two in a series which transportation,
school lunches, public
have come to the Court during the twenty
health services, and secular textbooks. All
years since the passage of the Elementary
such outreaches have provided for careful
and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
governmental controls and surveillance by
state authorities in order to ensure that state
The Problem:
aid supports only secular education, knowTax Money Aid to Church Schools
ing full well that with church-related schools
there is no part of the program which is not
All concerned know that there is a politi- integrated with religious ideology. The applical fight headed by the Roman Catholic
cation of all of these "aid" programs to
Church to obtain tax funding for its schools.
parochial schools and the Court's carefully
Equally well known is the fact that the legal structured arguments which permit them to
and logical arguments against such financial continue have been, of necessity, simply
aid have slowly been lost. American Atheists
elaborate exercises in deceit.
feel this has occurred since none of the politBecause of this, the U. S. Supreme Court
ical institutions in the United States, includ- itself has had to coin phrases to explain away
ing the U. S. Supreme Court, has had courits lack of courage to face the issue. One
age enough to say openly that religion
such has been the "child aid" theory which
should not be subsidized because it it inherpretends that the church-related schools do
ently insane and inimicable to the human
not benefit from the tax dollars - only the
spirit. As long as our culture continues to
little children do.
treat religion not alone as a beneficence but
In the cases, Aguilar v. Felton and School
as an actual necessity for humanity, it can
District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball,
hardly then deny tax monetary assistance to
we see the same convoluted reasoning at
its institutions.
work. And this time both cases were reUnder pressures from the Roman Cathosolved by a frail majority, 5-4. In both Brenlic Church and its adherents, political subdinan delivered the opinion of the Court in
visions of our nation (the states) have passed
which Marshall, Blackmun, Powell and
laws enlarging the area of state aid to the
Stevens joined. The dissents were by Burger,
church-schools, usually drawing in part upon
White,Rehnquist, and O'Connor. The victhe funding provided by the federal governtory against tax aid to church-related

August, 1985



schools, if it can be called that, is slim, and
the language of the cases does not give adequate solace to those who desire to see a
continuation of separation between religion
and government
As has been usual in recent history President Reagan again ordered the Department
of Justice of the United States to file an
amicus curiae brief on behalf of the religious
institutions in both cases.

Aguilar v. Felton
Majority Opinion of The Court
written by
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
In the first, Aguilar u. Felton, we find that
New York City uses federal funds under
Title I to pay the salaries of public school
employees who teach in parochial (that is,
religious) schools in that city. Federal financial assistance is authorized since this arrangement is said to meet the needs of
educationally-deprived children from lowincome families. New York City makes the
teacher assignments, pays the teachers'
salaries, and supervises the teachers by
unannounced monitoring visits to the classes
at least once a month. The funds are appropriated in accordance with programs proposed by local educational agencies and
approved by state educational agencies.
New York City has been providing such
instructional services funded by Title I to
parochial school students on the premises of
parochial schools since 1966. Of those entitled to receive such funds in 1981-1982, 13.2
percent were enrolled in private schools. Of
that group, 84 percent were enrolled in the
schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of New York and the Roman
Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, and 8 percent
were enrolled in Hebrew day schools.
In both the Hebrew and the Roman Catholicschools, the lower courts found that there
was "a system in which religious considerations playa key role in the selection of students and teachers and which has as its
substantial purpose the inculcation of religious values."
The programs conducted at these religious schools include remedial reading, reading skills, remedial mathematics, English as a
second language, and guidance services. All
material and equipment used in the programs funded under Title I are supplied by
the Government and are used only in those
programs. The administrators of the paro-

Page 6

chial schools are required to clear the classrooms used by the public school teachers of
all religious symbols.
In 1978, six taxpayers started a legal challenge to the practice in a federal District
Court alleging that the Title I program
administered by New York City violated the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of. the United
States. They sought specifically to enjoin the
further distribution of funds to the programs
involving instruction on the premises of the
religious schools. The case continued for
seven years before the July 1st decision. The
lower District Court held for the program
and against the taxpayers. The Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the
decision, holding that "the Establishment
Clause ... constitutes an insurmountable
barrier to the use of federal funds to send
public school teachers and other professionals into religious schools to carryon
instruction. "
The U. S. Supreme Court granted certiorari (review) in 1984, and the case was heard
in argument, together with a similar one
from Michigan, on December 5th.
The distinguishing feature of the New
York City case was the use of supervision to
prevent the Title Iprogram from being used,
intentionally or unwittingly, to inculcate the
religious beliefs of the surrounding parochial
school. But it was just this which the Court
immediately saw as being an excessive entanglement of church and state. The entanglement factor, the Court said, was rooted in
two concerns:
(1) When the state becomes enmeshed with a given denomination,
the freedom of religious belief of those
who are not adherents of that denomination suffers.
(2) The freedo~ of even the adherents of the denomination is limited by
the governmental intrusion into sacred matters.
Quoting from a prior (1975) case, the
Court stated, "The prophylactic contacts
required to ensure that teachers play a
strictly non ideological role, ... necessarily
give rise to a constitutionally intolerable
degree of entanglement between church
and state."
The Court also had sustained (1976) state
programs of aid to religiously affiliated institutions of higher learning (colleges), because
the institutions were not, allegedly, "pervasively sectarian (i.e., religious)" and because
the aid was allegedly for nonsectarian (nonreligious) purposes. In those cases, supervision was unnecessary to ensure that the
grants were not being used to effect a reli-

August, 1985

gious end. So, a test was laid down as to

what activity was "entanglement" of the
state with religion: the ability of the State to
identify and subsidize separate secular functions carried out at the school, without onthe-site inspections being necessary to prevent diversion of the funds to sectarian
In the case of New York City, however,
elementary and secondary schools are involved and are found to have "as a substantial purpose the inculcation of religious values." The parochial schools receive funds
and report back to their affiliated church,
require attendance at church religious exercises, begin the 'school day (or class period)
with prayer, and grant preference in admission to members of the sponsoring religious
denominations. In addition, the Roman Catholic schools, which constitute the vast majority of the aided schools, are under the
general supervision and control of the local
The lower court found that the aid is provided in a pervasively sectarian environment
and that because the assistance is provided
in the form of teachers, ongoing monitoring,
and inspection is required to ensure the
absence of a religious message. In addition,
as the schools determine what is and what is
not a "religious symbol" which must be
removed from particular classrooms, they
must take guidance from the state as to what
is and what is not a religious symbol. In
addition, administrative personnel of the
public and the parochial school systems
must work together to resolve matters related to schedules, classroom assignments,
problems that arise in the implementation of
the program, requests for additional services, and the dissemination of information
regarding the program. Indeed, the aid program necessitates "frequent contacts between the regular and the remedial teachers
(or other professionals), in which each side
reports on individual student needs, problems encountered, and results achieved."
The Court then emphasized that the
"neutrality" in matters religious, which prior
cases had defined, had an objective "to prevent, as far as possible, the intrusion of
either (Church or State) into the precincts of
the other." In New York City "the picture of
state inspectors prowling the halls of parochial schools and auditing classroom instruction surely raises more than an imagined
specter of governmental 'secularization of a
creed.' "
Leaving the emphasis thus mainly on the
"entanglement test" of the Lemon tripartite
decision, the Court concluded that the City
of New York had "well-intentioned efforts"
but that these remained flawed both because of (1) the nature ofthe aid and (2) the

American Atheist


nature of the institution receiving the aid,
which implicated the constitutional principles that "neither the State nor Federal
Government shall promote or hinder a particular faith or faith generally through the
advancement of benefits or though the excessive entanglement of church and state in
the administration of those benefits."
The Court had half a dozen or more
carefully-reasoned prior cases which had
held substantially the same. It had chipped
away at the wall of separation between state
and church until that wall was a thin line. But
either the entire string of cases had to be
overturned at this point or this decision had
to be made. In addition, the Court has
neither a Jew nor a Roman Catholic on the
bench now. In an overwhelmingly Protestant nation which does not privately support
a system of Protestant schools, it voted
against the Lyndon Baines Johnson compromise of federal and state funding of
teachers in primarily Roman Catholic and
Jewish schools.

Concurring Opinion
Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
Powell made it plain that the prior decisions could not all be overridden. "I write to
emphasize additional reasons why precedents of this Court require us to invalidate
these . . . educational programs that concededly have 'done so much good and little,
if any, detectable harm.' " In a politically
astute statement, he first carefully commended the parochial school system by citing from one of the prior decisions which had
recognized "the important role" of such
schools. This cleverly put the entire Court
behind his statement.
Parochial schools, quite apart from
their sectarian purpose, have provided an educational alternative for millions of young Americans; they often
afford wholesome competition with
our public schools; and in some States
they relieve substantially the tax
burden incident to the operation of
public schools. The State has, moreover, a legitimate interest in facilitating education of the highest quality for
allchildren within its boundaries, whatever school their parents have chosen
for them.
It did not matter that none of the state-

Austin, Texas

ments were true when they were written by

the Court or even at this time. Religious
schools hardly offer "wholesome" or "high- .
est quality" education, nor do they, as taxexempt entities, relieve the tax burden incident to the operation of public schools.
Going from this false base Powell then
appeals to the fears of the Roman Catholics
and the Jews as he uses phrases such as
"the government surveillance required,"
"the active and extensive surveillance," and
"government involvement in religious life,"
which - presumably - religious institutions do not want or would avoid at any cost.
The risk of such onerous entanglement
with government, he states, is "compounded
by the risk of political divisiveness," "continuing political strife," and "political disagreement from taxpayers," which "is apt to lead
to strife and frequently strain a political system to the breaking point."
This should be a concern. In the case
there is no report on the cost of this program
either to federal taxpayers or to those in
New York City and state. After the decision,
however, the New York Times of July 2nd
reported: ''This year the New York City
Board of Education provided remedial services to 300,000 students with $198 million in
Federal aid; of this, $30 million was used to
teach 25,000 students in nonpublic [religious] schools." Although this massive financial assistance has been given since 1966, no
total dollar amount is reported elsewhere by
any media. Powell himself does not even hint
at how many hundreds of millions of dollars
the cost must have totaled. His remarks are
merely philosophical. He opines that it is not
the "indirect and incidental" benefit that
prior cases had approved. "Rather, by directly assuming part of the parochial schools'
education function, the effect of the Title I
aid is 'inevitably ... to subsidize and advance
the religious mission of sectarian schools.' "
What an artful way to avoid analyzing the
monetary costs!
Seeking a way for such aid by making it
"indirect" or "incidental," he suggests:
Nonetheless, .the Court has never
foreclosed the possibility that some
types of aid to parochial schools could
be valid under the Establishment
Clause. Our cases have upheld evenhanded secular assistance to both
parochial and public school children
in some areas. [Emphasis added Ed.] E.g., Mueller v. Allen, 463 U. S.
388 (1983) (Tax deductions for educational expenses); Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968) (provision of secular textbooks); Everson
v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1
(1947) (reimbursements for bus fare

August, 1985

to school). I do not read the Court's

opinion as precluding these types of
indirect aid to parochial schools. In
the cases cited, the assistance programs made funds available equally to
public and nonpublic schools without
entanglement .... If,for example, Congress could fashion a program of evenhanded financial assistance to both
public and private schools that could
be administered, without governmental supervision in the private schools,
so as to prevent the diversion of the
aid from secular purposes, we would
be presented with a different question.
As is often the case now, the Court or one
or several of its justices will thus suggest to
the religious partisans a better course of
action to obtain their ends. This, of course,
Powell did here.

.Dissenting Opinion
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger
Burger begins his dissent with a tearjerker. "The program at issue covers rernedial reading [which], for example, reaches
children who suffer from dyslexia, a disease
known to be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Many of these children now will not receive
the special training they need, simply because their parents desire that they attend
religiously affiliated schools." One is astonished that a Chief Justice of the U. S.
Supreme Court would stoop to this kind of
emotional bilge.
He goes on to say, along with Justice
White, that the decision is "contrary to the
long-range interests of the country."
"It borders on paranoia to perceive the ...
Bishop of Rome lurking behind programs
that are just as vital to the nation's schoolchildren as [and here he lashes out at
Powell's decision] are textbooks, ... transportation to and from school, ... and school
nursing services."
"We have frequently recognized that
some interaction between church and state
is unavoidable, and that an attempt to eliminate all contact between the two would be
both futile and undesirable." To bolster his
argument, he calls - as he loves to do upon the early fateful words, from the 1952
case Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, of
one who would later turnout to be a liberal
curmudgeon, Justice Douglas:
The First Amendment ... does not

Page 7


say that in every and all respects there
shall be a separation of Church and
State. . . . Otherwise the state and
religion would be aliens to each other
- hostile, suspicious, and even
He then sums up his own attitude and
The notion that denying these servo
ices to students in religious schools is
a neutral act to protect us from an
Established Church has no support in
logic, experience, or history. Rather
than showing the neutrality the Court
boasts of, it exhibits nothing less than
hostility toward religion and the chilo
dren who attend church-sponsored

from low-income families. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit such sorely
needed assistance .... "
It does not matter that this is not the issue.
Free secular education is available to all the
children in our nation, in neighborhood
schools. If parents are convinced by their
religion to disdain the public school system
and to send their children to private parochial schools, which function for the indoctrination of the children into the tenets of the
particular religion chosen by the parents, it
is the duty of the religion and the parents
who it has convinced to give adequate education to those children. Their choice has
been freely made.

Dissenting Opinion
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
(with whom Justice Rehnquist joins)

caused the professional educators in New

York City to inculcate religion in their classes
and that this is sufficient reason to have
them continue the exercise. The vast majority of the teachers (seventy-eight percent)
visit several different schools each week and
"... almost three-quarters of the instructors
do not share the religious affiliation of any
school they teach in." She points out that
the Court's decisions heretofore have not
barred remedial assistance to parochial
school children, but rather remedial assistance on the premises of the parochial
school. The classes prohibited, she notes,
would have survived the Court's entanglement scrutiny if they had been offered in a
neutral setting off the property of the private
She turns to an encouragement for the
church-related school partisans. "Impoverished children who attend parochial schools
may . . . continue to benefit from Title I
programs offered off the premises of their
schools - possibly in portable classrooms
just over the edge of school property."
Results of Decision

Dissenting Opinion
Justice Byron R. White
White has long been an enemy of the
Court's interpretation of the Establishment
Clause in the context of state aid to private
schools. He made this quite clear in his dissent to the original Lemon case with its tripartite test. Reaching, in a continuing way,
toward the "state's rights" and "local option" premises, he again stands his ground.
" ... I am satisfied that what the States
have sought to do in these cases is well
within their authority and is not forbidden by
the Establishment Clause."

- .-.

Dissenting Opinion
Justice William H. Rehnquist
Rehnquist immediately reaffirms the rage
he felt with the "Silent Prayer" case of Wallace v. Jaffree earlier in June. (See July,
1985, issue American Atheist, p. 8-9, 'The
Deceit of Silence.")
" . . . the Court takes advantage of the
'Catch-22~ paradox of its own creation, ...
whereby aid must be supervised to ensure
no entanglement but the supervision itself is
held to cause entanglement. The Court ...
strikes down non-discriminatory nonsectarian aid to educationally deprived chidren

Page 8

O'Connor, before she begins her analysis,

invents a new term, for she sees the New
York plan of aid to the church schools as
"benign cooperation between church and
That the principle of direct state aid to
parochial schools which furthers the religious mission of such schools is unconstitutional, she feels, is one with which she
agrees. In this case the Court has relied on
the test of such aid fostering excessive
government entanglement with religion. She
does not, however, care to speak to that
before first evaluating the Title I purpose.
The 89th Congress of the United States,
when it passed Title I in 1%5, recognized
that poor academic performance by disadvantaged children is a part of the cycle of
poverty. The Congress sought to break that
cycle by providing classes in remedial reading, mathematics, and English to disadvantaged children in religious as well as public
schools, provided such instruction was "not
normally provided by the nonpublic school."
The intent, she sees, was to aid needy children regardless of where they attend school.
She does not see, however, anything wrong
with the church-related schools failing or
declining to teach such subjects on their
own. Apparently the only persons concerned with poor academic performance in
the church-related school must, of necessity, be the state or the taxpayer, and they
must swoop to the rescue of the child even
within the walls of religious schools.
She notes that providing educational services on parochial school premises has not

August, 1985

This particular facet of the court case was,

of course, immediately seized upon by officials involved. The New York Times headlines on the day after the decision emphasized, "Ruling Means Cities Must Work Out
How to Get Help to Parochial Pupils." Indeed, one of the taxpayers who had brought
the original suit stated to the Times, "You
could serve the children after school on public school premises or in any public building.
You could do it weekends." And the program supervisers said that they were studying options, "These include off-site services,
educational television, and mobile vans. The
key to the whole thing is to come up with a
way that the services will be equitable." A
Pittsburgh Press editorial (in a city heavily
populated with Roman Catholics) suggested,
"Because school districts will still be obligated to offer remedial education to eligible
private - as well as public - school students, they willhave to establish new - and
perhaps costlier - alternatives, such as
week-end classes in public buildings or
bookmobile-style 'classrooms on wheels.'
The ironic result could be a greater financial
burden on public education." In Los Angeles,
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese spokesman claimed, "It is going to require the public school people to come up with some sort
of imaginative solution to get around this,
like offering the instruction at a neutral site
or in a mobile unit. Of course, they will be
more costly." Only the head of the American
Federation of Teachers had a sensible retort,
'The doors of the public schools are always

American Atheist


open to the parents of these children to
enroll in public schools." Another spokesman for the same group, the Director of
Public Relations, emphasized, "We want to
make it clear to parents that we stand ready
to serve them and that the public schools are
doing their job."
The reaction of Education Secretary William J. Bennett was typical of the Reagan
regime. "Today's Supreme Court decision,
clearly reflecting a hostility toward religion,
has made it vastly more difficult to provide
education services to some of America's
neediest schoolchildren. This is terrible."
And the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of
New York, stretching the truth as usual,
called the ruling "a blow to fairness and justice for poor and needy children in public as
wellas non public schools." [Emphasis added
School District of
The City of Grand Rapids v. Ball
The second decision handed down on the
same day had to do with Michigan schools.
The situation there was different. In the
school year 1976-1977 Community Education and Shared Time programs were instituted in the nonpublic (religious) schools of
Grand Rapids, Michigan. The state of Michigan requires all schools to present a "core
curriculum" of courses to their students for
the schools to be accredited by the state.
The subjects offered in the Shared Time
programs, intended to supplement the core
curriculum, are "remedial" and "enrichment" mathematics, "remedial" and "enrichment" reading, art, music, and physical
Shared Time teachers, however, were
full-time employees of the public schools
who moved from classroom to classroom
during the course of the school day. The
public schools also provides all the supplies,
materials, and equipment used in connection with Shared Time instruction.
The classes offered in the Community
Education Program, at the conclusion of the
regular school day, to both children and
adults, included arts and crafts, home economics, Spanish, gymnastics, yearbook
production, Christmas arts and crafts,
drama, newspaper, humanities, chess, model building, and nature appreciation. Community Education Teachers are part-time
public school employees, usually also employed full-time by the church-related
The Shared Time and Community Education Programs are both available at public
A public school employee, the program
Director, sends packets of course listings to

Austin, Texas

the religious schools before the school year

begins. Their administrators then decide
what courses they want to offer. The Director then works out an academic schedule for
each school. The physical classrooms to be
used are decided upon by the non public
school administrators.
The public school system pays the nonpublic schools for the use of the necessary
classroom space by entering into "leases" at
the rate of $6.00 per classroom per week.
Each room used has to be free of any crucifix, religious symbol, or artifact, although
such religious symbols are present in adjoining hallways, corridors, and other facilities
used in connection with the program
(teachers' rooms, libraries, lavatories). During the time that a given classroom is being
used in the programs, the teacher is required
to post the following sign:

No public school student ever attended

either a Shared Time or a Community Education class in a non public school.
Forty of the forty-one schools at which the
programs operate are sectarian in character. Twenty-eight are Roman Catholic, seven
are Christian Reformed, three are Lutheran,
one is Seventh-Day Adventist, and one is
Baptist. The large majority of the students
attending religious schools belong to the
denomination that controls the school. For
instance, approximately eighty-five percent
of the students at the Roman Catholic
schools are Roman Catholic.
Six taxpayers filed suit that the programs
violated the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment of the Constitution of the
United States. The District Court agreed
and enjoined further operation of the programs. The school district appealed, but a
divided panel of the Court of Appeals of the
Sixth Circuit affir.med the lower court decision and the U. S. Supreme Court granted
certiorari (review).

