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American Atheist
Volume 42 Number 4
Frank R. Zindler
Ann E. Zindler
Conrad F. Goeringer
Ellen Johnson
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Page 1

American Atheist
A Journal

Autumn 2004

of Atheist News and Thought

Frank R. Zindler


and the Moon

Madalyn Murray O'Hair was wrong when she claimed that had it not been
for the baleful influence of Christianity, Columbus would have landed on the moon
instead of some Caribbean island. Discovery of a lost manuscript of a work by the
ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes now makes it likely that the first person
to walk upon the moon would not have been Christopher Columbus. More likely, it
would have been lief Erickson!

Cover Art:

Full-page portrait
of Frances Farmer published by LIFE
magazine in a feature article about
the actress that appeared on 17
January 1938.

1:~~i;;iNG AGAINST

Searching For Frances Farmer,

The Lost Atheist
Conrad F.Goeringer
A chance encounter with a Hollywood biography reveals an Atheist heroine and leads to a search for the truth
about the life of actress and political
rebel Frances Farmer. Not only was
she a major love goddess of her era,
she was a brilliant social and political thinker. A star of both stage and
screen, she labored tirelessly against
Fascism both in Spain and at home.
Conrad Goeringer critiques various
biographies that have been written about
her and tries to reconstruct a realistic
image of a celebrity who refused to end her


~ON[1P~rellt lJ.nable to ~alt

iGtrl's l'np_ to

... _ - _..... ...

God Dies!
Frances Farmer
In April of 193 I, a young Frances Farmer stunned Seattle and much of the nation by
winning a prestigious literary contest sponsored by the National Scholastic Magazine.
Religious groups were outraged at her essay, which was titled simply "God Dies!" The 16year-old Miss Farmer was denounced from pulpits throughout the city for leading youth
into pernicious Atheism. One local headline proclaimed "SEATTLE GIRL DENIES GOD
AND WINS PRIZE:' We are proud to reprint here the full text of this brief composition.

The Frances Farmer Lobotomy legend

Extraordinary Claims,Absent Evidence, and
Conrad F.Goeringer
Was Frances Farmer the victim of a forced lobotomy? Conrad Goeringer examines
evidence he has uncovered after pursuing long and painstaking research in many archives
and numerous communications with relatives and associates of Frances Farmer. He concludes that there is no good reason to think that Farmer had ever undergone the horrifying
procedure known as transorbital prefrontal leucotomy. Whence, then, the legend of the
Farmer lobotomy? Goeringer finds reason to infer a Scientology connection relating to that
cult's long-standing jihad against psychiatry and clinical psychology.

Volume 42, No.4

Page 2



American Atheist

Watch This Space!



Once again our Indian correspondent takes aim at astrology, which has experienced a frightening revival in India in recent years. In August of this year, Indian
astrologers predicted that the currently ruling Congress Party would be thrown
out of power before this issue of American Atheist would appear. The astrologers
predicted that a right-wing Hindu party - the Bharatiya Janta Party - would be
restored to power. What has in fact happened? In a postscript received shortly
before this issue went to press, Ms. Bhatty reports succinctly: "NOTHING

The Religion of George Bernard Shaw

When Is an Atheist?
Gary Sloan
Professor Sloan examines the fascinating life of George Bernard Shaw, a genius
who claimed to be an Atheist when he was young but styled himself a mystic when he
was old. Yet to the end he didn't believe in the god of the Bible or the god of the philosophers. He rejected the concept of a transcendental creator, "a somebody behind
the something." So if,as theologians and philosophers have long maintained, existence
is a necessary attribute of a god, Sloan suggests that Shaw qualifies as an Atheist
- "albeit an involuntary one:'

Islamic Fiction:The

Myth of Mohammed

James B. Pullen, Jr.

American Atheists expert on the French Enlightenment and the astrological origins of
Christianity and the Jesus myth here turns his astroloscope upon the putative founder of the religion variously known as Mohammedanism or Islam. As with the case of Jesus, examination of the
oldest accounts, documents, inscriptions, and records pertaining to the man known to history as
Mohammed are insufficient to establish his historicity. Instead, Pullen finds his 'biography' to be simply a reworking of earlier stories, legends, and religious literature - much of which is freighted with
astrological significance. Like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and Mithra, Mohammed never was a man. Unlike
the others, however, he never was a god either.

Folio from 9th Century Koran

Salvation Can Wait

April Pedersen
Popular American Atheist cartoonist April Pedersen
lets her creative imagination run wild in a short story that
extrapolates the present behavior of Christian preachers and
their dupes to its logical conclusion. Knowing how professional Christians behaved during the Inquisition, we can sleep
soundly knowing that what happens in this story could never
happen in America in the near future.

Parsippany, New Jersey



Page 3

Editor's Desk

adalyn Murray O'Hair

was moved on more
than one occasion to
declare that had it not been
for the baleful influence of
landed on the moon rather
than on a Caribbean island.
Many of those hearing her
thought she was exaggerating,
and many thought she was just
plain wrong. It turns out that she
was indeed wrong - but not in the
way her discreditors might have
Indirect but amazing light
was shed on this brash assertion
recently by a PES NOVA program entitled "Infinite Secrets:
The Archimedes Palimpsest." The
program dealt with the decipherment of a long-lost manuscript
of Archimedes entitled "On the
Method of Mechanical Theorems."
As I had suspected when I heard
the first reports of this manuscript
back in 1998, Archimedes had
discovered the integral calculus
- before the year 212 BCE!
Archimedes lived in Syracuse, a
Greek colony on the island of Sicily.
He was killed during the Roman
invasion of the city in 212 BCE,
but it is clear that a copy of the
calculus book that he had written
survived his death. From Syracuse,
either his original 'manuscript or

Frank R. Zindler
Page 4

a copy must have made its way

to Alexandria - arguably greater
than Athens as the intellectual
capital of the Mediterranean world.
From Alexandria, a copy went to
Constantinople (now Istanbul, in
Turkey), the capital of the Eastern
Roman Empire. According to NOVA,
around the year 1000 CE someone
Autumn 2004

in Constantinople made a copy

of the treatise on parchment.
Approximately two centuries
later, as Christianity consolidated its ignorance and
cast shadows of superstition throughout its realm,
a Christian monk scraped
the greatest discovery of
the ancient world off its
it became dust on a monastery floor. What one day would
become a lunar flight plan was
replaced by something that even
in the year 1200 could be seen
as simple lunacy. The erased and
sanctified parchment
was made
over into a prayer book!
Almost miraculously, the Greek
Orthodox prayer book survived
the assault of the Fourth Crusade
in 1204, when Roman Catholic
Christians sacked Constantinople
and burned as many of its books as
they could find. Until quite modern
times, the mathematical and scientific wisdom of ancient Greece lay
suffocating in the smoke of incense
and monkish mephitis, enveloped
and veiled by the vapors of vigils,
vespers, venerations, and vaticinations. For nearly a millennium,
no one in the world knew what
Archimedes had known.
In 1906 the Danish philologist
Johan Ludvig Heiberg discovered
the palimpsest in a monastery in
Istanbul and correctly identified
the prayer-enshrouded text as the
lost Method of Archimedes. Alas,
American Atheist

the book disappeared before scientific studies ofthe manuscript could

be conducted. It was not until 1998,
after an incredible chain of events
had transpired, that the book was
bought by an anonymous billionaire and loaned to the Walters Art
Museum in Baltimore, Maryland,
where it is being restored, deciphered, and studied.
As I watched the story of the
manuscript unfold upon my television screen, I thought of Madalyn's
j'accuse and how Archimedes' discovery might relate to her claim.
I did a few calculations. The integral calculus was rediscovered by
Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716) and
the differential calculus was developed by Isaac Newton (1642-1727).
It was in 1969, only 253 years
after the death of Leibnitz, that
Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin
stepped out upon the lunar regolith and walked upon the "lesser
light" that Christians and Jews
alike believed had been created by
the god Yahweh - and affixed to
the underside of a heavenly dome
or 'firmament.' It was the calculus that had made it possible for
life itself to leave the planet of its
origin and gambol about upon a
different world. It was the calculus
that had conquered the mysteries
of the celestial motions of both
moons and mankind.
We may ask how history would
have gone if Archimedes had not
been killed by a Roman soldier.
What if Greek natural philosophy
had not been overshadowed by
Platonic mysticisms? What if the
early Christians had not adopted
Platonic philosophy but rather had
endorsed Aristotle (and the rest
of the more materialistic natural
philosophers) a thousand years
before Thomas Aquinas? What if
Bishop Theophilus, armed with an
edict from the Christian emperor
Theodosius in 389 CE, had not
burned the Serapaeum, the Library
of Alexandria where Archimedes'
books surely existed in multiple
Parsippany, New Jersey

"Eureka!" Archimedes in his bath finds the solution to

the problem of the King's Crown.
copies and could have influenced
the thinking of other geniuses
who lived before the nerve-seeking virus of Christianity became
pandemic? Who knows how many
books in that library did extend
the discoveries of Archimedes?
Perhaps there was already a differential calculus that could have
been used to calculate the acceleration of the lintel-stones that would
fall to earth amidst the holocaust
kindled by the Christian zealots.
What if Justinian, in 529, had not
closed the schools at Athens, the
last to teach Greek philosophy?
What if Pope Gregory 'The Great'
(540-604) had not condemned all


literature and intellectual effort?

If it only took 253 years in
modern times for the discovery
of the calculus to lead to a lunar
landing, and if Archimedes discovered the method somewhere
around 212 BCE, why didn't the
Romans land upon the moon in
the middle of the first century CE?
Part of the delay may have been
due to the fact that Archimedes
appears to have been rather isolated in Sicily, and we don't know
how great a delay there may have
been before his works were brought
to Alexandria. Although there may
have been many materialist scholars in Alexandria at the Museum
Page 5

and Serapaeum library, in the greater world Platonic

philosophy was ascendant. Its power only increased
when Christianity achieved hegemony in the Roman
Empire. Even without Christianity, the more materialist philosophers had a hard time. I can only speculate, but I would not at all be surprised if there was
in Alexandria an intellectually powerful group,
perhaps led by Hypatia - the greatest female
mathematician of the ancient world and
victim of a Lenten-season Christian mob
- that was biding its time on the North
African shore and was planning soon
to burst out of the Platonic capsule
that so long had held it back. It may
have been very apparent to Bishop
Theophilus that the scholars in the
Alexandria Library posed a mortal danger to his theological fantasies. Science had to be stopped,
and for a thousand years afterward, Christianity followed the
bishop's example
- burning books, persecuting scientists and thinkers of all kinds, and
holding back the discovery of the physical world.
When, then, might our species have
landed on the Moon if Christianity
had not existed? It took physics and
chemistry as well as mathematics
to do it, and we can only guess how

long it would have taken for these sciences

to develop the necessary metallurgy, propellants, and guidance and communication systems to fly to the Moon. But both
physics and chemistry have advanced most
rapidly when aided by mathematics, i.e.,
by the calculus. In modern times, both
sciences developed from almost complete ignorance to their present glory
in less than 250 years. By the year
750 CE, science and technology might
very well have been up to a lunar landing.
As I asserted at the beginning, Madalyn
O'Hair was wrong when she declared
that Columbus would have landed on
the moon had it not been for the Dark
Ages of Faith. No, it is more likely
that it would have been Leif Erickson
who would have landed on the moon
- around the year 1000! With five
more centuries of scientific and technological development between him
and Erickson, Columbus probably
would have landed on Mars or Titan
or Europa - or perhaps even upon
an extrasolar planet.


Page 6

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

For ~
A chance encounter with
graphy reveals an Atheist
to a search for the truth
actress and political rebel

es Farme~

a Hollywood bioheroine and leads

about the life of
Frances Farmer.

By Conrad F. Goeringer
(Based on a lecture delivered at the Thirtieth Annual
National Convention of American Atheists, April 10,
2004, San Diego, California)
around 1988, while I was in the used
book and antiquarian book trade, when a copy
of a biography written by William Arnold titled
Shadowland crossed my desk. It was about an
actress, and her name was Frances Farmer.
I probably would have just thumbed through the
pages, looked up the price, and placed it with a pile
of other books waiting their turn to be shelved. But
something caught my eye. There were references to
labor strikes and political radicalism in the thirties.
There were also provocative and disturbing photographs. One showed a young high school student,
Frances Farmer. The caption noted that she won
national attention for penning an essay entitled "God
Dies." In another shot of Farmer, taken just a few
years later, she stands on the deck of a ship leaving
on a trip to the Soviet Union. There were pictures of her
performing on stage and screen; of her with her parents;
some showed her being arrested, defiant, fighting the
police. Several were of a gruesome medical procedure, a
prefrontal lobotomy. A woman was secured on a gurney,
people clustered around watching as a lone practitioner
seems to wield a small hammer, ready to shove an instrument of some kind into the woman's skull.
What was going on?
I began reading Shadlowland, and stayed up most
of that night to finish it, and in the morning called the
American Atheist Center in Texas and talked to Madalyn
O'Hair and Robin Murray-O'Hair. Did they know anything about a woman named Frances Farmer, and a
half-century old essay contest that stunned Seattle and
much of the nation? If anyone had information about
this, it would likely be the O'Hairs. They had spent years

Parsippany, New Jersey


collecting and writing about the history of Atheism and

Freethought. Yes, the name was somewhat familiar,
but incredibly even they did not know much. "Frances
Farmer - wasn't she some actress?" This would be the
beginning of a pattern that would emerge over the following years as I tried to delve into the life of this enigmatic
woman. So many of the people I would end up talking
to, people who might know something about Farmer, had
only hints, rumors, slivers of what could be the truth.
"Didn't she go crazy?"
Or, ''Wasn't she the one given a lobotomy? Just terrible ... "
And there was a quote from a newspaper columnist,
"What happened to Frances Farmer shouldn't happen to
anyone ... "
I was later to learn that some of the claims presented
in William Arnold's book were inaccurate, others supported by only a goss~mer web of circumstantial evidence.

Page 7

Frances in 1914, 8 months old.

(LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938)

Shadow land did not

have an index, it
lacked footnotes, and
it provided readers
with little to document much of the
story Arnold was
There were also nagging problems with
whole parts of this
book, like the claim
that Frances Farmer
was the victim of
a terrible
miscarriage of legal justice
and medical ethics,
that this rebellious,
outspoken and independent-minded woman

At age 7, Frances (second from right) with her mother,

(left to right) sisters Edith and Rita, and brother Wes.
(LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938)

west in the early nineteenth century. He became a trail

scout and translator for hire. He was also an ardent heretic and freethinker, maybe an out-and-out Atheist, and
a vocal defender of the ideas of Charles Darwin. By one
family account, Van Ornum would silently lead his family brood into a church, listen quietly to the ranting of the
preacher - and when he had heard enough (sometimes,
it is hinted, with firearm in hand), seize the podium and
lecture the credulous congregation on the enlightened
findings of science and the insights of Darwinism.
Frances' father was an attorney who apparently
engaged in numerous failed business enterprises. Her
mother Lillian has been described as a strong-willed,
eccentric, and dominating woman, often a mass of contradictions,. There was conflict between her parents and
eventual separation; but one idea the young and headstrong Frances Farmer learned at an early age was this:
stand by your convictions, stand up for your ideas, and
she did just that.
She was a precocious child. She was also a voracious
reader throughout her life. In her teenage years Farmer
was studying a good deal of weighty philosophy, particularly the works of Frederick Nietzsche. It was
Nietzsche, that most misunderstood of thinkers, who
proclaimed the death of god, the consequent emancipation of humanity, and the embrace of creative vitality. For Nietzsche, it was we - humanity - who impose
a rational order, meaning, and values on the universe,
not the gods be they Christian, Greek, or any others.
Years later, as she was becoming one of the reigning
queens of the Hollywood scene, studio photographs
would show an elegant Frances Farmer pensively
reading at home, a full bookcase of classic works in
the background.
Frances took this message of Atheism to heart. In
1931 she was attending West Seattle High School
and was a student in a creative writing class taught
by a woman named Belle McKenzie. She was already
"breaking the mold" in so many aspects, including
gender. The 1930 yearbook from West Seattle High
shows her as one of the few leading female figures
in the Debate Club. There she is, the last figure in

had been lobotomized to silence her. And there was so

much omitted, or glossed over. I wanted to know more
about Farmer as an Atheist heretic who as a young girl
devoured philosophy, especially the works of Frederick
Nietzsche. I wanted to know more about Farmer the
feminist; about Farmer the political rebel of the Popular
Front era in American History.
Frances Farmer was born on September 19, 1913
in Seattle, Washington, the third child of Lillian Van
Ornum and Ernest Melvin Farmer. If there was any hint
of this baby's future, it might have been the Van Ornum
legacy. Her grandfather was Zacheus Van Ornum, born
in 1828, and later part of a wave of immigrants moving

Autumn 2004

Frances with father and mother in Hollywood in

1938 (Look Back in Love, Edith Farmer Elliot).
American Atheist

At seventeen with her father

Ernest Melvin Farmer (LIFE, Jan., 17, 1938).
the front row, staring at the camera, brooding, serious. A
portent of things to come?
As part of a class competition, Farmer wrote an essay
titled "God Dies." It recounted how she had lost a new
hat and prayed to God in order to find it, which she did.
This exuberant, initial faith in a benevolent and helpful
household deity is shattered when she learns about the
deaths of a classmate's parents. She 'naturally becomes
outraged at the injustice and unfairness of it all. She
wrote that prior to this tragedy, God had become a
"Super father" responding to her prayer.
"That satisfied me," she revealed, "until I began
to figure out that if God loved me and all His children
'equally, why did he bother about my hat and let other
children lose their fathers and mothers for always?"
"God was gone," a young and questioning Frances
Farmer concluded.
Years later, a writer for Christianity Today in reviewing the 1982 film Frances praised Frances Farmer for her
commitment to social justice, but described her essay as
"adolescent." The subtext here is that Farmer's questioning and enlightenment regarding the existence of God
was nothing more than ideational puberty so to speak,
something to be dismissed, the mere Angst of a young
girl, and nothing more substantive.
It was anything but. For those who have made this
sort of philosophical hegira, this journey, Nietzsche, other
writers, even Framer's essay speaks evocatively to us.
Farmer was talking about theodicy, the problem of evil in
a world supposedly conjured and presided over by an allbenevolent, powerful God.Theodicy remains a significant
and nagging obstacle to any thinking person arguing for
the existence of any omniscient, altruistic deity.

Parsippany, New Jersey

Even at the age of 16, Frances Farmer had it right.

And so did a lot of other people. Lively letters being
exchanged in Seattle newspaper op-ed pages debated the
existence of God, the tenets of evolution, and the veracity of the Bible. Farmer's essay received national attention when it was submitted to the National Scholastic
Magazine. She won first place in this nationwide writing
contest, and in late April, 1931, the news was carried by
the Associated Press.
It caused an uproar, especially in Seattle and in the
Farmer household. One local headline read SEATTLE
throughout the city organized prayer meetings to deal
with the threat of so-called "rampant atheism" in the
classroom. A local Baptist minister declared: "If the
young people of this city are going to hell, Frances
Farmer is surely leading them there ... "
After high school, Farmer entered the University
of Washington to study journalism. She soon became
involved in campus politics. A picture from the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer of 11/18/31 shows Farmer and a group
of other women trying to mobilize coeds on campus to
achieve more of a role in the student government.
In 1935, Farmer is in trouble and in the headlines
again. At the University of Washington she had begun
attending meetings of various radical political groups,
as another
generation of young
people would in
the 1960s or even
today, and the students and faculty
at schools across
the country were
arguing the great
era. The nation
was struggling to
emerge from the
of the Depression.
Even in the early
thirties there were
profound fears of
a war in Europe
that might drag the
At 18, she often went hunting in
United States into
Olympic Mountains with her
a bloody conflict
(LIFE, Jan., 17, 1938).
reminiscent of the
first World War.
Totalitarian ideologies were emerging on both the left
and right, people were choosing sides, (some people felt
that there were only two sides), and many like Lillian
Farmer were deathly fearful of anything said to be linked
to communism and socialism. They especially opposed
labor unions; and there was plenty of labor unrest in the

Autumn 2004

Page 9

Syvia Sidney, Frances Farmer, and Flora Campbell,

screen and stage stars opposing Franco in Spain, welcome the Hollywood ambulance of the Motion Picture
Artists Committee on its arrival in New York.
Pacific Northwest. Seattle was a flashpoint for all of this;
the newspapers and other accounts of the era reflect a
proliferation of labor strikes, and the emergence of radical unions like the Industrial Workers of the World, the
Frances was not only very bright, she was very
socially aware, and she was particularly interested in
what was happening internationally. Along with the
emergence oftotalitarian ideologies, people in the United
States were also concerned about the looming possibility
of a second global-war, This colored so many perceptions.
The gory visions of trench warfare and horrific death
tolls among combatants and innocent civilians were still
resonating in the public consciousness. Conservatives
argued that Europe should be left to its own fate, and
this fueled the rise of an isolationist movement. On the
left, there were the twin fears of another war and the
rise of Fascism. In 1936, a military coup that had been in
preparation for some time directed by General Francisco
Franco erupted against the Spanish Republican government. Nazi Germany poured military and other resources into the conflict; the Soviet Union assisted on behalf
of the Republican side. Many, perhaps naively, felt that
if Hitler could be stopped in Spain, this would somehow
check the fascist juggernaut in Europe. This is the time
of the beginning of the so-called "Popular Front." The
term has many definitions, but in the broadest sense
it describes the very broad and even at times disparate
coalition that emerges in Europe and the United States
to form a united barricade or front against Fascism.
The Spanish conflict involved a myriad of political factions, from liberal Republicans to Communists,
socialists, anarchists, and thousands of volunteers
from throughout the world who became known as the
International Brigades. The Republican cause generated
support from many different people, for a lot of different
reasons, and Frances Farmer was one of them.
Franco was backed by a combination of Royalists,
Page 10

wealthy feudal land owners and the Roman Catholic

Church - which had been reined in by the Republican
government. The Atheist writer Joseph McCabe, one of
the founders of the British Rationalist Press Association,
wrote about the Spanish conflict, and diligently documented alliances of convenience between the Nazis, the
Italian Fascists and, of course, the Vatican. In Spain, one
of the explicit goals of the Republic was the separation
of church and state. The church had become one of the
wealthiest land owners, it controlled the educational
system, it exercised enormous political and cultural
power, and it even organized its own political party. The
Republican government had begun to reverse all of that
as it released political prisoners, worked to re-establish
nonsectarian public schools, initiate a program of land
reform, establish minimum wages and abolish child
labor - so many of the civilized things we take for
granted today. Some of the flavor of the time is reflected
in a picture from the magazine Photo-History, a popular-front journal published in the 1930s. It shows Jose
Maria Gil Robles; the caption identifies him as head of
the Roman Catholic political party, Acci6n Popular. He
was the man who appointed Gen. Francisco Franco as
Army Chief of Staff and "opposed separation of Church
and State, lay public schools, equal rights for women and
land reform." Robles is aptly described as "Spain's wouldbe Mussolini."

