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July 1986

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

~Sweef Sixteenth:
News from the Convention

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AMERICAN ATHEISTS
is a non-profit, non-political, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state
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beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices;
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understanding of them, their origins, and their histories;
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establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all
arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.
Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own
inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life;that man finding his resources within himself - can and must create his own destiny. Materialism restores to man his dignity
and his intellectual integrity. It teaches that we must prize our lifeon earth and strive always to improve it. It holds
that man is capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice. Materialism's "faith" is in man and
man's ability to transform the world culture by his own efforts. This is a commitment which is in its very essence
life-asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation and impossible without noble ideas that
inspire man to bold creative works. Materialism holds that humankind's potential for good and for an outreach to
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American Atheists - P.O. Box 2117 - Austin, TX 78768-2117

July 1986

Vol 28, No.7

American Alhist
A Journal

of Atheist

Editor's Desk
R. Murray-O'Hair

Director's Briefcase
Jon G. Murray

News and Thought

The Historicity of Jesus and the


Dead Sea Scrolls - John M. Allegro's
speech on the relevance of New Testament criticism - 29
The Original Intent of the Founding
Fathers - Dr. O'Hair's address on
what the Founding Fathers might have
meant-32
C. B. Reynolds - A Tribute Respects are paid to an Atheist hero 35

Mr. Murray makes "A Declaration of an


Honest Man" and charts a course for
the future of the Atheist movement.

Ask A.A.

Why is a fundamentalist publisher selling a book of interest to Atheists?

News and Comments

The Probing Mind


Frank R. Zindler

Changing of the Guard - Dr. Madalyn O'Hair steps aside from the presidency of American Atheists - 7
Zion - Atheists, fundamentalists,
and the KKK meet in a small Illinois
town, the First Amendment is abused,
and controversy flares - 8

36

"Of Astro-nuts and Ark-onauts: Noah's


Ark in the Space Age" - could there
really be such a thing? That's just what
Mr. Zindler pokes fun at.

Report from India


Margaret Bhatty

A Special Convention Section

40

Should Muslims be made to mind the


law in India? Or is it that "Liberalism
Loses Out?"

15

The 1986 Convention of American Atheists is described, reproduced, and pictured.


Sweet Sixteenth - A very short description of this year's convention - 15
Award- Winning Atheists - Outstanding members of the Atheist community
are recognized and applauded - 17
Greetings from Abroad - Two messages sent to conventioneers by leaders
in the fight against religion - 18
A Sermon from The X-Rated Bible Ben Edward Akerley's humorous expose of that "moral" guide: the Bible - 20
Photo Section - Snaps of Atheists
living, listening, and learning it up - 23

Historical Notes

42

American Atheist Radio Series


Madalyn O'Hair

43

A past convention is revisited in ' T vs:


Hundred Years of American Atheism

Book Review

15

A future North America whic h funda


mentalists dominate is the subject of (1
new novel by Margaret Atwood,

Letters to the Editor

46

Crosswords

47

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


Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 1

American Atheist
Editor/R. Murray-O'Hair
Editor Emeritus/Dr, Madalyn O'Hair
Managing Editor/Jon G. Murray
Assistant Editor/Gerald Tholen
Poetry/Angeline Bennett, Gerald Tholen
Non-Resident Staff/John M. Allegro, Burnham
P. Beckwith, Margaret Bhatty, Nawal El Saadawi,
Merrill Holste, Lowell Newby, Fred Woodworth,
Frank R. Zindler
Production
Staff/Laura Lee Cole, Michael
Dews, Christina Ditter, Shantha Elluru, Brian J.
Lynch, Jim Mills, John Ragland, Jes Simmons
Officers of the Society of Separationists,
Inc.
President/Jon G. Murray
President Emeritus/Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Vice-President/Gerald
Tholen
Secretary/R. Murray-O'Hair
Treasurer/Brian J. Lynch
Chairman of the Board/Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Members of the Board/don G. Murray (Vice
Chairman), August Berkshire, Herman Harris,
Ellen Johnson, Scott Kerns, Minerva Massen,
Robin Murray-O'Hair, Shirley Nelson, Richard C.
O'Hair, Henry Schmuck, Noel Scott, Gerald
Tholen, Lloyd Thoren, Frank Zindler.
Officers and Dir~ctors may be reached at P.O.
Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768.
Honorary
Members of the Board/Merrill
Holste, John Marthaler
The American Atheist is published monthly by
American Atheist Press, an affiliate of Society of
Separationists, Inc., d/b/a American Atheists,
2210 Hancock Dr., Austin, TX 78756-25%, a non
profit, non-political, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of
state and church. (Non-profit under IRS Code
SOl(c)(3).)

Copyright 1986 by Society of Separationists, Inc.


All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in
part without written permission is prohibited.
ISBN: 0332-4310.Mailing address: P.O. Box 2117,
Austin, TX 78768-2117.
The American Atheist is indexed in IBZ (Jnrernctional Bibliography of Periodical Literature, Osnabriick, Germany).
Manuscripts submitted must be typed, doublespaced, and accompanied by a stamped, selfaddressed envelope. A copy of American Atheist
Writers' Guidelines is available upon request. The
editors assume no responsibility for unsolicited
manuscripts.
The American Atheist Press publishes a variety of
Atheist, agnostic, and freethought material. A
catalog is available free upon request.

The American Atheist is given free of cost


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Page 2

EDITOR'S DESK / R. Murray-O'Hair

REGRETS
Bhatty has been a member of
Margaret
the American Atheist staff since the

January 1983 issue. Since her column first


appeared in these pages under the title "United World Atheists," it has ruthlessly dissected the many Indian religions and their
influence on modern Indian life, legislation,
and politics. More often than not, her articles have been of special pertinence as
Indian religions emigrated to the United
States.
Margaret Bhatty was born in October
1931 to a missionary family. Her grandfather, an Englishman, was - in 1891- one
of the first Salvation Army corpsmen to
carry the "War of Salvation" into heathen
India, bearing the banner "Fire and Blood!"
The Salvation Army movement in India was
headed by a man from the elite Civil Service
who was related to the famous Tucker familyof Bermuda. Tucker decided that the best
way to appeal to Indians would be to assume
the garb of mendicant fakirs and to take
Indian names; they looked very much like
the Hare Krishna devotees of today.
Tucker never meant that the English
should take up all the Indian ways, however,
and there was much consternation when
some of the crusading Englishmen married
Indian fellow officers, as did Ms. Bhatty's
grandfather. Disgusted at the racial hostility
of the other European Salvationists, he, with
his bride, moved to a wild and remote corner
of the Himalayas, near the border of Nepal
and Tibet. There he established a small mission, a mere ten day's journey from the
nearest railhead.
His family became "faith missionaries"
and practiced poverty and self-denial. As
they managed to acquire some land, they
gave it to converts to cultivate. Though the
first generation of this mixed marriage was
educated at home, the second was able to
gain admission to some of the best Methodist schools and colleges. This education,
Margaret Bhatty feels,' has proved invaluable in extending her horizons and has
helped in her profession as a writer.
After her school years, Ms. Bhatty taught
at both the secondary and college levels, but
later became a professional writer. In her
own country, she is best known for her English children's novels. She has two children,
one of each sex, who are both Atheists.
Among her interests are conservation,
comparative religion, feminism, and edu-

July 1986

cation. She writes that her initial interest in


Atheism started with feminism, and that she
was particularly influenced by the writings of
Bertrand Russell.
We regret to announce that a recent
communication from her informs us that,
due to a family crisis, she will be unable, for
an indefinite period of time, to write regularly
for the American Atheist. She does expect
to send articles, but quite infrequently.
We know our readers willmiss her. If it is
any consolation, the American Atheist Press
does expect to release a collection of her
American Atheist articles later in the year.
But we willall look forward to her being able
once again to grace the pages of the American Atheist regularly.
In the meantime, we wish her the best.

Jack Jones, author of "Secular Marriages


in New Zealand" in the June 1986 issue of
the American Atheist, sent us a further
update on the creeping secularization of
New Zealand. As he described in that article,
New Zealanders have only been afforded the
luxury of secular marriages since 1979. At
this time they have the choice of having their
weddings performed by a civilcelebrant, in a
registry office, or in a church. Mr. Jones
received the Justice Department's statistics
on the numbers of each type of wedding as
follows:
Year
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985

Civil
Celebrant
4,436
5,628
5,967
6,809
7,285

Registry
Offices
4,144
4,484
4,126
3,914
3,659

Church
15,623
15,869
14,926
15,039
14,182

Mr. Jones writes: "You willappreciate, of


course, that the office of the civil celebrant
was only instituted in 1979, but it has
obviously proved an immense success.
"The number of marriages each year
overall is relatively steady. However, church
marriages are declining, and the civil celebrant share of all non-church weddings is
increasing. Further proof that New Zealand
is not a churchgoing country. If only our
government understood and accepted this!"

American Atheist

DIRECTOR'S BRIEFCASE / Jon G. Murray

A DECLARATION
OF AN HONEST MAN

~~

(\

~~

)--------------------------

ne of the annual tasks that I have, as


O
director of The American Atheist
Center, is the planning and arranging of the
National Convention. I also, as a national
officer, am one of the speakers at each
year's convention. In April of 1986 the circumstances surrounding my convention
speech were different in that it was during
the 1986 Convention that the announcement was made by the founder of American
Atheists, Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, that she was
turning the presidency of American Atheists
over to me. This also entailed a shift of other
national officers and Board of Directors
members. This shift is outlined for you in the
"News and Comments" section of this issue.
A Reasonable Facsimile
The speech that I actually delivered at
Convention '86 in New Jersey was to a large
degree spontaneous. I had only a few scattered notes that I prepared on a hotel pad
only a half hour prior to my address. Some of
the things that I said at that time, live in the
convention hall, I cannot repeat in this journal for the same reason that a stand-up
comedian cannot repeat on television what
he may say in a private club performance.
My language was at times "colloquial," and
my references could be construed to be
slanderous and probably would be indeed
libelous in print. I have been a very outspoken and straightforward person allof my
life and I lack "tact." I equate tact with
deceit. I come right out and "call a spade a
spade," as the saying goes. Those of you
who have met me personally, at one time or
another, can attest to this. Some of you may
be, shall we say, less than a fan of mine as a
result of a personal encounter with my lack
of tact and my sometimes brutal honesty. I
was reared in a home in which honesty was
not only "the best policy," it was the only
policy.
What I shall attempt to do here, for this
"convention issue" of the American Atheist,
is to reconstruct as best as I can my remarks
to Convention '86 in New Jersey with the
self-censorship prudent to the editorial policy of this journal. To those of you who were
present, in person, to hear my remarks in
New Jersey, I apologize in advance for any-

Austin, Texas

thing that I may omit; and for those who did


not like what I had to say, I do not rescind
anything that I said spontaneously from the
podium. So, here we go. Please imagine
yourself at the Convention as you read these
remarks, couched in that time frame.
lAm Fed Up
I am fed up!
I once saw a filmin which a national newscaster was portrayed, who looked into the
camera one night on a livenational newscast
and said "I'm fed up and I can't take it anymore," and he got up and walked off camera.
As the film progressed, he came back for
one newscast after another in which his line,
"I'm fed up and I can't take it anymore,"
became popular, and he asked the listening
audience to get up from their chairs and
shout it out the windows of their homes or
from the roofs of their buildings - and they
did.
Well, that was a movie, a Hollywood fantasy. This is real life, andl am still fed up, and
I am going to give you a shopping list on all
those things with which I am fed up here
today. I think that each and everyone of you
should be fed up with them all, too.
Ignorance And Apathy
One of the criticisms that both Dr. O'Hair
and I get constantly when we do public
appearances is that we appear to be "full of
hate" or "angry" all the time. Well, only an
idiot is happy all the time. Remember, "ignorance is bliss" is how the saying goes, or as
Tom Lehrer would put it, ifyou are content,
"you simply don't understand the situation."
I have a low boiling point, and I boil over
regularly just watching the evening news or
reading the morning paper. The world is so
fullof ignorance that I can sometimes hardly
believe it. Larry Flynt put it better than I
have ever heard it said when he told a federal
judge that the judge had "shit-for-brains."
Larry pulled some jail time for that remark,
but that judge had needed to be told just that
for many years. Each and everyone of the
overstuffed, polyester-suited attorneys in
the room had dreamed of the day that they
would have the courage to say that to a

July 1986

judge. So, yes, I am angry, and Dr. O'Hair is


angry, too. We are angry at a system that
does not work, at ignorance being elevated
over common sense, at the fact that it seems
as though we are the only persons who can
see what is going wrong in a world of
complacency.
I am certain that many of you here today
have felt the same way. Intelligence is a liability because it is almost useless when one is
trapped in a misinformed world. If I seem
angry to you here today, I am, and have
reason to be.
The Media
Let's get back to the list of things with
which I am fed up. The media treatment of
Atheists has to be at the top of that list. We
have been misquoted, misinterpreted, attacked, defamed, abused, stepped on, and
outright lied about so often that I can honestly say I cannot bring myself to trust any
representative of the news media - local,
national, or in-between - any longer. We
held a press conference concerning this
Convention, and the papers which failed to
send reporters at all wrote the most about it.
That gives you an idea of just how accurate
the newspaper reporting about Atheists and
Atheist events is. The headline of one of the
articles was that "O'Hair backs Gadhafi."
Dr. O'Hair said, as a minor sideline remark
at the press conference, that often in history
the figure who is written about in a derogatory manner is actually the one who was
simply bucking the system with a new idea.
She gave Henry VIII as an example. He is
generally portrayed as being a "glutton" and
an abusive person probably because he
threw the Roman Catholic church out of
England. Likewise, she said, Gadhafi is
probably not all that bad as a person. He is
just bucking the system that the Western
nations want to force on the rest of the
world, so he gets bad press. That was translated into a single issue article of "O'Hair
backs Gadhafi." I agree that he probably
isn't all that bad. I also think that the Shah of
Iran was a great deal better for Iran than
Khomeini, a religious nut.
I am, in fact, so fed up with our (American
Atheists') treatment by the media that I can

Page 3

barely speak civillyto a reporter anymore. I


can't stand them because I have been a personal victim of their treachery. I have come
dangerously close, on occasion, to striking a
reporter when he has asked a particularly
insulting question. I have never done so, for
obvious reasons. Some of you have had similar moments of suppressed impulse, I am
sure.
I think that the last straw with the media is
the case of my estranged brother, William J.
(Bill)Murray. He has become to the MurrayO'Hair family what Chappaquidick has
become to Sen. Kennedy. We cannot make
a single public statement that we do not have
his very existence thrown in our faces like a
medieval gauntlet. "Well, if Atheism is so
good, then how come your own brother has
turned to Christ?" is the question with only
the substitution of "son" for "brother" in the
case of Dr. O'Hair. The only answer is the
truth. He's crazy. Most families have at least
one member who is a few bricks short of a
load. I am personally dismayed at my brother's conduct. I cannot imagine using a difference of opinion with my parents as "Inevangelical tool for monetary gain. If I thought
that I could get away with it, I would murder
him. I know better than that, naturally, but
the thought has crossed my mind many a
time. Many of you have had thoughts of
murdering a sibling or have had such a
dream, but statistically, hardly anyone ever
does. I am my own man, and what I do and
what I say as a spokesperson for Atheism
should be taken on its own merit and not
judged in terms of what my brother, or any
other so-called Christian, mayor may not
say or do. I feel the same about him as I do
about any religionist. He is doing nothing but
harm by disseminating the Christian philosophy, and I will fight him, or anyone else,
who misguidedly thinks that they are "doing
good" by spreading "the word of god."
Debates
I am fed up with debates in general and
with poorly educated clergy in particular.
Many of you here today have been clamoring like a bunch of school children to see a
home recorded video we have of my
"debate" with Falwell on a Saint Louis television station. It was not a debate; it was a
show - a stage show, staged by the station
producer, director, and host. Falwell had
every advantage and the backing of the station. I have written an editorial in this magazine about it (July 1984). Suffice it to say
here, I think that such contrived, pseudodebates with clergymen, calculated to increase ratings of television programs, are
futile. One cannot change a Christian into an
Atheist or vice versa on the basis of a
debate, and I don't intend to try. An intellectual cannot debate with a orangutan.

Page 4

Atheist Wimps
I am fed up with pseudo-Atheists, too.
I now find myself in the position of not
being able to talk on the telephone to some
persons who call themselves Atheists without getting into an argument. I can't attend a
meeting of any Chapter without getting into
an argument with one or more of the persons in attendance. I can't answer some of
the letters directed to The American Atheist
Center without creating an enemy. Why?
All of you Atheists seem to be stuck on a
list of subjects that you cannot get past to do
anything else. Let me enumerate the most
prominent ones.
Agnosticism
I am asked "Wouldn't agnosticism be a
better position for the organization to take
than Atheism?" No, it would not. If you
have a belief system and you believe in
supernatural powers of any kind, by any
name, then you are a religionist plain and
simple. Religion is a matter of faith, or belief.
Either you believe or you don't. If you don't
have a god belief system, you are an Atheist.
Ifyou do, you are a theist. There is no middle
ground. It is like being a little bit pregnant;
either you are pregnant or you are not. Ifyou
harbor any doubts that there may be "something out there that we don't know about
that could be 'God,' " then you are a theist.
An Atheist knows that the concept of "god"
is not possible or logical, and that is that. He
does not waste his time going round-theroundabout "whether or not there is a god"
in a pointless "which came first - the
chicken or the egg?" type argument.
We have said all we are going to say and
wasted as much print as we are going to
waste on agnostics in the September 1985
issue of the American Atheist. It's a closed
subject.
I am an Atheist and not an agnostic. I head
an Atheist organization, not an organization
of wimps. I willspeak as an Atheist, and I will
say that there is no such thing as a god as
long as I shall live, in the same way as I shall
say that Peter Pan does not really exist.
An agnostic is basically an intellectual
wimp. Just add enough courage and you
have the makings of a primitive Atheist.
Dialogue With Religionists
I once went to Reno, Nevada, and appeared on a talk show with a priest. I refused
to shake his hand when he came onto the
set, and I have been refusing ever since. It
would dirty me to shake the hand of an
enemy of humankind. Many Atheists don't
like that. Many of you want me to be kind
and to show respect to religious leaders and
to try to dialogue with them to work out our

July 1986

differences. The differences between any


clergyman and any Atheist are nonreconcilable. Atheists operate on different premises than do theists. The two cannot "dialogue."
Persons must earn the respect of others.
No clergyman has ever done anything for
humanity. On the contrary, they have held
humanity back from doing something for
itself. When clergy begin to be helpful
instead of impeding progress, then perhaps I
can reevaluate them. I need not worry about
that ever happening. One look at the history
of religion will show you why. I will not be
respectful to those who prey upon the
ignorance of my fellowmen for the gain of
institutions that exist only to control them or
make it easier for them to be controlled by
others.
Capitalism
My intelligence alone has led me to discover a number of facets of the capitalist
economic system that are unjust and should
be reformed or changed. The idea is to have
a system which works better for the good of
all concerned. (It is our Declaration of Independence which speaks of "the greatest
good for the greatest number.") In a like
manner, I can see that we have an oligarchy
and not a democracy in this country. Why
should I suppress those realizations? I am
told that as an Atheist cause leader I must
stifle my political opinions, my economic
opinions, in short, all opinions that I may
have on any subject other than pure "Atheism." I cannot do that. Everything in life is
political, especially for an Atheist. I don't live
in a vacuum, and neither do any of you.
I am not a warmonger. I do not feel that
our nation's military buildup is necessary. I
willspeak my mind on these issues when and
where I please. I do so out of logic and concern for myself and my family and compassion for those with whom I share this
earth.
If one is logical and reasoned with respect
to religion, that logic leading them to Atheism, why must that logic be turned off like a
light switch when it comes up against other
areas such as politics and economics?
I am eclectic with respect to political,
social, and economic issues. There is nothing wrong and everything right with wanting
to take the best of each existing system to
form new ways of approaching our nation's
and life's problems.
Libertarians
I am fed up with Libertarians in this context, too. Libertarianism is a form of neofascism. "Liberty" has nothing to do with it.
That is a misnomer. Libertarianism is a
pseudonym for a most abusive, greedy,

American Atheist

laissez-faire capitalism, nothing more or


less. Many persons have been duped into
the Libertarian Party through a lack of understanding of its platform in the same way that
voters in Illinois recently voted for a La
Rouche candidate. It is my opinion, however, that if anyone has brains enough to be
an Atheist, that person should have brains
enough to figure out libertarian politics.
These are the most disruptive persons in our
organization.
Zionism
I have been approached again and again
by persons calling themselves "Jewish Atheists." There is no such thing. Judaism is a
religion, not an ethnicity. The claim that
there is a Jewish "race" is a myth. There are
Semitic peoples of many religions.
Israel is a theocracy. It was established as
a theocracy, and it remains one. I will not
support the existence of any theocracy,
whether that be Israel, or Iran, or the Vatican State, or the state of Utah, or a fundamentalist Christian nation under Reverend
President Pat Robertson. No Atheist can
exist in any theocracy. I therefore oppose
Zionism and those who push that position in
the United States particularly. I don't feel
that it is in the best interest of the United
States to have perhaps not even three percent of the population, who are of the Jewish
religion, dictate a majority of U.S. foreign
policy, particularly in the Middle East.
I will speak up against Zionism and the
Zionist lobby in Washington at every opportunity. That does not make me anti-Semitic,
but I sure as hell am "anti" the Jewish religion. I shall treat Jews as I do other
religionists.
I am fed up with any mention of Israel, or
the Jewish lobby, or for that matter, any
news story concerning the Middle East on
my part or in the pages of the American
Atheist bringing down upon my head a rain
of criticism from self-proclaiming "Jewish
Atheists." I am of partial Italian descent, but
that does not mean that I must fight for
Roman Catholicism. Persons of Jewish religious upbringing who cannot fully separate
themselves from that religion should not call
themselves Atheists. They are still Jews.

Madalyn O'Hair and remain involved with


American Atheists because you love to hate
its founder. I think that, frankly, this is a little
sick. Some of you in this room have come to
me when I have been in your town or city
and said "Hey, Jon, let me buy you a drink."
When we were alone I heard "Can't you do
something about that mother of yours? She
is offensive and she gives Atheism a bad
name. Can't you take over and throw her
out?" No, I cannot. I sincerely wish that
those of you who are guilty of this kind of
backstabbing cease doing it. Dr. O'Hair has
not been willing to listen to any such talk
about me when she has been cornered in a
similar manner. She refuses to permit
anyone to even complete a sentence if that
person starts to complain about me (or
Robin Murray-O'Hair). I think that it is now
proper that I also refuse to even listen any
more to complaints against Dr. O'Hair.
All of you must stand on your own two
feet. You don't need a Madalyn O'Hair, or a
Jon Murray, to think for you. Atheism is not
a religion; let's not give it the form of one
(without the substance) by continuing this
cult-like following of "the leader." I don't
want that, and neither does Dr. O'Hair. We
both desire an educated, informed, and
articulate constituency that can form a solid
base for the defense of the rights of Atheists
and the maintenance of state/church separation. Personalities must not be deified.
Democracy
I am fed up with being told that the American Atheist organization is undemocratic.
Democracy has been the death knell for
countless Atheist and freethought groups
throughout history. Every such organization
in history has been seized by infiltrators who
gained entrance only to obtain control of the
organization and then pervert it to other
objectives. The basic principles and founding objectives of any cause group cannot be
subject to vote without opening up a Pandora's box of controversy that eventually
splits the group. When one is part of a minority group, which must struggle against overwhelming odds, solidarity is more precious
than democracy.
Why Have An Organization?

The Messiah Complex


Many of you, in this very room, follow
Madalyn O'Hair in the same way that a
Christian follows Christ. I have never understood why this is so. The leaders of cause
organizations in general have been followed
in a messianic way for many years. The central concept of an Atheist life-style is inner
direction and not outer direction. An Atheist
does not need to follow anyone. That is perhaps why organizing Atheists is so difficult.
At the very same time, others of you hate

Austin, Texas

Many Atheists ask the question "Why do I


need to belong to an organization at all? I can
be an Atheist on my own." That is very true,
and many church leaders hear the same
thing from religionists who say that they
don't need to belong to a church to follow
Christ. What these Atheists fail to understand is that they cannot fight, individually,
for their right to continue to remain an outspoken Atheist in a religious society when
they are strictly alone, often isolated, any
more than a worker in a large plant can

July 1986

bargain individually with an employer more


effectively than can a union to which that
worker could belong.
It has come to my attention, many times,
that many Atheists require a personal, painful intrusion of religion into their lives to
stimulate them to stand up for their own
rights. Atheists, like everyone else, are complacent. Until they lose their job for being an
Atheist, have their children become subject
to abuse, go through a divorce with a religious spouse, or suffer some other type of
personal slap in the face from religion, they
willnot see a need to oppose it.
That's too bad. The oldest adage in the
world still applies: In union there is strength.
Litigation
It is an unfortunate truth that it is becoming increasingly difficult to litigate in the
state/church separation area. Reagan has
now had the opportunity to appoint over 230
federal judges who are of a right-wing inclination. This has had the effect of closing off
the judicial branch of government to organizations such as American Atheists in their
effort to use litigation as a means of securing
a place for their continued unfettered existence within society. The executive and
legislative branches of government have
already been closed to minority cause
groups due to the expense of lobbying and
the lack of significant voter blocs for them to
make their presence felt. In addition, it is
virtually impossible in the legal arena to find
a cause- rather than money-oriented attorney. I have yet to meet an attorney who
would take a case for anything but money,
cause conscious or not. Ifthe funding can be
mustered, generally, no control can be exercised by any cause group over any attorney.
Since litigation is the only hope of any cause
to use as an educational vehicle for garnering media attention and to draw attention to
its ideals, it is important that the cause
leadership control how that litigation is carried out - particularly with respect to written material presented to the court and, in
turn, to the media. Generally, attorneys will
not allow that these days. They all insist on
taking the precious cause money and then
doing as they please with the litigation, for
which the cause organization is paying. That
will not work in cause related litigation
where the object most often is making a
point rather than winning the case.
On The Need To Get Your Feet Wet
That is a hefty list of things to be fed up
with. What can be done about all of these
things? We can get organized. We have a
great cable television series; let's get out
there and push it. We have well-written literature; get out there and distribute it. It is
time for all of you to get into the ball game.

PageS

You cannot look on from the sidelines any


longer. You must get your feet wet; you
must get involved.
The freethinkers of times past talked and
pamphleteered - and talked and pamphleteered - and never got out of their chairs.
Meanwhile the religionists were ugly, mean,
rotten, despicable, antihuman, and above
all, tenacious. They clamped their teeth into
the butt of society and hung on until they got
their way. We can take a lesson from them.
We must do the same.
Atheists must turn to direct confrontation
and put all of these things of which both you
and I are fed up, and rightly so, behind them
and go out and meet the New Right religionists head on. If they can badger the
convenience stores into dropping all socalled pornographic magazines, we can
badger them to keep them in. If religionist
parents can terrorize public school teachers
and administrators and libraries, we too can
go to those institutions and let them know
that they have allies who will fight back.
American Atheists can fight back for all of
the agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, Unitarians, and others who are too gutless to
fight back for themselves.
It is also now the time to challenge the
dogma that religion offers up to each new
generation directly but substantively. No
more wimpy Bible contradiction books or
flyers. We must look at the historic and
anthropological roots of theism and expose
all belief systems for the psychological and
physiological control systems that they
really are.
Why IAm Called "Honest Jon"
It is both fitting and proper at the time of
my assuming the presidency of American
Atheists that I lay it on the line for allof you at
this Convention. I hope that I have accomplished that. Some of you may not like what I
have had to say, but I have a need to speak
frankly and honestly, and I have done so
here today.
Thank you all for your support. ~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A second generation Atheist,
Mr. Murray has been the Director
of The American Atheist Center
for ten years and is also the Managing
Editor of the American Atheist. He
advocates "Aggressive Atheism."

Essays of an Atheist Activist


A collection of Jon G.Murray's articles
in the American Atheist. Pifty-two
pages of hair-raising facts and thoughtprovoking opinions. $4.25 including
postage. (Stock number 5352) From:
American Atheist Press,P.O.Box 2 I 17,
Austin TX 787682I 17.

Page 6

ASK A.A.

In Letters to the Editor, readers give


their opinions, ideas, and information.
But in "Ask A.A." American Atheists
answers questions regarding its policies, positions, and customs, as well as
queries of factual and historical situations.