Majority Opinion of The Court

written by
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
The lower court had fo.und that the stu-

August, 1985

dents in the religious schools were assembled on the basis of religion without any
consideration of residence or school district
boundaries and that they were, therefore,
segregated by religion. Allthe schools shared
a deep religious purpose. The Roman Catholic school goal was for a Catholic education
as "a God oriented environment which permeates the total educational program, a
Christian atmosphere . . . a continuous
development of knowledge of the Catholic
.faith, its traditions, teachings, and theology." The Christian schools proclaimed "it is
not sufficient that the teachings of Christianity be a separate subject in the curriculum,
but the Word of God must be an aI/pervading force in the educational program."
Therefore, the lower court found that the
schools are "pervasively sectarian" and
. concluded "without hesitation that the purposes of these schools is to advance their
particular religions," and that "a substantial
portion of their functions are subsumed in
the religious mission."
The U. S. Supreme Court in its decision
begins with the statement that the Establishment Clause proscribes "sponsorship,
financial support, and active involvement by
the sovereign in religious activity," and
agrees that it has often grappled with the
problem of state aid to nonpublic, religious
schools. "Providing for the education of
schoolchildren is surely a praiseworthy purpose. But our cases have consistently recognized that even such a praiseworthy, secular purpose cannot validate government
aid to parochial schools when the aid has the
effect"of promoting a single religion or religion generally or when the aid unduly entangles the government in matters religious.
For just as religion throughout history has
provided spiritual comfort, guidance, and
inspiration to many, it can also serve powerfully to divide societies and to exclude those
whose beliefs are not in accord with particular religions or sects that have from time to
time achieved dominance."
The opening leaves one breathless; has
the U. S. Supreme Court finally come to its
senses? One can only read on with
"The solution to this problem adopted by
the Framers and consistently recognized by
this Courf is jealously to guard the right of
every individual to worship according to the
dictates of conscience while requiring the
government to maintain a course of neutrality among religions, and between religion
and nonreligion." [Emphasis added - Ed.]
But something is amiss, for then the court
goes on to articulate the tripartite test of

Page 9


First, the statute must have a secular
legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that
neither advances nor inhibits religion;
finally, the statute must not foster "an
excessive government entanglement
with religion."
"We have particulary relied on Lemon in
every case involving the sensitive relationship between government and religion in the
education of our children." Why, the court
has gone daft! Has it not read its own recent
decisions? But it continues. Both the District
Court and Court of Appeals found that the
purpose of the Community Education and
Shared Time programs was "manifestly
secular," and the Court agrees.
Both lower courts found that "a substantial portion of their (the schools) functions
are subsumed in the religious mission. And,
from this the court concludes that the challenged public-school programs operating in
the religious schools may impermissibly advance religion in three different ways.
First, the teachers participating in
the programs may become involved in
intentionally or inadvertently inculcating particular religious tenets or
Second, the programs may provide
a crucial symbolic link between government and religion, thereby enlisting - at least in the eyes of impressionable youngsters - the powers of
government to the support of the religious denomination operating the
Third, the programs may have the
effect of directly promoting religion by
impermissibly providing a subsidy to
the primary religious mission of the
institutions affected."
One concludes that some smart -ass law
clerk has written the decision and the justices have inadvertently signed it. These are
all "mays" and "maybes." They are not facts
discovered in the case. But, then the suppositioning goes on. Whereas most of the
instructors in the Shared Time program are
full-time teachers hired by the public school,
"virtually every Community Education
course . . . has an instructor otherwise
employed full time by the same nonpublic
school. These instructors, many of whom no
doubt teach in the religious schools precisely because they are adherents of the
controlling denomination and want to serve
their religious community zealously, are
expected during the regular school day to
inculcate their student with the tenets and
beliefs of their particular religious faiths. Yet

Page 10

the premise of the program is that those

instructors can put aside their religious convictions and engage in entirely secular Community Education instruction as soon as the
school day is over." But nothing in the case
has said that any of this occurs. This is all
speculation and, indeed, even an insult to
any professional teacher who might be thus
"The Court of Appeals of course recognized that respondents (the complaining
taxpayers) adduced no evidence of specific
incidents of religious indoctrination in this
case." Then in the face ofthat premise, undaunted, the Court goes on, "But the absence of proof of specific incidents is not
dispositive. When conducting a supposedly
secular class in the pervasively sectarian
environment of a religious school, a teacher
may knowingly or unwillingly tailor the content of a course to fitthe school's announced
goals." Here, the Court enters a NeverNever land for every school teacher in the
world may also unknowingly or wittingly
bring her own prejudicies and predispositions into the classrooms, particularly if in
agreement with those structured into the
school milieu. But the Court continues. "If
so, there is no reason to believe that this
kind of ideological influence would be detected or reported by students, by their parents, or by the school system itself. The
students are presumbly attending religious
schools precisely in order to receive religious instruction. After spending the balance of their school day in classes heavily
influenced by a religious perspective, they
would have little motivation or ability to discern improper ideological content that may
creep into a Shared Time or Community
Education course. Neither their parents nor
the parochial scools would have cause to
complain if the effect of the publicly supported instruction were to advance the
schools' sectarian mission. And the public
school system in itself has no incentive to
detect or report any specific incidents of
improper state-sponsored indoctrination.
Thus, the lack of evidence of specific incidents of indoctrination is of little significance." The Court, of course, would never
say in any other type of case that evidence is
of little significance, nor would it speculate
on possibilities only.
In order to focus on a primary reason for
rejecting the accommodations as unconstitutional the Court delivers its final attack, its
coup de grace. "Government promotes religion as effectively when it fosters a close
identification of its powers and responsibilities with those of any - or all - religious
denominations as when it attempts to inculcate specific religious doctrines. Ifthis identification conveys a message of government

August, 1985

endorsement or disapproval of religion, a

core purpose of the Establishment Clause is
violated ....
"It follows that an important concern of
the effects test is whether the symbolic
union of church and state effected by the
challenged governmental action is sufficiently likely to be perceived by adherents of the
controlling denominations as an endorsement, and by the nonadherents as a disapproval, of their individual religious choices ..

"In the programs challenged in this case,
the religious school students spend their typical school day moving between religiousschool and 'public-school' classes. Both type
of classes take place in the same religiousschool building and both are largely composed of students who are adherents of the
same denomination. In this environment,
the students would be unlikely to discern the
crucial difference between the religiousschool classes and the 'public-school'
classes, even if the latter were successfully
kept free of religious indoctrination."
Rather than rely on evidence adduced in
the case, the Court goes to one piece of
theoretical writing and to a lower court opinion in a different case.
This pervasive [religious] atmosphere makes on the young student's
mind a lasting imprint that the holy
and transcendental should be central
to all facets of life. It increases respect
for the church as an institution to
guide one's total life adjustments and
undoubtedly helps stimulate interest
in religious vocations .... In short, the
parochial school's total operation
serves to fulfillboth secular and religious functions concurrently, and the
two cannot be completely separated.
Support of any part of its activity
entails some support of the disqualifying religious function of molding the
religious personality of the young student. Giannella, Religious Liberty,
Nonestablishment and Doctrinal Development: Part II. The Nonestablishment Principle, 81 Harv. L. Rev. 513,
574 (1968).
"Consequently, even the student who notices the 'public school' sign temporarily
posted would have before him a powerful
symbol of state endorsement and encouragement of the religious beliefs taught in the
same class at some other time during the
This particular argument staggers the
mind, for it is precisely the federal Court
system which has approved "disclaimer"
signs on nativity scenes both on and off pub-

American Atheist


licly owned land. If such posted signs are
powerful symbols of state endorsement in
one situation, they are the same powerful
symbols in another.
The most incomprehensible reference follows. Although not used in the "companion
case to the case at bar" (i.e., the New York
Title I case) a Second Circuit judge's remarks are used in this case.
Under the City's plan public school
teachers are, so far as appearance is
concerned, a regular adjunct of the
religious school. They pace the same
halls, use classrooms in the same
building, teach the same students,
and confer with the teachers hired by
the religious school, many of them
members of religious orders [i.e.,
nuns]. The religious schools appears
to the public as a joint enterprise
staffed with some teachers paid by its
religious sponsor and others by the
public. - Judge Friendly.
The Court concludes, "This effect - the
symbolic union of government and religion
in one sectarian enterprise - is an impermissible effect under the Establishment
Already in a stunned condition from the
Court's reasoning, it seems impossible that
it should then turn its attack on the "child
benefit" theory it has so carefully nurtured
over the years. "Petitioners claim that the
aid here ... flows primarily to the students,
not to the religious schools. Of course, allaid
to religious schools ultimately 'flows to' the
students, and the petitioners' argument if
accepted would validate all forms of nonideological aid to religious schools." The
argument is simply brushed aside.
Also brushed aside is the argument that
the courses taught merely "supplement" the
regular curriculum and do not "supplant" it.
Again, totally without supporting evidence
the Court continues its theorizing. " . . .
petitioners' argument would permit the public schools gradually to take over the entire
secular curriculum of the religious school,
for the latter could surely discontiunue existing courses so that they might be replaced a
year or two later by a Community Education
or Shared Time course with the same content. The average religious school student,
for instance, now spends ten percent of the
school day in Share Time classes. But there
is no principled basis on which this Court
can impose a limit on the percentage of the
religious-school day that can be subsidized
by the public school. To let the genie out of
the bottle in this case would be to permit
ever-larger segments of the religious school
curriculum to be turned over to the public

Austin, Texas

school system, thus violating the cardinal

principle that the State may not in effect
become the prime supporter of the religious
school system."
Using then two prongs of the Lemon test,
the Court concludes that the challenged
programs promote religion in three ways.
(1) The state-paid instructors, influenced by the pervasively sectarian
nature of the religious schools in which
they work, may subtly or overtly indoctrinate the students in particular
religious tenets at public expense.
(2) The symbolic union of church
and state inherent in the provision of
secular, state-provided instruction in
. the religious school buildings threatens to convey a message of state support for religion to students and to the
general public.
(3) Finally, the programs in effect
subsidize the religious functions of the
parochial schools by taking over a
substantial portion of their responsibility for teaching secular subjects.
"For these reasons, the conclusion is
inescapable that the Community Education
and Shared Time programs have the 'primary or principal' effect of advancing religion, and therefore violate the dictates of the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment" to the Constitution of the United

Dissenting Opinion
Chief Justice Warren E_ Burger
The Chief Justice concurred in part and
dissented in part.
"I agree with the Court that, under our
decisions in Lemon ... the Grand Rapids
Community Education program violates the
Establishment Clause. As to the Shared
Time program, I dissent for the reasons
stated in my dissenting opinion in Aguilar u.

Dissenting Opinion
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Justice O'Connor concurred in part and

August, 1985

dissented in part.
She dissented from the majority opinion in
respect to the Shared Time program also for
the reasons stated in her dissenting opinion
in the Aguilar u. Felton case. Nothing in the
record indicates that the Shared Time instructors have attempted to proselytize their
students, she noted.
She turned then to the statement of the
majority that "a significant portion of the
Shared Time instructors previously taught
in nonpublic schools, and many of these had
been assigned to the same nonpublic school
where they were previously employed." In
fact, she states, only thirteen Shared Times
instructors have ever been employed by any
parochial school, and only a fraction of those
thirteen now work in a parochial school
where they were previously employed.
In regard to the Community Education
program, she agreed with the majority that
the program violates the Establishment
Clause. "The record indicates that Community Education courses in the parochial
schools are overwhelmingly taught by instructors who are current full-time employees of the parochial school, ... In addition; the supervisors of the Community
Education program in the parochial schools
are by and large the principals of the very
schools where the classes are offered. When
full-time parochial school teachers receive
public funds to teach secular courses to
their parochial school students under parochial school supervision, I agree that the
program has the perceived and actual effect
of advancing the religious aims of the
church-related schools. This is particularly
the case where, as here, religion pervades
the curriculum and the teachers are accustomed to bring religion to play in everything
they teach. I concur in the judgment of the
Court that the Community Education program violates the Establishment Clause."



Dissenting Opinion
Justice Byron R. White
White hung in with his original attitude
and opinion. "As evidenced by my dissenting opinion in Lemon . . _ I have long disagreed with the Court's interpretation and
application of the Establishment Clause in
the context of state aid to private schools.
For the reasons stated in those dissents, I
am firmly of the belief that the Court's decisions in these cases ... are 'not required by
the First Amendment and [are] contrary to

Page 11


the long-range interests of the country.' For
those same reasons, I am satisfied that what
the States have sought to do in these cases is
well within their authority and is not forbidden by the Establishment Clause."

Dissenting Opinion
Justice William H_Rehnquist
Rehnquist, the most adamant of all, referred all concerned back to his dissenting
opinion in the "Silent Prayer" case, supra.
Then, he went further, " . . . the Court . . .
declines to discuss the faulty 'wall' premise
upon which" the case rests. "In doing so the
Court blinds itself to the first 150 years' history of the Establishment Clause.
"The Court today attempts to give content to the 'effects' prong of the Lemon test
by holding that a 'symbolic link between
government and religion' creates an impermissible effect. But one wonders how the
teaching of 'Math Topics,' 'Spanish,' and
'Gymnastics' which is struck down today,
creates a great 'symbolic link' than the
municipal creche upheld" in 1983 "or the
legislative chaplain" case of the same year.
"The most unfortunate result ... is that ...
the Court, despite its disclaimers, impugns
the integrity of public school teachers. Contrary to the law and the teachers' promises,
they are assumed to be eager inculcators of
religious dogma ... " although "Not one
instance of attempted religious inculcation
exists in the records of the school aid cases
decided here today."

on the Court in October. Allof the rest of the

liberals are at an age when retirement may
be forced upon them - probably for reasons of health, also. Brennan is 79; Marshall
is 77; Blackmun is 76; and Stevens is 65. This
means that a Reagan appointment is imminent with "born-again" Ed Meese, the
current Attorney General of the United
States named by "White House sources" as
a leading contender for that position. The
tragedy to come is that no matter who the
appointee, the radical right wing will take
control later this year and the situation of its
reactionary dominance of our nation's highest court will remain for several decades to
come. All of the state/church separation
decisions can then quickly be reversed. The
repudiation of the Lemon tests willcome in
the first case before the court. Unfortunately that one has already been accepted
by the Court, from Pennsylvania, for its next
session and concerns itself with "free access" for religion into the public schools.
That which has been most dreaded is upon
This last reckless and ill-reasoned Michigan decision, a defiant gesture of the
Bren na n -Mars ha 11- BIac k m u n -Powe 11Stevens faction of the court, came too late in
the twenty-plus years of the case-by-case
decision approach to the problem and issue
of "tax aid to Roman Catholic schools." It
willbe used as a tide-water illustration for the

need to return to the normalcy of "benevolent neutrality" and "benign accommodation" to Judeo-Christianity. Obviously the
Court will extrapolate even beyond those
theoretics, for it has already stated in the
creche case:
Nor does the Constitution require
complete separation of church and
state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance,
of all religions, and forbids hostility
toward any. Lynch u. Donnelly 52
U.S.L.W. 5163, (March, 1983)
The 1984-1985 session of the Supreme
Court of the United States marks the end of
an era. It concludes with one faction deliberately writing an opinion to goad another
faction. From this can only come retribution
by that faction which will come into dominance later in the year.
It is no wonder that the media in the United States did not choose to analyze in depth
what has actually occurred in the court during its last several weeks in session. That
court, and any semblance of judicial justice
in America, is completely in disarray.
*Law, the doctrine that principles of law
established by judicial decision be accepted
as authoritative in cases similar to those
from which such principles were derived.

The only conclusion one can draw from
these two cases is that the five justices who
voted the practices to be unconstitutional
(Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and
Stevens) were so enraged by the dissenting
opinions presented in the "Silent Prayer"
case on June 20th, just two weeks and four
days before these decisions, that they deliberately wrote rather sweeping Lemon type
decisions. The exercise was not all that difficult since in each instance they had only to
uphold lower Circuit Court decisions and to
rely on the stare decisis principle.*
In addition, they knew that these cases
were their advertised "swan song." Justice
Lewis Powell, now age 78, has been in and
out of hospitals several times this last year,
and it is apparent to all concerned that he
willprobably not be able to resume his seat

Page 12

August, 1985

American Atheist


It has never been the habit of American
Atheists to deride religious persons caught
in human peccadillos. Ifa minister seduces a
church member's wife, ifthe church organist
is discovered in the back pew with the
church's treasurer in a compromising position, if there are whiffs of scandal with the
priest and his housekeeper - and there
always are - to err is human. These items
often find their way into the local newspapers to the consternation of everyone
who does not know that every city is Peyton
Recently a member of American Atheists,
F. Elliott of San Francisco, California, began
to bombard the American Atheist Center
with material which, at first, was thought to
be in the human peccadillo category. Archbishop John Roach, former president of the
National Conference of Roman Catholic
Bishops, drove his car into the side of a
convenience store in Lindstrom, Minnesota,
took off down the road, and was later
stopped and given a breath test. Alcohol
concentration in his blood was 0.19 percent,
nearly double the 0.10 percent definition of
intoxication under Minnesota law. He was
the second archbishop arrested for drunk
driving within a year. Incidentally, although
these details are meager, they were compiled from a hard hunt for exactness since
most media reports were extremely scant,
only one from Minnesota giving the Archbishop's actual alcohol blood content and a
second giving the Minnesota definition of
intoxication. Stillthe American Atheist Center had a "So what's new?" attitude.
But Elliott was insistent on making a point;
and he wrote to the office of the Attorney
General of California, the A.c.L.U., the
news media, and the American Atheist Center. He pointed out that very short negative
news items concerned with the Roman
Catholic clergy, if they appear at all, are
buried in the classified section of such papers as the San Francisco Chronicle but that
Jewish and Protestant clergies' embarrassments always make the front page. Elliott
insisted that "the archbishop is a public figure" and that no preference in news coverage should be given to him.
Finally Elliott became extremely agitated
when an Episcopalian priest whom he described as "a nobody, a nothing" received
twenty-one inches of coverage, two head-

Austin, Texas

lines, and a story by a San Francisco Examiner staff writer for having 'been arrested in
possession of a kilo of cocaine, the street
value of which was a mere $500,000.
While debating, again, that there was not
really sufficient information to make a column concerned with Archbishop Roach or
the fragmentary stories of other high placed
Roman Catholic officials, the American
Atheist Center began to receive a series of
articles from several sources having to do
with a "homosexual" sexually abusing children. But as the information came in, there
was no certainty that a "homosexual" was
involved at all. The person creating the news
was one Roman Catholic priest.
In the last several years the nation has
been witness to some extraordinarily scandalous cases of pre-school children being
sexually abused by personnel in private
child-care centers. Indeed, some aspects of
one California trial were carried for days on
end on Cable Network News and other
major networks, as newspapers and magazines focused on that case deliberately. It
could well be said that a national scandal was
made of it. There was much attention give to
the fact that a "grandmother" (the genre of
which is a classic figure of warmth and love
in the United States) was involved.
In addition, the media has most recently
seized upon the concept of "missing children," the stories pregnant with suggestion
that "homosexuals" spirit the children away
in order to indoctrinate them into a life of
sexual exploitation.
A story of a Roman Catholic priest involved in such sexual child abuse then
should have made headlines around the
country, which was ripe for just such a juicy
tale. It did not. American Atheists, therefore, took another look at both the original
tale and the media's handling of it.
Initially the story came out of Lafayette,
Louisiana where it would have died a suffocated death had it not been for a staff
writer, Steve Blow, of the Dallas Morning
News picking it up so that it could be spread
in that paper on May 26th. Every subsequent writer simply rewrote his report largely in Blow's words. No wire service reworked it and where it did appear, most
frequently the story was toned down and
focused on this single priest. A rewrite done
by the Washington Post seems to have been

August, 1985

reprinted fragmentally in half a dozen other

The Louisiana story concerns Gilbert
Gauthe, a thirty-nine year old Roman Catholic priest. Although it is the habit of the media
in the United States to lovingly designate
men in the priesthood as "Father" in warm
news stories written concerned with them, it
is instructive that throughout all reports he
is introduced first as the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe
and thereafter simply as "Gauthe" rather
than being reported as "Father Gauthe" as
is ordinarily done. An early picture shows
him in civilian clothing with his attorney at a
news conference where they both are looking down toward media cameras. (The picture was taken from a KLFY -TV news shot
and printed in the Acadiana Times.) In later
reports this picture is cropped to exclude
the attorney and is placed in articles to show
Gauthe with what appears to be a bowed
head so that a reader assumes that the priest
is contrite. Instead of the usual proudlyworn priestly clothing,Gauthe is in an ordinary suit, sporting a softly knotted plaid
necktie. Before one gets to the written word
there is an appeal for sympathy in the
The legalities, which were the focus of the
Dallas Morning News story, came to public
attention because of one family involved.
Glenn Gastal has a ten-year old son. The
child has been sexually abused by Gauthe
from the time he was seven. When the truth
came out, Gastal and some other parents
sued the Roman Catholic Church. They
hired an attorney from Abbeville, a lifelong
Roman Catholic himself. The suits dragged
on and on. The priest disappeared from the
parish about a year ago, and the church
made secret, out-of-court settlements with
some families of children involved. The
attorney of the parents himself asked that
the suits be sealed and barred from the public "to protect the children - not the
Church." Yet much was known in the community. The Gastals reported, "Everyone
tells us don't talk about it to anyone, don't
even talk to your child." And they made up
their mind "to go public," since they saw no
evidence of any constraints upon the future
conduct of the priest.
In September, 1984 they decided to
change attorneys and hired "a well-known,
fearless, hard-charging" Lafayette lawyer.

