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This Issue:

THE MORMON EMPIRE

IN CALIFORNIA

OUTLAWING

IN S. CAROLINA

ATHEISM

ATHEISM

VS. AGNOSTICISM

U.S. JEWS DIMINISHING

AMERICAN ATHEISTS
"Aims and Purposes"
1. To stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning
beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals and practices.

religious

2. To collect and disseminate information, data and literature on all religions and
promote a more thorough understanding of them, their origins and histories.
3. To advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways, the complete and absolute
separation of state and church; and the establishment and maintenance of a
thoroughly secular system of education available to all.
4. To encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system,
stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding and interdependence of all people
and the corresponding responsibility of each, individually, in relation to society.
5. To develop and propagate a social philosophy in which man is the central figure who
alone must be the source of strength, progress and ideals for the well-being and
happiness of humanity.
6. To promote the study of the arts and sciences and of all problems affecting the
maintenance, perpetuation and enrichment of human (and other) life.
7. To engage in such social, educational, legal and cultural activity as will be useful
and beneficial to members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.

"Definitions"
1. Atheism is the life philosophy (Weltanschauung) of persons who are free from
theism. It is predicated on the ancient Greek philosophy of Materialism.
2. American Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly
accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a system of philosophy
and ethics verifiable by experience, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of
authority or creeds.
3. The Materialist philosophy declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable and impersonal
law; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that man-finding
his
resources within himselt=can and must create his own destiny; and that his potential for good and higher development is for all practical purposes unlimited.

~I

Vol. 20, No.8

August, 1978

.....
EDITORIAL
READER COMMENT
NEWS
Atheist Blitz Strikes Again
Abortion - A Ticket To Hell
FEATURE ARTICLES
The Atheist Letters - 2
Renewal
The Mormon Empire
Holy Hoax: The Turin Shroud
Salivation
Jet Age Tyranny
Roots Of Atheism: Charles Bradlaugh
Atheism vs Agnosticism
FILM REVIEW
A Different Story
ATHEIST BOOK REVIEW
Freedom Under Siege [Final Edition]
Editor-in-Chief:
General Editor:
Non-Residential
Wells Culver, J.

2
3
8
9
: .11
13
18
.22
25
.28
30
33
35
36

Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair I Managing Editor: Jon Garth Murray


Frank Duffy I Production: Ralph Shirley I Circulation: John Mays
Staff: Ignatz Sahula-Dycke, G. Richard Bozarth, James Erickson,
Michael Straczynski, Joe Kirby, Elaine Stansfield

The American Atheist magazine is published monthly by American Atheists, 2210 Hancock
Drive, Austin, Texas 78756, a non-profit, non-political, tax-exempt, educational organization.
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX, 78768; copyright 1978 by Society of Separationists, Inc.; Subscription rates: $15.00 per year; $25.00 for two years. Manuscripts submitted
must be typed, double-spaced and accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The
editors assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts.

THE AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE


Post Office Box 2117
Austin, Texas 78768
Enter my subscription for one year at $15.00 (two years at $25.00).
NEW

Total Enclosed $,

RENEWAL

Name

ON THE COVER

Keith Berka, South Carolina


Chapter Director for American
Atheists, can usually be seen with
his wife and daughter jogging
down Fernwood Road between
the hours of 6 and 7 p.m. in
Spartanburg. Keith is easily recognizable to passers-by because he
proudly wears a running shirt
emblazoned
with
"American
Atheist" on the front and "S.c.
Director" on the back.
In South Carolina, American
Atheists don't just come out of
the closet, they come running
out.
Keith is 33 years old, a graduate of the University of Oregon
and a Vietnam War veteran.
While serving with the U.S.
Navy for four years, .Keith had a
top-secret security clearance and
was engaged in the assem bly,
testing and storage of nuclear
weapons.
Keith has been married for 12
years and has one daughter, aged
10. His wife is a full-time student
in her junior year at the University of South Carolina and expects to earn her B.A. in horticulture within the next year.
South Carolina has been. the
Berkas' home for the past five
years and this American Atheist
family are avid sports and outdoor enthusiasts with particular
affection
for jogging,
tennis,
white-water rafting and camping.
Fellow South Carolinians interested in joining your state chapter of American Atheists are welcomed to write Keith at:

Address
907 Seville Apts.
1514 Fernwood Road,
Spartanburg, S.c. 29302
or call (803) 573-9392

City, State, & Zip


Austin,

Texas

August,

1978

Page 1

Innate Atheism
....................

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you


Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and 'keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings-nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance runYours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more-you'll
be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling charts a difficult course for any


to follow in the quest for truth which more often
than not leaves the seeker shattered on the rocks of
superstitious bigotry.
Nevertheless, from each generation comes forth a
few who can think and dream without making either
quality supreme. The odds these few contest are often staggering, but they are sustained from within by
an intellectual sustenance and quality of mind which
are more than a match for those "all about you" who
have lost their head.
Life's path for the Atheist is an obstacle course of
marathon proportions dotted with successive hazards
manned by clerical knaves whose continued success at
trapping the sheepish fools requires that the Atheist
be shorn of civil rights along with the rest of the flock.
The course ends only at the grave and any victories
or profits attained along the way must be recycled
and used as fuel so that our descendants can sustain
the momentum which we have accumulated.
Each of us, religious fools included, is born an
Atheist. Only later as still wobbly children are we led
to the temple for an infusion of superstitious inhibitions so crippling that the majority who undergo a
religious indoctri nation never recover.
Now well established and funded by believers and
non-believers alike, the churches are seeking to subvert our public school system by gaining tax funding
for sectarian schools where scholarship and historical
accuracy are replaced with a cowering fear of natural
phenomenon and a docile submission to the authorities of su perstition.
The will to discard this disabling religious handicap
must initially come from within the individual whose
innate Atheism managed to survive the school-age onslaught of mind-numbing superstition.
Once aroused, the Atheist will seek others of like
mind who have similarly discarded worshipping cave
shadows to go out into the warming sunlight where
"the Earth and everything that's in it" are our own.

Rudyard Kipling

Keith W. Berka
GUEST EDITOR

Page 2

August,

1978

The American

Atheist

COeMeMENT

On Satirizing

Marx

TWO OF A KI NO

Dear Editor,
In reference to James Erickson's artide, "Marxism: Dogma for Modern
Man" [June '78 issue], Erickson
should learn something about his subject before he writes about it. The artide is simply a bunch of rhetoric and
I thought that your magazine would
take economic analysis more seriously.
... If you're going to do anything on
Marxism in the future, read up on the
subject. You can get a great deal of information from Pathfinder Press and
you can keep current on the subject
by reading Intercontinental Press and
The Militant newspaper.
Jack Snavely
Houston, TX

R
N
E
R

Fellow American Atheist reader


Jack Snavely assumes that I did not
do my homework before writing the
short satirical article on Marxism. Part
of my credentials is that I have read
many of the books distributed by
Pathfinder Press. Also, I have at least
tried to read part of The Militant for
many years. Karl Marx would have
been on more solid ground if he hadn't
completely neglected the biological
sciences, psychology and all social
sciences but economics.
James Erickson

No Big Loss
Dear Editor,
The thought just occured to me that
people should feel sorry for Atheists.
Why? Because we would be refused admission to any of the hate-groups such
as the KKK, the Neo-Nazis, the White
Supremacy Organization and the John
Birch Society, et al.
Really, my heart is broken!
Lois Carney
Springfield, OH

CORRECTION

The Bill Baird Defense Fund address reported in our June issue should have read:
673 Boylston St.
Boston, Mass.

02116

Austin, Texas

r"

\ '

! I

'/

? ~0.-IJ
';:)

.:

~
.

\.

LET US VENERATE"
THE HOLY TR1NITY ..
*

n ,. MARX, ENGELS
ANO L.N'N~"
*

Re: The Sour Grapes Bunch

Dear Editor,
I am saddened and almost disheartened.
. The splintering of our Atheist movement in these last months is caused in part
by a confusion of goals among us. Our Atheist compatriots (and let's assume they
are all bona fide Atheists), who have elected to go their separate ways apparently
have a different vision of the great possibilities that we could realize together. I, of
course, respect their right to a different view of things, but the action they have
chosen is imcompatible with my own. It will not accomplish what I want to see
come to pass. My vision of America is one in which all of its governmental subdivisions are absolutely devoid of all religious (read superstitious) influences. Atheists are more likely to see that day come by maintaining a strong, viable national
center where our resources can be concentrated and where there is a reasonable
chance of effecting real change.
In pursuit of this end it would be pleasant if we could all be nice fellows, but in
this kind of a battle nice fellows get stomped on. Please entertain no illusions about
that fact. At any rate, should we really be too concerned about being accepted by
the religiously oriented?
One Wisconsin lady indicated that for Atheists to meet in a large, quality hotel is
bad for our image vis-a-vis the general public. One wonders if she might approve a
meeting in Sleezi Motel & Fish Market in Flat Lick, Ky.
I set my course long ago, and fully intend to see it through fair weather or foul. I
am an ATHEIST and I never use cover words to disguise my Atheist beliefs. My
allegiance is still to the national center in Austin. I intend to keep supporting it in
any way I can. The alternative is tantamount to the dissolution of the best hopes
for the Atheist movement in this country.
Andrew D. Kahn
Baton Rouge, LA
Mr. Kahn,
Please disabuse yourself that the Atheist movement is "splintered." The hateridden publicity over the fact that we expulsed fifteen (15) troublemakers is more
thunder than substance. We have stabilized and enlarged and we are healthier and
stronger now that the "zanies" are out of the organ<ization.
The National Staff

August, 1978

Page 3

Hypocrite Award Nominee

Blast From The Left

Dear Editor,
I hereby nominate the Mormon
church for your next "Religious Hypocrite of the Year Award."
This is in regard to their recent announcement about blacks now being
"acceptable" in the Mormon priesthood. A direct communique from god!
As Nicholas von Hoffman observed,
who else can boast a hotline with god?
This has to be the farce of the century! Maybe we should subpoena the
tapes the Mormon chief made of the
conversation he had with god in which
god told him blacks were finally
"elect. "
There would no doubt be an 18112
minute gap in that tape!!
Robert Cardwell
Austin, TX

Dear M.M. O'Hair,


Why would you totally believe anything a conservative Roman Catholic Jesuit
would say in his book, The Final Conclave? [June '78 book review] You know most
Catholics are vehemently against any type of left-wing politics. The reason the
Maryknollers are against capitalists is because of their 100 percent total experience
in Latin America. They along with the late Martin Luther King were no doubt
Atheists who thought they could do more for the economic mess by remaining in
the church.
Throughout history the Catholics have always upheld the most conservative and
exploitative of governments. If the communists have to concede, it is because they
are forced to ... because they are too stupid to realize that "my type of humanism"
if taught in all their schools would within a generation keep more people from
being in the church. There are many things I do not like about communists, but
there is even more I do not like about capitalists. You state that you like to keep
out of the political field but, every so often, articles in your Atheist magazine prove
that you are just another exploitative capitalist.
Phyllis Christian
Colorado Springs, CO
P.S. According to an article ["Marxism: Dogma for Modern Man" - June issue] in
your last magazine, Marxism is likened to religion. Marx was an Atheist and a better
person than you!

[EDITOR'S NOTE: for details on the


divine wealth of the Mormon church
see "An Invisible Empire: Mormon
Money in California", on page 18_Also
check out Joe Kirby's view on the
Mormon "Blacks are now OK" decision on page 21.]

Getting Better
Dear Editor,
I just finished reading the latest issue of The American Atheist and it is
terrific! The cartoons are a scream; it
gets better each issue. Keep up the
good work.
Your writers are possessed with an
abundance of good, sound, logical wit
and reason.
I especially enjoyed the jabs at Anita
Bryant. Keep 'em jittery.
Walter W. Johnson
Titusville, FL

Page 4

Dear Phyllis,
I must admit that it is difficult for me to distinguish between the "dictatorship
of the proletariat" and "the meek shall inherit the earth."
But then, again, it was difficult for me when Gus Hall, the titular head of the
CPUSA [Communist Party of the United States], inveighed against the "Ingersolian
elements" in the party when he described that party as "the vanguard of the Christians" in the United States. I was - contemptuously - "a petit bourgeoisie pseudointellectual reactionary divisionist" for advancing American Atheism. The CPUSA,
as also the Humanists in the United States, staunchly accept the Anti-Duhring
writings of Engels that when the ruling class is deposed by Communism, religion
will die "its natural death." Meantime, anyone fighting religion is helping it to
martyrdom and a prolonged lease on life. Gus Hall, with an accusatory finger aimed
at me, declared that those who fight religion divide the "masses" into those who are
for and those who are against religion; when the "masses" need only to be united to
fight against capitalism. The accent on science, the Marxists say, will win the day
for all. Meanwhile, like it or not, ma'am, the Vatican, a survival institution if anything, and Marxism are doing the preparatory work of divesting certain outer garments so they may lie breast to breast of one another: the proletariat and the meek.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair

An Unholy [But Healthy

Visitation

Dear Friends,
I thought you would be interested in a recent experience I had on Interstate 75
between Lexington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.
I had been a Christian for many years and a member of Freaks for Jesus, Campus
Ministry Division. We were on our way to Cincinnati to persecute some Atheists we
had been told were hiding on the University of Cincinnati campus. As we neared
the Ohio River, a dazzling light suddenly shone through the window of my VW van.
I was so blinded I had to pull over to the side of the road. When what to my
wondering eyes should appear but Robert Ingersoll and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
Not to mention that holy pagan, Mark Twain. And Thomas Jefferson appeared beside them all (there being no class structure in Atheism) and said, "John, John
(probably seeing double because of the intense light), it does no injury for a neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks your pocket nor breaks
your leg." Naturally I replied, "What does this mean?" And Madalyn said, "Stop
living a fantasy and accept this world and this life for its natural beauty. Create
your own destiny, follow your own purpose, and be good for goodness' sake.
Enclosed is fifteen material dollars for one year's membership in American
Atheists.
John Crump
Lexington, KY

August,

1978

The American

Atheist

Legislating Ex Post Facto:

The Race To Outlaw


Atheism In S. Carolina

From time to time the American Atheist Center, as


well as its officers, friends and allies, is plotted against
in anything from a grand to a picayune way. If the
integrity of American Atheists was not genuine, the
paranoia which would come from these plots, as they
are discovered, would be crushing to the people and
to the institution.
American A theists are currently in all-out effort to
organize chapters in the diverse states of our nation.
As these chapters are brought into being, it becomes
necessary to legitimitize them by completing the required registration of the parent organization in the
state which is home to the chapter.
From time to time there are "peculiar" incidents
attendant to this registration, ranging from blatantly
obvious hostility through the subtle inuendoes of the
sotto voce remarks of the clerical functionaries.
Therefore, when we began the registration of the
South Carolina Chapter of the Society of Separationists, lnc., in January, 1978, the national office was
not surprised when the application form was bounced
back as being inappropriately
completed.
We tried
again.
In about six weeks the appl ication was retu rned to
us indicating that the price for registration had been
increased nine-fold.
Again, we did not hear from the
Secretary of State of South Carol ina for another six
weeks. It was then April. Our director-to-be,
Keith
Berka, was - in the interim time - reminding us
about each two weeks that something must be done.
However, haste can only be made as the state authorities desire that it should. We had not, it was told to
Mr. Berka, paid our $45.00 (up from the initial $5.00
which the application had indicated).
We had, indeed, paid, but upon an inspection of our checkbook
it was apparent that the check had not been cashed.
We sent another.
Several more weeks went by and in mid-May we
were advised that although the last check had been
received [we had sent it by certified mail] , now the
"first report of the corporation"
would need to be

filed, along with a filing fee of $10.00. To our surprise, 'this was a financial report of the first year of
operation in South Carholina. We not only had NOT
been in operation there for one year, but that state
had not even permitted our society, as yet, to even
begin operations. Keith Berka was advised and form
CL 1, of the South Carolina Tax Commission was
completed and submitted, along with a check for
$10.00. This was accomplished on 15th May, 1978.
It was at this time that some rather curious newsclippings were beginning to appear in mail sent from
American Atheists who survey the newspapers for us
in respect to state/church separation issues. One was
an editorial which appeared in The Columbia State
newspaper under date of May 15th, written presumably by the editor of that paper, Robert A. Pierce.
The headlines were:

HOUSE BILL THREATENS


FREEDOM OF RELIGION
"If freedom of religion is to be preserved inviolate
in South Carolina, then it necessarily follows that the
right of persons to worship as they please must be accompanied by the right to refrain from worship if
they choose.
"We make that assertion in light of a bill introduced in the General Assembly to ban businesses or organizations aimed at promoting Atheism. Target of
the bill is the Society of Separatists [sic], which has
applied to the S. C. secretary of state for a charter.
"The author of the anti-Atheism bill, Lexington
County's Rep. Larry L. Koon, undoubtedly bespeaks
the concerns of many church-minded South Carolinians in his opposition to the spread of Atheism. But
he overlooks the fundamental prem ise that government, whether at state or national level, must maintain neutrality and avoid interference in matters of
religion."
The editorial enlarged on the heritage of and the
need for state/chu rch separation and then concl ud-

The news which fills one half of the magazine is chosen to demonstrate,
month after month, the dead reactionary
hand of religion. It dictates
good habits, sexual conduct, family size, it censures cinema, theater, television! even education.
It dictates life values and lifestyle. Religion IS
politics and, always, the most authoritarian
and reactionary
politics: We editorialize our news to emphasize this thesis. Unlike any other magazine or newspaper in the United States, we are honest enough to admit It.

Austin,

Texas

August,

1978

Page 5

ed:
"We submit that [the constitutions of the United
States and of South Carolina] argue against the sort
of legislation proposed by Mr. Koon. If the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson contended, creates 'a wall
of separation between Church and State: then an irreligious organization (such as the Society of Separatists [sic] is charged with being) has as much right to
function in the state as does a religious organization.
"The State commends Rep. Bill Campbell of Richland for his role in blocking immediate consideration
of the Koon proposal when it was introduced last
Wednesday [i.e. May l Oth] . Thanks to his action, the
measure now reposes in the House Judiciary Committee, where it can receive the considered, and presumably the constitutional,
judgment of the attorneys
who make up that committee."
The paper was correct and incorrect in its facts, its
judgment and its hope. The name of our corporation
was incorrectly given. Rep. Koon, while "on other
business" with the secretary of state, had "discovered" that our application to do business (not to obtain
a charter) in South Carolina was pending there, being
held back by a "series of red tape problems." He had
obligingly introduced legislation in the General Assembly to prohibit
any Atheist organization from
functioning
in South Carolina - on the same day.
This must be a Guiness world record for construction
of a legislative act.
"If the Constitution,
an irreligious organization

ATHEISM

has as much riqhtto

function

August,

1978

MEASURE

IS FUTILE

GESTURE

"Any individual in the Un ited States has as much


right to be an Atheist as to be a minister of the Christian gospel. The Constitution
plainly states that the
government cannot interfere with that freedom.
"This makes an attempt by the State House of Representatives to ban businesses in South Carolina
which promote Atheism one of the Legislature's outstanding efforts in futility. The proposed bill almost
certainly is unconstitutional.
"The fact that the House has agreed to place the
measure on its calendar for debate is disturbing. Regardless of how anybody feels about Atheism as a

as Thomas Jefferson contended,

Meanwhile, neither our South Carolina director,


Keith Berka, nor the national American Atheist Center had been advised of the brewing plot. The item in
the Columbia paper was not repeated in Spartansburg
where Berka lived.
"Letters to the Editor" popped immediately into
print with one suggestion that "born-again, spirit-filled sisters and brothers" should "stand side by side"
to "keep Madelyn Murray O'Hair outside our city and
state" - presumably massed at the borders!
All of this was too much for the religious community to bear, since they must always don their cloaks
of martyrdom and have the decisive word. The head
of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, speaking
for himself (he had not contacted member churches
of his organization nor the ministers thereof) grudgingly gave assent that "We hope the bill will be defeated." This hope welled in his heart only after he
noted that " ... the motives of those who support the
bill may be commended, ... " Then, unmindful that
the Constitution
of the United States supported the
rights of American Atheists, he opined as to the faith
of Christians which gave Atheists this right!!
", .. this action would violate a basic tenet of the
faith of most Christians; namely, the right of each individual to freely pursue his own religious faith or to
freely pursue no religious faith at all," he said.