I've enclosed a page out of a recent Jack


Chick catalog that I stumbled across recently. While I found most of this little
catalog to be rather humorous, in its extremism, imagine my surprise to see Mr. Chick
offering several of Avro Manhattan's erudite
volumes for sale!
This confounds me dearly, and I was hoping maybe you people could shed some light
on this certainly unique marketing strategy
of Mr. Manhattan's (assuming of course that
he has any knowledge or control over the
situation). Is this solely the book publisher's
doing, or is Mr. Manhattan working both
sides of the fence? I doubt Mr. Chick
obtained these books from American Atheist Press.
To further cast suspicion on Mr. Manhattan, a short article of his appeared in the
Jan/Feb 1986 issue of "Battle Cry," a newsletter put out by Chick.
Does Avro Manhattan possess any type
of a unified philosophy at all, either Atheist
or Christian, or has he eschewed his integrity altogether in his unrelenting mission to
expose Catholicism?
Peter Lima
Massachusetts
Avro Manhattan's home is in England.
His books have been barredfrom entry into
many countries where the Roman Catholic
church is powerful.
And, whether those of us who are principled like it or not, the man must eat.
He has, off and on, written for Protestant
organizations when they ask for exposetype articles concerned with the Roman
Catholic church. When American Atheists
first discovered his books were being offered by Chick, it wrote and advised Manhattan of the reputation of that house. He
countered by stating that he could get a very
good discount for American Atheists for distributing the titles which Chick was publishing. American Atheists approached Chick,
found that the discount would be excellent,

July 1986

and has been selling the Manhattan books


since - all of which are manufactured by
Chick. In fact, American Atheists is probably the largest distributor of Manhattan
books in the United States, all purchased
from Chick.
Chick knows what American Atheists is
and who heads it up. American Atheists is
very aware of what Chick is. The two organizations heartily dislike each other.
If you have read the books which Chick
publishes and American Atheists sells, you
will see that they are free from religious
drivel. Whether or not Chick puts pressure
upon Manhattan from time to time to write
articles or other material for its "Newsletter" is unknown at this time. But why not
send us the issue of Chick's newsletter
about which you speak so we can evaluate
it and ask Manhattan what is going on?
Also, it is necessary for you to consider
this: At the time that Manhattan was
approached by American Atheists to write
the Vietnam book in collaboration with
Madalyn O'Hair and a fired intelligence professor for the c.I.A., none of the three had
money enough to publish the book. Chick
did and does have the money. If Chick was
not publishing Manhattan's books at this
time, none of them would be available in the
United States at all.
The Murray-O'Hairs will be visiting with
Avro and Anne Manhattan later this year
and will sit down over a bottle {or two} of
wine and talk more extensively. If there is
any further report to be made, it will appear
in these pages.

THE YATICAII
MOSCOW
WASHIIIGTOI
ALlIAIICE

By

'''0 M.n

American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS

CHANGING OF THE GUARD


For over two decades, a single individual
has represented Atheism in the public mind:
Madalyn O'Hair. From her first complaint
about state-sponsored prayer to the principal of the Baltimore public school her sons
attended, to yesterday's university speech,
she has represented that unique brand of
what has come to be designated as American Atheism in its struggle for recognition.
Her list of accomplishments and efforts on
behalf of Atheists is long. A few of the institutions that she founded are: the Society of
Separationists, d/b/a! American Atheists;
the American Atheist Press; the "American
Atheist Radio Series"; the "American Atheist International Radio Forum" (now broadcast to 2,000 stations overseas); the "American Atheist Television Forum" (now on
approximately ninety cable systems); the
American Atheist journal; the monthly
American Atheists Insiders' Newsletter;
The American Atheist Center; the American Atheist Annual National Conventions;
and the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives. Additionally, she
was one of the founders of United World
Atheists. She has also promoted the celebration of four natural holidays (Vernal
Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Winter Solstice, and Summer Solstice) in order to
emphasize that there are rhythmical, natural
events that transcend religious, geographical, and national boundaries and unite all
humans under natural laws. She helped
create a network of Chapters of American
Atheists and aided the origination of a new
symbol for Atheism ( $). Besides the original Murray v. Curlett case, she has been
involved in at least thirty major legal suits
having to do with state/church separation,
many of which reached the U.S. Supreme
Court level. Chief among those cases were
challenges to religious services in the White
House; the imprinting of "In God We Trust"
on our nation's currency and coins; statesponsored prayer and Bible reading in
space; display of religious symbols in government buildings (particularly nativity statuary during the Christmas season); challenges to the payment of chaplains with
taxpayer funds in the federal Congress; and
state constitutions' impediments to Atheists
holding elected or appointed offices in
Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. She also began the attempts to

Austin, Texas

require public libraries to receive and display


Atheist literature; to obtain tax exemption
for Atheist educational institutions; to obtain a classification for "Atheism" in the
library systems of the nation; to stop prayers
in government at city, county, state, and
federal levels; to include Atheist symbols on
headstones in federal memorial cemeteries;
to terminate discrimination against Atheists
in employment; to stop "oath taking" for
witnesses, jurors, and judges in courts or for
government employment; to stop the "belief
in god" requirement for passports; and to
enable Atheists to adopt children.
Dr. O'Hair holds as her most outstanding
accomplishment the separation of the political concept of communism from the lifestyle designation of Atheism in the public's
mind. This ideal is not yet fully accomplished, but her efforts have reduced the
level of "red-baiting" of Atheists dramatically. It is surely no wonder that she is so
identified with the American Atheist cause
and recognized internationally as a spokesperson for Atheism.
It has been difficult for Dr. O'Hair to
amass this impressive list of accomplishments, particularly in the early years, because of her sex alone. As a woman she has
never been fully accepted in the traditional
male role of a cause organization leader. It is
indeed unfortunate that Atheists, who pride
themselves on their liberal attitudes, would
allow the specter of sexism to retard the
progress of their chief spokesperson, but
such has been the case.
Dr. O'Hair always accepted that the Atheist cause must live beyond the individual.
For this reason she has always emphasized
the importance of an organization of Atheists with a variety of spokespersons. Being
familiar with the history of previous Atheist
groups, she knew that alltoo often an organization died with its founder. Wishing to
avoid this pattern, she encouraged the formation and growth of a sustaining trust fund
for American Atheists in the hopes that its
financial base would be secure regardless of
its leadership. But she also realized that
there must be a continuation of leadership.
With all of this in mind, on April 19, 1986,
at the members' banquet at the Sixteenth
Annual National Convention of American
Atheists, Dr. O'Hair announced that she
was stepping aside from the presidency of
American Atheists and its affiliates. At the

July 1986

same time, she introduced new leadership


which she hoped would, with its youth, lead
American Atheists into the next century.
The new president appointed by the
Board of Directors was Jon G. Murray, formerly secretary of the organization. While
Gerald D. Tholen would remain as vicepresident, R. Murray-O'Hair, editor of the
American Atheist, would become the corporation's secretary. Brian Lynch, media
coordinator for The American Atheist Center, was named treasurer.
The changes that Dr. O'Hair had the pleasure of announcing did not end there, as a
number of younger persons had joined the
Board of Directors of American Atheists.
They had been chosen for their new positions because of their proven Atheist activism and their relative youth. They were:
August Berkshire, director of the Twin
Cities, Minnesota, Chapter;
Herman Harris, director of the Lexington, Kentucky, Chapter;
EDen Johnson, director of the New Jersey Chapter;
Scott Kerns, director of the Houston,
Texas, Chapter;
Noel Scott, director of the Greater D.C.
Chapter;
Frank Zindler, director of the Central
Ohio Chapter.
Remaining on the Board from prior terms
would be Jon G. Murray, R. Murray-O'Hair,
Gerald Tholen, Minerva Massen (director of
the San Francisco Chapter), Shirley Nelson
(former Arkansas
director),
Henry
Schmuck (national liaison officer for the
Detroit Chapter), Lloyd Thoren (founder of
The American Atheist Museum, Petersburg,
Indiana), and Richard C. O'Hair. Mr. O'Hair,
Dr. O'Hair's stepson, is an independent
trucker by profession and has served on the
Board of Directors from a time when no one
else would come forward to make the ranks
of the Board equal to the number required
by state law.
Dr. O'Hair will remain involved in American Atheists as a consultant and as chairperson of the Board of Directors. A workhorse ifever there was one, she does not see
this change as a retirement, but hopes to
redirect her energies to research and writing. She has been researching several books
for years in between her other duties, and
she now desires to divert a major portion of
her time to their completion.

Page 1

NEWS AND COMMENTS

ZION
Sherman called The American Atheist
Center. Could we do anything about it?
There was only one question to answer: Did
we have a member of American Atheists
living in Zion? There was one; Sherman
decided to complain. On April 2, he was
back in Zion to attend a city council meeting
to ask the born-again mayor and city council
to take god out of the city slogan and the
emblem. The city chaplain opened the meeting with "a short religious message and
prayer," and a city commissioner told
Sherman "to go somewhere where you're
wanted." Even as the city attorney and the
mayor were agreeing to at least discuss the
idea, amid the shouting of "Amens," a resident stood up to say that since "this country
was built on Christianity," if he [Rob Sherman] did not like it, "he can leave."
To no avail, Sherman pointed out that the
city, awash in religious signs, reflected a
theocracy instead of a democracy. To his
astonishment, the mayor agreed and gave
him a small book outlining its history.
The History

Rob Sherman
There probably has never been a nonnews story such as that of the seal of the city
of Zion, in the history of the Chicago area, or
of the United States for that matter.
It all began innocently enough, on March
30, 1986. Robert Sherman, director of the
Chicago Chapter of American Atheists
decided to take advantage of the light traffic
on other people's Sabbath to drive north to
Winthrop Harbor on the Wisconsin border.
to visit one of his business clients. As he
passed through Zion his attention was directed to the city's water tower, which
sported a cross, a dove, a crown, a scepter,
and a ribbon in which were the words "God
reigns." Stunned, he could not believe it and
decided to drive through the town, where he
found that everything in the city bore the
seal: police cars, stop signs, garbage trucks,
ambulances, street signs, police shoulder
patches.
The names of the streets on which he
drove all were biblical references.

Page 8

Zion was founded in 1902 by John Alexander Dowie, a Pentecostal minister and
faith healer from Australia, a leader in the
Christian Catholic church. Dowie's chief
claim to fame among his followers was that
he could cure cancer. He envisaged Zion as
a place of salvation, what he designated as
the "City of God." For its motto, he chose,
"Where God Rules, Man Prospers."
People could not buy land in Zion; rather,
they were required to sign 1,100-year leases
in god's name since Christ was expected to
return before the leases expired. The practice of medicine was forbidden, and hence
there were no doctors in this city of faith
healing. Residents were forbidden to drink,
smoke, swear, or spit. Women were forbidden to wear male attire, particularly pants.
Even today the ban on alcohol persists.
Looking back now, its declaration of
intent is peculiar even for 1902:
Zion City was founded, and is being
built, for the purpose of the extension
of the Kingdom of God upon earth.
It is to this end that it is made a City
where God shall rule in every department of family, industrial, commercial, educational, ecclesiastical, and
political life.

July 1986

Zion, Illinois, was to be the first of a


number of such theocratic cities built near
larger cities of sin throughout the United
States and the world, with the culmination
- for the salvation of the world - of a Zion
City near Jerusalem, which "shall be the
Seat of the Empire of Jesus Christ the Son of
God when He comes to reign as the Allconquering Sovereign of the entire world."
The man who dreamed of Zion, John
Dowie, had been born in Scotland in 1847,
and by the time he was six years old, had
read the Bible through and taken the abstinence pledge against alcohol.
At age twenty-five, without seminary
training, he was ordained into the Congregational church and took his first station near
Adelaide, Australia. For some reason, undisclosed, he spent some time in jail there. In
1888 he visited the United States and began
faith healing in California. He found this to
be lucrative, and as more and more persons
addressed him as "Doctor," he formally
assumed the title for himself. His most publicized cure was of cancer of the larynx in a
sixty-nine-year-old woman. In 1893 he
moved to Chicago where he published
weekly his fundamentalist sermons in a
journal which he titled Leaves of Healing.
On February 22, 1896, he formally organized
the Christian Catholic church and immediately began to thump for an actual Christian
community where "the ideals of the Nazarene" could be implemented. He unmercifullyattacked "Doctors, Drugs, and Devils,"
and flailed at the hospitals, liquor, tobacco
interests, and the "dirty birds" of the press.
His attacks brought returns in the form of
his arrest for practicing medicine without a
license. The arrests were relentless, over
one hundred in 1895 alone.
He had set himself up in Chicago, leasing
the Imperial Hotel, a large eight story structure (Michigan Avenue and 12th Street)
which became his headquarters and where
he would begin his dreams of removing himself and his followers from entanglements
with the established order. He organized the
Zion Bank, a working men's club, and an
educational facility. He was interested in an
international outreach and by 1899 had
40,000 members worldwide in his church.
Dowie, who called himself "the Messenger
of God's Covenant, Elijahthe Restorer, Rev.
John Alexander Dowie, the General Overseer of the Christian Catholic Church," then
formed the Zion Land and Investment Asso-

American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS


ciation on February 22, 1899. Through this
company he bought 6,500 acres (more than
ten square miles) in Benton township, Lake
County, Illinois, and he asked his followers
everywhere in the world to sell everything
they owned and come and live in Zion.
A civil engineer, Burton J. Ashley, when
his daughter "received a wonderful healing"
at Dowie's hands, was convinced to join the
church. It was he who then planned the
layout of the city. Dowie desired that all of
the names of the streets should have biblical
sense - Elisha, Enoch, Ezekiel, Ezra,
Gilead, Galilee, Jethro, Nazareth, Bethany,
Bethlehem, being a sample thereof.
Ten thousand people assembled to consecrate the land on July 14, 1900. It required
eleven trains to transport the crowds from
Chicago. By July 15,1901, all the lots offered
had been leased, and on August 15, 1901,
the first resident moved in. The city was
organized and incorporated, under the laws
of Illinois, on March 31, 1902. The "Theocratic (political) Party" was organized and
offered a ticket of candidates for municipal
office. The party won all offices, unanimously. An ordinance was passed providing
for the corporate seal for the city on May 6,
1902. The corporate seal of the city was an
exact copy of the seal of the church.
Dowie's home was one of the first built, a
twenty-five room mansion at 1300 Shiloh
Boulevard, at a cost of $75,000. Many of the
fixtures for it had been imported from
Europe, such as the porcelain bath and the
electric ceiling lights of soft brass. The north
side of the house was set aside for servants'
quarters, with maid rooms, kitchens, and
other facilities. This, he felt, was not impressive enough, and he made plans for a more
expensive mansion for himself at Lewis
Avenue and Carmel Boulevard. Drawings
were made for the structure, and $50,000 in
furniture was bought from the Tobey Furniture Company in Chicago.
The principal industries, besides a lace
factory, were the Zion Printing and Publishing House, which distributed the sermons, testimonies, and literature of Dowie,
the Zion Land Investment Association, and
the Zion Bank. From this city, missionaries
were to set forth armed with the Word of
God, for Zion's purpose was to prepare the
world for "the coming again of Jesus Christ
and His Kingdom." Toward that end the first
structure built was the Shiloh Tabernacle, a
huge frame church building in the center of
town, to accommodate 6,000 persons.
There, the worshipper was greeted with the
large motto of the church, "Christ Is All and
In All."

Austin, Texas

Religion permeated the city. Before work


in the morning in the various industries and
at intervals during the workday, prayer was
regularly offered by the whole community.
The laboring man was encouraged to move
to Zion, where he could enjoy profit-sharing
work in the various industries, but mention
of this quickly vanished as more and more
emphasis was placed on demonstration of
religious faith and response to religious
authority.
The workers were expected to pay tithes
(ten percent off the top) of their income into
Jehovah's storehouse, in order to keep
Dowie in style.
A wealthy southern manufacturer, smitten by Dowie, recommended that a settlement be established in Mexico where a
"Paradise Plantation" could be developed
for those who desired to live in a more moderate climate than northern Illinois.
Twice in 1905, "Dr." Dowie had attacks of
paralysis and he subsequently went to Mexico to regain his health and to further this
project there. He desired to purchase two
million acres which were available for one
dollar an acre. Meanwhile, his expenses
were running more than $2,000 a month,
and the City of Zion did not have that much
excess money above its own expenses to
send to him. But Dowie demanded this con-

July 1986

tinual funding of his personal expenses from


his Illinois group. Actually, the city fathers
were reluctant to send money since Dowie
had not been able "to strike down the forces
of darkness" in the attacks of paralysis
which "had smitten him" and he was confined to a wheelchair for the most part of his
travels and work in Mexico. By September
1905, stricken again with paralysis, he
"hovered between life and death." Yet, he
immediately ordered the dismissal of everyone in a political position in Zion and sent for
the head of the Australian missions of the
church on December 29, 1905. That man,
Wilber Voliva, arrived in the midst of the
conflict, took stock, and voted with the officials in Zion and against "the Prophet"
Dowie (then in Jamaica and demanding
$4,000 a month), whom he simply deposed.
The question as to who owned Zion City
and its industries was fought in a Chicago
court in 1906, at which time the institutions
were put into receivership. Dowie, furious,
returned to Zion himself to fight the usurpers. But he was defeated in the court battle,
and died on March 9, 1907, without being
restored to power. Voliva took over the
theocracy, although Mrs. Dowie had returned to Michigan in 1906, carrying with her
the dream of becoming the next General
Overseer.

Page 9

NEWS AND COMMENTS


The Leaves of Healing had reached Nottingham, England, and it encouraged a lace
manufacturer, Samuel Stevenson, to "cast
his lot with the Lord." His English lace factory was shipped in its entirety to Zion City,
together with several hundred of the workers. This, then, was one of its principal
industries in the years of dispute. Stevenson, to keep it all in the family, married a
sister of Dowie while he was in Chicago, and
subsequently, she returned to England with
him. At the time of the bankruptcy, the lace
factory was purchased by Marshall Field's of
Chicago, which used it for the manufacture
of fine lace, table cloths, and lace related
items until 1952, when it was sold to a television manufacturing firm.
Under the new theocratic dictator, Rev.
Voliva, all the industries were brought under
his control. The Zion Bakery was putting out
more than one million fig bars a day; other
plants were prospering. A Christian Broadcasting Company was started by 1922, and
WCBD began sermons and religious music.
Voliva died in 1942, and what was left of
the Zion industries passed to other "General
Overseers" of the church. Many of the
intervening years were filledwith complaints
of the overbearing hand of fundamentalist
religion on the inhabitants. Gradually much
of the religious dominance eroded away, but
not without rancor and infighting. The city
was intended to be a theocracy, and every
attempt was made to retain that political
posture.
By 1986,Zion consisted of 18,000 citizens.
Its industrial parks include twenty-two divergent industries, including the world's
largest nuclear power plant. It now has
twenty-nine churches representing that
many brands of religion, not just the one of
its founders.
The current mayor is a born-again minister who continues with religious broadcasting over the city's lone radio station.

outsider. No one here has been concerned.


There's no need to change."
By this time, the contact with our Zion
member revealed that although American
Atheists indeed did have a member with the
address of Zion, Illinois, that member's
home was three blocks outside of the corporate limits, although mail was received
through the Zion post office. Legally, there
was not even a resident complainant upon
whom American Atheists could rely if court
activity would seem to be indicated. At that
point, The American Atheist Center advised

The Challenge
When Rob Sherman faced off with the
City Council and the mayor, a promise was
made that the seal and city motto would be
reviewed and that the city attorney would
get back to Sherman within six weeks. Yet,
their hostility showed through enough that
newspaper reporters covering the Council
meeting remarked on it. At the time of the
confrontation, however, Mr. Sherman did
not know of the history of Zion. The minister
of the Christian Catholic church meanwhile
was putting the finger on what would be the
tender spot of the entire confrontation:
"Why is this guy raising a ruckus? He's an

Page 10

July 1986

Mr. Sherman that perhaps nothing could be


done, legally, about the seal. If he cared to
pursue the matter to see if he could persuade the city to change the seal and the
motto simply because it reflects that Zion
has been theocratic and probably, politically, remains in that mode, he was encouraged to do so. The use of religious symbolism is violative of the intent of the First
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which calls for a separation of
state and church. Any publicity around that
issue would be educational for the populace
at large.
The issue of seals has arisen during the
last several years in both New Mexico and
Georgia. An article in the American Atheist
magazine "News and Comments" section of
February 1984, titled "Mottoes" (p. 8), described the Georgia battle at length. There,
the city of Milledgeville uses a city seal bearing the motto "Uberty, Christianity." Ken
Saladin, an Atheist professor of biology at
Georgia College, filed a suit in 1980 to have
the motto effaced from the seal, since it
reflected the marriage of state and church.
After years of litigation, on February 20,
1986, a federal judge in Macon, Georgia,
ruled that the city of Milledgeville could keep
the word Christianity in its seal as long as the
emblem isn't displayed where it can be
widely viewed by the public, such as on city
vehicles and water tanks. The judge added
that if this action was taken, any harm done
to Saladin and others who are offended by
the word Christianity would be minimal. "To
complain of such limited use would be,
speaking colloquially, 'a whole lot to do
about nothing,''' he said. On March 1, 1986,
just several weeks before Sherman was to
see the Zion seal on that city's water tank,
the mayor of Milledgeville was notifying the
federal judge in Macon that it would be removing the word from all public vehicles,
water tanks, and firefighters' uniforms. It will
continue to use the seal with the word Christianity on city stationary and to emboss official documents. In actual effect, it was a case
lost.
Back in August 1979, American Atheists
had complained to the County of Los
Angeles that it objected to a seal designed in
1959 by the chairman of the Los Angeles
County Board of Supervisors. It represented the Christian cross standing over the Hollywood Bowl and the Christian fish symbol.
A central figure sported a flaming halo. At
the time, the concern of American Atheists
was with the highly visible cross on the hill.
The legal counsel for Los Angeles issued a
nineteen-page opinion that the county
should stop paying the light bill, and

American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS

one night shortly thereafter an Atheist electrical engineer put the lights out.
But during it all there was a continuing
fight in Bernalillo County, New Mexico,
where the county seal sported a cross and
the words Con esta vencemos. Any student
of religion knew, of course, that these were
the words of the Emperor Constantine when
he (allegedly) saw a cross in the sky and
(allegedly) turned to Christianity from paganism. The only new addition was that in
New Mexico the language was Spanish; in
Rome it had been Latin. In either language
the intent was clear: "With this sign [the
cross] we conquer." The seal was legally
challenged there also. But on December 21,
1981,a federal district court handed down a
decision in Johnson v. Board of County
Commissioners of Bernalillo County, 528
F.Supp. 919, to the effect that separation of
state and church is not possible. The seal
was found to have a "secular purpose" for its
existence and that was one of authenticating
officialdocuments and facilitating identification of county property and personnel. This
case was appealed to the U.S. Court of
Appeals, Tenth Circuit, and a divided panel
affirmed the lower court. An appeal was
made for a rehearing before the full court
panel, which was had, and a 5-2 decision was
finally handed down in that case, Friedman
v. Board of County Commissioners of Bernalillo County, 781 F.2d 777, on December
26,1985.
Basically the court held that the seal, as
used, conveys a strong impression to the
average observer that Christianity is being
endorsed by the county, that this offended
the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and that the use of such a seal
was, therefore, unconstitutional.
Bernalillo County, using taxpayer funds
for this case which was then already five
years in litigation, appealed the decision to
the United States Supreme Court. That
body has granted certiorari (review) and the
case of the Bernalillo County seal will be
heard in the next session of that court.
Sherman was apprised of this. He honestly thought that he might be able to persuade the officials of the City of Zion to
change their seal and habit of displaying the
seal and motto everywhere. The American
Atheist Center officials gave him approval to
see what he could do.
He went back again and again to Zion to
negotiate however he could. "This is the
most clear-cut and dramatic case in American history of a town flouting the constitutional rule of separation of state and
church," he told them. The media began to

Austin, Texas

John Alexander Dowie


designate him "the Constitution-thumping
Atheist." An Illinois AC.L.U. attorney
added his statement in the press that he felt
the seal clearly violated the Constitution.
During this time, it was found that the
mayor of Zion, a pastor and what the media
called "a self described 'born-again believer', " regularly listened to the IllinoisDial-AnAtheist message (512-506-9200).On his own
radio program he was, meanwhile, asking
the residents of Zion to pray for Sherman's
conversion.
Rob Sherman, celebrating his thirty-third
birthday on April 2, was beginning to be the
focal point of electronic news coverage in
the entire Chicago area.

Dowie's mansion -1902

July 1986

But Zion got busy, too. By April 5, a fund


had been started by that city "to finance a
legal battle to keep the religious symbols in
the Zion city seal." The mayor claimed that
"public outcry" against Sherman had "been
overwhelming ... we will have to fight. We
cannot back down."
Of course, the mayor knew, the media
knew, and Sherman knew that it was impossible to go to court over the issue since there
was not a citizen of Zion who could be a
plaintiff in such a suit. It was apparent that
anyone who would come forward would be
taking his life in his hands. All the participants, and all the media also, knew that the
issue of religion on government seals had
been accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the non-fight of the
nation; the non-news of all non-news covering a non-issue, and it made front page after
front page, and incessant prime time television and radio reporting all over Chicago
and the environs area. The case and the
area appeared to be public opinion testing,
a public opinion arousal issue. The media
used singularly straight fact reporting and
seemed unbiased. Hardly any covered the
actual history of Zion as given above, but
slight references were continually made to
the City of God and to Dowie.
When advised that Zion would fight to
keep its seal, Sherman sadly replied, "I hope
the city administration willnot drag the citizens of Zion through the mud of false hope.
We know that we are right, they know we
are right, and we know they know we are
right."
The Zion State Bank, which - of course
- is owned by the church, was set up to
receive money coming in to "Save Our
Seal," reportedly from "as far away as North
Carolina and New Orleans." A rather disgusting development was the news that
Emily Sears, a member of the founding family of the Sears, Roebuck and Company
chain, decided she would assist the poor
beleaguered city. Pat Robertson's National
Legal Foundation called and asked the
mayor to keep it and the 700 Club informed
of developments.
Rob Sherman was meeting them all, headon, alone. No one sought him out to give
monetary or other support. His single lifeline
was his telephone communications with The
American Atheist Center. All Sherman
could do, he did. He countered with the
establishment of a "Save Our Constitution"
fund to which the lone Atheist in the Zion
area sent a check for $1,000 to kick it off.
About this time, the mayor was revealing
that some residents were praying for Sherman to be killed in an automobile accident,

Page 11

NEWS AND COMMENTS

Black Zion police officer protecting Klansmen who threaten constitution defender
Rob Sherman.
and the Ku Klux Klan residents in Zion had trary to the Establishment Clause."
And by the end of the first week of contaken an interest in the matter, supporting
both the city and the seal. This did not deter
troversy the mayor was stating that "It's a
struggle between Satan and God." But, by
the minister-mayor from spreading the
biased word about "the Atheist" on his radio April 9 the newspapers in the area had
something to say about it all, editorially.
program titled "The Heart and. Heaven
Hour." He declared that his own earnest
The Chicago Tribune thought that the
prayers were simply for Sherman to repent.
"theoretical flap" could be "easily resolved
with common sense." The Christian seal of
Finally, one small media item appeared
Zion "has lost whatever connotations it
concerned with an octogenarian couple
might once have had. The emblem has
found, who had an oil painting of the founder
passed into the status of historical artifact."
of the city, done by "a man whose daughter
was the first Chicago person to be cured of The only one who has a right to be offended,
the editorial writer thought, was the Chriscancer by Dowie's faith healing." (Mother
tian who might "think it blasphemy to put a
Seton, eat your heart out!) "The cancer
came out of the little girl's mouth. It was cross on a garbage truck." There is no reastored in a jar of alcohol as proof of the faith son, he concluded, that a "secular nation
must scourge itself of all traces of its past in
healing." But another resident wasn't allthat
enthusiastic about Zion: "There's no video order to live up to the current interpretaplaces, no pool halls, nothing for kids to do. tions of its religious liberties."
The entire editorial was an artful, albeit
It seems like they want to keep it the way it
was one hundred years ago." Another said devious, support of Christian symbolism in
that the controversy masked the crime and Zion. The blatant misinterpretations and
errors in just the last quote (above) would
the need for street repairs, that the citizens
didn't care whether the street signs had take a book to answer.
The News-Sun editorial of the same day
crosses or not, or ifGod really reigns in Zion.
When Sherman did contact the A.C.L.U.
made a subtle endorsement of the Atheist
for assistance in any case ifit should come to activity. It backhanded Sherman, "Though
many would question the wisdom of the
that, the Illinois Civil Liberties Union attorney had an extended conversation with Dr. Atheists who screamed when they found
O'Hair at The American Atheist Center in what they perceived as evil in such an obAustin, Texas. That attorney felt that "a scure location, ... there is something to be
said for official restraint. The authors of the
more appropriate plaintiff" than an Atheist
would be needed, although the seal was "an U.S. Constitution refrained from religious
explicit endorsement of religion; clearly con- comment in that respected official docu-

Page 12

July 1986

ment."
The Zion-Harbor
News, apparently
owned by the church, depicted Sherman as
"an intruder" who wanted to "destroy"
Christian symbols because he was "a selfproclaimed Atheist."
Sherman, meanwhile, knowing that he
was in a no-win situation, presented a compromise plan that if the city of Zion would
but agree "not to paint the seal on anymore
public buildings or instigate anymore large
displays of it," he would delay any court
action. Of course, this was the solution
which the Georgia federal district court had
found. Sherman also suggested that since
the New Mexico case was in the U.S.
Supreme Court, "if the city officials want to,
we can both sit back and wait to see what the
final decision is before we move ahead. This
[the Zion seal] is not an emergency situation .
. . . It's been going on for eighty-six years and
a few more months doesn't have to be a
major concern." A City Commissioner replied, "I'll make a deal with that clown when
hell freezes over. We just got a new $100,000
garbage truck, the seal has already been
painted on that, and I just might have
another couple painted on it."
It was April 11, and Rob Sherman was
taping a cable television show in the same
building that houses the Palatine Police
Department when he noticed a display of
police patches from across Illinois. One of
those, bearing religious symbolism, was that
of the City of Palatine, near Chicago. He
determined then to complain about that seal
also.
The mayor of Zion was at the same time
announcing that five attorneys had come
forward, all of whom would defend the city
seal at absolutely no cost ifa case was begun
to challenge it. Meanwhile, suggestions
rolled in: that every Christian home should
have a lighted cross on its rooftop; that
crosses "should be erected everywhere to
befuddle Atheists and fellow travelers."
Undaunted, Sherman stopped in Palatine
during the regular board meeting to announce, 'The time has come for government to get out of the business of promoting
religion in general and Christianity in particular." He was met with angry residents,
wearing crucifixes and waving dollar bills on
which the phrase "In God We Trust" is evident. The city fathers of Palatine declined to
accept any complaint dealing with the religious symbolism on its seal.
On April 16, there was a turn to the ominous when four members of the Ku Klux
Klan turned up in full regalia at the Zion City
Council meeting. The first order of business
was to refuse Sherman the right to speak.