In college she was drafted as leading woman for

University of Washington's production ofChekhov's
Uncle Vanya (LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938).
At the University of Washington, Farmer - to the dismay
of her mother and sister - had taken up with students in
the drama and art department. They frequented radical
meetings, circulated petitions supporting the Spanish
Republican> cause or labor strikes, and talked about
political issues. Farmer was also growing weary of journalism, and she awakened her interest in theater work.
At this time, cutting-edge dramatists were enraptured

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

At 19, she played the courtesan (center) in Everyman, another University

production. A conscientious worker, Frances studied hard at acting
(LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938).

by the
so-called Stanislavsky
method of acting. It demanded that
actors subsume themselves in their
roles, psychologically and emotionally identifying with their characters
toward the goal of creating a "more
authentic" and realistic portrayal.
There had been a political revolution
in Russia, and Moscow was the center of this artistic and dramatic revolution as well. Farmer had already
played a role in the 1935 production
of Sidney Howard's play Alien Corn
where she won critical praise. She
soon announced her intention to
make a career on stage, and she
wanted to act with the radical avantgarde troupe known as The Group
Theater operating in New York. It
was a lofty goal for the strong willed,
headstrong and beautiful college girl
who wanted to become a maven on
the American stage.
But how to get there?
It happened that one of the local
radical papers in Seattle, the Voice
Of Action was sponsoring a subscription drive with the winner receiving
a free trip to Russia via New York.
Friends in the drama department
threw themselves into the contest
and Frances Farmer suddenly found
herself heading for the Soviet Union,
and again at the center of public controversy.
Parsippany, New Jersey

Farmer found the Soviet Union

to be a drab, endless procession of
soldiers, sweating horses, and silk
banners with slogans. She quarreled with the editors back at the
Voice when they demanded that
she write glowing accounts about
her trip. There are even unsubstantiated accounts that she was
an honored guest at the May Day
Parade of 1935, stood shoulder to
shoulder with the apparatchiks
of the Soviet regime, and argued
with Josef Stalin.
But the real story here was
her return through New York.
She moved into an apartment in
Greenwich Village with a friend
and began looking for work in the
theater. She ended up enlisting a
talent agent, and then met Oscar
Serlin who was the local talent
chieffor Paramount. It was soon clear
that Frances Farmer was a potential
"hot property" destined for stardom.

The girl who proclaimed the

death of God was now heading for
the bastion of Bolshevism, much
to the dismay of the Seattle
establishment. Lillian Farmer didn't like any of this
either, and made her views
known to the local and
national press. She also
little faith
in her rebellious daughter,
declaring that Frances might
not return from the excursion or, if she did, would be
some kind of a brainwashed
lackey. Frances was more
realistic; she wanted to study
the theater in Russia, and
then remain in New York in
hopes of fulfilling her stage
ambitions. Lillian meantime
continued to excoriate her
strong-willed daughter in
public, warning newspaper
reporters that something
needed to be done to sanitize
the University campuses of
the nation from the menace
of communism.
Off she went anyway,
and we have various and
conflicting accounts of her
impressions. A somewhat
Frances Farmer at age 20 departing for
questionable ersatz autoRussia (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).


Page 11

She still yearned to ~

work on the stage, considering it to be a "purer" form

,', ..



Her lifestyle was considered unconventional even by

the standards of Hollywood

Js Red
raeees ..armer :

and performing on the sil-


or arguing




Paramount and othermU

against Edward Arnold, Joel
major studios operated a' ~'. f~POKANE.
M~reh ~1.-{AP)-'fJ;
McCrae, and Walter Brennan,
virtual assembly line orE'"lt;
M !ss F'ranf:'$ FartIll'f .hvGt1'"'on~t fIff.
she was cast for a role in a
. dimg ou t pot en- .,~Nt
. t 0 be titl
on i! 'j:\rettr Seattle ~rl eon reu\!t ,to mOVIe
1 e d Tli e R 0 bb er
tial sta~s, and Frances was
here too.J" to :be IsBarron, which was soon sanithrown mto the breech. She
. ,
tb~ ! tized to the more bubbly, less
'f'!' d
d t .
d lilty i gU{"$t of h01l01' at reeef)-Uon &Ad controversial Toast of Neto
was cm Ie an
I"'i*"t f'
and given screen tests , and
tae I
in January, 1936, she got ;:ill} 1 qtUtort~.T'S,
of Wall Street monopolist
her first role in the film Too
! "'1 al'l'l "'o-t a ComM\.lf'tis.t/* Miu
"Jubilee Jim Fisk" and his
Many Parents. The Seattle
rtn.l Farmer to-let n>fJw$<pal).rm.A.. t(but
press and elite and clergy
l!it l f
b.n.lIf. thh vi, wHt b..
Farmer researched the role.
'~~'1 marv.-lou$, en.aA" to f\U\at.
who had denounced he~ so
iu\.d touudy
tne S.ovicrt UnlcmM
Fisk, in reality, had been a
vehemently for her Atheism
.~e; I ~n>i~d t. brintbaek. u ~
crony of financial manipulaand radical views suddenly
'iie r biue:4
re:po.r1 of my UHI"V.
tor Jay Gould, and was part
were ranting and raving
.~s: -non.....
of a scheme to corner the
Farmer. ' ",!
MhHi Far'fnt>r 't\'aS guarded in h.
market in gold, driving up
Lillian Farmer basked in
am$ a.ppea.re4
the price and selling before
the r.eflected gl?w of this
1 when It ended.
anyone knew what was hapnoton~ty, especially later
d." 1 . ~tH' left here hy hua to<.alf,ht
pening. He was overly fond of
when It was announced that
.. '. ("THeago, wbeN> shee:t:pe'Cti, to *1'~
actresses and ended up being
her daughter would marry a
t~'O ('lEt.Y$!,. ShewiU
..~rdft tn. fiN., .shot by a pimp.
leading man named Wycliffe l:ul, 1 ark tEl Urni' to utI fo,r Et1~fe But the Hollywood treatAnd
reflected the bowdler, e~son -: IS screen name
Her trill 1'5 1!'J)'Ontmn-d bJ
IS Leif Erickson. He later
Vo.ice of AcHe-D, whieb o,tt~TedUt.,
ization of the era. Fisk was
became famous for roles If'S. . trt~ U eeetest award.
played in a more genteel
in movies, and the popu- try
! and less controversial light
lar television program The' la* 1
by Cary Grant, and Farmer
High Chaparral. Farmer
'..: ".
resented this celluloid rewritwould be cast in a string..
T_ !
!_~ ing of history. As for the misof other films. Another big
tress ... well, Patrick Agan in
break came when she got
appeared on the covers and in the
his minibiography of Farmer
a role opposite Bing Crosby in the
columns of Hollywood gossip maganoted that while the script had
popular film Rhythm On The Range.
the potential for honesty, "Frances'
But Frances Farmer's life was
There was another side to hopes... evaporated as the censorpulled in several disparate direcFrances
Farmer, however. She
ship of the time laundered Josie
tions. She desperately still sought
quickly established a reputation in
from an unscrupulous vixen to an
the approval of her parents, espethe incestuous world of Tinseltown
ingenue fresh from Sunnybrook."
cially her mother Lillian. She had
studios for being combative, strongFarmer was branded a nonconalso inadvertently become part of willed, independent, stand-offiish,
formist when it came to playing the
a rarified group in popular culture,
brooding and cerebral, for doing
Hollywood love goddess role, She
the so-called 'Love Goddesses.' With
things her own way, not sufferresisted the studio-orchestrated dates
her stunning looks, accomplished
ing fools and speaking her mind.
and nights out on the town with their
screen presence, her contralto voice She was the quintessential uppity
staged photo opportunities. On the
and poise she was compared to woman, rendered even more proset she was often aloof, and spent her
Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn,
vocative thanks to her biting wit and
down time reading or involved in radand Marlene Dietrich. She was
keen intelligence.
ical, progressive and humanitarian
sought out eagerly by the press, and
political causes. Colliers magazine

;f I





Page 12





American Atheist

carried a piece on her in its May 8,

1937 edition, and she talked freely
about the hypocrisy of the reception
arranged for her in her home town
of Seattle after the success of Come
and Get It! Referring to the studioorganized reception on her behalf
with the media and local big-wigs
- some of the same people who had
denounced her for her Atheism - she
said "What the Goldwyn people had
forgotten was that up that way I'm
still remembered as the freak from
West Seattle High."
"She is a tall, thin girl who is
more intelligent looking than beautiful," wrote Collier's staffer Kyle
Crichton, "uses no makeup off the
set, doesn't give a damn for clothes,
is going to be an actress if Hollywood
will let her ... Her taste in clothes is
atrocious because there is nothing in
the world she cares about less ... She
thinks movie gossip is blah ... She is
married to Leif Erikson, the movie
actor, and they live in a canyon home
which will never be photographed as
a show piece and can be reached only
by a mountain guide equipped with a
divining rod ... "
It accurately
described the
quintessential Frances Farmer, the
lifestyle rebel, the odd-girl-out who
was still becoming a Hollywood goddess and film sensation.
Another direction in Farmer's
life unfolded in 1937 when she
finally achieved her dream of becoming part of the Group Theater in
New York. That summer, she had
left Hollywood and her husband to
perform on the stage at Mount Kisco
Playhouse in West Chester County,
New York. She later wrote that it
was some ofthe most satisfying work
she had done. She appeared on the
cover of Vogue magazine. And she got
a call from Harold Clurman, one of
the founders of the Group Theater,
who had met her earlier at a rally
for the International Brigades fighting for the Republican cause in the
Spanish Civil War. Clurman was
enraptured by Farmer, declaring
that the Hollywood beauty was perfect for a role in a play titled Golden
Boy, written by the visionary, radical
playwright Clifford Odets.
Parsippany, New Jersey

biographies, and other auto-bioThe Group Theater had been

graphical accounts. It was if Frances
formed in 1931 by Klurman, Cheryl
Crawford, and Lee Strasberg. All Farmer had never existed.
In 1937, Frances Farmer was
wanted an 'authentic theater' that
would honestly portray life, emphastunning in her role as Lorna Moon
in the Group Theater production
size social concerns, and transGolden Boy, written by Odets. There
form the American stage. It was
a response to what they saw as a was already a vigorous political
stage in America competing for its
staid, insipid, antiquated and 'light
rightful place with the more tepid
entertainment' theater that predomand established theater. Farmer was
inated the era. They adopted the
in her element. She also entered one
Stanislavsky method, and endeavof the most interesting periods oflife,
ored to practice a cooperative and
highly personal approach to acting.
throwing herself into the causes of
movements of the so-called "Popular
Strasberg took Stanislavsky a step
further; he came up with 'method
Front" period.
acting,' and Farmer and the other
Very little has been written
about this aspect of Farmer's life;
members of the Group were taught
and so, Frances Farmer is known for
that they had to summon deep, inner
a lot of things (some of them false)
feelings if their performance on the
stage was to be credible. The com- other than her role as an outspoken,
principled political activist. This
bination was revolutionary and far
aspect of her life is what particularly
reaching. A new generation of dramatists passed through the Group
appealed to me when I first picked
Theater, the method spread, and
up Shadlowland, and it occupies the
focus of my research into her life. It
it influenced generations of major
actors and teachers like Stella Adler, is an elusive quarry; the serpentine
Marlon Brando, Sanford Meisner
historiographic trail winds through
and Gregory Peck. Farmer was there,
musty newspaper clip morgues,
back issues of magazines, the index
in the middle of it all, present at the
creation, so to speak. She was
among a long list of future
luminaries that would be part
of the Group Theater in some
way, a Who's Who of the stage,
screen, and future electronic
media - Elia Kazan, William
Franchot Tone, Luther Adler,
Morris Carnovsky, Robert
"Thrilling to lilt,," to.
Lewis, Clifford Odets, Louise
Ode+s writes g,e"t
Rainer, Paula Miller, J. Edward
Bromberg. On the periphery of
New Yorke!"
the group were the literati, the
"Golden Boy is fl"frich, the famous. Odets vacarate drama."
tioned at the home of Albert
N, Y. Mifr{>r
Einstein. Albert Stieglitz, the
renowned photographer, gave
money during those frequent
dry spells when the Group's
coffers ran dry. Farmer knew
most of these people, worked
with many of them in political
causes, and interacted with
them socially.
Decades later, however,
her name would be absent
from many of their memoirs,
Autumn 2004

Page 13

In New York, Farmer and other members of the Group joined the Theater Arts
Committee or TAC, a politically-aware alliance of theatre workers and devotees who
supported popular front causes including
the anti-Fascist resistance in Spain. The
group staged socially-charged performance
dubbed "Cabaret TAC" embracing everything from Spanish democracy to racial
equality. She and husband Leif Erickson
both worked on TAC projects such as the
protest over the ban on black singer Marian
Farmer was also prominent in a
national effort to raise money for supplies
and other humanitarian aid for the Spanish
In Golden Boy, the Italian father (Morris Carnovsky) of Joe Bonaparte
Republican cause through the Medical
(Luther Adler) gives him a thousand-dollar violin hoping he will
Bureau to Aid Democracy. She organized
quit fighting for music) (LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938).
fund drives to purchase ambulances for the
of some obscure books, and even declassified files from
war front. A picture published in the New
government agencies such as the FBI and the House
York Post on December 10, 1937 showed Farmer sitting
Committee on Un-American Activities.
in the ambulance, next to fellow actress Sylvia Sidney.
Farmer's politics defy the use of simplistic labels and
Painted on the side were names of other contributors and
descriptions. Her social and political convictions reflected
they included James Cagney, Ernest Hemingway (who of
an independent mind set, and she seems to have avoided
course wrote about Spain extensively), Frederic March
identifying herself with a particular "ism." She was not
and Louise Ratner. She helped organize an emergency
dogmatic; nor did she embrace a particular organization
meeting in March, 1938, at the Hotel Commodore to
or cause like the Communist Party, although she was
raise money for more ambulances and supplies, worklater accused of being a socialist. She was far too
independent minded and ill-tempered to submit
to either organizational discipline or ideological
rigidity; and she was probably far too intelligent
to do so as well. The causes she embraced were
specific; they involved an emphasis on humanitarian concerns rather than rigid political ideologies. When she did talk about politics, she did so
fervently but focused on the human rather than
ideological dimensions.
Much of this period, roughly the late 1930s
and into the 1940s, is either ignored or glossed
over in biographical accounts. Exploring the
details of Farmer's life, however, reveals that she
is, in a sense, not only the Lost Atheist, but also
a feminist, a heretic, a social radical. Much of
my investigation involved trying to unearth any
archives that had information about Farmer, a
quest that took me from the Billy Rose Collection
In Golden Boy, Luther Adler and Frances Farmer begin
at Lincoln Center in New York to the files of the
their unhappy romance (LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938).
FBI (declassified under the Federal Freedom of
Information Act), to musty records of the House
ing closely with Burgess Meredith (who became a close
Un-American Activities Committee residing in the
National Archives. Occasionally there is a mention of friend), Dorothy Parker (you might recogniz her as the
Farmer in some book dealing with the history of the time.
writer and literary maven of the Algonquin Roundtable),
There has been the constant battle to gain access to the
Maxwell Anderson, Olin Downey, and others.
pre-Internet newspaper clip morgues of papers some of
An even more elusive photo was included in a browhich long ago went out of business. There were also the
chure distributed by the Medical Bureau aptly titled
phone calls tracking down relatives or people who knew
"One Day in Spain, A Picture Story of American Doctors
someone close to Farmer.
& Nurses." Testimonials contributed by novelist Edna
Page 14

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

At age 23, Frances Farmer plays Josie Mansfield acting The Twelve Temptations (LIFE, Jan. 17, 1938).
Ferber, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and others urge support for the Republican government and the Medical
Farmer is shown by one of the "Hollywood
Ambulances," next to Sylvia Sidney and Flora
Campbell. The names of other supporters are printed
on the side of the vehicle, including Paul Muni, Louise
Rainer, Ernest Hemingway, Ogden Stuart, James
Cagney, Lee J. Cobb - along with Frances Farmer.
The young actress was also active in the North
American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy.
Farmer helped to organize a gala event known as
"Stars for Spain" which took place in New York City
and was headlined by herself, Orson Welles, and other
popular entertainers.
Farmer was nationally famous as a symbol of the
silk boycott against Japan, spearheaded by groups like
the League of Women Shoppers and the Consumers
Union. In her book A Consumer's Republic, The
Politics of Mass Consumption
in Postwar America
(New York;Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), historian Lizabeth
Cohen observed that the LWS "was founded in 1935
by upper-and-middle class progressive women - many
well known in art, business, and society circles - to
support the burgeoning labor movement, particularly
among women workers." It was an appropriate venue
for Farmer, who in college had labored to encourage
her fellow women students to become politically energized. Her efforts in support of the League thus were a
natural extension of Farmer's feminist consciousness.
Wherever she went, whether it was on tour or being
interviewed about her film career, Farmer constantly
encouraged women to not wear silk garments because
of the Japanese atrocities particularly in China.
Magazines like The Nation and other publications
hailed Farmer for her anti-fascist efforts.
Parsippany, New Jersey

Another project Farmer fervently embraced was the

protest against cutting WPA funds to artists. Again, this
part of Farmer's life seems to have been buried. It is left
out of the biographies and Hollywood-style accounts of
her life. The Theater Arts Committee had circulated a
petition against the cuts, and depending on the account,
up to 200,000 signatures were obtained. In mid January,
1939 several TAC members flew from New York to
Washington, DC and Francis Farmer presented the petitions to Presidential Secretary Marvin McIntyre. Besides
Farmer, the delegation included Helen Tamaris the dance
choreographer; Artie Shaw, the popular bandleader; and
actress Phoebe Brand. A telegram in support of the
delegation sent to the White House - and this uncovered in the archives at the Franklin Roosevelt Library
- was signed by artist Rockwell Kent, Orson Welles, and
actors Eddie Dowling, Burgess Meredith, and Frederick
A photograph in the TAC magazine depicts the main
participants in "the flying protest," including Farmer,

WPA Theatre Issue

The cover of what may be the last surviving
Feb. 1939 issue ofTAC Magazine, the issue
Frances Farmer's delegation to Washington
dismissal of 1,526 WPA workers on Federal
in New York City.