Page 6

The executive administrator of a Christian Action


Council in Columbia said, "Not only do I think it's
unconstitutional,
but I think it's harmful."
Meanwhile, the bill was put on the House calendar
and the House Speaker said that he expected the bill
to be given favorable consideration by the South Carolina lawmakers. Rep. James M. Arthur had sponsored
the recall of the bill from the judiciary committee although he had doubts about its constitutional itv,
But, Arthur said, "Atheism is akin to Communism:'
and he was against "anything that's a threat to our
system. r r
By May 23rd the Greenville News featured an editorial, presumably by James H. McKinney Jr.

creates a wall between church and state, ...

then

in the state as does a religious organization."


doctrine, the state has no more business trying to
stop its promotion than it does to regulate any other
area involving freedom of thought.
"Doubtless, those pushing the legislation represent
the thinking
of a majority of South Carolinians."
The newspaper probably meant the non-thinking
of the majority.
Even yet we did not know that we
were in a desperate race against time, at least as the
legislators and theoffice
of the secretary of state saw
it.
On the date of the editorial, three lawmakers objected to the measure and pushed it into the contested calendar, where consideration would be just a mite
more difficult.
On May 24th, after holding our application for
another nine days, the Deputy Secretary reported to
the Columbia State newspaper that our check had
been returned since it was made out to the Secretary
of State's office, rather than to the South Carolina
Tax Commission. It was thus broadcast to the world
that those dreaded Atheists would complete their
application "within two or three days" if the legislators did not get to work to block them.
The same day the Charlotte
put out an editorial, presumably
Jr. :

Observer newspaper
by David Lawrence

The American

Atheist

SOUTH CAROLINA
IGNORES
A DIVINE EXAMPLE
"If South Carolina legislators want to see the most
obvious advocate of people's freedom of - and from
- religion, they have only to look up.
" ...
It seems to us a promoter of Atheism in
South Carolina would have about as much success as
a promoter of booze at a Baptist convention. But the
tendency of legislators to want to protect people
from things - such as free speech - they don't need
protecting from is as natural as sap rising in the
spring. (Hmmmm. That analogy may apply in other
ways, too, come to think of it.)
"Rep. James Arthur made the motion that rescued
the bill from the House Judiciary Committee, where
otherwise it might have expired painlessly. According
to Arthur,
'most people in Russia are Atheists.'
"The vote to revive the bill was 60-16, with 48 legislators abstaining. 'It may not be constitutional:
one
legislator [told the newspaper], but it looks good
back in my district.'
"The legislators are looking to the wrong place for
guidance. The fact that we live in a world where all
sorts of odd beliefs exist is proof enough of a divine
preference for freedom of - and from - rei igion. It
seems to us the South Carolina legislature could show
its repect by following that example."
Read that last paragraph again, along with the
headline of this editorial, the editor had the timerity
to proclaim that the right to be an Atheist came from
god! !
Meanwhile, we don't know when our check was returned to us. We had not received it yet asof June
28th when - again - our director, Keith Berka was
bugging us to get on the ball before the legislation
was passed to exclude us from operating in the state
of South Carolina. The next day, indeed, on May 29
he and wife Sheri went into the office of the Secretary of State and paid the $10.00 fee, cash. A receipt
was tendered and he was told that the papers authorizing the Society of Separationists,
Inc. - South
Carolina Chapter, would be in his hands by 31 May.
It was on that date that we received the letter in
Austin, Texas, notifying
us that we must have the
check issued in the name of the Tax Commission. We
returned a new check the same day, not knowing that
Keith was in the Secretary of State's office that day.
Of course, May 31 st came and went and there was
no official authorization received. On Monday, June
5th Keith Berka was on the telephone again. He had
had been calling the office of the Secretary of State.
He was guaranteed that the application would be
processed the same date. We do not know what was
taking place in the legislative body of the General Assembly during this period - but on 8 June the deputy secretary of state notified the news media that
our organization "had complied with the state's incorporation laws." Keith was also notified.
To the news media one face was shown: "The purpose of the organization, according to documents

Austin,

Texas

filed with the secretary of state, is to work for the


separation of church and state." To our organization
another face was shown. In a letter dated 5 June 78:
"Dear Mr. Berka:
"The question of the religious exemption for the
above-named organization has been posed to the A ttorney General's office for reply.
"Until such time as the exemption has been confirmed or the registration completed, please make no
public appeals for contributions in this State.
"We will advise you as soon as we receive a reply
from the Attorney General.
"Very truly yours,
"Administrator, Public Charters"
The letter was written on the letterhead of the Department of State.
We have no idea what the letter really intends because [1] we do, now, have our registration completed; [2] we are not a religion; [3] we have no religious exemption and; [4] we have been making appeals for members, subscriptions and contributions in
South Carolina for at least nineteen (19) years.
Two items wound it up. On 10 June the secretary
of state returned to us our $10.00 check advising that
cash had been received from Keith Berka, and somewhat earlier, a letter to the editor in The Columbus
State newspaper had said it all.
.
"Sir,
". .. Our state Constitution of 1895, says ... 'No
person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being
shall hold any office under this Constitution'
"From the required belief in a Supreme Being, our
state is on record against A theism. Should our secretary of state and General Assembly give a go-ahead to
Atheism, when its inherents [sic] could not under
our S. C. Constitution hold public office?
"The founding fathers ...
doubtless- . . . had in
mind fairness to all religions. As Representative Koon
very well says, Atheism is nota religion, but it is a
lack of religion. Some are carrying separation of
church and state too far, making our nation ungodly. "
This bit of convoluted thinking was given a 36-point,
banner headline 9%" long and ~" high reading:
ATHEISM

IS ABSENCE

OF RELIGION

That declarative sentence reads as if Atheism was


a crime instead of recognizing it as a freedom.
We will be doing extensive organizing in South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee this fall, probably in late September. From this record of initial
contact, our relationship can only improve. It started
at its lowest point: one of hostility and an attempt to
ejects us. We plan to teach the Carolinians the true
meaning of human understanding by rescuing them
from religion.
Keith Berka is a daily runner - but not away from
trouble. If he is willing to start in this milieu, we
expect our next effort to be by some one determined to organize Atheists in heaven.

August,

1978

Page 7

her to the ground and have her eyes opened," a frail woman
with platinum hair beseeched the crowd.
"We offer her up to you, Jesus."
"Amen," roared the crowd as 100 pairs of arms were raised
toward the blistering afternoon sun in a ritual of barbaric
homage all too common in this "enlightened" age which finds
a "born-again" president talking several times a day to the very
same bogeyman whom these blood-thirsty Christians were
appealing to.
The rally was organized by Woody Cochran, who said it upset him to watch O'Hair attack god and religion on television
the week before. Bill Calkins, a layman from St. Marks United
Methodist Church, warned the crowd that if Atheists succeed
in stopping prayer at public meetings, the next step would be
to make churches pay taxes.
That, he said, would be unthinkable.

Atheist
Blitz
Strikes
Again

National Policy Launched

She did it again.


Atheist spokesperson Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair visited
another U.S. city for a media blitz to organize and stimulate
area Atheists into constructive action while at the same time
driving the local religious zealots into a fit of frothy madness.
O'Hair was long gone from Tuscon, Arizona after her 25
May visit but the reverberations of her "blitz" were still
audible as 100 Bible-packing Christians gathered in a local park
to beseech their omni-absent god to "zap" O'Hair lest she sueceed with her plans to make churches pay taxes on their
wealth. The controversial Atheist had suggested that Tuscon
non-believers take legal action to stop the city council practice
of praying before each meeting.
Such a thought drove the crowd of Christians to the point
of seeking divine injury to o 'Hair so as to enlighten her.
"Lord Jesus, we love Mrs. O'Hair, but if you would just zap

Dr. O'Hair and S.O.S. Secretary Jon Murray embarked on


the policy to "go out and beat the hustings" after the Eighth
Annual American Atheist Convention held in San Francisco in
April. Since that time they have "blitzed" the media in New
York, New Jersey, Detroit, Milwaukee, Arizona, Cincinnati,
Indiana and St. Louis and have plans to visit North and South
Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida later this summer
and in the early fall.
In each city the media plays host to O'Hair as the frenzied
fringe on the religious side pour from their catacombs to denounce everyone's right to be free of the religious grasp from
the past .
. . . Meanwhile, back in the hot Arizona sun.
Minister Lan Blair held his Bible to his chest and said he,
too, feared the Atheist movement would succeed if Christians did not rise up [from their knees?] and oppose any move
to tax churches.
"I've been saying, 'Lord bless my council members, bless
my governor and bless my president, don't let this happen,'''
Blair said, his voice rising and falling dramatically.
"Can you say amen to that?"
"Amen," everyone shouted as the frenzy built within the
now sweaty zealots.
O'Hair had predicted in an interview she gave the week before that such a rally would take place. Everywhere she goes,
she said, her appearance is followed by a Christian rally denounicng her and her (un)beliefs.
"This is the best thing in the world," O'Hair said during
the interview, "standing outside the religious establishment
and driving it crazy."
Amen.

Scholar: u.S. Jews Diminishing


A low birthrate, a high number of intermarriages and the
assimilation of Jews into the American ethic are all responsible for a definite drop in the number of U.S. Jews who take
interest in the Jewish religion, a sociologist has said.
Dr. Steven M. Cohen told the Conference on Jewish Population held in New York in February that there is a "negative
population growth" among American Jews and, should it continue, the current American Jewish population of 6 million will
decline to 4 million by the year 2050.
Cohen cited "gloomy" demographic data he said were compiled from "several surveys over the past few years," which
showed a birthrate of 1.6 children per family among Jews and
2.1 among non-Jaws. "This means the generation now being
born will be about two-thirds the size of the present generPage 8

August, 1978

~/

ation," Cohen said.


Cohen stated the Jews who intermarry with non-Jews are
less likely to be involved in Jewish affairs and maintain lower
levels of formal affiliation with the Jewish community. He
opined that assimilation of Jews into American culture leads
Jews away from the communal ethic and toward an individualism which is counter to the solidarity of Jewish religion
and culture.
He said low-cost or free day-care centers - which would
also serve as "Jewish agencies of socialization" - should be set
up to reduce the costs of having children.
Cohen is a professor at Queens College and heads the Task
Force on Jewish Population of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.
The American Atheist

Ab~rtion-ATicket To Hell
Pope Paul VI has endorsed a campaign by Italian bishops to use the medieval threat of excommunication
to
fight Italy's new law providing safe and
legal abortion services to women.
On 6 June, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the
vicar of Rome, reminded Catholic doctors and other hospital personnel that
they would incur excommunication
if
they implemented
the abortion
law.
Two days later the pope lavishly
praised Poletti's
statement
and said
that it was the duty of all Roman
Catholics to oppose the abortion law
which came into effect the week of
5 June.
The final parliamentary
vote, 160
to 148 in the Senate, had been rushed
through on 17 May to keep the issue
from a referendum
election in midJune. Under a referendum
proposal
then pending,
abortions
would have
been provided on demand with no limitations. As it is, Italy has adopted the
most liberal abortion law in Europe.
There have been widespread reports
of Italian women encountering
difficulty in finding hospitals and doctors
willing to provide the abortion services
authorized by the new law.
Under Roman Catholic church law,
a woman
undergoing
an abortion
automatically
places herself in a state
of excommunication.
The pope's endorsement of the bishop's threat of excommunication
for medical personnel
implementing
the law reconfirms
the
male hierarchy's
total concern for preserving their self-proclaimed
role as
global gurus acting in the stead of the
omni-absent god of the Bible.
Meanwhile, on the American side of
the Atlantic, the Roman Catholic thrust
to force the beliefs of their religion on
all continues as a Catholic high school
in Florida has altered the U.S. Pledge
of Allegiance to suit its own dogma.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of
the United States of America and to
the republic for which it stands, one
nation
under God, indivisible,
with
liberty and justice for all, born and

unborn. "
That grossly modified
version of
the Pledge has been adopted by Cardinal Newman
High School in West
Palm Beach and students are required
to stand and recite it every morning.
According
to Supervising Principal

Austin,

Reprinted

courtesy

of

Hustler Magazine.
Cardinal
Poletti's
hard-line
statement with papal support is a global appeal to the church's
parishes around
the world to apply the sanction of excommunication
to all concerned
in
any abortion - except the impregnating
male.
The Roman clerics are acutely
aware that their reaction to liberalized
abortion
laws in their own backyard
are being scrutinized
by Roman Catholics everywhere.
Under the new law, medical personnel,
including
doctors,
can sign
statements
of conscience
excusing
themselves from participation
in abortion services. Dozens of doctors report-

Catholics
Alter
Pledge
Francis G. Curley, the modified pledge
reflects the anti-abortion
stand of the
private
Catholic
school and will be
used indefinitely.
The words "born
and unborn" were added to the pledge
the week. of 15 May 1978 by Curley's
order.
"I have no ax to grind," Curley said
on 23 May. "But I believe in the right
to life for the unborn."
He said he
ordered the change to show the school

Texas

August,

1978

edly have signed the statement


but no
clear picture has yet emerged as to
how extensive the professional
opposition is.
Italian hospital authorities
say they
believe most physicians
will choose
not to carry out the operations,
although
many have been making inquiries about the new statute. The law
requires a seven-day waiting period after a doctor's examination,
except in
emergency cases.
"We don't have enough beds for expectant mothers, so let's imagine what
is going to happen with abortions,"
said a doctor in Milan.
is concerned about abortion.
Curley changed
the pledge at his
own discretion
at the request of Jo
Ellen Moczek, an eighth-grade Catholic
school student at Martins Ferry, Ohio.
In a letter to Curley, she said she was
campaigning
to change the Pledge of
Allegiance
at all Catholic
schools
across the nation. The change, she said,
would serve "to remind us daily of the
terrible crime of abortion."
Meanwhile, Roman Catholic school
administrators
across the nation are
busy lobbying to receive increased tax
funds to support their schools whose
administrators
feel no qualms about altering the nation's very Constitution,
if need be, so as to have all knees bend
before the Catholic god and his earthly
representatives.

Page 9

Litigation Success:

'Rich Daddy' Parishes


Drop Bingo Schemes
Those American Atheists willing to stand up and fight with
their backs to the wall are few in number and the process of
gaining even a temporary halt in the onslaught of the superstitious "grasp from the past" is laboriously slow.
We do have our moments, however, and even an unexpected setback can turn up good results.
For instance, the American Atheists' suit - which many of
you helped fund - demanding enforcement of Texas' antigambling laws, although ruled against in late May on procedural grounds but not substantively on the state-church issue,
has achieved our Atheist goals just the same.
The six Austin, Texas Roman Catholic parishes which sponsored bingo gambling last year have all ceased such operations
in admitted deference to our litigation being brought against
these violations of the Constitution. Their publicly stated
reasons for discontinuing the money-raising bingo schemes
include low attendance and a desire to move away from
gambling as a source of revenue.
But a spokesman for the St. Louis parish house at 7601
Burnet Road in Austin admitted that the suit initiated by
American Atheists was a factor in the decision to halt the bingo operations. He indicated the games might resume if the legal
questions surrounding them are resolved. "We're waiting to
see if it's against the law. Until it's settled, we're not holding
any more games," spokesman John Varsky of the Home and
School Association of St. Louis Parish said.
American Atheists had expected this suit to be dismissed
on procedural grounds and had already planned an appeal to a
district appeals court in New Orleans.
The last Catholic parish to drop their bingo operations was
Dolores Catholic Church, 1111 Montopolis Drive in Austin.
In a memo to his parishioners, priest Stephen Lambour,
Dolores pastor, said bingo was "making too great a demand
on the time of too few persons" and that the parish would be
better off not depending on the games to supplement its income.
"We feel our parish will never come to full status as long
as the parish seems to be a rich daddy," Lambour said. A year
ago, Dolores held three bingo games a week and averaged $400
profit each night.
Other Catholic parishes in Austin which have dropped
bingo operations in the past 12 months are: Our Lady of

Reprinted courtesy Penthouse magazine.

~.
~
"Well, if you don't want to make peace with god,
perhaps we could playa little bingo?"
Guadalupe, 1206 East 9th St.; St. Julia: 900 Tillery St.; San
Jose Church, 2425 Oak Crest Ave.; and Cristo Rey, 2109 East
2nd St.
By S_O.S. calculations, Austin, Texas Roman Catholic
churches have lost about $2.5 million this year in revenue
from gambling and related activities which have been too long
tolerated by gullible Americans and vote-hungry politicians
who lack knowledge of the Constitution and the guts to
defend it.

Paul VI: Media Spreads AtheisIn


Pope Paul VI has laid the burden of his church's multiplying troubles at the door of the news media which he says
is spreading Atheism, indifference [read Agnosticism] and
hate.
"The great social communication instruments (mass media)
... spread - not only slyly and hiddenly , but sometimes even
in an open and virulent way - conceptions, orientations and
ideologies that are not always in harmony with the demands of

Page 10

August,

1978

the gospel and the teaching of the church," the pope said without specific instances.
"Atheism, both theoretical and practical, is propagandized;
as is indifference in the religious field ... ." Paul also has denounced the "practical Atheism" - behaving as if god did not
exist - that he says is spreading in Western society.
Although the pope did not cite specific examples, he often
has criticized displays of eroticism and violence in the media.

The American

Atheist

A JOYOUS ATHEIST
g. riehard bozarth
Letters-2

The Atheist
[Editor's note: Columnist G. Richard Bozarth continues
with this piece his excerpts from a running debate he had in
the Letters Section of his local newspaper (The Reporter) in
Vacaville, California. He was moved to state the Atheist viewpoint in response to a story that the mayor of Vacaville intended to have two "blasphemous" films banned from public showing in that town. He was outraged at the idea of religious
censorship going unchallenged, and he offers the results of that
debate "as an example of what Atheists can expect from religionists when they are confined to reasoning rather than shouting or physical violence. "J
The Charges

1. "We believe god created hell for those here on earth who
refuse to love and obey his commandments and die in unrepented sin."
2. A list of Christians "would include the greatest statesmen,
artists, poets, generals, inventors and scholars of every age" to
include "Copernicus, Galileo, Herschel, Ohm, Pasteur," on for
21 names.
3. "If the church was of human origin it would' have' fallen
centuries ago. Because it has thrived and grown throughout the
ages proves it is of divine institution:"
Priest Shipman
The Answer

Once again, threats of hell have a predominant place in


Priest Shipman's arguments. In fact, all the letters responding
to mine have threatened me with hell in some way. That certainly shows how large a portion of the Christian mind is enthralled to fear.
As an Atheist, I am immune to such fear. Threats of hell are
futile arguments to use against me. Thanks to the freedom of
Atheism, such threats only make my belly quiver with laughter
instead of making my soul quiver with black terror.
Priest Shipman has an impressive list of religious worthies.
Excellent people all, although Catholics haven't always appreciated the work of Copernicus and Galileo. The list only illustrates my point made previously that illiteracy and ignorance
condemn a person to religion, but education only offers an opportunity to be free. Like all opportunities, only the strong
can exploit them.
Religion is a need. An equally impressive who's who can be
compiled for smokers. Because there have been scientists,
poets, and generals who have smoked does not tempt me to
join them in their need for tobacco. Neither does Priest
Shipman's list tempt me to join those worthies in their need
for religion.
The most amusing argument, though, was the assertion that
because Christianity "has thrived and grown throughout the
ages proves it is of divine institution." At last! A measure of a
religion's truth: longevity! Aren't we all relieved?
Let's see, Christianity is roughly 2,000 years old. Islam is
roughly 1,400 years old. That makes Christianity 600 years
"truer" than Islam. I'm sure every Christian will happily embrace such devastating proof.
But look! There's smiling Buddha. Why is he smiling? Because Buddhism is roughly 2,400 years old, easily "truer" than
Christianity by 400 years by Priest Shipman's test of longevity.
What of the Mediterranean religions Christianity replaced?
They were flourishing at Jesus' birth and continued centuries
after his death. They were older by centuries than infant

Austin,

Texas

Christianity, so obviously they had to be vastly "truer."