American Atheist

NEWS AND COMMENTS


This was based on a statement of one
Commissioner who explained, "This is not a
public meeting, it is a meeting being held in
public, and we have the right to control who
speaks to us." The mayor's announcement
was that decals, buttons, and T-shirts, all
bearing the seal, would be on sale at the City
Hall immediately.
On April 18, a voice identifying itself as
"god" called Sherman's home to say, "I'm
going to kill you. You'd better watch out for
your family."
But on that one day Rob Sherman was the
lead story on ChannelS (NBC) News at 5:00
and again at 10:00 P.M., Channel 2 (CBS)
News at 5:30 and again at 10:00 P.M., Channel9 (WGN) News at 9:00 P.M., and on most
Chicago radio stations during the day.
Meanwhile, residents of Zion were depicting
Sherman as a Communist or a Soviet spy.
Rob Sherman could only ask the Governor
of Illinois,James Thompson, to intervene in
the dispute. Needless to say, the governor
felt that it should be resolved "at the local
level."
Not even realizing how it was trivializing
the issue, a Zion chicken and spaghetti fastfood restaurant felt it necessary to place the
words "God Reigns" under the advertised
menu on its marquee.
And when Rob Sherman somehow inadvertently stated that a Baptist church was
one of his office supply customers, Baptist
churches in the Chicago area began to
receive calls from their parishioners that a
Baptist church should not be buying any

supplies from an Atheist.


The pace did not slow. The Chicago T ribune, on May 12, featured Rob Sherman in a
fullpage article titled, "Atheist patrolling war
zone between church and state." Characterizing him as a "Field Marshall of Atheists,"
the article was entirely sympathetic. It was in
this news story that Sherman revealed
openly for the first time that his parents have
severed all connections with him because of
his Atheist stance.
Zion had agreed to reply officially to
Sherman's demand to discontinue the use of
the cross in the City Council meeting of May
21. He was also given assurance that he
could make a statement at that time. Instead,
in a very rowdy atmosphere, nine members
of the Ku Klux Klan, in full white robes and
hoods, were arrested, after a rock-throwing
incident in the parking lot. One Klan
spokesman, wearing a military camouflage
uniform, refusing to identify himself, nonetheless stated, "We had come to the council
meeting, as we had done in the past, to show
our support for the city in the struggle to
keep the City Seal."
Alas, the Council voted unanimously not
to permit Sherman to speak and not to
change the city seal. The City Attorney's
way out was to declare that the seal had
"historical significance" since Zion had a
unique religious heritage.
Among the contingent of persons appearing at the Council meeting were representatives of the Zion high schools, who reported
that eighty-seven percent of the juniors and

seniors polled favored retaining the city seal.


On May 27 it was not done yet, as NBC
called The American Atheist Center to ask
for Sherman to appear on the "Today Show"
on Monday, June 2. The network would pay
for his flight and all expenses.
Whatever else it was - it was a media
bonanza for Atheists in Chicago with no one
getting hurt, no one with pie on the face. Rob
Sherman carefully educated the public over
a one month period and ended by having
cordial relations with the press. He is thoroughly and completely identified as a major
Atheist spokesman in north central United
States. The American Atheist Center was
appreciative enough to put him on salary as
the first paid "field representative" of modern - American Atheism.
Now all that is necessary is to convert all
that news coverage into members. The
American Atheist Center certainly expects
Rob Sherman to keep hard at it. We can all
watch, then, "how it blows."
Bibliography
The Daily Herald, Buffalo Grove, IL, April 2,
1986, p. 1, "Atheist hurls fire 'n' brimstone
at Zion symbols," by Burt Constable, staff
writer.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 2,
1986, p. 1, "Atheists threaten Zion with
suit," by Tony Gordon, staff writer.
Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, IL, April 3,
1986, p. 8, "Atheist gets cross about
Zion's Christian symbols," by Gary Wis-

';.'~/c~:;~WV~;

" ,?~/.:~f:

<

<. ~<:.~~'" .....


:"..

Shiloh Tabernacle -1902. The Tabernacle was built to seat the entire population of the town, which Dowie built as a theocracy
- an early model of a North American Jonestown. The building seated 8,000 persons and was filled often to capacity with
required attendance.

Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 13

NEWS AND COMMENTS


by.
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, April 3, 1986,
p. 1, Chicagoland Section, "Atheist sees
all Zion's signs and can't believe it," by
Eric Zorn.
Kenosha News, Kenosha, IL, April 3, 1986,
Area News, p. 15, "Religious Zion logo
irks Atheist," by Arlene Jensen, staff writer' photo by John Sorensen.
Zion-Harbor News, Zion, IL, April 3, 1986, p.
1, "Atheist request to remove cross overshadows school annexations," by John
Michaelson.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 4,
1986, Sec. B, p. 1, "Atheist leader Rob
Sherman with son, Scotty, 3," photo by
Mary Carmody.
Sun-News, Las Cruces, NM, April 4, 1986,
p. 8A, "Atheists want town to change it's
[sic] seal," Associated Press story.
Herald-News, Joliet, IL, April 4, 1985, Sec.
2, p. 6, "Zion's city seal has Atheist upset,"
Associated Press story.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 5/6,
1986, p. 1, "Zion plans fight to save city
seal," by Tony Gordon, staff writer.
The Sunday Herald, Chicago, IL, April 6,
1986, Sec. 1, p. 7, "Zion throws (holy)
book at Sherman," by Burt Constable,
staff writer.
The Herald-Eagle, Traverse City, MI, April
7,1986, p. 29, "Atheists demand change in
city's corporate seal," Associated Press
story.
Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Saint Louis,
MO, April 7,1986, p. 4B, "Church-State
Debate Brewing In Zion, Ill.," by Stephen
Chapman.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 8,
1986, p. 8A, "Atheist suggestion, by
Lenore B. Friedel, Waukegan, WI, in
"Letters."
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 9,
1986, Editorial Page, p. 6A, an editorial
"Religion in Zion."
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, April 9, 1986,
Editorial Page, Sec. 1, p. 16, an editorial
"Bearing the seal of Zion."
Buffalo Grove Countryside, Buffalo Grove,
IL, April 10, 1986, p. 5, "Buffalo Grove
Atheist jumps into the limelight," by Julie
Wessel, staff photo by Kathy Tray.
Zion-Harbor News, Zion, IL, April 10, 1986,
p. 1, "Begin 'Save our seal' fight to protect
Zion heritage," by John Michaelson.
Ibid., p. 1, "Zion Mayor Howard P. Everline,"
photo by Ray Scifo.
Ibid., p. 4, "Our Readers Write" letters from
David H. Cox, Supt. Zion-Benton Township High School District 126; Irene Zukley, Zion; Karen Ginn, Zion; Gene Malone, Kenosha, WI; Janet Koelling, Zion;

Page 14

Judith Spiegleman, Zion.


The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 10,
1986, "Attack on Zion's city seal amazes,"
by Ann Dromey, North Chicago, in
"Letters."
The Chicago Sun- Times, Chicago, IL, April
11, 1986, p. 11, "Atheist adds 2 suburbs to
his anti-cross drive," by Gary Wisby.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 11,
1986, p. 1, "Zion City Council won't cut
deal with Atheist," by Tony Gordon, staff
writer.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 11,
1986, Sec. B, p. 1, "Zion nixes Atheist
compromise plan," by Tony Gordon, staff
writer.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April
12/13, 1986, "Atheist chose wrong town
to pick on," by Ralph Zahorik, columnist,
"from A to Z."
Daily Herald, Palatine, IL, April 15, 1986, p.
1, "Residents angered by Atheist's battle
against village seal," by Joan Carreon,
staff writer.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 15,
1986, "Zion-Iran comparison hit," by
Ralph Zahorik, columnist, "from A to Z."
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, April 16,
1986, Sec. 1, p. 16, Editorial Page, an
editorial, "Mingling church and state in
Zion," by Stephen Chapman.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 16,
1986,p. 1, "'Only in Zion,' Lights, camera,
Klan, Atheist - but no action," by Tony
Gordon, staff writer, photos by Marcia
Rules.
Ibid., p. 8, "Challenges Zion," by Robert
Hall, Zion, in "Letters."
The Sunday Herald, Chicago, IL, April 18,
1986, "Zion's emblem," by Chuck Allen,
Wheeling, in "Letters."
Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1986,in Chicagoland, Sec. 2, p. 1, "Raising Cain beyond
Zion, Atheist branching out on churchstate separation," by Eric Zorn, photo by
Don Casper.
The Daily Herald, April 18, 1986, See. 2, p. 2,
"Atheist drops RollingMeadows fight," by
Andy Savoie, staff writer.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 24,
1986, "Letter to Zahorik," by Jean A.
Beagle, Waukegan, in "Letters."
Ibid., "Honk, if you love Zion?" News-Sun
photo.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April 25,
1986, "Defends Seal" by Rev. John W.
Loftus, Winthrop Harbor, in "Letters."
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, April
26/27,1986, "What happened to Zion Fig
Fiesta?" by Ralph Zahorik, columnist,
"from A to Z."
Ibid., p. 84, "Church and State" by Dean

July 1986

Duplacey, Hainesville.
Ibid., p. B4, "Atheist's Baptist client not
here."
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, May 12,
1986, in Tempo, pp. 1,3, "Atheist patrolling war zone between church and state,"
"Field marshal of atheists patrols war
zone between church, state." by Jim
Spencer, photos by Ron Bailey and Don
Casper.
The News-Sun, Lake County, IL, May 21,
1986, p. 1, " 'Circus' in Zion, Klan
arrested; council firm on seal," by Tony
Gordon, staff writer, photos by Jonathan
Daniel.
Zion-Harbor News, Zion, IL, May 22, 1986,
p. 1, "Deny Sherman right to speak,
Council refuses to change city seal," by
Jack Hagler, photos by Ray Scifo.
Ibid., p. 1, "9 Klansmen arrested."
Ibid., p. 17, Raymond Mostek, in "Our
Readers Write."
Agenda, Zion City Council Meeting, April
15,1986.
An Ordinance providing for the Corporate
Seal for the City of Zion, Passed and
approved May 16, 1902.
A Zion Community non-Christian person,
Will Zion Illinois have an inquisition?
mimeographed sheet, dated April 6, 1986.
Cook, Philip L., Zion City, Illinois - John
Alexander Dowie's Theocracy, Zion, IL,
Zion Historical Society, Series 2,1970.
Dowie, John Alexander, Leaves of Healing,
"The City of Zion," May 3, 1902, p. 66.
Edgar, Jim, Secretary of State, Handbook of
Illinois Government, 1985-1986, printed
by the authority of the State of Illinois,
April 1985.
Friedman v. Board of County Commissioners of Bernalillo County, 781 F.2d 777
(lOthCir., Dec. 26, 1985).
Johnson v. Board of County Commissioners, 528 F.Supp. 919, (N.M., 1981).
Minutes of a Regular Meeting of the Zion
City Council, April 1, 1986.
O'Hair, Madalyn, "Mottoes," in "News and
Comments," American Atheist, February
1984, Vol. 26, No. 21, p, 8.
Sherman, Robert, "Address to Palatine, Illinois, Village Board of Trustees," April 14,
1986.
Taylor, Jabez, The Development of the
City of Zion, 24 page booklet, no publication date.
Zion, Illinois, Oklahoma City, OK, MosherAdams, Inc., 1984, 18 page booklet.

American Atheist

SWEET

SIXTEENTH

What happens when you mix several hundred


Atheists, a few experts and authors, several dozen
Atheist spokespeople, an array of activities, and let it all
soak for three days of lectures ~1I1dthree nights of
socializing?
An annual national convention of American Atheists,
of course.

That's what the Sixteenth Annual National Convention of American Atheists was
like - if you stripped the description of it
down to the bones. But "the Convention"
cannot be described in just one sentence.
The conventions are blurs of activities,
greetings, friend-makings, discussions, lectures, and exchanges. Each one has its O\Nn
distinct taste, flavor, and feel that only participants can really appreciate.
Held in Somerset, New Jersey, on April
18, 19, and 20 (American Atheists had not
had a convention in the New York area since
1976), this year's American Atheists Convention began quietly enough. On Friday,
April 18, the Board of Directors of American
Atheists met to discuss business matters,
while the registration table tried to keep up
with the chore of providing each conventioneer with his or her tickets, packets, and
folders. (Allconventioneers receive specially
prepared souvenir presentation folders every year.)
Outings to area sites of special interest to
Atheists are an annual convention event.
Several busloads of Atheists participated in
special tours of Edison's West Orange
Laboratory during the early afternoon.
Later in the day a press conference was held
for the local media, and Chapter officers
from over twenty states met to discuss local
strategies.
Atheists rarely have a chance to socialize
and speak their minds at the same time,
because of the religious hostility to reason
and, hence, the Atheist position. It is no
wonder that they look forward to the annual
members' cocktail reception and banquet.
Stunningly-dressed
Atheist women and
sharp-looking Atheist men gathered Friday
evening and filledthe banquet room with the
sounds of good conversation. Outstanding
members of American Atheists were honored with awards during the course of the
dinner.
The banquet wasn't all just jocular fun,

Austin, Texas

however. First, Madalyn O'Hair, the founder of American Atheists, announced to the
surprised celebrants that she was stepping
aside from her position as president of
American Atheists and its affiliates. She
introduced a new Board of Directors (see
"News & Comments") and, with special
fondness and pride, announced a unanimous vote of the Board that Robin MurrayO'Hair was to take the previous position of
Jon G. Murray as the Secretary to the corporation, Society of Separationists, Inc.,
while Jon Murray moved into the presidency. The announcements were met with
enthusiastic applause.
Dr. O'Hair then asked all members to
stop to honor previous Atheist heroes in a
candlelight memorial which she delivered in
praise of Atheists of the past. Gerald
Tholen, the poet laureate of American Atheists, delivered a specially prepared poem for
the event. Afterwards, Frank Zindler of
"The Probing Mind" tickled everyone's
funny bone with his presentation of "Fun
with Dial-An-Atheist."
Saturday

Conventions of American Atheists are


always held on three days: Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday. Typically, the Friday of the
convention is a time for business and for the
renewal of old acquaintances. The meat of
the convention is always on Saturday, which
is the formal opening day, to take into consideration employment conflicts that keep
many members from attending on a Friday
or cause them to need to leave early on a
Sunday.
The 1986 meet convened on April 19, with
a welcoming address by the director of the
New Jersey Chapter, Ellen Johnson. The
director of the Indian Atheist Centre, Lavanam, conveyed his wishes for the success of
the convention via audiotape from Vijayawada, India. Jon G. Murray read greetings

July 1986

to the conventioneers from Avro Manhattan


of London, England, author of countless
exposes on the geopolitical workings of the
Roman Catholic church.
The first speaker to bat after all the greet
ings and orientation was the popular leeturer and author Ben Edward Akerley,
known for his book The X-Rated Bible. His
humorous speech was appropriately titled
"A Sermon from The X-Rated Bible"; it is
reproduced in this issue.
Then with slides and chart, Frank Zindler
explained the peril of "Stalking the Elusive
Mountain Boat: The Quest for Noah's Ark."
AIlagreed that it was one of the best debunkings they had heard. Mr. Zindler was not
able to give the American Atheist a complete transcript of his speech, but the topic
of it willbe covered in several of his regular
monthly articles, including the one appearing in this issue.
After a convivial group luncheon the conventioneers eagerly regrouped to enjoy the
next items on the agenda. After the Chapter
Director of the Year was unmasked, John
M. Allegro, that internationally known Dead
Sea scrolls scholar, stepped up to the podium to explain to all the relationship between
"The Historicity of Jesus and the Dead Sea
Scrolls." Allegro has the marvelously droll
presentation that characterizes many of the
best English speakers, and he was in his
prime. Immediately thereafter, he presided
at an extemporaneous autographing party
right at the podium as a large number of
attendees came forward to congratulate him
on his forthrightness and to obtain a copy of
his book The Dead Sea Scrolls personally
autographed to them.
Because of the time problem engendered
by the overbooking of events for other parties too close to American Atheists meetings
by the hotel, the showing of a videotape
previously scheduled was cancelled so that
Bill Baird, the pro-choice advocate, could
speak on schedule. He had just arrived from

Page 15

That's All, Folks


tion hall to hear the "Original Intent of the
Founding Fathers" explained by Dr. MadOr as much as can be written down.
alyn O'Hair, who in her speech responded to
Attorney General Meese's frequent call to There was much more - exchanges of
information, renewals of and making of fresh
return to the "original intent" of the Constitufriendships, invigorating question-and-antion's writers, which he presumes supports
the tundamenta\ist position. Her speech is swel:sessions, t~te-a.-t~t~~.
1:<;) ~\JI?\j<;)\l
reproduced in this issue.
some more flavor of the proceedings, we
Arnold Via, founder of the Prison Atheist
have reproduced photographs of speakers
League of America, spent a few moments
speaking and conventioneers convening
updating conventioneers on "The Case of (and having a rollicking good time). And, of
the Recalled ATH-EST Plates," before Jon
course, a few of the lectures which were
G. Murray, the new president of American
given are included in this special convention
Atheists, gave the call to action in his speech
issue of the American Atheist. Enjoy - but
"Atheists v. the New Religious Age." Mr. we warn you: To really enjoy a convention,
Murray was his usual forthright self, mincing you have to come to it. We hope to see you
no words and barring no holds. The essence
next year!
of his speech can be read in this month's
Oh! We almost forgot. We wish to extend
"Director's Briefcase."
our thanks to the Houston Chapter of AmerFollowing the new president's remarks,
ican Atheists, which made audio recordings
an acrylic portrait of Dr. O'Hair, founder of of all major convention events. These
American Atheists, was unveiled. The artist
recordings are on sale through the Chapter.
who executed the portrait was Gustav
See the order form on the inside back cover
Likan, an internationally known colorist who of this issue. In addition to audio taping,
has been a friend of the Murray-O'Hair fam- most of the major presentations were videoily since 1965. Likan was born in Srb, Yugo- taped by Brian Lynch, National Media
slavia, May 1, 1910. He studied at the
Coordinator for American Atheists. Edited
Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and was a versions of the speeches of John Allegro, Bill
student of Ivan Mestrovic, a sculptor and
Baird, Frank Zindler, Dr. Madalyn O'Hair,
friend of Picasso. His portraits include those
and Dr. R. Craig Bales willbe shown on the
"American Atheist TV Forum's" national cirof King Peter II of Yugoslavia, Eva Peron,
cuit. If you are a "Forum" viewer on your
hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, insurance
executive W. Clement Stone, Motorola
local cable access channel, watch for these
founder and president Robert Galvin, Chi- special convention programs coming into
cago Sun- Times columnist and, television your viewing area over the next six months.
talk show host Irv Kupcinet, space scientist
In addition to the footage shot live at the
convention, six "Forum" programs were
Wernher von Braun, President Herbert
Hoover, and Cardinal Stritch. He has exhib- taped with John Allegro during his stay in
Austin, Texas, prior to the New Jersey
ited in Yugoslavia, Denmark, Norway,
meet. These programs go into much greater
Sweden, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, and Mexico. The most
detail concerning the Dead Sea scrolls and
early Christianity and they will be making
famous collector of Likan's works is Vincent
Price, who has purchased over 250 of his the "Forum" circuit as well. ~
paintings and drawings. In the United States
his works have been handled primarily by
Merrill Chase Galleries of Houston, Los
Angeles, and Chicago. Since Likan no
longer works in portraiture, that he exeSunday
cuted the painting was an act of extraordi\F
Sunday is never the "Lord's Day" for an nary friendship and an event in the art world.
T\1E END
The convention ended that evening after a
Atheist - and a group of several hundred
1$
Atheists wouldn't even consider getting up business meeting of American Atheists at
early for church. But they did get up early to which the national officers and members of
the organization examined and discussed
go to a memorial for an Atheist hero.
the growth of American Atheists during the
C. B. Reynolds was tried for blasphemy
one hundred years ago in Morristown, New past year.
A unique feature of the 1986 convention
Jersey, nearby to the convention site. Atheists travelled to the site in buses provided by was the almost continual display of video
convention organizers. Understanding the programs in a special "Video" room adjacent to the Book and Product Display room.
meaning of "roots," over a hundred of them
In the past, conventions included only the
gathered on the steps of the courthouse
where he was tried to honor the memory of "main ring" events. This year, however, episodes of the "American Atheist Television"
his struggles for freedom of the mind.
The rest of the morning was spent in the program were shown in a breakout room in
enjoyment of a buffet brunch, which the order to give those interested a chance to
returning Atheists fell upon like so many see American Atheists' national television
"He's a nut, but at least he's not a
"Forum" program.
locusts. Sated, they piled up in the convenreligious nut."

an encounter in St. Louis with a large Roman


Catholic seminar group being instructed on
how to interfere in, by physical assault upon,
the orderly medical procedures of abortion
clinics. These sessions had included how to
picket, how to block persons entering or
leaving a dinic, how to surreptitiousloy enter
the clinics, how to destroy medical instruments and equipment, how to psychologically abuse those who work at or patronize
such clinics. He also had been through an
ordeal with those who had physically threatened family planning clinics in the St. Louis
area. Baird delivered a stirring - and frightening - speech titled "The Politics of God,
Government, and Sex," which was met with
a standing ovation by the ballroom full of
Atheists.
A scheduled speaker from the American
Library Association's Office for Intellectual
Freedom failed to appear, but Robert Sherman, director of the Northern Illinois Chapter of American Atheists, stepped in the gap.
He explained to conventioneers his recent
activities in Zion, Illinois. The situation in
that town, which is explained in the "News
and Comments" section of this issue, was
fresh news to the conventioneers.
The last speaker of the day was Dr. R.
Craig Bales, a gay rights activist and Atheist.
His topic was "The Role of Christianity in the
Regression of the Gay Rights Movement."
Dr. Bales' presentation was a long and
involved delineation of the problems of gay
activists from violence to AIDS.
After all the education and information of
the day, Atheists were only too happy to
break for the evening and have a chance to
strike up some new acquaintances. Life
members of American Atheists enjoyed a
dinner together before a marathon cocktail
party that involved more chitchat than
drinking. But that's typical of Atheist conventions: The bars just don't make their
money's worth on all those moderate Atheists.

SO

WHAT

~EAR~

Page 16

July 1986

American Atheist

...,....

AWARD-WINNING
ATHEISTS
American Atheists is filled with special
people - from the member who faithfully
brings refreshments to every meeting of his
Chapter to the volunteer spokesperson who
puts his living on the line by appearing on
talk shows. It's difficult to enumerate and
thank each person who has done something
- however large or small- to make Atheism move forward. But an attempt to do so
has to be made.
Every year, American Atheists gives out a
handful of awards to individuals and Chapters which have made a particularly outstanding effort on behalf of "the cause."
Often the award-bestowing decisions are
quite difficult. This year, for instance, five
Chapters of American Atheists seemed to
deserve the "Chapter of the Year" award; all
five had been doing extraordinary jobs during 1985. The decision was only reached
through hairsplitting.
Some awards are given irregularly, and of
course, it is impossible to give recognition to
everyone. But American Atheists tries.
So - drum roll, please - the awardwinning Atheists of 1985 were:
American Atheist of the Year: To Larry
A. F. Ford of Findley, Ohio, for his participation in the law suit Ford v. Manuel, which
removed Bible classes from the Findley public schools. The story of his suit was
recounted in the November 1985issue of the
American Atheist.
Most Hated Atheist of the Year: To
Frank Zindler, director of the Ohio Chapter of American Atheists, for his total defiance of the theists of Ohio as he battled
through presentations before the Ohio legislature, at seminars, in the media, and on
campuses, against the onslaught of the creationists, the pro-lifers, the tuition tax-credit
maniacs, and others, while skillfullyguiding a
Chapter. At the same time, he was involved
in research and writing for the American
Atheist - and working full time.
This award is given each year by Arnold
Via, founder of the Prison Atheist League of
America, to the Atheist spokesperson most
disliked by the religious community because
of his tenacity in putting forth the Atheist
position. Previous recipients included Jon
G. Murray, director of the American Atheist

Austin, Texas

Center, and Scott Kerns, director of the


Houston Chapter of American Atheists.
Certificate of Appreciation: To Ellen
Johnson, director of the New Jersey Chapter of American Atheists, for her consistent
and conscientious efforts with the arrangements for the Sixteenth Annual National
Convention of American Atheists, April 18,
19, and 20, 1986.
Outstanding Member Award: To Richard A. Skarda of California, for his efforts in
locating and acquiring many rare and valuable books for the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives, Inc.
Distinguished Service Award: To John
B. Massen, national liaison of the San Francisco Chapter of American Atheists, for
conceiving and executing a successful fundraising campaign for The American Atheist
Center during 1985.
Honorable Service Award: To Robert I.
Sherman, director of the Northern Illinois
Chapter of American Atheists, for his efforts
in (1) obtaining valuable national publicity
for American Atheists, (2) providing discounted supplies to The American Atheist
Center, (3) masterminding the October 12,
1985, picketing of a Boy Scout jamboree, the
first such picketing by Atheists, and (4)
arranging an official convention airline and
car rental agency for the first time for any
Annual National American Atheists Convention.
Meritorious Service Award: To Noel W.
Scott, director of the Greater D.C. Chapter
of American Atheists, for (1) obtaining
important, current cause-related books for
the National office of American Atheists, (2)
providing the National office with vital
newspaper clippings from the nation's capital, (3) functioning as a liaison between the
American Atheists and the U.S. Supreme
Court by obtaining copies of current court
decisions, (4) assuming the role of official
translator for correspondence between The
American Atheist Center and the Atheist
Center of the U.S.S.R.
American Atheist Forum Award: This
award was created in 1984in order to recognize the individual who did the most during a
calendar year for the growth of the "American Atheist Television Forum." This year,
the award was given to Stephen Thorne of

July 1986

Escondido, California, who personally


placed the "Forum" on three cable systems.
One of the cable systems was Southwest of
San Diego, the nation's largest system.
Readers might remember Mr. Thorne's
articles on backward- masking in the February 1985 and February 1986 issues of the
American Atheist.
Chapter Director of the Year: A very
difficult decision was behind the presentation of this award for 1985. Frank Zindler of
the Ohio Chapter appeared giving the Atheist position almost weekly before one body
or another - besides a dozen other activities. August Berkshire of the Twin Cities,
Minnesota, Chapter captained an everexpanding group as well as involving his
Chapter in two picketings. BillTalley of the
Colorado Chapter made sure his group was
out at every fair in the Denver area distributing Atheist literature and was on the picket
line at every fundamentalist convention. In
the end, the hairs were split and the award
went to Scott A. Kerns, of the Houston
Chapter. Mr. Kerns, while collaborating
with many other cause groups in his city, has
steadfastly maintained the identity and the
contribution
of American Atheists in
marches, picketing, pamphleteering, and
other activities. His Chapter has also provided escort services to women going to and
from abortion clinics, protecting them from
often violent and abusive pro-lifers. In addition, he has brought Chapter members to
The American Atheist Center each month
to assist with the collating and mailing of the
American Atheist. (The round trip between
Houston and Austin is over 400 miles.)
Chapter of the Year: In 1985, the Twin
Cities, Minnesota, Chapter of American
Atheists had a well-rounded and wellcrowded roster of activities which won it this
award. From letter campaigns to aiding the
Northern Illinois Chapter in the picketing of
a Boy Scouts jamboree, its members
worked with a team spirit which earned it
this award for the second year in a row.
Chapter Worker of the Year: To Shirley
Moll of the Twin Cities, Minnesota,
Chapter for various and numerous activities on behalf of her Chapter. As secretary
of the Chapter, she clipped and sorted
newspaper articles, kept the files straight,

Page 17

and did a dozen other jobs with such efficiency and cheerfulness that the director of
her Chapter mounted a campaign with the
National office of American Atheists to see
that she received this award.
Pioneer Atheist Award: This is given to
individuals who have in their lives made significant contributions to the furtherance of
the Atheist cause. This is a once in a lifetime
award. The recipient this year was John
Marthaler of Mississippi. He has shown

extraordinary courage in his persistent


efforts to make the Atheist position known
in rural Mississippi. His pugnacious letters to
the editor are a constant fixture in local
newspapers.
Freedom of Speech Award: American
Atheists only occasionally presents this to
an outspoken champion of free speech. This
year it was given to BiD Baird who continues his fight as a pro-choice advocate
despite personal assaults against him by the

Roman Catholic church.