Autumn 2004

copy of the
reporting on
protesting the
Arts Projects
Page 15

The "Flying Protest" leaves for Washington with

Frances Farmer, Phoebe Brand, Helen Tamiris,
Gertrude Nielsen, Artie Shaw, and Robert Reed
and Michael O'Shea (not in picture) aboard
(TAC, Feb., 1939).
Phoebe Brand, Tamaris, Gertrude Niesen, Artie Shaw,
and Robert Reed boarding a plane for the flight to
Washington, DC.
By now, Farmer was perhaps at the top of her career
trajectory. She had established herself as a competent
actress on stage and screen. She was known as an outspoken political activist, and she had also attracted the
attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation which
had begun accumulating a dossier on her. Her personal
life, though, was beginning to spin out of control. There
were issues with her parents, the emotionally unavailable father and a dominating mother whose approval
she desperately sought. She was psychologically vested
in her political causes, particular the fight in Spain and
the plight ofthe unemployed in an America still fighting
its way out of the depression. And her personal life was
disintegrating. There was the strain of being on the road
with the Group Theater for months at a time. She had
separated from Leif Erickson - there would be an unsuccessful reconciliation, but the two remained friends - and
she had begun a torrid affair with Clifford Odets, and
that too came apart in late 1939.
Farmer returned to Hollywood for a round of film
productions including South of Pago Pago, and she was

Page 16

also cast in Flowing Gold, a drama about two oil workers

who fall in love with the beautiful daughter of their boss.
She played against Alfred Green, Pat O'Brien, and John
Garfield. Garfield had been on the TAC delegation to the
White House, and he would later fall victim to the House
Committee on Un-American Activities.
But Farmer remained politically active. In the
spring of 1939, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and
Carey McWilliam's Factories in the Fields were published, drawing public attention to the miserable plight
of migrant farm workers. A major cotton strike erupted
in the San Joaquin Valley, and Farmer, along with other
Hollywood notables including Will Geer and Waldo Salt,
later mobilized the acting community in support of the
struggle. In Sacramento, the administration of Atheist
govenor Culbert Olson fought hard as well to gain union
status for the workers. If anything summed up the ethos
in California, it is perhaps the photograph by Dorothea
Lange taken from her pictorial essay, An American
Exodus, published that year. US Senator Robert
LaFollette, Jr. held a series of high-profile hearings
throughout the state, and concluded that the migrant
workers should be on par with the rest of American
labor and enjoy the protection of labor laws. Farmer took
on the state's powerful agricultural lobby as well as vigilante groups; the strikers won wage gains, but once again
fell short in their fight for union recognition. She was, at
this point, giving most of her salary away to groups like
Steinbeck's Committee to Aid Agricultural Workers.
Later, the famous scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo was
said to have remarked: "Youhave to realize they were out
to get Frances and she knew it. Who? The cops.Why? The
political thing. The migrant worker thing. You name it.
They wanted to bust that kid wide open and they finally
had the opportunity."
That summer she traveled east for more stage work,
and in early 1941, Farmer disappeared from sight, donning a black wig and traveling anonymously across
the country. She returned again to Hollywood, and the
real trouble began. Farmer wrestled with her personal
demons, including alcohol and amphetamine abuse.
In October, 1942, Farmer was driving through Santa
Monica when she was pulled over by police for having
her car headlights on in 'a dim-out zone. Pearl Harbor
had been attacked in December, 1941, and the country
was on a war footing. What happened next depends on
whose account you read - but it seems that Farmer
could not produce a driver's license promptly. Not predisposed to groveling before authority figures, she became
verbally abusive. She was arrested and charged with
drunken driving and given a ISO-day suspended jail sentence. Being a Hollywood star fallen to such depths was
bad enough - being a female, being 'uppity' and a social
nonconformist made it all the more tempting and risque
for the press.
Unflattering accounts of her soon appeared in the
popular press, especially a piece by gossip columnist

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

Louella Parsons. Worse yet, Farmer reportedly struck a

hairdresser while on the set of a low-budget melodrama
appropriately titled No Escape, and charges were filed.
Police raided her room at the Knickerbocker Hotel in
Hollywood, and entered with a passkey when she failed
to answer. Farmer, sleeping nude as she usually did, was
restrained, made to dress quickly and was carted away

Frances Farmer phones from an L. A. jail prior to

transfer to County Hospital for observation
(1943, United Press International photo).
to the police station. The media had a field day. Papers
reported that Farmer paraded down Sunset Boulevard in
the buff, cursing at the constabulary. Worse yet, the next
morning, she interrupted the judge declaring: "What do
you expect me to do? I get liquor in my orange juice - in
my coffee.Must I starve to death to obey your laws?"
Farmer ended up in a local psychiatric ward, and
eventually entered a private sanitarium gratis the
Motion Picture Relief Fund. She received a round of
insulin shock injections and in September returned home
with her mother. She desperately wanted to rest, avoid
the salacious Tinseltown gossip, and take control of her
life. In March, 1944, though, possibly at the behest of her
mother, she was dragged away to the psychiatric ward
at Harborview Hospital. From there, she was ordered
placed in a straightjacket and remanded to the Western
State Hospital for the insane at Steilacoom, Washington.
Parsippany, New Jersey

Here, she underwent the typical patient entry procedure

of being striped nude, numbered, and fingerprinted. Her
personal effects, including jewelry and some fifty books
on different subjects were confiscated; and according to
some accounts, she was immediately placed on an extensive regimen of ETC or electroconvulsive shock treatments, at the time the solution du jour to a wide range of
alleged mental problems ranging from simple neurosis to
wildest schizophrenia.
She was paroled three months later; a court order
named her mother as legal guardian. In July, she literally ran away only to be arrested as a vagrant in Antioch,
California. She then fled from the house of an aunt in
Reno, Nevada. And in May, 1945, despite evidence that
Frances was the on the rebound physically and emotionally, her mother again committed her to Steilacoom. She
would be there for the next five years.
This round of calamitous events in the life of one
of Hollywood's glamour starlets was grist for the media
mill. The pictures of a combative, cigarette-smoking and
near slatternly Farmer quickly eclipsed the image of her
as a screen goddess, and certainly washed away her role
as a religious heretic, a feminist, a political and social
rebel. Instead, terms like "paranoid," "schizophrenic,"
"manic-depressive" or "catatonic" were carelessly used to
describe Frances Farmer.
The record of what happened to Farmer during this
second confinement at Steilacoom is vague, contradictory, and certainly controversial. There were claims
that "experimental drugs" were used, that the head
administrator suggested that she be given a lobotomy
- something her father, an attorney, vehemently objected
to. Word of degrading, horrible, and often horrifying conditions at Steilacoom leaked out. An expose in the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer revealed drastic overcrowding, understaffing - and hospital administrators under enormous
pressure to solve seemingly incurable behavioral and
other problems.
At some point, Frances Farmer's behavior changed.
She reportedly began referring to herself as a "faceless
sinner," became more obedient and malleable. Whether
it was an act of psychological desperation or something
else, Frances Farmer was released on March 23, 1950.
She returned home and began attending church services.
Farmer eventually remarried, this time a local city
engineer, but after six months reverted to her earlier
pattern and simply ran away. She got as far as Eureka,
California, and obtained employment working in a photography studio. The world around her was changing;
the House Un-American Activities Committee began
conveniently investigating Communist, socialist, and

Autumn 2004

Page 17

"I Climbed Out of the Depths" came



labor movements, and the notorious Hollywood 'blacklist' was taking
shape. Former comrades like Clifford
Odets and Elia Kazan repented and
named names. Ex-Husband Leif
Erickson laundered his political past
in a piece appearing in the American
Mercury, where he talked about
Golden Boy, the Abraham Lincoln
brigades that had fought in Spain,
all of it. Indeed, Frances Farmer's
name appears several times in the
vast indexes compiled by HUAC.
From 1956-57, Farmer essentially hid out under her maiden name
in that small California town. Her
parents died during this period. She
was recognized by a show business
promoter who worked to resurrect
her career. Farmer appeared in the
press again then on the Ed Sullivan
Show. She also did some stage work
in Pennsylvania, and on January 27,
1958, was the guest on the tell-all
program This is Your Life hosted by
Ralph Edwards. Later, she appeared
in a B-movie, The Party Crashers
with Connie Stevens and Bobby
Driscsoll. But Farmer was still
wrestling with old demons including the alcohol, her past, and the
failure to resolve issues with her
family, all of it.
That same year, Farmer's story
was told in a syndicated series
authored with Edward Keyes dramatically titled, "I Climbed Out of
the Depths." It came off as part
autobiography, part mea culpa,
finding 'God' at long last, and as
a desperate attempt to climb her
way out of the depths of insanity
and alcohol-fueled rage.

Page 18

Eventually, Farmer ended up in

Indianapolis, Indiana, and became
the host of a local TV program,
Frances Farmer Presents. She introduced classic movies and sometimes
chatted with performers, some of
them friends from the Popular
Front era, even her ex-husband Leif
Erickson. She also appeared in some
student-directed plays at Purdue
Farmer eventually moved in with
a local woman named Jean Ratcliffe.
There were periods of lucidity and
sobriety interspersed
with long
bouts with the bottle, a failed business venture, an attempt to organize
a memoir. On August 1, 1970. France
Farmer died, penniless in the charity
ward of a local hospital, from cancer
of the esophagus.
Ordinarily it is here that a story
like this might end, perhaps with
a gratuitous Hollywood biography.
But this is Frances Farmer, and it

In 1972, a purported autobiography by Farmer appeared titled

Will There Really Be a Morning? The
book, however, was likely authored
by Jean Ratcliffe, and some argue
that many of the scenes were heavily dramatized.
Six years later, Frances Farmer's
sister Edith Farmer Elliot self-published her version of events, and
much of the content seems to reflect
her interpretation, and that of her
mother - that Farmer was, somehow,
a dupe of the communists and a
victim of circumstances. That same
year, William Arnold, the reporter
for the Post-Intelligencer, came out
with Shadowland, and advanced the
incredible but mostly circumstantial
hypothesis that Farmer was given
a lobotomy during her confinement
at Steillacoom. It caused a sensation. Unfortunately, there are no
footnotes or bibliography, or even
an index. There are photographs
of patients receiving electroshock
therapy. One picture is especially
grisly and disturbing. It shows Dr.
Walter Freeman, known as "The
Dean of American Lobotomy" about
to hammer an instrument into the
brain of a patient. The suggestion is
made that Farmer underwent such
a procedure. The lobotomy account
would become an element in a new
portrayal of Frances Farmer and her
turbulent life, frequently quoted by
rarely questioned for its historical

Francess Farmer with her first husband Leif Erickson and her mother.
(Shadowland, William Arnold)
Autumn 2004

American Atheist

the late 50s and early 60s coupled with massive protests
and social upheavals. That generation becomes identified
as the 'new left,' something beyond the 'old left' of the 30s
and Popular Front. But the wheel turns, so much of that
60 rebelliousness is transmogrified and bourgeoisified
into the mindlessness and conformity of the ReaganBush era, and the new generation finds cause for revolt.
As with the sixties, the vehicle for this is music, and in
the late 80s and early 90s, the sound of 'grunge' comes
blasting from countless garage bands and impromptu
groups. One of the luminaries in this outburst of general
discontent and Angst is Kurt Cobain and the - where else?
- Seattle-based band Nirvana. In 1993, they released the
In Utero album. Grunge was a visceral almost nihilistic
revolt against the bubbly, commodity-obsessed ethos of
the time, and Cobain became fascinated by the imagery
and mythos of Frances Farmer.
Frances Farmer and Leif Erickson with friends
at a nightclub in New York City

Farmer left behind few writings, mostly poetry and letters. The book that became Will There Be a Morning? was
originally to have been authored by Lois Kibbee based
on extensive interviews and correspondence. Ratcliffe,
though, likely finished that project and even dedicated
the book to herself The notes found their way to columnist and author Patrick Agan, who did a surprisingly
compact but laudable treatment of France Farmer in his
1979 book, The Decline and Fall of the Love Goddesses.
Then in 1982, another book - this one by David Shutts
titled Lobotomy: Resort to the Knife, appears. It treats Dr.
Walter Freeman as a sort of heroic figure in the advancement of behavioral knowledge and treatment, and unambiguously claims that the woman in the photo appearing
in Arnold's book is Frances Farmer. It offers no proof for
the assertion; and it turns out that the story originated
with one of Freeman's sons.
There is no known documentation that Farmer was
ever lobotomized; and indeed, this gruesome tale may
distract attention from the legitimate horrors she and
other patients were subjected to, including the denial of
civil rights. Critics, including Farmer's nephew David
Farmer, now an attorney in Hawaii, and Oregon-based
playwright Jeffrey Kauffman have strongly disputed this
and other claims in Shadowland.
In 1982, the movie Frances was released starring
Jessica Lange in a truly spectacular performance.
There are periods of embellishment in the movie. Sam
Shephard plays the role of a heretofore unknown love
interest, there is a prelude lobotomy scene, but overall
the film manages to capture some of the spirit of the
tumultuous popular front era and Frances Farmer's life.
The Popular Front period would fade into history,
eclipsed by the war, the McCarthy period, the blacklist,
the cold war. The civil rights struggle emerges again in
Parsippany, New Jersey


"Our favorite patient, a display of patience, disease-covered Pu-get Sound ...

"She'll come back as {ire, to burn all the liars, and
leave a blanket of ash on the ground ...
"Frances Farmer will have her revenge on Seattle"
Farmer becomes the object of a made-for-TV movie, a
fairly good A&E biography segment, and an independent
film by Sheila McLaughlin and Lynne Tillman titled
Committed. In 1982, the movie Frances appears starring Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard. The promotionals
declare: "Her story is shocking, disturbing, compelling ...
and true," but the claim falls short since much of it is
based on William Arnold's book. There is litigation over
the content, and an out-of-court settlement is reached.
Thanks mostly to Lange, much of the personal portrayal of Frances Farmer rings true, and there is passing
acknowledgement of her political activism.
Farmer's little-known legacy of social activism has
been smeared, too, over the years. Beginning with her
mother, she was stigmatized as being a dupe of sinister communist plotters - as if she somehow lacked any
authentic and genuine convictions of her own. Lillian
Farmer thought little of denouncing her rebellious,
freethinking daughter, tarring her with the brush of
communist sympathizing. That myth found a new lease
on life in 1999 when conservative writer Kenneth Lloyd
Billingsley recycled the charge in his book Hollywood
Party. He concocts a novel conspiracy theory, though,
suggesting that Farmer was destroyed by the Communist
Party when she balked at conforming to the party line.
His sole documentation involves statements made in the
press by Lillian. In fact, her FBI file reveals that Farmer
never joined the Party. How could she? Can you imagine
her submitting to political discipline or orthodoxy of any
So much of the misinformation and lack of balance in
recounting Farmer's life has transformed her into a combination crazy woman and victim of some nameless and

Page 19

sinister conspiracy. In 1994, for instance, Sally Clark's

production Saint Frances Of Hollywood was produced
in Canada. Farmer's life was described as a "classical
tragedy." This, along with the renewed curiosity about
Farmer shaped by the Nirvana lyrics, Arnold's claims of
a grisly lobotomy, all of it, elevated her to the status of
the ultimate victim. Others have refined that view, seeing Farmer as an uncompromising personality, nonconformist, combative, ever resistant, crazed and defiant to
any authority or convention. She was some of that, but
she was also much more. It is both shameful - and inaccurate - to remember her only as the disheveled, fallen
beauty queen who told cops,judges and everyone else to
go to hell.
Incomplete as it is, I'd like to think that my work is
revealing another dimension of Frances Farmer. From
her earliest years, she was a deep thinker, fascinated
by "ultimate questions." She was passionate about social
justice. Many labels have been used to describe her
political ideas, but I think she was the ultimate "underdoggist." She cared deeply about the plight of war victims, working men and women trying to organize for a
better life, people living desperately on the edge, and
children victimized by the chaos of military conflict. She
supported unions when doing so courted threats. And she
actively fought for the most dispossessed of that class,
those who labored in the nation's fields. Her work in the
League of Women Shoppers anticipated an era of what
Alvin Toffler later referred to as "prosumerism." She was
a feminist when women had just won the right to vote.
She was an anti-fascist in a era when that ideology was
not only consuming Europe, but threatened to subvert
even the United States. We forget those menacing "Nazis
on Main Street," the German-American Bund rallies, the
fact that many plutocrats in America looked to fascist
Germany and Italy for an inspirational template on how
America might be organized. She protested it all.
Whatever she endured amidst all of the personal
heartbreak, the bouts with the bottle, the horrendous
confinement and treatments at Steilacoom, Farmer

Page 20

began her life full bloom

in that independent streak
traceable back to Zacheus
Van Ornum. For a while,
anyway, she was one of us
- proclaiming the death
of God, delving into those
ultimate questions, and
standing hard and firm
and strong against the
opprobrium a community
that despised freethinking
and free voice.
For me, her story also
epitomizes the tenuous
nature of history. I will
never forget standing in the Billy Rose Collection at
the NY public library, pouring through folders of old periodicals and dried, disintegrating newspaper clippings for
publications no longer in existence. Some were literally
falling apart in my hands. It didn't take long for me to
discover that there was a lot about the story of Frances
Farmer that had not been told, that needed to be told.
We need to collect this sort of history, and by we, I
mean, us, the Atheists. One of the greatest responsibilities American Atheists has is the re-establishment and
growth of the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist
Library and Archives. This includes the Oral History
project. We cannot rely on others to collect and nurture
this history; and a movement without a history is really
a movement without a future. Everything I gather about
Frances Farmer will eventually find its way into that
Finally, I hope that in its own small way, what I've
learned and unearthed about Frances Farmer from all
of the interviews and books and musty archives, will
bring a bit more balance and insight to the story of her
complex life. There are abundant unsubstantiated claims
and other misinformation about her; and pop-culture has
consigned her to a cabinet of mad curiosities. She is stereotyped as that drunk, that zombie, that kicking, defiant
mad woman. Maybe we need to think of Frances Farmer
a bit more objectively: a flawed woman, to be sure but
much more. For me, she was also Frances Farmer, the
lost Atheist hopefully found, the heretic, the feminist, the
political rebel.
Conrad F. Goeringer
August 13, 2004

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

WI-(AT'S nv:






TIC~/... 'NAVE.S,'




'roUGH 1-oVE.'?

Newly Reprinted By American Atheist Press

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine



Fa" three
Examination of the Prophecies

.R.Z .fk>

The Age of Reason Part

Examination of the
Edited and Annotated by
Frank R. Zindler

The "filthy little atheist" whose memory Theodore Roosevelt

reviled was no less than the man who first uttered and printed the
name The United States of America. He was the man who helped
found the first society for the abolition of slavery in America. The
object of Roosevelt's scorn was Citizen Thomas Paine - born an
Englishman at Thetford, on January 29, 1737, died an American on
June 8, 1809. Continuing the fight for freedom that was begun in his

Parsippany, New Jersey

pamphlet Common Sense, which brought tinder to sparking flint and

ignited the American Revolution, Paine's The Age of Reason had the
purpose of liberating the human mind from the bonds of servitude in
which priestcraft had held it since the dawn of civilization. Parts One
and Two are well known and have been reprinted many times. Part
Three, however, was privately printed just two years before Paine's
death and remained essentially unknown until reprinted by American
Atheist Press in 1993.
Paine's last book examines the Old Testament prophecies claimed
by the New Testament authors to be ancient predictions of Jesus of
Nazareth. With great wit and penetrating logic, Paine showed that not
one of the Old Testament passages cited had anything to do with the
Christian's would-be Messiah. Paine appears to have been the first
writer in English to suggest that Jesus was not an historical figure.

Published By
Cranford, New Jersey
ISBN 0-910309-70-1




Page 21

nApril, 1931, a young Frances Farmer stunned
Seattle, and much of the nation, by winning a
prestigious literary contest sponsored by the
National Scholastic Magazine. Religious groups
were outraged. The 16-year-old Ms. Farmer was
denounced from pulpits throughout the city for
leading youth into pernicious Atheism. One local
headline proclaimed "SEATTLE GIRL DENIES
GOD AND WINS PRIZE." More than half a century later, a snooty review of the movie Frances
(based loosely on portions of Farmer's life) appearing in Christianity Today cavalierly dismissed the
essay and her Atheism as "adolescent."
Farmer, however, was a precocious, curious,
intellectually acute and questioning young lady.
At the time ofthe essay contest, she had immersed
herself in philosophical writings of thinkers like
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). She was a lifelong reader, and would combine her career as an
accomplished actress on stage and screen with
political activism. In later years, Farmer would
experience everything from persistent troubles
with alcohol abuse to nagging psychological and
personal problems, and forced confinement in
mental institutions. When the McCarthy era
descended over the country, her Atheism unfortunately seemed to waver as she publicly embraced
religion. Farmer died on August 1, 1970. Her story
has been told, with varying degrees of accuracy, in
several books and portrayed in television specials
and films, including the hit movie Frances starring Jessica Lange.
-Conrad F. Goeringer

Page 22

ValedictorianRICHARD JAHNS

SalutatorianBETTY BAXLEY

Faculty Selected S peakersMARY HAYES


Class Selected SpeakersGEORGE SHERIDAN


"What High S<:11001Has Meant to :VIe"was the subject chosen by
the Commencement speakers. Each speaker took a different phase of
high school liie.
Betty Baxley"Statistics of Class and Introduction of Speakers.'
Richard Jalll1s"Administration of a High School."
Mary Hayes.
"Literature in High School."
George Murdock"Science in High School."
Frances Farmer"Creative Work in High School."
George Sberidan"Political Science in High School."
Several members of the Class of 1931 added variety to the program
with beautiful musical selections.