Hmm but they all perished. I guess that shows about how
valuable longevity is in estimating the "divinity" of a religion.
Priest Shipman is obviously an intelligent man, but when
one is accustomed to dealing with those to whom "noexplanation is necessary," as he described the faithful, it evidently affects one's ability to make reasonable explanations. I am confident he will improve with practice.
The Charges

1. "I was in two wars and you do not find many Atheists in
foxholes. "
A. E. Ryan, a Freemason
2. Despite the desires of the Christian majority of the U.S.,
Madalyn 0 'Hair "was able to get the Supreme Court to rule
that it was unconstitutional to pray in public school."
Ellanne T. Vandenburgh
The Answer

Mr. Ryan writes that "you do not find many Atheists in


foxholes." I've heard that silly cliche before, too. Didn't Pat
O'Brien say it to Ronald Reagan before they went over the top
to save Western civilization on the Late Show?
Mr. Ryan guessed wrong. I put nine years in the Marine
Corps, volunteering in 1967. Need I say I got my fair share of
time in Vietnam? If that war was one of Mr. Ryan's, he should
have visited my foxhole. He would have found an Atheist in it.
I think, though, he meant that if I had ever got close to
death, I would want to get close to god. Most Christ.ians I've
disputed with seem to believe no Atheist can keep his or her
beliefs when death seems likely. I can, of course, only answer
for myself. I've been close in Nam, and even closer on California's freeways. Obviously, I'm still an Atheist.
Let me add that in my nine years in the Corps I never met
one Mason. Should I conclude, therefore, there are no Masons
at all in the foxholes? That's a silly statement, and I'm sure
Mr. Ryan and the rest of the Masons would be the first to indignantly say so. I would be ashamed to make such a statement. So should Mr. Ryan.
Ms. Vandenburgh expresses dismay that Madalyn O'Hair
prevented Christians from perverting the Constitution's First
Amendment, which states clearly "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof." Plainly', any child can pray his or her heart
out in a public school. What is forbidden is a public school
making praying an official activity by allotting school time for
it. Dr. o 'Hair has only defended the Constitution from sly subversion.
From the very beginning of the American republic, Christians have thought freedom from religion would never happen.
From the beginning they've sought to bind us in holy chains.
You don't believe me? Read this from a letter written by
Thomas Jefferson in 1800 to Dr. Benjamin Rush:

August,

The delusion into which the X.Y.Z. plot showed it


possible to push people; the successful experiment made
under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the
Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the
press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to
the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the

1978

Page 11

United States; and as every sect believes its own form


the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but
especially the Episcopalians
and Congregationalists
...
they believe that any portion of power confided to me,
will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they
believe rightly.
Religion is inimical to human freedom, for to the god-blind
nothing human is too good to sacrifice to their god. We have
been saved by only those like Thomas Jefferson and Madalyn
O'Hair, who are sworn enemies of any tyranny over the human
mind. And, I must add, by newspapers
like our Reporter
which keeps open a public forum for free debate even when
the issue is god and religion.
The Charges
1. "An inculpable
and invincible ignorance regarding the
existence of god is not possible, in view of the natural knowledge of god attested in the Bible, in tradition, and in the universe itself."
2. Christians "try to keep god's laws and bring back sanity
to the world" while Atheists are "one of the major reasons for
the great moral evils that exist in the world today."
3. "It is better to be called a fool for god's sake and to be
humble and acknowledge
god's supremacy than to be called a
fool for one's own sake and risk an eternity of suffering and
damnation. "
Priest Shipman
The Answer
Priest Shipman puts forth the proposition
that "the knowledge of god can be easily gained," and because of this, Atheism
is impossible
"unless one would deliberately
blind oneself to
truth." He even goes on to write "ignorance regarding the existence of god is not possible."
I suppose someone
who has not at least waded into the
broad and deep river of human philosophy might actually even
believe that. I'm sure a person who believes it will have no
trouble being religious. Such a person deserves religion.
What can I say to such a person? Go to the library and, if
you dare, open your mind. I assure you, history and philosophy will expose the falseness of such a claim.
As a "proof," Priest Shipman offers the Bible. In the 16th
century,
Jean Glaspion,
a Franciscan
monk and Emperor
Charles V's confessor, was trying to combat the successful arguments of Luther. In doing so, he charged that Luther's scriptural "proofs" for his Protestant theology were invalid because
"no system of religious belief could be securely based on scripture, for 'the Bible is like soft wax, which every man can twist
and stretch according to his pleasure.' " (Durant, The Story of
Civilization, Vol. 6)
No doubt he recorded such honesty for history's smiling
memory only because the pressure of the times made him unaware of what such truth can do. I have given the Bible three
serious readings and the easiest thing you can mold out of that
lump of soft intellectual
wax is a very excellent, even humorous, reason not to believe any of it.
Priest Shipman lays the moral problems of the world on
Atheism's back. I wonder. Look to Washington,
D.C. There's
not one Atheist in office there that I know of, but there are
most certainly a multitude of moral problems in office.
Glowingly, he goes on to proclaim that Christianity is struggling to "bring back sanity to the world." Is he writing to me?
No. Let me pass on a quote I picked up from the April issue of
The American Atheist. James Madison, our fourth president,
wrote: "During all those fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity
been on trial and what have been its
fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the
clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."
Sanity was restored when civil law stripped from Christianity all power to make war, burn heretics, hang witches, and incite its congregations
into Jew-murdering
rage with vicious
Easter sermons.
Sanity, Priest Shipman?
What sane person

Page 12

August,

~J

1978

would believe a mere two centuries of civil law has tamed such
a beast?
In the end, he offers me - what? Another threat of hell,
this time disguised as Pascal's Gamble, which argues one should
gamble on god's existence because to lose is to lose nothing,
whereas to gamble on Atheism is to risk a lot should one lose.
I consider a person who would bow down to Christianity
for
such a reason to be a most pathetic sort of coward; a worm
that somehow had mutated to grow arms and legs.
When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. When I grew
up, I learned the monsters I had feared were the silly fictions
of a childish imagination.
Like monsters in the dark, so is hell.
I am an adult human now, afraid of neither the dark nor
hell. They are terrors I have left behind to keep all god's children clinging in fear to the comforting skirts of the Priest Shipmans of the world.

One thing this debate showed me is how much nonsense


otherwise intelligent people actually believe! It is amazing how
people will lay their reason aside when they approach their religion and devoutly believe absurdities that even the most casual
of investigations
would reveal as utter foolishness.
For all our
century's progress in science and disseminating
education to all
classes, Christians today are very much like Oliver Goldsmith,
the famous 18th century playwright,
who Boswell, in his Life
Of Samuel Johnson, quotes as having said, "As I take my shoes
from the shoemaker, and my coat from the tailor, so I take my
religion from the priest."
And the priest? In one letter Priest Shipman declared, "To
those who have faith, no explanation
is necessary." The priest
is in a position of telling people what to think without explaining why they must think this way other than as a requirement
to gain heaven and avoid hell. The mind of the priest is as corrupted as the minds of the laity, for the priest is one from
whom no explanation
is required.
Of course, one sees today many doctrines argued about -the Anglicans squabble
about women priests, the Catholics
about abortion
and more liberal sexual codes, the Lutherans
about the inerrancy of the Bible, and so on. This is as it has always been since the days of Arius. Do not mistake this for intellectual freedom. Each squabble will be decided eventually
by an article of faith never to be questioned,
and the losers
will either have to shut up and believe, or break away to start
their own sect with the articles of faith they desire never to be
questioned
nor to have to explain. Nowhere is truth sought.
Only the terms of obedience are fought over.
In the charges I have presented I think one will find articles
of faith that are common throughout
Christianity
despite the
sect. In particular,
the charge of the corrupt immorality
of
Atheists. This is one charge we can defeat only by our public
presence, and we need not be secular saints to beat it; only
good citizens. I find being a good citizen very easy because I
need only be a reasonably decent human being to be a good
citizen, whereas to be a good religionist I would have to corrupt my mind and accept as true all these charges I've argued
against in these letters. That would, indeed, make me a corrupt,
immoral person.
Lastly, I learned not to assume a newspaper
will exclude
one from its pages because one is an Atheist. If you haven't
tested your newspaper with letters, I strongly urge you to do
so. You may be denied a public forum; then again, you may be
surprised as I was. The chances for the latter are too good to
pass up, for you may reach only just one mind feeling "somehow unnatural pretending
to be four-legged,"
and by your example give him or her the confidence
to stand up and be free.
This possibility - this one potential mind - is too important
for us to fail in trying to reach because we assume we will be
denied a public forum.
WOMAN: the peg on which the wit hangs his jest, the
preacher his text, the cynic his grouch and the sinner his
justification.
- Helen Rowland

The American

Atheist

----------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------By Stuart Stock


When you know you're going to die, you spend a good deal
of time thinking about it - especially when you're only 47
years old and don't know why you're going to die.
This, at the moment, was Joel Keller's particular concern.
He was dying, and no one -least of all he - could find a good
reason for it. Not that he was afraid of death. The end of his
life as such did not really concern him. Lying in a hospital bed,
surrounded by doctors and nurses and machines that knew he
was dying but didn't know why, he tried quite calmly to concentrate on the idea of death: dwelling on it, boring into it,
trying to get underneath it, so he could get some kind of purchase on the concept.
But he found it to be very slippery.
One of the doctors leaned over and asked how he felt. He
thought: "I could say I felt lousy, but since I'm dying anyway,
what good would it do me?"
"Fine," he managed to whisper, and the doctor nodded and
said, "Good," then turned to examine one of the machines.
"I'm dying," he considered, "I'm dying, but I just said I felt
fine and the doctor thought that was good."
Keller thought of himself as a contemplative man; not intellectual but merely contemplative. He was the owner of two
moderately successful hardware stores, but he had never let
the mundane facts of business interfere with his abstract turn
of mind. Nor was he a particularly religious man - not that he
was unreligious either. What he was, he thought, was contemplative.
He had a pleasant and attractive wife who was justifiably
hysterical at his approaching demise. He had two children with
whom he was on fairly good terms, considering the difficulties
involved in being on any kind of terms with one's children.
They too seemed reasonably upset by his state of affairs. All in
all, he thought, he was generally satisfied.
Yet into this intruded the fact of death. If he accepted life
as it was, then where did death fit in? As a contemplative man,
he found such an incongruity upsetting.
After a certain amount of time, however, he ceased to be
upset, and died.
He realized he was in an office, seated in front of a desk, in
a heavy black leather chair that embraced him, womb-like. The
dark wood of the desk was highly polished, and behind it an
empty high backed swivel chair of the same dark leather moved
languorously on invisible breezes.
Slowly, Keller rose to examine the rest of the room. The office spread out before him as if he stood at one end of a football field, panelled walls covered with pictures and what looked
like trophies. The door at the rear seemed so far away he could
barely make it out. And there was a scent to the room, a mixture of leather, furniture polish, and yes, lemon, which he
found rather cloying.
He walked behind the desk, thick, wine-colored carpeting

cushioning his steps. The desk was cluttered but neat. There
was a blotter with matching pen, a desk lamp, a large empty
ashtray, and a telephone with a great many buttons and a computer card dialing attachment. To the left of the blotter was a
cigarette box and next to it sat the figure of a fat little man
with a huge cigar in his mouth and his feet up on a desk. On its
pedestal were the words: WORLD'S GREATEST BOSS. On
the right, a single book titled 1001 Businesses You Can Start
for Less Than $100 stood between two ornate bronze bookends.
Keller sat down again. For all his contemplation he had
never imagined this. Heaven, Hell, Limbo; something, perhaps,
beyond his comprehension. But an office?
He was just becoming restless when he heard the door behind
him open and shut. He started to turn, but before he could a
tall figure slipped past him, behind the desk, hand extended.
"I'm real sorry to have kept you waiting," he said earnestly
as Keller rose to shake his hand. He found it warm, but a little
moist. They seated themselves and the man offered the cigarette box. Keller refused and the man smiled, took one himself
and lit it with a handsome silver lighter from his pocket. He
opened a drawer, blowing smoke all the time, and took out a
manila folder. "Just let me look at this for one minute and I'll
be right with you." He smiled, showing teeth so white and
even that Keller wondered if they were phony; then he looked
down, still smoking furiously.
If he smoked that much, Keller wondered, how did he keep
his teeth so clean?
The man was young, not more than 27 or 28. He was lean,
with dark brown hair just long enough to be fashionable,
brown eyes that seemed to see everything, a prominent nose,
and a thin mouth which Keller thought could frown as easily
as it could smile. His carefully styled blue suit was set off perfectly by a gold shirt and matching tie. And by peering under
the desk, he could just see that the young man's trousers were
slightly flared.
Keller, heavyset, slightly stooped, and balding, felt positively drab in his white shirt, gray tie, and conservatively cut
gray suit. But there was a thin, red stripe in the middle of the
tie that made him feel better. Then it struck him that it was
his own tie, shirt, and suit.
The young man examined the papers in the folder carefully,
occasionally making little sounds of surprise or puzzlement.
Keller sat bewildered.
Finally the young man closed the folder, made a tent of his
fingers and leaned forward on them, staring at Keller intently.
Keller felt as if he were being judged - not like a criminal, but
like a piece of merchandise.
"Well," snapped the young man, so suddenly Keller jumped,
"I'm real happy to see you again, Mr. Keller. It's been quite a
while and I know you're in a hurry. I'd've been here sooner,
but you know how business is." He grinned. "Now, I don't

want to rush you, but," he took a sheet of paper from the


folder, "if you'll just sign your name on the line we'll consider
the matter taken care of." He extended the sheet with a flash
of teeth.
Keller leaned forward to take it. He read:

Keller spoke for the first time. For some reason he felt
deathly calm. ''What is this?" he asked slowly.
The young man looked astonished. "Your subscription of
course. "
"My subscription for what?"
"Why, for your life, Mr. Keller, for your life."

Page 14

August, 1978

Keller looked at the paper again, then at the room and the
desk with the man behind it. Everything appeared normal, but
he felt as if there were a slight distortion to the scene, an almost imperceptible blurring. A thought struck him. "You
mean it's kind of a lifetime subscription?"
The white teeth overpowered the face. "Exactly, exactly.
Now if you'd just put your name on the proper line we can
move right along."
Keller put the sheet on the desk and leaned back, frowning.
"I don't suppose it would make any difference if I told you I
didn't remember signing this thing, or seeing you or this place
before?"
"Look," the young man said rather peevishly, "a little over
4 7 years ago you came to me and said you wanted to live.
Okay, that's my business. We agreed on 47 years. I pull a few
strings, you get born, live 47 years and some odd months so
you don't go out on your birthday - just because I think that's
ugly. Now, if you don't remember the deal I'm real sorry and
all, but that's your headache because you signed that form and
it constitutes a legal contract. Now if you'll please sign it, we
can collect the payment agreed on."
This was an entirely new thought. "What payment?" Keller
asked.
The young man threw up his hands, got up reaching for his
cigarettes, and be~an to pace the room. "You, Mr. Keller, you
are the payment!'
"You mean ... my soul?"
"Your soul!" the young man laughed. "Now what would I
do with your soul? No, no; what I want is that particular essence that was put into a human body 47 years ago. You owe
that to me, Mr. Keller. It belonged to me once and now I want
it back."
"But if you had it to begin with, why did you give it up?"
Keller asked in desperate confusion.
The young man stopped pacing and faced him. "Certainly I
had it. But think how much more it's worth now." He seemed
to drift off in a kind of sensual reverie, his face suffused with
pleasure. "It's been aged and mellowed like a fine wine or a
cheese. "
A cheese, Keller thought. Surely there was a better comparison. "But when you get it back," he asked quickly, "that'll be
the end of me, won't it?"
"Not really," said the young man with a disparaging gesture.
"Of course, you won't have individual consciousness anymore,
but that's hardly important, and then again .... " He ceased
abruptly, snapping back from his vision, enraged. "This is ridiculous! I don't have to put up with this kind of interrogation! I
mean, I'm not asking you about the money you made in the
hardware business am I? Now just sign the form and let me
have what legally belongs to me!" He thrust out paper and pen.
Keller took them, as if he had no choice, and looked at the
sheet again. "I thought Life went out of business," he said.
The young man ran his hands through his hair. "Life went
out of business; LIFE didn't go out of business. I never go out
of business."
Keller stared up at the young man for what he thought was
a long time. And then he thought of a question which under
the circumstances seemed perfectly proper. "Are you," and he
could feel the quiver in his voice throughout his body, " ... the
Devil?"
"The Devil!" The young man looked offended, but also a
little amused. "Mr. Keller," he answered, "I thought you knew
that I was God."
Keller still felt basically calm, but beneath the surface of his
composure there was a faint vibration steadily building, as if
something inside him were struggling to escape his body. And
he somehow felt that if it did, the strain would tear him to bits.
He forced it back, but with the effort he suddenly knew where
he was. The end of his life, his personality, the end of everything that was quintessentially him, was no longer a concept to
be regarded in the abstract. It was with him, on top of him, inside him - personified in the figure of a grinning, chainsmoking young man whose only interest in him centered in a

The American

Atheist

signature on a slip of paper.


"Look," he said finally. "I never wanted this. I didn't know
what I was getting into. Isn't there something we can work
out?" He knew his voice was a whine.
The young man sneered at him as he sat down again. "You
people make me sick. I offer you a deal never before available
anywhere, and then all I get is complaints." He sighed, and
then his eyes turned fierce. "Now pick up that pen and sign!
I'll countersign it and then maybe I can get back to work."
Keller continued to stare at the form. There were moist
fingerprints on it now. "Maybe," he said without looking up,
"I could renew the subscription?"
The young man put his feet up on the desk, took a small
knife from a drawer and began to pare his fingernails. "Nope,"
he replied. "The original offer stated very clearly that the deal
was open to new subscribers only."
Keller writhed in the black leather chair. "Well, then maybe
I could cancel my subscription?"
"You could," said the young man slowly, still examining
his hands, "but unless you substituted a new subscription for
the old one the results would be about the same as signing."
One corner of his mouth twisted. "A little worse maybe."
"Could I do that - take out a new subscription, I mean?"
The smile spread across the young man's face. "Surely," he
said, as his feet came off the desk. "Of course, this'll cost a lot
more than the original one. That's how subscriptions work
y'know."
Keller found it impossible to imagine what more he could
pay, but he no longer cared.
"All right," he said quickly, "111 pay whatever you say."
The smile on the young man's face was a massive slash of
pink and white. Keller watched, as if from a distance, as the
young man took the sheet from his trembling hands and signed
it with a flourish. Then he placed it across from Keller and laid
the pen beside.
"Now," he motioned, "I've already signed. Make your own
terms," he said easily, the archetypical salesman, "and then
we'll discuss payment."
Keller picked up the pen and leaned over to write. Again he
examined the paper, and again he looked at the slim figure sitting nonchalantly across from him, amused, greedy, and uncaring. And something seemed to crystallize in him. He felt a solidity to himself which he had never quite experienced before.
The heavy mixture of odors, the smell of leather, polish,
lemon, and now stale smoke, was sharper, more distinct - yet
more part of the room than he had realized. And the blurriness
he had noticed earlier had been replaced by an intense visual
clarity. But more than all this, the thing which had been fighting so desperately to leave him had given up; or no, it was
more like it had relaxed, accepted him, or been accepted by
him.
"You want me to write my own subscription?" he asked

Is
There

A
Link?