Page 13


By October, Gauthe was indicted. Court
records were opened. It was then that it was
discovered that the out -of-court settlements
with just nine families had cost the Roman
Catholic Church over four million dollars,
with one family alone receiving $405,555.
Gauthe, in a sworn deposition, admitted
that he had sexually molested at least thirtyfive boys in the twelve years he had served
as a parish priest.
Depositions from other church officials
brought a burst of indignation from Gastal,
"As far as I'm concerned, I would like to see
the bishop behind bars. He was an accessory to the crime. He knew about this back
in 1973. If he had done something then, this
wouldn't have happened to my child."
The former attorney turned attention to
homosexuality. "I think the priesthood as an
organization has become a haven for homosexuals. As an extension to that, perversions related to homosexuality have been
allowed to exist." A New York priest, cofounder of a ministry for homosexuals, was
quick to reply. "Very few child molesters are
homosexual. Most people who are attracted
to children are attracted regardless of the
gender of the child." An authority on homosexual issues in the church, he stated that it
was true that more homosexuals have applied for the priesthood in the last ten to
twelve years, and although estimates of from
twenty-five to fifty percent are given as to
Gays involved in applications to seminaries,
the figures are not "hard." "There is concern
among bishops and the leaders of the seminaries about this increase in the number of
Gay people applying to the seminaries. It
does present a problem to the church. The
image of the church is involved. People's
confidence in the church is involved."
Meanwhile, on October 12, 1984, a thirtyyear old ex-Marine-turned-priest, sued the
Diocese of San Diego for libel and denial of
his civil rights. The diocese settled the case
out-of-court, but not before a seminary in
that city was described as a "school of love."
The ex-Marine explained that one member
of the faculty, very popular with the students, "had one of the largest collections of
pornographic and homosexual paraphernalia on the West Coast. He was finally asked
to stay away from the seminary and was
eventually banished to the East Coast to
pursue studies."
At the same time, two former nuns were
promoting their book, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking the Silence, across the country. (See
book review, page 38.) And a national Lesbian spokeswoman talked in terms of Roman
Catholic nunneries being training grounds
for both Lesbian rights and social action
The National Conference of Catholic

Page 14

Bishops in Washington, D.C., meanwhile

and of course, played dumb. It did not "have
statistics" as to whether or not molestation
cases involving priests were on the rise or
not. It was "certainly not conducting any big
national study."
But the new attorney in Louisiana was. He
wanted to prove that this child molestation
case was part of a pattern in the priesthood.
He therefore surveyed the community and,
after receiving confidential reports, filed a
court document asking the church in Lafayette for any records of "homosexuality,
homosexual tendencies, and sexual aberrations" concerned with twenty-seven priests
in the eight-parish Lafayette diocese, all of
whom he named. The church fought the
demand until May 28, 1985, when the attorneys for the Diocese of Lafayette accepted
liability in Gauthe's case. "The attorneys for
the church and its insurers came to me with
the proposition, and I have no choice but to
accept it." The Gastals had sued the church
for $12.5 million. It was expected that the
same agreement of liability would be made
by the diocese in the eight other cases pending. In addition, the attorney representing
Gauthe in his criminal case won a gag order
from the state District Judge on the basis
that media exposure could possibly deny
Gauthe the right to a fair trial.
An Idaho case may have made the difference. There a judge in Boise held that the
Roman Catholic Church was to blame for a
priest's sex crimes against children. In fact,
the church had been fully aware of the child
molestation activities of the priest involved
from 1966 forward. A pre-sentence report
detailed the priest's (Mel Baltazar) sexual
activities with children in the Philippines, in
Cleveland, and in other U. S. cities as a
priest, as well as a hospital and Navy chaplain. In one instance, in 1979, he was dismissed from a hospital job for "involvement
with a dying youth on a dialysis machine."
While in the Navy he had been placed "on
report" for leading a boy into a life of homosexuality. In the Philippines he continued to
sexually abuse boys from 1971 to 1976. The
judge noted, "It's something incredible the
Phillipine bishopric knew about this and
didn't do anything about it." Further, he
said, "After reading this report I have a profound sense of grief and absolute shock and
outrage." The priest chose destitute, homeless, or mentally disturbed youngsters for
his activities. The case was before the judge
when Baltazar, age fifty, pleaded guilty in
January, 1985 to lewd conduct with a fifteenyear-old boy. His parents had considered
suing the priest, the church, and St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center where, as chaplain, Baltazar met the boy. Baltazar's record
of illegal sex with boys spanned twenty

August, 1985

years. "I think the [Roman] Catholic Church

has its atonement to do," the judge said.
Prosecutors in the case had sought a
thirty-day jail sentence, but after the publicity involved, when it was found that church
supervisors throughout the world knew of
his sexual conduct with the boys and failed
to intervene, a request was put in for a prison term.
In Louisiana substantially the same pattern had been set. In a January 18, 1985
deposition the bishop, head of the Lafayette
Diocese, testified that he had learned in 1973
that Gauthe had sexually molested a boy
about a year earlier. The bishop called the
priest to his office, but the seemingly contrite priest said it would not happen again.
The priest was confronted again by the
bishop in 1974. At that time he said he had
been guilty of "imprudent touches" with a
young man and vowed it would not recur. In
1975, the bishop appointed Gauthe chaplain
of the diocesan Boy Scouts. In 1976 a monsignor of the church received complaints
from parishioners again that certain conduct
indicated aberrant sexual behavior with two
boys. This complaint was passed along to
the Vicar General of the Lafayette Diocese
and ultimately the bishop directed the priest
to undergo psychiatric treatment. Within
several weeks the priest quit the treatment
and within two or three months resumed his
sexual activities with the boys in his church.
In 1977,Gauthe was promoted to the pastorate of two churches, and he began to have
sexual relations with boys in the new communities within a month, he testified. Again,
in July, 1983, the priest was involved with a
molestation of an altar boy. This time he was
abruptly removed from the church, and his
parishioners were told he was involved in a
"moral indiscretion." He was however soon
back in the same area, again serving as parish priest.
Gauthe's frequent outings with children in
the parishes were admired by the parents.
Gastal's wife explained, "He would pick the
kids up and take them to the marsh for
overnight trips. He took them to motorcycle
races. He took them to movies in town.
When the boys were training for communion, Father Gauthe would tell parents, 'It will
be late. Just let him spend the night with me,
and I'll take him to school.' You trust the
priest. That's the way you are raised in the
Catholic church. That's who you go to when
you have a problem."
A particularly piquant story gave evidence
of the parishioners' trust. One young boy in
the community began to suffer emotional
problems. "His parents took him to Father
Gauthe to talk about it. He (Gauthe) assured them it was just part of growing up.
The truth was that the boy had emotional

American Atheist


problems because Gauthe had been molesting him. That's an example of how we were
raised with our eyes closed."
In his deposition of October, 1984, the
priest stated that his sex acts with the children took place in the rectory, in his camper,
in the confessional of the church. He participated, he stated, in a variety of sex acts with
the children, sometimes with more than one.
He often used an instant camera to photograph the sex acts. He also showed the
youths pornographic videotapes. By mid1985 it was estimated that as many as seventy children, some as young as seven years
of age, were assaulted by Gauthe in hundreds of individual acts of sodomy and rape.
In his indictment in October, 1984,Gauthe
pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of
insanity to eleven charges including aggravated rape (sodomizing a child under
twelve), aggravated crime against nature,
pornography involving juveniles, sexually
immoralacts with minors, and contributing
to the delinquency of juveniles. He was freed
on $250,000 bond and sent to a mental hospital in Connecticut. At the same time it was
disclosed that he had previously been treated in the Roman Catholic, Boston-based
House of Affirmation, a psychological treatment center.
Meanwhile, in mid-dune, 1985, back in
Louisiana, another priest who runs a home
for boys returned to Florida to face a felony
charge that he had sexually assaulted a tenyear-old Tampa boy last year.
In 1984, a priest near Los Angeles confessed to sexually molesting at least fifteen
children. A priest in Portland, Oregon, in
August, 1983, admitted to sexual involvement with altar boys and students over a
fifteen to twenty-year period. In Bristol,
Rhode Island, a parish priest was indicted on
April 12, 1985, on twenty-two counts of sexual misconduct with boys. In Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, lawsuits are pending against
the Roman Catholic Church involving a
molestation case, but there the court has
sealed the records making details unavailable.In Milwaukee, a priest who worked as a
psychologist surrendered his state license in
March, 1985, and pleaded no contest to allegations of sexual contact with a minor male
patient. In another incident, the rector of
one California cathedral became sexually
involved with an altar boy of Vietnamese
origin. When the child's family sued the
priest, the bishop of the San Diego Archdiocese was included in the suit. The diocese
decided to settle out of court for $75,000.
A priest in White Lake, Wisconsin, went
on trial in July, 1985,on three felony charges
involving minor boys. In Rhode Island one
priest faces eight felony charges also involving minor boys this month, but another

Austin, Texas

priest already facing twenty-four counts was

arraigned in July on an extra two such
counts. In Los Angeles yet another priest
has pleaded no contest in three cases of
child molesting in 1981. In New Jersey,
where a Franciscan brother sexually molested a young boy, the family sued when
their son committed suicide. New Jersey law
had exempted from damage suits religious
ministries and the case was thrown out of
court. Each incident involved priests of the
Roman Catholic Church.
A New Orleans journalist called for a "true
reconciliation" between the Roman CatholicLafayette diocese and its people. Yet, he
noted, that a priest is "a man before whom
children saw their parents kneel.. . a man to
whom parent and child alike confessed sins.
.. a surrogate father and figure of consummate authority. Yet, one factor is the money
involved. The parishioners know that the
suits which total claims for over $100 million
affects their own pocketbooks because they
are the ones who support the diocese
The attorney who won the case for the
Gastals had some concluding remarks concerned with pedophilia. "I think it is more
pervasive in the priesthood because of the
nature of the relationship. The priest, to
these young minds, is the alter ego of God.
He must be obeyed and trusted." And that,
indeed, is the tragedy of it all.
The Roman Catholic Church has many
problems. The Pope himself, in a letter to
U.S. bishops, recently expressed his "grave
concern" respecting the "marked decline in
recent years in the number of young people
seeking to enter religious life." According to
the U. S. National Catholic Conference, the
number of men in Catholic seminaries has
fallen from a peak of 48,992 in 1965 to 19,349
in 1974 and to just 11,262 in 1984.
It is axiomatic that the Church willtake as
many men as it needs. With the nature of the
theology of that church, it is impossible for it
to obtain empirical date on the attitudes
concerning human sexuality with which aspirants to the priesthood come to the
church. Celibacy is required of both heterosexual and homosexual priests. Under
Roman Catholic teaching it is not sinful to
have either a heterosexual or a homosexual
orientation, but it is sinful for a priest to
engage in either kind of activity. It would be
interesting to see surveys of children under
the care of nuns to see if pedophilic inclinations may also be in that group. Simple acts
of sadism against children under nuns' care
in parochial schools is a constantly recurring
theme in any recounting of personal experiences in those institutions. It was, therefore, interesting to note the reactions to the
Louisiana case in New Jersey. There, the

August, 1985

New Jersey Catholic Conference issued

guidelines to parochial school principals and
teachers reminding them of the requirement
of complying with the state's child abuse
reporting law. The guidelines instructed that
reports be made to diocesan offices ifchurch
"employees - priests, nuns, and lay teachers" were involved.
There is much difficulty in the United
States with all authority or specialist persons. A doctor who obtains his M.D. in 1940
can continue to practice without ever returning to medical school to obtain an update on
the most recent developments in medicine.
A lawyer licensed in 1950 can bungle along
without current legal information. An engineer can continue to operate at a 1960 level
when his specialty may have left him behind
years ago. Each person is left with only himself as a critic as to how well he enhances his
education over the years. There are no monitoring organizations, no institutions to
which one can go to check on the competency of the specialist whom he approaches.
Allfields are full of lazy incompetents as well
as those persons who conscientiously equip
themselves with new information and those
who only learn as they are forced to do so.
None of us can be assured of the competency of the service we may receive when we
seek out a specialist. In addition, all such
persons do not start out on equal grounds.
The man who struggles through dental
school with a barely passing grade cannot be
expected to excel simply because he manages to open an office later. We have all seen
a school teacher with one year of experience
repeated twenty times as opposed to a
school teacher with twenty years of experience. The attitude and opinions of a priest
ordained in 1965 can dramatically change
over the years. Indeed, within a year after his
ordination, he could well be another man.
The book Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence
certainly details the emotional, psychological and physical changes in the nuns who
reported therein.
A re-certification process seems to be
needed by the Roman Catholic Church.
There is no reason that the Church, with its
money, does not have central computerized
personnel files which can be maintained and
updated constantly. It should know which
priests have alcohol problems and how often
they have been treated for that. It should
know which priests have been involved with
sexual peccadillos with parishioners. It
should know which priests have sticky fingers with the money they manage. It should
have been able immediately to answer pedophilic priests. The solution now appears to
be to reassign a priest with problems so that
those problems can find another home. But
as long as Roman Catholics uncritically and

Page 15


reverently approach their church, all is lost.
When asked directly why there had been no
follow-up with the numerous complaints
againt Gauthe, one church official said in a
sworn statement, "I am trained as a priest to
forget sins."
But the ordinary Roman Catholic does
not forget a sinner - even when the guilt of
"sinning" is misplaced. The Gastals learned

hard. When they "went public," their farm

supply store in Abbeville suddenly .had no
customers in that overwhelmingly Roman
Catholic parish. "You don't sell $2,000 a day
in one month, and then not sell $2,000 worth
in the next whole month without a reason,"
Gastal said. Within three months he was
forced to close the store. The family has lost
many friends and sits alone in church when

they attend, accepting the glares of the other

parishioners. It is their ten-year-old son who
has weekly psychological counseling after
over three years of sexual abuse by Gauthe.
Yet, their friends, fellow parishioners, and
neighbors blame them for disgracing the
church - while forgetting the "sins" of
Gauthe and accepting, willy-nilly, still another priest about whom they know nothing.


The media has had a field day with the

United States Supreme Court, finding that it
has returned from the harsh judgments on
state/church separation cases to that of
sweetness and light. Despite the fact that
one swallow does not a summer make, the
accolades for the court were everywhere
when on June 26th it decided the case of
Estate of Thornton u. Caldor, Inc. It was
called "a reasonable balance" by a church
group; labor organizations and churches
generally characterized it as "a careful balance," and the American Civil Liberties
Union hailed it as having "struck the right
balance" with "sensitive weighing" of religious and state concerns.
Let's have a look at it.
Federal laws require that employers try to
accommodate religious needs of individual
employees whenever practical. A series of
cases have established that employers may,
in effect, have waivers ifthe accommodation
would cause undue hardship. Generally
speaking, the cases have been associated
with Seventh-Day Adventists and Jews who
claim Saturdays as their Sabbath, asking for
work schedules which willleave this day free
for them. Following the enactment of the
federal laws, about twenty-five states have
passed similar laws. Connecticut is one of
In early 1975, Donald Thornton began
working for a chain of New England retail
stores. He managed the men's and boys'
clothing department in its Waterbury, Connecticut store. At that time, Connecticut
had a blue law which required such stores to
close on Sundays. In 1977, the blue laws
were revised and the retail stores opened on
Sundays. In order to handle the expanded
store hours, the managerial employees were

Page 16

required to work every third or fourth Sunday. Thornton complied for over two years.
Then, in November, 1979, he advised his
employer that, as a Presbyterian who observed Sunday as his Sabbath, he would no
longer work on Sundays, invoking the Connecticut statute which provided,
No person who states that a particular
day of the week is observed as his
Sabbath may be required by his employer to work on such day. An employee's refusal to work on his Sabbath shall not constitute grounds for
his dismissal.
Thornton's employer offered to transfer
him to a management job in one of its Massachusetts store that was closed on Sunday.
He declined. The only other job opening that
the employer had was in a nonsupervisory
position, at a lower salary, in a Torrington,
Connecticut, store in which capacity he
would not be required to work on Sunday.
He took the transfer in March, 1980, and
within two days resigned and filed a grievance with the State Board of Mediation and
Arbitration, alleging that he had been discharged from his manager's position in violation of the Connecticut statute. His employer countered that he had not been
"discharged" and that the statue violated
Article 7 of the Connecticut Constitution
and the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Having found that Thornton's claim was
based "on a sincere religious conviction,"
the Board sustained his grievance and ordered his reinstatement at his old job, back
pay, and compensation for lost fringe bene-

August, 1985

fits. The Connecticut Superior Court affirmed the Board's ruling, saying that the
statute did not offend the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Thornton died
on February 4, 1982, while his appeal was
pending and his estate continued the suit,
since money payment was involved. Applying the famous tripartite Lemon u. Kurtzman, (403 U.S. 602 [1971]) test, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed, holding that
the statute did not have a "clear secular
purpose." Since the law permitted each
employee to designate his own Sabbath day
off, the "primary purpose" of it was to
advance religion because the statute conferred a -benefit on an explicitly religious
basis. Only those employees who designated a Sabbath were entitled not to work.
In addition, the statute required the State
Mediation Board to decide which religious
activities may be characterized as an "observance of Sabbath" in order to assess the
employees' sincerity. This provision the
court found to create an excessive governmental entanglement between church and
state, thus failing all three tests required by
Lemon. That is, that the statute:
(1) must have a secular purpose;
(2) must not advance religion; and
(3) must not create an excessive governmental entanglement with religion.
The estate appealed to the U. S. Supreme
Court, which granted certiorari (review).
The State of Connecticut moved to intervene as of right to defend the constitutionality of the law, and Reagan ordered the U.S.
Justice Department to file an amicus curiae
brief on behalf of the statute. The case was

American Atheist


argued on November 7, 1984, and decided
on June 26, 1985.
Burger delivered the opinion of the Court
in which Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens, and O'Connor joined.
O'Connor filed a concurring opinion in which
Marshall joined and Rehnquist dissented.
After having severely castigated the Lemon criteria for a constitutional test in the last
several cases handed down earlier in June,
the court now blandly stated, "In setting the
in Establishment
Clause cases, the Court has frequently
relied on our holding in Lemon, supra, for
guidance, and we do so here."
It then began to analyze the case in this
wise. "The State has ... decreed that those
who observe a Sabbath any day of the week
as a matter of religious conviction must be
relieved uf the duty to work on that day, no
matter what burden or inconvenience
imposes on the employer or fellow workers."
This imposes on employers and on fellow
an absolute duty to conform
their business practices to the particular
religious practices of the choosing employee,
although he has unilaterally designated his
own day off without reference to the needs
of any others concerned. The convenience
or interests of the employer or those of other
employees are overridden.
There are no
exceptions for special circumstances,
if this would cause the employer substantial
burdens or impose significant
burdens on other employees, who are required to work in place of the Sabbath
Other employees
who have
strong and legitimate (but non-religious)
reasons for wanting a weekend day off have
no similar rights under the statute. Employees who would like a weekend day off,
because .that is the only day their spouses
are also not working, must take a back seat
to the Sabbath observer. And finally, the
statute allows for no consideration
as to
whether the employer has made reasonable
Therefore, the court held:
"The statute has a primary effect that
impermissibly advances a particular
religious practice.
We hold that the Connecticut
statute, which provides Sabbath observers with an absolute and unqualified
right not to work on their Sabbath,
violates the Establishment
Clause of
the First Amendment.
the judgment of the Supreme Court of
Connecticut is affirmed.
O'Connor used her concurring opinion to
speak to the federal law which she saw as
being potentially open for challenge under

Austin, Texas

the ruling. "l do not read the Court's opinion

as suggesting that the religious accommodation provisions ofTitle VII of the Civil Rights
Act, 42
200e(j) and 2000e-2(a)(l)
are similarly invalid." These provisions preclude employment discrimination based on
a person's religion and require private employers to reasonably
religious practices of employees unless to do
so would cause undue hardship
to the
employer's business.


\n my view, a statute outlawing

employment discrimination based on
race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin has the valid secular purpose of
assuring employment opportunity to
all groups in our pluralistic society.
Since Title VII calls for reasonable
rather than absolute accommodation
and extends that requirement
to all
religious beliefs and practices rather
than protecting only the Sabbath observance,
I believe an objective
observer would perceive it as an antidiscrimination law rather than an endorsement of religion or a particular
religious practice.
Rehnquist, it was noted in the case, dissented but did not write an opinion.
The United States Supreme Court did
nothing on this case - moved not an iota.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as above
indicated, had already set a standard that
employers had to reasonably accommodate
the religious practices of employees.
State of Connecticut had a law which called
for unreasonable
for each
separate employee's absolute and particular
religious practice and, therefore,
undue hardship to the employer's business.
And Connecticut,
well known across the
nation for its excessive
religiosity, had
through its own Supreme Court made the
decision. The U. S. Supreme
Court ruling will not affect the federal1aws
and will not affect many state laws which are
more elastic than that of Connecticut.
It should be noted that the American Jewish Congress was on the side of Thornton's
estate, as was Americans United for Separation of Church
and State,
a Baptistdominated
group. Those who opposed
Thornton included the AFL-CIO and employer groups who claimed that the law
forced employers to adhere to employees'
religious needs regardless of the cost to the
companies involved or to the rights of other
Money and the desire of employers to be free from government-dictated
labor policies were the fundamental issues at
hand; not the free exercise of religion or



even the establishment

of it.
When Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was
first proposed, passed, and put into effect,
the issue of "Sabbath taking" was in full cry
across the nation. At that time, the American Atheist Center attempted to counter it
with a resort to black humor. Dr. O'Hair, the
founder of American
issued a
press release which was eagerly seized upon
by the media and broadcast throughout the
land. Then, probably a decade ago, she
decreed that Thursday should be the "Sabbath" day of American Atheists and demanded that all work cease on that day
because of the number of Atheists who had
to he accommodated
for their "Sabbath"
day. Banks, schools, businesses,
communications should necessarily close since no Atheist could work on a Thursday. Asked why
she had chosen that particular day, she
responded that there were two reasons for
her "Sabbath,"
even as the Old Testament
gave two reasons for the "Sabbath" of the
Jews. First, she had thought of the idea on a
Thursday and second, that Thursday was a
unique day of the week in that there was no
other day designated as Thursday. Tuesday
was certainly not Thursday; nor was Saturday Thursday, nor any other day anyone
could name. There was as much sense, she
insisted. to name Thursday as to name Saturday or Sunday as a "Sabbath." In the Old
the seventh day was set aside
since god created the world in six days and
rested on the seventh. Who was there to say
that he did not begin his work on a Friday,
worked six davs ?lI1(-i decided that Thursday
should be the chosen day? Also, in the Old
the counter reason for the appointment of a Sabbath is that god led his
chosen people out of Egypt on that day. But
who was there in history to say that the
Exodus did not begin on a Thursday? For all
she knew, Judeo-Christianity
could be in
support of her demand for Thursday
The media had a delightful time with the
idea for weeks and still, today, Atheists may
consider Thursday as their special day of the
week. Go ahead and do it - Why not?
But there is no need to give accolades to
the U. S. Supreme Court on this one. That it
stated it was using the Lemon test is of no
import since it uses it or does not use it as it
desires and since its most recent prior decision featured an all-out attack on the Lemon
test. There is nothing in this case which aids
the Atheist position. The offensive Title VII
still remains in the Civil Rights Act and religionists can still ask for and obtain special
for their religious idiocies
- so long as the employer is not injured.

Page 17

T. A. Stroud


centuries of calumny, the label
has finally lost much of its

pejorative force. But the evidence that the

founders of the Christian cult (as distinguished from its apostles) were modeling
their legends and their organization, especially their promotional techniques, on the
program established by a Greek philosopher
born about the time Plato (427-347B.C.)died
has seldom been explored. Most Atheists
today suppose that arguments against the
existence of a creator of the universe and a
judge of souls after death are pertinent only
when directed at the Judaeo-Christian deity.
On the contrary, without considerable insight into the origins of the Christian cult,
they are behaving somewhat like a Christian
who takes everything on faith, substituting
revelation for reasoning. Much has been
written about the interconnections between
the Christian cult and mystery religions like
Mithraism, the oriental mystery religion, or
idealistic philosophies like Platonism 1 or
Roots of Epicurus

But few have considered, as I propose to

do, the evidence that Epicurus (342?-270
B.C.), who successfully built a legend about
himself during his lifetime, greatly influenced
the organizing geniuses, beginning with Paul,
who gradually constructed a legend about
Christ over a period of centuries. Epicurus's
primary target was actually Platonism, but
that is also revealing, since - reduced to
essentials - the Christian cult turns out to
be an amalgam of promises in the Old Testament, Plato's conception of god, and Epicurus's techniques for organizing and promoting churches. It is no accident that
Augustine of Hippo (354-430, church father,
bishop of Hippo [396-430])asserted that the
Platonists correctly identified the nature of
god - but that is not my present concern.
Nor am I concerned with the way Epicurus
took the Democritean theory of atomism,
which was little concerned with ethical problems - partly because it was hopelessly
mired in universal necessity - and transformed it into a vehicle for promoting free
will.Rather, I want to explain why, of all the
early religious cults, Epicureanism was the
one - because it emphasized the formation
of one big happy family - which the Chris-

Page 18

tian cult profited most from imitating.