All of these award-winning Atheists took
home handsome plaques or framed certificates bearing the salutation "from Grateful
American Atheists." Members of the
Murray-O'Hair family willnot accept awards
as they feel that the honors should go to the
typical "Atheist next door" who distinguishes him/herself by speaking out for freedom
of the mind as an Atheist in their community.

.w,

w:

:.

GREETINGS FROM ABROAD


The following were Mr: Lavanam's
fraternal greetings to the Sixteenth
Annual National Convention of American Atheists: Lavanam is the son of
GORA, the founder of the modern Atheist movement in India: He is currently
director of the India Atheist Centre:
Mr: Lavanam was unable to attend
the Convention, but sent these greetings on audiotape:
Atheists in India have great pleasure in
extending fraternal greetings to the delegates of the American Atheist Convention at
Somerset, New Jersey. We, the members of
the Atheist Centre in India, send our warm
regards to all of you on the occasion of the
16th Annual National Convention of American Atheists. It is a matter of pride for all of
us that Atheism is making rapid strides in
various parts of the world.
American Atheists, under the dynamic
leadership of Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, are making impressive progress. Dr. O'Hair is doing
great work in that part of the world to spread
Atheism. We express our sense of solidarity
with you in the cause of Atheism.
The world is at the crossroads. The days
of religion are over. Gone are the days when
religion reigned supreme and controlled all
aspects of human life.Similarly, gone are the
days when religious people could persecute
and stall the onward march of science. In
fact, religion lost its significance to the present day society. Thus the bonds of religion
are loosened. But at the same time, religious
revivalism is taking place all over the world.
Religion is fighting hard to survive, with the
aid and support of the political and economic vested interests, to regain its lost
hold. The politicians and the discredited
social leaders are trying to take the help of

Page 18

religion for their own survival.


The empty churches and prayer halls are
an indication that the popularity of religion is
at the lowest ebb. It is the time for Atheists to
assert themselves and provide an alternative
to religion. The future belongs to Atheists. It
is the time for Atheists to show their maturity of leadership, thought, and action. Gone
are the days when the role of Atheism was
considered to be negative. Atheism is not
negative. It is positive. It is a positive way of
life. Atheism is an alternative to theism. Let
us not waste our time on petty matters, and
let us concentrate on building the bridges of
friendship with people to give them hope,
courage, and confidence that history is on
our side. It is the responsibility of the Atheists to convince people that Atheism is the
alternative to religion.
Atheism is positive. Atheism is multidimensional. It is a way of life. No aspect of
lifeshould be left untouched by Atheism. It is
the time for Atheists to march ahead with
clear goals, steadfast action, and commitment to their ideology.
The remnants of religion survive because
no alternative is firmly available to people.
The moment people realize that Atheism is
the alternative, they discard religion completely. Hence, Atheists have a tremendous
responsibility on their shoulders. Old values
are crumbling, yielding place to the new. The
dawn of the new social order based on Atheism is in the offing. Let us accelerate the
pace of change with our commitment, maturity, and breadth of our vision.
We are living in a global village. What is
possible at one place is feasible at another
place. The strength of a chain depends on its
weakest link. Hence let us strengthen all the
links that enable us to march ahead. Atheism has a bright future. It is the determined

July 1986

effort with global vision that enables us to


step into the twenty-first century. We are
fast entering into the post-religious society.
In the post-religious society, Atheism develops as a positive way of life.
We, the Atheists in India, congratulate all
of you for your kind effort in spreading Atheism. Mrs. Saraswathi Gora, the co-founder
of the Atheist Centre, and myself, the director of the Atheist Centre, send our congratulations and greetings to Dr. O'Hair and all
the members of the distinguished gathering
of American Atheists. We wish the success
of your deliberations. United we stand for
the cause of Atheism.
The planners of the 1986 Convention
invited Avro Manhattan,
author of
more than a dozen books on the politics
of Roman Catholicism, to speak at the
Convention, but he was, unfortunately,
unable to attend: He did send this message of friendship, which was read at
the Convention.
Fraternal greetings,
I regret that owing to previous commitments I cannot participate in the Convention in person. I am happy, however, to be
able to send a warm salutation to all its
participants.
I am confident that one of the items discussed and debated will be the mounting
individual and collective hostility toward the
most basic principles of freedom, chief of
these, that of separation of church and state.
Leading the battalions against such principles is the Roman Catholic church. Her success has been striking, since her tentacles
have penetrated and even paralyzed many
sensitive areas of the social and educational

American Atheist

fabric of United States society.


Her lay and ecclesiastical echelons are in
command everywhere. There are practicing
Roman Catholics in the Senate, in Congress, and in the inner circles around the
President himself. In 1986 there are not less
than 142 Roman Catholics in Congress
alone. The most powerful men around Reagan are all Roman Catholics who take their
religion, and the pressure of their religion,
with the utmost seriousness: Secretary of
State George Schultz, Chief of Staff Donald
Regan, National Security Adviser Robert
McFarland, and Director of CIA William
Casey. George Schultz recently heard mass
in St. Peter's Basilica, a few feet from the
pope, mumbling Ave Marias with the look of
a sleepy St. Bernard dog who has lost his
bottle of brandy. Such people have the right
to hear masses, smell incense, and mumble
prayers with Karol Wojtyla. The trouble is
that such people have absorbed the bacilli of
thought and intellectual totalitarianism of
the Roman Catholic church.
For them, their church is the only true
church. Hence their slogan, "My church first
and last." Because of this, the church is
operating, no matter how vicariously, from
within the White House itself. Hence the
peril that the U.S. Constitution be battered
with prolonged, invisible, and undetected
batterings, until the wall of separation of
church and state be made to crumble.
The result of such a disaster would be
tragic, not only for other religions; it would
be even more disastrous for all humanistic
groups, for free thought, and above all for
agnostic movements, beginning with the
American Atheists.
Of all the potential disrupters of U.S.
society as it is today, the Roman Catholic
church is the most insidious, astute, united,
tenacious, and successful. She is making
alarming progress in all fields. The educational field is dominated by her, helped by
certain cretinous semiliterate sections of
Protestantism that believe in the ecumenism
of Saint Cinderella. The Roman Catholic
church has penetrated Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the White House. But even more
alarming is the fact, so far gone almost undetected, that she has launched a religious,
aggressive, political entity, acting as a third
force in the domestic affairs of the United
States, namely organized political Roman
Catholicism.
Political Roman Catholicism in the U.S.
today is not a political abstraction. It is a
stark, concrete, and menacing reality. For
with the Roman Catholic hierarchy equaling
the Senate, the Bishops' Conference equaling Congress, and the Pope equaling the
President, it is already challenging not only
the two major traditional U.S. parties, but
also the very independence and integrity of
the United States' Administration itself.
The emergence of political Roman Catholi-

Austin, Texas

cism in the U.S., furthermore, when added


to the recognition by the U.S. itself of the
Roman Catholic church as the most privileged religion in the U.S., willspell the future
restriction of all the most basic religious and
civil liberties of the U.S. commonwealth.
Since the special relationship of the U.S.
with the Roman Catholic church as a church
and with the Vatican as a diplomatic center
has made of the U.S., intangibly but concretely, a nation subservient to a powerful
organized religion whose operational center
is not in the U.S., but in Rome.
It behooves the U.S. citizens, therefore,
to become increasingly alert to the activities
of this enemy from within. The relentless
expansionism
of the Roman Catholic
church, within and outside the U.S., unless
contained, willparalyze the libertarian fabric
of traditional liberties. Roman Catholic tentacles have already succeeded in doing so in
many areas, often by proxy.
The first victims of the successful Roman
Catholicism of the U.S. fabric will be all the

--

--

liberal and intellectual and progressive


forces in the U.S. - first among these, the
humanists and proponents of separation of
church and state.
The strangulation of the principle of separation of church and state willsink the U.S.
into the clerical chauvinism of old Europe.
Its strangulation will spell the subservience
of the state to a centralized clericalism, the
visible instrument of a theocracy whose
ultimate objective will be the dominance of
U.S. society to the exclusion of anything or
anybody not conforming with her dicta.
It is the fundamental duty of every lover of
freedom, therefore, to oppose the alarming
progress of the church, not as a church,
since lovers of freedom should permit anybody to believe what they like - be it the
miracles of the Virgin Mary or those of
Madalyn O'Hair - but as a millenarian institution determined, as ever, to transform
society according to her dogmas so that
there willbe no room for anybody who does
not submit to her religious totalitarianism.
~

<:

"Tf'4 uour' luck?"

July 1986

Page 19

,.w, :

:.

Ben Edward Akerley

A SERMON FROM THE X-RATED BIBLE


Ben Edward Akerley is the author of
The X-Rated Bible, an American Atheist Press book which sold out three
times in as many months after its
release: A Pittsburgh native, Mr: Akerley holds degrees in music education
and language teaching:
Christians often praise the Bible as a
moral guide in order to justify introducing children to it: But Mr: Akerley
humorously and deftly destroys
the
Bible's aspirations to being such in his
"Sermon from The X-Rated Bible:"
During interviews and talk shows the
question invariably arises: "Why did you
write The X-Rated Bible? What motivated
you to compile an irreverent survey of sex in
the scriptures?" I have three answers to that
question.
First of all, I wanted to make an anticensorship statement because of the aggressive
and militant pro-censorship efforts of fundamentalists and other right wing groups.
These born-again evangelical Christians
insist that the only true basis for morality is
the Bible. I contend that they are truly on
shaky ground, for by their very own standards much of the Holy Writ might be considered obscene.
The background for my delving into the
sexual parts of the Bible dates back to an
experience I had while on the faculty of
U.s.e. in the early 1970s. The campus Gay
Liberation Forum asked the administration
for official recognition. While the trustees
debated the issue and for the first time in the
history of the university took a secret vote, a
member of the Campus Crusade for Christ
wrote in the student newspaper that they
should deny recognition to the group because the Bible condemns homosexuality. I
wrote a rejoinder called "Sex in the Bible" in
which I showed that the Bible condemns
other sexual practices just as severely, and
the research Idid for that brief article served
as an impetus for my much larger anthology.
The second reason I give is my intrigue
and fascination with Robert Ingersoll's unchallenged offer to give any minister in the
city of Cleveland $1,000 in cash if that
preacher would read from his pulpit on a
Sunday morning passages from the Scriptures that Ingersoll was allowed to select.
Ingersoll was quite wealthy from his sue-

Page 20

cessfullaw practice and from his lectures, so


to him the offer represented a paltry sum.
But in the late 1800s, $1,000 was an enormous amount of money, and there is no
doubt that the challenge was widely publicized since Ingersoll was constantly in the
limelight and was a favorite darling of the
press.
I
As I worked on my project, I kept asking
myself: "What passages would the Great
Agnostic have chosen for that Sunday morning sermon?" Of course, Icannot be positive
which bible verses Ingersoll would have
selected, but I know that he would have
employed, as always, his acerbic wit and his
unparalleled sense of humor. Appreciation
of Ingersoll's comic side was uppermost in
my mind as I proceeded with my biblical sex
anthology and as I prepared this sermon.
My third and final reason is also the most
personal. I have a brother-in-law who said to
me one day: "Ben, you're just as bad as the
fundamentalists and the evangelicals. You
write articles for the American Atheist magazine, you give speeches at American Atheist Conventions, and now you've written
The X-Rated Bible."
This was my answer to him: "Mark,
although it was almost forty years ago, I
remember as if it were yesterday the experience at age fifteen of sitting on a trolley car in
my home town of Pittsburgh and reading the
Bible on my way to school. On that particular day, I came across the section in Leviticus 20:13: 'If a man also lie with mankind, as
he lieth with a woman, both of them have
committed an abomination: they shall surely
be put to death; their blood shall be upon
them.' I am sure that I turned every shade of
crimson possible, for Iwas certain that everyone on that streetcar immediately knew that
I was guilty of lying with mankind as with
womankind, and that I was a lost and worthless sinner. As an impressionable teenager, I
suddenly realized that my whole life-style
was condemned by the one book that I had
been taught to revere as a moral guide; that
what was perfectly normal and natural for
me was called unnatural and sinful by God's
word. Consequently, if by writing The XRated Bible I can spare only one gay American teenager from going through the guilt,
the shame, the self-hatred, the remorse, and
the trauma that I suffered, then it will have
been well worth the effort."

July 1986

The Sermon
The Bible itself claims not only to be
inspired, but also to be an irreproachable
moral guide:
2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All scripture is inspired by God and
profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may
be complete, equipped for every good
work.
Yet, Robert Ingersoll astutely observed
that it does not actually matter whether or
not the Bible is inspired - it only matters
whether or not the Bible is true. I recently
debated with a Baptist minister and pointed
out that in the area of sex the Scriptures
reveal nothing but superstition, fear, primitive thinking, and gross misunderstanding
of even the most basic sexual functions. His
answer was that Jehovah chose not to
reveal everything to Israel because they
were not ready for it. This fundamentalist
preacher equates ignorance and irrational
belief with impartial revelation from on high.
Ah, the workings of the mystical mind never
cease to amaze and confound me!
In today's address, I wish to consider
twenty examples that I call biblical sex principles. Unlike the Ten Commandments,
which were given by Jehovah to Moses on
Mt. Sinai and engraved in tablets of stone,
these twenty rules for sexual conduct are
my own invention, and I shall enumerate
them for you with my tongue very much in
cheek.
Part A. Incest - Implied And Real
Section L In The Beginning Was Incest
The opening chapter of Genesis gives two
versions of the creation myth - one in
which man and woman are created simultaneously arid another in which Eve is formed
from one of Adam's ribs. True believers are
free to choose which viewpoint they find
more appealing. But with regard to how the
rest of the world was populated beyond their
sons, Cain and Abel, there is only one inescapable conclusion - they cohabited with
their own unnamed sisters.
Fundamentalists attempting to rationalize

American Atheist

this practice argue that the usual objections


to incest because of hereditary defects in the
genes do not apply here, due to the pristine
purity of the race at that time. In essence,
they are simply paraphrasing Biblical Sex
Principle #1: "There's nothing wrong with
incest as long as you keep it in the family."
Section 2: Lot Impregnates Both His Daughters
In considering the legend of Lot knocking
up both of his daughters, we must not forget
that Lot and his clan had been singled out as
the only inhabitants of Sodom deserving to
be spared when that wicked city of the plain
was destroyed by fire from heaven. However, we learn that as they left their home
behind, Mrs. Lot foolishly looked back after
being warned not to, and she became an
instant salt shaker. But on with our incestuous adventure!
First of all, Lot's daughters decided to get
their father thoroughly soused before screwing him. Maybe the young women were concerned that if their dad was sober, he would
not have been able to get it up with his own
daughters. So they felt that by pouring wine
into him until he became stiff (both figuratively and literally), they would at least solve
the problem of temporary impotence.
At any rate, there was an important bit of
biblical protocol at work here since the elder
daughter, the firstborn, got to lie with her
dad first and had him all to herself on evening
number one. The next night, it was the
younger daughter's turn, and once again,
they got Daddy Lot so loaded that he perceived not what was going on.
This fable constitutes another major Biblical tenet - Biblical Sex Principle #2: "If two
daughters want to have sex with their father,
they should first get him drunk and then be
sure that the eldest daughter gets her
chance to screw Daddy before the younger
daughter does."
The tale of Lot and his daughters is a
favorite topic when I do talk shows, so let me
now give you an idea of how a debate usually

goes.
Baptist Minister: In your The X-Rated
Bible, are you saying that the Word of God is
as bad as pornographic magazines like
Playboy, Penthouse, and Forum?
Me: I'm saying that Playboy, Penthouse,
and Forum do not claim to be inspired.
Baptist Minister: Oh sure, there's a lot of
immorality mentioned in the Scriptures, but
God always uses those examples to teach us
a moral lesson about what we should not do.
Me: What about Lot's two daughters getting
their father drunk and then becoming pregnant by him?
Baptist Minister: They did that because
they were the only survivors after God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their perversion and terrible sinfulness.
Me: But the account says that they hid in a
cave near Zoar because Lot was fearful of
the people nearby.
Baptist Minister: Well then his daughters
thought they were the only ones left on
earth.
Me: So why did they have to get Lot drunk?
Wouldn't he have understood the wisdom of
their plan to repopulate a devastated world?
Baptist Minister: God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform!
Part B. Sexual Pollution
Section 3. The Female Curse
Biblical Sex Principle #3 exhorts: "Although I, Jehovah, have created all women
with a menstrual cycle as part of their reproductive system, every time your monthly
period occurs, you are dirty, you are filthy,
you are unclean. If you engage in sexual
intercourse while menstruating, you shall be
put to death. You are similarly defiled when
giving birth. Upon producing a male child,
you are polluted for only forty days, but after

bearing a female baby, you are twice as contaminated for a period of eighty days.
Remember that all you females deserve this
fate because Eve ate that forbidden apple in
my Garden of Eden and, by tempting Adam,
caused the downfall of the entire human
race, the beginning of original sin, and, most
important of all, a brand-new use for the fig
leaf."
Section 4. Onan's Fatal Orgasm
Onan's fateful act of spilling his seed on
the ground was not an act of sexual selfgratification, despite the nearly universal use
of the term onanism as a synonym. for masturbation. It was simply a case of Onan
deciding not to fulfillthe Levirate law, which
required that he impregnate his deceased
brother's childless wife. His defiant act of
disobedience and coitus interruptus cost
him his life and specifically points to Biblical
Sex Principle #4: (for men only) "If your
brother dies before fathering any progeny, it
is y.our obligation to go in to your childless,
widowed sister-in-law and to get her pregnant. But don't you dare to withdraw from
her vagina before ejaculating for I, Jehovah,
am a vengeful god, and ifyou do pull out, she
willthink you are coming, but you really will
be going."
Part C. Homosexuality
Section 5. Lot Thwarts A Gay Mob Assault
In Sodom
When the men of Sodom pounded loudly
on Lot's door and commanded him to send
his two male houseguests outside for a gay
gang rape, he immediately offered them his
two virgin daughters as substitutes. Lot's
unstinting generosity with the girls' virginity
brings us to Biblical Sex Principle #5: "If
some horny men want to rape your male
house guests, offer them instead your virgin
daughters to have their way with because
your house guests' rear ends are far more
sacred than your daughters' front ends."

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July 1986

Page 21

Part D. Rape
Section 6. The All-Night Gang Bang
In this shudderingly horrendous chapter,
the horny men of Gibeah, not to be outdone
bythe horny men of Sodom, surrounded the
house and demanded that the elderly host
turn loose his single male houseguest for
them to rape. The old man offered them
instead his virgin daughter and the Levite
guest's wife, but they were not placated.
Finally, the Levite, with a gallant display of
true biblical chivalry, pushed his wife out the
door, and the raucous mob took turns banging the poor wretch all the night long.
The following morning, the Levite, who
slept safely and probably very soundly inside
that night, wanted to continue his journey.
Upon opening the door, he spotted his wife
lying prostrate on the ground, and as casually as though nothing out of the ordinary
had happened, he said, "Come on, let's get
going!" It was only when she failed to
respond that he discovered that she was
dead. He dutifully loaded the corpse onto his
donkey, took her home, and there dismembered her abused body into twelve parts,
sending one piece to each of the twelve
tribes of Israel to apprise them of the rape
and murder of his spouse. Thus we arrive at
Biblical Sex Principle #6: (for married men
only) "Ifsome horny guys want to gang bang
you, in order to literally save your ass, offer
them your wife instead."
Part E. Adultery - Attempted And Real
Section 7. Potiphar's Wife Attempts To
Seduce Young Joseph
With a narrative that sounds like an episode from a contemporary TV soap opera,
the story of the handsome young hunk
Joseph being pursued by the horny wife of
his master Potiphar stands out in the Holy
Writ as a unique example of a youth with
unbending principles. But as Joseph soon
learned, hell hath no fury like a woman
scorned, or in this case a woman rejected,
and the desperately frustrated lady accused
the young stud of trying to rape her anyway.
So poor Joseph ended up injail despite his
innocence. After all, it was his word against
hers, and Potiphar, being a typical husband,
naturally preferred to believe his own wife.
Joseph's dilemma sums up Biblical Sex
Principle #7: (for men only) "If your boss's
wife tries to seduce you, go for it because
you'll be damned ifyou do and damned ifyou
don't."
Section 8. Coveting Thy Neighbor's Wife
The seventh commandment of the Decalogue spells out its only sexual prohibition in
unequivocal terms: "Thou shalt not commit
adultery." When those stern and forbidding
words are coupled with Christ's New Testament pronouncement in Matthew that
"whosoever looketh on a woman to lust

Page 22

after her hath committed adultery with her


already in his heart," the two injunctions
together combine to give us yet another
commandment - Biblical Sex Principle #8:
"If you are a married man, since looking at a
woman and desiring her means you have
already had her mentally, you might just as
well go ahead, enjoy the real thing, and have
her physically as well."
Part F. Prostitution Real And Symbolic
Section 9. Rahab, The Favored Madam Of
Jericho
The amazing part of the tale of Rahab the
harlot is that she was able to find the time to
hide Joshua's two spies in her whorehouse.
The administration of a brothel is a very
time-consuming occupation, and like all
madams, Rahab surely must have followed
the four cardinal rules for turning the most
tricks and for making the most money on
sheer volume. These four cardinal rules for
running a bordello like an assembly line are:
(1) get 'em in, (2) get 'em up, (3) get 'em off,
and then (4) get 'em out.
But she somehow managed to aid the two
envoys, and since they spent the entire night
in her whorehouse, they most certainly must
have done what any red-blooded male Israelite would have done in their shoes, so that
they really got more than just the lay of the
land. As a consequence of her heroic act,
Rahab and all her household were spared
when Joshua and his men annihilated the
city of Jericho. In the New Testament, both
Paul and James praised the cooperative
prostitute for her courageous help to Israel,
and this honorable mention amply illustrates
Biblical Sex Principle #9: "When you want to
get something done, ask a busy madam."
Section 10. Ezekiel's Donkey Serenade
Another question that frequently comes
up during interviews and talk shows is this:
"Ben, which single passage in the Bible do
you consider to be the dirtiest of all?" Without hesitation I respond with Ezekiel 23:20.
In my opinion, it is not only the most sexually
explicit and graphic verse of all the biblical
canon, but also a prime example of how the
King James English totally obscures much of
the bawdiness of the original languages. The
forty-seven scholars who worked for three
years on the King James version wanted to
render a translation as faithful as possible to
the original tongues, but at the same time,
they did not want to offend anyone, in keeping with the extreme prudishness of their
time.
As background for understanding this
verse, we must remember that Israel was a
tiny nation surrounded in the Fertile Crescent by much larger, heathen countries
whose fertility religions made a sacrament
out of sex. These sex worshipers had phallic
images everywhere - huge effigies of the

July 1986

penis referred to euphemistically by the King


James translators as "pillars" and representations of the vagina referred to as "groves."
And as if these omnipresent phallic idols
were not enough of an inducement to distract Israel from thinking about their grim
and austere mountaintop deity, Jehovah,
these fertility cults also had both male and
female religious prostitutes ready and waiting right on the steps of their temples, so that
worshipers didn't even have to go inside to
get it on with them. Any competing religion
that offered sex as an act of worship represented a real threat to Israel's comparatively
dull and listless religious ceremonies. For
that reason, while Moses was atop Mt. Sinai
receiving the Ten Commandments, the
Israelites below were fornicating freely in the
nude and reveling in a wild and uninhibited
pagan sex orgy.
In Ezekiel 16, the prophet goes so far as to
say that Israel is actually far worse than a
common whore - that it was so debauched
and so hopelessly infatuated with these
other gods that it was like a harlot offering
herself freely to any man who happened
along, and willing to spread her legs for
anyone without even charging for her services. Ezekiel says that these actions made
Israel far worse than an ordinary prostitute,
who at least collected a fee and made her
living from plying her trade.
Now, in Ezekiel 23:20, the prophet once
again compares Israel to a common whore
because of its apostasy and eagerness in
pursuing other gods - namely the fertility
gods of their heathen neighbors. In this
quote, Ezekiel mentions that the harlot had
lovers in Egypt "whose flesh is as the flesh of
asses and whose issue is like the issue of
horses." In today's vernacular that means
that the Egyptian paramours were hung like
jackasses and ejaculated as big a load of
semen as horses usually shoot. In Biblical
times, both jackasses and horses were
regarded as grossly sensual animals, so he
was making quite a dramatic pronouncement with his choice of words in this simile,
and the suggestive figure of speech gives a
whole new meaning to the well-known title
"The Donkey Serenade."
If Playboy, Penthouse, or Forum magazine describes a great big cock shooting a
huge load of semen, fundamentalists call
that pornography. But when the prophet
Ezekiel describes the very same thing, fundamentalists call that "divine inspiration."
Perhaps Voltaire had this passage in mind
when he commented that anyone who
admires Ezekiel should be compelled to dine
with him.
In American slang, the expression "hung
like a horse" refers, of course, to a generously-endowed male with an unusually
large sex organ. But Jehovah has spoken
here through his prophet and invented an
even more titillating phrase, and Ezekiel's

American Atheist

AMER\CAN

~MERICAN ATHEIST
r'

Scholar John Allegro expounds at the podium.

Scott Kerns, director of the Houston Chapter, is rewarded for his good work as Jon G. Murray hands him the
"Chapter Director of the Year Award."

J
With slide screen at hand, Frank Zindler explains "The
Stalking of the Elusive Mountain Boat."

Atheists have candles and hearts aflame during a memorial for past Atheist heroes.

Everyone (except the photographers) who attended the


memorial for C. B. Reynolds poses on the steps of the
courthouse in which he was tried for blasphemy.

Gerald Tholen reads a poem on the courthouse steps as


Jon G. Murray and Dr. Madalyn O'Hair look on. (Photo by
William Voettinger)

~.

Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 23

Dr. R. Craig Bales exhorts "The


Role of Christianity in the Regression of the Gay Rights
; Movement."