American Atheist

By Frances Farmer - West Seattle High School Seattle, Washington - First Prize,
Familiar Essay Division, Scholastic Awards - Teacher: Miss Belle McKenzie

ever came to
after a time, even at night, the feeling of God didn't last.
me and said, "You're a fool.
I began to wonder what the minister meant when he
There isn't such a thing as
said, "God, the father, sees even the smallest sparrow
God. Somebody's been stufffall. He watches over all his children." That jumbled it
ing you." It wasn't murder.
all up for me. But I was sure of one thing. If God were
I think God just died of old
a father, with children, that cleanliness I had been feelage. And, when I realized
ing wasn't God. So at night, when I went to bed, I would
think, "I am clean. I am sleepy."And then I went to sleep.
that he wasn't any more, it
didn't shock me. It seemed
It didn't keep me from enjoying the cleanness any less.
natural and right!
I just knew that God wasn't there. He was a man on a
Maybe it was because
throne in Heaven, so he was easy to forget.
I was never properly imSometimes I found he was useful to remember;
pressed with a religion.
especially when I lost things that were important. After
I went to Sunday School
slamming through the house, panicky and breathlesfrom
and liked the stories about
searching, I could stop in the middle of a room and shut
Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful.
my eyes. "Please God, let me find my red hat with the
They made you warm and happy to think about. But I
blue trimmings." It usually worked. God became a superdidn't believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked
father that couldn't spank me. But if I wanted a thing
too much in the way our grade school teacher used to
badly enough, he arranged it.
when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant,
That satisfied me until I began to figure that if God
pretty stories, but not true.
loved all his children equally, why did he bother about
Religion was too vague. God was different. He was
my red hat and let other people lose their fathers and
something real, something I could feel. But there were
mothers for always? I began to see that he didn't have
only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie
much to do about hats or people dying or anything. They
between cool, clean sheets at night after I'd had a bath,
happened whether he wanted them to or not, and he
after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger-nails and teeth. Then I
could lie quite still in the dark with my
Debate Team 1, 2, 3. 4; Debate Club 1, z, 3, 4: Glee
face to the window with the trees in it,
Club 1, 2; Hockey
1, 2; Opera 2, 3; Latin Club c;
and talk to God. "I am clean, now. I've
Chairman of Grades Committee 3; Volleyball 2; Basketball 2; Annual Staff 3; Honor Society 2, 3) 4: Creative'
never been as clean. I'll never be cleanWriting
Club 4; Chinook Staff 4; Student
Council 4;
Senior Play 4; Commencement
Speaker 4; First Prize,
er." And somehow, it was God. I wasn't
Essay Division,
Awards -to
Hr-VOn. renorvn throughout
the nations,"
sure that it was ... just something cool
Garfield 1929
and dark and clean.
Hockey 3; Baseball 3, 4; Basketball 3, 4.
That wasn't religion, though. There
ii't the farthest
was too much of the physical about it.
Council 3; Football
4; Debate Club
I couldn't get that same feeling dur4: Dramatic
Club 4; Senior Play 4; Business
Staff of
Opera and Senior Play 4; H\V Club 4.
ing the day, with my hands in dirty
HE)' the 'udgwam. sat in silence,"
dish water and the hard sun showing
up the dirtiness on the roof tops. And



Parsippany, New Jersey

Autumn 2004

Page 23

stayed in Heaven and pretended not to notice. I wondered a little why God was such a
useless thing. It seemed a waste of time to have him. After that he became less and less,
until he was ..... nothingness.
I felt rather proud to think that I had found the truth myself, without help from
anyone. It puzzled me that other people hadn't found out, too. God was gone. We were
younger. We had reached past him. Why couldn't they see it? It still puzzles me.

High school
junior Frances
Farmer on the
debate team.

Page 24

Frances Farmer (first row, far right) in the

debate club during her junior year



American Atheist

Extraordinary Claims, Absent Evidence, and Scientology

Was Frances Farmer
the victim of a forced
By Conrad F. Goeringer

t a story widely reported, especially on the Internet, yet rarely
challenged. Frances Farmer was
the victim of a political conspiracy
and subjected to a gruesome medical
procedure known as a trans-orbital
Or was she?
The claim first gained wide
exposure in the book Shadowland
by William Arnold, a reporter and
film critic with the Seattle PostIntelligencer. Many consider it to be
the definitive account of Farmer's
tumultuous life, more so than the
ersatz autobiography Will There
Ever Be A Morning? (Although the
latter bears Farmer's name, it was
likely written by Jean Ratcliffe, her
partner and possible lover during
the final period of her life when she
resided in Indianapolis.)
Parsippany, New Jersey

The radically invasive procedure

consisted of severing neural tissue
in the frontal cortex of the brain
with a pick-like instrument. Arnold
states that Farmer underwent the
operation (and was subjected to
other abuses and indignities) while
confined as a patient at the Western
in Steilacoom,
Lobotomy was first used as
an ongoing clinical technique by
Portuguese neurobiologist Antonio
Egas Moniz. With the help of
colleague Almeida Lima, Moniz
found that certain abnormal behaviors induced in chimpanzees could
be controlled by isolating portions of
the cortex from the rest of the brain.
Moniz developed a simple hooked
instrument he called a leucotome for
the procedure.
Lobotomy was quickly embraced
by some in the psychiatric community, as well as mental institute
administrators, as a cheap, direct
and effective method of controlling certain chronically ill patients.
During the 1930s, admissions to
psychiatric facilities had soared by
nearly 80% annually, and by 1936
Autumn 2004

an estimated 432,000 people were

crowding understaffed and underfunded mental hospitals in the
United States.
and the general public were desperate for a solution. The lobotomy
procedure seemed to offer hope, and
Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize
in 1949 for his pioneering work.
In America, the
was eagerly embraced by Drs.
Walter Freeman (18957--1972) and
James Winston Watts (1904-1994).
Freeman modified the Moniz procedure, perfecting a technique labeled
the "trans-orbital
leucotomy." It
required little equipment, and could
be performed using only local anesthesia. The "leucotome" was inserted
above the eye where with the tap of
a small hammer it broke through the
orbital bone, then moved sideways
to sever the neural tissue. An estimated 50,000 Americans were given
the operation, originally dubbed
the "Freeman-Watts Standard Procedure" up through the 1950s.
Freeman became a crusader for
the lobotomy method, arguing "it
gets them home," a reference to the
Page 25

Dr. Walter Freeman performing

a lobotomy at Steilacoom in 1948

(William Arnold, Shadowland)

packed wards of mentally-ill patients

that seemed unresponsive to other
therapeutic techniques. By the 1950s,
however, critics were noting that the
most optimistic figures relating to
the outcome of the lobotomy procedure showed that only about onethird of patients improved, with an
equal segment remaining unresponsive, and the final one-third actually
displaying aggravated symptoms. A
1947 study known as the ColumbiaGreystone project failed to find clinical evidence of the alleged benefits of
the Freeman-Watts operation. These
findings, along with growing ethical
concerns and the development of
early antipsychotic and antidepressive pharmaceuticals
rendered the procedure obsolete.
According to writer Jack ElHai who is currently working on a
biography of Freeman, the crusading lobotomist traveled to hospitals
throughout the country where he
demonstrated the procedure, and
Page 26

kept detailed records of the 3,439

operations he performed. Patients
were of all ages and manifested
a spectrum of symptoms. "He
(Freeman) believed in lobotomy,
defended it, promoted it and demonstrated it during psychosurgical road
trips he took to more than 55 hospitals in 23 states," EI-Hai noted in a
Washington Post profile on "the dean
of American lobotomy" on February
Among the stops on Freeman's
tour was Western State Hospital.
Kauffman, a Portland, Oregon theater director who has written about
what he calls "the William Arnold
discrepancies," Freeman visited the
Steilacoom facility four times beginning with a conference he attended
there in 1941. He returned in 1947,
1948 and 1949, and performed transorbital lobotomy procedures. Three
days during which he was present,
says Kauffman, coincide with the
Autumn 2004

period Frances Farmer was confined at Western State Hospital.

Arnold provides readers with
a novelesque, likely speculative
account of events at Western State
to support the claim that Farmer
was lobotomized. He produces no
documents (in fact, the book is
woefully inadequate in terms of
citing evidence for other content
is well, lacking in footnotes and
even an index), and conjures, at
best, a weak circumstantial case.
Farmer was subjected to clinical
procedures including ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT), and
could have received other treatments as well. Kauffman insists
that there "is no existing data"
reflecting that Farmer underwent
insulin or hydrotherapy treatments although "some records"
pertinent to her stay at Western
State "are not complete."
Freeman's archives, including
his meticulously detailed records
of his lobotomy procedures and
patient outcomes currently reside
at the Himmelfarb Library at
George Washington University.
The collection includes records by
James Watts as well, and consists
of 87 boxes, some 107 linear feet.
That section consisting of individual
patient records, however, is closed
to medical and other researchers
for legal reasons having to do with
patient privacy.
Arnold's description
of the
alleged lobotomy seem at odds with
Freeman's flair for the public and
theatrical. He frequently performed
his operations surrounded by spectators; but Arnold suggests that for
some reason, the procedure said to
have been done on Farmer came
after observers mysteriously left the
room. Farmer was "brought before
(Freeman) in a remote treatment
room," wrote Arnold. There, several nurses and other staff reportedly anesthetized Farmer with ECT,
"then filed out of the room."
Kauffman also notes that Dr.
Charles H. Jones, who said he was
interviewed by Arnold in preparation for the Farmer biography, told
American Atheist

the reporter that no such procedure

was performed on the hospitalized actress. Jones was psychiatric
resident at Western State and even
assisted Freeman in some of his
trans-orbital lobotomy procedures
while at the hospital.
There are also questions surrounding a photograph appearing in
Shadowland which shows a female
patient on a gurney surrounded by
nurses, clinicians, and other observers. Freeman is present. Walter
Freeman's son, Frank Freeman later
claimed that the photograph depicts
Farmer immediately prior to receiving the lobotomy.
In his laudatory
of Freeman (Lobotomy, Resort to
the Knife, 1982, New York, Van
Nostrand), David Shutts unambiguously claims that the woman in the
photograph was, indeed, Frances
"She had grown fat from the
institutional food and was unrecognizable to most people, including Arnold," Shutts wrote. He also
quotes Frank Freeman insisting "It's
her all right."
Indeed, the woman in the photograph is not recognizable as Frances
Farmer. The explanation that she
had "grown fat," seems contrived;
and how would Frank Freeman recognize her? There is no mention of

Antonio Egas Moniz

Parsippany, New Jersey

Frances Farmer by Walter Freeman

in his memoirs (Shutts, p. 184).
Likewise, there is no evidence that
the Farmer family authorized such
a procedure.

Victim and Scientology

Poster Girl?
There may be more, however,
behind Arnold's questionable claim
that Frances Farmer suffered the
indignity of a trans-orbital lobotomy
at the hands of a reckless and sinister psychiatric establishment personified by Walter Freeman.
In Shadowland, Arnold acknowledges the assistance of Heber
Jenzsch, a top official of the Church
of Scientology, and a Church-affiliated group. The "Scientology connection" is not identified, nor is
there mention of an article about the
forthcoming publication of William
Arnold's biography in a Scientology
publication, Freedom.
According to a story by Joshua
Hammer in People Weekly (March
21, 1983, "A shadowy figure says
he was Frances Farmer's lover, but
a lawsuit claims different"), Arnold
had signed a contract with Marie
Yates, a coproducer in the hit film
Frances starring Jessica Lange and
Sam Shepard. The movie, which featured an extraordinary performance
by Lange, nevertheless played fastand-loose with the facts - or so critics charged. Shepard played the role
of Harry York, a character portrayed
as a secret lover/confident of Farmer.
The New York Times said that the
role was "a figment of the writer's
desperation," although Universal
Pictures claimed that it was all an
element of the "true life story" of the
controversial actress. Eventually,
Arnold brought suit against Yates,
the company headed by Mel Brooks
producing the film, and producer
Jonathan Sanger.
Yates and Arnold met, according to the People Weekly rendition
of events, thanks to the article
in Freedom, and the "struggling
Hollywood producer-agent" went on


to serve as Arnold's literary scout.

The two eventually parted company,
and the litigation ended in a confidential out-of-court settlement.

Was there a Scientology

angle or agenda in
Arnold's account?
According to Jeffrey Kauffman,
Edith Farmer Elliot - sister of the
famous actress - maintained that
Arnold was a member of Scientology
"intent on furthering Scientology's
late [19]70s push to have psychiatry
discredited." Indeed, the cas and its
controlled groups like the Citizens
Commission on Human Rights have
conducted a public crusade against
the mental health profession. A
page on the CCHR web site <http:
features several paragraphs reflecting Arnold's claims, in charges that
"Farmer was ... subjected to regular
and continuous electroshock" and
even "prostituted to soldiers from
the local military base and raped
and abused by orderlies."
allegations in an article at -chftp:
sheddinglight.html> .
More bizarre, though, is what
some have described as a Church
of Scientology "war against psychiatry." Church founder L. Ron
Hubbard indicted the mental health
movement as part of a planet-wide
conspiracy (participants were said
to include the Bank of England,
"other higher financial circles," and
the owners of newspaper chains).
It seems that psychiatrists don't
fit well with either Church theology,or the Scientology history of our

A dive into the sciencefiction world of Scientology

is in order.
According to Scientology, about
75 million years ago an evil overseer
in this part of the Milky Way galaxy
Page 27

named Xenu controlled 76 planets,

including Earth - then known as
Teegeeack. Population problems
plagued these worlds, and Xenu
hatched a malevolent plan. Under
the guise of inspecting tax records,
Xenu conspired with psychiatrists to
give injections of a paralyzing agent
to billions of people who were then
put into vehicles resembling DCS
airplanes and dispatched to planet
Teegeeack. There, hundreds of billions of sedated bodies were stacked
around the bases of volcanoes, Xenu
then detonated a series of Hydrogen
The "souls" or "thetans" of these
victims were then captured in special electronic traps, crated into
boxes and taken to enormous theaters were they were brainwashed
with confounding images and stories
- a process known as "implanting."
Xenu was finally brought down
in a cosmic coup d'etat by a group
known as the Loyal Officers, and
remains imprisoned on a distant
planet. His victims linger on as "clusters of souls" known as "body thetans" and inhabit the human form.
The task of Scientology, then, is to
"clear" the false memories implanted
in the "body thetans" by the evil
Xenu. Psychiatry and mental health
professions are among the obstacles
standing in the way of this liberatory
It is an incredible story, one that
sounds more like the script for a
Japanese anime cartoon or science
fiction story. (It is also, perhaps, no
more incredible than much of the
fantastic theology found in the Old
and New Testaments, the Apocrypha,
or other more widely-believed theological writings.) Critics point to
Hubbard's background as a writer
of imaginative pulp fiction fare. The
Xenu saga is not presented in massdistributed Scientology literature,
and according to the xenu.net web
site, "This story is told to you when
you reach one of their (CaS) secret
levels called O'I' III. After that you
are supposed to telepathically communicate with these body thetans to
Page 28

make them go away.You have to pay

a lot of money to get to this level..."
More on "Who is Xenu" is available through <http://www.xenu.net/
archivelleafletl xenuleaf.htm.
Whatever the basis for the lobotomy account in Shadow land, there
are reasons not to believe Arnold's
allegation. He presents no citations,
documents, or footnotes to verify the
sequence of events pertaining to
Walter Freeman's visits to Western
State Hospital and his claim that
Frances Farmer underwent a lobotomy procedure.
Thousands of others, including
many less famous than Frances
Farmer, were subjected to this reckless operation. Their civil rights
were violated, and in many cases
they emerged from the procedure
worse off Many would have likely
improved in time without having
an ice-pick-like instrument shoved
into their brains. Freeman and others who enthusiastically promoted
the operation thought themselves
pioneers, courageous humanitarians, and discoverers of a bold and
revolutionary answer to the scourge
of mental illness. Administrators
of under-funded public psychiatric
hospitals hoped that the wards
would be cleared of patients who,
up to that point, had not responded
to the standard therapies of the
time. Critics today charge that the
subsequent rush to embrace psychopharmaceuticals was also reckless,
that drugs like Thorazine dulled the
mind and muted emotional responses, merely "pushing symptoms into
the background."
Many of the criticisms of the
psychiatric and mental health
field - including those lodged by
Scientologists - may well be true,
or have a substantive basis in fact.
Political regimes have attempted
to subvert psychiatric treatment,
enlisting it as a tool in quashing political dissent. The Soviet
Union announced a ban on the
lobotomy procedure in 1953 during
the annual meeting of the World
Federation for Mental Health (New
Autumn 2004

York Times, August 22, 1953, story

by William L. Laurence.) Historians
and political observers, through,
have chronicled how generations of
Soviet dissidents were imprisoned
in psychiatric facilities and forcibly
drugged. Writer and political scientist Harvey Fireside wrote in Soviet
Psychoprisons (Norton, 1979) that
the use of massive doses of Haldol
and other neuroleptics were the
equivalent of a "chemical lobotomy."
Some of Farmer's experiences
may have been chronicled - with
varying degrees of accuracy - in the
"autobiographical" account likely
penned by her companion of later
years, Jean Ratcliffe. Steilacoom
is depicted as a dark and foreboding place where patients were
isolated, brutalized, and stripped
of their humanity. The Seattle PostIntelligencer noted the poor conditions at Western State Hospital.
Even without the horrific transorbital lobotomy, Frances Farmer
and other patients lived in conditions that enlightened
would rightfully brand as inhumane
and outrageous.
Arnold's unsubstantiated
account is also an object lesson in
skepticism and intellectual caution.
It invokes the statement made by
the late Carl Sagan in an interview
with PBS where the noted astronomer was discussing reports of UFO
sightings, alien abductions, and
other paranormal claims.
"Precisely because of human
fallibility," Sagan opined, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary
The lobotomy legend, though,
eviscerates Farmer of dignity and
personhood as sure as anything a
knife-wielding psychosurgeon could
accomplish. It transforms her into
the ultimate victim, and mirrors
the equally questionable thesis
advanced by her mother, Lillian
Farmer, and sister Edith that she
was the object of brainwashing
efforts by sinister communists and
other political subversives. Both
See Lobotomy page 52
American Atheist

Margaret Bhatty

ccording to an article in
Outlook magazine (13 September, 2004), politicians of
the right-wing Hindu party - the
Bharatiya Janta Party - are all
excited about a major planetary shift
in September which will sweep them
back into power with the collapse of
the Congress coalition at the Center.
News of this planetary shift emerged
from a conclave of 100 astrologers
in Delhi on August 17th. The topic
that exercised their prescient minds
was the future of the present government. All agreed its future wasn't too
bright. Some more specifically gave
Dr. Manmohan Singh only a few more
Who is going to achieve this coup?
None other than Saturn! Not the clas-

Margaret Bhatty comes from

a Christian
family in India. She is a free-lance
journalist and author of books in
English for Indian children. She
lives in Nagpur. For many years
a columnist for American Atheist,
she is the author of the AAP book
An Atheist Reports From India,
which is available from American
Atheists ($9.00 + $2.50 shipping, ISBN 0-910309-42-6, Stock
#5026). She receives e-mail at
Parsippany, New Jersey

sical Roman god relegated to oblivion
by a newer theology, but the great
planet itself. Before you dismiss the
idea as an absurdity let me refresh
your memory.
Though Saturn is 1.5 billion
km from earth, it still cares about
us since distance is insignificant to
astrology. It was formed 4.5 billion
years ago. As a gas giant with a
chemistry of helium and hydrogen,
it is a turbulent planet, with "hellish
weather" and winds blowing at 1,770
kmlh. Orbiting it are 31 moons and
seven main rings. Not a planet to be
treated with disdain, you'll agree,
though how it is going to overturn the
incumbent government and reinstate
the Hindu chauvinists is a mystery.
Of course, this is a strictly scientific view of Saturn. But the planets
which inhabit the universe of Hindu
astrology are something else again.
According to the late Bangalore V.
Raman in his book Hindu Predictive
Astrology, the planetary orbs, which
the ancients recognized as having the
most powerful influences on our earth
are seven, leaving aside the shadowy
planets, Rahu and Ketu, and the socalled newly discovered planets of
Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, which
Hindu astrology does not recognize.
Also, the motion of heavenly bodies in this incomplete astrological
universe is decidedly odd. All turn on


their axes once in a day from west to

east, and all go round the Sun within
the same time. Saturn is the most
distant from the Sun. The velocity
of each planet diminishes as its distance from the earth increases. This
makes Saturn the slowest fellow."He
takes about two and a half years to
30 months to move in a sign of 30
degrees and thus he takes one month
to move in a degree" (Raman). The
planets in this abbreviated universe
also have character traits starting
with the Sun representing ego, and
ending with Saturn indicating sorrows and miseries.
In his book Planetary Influence
on Human Affairs Raman deplored
the contempt the West displayed
towards Hindu astrology. "But Indian
society has been permeated by faith
in the spiritual aspects of things and
fortunately today a great desire for
serious study of astrology has overtaken the majority of the educated
people."Among these educated people
are Indian politicians and leaders.
The Minister for Human Resources
and Development in our last government was a lecturer in Physics (of
the Western sort) before he joined
politics. He was responsible for "saffronizing" (Hinduizing) the content of
school and college texts, and introducing astrology into universities along
with Vaastu Shastra, the magical
Page 29

use of space in daily living. The new

Congress HRD Minister is bent on
"detoxifying" the system. But will
he last long enough to complete the
job? Evidently not,judging from what
Saturn has in store for India during
September and thereafter.
The man with inside information from the planet is 82-year old
Lachman Das Madan. In his bio-data
he includes a correct prediction about
two major earthquakes of recent
times, Indira Gandhi's death, and
his advice to the late Rajiv Gandhi
"to be careful of his health." I keep
clippings of predictions made by our
astrologers and I am amused to see
how they con a public with a short
memory.According to my records his
prediction about Rajiv Gandhi wasn't
the way he tells it today.
When asked about the outcome
of the election for Rajiv Gandhi after
his mother's assassination he said
"Rajiv Gandhi will win his seat and
may be the caretaker Prime Minister
for two to four days - after that there
is nothing much one can say about
his future." He did not foresee Rajiv
Gandhi's assassination either. But, he
claims, he knew about it all along.
He couldn't reveal it because
we have an anti-terrorist law under
which anyone predicting a leader's
death can be imprisoned for seven
The Oracle of Delphi used vagueness and waffle to enthrall the credulous. All Astrologers are delphic in
the way they articulate the future. I
have a clipping from the. prestigious
Economic Times in 1982 devoted
entirely to astrology. One astrologer
predicted a great future for Indira
Gandhi: "In the next two years she
will give a new theory for the welfare
of mankind!" he enthused. In less
than two years she was dead But
maybe he had warned us when he
said though she would conquer her
enemies, "her health would cause
some concern. Respiratory system
might be affected," Perhaps he was
being delphic, since bullets in the
chest can and do cause respiratory
Another delphic astrologer when
asked if she would win the 1985 elecPage 30

tion predicted that she would win

"but she would be out of power."Her
party did win, and she was out of
power - having been assassinated a
few months earlier.
Lachman Das Madan grabbed
the limelight earlier this year when
he managed a 'hit' in a pre-poll forecast. Said he, neither Sonya Gandhi
nor Atal Bihari Bajpayee will be
Prime Minster. This single success
has brought all the erstwhile leaders
of the country flocking to his door.
What is the good news he has for
He says "Saturn is in the
Ascendant, and it will cast a shadow
on the Manmohan Singh coalition
government." According to him, for
the first time in thirty years Saturn
is in a favorable position for India.
Saturn is not a popular planet with
us. He is known as Shani in Hindu
astrology and his day is Saturday. He
is malevolent and Hindus fear him.
No one will ever try and launch a
new project on a Saturday.
It is over thirty years since Shani
was in the ascendant. We all know
what havoc he wreaked for three
years. Indira Gandhi declared a state
of Emergency, clapped her critics and
political rivals into prison, censored
the press, curtailed civil rights, subverted the judiciary, and much else.
Unstable governments followed at
the Center. Saturn appears to display
a peculiar animus for the Congress
party. Once more it is ready to scuttle
the present government. Madan's
advice? "The government will have
to yield to the Opposition. The BJP's
horoscope is four times stronger than
the Congress," says he.