A
T

E
I
S

FEMINISM
Austin,

carefully. "My own terms?"


"That's right," said the grinning god.
Keller wrote swiftly and checked the sheet several times,
noticing the scrawl near the bottom which he took, for the
young man's signature. He passed the sheet into the waiting
hands.

The young man bent his head, still smiling, and examined
the form. It read:

And it had all the signatures.


The smile exploded into a snarl as the young man leaped to
his feet. "You don't think you can get away with this, do you?
You don't really think I'm going to sit still for this?" His face
was red with rage and Keller saw a blood vessel in his right
temple throbbing violently.
Keller rose also. He shrugged. "I don't think there's a damn
thing you can do about it. You said yourself it's a contract.
You signed it and it's legal. You're stuck and you know it." He
was seized with a sudden impulse to strike the figure before
him, but instead he turned and walked swiftly towards the rear
door. It wasn't nearly so far away as he remembered it.
"Come back here, Keller," the voice behind him screamed.
He ignored it and kept walking.
"You can't do this to me. I'm warning you! I'm God, I can
do things to you. I'll throw a thunderbolt! I'll have you damned! I'll SUE!!!
. But he never did.

In November of 1977, MS. magazine ran a questionnaire


soliciting biographical information from its female subscribers
concerning their views on "Money: The Subject Harder To
Talk About Than Sex." The results were published in May of
this year after 20,000 women responded.
An interesting but not surprising statistic which materialized in this survey of "liberated women" showed that a
MAJORITY 36% listed their current religious preference as
"Atheist, Agnostic."
Surprising? It shouldn't be. "Women's Lib" was begun by
Atheist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. "Sex education" was started
by Atheist Margaret Sanger. The road to freedom of the mind
begins by jettisoning the dead weight of religion heaped on
all our backs since birth - bu t particularly so on women.
We feel THE AMERICAN ATHEIST magazine is that link
between Atheism & Feminism. For the males reading this:
make a gift of THE AMERICAN ATHEIST to the women in
your life.
For the women reading this: you're already on the
right track. Now just spread the good word.

Texas

August,

~J

1978

Current Religious
Preference
Atheist, Agnostic
Protestant
Other
Catholic
Jewish

36%
26%
17%
11%
10%

Childhood
Religion
5%
55%

3%
25%

12%

(Source: MS. Magazine)

Page 15

INSIDE-OUT
j. Iniehael stracznski
The Atheist Alternative
How do you tell a mother or a father that their child is addicted to religion? Bluntness seems cruely tacky, and a singing
telegram just doesn't seem to make it, somehow. How do you
tell them that their son or daughter has found Truth in a sack
of granola, along with a Captain America decoding ring? How
do you break these things to someone?
Don't look at me. I don't know, If I did, would I be asking
you?
Probably. My memory isn't all it used to be. Atleast, I don't
think it is. But I'm not sure. You see, my memory isn't all. ..
Didn't I just say that? Oh , well. I was digressing anyway.
Just when parents were getting used to the idea of pot, acid,
protest, love-ins and drop-outs, women burning bras and men
wearing them, counter-cultures
and culinary abstentionists,
NOW they've got to deal with a bright-faced
young convert
coming along and patiently explaining that he has come to a
Divine Revelation of the meaning of Life through the worship
of pistachio shells. Not just ordinary pistachios, mind you, but
unsalted pistachios, as opposed to the heretics who follow the
teachings of the salted pistachios. (This confrontation
is usually
resolved by both denominations
eventually merging with the
First Church of Coca-Cola and opening up a concession stand
at Yankee Stadium.)
Because of this growing trend, people all across the country
are beginning
to realize that religion is the opiate of the
people, although some are still urging for the decriminalization
of possession of an ounce or less. You must ask, however, why
this current resurrection
of religion has come about. Answer:
Because it gives its members something.
(I am led to understand, however, that it can usually be cleared up in a matter of
days by a healthy shot of penicillin.)
If nothing else, a religion gives people a sense of continuity,
of being involved in something
that has been going on for a
long time. Take, for instance, the new cult known as IMO.
According to IMO scriptures,
their religion began in 2753
B.C. (This assertion is founded on drawings and documents
discovered stuffed in the exhaust pipe of an Oldsmobile buried
beneath the Cheops pyramid.) At this time, a recently converted follower in the country of I'th Bri 'nks (now known as
Bakersfield) turned to the first leader of IMO and asked "What
is Truth?"
The leader pondered
the question for a moment, then responded:
"Shut up and pass the dried lizard, dolt," which
many interpret as symbolic of the deemphasis of spoken dialectic as a means of discovering Reality or the whereabouts
of
the men's room.
(It is also recorded in the documents
that the gods became
angry at this line of questioning and caused the inquirer to hiccup, swallow, pass wind and burp simultaneously,
resulting in
his demise and the immediate defoliation of 2,000 acres of surrounding forestry. Many followers speculate that it was this
event which caused the Mojave Desert. Other followers refuse
to believe that there is a Mojave Desert.)
Another great leader of IMO was Ben Hunabi, an Arab who
postulated
that there was an Afterlife, but that getting hotel
reservations
there was next to impossible, particularly
during

Page 16

August,

1978

the height of the season. Then came Roman prelate Marcus Asparagus, whose works have come down to us in the form of
the frisbee, the word "xylophone,"
and the obscene phone call.
Next came Gandasha the Prophetic,
who theorized
that the
universe was a spiritual duality and that the body and soul
were therefore two separate entities, although one or the other
would always have to pick up the tab in a restaurant
while the
other visited the bathroom.
Probably the most important
leader of IMO - and the one
who gave it its name - was Gorgi Kornaslovitch.
Born in Kiev,
Gorgi had long dabbled in religionism, but had never considered
dedicating himself to it until his fiftieth year when, upon looking in a mirror, he not only saw his own reflection,
but a reflection
of his reflection
reflected
in his eyeglasses.
Gorgi
quickly became agitated, and began questioning
what is real,
and whether or not he actually existed. So upset did he become
that he eventually
decided that there was no such thing as
physical existence and, in accordance with his new uncertainty,
called his tailor and ordered that all his pants be taken in at
the crotch.
For the next five years, Gorgi contributed
greatly to IMO
literature
on the Cosmology
of Underwear,
and refused to
wear his glasses except in dark rooms. He was finally appointed
Court Philosopher
by Czarina Sophia, where he stayed until
his execution
was ordered for the crime of sneaking into the
Royal Kitchen and sniffing the Czarina's buns. Instead of staying for the execution,
however, Gorgi fled to the American
continent
during the Civil War and founded IMO, the Institute
for the Mentally Obscure.
Sound rather unorthodox?
Perhaps. But when one stops to
consider the background
of many of the new religions that are
now sweeping through the ranks of young people throughout
the country, the comparison
becomes less extreme. Religion is
rife with gods, demons, flying saucers, untested psychics and
unproduced
gold (or stone) tablets.
Religion, the great meddler, the great mystifier, the great
mollifier ...
yet as reliable in its attractiveness
as politics or
any other branch of organized crime.

'Hip' Youth Still Gullible


Today's generation of young people is just as gullible as any
previous generation,
although there are now more options for
the expression of that gullibility today than ever before. As a
rule, the only thing that separates the jet-setter from his witchburning, demon-dwelling
predecessor
is 150 years of technological progress and the constraining
powers of social and normative laws. The distinction
is a fine one, one of manners
more than real substance, and easily repealed by stress or circumstance.
Religion points out the ills and eruptions
that trouble society to the inquiring individual, proposing itself as the remedy
while carefully omitting the fact that it is the cause of these
problems. It creates a gnawing guilt for sins uncommitted
and
thoughts unrealized; encourages the politics of ethnocentrism
and bigotry; permits the total and complete abnegation of per-

The American

Atheist

sonal responsibility and social activism through the three words


"It's God's Will"; and openly solicits war while preaching
peace.
Yet for all that, it still appears to the vast majority in a favorable light. In a lonely world of technocratic isolation, chaos,
and overwhelming dehumanization in a society where Dignity
is a non sequitur, it offers simple truths, companionship, and
the promise of eternal verities.
How foolish we are if we fail to recognize these facts. Yet
how much more foolish are those who fail to perceive that the
simple truths are too simple, that the only eternal verity in
these mythological ramblings is futility, and that the companionship of religionism is akin to the comradeship of condemned
men, whose eyes are fixed only upon the gallows and the dubious Beyond.
The power of religion is founded upon the personality, the
catchphrase, the high-sounding, blood-stirring cries of the fanatic bereft of any contact with reality. Although these are,
respectively, a sham, a contrivance, and a fiction, the drawing
power is, nonetheless, quite great. It is the Hitlerian philosophy
of The Big Lie, so broad and sweeping in nature that it becomes
virtually impossible to contest it.
But it is vital that we contest it, not merely as a group, but
individually as well, strange as that may sound. For while there

is strength in numbers, there is compassion in the human being


singular. Atheism is a nice academic proposition when discussed
as a philosophy, or an attitude held by a distant group. But
when a man or woman in the community stands up and speaks
out, there is identification. Atheism becomes more than a concept; it becomes a reality that one can share with another. It
becomes, in short, a viable alternative to religion.
If we would ever wish to see an end to the stranglehold
placed on society by religionism, we must be willing to stand
up not only as a collection of names and numbers on a membership or mailing list, but as individuals, citizens of the community. For all the talk about the ineffectuality of the individual, one man or woman with the determination to arise
and speak, unbowed, against the forces of religionism and repressionism can have a profound effect on the community.
One person, regardless of the odds, who refuses to be
cowed or compromised, can shake the pillars of religionism to
its very roots. Because there is one thing which cannot be
countered by mythology or touched in any way by the forces
of repression, and it is this thing which is sought by young
people in this generation as in none before, since it is very
probably the only thing we have which truly is indestructible:
The sheer force of will born out of courage.

particular individual, but with which he surrounds himself to


impress others. Honesty and loyalty to a politician.
ACQUAINTANCE -n- A dear, close friend who is being
audited by the Internal Revenue Service.
ACQUIRE -vt- In modern usuage, to steal.
ACTIVIST -n- One who seeks to replace one ideology or
society with another, rather like the physician who cures a
patient of hookworms and replaces them with a liberal dose of
meningitis.
ADAM - The first man. Since no mention is made in the
Christian Bible of his demise, many believe him to be still alive.
In recent times, in fact, he has surfaced and brought suit against
ABANDON -vt- To reconsider in the light of new informathe heads of all nations, claiming sole right to the entire world
tion, such as an iceberg amidships.
as its original owner. But in the best interests of justice, judgABASE -vt- An evolutionary process found frequently in ment was made in favor of its present owner, the International
business and political circles.
Telephone and Telegraph Company.
ABDICATE -vi- The public-spirited decision of a ruler when
The plaintiff is now said to be somewhere in California, livfaced with a machine-gun.
ing on welfare.
ABDOMEN -n- A place rumored to be the seat of all
ADHESIVE -n- An unnatural substance bonding together
knowledge and human endeavor by virtue of its proximity to two dissimilar objects such that they can only be pried apart
the stomach. In satisfying the desires of this organ, entire em- with great effort and mutual destruction. See WEDDING RING.
pires have been conquered.
ADJOURNMENT -n- The time period allotted by the juABERRANT -adj- Behaving in public the way your neigh- dicial system for the bribing of witnesses, the creation of alibis
bor would like to behave - and does - in his mind.
and consideration of the facts in the light of emotion.
ABEYANCE -n- To hold an individual in a state of temADJUDGE -vt- The complex legal process, after all the facts
porary suspension, as at the end of a rope.
and arguments have been presented, of ascertaining whether
ABILITY -n- The curse of those not born to mediocrity. A the coin has come up heads or tails.
guarantee of few friends and a short life.
ADMIRABLE -adj- One as corrupt and malicious as the rest
ABSURD -adj- Unseemly and malicious rumors accusing of humanity, but who conceals it more effectively, and with
Rod McKuen of being a poet.
greater style and flourish.
ACCESSION -n- In royal terminology, a means of ascending
ADULT -n- One who knocks at the door of senility.
the throne by persuading the present occupant thereof to vaADULTERY -n- The one national pastime not culturally
cate in favor of another, who 'has greater wisdom, a vaster in- restricted.
telligence, and a knife at the former's throat.
ADVOCATE -vt- To plead in favor of a cause, from the Latin
ACCLAIM -vt- Applause for a celebrity. The clapping to- Ad Vocare. This word originates in Latin because the first retether of hands that would much rather be meshed around
corded case of advocacy took place in Rome. On this occasion,
the latter's throat.
a servant named Tiberius pleaded with Caesar to free his village
ACCOMODATE -vt- To tolerate when no other resource
from the slavery imposed upon it by the Roman Empire. So
seems available.
touched was Caesar that he ordered the mass publicizing of
ACCOMPLICE -n- In politics, one who seeks the office of this request. In accordance with this mandate, Tiberius was
Vice President.
buried in Rome, Sicily, Florence, and seven more obscure
ACCOUTREMENTS -n- Items deemed unnecessary to a parts of Italy.

An Invisible Impire:
lIormon lIone, in California
Copyright 1978 by the New York Magazine Company, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of New West Magazine.

By Jeffrey Kaye
The Mormon church, this American Zion, wields more economic
power more effectively than the state of Israel or the pope in Rome ... "
"

For eleven years. ever since physicians


removed his pituitary gland, the 71-yearold former electronics
assem bier has
collected welfare. The deep scar on his
right temple is a constant
reminder
of
his doctors' admonition
that he'd never
work again. But he does work-as
much
as six hours a day-although
he never
receives a paycheck, and the government
has no record of his being on the welfare
rolls.
Mr. Hillam (he doesn't give out his
first name to strangers) is one of 20.000
Californians
who are recipients
of a
welfare program
the government
has
nothing to do with. Every day, Mr. Hillam sits filling out numbers in a book in
an office in a huge warehouse' located in
Sylmar in the rural north end of the San
Fernando Valley. The storage rooms are
stocked with goods, from blankets and
clothes to meat, canned
fruit, fresh
vegetables
and flour. Some of this is
packed in cardboard
boxes waiting to be
shipped out to others on the welfare
program. There are no prices on any of
the items, and most are marked with a
brand name never seen on a su permarket shelf: Deseret.
It is Mr. Hillarn's job to note down
dutifully
how long
each
volunteer
spends on what task and when. "As far
as I'm concerned,"
he observes. "I'm not
on welfare. I work for what I get."
Mr. Hillam. paid in the commodities
stored at Sylmar, is on the receiving end
of an intricate,
nationwide
systemindependent,
self-sustaining,
and, for all
its worldliness,
operated
according
to
religious principles-those
of The Church

Page 18

of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, the


Mormons.
The warehouse in Sylmar is one of 90
such distribution centers across the country-seven
in California
alone. But the
centers are only small specks in the vast.
multibillion-dollar
empire controlled
by
the Mormon church.
The Mormons are among the fastestgrowing religious sects in the world. Ask
any Mormon about his or her beliefs and
he'll gladly talk your ear off; follow up
with a question about the church's business holdings and there'll be an uncomfortable silence. It's not that they don't
want to tell you; they just don't know,
and they don't care.
The truth about Mormon holdings is
hard to come by. The church has investments all over the world, kept in a variety
of privately held corporate entities. Very
private. There's a holding company,
a
couple of trust companies,
hotels, apartment buildings,
industrial
parks, a securities company,
a development
company, a real estate section,
insurance
companies, radio and TV stations, newspapers, books. farms, land and more
land.
This American Zion hasn't a coin for
its realm, nor the military perquisites
and territorial
sovereignty
enjoyed
by
the state of Israel or the pope in Rome.
Such trappings are unneeded.
The Mormon church
wields
more economic
power more effectively than any other
organized
religion in the world. The
church-run
welfare system that supports
Mormon needy like Mr. Hillam is only

August,

1978

one facet of a complex American


phenomenon-an
institution that is as much
a corporate conglomerate
as it is one of
the nation's healthiest
religions.
The church discourages
public welfare, and therefore operates an in ternal
support
agency
for its own "worthy
poor"-all
of whom
(including
Mr.
Hillam)
are certified
by their
local
bishops as actual church members who
are legitimately
in need.
It is all part of a huge, worldwide
system, concentrated
in the West. According to the church, 110,3.06 Mormons
were assisted by the welfare program in
1976. The church also donated
commodities
and labor during
the Teton
flood disaster in Idaho, one of the few
times church reserves have been used to
aid non-Mormons
in distress.
In addition to agricultural
commodities, Mormon
factories
turn out other
items: detergent
boxes in Los Angeles,
furniture
in Klamath
Falls, Oregon,
toothpaste
in Chicago,
shoe polish in
New Jersey and hosiery in Fort Worth.
Then there are the canneries.
In California, there are four: in Redwood City
(fruit), Los Angeles (orange juice), San
Diego (tuna) and Sacramento
(chili and
fruit).
"Bishops'
storehouses,"
such as the
Sylmar
warehouse,
are linked
by a
church-owned
fleet of trucks-Deseret
Transportation-to
more than 700 production
projects,
consisting
chiefly of
farms. The production
projects are almost entirely staffed by volunteer
laborers, many of them church-welfare
recipients
required
by the church
to

The American

Atheist

I ~~T

THE MORMON CHURCH OWNS

Bonneville International
Zions Securities Corporation
Corporation
Manages and owns the church's com merA wholly owned church company with a cial real estate. particularly in Salt Lake
total of seven FM radio stations (the maxi- City. Also owns a 7.000-acre Hawaiian
mum allowed by the Federal Communica- village-Laie on the island of.Oahu.
tlonsComrnissionl, fourAM stations. two Assets: "In the eight figures" (over $10television stations. Stations on the West million) according to a spokes
Coast are: KIRO-AM. KIRO-FM.KIRO-TV
:
in Seattle. Washington;
KOIT-FM.
BeneflcialDevelopment~ompany .
San Francisco; KBIG-FM. KBRT-AM in The development arm of Zions SecunLos Angeles.
ties. also In the mortgage-loan business.
.'
Finances shopping
centers. IndusAssets. Refuse to disclose. (KSL. Inc .. a trialparks. office buildings.
.Salt Lake City subsidiary, reported a 1976.
.
sales range otss- to $10 million.)
Assets. Refuse to disclose.
KBYU-TV, Provo
Utah Hotel Company
Owned and operated by the church's Ownsand operates two hotels and a
Brigham Young University.
motel In Salt Lake City.
Assets: Refuse to disclose
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
Bonneville Productions'
Po~ynesian.CulturalCenter
A subsidiary of Bonneville International. Major Hawaiian tourist attraction.
Produces commercials and public ser- Assets: $7 million. (Income from 1971vice announcements.
1974: $31.35 million).
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHURCH
Deseret News Publishing Company PROPERTY
100 percent church owned. Publi.shes the 36-story apartment complex and office
Deseret News (the Salt Lake City after- building in New York;
noon paper).
$3.4 million worth of holdinqs in Nauvoo,
The company. takes care of much of the Illinois. once the seat of church power;
church s pnntl~g needs but also engages Sixteen temples around the world. each
In commerCial. printing.
worth several million dollars;
1976 sales: $9 million.
2.600 acres of land in Nevada recently
Deseret Book Company
purchased from Summa Corporation;
Sells otticial church and church-approved
.
literature at eight bookstores (including An estimated 65 acres of downtown Salt
ones in Orange and Northridge).
Lake City real estate.
1976 sales: $8 million.
INVESTMENTS
FINANCE
53.7 percent of the stock in U and I
Incorporated (formerly Utah-Idaho Sugar
Company). a company with assets exBeneficial Life Insurance Company
Wholly owned by the church. California ceeding $168 million.
accounts for 14 percent of its business. Second largest stockholder
in Utah
Assets: $284 million.
Power and Light Company. the largest
Utah Home Fire Insurance Company utility company in the state with assets of
Wholly owned by the church. California over $1.1 billion.
accounts for 18 percent of its business. Controlling stock (37 percent) in Zion's
Co-operative Mercantile Institution deAssets: $30 million.
Continental 'Western Life Insurance partment-store chain with $44 million in
assets;
Company of Iowa
$28 million worth of stock in Times Mirror
Wholly owned by the church.
Corporation,
publ ishers of the Los
Assets: $31 million.
Angeles Times.
Deseret Mutual Benefit Association
Another insurance company owned OTHER ENTERPRISES
by the church.
Management Systems Corporation
Assets: $63 million.
Church-owned data processing firm.
MA.JOR REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
Deseret Industries
Deseret Farms of California
TwO commercial farms in Yolo County in Similar to Salvation Army. Employs the
sells used goods.
Northern California sitting on a total of handicapped;
5,500 acres. The nonunion farms produce Sales: Approximately $4 million.
almonds, walnuts, corn, safflower, wheat. Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Assets: Refuse to disclose. (The real Beehive Clothing Mills
Manufactures sacred church garments.
estate alone is valued at $6.53 million).
Deseret Ranches of Florida
EDUCATION
300.000 acres near Disney World.
Elementary, secondary. post-secondary
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
schools in Mexico. Central and South
America. Pacific Islands.
Elberta Farm Corporation
14.000 acres in southern Utah.
Brigham Young University, Utah
(enrollment 25.500);
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
Assets: $283.4 million
Deseret Farms of Texas
Brigham Young University, Hawaii
Assets: Refuse to disclose.
(enrollment 1,180);
Deseret Trust Company
Administers gifts to the church. primarily Ricks College, Idaho
(enrollment 5.800);
to Brigham Young University.
Assets: $50 million (including $10- to $11 LDS Business College, Utah
million of real property in California). (enrollment 860).