Ellen Johnson, director of the New Jersey Chapter, accepts some


proof of appreciation from Jon G. Murray.

Jon G. Murray andJoil


the "Distinguished Se

(left) "Two years in a


row?" is director August Berkshire's question as he accepts the
"Chapter of the Year
Award" from Jon G.
Murray.
(right)
Founder
of
American
Atheists
Madalyn O'Hair looks
askance at fundamentalist politics.

Noel Scott, director of the Greater D.C. Chapter, stands tall as


Jon G. Murray presents him with the "Meritorious Service
Award."
Page 24

July 1986

Three American Atheist staff m4


Murray-O'Hair, Madalyn O'Hair.

Ellen Johnson, second generation Atheist, and her mother


Dorothy (who was the first generation) greet conventioneers at
the registration table.
American Atheist

nd John B. Massen stand together as Massen accepts

!d Service Award."

...

Man of the Hour Robert Sherman receives the "Honorable Service


Award" from Jon G. Murray .

(left) Jon G. Murray


draws the line in his
speech "Atheists v. the
New Religious Age."
(right) Jon G. Murray
welcomes pro-choice
advocate Bill Baird to
the convention
and
gives him the "Freedom
of Speech
Award."

sff members: John Allegro, R.

air,

ther
'S at

New York members Caroline Gilman and Nathan


Cohen are full of good cheer at the Saturday evening cocktail party.
Austin, Texas

Board member Henry Schmuck has a chat with John Marthaler, recipient of the "Pioneer Atheist" award.

July 1986

Page 25

....
"The Founder" - the original; the copy; and the artist,
Gustav Likan. (Photo by John M. Allegro)

"The Atheist of the Year Award" for 1985 is accepted for


Larry Ford by Frank Zindler.

IERICAN . ATHEIS'

With August Berkshire at her side, Twin Cities Chapter


secretary Shirley Moll awaits receipt of the "Chapter
Worker of the Year Award" from Jon G. Murray.

Arnold Via calls Frank Zindler to his side to give him "The
Most Hated Atheist Award" for 1985.

Page 26

July 1986

Ben Edward Akerley pauses while giving "A Sermon


from The X-Rated Bible."

Pioneer Atheist John Marthaler shows some "young-uns"


his ever-present collection of newspaper clippings.

American Atheist

Donkey Serenade nicely summarizes Biblical Sex Principle #10: (for men only) "It's
great to be hung like a horse, but even better
to be hung like a jackass."
Part G. Circumcision Of The Living
And The Dead
Section 11. Jehovah's Foreskin Covenant
In any court of law, ifjust one fabrication
- just one little falsehood - can be found in
the testimony of a witness, then any and all
statements by that witness are rejected
completely, In the biblical canon, if there
were no other fallacy than that of Jehovah
making a foreskin covenant with Abraham,
that, in and of itself, would be reason enough
to reject the entire Bible.
If I asked you what you thought of an
ordinary human father who subjected his
helpless and defenseless infant son to a
totally unnecessary and excruciatingly painful amputation operation, you would surely
condemn that father as being sadistic, cruelly
inhumane, and guilty of the grossest form of
child abuse. Yet we are asked to believe that
a kind, loving, and caring heavenly father,
namely Yahweh or Jehovah, insisted on the
amputation of the foreskin of all Hebrew
male infants just eight days after their birth. I
therefore submit that Jehovah, by virtue of
his covenant with Abraham requiring permanent mutilation of the penis, qualifies as
the number one child abuser of all time.
Today we have ample scientific evidence
that the foreskin is an erogenous membrane
and a protective covering. Its removal by
circumcision has nothing to recommend it
other than being a hallowed religious tradition unquestioned by Jews and some others
since time immemorial. And even in biblical
times, it was already clearly a ritual rather
than a hygienic practice, since it was routinely performed both on stillborn infants
and on babies who died prior to their eighth
day of life. Ritual, of course, is nothing more
than ossification of the mind that readily destroys all rational thinking. Consequently,
from Jewish historical sources, we learn of
the barbaric practice of insisting on circumcision even when there was a history of
hereditary hemophilia in the family. It was
only after two hemophilic sons hemorrhaged
to death that the third son was mercifully
excused from the operation and from certain death.
We are all familiar with the old adage "Use
it before you lose it." Well, with regard to
circumcision, Jehovah has provided us with
an interesting variation on that theme in the
form of Biblical Sex Principle #11: (for men
only) "As far as your foreskin is concerned,
you're going to lose it before you ever have a
chance to use it."
Section 12. Moses And The Flying Foreskin
The rite of circumcision was temporarily
suspended during the forty-year period that

Austin, Texas

Israel wandered in the wilderness, and for


that reason, Moses' grown son still had his
penis intact. In this curious account, Jehovah first threatened Moses' life for unspecified reasons. Then, during a heated
argument, Moses' wife Zipporah cut off her
son's foreskin and threw it at her husband.
The foreskin seemingly followed a trajectory
directly toward Moses' own penis - almost
as if it knew exactly where it belonged.
Therefore this nearly miraculous occurrence presents us with Biblical Sex Principle
#12: "Be extra careful when you perform a
circumcision because foreskins seem to
have a mind of their own."
Section 13. David Circumcises 200 Philistine
Corpses
Besides the brutally violent account related in "The All-Night Gang Bang," if you
ask me which bible sex story ranks as the
most sordid and revolting, I think it's a tossup between the savageness of Salome having the head of John the Baptist brought to
her on a platter after her dance and striptease before King Herod, and David's act of
necrophilic circumcision on the corpses of
two hundred Philistine soldiers.
King Saul, David's father-in-law-to-be,
detested him with all his heart, and when the
youth sought the hand of Michal in marriage,
the monarch felt confident that by demanding one hundred Philistine foreskins as a
dowry that David would surely be killed in
battle. Imagine Saul's dismay when the
intrepid warrior of slingshot days showed up
at the royal palace with two hundred foreskins - double the number requested. This
incident helps to formulate Biblical Sex
Principle #13: (for men only and with special
thanks to Voltaire) "If your future father-inlaw requests one hundred foreskins in
exchange for the hand of his daughter, bring
him instead two hundred pieces so that your
bride-to-be might use them to make a lovely
foreskin necklace."
Part H. The Lowly Status Of Women
Section 14. The Female Hand That Fondles
Shall Be Cut Off
If we could go back in a time machine to
the biblical era and visit anyone of the many
nations surrounding Israel, and if we saw a
handless woman, we would assume that,
barring some type of birth defect, she had
met with some sort of terrible accident. Not
so in Israel!
Ifwe were to see a handless female Israelite, we could rightly say, "Aha! We know
where your hand has been and why it was
cut off." The incomprehensibly bizarre and
sexist injunction mandated that if a woman
touched a man's genitals - even if she was
trying to stifle the onslaught of an enemy
against her own husband - her hand would
be amputated.
This prohibition seems particularly odd

July 1986

since men routinely grabbed each other's


privates .to solemnize an oath and this
"penis-shake" was almost as commonplace
as our handshake. So the severe rule for
females only provides still another example
of the lowly status of the fair sex in Hebrew
culture and embodies Biblical Sex Principle
#14: "Women, keep your hands to yourselves!" .
Part I. Bestiality And Castration
Section 15. Forbidden Intimacies With
Animals
Biblical Sex Principle #15 commands:
"When someone has sexual intercourse
with an animal, kill both the human offender
and the poor dumb animal, for even though
the beast does not possess the power of
reason, it has broken my law and it deserves
to be exterminated along with its human
partner. I, Jehovah, have always reveled in
the death of sacrificial animals, and every
one of my priests has served as a butcher for
the Lord and every temple of worship has
become a slaughterhouse for the Almighty.
Remember that when Cain, the farmer, gave
me the fruit of his orchard, I rejected that
offering. But when his brother Abel, the
shepherd, gave me a slain lamb from his
flock, I accepted and delighted in that offering. In sacrificing the blood of that innocent
little lamb, Abel foreshadowed the doctrine
which is essential for salvation through me:
Without the shedding of blood, there is no
remission of sin."
Section 16. Self-Castration - The Supreme
Sexual Sacrifice
In the gospel of Matthew, Christ surpassed even Paul with his antisexual pronouncement encouraging his followers to
make eunuchs of themselves, and thus giving his manifest endorsement to self-castration as the ultimate form of sexual denial.
Christ's ascetic encouragement for his flock
epitomizes Biblical Sex Principle #16: (for
men only) ''The greatest love offering you
can possibly make is to cut off your balls for
the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
Part J. Sexual Rejuvenation
Section 17. King David's Revival With
Female Body Friction
In reading this passage, it is difficult indeed
to muster any sympathy for the aged and
enfeebled king - a mere shadow of his
former self - because of David's history of
the wanton murder of the two hundred Philistines and because of his deplorable conduct in arranging the death of Uriah, his
faithful warrior, in order to have Uriah's wife,
Bathsheba, for his own selfish pleasure.
But his servants felt pity for the dying
monarch and determined to warm his cold
and ailing body with a beautiful, hot, young
damsel. The ravishing virgin Abishag, the

Page 27

Shunammite, was brought to the royal


palace where she ministered unto David and
using her charms for medical purposes only,
lay with the now impotent king and warmed
him with her own lovely body. Abishag's
ministrations exemplify Biblical Sex Principle #17: (for men only) "It you are too old to
get it up anymore, find an attractive young
lady, rub it against her curvaceous body,
warm yourself with her, and think of past
glories!"
.
Part K Illegitimacy, Virgin Birth, And
Celibacy
Section 18. Solomon's Sage Advice To Two
Prostitutes
In this familiar fable of Solomon suggesting that he cut a baby boy in half as a test to
determine which of two women was the
child's real mother, we have the basis for
Biblical Sex Principle #18: "It a man has
seven hundred wives and three hundred
concubines at his beck and call, he should
have a little experience in handling women's
affairs."
Solomon's parable is always included in
books of Bible stories for children and rates
very high in popularity in its greatly sanitized
version. Since the Reagan administration is
so determined to have devotional Bible reading and prayer returned to the public
schools, I would like to directly challenge
them to have The X-Rated Bible read to a
group of elementary school children as a
devotional exercise. In the extremely unlikely event that my challenge would be
accepted, this is how Solomon's unexpurgated tale might come out in the grade
school classroom!
Good morning, boys and girls.
Today, we are going to hear a bible
story about a very wise man, King
Solomon. This king was very rich. In
fact, he had so much money that he
married seven hundred wives and he
also had three hundred concubines. A
concubine was a woman who lived
with a man without being married to
him. Today, ifa man and a woman live
together without being married, we
say that they are living in sin because
they are guilty of fornication. Fornication is having sex with someone you
are not married to, but God doesn't
want us to do that anymore. Also,
today, ifyou have more than one wife
or husband, you are called a bigamist,
and bigamy is against the law. And, of
course, if your daddy cheats on your
mommy and has a secret girlfriend, or
ifyour mommy cheats on your daddy
and has a secret boyfriend, that is
called adultery, and God doesn't want
us to do that either. The Bible tells us
that if people commit adultery, we

Page 28

should throw stones at them and kill


them because God thinks it is better
to murder someone than to commit
adultery. Now, in Solomon's day it
was OK to have as many wives as you
could afford to support because that
was the time of the Old Dispensation _
which was God's Plan A for the world.
But today, we are living under the
New Dispensation which is also
known as God's Plan B.
One day, two prostitutes came to
see King Solomon. A prostitute is a
woman who sells her body for sex,
and God never wants us to do that.
These two women brought a baby boy
with them who was a little bastard.
That means that no one knew for sure
who the father of the child was. Since
these two prostitutes had sex for
money, with so many different men,
they could never know for sure which
one of those men made them pregnant. Being pregnant means that her
belly swelled up and got very big with a
developing baby inside.
But this little bastard had a double
problem because not only was there
doubt about who his father was, there
was also some doubt as to which of
the two prostitutes was his mother,
because one of them accused the
other one of stealing the child from
her when her own baby died. Solomon asked for a sword because he
was going to cut the living child into
two pieces and give one half to each of
them. The woman who cried out begging him not to do that turned out to
be the real mother.
When the people heard about Solomon's decision for the two prostitutes and their little bastard, they
realized what a really wise king they
had. Well, boys and girls, wasn't that a
wonderful story? Let us now bow our
heads in prayer and ask God to make
us as wise as King Solomon.
Section 19. The Not-So-Immaculate Conception (aka The Immaculate Deception)
As soon as Joseph discovered that Mary,
his betrothed, was great with child, he was

prepared to break off their engagement privately. But an angel of the Lord assured him
during a dream that Mary had been chosen
as the mother of the long-promised and longawaited Messiah, and that the fruit of her
womb was to be Jesus, the savior of the
world. Joseph's incredulity over this event
has been shared by countless millions of
fathers-to-be ever since and it underscores
Biblical Sex Principle #19: (for men only) "It
you're not sure how your girlfriend got pregnant, blame it on the Holy Ghost."
The best analysis I've ever heard of this
ecclesiastical fairy tale goes like this: The
virgin Mary gave birth to the little babe
Jesus, the innocent lamb of God, to be slain
for the sins of all humankind. Consequently,
Christian theology at its simplest boils down
to this very basic formula: "Mary had a little
lamb."
Section 20. Paul, The Compulsive Celibate
Paul ranted and raved that "it is good for a
man not to touch a woman," but he readily
admitted that not everyone was able to
"contain" as he could. However, he was also
vehemently opposed to a man touching
another man or a woman touching another
woman, or, horror of horrors, to anyone
touching oneself because, as a Jew, Paul
was well-versed in the rabbinical prohibition
against touching himself, even when urinating, since it just might lead to bigger and
better things. He had not yet been exposed
to the newer and more liberal rabbinical
teaching that if god did not want us to masturbate, he would have made our arms
shorter.
Paul decided that it is better to marry than
to "burn" with unfulfilled lust and he considered it essential to seek a spouse in order to
avoid the terrible sin of fornication. Yet his
message provides no solution for widows
and widowers, for all single persons, and
especially for the sexually mature and sexually capable youth with a fully-blossomed
and urgent sex drive and for whom marriage
is definitely out-of-the-question. So Paul's
instruction for the vast majority of us comes
in the form of our final behavioral guide,
Biblical Sex -Principle #20: "It it feels good,
for god's sake, don't do it!"
Enjoy The X-Rated Bible! ~

I 1/

se/f-f/a

elliJft on
~

July 1986

American Atheist

,.w,

John M: Allegro

:.

THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS

AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS


John M: Allegro is best known for his
work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and his
position on the international Dead Sea
Scrolls editing team: Articulate, controversial, and consistently thoughtprovoking, he is the author of a dozen
works and numerous articles in learned
and popular journals:
In "The Historicity of Jesus and the
Dead Sea Scrolls," Mr: Allegro examines the possible origins of the Jesus
myth and of Christianity: Given that
Jesus is a myth, what is the importance
of investigating the old stories? Mr:
Allegro deals with that question:
You can't prove that someone did not
exist two thousand years ago. You can cast
doubt on the authenticity or relevance of
those records that claim to show that he did,
and you can support those doubts by reference to the motives of those who propagated the idea then and have continued to
do so down the centuries.
As far as religious heroes like Jesus are
concerned, the question is more complicated. It is rarely merely a matter of historical fact - Did that person have a physical
existence at a particular time and in a particular place? -:- the inquiry has to be extended
into how belief that he lived has affected
subsequent generations. You might find
today a liberal Christian theologian ready to
admit that the evidence for the earthly lifeof
the man Jesus of Nazareth is indeed very
tenuous, but he will nevertheless insist that
of far more importance has been the idea of
God's incarnation in the person of Jesus
Christ. The myth is of greater consequence
than the man.
I would suggest to you that if we unbelievers wish to question the tenets of the Christian faith, we should not concentrate too
much attention on pointing out the improbability or downright impossibility of many of
the details in the New Testament narratives.
It has all been done before. There is scarcely
any aspect of the traditions that has not
been attacked over the past two millennia,
and no objective scholar today would claim
historical reality for any more than a small
kernel of the whole corpus. What is of far
greater interest is how these stories came

Austin, Texas

into being, upon what were they based, and


why have they had such an impact for so
long on the minds of otherwise rational
human beings. For it is undeniable that the
myth of the dying and rising savior-god, in
whatever form it has gripped the imagination
of worshippers down the ages, has proved
strangely compulsive and seems to respond
to some basic element in human experience.
The fascination that the mythologist finds in
the study of a common pancultural theme
like this lies, first, in his ability to recognize
the myth in its many different representations, and second, in identifying and tracing
to their sources the local elements that have
been incorporated to make the myth of particular relevance to the community or cult
under examination.
Now, it is in this area of the origin of ideas
and their development that the new evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls is of such
importance. As never before, it is becoming
possible to understand how an exclusive,
nationalistic movement like post -exilicJudaism could combine with an alien dualistic
philosophy to produce a kind of Jewish
gnosticism - that is, the belief that it is
possible for a man to acquire through mystical means a divine, secret knowledge accessible only to him and other specially
favored initiates. And further, we can better
understand how, under the pressure of certain socio-political events over the turn of
the era, Jewish gnosticism could be transformed into the even more unlikely hellenistic hybrid of a messianic mystery cult, a
scandal to any well brought up Jew, and
sheer nonsense to an intelligent Greek.
But if we look to the first century Essene
scrolls for fresh light on a more or less contemporary Jesus of Nazareth, we look in
vain. In those early years that followed the
discovery of this long lost library, popular
speculation centered on the possible relationship of the early Jewish-Christians with
the Scrolls' owners, the Essenes, and in particular with the connections Jesus may have
had with that desert community. Had he
perhaps been an Essene himself at some
time? Had those traditional "forty days" in
the wilderness of Judaea been spent in their
settlement at Qumran, by the Dead Sea?
Were the parallels between some aspects of

July 1986

his teaching and Essene thought and practice due to such direct contact, or did they
come by way of that mysterious desert
prophet, John the Baptist?
Alas, the Scrolls make no mention of the
Nazarene teacher by name. Indeed, the
gospel traditions of a wine-bibbing associate
of whores, pimps, and Quislings, a friend of
Roman officers, and an advocate of paying
taxes to the hated occupying power, have
no parallel at all in what little we can glean
from the Scrolls about the manner of life of
Jesus's Essene counterpart, their revered
leader, the so-called Teacher of Righteousness. But then, the Qumran writings have no
literary parallel to the synoptic gospels, nor
do the Essenes appear to have shown any
interest in recording events in such narrative
form. For them, the experience of their forefathers chronicled in the Old Testament was
all the history they needed; their own situation was but a repetition of what had gone
before. In taking up their station on the outskirts of the Promised Land, they believed
that they were reenacting events in the time
of Joshua - another "Jesus" - of more
than a millennium earlier, when he led the
Chosen People across the Jordan to prepare themselves for their entry into Canaan.
The Essene sojourn in their so-called House
of Exile in the Judaean Wilderness was for
these latter-day Covenanters merely the
turn of the circle, the preordained rehearsal
for the establishment of the New Israel and
the institution of God's Kingdom on earth.
You willhave noted that in passing I gave
the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name of
the Israelite leader Yehoshlia', "Joshua" Iesous, "Jesus." That parallel with the gospel narratives may be of no real significance,
but it is an indication of the kind of clues we
shall look for in assessing the origin of the
Christian myth. No one in his right mind is
going to assert that the fact the two religious
leaders had the same name proves that they
were one and the same person, and that the
Galilean teacher therefore lived in the thirteenth century B.C. What it could mean is
that one element in the myth of the Nazarene prophet guiding his flock into the Kingdom of God was intended to reflect the biblical tradition of the part played by that earlier
leader and lawgiver, Joshua/Jesus, son of

Page 29

Nun. Such reiterated themes are the raw


material of tribal religious mythology.
You might find this kind of speculative
source identification too diffuse, too indeterminate for your way of thinking. As
rational inquirers in a scientific age, you
might understandably protest that what you
need are facts, plain, demonstrably historical criteria upon which to judge the truth of
biblical traditions. You need straight answers, yes or no, fact or fiction, real or
imaginary. Well, I'm afraid you're going to be
disappointed. For when we are concerned
with two-thousand-year-old traditions about
religious issues and personalities we are not
dealing with concrete, historical events. We
are juggling with ideas, looking for leads, on
the assumption that religious myths such as
those that underlie the New Testament gospel of a crucified and resurrected saviorMessiah have their parallels in many other
cultures and are rooted deep in the human
psyche. We look not for one Christ but for
many.
In any case, our earliest internal witnesses
to the Christian religion are not the gospels,
but the letters of Saint Paul, the Church's
prime exponent of the faith. And his theology is clearly the fruit of many decades of
pious speculation by sectarian Jews in an
overwhelmingly gentile world, faced with
having to adapt the beliefs of their forefathers to new intellectual horizons, amid the
upheaval of radical social and political
changes. His expositions are too well considered, too ordered, to be the result of a sudden flash of inspiration in the mind of one
man - on the Damascus road or anywhere
else. That being so, the first problem that
has to be faced in any study of the historicity
of Jesus of Nazareth is that of identity and
relative chronology. We have to ask whether the Jesus of the gospels really is the
savior-Christ of our earliest New Testament
witness.
It is commonly assumed, largely thanks to
the chronology of events offered by the linking appendix to the third gospel, the Book of
Acts, that the historical reality behind the
crucified messiah on whom Saint Paul
places so much emphasis was the wandering
preacher from Nazareth who was supposed
to have been executed by the Roman administration during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. if the usual dating of Paul's ministry in the forties is sound, then the traditional
chronology which places Jesus's crucifixion
in about A.D. 33 leaves far too little time for
the evolution of such a powerful and distinctive theology as is represented by the Pauline correspondence. It must surely have
taken much longer than a mere decade or
two to develop and systematize this extraordinary amalgam of pagan and Jewish
beliefs, and to present as an already established object of faith a cosmic savior-god,
manifested in human form as the fulfillment

Page 30

of that most sacred of Jewish hopes, the


Christ-Messiah, and to portray his sacrificial
death and resurrection as the means by
which an initiate could obtain access to the
divine mysteries. Whoever Paul and his
predecessors had in mind as the incarnate
Son of God, it was unlikely to have been
someone so recently on the Palestinian
scene as the first-century apprentice carpenter from Nazareth.
But apart from Luke's identification, why
should it have been? Paul makes scarcely
any reference to the earthly life of his divine
hero, save that he was crucified, and prior to
that instituted a ritual meal of some kind by
which his followers might rehearse and
share mystically in his sacrifice. Paul names
him only in relation to his divinely appointed
mission, as Lord and Christ. if it were not for
the gospel traditions committed to writing a
generation or so later, we should know practically nothing about Jesus the man and his
followers. Even the leader of the Church's
administration in Jerusalem, with whom
Paul seems to have had some kind of quarrel, finds certain reference in the correspondence only by his title "Cephas"; and this, as
I have recently shown in my book, The Dead
Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, turns
out now to have been only an Essene designation for an important administrative official, and not a private "nickname" bestowed
on the fisherman Peter by Jesus, as the gospels would have us believe.
It seems to me that the question of the
historicity of Jesus is of far less consequence
for the student of religion than that of the
origins of the faith itself. ifwe can identify the
links between Christianity and normative
Judaism, then we shall be on the way to
understanding the evolution of thought that
produced the faith which could win over half
the world and speak to the hearts, if not to
the minds, of Jew and Greek, slaves and free
men, papal dignataries and born-again politicians.
The Essenism of the Dead Sea Scrolls has
lived up to its expectation of providing the
crucial "missing link." In my recent books,
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian
Myth and Physician, Heal Thyself, I have
tried to indicate how Christianity could have
developed out of this secretive Jewish sect,
itself part of a much wider underground
movement that had been fermenting for
centuries in opposition to an over-ritualized,
authoritarian hierarchy that had long lost
touch with the emotional needs of its flock.
And, interestingly, it now seems that the
kind of faith that emerged in the early centuries of our era suffered in due course the
same kind of intolerant suppression by its
co-religionists as did that individualistic
movement from which it sprang. For the
gnostic factions of the Church, although, as
we now see, the more original and authentic
representatives of the emergent faith, were

July 1986

branded as "heretical" by the so-called


"Great" Church whose only hope of achieving the political power it craved was by presenting a unified face to the world. It could
not tolerate rival doctrines, and to that end
imposed a credal conformity on its followers
and a common canon of scriptural authority.
The gnostics were calumniated and persecuted by their "brothers in Christ," their
myths and doctrines mocked, their libraries
burnt, and their communities driven out into
the wilderness to perish.
The myth of the crucified Teacher had
doubtless found many forms over the
decades. Those that related to Jesus of
Nazareth and his early followers proliferated
in the first centuries of our era, and the ones
that have come down to us can only represent a small sample of what must once have
been freely available to the scattered communities of believers. Similarly, there were
many more sayings ascribed to Jesus than
those that were incorporated into the gospel
traditions. Some of these extra-canonical
stories and teachings have survived in collections of the apocrypha, and occasionally
fresh contributions have come to light in
original texts that have avoided the censorship of the established Church. The recent
discovery of papyri from the sands of Egypt,
the third-century Nag Hammadi documents,
have revealed a few more tales and sayings
emanating from a particular school of gnostic thought, but again they only serve to
highlight the paucity of what has survived
the purging of the dominant Christian faction in the interests of conformity in belief
and doctrine.
Incidentally, it has been interesting to see
the way that the "authenticity" of newly discovered folktales and sayings is assessed by
Christian scholars on the basis of whether
they conform to expectation - that is, does
this or that story or teaching seem at all
credible in the light of the Jesus we know?
You willagree that there is something faintly
ludicrous about serious scholars solemnly
denying the historical authenticity of some
fresh tale about, say, the magical prowess of
the young Jesus on the basis of its being out
of keeping with the acts of the incarnate Son
of God, whose presumably acceptable
achievements included being born of a virgin, changing water into wine, multiplying
loaves and fishes, and walking on water.
Similarly, one might ask, how can one estimate the validity of a fresh teaching on the
basis of the very limited corpus of sayings
preserved in the New Testament, none of
which survives in its original language or can
for certain be assigned its proper context?
At some stage early on in its history, the
Great Church seems to have decided that
its own selection of the legends about Jesus,
his family, and friends, needed to be given
the stamp of historical authenticity. Absurd
though they were in their social and political

American Atheist

pretensions, and sadly misleading in their


presentation of contemporary Judaism, the
stories yet contained such elements of truth
and reflections of deep religious sentiment,
combined with a fluency of style and an illusory simplicity of content, as to procure a
sympathetic and ready audience in the gentile world. The ecclesiastical propagandists
set about to ensure that for the future the
writings of the canonical New Testament
should be invested with supreme and incontrovertible authority as sources of doctrine
and history.
Now, two thousand years later, we have
to try to break through this artificial barrier
of self-imposed infallibility, and to reconstruct the world of conflicting ideas of the
early centuries, and the mainspring from
which they derived their animation. The
Scrolls from the Dead Sea help; the antiheretical writings of the Church Fathers
offer some information on the teachings of
their internal opponents, however distorted
and biased. But above all, we who owe no
allegiance to any religious faith can claim to
be free from the constraints of ecclesiastical
bigotry and obscurantism that have for so
long hindered objective research.
As far as Jesus of Nazareth is concerned,
we must dismiss from our minds twenty centuries of accumulated exegetical and pietistic tradition and consign our fondest images
of flaxen-haired, blue-eyed shepherds calling
sheep, knocking on doors, patting small
children on the head, hanging on crosses, or
lying limp and lifeless in a mother's arms, to
the realm of the fanciful, where they belong.
The popularity of such creations of the
western world says more for the ignorance
and pious credulity of the average churchgoer and his susceptibility to ecclesiastical
persuasion than for their realism.
If one insists on trying to identify the historical reality behind the mythical Jesus, the
most likely candidate is the Essene Teacher
of Righteousness who lived more than a century earlier and was probably crucified in the
year 88 B.C. by a Jewish High Priest. But I
think far more worthwhile is the "decipherment" of the gospels. I have many times
stressed in my books, notably my Sacred
Mushroom and the Cross, that the New
Testament narratives are not to be taken at
their face value. The whole unlikely story of
a messianic pretender, performing conjuring
tricks, and surviving three years of preaching reconciliation and tolerance towards a
hated enemy in an occupied country seething with revolt, must be a cover story. It was
not for such a messiah and his smooth
words of brotherly love that beleaguered
cells of Christians hid trembling in their
caves in daily fear of being discovered and
delivered to their executioners for public
humiliation, torture, and violent death. Nor
was it their essential godliness that drew
down upon these Nazarenes the shocked

Austin, Texas

outrage of Roman observers not noted for


their squeamishness in describing alien cults
and religious practices. Something of the
real nature of the secret, often highly erotic
rituals of these first Christians can be
gleaned from the critical accounts given by
the patristic apologists of later times, ridiculing and condemning the practices attributed
to their arch-enemies, the "heretical" gnostics.
In the gospels, we are dealing with highly
complex creations offering several levels of
interpretation. They have been woven from
many strands of tradition and they often
involve the kinds of unrestrained exegesis of
biblicaltexts evidenced in the Essene scrolls.
Behind the cover story of the Galilean
prophet and his followers we can dimly perceive another, secret world, a compendium
of formulae, passwords, preparative rituals,
and so on, of the kind familiar to us among
cabalists, shamans, and religious mystics
the world over. And if such fearful reticence
seems so out of keeping with the common
assumption of a gospel openly preached to
all men, it is as well to remember that the
Church fathers were careful to reserve
some of their sacred writings to an inner
council of the elect, sworn to secrecy. As the
second-century Church father, Clement of
Alexandria, writes in a recently discovered
letter: "not everything that is true needs
necessarily to be divulged to all men." As a
point of interest, that was in reply to a question from an anxious inquirer about part of
the gospel of Mark he had not seen before
and which he found deeply disturbing. Clement admitted its authenticity but said that its
circulation had in fact been restricted by the
authorities to "those who had been initiated
into the great mysteries." I think we can
guess why. The passage had to do with a
secret, nocturnal rite of initiation into "the
mystery of the Kingdom of God," performed

by Jesus on the rich young man who had


come seeking information. The editor of the
letter connects the story with that puzzling
incident in the second gospel that tells of the
youth who was seen in the Garden of Gethsemane at the time of Jesus's betrayal, running away naked.
Embedded in these gospel narratives, certainly, are scraps of real history, fleeting
glimpses of actual persons and events. But
proper names must be reckoned the least
authentic elements - only madmen would
commit to writing and free distribution the
actual identities of people and places involved in the movement's activities. The
secret police of the imperial power were
actively seeking out cells of dissidents in that
hotbed of potential revolt of first-century
Palestine, and Christian communities were
regarded, probably rightly, with extreme
suspicion. There were still close links between some factions of Essenism and the
Zealots, for whom messianism was synonymous with the establishment of a Jewish
state in Palestine.
So, in conclusion, if the New Testament
narratives about Jesus of Nazareth can tell
us anything about the emergent faith, particularly the ideas that were currently developing concerning the roles, past and future,
attributed to his more historical precursor,
the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, then
their witness cannot be neglected. But, in
general, to understand how the propagators
of so improbable a cult should have wielded
such influence over their fellow men for so
long, we must try to set Christianity into a
wider perspective. We have to look much
further back than the first century of our era,
and to raise our eyes from the legendary
exploits of an unhistorical Jesus to the wider
horizon of man's continuing search to
understand his own role in creation and to
findin his gods a renewal of belief in himself.
~.