What is Saturn's schedule for

imminent disaster?
One: The launch of a "good
period" on September 6th for Atal
Bihari Bajpayee, the previous Prime
Minister defeated in the recent elections;
Two: September 16th will be the
start of a month-long negative phase
for the Congress government at the
Center and in the states;
Three: On September
"Manmohan Singh's 75th birthday
- Saturn will initiate a split in the
Congress coalition." There can be a
new government with the BJP in
it," predicts Saturn's spokesperson,
Lachman Das Madan. What does
Saturn have in store for Sonya
Gandhi? Accordingto Madan "Sonya's
favorable period is ending. Mars is
obliterating Moon in her horoscope.
By the end of the year she will be
finished politically."
Rational opinion in the BJP is
somewhat appalled by Madan's influence on the two leaders, Bajpayee and
L.K.Advani - both now confident they
are likely to return to high office. So
obsessed are they by the astrologer's
predictions that they are waiting for
them to develop before they plan any
strategy for the next month or so.
Cassini-Huygens can tell you nothing
that our Lachman Das Madan doesn't
already know.Watch this space!
Postscript, October 27, 2004
NOTHING HAPPENED! The astrologer is unfazed. When asked why his
predictions hadn't come about, he had
a simple explanation. He said "The
Congress stars have improved."

Rahu - North Lunar Node

... ...


Ketu - South Lunar Node




American Atheist

Shaw the Atheist

Shaw the Mystic

Gary Sloan

eorge Bernard Shaw (18561950) was one of the world's

most celebrated playwrights.
With such plays as Man and
Superman, Major Barbara, Caesar
and Cleopatra, Arms and the Man,
Saint Joan, Mrs. Warren's Profession,
Heartbreak House, Candida, The
Doctor's Dilemma,
The Deuil's
Disciple, Back to Methuselah, and
Pygmalion (made into the movie My
Fair Lady), the expatriate Irishman
forged a grand repertoire in English
second only to Shakespeare's.
Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923, long after his days as
a struggling artist, Shaw refused
the 7000 prize, commenting that

Gary Sloan, a retired

Eng-lish professor in
Ruston, Louisi-ana, is
a frequent contributor
to American Atheist.
He receives e-mail at
Parsippany, New Jersey

"the money is a lifebelt thrown to a

swimmer who has already reached
the shore in safety." At his behest,
the money was given to the AngloSwedish Literary Alliance.
In his waning
became an international icon. In
George Bernard Shaw: His Life
and Personality, Hesketh Pearson
describes the adulation: "Whatever
he said or did was treated with
respect, tinged with awe. When he
clowned people laughed dutifully,
when he cut a caper they applauded
reverentially. Every word he uttered
was cabled across several continents. Every nonsensical joke he
made was gratefully accepted as
the garnered wisdom of a profound
thinker." Though Shaw was
prone to bouts of megalomania,
he viewed his apotheosis with
amused detachment. "I am the
most extraordinary man in
London," he informed writer
Ernest Rhys, "and you are
quite welcome to give this fact
on my authority."
Shaw was an indefatigable
crusader for social amelioraAutumn 2004

tion. At a time when the English

stage trafficked in romantic fripperies, he awakened complacent audiences to a host of social ills abetted
by conventional morality, bourgeois
respectability, and ossified institutions. "I was a social reformer and
doctrinaire first, last, and all the
time," he wrote. "I saw a way through
the Valley ofthe Shadow and believed
that when men understood their
predicament they could and would
escape from it." Enlivening didacticism with mordant wit, he dissected
slum landlordism, prostitution, marriage, free love, politics, militarism,
nationalism, jingoism, capitalism,
evangelism, and other isms steeped
in hypocrisy, cant, and deceit.
He was a lifelong socialist, vegetarian, and pacifist. His first public
speech, made in 1885 before the
Industrial Remuneration Conference
in London, scorched capitalism. The
speech opened: "I hope any shareholders and landlords who may be
present will accept my assurance
that I have no more desire to hurt
their feelings than to give pain to
burglars. I merely wish to point out
Page 31

that all three inflict on the community an injury of precisely the

same nature." As a leading pundit
for the Fabian Society, Shaw was
instrumental in the formation of the
Labor Party, which assimilated the
genteel form of Marxism espoused
by Fabians.
His vegetarianism was actuated
by an egalitarian view of species
and concern for humanity. He envisioned a cortege of animals paying
him posthumous homage: "My will
contains directions for my funeral,
which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by herds of oxen,
sheep, swine, flocks of poultry, and a
small traveling aquarium oflive fish,
all wearing white scarves in honor of
the man who perished rather than
eat his fellow-creatures. It will be,
with the exception of the procession
into Noah's Ark, the most remarkable thing of the kind ever seen."
A carnivorous lifestyle, he believed,
coarsened sensibilities, squandered
resources, and debased
workers in the meat industry.
Shaw was reviled for his intransigent pacifism. During the First
World War, his Common Sense
About the War earned him the epithet Most Hated Man in England.
Having averred that the British
were as crass and pugnacious as
the Germans, he was ostracized
throughout the land, even by erstwhile friends. On the eve of World
War II, in a talk broadcast by the
B.B.C., the octogenarian defended
pacifism by citing the Gospels: "The
pacifist movement against war takes
as its charter the ancient document
called 'The Sermon on the Mount.'
The sermon is a very moving exhortation, and it gives you one first-rate
tip, which is to do good to those who
despitefully use you and persecute
you. I, who am a much hated man,
have been doing that all my life,
and I can assure you that there is
no better fun; whereas revenge and
resentment make life miserable and
the avenger hateful. The lesson we
have to learn is that our dislike for a
certain person, or even for the whole
human race, does not give us any
Page 32

right to injure our fellow-creatures,

however odious they may be."
Until he was thirty or so, Shaw
called himself an Atheist. He became
one, he later quipped, before he could
think. He adjudged the doctrines of
the Church of Ireland, which he
attended as a child, unintelligible or
absurd. Since the first of its Thirtynine Articles describes god as "without body, parts, or passions," he waggishly theorized that the church was
atheistic. An incomprehensible god,
he opined, was tantamount to no god.
In 1875, he blazoned his Atheism
abroad. In a letter to Public Opinion,
a Dublin newspaper, he "announced
with inflexible materialistic logic,
and to the extreme horror of my
respectable connections, that I was
an atheist." In Immaturity, the first
of five novels he wrote in his twenties, the young protagonist, obviously
Shaw's alter ego, walks pensively in
the cloisters of Westminster Abbey:
"His hushed step, impressive bearing, and reflective calm, marked him
as a confirmed freethinker."
At a bachelor party, when someone alleged that a local infidel had
been slain by a wrathful god, Shaw
proposed to demonstrate "the absurdity of the belief in violent interferences with the order of nature by a
and thin-skinned
supernatural deity." Pulling out his
watch, he announced he would dare
the Almighty to strike him dead
within five minutes. "The effect,"
he later recounted, "was electrical.
Neither skeptics nor devotees were
prepared to abide the result of the
experiment. In vain did I urge the
pious to trust in the accuracy of
their deity's aim with a thunderbolt,
and the justice of his discrimination
between the innocent and the guilty.
In vain did I appeal to the sceptics
to accept the logical outcome of their
scepticism. It soon appeared that
when thunderbolts were in question
there were no sceptics." The host,
fearing the impious challenge would
precipitate a stampede of guests, forbade the experiment.
To save Shaw from hell-fire,
a friend prevailed on a Roman


Catholic priest to catechize the

upstart Atheist. Having repaired
with his catechumen to a church cell,
the priest began:
"The universe exists; somebody
must have made it."
"If that somebody exists," interposed Shaw, "somebody must have
made him."
"I grant that for the sake of
argument," said the priest. "I grant
you a maker of God. I grant you a
maker of the maker of God. I grant
you as long a line of makers as you
please; but an infinity of makers is
unthinkable and extravagant; it is no
harder to believe in number one than
in number fifty thousand or fifty
million; so why not accept number
one and stop there, since no attempt
to get behind him will remove your
logical difficulty?"
"By your leave," Shaw replied,
"it is as easy for me to believe that
the universe made itself as that the
maker of the universe made himself,
in fact much easier; for the universe
visibly exists and makes itself as it
goes along, whereas a maker for it is
a hypothesis."

Fifty years later, Shaw stuck to

his guns. He told an interviewer for
a church magazine: "A First Cause
is a contradiction in terms, because
in causation every cause must have
a cause; and therefore there can no
more be a First Cause than a first
inch in a circle. If you once admit a
cause that is uncaused, you give up
causation altogether. And if you do
that, you may as well say that everything makes itself I daresay every
black beetle thinks it must have a
complete explanation of the world
as one of the indispensable qualifications of a respectable cockroach."
Congenitally deprived, he liked
to say, of the phrenologist's "bump
of veneration," Shaw scoffed at
superstition, churches, ecclesiastics,
rituals, ceremonies, and creeds. In
The Adventures of the Black Girl in
Search for God, a sardonic tale published in 1933, he derided the myopic
sectarianism that strews dissension
among Christians. In an African
forest, the girl meets a stooped and
American Atheist

disheveled fisherman (St. Peter)

bearing on his shoulders a huge
paper cathedral. As he is leaving,
several more bedraggled wayfarers appear, each carrying a smaller
paper church. They implore the
girl: "Do not believe the fisherman.
Do not listen to those other fellows.
Mine is the true church." As the girl
hastens away, the sojourners throw
stones at one another.
parliamentary legislation to
abrogate the Church of
England. In "The Church
Versus Religion,"he limned
the average rector as a
bigoted toady of secular
power and privilege: "He
claims and exercises all
the liberties of a country
gentleman, and wallows
openly in class prejudices.
Often he snubs the poor
and sides with the squire against
them; he sees to it that servility and
imperialist militarism are inculcated
in the Church schools; he pitches the
emblems of Christian peace into the
cellar and waves the Union Jack the
moment there is any question of war;
he supports the way of the police as
God's appointed way of dealing with
Shaw depicted the god of
Abraham and Moses as a boastful,
imperious, and sanguinary fiend.
When the black girl finds him, he
commands: "Kneel down and worship me this very instant, or dread
my wrath. I am the Lord of Hosts:
I made the heavens and the earth
and all that is in them. I made the
poison of the snake and the milk in
your mother's breast. In my hand
are death and all the diseases, the
thunder and the lightning, the storm
and the pestilence. On your knees,
girl; and when you next come before
me, bring me your favorite child and
slay it here before me as a sacrifice;
for I love the smell of newly spilled
While Jesus fared better than
Yahweh, Shaw impugned the doctrines of atonement and universal
love. Atonement he deemed "a
Parsippany, New Jersey

demoralizing and unchristian doctrine, a means by which we cheat

our consciences, evade our moral
responsibilities, and turn our shame
into self-congratulations by loading
all our infamies on to the scourged
of Christ." Vicarious
remissions of guilt were inherently
ignoble and unjust.
Notwithstanding his paean to
"The Sermon on the Mount," Shaw

considered it psychologically impossible to obey "the commandment to

love one another." Humans weren't
lovable animals: "If you tell me to
be perfect as my Father in Heaven is
perfect, I can only say that I wish I
could. That is more politic than telling you to go to the zoo and advise
the monkeys to become men and
the cockatoos to become birds of
Even when he no longer thought
of himself as an Atheist, Shaw
lauded Atheists for clearing minds
of theological rubbish: "The real religion of today was made possible only
by the materialistic-physicists and
atheistic critics who performed the
indispensable preliminary operation
of purging us thoroughly of the ignorant and vicious superstitions which
were thrust down our throats as
religion in our helpless childhood."
Against an Atheism born of despair
and anger, Shaw counterposed "the
youthful atheism with which every
able modern mind begins, an atheism that clears the soul of superstitions and terrors and servilities and
base compliances and hypocrisies,
and lets in the light of heaven."
In the 1890s, Shaw renounced
Atheism and repackaged himself


as a mystic. He also tinkered with

his past. Now, his Atheism had not
really been Atheism. He had called
himself an Atheist only "because
belief in God meant belief in the
old tribal idol called Jehovah; and
I would not pretend I did not know
whether it existed or not." While
Atheists still cleaned the Augean
stables of superstition, they were
now deemed
light-minded." They overrated reason: "I exhausted
rationalism at the age of
twenty-four," Shaw told
his friend Dame Laurentia
McLachlan, an abbess, "and
should have come to a dead
stop if I had not proceeded
to purely mystical assumptions." The roots of his mysticism stretched deeper and
deeper: "I am, and I always
have been, a mystic," he
informed an audience in 1911. As an
Irish Protestant, he was born to the
manner: "The true Protestant is a
mystic, not an Institutionalist."
Shaw's renunciation of Atheism
against scientific materialism. By
undermining teleological conceptions
of the cosmos, science eviscerated joy
and hope: "If there is no purpose or
design in the universe," Shaw told
an audience, "the sooner we all cut
our throats the better, for it is not
much of a place to live in." At a toast
to Einstein in 1930, Shaw polarized
science and religion: "Religion gives
us certainty, stability, peace. It gives
us absolutes which we long for.
Science is always wrong and never
solves a problem without raising ten
more problems."
"When its whole significance dawns
on you," he wrote in the Preface
to Back to Methuselah, "you heart
sinks into a heap of sand within you.
There is a hideous fatalism about it,
a ghastly and damnable reduction of
beauty and intelligence, of strength
and purpose, of honour and aspiration, to such casually picturesque
changes as an avalanche may make
in a mountain landscape, or a railPage 33

deity struggling
to actualize itself
Every species had
been an instrument of its effort
to acquire power,
knowledge, and
understanding. Through trial and
error, at a laggard pace, it inched its
way upward: "Conceive of the force
behind the universe," Shaw said in
"The New Theology,"a 1907 speech,
"as a bodiless, impotent force, having
no executive power of its own, wanting instruments, something to carry
out its will in the world, making all
manner of experiments, creating
reptiles, birds, animals, trying one
thing after another, rising higher
and higher in the scale of organism,
and finally producing man, now and
then inspiring that man, putting his
will into him, getting him to carry
out his purpose."
The life force exhorted humans
to seek signs of cosmic intent:
"Remember, you are not here merely
to look after yourself. I have made
your hand to do my work; I have
made your brain, and I want you to
work with that and try to find out
the purpose of the universe." The
life force esteemed self-sacrifice. In
The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet,
a play, the life force infiltrates the
conscience of a disreputable horse
thief who risks his life to save a
child. Afterwards, the homespun
thief edifies his cohorts: "Youbet the
Lord [aka the life force] didn't make
us for nothing; and He wouldn't have
made us at all if He could have done
His work without us. By gum, that
must be what we're for! He'd never
have made us to be rotten drunken
blackguards like me. He made me
because he had a job to do. He let me
run loose till the job was ready; and
then I had to come along and do it.
And I tell you it didn't feel rotten; it
felt bully, just bully."
evolution demystified evil. It was
an inevitable byproduct of the life
force's quest for self-realization:
"Many of the earlier efforts of

never occurs
Shaw that natural selection might
favor altruism and cooperation"
way accident in a human figure."
Darwinism sabotaged morality. It
"proclaimed that our true relation is
that of competitors and combatants
in a struggle for mere survival, and
that every act of pity or loyalty is
a vain and mischievous attempt to
lessen the severity of the struggle
and preserve inferior varieties from
the efforts of nature to weed them
out."Apparently, it never occurred to
Shaw that natural selection might
favor altruism and cooperation.
Victorians, Shaw contended,
because it resolved the metaphysical problem of evil. In an undesigned
world, plague, pestilence, famine,
diphtheria, cancer, tuberculosis, and
other natural ills no longer had to be
reconciled with the sovereignty of
an omnipotent and benevolent deity.
People could say: "All this wonderful adaptation of means to end, all
this design which seems to imply a
designer is an illusion; it may have
all come about by the operation of
what we call blind chance." Good riddance to "a spiteful, narrow, wicked,
personal God, who was always interfering and doing stupid and cruel
things." Later, after the flush of
relief had subsided, the world "felt
the void."
To fill the void, real or imagined,
Shaw began to spread "the Gospel
of Shawianity." He evangelized for
an idiosyncratic version of Henri
Bergson's creative evolution, stripped
of the Frenchman's lucubrations on
space, time, duration, memory, and
mind. From the first decade of the
twentieth century to the end of his
life, in speeches, essays, stories, letters, and plays, Shaw expatiated on
the life force - a mysterious power,
immanent in living matter, that
supposedly drove evolution. Shaw
reified the power as an inchoate
Page 34



this force - for example, the tiger

- remain, and the incompatibility
between them and man exists in
the human being himself as the
result of early experiments, so that
there are certain organs in the body
which are perishing away, and are of
no use and actually interfere with
our later organs. And here you have
the explanation of that great riddle
which used to puzzle people - evil
and pain. A number of things which
are at present killing and maiming
us in our own organism have got to
be evolved out of us and the process
is painful."
In Shawianity, god was a work
in progress, not a fait accompli. In
a 1909 letter to Leo Tolstoy, Shaw
explained: "To me God does not yet
exist; but there is a creative force
struggling to evolve an executive
organ of godlike knowledge and
power; that is, to achieve omnipotence and omniscience; and every
man and woman born is a fresh
attempt to achieve this object. We
are here to help God, to do his work,
to remedy his whole errors, to strive
towards Godhead ourselves." In
its odyssey to achieve fruition, the
life force would create ever-higher
forms of humanity - supermen,
super-supermen, supermen to the
third power: "When one instrument
is worn out, I will make another, and
another, and another, always more
and more intelligent and effective."
Shaw fused (if not confused)
the life force with the instrument.
In "The New Theology," he prepped
his audience: "When you are asked,
'Where is God? Who is God?' stand
up and say, 'I am God and here is
God, not as yet completed, but still
advancing towards completion, just
in so much as I am working for the
purpose of the universe, working for
the good of the whole society and
the whole world, instead of merely
looking after my personal ends.'"
God "would provide himself with a
perfectly fashioned and trustworthy
instrument. And such an instrument
would be nothing less than God

American Atheist

The concept of a life force, vital

force, elan vital, res naturae (Shaw
considered the terms interchangeable) scarcely needs a critique. That
ghostly impresario was exorcised long
ago from mainstream biology.In the
1930s, the Encyclopedia Britannica
set forth the standard model of life:
"Aliving organism, from the point of
view of the scientific observer, is a
self-regulating, self-repeating, selfrepairing, physico-chemical complex
mechanism. What we call 'life' is
the sum of its physico-chemical processes, forming a continuous interdependent series without break,
and without the interference of any
mysterious extraneous force." Today,
the mind itself is being elucidated
in the language of nerve cells, neurotransmitters, hormone surges, and
repetitive neural networks. Despite
the protests of die-hard vitalists, the
life force remains a superfluous willo'-the wisp.
According to Hesketh Pearson,
"Shaw's most sympathetic friends
agreed that he had a hopelessly
unscientific mind, and to discuss
biology with him was impossible
and ridiculous." Shaw adduced no

evidence in favor of the life force,

other than an extraneous insistence
that Darwinism was incompatible
with hope, aspiration, and altruism.
He merely postulated its existence
and described its modus operandi.
When Shaw invoked the life force
to explain the course of evolution up
to the present, he violated Occam's
Razor, the principle of parsimony
in hypotheses, since what the life
force purports to illuminate can be
illuminated without it. When Shaw
described the future course of evolution, he ratcheted up his propensity
for wild surmise.
Shaw's motive for believing in
the life force was more emotional
than intellectual. The conviction
that virtue and wisdom will ultimately vanquish wickedness and
ignorance justified his humanitarian
zeal, bulwarked his native optimism,
and quieted his inner demons. Shaw,
someone said, was a mixture of
Mephistopheles and Jesus Christ.
Though he ridiculed churches, clerics, orthodoxy, and anthropomorphic
gods, he retained the moral fervor
of his Protestant heritage. When
hawking the life force and socialism,

he was a holy prophet pitching the

Kingdom of Heaven.
Ironically, despite his repudiation
of Atheism, Shaw may have died an
unwitting Atheist. Though he called
himself a mystic, his credentials
were suspect. He had had no mystical visitation, he didn't believe that
the ultimate reality is ineffable, that
the material world is illusory, or that
all is well despite appearances to the
contrary. He didn't deny the reality
of space and time, nor did he think a
beneficent spirit suffuses every nook
and cranny of the universe,
He didn't believe in the god of
the Bible or the god of the philosophers. He rejected the concept of a
transcendent creator, "a somebody
behind the something."
In truth, Shaw didn't believe
in an existing god at all. What he
believed was that evolution, eons
hence, will produce a godlike race
in which the life force will consummate its quest for godhead. So if, as
theologians and philosophers have
traditionally maintained, existence
is a necessary attribute of god, Shaw
qualifies as an Atheist, albeit an
involuntary one.