August, 1978

Austin, Texas

J __

;;:",.

work (if they can). The rest u! tne workers are dedicated Mormons putting in
an occasional few hours as their brothers' keepers and getting approval from
their church and their God.
The indelible mark the church has
made on the state of Utah, where it
maintains its headquarters, is common
knowledge. However, next to Utah, the
state with the largest Mormon
population is California;
the church claims
400,000 members here. Two of the
church's sixteen temples are located in
Oakland and Los Angeles. In looking at
the affairs of any corporate establishment in this state, it's hard to get a fix on
the influence of anyone grou p, but there
is one area of activity that serves as a
better guidepost than any other--acquisition and ownership of that most precious of California commodities. land.
The commercial activities of the Mormon church have not escaped the attention of state and local authorities, who
have increasingly denied the church its
requests for exemptions from property
taxes. In California.
23 farms have applied for such exem ptions in the last
several years, but only two have received
. them-a 50-acre farm in Littlerock, near
Palmdale, and one the same size in
Santa Cruz County. In this state. a "welfare exemption"
from property
taxes
may be granted if it is determined that
the land is used for charitable purposes.
When the State Board of Equalization
examined the church's requests, it found
that most of the land was not used
exclusively for charity. Complains board
attorney James M. Williams, "One cannot take a normally secular activity [like
farming] and just because' of the fact
that the church does it, convert it into a
religious tenet."
The church has taken one board decision to court, and lost-an exemption on
1,600 acres of orange orchards in Riverside County was denied. After lengthy
pretrial proceedings and a three-day
trial, Riverside Superior Court Judge
Elwood M. Rich upheld the decision for
the Board of Equalization.
It was discovered that a large majority
of the
citrus produced-at
least 75 percentwas not used in the welfare program' at
all, but was sold through a commercial
packing house to Sunkist Growers, Inc.
The church decided not to appeal the
decision, and is therefore paying full
taxes on the $5.22 million operation.
A source knowledgeable
about the
church's welfare program has told New
West that "there is almost no project
where they don't sell 50 percent of what
they produce on the open market. In
many projects," he added, "they sell as
much as 80 or 90 percent." The Riverside orchards are no exception.
In Stanislaus County, for example, the
church runs the sprawling
2,305-acre
Page 19

"... Ask any Mormon about his beliefs and he gladly talks your ear off.
Ask about church holdings, and there's an uncomfortable silence ... "
Patterson
farm-with
assets of almost
$3 million. In one month last year, the
farm sold nearly $360,000
worth of
goods on the open market. The farm has
had its application
for a welfare exem ption on property taxes turned down four
years In a row.
The Mormon church operates farms
throughout California's
rich agricultural
belt, stretching
from Butte, Placer and
Yuba counties
in the north,
down
through
the San Joaq uin Valley to
Riverside and San Diego counties in the
south. Records on file with the Board of
Equalization
in Sacramento
indicate
that the com bined assets of the 23 farms
that have applied for property-tax
exemptions over the last several years run
to $12.3 million.
But those farms tell only a part of the
story. New West surveyed the most populous areas of the state, incorporating
nine of California's
58 counties,
and
counted a staggering
total of over $183million worth of real property owned by
the church. In addition to farms, the list
includes schools, chapels, meeting halls,
speculative
property,
canneries,
factories, stores and a bank.
In Los Angeles County
alone, The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (LDS) owns land and property
valued at $84.5 million .. Its holdings in
other counties also run in the millions
of dollars: San Diego ($18.1 million),
Orange
($36.7 million),
Santa
Clara
($12.8 million), San Mateo/San
Francisco ($4.4 million),
Alameda ($14.3million), and Sacramento/Yolo
($12.2million).
Of all its holdings in those areas, the
church is paying property taxes on less
than one third. Exemptions
on the remaining two thirds means $15 million in
property taxes that might otherwise
be
collected never see the state coffers.
Exemptions
on temples and chapels
are handled.
on a county-by-county
basis, and over all, the Mormons
have
had little or no difficulty in obtaining
that standard kind of property-tax
relief.
The same is true for property
used,
according to the church, for educational
and recreational
activities,
although
these latter exemptions
are now under
new challenge.
Case in point: In a remote region of
the Santa Cruz Mountains,
there's a
I,IOO-acre area owned by the church and
known as Lehi Park-named
after a
prophet in the Book of Mormon. There
are a few buildings on the property, and
some roads, but most of it is rugged and
mountainous.
Mormon
families
from
Page 20

San Francisco use the land as a retreat;


Boy Scout troops from San Jose camp
there. The church has been paying property taxes on some of the land, but has
only lately requested
an exemption
on
all of it. Board of Eq ualization attorneys
are skeptical-especially
following
the
Riverside orchard case-and
after a field
inspection,
they requested
from the
church a batch of information
concerning the use of the property. The board
attorneys, stubborn and clearly sensitive
to the pressure mounting
from all sides
to ease the tax burden, vow that they'll
do battle again in court, if it's necessary
to keep Lehi Park on the county's active
tax rolls.
Lehi Park is only one of numerous
recreational
sites the Mormon
church
owns throughout
California,
nearly all
of which are exempt
from property
taxes. They range from 80-acre youth
camps in Fresno, EI Dorado and San
Diego counties to ball parks, campsites
and a recreational center in Sacramento.
Combined
land value: $3.6 million.
Then there are the 71 urban institutes
in California
run by the LDS church
near or adjacent to colleges, universities
and junior colleges-all
tax exempt. As
with any proselytizing
organization',
the
Mormon church recognizes the recruitment potential of college students-accessible.
open
to new ideas,
often
looking for a cause. The institutes
are
important
but expensive enterprises
for
the church. Balance sheets indicate that
the combined
assets of the California
institutes are $14.07 million.
It might seem strange, almost sligh tly
blasphemous,
to refer to a ch urch as a
corporation,
but the analogy
here is
simply inescapable.
The church is undeniably corporate. At the top is the First
Presidency, composed of the head of the
church and his two counselors
(vicepresidents).
Current church head (akin
to chief executive officer) is Spencer W.
Kimball, 83, a former insurance
executive who, by virtue of his position,
is
believed by Mormons
to be a prophet,
seer and "revelator"
with a hot line to
God. His counselors
are Nathan Eldon
Tanner, 79, a one-time Canadian
politician and utility-company
executive, and
Marion G. Romney, 80, a former Salt
Lake City prosecutor
and Utah legislator, and a cousin of former Michigan
governor
George
Romney.
In most
church-owned
establishments,
somber
portraits of the ruling triumvirate
adorn
the walls.
Below the First Presidency
there's a
twelve-man
board of directors
(known
August,

1978

as the Apostles, or the Council of the


Twelve), and below them, there's a complex, strictly hierarchical
structure.
Although church literature and spokespeople make much of thrift, frugality
and the donation
of surplus income to
(he cause (we will discuss tithing later),
and despite claims that the few paid
officials are given mere "living allowances," records show that past church
leaders were not exactly just "getting by"
at the time oftheir
deaths.
For instance, Harold B. Lee, the head
of the ch urch before Spencer Kim ball,
left an estate worth almost
$711,000
when he died in December,
1973. At the
time of his death, he was drawing payroll
checks from the church, a church-owned
insurance company
and a church-controlled department-store
chain. According to Salt Lake County probate
files,
Lee's
predecessor,
Joseph
Fielding
Smith, left a Utah estate valued at just
short of$1 million when he died in 1972.
But property and probate records tell
only a part (though an im portan t part)
of the story. For devout Mormons, commitment
to the cause is paramount,
measured out not only in time and energy but also in dollars.
A Mormon
pamphlet
entitled
The Law of Tithing
asks: "Is it to be thought that we are to
gain salvation without a price, without
giving a paying for it?
After r ll, is
not money myself?
When
man
gives his money, he is giving himsel.."
According to a church spokesperson,
30 to 40 percent of the approximately
4million
people
the church
considers
members
apparently
agree with those
sentiments;
they donate
IO percent of
their gross income to the church. Some
of the contributions
are made in money,
others in stocks, bonds and real estate.
Church officials keep close tabs on
who's paying what. For members,
the
most immediate rewards are the "recommends" handed out by the local bishopsin effect, tickets certifying that member
are worthy of gaining entrance
to the:
church's temples, where the sacred ritual.'
are performed.
In addition
to the tithes, the chi..ch
makes other financial
demands
on its
members-missionary
funds, welfare a'sessments,
contributions
for buildingand other local operating
costs.
In the glimmering,
28-story church
office building in Salt Lake City, almost
seven floors are taken up with real estate,
financing, record-keeping
and building
management.
Every year, the church completes 400

,I

The American

Atheist

" .. The confusion inside the church about the size of the Mormon
empire reflects the way the leadership exercises central controls ... "
buildings worldwide-all
of them on a
cash basis. The ch urch never takes ou t
loans. One California city wanted a bond
for a church improvement
and asked for
a letter of credit from the Zions First
National Bank-where
the church is the
largest depositor
(the bank was once
owned by the LDS church). Jokingly, the
city attorney and the church representative agreed that a letter from the church
would be better.
In the U.S., the church owns property
in all 50 states; abroad, on every continent. At the church's real estate division
in Salt Lake City, a dozen full-time
agents supervise the buying and selling
of property around the globe. Although
the church will not publicly discuss such
specifics, an interview with one knowledgeable inside source suggests that a
total of 100 property
transactions
per
week is probably conservative.
The money that the church
makes
from selling real estate may be ploughed
back into more property, or may be used
for investments, welfare, or for any other
purposes designated
by the church. In
California,
if a welfare exemption
is
granted on property, no real estate taxes
are paid. But any money accruing from
the sale of that property must-by
lawbe earmarked
for charitable
purposes.
This charitable purpose requirement
is a
law disregarded
by the ch urch and not
policed by the state. For instance, one
source involved in Mormon real estate
dealings told New West of exempt land
sold by the church for $1 million, which
went straight into the investment
kitty.
As with any privately held corporation, financial
information
about
the
church is closely guarded; only those at
the top have the complete picture-and
they're not talking.
The man most generally regarded as
being the Mormon
church's
financial
wizard is N. Eldon Tanner. Because of
his exalted position within the ch urch,
members speak iQ, hushed tones in his
presence and regardhim
with awe.
Taking time between meetings of the
church's
expenditures
committee
and
the Salt Lake City Rotary Club (Tanner
has also been honored by the Salt Lake
Area Chamber of Commerce this year as
the "giant of our city"),Tanner
playfully
refused to answer questions
about the,
church's holdings.
New West: There was a story done by
the Associated Press in which they estimated the income of the church to be $3million a day. They put the church in the
top 50 corporations
in the country. Were

those estimates correct?


Tanner: We just smiled when they did
that.
Leaning back in the desk chair of his
austere office in the church's four-story,
granire administration
building in Salt
Lake City, Tanner smiled faintly. Bespectacled,
with a full head of slickedback, graying
hair, Tanner
wore a
rumpled brown suit that sported a Boy
Scout pin in the lapel. "They're
guessing-big
guesses,"
he continued.
"We
just don't disclose that. ... There's no
reason for doing it."
Mormons place great significance
in
ambition, striving and hard work, and
are often found, out of proportion
to
their numbers, in prominent positions in
all areas of society. But walk into any
Mormon bookstore, and you'll find that
the most prominently
displayed biographies, next to those of present and past
church officials, are those of two of the
church's largest individual contributors:
J. Willard
Marriott
and the Osmond
family. Marriott
is the owner of a $1billion empire spanning
31 hotels and
over 1,200 restaurants,
including the Big
Boy Coffee Shop, the Roy Rogers Family
Restaurant,
and the Farrell's Ice Cream
Parlor chains.
And the Osmonds
...
well, everybody knows about the Osmonds
and
their multimillion-dollar
dynasty. Every
week, American
televisions
are filled

with the images of those glittering


Osmond ieeth belonging to those quintessential Mormons,
Donny
and Marie-.
The cherubic
pair is the very embodiment of the Mormon
ideal-wealthy,
American, devout, white, patriotic, selfreliant,
family-oriented,
hard-working
and overwhelmingly
nice.
Purpose and hard work are the stuff
of Mormonism.
"Work
is to. be reenthroned
as the ruling principle of the
lives of our church membership,"
is a
quotation
often reprinted
in church literature. Organization
and industriousness permeate the Mormon society ..
Five times a year, more than 5,000
devout Mormons pour into 33 HartfieldZodys department
stores around
California. Their mission is, as they see it, a
religious one-to
take inventory. The privately held department-store
chain pays
the wages directly to the ch urch.
Two ch urch officials in charge of the
program were asked about the fact that
Los Angeles County assessor's
records
show that the Zodys store in Norwalk is
actually owned by the Corporation
of
the President of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day
Saints (and valued
at $1.35 million).
One official replied
flatly that that was not the case. The
other; a bishop,
suggested,
"I wou Id
investigate
that. That would be highly
suspect."
(A store spokesperson
confirmed the fact that Hartfield-Zodys

"It's agreed. Now, you boys clean up the mess


and I'll run this one down to the multitude."

does lease the store from the church

through

an intermediary.)

The confusion among church members about the financial


empire the Mormon church controls is a reflection, in part, of
the way the leadership exercises its central control, particularly outside the state of Utah. Inside Utah, and in other areas
where there is a large concentration
of Mormons, the church
dominates - although not necessarily with a heavy hand. Recently, a speech on equal rights scheduled to be delivered by
liberal television commentator
Shana Alexander
to Goodwill
Industries in Nevada was canceled by Goodwill officials lest
generous Mormon financial backing dry up.
As with any gigantic corporation,
the church has accumulated some very real power, but the way it uses this power
seems restrained,
in keeping with its business outlook. The
$188 million invested in stocks and bonds by the four churchowned insurance companies
offers a clue as to the kind of
church investments
that are made on the whole. The investment portfolios
span a wide range of companies throughout

the country and appear much like any other corporate investment portfolio.
Asked about the church's criteria for investments, N. Eldon Tanner responded
just like any other executive: "[We look] at the soundness
of it, the revenue produced and the operating problems that it has ....
We try very
conscientiously
not to invest in risk properties
that haven't
been proven or established."
A look at the way the church uses its power in the broadcast media is probably illustrative of the way it sees itself and
exercises its influence.
The radio stations owned by churchcontrolled
Bonneville International
generally play middle-ofthe road "beautiful
music" - Muzak with commercials.
The
programming
- at stations such as KBIG-FM in Los Angeles
- is bland, uninspiring,
noncontroversial
mediocrity.
In the
ratings battles, this format is proving to be a winner. That says
as much about the church as it does about the radio stations.
And in the worldwide
ratings-books
constantly
being revised by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, its
audience is growing.

A Certain Cloth
Cunningly Made
[Ambrose Bierce defined faith as "belief without evidence
in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of
things without parallel. "
The Roman Catholic Church is the, past master of using
"miracles" to mesmerize its flock into submission-and its
clergy are those "who speak without knowledge" on matters
beyond their capabilities. The current figment of faith exciting
the flock into frothy submission is the "Shroud of Turin, "
purported to be the burial cloth used to wrap the body of
the crucified Christ after his death. A book (The Shroud of
Turin, The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ?, by Ian Wilson) which
attempts to authenticate this hoax was devastatingly reviewed
by Jonathan Sumption in the London Times Literary Supplement and we reprint it below for our readers in demonstration
of the extent to which those suffering from religious delusions
will go to bolster their own sickness. - Editor]

In the autumn
of 1389 the Bishop of Troyes, Henry of
Arcis, addressed a lengthy complaint to the pope concerning a
scandalous happening at the obscure collegiate church of Lirey
in his diocese. The canons, it seems,

falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of


avarice and not from any motive of devotion but only of
gain, procured for their church a certain cloth cunningly
painted, upon which by clever sleight of hand was depicted
the two-fold image of one man, that is to say the back and
the front, they falsely declaring and pretending that this
was the actual shroud in which our Saviour Jesus Christ was
enfolded in the tomb.
In fact, the bishop went on, not only was the so-called
shroud a painting but the painter responsible had actually been
discovered by one of his predecessors,
and on being summoned

Page 22

August,

1978

A detail of a painting by 16th-century artist Clovio


speculating on how the shroud "image" was made.
before the episcopal presence had candidly owned that it was
"a work of human skill and not miraculously
wrought or bestowed."
This document
might have been no more than another
monument
to the fruitless endeavor of late medieval bishops
to keep the more enthusiastic
manifestations
of popular piety
under control. There were, after all, other "holy shrouds." The
church of Cadouin in Perigord had one. So did the Sainte
Chapelle in Paris. But the shroud of Lirey has eclipsed them all.
In 1418 the canons entrusted
it to the safekeeping
of a local landowner,
Margaret of Charny, who gave it, 25 years later, to the Duke of Savoy. The shroud is still the property of
the House of Savoy. Since 1694 it has been housed in a heavy
baroque chapel of Turin Cathedral, the subject of growing con-

The American

Atheist

troversy, visited by millions, attacked by ecclesiastical reformers and defended by enthusiasts of whom the latest and most
ingenious is Ian Wilson,
The starting point of Wilson's argument is the cloth itself.
In its wisdom the diocese of Turin has refused to allow the
cloth to be carbon-dated. He is therefore compelled to rely on
visual inspection. This reveals that the cloth is made of very
finely woven linen carrying minute traces of cotton, which he
regards as conclusive evidence that the shroud had an eastern
Mediterranean origin. It is, of course, nothing of the kind. In
the first place the quality of the weaving itself indicates a later
date than the first century A.D.
Second, as evidence of origin it is extremely weak because
cotton was woven in Europe as well as the Middle East in the
Middle Ages and in so far as it was not woven in Europe it was
commonly imported. Marino Sanudo, one of the earliest theorists of economic warfare, argued at the end of the 13th century that so much finished cloth was imported from Muslim
countries that an embargo would do serious damage to their
economy.
As far as cotton was concerned, European consumers would
scarcely miss it because they were already weaving cotton
made in Itlay. He might have added that the formerly Muslim
regions of Spain produced it in large quantities. So we are left
with the conclusion that the shroud may have been woven in
Europe or in the Middle East and the image may have appeared
on it before or after its importation. Thus far, science proves
nothing.
Wilson's next piece of evidence is the discovery by the
Swiss forensic scientist Max Frei that the cloth contains pollens
from varieties of plant found exclusively in soil containing a
high content of sodium chloride. This leads Wilson to the conclusion that the cloth originated near the Dead Sea. It is difficult for a non-scientist to assess the accuracy of Dr. Frei's
techniques of pollen-identification. But it is not difficult for
him to assess their significance.
Salt marshes are scarcely to be found in Europenow, but
in the Middle Ages southern France and central Italy were celebrated for them. The pollens found by Dr. Frei may be peculiar to Dead Sea plants today, but it certainly does not follow
that it has always been so.