"You can't begin to imagine how distracting it is to have 40u sa4ing' Amen'
everu time I sa4 onqthinq."
July 1986

Page 31

,WI

'

.u

Dr. Madalyn Q'Hair

THE ORIGINAL INTENT


OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS
Dr. Madalyn O'Hair is the founder of
American Atheists and its affiliates.
Her first effort on behalf of state/church
separation was participation in the
Supreme Court case which banned
state-sponsored prayer from the public
schools of this nation.
In the following speech, Dr. O'Hair
replies to the call to "return to the intent
of the Founding Fathers." She points
out the deficiencies in such a plan while
examining what that original intent
might have been.

u.s.

A faction of the Reagan administration,


headed by Ed Meese, the Attorney General,
is seeking to return to the principles of the
Founding Fathers, as that administration
seeks to interpret that founding to benefit
the current ruling class, (Well, what terminology did you expect me to use? Do you
really think, as a CNN spokesman said
recently, that ours is a classless society?)
In this attempted exercise by the Reaganites there are several things that you need to
remember. Our revolution was carried out
by the landed aristocracy, which simply
wanted to cut free from the domination of a
foreign nation, They wanted a change of
hands, not a change of system, (Hello, Cory
Aquino.) Let's look at those Founding
Fathers. Three-quarters of the acreage in
New York belonged to fewer than one
dozen people in 1700. In Virginia, at the
same time, seven persons owned 1,732,000
acres of land. There was no universal suffrage. Only landowners could vote or hold
office. The chief executive (the president)
was selected by an electoral college which
was not - and still is not - required to
respond to the popular vote, so afraid were
our Founding Fathers of any idea of democracy, or rule by the people. Even so, the
word "people" did not include the working
class, the indentured servants, or the slaves.
It referred only to the elite. Senators were
elected or appointed (choose your own
word) by the state legislatures. They were
not elected by popular vote until 1912 when
the Seventeenth Amendment finallybecame
a part of the Constitution. Women could not
vote. Every Founding Father (perhaps
excluding Benjamin Franklin - who dealt in

Page 32

indentured servants) held slaves. Blacks


were not even counted in the census as
whole persons. The Constitution required
that they be counted only as three-fifths of a
man. Government was not intended to be
open to ordinary persons at any level. This
was an autocratic and aristocratic system
which can generally be described, at best, as
an oligarchy - not a democracy. In actuality
we all know that our system of government
was then and is now a plutocracy, a rule by
and for the very rich. What was had in America in 1776 was simply a ruling class revolution where the local good-old-boys wanted
to break loose of foreign domination. One
aspect of that revolution alone is sufficiently
revealing to have you get the picture: Our
Constitution was never submitted to popular vote.
.
The Constitution, in fact, was fashioned
to save the aristocrats (the govern-ors) from
any populace (the govern-ees) intervention
into the governing process. Therefore, that
process was compartmentalized:
(1) separation of powers into the executive, legislative, and judicial;
(2) a system of checks and balances;
(3) staggered elections;
(4) executive veto of legislation;
(5) Senate confirmation of appointees to
specific federal offices;
(6) Senate ratification of treaties;
(7) a bicameral legislature.
All of this was to fragment power without
democratizing it, to dilute the impact of
popular sentiment or reform attempts. Ifthe
rabble gained control in any segment of
government, the rest was safe, and could
oust the reform effort or the take-over effort.
Read the preamble of the Constitution. "We
the People of the United States, in order to
form a more perfect union, insure domestic
tranquility, ... " Then, as now, the police and
military were always there to control the
people, not to protect them. The Founding
Fathers were literally terrified at the idea of
democracy - the rule of the unwashed
masses. And the principal fight then as now
was over states' rights. That has been with
us since the beginning. (It was also the cause
of the Civil War.) It was why the Senate was
formed to represent the states, and the
House was put together to represent the

July 1986

enfranchised gentry - not the people. The


Senate was simply an American copy of the
English House of Lords. And religion put the
fear of god into the masses.
The improvements in our political system
about which you know, with which you live,
were slowly wrested from those in control
over a two hundred year period. Women
gained the franchise in 1920. The forty hour
week only became a law - not a reality - in
the late 1930s_The Fourteenth Amendment,
which made the Bill of Rights applicable to
citizens of the states (although adopted in
1868), was not ratified by all of the states
until 1959. Poll taxes to keep the poor and
the Blacks out of the voting places were not
prohibited until 1964. Our history is rife with
slavery and economic deprivation which
brought on a civil war. It is filled with the
shame of sweatshops, with bloody strikes
and labor conflicts, with workers shot down
in streets and fields, with exploitation of
children, with lynchings, with political murders, and with the rape of the land by railroads, by lumbering interests, and now by
taxpayer-subsidized nuclear plants.
And is all of that behind us? What about
today? Let's look at some statistics available
to all. Approximately 1.6 percent of the population owns eighty percent of all capital
stock, one hundred percent of all state and
municipal bonds, and eighty-eight and one
half percent of all corporate bonds. Some
two hundred companies account for about
eighty percent of all resources used in manufacturing. Five New York banks (Chase
Manhattan, Morgan Guaranty Trust, First
National City, Bankers Trust, and the Bank
of New York) hold controlling shares of the
stock in three-fourths of the top 324 corporations. Chase Manhattan Bank, controlled
by the Rockefellers, is the largest stockholder in CBS, NBC, Union Carbide, United
Airlines, Safeway, A.T.&T., and Reagan's
mentor - General Electric. I still need to
research Bechtel. One-third of the top 500
corporations in the United States are controlled by one individual or one family. The
DuPont family controls eight of the forty
largest defense contracting firms. In order to
keep the money in the family, the DuPonts
have set up thirty-one tax-exempt foundations, and the finances of this one family are

American Atheist

dwarfed by the Rockefellers.


From the aristocratic families come almost all of the persons who have served in
cabinet posts, in foreign relations, and in top
administrative or executive positions.
We are a nation now two hundred years
old, in a modern world of science and technology. Yet, we are told that ninety-five percent of the American people believe in god,
eighty-seven percent waste their time in
prayer, seventy-five percent think that god is
Jesus Christ, seventy percent believe in a life
after death, fifty percent are born-againers,
and twenty-two percent want to take over
America for Jesus.
We are constantly blinded or bilked. I am
sixty-seven years old, and all the young
bucks in business today scoff at Social
Security, upon which I rely. They are much
more "clever" and sophisticated, they say,
than am I. They have 1.R.A.s or Keoughs
upon which they can rely; Social Security is,
they say, a bankrupt fraud. But none of them
realize that with Keoughs and I.R.A.s this is
simply money they deposit for twenty,
thirty, or forty years for the banks to use as
the banks desire. And, ifanyone attempts to
withdraw the money and use it oneself in
that long stretch of time ahead, one is to be
penalized. It is trickery and deceit, based on
fear of what willhappen to you when you are
old, all of which gives banks enormous funding - assured to them by law - to use for
decades. And with the new tax law upon us,
both the I.R.A.s and Keoughs may simply
vanish even now.
We are sold on "individualism," which
now means that we are absorbed in loneliness and isolation, feelings of personal
inadequacy and despair, set apart and
against one another as we compete in every
aspect of our living. Mutual concern and
cooperation is almost unknown in our culture today.
Everyone wants to be middle-class. The
middle-class raison d'etre has been to provide functionaries to handle the workers in
our nation. But now, with the multinational
capitalist outreach and the movement of our
manufacturing plants to low-cost labor
countries, what we are seeing is the elimination of the middle class. It is not needed any
more; there are few blue collar workers to
supervise. When $250 a year is "big pay" for
a Philippino, a Korean, a Mexican, a Taiwanese, is it any wonder that there is a plant
flight? Have you wondered why no politician
or manufacturer is really concerned about
our "balance of trade" showing a massive
deficit? Those manufactured goods being
shipped in are from our very own multinational companies' factories in cheap labor
nations. It is an accepted truism that the
United States is changing from an emphasis
on manufacturing to an emphasis on service, and all statistics now reflect that
change in employment status. China is being

Austin, Texas

opened up for American factories to locate


there. With a $90 a year average income for
workers, it is destined to become a world
slave labor camp.
What willbe left in the United States are
the "service" and "farming" industries.
There, individual farm families are being
ruthlessly removed as impediments to agribusiness. Agribusiness now accounts for
products which take $4.00 out of every $5.00
you spend for food. One percent of all food
corporations control eighty percent of that
industry's assets. Three dairy companies
control sixty-five to seventy percent of all
the country's dairy products. Six multinational firms handle ninety percent of allgrain
shipped in the world market.
Now, more and more economists are
openly stating that anyone who has no stake
in (1) the product of or (2) the company for
whom he works is simply a "day laborer."
Even if you get that dream salary - an
executive bringing in $50,000 a year - you
are still a "day laborer" who can be fired at
any time, with no redress. More and more
"corporate executives" are finding this out
to their sorrow and amazement. You have
no stake in the product. You have no stake
in the company. Out the door!
There is a concerted, integrated effort in
the nation at this time to break the unions. I
think that effort will be successful. Part of
this is because those who have managed to
get an education fell for the ludicrous unionbreaking idea of the "Right to Work" laws.
The worker in our nation, white collar or
blue, is being reduced to the position of a
serf. Currently, he is already a tenant, a
debtor, and a hired hand no matter where he
thinks he is in respect to "class." The future
projects for our nation that there will be
within a few years only the owning (and
hence the ruling) class - and all the "service" job serfs.
I agree with Reagan that we are, as a
nation, actively on the move these days, but
it is a move backwards to feudalism. It is
going to be a new and different kind of feudalism. It is premised on fascist militarism
and a permanent war economy. What I have
here now is so shocking that I don't want to
accept it myself. The United States has 1.5
million military in 119 countries; 429 major
military bases and 2,972 lesser bases in thirty
countries. This costs $5 billion a year. What
other nation needs or has this much intrusion into other countries? Caspar Weinberger speaks constantly of defense, but all
of this is simply a part of our tools for foreign
intervention by the U.S. military into countries where our multinationals need to
impose "domestic tranquility" on their
cheap labor forces. Would we accept 1.5
million U.S.S.R. military forces in 119 countries? Would we accept 429 U.S.S.R. military bases in South America, Central America, Mexico, or Canada?

July 1986

At home, here, the situation is worse.


There is not one county in the United States
in which there is not either a military installation or manufacturing plant that supports
some aspect of the military. Even our highway systems were planned and built only to
accommodate rapid military deployment.
And one-third of all our nation's scientists
and engineers are under military contracts.
Many of our universities could not survive
without research grants from the military. It
is now evident that our entire space program
has been and is military adventurism.
It is a scandal that, meanwhile, there is
loose in our land, preying on the fears, the
hopes, and the dreams of our politically and
religiously illiterate populace, such charlatans and knaves as Ronald Reagan, Jesse
Helms, Ed Meese, Jeremiah Denton, Pat
Buchanan, Caspar Weinberger, Jack Kemp,
William J. Casey, Phil Gramm, J. Everett
Koop, William Bennett, Strom Thurman,
Jean Kirkpatrick, George Bush - I don't
need to go on - and such raving maniacs as
Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller, Rex
Humbard, Jim and Tammy Bakker, and Pat
Robertson. But instead of putting them all in
straightjackets where they belong, they are
featured on the covers of our news magazines, exalted, endorsed, praised, and funded. And one of these gawd-damn nuts is
even going to try for the presidency of the
country in 1988. Consider the magnitude of
that. Our national anthem is going to be
"Looney Tunes."
Our television channels teem with and
exude garbage. Our cinemas are trash from
the deranged minds of seemingly teen-age
producers and directors. Our politicians,
are to a man, petty, corrupt, and not even
worth their "for sale" price. Our so-called
ivy-league universities do nothing, or next to
nothing. Our media is in the hands of the
Ruperts, the Moons, the Luces, the Grahams. Our scientists and educators support, through their silence and inactivity, the
capitulation to a Kafkaesque society.
All the while there is a cry to return to the
intent of the Founding Fathers, since they
hope this would, at least, strip the citizens of
each state of the protection of the Bill of
Rights of the Constitution - what little hope
we have of equitable political rights.
Our Founding Fathers rode their horses
to the Philadelphia constitutional convention and lit their deliberations with candles.
The intent of the Founding Fathers then was
to hit the urinal bottle they hid under the bed
for night or early morning use. AlII want to
do here today is to turn on the lights - the
electric lights, invented by an Atheist, Thomas Alva Edison. Whatever the intent of the
Founding Fathers, that was over two hundred years ago, in another time, in another
culture, remote from you and from me. It is
our responsibility to make decisions respect-

Page 33

ing our culture and our politics now. We


cannot retreat two hundred years. Any junior high school student today has a better
education than did George Washington.
None of us today would think of owning
slaves as Thomas Jefferson did. Return to
the intent of the Founding Fathers? The hell
with the Founding Fathers. The hell with
them all. The hell with George Washington.
The hell with Thomas Jefferson. And the hell
with James Madison. That was then; this is
now.
Nine of the thirteen colonies had established churches and kept them up to 1784.
By the time of the adoption of the First
Amendment, four states still retained them:
Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut,
and New Hampshire. The Constitution was
attacked by the clergy everywhere not
because it dispossessed the average man,
but because there was no mention of god or
Jesus Christ in it.
What we should be doing now is not holding hands across America, but rather seeing
that everyone has health care, food, shelter,
and education. Lifeis hard enough when you
have it all. We need to get after that which
we need to do - deal with reality, with the

here and with the now. Once we junk irrational ideas, we can get on with the task. All
that Atheists are asking is that we all use our
heads, that we all understand we are a part
of a whole, to realize that the human community is in need of some solutions. As a
member of the human race, you have an
obligation laid on you by nature: to see to the
survival of your species and the nest on
which we live. You cannot do that with complacency, with acceptance of the irrational,
with substituting a fantasy world for the real
one. And yet, we prepare for the Armageddon that Judeo-Christianity proposes, and
we give to the religious in our nation $100
billion a year. What could we do with that?
$100 billion one year to clean up our Great
Lakes;
$100 billion one year to save the Mississippi and its tributaries;
$100 billion one year to clean up the air
over Los Angeles, and Boston, and Pittsburgh;
$100 billion one year to clean up the slums
in New York City, and Chicago, and San
Francisco;
$100 billion one year to assist our public
schools - that's $2 billion to each of the fifty

states.
All that we could do in just five years.
Instead, Americans give that to moribund
churches as a price to get into a heaven that
doesn't even exist.
There is no reason that any or all of us
anywhere need wait even one day more to
bring some sense into the world. There are
enough educators, administrators, planners,
executives, and other personnel to do what
needs to be done. We have adequate farming, manufacturing, technology, transportation, communication, distribution, education, and every other facility and resource
upon which to draw. There is no need for
one person in the world to be hungry today,
to be ill-clothed, ill-housed, or subject to the
disease of poverty or ignorance. There is not
one rational, logical reason that the largest
expenditures of all nations in the world are
for armaments to blow each other to hell and
back. This is simply intolerable in 1986.
I don't see any group anywhere getting
after any of the problems in a concerned and
coordinated way. It simply is going to be the
duty, therefore, of us Atheists to seize the
lead and to get to it. ~

DIALANATHEIST
The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments on state/church separation
issues and viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.

Tucson, Arizona
San Francisco, California
South Bay (San Jose), California
God Speaks
Denver, Colorado
Greater DC
South Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Northern Illinois
Lexington, Kentucky
Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Northern New Jersey
Page 34

(602) 623-3861

(415) 668-8085
(408) 377-8485
(408) 257-1486
(303) 692-9395
(703) 280-4321
(305) 925-7167
(404) 662-6606
(312) 506-9200
(606) 278-8333
(617) 969-2682
(313) 721-6630
(612) 566-3653
(201) 777-0766

July 1986

Albuquerque, New Mexico


Mid-Hudson, New York
New York City, New York
Schenectady, New York
Reno, Nevada
Columbus, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(505) 884-7360
(914) 338-0162
(718) 392-0556
(518) 346-1479
(702) 972-8203
(614) 294-0300
(503) 771-6208
(215) 533-1620
(412) 734-0509

Austin, Texas

(512) 458-5731

DIAL-THE-ATHEIST__

Houston, Texas
Outspoken Voice of Freedom
Salt Lake City, Utah

(713) 664-7678
(713) 527-9255
(801) 364-4939

American Atheist

w,

c. B. REYNOLDS
The 1986 Convention 0/ American
Atheists was held in honor 0/ C R Reynolds, a/reethought spokesperson who
was tried/or blasphemy in Morristown,
New Jersey, one hundred years ago: In
honor 0/ his struggles, Atheists gathered on the steps 0/ the courthouse in
which his trial took place: On the pleasant morning 0/ April 20, 1986, nearly
one hundred Atheists stood and listened as Mr: Reynold's fight was recounted: The following is the text 0/ the
memorial which was read by Dr: Madalyn O'Hair that morning: Also reprinted is the poem written and read by
Gerald Tholen:

- A TRIBUTE

reaction of that anger was that he felt the


need to educate the people of the area as to
what had gone on. Therefore, he wrote an
analysis of the law under which he was
arrested, and a second article, titled "Blasphemy and The Bible," in which he showed
that the Bible ascribed to god sentiments,
passions, and attributes which degraded the
god idea into a being that was an inhumane,
bloodthirsty monster.
On October 13 he appeared in Morristown where he handed out copies of both
articles. Later, in New York he read in the
paper that he had been charged by Morris
County Grand Jury not with what he had
said in his tent in Boonton, where he had
been arrested, but rather for what he had
written and distributed in the streets of Morristown three months later. His bond was
raised, and he was ordered to trial, which
came off on May 19and 20, 1887,just ninetynine years ago.
He had been working in cooperation with
the old Truth Seeker magazine, and the editor at that time, E. M. MacDonald, wrote to
Robert Ingersoll and asked if he would take
the defense of Reynolds. It was the only time

that Ingersoll came to the rescue of a freethinker in such an arrest. But he was here,
climbing these steps, entering this building,
arguing this case, in this courtroom here. C.
B. Reynolds was with him, an elderly man,
wearing a black frock suit, a silk hat, with an
army badge pinned to his coat - his demeanor bespeaking simply of human dignity.
Ingersoll pled with the jury for over two
hours - to no avail. Reynolds was found
guilty of blasphemy. The judge gave a judgment of twenty-five dollars fine and costs,
amounting to a total of seventy-five dollars,
which was paid by Ingersoll.
Ingersoll's speech was considered to be so
sublime that copies of it were made and sold
through The Truth Seeker. That magazine
Almost one hundred years ago today, on a
also proposed to pay Ingersoll for his serbeautiful spring morning such as this,
vice, but he declined payment on June 2,
Charles B. Reynolds, an American Atheist,
1887.
was found guilty of blasphemy and fined. It
Following the trial, Reynolds was a recidivist. He went back to his criminal ways was the first time that the New Jersey law of
continuing to blaspheme against the Bible
blasphemy, which dated back to colonial
and religion as he had done before - and as
times, was ever used to arrest anyone naturally it had to be an Atheist.
any honorable and courageous Atheist
Mr. Reynolds was a traveling lecturer on
would do today.
We are here to honor C. B. Reynolds. It
Atheism. He had been given enough money
to purchase a tent so that he
has always been by the thin and
could go up and down the land
fragile thread of one man's courspeaking the truth about the
age that Atheism has been
IN MEMORY OF C. B. REYNOLDS
Bible and Judeo-Christian relipassed from one generation to
gion. He was a scholarly and
the next in the United States. We
At last we meet - in time - in space
peaceful man who wanted only to
don't know our heroes as yet And though this meeting (as it were) reflects alone in echoed words
liberate the minds of those ennot all of them - because their
Could we not know our paths would cross
slaved with religion. In his travels
dramas have not been written
- in memory's place
he came to New Jersey - and
large in the history of their times.
pitched his tent in Boonton on
We seek them out now, from
He spoke of god - at first - in youth
hidden crevices where the events
July 26, 1886.There the churches
But as he grew impassioned thoughts
immediately arrayed themselves
of their season had hidden them.
Began to fillhis eager mind
and the religious against him. He
From their strength has come
- then he found truth
our resolve that no longer willthe
remained three days, but on the
final night he was pelted with
ideas of Atheism rest on the
And we are one - in deed - in thought
efforts of a single brave person. I
eggs and vegetables,. the guy
As if we'd stood beside him in that tragic courtroom drama
am certain that C. B. Reynolds
ropes of his tent were cut, and
- while he fought
the canvas of it was slashed with
stood here, where we stand, as a
knives. Reynolds' single activity
lone Atheist in the midst of a
So here we are - just you - and me
was to attempt to aid the men,
Christian mob. Look around
No C. B. Reynolds here to lead our worried way
women, and children leave beyou, today. He is not alone any- to set us free
fore the tent collapsed upon
more. And, no Atheist ever need
them. When he could not be
to be alone again. If we accomInstead, a stone - some words - a Village Green
found in the remnants of the tent,
plish that much in our generaPerhaps to wipe away a borough's guilt
it was destroyed by the loving relition, we know that the future will
- from history's scene
gious mob. Reynolds was then
not alone be secure, but will
arrested and needed to give a
Gerald Tholen
belong - as it rightfully should $300 bond for his release.
to Atheism. ~
He was angry, and the sole

Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 35

THE PROBING MIND / Frank R. Zindler

OF ASTRO-NUTS
AND ARK-ONAUTS:
NOAH'S ARK IN THE SPACE AGE
n August 21, 1982, the Los Angeles
O
Times carried a report of one of the
most culturally embarrassing events of
modern times. The subject of the report was
the expedition of James Irwin - a man who
had walked upon the moon - to "Mt. Ararat." At the top of a volcano nearly 17,000
feet above sea level, this product of the flowering of American science and technology
expected to find the remains of a wooden
boat! Had he been looking for the remains of
a rowboat or a canoe, he would have been
locked in a soft cell. But since the boat in
question was supposed to be fifty percent
longer than a football field and over four
stories high, the press and electronic media
followed his every move and politely overlooked the fact that what was going on
would be judged insane by even the most
conservative criteria.
"Irwin's fundamentalist Christian expedition," The Los Angeles Times reported,
"was on the final leg of the climb to the
cratered summit of the peak in eastern Turkey when the former astronaut tripped and
felloff a cliff, injuring his legs and cutting his
forehead. Irwin walked on the moon in the
Apollo 15 mission in 1971, but ... [since
retirement] has devoted himself to religious
activities."
At about the same time, various newspapers reported how Irwin had slipped in a
snowfield at the 14,000-foot level, had fallen
about 100 feet, and had been rescued by a
Turkish military helicopter and flown to a
military hospital in Agri, 600 miles east of
Ankara. The Denver Post on August 20,
1982, reported that "Louise Matthews,
office administrator for the High Flight
Foundation, a Christian group founded by
astronaut James Irwin, ... [said that] Irwin's
motivation ... is to 'discover what he can for
himself, document it,' and use the information when dealing with 'non-believers.' " The
Post also revealed that Irwin had been climbing with Eryl Cummings, a New Mexico
Realtor and "ark expert."
According to the Denver paper, 'The
former astronaut is convinced the ruins he
seeks to inspect are authentic because of his

Page 36

consultations with Cummings - co-author


of Noah's Ark: Fact or Fable? - his own
research and biblical references to where
the ark landed." Cummings is also, we may
note, the husband of Violet Cummings,
author of the book Has Anybody Really
Seen Noah's Ark? - of which more anon.
On August 22, 1982, The Los Angeles
Times reported that "[Irwin] said the expedition members prayed every day. There
were many times we were greatly inspired. I
felt that we actually should find the Ark,' he
said, 'but now I don't know.' "
Although astronaut Irwin is not likely to be
caught again looking for boats on mountaintops - he presently is involved in a diving
expedition to the bottom of the Red Sea, in
quest of Pharaoh's chariots and other
memorabilia left over from Moses' sally
across the seabed! - a lot of other Biblebelievers are. Between January 1 and April
28, 1985, seventy-three persons had applied
to the Turkish government for permission to
climb Aghri Dagh - the volcano advertised
by enterprising Armenians as being the biblical Mt. Ararat. Of these seventy-three persons, only five were not Americans! If the
Guinness Book of World Records ever adds
a category for the nation with the greatest
per capita number of religious nuts, the United States willwin the dubious honor with no
runner-up closer than a light-year behind.
Why do superficially sane people go looking for boats on mountaintops? Why has
space-satellite technology been used to
search for a wooden ship on the flanks of a
quiescent volcano? Why is eastern Turkey
now a Mecca for American ship-searchers
shunning the seashore? Why are there more
mountain boat-hunters than mountain goathunters? The immediate reason, of course,
is to be found in the story of Noah's flood, in
chapters 6-10 of the supposedly inerrant
book of Genesis (completed ca. 500-400
B.C.). But the reason behind that reason is
to be found in the much older "Tale of
Utnapishtim," part of the Gilgamesh Epic,
an ancient Babylonian cuneiform poem
probably composed in the twentieth century
B.C. This Babylonian myth contains all the

July 1986

major elements of the Genesis flood-myth:


Utnapishtim (the Babylonian archetype of
Noah) even sends out a raven and a dove to
check out the condition of the world, and
after the grounding of his boat on "Mt.
Nisir," Utnapishtim -like Noah - offers up
a sacrifice.
Why A Blue Sky?
The writers of Genesis derived their cosmology from the same Near Eastern store of
folklore as did the Babylonians, Sumerians,
and Hittites. Thus, in chapter one of Genesis
the sky is represented as being a great,
inverted bowl - the "firmament" (Heb.
raqia', from the root raqa' having the core
meaning of "to beat, strike, spread out by
beating"; a cognate word, riqqu'im, means
"thin plates"). The Hebrew word used
makes it clear that the "firmament" is not an
"expanse" - as certain modern translations
would have fundamentalists believe: The
firmament is firm. Above the firmament is
water. Below the firmament, as though
trapped under an air bubble in an inverted
glass held under water, is the flat earth with
its land and perimeter ocean. When the
ancient Jews looked upward, through the
supposedly clear firmament, they thought
they could see "waters above the firmament." Since water is blue, the sky is blue
too - because of the water above it!
Why is the firmament firm? It has to be
firm - not only to support the great weight
of water above it, but also to serve as a
support for the sun, moon, and stars, which
are attached to its underside. This firmament, be it noted, has windows piercing it,
according to Genesis 7:11. When the windows were opened, water from above the
firmament came down and drowned the
earth in Noah's flood!
The people who invented the flood myth
didn't know the earth was round. So they
didn't realize the problems inherent in saying that so much water came down that it
covered the highest mountain peaks on
earth. Mt. Everest's peak is over five miles
above sea level! Where can one get enough

American Atheist .

water to flood the earth with a shell of water


five miles thick? If all the moisture in the
atmosphere condensed, it would only raise
sea level a couple of inches. Melt all the ice
caps and glaciers, at most it would raise sea
level several hundred feet. So there isn't
enough water. But that's only part of the
problem.
Imagine that the earth were covered with
a shell of water five miles deep. How would
the water "recede"? It couldn't evaporate
into space. Could it disappear by the mechanism shown in figure I?