Parsippany, New Jersey


Autumn 2004

Page 35

Islamic Fiction:
The Mvth 01 Mohammed
James B. Pullen, Jr.
In following the footsteps of my predecessors Dupuis, Volney,Taylor, Woolley, Holbach, etc. concerning the myth
of the Christian legends, I have finally completed several years of research about the hero of Islam, Mohammed.
Fanatics still revere an aging charlatan in Iran, as do the people in Rome who bow before the latest representative of
.the Dark Ages. Up to know, no one has seriously considered planting the flag of serious doubt in the realm of Arabic
We have many extant accounts of a hero doing the not-too-nouuelle marvelous in a land where stories abound in
epic description such as the Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights, Ali Babba and his Forty Thieves, Aladdin and the
Magical Lamp, plus many other legends of that stamp. I wish to give in this essay some food for thought that we do
in fact have the One-Thousandth-and-Second Arabian Night story in the much-venerated man-legend of Islam.
That Jesus Christ had no real existence, all scholars with any study and rationality know. But of the story,
ratherlegend, of Mohammed - have we not been mistaken about one more 'man'?
Page 36



American Atheist

The Myth of the Man Mohammed

uring the night of August 29,
1987 of the vulgar era, I finished the accumulation of several
years of questions plus the gathering
of information that led to a startling
discovery. As an Atheist, I could see
no reason why one cannot also crash
into the sanctuary of the Imams of
the Muslim nations and put to the
test the amazing, let us say, incredible tales they expound in their
sacred literature.
Now as all who have not relinquished their reason will concede,
there is no such thing as inspired
literature and it is impossible that
there could be any. We must first
ask ourselves how the events of a
famous person were first noted and
if the chronologies of the events of
this person's life as penned either by
self or by others, are in accord with
each other. We also ask if the events
related to our minds correspond
with the real world or with the land
of phantoms, also known as the land
of sacred and inspired books. Let us
see what I have uncovered.
In his work Mohammed, D. S.
Margoliouth lists the earliest known
commentaries* on the events of
Mohammed, with none being near
the assigned time of the prophet
of Islam's era. Margoliouth lists
the Musnad of Ibn Hanbal, who
died in 241 AH (after Hegirah) or
855 CEo Then, concerning Tabaril's
Commentary on the Koran, 310 AH
or 922 CE and the Isabah, or the
dictionaries of persons who knew
Mohammed, by Ibn Haj ar (circa
1853 CE), Margoliouth notes that the
dates are late. Moreover, Ibn Hajar's
sources - as well as the matter therein - are from records and sources no
longer accessible. No comment necessary here. Of early Arabic writers,
we have 'Amr the son of Bahr, called
Al-Jahiz, who died in 255 AH or 868

*Vide chapter



Parsippany, New Jersey



CE - still rather late, as are the four

landmarks of Christianity - the four
fictions known as the gospels. We
then come to Ibn Ishak, 150 AH or
767 CE, Wakidi, 207 AH or 823 CE, Ibn
Sa'd of 230 AH or 845 AD, Ibn al-Athir
of 639 AH or 905 AD, Diyarbekri of
982 AH or 1574 CE and Halabi of
1044 AH or 1634 CE - all much too
late when one knows the Arabian
ability for inventing fabulous tales.
We can quote on but for fear of
boring the reader, we shall refer to
Margoliouth's book Mohammed and
the Rise of Islam which has been
reprinted and is still obtainable.
I do wish here to quote an
interesting section in Goldziher's
Mythology Among The Hebrews,
1967 printing, in which he deals with
Islamic literature:

The Mohammedan legends and

popular traditions present instances
of borrowing stories which in some
foreign cycle of legends are connected with favorite heroes of that
cycle, by substituting for the foreign
heroes those who are well known
in Mohammedan tradition. In this
manner many Iranian local tradi-

James B. Pullen, Jr., is a

Florida Atheist and authority
on the French Enlightenment.
A life-long scholar of the mythical Jesus and his cuItic origins
in ancient astrological lore, he
here turns his critical attention
to the question "Was Mohammed
historical?" The accompanying
article is a slightly revised version of an essay completed in
December of 1989. Mr. Pullen
also is the author of a twovolume treatise demonstrating
the astrological roots of both the
Old and New Testaments. It is
hoped that AAP will be able to
publish this magnum opus m
the not-too-distant future.



tions and stories were changed and

interpreted in a Mohammedan sense
after the subjection of the mind of
Iran to the dominion of Islam. This
phenomenon meets us at every step
in the history of the religions and
stories of the East to West. I will
here limit myself to the quotation
of a single instance. The mountain
Demawend in the region of Reyy
plays an important part in the old
Iranian story of the war of the great
king Feridun with Zohak Buyurasp;
to this mountain the conqueror of
the demons chained the inhuman
monster and made it powerless for
evil. Now the Mohammedan legends
borrowed Suleyman (Solomon) from
the Jews" and invested him with
the characteristics which the Agada
narrates of the great king of the
Hebrews ... (page 354).
"... Appropriation and transformation of Greek myths are probably
rarer. The case quoted in the text is
an instance of such appropriation, in
which the place of the less-known
personages in the Greek myth is
occupied by the more familiar ones
of Nimrod and his family. ... from
Yakut's Geographical Dictionary, IV351 we find that the writer is speaking of a place called al-Lajun west of
the Jordan, and says: "In the middle
of the village of al-Lajun is a round
rock with a dome over it, which is
believed to have been a place of
prayer for Abraham. Beneath this
rock is a well with abundant water.
It is narrated that on his journey to
Egypt Abraham came with his flocks
to this place, where there was insufficient water, and the villagers begged
him to go on farther, as there was too
little water even for themselves; but
Abraham struck his staff against
the rock, and water flowed copiously
from it. This rock exists to this day."
No further examination is needed to
show that this Mohammedan legend
is only a transformation of the biblical one of Moses. Yet Ibrahim has
been substituted for Musa, a name
equally familiar to Mohammedan
legends. (page 355).

Page 37

The reader is asked to examine

Goldziher's Hebrew Myths plus his
Islamic Studies, both still available.
Before I refer back to Margoliouth concerning alleged events
in the life - let us say 'legend' - of
Mohammed, I would like to point
out a couple of interesting facts
from Durant's Story of Civilization

article "Mohammed," that the year

for Mohammed's birth is not agreed
upon. Bayle lists the different dates
assigned to this 'historical' person's
birth as AD 560, 577, 580, 600, 593,
620 571, and 572. (Note B). We
are also informed concerning what
Mohammed was to accomplish. For
example, he made water gush from

that as with the Christian fable,

concerning the Islamic one there is
no agreement as to the date of the
figurehead's birth and the writers
who spoke of him were of a much
later date. The people speaking of
Mohammed during his alleged times
will be shown, in the passages quoted, to be spurious.

That the Koran is doomed by its repetitions and disorder,

and that the Koran existed (as did the Kaaba stone) before all
time began and came down from heaven - no doubt, these
things prove it to be inspired,
concerning Mohammed: that at the
usual age of twelve he made a trip,
so says tradition, with his uncle to
Syria. Of his not-too-unique conversations with the angel Gabriel, we
have Mohammed being diagnosed
as epileptic (as was the mythical
St. Paul), although he didn't have
the trauma that is part of epileptic
seizures such as tongue biting, loss
of prehensile strength, etc. That the
Koran is doomed by its repetitions
and disorder, and that the Koran,
having existed as did the Kaaba
stone, before all time began, came
down from heaven - no doubt, these
things prove it to be inspired. We
find the Koran stating of Allah,
that he said 'We created man, We
know what his soul saith to him,
etc.' Koran 1,15. But alas, the noncontradicting Koran says that there
is no god but Allah - a blatant contradiction with the plural we. (This
is a paraphrase of Durant, vol. 4, pp.
161-185. He would not have dared to
write so strongly on anything.)
The reader who is unbiased shall
recognize that with all that we shall
show,that as there was no real Jesus
Christ to found the power-seeking
new religion of Christianity, that
a real Mohammed was also quite
unnecessary for the new cultus of
The Historical
and Critical
Dictionary of Pierre Bayle, reprinted in facsimile in 1980, states in the
Page 38

his finger; by pointing his finger at

the moon, he split it in half; he went
from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night
on the magical horse called Barak;
trees and stones both answered and
saluted him; rice came out of his
sweat; and a palm tree cried louder
than a camel during his absence. His
birth was even attended by the notnew marvels seen in other legendary
personages. Angels in the form of
pigeons whispered in his ear. He is
said to have ascended into Heaven.
I might remark (in Voltare an style)
that these are all the doings of a real
Bayle also notes that some say
Mohammed is buried at Medina in
an urn that miraculously floats in
air at the mosque, and that others
state Mohammed is buried at Mecca
at the house where he lived. But, the
tomb is enclosed in stone and placed
in a chapel which no one can enter
because it is enclosed within bars of
iron. This reminds me of the miraculous candle that burned during the
Middle Ages, for the sum of a hundred years without being consumed,
yet no one was ever allowed to see
this pretended candle! Thus are the
people of all nations and all times
duped by priests, imams, clergy, and
any other name one may give to
these charlatans!
Before we go to the examples
of the text plus the explanation of
our mythic one, I would like to note


In his Faiths of Man, articles

"Makka (Mecca)," and
"Muhammed," Forlong tells us in
relative order of articles listed above
from this work that the Kaaba is a
black stone already ancient when it
was rebuilt, and it was surrounded
by 365 menhirs, and the god of fate
had its statue near by. We remark
that 360 idols were within the
Kaaba. This obviously represents
the days of the year with respect to
the degrees in the sacred circle or
the Zodiac.
In the section "Makka (Mecca),"
Forlong relates that Muhammed
changed the calendar to a purely
lunar one and that the Kaaba is the
apparent scene of ancient rituals to
the cults of Allat the Arabian Venus.
This Allat-Venus is the consort of
Allah, which is the same old myth
of the Jews as Elohim-Yahweh and
his cohort Alath-Asanath-Venus
found on pottery that stumped our
soi-disant biblical experts when
they unearthed this around the late
Forlong tells us that 'Muhammed'
had his earliest biographers two
hundred years after the event, as
we have shown, that the numbers
characteristic of all myths, 12, 365,
360, 7, 70, 40, were all part of his
story, and that a description of the
illustrious one was that he had teeth
like hailstones, married at forty, was
handsome in person, and had black
American Atheist

hair, bluish lips, and reddish eyes. Forlong admits that

in Mohammed's cult there was nothing new, hence a
heaven, hell, etc.
We may also note that Mohammed had 73, some
say 72 disciples; that the Koran has 90 chapters; that
we have 90, minus the zero, equaling the cryptically
expressed 9, the number of the Muses! that 24 chapters
were latter added, which equal the 24 books of the Iliad
and Odyssey, the astronomical poetry of Homer.
Forlong refers us to Hughes' Dictionary of Islam,
which states that the legends of Adam, Noah, Moses,
Joseph, etc. were incorporated into the Koran. Lastly,
Forlong notes that we cannot be sure that the Koran

A ninth-century Arabic horoscope derived from an eighthcentury Jewish astrologer who based his system on a
Zoroastrian millennial cosmology (The Astrological
History of Masha'allah, by E. C. Kennedy and David
Pingree, Harvard University Press, 1971)
Parsippany, New Jersey

is preserved exactly, even though purportedly written

twenty years after Mohammed's death. The oldest monumental extracts go back to 692 CE (the texts in the Dome
of the Rock of Jerusalem) and amazingly these are not in
exact accord with the received texts. We may note that
our hero dying in the arms of his wife Aisha (so much
like Ishtar) is similar to the original Pieta of Attis and
Cybele or the later fiction of Jesus held by his Mother.
And, yes, Mohammed had twelve helpers or apostles, if
you will.
The Koran was supposedly penned twenty years after
the prophet's death from the sketchings of the prophet,
although we are informed that Mohammed was illiterate
and could not write. This book contains many passages of
beautiful prose, but although allegedly composed by our
hero, the Koran speaks of Mohammed in many places in
the third person, much as the Bible makes the pretended
author of the Pentateuch, Moses, speak in the third person, as many of the great biblical critics have observed.
We are beginning to see in the case of Mohammed,
that like his famous predecessors Christ, Buddha,
Chrishna, etc. that there is no verification of the existence of Islam's favorite hero.
In the Universal Standard
"Mohammed" (pages 5812, 5813, vol. 16), we find that
Mohammed was reared by his uncle Abu Talib, was a
camel driver and a goat-herder. That his wife Khadija
bore him two sons and four daughters (as the twins and
four seasons in older legends), and that in the fortieth
year of his age he realized himself chosen of Allah. After
three years of private proselytizing, he began to preach
with his forty adherents (maybe the forty thieves in the
Ali Baba story).
With all of the above, we may certainly say that all
religious tradition is worthless! But nevertheless, we
note that the new cultus was threatening to eliminate
the profitable pilgrimages to the pagan shrine of the
Kaaba, hence as the story goes, the prophet of Islam was
of course threatened with death. We see now that this
cult carries with it the changes and political forces that
go into the establishment of any new worship.
Mohammed fled from Mecca, hence the beginning of
the Moslem year at the height of summer, and reached his
destination on the Jewish day of atonement, September
20, autumn equinox or the fall of the year, which all cults
have incorporated to their legends. Incidentally, I shall
indeed remark here that Mohammed's greatest victory
called the Battle of Badr ended on March 20, near the
spring equinox, and Mohammed is made to call it, 'The
Battle of Deliverance'. Were not the Jews delivered from
their enemies in their myths? Did not Christians receive
their deliverance also at the spring equinox?
Mohammed later married Aisha who gave him seven
children, and he had a child by the Egyptian concubine
Mary, so figured in the Jeshu Pandera or Panther mythos.
And, yes, Mohammed was a Lawgiver and Judge.

Autumn 2004

Page 39

An alleged proof of the Koran being infallible is that an

unbeliever will read it and remain an unbeliever. What a

marvelous proof of divine inspiration we have here!
Welearn in the article "Koran," of
the same encyclopedia (vol. 14, page
5116), that the pretended Caliph
Othmen ordered all variant copies
of the Koran destroyed, year 650 CE,
to insure the purity of the text of the
original. But as we have shown, and
will show, the event was probably
just one particular fanatic destroying conflicting versions - so that
the version that survived is what we
know as the word of Allah. This is
much like the many ancient warring
Gnostic sects of which the winner
was the one that has come down to
us as Christianity - the manmade
curse on humanity. We see that the
Koran is only a revamped version
of Persian, Jewish, and Christian
myths - that all religions evolve in
such a manner. Besides, one cannot
doubt the Koran; an alleged proof of
the Koran being infallible is that an
unbeliever will read it and remain an
unbeliever. What a marvelous proof
of divine inspiration we have here!
It is also threatened in the religion
of Islam, as well as Christianity, that
the Atheist will undergo the most
rigorous punishments in hell. Even
so, while bearing the title of Atheist,
I see no need to seek pardon.
I maintain that the wars of the
hero of Islam were taken from the
extant Wars of Bacchus penned by
Nonnus in his Dionysiaca, which
have been said to be are-writing
of the Mahabharata or the wars of
Chrishna and Rama in the Hindu
epic. You will find the Hindu name
Kansa in the Islamic legend, showing the intercourse of the people
with each other. The wars that did
take place were only the warring
sects trying to establish a new cultus
from old and older ones.

Page 40

The Alleged History Unveiled

It is said by many that one
should not criticize religion too
severely. But this counts for nothing
when one seeks to learn whether a
bit of information, nay a whole history, is true or not. Only a lie recoils
from a severe investigation.
We shall now give a resume of
that fine work by Margoliouth. It is a
good work to analyze, for his work is
that of a believer who has put down
the story without playing our part as
critic, yet his candor is such that he
is not too weak in analysis. We recapitulate now his Mohammed.
We are informed that the Kaaba
Stone has existed from around 600
BCE and that it is visited regularly
during the fixed seasons of the year.
The Kureish tribe that venerates the
Kaaba Stone has been around since
that ancient time and were probably the makers of the stone. The
Moslems were a total of 36 groups.
One of Mohammed's contemporaries was called Abdullah who
was a slave master. (Now it must be
pointed out that that name means
Slave of Allah, which was synonymous with his occupation, Moreover,
the number 36 is equal to the number of decans in the Zodiac - each
30 'sign' being divided into three
We may note that the god Hubal
had his statue placed inside the
Kaaba and that this religion also
had its caste system. Margoliouth is
learned enough to state that Hubal,
Allat, and Allah existed previously
in the stages of Arabian development of gods that belonged to astronomical theology. Now Margoliouth,
who wrote in 1905, should have
said 'astronomical mythology.' We
can now point out that the Sabeans
infiltrated the Arabian lands around


the time of Mohammed and these

peoples were, as Higgins pointed
out in Anacalypsis (vol. 1. page 355),
star worshippers. We find that the
story in the Koran about the Najran
Martyrs is regarded as spurious
- this is much like the Christians'
book of martyrs. Even the story
of Warakah (son of Naufal, who
was a cousin of Khadijah - one of
Mohammed's wives), who was supposed to have translated the Gospel
of the Infancy and to have started
Islam, is regarded as a suspect legend.
Mohammed's mother is purported to be named Abwa, which is curious for a name because it means Two
Parents, which is a similar name to
Bacchus who was called Bi-Mater;
as such was the mythical Moses.
And yes, Mohammed came from
the usual humble family of humble
origin (Margoliouth's Mohammed,
pages 8, 9, 15-17, 20, 36, 42, 45, 47).
The friend
of Mohammed,
is called the great
hunter whom, as the Arabs were
great astronomers, we depict as
Mohammed's father
died while Mohammed was young.
His father was out on a business
trip. This is similar to the legend of
Joseph or the much earlier Nanda,
of the Hindu legend, who was paying
The Kureishites worshipped the
star Sirius, and Mohammed was
depicted as a hater of Dogs. (We
shall explain later). Our Arabian
rehash was also a sheepherder as
well as camel herder. His life with
his uncle Al-Zubair is now regarded
as spurious by the analyzers of the
Arabian texts. We find that some of
the phrases of Mohammed are said
to have been beyond the comprehension of his friends. Maybe we
have here another parable teller
American Atheist

whose new mysteries were supposedly above the understanding of

his people. Mohammed uses many
famous biblical terms, which we
say were only re-written into the
Koranic legends: 'to taste death,' 'the
trumpet shall blow during the last
days,' 'a new heaven and new earth,'
'camels cannot go through the eye of
a needle,' 'the first death and second

Parsippany, New Jersey

death,' etc. The prophet believed

in the Jinn, which is a form of the
Arabic Jinnehah or demon witch.
Again, we have our hero's description, as tall, with hair not straight
nor curly, bluish skin and reddish
eyes. Mohammed is noted to have
hated onions and garlic, and as he
was purported to revamp the calendar to a lunar one, we remark that in

Autumn 2004

the cultus of vegetation, worship was

paid to onions and garlic, because of
their shape, as emblems of the Sun.
The famous Battle of Fijar of
which there is no neutral history,
is regarded as spurious. This is the
battle where Mohammed's enemy,
Abu Sufyan, is called the Great
Lion, which is only a rehash of Pentheus, called the Lion, going against

Page 41

Bacchus in the poems of Euripides.