Armed with this ambiguous evidence Wilson embarks on a


search through the source material of the Middle Ages with a
view to proving that although there is no documentary evidence of the existence of the shroud earlier than the 1350s,
its history can in fact be traced back to AD 30. It is here that
Wilson is at his weakest. What he has not appreciated is that
the fact that a carefully selected portion of the evidence can
be manipulated so as to fit a preconceived theory does not
make that theory plausible, let alone correct.
The theory is as follows. After the Crucifixion one of the
disciples called Thaddeus took the shroud to Abgar, king of
Edessa, a minor prince on the fringe of the Roman Empire
who had been converted to Christianity. When Edessa reverted
to paganism after Abgar's death the shroud was hidden in the
city walls where it was rediscovered during the sixth century.

New Find An Old Hoax


The shroud was in fact, says Wilson, the very same thing as
the holy Mandylion which was venerated at Edessa from the
sixth century to the tenth, when it was removed to Constantinople by the victorious Byzantine general John Curcuas and
lodged in the imperial palace chapel of Blachernae.
When Constantinople was sacked by the fourth crusade in
1204 the relic was acquired by the Templars, who made of it a
kind of secret totem to be worshipped at private gatherings of
the order. From then it passed to the de Charny family via
Geoffrey de Charny, the provincial of Normandy who was
burnt at the stake in 1314 in the course of the bloody suppression of his order. A kinsman of his founded the church of
Lirey and 'presented the shroud to the canons.
It is difficult to know where to begin to criticize this extraordinary hypothesis. Let us consider it chronologically. The
mission of Thaddeus to Abgar may have some historical basis,
for it is mentioned by the very careful historian Eusebius of
Caesarea in the first half of the fourth century. But Eusebius
does not mention the shroud or anything like it.
Something began to be venerated in Edessa in the sixth century but the only evidence of its origin and discovery is a passage in the Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius, a Hellenized Syr-

SOUVENJRS ~
CRUCIFIXES

23

FOR

$~

Ry WeUs Culver

August,

Austin, Texas

~J

1978

Page 23

ian lawyer and a notoriously


credulous collector of legends
and' marvels, writing in the late sixth century. He says that the
Bishop of Edessa, guided by a vision, found it bricked into a
wall above the city gate, together with an autograph letter of
Christ and a lamp which had continued
to burn for centuries.'
His testimony
probably represented
the story put out by the
Edessan church, but as an independent
authority
it can be
dismissed.
Whatever the Edessa image was, it was not the shroud of
Turin. In the year after its removal to Constantinople
in 944,
the Byzantine Emperor Constantine
Prophyrogenitus
wrote a
treatise on the relic from which it is quite clear that the image
venerated in his own day was believed to be a towel on which
Christ had wiped his face while preaching in Judea; according
to Constantine
it was Christ who sent the cloth to Abgar
before his death, not the disciples who took it to him afterwards. Wilson explains this away by suggesting that the shroud
might have been folded in four so that only the face of Christ
was visible, thus leading Constantine
into error.
Even if Wilson were right the fact would not speak highly of
Constantine's
usefulness as a historical source. But since he is
wrong the question does not even arise. The image of Edessa
was often described and often painted as a short towel showing only Christ's face. It was not folded over, as anyone who is
in doubt may discover by examining the Abgar Icon at St.
Catherine's
of Mount Sinai, painted at about the time of the
relic's removal to Constantinople.
Possibly the image owed its origin to the disembodied
heads
which in pagan practice were commonly lodged over city gates.
Possibly it was one of innumerable
icons "not made by human
hands" which the eastern church venerated in the sixth century. More than that cannot be said.
As to the rest of Wilson's historical reconstruction,
let it be
said that the Mandylion
is not the same as the full-length
image of Christ's body which some twelfth-century
pilgrims reo
ported was in the imperial relic collection in Constantinople,
that the full-length image (whatever it was) disappeared in the
sack of 1204 in spite of attempts to locate it, that allegations
that it reappeared as an "idol" worshipped by the Templars in
the thirteenth
century depend on spiteful libels conjured up
by Philip the Fair, King of France, as a pretext for confiscating
their assets, that those libels themselves refer to a statue and
not a picture, that there is no evidence that Geoffrey of Charny
ever had possession of anything resembling the shroud, that
there is no known connection
between Geoffrey of Charny the
Templar and his namesake who founded the Lirey church, and
that although a list of the relics presented by the latter Geoffrey to the church survives, the shroud is not among them.
At the end of Wilson's argument there is still a gap of some
13 centuries in the shroud's history for which no plausible explanantion
is offered. It is somewhat unhelpful to be told that
the people whom he believes to have held it might have had
good reason to conceal the fact. This is like arguing: if I had
murdered
my wife I would say nothing about it, therefore I
have murdered my wife.

with a checklist of the tortures inflicted on Christ.


However, the coloring agent used does not appear to be
blood, for there is no penetration
of the fibers, no surface
encrustation
and no reaction to benzidrene
tests, as the scientists appointed by the diocese reported in 1976.

[For an imagined account of a thorough scientific examination of such a "holy shroud," read on to R.J. Winney's
"Salivation" which immediately follows this article on page
25 - Editor.]
These conclusions
(and in the present state of scientific
investigation
they are provisional
conclusions)
rule out the
possibility that the shroud was painted by any ordinary tech
nique; but they also rule out the suggestion that the image was
created by the imprinting
of Christ's features on a cloth laid
over him in the tomb.
There are only two hypotheses
left. One is that the shroud
was made by being laid over the cadaver of a crucified victim
daubed with some viscous half-dried coloring agent.
The second is that it was made miraculously.
Wilson opts
for the second theory and therein lies the fatal weakness of
his argument.
For once we are in the realm of miracles there
is no point in patient historical and scientific research.
If one assumes that god brought the cloth into existence
miraculously
what reason do we have to suppose that he did
so in AD 30 instead of AD 1350? If one supposes such miracles
to occur it would be absurd for me to subject them to historical scrutiny. But it is equally absurd for Wilson to do so. For a
historical theory which depends for its plausibility on a miracle
is not a historical theory at all but an appeal to faith.
Many will respond to that appeal, but they will be misguided if they suppose that history supports them.

Telltale Mistakes
We are left therefore with a single interesting and horrify.
ing fact. The anatomical knowledge displayed by the forger of
the shroud is greater than anything to be found in medieval
painting. The pattern of the blood marks, the contractions
of
the muscles and ligaments, the distortion
of the fingers are
consistent
with the view that the figure appearing
on the
shroud was that of a man who had been crucified and, moreover, had been crucified after being tortured
in accordance,

Page 24

August,

1978

J' 08 kirby's

-----b-ott-o-m-l-ine--on1;:edlVIne
IJI

The American

Atheist

By
R.J.

Salivation
"Your Eminence," Doctor Lodario bent low, puckering
his lips toward the pope's ring.
"Doctor, please," the Holy Father withdrew his hand. "For
the moment, we'll dispense with that folderol. I've summoned
you here to discuss a matter of utmost importance to the
church. Please, sit."
Lodario's eyebrows shot up but he kept silent as he got
comfortable.
"Through certain channels," His Eminence frowned, recalling the huge sum he'd paid the black market, "the church
has come into possession of a remarkable piece of cloth. The
details are unimportant but I assure you, every resource of the
church has been utilized to substantiate the validity of this
discovery. We've failed to create the slightest doubt. This
cloth," the pope draped it carefully across his desk, "is purported to be the original robe worn by the founder of our
church, ... "
"Jesus H. Christ!" Lodario shouted, leaping from his seat.
"I don't believe he used a middle initial," the pope scowled.
"No, no, of course not," Lodario muttered, tenderly fingering the material. He examined it closely. "I assume,"
Lodario's dark eyes flashed proudly, "you want me to authenticate this?"
"In strictest confidence, of course," the Holy Father ordered. "We must be irrefutably certain before going public.
Something like this will return millions to the fold." 'And to
the coffers,' he added silently. "But one whisper of hoax
would almost certainly hasten the decline of religious influence. "
"I understand, Your Eminence. My technicians will remain
unaware of its origin."
"Take this, then. I needn't remind you of its potential value.
Return it with your analyses."
"Most definitely, Your Grace." Lodario bowed slightly,
accepting the cloth. "I will guard it with my life."

"You will refrain from altering the cloth in any manner,"


Lodario instructed the group. "And that includes washing.
Take the smallest possible samples that will insure accuracy.
Okay, let's get started. I will expect preliminary results the day
after tomorrow."

"Dust samples?" Lodario gazed quizzically at the group.


"Doctor," Tilwell rose, "the dust analyses were duplicable
to the first decimal on all samples. Composition figures show
16.4 percent heavy ... "
"Skip that," Lodario interrupted, "I can read that in your
report. Do you have a geographical fix?"
"Yes, Doctor. We're reasonably sure the soil's from somewhere near Jerusalem."
"Golgotha?" Lodario's eyes shone.
"That sort of accuracy is wishful thinking, Doctor," Tilwell
scowled.
"You said reasonably sure," Lodario snapped. "How reasonably?"
"Ninety -three percent, Doctor. That's a big area over there."
"Good enough," Lodario beamed. "Thank you."

Austin,

Texas

Winney

"We've also found minute traces of human blood and olea


europaea pollen."
"Olive pollen and blood," breathed Lodario. "Excellent,
Tilwell. Excellent. Now we're getting somewhere. How about
the material?"
"Uh," Grebovv rose slowly, "we're having a problem with
the cloth, Doctor."
"Problem? What sort of problem?"
"Well," Grebovv cleared his throat, "the carbon-14 content
is non-existant."
"WHAT?" Lodarion reddened. "Do you recognize the irrationality of that statement?"
Grebovv stood firm. "Call it what you will, we've checked
every component in the equipment, every technique, every ... "
"You are talking madness, Grebovv. All existing matter
contains carbon-14. Since you've taken samples from the cloth,
I assume you won't deny its existence."
"Doctor, I've verified my results beyond doubt. I don't
comprehend the facts, but facts they remain."
"Cut more samples," Lodario ordered. "Send them to
M.LT., R.P.L, you know the drill. I want several for here,
also. This forum will reconvene when we have the results."

Lodario paced before the group rubbing his chin. "Gentlemen," he waved a stack of papers, "these are the results from
our samples. According to radiocarbon dating," he screamed,
"THIS CLOTH DOES NOT EXIST!" He slowly composed
himself. "If anyone has any ideas, I will find them welcome."
Grebovv's cough finally broke the silence. "Uh, Doctor,
there's one other possibility. It's insane, but ... "
"Grebovv, what we have now is insane."
"Well," Grebovv inhaled deeply, "maybe the cloth does not
exist YET."
"I'm not sure what I'm hearing," Lodario frowned, "but
I'm listening."
"Supposing," Grebovv gulped, "that this cloth is from the
future. That in the normal space-time continuum it hasn't
been manufactured yet."
"You'd better count your cards," Lodario gaped, "you're
not playing with a full deck."
"Can you offer a more 'rational explanation?"
"No," Lodario sighed. "No I can't. But there must be one.
Get the cloth," he ordered, shrugging out of his jacket, "we're
getting to the bottom of this right now."

"Doctor," Tilwell sighed, "it's almost dawn. We've scraped,


vacuumed, and picked till we're blue in the face. The variance
in results is negligible."
"I was afraid you'd say that," Lodarion murmured.
"Grebovv?"
"Practically nothing. We've raised an extremely faint smudge
on one corner but I think that's all it is, a smudge."
"It's our only hope," Lodarion breathed, "we'll check it."

"My dear Doctor Lodario," His Eminence rose expectantly,


frowning at the haggard, unshaven scientist. "You appear to
have toiled round the clock. Perhaps you've brought good

August,

1978

Page 25

news?"
Lodario flopped into a chair, straightening his dishelved
tie. "You got a drink?" he belched.
"Perhaps," the Holy Father glared, "you should consider
where you are, Doctor."
"No," Lodario lifted the cloth from its case. "I know where
I am. But you'd better start thinking about yourself, Popey."
"Sacrilege!" His Eminence spat. "I could have you publicly
excommunicated."
"From what?" Lodarion giggled, unfolding the cloth. "See
that smudge," he sneered, shaking it under His Grace's nose.
"That's writing."

"Writing? Wha, what do you mean, writing?" His grace


stammered.
"English. Modern English. In fact, supra-modern English. It
says," Lodarion squinted, "Sample number 3, Heysoos Company, Chrisite, Texas. And it's dated," he raved, "2461!YOU
HEAR ME? 2461! Your boy was nothing but a time-traveling
salesman."
"Sacrilege, sacrilege," shrieked the pope, shrinking in his
chair like a leaky balloon. A terrified glaze crept into his eyes.
"Empty coffers," he cackled, "empty coffers." Slowly his
flabby lips parted, a shiny, delicate bubble expanding between
them. He was still blowing bubbles when they took him away.
I speak as one who was intended by my father to be brought
up as a Rationalist. He was quite as much of a Rationalist as I
am, but he died when I was three years old, and the Court of
Chancery' decided that I was to have the benefits of a Christian
education.
I think that perhaps the Court of Chancery may have regretted that since. It does not seem to have done as much good
as they hoped.

Am I An
Atheist
Or An
Agnostic?
By
Bertrand

Russell

Page 26

August, 1978

Perhaps you may say that it would be rather a pity if


Christian education were to cease, because you would then
get no more Rationalists.
They arise chiefly out of reaction to a system of education
which considers it quite right that a father should decree that
his son should be brought up as a Muggletonian, we will say, or
brought up on any other kind of nonsense, but he must on no
account be brought up to try to think rationally. When I was
young that was considered to be illegal.
Since I became a Rationalist I have found that there is still
considerable scope in the world for the practical importance of
a Rationalist outlook, not only in matters of geology, but in all
sorts of practical matters, such as divorce and birth control,
and a question which has come up quite recently, artificial insemination, where bishops tell us that something is gravely sinful because there is some text in the Bible about it. It is not
gravely sinful because it does anybody harm, and that is not
the argument.
As long as you can say, and as long as you can persuade
Parliament to go on saying, that a thing must not be done
solely because there is a text in the Bible about it, so long
obviously there is great need of Rationalism in practice.
As you may know, I got into considerable trouble in the
United States solely because, on some practical issues, I considered that the ethical advice given in .the Bible was not conclusive, and that on some points one should act differently
from what the Bible says. On that ground it was decreed by a
law court that I was not a fit person to teach in any university
in the United States, so that I have some practical ground for
preferring Rationalism to other outlooks.
The question of how to define Rationalism is not altogether an easy one. I do not think that you could define it by rejection of this or that Christian dogma. It would be perfectly
possible to be a complete and absolute Rationalist in the true
sense of the term and yet accept this or that dogma.
The question is how to arrive at your opinions and not what
your opinions are. The thing in which we believe is the supremacy of reason. If reason should lead you to orthodox conclusions, well and good; you are still a Rationalist. To my mind
the essential thing is that one should base one's arguments
upon the kind of grounds that are accepted in science, and
that one should not regard anything that one accepts as quite

The American

Atheist

certain, but only as probable in a greater or a less degree.


Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Here there comes in a practical question which has often
troubled me. Whenever I go into a foreign country or a prison
or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.
I never quite know whether I should say "Agnostic" or
whether I should say "Atheist." It is a very difficult question
and I daresay that some ou you have been troubled about it.

think that their existence is an alternative that is sufficiently


probable to be worth serious consideration. Therefore, I suppose that on these documents that they submit to me on these
occasions I ought to say "Atheist," although it has been a very
difficult problem, and sometimes I have said one and sometimes the other without any clear principle by which to go.
When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think,
also add that some things are much more nearly certain than
others. It is much more nearly certain that we are here assembled tonight than it is that this or that political party is in the
right.

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a
conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is
nota god.
On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression
to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say
that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove
that there is not a god, I ought to add equally that I cannot
prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all
the gods of Homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to
work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon,
and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful
job. You could not get such proof.
Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a
purely philosophic audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say
in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the
Christian god, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.
There is exactly the same degree of possibility and likelihood of the existence of the Christian god as there is of the
existence of the Homeric god. I cannot prove that either the
Chrisitian god or the Homeric gods do not exist, but I do not

Certainly there are degrees of certainty, and one should


be very careful to emphasize that fact, because otherwise
one is landed in an utter skepticism, and complete skepticism would, of course, be totally barren and totally useless.
One must remember that some things are very much more
probable than others and may be so probable that it is not
worth while to remember in practice that they are not wholly
certain, except when it comes to questions of persecution.
If it comes to burning somebody at the stake for not believing it, then it is worth while to remember that after all he
may be right, and it is not worth while to persecute him.
In general, if a man says, for instance, that the earth is flat,
I am quite willing that he should propagate his opinion as hard
as he. likes. He may, of course, be right but I do not think that
he is. In practice you will, I think, do better to assume that the
earth is round, although, of course, you may be mistaken.
Therefore, I do not think that we should go in for complete
skepticism, but for a doctrine of degrees of probability.
I think that, on the whole, that is the kind of doctrine that
the world needs. The world has become very full of new dogmas. The old dogmas have perhaps decayed, but new dogmas
have arisen and, on the whole, I think that a dogma is harmful in proportion to its novelty. New dogmas are much worse
than old ones.

. OhG~....o....---.::;;;;..;....
;;;;;:::'SP=O==E=M=S=)
I come to the abyss. The Decision.
Don't let me fall. Don't let me fail.
It's too late. I've fallen!
I tumble shrieking
into a vortex colored from every hue
of human experience
ever deeper into a blackening hole
of non-existence,
where no light shines save the ever decreasing
sputtering of my soul,
flashing light against the closing ever darkening
blackness of Hell.
Oh God, help me. I am there.
Within the dampness, the darkness, the futility of hope,
the absence of life.
God. All I see of life is one pinprick of light
far above my head.
Help me God! Oh GOD!
HELP ME!
I start alone. Clawing my way up out of the dark,
the dampness, ever closer to the light
and to life.
I slip! But I do not fall.