Figure 1. "And God remembered


Noah
and God made a wind to pass
over the earth, and the waters assuaged;
_. _And the waters returned from off the
earth continually ... " [Genesis 8:1-3].

Figure 2. Noah saving the dinosaurs


for extinction.

Austin, Texas

For the twentieth century B.C., the universe model just described is excusable. But
what must we think of the case several years
ago when American astronauts were on a
Christmas trip around the moon for the first
time in the history of the solar system? Following a script written by NASA in cooperation with some still unidentified religionist, at
a certain carefully calculated time, the
astronauts were seized by "a sudden spontaneous sense of religious awe." Just happening to have a Bible on board, they took it
out and started to broadcast the thoughts of
the twentieth century B.C. to the world of
the twentieth century A.D.! Their college
educations apparently hadn't improved
their ability to think very much, for at the
precise moment when - according to the
Bible - they should have been crashing into
the firmament, they started to read about
Jehovah setting the sun and moon into the
firmament like jelly beans in frosting. It never
occurred to them that they themselves were
enacting the most dramatic disproof of
Genesis ever devised by the human race!
Nowadays even the vast majority of creationists realize that the earth is round, even if
a sizeable minority of them do believe that
the sun goes around the earth. In order to
save the firmament - and the imagined
scriptural inerrancy that hangs along with
the sun and moon upon the integrity of that
celestial dome - and to solve the double
problem of where the water came from and
where it went, these intrepid defenders of
the Faith of Babylon have decided that
before the Great Flood most of the earth's
water was suspended in a vapor canopy high
above the earth's surface.
The "firmament" was the vapor canopy "like you have on Venus today," a Columbus creationist told me recently. The collapse of the canopy in 2348 B.C. (the date of
Noah's Flood, according to the marginal
note in my King James Bible) and the breaking up of the "fountains of the deep" then
wiped out the wicked of the world. The surface of the earth was practically flat at the
time, diluvialists claim, and easily flooded.
This is fortunate, since ifMt. Everest existed
at the time of the canopy, it would have
punctured it - Mt. Everest being over five
miles high, and the canopy being only four
miles above sea level, according to the calculations of flood expert Joseph Dillow.1
Now of course the creationists assert that
Mt. Everest (and all other high mountains)
was only a low hill at the time of the flood. It
rose to its present height after the flood. Of
course, if this were true, there would be
geological evidence of the fact. But there

lThe Waters Above: Earth's Pre-Flood


Vapor Canopy, (Chicago: Moody, 1981), p.
239.

July 1986

exists neither geological evidence nor any


Nepalese folk tradition to suggest that the
mountain ever was significantly smaller in
the past. If Mt. Everest had been a mere hill
in 2348 B.C., Nepalese folk-tales should
begin with the phrase, "When I was just a
boy and the mountains were much smaller ... "!
The vapor canopy calculations I have
seen suffer from another defect: They only
allow for the equivalent of a water shell
about four feet thick to be suspended. Since
Aghri Dagh (the mountain which the Armenians came to identify as Mt. Ararat no
earlier than the A.D. 11th or 12th century-) is
almost 17,000 feet high, the canopy would
have to have contained more than a threemile thickness of water to cover it! (Since
Aqhri Dagh is a volcano, it could not have
increased significantly in height since the
flood except by volcanic eruption. If eruptions have increased its height since the
flood, mountain-boat hunters should be
tunnelling the mountain, not climbing it, in
their quest for charred remains!)
Of course the suspension of so much
water would have increased the atmospheric pressure in the Garden of Eden to levels
comparable to those at the bottom of the
ocean, and shut out all light from the earth's
surface. (No wonder there were no rainbows before the flood!) An amusing sidelight
on the creationist idea that the earth's vapor
canopy was "like you have on Venus today,"
is the fact that the cloud canopy on Venus is
possible (at least in part) because the surface temperature of the planet is above the
melting point of lead. Applying the Venus
analogy to the antediluvian Earth, we would
find the Garden of Eden - quite literally to have been hotter than hell!
Even ifwe allow for the magical creation of
the water needed to drown the innocent
babies of Noah's world, and even if we allow
for still more magic to remove the threemile-thick aqueous shell, the diluvialists are
still in trouble. Since Noah was commanded
to take two of each "kind" of unclean animal
on the Ark, and since there is no biblical
reason to suppose the dinosaurs went
extinct before the flood, Noah had to take
the dinosaurs (as well as all other extinct
species) in the Ark (Figure 2).
Pity the poor creationists! This is only a
small part of their problem. Since they maintain that all the layers of sedimentary rock in
the world were deposited during the single
year of Noah's flood, it follows that the
"waters" on the earth would have been more
mud than water. All filter-feeding aquatic
animals (such as whales and clams) would
have become hopelessly clogged up and

2L1oyd R. Bailey, Where Is Noah's Ark?


(Nashville: Abingdon, 1978), p. 39.

Page 37

would have starved - or suffocated. As a


matter of fact, all aquatic life would have
perished, for reasons the reader can quickly
deduce. So most of the Ark must have been
filled with fresh- and salt-water aquaria (and
bellows-driven aerators?), and enormous
amounts of plankton and other foods must
have been laded into the wooden boat along
with the whales and molluscs.
Termites In The Ark!
A particularly puzzling problem for Noah
must have been the problem of what to do
with the anteaters. Contrary to their name,
the favorite food of anteaters is termites. If
Noah was allowed to take only two of every
unclean animal on the Ark, how is it that we
still have both ants (or termites) and anteaters? Assuming the anteaters ate3 during
the months they were in the Ark, how many
species of ants and termites went extinct
during that time? Later, when the ants and
their eaters got off the boat in Turkey, how
did the ants outrace the anteaters to South
America? How many species per "Zot!"
were extincted before everybody settled
down in Brazil? Calculating backwards,
were ninety-seven or ninety-eight percent of
all species on the Ark varieties of ants and
termites? If the purpose of Noah's Ark was
to save animal species, how could anything
become extinct inside it? Would Noah really
have been dumb enough to take termites
inside a wooden boat? Wouldn't a really wise
man have sent them Federal Express?
Not only did the Ark have to support all
the aquatic and terrestrial animals (and
plants!) during the flood year, it had to support itself. It is a well-known principle in
engineering that although the strength of a
beam increases as the square of the diameter, the weight of the beam increases as the
cube of the diamenter. Being made of
"gopher wood," not steel, a significant portion of the boat's volume would have to have
been filledwith support beams and braces to
keep the structure from collapsing under its
own weight. By the time the Ark was filled
with braces and whale-sized aquaria, there
would have been little space left for dinosaurs, mammals, termites, and diseases.
Yes, diseases.
Although the writers of Genesis, like the
author of the Utnapishtim story, did not
know it, many diseases are themselves living
things. If it is true that evolution is impossible, it is obvious that Noah had to have taken

all infectious diseases (including half a million species of parasitic worms) along with
the crew on his plague-ship, since most diseases can't even survive on toilet seats -let
alone in world-destroying floods. The rats
had fleas, and the fleas carried plague. Shem
had shigellosis and shingles, Ham had hepatitis, and Japheth had Japanese river fever.
Noah's need to take diseases on the "holy
ark" must have caused enormous consternation among his seven companions. What
must they have said when Noah - described in Genesis 6:9 as "a just man and
perfect in his generations" - assigned one
of them to get gonorrhea, one to seduce a
syphilitic, and one to acquire AIDS? It is a
pity that the Bible does not record how and
by whom kuru was carried. Kuru is a mysterious disease transmitted only by cannibalizing the brain of someone else who dies of the
disease. Even greater is the pity that the
good book does not tell us how this disease
was transmitted in the Garden of Eden.
When the flood ended (James Irwin and
Eryl and Violet Cummings apparently believe), Noah and his crew debarked from the
Ark onto a recently erupted volcano 17,000 feet above the surface of the sea.
(The volcano must have formed only a day
or two before the grounding of the Ark,
since all the layers of sedimentary rocks had
to be deposited beneath the volcano, and
that must have required most of the flood
year.) From the highest point in Turkey,
whales had to belly flop their way back to the
foodless sea, fresh water angelfish had to get
to the Amazon basin, and the kiwi (which
can neither fly nor swim) had to get to New
Zealand.
But what of the dinosaurs and other
extinct animals? Perhaps they slipped and
fell farther down the mountain than Astronaut Irwin did. Or in their hurry to escape
the stench of Noah's ill-ventilated floating
outhouse, they might have jumped off the
Ark onto the still hot lava of which the boat
dock was constructed. Whether the dinosaurs went extinct by falling off cliffs or by
breaking through the crusts of fresh lava
flows, it seems odd of god to have made
Noah use up so much space in the Ark just
to save animals for extinction.
Despite all of these problems, millions of
people still believe there is a boat to be found
on the top of Mt. Ararat. The credulity of
these people is little short of astonishing, as
the following story shows.
April Fool!

3Genesis says that the animals came off the


ark in families, implying that Noah captained
the first-known "Love Boat." The animals
were not in a state of "suspended animation," as some biblically ignorant creationists have suggested.

Page 38

We noted earlier that astronaut Irwin got


much of his "evidence" about Noah's Ark
from "consultations" with Eryl Cummings
- who was with Irwin on Ararat during the
ill-fated 1982 expedition. The reader will
remember that Cummings's wife, Violet, is
also an "expert" on Noah's Ark, being the

July 1986

author of the book Has Anybody Really


Seen Noah's Ark? (Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, CA, 1982). But where, we
may inquire, did these advisors of astronauts get their information? How carefully
and critically did they check their "facts"?
How reliable is the information they pass on
to astronauts and others?
A surprisingly realistic answer to this
question can be gained by a careful reading
of Violet Cummings's book, especially the
chapter titled "A Well-Planned 'Hoax' - Or
an 'April Fool's' Joke?" In a very matter-offact way, Mrs. Cummings recounts how she,
her husband, and their daughter Phyllis
Watson were taken in by an April Fool's
joke. While her simple and straightforward
honesty is a refreshing contrast to the style
one has come to expect in Creation-Life
publications, it is actually embarrassing to
read her description of the naivete, Brooklyn Bridge-buying gullibility, and fatuous
credulity which allowed her, along with her
husband, her daughter, and other "ark
experts, to be taken in by a hilariously funny
April Fool's joke.
The story began about ten years before
James Irwin fell off a cliffand made the United States the laughingstock of the civilized
world. As Violet Cummings tells it, the story
is a bit confused and difficult to reconstruct
precisely. It began, she says, with the telephone ringing in her Farmington, New Mexico, home. Her husband, Eryl, was being
called by Dr. Charles Willis,a physician from
Fresno, California. After a long conversation, the doctor told Cummings, "I have in
my possession actual photos of the Ark."
The photos, it turned out, were illustrations
accompanying a Russian language article
which had been published in the early 1930s
in a "White Russian refugee publication"
called Mech Gedeona (The Sword of Gideon). (Gedeona is consistently misspelled
Gedona in Mrs. Cummings's chapter.) The
anonymous former editor of Mech Gedeona
was now an emeritus pastor of a prominent
San Francisco Bay area church, and he had
shown the pictures to Dr. Willis.
Where had the editor of Mech Gedeona
gotten the pictures and story? He had
adapted the story from an earlier photostory which had appeared in Rubez, a different White Russian refugee publication.
(As a Russian word, rubez means nothing,
as far as I can tell; if the word intended were
rubezh, it would mean "battle-line" or "frontier"; rubets, another possibility, would
mean "scar" or, more appropriately,
"tripe.")
Rubez, according to Violet Cummings,
had picked up the story and translated it
"from a German feature story published in
the Kolnische Illustrierte Zeitung on April 1,
1933." At this point, anyone except a fundamentalist would have started to laugh. But
fundamentalists characteristically are utter-

American Atheist

ly bereft of a sense of humor: April 1 is just as


good a day for divine revelation as any other
day. After the editor of Mech Gedeona saw
the German article with its photos of explorers, native guides, and the great-granddaddy of all the mountain boats itself, Mrs.
Cummings tells us:
In all good faith the editor, a Christian minister and physician, thanked
God for the verification of the Bible
and used the story for Mech Gedona
[sic]. He was completely unaware that
on April 8, 1933, a week after its original publication, an editorial had appeared in the same German newspaper confessing that the entire story
of the "discovery" had been a huge
joke - a "hoax" perpetrated upon the
unsuspecting German public as part
of their annual "All Fool's Day" ...
celebration [Cummings, p. 172].
It appears that the first printed version of
this story seen by "arkologist" (his term)
Eryl Cummings was the Russian language
Mech version. Consequently, there was
some difficulty in transliterating names from
the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet. The
Cummings had to try to get in touch with
any survivors of the expedition, since they
were making final plans for their own 1973
expedition to Turkey. The names of the
archeologists in charge appeared to be
either Stonehouse, Stoness, or Stoneass, on
one hand, and Meade or Mud on the other.
Harvard, Yale, the Smithsonian, the Royal
Geographical Society of London - and a
long list of other likely institutions - were
queried about the supposed archeologists,
but none of the authorities had ever heard of
them or their expedition.
"At this juncture," Violet Cummings tells
us, "those involved in the exhaustive and
meticulous analysis of the photos began to
harbor a slight suspicion of a hoax." Presumably, it was only the photoanalysts (who
noticed that flints were missing from all the
flintlock weapons in the 1933 pictures) who
felt any flutter of doubt. The rest of the soonto-be advisors of astronauts continued their
quest all the more intensely.
Just how strong their predisposition to
believe was can be appreciated only after
one discovers that it was just two days after
Cummings got the Russian pictures, that he
received a letter from John Bradley - president of another boat-hunting outfit, the
SEARCH Foundation - revealing that
Bradley had tracked down the original German article with, we must assume, the correct spellings of the names of the alleged
participants. Since Mrs. Cummings cites a
number of obviously incorrect dates in her
"April Fool Chapter," it is difficult to know
for certain who knew what when. Even so, it
seems clear that quite early on, Eryl, Violet,

Austin, Texas

and their daughter Phyllis knew the "correct" spellings of the outrageous names in
question: Stoneass, Mud, and Mrs. Putrid
Lousey.
By April 4, 1972 - exactly four
months to the day after he had given
what he sincerely believed at that time
to be the photos of Noah's Ark to Eryl
Cummings - even Dr. Willis was
beginning to entertain certain suspicions of his own. "The Stoneass story
might be a hoax, but time willtell," he
declared [Cummings, p. 175].
By May 11, 1972, another SEARCH
"scientist" wrote to them saying, "As I mentioned earlier, the names given the expedition leader and sponsor (Stoneass, Mud,
and Putrid Lousey), as well as the nonresponse of Yale University make me suspect that this may all be a great hoax."
Study of the original German article now
revealed a lot of new "facts."
"Professor Stoneass," it turned out, was
"an American archaeologist from the Royal
Yalevard University,
Massachusetts,
U.S.A., and an exchange professor to the
French Academy." His financial backing
came from one Mrs. Putrid Lousey, the
wealthy "widow of the American sugar
king."
After a thorough search of Massachusetts
and New England, the Cummings concluded sadly, "It [the Royal Yalevard University],
as well as 'Stoneass' and 'Mud' appeared to
be nonexistent." Did this end the search? Of
course not. The Cummings carried it to
Turkey!
During the course of this further
investigation, Dr. Lawrence Hewitt, in
Turkey, even queried his native Turkish guide - who spoke fluent English
- about the "Stoneass" discovery
and the "Yalevard University." The
guide immediately professed familiarity with the "Yalevard University" and
claimed to have had an English professor in the University of Ankara who
was from the "University of Yalevard," this time in London [Cummings, p. 176].
Of course, this meant that the Cummings
had to carry their search to London! After
the London search turned up no Yalevard
University (and no British Massachussetts,
either, we may assume), daughter Phyllis
noted the April 1 date. Could it be an April
Fool's joke? She had to check with a German friend to see if April 1 has the same
significance in Germany as in America. After
learning that it does, mother Violet wrote,
"The puzzle had been partially solved."
Once more ... the overruling hand

July 1986

of Providence was clearly seen, for


when Phyllis called her parents (Eryl
and Violet Cummings) to break the
news, it was learned that her discovery had been made in the nick of time.
The sponsors were preparing to reproduce 150,000 copies of the "Stoneass"
discovery for worldwide circulation,
hoping to locate members of the 1933
expedition ... [Cummings, p. 181].
Finally, one of the publishers of the German newspaper was located, and on July 19,
1973, he sent the Cummings a photocopy of
the April 8, 1933, editorial explaining the
hoax. "Here again the hand of God can be
seen," Mrs. Cummings writes, "for, incredibly . . . the records had not been totally
destroyed." Of course, this still was not the
end of the affair. The diluvialist crusaders
still had to find "proof of the authenticity of
the hoax." After obtaining the German confession of the hoax, Mrs. Cummings notes,
"with increased acceleration the final exciting phases of the investigation began moving
rapidly into place." Between 1972, "when
the first doubts surfaced, until the successful
conclusion of the investigation in 1974,"
some three hundred letters were exchanged
between the Cummings and their far-flung
correspondents. Exactly when they stopped
looking for the Royal Yalevard University is
uncertain, but Mrs. Cummings confides to
her readers, "Note: To this day [1982] the
existence of such an institution has never
been confirmed."
Arkologists possess, I believe, a degree of
credulity unequalled by any other group of
self-deceivers. That being the case, it is
indeed fortunate that I own the leasing rights
for the Brooklyn Bridge. After convincing
them that I am actually a born-again bibliolatrist, and that my articles in the American
Atheist are merely reprints of articles I originally published in Moody's Hebdomadal
Harbinger in the 1890s, I should be able to
convince them that they can raise money for
their next expedition if they sublease the
bridge from me and set up toll booths. While
we're at it, maybe their friends in NASA
would be interested in subleasing the Golden Gate from me, to help compensate for
recent cuts in the space budget. 00
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 Atheists.
Page 39

REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty

LIBERALISM LOSES OUT?


Malmoona Khanam, a Muslim and a
Dr.lecturer
in Urdu and Persian in a

college in this state, was married in 1970,


bore two sons, and then suddenly found
herself divorced on the ground that she was
an Atheist. Her husband had consulted a
mullah at a well-known center of Islamic
studies in another state and had been
advised that Islam does not allow a man to
remain married to an Atheist. He was
granted a divorce decree without anyone
caring to ascertain her views on the matter.
Madina Mulla of Poona, twenty-four years
of age and also a Muslim, has already gone
through three marriages and is now destitute. Her first husband deserted her within
three weeks of marriage, but she bore him a
daughter and was maintained by her brother
who got her married a second time. But this
time her mother-in-law mistreated her,
saying all she'd brought in her dower was
another man's daughter, an extra mouth to
feed. She bore the second man a son and
then discovered that he intended to sell her.
With two children to support, she returned to her brother's home. His wife,
however, now objected to the extra burden,
so she was married a third time. This man, a
drunkard and gambler, beat her often and
never gave her enough to run the home. He
harassed her and made her sit up all night
beside him, pressing his legs. Her mother
finally took her back. She now supports
herself as a domestic servant. Her two
children have been placed in an orphanage.
I have taken these two case histories from
a report in the Times of India dated February
22. They were among other stories narrated
by a group of divorced Muslim women
brought to Delhi by a woman's anti-dowry
organization and by the Poona-based Muslim reformist group, the Muslim Satyashodhak MandaI. They were in the capital to
present memorandums to the President and
Prime Minister urging that the scope of
existing secular laws be extended to include
Muslim women, without reference to the
Shariat or to private religious courts set up
by the All-IndiaMuslim Personal Law Board.
Their protest coincides with the introduction
of a bill in Parliament called The Muslim
Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce)
Bill, 1986. It is opposed not only by liberals
within the Muslim community and many
Muslim women victimized by religious laws,
but by some members of RajivGandhi's own

Page 40

party. This morning's paper (February 26,


1986) reports the resignation of a Muslim
minister from his Council of Ministers. He
has quit, he says, because the legislation
contemplated by the government goes
against the spirit of the Supreme Court's
judgement in the much-publicized Shah
Bano Case of which Iwrote earlier ("Stirring
A Hornet's Nest?" January 1986, Vol. 28,
No.1).
My purpose in writing this piece is to
demonstrate just how bigotry bedevils the
simplest issues in this country. The question
is one of human rights, but fundamentalist
leaders within the Muslim community have
wasted no time in acting. The bill, Mr.
Gandhi declares, is actually a boon to
Muslim women. He betrays a certain naivete
here. In reality he has been forced to opt for
a path of least resistance to placate fundamentalist sentiment, or run the risk of losing
the support of the vast Muslim voting block.
The Supreme Court had held that a
divorced Muslim woman, unable to support
herself, could claim alimony from her former
husband. This sparked off nationwide
demonstrations with Muslims marching in
numbers and denouncing
what they
regarded as an interference in their religion.
Some burned effigies of the Supreme Court
judge.
The present bill declares that a Muslim
divorced woman willbe entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance
within the iddat period of three months
stipulated by the Shariat. Maintenance of
any children born from the marriage might
be extended to two years from the date of
birth of a child. She will get back whatever
she brought by way of dower at the time of
marriage. These clauses are clearly to
placate orthodox opinion.
Thereafter, a husband's obligation is over.
A divorced wife, ifunable to maintain herself,
must be looked after by her relatives. If she
has none, or they are too poor to maintain
her, then the magistrate may order that she
be maintained by a special board of the
state.
Shah Bano, the elderly woman who was
divorced after forty-three years of marriage
and who had the temerity to fight for ten
years to get the court to order her rich
lawyer husband to pay her alimony of 500
rupees a month, has initiated a major
upheaval in her community the significance

July 1986

of which she herself willnever comprehend.


She has been reviled and threatened by her
devout neighbours, and others were instigated to stone her house. She had to ask for
police protection. Intimidated by maulanas
and mullahs of the faith, she finally backed
down on her claim declaring that Islamic law
must remain supreme.
There are probably as many Muslim
women as men who denounce the Supreme
Court judgement, even though it offers them
a way out of unjust mediaeval religious
sanctions. Rumor soon spread that Shah
Bano had been inspired by Hindus who want
to destroy the Muslim faith. An angry woman
teacher in a backward region of Uttar
Pradesh declared, "Once we are divorced
and the man has met his obligations of mehr
(dower), he becomes ghair (a stranger) for
us. We must observe Purdah from him, and
his money is haram (obnoxious and sinful)."
A colleague endorsed this benighted sentiment by declaring, "We will resist this
decision even if that means we nave to
become shaheeds (martyrs)."
The cry raised by the men is "Shariat
Bachao!" ("Save the Shariat!"), and if it can
be done at the cost of denying women
dignity and justice, there is nothing to prevent it. The Koran clearly states they are an
inferior lot. "Men are superior to women on
account of the qualities with which God hath
gifted the one above the other, and on
account of the outlay they make from their
substance. Virtuous women are obedient,
careful during the husband's absence, because God hath of them been careful. But
chide those whose refractoriness ye have
cause to fear; remove them into beds apart,
and scourge them. But if they are obedient
to you, then seek not occasion against
them."
The community stands divided vertically,
the bigoted against a liberal minority. Orthodoxy remains unaffected even by the veneer
of education. Dr. Sharifunnisa Ansari, professor and head of the department of Persian
studies of Hyderabad's prestigious Osmania
University declares, "I have travelled to
more than ten countries mainly in the Arab
world and discovered that no self-respecting
woman receives money from the man who
divorces her. The Shariat is clear about this
and according to some rumors Shah Bano
was taken to court by interested Hindus
who want a uniform civil code in the

American Atheist

country."
It might seem ironical that a move to
evolve just laws inspired by common sense
and reason has been tranformed into a
monstrous bogey to exacerbate communal
hatred. But this is how religions operate in
this country. "For the Muslims today," said
one bigot, "the imminent danger is to their
culture and identity."
Dr. Taher Mehmood of Delhi University,
an authority on Muslim history and law in
India, says "If you look at it from the eyes of
the Muslim, he is saying: You have already
taken away everything else that was so
valuable to my faith. Now I will not let you
take away the last of my valuable possessions - my personal law." And yet threequarters of it has already been replaced by a
uniform criminal law, without any identity

crisis evident!
Fundamentalists and politicians have all
jumped on the bandwagon to endorse the
cry that Islam is in grave danger. They have
hustled Rajiv Gandhi into introducing the
present bill into Parliament. Its fate will be
decided in the coming weeks.
Liberal opinion in the community speaks
with the voice of sanity. Shahid Siddiqui,
editor of a leading Urdu weekly, said "Every
small town mau/ana has become a leader
now with narrow objectives and narrow
interest. If the controversy is not resolved
quickly, these people willtake the cornmunity behind by two to three decades."
The ultimate lesson to be learned is a
familiar one - only women can change their
status through an educated awareness and a
refusal to be victimized for any reason

whatsoever, even if it is embedded in holy


writ propagated by men to serve their own
ends. ~
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1978, your editors, assisted by


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

M~.,.IOLIR l~A~
1HOU -Al1lTllDf
1c:J BEGINNING

10 NA\J:?EA1'

ME ql
..

Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 41

HISTORICAL NOTES
70 Years Ago ...
The July 1916 edition of The Melting Pot
had "The Right of Free Speech Strangled in
St. Louis" as its main headline. Excerpts
from the article about Margaret Sanger (a
member of American Atheists before her
death) follow:
"The blood-bought right of free speech
was strangled in the city of St. Louis for one
night.
"The strangling was done by emissaries of
the ancient enemy of free speech, free
thought, or anything else that smells of
freedom to a pope's nose.
"It was done by the originators and operators of the Holy Inquisition, the inventors
and inflictors of the religious rites of rack and
torture, the thumbscrew and stake, the auto
da fe and flaying of heretics alive.
"It was done by the assassins of science
and knowledge, the foes of human progress.
"The following paragraph, taken from the
report of the outrage that appeared in the
press of Monday, May 22, tells the story of
the strangling:
Protests from Catholic priests and
laymen against Mrs. Margaret Sanger's scheduled lecture on birth control
tonight at the Victoria Theatre resulted today in the management's
announcement
that Mrs. Sanger
would not be permitted to speak in the
theater.
"Mrs. Sanger had been invited to come to
St. Louis and deliver her lecture on 'Birth
Control' by a number of the more advanced
thinkers and physicians of the city. The
Victoria Theatre had been engaged for the
occasion, the customary deposit had been
paid, and the management had made a legal
contract for the use of the theater. The
lecture had been widely advertised, hundreds of tickets had been sold among the
men and women of the highest thought and
noblest purposes of the city, the morning
papers of the day of the lecture had
published extensive interviews with Mrs.
Sanger regarding her message of birth limitation to the wives and mothers of the
workingclass, and no protest whatever from
any quarter had been heard.
"The Dark Age clericals cunningly waited
until the last minute to do their dirty work.
"And then they did it.
"Archbishop Glennon and his pack of
priests, Knights of Columbus and other
Roman Catholic agencies, sworn body and
soul to the Roman Hierarchy, commanded
that the management of the Victoria The-

Page 42

atre should dishonorably and illegallybreak


the contract and close the doors to Mrs.
Sanger, and the management of the Victoria
Theatre crawled on its knees to these subjects and servants of a foreign potentate,
and did their bidding.
"The evening papers of the day advertised
for Mrs. Sanger's lecture - published too
late to make possible any other arrangement
- were the first to announce Rome's victorious strangling of free speech in St. Louis.
"That night several thousand men and
women, many hoping that some legal means
had been found in 'free' America to defeat
the designs of the emissaries of a foreign
'divinely empowered' despot, gathered at
the locked doors of the Victoria Theatre.
Mrs. Sanger tried to say a few words on the
curb to the disappointed and outraged
assemblage, but a policeman on the spot,
ready to use his club when Rome pulled the
string, threatened her with arrest for blocking the street .... "

35 Years Ago ...


Founded in 1902 by W. Henry Davis, The
Hornet called itself "The Hottest Paper for
Free-thinkers in America." We found this
paragraph in its July 1951 issue:
" 'Should idiots be killed at birth?' asks a
clergyman. Well, since we cannot determine
that the baby is idiotic until he grows up, and
maybe starts to a theological seminary, we
must wait and watch him. When he starts
preaching then his state of idiocy can be the
better determined."