(Margoliouth, pages 48-50, 52, 56,
59, 60, 62-65).
The Moslems, like the Hindus,
held that a sonless man went to hell
- hence another tie-up between the
Hindu and Moslem cults. We are also
uncertain of the age of the prophet
when he died. Noting Bayle's article
mentioning that Mohammed had two
different places where he had his
tomb, the scholar will mark that the
tomb of the equally mythical Christ
was referred to by Jerome (Epistle LV
iii), as having formerly been the place
of a Grotto of Adonis. All the Greek
gods had multiple tombs on earth,
and one must not overlook the six
churches that each have the head of
John the Baptist. Such nonsense!
The Sabeans, Magians, Jews, and
Christians all had lawgivers, hence
the revamping of Mohammed as
Margoliouth remarks that the
name of the Jewish god as well as
the Christian god is the same as the
Islamic god. So we can say with my
close Atheist friend, Michael Rahaim,
that a myth, however told anew, shall
ne'r make the legend true. In the new
cult, we have the Day of Judgement,
pains of Hellfire, the need to worship
Allah, and the ever popular approaching End of the World.
Mohammed is alleged to have
conversed with the 72 Houris, or
the genies of Persian mythology.
Mohammed miraculously could read
and write without ever being taught.
He even saw Allah on a Lotus, thus
tying even closer the Islamic myth
with the Egyptian and Hindu legends. The famous passage where
Mohammed said he dreamed he
saw Warakah in white raiments in
Paradise is regarded as interpolated.
He is even said to have told one of his
wives, Khadijah, that if he showed
her her parents in hell, even then she
could hate them. (This is another version of the sick Christian hate-yourmother-and-father verse again, Luke
14:26.)Mohammed's followers, twelve
in number, were noted as being the
most ignorant of men, just as the
famous twelve of the Sun god Christ.
The Vulcan of the Islamic mythos was
Page 42

named Jabr. If you dare leave the

Islamic religion - you are Doomed!
More scare tactics. Allah wanted all
worship to be only for him, hence a
re-write of thou shall have no other
gods before me. Mohammed's uncle,
Abu Talib, wrote many verses which
we note are regarded as spurious.
The Koran, like the traditions of
the Talmud and Josephus, praises
Abraham for knocking down the
idols from his father's house, and
makes the Islamic hero do the same
at Mecca. Margoliouth notes that
there is no chronological order in
the Koran, just as is the case with
the Bible. Mohammed was made to
imitate the prophets of the old and
new testaments. This more modern
version of fulfilling a prophecy is only
a re-write of older fables (ibid. pages
69, 72-74, 87, 88, 91-93, 98, 106, 114,
118, 123-26, 130-31).
One of the enemies of Mohammed
were the Nadirites. Nadir in astronomy is the direct opposite of the thing
Mohammed did not do any miracles
- well neither did Perseus, the Mithra
of the Persians. (Our explanation of
the Mohammed Myth is now out).
The inspired prophet cannot even get
the number of Seven Sleepers correct,
so the compilers of this latest rubbish
send in a new revelation from Allah.
The people from Mecca and
Medina and the Koreishites were in
constant power struggle, hence the
political power-play in all breeding
grounds of new cults. Margoliouth
states that the Old Testament, New
Testament, Lives of the Saints, as
well as the sayings of the Jewish
fathers were incorporated into the
Koran. The passage where the prophet explains the new religion to the
King, the Surah xix, is regarded as
The story ofOmar the Strong, who
persecuted the new religion is only a
revamp of the St. Paul myth. Omar
is said to be strong and courageous,
yet there is no record of his courage
ever being displayed. Mohammed
even had a favorite saying - "Me, Abu
Bakr, and Omar" - hence an Islamic
Autumn 2004

Rakikah gave Mohammed water,

which is a retelling of the lady at
the well story. The Dispersion of the
Arabs at the breaking of the dam is
regarded as spurious. We have here
a rehash of the Babel Myth. We
have the number of converts visiting Mecca at the second Akabah to
be exactly seventy. The Koran has
Mohammed praying over the dead
Hypocrite Abdullah, which is contradicted by the dictum of not praying
over the dead or the grave of anyone
(ibid. pages 132, 135, 137, 144, 145,
160-162,164,165,179,186, 202, 218).
Margoliouth speaks of the nine
signs given to Moses, and we have
earlier said 90 chapters equal 90
minus the zero, hence the nine Muses
are equal to the story of Moses. (This
idea was hinted by Taylor in his
Devil's Pulpit, part 2, page 308.) In
Surah iii, the Koran declares, who
will lend God a good loan? This is the
same old 'lord loveth a cheerful giver'
in new dress. A multitude of the
prophet's army were fed with a small
quantity. I will not touch that passage, nor do I need to. Mohammed's
friend, Hamzah, had thirty helpers. John had thirty disciples in the
Christian myth. In a passage of the
Koran, Mohammed escapes danger
at Waddan, and Margoliouth relates
that we have no knowledge how this
was accomplished. Moreover, the
alleged battle of December 29, 623
CE, led by Mohammed, is spurious
and unaccounted for. We next hear
of a son of Jahsh with seven men.
Now Jahsh is Arabic for donkey and
the seven are, the seven stars in the
tail of the Bear which seem under the
Ascelli of Cancer when the celestial
donkey(s) is on the meridian. These
two constellation are famous in
Arabian astronomy.
The Islamic holy day is Friday.
We mark that this day was sacred
to the goddess Venus, to whom the
Phoenicians consecrated the fish. (We
shall explain this later in our section
on the actual unveiling of Mohammed
the Myth). A being named Hubab
helped instruct Mohammed in warfare, and Margoliouth comments
"strange to say, Hubab was the name
of a Demon in the lore of that time."
American Atheist

In the Koran, 1000 to 3000 angels

helped in the respective battles of
Mecca and Badr. There was a miraculous multiplication of warriors at the
Battle of Badr, Mohammed's Day of
Deliverance, on March 16 - so near
the Spring equinox and so like the
Jewish deliverance in the Hebrew
mythology.Even the famous Battle of
Uhud is uncertain, and we note that
the Kureishites battling Mohammed,
the prophet's warriors that died numbered seventy - exactly the same
number of dead at the Battle of Badr
(ibid. pages 227, 231, 237, 240, 241,
244, 248, 258, 263, 289, 283, 300).
In his celebrated battle with Abu
Sufyan, Mohammed brings an army of
1,500 men with only ten horses. Note
that ten was the perfect number in all
myths, the 1 being male, the 0 being
female, and that the perfect number
relates to the number of horses, of
which we know Mohammed is made
a lover.The story of the destruction of
the Jews in the famous digging of the
trenches episode is found to be full of
mythic numbers and mythical embellishments. Even Mohammed's friend
Sald Ibn Muadh kept himself from
bleeding to death simply by so willing the blood to stop flowing. This is
the material fables are made of This
is all a fable.
We shall again show the connection with one of the oldest mythologies in the world, the fables of the
Hindustan, where we find a poetess
named Khansa so like the Kansa in
the Hindu myth. I say that her deeds
were not evil but that the name
shows an Islamic -Hindu linkage.
In a campaign against Banu
2000 camels and 5000 sheep, and
200 women, again the numbers,
sans zeroes, equal to 9. Plus the
last women of the group was named
Barrah which is from Bara, the
ancient Persian name of a lambsheep. Mohammed's close friend Abu
Hurairah has been compared to the
writer John of the gospellegencl. The
famous letter to Heraclius con'.ning
a battle won in 628 CE is said by some
to be spurious. It concerns a man who
in one day slew 600 Jews - which is
but a rehash ofthe legend of Shemger
Parsippany, New Jersey

in the fabled book of Judges. Let us

not forget that Mohammed too was
called a Judge (ibid. pages 319, 325,
332, 336, 339, 352, 365, 367).
can be found in the reprint of Sale's
translation of the Koran, with his
celebrated preliminary" to which the
reader is hereby referred.

We also note that in Higgins'

Mahomet the Illustrious,
that for
fifteen years of his life, nothing is
known about Mohammed. The number fifteen is lunar, and Mohammed
was to change the calendar from
solar to lunar. Jesus was unknown
for twelve years of his lifet as was
the Egyptian Horus, and twelve is
a solar number. Mohammed, like
others, fled for his life, and the pretended Othoman twenty years after
Mohammed's death found the Koran
to be full of corruptions and mistakes.
Can it be doubted that the fabled trip
of St. Paul in 2 Cor. xii is rehashed
in Mohammed's skyward Journey?
Higgins said that the Koran does
not look like the work of one original
compositor (Mahomet the Illustrious,
pages 20, 27, 35, 50, 58, 59, 61, 104,
106). Higgins later curiously questioned if Mohammed might in parts
represent the 'great year.' I shall
prove him partially correct.
A Myth And Nothing But a Myth

Myths that will be printed by the

American Atheist Press. I take the
time to remark that I am the first to
have ever displayed the route to the
myth of the Islamic hero, and that the
field is obviously not totally harvested. I have given the thread ofAriadne
so one can more easily go through the
Cretan Labyrinth of Islamic fiction
- as my celebrated predecessors have
done before in enabling me to put the
definitive exposition of the Christ
Fable. I shall now show the mythic
elements which are the only elements of the newest Arabian story.
Abraham, of whom Mohammed
is but a rehash, had 318 slaves, the
exact number of times the moon
appeared in a 354-day lunar year.
Mohammed changed the calendar
from solar to lunar.
The Kaaba has a crescent moon
and an emblem of Venus on it, hence
as it is an ancient fixture, the calendar had to be changed to meet the
emblems, and calendars are the real
origins of all religious myths.
Mohammed is none but the
constellation of Perseus," who was
also the Mithra in Persian legends.
Perseus holds the sword, as Mithra
and Mohammed, plus the shield of
Perseus was given to him by Minerva
- goddess of the Moon. Draper, in
his Science Against Religion (page
78), notes that another name of
Mohammed was Halibi, and I note
that the Arabic halib is the word
milk, milk and honey being emblematic of the Moon. (See Goldziher,
Hebrew Myths, page 28).
The Koreish of the Meccans were
adorers of Keres, Ceres, another Moon
goddess, hence al-Koran is the Moon
Book is Helios Biblia are the Sun
Books. And I mark that the crescent
was Mohammed's emblem! From the
Meccans, Koreishites, and Sabaens,
the Moslems came like the winner of
the warring Gnostic sects - the cult of
Mohammedanism. No historic person
was needed to start Christianity, and

We shall now list the myths that * Sale's "Preliminary Discourse to the
made the man and not the other way al-Koran concerningthe Moslemsbefore
around. We note that this is also Mohammed."
t (from age of birth unto age 12) - also
applied in our Origin of Religious
from 12to 30.


Page 43

the clue to this fraud is in the name

of Mohammed's son, Ibrahim, who is
made to die before his father!
Mohammed was said to have been
born in the year of the Elephant. Now
in the oriental zodiac, the elephant is
an emblem of Saturn, for both turn
slowly in their course of motion.
Note: the name of the elephant which
marched into Mecca was curiously
named MUHAMD. The reader is
referred to Volney's New Researches
in Ancient History (vol. 1, p. 142),
for the comparison of Abraham and
the Planet Saturn. Saturn was the
Marker of Time and Mohammed was
to mark time by changing the solar
calendar to lunar and Saturn was a
lawgiver as was Mohammed. Saturn
was the god of sowing and reaping
and we all have heard of the harvest Moon! The elephant in Hindu
myths is the deity of Wisdom, and
Mohammed is called the Illustrious
One. Even the constellation representing Saturn, the god of time,
namely Bootes, is parana tellon (rising at the same time) to Sagittarius,
whose bow the Orientals see as
elephant tusks. Moreover, Bootes is
opposite Sirius the Dog Star, hence
Mohammed hated dogs. In Sale's preliminary discourse to the Koran, page
57, we find the Islamic apocalyptic
monsters which were only taken from
the constellations, for this old beast
has the head of a bull (Taurus), eyes
of a hog (Ursa Major, or the boar slain
by Hercules), the ears of an elephant
(the bow of Sagittarius as we have
shown above). the horns of a stag
(Cassiopeia formerly called the hind
or stag), the neck of an ostrich (the
cygnus or celestial swan), the breast
of a lion, color of a tiger, and back of
a cat - all are Leo, as they are listed
not apart from each other. The tail of
a ram is Aries; the voice of an ass
is the Ascelli in cancer; and the legs
of a camel equal the constellation
of Draconis. who is shown on astral
globes as a camel in the Arabian
astronomical emblems.
Aishah equals to Ishtar; Allah is
Elios;Allat is Allat a Phoenician
*Although Perseus and Aries no longer
marked the equinox, the legend of M. consort of the storm god Yahweh
strictly applies.Onlythe learned astrono- whose name the Jews stole for their
mers couldtrace it .
own fiction.
none was needed for the holy religion
of Islam.
At Mohammed's birth, the country
burst into light. Perseus rose next to
Aries at springtime, and we may note
that no one has fixed Mohammed's
birth as to time, month, or year. We
note also that Mohammed's opponents, the Nadirites, equal Nadir, an
astronomical term for opposite the
thing above, the meridian.
Seventy-two disciples, twelve
apostles, numbers 40, 360, 365, 7, 70,
etc. play an important part in this
sacred fiction as with all the others.
The magical horse that took our
hero from Mecca to Jerusalem in one
night, was called the Barak, and bara
is Persian for 'divide' and/or 'lamb.'
The Square of Pegasus is the
Celestial Kaaba, the fish as sacred to
Venus is marked on the earthly replica, and near the Square of Pegasus
is the constellation of the fish, Pisces.
Incidentally, Pegasus is Mohammed's
horse, as it is the horse that the tenth
avatar Chrishna will ride on and the
same in the apocalypse myth. In retrospect, our Islamic hero was to be
the tenth or last 'coming one.'
We must never forget that the
Arabs were very learned in mathematics and astronomy, as well as in
that imbecility of the human mind,
Mohammed was a hater of all
dogs. Perseus rises over the Dog
Star, Sirius. Mohammed was a lover
of horses. Perseus and Pegasus are
nearly inseparable myths.
Mohammed's flight ended on
September 20, at the autumn equinox, and his greatest battle of Badr
was at the Spring Equinox, called
his battle or day of deliverance. He
is even made to say that Paradise
is found in the shadow of crossedswords, hence a perfect allusion to
the vernal celestial crossing in all the
religions of the world.
Mohammed is only a re-write of
Abraham, for the Koran says that
Mohammed imitated Abraham. Now

Page 44

Autumn 2004

And yes, we come to our hero

and save the best for last. We find
in Star Lore by R. H. Allen (page
331), the ancient Arabian name for
the star alpha in the constellation of
Perseus, which is MUGHAMMID, or
Muhammir el Thurayya - the shielder of the Pleiades - and in stanza 53
of the Koran, Mohammed makes a
cry or gesture to the Pleiades.
This is marked on a globe reproduced by a man named Borgia in
1225 CE from Arabic astronomical
information from a very remote time
in antiquity.
Mohammed, according to some
of the legends, died in his sixties, at
evening time, on June 7th or 8th. We
note that Perseus had culminated at
that time and that the Astronomer
Eudosia has marked the number of
stars in Perseus at 67!*
We have a story of an alleged
person who said and did nothing
new - a person who did miraculous,
in other words, mythical things. A
person who was assigned eight different births, eight being a number
sacred to him in the icons drawn of
him as he is surrounded by eight
divisions of Arabic writing. He was
a person whose contemporary historians worked with extremely corrupted histories. He was a person
whose tomb is at two different places.
He was a person whose own book is
a forgery and which is first referred
to by people ages after his alleged
life. The undeniable knowledge of
the Arabs in both astronomy and
that ancient sickness of the human
mind, astrology, plus the many, many
fantastic stories of the Arabian lands
leads us to say that the person venerated by insane fanatics in the Middle
East was like his other counterparts
- a myth. Mohammed is a Myth.
I wish to thank my best friend
and fellow Atheist, Mr. Michael
Anthony Rahaim, for encouraging me
to undertake this new venture.

* Vide Elijah Burritt Geography of

the Heavens, page 35)
American Atheist

As to the Myth of Mohammed: the wine is poured, one

may drink it.

Burritt, Elijah. Geography of The Heavens, 1856.

Forlong, J. G. Encyclopedia of Religions. 1967 ed.
Higgins, Godfrey, Mahomet the Illustrious. 1925 ed.
Peter Eckler.
Goldziher, 1.Myths Among the Hebrews. 1967 ed.
Cooper Publishing.
Margoliouth, D. S. Mohammed and the Rise of Islam.
1905 ed.
Sale, George. Koran With Preliminary Discourse by
Sale. 1856 ed. reprinted currently.
Universal Standard Encyclopedia. 1956 ed.

Allen, Richard H. Star Lore, reprinted in 1974 by
Dover Press.
Bayle, Pierre. Dictionairy Historical & Critical, 17351738, reprinted exactly in hardback by Garland
Publishing Press, 1980.


YOl.) J<AI OW,


Parsippany, New Jersey

If, "


THIN(j WOtJ/....C SF-. TO

IN ~RIVrtTe:. r :

Autumn 2004

Page 45



an 1 interest you in a jigsaw puzzle'?" a smiling

woman with a missing tooth asked.
Darlene let her fingers wander over another of the
many puzzles displayed on the table, feigning a polite
smile and replying, "No, thank you."
"Are you sure?" the vendor said. "They're Old
Testament-themed - except for the one of Christ in the
Garden of Gethsemane."
"Thank you, but I'm all set." Darlene felt the slight
electric-thrill she always felt when they spoke to her like
this - that excitement of, building up to the inevitable.
"But this one of Noah and the ark, with all the animals," the woman said. "It's so pretty."
Time for the punchline. Darlene smiled sweetly
and said, "Really, madam, I'm not interested, I'm an
The woman's gap-toothed smile vanished so fast
into a grimace that it seemed to Darlene almost like a
spliced-in film clip. "Oh my," the woman said, backing a
step away. "Oh goodness...."
That was worth it, Darlene thought. She left the
table, heading for the next. It was like an assembly line;
she had to stop at every station and break the news.
Eventually, the overall crowd at the Christian retailers'
trade show would catch on....
"We couldn't help overhear that you're an Atheist,"
came a voice behind her.
Darlene swirled around to see a couple approach.
"Uh, yes I am," she said, scanning their name tags and
seeing Kyle and Sarah neatly printed in capital letters.
They were dressed in their Sunday best - typical of these

affairs - and held understanding, yet pitying smiles on

their faces.
"Perhaps you'd be interested in attending Brother
John's revival. He's pitched a tent just outside town for
one day only,"Kyle said softly. They always started with
soft voices. At least it had only taken under twenty minutes to get them interested this time.
"I'm sure he'd love to meet you." said Sarah, clutching
a clipboard. "Since you're at this expo, you obviously have
an interest in religion .... We can tell your press badge is
phony by the way. Burger King kid meal toy, right?"
"Besides," Kyle said, "The Passion of the Christ will
be showing for free."
"Oh alright I guess. I'm about done looking around at
this trade show anyhow."
"Good."said Sarah. "The tent is within walking distance; we can head there right now."
Outside, they led her to the rear of the convention
center and down a dirt path through a forested a lot.
A burly, thirty-something man was positioning black

Apr-il Pedersen is an artist, cartoonist, and writer who lives in Nevada. She can be reached at:

Page 46

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

plastic letters onto a marquee at the start of the trail. So

Darlene followed them silently for several minutes
until they came upon a large orange-and red-striped
tent. Kyle held the tent's flap open for her.
"We found one," Kyle announced to an elderly gent, obviously Brother John, who was polishing a wooden cross
stationed at a platform near the far end of the cavernous
tent. A movie screen was hanging off to the right side.
"Found one?" Darlene thought.
"Excellent!" The white-haired
preacher invited
Darlene to pick any seat and make herself comfortable.
She plopped down on an outside chair a few rows back
from the front. People began milling in - seekers from
the nearby rural neighborhoods. By the time the film was
about to begin, nary a chair was left unoccupied.
"Enjoy the movie!" said a cheery Brother John.
The heavy tent tarp provided adequate darkened
viewing of the scourging and crucifixion of a Jewish
carpenter-turned-religious trouble maker. Darlene heard
lots of people sobbing but she was unmoved. With two
hours having transpired, Darlene felt it was time to leave.
She didn't think it necessary to speak with Brother John.
She stood up and exited the row of chairs as the credits
"Just where do you think you're going, atheist?" Brother
John asked.
Before she had a chance to respond, Brother John
bounded down the center aisle and was face to face with
her in seconds.
"The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.
"The fool hath said in his heart there is no God!
"Youatheists are what's wrong with this country. You
have the gall to claim there is no God, while not even
knowing how life came to be nor how the cosmos was
formed. You want God out of the schools and condoms in!
Wayne, change the sign to reflect our guest."
''Yes sir, Brother John!" replied a teen boy who sprinted off for the marquee.
Suddenly a large cage was produced from behind
a partition, pushed by the couple from the convention.
Brother John shoved Darlene through its open door,
slammed it shut, and locked it. She hit the cage backfirst; a steel bar felt like a gunshot to the spine, knocking
the wind out of her long enough for someone to wrench
her hands behind her back. She cried out, but was held
fast. She felt loops of rope being yanked around her
wrists, and in moments she was bound tightly to the
bars of the cage like the carpenter to his upright planks.
The irony almost made her chuckle, but this was beyond
what she had expected. A rope was then secured through
a ring atop the cage and the cell was hoisted a few feet
off the ground.
"Betcha didn't see that coming, atheist," Brother
John taunted. He turned to watch someone pull aside
Parsippany, New Jersey


a heavy curtain. The revealed wall was a four-by-eight

sheet of pegboard, upon which were displayed dull, silver
plaques. "Let's see... " he said, panning over them with a
raised finger, as if accusing them of something. Darlene
focused through tears of pain, and tried to read the words
on the plaques.
Mormon. Buddhist. Deist. Catholic. Pagan. Hindu.
Wiccan. Muslim. Jew. New Ager. Jehovah's Witness.
"Here it is," he said with a smile as he plucked one of
them off the board. "The most arrogant and misguided of
them all: Atheist."
Alarmed, Darlene lurched forward, struggling to
break free, but it was no use. The knot was too snug.
Brother John stared up at the swaying cage.
"What's the matter, atheist, is my religion rattling your
cage?" Snickers rippled throughout the tent. He slid the
narrow sip into a groove at the bottom of the cage like a
splinter into a fingertip. He then held up another, a shiny
gold plaque which proclaimed Born Again, and winked.
The congregation was laughing and clapping.
Darlene continued to twist and fight fiercely against
her bonds, but they grew even tighter. She could feel the
fear on her face, could see Brother John's satisfaction.
He said, "Those binds represent your sins, atheist. Try as
you may, you can't free yourself. You're trapped by your
own sins. Jesus is the only one who can set you free. You
shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free I "
"Hallelujah, Brother!" someone in the congregation
He balled his fists and pounded the air above him.
''You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you
"Amen!"another hollered, and then the crowd echoed
it as one voice.
"You people are insane!" Darlene shrieked. "Let me
out of here now!!"
"Silence atheist. You will now listen to the Lord's
word." Brother John grabbed a microphone from its
stand and the PA system momentarily whined with sudden feedback. "Put your hands together and pray for her,"
his voice booming out everywhere from unseen speakers.
"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Let us work to bring this heathen back from the brink of
eternal torment. Let us pray to the Almighty to show her
the way!"
"Show her the way, Lord! " a woman in the back
"Praise Jesus!" someone answered.
"Bring her back, 0 Lord," Brother John beseeched.
His eyes were squinted shut, one hand high over his
head. "Save this hell-bound soul; bring her back from
the clutches of Satan, bring her back to us ... !' He then
proceeded to 'spout scripture from a worn, leather-bound