Lucretius On The Nature of Things
Ironically enough, in the century before
Jesus, Lucretius (96?-55 B.C., Titus Lucretius Carus, Roman poet and philosopher)
wrote a magnificent quasi-epic which argued
for the Epicurean position so effectively that
it upset the indigenous leaders of Roman
society and thus unintentionally aided the
Christian cult. Some of those attacking Epicureanism are still famous, such as Seneca
(4 B.C.-A.D. 65, Lucius Annaeus, Roman
statesman and philosopher) and Plutarch
(46?-120?, Greek biographer and moralist),
who exerted all their rhetorical skills to
counteract the poem and especially to vilify
Epicurus. As for the poet himself, practically
nothing is known, certainly nothing to support the slander by a later Christian apologist (Jerome) that he died insane. Readers
today willdiscover that the poet could make
even the most abstract principles come to
life, for even in Trevelyan's translation the
lines justify his pride in the melody and the
imagery of his poem. The most famous passage from On the Nature of Things fuses his
admiration of Epicurus, his rejection of religion, and his conception of reality:
When prostrate upon earth lay human
Visibly trampled down and foully
Beneath Religion's cruelty, ... first did
a man of Greece
Dare to lift up his mortal eyes against
The first was he to stand up and defy
Him neither stories of the gods,
nor lightnings, .
Nor heaven with muttering menaces
could quell,
But all the more did they arouse his
Keen valour, til he longed to be the
To break through the bast-bolted
doors of Nature.
Therefore his fervent energy of mind
Prevailed, and he passed onward,
voyaging far
Beyond the flaming rampants of the

August, 1985

Ranging in mind and spirit far and
Throughout the unmeasured
universe; and thence
A conqueror he returns to us ...
There is no more reason to assume that the
Christian cult triumphed through some
lucky chance over all the other cults than
that it had a monopoly on the truth. In examining the Roman world in which it emerged,
therefore, we should get some indication of
what made it happen. If any distortion of
reality occurs from seeing Epicureanism as a
rehearsal for the cult about to dominate the
West, the process seems so illuminating as
to be worth the risk.
Exclusivism of Christianity
Christianity was the first cult to deny its
adherents the right to participate in the rituals of others, to contribute to their support,
or to cooperate with them in any way. After
centuries of persecution, the Christian
gamble, obviously becoming more and more
a bid for power, really paid off. Like practically all new cults which refuse to adapt to
society's demands, the Christian one went
underground and suffered considerably before it triumphed over such politically acceptable religions as those dedicated to Isis,
Demeter, Mithras, and to the essence of
authority symbolized by deifying the dead
emperors. The number and variety of these
cults almost defies description, but most
were little more than autochthonous shrines
at which people propitiated the mysterious
forces surrounding them. Once the Christian cult triumphed, unfortunately, it outdid
everyone before its time - and after - in its
fanaticism and ferocity.
We can learn much about its genesis by
looking at the emergence of a surprisingly
comparable cult which originated over two
centuries earlier. Epicurus, also called the
Redeemer, came as close to exclusivity as
his philosophy permitted, for he could not
with any consistency hold that his adherents
should suffer to be redeemed. The essence
of his philosophy was that people should
follow a course of action which minimized
suffering in this world, since he offered no
rewards in another. Four centuries later the

American Atheist

great satirist Lucian (A.D. 117-c.180, Greek

rhetorician and satirist) asserted that Epicurus excelled all other leaders in "giving people peace of mind, freeing them from superstitious fears, irrational hopes, and exaggerated emotions, forcing them to face facts,
and literally purifying their minds, not by any
idiotic ritual, but by reason, truth, and plain
speaking." What a tribute!
Epicurus's concession that gods actually
existed, and in great numbers,
seems a
deliberate ploy to avoid having his followers
Certainly it served to let them
in religio-patriotic
and avoid potentially dangerous confrontations. The Christian cult never permitted its
members that leeway, of course, but it was
more lenient toward popular "pagan" cults
than toward its own splinter groups. Like the
mystery cults dedicated to Cybele, a nature
goddess of ancient Asia Minor, and Mithra,
the manifestations
of Epicureanism
eventually expunged or assimilated as the
Christians borrowed from them every feature which might strengthen their own appeal. In contrast, once they gained control,
they savagely suppressed those who interpreted their own dogma in a slightly different
way (often less significant than the Lilliputian
controversy over which end of eggs should
be broken first).
Epicurus employed every possible device
to make any attention to other gods beyond lip service - seem disloyal to his
enormous family. In insulating his followers
from all rival influences, he was more successful than any of the rival cults. But since
he couldn't threaten his adherents with torments after death (except as they are remembered within the family), he was at a
great disadvantage.
Perhaps his greatest
handicap was the Christian gamble mentioned above: Nothing can hold a group
together and whet their intensity like the
of mass martyrdom,
as is
illustrated by the siege of the Jews at Masada or of the Brazilian town of Canudos.
In maintaining that there are literally thousands of divinities, all corporeal and gigantic,
all living in perfect bliss far removed from
earth, all sublimely unconcerned
human activities, Epicurus held a position
that is only technically polytheistic. An Atheist might object on factual grounds but
should not find its consequences
Nor should he object to a general tendency
in the Roman world - to which Epicurus
must have contributed - to equate the gods
with allegorical concepts, for example, to
see Mars, merely as a symbol of human pugnacity. In this effort to avoid confrontations,
Epicurus prudently ignored his slavish dependence on sensations as the source of
truth; nowhere else did he depend so heavily
on what he called Anticipation (or consensus) and so little on the evidence

Austin, Texas

Supported by the doctrine that the nature

of divinity excludes any desire to harm or
punish human beings, Epicurus could maintain that the fear of death was the primary
cause of man's vicious actions and that the
best means of escape from the evils of life is .
being passive. The early Christians were to
agree that political activity is essentially evil,
and the love of martyrdom which the early
Christians cultivated was also passive, at
least until they triumphed. Afterwards the
emphasis shifted to dying in wars against
infidels (unless action became futile). This
view Mohammed
(570-6"32) was later to
improve on, and his twentieth-century
followers have obviously persevered
in his

The Stoics
For centuries the chief opponents of the
Epicureans were the Stoics," a cult which
appealed primarily to the rich and powerful
segments of the population. Even as this cult
lost out to the Christian one, it continued to
be honorably regarded; most people are still
under the impression that its world view was
compatible with the Christian one. But the
differences were striking: the Stoic god was
the divine fire of reason; there was no personal survival; brotherhood
was a myth.
One reason for believing them compatible
was that Stoics finally came to consider
emotions like gentleness, forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity as virtues. Apparently
because of a general tendency toward syncretism, such Stoics as Seneca, Epictetus
(1st-2nd century A.D., Greek Stoic philosopher in Rome), and Marcus Aurelius
(Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, nephew, son-in-law, and adopted son of Antoninus Pius, Roman emperor [161-180] and
Stoic philosopher)
show signs of having
many of these Epicurean virtues in their Stoicism. Initially these were
virtues which Epicurus felt to be desperately
needed to produce a pain-free existence.
Unfortunately for Western society throughout the centuries, Epicurus seems to have
been correct in holding that accentuating
the fear of life after death undermined such
virtues. Even if his motive for encouraging
them, the desire to live comfortably,
called into question, how can any rational
person object to the consequences
of such

Divine Anger
Epicurus cared little for scientific investigation except to justify his rejection of the
varieties of religion he observed around him.
Only scraps of his writings survived. By far
the most important was his First Principles,
consisting of twenty brief doctrines
preserved today only in a letter to a disciple who
later defected. And among those doctrines



the most important may well be the rejection

of divine anger, on the grounds that anger is
with the perfect happiness
which must characterize
divinity. The gods
must be unaffected by any act of man to
bestow or withhold gifts; otherwise they are
to that degree subject to human decisions.
In later centuries when the Christian church
came into control, its apologists were disturbed by charges that they worshipped a
god of wrath. One (Origen [185?- ?254, Greek
writer, teacher, and church father]) went so
far as to argue that Jehovah
was only
Also Epicurus prepared a longer work for
students, but for what it contained later centuries must be satisfied by Lucretius's poem
which offers an aggregation of observations,
inferences, guesses, and analogies that gradually and painfully evolved over the centuries as freethinkers
sought to understand
the universe. Although Epicurus's physical
principles are far from scientific, hardly to be
thought of as the forerunner
of modern
atomic theories, they served Epicurus well in
establishing a moral basis for human happiness. He was no more concerned
acquiring knowledge of material things than
was Augustine of Hippo. It is in this light, for
example, that we should view his concept of
the swerve of atoms, which served to salvage free will for mankind. Even though I like
to think that the swerve anticipated theories
of gravity and magnetism, it was left unsupported dogma until Lucretius
sought to
prove it. If "the universe consists only of
atoms and void," he held, its present form
was due to two analogous principles inherent in all things: the life-giving power of
Nature (represented
allegorically by Venus)
and the deadly power of repulsion (Mars). It
was appropriate that he began his poem with .
an invocation of Venus and probably intended to end it with an attack on Mars.
The tendency of the Epicureans to oppose
militarism was another strike against them,
just as it was against the Christian cult in its
early stages. But that cult got bravely over
the objections to Mars, even as it got more
intense in its condemnation
of every manifestation of Venus. One might compare the
three cults by saying that the Epicureans
believed that sexual intercourse
temporary happiness but risked inconveniences; their chief rivals, the Stoics, thought
it might damage one's connection with the
eternal fire; the Christians thought it risked
eternal damnation.

On Martyrdom
Tradition has it that Epicureanism was not
a religion worthy of the name, for its adherents were thought to be obsessed by lust
and other orgiastic drives. The cult did hold
a feast on the twentieth of each month, a
special day of the Greek calendar (compar-

Page 19

able to the Roman ides). Though it did agree

that sex was a temporary source of happiness, no one knows how far the feasts went.
The debauchery of the Roman upper classes
has been well documented by Suetonius
(2nd century A.D., Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Roman biographer and historian)
and others, but how much of their behavior
deserved to be blamed on the Epicurean
philosophy can never be determined. More
likely the cult merely domesticated the ceremonies basic to the mystery religions; for
example, the one celebrating the death and
resurrection of the murdered (martyred)
Osiris. Epicurus was persecuted and had to
flee for his life but might well be said to have
enhanced non-martyrdom by prudently avoiding martyrdom. As Buddhism- and
Mohammedanisrns illustrate, a successful religious cult doesn't require a martyred
founder, much less a resurrected one, but
most have an Osiris, Bacchus, or even a
Joseph Smith to glorify. By having a martyred founder, the Christian cult could incorporate rituals, the appeal of which is
attested to by the fact that they survived
Christian bans for centuries and became the
prototypes of Good Friday and Easter.
On several occasions Lucian lumps the
Atheists, the Christians, and the Epicureans
together. Whatever his reasoning, there are
further reasons for believing that Epicureanism was a forerunner of Christianity and a
large part of the model on which it was built.
It seems likely, for example, that the success
Epicurus had in domesticating the rituals of
the mystery religions led the Christian cult
to make them as public as the state persecution permitted and in other ways to water
down the intellectual and physical demands
made on participants. There is no escaping
the fact that Christianity shared a great
many features of the mystery religions: rituals of birth and resurrection, symbols such
as holy water, a quasi-cannibalistic communion, and warfare between good and evil. But
similarities between cults as different as the
supra-rational Epicureanism and the mystical form of early Christianity don't seem
likely to be coincidental, though some may
depend on a misinterpretation of the activities of Epicurus and his followers. Surely
enough remains to justify looking further at
the evidence.
As for parallels in the lives of the two
founders, Epicurus started the only missionary philosophy stemming from the
Greek culture, opposed the orthodox cult of
the Greek state: (Platonism), and never
proselytized among the non-Greeks. Similarly, Christ started the only successful missionary cult among the Jews, opposed their
orthodox cults (Pharisaism? and Sadduceeism''), and had his cult extended to non-Jews

Page 20

century of the Roman Republic, most communities seem to have been dominated by
the cult. According to Cicero (Marcus Tullius, 106-43 B.C., Roman statesman and
author), the appeal was enhanced by agreeing that political distinction was a major
source of pleasure. There is every reason to
believe, for example, that Julius Caesar
(Gaius, 100-44 B.C., Roman general, statesman, and writer) found the religion highly
But the organizing efforts of the Epicureans pale in comparison with Paul's, who
incidentally was not in the line of succession
Christ proposed, but who used Peter to fake
one. That line was carefully preserved in
Rome even during the two centuries before
the cult was able to operate publicly. (Incidentally, both sects temporarily had early
headquarters in Antioch.) But as everyone
knows, a vociferous and violent minority
lends impetus, so Epicurus's stress on a
calm and private life excluding violence of
every sort turned out to be a fatal weakness
for his congregations.
Nevertheless, the appeal of Epicureanism
to women and children must have been
phenomenal; above all they wanted to minimize their helplessness. Unlike rival cults,
but exactly like the early Christians, it had
no significant physical or mental qualifications. Other religious cults, especially Platonism in Greece and Stoicism in the Roman
world, limited their appeal to intellectual
aristocrats and even in their most debased
form required training in a whole system of
knowledge before considering them disciples. Some idea of the intermix of education
and devotion may be gained from the last
chapters of Apuleius's (Lucius, 2nd century
A.D., Roman philosopher and satirist) Golden Ass, apparently a slightly' fictionized
account of how he underwent legal and
devotional training to become a priest of Isis.
But Epicureanism divorced ethics from politics, rejected mathematics as a basic trainEpicurus
ing, and did everything possible to appeal to
all ages, all nationalities, and both sexes
(except to encourage their equality). Since
Hercules), the persistent efforts of the fol- Epicurus's espousal of atomism was primarlowers of Jesus to prove that he was a histor- ily a means of justifying his rejection of the
ical figure suggests that they recognized the afterlife, his followers hardly needed to
advantages which accrued most prominently
understand it. Thus his cult had a special
to the Epicureans. How many of the similari- appeal to the bourgeoisie, who not only
ties were due to the formulators of the doubted their ability to cope with intellectual
legends about Jesus may never be known.
problems but wanted a philosophy which
One revealing difference: Epicurus lived freed them from feeling responsible for the
long enough to show a real genius in organiz- health of the state. It is no accident that
ing his congregations and establishing a Epicurus alone systematically set up schools
clear line of succession. For Jesus that task
for children, even though his detractors
had to be performed by others, especially used this activity to belittle him as a mere
Paul of Tarsus.
schoolteacher. In that respect, too, the early
After Epicurus's death his doctrines
Christians followed his lead to produce
proved to be very appealing to the Roman
catechumens for novices. Knowing of the
society, especially in the towns and countrysalt placed ceremoniously In his mouth, we
side.1t spread quickly all over Italy, partly by may plausibly suppose that the Epicurean
having "each one teach one," until in the last novice underwent comparable rituals.

only after his death. (Christian apologists

had to hunt desperately in the Gospels to
find a passage authorizing the spread of the
cult to non-Jewish communities.) Both were
in danger from mobs, retired temporarily
from the public scene as they formulated
their philosophies, and became the object of
legends. Both left home, fled the areas
where the state religion was most powerful
(Athens and Jerusalem), went back after
varied missionary work with a coterie of disciples - but with highly contrasting outcomes. Since the mystery religions alldeified
a mythical founder (even the Stoics claimed

August, 1985

American Atheist

Always The Poor

But Epicureanism had less to offer the city
slums burgeoning all over the empire. Thus
when Christianity went even further, linking
ethics only to salvation and offering the poor
and foolish even more inducements to accept its regimen, it found fertile ground in the
economic unrest of the dispossessed for
promises of eternal happiness after death.
Among other similarities is an intriguing
one offered by a University of Toronto professor, N. W. DeWitt, in his Epicurus and
His Phiiosophy9 (from which I have drawn
elsewhere). Observing that images of Epicurus and Jesus were ubiquitous among their
respective adherents, he held it was no accident that Epicurus's face was bearded,
Jesus's not, until the Epicureans were suppressed, after which the images of Jesus
were bearded.
Another similarity suggesting that the
Christian leaders modeled their techniques
on Epicurus's: his cult stressed letters, and
even his private letters were widely circulated among his congregations. For example, fourteen years after he left his first center in Lampsacus, he published a letter
entitled "To the Friends in Lampsacus."
Since such an epistle seems to have been
unique at the time, Paul's epistles may very
well have been modeled on this innovation.
DeWitt also- points out that Epicurean
catchwords appear several times in the New
Testament; e.g., when Paul wrote of "the
fullness of god" and the "fulness of the
Spirit," he was echoing an Epicurian doctrine that Nature has limited our desires so
that we can become full. Again, when Paul
attacks those who "say Peace and Safety,"
he was referring to Epicurean slogans.
It now seems appropriate to put the
struggle between the more popular cults,
the truly missionary ones who strove for
primacy, in some larger perspective. Despite the dangers of over-simplification, the
succession of cults in vogue takes on an
intriguing dialectical rhythm, one which may
inspire readers to pursue further information about them. (No attempt has been
made to estimate or formulate the effect of
the aberrant doctrines of the Gnostics-? on
each of the cults.)
. Inherit The Earth
Epicureanism was the first and the most
successful for a long period. As late as
Lucian (c. 160 A.D.) its members were still
"fairly numerous." Its congregations seem
held together by mutual concern, according
to principles conceived by a pre-eminent
promoter and organizer. But in a culture
which almost unthinkingly accepted the
doctrine of transmigration of souls (a belief
which most human beings on the earth still
accept), it is easy to recognize the odds

against the continuing success of Epicureanism.

Even so, the echoes of Epicureanism in at
least one Christian apologist centuries later
seem hard to believe. In the earliest - and
longest - attack on the established cults,
The Case against the Pagans, Arnobius
(Christian priest and bishop in Gaul, flourished about 460) seems to have memorized
long sections of Lucretius's poem but is so
ignorant of Christian doctrine that he denies
the immortality of the soul. He also agrees
with Epicurus's most comforting doctrinenamely, that a god cannot be angry: "divine
blessedness (must be) far removed from
such emotions."
Next came Mithraism to the fore. This
cult seems like the final and most intense
effort of the mystery religions to concentrate
the power that was being dissipated by followers who worshipped what were admittedly the same gods in scores of competing
cults. It was essentially a form of military
service, a form which must have appealed to
a country that enjoyed ruling practically all
the known world, and especially to its soldiers. Obviously a sun-god, Mithra endowed
the traditional mystery cults' struggle between good and evil, light and darkness,
spirit and flesh with high drama personified
in thousands of temples by his killing of the
bull and apparently ritualized by sprinkling
the blood on his followers. Later, when the
Emperor Julian (331-363, Flavius Claudius
Julianus, the Apostate, Roman emperor
[361-363]) sought to reverse the triumph of
. Christianity, Mithraism was the alternative
he chose. But its fatal weakness seems to
have been its maleness, its complete indifference to the weak and helpless.
Then came Manichaeism, taking advantage of the features which were already giving the Christian cult its potential; in fact, it
claimed to be a simplified version of that cult,
but with Manes!' given the power to update
Jesus's teachings and supplant his church. It
was immensely appealing; even Augustine
accepted it for nine years. But in this context
it is tempting to characterize it as a perversion of Epicureanism, at least in several relevant respects (but not in rationality):
1. The cult not only opposed violence but
prohibited the killing of animals.
2. It encouraged the avoidance of all onerous work and responsibility, to the point that
many followers chose to be beggars.
3. It had a historic founder, but one from
the exotic East.
4. The ordinary members of its congregations were practically slaves to enable the
"Elect" to live as they pleased.
5. Its leaders maintained that it could free
people from all error through the operation
of reason alone, entirely independent of

revelation or some divine authority.