30 Years Ago ...


The Liberal, published from Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, had some good news to
announce in its July 1956 number:
"In last month's Liberal it was announced
that F.L.L. [Friendship Liberal League] had
decided to purchase a property for its headquarters to be known as the Thomas Paine
Memorial Center.' Shortly after, an appeal
letter was sent to everyone whose address
we had asking for contributions.
"The response has been generous. We
had a little more than $8,000 on hand to
apply on the purchase of a $20,000 building.
As of this date, June 18th, we now have
received an additional $1,602.50, bringing
the total of the fund to $10,002.50.
"Since the transfer of this title, etc., cannot
be accomplished for some weeks yet, we are
hoping that additional donations may accumulate enough to cover a cash purchase,
thus making it unnecessary to carry a mortgage debt. We are. very happy about the

July 1986

whole matter.
"But even more pleasing is the many
letters we have received from all over the
country from our readers and friends.
Without exception they express approval of
our efforts and promise continued support.
One longtime subscriber and associate
member of the League, Dr. P. J. Cerasoli, of
Brooklyn, N.Y., drove to Philadelphia to see
us. He was shown the property we are
negotiating for and was so pleased that he
made a contribution of $100 on the spot and
pledged four more donations of similar
amounts. He says he challenges all other
members and readers who are financially
able to do so, to match him, dollar for dollar.
"It is impossible to write letters of acknowledgement to all who contributed, we
cannot even write an individual reply to all
who wrote us word of praise and encouragement .... "

10 Years Ago ...


Jon G. Murray, president of American
Atheists, was always direct, as this excerpt
from his July 1976 editorial in the American
Atheist shows.
"We have come to the point in the history
of the struggle for freedom of the mind that
we stop kidding ourselves that parlor conferences can solve human problems any
more than the Bible can. A direct approach
is the only solution. Atheists must begin to
directly inform their fellow humans that are
still hooked on the opiate of religion: that
they are sick, mean, greedy, hypocritical,
and a score of other adjectives. If someone
has cancer, would one expect a physician to
look him in the eye and say 'Well now, son, I
think you're quite healthy. You just keep
right on smoking three packs a day and
everything is going to be fine'? Of course
not. By bowing to the irrational person you,
as an Atheist, are doing the very same thing
that sounds so absurd in a medical setting.
"Find a Christian today and tell him he is
sick. Convert him, if that term means anything, to healthy life philosophy. Christians
don't have a monopoly on morality. We too
can do 'the good work.' Ask a Christian
today, 'Do you really believe that your god
talks to you? What does he sound like? Is it a
male or a female voice? Does he speak in
your language or some other?' Make them
answer with a rational explanation for their
insanity. You will find out quickly that they
cannot. What you are doing is evidencing to
them that they are quite mad. As soon as
they come to a realization that this is the
case, they will drop their faith like the
proverbial hot potato."

American Atheist

AMERICAN A THEIST RADIO SERIES / Madalyn O'Hair

200 YEARS OF AMERICAN ATHEISM


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 No. 392, first broadcast on May 8,
1976.
onventions are taken for granted. As
C
typical American institutions, they are
popularly associated with the business, the
political, and the religious establishments.
When, therefore, a convention is held by
people who are frowned upon and indeed
are looked upon with suspicion and even
with hostility by the great monopolies of the
business, political, and religious communities, then such a convention is definitely a
landmark and something of an achievement.
Those participating should consider themselves the participators of a gathering which
has the capacity, and the courage, to uphold
principles that are unpopular, but that,
nevertheless, they consider worth proclaiming. When such principles are the fundamental by-products of rational conclusions,
they should be upheld with pride by all those
who have come to accept them as necessary
to a rational, unprejudiced, and just society.
Until recently, a convention of American
Atheists would have been an inconceivable
event. Now, we have had our sixth. The fact
that such conventions are now permitted
without overt hostility against them is a step
forward in the long and arduous path of
freedom of expression and liberty of thought.
American Atheist conventions are important since they are specific demonstrations
of the concrete progress of a principle.
The Sixth Annual National American
Atheist Convention was held in April 1976in
the Sheraton Hotel in New York City, New
York. It was well-attended, specifically
programmed, and by all counts extremely
successful. During the next several weeks, I
want to acquaint you with the speeches
which were given there.
The first was given by Jon Garth Murray,
Secretary of the Society of Separationists,
Ine., and has to do with:
200 Years Of American Atheism
Speech delivered by Jon Murray,
Secretary of the Society of Separationists, Inc., the 10th of April 1976, at the

Austin, Texas

Sheraton Hotel, New York City.


Our nation is currently involved in
the celebration of its bicentennial and,
surely, as you have seen the array of
its heroes paraded before us in a
veritable orgy of national pride, you
must have wondered ifthere was not,
at least, one Atheist among them.
We are reminded almost daily that
this is a Christian nation and that it
was founded as such. That neither
statement is true does not deter the
religious community from asserting
them.
President Ford has designated a
national day of prayer, and the Bicentennial Committee a week to observe
religion's contribution to our nation. I
do not feel it inappropriate, therefore,
that we take a quarter hour here
today to honor our heroes.
The American Atheists in our history have never been identified as
such because these great materialists
have been involved in the most intangible of all things - ideas.
Indeed, as we talk of freedoms
today, and identify Gay Lib, or Black
Lib, or Women's Lib, or even Kid's
Lib, we do not hear of the ultimate
liberation - "Freedom of the Mind."
And it was often under the euphemism of "free-thinking," of "freethought," that these people tried to
make their contributions.
It began early, as our founding
fathers themselves repudiated Christianity and opted for Deism - Nature
and Nature's god - a precursor to
the full-blown Atheism of our day.
And the American Atheist has
never been a rationalizer - despising
philosophy, disdaining it as an "apology for religion," he has not steeped
himself in nor followed Nietzsche,
Hobbs, Hegel, or Feuerbach. Instead,
he has stood where the action is.

July 1986

What was freedom of speech if not


the freedom to say something. And
the American Atheist took to his
soapbox, or to his pen, or to the
speaking podium, to right the wrongs
he saw in our culture.
There were no secular schools in
the beginning colonies - so Girard
financed and founded one, stipulating
in his will that no clergyman should
ever be permitted to set foot on the
grounds of Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
There was no place to collect and
display for study the spectrum of
nature, and so Smithson financed and
founded the Smithsonian Institute.
There was no way to study the vault
of the universe, and so Lick financed
and founded the Lick Observatory.
And William Haywood, Joe Hill,
and Ralph Chaplin fought for and won
in Spokane, Washington, in Fresno
and San Diego, California, the right to
demand improved working conditions, reduced hours, and better
wages.
Eugene V. Debs determined to
make insurance available to an average man.
And Clarence Darrow brought us
Workmen's Compensation and Unemployment Benefits.
E. Haldeman-Julius decided that
any book should be available to
anyone, cheaply, and he founded the
paperback book industry.
And Ernest Haeckel coined the
word ecology and began the movement for conservation of the world's
natural resources.
Florence Nightingale taught us the
compassion of nursing care.
And Charles Dunant built up the
concept of the Red Cross as a relief
agency for people caught in the catastrophe of wars, of natural upheavals.
They were Atheists, all:

Page 43

Mark Twain, who introduced laughter into literature;


Thomas Alva Edison, who founded
the base of our American technology
in his harnessing of electricity in the
common light bulb - in his development of recording sound - in the
beginning of cinematography;
Henry Ford, who conceived of the
production line;
Luther Burbank, America's greatest horticulturist;
And even Honest Abe Lincoln, our
most beloved president.
An entire army of American Atheists gave us what freedom from censorship we have - they went to jail in
numbers for our right to freedom of
speech. Beginning with D. G. M. Bennett, they fought through imprisonments and legal harassments, against
the notorious Comstock laws, still
imposed against us today.
There were no schools to commingle Blacks and Whites, so Francis
Wright founded and financed the first
of them, and she hit the lecture circuits over one hundred fiftyyears ago

to fight for the rights of women to air


their views.
We have a proud heritage - for
without Moses Harman, there could
be no recognition of common law
marriages.
Without Margaret Sanger there
would have been no birth control
clinics.
Without Jane Addams, and Hull
House, there would have been no settlement houses, no in-ghetto servicing
of the poor -perhaps no social work
concepts.
They were Atheist, all.
The abolitionists, almost to a man,
were American Atheists.
And every woman involved in the
first struggles for Suffrage (we now
call this Women's Lib) was an Atheist.
No one today stands as tall as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, foremost in this
fight. The movement was set back
one hundred years when Christian
women gained control of it - and
even today E.R.A. (the Equal Rights
Amendment) is not a reality.
Who can forget our very own

Colonel Robert Ingersoll?


Individual Freedom.
Individual Rights.
Freedom of Speech.
Freedom of Conscience.
These have been our battlegrounds.
This is where we have shown just how
much we have cared.
The rights of human sexuality the right, even now, of the use and
control of our own bodies, lately being
approached, come from the basis of
the earlier rights won by our own.
They all contributed as individuals,
freewheeling, unattached. And we
have all of American history upon
which to draw, with their places in that
panorama.
Now, we need to reach out and
grow. We have something now - a
good, stable, viable organization with
educated and dedicated leadership.
We have the examples of prior Atheists and their contributions to all
mankind.
We have a place to put our feet, and
like Archimedes, now, there is no reason we cannot lift the world. ~

/
1 CAN'T

WHY MY PARACHUTE

UNDERSTAND

DOES NOT OPEN", I GO TO CHURCH AND PRAY


EVERY SUNDAY!

'\

(~

-;

,/

r '

'UI?

AND I CAN'T FI6URE

OUT WHY THE GAS FURNACE)


WHICH 1 WAS LIGHTING.) EXPLODED
",1 PRAISE THE LORD EVERY DAY!

Page 44

July 1986

American Atheist

BOOK REVIEW
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Boston, Massachusetts
Houghton MifflinCompany
311 pages, $16.95, Hardback
Margaret Atwood's futurist
Thefable,seedsTheofHandmaid's
Tale - which
appears to be set at the turn of the next
century, about fifteen or twenty years from
now - are today already planted and
sprouting: the growing militancy of rightwing religious fundamentalists; pandemic
pollution of food chains, water, soil, and the
air itself by radiation and toxic wastes;
sexually-transmitted incurable diseases; decline in the white birth rate and growth in the
non-white birth rate; and in a time of mediahyped urban crime and terrorism, an apparent willingness of many Americans to
sacrifice their personal liberties in the hope
of greater security.
Atwood, a Canadian, has looked askance
at her neighbor to the south, stirred all these
elements into her imagination, and come up
with a witty and chilling study of the United
States as it might exist in the dreams of Jerry
Falwell, Ed Meese, Phyllis Schlafly, or
Ronald Reagan.
Of course it's not the United States any
more, but the Republic of Gilead. Christian
fundamentalists, aided by elements of the
military, in one bloody attack have slain the
President, machine-gunned the Congress,
and blamed it all on "Islamic fanatics." The
public, torpid before its television sets,
waited for instructions while the Constitution was "temporarily" suspended. "Things
continued in that state of suspended animation for weeks," Atwood writes, "although
some things did happen .... The roadblocks
began to appear, and Identipasses. Everyone approved of that, since it was obvious
you couldn't be too careful."
Now Gilead is a fundamentalist, white,
Christian theocracy. Birth control, adultery,
abortion, homosexuality, and even "unchastity" are punished by hanging. Funerals
are held for miscarriages (with a black jar
instead of a casket, ifthe embryo is less than
three months along). Blacks are being
resettled in "homelands" in what used to be
North Dakota, and Jews are given the
choice of conversion or emigration (though
the government turns a blind eye if a profithungry ship's captain well out to sea simply
throws the refugees overboard to drown).
Women are forbidden to read or to write (a
hand is cut off, at the third conviction), and
exist only to bear children and serve their

households.
At the top are the Commanders of the
Faithful, the ruling elite, and their Wives
(always with a capital W), dressed in light
blue. Because the Wives are almost always
past childbearing age, and Gilead's highest
value is human reproduction, each Commander is assigned a Handmaid for a "posting" of two to three years, during which time
she is expected to produce a child for the
Commander and his wife to rear. The
Handmaid is no frolicsome mistress, however. Enveloped in a long-sleeved voluminous gown like an Iranian chador, but in red,
with red gloves and shoes, and a winged
white headdress that funnels her vision
straight ahead like blinkers, a Handmaid
spends endless hours confined to her small
Spartan room. Her only diversions are a
daily walk with another Handmaid to nearby
shops (with names like Lilies of the Field,
Milk and Honey, and All Flesh), an occasional state festival like a Prayvaganza, a
Salvaging (public execution) or Particicution
(at which the Handmaids may release their
fearsome repressions by literally tearing
apart an accused rapist) - and, of course,
the monthly Ceremony: a grotesque and joyless copulation, preceded by household
prayers and Bible-reading, between the
Commander in full uniform and the fullyclothed Handmaid cradled between the
fully-clothed Wife's thighs as the two women
clasp hands.
If she's very lucky, the Handmaid becomes pregnant, an object of awe and veneration, and produces a normal baby in a
grotesque ceremony, during which the
nightgowned Wife writhes in simulated pain
before crouching on the top step of a twolevel birthing stool, with the Handmaid on
the lower step, symbolically between the
Wife's thighs. Amniocentesis, ultrasound,
and other diagnostic tools having been
banned as blasphemous, however, what
comes forth, more often than not, is pronounced as Unbaby and consigned to "the
shredder."
The unlucky Handmaid produces no child
during her three chances at "posting," is
declared an Unwoman, and is exiled to "the
Colonies" for a short, brutish life of cleaning
up toxic and nuclear wastes. And there's no
question of her fault. "Sterile" is now a forbidden word, Atwood explains: "There is no
such thing as a sterile man anymore, not
officially. There are only women who are
fruitful and women who are barren, that's
the law."
Orbiting about the Commanders, Wives,
and Handmaids are the rest of Gileadean
women - the Marthas, household servants

in dull green; the paramilitary Aunts, in


khaki with electric cattle prods slung from
their belts, who preside at public events and
train and indoctrinate the Handmaids in
one-time public schools converted into grim
combinations of prison and convent; and the
Econowives, whose cheap gowns striped in
red, blue, and green attest to the multiple
functions they must perform for their lowerclass men.
All these women have conventional female names except for the Handmaids,
whose identities are deliberately submerged
in patronymics derived from their Cornmanders and changed at each posting Ofglen, Ofcharles, Ofwayne, Ofwarren.
Atwood's narrator is Offred, so self-effacing
that not until halfway through her tale do we
learn that she's thirty-three, a brunette who
stands five feet seven without shoes; and we
never do learn her real, pre-Gilead name.
Offred is, however, an entrancing character. Her dreamy, detached musings on her
world, her intelligence and love of wordplay
leaven what might otherwise have been an
unbearably claustrophobic vision. She comments on her oppression with surprising
grace and lightness, even lyricism. Offred is
not merely an observer, but a survivor: Her
husband Luke and their little girl may be
gone, but she's damned well going to
endure, through guts and willpower and
cunning - and she carries the hope that
civilization itself will endure and survive the
savage religious zealotry that's torturing it.
The Handmaid's Tale has already spent
several weeks on national best-seller lists, a
popular refreshment
for Americans
drenched in religion - from their money, to
music, to the mass media, to a publicly pious
President. But Atheists, especially, should
relish Atwood's delicious skewering of American religion with such inventions as Soul
Scrolls, a nationwide chain of franchise
shops which Offred describes thus:
There are five different prayers: for
health, wealth, a death, a birth, a sin.
You pick the one you want, punch in
the number, then punch in your own
number so your account will be
debited, and punch in the number of
times you want the prayer repeated.
The machines talk as they print out
the prayers; if you like, you can go
inside and listen to them, the toneless
metallic voices repeating the same
thing over and over. Once the prayers
have been printed and said, the paper
rolls back through another slot and is
recycled into fresh paper again. There
are no people inside the building; the
(Continued on page 48)

Austin, Texas

July 1986

Page 45

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

I recently attended a lecture at the esteemed University of Dallas in which the


guest speaker was Attorney General Edwin
Meese. Mr. Meese was warmly received by
an audience whose political affiliations were
worn on their sleeves. The primer handed
out prior to the speech left no doubt as to
Mr. Meese's political leanings, as ifthey were
in doubt. It follows logically from the lecture
that the present Administration firmly believes that god and a distinguished, select
few must determine the future of the citizens
of this nation and, divine providence allowing, the future of other sovereign nations as
well. In keeping with the republican theory of
government espoused by the John Birch
Society, the law must not allow the people to
destroy their own inalienable rights established under same law. Evidently, the republicans, or better yet Republicans, had not
counted on the rational Atheist not deferring
decisions concerning his fate to the usurious
feudal lords. Mr. Meese lives in a revelation
of the past. I live in a revelation of a better
future for all. As Atheists, we must at least
welcome Mr. Meese and his cohorts to the
present.
Steve Tennyson
Texas
C""''''

Throw a bucket of hot water on President


Reagan and his faithful partner Prime Minister Thatcher; that'll separate them.
Conrad Chyatte, M.D.
New York
C""''''

If my memory serves me correctly you


invited suggestions some time ago for a no
greater than six-letter caption on a car
license plate. Today this idea occurred to
me: "NOHELL." This is part of one of my
favorite slogans: "No Hell - No Savior."
Fred W. Kerstein
Canada

Page 46

The death of Simone de Beauvoir on April Things" narrated by David Suzuki. The first
14, 1986, caused me to reflect on my maturasegment was not too bad in presenting an
tion as I entered young adulthood. I was
outline of the evolution of life on earth in a
brought up as a Roman Catholic and entered . matter-of-fact manner- But little by little he
college as a naive teenager afraid of both sex
wove into it other "theories." In the second
and a god. Several courses in my freshman
segment he stressed entirely the religious
and sophomore years opened my eyes to
forces in human development and how
the vindictive and groundless nature of humans realized their superiority over aniChristianity. In both my French literature
mals, as ifhe were not an animal himself. But
and educational psychology courses, I was
the bottom line was when he said Charles
introduced to Ms. de Beauvoir. Her book
Darwin believed in the biblical creation.
The Second Sex had just been released in According to all accounts that I have read,
the United States and was to have a proDarwin was educated in a religious institufound impact on both men's treatment of tion, as that was where the education was.
women and how women were to view themHe was preparing to be a religious leader
selves. Parenthetically, the book instilled in himself and was introduced to science by his
me a universalist opinion - free of religious
religious teacher and inspired by his interest
dogma.
in living things. However, as Darwin's
Simone de Beauvoir's obituary in The Los
teacher reached all his conclusions within
Angeles Times pointed out the strain upon
the limits of theology, Darwin transgressed
her early life as she was torn between a into concluding according to his unrestricted
strictly Roman Catholic mother and an Athesearching and finding. This was scientific
ist father. She possessed the intellect necesthinking. So when Mr. Suzuki said, based on
sary to choose Dad as her role model. Ms.
the example of Darwin, that religion and
de Beauvoir saw the obscenities of marriage
science combined, I could no longer contain
laden upon the women of her time and chose
myself. No such combination is possible.
to live with her lover, the novelist Jean-Paul
The lines were drawn then between theoloSartre, instead of marrying him. Her Exis- gy and science a la Darwin, and the battle
tentialist beliefs guided her life. She felt that
still rages.
humans are not part of an ordered metaI remember another program a few years
physical system, but are free individuals who
back titled "The Joy of Finding Things Out."
are responsible for what they make of themThis was by a physics professor at Cal.
selves. She had the good sense to also
Tech. who found it totally unacceptable to
realize that her death would not reunite her
handicap oneself with a belief in a god. A god
with the man she always loved. She once
cannot be questioned, and science must
said, "It is already beautiful that our lives question everything.
could intertwine for so long.';
Recently Linus Pauling appeared on Phil
The curtain is drawn on the exceptional
Donahue's show, primarily to review Dr.
life of an Atheist who influenced a generaPauling's book about vitamins. I really don't
tion.
take to stuffing on vitamins; but I perked up
my ears and felt a warmth toward him when
Gerald Lunderville
in answer to Donahue's query, "Do you
California
believe in God?" he replied with a resounding, "No." The audience let out a groan, so
c:...''''':)
Donahue said "You see, our audience is disappointed." But Dr- Pauling emphasized
In your newsletter, you mentioned the
angry response you felt upon reading in the
that there were no grounds for such belief,
Journal of the American Medical Associaas there is absolutely no evidence. Sometion about the "Physical Death of Jesus
times a word of truth breaks through the
Christ." I read a summary of same in one of obstacle courses set up by the media.
our local newspapers, that is, as much as I
could stomach of it. It is bad enough to see
Helen Johnson
California
such trash shoveled up by fanatics and fools,
but worse from such a prestigious source.
c:.,..''''':)
Again, my indignation was raised to heavenly heights upon watching a two-part presAlene Smith's statements in "Letters To
The Editor" and "Me Too" (February 1986)
entation on our PBS-TV station that Ibelieve
intrigued me: "Religion is a major source of
is being shown throughout the national PBS
self-inflicted problems." Just look at the
network almost as prominently as "Nova."
sympathetic-magic ... blood-rite _.. of sexThe title was "A Planet for the Taking," and
it was a scientific and educational producual mutilation ... which has become "roution in keeping with the regular "Nature of tine circumcision" under the guise of

July 1986

American Atheist

LEITERS TO THE EDITOR


"health"!
From philologist John Allegro we learn: In
ancient times of fertility worship . . . the
sacred mushroom was compared with sexual stimulation of the penis. The emergence
of its red bulbous cap (amanita muscaria)
was envisioned as the emergence of the
glans from its enshrouding skin (The Sacred
Mushroom and the Cross).
So maybe "they" wanted a shortcut to
ever-ready to ensure the cyclic regeneration
of life ... cut it off!At that moment body and

soul (mind!) became divided ... the one


sacrificed for the other - goodby "thought
and feeling are one." Hello to the "ignorance
and fear of superstition."
With one slice we trade "respect for life"
for schizophrenia ... and the zest of personal responsibility for the authority of a
"higher cause."
Boom ... Mushroom cloud! It's up to us!!
Ann D. Robertson
Virginia

Cryptic crossword puzzles are not like the puzzles seen


in most American publications; they are much more
devious. The clues are almost never what they seem to be.
Some of the clues are anagrams of the word sought; these
are indicated by clues such as "sort of' or "crazy." Some
clues are puns giving an association of sound or meaning.
Charade clues are built up by definitions of parts of the
answer word. In some cases the answer is actually hidden
among the letters of the clue. Punctuation can be used to
obscure clues and change the apparent meaning.
In general, the cryptic clue consists of two parts. One
part is a definition of the word sought, and the other is the
cryptically constructed part. The fun and challenge of this
sort of puzzle is to figure out which part is which. Often the
relationship between clue and answer is a humorous one or
one that presents a peculiar view of the world of words.
The numbers in parentheses are the numbers of letters in
each word of the answer.

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

If you would like a sample puzzle with answers and


explanations of clues, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Steve Bratteng, Division of Biological Sciences,
University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712.
ACROSS
1. Is one adept at talking about that which no one does
anything about? (13)
10. The star's collections? They're seen before it gets dark.

(7)
11. What the lad clears could be sort of poetic. (7)
12. Sparked something made by two famous horses? (9)
13. A star, perhaps, in Jamaica. (5)
14. Getting along with a gin cocktail after a period of time

(6)
16. Does the parrot sort of grow into a larval form without
the right? (8)
.
19. Would the black sheep have one without wool? (5, 3)
20. Like some bloomers for all sorts. (6)
22. Does gasoline make this something to haul? (5)
23. Unfortuitous crossing by one? (1, 5, 3)
25. One is heard violently to expire. (1,6)
26. City where I nab eel thrashing wildly. (7)
27. Some bad things are said to be. (5,4,4)
DOWN
2. I've seen nuisance reveal apathetic response. (5)
3. They are good to have when you need them, but let's
hope Ronnie does not use them. (9,6)
4. Such a vacation spot should not be your last. (6)
5. Part sold in another form. (Some things are good to it!)
(4,4)
6. In a democracy the military does not make use of this.
(7,8)
7. Legendary Chapman makes Swede sore with his
broadcasting? (4, 5)
8. Fixed amount reveals a collection with what's at the
center of crater? (1, 3, 4)
9. Together on the boat a separation reveals one of seven.

(4)
15. Zamenhof's baby shows sixth sense before time to
include point. (9)
17. You can use them with, but not in, the woods. (4,4)
18. Saucy Pam alert but mixed up. (8)
21. Common sort of structure associated with chickens and
toads. (6)
22. Is something worn so? (4)
24. Wash a hundred thin types? (5)
(Solution on page 48)
Austin, Texas-

July 1986

Page 47

BOOK REVIEW

CROSSWORDS
(From page 47)

(Continued from page 45)

SOLUTION
machines run by themselves. You
can't hear the voices from outside;
only a murmur, a hum, like a devout
crowd on its knees.

ACROSS: I-METEOROLOGIST 10-SUNSETS ll-SONNETS 12-TRIGGERED13-RASTA 14-AGEING 16-POLLYWOG 19-EMPTY BAG 20FLORAL 22-CARGO 23-A
BLACK CAT 25-A SNEEZE
26-ABILENE
27-WORSE
THAN NONE

Watching Reagan bless us from a TV


screen, or the pope lecturing starving Africans about the evils of birth control, or Jerry
Falwell explaining why he, better than Desmond Tutu, should speak for black South
Africans, I used to think that contemporary
religion was beyond satire. Margaret Atwood has gloriously, triumphantly proven
me wrong. She is a rare and splendid talent,
and every intelligent and patriotic American
- especially the American Atheist - should
be grateful to her. ~.

DOWN: 2-ENNUI3-EMERGENCY POWERS 4-RESORT 5LAST DROP 6-GENERAL


ELECTION 7-SEED SOWER
8-A SET RATE 9-ASEA 15ESPERANTO 17-GOLF TEES
18-MALAPERT 21-CLOACA
22-CLAD 24-CLEAN

- James E. Brodhead

"Do 40U have something in a


size 6'l's?"

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#4. John Allegro, archaeologist and biblical scholar, speaks
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#6. Dr. Craig Bales, American Gay Atheist activist and


speaker for the Houston AIDS Foundation, explains
"The Role of Christianity in the Regression of the Gay
Rights Movement: A Review of the Year 1985."
#7. Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, founder of American Atheists,
delivers a startling and informative talk titled "The Original Intent of the Founding Fathers." Also included is
Illinois Chapter Director Rob Sherman discussing his
battle against the city of Zion, Illinois.
#8. Jon G. Murray, Director of The American Atheist Center
and newly-appointed president of American Atheists,
calls this no-holds-barred speech "Atheists v. the New
Religious Age." Included is Arnold Via, Virginia Chapter
Director, reading "Obscene Christian Hate Mail" [Warning: Contains sexually explicit language!].

#5. Bill Baird, nationally-known pro-choice advocate, delivers a powerful and moving speech entitled "The Politics
of God, Government, and Sex."
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AMENDMENTI

CONGRESS

SHALL MAKE NO LA W RESPECTING

Posterity - you will never know how much


it has cost my generation to preserve your
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John Quincy Adams