Page 47

"He that believeth on the Son

"Water," she said. "Just give me the pole in one hand, he thrust the
hath everlasting life; and he that
water. I'm so thirsty."
hellish basket through the bars to
believeth not the Son shall not see
"Water," he echoed, and then
within inches of Darlene's head.
life; but the wrath of God abideth on called out, "She wants water. Bring
Horrified, she backed up and turned
me the water."
"But the fearful, and unbelieving,
Somebody came running with
"There will be much gnashing of
and the abominable, and murderers,
a bowl decorated with angels. He
teeth ... this is what awaits you, if you
and whoremongers, and sorcerers,
snatched up the ladle within and
do not repent! Say you will repent!
and idolaters, and all liars, shall
spooned some out. "Holy water," he
Say it!"
have their part in the lake which
said. "I shall anoint thee ..."
I will not!" She shot back.
burneth with fire and brimstone!"
He flailed the ladle and she was
Brother John snapped his fingers
On and on went the non-stop
spattered with it. She tried to catch
and at once a board mounted into
ranting from the Bible.
it in her mouth. Her throat was so the dirt floor slid open to reveal a pit
There were dozens in the con- dry.
of water directly under the cage. He
gregation, and they all took turns
She looked at him with glazed
doused the basket-torch and shifted
visiting her cage-to reach in and
touch her, like spoiled children try"More?" he said.
"Be not hasty in thy spirit to be
ing to grope at a puppy in a pet store.
She nodded drunkenly. ''Yes.''
angry. Be thankful unto Him and
Darlene resisted at first, but eventuHe smiled, hesitated,
bless His name. How great is His
ally she let them. They poked and
returned the ladle to the bowl. He
goodness. Jesus loves even you," he
prodded. They all had Bibles, and
shook his head. "No more. Not until
said as he circled around the cage
they all read to her. It was a proces- you see the light."
like a lion stalking prey.
sion of insane poetry readings, each
He pulled a matchbook from
"Get down on your knees and
stopping to belt out this Proverb or his pocket, plucked a match, struck
bow your arrogant head, atheist.
that verse. They focused on passages
it, and tossed the flame into a Accept Jesus Christ as your personal
that spoke of her sins and those of long-poled wicker church collection Saviour. Admit you are a sinner in
accepting Jesus Christ as her only basket, setting it ablaze. Gripping
need of saving!" yelled Brother John.
way to salvation. They read passag- r------------------------------------,
es that talked of love. Brother John
took breaks, but he kept returning
.to see how she was doing, offering
a Hallelujah or Amen whenever it
seemed appropriate.
The tent was still packed.
Hadn't anyone left to get help?
wondered Darlene. Unable to be
heard above the frenzied preaching,
she could only show a countenance
of disbelief. Exhausted, she could
barely stand or keep her eyes open.
Her bound arms were cramping, a
constant reminder of how dangerous these people were.
She called to Brother John,
who approached in a hurry. ''You're
ready to accept Jesus?" he asked
her, his eyes bright.
"I need food," she said. "I
haven't eaten."
He looked disappointed. "In
time. But this is more important,
my dear."
"Damn you," she whispered.
"No, damn you," he said, waving his Bible at her. "It is you who
will be damned if you don't repent
and accept."
Page 48

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

"Lord, give us strength to break this Atheist!" His eyes

were wild, his hand wielding the open Bible high in the
air like a sword.
Darlene slowly sunk to her knees. Head lowered and
eyes closed, she uttered, "Lord Jesus ... 1 am ... a sinner ...
I accept you. Please forgive me of my sins."
The congregation fell silent, then erupted into a chorus of hallelujahs. Brother John tried to look smug but
could not hold back an elated grin. An impromptu singing of Amazing Grace emanated from the garish tent.
"Lower it," the aged preacher said.
The cage plunged into the tepid water. The
onslaught of liquid was a shock. Darlene tried hard not
to hyperventilate. The sense of claustrophobia was overwhelming. The light grew dim as the cage plummeted
like an elevator into a flooded mine shaft. Five seconds,
10 seconds, fifteen seconds .... Her lungs were aching for
air. All she could hear was the sound of water roaring in
her ears; all she could see were the distorted images of
faces rippling above her through the water. The cage was
heaved upwards, bringing a still kneeling Darlene to her
Vision blurred by the intrusion of water, Darlene
could make out the foggy shape of Brother John.
"Congratulations my dear. You'vejust been baptized
in the name of the Holy Spirit," Brother John informed
her. "Praise Jesus. Praise Jeeezusl" He removed the
Atheist plaque and replaced it with the gold one. Darlene's wrists were untied and the cage door swung open.
Staggering out, she shot the crowd an icy gaze.
"What the hell is the matter with you people? How
much longer would you have continued? I pretended
to give in. It was the only way to stop you. And sure
enough, you believed it. I've been saved eleven times ... "
Darlene made the fingered quotation gesture when she
said saved. "None of them stuck of course. Its kind of a
hobby of mine, to go through the sinner's prayer bit. But
I've never come across anybody as zealous as you!"
Several people wore stupefied expressions.
Darlene then leveled her words directly at Brother
John, squinting coldly at him through her dripping
wet bangs. "Do you actually believe this Biblical nonsense? Are you actually a true believer in this delusion or is preaching to a flock and forcing someone to
listen to, your ravings the only way to have authority and control over people, even people as blatantly
weak-willed as this group gathered here? This is the
first time I've ever been afraid for my life. You people
are nuts!"
"Oh, you have reason to fear for your life now, atheist," Brother John said, his eyes boring into her with
unbridled fury.
An angry mob mentality was welling up amongst
the congregation. Brother John, Kyle, Sarah, and a
host of others began trying to herd Darlene back into
the cage. Some people stood around perplexed and
dismayed that conversions could be faked.
Parsippany, New Jersey

"Get her back in the cage and drown her! " bellowed
a crazed parishioner.
"Sounds like a fine idea to me," said Brother John.
She knew if she ended up back in that cage, she'd
never get out again. She bolted suddenly for the tent
flap, plowing through stunned onlookers, knocking them
about like bowling pins. Out she dashed into the chilly
afternoon. Brother John and a handful of others gave
Then he stopped, waving them off with a raised
hand. "Let her go," he said. "We don't need another murder on our hands. Just take wonderful comfort in the
fact that she must one day have to bow before the Lord
Jesus for real, before He sends her to the Lake of Fire."
They all agreed and smirked as they filed back into the
Running down the dirt path, Darlene again sa~ the
marquee sign:
"I don't think so," Darlene said as she ran past, looking back only long enough to give a final fierce glare up
the path.


Christian Fundamentalism:
A Journey into the Heart of
By David W. Hopewell.

Dr.Hopewellhas produceda workwe feel

to be a major contribution to the study of
that worrisome phenomenon Christian
Fundamentalism, showingthat those who
are drawn into its vortex are embarking upon A Journey into
the Heart of Darkness - to borrowa title fromJoseph Conrad.
288pp. Paperback
ISBN 1-57884-952-7
Stock # 5581

Autumn 2004

Page 49

For Cyber-Skeptics!
American Atheist Press is proud to carry the CD-ROMs being produced by "Bank of Wisdom," the "labor of love" of Louisville
Atheist Emmett Fields, who is trying to safeguard the literary heritage of Atheism and Freethought by recording it in computeraccessible form. Most of these treasures are now very rare - having been destroyed by religionists who stole them from public
libraries (those works that managed to get into libraries at alll), inherited them in estates, or in other ways succeeded in eliminating the printed products of the great skeptical minds of the past. Employing Adobe Acrobat'v PDF format, the discs work on both
IBM and Macintosh computers. Considering the enormous amount of priceless material on each ofthese discs and the ridiculously
low purchase price ($30.00), these discs should be in the library of every Atheist.

The Writings of Thomas Paine, 4 vols., Edited by Moncure

Daniel Conway (1894)
The Life of Thomas Paine, 2 vols., by Moncure Daniel
Life of Thomas Paine, by Peter Eckler
The Life of Thomas Paine, by G. Vale (1884)
The Age of Reason (1854), with Part the Third
Rededication of the Thomas Paine Monument,
October 14, 1905
Thomas Paine the Apostle of Religious and Political
Liberty, by John E. Remsburg

The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll

Stock #4500 $30.00
The 18 volumes contained on this CD are:
The Complete Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, 12 volumes
Ingersoll, A Biographical Appreciation, by Herman E.
An Intimate View of Robert G. Ingersoll, by I. Newton
Baker, Ingersoll's private Secretary for 15 years
Col. Robert G. Ingersoll As He Is, by E. M. Macdonald
The Philosophy of Ingersoll, Edited by Vere Goldthwaite
Prose-Poems and Selections from the Writings and
Sayings of Robert G. Ingersoll
Testimonial to Walt Whitman, by Robert G. Ingersoll

Plus - the June, July, September, and October 1956 issues of

The Liberal magazine that tell of the dedication of The Thomas
Paine Center of the Friendship Liberal League.

Facts of Freethought
An Appreciation of Thomas Paine
Stock #4503
The 21 volumes contained on this CD are:


The Life and Writings of Thomas Paine, Edited by Dan

Edwin Wheeler (1908)
Vol. 1.
Life and Appreciation of Thomas Paine
Vol. 2.
Common Sense
Vol. 3.
The Crisis
Vol. 4.
Rights of Man
Vol. 5.
Rights of Man Continued
Vol. 6.
Age of Reason
Vol. 7.
Age of Reason, Miscellaneous
Vol. 8.
Essays, etc.
Vol. 9.
Essays, etc.
Vol. 10.
Essays, etc.

Page 50

e 1

Stock #4502
The 14 volumes contained on this CD are:
Freethinkers' Pictorial (2 volumes) by Watson Heston
A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in
Christendom (2 volumes) by Andrew D. White
Censorship of the Church of Rome (2 volumes) by
George Haven Putnam
Henry of Navarre and the Religious Wars, by
Edward T. Blair
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, by Henry White
History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church
(2 volumes), by Henry Charles Lea
Autobiography of Andrew D. White (2 volumes)
The Future Prospects of Christianity, by Francis William
Thumbscrew and Rack, by George E. Macdonald

Autumn 2004

American Atheist

An Introduction to Freethought
Stock #4501
The 26 volumes contained on this CD are:


The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, or Christianity

Before Christ, by Kersey Graves
400 Years of Freethought (Illustrated), by Samuel P.
The Four Gospels, by Marilla Ricker
The Truth About Jesus: Is He a Myth?, by M. M.
The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine
An Analysis of Religious Belief, 2 volumes, by Viscount
Amberley (father of Bertrand Russell)
My Beliefs, by Luther Burbank
I Am Not Afraid, Are You?, by Marilla M. Ricker
The Origins Of The Christian Church, being a Candid
Examination of the Materials out of which
Historic Christianity is Built, by "Investigator"
The Pledge of Allegiance, before its perversion in 1954
The Jesus Problem: A Restatement of the Myth
Theory, by J. M. Robertson
The Religion of Science; or The Art of Actualizing
Liberty ..., by Calvin Blanchard
The Struggle Between Science and Superstition, by
Arthur M. Lewis
The Origin and Nature of Secularism, by George Jacob
The Bible a Dangerous Moral Guide, by Marshall J.
An Open Letter to Jesus Christ, by D. M. Bennett
I Don't Know, Do You?, by Marilla M. Ricker
The Essence of Religion, by Ludwig Feuerbach
Flowers of Free tho ught (First Series), by G. W. Foote
The Historical Jesus: A Survey of Positions, by John M.
The Non-Religion Of The Future: A Sociological Study, by
Marie Jean Guyau
Sixteen Saviors Or None, or, The Explosion of a Great
Theological Gun, by Kersey Graves

Parsippany, New Jersey


The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the

Evidence of His Existence, by John E. Remsburg
Views of an Agnostic, by Ross E. Browne
Eight Lectures by L. K. Washburn delivered before The
Ingersoll Secular Society, Boston, Mass.
A Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and
Nations, by J. M. Wheeler


and the Bible

Stock #4504


The 25 volumes on this CD are:

The Bible Comically Illustrated (2 volumes), by Watson
The Bible, by John E. Remsburg
The Bible Unveiled, by M. M. Mangasarian
The Jefferson Bible, by Thomas Jefferson (An exact
Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions, by T.
W. Doane
The Profits of Religion, by Upton Sinclair
What is the Bible?, by J. T. Sunderland
Is the Bible Worth Reading?, by L. K. Washburn
De Tribus Impostoribus (1230 CE)
An Examination of the Bible, by William Munday
Why I Do Not Believe, by Augustus Jacobson
Chapters From the Bible of the Ages, by G. B. Stebbins
Revelations of Antichrist
New Light on the Old Truth, by Charles Allen Densmore
The New Ecce Homo, by J. C. Blumenfeld
Searching for Truth An Inquiry Into the Philosophy and
Religion of the Bible
Messiahs: Christian and Pagan, by Wilson W. Wallis
A Few Words About the Devil, by Charles Bradlaugh
Blue Law Ballads - A Purge for Puritans
Is The Bible the Word of God?, by Emmett F. Fields
In Congress, 1996

Autumn 2004

Page 51

Lobotomy from page 28

accounts unfairly cast Frances
Farmer as a passive, gullible human
being lacking any authentic thoughts
and convictions of her own. Her ado-


lescent-period Atheism, however,

followed by an extraordinary if brief
period of social activism during the
Popular Front period of our history
- opposing Fascism, raising money
for the Spanish Republican cause,

JUST OUT! A New Edition Of An Atheist Classic



rallying her fellow artisans for labor

rights and humanitarian aid - all
demonstrate another side to this
extraordinary, misunderstood, and
very remarkable woman.

What On Earth

Is An Atheist!

By Madalyn Murray O'Hair

The year is 1968. The city is Austin, Texas. The building is the studios of KTBC radio. On the fateful day of
June 3, one woman picks up the mike and makes history.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair was already well known for her legal fight to stop compulsory prayer and Bible
reading in her son's high school. But producing the world's first regular Atheist radio show catapulted her into
a whole new arena. Every week she was on the airwaves, not one Atheist among many hiding their ideas, but
proudly announcing her convictions. You have here the complete record of this groundbreaking radio program's
first broadcasts. Join Madalyn as she expounds upon an avalanche of theological and political topics: government giveaways of property to churches; the real religious foundations of the United States; the philosophical
and historical foundations of Atheism;Atheist thinkers and writers of various epochs; the dozens, not legions, of
Christian martyrs put to death in antiquity; errors and absurdities of the Bible; and more.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair continues to be America's best-known Atheist. In the radio broadcast transcripts
first - we are witness to a master thinker finding her voice.


Cranford, New Jersey

Page 52

that comprise this book - her

ISBN 1-57884-918-7




American Atheist

Examination of the
PartThree of
Thomas Paine's

Thomas Paine


r-;:::::========;~ Living

by Anne R. Stone

The Age of Reason




The man who coined the name The

United States of America' was also
Edtred "ndAnnot.ated. by
a Bible scholar of prodigious wit
and talent, as seen in this study of
Old Testament passages claimed as prophecies of Jesus by the New
Testament authors.



xiv + 96 pages. Paperback

Rearing children as Atheists isn't easy, but this

manual will be invaluable for parents who want
their children to grow up with reality-testing

by Frank R. Zindler

Part three
Examination of the Prophecies


In The Light
Freeing Your Child From The


skills intact and strong immunity to the wiles

I of supernaturalism.
ISBN 1-57884-908-X

157 pages,paperback


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What On Earth Is An

An Atheist Primer
by Madalyn O'Hair.
This children's book explains what
religion and what Atheism are
all about. It is a great introduction to Atheism for readers of any
age. Grades 2-4. Illustrated. 30 pp.
ISBN 0-911826-10-9
Stock #5372

By Madalyn Murray O'Hair

The year is 1968. The city is Austin, Texas.
The building is the studios of KTBC radio. On
the fateful day of June 3, one woman picks up
the mike and makes history.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair continues to
be America's best-known Atheist. In the radio
broadcast transcripts that comprise this book - her first - we are
witness to a master thinker finding her voice.

~-~ ...~,=.-.-

333 pages. Paperback

CD-ROM from "Bank of

25 volumes on a single CD!
With Adobe Acrobat=PDF
format, it works on both IBM
& Macintosh computers.
Includes: The Bible
Comically Illustrated (2 vols.), The Bible, by John
Remsburg, The Jefferson Bible, Bible Myths and their
Parallels in Other Religions, by T.W. Doane, and
much more!
Stock #4504


To order, please include check (payable to American

Atheists) or credit card payment for the price of the
books plus shipping and handling ($2.50 for the first
title plus $1.00 for each additional title.
Send order to:
American Atheist Press
P.O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Credit card orders may be faxed to:
(908) 276-7402

ISBN 1-57884-918-7


The Altar Boy Chronicles

by Tony Pasquarello
The hilarious romp of a logical mind trying to grow up Catholic in Philadelphia's
Little Italy during World War II.
214 pp. Paperback

Stock #5583




The Great Infidels

By Robert G. Ingersoll
foreword by Jon G. Murray
Newly reprinted and reformatted,
Ingersoll's sketches of the lives of
great Freethinkers is one of his most
inspiring works. Includes his amusing
discussion of the fallacy of informal
logic known as the "appeal to the

76 pages, paperback
Stock #5197

ISBN 0-910309-08-6

The Jesus Puzzle



Did Christianity Begin With A

Mythical Christ?
by Earl Doherty

By Ibn Warraq

Challenging the existence

of an historical Jesus

A courageous crticicism of the

dark side of Islam

"This is the most compelling argument

ever published in support of the theory
that Jesus never existed as an historical person. This is a superb book - one
that every Atheist should read and
- Frank R. Zindler

Stock #5599

$14.50 USA,


$18.50 Canada

Prometheus Books. 402 pp. Hard cover. ISBN: 0-87975-984-4


Tr}, I\iJJ D () () Tr

Revised Edition
By W. P. Ball, G. W. Foote, John
Richard M. Smith, & others.
Introduction by Jon G. Murray
Foreword by Madalyn O'Hair




"The present work attempts

sow a drop of doubt in an ocean
of dogmatic certainty by taking
an uncompromising
and critical
look at almost all the fundamental tenets of Islam."




The ultimate defense against

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xv + 372 pages: Paperback
Stock # 5008

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The Jesus the

Jews Never Knew
Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest
of the Historical Jesus in Jewish


Before Christ
by John G. Jackson, with
foreword by Frank R. Zindler
A historical survey of the components of Christianity, showing that
they existed before that religion
was invented. An excellent starter
book on the historicity of Jesus
Christ. Prof Jackson was a pioneer
in the field of African and AfroAmerican studies.

Index. 237 pp. Paperback.

ISBN 0-910309-20-5

Stock #5200


By Frank R. Zindler

544 pages. Paperback

If Jesus of Nazareth was real, why

didn't the ancient Jews know of him?
Search of all ancient Jewish literature yields no evidence of any
historical Jesus.
ISBN 1-57884-916-0

Stock # 7026


2 VHS Tape Set
of the talks at the

Nov. 2, 2002
Stock # 5999


By David Eller
Everything is here to help those
who already are Atheists better
understand the logic of their lives
and see Atheism's social and political implications. Those who are not
yet Atheists will be helped by this
scientist's common-sense analysis of the so-called 'proofs
of God' to see the irrationality - indeed, the meaninglessness - of god-beliefs. What is belief? What is knowledge?
As Pilate is alleged to have asked, ''What is truth?"
and clear answers to these questions
are in this book.
354 pages. Paperback.
Stock #5902

ISBN 1-57884-920-9