The Christian cult triumphed, of course,
but the scars of this struggle persisted indefinitely, so that almost any time in the next
thousand years when a heresy surfaced, the
authorities called it Manichaeism. The mass
insanity that produced the Dark Ages made
it no longer possible for a rational view of life
like Epicureanism to prosper. All that was
left was the struggle between various degrees of irrationality.
Denial of Immortality
When Augustine says he would have
"awarded the palm to Epicurus but for the
denial of immortality and divine judgment,"
(Confessions, 6.16) the major weakness of
Epicureanism may well be in focus. For centuries its adherents found in the carefully
ennobled image of Epicurus an adequate
shield against human fears of death and the
afterlife. But in the long run people were and
are too irrational to shrug off the speech
Homer put in the mouth of Achilles' wretched ghost: "I had rather bea slave in the
house of some landless man ... than be king
of all dead men." Since all the other cults
accepted reincarnation, the transmigration
of souls, only Epicurus could offer permanent escape from the fears of death; that is,
until the Christian cult glorified suffering on
earth as a guarantee of permanent bliss. It
had to ignore passages such as Ecclesiastes
9:4-5 as a reflection of Epicureanism: "A living dog is better than a dead lion, for the
living know that they shall die: but the dead
know not any thing." Even though the fear
that the dead will know was cultivated by a
variety of cults, Epicureanism continued for
centuries to prosper. But finally the fears
were too much for the cult of Epicurus to
overcome - more's the pity - however
much the Romans wanted to escape the
countless reminders of death.
The very cryptic hints in the four Gospels
that salvation meant an eternal life of happiness was probably influenced by the very
appealing description of the Elysian Fields in
Virgil's (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1976) Aeneid, who in his earlier
poems showed the influence of Epicureanism. The life of the gods as described by
Lucretius was also a perfect model for the
Christian heaven. But on such traditions the
Church Fathers cleverly superimposed a set
of punishments for the damned and an elaborate system of rewards, the stick and the
carrot which cults accepting the doctrine of
transmigration of souls could not rival. Although at first glance it would seem that
Epicureanism could hardly come close to
rivaling the Christian solution, actually most
of the ingredients were there for that cult to
build a system irresistible to society's victims, for death would instantly relieve the
suffering. In any case, as concerns the
(Cont'd on pg. 30)

Austin, Texas

August, 1985

Page 21

Lukas T. Schmid


Translated by Louis E. Carlat from
the Swiss Journal Freidenker (Freethinker), Vol. 67, No. 10, October 1984.
West, which is losing its world
has "finally" found in

Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II two

leaders who are not paralyzed by the shock
of Vietman but, on the contrary, are aggres
sively pushing forward their conservatism.
So it is no wonder that these two gentlemen
are good friends. On the Pope's way to visit
Korea, he managed to find a half hour to
embrace the President of the U.S. in Alaska.
There was surely not much to talk about,
but still the two guardians of morality were
mainly in agreement in their viewpoints:
Ronald Reagan would not only like to forbid
abortion in his country but also introduce
prayer in the schools; Pope John Paul II, in
his turn, expressed his full support of the
White House's policy in Central America.
However, not only have the liberation
movements in Central America given U.S.
imperialism a rough time for a considerable
period, the Vatican too is having problems
with its sheep in Latin America.
While Vatican-affiliated banks are carrying out dubious dealings with Central Arnerican dictatorships, and while the Pope canonized the radical right-wing Jesuit de
Anchieta ("Swords and iron rods are the
best preachers," a quote from de Anchieta),
the supreme Catholic shepherd withdrew
permission to read Mass from several Nicaraguan priests who welcomed the liberation
process in their country, disassociated himself from the progressive movement of the
people's church, and threatened the clerical
members of the Nicaraguan government
with expulsion from the Catholic Church.
Even a couple of years earlier, at the Third
Conference of Latin American Bishops, the
Pope told the progressive clergy to cool it.
He warned priests who had taken a stand on
the side of poverty to keep out of political
conflicts: "A conception of Christ as a politician, revolutionary, and anarchist from Nazareth cannot be harmonized with the
Church's catechesis." The Pope declared
further: "Although the Church is modernizing its defense and promotion of human dig-

Page 22

nity, it is doing so in the context of its mission, which always has a religious character,
not a social one."
The condemnation of the liberation theology espoused by the Latin American clerics - who do not view poverty, hunger,
misery, disease, and repression as secondary secular matters, but who fight to overcome them - is not just an internal problem
of the Church. As freethinkers we are fighting for solidarity; we stand on the side of the
poor, the neglected, and the weak; and we
are ready here and now to fight for a better
world with all the strength of good will. We
recognize this battle as a means of eiiminating the religious yearning for heavenly reo
demption. Precisely for this reason, we welcome the activities of liberation theology as
a first step by the clergy itself to bring its
estranged mysticism back down to earth to seek hope not in the beyond, in heaven, in
god, or elsewhere, but rather in our human
society itself.
It is thus no wonder that the well-fed gentlemen in the Vatican revile the representatives of this movement as "Marxists." The
Boff brothers of Brazil, who are among the
best- known representatives of Latin American liberation theology, have responded to
these accusations from the central church
in Europe by saying that liberation theology
had arisen from the natural impulses of
Christians engaged in the midst of the poor.
It is thus also no wonder that they would use
"Marxism ... as an instrument to analyze
This led to Clodovis Boff's teaching license being revoked by the Archbishop of
Rio de Janeiro and .to the initiation of Vatican proceedings against his brother Leonardo. On September 3d, the president of
the Congregation for the Propagation of the
Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, published the
Vatican's "Instructions on Some Aspects of
the Theology of Liberation," which maintained the incompatibility between faith and
liberation theology.
As freethinkers, we can only ascribe to
the opinion of the theologians Kung, Schillebeeckx, and Cougar, who accuse the Vatican of denying social change and supporting a religion which purports to be non-

August, 1985

political, but actually is making decisions

which in reality represent an offense against
the poor and the oppressed.
For all these reasons, the Union of Freethinkers of the Basel Area has decided to
support the major national demonstration
"Solidarity with Central America against
escalation of U.S. intervention" which will
be held in Switzerland in late October, a few
days before the elections in the U.S. and
Nicaragua. We remind all freethinkers of
Ronald Reagan's words of August 2, 1984, in
which he stated that prayer is as powerful as
atomic weapons and that it is the first and
foremost means to which he has recourse to
solve the world's problems. If, indeed, the
President of the U.S. equates prayer with
atomic weapons and praises it as his most
important means of solving problems, then
we are nauseated by the macabre taste of
the "joke" which he expressed in a speech of
August 12, 1984, to the effect that he had
just signed a law outlawing the Soviet Union
and that the bombing of Russia would begin
in five minutes!

And the Meek

shall inherit
the earth
American Atheist

Shelley Spear


is patriarchy
powerful and insidious.

at its most

Mormon men have absolute control over

their families. Church leaders (always male)
control the members' spiritual lives, and
Mormon women are carefully indoctrinated
to fervently support the system that oppresses them. When I was a young child, I
saw how patriarchy in the Mormon church
promoted violence. As a teenager, I learned
about the power of guilt and fear in controlling church members' lives. After nineteen
years of repressed rebellion, I experienced
the ultimate Mormon nightmare - excornmunication.
The Mormon church in the area where I
grew up was filled with societal misfits, the
poor, and the ignorant. It seemed to attract
them to it - I'm not sure why except that
perhaps these were the easiest for the missionaries to convert. One family that attended my hometown church seemed to define
the misfit category: the Pyke family with its
patriarch, Brother Leland Pyke.
Brother Pyke and his wife Jane had five
children: Mary, Elizabeth, Faith, Melody,
and Leland, Jr. All but Elizabeth were, at
least to some degree, intellectually impaired.
The Pykes lived on Jackass Hill, the ugliest section of an incredibly unsightly valley,
because of the scarring done by a hundred
years of corporate mining. Their house was
the most shockingly dumpy on a squalid
street lined by falling-down shacks. Car- seat
sofas and weeks of garbage furnished the
front porch, and the yard was strewn with
cast-off clothing and car parts. Grass had to
be carefully nurtured in that area. Needless
to say, the Pyke yard was sun-baked dirt.
Thinking back, I can see that the Pykes
must have been incredibly poor - I never
remember anyone of them sporting a new
article of clothing, and they had the same
beat- up station wagon all the years I lived
there. Brother Pyke had once been a miner
and after the mine wore his body out, he was
on company disability. When that ran out,
he turned to government assistance. During
the weekdays Brother Pyke stayed at home
with Jane and the kids. He rarely spoke,
never smiled, and ruled his clan with fierce
One Sunday about the year 1969, my
mother herded my two big brothers, my sister, and me into the church for Sacrament
Meeting. My father was anon-member, so

Austin, Texas

Mama had the sole responsibility for her

children's spiritual upbringing. She carried
and still carries this burden with earnest
We sat down in one of the middle rows
behind the Pyke family just in time for the
service to begin. Isat at the end of the bench
by Mama, and Gus sat by Callie, teasing her
and making her giggle softly. Chuck, the
oldest at twelve, was a recent initiate into the
church's patriarchal power structure - he
was a "deacon," the lowest rung on the
ladder and had the duty of passing the trays
which carried the sacrament; so he sat in
front in his designated seat, facing the
The speakers for the evening were Sister
Anderson, Brother Truman, and Brother
Slaughter. Halfway through Sister Anderson's dejected sounding talk, Leland, Jr.
wiggled and shifted his weight on the solid
wood bench. Brother Pyke woke up from his
habitual church meeting nap, mid-snore,
just long enough to glare down the row of
Pykes at Leland, who transferred his uneasy
gaze from his father to his dusty, cracked,
black vinyl shoes, size 12. Unaware of the
sudden tension Brother Pyke's awakening
had aroused, Sister Anderson droned sadly
on about the necessity of sincere repentance to eternal salvation.
I sat silently with my head leaning against
Mama's shoulder, thinking how relieved I
was that Brother Pyke wasn't my father. I
watched him sleep, his long black nose hairs
swaying to the rhythm of his breathing; he
was as frightening and pathetically comical
as a Dickens' villain. With a sighing breath,
Sister Anderson intoned the traditional closing words: "I say these things in the name of
Jesus Christ, Amen," and seated herself
with her family. Taking advantage of the
short respite between speakers, a pair of
young mothers escaped into the foyer with
their restless babies tucked under their
arms. I listened with interest as old Brother
Truman, a special friend to my brothers and
me, began his talk.
"It is not enough to repent, brothers and
sisters. You must prove how much you
regret your sins by promising not to repeat
them, and by doing your best to keep that
promise," counseled the humble, old man.
Uncomfortable, familiar twinges of guilt
tugged at my consciousness, and I stopped
listening to myoId friend, observing instead

August, 1985

the bent heads of Leland and Melody. The

brother and sister seemed to be suppressing
a dispute over which one would hold the
hymnal. As Leland whisked the book from
Melody's grasp, Brother Pyke stretched a
long arm behind his wife and two daughters
and gave an open-handed whack to the back
of his son's head. Leland strangled the wail
that surged up his throat and cradled his
head in both hands, moaning quietly, but not
quietly enough.
Brother Pyke held the attention of the
entire congregation, a few looking on with
horrified disapproval, others with passive
approbation, as he propelled his terrified son
out of the chapel, cuffing him every few
steps, and closing the door behind him.
I looked into my mother's eyes, which
reflected the helpless pity in my own, and we
both tried to block out the muffled sounds of
the beating taking place in the hall.
As Brother Pyke returned to his seat,
without Leland, Brother Truman's expression of angry confusion was replaced by
weary relief, and he continued his talk.
I can still remember the bitter abhorrence
I felt when, after the meeting was over and
the incident nearly forgotten, I saw Brother
Pyke approach the station wagon where
Leland cowered in the back seat.
As a young child, I saw the obvious evil in
the church's permission of the physical
abuse of a helpless boy. Not until I was a
teenager did I begin to understand how the
Mormon power structure manipulated its
members through their feelings of guilt and
fear. Mormons feel guilty when they disregard the code of behavior laid out in Mormon doctrine; so to avoid guilt feelings, they
obey. If a Mormon is not motivated by guiltavoidance, surely the fear of god's wrath will
guide her, as Mary Daly explains: "Women
are silenced/split by the embedding of fears.
These connived and injected fears function .
.. (like) electrodes implanted in the brain of a
victim who can be managed by remote control" (Gyn/Ecology, 19). As a teenager, I
resented the church's "remote control" intrusion into my life, especially its most personal
aspect - my sexuality.
A Mormon bishop has the responsibility
for maintaining the righteousness of his congregation and so must conduct one-to-one
inquiries into the private lives of the members of his flock. These meetings are called
"interviews," and they take place as a matter

Page 23

of course once a year after a Mormon has

reached adolescence.
When I was sixteen, I was called into the
bishop's office for my first interview. I was
quite nervous, because except for a casual
passing greeting, Bishop Martin never
deigned to speak to us girls - unless there
was some kind of problem. Imeekly followed
him into his office.
Bishop Martin was not a terribly likeable
kind of guy; he was young (mid-thirties),
attractive, aware of the importance of his
position, and proud that he had attained
such eminence at such a young age. I could
tell that he found the prospect of an interview with me only slightly less disagreeable
than I did myself.
He began with a few, obviously perfunctory pleasantries: "How is school going?" he
asked, and not waiting for a reply, continued, "Are you still getting straight A's?"
I flushed, smiled, and stuttered an affirmative response. Then I despised myself for
being taken in by such phony charm.
He confronted me across his tidy desk
and looked at the piece of paper in front of
him; then he began the serious portion of his
unpleasant task.
"Have you been paying a full tithe?" he
inquired, with more than a little reproach in
his tone; he had the statistics of my scanty
and random payments in front of him.
"No, I haven't. Imean to but somehow the
money just gets spent. I really will try
harder," I fumbled, feeling a familiar dawning
of guilt.
"You realize, Sister Spear, that you can't
go on the youth temple excursion to Cardston next month if you haven't been paying
your tithing. Did you intend to go?"
"Well, I really hadn't planned on it," I said,
thinking how tithe-paying might be motivated in some cases by the expectation of
the fun of a temple excursion.
Bishop Martin, somewhat surprised by
my answer, said, "Well, then, there really
isn't any need for an extensive interview,"
and brightened at the thought.
"Have you been keeping the Word of
That meant, basically, had I refrained
from smoking, drinking coffee, and drinking
alcoholic beverages?
"Yes," I replied with only a twinge of conscience. I thought about the tea I'd had last
week at a Chinese restaurant on a debate
trip - it came with the meal; I didn't order it.
"Good, good," he murmured and jotted
on the paper.
I was startled to notice perspiration begin
to accumulate on the bishop's brow, and I
could almost feel the emotional distance he
suddenly put between us. In a brisk, slightly
scornful tone, he asked, "Have you kept
yourself chaste?"
A hot blush pulsed in my face. I had certainly not expected cold Bishop Martin to

Page 24

ask such an intensely personal question.

What was I expected to admit, I wondered,
as I forced out the response: "Yes, sir. I
have." From repeated Sunday School lessons I knew that chastity meant more than
being a virgin, which I emphatically was, but I
couldn't help recalling recent post-football
game romps in the wide receiver's Subaru.
However, I would die before I would describe my dating activities to Bishop Martin.
He glanced at me suspiciously, probably
wondering whether my severe embarrassment stemmed from feelings of guilt or
simply shyness. Returning the note paper to
its file, he stood up and stretched out a hand
for me to shake. "Well, Sister Spear, I guess
that's all. You can go back to class now.
Don't forget about your tithing."
"Thank you, sir. I won't," I affirmed, as I
wiped my damp palms on my skirt and
shook his hand.
I didn't go straight back to class. Instead, I
walked into the ladies' bathroom and sat on
a chair in the corner, facing the great rectangular mirror. Slowly, my blush receded and
the fierce pounding of my heart subsided.
Waves of humiliation rolled over me,
drenching me. As I looked at my now pale
reflected image, I wondered why the bishop
had to act as an intermediary between god
and me; couldn't Iconfess my sins to him on
my own? I had always been told that god
listened to everyone's
prayers, even
It was months before I could recall the
interview without feeling a painful shame.
I had a revolutionary experience when ,
was a senior in high school: I realized that'
was an obedient Mormon, not because ,
wanted to be one, but because I was afraid'
would go to hell if I wasn't. Being idealistic
and having a sincere desire to live according
to a true and just moral code, I threw off my
Mormon, other-world-oriented morality in
favor of a self-defined, this-world ethical
code. It has been the most difficult task of
my adult life to purge Mormon indoctrination from my subconscious. , believe that
Mormonism's greatest evil lies in its shameless brainwashing of children who become
so thoroughly trapped in the church's web of .
guilt and fear that they are never fullyable to
I was formally excommunicated from the
Mormon church in October of 1980, after
being summoned to trial in the Boise 42nd
Ward by Bishop Clark and his counselors.
The church did not order my departure;
rather, , chose it for myself.
As a child, I heard of excommunication
only in furtive whispers - to be excommunicated was, of course, to be a pariah in
Mormon society. Most Mormons would
scarcely believe that anyone would choose
to be banished from an afterlife with god and
Christ. But even more incredible to Mormon
believers would be the thought that anyone

August, 1985

who had once had a testimony that the

church was true would later deny that testimony; the punishment for such a denial is
to be cast by god into complete darkness, all
alone, for eternity.
After seventeen years of bearing my
reluctant testimony, I stopped going to
church. I wouldn't have said' didn't believe
the doctrine, just that , didn't like it. My
brother Chuck, who had reached the highest level of the pre-mission Aaronic priesthood, concurrently made the same choice.
The inactivity of my brother and me was like
a lead weight on Mama's soul; we didn't talk
about it.
One summer in 1979, while I was visiting
with my mother, she tearfully complained to
me that Chuck had been excommunicated
at his own request. Being extremely proud
of her brilliant son, Mama characteristically
made excuses for him: it was the influence of
his liberal college professors and radical
friends. She said, "It is better for him to be
excommunicated than to be a hypocrite."
As 'listened to her, I felt a little contempt for
my brother - how could he hurt Mama so
deeply and for no good reason? If he didn't
like the church, he didn't have to attend. To
renounce his belief by excommunication
seemed unnecessarily cruel.
Months went by, and my feelings concerning my brother's action slowly changed. ,
read about Sister Sonia Johnson who was
persecuted by the Mormon leaders for her
stand on the Equal Rights Amendment.
Johnson saw Mormon opposition to the
ERA as being motivated by fear: 'Though
the ERA threatens only legal privilege, ...
men of the church ... fear the undermining
of any sort of male privilege" (Heretic, 252).
Sonia Johnson was excommunicated
against her willin December of 1979. Newspapers and magazines carried stories about
Mormon teenagers who committed suicide
because of overwhelming guilt - one high
school boy in Meridian took his own life
because he couldn't stop masturbating. I
saw television commercials that celebrated
the martyrdom of mothers ("You gave me
everything you had, Mother. Don't feel bad
for missing your master's degree"). One
Mormon commercial showed a little boy
heartbroken because his friend had complained, "He throws like a girl." I mulled over
the way the church had tried to force my
multi-talented but unathletic brother into a
macho mold. Ithought about my little sisters
and their ambitions, certain to be squelched
or belittled by church leaders. Two years of
detached observation showed me that not
only did' not believe the church's teachings,
I despised them.
Not long after my twentieth birthday, I
called my brother to find out how to get
myself excommunicated. He said to write a
letter to the bishop of my ward requesting it,
and to include several heretical comments

American Atheist

so there would be no doubt about my sincerity. On a Friday afternoon I received a handdelivered response to my letter. The bishop's
note informed me that the church had
decided to act on my request, and the
excommunication would take place on
October 9th at 6:30 p.m., whether I was in
attendance or not. I decided to attend.
Arriving at the church a few minutes early,
I sat down outside the bishop's office on a
hard wood bench. The silence in the cold
church made me a little uneasy. When the
door to the bishop's office finallyopened, an
older man emerged and introduced himself
as Bishop Clark. He reached down to shake
my hand. I stood, rubbed my palms on my
skirt, and returned his greeting, "Nice to
meet you. I'm Shelley Spear." Then I followed him into his office where I was seated .
in a chair across from the bishop's desk.
Two other men, the bishop's counselors,
were present in the room.
"Sister Spear, I hope you know that you
didn't have to come here today. This might
be upsetting for you." Bishop Clark paused,
probably hoping I'd burst into tears and say
the whole thing was a mistake.
"I wanted to be here, so that I'd know
what actions you'll take, and so that I could
clarify any questions you might have about
my letter," I said firmly.
"Before we start, I'd just like to say that
what we do here is not necessarily final- if,
after a time, you reconsider your feelings,
you have the opportunity to have your
membership reinstated," Clark explained,
discomfited by my apparent self-confidence.
"I won't reconsider, Bishop," I stated

"All right, then," he said, obviously irritated, "Brother Morgan, we're ready to
begin." I turned to look at the person being
addressed. The ward clerk sat quietly in the
corner by the door, holding a pen poised
over a stenopad, ready to transcribe the
After clearing his throat, Bishop Clark
began the church's case against me. Basically, there were two reasons for granting
my request, both taken from my letter: first,
I did not accept the authority of the priesthood, especially that of the Prophet; and
second, I did not believe the Book of Mormon and other Mormon doctrine to be the
word of god. Then, for my benefit, the
bishop added his personal testimony as to
the truth of the gospel and the divine inspiration of the priesthood. His counselors, in
turn, bore their testimonies. The bishop
concluded his case by saying, "Sister Spear,
when you leave this building today, the spirit
of the Holy Ghost, which has been your
companion since you were confirmed a
member of the church, willno longer be with
you. That little voice of conscience which
has helped to guide and shelter you willhave
been taken away. You willundoubtedly feel
lost and alone without him. Let us pray for
your safety and happiness, and for your
return to god's church.
"Is there anything you would like to say
before the closing prayer?" he asked me.
I hesitated, knowing that I could never
shake the belief of these four men in the
patriarchal structure that gave each his
power and importance. But at least they

would hear me out, as I had heard them:

"Yes, Bishop. I'd like to say that I don't recognize your right to take the Holy Ghost
from me, since I don't believe he was yours
to give in the first place. And I don't believe in
a god who would condemn me for what I've
done today. I've only looked for what is right
and good, and I haven't found it in the Mormon church. I'll pray for you, Bishop Clark,
and for all the members of the church, that
someday you'll find truth and happiness."
As I left the church that evening, I admitted to myself that Bishop Clark had been
right about one thing: I did feel different.
Mormonism had loosened its death-grip on
my spirit. I trembled in the crisp May air as I
got into the driver's seat of my car and pulled
away from the simple, red brick church.



Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of

Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon Press,
Johnson, Sonia. From Housewife to Heretic.
New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983.


Ms. Spear, an English teacher in
Idaho's Treasure Valley, gained her
familiarity with Mormonism through
birth in Utah and long-time residence
in an Idaho mining community. She
is currently at work on her
Master's Degree in English and
Secondary Education.

The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments
issues and viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.
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August, 1985




Page 25


100 Years Ago ...

In the August 15, 1885 edition of The
Truth Seeker, the following was reported:

"Frank James, [brother of Jesse James

(1847-1882), American outlaw] murderer
and train-robber, is attending the revival
services conducted by Sam Jones at Plattsburg, Missouri, Whatever else may be said
against Co!. James, he has always been a
pious man. During his whole career he never
shot a man or stopped a train on Sunday,
and no man has denounced Co!. Ingersoll in
stronger terms than this same Colonel
And the August 1st issue contained this
little gem_
"According to the correspondent of the
Providence Telegram, the Rev, Henry Ward
Beecher [1813-1887, American clergyman]
declined an offer of $5,000 to reply to
Colonel Ingersoll's articles on 'The Christian
Religion,' confessing inability to meet the latter's arguments."
At the time, Beecher was just winding up a
nationwide series of sermons against evolution,

35 Years Ago ....

The Progressive World magazine reported that Merrill R. Holste, of St. Paul, Minnesota, had been elected First Vice President
of the United Secularists of America at its
Convention held in New York City, New
York, in 1950.
Merrill R. Holste is currently the State
Director of American Atheists in New Mexico. He holds a "Pioneer Atheist" award and
is on the staff of the American Atheist. For
years his column "The Angry Old Atheist"
was featured therein, and he donated his
considerable Atheist library to the Charles
E. Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives, Inc.

25 Years Ago ...

Under the heading "A Place of One's
Own," the August 12th, 1960 edition of the
Freethinker of London, England, reported:
"The National Secular Society was founded by Charles Bradlaugh ninety-four years
ago. It is the fervent hope of its present
President ... and its Executive Committee,
that it willcelebrate its centenary in its own
premises. . _
"Eventually, after numerous disappointments, we found 103 Borough High Street,
London, S.E.l. And we bought it To do so
we had to sell securities, but we felt it

Page 26

worthwhile ...
"But it is badly in need of repair and decoration. And, in fact, the work of renovation
has started. It willcost a lot"
In the August 19th issue of the same journal in the "Views and Opinions" column, F.
A Ridley wrote an article on "The Olympic
Games v. Christianity." The article revealed
that the Olympic Games were only revived
in modern times in August, 1896 in Rome, as
a "notable revival of the old Hellenic spirit
and, as such a crushing defeat for
He pointed out that in the year A.D. 394,
the Roman Emperor Theodosius, issued a
decree forbidding the reassembly of the
Olympic Games in Greece due for that year.
The Imperial Decree furthermore prohibited
the reassembly of the Games altogether.
The Olympic Games had continued uninterruptedly since 776 B.C. Throughout a
period of nearly twelve centuries, the successive Olympiads had been held every four
years, representing, along with the neighboring Delphic Oracle, the totality of the Hellenic nation. The Olympic Games, he felt,
epitomized for over twelve hundred years,
the central and supreme embodiment of the
classical Hellenic culture and the individual
goal of man, Mens sana in corpore sano - a
sound mind in a sound body. The official
suppression of the Games by Christianized
Rome epitomized the difference between
Greek Paganism, which revered bodily
achievements equally with mental and artistic ones, and Christianity. For Christianity,
he noted, "loathed and despised the human
body as a sink of corruption in man and of
perpetual temptation in woman."