Austin,

Texas

THE PAIN!
It is almost too much to bear. It exists
in every fiber of body and soul.
If I slip' again, I shall never again rise.
HELP ME GOD!
HELP ME GOD!
The light looms larger. Where are you God?
Give me your hand if you exist. Help me God.
Don't make me do this thing all alone! Help me.
I am at the top, almost out. Where are you God?
OUT!
WHERE ARE YOU?
WHY DID YOU NOT HELP?
I made it without you! I need you no longer!
I will see beyond sight,
feel beyond touch, hear what is meant,
live my own life,
and without you,
god.

CHARLES McLEROY

August,

1978

Page 27

ONOUK WAY
ignatz sahula-dyeke
Jet Aqe Tyranny
During the second quarter of the
19th century, when Webster, Calhoun,
Hayne, and other stalwarts of our Congress were debating the relative merits
of federalism
and states'
rights, a
French citizen and statesman,
Alexis
de Tocqueville,
came to the United
States to study at first hand our constitutional
form of government.
In
1838, his masterful treatise, Democracy
in America, electrified all Europe, and
signally
contributed
to its peoples'
understanding
and appreciation
of the
democratic
process of political selfdetermination.
Tocqueville's
acute perception
of
the positive as well as negative aspects
of our constitutionalized
governmental
innovations
remains to this day in the
forefront of whatsoever political commentaries penned and published before
and after his time.
TocqueviIle's
opus encouraged
all
minds which in that period were outraged by the respect then still being accorded by European statesmen to the
belief that the kings and emperors, and
not the people, were the logical makers
of all prevailing laws, and that they exercised this right through
authority
conferred upon them by "god."
Tocqueville
made abundantly
clear
that the American
revolutionary
republic of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, Madison, Livingston, Hamilton, Monroe, Lee, Sherman,
Paine and others was carrying on admirably and most satisfactorily
without
any reference in its Constitution
to a
god, or appeal for its guidance by any
god. It immeasurably
heartended
all
minds that in Europe were looking forward to governments
by the people,
ending more than a thousand years of
ecclesiastic
overlordship
and religious
meddling in political affairs.
Here let me explain that in this article the word "tyranny"
symbolizes
the coercion
which majority opinion
inflicts upon the minorities
and all
others who dissent and/or agitate for
changes in the conditions
or mode of
life commonly
accepted and pursued
in a given community.
Also, let me point out that today
the effect of public opinion upon our
governmental
process is, in not seriously
critical, then al least no longer as casual
as it was a century or more ago. The
chief reason for its presently disturbing
aspect rests in the invention, development, and enormous,
nationwide
popularity of radio and television - two

Page 28

media by whose means the opinion of


the public can almost at will be effectively manipulated
to look as though
it was an expression
of the public's
deliberate
will - a semblance that, as
Tocqueville
cautioned
us, can just as
easily be employed
for purposes or
harm as of good.
TocqueviIle
correctly
perceived,
and said, that we of the U.S.A. were
fortunate in having escaped most of the
penal ties arising from this hazard of
majority opinion and rule, in having a
government
in which constitutionally
established
checks and balances or its
three independent
branches, the legislative, executive and judicial, prevent
anyone avid for absolute power from
attaining it. But let's remember that he
said this about 175 years ago and that,
though it then held true, it is a long
way from safely true today. For one
thing, as proved the Nixon years, it
now takes ever more alert watchfulness
than was needed in his day - and greater devotion,
selfless
honesty
and
deeper loyalty to the memorably principled men and women who in 1787
presented
to the people of our young
republic the most liberal and workable
constitutional
document in the world's
history.

Plebian Minds
Our Constitution
is nothing
less
than miraculous
in having withstood
storms
that
in Europe
completely
wrecked governments
that over a century ago deemed their particular constitutions
superior to ours. We should
nevertheless
remember
Tocqueville's
words, warning us that majority opinion, in a large nation like ours - because sourcing
from the overwhelmingly greater number of plebian minds
in such a population
- in most instances expresses at the polls the peoples'
transient
emotionality
rather
than
their considered judgment of the issues.
Despite this debatable
point,
the
American citizen is at least by repute
quicker and nearer the mark in arriving at value-judgments
- a lesson he
learned by having resolutely journeyed
here from other lands, and, once here,
thru being forced by the free competition characterizing
American life to
exercise his decision-making
faculties.
But as will be subsequently
shown
here, this American type of indomitable temperament
and outlook is now
slowly being diluted and corrupted.

August,

1978

Today even the irrepressible


optimist concedes that the American way
of life is now undergoing
unprecedented shocks which, should we not harmlessly absorb them, will threaten the liberty we've so long enjoyed, and interfere with the impartial interpretation
of our Constitution.
The most serious
of those impacts is the one which the
Constitution
purposely
left unnamed.
Were its name to have appeared in it,
our Constitution
would have ranked
no higher than the constitutions
of
sundry European powers, all of whom
their constitutions
identified as Christian. Due to this, nearly all those European states were virtual theocracies;
something
that we are lucky to have
escaped.
Now although our Constitution
forbids Congress to make any law establishing religion, it doesn't forbid any
religious sect or organization
to do
whatever it wishes that could or would
establish it more firmly. As a consequence, not a sect to speak of has failed
to grasp this opportunity
enabling each
and all to benefit in a measure greater
than affords them any other nation on
the globe.
Here in America all are enviably
free to propagandize,
preach, and under any pretext solicit contributions
all without governmental
interference
of any kind. This freedom to beg for
money - in the most prosperous
land
on the globe - has increased the material and fiscal wealth of the more than
250 denominations
in America to an
extent so great that now the various
sects together represent a power equal
to or exceeding any other in our nation. And, as Tocqueville
ably predicted, this power which they now
wield will grow in ratio to the take -and will be used to disenfranchise
everyone;
the majority
that today is
so apathetic
to it and as well the minority now opposing it.
.
If unchecked it can change the Constitution in its own favor - that's how
ecclesiasticism
has always
operated
and always will. Christianism
calls itself compassionate,
but is the most
ruthless and cold-blooded
of all the
trades of mankind. Generous and forgiving?
Certainly,
especially
when
called about
its own transgressions.
But for this it has an excuse it itself
devised: Christ, it will tell you, died
for its sins too.
If there's anything
I like less than
being lugubrious,
I don't know what it

The American

Atheist

seem to be or actually are urging us to


return to and, mind you, worship this
mind-enslaving monstrosity.
It's nevertheless just and proper to
mention that in both houses of Congress we fortunately have a number of
men of statesmanly stature. They, however sadly, represent there a minority
that the majority sometimes overwhelms. The broad outlook, knowledge
and rationality of this minor group
nevertheless modifies, ameliorates, and
most of the time directs into sane
channels the majority whose impetuosity and concernment with regional
matters would tend to make a madly
vociferous shambles out of what should
be a wisely deliberative assembly.
So, here too, we have a majority
that sometimes plays the obstructive
villain's part that Tocqueville wrote
about. Not that he wrote in vain. He
brought to our notice what we should

could be; but as I see things, the carte


blanche we are giving religion is pushing
us back to the point at which, centuries ago, the peoples of Europe
(from which most Americans were at
one time or another very happy to
emigrate) meekly heeded the or-der to
obey anyone who claimed being a "servant of god" or declaimer of "god's
will," a state of affairs that constitutionally democratic governments were
devised to eradicate. As shown, ending
it is a bit harder than wishing it.
The rational
American's
lone
chance to succeed in it is in staunch
protestations along with others of his
kind. Were his efforts to fail due to
Congress playing deaf, then as always
his lot will be to accede to the majority
opinion that Tocqueville was so worried
about. The sad and bizarre thing about
this predicament is that some of our
elected leaders and public figures now

guard against, and what will befall us


if we don't. I expect that even in Congress reason will one day overcome the
smug sanctimony that our rife prosperity tends to keep alive.
The freedom innate in our electoral
processes prompts us to view life as
something we can change for the better
any time we so will. Our behavior is
consequently
relatively fickle - as
changeable
and mercurial as the
weather. This - as proved by the
sometimes surprising results of our
elections - keeps us on our toes, spices
our American way of life; enables us
to savor what we, the people, the people living today, are able to make of
the privilege of governing ourselves.
This privilege was hard-won - it first
had to overcome tyranny - by distrusting fantasies contrived for the subjugating of peoples who lived thousands
of years ago.

~[tlfllll!t
ALL FOR THE WANT OF PROOF

A MEAT DIET

For the want of proof Genesis was lost.


For the want of Genesis god was lost.
For the want of god the Bible was lost.
For the want of the Bible Christ was lost.
For the want of Christ hell & damnation were lost.
For want of hell & damnation the collection money was lost.
For the want of the collection money the church was lost.
All for the want of proof!

RALPH SHIRLEY

That Christians regularly eat their god


And yet are not called cannibals is odd.

THEOLOGY
All famous gods are man-imagined monsters,
With foolish folk and crafty priests as sponsors.
While pious laymen pray upon their knees,
The clergy prey upon them,busy as so many bees.

AN OPEN POEM TO JIMMY CARTER


You've really made a mess of things
You are a horse's butt
Next time some nut says "born again"
I'll damn sure ask "born what?"
You imply that you're led by god
And some god speaks to you
I'd flat tell god to screw himself
If I thought that were true
You've got us robbed in Panama
We're in th' Mideast mess
Th' SALT Talks're still a bunch of crap
Th' dollar's worth much less
Now maybe if you'd stay at home
And spend less time in prayer
This screwed up nation could survive
To vote you out of there ...

WHERETO

The Atheists create no criminal class.


It is from Christian homes crime comes to pass.
The Christians swell the prison population.
By their benighted, pious copulation.

SCH 00 L PRAYER
Prayer now in public school
No longer is the rule.
Such prayer is legally banned
Through our enlightened land.
The Constitution had been flouted,
But now has bigotry been routed.
For this we owe the utmost thanks
To one in glorious Reason's ranks.
Her noble name is known throughout the nation.
Modern Atheism is her creation.

MAXWELL MORTON

JOHN B. DENSON

Austin, Texas

PUT THE BLAME

August, 1978

Page 29

Roots of Atheism
Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

* * .:(.* ROOTS

OF ATHEISM

Charles Bradlaugh was tossed back and forth like a


shuttlecock
between his constituents in Northampton
who
elected
him
with
increasing majorities as their legal representative,
and his
peers in the House of Commons who would deny the
electorate's
choice
because
that man was an Atheist.
Obviously his electors recognized in Bradlaugh
a man
of common
sense and candor whom they wished to represent them despite any religious differences
they might
have with him. In seeking their
suffrage he was as unaffected
by cheers as he was by the
disapproval of his audience. At
times it may have even seemed
as though he went out of his
way to defy opposition which
he felt must be confronted and
and
denounced
with
the
Atheist Bradlaugh as the
weight of reasoned thought.
Bradlaugh's talents as a public speaker and as a debater had
been developed and sharpened to precisioned accuracy long before his election to Parliament, and it was with these communicative abilities that he maintained his close rapor with his constituency in Northampton.
A portrait of Bradlaugh as a public speaker was done in 1876 by a journalist for the Darlington
and Stockton Times which describes for us what his electors
saw in Bradlaugh which appealed to them so consistently:
"Mr. Bradlaugh is a tall, muscular man, who stands firm
on his legs, with broad shoulders, between which is a massive, square, powerful head. He dresses in plain black, relieved only by an ordinary display of linen and a slender
watch chain. He is closely shaven as a Roman priest. His
features are large and open, his eyes are of a greyish hue,
and his hair, which is fast turning grey, falls back from a
brow on which intelligence,
perception,
and power are
strongly marked. He has a face which can be very pleasing
and very stern, but which conceals the emotion at will. As
he sits listening to the denunciations
of his opponent,
the
smile of incredulity,
the look of astonishment,
the cloud of
anger, pass quickly over his countenance.
Rising from his
seat, and resting one hand upon the table, he commences
very quietly, in a voice which, until the ear is accustomed
to it, sounds unpleasant
and harsh, but which, when it becomes stronger, loses much of its twang, and sounds almost
musical. His enunciation
is singularly distinct, not one word
being lost by the audience. He addresses himself to all parts
of the house - gallery as well as body. When warmed by
his subject, he advances to the center of the platform and

Page 30

August,

1978

eATT~EDORE

"shuttlecock"

**

AND

. ;.:-Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

SHUTT~ECOCK

between his constituents

and Parliament.

looking his audience full in the face, and with right hand
emphasizing
every important
sentence, he expresses himself in tones so commanding
and words so distinct that his
hearers may be hostile or friendly, but cannot be indifferent. One may retire horrified at his sentiments,
even disgusted at his irreverence and audacity - from a Christian's
standpoint
- but no one would go to sleep under him. He
can be complimentary
and humorous,
but is more at home
in sarcasm and denunciation.
He is never ponderous; nevertheless, the grave suits him better than the gay. Cheering
does not seem to affect him, though he is by no means indifferent to it, but he is quick to perceive disapproval, and
is most powerful when most loudly hissed. With head erect,
face colored with a flush which has in it a little of defiance
as well as earnestness, now emphasizing with his right hand,
now with folded arms, now joining the tips of his fingers as
if to indicate the closeness of his reasoning,
as he would
have the audience to believe it, he stands defying opposition, even going out of his way to increase it, and revelling
in his Ishmaelism."
In his third speech to his fellow parliamentarians
given
on 7 Feb. 1882, Bradlaugh sought to answer his critics' claims
that, should he be seated in Parliament without taking an oath
to the Christian god, he would not be bound to tell the truth
and act "decently"
because he believed neither in final judgment nor in eternal damnation.
". .. But it is said, 'Our real objection is that you have declared that the oath is not binding upon you.' ('Hear, hear,'

The American

Atheist

.~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

;(.

* * .*

Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

;f

Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

x * x * Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

.* .

from antagonist Alderman Fowler.) That is exactly the opposite of what I did declare. The honorable member whose
voice I hear now, I unfortunately heard on the 3rd of
August [1881 when Fowler had been heard to cry "Kick
him out!" while Bradlaugh was being violently ejected],
and heard so that I shall never forget it. (Brad laugh here
looked towards Fowler and paused.) The hon. member
admits that is the point - that I have declared the oath
is not binding upon my conscience; but, unfortunately, all
the print goes the other way. I am asked by the Committee
who sat as to whether the oath is binding, and on page 15 I
reply: 'Any form that I went through, any oath that I took,
I shall regard as binding upon my conscience in the fullest
degree; and I would go through no form and take no oath,
unless I meant it to be so binding.' Again, I am asked as to
the word 'swear.' I say: 'I consider when I take an oath it is
binding upon my honor and upon my conscience'; and with
reference to the words of asseveration to which the hon.
member for North Warwickshire referred, he would at least
have been more generous towards myself, if generosity be
possible with him, if he had read: 'I desire to add - and I
do this most solemnly and unreservedly - that the taking,
and subscribing, and repeating these words of asseveration
will in no degree weaken the binding effect of the oath
upon my conscience.'
" ... Members of this House who are ignorant of what is
the honor and conscience of the man who stands before
them - ('Oh,' and laughter from the Opposition) - have a
right to shout 'Withdraw'; but they must beware lest a
greater voice outside - ('Oh, oh,' and laughter from the
Opposition) - at the ballot-box, where it has a right to express it, may not only say 'Withdraw,' but make withdraw
all those who infringe them now. If I knew any kind of
word which might convince members whom I desire to
convince that I would take no pledge that I did not mean to
be binding, I would use that form of words. But I have
found myself so harshly judged, so unfairly dealt with, that
one feels a difficulty in understanding whether any form of
words, however often repeated, would convey any kind of
conviction to some minds.
" ...
Let me now, before I finish, ask the ear of the
House for one moment. It is said it is the oath and not the
man; but others, more frank, say it is the man and not the
oath. Is it the oath and not the man? I am ready to stand
aside, say for four or five weeks, without coming to that
table, if the House within that time,or within such time as
its great needs may demand, will discuss whether an Affirmation Bill shall pass or not .... Let the bill pass without applying to elections that have taken place previously, and I
will undertake not to claim my seat, ... I have no fear. If I
am not fit for my constituents, they shall dismiss me, but
you never shall. The grave alone shall make me yield.
(,Hear, hear,' and 'Oh!')"
Bradlaugh's constituents did not dismiss him and he would
not yield his seat in Parliament because of the religious bigotry
of men not fit to sit in judgment of him.

Austin, Texas

* *

Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

Charles Bradlaugh/English

Atheist

The Oaths Bill victory: Bradlaugh's long struggle


ends in triumph on 9 August 1888.
The second reading of the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866)
Amendment Bill was debated in the House on April 23, 26,
30 and May 1 and 3 of 1884. On a division on the last date,
292 voted against the measure, and only 289 for it - a majority
of 3 against.
In the general election in November of 1885, Bradlaugh was
reelected for Northampton by 4,315 votes, the largest number
he had yet received, despite fierce opposition. It was announced
that Serjeant Simon would introduce an Affirmation Bill in
the new Parliament; but the Conservative Ministry declined to
pledge itself to any course of action.
On 13 January 1886, on the assembling of the House, the
Speaker, Mr. Peel, declared that he could not permit any interference with Bradlaugh's taking of the oath. Bradlaugh was accordingly sworn in due course, and took his.seat.
At the general election in July of 1886, he was reelected
for Northampton by 4,353 votes, and in August he took the
oath and his seat as before. On 9 August 1888, Bradlaugh
carried his own bill legislating affirmation in all cases where an
oath had been customary.
Charles Bradlaugh's enormous efforts had taken their toll

August, 1978

Page 31

on him, however, and he did not live to affirm under the new
law in the House of Commons. To quote one who was close to
him during all these hardships, daughter Hypatia:
"But all this work was done at a fearful cost. We have
seen how, in the period of his greatest strength, he had to
spend his energy in paying off debts incurred by him through
persecution,
through pious scoundrelism
(as in the case of
the debtor who evaded payment on the score that an Atheist could not legally sue, and who, after three years' litigation, became bankrupt, leaving the victor saddled with all
his costs), and through chivalrous determination
to fight
the battle of Freethought
and free speech in his own person at any cost, whenever or wherever the push came.
" ... His work in the House, as he did it, was alone too
much for even a strong man. The five years' struggle, as his
friends recognized,
had made him an old man; but the
terrible and continuous
strain of the night hours, added to
undiminished
daily work, carried on the process even more
effectively; and I remember how startled I wasat the change
wrought in him by one hard session, in part of which I had
not seen him. Whether he got to bed at ten or at three, he
rose all the same at seven, and took up the day's toil, which
to the last generally included the giving of gratis legal advice to some poor folk, very often not even freethinkers.
" ... No physique could stand such a life. Often did he
confess that he had 'burned the candle at both ends and in
the middle'; and now and then he would contrive to snatch
a day's fishing, which always had suxh a recuperating
effect
that it was plain he might have lived long had his life been
easier."
By mid-January
of 1891, Bradlaugh's
increasing weakness
from heart failure had become too serious for him to battle,
and the attending
physician insisted that Bradlaugh take to
bed. He never rose from it.
Charles Bradlaugh, the great "Iconoclast,"
died at aged 57
on 30 January and was buried on 3 February at Woking. He
had achieved his hard-fought victory in the greatest Parliament
of the world, but had not lived to witness the fruits of that victory. Few were his foes who did not realize that Britain had
lost a champion of liberty. A contemporary
descriptive report
of the funeral in the Northampton Mercury bears witness to
the continuing
appeal of this "giant who dwarfed everything
around him":
"Poor men were there in thousands,
who mourned the
loss of a trusted friend and leader, whose love of justice and
determination
to do it so far as in him lay were almost fierce
in their intensity. The political gospel which he preached
and practiced,
of 'equal opportunity
to all,' to poor as to
rich, held the promise of a social and political justice which
should level up the lives of the workers to noblest possibilities of usefulness and happiness ....
To be weak and oppressed was a sure passport to his heart, an irresistible plea
for help. 'Twas a simple, unbricked grave, unmarked by any
of the conventional
trappings of woe. And yet the saddened
throngs pressed round its sides to take a farewell look of
that unadorned
black box which hid his lifeless form from
view. In quick succession they filed athwart its foot, guided
by friendly hands that oft had grasped his own in kindness.
Hearts throbbed
with grief, and eyes were dim with tears,
while some gave way to fitful gusts of weeping .. A simple
nosegay now and again was flung upon the coffin lid by
living hands; and strong men, who had often helped to
carry his well-known
colors to victory, cast them in his
grave - they said they'd never need them more. No words

Page 32

August,

1978

Charles Bradlauqh, 26 September 1890


were needed at Charles Bradlaugh's
are his best witnesses."

grave. His life and work

**

In a gesture of mercy which his Christian antagonists in


the House of Commons had never shown during his- battles to
be seated, the House passed a resolution while Bradlaugh lay
dying expunging from the Journals of the House the resolutions
excluding him in former years.