20 Years Ago ...

And the Liberal in its August issue, in an
article titled "Is This Trip Really Necessary?"
revealed how it was with the United Nations
and the Pope.
"The Vatican has outlined some conditions that must be met before the Pope
agrees to visit the United Nations in the fal!.
"They are:
"The Pope must be the principal guest,
from a standpoint of protocol, when the
chief dignitaries of all the member nations
are in attendance; there would be no debate
on any crisis during his visit; the visit must
not interfere with the opening of the final
session of the Vatican Council (Sept 28);
and President Johnson must go to the U_N.
rather than Pope Paul going to Washington.
"Forget it!"

August, 1985

In the same issue the continuing strife at

Girard College was reported.
"Girard College in Philadelphia which
Stephen Girard founded for the benefit of
'male white orphans' has been picketed
since May first by negroes [sic] who want
Girard's last willand testament disregarded
so that negro [sic] boys can be admitted. A
group of clergymen, Catholic, Protestant,
and Jewish, have now come to the bat with a
marvelous plan to end this strife - 'We ask
that prayer be offered this weekend for
divine guidance in this matter so that all
concerned deliberate patiently and respond
positively to the moral and social values of
our religious heritage _.. '
"Girard also provided specifically in his
will that no clergyman or person under religious orders or vows was ever to be permitted to step into the bounds of the college
grounds. He also had a ten foot high stone
wall built around the grounds but it is not
known whether it was to keep the clergy out
or the boys in.
"The matter of the exclusion of negro [sic]
boys from the college has been decided by
the Supreme Court of Penna. as being constitutional a few years ago. Shortly after.
Girard's death the U. S_ Supreme Court
decided that it was quite all right to keep the
clergy out IfGod had wanted to do anything
about these discriminations he has had
nearly a century and a half to act There
seems little likelihood that he will do anything now."

15 Years Ago ...

The British Freethinker reported in its
August issue on conditions at "Brookwood."
"The London Young Humanists have
issued a statement expressing dismay at the
state of Charles Bradlaugh's grave. A party
of them recently visited Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, where the famous 19th century radical and founder of the National
Secular Society is buried. Although one of
the group had been to the grave only three
years ago it was with great difficulty that they
located it because of the condition into
which it has fallen.
"Whilst searching for Bradlaugh's grave
they found that of W. S. Ross who was wellknown in freethought circles as 'Saladin.'
But he was no friend of Bradlaugh, and
almost certainly was largely responsible for
the scurrilous biography which was suppressed after Bradlaugh brought a successful suit against it." ~

American Atheist

THE PROBING MIND / Frank R. Zindler



the Supreme Court of the UnitStates of America decided on

January 22, 1973, that women have a right
to control their own reproductive destinies,
it struck down the state laws which had
made early abortions illegaL This allowed
women to take a great step forward in their
quest for social equality with men, Unfortunately, the Court was not as well-informed
on the scientific and philosophical issues as
it might have been, and although it came to
what I consider to be the right conclusions,
it did 50 partly for the wrong reasons.
While the Supreme Court did recognize
the importance of the question "Is the fetus
a person?" it was unable to break away from
the irrelevant question "When does life
begin?" Consequently, the court's deliberations were hampered by an incorrect formulation of the central question at issue. Clearly, the question does not concern the beginning of "life." The unfertilized egg is alive,
the sperm is alive, and no one has ever
suggested that live babies result from dead
sperm or eggs. Human life is part of a living
continuum stretching back to the dawning
days of the planet.
Despite the shaky scientific foundations
of its decision, the Court made a statement
of great practical utility. It declared, in effect,
that during the first trimester of pregnancy,
when abortion is far safer for a woman than
is childbirth, essentially no restrictions can
be placed upon a woman's right to privacy
and upon her right to refuse to provide room
and board for an uninvited guest. During the
second trimester also, a woman's rights
overshadow the "rights" of the fetus. During
this period, the state may regulate abortion,
but only to provide for the well-being of the
woman - not because of fetal "rights."
Only during the third trimester, when the
fetus becomes "viable" - capable of surviving on its own outside the mother's body does the state begin to have a legitimate
interest in the "rights" of the unborn. Even
50, the mother's health is judged to be of
greater importance than the lifeof the fetus.
Since the legalization of abortion in America, a hurricane of opposition has developed. The most backward religious groups,
Protestant as well as Catholic, have rallied
to the appealing "Right-to-Life" slogan. No
contrary slogan of equal appeal has yet been

Austin, Texas

invented. "Freedom of Choice" just doesn't

cut the mustard. "Life with Dignity" is 50-50,
and there don't appear to be any others.
Thus, to oppose these fanatics is to appear
to be anti-lifeand against rights. The "wrong"
of right-to-life is not always easy to see.
Increasingly, ethically-concerned people
have looked to American Atheists for answers to the questions raised by believers in
single-celled people. Although the questions
are too numerous to deal with in a single
article, I have, in the lines which follow, dealt
with a representative sample of the questions which have been asked in the course of
both formal and informal - informal sometimes to the verge of riot - discussions.
Isn't abortion more a social problem
than a religious problem?
Of course, abortion - like all aspects of
human reproductive behavior and personal
freedom - is a "social" problem. If the
Roman Catholic Church and several of the
more strident fundamentalist Protestant
churches were not, however, trying to force
their religious dogmas on society by force of
law and constitutional amendment, women
would find less opposition to their quest for
self-determination in the area of reproductive rights. Opposing freedom of choice in
the matter of abortion is tantamount to
advocating compulsory pregnancy after
rape, incest, or contraceptive failure. In the
matter of abortion, as with all"pelvic issues,"
most of the shackles which restrain human
freedom have been imposed by religious
groups, directly or indirectly.
But doesn't freedom of religion allow
the Roman Catholic Church to speak
out on moral issues and make known
its unchanging opposition to the killing
of unborn babies?
The Roman Catholic Church has the
right to speak out, but it does not have the
moral right to force its unprovable theological opinions on non-Catholics. Moreover,
the term "unborn baby" is a misuse of
words. By definition, a baby is an individual
who has already been born. Before birth,
the organism is called an "embryo" or "fetus," depending on the degree of development.
As for the "unchanging opposition" of the

August, 1985

Roman Catholic Church, its all-out opposition to abortion dates only from the microbiological discovery of human eggs and
zygotes in the nineteenth century and the
abandonment of the Aristotelian views held
by the church for centuries. A distinction
was made between the "formed" and the
"unformed" fetus. An unformed fetus contained no "soul" and received its soul only
later on - 40 days after conception in males
and 80 days in females! St. Augustine
accepted this idea and taught that abortion
of the fetus informatus warranted only a
fine, but abortion of the fetus formatus was
murder. The distinction was sanctified by
Gratian in his codification of canon law in
1140. The modern idea that the zygote (fertilized egg) has a soul and that abortion at
any stage of development is murder derives
from a modern, unsuccessful attempt by
religion to adapt itself to scientific knowledge.
But doesn't the Bible teach that abortion is a sin?

The King James version of the Bible does

not even mention the word "abortion," let
alone condemn it or say it is murder. In
Exodus 21:22 (New English Bible, NEB), it
When in the course of a brawl, a man
knocks against a pregnant woman 50
that she has a miscarriage but suffers
no further hurt, then the offender
must pay whatever fine the woman's
husband demands ...
That this is roughly the biblical equivalent
of a parking ticket is clear when one realizes
that-a son can be stoned to death simply for
being a glutton, a drunkard, and rebelling
against his parents (Deut. 21:20-21).
Not only does the Bible not condemn
abortion, the jealousy ritual described in the
fifth chapter of the book of Numbers (intelligible only in the NEB translation) would
appear to make Jehovah himself an abortionist. According to the quaint and superstitious procedure prescribed for determining if a wife has been unfaithful to her
husband, after a woman drinks the "water of
contention" containing magic ink washed
off from a scroll of curses, she will suffer a

Page 27

miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) ifshe is

guilty of adultery.
How can you say the Bible doesn't
have anything to say on abortion? Doesn't
the first chapter of Luke tell about John
the Baptist leaping in his mother's
womb after recognizing Mary's voice?
First of all, we may note that this fable has
nothing to say about abortion. Second of all,
this fairy tale is an obvious attempt to show
the miraculous origins of both John and
Jesus. If only a miracle can make a sixmonth-old fetus understand speech and
practice gymnastics, it follows that a normal
fetus can't do such things. Thus, only a miracle can give a fetus the characteristics of a
person. A normal fetus is not a person.
But doesn't the fetus move, show
sensitivity to pain, and have a heartbeat and brain waves?
All this is true, but this does not make the
fetus a person. To be a person, there must
be evidence of a personality. Dogs, frogs,
and earthworms have all the characteristics
listed, but that is insufficient to make them
A brief review of human embryology is in
order. It takes more than ten days after
fertilization for the conceptus to become
anything more than a hollow ball of cells at
the stage of development of certain colonial
algae. During the first week, it is free-floating
and not even attached to the uterine wall.
Not until the beginning of the fourth week
does a heart begin to beat, and then it is
two-chambered like that of a fish. Not until
the end of the fifth week is there evidence of
the beginning of formation of the cerebral
hemispheres, and they are merely hollow
bubbles of cells. Hemisphere development
reaches reptile-grade during the fourth
month, and primitive mammal-grade (opossum) during the sixth month.
Figure 1 shows the human fetus after five
weeks of development. A prominent yolksac is visible, as if the embryo were that of a
reptile developing within a yolk-containing
egg. The heart is two-chambered like that of
a fish, and in the neck region we see prominent gill-clefts. The arteries carrying blood
from the heart to the gills recapitulate in
minute detail the aortic-arch structures of
fishes. Like the embryonic gillsof fishes, the
embryonic gills of humans lack the feathery
respiratory tissues characteristic of mature
This alleged person has two tiny, hollow
bubbles of tissue for cerebral hemispheres,
and it has mesonephric kidneys such as are
found in fishes and amphibians. In fact, it still
has traces of pronephric kidneys, the type
found in the most primitive vertebrate
known to science, the hermaphroditic
Sexually, the embryo is indeterminate,

Page 28

still possessing an all-purpose anal opening,

the cloaca. Although later in development
this structure will become partitioned (into
two separate openings in males, three in
females), at this stage it is just like that of
fishes. Just posterior to the cloaca is a tail
which resembles the tail of a salamander.
In the movie Silent Scream a twelveweek-old fetus knows it's being killed.
How can you deny the evidence of that
As we have mentioned already, the brain
of the three-month-old fetus is still at the
reptile grade of development. It will be four
weeks more before the cells in the cerebral
cortex develop their characteristic sixlayered structure, and only after that willthe
necessary nervous connections be made
for processing of sensory inputs. At this
stage, behavior is entirely reflexive, as in
earthworms. Only long after birth will the
nervous system be developed sufficiently
for the perception of "the most mortal
danger imaginable," to quote the narrator of
the film.
On March 11, 1985, the New York Times
printed an editorial critical of Silent Scream.
Not only did the medical experts quoted by
the Times confirm my opinion that the film

showed nothing at all interpretable - that it

was, in effect, a movie version of a Rorschach ink-blot test - the editorial revealed
that a bit of fraud was involved too. According to Dr. Jennifer Niebyl of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, "right before [Dr.
Nathanson] says the fetus is reacting and
fighting aggressively, he has the film in very
slow motion. Then, as the suction catheter
is placed, he turns it on to regular speed. It's
really very misleading."
Misleading indeed! The whole thing is just
another religious hoax.
I agree that if the mother's life is
by pregnancy she should
be allowed an abortion if it is needed to
save her life. But I don't believe abortion should be a substitute for birth
We agree that abortion is a less desirable
option as compared with contraception. But
contraception often fails, and the same
church which opposes abortion also opposes sterilization and contraception thus creating a greater need for abortion
than otherwise would exist. If one admits
abortion to save a woman's life, one is
admitting that the fetus is less important
than the woman who incubates it. Once one
has admitted this, one no longer has any
grounds to accord full, legal personhood
upon the fetus or - as extremists like
Helms, Falwell, and Wojtyla (alias Pope
John Paul II) do - upon the fertilized egg
All right, I changed my mind. Abortion should not be allowed to save a
woman's life. I think the soul does enter
the zygote at the moment of conception.

Figure 1. [Redrawn from Bradley M.

Pattern, Human Embryology, 3d ed.,
New York: McGraw-Hili, 1968] A fiveweek-old human embryo, drawn to eliminate the natural curvatures
and to
increase visibility of fish-like Ieatures.
Easily seen are the gill-clefts, the twochambered heart, the tail, the unpartitioned cloaca (anal opening), and the
prominent yolk-sac (a reptilian feature).

August, 1985

If the single-celled zygote is equal to a

full-grown woman. it follows that a fullgrown woman can't be worth more than a
single cell! Anyone who values women so
little is a menace to society and shouldn't be
allowed to run loose without a leash.
With regard to "souls," there is no evidence that such things exist, let alone form a
part of the fertilized egg. If a single soul
inhabits a 'single fertilized egg, identical
twins are in big trouble, since such twins
result from the splitting apart of a single
conceptus. Perhaps one twin has the soul of
the zygote and the other twin is a soulless
zombie! In some cases, one "twin" doesn't
develop fully, and we have a two-headed or
two-bodied monster (see figure 2).
Furthermore, modern biotechnological
possibilities make the whole subject of
"ensoulment" a laughable, medieval bit of
theological befuddlement. It is possible to
take two separate zygotes - each supposedly with its own "soul" ~ and/use them
into a single conceptus. Would the resultant
single baby born after such fusion have two

American Atheist

But the zygote has forty-six human

chromosomes and is a unique genetic
being. It is at least a potential human
being and should be protected as something very valuable.
The possession of forty-six chromosomes
does not make a cell a person. Most of the
cells of your body contain these forty-six
chromosomes, but that does not make a
white corpuscle a person! As for the significance of uniqueness, identical quintuplets
are genetically identical, yet they have personal identities apart from their genetic
endowment. The development of cloning
willmake the cellular offspring from a single
zygote - all the cells being genetically identical - into a veritable army of genetically
identical but different persons. Moreover,
not every zygote contains forty-six chromosomes. Zygotes destined to develop into
mentally retarded individuals with Down's
Syndrome ("Mongolism") have forty-seven
chromosomes, and a variety of other developmental defects are known which involve
possession of fewer than forty-six chromosomes. Quite literally, such individuals are
born without all their pieces! Ifpossession of
forty-six chromosomes makes some thing a

person, then it would seem that possession

of a different number would make something else.
As for potential human beings, an acorn
is not an oak tree! With cloning, every
nucleated cell in your body is a potential
person. This being the case, brushing one's
teeth should be a crime on a par with
murder, since one destroys countless epithelial "potential people" with every scrape
across the gums. Fully one-third of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, often
at very early stages of development. Is god
to blame for this? Should he/she/it be
blamed for the destruction of so many
"potential people"? And what of the case
where the conceptus develops into a creature lacking a cerebral cortex?
That not every conception leads to a "living soul" has been long recognized by the
Roman Catholic Church. According to a
1954 edition of the Codex Juris Canonici
the Latin manual of church law, "Monsters
and prodigies must always be baptized conditionally" (Canon 748, my translation). In
other words, the church isn't sure if these
things are persons - and in need of baptism
- or not! The canon continues, "When in
doubt as to whether one or more are persons, one is to be baptized absolutely, the
others conditionally." At this point, the

margin of my copy of the canon law has

been annotated by some theology student
of the past, "baptize each head absolutely."
So there you have it. Even the "modern"
Roman Catholic Church admits that not
every conception is a person. Not every
abortion is "murder"!
As a clincher, we may mention the case
where twins start to develop from the zygote, but one develops into a dermoid
"nidus," a nest-like growth of hair, teeth,
and mucous membranes. Not everything
born of woman becomes a person. Potentiality is not actuality.
You sound like Hitler!
In general, Adolf Hitler was opposed to
abortion and considered himself to be a
good Roman Catholic. Atheists, unlike Hitler, emphasize personal freedom, not only in
the realm of reproductive behavior, but in all
spheres of human activity. We oppose only
those behaviors which cause demonstrable
harm to other persons or endanger the survival of the human species. Just think how
much better the world would have been if
Hitler's mother had had an abortion!
The opponents of freedom of choice
generally are the same people who believe in
the biblical notion that women are secondclass creatures. They belong to churches
Figure 2. [A, B, C, D, E, G, H, and J
adapted from Pattern, supra, 1968; F
and I adapted from Hideo Nishimura et
aI.,Prenatal Development of the Human
With Special Reference to Cranial FacialStructures: An Atlas, D.H.E.W. Pub.
#(NIH)77-946, Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1977] A
bouquet of human monsters. A. A twoheaded monster. B. A footless monster
called a sirenomelus. C. Siamese twins
joined at the head, in which the body of
one twin has not developed. D. A monster resulting from incomplete fusion of
left and right sides of head and failure to
cover what there is of the brain. E.
Would-be identical twins attached to a
single placenta, with one twin being
nothing more than a head. F. A stillborn
fetus with facial malformations including cyclopia, low-set ears, and microstomia. G. A monster with one head but
two bodies. H. A cyclops with proboscis-like structures. I. A monster in
which brain abnormalities cause exotic
deformations of the face. J. An early
embryo in which the head and limbs
remain undifferentiated, but the tail is
clearly present. According to Jesse
Helms, these are all "persons" (since
they developed from fertilized eggs)
and should be allowed to vote. It is left
as an exercise to the reader to decide
just how many votes to reserve for this

Austin, Texas

August, 1985

Page 29

which suppress women on the grounds that

they are god's afterthought
- a spare rib
grown into a temptress
who brought destruction into the Garden of Eden. They
dwell upon biblical proof-texts such as I Cor.
11:3, 7-9:
The head of every man is Christ;
and the head of the woman is the man
[man) is the image and glory of god;
but the woman is the glory of the man.
For the man is not of the woman, but
the woman of the man. Neither was
the man created for the woman, but
the woman for the man.
And religionists just love I Cor. 14:34-35:
Let your women keep silence in the
churches: for it is not permitted unto
them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience ...
and if they will learn any thing, let
them ask their husbands at home: for
it is a shame for women to speak in
the church.
Fortunately, in America it is not a shame
for women to speak outside a church! Atheists cannot understand how any self-respecting woman can allow herself to be degraded
by a church and yet continue to sacrifice her
individuality upon the altar built by her patriarchal oppressors. Within the Bible-believing churches, self-respect is not available to
women. Only if women come out of the
can they develop a sense of
An Atheist woman is a complete person in
her own right. She works with men as an
equal. She has a right to decide how and
when to employ all the organ systems of her
own body. She is worth more than a fetus
and infinitely more than a zygote! No pope
or preacher or president has the moral right
to tell her that she must submit to the doctrine of "obedience." No one has the right to
deny to her the self-determination
automatically to men. Let no one ever again
subordinate the rights of actual persons women - to the imagined rights of eggs!


Cont'd from pg. 21
organization and promotion of the new cult,
Epicureanism was a crucial influence.
1. The philosophy
of Plato that actual
things are copies of transcendent
ideas and
that these ideas are the objects of true
knowledge apprehended
by reminiscence.
2. Platonism modified in later antiquity to
accord with Aristotelian, post-Aristotelian,
and oriental conceptions
that conceive of
the world as being an emanation from the
One with whom the soul is capable of being
reunited in trance or ecstasy.
3. Dernocritus,
born about 460 B.C.,
Greek philosopher,
The Laughing Philosopher.
4. A member of a school of philosophy
founded by Zeno (4th-3rd century B.C.,
Greek philosopher) of Citium about 300B.c.
holding that the wise man should be free
from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and
submissive to natural law.
5. A religion of eastern and central Asia
growing out of the teaching of Guatama
(563?-?483B.C., originally Prince
Siddhartha, Indian philosopher) that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be
from it by mental and moral
6. Islam, the religious faith of Muslims,
based on the words and religious system
founded by the prophet Muhammed
taught by the Koran, the basic principle of
which is absolute submission to a unique
and personal god, Allah.
7. The doctrines of a Jewish sect of the

------- --.--





T. A. Stroud has taught English for

over fifty years, ending at Drake
University. His special field is the
Dark and Middle Ages, but his one
anthology is on comedy and he
has written scores of articles in
many areas. On two occasions in
his adolescence he was immersed
by Southern Baptist ministers,
but obviously it didn't take.

lifestyle, but it is, and we must work on the
problem day by day and call the attention of
our friends, relatives and others to it. Least
of all should we pass the habit on to our
children. ~


Page 30


Cont'd from pg. 3

Formerly a professor of biology and

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

period, noted for strict
of rites and ceremonies of the
written law and for insistence on the validity
of their own oral traditions concerning the
8. The doctrine of a Jewish sect of the
period, consisting.of a traditional ruling class of priests and rejecting
doctrines not in the Law (as resurrection,
retribution in a future life, and the existence
of angels).
9. 1973. Greenwood
Press, Westport,
10. Various cults of late pre-Christian and
early Christian centuries, distinguished
their conviction that matter is evil and that
comes through gnosis, i.e.,
esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth which is
essential for salvation.
11. Manes, about 276A.D., Persian founder
of the sect of Manichaeism,
a syncretistic
religious dualism originating in Persia and
teaching the release of the spirit from matter
through asceticism.


Cut the

on mine!


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 "Aggresive Atheism."



REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty

the Roman Catholic Church in
Hinduism was also confronted

violence in rigorous forms of piety to achieve

liberation from rebirth, even while enjoining
by heretical creeds which broke away and absolute non-violence as one of its precepts.
became distinct religious sects. The earliest
According to one legend, Mahavira was
heretics were Indian Atheists in the sixth ,sitting on a thorn bush and meditating when
and seventh century B.C.. They regarded
someone tried to draw away half a garment
physical sense data as the only source of given him by a god, but he remained undisknowledge and challenged Hindu metaphysturbed. Another time, a herdsman drove
ics. They believed in pure materialism and nails into his ears and scorched his feet, but
declared the Vedas and other scriptures as failed to rouse him. Suspecting him to be a
"the idle prating of knaves, characterised by cattle-rustler, another herdsman twisted his
the three faults of untruthfulness, internal
neck - but Mahavira remained comatose.
contradiction, and useless repetition."
The Jain belief in non-violence supports
The Brahmin priestly caste hated them the idea that everything has life and soul because they denounced the mindless ritu- fleas, trees, mice, and men. Swallowing a
als and sacrifices which earned them a liveli- midge, even by mistake, is tantamount to
hood. As a result all the early writings of the murder. Certain Jains sweep the ground
Atheists were destroyed. Whatever has ahead as they walk and wear masks over
come down to us is found in sneering quotatheir mouths and noses.
tions in .religious texts.
Logically, the safest way to be a good Jain
Two other reform movements had better
is to sit very still in one place and fast success and survive today as established
liberation will follow soon enough. Even
religions - Buddhism and Jainism. The vegetarianism poses hazards. Roots and
founders were not Brahmins but from the tubers are out since ants and worms might
Kshatriya warrior caste. They were influ- get killed while one is pulling them from the
enced by Atheist thought, for both spoke
ground. Water must be filtered, and meals
against the Vedas (the four holy books on eaten before sunset to avoid swallowing tiny
which Hinduism is founded), denounced rit- insects which swarm around lights after
ualism, and rejected the Hindu caste sys- dark.
tem. They declared that there is no god and
Alllivingthings are calledjiua, and all have
each must work for his own salvation. But
sense. One sense is ascribed to a tree, two to
that was as far as their Atheism went.
the earthworm, three to an ant, four to
Today Janism is as ritualistic and priestinsects, and five to animals and humans.
ridden as Hinduism. The community numNon-violence ruled out agriculture, crafts,
bers about seven million. Jain ideas were fishing, hunting, and similar professions for
already extant in the seventh century B.c. Jains. Today they are found chiefly in comwith twenty-four teachers preceding the merce as traders, middlemen, and moneysaint Mahavira who organised these ideas lenders. The restriction on possessions and
into a composite body of belief in the sixth private property along with detachment
century. The name Jain comes from the does not preclude amassing money, and
word Jina, meaning "conqueror."
Jains are among India's richest industrialists
Renouncing the world at age thirty,
and businessmen +: particularly in western
Mahavira made the customary journey in India.
search of Truth, which all oriental mystics
must make. When he achieved enlightenKeeping Karma Clean
ment, under an asoka tree, he stripped off
his clothes, plucked out his hairs one by one,
Even though every living substance (jiua)
and turned ascetic.
comes in with "infinite knowledge, power,
and bliss," there 1S very little hope for the
faint-hearted. Ajiua is entangled for countless existences in the Wheel of Birth and
Mahavira's ability to endure pain set the Death. The problem is "karma matter." This
tone for time to come. Jainism is therefore
is distinct from the kind of karma in which
the most pessimistic and life-negating of all one's actions attract merit and demerit in
Indian religions. It sanctions extreme self- each life - which is also part of Jain belief.

Austin, Texas

August, 1985

But karma poses peculiar problems for Jains

who see it as imperceptible particles which
stick to thejiua "as soot to an object." As a
contagion, karma matter even "flows into
the soul as waters rush into a pond from all
Anger, pride, or deceit makes karmic
matter "adhere to the jiua just as heat will
unite with iron." Once it invades the system,
karma begins to generate eight other kinds
of karma.
But it is possible to stop fresh karmic matter from entering the system by caulking the
seams through severe penance, rigorous
piety, and self-torture. This is so difficult that
few can hope to succeed. Further information can be prevented by practising selfcontrol and detachment from the world.
This latter involves taking certain vows;
being careful when speaking, walking, or laying down things (out of respect for ants and
insects); and in sexual abstinence and
There remains the need to then rid oneself
from all accumulated karmic matter, past
and present, through blazing austerities and
the most extreme physical torment as penance. "The soul which was until now bedimmed by the dust of karma matter will
shine like a mirror as soon as the dust has
been wiped off. Then it willrevert to its pure
transcendental form and attain moksha
(salvation)." It is common practice for Jain
holy men to commit slow suicide by starvation when they attain a great age.
Sacred Nudity
After Mahavira's death, the community
split into two - the Shvetambara in which
the monks are "white-clad," and the more
orthodox Digambara sect in which they are
"sky-clad," meaning nude. For reasons of
modesty, nudity cannot be adopted by
women who become nuns, so they willnever
attain salvation - though they might practise every austerity. This blatant double
standard has not deterred women from joining monastic orders.
We Indians make a distinction between
nudity which is sacred and sanctioned by
religion and the more vulgar secular sort of
nakedness. Stark-naked holy men often
saunter through our city streets and are
accepted as amusing curiosities. The other

Page 31

wound themselves around his arms and

legs, ants raised their mounds at his feet and
serpents emerged. Birds nested in his matted hair and beard, but he remained unmoved and unshaken.
In February of 1981, the one-thousandth
anniversary of the consecration of this massive statue was observed. Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the place, and 1,008 large
vessels of milk, clarified butter, saffron, and
other libations were emptied on it from a
platform erected behind it. These pots were
auctioned to devotees for prices ranging
from five hundred rupees to a hundred
thousand rupees. A helicopter showered
flower petals from the air. Millions of rupees
were spent on yet another of those spectacular rites so common in a country where
enormous quantities of food are wasted,
while mi11ionsaren't yet assured of one simple meal a day.

day six sky-clad monks went past our front

gate as naturally as the sunlight. That same
week, our local daily carried a news story of
a demented middle-aged man who roams
about a particular neighborhood naked,
causing much embarrassment to women
and girls who pass him. The reporter urged
that the authorities do something about this
obscene and disgusting display by having
the man committed.
The world's largest nude sculpture is of a
Jain saint, carved in granite on the Mysore
plateau in Karnataka state. It is 525 bows in
height (or equal to thirteen men) and represents Bahubali, a prince who is regarded
as equal to the early Jain saints because he
was the first to attain moksha (salvation) in
this present cosmic cycle of time. He
achieved this by turning ascetic, plucking
out his hair, and assuming the standing posture of a Jain in total meditation. Creepers

Page 32

transformation of their social environment.

It would be quite pointless anyway since this
world is both illusionary and transient. And
all one achieves in the present existence is
significant only as far as it appears a means
to an end in some nebulous Hereafter. ~
In the year 1978, your editors, assisted
by Joseph Edamaruku, editor of an
Indian Atheist publication, combed
India seeking writers who would
consistently offer an interpretation
Indian religious events. Margaret
Bhatty, in Nagpur, a well-known
feminist journalist, agreed that she
would do so in the future. She joined
the staff of the American Atheist in
January, 1983.


One might think the Jain emphasis on

absolute non-violence would place the community in the forefront of pacifist groups in
times of war or as articulate critics of the
inter-religious riots so common in Indian
society. But principle and practice lie poles
apart, and Jains themselves are not even
above breaking each other's heads in religious disputes.
Not far from where I live in Nagpur, there
is a large idol of the twenty-third of the
twenty-four saints revered before Mahavira
appeared. The two Jain sects worship the
idol under the watchful eye of the police,
each at different times to avoid bloody
clashes. The Digambara Jains believe the
idol should be absolutely nude. The Shvetambaras want to see it wearing a waist
band, a loin cloth, crown, and jewels. Each
sect claims ownership since 1908. When the
idol was replastered, the Digambaras accused the others of embellishing it. They in
turn accused the Digambaras of chiselling
off the original carving. The legal battle still
goes on in the Nagpur High Court. Heads
have been broken, and curfew often imposed as the non-violent devotees attacked
each other with lethal weapons.
The Jain concern for ants, earthworms,
animals, trees, and every other form of lifeis
not extended into a wider concern for the
environment and its fast -disappearing flora
and fauna.
The wealthy Jain philanthropist who endows a hospital for birds is more concerned
about dissipating his personal store of
karma matter than being moved to pity by
the suffering of dumb creatures. The charitable Jains who often go to pet shops to buy
caged birds and free them into the air are
hardly worrying about endangered species.
Nothing in such dogma imposes any obligation on the pious to work for a positive

August, 1985

Why can't you get

"American Atheist
TV Forum?"
That's a really good question. Because there's every reason for your
local cable access station to show our
educational and informative program.
If you'd like to see an intelligent
analysis of recent events from an Atheist point of view, special features on
religious madness around the world,
and interviews with real, live Atheists,
call your local cable access station
and say:
"I want my 'American Atheist
TV Forum!' " (AA TVF)
Maybe it's been there all along;
most likely though, they haven't even
thought about it because nobody has
ever asked.
So call them up today, and if they
don't seem to be too violently opposed to the idea, write to us with the
name, address, and contact person at
the station so that we can arrange to
have them try several installments of
our thirty-minute program.
Nobody's going to stand up for your
rights better than yourself, and now is
a great time to start. The Atheist message will never get out until rational,
brave and honest people stand up to
be counted.
Make that call!Who knows? Maybe
you'll find that you're not the only
Atheist in town!
American Atheist TV Forum
P.O. Box 2117
Austin, TX 78768-2117

American Atheist




Mine eyes have seen the gory

Bleeding body of the lord
He was trampled in the vineyards
Where the grapes of wrath are stored
He was stricken by the lightning
Of a terrible swift sword
As the heads go rolling on
Glory glory hallelujah! (etc.)
The heads go rolling on.

Our Mother, who art in heaven,

Answer our prayer.
a Golden Calf, Heifer of Heaven,
Answer our prayer.
Ancient of Cows, Creatrix of the Universe,
Answer our prayer.
Celestial Mother, who knoweth our secret thoughts,
Thou knowest that we are sore afflicted,
and heavily oppressed.
Thy wayward servant, Jesse Helms,
Hath wrought an abomination upon
the freedom of thy people.
Wherefore we beseech thee, Mother of Milk,
To chastise him,
That his hand may be stayed
And the tribulation of his tongue
Be lifted from the land.
Great Goddess, Bacchic Bovine, we beg thee:
Send upon him cursing, vexation, and rebuke
In all that he setteth his hand unto for to do.
Make thou the pestilence to cleave unto him.
Smite him with a consumption and with a fever,
And with an inflammation and an extreme burning,
And with the sword,
And with blasting and mildew.
Make his carcass to be meat
Unto all the fowls of the air.

I could see a Constitution

Buried 'neath a row of steel
They have slain democracy
And liberty has been repealed
Now the television beckons:
Killyour enemy with zeal
As the wars go ever on
Glory glory hallelujah! (etc.)
The wars go ever on.
Tom James

Yea, smite him with the botch of Egypt,

And with hemorrhoids, and with the scab,
And with the itch whereof he cannot be healed.
Smith him with madness, and blindness,
And astonishment of heart:
Let him grope at noonday, as the blind
Gropeth in darkness,
That he not prosper in his ways,


Look at the boggling vacuity so vast,
A mind impenetrable, unyielding, unstretching,
Ignorant of knowledge by sciences amassed,
Enslaved by Sunday school's puerile teaching.

And America's captivity be ended.

In Hathor's name we pray,

On this pathetic mind no impact has been made

By spectacular truths of copious ologies,
Benumbed by primitive creed that can only degrade,
It prefers superstitions, miracles and idolatries.

[ef. Deut. 28:20, ff.]

Frank Zindler

When relevant disciplines from anthropology to zoology

Prove man and earth have spanned countless ages,
The clod can only repeat obsolete cosmogony
And cite weird utterances of biblical sages.
When solid evidence unseats holy writ's irrationality:
Virgin birth, immortality, sin and special creation,
How does our theist respond to enlightened factuality?
By up-gazing trance; prayer and reason's obliteration.
Michael Hakeem

Austin, Texas

August, 1985

Page 33



When the first installment of a regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute, weekly American Atheist radio
series on KTBC radio (a station in Austin, Texas, owned by then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson),
hit the airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation was shocked. The programs had to be submitted weeks in
advance and were heavily censored. The regular production of the series ended in September, 1977,
when no further funding was available.
The following is the text of American Atheist Radio Series program number 378, first broadcast on
January 31,1976.
is Madalyn Mays O'Hair, American
back to talk with you again. We
have a new writer for the American Atheist
magazine which we publish and his name is
Ignatz Sahula-Dycke. Here is his "Thinking
vs. Believing."
What should anyone believe nowadays? A fair answer would be: anything for which he would lay down his
life. And what to disbelieve? Almost
anything that looks attractive. It's a
mad world we live in: no one thinks
anything is worth dying for, but can
name any number of things for which
he'd trade his integrity. The entire
world, especially our Western one, is
so full of attractive gadgets that its
people think they can't do without,
that lying, cheating, duplicity, bribery,
kickback, and other shining virtues
are the order of the day; all of them the
result of desire gone wild. It's enough
to make any halfway sane individual
turn away in disgust from the entire
stupid mess which, nowadays, is touted as the most advanced civilization in
all history.
What has become of honor, honesty; of the people whom the words
Know Thyself one entranced? What
accounts for the disappearance of the
daydreaming idealists, the honest
craftsmen? Why all talk but no conversation about the mysteries of existence' love, music, painting, sculpture,
the starry cosmos, literature, and other subjects about which, as often happened, the participants had but little
empiric knowledge but a lot of curiosity? What is it that has made us believe
that we have all the answers and now
only need somebody else to do the
work? This state of mind probably
repre-sents the most acute crisis ever
faced by Western man, most of it
ascribable to his long-persevering,

Page 34

perversive and, by now, almost systemic irrationality.

Harsh words but true; because the
crisis will persist until he reverts to
rationality. Through no fault really his
own he has got himself in a trap which
willbe a good deal harder to get out of
than in. Getting out depends not on
his thinking but on his making a
change in what, up to now, he has
been believing instead of thinking. But
so long as he keeps on worrying more
about what the Sovietists and Maoists
are about to do to him, instead of what
the Christianists and theists have
.done and are doing to him, the chances of his escaping the trap are very
slim. He's trapped good and solid; no
one can help him but he himself; he's
in a fix demanding he use his head or
In this crisis - which resulted from
the West's intellectual and creative
progress during the past few centuries, and to an important extent from
its seventeen-centuries-old belief in
Nicene Christianity's divine afflatus
- all the Gods of Christendom and
Pagandom combined will be of no
help. Any belief in a god or god, wherever it exists, is nothing but a belief in
a fantastic invention that, lacking confirming evidence, is to all purposes a
lie. All of us know who the two who
got us here were, but what the purpose is of our being here and what, if
anything, all our struggling and fussing
actually means is a puzzle as old as
humanity that each of us, once here,
should be permitted to try solving by
The search for the answer is as old
as the puzzle itself, is supermaterial,
dynamizes inspiration, and constitutes the most important of the conjecturable reasons for living. It is what
lifeis all about: is its essence. This fact

August, 1985

is largely ignored by the great majority

of the West's people because their
instinctive desire for the search has
for centuries been suppressed by religion's false solution, which it presents
as an incontrovertible fact. The people who believe it look no further. This
is unfortunate because of its side
effect: an evil more insidious than the
ersatz answer. It actually divides the
people into two opposed groups:
those whom the religious answer satisfies and those who, rejecting the
pseudo-answer, persevere in searching for an answer that would satisfy
their rationalism .
This division, this difference existing between the two groups, is the
trap from which it is imperative that
Western people escape. Thus divided,
and with the majority of them depending on god to solve their problems, the
rational thinking of the minority pro
duces only a slight effect when necessity exists that any serious problem
similar to the existing crisis be solved.
This suits the demagogue to a T and
now constitutes both the cause of the
present national and international
intransigence throughout the West,
as well as the obstacle in the way of its
entirely possible satisfactory solution.
This notwithstanding,
it must be
solved and will be, though not before
the people return to an appreciation
of lifeon a basis of rationality and fact,
and not on religion. This isn't about to
happen although it's quite possible were only half of the believers induced
to accept that the religious and the
political are separate and independent
entities. If that happened, the rational
minority together with half of the
entire majority would thereupon constitute a consensus sufficient for making the needed change.
The majority's delusion that reli-

American Atheist

gion's answers to various riddles of .

existence fillthe bill is due to the cleric's cultivation of the people's susceptivity to superstitious fantasying. A
wide variety of delusions, god, hell,
and the rest, have this way gained the
respect and obedience of unenlightened masses ever since the dawn of
history. Old records tell us that comets, eclipses of the sun and the moon,
boreal and austral auroras, and other
natural phenomena were viewed with
forebodings and terror as omens auguring all sorts of imagined cataclysms.
Nowadays they're stillmagnificent but
are regarded as the wondrous workings of immutable forces supporting,
not threatening, alllife.This is the realistic outlook, untainted by superstition, but enough superstition is still
around, all of it causing trouble. That
so many people, in this enlightened
day, still take stock in religious dogmas - some of which are no more
factual than that the moon is made of
green cheese, is due to the prevailing
situation in public school education
which ignores the fact that a difference exists between reality and fantasy. This omission encourages dogmatism in giving free rein to beliefs in
which most of the students have already been parentally or clerically
Considering what is everywhere to
be seen of temples, pagodas, synagogues, and churches; of domes,
steeples, minarets and towers; it's
undeniable that those who take religion at its word are in the driver's seat,
and that way forcing the rationally
minded to tolerate all kinds of irritating driving. Though thus inconvenienced, from the rational minority
have nevertheless come most of the
contributions making life ever more
enjoyable. Realistic thinking is slowly
gaining the favor of the masses, this
undoubtedly a source of encouragement to the few nearly apostate clerics who, through their progressive
societal work, are hoping to convince
their superiors that the means and the
power of Christianity's widespread
organization should be employed for
the cultivation of a rationally selfreliant, not a genuflecting, humanity.
This would mean that a few idealistic
though realistically minded clerics
could move a pope or some other religious nabob to depart from his titled
and exalted - duties as guardian of
organized religion's original purpose.
Anyone familiar with Nicene Christianity's purpose considers the hopes
of such clerics noble, but by no stretch
of his imagination realizable; could

Austin, Texas

you believe that a leopard can change

his spots?
In but one generation we would see
a tremendous increase in the numbers
of rational people were the majority's
establishmentarian religiosity to stop
interfering with the natural aptitude
for thinking characterizing the normal
child. All human young are born inquisitive, are natural searchers. Almost as soon as the child starts talking
it begins to cerebrate and wants to
know where it came from and, not
long after, why it was born. It is beginning to think but not yet able to differentiate between fact and fiction. Later,
when its questions come like a hailstorm, should its elders reply to them
in terms of the Bible - Genesis,
Jesus, etc. - then, for all we know,
one of the world's potentially brilliant
minds has been started on its way to
regimented mental mediocrity that, in
a dozen years or so, transforms the
child into only another adult conformable to the dictates of his dogmatic
environment. Children aren't simple
bags of bones, flesh, and blood; they
have instinct and feelings advising
them of anything contrary to the sense
of well-being.
Children who - while growing and
being religiously indoctrinated - rebel
against the religious routine then being
imposed on them are in that way
showing that they've been endowed
with common sense and with exceptional aptitude for reasoning. Tots like
that aren't able - yet - to say why
the religious routine: those solemn,
somewhat awesome goings on provoke them; they only sense them as
contrary to their instincts. This happens in the instance of half or so of
Western children suffering indoctrination.
But does anyone bother to protest
this savagely pernicious routine? Has
anyone ever bothered to understand
it from the child's viewpont? I'll guess
not even one in a millionof the parents
and the elders, for they themselves
were similarly made the victims of the
system. As a consequence, when
starting the child out in life this way,
they are stupidly and smugly sure
they're doing the right thing. They're
doing wrong, however; in the light of
our existing knowledge their behavior
is inexcusable. And so is any public or
private educational institution that
aids in this injuriously irrational
We should be making every effort
to hasten the day when every child will
be protected from it until it reaches at
least its twelfth year. By then, even

August, 1985

were our public schools to be no better than today's but were to include
schooling in ethics, the child would
there and at home have learned well
the benefits of doing right and the
penalties of wrong. Knowledge of the
difference between right and wrong
already existed thousands of years
before the appearance of Christianity;
it isn't something religious, or new.
Parents who nowadays are bringing
up their children to understand the
difference between the effects of right
and wrong - but without any fear of
the spectre of Christianity's vengeful
god - this way raising the general
level of rational morality, deserve everyone's thanks. Were such people
not to have a penchant for facts, and
were they not opposed to the worship
of superstitious concepts, the rest of
humanity would forever stay in the
same rut of enslavement by dogmas
and ignorance. Even at very worst,
the thinking of the rationalists induces
the others to change to another rut;
the change offering fresh possibilities
for the improvement of everybody's
The rational people attend first of all
to the needs of their time and its people; this indicating them to be at odds
with any doctrine preaching that everyone's fealty belongs first to its
dogmas. This old dogmatic viewpoint
is irresponsible: today's world needs a
more effective prescription for curing
its various ills than the salve compounded of unreason and dogmas. In
the recently more amenable past we
generally benefitted more from our
instinctive sense of right than from the
religion which indoctrinated us to
thank god for every success; but failed
to tell us whom to blame for every
honest effort that failed. This variety
of dogmatism, instead of cultivating
the development of responsibility, sets
an example encouraging its evasion.
The religion is always making prom-:
ises which, when broken, we hear is
the willof god. Very often the believer,
seeing the sham succeed, decides to
take a flyer at it himself; it can't be
much of an infraction, after all, ifgod's
own religion is doing it. This kind of
behavior, demeaning one of the basic
principles of moral ethics, has over
the years resulted in the general moral
callousness which today makes the
Westerner deservingly distrusted and
suspected of trickery by the people of
the rest of the globe. Opposition to
deceit is naturally instinctive, is fully
rational, and not of religious origin;
but hard to marshal by anyone who
has been made morally irrational by

Page 35

religious brainwashing. Right or

wrong, the self-styled Christian's deceitful behavior stems from his indecision: half of it resulting from his cynicism toward his religion's alluring
promises and half from his believing
Christianity's deceitful promise of
immortality which the religion tells
man he can have, provided that he
obeys clerical commands, is the most
consummate artifice of all ever devised. Nearly everyone unthinkingly
imagines he'd like livingeternally. But
the one puzzling and discouraging
thing about it is that it first of all entails
dying, which the religion is unable to
prevent, but which the religion ought
to get busy doing away with because it
is an unnecessary step. Could religion
ever succeed in this, in a short time
there'd be signs reading Standing
Room Only all over the globe: a disturbing thought to dwell upon.
We've all known deceitful traders
who are regular churchgoers. As sure
as the sun that will rise tomorrow,
there's something about that kind of
behavior that's wrong. Either the religion doesn't mind the cheating done
by believers like the trader or, despite
all the religious taboos against cheating, the people pay little serious attention to it. Since this is a trifle selfcontradictory, let's ask a few questions enabling us to find out of what
the discrepancy consists. The questions follow.
1. Why does the cheater keep on
saying he is a Christian?
2. Why doesn't the cheater reform?
3. Is the religion cheating in saying
its doctrine is reformative?
4. Is it cheating if the religion lets
the cheater say he's Christian?
5. What good is belief in a doctrine
unable to prevent cheating?
6. Why does a religion not preventing cheating say it's reformative?
7. Is a doctrine reformative if unable to prevent cheating?
8. Should the unreformed cheater
blame the religion for it?
9. Should the religion blame the
cheater for not reforming?
10. Why isn't the religion effective
enough to put an end to cheating?
Anyone answering these ten questions will begin to understand that
religious indoctrination is far from
rational and religion not as good a
moral preceptor as it was seventeen
centuries ago. Moral precepts, to be
effective, must fit the times. Nicene
Christianity, in all its long experience,