"Exit!"
Charles Bradlauqh, English Atheist
(1833-1891 )

The American Atheist

Of any position one might take concerning the question of


the existence of god, Agnosticism is, epistemologically, the least
tenable.
Agnosticism is the refusal to commit oneself one way or the
other concerning the existence of god.
In judging this policy, it is necessary to remember that no
Theist has ever been able to adduce evidence in support of his
belief in god; that all of the Theist's alleged proofs, such as the
"argument from a first cause," the "argument from design,"
"the ontological argument," etc., have been refuted by philosophers many times; that no Theist has ever succeeded even in
providing an intelligible and non-contradictory definintion of
what he means by "god"; and that one can believe in god only
as an act of faith.
Faith is the acceptance of ideas without sensory evidence or
rational proof.
A man of reason does not accept ideas on faith. He knows
that all of one's conclusions must be based on and derived
from the facts of reality. He is, therefore, an Atheist.
His position is this: "I accept or consider only that for which
there is rational evidence. If a Theist wishes to assert the existence of god, the burden of proof is on him. But I do not regard his feeling that god exists as relevant or admissible to a
rational discussion."
The position of the Theist and the Atheist, then, is unequivocal and clear-cut: the Theist, in the absence of rational grounds
for believing in god, believes in god on faith; the Atheist, in
the absence of rational grounds for believing in god, does not
believe in god. In logic these two positions exhaust the possibilities. Agnosticism is not a third position, it is the evasion of
a position.
To understand the nature - and motive - of this evasion,
consider the argument that the Agnostic offers in self-justification. He states, in effect: "Granted that the existence of god
cannot be proved - neither can it be disproved. One cannot
prove that god does not exist. All we can say is that we do
not know whether or not god exists; and perhaps we can never
know. Atheism is as much an act of faith as Theism."
An Agnostic does not distinguish between - but treats as
equally valid - an Atheist's demand for reasons and a Theist's
assertion of his feelings."
An Atheist's refusal to believe that for which no evidence
exists, is classified by the Agnostic as an "act of faith."

Agnostics Irrational
What the Agnostic demands of the Atheist is proof of a negative - proof of the non-existence of god. But it is impossible
to prove a negative and irrational to demand it.
"Proving a negative" means: proving the non-existence of
that for which no evidence of any kind exists.
Proof, logic, reason, thinking, knowledge pertain to and
deal only with that which exists. They cannot be applied to
that which does not exist. Nothing can be relevant or applicable to the non-existent. The non-existent is nothing.
A positive statement, based on facts that have been erroneously interpreted, can be refuted - by means of exposing the
errors in the interpretation of the facts. Such refutation is the
disproving of a positive, not the proving of a negative.
As an example of the irrationality of the demand for proof
of a negative, project the following situation.
Suppose that you attend a gathering with a friend. At this
gathering, a stranger suddenly confronts you and charges you
with having committed a murder. You indignantly deny it but the stranger insistently repeats his charge.
"What murder?" you demand. Your accuser does not answer. "Who was killed?" you demand. Your accuser does not
answer. "Why do you suspect me?" you demand.
Your accuser smiles slyly and answers, "I believe that you
have committed a murder. Can you prove that you didn't?"
You turn away - and see that the friend with whom you
came is looking at you tensely. You cry to him, "You don't
believe I'm a murderer, do you?"
Your friend answers nervously, "No, of course, I don't. I
Austin, Texas

Atheism
vs

Agnosticism
... What is the Objectivist View of Agnosticism?
By Nathaniel Branden, Psychologist
Publication

No. 014

mean ... he hasn't given any evidence that you're a murderer,


he's just asserted it. ... But ... on the other hand ... you
haven't proved you're not a murderer, have you? I guess I'd
have to say I don't know whether you're a murderer or not."
Thereafter, your friend is very fair and conscientious; he
makes it clear to everyone that he does not believe that you
are a murderer; he is, he explains, an Agnostic in the matter.
If you were the victim of such a nightmare, you would feel
that some monstrous injustice - specifically, an epistemological injustice - had been perpetrated against you. And you
would be right.
That is the evil of uttering an arbitrary claim and offering,.
as its sole defense, the challenge: "Prove that it isn't so!"
In the pursuit of knowledge, there is no place for whims.
Every claim, statement or proposition has to be based on the
facts of reality; nothing may be claimed causelessly, groundlessly, arbitrarily.
Even a hypothesis has to have some factual basis, some
factual evidence indicating that it might be true. A hypothesis
based on nothing but a blind guess is not admissible into rational
consideration. Reason deals only with that which exists; any
hypothesis or supposition that some hitherto unknown fact
may exist, has to be based on the evidence of facts known to
exist.
Rational demonstration, an appeal to facts, is necessary to
support even the claim that a thing is possible. It is a breach of
logic to assert that that which has not been proven to be impossible is, therefore, possible. An absence does not constitute proof of anything. Nothing can be derived from nothing.
The Theist believes in the existence of god - without reason; the Agnostic believes in the possibility of god's existence without reason.
But the Theist who openly bases his belief on faith is closer
to reality in one respect: he does not pretend to be rational.
The motive of the Agnostic is not difficult to discern; it
consists of the following: "If anyone asserts anything, regardless of whether or not he offers reasons, who am I to judge the
truth or falsehood of his claim? Particularly if it is a claim
voiced by a great many people. Why do I have to take a stand?
I'll only antagonize them. Better to play if safe and commit
myself to nothing." (For an analysis of this psychology, I refer
the reader to my article on "Social Metaphysics" in the November 1962 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter.
The Agnostic grants respectful consideration to the assertion of god's existence, not because he has any rational grounds
for doing so, but because millions of men profess Theism and he dreads to assume the responsibility of judging them as
entirely wrong.
When a person makes an assertion for which no rational
grounds are given, his statement is - epistemologically - without cognitive content. It is as though nothing has been said.
This is equally true if the assertion is made by two billion
people.

August, 1978

...

& Author

Page 33

lItetion
Atheist
-Jeff

Dorrell--

Score one for our side!


Although at times it might seem as though manyof the current 15- to 30-year-old generation have merely replaced an addiction to drugs with an equally harmful religious neurosis,
there are yet plenty of freethinking Atheists below the untrustworthy age of 30 who will not be duped.
Witness the solo but successful efforts of American Atheist
Jeff Dorrell of Midland, Texas, who last year conducted an
articulate and effective letter-writing campaign in protest of a
local high school's newly initiated policy of conducting prayers over the public address system.
Jeff is a 1973 graduate of Vidor High School near Midland
(he was class valedictorian) and of the University of Texas at
Austin. Because of his high regard for the values and principles
on which public education in our society is predicated, Jeff
has maintained contact with those involved with Vidor's
schools, in the hope that "by following the growth and development of Vidor's public schools over the years I could contribute in some small way to. the quality of education available there."
Dorrell began his efforts on hearing of his alma mater's
new program to have a member of the student council lead
prayers over the public address system on Monday mornings.
He wrote to Vidor Junior High School Principal Darwin Horton and District School Superintendant Dr. H.J. Cothern and
reminded them both of the consequences of their allowing a
clear violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment to
go unremedied. Portions of those two letters follow:
" ... I write today to point out a very serious violation
of the law which is being tolerated by you and by other administrative officials of the Vidor Independent School District, one which not only is teaching impressionable young
children that defiance of the law is acceptable behavior for
those with sufficient political leverage or power, but which
also may result in a loss of federal revenues which support
the education of Vidor students.
"Surely one of the most basic forms of Americanism is
expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution,
which reads in part: 'Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... ' The Supreme Court of the United States
and many lower courts have entertained a plethora of cases
involving questions of the interpretation of this important
passage of our Constitution in the 200 years it has been in
effect. There is probably no one in the United States today
who does not remember the most famous of these cases,
Murray vs Curlett, which in June of 1963 resulted in the
8-1 decision by the Supreme Court that Bible reading and
prayer recitation in the public schools was a violation of the
constitutional principle of separation of state and church.
"For two months you have permitted the recitation of

Page 34

August, 1978

prayers over the public address system at Vidor Junior High


school on Monday mornings and at meetings of the Student
Council in direct violation of the United States Supreme
Court's ruling, the current law of the land, that this shall
not be done.
"There have been arguments and attempts of every kind
during the 14 years since the Murray and Schempp cases to
circumvent the law of the United States which prevents
the establishment of religion by governmental authority,
agent (such as a public school), or public fund. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, over 150 amendments to
the Constitution were offered in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress alone as various religious sects attempted to overturn the Supreme Court's decision. . .. Some very prominent Congressmen involved
themselves in the fight to install religious exercises as an
element of American education, and the more notable
amendment
propostiions
were the Becker (voluntary
prayer) Amendment, the Dirksen (voluntary, non-prescribed
prayer) Amendment, and the Wylie (non-denominational
prayer) Amendment. They were all categorically defeated
for lack of support.
" ... In conducting prayers at Vidor Junior High School,
Vidor officials have, through the Student Council at
this school, overreached their right and their power as circumscribed by the Constitution and effected an advancement of religion at public expense in public facilities and,
insodoing, have jeopardized the pecuniary foundations on
which the entire school system rests, have abridged the individual rights of teachers and students, openly defied the
U.S. Supreme Court, and, worst of all, have set a heinous
example for junior high students to follow - that of totally disregarding the aegis of law and authority where their
purpose is inconsistent with personal goals.
"Prayer in public schools is clearly an illegal establishment of religion at public expense, no matter which of its
many forms it may take. Dozens of cases have established
this fact beyond the shadow of a doubt. Won't you join me
in an effort to repair the situation in the Vidor Independent
School District at the earliest possible moment? I have long
believed that education is the cornerstone of democracy
and the steppingstone to success. Vidor's students deserve
the best."
Dorrell wisely sent copies of all his correspondence with the
school officials to his congressmen, his attorney, the Society
of Separationists, the ACLU and to Americans United.

Persistence Pays Off


At first, Dorrell's letters and appeals to reason were ignored
by Vidor's principal in hopes that he would lose interest and
drop the matter. Jeff persisted, however, and followed up
with letters quoting established legal precedence showing conclusively that prayer in any form is a religious exercise and as
such it has no place in this nation's secular public school system. His follow-up letters put increased pressure on the administrators to bring their system in line with the law of the
land or face a cut-off of their tax funds from state and federal governments:
"I fail to comprehend the lack of respect in which the
Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court are held by those
responsible for the offenses now taking place in your schools.
. . .I grieve that the students there today see in the behavior
of teachers and administrators not the pride in and respect

The American

Atheist

for the principles on which this nation - indeed, democracy


itself - was founded, but instead, contempt and defiance of
those principles, pomposified by a cavalier dismissal of appeals of those who dare to object.
. . ."The trial court in Abington School District us
Schempp, 373 U.S. 203 held that prayer recitation 'is a
religious ceremony', contrary to the contention of the
schools involved, and the U.S. Supreme Court found, 'We
agree with the trial court's finding.' In the concurrent case
(Murray), the schools contended that prayer held out certain secular benefits (increased morality) to all children.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that any such alleged benefits were. outweighed by the fact that the situation 'required religious exercises.'
"That is to say: prayer is a religious exercise whether it
be voluntary, involuntary, teacher-led, pupil-led, oral or
silent, and whether practiced at home, in church, in schools,
in vehicles, or in the open air."
In a final wave of correspondence to (but no replies from) the
principal and superintendent in December of last year, Dorrell
chastised the lax officials for not acknowledging his appeals
and informed them that they had left him no alternative but
to go over their heads to the very sources of the Vidor system's
tax funds by which it operates. Heasked United States Treasurer
Francine Neff "to stop all payments to the Vidor school
district until that system brings itself into compliance with
federal law ."
He likewise asked Texas State Treasurer Warren Harding to
cease payments of educational monies to the Vidor district

At last I can recommend a film so


light-hearted that it is totally charming
in its implicitly irreligious stand. Starring an actresss and actor I've never
heard of (Meg Foster and Perry King),
made by an little-known production
company (Petersen/Story Films), and
advertised in its initial PR ambiguously as a "unisex" love story (Petersen works with advertising agencies
and makes commercials, which could
account for that), this pussyfooting
will become obvious when the beguiling story line is detailed.
Meg is an efficient realtor dealing
in Hollywood estates, living a decidedly
casual lifestyle (eating out of cans and
TV dinners in a house helter-skelter
with books and papers) while trying to
find a house for a famous symphony
conductor who seems to have a different, handsome chauffeur each time
she sees him. All very gay.
Mistakenly believing she could be
partly responsible for the first young
man's having been fired, she finds him
camping out in one of her empty houses
and offers a room in her home to him.
He immediately and happily sets about
cleaning up her house and cooking a

Austin, Texas

and requested a formal investigation into the matter by the


Texas State Board of Education.
As a tax-paying citizen concerned about constitutional violations by school officials, Jeff Dorrell added force tq his argument by giving the long-uncooperative officials an ultimatum.
On 19 December of last year he warned that if the violations
were continued when classes resumed in January then he would
be forced to consult the Society of Separationists, the ACLU,
and Americans United to evaluate the possibility of filing a
civil suit against the Vidor school system for $100,000 in
actual and punitive damages resulting from the "continued and
deliberate abuse of civil rights and liberties of public school
children ... "
The results of Dorrell's ultimatum were not long in coming.
On 12 January of this year the Vidor School District Board of
Trustees voted to terminate Superintendent Cothern's contract
and abolished prayer in Vidor schools. No reason was given for
Cothern's dismissal and Cothern himself had no comment.
With regard to the prayer issue, Cothern said, "We have
been having prayer given by a member of the student council
over the public address system on Monday morning. That's
just one day a week."
School board President Lou Smith said, "I don't understand it, but this is the third request we have had to either stop
it or we will be in trouble with the law."
Exactly right. They will be stopped by the law and by citizens like Jeff Dorrell who are not reluctant to put their backs
to the wall separating state and church so as to defend a
constitutional right.

gourmet meal for dinner. Their dialogue goes something like this:
She: You're awfully quiet. Why
don't we converse?
He: Yeah, well, the answers to your
questions are Yes, Several, and Not
particularly.
She: Oh? What did I ask?
He: The usual questions: Have you
ever been with girls? How many? and,
Did you like it?
She: Oh. Fine. Well, I'm sorry not
to be able to help you with the dishes,
but I have a date.
Her date arrives, and it's another
girl. As they leave, holding hands, she
turns back to the boy and with a leer,
says, "Yes, Several, and, Not particularly."
They now slide into a comfortable,
friendly relationship, each happy and
guilt-free with their own, same-sex
lovers, until the party for his birthday,
after which both wobble home rather
tipsily, and she presents him with the
fallen birthday cake she has made for
him.
They get to giggling, and simply fall
into bed together, finding to their astonishment
that they enjoy each

August,

1978

other. From here on the love story


becomes more conventional, as she,
bewildered, announces she's pregnant
(they never even thought of it!) and
they decide to have the baby.
It is not that they then box themselves into being straight heterosexuals, as that it just surprisingly
happened and they allow their androgenous natures full play. This aspect of
a respected pagan philosophy is acceptted in the film as a preferable, viable
alternative to traditional religious dictates.
There is no heavy debate going on,
it's all done with gentle, delightful humor; these young people are pleasantly,
naturally themselves. They are miles
ahead of traditional, conceptualized
thinking, the kind that emanates from
churches and tight-lipped priests who
would tell us what our relationships
should be, whether they make us happy or not (the hell with whether they
make us happy, in fact we're supposed
to go to hell if we don't do what they
say).
I can only hope the message gets
across to others as clearly as it did to me.

Elaine Stansfield

Page 35

FREEDOM
UNDER SIEGE
Organized religion is working to destroy your
freedom. It strives to influence your elected representatives and to write the laws under which you
live, to regulate your children's schools and dictate
what is taught there, to censor your entertainment
and choose what you and your neighbor can see
and read, and to determine for all women the right
to control their lives and their bodies. And it is
your money that makes this tyranny possible. The
churches have their billions invested in profitmaking enterprises; and their wealth grows daily
from gifts, grants, rents, interest, capital gains and
government
subsidies. They are now financial
giants, no longer dependent upon their parish ioners
for support. What they count on is their freedom
from taxes. The church's billions are accumulated
at your expense.
Shocking? Perhaps. But it is only a small part of
the fascinating mountain of evidence gathered in
FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE by attorney
Dr.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her researchers as part
of their ongoing fight to preserve the First
Amendment guarantee of the separation of state
and church - a guarantee of not just freedom of
religion but freedom from religion.
Official government and church figures prove that churches have as their membership only a minority
of our citizens. This book shows the continuing pressures that this minority exerts on the lives of the
majority of Americans.
Dr. O'Hair deals with politics, not religion; with separation of state and church, not Atheism. This
report shows how your treasured liberties are slowly being eroded as the churches increase their power
over every aspect of American life, limiting your freedom of choice and even your access to information regarding those choices.

At last, the
truth revealed
about organized
religion -

A book by
Dr. Madalyn Murray Q'Hair

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------,

Pleasesend me [ 1 copy{ies) of the final, autographed edition of FREEDOM


UNDER SIEGE, at $10.00 (includes postage and handling). I am enclosing $__
r :
check or money order made payable to: AMERICAN ATHEISTS, P.O. Box 2117,
Austin, Texas 78768. Or charge to my:
[
,
OMASTERCHARGE
OVISA

Card No.

Date Expires,

Signature
Name

Date.L

_
_

Address
City

Page36

August, 1978

graph the final copies of her


monumental work. There will
not be another edition of this
book. Orders filled on a first
come, first-served basis.

_
State
Zif.l.P
_
(Texas state residents please add 5% sales tax.)

FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE


Dr. O'Hair will personally auto-

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The subject matter deals with the total effort to remove prayer from public schools
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Send it to your favorite minister.
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AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.


You have another freedom - freedom from religion. American Atheists,
Inc. is a non-political, non-profit, educational, tax-exempt organization
dedicated to the complete separation of state and church. Membership dues
are $15.00 per person per year, and contributions to American Atheists, Inc.
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You don't want to miss this road into tomorrow. You will want to be a
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Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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Madalyn Murray O'Hair
$8.95
Mrs. O'Hair deals with politics, not religion; with separation of state and
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slowly being eroded as the churches increase their power over every aspect of
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American Atheists, Inc.


For more information contact:
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~~,(/.-\--Q~D