Page 36

hasn't learned this. It now contributes

nothing to its believers and other people that rational common sense can't
do better. Were its religious promises
and dogmas not preventing independent free thinking, in a generation or
two from now the majority of the

world's people would be living contentedly, even happily. If people devoted to independent thinking the
time they now waste praying, soon
everything that makes life worthwhile
would come true - and with far less
effort than today. ~

"Me Too" is a feature designed to
showcase short essays written by readers in response to topics recently
covered by the American Atheist or
of general interest to the Atheist
Essays submitted to "Me Too" (P.O.
Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117)
should be 500 to 700 words long.
(Letter sent to the New York Times, April 9,
Times did not report the 15th Annual
of the American Atheists

held during the Easter weekend, thus violating the prime journalistic edict: News is what
is new, unusual, or different.
While the Atheists were meeting, the
Times carried lengthy stories about the
Pope's celebration of the resurrection; a
pastor's revival of a declining church; the
religious theme in present-day art; and a
kaleidoscopic survey of Eastertide ceremonies and festivities in churches and elsewhere. In addition, it published an op-ed
piece by a theologian about the crucifixion.
All this is old hat and thus lacks newsworthiness.
In comparison, the Atheists' meetings
were extraordinarily newsy. Highlighted was
a remarkable three-hour documentary produced by London Weekend Television and
recently aired in England, but never shown
in the United States. The dramatic film
served as a vehicle for the findings of extensive research by contemporary and past biblical scholars/critics. Such research has
been going on for centuries, but this is the
first time it has been popularized and presented to a mass audience. Clergypersons
are, of course, intellectually fraudulent in
not presenting such material to their parishioners.
This research leaves little of Christianity
standing. All its essential props are demolished or badly battered. Questioned or
repudiated are the divinity, or even the
existence, of Jesus, his virgin birth, performance of miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, actions and sayings attributed to him,
and much else.
Other findings elucidated are that there
was much machination and chicanery in the

August, 1985

founding of Christianity; virqm birth and

are time-honored legends
occurring in other religions; Mary and
Joseph had a number of children, that is,
Jesus had siblings; much of the gospel is
traceable propaganda and mythology; the
gospels are full of wild absurdities, contradictions, inconsistencies, and confusions; in
the writing of the Bible, its unknown authors
engaged in much flimflam in zealous service
to their cause; historical accounts and other
sources written at the time of his alleged
presence which would be expected to mention Jesus fail to do so; startling similarities
between ancient Egyptian myths relating to
divinity, virgin birth, miracles and like stories in the Bible have been documented.
If this had been all, the Times would have
done a service to its readers to report it. But
there was much more, a small sampling of
which can be mentioned here only in passing: the stirring defense of First Amendment
'rights by John Henry Faulk; a survey of free
thought in New Zealand by a top official of
that nation's leading rationalist organization; a penetrating analysis of recent and
current trends in the thinking of the U.S.
Supreme Court on church/state issues by a
distinguished attorney who has successfully
pressed cases in that field; and a demonstration of the extraordinary prudery and pathological repugnance which pervades Christian teachings in relation to sex, presented
by a speaker who has made a special study
of the matter. The most visible figures in the
Atheist movement today - the MurrayO'Hair family (three generations of Atheists) -who lead and manage the largest and
most active organization of Atheists, the
sponsor of the Convention, were represented among the roster of speakers by Jon
Murray, Robin Murray-O'Hair, and Madalyn
Murray O'Hair, the First Lady of Atheism
who started it all - knowledgeable, dynamic, and despite the abuse and calumny
heaped upon her by "Christians," undeterrable and indomitable.
So, to emphasize a point, where was the
Times when all this news was breaking out?
Informing its readers of a new, unusual, and
different event: On Easter, the Pope celebrates Jesus! ~
- Michael Hakeem

American Atheist

Lesbians Nuns:
Breaking Silence.
Edited by Rosemary Curb
and Nancy Manahan
Tallahassee, FL: The Naiad Press, Inc.
383 pages, $9.95

his is a 5%" x 8Yz"paperback book

issued by a press, the titles of which
indicate that it specializes in Lesbian literature. The spirit and attitude in which it was
written is evidenced in a forward by Sister
Sara. "Lesbian nuns I know are going to
dance! In convents this book willgo around
like hotcakes, just the way THE HITE REPORT did. Everybody read it."
The underlying predicate of the book is
that it will also sell "like hotcakes." And
methinks the editors had more bucks in
their eyes than stars for their "cause." The
book is full of trivial accounts, superficial
relationships, shallow personal recitations,
and both boring and trite recountings of
mere shadows of interpersonal outreach.
It is packaged in nine sections, each of
which typically contains half a dozen. short
articles of from four to ten pages. Fifty-one
current or former nuns recount either relationships or convent interments, many of
which cover periods from several to ten or
twelve years. Often the story concluded in
the mid- or late 1960s. Yet, a lifetime of
alleged psychological and physical agony is
often telescoped into a paragraph or two.
As an example, Sister Agatha puts it all
neatly into six sentences. This is under the
title of "Don't Be Too Rigid in Your Understanding of Chastity."
My first relationship, a friendship
with a sister I greatly admired, was
never explicitly sexual, though later I
came to realize that sexual undertones were present. My second relationship, which lasted more than five
years, involved acknowledged sexual
feelings on both sides and some physical expression, limited by inhibitions,
and the sense of what was appropriate
for celibates. It was a good relationship, leading to personal growth for
both of us. It came to an end because
my friend became more and more
unhappy in community and eventually
left. As she drew away from me,
becoming increasingly preoccupied
with her own difficulties, I withdrew
psychologically from her. I was not
ready at that time to work through a

Austin, Texas

conflict between vocation and a

love relationship which might lead
me out of community.

"There's no problem with someone being

Lesbian or gay, be he a priest or she a nun, if
they are not sexually active."
Basically, this was the reply of the Roman
The tales are as sterile as have been the Catholic Archdiocese in Detroit as well as in
lives of the women involved. It is almost
Massachusetts. In Detroit a spokesman for
impossible to picture them in an intense love . the church stated that the church does not
relationship or with an intellectual underdeny there may be religious women who are
standing of what was occurring.
Lesbians, but holds that any sexual activity
In contrast to, for example, a book such
- heterosexual or homosexual - violates
as Monica Baldwin's I Leap Over The Wall the sisters' vow of chastity. "The church
- A Return to The World after Twentyholds that a, person's sexual disposition is
morally neutral. It's what we do with it that
Eight Years in A Convent (London: Hamish
Hamilton, 1949), these are poor thin re- counts." A New York priest, an expert on
homosexual activities in the Church, confirmed that it is not sinful to have a homoThe editors chose, from four hundred
contributors, nuns ranging in age from their sexual orientation, but it is sinful to engage
late twenties to their sixties. Forty-two of the in homosexual activity. "There always have
fifty-one are no longer in religious communibeen and always willbe priests who are gay
ties. Seven who are used pseudonyms. Two and live celibate lives, including some who
current nuns wrote under their own names
are very high in the church."
after clearing the decision with their comThe book contains fifty photographs of
munities. One contributor had been in a Lesbians in and out of the habit.
convent nearly fifty years.
The media, obviously sensation seeking,
The Roman Catholic Church, as could be had a field day interviewing the editors as
expected, interfered with (for example) cer- they traveled from city to city attempting to
tain NBC affiliates so that talk shows in sell their ware. Much of the uproar generwhich the book's editors were to be inter- ated was over the possibility that the text
viewed did not come to fruition. And West- might be full of cloistered love scenes,
inghouse Broadcasting, Inc. banned it from explicit descriptions, or sex-intensive epiits five television stations. An appearance on sodes. Its editors warned that the book
the Phil Donahue program brought refusals
would be disappointing in this regard since it
by several stations to air the segment.
dealt with "processes, feelings and growth."
Within one month, however, 150,000 of the
One can hardly call the content of the
books were in print. Italian and Irish publish- book "feeling." The pathetic, insipid, almost
ers were interested in obtaining rights for it. stereotyped short essays emphasize the
Warner Bros. purchased paperback distri- void life present in a highly intensive Roman
bution rights, allegedly for a six-figure sum.
Catholic commitment.
The attempts to sell the book elicited
As the book was being reviewed for an
more information than is in the book itself. Atheist journal, some special attention was
By the editors' estimates about ten percent
paid to the religious commitment of those
of religious sisters are gay. Among the con- involved. Most frequently they did not leave
tributors, seven have been officers in the the church. As one nun noted, there was
National Organization for Women at both
apparently a "spiritual void" when the comlocal and national levels. Included are a cur- munity" was left, but this "gap" was often
rent and a former director of the National
filled with a personalized blend of belief Gay Task Force. And New Ways Ministries
"minus the oppression." This blend, as cited
was described as an institution which teachby the editors, includes a discovery of pagan
es men's and women's communities nationfeminism through astrology, goddess imagewide how to handle gay candidates for reli- ry, tarot, dreamwork, I Ching, herbal healgious life, who are increasingly likely to be ing, meditation, massage, and body work.
open about their sexual identity.
Oh well, as Atheists say about all religious
The twelve-year-old Naiad Press distrib- education and especially the Roman Cathoutes to about eight hundred gay and lesbian lic, when it comes to people's heads, it is
"Garbage in; garbage out." These pitiful
book stores. B. Dalton and Waldenbooks
also carry the title.
nuns, in their religious communities, opted
When contacted, a nun in the School Sis- - to begin - for no intellectual lifeat all and
ters of Notre Dame who has worked more
when they found they were trapped, for
than a decade to reconcile the church and whatever sexual experience was first hand.
Lesbian and gay people had much to say.
The book is not recommended at all - it
She had helped to found the National Con- is not even good trash reading.
ference of Catholic Lesbians in 1982.

August, 1985

Page 37


the four winds, four seasons, and four cardinal points. The Proctor and Gamble Company had to change its trademark, due to a
few fanatics who regarded it as satanic. If
Christians knew that their beloved cross
originally meant fertility and was a representation of the phallus and its appendages, I bet they wouldn't be so anxious to
display it around their necks.
Gerald P. Lunderville

I would like to urge all true Atheists of

America to come out of the closet and voice
their opinions. We Atheists must stick together in order for us to ever combat religious insanity.
We all know what the religionists have
done in the past. But that is over now, or is
I believe organized religion (much like
organized crime), must be severely weakened and/or abolished in order to prevent
future wars, even within America.
The religionists are constantly gaining
wealth and/or power; they have reached
epidemic proportions throughout the United States and the world.
We must act now, in order to stop them
from eventually ending all real life.
Organized religion should be locked in a
closet, where it belongs.
John F. Oddi

Iwish Arnold Via of Virginia the best in his

quest to retain his license plate ATH-EST.
My only comment is that myoid car once
sported bumper stickers "Jesus Slaves" and
"The Moral Majority is Neither." I attribute
my car being vandalized for having pasted
such comments. My windshield was totally
destroyed, convertible top slashed in a dozen places, side and hood gouged with a nail
or similar device, and tire punctured. I now
have a new car and am afraid to put any
further decals of my beliefs.
It irks me to see the Christian fish symbol
eating Jesus on autos. I challenge that logo
as the astrological sign "Pisces," of which I
am an affiliate and disdain the use of my sign
to be equated with that of a Christian's.
The swastika was originally a Sanskrit
sign that meant "so be it" and represented

Page 38

I just finished reading Frank Zindler's testimony before the subcommittee of the
House Children and Youth Committee,
Ohio Legislature, which appeared in the
American Atheist, May 1985.
It has been some time since I have read
such lucid rational writing. I can only hope
Mr. Zindler's oral presentation was as good
as the prepared text.
Please let us all know the status of the
Ohio House BillNo. 67.
W. Martin Cain

I am a new member of your organization,

but I've seen through the ridiculous arguments used by religious buffoons for many
years now. In fact, last year I had the opportunity to confront none other than the Rev.
-Jerry Falwell on live television in Detroit
(350,000 people watching), a transcript of
which encounter was printed up in the Fall
1984 edition of Fred Woodworth's "The
I have to say I was simply THRILLED by
the rationality I saw presented in the May
1985 issue of American Atheist. It felt as ifI
had written everv'word in it, only I had not.
Others wrote them FOR me, in ways much
better than I ever could.
Frank Zindler's "The Case of Big Daddy"
is a case in point. For years I've realized the
underhanded methods used to indoctrinate
unsuspecting persons with the nonsense of
creation, namely the ploy of discrediting
persons who know the truth by associating
them with drug use, promiscuity and the
like. But I never found the ability to articulate the point as brilliantly as did Mr. lindler.
And his performance in front of the Ohio

August, 1985

subcommittee was superb. I was practically

on the edge of my seat reading his testimony, as ifrooting for him in a football game.
Why must such rationality go in one ear of
legislators and out the other? (Zindler is
listed as non-resident staff. So I do hope you
forward these comments to him.)
"Minnesota Takes the Cake" was also an
inspiring article. How I wish my circumstances and talents were such that I too
could start a chapter right here in Michigan.
(You gave me no indication that there is an
existing chapter here, one to which you sent
my name.) Maybe in a few years that would
be possible. Ifyou could give me some words
of wisdom in this regard, or put me in contact with the Minnesota chapter, that would
be much appreciated.
I have to resist commenting on each article in the magazine because I have been
known to send ten-page letters. But let me
just say we need more publications like
yours. Please advise on the cost of signing
my local library up to an American Atheist
magazine subscription.
Also, I read your March, 1981 speech on
"U.S. Foreign Policy - The Christian Connection." This was extremely revealing,
though I wish you would have backed up
some of your arguments with PROOF, such
as the allegation that John Foster, Avery
Dulles, Joseph Kennedy, Cardinal Spellman,
the pope, Winston Churchill and President
Roosevelt together made the decision to
brainwash America - through "Christianity" - as a weapon against Communism.
Along the same topic, I am enclosing for
you a form letter I received from a certain
Herbert W. Armstrong, alleging that Communism is taking over the world, and that
his publication willkeep us informed. I know
you can't respond to each letter individually,
but could you please, somehow, tell me
moreabout his church. I've been reading his
crap for about seven years now, and have
argued (politely) with his "personal correspondence department." But aside from
pages 299 and 300 of your Bible Handbook
(for which I cannot find any independent
support), I haven't found anything about this
church NOT put out by the church itself.
Please help me in this regard, as the minds of
several of my friends are at stake.
Finally, I am returning, as per your request, the questionnaire about my agreement with your aims and purposes. I agree
with every tittle (Matt. 5:18) thereof, but I do
want to state for the record that I don't
always use the word "materialism" during
conversation with the exact sense' you

American Atheist


Also, I felt the need to elaborate slightly on
the question regarding how I identify my
beliefs for public purposes: The term "Atheist" has been given such a negative connotation that I don't normally like to use it. When
necessary, I'll use the term "Rationalist" for
myself. At least the term "Rationalist" implies an attempt to be fair about matters, to
give religionists a hearing. "Atheist" seems
to imply the stubborn disbelief in god for
purely selfish reasons, such as greed or what
not. I don't know if my reasoning makes
sense to you, but I believe a religionist is
more likelyto listen to a "Rationalist" than to
an "Atheist."
Also, for the record, I have on some occasions given my religious preference on certain forms as "nothing."
And, also, when it is to my advantage, I
have answered questions about my religion
with the words: "My family (or parents)
is ... " thus effectively evading the query.
Well, that's it for now. Best wishes. And
please do let me know all you can on Herbert's "The Worldwide Church of God."

I've always thought that Atheists reject

"god" and "life-after-death" notions because
they were illogicaland unwarranted assumptions obviously motivated by wish-fulfillment
fantasies, not because Atheists possess" certain" or "complete" knowledge of anything.
The use of the scientific method, a total
acceptance of the "laws" of causality and
identity, and a reliance on the logic of the
human intellect as the only tools of human
cognition are all, ultimately, efficacious assumptions to which Atheists are committed
and which constitute the foundation of our
mindset. A human brain cannot produce,
contain, or conceptualize "certain," "complete," or "absolute" knowledge, ontologically speaking, for the same reason a fish
cannot play chess. I would hope that this is
an epistemological "truth" which all rationalists, i.e., Atheists, could agree upon (including Mr. Tholen?).
James Lee

John Sikos

Gerald Tholen continues from his April

column to his May column in the American
Atheist to reject the use of flowery or allegorical language like "nothingness" by reputable physicists, believing this to be an attempt
to cover up their ignorance, in addition to
being an affront to the process of clear
Mr. Tholen may have painted himself into
a corner. Consider: Dr. Isaac Asimov, Atheist, scientist, author of over three hundred
erudite books and a certified genius, using
the flowery language of modern physics,
speaks of quarks called "Truth," "Beauty,"
and "Strangeness" having the properties of
"color" and "flavor" in chapter ten of his
book, Counting the Eons. Is Mr. Tholen, the
"common sense man of Atheism," willingto
accuse Isaac Asimov of obscurantism in a
purposeful attempt to hide his ignorance of
Also, I found passingly strange Mr. Tholen's contemptuous rejection of the statement in my letter to him (printed in May's
column) that "Knowledge, even for Atheists,
is never certain and never complete." I
meant this asa reference to human fallibility,
not as a statement of philosophical skepticism or agnosticism.

Austin, Texas

I have read some of your magazines, and

hope YQU will allow me to make some
First of all, I notice a sense of disdain. It is a
sense of aloofness that says that Christians
are either ignorant or are hypocrites.
Unfortunately, there are indeed many
hypocrites in the church. It is also true that
there are many hypocrites in many aspects
of our lives. Moreover, and this is probably
more important, there are many ignorant
people in the church. That is, people who
claim to be Christians, yet don't bother to
read the Bible.
Now the big question: Just what is Christianity? Christianity either stands or falls on
the deity of Jesus Christ. That means if you
want to know about Christianity, just read
and study the life of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to the study of Jesus
Christ, it is a study with a difference. It is not
like studying philosophy. In that type of
study, one can remain neutral, i.e., "oh, isn't
that interesting?" But with the study of Jesus
Christ, one has to make a response. Some
people would like to say that he was only a
man, a moral man, and even a good teacher.
This is all well and good, until he started
saying things like, "I am the way, the truth,
and the life, and no one goes to the Father
but by me" (John 14:6). When he said this,
one either has to accept him as Lord, or
condemn him as a liar, or worse.
Now, another big question: what do you

August, 1985

do with Jesus Christ? Is it worth it to you to

research this question? I feel that this is the
most important decision that we can make,
and we can't use the excuse that there is not
ample information available.
So, in the final analysis, if you have to
reject Jesus Christ, at least do it on "objective" information.
Philip M. Buckley

I find I can only read your editorials in

small bits. I become too anxious, frightened,
and angry so that I have to stop and contain
I never had religious influences or had to
fight to speak my mind growing up. I never
experienced prejudices, "-ides," sexism. I
was damned naive about to what extent
these political factions in the guise of religious organizations influenced my life. As a
writer, I became real nervous. I still have to
pinch myself to see ifthis is really happening
in the United States. Seriously, I consider
bailing out to Switzerland and giving up this
citizenship or staying here and remaining a
challenge to those groups of liars that say
they do it all for god. IfI continued, this letter
would become really graphic.
I'm not putting a vise on this brain because
some straw-in-the-tooth political faction that
does it for god is threatened by some real
substance. I say, sir, that I'm going to kick
some ass (figuratively) so that those with
minds can let them flow.
Elizabeth Crist

"Letters to the Editor" must be either
questions or comments of general
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Exp. Date,


. Texas state residents please add 5Y11%sales tax.

August, 1985

American Atheist

Did you know that all erotic practices, all so-called sexual perversions
and all social atrocities were originally outlined and/or committed in the
"good book" - alias the Holy Bible - alias (according to JudeoChristians) the "only book we need ?"
See for yourself (or show your religious friends), by chapter and verse,
hi Ben Edward Akerley's book
THE X-RATED BIBLE .- a must for
critics of Judeo-Christianity.

The United States Supreme Court has said that obscenity is

that which is lewd, licentious, and vile, that which has no social
redeeming importance.
And all the Atheists blinked at the
decision because it described exactly what is in the so-called
"Holy Bible."
Having had at our fingertips critical analyses of the Bible for
over a hundred years, it was felt that what was necessary was a
complete expose of just what is in it. Does the Bible tell tales of
sex orqies. rape. incest, general fornication. tales
of homosexual love. tales of treachery, lies, and deceit In order
to engage in adultery, drunken sexual bouts? The answer from
an ordinary Christian would be that no such thing is in the Bible.
The Bible, the Christian would say, is a guideline of morals for
the world. In it, we find lessons of love. forgiveness, kindness,
and care. Not SOlAnd f'very Atheist knows it. The Bible is full of
that which IS "lewd. licentious, and vile."
As we talked It over, Ben Akerley volunteered to sort out all
of the passages that no minister would dare to read from his
pulpit. The passages speak for themselves and none of them
have any "social redeeming importance.' None of them are
lessons in morality and ciecency. Thev are simply part and
parcel of a disgusting book which should helve been abandoned
by mankind a thousand vears ago. Here then are 400+ easyreading pages with authentic Killg ,bille''' relerences, by chapter and verse. You will be delighted
- your Christian friends

~n ~hhta:rh ~hrlu

Yes, send me (

) copy(ies) of Ben Akerley's,

S,7.95. 456 pp. Paper


@ $7.95






and handling).


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"The Roman Catholic school goal was for a Catholic
education as 'a God oriented environment which permeates the total educational program, a Christian atmosphere ... a continuous development of knowledge of the
Catholic faith, its traditions, teachings, and theology.'
The Christian schools proclaimed 'it is not sufficient
that the teachings of Christianity be a separate subject
in the curriculum, but the Word of God must be an
all-prevading force in the educational program.' " .
-Aguilar v. Felton
"Fact" found by lower
federal court.
















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